By Vadren Skycastle
So, you’ve learned that the supernatural world exists. And that you’re stuck. You can go back to your ordinary life, but it won’t be the same. Now you’ll glimpse doors in walls where they shouldn’t be, see masked changelings striding through the streets on mist-grey stallions, and notice towering, horned figures in crowds.
And you are the only one to see them.
Then, there are the predators. Perhaps, as you walk along the street, there’ll be a man in front. In the next heartbeat, he vanishes. And then there’s a glimpse of something big and hulking dragging him into a nearby alleyway, and if you rush forward to investigate, you’ll only see trash blowing in the breeze.
And no one will believe you when you tell them these things.
That’s why many leave the borders and go deeper into the world.
To stay safe, you’ll either need to join a faction, acquire a vestige, or both.
Factions are political blocs. Their goal is to keep the supernatural community stable, and the borders between the worlds intact. You may have heard of a few—the Undying Queen and her Court who maintain order in the city, the Amaranthine Lodge which investigates secrets and even the Lucky Twelves, a coalition of criminal and gangsters that are very good at policing themselves.
And a vestige? That word gets thrown around a lot—in fact the supernatural layer of reality is also called the ‘Vestige World’ as well as the Indigo World or the Twilight Realm.
A vestige is how you get magic. It’s a difficult process. So many things can go wrong.
You’ll need to make a pact with a being from another dimension. Someone who once roamed freely during the Age of Magic, and who’s now trapped. These beings want to conduct schemes and intrigues in the mortal world, and for that they need agents. Once you meet such a being, and you agree to a pact, you’ll receive a vestige—part of the other entity’s soul attached to yours, and through this, you can wield arcane power.
Patron and agent relationships are complex. You might be treated like an honorary employee, a knightly champion, or a son or daughter. Or worse, chattel or a meagre pet.
You get one shot at making a pact. Like at a job interview, you’ll need to as the right questions and make sure that you’ve met the right patron.
Unlike a regular job, there’s no resigning… Or not that I’ve heard.
Next, we’ll talk about the type of patrons you might meet. And what you can become.
by Vadren Skycastle
Welcome to the first article in this series, designed to introduce newcomers to the supernatural world. If you’re confused, or have questions, these entries should help you out.
Let’s start slow. You must have so many questions.
Last year, I lived in the ordinary world. I took all of it for granted: cars and skyscrapers, burger restaurants, airships, smartphones and watches. I grew up surrounded by stories of an age of magic, but it was all folklore and hearsay.
This is what I thought:
It was reasonable that there had been a tyrant called the ‘Dark Emperor’ who had reigned two thousand years ago, head of an advanced civilisation. I can see his castle from my studio window, and can make out the tour buses heading up the mountain for the top. There’s ruins and towers everywhere. You can’t dig up a piece of land in Storm City without uncovering some ancient brick or arrowhead or historical temple.
And it’s also reasonable to assume that there had been an epic war to stop the Emperor, and the famous General Hawkbow had killed him, or at least had the credit for it. This what history tells us.
But it was unreasonable to think that there had once been an age of magic. Where was the evidence for it? Where were the dragons and unicorns? Where was the crystal city of Reladon, and the wizards that had guided the world from the Crystalspire? What happened to the magic swords? Every archeological dig only returns bricks, quartz fragments and old coins. No weird skeletons. Lab tests don’t return artefacts that have strange or unique properties. Everything can be explained neatly and precisely.
No, it was very reasonable to believe that the ‘Age of Magic’ was a story, and the real history was a brutal struggle that people had embellished.
When I was a journalist, I thought that way. Until I went too far, chasing the story of a lifetime. There’s a thin barrier that separates the ‘Golden’ world of the mundanes, and the ‘Indigo’ world of the supernaturals. And once you cross that barrier you can’t cross back.
The Indigo World isn’t like a separate dimension. It’s a different layer. Like a filter on a camera, or having a superuser password that unlocks more features. For a start, you can see things. Monsters that weren’t there before. People using magic.
And it’s not a nice world. People are out for themselves, or are driven to serve extra-dimensional masters in exchange for magic powers. Magic is trapped in old crystals and relics, and these are fought and squabbled over by ‘occultists’, a crazy group of people who consider themselves the heirs to the wizards of the Crystalspire. There are factions, gangs, shifting alliances and deals.
As a person who’s crossed over with no powers—they call us ‘borderers’—you’re not protected any more. People in the Golden World have ancient enchantments keeping them (mostly) safe from the supernatural. We don’t. We’re the lowest rung on the supernatural ladder, ‘meat’ for the rest.
You only survive if you make contacts, or play your cards right.
Next post I’ll explain how you can do this as soon as possible.
As everyone knows, the best way to manage your anxiety is to launch a book. I usually rely on lists and CBT to keep things in check, but this is madness! If this was a serial killer investigation, there would be corkboards and string connecting pictures to
bloodcoffee, stains and incomprehensible scribbles! Wide publishing! Paperbacks! Do I use an aggregator or go direct to all the different vendors? Do I need affiliate accounts? How much should I do?
I’ve also changed my email service provider at the same time—it was like moving e-house. Anyway, it’s done now even if I want to hit the block editor in the head with a rusted crowbar.
Final Night was the book I didn’t intend to write. As my ‘survive COVID project’ I wrote a novel first, and then a short novel featuring one of the side characters. Well, a year later, the novel is still cooking, but Final Night is ready to face the world. And I’ve changed my publishing plans—to write a few more novels in the Revenant Records sequence before continuing with the novel sequence. That’s the good thing about self-publishing—you can change your tactics as you go.
(You can tell I’ve had too much coffee this week.)
Pre-Orders are Go!
So the book! The first thing I’m launching commercially! It’s going live in less than a week! Currently on pre-order most sites and should be available for everyone on September 14th. (I’ll tell you about hardcopies later…)
What’s it about? A teenager comes back from the dead to investigate her murder. A homage to the 80s, and a twist on the usual slasher film tropes. Set in the unique ‘Vestige World’ urban fantasy setting: a modern world with a magical past.
Recently risen from the grave, Lukie has until dawn to avenge her death. If only she could remember who murdered her. And only if someone else doesn’t kill her again.
High school’s out for the class of 1983. Forever.
The last thing Lukie remembers is the farewell party in her hometown of Breakwater Bay. A final blowout before she leaves for university.
But when she wakes up as a living corpse, confused, and weirdly hungry, she finds the sleepy coastal village is now full of strange cars and loud tourists. Her family home is a block of flats, and she can’t find her father. Her best friend has aged twenty years in a single night.
Her memories are in tatters. She knows that someone hurt her. Someone betrayed her. Someone killed her. And that in some dark lonely place, she made a pact with something, and now she’s only got until dawn to find her murderer, or when the sun rises, she’ll be dead again. Forever.
Also the audiobook, narrated by professional actor and performance poet Kyla Lee Ward, is available from my store now, or will eventually be on your favourite audiobook provider once it trickles through the Findaway Voices ecosystem.
Let me know if you want an advance copy in exchange for an honest review! Unfortunately, the book isn’t set up on Goodreads yet–there’s a huge queue! Anyone know a friendly librarian?
I have things set up on Storygraph, although it requires a login.
In pre-COVID times, we used to have role-playing game conventions. A time of meat pies, and pizza (before I was diagnosed as gluten intolerant, alas) and crowded halls. Of buying too many dice sets and books from the stores. Of playing weird boardgames found in the library library and trying to figure out the rules late at night. But they were a long time ago.
But Melbourne announced a convention—the first in what seemed like centuries. So I dug up my in-progress Vestige World roleplaying system and ran four convention games. The idea I had when developing this world for my fiction was that I could use roleplaying games as a creative test lab. Develop cool stuff, and see what people responded to the in the game, and what didn’t.
So what did I learn? I thought it would be hard to pitch the setting to people, but it’s been fine. (So far, I’ve pitched it as:
- Lord of the Rings meets World of Darkness.
- Onward Meets Final Fantasy VII.
- …urban fantasy, in another world that’s not earth, but still has telephones and skyscrapers.
And if I use tropes and twist the,m it’s okay! Like–the world was ruled by the Dark Emperor ruled the world two thousand years ago… but now he’s been defeated and his castle is the city’s most popular tourist attraction.
But if I wander too far away from a trope, people will point it out. Like vampires. I had vampires in initially as one of the critters, but people who played the first incarnation of the game (and those who read the first draft of Final Night) commented that the vampires weren’t anything like what they thought of as ‘vampires’ so I changed them to ‘revenants’. (They drank blood in the first version, but the sticking point was that they had to make a pact with a ghost lord to return from the dead, which was not a thing that the platonic idea of vampires in people’s minds did.)
Anyway, so it’s good to get out there using one of my favorite hobbies to share my ideas that might work its way back into my stories. I think the direct transcription of roleplaying games into written stories doesn’t work (at least for me) but it’s a great idea furnace to model and design how the world works.
Have you found that one creative pursuit helps another? Let me know.