For love and honour (2020)
“They were both led, blindfolded, to a deep slot canyon in the Rakta’M Wastelands behind the camp. There they found themselves on the Yavak’Hala, the “Threshing Floor”, accessed only by the narrowest of passages. It was a cool, deep and dark place, lit only by the few brief hours of the noon suns, the floor covered in fine wind-driven dust and grit.
This was a place of conflict; water disputes, clan skirmishes, and affairs of clan honour were settled here, but Braedan and Malena found themselves on opposing sides in the Yavak’Hala for the b’Hram S’yuddha, the “fight of Heart’s Burning”. Malena was Sadusi-bred and the tribal tradition was clear on this matter. Should any male seek a Sadusi female’s affection and love he would have to fight her and defeat her in combat for her heart.
In the art of fighting and hand-to-hand combat the Sadusi females were on equal footing with the males of the breed, and the knife skills of Ashra Malena were the object of many a fireside tale. In these fights no quarter was given, non was offered, not until one or the other combatant was defeated or seriously injured or a shaman intervened. Death came often, but even so the tribe was always strengthened as weaker males or females were often eliminated by more worthy opponents. It was the way of the desert – it was the Sadusi way.
Stripped of their moisture suits, and clad in only in simple loin cloths, they faced each other under the watchful eye of the shaman council sitting passively in the shadows. Braedan shifted the Sadusi dirk given to him by the tribe’s weapon smith, nervously in his hand, sizing up the situation. His heart was torn because he knew that he could never withdraw his claim.
That could only be rewarded with a death sentence of banishment to the desert without water or a moisture suit, but he feared more what would happen once his hardened soldier’s training cut in.
Malena too was deeply distressed. She was a Sadusi shieldmaiden, committed to protecting the tribe at all costs Many a foe had perished by her skill with the leaf-bladed desert knife. She didn’t want Braedan to be one of her trophies, yet she could not hold back lest she lose face and her tribal honour. Yet her love for Braedan had brought her to this watershed…
Their slow circling stirred up fine clouds of dust which swirled around in the shaft of light that speared down from the noon high above. Thus began their agonizing fight for love and honour…”
Technical aspects: Tension and action had to be captured in this image. The stage was a slot canyon lit only by overhead light with lots of dust and “godrays” to add atmosphere.
Positioning, pose, lighting and framing were all important, and I chose to frame the image tightly, and place the male protagonist, Braedan, in defensive mode, rather than the aggressor in the 2001 version where the roles were reversed.
The wall behind was a taken from a photo shot in the Antelope Slot Canyon in Arizona and turned into a 180 degree infinite backdrop with a custom displacement map applied.
The lighting was a couple of volumetric spotlights with a heavy atmosphere in DAZ Studio. The knives were created from scratch in 3-D Coat and Blender but based on a Saracen dagger and an Elvish blade I had an image of in my “Lord of the Rings” collection.
Even my NVidia GTX 1060 was pushed hard to render this image. With all the caustics and volumetrics and took 7-8 hours to render each of the final versions. (4 in total)
Finally in Affinity Photo, after the layers were blended, I added some kicked up dust and “ground fog” with some old Photoshop custom brushes that I had saved, and once complete, a few adjustments were made to the colour and the Wacom Intuos tablet was used to create a “oil-painting” version or the final image.