At War’s Edge Revisions

I’ve been itching to make some revisions to the already-published parts of At War’s Edge for quite a while. For the most part, I’ve been resisting that itch successfully. Until now.

It is normal, I think, to want to improve your old work. At War’s Edge launched four years ago — over these four years, not only have  I been working on it pretty consistently, but also switched careers and started working in 3D professionally. Both my skills and my tools have improved. And yes, AWE’s early art hurts my eyes right now, but I suspect that in a year or two I will have an even better idea how to fix it.

And I do so want to keep the story moving forward. After all, that was a big part of why I chose to publish the graphic novel as a webcomic in the first place — I realized that if I didn’t have something forcing me to make progress, my perfectionism would keep me endlessly stuck on Chapter 1.

So. I’ve been resisting the urge to fix the art, so far. 

However, this week I did give in to the urge to fix the text. Well, some of it. I still want to go back and fix the em-dashes which in places are still shown as “- -”. I was very confused about the comic punctuation conventions. Still am, a bit.

But I did finally fix the text. Nothing that changed plot or characters — mostly terminology.

Table of Contents

The Saga of the Bereghin Titles

Bereghin titles have been a pain point for me since the beginning.

Reason being, I didn’t have languages and cultures properly worked out. I only had in my mind some vague Western European inspiration for Halcia and Central/Eastern European inspiration for Bereg. I was trying to convey that linguistically. But I was basically trying to force English to play the role of two different languages, and fluctuated between giving literal translations (like Steadholder or Great Hunter) and just injecting non-English terminology. Most notably — the Boyars and the Gosudar of Bereg. 

Keepers: Boyars and Banns

The Boyars I’m keeping. For now. It’s a historic term used across several European countries. The concept of boyars exists in English, even if it is a little obscure, and if the Bereghin boyars were to be studied by an anglophone historian, they would be referred to as boyars, even if the Bereghin term is a little different. So fair enough.  

I’m also keeping the bann/bana forms of address. I could translate them as lord/lady, but I feel like “lord” implies the upper echelons of landed gentry, whereas “bann” can be used for any noble at all. And besides, those are Bereghin terms (ban/bana), derived from the Proto-Slavic “banъ”. I think they might be the very first borrowing from Proto-Slavic I ever did, way before I got into conlanging Bereghin properly. It was supposed to be the Polish “pan/panna”, I had second thoughts because “pan” is too well-used a word in English… and that’s how I met Proto-Slavic =)

Gosudar/Gosondar => King

Then biggest changes that happened were around the Gosudar.

That term started out as a direct borrowing of the Russian “государь” (“sovereign/sire”). That was at the same stage where I was eyeing the Polish “pan”. I had no idea what Bereghin language was like, other than Slavic, and drew indiscriminately from real languages, mostly from Russian and Polish, in the hopes of giving things “a Slavic flavour”.

Once I worked out the Bereghin language in a bit more depth, though, it turned out that guess what? It doesn’t actually correspond to any existing Slavic language. (This should have been obvious, in retrospect. No clue what I was thinking.) And the actual monarch of Bereg, as it turns out, is called a “gosondarí”. So, it would still make sense to refer to him as a “gosudar”… when speaking Russian. But borrowing the Russian term into English made zero sense.

At that point, my first instinct was to change “Gosudar” to “Gosondar”. I even used that for a while. But as I went back to change the “gosudars” to “gosondars”, I finally noticed the much simpler solution. Just translate the damn thing. To all intents and purposes, the monarch of Bereg is, in fact, a king. If Bereg were a real country and any anglophone historian were to discuss the Bereghin monarchs, they would 100% refer to them as kings. Just like they do with the kings of Poland or Bohemia. So, why complicate matters?

The ruler of Bereg, therefore, is now officially the King of Bereg. All the webcomic text has already been charged, though I still need to go back and fix the worldbuilding notes.

It is, honestly, such a… relief? Like, when Meled addresses Boleslav as “my king”, it finally makes sense. Because that’s a direct translation of what he actually says and how the characters perceive it.

I don’t know why I’ve taken so long to figure this out. But there, it is done =)

Other changes

The other two changes are significantly smaller. As far as I could find, both words were only mentioned once, so far.

Nezvana => Nezuvana

One term — also Bereghin, and also related to figuring out the language — is Ivolga’s second name. It was originally written as Nezvana, but is now spelled Nezuvana — because yeah, Bereghin language loves its vowels.

Master => Magister

And the other term is Halcian. Master Asches, so far only mentioned briefly at one point, is now Magister Asches. Reason being, the Halcian term “maistrig” refers to the possessor of an academic degree without the “owner” connotation. (And is also completely gender-neutral. Which “magister” technically isn’t, but it’s still better than “master”.)

The next step of At War’s Edge revisions I’m going to allow myself will be the Shelisk citadel courtyard, probably. It has evolved hugely from the first splash page it appeared in, so much so that it’s barely recognizable. And I also want to fix the mountains. So badly it almost hurts. But that’s going to be a huge project, and I’m not sure I’m ready do it well enough yet. No point redoing it for the third time down the road.

Meanwhile, however… the story goes on!

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