Three Companions

When two enormous hero-type people come out of the desert demanding your lentils, why might you have a confident smirk on your face?

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Almost Real Symbiote, Sketch 3

I’m starting to work out the specific physiology of the Crescent symbiont in the Crescent/Frond symbiote project that I’m doing for Almost Real.

Its gills look like eyes, its eyes look like mouths, its mouth looks like genitals, and its genitals are in its gills.

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Almost Real Symbiote, Study 2

The Crescent/Frond symbiote I’m working on for Almost Real, here in some greater detail as the design develops.

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Almost Real Symbiotes

This month, I started work on a piece for issue 3 of Almost Real, the biannual speculative biology zine. The theme through the issue is undersea creatures, so even though I’d wanted to work on previous issues and hadn’t really been able to, this one made me sweat. And then they shared the assignment list.

One of the available assignments was symbiosis. So I started falling all over myself to do it, and now I am! And I’m really happy about it. There are going to be a few developmental sketches before it comes together, with the final appearing first in the magazine, itself.

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Getting Ready to Go Out

The Bloody-Handed Name of Bronze includes a little section about makeup and hair because the game asks you for descriptions of stuff all the time and I want to seed the conversation with imagery from outside the European aesthetic (and the European second-artistry that is modern Fantasy)

This image will be very small on the page. But since I set out to draw someone beautiful, I kinda…couldn’t stop. A little bit, I fell in love.

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That Which Is Made to Give

We here in 2019 in the post-colonial late-stage Capitalist Earth are really hooked on the idea of money. But it’s not an obvious idea, and modern economists even have a hard time describing what it is.

The World of Names is big and Earthen-Being are small; While the Giants strode across it like a single field; and to the Descendants of Heaven all distances are as one; to even the boldest Earthen-Being, the reach of their life is like a single poppy seed in a field stretching far past the reach of the eye.

And so, when an Earthen-Being has a desire and does not wish to force its satisfaction, what have they to trade in foreign lands that those recognize as worthy of the satisfaction of that desire?

Money, or things that we think of as money: a stone weight in the form of a grasshopper; two links of golden chain of which only 1000 were ever wrought; three glass rings to be worn in the hair of those honored by the previous bearer.
Clockwise, from left: two of the thousand links of gold chain wrought by the famed smith, Shebahfzu; a stone grasshopper used by the Gashab Family of merchants, inscribed with the sigil of the family; and three glass rings used by the Jigham people of the Western Desert, worn woven into the hair and clothes, and given to show honor.
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Tiamut, Mother of Chaos, Womb of Salt

Among the Great Names, none are as dread, nor as venerated, as that of Tiamut, who taught the Earthen-Beings right from wrong that they might rebel against the Giants and taught them writing so that lies would persist as long as truths.

It has been difficult to portray her. Tiamat, from whom I draw inspiration, is described in two ways: the salt water mother whose union with the fresh waters of the rivers birthed the world; and as a terrifying monster described only in glimpses that usually sound like a sphynx with the head of a lion, hands of a human, wings of an eagle, and udders.

Since Labiasam is the Mother of Sea Monsters in the World of Names and I wish to be faithful to the mythological feeling of the setting, I’m being completely unclear about which is what.

That said, here she is in my first decent sketches. I think she will be something like this in the final. I’m making her features just slightly human, but I don’t want her to quite be personable. The character I’m keeping in my mind is that she’s like a 50-year-old woman, who’s had her kids who have grown up and now she, more than anyone, knows how absolutely everything works.

My favorite canonical feature of Tiamat, by the way, is the pomegranate of wisdom growing out of her head, echoing the Forbidden Fruit of Gan Eden (do your research, Christians!) and Persephone’s pomegranate that makes her retreat each year, bringing winter.

What are heroes like in The Fifth World? Absent sedentary, agrarian life, how do their culture heroes demonstrate the values of their society?
I wonder what Fifth Worlders have to say about symbiosis. I bet they think about it a lot.

Kalush, Buried Beneath the Twins

When the Giants quarreled, they brought forth many monsters to do their violence before Ummud conceived to form the Earthen-Beings out of red clay. The great serpent Kalush was birthed by Ishmu to seize the ruby heart of the river Ufaret and hold it close that Shutu might not regain it to place it again within her ribcage.

Kalush was trapped here beneath a seal, inscribed in the Language of Names, unable to see the light of day until Gushab and Adanu managed to move aside the stone. They are considering if they have perhaps made a mistake.
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