Swordsong Trilogy is a series of three novels set on a world called the Spiral Archipelago. The heroes of these novels are the paladins and priests of the Swordsong Ministry, an organisation set up many years ago to combat Sin. Sin, in this world, is a force of elemental evil. Sin hates life and light, but is able to avoid light by hiding in human beings, corrupting them.
Once a person, or an animal, has been corrupted by Sin they cannot be harmed by normal weaponry. Only blessed weapons can harm those who have been corrupted by Sin.
The swordsingers I initially saw as a cross between Church of England vicars and samurai warriors. Swordsingers use blessed katanas, which hum or sing in the presence of Sin. Those are the main weapons against Sin, and about the only way of detecting whether somebody has been corrupted.
The world of the books, for the most part, is a large archipelago of islands, called the Spiral Archipelago. At the centre of those islands there is the sacred island of Spiralheart, where the head of the order resides.
This is a fantasy trilogy without traditional magic, although evil forces are capable of supernatural effects. Although gunpowder has been discovered it is a world in which the heroes use swords, as blessing a weapon is a long ritual, and if the characters used muskets each and every musket ball would have to be blessed. It is a lot easier to use swords against Sin.
It is a world of low resources, with things like sulphur and coal being very scarce. That has held back technology: even though steam power has been discovered there simply aren’t the resources to take the world forwards to an equivalent of the industrial age.
In writing these novels I wanted to do a fantasy series which was a little different to the usual fantasy series with elves and dwarves and dragons. I have nothing against such books. But why can’t we try to push fantasy in new directions?
The first novel is Swordsong Ministry. It details the end of the war against Sin.
The second novel is The Faded Saints. In this novel a new threat arises to disturb the peace of the world, the legendary Faded Saints of the title.
In the third and final novel¸ Deo Vanis, the swordsingers have to deal with yet another power, a genius loci that comes to imagine that it is a god.
Extract from Swordsong Ministry
The path spiralled anti-clockwise down the Pit, what was known as widdershins. It meant that the chasm was off to her left hand side. She would have preferred it the other way. It meant that her katana was close to the rock wall, and gave her a little bit less freedom of movement to swing her sword. But, being Sin, it had to be widdershins, didn’t it? It was a direction considered to be unnatural, against the path of the sun. Everything about Sin was against the natural order.
The sword, so far, kept up a low, constant tone, warning her that Sin was about, but not that close, as yet. When the sound increased in crescendo was when she would have to worry, for it would mean that Sin was very close. Rachel eyed the first cave, wondering if that would be when her sword would really sing for her.
When she got close to the first, dark hole she was very careful, her back close to the rock, moving very slowly, her heart thumping in excitement. Then her sword all but screamed at her – Sin was approaching, and at a very fast rate. She would let it come to her, whatever it was, out of the cave, and stand her ground.
The creature which exited the cave had not been possessed by Sin, because it had never been alive. But it was a creation of Sin, nonetheless. That much was obvious.
It had been created out of rock, and metal ore, the raw ingredients available down here. Its legs were lumps of misshapen stone, only vaguely recalling those of some human being. Its torso, its arms, and its head were also varieties of rock. Its head had no working eyes, and no mouth – it had no useful features at all, except for the fact that Sin had carved the rock as some horrible mockery of a man’s face, some twisted gargoyle that would have been rejected as too ugly for the outside of any church. There was a protuberance which might have supposed to have been a nose, and depressions where eyes might have been, in some normal being. But eyes had it not – how it could see, or hear, was a mystery. Perhaps Sin had granted it some sense beyond those available to humans.
Its fists were great lumps of rock, great hammers that could easily turn flesh, and bone, to pulp, if they came into contact with either of those mortal substances.
Metal, what looked like rusty iron, provided joints at its knees, waist, shoulders, elbows and nick. It had no ankles, its lower legs being solid lumps of rock.
It staggered, at a run, towards Rachel, pulling one great stone arm back, getting ready to pulverise Rachel. Rachel did not try swinging her katana at this creation of Sin – it could cut through most things, but not solid rock. She had no intention of breaking the only weapon which she had with her (discounting a small knife in one of her belt pouches).
Her back was already close to the wall of the Pit, mere inches from it, as she had been hugging the wall, waiting for Sin to show itself, in whichever of its myriad forms it had manifested itself in. Rachel saw the this creature of metal and stone was top-heavy, with far more stone about its huge arms and chest than its legs. She noticed that in an instant – and, as the creature began to swing one of its huge arms, she braced her back against the wall of the Pit, planted both feet on the chest of the creature, and pushed out with all of her strength.
The creature toppled over the side of the walkway, swinging at thin air as it went. There was no look of surprise on its face, because its stone features could not move. Nor was there any cry of despair, as there was no mouth with which to make a noise. It simply fell.
Rachel fell down, on her back, on the narrow walkway. She had pushed out with so much force that she landed with her legs over the side of the path. For a second she teetered there, with the possibility of following the creature of rock into the abyss. She could have grabbed out with one of her hands – but she was not going to let go of her katana, or her torch, lest one of them roll off the edge of the path. Instead she managed to hook an ankle onto the edge of the path and push herself to safety.
Rachel sighed, lying there. Her sword was no longer singing. She was safe, at least for the moment. There was no sound, beyond her own breathing. She listened for the sound of the rock creature hitting the bottom of the Pit. She should be able to tell how deep the Pit was from that, with a little applied mathematics. But the sound never came.
Still lying on her back, Rachel sheathed her sword, at least for a couple of seconds. She used her right arm to help her get to her feet. She brushed herself down, drew her sword out of her scabbard, and went inside the cave. She had had tougher fights. If that was all that Sin had to throw at her she would be fine.
Swordsong Ministry; The Faded Saints and Deo Vanis are available as e-books on the Amazon Kindle store.