Arthurian legend, bodice-ripping, and capybaras: welcome to Thule.
A girl with a secret . . .
In the back of an ambulance, River Greer counts each breath her little sister takes until the final one: Sage’s body is giving up, ravaged by a mysterious illness. The late-night rush to the ER, however, turns into a surreal nightmare when River is abducted and ferried across the universe to the fabled Thule: a world beyond worlds, where Victorian mores collide with magic and Arthurian legend.
. . . meets a knight on a mission.
There, His Grace Hadrian Landevale of Caid is fighting losing battles of his own: to recover Isolde, his runaway wife, and against the blight that threatens the ichor, the source of all life on Thule. To add insult to injury, the captured fugitive Thule’s pathfinders just brought back from Earth is not his duchess but an eerie doppelgänger.
When it becomes clear that someone will go to any length to silence River, Hadrian offers his protection to this enchanting, obstinate stranger . . . whose secrets might be the key to saving Thule’s most precious treasure: the light in its blood.
Welcome to Thule!
Building Thule, from its geography to its history, customs, and language was a labor of love and patience, summarized in the 48 (!) pages lexicon provided at the end of Of Blood & Light. The challenge was designing a cohesive world from its foundations: where do ichorites come from? When did they leave Earth for Thule? How does their history shape their language and their appropriation of Earth cultures?
From Proto-Celtic to Meroitic roots, Of Blood & Light borrows from Ancient History to answer these questions and tells the story of tribes who once walked at our side when Roman emperors still ruled the world, and who left Earth when the Dark Ages swallowed everything they had ever loved and known.
Of Blood & Light’s ichorites, however, could never quite sever their bonds to “the other side”: Thule’s people and cultures developed alongside ours, a universe away, borrowing from our fashions and technologies, and stealing our capybaras for the enjoyment of the Thulish upper-crust . . . Until the tenuous bonds bridges Thule and Earth were broken and the paths shut, in a bid to preserve Thule from the violent mutations of Earth’s industrial revolution.
This is how River discovers Thule and the Kingdom of Logres: a world suspended in a “weird Victorian bubble,” still thriving yet on the brink of disaster, isolated and chafing in its bonds. Desperate for change.
Knights of The Round Table
Of Blood & Light wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t been exposed at a young age to the Arthurian romances of Thomas Malory, Béroul, and Chrétien de Troyes (to name but a few.)
As if to compound the damage, my parents then let me watch John Boorman’s Excalibur. It was, to my nine-year-old self, a revelation: I went on to watch it almost every weekend at my aunt’s house, after those lengthy lunches only the French seem to enjoy. As soon as coffee was served and the conversation shifted to politics, I’d ask to go upstairs to watch a movie.
The adult designated to operate the VHS player (generally one of my teen cousins) would let me pick a VHS from my aunt’s ample selection, and it was, invariably, Excalibur. I will never not shiver at the first notes of Sigfried’s Funeral March from Wagner’s Twilight of The Gods, shrouding a smoky battlefield as Uther emerges from the Dark Ages a king! For all of twenty minutes before he messes up and dies alone in the woods . . .
Anyway, Thule’s Round Table (also called “the Table”) and its lore carry much of Malory et Boorman’s works in their DNA (quite simply because Excalibur is, in fact, a retelling of Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur.) The Table’s History is one of bloody battles against old gods and seminal betrayals that will write 18 centuries of History. Hadrian, Duke of Caid and keeper of the seat of Landevale, is our guide through innerworkings of a tired, corrupt Table, and he also, ultimately, the catalyst of some much-needed change in the kingdom of Logres and its capital, Camelot.
Let’s speak Thulish!
Early on, as I developed the history of the kingdom of Logres, from the ichorites’ escape to early Britain from -700BC to their return to Thule in 360AD, language was one of the primary issues on my mind. Ichorites adopted English because they never truly severed their ties to Britain and kept on borrowing from British culture throughout the centuries: a neat and convenient brick to my world-building, so that River and Hadrian are able to understand each other . . . but that couldn’t be it, could it? After eighteen centuries, Ichorites must have developed their own language, too, right?
That, was the entrance to one seriously deep rabbit’s hole, and what lay at the bottom was the creation of an entire case-based language derived from Proto-Celtic, Latin, and distant foreign roots. It was the language ichorites crafted during their 1,000 years long exile on Earth: Thulish.
A few lines of dialog soon became entire sentences, conjugation, a declension system, and an extensive vocabulary based on lists of reconstructed Proto-Celtic words. I coded a goddamn declension app to help me grammar-check my manuscript. I’m dead serious.
I was eventually able to write a few complex paragraphs. By then, my fake Thulish tabloid, The Thulish Intelligencer, was born. All that was left to do was to write a short hit piece in Thulish: I probably peaked as a writer right then.
Thulish is, of course, still in its embryonic stage as a language, but I’ve been able to make the infamous ChatGPT understand the grammatical meaning and nuances of a sentence in Thulish! I firmly intend to keep on refining and developing the language as the series progresses. I might even teach to ChatGPT for the glory of it!