Thursday, 21 June 2012

Races: Garren

The garren (sing.: gar, also "the scaled people"), are a multicoloured lizardlike race with four
fingers and a spinal crest. The tail is flexible, but clumsy, and can be used as a weapon. If the tail, fingers, or other small body parts are lost, they can be grown back. The crest is covered in soft thin scales and flexible between stabilizing spikes. The colour and pattern can be changed by eating certain foods; the patterns are not predictable. Garren have quick reflexes and are very enduring; they are also cold-blooded, and prefer the warm regions.
"We were halfway towards the tavern door when a gar drew his blades and exploded among us. Within the blink of an eye he had created a carnage the likes of which I've only seen on the battlefield."
— Riinan, mercenary
Psychologically, garren are impulsive and usually the first to act. They tend towards polarized views; being aware of that, they readily seek counsel for important decisions. On the bright side, life isn't boring with garren around; while they can be incredibly lazy, they like sports and love to experiment.
"If you get a garren trader alone, act, and try to rush him as much as you can - you'll get even the most ridiculous contracts through. But be careful of the voices' sign - they are not the same as those garren who have never heard."
— Valini Jiraal, trader 
Artist's notes
I've been asked if a tailed race would voluntarily wear trousers. My answer is, yes of course they would, if their culture tells them to; since there are no cultures on Kitas that don't wear anything, the garren would be dressed.
A tail is a nice body part to play with in pictures; while I imagine the tail to be lizard-like and dragged behind, it can also flinch and twitch like a cat's. Sometimes in fantasy settings, lizard folk are slow and dim-witted, violent, or heavily armoured; garren are a lot more like birds, agile and curious.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Concerning wempons

Wempons are large beasts for riding and carrying. They are almost four meters high, have long horns pointing sideways, are scaled on top and are otherwise clad in thick dense fur. They have large burrowing claws also used for climbing (yes, there are trees on Kitas that can carry a beast of almost four tons), their muscular tails can grab. They are mostly vegetarian, preferring leaves, fruit, and roots, but also eat bugs and the likes.

"Sometimes I wonder why I put up with all this nonsense from that beast. It bites, it kicks, it tries to spear me with its horns. But then it wakes me in the middle of the night to flee from lava, runs over highwaymen, scares off most predators, and intimidates the innkeeper to go down with the stable price. So, all things considered, having a wempon is like have a best friend, albeit a really grumpy one."
— Martel, traveller

They are great mounts if one can get along with them. Wempons are picky about riders and hard to get used to being rented; usually they belong to only one person. Riders climb their mount holding on to the horns or stepping on a bent leg. Wempons need additional training to serve as packing animals, but can then carry great loads - some nomad tribes have herds of them packed with an entire village worth of belongings. Wempons don't like having things dangle over their legs, so the riders' legs have to be out of the way and are pulled up on the saddle.

Being sent to herd the wempons is among the least favourite jobs for youngsters; the beasties will push them around and be hard to look after. On the other hand, it's a good way to become friends with one that will be a loyal mount later.

"Strange to see how friendly wempons are with children, almost like bug fairies. Even stranger to see how vain they can be - once you get the holiday dress on them, they want to keep it, and the paint, too. Silly creatures."
—Martel, traveller


Artist's Notes
These beasts were among the first creatures I stuck with when I began developing Genius Loci, and their design has never changed much. My main inspirations were anteaters, watussi cattle, and pangolins, but there's a bit of elephant and camel in it too, the latter mainly in their behaviour. I often put them in paintings because I imagine them to be ideal travelling companions, even if I made them sound pretty disagreeable. There are also other riding animals in development; for example, riding birds, seen in the salt flats landscape of the "Introducing Genius Loci" entry.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

The Area, and Starmaker

The Area ("Die Gegend") is the parallel mindworld of the Genius Loci setting. It is a global mindscape that can be entered at any point and time, and shows a great deal of own will. The Area is most riddlesome, diffuses the borders between minds, and dazzles the travellers' perception, but also holds great wisdom. Many travellers are cosmologists seeking deeper understanding, answers to a mystery, or need help with spirits. Other travellers are voices, and former voices accompanying them. The real world and the Area influence each other to some degree; the rules are mysterious.

Certain rituals shall ensure the safe return of the traveller. Protective charms exist, but are rare, and a stable mind is the best armour one can have in a land that seems to be made of thought. Those who enter do not leave a body, but are not fully material in the Area either; it is unknown what exactly happens to the body. Items can sometimes be taken from the Area, sometimes not, and it has a knack of keeping things from the travellers arbitrarily.
"The borders between yourself and your surroundings were blurred in the Area, as were those between your companions and yourself. Anyone's nightmare could become everyone's."
— Nin, traveller
 Inside the Area, one will find a landscape that quickly becomes twisted, confusing, and dreamy. Travellers find it increasingly difficult to distinguish between the real world and the Area. While seemingly arbitrary, the Area is not considered evil, but too complex to understand. It does hold treasures of knowledge; but it is hidden in riddles and wrapped in illusion.


Starmaker

Starmaker ("Sternenschaffer") seems to be the only constant inhabitant of the Area and has never been seen outside. She is very mysterious, and it is unclear whether she is an actual person or just another illusion of the Area; even the earliest travellers report meeting her. Starmaker is named after her favourite sign and mark; a shining star that she leaves as a clue. She appears as a human woman with blonde hair - very rare among humans - and golden eyes that seem to be and look everywhere. She is as willful as the Area itself, and, like a dryad, follows a set of unfathomable rules.

"In the same eyes we looked and looked not, from the same voice we shivered and did not. She was a sparkle of moonlight on a moved pond, a spirit in the wind - never clearly seen, but known to be there."
— Kan Rama Jin, elder voice

Artist's Notes
I have always liked surreal artwork, figurative speech, and symbolic meanings. The Area is a way of really going overboard with that. More than in other Genius Loci artwork, the invention goes both ways - sometimes I paint and forge rules out of the result, other times I plan ahead before I paint. The Area is not a dreamworld in the classical sense, nor a ghostly aftzerlife. It was mostly influenced by the Norse otherworld, where you could end up after just crossing a hill or something equally mundane, and that is how the Area works as well - most importantly, unforeseeable.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Introducing Genius Loci

Genius Loci is a world where spirits walk among the people, where legendary creatures cause the rise or fall of empires, and where races share unique cultures. Its mystical landscapes are soaked with magic and populated with riddles and legends.
The Genius Loci blog documents the development of this unique setting, created by artist Jennifer Lange (me). Genius Loci is the name of a fantasy setting taking place on the world Kitas; I describe this setting as a "riddlesome fairy-tale".
Artworks come together on my website jsl-art.de, while additional drawings and sketches will appear in this blog alongside descriptive texts about, well, everything: races, locations, legends...


How is Genius Loci special?

The Genius Loci setting works outside regular stereotypes often found in fantasy settings. It is an attempt to create a fantastical, believable world with a story to it - two worlds, actually, because Genius Loci is not just one place: The real, material world is accompanied by the mysterious Area, a dreamlike parallel world that can - and should - only be entered with special preparations. While not entirely without substance, it is a mindrealm where things are not as they seem.
The setting constitutes that race and culture are independent of each other. Members of the same race do not automatically agree, and there is no such thing as a dwarven country, or elven language.

A fantastic world

Genius Loci means "spirit of place". Kitas is filled with spirits, making it a very magical world. Nature spirits are caring, curious, and self-sufficient; deads' spirits are grief-stricken, violent, and vengeful; echoes are leftover visions of persons who mustn't even be dead; and the most feared of all, the spirit of place - a genius loci - is an overpowering entity that can come into existence at any place, pushing its destructive will on everything and everyone within its domain.
The continents of Kitas are each dominated by one of the elements of water, earth and air, fire, and life, strongly influencing their landscapes.


Names and translations

I'm German, and the original names are German as well. If a name can be translated it normally will be, I will give the original name as well. Sometimes the feel of a name is changed, as in the famous rhyme of the Four, so it may be that I will not give a translation if I couldn't find anything suitable.