The Language of the Lords

Still in development literally right now!

DATE November 2021 - Feb 2023

I'd been reading a book on how to read Maya glyphs (specifically Reading the Maya Glyphs by Michael D. Coe and Mark Van Stone; incredibly detailed book and super interesting, highly recommended if you're at all interested in Maya culture) and, like almost any fun script, it immediately set my brain churning on how I could do something similar. Spire and I had been working on a worldbuilding project featuring demons and angels and I thought it would be a great backdrop for some funky little lizard heads.

The sprawling city-fortress of Castle is ruled by demonic Lords, divided into ever-bickering Houses. Angels are an enslaved caste who must serve and fight for their lords. If there was a time before the Lords' reign over Castle, no one alive remembers it.

The Language of the Lords reflects everything the ruling class holds dear: triumph, treasure, and the elite status of the demonic race. The use of certain glyphs can make the subject see more important and Lords will often encourage their scribes to use words that contain more impressive-looking symbols. The majority of glyphs feature imagery important to demons; angel imagery is usually reserved for phonetic symbols or less important elements.

The script of the Language of the Lords is made up of several different types of glyphs: heads, pillars, slabs, and ornamentation. Each serves a different phonetic and grammatical purpose.

Heads & Ornamentation

Heads are used to indicate important words like nouns and verb stems. A single head represents one syllable; words comprised of more than one syllable are made up of multiple heads in a row biting each other. The head is made up of four parts: the eye (initial consonant), nose (vowel), mouth (final consonant) and the ornamentation.

The Language of the Lords has a limited number of syllables and features many homonyms. To avoid confusion, context is given through a head's ornamentation, indicating to the reader which category that word belongs to. For example, shok could mean "hair", "pen", "lily", or "ring"; by using the body, tool, plant, or wearable ornamentation respectively, the intended meaning is clear. Ornamentation is not usually spoken when reading a written passage aloud. If a word is made up of multiple heads, the ornamentation is placed on the final head.


Pillars are used to represent whole words. These are usually common words like "the" or "and", or important titles like "Prince" and the names of the many Houses. A Pillar is usually one slab wide and two slabs tall.

A flag pillar will always introduce a subject. One subject may have many, many introductory pillars depending on how well-off and important they are, or depending on how much they're trying to seem impressive.


Slabs are used to spell less important words, like adjectives or adverbs, or append verbs with conjugation. Slabs are half as tall as heads and can form stacks of two. A new word written in slabs would not begin in the middle of a stack but would move to the next spot to form a new stack.


The initial concept was:
  • Main words are comprised of demon heads.
  • Prepositions, pronouns etc indicated with smaller glyphs.
  • Heads can be one or two syllables.
  • Words made up of more than two syllables are written with multiple heads connected by some following decorative element, like bone, strands of hair, fire etc.

The first pass at a general direction for the script was too chaotic; the eye would have to go all over a single head to work out what it was meant to say. I needed to simplify things. We decided to focus on four elements: the eyes, nose, mouth, and headpiece. Since there would likely be fewer cohesive nose shapes, I chose that part of the head to represent the vowel. The eye would be the initial consonant and the mouth would be the final consonant. Each head would now be a single syllable. We started to draw up some ideas.

I put some of these new elements together to check out things were looking so far. The faces were looking great but the top and back of each head felt very empty without any decoration. I briefly played with the idea of some different scalps but they felt too cartoony. We definitely also needed to add something back into the cheeks like in our first versions. I decided these little decorative squares would be used as context clues for a language with limited words.

I still only wanted the most important words to be written as full heads and decided the rest of the script would be made up of a combination of phonetic glyphs and logograms. We set about drawing up some smaller glyph ideas.

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