Pact of Deliverance
The world of ‘Pact of Deliverance’ is as familiar as it is different: there is a year-marking structure in place that suggests the passing of thirty-plus centuries since some sort of great event, and there are numerous religious and philosophical institutions in place that range from new and untested to firmly established, but they are only partly analogous to their “real-world” counterparts.
The world is, at the start of the Concurrent Trilogy, locked in a seemingly never-ending war between the great super-powers, and one of them - the south-western kingdom of Kael - has been reduced to ashes - via what is commonly believed to be a tactical nuclear strike - by the northern republic of Taryl. The wider world believes the state of Kael to be completely obliterated and uninhabitable, so the general attitude is “oh well, life goes on”, but in the country itself, the survivors are picking up what few pieces remain and living day-to-day.
The three remaining powers - Taryl, Rukosa and Pyrisnicia - continue their war by way of the negotiating table, generally unaware that an ancient prophecy is about to be fulfilled wherein a group of “heroes” - an unspecified number of gifted people from across the continents of the world - are about to gather and begin a journey that will see them save the world… somehow. The vagueness of the prophecy immediately causes problems for those tasked with gathering the heroes and those are to be gathered, not least because the mission itself has no parameters and no definition of when it has been achieved. The stories of the Concurrent Trilogy are told from the perspective of the “gatherers” and the “potentials” as they begin their respective journies - knowingly or not - while the Consecutive Trilogy concentrates on the mission and its completion.
SCARS, speaking about it a a novel for a moment, is best described as a “slow-burner”: rather than have the protagonists start their long journey straight away, I wanted to have the story begin a considerable time before they are aware that they have a greater destiny, so close to two-thirds of the work is, in a way, a different story entirely. The village of Ghirina is a tiny, frail, doomed settlement located in the geographical centre of the ruins of the Kingdom of Kael; the nation’s rulers are long gone, and with them the infrastructure and most of the humanity in the wake of what is commonly known, unsurprisingly and in a strange way optimistically, as the “Final War”. There are a number of major figures, but which of them is destined to make the journey is deliberately vague: that stems from an earlier version of the idea that I may discuss in the future. Ghirina is ruled by a sociopathic elderly man who is known only as “Gamliel, the Great One”: his younger daughter Nalani causes him worry, not least because her failure to wed - and his elder daughter’s apparent inability to provide him with a grandson - means that he has been denied the legitimate male heir to his legacy that he wants so badly. Gamliel’s former mistress Siiri allies with the recently-elevated senior minister Holmgeirr to advance her illegitimate son Anton - whether he desires his father’s power or not - while the oldest of Gamliel’s allies, Elder Galenus, seems to have a plan of his own, but the pointless intrigue is set against a bleak backdrop: Ghirina Village is dying, mostly due to Gamliel’s method of rule, and the cannibalistic Otoro tribe that live to the south inch ever closer to the Ghirina Forest each year with the intention of destroying it once and for all. The first battles are fought internally, but when stability finally seems possible, the villagers must first do battle with the Otoro and then a small army of foreign archeologists that defy international cordons in their search for clues to the ancient prophecy and do not care what happens to any survivors of the “Final War” that they might encounter.
SOULS has definitely changed and continues to be affected by the times. When I started writing, technology and society were in a very different place, and so some of the themes might seem redundant, understated and whatnot, but I still believe that it has relevance because the world in which the series is set is not our own. The setting is best described as 'held-back 20th/21st Century hybrid': an “incident” in the city of Eastlake - a commercial capital in the Republic of Taryl - left the citizens fearful of technology and the arms race, and a popular, mostly peaceful uprising - dubbed the “Anti Digital Technology Revolution”, or “ADTR” by historians and journalists - led to the apparent elimination of most of the computerised gadgets and digital technologies in favour of older, analogue media formats and mechanical devices. The most recent generation has started to tire of the obvious restraint that is being forced upon them, and the controversial technology is slowly starting to reappear: but just as society sees itself as “moving forward again”, a strange cult starts to send its acolytes out to murder people, seemingly at random. The underfunded and poorly-staffed police force in Taryl’s capital, Mast Harbour, are as baffled by the so-called “Nightmare killings” as anyone else, and it is one more unwanted problem as the force continues to struggle with rampant gang crime, the international narcotics trade and corruption. The “gatherer” in Taryl is Nobuo Okada, a retired police officer turned freelance counsellor, but his sanity is often called into question as he sometimes claims that he was in Eastlake during the famous “incident” and hints at having moonlighted as a professional mercenary. The ten people that he has been tasked with finding, recruiting, training, protecting and eventually leading to a designated gathering point in another country - a disaffected police detective, a freelance domestic worker, two gang leaders, three unemployed drifters, a timid finance clerk, a bored middle-class housewife and a mysterious, discomforting woman with an unusual understanding of her role - must trust him and heed him, but that proves to be more difficult that anyone could have imagined.
FEARS - which was actually the first one that I started writing, but will be the last of the first trilogy to be completed - is almost unchanged in its setting and scope. The ultimate end for all three is, of course, the beginning of a bigger journey that they will do together: that said, the stories told in each book are pivotal to plot and character definition and development.
The hardest road to travel. Hopefully, the preceding trilogy will do well and I will get to find out if these books work as well as I want them to: that relies on you the reader liking them, and I sincerely hope that you do.
A. P. M. Cousins