Errant Story

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Errant Story
Author(s) Michael Poe
Website http://www.errantstory.com/
Current status / schedule Finished; currently re-run with commentary
Launch date 2002-11-01 [1]
Genre(s) Fantasy

Errant Story is a long-running fantasy webcomic by writer and artist Michael Poe, noted for its complex story and characterization, and changing art style. As of 2012, Errant Story has been running for over ten years and fifty chapters. Two books have been published to date, chapters 1–4 under "Volume One" (ISBN 1-932775-07-2), and chapters 5–10 under "Volume Two" (ISBN 0-9770696-0-5). The early strips are under revision for future republication.

Characters[edit]

Meji Hinadori: A 17-year old Tsuirakuan half-elf with a short temper. Her father was an elven ambassador who until late in the story didn't even know she existed. At the beginning of the story, she had done poorly in school due to lack of interest rather than lack of talent. Her grandfather threatened to disown her if she fails to graduate, which is a likely outcome. She therefore decided to "become an insane, all powerful demigod and enslave all reality" for her senior project, by finding the sleeping elven gods and draining their power, an action not without precedent in the world's history. She has a talking, flying cat as a familiar, which she tends to blast at regular intervals (its survival and sardonic wit are its most impressive traits). Her magical specialty is blowing things up. She has inherited the half-elven trait for resistance to magic, although it seems less severe than most.

Ellis: The aforementioned winged cat. He is Meji Hinadori's familiar, and only constant companion, despite his frequent sarcastic remarks. It is unknown whether his familiar status grants him any abilities or skills at all, but he does seem to be fairly indestructible, often being on the receiving end of Meji's wrath, and even being used as a bludgeoning weapon at one point in time. He can regrow after being blown up or torn apart, but he claims that this ability does not make him usable as a never-ending food source. [2] Wings or no wings, he seems to have the libido of your garden-variety tomcat.

Jon Amraphel: A human and a member of the Gewehr Wraiths, a guild of mercenaries. He has a kind nature but prefers to hide it since it doesn't fit his reputation as a hired killer. His skills with handguns are such that he can shoot a tiny fairy-like being in the head at 40 feet when it is hovering inches from Meji's chest, and he is also proficient in hand-to-hand combat. Has a younger sister, Sara, who was put up for adoption when their mother died (their father was killed by assassins some years previously). His guilt over this may explain why he is helping Meji.

Sarine Elle: An almost 3000 year old elven ranger, paid to hunt errants—in her view, dangerously disturbed half-elves, but in common elven usage, any half-elf. She should be hunting Meji and Ian but is instead willing to help, partly to learn why the elves banned a particular book on elven history that was written while they were in self-imposed isolation, partly because she doesn't like to gratuitously kill half-elves. She also has unresolved 2000 year old emotional issues concerning her apparently stillborn half-elf daughter, and her human husband who was killed after 8 years of their relationship. At some point in her past, she was one of the Viradior, the elven "special forces" cadre. She is a powerful mage who can control people, cause small localised earthquakes and heal. She slept with Jon, then wiped his memory of that night. Carries two swords and wears either a human-made set of metal and leather armour (in the early portions of the story) or an elven trenchcoat and undershirt of unknown armour value (in later portions of the story).

Ian Samael: A half-elf from a hidden village of half-elves, he's calmer than Meji but still formidable in a magical fight. He is very close to his sister, also a half-elf, who suffers from a congenital heart problem and the trait for resistance to magical healing, making it untreatable. He met Meji when they both tried to steal the same banned book on elven history (Meji for her senior project, he for information on elven origin seeking the cause of the resistance trait). He has the magical resistance trait. Disappeared after the events in Saus, and has been a popular target for blame ever since. He later reappeared, possessing the demi-god powers Meji sought, given to him by the elven goddess Anilis; and has since then healed much of his village of their congenital ailments, failed to resurrect his deceased sister, turned his wrath against the Veracian god-construct Luminosita, and reluctantly teamed up with the Ensigerum order of time-monks in a plot to attack the elves.

Sara Amraphel: The younger sister of Jon, she was brought up by the Ensigerum, an order of time monks, after he left her in an orphanage. The Ensigerum sent her to kill Jon, knowing he was her brother, as a test of her loyalty to the order. She was captured when the attempt failed and is now traveling with Jon and Sarine.

Anita: leader—Imperatrix—of the Ensigerum, she is much more ambitious than past leaders have been, wishing to change the policy of simply defending their village to one of intervening on a global scale. As of February 2008, she seems to be grooming the Anilis-empowered or -possessed Ian to be a weapon against the elves, for unclear reason on her part.

Plot[edit]

The plot involves several groups who often intersect and overlap, but are often explored in separate chapters.

Meji Hinadori originally set out with the goal of finding immense magical power so she could pass her final project and graduate, the only way she can, using a loophole that if she can defeat the entire faculty, she would automatically graduate. Graduating would also keep her from being disowned by her wealthy maternal grandfather.

She quickly finds herself accompanied by Jon Amraphael, a Farrelian assassin on temporary hiatus, who questions his own motive for joining with Meji but finds the quest interesting to say the least. Meanwhile an order of "time monks" called the Ensigerum are trying to destroy the Gewehr Wraiths, the assassins' guild to which Jon belongs. The Veracian church is allied with the time monks.

Ian Samael is another half-elf who like Meji wants to find some source of immense power, so that he can heal his half-elf sister, who as an errant is immune to all normal forms of healing magic. He and Meji come together after both break into a Veracian library looking to steal the same book. A few brief hints of romance spark before they are separated during an attack by what remains of the Elvish army.

Jon and Meji are joined shortly thereafter by Sarine Elle, an Elvish ranger whose job is to exterminate any remaining Errants she can. (Whether every half elf is an Errant is one of the key questions in the plot.) She is also motivated by curiosity and a certain distrust of her superiors, as well as a need to escape the elvish city which she despises.

After much walking and equally much talking, the trio eventually discovers the "super secret rest home" of Anilis, one of the two Elven deities. While Jon and Sarine bicker over a forgotten night of passion, Meji takes her opportunity to tap the sleeping goddess—only to find her already absent.

After the trio flee from the angry eccentric demigods which guard the lair of the goddess, Ian makes a surprise return, super-charged with magic power, and abducts Meji—though not entirely against her will. Jon and Sarine go their separate ways as Sarine returns to the Elven city to report these events to her superiors. Jon returns to service with his guild and is given a new assignment.

As Ian has come to be possessed by what appears to be a powerful entity of some kind, assumed to be the Elvish goddess, he flies himself and Meji to his hometown to heal his sister as he had planned. When he finds out both his sister and mother have died in his absence, he instead heals half the town before trying to resurrect his dead sister, which fails spectacularly, leaving Meji and Ian's fate unknown.

The story then turns to Jon's new assignment, where he finds several surprises. He is first unexpectedly joined by Sarine, who needs him to locate Meji and Ian. His job then turns out to be a setup, and he is attacked by two Ensigerum monks—one of whom happens to be his long lost sister Sara, sent on this mission as a test of loyalty to the order. But together Sarine and Jon kill Sara's mentor Warrel and capture Sara herself. She then has no viable option but to join their party, and the new trio then travel to Tsuirakushiti in search of Meji and Ian.

When we next see Ian he is descending, alone and wrathful, upon the Veracian capital of Emerylon. There he is met with, and quickly dispels, the Veracian "god" Luminosita, with disastrous consequences to the city. Shortly after breaking into the Patriarch's chambers and demanding to know the whereabouts of the Elves, Ian is knocked unconscious by an Ensigerum monk disguised as a Veracian guard.

Meji meanwhile has returned to Tsuirakushiti, after Ian vanished at his sister's grave, leaving Meji stranded two continents from home. She meets briefly with Jon, Sara and Sarine when they arrive in town, when suddenly an early Elven diplomatic party arrives in Tsuirakushiti. Against her elders' warnings, Meji attempts to catch a glimpse of her Elven father and is abducted by his delegation, who then quickly return to the Elven city under the pretense of concerns about the recent disaster in Emerylon. Jon, Sara and Sarine then follow toward the Elven city, seeking to rescue Meji.

Ian now finds himself in the custody of the Ensigerum order. The time-monks' leader, Imperatrix Anita, having heard only a partial story about what happened to Warrel and Sara, is now convinced that some combination of the Elves, Wraiths and Veracian Church is trying to wipe out the Ensigerum. Having an enemy in common, Anita seeks to use Ian as a weapon to take out the Elven threat. Meanwhile, Jon, Sara and Sarine have infiltrated the underground Elven city of Praenublis Astu, though not as undetected as they had desired. After a brief stint of being held captive in a luxurious Elven embassy, the trio are brought before the Elven council.

During the council proceedings, Ian makes telepathic contact with Meji, learns that she is a prisoner of the Elves, and flies into the underground city to rescue her, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake. Learning that Jon is also present, Ian decides to "rescue" him as well, but is besieged by Elven forces who nearly overwhelm him despite his godlike power, though incurring great losses themselves. Ian is forced to retreat from the Elven city, abandoning Meji. Returning to his home town, he finds that his earlier attempts at healing have had delayed side-effects, and he is no longer so warmly welcomed. Deciding that his powers are useful for nothing but destruction, Ian returns to the Ensigerum to join forces to exterminate the Elves.

Meanwhile, Jon, Sara and Sarine depart by order of the Elven high council, to return Meji to Tsuirakushiti...

World[edit]

It is not known whether the planet of Errant Story is in its own magical universe, or is another planet within our own. All the species except for the human are explicitly the creation of two gods, and an early text within the comic suggests that the gods have come from another world, with a rich unspecified history of their own. The origin of humans in the world is completely unknown, as they seem to have appeared after the two creator-gods went to sleep.

The story has taken place on one continent and a nearby large island-continent. The area contains the territory of the remaining elves (having mostly killed themselves off in a war 1700 years before); the large country of Veracia with a pseudo-Catholic church and somewhat backward standard of living; the island of Farrell with a somewhat libertarian or anarcho-capitalist social structure, and technology being upgraded by Tsuiraku; the levitating city of Tsuiraku, with a society and (magical) technology level similar to modern Japan; a barely seen Northern Confederacy of other human cultures, who introduced guns to the world, possibly thanks to looting dwarven ruins in their region; the equally little seen trolls; a village of half-elves hiding from elven persecutors; and a village of "time monks", martial artists once trained by the elves, who later invented a unique magic for accelerating their personal time, so that they can move extremely fast in combat.

The most advanced mundane human technology seen has been guns; the existence of electricity or steam engines is unclear. Airships and flush toilets have been mentioned, but by a Tsuirakuan, and may be magical. The character Kawaii describes having been shot by a dwarven gun long ago, which by her attempt at sound effects may have been a laser or blaster. The elves and Tsuirakuans use magic like technology. Elven effects include teleportation (between devices), artificial light (including "ridiculous fake daylight windows"), telepathy, mind control, reactive armor which can protect from time-accelerated monks, and healing. It is likely all elves have decent access to magic. Tsuirakuans have a similar range of effects. They have not been seeing using telepathy or reactive armor, but have used crystal balls for communication and direction-finding; smaller balls seem to be better, at least among some schoolgirls in a flashback. Magic in Tsuiraku is pervasive enough to be used everywhere for locks. Meji seems to have a "pocket dimension" purse, has used invisibility, and is very good—but not uniquely so—at blowing things up, once electrocuting a whole squad of policemen while being grappled by Jon. Tsuiraku itself was invisible for 1800 years, before the devices were damaged in a magical pulse, after which Tsuiraku chose to interact with the world rather than repair the devices. Similarly, the elven lands were blocked off by a magical barrier for 1500 years, until the Veracian god Luminosita brought down the barrier; it was this that set off the pulse, actually. And similarly, the elves chose interaction rather than repair and continued isolation.

Personal flight is prohibitively difficult, in that the Tsuirakuan record for magical levitation is about 20–30 seconds. With some sort of mechanical existence, airships exist, and the flying cities of Malacia and Tsuiraku itself have been of historical importance.

Races/Species[edit]

Dwarves: The first species made by the gods Anilis and Senilis, presumed extinct. Dwarves were strong, frighteningly intelligent, and immortal (unless killed by injury or mishap); but they could not procreate, so when the gods stopped creating them, they eventually died out. Despite a complete and utter lack of magic, they were still a power to be reckoned with. They have not appeared in the comic yet, though the ruins of their cities impress humans and elves alike. Farrelian theocrats claim that these are the ruins of ancient human civilizations that predate and surpass that of the elves.

Elves: The second created species. The elves are immortal in that they do not die of old age, but can be killed. They are skilled in magic, used to dominate the planet, tried to kill off the trolls, and took it upon themselves to protect and uplift the humans. Following the Errant war, the survivors sealed themselves away in their sole remaining city for centuries. There are four races of Elves: the Rinkai Erufu (blonde, uninhibited, "sea elves"), the Keiren ("wood elves"), the Sanguen ("highland elves"), and the Cimmerii (dark-skinned, more conservative, "cave elves"). The elven sexes are socially and physically equal. A key feature of elven society is related to their immortality: after some decades or centuries, a couple will drift apart or become bored with each other. Most elves have come to romanticize love with humans, because the human will die before the elf gets bored, leaving an eternal unfulfilled desire. Sarine, who has actually experienced this, is less taken with the concept. Another aspect is that many elves currently living would have been involved in the genocide against the half-elves, 1700–2000 years before. Elven fertility was low, though the fact that the youngest living elf is 1500 years old suggests they've had even further problems.

Humans: Humans seem to be humans as we know them; their origins in the world are a mystery. When the elves first found them, the humans were primitive and barbaric. The Elves taught the humans much, but this was not totally out of benevolence. Many human settlements, particularly Tsuiraku, still show strong holdovers from elven culture.

Half-elves: The offspring of a human and an elf or of two half-elves. Though mortal, they live much longer than humans and mature more slowly; at best, they are stronger, healthier, and more magical than humans. Common among half-elves is an immunity to transformative magic, related to the magic which keeps elves truly immortal; while it can protect them from some magical attacks, it also prevents them from benefiting from healing or shapechanging magic. At some time in the past, it was discovered that half-elves can have a high rate of birth defects, including psychological problems that may not manifest themselves until adulthood. Half-elves with these defects and problems are called "Errants," though the word is sometimes used pejoratively to refer to all half-elves, and the Errant War started as a struggle over whether all half-elves should be pre-emptively killed, before they could destroy any more cities, after destroying one and absconding with the forerunner of Tsuiraku.

Trolls: The third created species. Mortal, but with a lifespan of centuries, and magical use by female trolls. Generally regarded as cannibalistic brutes, though one educated human talks about their having been framed for violence, and how their cannibalism derives from complex beliefs about the relationship between flesh and soul.

Paedagogusi: The helpers of the gods, and the five teacher-nurturers of the Elven civilization, long since vanished. They look like small, winged, female fairies, seem to be nigh-invulnerable,and claim to be quite powerful. Four have been met by the main characters; their personalities completely fail to match religious expectations of how demigods should comport themselves. The Paedagogusi Concussion, Nookie and Kawaii appear to be (or be based on) characters from Poe's earlier webcomic, Exploitation Now.

Criticism and awards[edit]

Errant Story has won two Web Cartoonist's Choice Awards, "Best Fantasy Comic" and "Best Newcomer Comic", both in 2003.

Reviews[edit]

External links[edit]