​Asphodel Inspirations and History

​People have asked me in the past what the Asphodel Cycle's inspirations are, and the answer to that question is very simple. I wanted to take traditional fantasy characters and set them into a world where Greco-Roman mythology was history. The Asphodel Cycle is the political and social consequence of the first Ilian War--or, in other words, it's a return to fight the second Trojan War. The Pantheon is comprised of the classical Greek deities with a few guest stars from Sumerian and Phoenician mythology (blame the Romans--they conquered nations by assimilating their customs and religions into their own). So all of the gods and goddesses in the Asphodel Cycle are actually real , with their traditions, attributes, and persondeitiesalities intact. Several of them have Hellenized versions of their original names, while some have minor or Roman names instead of their familiar ones. Artemis/Diana, therefore, is referred to as the Virgin Huntress for most of the story, and her secondary appellation as Eileithyia (who is a goddess of childbirth associated with Artemis) is her name among the gods.

As for the Elven Realm, the Elves begin as the stereotypical fantasy race of Elves with all of their normal prejudices, faults, and heroism. Elves are caretakers of nature and the wild places of the earth who have used their unique gifts to not only isolate themselves from the other races in Asphodel, but who have also fallen away from the worship of the goddess whose chosen people they are. They do not eat meat, do not hunt, do not travel outside of their forests, and do not appreciate humans--and particularly human mages. This isolation began when the Elves refused to participate in the first Ilian War, and after that decimated two generations of humanity the Elves sealed off their forest and their capital city Leselle. Two centuries before the Asphodel Cycle begins, the Elves were beseiged by the humans in the surrounding kingdoms in a series of battles called the Elfwars. The Elfwars were basically an extermination of the Elves, who refused to wield weapons of metal and whose elemental magic wasn't powerful enough to defend against the wide-ranging sorcery of human mages. The Elven Realm was dwindled to only a few thousand surviving Elves when Aresen, the god of war, intervened on behalf of his sister's chosen people. He sent the gift of metal magic to the mountain clan of Elves under the leadership of Breon, and Panathea, goddess of wisdom, created the gift of mind magic. The elements of metal and mind were added to the basic Elven elemental magics of fire, earth, water, and air. All Elves possess the small magics of nature--and only a very few throughout their history have ascended to become Woodsland Lords, Elves who can command the power of any living thing. Breon's clan began to craft the Elves' first swords, and he took them to the Elven King whose name was Antir. Between the two of them, they were able to rally the Elven Realm and save their people from extinction. Breon's clan was ennobled, becoming the Ka'Breona ('ka' means house of) house, and these Elves have traditionally served as the generals and strategists of Leselle.

But after the Elfwars, the Elven King set out in search of his missing sister, Kaldarte--the Elven Seer. He found her, incredibly, at a nearby estate called Asphodel, where a young human girl name Elyssia had brought the Seer after she'd been injured and nearly killed in battle. Naturally, the Elven warrior fell in love with the human girl, and married her despite objections from both sides. In this manner, the royal Elven bloodline was introduced into the Asphodel family, creating the half-Elven Asphodel house. After the birth of their son, Antir was assassinated on the edge of the Elven forest, and when Kaldarte refused to take her brother's crown, the Elves were left without a king. The Elven Realm was ruled by a Council of Elders until such a time as the royal house of Antir, the Ka'antira, would return to the throne.

And while the Elven Elders conveniently forgot about the Asphodel bloodline, Kaldarte and her mate Arami did not. The Elven Seer knew the eventual ruler of Leselle would originate with her brother's descendants. She left Leselle with her family, including her three sons Lamec, Morrote, and Wilden, and moved to a clearing near the border between the forest and Asphodel. There, she maintained a watch over the royal heirs of Leselle, and when the time would come that she must protect the final scion of her brother's line, she would be well-placed to do so. Eventually her sons grew up. Lamec Ka'antira became a leading voice on the Council, while the twins Wilden and Morrote entered the service of a powerful human mage, Mariol de Beotte, whose proximity to the throne in the neighboring kingdom of Ansienne and his reputation as a friend to the Elves would prove invaluable in the years to come.

And the story that begins in THE RECKONING OF ASPHODEL is the culmination of all that history when the final Asphodel heir, Tamsen de Asphodel, is confronted with her powers and her doom on the day her powerful uncle, Gabril de Spesialle, comes to her home on a spring day to eliminate the Elven royal house forever. Somehow, this half-human, half-Elven girl must find a way to reconcile both sides of her nature, and lead her kingdoms to the ultimate arena of good versus evil.

Before the ruins of fabled Ilia. 

​​The Five Realms

One of the most time consuming aspects of being a speculative fiction writer is world-building. Coming back to the world of Asphodel created multiple dilemmas for me. First off, I'd written over 20 books in the decade since the last Asphodel novel came out. My writing style had changed substantially, and it wasn't just Tamsen's voice in my head anymore. Fortunately, tucked away in a corner of my linen closet was a file box full of notes--the world of Asphodel, compiled back when writers still used paper. I'd written a first draft of a book set in that world when I was 17 and a freshman in college. But when I wrote The Asphodel Cycle, I was new to the real world of writers. And so I went through the entire world-building process. I created maps, family trees, family histories, the mythology, culture and history of each individual kingdom or race. I created the subsects of gods, demigods, random immortals, and monsters. 

And I created the five realms. The empyrean realms are basically heaven, or Olympus--where the gods live their day-to-day nymph-hunting, war-causing, hero-begetting existence.  We don't see much of the empyrean realm for a reason. 

I haven't written anything there yet.

Just below the empyrean realm is Godspring, or the dream realm. This is where three brother gods supervise the creation and distribution of dreams--Phobetor, Ikelos, and Morpheos. In Greek mythology, true dreams fly through a gate made of horn to the mortal realm, and false dreams through a gate made of ivory--two elements I retained in Asphodel. But the composition of Godspring is my own. Each blade of grass is an individual dream--the ones growing closest to the poppies and herbs by the entrance to Godspring are the more fanciful dreams. The ones growing furthest away, in the gloomy twilight in the distant expanse of Godspring are nightmares. They are tended by the Oneroi, who then select and deliver each dream to a mortal. Ikelos watches the nightmares, Phoebetor the dreams of prophecy and portent, and Morpheos delivers dreams to the gods. There is no map to  Godspring; the landscape shapes itself according to the viewer's expectations. The very fabric of the realm consists of nothing but magic, which makes it a valuable commodity for a god to be able to tap into.

Below Godspring is the mortal realm, which is pretty much what you'd expect it to be. 

Below the mortal realm is the realm of Chaos, the solitary goddess who manufactures the raw material spun by the Fates, who exist in a small outcropping between the mortal realm and Chaos. This material is the substance of everything, and consists of pure magic. No one knows how powerful the Fates are, or Chaos is, and no one--not even the gods--is willing to find the answer.

Yet.

The final realm is the Underworld, the domain of Dis. Here all mortal souls are sent to be judged upon their deaths, and their ultimate fates decreed. Most souls will be sent to await rebirth. Some move on to the Hall of Heroes, a sort of Valhalla where mortals who have lived extraordinary lives are honored with what basically amounts to immortality. Souls who have spent their mortal spans as criminals or orchestrating cruelty are punished by the Furies--usually in a set sentence of torture--before they are allowed to regenerate into a new life, hopefully reformed. And a few are obliterated entirely by Dis, mostly those who commit great crimes like genocide or gross impiety against the gods. Dis and his Queen, Persephone, are just but stern rulers and very few mortals or immortals have ever observed the workings of Death in his dark realm. 

So between The Asphodel Cycle and The Black Dream , readers learn a great deal about three of the five realms. 

​That leaves two that are still, for the most part, a mystery.