I read all my reviews. I cringe at the bad ones (I’ve received some doozies!) and rejoice in the good ones. I also occasionally respond to issues reviewers bring up, such as questions about the worldbuilding in Knownearth or about Vic’s difficulties overcoming past trauma.
Today I’m responding to another frequently mentioned topic: the so-called cliffhanger ending of A Wizard’s Forge. Every time a reviewer refers to the end as a cliffhanger, I think, “Huh? It’s not a cliffhanger!” In fact, I meant for AWF to stand on its own, and when I wrote the end, I thought the outcome was pretty clear. Nevertheless, as writers we’re taught that if a lot of people make the same comment about your work, maybe you didn’t achieve your vision the way you thought. And after thinking about it, I can see how people might think Vic’s immediate fate is in question.
So, as a thank you to the many book bloggers and readers who have taken the time to review AWF, I’m posting the book’s epilogue here. My editor and I decided to cut this denouement because we wanted to end the novel with that kickass last line. But for those of you hungry to know what happens next, here’s a tidbit.
SPOILER ALERT. IF YOU HAVEN’T READ A WIZARD’S FORGE AND DON’T LIKE KNOWING THE END OF THINGS, STOP READING THIS NOW AND READ THE BOOK INSTEAD (here’s where you can buy it). THEN COME BACK HERE AND READ THIS IF YOU WANT MORE
Unpublished Epilogue to A Wizard’s Forge
Bethniel watched the darkened entrance to Lordhome, her fists clenched at her sides, her heart fluttering unevenly in her chest. Everyone had fled when Vic shot through the ceiling, triumph and defeat forgotten in the shower of stone. After that, terror and need imposed a truce among the people pouring out of Lordhome. Drak’s and Carl’s squads repelled out of high windows, then stood below, catching children cast to safety by their parents. Bethniel ordered a team back into the kitchen to find tablecloths or tarps, and soon Relman and Lathan hands stretched catch-cloths taut between them.
The earth shook for long minutes while fugitives tumbled out of Vic’s fury and onlookers ran up from the lower valley. As newcomers gaped and survivors wailed, Relman officials conferred, splitting gestures between Bethniel and the road leading out of Lordhome. Drak and a knot of Lathan troopers surrounded her while the Relmans talked. “Keep your weapons sheathed,” she said, “until they start a fight or Vic comes out.” Drak nodded. A moment later, a pair of Relman officers broke away from their conference and pelted down the road.
They waited. Fathers hugged children; mothers comforted babies; friends wept in each other’s arms, mourning the missing, shivering in the night. Bethniel’s heart staggered through each beat. She had little hope that Ashel lived, but she would not grieve, not yet. Please let Vic find him, she prayed. Let my sister find my brother, and let them both be well.
At last the tremors stopped. Everyone froze, eyes fixed on the gaping hole in their mountain home. A child’s whimper broke the silence, and another’s scream echoed off the courtyard walls. As parents hushed the children, a new party arrived at the gate. The Relman officials flocked round a ragged young man, bowing and kneeling. Ignoring them, he looked straight at Bethniel and inclined his head. Trepidation seized her bowels, but she straightened her shoulders and dipped her chin in return.
The young man started across the courtyard, officials in tow. Lathan hands seized weapons, ready to draw, but the Relman party halted as the young man offered a shallow bow. Dungeon stench flared Bethniel’s nostrils. “Your Highness,” he said, “I am Earnk Korng. These officers believe my father dead or captured.” He chortled grimly. “They they want my head before theirs in the line to the chopping block, so they’ve decided I should speak for Relm.”
Bethniel returned a cold gaze. “Do you surrender, my lord?”
He split a glance between several warleaders. “Olmlablaire is yours.”
Bethniel nodded curtly then turned toward the ruined stronghold, her fists beating against her thigh. Long minutes ticked by while the Relmans wept. At last four people stumbled out, covered in gray dust, pale as ghosts. A body floated behind them.
An anguished scream wailed up the rockface; gasps and warnings rippled through the crowd. The Relmans scrambled out of Vic’s path as she guided Geram through the rubble. Ashel followed, slumped over Wineyll’s shoulder. A blood-stained cloth covered his hand. Her breath stuck, Bethniel’s knees began to buckle, but she locked her legs straight and fought the swoon that had kept her from Latha’s throne. When Vic’s party reached her, her spine was stiff enough to slide under her brother’s arm and kiss his cheek.
He laughed softly, tugging her closer. “Sis. You cut your hair.”
“It’s all the rage in Direiellene.”
Vic dropped the Relmlord’s body face down in the snow.
“Is he dead?” Bethniel asked.
“No.” Vic’s gaze landed on Earnk, and they exchanged nods. “Lornk Korng’s crimes extend beyond me, or Ashel, or anyone standing here. He’ll answer for them in Latha.” Anguish welling in her eyes, she sagged into Geram.
The war with Relm had lasted Bethniel’s lifetime. Now Lornk Korng lay at her feet, but she saw this triumph drown beneath the defeat writ on Vic’s face. Yet, her foster sister had lived up to her name—Victory was theirs. She pressed her cheek against Ashel’s shoulder, hugged him tight around the waist. Her brother lived; the war was won. “Well done,” Bethniel assured Vic. The war was won, but not yet the peace. “Now it’s my turn.”
People seem to have a lot of questions about the world where A Wizard’s Forge takes place, so I’ve been hitting this topic a lot lately. A few weeks ago, I traced Vic’s path through her world, and last week I wrote a post on AutumnWriting about Knownearth’s native inhabitants (humans are the aliens on that planet). Lots of additional details about Vic’s world can always be found on the Explore and FAQ pages of my website. But you may still wonder, what are some of the similarities and differences between the earth we know and Knownearth, Vic’s home.
Most of these details are mentioned, or at least hinted at, in A Wizard’s Forge, but in case readers missed them, here we go:
1. How are Earth and Knownearth alike?
Knownearth and our earth are pretty similar in atmosphere, climate, and ecology. I designed the planet this way because human survival in a marginal environment was not a story I was interested in telling. I wanted to write a revenge narrative involving a young woman, her tormentor, and a long-standing feud between her nemesis and her adoptive family, and I wanted to keep the focus there, without the distraction of a daily battle for food, water, or breathable air. Some readers have asked, why not make the ocean yellow or give the planet a couple of moons or something to make it seem “different” from earth? To live well, humans need lots of liquid potable water, an oxygen-rich atmosphere that doesn’t have a lot of toxic gases, and arable soil. Knownearth has these things in abundance, and life there has evolved along an evolutionary path similar to life on earth. Hence, the skies are blue (and so is the ocean, since large bodies of water reflect the color of the sky); most organisms get their energy through the Krebs Cycle, and plants use chlorophyll for respiration, and so tend to be green or blue or red, just like here on earth.
2. How does Knownearth differ from Earth?
There is no moon. The only notable night sky object is Elesendar, which looks like a very bright star but is the empty hulk of the spacecraft that brought human settlers to the planet three thousand years before the events depicted in A Wizard’s Forge. As noted in the book, Elesendar passes overhead two to three times per night.
The planet rotates in the opposite direction from earth. The book contains numerous references to Knownearth’s sun rising in the west or setting in the east.
The diurnal cycle is roughly 40 earth hours, which readers can deduce from Vic’s thoughts about how long she has for her night missions. The original settlers kept the earth hour as their main unit of time measurement, and redesigned their clocks to accommodate a 40-hour day. By the time A Wizard’s Forge takes place, the human circadian cycle has adapted to this long day, but readers may notice reference to “morning tea” and other meals beside breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The people of Knownearth can easily stay awake for 35 hours straight and sleep for 15, but they still like to eat every four or five hours.
Metal is relatively rare. Iron and copper are particularly uncommon, and a bronze belt-cum-dagger has totemic significance in the book’s plot.
There are no indigenous mammals, but there are reptilian and insectoid creatures on land, and fishlike creatures in the sea, so it’s as if Knownearth never left its equivalent of the Permian period. Humans call the aquatic animals fish and the indigenous flying reptiles birds, but humans brought all the feathered fowl as well as cats, cows, and horses with them. There were dogs too, but the entire canine population had died off long before A Wizard’s Forge takes place.
3. Is A Wizard’s Forge science fiction or is it fantasy?
I’d say it’s both (you might even call it science fantasy), but readers will need to decide this question for themselves. Hardcore scifi readers may miss the tech–faster than light (FTL) space travel is alluded to, but in the 3000 years that have passed since Vic’s ancestors were marooned on Knownearth, postindustrial technology has all but disappeared, at least among the humans. Thus, people live in a vaguely medieval society without electricity or, in Knownearth’s poorer regions, indoor plumbing.
Fantasy readers, on the other hand, may miss a magic system that is the highlight of the book. Nevertheless, the cerrenils, Latha’s sacred trees, appear to have magical characteristics, and the power Vic gains at the end of the book is similar to a Jedi’s or an Aes Sedai’s in some respects. She’ll learn all about the source of her power, and how it connects to Knownearth’s sentient plants, in the next book, A Wizard’s Sacrifice. But that book won’t be all fantasy either–scifi lovers will get more intel on Vic’s ancestors as well as a glimpse of the technological revolution Knownearth will undergo before the third book in the series (A Wizard’s Legacy) begins.
Fans of A Wizard’s Forge and the world of Knownearth should check out my blog on the inspiration for the creatures appearing or mentioned in the book at Autumn B. Birt’s blog, AutumnWriting. There’s as much science fiction as fantasy in Vic’s world.
A Wizard’s Forge is finally available!
On launch day, as the earthbound get their first look at Book One in the Woern Saga, I’ve decided to walk readers through Vic’s world, Knownearth.
Vic’s journey begins in Ourtown, a small community of Oreseekers, a people who settled the far northern steppes of Knownearth, in an area so remote it’s called the Unknown by the world’s other societies. The Oreseekers began as a survey party sent out from a group of marooned spacefarers to find mineable metal ores on a planet where iron, copper, and other metals are rare. Thousands of years before Vic’s birth, the Oreseekers failed in their quest and settled lands so far from their shipmates that the rest of humanity forgot about their existence. In Vic’s time, only the Caleisbahnin–dreaded pirates and slavers who rule Knownearth’s seas–know where the Oreseekers live. A Wizard’s Forge begins when Vic falls prey to Caleisbahn greed.
Trapped in a slave ship’s hold, Vic sails hundreds of miles south and east to the city of Traine, Knownearth’s grandest capital and home to the Citizens of Betheljin. Betheljin is ruled by a despot known as the Commissar, and Citizens are the wealthy elite of that land. Traine resembles ancient Rome with its high hills and a wide gulf between the fabulously rich and desperately poor. Vic hears about a slum full of thieves and brigands and escaped slaves–most of whom are Oreseekers, like her–but she never sees this place. All she knows is the home of her master, Lornk Korng, the Lord of Relm.
Although Lornk keeps a home in Traine, he rules Relm, a nation thousands of miles to the south, and he travels between the two lands via a transporter called the Device. No one knows who made the Device or whether it works by magic or some imperceivable technology, but the Korng palazzo was built on top of it, and it’s permitted the family to travel instantly to Relm and other places for generations.
Lornk tries very hard to make Vic his, body and soul, but before he succeeds, she escapes through the Device to Latha, a nation at war with Relm. The Lathan royals give Vic asylum from their common enemy and welcome her into their family.
They also send her on walkabout in Kiareinoll Fembrosh, a vast forest full of trees that are aware. Lathans do not believe that Knownearth’s humans arrived via spacecraft; instead they think people were born from cerrenils, a strange tree species that seems able to move as well as communicate to people through their dreams. While sojourning through the forest, Vic dreams of herself as a warrior, and so she joins Latha’s fight against Lornk.
Years pass, and Vic’s prowess as a soldier grows but her memories of her time as Lornk’s slave fester, preventing her from accepting the love offered by the kindhearted Prince Ashel. When Lornk’s forces capture Ashel, however, Vic doesn’t hesitate to embark on his rescue. Aiming to attack Lornk’s Relman stronghold by surprise, she travels through Kragnash, a land of endless sand dunes occupied by a society of enormous intelligent insects. Their capital city, Direiellene, is a vast complex of hives normally forbidden to humans, but upon meeting Vic, the Kragnashians proclaim her the One–a figure from their mythology–and force her to drink the Waters of the Dead. These Waters contain the Woern, microscopic parasites that confer telekinetic abilities on those who survive being infected with them.
Vic survives, and leads her war party into the Relman badlands, a near impassable maze of box canyons and ravines. Desperate to reach Ashel, Vic makes a bad decision that will have lasting consequences for her and her companions.
Yet the choice permits them to move quickly through the badlands and up into the mountains surrounding Olmlablaire, an elaborate castle carved out of a mountain face and Lornk’s seat of power. To rescue Ashel, Vic will need to find not only a way into the castle but the strength to confront her old master without losing herself to him.
Many thanks to Steven Meyer-Rassow for the beautiful map of Knownearth.