The Wardens’ Order

Arcmael

Outpost, Book One in The Fylking.

Arcmael is a seer, an occupation thrust upon him by a royal father pledged to the arts of war. The sword was a preferred occupation for a firstborn heir, but Arcmael had no love for that. So he was stripped of his titles and exiled to a mysterious conservatory high in the northern mountains to learn how to see between the worlds.

Between the Worlds

Once trained, Arcmael became a warden in service to the Fylking, a warrior race who came from the stars nine thousand years ago to use the realm as an outpost from which to fight an ancient war. Immortal and unseen to all except those sensitive to the Otherworld, the Fylking live by the sword. To travel to and from Dyrregin and nearby star systems, the Fylking built the Gate, a portal shining like a sigil on the surface of the world.

By virtue of their stature in the dimensions of living beings, the Fylking had the ability to build the Gate using the natural materials of the world; however, their methods would have been terrifying to humans and created unnecessary complications. Though the Dyrregins were at that time greater in number and sophistication, they would not have understood a tower being built by sound or the higher laws of manifestation, let alone ten of them in specific places over the land. And so the Fylking, having the patience of the immortal, befriended humankind by creating the Wardens’ Order.

The Fylking taught their wardens the arts of interdimensional perception and the properties of light, energy, crystals and architecture. The wardens built the towers, watched over them with human eyes and maintained them over millennia, generations upon generations, gathering the relatively infinite energies of celestial bodies to provide a bridge for their immortal guests. In return the Fylking protected them, and gave them the honor of representing them to humankind. ~ From “The Arrival of the Fylking,” Outpost

For Arcmael, it is cruel irony to have only immortal warlords as guardians and companions–until sorcery and war engulf the land.

The Gate

Spanning the realm over 213 leagues, the Gate is built into a pentacle with a stone tower on each point and intersection. The towers gather light from the sun, moon and stars and focus it into a complex pattern of crystal arrays, providing an energy source. Starting from the northernmost point and going clockwise, the towers are called: Sif, Sol, Sin, Soc, Sae, Som, Sef, Sos, Sie, and Sor. In Fylking, these names refer to the patterns of openings in the tower walls, which are positioned to align with the cosmos.

Tower SefEach gatetower is manned by five elite Fylking warriors who watch over the realm and protect their interests there. Millennia after the Gate was built by the original wardens under the direction of the Fylking, the sea engulfed the granite shoals around one of the outer points, Tower Sef, isolating it from land. War took Tower Sie, a second outer point which stands in the realm of Fjorgin across the Njorth Sea.

Tower Sif stands on the northernmost point of the Gate in the Vale of Ason Tae. Called the Apex, Tower Sif is where the Gate merges with an array of other worlds on which the Fylking conduct their bloody business. As such, the Apex is the first line of defense, and as any warden will tell you, the High Fylking of Tower Sif are a nasty bunch with scant tolerance for mortal concerns.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

Outpost Cover ArtOutpost, Book One in The Fylking.

A race of immortal warriors who live by the sword.
A gate between the worlds.
Warriors, royals, seers and warlocks living in uneasy peace on one side of the Veil.
Until now.

© F.T. McKinstry 2016. All Rights Reserved.

The Phooka

The Phooka

Arcmael froze as hot breath flowed onto his neck from the air above. On the edge of his sight slipped a dark horn, slender and curved like a cruel knife. Entwined in the beech leaves, it moved with airy swiftness, drifting in and out of solidity, the head of a goat and the gaunt, wiry shoulders of a man. – From Outpost, Book One in The Fylking

Phooka. Malevolent, shapeshifting fiends, or so it is told. The name has many variations which show up in Celtic cultures throughout Northwestern Europe. In Irish, púca means “spirit” or “ghost.” The Old Norse term pook or puki refers to a “nature spirit.” This creature is a shape changer, part human at times, or part or all animal such as a goat or a horse, always with dark fur. Bleak, uncanny and generally wicked, the phooka is best to be avoided; yet can also be beneficial depending on mood or circumstance. Traditional accounts are vague and leave much to the imagination. This adds a creepy air to the thing, a hallmark of Celtic fairy tales.

Between the WorldsIn the realm where Outpost takes place, the veil between the worlds is thin. It is an interesting place to be a seer, depending on what side of things one is on. As it turns out, our protagonist, a seer named Arcmael, lands on the bad side. When a sorcerer summons a phooka for a personal task, the beast roams around creating trouble not only for Arcmael but also for Othin, a seasoned warrior who has no idea what he’s dealing with.

In The Wolf Lords, Book Two in The Fylking, the phooka returns with its gloves off, and wreaks a special kind of misery on the one who originally summoned it, an Adept named Leofwine. As it turns out, the deal Leofwine made with the phooka for what looked like a simple task had some hefty strings attached, strings that make him some nasty enemies and land him in the middle of a war.

The phooka has its own agenda, of course, and no one, including the one who summoned it from the mists of the Otherworld, knows what that is. All the better. Heh.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

Outpost Cover ArtOutpost, Book One in The Fylking.

A race of immortal warriors who live by the sword.
A gate between the worlds.
Warriors, royals, seers and warlocks living in uneasy peace on one side of the Veil.
Until now.

“The tone is excellent, reminiscent of some of the earliest examples of grim Norse fantasy.” – G.R. Matthews, Fantasy Faction

Finalist, SPFBO 2016

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

The Wolf Lords Cover ArtThe Wolf Lords, Book Two in The Fylking.

A wounded immortal warlock bent on reprisal.
An ancient order of sorcerers hungry for power.
Warriors beset by armies of demons and immortals.
And a lonely hedge witch whose dark secrets could change everything.
…If only they could find her.

“Awesome book. Loved the first book also. I hope there will be more in the series.” – Customer Review on Amazon

© F.T. McKinstry 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Goblins and Creepy Horses

Lone Mountain Moon

Lone Mountain Moon

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand. ~ Albert Einstein

One of my favorite things about writing is bringing the stories into visual art. I find this every bit as challenging as I do writing; in either case, the final product, while possibly beautiful, never matches my imagination. A fantasy novel is a spectacular source of imagery, and all the more interesting to create because it’s made up. The real world has some references, but it can also limit things. There’s a weird sort of comfort in having more stories and paintings in my heart than I’ll ever bring into focus.

Here are some recent creations, inspired by my latest novel Outpost, Book One in The Fylking.

Goblins of Wyrvith Forest

Goblins of Wyrvith Forest

Nasty, foul-mouthed, malevolent creatures, goblins. You would not want to cross their path, let alone offend them. Arcmael, the protagonist of Outpost, does both. He is a seer and a servant of the Fylking, immortal, unseen warlords who hold dominion over the realm. For love of a friend, Arcmael shatters his vows to his immortal masters. This puts him on the bad side of the Otherworld, where most beings revere the Fylking as gods. This includes goblins, who revere nothing.

Truss him up!
Drag him hither!
Bind his limbs!
Make him slither!

Poor Arcmael. The goblins capture him and he must make an even greater sacrifice to escape their palace. But I won’t spoil that.

Between the Worlds

Between the Worlds

Rose Moon

Rose Moon

A while back, I drew a series of images to accompany verses that appear in the Chronicles of Ealiron. This collection is called “The Solar Breath,” and one of the images is called “Rose Moon.” The accompanying verse goes like this:

Rose Moon loves the ancient oak
Strewn with chamomile and light
Tall white horses thundering
O’er meadowsweet and rue.

Recently, while contemplating nothing in particular, this image came to mind, particularly the creepy little horses. Otherworldly, in fact. Aha. I grabbed them, put them into the “Lone Mountain” painting, tricked it out in magical storms and mists, and I got “Between the Worlds.”

No end to the trouble I can get into.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

Outpost Cover ArtOutpost, Book One in The Fylking.

A race of immortal warriors who live by the sword.
A gate between the worlds.
Warriors, royals, seers and warlocks living in uneasy peace on one side of the Veil.
Until now.

© F.T. McKinstry 2015. All Rights Reserved.

A Zombie by Any Other Name

I hate zombies. There, I said it.

Being a lifelong fan of monsters, mythical creatures and supernatural beings, I do have an appreciation for the concept. But zombies bore me. They stagger around, looking ugly, moaning, “Rar rar rar,” and who cares aside from the fact that one could eat your brains or something if you’re daft enough to get caught. The only advantage they have is numbers.

It is interesting to consider zombies as a psychological metaphor. We all have things we try to bury: shameful memories, a guilty conscience, something devastating we never got over. We want that thing to stay dead, and we’re horrified when it claws its way out of the ground and comes after us. No getting away from it. The psyche needs to be whole, won’t tolerate bits being buried, and if you try to ignore them, they will terrorize you and eat your brains. So there’s that.

Storms

I don’t think of these things when I’m writing. the story unfolds from the depths somewhere, and I’m often startled by what comes up. In the early stages of Outpost, one of my protagonists is set upon by nonhuman warriors stinking of death and resembling once-human men. As I got into this, I suddenly stopped in horror and thought, Zombies? Am I writing about zombies?

DraugrOh, no no no. No zombies here. So I did some digging into my tricky mind and remembered an undead creature in Norse mythology called the draugr. This creature is a bit more sophisticated. In Old Norse, draugr means “ghost,” but it’s closer to a vampire. Accounts vary, but generally, the draugr are described as walking dead warriors with superhuman strength, the ability to shapeshift, and the unmistakable stench of decay. They are implacable, seek vengeance and will kill anything that crosses their nightly rampages.

In Outpost, these beasties bear some traditional attributes: the smell of graves, unnatural strength, the ability to move with uncanny speed or to vanish into mist. But they are also created by a warlock and given life by an immortal with its own agenda. The essence of a mortally wounded warrior is captured as it flies and imprisoned in the last body it knew. They are not bound to the night and, because of their otherworldly origin, they appear half somewhere else, are demonic and malevolent, cannot be killed and can only be released by the magician who captured them.

Warlock

This ancient magic is forbidden, of course, but who ever listens? When dealing with the draugr, one experienced warrior’s advice goes something like this: Forget honor. While inhumanly strong, the draugr are only as skilled in arms and familiar with the land as the men they once were. Distract and disable. If overrun, flee.

Well. At least they don’t eat brains.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

Outpost Cover ArtOutpost, Book One in The Fylking.

A race of immortal warriors who live by the sword.
A gate between the worlds.
Warriors, royals, seers and warlocks living in uneasy peace on one side of the Veil.
Until now.

© F.T. McKinstry 2015. All Rights Reserved.