Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Journey through the Land of Shades – Primer pt. 2
Journey through the Land of Shades is now available...through the Kindle Store...Full release of the novel will follow through all major e-book retailers in the coming weeks...The Antiquated World in which Islena's journey takes place is a complex and mysterious one. I have created two primers that will help prospective readers gain some insight into the nature and depth of the back story surrounding the primary tale.
Journey through the Land of Shades – Primer pt. 2
Culture, Myth and a History of Obscurity
The Antiquated Land – An Overview
Known simply as the Antiquated Land, the world that will play reluctant host to Islena Doraux’s epic journey has been so dubbed by its rather baffling condition of stasis…Through four thousand years of recorded history (a term applied in the most liberal context) and innumerable millennia prior, little in the way of technological progress has been made by the dwellers of the two continents. It would almost seem as if, having reached a certain plateau of development, the world’s inhabitants reached a unanimous accord dictating that any and all progress would come to an abrupt halt. The smelting of iron and forging of steel yielded an array of close-quarter melee weaponry that has been complimented by standard projectile weaponry, such as bows and cross-bows. The last true military innovation occurred three hundred years prior to Islena’s sudden arrival in the form of ballistae and trebuchets. Science is a nebulous concept at best in the Antiquated Lands where sorcery and the practice of numerous schools of magic provide what little medical treatments and health care that is to be had.
One of the most pervasive and peculiar qualities of the Antiquated Lands is its tendency to focus its attention solely upon itself. Perhaps this can account for the rather inexplicable fact that a maritime culture has never truly evolved despite having numerous countries that together possess thousands of miles of ocean coast. The dwellers of the Antiquated Lands seem to universally share a strictly introspective vision and seem to hold no fascination in the possibility that other lands…other cultures and races…may exist across the mighty oceans to the east and the south of the two continental land masses. Despite the relative wealth of many of these maritime adjacent nations, not one has developed either a navy or merchant marine fleet of any note. The few naval vessels that do brave the ocean waters seldom stray far from the rugged coasts. As a consequence of this distinct lack of imagination and adventurous spirit, the two continents that comprise the antiquated lands remain incredibly ignorant of the greater world and the possibly mysteries it might hold.
There are many other aspects of the governing realities that characterize life in the antiquated lands that are equally perplexing. Some of the topographical features that shape the two continents are as mystifying as the oddly static people who inhabit them. The first of these baffling geographic anomalies is known as the Blighted Lands...a virtually uninhabitable expanse of scoured rock and lifeless sand that spans the entire northern third of the eastern Continent. Amongst the academics and historians of nations there is much conjecture that this significant portion of the continent was devastated by a great cataclysm…most likely man-made and very possibly magical in nature. This is pure hypothesis as there is no historical record or evidence to substantiate this claim.
The eastern and western continents are separated by the Great Mother…a bottomless chasm that runs the entire length of the continent and is spanned by three natural stone causeways that connect the eastern continent with each of the three Cornerstone Nations. While it is generally held that the land was once one mass and a great geological event cleft that land in two, no one has been able to produce a viable explanation for the fact that the chasm has never filled with water or that the ocean waters has simply not flowed into its seemingly depthless void. As is often the case in such circumstances, this lack of a plausible explanation has given way to a host of theological speculation and theory and it is now generally accepted that the Chasm was created by deities for some grand and unknowable purpose. Many religions with darker predilections engaged in the practice of sacrificing humans to their dark deities by throwing them into the chasm, though this practice was assiduously discouraged by ruling monarchs in recent times. Historians speculate that the three stone causeways which span the Great Mother were created by the stone molders of Natzurdan, whose mastery over nature allows them to liquefy and shape stone. There is no record that can either validate or refute this particular claim, though the perfect structure and symmetry of these causeways does make this explanation seem logical.
As perplexing as these two geological anomalies would seem, they pale in comparison to the River Hiberas. Running along a north-south orientation, the fast flowing river spans the entire length of the western continent and serves as the western border for the three CornerStone Nations. No living being (and indeed, no inanimate object as well) has ever crossed the mighty river. While it appears that the river banks hold mere water within its confines, the reality is considerably more astounding…and lethal. Violating the vertical plane of the river leads to an in immediate incineration that is spectacular and absolute in its totality. The occupants of the Antiquated Lands quickly came to discern that the Hiberas River was meant to serve as an inviolable barrier the purpose of which has roused endless debate. Was the barrier meant to protect the inhabitants of the Antiquated Lands…or keep them from entering the land on the far bank? As no living being has ever managed to surmount the barrier and return, the answer to this question remains shrouded in mystery.
On the opposite bank of the River Hiberas lies a land shrouded in occluding mists that has been dubbed The Land of Shades. Though virtually nothing is known of this territory, its prevailing mystery has inspired a wealth of lore and myth that has become the very fabric and weave of legend throughout the Antiquated Lands. The most commonly held conception, subscribed to by both fringe cult and popular theological scholar alike, is that the Land of Shades is really a purgatory…a repository for either lost or possibly evil souls who have been denied access into the afterworld and have been consigned to roam the twisted, fog-shrouded landscape delineated by the River Hiberas. Through the centuries, profiteers and zealots of every stripe have attempted to surmount the barrier of the Hiberas and venture into the Land of Shades, but these attempts have invariably been met with catastrophic failure and the shrouded land remains as mysterious and inaccessible as the stars in the firmament.
Dominant Cultures circa the Coming of Islena Doraux
The centuries prior to Islena’s to the Antiquated World were characterized by turbulence, violent upheaval and a prevailing flux that saw nations rise and fall like wheat before the scythe. Much of this chaos was caused by a rapacious hunger for land, wealth and dominion, but conflicting political and religious ideologies also served as the catalyst for the prevailing climate of anarchy that has afflicted the land. One of the resonating effects of this constant upheaval has been the dearth of enduring and definitive cultures…those nations that continuously define the course of history. The scouring sands of time have effaced one ascendant nation after the other from the pages of history and only a handful have found the wherewithal to persevere and not only survive…but actually flourish.
Of all of the countries of the eastern continent of the Antiquated Lands, Emercia is the one nation that has managed to resist the seemingly inexorable drag of slow disintegration (or perhaps, implosion would be a more appropriate descriptor). Blessed with a wealth of natural resources and a favorable climate for both forestry and agriculture, Emercia has also had the good fortune to be ruled by a virtually unbroken string of rulers who were shrewd and often benevolent by the standards of the day. Consequently, Emercia prospered economically and developed a competent, professional military that managed to insulate the country from the rampant chaos that churned beyond its borders. With the coronation of the dynamic and visionary king Artumas in the decades prior to the coming of Islena Doraux; Emercia looked to take on a new role on the Eastern Continent. Rather than remain aloof from the affairs of the continent, Artumas actively sought to bring a measure of peace and stability to the fractious nations, who had known only warfare and discontent as long as can be remembered. Perhaps, Emercia’s greatest achievement under the legendary king was the opening of formal relations with the CornerStone Nations of the Western Continent. With the coming of Myrhia and her eventual ascent to the throne, all of Artumas’ monumental accomplishments were undone.
Located in the frigid, mountainous north-eastern corner of the eastern continent, Redia is the dark reflection of everything that Emercia has aspired and evolved to become. Redian societal structure is broken down along clan lines, united (rather tenuously) under a ruler who is ensconced on the throne only after achieving victory in a brutal single combat tournament known as Rizarhchen. Perhaps more than anything else, this method of selecting a ruler is indicative of the nature of the people who inhabit the inimical mountains and forests of this snow-covered nation. The Redian clans spend much of their time engaged in clan feuds and political one-upmanship, but their relationship with the rest of the eastern continent has been unvaryingly hostile and destructive. Suffused by a general proclivity for lawlessness and violence, Redia has preyed ruthlessly upon its neighbors, especially the country of Fairmarch which has the misfortune of being located immediately to the south of Redia. For centuries, the citizens of Fairmarch endured raids from bands of marauding Redian clansmen who came to pillage the weaker nation and gather slave labor for the distant northern mines. When Artumas ascended to power in Emercia, one of his first priorities was to stop these savage incursions and ‘put the Redian beast back in its box.’ In cooperation with the Jerhia, Emercia succeeded in doing precisely this and now Redia sits as a brooding, isolated nation that is perceived with wariness and distrust by the other nations of the Eastern Continent. When Myrhia usurped Artumas’ throne, she elevated Ynthrax, one of Redia’s most notorious clansmen, to the position of her supreme commander and integrated Redian mercenaries into her conventional armies…elevating the lawless element of Redia from a dangerous nuisance to a terrifying menace to be feared and reviled.
At the onset of this initial tale, the Lamish have never been officially recognized as a nation, nor have they ever established an enduring place of residence for any length of time. In reality, the Lamish are a disparate group of itinerants that is comprised of the Diaspora of nearly every nation on the eastern continent. Considered shiftless and unscrupulous by many, this group has been persecuted relentlessly and has been forced to drift aimlessly around the continent to avoid harsh treatment from many rulers, who regard them as a nuisance at best and a menace at worst. At the time of Islena Doraux’s arrival, the Lamish are in danger of extinction, having earned Myrhia’s lethal ire.
One of the revered three CornerStone Nations, Jerhia is a structured country devoted to the military sciences and disciplines. The country is governed by a military oligarchy led by a Maxim Tier Marshall and each citizen of the nation lives a life devoted to mastery of one form of military discipline or another. Marriages are arranged with the notion of fostering and augmenting specific physical and mental attributes and much of everyday life is regimented by the needs and imperatives of the nation’s ubiquitous military machinery. Despite this rigid societal structure and total militaristic orientation of the country, the Jerhia do not consider themselves to be a repressed people, rather, the average citizen has embraced the concept of devoting their lives to the service of Jerhia’s military idea. Devotion to duty is a sacrosanct principle upon which the foundation of the nation’s cultural has evolved. More surprising still is the nation’s unwavering adherence to moral and ethical ideals throughout its long history. The Jerhia have consistently and vehemently opposed tyranny and aggression, intervening in conflicts where they believed they had the moral authority to do so or for the protection of ethnic or religious groups who lacked the wherewithal to defend themselves against persecution. Like both Natuzurdan and Metocan, Jerhia decided to close their causeway and severe relations with the eastern continent when the nations of the east refused to set aside their petty and violent squabbling. Two decades before Islena’s arrival, Emercian King Artumas brokered a new accord with the CornerStone Nations and normal relations between the two continents resumed. Jerhia and Emercia were largely responsible for bringing a period of prevailing peace and tranquility to the east that quickly evaporated when Myrhia began her campaign of conquest. Previously thought to be virtually invincible on a conventional battlefield, the Jerhia suffered a series of stunning and debilitating defeats and have been forced to the very edge of the Great Mother by the relentless advance of Myrhia’s sorcery-fueled juggernaut.
Located in the central third of the Western Continent, Natzurdan is home to the powerful, but pacifistic nation of earth-lore wielders. The Natzurdan are devoted to the preservation of nature’s beauty and work tirelessly to ensure that the natural order of the land remains harmonious and unmarred by the presence of man. The verdant majesty of Natzurdan is living testimony of the degree to which the Natzurdan have succeeded in maintaining the delicate balance between humanity’s pervasive needs and the integrity of earth on which all living things rely. As a reward for this unflagging dedication, the citizens of Natzurdan have been rewarded with the power of earth-lore and the ability to manipulate and mould stone and living timber. Amberdias, Natzurdan’s capital, stands as an edifice to the concept of humanity living in harmony with Nature. Every structure in the magnificent city has been constructed from living wood and sculpted bedrock. At the time of Islena’s arrival, the Natzurdan are governed by Morzhian, an elder whose selection comes at the culmination of a series of arcane rituals. His ascension to this role is believed to have been sanctified by Euronia, the Antiquated Lands’ generally accepted Goddess of the land and the creatures that dwell upon it. With a strong aversion to the spilling of blood and taking of life, The Natzurdan’s opposition to Myrhia’s campaign of conquest is strictly passive.
The last of the unofficial coalition of CornerStone Nations is Metocan. With their oddly translucent skin and elongated cranial features, the Metocan are the most distinct race to be found in the Antiquated Lands (with the exception of the Ulgak, who are a sub-species of the Metocan and who are rather disquieting in appearance). The country itself is perpetually shrouded in swirling mists, the origins of which are as mysterious and daunting as the people who dwell within them. The entire culture is dedicated to the academic study and practical applications of sorcery and magic. Metocan is ruled by an Inner Circle, consisting of six mages and a Grand Mage. It is this group that dictates every aspect of the practice of magic and sorcery within the nation’s borders. At the time of Islena’s arrival, Inos holds the title of Grand Mage and his policies have imposed a complete prohibition of the study or application of all disciplines of magic involving necromancy or blood magic. It is Metocan augury that first divines Myrhia’s intent to draw Islena Doraux into the Antiquated Land and have her seek out the Three Proclamations of Omnipotence. Though gifted with powerful sorcery skills and weaponry, even the Metocan are no match for Myrhia at the time Islena is drawn into the terrible conflict.