Paul Nabil Matthis
ORKSONG is the completed first installment of an adult fantasy series traversing bitter rivalries between powerful mages against the backdrop of an expansive world on the brink of a resource war. The novel is a loose adaptation of a Syrian myth using new takes on classic fantasy races, a migration story exploring questions of cultural displacement and bigotry. As a half-Syrian writer, I love utilizing the scope of epic fantasy to examine the interplay between race and identity, particularly for individuals of mixed ethnicities like myself. ORKSONG is a multimedia project involving recorded music and a role-playing game currently workshopping around Los Angeles. This site is a supplement to the novel, containing music, images, languages, and other aspects of the world of Midan. Thanks for visiting!
About the Author
A brief bio
I'm a writer and musician living in Los Angeles. I've published one short story in an indie fantasy anthology called Champions. I have an MFA in music from California Institute of the Arts, where I composed for award-winning dance and film works, and also wrote and performed in an original urban fantasy rock musical. My compositions have been in over 30 festivals around the world, and I’ve written, consulted, and performed for grant-funded projects in California and New York. I front a band called Madapple and run a live-looping music channel on YouTube currently at about 95,000 views. By day, I work in IT support and technical writing. I grew up abroad and am an avid backpacker; the mountain prominently featured in ORKSONG is inspired by real-world mountains I've climbed. I love tea more than anything and always sample new kinds wherever I go!
Get in touch
Artwork inspired by the novel
Recordings (In Progress)
You may navigate to other pages on this site while the music plays!
Definition of terms
One of the five sentient races. They average 4 to 5.5 feet tall, have dark or ashy grey skin with white or silver hair and light eyes, usually red, orange, or yellow. They ask the flame.
The kell goddess of wood and nature in general.
The manipulation of the element associated with one’s species. There are five aspects of the asking: the hadi ability and its cost, the body, the proximity effect, and the emotion tied to it.
The duarven goddess of stone.
A long, meandering river running east-west across the northern duarven territories.
The highest order of Faeric Master, a title few possess. Attaining it involves mastery of fighting forms, musical performance, and the Resonic language, as well as memorizing a large canon of noted works. They are agents of Mother Rin, with abilities of pure vibration not tied to a single element, though the poets have often named the wind as Rin’s element. Some say this is simply because it's an easy rhyme.
The eastern half of Zerzura City. Its residents are considered lower class.
Monsters that infest Mount Hermokh, theorized to be corrupted beasts from living too long in the Deeps. They grow larger with age and are white or grey in color where not covered in red boils. They are generally venomous, hard-skinned or carapaced, extremely aggressive, and very hard to kill.
A region densely populated by bogynn, directly south of the Southern Ward of Zerzura.
Chamber of Hob
The deepest chamber of the Temple of Hob, sealed behind an ancient, heavily warded door. It houses the Zerzuran Greatward and a shrine to Doraz Mottlecloak, which includes her fully black faerstone armor.
Also called The Citadel-upon-Hermokh or the The Ælven Citadel. It was the fortress of the Ælf-King Ulenor, a huge complex whose main purpose was mining the faerstone of Hermokh to fuel the ælven Faeric Masters during the Faerstone War.
A duarven city to Hermokh’s southeast. It contains a prominent university and urban stoneshot network.
Large black birds, one of the few who freely venture to the elevation of Zerzura.
Also called The Mottlecloak. Originally a Tier 6 slave in The Citadel mines of Hermokh, she rose to the rank of Tier 5 overseer and fell in love with with a Tier 4 liason named Ainwo, a midderling ælf. She is an entirely self-taught Faeric Master, and is viewed as a god by the orks she liberated from the Citadel's slave mines.
One of the five sentient races. They average 3 to 4.5 feet in stature, but can sometimes be as wide as they are tall. They are pale-skinned, often with freckles, often blond or red-haired, and have pale eyes, usually blue, green, or hazel. All duarves can grow facial hair, though it’s usually lighter for females. They ask the stone.
A region of Hermokh between Cobhail and the Rim. Formerly the Citadel and its grounds.
A major ælven city on the border of the duarven territories. Castle Eterna dominates its skyline.
The study and use of faerstone.
An individual who has devoted their life to the study and use of faerstone. There are many classifications of a Faeric Master, such as Bard, wardsmith, gaoler, and blood warrior.
The product of smelting fully black faerstone with iron. It still receives weak wards, and can “conduct” the abilities of the asking or drawing through faerstone, functioning as a focal point. Most Faeric Masters have a faeron implement to aid in their practice.
A mystical red mineral that magnifies the asking tenfold, as well as providing myriad purposes for the Faeric Masters. It streaks with black the more it’s used, and when a piece is fully black, it loses its power.
A duarven city due west of Hermokh. It contains one of the last functioning Greatwards.
Ganry Quarter, The
Collection of large estates in the northwest corner of the Zerzuran Basin, home to wealthy merchants.
A useful flowering bush. Its leaves produce an expensive blue dye, and its roots can be used in various foods and beverages, including alcohol and tea. The scent of its root is used by the matouks to help stave off the rage.
A large and powerful ward. All are ancient, as there is no longer enough faerstone to build new ones, and many have been broken, dismantled, or destroyed.
Groves of Hathir, The
The sacred groves of the kell, full of Hathir trees from which new kell are birthed.
The ork god, twin to Promæthan, who defied Rin and did not create a race out of jealousy. For his defiance Promæthan struck him with his flaming sword, and Gromm fled. From his blood sprang the orks, which spread all across the world.
The trance-like state required for any asking above a rudimentary level. In Resonic, it loosely translates as “to pass through.”
The human deity of water. Hob is genderless and can take many forms.
One of the five sentient races. They average 4.5 to 6 feet with brown or copper skin and dark hair, usually curled or frizzy, with eyes of brown, black, or hazel. Their kind have grown scarce since the ælven atrocities, hunted down for their ability to mate with other races, producing midderlings. They ask the water.
A close member of the ælven royal lineage who has been put in charge of a stronghold.
Literally, “finders, keepers” in Resonic. The unofficial motto of the Zerzuran Basin.
One of the five sentient races. Most kell range from 2 to 3.5 feet, but can be larger or smaller depending on age and circumstances. Like the plants from which they gain their asking, their appearance varies wildly. But once they age, they will generally develop a carapace on their back and shoulders.
An Auger-class duarven tanker built by the Saugus family. It’s a carrier sea vessel with a hidden compartment for smuggling freed slaves and refugees to the north.
A single-bladed axe with a haft anywhere from 4 to 6 feet long.
An annual warrior’s tournament in Zerzura, comprising of two days: the Day of Firsts and the Day of Champions. Those who win the Day of Firsts may compete in the Day of Champions the following year. Both Champions receive the Five Boons: the honor, the feast, the song, the title, and the blessing. The blessing is performed in the sealed Chamber of Hob far beneath the Zerzura Temple.
How the midderling orks of Zerzura refer to themelves. It means "freed-people" in Resonic.
A non-human sentient individual with at least one human ancestor. Some consider the term offensive.
The godhead deity that gave birth to the universe with her song, and the Five, her children, who created each of the five sentient races.
One of the five sentient races. Their average height ranges from 6 to 8 feet. Their skin is green, with dark eyes and straight, dark hair. Most cannot grow facial hair, and what body hair they have grows in well-defined patches. They ask the blood.
Ælven plantations situated between Eterna and the border of the northern duarven territories.
Four black ward towers, one for each cardinal direction, that sit on the very edge of the Rim facing outward. These have several mysterious properties, all toward keeping bogynn and outsiders away from the Zerzuran basin.
Terrifying hunter hounds controlled by the ælves used to seek out prey, usually escaped slaves, refugees, or criminals.
The ælven god of fire, twin to Gromm.
Also called the veil, the crimson veil, or Gromm’s curse. This indicates the orkish ability to go into a berserker’s rage when they experience physical pain.
Kell who die may be reborn in a rebirth tree. If the tree is destroyed before this happens, the kell dies forever.
Wavy, often symmetrical or fractal patterns that visually repesent tones, rhythm, and sound. They can grow extremely complex very quickly, and commonly involve arithmetic for true accuracy. They are highly individualized, and Faeric Masters can often sense them when around others using the hadi. They also occur naturally in the wake of the asking.
Traditional faeron implements of the Faeric Masters, always used in pairs. They have no sharp edges, but are highly acoustically tuned.
The complex language of music and the faeric arts, consisting of three forms: linear, graphic, and kantori (melodic). There are 129 common runes and thousands of graphemes. Kantori takes years of study to learn and a lifetime to master.
A ring of peaks and cliffs that surrounds the Zerzuran Basin. It is broken only by a narrow ridge to the south through which the Saimhee River flows.
An enormous creature of living ice and snow that can take various forms. Resides in Elivagar.
The common language spoken by most cultures in Midan, although there are many different dialects.
The river that bisects the Zerzuran Basin, a collection of many streams from around the Rim. It ends in the Saimhee Falls by the Southern Ward and continues to spiral down the mountain, spilling into the sea at Thornwaithe.
A blanket term for the city and isles near Sanctuary Harbor. It was the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Faerstone War, which the humans lost. It’s now controlled by duarves, but as a major trading hub sees all types of individuals pass through.
Ælven corps who handle phirir for the purpose of recapturing escaped slaves, mostly kell. Can be used for any tracking, such as criminals or even anyone of a particular race.
Slave Tiers (ælven, antiquity)
Tier 1 - apprentice (ælf)
Tier 2 - indentured (usually debt, can be occupation) (ælf)
Tier 3 - criminal (as a punishment/sentence) (ælf)
Tier 4 - liason (midderling ælf)
Tier 5 - overseer (any non-ælf excluding full ork)
Tier 6 - slave (any non-ælf, all full orks)
Western half of Zerzura City, considered middle class or well-to-do.
A mode of railed transportation resembling a mining cart with seats and emergency breaks, powered by duarven stone asking. They come in many sizes, from private luxury to freighter, the latter of which can transport a several hundred individuals plus cargo.
Temple of Hob
Also called the Zerzuran Temple. A large temple to the human deity in Zerzura. Its single entrance is flanked by twin waterfalls, and all of it resides underground. Near the surface it is a series of ornate rooms for various ceremonies, meals, study, and training, and descends into cavernous chambers further down. It also contains the major infirmary of Zerzura.
A hundred or so islands east of Sanctuary, each with its own unique culture and commerce.
Usually bluish white with black patterns along the spine and forehead. They live in the northern tundras and tend to hunt nocturnally.
A human city to Hermokh’s northeast where the mountain meets the sea. It is the only city with which Zerzura trades, thus by proxy the only major source of faerstone to the eastern cities.
Faerstone or Faeron inscribed with Resonic and reson patterns, which stores complex combinations of runes, chants, songs, prayers, etc. for a wide variety of purposes.
A Faeric Master who uses faerstone to create and maintain wards.
Less urbanized duarves of the western ranges, particularly the Gamela Mountains and plains to the south. They are aggressive and proud, and still have a king.
Also called colorless or runtling (offensive). An individual with the tusks and claws of an ork or half-ork, but with skin ashy green instead of brown green, white hair, and bright red eyes. Usually smaller in stature compared to a half-ork.
A four-legged dog-like animal that can vary greatly in size and coloration.
A wandering monk of antiquity, assumed human or midderling.
Also called the Zerzuran Basin. A hidden matouk city in an enormous valley at the peak of Mount Hermokh. It is surrounded by the Rim.
With Monk Morning Dew
Greetings! Welcome, acolytes, to your lesson in Resonic Runes with Monk Morning Dew of the Order of Hob. One welcomes you on this most auspicious day!
Resonic Runes are the ancient lettering of the Faeric Masters, with which they ask the Strands themselves to thrum to their will. These runes capture the essence of a chant, harmony, dissonance, rhythm, or other aspects of faeric arts and the asking. Its three forms are Runic, Connected, and Kantori, as well as the slightly different Numeric syntax. One will take us through the Runic and Connected forms, as well as a less formal example of each letter, colloquially called handwritten or handwriting style. There are 32 in all, or 33 if one allows for the ælven letter, which most consider archaic. Let's begin!
Letters in Resonic have only one sound. This never changes except in very rare exceptions which we won't discuss today. You will see the pronunciation written Rin's Tongue on the far left, followed by the Runic, then the Connected form, and finally an example in handwriting style. (Ed. note: For more about the calligrapher, visit bangbangmeow.com!)
There are several things one would like to point out. There is a special line one draws to what is called the leading side of certain letters which alter their sound. Since Resonic can be written left-to-right or right-to-left, this is important for consistency and comprehension. Today, we will be writing left-to-right, so the leading side will be the left side. Note that one must never place this tick-mark on the following side, as this format looks like a curse, and is considered very rude!
Usually, this mark adds the throat or extra breath to the original sound, but not always! Learn the difference between the leading-mark and its original letter, but also use it as a tool to learn them more quickly. For example, do you see that K become a throaty KH when a leading-mark is added?
You will also notice that letters are connected by a line through their middle. However, some letters interrupt this central line, while others are bisected by the line. Memorize which runes interrupt and which bisect! Otherwise, your readers will be very confused!
Finally, one would simply like to point out the letter "F", which does not have any other letters that look like it. This is a very old, very special letter, because it begins the prefix "faer" which begins such sacred concepts as faeron, faerstone, and faeric. Some find it is like the sound of wind, which many associate with Mother Rin, mother of the Five Gods. Some monks practice solely this letter for days, months, or even years! Makes one little lesson seem small by comparison, eh?
In the above example, notice the difference between letters such as L, M, or N when they are connected. Not only do they change more drastically than some other runes, but connected L in particular may be drawn several ways depending on the person, region, or race. Some Faeric Masters can tell which of their peers created a particular work simply by their handwriting––sometimes seeing only a single letter!
Here, we see the final standard letters, as well as the additional letter Æ that the ælves use. Most members of the other four races do not use it, and some actively prohibit it, such as the kell (for obvious reasons). Many believe this letter is unnecessary due to the AY rune, but the ælves are particular about retaining their accent, which does in fact pronounce this rune slightly differently than we do. To each their own, pupils! Hob does not judge. Balance, in all things.
This is the Kantori Form, which is a very special form. While one may learn Runic and Connected Resonic in a few days, give or take, kantori takes years to master––some would say a lifetime! Kantori is the pictographic Resonic form, meaning the letters are combined to create shapes, or sometimes simply syllabic images. Their form varies widely, and new ones are created every day, often on the fly as Faeric Masters discover new uses in new situations.
Kantori Form has many uses, but most often it records chants, the most basic skill necessary for the asking and the faeric arts. Since each pictogram represents a complete syllable, these are laid out in a particular spacing to indicate a chant's rhythm and stress. This allows both practical and aesthetic beauty when recording music for others to learn.
We will not be delving into kantori in today's class; however, one wanted to show you all what it looks like. So, displayed are the generally accepted kantori forms for the names of the five gods and their Mother Rin. When not in a chant, kantori is generally written vertically, top to bottom. One has drawn them in boxes to help you distinguish each syllable or pictogram from the next. Can you see the letters that formed the pictograms? What do the images of the forms look like to you? Doesn't Aiku seem a little like a grove of trees? How lovely!
Ah, thank you for your question, Shean! One forgets that those who are not human may not immediately know why there are three spellings of Hob's name. Hob is the deity of humans and represents supreme balance. Thus, Hob has no gender, and we monks prefer to identify as such as well. Thus, the three spellings represent the neutral, feminine, and masculine spellings of our deity's name. A monk will always be neutral and referred to as "they" or "them". You will often see devotees wearing a pendant or other jewelry bearing one of these three spellings; this indicates to strangers which gender they use to identify themselves. Balance, in all things! Can you find which letter is added to the neutral spelling, and where, to make it either masculine or feminine?
Finally, numbers! How Morning Dew loves them so! Numerals in Resonic are always connected by a line at their top instead of through their middle. That's how you know they're numbers! One likes to think of 0 as an empty box, and 1 as a single mark in the sand. Look at how 2, 4, and 8 relate to each other, as do 3 and 6, and even 5 and 7! Can you guess why? I'll give you a hint... What rhythms does one often hear in the music of certain cultures? Do you know which region of Midan favors 5 and 7 for their meter?
The number 9 is another point of interest. It looks a little different than the others, doesn't it? This is because, for a long time, it did not exist! The same was true of 0. Hard to imagine not having a number for nothing, isn't it? In ancient times, only numbers for the eight long fingers existed, and they were used only for notes in a scale and rhythmic counts... and that's all! In fact, the kell developed the numeral for 9, as it is common in their odd-numbered meters. And isn't it really an extension of 3 and 6? 0 came from the duarves, who needed it for their advanced maths. We kept adding numbers! Maybe one day, we'll have single numerals all the way up to twelve! Ha ha!
For your homework, translate these numbers on the right to Rin's Tongue as well as their significance. That will be all for today! Run along to Zyther Thunder for your afternoon martial training. Thank you! Blessings of Hob!