Welcome to Realm Explorers!  In this weekly series, we visit a variety of unique worlds created by talented science fiction and fantasy authors.  Enjoy your travels!  And don’t forget to read to the bottom of the post to find out more about each author and see how to purchase the featured book.  

Author’s name: Meredith Mansfield

Title of book and/or series: The Shaman’s Curse, Book 1 of the Dual Magics series
Brief summary of the story:
Vatar risked his life to try to save his friend–and failed. Now he has an implacable enemy in the vengeful shaman, who blames Vatar for the death of his only son. In his isolation, Vatar finds some comfort in daydreams. He knows the strange girl he sometimes imagines is just that–a dream. She’d better be.
Because, if she’s real things could get even worse for Vatar. The accepted magic of Vatar’s plains tribe wouldn’t enable him to see or communicate with a girl he doesn’t even know–or know where to find. That would be more like the magic passed down in certain, closely-guarded bloodlines among the ruling class of the coastal cities. And that’s bad. Very bad.
Unlike their own, Vatar’s people think the city magic is evil. If the shaman ever found out, it could be the weapon he needs to destroy Vatar. And yet, finding a way to accept the other side of his heritage may be the only way Vatar can ultimately defeat his enemy.
The two kinds of magic have always been totally separate. Until now.
Brief description of the world or location you created for this story:
Unfortunately, I haven’t given this world as whole a name, so let’s refer to it as The World of the Dual Magics. The peoples in it generally only know their own little corner of it (a coastal city, the central plains, or a hidden mountain valley). A few may have traveled to another location, but they don’t tend to think of the world as a whole. Yet. I plan to work on a map (other than my pathetic hand-drawn one) for the publication of the second book in the series, The Ignored Prophecy (this December).
Basically, the cities are scattered along the western coastline or accessible by river. These cities are all ruled by the Fasallon, though the bulk of the population is not Fasallon. Caere is the only one of those cities that comes into the first book in the series. Inland from the coast is a broad, trackless plain where the semi-nomadic Dardani live and tend their herds of horses and cattle. East of that is a huge, mostly uninhabited forest, backing up onto high, impassable mountains. In a valley beyond the mountains, if you can find the single pass that crosses them, there’s another civilization that is both eerily like and in some ways very different from that of the Fasallon.
If we were to visit the World of the Dual Magics as tourists, what would you recommend that we see or do there?
Tourist attractions would be thin on the plains. If you were to visit the coastal city of Caere, though, you’d be well advised to be there in the summer, for the Festival, when the Sea Gods (or at least, what the Caerean think are their Sea Gods) parade through the streets.
What dangers should we avoid in the World of the Dual Magics?
Caere is pretty tame and well-patrolled. Dragons haven’t been seen in about 600 years. Unless, of course, you have Fasallon magic and aren’t already part of their system. Then you’d better keep your head down.
It wouldn’t be a good idea to try to cross the plains without an experienced Dardani guide. It’s not just the usual dangers–thunderstorms, lions, bears, and wolves. Without knowledge of a route that will take you to a waterhole at least a couple of times a day, it’s too easy to get lost and die out there. And you run the risk of Themyri raiders if you try to follow the river.
What types of weaponry or fighting styles are common in the World of the Dual Magics?
Vatar and the Dardani wear long knives, often of Caerean steel. They also use the bow for hunting. However, Vatar is a terrible shot with the bow, so he mostly concentrates on the spear, by preference a long horseman’s lance. Apart from steel or iron implements traded for in Caere, the Dardani are a bronze-age people.
In Caere, only the Guard would carry weapons at all, often a short thrusting sword.
What types of vehicles, animals, technology, etc. are used to travel in or to the World of the Dual Magics?
Most travel over any distance is done either on horseback or by ship. It’s death to try to walk across the plains. Wagons would only be useful within the cities or their immediate environs. Otherwise, there aren’t roads suitable for wagons.
What types of plants, animals, or sentient races might we encounter in the World of the Dual Magics that we don’t see on Earth?
The only sentient beings are people. No elves or dwarves, etc.
However, there are a few unusual creatures. Most notable is the forest tiger, which is rather like a saber-toothed tiger, but with rhinoceros-like armor. Very dangerous and very hard to kill.
Otherwise, one might see wyverns in the mountains. On the plains, there’s a wild horse that has spots like a leopard, almost impossible to see at any distance and impossible to catch. And in the forest, there’s a funny little flying-squirrel-like creature with a mane like a lion.
What role, if any, does magic or the supernatural play in the lives of people there?  If there is magic, please give some examples of what it involves or how it’s used
As the series title suggests, there are two kinds of magic in this world.
One is acquired by initiation into one of the clans of the plains people, the Dardani. It’s a kind of spiritual connection to the clan totem spirit. For example, Vatar is Lion Clan, which means that he can sense when lions are present and get a general sense of their mood. His friends can do similar things with the wild horses, eagles, or ravens. The shaman can do more, but any Dardani can do that much. However, the Dardani do not consider this magic and would take offense if you called it that.
In the coastal cities, the Fasallon closely guard a different kind of magic that is inherited from one’s parents. Almost every Fasallon can use Far Speech (we’d call it telepathy) and Far Sight (the ability to see something or someone with far away, especially if there’s some sort of connection). Other, more-valued Talents include Fore Sight (prophecy), certain rare healing abilities, and most valuable of all, transformations–the ability to make oneself or something else to appear to be something or someone else. The most Talented can actually change themselves into something else. This ability is key to their rule in Caere and the other cities.
Things get really interesting when the two kinds of magic combine. There’s a hint of that in The Shaman’s Curse, but it will really become important in the second book of the series, The Ignored Prophecy, which will be published in December.
Tell us about any sports, games, or activities that are available for entertainment in the World of the Dual Magics.
The Dardani play a game like a cross between basketball and polo. It’s played on horseback, on a triangular field, with three teams of five riders each. It’s the highlight of their midsummer celebration. Having three teams makes the game as much about shifting alliances as about the skill of the players.
Are the days of the week and months of the year the same as on Earth? What holidays or special events are celebrated regularly there?
The Dardani separate their year into six segments, one named for each of the clans.  The lunar cycles within those segments are referred to as First and Second, as in First Wolf or Second Lion.  The cycle starts in mid-winter with Wolf, followed by Bear and Horse. Midsummer separates Horse from Eagle, which is followed by Lion and finally Raven.  It is considered propitious to be born in the season of your Clan totem.  Second best would be within the season of one of the allied clans (Horse/Lion/Eagle vs. Raven/Wolf/Bear). Vatar was born during Second Wolf, an ill-favored season for a member of the Lion Clan.
Is there a particular religion practiced in the World of the Dual Magics?  Please describe what it involves.
Among the Dardani, religion revolves around each clan’s totem Spirits.  They don’t consider their connection to these Spirits to be magic and they have a strong superstitious dread of what they do call magic.
Historically, the Caereans worship Sea Gods. However, the Fasallon have essentially hijacked this religion, impersonating the Sea Gods to bolster their unquestioned rule in the coastal cities.
What is the political or government structure?  Who is in charge there at the moment, and what kind of leader is he/she?
Caere is ruled by the Fasallon High Council, made up of the most magically Talented representative of each bloodline. Smaller, day-to-day issues that don’t merit the attention of the High Council or their bureaucracy would be handled by the various guilds.
The Dardani aren’t so much ruled as led by their chiefs. Each clan may have several chiefs, chosen by popular acclaim for a life lived with honor. Either men or women may be selected as chiefs. There is usually a good representation across age ranges among the male chiefs. Women chiefs are more likely to be older widows. This is a practical consideration. Younger married women are usually to be found living with their husband’s clan. The chiefs work mainly by trying to create consensus within their clan or, together, within the tribe.
Are there any other unique cultural practices that we should be aware of if we visit?
If you should go out to visit the Dardani during their summer gathering of the clans at the Zeda waterhole, don’t go for a walk around the waterhole with a Dardani. Especially don’t accept any gifts offered on such a walk–unless you mean it. These are courtship rituals. You might find yourself married and living in a sod hut before you knew it.
Has anything in your actual life inspired the locations, cultures, etc. in your book?
Well, I seem to be incapable of putting the ocean anywhere but on the west. (West-coast girl, here.) Specific locations may borrow somewhat from places I’ve visited. For example, Caere’s climate is a little like San Francisco’s.

Author Autobiography:

Professionally, I’ve been a financial analyst and a visual basic programmer. I also have a paralegal certificate, although I’ve never worked in that field. It’s anybody’s guess what I’ll be when I grow up.

Imagining stories and writing have always been an important part of my life. It’s one I’ve finally could get serious about while I cared for my mother who had Alzheimer’s disease.

Where, and in what formats, can we purchase your book?  
The ebook is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and more.
The print book is available on Amazonand other sites.
Where can readers connect with you online? 
My blogis probably the best place to find me.
My twitter handle is @MansfieldMJ (But I’m hardly ever there.)

I hope you all enjoyed the trip to the World of the Dual Magics.  Questions about the world or the book?  Ask them in the comments and the author will get back to you!  

Click here to read other posts in the Realm Explorers series.

Please join us again next Monday for a trip to the fantasy world of Chadash in Realm Explorers Part XIII!
-Annie Douglass Lima

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