The first casualty of war is the plan.
Myth and Incarnation is the book I intended to write when I started When Dragons Die back in 2010. At the time, I got distracted with the aftermath of the “Dark Lord’s” death, and WDD was the result. Now I’ve finally come ’round to uncovering Ahmbren’s “save the world from the Dark Lord” story… but like everything else in Ahmbren, there are twists. It’s not so cut and dry as classic fantasy. Also, M&I is high fantasy, without any of the steampunk elements found in WDD. The following discusses the title’s significance, and the book is targeted for an October release. (no spoilers; only teasers)
I grew up Christian—Catholic to be precise—so I obviously the story of Jesus of Nazareth had a huge impact on my development. Even after leaving the Church, there are aspects of that story that fascinate me, from a character perspective. In college and several years after, I became obsessed with the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. There’s a wonderful line where Judas says to Jesus, “All I want to know… do you think you’re who they say you are?” What a powerful line.
The Christian story asserts that Jesus was fully God and fully human at the same time (the incarnation of the Word of God). In order to have the full human experience, he had to know doubt, and uncertainty. We see that scene in the Agony of the Garden, where Jesus questions God, “Why must I die?” (Ok, I’m quoting Jesus Christ Superstar, not Gospel… but it illustrates the point of the character that interests me). Along those lines, I had thought that if Jesus were to be fully human, then he had to be born not knowing he was God.
If he was born not knowing he was God, how did he come to terms with that knowledge as he grew? Did he ever doubt himself? Did he ever wonder if he was a false prophet? Did he ever worry he was having delusions of grandeur? How did he separate the myth of what the Messiah was supposed to be vs. what God actually intended?
This leads me to my first theme: myths are built up through stories, and everyone has their stories which evolve over time. The truth of things is always different. We see this in more recent historical examples: the myths that grew up around our founding fathers (e.g., George Washington’s “I cannot tell a lie.”) Myths have kernels of truth or intended messages, but the narrative (or interpreted) details might be non-factual. Even within the context of the Christian story, Jesus himself does not fulfill the expectations of Jewish prophecy, but the truth of his purpose ends up being somewhat different (e.g., his scope is larger than liberating them from Rome).
The idea of gods or spirits incarnating, being born, into human life is not original to Christianity. The hindus have a word for this: avatar. I read a definition once that stuck with me: an avatar is a human incarnation of a spirit not normally bound to the human cycle of reincarnation. In other words, an avatar is a spirit (god, demon, angel, deva, etc) who chooses to be born into human life for a specific purpose. In the Gita, we see the example of Krishna being an avatar of Brahma.
In all these stories, we have the idea of a person being born, and growing into discovery of who they are. I imagine at first they start to have inklings that they are not like other people, and that they have been put into the world for a special purpose.
The title reflects the interplay of the two ideas. What are the myths that have grown up around the foretold Champion and the Archdragons’ emissaries, and what is the truth when their incarnations finally arrive? How much of the prophecy has warped over time? In this book, the concept of incarnation represents the actual truth of something, as it exists in the world. The tension between the two sets the grounding theme of the book: myth versus incarnation.
Myth and Incarnation is broken into three acts. Act One acts as the prologue to the main event (myth vs. incarnation), setting the stage and posing a more traditional problem for the characters to solve. Here, the story assumes a classic form: the gathering of an adventuring party (in this case, on a pirate ship) in order to slay a dragon. The unlikely band of outcasts each have their own motives which bring them together at the signs that an ancient enemy is stirring, sorcerers are returning to the land, answering the call of an evil dragon. By the end of Act One, three of them are told that they are not like the rest of their crew, and are connected to an ancient prophecy involving Archdragons.
Act Two explores the concept of “Myth”. The party splits, and some continue to journey the world in order to solve the problem posed by the dragon and his sorcerers while gathering more information about the prophecy. Meanwhile, the three potentials are trained by the High Wizard to prepare themselves for their destiny. They learn that, long ago, the Archdragons decided they needed to work from within mortal history, as participants, rather than imposing their will from outside. As the three’s journey progresses, questions begin to arise as to which part of the prophecies are real, what do they mean, and what part of the myths have twisted over time. The three potentials wonder whether they’re supposed to be agents of the Archdragons, or whether they are the actual incarnations of the Archdragons themselves. Finally, an even darker possibility emerges: are the Archdragons truly good, or are they foreign spiritual parasites, hiding until the time is right to annihilate the mortal personalities of their vessels and possess their bodies?
Act Three focuses on the theme of “Incarnation.” The truth of the three potentials and their relationship to the Archdragons is finally revealed, and (without spoiling which of the above permutations is the “correct” one) they now act within the world as incarnate avatars. But how much of the reality holds true to the mythology, and are they going to be able to accomplish the plan that the Archdragons laid out millennia ago? Is the world ready to be saved, or is mortal life even more complicated than the Archdragons could ever have anticipated?
Coming in October 2014 to Kindle, paperback, and Nook