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Book Review: The Final Empire

For a thousand years the ash fell.

For a thousand years the skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years the Lord Ruler reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible. Every attempted revolt has failed miserably.

Yet somehow hope survives.

A new kind of uprising is being planned, one that depends on the cunning of a brilliant criminal mastermind and the courage of an unlikely heroine, a skaa street urchin who must learn to master Allomancy: the power of a Mistborn.

(from the back cover)


The first time I read The Final Empire I sped through. This time I read more slowly, more actively. I considered the plot events and character growth, tried to form a logical progression of the story in my mind, dissected the theme. I saw more of the author’s skill reading this way. With my book review, I’ll be going through three layers: the Crust, the Mantle, and the Core.

The Crust: Prose, Grammar, Aesthetics
4/5: A few mistakes which distracted me, but nothing too serious.

I admit that The Final Empire could have done with a little more proofreading. In the prologue the POV character’s name is misspelled once; there are also a few random capitalisations and missing punctuation marks throughout the book. Nothing horrendous, but still mistakes I noticed. Beyond grammar, the author used a few adverbs (notably maladroitly) that I couldn’t visualise. When I read, a written story becomes a movie in my mind; this means that if an author uses a word I can’t visualise, the movie of my mind’s eye blacks out momentarily in the middle of a scene. Who wants that to happen during a movie?

The text was single-spaced. The Final Empire is a long book even with single spacing, but I would have liked to have seen a bit more white space. The font also seemed a bit mundane. I know, why am I criticising the aesthetics? The author didn’t lay out the book. Okay. I loved the Allomantic symbols on each chapter heading. And the epigrams. The epigrams were awesome. Dropping hints from page one, packed with feeling. But I’ll leave that for the Mantle.

The Mantle: Ideas, Worldbuilding, Character, Plot, Theme
5/5: I didn’t devour this story—it devoured me, kept me there until The End, and sent me out looking for more.

Aesthetics aside, I loved the story. The Final Empire had a real sense of logical progression—the plot flowed from the characters and their plans and goals. This time around I made an effort to understand the plot, and I really liked what I understood. I am a logical person. I am a writer myself. The Final Empire carried the plot forwards with each scene, juggling a wide variety of pieces and tying them up well at the end. There is a strong sense of closure at the end of the story, which I found very appropriate, but also several unanswered questions, hints of approaching doom, and implications for the rest of the world because of the actions of the characters.

The magic system of Allomancy is unique and well thought out, and it’s not just a big chunk of otherness dropped on this world—Allomancy has affected the world and culture in deep and meaningful ways. Some Allomancers can Push or Pull on metals, which means the ruling class rarely wear metals on their person in case they’re attacked by Allomancers. This and many other cultural effects of Allomancy show how much time and thought the author has invested into his world.

I really enjoyed the characters, especially Kelsier. Marsh, Sazed and Spook are three others I really enjoyed this time around. Kelsier, one of the two POV characters, is arrogant and sometimes psychopathic but passionate and compassionate nonetheless. Marsh is stern. Very stern, but you see his heart throughout the book. I like him. Sazed’s humility and sacrifice are inspiring. Spook amuses me, especially during his interactions with Vin, the main POV character. Speaking of Vin…I never really got a sense of who she was as a person. Maybe it’s because she herself was trying to figure out who she really was, as she played opposing roles as skaa thief and ball-going noblewoman over the course of the book, but I found her a bit lacking. I look forward to seeing her improve in future books in this series.

The Lord Ruler was the antagonist of this book. The most powerful Allomancer in all history, the Lord Ruler is worshipped as the god of the Final Empire, having lived for a thousand years after facing and defeating the Deepness, a force of ruin that ravaged the world before the Lord Ruler rose. He can do things with Allomancy no one else could ever dream of doing. (At one point in the book, someone impales him with two spears. He doesn’t even react.) How do you beat an immortal, invincible being more powerful than anyone else in all history? The characters ask that question, and so does the reader. The reasons for the Lord Ruler’s power are hinted at and slowly revealed near the end of the book, which I thought the author did very well.

A few notes of warning: In this world, there are less than noble things mentioned and discussed. The ruling class makes frequent use of brothels. One ethnicity of people is enslaved to breeding programs and emasculation because of the Lord Ruler’s secret fears. Members of the oppressed class are treated like animals; in one scene, a boy is murdered just for begging. The Lord Ruler holds mass executions and forces people to watch. Creatures known as Inquisitors go around with metal spikes pounded through their eyes and poking out the back of their skulls. The most disturbing scene to me was in the Lord Ruler’s prisons where a non-POV character was imprisoned without his clothes, but that is the only example where something like this occurred. Violence is shown on-screen; promiscuity is not, and for that I respect the author’s self-restraint.

The Core: Meaning, Theme, Truth
4/5: A good message but lacking a bit.

The first time reading The Final Empire, I found no strong theme. This time I paid more attention and gave more thought, and I found the author’s theme. “Love even when betrayed.” Vin’s character arc demonstrates the theme very well. At the beginning of the book, she trusts nothing and no one, especially not the smiling, seemingly insane Kelsier. Over time, she accepts her place in Kelsier’s crew and grows to trust her friends. Vin eventually masquerades as a noblewoman to listen for rumours about Kelsier’s rebellion and meets at a ball a nobleman named Elend, who she feels an odd connection to. The relationship between Vin and Elend grows into trust…until even Elend betrays Vin by admitting that his house is more important to him than his relationship with her. This betrayal shakes Vin’s belief in trust. Shortly afterwards, Vin learns that Elend is being hunted by assassins, and despite her pain she realises that her love for Elend is stronger than the pain of his betrayal. This and her efforts to save him are the climax of her character arc.

I admit I would have liked Vin’s character arc to climax in the plot climax as she fights the Lord Ruler. In the end it’s not her love that wins the battle; it’s her intelligence and Allomantic strength. I can’t help but feel that if intelligence and strength are the attributes that win the battle, why was the theme love?

Summary: Enjoyed the book, but saw untapped potential.
Overall Rating:
 4.3 out of 5
Recommended: Yes
Age Range: 15 and up

Matthew

 
2 Comments

Posted by on January 28, 2016 in Book Reviews, Books

 

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2015 Reflections

December draws to an end, and with it the year 2015. Christmas has come and gone like a flash of lightning. I’m sitting here thinking after a long day of writing. My own empathetic psyche has been hacked to pieces by the emotional turmoil of my main character, Liel.

We’re both bleeding inside.

2015 has been a hard year for me in more ways than one. Many of you will know from other places that my mother hasn’t been very well recently. She’s been sleeping badly and suffering the aftermath of a burnout. And she’s having a baby besides. Yesterday the scans revealed that the baby is a girl—unusual in my family of eight boys and two girls. I rejoiced—I would have rejoiced either way. My mother rejoiced. My sisters rejoiced. We all did. And last night Mum slept badly again from the excitement of the day. I hurt for her, but what can I do? What quest can I embark on that will end in her restoration? There is none.

And I’ve been praying. I pray for her every day, many days more than once. Yet my earnest supplication seems to get one answer: Wait. God’s patience burns. I want her better now. Every day I see her sitting on the sofas or lying down in the afternoons, I ask the same question. Why? Why can’t this be over? Why can’t God say Yes?

I turned eighteen in June this year. It’s a scary thought. I’m approaching my twenties, and I feel like I’m on a raceway of time. It’s coming too fast! This year I’ve experienced a shift in my mental outlook on age. I’m firming my jaw and accepting it. In many ways I already think of myself as an adult, and my perceptions have affected the way I interact with the world. I make decisions more easily, a far cry from my former ambivalence. I’m more confident now in social situations, including when I’m up the front. I recently carried out a counselling session with an older member of my church on how to use his cell phone. Last year I would have never have done that, but I’m changing.

This year I began going to CEF camps for underprivileged children. I’ve done four and have signed up for the next in January 2016. These camps have influenced me. They’ve driven their blades of pure truth deep into my heart and changed my life. I counselled one of the kids in my cabin for salvation on my second camp, and I have rarely felt closer to God than I did that night. I suffered through dizziness and exhaustion on my third camp and invested that entire week into one broken child whose smile made it all worth the pain. He said at the end that he didn’t want to go. I still remember his name, his face. They’re burned into my memory.

On my fourth and most recent camp, I broke. One of the boys pushed me further than I’ve ever been before on a camp. That night I realised many things about myself and why I’d really come to camp. I am a private person. I wear a mask to hide my inner turmoil. Thus I planned to keep the revelations all to myself.

God planned otherwise. The next morning during devotions, the songs were chosen for me. They shattered my fragile mask. I never cry, but I cried. Afterwards I spoke with a young father I trust. In that week he became a father also to me, a spiritual mentor when I needed it most.

Earlier this year my pastor spoke a blessing over me. He said that my love of writing would become more than just a hobby, that it would become a passion to reach people for Him. Now, here, months later, I feel the truth of his blessing burning in my heart. Once I wandered through life with my gaze in another world. I fell into gutters a few times. I haven’t lost my otherworldly gaze, but I’m more aware of the real world now. Today I hope and pray that I will walk with purpose, that through me God will bring light, love, faith and hope to this world.

And this year I discovered the word that God has locked inside my heart, the word that has been, is and will be my lifelong quest. That word is Meaning. I crave meaning. I write stories because I desire to be meaningful to people. I am a perfectionist, and one of the things I’ve learned this year is that perfection does not equate with meaning. My quest for perfected meaning will end only when I stand before God Himself. If not perfected meaning, I hope and pray that through me and my words God will bring remarkable meaning.

And to this end I intend to pursue publication of The Teller’s Apprentice in 2016.

There’s more, but this is the essence. I’ve grown this year, grown emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I believe that God will continue to work in me during 2016 as I continue to write, as I am blessed by a baby sister, and as I keep knocking on God’s door asking for healing. Both for my mother and me.

Matthew

 
8 Comments

Posted by on December 31, 2015 in Thoughts

 

Recent Times: NaNoWriMo

Last month I participated in NaNoWriMo. For those of you who read my blog as it is and not with an RSS filter, I’m sure you’ve noticed the NaNo progress widget in the sidebar. I wrote 31301 words in November and ended the month with a resounding success.

2015-participant

Success? It depends on your definition of the word. I also failed drastically.

The official aim of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words in a month. The base level of success is about achieving NaNoWriMo by writing 50K. I didn’t. I wrote just over 30K and ended with a deficiency of 20K. In that regard, I failed, fair and square.

However…my aim in doing NaNoWriMo was to boost my word count on The Teller’s Apprentice. That’s where I succeeded. I began NaNo with 67,240 words and ended with 88,561 words, a total increase of 21,321. (You may be asking yourself where the other 10K came from. I wrote a few scenes which I then decided didn’t work. I also wrote an essay for my schoolwork.) Yes, I would have liked to complete NaNo and write 50K words—and I could have.

The reason I didn’t was because I had more important things to finish.

This month, I applied for a job. I completed my study with Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu: The Correspondence School. I achieved NCEA Level 2 and the literacy requirements for University Entrance.

Ultimately it all comes down to priorities. NaNoWriMo does not happen against a blank background, no matter how much NaNoToons implies that idea. I’ve had other things to do this month that I prioritised over NaNoWriMo—constructing a CV and cover letter, researching and writing my essay for Te Kura, planning for next year. I’m happy with what I achieved in The Teller’s Apprentice this month, so failing the official aim of NaNo is not a big loss to me.

I would have liked to finish NaNoWriMo. If I’d reshuffled my priorities, I could have written 50K. But I’m satisfied with 30K, and I’m also satisfied with the other work I got done in November.

Matthew

 
6 Comments

Posted by on December 1, 2015 in Randomness

 

Recent Times: Leanne

My life bounces between extremes. I have a phase where I’ve got time but nothing to post, and then I have a phase where I’ve got lots to post but no time. Since I’ve got so many things to talk about, I’ve got a series of Recent Times posts coming up. Today? Let’s discuss phones.

(via Google Images)

I now own a phone for the first time ever. It’s a silver Samsung Galaxy Core LTE Prime, for anyone who knows what that means. (I wouldn’t except for the fact that I have one.) Basically the phone pictured above. I have named my phone Leanne, following the trend of my other devices; my computer is called Lee Jr. and my iPad is called Leah. Before Lee Jr., I had a computer called Lee, who I now refer to as Lee Sr. That’s the backstory of my multiple devices; any other computers I get will follow the trend. I’ve got the names Lesah and Levi for my next devices.

The main reason I’ve never had a phone before this is because phones are my biggest fear. I have telephonophobia. I know how I developed it, though, so it’s not really a phobia per se. I’d define a phobia as an unexplained fear. Besides, I am working on my relationship with phones.

What I’ve found most intriguing about my phone is its revolutionary power. Phones allow instant communication to anywhere in the world. That is incredible in and of itself. In the short time I’ve had my phone, I have felt the allure of communicating with people more powerfully than ever before. Texting. Phoning. Emailing. Besides the fact that it’s a new device, it is also a very interesting device, and I’ve found myself wishing I could do more on it.

Phones have the power to change. I have never wanted to be the kind of person who texts a friend sitting next to them. I’ve always laughed when my friends fight over their phones, change each other’s passwords, and take pictures of themselves with the other person’s phone. I find it amusing, yet I don’t want to be like that myself. Yet I’ve realised that my phone has the potential to change me, and I don’t want to be like that.

A phone is very useful. Instant communication. Multiple alarms. A timepiece, as I dislike wearing watches. When I read on a device with such a small screen, I find I read every word because there are so few of them on the screen at a time. I like that, because I think deeper. When I write on a device with such a limited keyboard, I find I think about every sentence as I write it. I like that, because I think deeper. There are many useful things about a phone. But the phone is not my master, not my owner, not the author of my character growth. It is just a servant.

And I mean to keep it that way.

Matthew

 
10 Comments

Posted by on November 6, 2015 in Thoughts

 

Seven, Seven, Seven

(I quite like the title I came up with. It makes me think of 666, but perfected.)

I have been nominated for another blog challenge! Since I haven’t been tagged for a few months, I’m quite pleased to be able to do another one, and this one looks interesting. Thanks to Leilani Sunblade of Light and Shadows for this nomination!

The blog rules follow. I’m going to post lines rather than sentences, since my average sentence is much shorter than a line. (That way I get to post more.)

  • Turn to the 7th page of your WIP.
  • Go down 7 lines.
  • Post the next 7 lines or sentences, including that one.
  • Tag 7 other people.

This is from The Teller’s Apprentice, my current WIP since…well, I first envisioned the world in June last year, but I started writing in February this year with the OYAN course. Seventh page, seven lines down, seven lines to post.


 

I twisted in my chair. And sighed.

A girl about three years my junior with freckles sprinkling her nose grinned at me. “What would you like, sir? Temman cordial, cerrion punch, or white slethan cider?”

“Essy, how did you get in here?” I whispered, then noticed her server’s uniform—the white bands around her forearms and the gold and brown livery of a hall attendant. “What colour of anchorsoul possessed Rill to make you a server?”

She scowled. “Anchorsoul colours is a myth.”


 

I found the section I landed at…interesting. I probably wouldn’t have chosen that part had I chosen seven lines I wanted to post. There you are. I’m not going to tag anyone, since I have only a few writers I know who follow my blog and the person I want to tag doesn’t have an active blog. (That’s you, Aviar.)

Hope you enjoyed!

Matthew

 
3 Comments

Posted by on October 14, 2015 in My Books, Tags

 

The Valdegurdian Journey: My First Foray

As you’ve seen from the last five posts, I know a lot about Valdegurd. One reason is…because I’ve actually been there. In Valdegurd I’m known as the Author, which is why the Valdegurdians refer to me as such (notably Eryon in the last post). The story of my first foray into Valdegurd is journaled below.

Matthew (The Author)


I blinked at the cursor. The cursor blinked back from a sea of white. Blank white.

I sighed and rested my face on one hand. My creativity had burned out. Worse, my desire to create hadn’t. I was stuck in the middle of wanting to write and not feeling like writing.

I hit the Tab key with my left pinkie. The cursor jumped three-quarters of a centimetre and kept blinking.

“Oh, forget it.” I hit two keyboard shortcuts in quick succession, save and quit. The blank manuscript vanished. Green rice paddies, chopped into sections by silver roads and bronze pathways, replaced the white pages and the blinking cursor.

I stared at the keyboard, the flat white keys over which my fingers usually danced like a pianist’s. Mum played the piano two rooms away, her notes of worship ringing through the house. Her ability to play, seemingly without effort, grated on me.

The problem wasn’t in my characters. The problem wasn’t in writer’s block. The problem wasn’t for love of the story. The problem was the author.

Simply put, I was the problem.

My gaze drifted from the letters in the typical QWERTY layout—a façade for the real keyboard layout I used—to the number pad. I didn’t use the number pad much. The roughness of the keys testified to that, as did the smudges that seemed to grow on every unused key.

I sighed, returned my gaze to the screen, and double-clicked on the Legends of Valdegurd folder to open it. The manuscript icon of The Teller’s Apprentice glared at me, a baleful eye in the midst of text documents where I stored my worldbuilding and planning for the series.

I moved my mouse to the icon. Clicked once to select the document. My finger hovered over the left mouse button, ready to open the manuscript and try again…maybe?

In the background, Mum finished a song on the second, paused for a few seconds as she flipped pages in the tattered tome of worship songs, and started my favourite song of all time, In Christ Alone.

With another sigh, I closed my eyes and dropped my head. It just wasn’t working. I didn’t feel like writing. Mum might be in the mood for playing the piano, but I wasn’t in the mood to write.

I moved my hand from the mouse to the number pad, felt the rough letters, the bump indicating the 5 in the middle. I stroked the length of the tall Enter key and tapped it, imagining the cursor of my unopened manuscript dropping a line.

The soaring notes of In Christ Alone dropped away, replaced by an unnatural silence.

I opened my eyes and glanced in Mum’s direction. Grazing tunkins not too far away raised their heads to stare at me. My house had vanished with all its familiarity.

I shot to my feet, my heart skipping a beat. I’d felt this sort of shock before—what, once in my life? “Wait, what?”

My chair had become a stone covered in soft delkings, the plants resembling shelf fungi I’d introduced into Valdegurd early on. My desk, a larger delking which would resemble a table except for the spray of smaller red delkings spreading their wings where my computer had once been.

I turned in a circle as a strong wind buffeted my woolly mane in strong need of a haircut. A whiter sun hovered over a range of iron-grey mountains in the west, hotter than it should be in the early evening.

“I’m in Valdegurd,” I said aloud. “I’m in a figment of my own imagination.”

The nearby tunkins snorted and tossed their heads as if disagreeing with my assessment. More likely they were taking offence to my words.

I shook my head, squeezed my eyes closed, and opened them again. The panorama didn’t change, except that the tunkins had lowered their heads again. All except for the watchman, of course, the lookout appointed by the herd to keep watch for a certain time. I knew about tunkins and their habits.

I’d created tunkins.

I wove my fingers into the hair at my temples, made fists, and pulled. “I’m in Valdegurd. I’m really in Valdegurd.”

The tunkins snorted again. I glanced at them, noted their greyish skin that hung in folds like a rhino’s. What had I written about tunkins? I knew there were multiple types, and I remembered making the Rhyo variety different from the Plains and Midlander tunkins, but were there physical differences between the other two?

I shot a look over my shoulder. My computer had gone, indeed. But my keyboard still sat there, white as ever, the cord ending in a loose plug.

I glared at it. A keyboard couldn’t store information, couldn’t help me pull up a worldbuilding document to reference a species I’d created. And I was no eidetic memoriser. The Teller was, and the Teller was in Valdegurd, but I didn’t have that power.

I sank to the rock that my seat had transformed into as the full import of being in Valdegurd began to sink in. I’d established a severe crisis to write Liel’s story. Would the effects of Rhyn reach even me, the author? What paradox would result if the Author died in Valdegurd? The two Shards I’d created had reset Time until the paradox was resolved.

I swallowed. If the Author died in Valdegurd, would the world die as well? Would I die on Earth too?

The tunkin watchman bayed, a loud groan-like sound that rattled my eardrums. Keeping an eye on the pack, I picked up the keyboard—useless or not, it was my only link back to home—and edged around the desk to the opposite side, where I sank to the ground out of sight of the tunkins.

Now that I’d begun to adjust to the shock of being in Valdegurd, my practical side kicked in. I scanned the eastern horizon from my seat on the ground. Far to the southeast, a forest of dark mountains stabbed upwards. Spike Isle. At least I knew where I was.

I envisioned the map of Duerin in my head. With Spike Isle to the southeast and the Forge Mountains behind me, I would be in the Plains of Creation—

Skall.

I scrambled to my feet and turned a full circle, scanning the grasses made gold with the heat of summer. Waves of wind rippled across the plains, but aside from the tunkins again grazing, no unnatural movement moved the grasses.

Did skall move the grass?

I scratched an itch behind my ear and growled. I hadn’t established much of the necessary information about the skall. I knew they were the monsters of the Plains—they’d been the monsters of the Plains since the early pages of my OYAN workbook—and I had a basic mental picture of them and a bit of information about their habits. But that didn’t tell me if they moved the grass when they hunted.

“Okay,” I said, my voice loud in the tranquility, and laughed nervously under my breath. “This is kinda…scary.”

Weren’t skall nocturnal? But I’d imagined them following Liel and the Teller in the daytime too. Maybe just the evening, though.

Wait a minute.

I spun on my heel toward the sun. The tips of the Forge Mountains barely reached the white orb.

Evening.

I swallowed. The skall would be hunting.

“North,” I said, clutching my fragment of a hope that the skall wouldn’t be hunting here, not yet. “North. The Duor. I have to get over the Duor.”

Reflexively, my thumbs and first fingers formed the L shapes I used to tell left from right. I didn’t need to look at them any more—the mere action told me. On a map, west was left, east was right. W, then E. We. My grandmother had taught us how to remember west and east with her name and my grandfather’s name. Wayne and Edna.

I pointed north with all five fingers like a signpost. A blanket of purple discoloured the Black Shard Mountains in the distance. I had always explained the purple colour of distant mountains as coming from the packed blue of the air that also coloured the sky. Perhaps it wasn’t scientific, but it made sense to me.

My keyboard under one arm, I set off through the grass that reached above my knees. Strange. Hadn’t I established it as longer in my notes? Perhaps this wasn’t the time period in which The Teller’s Apprentice was set.

I stopped in mid-stride and stared at the Black Shard Mountains. It was after the Scattering, at least. Probably in the Age of Tellers, too, and definitely not after the Age of Wandering. There would be planetary rings if it were after the Age of Wandering.

Who would I meet? I ran my hand through my hair and set off again with the skall still in the back of my mind. How old would Liel be? Fifteen, as he was in The Teller’s Apprentice? Younger? Older?

How had I even gotten here?

A long, low groan startled me. I spun toward the tunkins as heads raised around the herd. Would they charge? I didn’t stand a chance against a charge.

But for some reason, they weren’t looking toward me.

My skin prickled. I’d read enough books to know that when a group of animals displayed a tendency toward fear, danger was on its way.

Then I saw it. The flurry in the grass, a swift snakelike trail of movement through the golden blanket.

Skall.

Baying broke out among the herd. The tunkins scattered in all directions, some bounding my way with a surprising amount of agility for their heavyset forms. I turned and ran, drawing every fragment of strength and breath I could muster for the sprint.

My feet pounded the ground as I settled into a rhythm. It wouldn’t last long—I was a sprinter, not a long-distance runner. With that in mind, I slowed my pace and chanced a look over my shoulder.

Blazing white eyes erupted from the grass, a flash of bruised skin, claws and fangs and spikes like malformed bones. The skall hit me with a strength beyond human ability, sent me cartwheeling through the air. I had a brief glimpse of the world turning upside down before the ground collided with me.

Precious seconds ticked away as I fought to breathe. A humanoid form loomed among me. The skall’s skullish face twisted in a brutal expression, a ghastly visage with burning eyes in dark sockets. Had I created these—these monsters? What was I thinking?

The skall opened its mouth, baring long, thin fangs like rows of needles. I’d taken those directly from a picture on the cover of a book and implanted them into the skall. Strange how I remembered these things. Liel wouldn’t have imagined his spirit strand was being woven by an Author. At least, not an Author beyond Maker.

The skall’s mouth worked. A reedy whistle emerged. The muscles in its chest and arms bobbed beneath its perpetually bruised skin.

I stared at it, noting the vestigial clothing, the similarities to both human and beast, the twisting mouth of needles. I was helpless before it, yet the skall—for all its bestiality—had chosen not to attack, not to move in for the kill. Here in Valdegurd, I was no longer the Author—I couldn’t save myself through a plot twist.

Then again, I had an Author too.

The skall hissed, then opened its mouth wide in a breathy whisper. “Saaaay…” It touched its upper lip with the fangs of its lower jaw and buzzed a drawn-out sound. “Vvvv…”

A hard edge pushed into my back. My keyboard! I worked one hand under my side and found the keyboard. Slowly, to avoid alerting the skall, I drew it out. A pitiful weapon, but I’d created most of Valdegurd on this keyboard.

The skall closed its lips and hummed, then bent its lips in a gruesome smile. “Mmeee…”

My fingers slipped, brushing against several keys in sequence. The skall screamed, a high-pitched shriek of rage, as invisible fingers wrapped around its body and dragged it away.

I scrambled to my feet, shaken, my mind reeling. My keyboard had power.

In Valdegurd, my keyboard had power.

The skall shook off its unseen bonds and snarled. Whatever mercy it had shown before was no longer evident.

I tapped the Delete key.

A crushing feeling wrapped around my chest and dragged me downwards to the same position I’d been in. The skall snarled again, then screamed, and reappeared above me.

That didn’t work! I scanned the keyboard for another appropriate command that would get me out of here. Command? Control? Option?

I needed options. I pressed the Option key.

The unseen force dragged my fingers onto two different keys. The skall lunged, claws grasping. I squeezed my eyes closed and hit both keys at the same time.

Silence.

The ending chords of In Christ Alone filled the room. I breathed a long sigh of relief and opened my eyes to find the reality of my desk and computer once again.

Someone charged through the door to the work room. I whirled around before realising it wouldn’t be the skall.

My youngest sister crossed the room with hands on her hips, trying to look angry but being very cute in the process. She took my elbow. “Mum wants you to put me to bed. I was looking for you.”

I smiled to myself. “I wasn’t here. I was…in another world.”

Yes. Literally.

I glanced at the Legends of Valdegurd folder as I put the computer on Sleep. My smile widened into a grin. The journey to Valdegurd had changed one thing here on earth.

Simply put, I wasn’t the problem any more.

 

The Valdegurdian Journey: Part Five

Rhyn has stories too. The storytellers of Rhyn tell stories of the Dur Halam, the shining helmet of divinity that conferred magical powers upon its wearer; the Beyond, the ancient land outside the borders of the Black Shard Mountains; the Tellers, the line of traitors alive today because of the treachery of one, Cerstan, who sent the first exiles to a land of black stone, of merciless cold, of unending shadow.

I am Eryon. Eryon, first warmaster of Rhyn, leader of the exiles at twenty-one years of age. My heart bleeds for my people, burns for my cause, throbs in dissonance with the rhythm of the Beyond’s injustice. The corruption of the Beyond weighs me down like a stone. The Beyond needs a new strength. A new leader. For five years, I have prepared myself for this role. Single-handedly I conquered Rhyn with nothing more than the passion within me. With Rhyn under my command, I will conquer the Beyond.

Wait, what? This is my blog post, Eryon. I invited you to be a commentator. Not a moderator, not an Author.

Talk to me.

If you don’t start talking, I’m going to cancel the series. Furthermore, I will remove you from your position, delete you as a character, wipe out all memory of you, and give your role as antagonist to Skaw.

Eryon?

Bah, very well. You can have your introduction. But I’m going to make you behave yourself for the rest of this post.


“Welcome to Valdegurd—Valdegurd, a land of peace and prosperity. Settled by the Children of Time and Earth, the Humankinds in all their diversity. Ruled by the Tellers of old, the heirs of Telluris-Revetor and bearers of the mystical Telluric Mantle. Desired by Raldoran the Meddler, dark one, lord of stone, master of the forbidden magics of Dessentor.”

Today we conclude the Valdegurdian Journey with a tour of our last destination: the Forgotten North. You’ve—ahem—already met our commentator. Who, I think, likes to believe he stands equal to his Author. I have no idea why. I was not intending to create him that way.

Eryon meets us in Ardent Dale hooded as if to conceal himself. Instead of returning to the north through the Forgeways again, Eryon takes us down the Sidis River between the Plains of Creation and the Wastes of Brooting and into the Bay of Legends.


The Bay of Legends at sunset. (image source)

The Bay of Legends

Abandoned since the Scattering, the Bay of Legends is uninhabited except for the Rothe Islands, two small isles lightly inhabited by farmers. The Bay is a strange place, where myths and legends come to life, where ships founder upon nothing but water and depth is an illusion. It is said that beneath the surface lies a great city holding captive an ancient evil. Some say the mists that lie upon the Bay are not just fog, but the breath of Creation. Some say the water of the Bay is not water, but Truth diluted to its purest form…and that the Bay of Legends can truly make legends come to life.

I have been here once before. I kept close to the coastline all the way through, keeping a watch all through the abnormally long night, as I had heard tales of the Bay’s magic and the sea monsters who inhabit the far eastern ocean.

In the early hours of the morning, a legend came to life before me. A great creature, six-legged, with a human torso and massive claws, rose from the surface before me. We fought. I barely won. My skill in the sword is unmatched, but the strength of the creature—I shudder to think of the inhuman strength it possessed. But most frightening was the glint of intelligence in its eyes, and the look of recognition it gave me.

Somehow, the creature had known me.


Overlooking Northerdell, with the Black Shard Mountains in the background. (image source)

Northerdell

We travel through the Gap, up between the islands of East Duerin into the Bay of Names, and pass Central Duerin to reach Northerdell on the northeastern coast of the Bay of Names. Northerdell is home to the mysterious Impi, a race of small, mischievous people whose eyes change colour according to an unknown pattern. Founded in the first few years of the Age of Creation, the Consulate of Northerdell sequestered its people away from the outside world for many years until agreeing to let Impi roam abroad centuries later, but Northerdell is still a mysterious land rarely traveled. The kingdom is also home to an indomitable nation of dark-skinned Arthemons, from whom Ronis the Teller came.

Northerdell was the only kingdom to which I offered an alliance, for the exiles of Rhyn first came from Northerdell. I made my offer to the Consuls, Ferrus Edravorn and Thron Sumerian, as an ambassador of a vast force having broken upon Duerin. Both refused, as I expected they would. Their ties to Rhyn have rotted, a forgotten cord of memory lying buried in the sands of time. They chose war, not the peace I offered.

The judgement I will wreak upon Northerdell is well deserved.


The Black Shard Mountains. (image source)

The Black Shard Mountains

In the Scattering, the Rydoskk, an angelic servant of Telluris-Revetor with the powers of Earth, turned against the Worldsmith of Valdegurd and unleashed destruction upon the world. In the quaking of the Rydoskk’s power rose the Black Shard Mountains, a range of dark pinnacles sealing off the untraveled north from the civilisations of the Age of Creation. Though six centuries of erosion have taken their toll on the mountains’ height, the Black Shard Mountains remain a dark barrier preventing travel to the north.

The Black Shard Mountains are the reason Rhyn is what it is. The sunlight never penetrates to the southernmost borders of Rhyn, forcing us further into the frigid north. Every summer, snowmelt carves new canyons through the black stone of Rhyn, washes away entire settlements, claims innocent lives. I have seen it happen, villages wiped out in a moment. And I can do nothing.

The storytellers of Rhyn spin tales of the Beyond, the great fertile land of light and green beyond the Black Shard Mountains. Every day I long to bring my people out of this pit of frozen death and into the Beyond, our inheritance, our hope. But the Black Shard Mountains stand in the way, an immovable barrier set there to remind us every day of our exile.


Looking up at the Black Shard Mountains from Rhyn. (image source)

Rhyn

Rhyn is the Forgotten North, the vast black desert of cold stone, abrasive sand, and deep channels hewn by water over centuries of snowmelt. The Black Shard Mountains to its south throw a perpetual mantle of darkness over the southernmost regions of the land, being positioned to block the land from the journey of the sun; the more northern regions of Rhyn are little better. The water in standing puddles freezes overnight even in summer. Sparse vegetation grows through late spring to early autumn; even seeds die in winter if they are not kept thawed. Rhyn is a perdition on earth, a frozen land of exiles without even the whisper of a warm breeze.

Many have bled and died to forge a civilisation in this hardy land. Rhyn is ruled by battlemasters, great warriors who have clawed their way to kingship through the strength of their hands and the nobility of their reputations. Now, nine battlecamps keep their blades sharp for the day when they may return to take their inheritance, the Beyond, and turn their backs on the frozen desert of Rhyn forever.

For three centuries we have laboured in this pit of ice! For three centuries we have bent our backs to Cerstan’s ancient curse! For three centuries we have surrendered our very identities to the stigma of exile! And I say, no longer! This very year, three hundred and thirty-three years since our exile began, we will rise! We shall reveal ourselves to the Beyond and claim the inheritance of warmth and greenness and life!

I speak to Rhyn, to all Rhyn through all ages. The impossible hope of our people now lies within our grasp. The dream of our ancestors has been fulfilled. The Black Shard Mountains are not impassable. For I, Eryon, was not born in Rhyn.

I came to you from the Beyond.


Around a flickering bonfire in the halls of the Unakcladhe, Eryon’s battlecamp, we sit and ponder the Forgotten North in silence. Our tour of Valdegurd has come to an end. And I don’t mind telling you that this post was the most emotionally challenging blog post I’ve written.

Why does the Beyond not understand, Author? They live in warmth and colour, blessed with light, yet corruption pierces their culture to the highest peak. Can they not understand that we in Rhyn have suffered long enough? Why do they resist us?

I’m sorry, Eryon. Those are questions you’ll have to figure out on your own. I cannot answer them—not because I do not know the answer, but because they are your questions to be answered by yourself.

Perhaps this question will better suit you. Why did you make me the antagonist? I am more honourable than the leaders of the Beyond, even the Quirinals of Ardent Dale. I am not a villain, Author. I am a hero!

I admit a lot of what you have said. Your intents are honourable. Your passion is admirable. Your ability is astounding. You are exceptional, Eryon. But you are an exceptional antagonist, not an exceptional hero.

I fail to see how.

I know. Thus why Liel is the hero, not you.

But why? I held a blade to Liel’s throat, and he could not resist. Liel is the one weakness of Ronis the Teller. Liel is many things, but he is not a hero.

I have to say I know where this conversation is going. I’m going to say that in Liel’s weakness is strength. You’re going to say that Liel’s strength-in-weakness is not strength. I will tell you your impression of strength is flawed, and you’re going to disagree with me. That is the crux of it all, Eryon. You believe in a different strength than Liel.

And from that you make me an antagonist?

Yes.

Perhaps I should write my own story. One in which you are the antagonist.

Um, heheh. Very funny. It’s good to see you have a sense of humour. I really didn’t think you had one.

Shut up. I’m writing.

Thus ends the Valdegurdian Journey. Thank you to everyone who has walked through my world with me; I have truly enjoyed this tour, and I hope you have too. (By the way, I’ve scheduled a post to pop up sometime in the next week—it details my first foray into Valdegurd, as in my first physical manifestation in that world.)

A simple goodbye cannot communicate the end appropriately. Let me leave you with an ancient word surviving from the early centuries of the Age of Creation, a word that speaks in one a farewell, a hope to meet again, and a trust…that the story is not yet over.

Allxora.

Matthew (The Author)


Picture credit to their respective copyrighters.

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2015 in My Books, The Valdegurdian Journey

 

The Valdegurdian Journey: Part Four

“Welcome to Valdegurd—Valdegurd, a land of peace and prosperity. Settled by the Children of Time and Earth, the Humankinds in all their diversity. Ruled by the Tellers of old, the heirs of Telluris-Revetor and bearers of the mystical Telluric Mantle. Desired by Raldoran the Meddler, dark one, lord of stone, master of the forbidden magics of Dessentor.”

Today our tour continues with the Western Kingdoms of Valdegurd. Leaving our tunkin mounts behind at the rancher’s home, we travel northwest from the Midlands into West Duerin, where Ardent Quirinal Kae-Dalestine Mariskan has agreed to initiate us into her retinue.


Westrah, capital city of West Duerin. (image source)

West Duerin

West Duerin is where the line between Ardent Dale and Duerin blurs. Though nominally a part of Duerin, West Duerin has been ruled by an Ardent liege-governor since antiquity, and its distance to the eastern provinces sets it apart from the rest of Duerin in more ways than one. Carved into the stone foothills of the Forge Mountains, West Duerin is home to a long history of battles, magic, and slaughter, and some whisper that beneath the rough craftsmanship, vast potential waits.

I enjoy West Duerin. It gives me a mixed flavour, one half Duerese, one half Ardent. The new and the familiar. King’s Forge, my home and the capital of Ardent Dale, shows more refined stonesmithing, while the rough archways and towers of Westrah look like child’s work compared to Ardent Dale.

And maybe that’s what West Duerin is. A child of Ardent Dale.


A tranquil passage in the Forgeways. (image source

The Forgeways

Deep beneath the Forge Mountains runs a network of watery tunnels, either carved by the force of water over hundreds of years or hewn by Delvers and Ardent stonesmiths. These are the Forgeways, the lifeblood of the Forge Mountains and the veins of the Ardent civilisation. Underground cities lie scattered along the Forgeways in massive caverns, where stone, minerals, precious gems and all the works of the mountains are mined. One Forgeway, crafted over hundreds of years, retains a powerful current running straight from Westrah to King’s Forge on the southern end of the Forge Mountains and then back again.

Think of the Forgeways as the arteries in a man’s body and the people as the man’s blood. This is Ardent Dale, or at least the northern culture of Ardent Dale. The Forgeways are a masterpiece of Ardent engineering. If not for a few visionary miners back in the Scattering, Ardent Dale might have never been what it is now.

And I have the feeling that we will need Ardent Dale as it is now in the years ahead.


The northernmost slopes of Vanlore. (image source)

Vanlore

We stop briefly at Vanlore on our way to Ardent Dale. A small civilisation secluded on the heights of the Forge Mountains, Vanlore is home to the dauntless Vanlorian warriors who train every year at Ardent Dale and also the Wards of Lore, the great libraries of Ardent lore and mythology. The rest of Vanlore is composed of vast fields, scattered houses, shepherds who watch over mountain sheep, and trained dogs who will leap off the cliffs without a moment’s hesitation if their masters say to.

Vanlore’s reputation is that of a fierce, reckless superpower just waiting to spring. It got the reputation because those who think of it as a superpower have never been there. I look at Vanlore, and I see a kingdom of simple communities of people loyal to one another. If there’s a message Ardent Dale needs in these times, it’s the call to rally together as Vanlorians do.

Why does saying that feel so…ominous?


The meadowlands of Ardent Dale. (image source)

Ardent Dale

Finally we reach our destination: Ardent Dale, largest of the western kingdoms, the only kingdom to survive the Scattering nearly six centuries ago. When the Meddler seized the powers of Telluris-Revetor, Ardent Dale roused its warriors at the bidding of Rowen of the Tears, wife of Telluris-Revetor, and marched against the Meddler’s armies of stone and spine. It is said that Telluris-Revetor gave the rulers of Ardent Dale the power to awaken the White Fire of the starstones in the Mirror Veridical before he left Valdegurd. The White Fire was Truth itself, the crux between the omniscience of Time and the reality of Earth, and through the starstones Telluris-Revetor would teach the Ardent rulers the power of Truth.

Ardent Dale itself is a broad valley of rivers and meadowlands brimming with life. Its cities are the peak of craftsmanship in Valdegurd, its stonesmiths unrivalled, its warriors men and women of legend. The Northerners of the Forgeways and the Southerners of the meadowlands are united by the three assemblies of Ardent leaders: the Quirinal, kings and queens; the Viminal, magistrates; and the Palatine, highest of warriors. In all this, Ardent Dale is the last remnant of the Age of Creation’s kingdoms under the rule of Telluris-Revetor, the first bulwark against the return of Raldoran the Meddler, the lord of stone.

Words alone cannot communicate the full reality of Ardent Dale. To understand, you must touch the shining starstones, stand in the vast courts of King’s Forge, sail to the ends of the valley. You must feel the soft grass beneath your feet, the hardness of stone under your fingers, the pounding exhilaration within you. You cannot see Ardent Dale and believe you know all there is to know about it. To truly understand, to take the reality of Truth into your mind, you must live Ardent Dale.


Our tour of the Western Kingdoms is over. Our ship docks in the ports of King’s Forge, and Kae-Dalestine leads us through the wide cobblestoned streets of King’s Forge to the diplomats’ inn where we will stay the nights until our fifth and final tour: the Forgotten North.

Am I meant to take you there?

No. We have a certain person lined up for that. Since I had a few…antagonistic reactions to him, I’m not going to mention who he is. You can deal with that, right, Kae?

Adelan would say the name Kae is reserved for close family members. I would insist you follow your own story rules. Capeesh?

Wait, capeesh? Where’d you learn that word? I never taught that to you.

Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this, Author, and thank you for your interest in me and my home, friends of the Author. Should you need me again, I will likely be at King’s Forge. Au revoir!

Someone’s been teaching Earth terms to Dalestine. Oh dear.

Matthew (The Author)


 

Picture credit to their respective copyrighters.

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2015 in My Books, The Valdegurdian Journey

 

The Valdegurdian Journey: Part Three

“Welcome to Valdegurd—Valdegurd, a land of peace and prosperity. Settled by the Children of Time and Earth, the Humankinds in all their diversity. Ruled by the Tellers of old, the heirs of Telluris-Revetor and bearers of the mystical Telluric Mantle. Desired by Raldoran the Meddler, dark one, lord of stone, master of the forbidden magics of Dessentor.”

After enjoying the hospitality of Rill’s family for three nights, we head into the Plains of Creation with Ronis the Teller as our guide and commentator.


Looking south over the Plains of Creation. (image source)

The Plains of Creation

The Plains of Creation begin at the banks of the Duor River in Duerin and run far to the south over trackless wastes until, according to legend, they end at the borders of the Wastes of Brooting. Whether the Plains of Creation actually end is a subject of debate; the skall make travel impossible, and Brooting itself is considered mythical. Somewhere within the Plains stands Telluria, the ancient mountain where Telluris-Revetor once ruled; and beneath the tall golden grass of the Plains of Creation lie the ruins of a long-forgotten civilisation.

The Plains of Creation are where life itself began. It is said that the Talpins were the First Race, born in wombs of the earth; yet Telluris-Revetor desired a people more like himself, and so he wrought the Arthemons, from whom came Rowen of the Tears. For twelve centuries Telluris-Revetor ruled, and then came the Scattering, where Raldoran the Meddler stole the powers of the Worldsmith and the authority of Valdegurd. See that ripple in the grass, the swiftly moving creature beneath the golden waves? That is a skall, a warrior of Raldoran, now trapped in a body of perpetual bruises and misshapen spines. It is strange, and poignant also, that the place where our ancestors originated has now sunk to an abandoned wilderness where only the skall live.


A distant herd of tunkins in the Midlands. (image source)

The Midlands

In the northeast of the Plains of Creation lie the Midlands, the only region of the Plains of Creation known to be beyond the range of the skall. Here, the Plains could almost be called civilised; still, the Midlander civilisation equals little more than scattered ranches and villages whose main trade is raising and selling tunkins, the main transport animal in Valdegurd. The Midlander villages are a tributary colony of West Duerin, which is in turn a protectorate of one of the western kingdoms: Ardent Dale.

I find little to say about the Midlands. They have few links to history, no significance in the grand scheme of things. Still, I have heard Midlanders whisper that someday the Plains of Creation will be like the Midlands—settled, conquered, no longer ripe with legend and danger. For the Plains of Creation, that is the fate I fear most, for the sake of Telluria.


A dry northern tributary of the Sidis, where the Plains of Creation become the Wastes of Brooting. (image source)

The Wastes of Brooting

South of the Plains of Creation lie the Wastes of Brooting, an infertile desert of blowing sand, rock formations shaped by wind erosion, and dry crevasses. The Plains and Brooting are separated by the Sidis, a long river having carved a deep canyon for itself over time. Unlike the Duor in the north, the banks of the Sidis are uninhabited; the Plains and the Wastes of Brooting are simply too dangerous and too infertile to produce anything.

Unlike many in Valdegurd, I have been to the Wastes of Brooting in search of the missing Greater Races. The ancient Sidyssians were said to inhabit the river and the Bay of Legends, and the lost Broots lived in Brooting. I found the Broots. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say they found me. Their earthsight is impeccable, far greater than my own—far greater than that of any Teller or Üdanese Talpin. The Broots are like giant moles, yet rational, and they proved a willing study once they discovered who I am—for even in their simple culture with few stories, they remember Telluris-Revetor and Avalen the Teller. I never found the Sidyssians, however.


A view of Telluria from between the Foothills. (image source)

Telluria

It is said that the ancient mountain of Telluria stands in no fixed spot, but appears only when no other landmark can be seen across the vast Plains of Creation. Thus, only those willing to get lost in the Plains of Creation—the most dangerous place on Valdegurd—would ever be able to find the sacred mountain, and the skall would find them long before they reached Telluria. Telluria was the throne of Telluris-Revetor, the Worldsmith of Valdegurd, until the Meddler took the Worldsmith’s powers in the Scattering. Now Telluria lies abandoned, a forgotten mountain in the midst of the Plains, just another legend among many.

Since the Scattering, the Tellers have taken apprentices and passed on to them their stories, their duties, their powers. Yet only four of the Tellers have died in Valdegurd—Cerstan under the knife of Callok Perion, Yoden by his rogue apprentice Soren, Soren himself, and Berland at the hands of the Ascendancy. No one remembers the death of Avalen, Drax, Leskan, and the other six, for the last action of a Teller is to make the pilgrimage to Telluria.

One day soon, I will go to Telluria to die.


Unlike the Tellers, we didn’t attempt the journey into the Plains to have a tour of Telluria; instead, we allowed Ronis the Teller to Pastweave a storyscape picturing Telluria and tell of the legends. We will now be staying the night in the Midlands at the home of a rancher and his family, who are eager for the prestige of the Teller staying at their home. Next time, we shall head northwest into West Duerin, from where we shall enter the Forgeways and ultimately arrive at the largest of the western kingdoms: Ardent Dale.

I will be leaving in the morning, also. A member of the royal family of Ardent Dale is in West Duerin; I will arrange for her to include you in her retinue when she returns home. I have met Kae-Dalestine before, and I am convinced she will be most interested in talking with a party from a world beyond Valdegurd.

Thank you for your contributions, Master Teller, and your protection as we traveled through the Plains of Creation. I’m glad you could also reveal a glimpse into the Telluric Mantle with Pastweaving.

You are welcome, Master Author. I look forward to hearing how the rest of your trips goes when you return. One issue, however.

Which is?

I heard from Liel that you are planning to have Eryon as commentator for a part of your journey. I have listened to a story Eryon told, and the substance has been altered to fit with his own view of the world. I would strongly advise against having Eryon as your guide in the future.

As I said to Liel, Eryon is quite important in your story; I accept that what you’re saying is true, and I’ll warn the members of my traveling party, but I have to have him as a commentator for at least one post due to his significance. Anyway, he’ll be explaining Rhyn, and I’d have to say that I could probably get along with him best out of all the Rhyo I’ve encountered.

Rhyo is the demonym for Rhyn? Intriguing. All the Rhyo I have met failed to mention what it was.

You’re welcome, Master Teller. (As an aside to all my readers, the Rhyo demonym hasn’t appeared in The Teller’s Apprentice yet. I still have to work it into a Rhyo’s speech normally—and then I have to have Liel remember it. Then again, I could just have the Teller discover it off-scene.) Thank you all for traveling with us, and I hope to take you into Ardent Dale soon!


Picture credit to their respective copyrighters.

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2015 in My Books, The Valdegurdian Journey

 

The Valdegurdian Journey: Part Two

“Welcome to Valdegurd—Valdegurd, a land of peace and prosperity. Settled by the Children of Time and Earth, the Humankinds in all their diversity. Ruled by the Tellers of old, the heirs of Telluris-Revetor and bearers of the mystical Telluric Mantle. Desired by Raldoran the Meddler, dark one, lord of stone, master of the forbidden magics of Dessentor.”

Today we continue our journey through Valdegurd, this time traveling to the inland Duerese provinces. Though the Teller’s apprentice, Liel has not been to these places as much as the locations in the first post in this series, so he has less developed opinions on them than certain other characters in The Teller’s Apprentice. Today our commentator will be Rill Gaps, a retainer and head cook at the Teller’s Hall.

 


A glimpse into Roon Lokan’s thriving dye trade. (image source)

Central Duerin

We stayed the night at the Teller’s Hall, enjoying the hospitality of Ronis the Teller. Now we disembark in Roon Lokan, capital of Central Duerin, with Rill as our guide. The port is thriving, as Roon Lokan sits on the mouth of the Duor, the great river for which Duerin is named, flowing from the western Forge Mountains to the eastern Bay of Names. Here, commerce flourishes in the sprawling metropolis, and Roon Lokan is the seat of the Grand Chancellor, ruler of the Chancelleries of Duerin. Other cities scatter the plains of Central Duerin, but it is widely accepted that Roon Lokan is the quintessence of all that Central Duerin means. Central Duerin is the superpower of the eastern kingdoms and the most powerful province of Duerin…and the most feared.

Central Duerin has a different flavour to it than East Duerin, I guess. East Duerin is more…open. More colourful, more cheerful. Central Duerin reminds me of old things. Tradition. Mouldy folklore. Musty robes in dank closets. Roon Lokan is a city greying at the temples, while East Duerin is still young. People walk differently in Central Duerin. Avoiding each other. Business is private in Roon Lokan. There’s no camaraderie, no community save in your own neighbourhood.

Probably why Roon Lokan so agrees with me.


A typical upper-class house in South Duerin. (image source)

South Duerin

We move southeast, riding in a tunkin-driven wagon along the coastline of Central Duerin to the southernmost Duerese province. The Plainsmen of South Duerin live on the edge of the wild and hold to many of the traditions established by Telluris-Revetor before the Scattering. With the influx of Duerese people, these traditions and cultures are fast disappearing, but the wild will always remain wild. Lying on the edge of the Plains of Creation, South Duerin has the largest amount of attacks by the skall, the mythical monsters of the sacred mountain Telluria, and is perhaps the most dangerous of all the Duerese provinces.

I was born and raised in South Duerin. My relatives were strong on tradition. Tight-knit family clan, Orthodox Assentists, customary Plainsman robes and suchlike. I had the wanderlust when I was younger. I wanted to see more of the world. The bigger civilisations in the north. The mythical places of Valdegurd. Northerdell. Spike Isle. They didn’t like that. Plainsmen were meant to be rooted, they said, solid, dependable. I wasn’t their image of a Plainsman.

So they banished me.


The Gap. (image source)

The Gap

South of Port Gap lies its namesake, the Gap, historically known as Eyrlund’s Claim. The Gap is an unswerving chasm separating the haunted Spike Isle from the mainland. Legend claims that it was created in the Scattering by Eyrlund, a mythical giant who once walked Valdegurd, with a single blow from his axe. Ships of Duerin sail the Gap to trade with the small southern civilisation of the Rothe Islands, but only the bravest captains dare the journey due to the suckers—powerful currents which drag ships against the walls and drown the smallest. A small band of Talpins once entered Eyrlund’s Claim to search out the truth behind a mysterious, malevolent force known as Skkan, but none returned.

The Gap. Well, it’s not really everything that Duerese folklore makes it out to be. I’ve sailed the Gap under a few different captains more than once. The suckers are tough, but if you know what you’re doing—and the captains I sailed with did—they aren’t really much of a problem. I don’t believe in Skkan or Eyrlund or the legends, either. I guess the only reason why people fear the Gap is because it’s so close to what lies on the other side.

Spike Isle.


The distinct stone forest of Spike Isle. (image source)

Spike Isle

On the eastern side of the Gap lies Spike Isle, a landmass of rocky spines and miniature mountains pointing to the heavens. No one sets foot on Spike Isle for the simple reason that it is haunted, cursed—a place of myths and legends that may prove to be truer than the skeptical adventurer expected. Those who cross the Gap are often exiled to a life lived in loneliness, sometimes killed for defying the Plainsman laws. History solidifies the tradition, for the Gapwalkers of old became insane.

Spike Isle. Hah! The Plainsmen think the Gap is a sign not to cross over to Spike Isle. They say the chasm is a barrier, and the reason why it’s straight is to make the barrier obvious. They say Spike Isle is haunted by skullish beasts, wild ghouls who waylay those who enter. They say those who cross the Gap are cursed. But I know the truth. I’ve been there.

They’re right.


 

Our tour of Inland Duerin is over. Next time, we’ll continue further inland with Ronis the Teller as our guide and protector while Rill takes the wagon back to Roon Lokan. Next time, we’re going to ride tunkins through the Plains of Creation.

Huh? You’re not going to make me enter the Plains? I have to say, I didn’t expect that stroke of Destiny.

Get used to it, Rill. You haven’t been in the Plains before, and Ronis the Teller is the obvious choice for our next commentator.

Why thank you. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to be eaten by the skall. If I have to die, I’d prefer a more painless way.

Ronis the Teller has a few tricks up his sleeve. I don’t expect the skall will be eating any of our party…unless they wander away. With that in mind, we’ll stay the night at Rill’s family home in Port Gap and move out again when we’re ready to head into the Plains of Creation.

Great. I get to be executed for being a Gapwalker. What a lovely family I have.

I don’t quite want you out of the picture yet, Rill. I’ll make sure they don’t lay hands on you. I have plans for you in my book.

Uh-oh.

Uh-huh!

Matthew (The Author)


 

Picture credit to their respective copyrighters.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on September 16, 2015 in My Books, The Valdegurdian Journey