Sunday, March 8, 2009

Supplements for Book I


Welcome to the Supplements section!

The Supplements are designed to scratch the exposition itch that some readers have. I've been told that good writers should take care to not dump too much information at once on their audience; however if there is much of the setting to explore, there simply may not be enough time to include it all in one short story or two, and attentive or interested readers may be desperate to find out more of the setting. The Supplements will cover information about the various nations, (in)famous personas who had been alive or are still alive by 1066, details into certain characters, and reasons why I interpreted certain things in certain ways.

The primary reason why I started this Supplements section is because my plans will prevent certain areas from getting the spotlight for a long period of time. For example, the first story, The Tale of King Arthur and the Ogres of Hamlin, is obviously set in Britain and focusing on Arthur (Saber for you F/SN fans). The next story I plan on writing is set in northern France and will focus on the squire Galahad, the third story I plan on writing is set in Ireland and will focus on the brothers Cuchulainn and Diarmuid Ua Duibhne (I'm well aware that they're not actually brothers in the myths), the fourth story I plan on writing is set around Greece and will focus on Medea, and so forth. Again, notice that I won't be returning to Britain for quite a while. This is why I'm making these Supplements chapters; they're here for readers who want to find out more about Britain or Ireland or wherever without having to wait for months on end. (It can also serve to better organize my own ideas on the stories and help me find any serious holes in the setting.)

The trade off is, of course, that you, the potential reader, will have to sit through a massive infodump. That and you'll spoil a lot of details and information that are coming up.

I'll do my utmost to cover most, if not all, of the places that the main characters in the first sequel novel will go to (which will probably be around what is today western Europe, Greece/Macedonia, and Babylon) by the end of said first sequel novel, so that readers will not be required to read the Supplements to enjoy the main stories.

As always, Caveat Lector!

What I'm trying to do:

My goals with the various stories I plan to write are twofold:

1)Accurately and skillfully trtansplant the characters from the Fate/Stay Night franchise into my somewhat-original setting. This will include recreating backstories, adjusting of personalities and character traits, and logically applying the metaphysics of the Fate/Stay Night universe into mine.

After completing the above...

2)Take the transplanted characters and experiment with them.

3) Improve my writing, since I utterly lack experience in writing fiction of any sort or length.

That's the only thing I'm trying to do, ultimately: to experiment with the characters from F/SN who I love so much. If I also happen to at least partly deconstruct the fantasy genre while experimenting with the characters...that would serendipity.

General overview of the setting:

As you may have noticed while reading Book I, the setting is a mish-mash of actual history, mythology, and Nasuverse lore with very little reverence for chronology. The most obvious example of this is Arthur herself—most historians think that, if King Arthur even existed at all, he would have ruled much earlier than 1061 AD and certainly did not have the ability to leap great heights and distances, nor a magical sword that could fire blasts of searing light and cut through just about anything.

There are also certain anachronisms in technology. Book I does not mention it, but Arthur during the battle with the ogres was actually wearing plate armor (for readers familiar with plate armor history, the plate harness I'm envisioning for Arthur at the moment is similar to 14th century transitional-plate design). In real life history, Europe only developed “true” plate armor sometime around the 14th-15th century, apparently due to technological limitations. Plate armor in this setting is exceedingly rare as the people who possess the magic and smithing skills required to forge a customized suit of plate can be counted on one hand (due to the lack of the proper technology to forge plate, highly skilled mage/smiths must do the job instead). Other combatants must make do with maille (“chainmail”) hauberks, though even this is anachronistic as some of the hauberks in this setting cover the body from head to toe, which in real life did not happen until at least the first few Crusades (12th century and onward).

For most readers, the most glaring mish-mashy aspect of the setting will probably be the political figures. Here is a list of some of the rulers of the various nations populating the setting, and some of their most famous associates. Many of these names will sound familiar to those who have taken a high school course or two in world history:

King Arthur, of Britain
May not have existed: if so, probably ruled around 5th-6th century AD
Associated personnel: Knights of the Round Table (including Lancelot, Gawain, Bedivere, Kay, Ector, etc), Merlin, Morganna le Fay, and others

High King Conchobar mac Nessa, of Ulster (Ireland)
Based off of king Conchobar mac Nessa, who was associated with Cuchulainn in the Ulster Cycle of Celtic mythology: mythical, probably did not exist
Associated personnel: Cuchulainn (his champion), Knights Fianna (based off the warriors Fianna, a group of elite fighters from Irish mythology, includes Fionn mac Cumhaill and Diarmuid ua Duibhne), and others.

Charles the Young, of the Carolingian Empire aka Carolingia (France)
Based off of the real Charles VII of France, who took over the throne with Joan of Arc's assistance, ruled ca. Early 15th century
Associated personnel: Joan of Arc (his champion), Gilles de Rais (also known as Bluebeard in posterity), and others

El Cid Campeador, of Castille (northern half of what is today Spain and Portugal)
Based off of the real El Cid of what would become Spain, also had one of the most badass nicknames in history, ruled ca. 11th century
Associated personnel: None yet

Alexander I, “The Great”, of the Alexandrian Empire aka Alexandria (includes Greece, Macedon, and all of Europe east of Germany, including Russia)
Based off of the real Alexander the Great of Macedon, ruled ca. 4th century BC
Associated personnel: None yet (will include Medea)

God-King Gilgamesh, “The Living God”, of the Babylonian Empire aka Babylonia (includes Egypt, Turkey, and everything west of India and south of Siberia)
Based off of Gilgamesh from The Epic of Gilgamesh, may not have existed: if so, probably ruled around 2000 BC
Associated personnel: None yet (will include the setting's equivalent of Kotomine)

I would say something of the ruler of Germania, but I haven't quite decided on what to do with that place yet. Other nations that I will eventually flesh out will be a North African kingdom based off of the Mali/Ghana empires, and Scandinavia/Northern Europe.

On Britain:

The Britain during the early 1060's in my mind is a relatively peaceful and prosperous place, aside from the occasional raid by rowdy nobles in northern France—as the quote from Winslow Hillchurch suggests, Arthur's reign until the coming of Mordred would be seen as a good, peaceful reign by future generations (but as with many things in history, there will be...details about Arthur's pre-Mordred reign that later generations will miss out on). In this setting, Arthur reunited Britain (populated in this setting by four general ethnic groups: the Welsh, the Scots, the Anglo-Saxons, and the Danes) from a 15-year period of internal strife and turmoil, using a combination of charisma, lineage (she's the “son” of Uther Pendragon, after all), powerful alliances, and not just a little bit of trickery from Merlin (called “The Deciever” by the Association of Magi). By uniting the nation under one banner (well, mostly—Scotland and Wales are more like “very close allies” than provinces per se), and by maintaining control over the once independent nobles of the land, Arthur had forged Britain into a strong kingdom by 1061.

The country mostly subsists by exporting grain products, wool, and yew lumber, usually for cattle from Ulster and metal ore from Germania and France. Arthur is trying her utmost, however, to regain some of the skilled workers Britain had lost during the past 15 years, so that Britain would not have to depend so heavily on external goods.

Compared to great powers like Carolingia or Alexandria, Britain does not have quite as large a population or resources, so what Britain lacks in numbers it tries to make up for in quality. Although Britain's military is still based on the real life feudal system where, theoretically, nobles levy troops from their lands and unite under the banner of a king, it is still slightly more standardized and nationalized. Several months of drilling and training is required for fit male commoners from ages 18-30, so that villagers can put up a strong resistance against raiders until help arrives. Skill with the Welsh warbow is strongly encouraged, and luckily for Arthur, archery is a popular sport in most areas of southern Britain anyway. Britain's knights are relatively few, but under the leadership of the Knights of the Round Table and the king, they are more disciplined and focused towards victory than personal glory. Note that Arthur is a particularly proactive king, and often fights on the front lines with her men. Since Britain fights only defensive wars, and against raiding parties at that, the country needs less of a military budget than most others.

In combat, British soldiers are trained to fight as a team, with the heavy infantry pinning down enemy infantry while warbow-armed light infantry soften the enemy up for a cavalry charge by the knights.

Note: although the nobles of Britain used to be very independent and rebellious, they are all very content under the rule of Arthur. This makes Baron Herbert's sudden betrayal all the more suspect. More on this later.

The Knights of the Round Table and the Round Table itself:

The Round Table is, along with Excalibur, a famous item very closely associated with King Arthur. However, just sticking it in Camelot wouldn't really work, since having a gargantuan table filled with nobles cannot help but have consequences in a semi-realistic setting. So, I had to adapt it somehow into my universe.

One of my inspirations for ideas for the function of the Round Table and its knights was my impression of King Louis XIV (The Sun King) of France. IIRC, he played his nobles like a fiddle and kept them from rebelling and taking over the throne by somehow getting them obsessed over gaining the king's favor, such as speaking with the king as he sat on his latrine or accompanying the king to his bed in the evening. I wanted the Round Table to be something similar--a political body made up of powerful warriors (Lancelot and Bedivere), diplomats (Gawain), and convenient political allies (as we'll later find out, Gawain again) that carries immense prestige, so much that even powerful nobles consider it a privilege just to sit at the Round Table. Merlin designed this organization to help solidify the king's political position. Many of the Knights are from wealthy, powerful families (such as Gawain), and Merlin hoped that, by giving the most loyal among them high positions close to the king, the nobles' collective ability to resist the king would be weakened.

The Knights of the Round Table, meanwhile, is a body of men and women who serve various roles for the king. Round Table Knights who are proficient in combat serve as the king's bodyguards, while Round Table Knights who are skilled with finances may serve as the country's treasurers and accountants, and so forth, with each knight serving the king to his/her best ability with what they are best at.

There are, however, several among the Round Table Knights who are not from nobility or even from Britain. Bedivere and Palamedes, for example, are Greek and Egyptian, respectively (Palamedes was an Egyptian noble who grew tired of life in the Babylonian Empire; Bedivere has yet to reveal much about her origins). Geraint, meanwhile, was the son of a cattle herder before he became a knight (in this setting, he gets the job for being a crack shot with and defending an entire village from bandits by himself). By opening the Round Table to people who are not high born or British, Merlin hoped to give Arthur the support of the people and increase Britain's prestige among the nations. The latter part of the plan seemed to have worked; Conchobar Mac Nessa later forms his Knights Fianna claiming that he was inspired to do so by his admiration for the Round Table.

Note: the feudal ranking of “knight” (which is actually rather low) and the British ranking of Knight of the Round Table/Round Table Knight are different. A Knight of the Round Table technically has greater authority than even a Duke of the kingdom.

Camelot, the capital of Britain:

It's been a while since I've read Arthurian myths, so I decided to build Camelot from mostly ground-up. (Hey look! A pun!)

If I remember my medieval history correctly, Western Europe did not have the masonry know-how to build the stereotypical majestic stone castles until after the first Crusades. The eastern empires (including the Byzantine Empire and some Middle Eastern cities) had all the big, fancy stone structures, and in my setting the Crusades both didn't happen yet (the first was actually launched in 1095) and won't happen ever (and thus no major trade of ideas between the West and the Near East). But what sort of fantasy setting would my universe be without big stone castles? Thus, I had to find some way to justify Camelot having fancy stone buildings—luckily, that's where Sir Palamedes and his brothers (who were all Arabic in the Arthurian myths) came in.

Note: many other major countries (Castille and Carolingia included) still have stone structures for some of their major fortresses (the rest are motte-and-bailey/wooden fortifications), although they are not nearly as large or as majestic as Camelot's.

Camelot is both a town to protect some of the citizenry and a castle to house the ruling body of Britain. The city is built on a cliff to help ward off enemies and is built in the shape of two concentric circles. The outer circle is the outer wall, while the citizens live in between the outer wall and the inner wall that encloses the keep of the castle (in which the king resides). There are also quarters for the Knights of the Round Table and a tall, spiraling tower for the College.

The College:

I will write more of the College in the later stories, but here's a quick overview of what it is.

The College is a training facility for British magi, under the tutelage of Merlin himself (with the occasional help of his apprentice, Morganna). Merlin designed the College to make Britain more independent of the Association of Mages, which, due to its virtual monopoly on magecraft training and employment, tends to meddle in the affairs of others (as Razzini demonstrated). Gawain suspects, however, that Merlin created the College for himself, to gather more power for himself. But then, Gawain has never liked Merlin.

The characters:

King Arthur Pendragon of Britain, son of Uther Pendragon, son of Alfred the Great
Fate/Stay Night equivalent character: Saber

For those who do not know of Fate/Stay Night, the character Saber from the Fate/Stay Night franchise is a gender-flipped King Arthur and is a major character in the series. Her backstory in Fate/Stay Night seems to focus mostly on how she deals with being the king of Britain, and the fallout she has to contend with when her subjects, Knights of the Round Table and others alike, lose faith in their king due to their lack of understanding of her methods.

Her backstory culminates at the Battle of Camlann, where she defeats Mordred almost at the cost of her life. She makes a pact with the world, asking it to allow her to become a supernatural being called a Heroic Spirit so that she can obtain the wish-granting device known as the Grail. By obtaining the Grail, she wants to make one wish: to redo the time when she became King of Britain, for she felt that she failed the oath she took to protect her country when she pulled the sword out of the stone.

So, what am I trying to do with this character?

Everything in this setting, from the mixing of myth and history and all the adaptations of Fate/Stay Night's characters into this setting, all began when I asked myself this question: what if Arthur survived Camlann?

Thus, the whole point of Book I was to show what Arthur was like back when Britain wasn't falling apart, to set Arthur and Britain up so that I can examine how they fall at Camlann, then how they pick themselves back up from the aftermath.

For her book, I tried to portray Saber as she was in my head—stern, down-to-earth and all about business (hence the line from Dagonet), but also with a vulnerable side full of doubt (hence the scene with Merlin). Also, after I learned that she was once known as “The King of Knights” among other Heroic Spirits, I put a slight twist to her character. I wondered, “What would a king who is more a knight than a monarch be like?” and went on from there.

Important note! Notice that, throughout Book I, we see things only from Arthur's perspective. Chances are, I'll do this for every story (though I'll definitely experiment with using various perspectives on later stories). Because of this, we only see certain aspects of other characters as Arthur sees them (or aspects of themselves they allow her to see). Don't take the personalities you encounter in Book I for granted!

Later, after vanquishing a particularly bothersome (and powerful!) dragon, she was given the title “King of Knights” by the Association of Magi. More on this below!

For those who wish to know how Arthur looks like as a girl, go this a ways:

However, since her plate armor in those pictures are rather silly for realistic combat (which I'm trying to portray in my stories), imagine Arthur wearing this instead:

Merlin The Green Magus, “The Deceiver”, “The Halfbreed”
Fate/Stay Night equivalent character: Merlin

Despite the importance of Merlin in Arthurian myths, I don't think he appears very much in Fate/Stay Night. As a result, I had to come up with his role mostly from scratch. The only thing I had to base his character off of was the fact that Merlin was somehow similar to a certain goofy man in the F/SN franchise (for those interested, it was apparently Kiritsugu). So I took that and ran with it.

Merlin in this setting is King Arthur's personal mage and is half-incubus (which explains why he's so good at magic—he's not entirely human). Because of his magical prowess, he has been given the title of Green Magus by the Association of Magi—the titles Green Magus, Red Magus, and Blue Magus being given to the three most powerful living magi. Although he is very skilled in almost every form of magic, his specialty is magic that deals with illusions, mental influence, and warping reality for limited periods of time.

The Merlin you meet in Book I is perverted, irreverent of manners, and is excellent at manipulating the emotions of others. He knows precisely how to push just the right buttons, when to put on the right masks, when to say what to who...there's a good reason why he's called “The Deceiver”. Predicting how people think is probably his greatest skill. And always remember: the Merlin you see probably isn't the real Merlin.

One more thing: he's not above lying to and manipulating even Arthur. In Merlin's mind, it's for her own good.

More on Merlin when I get to Gawain's story.


Like the Green-Blue-Red mage titles, there are also titles given to certain people, either to hold them in high regard or to label them as, essentially, criminals. For the fun of it, I've decided to post them here.

By 1066 AD...

King of Knights: King Arthur of Britain
Given to those who do great deeds in service of others. Previously held by Roland, 1st among Paladins.

King of Warriors: Cuchulainn of Ulster
Given to those who do great deeds on the battlefield. Previously held by Olaf son of Harald, of Norway.

King of Conquerors: Alexander I of Alexandria
Given to those who conquer large swaths of land in a short period time. Previously held by Charlemange of Carolingia.

King of Heroes: God-King Gilgamesh of Babylonia. Gilgamesh has yet to be usurped from this position, but heroes like Herakles and Sigurd came close to doing so.
Given to those who do great deeds for themselves.

The Fallen: Herakles of Argolis. Previously held by Kullervo.
Given to those who became great heroes but committed an atrocity, depriving them of their exalted status.

Green Magus, Blue Magus, Red Magus: Merlin, Kishua Zelretch Schweinorg, vacant. Previously held by various magi.
Given to the most powerful living magi, regardless of race or divinity. By 1066, the title of Red Magus is being contested over by Medea and Gilles de Rais.

That's it for this Book's Supplements. Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of the setting, the characters, and my thought processes.