I’ve decided to make my book free. Work on the sequel is coming along well, and I should be able to pick up where I left off on this blog. Huzzah!
No Body is, rather ironically, one of the most popular & well known of all gods in the Blue Sphere. To some, he is a bearer of evil tidings, to others he is a guardian – No Body governs all those who prefer not to be recognised. He is most popular in poorer areas, as many of the poverty stricken areas of the Redlands harbour a paranoia that if they are singled out by the upper class, they will only be punished, injured, or harmed in some way. Often the worship of No Body is associated with criminals, both petty and serious, as well as professional assassins – unfortunately there is a good reason for the stereotype.
In mythology, No Body often appears as a malign trickster god – if he gives a gift it will almost always be accompanied by a curse, although he does not often give gifts & is more likely to offer unhelpful or misleading advice and make snide commentary on the folly of others. In his own myth, No Body is said to have stolen something of importance from the War god – in some versions it is the treasure of the gods, in other versions it is the War god’s magical bridle. In all versions, when he is caught by the god of War, and asked for his name, he replies with ‘No Body’ & the (admittedly dim-witted) god of War believes him & takes him to judgement, announcing to The King of the Gods that he has caught ‘No Body’ stealing. He is misunderstood, and eventually thrown out for wasting the King’s time. Angry, the god of War curses No Body & all of No Body’s children (his followers) to the curse of forever being hunted down by the lawful and just, saying that No Body’s crime will fall on the head of his first heir or follower that is caught. For this reason those who worship No Body take on pun names. No Body himself has several names – ‘No Body’ ‘Ian Cognito’ ‘Al Ias’ and ’Ash Tranger’ are the most popular.
The picture above is one of the most common interpretations of No Body’s appearance, but unlike many gods he is not often depicted directly – more often he is shown in pictures by a blank, human shaped hole, or indentation in the image. As with all gods he is said to favour a certain creature, but in his case it is the ant, as they often go unnoticed, and one ant cannot be easily told apart from another. These are two of the key tenants of No Body.
City tortoises are giant land tortoises which are large enough to host towns, and in some cases entire cities of people. The largest, and most impressive of the City Tortoises is a dead Tortoise commonly referred to as ‘The Dry Mother’ due to the mythology that surrounds it. The younger tortoises can be small enough that they may only host a sparsely populated village or commune. The smallest recognised city tortoise is Gabble, a young female tortoise who carries three houses on her back.
The city tortoises follow a migratory pattern befitting their size, moving from oasis to oasis. The smaller ones travel in loose groups, each tortoise is never more than a day’s ride away from any of the others, and they travel between a number of small destinations that are relatively close together. The medium sized desert tortoises (which is the most common size, ranging from 150 to 450 years old) tend to traverse most of the Great Desert, drinking from larger oasis and going further distances to get to each one. A medium sized city tortoise can drink enough water to half drain a small oasis, and will only do so if they are in dire need of water. It is speculated that the tortoises understand that draining the small oasis would cause the younger tortoises to die of thirst, as they do not have the reserves to make the journey between the larger, more spread out rest points. The largest city tortoises visit many of the same locations as the medium sized city tortoises, with a few exceptions – the first being the ocean. There are three tortoises large enough to visit the ocean. These tortoises are capable of using magic to filter the seawater and to make it drinkable. They spend a large amount of time at the ocean filling up for their journey around the desert. From there they take a well-worn path through a number of medium oasis and occasionally stop for a small sip here and there. The second major stop is the mountain lake of Mawtru. Each winter, they come in succession to the lake, and break through the thick ice with their beaks in order to drink their fill of the sweet mountain water. Mawtru Lake sits in the crater of the extinct Mawtru Volcano, and is so deep that it harbours many alien creatures in its depths that no man has ever gazed upon. Many animals rely on the breaking of the ice in order to fish for food in the waters, such as the penquins, and in the days before true Springtime, the third breaking of the ice is taken as a sign that winter is over. The last stop off is the vast inland sea of the Great Desert, where the bones of The Dry Mother lie. This oasis is a central hub to every route, small, great, or giant, that is undertaken by the city tortoise population. Once every year there is a great gathering at the inland sea – during the mating time.
The Legend of The Dry Mother is that there was once a city tortoise so grand in scale, that it must have been the first, as no evidence of a larger tortoise has been discovered. It is said that The Dry Mother had grown so large in her old age that one sip of the inland ocean would have drained it. The Dry Mother looked down at all her children and decided to die of thirst rather than to take all the water for herself, and so she died at the side of the lake, amongst her large extended family. The Dry Mother does host a large and thriving city which is the heart of trade, commerce, and learning for those who live on the city tortoises. It is Erasmus’ home city – Orbis Alius, The Unmoving City of Bone. The Dry Mother’s bones are at least two times the size of the largest living city tortoise, and that is without taking the sprawling, high-built city of Orbis Alius into account, which adds the height of yet another great tortoise. The city also has UnderDepths that reach below the shell. This is something that could never be done with a living tortoise. Some say that The Dry Mother still lives, in a state of hibernation, and that if there comes a time of great need, she will surge up to protect her family. There is some truth to this strange belief, in that as with other members of the City Tortoise group, The Dry Mother still produces magic, which is used to fuel the city. Many modern magicians argue that this is not a true production of magic – merely the remains of a magically charged aura that draws in magic from the surrounding area, much like the aura that can be generated passively by a long-term magic user. They used this theory to judge the age of The Dry Mother at approximately 2 million years, based on what we know of modern tortoise magic use, and current aura theory.
City tortoises create and use magic passively in order to compensate for the weight of their bulk. If they did not use magic to support themselves, then it is believed that they would be crushed under their own weight. This is a property they retain even after death, making the young hatchlings prime targets for those who want to use their shells as lightweight, super strong building material, or for shields. Their main use of magic comes at mating times, when the females must use their magic to keep themselves unharmed when the male has moved into the mounting position. Occasionally not even magic is enough, however, and the females can suffer from cracked shells. This yearly act is also the cause for most of the damage done to cities on the tortoises. Generally when it is known that an inhabited tortoise is to be mounted, there is an evacuation call, and only a few magicians are left behind. Their job is to protect the city as best they can, in what can sometimes be a gruelling 2 day long stretch with multiple attempts. A year later the female returns to the inland ocean, and lays her eggs (usually from 2 to 4). During that year she is not available for mounting and will forcefully reject any male that shows too much of an interest. It is during this period that most people adjourn from their city tortoise and gather in an impromptu festival by the edge of the inland ocean, with singing, dancing, mingling, catching up, buying, trading, selling, and an informal parliament of the people. When the tortoises hatch, they are often killed by predators, and will have to survive 50 years of youth, during which time they are small and fragile enough to be hunted and killed by almost any large desert predator.
In their own way, humans live in a symbiotic relationship with the tortoises that carry them. While they are taken from oasis to oasis, bypassing many of the difficulties that living in The Great Desert has to offer, they provide a health care service for their tortoises, cleaning, grooming, and keeping them free from disease, infection, and parasites. Many people are fiercely loyal to their cities, and show a great deal of pride in their particular city tortoise.
Teleportation is one of the most dangerous, imprecise, and difficult to master skill of all the magical arts. It requires a precise knowledge of anatomy, a sensitivity to magical density levels at extreme ranges, and the ability to concentrate fully on one small task for anywhere from 20 minutes upwards. Finding all three of these qualities in sufficient proportions, all in the one person, is only the beginning of the reasons that teleportation is dying out as a skill.
Once you have these qualities in one person, it may take from 3 – 5 years to train them in teleportation. Much of the first few years is theoretical, explaining how to break up the body of their target, and to allow it to flow on the currents in surrounding magic, as well as to build up the body when it reaches its destination. the next few years are spent teleporting animals and test dummies.
In essence, all teleportation works by breaking up the body and the consciousness into tiny parts. These tiny parts, if broken up at the same time, wash through the current of magic, keeping more or less together. This means that it is only possible to teleport through areas with a high density of magic (think of magic like a river, and the particles of the person who is teleporting like a boat – where there is no water, the boat cannot travel). The teleporter herself cannot make the journey, and is only able to teleport other people. This is because of the nature of the art. As soon as a person’s consciousness is broken into parts, they are unable to maintain the required concentration to complete the spell, and would no longer posses the organ with which we process magic (at least not in any discernible, working order). The particles of the caster would then dissipate, with nothing holding the spell together. This is the second road block – you can never teleport yourself.
The teleporter must sense the path of highest magical density between the take-off and landing points, guiding the particles of their target and keeping the particles in a group. Naturally this is very in-depth work, and can take a long time. Sometimes teleporters are forced to bring their targets back if there is not a sufficiently strong magical current to take them. Sometimes the target has to be reconstructed far from their intended destination due to difficulties in both going forwards and doubling back. There have also been reports of body parts, memories, or other parts of the consciousness being lost during transit (and occasionally the odd emotional baggage that can be sent to a completely different destination by accident). Never-the-less, once the teleporter pulls the particles into form at whatever destination they can manage to achieve, that is when the spell ends, and is tied off, allowing them to stop processing magic. Sometimes teleporters are interrupted, or pass out from over-exertion, which almost inevitably leads to death by dispersal for their target.
The strangest documented error brought about by use of teleportation was that of a mind swap between a young man and a female toddler. The young man was being teleported, but when his body arrived, it was imbued with the consciousness of a female toddler, while the toddler was imbued with the mind of the young man. It is an event often cited to lend credence to the theory of the ‘detached consciousness theory’ where magicians speculate that the consciousness is not (conventionally) attached to the body, and that in sleeping it can (in some cases) go wandering – the idea being that the toddler (who was reported to be asleep at the time) accidentally crossed paths with the particles guided by the transportation spell and was accidentally taken on as the elements of consciousness, while the young man’s own consciousness was expelled. This particular theory has many issues with it, but there has been no better account of events put forward at this time.
Everyone who practices teleportation must have a licence with their personal limitations taken down (how far they are able to send someone and how long they are able to maintain the spell) and every three years they are re-tested and their licence is updated. This is legislation that is the same throughout the Great Desert.
No one has ever been able to teleport more than one person, but it is theoretically possible. In all, the dangers, difficulties, and inconveniences of teleportation far outweigh the benefits, especially considering that there are many magical forms of locomotion that are safer and reasonably swift. This is why the study of teleportation has become unpopular, which is unfortunate, as teleportation has a lot to offer in terms of magical study, especially the study of consciousness. If teleportation had more funding devoted to research it may also be able to come up with a new refined method of transport far superior to anything we have today – we are on the cusp of exciting new discoveries!
The wax wasp is a tiny arthropod, technically classed as a parasite. They live in families of up to three or four, and often such family groups will take up residence in close proximity to one another. The groups are usually made up of one female and several males. The wax wasp makes their nest out of wax, usually collected from the ears of large creatures. These nests start off as a number of vertical columns and as the columns grow in number, they are covered and stuck together by another layer of wax, until the entire hive looks like a large ball of wax. Such hives are usually found in caves, crevices, or other cool areas. If the wasps choose an area that is too hot, or in an unusually hot period, their hives will melt and fall, usually smashing on the ground, and forcing the unhappy creatures to start over.
The female and male wasps both go out in search of earwax. They find a large animal such as a dog, horse, or human, and burrow into the ear of their target. Once inside the ear, they will stay for as long as they can – up to a maximum of 2 days without sustenance – gathering wax for their hive. They gather the wax with large, scoop-like mandibles at the front of their cone-shaped body, and also with their small, feathery legs. Once a sufficient amount of wax has been gathered, they will take their leave of the host.
Usually these insects are harmless, although their bulbous abdomen can occasionally inhibit hearing in the host due to blocking up the ear canal. If they are provoked however, such as in an attempt to physically extract them from an ear, they will put their stinger into effect. The venom of their sting causes extreme pain, and the ear often swells, trapping the arthropod inside and giving it a measure of protection against attack. It is usually advised that people who have become infected by a wax wasp leave the creature be, and wait for it to come out of its own accord.
The wax wasp is not overly aggressive by nature, and some people even invite these creatures in, believing that the thorough cleaning job that they do is beneficial. There have been small tribes known to worship the wasps, believing that only a shaman may play host to them, and that once the wasp is inside the ear, it whispers the secrets of the gods to the shaman, taking away a little of the shaman’s ear wax as a price for the information. The shaman would entice the creature by dribbling wax into their ears, and whilst the wasps were with them, they would sit and meditate, throwing pungent herbs onto the fire to better aid them in listening to the whispers. There is a theory that the dry rattle of the wasp’s wings whilst it is inside the ear may have inspired belief in the ‘whispers of the gods’. The strength of the imagery of this particular shamanic ritual has created the culturally recognised motif, wherein a shaman can be symbolised by a man or woman with a wasp flying into or out of their ear. This motif can be seen in pictures, and is included in many folk stories.
The wasps lay their eggs in the wax tubes that make up their nest. With the egg they seal a spine from the Pepper Cactus. Once the larva hatches, it will begin to consume the spine, which contains enough nutrition to see the hatchling through its larval stage.
Although the wax wasp is essentially harmless, and has such a strong affiliation with shamanism in the Desert culture, many people dislike it, and even fear it due to its invasive behaviour, and the threat of its sting.
Magic on the Blue Sphere is a large subject to encompass -wide and complex, it could never be covered completely in one volume. There are, however, a few basic rules that are common knowledge. First and foremost – Magic is a tangible substance, much like air, water, or light. It is widely debated as to whether magic has particles, or whether it is a wave-form of energy, although the most popular theory of our time is that magic is formed of fine particles. We do know that magic can be effected by wind, gravitational pull, and heat, which can disperse or concentrate magic, as well as creating tides, streams, or currents in magic.
There are two ways to use magic. The first is that which species such as humans make use of – where the creature processes magic through a set of glands in the body, shaping it via will to create spells. These glands form the basis of a human’s magical power, as they draw in magic. Through constant use these glands can become more proficient, drawing magic towards themselves and creating an ‘aura’ effect, where a single being is always accompanied by a personal ‘aura’ of magic. It is similar to a magnet – an analogy that is commonly accepted by people who do not train extensively in the use of magic.
The second method is that which is used by magical creatures such as demons, or cat-people. They generate magic through their own bodily processes, as it is a necessity for their survival that they be constantly accessing low levels of magic in order to defy the laws of nature. A good example of this is the sun-snake. These creatures live at a temperature that would ordinarily cook an animal alive, through a constant low level generation, and use of, magic. The excess magic generated by such creatures is then released into the air, to go where it will. Current popular belief is that without such magic-generating creatures, that there would be no magic. This is sustained by the fact that harsh environments such as the desert, which harbour many magic generating creatures and plants, have a far higher magic density than other areas such as the Redlands.
When magic is used by a creature such as a human in order to create a spell, there are important rules that must be observed. When casting a spell, the creature draws in magic from the surrounding area – there must be enough magic in the surrounding area, or the spell will fail (sometimes resulting in the death of the creature attempting to cast the spell). The spell requires concentration, as it is important for the magic to be shaped correctly with the will. Sometimes people use tattoos, chants, knots, or hand gestures to enhance their concentration, especially in situations that would normally hinder such activities (such as emergency situations). Once the magic has caused the caster’s will to come into reality, the caster must either ‘tie off’ the spell, by finalising the changes to reality, or they must let the magic flow stop, and thus relinquish the spell. To tie off a spell, the caster must reach a state of sustainability -the thing that they are trying to do must be sustainable without the aid of magic. A good example is using magic to create a chair. Once the chair is created, it does not require magic in order to go on existing, and thus once the chair has been created, the spell is ‘tied off’. To relinquish a spell is slightly different – relinquishing a spell often means that the effects of the spell will stop as soon as the caster stops using magic. A good example of this is growing a plant. Once the plant has grown to the desired size, the caster will relinquish her spell, and the plant will go back to its regular growth.
Thus there are usually two methods to achieve a desired effect. The first is permenant. Imagine that you wished to become stronger in order to move a boulder from your path. You could use magic to enhance and grow muscles for yourself. In order to tie off this spell without ill-effect, each new muscle and each enhanced muscle would have to be able to be sustained by the regular functions of your own body (blood flow, etc) – if it could not be sustained by the regular functions of your body then you may become ill or die. The second method is to make yourself magically strong. This would require that you maintain your concentration, and a flow of magic, for as long as you wanted the spell to last. When you relinquished the spell, you would cease to be strong. Fixed loops or magical feedback can complicate matters, but at this simple level of magic practice, there should be no need to cover such issues.
As you embark on your journey in magic education, please keep in mind that magic is not a toy, and can cause real pain and suffering, especially to those who misuse it. You will find that in life, although magic is practical, and often quick to solve a problem, it is difficult to achieve a worthwhile, lasting effect without proper training.
Like many of its ocean based brethren, the sand octopus possesses the incredible ability to change the colour of its skin in order to blend in almost seamlessly to its habitat. Due to this amazing camouflage ability, it is difficult to find a sand octopus, even if you are looking for it, making it a particularly difficult specimen to study. Like many octopode it has a mantle, eight limbs (commonly referred to as tentacles) and two eyes. It does not have the gills of its ocean cousins, and only has one heart, as opposed to the usual three. The outside of its body is adorned in fierce looking, but soft spines, which earns it its name. The Thorny Sand Octopus lives in the burrows built by other animals, and is primarily a nocturnal predator. It tends to live a solitary life from birth until roughly 5 years of age. Once the octopus has reached its fifth year it will seek out a mate. Males die after mating, and females die shortly after their subsequent brood spawns.
The Sand Octopus used to be thought a single breed, however evidence has come to light to indicate that there might be two separate breeds of Sand Octopus – a Greater Sand Octopus, which can grow to tremendous sizes (some have been reported as reaching the size of a horse), and is primarily an ambush predator, while the Lesser variety grows only to the size of a hen at most, and hunts its prey down.
The Lesser Sand Octopus uses its sensitive limbs to sense the underground tremors of animals nesting in burrows – usually in the early hours of dusk, as they are waking up. It then uses what is called the ‘tapping method’ of navigation, hitting the sand lightly as it moves, in order to build a mental map of the underground lair through some sort of tremor sense. When it finds the mouth of the tunnel it squeezes its body into the hole and uses its limbs to suffocate its prey. It will continue this activity through the dusk, but when the moon rises to its peak, the octopus will return to the burrow of its prey to sleep for most of the night, and the next day. Interestingly, on nights of a new moon, the octopus will still return to its burrow when the moon has risen to its apex. It has been suggested that the Sand Octopus is sensitive to minor gravitational changes, but this theory has never been tested.
The Greater Sand Octopus does not sleep in burrows, but instead buries itself mantle-down in the sand. It sticks its limbs into the air like the fronds of a plant or cactus, turning them a brown-green colour to complete the disguise. When larger herd animals draw near in the hopes of a quick meal, the octopus strikes, pulling them down and injecting them with a paralysing poison. The animal usually dies slowly of exposure and dehydration, although the Greater Sand Octopus has been known to strangle particularly feisty prey in its powerful grip. It waits until nightfall to consume the animal at its leisure.
Just like many of its sea dwelling relatives, the Sand Octopus (both Greater and Lesser varieties) is able to squeeze its body into tiny spaces, as it possesses no external or internal skeleton. The hardest part of a sand octopus is its beak. The skin of a sand octopus has intense UV deflecting cells, and as such many Sand Octopode are caught and turned into sun umbrellas, shade cloth, or desert clothing. The Sand octopus has many natural predators as well. If it is confronted with a predator that it cannot subdue, the Sand Octopus will thrash its tentacles wildly to kick up a large amount of sand, and will attempt to escape by finding a burrow, by burying itself, or by trying to get distance between itself and the predator before making use of its camouflage. These creatures are relatively common, however it is almost impossible to see them from the back of a city tortoise. While very shy, and not usually dangerous to humans, there have been one or two reported incidents of a Sand Octopus causing human death – usually this happens to lone travellers who unwarily approach the hidden Greater Octopus in search of water or shade.