As followers of the Independent Bookworm may know, we occasionally snare an unsuspecting indie author, luring them to the unspeakable horrors of our donjon for interrogation. It’s always made me a bit suspicious to see how willing some of them were. But I never expected a volunteer.
This time, we find a very no-nonsense victim in Louise Blankenship, already sitting in the chair and tapping her foot to get started. Worse yet, the subject was the theology of her world, from which the fifth book is now out! Talking about other people’s gods is always a bit off-putting, you know, takes away half my rap from the start. But I nerved myself up while heating the irons and decided to give it my best shot. So brace yourself for a cut above, you might say, as we explore the deities of the world of Disciple.
Q1: I gather your world is governed or influenced by two gods. Are they, in any way, um, a couple? Related, perhaps? Is this the eternal-war deal or did they both decide to go out to the same world at the Deity Speed-Date Night on Match.com?
A: Mother Love and Father Duty have one of those long-term marriages where they disagree a lot and seem to be at cross purposes but they respect each other far too much to actually fight. Things always seem to work out in the end. I don’t think that they met each other so much as the universe required both of them to exist.
In the world’s mythology, the Mother and Father are the human forms of the alpha ram and ewe that lead the “flock” of the world’s population. Their teachings are on how to be good flock members during one’s life.
This flock is overseen by the Shepherd, who is at various times Life and Death, Luck and Fate, the judger of all the sheep. He’s a mysterious higher power that isn’t exactly approachable, so people focus more on Mother Love and Father Duty.
Q2: Even the gods are married? Sheesh, you think if you lived in heaven you could avoid the “honey-do” lists… No polite way to put this one. How “real” are they? Do the people of your world see manifestations of their deities on a regular basis? Miracles, much? Or do your characters have to do more than see to believe? Are there many unbelievers in your world, or just a lot of salt-pillars standing around in odd places…
A: The saints are chosen by Mother Love and Father Duty to lead a particular portion (kingdom) of the Flock. Saints are very real and very powerful, no question about that, which tends to blur out the fact that the Mother and Father don’t seem to act overtly in the world. Not on their own, at least. The saints take care of that and can invoke the Mother and Father, or even the Shepherd, as needed.
There are other takes on the same mythology: in the kingdom of Caercoed, which is strongly matriarchal, it’s Mother Strength and Father Care. Same roles, just gender-switched.
And in Arcea, the Empress banned the Mother, Father, and Shepherd outright. The Empress has the armies and power to back up that sort of blasphemy, though.
Q3: You’ve made reference to miraculous magic by the “saints”. Can you describe a bit more about that? Are miracles well understood, reliable, easy? Or is something about them difficult, exhausting, iffy? About how many saints are there walking around at the time the story happens?
A: The saints do not talk much about how they do what they do — they’re all in direct competition with each other over scarce magical resources (the kir founts, where raw magic wells up out of the earth) and it’s dangerous for the enemy to know what you’re capable of. Keep your aces up your sleeve is the common wisdom.
Large-scale magic requires strength, focus, and practice, and in addition it’s dangerous because it draws attention. Few people are born with the innate talent for that level of kir-magery, and fewer survive the process of training and ascending to full sainthood.
Saint Qadeem thinks there might be a hundred saints in the world at any given time, but it’s difficult to say because firstly saints are immortal, and secondly they can hide among the general population easily — so long as they don’t do anything to attract attention.
Q4: The comedian Henny Youngman said it best: “I tried once to be an atheist, but I had to give it up. They have no holidays!” So what do folks in your world do to celebrate their faith? Is there a custom or day that really expresses what they believe?
A: The four big holidays of the year are the two Solstices and the two Equinoxes. At the Equinoxes there are smaller parties and everyone is encouraged to “balance” one’s accounts of debts owed. These can be debts of money or honor. If you need forgiveness for something, or you want to honor a loving relationship, this is the time to do it.
The Solstices are a chance to throw a big party and mark the turning of the season from one deity to the other. Winter and spring are Mother Love’s seasons: the flock should be supportive of each other to survive the weather and see to the spring planting. Summer and autumn are Father Duty’s seasons: time to serve the kingdom in wartime or public works projects, and then get the harvest in.
Traditionally, it’s bad luck to see moonrise on Winter Solstice without getting a kiss. That plays into the plot of Disciple, Part V… none of the main characters are getting kissed after what happened at the end of Part IV.
Thanks Louise, the world of Disciple sounds beautifully detailed and justified in matters of faith. We shall forbear to punish you further… just in case. Here’s the info you need to get started on the world of Disciple.
Disciple, Part V
Kiefan will not give up on the alliance his kingdom desperately needs — even though the Caer queen refuses to speak to him.
Anders, alone and despairing, faces the Empress’s seductive offers of power and privilege.
Each of them must carry the ongoing war in their own way, whether cold, alone, or backed into a corner. Each must patch together a broken heart as best they can. Duty will throw them together soon enough and they must be ready.
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Disciple, Part VI
ends the series early next year!