Forging a character: Etian Windwalker

While I’ve planned to have a shaman in my story since the late concept stage, it took some time before a shaman character with a significant appearance was created – in the form of Etian Windwalker.

Background: the role of shamans

The first time a shaman appeared in my writing was a flashback in the second chapter (though this portion was cut in the fifth draft). To be more specific, it was Maelian (name obviously inspired by ‘maelström’), an elder shaman who spent most of his time teaching the next generations and laying deceased Eternal Defenders to rest while also sometimes helping with some other tasks.

The next appearance is a cameo of a still-unnamed shaman in chapter 23 which also gave more hints about their powers and purpose: apart from the last rites, the help uncover the reasons behind unexpected trouble of natural character – droughts, overpopulation of pests, unexpected animal migrations, and so on. Many of them also use their skills for healing and might be present during child birth. While a shaman has significant power, few of them are willing to put it into violent use, unless really necessary.

Etian came to be as one of the few exceptions to this rule, yet he did not just come to Kraasian and say “I want to fight with you”.

Creating Etian: outside influence

Etian’s presence in the story is the result of several events. First, the mentioned chapter 23 scene where Tyr’eshal sees the powers of a shaman in action (even though all the un-named shaman does is to calm down an enraged beast attacking him). Later, he comes to a conclusion that even the demon-occupied land is not devoid of life and asks Ereanel a key question: what if the dormant life could be used against the demons?

Thus, Ereanel rides to visit the elder shaman Maelian to ask him whether he knows anyone capable and willing of using their formiddable powers in battle. Etian answers the call.

Creating Etian: shaman’s powers

Unlike many others, Etian gets to use much of the power a shaman could gain control of. While a shaman has connection to all four elements, they might have stronger affinity/talent for a specific one. In Etian’s case, he favors earth- and air-based attacks over fire- and water-based ones.

This fact is shown over time as he gets into combat and sees his spells in action: conjuring an earthen spike from the ground is something he finds useful in disrupting the lines of enemies (demons, in his case) while lightning strikes can be used to disorient and will use the enemy’s weapons to chain further into their lines.

Unlike in computer games, I had to stay realistic when it comes to the power of a single shaman so a localized earthquake or creating a volcano (even if very small) is not in a shaman’s power.

Etian’s battle gear

When it comes to a shaman willing to use their power in battle, they are not trained to wear heavy armor and so their gear is made from natural materials – in most cases leather. They are not trained to use conventional weapons either, instead relying on their power. Etian wears a pair of gloves with four claws fixed to them, each carrying a rune corresponding with one of the elements, to use as a conduit of his power. He also wears a circlet made from magically-hardened wood, likewise magically empowered to increase his power and combat the exhaustion from tapping into four sources of power.

What’s in the name?

Leaving this for the last. As for his second name, I kept to the ‘tradition’ of shamans having a name somehow related to one (or more) of the elements. ‘Windwalker’ is far from original but it matches its purpose. The first name comes from the organic compound ethane – I took away the last ‘e’ and replaced the ‘h’ with ‘i’.

If you want to ‘see’ Etian’s skills in action, I’ve shared a sample where he demonstrates his skills to Ereanel before joining the team. I’ve also written a character overview sharing some facts and backstory for Etian.

That’s all I’ll share for today. See you next time!

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