Respond, Answer, Ask: Fantasy Edition

I loved this thread back in my hayday on NaNo Forums past, and I checked the main site only to find the thread from last year was pitifully short. I got the sads about that, so here I am, putting this up over here. I do not expect this thread to get much traffic before the site and this forum go live, but like I said, I have missed it.

Usually, someone picks up from where someone else left off before the forum wipe, but this is a new forum, and although I could pop over to the main site and get the last response from that thread, it would feel kind of weird, especially if that person isn’t over here yet. So instead, I’ll give you a piece of lore from my world that you can respond to, and a question to answer, and we’ll go from there. I will set up the general pattern these posts will follow, as I remembered them being laid out.

  1. This is typically where you would put your response, but since I have nothing to respond to, I’m just going to move on.

  2. This is where the question is answered, but here, I’ll give you a piece of world-building from my Sisterlands setting for the next poster to respond to:
    Weddings in the Sisterlands involve a haven circle (a piece of land bound by a circle of haven trees, which are very very tall and beautiful, and which charge the land they surround with magic). The bride and groom, or whichever other combination of soon-to-be-wedded you prefer, each start at one side of the circle and walk toward each other, meeting in the middle. Since one well-known attribute of haven circles is that the magic of the trees makes the land within them grow over time without changing the exterior perimeter, this walk can take a little time, and the older the circle, the more likely it is the couple will have to speed things up magically, either by flying, singing themselves to within sight of each other/the central marker, or something similar. Once they have met in the middle, the officiator of the wedding snips off a lock of hair from each of them, and braids it into a strand which is wound around the couple’s right wrists and tied off. It’s customary to make sure your hair is long enough on your wedding day that the Wedlock is long enough to slip out of when the ceremony is over, because cutting it is something only ever done symbolically if one is having a divorce. The couple either ensure this by magically growing out their hair on the day, or taking a year or so to grow it out naturally between betrothal and wedding. There are, of course, some lovely vows exchanged while the Wedlock bracelet is in place, and after the ceremony, it is removed and placed in a box kept by the couple, and buried with the one who dies last in the event that their union lasts until death separates them. Divorces do happen, but due to their society being built on mutual respect, there are more happy marriages than unhappy ones.

  3. Question time! Tell us about something unique to your setting, be it a mineral, a plant, an animal, a race of sapient beings, or whatever else you fancy. :slight_smile:

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  1. I love, love your spin on handfasting. My wife and I handfasted at our wedding, so it has a special place in my heart. The idea of the locks of hair is so beautiful and meaningful. I also found myself swept away into the image of the magical trees and the circle and glowing earth. I want to know more! Like how the magic affects the union and ooh it would be so cool to read a wedding scene like this. I hope you plan to include one in your story. I also felt the heft of the symbolism of the last to die being buried with the cord. I’m also intrigued by the society being based on mutual respect and how that would impact different parts of society. Thanks for the interesting read!

  2. Something unique about my setting is that even though it’s a city, matched and unmatched familiar animals live there as well. Not in like the sense of talking animals with little houses or anything, but natural places are woven into the city where snakes, lizards, salamanders, owls, ravens, crows, bats, rats, and cats can find food and a place to sleep. So wild animals are seen much more frequently around the city than one would see in our world. Not everyone has a familiar, especially young people. There has to be an event of some kind that binds them. It’s sort of a familiar finds the witch type thing. There are also some more rare familiar animals like wolves, dogs, foxes, etc. Familiars also do not fight each other. Although they may defend their witch in extreme circumstances. Because they are potential familiars, animals enjoy a more protected status within the social structure. This includes all members of society being vegetarian. At least that’s the idea so far. It’s subject to change.

  3. How is some part of a social structure different in your book that it is in real life? For example maybe the social strata are based on different things like power, personal attributes, intelligence, or gender. What is the class system like? Who holds the most power and the least? Is there social mobility?

  1. I love how your cities incorporate animals into them, as well as the familiar lore surrounding them. Is there a specific thing that defines which familiars are rare or not?
    It’s neat how the magical familiar bond affects the animals and their living situations in your setting, instead of just being a small detail.

  2. There’s a lot of room for social mobility within the Tornian Kingdom, but in places like the Combined Quarters, not so much. The story takes place in two different nations-- in Torni, where you can move upwards if you have a particular skill, or befriend the right people, and in the Combined Quarters, where you’re kind of stuck where you’re born until the day you die. The Combined Quarters is the poorer of the two nations, but their royals try to make up for it by living lavishly. In Torni, which has more money, the royals tend to live separate from their people, without any interaction between the two. They tend to handle everything through their courtiers and ‘generals.’

  3. How do political systems work in your world? Is the government in your book based in any particular real life government?

  1. Interesting dichotomy between your two countries. They both seem to have recognizable counterparts in our own world, including the fact that the Combined Quarters royals live “lavishly” to compensate for being poorer. I think that’s found all over the world even today. And I love the name Combined Quarters!

  2. My current project features five dominions. The country that has its stuff best together, Candra, is a little more than a crowned republic, though the ruler himself is elected by representatives from a predetermined pool of candidates. The island of Aldoris has a queen because she’s the only reason it’s still independent—otherwise, a council of oligarchs manages the day-to-day business. Seff is an absolute monarchy modeled after imperial Roman politics. Wendoris (a series of islands) is a vassal state of Seff with an appointed viceroy who is very good at pandering to Seff’s king and being otherwise a completely cowardly worm. And the main country in which my story takes place, Ardrana, is a rapidly crumbling absolute monarchy, whose queen has begun negotiating with Seff’s king to become a vicereine of her own country in exchange for a massive civil crackdown she can’t handle herself to stop an inevitable revolution. Ergo, story.

  3. What kinds of food does your world/country/culture feature? What impact does it have on the economy and social setup? Does it influence/affect your characters and story?

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1. @merry_abandon I don’t see elected monarchs in fantasy very often, so it’s interesting to see that as a part of Candra, even if I don’t know anything else about it. What’s their state of emancipation like — you say their monarch is elected but you don’t say who by?

Beyond that, it sounds as though Seff is on an expansionist track, which makes sense for a country compared to Rome, even if much of its expansion just now is in picking up protectorate states? You say absolute monarchy, but as you brought up Rome is there a senate if any power?

Revolutions are always a good source of plot, but what is driving the revolution in Ardana?

2. What kinds of food does your world/country/culture feature? What impact does it have on the economy and social setup? Does it influence/affect your characters and story?

While there hasn’t been an utter disaster since Marin became the Marin my characters are attached to, Feeding Everyone — at least, feeding everyone in the ways they’re used to being fed — has been a concern on some level ever since the Republic’s articles were first written.

The problem isn’t necessarily the capacity of the island for growing food — there is certainly farmland in the interior that hasn’t been reclaimed by the tropical forests — but it is ill-suited to growing cereal staples that mainlanders are used to (and which are increasingly common everywhere since mainlanders are the dominant cultural group). It’s planted, but it’s the crop most likely to fail and Marin has to grow easier crops native to the Karaki Isles — sweet potatoes and tuber crops espeically — in larger numbers. The island also contains citrus groves and grows tomatoes and peppers, but these are a little less staple. Otherwise, you’ll find goats providing milk and sometimes meat, a porcine population and some other livestock, and many chickens mostly kept for eggs, but a lot of the protiens people eat come out of the sea.

Cereal grains are a concern largely because they’re such a cultural staple for mainlanders who live there, though. Marin does try to get ahold of them — its tough for them to do so legitimately because they aren’t part of an empire, though, and the Imperial Trading Companies in the area have such a stronghold over a lot of trade on the Karaki Isles. So buying it from Isles with better geography for grain is less of an option. ITCs don’t generally deal outside of their colonies, empires, and client states, and the massive monopolies are designed to lock out people who aren’t part of that ecosystem. The ITC monopolies do make smuggling just about anything a business, though, and they’ve certainly traded for it with smugglers.

Beyond concern over grain? Well, more than half of Marin’s population makes their living on the water. If it can be preserved in brine, it is — pickled citrus and peppers in particular are common both as preservation and as scurvy prevention on the water, and salted fish is the single most common protien onboard a ship as well, just for practicality’s sake. Fresh water is, uh, very difficult to preserve on wooden ships, so alcohol also features fairly heavily. Beer would be most traditional, but Marin has the same issue getting hold of it as it does bread. Rum is less common on the island than some others on the archipelago for other reasons, but varius fruit wines they can make or get ahold of in some volume and do. It’s not necessarily good wine, often, but it’s safe to drink and it will usually get you drunk.

Off ship? Well, anything you can’t get on one is usually pretty popular amongst the sailing population — anything fresh, and things difficult to preserve for a voyage, and so on. Barbecued meats are popular with most people on the occasion land animals are consumed. Marin has a wet and dry season but can produce food year round.

And honestly, the need to diversify from the grain staple has likely produced healthier pirates sailors, anyway.

3. What’s something your characters need to take on faith — what stories or myths within the setting? Regardless of whether you, the author, know it to be true.

Or, if you’d rather, what kind of religions are in your world? Ancestor worship, poly- or monotheism, animism, something else?

  1. I’m glad your ahem, sailors have access to citrus! As a citrus-lover myself, the idea of it being pickled isn’t one that appeals to me, but needs must. It’s also pretty amazing how much thought you put into a society that for various reasons, has to adapt to not having grains as a staple in their diets.
  2. I would say the dominant religion in the Sisterlands is a belief in the Sovereign, which the Three Sisters brought with them when they came from the stars, but that’s less a religion as you might be used to, and more a practice of loving and sharing and understanding and respect. It’s part of the belief that the Sovereign made everything and gave it to the peoples he created, but that the Lightless One corrupted his creation by enticing people to do evil. However, the Sisters’ focus was on maintaining peace, as the three nations they came to were on the brink of doing war with one another, mostly to defend their freedom (The ancestors of the Talenasians were escaped slaves, the ancestors of the Maravians were from the light-skinned people who had done the enslaving, and the ancestors of the Amaritani were explorers who found the continent pleasing), and not enough of them spoke the same language that they could communicate and talk things out. The Sisters used magic to bring down the language barrier, and succeeded in getting everyone to reach an understanding, and as they learned more about the history of the people to whom they had been sent, they got more invested and more righteously angry, and so they worked to instill the belief in them that people should be treated with respect and kindness, and that helping others in need was a noble pursuit, among other things. The Sisterlands flourished as a result of the Sisters’ teachings, so many modern Sisterlanders follow them to this day. There is a sect who worship the Sisters instead, a practice they strongly discouraged when they were around, since though they were long-lived and powerful, they weren’t goddesses. Alas, some people never listen however many times they are told. And so many things were named after the Sisters in the early years, including the kingdoms themselves, their respective capital cities, and the currency denominations used in all three kingdoms, which were in themselves quite harmless decisions, but fueled that little fire into something that lasted until this day. The Sister-worshippers get a bit fanatical about things from the stars, but they’re mostly harmless. (Translation: I’ve not thought too much into them yet and don’t rightly know what to do with them.)
    Other countries have varying religions and belief systems—The Olvirites have a Pantheon of gods similar in certain respects to the Ancient Greek one, and they’re a people of music and art and wine and trade by sea, so their stories get around. I’ve honestly not thought too much about the religions of other places—my world-building tends to fixate on cool new items, cool new people or stuff about the Starshires—but I’m trying to get better at this. I think part of my problem is not knowing enough about non-Christian cultures, not that I don’t want to learn, but that I’ve just not gotten enough information over the years due to limited resources.
  3. Food was brought up earlier, so how about clothing? Are there particular fashions unique to your setting? What types of clothing are typically associated with people from your culture?
  1. So would you say the culture as a whole tends to be fairly pascifistic? Has that mindset ever caused conflict with their neighbors? (I’m thinking something like an expanding imperialistic society that doesn’t want to talk, for instance.) How “devout” is the average person and have any competing philosophies ever come up to challenge the Sister’s teachings?

Clothing in Sylva depends heavily on location and wealth. Most common are leathers and furs – especially on the plains and among the people who raise the bison that feed most of the rest of the country. Intricate beadwork is still used to denote things like what Hearth someone belongs to, any great deads, or remembrance for those lost.

Dragon-cloth has begun to make its way up from the south – a blend of various alpaca/llama wools that is lighter weight and warmer than the leathers, but tends to be a bit gaudy for Sylvan tastes. Dragons like bright colors and abstract patterns that don’t symbolize anything, which goes against a lot of the Sylvan aesthetic. It has begun to be popularized as the art of weaving is slowly making its way north and the draconic traders are figuring out that they can make a better profit off of the raw wool.

Cotton and silk will occasionally make their way east over the mountains, although trade tariffs with the Artificers currently make them too expensive for common folk. That, and Sylvans tend to think Artificer clothing styles look silly. Sylvans tend toward gender-neutral, simple cuts that are easy to move in and focus their attention on how much decoration goes into a formal vs everyday garment. Artificers, on the other hand, tend toward highly gendered styles and pile on the corsets and frills and buttons wherever they can. (think steampunk meets renaissance.)

  1. Pick, or what does society consider taboo?

I would say that the Sisters discouraged war if it could be avoided, so they don’t start fights. They also live on their own continent with a fair stretch of ocean between them and their nearest neighbours—the Olvirites, who are on quite good terms with them and trade freely.
One big advantage Sisterlanders have is the magic the Sisters brought with them, which was passed into the human population via their many, many children. As the centuries passed, the magic spread through the populous until everyone had it (it is a trait that doesn’t fade with generations, but becomes woven into one’s genetic code once introduced). This means they have an advantage over anyone who might invade (usually from the White Kingdoms on the continent of Araland who want their resources, since they’re a rich continent with plenty of fertile land, helped in no small part by the havens).
I did initially intend on them being a rather isolated society, but decided that was highly implausible over a period of thousands of years, so now there’s a lot of history of the Sisters and their children rescuing slaves and the disadvantaged from the White Kingdoms, and giving them the option to return to their homelands or stay in the Sisterlands, and sometimes born Sisterlanders decide to travel, so there are pockets of magical folk scattered throughout Olvir, Araland, Arnandesia and Delzythania (all names subject to change).
And again, it’s less a religion and more a society-wide agreement to not be a dick. Not everyone agrees with it, but unlike in far too many real world countries, those who do are in the vast majority.