These past few weeks have found me deeply engrossed with writing the final book in my DARK LORDS OF EPTHELION trilogy entitled, “CASTLE OF BLOOD.” Having fallen in love with the setting and characters all over again, I thought this would be a good time to elaborate on some aspects of the series. This post deals with the location and peoples of the six kingdoms composing the continent of Epthelion, where the series takes place.
The densely wooded and sparsely populated mountain kingdom of San-Leyon has no defined political structure. Situated in the farthest southeastern corner of Epthelion, this former province of Barren-Fel had thrown off the yoke of Barren-Fel’s heartless tyranny and, under the leadership of a stalwart bowman named Arronmyl San-Leyon, declared its independence.
San-Leyon, the kingdom, serves mainly as a source of lumber and a hunting ground to those brave enough to venture into its unfriendly gloom. For years it was whispered throughout Liedor and Valhalea that a race of small gnome-like creatures made their homes in hollowed-out trees deep in the heart of the forest.
Otherwise, the populace consists of small bands of hunters, highly-skilled archers who prefer a simple life and rarely interact with those from outside their borders. Living deep in the forest, they ignore for the most part the occasional visitor who comes for a wagonload of firewood or an elk or deer. But with the arrival of the warlock king, Ryadok, who uses their land to breed his fearsome war beasts, the hunters of San-Leyon have forsaken their policy of noninvolvement to join their neighbors in the struggle against this new threat.
Situated due north of San-Leyon, Barren-Fel looms above the rest of Epthelion like the ominous thunderhead of an approaching storm. It is a remote, heavily forested, and mountainous land rich in minerals and precious metals, peopled by a rugged race of miners and shepherds, with a few agricultural settlements adjacent to neighboring Liedor to the west.
Ruled by a series of evil kings and sorcerers, Barren-Fel enjoyed a brisk trade with the whole of Epthelion in the early days, for its gold, silver, and gems were greatly renowned and in high demand. A ten mile wide strip of flat land along its western border yields abundant crops of potatoes, grain, corn, and alfalfa, but these fertile lands were seized by Liedor during a campaign waged solely to enlarge its territory. A few of the Barren-Fel peasantry grudgingly assimilated into Liedor; those who resisted suffered heavy losses of life and land before fleeing to the mountains.
Understandably, Liedor’s expansion bred ill feelings throughout Barren-Fel, and Ryadok used this discontent to his highest advantage before and after ascending the throne. Believing promises that, along with the recovery of their lost lands, the entire realm of Liedor with all its wealth would be theirs, the peasants eagerly allowed themselves to be organized into a highly efficient and disciplined war machine.
Unsatisfied with the conventional weapons of the day, Ryadok employed the Black Arts to conjure a mutant army. His prize, however, was personally and carefully created in his dungeon deep in the bowels of his remote castle: The demonic beast called Baugonril.
Liedor, directly in the center of Epthelion, is a fertile, well-watered agricultural plain. The Ashgard River thundering out of the towering Alpenfel Mountains to the north divides the kingdom in half as it journeys south into neighboring Valhalea. The pleasant farmland soothes the turbulent waters, transforming the rushing rapids into a half-mile-wide, smoothly-flowing estuary brimming with fish and waterfowl.
The land itself is a veritable patchwork quilt: fields of golden grain and vivid yellow mustards shone amid the dark greens of potatoes, alfalfa, and myriad other vegetables. Orchards and vineyards flourish in the rich black loam. Sleek fat cattle graze blissfully on velvety carpets of grass.
Winters are mild, with little snow. Summers are pleasant enough, except for August, when the air turns hot and muggy. Early spring brings abundant rain, and autumn nights are cool—an absolute necessity for the crisp juicy apples for which Liedor is renowned.
Southern Liedor is quite flat, but near the center of this quaint kingdom the land rises into gently rolling hills dotted with small but bustling communities. The industrious farm folk take great pride in their work. They follow a simple creed: Anything not worth doing well is not worth doing at all.
Mysterious Nimbia, the northwestern-most kingdom, lies entirely in the precipitous Alpenfel Mountains. Most of its cities, of which Aerie is chief, are built into sheer white rock cliffs.
The Nimbians are a highly-cultured and intelligent people, skilled in music, art, literature, and medicine. Their nobility have special healing powers, and an elite group of magicians and mystics called the Arganians create and maintain the beautiful and comfortable environment in which the people not only live, but thrive.
Along Nimbia’s southern border live the Lesser Nimbians, who favor a more terrestrial lifestyle on the lower slopes and who provide much of the food for their brethren in the cliffs. Here herds of goats and cattle graze in grassy meadows, and the pleasant tones of shepherds’ songs played on pan pipes waft on the gentle summer breezes. Bands of Ha-Ran-Fel Horse Lords, stopped for an afternoon rest along the Elgar River, often hear these haunting melodies and tarry an extra hour just to listen.
The windswept steppes of Ha-Ran-Fel lie directly south of Nimbia and west of Liedor. The scattered tribes of nomadic horsemen that for centuries populated the land have gradually united into a loose-knit confederacy ruled by a king. The seat of power is Tagenryd, situated in the foothills of the Alpenfel Mountains, which tumble over the border from Nimbia into Ha-Ran-Fel.
These fierce warriors are known far and wide for their unshakable valor, their ability to sit a horse as if they were part of it, and for their unrivaled skill with bow and arrow: every horseman of Ha-Ran-Fel has the uncanny ability to hit a sparrow in flight with an arrow launched from the back of a horse galloping at breakneck speed.
They are also known for their cruelty—their ancestors drank an enemy’s blood from his own skull, and had also been known to make horse trappings from the skins of captives flayed alive. Many of these barbarous practices, however, had been abandoned long before the events of this story.
Besides their prowess in battle, the people of Ha-Ran-Fel earned another reputation: they are renowned throughout Epthelion for the swift and sturdy steeds they breed.
The final kingdom—Valhalea, located in Epthelion’s southwestern corner just below Ha-Ran-Fel—is a prosperous and complacent kingdom. Her wealth from industry, agriculture, lumber, and livestock has lulled her into a sense of false security.
Valhalea is a beautiful kingdom, much resembling Liedor, with fertile valleys swelling into gently rolling hills that rise gradually to meet the towering, fog-enshrouded Mystic Mountains to the east. The chief city of Atwall is a bustling metropolis composed of a business district surrounded by suburbs sprawling in every direction, much like the tentacles of a gigantic octopus. Two arched stone bridges on either side of downtown span the Ashgard River, which runs through the middle of the city.
In the business district, merchants tend well-stocked shops. Ever watchful of their wares, they have caught many a wayward child trying to sneak a toy or piece of candy while its parents pretended not to notice. Street vendors hawk wares from gaily painted handcarts. Droves of bored and idle youths loiter in the plazas and in front of stores, taunting and harassing passers-by.
Proud, prosperous, and doomed to fall—so is Atwall, along with the whole of Valhalea. And fall she does, at the hand of one of her own sons.
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