28 November 2015

Atlas Elyden

So, work has continued on the Atlas Elyden (volume V of the Encyclopaedia Elyden). Though I haven't posted much over the past year-or-so regarding the atlas, I've been slowly tinkering away on this between other projects. I've settled on a colour palette I'm happy with, and have decided to rotate the maps to make the longitude lines line up with the page orientation a bit better than before.

Now it's just a matter of adding the labels, which, as always takes time with me :)

Below are the two maps I'm actively working on at the moment: The first is a political map, depicting Korachan, centre of the High-empire:

A political map of Korachan  

The second is one of various 'feature' maps I have planned, depicting not necessarily nations, but particular regions. This is the Shibboleth, one of Elyden's largest rivers:

A map of the river Shibboleth and its drainage basin

The maps were re-oriented and re-scaled from the previous versions so most of the labels need to be repositioned to line up with the latitude lines.

I'm not 100% sold on the fonts yet (so far I'm using various fonts from the IM fell family), though they will do for now. the line running through the middle of the maps shows the crease between pages, so ill have to add a gutter once they're done for printing.

The shaded areas in the maps are the areas of focus and will be described in a small cartouche, though the previous style cartouches wont be used (a generic key will feature in the beginning of the Atlas. The shaded area in the first map denotes the lands of the nation of Korachan (in the north) as well as the Dichotocratic Republic of Hoamm (in the south). Another map will focus on Hoamm in more detail, and another will concentrate on Korachani colonies, in insert atlas style. The second map is the drainage basin of the river Shibboleth and will concentrate on tributaries and other river-related labels in favour of normal places (though capitals and major cities will be featured).

#Atlaselyden, #Encyclopaediaelyden, #Korachan, #Shibboleth, #Fantasycartography,

23 November 2015

the Tomb of the God

The Twilights of the Gods. The Restless Death. The Dreaming Lands. They have many names, these places of languor for fallen powers.

This is the Tomb of the God, yet it is so much more… and less. Though there exist many places on Elyden that have been touched by the ancient Demiurges in one way or another, the Tomb of the God stands out in stark contrast.

Granted, the Prison Carceri is of a scope and age far greater than any other; Azora is both fearsome and brilliant without compare; the Tree of Agen is of a mysticism that erudites, in their millennia of searching, have failed to unravel; but no other place can claim without shadow of doubt to be the final resting place of a deity. The Tomb of the God is such a place, and no other part of Elyden is said to match its eerie hollowness.

The Grey Tombs are a cheerless place where sleep comes fitfully and dreams are troubled by the whispers of the dead god that lies buried there. It is fitting that such a place exists so far from civilisation, in the hinterlands of the Desolation of Astudan, a cold-sub tundra desert where cities have rightfully failed to take root, and only the toughest of plants and animals stand a chance of survival. The veneer of culture, that thin film of upbringing that separates man from beast is dormant in this realm; not unnoticed, yet subjugated by the harsh rule of nature.

It is here, over 500-miles west of Temur, amidst forgotten tombs and grey wadis that the memory of an ancient entity hangs with decrepitude in the air. Its memory is now tarnished warped into a  grotesque doppelg√§nger of what it once was. Once one of the legendary Two-and-Twenty, diptych this creator-deity was of two facets, a patriarch who cradled nobility in one hand while encouraging brutality with the other.

The aithar were his children; Seventeenth of the Two-and-Twenty mortal tribes. Like their father, the aithar were creatures of both nature and culture, fang and tome. They were strong, noble, learned, yet possessed of a ferocity that could not be denied. They were truly Malachai’s children.

While the tale of the Demiurges is told elsewhere, suffice it to say that the Two-and-Twenty creator deities were responsible for the Shaping of Elyden. They were beings of artifice, taking pleasure in the way they formed light and dark into rivers and mountains and clouds and rainbows. It was their vision that painted Elyden, that gave it life. Yet, when their work was done they never stopped, and continued altering the material realm, marring what should have been perfection.

The Two-and-Twenty tribes were born before their time into this imperfect world. The Demiurges were punished, the strength to shape worlds stripped of them, the mortal tribes ensorcelled to their aegis.

Leader of a tribe he did not want, Malachai grew laconic, his powers wasting to inaction, his land turning grey even as his siblings toiled to bring a semblance of beauty to their homes. He became possessed by a bitterness that slowly came to embody not only his every waking thought, but also that of his people, the aithar.

As the other tribes evolved, their Demiurge leaders teaching them, the aithar merely meandered alone, unaided. Where other tribes expanded, they remained insular; where other tribes learnt husbandry and farming, they subsisted on the basest levels imaginable. In place of art, music, culture, they seemed only to propagate an emptiness they could not understand. Their bodies echoed their hearts, growing dessicated and without life, grey like the unformed land around them. The only thing that fascinated them was death and the release from the pained existence it offered.

What culture they had revolved around preparing for the afterlife: repetitive rituals designed to train their spirit how to act beyond the veil of death. Temples dedicated to the afterlife and pagan deities that developed in the wake of their god and guardian outnumbered their simple mesa-dwellings. Necropoli rose like forests around their lands, drowning out the settlements in which the aimless aithar dwelt. Elyden became little more than a detour to them; a meek challenge to their spirits on the road to their true reward.

Malachai cared not to lead his children, but saw in them a dim reflection of himself, for wasn't he a child without a father? Their plight angered him, fed the bitterness that had dwelt in him since his banishment from heaven. He sought revenge on his creator for taking what was his, and saw it fit to use his children as a means to that end.

Where most other Demiurges had forsaken their creator, choosing to let their children live in ignorance as to his very being; Malachai done otherwise. He descended upon the aithar in the guise of a great prophet and told them their history, twisting events to his own ends. His creator became a reckless being, casting the aithar into the wilderness, denying them the perfection that should have been theirs. They renounced any ties to the creator and forsook him, worshipping instead their Demiurge. The attention strengthened Malachai, who for the first time since his banishment began to see the world in tint of colour, feeling the breeze of its wind on his face. Their pagan temples were toppled and, with the help of their new god, erected great monuments and totems in honour of their prophet – Malachai.

And so it was that, as other Demiurges began to weaken to languor, Malachai was born anew, benevolent leader to a misguided people. It was in this age that Allaishada the Compassionate, First amongst the Two-and-Twenty Demiurges, came to him in visitation, requesting that he attend a conclave with his siblings. Malachai, content for the first time since the sundering of his powers refused the offer, growing irritated with her insistence that he join them in counsel. Stubborn, driven by her own bitterness, eager to find a common ground on which the Demiurges could rebuild their strength, Allaishada harassed Malachai and his people, discovering finally his perversion of the aithar, how he had twisted them into his puppets. This angered her greatly, and begun sending missionaries into his lands, provoking finally her brother's wrath. The aithar, eager to defend their beliefs from this encroachment declared war on Allaishada and her tribe.

A short but bloody conflict was then fought between the children of Malachai and those of Allaishada. The Demiurge Rachanael secretly aided Malachai, seeing an opportunity to lessen his sister’s domains, which were greatest amongst the Two-and-Twenty. With his brother's aid, Malachai weakened his sister, who was forced to retreat, to her lands, where her attentions returned to unifying the more amiable Demiurges, an act that ultimately led to the construction of the Bridge of Worlds.

Malachai's corruption did not go unpunished, however, and the creator struck him down, removing forever his link from the Atramenta and the Firmament. Malachai was a Demiurge no more, the first amongst the Two-and-Twenty to succumb to mortality.

The athai cast him out of their lands, forsaking the day he had returned to them. But with their land dead, their hopes of redemption in the afterlife shattered by his deeds, they fell into barbarism, descending yet further into the mire fate it seemed had marked them out for. Where the other tribes slowly recuperated from that age of warring sibling, spreading, growing, forgetting the past; the aithar degenerated, forgetting their father and the history that had been so cruel to them. What chance they had of seeking the truth was missed and instead they let the world overtake them, where they became little more than a footnote.

Malachai wandered the grey mesas of his home, a broken being, embittered by the weight of his deeds and the greatness that could have been. It was during this time that Malachai was subjugated by his other yet more powerful siblings, becoming little more than a slave, his heritage a blemish and curse rather than a crown worn proudly.

Subdued, his body withered until it was his to command no longer, and finally, one day, when the last mortal who owed him fealty passed from one world to the next, he fell prone into the dirt of what is now Stolas. And there he sat for what might have been millennia. 

And it was there that, years later, Malachai’s story ends, not to the corruption and decay of ages, but to the blade of his own Scion. For Akachi, his first-born scion, had escaped the ignominious fate of Malachai's children and had witnessed the degradation and humiliation of his father. Akachi found Malachai, his body half-fossilised in the wastes of Skaros, and smote him, ending what fragments of life remained. Akachi in turn took it upon himself to lead the remnants of the athai, but theirs was a dying race, without prospect or nobility and they remained in their ancestral lands, a broken people who slowly consigned the memory of their failed Demiurge-father to dust, where his name became corrupted, his existence twisted into little more than a totemic idol - Merkabh.

This is where the memory of that fallen Demiurge now dwells, rotten, decrepit, maddened by the passing of aeons, in the ruin of ages long dead-and-buried. It is under the dark protection of this dead deity, in lands of whispers and murmurs, that his children’s children live, their bodies taken to many forms, all unholy and twisted, broken, in memory of their legacy.

Time marched on and those who found that land named it Stolas, after the byzantine monuments they found in the place – idols to a forgotten deity, their fetid splendour and the unimaginable scope of their scale inspiring a piety that penetrated their dreams, urging them to worship. They, bound by fate to be forever linked to the past they could not remember, became known as the al akhi ‘kin to birds’ - descendants of Malachai's children.

And so it was under the guise of Merkabh that Malachai returned to Elyden: as a hollow deity; worshipped by the al akhi; creatures he could not recognise as his descendants, worshipping a false idol they could not recognise as their father. Had Merkabh’s divinity not been fully exorcised by his newfound cults would have spurred his inert body to life, but Malachai was no-more, his life long-since extinguished, remaining on the material plane as a soul-pearl both monolithic and worthless, buried in the middle of Stolas – remaining in Elyden, no more than a frigid whisper on a dark night.

But a whisper is an infinity away from death, and the seers of the al akhi claim that on dark nights, when neither moon shines and neither solstice nor equinox is in flux, that whispers infiltrate the idol called Sephoria, speaking in hushed tones, calling them...

#Demiurge, #Aithar, #Malachai, #Elyden, #Worldbuilding

21 November 2015

A Globe of Elyden

Not to count my chickens, but the first milestone goal in my Patreon campaign is getting close to materialising, and I'm thinking ahead.

For those who aren't up to speed Patreon is a crowdfunding platform, similar to Kickstarter, where patrons can pledge certain amounts of money to their favourite artists in return for some perks. Artists can list certain 'milestone goals' for when they achieve certain goals.

My first milestone goal will be when when I reach $50 pledges per month, and I plan on start work on the physical globe of Elyden, which is something I've been wanting to do for some time, though which I've always put off for whatever reason.

Why haven't I made one before? Anyone who's tried to make a proper globe with paper gore pasted to a sphere will know just how difficult and precise an ordeal globemaking really is. Assuming you're using 12 gores, each of 30 degree (I'd prefer 18 separate gores), I might cut the gore too small, or the sphere might not be perfect - every error has a cumulative effect on the next gore, and the next gore... until the last gore glued onto the sphere ends up overlapping with the first one. not good! And most importantly - gluing flat pieces of paper to a sphere is incredibly difficult to do without either ripping the paper or creating folds. The globe itself will be 25-30cm in size depending on the polystyrene spheres I find.

Why do I want to make a map? One reason is because a well-made globe of a fantasy world is not something we don't see very often, possibly because most fantasy maps are flat and don't take into account the world's curvature (you know the type of maps I'm referring to - the black-and-white sort designed to fit into two 6"x9" novel pages).

The main reason is simply because it's something I've always wanted to try, even before I started to dabble in worldbuilding. Another reason is that I think it will help make Elyden seem more like a 'real' world, which is always a good thing for a fantasy world.

The above map is the backbone for the map (the pink is a high-contrast colour so that once it's printed I can easily score out the gores with a scalpel). The graticules need another layer emphasising the 30 degree lines. the land is ready though I need to remove the inner glow where the pink mask separates the gores and add a bit more texture.

One thing I'm unsure of is whether or not I should go with a fully printed map (coloured in Photoshop) or a black/white map that I can fill in myself once the gores have been attached to the globe. Both have their merits (the former is probably easier, though the latter, while more time-consuming, will look nicer and more 'authentic'). Either way i suspect I'll continue working with a coloured map digitally, and then print out 2 versions. I might make 2 real-world mock up's first to see which I prefer before committing to the proper Elyden map

Where possible, I plan on making each individual label (yes, there will be lots of labels. I like labels :p) self-contained within an individual gore, as splitting text between gores will not be easy to do, especially if I'm going to be taking into account the curvature of the latitude lines closer to poles. Obviously it's not something that can be completely avoided, particularly with large labels, like oceans and snaking continent and nation names.

The poles will be individual discs 10 degrees wide that will be stuck to the top & bottom of the globe. I haven't started work on those yet, though have a good idea of how work will progress.

Obviously the above image is still a rough state. It still needs a nice equatorial, tropical and polar lines, as well as paths of the ecliptic and the nullambit (the 'magical' equator, marking the farthest point from each of the two antipodeal magical sources in the world). The globe shape will give me a lot of empty space around the oceans and deserts in which I can include a key or perhaps a few paragraphs of text if need be.

I really hope this materializes. The digital map will not be much of an issue (aside from the time-consuming nature of the labelling). It's the physical globe that's worrying me. I'm going to be doing some dummy globes with smaller spheres to test out the gluing and overlapping, so that once the time comes for me to bite the bullet and start work on the real globe I'll be wasting as little time as possible.

19 November 2015

Atlas Elyden: the Shibboleth

Shibboleth: the Torrent, Eleventh of the Demiurges

Amongst the most esoteric of the ancient Demiurges, Shibboleth was once the patron of wanderers, travellers, portals and crossroads. Parts of these aspects remain, though have been absorbed by various cultures or might remain in some regions, embodied by saints or other religious figures. Shibboleth is remembered in some regions, particularly in the north of Sammaea where its Magnum Opus, the river Shibboleth, remains as one of the largest and culturally significant rivers in Elyden

Little is Known of Shibboleth historically. What is known is that like its siblings, Shibboleth sought to nullify its castigation. Where other fell into despair Shibboleth travelled Elyden and beyond – it is though that Shibboleth was the most travelled of the Demiurges, spending much time in the Otherworld as well as the Firmament above and the Atramenta below. This likely warped its mind and it spent little time with its children, the merills, who grew without the safety of a Demiurge guiding them. By the time of the Demiurges fall it had disappeared from the mortal realm entirely, becoming a solitary thing, obsessed with the beauty of the Otherworld to which it had become a slave.

Its physical form, if any, was likely lost to its sojourn beyond the mortal plane, and is not remembered. All scholars know is that it is most commonly represented by the symbol of a whirlpool. Its corruptions (deities and philosophies that stem from its original teachings) embody a sense of the inevitability of fate, that mortals have little control over what happens in the world. This is not a nihilistic view of fate though, and most worshippers find comfort in the fact that their futures cannot be changed –what will be will be!

The river Shibboleth is the only known remaining object attributed to the Demiurge Shibboleth and flows through no less than nine nations and territories, watering them. Though her waters are not as fertile as they once were, she remains the life force of northern Sammaea, and were it not for her the region would be far less populous than it is.


WIP on the map continues, with nations and border now marked out:

the river Shibboleth and its main tributaries

17 November 2015

Proof of Concept - Atlas Elyden: the Shibboleth

So, having just finished off the Map of Venthir and Tzallrach I thought I'd carry on with some maps, specifically the Atlas Elyden: the 5th volume of the long-mooted Enyclopaedia Elyden.

I've already posted links to some mock-ups I had designed for the Atlas maps (here and here), though never really gove very far with them. I've decided to base this map on those so as not to entirely waste the work that went into them, though I will be applying some subtle changes.

I thought I'd try create a full map as a 'proof of concept' that the Atlas can be done. And I decided on a particular region - the river Shibboleth - a map that I've wanted to draw for a very long time and one that fulfils a role similar to that of the Nile in the real world. It is seeped in myth and legend and is known to be the work of the Demiurge who gave it its name - the Eleventh, Shibboleth; the Torrent.

The below is my work so far on the map. Not much different to the original version. I hope not to take too long to finish, to see if I like the style. The image is A3 in size and will appear as a 2-page spread in the atlas (as all maps will), and though the map appears in portrait orientation here it will appear as a landscape in the atlas - the dotted line denotes the spine.

15 November 2015

A Map of Venthir and Tzallrach

Here's the web-version of the finished Venthir and Tzallrach map I was working on. In the end I Settled on a different style for the mountains that what I had been thinking of. I'm happy with these though would still like to try and perfect the hatchure style as that's what I want to use on my atlas.

This coloured contour style is probably a tad too modern for the world (especially the date depicted on the map) though I like it. You might notice the lack of proper contour colours (no greens for instance). I'm not sure I want to add those as they might make it look too modern.

Please let me know what you think!

A Map of Venthir and Tzallrach

EDIT: I noticed there were some fragments around some of the mountain text so removed it and added a n elevation key to the cartouche to give an idea of the heights. I also want to add spot heights to the peak icons (white triangles) to show how high that point is, though that can wait!

More details on Venthir can be found here.

#Elyden #fantasycartography, #worldbuilding

11 November 2015

the Bounty Hunter

I'm trying my hand at some flash fiction (short stories under 1,000 words long or thereabouts). here's my first try. please let me know what you think ��

N. S. Mangion

The body weighed a ton..
      He’d been carrying it since the observatory. That was what, ten miles ago? He had at least as much left to go, probably more.
      “The hell am I going to manage this?” thought Kerrn to himself. He’d passed scav lairs on the way to the observatory. He was travelling slower now than before, his chances of outrunning them lessened. He’d have to take the long way around.
      “That’ll add a few more miles,” he said, rolling his eyes.
      The body was beginning to slump. He stopped, adjusted it’s weight on his shoulder. 

      The sack was getting sticky. He’d drained the body of as much blood as possible before leaving the ruined dome, but it was beginning to seep into the sack.
      Kerrn distracted himself with thought of the bounty that was awaiting him back home.
      It worked, for a while.
      He crossed dunes of dust and rust, even stopped a few times to admire the view, for what it was worth. It was a grey world he lived in, under grey skies giving the appearance of lifelessness. But he’d explored the wastes enough times to know that the surface was not always true. There was life out there, hiding in valleys and dead trees.
      He just had to be careful to avoid it.
      The wind was picking up, bringing the mounds of dust and rust to life about him.
      Kerrn stopped by an outcrop of dark igneous rocks and took shelter, fastening his duster against the wind. He rested for a while and when he broke his reverie he noticed his hand was on the sack containing the body. He regarded it for a moment, found himself thinking of the outlaw interred within.
      He shook his head, spat in the dust and carried on.
      He took the long way back, eschewing the trade road west for the roughlands that surrounded Fulcar’s Needle, a pillar of glass-like stone that dominated the region. It was his beacon, drawing him steadily west.
      He saw it long before he reached it, straddling the coast of the Sekhan like a black bead caught between oil and water. The only settlement for miles around; it was his world. Inconsequential next to the capital, it meant nothing in the grand scheme of things, but it was all he cared about. He smiled for the first time in weeks and began the final leg of his return.
      Kerrn’s foresight paid off. He managed the road home without encounter.
      He found the east road and followed it to the settlement, taking a detour north that took him to the temple of the Machine Ascendant, and behind it the dross manufactory belching smoke. Around it stood row upon row of stone shelves in which were secreted tin simulacra of the dead.
      He entered the vestibule and caught the attention of a disciple who took the papers proffered and nodded, withdrawing into the gloom of the temple.
      Kerrn waited, looked around. His work brought him there often enough, though it had been years since he’d last been to mass. He doubted he’d be attending any time soon.
      A priest emerged from the shadows and walked slowly towards the bounty hunter pushing a gurney. “Another evildoer dispatched,” he sneered.
      Kerrn grunted and heaved the sack onto the gurney. “Just doing my job, Soth. Want me to tell you what he was wanted for?”
      The holy man waved the request away and took the gurney into his hands, ready to take back to the processors. “I need a name, for the records.”
      Kerrn shoved him a handful of papers, crumpled form the road.
      Soth took the papers, gave them a quick look. His eyebrows lifted for a moment and he looked at Kerrn.
      The bounty hunter looked at him, expectantly.
      “This is your brother.”
      “The law does not recognise blood, holy man. You of all men should know that.”


Fulcar’s Needle: igneous formation in W Almagest, 20-miles N-E of the city of Almagest, The needle has a glass-like sheen, not unlike polished obsidian, and rises for close to 100-feet, making it an important navigational landmark.