The Lunar Divine

a sequel story to

The Last Sun Sage


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Already the forest was no longer silent. Bekthe plodded along the mountainside with her hands outstretched, her glowing skin lighting her way. She touched the trunks she passed, and they seemed to sigh in comfort. It was a comfort for her too, hearing their voices after so long.

The jungle’s hums and murmurs had awoken her moments before, and she’d found herself curled against the great tree where her father had performed his sacrifice. She’d fallen asleep out of pure exhaustion. How much time had passed, she did not know. But utter darkness filled the forest all around her. At long last, Night had arrived.

She paused to gaze up at this strange sky, both old and new. She blinked and squinted. What she expected to be a black emptiness was embedded with millions of tiny, bright specks. How could a sky be so dark yet carry so many twinkling lights? They entranced her, filled her with questions. What were they? How far were they? How long had they existed, and what had brought them into being? Were they actually millions of beings giving off light, just like her?

Was there any way they could help her?

She couldn’t think of a way that they could. Somehow she had to awaken her people, but there was no guidance for that either. In all the writings in the temple, her father had not been able to find the answer. No revelation had come to her in prayer. And now here she was, the last walking creature in her world, with nothing and no one to which she could turn for help.

That realization bore down on her, compressing her chest as she stared helplessly at the glittering sky. She thought of her mother, the first person she would awaken, if she only knew how.

What if she never figured it out? Her father always told her that the answer would come, she would find it…But how could he know that? Even if he was beside her right now, there was no help he could provide her.

Continue reading The Lunar Divine

Trials and Divinations

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Sun, moon. Fire, water. Light, dark. Death, rebirth.

We’ve always been fascinated by cosmic opposites.

I knew when I first proposed the idea for The Last Sun Sage that I wanted it to have a second half, an invocation of the moon, embodying these opposites.

Thus begins our next triptych, our first ever sequel installation, The Lunar Divine. The story picks up shortly after the events of the Sun Sage triptych, so you may want to get up to speed if you missed that one! Young Bekthe’s father, her guiding light, sacrificed himself to save their civilization in the face of the descending Night. (Parent, child.) Can Bekthe be the light for her fallen people in a new age governed by shadow and moonlight?

While The Last Sun Sage was very much on the fire and brimstone end of the spectrum, The Lunar Divine explores a different kind of sacred space: private, serene, mystical. I pulled out all the stops for the Sun Sage‘s instrumentation (full orchestra and full choir), but I chose a greatly reduced ensemble for this next piece: piano and women’s choir, a kind of pale reflection of it’s predecessor’s grandiose forces. I toyed with the idea of incorporating a boy soprano solo as well, but ultimately felt that a more streamlined ensemble was better here, and the absence of men from the chorus helped represent Bekthe’s new state: fatherless, alone.

Continue reading Trials and Divinations

The Night Is Young…

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“Lost” from Oculus Story Studio

 

Already, the forest was no longer silent. Bekthe plodded down the mountain with her hands outstretched, touching the trunks she passed. A comfort for them both. The jungle’s hums and murmurs had awoken her, and she’d found herself curled against the great tree where her father had performed his sacrifice. How much time had passed since she’d fallen asleep out of pure exhaustion, she did not know. But the sky was black now. It seemed that at long last, Night had arrived.

In two weeks, we will be reunited with Bekthe after the sacrifice of her father, the last Sun Sage. She lives now in a world of night, where many earthly centuries might pass before the Sun returns—if it ever does. Prophesied to be the only one able to revive her people and lead them into the new age, Bekthe knows she is her people’s last hope. But guideless, orphaned, and alone, her own hope wavers.

 

How could she be the one that would bring back her people and lead them through the Night? She was nobody great, and she had no great ideas.

Just like her father had written, she was only a child.

But as we know, Bekthe is nothing if not resilient.

How to Grow an Alien

Our triptych this month will be a continuation of the The Last Sun Sage, focusing on the character Bekthe. She is the daughter of the Sun Sage, so it follows that her appearance should be similar. Let me take you briefly through the Sun Sage’s development, which lays the foundation for Bekthe.

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The Sun Sage is still disappointed with his lack of pants.

In developing the Sun Sage character, I followed certain parameters. I set limits to provide consistency and realism, which is especially important if you want people to find a story about plant people believable. Here is the information I knew that would affect his appearance:

  1. The Sun Sage is humanoid.
  2. He has plant-like characteristics.
  3. He is living on a heavily forested (but withering) planet.
  4. His culture is reminiscent of the Mayans and Aztecs.
  5. He is a Sage–both an inheritance and a position in his society.

Just with these 5 pieces of information, I knew what his underlying anatomy should look like and what cultural/environmental factors affect him on the surface. I also knew what not to include and what attributes were higher in priority. I could give him ceremonial garments like Mayan priests–a good idea to reference their culture. However, that would then give me less options for incorporating plant elements. Why have clothes when you can “grow” clothes? I went with a “natural” look to the Sun Sage’s exterior and decided reference the Mayans in other ways.

With both Bekthe and the Sun Sage, I started with a human base. I imported the model into Sculptris from Daz3D. These models are a great starting point for humanoid characters–half of the work is already done! I then proceeded to sculpt directly on top, starting with the face. I looked at depictions of Mayans in petroglyphs for the dramatic profile-view as inspiration for the face structure. From there, I added all of the same elements as the Sun Sage onto Bekthe’s body, just in different proportion. The head “petals” are inspired by orchids, the collar area by tree mushrooms, and the other bits by a combination of flower and leaf structures.

Everything added onto the body is designed to highlight part of the anatomy. By following the natural contours of the musculature, I can make the leafy appendages look organic and functional.

Deciding which part to differ in Bekthe’s design from the Sun Sage led me to a few key areas: the head, the collar, and the hips. Initially, I thought giving her a more elaborate collar area than the Sun Sage with be a nice regal touch. The downside to that option was making her look too mature. Bekthe is still a young girl, so I needed to go with something that would be appropriate for her age. By reducing the collar area and increasing the hip area, I create a silhouette that looks more like a youthful ballerina. Not my initial intention, but I think she rocks her shroom tutu.

 

The Faerie Queen

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O’er bridge and brook you’ve found a faerie realm,

behold a rare ethereal tableau.

The moonlight peers between the beech and elm

and sets the faerie revelry aglow.

 

Beguiling bells and flutes the clearing fill.

What sweet music, what strange and simple cheer.

But hidden stay you, traveler, and still.

This merry scene hides more than does appear.

 

See the queen, motionless upon her throne.

She stares, unblinking, silent as a tomb,

Like a broken fountain of old, cracked stone

watching the garden flowers ‘round it bloom.

 

A prisoner and captor all in one,

Unless the faerie magic comes undone.

 

For not a faerie is the faerie queen.

She is all of nature’s wrath incarnate,

spellbound in this form–fair, pale, and pristine

skin of snow, eyes of lustrous garnet.

 

The music calms the waters of her mind

as she watches her subjects sway and sing.

Dancers shake their shimmering wings in kind,

while others play, plucking fox whisker strings.

 

Night after night, their music fills the air

til daylight, when at last their queen’s eyes close.

To cease before, the faeries do not dare,

and risk destruction if she ever rose.

 

They’re prisoners and captors all in one,

both slaves and master ‘til each morning sun.

Of Carapace and Fiddlehead

Within the fairy court you find a small throne perched on a branch of oak….

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My process for illustrating the upcoming triptych has involved imagining a dark fairy queen and her twisted throne. Because we’re dealing with fairies, all of the materials that they’re wearing have to be both organic and naturally small in scale. Building a mental list of objects, I thought of the traditional fairy mediums: flowers, leaves, branches. However, there is an untapped bounty of natural objects like seed pods, insect parts, and bone that are not often used, and also happen to be on the creepy end of the spectrum. Take two fern fiddleheads, some insect carapaces, and a couple of twigs and you have yourself a stylin’ seat.

Something unusual with the initial stages for this sketch was the relatively direct progression from thumbnail to final sketch. I always make a couple initial sketches to explore a concept and experiment with the composition, but the best composition for this one ended up being the first scribble I laid down on paper. It will probably be another 5 years until I witness another miracle.

In the above series of images, the top left is what I would call the “final thumbnail”. I made the reference image directly below it by assembling together two sculpts I made from scratch (the throne and mouse skull) along with a default female model in Daz3D. With this image and two other pages of photo reference, I made my “final sketch”. The final sketch will provide me with a detailed road map while I make the final digital painting on top.

What will transpire in the fairy court? You’ll find out next week! In the meantime, you may want to refrain from crossing woodland bridges.

Fairy Bells and Midnight Spells

You have done well to make it this far, traveler.

The bridge and stream lie at your back; never mind the course of water now flowing at an uphill tilt. Before you, a moonlight-dappled path twists away through the tangle of trees. You may hesitate and think to turn back, but a sweet chiming of bells drifts to your ears, beckoning you forward. They seem to weave a serene enchantment through the entire forest.

A warm summer breeze caresses the shivering leaves. Is that an owl calling in the distance? No, the breath of wind carries the keen of a pipe carved from a weeping tree…

Your footfalls reverberate in time with the low beat of a drum. As you approach the fairy court, a new passage of music comes into focus, plucked by elegant fingers on strings stolen from a silver horse in a vale bathed in moonlight–long before your kind first ventured here…

Do not push aside that broken branch and enter their circle, stranger.

Do not fall in step with their swaying dance.

Do not listen too closely to their lulling song, trespasser.

It may be the last music you’ll ever hear.