In 1980, I discovered the gaming system of Dungeons and Dragons. It opened up new worlds for me that connected to my love of Middle Earth and Greek/Roman Mythology. There were only two hobby stores in town where I could buy books, campaigns, and miniatures. I came from a lower-middle-class family, so such flights of fancy were not in the budget. It was up to me to feed my new obsession. At first, I recycled coke bottles. I could make $.10 a bottle and another $.10 for the carton. So any easy $.70 a six-pack. (we drank a lot of sodas in the 80s) . I would load up my bike and take the six-packs to the store and even helped out my neighbors with their recycling. We didn’t have recycle bins or pickup back then. I even made a few bucks recycling newspapers, but those were harder to transport. I also saved change from pockets when helping with laundry, and whenever my parents asked me to pay for gas or cigarettes, I’d keep the change. Yes, in the seventies and early eighties gas stations would let you buy cigarettes for your parents. They still had cigarette vending machines in restaurants too.

I’d take all my change and on a Saturday morning, I’d go to the hobby shop. I was kind and rolled the change rather than dumping it on the counter. I owned the Dungeon Master’s Guide, the Player’s Handbook, and my favorite, the Monster Manual. I painted the miniatures, and still have them today.

I talked my friend (one of my only friends my age) into playing with me. We would go all weekend and would trade roles of Dungeon Master.

I loved the monsters and their backstories. The winged harpies were some of my favorite. They were from Greek mythology and were originally wind spirits. They were depicted as stealing food and their name means “Snatchers” or “Swift Robbers”. They were ugly creatures in some stories and had the heads of beautiful maidens in others. They were seen as agents of punishment and tortured people in the afterlife.

The harpies in Secrets of the Twilight Djinn, are very tall and carry overlong spears. They have black fur on their bodies, and leathery bat wings. They have scary faces, that some might say they are “orc-like” or something from the World of Warcraft.  They have the tongues of serpents which makes them talk with a hissing sound.

These are the daughters of the Witch Queen, Calita, or as she was formally known on the Island of Tyreen during the Third Age Carmelia, the Mother of Harpies. The Witch Queen wanted children of her own, but could not bear a child with a mere mortal. Years after creating her harpies, she turns Ubu, a young mortal, into a demigod and gives birth to Prince Abad.

The Witch Queen  created hundreds of harpies, and treats them as her daughters, as all of them are women. Farum Malamud, the Sultan, sent his men to collect the Witch Queen to demand she help him produce a son and in skirmish one of her harpies dies. This is the inciting incident of the birth of the Djinn, as the Witch Queen turns the whole Malamud family into the terrible undead creatures.

In Max and the Spice Thieves, the harpies are loyal to their mother and follow her orders to protect Max and his friends. They are also loyal to their brother, Prince Abad and two of them are always close by.

In future books in the Secrets of the Twilight Djinn, the harpies will play even a greater role in the war that is come.