charter marks

Let’s Talk Magic Systems

Right so I’m just gonna rant/ponder on my favorite aspect of worldbuilding: Magic.

Now as may or may not surprise you I am a nerd™ and played a lot of videogames as a kid/up through the present moment. So its something I think about quite a bit.

Magic is cool. Its the thing that lets characters transcend the limits of what is possible, and manipulate reality. But done poorly it just waves away all problems without effort, which is why people construct systems about its existence and use. 

This is partly a list of questions that you can ask yourself to flesh out such a system, partly an exploration of how some of those answers may be more or less fulfilling than others, and partly me musing on my own system.

There’s a lot of systems and variables in play and I’m going to take these point by point.

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Lirael was certainly an experience. Since she is from a book series, The Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix, it was tricky to put it all together. I went moreso with the book cover art of the older editions, with some modified details.

Everything except the boots and base bells were made by me. It took 23 hours spread over a few months. The overcoat was hand painted using stencils. The under bodysuit took 8 hours alone! I used shiny spandex to mimic chainmail.

This was my first time making an eva foam sword, so it may not be the best. I used a dremel to carve all of the charter marks in. The bells are fully functioning and each have the charter symbol on them in correct order of name/usage in the book. I added the keys as a reference to the second book when she worked in the library. The belt buckle and Disreputable Dog statue were made from model magic, sculpted by me.

I spent only $60 on this! Part of it came from using a leftover wig, fabric, and foam from previous projects

When will I wear this to a con or proper shoot? Who knows.


So these are the Charter Marks I was working on the other day. There are 27 of them in the first picture and the bottom picture is my initial attempt at conceptualising how they work together (e.g. to form a Charter skin to cover something). It is a protective sigil (unactivated) of some sort but I can’t actually remember the details.

So what do people think of them then?

Vex’s tired steps carried her past burial ship after ship, each one fitted with resplendent carvings and intricate figureheads - the first and the second one depicting imposing men dressed in fine armor and decked with regalia, carrying scrolls that represented the Charter. The third ship she passed was unfinished, and its figurehead was different too. It was a perfectly lifelike carving of a young man - a naked young man, and Vex found herself blushing as her eyes flitted up and down his body, before settling on his face. He was tall and lean, with broad shoulders and well-defined arms, indicating that he used to work with his hands. Short hair curled around a handsome, angular face formed in a complex expression of surprise, anger, and fear. 

Much too lifelike, Vex thought and carefully stepped closer, drawing her sword. Now, she could even make out callouses on his fingers and small scars, single eyelashes and the faint impression of the baptismal Charter mark. This was with absolute certainty not the work of a woodcarver but a result of Free Magic.

Vex closed her eyes and focused on her other senses, detecting the faint residue of a spell and a soul, trapped between life and death. She wouldn’t have to go far to bring it back, not farther than the first Gate. But who was he, and why had he been trapped? Could she risk finding out in her injured state?

With a soft sigh, Vex turned around and went to look for Keyleth who she had seen skipping off towards the small stream running through the damn sinkhole. She found the cat, dozing with dream-twitching paws in a small patch of yellow flowers. Catbalm. No answer would come from her for a while. 

Abhorsen’s Bells - Legends of Tomorrow fic

Link to Chapter 1 on ao3:

Mick had thought his time with his aunt following the Fire was just the mind of a twelve year old coming up with dreams as a coping device. Turns out the bells, Charter Marks and travelling into Death and back were not, so when a Charter sending comes to find him on the Waverider to deliver the bells, the sword and a how-to book written in a language he has vague memories of, he has to learn how to use them and deal with the heavy responsibility that comes with them. The responsibility is not helped by bringing Len back, as he must discover what new abilities and restrictions he has.

Chapter 1: The Bells

Mick and Len never talked about what happened on the night of the particle accelerator explosion. Maybe, it occurred to him in retrospect, they should have. At least then he would have gotten the indication that not everyone had seen a blue light filled come through the front door of the warehouse and crash into them like a wave that soaked into their soul and then spent the next month waking in a sweat from dreams and memories made by a child’s brain.

The team was running from a smoky thing wielding a sword. Sara kicked it, or tried to. Her foot went through it. She – and the rest of them, because if there was something Sara wouldn’t fight, there was no way anyone else was fighting it – decided discretion might be the better part of valor and ran. As they were running through the door, Mick grabbed Nate, who had stumbled on his own feet, the idiot, and shoved him through the door and then planted himself between them and the ghost. If it wanted any of them, he thought, it had to get through him first.

It ran at him.

And then it stopped.

Mick didn’t breathe for a few seconds. But the thing was just standing there outside the door. Something glittery swarmed over it, like a thousand silver moths. He peered closer at the shimmer and saw that it was the same Katakana-like characters that seemed to come from memory. No sooner had he realized that they might have then the thing produced an ancient leather belt with little different sized cases attached to it, a sword alight with the same calligraphy the thing seemed to be made of, and an ancient book straight out of the Medieval times, with more of those markings on it. The ghost offered them to him.

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but in the Old Kingdom series world, can you imagine living in Ancelstierre during the present day?

what would it be like to live with a fantasy kingdom to the north?

and if you live in Bain or some other northern city, there might even be magic in your daily life

imagine an Old Kingdom royal friend giving you their iPad for safekeeping before they go home, because they may be rich but that’s no excuse to waste a perfectly good tablet

imagine classmates complaining on fieldtrips too near the Wall when their music suddenly cuts out or they can’t take pictures

using Charter magic to make Vines that drive your southern friends wild with jealousy

alternately, being the one who sees those Vines and gets jealous

arguments about appropriation when cosmetic Charter marks become popular

or going to school up north and having to justify to your parents via Skype your choice to get Charter-baptized

some smartass tries to invent mark emojis and melts their phone 

the possibilities are endless


SABRIEL. The first book of my favorite YA fantasy series–the underrated Abhorsen/Old Kingdom chronicles by Garth Nix–gets a new, breathtaking face from freelance artist Sebastian Ciaffaglione.

The top illustration is the covert art; bottom is the unused cover rough. Ciaffaglione got to paint the covers for ALL FOUR BOOKS in the series.Nix will be revealing his Lirael art on the fourth.

(Stop for a sec and let that sink in, fellow bookworms–we’re finally going to see Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen in all her ’necromantic’ glory! For more than a decade I’ve always wondered what Chlorr of the Mask looked like or what she was like before…well, before she got “lost”. She’s a villain I totally love, creepy golden mask and all. The US edition’s cover of Clariel was revealed last month. I admit, I was a little disappointed that she’s a dead ringer of Leo and Diane Dillon’s Lirael there. I mean the only difference is she’s got a dragon instead of a Disreputable Dog)

The new Aus editions will be out in September 2014.

I rarely prefer books with characters/faces on the cover, but I’ll choose these over the ones with charter marks on them. :p


Constitution of the United States

Item From: General Records of the United States Government. (05/14/1787- 09/17/1787)

The Federal Convention convened on May 14, 1787 in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall to revise the problematic Articles of Confederation. Since only two states had delegations present, any substantive debate was postponed until a quorum of seven states was attained on May 25th. After exhaustive deliberation well into the middle of June, the Convention concluded that the Articles were not salvageable and needed to be replaced with something that represented their collective interests while ensuring their continued independence.

Through subsequent closed sessions, the delegates continually debated, drafted and redrafted the articles of this new Constitution until it resembled the one we have today. The main points of contention were how much power was apportioned to the Federal Government, how many Congressional representatives were allotted to each state, and whether these representatives would be directly elected by their constituents or appointed by their state legislatures.

This new Constitution was the cumulative result of many minds coming together to conceptualize and debate the future course of the country. Through subsequent generations it has been amended and reinterpreted many times, but its continued success stems from adherence to these early promises of representation and compromise.



The dead may not stay dead in Ancelstierre, but that’s not a problem for the musically-inclined. Purchase an instrument from Sabriel’s Music and Instruments and arm yourself against Gore Crows, Mordauts, and Shadow Hands. Imbued with the magic of the Abhorsens, these special instruments can help you fend off any of the lesser dead. Browse our extensive selection of sheet music, and if the cat asks you to loosen his collar, do not oblige him.

Sabriel by Garth Nix

I really wanted to go dark for this one, to allude to the gritty, nightmarish feel of the book. I used a flat black color scheme, accented by a fiery red-orange like Sabriel might have seen in the eyes of an undead creature or a free magic construct.

My favorite part of this was creating all the symbols. I used Charter marks (taken from the books) as the basis of the instrument icons and the logo. I used the same four “parts” to create these.

Ultimately I am unhappy with this. I think I had a good start, but failed in the implementation. It seems boring to me, and I struggled with the urge to make it all white instead of all black–I like the way the logo looks black-on-white. I may revisit it in the future.

Finally got around to doing Touchstone in the style I’ve been doing the other Old Kingdom characters.  I can’t seem to draw him in anything other than 1980’s hunkster mode, and can’t remember whether his leggings are gold-on-red and his kilt red-on-gold or vice versa (and I’ve lent my copy of Sabriel to a friend, so I couldn’t just look it up).  I’m also now painfully aware that his left arm is a lot longer than his right… oh well.  

Who will I draw next? (spoilers I’m thinking Sam)

Edited to add:  Whoops, forgot his charter mark too. All better now.

Sabriel unfastened the strap that held her favourite bell quiet
on her bandolier, her fingers closing on the clapper, bright Charter
marks swarming from the silver bell to her hand. She smiled a slight,
quirking smile. ‘I think Chlorr has left us something of a surprise,
even an ambush. It is interesting that these lesser things are more
afraid of her than they are of us. We must correct that view.’



Also Sabriel, honey I love you and I realize you’re trying to impress your baby sister but Lirael is already a little afraid of you so maybe dial it back a bit.