Writing Competition Submission - Ambershadow

By Jo Lindsay Walton

Logline

A foundling kid, a wisecracking mercenary, a stony-faced knight, and an alchemist-priest with a mysterious affliction, are thrown together to travel north, each for their own separate reason. All is not as it seems, and their world is far larger and stranger than any of them imagine.

Main Characters

Kojo of Thornshore: Human (apparently). A forest-dwelling rapscallion of about twelve, Kojo is thrown into adventure when his grandma’s cottage is razed by Torn Ones (at least, so it seems). Initially timid, but with a mischievous streak, his personal growth is a major theme of the show.

Okechukwu the Anathema: Human, once an alchemist-priest of the Order of Shog. When Okechukwu acquired a strange ailment, he betrayed his vows, robbed his Order, and fled. Now he seeks healing from Unded Adam, Hierophant of the Grave of Stars, sworn enemies of the Shog. Okechukwu uses a ruggedized all-terain wheelchair built for him by Anushka. Kind, erudite, with a droll sense of humor, Okechukwu tries to disapprove of Anushka’s antics, but usually can’t help but take delight in them. He’s also unbearably hot, making it all the more dramatic when his condition flares up (Episode 1).

Anushka (‘Nush’): Catborn sellsword / engineer / courier. Impulsive, wisecracking, irreverent, and unreliable, she is the most likely to create chaos, and the most likely to save the day. Nush loves cool tech, e.g. her weapon of choice is her stolen Orist Temen ARLblade. This nanotech weapon can shapeshift during combat. When in “Confirm Injury” mode, each successful blow insinuates a nanotech mesh into the enemy’s flesh, doing no harm until triggered. Tiny ghostly body parts orbit the ARLblade, representing wounds available to activate. Orist Temen warriors would hold these ransom: but that’s not really Nush’s style.

Otto: Nush’s pet. Imagine a blend of axolotl, chipmunk, and toucan. Very smart critter.

Ser Edoardo of Cutty’s Cot (‘Eddie’): Frogborn knight on a quest to bear an evil artifact called the Worldthorn (Nush calls the ‘Twig of Doom’) to the Unmaking Place, although this quest fizzles out halfway through Season One, giving him cause to reflect on his life choices. Often serious, sometimes grumpy, Ser Edoardo has a heart of gold, and can adopt a quirky perspective on things whenever he lets himself. His formal manner means he’s often funny without meaning to be. Edoardo, perhaps surprisingly for a character so battle-scarred, also grows a lot throughout the series, especially through his friendship with Anushka.

Serris Exuvia of Orist Tremen: A human elder of the Orist Temen people, and a formidable ARLblade-wielding warrior, and the main Big Bad of Season One. After our heroes’ recklessness almost destroys her entire community, she vows to hunt them down, to protect others from suffering the same fate. She kind of has a point.

Maeve of Ulan Ebbis: A young Catborn, about fourteen years old. Maeve first strikes up a friendship with Kojo when he passes through her hometown of Ulan Ebbis. They both have crushes on each other, although Kojo is too shy to ask her to join the party. A (potential)-lovers-into-enemies arc begins when she agrees to help Serris Exuvia track them down Mostly kindhearted, and perhaps the smartest character on the show, Maeve also has a deep-seated restlessness, which makes her unpredictable … even to herself.

Story Summary

‘The only waaay to traaavellll!’ yells Anushka, as the landscape whips past. She grabs a tree branch and snatches lunch from an unsuspecting pilgrim below. Anushka and Okechukwu are atop the Dreamwyrm, a vast serpent almost a mile thick and many hundreds of miles long, who forever circles Ambershadow chasing her own tail.

Welcome to the world of Ambershadow, a lush and vivid patchwork of many thriving civilizations, and the ruins and relics of many more. From first appearances, we’re in a fantasy world.

Okechukwu the Anathema, formerly Okechukwu the Alchemist, is on the run. He’s a disgraced former acolyte of the Order of Shog, who stole and sold a sacred Shogga. A single Shogga can set you up for life: these creatures can live anywhere without starving, so it is said, because the entire species shares a single stomach. So long as some are fed, all are fed.

Okechukwu has used the proceeds to procure the services of the notorious sellsword Anushka of Hevensvale. She’s escorting him north for an audience with the Hierophant Unded Adam, whom he believes may be able to heal his strange affliction. You see, Okechukwu keeps coughing up … things. Things he has never seen before.

Now, as Anushka and Okechukwu prepare to disembark the Dreamwyrm, they see Fulgear Station is in flames — and Torn Ones ambush!

THORNSHORE

The ensuing battle leaves them stranded on the wrong side of the Dreamwyrm, many miles downsnake. There they find Kojo, freshly orphaned by raiding Torn Ones, who burned down his grandma’s cottage.

With Kojo’s local knowledge of the Thornshore region, they plan to cross a week later, when the gap between the Dreamwyrm’s head and tail will pass by. “It’s moving faster than usual,” notes Okechukwu, and indeed the tail comes sooner than expected. Hurrying to cross the stony snakebed, they turn to see the Dreamwyrm’s vast maw roaring toward them, and with them, the reason she’s acting acting weird: Torn Ones have staked open her mouth to build a fortress.

In the Dreamwyrm’s hurtling maw, a bananas battle ensues; Kojo mostly hides but shows some spunk; Okechukwu twists and retches, in the throes of his ailment; the arrival of the knight Ser Edoardo helps to turn the tide; Okechukwu pukes up a futuristic rifle and blasts the last of the Torn Ones with laser fire.

So. Perhaps more to this fantasy world than meets the eye?

ORIST TREMEN

Safely on the other side of the Dreamwyrm, Kojo, Anushka, Okechukwu, and Edoardo agree to travel together as far as Karras; from there Edoardo will go onward to the Sea of Tears and the Unmaking Place, the only place where the Worldthorn can be destroyed.

Deep in the desert, the four find a warm welcome at Orist Temen. The meager water supply is supplemented with an unusual resource: time glitches. By diverting streams through the seasonal temporal wormholes, the people of Orist Tremen can effectively ‘clone’ their water supplies.

A feast is held for the guests. Kojo wonders if this might be his new home. Exuvia and Edoardo have a friendly ritual ARLblade duel; but before Edoardo can cancel the wounds he won, Anushka has a “What does THIS button do?” moment, and severs Exuvia’s hand.

Exuvia is forgiving, but when Anushka also accidentally destroys Orist Tremen’s irrigation wormholes (trying to travel in time so her past and future selves can hook up), it’s the final straw. With the ancestral home uninhabitable, Exuvia must lead her people to safety, but she vows revenge.

One of the Orist Temen folk, infected with the Carrying Sickness, heads alone into the desert foreshadowing later events.

However. Anushka does successfully hook up with herself. And she scores a stolen ARLblade. Best day ever.

ULAN EBBIS

Arriving in the forest city of Ulan Ebbis, our heroes are immediately devoured by a Snurtling. “Relax,” laugh their hosts, as they illuminate their fairy lights. “Snurtlings always get eaten by Bonebeasts before we get digested. And Bonebeasts get eaten by Gibberlings, and Gibberlings can’t digest Snurtling shells, so we’ll pop right out. You just gotta let the nutrition cycle play itself out.”

Kojo has a meet cute with a local called Maeve, snuggling together the bellies of various beasts. But Edoardo, Nush, and Okechukwu insist on ruining the mood by sharing their personal back-stories.

When Nush reveals she swapped Edoardo’s Worldthorn for a random twig several forests back (“It was just such a crappy quest, Eddie. Nobody’s going to find it for like a million years, and now you can hang with us”), Edoardo grows enraged and attacks her. These two fiercesome warriors battle it out, and Edoardo punctures through the Snurtling shell … disrupting the usual cycle and placing them all in grave danger.

After finally escaping the infernal Turducken, Kojo and Maeve stand side-by-side on the hillside, dripping with belly juices, and confronted by a new looming set of monsters.

“Hi guys! It’s OK! Come eat us!” yells Kojo, having finally got used to how they do things around here.

“I’ve never seen those before in my life,” whispers Maeve.

Spindly biotech droids address Kojo, Maeve, Okechukwu, Anushka, Edoardo, and even Otto with, “Well met, King of the Void!” — “Hi” they say to Nush — but it’s Kojo they’re interested in.

“Yet only you possess the Unlearning.” They gravely ask Kojo’s orders on a variety of bizarre questions; he bungles through with guesswork and goodwill. Apparently gratified, these ent-techs vanish through portals. We glimpse a shadowy, verdant corridor.

Kojo says goodbye to Maeve. Edoardo agrees to continue north, since next the party must cross his homelands — the hostile, and closely surveilled Cranelands. He doesn’t believe they’ll make it without him.

CRANELANDS

Here, vast mile-high towers are topped by pale Frogborn watchers — the Slaveking sentinels. With hinged, rotating bases, and a system of counterweights and pulleys, these constructs dip to and fro all across the Cranelands, dispensing unforgiving justice.

There is a tense moment with what they mistake for a grounded Slaveking.

“Nah, that’s just some guy walking his dog,” says Edoardo. “You can tell a Slaveking by their forehead tattoo.” He taps his forehead casually — yes, he is an escaped Slaveking. As Nush learns more about Edoardo’s past, she begins to feel a little remorse about sabotaging his quest. Just a little.

Despite their best efforts at stealth, the group are detected by one Slaveking … who, seeing Edoardo’s forehead tattoo, begs to be freed — and when Edoardo hesitates, the Slaveking instead summons dozens more of his kind.

Another absolutely bananas battle takes place, partly in the sky. Soon they are joined by assassins from the Order of Shog who have caught up with Okechukwu, as well as Serris Exuvia, with Maeve as her side-kick. Of course, Exuvia’s first move is to activate the wounds inflicted on Eddie back in Orist Tremen …

Miraculously, they survive mostly unscathed, and cross into the mountains to the north.

THE ROAD TO KARRAS

Anushka is acting weird, even for her. She wears a strange, soft grin at all times, and she’s hardly speaking. She holds her hands cupped in front of her, empty, as she walks. It can only be one thing.

Okechukwu’s condition is worsening, and now Anushka has come down with the Carrying Sickness. Those afflicted have the irresistible urge to pick up a specific, apparently random thing, and carry it to a specific, apparently random place, sometimes hundreds of miles away. Then they usually get better. But what is she Carrying?

Eventually Kojo figures it out: she’s Carrying her pet, the beaky critter called Otto! But Otto of course won’t stay still, clambering all over Nush as he always does.

With no choice but to follow Nush, they discover — twist! — they had been headed in the wrong direction. Somehow, the Carrying Sickness has led them to their destination Karras, where the Hierophant Unded Adam presides!

Karras is an interesting solarpunk city, filled with canals and greenery, kites and stained glass. But they have to hurry. Okechukwu is worsening by the second. It’s like there’s something really enormous coalescing inside him.

The Hierophant Unded Adam greets them, mysteriously using those same words the tech-ents did in the last episode: “Kings of the Void!” That’s when Okechukwu’s jaw snaps, and retches up a high tech red-eyed deer-droid, even bigger than he is, that gores and tramples Edoardo.

Unded Adam tries to intervene, and the Carrying Sickness gives us another little twist. The place it wants her to put Otto’s beak is deep inside Unded Adam’s head. Nor is the Sickness finished with her. She fishes out some of the circuitry from Unded Adam’s head — yes, he seems to be a droid of some kind — and then wanders away from Karras, into the marshlands to the east. The machine that came from Okechukwu limps along beside her.

Edoardo dies in Kojo’s arms.

THE SEA OF TEARS

With Edoardo dead, and Unded Adam dead, and Nush lost, Kojo vows he won’t abandon Okechukwu. Okechukwu reveals Plan B: visit the Hierophantess of Dead Eden, all the way in the distant south, almost as distant as it is possible to be.

But they don’t go south, not yet. Okechukwu’s plan means going further north, sailing across the Sea of Tears, navigating an archipelago of ruined pinnacles, and even passing the Unmaking Place — where Edoardo had intended to burn the profane bio-artifact known as the Worldthorn. Then, on the horizon, they glimpse the northernmost island in the world, where stands the Temple at the End, the holiest temple of the Order of Shog.

Once more Exuvia and Maeve attack, this time with the help of the other version of Nush created using the temporal glitches back at Orist Tremen — yet once more Kojo and Okechukwu manage to defeat them, partly because Maeve hesitates at a crucial moment.

They glide up to the shore. Surely news of Okechukwu’s disgrace has not yet reached this remote place?

“Or,” says Okechukwu meditatively, “It may have. We will need to be careful.”

THE TEMPLE AT THE END

At the temple, Kojo gives the Order Edoardo’s pendant containing “the Worldthorn” (actually the random twig Nush swapped it for), and in return the Order agree to loan them a Shogga to transport them south.

“I’ve never ridden one before,” says Kojo, and doesn’t understand all the laughter.

First thing’s first: ritual cleansing.

“I probably should have explained the Gobblejar Ordeal a bit more,” says Okechukwu, as the Shog alchemists roll up their sleeves. “I’ve had so much happening recently.”

Placing their hand in high-tech stone jars, their entire bodies are sucked in and chewed up by the chomping jars — all except their brains, kept alive in a solution. Two cartoon figures squirm on the two jar screens, indicating they are still alive.

The Alchemists of Shog feed the jars to a resident Shogga. The legends are true: they all share one stomach.

THE FUTURE

End of season montage shows Kojo’s jar recovered and installed in a new body in Dead Eden … Okechukwu’s jar getting diverted in the extradimensional gastrointestinal infrastructure of the Shogga shared stomach, and burped up on a lonely steppe … Maeve battling Torn Ones alone, having apparently parted ways with Serris Exuvia … Nush steadfastly carrying brain-circuity back through the Cranelands … and Kojo’s grandmother sitting contentedly on the stoop of her cottage — not, it seems, burned down by Torn One raiders at all! — and then undergoing a transform sequence into one of the biotech droids we met earlier, and shooting off into the starry sky.

Setting

On one level, it’s a rich, science fantasy-esque world, perhaps remniscent of Jack Vance’s Dying Earth, M. John Harrison’s Virconium, or the RPG Numenera. There are myriad humanoids here: Humans, Frogborn, Catborn, and others.

Our heroes have not quite uncovered the big secret of this world — save that for Season Two — but here it is anyway. Remember all those thousands of miles they’ve crossed? It all happened in a 50’x50’ holodeck, aboard the starship GSV Requiem.

The biotech droids are running things in the crew’s absence, though occasionally they need some extra guidance.

Of course there’s more.

Anushka, unbeknownst to her, is a holodeck character (hence no “King of the Void” for YOU). Okechukwu and Edoardo are crew members, and Kojo is an alien diplomat. All three have firewalled their memories so they can really kick back. What the bio-droids call the Unlearning is really a semi-permeable filter that can temporarily substitute for the memory firewall, so that useful orders or advice can pass through, without totally waking them up from the illusion.

And Exuvia and Maeve? They know! They’re just acting! As Ship’s Captain and First Officer, they need to stay on call, even when they’re off duty. At the same time, Exuvia firmly believes that this World Within is more meaningful, even more ‘real,’ than the World Without. In fact, Maeve is coming round to that idea too. Who is to say, after all, that the starry universe out there is the final level of reality anyway … ? So would you really call this ‘acting’?

Season Two can center around making this discovery. Already many cracks are starting to show. Anushka’s time travel hijinks have put extra strain on the holodeck’s AI. The holodeck can’t really do time travel, but it can rapidly simulate an entire future history, then cut-and-paste the projected future mind state “back into the past.” However this creates a permanent extra computational workload, as the holodeck now needs to continually compare Anushka’s neurology with the version it projected, and intervene to edit it so that her actions coincide as much as possible, balanced against preserving her free will as much as possible. So the system is under incredible strain …

And — have you guessed? Okechukwu’s ailment and the Carrying Sickness are connected, two sides of the same coin. They are not part of the parameters selected by the crew for this holodeck program, but rather the results of the ship’s onboard systems have been compromised. What is this hacking AI attempting to build? Who sent it, and why?

Before long, adventures can criss-cross both worlds. Sometimes the A Plot may center on the holodeck world of Ambershadow, while the B Plot centers on the bridge of the Requiem. Sometimes worlds may collide with bizarre or hilarious consequences. All along, Serris Exuvia will make a compelling case that just because Ambershadow is a simulation, does not mean it is not real. And Nush tends to agree …

EPISODES

1 / Dreamwyrm
An action focused episode. Our four principal characters are thrown together in a battle with Grendel-like raiders called ‘Torn Ones.’ The closing moments deliver a bit of a shock, as Okechukwu somehow produces an anomalous futuristic laser rifle from his throat.

2 / The Loop
A darkly comic episode, in which Nush’s reckless actions do untold damage to the community of Orist Terren. This is also the origin story for the season’s Big Bad — Serris Exuvia.

3 / ‘Were It Not That I Have Bad Dreams’
A ‘bottle’ episode, where our heroes kill time in the bellies of a variety of monsters. Kojo meets Maeve, and has a huge crush on her. Maeve isn’t totally uninterested. Nush’s bad behavior continues, as she reveals that she just threw away the profane Worldthorn that Edoardo was carefully bearing to the distant north. Ends on a cliffhanger, as they are confronted by strange bio-droids.

4 / Cranes
Kojo deals with the bio-droids, who believe he has a mysterious power called the Unlearning. The rest of the episode focuses on Edoardo, as they cross the land of his birth. We learn of how he was once a Slaveking, how he escaped, and how he came to carry the accursed Worldthorn to the Unmaking Place. He does grudgingly admit it feels nice not to have to do all that anymore. The episode ends on a cliffhanger, in the midst of a battle involving the stylite Slavekings, assassins from the Order of Shog, plus Serris Exuvia and her new sidekick Maeve.

5 / Carrying Sickness
The first part of the episode concludes the battle from last time. In the second part, they travel a part of the land where many have the Carrying Sickness. Soon Anushka is infected. Although they reach their destination of Karras and find the, violent tragedy strikes, leaving Edoardo slain, Unded Adam slain, little Otto dead, and Anushka lost.

6 / The Shortcut
The season finale includes further battles, adventures, and trickery, and plenty of call-backs to earlier events. It ends with a montage that shows our main cast of characters all separated and scattered across Ambershadow, and one of them (Serris Exuvia) absent, almost as if she was in another world entirely …

Tone

Witty, innovative sci-fi, where weirdness escalates fast: think Rick and Morty, The Midnight Gospel, Solar Opposites, The Venture Bros., Star Trek: Below Decks, Le Guin’s Changing Planes, Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide, Banks’s Culture, Krinkels’ Madness. It has many comic moments, but never at the expense of the psychological richness of its characters, or the immersiveness of its world(s). It offers the epic sweep of Dune or Lord of the Rings, with deep, rich lore that gradually unfolds, and just keeps unfolding. Like Game of Thrones, major characters may die. And finally, notes of bittersweetness, whimsy and delight: think Howl’s Moving Castle or Laputa: Castle in the Sky.

Themes

Friendship, found family, love, desire, loss, fear, sense of wonder, the transformative power of laughter. It also explores themes of ecology, technology, ideology, and perception and illusion. It’s about life as flesh, with all the horrors and delights that entails. This is also a story about stories: it never shies away from critically engaging with the many lessons that the megatext of science fiction teaches us, and exploring whether they are true, just, beautiful, good. Finally, I’ve tried to create a story that feels like it is just beginning, and a world fruitful with future mysteries and adventures. And I’ve tried to make it spicy.

Contact Information

Discord: Jo Lindsay Walton (he/him)#6218
E-mail: josephclwalton@gmail.com

That came to about ten pages, and the guidelines said 5-15 was fine. But just in case it might be disqualified because of length, I’ve also created submitted a shorter version of the same treatment, (four pages and under 2k words).

Ambershadow
By Jo Lindsay Walton

LOGLINE

A foundling kid, a wisecracking sellsword, a stony-faced knight, and a disgraced priest with a mysterious affliction, are thrown together to travel north, each for their own separate reason. All is not as it seems, and their world is far larger and stranger than any of them imagine …

MAIN CHARACTERS

Kojo: A forest-dwelling rapscallion of about twelve, Kojo is thrown into adventure when his grandma’s cottage is razed by Torn Ones. Human.

Okechukwu the Anathema: Human, once an alchemist-priest of the Order of Shog. When Okechukwu acquired a strange ailment, he betrayed his vows, robbed his Order, and fled. Okechukwu uses a ruggedized all-terain wheelchair.

Anushka (‘Nush’): Catborn sellsword / engineer / courier. Impulsive, wisecracking, irreverent, and unreliable, she is the most likely to create chaos, and the most likely to save the day. Nush loves cool tech.

Otto: Nush’s pet. Imagine a blend of axolotl, chipmunk, and toucan. Very smart critter.

Ser Edoardo of Cutty’s Cot (‘Eddie’): Frogborn knight on a quest to bear an evil artifact called the Worldthorn (Nush calls the ‘Twig of Doom’) to the Unmaking Place. Often serious, sometimes grumpy, Ser Edoardo has a heart of gold.

Serris Exuvia of Orist Tremen: A Human elder of the Orist Temen people, and a formidable ARLblade-wielding warrior. She is also the main Big Bad of Season One.

Maeve of Ulan Ebbis: A young Catborn, about fourteen years old. Kojo and her are potential love interests. She also becomes Serris Exuvia’s side-kick.

STORY SUMMARY

Welcome to Ambershadow, a lush and vivid patchwork of many thriving civilizations, and the ruins and relics of many more. From first appearances, we’re in a fantasy world. Okechukwu the Anathema, formerly Okechukwu the Alchemist, is on the run. He’s a disgraced former acolyte of the Order of Shog. He’s hired the wisecracking Anushka to take him north for an audience with the Hierophant Unded Adam, whom he believes may be able to heal his strange affliction. You see, Okechukwu keeps coughing up … things. Pieces of tech he has never seen before.

The story opens with Anushka and Okechukwu atop the Dreamwyrm, a vast serpent almost a mile thick and many hundreds of miles long, who forever circles Ambershadow chasing her own tail. As they prepare to disembark the Dreamwyrm, they see the approaching Fulgear Station is in flames — and Torn Ones wait in ambush!

As the chaos unfolds, Nush and Okechukwu soon encounter Kojo, who lived alone with his grandma in the woods until Torn One raiders burned down their cottage (or so he believes). Next they meet the Frogborn knight Edoardo, who is on a clandestine quest to the Unmaking Place in the far north, where the Dark Oak once took root, and where (according to prophecy) an evil artifact called the Worldthorn may be destroyed. He wears the Worldthorn on a pedant.

The narrative is picaresque. Each episode they can arrive at a new location and have a new adventure. But there are important recurring characters and themes. They are constantly battling or fleeing from assassins from the Order of Shog, and the Orist Tremen warrior Serris Exuvia and her minions. Arguably, though, their worst enemies are themselves. A standard episode might begin with some new settlement welcoming them with open arms, and end with our heroes being chased into the wilderness with torches and pitchforks.

Okechukwu’s strange condition is not the only malady afflicting Ambershadow. From time to time, individuals fall into a trance, and feel compelled to carry a seemingly random object — a cooking pot, a shawl, a pane of glass — to a seemingly random location. Try to stop them and they will howl, and claw out your eyes and theirs. But so long as they are permitted to follow their compulsion, they usually recover. Strange sculptures dot the land, compiled of the detritus that the Carrying Sickness brings. Eventually Nush falls prey to this.

Then there are the portals that sometimes open up, offering glimpses into another world — known sometimes as Void. Who are the spindly biomechanical visitors from Void, and why do they address our characters (all except Nush) as “Kings of the Void”?

Although sometimes infuriated with each other, they grow to love and depend on each other. In due course, we discover that this world is a holodeck simulation about the starship GSV Requiem. Yet is it any less real than the world out there, AKA “the Void”? And is Nush — a creation of this holodeck program — any less real than her companions?

EPISODES

1 / Dreamwyrm
An action focused episode. Okechukwu, Nush, Kojo and Edoardo are thrown together, during a battle with Grendel-like raiders called ‘Torn Ones.’ The closing moments deliver a bit of a shock, as Okechukwu somehow produces an anomalous futuristic laser rifle from his throat. Edoardo claims his motive was not to help them, but to attend to the health of the gigantic Dreamwyrm, in whose maw the Torn Ones had built their base. Nevertheless, he grudgingly agrees to accompany them north, since he’s going that way anyway.

2 / The Loop
A darkly comic episode, in which Nush’s reckless actions do untold damage to the desert dwellers of Orist Terren. Some elements of the farce include a supposedly bloodless ritual combat gone wrong, and some time travel where Nush is determined to have sex with another version of herself. This is also the origin story for the season’s Big Bad — Serris Exuvia.

3 / ‘Were It Not That I Have Bad Dreams’
A ‘bottle’ episode, where our heroes kill time in the bellies of a variety of monsters, and relate their back-stories. Kojo also meets Maeve, and has a huge crush on her. Maeve isn’t totally uninterested. Nush’s bad behavior continues, as she reveals that she just threw away the Worldthorn, the profane bio-artifact that Edoardo was carrying to the Unmaking Place, basically to mess with him. Ends on a cliffhanger, as they are confronted by strange bio-droids.

4 / Edoardo and the Sky of the Slavekings
Kojo deals with the bio-droids, who believe he has a mysterious power called the Unlearning. The rest of the episode focuses on Edoardo, as he guides them across the hostile Cranelands. We learn of how he was raised a Slaveking here, how he escaped, and how he came to be bearing the Worldthorn to the Unmaking Place. He does grudgingly admit it feels nice not to have to do that anymore. The episode ends on a cliffhanger, in the midst of a battle involving the stylite Slavekings, assassins from the Order of Shog, and Serris Exuvia and her new sidekick Maeve.

5 / Carrying Sickness
The first part of the episode concludes the battle from last time. In the second part, they travel in a mountainous region where the Carrying Sickness is rampant. Okechukwu ponders whether it could be connected with his own strange malady. Soon Anushka is infected with the Carrying Sickness. Although they reach their destination, the solarpunk city Karras, and find the Hierophant Unded Adam, violent tragedy strikes, leaving Edoardo slain, Unded Adam slain, little Otto dead, and Anushka lost.

6 / The Shortcut
The season finale includes further battles, adventures, and trickery, and plenty of call-backs to earlier events. It ends with a montage that shows our main cast of characters all separated and scattered across Ambershadow, and one of them (Serris Exuvia) absent, almost as if she was in another world entirely …

SETTING

On one level, it’s a rich, diverse, science fantasy-esque world, remniscent of Jack Vance’s Dying Earth, M. John Harrison’s Virconium, or the RPG Numenera, with perhaps notes of Terry Pratchett. There are myriad humanoids here: Humans, Frogborn, Catborn, and others, and all sorts of polities, politics, and intrigue.

Then again, it all happens in a 50’x50’ holodeck, aboard the starship GSV Requiem. Anushka, unbeknownst to her, is a holodeck character (hence no “King of the Void” for YOU). Okechukwu and Edoardo are crew members, and Kojo is an alien diplomat. Those three have firewalled their memories for greater immersion. What the bio-droids call the Unlearning is really a semi-permeable filter that can temporarily substitute for the memory firewall, so that useful orders or advice can pass through, without totally waking them up from the illusion.

Captain Exuvia and First Officer Maeve know they’re on the holodeck, and they (Exuvia especially) believe that this world is just as meaningful as the world out there … if not more. After all, how do they really know that the outside world is the ‘final’ level of reality?

TONE

Witty, inventive sci-fi, where weirdness escalates fast: think Rick and Morty, The Midnight Gospel, Solar Opposites, The Venture Bros., Star Trek: Below Decks, Le Guin’s Changing Planes, Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide, Banks’s Culture, Krinkels’ Madness. It has many comic moments, but never at the expense of the psychological richness of its characters, or the immersiveness of its world(s). It offers the epic sweep of Dune or Lord of the Rings, with deep, rich lore that gradually unfolds. Like Game of Thrones, major characters may die. And finally, notes of bittersweetness, whimsy and delight: think Howl’s Moving Castle or Laputa: Castle in the Sky.

THEMES

Friendship, found family, love, desire, loss, fear, sense of wonder, the transformative power of laughter. It also explores themes of ecology, technology, ideology, and perception and illusion. Life as flesh, with all the horrors and delights that entails. This is also a story about stories: it never shies away from critically engaging with the many lessons that the megatext of science fiction teaches us, and exploring whether they are true, just, beautiful, good. I’ve tried to create a world that feels like it is just beginning, a world filled with many future mysteries and adventures. And I’ve tried to make it spicy.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Discord: Jo Lindsay Walton (he/him)#6218
E-mail: josephclwalton@gmail.com

Both versions of the Ambershadow treatment can be found here: