Celestial Spheres

HermesMercurio, the protagonist of my current work in progress, Devouring Light, serves as guardian to the planet Mercury, as well as running messages between his fellow immortals. Like his prototypes, the ancient Greek Hermes and the ancient Roman Mercury, Mercurio’s a bit of a Peter Pan, possessing a liking for pranks and an aversion to responsibility. The one responsibility he does not shirk is his care for his planet, the closest to his primary Sol, and the coolest celestial body in Sol’s demesne (as far as Mercurio is concerned). But events are about to demand more from the young planetary than heretofore.

Haden plots to retrieve his absconding wife Proserpina. The constellation Draco sates his jaded appetite with mischief more lethal than any Mercurio ever dreamed up. And the dark forces outside Sol’s heliopause follow whim and caprice to bring destruction in their wake. Will Mercurio succomb to the role of cat’s paw designated for him? Or will he save the solar system?

MercuryDevouring Light blends astronomy with Greco-Roman mythology and Dante’s Paradisio to create looming disaster on a cosmic scale. I hope you’ll enjoy the story when it releases sometime this winter. In the meantime, I’ve been doing some fun background research for the work, and I’d like to share bits and pieces of it with you.

First stop: where does this story take place?

Well, our solar system, but not purely our solar system. Permeating the physical reality is the essential inner reality, rather like the “real” forms generating the shadows in Plato’s allegorical cave. For Mercurio and his fellow planetaries, the physical reality and the “essential” reality are equally real. They speak of each planet’s orbit and its “sphere” almost interchangeably. Devouring Light’s celestial spheres owe their inspiration to those of Dante’s Paradisio, but I adjusted their numbering and content to suit my own more modern notions and my story.

Just to be clear, Devouring Light is fantasy, not science fiction, despite its outer space setting. As I say in a comment below (this paragraph is an update – the comment came first – thanks, Mira, for the excellent question), the astronomy is inspiration, not prescription. I’ve attempted to adhere to the facts as they are currently known, layering the fantasy atop. And, yes, I know that Pluto is no longer a planet. At the beginning of my story, it is. At the end . . . well, you’ll have to read it! 😉

I’ll share more about Devouring Light in future posts, but here I give you…

Sun & planets


First Sphere
The Sun tended by Sol

Second Sphere
Mercury tended by Mercurio

Third Sphere
Venus tended by Star

Fourth Sphere
Earth tended by Gaia

The Moon tended by Artemis Diana

Fifth Sphere
Mars tended by Ares

The Asteroids tended by Plurima
Ceres tended by Ceres

Sixth Sphere
Jupiter tended by Basileus

Seventh Sphere
Saturn tended by Saturnus

Uranus tended by Ouranos

Neptune tended by Neptunus Equester

Eighth Sphere
The Zodiac Perspective inhabited by the Constellations

Ninth Sphere
Pluto tended by Haden

For more about Devouring Light, try What Do Celestials Wear? or The Graces.



The Thricely Odd Troll

Alcea was the Exemplar elected from the canton of Ennecy, and she was a troll. But she was an odd troll. She did not contract her disease reaching greedily for power – the conventional route of an incantatrice. Nor did she sicken in heroic sacrifice to save an endangered child or a dying lover – the well-worn trope for many a ballad. No, nothing so dramatic or poetic as that. Alcea became a troll, because her radices were more weakly anchored than those of most folk. During an ordinary lesson under the auspices of her antiphonic mentor, the energetic strands securing her root radix snapped.

Her teacher was horrified, but there was no mending what was broken. The only question was: with just one radix drifting and the remaining twenty still firm, would she actually contract troll-disease?

She did; the straying root radix, massive in its slow momentum, inexorably dragged first the belly radix off course, and then the plexial radix, until all were awry. Many experts made pilgrimage to Ennecy to study her case, so unusual was it. But the more unusual thing about Alcea, really odd from a historical point of view, was that she was not the only troll in the Chamber of Exemplars. In fact, nearly every Exemplar was a troll.

The minutes recorded from the Chamber sessions paint a very strange picture of that governing body. Yelled taunts and defiance, obscene gesticulation, actual gibbering, and impassioned ranting were commonplace. In a particularly heated debate, one Exemplar went so far as to strangle his opponent. The minutes depose that the mortuary binders were summoned to take charge of the corpse!

Today, in these times of capital punishment for any use of incantatio, we can hardly imagine how such a situation could be permitted, but in truth the Exemplars of the Scaffold Era went wrong in their interpretation of their own early history. The plague that afflicted the Emperadrina Ravessa’s people was conflated with troll-disease. The understanding that Godon’s dawn and dusk postures cured antiphoners of plague was held as evidence that such contortions, performed regularly, might also hold troll-disease at bay. (Of course, they did nothing of the sort.)

Since all Exemplars then were antiphoners, temptation was great. One pioneer used the taboo incantatio to purify an unclean well in one of her constituent villages. Another built a bridge to replace a perilous ford. Others resorted to beguiling incantatio on the populace merely to secure election. Once the rot set in, it set in thoroughly. By Alcea’s time, mere antiphoners were rare; troll-mages were the rule; and helpful law-making from the Chamber of Exemplars, scarce. Godon’s postures did not retard troll-disease as was claimed, nor prevent it as was initially announced.

Now, it might be thought that Alcea was in good company – one troll among many – but her correspondence (all preserved by an industrious niece, the renowned Letitia of the Opal Sceptre) shows that this was not so. Alcea spoke against Tiberio’s Heresy, as she called it, at every chance offered, both in the Chamber itself and outside of it. Unlike the rest of her cohort, she practiced no incantatio, her disease progressed slowly, and she retained her sanity. She did not blame her colleagues for their poor choices, attributing their unwisdom to ignorance and calling for a return to Godon’s orthodoxy.

“Let us, doizennes and damesses, begin again the practice taught by our founder in all its purity. Godon propagated the dawn and dusk sequences, not because they banished plague, but because they induced harmony in the soul.”

Over years, Alcea’s advice grew popular. No doubt her own participation in the disease of trollism, if not in its prologue of power, forestalled conclusion that she stood in judgment over the troll mob. Antiphoners and non-antiphoners alike came to regard her as a wise old grandmother and took heed of her words. Fewer practitioners chose to cross over the line between safe energea and dangerous incantatio, and fewer constituents chose to elect trolls to the Chamber. Before Alcea breathed her last, Tiberio’s Heresy was abandoned, and the Chamber filled entirely by Exemplars of Godon’s Orthodoxy.

Alcea’s political reign has an odd codicil. Dying at last of troll-disease, the old woman left this earth literally, as well as figuratively. She lay upon a bier in the open air, desiring to witness the setting of the sun one last time. As the flaming daystar touched the horizon, fierce winged horses flew out from the streaming light, took Alcea upon their backs, and bore her away into the sky.

The orthodox example of the governing Chamber of Exemplars spread throughout the land, and Giralliya became a realm largely free of trolls among her citizenry. The Chamber itself accepted fewer and fewer antiphoners until it became wholly the province of legislators without any energea or magic whatsoever at their behest.

* * *

More stories of old Giralliya:
Legend of the Beggar’s Son
Ravessa’s Ride
The Old Armory: Blood Falchion