Roaming the Realms - Tordale
With 'Roaming the Realms', I want to invite authors to talk about their worlds on my blog - see it as a tourist brochure for a world we will, unfortunately, never be able to visit. But Do you want to give your world a place in the spotlight? Then please contact me.
My guinea pig - I mean, the first author who is going to give this a try, is Jeffrey Pawlak. I had a great time working with him on the covers for his Legend of Light trilogy, and I'm thrilled to let him take us on a journey through Tordale, the world of his stories!
The Legend of Light is a YA, high fantasy trilogy that follows the adventures of Alamor and Raissa as they travel to the far corners of the world to find a way to save the land from a dark force that has descended upon Tordale. A story with fantastic creatures, great settings, and powerful magic aplenty!
The Legend of Light is set in the land of Tordale; a vast continent where diversity reigns. Whether it’s the geography, the peoples, the creatures, the magic, or any number of other traits, you’re likely to find something new and unique depending on what corner of the kingdom you take in. Only about half of the total continent makes an appearance in The Legend of Light trilogy, with entire areas and cities being mentioned throughout the story, but never actually seen. It’s a huge world that couldn’t possibly be fully explored in just one trilogy, but those corners that are only alluded to will someday be shown off in later works.
There are five major regions that make up the eastern stretches of Tordale, where The Legend of Light primarily takes place. Each one is featured prominently in the adventure at some point, all with their own inhabitants and environmental features that can be found nowhere else across the land.
The Plains of Oston
The heart of Tordale is dominated by the Plains of Oston, a fertile region of rolling hills and golden fields. They’re named after the very first King of Tordale, Oston Hokara, who united the humans of Tordale and established sovereignty in this sprawling countryside. Most people who call the Plains of Oston home live in Tordale’s biggest metropolis, Caldeya. This capital city of the land is named after Caldeya Hokara, King Oston Hokara’s wife, and the first Queen of Tordale. Caldeya is the central hub of all life in Tordale, attracting countless visitors each and every day. It is the primary base of operations for the Tordalian military, as well as the Hokara royal family, rulers of Tordale. The Hokara family lives in Tordale Castle, a grand fortress that rests atop a plateau just behind Caldeya.
Many miles to the north, the town of Geldiar stands as the second largest settlement on the Plains of Oston. While nowhere near the size that the city of Caldeya is, Geldiar is still a bustling town famed for its crowded marketplace. It is also renowned for what is perhaps the most esteemed military academy in all of Tordale, the Red Helm. Before the most promising soldiers make their way to Caldeya to serve either in the military, or as members of the Hokara family’s royal guard, they often spend years training diligently at the Red Helm. In many ways, the Red Helm is like the beloved college sports team of a small city; in addition to their studies of martial combat, the recruits are heavily-involved in the town’s daily affairs, learning to be reliable contributors to their community before they graduate to the military’s ranks.
The rest of the people who live on the Plains of Oston primarily dwell in small villages or farms which are interspersed throughout the countryside. Agriculture and animal-rearing are the chief businesses on the Plains of Oston. The fertile earth is perfect for growing all manner of crops, including grains, fruits, and vegetables, while providing plenty of natural vegetation for animals to graze on. Several rivers and streams provide clean water for the many inhabitants, while enriching the soil. That is not to say that life on the Plains of Oston is without struggle, however. The winters can bring freezing cold and heavy snow during their months; the vast stretches of land can be nearly impassable when buried beneath snow, and the relative emptiness of them allows frigid wind to soar through unimpeded. That emptiness can also prove a hindrance during the summer, when the temperatures can become quite hot. The burning sun can be hard to hide from in those open fields, with only the occasional grove of yew or beech trees offering shade.
Several animals which farmers and herders have domesticated originate from the creatures which roam the Plains of Oston. Wild horses, rams, oxen, boars, and wolves are commonly found across the countryside. Falcons can occasionally be spotted flying high above, and have been used by the Tordalian military to carry messages to distant targets. The most fascinating of all creatures on the Plains of Oston, however, are the legendary predators called Plains Panthers. They are most renowned for having never been recorded to prey on a human, or any of Tordale’s intelligent races. Instead, Plains Panthers have long been known to hunt wolves, wild boars, and other game that are troublesome—if not, dangerous—to those people who make their home on the Plains of Oston, particularly farmers. There are even stories of travelers crossing the countryside who were said to have had a Plains Panther quietly follow them during their trek, as if the majestic beasts were serving as a bodyguard for their travels.
These tales, along with the discerning nature to the Plains Panthers’ hunting habits, gave them a reputation as a protector of people in Tordale. They become so respected, that the Hokara royal family chose to include them in the symbol that would represent their family. The royal family’s emblem is perhaps the most prominent image throughout the world of Tordale in The Legend of Light; you can even find it being worn by the main characters, Alamor, and Princess Raissa Hokara. The emblem portrays a Plains Panther sitting regally, surrounded by four diamonds, one star placed in each cardinal direction; the Plains Panther represents the Hokara royal family, while the stars represents that their sovereignty protects the kingdom of Tordale in all directions.
Sleekleaf Forest is the largest woodland in all of Tordale, stretching for miles upon miles along its far eastern coast. It’s a deciduous forest primarily featuring ash, poplar, and Sleekleaf trees. The latter serve as its obvious namesake, and make up the majority of trees in the heart of the forest. Sleekleaf trees have velvety umber bark, and their boughs amass into pyramid-like shapes. They grow their thin, long leaves rapidly, as the leaves regularly fall from the branches in great numbers to nourish the forest floor beneath; a remarkable cycle of the environment sustaining itself.
Many of the forest’s animals take shelter within the Sleekleaf trees, including owls, colonies of bees, and the unusual, nocturnal creatures known as Phurixes, which are large, rabbit-like creatures with bright green fur, long, ropey ears, and big, violet eyes. There are other, less friendly beasts that call the woodland home. In The Legend of Light, one such creature that is encountered is called The Maldritch, otherwise known as “The Unseen Stalker”. It’s an enormous, winged insect whose exoskeleton can camouflage itself perfectly to any surface, even thin air, and become virtually invisible.
The humans who reside in Sleekleaf Forest live in a handful of villages and trading posts, but they’re the minority within the woodland when it comes to its inhabitants. The Bachus make up the majority of Sleekleaf Forest’s permanent residents. Bachus are an intelligent race of large, mammalian creatures who resemble human-sized badgers. They primarily live in a vast network of tunnels and caverns below the surface of the forest, only occasionally coming above ground and exploring the forest floor. The underground dwellings are appealing to the Bachus for far more than just the safety they provide; the tunnels and caverns offer a surprising amount of nutrient-rich plant life, and some of the cleanest water that can be found in Tordale.
Perhaps even more important to the Bachus, Sleekleaf Forest’s subterranean space is loaded with precious metals and gemstones, which the Bachus eagerly mine for on a daily basis. The Bachus love to work just as much as they love to party; their mornings and afternoons are spent laboring diligently, whether it’s to excavate new riches, cultivate their underground crops, or forge metalworks in their smiths, while their evenings are spent enjoying great feasts where they overindulge in food and drink while singing, dancing, and enjoying other merrymaking.
Hundreds of years before The Legend of Light, humans were more commonplace in Sleekleaf Forest. The Daulor family, a noble clan who served as vassals to the earliest Kings and Queens of Tordale, governed and watched over the woodland as the Hokara royal family gradually established its sovereignty over the land. The Daulors lived in a massive fortress called the Jade Keep, which they built deep in Sleekleaf Forest. Eventually, the Daulors abandoned their grand dwelling to allow its walls to protect a sacred source of magic unlike any other in the world. At the start of The Legend of Light trilogy, the Jade Keep has been uninhabited for hundreds of years, save for the many spirits of ancient, virtuous heroes who stand guard over that aforementioned magic.
Not far from the Jade Keep flows the Cabos River, whose currents is pristine no matter how far along it runs throughout the woodland, yet is also powerful enough to carry sizable trading vessels. The Cabos River originates from Lake Eliar, and empties into the eastern ocean.
The Tower Mountains
The Tower Mountains is the biggest and longest mountain chain on the continent, beginning their climb near the Plains of Oston and running all the way to the frigid waters of the northern ocean. These mountains are believed to be among the oldest landmasses in Tordale, many rising during the earliest days of the continent’s formation. The Tower Mountains are like one giant labyrinth of stone and rock; there are few roads which run through them, and even experienced adventurers can get lost within the twisting mountain paths the deeper that they venture.
The air is cool in the mountains, naturally growing chiller the higher you ascend. Winters are often brutal, bringing heavy snowfall and furious, frigid winds that will throw you clear off the mountainside if they don’t freeze you, first. As far as humans go, most who call the Tower Mountains home live in the city of Tirth, which is built at the base of the chain. Only secluded tribes of people live deep in the mountains, but even their existence is debated. If they do, they certainly would be in danger of the many storied behemoths that are said to stalk the northernmost mountains.
There is one race which has few foes to fear in the Tower Mountains. That is the Baroso, known by some as the “Bear-men”. They resemble wild bears, but stand, walk, speak, and can use tools just like a human could. This blend of intelligence and primal strength makes them perhaps the most fascinating, but also the most fearsome, of all of Tordale’s inhabitants. The Baroso primarily live in reclusive tribes who prefer to remain cut off from the rest of civilization and the other races. The Rockclaw tribe is the largest and most prominent, making their home in the Tower Mountains along a series of ridges that they call Rockclaw Rise. Despite their savage reputation, Baroso are very smart creatures, proven to be experts of utilizing natural resources prudently, and to greater effects than humans and other races have managed. The Rockclaw tribe, then, has a complex system of spiritual beliefs that sees them revere a pantheon of ancient, empyreal beings who they believe lead to the creation of the Tordale that is known, today.
When the winters become too brutal for even the Baroso, or a severe rainfall threatens their village with mudslides, the Rockclaw tribe take refuge in a massive series of caverns that run deep below the mountains called Underpeak. Many of those caverns house copious veins of gemstone, and even lush vegetation that could not grow above ground in the cold mountain air. These elements often draw the attention of Gemthreshers--hulking, armored beasts who use their enormous horns to tear through solid rock to find minerals and vegetation, which they eat.
The Tower Mountains has more flora than one may think would grow in such a rocky environment. While short grass and small shrubs are most common, vivid wildflowers often bloom along the banks of some rivers. Spruce, aspen, hawthorn, and all manner of fir trees can regularly be seen dotting the slopes.
Several of Tordale’s most incredible natural wonders lay in the Tower Mountains. The many winds which soar throughout the peaks gather together onto one point deep in the mountains, forming a massive air current that inexplicably flows skyward. This awe-inspiring airstream is called Wind’s Way, and it leads to a lofty, frozen paradise at the tips of the tallest mountains known as Skyscape. In that icy realm among the clouds and the mountaintops are the Aesur, a race of beings with pale blue skin, and bands of snow white plumage on their limbs that allow them to soar like birds should they catch a sufficient air flow. The Aesur migrated to Skyscape hundreds of years ago to escape the troubles on the surface world, finding an idyllic utopia high above Tordale’s floor. Certain Aesur are masters of the magic called Airtaming, which grants them the power to control the direction and intensity of wind.
On the very edge of the continent’s northern edge is Heaven’s Bay, where the frigid, salty waters of the northern ocean meet with the thunderous flows of the Tower Mountains’ three largest rivers: the Vaetheos, the Ataara, and the Kahmer. These three rivers empty their currents from some of the tallest mountain passes, where their mineral-laden waters meet with the ocean’s tides. Heaven’s Bay is often referred to as the birthplace of Tordale, as it is believed to be very first spot where the ocean began to carve into the continent and shape the land.
The Arid Reaches
The Arid Reaches is a treacherous desert in the northeastern corner of Tordale, but it wasn’t always like that. 700 years before the story in The Legend of Light, it was the northernmost stretch of the Plains of Oston, where the climate was its warmest, but its earth most fertile. That all changed when the catastrophe known as Scourge swept through that part of the land. Scourge was a mysterious, unexplained mass of destructive energy that blighted plant life, poisoned water sources, corrupted living beings, and committed all other forms of subversion. It was banished by the great heroes Ralu and Xogun, wielders of the benevolent magic called Serenity, but the region was forever scarred by Scourge’s spread.
The air became permanently dry and stifling, while the earth became brittle and broken. It was estimated that the population in those parts was halved. The sun is not merely harsh in the Arid Reaches, it can be deadly if one is exposed to it for too long without some form of protection. Windstorms occasionally manifest within the heart of the desert, sweeping up the loose soil and creating sheer blizzards of sediment. These sandstorms can be heavy enough to bury or literally suffocate those who cannot find refuge from them.
In the centuries following Scourge’s rampage, chaos festered in the Arid Reaches. The region was so devastated, and the population so reduced, that order disintegrated. As anarchy reigned and the Hokara royal family’s control slipped away, the Arid Reaches became dominated by ruthless hordes of outlaws. Many were formed by the surviving inhabitants of the region, but many also formed by peoples from all across the land who sought to loot and exploit the troubled corner of Tordale. Pockets of peaceful peoples remained, unable to migrate and find new life elsewhere. In the era when The Legend of Light takes place, these people primarily live in secluded, struggling villages.
Several centuries after Scourge’s spread, then King of Tordale, Aurilion Hokara, initiated a campaign to reclaim the Arid Reaches. He sent in a small army to stabilize the region and drive out the bandit hordes, but he underestimated just how much manpower and how many resources it would truly take to bring the entire desert under the royal family’s control. As the conflict drew on, and the cost of it increased, support for it waned among the peoples of Tordale. To avoid a lengthy, unpopular war, King Aurilion Hokara withdrew his troops earlier than he originally hoped to.
The Tordalian military failed to reclaim all of the Arid Reaches, but it did secure a small portion in the south, where they established a base of operations called the Azure Sands Outpost, named for the bountiful spring of clean water it was built around. What started as a military fort eventually grew into a bustling town that became home to both military families, and to people originally from the Arid Reaches seeking refuge from the desert’s many perils. The people of the Azure Sands Outpost occasionally make pilgrimages to the Sandstone Mausoleum to lay their dead to rest. The Sandstone Mausoleum is an ancient temple that was built before the inhabitants of Tordale had any form of written records. Its original purpose remains unknown, but in The Legend of Light, it stands as a burial ground for the dead, and as a sanctuary for a sacred source of magic, just like the Jade Keep does in Sleekleaf Forest.
Rainfall is exceedingly rare in the Arid Reaches, but natural springs of fresh, clean water can be found at several oases. The most verdant part of the Arid Reaches is a marshland in the southeastern corner called the Gracereed Wetlands, where several streams connect with the ocean. Innumerable species of plants thrive in the lush Gracereed Wetlands, many bearing nutritious, as well as poisonous, fruit. Graceereds are stalks thick enough that water will not filter through their stems; when the ends are plugged, they serve as makeshift canteens for those who are daring enough to cross the desert.
Despite its harsh climate, the Arid Reaches is home to a variety of different animals, all with natural adaptations to survive in the trying environment. The Grimali are like a cross between a giraffe and elk, tall creatures with long legs who travel in herds. They graze from the top of palm trees, which few other creatures can reach. Gritbacks are large arachnids who can burrow into the dry earth to find what moisture is locked away there, but are often the prey for Dunehounds--gangly canines whose long legs and compact paws allow them to move swiftly and quietly over the sands. Most feared of all creatures in the desert are the Kaivu--huge predators who are like a hybrid of a bull and a monitor lizard. Their hides are thick enough to resist most steel blades, and their claws and tusks capable of rending armor. Perhaps what is most dangerous about them, however, is their ability to move like predatory cats, bounding along uneven surfaces as if their paws can stick to whatever they touch.
The continent of Tordale is surrounded by vast oceans that stretch farther than any cartographer can map. It is believed that other lands may rest atop the waves untold leagues away, but no sailor from Tordale has ever discovered them, and returned home to tell the tales.
The oceans are often regarded as the last regions were nature holds dominion. Although they are dotted by small islands, humans do not inhabit them. The only intelligent race making their home in the oceans are the Onda--man-sized, bipedal reptiles who are home underwater just as they are on land. They can swim as gracefully as any fish, yet they are also proficient using weapons like swords and spears, which they often fashion from the sturdiest seashells, fishbones, and coral that they treat to become as hard as rock. The Onda mostly populate the warmer regions of the ocean, being unaccustomed to survive in the cold. The majority of their race live on Onda Reef, a massive island of chromatic rock that is surrounded by an enormous coral reef.
The Onda command a unique form of magic called Waveweaving, which allows some among their numbers to manipulate water in their nearby presence, shaping it to their will. This magic gives them such control over water that they can create air bubbles over the orifices of a land-dwelling creature, granting them the ability to be submerged and breathe as if they were on dry land.
Originally, the Onda lived on a rocky, mountainous island called Waverock, but migrated from it when the great Samuras began to use the island as her most common resting place. Samuras is a titanic reptile thought to be from a time long before intelligent creatures roamed Tordale. She is bigger than any battleship in the Tordalian navy, and is strong enough to pulverize one with a single blow. Known as The Queen of the Ocean, Samuras roams the waters around Tordale maintaining the order of nature. She does not attack unless she deems something a threat to the tranquility of the oceans, but to make an enemy out of her is sure doom. The Onda revere her as a guardian, and their matriarchal leaders are fluent in a form of vocalizations that Samuras can apparently understand, allowing them a limited, but proven means of communication with the legendary behemoth.
The oceans are filled by many other creatures; whales, rays, eels, crustaceans, cephalopods, all manner of fish, and untold more. In certain areas, the ocean floors are alive with great gatherings of vibrant kelp and other aquatic plant life, often coming together into what looks like underwater fields and forests. Kelp holdfasts sometimes form just beneath the waves; masses so large that they resemble floating jungles within the water.