Symbolism within Fyskar

The Kavordian Library consists of the books: Fyskar, Subject15, Polaris Skies, and Subgalaxia. These books come before Gods of Fire. I say that, because most people are not aware that The Fire in My Blood, though the 1st book in Gods of Fire, is the 5th book in the series, starting with Fyskar.

This is going to get super spoilery for people who don’t like books being spoiled, but I wanted to talk about some of the deep level stuff in my books and thought I’d start from the beginning with Fyskar.

Fyskar initially started off as a dream of a guy named Shale taking a gas mask off a sleeping man who had been his partner in the gulf war, only to find out the guy was the last of a rare tribe of people. Dream cut off there, thanks brain.

So, I played with the idea, but nixed it in favor of switching to a plague mask, which landed me in historical fiction territory. I wrote Polaris Skies first of this whole batch, and a couple chapters in Subgalaxia and Subject15 before going – “hold up, I need to back way up to the start of this whole thing”.

This story is built for you to specifically get to the fourth book and understand what it is for history to wipe you from it’s pages. For you to hate what the world can do to an individual just for them to be forgotten. How entire peoples can be obliterated and the world keeps spinning, a hollow void slowly filled in as the living generations disappear and the stories are lost. It’s my love affair with archaeology. It was my therapy for dealing with not becoming the person I set out to be because the world ticked over.

The four books are also structured such that you won’t get all the information on the first read.

Fyskar takes place in 1692 – 10 years after the Daleroch clan destroy’s Eoin’s clan. Eoin was born in 1659. The Great Plague of London was the last major outbreak in 1665-1666 – leaving Eoin at the age of 7 when his mom and dad died of plague. Impressionable enough to remember plague masks, just enough in history that a living generation would remember the horrors.

So, shall we begin?

All Sun Makes a Desert

– Arabic Proverb

Chapter 1:

We open on a poem by Eoin about returning home. The closing of the book is him returning home too.

Bágh Faoileag translates to Seagull Bay. Birds pop up in my book a lot as a symbol of both freedom and captivity and a play on the bird mask of the plague. I found a lovely website that listed the birds native to the Isle of Skye that also listed when they were regularly sited. Mentioning the Brent Goose specifically was to show the migratory pattern and set up the season the story was starting in.

An engraving of a birlinn in Oronsay

I had a fascinating day of researching ships and boats common to the Isles around Scotland in the 17th century, their uses, and their cargo depths. I did reach out to the historical society of the Isle of Skye along with several realtors to see if I could get some input on accuracy of houses and history, but amazingly enough I couldn’t get a single person to return any of my requests, so I probably didn’t approach my requests well. If I come off historically inaccurate in the book, it was not for a lack of trying.

The next interesting issue was clothing. I used it as a way to show wealth and difference. Coming in dressed as an Englishman with camel leather and falconers gloves was an interesting choice, and way to make him different. The sky blue of Eoin’s main garments is a throwback to the dominant field color of his tartan. Yes, I realize that tartan’s have a wobbly history when it comes to fiction and accuracy. I figured I could get away with it because it rode that line between the 17th and 18th century when established systems were set down for the colors and clans. Fyskar is a variant for Fisher and the colors for the Fyskar tartan are based off shades of the ocean, like most early tartans are a camouflage or easily accessible dye color from the local area.

I took the better part of a day and a half learning what colors were historically accurate for leather dying techniques in 17th century Persia when it came specifically to camel hide. Yes. Red is an actual achievable color. I also chose it as a way to represent Eoin’s rebirth from being a person of the Isle of Skye to a person of Persia.

The gold and turquoise brooch was a gift from Marduk. Persian turquoise comes from Iranian mines and was used as the coloration for a lot of the blue tile work in the architecture there. It is also called Neyshabur turquoise – after Shabur the 1, which literally translates to King’s Son. Really deeply buried reference to both Eoin’s past and Marduk’s position.

Marduk get’s explained a few chapters later into the book, but bear with me as I explain other things first.

Back to clothing. Those stockings. They were a weird deviation into fashion history for me. Also, a way to throw back some info on why King Henry VIII died. He suffered an injury and because he was diabetic late in life, by tying his stalkings too tight, he essentially ruined his blood flow in his legs which turned necrotic, killing him. I don’t mention Henry, but I do mention the stockings because I thought that was interesting.

The names of characters, such as Hepsibah, Magaidh, and Beatrice are all traceable back to a 17th century Scottish church register I found posted online. This also includes Eoin’s father, mother, husband, wife, and children. I will qualify here that I have no idea how to pronounce their names correctly.

I’ll try to save the name thing for a little later because that one can get deep and weird all at once.

Fearchar’s appearance has to do with a large section of my dad’s side of the family who claim heritage to the Craig clan. They’re all strawberry blondes who couldn’t grow a mustache to save their lives well into their late 40s.

Let’s talk money. Or how hard it was to work out what regular pay was for people in the Isle of Skye circa late 17th century. From what I could figure, silver and gold were used, but both were pretty much a rich person’s coin. So the gold coin bet was set up as Fearchar making an entire year’s earning if not more when Magaidh bet him.

Chapter 2

Eoin’s motions, such as when he greets Magaidh are based on the French sign language. I found one reference to a very old text on sign language in French circa 17th century, but was hard pressed to locate much in it other than the alphabet as a single picture. This is the particular for why Eoin speaks “the Norman’s language” when signing.

The mention of MacDonald clan by Fearchar has to deal with the Massacre of Glencoe and the signing of allegiance with William III the Prince of Orange. Fearchar might enjoy battle, but he doesn’t want to see the Jacobite rebellion again.

When Fearchar accepts the coins from Eoin,he starts referring to him as Weard – which has some origins in use of the term “bread provider” or “provider” a variation for calling Eoin boss. Slowly through the book I have Fearchar switch from Doc and Weard to Chief to Laird as he learns more of Eoin’s titles as a sign of respect.

Food wise, in the marketplace, Eoin doesn’t buy the pork, and through the whole of the book I never mention that he eats it. He does drink alcohol though. This was not uncommon for the period – seeing as not all water sources were safe. I was trying to give a throwback to his years spent living in Persia and the taboo around pork. Also, just the history of the import of pigs to the islands and how finicky the creatures can be to raise, especially in cold environments.

*Side note – I make a dig at William and Mary in a different chapter purely out of spite because I applied for the college and got rejected on the justification of being 1 point shy from their ACT cap when I had been accepted for Honors College at a different university. I wanted to go to William and Mary. So, yes, I took my frustration out on the college.*

The Daleroch was derived from a name that is no longer utilized as a clan name, it went out of use some time in the 17th century from the records, so I figured I could get away with using it for a clan I was going to wipe out.

Conner Daleroch – his first name means “descendant of hound” or “lover of hounds” – yes. I was calling him a son of a – or a reference to the old say “those who lay with hounds beget flees”.

Romney, is named such because his name means “winding river” – seamed fitting for a ship’s captain.

Apothecary cabinet circa 1890s-1900s

I had a hard time finding a good reference for an apothecary cabinet from the 1600s, but there has been evidence of traveling midwives and doctors well before then, so I ran with the concept that one could have been built back in the time period easily enough.

It was not uncommon knowledge within royalty and nobility that a poison tester was kept on hand. Eoin keeps the apothecary box not only to act as a doctor for the people, but also to keep track of a wide variety of poisons he was responsible for keeping Marduk from getting sick from. I really wanted to take a history of medicine class in college, but you had to be in the pre-med program to be able to take it. That sucked because it was a history class and I was getting a Liberal Arts degree in Art History and History and so much in the way of art deals in poisonous pigments and so much history is preserved through the act of preserving human life. I still want that class.

Chapter 3

So, pressing question, why did I make Seonaid a prostitute? Honestly, I had just watched a series of fascinating documentaries on the position prostitutes held from the most powerful pirate captain in China to the bordelos of the American West. It was one of the few jobs, as long as it wasn’t within a pimping ring, that women could make a substantial amount of money. Frequently unmarried, it meant that it was their money and not their husbands. They were some of the few who bought their own property because they had the money to do it with. I wanted to show Seonaid as a woman who could find her own way in the world. At the same time, I point out between Eoin and Fearchar’s interactions that if the world wasn’t the way it was, she would have been something else entirely and been good at it.

Poor Eoin, I have Seonaid go prancing around him naked, thinking he’s some virgin and for him he’s having a hard time because A: he hasn’t been around a lot of women, let alone naked women, in about 5 years and definitely not in that capacity, and B: he isn’t touched much and she’s invading his personal bubble. This is more just me having a veiled conversation with myself about how I find people attractive and don’t like being touched because I have a difficult time figuring out if people are flirting with me if they are touching/invading my personal bubble.

It’s not that I’m not a cuddly person. I like snuggling and that dopamine release that comes with the anxiety reduction. Touching is just intimate to me and anything outside of that just raises a bunch of question bubbles above my head where I have to navigate – is this person trying to greet me, comfort me, be comforted, what do they want because it’s not what I’m probably projecting here so back off no touchies. Hiss, hiss.

Chapter 4

The Golden Eagle, Qasim, one of Eoin’s birds. The name comes from the meaning “One Who Distributes” which harkens back to Eoin’s use of the birds in his rituals of communicating with the dead.

Chapter 5

Eoin encounters home. What was home. What was filled with love and everything dear to him. The table his husband carved. Conner is housed in Douglas and Torchall’s old bedroom, and Eoin, having to treat the son of the man who killed his own sons, is faced with the decision of poisoning the man or saving him.

Honestly, in the book, I was trying to figure out how Eoin would go about killing off the whole clan when I decided to have him not kill Conner. So, when Fearchar starts mentioning making the whole thing look like plague, I had one of the biggest “oh, no duh” moments in my life. Gotta love 5 a.m. shower thoughts. It looks like it should have been the obvious conclusion. It was not.

Killing of Magaidh was one more level of pain to add to Eoin’s life. But, I needed for him to be free of ties to the Isle for when he left back home.

Chapter 6

Okay, this is where I probably screwed some things up with traditions, but I made an attempt. Hogamany.

There are some aspects to this that I picked up on. Dark haired individuals were supposed to be better luck for first footers – the first person to cross the door at midnight. A good omen for the house. Eoin has white hair, a bad omen to those living in the house.

Hogamany is a clearing of debts and a cleaning of the house before the new year. This is, in a way, Eoin clearing the debts between the Fyskar and the Daleroch, cleaning house so to speak. Closing the book on this phase of his life.

Salt and coal were more traditional practices for gift giving, though alcohol was not entirely unheard of. A sharp object was another bad omen, and Eoin brings a hatchet with him. If I could set up bad predictions any more, it would have been a bit explicit.

Some of the blessings of the dead are sporadic tidbits of traditions I have strung together from a variety of pagan blessings harkening back to stories of the Picts, the Gauls, the Britons, and the Druids.

Chapter 7

Hello to the old dream. The one that started it all.

Alfr is an old name for elf, which derives from the proto-Indo-European for White. Eoin is not albino, but he does have the Tolkien elf appearance that Seonaid points out. He’s supposed to look starkly different from the people of the Isle. Enough difference to be the last of the Pict. I play with the history of the Pict by floating the idea that they had a recessive psychic power as a way to point out how the witch persecution, or for that matter, a persecution of a people and their destruction can wipe out a great many things from the world. This is the “there were once psychics in the world” story.

Eoin’s torc is a reference to a gold horde found in the Middle East that proved trade between the Celts and through the reaches of the Roman empire. One of those “not completely impossible” elements.

The long hair thing. Quite a lot of cultures, at least within the pagan religions, see the hair as an aspect of the life force, a connection with the supernatural. Also, for the visual shock factor. This was initially constructed to be a webcomic after all.

You remember how I mentioned touch to me is intimate. I approached Eoin in a way of, if people could touch me, if they could walk into my soul and sit and chat for a while, what would I show them, what could I tell them? Where would I be? The void, to me in this set of stories, is the soul’s home, where they felt love, felt safe, felt accepted. Eoin’s is in Egret’s Nest, not Marduk’s palace.

I think, at this point, I shall call it quits on a symbolic dissection of my book. Maybe, if there’s enough interest, I can do another batch of chapters.

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Chapel Orahamm View All →

I am a writer and artist working through the Kavordian Library series. I write sci-fi, fantasy, lgbt romance.

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