Autumn M. Birt is an author, educator, world traveler, conservationist, and dog lover. We met on Twitter, proving that one can make connections and form lasting friendships through that behemoth of a social network. Autumn graciously agreed to review my first novel, and later brought me into the fantasy authors collective Guild of Dreams. I’ve always admired her dedication to her craft, her discipline, and her imagination! Her fantasy series Rise of the Fifth Order follows Ria, a teen girl whose unique magic abilities threaten the Church of Four Orders–Water, Fire, Earth, and Air–and thus condemn Ria to death. She and her friends must flee across the breadth of their homeland Myrrah, and somehow secure Ria’s salvation.
Autumn and I have both constructed original fantasy worlds with unique creatures and races not found in standard epic fantasy, and we decided to trade blogs to talk about our creations. My post on the scifi creatures of the fantasy world of Knownearth will appear soon on her blog, Autumn Writing. In the meantime, here Autumn shares some of her thoughts behind her unique fantasy peoples!
Growing the Legacy of Fantasy
Autumn M. Birt
I grew up in the era of Dragonlance and the Elfstones of Shannara. Mercedes Lackey and Anne McCaffrey were two of the first author names I searched bookstores to find. I knew more about the lives and history of elves, dwarves, trolls, and ogres than I did tribes in Africa or the Mayan Civilization.
So when I wrote my first fantasy novel was full of these paragons of high fantasy? No.
In my epic fantasy novel Born of Water, when the four unlikely friends seek help and refuge with a group who live in a mysterious forest, I immediately thought of elves. And then I immediately thought of elfin politics and attitudes. I love them, but they are a little vainglorious, aren’t they? Individualistic and aloof, those are two other words I’d use to describe most elfin characters; even when they are helpful, they are rarely warm.
For my story, I wanted helpful, warm, and mysterious.
It was all that history of what had already been written that turned me away. So I created my first fantasy race, the Kith. They live in a vast forest of massive trees, but they aren’t elves or elf substitutes. What would the point be in that? They are something totally new. My little addition to the realm of fantasy creatures. Well one of them.
Once you start, it is rather fun to craft new races that fit your story, rather than crafting your story to fit existing fantasy races. I’d love to share a few of mine with you!
In the northern forest of the world of Myrrah a vast forest of towering trees grows. It isn’t just any forest…
As Ria’s eyes adjusted, she could make out the aerial houses that looked like massive thickets of mistletoe lit from within. Between them, branches arched as living pathways, swooping slowly downward. Houses made from limbs and vines grew at all levels, even a few along the ground visible by their lights in the evening shadows between the tree trunks.
Living among the great trees, and soul-bound to them, are the Kith. When a Kith child is born, a seedling also sprouts. The two are inextricable. If the tree dies, so does the child, or vice versa. And he or she will live as long as her tree, for however long that may be. And these are very large, very slow growing trees. The bond marks them in other ways as well…
Lavinia waited, knowing someone was nearby. Slowly, she scanned the small woodland opening. Then he became clear to her.
A man who looked about her age stood in front of a wide tree trunk twenty feet from her. His skin was patterned and striped like bark. His hair, a russet brown, blended into the forest around them along with the browns and greens of his clothes. She blinked, finding his green eyes staring back into hers. Lavinia let her sword point waiver. She had finally found the Kith.
Those who meet the Kith mistake the natural, and individual, patterning on their skin as tattoos. But it is more than that. In a world of many races and people, the Kith stand apart. Because they are also Earth Elementals and more.
In a world where elemental magic occurs in about 20% of the population, the Kith are one of the few groups where every child is gifted. And unlike most Earth Elementals who can shape rock to create cities from bedrock, they can also control living plants because of their connection to the forest.
But that bond creates as many problems as benefits. You see, if a Kith leaves the forest, the longing to return to it, to his tree, is intense:
“Being Kith is not all wonder. I feel a call back to my tree in Lus na Sithchaine so deep it wakes me from sleep,” Laireag admitted. “There are times I need to see it more than I need to breathe.”
The Kith are not elves. They are not even close to being elfin, preferring simple clothing and shunning metal as too much metal can poison a tree. But that is just one race that peoples my world.
The Ishian live in a vast grassland, but the surface of their home is water and not earth. The waters of the Marsh of Isha rise and fall with the strong tides of the Bay of Tiak to the west, but within the heart of the wetland there are only the reeds and the stilted houses of the Ishians.
The square platforms hold wide decks with overhanging roofs to protect them from storms, as well as to create more roof space for the gardens grown above the houses. Walkways of woven reed rope and bamboo trace pathways between the lofty platforms but usually the Ishian wander through their watery home on reed boats. Or they swim. They can swim very well thanks to fine webbing between fingers and toes.
The Nifail are a tribe of people who live on the vast steppes and whose native language consists of condensed whistles and clicks used to carry over the windswept miles of the grasslands. The scattered clans meet once annually in a great celebration where fights are held to determine tribe leadership for the year. Both men and women fight for the right to lead.
But all of those are cultural traits. What makes the Nifail different is their hair. There are very fine feathers in it. Why stems from a long story that involves a not-so-mythical large bird that nests in the grasslands. It is a creature they hunt … usually.
The Torek are one of two races considered myths in Myrrah. The other are the Aquinians, who are said to inhabit the islands, or the sea, in the far east of the Ocean of Illaiya. The Torek live in the Alin Mountains in deep caves they call hoves. Well they think the word hoves, because they are telepathic. Did I mention they are giant birds of prey? Actually, I’m pretty sure they are the legendary birds the Nifail hunt … and the reason the Nifail have a few feathers mixed with their hair because the Torek have some strange and amazing abilities!
The only known reference to the Aquinians is from when the Temple of Incendia was destroyed by sea and earth. The island fell beneath the waves and all would have died but for the Aquinians, who came as dolphins and rescued many of the Fire Elementals from the water and trembling rock. Or so goes the story told by the survivors. Unless you believe sailor’s tales of naked women seen on island beaches, there one minute and gone into the waves the next. But who can believe sailors?
Those are a few of the people and races who inhabit my fantasy world of Myrrah, a world full of elemental magic and adventure. You can enter Myrrah for free! Born of Water is free on all platforms or you can pick it up here.
In the buried archives of the Temple of Dust may lie the secret to defeating the Curse, a creature which seeks to destroy 16-year old Ria for the forbidden gifts she possesses. But it is from among the ranks of those who control the Curse where Ria will find her best chance of success.
Only the Priestess Niri can save Ria from the forces that hunt her, if Niri doesn’t betray the girl first. Along with Ria comes Ty and his sister, Lavinia, both bound to defend Ria from the Church of Four Orders. However, Ty has been living a life less than honest and keeping it from his sister. To survive a journey that takes them across the breadth of their world, the four must learn to trust each other before pursuit from the Church and Ty’s troubled past find them.
Born of Water is the first book in the Rise of the Fifth Order Saga full of elemental magic and epic fantasy adventure. Welcome to the mythical world of Myrrah, ruled by the Church of Four Orders–Fire, Earth, Water, and Air.