Light Dawning was a labor of pain that gestated for a year and a half, born of circumstances as grim and dark as the story itself.
Once known as the City on the Hill and revered far and wide for its independence and boundless opportunity, Cestia has become home only to the damned. Surviving under the brutal occupation of a southern empire for three long years, the oppressed populace has lost hope of liberation, turning instead towards an increasingly desperate rebellion willing to commit any atrocity for a chance at freedom.
As total war approaches, four lost souls trapped behind Cestia’s walls are on a collision course with fate, destined to either save the city or see it utterly destroyed while calling on forces beyond mankind’s comprehension. For good or ill, the light of a new day is about to dawn.
What makes your world special or different?
My approach with Light Dawning was to take anything that felt like a standard fantasy trope and immediately invert it or take it as far in the opposite direction as I could. There aren’t any elves or dwarves here, for instance, and there won’t be a backwater rube discovering he’s the chosen one destined to save the world from some dark lord. Looming cosmic horror elements play a bigger inspiration than anything in the typical high fantasy realm.
In grimdark fashion, my goal was to inject the uncaring nature of reality into fantasy, which is a genre where the good guys can usually be expected to beat the bad guys no matter the odds stacked against them. That’s not the case here, where no one is coming to save Cestia or liberate its people. Hope is pretty well exhausted for most of the people in the city, so all that’s left is for each character to decide what they will do with their final days and whether any meaning can still be found in such bleak surroundings.
The book is less about the war going on that prompted the occupation in the first place and more about how the four main characters deal with their situation. The scope of the world at large is very purposefully kept smaller to create a feeling of claustrophobia and being trapped. The walls are closing in on those who have survived the occupation so far. The populace is generally left in the dark about the state of the world outside the city, with only the dead ever reliably making it beyond the gates on the way to mass graves.
Is there a system of magic?
This is one of those areas where I enjoyed taking the traditional fantasy elements and distorting them in various horrific ways. The are absolutely supernatural powers akin to magic, but in most cases they come with serious negative connotations and aren’t the MacGuffin that saves the group of heroes at the last second.
If someone in this world finds themselves with the ability to wield magical abilities, it most likely means they drew the attention of something outside human comprehension that does not have humanity’s best interest at heart. Magic might be useful, but its rarely controllable in a reliable way, and its almost always offered at a severe price.
A large portion of the story actually revolves around how the characters Myrr and Tala deal with being possessed by forces from outside the realm of stable sanity, and whether they try to put those powers to use for the greater good or keep them locked up tight where they can’t do any harm. Trying to use those forces to help the beleaguered people of Cestia usually has catastrophically bad results.
What are the people who inhabit your world like and what systems of government are in place?
Cestia originally was a free city-state with very lax laws where trade flowed from across the continent and very little was illegal, serving as a sort of gateway between the disparate nations to the south and a huge religious kingdom further north. The city trusted its importance to trade – along with its sturdy walls and high position up on a hill with a clear line of sight into surrounding areas – to keep it safe from invaders.
They didn’t expect the type of invasion that came under the command of an Empress who has been busy uniting all the southern nations into a cohesive whole. The specific type of government employed in the southern empire isn’t quite clear, as the people of Cestia are living under an incredibly strict martial law enforced by an order of knights that is half religious, half military.
Discovering scraps of information about the workings of the wider continent at large is a major element of the book, which takes a very ground-view of things through the eyes of people without ready access to reliable news.
Are there any unnatural creatures?
Coming up with unnatural creatures was one of the most enjoyable parts of writing Light Dawning, as I tried to shy away from the typical orcs and so on. Most prominent in this book are creatures colloquially referred to by the people of Cestia as “scuttlers,” who serve Overland Brant and hunt down fugitives. They have multiple long, multi-segmented legs that allow them to move low to the ground or pop joints into place to stand tall enough to be eye level with the roof of a small building. Not much can survive the force of the snapping jaws from either of these creature’s dual heads.
There is a sort of sentient animal who plays a role in this book and will be more of a major character in the sequel. The Knights of the Black Gauntlet stationed in Cestia refer to it as the “Vim,” and it combines serpentine, draconic features with those of an insect, with two sets of buzzing wings as well as arms for clutching a black spear. Its druid rider is an enigma to everyone in the city, as he appears to be involved in the occupation but doesn’t answer to Brant or have any official role in the knighthood’s hierarchy.
Is there a religious system in place?
Cestia used to have a variety of religions, but the dominant one involved the veneration of multiple deities by wise women who utilized knowledge of nature for healing purposes. That religion was quickly abandoned when none of those deities answered the prayers of a brutalized population, and none of those healers were any use in preventing mass executions.
The religion of the soldiers occupying the city is revealed in bits and pieces, as they don’t bother to explain it to the people they are oppressing. This is another area where I turned more standard tropes upside down, as certain characters discover that the knights may not actually enjoy the brutal tactics they are forced to employ, and in fact hold religious rituals begging their deity for the cruelty necessary to do what must be done.
Much more prominent in the book is the faith of Father Erret, a missionary who willingly came to the city and wants to be trapped behind its walls in order to convert the invaders. He hails from that previously mentioned northern kingdom, and was actually booted out of his order due to his extremist views. Calling your superior priests false followers of god and accusing them of failing to properly follow the tents of the one true faith isn’t a wise career move.
Erret is one of my favorite characters, always ready with a verse from his holy book or a religious platitude to quip out for any situation. He worships the light as both a physical personification – the actual light of the sun and stars – and a figurative one, shining “the light” into the darkness of what he perceives to be ignorance.
His interpretation of the religion involves taking humanity as far as it can possibly go, again both physically in the sense of traveling and not getting bogged down in the decadence and corruption of civilization, as well as metaphorically in the sense of growing and expanding in new ways not previously considered. In its basic form, Erret’s religion would probably be benign or even admirable, but in his hands it becomes a dangerous thing. The unhinged missionary would be perfectly willing to burn the whole city to the ground if it meant gaining a few converts in whatever is left of the ashes.
What is one last thing you would like readers to know all about your world?
Like with the real world, there’s always something awful you had no idea to be ready for lurking in the darkness just out of sight, ready to spring and bring you to your knees. I’m hoping this combination of dark fantasy and cosmic horror will strike a chord with readers, and there’s already a sequel outlined and in the works that expands the scope of the world and reveals more of this bleak universe.
Purchase Ty Arthur’s novel on Amazon:
Connect with Ty Arthur:
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Ty-Arthur/e/B0727MRVF8
Official website: https://tyarthur.wordpress.com/
Ty Arthur gets to meld his passions with his work while freelancing for the likes of Metalunderground.com and GameSkinny. His debut sci-fi / horror novella “Empty” was released in early 2016, with many more dark tales still to come. Arthur writes to exorcise his demons and lives in the cold, dark north with his amazing wife Megan and infant son Gannicus Picard.