I thought with the tweets, posts, and updates I’ve made lately that it seemed a good time to provide a little background on Soulless as it nears completion. I may even find myself explaining things out of order, but it will come full circle in the end (promise). In this post, I’m going to explain a bit about the erman race, which requires discussion of the world’s two moons. They’ll be discussed in greater detail at a later date.
Through an evolutionary divergence, the world of Soulless is home to two sentient races–humans and ermen. Although physically similar, there are some key differences, the most notable being that of the wings that all ermen bear. The wings are feathered like birds’ (as opposed to the mammalian wings of bats or leathery wings of dragons of legend or various dinosaurs) and serve as a means of transportation as well as a conduit for erman magic. Approximately 98% of the filaments needed to direct magical flows are located in the wings, the remaining 2% spread very thinly throughout the body. Though there may be exceptions, erman wings usually match hair color.
Ermen are generally taller than humans, but only slightly on average. Where the average human male is 5’9″, the average erman male height is near 6’1″ (with heights of 5’5″ and 5’10” respectively for females). Ermen may be taller, but not by so much that they are larger than all humans.
They are of an equal physical strength with humans, able to lift and bear similar loads of weight so long as the use of magic is not included. In direct hand-to-hand combat, trained human fighters would have no advantages or disadvantages against an erman of equal skill (assuming that the human knows how to grapple against a winged opponent). Erman core weight is slightly less than that of humans due to their thinner bones–hollow in places, porous throughout–but the weight of the wings makes up the difference.
Though it is possible for humans and ermen to mate, such unions are rare. Children born of an interracial marriage have their race decided by the mother–human women bear human children, and ermen women bear ermen children. Relationships are strained, though, partly because of the need for erman racial secrecy and the need for all ermen to return to Edaria twice each month (explained in greater detail below). This is not to say that human-erman relationships never work, but they are more challenging than those within one’s own race.
Technologically, ermen are behind humans in several ways, most notably in the areas of transportation and weaponry. At the time of the events in Soulless, humans are experienced with firearms and are developing locomotive travel by way of train. This is not to say that ermen are scientifically inferior to humans, but rather that they are already naturally capable of what humans are learning through discovery; firearms are of little use to a race with near-limitless magic, and trains are cramped and compact when compared to travel by one’s own wings. Ermen sometimes travel by train, but usually for the novelty of having done so than the need to span large distances.
Though humanity is scattered over the planetary hemisphere facing the stationary low moon Cirellias, ermen only name one place home: the floating mini-continent of Edaria above the western coast of the primary inhabitable landmass and straddling the nation of Serana’s northern border against Chasar. Though Edaria floats directly beneath tidally-locked Cirellias, it is not held into place by gravitational forces–too weak at such a great distance–but rather through magical forces, which shower the continent from that moon. It was through many generations of living beneath Cirellias that ermen developed the filaments in their wings that are now able to process and direct the moon’s magical energies. Filaments in the wings act as a net for Cirellias’s magic, meaning that ermen can cast spells more effectively when wings are spread wide than when they are held tightly against the back.
Ermen and humans speak a common language. In fact, all nations in the human world below are able to share a common language because of ermen. Ermen learned fast travel very quickly in early civilization, and theirs became the language of trade between all nations and eventually the only language. For a group to have developed a surviving language of their own, they would have needed to have lived in seclusion during the entirety of history.
Erman magic can be viewed in two schools: Destructive and Restorative. The affinity towards either school is determined through genetics rather than any amount of training. Mostly, those strong in Destructive join labor forces or the military, and those strong in Restorative magics become healers and nurses. The bulk of erman population falls somewhere in the middle though, only incidentally stronger in one school than the other.
Ermen do hold racial secrets against the humans regarding magic. These are tied directly to Cirellias’s twin, the high moon Rythellas. This is because Rythellas orbits the planet in a set path as opposed to being locked to a single position. Like Cirellias, Rythellas is also a source of magic, but does not normally infuse the magic against the planet since only two points on the satellite’s surface have any effect.
The first interaction is during Rythellas’s full moon phase (dubbed the “Void Moon” among both species), when Rythellas negates the effects of Cirellias. Though ermen can still fly under their own power during the Void Moon, they are essentially rendered magically sterile for the duration of that single night, no more proficient than any common human and definitely beneath the powers of any human bloodmage.
The second interaction is during Rythellas’s new moon phase–the “Soulless Moon.” During the Soulless phase, Rythellas amplifies the Cirellian effect, vastly increasing the innate magical strength of all ermen. However, this is easily more detrimental to their race as it also heightens combat sense. Beneath Soulless Rythellas, ermen become aggressive to the point of madness, lashing out and destroying all in their path. Erman civilization would already have collapsed entirely if not for the Calming. The only thing that can sate a Soulless Erman’s thirst for destruction is the presence of loved ones, so ermen always return to Edaria for the Calming on that night. Surrounded by those they cherish most–friends, lovers, relatives, children–they suppress their need for violence until daybreak.
With these two interactions, ermen return to Edaria for each night (fourteen days between each of Rythellas’s extremes), as is mandated by Edarian law. They return during the Void Moon to protect themselves against humans, and during the Soulless Moon to avoid destroying humans and ermen alike. Although the humans note the erman flight to Edaria on both occasions, the reasons are tightly-held Edarian secrets. Some humans believe that ermen are weakened during both phases, but none are able to say for certain without erman confirmation.
I think that sums up much of that definition for now, though I’ll always feel like I’m forgetting something. I’ll explain more next week and in the weeks after about the relation of the planet to Rythellas and Cirellias, human magic use, and planetary geography.
If you would like to read the current first chapter of Soulless, you can do so here. I will edit and post the second chapter at the beginning of next week. If there’s any doubt by the end of the first chapter, yes, Caru Freehaven is an erman. An especially angry one.
I hope you enjoy!