Arigale: Spite in the Spirit
by Denise O. Eaton Genre: Dark Epic Fantasy
Judith and Chit are called to the lonely tower outside their city with little explanation. The one who summoned them is an old Elven wizard named Maleth, who will send them on a quest to lower their floating city of Arigale to where it once resided. Maleth is intrigued by Judith's strange form of necromantic magic, yet he is also certain of the anxious young man training to be a spearman and scholar.
Judith, a bubbly yet mysterious young woman, is eager to accept. Chit remains withdrawn and cautious, a remnant of being raised by the Order that presides over their land. Soon, both discover their meeting with the wizard carried dire consequences. Can they accomplish what has been asked of them and save Arigale by exploring the land below, no matter the lengths they must go to?
“Ugh!” He grunted and coughed as he lay in the dry earth he was knocked against. His spear lay within reach, but though he grasped it, he couldn’t find the strength to raise it again as his arm shook. His forehead felt warm, and his free hand dabbed at it and came back red at the fingertips. Vision was blurry at best, but he could make out the glinting sword his opponent was wielding and hear his quiet chuckle. The gray, weathered brick walls that surrounded them were so high that it only seemed to focus the rays of the sun down on him. “Up! Now, Chit!” A whip cracked the stones that their teacher stood upon at the edges of the training area.
Chit struggled to raise himself as he watched a few drops of blood spoil the sand. He managed to get back on his feet, but his knees were buckling as his head swam. His loose, deep blue curls stuck to his forehead where he’d been injured. A foot slid back in the sand and raised a cloud of dust as he settled back into a low stance and rushed toward his opponent. The other boy was shorter but stockier. Chit’s spear strike was deflected as his sparring partner held up a shield, then bashed him in the head with it again on a downward swing that rang his ears and left him in the sand again with his eyes squinted at the row of weapons along the wall of the church. “You’re never going to get anywhere that way. You’re fast, but you don’t try to dig into someone, you know? Use that beast-like strength you got there.” The other student looked at their teacher, who just groaned and wound up his weapon to place at his side. They both gave up on waiting and walked off together into the shady archway while Chit found his way back up again. When he could finally stumble into it, the wall of the entryway was a blessing, as the cool stone soothed his bruises and bumps while he turned his body against them wherever it hurt worst. He touched his head again and sucked the air in through his teeth in a sharp hiss. “I’m not going to be able to deal with this on my own this time, am I?” He sighed as he walked back inside, one hand pressed against the wall the whole way just in case. The halls were dimly lit with torches, and not a single window cast any light from the sunny day most were enjoying just over their walls in the city square. He took slow and careful steps in his state on the uneven stone floor. These floors were also likely laid out in darkness. The thought made his mouth twitch to a near smile. He passed many men and a few older women in the halls, but not a soul saw him, not really.
Not until he crossed the threshold of the other side of the Order did the sun finally find the interior of the church. Bright yellow rays intermingled with the silks of the same shade strung around the grand circular room. The windows stretched from the floor to halfway up the walls and were tinted with cheerful and warm shades of color. The room was large enough to house an army and held a kaleidoscopic array of couches, cushions, daybeds, and glittering tables of gold dispersed between them. It was like being inside a noble’s goblet, the way the glass windows shone all around flaked with gold reflections in this high rising and circular room. This space was crafted to hold such lavish and, dare he think upon it, perverse events on a daily basis.
Chit thanked Yani that today seemed to be a slow one, as only the priestesses of the Order’s Light side were present. They flitted about in their bright yellow and orange robes of various fashions, each suited to their body in ways that made heat rise to his cheeks as he walked by them. They chittered at him with fleeting looks ranging from passive to concerned. One of the older women waved him down and tsked at his wounds. “You know you aren’t to bring blood here.” She took off her sheer scarf and wrapped it quickly over his head after cleaning off his fingers. “Come on. Chinea is in the back.” “I’m s-sorry F-Freena,” he mumbled and bowed his head forward until he stared at the ground as she led him by his hand through the pillows and hanging veils. “What in the world…” He felt a tender touch at his temple. The blood must have stained through the wrapping. There was no way he could afford to replace that cloth, and the realization made him wince as much as the sting from the air as his makeshift bandage was removed. He heard the veils ripple again as Freena went back to work. “I’m sorry. I tried to do better this time. I know I can’t keep showing up each time I get knocked around, but there’s a demonstration tomorrow and I-” “Shh.” Chinea pressed a cold, wet cloth to his head. “It’s alright, child. I was the one who told you to come if you needed help, so don’t you dare start apologizing to me for it now. You take the gifts people give you, alright? Yani knows you’re short on them.” She shook her head, and even with his eyes downcast, he saw the long, thin ponytail sway past her knees like the threads that made up those pricey silk curtains above. Her plump arms worked fast as he felt himself pushed back into a large cushion on the floor. The magic always made his muscles go limp in relief, and within minutes all that remained of his wounds was the bloody cloth in her hands. She tucked the fabric into a small bag at her side. “Thank you so much.” He smiled earnestly at her from his reclined position as she handed him a glass of water. “It’s the least I can do with how they treat you. It’s barbaric. If I hadn’t sworn an oath and could get my hands on that old moth bitten bag of bones, then I’d-” “Chinea, please. No talk of the Dark here. I rarely have a chance to show up at all, but they just left me in the sandpit this time. Frees up my schedule some.” His sharp teeth flashed in a grin, belying a hint of vindictiveness. “You’re right.” She sat on the edge of a velvet chair that looked like a cloud the way it ruffled and rumpled at its borders; her round form all puffed up like a mother hen as she drew in her arms. “I haven’t seen you but in the dining hall for the last month. What have they had you doing?”
Denise O. Eaton grew up in a small town in southern Missouri, and from a young age, she chose fantasy literature as a means to broaden her horizons within her rural community. Following this passion and wishing to give back to others, she went on to earn a degree in Creative Writing from Webster University in December 2014. The Arigale series is her first foray into publishing, and she has been working on it since 2019. When she isn’t writing she enjoys meeting with her Dungeons and Dragons group, watching fantasy and anime shows, practicing tarot, or planning her next cosplay costume.
Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
For anyone who doesn’t know me, perhaps the first important thing to know is that fantasy, anime, and magic consume my life. I’ve always liked to escape from the norm, especially since I didn’t have the best childhood growing up. I would cling to any book or program with magic in it and then started to craft my own worlds and stories before I even picked up a pencil as a child.
What is something unique/quirky about you?
I can wiggle my nose like on ‘Bewitched’. My husband absolutely adores it when I do it.
Tell us something really interesting that's happened to you!
The first thing that came to mind (out of many options) is a memory from when I was just four or five years old. It’s one of my earliest strong memories. I was laying in bed in a big guest room at my Grandma’s place, but I couldn’t sleep because it was new. The moonlight made patterns on the ceiling that I watched for what must have been hours, but then something startled me. At the foot of the bed, there was pressure. At first, I thought it was my dad coming in and checking on me, but as I bent to look, no one was there. I couldn’t move my foot because the blankets were tugged down by the force. I panicked. My body froze and the hair on the back of my neck stood up as I saw a faint outline of a man for a moment. He was elderly, thin, and smiling gently enough it calmed my rapid heartbeat. He said, “I’m glad I finally got to meet you, Denise.” That was it. I felt the pressure remain a moment even after his visage faded, but the second it lifted I bolted to the kitchen to find my dad still awake and told him the whole story. As I explained the man, my father began to grin in much the same way. I was perplexed, but then he pulled out an old family photo that looked just like the man. To this day, I am convinced that my grandfather who died of cancer before I was even born, came to meet his granddaughter.
If you knew you'd die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?
I would cling to my husband and friends. I’d want to have one last DnD session to wrap up the year and a half long story we’ve all been involved in and say goodbyes, but then the rest of the time I would be loving on my partner and curled up watching movies with our favorite foods.
Who is your hero and why?
For a long time, I have always looked up to Monty Oum. He was an animator and storyteller who sadly passed about seven years ago now from an allergic reaction in his early thirties. I admire how driven he always was. People who worked with him would say he never slept, instead he just ‘powered down’ with his headphones on for a short while. I could never push myself quite that hard, but the things he could do were impressive. He was a bright, inspirational soul who brought a little more light and conviction to everyone around him. I will always be sad I never got to meet him.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
I love to play video games, mostly the JRPG genre, but right now it’s almost exclusively Final Fantasy 14. I got it earlier this year and I want to try and get through some story before the new expansion comes out. I also have a weekly DnD group that has had a story ongoing for over a year and a half now. I really love the characters from there, and they may turn into story inspiration at some point. Baths, candles, and snacks are great comforts to me and help me to center myself during or after long writing sessions. I also drink a ton of tea. I have a whole collection of loose leaf teas depending on my mood and need.
Describe yourself in 5 words or less!
Sleepy, driven, quiet, creative, and caring.
Do you have a favorite movie?
It’s a close call between Spirited Away and A silent Voice. Both of these animated movies are near and dear to my heart.
I watched Spirited Away when I was eleven or twelve, and maybe a hundred more times since. The magic in that movie is so interesting. I would watch a million movies with Chihiro, Haku, and the insane, vibrant world Ghibli brought to screen. It’s been an inspiration for ages now.
I watched A Silent Voice when it came out in 2016. This movie is a rollercoaster of emotion, so be warned. The main themes have to do with mental health and redemption. It’s hard to not love all the imperfect characters and cheer for them to find stability and happiness in some way, even when they really mess up. It’s hard to believe they fit so much in a movie runtime. I can’t help but cry every time I watch it.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot?
It would have to be between a fox, a phoenix, or a butterfly. Foxes, especially fennecs, are my favorite animal. I always jump like a kid when I go to visit them at the zoo, even if they are always sleeping. Foxes would be it if I went for the cute factor. A phoenix or butterfly both have themes in their spiritual meanings that pertain to the main theme in the Arigale series, as well as another book I’m planning that has a lot to do with dreams, death, and the choices we make. I believe all of my work is going to deal with death on some level.
What inspired you to write this book?
I had inspiration from many past DnD games and fantasy roleplay scenarios I have written with friends over the years. Many of the characters are in their second or third iteration here in Arigale. I wanted to combine the best of all those past stories into one sprawling plot, and so it began with writing it in yet another roleplay with my husband years ago starting before we even dated.
I’ve also always been inspired by the themes of death and the afterlife, so making the main villain a god of life and death and putting him close to the whole cast, whether they know it or not, was a quick and easy decision. The plot flowed easily once the characters began to move, and I can’t wait to share the whole series.
What can we expect from you in the future?
Besides three or four more books in the Arigale series, I plan on writing a stand-alone novel with themes of dreaming, awake and asleep, as well as life and what choices we make in it. I don’t want to say much more in case of spoilers, but I am very excited to write that tale.
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?
Yes, I actually publish side stories to my website under the header ‘Arigale Tales’. You can find the website at ArigaleFantasy.com.
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in Arigale?
That would be a long response for how many characters get the spotlight in my book, but I’ll try and condense it down. Judith is a peppy necromancer and thief who does what she needs to get by but never lets it get her down. Chit is an anxious mess who has been raised in a strict order that rules Arigale. Maleth is an enigmatic figure that not many people living have met and he likes to maintain this mystery. Pearl is resilient, but that often turns to obstinance and even obsession. Rahat is reclusive and quite cold to most people, but it seems to stem from something that haunts him. Yani is the charismatic god of life and death worshipped by Chit’s order, and he seems to have big plans in the making. These are only some of the most important characters in book one. There are more contained there, and even more to be introduced in book two.
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
Each of the names for characters was based on an aspect of their personality or a clue about their arc. The names for areas on the map, however, were made from meshing two main words that fit the place together. Arigale, the titular city of the series, was named when I thought the city would ‘arise on a gale’.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I enjoyed writing the ‘Dreaming’ and ‘Identity’ chapters a lot. Any chapter with a lot of drama between characters, whether it be fighting or love, is a lot of fun for me to write.
Who designed your book covers?
My cover artist is @fracturedfable and she has been absolutely incredible to work with. I could never pick another artist for this series. Not only is Fable adept at the exact sort of style I wanted these characters drawn in, but she is also the series biggest fan. She became a beta reader early on after taking interest in the character arts I kept requesting of her, and our partnership and relationship as great friends grew from there.
Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I learned not to accept too much advice. I have my own style, and that clashes with a lot of the more modern tastes going around now. I’m far from perfect, but changing my work too much would only make it blend in with every other type of writing out there. I want to retain my voice, as an author’s voice should be distinguishable. My voice may not be for everyone, and that is okay. I have heard people who haven’t read in years say my writing flows and is easy for them to imagine in their mind’s eye. I have also heard I can be confusing with how I jump about in perspectives. No writing will be for everyone, so you have to do what works for you and let it be.
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Chloë Grace Moretz or Kiernan Shipka would play Judith. I don’t follow actors and actresses much, but I do know those names and think either one could take on the role. They are both pretty and can play a tougher, but still jubilant, female lead. As for Chit, it’s irresponsible to just claim Tom Holland, right? The man is busy, but I would look to no other to pull off Chit’s acrobatics and goofy awkwardness.
Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
If you are into flower language you may catch some hints of either irony or poetics throughout the series, at times foreshadowing even. Keep an eye out!
What is your favorite part of this book and why?
I love the bits of humor and hope shared in quieter moments between characters. Whether it be teasing someone to confess to their love interest, trying to lighten the mood at the worst time, or sharing a meal and chatting, I wanted to put plenty of light to shine through the bleaker parts of this dark fantasy. In the end, the theme is hope and carrying on to make your path forward.
If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
Oh no, don’t make me choose! If I have to make only one choice, I’d spend the day with Pearl. She needs a day on the town more than most. I also adore her fashion sense, so we’d probably spend the whole day buying outfits and taking breaks to chat over lunch and dinner.
Are your characters based on real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
All of my characters are from imagination. I don’t like to base characters on real people. Something about having a person in particular in mind feels restrictive, sometimes even mocking depending on the archetype. I can’t deal with that. There are a million and one characters in my head already anyway.
Convince us why you feel your book is a must-read.
If you love characters that breathe and seem to walk off the page into your heart, then Arigale is for you. I have written a plethora of characters and they all hold my heart in some way. I like to say I have around twenty main characters because so much of my cast gets time on the page to develop and you get to see what makes them tick from their own perspective.
If your book had a candle, what scent would it be?
Funny you should ask since I recently ordered some Arigale custom candles with firewood and love spell scents. I’m not sure what the love spell scent is exactly, but I believe it was under the florals section of scents.
What did you edit out of this book?
There are always a few things that can’t make the cut. I shortened certain portions of dialogue even though I had to cut some decent jokes in the process. Other descriptions of some key moments were lengthened at the same time. I did cut out some character introductions and pushed them into book two to save space to develop the most necessary characters for the beginning. I also didn’t delve very deep into the spirit characters histories for book one, so it was also edited and pushed to book two.
Fun Facts about Arigale:
1) The ship name for Chit and Judith is Chudith. This is indisputable in my opinion. My husband and I came up with it before we even dated. Chu is a Japanese onomatopoeia for a kiss and it’s their names combined. Yes, I am a fangirl.
2) Pearl wears pink carnations in her hair near the end of book one. If you pay attention she was given some once before in the story as well, though she couldn’t receive them at the time. She wears them to communicate their meaning back to the one who left them for her, and that meaning is gratitude.
3 ) Judith’s staff is wrapped in a blue cloth that once belonged to her father.
4) Chit has a fondness for meat that rivals Judith’s, but he’ll still try and force her to eat a more rounded diet.
5) While Rahat mainly writes for the city paper with news, he is also a poet. All of his poetry is inspired by people from his extensive past.
6) Maleth has kept a diary for centuries all in hopes of one day recounting all his adventures and tedium with a person he had to leave behind.
7) Judith never learned how to read, but she’s smarter than she lets on. There is worldly wisdom in her.
8) Chit would love to have a pet one day but wants a more stable life first.
What book do you think everyone should read?
The Giver by Lois Lowry is something I think everyone should read. This book wasn’t required when I was in fifth grade for nothing. The Giver holds you and makes you question a lot of things, especially when read at that age. This book opened me up to a lot of new ideas and helped me form more of my sense of self. Don’t watch the movie. Read the book.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing since I was eight years old. It all began in second grade when the class was assigned a short story project and given dragon-shaped printouts to color and write on to make our own little books. I made a book titled ‘Mike the Dragon’ and got to read it aloud at assembly one day with parents and all in attendance. I didn’t know much about wordplay at the time, but I had a double entendre at the end of my book that made everyone laugh while I stood there confused and worried. It’s cute looking back on my little origin story. My dad kept the story in a frame, but I don’t know where it is now. I loved writing and getting reactions so much I continued to write from that day on.
What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?
I tend to do all my research as I write. Considering the fantasy story is all in my head, I look up whatever comes up I’m not sure about. My worst google search so far was about burn wounds. I needed to know what a deadly burn could look like to describe it accurately, so I looked up a number of pictures despite my turning stomach. For one who writes a lot of grotesque imagery in battle scenes, I have a weak stomach when it comes to actual visuals.
Do you see writing as a career?
Yes, writing is my career. I may not make much income from it right now, but I hope to in the future.
Education can help, but I know it’s not the end all be all. I did receive my BA in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing in 2014. I feel like I learned a lot, but at the same time, that much of the time was not worth it. Everyone has their own style, and that may not always agree with standards. This is why I decided to self-publish.
Writing is what I have an interest and talent in, and it doesn’t put a lot of strain on me physically. I have an undiagnosable chronic condition that keeps me in pain and makes me tired and sick easily. My doctor is not sure what else to test or do about it, so we are pretty sure it is genetic and they just don’t have the DNA markers yet to pinpoint what it is and give the disease a name. I can’t hold down an everyday job without causing myself massive pain.
Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?
Yes, I do some reading, but I wish I did more. I’m a slow reader ever since college. I burned out for a while when I had to read like three Dickens-level works in a single week and write reports on top of a part-time job. That’s years ago now, and I’m slowly gaining back my old love of books. Fantasy will always be my preference, and I tend to lean toward YA novels.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
Oh, I have to have music playing on my headphones as I write. The music I pick always goes with the character or scene and helps me feel and bring about those emotions in my own work. If I have no music, I get distracted by little noises from nearby apartments or even the wind passing the windows.
Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?
I write only one book at a time. I also write chronologically, though it can be difficult and time-consuming, it’s the only way I can keep proper track of events.
Do you have any advice to offer for new authors?
Write what you want. Even if you want to write to trends to make money, most will burn out fast if they don’t have a degree of passion for what they are doing. Writing is hard work. You’re signing up for years of work in the shadows where getting feedback can be difficult, but once you do it’s the most rewarding thing there is.
Describe your writing style.
My style is similar to older epic fantasy authors, but with a twist of more modern styles and speech patterns to appeal to a larger audience. I enjoy writing from multiple points of view through omniscient storytelling. With this approach, I can allow the reader time in each character's head in order to create a strong sense of connection for each one. My goal in my style is to weave all these storylines and character perspectives together until it feels like you know each character personally and can see how the web of intrigue luring them all into the main plot is spun. Scenery and description are also a great focus of mine. I use these descriptions to great effect so that the reader can see the world inside my head as clear as if it came out of their own.
What makes a good story?
In my opinion, a good story revolves around the characters. The plot is a must, but I think it should never be at the forefront. I want to read about the characters' lives and experience things at their side.
What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading Bloody Spade by Brittany M. Willows. I adore her catboy protagonist so much so far. He’s seeming to be that rough and tumble but nougaty soft center kind of character I adore. I love all the characters so far at the halfway point, even the couple of characters that annoy me. The world and magic system are so easy to fall into and understand without overtly explaining too much in narration. I’m excited for when I find a good chunk of time to dive back in and finish.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I don’t research at all into what readers want, since it changes all the time anyway. I just want to write what I find to be original and interesting.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from other genders?
I don’t think any of it is difficult. Regardless of gender, characters have certain drives and habits. I focus on writing the characters as rounded beings. Men can be feminine, women can be masculine, it doesn’t really matter. I think the only thing I may have trouble with is when I get to sex scenes if I take some from the penis-having perspective.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
On average, a book seems to take me about a year and a half to get it fully together. I hope I can speed that process up soon.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
Yes, I do believe in writer’s block. I’ve suffered due to it many times. I equate it mostly to burnout in my own experience. Creatives need time to recharge, and I’m bad at doing that because even when I step away for a while I can’t stop thinking about my characters. Sometimes, it’s really just pressure that stops me in my track. The thought of strangers reading your work can be daunting no matter how exciting it is at the same time.
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