Category Archives: Fire-Rider

The Dark Ages of the Great Lacuna

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Kaybrel and Tavio wander through the famed marketplace of Lek Doe, the greatest trading center of Western Methgoa during the Great Lacuna…

They bought gloves. They found some shirts that met Tavi’s approval, for no more than the rejected merchant’s price. They ate some more—fresh, hot bread, grilled meat of an indeterminate bird, squash deep-fried in bubbling lard. They watched a magician, paid to see a trained bear dance, bypassed innumerable beggars, explored a museum of curiosities and monstrosities—the two-headed lamb, the fire-eating dwarf, the noisy metal twirling contraption said to be part of an ancient Mercan flying cart, the boulder etched by a lightning strike with the triple face of the Espanyo god, and similar marvels. They bought new dungarees for both Tavi and Kay—Tavio lost the day in his campaign for something more suave than the loose Okan-style pants that Kay regarded as sensible and manly.

“They could fly, huh? The Old Ones?” said Tavio, taken by the wonders they had seen.

“Sure. So could their cows,” said Kay.

Hapa Cottrite, the mysterious scribe of the Fire-Rider saga, lived during the Great Lacuna. If you read much of the saga, you realize the Great Lacuna was a dark and scary time. But when was it? And what was it?

Methgoan archaeologists and historians living today, several thousand years after the Great Lacuna, believe that about 2,600 years before Hapa Cottrite’s time, a vast empire covered the Methgoan continent and extended down into the southerly continents. This enormous civilization, which spread from seashore to seashore, was built by a technologically advanced people called Mercans, or, some scientists believe, Americans or Emericans. The empire was named Merca, after its inhabitants.

Archaeologists believe that the Mercan Empire thrived for about three to four hundred years. That figure is in question, because so little is known about the culture’s origins and evolution that its beginnings are shrouded in the fog of time. We do know that an abrupt planet-wide climate change occurred approximately 5,900 years ago, and that its effects brought a swift end to the Mercan era.

The Mercan Empire collapsed — as did similar technologically driven cultures on the other side of the globe — when world-wide warming and severe drought set in. Untameable wildfires leveled forests, grasslands, and agricultural fields and fierce storms brought insanely powerful windstorms, uncontrollable floods, and bizarre bouts of unseasonable cold. As crops failed everywhere, famine and disease spread rapidly.

Large numbers of Mercans died in the face of these uncontrollable events. Those who knew how to operate the technology that made it possible to support vast populations concentrated in city died off. With too few survivors to keep power, water, and food running, the cities experienced catastrophic population collapse.

In short order, the Mercans effectively went extinct.

We mark this population collapse as the beginning of the Great Lacuna, a long Dark Age that extended until the start of the Present Era (about 1 P.E.). The Great Lacuna is also called the Inter-Historical Era, because written history — and anything else put in writing — ended with the demise of the Mercan civilization. History as we know it, as a science, did not revive until after the beginning of the Present Era, with the rise of the Early Methgoan cultures.

The few survivors of the continental population collapse spread into the countryside, seeking land on which to grow subsistence crops and enough water to do so. Separate Espanyo and Hengliss peoples emerged at this time, with the Hengliss migrating northward toward the cooler and wetter climes and the Espanyo occupying the rest of the continent. Over time, these broad ethnic groups coalesced into tribal societies, and by about 2600 years BPE (Before the Present Era), the various cultures had established an agrarian system that provided some equilibrium.

“Equilibrium” is a relative term. In fact these tribes lived in constant conflict, warring over territory and dwindling resources.

The constant warfare was not helped by the onset of the Ice Age, about 1450 years BPE, or approximately 4350 years before our time. At about the same time the carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gasses that had contaminated the atmosphere were subsiding through geologic processes, the planet’s course around the sun was perturbed by an orbital alignment with the gigantic plants Jupiter and Saturn. Gravitational forces distorted the earth’s orbit, pulling it further from the sun and causing a period of global cooling.

Food and water became even scarcer; seaside settlements were left high and dry as water was locked up in snow and ice and shorelines receded. Growing seasons grew shorter, life grew commensurately harder, and competition for resources intensified ferociously. The agrarian tribes developed a keen interest in killing their neighbors and taking over their lands.

Hapa Cottrite flourished during the darkest part of this grim period, about 935 years BPE or about 2800 years before our day. Evidently cast out of the powerful trading center, Lek Doe, possibly because of his revolutionary tendencies, Cottrite was thrown in with the Okans and their A’oan allies under Brez Lhored Kubna of Grisham Lekvel, Devey Mayr of Metet, and Eddo Kubna of Bose.  A close observer, Cottrite watched, studied, and wrote down what he learned of the fierce northern peoples.

Did the Espanyo and Hengliss peoples of ancient Socalia, Galifone, Foshinden, Okan, and A’o have an inkling that they sprang from an almost magically privileged civilization? Apparently so, but the extent to which they did is not known today.

We do know that Kaybrel Kubna of Moor Lek acquired his healing lore inside the walled province of Uda, which normally excluded foreigners. Udans had a number of intellectual and technical traditions, not the least of which had to do with hygiene and pharmacopia, that had come down from the ancient Mercans. And we know that all the tribal peoples of far Western Methgoa spoke of vaguely remembered ancestors called “The Old Ones.”

In Book IV, for example, when Kaybrel tries to distract his friend Fallon from the question of Tavio’s haunts, he remarks, “But we know the truth, don’t we—the ancient writings from the Old Ones tell us what’s true.”

There were writings, evidently religious in nature, that could be read in a crude way by a few religious votaries trained to parse out meaning—possibly imagined meaning—from works said to have come down from the ancestors.

Whatever information they had about their predecessors would have been handed down by word of mouth, in a long and ancient oral tradition. Such stories must have been regarded as folklore or children’s tales. A man of Kaybrel’s native intelligence may have regarded them skeptically. But enough men and women knew about them and took them literally to support the occasional side-show huckster.

Who Was Hapa Cottrite?

“You read, Hapa Cottrite? Marks on stone? Or wood?” When Lhored spoke the name, it came out Ca’rite.

“I can, Mister Kubna,” said Cottrite. “Here the marks are on paper, too.”

“Then you can read the holy writings?”

“Sometimes. It depends how old they are. The oldest writings, the words are hard to make out, and you can’t know for sure what they mean. But I can understand some holy words.”

Lhored considered this silently. “In Okan, it’s not lawful to read the holy words,” he said. “Not unless you’re called. And few are called.”

“We have the same law here,” Babra Puehkenz replied. “Hapa’s mother was a reader. That’s how he came to be chosen.”

“I see,” said Lhored. At once intrigued and uncomfortable, he eyed the man. The only reader in Okan lived in Glathe cowndee, and she was very old. She didn’t read any more, certainly not holy writings, because her eyes would no longer let her see the marks. If she hadn’t died over the summer, she soon would.

Unlike her, though, this man was no religious votary. If he were, he would never admit to not understanding any part of the writings. And evidently he spent his time on quite a lot more than contemplating the other world. It occurred to Lhored, in passing, that something vaguely dangerous lurked in this circumstance. Even if it were allowed, fewer Hengliss than Espanyos had time for reading—they were too busy trying to stay alive. And if they did have time for it, they would have nothing to read. Still, wouldn’t it be good to have someone to take the old woman’s place! His presence would bring prestige to the House of Cham Fos. Mitchel would be pleased. More to the point, so would his first wife, the politically powerful Kubnath of Huam Prinz.

We know of Kaybrel Kubna of Moor Lek’s life and times only because a wandering scholar named Hapa Cottrite fell in with the Hengliss war bands and wrote a journal describing their exploits. His writings, along with a collection of antique documents, were found in a cave in Northern Vada and eventually were passed along to scholars who studied, transcribed, and translated them.

The Fire-Rider stories interpret key parts of the Cottrite Codex, covering the conflicts between Hengliss and Espanyo war bands that occurred during the middle period of the Great Lacuna. Our version was interpreted by Estabanya Marcanda do Tilár i Robintál do Nomanto Berdo, master story teller of the Methgoan Academy of Written and Oral Performance. She based her retelling of the story on the definitive translation by Fontano do Caz Eviatád, sponsored by the Western Regional Council of Research Sciences and the Institute for Theory of Intuitional Dissemination (TID) Studies.

During the Great Lacuna, literacy almost went extinct. Writing was thought to be sinful and a cause of humanity’s many troubles. Consequently, reading and writing were crimes, violations of religious and civil law in most parts of Methgoa. This was particularly true in the regions west of the Sehrra Muns, where neither Espanyo nor Hengliss peoples would tolerate it.

The only exceptions were religious devotees, mostly women, who functioned as seers and interpreters of omens. Cottrite’s mother was one of these, and apparently it was she who taught him to read and write. Although he was evidently not a votary (we find mention of his wife, who served as a magistrate at Lek Doe), he seems to have been given dispensation by virtue of the mother’s status. He was regarded as an officially sanctioned “reader,” although he conspicuously avoided service to the faith.

Indeed, it appears that Cottrite was something of a troublemaker. This is indicated by the eagerness shown by Babra Puehkenz, Lek Doe’s eminent seeyo, to pack him off with the Okan hordes. Her offer of his services to Brez Lhored as a “gift” to help expiate the murder of an Okan kubna clearly had a self-serving motive. Sending Cottrite to Okan as a “teacher” effectively exiled him to the edge of the ice sheet.

What and Where Is Lek Doe???

LOL! When I posted Book 13, Lek Doe, on Amazon, that august purveyor’s system first assumed I must have misspelled the title. “What?” it marveled. “You mean Led Doe?”

How about “Lead Doe“?

Assured that the spelling was intended, it then decided I was writing in Japanese. It asked if I wouldn’t please like a machine-generated translation of the title!

Well, of course, who on this side of the Great Lacuna ever heard of Lek Doe, eh?

Lek Doe is a trading center high in the Sehrra Muns. It’s situated next to a deep, clear, pristine lake that fills the crater of an ancient volcano. And it sits atop the crumbled ruins of the all-but-forgotten Mercan city once called “Lake Tahoe.”

An affluent town straddling trade routes between north and south, Okan and Socalia, Lek Doe enforces a strict neutrality that prohibits hostilities among the many wanderers, traders, merchants, and soldiers who pass through its precincts. Arms must be set aside, harsh words are frowned upon, and fights are likely to land all participants in the hoosegow.

Its neutrality is one of the reasons the Okan and A′oan bands are force-marching their men through the mountains toward the town, trying to reach it as fast as they can. If they are being pursued (as some of the kubnas suspect is the case), the Espanyo enemy will have to stand down once the Hengliss are inside the town.

Lek Doe also embodies the highest point of culture in the world of the Great Lacuna. Locals are wealthy and as civilized as humans get during the deep ice age that has afflicted the globe. Kay and Tavi explore a town laid out like a huge medieval bazaar, filled with interesting and entertaining sights, always tempting with luxury goods and tasty foods cooked at roadside.

Marching, the men contemplate the glories that await them:

Down on the lower end of Pine Ridge Road, not too far from the lakeshore, stood a wooden shed that was one of Mitch’s favorite watering holes. The proprietor brewed six different kinds of custom potations, none of which was to be missed. Perhaps, he thought, he’d go there first, before he visited Liana’s [Mitch’s preferred house of ill repute], so as to be adequately lubricated. Later, maybe the horses. Or the dogs. These people would race anything. Once, in the downtown marketplace, Mitch had seen some guy taking bets on racing fleas. They seemed to have arenas for everything, too. Out on the Espanyo side, they had a bull arena, where slender, graceful, crazy young men confronted long-horned bulls, big angry brutes crazier than their challengers, and where horsemen from deep in Socalia—some even from Mezgo, they claimed—raced wild horses and bulls, and if you were as demented as they were, they’d let you lay down your money and ride against them. Charro, they called them.

Devey liked to go to the fights. At Doe, you could wager on bare-knuckle and gloved, wrestling and kicking, cocks and bears. He promised Porfi they would see a cockfight, and Porfi bragged to that effect in front of his friends. Devey also had his favorite cathouse, and he had about decided Porfi had reached an age when he could be introduced to ladies. He would make up his mind about that once he got to Doe.

Lhored considered cathouses far beneath his dignity. Instead, handsomely placed women came to him, when he so desired. For the prominent or the very wealthy, Lek Doe offered a type of woman who was less a prostitute than an entertainer. Some of these became mistresses or wives of favored clients. Others maintained independence, accrued considerable wealth, and retired to become proprietors of various small businesses, or simply to live out their lives in comfort. One, in particular, Lhored hoped would still be there to visit him.

Hardly a man in the company didn’t have similar thoughts, and more. On an earlier visit, Arden had learned he could rent a tiny sailing boat from the locals and let the breeze carry him over the water, the way he might ride a wind-driven ice skiff across a frozen Okan pond. He looked forward to trying that again.

Don’O had caught the finest fish he’d ever eaten in the cold, deep waters of Lek Doe. Big, too, it was, and a fighter. He intended to hook another one someday—maybe tomorrow would be the day. He knew, though, that he’d spend a fair amount of his time riding herd on Moor Lek’s young pups, trying to keep them from forking over every tahm they’d brought with them plus the clothes off their backs to the various hustlers and grifters who inhabited the streets.

He calculated: he’d spring at least two from the hoosegow. A dozen or more would have to be nursed through the consequences of having no clue how to handle their liquor. The whole idiot crew would think the cat-lady was real and the two-headed calf (or whatever marvel the sideshows that dotted the thoroughfares had to offer this summer) was worth paying to see. Three would pass out somewhere and come stumbling along, bedazed, hours after the troops had hit the road. Several would show up at the barracks-tent with hookers on their arms, and at least one fool would announce he was in love. His buddies would never manage to resist the pranks this invited. Silently, Don’O laughed at the Lek Doe antics he had gone through in the past. Had he ever been as dumb as these young kids?

And if some rustic from north or south would like to buy a lead doe, no doubt he can find one there.

The Retreat into the Mountains

The war bands climb upward into the mountains, putting as much distance between themselves and the enemy as they can manage. Drizzling rain threatens to turn to ice and snow. Kaybrel and his sidekick Fallon believe they should put Kay’s gravely injured war horse out of his misery…

§ § §

20 demon

Demon

While Kay was tending to Nando, Fallon washed the soot and ash off Demon’s legs. What he found didn’t please him. The animal’s hide was blistered or burned off from his hooves to his flanks. It was astonishing, he thought, that Kay made it through the flames the first time; the second and third came no short of a miracle.

“This horse is in a bad way,” he said when Kay had a moment. “You probably should put him down.”

Kay looked at the wounds himself. “I hate to do that,” he said, after a moment of silence.

“I know,” Fallon replied, and he did. Realizing his friend’s distress, he said, “Would you like me to take care of it? We can have one of the riflemen….”

“Don’t kill Demon!” Tavi interjected. “How can you do that?”

Kay looked at the boy with some surprise. Was he really asking how two men who had, not long ago, taken part in exterminating the people of Roksan could consider killing a horse? To his greater surprise, he saw that Fallon seemed to take this as worth responding to.

“He’ll die anyway, Tavi—most likely,” Fal said. “It’s no kindness to make him go on now.”

“Would you like to get killed after you saved your friends’ lives?” Tavio returned. “Would you want to die if you had a few burns on your arms and legs?”

“I don’t know, chacho. I’m not a horse,” said Fallon.

“Don’t do that,” Tavi repeated.

“We need to get going,” Kay reminded Fal. “Let’s make up our minds. Do you think he can keep up with us?”

“I doubt it.”

“Then we need to put him down.”

“Yeah,” Fal agreed. “Look, boy. Demon will starve or freeze if we leave him behind. He’ll be hurting too much to forage for himself. Do you want him to die like that? Better to go quickly than to suffer for days.”

“But what if he can keep up with us?”

“That’s about enough,” said Kaybrel, whose patience with this exchange had run dry. “I don’t want to hear any more about it from you, Tavio. Get my saddle off the animal and let’s put it on Rik’s horse, if it’ll fit. I’d rather use my own tack than someone else’s. When you’re done, you can carry Rik’s gear over to the brez’s wagon and give it back while I tend to business.”

“Just give him a chance,” Tavi persisted. “If he falls behind, then you can do it.”

Learn Demon’s Fate!

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Buy Book IX Now!

Kay Tells about the Battle of Loma Alda

Book VII is online at Amazon! The story relates the action and the aftermath the disastrous Battle of Loma Alda, in which the fierce Okan and A′oan war bands come up against a previously unknown enemy.

Not until months later could Kaybrel bring himself to talk about the savage combat with his wife, Maire, herself a powerful chieftain as kubnath of Silba Lek and as well as Moor Lek. Here he relates the battle’s events, in retrospect as the two lay together in their marital bed.

 §

In their bedroom’s darkness, the scene came back to life before Kay’s eyes. He described it as he saw it.

“Don’O, he doesn’t realize the others are coming up his backside, he’s rallying the men to fight the company charging from the left. I spur my horse through the mess—there’s so much confusion, it’s just chaos—I try to get close enough to yell to him back-to-back, go back-to-back! He hears me, doesn’t look like he understands, but he’s a good man, he follows orders, and I’m yelling the order to our men myself.

“Right next to us on the line are Rik’s men. I can’t see him, don’t know where he is, and Rik’s monja is down—he’s already been hit. Maybe Rik has fallen, too, for all I know. So I yell the same order to them, and then Jag Bova rides up beside me. He hasn’t got all his armor on but at least he’s on his horse. I tell him to take Rik’s men back-to-back, but he knows, he’s already shouting the order and calling out Puns! Rozebek! To me!

“Through this cloud of dust, all those roiling bodies, I can see Fallon trying to shove his way to his own men. But I know he won’t get there, and he’s not going to be at my left, and then, God help us, the first wave hits.

“I push the Demon forward, into it and into it, and my blade, it’s like my blade flies by itself. You hear the ring of steel on steel, blade on shield, blade on blade, and then that thud of blade on flesh, blade on bone. You’ll see something like an arrow, it comes arching for you through the air, slow, insanely slow, but you don’t have time to think how crazy that is, because you’re too busy cutting your way through the enemy’s foot soldiers. They’re running hard at your men, and then come the horsemen, and they’re the ones you really have to fight. You can’t just slice them down like you would so much windblown grass. Because they’re kubna, same as you, and you know the glory is going to fall to one of you, him or you.

“Pretty quick I come up against one of them, a big son of a bitch, he looks even bigger inside that metal armor the Espanyos wear. The Demon lurches to ram his horse, and his dodges—very nice, I think, trained as well as mine—and before I can get done admiring him I take a swing at him and miss. He feints, but I know that trick and wait for his move, and just as I figured it comes hard on the feint. I’m ready for him, his sword slams against my shield, and damn! He almost knocks me backward off the horse. And then out of the racket somebody’s arrow bounces off his shield and in that fraction of an instant I jab at his flank and cut him.

“But the bastard doesn’t go down. He kicks his horse out of reach and then without a pause he charges, and then it’s horse on horse, man on man. We slam into each other, and if my leg hadn’t been caught between the two horses I’d’ve been thrown, but by then I didn’t give a damn. I started to swing and he did, too, and I got in a blow and then another and then another and then Fallon is there and somehow, together, we push the rider back into mob.

“God, Maire! God, I was so glad to see him.

“He grins—you know, the way he does? He doesn’t have all his armor on either, and there’s blood running down his right leg. But we have no time to think about that, because now we’re in the middle of it.”

Read what happens next! And please leave a review — your insights will be appreciated.

Is an Ice Age in Our Future?

Is an ice age in our future? In a word, yes. So the world we see in the Fire-Rider books is not at all fantastic. In fact, it describes the future of humanity, at least in North America, pretty accurately.Well, yes. In a word: yes. The future history of America and our descendants may very well include a one-two punch: extreme human-caused global warming followed by an ice age, complete with the return of huge glaciers and deep cold.

Duke University Professor Hadley Cocks explains why this is not a “maybe” sort of thing. About 2,000 years in our future — the very time in which our hero Kaybrel of Moor Lek flourishes! — a new ice age will overtake the globe.

Scientists have learned past ice ages have been triggered by shifts in the earth’s orbit caused by cyclic gravitational pulls from the giant planets Jupiter and Saturn. When these occur, the earth’s orbit stretchs, catapulting the planet a further from the sun — and from the sun’s warmth.

But won’t all this global warming keep the earth warm even if it wanders a little further from its star?

Well, in a word: no. Our stash of fossil fuels will run out in about 300 years. After that, the carbon dioxide that pollutes our air and water will be absorbed into the seas and locked up in newly forming carbonate minerals.

“Such processes won’t be offset by the industrial emissions we see today,” says Cocks, “and atmospheric carbon dioxide will slowly decline toward preindustrial levels. In about 2,000 years, when the types of planetary motions that can induce polar cooling start to coincide again, the current warming trend will be a distant memory.”

So the world we see in Fire-Rider — an imagined “future history” — is not at all fantastic. In fact, it describes the future of humanity, at least in North America, pretty accurately.

“Nature is as unforgiving to men as it was to dinosaurs,” Cocks reflects. “Advanced civilization will not survive unless we develop energy sources that curb the carbon emissions heating the planet today and help us fend off the cold when the ice age comes.”

So it goes.

Image: Shutterstock.

Ghosts!

The supernatural haunts all the men, women, and children of the Great Lacuna, whether Hengliss or Espanyo. The peoples of both cultures believe only a thin membrane separates the physical world in which humans an animals live from the vastness of the Other World. Northerners believe the dead pass to a place not unlike the world of the living, only much more comfortable, where they are reunited with their loved ones and continue in bliss through eternity. Southerners divide the afterworld into heaven, hell, and burgatorio: a hallway of penance and testing.

Whatever they imagine comes after death, people of both sides are convinced that ghosts and spirits infest the earthly plane.

Tavio Ombertín, like most other Espanyos, believes in isburdos de noche: “night ghosts” that come after a person in the dark and, with an icy touch, beckon their victims into the other world. Haunted by the real screams of his mother and sisters, who were raped and slaughtered in front of him, he is convinced that their night ghosts are nearby, and that they want to take him with them into the realm of Death.

This is not a light thing. Because everyone accepts the reality of ghosts, demons, and spirits, trouble — or at least a considerable hassle — could arise if Tavi’s fear spreads among the other chachos and to the Hengliss men. Kaybrel, in his capacity as kubna and therefore as his followers’ religious leader, understands that if Tavi’s near-hysteria gets back to the high chieftain, Lhored, they will all have to put up with an elaborate exorcism ceremony. And Kay is never in the mood for one of those.

Privately a skeptic and an apostate, Kay has little patience for Tavi’s superstitions. After a frightening incident leads Tavi to tell Kay’s trusted sidekick Fallon about the isburdos, Kay has to hustle up some fast damage control. Later, highly peeved, he tells the boy to keep his belief in spooks to himself. This elicits open rebellion from Tavio, who stalks off into the night — ghosts or no.

Tavi’s ghosts populate Book IV of the Fire-Rider saga, as Kay’s will haunt the upcoming Book V. Book IV, Ghosts, just went live on Amazon. Don’t miss it!

So What IS the Strange Language of Fire-Rider?

Begun reading the Fire-Rider series? If so, you’ve noticed some major changes in the English and Spanish languages. And you may be wondering if there’s rhyme or reason to them.

Fire-Rider takes place some 1900 years into our future, after what we think of as “developed” countries have collapsed and dissolved into the sands of time, much like the great cultures of Ozymandias. Languages change over time: they evolve in response to cultural and technological pressures, inventing new words, losing old ones, changing meanings, and changing pronunciation.

A time traveler from Beowulf’s era would be utterly flummoxed by our language, and we, suddenly finding ourselves in his Great Hall, would hear his brand of English as some strange German or Scandinavian dialect.

So the world of Kaybrel, Kubna of Moor Lek, is imagined: language has changed as much as the culture has changed. In Western European languages, such as English and Spanish, certain shifts in the pronunciation of consonants (all the letters except a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y) are predictable. B turns to p and p turns to b. G may turn into k and k into x. T evolves to sound like th; the th of the turns into the th of theater. The sounds of vowels also change, as styles in the way they’re pronounced shift.

Kaybrel, his friends, and his enemies live during the Great Lacuna, a long Dark Age that follows the fall of Western civilization. The people who find and decipher the records of his time, 3700 years from our day, call this period the “Inter-Historical Era,” because literacy had all but disappeared. Written histories disappeared because almost no one could read or write.

Without written language, dialects flourish and pronunciation becomes fluid. The collapse of technological and literate culture would lead — will lead — to rapid language change.

In imagining how places and personal names would be pronounced in the future languages of Hengliss (< English) and Espanyo (< Español), I’ve applied some of the known sound-shift tendencies. Kaybrel’s name, for example, is based on our Gabriel. Lek comes from lake; Doe from Tahoe. Some of the characters’ names are essentially the same as today’s versions: as Geoffrey has not changed since Chaucer’s time, so (for example) Mitchel has not changed in Kaybrel’s time.

Along those lines, many Americans and most British speakers drop the final -r from some words ending in r in some circumstances. Kaybrel is a kubna, a term that in his world means (roughly) “warlord.” If the k was once a g and the b was once a v and the ancient American word ended in an -r, then the word kubna stems from the old American word “governor.”

governor > guvna > gubna > kubna

 A sound that American English uses  more and more commonly — but that we don’t typically show in our spelling — is the glottal stop. It’s the little hitch we make between, say, the uh and the oh in “uh-oh.”   The way North Americans use glottal stops is highly dialectal. Despite the homogenization of late twentieth-century “standard” American English, a careful listener can still guess what part of North America a speaker comes from or — more distinctively — what his or her racial identification is by the person’s use of the glottal stop.

I believe the glottal stop will move more and more into everyday “standard” US English, so that by the time the culture of the United States collapses — and it will, just as Athens and Rome and Egypt did — a glottal stop will replace many specific sounds. The “d” in Idaho, for example, will disappear, turning the region’s name into A′o.

The language of the Great Lacuna indicates that glottal hitch with a straight “minute” sign: ′ .

Each serial installment of Fire-Rider contains a glossary. Most words’ meaning should be easy to guess from the context, but if you’re feeling flummoxed, you can easily find any Hengliss or Espanyo term at the back of the book.

Each book also contains a list of place names and a list of the characters’ names.

You can find all three of these — the glossary, the place name list, and the list of historical figures — at this website, too.