Author’s name: Jeremy Bullard
Title of book and/or series: Facets of Reality Book 1: Gemworld
Brief summary of the story:
The main hero of the story is a United States Navy SEAL who finds himself transported to a medieval world of magic that is ruled by an immortal tyrant who has set himself up as a demigod.
Brief description of the world or location you created for this story:
"Gemworld" is the generic term I use to describe the world in my book. The native inhabitants don't really have a name for their world (or if they do, I haven't discovered it yet). Gemworld consists of four major landmasses -- the Outer Reaches, Leviathan’s Maw, the Mandible, and the Mainland. With the exception of a few notable references, the book takes place on the Mainland, as our characters travel from the Vale to Lost Aeden's Garden to Ysre. Their world is similar to our own, with many of the same climates, plants, animals, and peoples we have. Of course, the advent of magic some four thousand years ago saw the birth of new creatures and new cultures, but nothing that would make that world incompatible with our own.
If we were to visit Gemworld as tourists, what would you recommend that we see or do there?
My first recommendation would be to visit the Outer Reaches, native home of the vi'zrith
, an amphibious humanoid race. Though their technology is unfortunately comparable to the rest of the world, their use of magic in the building of their underwater cities is astounding. For example, the external openings to their airlocks are covered not by doors but by a living film called an amoebite sheath, which thrives on the exhaled carbon dioxide and produces oxygen in return. The film coats you as you leave the airlock, making it possible for you (an ordinary human) to breathe underwater until you return to the airlock, where the amoebite recombines with the rest of the sheath.
I'd also consider the ruins of the Highest's camp, located in the center of Lost Aeden's Garden. The expansive forest is said to be cursed, but should one brave the superstitions, the camp is said to hold vast wonders of a long-dead age. If one stands on the slopes of the Icebreak Mountains and looks east, or on the Dragonspire looking west, one might catch a glimpse of the camp in the extreme distance: a sparkling finger of diamond, stretching toward the sky.
What dangers should we avoid in Gemworld?
Leviathan’s Maw, a seasonal maelstrom above the islands southwest of the Mainland. The islands of the Maw are the leftovers of a sunken continent, and they number in the thousands. Enterprising ship captains sometimes run the Maw, looking to shave precious weeks off their trade routes from the Norean Isles to the northwest to the Mandible in the southeast, but they rarely attempt the run during the summer months, when the storm -- difficult even in the best of circumstances -- can be absolutely catastrophic.
Is there a distinct or unusual type of food or meal that we might be served in Gemworld?
There is a semi-domestic animal called a kharn, which is often used as livestock among the more rural populations. The meat is very similar to pork, but the animal itself, a carnovore, is considered unacceptable in the more "civilized" social circles.
What types of weaponry or fighting styles are common in Gemworld?
Fighting is mainly reserved for the Earthen Rank, the military forces of the Highest, and the Cause, those ordinary folk who stand in rebellion against the Highest. There is also an assassins guild called the Guild of the Silent Blade, who practice an ancient fighting art called shol'tuk. The shol'tuk use mainly the katana (a sword exclusively held by a shol'tuk -- those who attempt to obtain or use one without the express permission of the shol'tuk do so at their own peril) and open-handed forms, though they have been known to employ throwing stars, bo staves, minor explosives, and whatever else they have close at hand.
What types of vehicles, animals, technology, etc. are used to travel in or to Gemworld?
One can expect the usual medieval forms of travel -- horse, wagon, ship -- though there are other forms available through magic. For example, a mage attuned to Amethyst (the soulgem of energy) can use magic to levitate. Granite mages (attuned to the soulgem of matter), on the other hand, have the ability to "become one" with other forms of matter, enabling them to "melt" and travel through the earth at great speed.
What types of plants, animals, or sentient races might we encounter in Gemworld that we don’t see on earth?
The Mainland hosts certain races of dragons which, like mages, are attuned to the various soulgems. This affinity is reflected in their physical appearance. For example, the galvanic dragon (attuned to Amethyst) is violet in color, and can at times take a form of pure energy. The basilisk (attuned to Granite) is brownish grey in color and, though flightless, can become one with the earth the way granite mages can.
Also, as previously stated, Gemworld is home to the vi'zrith, an amphibious human race native to the Outer Reaches, a massive island chain on the far side of the world from the Mainland. Occasionally, they can be found in the Sea of Ysre, and are called "watermen" by the people who live on its shores.
What role, if any, does magic or the supernatural play in the lives of people in Gemworld? If there is magic, please give some examples of what it involves or how it’s used.
Magic is prevalent in Gemworld, though it's looked upon with superstition by those who don't understand it. The chief gemstones involved are Ruby (fire), Sapphire (water), Amethyst (energy), Emerald (life), and Granite (matter). One is able to "ascend" or attunes to their soulgem once they reach puberty. Ascension is achieved when the mage first comes into physical contact with their particular gem, usually by way of the Tiled Hand -- a gem-tiled device that sports the six common soulgems in gemstone magic, including Obsidian, though the Highest is the only mage ever to have ascended to that particular soulgem. Once ascended, the mage's eyes take on the characteristics of their soulgem, giving them passive abilities (emeralds can "feed" off sunlight, sapphires can "speak to the wind" and be heard at great distances, etc) and also a secondary visual spectrum (rubies can see variances in temperature, amethysts can see through solid objects, etc). While this is considered a blessing to most mages, granites consider this to be a curse. Granite is different from the other soulgems in that it is nontranslucent, meaning that the granite mage is cut off from his natural, light-based eyesight, leaving only his magical spectrum -- seeing the world according to its structural makeup. Some granites have learned to live with the "beauty" of the world being stolen from them, but by and large, granites are a cold, calculating, super-practical lot.
Are the days of the week and months of the year the same in Gemworld as on earth? What holidays or special events are celebrated regularly there?
The calendar on Gemworld is divided into five months of seventy days. Each month is divided into halves thirty five days each, with the halves separated by a three-day Festival. The Festival with the greatest religious significance is New Year, dividing the month of Whitesong, but the most anticipated Festival is Harvest, dividing the month of Goldenleaf. Not only is this Festival the celebration of all that el
has provided throughout the growing season, but also there is an extra day added to this Festival every fourth year, making it particularly popular among vendors.
Is there a particular religion practiced in Gemworld? Please describe what it involves.
The deity of Gemworld is known as the Crafter, though the more religious recognize Him by the name, el
. The Highest is recognized as the Vicar of the Crafter, the physical representation of His Will until the fabled return of messac'el
, the Heart of the Crafter. The Heart is said to have come once, long before Ysra Tuk'sheol
translated "the Coming of the Hellblade", also known as the Rending of Heaven and Earth, a cataclysmic time when magic became part of the world. The Way's tenets are simple: absolute devotion to the Will of the Crafter, and loving devotion to one's neighbor insomuch as it is in keeping with the one's devotion to the Crafter. There is said to be deeper doctrine kept by the priesthood of el
, but the Highest has commanded the priesthood's silence in the matter, deeming the doctrine too sacred for common folk to access without proper supervision.
There are variations on the Way of el, most notably Unending Seasons, a naturalistic approach to the Way. Unending Seasons recognizes the practical presence of the Crafter in all things. It is especially popular among the Plainsfolk, where it infiltrates the culture almost completely.
What is the political or government structure in Gemworld? Who is in charge there at the moment, and what kind of leader is he/she?
The Highest, an Obsidian mage and recognized Vicar of the Crafter, has been the ruler of the Mainland for over four thousand years, generally without dispute. Most would not consider him tyrannical, though most have never known an alternative to his rule, though on occasion the common folk have rose up in rebellion. The most recent opposition to his rule was that of Titus, King of Aitaxen in the Norean Isles. His kingship lasted for over a decade before he was deposed by the Highest. His current opposition is a young Norean, Reit Windon du'Nograh, the leader of a growing rebellion called the Cause. Reit is recognized by his brethren-in-arms as el'Yatza, the Hand or Servant of the Crafter.
Are there any other unique cultural practices that we should be aware of if we visit Gemworld?
As Unending Seasons is foundational to the Plainsfolk practice, one must always be aware of ritual responses. For example, their standard greeting is "The wind kisses the wheat". A response of welcome would be "The wind bears the seed to new fields" or something similar. A neutral or guarded response would be "The wind weaves through the stalks, and they sway". A negative response -- and potentially insulting -- would be "The wind precedes the storm". Though the Plainsfolk are not overly severe, it can be easy to offend their honor by responding incorrectly to their ritualistic ways.
Has anything in your actual life inspired the locations, cultures, etc. in your book?
Lots! The Plainsfolk are a reflection of the Native American culture. The shol'tukare a more honorable version of the ninja. And of course, the Way of elis essentially Christianity, with the priesthood being the more orthodox denominations and Unending Seasons being the more legalistic. The greatest real-life inspiration, I think, comes from my understanding of God, and my belief that He is sovereign over not just what is, but over all that "could be". Rather than being the God of reality, I see Him as God over all possible realities. No matter the decision or life event, God saw it coming and has a plan already in place for it. Gemworld, as I envision it, is what would happen if the world were to have a magical apocalypse.
What, if any, “hot-button” or controversial topics do you touch on in your book?
Chiefly, the possibility of God allowing our world to become Gemworld, for the sake of our own free will, while yet remaining sovereign over it Himself.