Well, let me start off by saying that Avnul is a working name for this fantasy world so it might be changing at some point…I’m not sure I like it at all but I haven’t found anything better yet. Regardless, the name never really comes up in any of the stories since it’s not what any of the peoples of the world actually call the world…I just needed something to refer to it by and I think it got tired of being call ‘that world…you know, the one with the Neshelim in it’…that title is also a little bit ponderous for me so…yeah, it got labeled Avnul and I’ve been looking for something I like better ever since.
Anyway, the world of Avnul is, at best, a fairly dark place. The world is real and gritty, the bad guys usually win, and the good guys are lucky if they manage to survive. Honestly, it’s my favorite world to write it, not because it’s dark (don’t get me wrong I like dark) but because it is complex. Avnul is filled with very different cultures with a wide variety of different, often competing, beliefs, it is a place where it is difficult to know what is true and what is false, what is real and what illusion. It is a very gray world where moral choices are not easy and where right and wrong are not always clear. Sometimes a character spends all his strength doing what he thinks is right, only to find out that he was being deceived the entire time. The world of Avnul is also home to some of my favorite characters, Horash (whom I’ve spoken of on this blog), Seshui and Abin-Thul (who have posted on the character blogs), and Chin Cao Yu (who will being posting on the character blogs today along with Gian Ba, also a character from Avnul whom I am developing for a new story).
One of the peoples in this world are the Neshelim, a people who are absolutely moral in everything they do. The Neshelim follow a god who does not forgive, one of the founding tenants of their religious system is that ‘there is no forgiveness for sin’, from birth to death they are taught to obey the law perfectly because there is no second chance. At the same time the Neshelim are definitively evil, they believe that the ‘lesser races’ (everyone else in the world) were created for their use, to be their livestock. Understandably they use the ‘lesser races’ like livestock, for food, labor, sacrificial worship, and entertainment. While a Neshelim would never consider cheating on his wife he wouldn’t think twice about killing a worthless slave in cold blood.
On the other hand you have Chin Cao Yu (Yu is his given name), a man of the Longminjong. Yu is an old man who has lived much of his life burdened by guilt, running away from shame. He wants to be a good man, but often he doesn’t know what the right thing is, knows but is to afraid to do it, or the temptation of his curiosity overwhelms him. Yu is very intelligent, a scholar and a priest…he is also very good at rationalizing his actions. Yu is an excellent example of a morally gray character who has spent his entire life flipping back and forth between right and wrong, often without realizing the difference.
Chin Cao Yu is the main character in my first book ‘The Neshelim: A Journal of the Scholar Priest Chin Cao Yu’. The book chronicles his journey among the Neshelim and the effect which they have on him. I’m not going to give too much away here but suffice it to say that the journey is interesting, and a bit disturbing. The affect that the Neshelim have upon Yu is profound and changes his life forever, ultimately it is you, the readers, who will have to tell me whether or not it is effective.
The power in this kind of story comes from the reality of the interactions between its characters. The visible, but often subtle, influences of one upon the other and the slow, creeping march of inexorable reality. More than anything else it is a story about human nature, with all of its hopes, and fears, all of its successes and failures, and ultimately all of the gray we live in and out of which we try to make sense. This is the value of grayness in literature, grayness is not something we aspire too, it is what we are, trying to figure out what black and white actually look like through eyes that are colorblind.