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Tuesday, 13 April 2010

A rare vintage

For a long while over on the Mirabilis main website, Leo Hartas and I were busy putting up whimsical vignettes about life in a lost year when a green comet caused fantasy and reality to merge. And while Mirabilis belongs to a whole other lineage of fantasy than the dragons and heroes of Fabled Lands, some FL enthusiasts might enjoy the Royal Mythological Society correspondence, much of it in the style of discourse over sherry in a Dweomer college. For instance:
To the Fellows of the Royal Mythological Society

I have a curious incident to relate for your archives. I am a junior officer aboard a ship lately assigned to lay new telegraph cable between the British Isles and North America. Last month, as we were returning towards Ireland in the last stage of our work, the sky turned dark as night; and the sea, previously as flat as a sheet of glass, began to churn with thirty-foot waves. I looked down and saw great shoals of fish tossed helplessly up to the surface, like the catch you may see tipped from any fisherman’s nets, but multiplied as though caught in the nets of a titan. And along with the fish were pebbles dredged up from the sea bed, and shells, and other debris impossible to identify - mere leaves on a storm raging hundreds of fathoms below.

The cause was, as I understood at once, a submarine earthquake, an event I had never before witnessed but which is not uncommon in that part of the Atlantic. I recall that I turned to shout a warning to some men who were attempting to cross from the other rail as a large wave came awash of the deck. The next moment, I was freezing cold and soaked to the skin, and I realized that I had gone over the side.

There was almost no time for fear – but panic, of course, requires no thought. I fought the urge to draw breath, knowing that it would only fill my lungs with salt water. Having no idea of up or down, I struck out in any case with all my strength. Objects buffeted me and I caught glimpses of them in the murky water. They looked like fragments of bone, pieces of classical pottery and glass, the dull glint of green-rusted armour… Strange things, artifacts that you would more expect to see washed up on the beach at Pompeii than far out in mid-ocean. Then I found myself holding a life preserver and was being hauled up, as bedraggled as the proverbial drowned rat, to the safety of the deck.

When I came to my senses some time later, my shipmates pointed to an object I had been clutching when I was rescued. I must have caught hold of it under the water, and I am told that in those minutes when shock had bereaved me of my wits I would suffer no man to take it from me. Gentlemen, it was a stone amphora that must have lain preserved in the sand for centuries, for its glazed design was still clear enough to make out images of a city of concentric walls, and men and women clad in an ancient style walking in gardens beside a peaceful harbour. There was also an inscription (of which I append a copy) but no scholar of Greek or Latin has been able to make any sense of it.

Now, all of the above is what I can tell you for your own records, and I am glad to help out with your scientific researches, but I would appreciate your advice on a personal question. I kept the bottle sealed for several weeks, but today I gave in to curiosity and broke it open. A glass of wine that I poured from it stands beside me on the desk as I write this. In the firelight it is as rich as the rubies of India, and the scent is almost overpowering in its evocation of sunlit groves, soil, sweet rain, fresh wind and growing green abundance. I sit looking at it now and I ask you. Should I drink?

Faithfully, Lt George Sterling, SS
Star Treader, Milford Haven
Dr Clattercut replies: I have not yet been able to decipher the inscription you were kind enough to send, but it resembles an ur-form of Eteocretan, leading me to dare suggest – But no, it would be unprofessional to speculate at this stage…
Prof Bromfield: Oh, come out and say it, in Heaven’s name. A wine from Atlantis.
Dr Clattercut: Possibly, possibly. I cannot help but think of those lines of Mr Ambrose Bierce: “When mountains were stained as with wine by the dawning of Time, and as wine were the seas.” There is indeed a strong likelihood of it being a relic from the sunken continent.
Prof Bromfield: And the chap wants to know if he should knock it back. Well, Lieutenant Sterling, if you don’t want it –
Dr Clattercut: Wait, this is very rash advice. Lieutenant Sterling, think carefully before you taste so much as one drop. This is the rarest vintage from an island paradise that was the marvel of the ancient world. You might find no earthly thing has flavour afterwards. And where would you get more?
Prof Bromfield: But, Clattercut, you could say the same of life itself. There is no more, so savour every drop!
Incidentally, what is the word for a devotee of the Fabled Lands? A Fabler? A Fablander? Any suggestions..?


  1. "A very patient person"? (just joking!)

  2. Yes - ahem. Thank you for waiting, ladies and gentlemen :-)

  3. Hi.

    I first beg pardon if this is somehow inappropriate, that's not the way I meant.

    I have browsed the whole net in order to find sir Morris and sir Thomson because I carry a question from my childhood, and I never had any chance to have it replied.

    I was a great fan of "The way of the Tiger" and I have been puzzled for years because of the series ending. What does it mean?

    If somehow either sir Morris or sir Thomson could ever satisfy this curiosity of mine, I'd be really really grateful. I again ask pardon if this is not the place to post this.

  4. Hey Shin - anything to do with anything Jamie and I have written is fair game around here.

    I can't answer that question, though - over to Jamie...

  5. Okay, so I asked Jamie and he said Min (ie Mark Smith) wrote that book, so Jamie doesn't know much about it. I'm guessing now, but I think Min's intention was to experiment with a hopeless quest - you go to the Rift and you die because no-one can survive that. Like the ending of Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, or Get Carter..? I'm not sure, we'll try and remember to ask Min when we see him.

  6. Comment didn't show up.

    I thank you for replying, you were really kind.

    I was sincerely wondering why the series came to such a brutal ending. I mean, in Italy we had the idea that Mark Smith (since you say he is the authot) either was bored of writing about Avenger, or that he was forced to end this.
    It happened on another side.
    Joe Dever's Lone Wolf series were planned to be 32 books, but only 28 were released due to the gamebooks losing fans and selling less than expected in their last years. In book 28, story ends quite like book 6 of WoT, but in this one the Uber Boss is quickly defeated without efforts which is lossy since the great story behind him.

    I have been wondering for years what the plan behind Avenger's last adventure was, at least I got an answer. Thank you very much.

  7. Hello to you both !

    In France, it is said that Mark Smith may have been forced to end the series, so he wrote this strange disappointing book...
    But, we can console ourselves with the great ending of Blood Sword !(and the well-made final fight)

  8. Jamie did tell me that they had signed to do the Duelmaster books so didn't have the time to write more Way of the Tiger as well. I think the publisher probably would have liked the series to continue (it sold very well) but Min and Jamie were just too busy on other projects by then. That could also explain why the last WotT book seemed a bit rushed. Though I still don't know why it ends on a cliffhanger if they didn't expect to be doing any more books..?

  9. You and Jamie could always finish the series :')

  10. It's really Min's world. In fact, he created Orb for D&D games when still at school, then used it for the classic FF book Talisman of Death, and later of course for WotT. Not even Jamie knows the full secrets of Orb ;-)

  11. Well, though Orb was influenced IMHO by Joe Dever's Magnamund, it had some really shiny pearls. Many foreign languages were used for the creatures (e.g. O'Bakemono as a zombish creature while Bakamono means STUPID in japanese or Dorè Le Jeune as Le Jeune means YOUNG in french, the god KWON is korean, and so on), the characters were really well-designed, so were the maps... I really loved Orb, it's something I am a little sad it's been lost. Or take Bloodsword too... your work (Morris, Smith, Thomson) it's hundred times better than rowling's harry potter. Word.

  12. You're too kind, Shin! I am still waiting for the offer from Warner Brothers to make a series of Bloodsword movies...

    I can guarantee that Orb predated Magnamund. Min created it in about 1975-76, and while Joe Dever might have been creating his world at the same time they didn't know each other back then. I suspect they both drew on the same sources for inspiration, which could explain similarities.

  13. I am a huge fan, so I can confirm the date of creation of Magnamund in the same time. I obviously own all the BloodSword books, I used to play them as Team Solo (though I tried to play it with friends too). They were among my favourite, along with Steve Jackson's "Sourcery!", shame there aren't gamebooks anymore, videogames took all the place.
    About your joke, there are movies took from books which are really poor (thinking to Twilight, or Narnia) if compared to your work, it's not about being kind, it's realism.

  14. I just got Jamie's comment on this. He writes: "Orb was in no way influenced by Magnamund. I was playing in the Orb role-playing campaign in 1978, and it was already fully fleshed out then. Talisman of Death came out at least one year before Lone Wolf and that was the first time Orb appeared in public." So it seems that neither influenced the other.

  15. I beg pardon. I was fooled by the fact that both "talisman of death" and "the way of the tiger" came in Italy only 4-5 years after Lone Wolf. Sorry.

  16. Hi Shin, no need to apologize. I don't think either Joe Dever or Jamie & Mark would claim to have invented that blend of ninjas, orcs and medieval magic as it is really a fantasy zeitgeist of the time. If anybody gets the credit, I guess it should be Gygax and Arneson!

  17. Great Gygax, may he rest in peace.

  18. Hello - I'm also a big fan of Orb. I compiled an encyclopaedia from snippets of information in the published books, which has been put on the web. I'd be thrilled to read any Orb-related material on the blog, but as you say it was Mark Smith's creation really.

    1. It was absolutely nothing to do with me, anyway, but you can find Orb material on Megara Entertainment's website.