For my next Illustration Showcase I am sharing with you some of the many illustrations from The Maer Cycle trilogy by Dan Fitzgerald.
Legends describe the Maer as savage man-beasts haunting the mountains, their bodies and faces covered with hair. Creatures of unimaginable strength, cunning, and cruelty. Bedtime stories to keep children indoors at night. Soldiers’ tales to frighten new recruits.
It is said the Maer once ruled the Silver Hills, but they have long since passed into oblivion.
This is the story of their return.
Carl, Sinnie, and Finn, companions since childhood, are tasked with bringing a friend’s body home for burial. Along the way, they find there is more to the stories than they ever imagined, and the mountains hold threats even darker than the Maer. What they discover on their journey will change the way they see the world forever.
Travel down Hollow Road to find out which legends are true, and which have been twisted.
Here’s what Dan has to say about the illustrations:
I commissioned a ridiculous number of art pieces for my trilogy, a few of which are being highlighted here, but you can find the complete collection of all the art and maps for the Maer Cycle on my website: https://www.danfitzwrites.com/art-maps
I worked with various artists, depending on the style I wanted for specific pieces, and I would happily work with any of them again, so if you like anything you see here, definitely reach out to them!
Artist profile: Illustrate_vnzl
Their profile on Fiverr says:
Hi! We are Ink The Tea a Studio of Illustrators, here I introduce you to this two professional Illustrators with many years of experience in digital and traditional art.
Hugor and Hugorky Rodriguez
Styles like dungeons and dragons, Lord of the Ring, Game of Thrones or any kind of mythical or even historic theme they are your best option.
Artist profile: Cheyanne Murray
Cheyanne is a fantasy author and illustrator, who does exceptional work with fantasy creatures. Check out her Twitter or Instagram to see more of her amazing art. I worked with her for two pieces, the feathered dragon in The Archive and the carrion troll in The Place Below.
Artist profile: Elena Tarsius
Elena is an illustrator who does nature and fantasy art. Her profile says “My work is mostly inspired by fantasy, nature, mythology, Art Nouveau and the ancient world.” Her style is intriguingly ethereal at times, but also very grounded, and I absolutely love it. I worked with her for two pieces, Tcheen, for The Archive, and Sasha, for The Place Below.
Artist profile: Axel (Urban Knight Art)
I first found the artist on Twitter, where I became obsessed with his skull and skeleton pieces. He does all manner of gothic and dark art, though his commissions are often closed, since his art is very much in demand. When I finally wrote an undead antagonist, I knew there was no one else to do the commission for Kuun.
Carl, Sinnie, and Finn (art by illustrate_vnzl on Fiverr)
I have spliced these three drawings together to show the trio in one picture. Carl, the dour soldier, is left; Sinnie, the archer and Finn, the trainee mage.
In this scene, the three childhood friends have met up in a tavern after being hired to take the body of their old friend Theo home for burial, amid rumors of the return of man-beasts of legend known as the Maer.
“Well, if there’s any risk, I have no doubt we’ll be up to the task.” Finn was always one to try to lighten the mood. “After all, we’ve got a real-life circus performer, a fledgling mage with two or three piddling tricks up his sleeve, and a young soldier who spent the better part of the past year camping out in the mud. We’re ready for anything!”
Carl’s face broke into a grin, and he raised his cup. “Seekers of the South, go forth!”
The Ka-lar (art by illustrate_vnzl on Fiverr)
Sinnie is on watch at night, staring into the dark forest. The group has already had a harrowing encounter with the Maer, but what she sees crossing the road toward her is another level of terror entirely.
As it entered the silvery light of the moon, its torso gave off a dull shimmer, and Sinnie could see that it wore some kind of armor, which hung loosely on its gaunt frame, with shreds of what looked like old cloth bandages hanging out from its sleeves. Its arms and legs seemed unnaturally long, but it could have been its spider-like movements that made them appear so. Its mouth was pulled into a wide grin, baring long teeth that glistened yellow in the moonlight. Its face was that of a corpse, taut and dry, with every sinew showing beneath its stretched skin. Its eyes, which seemed to be all pupil, shone silvery-black, and they locked on Sinnie’s, freezing her in place.
Ujenn (art by illustrate_vnzl on Fiverr)
Ujenn is the Maer enchantress, and it was a struggle to get the artists to put as much hair on her face as I wanted. My goal was for her to be classically beautiful, but with a hairy face and beard, and I am very pleased with the result, though it took a number of revisions to get it right!
In this scene, the group meets the Maer on their home turf, and Ujenn’s mental powers are shown by this snippet.
Ujenn then moved to Carl, her hairy hand reaching out ever so slowly. He had to work hard not to recoil, but when she touched his face, everything else fell away, becoming blurry and distant, and he sank into her gaze, a great calm settling over his body, nestling deep within his chest.
The Mashtorul (art by illustrate_vnzl on Fiverr)
The group has gone deep into an old mine to face a foe that will test them to their limits: the mashtorul, or fungus troll.
It was the general height and shape of a man, but smushed down onto all fours, with shorter legs and longer arms, almost twice the thickness of a man’s. Its head was wide and somewhat flat, but its mouth was relatively small, and instead of teeth it had bony plates in the front, with a point down the middle, almost like a turtle. It let out another silent cry, which sent the dogs whimpering against the wall.
The feathered dragon from The Archive (art by Cheyanne Murray)
Sinnie has seen the feathered dragons from a distance, but she is not prepared for their appearance up close.
It was hard to take a dragon named Bobo seriously, but when she heard the deep huff of his breathing and his dark shape filled the doorway, Sinnie’s breath stuck in her chest. The head emerged, the size of a wine barrel, covered in gray feathers, which stuck up behind Bobo’s head like a fan. Two huge yellow-clawed feet followed, and the rest of him flowed out into the chamber, his body curling against the walls as his head turned toward Sinnie. He was close to twenty feet long, his feathers tight against his lithe body, which ended in a long, swishing tail, with an oval flare of smaller feathers at the tip. His hind legs were thicker than a person’s, twice the size of the front legs, which jutted out, birdlike.
Sasha from The Place Below (art by Elena Tarsius)
Sasha is the protagonist from The Place Below, a wandering scholar, half-human, half-Maer. I love how Elena portrayed her face, hairy like a Maer, but with a bald patch around her nose.
In this scene she discovers rather unexpectedly that she has the Death Link, which allows her to feel, and sometimes hear, voices of those long dead. She has found one of the Ka-lar tombs of old, and she feels this presence calling out to her.
She reached out her hand between the logs, stretching until her fingertips brushed against the door. Darkness flashed inside her head, silence, and bone-chilling cold. Sasha drew her hand away, but the echo of the darkness still vibrated deep inside her, ever fainter, until at last, it slipped away.
Kuun from The Place Below (art by Urban Skeleton Knight)
Kuun has awoken from his 2,000 year hibernation only to find himself an undead thing. He has changed considerably during his long absence, as has the world, and his curiosity is the important feature I asked the artist to show.
In this scene, Kuun is speaking with the Skin Maer, who now inhabit the mine where he was laid down so long ago.
“Kuun, we most graciously accept your help, but we must ask: what is it you want in return?”
Kuun closed his eyes, gripping the rod in his right hand. He saw the misery from the time before, the sickness that had brought the mightiest to their knees and the masses to open graves, the fear in the leaders’ eyes. He saw tadpoles wriggling in a pond, their tiny legs just emerging. He saw a hawk snatching a pigeon out of the sky. A mother mashtorul stuffing a tuft of silver spores into its baby’s mouth. A sparrow fluffing its feathers in the snow. Wide gum leaves drinking in the summer sun. A deer carcass being torn by sharp-eyed vultures.
He opened his eyes and looked deep into Raca’s. “I want a better world.”
The gertorul (carrion troll) from The Place Below (art by Cheyanne Murray)
I was so delighted to work with Cheyanne again after what she did with my feathered dragon, and I simply had to have art for the carrion trolls. The design was inspired by vultures, and their grisly role in the Skin Maer society is perhaps the darkest thing I have written, but I hope also beautiful in its way.
In this scene, Kuun is delighted to find that the Skin Maer have a group of carrion trolls living in the tunnels beneath the mine where they are trapped, and he simply must see them for himself.
A low croak sounded from below, and Kuun looked down through a square hole into near darkness below. Large shapes moved in the shadows, and more croaks echoed from the tunnel, a sound between a bullfrog and a buzzard. He held his rod down, and the light showed him four large crouched figures surrounding a flat circular stone covered in dark stains. The creatures looked up at him, squinting against the light, dull though it was. They had tiny eyes and huge beaklike mouths jutted out from their faces, rimmed by wrinkled, reddish skin. The rest of their bodies looked mottled gray, like mashtorul, with bumps and protrusions marking their uneven hide.
One of them turned its head sideways, seeming to stare directly into Kuun’s eyes, and it held out its clawed hands over the rock, palms up. Kuun smiled and gestured to Tuthana, who was scooping out innards into a stone bowl, which she brought to him.
Thank you so much Sue for helping me showcase some of the art I commissioned for the Maer Cycle! I look forward to showing off a new piece I had done for The Living Waters, which I think is simply breathtaking.
About the Author
Dan Fitzgerald is the fantasy author of the Maer Cycle trilogy (character-driven low-magic fantasy) and the upcoming Weirdwater Confluence duology (sword-free fantasy with unusual love stories). The Living Waters comes out October 15 2021 and The Isle of a Thousand Worlds arrives January 15 2022, both from Shadow Spark Publishing.
He lives in Washington, DC with his wife, twin boys, and two cats. When not writing he might be found doing yoga, gardening, cooking, or listening to French music.
Twitter: Dan Fitzgerald (@DanFitzWrites) / Twitter (writing and bookish stuff—this is my home)
Instagram: Dan Fitzgerald (@danfitzwrites) • Instagram photos and videos (nature photography and bookish posts—this is my playground)
Website: Dan Fitzgerald (danfitzwrites.com) (Find out more about my books, plus there’s a blog, and some bookish extras like maps, art, short stories, etc)
Buy my books in any format: Shadow Spark Publishing