Friday, May 17, 2013

The Ghost Road becomes the Road to Arcadia

I've been reading Alma Alexander's novel, "The Secrets of Jin-Shei," and it gave me a neat idea to use if ever my characters journey to Arcadia.  You see, I've heard it described as a rustic road with a series of paths veering off of it and if you look down there you can see an entrance to each Arcadian realm.  I've heard of people using them more like a fantasy map of kingdoms with a wide highway down the middle where you might need to walk for miles and days to pass one realm to the next.  But the Ghost Road in "The Secrets of Jin-Shei" (good book, by the way) is better than all of that because it feels mystical and subtle.

In the novel, the Ghost Road is almost like a path between worlds (it's never really described what, or where, it truly is) and when a character steps onto it they find the world around them blurring.  As they walk along the path, which appears to be a fine cobblestone path blurred at the edges, they grow closer to their destination.  If they stop at any time, they step off the path but as they walk along the path they catch glimpses of other places or have certain sensations spring up on them.  They might see an ornate courtyard to their left with a large tiger prowling or see amongst the blur a child tied to a stake while a dog on a chain tries to get at them.  They might taste blood or feel a warm wind against their face. 

Some of these are temptations but mostly they are just there and there's nothing to say if they're real or simply illusory figments from the character's mind.  The character must stay on the path until they reach a place that they know is real - that they've been before - or see a person that they know is real whom they have actively sought out when they stepped on the path.

In the book there's also the chance for others to find you on the path and attack you unless you had taken reasonable precautions.  These potential assailants might even be skillful enough to mask themselves so that you think they are someone you already know.

Sound workable for Changeling yet?

So how about that for the Arcadian road?  You step onto a trod (or perhaps from anywhere in the deeper Hedge you can will it) and the world blurs around you.  For so long as you continue, you remain on the road.  You may meet others on the Arcadian Road, perhaps Changelings or unlucky humans or even True Fae, and perhaps they will notice you or perhaps not.  All around you are glimpses of the different Arcadian Realms and the places in between (the unclaimed domains and general Arcadia itself) and it's up to the walker to keep themselves from getting lost and ending up in a random place.

When the Changeling stops walking, if it's a place they have never been before, they must make an agreement with it as per normal or be repelled by the very place they landed in.  In order to leave, they must find the exit to step back onto the Ghost Road but to reach the road and not simply press up against a wall they must have a clear picture of where they want to go.  This could be a place or a person or even a memory of much-loved Snickers bars but it must be important to the traveller.

What do you think?  I think that's how I'd run it.

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