Zirazine… The Come-back Queen

Here’s the next set of stories in my series about the Yanbukan invasion of Eremiro, which I’ve named A Poisoned Land. In this instalment we see the defeated Queen Zirazine gain a new ally, and we also see Mazern start to work through everything he has endured.

Second Chances
It seems to be all over for Zirazine, but Okseda has other plans. (2700 words)

The Throne of Eremiro
Naskaran has conquered Eremiro, but now he and his advisors need to work out what to do with it. (2822 words)

A Prison of Rage
Mazern has been rescued from the dungeons of the Ireshayen Palace, but although his body has mostly healed, his heart remains scarred by the memory of his ordeal. (4621 words)

Someone to Believe In
Mazern is furious with Okseda for helping Zirazine return to power, but he has agreed to a ride through the palace grounds with her and Princess Sorchiana – if only to hear what she has to say. (2157 words)

I’m planning to take a break from this series now. I’d like to create more art, perhaps do more world-building, and start work on another series – also set in Eremiro, but about a year after the invasion.

‘Freedom’

A painting of Kephreyel and Mazern in Tanurea

Artwork by Louisa

Mazern and Kephreyel during a happier time in their lives.

Mazern is a prince of the Yanbukan empire, while Kephreyel is one of the mage-lords of Eremiro. These two friends seem opposite in many ways, but they both value their freedom. Since Kephreyel finds his homeland oppressive and Mazern does not get on well with his brother the Emperor, they decided to escape it all and go travelling for a few years.

I should add that they both have Ankaykari blood and are accustomed to spending time in the magical realm, where there are no servants to wait on them. Their lineages have also gifted them with magical powers, so any bandits who come upon this pair of travellers are in for a shock.

At this point in their journey, they are in southern Tanurea, roaming through lands once ruled by the Ankaykari Lady Liralian.

Eremiro Updated

No, the ancient and tradition-bound country of Eremiro has not modernised. I’ve just drawn an updated map:

A map of Eremiro created using CC3Here’s the older version from October 2015, since it’s always nice to compare them. As you can see, Eremiro is now slightly smaller east-to-west but it has more of a coastline, and the place-names have been improved (at least in my opinion!):

As for my map of the Yanbukan invasion, it’s more-or-less finished, but I’m not planning to publish it until I’ve completed my current collection of stories because Maggie doesn’t like spoilers!

Drawing the campaign map made a nice change – and since it’s accompanied by a timeline, it also finally got me to think about the names of the months.

One of the things I enjoyed most was trying out a different symbol set. There are so many wonderful symbol sets in Campaign Cartographer 3, but it’s hard to get them to work with the large-scale country maps I usually create. Beautifully-drawn towns end up looking like blurry blobs if they’re shrunk too much, but if they’re too big then the map looks ridiculous!

The Fall of Eremiro

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been writing some stories about the conflict between Yanbuka and Eremiro.

Basically, Queen Zirazine has angered the Yanbukan Emperor Naskaran – firstly by imprisoning his brother Mazern (who was staying as a guest in Eremiro), secondly by helping the rival Gabakaruan Empire. Now Naskaran has arrived in Eremiro to take revenge. His superior army, resources and military experience make the outcome seem inevitable…

These stories don’t focus on the actual battles, because I’m not interested in writing about them right now (although I am, of course, working on a map of the campaign!) Instead, I’m more interested in:

  • How Naskaran copes with the challenges of governing a conquered land (up until now, he’s only fought to defend his empire)
  • How the Eremirans cope with their defeat
  • Mazern’s reunion with his family, and how he copes after his ordeal
  • How Kephreyel deals with the consequences of betraying his people to save his friend Mazern (the Yanbukan victory would not have been possible without him, as my map will reveal…)
  • How the villainous Queen Zirazine manages to make a come-back – because obviously this is not the end of her!

Here are the stories I’ve written so far (I have at least four more planned in this series, and I’ll probably add a few more over time):

At the Gates of Varbeshion
Naskaran has brought an army to the gates of Varbeshion to rescue his brother Mazern – and to make Zirazine pay for her crimes. (2259 words)

The Traitor
Kephreyel has betrayed his homeland for the sake of his friend, Mazern, but the consequences of his actions are not easy to live with… (1612 words)

Holding the Fort
Following the fall of Varbeshion, Surezumel and his sister Zirazine have fled to Kareshen Castle. However, they know that the Yanbukan Emperor will not rest until Zirazine is defeated. (3087 words)

The Gilded Cage
Having witnessed the defeat of her half-sister, Queen Zirazine, Sorchiana hoped that she might be granted the throne of Eremiro. Instead, she is left feeling even more powerless than before. (2919 words)

The Kaniyari of Eremiro

These last few weeks I’ve been working on a collection of stories about the aftermath of a war between Yanbuka and Eremiro, so I thought it was time I created portraits of the Eremiran Kaniyari.

As usual I used Character Artist 3 to help me, because there are seven of them and I didn’t want to spend forever working on them!

You’d expect the ruler to be followed by the next-in-line, but I thought it would be most useful to list them in order of magical rank and / or political influence:

Queen Zirazine is the cold and power-hungry ruler of Eremiro. However, she’s not the kind of evil queen who goes around seducing every handsome man who comes into her presence; she’s actually happily married.

Prince Surezumel is Zirazine’s twin brother, and her equal in magical rank. He’s the only Eremiran with the ability challenge her decisions, but he usually thinks it’s more trouble than it’s worth.

Lord Iskandreyel is Zirazine’s Royal Consort. Most people think he’s just a stupid thug, but he adores Zirazine and obeys her without question (this explains why she considers herself ‘happily married’).

Lady Esellasea is Iskandreyel’s half-sister. She has a low opinion of her brother, but she is keen to take advantage of her position as the queen’s sister-in-law.

Princess Sorchiana is Zirazine’s half-sister, and therefore next-in-line to the Eremiran throne. She lives in terror of the queen, knowing that it will not end well for her if she is ever accused of disloyalty.

Prince Varadren is Zirazine’s half-brother. He tries to avoid her as much as he can.

Lord Kephreyel is someone whom Zirazine regards as a threat. She knows that he’s not as empty-headed as he appears, and she knows that he hates her regime. She also knows that he has powerful friends in Yanbuka, so getting rid of him isn’t as easy as it should be.

‘Yanbukan Imperial Family’ line-art

I wanted to do more line-art before I attempted coloring the last picture, so here’s a drawing of the Emperor Naskaran, his brother Mazern (left) and his sister Zhurenissa. I’m still trying to come up with a title for it…

Line art of Mazern, Naskaran and Zhurenissa

Artwork by Louisa

Naskaran and his siblings do not have a harmonious relationship. He expects them to help him defend the empire, but Mazern is never around (see the my previous drawing) and Zhurenissa is continually picking fights with the rest of the court – including the Empress Mapharissa.

This picture shows the siblings together for once, dressed in formal court attire and not quarreling. As usual, only Naskaran appears to be taking the moment seriously.

I’ve finally started drawing again

A line drawing of Kephreyel and Mazern by Louisa

Artwork by Louisa

After talking about it for ages and ages, I’ve finally decided to draw something myself (ok, not entirely by myself – as usual, Maggie helped with the faces!)

It’s Mazern and Kephreyel during their travels around Tanurea. It looks like Mazern has persuaded Kephreyel to do something useful for once…

My hope is that if I post the line-art in my blog and gaze at it for long enough, I’ll spot the mistakes / anything that annoys me about the picture before I start coloring it!

‘Creative Flair’

A digital painting of Zhurenissa by Maggie

Artwork by Maggie

Zhurenissa is a princess of the Yanbukan empire. However, she leads a very different life from most princesses because she’s also a Kaniyari (the offspring of an Ankaykari and a mortal). This means:

  1. She has inherited awesome magical powers. Rather than being left to languish in some palace, she’s been trained as a battle-mage.
  2. She doesn’t actually need guards, because Kaniyari are very hard to kill.
  3. There’s no point in trying to marry her off to a foreign prince, since everyone knows that Kaniyari are unable to have children. In any case, why would the Yanbukans want to give up such a valuable mage to another kingdom?

Zhurenissa is lively, bold and independent, and spends most of her time away from court, defending the empire’s borders. This is just as well, since she and her brother, the Emperor Naskaran, have a difficult relationship.

As a mage, Zhurenissa is known for both her love of combat and her creative flair. In this deeply cool painting by Maggie, she appears to be experimenting with some new spells.

Website re-design

Earlier this year I gave my website a new, less cluttered theme, and now I’ve decided to restructure the menu. I’ve removed The World and Characters and put those links on the Home page instead. True, they’re less easy to find there, but it makes more sense.

What annoyed me was the way you clicked on The World and ended up on an article about Askamar, which is only one part of my conworld (I’m even more conscious of that since I’ve been working almost exclusively on Udaris for the last year!)

I could have created a new page with an introduction to the conworld and paragraphs about its geography, races and history, but since I’ve already got an introduction on the Home page I’d just end up repeating myself. What I’ve done feels like a more elegant solution.

Another benefit is that the new menu places more emphasis on the Gallery and the Library, which ought to be the most interesting parts of the website – if only I’d get around to publishing more art and stories! There’s also more focus on the Reference, which could be a really cool section if I put more time into it.

Anyway, maybe now that I’ve removed The World from the main menu, the incomplete, inconsistent, out-of-date state of my conworld articles will be less apparent!

Take the article about Udaris, for example. It is surely one of the most important pages on the website – it’s about the mundane world! However, it still features an out-of-date world map (and it also claims, incorrectly, that only humans live there).

To see what Udaris really looks like, I have to scroll back to a blog post from September. I’m going to fix this as soon as I’ve published this post. True, I’ve only got a rough draft of the new world map, but at least it’s better than the old, inaccurate version!

Edit (15 April 2018): I’ve decided to return Characters to the main menu – I’m just too used to it being there!

Fashions of Udaris: Yanbuka

This week I’ve been revising my map of the Yanbukan empire, and writing more about Yanbukan culture, government and society. I’ve also  gotten around to something I’ve been meaning to do for years: I’ve started illustrating the fashions of Udaris!

The first in the series is, of course, a group of 15th century Yan nobles:

Yanbukan court fashions of the 15th century, drawn by Louisa Watson using CA3