28 December 2015

Korachan Topography

I've been quiet for a while as I work on the Korachan map for the Atlas Elyden

I spent some time deciding whether I wanted to keep a Portrait orientation or whether I wanted to switch to a landscape orientation. The reason for this was largely scale - witching to landscape would have given me a bit more legroom in terms of scale (increasing the map size from 100% to 108%), though this would have been at the cost of having to remove Hoamm from the map. Here's the 2 maps next to each other:  

Korachan - Landscape
Korachan - portrait

I settled on the second of the above maps, as a compromise between the two as the portrait orientation was more pleasant given the vertical shape of Korachan - I kept a portrait orientation, though would not include Hoamm as a 'focus' of the page, which gave me a bit more room in the bottom, at the 'cost ' of making the eastern part of the map stick out of the frame (which is a quirky feature I always liked on atlases).

So that's that. The map itself is largely finished, though I may still add a few labels here and there (largely geographical features once the topography is ready - more on that below) and I need to go over the icons again as the resizing left them somewhat blurry. 

Speaking of topography, that's what's been occupying most of my time lately. Of course, since this is me and I have to complicate things, I had to use a top-down approach, rather than bottom-up (start ith the world and work my way down to regions, rather than the other way round) so had to determine things like highest peak and so on before I could start work on the topographies. So far what I have is this: 

The world map will use a maximum of 10 levels of height, each representing 1-mile (the highest peak on Elyden is just under 8 miles (compared with 5.5 miles for Everest, keeping in mind that Elyden is larger, with slightly less gravity and, well, created by gods), though I may change this. So far the map below has 5 layers of elevation, so there's room for 3 more, though I need to revise the topography to make most of the map 'shallower' as it's turning out too high, given the limitation on height I've set myself - Korachan is not meant to be a particularly high region so I don't all available topographical heights, if any of that makes any sense.

I have no idea how accurate or realistic my topographies are (if you spot anything wrong with them please let me know!), though I have to say I'm really enjoying making them. They are a bit time-consuming, especially as I need to try and make the map fit in with features and regions that are already established, though they're very relaxing to make! If anything I need to try and limit the amount of time I spend on them as I could get carried away, though hopefully, more time spent on the map means a better end product.

A note on the colour - these colours are just a temporary feature while I work on the map, and I have a few options in mind - colour gradient, just the topographical lines, or use the topographical lines to help me make a relief map in greyscale. I'd like to try all 3 options and see which fits in the best.

partial topography map - Korachan

EDIT: the entire N-E part of the map is unfinished as yet - just the 'coastal' regions, so far. Also the attached map is larger than the Korachani maps in previous posts as I figured i might as well work on a larger area, in preparation for the next map.

I also settled on a portrait aspect with inset maps on the right, as shown below:

15 December 2015

Atlas Elyden Key

A quick post to show the Key that I've been working on for the Atlas Elyden. I spent most of the day redoing the key on the Korachan map to match this one (still some work to do on the labels! As long as there's room on the page, there's room for more labels!) and I'm close to finished.

key so far

The majority of this key is dedicated to settled areas. There's 6 generic city keys, depending on the city size, though there are colour variants to denote capitals, as well as fortified variants, for a total of 36 (6 of each city keys).

The rest is dedicated to other labels, routes, physical features as well as political borders. There's room for more, as I'm sure there will be as I progress (I know for sure I will need to add more physical features, such as deserts, badlands, etc. and I'm looking forward to fleshing out the maps to include such features as they can only make them seem more alive).

I;ve also decided to try a greyscale topographical style for depicting mountains and hills. I hope to try them out before the end of the year so I can settle on a style before starting another map - this one was the 'guinea pig' of the Atlas as I've tested and redone labels on it, so the next one should be quicker, though as always, the labels will take some time!  

I;ve also been hard at work preparing the index for the Atlas, so here's a document detailing the Korachani and Hoammi labels on this map (the top half is pg 1 and the bottom half is pg 2)

#Atlaselyden, #Fantasycartography, #Encyclopaediaelyden,

13 December 2015

Korachan Atlas Map

So work on the Korachani map for the Atlas Elyden is close to completion. There’s still work to be done with the mountains and some other physical features, but more on that after the map:

Atlas Elyden - Korachan & Hoamm

I’m quite pleased with the map overall though there’s still work to be done. The labels are clear (though I already notice some labels, like the mountains and larger geographical features are too dark, especially compared with the nations), the colours are what I was aiming for (though the actual printed map in the Atlas Elyden will be missing the weathered look to make printing easier) and the overall style is what I was aiming for. One down, about 100 left to go… To give you an idea of what that means: this map alone ended up with me adding over 150 new entries to the Encyclopaedia Elyden. Imagine what the whole Atlas will add to the Encyclopaedia!

I’ve come up with a symbol-based resource key that’s going to be used across the Atlas, which explains why there isn’t a key in this map – the complete Atlas will have a 2-page spread at the beginning of the Atlas detailing the key, labels and other details so they don’t need repeating across all the maps thereafter. In a nutshell I’ve come up with a few dozen symbols pertaining to resources and industries – pickaxe for mining, fish for fishing, grain for farming, etc.  think most are pretty intuitive, though some, though want of better design, might not be. One particular symbol I’m having trouble with is the symbol for dross (a slurry-like food that’s a staple amongst the lower classes and slaves of most nations, made from everything you can think of – discarded veg & fruit, insects, grizzle & animal fat, human & animal corpses, and other things), which is a bowl. Hopefully its good enough as I really can’t think of anything else to use as a symbol.

Map symbols

There’s various roads and routes – main roads, roads, pilgrimages (the Shadow March) and sea routes. I was thinking of adding distances to the sea routes (which I can’t do with the land routes, due to there being so many labels!), but I’m not sure they’re necessary in this map (other than for my own ease of reference when writing fiction based in those areas)

This particular map will be presented in landscape orientation, with each individual leaf sized at A4 (for a total size of A3). Once all the maps are done I’ll have to add a gutter (3mm per page half) to make it easier to read the map (something I notice most modern atlases seem to ignore), which is why the border on the top and bottom of the page are larger than the left and right.

The page borders have not only the standard graticules and degrees but also an alphanumerical grid (A1, B2, C3 etc.) which will be used for the index in the back of the Atlas, listing every entry alphabetically. I'm going to start work on that now that I've finished this map, to give me an idea of hiw long the index will be. I'll post that once i'm ready with it.

I also added a ‘focus’ the map. In this case the focus is Korachan and Hoamm, so I faded all other territories by greying them out, as well as their labels and keys. I’m not sure if that comes across well in the finished product – any feedback on this, or anything else in general?

Obviously this leaves me with mountains and other geological features (marshlands, deserts, salt pans, reefs etc.). The mountains, as always, are giving me a hassle as I just cannot settle on a style that I like and feel fits in with atlas style & time period I’m aiming for. I like coloured topography maps but fear they are too ‘modern’ for the relative time period I’m aiming for (1880 – 1900), which leaves me with my nemesis – the hairy caterpillar ridges, which are very time-consuming. Though if I spent as much time drawing them as I spent complaining about them I’d probably have done them by now!

#Atlaselyden, #Encyclopaediaelyden, #Korachan, #Fantasy cartography, #Elyden

04 December 2015

The Observatory of Deochan

Yesterday I completed an atlas entry that’s been waiting to escape the confines of my mind for quite some years. I’m busy adding labels and the key to the map of Korachan and Hoamm that is a test for the Atlas Elyden finally added the Observatory of Deochan.

Why the fuss? It all has something to do with the so-called Prime Meridian.

Um, no... wrong Prime

In a nutshell the prime meridian is the longitude known as having a property of 0o. In the real world this happens to be Greenwich and is ultimately an arbitrary number. In Elyden 0o longitude passes through the Observatory of Deochan. Originally, when icreated the first map of Korachan some 5-year ago the prime meridian passed right through the city of Deochan, though in digital iterations of the map the graticules got somehow shifted a bit, leaving the prime meridian about  7-miles west of the city. Even though it's an arbitrarily assigned value i wanted the point to be marked by something pertinent soi decided to create a college of cartography and astronomy on the point of the prime meridian.

And so was born the Observatory of Deochan. It's nice to have something that you've been wanting to include in the world finally appear somewhere. I can imagine it as a place of higher learning where the sons (and possibly daughters) of patricians and others (perhaps wealthy journeymen and their children) can come to learn their trade, specifically cartography and astronomy. So it's home to explorers and scientists. I imagine buildings not dissimilar to Oxford university - with Oxford limestone and verdigris-encrusted domes dotting the campus.

minus the bikes... perhaps

 #elyden #fantasycartography #deochan #primemeridian

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 doppelgänger 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.

Writing Prompts

I've started writing some flash fiction lately which satisfies the writing urge while leaving me enough time left-over in which i can work on maps and worldbuilding (i should have some flash fiction posted soon), and was thinking of writing prompts.

I don't know how many of you are familiar with Magic: the Gathering. It's a collectible card game where the player takes the role of a 'Planeswalker', who duels another player, casting spells (in the form of cards), with the goal of killing him. I love the art and lore and the mechanics. I don't love the cost and addictive nature, but enough about that.

Ajani Goldmane - one of my favourite characters and gorgeous  art by Chris Rahn

It's the largest such game on the market, with thousands of cards in its database, covering a variety of settings and subjects (biomechanical horrors, greek-style fantasy, gothic fantasy, calssical fantasy, etc.). There is a function on the MTG site where you can randomly generate cards from their online database (known as gatherer). It's on the bottom right of the linked page.

Wrath of God - by the inimitable Kev Walker

I decided to click on the random generator three times to see what comes up. Here's the results:

Wrath of God - a sorcery that clears the board of all cards. A very powerful and evocative effect, as depicted in the art.
Island - one of the five staple land cards in the game (the others being Plains, Swamps, Mountains and Forests)
Frightcrawler - a horror creature.

Frightcrawler - Matt Cavotta

Just generating those 3 cards has sparked a few ideas that i can put together to form the basis of a short story. Of course, I'll be careful not to include anything that infringes on MTG's IP, though I have enough original creations in my world that I can substitute at leisure.

I suggest you all give it a try and see what you come up with You don't have to know the game to try it out,though knowing the lore and rules does help. Let me know what you come up with!

Island from the Innistrad expansion (a gothic horror themed set)

#MTG #magicthegathering #writing #writingprompts,

10 November 2015

Why do I write?

Quite a profound question to start off the week, don’t you think? It’s one that I don’t talk about much here, since the cartography always seems to take precedence over everything else. I also think this is something that I have avoided talking about because the truth might not be what people are expecting to see, or, more likely, what I expect people are expecting to hear, if that makes any sense.

We’ve been brought up to think that writers have some form of compulsion to write, that they were born that way, with words struggling to escape their thoughts and that the only way to release those words is by writing.

I suppose that’s true for most writers but I don’t think that’s me. Though I often find myself edging to write when I’m not, I don’t think that it’s a compulsion or something that I can’t live without.

I think I’m a lazy person by nature, and I hate that. I’ve tried setting up routines where I can force myself into doing a set amount of writing every day, though I have never managed anything that maintains a semblance of regularity. The closest is writing during NaNoWriMo (and no I’m not taking part this year) when I really plan ahead and psych myself up.

I became complacent when I was single, writing when I wanted to, often devoting entire days and weekends to writing. Now I’m no longer single and living with my partner things become more difficult. Working shifts and odd hours makes things even worse. I get to write on mornings when I’m working late or days off when my partner is working, though I find it very difficult to work in the evenings, which is my preferred time, due to wanting to spend time with my family. This has really taken a toll on my hobbies.  

Ok, so that answers why I don’t write, but not why I write.

I think, after perusing my posts here and elsewhere, it’s pretty clear that my focus is mostly on mapmaking, and I don’t mind that, really. I enjoy drawing the maps, though I need to work on my productivity (I tend to waste a lot of time doing things in steps that could all be one in one big step at the end, thus wasting lots of time) I spent quite a bit of money on a Photoshop course which got me an ACE degree, which helped with my cartography.

Though even the cartography is ultimately an ends to a mean.

I am creating a world, and that world needs maps, mostly for my own sense of completeness than anything else. One of the reasons my maps take ages to make, compared with other people, is I want to make sure that everything is correct – if I add a city, I want to make sure its correctly catalogued in the ubiquitous Encyclopaedia Elyden so that I can reference it quickly in the future if need be. Sometimes I’ll need to edit old entries to match the new ones or update regional histories to match changes made to borders or territories. I also have quite a few large ‘work maps’ that I use for my writing that need to be updated whenever I add a new place or feature, so I end up spending time updating those. There’s a lot more stuff that goes on behind the scenes than you might thing at first.

So, I write as an extension of my worldbuilding. I’ve created this world, am constantly expanding it, might as well do something with it, right?

Is that reason enough to write? Am I a ‘real’ writer? Does the fact that I’m not published make a difference? What if I ever was published, would that class me as a real writer even though I’ll always consider myself a worldbuilder first?

08 November 2015


I'm polishing one of my old stories and am struggling with readability, purple prose and difficult words. In my research i came across this helpful site called www.hemingwayapp.com.

You just copy/paste text into it and it tells you which sentences are difficult to read or adverbs that could be changed or removed.

I found this quite helpful to help pinpoint certain passages that might need some work

05 November 2015

Venthir and Tzallrach

I've been carrying on with the map of Venthir and Tzallrach, adding more labels (almost done!) and now some paths (trade routes and pilgrimage trails etc., including sea routes). The basics of the map are now close to done, with only the mountains and other features left to do now. I say that as though in afterthought but the mountains are really what will make or break this map. I'm still struggling to find a style I'm happy with. Though I haven't posted many updates that doesn't mean I haven't been working on them and I've discarded a lot of designs in the process. I'm getting closer but still not quite there yet. Hopefully it won't be too long now.

#Elyden, #Venthir, #Tzallrach, #Fantasycartography, #Worldbuilding

02 November 2015


I've always been interested in heraldry and have tried working it into my work on Elyden where I can. Readers might remember a recent map of the Haréshk, which includes many shields, representative of the varies fiefs of the region.

I had some time on my hands today and made a little Bio for a historical character. If this proves to be popular I might make this into a series. Hope you like this! Let me know if you do as I'm interested in making more of these, if they go down well. Thanks

25 October 2015

the Path Travelled - part 2

part 2 of the Path Travelled is available over on my Patreon, so please go check it out.

I'm also working on a new map, though as always, I got caught up in the minutia, in this case, the representation of the mountains. Most of the labelling is done and once the mountains are done I'll be ready to share it. Here's a low-res WIP:

26 September 2015

A map of Venthir and Char Mathi

I've always had problems with mountains. Nothing personal, and it's not as though  I have a personal vendetta against them, it's that that I've always had trouble drawing them. Or to be more accurate, I've never been happy with the way I depict them. Since my maps are designed to be maps that were made in the world of Elyden, I try to (at least passingly) design them to echo the style of the region or period in which the map is intended to have originated.

Now since Elyden's current timeline is something akin to the real-world's industrial revolution (at least around the Inner Sea - many other more distant regions have managed to cling to a more classical culture), some styles of mountains do not 'fit in' those styles are the more traditional mountains like those found in fantasy maps, which I've also has some experience making. I like those mountains, but they don't fit in. instead I've been experimenting with other styles, most notably the 'marching caterpillar' mountains, as seen below:

I'm happy with these though admittedly they're not as attractive as the more fantasy-style. Problem is though there are photoshop brushes that mimic this style, the only way I was happy was by doing them manually, one stroke at a time... time consuming, but i must admit I prefer the end result, particularly around the corners, which are a lot less random than a jitter brush.

What do you all think? Keep in mind this is still a WIP, more to show off the mountains than anything else.


10 September 2015

the Path Travelled

The first instalment of my serialised novel, the Path Travelled, is up on my Patreon. This instalment is available to view for free, though other ones will only be available to Patrons. You can become a patron for as little as $1, so please help out!

09 September 2015


I was going through my sizeable Pinterest account and realised there's a lot there that has served to inspire Elyden over the years. Though it's become more about cooking, cheesemaking, bookbinding and bonsai (all of which are hobbies of mine!), it started out as a place where I could share images that I found inspiring or in some way helped convey what I thought Elyden was about.

I've changed my Pinterest boards over time, dividing generic boards that were burgeoning under the weight of pins into separate, more specific boards for ease of reference, and I've ended up with quit a few that, visually, at least, when boiled down together resemble something that Elyden might actually might be. Now, of course due to copyright issues I never post theses images next to stories or concepts. If my Patreon ever takes off, I'll be able to use some of the funds it generates to commission art to use throughout the blog and my works, though for now, such art and fashion will still inspire me.

Blow is a link to the boards most relevant to Elyden and my artistic style in general:
Fantastical & Creepy Character Concept Art: title says it all really, character concept art that I think stylistically fits in with what I imagine the world of Elyden to be. On average most of the images in this gallery might a bit too strange for the generic feel of pre-apocalype Elyden, though they sure feel right for post-apocalypse Elyden, in particular the city-states of the Surrach following the Sundering of the Shadow. Strange uniforms, deformities, interesting characters, a touch of the surreal and inexplicable - all these things help make Elyden what she is.

(c) Wizards of the Coast - Igor Kieryluk 
(c) David Giraud
(c) rhineville
(c) sekigan
artist unknown

Fantastical & Grotesque Fashion: good cosplay, real-world cultural costumes, movie costumes/prosthetics, high-couture, elaborate headdresses, pretty much any thing my Alexander McQueen :) This is the fashion that inspires Elyden. Court garb, baroque patricians, shamen, cultural fashion. I love all this stuff!

source unknown
source unknown
source: darkbeautymag.com
source: feist-style.de
Woodabe tribesman. Source unknown
Alexander McQueen

Fantastical & Grotesque Landscapes and Fantastical & Dark Cities & Structures: landscapes and architecture that help convey what Elyden is all about. Grand vistas, decay, and monolithic lands. Though most pins on these boards are concept art, the real world can sometimes be so amazing, I have to include photos - be they unspoilt lands, scapes of pollution, or whatever.

Moroccan Kasbah
(c) Wizards of the Coast - Igor Kieryluk
(c) Wizards of the Coast - artist unknown
source: feedily.com - artist unknown
source: feedily,com - artist unknown
Equipment, Items & Jewellery: name says it all: objects with the right amount of creepy, surreal, religious and functional aesthetics. I like creepy stuff :)

Reliquary of the Jaw of St. Anthony
Medusa by Melissa Grakowsky
Preserved Drake - source unknown
Hellraiser Puzzle Box - source unknown
source: narrowboatinfo.co.uk

I have many other boards on my Pinterest, including some pertinent to Elyden which might nor be for those of weak dispositions, such as Skulls & Bones and Oddities and Other Miscellaneaso head on over and follow whichever ones you're interested in :)

also, if anyone can help source the unsources images, please contact me so I can update them :)