Friday, June 20, 2008

"Comes Madly the Barking Dogs of Hell"

This week I present to you "Comes Madly the Barking Dogs of Hell", being notations of my original short story "The Ruby Bug" and the continuing saga "The Children of Gods".




I know what's coming in these stories. While I do not want to give anything away as yet, I also do not wish to talk down to my audience and assume you know nothing. With a small bit of mental ferreting, I'm sure my dear readers can determine some small coalition of heroes will band together in the end to fight the evils presenting themselves within this universe. And, again without giving away too much, I support that supposition. With that in mind, I knew not one but a like band of villains would be needed. As such, I introduced Neboshazzar the Ruiner, one of Yaska Selith's minions.

Neboshazzar is modeled after a harpy, though imagined with dark, dark skin. He gets his name from two people in Christian history, which makes him the first reference to Judaism and Christianity in these stories. His name is a conglomeration of Nabonidus and Belshazzar (coincidentally Rembrandt's depiction of Belshazzar's Feast is a favorite painting of mine), Nabondius being the last king of of Babylonia during the Chaldean Dynasty and Belshazzar was his son and last king of Babylon.

I had wanted to tie this collection of stories into the original "The Children of Gods" further than the eventual outcome, meaning that I wanted to cross over the characters from different stories and have them effect each other in new ways. We saw that in the appearance of Xiao-tep in "The Theft of Heaven". To that end I re-introduced a new generation (and some of the old) of imps to the tales. While their branch of "The Ruby Bug" may not completely influence the outcome, they did at least for a time have possession of the ruby bug.

I continue to mention Kalavata, Etain and Zingtai because the starless night plays a major part in the eventual climax to all the tales. The fallen stars, after all, affect everyone that lives under them.

A Rusalka, in Slavic mythology, is a water nymph or spirit. Here I use it as the name of Neboshazzar's mother and made her a more abstract creature, referring to her as the essence of a lake of quicksilver.

I first learned of quicksilver from, I believe, reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as a child. In that novel, again if memory serves well, quicksilver is referenced as having been put into loaves of fresh bread and then set afloat down the Mississippi River so that the spirit of the recently deceased would have food on their journey to the land of the dead. Quicksilver is another name for mercury.

Though Neboshazzar's imagery and physical form was inspired by harpies, his actions were inspired by Lamia, a Greek woman who turned into a demon that would prey on the weak, namely infants, children, pregnant women and new brides, thus Neboshazzar's first real act after birth is to kidnap, foul and eat a bride.

I also use Neboshazzar as a form of omen for greater evil to come in future stories.

I've been watching the TV series Rome as of late and from that I was inspired to create a political drama with the imps. The imps were originally largely inspired by Greek traditions and folklore. I thought I would take from that Greek starting-point and have them evolve into something more Roman with a political senate. In the end what I wound up creating was a fractured, argumentative conglomeration (much like the portrayal of the Roman senate in the show Rome... and much like the republic of the United States), one that is soon replaced by a bloody despot. Of course, I meant to imply the ruby bug had its own role in the bloodletting. Not that the ruby bug was violent itself, but that this story concerning the imps was a set-up for rather wicked violence, a kind of violence that I knew I would write about everywhere the ruby bug went.


Apostolos the Wise = (Greek) "messenger" or "apostle"
Kyriakos the Elder = (Greek) means "of the lord"
Anargyros the Laborer = (Greek) Poor
Innocente the Fair = (English) My own derivation on "innocent"
Iason the Just = (Greek) A form of 'Jason', inspired by Jason and the Argonauts; means "to heal"
Lionidas the Brave = My own derivation of Leonidas; means "lion"

I felt, since the stereotype is that politicians are so fond of oration, a good many speeches were needed within the imps' story.

"The Theft of Heaven" had relatively little fighting in it, especially when compared to the original story "The Children of Gods". I wanted a good duel to start off the new stories and set the pace of violence, immediacy, and permanence that death of a character brings and reintroduce the emphasis on wuxia-style fighting. The duel between Iperitus and Prince Kleos is somewhat inspired by the duel between Yu Shu Lien (played by Michelle Yeoh) and Jen Yu (played by Ziyi Zhang) in the 2000 movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.




Doko's name, the merchant and friend to Garu the rat, was inspired by Daikoku, one of the Seven Gods of Fortune from Japanese tradition. Daikoku is the god of wealth.

Garu gets his name from two sources: 1.) the letters 'G' and 'A' in Ganesha's name, who is often depicted with rats and 2.) the sound of 'Garu' sounds similar to the French word 'loup-garou' which means "werewolf", an indicator of Garu's future transformation.

Zahir the Indomitable was somewhat inspired by the character Black Whirlwind from the classic Chinese wuxia novel "Water Margin" (aka "All Men Are Brothers" as translated by Pearl Buck; also known as "Outlaws of the Marsh"). Both characters are rather robust, overbearing, drunkards wanting things only their way and never really capable of cleaning themselves up to social standards. Black Whirlwind is also portrayed in the 2005 BioWare video game Jade Empire.

Zahir's name simply came to me, there was no particular inspiration behind it. However, according to, Zahir means 'helper', which adds a small layer to his transportation of the ruby bug from land to sea and back to land and into the hands of Ebi and eventually into the mouth of Pup.

Marcin is the Polish form of Martin, a name that references the god Mars.

The mercenary Macia Thrace's name is a combination of two warrior-dominant cultures from history: Macedonia and Thrace. I imagined him as a bigger man, perhaps carrying dual war hammers, but never made mention of it due to its lack of need.

The whole story of Zahir is largely inspired by Persian and Arabian tales, my largest exposure to which would be The 1,001 Arabian Nights.

The Baqir, the ship Zahir signs with, has an Arabic name meaning "to rip open", a reference to the violence within the story.

Captain Faraj's name means "remedy", referencing him as the one to deliver the ruby bug to Ebi and free his ship from the curse of illness and misfortune that has befallen his men.

Zahir's dying words were "Wherever that bug doth go, follows with it a trail of blood." This puts a very specific expression onto the ruby bug as a source of wickedness and foreshadows what's to come.

When I wrote of Zahir the Indomitable, I wanted him to live up to his name, yet in the end I knew he had to succumb to ruby bug to show the bug's power.

Sor was the last name of a Cambodian friend I once had when I was in grade school.

Xi-Wang's name is inspired by the Taoist goddess Xi Wang-mu, goddess of immortality that lives in the nine-stories Jade Palace in the Kun-Lun Mountains near the Lake of Jewels. Xi-Wang means "to hope", another reference of some things to come in future stories.

Xi-Wang was renamed Ebi, which was inspired by the Japanese god of fishermen Ebisu who is one of the Seven Gods of Fortune. Ebi is also the Japanese word for 'shrimp'.

Pup was inspired by two literary dogs, one being Argos, Odysseus' dog from The Odyssey and the other being Kojak from Stephen King's The Stand.

Lady Sor's death is taken from a one-time friend's experience. A family member was ill and dying and, just hours before my friend's plane landed so he could see his loved one a last time, they died.

The appearance of Black Tentacle (aka Zom Loa) ties "The Ruby Bug" back in with "The Theft of Heaven" and re-emphasizes him as a major character within the overall story. He is depicted here as having a similar origin as Ebi, but with quite different outcomes. Whereas Ebi became a simple fisherman, Zom Loa became an Immortal corrupted with want and on the run from King Aniabas. Zom Loa, feeling a connection with Ebi, struggles with his desires and his morals. This was added with the intent of showing different levels of drama within the story, keeping myself from relying on physical violence to create dramatic situations.




I subtitled Act III "A Wicked Knot is Formed". A knot can be a collection of some kind, in this case the band of villains, outlaws and outcasts surrounding and lead by the demon Yaska Selith. But it's also a reference to the Gordian Knot, a knot in a length of rope with no seeming ends. Without ends, it was said the Gordian Knot could not be untied, but anyone who could would be a future leader. Roman general Alexander the Great took his blade to the rope and cut it, untying the knot in that fashion.

The shadowy warriors that enter the ziggurat are modeled after ninjas. The ancient god they resurrect is modeled after Anubis, the Egytian god of mummification, death and afterlife.

I have an admission to make: the Brothers Jackal pull inspiration from characters from two cartoons popular during my childhood. The first being Jackalman from my beloved Thundercats, the other being the the brothers Zartan and Zandar from G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.

Tavaras is the name of one of the Brothers Jackal and he gets his name from Tavara, nocturnal demons from Trebizond folklore. Trebizond is named for the culture and historic region from which the Tavara lore comes.

I wanted to give Trebizond and Tavaras the ability to make more of their own canid-kind simply to explain the continued swell of Yaska Selith's ranks. This ability is directly copied from werewolf lore.

'Yaska' in Yaska Selith's name is derived from yaksha, semi-divine nature spirits the protect the treasures of the earth, from Hindu, Jain and Buddhist beliefs. 'Selith' was inspired by the Shisa, the guardian dog spirits often depicted as statues in front of buildings.

I must admit that my love of kaiju came into play when creating Yaska Selith. One of his many inspirations was King Caesar, a giant dog-like kaiju first introduced to the world in 1974's Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla.

Yaska Selith is referred to as a barghest which is traditionally a hellhound-like creature that haunts the countryside in Yorkshire in northern England.

The true potency of the ruby bug was needing portrayal, so I decided to add it as a growing third eye in Yaska Selith's forehead that can produce a red beam that destroys or set on fire everything in its path. This is a reference to Shiva.

I wanted to show Garu coming into a village where he was not welcomed because, though this world is populated by mortals and immortals alike, I wanted to portray some people as fearing immortals and anthropomorphic creatures. It brings a bit of drama to the world and some small complexity, but mostly it simply makes sense that not everyone mortal would associate with immortals just as not every god would break bread with a mortal.

The Grand Bazaar of Tenhar gets its name from two sources: 1.) The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul and 2.) Tehran's Grand Bazaar.

Sinvergüenza's name means 'scoundrel' in Spanish.

Mihai's name is Romanian for Michael which, in Hebrew, means "Who is like God?".

Ioana's name is Romanian for John which, in Hebrew, means "Yahweh is gracious".

Ioana calls Garu a domovoi, a Slavic household guardian spirit traditionally a man-like creature, but often covered with fur and a beard and occasionally with horns or a tail.

Garu's new name, as given to him by Ioana, is Brat Stavrosslavakovich. Brat means "brother". Stavros is Greek for "cross", referencing the 'x' marking on his ear and the semi-Christian unspoken background of the Ruska Roma. Slava is Russian and Slovene for "glory". Kovich I added on as an homage of sorts to Shostakovich, the Russian composer. When Garu/Stavros first spawned in my head I kept thinking of the name Shostakovich for him.

The character Garu/Stavros was first spawned (as a drunken warrior rat) more than a year ago as I completed the original story "The Children of Gods". I wanted him as a possible new character to help expand the universe. He has definitely become a pet/favored character for me.

The Ruska Roma take their name from the gypsies that eventually settled in modern Russia and keep their culture alive to this day.

I really wanted to fill out Stavros' personality through his connection with the Ruska Roma. I made his learn their dances, enjoy their drinks and sing their songs.

Livia's name is the Slovak variant on Olivia, which was created by Shakespeare for a character in his play "Twelfth Night" possibly as a feminine variation of Oliver.

Stavros is minimally inspired by the Skaven from Games Workshops' Warhammer Fantasy universe.

I added the attack of the Baba Yaga to show Stavros was capable of and willing to fight for his new friends.

The Bone Warriors' act of stitching bones to their clothing as mock armor is somewhat inspired by Tony Jaa's 2006 movie The Protector, in which he ties elephant bones to his forearms as weapons.

The epilogue of "The Ruby Bug" is simple stage-setting for the stories to come.

The Plain of Adoration takes its name from Mag Slécht, a plain in Ireland also called The Plain of Adoration and Prostration where sacrifices were once made to the god Crom Cruaich.

Owl Bridge is a reference to the Plains Peoples' Owl Woman, keeper of the bridge that deceased persons must cross over into the afterlife.

Vitor's name is a Galician form of Victor, which means "victor".

King Aniabas speaks the last lines of "The Ruby Bug": “It cannot be done,” he answered, “lest we join with some other force.” This foreshadows the coming of the aforementioned banding together of heroes to fight the villainous Yaska Selith and his knot that have settled the Plain of Adoration.


Come back next week to read the very next story in the ongoing saga!

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