Understanding ICOR (The Magic of They Came By Night)

Intelligent Cloud of Robots (ICOR)

Icor are nanite robots created by the singulatarian during the fall of the ancients

There are three types of wizard in “They Came By Night”: the selected, those that have icor chambers and those with ancient tech permitted by the icor and sometimes powered by it.

The Golden Wizard (This Robe will be Golden once art has been completed)

Icor comes in two states:

Ambient Icor is born and powered in radioactive areas called “The Sickenings”. When icor was first created, during the fall of the ancients, it had three primary directives: clean up radiation from the wars, clean up pollution and fix the environment (global warming), and to heal humans sickened by radiation and pollution. 1500 years after the fall of the ancients the ambient icor still looks after the ecology and heals the sick.

Activated Icor has been given additional programming. This can be done through the wizards or through icor chambers.

Amsten – A Selected Wizard

The singulatarian created the concept of wizards who were supposed to be good people capable of using the icor to keep the peace and help create a natural paradise on Earth. They are able to heal the sick, create a shield, and a few of them are able to throw fire. The icor selects these good people as children, but often the power corrupts them and they become egotistical and evil.

Icor Chambers These are containers within which icor can be re-programmed. These chambers program the icor for specific tasks and are usually treasured artifacts like truth stones which force the holder to tell the truth, or healing rings, or crop idols which help crops grow, or the jars that help the flying boat fly. There are many types of these artifacts.

The Keys are a special type of icor chamber with cryptographic encryption keys which authorize the owner to reprogram icor. The owner of the prime key is like an admin, they have rights to do anything. The owner of the golden key can do anything not forbidden by the prime . There are other keys which are subordinate to the golden key, and then there is the key held by the council. The golden key and the council’s key are required to activate the prime key.

The Hero’s Journey

No spoilers here…

Sam’s Journey

I am well into planning the second book in the Icor Tales series, and today I realized what it should be called “The Ancients Awake”. I have the chapters worked out and I realized they pretty closely match the classic Joseph Campbell’s “Journey of the Hero” …

The call to Adventure
Refusal of the call
Supernatural Aid
The Crossing of the first Threshold
The belly of the whale
The road of trials
Woman as the temptress
Atonement with the father
The Ultimate boon
Refusal of the return
The magic flight
Freedom to live

These chapters mark the progress of the hero, Sam … but I like to have a similar arc for the antagonist, Bestich. So his chapters are

The Villain has his own arc

Ordinary World
Call to Adventure
Refusal of the call
Meeting with Mentor
Crossing the threshold
Tests, allies, and enemies
The Ordeal, death and rebirth

The villains journey will be intermixed with the hero’s journey.

The stakes will be a lot higher.

There will be Epic Battles

The Philosophy of “They Came By Night”

What would you do if you had the power of God?

God Touches Man

Yuval Noah Harari wrote a fantastic non fiction book called Homo Deus, discussing something which I believe is inevitable, and that is the rise of man to god. Note the little ‘g’. Mankind will soon have god-like powers, like those of ancient Greek gods.


The problem is, mankind does not have Godlike goodness, or Godlike wisdom, so what will he do with such power?

Imagine there is a first Singulatarian, i.e. the first person to create an intelligence singularity. That person would have god-like power over mankind. Let’s imagine that person is relatively good. What would they do?

The Singularity Tries to Ascertain Humanity’s Purpose
  1. World peace: that could be done by destroying all weapons and having nanites fill the air such that when anyone tries anything violent, the nanites intervene to stop them. Think about the lack of freedom entailed in that.
  2. Solve all the things that make people sad either by supplying drugs or by just fulfilling all wants. What a boring life

In my book there is an ancient character who was the Singulatarian and she tried a middle path of removing some of the big obstacles to peace: she made a duplicate of Israel and gave one to the Arabs and one to Jews… but now they had twice as much to fight about.

Violet – The Singulatarian

One of the secrets of my book is that most of humanity used the power of the singularity to enter heaven. Where heaven is a pod where they are filled with a chemical nirvana greater than any pleasure nature could ever provide, and they are maintained eternally by the hyper intelligent singularity with its army of robots.

Humans in pods, maintained by robots

What is true happiness? If you get rid of magical thinking, then happiness is just a cocktail of neurochemicals. Why not skip the struggles of life and get an intravenous drip of pure happiness.

The singularity then begins to think about the true purpose of Mankind. Isn’t suffering part of our purpose? We are designed to solve problems so our genes can replicate; that is our purpose. Or perhaps there is no purpose and the logical path is neurochemical drip.

Writing a Battle of Wizards

My wizards fight. They fight against armies and they fight against other wizards, and they fight against hordes of unnatural critters. But there’s a problem with magic. It is hard for a reader to predict what the characters are capable of. This can be good for getting a weak protagonist out of trouble, but its the ultimate Deus ex machina (i.e. Its a lazy writers way to resolve an otherwise irresolvable plot situation, to surprise the audience, to bring the tale to a happy ending.) Ultimately it is unsatisfying just to have your wizard pluck a hitherto unknown spell out of their grimoire, or to find some inner strength in the nick of time.

Flamethrowers have rules damn it!

I wanted my readers to know the rules before the battle. I don’t want to cheat my way out of a tricky situation. If the good guy is weaker then they better have a damn good plan. My protagonists are the underdogs, but they are smart underdogs.

When my main protagonist, Sam, faces his first battle with the main antagonist, Unmind, he has no time to come up with a cunning plan. Instead, he just throws everything he has against his opponent in a predictably inefficient and ineffective manner. He only has three spells available to him and two of them are basically throwing fire. Once the spells are cast, he is just a farm boy against a seasoned warrior with bulging muscles and a massive sword.

Hit the pause button.

What would you do?

Hopefully you find the resolution satisfying. It is both unpredictable and obvious. Afterwards I hope the reader would say “That’s exactly what I’d do.”

The Journey From Farm Boy to Wizard

As a child I read Edding’s The Belgariad, and Chocky by Johnathon Wyndham, and then Star Wars came out. I was an adventurous and imaginative boy. I explored tunnels, sewers and mines. I built underground dens and forts and tree houses. I got into so much trouble, and injured myself so often the emergency room knew my name and my mother, a nurse, used to stitch me herself.

Sam Butcheart, the hero of “They Came By Night” yearns for adventure, but he knows his family need him to help build the farm. The pressers come to town recruiting for adventurers to fight the evil Northmen, and Sam is tempted. His father earned his surname fighting for the Militias, and Sam wants to earn respect as a new adult.

Sam’s has survived 13 winters which qualifies him as an Elderstone adult who can legally join the militias and earn his name but he has five younger siblings and knows they will go hungry if he is not around to help prepare the fields and supplement their diet with hunting.

Sam is good. He loves his parents and loves his family. Surely he would not abandon them all.

In every heroes quest there comes an inciting moment that spurs the journey. The hero must overcome seemingly insurmountable odds, and there must be satisfying final confrontation.

Sam’s journey is epic. His is tested. In one scene Sam and his mentor, Red, have captured a young enemy scout. Sam is faced with the dilemma. Can he kill someone so young? Can he release an enemy who can then one day come back and kill his friends? He can’t take a prisoner and complete his mission, so what is he do? The moral dilemma is how to fight an evil without becoming evil. The temptation to go to the “dark side” is strong. Eventually Sam must defeat the Northman Warrior Wizard, Unmind the Scourge

Writing a battle scene

Game of thrones was criticized for the final battle scene with the Night King. People said it was too dark, and I agree with that. We all wanted to witness the spectacle of the army of the dead. When I first wrote my battles scene at the Battle of Demon’s Smile, I tried for realism by restricting the perspective to that of the protagonist, but he is small and can’t see the battle, and he can’t be on the frontline because he lacks the skills to fight hand to hand with a warrior Northman. The sound of battle alone is not enough to immerse a reader. So I made Sam, my protagonist, a messenger, running between the formations, getting updates from the captains.

From a tactical perspective the battle against the night king was absurd : to put your army and trebuchets outside of your defensive walls, and to simply fail to set traps, and have any form of tactical mastery. For my battles I wanted there to be an ingenious tactical plan so I stole some of history’s greatest battle plans: Agincourt, The Battle of the Nile, Thermopylae, Gaugamela. For my next book I am stealing from Hannibal who is probably the most consistently ingenious general. (You don’t have to be a genius, when you can just be a thief)

However, there are no real world battle plans that involve wizards and flying boats, so … adjustments had to be made

Hint: When you have a stronghold with big thick walls that has stood against armies for centuries, then do NOT place all your armies, catapults and trebuchets outside in the open waiting for your enemy who has overwhelming numerical superiority

The Flying Boat

I’ve always been a Doctor Who fan, and I want a TARDIS. The flying boat in “They Came by Night” is my version of the TARDIS and in book 2 Sam will discover a room that’s bigger on the inside….

I always loved the scenes where the TARDIS is out of control and things are blowing up and catching fire… that was the inspiration for this excerpt from the 2nd book (not finished yet)

Smoke poured from the windows of the boat as it drifted lower scraping the treetops.

“We’re definitely going to crash!” shouted Sam.

              Red ran aft and looked over the edge and his eyes went wide.  “There’s thousands of the little critters down there.”

              “Throw something overboard!” screamed Rose.

              Red looked at Bestich.

              “No, not him,” said Sam.

              “What’s the heaviest thing we have left?” said Red.

              Sam looked at the flamethrower.

              “Not the dragon’s breath,” moaned Red, but he was already looking at the fastenings.  Sam jumped into the fore area to pull the fastening bolts out.

              “The critters are climbing the trees!” screamed Rose. “They’ll be able to jump in the boat any moment.”

              Red and Sam pulled the last fastening bolts out and started to lift it off the carriage.

              “HELP!” screamed Bestich.  One of the critters had jumped onto the ship and was biting his nose.  With his hands tied he could not brush it off so he was vigorously shaking his head but the creature stubbornly held on to his nose.  It’s furry body was being thrown from side to side and its tale jittered up and down as if it were in an uncontrolled frenzy.

              “It’s tasted his blood, and it likes it,” said Rose.

              “Well, no accounting for taste,” said Red.

              Together Sam and Red tilted and then threw the flamethrower off the front of the ship.  The lightening of the load helped lift the ship a few feet higher, but more and more critters were jumping from the trees.

              Rose smacked the critter that was latched to Bestich’s nose and then used her net to catch it and throw it overboard.  Red swiped at more of the critters with his ax and Sam tried to summon some icor to blow the critters off the deck.

              “There’s barely any icor here at all,” said Sam.

              Bestich was bawling but between sobs he screamed.  “Use your prosthetic you stritzing piece of …”

              He never finished his sentence because another critter jumped at his face and latched on to his ear.

              “Stritz!” shouted Sam. “We are losing height again.  Brace for impact!”

              There was an almighty crashing sound and waves splashed over the decking, washing the critters into the sea.

              “WE MADE IT TO THE SEA!” shouted Rose.

              “I told you we would make it,” said Sam.

              “Thank God that’s over,” said Red

              “Hmmmpfff,” said Bestich.

              Rose, Same and Red looked at Bestich and saw a bedraggled critter clinging to each of his ears and another one latched to his lips.

              Sam found the sight funny and giggled.  Red burst out laughing.  Rose walked over and swatted the critters off.

              “Okay, now comes the tricky part,” said Sam.  “Whose going to explain all this damage to Violet ?”

The ideas for “They Came By Night”

I day dreamed multiple story lines…

  1. Sam Butcheart the 13yo boy who wakes up in the night to the sound of hooves and gets whisked away to be in a battle. The heroes in battles always seem to be able to effortlessly slash and bash their way through the enemy, but this hero does not have that skill set. Sam’s too young to fight and he is small for his age. What could he do with just goodness and courage.
  2. The king who has just inherited a kingdom but is being assailed by an army so huge and so full of hate that he knows his kingdom is doomed.
  3. A warrior who just wants to stop fighting
  4. A woman who thought she could bring world peace

Only when I was forcing myself to choose a dream to write, did I realize I could join all the storylines into one big epic.

127,000 words later: They Came By Night is finished.

Current Status: Being Edited and Formatted for publication… Publisher to be determined…

Please download and read and give feedback


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