Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Aethwyrd's 'Vidorian Geographies'

As promised, I've compiled some words on the geographies and the people who inhabit Esdaria. As with all fantasy worlds, there are a few 'common' races that will be familiar for the reader - the Men, the Elves, the Dwarves and the Gnomes (the latter pair collectively called the 'Halflings'). In the process of drafting this, I decided that I'll later write a bestiary of sorts to cover some of the various creatures and monsters that also stalk through the shadowy, forgotten places of The World.

As I started writing this post originally, it felt very superficial. Here I was, the all-knowing god-creator of this little universe, putting into words my total understanding of everything to do with the landscape and the physical features of this world. I decided it was be far too boring, just reeling off passages and passages of text that straight-up answered the question 'what is Esdaria like?' For me, half the joy of discovering new fantasy worlds is feeling as if I'm exploring them. Seeing the rivers as the characters do, climbing hills and mountains with them, and walking through bustling metropolis streets alongside protagonists is a key part of enjoying a fantasy world. 

So, I decided to do something a little different.

Below is Aethwyrd's 'Vidorian Geographies', which is an account of the landscape of Esdaria. I've presented it in a somewhat watered-down style that anyone who has read a Penguin Classic, such as the Prose Edda, may find familiar. Aethwyrd, like the world he has recorded, is fictional. The italicised and bracketed words are analyses of what he has written.

Why have I done this? Well, as a history student, I am told time and time again not to trust the words of the writers of primary literature. They have their own complexities and intricacies, because they, like the kings and warriors they record, were real people with real opinions. They lived real lives. I've tried to capture a little of this in Aethwyrd's fictional account, because you, as a reader, are only given snippets. You don't get the full answer, which leaves the world which can then be revealled through stories beautifully and tantalisingly enigmatic. I've kept it relatively simple, as I don't expect most people who read this will have a university-level understanding of what to consider when reading primary literature (in part, this is why I've included scholarly-like comments to try and make this slightly easier to read). As the first lump of analysis says: Aethwyrd likely did not visit many of the places he wrote about, and instead compiled his Geographies... from other sources, incluing the letters of the explorer Odr. This does exctly what I want it to: it doesn't give you the full story. Who is to say whether or not Aethwyrd isn't making up bits and pieces?

Simply put - I don't want to give anything away at this early stage, and I want to leave as much of my little universe as enigmatic as possible until I begin to post full stories. I want you to explore Esdaria and The World with my characters.

Anyway, here it is. This is a test-run as it stands at the moment, and if the feedback requires it of me, this approach to sharing the lore of Esdaria will be dropped. Merry reading!


This account of the geography of Esdaria is written in the text ‘Vidorian Geographies’ by Aethwyrd, a scholar at the Imperial University in Vidoropolis. Assembled on the early years of the Second Age, shortly after the formation of the Vidorian Empire, his account draws extensively upon the letters of the First Age explorer, Odr. Many of the other sources he draws on are official imperial documents and letters, kept in the vast archive of the Imperial University. Given some of the glosses and details he omits, it seems likely he never actually visited most of the places he writes about. Odr, known also as The Wanderer, was one of the first Men to be deified on his death, many hundreds of years before the Divine Empress was even born. Odr’s travels across Esdaria, and the plethora of folk-tales that they promoted, clearly inspired the imagination of the First Age, pre-Vidorian Men.

Aethwyrd’s account is extensive and, for the most part, very accurate – if a little general in places. There are a few regions he misses out and glosses over, primarily the Elven territories in the east and the dry, barren mountains to the north of them – for example, he does not provide the contemporary names for the northern and eastern seas, and he completely neglects to including details about Eagle Island, and the islands of Elen-Derul and Elen-Desh. This is simply because, at the time he was writing, the Vidorian Empire had not turned its eyes eastwards. His detailed analyses of the Syladras Mountains, the Great Mountains, and the regions north beyond them, show that the majority of his ‘Geographies’ is drawn from Odr’s letters.

Chapter I: On the Look and Appearance of Esdaria
Esdaria is, at the present time, the only continent upon the face of The World. Rectangular in shape, it is wider than it is tall, and is, on all sides, surrounded by the sea. To the west lies, as the barbaric Westernaeans call it, the Siluras Aet [The Silver Sea], and to the south, looked out upon by the Imperial Heartlands, lie the South Seas. All stretch forever forwards, swathing the rest of The World in their cold, grey waters.

A great scar of many tall, dark mountains runs west-to-east through the middle of the land, touching the Silver Sea and extending beyond the kingdom of Altmeria, which lies to the east of the fabled Imperial Heartlands. Abruptly, the mountains slice north at the eastern end and cut along the edge of the Elven kingdoms, and past the Rocky Mountains to the north. They then reach the edge of the northern sea and cease with the land, their great, rocky flanks weak before the eternal wax and wane of the sea’s pressing waters…

The rest of this chapter is concerned with a pseudo-creation story which claims that the Divine Empress, just a few decades before, had carved the landscapes with her sword. It has been dismissed for its factual value, as The World had existed for at least three thousand years before this point – a fact Aethwyrd indirectly supports by using Odr’s letters to build his own account, as they were written over one-thousand years before his use of them.

Chapter II: On the Lands and the Empires and the Kingdoms of Men
Of the regions and kingdoms of Men, the land known as the Imperial Heartlands is foremost in beauty. It is side and square, reaching from the roots of the most grandiose of the Great Mountains all the way to the dark grey waves of the South Seas. It is a rich and arable land, a great carpet of rolling green hills peppered with old trees and pretty farmsteads. Even those military fortifications that litter the landscape are picturesque – tall, beautiful and glittering white in the ever-glittering sun; Vidoria’s cleansing and guiding light, which always shines upon the Imperial Heartlands.

At it's centre, the tallest and proudest monument to Her glory, lies the city of Vidoropolis – the most beautiful city upon the face of The World. It's spires glitter in the light of the endless summer [note: this is a motif by the author. Aethwyrd was writing his Geographies during one of the coldest recorded winters to ever hit the Heartlands] and reach so high that they touch the thin clouds that whisper through the sky. At the centre of the city is the great Imperial Citadel, close to where the Imperial University is. Both are tall and proud, gleaming golden in the summer sun. People always come and go from the city centre, academics of note, their hordes of students, as well as the most leading Mothers in the Imperial Faith. The soldiers of Vidoria patrol the streets with Her vigilance, inspired by the palatial metropolis around them. Nor is there any poverty in Vidoropolis’ streets: the lowest peasant has all he needs to be comfortable, such is the prosperity of the Vidorian Empire. The merchants sell only the finest produce, and the taverns overflow with song and laughter.

In the west lie Imperial provinces. When compared to the Imperial Heartlands, they are like every emperor and empress that has followed and will follow Vidoria: they are beautiful and immaculate, yet not quite perfect. Their rolling landscapes, high hills and dramatic mountains lack the subtle golden gleam of those of the Imperial Heartlands. Immediately adjacent to the Heartlands lies Westmoor. It is a dramatic landscape, with high, bleak plateaus swathed in hark heather and shrubbery. Low, wind-worn rocks litter the landscape like guardians, watching and waiting. They gaze eastwards, over the mountainous hills and towards the next kingdom: Maedar, which is, by all accounts, very similar to the Imperial Heartlands. It is split from Westmoor by the great Vier, a long river that runs from the Great Mountains to the South Seas, with many tributaries that spread from its wide and deep length. Maedar has more wooded areas, and a few more rivers than the Heartlands. It gives way to the Emerald Peninsula, which stretches south in a fang-like shape into the South Seas, close to Eagle Island.

Eagle Island sits just beyond the southern tip of Westmoor, and is twice as long as it is wide. To its north lies Westernaea, a cold and stony province, littered with forests and great lakes. It is home to the savage Westernaeans, who, despite their flaws, forge some of the finest steel in Esdaria.

To the east, like the Imperial Heartlands, the Kingdom of Altmeria squats. It is, according to my eyes, the bastard half-sibling of the Imperial Heartlands. It's grasses are grey and its hills lacklustre. It's foremost city, Baradun, is a cesspit of inequality and hatred. It's kings grow fat on the suffering of their people, who cower in filthy villages across the land, which scar the face of Esdaria like poc-marks.

In another of his works, ‘Commentaries on the Socio-Economic Life of the People of the Vidorian Empire’, Aethwyrd went to great effort to slate the poor of the Vidorian Empire, calling them a ‘plague’ upon Vidoria’s divine light and strongly recommending the constructions of poor districts outside the city in order to remove them from where they ‘scurry and squat under and about the feet of the faithful’.

Chapter III: On the Elves and their Lands, as well as the Islands of Elen-Derul and Elen-Desh
Beyond the fetid kingdom of the Altmerians, across the fast-flowing Feldurn River, lies the Elven Kingdom of Bel-Segor. It is almost entirely covered in a thick forest, made up of the largest, fattest, tallest trees upon Esdaria [note: this is not true. Only around a third of the Kingdom of the Elves is covered by forest. Odr never ventured into Feldurn Forest, but in one of his letters he describes the ‘immensity of the colossal, sprawling forest’ that seemed to ‘stretch on before him forever’. Aethwyrd is clearly just copying this] and home to their city, Segorsa, which no Man has ever set foot in.

The Elves, as a people, are lofty and aloof to the woes and trials of Men. They are a tall people, pale-faced and commonly pale-haired. Their ears and long and poured at their tips, often extending from the sides of their heads until in-line with their crowns. They have bright eyes, commonly green or blue, and speak in a tongue unbeknownst to Men. They are, however, fluent in the Common tongue that is spoken across the Vidorian Empire, and spat by the Altmerians. They are also well-voiced in song and magic, both of which they can use to weave spells and incantations. Other than that, they are much unknown to the Vidorian Empire, other than their colonists on the islands of Elen-Derul and Elen-Desh, in the South Seas, a few miles from their southernmost border, occasionally trade with the Empire. Their gowns and tapestries are amongst the finest in existence.

Chapter IV: On the Halflings and their Stone Halls
With the recent expansion that, blessed by She, has so successfully taken place in the west of Esdaria, the Halfling folk who live under the Great Mountains and the Syladras Mountains to the west. They are a secretive people, and little is known of the world under the mountains in which they live. Those who live in the Empire, of which there are only a handful [note: at the start of the Second Age, when Aethwyrd was writing, the Halfling-folk had not integrated into the Empire. Over the next century, this changed and Dwarfs and Gnomes and now common sights in Imperial Provinces], mention great chambers and long tunnels, huge in size and carved with great detail. However, they do not often talk of home, and no Man has ever been allowed to enter any of their cities in living memory.

Dwarfs and Men haves few  similarities in appearance. Though Dwarfs are much smaller, they have Man-like faces, big noses, and the men often have huge, ornate beards full of rings and beads. They are broad in chest and shoulder, and have arms of great strength, though their legs are small. Gnomes are almost like children in appearance: they are small, with small arms and legs and amusing pot-bellies [note: Aethwyrd, in his ‘Commentaries…’, speaks about a Gnomish jester who had a ‘hilarious bouncing belly’]. They, like the Dwarfs, are tough folk, with nimble fingers and sharp eyes. Gnomes, however, rarely have beards and are much thinner in stature. Their faces are wide and ears large, and their hair is often left cut short, and their noses are comically large and bulbous.

Chapter V: On the Cold North
Beyond the Great Mountains lies the Cold North.It occupies the rest of the space in Esdaria, the northwesternmost quadrant, and houses nothing but ice and snow. The region from which the great traveller, Odr, hails from, is spoken little of in his travels [note: this is true. Odr speaks little of the land he has left behind] and the land itself is so hostile that most who venture there never return. Those who do speak only of. Ice and snow, and of wind-blasted mountains that reach onwards and upwards higher than the most magnificent imperial towers. It is a cold, dead landscape where nothing good can grow. It can be reached through the Throat of the North, according to Odr’s letters, a gap between the Syladras Mountains and the westernmost of the Great Mountains. However, the light of the Divine Empress is yet to guide Her Children to its location.

No comments:

Post a Comment