Monday, February 6, 2017

Mythical Monday #64

Art work by: @Burntlaughter on Twitter

It seems there are many books influenced by or based on Myths and Mythological Beings.

There are many different Mythology's and Mythological Beings recorded. Some are very popular and well known, others not so much. There are many similar beings, yet different depending on the culture it’s based in.  The definition of Myth covers about anything in the Urban Fantasy/Fantasy realm to me.

I’ve invited authors to share briefly the Mythological being or Myth that influenced their character(s) or story, or what their character(s) are based on influencing their books.  Hosting here, one author and being or myth per week.


Baekho – The Korean White Tiger of Myth


White Bengal tigers are a huge attraction at many zoos throughout the world, and it’s no wonder—there’s something mythical and magical about that simple lack of pigments that draws the attention of everyone who sees them. They also, understandably, permeate myths throughout their native regions.

The white Siberian tiger, however, I suppose is even more mythical because despite reported sightings, there is no evidence the gene mutation that resulted in white Bengal tigers is also seen in bigger Siberian subspecies.

The Siberian tiger was once distributed throughout much of Korea, north-eastern China, far east Russia, and (obviously) eastern Siberia. Its habitat has been drastically reduced, but the range it used to call home can be traced by the myths and folklore it appears in.

Korean myths come from various folktales and stories, influenced by religions that made their way into the region, including Buddhism, Chinese myth, Taoism. This is where some of the stories of the white tiger comes from—the White Tiger is one of the four Chinese constellations, the guardian of the west. In Korea it’s known as Baekho. The tiger features prominently in Korean mythology, and to this day is a popular image in paintings and sculptures, and can be found safeguarding royal tombs.

It’s believed that after enduring struggles in life, the tiger turns white, and becomes a sacred creature who is mostly harmless except is angered by corrupt leaders. Often it only appears when there is peace in the world, and when emperors rule fairly. It’s a symbol of courage, of power, and can drive away evil spirits.

Of course, how much of this applies to my character Dale West in the Livi Talbot series is up for debate. The reader knows what Livi knows at this point, a little bit about white tigers in mythology, and not nearly enough about West to form an opinion.

West was born and raised in a North Korean “labor camp”—a gulag, where prisoners and up to three generations of their family are kept sometimes without release and worked in many cases to death. After being raised to lie, to inform on fellow prisoners, all in the name of survival, and enduring horrific torture daily, he escaped at fifteen, made his way through China, and was eventually brought into the fold of an organization who could put to use his rather “unique” skills (and I don’t just mean his ability to turn into a tiger at will).

Is he ultimately a figure of courage who will humble corrupt leaders, or is the white pelt of the tiger he turns into merely a random result of the Pulse that activated magic four years before the start of Livi’s books?

That’s a question for Livi—and the reader—to ponder as the series continues.




Odin’s Spear Excerpt:

Though the tunnel’s height didn’t change, the ground sloped downward until we were in a large cavern and water crept up to my throat. The space abruptly widened, adding enough room for West to move to my side. Our headlamps shone over rock ahead—at least we’d be getting out of the water soon.

“You’re handling the water well,” he said.

I was. It rippled on either side of me, brushed coolly against my legs, and I still tasted the salt from when my head had been submerged.
“You were adamant about disliking it.”

I shrugged. “Maybe I really need the money.”

He didn’t call me on my bullshit, thankfully.

I continued forward but he didn’t follow. Something in his hesitation cautioned me and I froze in the water, turned slowly around.

West stood still, barely breathing. Just his pale eyes moved, tracking the dark water around us.

I ceased all movement as well. “West?” I began to step back.

“Don’t.” He bit the word out and it echoed in the cavern.

I stopped moving entirely, listened. Water dripped around us, but that was all. “If it’s another shark—”

“I don’t...” His eyes narrowed on the water, but though I tried to see where he gazed, I couldn’t determine what he stared at. “...think it’s a shark.”

I decided that was bad. Very bad. Sharks were bound to be infinitely preferable to whatever had him worried.

Then something brushed past my leg and I knew I was about to find out.

I felt the long length of it strike my calf, slither restlessly past. I counted the seconds, waiting to stop feeling it—two, three, four, five—
My eyes tracked the water’s depths but I couldn’t see the fucking thing. It flicked hard at the end, bruising flesh.

I let out a shuddering breath and stared wide-eyed at West. Given that we were just discussing what a great team we made, surely he wasn’t going to leave me to be eaten...

“When I tell you to move, go forward,” he said calmly. Too calmly. West worried me more the less emotion he showed.

“And why not backward?” I asked, tensing from head to toe.

“Shorter distance.”

“We don’t even know what the fuck is at the end of the—”

“Now.”

Shit. I rushed forward, half-swimming, kicking off with my feet on the murky ground. I kept my sights set ahead where my headlamp showed rock I could scramble onto.

Again something struck my legs.

I froze, looked back.

No West.

Oh, motherfucking—

It wove around me again, this time snaking about my leg in a circle to cinch around my thigh. It jerked me off my feet and I flew onto my side, sinking into the water. I thrashed, kicked, couldn’t even see what the fuck had me.

But I would in a moment.

I managed a quick breath in before my head was submerged completely.

I blinked through the initial sting as my eyes adjusted, struggling to see through water so I’d at least know what I fought. My headlamp broke through the darkness, catching a serpentine creature of pale gray that squeezed my thigh and dragged me under. Though I scanned swiftly, my brain couldn’t properly process the size of the thing—eight feet, ten, twelve? I didn’t know. Or care. It had me, it wasn’t letting me go, and I was weaponless down here.

And running out of air.

Holes of varying sizes along the walls were dark spots underwater, tunnels I could barely slip through, and the pale snake slithered toward one with me still in its grip. My lungs squeezed and bubbles flew from my lips.

A second figure darted in my line of vision; I had enough time to glimpse West’s very tanned, very naked body, then a knife was thrust at me, the glint of the blade sharp in the light of my headlamp. I grasped the weapon and as soon as the handle was in my grip, he changed. Muscle bunched, bones twisted, hair sprouted from skin, and the tiger emerged, leaving a massive, bladed paw where moments ago I’d seen a hand.

Buttons was out in full force now.

Tigers are scary on land but they’re fucking terrifying in the water, because every instinct says, like all cats, they should hate being wet. But tigers thrive in it and West was no different. The water did nothing to hamper him; he twisted and moved as he did on land. He pounced on the snake, claws sinking into flesh and immediately peppering the water with blood.

The sea serpent wasn’t quite ready to give up its prey, however; for a moment it tightened its grip, squeezing my leg to the point I felt bone grinding. I let out a bark of pain automatically that was swallowed by the water, losing more precious air. But the knife was still in my hand and I bent forward, slashing the blade against near-white, scaly skin.

That was enough to startle it into letting me loose. When there was enough slack in its grip, I scrambled back and away. West let it go as well and it shot through one of the tunnels, leaving a trail of dark red spotting the water in its wake.

I darted up, my face breaking the surface where I took a huge breath of air. My feet touched down and at this point the water was at my chin. I swung around, my braid whipping through the water, my hand still squeezing the knife’s handle.

A moment later, West surfaced, still in tiger form. He treaded water silently, eyes on me.

It’s hard to read much into the expression of a tiger beyond “And now you die, silly human.” But his eyes warned me, enough weight to them that I knew to listen. When he sank back in the water, I did as well, blinking to adjust to the change in my vision.

More serpentine creatures darted from the holes, lengths varying from ten to fifteen feet. One neared me, slithering with open, sightless white eyes fixed ahead. A thin ridge ran from the top of its head down its back, vaguely reminding me of an eel.

I had no desire to discover new species of sea creatures only to kill them all but I was pretty sure the fuckers wanted to make me part of their food chain, and I’m not okay with that. I slashed the knife in an arc, nicking the snake badly enough that it slithered away, circling me at a greater distance.

That’s right, motherfucker—I’ve got teeth.

West pounced on another, kicked off of it with claws bared, and swam near me. His huge, frightening maw was open, glistening teeth ready to slice through flesh. Though they couldn’t see, they somehow sensed who was the weakest link here—no one paid him any attention except to avoid his powerful paws or jaws. I was the planned meal.

And there were far too many of them.

They darted in and out, water rippling around them, tails flicking out to wind around my legs, ankles, wrists. I twisted and slashed, broke for air once before heading back down so I could at least know when I was about to be dragged under.

West’s muzzle butted my side, pushed and herded me to the right. There was no arguing with him or the forceful push for me to follow his direction. I swam, using both arms and only pausing to strike out at the sea snakes when I had to. An outcrop of rock was ahead and I surge upward, grasping the lip of it and hauling myself onto dry land.

I heaved several great breaths, got my legs out of the water, and rolled away from the edge, onto my back. The knife was still clutched in a death grip in my hand and I couldn’t’ve pried my fingers loose if I wanted to.

West leapt up onto the rock next to me, his white, striped fur soaking and showering water down in great drops. A dead serpent was in his powerful jaws and he let the corpse drop in a long, thick coiled heap.

I sat up, still panting, staring at the pile of dead sea snake like it might awaken and bite me. But West had grasped it near the head, tooth marks scored deeply in its flesh. Blood oozed out, twining with water and rolling into the pool we’d climbed out of.

The tiger stood straight and abruptly shook, twisting from the ruff of fur around his neck, down his massive body, straight to the tip of his tail. Water flew off of him, spraying me.

I turned my head, winced, and inwardly groaned. “Buttons.”

He cast a dark look at me and sat, tail twitching and still flicking water. Then fur melted into skin, his body changing into that of a crouched man, black hair dripping and a sheen of water covering his skin. Just his eyes remained the same regardless of his form, a light cold blue, though they were closed now. Again he shook, this time more of a tremble rushing through his skin than something designed to remove excess water.
I turned onto my knees. Hard rock bit into them through the wetsuit—when we came back tomorrow, I’d get my pads to help with any awkward crawling. “Does that hurt to do?”

“It’s fine,” he said, shifting just slightly and blinking his eyes open.

That wasn’t answer. I’d take it as a yes, even if he had no desire to complain about it.

I changed the subject. “Did you stash extra clothes somewhere?”

“I’ll retrieve the suit and bag in a few minutes when they’ve gone on their way.” He looked down at the coiled dead serpent. Its massive lower body and tail hung over the rocky edge into the water and he pawed at it with his large human hand, the movement distinctly cat-like.

“I thought sea snakes were all venomous.” I said, crawling over and leaning to peer down at the dead thing with a shudder.

“These seem more akin to constrictors but I’d avoid getting bit if you can.”

The nearly-white flesh had a slimy texture to it out of the water. Tiny pinpricks of dark gray dotted the center of each scale and sightless eyes stared up blankly. “I was about to ask why you brought it up here but my daughter’s cat does the same thing with his kills.” I patted the top of West’s head, plastering down his soaked black hair. “Good kitty.”

He cut me a look and swiped the snake in the water without breaking eye contact.



About the Author:
Skyla Dawn Cameron has been writing approximately forever.

Her early storytelling days were spent acting out strange horror/fairy tales with the help of her many dolls, and little has changed except that she now keeps those stories on paper. She signed her first book contract at age twenty-one for River, a unique werewolf tale, which was released to critical and reader praise alike and won her the 2007 EPPIE Award for Best Fantasy. She now has multiple series on the go to keep her busy.

Skyla is a fifth generation crazy cat lady who lives in southern Ontario, where she writes full time, works as a freelance designer, stabs people with double pointed knitting needles, is an avid gamer, and watches Buffy reruns. If she ever becomes a grownup, she wants to run her own Irish pub, as well as become world dictator.

Find the Author:
You can visit her on the web at www.skyladawncameron.com. When she’s not writing or being glared at by cats, she’s probably on Twitter. You should ping @skyladawn and tell her to get back to work. You can sign up for her newsletter at www.skyladawncameron.com/newsletter and support her work by becoming a Patron of Snark.

Buy the Books:
Links for Solomon's Seal:

Links for Odin's Spear:

6 comments:

  1. Thanks for the excerpt! I'm gonna have to try these books one day :D

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  2. Loved the tiger mythos and the excerpt. This looks so good! Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Ooooo. That excerpt though! so good.

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  4. Well THAT sounds like a whole lot of fun! Many thanks for sharing - I really enjoyed the Mythology aspect as well.

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  5. Sounds SO good! I need to try these books at some point, thanks for this great post :D

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