Here’s a little basic info on the story. I assume that you have already read the “Back of the Book” blurb earlier in the blog, so I won’t post that again here.
Our main characters are 8 young men, all 20 Summers old (the term “years” is not used in Greystone to refer to age… instead, age is referred to by number of Summers one has lived). In Greystone, men and women typically begin their formal apprenticeships for their careers at age 18 (informal apprentice work can begin years earlier), then become true adults in the eyes of all at age 20. At the beginning of the story, the 8 guys are divided into three groups that eventually meet. Here is the line-up with simple descriptions of each character.
Argand Mason and Kosin Fletcher are traveling together to the capital of the Protectorates, Greystone City. Argand is the son of a stonemason and an excellent swordsman who rejected apprenticing under his father in favor of joining the local patrol (police force) of his hometown of Eagle’s Reach. Kosin is the son of a master weapons maker in Jesserin City (not far from Eagle’s Reach), and is a skilled knife thrower and archer.
Max Chemael, Brien Page, and Varix Cooper basically grew up together in Greystone City. Max is the son of a wealthy politician and is the nephew of one of the five Dukes that govern the five Protectorates. Instead of following his father’s footsteps into court business, Max chooses to use his uncanny skill as a swordsman by joining the Grey Shields – the army of Greystone. Brien, whose father runs a messenger service for governmental affairs, and Varix, an orphan who meets the two others as a youth in school, also join the Grey Shields. Brien has no interest in his father’s business, and is an even better fighter than Max. Varix, an orphan who grew up in the poorer Southside District of Greystone City, apprenticed as a barrel maker, and was happy to leave that behind in favor of being a soldier.
Lastly, Loric Sarindon, Surk Brayburn, and West Currier are also old friends. Surk and West hail from the town of Southern March and have known each other since they were toddlers, while Loric grew up in another region entirely. But Loric spent his childhood summers in Southern March visiting his grandmother who lived near the two others. Loric has been raised to be a hunter by his father, a professional Huntmaster. Surk comes from a long line of blacksmiths, but while he loves the trade, he is looking for more. West is the son of a wealthy business man and is known for his intelligence, but he would rather be known for his skill as a warrior.
One of the oldest traditions in Greystone is called “Venture”, where brave young men or women aged 20 or older travel into the dangerous Black Mountains to test their courage and skill against the wild animals that live there. It’s a test with a reward; by tradition, anyone who survives the perils of the Black and returns with the head of one of the terrifying near-monsters that infest the heights is granted knighthood. Knights of Greystone are then assigned to serve under one of the five Dukes of the kingdom or, for the bravest and best, to serve under the King or Queen directly. The knights become, based on their skills and talents, the commanders of the Grey Shields, of the Pathwatch (a law enforcement organization for matters above what a local patrol can handle) and of the local armies within the duchies. They are celebrated and praised, and live lives of luxury as highly paid warlords.
But for every person who becomes a ducal or royal knight, there are dozen and dozens who die in the attempt. Such is the nature of going on Venture.
And naturally, that’s where our 8 heroes are headed. While they do not all intend to go on Venture when the story begins, they all end up traveling together to the Black Mountains. Many things happen before they reach there, as they each begin displaying strange powers and skills that frankly freak them out. At the same time, as a set of other very important characters (seven women, also all 20 Summers old) are slowly introduced. But more on the ladies in a future post.
More to come!