Saturday, September 25, 2004

A Dispatch from Barselti

(The following is the letter the King is reading in the opening scene of Mages of Mâvarin)

a tengremUmvardu, 13th Day of Fredor, 897 MMY

Your Majesties:

Things are quiet here for the moment, but there's no knowing (Fayubi excepted) how long that will last. By the time Nalo gets this letter to you, everything may have changed. Perhaps you could ask my mother to set up a nice, discreet portal between Thâlemar and my cottage. That way, if major trouble erupts here you will be able to respond faster - if there's anything you feel you can do about it at all. The actions of a few dozen tengremen at the other end of the country may not be a major priority for you right now, but I promise you, they will be.

So far, Albi is still allowing dissident tengremen to leave Gathmak, if he finds he can't control them as pack leader. He predicts that they'll be back, because there's no place else a tengrem is welcome--except Varthtimar, of course, and that's practically uninhabitable. That's where he thinks they're all going. Miserable place. I've seen it. A few tengremen really are living in the swamps down there, but not many.

If Albi knew that the deserters all had necklaces, I'm certain that he'd be less tolerant of their going. In theory, they can live as humans wherever they want, far from Albi and his ambitions. That's anathema to Albi, and problematic for us as well. Let me assure you that I screen them all very carefully before helping them, both for emotional stability and for their loyalty to Mâvarin. There are too many amoral or pro-Mâton tengremen galloping around the country as it is, without my adding to them.

I'm trying to steer as many of the dissidents as possible to the new settlement outside Skû. The humans in the area are relatively tolerant, and the tengremen are only a few days from Gathmak if it comes down to a fight.

As for myself, I've been very careful to keep my production of extra necklaces a secret from everyone but Zagorni. Even the tengremen I give them to are told that their particular necklaces are my only "spares." Still, I've had a few close calls in which Albi saw a dissident in the vicinity of my cottage. These days I'm coming to them rather than risk their visits to me. I do it in the middle of the night, bearing charms that render me invisible and unsmelled.

I hope your new Minister of Tengrem Relations can work something out with Albi, or reinstill in him some respect for the human government. I can't imagine anything Cort could say to accomplish this. Albi's latest scheme seems to involve identifying tengremen who are both lo
yal to him and capable of being trained as mages. If he can accomplish that, he'll be able to banish me and the other humans from Gathmak. That's assuming he doesn't try to have us killed instead. Fortunately, he won't be able to replace his human "allies" that quickly or easily. There are tengremen with talent, but instruction in magic takes years - and I don't know who Albi thinks he can get to do the training. He's certainly not looking to humans to do it. You may want to warn Meligor.


Sunday, September 19, 2004

Hari, Harisi, Haro, Hariso, and Harisoni

Okay, now I'm embarrassed. But it's not my fault, honest!

Back in 1989, when I finally finished my first draft of Heirs of Mâvarin, I had a walk-on character at the end named Harisoni. This mage's talent is sending people to what he calls "the subjective plane," there to learn about the universe and their place in it. I named him Harisoni as a riff on George Harrison, because Harisoni is essentially a mystic.

Since then, the character has developed into Fayubi's lifelong best friend. They run away to Mâton together as children, are roommates all through school, and stay in touch afterward. This is all backstory, taking place decades before the events of the first book. But when Fayubi gets in terrible trouble in Mages of Mâvarin, Harisoni turns up again as his friend and guide.

So anyway, six months ago I decided to shorten the character's name by one syllable. Y'see, mages get an extra syllable added to their names at their Robings, so having a three-syllable name in Mâvarin usually means that you're a mage. Because being a mage is not universally thought of as a Good Thing, most children are given one or two syllable names: Pol, Clif, Suri, Masha and so on. (A final a or e makes it a girl's name, and an i or o makes it a boy's name.) That way, when they're adults, nobody will think they're mages unless they really are mages, and their names really have been lengthened. This is all stuff I worked out years and years ago.

But Harisoni is four syllables, and the derivation is too obvious. So Harisoni became Harisi. Working backwards, Harisi's childhood name (and the nickname his wife uses) became Hari.

This was all fine and dandy until last night, when for the first time I wrote a scene that takes place decades before the first book, in which Hari and Fabi run away to the Mâton College of Magic. That's right: the kid's an orphan. Named Hari. At a school of magic.

It didn't occur to me until tonight that someone might be reminded of an orphan named Harry, at a school of witchcraft and wizardry. Aargh!!!!!!

So. I can let Harisi be Harisi, with a childhood name that was meant to evoke Hare Krishna but which can be construed as a ripoff of J. K. Rowling. Until I write the prequel, the character's always going to be an adult called Harisi anyway, having essentially nothing in common with that Potter kid except a lack of living parents. (When you're pushing 50, that's not terribly unusual.)


I can do forty documents' worth of search and replace, turning him back into Harisi / Harisoni. Maybe nobody will notice that he's a musical mystic with a Beatlish name and a quirky sense of humor. That'll work, right?


Sara suggested Haro for the childhood name. That way he becomes Hariso as a mage. The Beatle reference becomes less distractingly obvious, the Potter connection fades, and I just have to deal with the fact that I don't like the name much.

What should I do? People who actually read and like this stuff, please comment or email me (mavarin at your thoughts on this subject. Thanks!


Art by Sherlock

P.S. (Monday, 11:36 AM MST) Here's a thought. How about Hasi and Harisi? That follows the naming rules, eliminates the Potter connection, and leaves the character with his current mage name. Only problem is that Hasi sounds a bit like Jonny Quest's friend Haji. Whaddaya think?

And then there's this. Becky asks:

= How about Haru, Haruo... Haruo is Japanese for Spring and also my FIL's name. Haru for short. Or you could just change the first character of his name. Bari, Barisi, Barisoni...yadda. :-) =

I like both of those names, but they don't port well linguistically. Haru would be a monûn name in Mavarinû because of the final u, and the character doesn't qualify for that. (Baku is a monûn character.) The mage name would be Harusi or Haruso (does he sing opera?) or Harisu, which sounds Japanese but still follows Mavarinû nomenclature. Mavarinû doesn't have adjacent vowels, so Haruo doesn't work. Nice names, though. I could probably dump the distinction of the final u being ethnically monûn, but not without going through my character lists and seeing where things stand now in this respect. I have over 150 named characters, so every change has potential consequences.

Li's brother, Barselti, was named Barisi in an earlier draft. And yes, his childhood name / nickname is Bari.


A Letter to Lusa

not perfect for Maton, but you get the idea
(The following is set forty-one years before the start of Heirs of Mâvarin)

Comerdu, 16th Day of Celderem, 855 MMY

Dear Lusa,

Are you surprised to hear from me? Yes, I’m alive and well. Guess where I am. Mâton! It took me six months to get here, but I did it!

I ran away all by myself, but right after that I found somebody to go with me. His name is Fabi. He’s older than me, ten years old. He’s going to be a mage, too. He’s an orphan like us. His parents died right before I met him. He knew it was going to happen, too. He’s a seer. He can do illusions, too.

a tall shipIt was a little scary, traveling without any adults. Fabi and I played the delmoran and sang to pay for rooms and meals. We said we were monûn teenagers, but I don’t think anyone believed us. A couple of times people tried to make us stay and be their apprentices, but we always did some kind of magic and got away. I’m getting really good at sending someone to my secret place. After a while, Fabi learned to do an illusion spell to make us look and sound older, with deep voices and everything. That made it easier to earn money for the voyage to Mâton, but Fabi got really tired doing it. We had fun on the ship, though. I got to be a cabin boy, and I only got sick once.

I wish you could be here too. You still don’t have magic, do you? If you find out you have talents, try to get to Mâton. I really like it so far. Archmage Martenestri didn’t want to take me at first, but Fabi told him my talent would be important someday. They said that nobody has had my kind of talent in hundreds of years. They weren’t even sure it was a real talent. I showed them it was. That surprised the Masters, when they saw my secret place themselves. Usually they don’t take a student that doesn’t have at least two talents, but they made an exception for me. Since then, everyone’s been really nice to us.

Happy Mâshelis! I wish I could send you a present. Maybe next year. Write if you can, okay? I know I ran away, but I wasn’t running away from you! You’re still the only family I’ve got, big sister!



Saturday, September 11, 2004

Mâton Orientation Letter

From the Desk of Archmage Sunestri

Welcome to the Mâton College of Magic. If you are new to the island, welcome to Mâton! You will probably find that life here is very different from your old life in Mâvarin or Fãrnet or Derio. Here on Mâton you will be surrounded by other people of talent, people who understand you better than your old friends, your old teachers, or even your parents unless they are mages themselves. We know how it feels to discover how different you are from the "normals" around you, with all the challenges that poses. We will help you to explore your abilities, learn to control and develop them fully, and reach your potential as a fully-robed mage.

By now you should have an assigned room, a roommate, an academic advisor, a student advisor, and your novice attire and supplies. Should you lack any of these, please check in with the admissions office on the first floor of the Citadel. Your student advisor will help you find your way around this first week, and learn the basics of college life. Your academic advisor will guide you through your entire educational program, from Introductory Magic to your Master exam, assuming you get that far.

If you have not already had your aptitude test, you can expect to undergo this in the next day or two, depending on the exigencies of scheduling. This is an interesting, usually painless process, and quite educational in itself. You may well discover additional talents beyond the ones that brought you to Mâton, months before they might otherwise have surfaced.

As with any school, there are rules to be followed. The first rule, as you may expect, is to obey your academic Masters. There is a reason for every instruction they give you, whether or not that reason is immediately obvious. More often than not, the purpose of their directives is to ensure both the efficacy of the magic and the safety of its practitioners, especially that of our students.

There are three additional rules to be observed, for the safety of all:

1. No student is to attack any other resident of Mâton, except on the explicit instructions of myself or one of your academic Masters. Anyone caught disobeying this rule will immediately be expelled without recourse - or worse.

2. The cliffs above Sûtelmar Harbor are strictly off limits except for Zordano's Point, the clearly-marked scenic lookout with the invisible fence. Sûtelmar itself may only be approached using the road at the southern edge of campus, and only after your Robing, or with written permission from your academic advisor.

3. No permanent spell is to be cast, nor a permanency subritual applied, except under the direction and supervision of one of the Masters.

Your personal journey to life as a mage has already begun! We look forward to helping you travel that road in the months and years ahead.

Yours in fellowship,
Sunestri Cheneli
Forty-Fifth Archmage of Mâton

Art by Sherlock
Fiction by KFB

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Glitch, Glitch, Glitch

I tried to add a links bar to my template last night. Since then I've been unable to make this blog "republish." If you see this post, you'll know that I finally got it to work. Still: aargh!

In the pipeline: I've started a prequel short story about Epli, a legendary hero of Mâvarin whose sword has the voice of his people. Stay tuned!


P.S. Shelly informs me that it was Blogger as a whole, not just me. That's a comfort. I was worried I'd ruined the template just trying to add those few things.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Diary of an Imposter

(The following is set four and a half months before the start of Heirs of Mâvarin)

the mask is symbolicFrom the Diary of Her Royal Highness Cathma Selevar,
Princess of Mâvarin
(except that's not who she is)

Masheldu, 20th Day of Fredor, 896 MMY

It was my birthday today. Not the official one: my real birthday.

My official birthday, on the Sixth Day of Dortem, is a grand state occasion. Representatives of the Twelve Families, except for the two that intermarried with selmûn nobility, come from all over the country to honor Princess Cathma with lavish gifts. Even the royal families of Fãrnet and Derio send presents, whether or not any of them attend the event personally. Even the common people celebrate Princess Cathma's Birthday as a holiday. There is a parade, with decorated coaches and marching guards, and small coins tossed into cheering crowds. This is followed by a feast, with ornate decorations and exotic foods, a speech from the king, music and dancing. The musicians are not selmûnen, or my friend Rutana, but they do well enough.

My real birthday I celebrate in my private suite, writing in my diary and thinking about my life so far. There are no presents. In the evening I visit my mother, as I often do when my schedule permits it.

I am sixteen today. By rights I should have been given a horse, to celebrate my being exactly a year away from the age of majority. Officially, though, I won't be sixteen for four and a half months, so officially there is no horse. Unofficially, there is a horse in the royal stable who is as good as mine, and has been for years.

It's an odd status, being who and what I am. Sometimes I wish I could just forget my real birthday and my real age and my real name. But then I suppose I would have to forget who my real mother is, too. I wouldn't want that.

Exactly six years ago today, Jerela Awer called me into her private apartment in the East Tower and told me the truth. I'd suspected for years that something was odd about me and my family, and our relationship with the First Minister and his family. But I never quite figured out that I was an Awer myself, not until my mother told me my real name, and the date of my real birthday. I am Masha Awer, the daughter of First Minister Lokvi Awer and Lady Jerela Awer. King Jor is really my uncle, Nishi Awer. Nobody in the Palace is really named Selevar. This explains a lot, especially the fact that the king and I have never loved each other, as a father and daughter should, while Lokvi and Jerela Awer have been closer to me than an outsider would ever suspect.

Even they don't understand how I feel. My mother only told me the truth because she wanted to be sure of my love. Well, she has it, just as she's always had it. But she's also taken away the security of my knowing I'm Princess Cathma of Mâvarin. I used to know who I was, even if it wasn't true. Now I don't really know who I am, or who I'm going to be. Five years of growing up, learning my duties and finishing my education haven't helped at all. All this time I've watched the king and First Minister come more and more under the influence of the Royal Mage, and of Mâton. I've watched my brother become more and more like the king he's being groomed to replace someday: vain and foolish and caring for no one but himself. I've tried to find out what happened to the real royal familiy, but nobody seems to really know except Imuselti, and I never talk to him if I can help it.

So who am I? I'm fake royalty, a usurper, playing a role my parents chose for me long ago. Am I wrong to do what they expect of me? It's not as if there's any likelihood that some rightful heir, someone named Selevar, will come to the Palace and take my place. Someone has to be Princess Cathma. It may as well be me. I'm good at it. I know all the ministers and what they do, all the people from all the Families, all the issues, all the things that Mâton demands of us and why. I could rule this country someday, and rule it well. But I'm not the heir. My stupid brother is. We're supposed to be the same age, but he's the male heir and that's that. The fact that I'm really almost a year older than he is doesn't make any difference in the official order of succession. It doesn't matter how young the real Van Awer is, what the real date of my birthday is, what our names are and how we came to be in the Palace.

Except to me.