It all came down to this.
The city of Telstar has been freed and the enemy defeated. In the streets, the townspeople are celebrating, singing and drinking to the promise of better days to come.
Yet, at the top of an abandoned tower, a secret meeting is about to take place. Although victory was attained, questions remain unanswered. Some of Telstar’s deepest secrets got out and the impregnable city almost fell. It is unclear who betrayed the city and some will not sleep until the culprit answers for the betrayal.
Onthar, a high warrior dedicated to Tyr, deity of courage, takes it upon himself to call on emperor and queen, wizard and warriors, elf and orc, all heroes of the battle, to meet in secrecy and find out who among them betrayed his city.
But these are serious charges and these are powerful individuals. The meeting could easily turn into a confrontation, and if it does, it could achieve what the enemy could not: destroy the very city they all want to protect.
About this Story
The Original Idea
A long time ago (so long ago I can’t even remember the exact year), I started a trilogy in the world of Arvelas about orcs returning to the surface after being forced to retreat to the underground realm. By 2008, I had written, in French, the first two stories (respectively titled “Le réveil” and “Le maître”) but never got to complete the series. I always wanted to come back, revisit the setting and learn what happened. This is where “The Conclave” came in.
The events taking place in Conclave directly follow the third installment (had it been written). That said, it stands well on its own and no knowledge of the previous stories is required to enjoy it. More importantly, it provides the closure I was looking for. For me, it was important to close the gaps left by the unfinished stories in the history of Arvelas. Without that logical series of events, it was difficult to look at the future.
Writing the Story
I started writing Conclave in 2012, in between other projects. Initially, it was an experiment of sort. Similar to Hyperion by Dan Simmons, the first part of Conclave introduces a wide cast of characters one by one. The second portion of the story takes the shape of a meeting, with exchanges on different subjects, as the characters try to unravel the missing pieces of the recent events that plagued their city, so they can find the traitor in their ranks. The idea of a meeting came after I read The Symposium by Plato.
Conclave contains a significant amount of dialog, a wide cast of characters (12, with chapters from the point of view of 5), and offers an in-depth look at many elements of the world of Arvelas. Put together, these particularities make for a risky and challenging story. Knowing this from the start made me nervous and hesitant to share and later, publish. Many times, I thought about changing the format, but the story came alive in such a strong way that I had to keep it the way it is.
My familiarity with Arvelas and my love for this setting helped me greatly. After the third draft, I had a complete story, beginning to end, at around 30,000 words. I have to admit that I spent some extra time outlining the story, structuring the chapters, choosing the point of views (something I don’t always do). It took me three months to get to that first completed text, from June to August of 2012. Some of my other stories took much longer (including some short stories). I then sent Conclave to my alpha reader (Gaetan) and proceeded with some adjustments in December 2012. Then, I put the story aside until 2014, when I completed a full revision (once again with feedback from Gaetan). The story then slept until 2017, when I sent it to editing. I performed some final tweaks (the story had now reached 37,000 words) and started to get the story ready for publishing. This is when I wrote the acknowledgments and put together the appendixes. It is also in 2017 that the cover and inside art were created.
I tend to listen to music while writing. It can help to close off the world and get into the story. Whenever I can, I prefer to listen to the same music over and over for any given story. For Conclave, though, I was not able to find something specific that worked. I ended up listening to a panoply of different pieces, including the soundtrack from the movie Gladiator, music from the video games Final Fantasy 8 and 10, as well as The Force of the Ancient Land by Eldamar.
Surprisingly, I did not have to perform any major change or re-write after that initial completed draft. So, I can say that overall, writing Conclave was certainly much easier than some of my other stories.
Creating the Cover
It took me a while to find an artist to create the cover art for this book. For almost a month, I browsed and searched the web for a style that would go well with what I had in mind for Arvelas. Finally, I decided to contact Max Bedulenko and see if he was available and interested. As it turned out, he was. Working with Max was pleasant. I drew a basic image of what I had in mind (very basic), wrote a description of the details, and sent both. Max returned a bit later with a first draft and nailed what I had in mind. After that, it was just a question of ironing out a few small details (lights in the windows, fire in the dragon’s eye, moss on the rocks, small updates to the bridge, etc.).
For the cover design, I worked with Kirk Shannon, who also created the inside art. While Max is from Belarus (thousand of kilometers away), Kirk lives close by and I had a chance to meet him during the book launch that took place at Westminster Books. Kirk was also a pleasure to work with. When I ordered my first draft copy, the cover came out too dark and Kirk quickly made the adjustments necessary to fix the issue.
It was a lot of work, but worth it: the final product is amazing.
Many more stories. I’ve traveled in the world of Arvelas since I was 14 or 15 year-old (mostly through role-playing games, but more recently via stories) and there is a lot more to explore. I’m currently working on several shorts stories that I hope to publish both on my website and as part of one or several anthologies. I’ve also started working on a much bigger project, currently title Arvelas EPIC (all caps!). It is an ambitious project that could be several hundred thousands of words, but it is also a very exciting one. At this time, I’m into the early stages, taking notes, creating characters and mapping events. Because of my other projects, I do not plan on starting writing Arvelas EPIC until 2021 or 2022.
Started: June 28, 2012
First Published: October 24, 2018
Setting: The World of Arvelas
Alpha Reading: Gaetan Clement
Beta Reading: Sylvie Danielle Paulin
Editing: Kira Rubenthaler, Bookfly Design LLC (www.bookflydesign.com), Vanessa Ricci-Thode (www.thodestool.com/)
Cover: Illustration: Max Bedulenko (on ArtStation), Title and text: Kirk Shannon (www.kirkshannon.com)
Inside Art: Illustrations: Kirk Shannon (www.kirkshannon.com)
Manuscript Formatting: E-book: Jeremy McLean (www.mcleansnovels.com),