Erica Xenne

Years ago, when Erica Xenne was staring into her new crystal ball, an entire series unfolded in her mind. When she shared the vision with her friend Elliott Lash, she discovered that they had both written stories about the same magical world. Learn more on this page below.


Elliott Lash

Elliott Lash is a linguist who has been developing fictional languages and cultures since he was a child. After discovering that he and Erica had envisioned a similar world, he joined forces with her to create the Night Gem series. While she writes the stories and characters, Elliott contributes original languages and maps, and the two develop the cultures and religions together.

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Afterword – by Erica Xenne

Can a crystal ball change someone’s life?

Of the many glittery prizes at a magnificent Gem Show, I was most drawn to a quartz sphere. Its inner contours shone like stars. The orb fit in my hand, yet there were galaxies inside.

Riding in the back of the car with my friend, an amazing event transpired. As we admired the globe, his emerald eyes filled with fascination. We both touched the surface at once. In a flash, an entire world unfolded in my imagination.

It began with two teenagers holding a crystal ball with stars inside. Its magic ensnared them, and they were carried to another dimension. I understood how they found the orb. Who they were. How they felt about each other. Where they would end up. I saw their past and future, the commune where they were trapped, the political landscape that defined it, the species on their planet.

Names of major characters came instantly. Aera shared my passion for music and Cyrrus’s hunger for knowledge reflected my green-eyed friend—but their personalities were distinct from ours. Though the vision began in our hands, the characters created themselves.

I went home and typed a forty-page summary. The next day, I told my friend, “I found my life’s purpose.”

The vision came in 2001, when I was twenty-one years old. As a teen, I’d been pursuing a music career with a focus on singing—until I was stricken with a chronic illness which nearly killed me and left me speaking forever in a whisper. Losing my voice was unimaginable. Since childhood, songs had written themselves through me and lyrics had arisen from the aether. At eleven, an epiphany opened my eyes to complex music theory. I soon understood: Music is divine symmetry, my path to God. 

In the absence of rhythmic structure, words seemed capricious. Stories had come to me before in a vivid landscape, but the transition to words on a page was cumbersome and the spirit was lost. Yet now, I was a receptacle for this epic vision. Once it took hold of me, I was in its grasp.

I filled multiple diaries with histories, character backgrounds, religions, and philosophies. Only two people knew about my world. Since I was incapable of actualizing the vision, I was too embarrassed to share it.

Then I received a message from Elliott Lash. He’d been my brother’s friend in elementary school, and I’d barely heard his name since. My most vivid memory of Elliott was he and my brother building large cities out of Lego. Elliott recalled me watching the entire Star Wars series every weekend and then disappearing into my room to write.

I don’t know what possessed me to tell him about Oreni. I was intensely private about my writing, yet I opened up to Elliott on impulse. In response, he offered, “Do you want to use my languages in your book?”

Elliott studied linguistics and had written fictional languages of his own. The expansive Lego cities suggested he was just as obsessive as I, and his brilliance spoke for itself. How could I turn this down? Just as I became excited, Elliott told me his languages evolved through history and could not be separated from the context of his own fictional world.

“No,” I insisted. “I have a world already. I can’t be limited by yours.”

We compared worlds. Both were inhabited by three prominent groups: humans, a nature-loving species with a light on their foreheads, and an antagonistic species with red hair. I had already named ‘the Kalaqhai,’ and he had named ‘the Nestë,’ as well as the ‘esil’ that we’d each envisioned separately. We had both imagined an earth-like planet with spiritual inception. I had branded it ‘Oreni,’ and he had written a mythology about ‘Angels’ and ‘Ilë.’ I’d envisioned a magical object with specific properties—and he’d conceived ‘the Night Gem.’ How could this be? Our visions were eerily identical.

Beyond that, our skills complemented each other’s. He was a linguist with a keen eye for history and geography, while I was a character-oriented aesthetician with a passion for psychology—owing in no small part to having two psychiatrist parents. Each of us had studied religion and philosophy from different perspectives. He enjoyed writing languages and history, whereas I was consumed by relationships and action.

While Elliott designed the maps and languages, I fashioned characters and plot. We envisioned separate cultures and worked together to make our world cohesive. We developed the magic, philosophies, and aesthetics together. Countless hours were spent hashing out ideas, histories, and laws of magic. Yet even when we worked independently, our visions aligned in astonishing ways. There was no doubt we had evolved from the same home planet.

For several years, I set writing aside to focus on singing through my whisper with my band, Erosian Exile. Illness halted my progress, but the experience gave me the tools to hone my skills and do justice to Oreni. I was a vessel for passion through music and refused to settle for less. My father edited dozens of drafts, which he has enjoyed doing since my childhood school essays. With his abundance of devotion and fervent word fetish—along with input from my friends as beta readers, and endless inspiration from my husband—I found my voice.

While poring over drafts, I continued developing Oreni with Elliott. Our collaboration blossomed as our worldviews matured. Since our politics and philosophies were often at odds, we came to appreciate that even our most disparate interpretations of Oreni may coexist on that world as they do on Earth. We find common threads and integrate our disparities as though we are historians digging for truth. Thus each group on Oreni is layered with ethics and motivations that neither of us would have imagined on our own. 

Initially, I feared my vision would clash with Elliott’s. If he made the map, I couldn’t add cities without consulting him. Though magic was intuitive to me, I could not follow every impulse, because kuinu demanded a structure. Yet creativity can only thrive within limits. I learned this from music—my first language.

Elliott’s ideas provide a framework for me, as mine do for him. This process is paralleled in Parë Në Sulë, when Vermaventiel outlines the workings of magic. Two minds coalesce—each simultaneously independent and interdependent—as a portion of each original structure is sacrificed to enjoin the whole.

By working together, Elliott and I each surrender an autonomous vision to the greater whole. Oreni shapes us, just as we shape Oreni. Thus, we each expand our consciousness and produce magic. Deep in our bones, we both understand: this boundary will not bind us.