Tag Archives: Eoria

Echo of the High Kings Second Sample

Here’s the second sample from Echo of the High Kings.  Once again, Echo of the High Kings will be published on 1 August 2014.  For the first sample, check here.

Lord Hector

Town of East Reach, Longhaven Barony, Duchy of Masov

Twenty-Ninth of Idran, Cycle 993 Post Sundering

 

Lord Hector pulled his cloak tighter against the damp air of the tavern as he read through the scout’s report. He wasn’t certain if the cool, damp fall air or the dire news laid out in the precise handwriting on the parchment that made the gooseflesh rise on his arms.

“You need to kill him tonight,” his spy said, his voice tight with strain.

Hector’s head snapped up and he met the blue eyed gaze of the source of the reports. “You seem eager for me to commit treason based on the Armen threat.” For a moment, he almost forgot that the dusky-skinned man across from him wasn’t one of the barbarians from the north. He had seen many such faces, often marked with ritual tattoos or brands, often blood-spattered from their work. Most of what he saw at little better than arms reach as they tried to take his life and he theirs.

Hector didn’t realize that his hand had dropped to his sword until the other man reached out and put his hand atop Hector’s, “I do not seek to drive you to treason… I seek to save these lands from the savagery that we both know awaits. You raised me to be your spy amongst the Armen and your scout on campaign. Believe me, father, the Armen will come with the spring.”

Hector failed to hide a wince. It wasn’t that he didn’t have pride, of a sort, in his bastard son’s accomplishments. Yet, the truth remained, his boy was a halfblood… and while half his blood came from Hector, the other half of that blood came from the enemy. Hector shot a glance around the all-but-empty tavern, but it looked like the old drunks at the bar had little interest in their conversation. Hector’s eyes lingered on a hooded man in the corner, but the hunched figure in the shadows looked to be too far away to overhear their conversation. Even so, Hector pitched his voice low so it would not carry, “I sent you to gather information. You brought back rumors and vague warnings, talk of sorcerers and the mutterings of Armen holy men. I can’t bypass Baron Estrel and go to the Duke with this, not without hard numbers.”

“Do not allow your hate for me to blind you to the truth, father,” his son said. For a second, he looked so much like is mother that Hector had to look away. His chest ached with a long-remembered pain and Hector’s left hand stroked a scar that ran along his left thigh.

“I don’t hate you,” Hector managed to mutter. “But as you said, if this is all I have, then I am left one option: kill the rightful Baron of Longhaven and take his place. Otherwise, there isn’t time to prevent his next tribute shipment.”

Hector’s son nodded, “You can’t go to the Duke without solid proof, or Baron Estrel will undercut anything you say. The barony will fall without a strong leader. Your cousin has whored away his father’s gains. The talk amongst the Armen is that his lands are ripe for raiding.”

Hector nodded despite himself. He had arrived two cycles earlier, sent by the Duke with direction to try to repair some of the damage Baron Estrel had done to his defenses. What he had found had made the most pessimistic reports of the Barony’s readiness look far understated. Little remained of Baron Estrel’s forces. Most of his soldiers were unfit for duty, and his Master of Arms was an old drunk. Hector had done what he could, but the truth remained that the Barony was in a state of disarray… a fact that the Armen raiders knew quite well. Estrel had held them off until now with bribes and tribute, but even the Armen knew that soon he couldn’t afford any more. Soon the Armen would descend along the coast. They would rape, enslave, pillage and burn, and Hector had seen what they left behind often enough to feel sick at the thought.

Hector’s mouth twisted in a grimace, “I know what I have to do, yes… and I know the cost. If even a whisper of this gets out, the Duke will demand justice. My head will be the one that rolls for this.” Hector looked down and noticed that his wine sat untouched. He took a sip of his wine and the liquid burned in his throat. He shook his head as his vision flared for a moment. His head felt a little light.

“You need not face that,” his son shook his head. “Have me do it, father. It will look like an Armen raid, I’ll even hire a few Armen to launch a distraction. Even if I fail, the worst anyone will think is that I’ve betrayed you.”

Hector heard the words as if through a tunnel. He shook his head again, and he heard his own response as if it came from someone else, “You think I lack the stomach for it, do you?” He hadn’t realized that he stood until he heard his chair hit the floor behind him. Some part of him wondered at his own reaction, yet it was a disconnected thought, one he barely noticed.

His son stretched out an arm, “No! I merely think that this is the best way to do this! Please, sit. I did not mean to anger you, father–”

Hector seemed to rush back into himself and his head cleared. Forgotten was the lightheaded feeling, replaced by a spike of rage, “Do not dare to try to placate me!” Hector shouted. “You think me too cowardly to do the business myself, you seek to make me skulk behind you and then you seek to insinuate that I’m unreasonable?!” Incandescent rage filled him, and only the shreds of his self control allowed him to rip his hand away from the hilt of his sword. “Begone,” Hector snarled.

He saw his son’s face go slack with shock and then firm with rage of his own. Even so, he tried to reason with him, “Please, do not do this. You need some cut out or this will all be for naught–”

Hector saw some movement behind his son, the cloaked man in the corner. For a moment, Hector met the other man’s dark eyes. Hector thought he saw the slightest twist of a smile on the other man’s shadowed face. He laughs at me, just as my son always has… The smile was the last straw, the catalyst that sent his rage to boil over.

Hector leaned across the table and struck his son twice, once across each cheek. “You are no son of mine. You’ve done your task, now begone, and let a man of honor do his duty.”

Hector righted his chair as his son turned away without a word. He saw that the drunks had given him their attention, but a glare from him sent them back to their drinks. Hector sat and stared down at the reports and ignored the sound of the inn’s door as his son walked out into the cold fall rain. Hector pushed the wine goblet away and stared down at the reports. A part of him wanted to get up, to go after his son.

Yet his pride and his anger kept him in his chair and his duty forced him to examine what he had to do. He knew how to do it and he knew exactly what it would cost him to do it right. He was right to tell his son that he must do the deed himself. Hector was sent by the Duke to fix things, and so it fell to him to make it right. If nothing else, he owed it to his cousin to kill him in person.

Hector rolled up the parchment report and his gaze went distant as he began to make plans. He went past the immediate deed and had begun to plan his campaign against the Armen for the spring within a few minutes. He never noticed the hooded man from the corner as he slipped out of the tavern, just as the tavern maid hadn’t noticed when he slipped a vial of amber liquid in Hector’s wine when he’d entered.

***

Blurb

In Eoriel, the High Kings are legend: rulers who once stood against the darkness and ruled the world for two thousand turns of peace and prosperity. In the long turns since their fall during the Sundering, Eoriel’s civilization has faded. Dark men and darker beings have torn down and destroyed the old works. While some have held out against the grind of history, other places have been reduced to primitive tribes of savages, worshiping dark spirits and demons as their gods.

Yet, a spark of hope remains: some still believe in the old legends, some still fight to restore the old ways, and some will stand against the darkness, in an echo of the High Kings.

Echo of the High Kings will be published on 1 August 2014

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Building an Epic Fantasy World: Modern History, Trade, and Society

So up until this point, I’ve developed my world, Eoria, configured what technology is available, what magic works, and even what people populate it. See the last post, on the history and cultures here. Today I’ll design the modern history, talk a bit about trade & industry, and design the societies that make up Eoria.

First off, when I left off, the lowlands civilizations were disparate, which didn’t allow them to unify and push the highland barbarians or northern barbarians back. This was exacerbated by the southern jungle civilization, which I’ve named Vendakar, who prefers the other civilizations weak and uses the slave trade produced by the barbarian raiders for their own ends.

Now, into this, I want to introduce the start of modern times, the notion of a central authority or leadership. I could map out the rise of some great conquerer… but I want to give them more of a feeling of legitimacy, rather than someone who just beat everyone else down. I also want to show, again, that this world is part of a greater universe… and that mankind didn’t originate here. So, I’ll introduce a new people, the Starborn. The Starborn arrive at Eoria during a period of heavy raiding by the barbarians. They come to Eoria aboard their ship, and they intially seek little contact with the natives, establishing a secure colony on their own. However, as their technology begins to fail, they are drawn into the local politics. As a contrast here, some of the Starborn seek to remain apart, others think that they should use their weapons and technology to seize power and rule, and a third group wants to work with the natives. The three groups have a short but brutal civil war in which the group that wants to work with the natives is victorious, while the conquistadors are exiled, sent north, where they found their own nation, called Darkstar. The isolationists are discouraged by both groups and head off on their own, to try and preserve ‘pure’ technology, rather than the magic and mysticism they see elsewhere. The majority of the Starborn begin to work with the locals. In particular, they are drawn to help in the fights against the barbarians. The leader of this faction, from the previous civil war, helps to unify the smaller nations, so that they work together against their common enemies. In the process, he steps into the role as the overall leader of their alliance… eventually coming to become their High King as things solidify. The five lowlands civilizations become the Five Duchies, each independent in their own lands but unified under the High King’s leadership.

The Starborn also bring ideas of sanitation, crop rotation, fertilizers, rule of law, and other low-tech but still important elements of civilization. With the assistance of the starborn, the five civilized nations defeat the rising tide of barbarism. They also experience a population boom from the increased hygiene, improved economy, and higher food yields. The Starborn, partnered with the nobility of these lands, slowly move into leadership positions, often intermarrying with the locals. Some prefer to remain in isolation, living separately, but many become the leaders of these other nations over generations.

The reign of the Starborn High Kings is a time of peace and prosperity. The Starborn value individual freedoms and personal responsibility as well, so there remains some upward mobility in most of their lands. They also approach magic from a scientific stance, so they push the boundaries of magical theory.

Going into each of the Five Duchies, I can decide what their strengths and weaknesses are, what they trade for and produce, and what the defining characteristics are. I’ve named them: Marovingia, Asador, Taral, Boir, and Masov, roughly from west to east.

Marovingia is the furthest south, along the equator, and blessed with plenty of rainfall and good weather. It acts as the breadbasket for the rest of the Five Duchies, with huge farms that produce food over multiple growing seasons during the year. The Marovingians, unlike most of the Five Duchies, do not venerate spirits of places or ancestors… they worship their gods. Their gods are physical beings, men and women who are born with a natural connection to the spirit world, and who are able to manifest powers. Marovingians are the closest to the Vendakar Kingdom, so they are bitter rivals. Marovingia’s large population and large percentage of land ownership gives rise to citizen soldiers who fight in their legions.

Asador is a volcanic highland, of rolling plains and towering cinder cones. The people of Asador are as volatile as their lands, being known for fiery tempers and ancestral grudges. While they are likely to engage in bickering or feuds, they will work together against common foes. Asador’s plains give rise to herds of cattle and sheep and the people are split between the small towns, built like fortresses on the volcanic peaks and the roaming peoples who raise livestock and live on horseback. The volcanoes in Asador’s highlands provide power sources for their wizards, allowing them to harness that energy to power their magical inventions. Asador’s cavalry, both heavy and light, are their military strength.

Taral is another highland area. Taral, unlike the other Duchies, is much closer to barbarism. The people of Taral experience some of the strongest and fiercest winters on Eoriel, with snow depths reaching forty or fifty feet. Taral lies between two mountain ranges and the lake effect off the Boir sea buries the Duchy every winter in snow. The heavy run-off in the spring erodes Taral into steep gullies and ravines, floods fields, and feeds the multiple rivers and lakes. Due to the harshness of winter, Taral has developed expertise in enchanting, crafting sunwells which gather light all through the spring, summer and fall to allow them to grow crops underground to withstand the winter months. They’ve adapted their enchanting skills to other areas since, but each village and town is built around a sunwell and the sunwells are of extreme importance to them. The people of Taral are in constant skirmishes with the mountain barbarians as the two people feud over highland valleys to grow crops and run livestock.

Boir rests along the inland Boir Sea. The people of Boir are industrious and are often drawn to trade and exploration. They build the best ships and their shipmasters travel everywhere. Most cargoes in Eoriel travel in a ship from Boir. The shorter growing seasons mean they are dependent upon food imports to maintain their population, but they spend the long winters working and laboring, providing goods and items for export and trade. Boir’s naval forces are their primary military strength, designed primarily around defeating the northern barbarians sea raiders, who plague their coastlines.

The last of the Five Duchies is Masov. Masov is the largest and is separated from the rest of Eoriel by the Boir Sea and the Ryft, connected by land only at the Ryft Guard, a massive fortress which spans the Ryft at its narrowest point. Masov’s people are as varied as it’s terrain. In the northern lowlands, trade and industry are more important to the people, while in the southern highlands, farming and logging are what people do to live. Masov’s central area is thin, hedged on one side by the Eastwood and on the other by the ocean. Masov, however, is the oldest of the Duchies, and one of the first to support the Starborn High Kings and is seen as the cultural center for the Five Duchies. The main focus of magic in Masov is blood magic and the mages who practice their arts are the best healers in Eoriel. As a counter to this, those who stray into perversions of blood magic, sorcerers, are also more common here. The southern deserts and high mountain valleys are host to more of the barbarians in the south, while the northern lowlands are raided by the northern sea raiders, which gives the Duchy a unique perspective on threats.

With that baseline established, coming into more recent times, the High Kingdom has fallen into disrepair. The High Kings are extinct, brought down by betrayal. In the process, the Five Duchies have created their own feuds and have fought one another, setting the stage for no one Duchy quite trusting the other to have their backs. As a consequence, the barbarians and the Vendakar have been able to raid and attack more successfully. In particular, Taral is brought low by the mountain barbarians, with many of its towns and villages destroyed and its people surviving only in isolated mountain villages, small pockets of civilization against the barbarians. Since Taral lay central to the Five Duchies, it’s loss makes travel and communications between the others difficult, at best. Boir maintains travel by sea, but the increase in northern sea raiders makes that dangerous too.

The general decline of civilization means that knowledge and information are lost. The Starborn families that survived the fall of the High Kings associate less with the other people of Eoria. Lack of communication and trust means that civilization declines still more. The volatile people of Asador’s feuds erupt into full blown civil war when their Duke dies without a clear heir. Each of the Duchies is isolated and alone and the barbarians threaten to overwhelm them.

This, then, is the perfect place for my story to start. I have a rich history (which I populated with names, dates, and other fun historical stuff), I know what people are where and what motivates them. I know what magic works, what science and technology work, and how the different people can apply them. Civilization, on Eoria, is at the brink of collapse. Into this, then, I populate the characters, men and women who either want to give civilization that last push towards collapse or who want to bring it back from the brink.

That concludes my world building series, hopefully it helps other writers and, if not, then at least it proved interesting.