16 March 2013

the Legacy of Worlds-gone-by

What follows is an excerpt of what I've been working on (worldbuilding-wise), regarding the development of the 'contemporary' nations of Elyden. In a nutshell, the world is now populated by the descendants of the handful of survivors of the end of the previous age, who weren't forced to discover things for themselves as the original mortal races had...

the Legacy of Worlds-gone-by
Being a world of many pasts, the development of Elyden’s present Age had as its advantage various factors, not least of which were the ruins and remnants of past cultures. There was no slow rate of progress as one invention slowly appeared and became popularised, paving the way for other discoveries based upon its virtues. The survivors of the Fourth Age and its cataclysmic war found a world tarnished, filled with the ruins of their forebears, littered by the detritus of both war and peace.

We can never know what it is like for developing peoples and cultures to develop at a natural rate. Such a thing can only have happened once – following the creation of the Two-and-twenty mortal seeds and their eventual birth following the actions of the Demiurges – and even then, their actions were guided by the Demiurges. We of the Fifth-Age have inherited an old, used world. Many skills and technologies were either remembered by the descendants of the Fourth-Age or re-discovered through their exploration of the dead empire’s remnants.

Many advancements that took the first mortals centuries to develop; like husbandry, agriculture, organised trade and metalworking, amongst many others, were skills carried-forth from the old age. Tools lay rotten, disused, their forms echoing their one-time purpose. Skills were recovered far quicker than they originally took to develop, leading to an unnatural cultural development, where small groups of people – familial tribes or the retinues and followers of rogue leaders – advanced at a rapid rate. Within centuries, if not decades, of their re-emergence following the Fading of the Fourth-Age, these disparate group were wielding iron or bronze weapons of their own design (subject, of course, to the availability of resources and the logistics involved in their manufacture), erecting monuments and structures of a sophistication rivalling that of their forebears, and waging war with their neighbours over resources – raw materials and, as history tells us, slaves.

Dubbed the Renaissance of Rediscovery, this rapidity of advancement has, as records show, led to an aggressiveness that seems difficult to understand at face value. Unfortunately, there are little to no records of similar events having taken place in previous ages with which we can compare this phenomenon, but we can find theories.

Small groups of emergent mortals can be imagined to be a world onto themselves. They are isolated and restricted by the advancements and skills that their best members possess. Historically, all groups were on a relatively equal-footing, with most discoveries and inventions following a vague timeline. For instance, in the postulated first age of mortal live, the production of steel could not exist without a reliable history of extracting and smelting iron, itself a practice that favours agricultural communities with the resources to set up quarries and mines to excavate the raw materials, which would have required the development of husbandry techniques and the domestication of grasses and livestock.

The groups of people emerging from the Fading of the Fourth-Age had little of those constraints. The remnants of past cultures were all around re-emerging groups – disused mills, tools, quarries, raw materials, art, culture, coinage, and so on.

The mortals of the Fifth-Age are largely (though not exclusively) plunderers, building on the ruins of their forebears, having earnt little of their technologies and culture through toil, instead borrowing it from dead nations. As a result of this, things like currencies became prevalent quickly, using the treasures and coins of past empires for trading. Groups lucky enough may have found access to untapped natural resources – coal mines and iron-fields lying disused, awaiting extraction from the surface; overgrown fields, already sown with domesticated crops, and so-on. This led to a rapid growth in some areas, particularly in temperate and dry climates, such as mid-to northern latitude Llachatul and Meniscus, as well as southern Sammaea (though the latter two, being distant lands, have not been as thoroughly explored as Llachatul and the Inner Sea), with groups expanding rapidly thanks to the boons they found. Cultures developed quickly, inheriting the artistic traits of the ruins they raided, developing their languages around the written records they found.

So were the nations of Elyden’s Fifth-Age born; in the wreckage of those who fell before them.

13 March 2013

Sweet Norfolk

I love Norfolk. My mum is from there and her family lives there. I myself am Maltese. to those of you who don;t know, Malta is this tiny speck of an island in the middle of the Mediterranean. To be blunt its been raped by most old world cultures imaginable, from Carthaginians, Phoenicians,  Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Italians, French, and English, leaving us with a long history, from some of the eldest standing monuments (dated to around 5,000 BC to a couple of remarkable sieges - one in 1565 and another, more famous one, known as the 2nd world war - leading to our independence as one of the smallest nations in the world in 1964, with a population of about 450,000.

I hate Malta! Its filthy, populated by what I consider to be ignorant Mediterranean people, obsessed with religion and politics and football: three things i care very little about. It's loud, extroverted and is horribly humid (making summers unbearably hot and winters horribly cold, despite our latitude). Despite what tourists insist in, i find locals very brash, uncourth and far from friendly. I Often feel an outside in my own country, possibly something to do with my dual nationality (English mother, Maltese father) and what I consider a close affinity with English culture.

Having said that I do respect its history and what it's (my) people have lived through. Picked on by ottoman pirates for centuries, housing the Knights Hospitalier for 268 years, withstanding some pretty intense sieges and sticking it to der fuhrer in WWII, Malta has had its fair share of ups and downs...

So Going north to England for my holidays is always a strange experience. i feel nothing but warmth for the English people, their self-deprecating humour (something Maltese people are not entirely aware of), their sarcasm. I also get a very 'old world' feel whenever I'm in the U.K. - i imagine this is due to the fact it's a relatively old country with established laws and mores, unlike Malta, which has only been self-governing for 40-50 years, and, in many ways, is still finding its feet. I love its buildings, its weather, and the determination of its people and its pubs! its many faults notwithstanding (its faltering debt-based economy springs to mind...) I love the place.

What does this have to do with worldbuilding? Nothing! It's my sister;s birthday in a few weeks and i decided to make a map of Norfolk for her:

It's in an old 18th century style, with distressed old paper and uses old-school naming conventions. I'm quite happy with it and will probably start working on a Maltese one soon - for all its (perceived) faults, Malta, being the Centre of the Med, has a rich cartographical history i can steal from.

Also, I might be working on my first map commission soon - an ancient Egypt map, something I've always been interested in. maybe a career in cartography beckons! My Elyden Atlas/encyclopaedia seems that much more plausable now :)

On the worldbuilding front, I'm slowly working on ideas for coins - done in PS as small relief pictures, depicting the various coins of different regions, base don time and reign. i have a few ideas for coins, many of them already use din my fiction, others little more than new ideas I'm still working on. My favorites are the coins that are minted with dents and perforations dividing them in quarters, which can be snapped and broken into smaller deniminations. i'm not sure how plausable the economies of such coins are, though i like the idea.