Stephen Zimmer Guest Post

Posted July 2, 2012 by Kate in Guest post / 3 Comments

The Flying Steeds of Ave

One of the things I have had a tremendous amount of fun with in the Fires in Eden series is the aerial dimension.  Yes, I am talking about a prominent, ongoing aerial dimension within an epic fantasy series!   While there are things like dragons in Ave, and many other kinds of flying creatures, I thought it would be great to explore the possibilities inherent in being able to take human and non-human characters alike to the skies in a manner they could direct, via riding winged mounts.
To facilitate this, I envisioned a race of flying creatures existing within Ave that are called the Skiantha, all of which have great wingspans and are four-legged, the latter allowing for them to run across the ground when they are not engaged in flight.  Among the Skiantha are several different types.  These various kinds reflect significant differences in form, and each is found in different geographical areas of Ave that have resulted in the winged steeds leaving their marks on the cultures that share the same lands.
Adding the aerial dimension has a practical component in terms of the writing of the series, doing a lot of things for the story and plot development.  First of all, it allows for a broader reach across Ave in a much shorter amount of time.  Flying covers distances much faster than sailing, horseback, or foot.  Because of this, with the use of flying steeds by characters, Ave instantly becomes more expansive within the story, as longer distances can be factored into journeys and situations of all kinds.  Contacts between realms and individuals spread far apart are also drawn much closer, providing stronger foundations for things like the Unifier’s influence being heavily present in so many lands.
The aerial dimension also expands the battlefield options, bringing in new strategies and tactics to the larger clashes taking place within Ave.  Even skirmishes take on a new level, as readers of Crown of Vengeance discovered early when Trogens swoop in upon a contingent of Saxan cavalry traveling on the ground. 
I don’t want to give away every detail of each type of Skiantha, but I would like to show how they relate to the lands they are found in, and give a little idea regarding their physical forms.
The Bregas are found in the lands inhabited by the tribes of the Five Nations, who are influenced by the Iroquois of our world.  The Bregas have a stockier, bearish appearance to their bodies, which is intended as a homage to the cultural reverence that the Iroquois hold for the bear (the eating of bear meat by one of the Iroquois people, for example, holds deep significance).   The Bregas, while raised by the tribal people of the Five Realms, are not great in number.   
The Fenraren are wolfish in appearance and inhabit the lands of the Midragardans.  The Fenraren are also a tribute in the way that the Bregas are, in that they honor a respected creature of the culture they are found among.   Midragardan culture, which is heavily based upon the Vikings, embraces the wolf, as it does the raven, two creatures that are closely associated with war due to their regular manifestations in the aftermath of battles.  The Fenraren, with their wolf-like forms, have joined animals such as wolves, ravens, and bears in being a strong symbol for the Midragardans.  They have been raised in much greater numbers than the Bregas, and are used by Midragardans wherever they have homesteads and settlements.     
The Himmerosen have bodily appearances that echo Rottweilers within our world.  Though less stocky than the Bregas, they are faster, and are perhaps the most responsive type of Skiantha to their riders.  Found in Saxany, the Himmerosen form the backbone of a special force of warriors led by Aldric the Stormblade that Aethelstan’s closest friend Edmund is a part of.   While not as numerous as the Fenraren, they are not as rare as the Bregas.
The Harraks have a resemblance to a brown hyena in form, and they are found in lands populated by the Trogens and the Kiruvans.  The influence for the Harraks is tied to another kind of Skiantha, the Lavion, which are lion-like and ridden by the Elves, who mostly dwell on a large island to the north of Trogen lands.
The ages old rivalry between hyenas and lions is reflected in these two kinds of steeds, which are mortal adversaries, something that takes even deeper relevance when considering the great enmity existing between the Trogens and Elves.  The Harraks and the Lavions alike are raised in considerable numbers, and the Kiruvans have done well in training and raising Harraks too.   As the Kiruvans and Trogens are both involved with the Unifier, in supporting His wars, the Avanorans have also begun to train and utilize Harraks as steeds.
That’s all I’m going to talk about at the moment.  There could very well be other kinds of Skiantha within Ave, it just too early to say, but I would not be entirely surprised if readers are introduced to new types in future novels or short stories set within Ave.  Let’s just leave it at that for right now!
While the Skiantha are not the only kind of flying steeds found within the novels, as the huge Darroks, cousins to dragon-kind, and the infernal steeds of the Arcamons demonstrate in the first books of the series, they are the most commonly encountered by far.   I hope that readers enjoy Ave’s flying steeds, some of whom take very significant roles within the series, such as a Himmeros named Spirit Wing.  The Skiantha serve a definite, important purpose, expanding story possibilities on a number of fronts, and I am very confident that they enrich the reader’s experience of Ave on many levels. 

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