The Worm of the Ages

A myth of Färinor, taken from The Tower of Vargon.

The Loring poked the fire vigorously with a stick, making the flames leap on high and sparks climb dizzily into the night. His bald head seemed to glow in the sudden light, and his dark eyes glittered sorcerously. ‘Has nobody got a story to tell us?’

‘Old or new?’ asked Kataki.

‘Old, to be sure,’ said the Loring. ‘Tales and apples are bitter when picked unripe.’

Mazuj sighed. ‘My grandmother used to tell stories, but I don’t remember them well enough. Avel?’

‘I don’t remember my grandmother at all. I was too young when the reapers took her.’

‘Then it falls to me,’ said the Loring. ‘I never had a grandmother, but I can tell you a tale as old as I am, if that will do.’

Kataki laughed. ‘Were there tales so long ago?’ she asked archly.

‘There were deeds,’ the Loring answered; ‘they were made into tales later.’

Avel looked so eager that he almost seemed to smile. ‘Is it a true tale, Master Loring?’

‘As true as words will allow, child. It will not go easily into your speech, but I shall do the best I can.’ The old man stretched his limbs one by one, then sat cross-legged with his hands on his knees, facing the three children across the fire. ‘Hear and heed,’ he intoned, ‘while I tell of the Worm of the Ages.’ [Read more…]

‘Say to the seers, See not’

Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever:
That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord:
10 Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits:
11 Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.
12 Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and stay thereon:
13 Therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instant.
14 And he shall break it as the breaking of the potter’s vessel that is broken in pieces; he shall not spare: so that there shall not be found in the bursting of it a sherd to take fire from the hearth, or to take water withal out of the pit.

—Isaiah 30:8–14 (AV)

This passage, just as it stands, could serve rather neatly as a Leitmotiv or ‘argument’ for The Eye of the Maker as a whole. I shall not use it for that purpose, since Isaiah and Israel belong to this world and not to that one. Still, mutatis nominibus de his fabula narratur.

The calendar of Pyrandain

Joseph Ebbecke has the honour of being the first reader to ask (in writing) a question about the world of The Eye of the Maker after the publication of Book I. His question:

I clamor for calendars, appendices, glossaries!

Are Sheaftide and Scythetide months or seasons?

My reply:

Calendars, appendices, glossaries still to come. Be of good hope!

Sheaftide and Scythetide are not months or seasons, they are weeks, like Holy Week or Whitsuntide in our own calendar. [Read more…]

The End of Earth and Sky

The Eye of the Maker

Book One



Now available exclusively from Amazon


Young Calin Lowford sees his best friend slain by a creature not seen in the land since the ancient wars.  Forbidden to join the fight against these foes, he is sent as servant to the wizard Rijeth, to learn of strange magics and stranger omens. His quest to avenge his friend will lead him through sorcery and peril to a secret at the end of the world — the mysterious Eye of the Maker.

[Read more…]

The Next Big Thing

Jonathan Moeller has tagged me for The Next Big Thing. I am nearly as susceptible as a dragon to flattery (although, unlike Smaug, I am painfully aware of the weak points in my armour); what is more important, I am stuck on the all-important cover copy for the Octopus, so I can answer these questions as a sort of rehearsal. [Read more…]

Astrophysics in Pyrandain

I’ve been catching up on recent developments in science of nights, and have got as far as this peculiar fellow by the name of Galilei, who claims to have proof that the earth revolves round the sun, and that the Pope is an idiot. He couches his proof in the interesting form of a Socratic dialogue, and while the words of the character who stands in for the Pope are obviously idiotic, Signor Galilei makes no serious attempt to attribute them to a primary source. I therefore reluctantly conclude that he made them up himself, and therefore that it is Galilei who is the idiot. Since I see no percentage in reading books written by idiots, I must therefore discount his evidence for the heliocentric hypothesis; which is unfortunate, because it was very interesting in an ivory-tower kind of way.

But I do have, as it happens, another string to my bow. I cannot perhaps get a definitive verdict upon the movements of this earth and this sun; but perhaps I can work by analogy from another. I therefore sent a request to the learned Kelmon Easting, late Astronomer Royal in the old observatory at Wardhall, enclosing a translation of Signor Galilei’s work and asking him to comment. He replied, with the style and capitalization of a courtlier and fussier age:

My dear Mr. Simon,

The point of Contention raised by your Countryman is most interesting, inasmuch as it does not contain a discernable Particle of Sense, and were better fit to be discuss’d by those Gentlemen who provide Physick to Persons deprived of their Wits. I have indeed shewn the Documents to my learned Associates at the Collegium of the Third, who are unanimous and unshakable in the Opinion that your Mr. Galilei ought to be confin’d in a Madhouse to better ensure the Safety of the Publick.

For it is well known, by all Persons of Learning and Discernment, that Motion is not a Property of Bodies in themselves, but an Expression or Character of the Alteration of Distances between two Bodies: as Love is an Expression of the Tendernesse of Affection between two Persons. So it is that one may not say that Bron loveth, except he give Meaning to his Words by telling whom he loves: so that to say that Bron loveth Ara, or that Ara loveth not Bron (two Asseverations, of which the second may well coincide with the first, a Circumstance with which the best of Men may unhappily be acquainted), is a valid Expression, however one might judge of its Veridity in the instant Case. For to love is a Verb Transitive, and requires an Accusative to answer it, as well as a Substantive in the nominative Case to be its Agent; though this may be otherwise in your Tongue, to the grave Detriment of all Philosophy and clear Thought among your People.

In like Fashion is Motion predicated of two Bodies, inasmuch as it were impossible to say of a Ship, that it were making Way, except by Reference to some fixed Point, either upon the Shore or in the Firmament of the fix’d Stars. And to any who would adduce to the Contrary, the Violence of the Motion of a Ship, as Proof in itself that the Ship doth not remain at Rest, I would enjoin him to sleep a Night upon a sea-going Vessel riding out at Anchor, when the Sea roils with the Currents rising vertically from the Deep, and the Ship may ride with very great Violence, without making the least Way, or changing its Position with respect to the Shore; and then, as Recompense for the Loss of a night’s Sleep, to pass the following Day in Idlenesse upon a Barge plying the River of Pyrandain, which may be carried upon the Waters with the most perfect Tranquillity, so that he might look up at one Moment, and again after an Hour, and perceive that the Vessel had cover’d more than a League of Ground, though to his Senses there seem’d to be no Movement at all.

Since Violence fails of its purpose as a Proof of Motion, there remains only the Evidence of altered Positions and Distances. And therefore we conclude that the Sun doth move with respect to the Earth, or the Earth with respect to the Sun, but that there can be no Grounds to chuse, as between the two Expressions, which is the true Account of the Motion so described. Now the Man who sleeps on the Barge moves not with respect to the Deck, but the whole Country moves with respect to himself, yet it is not for him to say that the Country moves and the Barge remains at Rest; for another Man upon the Shore may advance the contrary Proposition, with greater Force of Probability, for all points alike upon the Shore appear stationary to him, but only the small compass of the Vessel to the other. Now we may with sufficient Probability take the fix’d Stars as being at Rest, by Reason of their Multitude and Remoteness, and their apparent Fixity with respect to one another; but so great is the Radius of the Firmament, that all the Motions of the Sun and Earth yield no visible Change in their Aspect, so that we cannot determine by Calculation which of the two Bodies, if either, lies at the Centre of the Sphere. Therefore it is a matter insusceptible of Proof, which Body shall be taken as fix’d and which as movable; and the Controversy proposed by Mr. Galilei falls to the Ground, as insupportable upon its own Premisses.

For myself, in studying to discern the proper Motions of the several Planets, I generally begin from the Axiom that it is the Sun which is fixed at the centre of the Celestial Sphere; but this I do only for Conveniency of Calculation, and not out of any Conviction of Doctrine. For other Purposes, such as Navigation and the simpler Geodesy, the Axiom of the fix’d Earth may be more conveniently propos’d. I therefore decline to take either Part in the Argument of your Philosophers, and advise and entreat you, Sir, to do the same, while ever I may remain

Your most humble, most obedient Servant,


My doubts being thus resolved to my satisfaction, I turned to other business and left the higher Physics for another day.

Smallbold vacuums the cat

I have just spent an hour or two going into the etymology of the name Håkar, given to two characters in the Octopus, one ancient and heroic, one modern and rather ambivalent. It is of course a Palandine name, which accounts for the diacritic, but despite the pronunciation and the obvious shortened form, it has nothing to do with the word hawk.

Orthodox theory derives it from *há-kári, meaning the wind in a high place. Indeed Håkar the Red was partly descended from the mountain-dwelling Ascoli; the trouble is that of his ancestors, they were not the ones that spoke Old Palandine.

B. R. Smallbold, who occasionally drops in to rub my lack of erudition in my face, came to my relief by explaining his own theory; and Smallbold being Smallbold, I am inclined to back him against a whole team of orthodoxen. He says it comes from the dialect of Ulfmark, Old Pyrandine with a strong Palandine overlay, and was originally Hákaru, meaning ‘towering sorrow’ or, alternatively, ‘the cares of a ruler’. Both meanings suit his history tragically well. But he was not content with that. He delved deep into the history of Ulfmark, pulling dusty volumes from untidy shelves, talking about historical periods with queer names like ‘the Grace of Tonúr’, and reading bits of incomprehensibly archaic poetry at me. The upshot is that while Håkar has indeed nothing to do with hawk, people have been linking the two with puns for a thousand years. By the time he had explained all this to me, and then disappeared in his customary way, my evening’s work was rather thoroughly spoilt.

It is very strange when one’s characters volunteer to help one avoid writing about them.