Welcome to the world of Laoche! This is the home of all the stories in the (appropriately named) Laoche Chronicles, including a main trilogy (that has yet to be named) and the prequel, Storge. I first came up with the story in middle school, and as I learned more about the writing process, realized that I would need to write the prequel first to set everything up for the series. Now, I’m returning to my original concept, and revising it, which includes some updated worldbuilding and a new approach to my process.
All of this would be explained in-story as well as the reader follows along with the main characters going about their lives and navigating the conflict, so this isn’t strictly necessary to know before getting into the story. However, I’ve found that explaining it in an informational way like this helps people understand what on earth I’m talking about online, so I wanted to share. I also hope that a case-study like this will help be an example of what works (and what doesn’t) when you’re making a high/epic fantasy. 🙂
To start I’m going to share a map, so that all of these locations actually make sense.
When I first revisited this story, I realized that A) I’d lost most of my notes when that thumb-drive got stolen in 10th grade, and B) Most of it was pretty cliche, since I was 14 when I came up with it. So I pitched everything but the premise and my three favorite characters to start over from scratch:
The Premise: Madelyn (a mage with malfunctioning magic) and Seth (ex-prince of Arga) discover a magical artifact that changes how they view magic, and shifts the balance of power in the world, then have to deal with the ensuing fallout.
What I knew from Storge: The setting for the main trilogy takes place roughly a thousand years after the events of Storge – which is set in an approximation of the late ancient world in Maaren. At the end of the story, an event that causes a loss of centralized knowledge and diaspora of people, so the world enters a sort of medieval time as local border wars break out. Technology that was lost is starting to be rediscovered. The magical artifact is a powerful staff with strange properties that was hidden away for safekeeping in the ruins of an ancient city.
Starting from this much information, my first question was, “How does magic work, and how can it get broken in the case of Madelyn and the Staff?” Surprisingly, the inspiration from this answer came from my chemistry and electrical engineering classes where we talked about energy. In Laoche, magic is the ability to manipulate the energy of the world. On a fundamental scientific level, there are 4 main types of magic”
- Conduction/Transformation: converts energy around you into a new form of energy in a different place. People with this ability will carry around sources of magical energy in the form of charms (batteries) and are better at detail work and very specific spells. In Storge, Lyss, Esil, and Anda Laine all have this type of magic.
- Generators/Batteries: These people can generate and store incredible amounts of magical energy within them and release it in huge bursts. They’re incredibly powerful and act as human charms, but need to control their magic. This is Luca and Madelyn’s ability – at least, until she loses it.
- Amplifiers: increases the amount/effectiveness of magic in an area and makes a spell more powerful. Enne uses this type of magic to hear her surroundings, as if echolocation were an orchestra.
- Resistors: can’t be hurt or affected by magic and can silence it in their surroundings. Grace has this ability, and uses it to get the upper hand in fights against mages who rely heavily on their spells.
People can improve their abilities with training, study, and practice, but it’s very difficult/against one’s nature to try attempting the other types of magic. There are also specific materials, like charms, that embody one of the four types. For most people and materials, changing between them simply impossible. The catch: The staff is stuck in a state of superposition. It’s nature is that it can switch between any of the types, like how a semi-conductor will switch on/off, and let computers run. What does this mean for the world? New tech, and new weapons.
Now that I know that, the next question is “What is the balance of power?” I need a status quo, so I know how people react when that changes.
I knew from my old idea that Seth is the ex-prince because the mages of Arga overthrew the royalty, forcing him into exile with Madelyn – but I needed more than that to explain why he was able to escape, and where Madelyn was during the coup. Before, my villain was a campy pure evil old wizard with no character dimension, and I wasn’t sure how to fix the story when the driving force behind it was so boring. I spent months debating this with myself until I was sitting in Calcus one day my senior year of high school, listening to my friend say, “I would kill to get into [College.] I’m joking, but still.” My writer brain promptly went, “What if?” A furious period of scribbling in my notebook (and not doing my homework) later, I had my new country and my new villains:
In the new growing Empire of Arga, the royal family is largely a figurehead and mediator for the two groups that really run everything: the warlords and the mages. The former commands the military and enforcement of law throughout the kingdom, while the latter runs the bureaucracy and internal affairs of the kingdom. In order to continue growing the empire, every child aged 17 and above must serve for one year in the military away from their home. During this time, they’re hypothetically trained in discipline, respect, responsibility, and a trade of their choosing. At the end of this term, they’re allowed to return home with a small stipend to start their new adult lives, or they can continue climbing the ranks. That is, if they return. The system is somewhat rigged so that the children of conquered areas are sent to the borders with the most fighting, and there’s no guarantee of making it home again safe.
One way to avoid this is by joining the academy: the prestigious college run by the mages to prepare young scholars for positions in the government. Any student can take the tests, but only a few will be powerful and trained enough with their magic to actually pass and gain admittance. Staying in school is another battle entirely, but if you manage to get to the end of your coursework, do an apprenticeship, and complete your final field assignment, you’ll be given your reward. The families of anyone who graduates from the academy automatically get immunity from the draft as well. Of course, this system isn’t fair either – kids who could actually go to (good) schools, who’s parents could pay for tutors, who have connections in the government already, have a better chance of actually succeeding in the system. But it’s what exists, so people do their best to deal with it.
The Characters and how they fit into all of this:
Alric: a poor kid from a wrecked rural area who’s magic is just strong enough to get him into the academy, and who’s younger brother is due to be drafted next year. He’s desperate to pass his final test, keep his siblings from the war. He’s picked for apprenticeship by Volon, one of the masterminds that’s planning the coup, who encourages Alric’s anger at the system and starts influencing him to think that the royals are the real problem.
Madelyn: A poor kid from the inner city who didn’t have access to a very good education, and entered one of the government orphanages so she could be closer to the libraries and teach herself how to manage her generating abilities. She’s a prodigy, and is quickly accepted as the ward of Chien-Shiung – one of the foremost researchers in the magical equivalent of theoretical physics. Despite being a few years younger, she’s part of Alric and Stephan’s class.
The Princes: The elder is Stephan, who has magic, and abdicated his place as the heir to the throne to join the mages in an attempt to protect his younger brother, Seth, from their machinations. While Stephan tries his best to be a normal student, he can’t escape his heritage, and can never be sure whether his superiors want to use him as a pawn, or put a target on his back. Meanwhile, Seth steps up to fill the shoes of crown prince, trying to train with the warlords and quell the growing unrest between the two factions.
So now with all that set up, I could come up with the new premise!
Madelyn, Stephan, and Alric are students together at the mage’s academy in the capital city of Arga, and the story opens on them receiving their final assignment: to retrieve a legendary staff from Maaren. Madelyn is ready for an adventure, Stephan is ready to move on from school, and Alric is ready for murder. His mentor, Volon is planning a coup, and promised riches and safety for him and his family if he could get rid of the “princeling problem” while he was conveniently out-of-country. The deal is too good and Alric is too desperate to pass it up.
In the wake of his betrayal, Stephan and Madelyn are separated and presumed dead in a dangerous foreign land, and Seth is forced to flee for his life. He journeys to his brother’s last known location, but only finds Madelyn – furious, hurt, and missing her magic. Despite their reluctance to trust each other, it’s all they have left, and so together they set out to find Stephan, and a way to fight back against the mages and their new staff.
This is the most important worldbuilding I have so far! There are so many other aspects of this story I want to explore and so many other characters I want to introduce down the line. I have religions set up, potential subplots with a whole culture of sea-faring people including avians and merfolk, not to mention all of the different fantastical creatures that call this world home, but I’ll share those another time. I hope you found this interesting! If you reached the end, thank you for indulging my rambling about this silly idea I’ve been chasing around for the past 6 years like a cat chasing a laser. Thanks for reading, and happy writing!