Tag Archives: Plane of Dreams

It Figures: Yula the First

Because in the end you have to show, not tell

In this installment I provide a brief peek at a character who figures “highly” in the history of the Lands, but whose personal history goes much deeper.


In the early days
In the early days

Yula is a Dwarven warrior and one of the mainstay fighters in the adventuring band known as the Candidates. He began life in the wrong city and as far from fortune as anyone ever born. Yula never shirked danger, never let down his comrades, and wound up on the highest throne in the Lands. Who says you can’t come home again?


In the fewest possible words– do not get me started.

It’s not just that Yula is the Emperor of Argens, it’s how he got there. And how little, how microscopically tiny is the portion of his tale that’s leaked out so far. He’s a great hero, in what was arguably the greatest band of adventurers the Lands of Hope ever saw. The tale of his struggle, the redemption of his hopes and how an empire had to fall rather than his friends, is simply too big for me. At least right now.

Morinack and Melvod in back (so much wear and tear!)
Morinack and Melvod in back (so much wear and tear!)

So what? So this– Yula and the Candidates are a perfect example of the kind of depth writing can use. What percentage of your raw notes makes it into the finished product? Doesn’t matter who you are, what genre of fiction you write these days, I can answer the question definitively.

Too little.

On the first draft, when it’s still so cool and you can’t stand it, out comes reams of background and detail and fab world-building. And of course, it has to go. But where?

In thirty years of Hope-watching I saw Yula practically from the start, followed him all the way to the throne. I’m still not sure it’s a tale I can tell.

Later, a master-crafted plate suit, all in black.
Later, a master-crafted plate suit, all in black.

He and his band got their start in 1995 ADR (you will see the Candidates briefly near the start of The Eye of Kog, upcoming sequel to Judgement’s Tale). All through the latter days of other adventuring bands, the Restorants and Tributarians, plus the storied solo careers of men like Trekelny and Judgement, the Candidates were the ones making the headlines. But you see just a peek here and there.

Simple really. When I thought about trying to write Yula’s saga my fingers froze. But when I wrote about the REST of the Lands, in which Yula and his companions were such a major part– then it all came out like water from a sluice-gate. Created with Nokia RefocusHe’s in the background, part of the tons of pressure making these current tales come spiking out as if shot from a cannon. You hear soldiers singing derisively about the “stubby little carker” in The Ring and the Flag; Hansen interviews Justin at the start, Morinack is referenced as the puppeteer behind the scenes. And Kama, the healer of the Candidates, is a supporting figure in Fencing Reputation. I’ve been privileged to learn about these marvelous characters, and to see so much about this world over their shoulders.

Yula slew Viridian XXVII, the demon unmasked, in personal combat, probably one of the most puissant feats of battle seen since the days of the heroes.

Viridian took him on, proving size doesn't matter.
Viridian took him on, proving size doesn’t matter.

Yula has surely dispatched more of the Greater Demons than any being alive. He banned the drug trade, freed slaves all over his dominions, sent out brave souls to recolonize the Far Mark; it’s only been two years, give him time. So many things going on in the Southlands are ripples from actions the Candidates took. But he’s just the usurper they love to hate, a distant figure on a throne in the capital, surrounded by his sorcerous northern allies and brewing yet more trouble for right-thinking folk. They don’t know him, not like I do.


I call this one Last Thing Viridian Saw
I call this one Last Thing Viridian Saw

My Nokia Refocus lens has on-board edit functions that help prep the photos before sending. I think this is the first time I used afternoon light for my session, and a standing lamp near the table which also helped. The close-up shots of faces still lack some focus (other shots, the focus is off on purpose, like here).

Let me know how I’m doing! Rooting around for these figs made me honestly nostalgic for painting again. I have SO many unpainted ones in the basement… but it would take at least $100 to restock the paint supplies alone.

It Figures: Second Form Undead

Because in the end, you need to show, not tell

After a too-long hiatus, my ranting rises from beyond the grave (come on, you know I had to go there). I return to the theme of describing the Land of Hope inCreated with Nokia Refocus the most direct way possible, through a unique lens that is, among other things, a lens.


Previously I looked at what sages call the First Form Undead, including Skeletons, Gaunts and Wraps. Their existence is bad enough for the Children of Hope to deal with, but it gets worse. Faltus Fanem, the half-mad Sage during the Age of Emptiness who traced the history of the “plague of fear”, as he dubbed it, categorized another group of undead, which the necromancer Wolga Vrule originally created:

Created with Nokia RefocusVrule also discerned for some of the dead, enough fear, hatred, or other negative emotion ruled their late life that not just the mindless shell, but the being itself could be recalled. The amount and purity of miasma could be used, in rare cases, to pull back the being’s soul, if you will, and bind it to its former body, or in some cases to a place, and cause it to act again in the world (if not truly to live). These dread beings, driven by the need for revenge or some other base emotion, would stalk and speak, possessed of great strength, or the lore of their former lives, and with conscious intent wrought still more evil on the Lands

– Faltus Fanem, The Nameless Tome


So the chief criterion is one of intent– undead of the second form exert partial control over their actions; most would argue this places their souls beyond saving. And the Second Form wield greater Created with Nokia Refocuspowers and protections, probably deriving from how much of their former selves have been drawn into their new cursed form. They are a greater threat to the peace of the Lands, and worth examining in more detail.

Revenants, ghosts, and others haunted certain parts of the world, with the power to drain life from new victims, a monstrous and foul act which not only weakened Hope but spread yet more miasma through the world.

The act of draining is usually accomplished through physical touch, and is intensely painful in addition to weakening the victim (usually unto death, after which the body is very easy to raise in turn). In The Plane of Dreams, the Preacher Cheriatte is forced into physical contact with a Revenant (who is desperately trying not to drain her), and it nearly kills her.

Created with Nokia RefocusInstantly she felt bone-numbing cold from his touch, biting her lip not to cry out… Where their fingers touched there was no scarring, yet, but a kind of gentle hiss and a trail of thin mist behind their hands as they moved… Cheriatte felt thrust into a Novarian storm, her body enveloped in cold and her arm lacking any feeling below the shoulder. She coughed frosty breath and spun away…

The Plane of Dreams

I have witnessed few acts of greater bravery, because Cheriatte could have so little reason to believe it would work. Her faith and sacrifice provided a cursed Created with Nokia Refocussoul with a chance at redemption, which very few folks in the Lands believe possible. I won’t give away the ending. But don’t try that at home.

The scars resulting from life-drain are paper-white and thick, like worms on the face or arm, and slowly fade but seldom disappear entirely. Few people recognize their true nature, and the surviving victim is often reviled as if diseased.

Revenants are the intact corpses of those slain in the grip of some perilous emotion, leaving them with “unfinished business” that forbids their full death. They glide over the ground without need to move their legs, and often wield weapons or spells though they seldom speak. Revenants are immune to weapons that have not been enchanted, and spells that affect movement usually do nothing to impede them.

Created with Nokia RefocusGhosts exist in similar situations to those which produce Revenants– Sages debate if Ghosts are simply Revenants who have existed so long that the corporeal body rots away. {I personally hope we never compile enough examples to find out for certain.} Ghosts are completely incorporeal, passing over and through all manner of physical obstacles, through doors, and over small open spaces like unbridged rivers without difficulty. Even some enchanted weapons do not affect them, and only certain spells. Some Ghosts still drain in the manner described (the victim feels a tingle as the hand passes into their body), whereas others (possibly the very old ones) assail those who intrude on them with a special kind of fear-attack that inflicts decades of aging. This is sufficient to push most mortals (Men, Dwarves and Halflings) beyond the limit of their natural lifetime, thus literally scaring them to death. And Elves fear Ghosts just as much, since an Elf can never tell when their Moment might be due to pass, and being pushed past their Age Moment in this way would be tantamount to a ruined life (and require ritual suicide). Thankfully, Ghosts are not only rare but seem bound to specific places which can be avoided by the sane.

Worst of all the undead has to be their king, the necromancer Wolga Vrule, who learned so much about undeath that he could undergo a special process personally:

Created with Nokia Refocus‘Twas this path that Vrule practiced upon himself, managing to find a way through unnamed sorcery, and driven by his hate and fear of death (I do not hesitate to say it, though he himself would haughtily deny such- Vrule feared death more even than he hated the world); driven thus, he transformed without transition through death, which is natural, to an un-life which defies and desecrates nature itself, as a Liche.

 Vrule is the chief villain of Judgement’s Tale, fortunately imprisoned for centuries but now breaking free. The nature of miasma is perhaps the most pernicious aspect of the necromancy he discovered– in short, miasma generates from hatred and fear, and nothing causes more of both than the sight of undeath. So the more creatures rise from the dead, the more the “plague of fear” spreads. And undead of the second form have the power to create undead beings through life-drain.

Vampires, most sages would insist are also undead and if so they are clearly of the second form. Like them, they seem immune to damage from normal Created with Nokia Refocusweapons and have an attack that can drain the life of their victims. But from the fragments of lore I can piece together, there seem to be some troubles with the thesis. Thankfully, they are extremely rare in number- Fanem makes no mention of Wolga Vrule ever creating one, and there is good sense in that. Vampires, if they exist at all, retain such control over their actions and movements that they can pass for living: Vrule is clearly unwilling to share power or credit with anyone. Some scholars have insisted they are in fact alive, but afflicted with some bizarre disease. In all my searching I have found only one, and readers can meet him– I hope briefly– in the final chapters of the Shards of Light series. More than that, I don’t dare to say right now.


I take these pictures using my Nokia Lumia phone (which recently was replaced on warranty, with an identical model). I used the Nokia Refocus lens for most shots and the more normal Nokia lens for the wide-screen group pictures. This time I attempted more edits in the camera functions, mostly cropping but a little bit of focus. Then just a touch of Brightness/Contrast in MS Picture Manager. Still pursuing perfection! Advice readily accepted.Undead_form2_2

I hope you’ve enjoyed a chill thinking about miasma and the life-drain attack. Unless the Man in Grey succeeds in his quest (detailed further in the final chapter of Judgement’s Tale and later this year in The Eye of Kog), the undead will be all we have with us in the Lands. Which won’t be the Lands of Hope anymore.Created with Nokia Refocus