Monday, November 10, 2008

Tesque (and a Status Update)!

The first issue of Four Kingdoms is getting closer to completion! Rachel’s finished up most of the page roughs, with inking and coloring marking the next steps in the process. One guaranteed rule of the universe is that when you’re in college, you will have at least ten years’-worth of assignments to do in the two months before winter break. I remember it like it was yesterday, and Rachel’s living through it right now, so between my nightmares about finals week before winter break and Rachel’s inability to find enough time to sleep in order to have nightmares about finals week before winter break, the next couple of weeks will probably be a bit slow on the production front. Because of this, I figured I would treat you to a new post that goes over a unique part of Tamian society – TESQUE!

One thing that I’ve learned from many years of history courses is that every group of humans, from every time period, has their own unique form of combat. It truly is an art form that transcends time and place – from kung fu to bare-knuckle boxing to fencing to pistol duels – combat may not define a group, but it does reveal a lot about them. When I was brainstorming the various races of the Four Kingdoms, I realized that a group of squirrels would not simply stand around and punch each other in the face, and a group of wolves would not be hopping around the floor like Bruce Lee; each race would need to have its own combat style that takes a bit from our reality, and mixes it with the unique advantages of their kind. Tesque was the first of these combat styles that I came up with – a kind of combination of Tony Jaa’s Muay Thai style and a squirrel’s natural acrobatic ability.

Tesque was created long before the Four Kingdoms War, long before the comic’s story begins – back when the Tamian was a group of scattered tribes living in the trees. Their entire lifestyle depended on their ability to maintain a height advantage over their foes, and so when two Tamian warriors battled one another, they did it high in the treetops, using their natural acrobatic skills and razor-sharp claws to flip and jump between tree limbs while delivering attacks to their opponent. The loser of the battle either lost their footing or was knocked off of their tree limb – but either way, it was always a long way down.

As time went on, the Tamian began to encounter the other races of the land, many of them land-bound, which required them to adapt their multi-leveled fighting style to the ground. Many rare and unique maneuvers were lost in this transition, but the basic three tenets of the fighting style remained: Always keep moving, Know the ground and feel the air, Everything is a weapon.

These three tenets form the core of basic Tesque, emphasizing speed over power, an understanding of your environment, and the ability to use every body part during battle to maintain the advantage. The oft-used Trainer mantra is, “From your teeth to your tail!” These three tenets are still taught in Sunsgrove to this day.

Every Tamian in Sunsgrove is trained in Tesque from a very young age, it being considered one of the most defining aspects of their racial heritage.

Quinlan, the protagonist of Four Kingdoms, is a Tesque Master – the highest level that can be bestowed upon a Tamian. There are four levels to the understanding of Tesque:
The Student is the lowest level, where they become familiar with the basic moves and the three tenets.
Acolytes form the second level, which involves learning some of the more complicated acrobatics and movements, and is usually where trainees experience their first major accidental injury.
Trainers make up the third level of Tesque, and these Tamian warriors are used to train the Students in the basics of Tesque.
Masters are the fourth and final level – these Tamian having perfected all of the most complex Tesque moves. Masters train Acolytes and Trainers alike, grooming them to become Masters themselves. The path from Student to Master typically takes around 10 harvests – or years, to us.

In the first issue of Four Kingdoms, you’ll be treated to a short spar between a Tesque Master and a Tesque Trainer. This, however, is only a first glimpse at the complex Tamian fighting style. As it is a deep-rooted tradition in Tamian culture, you can expect it to come up in many different ways over the course of Quinlan’s adventures!