Guest Post from E.B. Brooks
The Backdrop for Emissary
Like the Diamond Lord says of Veridor and its people, no story exists in a vacuum. This is true of both the in-universe lore and the literary meta. Stories are a roadmap for the soul; we all draw inspiration from the tales we imbibe, and our psyches analyze, refine, and synthesize them in an ongoing alchemy.
When I first started writing Emissary, I was the father of two young children and a recent graduate with a PhD. My fiction-reading time was severely limited, and visual media, in the form of video games (which my kids could drift in and out of) and anime in particular, was what I mostly took in. In the autumn of 2014, my wife and I had recently watched the first two seasons of Sword Art Online, as well as Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. (Both are excellent watches, by the way.) I still had a recent playthrough of Skyrim fresh on the brain, too. So when my wife’s own story-drafting catalyzed me to try creative writing as well, I naturally drew on those stories and settings to get started.
Which, I’m sure, is why Emissary and its sequels have many nods and easter eggs to those stories: Ewan’s two swords and black armor call back to Kirito’s OP dual-wielding skill and black jacket; Ewan’s mom is named Tricia (the Irish version of FMA’s Trisha Elric), and Treanna’s home is called the Centre (and its people Centrals). Ewan’s sister Kate and her axes came from my recent Skyrim character. Veridor as a setting (or at least the Whitehaven region where Ewan’s from) resembles a game of Skyrim, long after the main quest was completed, and its Gems fulfil a role much like that games Daedric princes.
But these are elements, analytical components waiting to be synthesized into something unique. I thought about video-game worlds in general, especially the super-immersive kind. Why would not one player but an entire culture move permanently into such a game world? What would inspire—or compel—them to leave the real world behind? How long would it take for them to forget, or would they try to forget as quickly as they could? What about the people who inevitably would stay behind to manage things? How would they feel after a year, or ten, or a hundred, or thousands? What kind of lore would follow, and what story could rise from such strict separation of the worlds of spirit and matter?
Massive spoilers for Emissary follow for the rest of the blog. Read on at your own peril, or better yet, read on after reading the book for yourself!
Today in 2023, it’s sadly even easier than in 2014 to see what might drive people to retreat underground into virtual refuges. Picturing a world bereft of its ecology, deserted by its elites via spaceship in an event those left behind called the Rapture, and the brutal resource wars that would follow, I envisioned the Centre as being (as Ewan calls it) the last bastion of humanity on Earth. The Centre’s Founder, Charles Bellview, was a programmer and visionary determined to save whatever he could. He and his team designed over a hundred game worlds, all managed by the Central operating system which Bellview called the Logos (because its symbols and logic generated worlds). The Centre was maintained by a skeleton crew, and the game worlds were tended to by the game masters, staff with high-level access to manage the games and help their charges settle in. But, having survived human nature during the climate apocalypse, Bellview predicted that the five or so thousand Central staff would eventually take their frustration out on the 120 million physically-helpless players, so he designed system overrides for each game world to give players the determination of their own fate. When his predictions came to pass six hundred years later, these Priority 0 artifacts took the form of holy relics and weapons as players from every world, for whom Earth and its troubles, were forgotten, revolted against their game masters and expelled them from the game worlds. In doing so, they severed the one remaining link between themselves and the real world, though the remnant Central staff continued to maintain the system for the sake of one day returning to the surface world.
The resentment between players and Centrals was, to say the least, intense.
In Veridor, Ewan’s homeworld, the game masters (Gems, as the term evolved) were driven out in a holy war of unification by the world’s most legendary hero, Maximilian the Great, and the Veridian Church, which revered the Logos as the superior force of the world. Two thousand years later, Ewan O’Meara is trying to make a name for himself in a world where epic quests are a thing of the distant past. That doesn’t stop him from trying and dying, using Veridor’s endless respawns to chase his dreams as recklessly as he likes. But it’s not until Treanna Rothchild appears from beyond Veridor, warning of an impending threat to Veridor and every world, that Ewan gets a chance to do what no player has done since Old Max’s time: make a real difference.
by E.B. Brooks
Two Worlds. One Future.
Ewan O’Meara is no stranger to death: in recent months, he’s found his way to limbo at least once per week, much to his parents’ concern. It’s a necessary price for getting experience to become the greatest adventurer his homeland of Veridor has ever known, but the overbearing Veridian Church has him pinned down, soaking him for the penance gold to unlock his stats each time he respawns. And because the Church’s ancient war put an end to both the godlike Gems and the epic quests they once bestowed, Ewan has no better alternative.
That is, until he encounters a young woman fleeing arrest from the Church’s soldiers. At first glance, Treanna Rothchild needs it: she’s clueless about Veridian life. But she has other skills that defy Ewan’s understanding, and she knows things. Unsettling, seditious things the Church wants kept secret at any cost.
And she’s in Veridor to raise an army, to fight an enemy only she can see.
Risking both life and soul, Ewan follows Treanna where no Veridian has ever been and there is no respawning. But for him to have a chance at making a real difference in the strange, harsh world she reveals to him, he must first come to terms with it. Especially as he and Treanna discover how much it has in common with Veridor—and how much they depend on each other to survive.
New-adult science fiction, wrapped in gaming and fantasy around a hopepunk core, Emissary is an immersive, thought-provoking adventure with a little teen romance and a lot of heart.
Ewan didn’t know why he did it. He had plenty of reasons. He was angry about getting censured, annoyed with Paul’s warning to keep his head down, and embarrassed by how quickly he’d ignored it. No one took him seriously as an adventurer, much less understood when he asked the big questions.
But, more than anything, looking into those eyes, he simply knew this girl was in trouble, and that he wanted to help her.
She flew past as time resumed its normal flow; Ewan shouted and leaped in front of the Swords to draw their aggro. He called up his menu, winced when he remembered he’d given Kate his armor, then equipped his blades anyway.
An ominous tone sounded in his mind, and a warning flashed across his vision that he now had a bounty, along with a reminder that only Swords were permitted to equip weapons in the cathedral. As if to prove the point, the soldiers slowed as they saw the blades flash into being on his back, but with grim smiles they equipped their own and changed targets.
Ewan spared a quick glance behind him to see the girl vanish down the steps, then turned to face his opponents.
The crowd was whispering excitedly now, but he focused on the Swords, quickly calling on his own basic aura-reading skills to scan them. They were stronger than him, and bigger too, but neither had bothered to bolster their defense beyond their armor, clearly seeing him as an easy mark.
Time to see what agility’s all about, he thought with a nervous chuckle.
E.B. Brooks lives in the southeastern USA, where he splits his time between writing, research, and homesteading. He enjoys building fictional worlds, real houses, and landscape models, but he’s most at home with his wife and children, and their many, many pets.
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