Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Guest Post: Creating the Magic of Legends of Leone: The Crystal Ordeal by M.G. Dekle

Today we have an amazing guest post from M.G. Dekle, author of Legends of Leone: The Crystal Ordeal! M.G. is discussing the myth and magic in the book and how he created it. The Crystal Ordeal will be FREE on Amazon  from Oct. 15th - 19th so make sure you grab a copy while you can! Check out the synopsis:

At a young age, Leone Verrat learned that her ability to cast simple magical enchantments was limited by a peculiar handicap. Unlike other sorcerers, her spells would not permanently consume the components necessary for magic, resulting in much weaker and shorter effects but returning the ingredients unscathed. Even though she earned barely passable grades in order to graduate from Blueroot Academy, a school specializing in magical studies, an unknown benefactor still saw fit to recommend her for Morgan's Ordeal, a test necessary for any respectable career.

She is soon inextricably linked to her theatrical Ordeal partner, Falchion, as they must brave the dangers of the test together. They both quickly discover that the Ordeal is the least of their concerns when they find themselves in the middle of an ancient power struggle.

Creating the Magic of Legends of Leone: The Crystal Ordeal by M.G. Dekle:

When reading most stories, my favorite aspect of a work is nearly always the characters. On the other hand, when reading fantasy novels, I can’t help but be drawn in by the magic of each author’s world. I want to figure out what makes each world work, how it’s different from real life, and exactly what effect sorcery has on the story and characters. This wonderful sense of modified reality is what always brings me back to fantasy, and it was the driving force behind creating the magic of Legends of Leone.

I’m of the opinion that magic must modify the world in some way. If the story takes place in the real, modern world, this could be something like a hidden society or group of people protecting humanity from unknown horrors. In a completely new world, however, there are no such limits. The magical aspects within a story can be hidden, but they don’t have to be. In the world of Legends of Leone, sorcery is very much out in the open and shaping every aspect of the world, so the delightfully fun challenge is in figuring out just exactly what that means for everything.

Before magic’s effects on the larger picture can be explored, a brief explanation of the magic system in this series is in order. For that, it’s probably easiest just to share a conversation from early in the novel (with a little extra flavor, for which I hope you will indulge me).

Excerpt from Ch 3 of The Crystal Ordeal
Around noon, the road began to descend into a light forest. Falchion pushed them to hike a little further into the trees, then after one last look backwards and a smile, finally settled on a low rock outcropping as a good place for lunch. Leone tried to find what he was looking at, but could only see the trees they had just passed.

Falchion rummaged around in his bag for the anticipated peanut butter and crackers, pulled them out, and started slathering on a hefty helping of the nutty paste before putting the crackers together and shoving the whole creation into his mouth. He passed the ingredients over to Leone before trying to say something. “Maohw iba…” he trailed off, realizing this would have to wait. He stared at the sky, crunching and munching with renewed vigor. 
Leone smirked back at him, deeply tempted to ask him as many questions as she could in the next few seconds, and would have if she wasn’t worried he would try to answer them and choke in the process. 
Finally, he made an exaggerated swallow, took a large swig of water, and after coughing a few times, began again. “Now would be a good time to figure out what we can both do. Start practicing before we get to the trial and all.” 
Leone began applying a thin layer of peanut butter to a cracker. “For starters, I’m smart enough not to fill my mouth with peanut butter and crackers before trying to speak.” 
Falchion began to open his mouth to make a witty comeback, but Leone quickly crumbled the peanut-buttered cracker in her hand, squinted her eyes, and in a brief flash of light, Falchion’s mouth was magically glued shut. “I’m also smart enough not to interrupt a mage when she’s holding peanut butter,” she said in a mock stern voice. Falchion looked annoyed at this. “Good. The fact that you’re annoyed and not panicking means that you know a little about magic. This is only temporary, not permanent. Ok, so you know how the spell was cast…” 
At this, Falchion shook his head. Leone gave him a puzzled look. “Really? You know what magic does, but not how it works? What sort of classes did you take?” 
Falchion rubbed his mouth, then looking around, began drawing in the sand: History, not practice. Magic theory is boring. 
Leone sighed. “Alright, the short version, then. Everything in this world has certain properties; certain…characteristics that make things what they are. This doesn’t just apply to living things, either. Everything that exists has multiple traits that define it.” 
She began looking around, as if searching for the right words. “Look at a tree, for example. Just an ordinary tree, like the ones here. What can you say about this tree?”
Falchion looked at her, annoyed. 
“Er, sorry. Okay, a tree has bark, which is tough and protective. It also has leaves, which absorb light to make food. It produces oxygen for us to breathe. Its roots burrow into the ground, able to split rock over enough time. These are just some of its characteristics. Now a mage, if he or she was to use it in a spell…Well, okay, no mage would use the whole tree in a spell, I guess. That would be wasteful…” 
She looked around again, then picked up a branch that had dried out. “Okay, consider this branch! Its characteristics aren’t really the same as the tree, since it doesn’t have roots and its leaves are dead, but it’s sort of similar. So now, the leaves are dry and crinkly. Now if a mage wanted to use this in a spell, he or she would need to consider what makes this a branch, not what makes it a tree. A mage’s best strength is the ability to quickly look something over and be able to determine everything about it, and how best to utilize it should the need arise.” 
She glanced down at Falchion, excited to be teaching someone about magical theory. She then noticed him drawing in the sand, creating an ever elongating BORED BOOORED BOOOOOORED. 
Leone snapped off a few dried leaves, focused on the sound of them, and magically created a deafening KRRRAAAAAUUNCH! as though something massive stamped down onto the forest floor, startling Falchion onto his back. 
Leone regained her instructor voice. “As you can see, a mage can amplify and repurpose these characteristics in many ways. I used the dry, crinkly leaves to create a massive noise, which will pretty much always sound like the original. Whatever was used in the spell is consumed, and is called the ‘spell component.’ How powerful the spell will be depends on the mage’s ability to focus, the quality of the component consumed, and...well, the rest of it is kind of weird. Some people say it’s how powerful the mage’s spirit is, some people say it’s how well the mage can reach into the elemental planes to pull out the component’s characteristics, but no one really agrees because no one knows much beyond that humans are capable of it.” 
“Bored again,” Falchion said, moving around his once more mobile jaw. 
“Well, here’s something that should be interesting for you. The first spell wore off, and now I’m holding the original cracker crumbs again,” she said, holding up a hand now covered in a peanut buttery mess. 
Falchion now was interested, giving her a confused look. “No…components are used up by the spell. That’s where the magic comes from.” 
“Like I said, no one really agrees on many things about magic.” She paused. “You should probably know going into the Ordeal that I’m not really the best mage in our class. Sort of near the bottom, actually.” 
“If that really is the original cracker, what are you talking about!?” Falchion exclaimed. 
“You can cast spells without components!” 
Leone paused. “You weren’t really paying attention to my lesson, were you?”
“Not even a little!” Falchion yelled. “History! This has never happened before!” 
“Still need components,” she pointed out to him. “They’re still sort of consumed. The instructors all knew about this and didn’t get nearly as excited, so I doubt it’s anything noteworthy. The only difference is that I can’t seem to get the full…’oomph’…out of my spells. They’re always weaker than they should be, and I think this is why. The components always reappear after the spell, so I’m not fully consuming them. This is a bad thing. My spells also stop randomly instead of a set time. Most practiced mages can feel exactly how long spells will last; it’s like mine only last until the component decides to pop back up.” 
“What about the leaves?” Falchion asked. “The noise was over pretty quickly, and I didn’t see them reappear.” 
“We’re in a forest,” Leone answered, pointing out the ground cover. 
“Ah. Right,” Falchion looked a little disappointed, hoping to see something pop back into existence.
End of Excerpt

One of the fun aspects of this magical system is determining how creative a mage (magic-user) is with the ingredients they either have on them or can find. It’s an open system that does have some restrictions, but a particularly inventive sorcerer can do fantastic things themed around his or her spell components. In a relatively safe environment with access to anything desired and no pressing time limit, a mage could have considerable potential power. A city’s worth of mages working in sync to further society (or, more often, working out of sync) can lead to wonders which are simply not yet possible in real life. Of course, I always think the more intriguing creations are the ones made when sorcerers disagree on the end result.

While there are many locations in Legends of Leone which are created or altered under such situations, I think it’s much more interesting to think about the individuals casting spells under more stressed and limited circumstances. In Leone’s situation, there’s even the extra variable of her components reappearing and weaker enchantments. The events of the first book call this “handicap’s” hindrance into question and lead to more than one odd situation unique to her talent; even the reason behind this strange condition is a great deal of fun to tease out.

Since the locations and structures needed magical alterations, determining the level of technology and cultural progress was another challenge. I don’t think it would make sense to have a direct parallel to the real world’s history, but there are influences. For example, there are no guns, despite other types of technology from later in human history. After all, it seems silly that any society would spend hundreds of years of development past the cannon phase when, with a bit of training, anyone could be capable of significantly more destructive power. This concept means that the science and innovation of the world becomes modified, as well. There’s one particular chapter involving experimental magical vehicles. Given unlimited potential, I like to think that humans would take a sort of “Let’s do this and see what happens!” approach to inventing. Survival=success.

That last thought may be why enchanted artifacts are so sought after. The experiment is done, and the holder of the artifact gets to reap the benefits without the danger of its creation. While enchanted items are somewhat common in this world, the powerful and particularly spectacular ones are quite rare. I like to think they involved components that were in short supply or no longer in existence, combined with the skill of a sorcery prodigy; some artifacts may even be the handiwork of years and several gifted artisans. And this is the thought process that led to the crystals, all scattered over a never-before-seen island, with such oddly unique properties.

This magical system and its effects on the development of a world have been rattling around in my head for years. I hope this series sparks the imaginations of readers so that they enjoy experiencing it as much as I enjoyed creating it.

Thank you to Pretty In Fiction for giving me the chance to share a bit about my writing!

For more about Legends of Leone: The Crystal Ordeal check out these sites!


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