The book about Tycho the trader was supposed to be straight fantasy, very simple magical system. Nothing deep, no scientific underpinnings, just some basic rules that everyone understands and we go from there.
My Muse struck again. Some gods showed up. And they are demanding a bigger part. I should have known I couldn’t get away without religion.
Those of you who have read my stories know that religion appears in almost everything I’ve written. I saw almost because there are a few novellas and short stories that do not have references to faith, but all the longer works include at least one religion and characters who are varying degrees of devoted. This comes from two sources. One is my own personal life and faith, and my observations about human history. Humans have faith. We don’t all believe in the same things, and our understandings about gods, nature, and society change over time and across the miles, but humans are believing animals. Even if we do not believe in a super-human deity, people will still endow ideas like Marxism and environmentalism with religious aspects and follow those ideas with devotion and worshipful fervor. You can’t teach world history without considering religion, which means taking it seriously. The people of medieval Europe, or Mogul India certainly took their belief seriously, as did the Incas and Moche and Ethiopian Copts and Jews.
The other reason is because there was a trend in sci-fi to write religion out of the story. This was in part because SCIENCE! was going to replace superstition and so god-props were not needed. And some of the greats of science fiction had very bad experiences with various faith groups and people who claimed the title of Christian, and so the authors created worlds free of the pain religion had caused them. The early Dragonriders of Pern books are one of the best examples, because McCaffrey did it so very well that I never noticed the absence of any kind of religious anything for many years. She wrote a world that didn’t have or need gods, but the world was complete and beautifully drawn, with complicated characters, and readers don’t “miss” the absence of traditional religious ideas and practices.
So, the magic and merchant story was supposed to have magic and a few token references to deities, but that’s it. Since the traders of the hanse and others organized themselves around patron saints and confraternities and chapels, it made sense to have something similar. Tycho was going to pay his tithe and do what one does, but religion was just going to be one of those background things, like plants in the garden in medieval illuminations and Renaissance paintings. There but not important.
Heh. I should have known better.
You see, Tycho’s gods are important, and they do offer guidance to their followers. And then there’s the Great Northern Emperor, who everyone sort of knows about and who the free cities acknowledge but who no one has ever seen, at least not in several generations. By the fifth chapter, the gods in Tycho’s world had become more important, and numerous, than I’d planned. This is starting to feel a bit more like the Roman Empire in the 200s or so, with major state gods that everyone acknowledges (Raadmar of the Wheel, Maarsdam, Donwah of the Waters, Gember, Yoorst, the Scavenger, and a few more), and then numerous local patron deities of cities and trades, and local versions of the major gods (Maarsrodi as the patron of Rhonari, for example). Tycho honors Maarsrodi, is scared of Donwah and tries to avoid attracting the attention of the Scavenger.
But he was touched by Donwah at his birth, or so the priests and some mages aver. He’s not pleased about this, because it is a handicap that he has to keep hidden. You see, Donwah is the goddess of the great waters, the seas and the large, fast flowing rivers. Magic does not linger on moving waters, and saltwater will wash away spells of protection, or any other magic for that matter. Not only can Tycho not see magic working, but he cannot trigger pre-set spells himself. He has to use candles instead of murmuring a cantrip and activating a mage-light. He can’t see if the spells on his seal are still strong enough, so he must have it re-set more often, and come up with excuses why. His wife and children don’t have this problem, and one of his sons may well end up apprenticed to a mage if his parents don’t pop him into a towsack and hang it from a post near the harbor entrance with a sign saying “free to good home” affixed to it first.
The gods in Tycho’s world were supposed to be token presences, something everyone acknowledged but that did not play a major role in the story. Little did I know.