My new comic, Valkyria: The Adventures of Katie Ashe, Newbie Superheroine, is now online.
To read the comic, visit my website nboutwell.com
My new comic, Valkyria: The Adventures of Katie Ashe, Newbie Superheroine, is now online.
To read the comic, visit my website nboutwell.com
Aura Lockhaven portrait.
To transform Katie Ashe from her petite civilian form into that of the superheroine Valkyria, I used single-slider morphs. It’s an easy technique that permits a wide variety of steps in a transformation process, without having to load multiple Vickis into the scene.
If you don’t know what a single-slider morph is, it’s the same thing a content creator like Fred Winkler uses. If you notice to get his Nadine for V7, you simply turn the sliders for Nadine in a G3F all the way up, and there she is.
This technique works for V4/M4, and any of the four Genesis generations. This assumes, of course, that you have a “normal” version of your character, and a superpowered version.
To create a single-slider morph, start with your character tweaked and ready to go. Remove all clothes, hair, geografts, etc. If you use HD morphs and muscularity, turn them off. It’s easier to turn them on when needed. Now, set your character’s resolution to Base Resolution, Subdivision 1. Export her (or him) as an object (obj) file. Save it to an easy to find folder, and just name it for your character. Use the scale DAZ (1 Unit = 1cm). Now, clear the scene and load a base figure; if your character is a V7, load a base G3F, etc. Set the Resolution to Base, SudDiv 1. Use Morph Loader Pro to load the object file to the base figure as a morph. From there, I follow the steps in this guide. It’s tricky at first, but if you make a mistake, just start over. Now, do the same for the other version.
You now have both a normal, secret identity version of your character and a superpowered heroine version, both set as single-slider morphs in the base figure, ready to go whenever you load the base figure.
Here’s how to use them for the character transformation. Or, how I did it.
Katie Ashe is a V6HD. She has four separate morphs total: two for her body (one for “Little Katie” and one for “Big Katie,” or Valkyria) and two for her face (again, one for “Little Katie” and one for “Big Katie”). The separate morphs for the face were necessitated by originally borrowing another character’s face for “Big Katie,” but it sure turned out to be a major boon to this process. It also allows me to give half her face to her sister permitting a family resemblance. Her hair as “Little Katie” is Elite Ponytail for G2F, and for “Big Katie” is Jazmine Hair for G3F.
The formula for the above transformation was:
Left to right:
1. Katie Little Body = 100 %
Katie Big Body = 0 %
Katie Little Face = 100 %
Katie Big Face = 0 %
Muscle Volumes = 0 %
Scale = 95 %
Elite Ponytail (Opacity) = 100 %
Jazmine Hair (Opacity) = 0 %
2. Katie Little Body = 75 %
Katie Big Body = 25 %
Katie Little Face = 100 %
Katie Big Face = 0 %
Muscle Volumes = 5 %
Scale = 95 %
Elite Ponytail = 100 %
Jazmine Hair = 0 %
3. Katie Little Body = 50 %
Katie Big Body = 50 %
Katie Little Face = 75 %
Katie Big Face = 25 %
Muscle Volumes = 10 %
Scale = 96 %
Elite Ponytail = 100 %
Jazmine Hair = 10 %
4. Katie Little Body = 25 %
Katie Big Body = 75 %
Katie Little Face = 50 %
Katie Big Face = 50 %
Muscle Volumes = 15 %
Scale = 98 %
Elite Ponytail = 100 %
Jazmine Hair = 50 %
5. Katie Little Face = 0 %
Katie Big Body = 100 %
Katie Little Face = 0 %
Katie Big Face = 100 %
Muscle Volumes = 25 %
Scale = 100 %
Elite Ponytail = 0 %
Jazmine Hair = 100 %
There is absolutely no postwork in the above transformation image, other than to paste the five images onto one background. Little Katie just transformed into Big Katie without the need to bring a second V6 into the scene and hassle with multiple layers in postwork. Big Katie can transform back just as easily. I could conceivably have only one Katie model, fitted with both hair props and glasses (Little Katie is still nearsighted). The only trick is to remember the scale and muscle volumes settings. Shaping presets for the various levels of transformation would take that pressure off. To get really fancy, I can use different makeup for Little and Big forms, switching the diffuse map in step 3.
As a byproduct, I’ve noticed that single-slider morphs of characters reduce the memory load sent to Iray. That’s helpful for those of us with smaller graphics cards.
I have entered the world of superheroine comics! If I’d known it was this much fun, I would have gotten involved years ago.
Meet Katie Ashe, also known as Valkyria.
Here is a turnaround of the Valkyria costume. It was her mother’s old Halloween costume. Katie is broke. The costume originally had a cape, but I discarded it. It was too difficult to make look right in dramatic poses.
Valkyria will be a superheroine story for mature readers. It will feature nudity, violence, foul language, sexual themes, social commentary, and occasional bloodshed. It will be more along the lines of Budd Root’s Cavewoman and Dynamite’s Red Sonja than anything released by Marvel and DC. Obviously, it will be composed of 3D renders. I can’t draw.
I’m going to play Valkyria straight. As in, serious. That gives me a chance to comment on the world as I see it from my chair. It’s also my natural bent as a storyteller, as it allows me to develop fully-dimensional characters and add emotional poignancy. Already, the first chapter is pretty serious and dark.
That doesn’t mean it won’t be funny. The humor will come from Katie herself, being inept and incompetent as a superheroine, and realizing the real world does not behave, or respond, like it does in a comic book. There are semis on those roads she’s running on! With only one costume, she’s spending half her pay at the laundromat. Meaning, she’s making it up as she goes, often with chaotic results. Those chaotic results will include being stripped naked and tied up. Besides, her superlair is a backstreet hovel and her supervehicle is the city bus. This is one impoverished superheroine! Ralph Kramden is a lot funnier than Bruce Wayne.
It will be the same with the villains. Most were once decent folk who snapped because of the world they live in, and decided to turn against it by going evil – except they aren’t very good at it. Being evil in real life isn’t like it is in comics and movies. Trying to act like a comic book villain, in our world, only makes them look silly. If they succeed at all, it’s out of dumb luck. The one thing they’re good at is luring Katie, stripping her naked, and tying her up. There may be one or two who were rotten to begin with, and they will be the truly dangerous ones. Then, there will also be monsters.
I believe that humor is funnier, and more pointed, in a comic drama, than in a comedy. MASH was a comic drama, and the funny parts were more hilarious because they happened in a devastatingly unfunny situation. There is also great humor in the surreal, as in Monty Python’s Flying Circus. But let’s face it. How much more surreal can you get than being transformed into a metahuman in about two minutes by a being that shouldn’t exist?
Katie will have allies, namely Katie’s mom, her little sister, and her uncle Robert, who is her contact at Parthenon PD. Her step-father is just an asshole! There may be other superpowered allies as the series progresses, but I haven’t though that far ahead yet. Right now, I have seven chapters outlined in my head, up through when Katie takes the name Valkyria. After that, like Aura has, Katie will tell me what happens.
And, of course, Katie doesn’t really know what she’s doing. Except attract cats.
Some days, Katie Ashe feels like she has a split personality. Between all the changing into “big” form to practice running, lifting, and jumping, and changing back into “little” form to carry on with her life, she’s starting to see herself.
“Aw, man!” Big Katie whined. “Do I hafta wear a bra? Like I even need it when I’m you. And I hate glasses! There are benefits to being superpowered, you know.”
“Screw you!” Little Katie snarled. “I have to go to work, and they won’t recognize me if I show up looking like you, Gargantua! Until you … we … I start making some money at this superheroine gig, I’m the only one paying for this dump.”
“You? Me? We? I am you. Oh, crap. I’m talking to myself! That’s it, I’m blowing the tips at the liquor store!”
She should be more careful when she runs on the sidewalk.
She needs to remember to get undressed before changing out of her 5’0” “Little Katie” form into her superpowered “Big Katie” form.
I will leave you with a closeup of Katie’s face.
Valkyria is going to be fun and exciting! I already have the first seven pages of chapter one completed. Other than DeviantArt, I’m not sure exactly where Valkyria will land for publication. Wherever it is, I’ll let you know.
Yes, this is backwards from what most 3D artists want. Most want more dynamic clothing! Well, dynamic clothing does look good and drape well with the pose. However, it is impractical for any sort of comic related imagery. It’s a pain in the neck as it is to drape for one fine art image. Imagine draping it over and over again for the forty panels required for a mere four page comic. Well, I found a way to convert some dynamic clothing into conforming clothing so that it bends with the figure’s pose every single time.
Aura Lockhaven wears the Dynamic Bikini for V7 by Optitex. I’ve had some issues with it, primarily that it does not wrinkle and it lacks eyelets for the thongs. But it’s the only corseted bikini available in the 3D market, unless I revert to her original Elven Strapped bikini by AerySoul (No Longer Available). That does have wrinkles and eyelets, but it reveals more skin than I wish. The Dynamic Bikini isn’t too much of a hassle to drape for a fine art render, although I can’t move Aura once it’s draped. If I do, it springs back into zero pose.
I’ve wanted to feature Aura in a series of comics that fill in the gaps of her backstory and between the novels. That bikini kept stopping me. The thoughts of redraping for multiple panels of a comic made me think that perhaps it would be better to reveal more of her skin after all.
Not any more!
I converted the Dynamic Bikini to conforming cloth. It now sticks to Aura and follows her everywhere, regardless of the pose.
Here’s how I did it.
This is for converting the Dynamic Bikini for Genesis 3 Female to fit a Genesis 3 Female. It may or may not work for converting a V4 article to G2F, Genesis to G2F, or G2F to G3F because of the boning and draping differences.
I’m using DAZ Studio 4.9 Pro.
1. Load G3F. Do not morph her in any way. If you use any geografted genitals, load them, too.
2. Load the Dynamic Bra and Dynamic Panty.
3. Drape both to the G3F. Bra just needs to collide with upper abdomen, upper chest, lower chest, and pectorals. Panty just needs to collide with pelvis and the geograft genitals. Now is a good time to refit the bikini the way you want. I lowered the bra to cup under the breasts instead of just draping across them. Draping will happen fast.
4. Export Bra as an object. Make sure Write Groups and Write Surfaces are selected. Use DAZ Studio (1 Unit = 1 CM) as size under To. Save it somewhere easy to find and under simple a name like, well, Bra.obj. It can be renamed later.
5. Repeat for Panty.
6. Clear the scene.
7. Load a new G3F, and her lady bits. Do not morph her in any way.
8. Import the Bra and Panty. They will slide right into place.
9. Select Bra. Apply the Morph Transfer to the Bra. This is found under Little Funky Box with Four Lines and an Arrow in Upper Left Hand Corner of Scene Tab. Go to Assets -> Transfer Utility.
10. Source is G3F.
11. Target is Bra.
12. Click Accept. All the available G3F morphs now transfer to the Bra, and buddy, I have a slew of G3F morphs. Fit-to is activated, and will automatically see the G3F figure.
13. Repeat for the Panty.
14. Both are now conforming figures, instead of objects.
15. Apply Mesh Smoothing to both, and set it to Smoothing Iterations 2, Collision Iterations 3. This helps with poke through.
16. Apply Mesh Subdivision to both. Leave it at default. As complex as the mesh is for Dynamic cloth, if this is not done, the geometry will show up under sunlight in both Iray and Reality, giving geometric shadows instead of smooth shadows.
17. Save Bra as Support Asset -> Figure/Prop Asset.
18. Repeat for Panty.
19. You’re done.
For the final touches, I applied Aura’s bikini textures to the Bra and Panty, and saved them as Wearables Presets. Then, I simply applied the Wearables to Aura. As her morphs were already loaded into the bikini, it fit her perfectly. She went skipping away as happy as an enchantress in a room full of men.
The Bra laces don’t bridge the breasts. They bend into the cleavage. Zev0’s Fit Control corrects that. Sickleyield’s Universal Breast Helpers should, too.
Does it work? Here’s Aura modeling her new bikini in several different poses. No changes were made to the bikini between the images. I simply put her in a new pose and rendered away.
Now, Aura and I can get busy making a few comics.
I would like to get fancy and add eyelets and wrinkle morphs to the conforming once-Dynamic Bikini, but that’s for another day.
I have no idea if this method works for other Dynamic entries, like the Century Nightgown. Try it and see. If it does (or does not) let me know.
I am pleased and honored to announce a collaboration with Zaki Asakura, known as Akizz on DeviantArt. We have followed each other for over a year, and developed a good working relationship. For some time, we’ve wondered what would happen if his character Viona, the Warrior of Beauty, met Aura Lockhaven.
We decided to find out.
To see what happens when Viona enters Aura’s world of the 11th Century, start here at this page: http://nathanomir.deviantart.com/art/The-Enchantress-and-the-Warrior-01-690670626
To see what happens when Aura enters Viona’s world of the 21st Century, start here at this page: http://nathanomir.deviantart.com/art/Early-days-690510555
It’s June, of an odd number year, and right on time, DAZ3D released the new figure line, Genesis 8, with its flagship model, Victoria 8.
Yes, DAZ3D skipped Genesis 4. Their reasons are pretty sound. First, Gen4 is the shorthand for Generation 4, or Victoria 4 and Michael 4. This avoids confusion. Second, it ties in with Victoria 8, avoiding further confusion.
When Victoria 7 appeared in June, 2015, my response was, “Oh, hell, no!” No, that’s being kind. I was vulgar, hostile, and antagonistic. My resolve lasted fourteen months. Now, I work exclusively with Victoria 7. This time, I decided to buy Victoria 8 on the first day and put her through a series of tests before I said yay or nay.
I said that when Victoria 8 appeared, for me to switch from Victoria 7, V8 was going to have to really impress me. She was going to have to step off the computer screen, perform one heck of a lap dance, build me a stiff Manhattan, and take care of cleaning the place so I don’t have to. Has all that happened this week? Let’s find out.
With Victoria 8/Genesis 8, DAZ3D makes the following claims:
I’m going to look at the first, fourth, sixth, and seventh in depth. The third, new eyes, toes, fingers, etc., is actually the only major difference between Victoria 8 and Victoria 7 (I’ll get to that in a minute). The eyelashes are now geografted props instead of being part of the mesh. Why, may I ask? As for PowerPose, that only benefits the animator, not the still artist. So, in both cases, DAZ3D is pandering to the game developer. They don’t benefit me, so I could not care less.
As for the dramatically more realistic skin, that is definitely true! However, it’s part of DAZ Studio 188.8.131.52. It comes with an enhanced Iray Ubershader. I’ve used it already on my Victoria 7s and tested it on a V6 and V4. So, to claim it’s a feature of Victoria 8/Genesis 8 is disingenuous.
Victoria 6, Victoria 7, and Victoria 8, Side-by-Side
I loved Victoria 6! The only reason I switched to Victoria 7 was the improved sculptability of the figure, and that was made possible by Xenic101’s Muscular HD Morphs, and Zev0’s Vascularity HD, Shape Shift 3, and Breast Control 3 systems. Otherwise, she was a primitive brick. Here the three generations are, side-by-side:
V6 on the left, V7 in the center, V8 on the right. This is something that DAZ3D didn’t tell us. V8 is taller. I put Measure Metrics on V6 and V7, so I know for a fact that they are both 5’11”. So, V8 must be 6’2″. Yet, they advertise her as 5’10”. Someone can’t read a measuring tape.
Here is the mesh for Victoria 6:
This is what I loved about Victoria 6. Notice the complex intersections in the brows, the mouth, the shoulders, the upper chest/collarbone, and tops of the breasts. These mimic the natural topology of the human body, and permit an astonishing array of character morphs that parallel realistic people.
Compare to Victoria 7:
Simplified. Far too simplified for my tastes. This is pandering to game developers. They don’t care about realism. They need maximum movement with minimal resource clogging. It’s funny, however. Victoria 6 still loads and renders faster than the more primitive Victoria 7. That Zev0 can develop morphing systems for this, and Fred Winkler can get astonishingly realistic people out of this are testaments to their talents and genius. If not for those two content creators, I’d still be working with V6.
Now, Victoria 8:
DAZ3D calls her the most advanced Victoria yet. Really? V8 is a copy of V7. In fact, based on the mesh, she doesn’t deserve the name Victoria 8, but rather should be called Victoria 7.2.
Again, V6 left, V7 center, V8 right.
Again, V6 has the most pleasing and morphable face. I thought V7’s face was too hard and her mouth just plain ugly. I should have withheld judgment for Victoria 8. She looks too masculine. It’s politically correct these days to not be able to tell men from women, but it’s biologically incorrect. Over on the DAZ forums, V8’s supporters deride those of us who don’t like V8’s masculine face by saying, “I guess they’ve never seen a real woman.” Personally, I think that’s an affront to women. My wife certainly doesn’t look like me! My other complaints are V8’s face is long, where V6 and V7 have heart shaped faces. And, again, V8 has a mouth big enough to fit a tankard.
Flexion of Muscles
DAZ3D claims that Victoria 8’s muscles flex as she moves. Let’s see.
Well, yes. To a degree. Some. To get that claimed level of flexion, the figure’s arms and legs need to be nearly doubled over onto themselves. That’s fine for yoga poses, but not most everyday or action poses.
Compare to Victoria 7, with Muscular HD in action:
A superior level of muscular flexion and definition is possible with Victoria 7, with systems already in place. Systems that do not exist for Genesis 8, and may not if Xenic doesn’t want to upgrade yet again.
DAZ3D claims that Victoria 8/Genesis 8 is their most backwards compatible figure yet. They claim that she will wear all clothes for Genesis, Genesis 2, and Genesis 3, as well as accepting their poses. Is this true? The answer is a qualified no.
Here’s Reason Number One, the zero pose.
This is Victoria 7’s zero pose, one used by V4, V5, and V6 as well.
Now, Victoria 8’s zero pose:
DAZ3D moved from the classic T pose to an A pose. The A pose is preferred by game developers. Now, I understand the game development community is good business, but DAZ has a sister company called Morph 3D that is specifically geared for that community. So, why muck with us still artists like this?
The A pose throws all legacy poses into a fit. Forget using them! Unless … There is hope. Sickleyield, perhaps one of the best content creators in the business, designed a T pose for Victoria 8, as well as a tutorial for adapting legacy clothes to fit her. It works for poses, too. You can find it in Sickleyield’s Journal on DeviantArt. Highly recommended if you plan to use V8. But we shouldn’t have to resort to that kind of convoluted process.
Now, here’s the second reason V8 isn’t as backwards compatible as DAZ3D claims.
This is the list of all figures supported by Victoria 7/Genesis 3 Auto-Fit:
Now, for Victoria 8/Genesis 8:
Do you see who is missing? DAZ3D wants Victoria 4 and Michael 4 to just go away.
Some claim that Victoria 4 clothes were never supported by Genesis. Uh, her name is up there for Victoria 7. As for them fitting, take a look at this:
Iryndelle here wears AeonSoul’s Classic Fantasy for Victoria 4. Iryndelle is a Victoria 7. For the first two years of her existence, she was a Victoria 6, and wore the same outfit. In fact, it fits V7 better than it fit V4, and it was designed for V4.
How does it fit V8?
YIKES! I stopped right here. This is with Sickleyield’s T pose applied to V8. Auto-Fit tried to place the arm jewels in the original pose. So, V8 will not take V4 clothes.
UNLESS … I can’t remember his name to give him credit, but someone on DeviantArt developed a workaround. He applied V4 clothes to V7. Then, he transferred them to V8. They fit like tailored gloves. So, there is that option.
Now, how do Genesis clothes fit Genesis 8. Well, let’s take a look at Auto-Fit.
This is the Auto-Fit pane for Victoria 7, and it’s the same for Victoria 6:
Now, the Auto-Fit pane for Victoria 8/Genesis 8:
Again, see what’s missing? Footwear, capes, gloves, pants, and shirts all qualify as none. For V6 and V7, if we did not specify the type of garment, the adjustment and effects morphs did not convey to the applied figure. They do for V8, regardless, but there are limitations.
Here is what the Auto-Fit looks like in action:
This is Out of Touch’s Button Up 2 for G3F on a V7. Now, below, is the same on V8.
It looks kinda wrong. Just a touch, like Vicki stole it out of her little sister’s dresser. The biggest problem is the effects morphs do not perform as well as they should. The shirt opens, but the buttons don’t move with it, and it doesn’t open as far as it should.
Now, I haven’t tested to see if Genesis 8 finally avoids the nasty tearing of the mesh on long skirts from previous generations, or avoids the “crash into the cleavage” that happens with tops that bridge the breasts.
Oh. Once again, you can forget about giving V8 any high heeled shoes from previous generations to Victoria 8. It ain’t happening! Sickleyield gets it to work, but I don’t think it’s worth the hassle.
How about the reverse? For a whole fourteen months, I bought V7 clothes to go on my V6 characters. They fit quite well. This is AerySoul’s Aery Mage for V7 on Victoria 6:
Now, Throne Defender for V8 on V7:
Well, she’s trying to wear them. It’s that A pose that’s throwing Auto-Fit off.
So, backwards compatibility of Victoria 8/Genesis 8 exists in theory. In practice, is it far less flexible and thorough than that of Victoria 7/Genesis 3.
How about that Male/Female clones so we can transfer clothing across sexes? Take a look at this:
Aura wears Pirate for G2M boots. Not only are they designed for Michael (a male), but they’re from a previous generation. Victoria 7/Genesis 3 already does across sex clothing transfer, at least, as far as I need it to go. So, this new feature of Victoria 8/Genesis 8 doesn’t benefit or interest me.
This is the big one for me, the deal maker or breaker. I have custom made recurring characters, the primary ones being Aura Lockhaven and the Sarethian Seven. According to DAZ3D, characters can transfer from one generation of Genesis to Genesis 8 without difficulty.
So, I tried transferring Aura Lockhaven from V7 to V8. She has been a V4 and a V6 in the past. To transfer her from V4 to V6, I rebuilt her slider-by-slider. For V7, I created a shaping preset of her V6 incarnation, and applied it to a raw Genesis 3 Female. Ninety percent of the sliders transferred without difficulty. The ones that did not no longer existed. The missing 10% was a simple matter of tweaking.
Victoria 8/Genesis 8 has the same exact morphing sliders as Victoria 7/Genesis 3, so the transfer should be 100 %. Was it?
NOT AT ALL!
Oh, I suppose Aura (on the left) could be standing with her 40 year old cousin. It’s that massive difference between the two base faces. Victoria 8’s face isn’t just long and masculine. It’s also older. Aura is twenty-two. She also doesn’t have a double chin. Her V8 mouth is too wide and her lips too thin. Here’s the profile:
From the nose up, the V8 version looks great. Below the nose, she looks horrid. Now, granted, Aura is a V7HD. The HD morphs don’t exist yet for Victoria 8, but they will probably appear within the next week. It’s pretty standard for them to be released within ten days of a major character launch. That could make a lot of difference.
I couldn’t test her body. Aura’s body is morphed using Shape Shift 3 and Breast Control 3 by Zev0. He will have to release Genesis 8 versions before I can test a below the neck character transfer of Aura from V7 to V8.
DAZ says that V7 skins will fit V8. Do they?
Well, yes. I’ll give credit where credit is due. They fit perfectly. However, now the V8 Aura looks even worse. Aura’s skins are G3F, designed for G3F, enhanced in Skin Builder 3 for G3F, and worn by G3F. Just because it fits V8 doesn’t mean it works. Again, it’s that totally different base face shape.
As of today, I can’t use Victoria 8/Genesis 8. I have no need. There really isn’t any difference is meshes, so why bother? The major differences are things I can’t use (separate eyelashes) and things I won’t (that face!). V8 offers too much of what I don’t need, and not nearly enough of what I do need.
For me to use Victoria 8/Genesis 8, Xenic101 and Zev0 will have to release new Genesis 8 versions of their morphing systems. Morphing systems to turn this androgynous supermodel into a real woman are underway. Powerage has released Breast Factory 8 for Genesis 8. I use the G3F edition on my standard models to give them a different look. Fred Winkler is already performing his magic. His V7HD characters were some of the reasons I switched from V6 to V7. He got the granite slab of the Genesis 3 mesh to look like a real woman. He’s doing it again for Victoria 8 with his new character Elizabeth. She has a feminine face, and a natural height.
With any luck, perhaps Zev0, or someone, will release a Face Shift 8 that will take care of that ungodly mouth and horsey face on V8.
That does not in any way mean that I can ever use V4, V6, or V7 clothing on a V8. Not without a lot of effort and too much work; effort and work that I should not have to do. Perhaps, a Genesis 8 version of Wear Them All will take care of those issues.
Until then, I’m sticking with Victoria 7. If I have to make my own Manhattan and vacuum my own carpet, I’ll do it with a trusted friend.
“It’s this one!” Holdric growled. He thrust his dagger down, pinning the card to the table.
“Yes, sir, you’re absolutely right,” Chumley stammered. “Today is your lucky day. You win the jackpot. I’ll even throw in a few gold coins for the lovely lady.”
“You’re a smart man,” Sieglinde said.
Chumley vowed to himself never again to try to take those naked rubes from the hills. It was just too dangerous.
Tariman the Druid watched, a gleeful smile on his face. For years, he sought a way to put the conniver in his place. These “hicks” from the country just did it for him, with no effort on his part. Leave it to the unclouded eye of someone unaccustomed to the city’s ways to see right through Chumley’s scheme. Tariman thought the leatherclad Holdric and Sieglinde might make splendid company for a round or two of ale.
DAZ Studio 4.9 Pro -> Reality 4.3 -> Luxrender 1.6 -> GIMP 2.8.
Ygraine Pagel looked up from her work table as Aura Lockhaven entered her chamber. She cast Aura a cold glare. She said, “I know who you are.”
Aura frowned. There was a note of cynicism in the sorceress’ voice. It was not that of a merchant receiving a customer. She said, “You should. I wrote you last week. I’m interested in the emerald sphere you have for sale.”
“Hmm,” the sorceress said. “We’re both initiated magicians. There is no need for subterfuge.” She looked Aura up and down, and sneered. “Crimson. I expected death to wear black, and reveal much less skin.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Feigning surprise is disingenuous of you. My order sent you here to assassinate me,” Ygraine said.
“Wait. Excuse me?” Aura asked. She couldn’t believe her ears. Rumors abounded that Ygraine had turned her cloak, surrendering to the lust for power that seduced some sorcerers. The idea that the Order of Sorcerers would send someone from another magical order to deal with one of their own was ridiculous. The mere thought that that someone would be an enchantress, a member of an over-wrought and far-too-sensitive order that the aristocratic and rib-numbing tightly-corseted sorcerers despised, was beyond absurd. The sorcerers had the best internal constabulary of all eight magical orders, and were notorious for dispensing swift justice against members who violated their oath of non-manipulation. If they wanted to execute Ygraine, then Aura would have found a week old corpse. Aura shivered at the thought that she may have just walked into an unpredictable situation. Still, Ygraine was the finest purveyor of magical crystals in all of Ayrdland. “I’m here to buy a stone, Ygraine. I am customer, not an assassin. I don’t kill.”
“Then, that shall be your downfall!”
With that, Ygraine launched herself at the young enchantress. Before Aura could brace herself, Ygraine knocked Aura’s staff from her hand. Then, she grabbed her by the throat. Aura did not need to ponder what the sorceress had in mind. She felt that intent in Ygraine’s right hand as a malignant spell poured down the woman’s arm and flooded Aura’s neck. Aura knew some of the sorcerers’ spells, but not enough to counter them. This one was new. She didn’t have to tighten her hand. The spell did the work for her. It felt like an iron vise upon soft pine wood. Aura felt her windpipe cramp.
“Ygraine,” Aura said with a gasp. “Let me go. You’re killing me!”
“That’s the whole idea, you stupid tart!” the sorceress said.
Aura grabbed Ygraine’s arm, trying her best to break the sorceress’ hold on her throat. Ygraine’s hand was fixed to her flesh as ivy to brick. All of Aura’s respect for elders vanished. The sorceress meant to murder her. She threw her considerable weight and height into Ygraine, but her hand and spell remained fixed. Around the chamber they danced their waltz of death, knocking over the bookcase, overturning a chair, then spilling a rack of tinctures. Dozens of small bottles shattered on the stone floor, their contents mixing in a bubbling brew. Then, Aura slammed Ygraine against her table, in an effort to knock the woman loose. It only served to upset the table, sending books, rats, and even a skull into flight. A lit candle fell onto the ruins of the tinctures. The mixture erupted in flame.
The inferno diverted Ygraine’s attention long enough. Aura employed an old tactic she used against boatmen who lusted for her budding breasts when she was younger. A woman lacked the necessary external appendages, but it would still hurt. She kneed the sorceress in the groin. With a yelp, Ygraine released Aura’s throat and fell back against the table.
“Ygraine,” Aura wheezed, trying to catch her breath. “We have to get out of here.”
“I shall. The only way you’re leaving is in a coffin, assassin!” With that, Ygraine advanced.
Oh, merciful heavens, Aura thought. Ygraine was mad. It was bad enough that she wanted to kill Aura. Now, she continued her murderous assault as fire spread the floor of the windowless chamber. Noxious smoke, the result of igniting tinctures that should never be mixed, filled the air. The flames would soon reach the wood of table and bookcase, and the chamber’s timbers. If the fight lasted much longer, both women would die.
Ygraine pounced. Aura turned, dashing toward the back of the chamber. The sorceress grabbed Aura’s cloak and pulled her backwards. Let her have the cloak, Aura thought, gripping the clasp and tearing it open. Ygraine threw the garment across the overturned chair, and dove toward Aura.
As the enchantress turned to flee around Ygraine, she slipped on broken glass and spilled potion. She went down on one knee. That was all the sorceress needed. Again, she gripped Aura by the throat. Again, the vicious spell poured into Aura’s neck. Again, her windpipe constricted. Aura tried her best to wrench free, but her boots kept slipping on the wet floor. If she fell, Ygraine would simply sit on her and kill her. She had to maintain her footing. To keep herself upright, she locked onto Ygraine’s leg with her own.
Black specks appeared in front of Aura’s eyes. The spell was strangling her, ending her life one failed breath after another. Her mind reeled in panic. Aura gasped for air. None came.
“Here’s a kiss for the leader of my order,” Ygraine said.
A ball of pure life force formed in Ygraine’s left hand. It was enough to turn a human inside out. This woman not only could cast one spell, while maintaining a second of a different type, but she cast both without a single incantation. Aura had to speak an incantation, and speech was now lost to her.
The Enchantress of Hartshorn had only moments left. She lashed out with her left hand. She grabbed Ygraine’s face. Claw her eyes! Tear her skin! Rip her mouth! Anything to get her to let go. Not enough. Her hand still grasped Aura’s neck, the vile spell pouring into her throat.
Aura felt her fear and desperation coalesce into a ball of pure vitality, will, and emotion. It formed on its own volition, without any conscious thought from the enchantress. It formed without an incantation. It rushed from her chest, and poured into her right arm. It erupted in her hand as the most lethal spell in her entire arsenal – the Divine Thunderbolt.
I don’t kill, Aura said only moments earlier. If Ygraine did not release her throat, then Aura would violate that statement by shoving the ball of solid light into the sorceress’ face. The woman’s skull would survive. At this range, her flesh would be incinerated. Aura knew, as entwined as they were, that she too would take the force of the spell. She would crawl away with massive burns, burns that could be healed tomorrow. If she did not launch the spell, there would be no tomorrow for healing anything. Aura gritted her teeth. Someone was about to die, and the determining judge was Aura Lockhaven herself.
DAZ Studio 4.9 Pro -> Reality 4.3 -> Luxrender 1.6.
This is not canon.
For the fun of it, I put all three of Aura Lockhaven’s 3D incarnations in the same scene. The result reveals her evolution as a 3D character, as well as serving as graphic touchstones of her evolution as a fictional character.
Left: Victoria 6 incarnation. Center: Victoria 7 incarnation. Right: Victoria 4 incarnation.
Victoria 4 Incarnation (April, 2010 — January, 2013): She wasn’t even Aura Lockhaven when I designed this character. She began as my feeble attempt to create a model based on Playboy Playmate Lindsey Vuolo. Since I didn’t know what I was doing, there is no resemblance between the figure and the Playmate. How she became Aura is chronicled on my website if you’re interested. This is the graphic novel version of Aura.
Victoria 6 Incarnation (January, 2013 — August, 2016): I suspended the graphic novel when I started grad school. Upon graduating, I decided to write a fantasy novel, using the graphic novel as the foundation. That required a new physical representation of my heroine. So, I chose Victoria 6. That base figure much more human like roundness than the earlier V4 (I skipped Victoria 5 completely). Her appearance is based on her written description, so there is no resemblance to the V4 counterpart. Around 2014, I decided the gold body jewelry was too blooming difficult to describe in a written narrative, and gave her the outfit worn by the V7 version.
Victoria 7 Incarnation (August, 2016 — Present): I refused to upgrade to Victoria 7 for an entire year. Eventually, the improved posing and sculpting systems won me over. I transferred Aura from V6 to V7, slider by slider. They don’t quite look alike. The V6 base face is more heart-shaped than V7’s, but the new version is close enough. I really like the new muscular body. Aura’s transfer from V6 to V7 occurred at the same time I determined to finish her first novel by the end of 2016 and publish it. It also happened at the time I cut the opening trilogy down to a duology. This is the incarnation who appears on the cover of A Path of Stones. It is how I see Aura at the end of the series, transformed from the unsure wizardess in the brown dress into the powerful enchantress who fights tyranny.
Most of us in 3DLand anticipate the release of Victoria 8 this June. I said no to Victoria 6 and Victoria 7. We see how well that resolve lasted. So, I shall see what Victoria 8 has to offer. She best impress me. As in, she needs to step off the computer screen, perform one heck of a lap dance, and build me a stiff Manhattan. If she does, I will once again, transfer Aura to a new rig.
This is what that one, silly, little Victoria 4 figure back in 2010 started.