Tenebros is a land of mad gods, ash-grimed paladins, pagan huntresses and honor-bound knights. It’s an island divided into two countries, a land split by generations of crusades, atrocities, and the lesser wars of reavers and thieves, bound together only by a common faith and their fear of the feral gods that roam the pagan night.
Welcome to the first in a series of articles that will introduce you to the world of The Books of the Winter Sun. I hope to give you a tour of Tenebros, its people, its religions, and the magics that bind the world together while also threatening to tear the people apart. More than that, I want to give you a look at how and why I made things the way they are. Tenebros has been forming in notebooks and in my mind for nearly a decade. I’m very happy with the final creation. I hope you get as much joy out of the place as I got in its formation.
One of the clever people associated with marketing the book has described The Pagan Night as “Game of Thrones meets Princess Mononoke.” I think that’s a good description, but not because I was trying to channel George Martin or tripping on Miyazaki. I like to believe that our source materials are similar, though. Where Martin is recreating the War of the Roses, I am drawn to the slow integration of Angles and Saxons following the conquest, as well as the absorption of pagan traditions into early Christianity. Couple this with my fascination with religion in all its forms, add a dash of shintoism, and you get Tenebros.
Once, the Tenerran tribes of the north worshiped the spirits of nature without interruption. They learned to channel and bend these gods through personal sacrifice, offering their bodies as hosts and their blood as food, bringing rain to their crops and living in harmony with the beasts they hunted and the land they harvested. They were at peace.
Along the southern coast of Tenebros, the Suhdrin lords ruled from stone castles and prayed in dark towers. They came from across the seas, bringing with them a druidic religion of season worship, their gods the twin lovers of Sun and Moon, their religion ruled over by a Celestriarch who had broken the royal line and assumed control of the Suhdrin people by force of faith.
These two nations lived in peace, trading when the crops were in, settling back into their homes when winter fell. But all of that changed when Suhdrin traders traveling deep in the north found what they believed to be the birthplace of the god of winter and night, the Gray Lord, Cinder. Word spread throughout the Suhdrin cities, and soon holy armies marched north to wrest the sanctified land from the pagan tribes.
Generations of crusades followed. The eventual result was the slow conversion of the Tenerran people and the establishment of a single rule of all of Tenebros. The two nations stayed apart, mistrust between them sown by generations of atrocity and war, but the banner of the Celestial Church spread across the island. The priests of Cinder and Strife (Bright Lady, goddess of summer and sun) raised altars in all the Tenerran tribes. Slowly the culture of Suhdra spread. The tribes gave up their wandering for settled fields, and their hunting grounds for castles of good stone and warm hearth.
The spirits remained. The gods of the forest, abandoned by their worshipers, went slowly mad. They rampaged through the forests, destroying fields and turning villages into broken timber and blood. The Church formed orders of knights and inquisitors to hunt down those who might keep the old ways, and to put the feral gods to the sword. The Order of the Winter Vow, taken by militan priests of Lady Strife, was created to keep the roads clear and the hearths of the faithful safe. The names of the gods were forgotten. They were called gheists now, and feared, and hunted.
This is where the story starts. A world of feral gods and vow-sworn knights awaits. But in the shadows of the pagan night, the blood that is spilled sometimes feeds those mad gods, and the battles that might change the world are not fought with sword and steel, but with faith, and fear, and silence.