Luke stared up at the ceiling, curled his fist. He inhaled, then exhaled, deep and slow as he could.
Sebastien Montclair had never been so pleased to see his front door in his life.
How does a writer write? It may seem like an odd sort of question, but it is one readers ask quite frequently.
A Stranger Sort of Fairy Tale introduces us to some new places. Some of these places you may have already heard about, but others will be brand new. Arubio is one of those new places. So let’s discover a little more about it.
Arubio is located in the vast Kundalini Desert, not far from the Red Mountains. It has a typical desert clime, with hot days and low nightly temperatures. Snow isn’t unheard of, although that usually happens in the Red Mountains. The Kundalini is a sandy desert with plenty of dunes. Sandstorms are a common occurrence, but rain is relatively rare.
Arubio itself is located over a spring running underground from the mountains. It’s thus a sort of oasis in the midst of a sea of sand. The city lies a few hundred miles inland from the coast. The vast desert protects it from coastal raiders.
Plants and animal life tend to be more diverse within the city walls, as the spring feeds the oasis town and makes water more abundant than it is otherwise. Palm trees and rich, almost tropical, flora aren’t uncommon.
Arubio, the gem of the desert, is the seat of the Arubian Empire. Arubio is one of the foremost powers on the continent, although it is smaller than Rus. It usually settles squabbles with neighboring tribes and protects the people under its jurisdiction from “barbarians,” particularly nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes who live in the Red Mountains or further to the east.
The Arubian king is the head of state. The king is believed to be a divine descendant of the sun god, Helios, who created the incubi to rule over the short-lived human species. Incubi live for a millennium, and so they take a much longer-term view of development and plan for sustained prosperity.
The royal family lives in a castle in the center of the city, although they have land holdings outside of it.
Tarquin is the seventh ruler in the Aurelian dynasty, which has ruled Arubio for millennia.
Arubio is a vassal state to the more powerful Rus Empire. It often engages in war to subdue and annex new territory and expand the empire. It also engages in warfare on behalf of Rus, to enforce Rus’s own authority. Tarquin’s aunt married the Emperor Theophilus of Rus. His cousin Aleksandru is next in line for the throne.
Arubio is the only major center within the Kundalini Desert. As a result, it is a major port for trade flowing north from the south and south from Rus. The arrival of merchant caravans and nobles traveling to other parts of the empire or to court often swell the population.
Arubio is home to many different peoples. The incubi control the throne. They form a large part of the nobility. Not all nobles are incubi, and not all incubi are nobles. Giants from the Red Mountains have also emigrated to Arubio. Humans, dragons, and many others live in Arubio. Fey and Nords are almost entirely absent.
Arubio has some fairly deeply ensconced traditions. The official religion is a polytheistic one with the sun god, Helios, at the center of it. Other gods and goddesses include the moon goddess Selene and Xotil, the rain goddess.
Religious festivals mark the calendar year, punctuated by the two solstices. The summer solstice is the more important festival, although the winter solstice is also a large celebration. It celebrates the rebirth of the sun god and closes out the year. It begins with the solstice and ends with the celebration of the solar new year. The people also celebrate the lunar new year. Spring rituals include the festival of Xotil, which is more important in the southern state of Karakorum. The harvest festival and the celebration of the dead and departed mark the fall season.
The people celebrate a number of religions, however, and the state tolerates them. Those fleeing persecution see Arubio as a haven state; the state does not levy additional taxes or penalize practitioners of other religions, although tensions between groups sometimes emerge.
The people of Arubio are ethnically diverse and most of them speak several different languages. Arubian is the official language. Many people also speak Rus. Many traders find it useful to speak Karakesee, the language of Karakorum.
Dancing and drumming are important traditions in Arubio. Musical history and culture is particularly rich in Arubio, as is traditions of poetry and architecture.
Arubio is a leader in scientific thought and inquiry. The telescope was invented in Arubio, and the calculations for calendars and how large the orb is were also conducted in Arubio.
The writing system is another Arubian invention. It has since been exported and adapted to other languages.
Arubio has a trade-based economy. Most products are imports, as there are few natural resources in Arubio. Arubian industry ships finished products.
Arubio’s agriculture consists mostly of sheep farming and the raising of cattle, camels, or other beasts. The textile industry is large and rich in Arubio; many fabrics and manufactured and made in Arubio, then exported around the world. In Rus, Arubian rugs are markers of class and status.
Arubio’s most dominant industry is mercantilism, with many people involved in trade and commerce. Finance is also common, and there is also employment in education, as the Arubian state supports research and a couple of established universities. Arubio has a state-of-the-art astronomy program. Its desert climate makes it a wonderful place to study the stars and the motions of the heavens.
The black market flourishes in Arubio.
Education is generally the domain of the upper classes in Arubio. Both men and women receive an education. Boys receive a primary basic education in warfare. Girls generally become doctors, nurses, and scientists, primarily due to their attention to detail.
A well-rounded education includes studies in math, science, language and the arts, agriculture, weaving, and caregiving.
Men and Women in Arubio
Women are full citizens, with full rights. The only catch is they cannot sit on the throne.
The gender divide is largely evident in the economy and the realm of culture. Women are generally considered to be more detail-oriented, which makes them excellent scientists and engineers. Men, by contrast, are usually considered more suited for hard or heavy labor, including warfare. Men are typically considered better politicians and lawyers. Caregiving usually falls to women.
Women’s status occasionally conflicts with respected cultural practice, such as the keeping of harems or veiling. Women do not have to veil. Tradition is for unmarried women of the upper classes to veil in public. Some theorize this started as protection against sandstorms, and it isn’t uncommon for men to wear veils during sandstorms or windy weather.
The harem tradition is still strong in noble circles, although the girls must agree and any girl who wishes to be “freed” of the harem must have her wishes respected. Abuse of the practice is rife, however, and better protections are needed. Some groups believe harems should be abolished altogether. The creation of reverse-harems, comprised of men for wealthy women, has many supporters.
Men are occasionally gifted as part of the harem. Same-sex relations aren’t unusual. The royal family, being incubi, have few strictures against sexual activity of any form and since they don’t prohibit it for themselves, do not legislate against it. Only a few practices, including rape, are illegal.
This brief overview can’t capture all of the nuance of Arubio. You can learn more in A Stranger Sort of Fairy Tale, arriving May 8!
A common problem with language is that it refuses to be gender-neutral. Many terms in English are inherently gendered: actress vs. actor, waitress vs. waiter, stewardess vs. steward, and so on and so forth.
Fyodor paused, glancing up as the locker room door banged.
Mason glanced quickly at Dusty, then looked back at the phone.