How does a writer come to create an imaginary literary world? If that writer is me, he doesn't pluck it out of thin air. Having developed through the years a taste for heroic fantasy of the sword and sorcery genre, when my time arrived to fashion my own land and age of marvels I had plenty of antecedents to steer me right. I accepted aspects which pleased me from those who had gone before, and mixed them with newly devised attributes and themes of my own devising. So, in a nutshell, came to be the magical prehistoric empire of Dyrezan and its mighty heroes, now the literary basis of one novel and a stack of short stories.
That's my simple answer. The progression from casual inception to full blown fictional corpus is, however, considerably more complex than that and, I flatter myself, rather more entertaining. In this essay I wish to describe in detail the march of ideas and writings that, often via unintended steps, ripped the glamorous story of Dyrezan from the mists of forgotten antiquity and brought the chronicles of that amazing realm, with its colorful citizens, to our day.
The word Dyrezan was coined in March of 2001. The word means nothing; that was plucked from the air. I liked the ring of it. The date is significant only in that it actually grants primacy to the notion of Dyrezan as juxtaposed to my other serial writings focused on characters. The first mention of my gloomy medieval hero Jacob Bleek appeared several months later; almost two years passed before I thought up Professor Anton Vorchek, three years for his lovely companion Theresa Delaney; while roguish Sterk Fontaine waited in the wings over ten years. It took quite a while before I did anything major with the concept, but the kernel was there early on.
Dyrezan saw birth in a poem, hastily dashed, which I rewrote with more care in October of that year. It was inspired by a singular scenic view, a vision of the distant skyline of Phoenix, Arizona, as seen from the westward White Tanks Mountains. At a certain season, in the late afternoon verging on dusk, the setting sun catches the multitudinous glass windows of the far skyscrapers and, just for a minute, they blaze in fiery golden splendor. Then the apparition rapidly fades. The stunning image got me thinking of glories that flare and pass, and from this meditation I spun the poem. This is it:
Long have men dreamed of Dyrezan,
City at the edge of the world;
The city where life is rare music,
Where joy is the standard unfurled.
Legend tells of a city that sails
Like a marble ship in the sky;
Which voyages where the wind will,
And passes above with a sigh.
The city is builded of dreams
Of all the dreamers ever been;
It's real as the vistas of mind,
Needing no why, what, where, or when.
In the last days, when dreams did fade,
The last dreamer went forth on a quest;
To seek the eternal dream city,
And there to receive his just rest.
Heart-sick in a pitiless world,
Where happiness was long forgot,
He journeyed beyond the rainbow,
Convinced there must be such a spot.
And none were left who would aid him,
None who could be bothered to care;
The dreamer had only his dreams,
To lead him on as he would dare.
Across mountain, desert, and stream
He trekked away from man's drab sphere,
Toward a vision he knew so well;
An image he alone held dear.
Hunger and thirst, sere heat and cold,
Did hard plague him as he advanced;
Yet signs at night pointed the way;
Onward he trudged while bright stars danced.
Mystic clues suggested to him
That he must be nearing the goal;
Flights of strange birds, and odd-shaped clouds
Did cheer and tantalize his soul.
In due course he came to the place,
The place where the city must be;
He looked up, about, to both sides,
But no floating city did see.
Why came he to this wilderness?
This rocky wasteland was all wrong;
All he saw was rubble and trash
Nowhere the famed city of song.
The truth came to him by degrees
As he struggled vainly to cope;
With the knowledge born of despair,
The truth of a world without hope.
Then had the legend been a lie?
But no, for there on the harsh ground
Lay scattered the ruins of stone
Of the fallen city, all around!
Then at last he did cry, and curse
The fate which was beyond his ken;
Having learned that one lone dreamer
Could not uphold great Dyrezan.
A few months later, in February of 2002, I revisited the theme, this time with more emphasis on that real imagery:
In the distance below lay the valley
In which a marvelous sight I did see;
A fairy city from the days of old
Flaming in the sunset like burning gold.
With the evening the grand vision was lost
But I'd see it once more despite the cost;
Come morning I descended through the pass
To visit that city of glowing glass.
With the lifting of the morning's gray haze
No such city met my astounded gaze;
Only obsidian shards and cracked stones
Littered that bleak, scorched plain of scrub and bones.
Was it a dream, a gift of dark powers
Which gave me that glimpse of long dead towers?
Thus the start. At this point all we have is the poetic notion of a fabulous, long ago city sailing the sky, something precious but now forever lost. The time would come when I would bring to life the annals of Dyrezan.
That didn't happen quickly. My novel The Journey of Jacob Bleek (published by the Reliquary Press), composed throughout 2005, contains among the various weird adventures of its questing wizard hero the chapter entitled "The City of Dyrezan." As described in a pre-publication synopsis:
"Armed with the knowledge of the ancient writings, Bleek journeys far to the mysterious east, tracking a legend of a glorious city of old whose wise scholars once explored and gained the very secrets that lure him on. At all costs he must find the fabulous, eternal city of sorcery that is Dyrezan. After long years of difficult trekking through vast lands, among exotic peoples, he eventually discovers the site of great Dyrezan, only to find that its deathless greatness has, inconceivably, died."
To an extent this is merely a restatement of the poetic themes, except I've added a tad, the hook upon which later works will hang. Dyrezan wasn't simply a wondrous place, but an abode of wise scholars, replete with secrets and sorcery. More on that shortly.
"A Tale of Dyrezan," (p. Voluted Tales) written in March of 2006, is a faux fable which crucially advances matters. Still suggestive of doom, it's the first story actually set in the era of Dyrezan, and in the thriving city. Here I concoct the template employed ever after: a great, ancient civilization founded on magic, and its glorious metropolis Dyrezan, elevated and held fast high in the heavens by that magic.
Now comes the great turning point.
A year later I determined to craft my own version of a Conan story, courtesy of Robert E. Howard. I wanted the big, bold hero necessary to the sword and sorcery tale, but I didn't want a rough, shaggy barbarian. What I sought was a tough and courageous, yet cultured and learned character; in fact, a fighting mage, a soldier scholar of sorceric bent. From the already fabricated odds and ends I fashioned a more vividly realized setting, then plunked my new hero into the fast and furious machinations of that awesome land. Completed in July of 2007, the result was the hefty novella, "Skyrax, Lord of Dyrezan." (p. Science and Sorcery II)
Accepting the strictures previously settled, Dyrezan, the "Sky City," hovers via ancient magic miles above a mysteriously symmetrical, bowl-shaped valley ringed by jagged mountains, from which it has held sway over the earth for 500 generations. Populated by great wizards, Dyrezan has been ruled since its origins--so distant in time that history has transmuted into legend--by descendants of the founder, the House of Skyrax. Everything in Dyrezan is ornate and beautiful; think a compound of all the splendors of the Classical world rolled into one, as close to the illusion of paradise as man can get.
All is not well in paradise, however. The current Skyrax is a feckless weakling, utterly unlike his most illustrious forebears, and one nobleman, the formidable mage Albragon, deems himself more fitting to wear the crown of Dyrezan. He sets in motion an insidious conspiracy to depose the king and seize the throne for himself. Standing in his way--the man who must be destroyed at all costs that Albragon's treachery succeed--is the Captain of the Royal Guard, Lord Morca.
This story introduces the recurrent heroes of Dyrezan, chief among them the Lords Morca and Nantrech. Morca is my repackaged version of Conan: young, powerful, a fierce warrior, but a first-class magician to boot. Morca dominates most of the subsequent Dyrezanian tales. Nantrech, an older wizard of similar stature, is famed as an explorer, devoting his life to journeys into unknown regions in search of knowledge. He, occasionally, also stars in his own stories, and appears often with Morca as they go adventuring together.
"Skyrax, Lord of Dyrezan" takes place within a limited geographical compass, of the city and its near terrestrial environs, in which magic-backed treason and political skullduggery give way to bloody civil war, with plenty of bashed bones and spraying blood. The story clarifies the arcane mechanisms by which the people of the Sky City travel from their aerial abode to go among the folk of the earth below, their subjects.
A consequence of what I considered a supremely rewarding literary effort was another outbreak of the poetic mood. I turned out a series of pieces in which, for the last time, I return to probing the lost and doomed aspects of the Dyrezan theme. Allow me a lengthy break here to present that poetry in its entirety:
Is Dyrezan dead? Never can that be
Though tales say it fell before history
Shattered and scattered and forever lost
Its memory withered, shriveled, time-tossed.
Yet I remember, so Dyrezan lives
A beacon of light that wondrous tale gives
Of the great city in epochs olden
Raised to the heavens by magic golden.
I see it cloud-floating there in the sky
Towers, palaces, hovering on high
Dwelt in by mighty mages wise and bold
Who delved into all secrets weird and old.
Such esoteric splendor can not die
While imagination soars to the sky.
Unearthed from a tomb, forlorn and unknown
Amidst a heap of gnawed gristle and bone
Last resting place, the ghoul's unhallowed throne
Brought forth once more unto the ken of man;
These are the cryptic scrolls of Dyrezan.
Inscribed by that lost city's wise mages
Laid in the shunned vault to last the ages
Telling of great glories and fell rages
Disclosing those secrets that time would ban;
Such are the cryptic scrolls of Dyrezan.
Read of the city raised up by the Gods
Aloft into the sky against all odds
Pristine, removed from the dross and the clods
Assailing heaven was those wizards' plan;
So state the cryptic scrolls of Dyrezan.
From their sky-flung perch they mastered the earth
Lorded over mountain, ocean, and firth
Their conquests encircled the wide world's girth
Awe and envy they stoked, fear they did fan;
Thus read the cryptic scrolls of Dyrezan.
From their haven they unleashed sorcery
Gazed on mysteries of eternity
Tearing aside darkness they strove to see
The perils and marvels no mortal can;
So boast the cryptic scrolls of Dyrezan.
Through long epochs they thought would never end
The barriers of truth they thought to rend
Against reality itself they'd fend
Raising wonders and horrors in their van;
Report the cryptic scrolls of Dyrezan.
Naught remains of their fruits but blasted rocks
Their citadel a heap of broken blocks
Their glory a dream that cruel time mocks
Gleans the facts of their doom no living man;
Silent the cryptic scrolls of Dyrezan.
Behold the city soaring in the sky
A city of towers and lofty walls
Of white marble, porcelain, gleaming glass
Hovering there, uprooted from the earth
Like a new planet sailing in heaven
And in those majestic castles do dwell
And stroll haughtily the great avenues
The wise masters of that metropolis
The wonderful mages of Dyrezan
Beloved they are of the eternal Gods
Who made the earth and cosmos at Their whim
And at Their amusement or Their pleasure
Allowed the sons of Dyrezan to gain
A species of hubris reserved for Them
Dyrezan, forever lording over
All its wizards may see or deign to seek
But say you, you gaze upon nothingness
No fair city dazzles your eyes and brains?
Long ago it was, now utterly gone?
Perhaps the truth, if one can not touch dreams
Yet I say what once was ever shall be
Dyrezan shall sail and reign in man's heart
While hope and fancy grant meaning to life.
At great cost acquired I the ancient book
Much effort to procure I undertook
That I might gain the knowledge wise men seek
In the fabulous tome of Jacob Bleek.
In the olden times that mystic scholar
Renounced this world's material squalor
Delving into secrets of arcane lore
Whither no man had ever delved before.
Rumor told that he wrote of Dyrezan
As no other sage ever could or can
That book marvelous mysteries afforded
Tales of Dyrezan by Bleek recorded.
I would know those stories of lost ages
Artfully concealed in those brittle pages.
Though studied I 'til my eyes were bleary
Confessed defeat when my brain grew weary
For read those enciphered words I could not
Old Bleek shunned writing for the common lot.
Yet strands of magic lay within that tome
Cleverly woven by that cunning gnome
Sweet fruits not of ink but something behind
The antique script that would speak to the mind.
So slept I with the book as my pillow
Sinking into slumber deep and mellow
Diving beyond consciousness into mist
Where the combative soul enters the list.
Slumbering I plunged into darkness that night
Grew aware in time of returning sight.
I shuddered at the spell of Bleek's volume
Looted greedily from a hidden tomb
Yet surely I need not fear what I'd sought
The book performed magically as it ought.
Golden radiance swelled and then faded
I beheld a vision blurred and shaded
Which sharpened into dreamy scintillance
And Dyrezan burst forth in brilliance.
The claims of that hoary old mage were true
Though I'd robbed his grave I must give him due
For through the key he'd delivered intact
Upon great Dyrezan I gazed in fact.
Seeing through my mind's magic-guided eyes
The fair city that once ruled earth and skies.
But of Dyrezan what is the lure
That this weirdness I would haply endure?
O have not all men, the noble and low
Dreamed of paradise to which they must go?
Myth holds that the ancient source genuine
Of all such tales lies in aged ruin
It was there, once upon, now gone from men,
Disappeared into epochs beyond ken.
To see it in life reconstructed whole
Was worth danger or the sale of my soul
What matter my fortunes beyond this date
If my pangs and cravings should feel full sate?
Thus by Bleek's beckoning necromancy
I wafted into that land of fancy.
This first I saw: an immense round valley
Spreading out wide, flat-bottomed before me
Encircled by mountains, lofty, stony
Peaks rising like fingers, dark and bony.
The regular symmetry looked quite odd
As if fashioned by the hand of a God
Never does blind nature draw with compass
Feign architect without flaw or surplus.
The lie of land presented a face of green
Burgeoning fruit orchards everywhere seen
Ribboning fields of grain crops bountiful
Intermixed with villages plentiful.
Hardy folk worked and prospered there I guessed
In that circular valley of the blest.
On the verdant plain beneath the sun's glow
I noticed a peculiar round shadow
Casting up my eyes to espy the cause
I beheld that which gave me dazzled pause.
That black disk motionlessly hovering
Miles high, its vast shade the land covering
Residing there with fleecy clouds in van
Loomed the black underside of Dyrezan.
Dyrezan, fabled city of the sky
Riding in air, kissed by the Gods so high
Perfection that should not be touched by soil
So lifted up by keen sorceric toil.
The aerial impasse made me to cry
But I'd gain the city if I could try.
And in this induced dream state the willing
Made it so, and I soared through winds chilling
Up, ever up, a figment bird in flight
Till at the portico I did alight.
From a brazen chamber I passed without
Stood in the sun and beheld with a shout
Of illimitable joy the broad scene
Of Dyrezan, the mighty and serene.
Straight forward ran a lengthy avenue
Broad as a march-field bisecting the view
To both sides and fore rose glistening towers
A fairy scape built of awesome powers.
Breathlessly I set out down the wide way
Into the dream city of yesterday.
Tendrils of cloud drifted about the spires
Lovely images drawn from fey desires
That betook of memories half forgot
Restored to me though I had lived them not.
Or could it be that the wizard Bleek's charm
Opened age-dead doors without any harm
Through which souls returned to a former state
Realizing past experience and fate?
I knew not whether I came or came back
But the urge to explore I did not lack
I strode as a man his old home greeting
Quaffing impressions bizarre and fleeting.
This was my Dyrezan in which I stood
Foolishness perhaps, yet I found it good.
In busy throngs my olden comrades strolled
Gay, happy people dressed in antique mold
Hurried citizens about their affairs
I went along to feel their joys and cares.
Down the great boulevard I trekked wide-eyed
Castles and temples passing aside
Moving with the press of the human flow
Curious to see what their goal would show.
Along the way I paused at vistas restored
At the marvels those people oft adored
Detouring a while by a stream flowing
Through a park with exotic plants growing.
Think it, a river most artificial
Cleverly mimicking the natural.
There I'd have meandered, starry, all day
Gawking at brightly colored birds at play
And scaled the heights of the crafted mountain
Topped by a gushing, sparkling fountain.
But I did not tarry long romantic
While my new-found brethren raced on frantic
Unwilling, I left the park beautiful
Scurried like them, hastily dutiful.
Into an obsidian plaza vast
Poured the streaming hordes of that ghostly cast
In the mid-region lay that meeting ground
Where the populace came to stand around.
Encircling the plaza gazed gold statues
Of Gods, heroes, symbols of the virtues.
At the epicenter a palace loomed
The heart of Dyrezan's might I assumed
An edifice so majestically grand
That words belie what descriptions demand.
Conceive a platform, big as city blocks
Of such grandeur that the questing mind rocks
Like a ziggurat of stepped marble tiers
Which nothing in history exceeds or nears.
Above rests the awesome palace gated
Where without its doors the hushed crowd waited
There level on level flung to the sky
Walls and towers thrust impossibly high.
From the battlements prideful pennants stream
In which forms of eagles and lions teem.
The gates thrown open, a filing parade
Of priests advance to a sweet serenade
A roar and rumble of trumpets and drums
Heralds the moment when the great one comes.
I knew him, this one, lordly and regal
Proud Skyrax the king, Dyrezan's eagle
With hands on hips he addressed the crowd
In a voice commanding, assured and loud.
Until then speech had been aural garbage
But then I discerned, I grasped the language
"The day of triumph hath cometh," he said
"Here man reigns supreme, the Old Gods are dead.
"Our finest mages via arcane arts
"Have struck down the Gods with magical darts.
"Truly it was to Dyrezan ordained
"To dispense with our Masters when we deigned.
"We give thanks for what They chose to bestow
"Yet now They are useless so They must go."
And the throng cheered and shrieked with wild delight
Only the shocked priests cowering in fright
Haughty sorcerers grouped about their king
Barking the charms that would victory bring.
The folk fell solemn, singing to a tune
In which they sneered at the celestial boon
That the Gods above once freely granted
"Enough, out with You," they, laughing, chanted.
"Be gone," the magicians cried in the end
"Lest our majesty Thy presence offend."
As the citizens beastly cavorted
I harkened to what the priests retorted
Shunned to a man they shouted in dismay
"Do not blaspheme where the Old Gods hold sway.
"They are the fount of power we revere
"Holding the city above the world drear
"'Tis written when we turn from Xenophor
"Lord of All Things, our fate we will abhor."
The gay folk snickered, spitting back insults
"'Tis muscle and brains guarantee results
"Squat in your temples as the new day dawns
"Henceforth we're nevermore Xenophor's pawns."
I knew not wherefore, but then my heart froze
At the daring deed that Dyrezan chose.
There fell on the scene a heavy stillness
Damping the crowd's hectic mirth and wildness
Came an aerial reverberation
Inducing silence of tremulation.
Upon the quiet followed a grim toll
As from a massy iron bell's cracking bowl
In the sky appeared an inky black well
Of infinite depths opening on hell.
From the dark glared a myriad of eyes
Unwinking malevolence from the skies
Boomed a voice molded from furious hate
"Only I, Xenophor, determine fate.
"Fair Dyrezan's greatness passes this day
"To oblivion I show thee the way."
On the instant the entire city lurched
Those toppling towers its splendor besmirched
Dazed by this turn I was dashed to pavement
As the throng screamed and fell in amazement.
Skyrax, helpless, plunged down the palace stairs
'Midst bouncing mages still gibbering their wares
Confused horror, death, and maiming galore
Thus initially, then monstrously more.
The city continued its horrid tip
Grab hold as I might I commenced to slip
Bodies, statues, broken columns flew past
All crashed downward, nothing remaining fast.
Airlessly I shrieked through dizzying space
One more damned mote in Dyrezan's disgrace!
I awoke with a cry, stricken and anguished
'Til dawn in sadness wallowed and languished
Tormented yet by the loathsome image
Of outraged Xenophor's grotesque visage.
At first I cast aside the book of Bleek
Dreading further what its pages would speak
Since then I've dared again peruse the tome
Craving saner glimpses of my lost home.
All for nothing, for Jacob's evil spell
That one tale was woven callous to tell
Olden delights and glory I'd imbibe
Not the sick madness of Bleek and his tribe.
Ever since that night I dream as I can
But only of the doom of Dyrezan.
In the days of the magical empire
That beheld the greatness of Dyrezan
Wizards wielded arts born of cosmic fire
Beyond the conception of common man.
Proud and haughty they honed their secret skills
Fed on wisdom, desire to dominate
Directed by the hubris of fierce wills
Which knowledge and power lust could not sate.
Their magics they ignited and combined
In that elder time post the human dawn
Cunning formulae tested and refined
Striving through generations come and gone.
Thus they made at last what they craved to see
Dyrezan, that noble magic city.
In those times Dyrezan lorded the world
Its banners of roaring lions from heights
to valleys and across the seas unfurled
Her kings ruling according to their lights.
Those royal masters, themselves mages' sons
Steeped in arcane lore already antique
Harnessed other mages, the ablest ones
Revealing useful truths they lived to seek.
And through their grim and canny spells rose up
Backed by legions of steel and slashing sword
That era in which the nobles did sup
Strange pleasures and wild marvels untoward.
That was Dyrezan of the elder age
Stronghold of fell might and sorceric sage.
Of that city's glories much must be told
For the earth hasn't seen another like
Picture, then, the empire's heart clothed in gold
Gleaming wherever the sun's rays doth strike.
Towers of gold, cruelly stabbing the skies
Monuments in that deathless metal clad
Statues of sung heroes that still drew sighs
From the proud folk who gazed up awed or glad.
Palaces of gold, or silver at least
Where the feckless grandees sported and played
From race to carnival to sumptuous feast
Reveling madly to boredom evade.
And temples ornate to gods demanding
Mage priests the affairs of kings commanding.
The common folk mused in gardens sublime
Amidst flowers and trees and crystal streams
Heedlessly enjoying their careless time
Among tame beasts, and birds flitting from dreams.
Strolling or carousing flagged avenues
Venturing thither as the moment deemed
No nagging fears tainted their joyous views
In that city where the sun endless beamed.
For their masters in their magical might
Charmed up from the earth past the highest cloud
Their capital of scintillating light
Dyrezan hovering safe, eternal, proud.
Thus the fame and glory that never dies
Soaring on thin air through the azure skies.
Yet Dyrezan is gone, as all admit
Those few moody scholars who know the name
So lost that its centuried history won't fit
Into our chronicles standard and lame.
Guess at its age and location in space
Ten sages provide us answers fifteen
Ten more say there never was such a place
Within lies and fancy it slipped between.
Hold that, I tell you; Dyrezan still lives
I've seen it, I've walked its majestic streets
True magic like theirs perpetual gives
Life to the heart where eternity beats.
Whereso men cherish impossible dreams
There golden-towered Dyrezan yet gleams.
This poetry perhaps inspired a single story which, to a degree, unites old and new conceptions. "Nantrech of Dyrezan," (p. SSII) from August of 2007, in fable form tells of that great man's trek into wilderness cloaking the remnants of ancient evil, which it is implied may reach out to destroy his civilization.
With the foundations of the imaginary world finally cemented, I commenced turning out narratives of adventures chronicling the wonders and terrors of that distant age, a course continued to this day. Below are listed, in order of composition, the remaining tales of Dyrezan to date:
The Charming of Carmeline (p. SSII)
The Tale of Nantrech (p. SSII)
The Adventure of Captain Morca (p. SSII)
The Voice Out of Dyrezan (p. SSII)
The Guardian of the Treasure (p. Voluted Tales)
The Journey Through the Black Book
A Sojourn in Crost
In the Hills of Yost (p. Swords and Sorcery)
The Gorge of Pentono (p. Aurora Wolf)
The Wheel of Dargalon (p. Swords and Sorcery)
The Castle of Chakaron (p. Sorcerous Signals)
The Ghouls of Kalkris (p. Sorcerous Signals)
A Little Peril in Brisbett (p. Swords and Sorcery)
The Vault of Phalos (p. Cirsova)
The majority of these are one-off accounts of weird quests or frightful perils, usually undertaken by Morca or Nantrech or both, plus many other wizards and warriors of lesser note such as Harmon and Phillipan, to name only a couple. They are normally set not in Dyrezan itself (which I thought "Skyrax" covered pretty well), but out amidst the hinterlands of the empire or farther still into the relatively barbarous fringes, where things can get really wild. There are deviations from this vague rule. "The Charming of Carmeline," the most recent short story set in the city, is one of my rare comic pieces, playing magical conundrums for laughs. "The Voice out of Dyrezan" is actually a Jacob Bleek tale, in which he attempts to raise the shade of no less than long dead Lord Morca for his own selfish ends. "The Guardian of the Treasure" is a revised version of my earliest fantasy story, which in its published version incorporates a slender Dyrezanian thread. "Kardowan" is a fable about an evil nobleman exiled from the city, who in his hubris receives his just desserts. Otherwise, Lords Morca and Nantrech constitute the narrative heroes of the Dyrezanian odyssey. Whether they be confronting resurrected evil kings, warrior mages, conniving wizards, or hideous monsters, the stories are basically personal accounts of this pair. Dyrezan and its wide world simply form the colorful backdrop for their sensational deeds.
Let me touch upon those few societal characteristics which tend to span all of the stories.
Take the Roman Empire at its height as the material prototype, with its nobles, citizens, subjects and slaves. The territory of Dyrezan is a vast region, wealthy through conquest or other acquisitive activities such as trade. It is, or has been during certain periods, aggressive in war. Disturbances along the frontiers are common, and warriors are greatly respected and honored, perhaps as much as wizards. A major factor in Lord Morca's renown is his prowess in battle.
Wealth pours into the Sky City from its terrestrial subjects below and from defeated enemies. No other large urban centers are mentioned within the kingdom, the remainder of the population apparently dwelling in farming or trading villages, except for the sprinkling of regional nobility in their castles.
The political structure has scarcely been described. All citizens and subjects owe fealty to the reigning Skyrax, best understood as an absolute monarch, yet in the context of the tales that counts for less than it might. The Council of Twenty, ostensibly an advisory board to the king, wields such power as to be treated as a rudimentary parliament. Great nobles, like Lord Morca, possess enormous influence. The foregoing holds most true in the grand city. Beyond, especially on the outskirts of the realm, there can be precious little evidence of political centralization. Folks live their entire lives with virtually no contact with or interference from their distant masters. To many, Dyrezan is something of a legend in its own time.
The chief religion of Dyrezan extols the celestial sovereignty of Xenophor, "The Lord of All Things," "The Creator and Destroyer." The Dyrezanians hail Him as a fundamentally benevolent force, the source of their greatness, indeed of their existence. This is an inside joke of mine, for in different sets of stories I have often employed Xenophor as an eidolon of Lovecraftian horror. Well, a creator and destroyer can be both, and even the wise men of Dyrezan have been known to question the meaning of Xenophor's "whims."
Warfare is of the good old-fashioned sort, waged by stout lads in armor bearing swords, shields, spears, bows and arrows. Regular military forces patrol the frontier, often accompany expeditions beyond it. Civil wars, core theme of a couple of tales, are messier affairs, both times presented as popular uprisings pitted against the private armies of usurping nobles.
I posit a mighty civilization founded on magic rather than machinery. Magic is a genuine force of nature, which can be tamed and utilized via study and experiment. Dyrezan was born in magic; it is the power holding the city aloft, and imbuing all significant activities. Following the lead of my forebears Eddison, Howard, and Tolkien, I treat this power as a difficult mechanic to master, which prevents it from becoming the rabbit out of the hat solving all problems without effort. As a rule, magic is the last resort, only decisive in the hands of the most accomplished scholars of the arcane.
You know, to a great extent there isn't one, and rightly or wrongly, that's by design. I don't want to create an iron framework which might inadvertently restrict the development of a good story. I've maintained a general timelessness to the tales, and I've been pretty fuzzy about geography too. So, no maps thus far, nor any specific calendar of events. That may change in the future. Who knows?
"A Tale of Dyrezan" and "Skyrax, Lord of Dyrezan" establish the bare fact that the city has thrived through incredible epochs. The latter tale touches upon the enduring political situation. Those thin points aside, both stories are descriptive, set in the "now."
A loose series of tales, however, read in concert, document something more than a single immediate occurrence. The most dramatic and fateful event in the literary history of Dyrezan is the war against the monstrous Rhexellites.
The Rhexellites are an ancient race first presented in The Journey of Jacob Bleek. Long ago they mastered the highest arts of magic, rising to incredible heights before, going too far in their pride, they destroyed themselves. There's much of the original Dyrezan theme in that. Anyway, the Bleek novel suggests that they sank low, fleeing into a hideous underground world where they descended the evolutionary scale to something loathsomely less than human.
In "The Tale of Nantrech" that noble narrator recounts the story of his expedition across the eastern sea against a fearful upwelling of the Rhexellites, now shown to be the primordial precursors of Dyrezan. Although still weirdly inhuman, this new menace has re-emerged into the world, established a kingdom based on black arts, and set about preying nastily upon their neighbors. The soldiers of Dyrezan, helmed by Lord Morca, battle their way into Tsathgon, the morbid citadel of the Rhexellites where, having attained total victory over the foe, are themselves overwhelmed during the night by an outpouring of the vilest monsters lurking in the subterranean pits beneath the Rhexellite city.
"The Adventure of Captain Morca" continues right where the previous story left off, now documenting the hero's flight across haunted Rhexellite territory, where among other things he must battle the ghosts of eons-dead warriors. These two stories bulk large in my corpus of writings because I chose to employ portions of those narratives within a larger context in my next big work.
The Journey Through the Black Book is a full length novel of a most complex nature. It begins in the modern day as a Professor Vorchek tale, with that clever chap formulating a method--courtesy of Bleek's notorious Black Book--to extend his senses through time that he may study the lost wonders of Dyrezan. The experiment goes awry, with Vorchek and his two companions instead finding themselves trapped within former incarnations of themselves, residents of fabled Dyrezan.
Vorchek, as the minor wizard Vorselus, gets himself embroiled in power politics when he makes an enemy of the evil Lord Kardowan (a character borrowed from the little tale of that title) and is forced to flee the city with a price on his head. Through an uncertain species of luck he manages to join the army across the eastern sea, headed by the Lords Nantrech and Morca, and becomes himself an unwilling participant in the great war against the Rhexellites.
In this section the novel, borrowing heavily, closely parallels the events of the twin tales above. After the disaster notable survivors, including Vorselus and Morca, come together to escape the Rhexellite domain and rejoin their fellows in Dyrezan, where civil war (reminiscent of "Skyrax, Lord of Dyrezan") has erupted in blood-drenched fury.
Two subsequent stories provide more detail on this harrowing campaign. "In the Hills of Yost" recounts a particularly strange interlude on the march to the Rhexellite citadel. "A Sojourn in Crost" presents another horrid vignette derived from Lord Morca's wanderings after the stunning nocturnal catastrophe.
Mostly written separately with different literary goals, the novel and stories taken as a whole form a single composite tale of rich detail. Somewhat more may be added to this chronicle. In The Journey Through the Black Book the shifty nobleman Albragon appears as a supporting character, a questionable ally of Kardowan. It logically follows, then, that "Skyrax, Lord of Dyrezan" comprises a later narrative, in which Albragon has been spared to dream of seizing the throne himself. Two gigantic political coups in one generation: does that tell us anything about the internal stability of Dyrezan? Yet the city is old beyond ready conception, and has surely undergone varying periods of peace and violence, security and turmoil. Exciting stories must necessarily zero in on troubled times.
So stands Dyrezan, in poetry and in the tales of bards. Snippets of imagery, dashes of brooding themes, and finally the desire to produce ripping yarns raised up that city in the sky more surely than the labors of the first Skyrax. In the end I'm amazed by the coherence of this unplanned behemoth, for the longest time no part of any grand design of mine. As with Professor Vorchek, Jacob Bleek and their recurrent kin, Dyrezan and its denizens took on enhanced life by degrees, until they acquired in my literary mind the rights of existence, governed by their own internal logic.
I know them now: the cool, measured demeanor of Nantrech, the forthright hotheadedness of Morca, the names of grand avenues and the locations of green parks, the royal roads to far lands. Dyrezan and its rowdy crew please me. I trust they will serve my readers as well.
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