World Building - People and Cultures
I think when you're writing fantasy, or speculative fiction in general, the world building aspect is HUGE. Personally, I found writing Shadow of Fire and it's sequel a thousand times easier than my contemporary fiction piece, because I was not bound by the rules of reality: real places and real cultures. I was free to do what I wanted, so long as everything worked within my own world.
I knew I wanted my world to be pre-industrial, medieval European (cliched I know but it was where I started). The land of Merawuld is an agrarian society, where crops and agricultural harvest formed the basis of the economical structure. That got me thinking about money - was there any? I decided that yes, there was, but don't go into great detail about it. I did however include the idea of contractual supply - a system where each village competes with the other to win a contract to supply the main city, Tyllcarric, with produce. In terms how how society operates, it isn't quite a feudal system - we have a queen and a mage council, ruled over by our charming High Mage, and while there is not a class system per se, there are of course those who sit on the lower rungs of the social ladder. Most people live in villages, and are happy with their lives, although if they possess magic (more on this in another post) they are offered the opportunity to train to use their powers at the Academy in the city, or can train to be healers, or White Women. Then there is always the queen's army, made up of men both young and old, keen for adventure and a purpose in life beyond what the village may offer them. Geographically, Merawuld is a rich and fertile land, where agriculture can thrive.
Now, moving west into the land of Estilleon. Geographically, we have climbed in altitude and crossed the mountains. It is a cold, harsh land, with arctic tundra in the north, short summers and bitter winters. The people who lived here needed to be tough to survive. So
I began researching. I researched the Vikings, but did not want them to be Vikings. I researched the Germanic tribes of the pre-Roman Iron Age (sometimes called the Goths) and I went further into Ancient Icelandic society. I had pages of notes, and a lot to sift through, until I was able to pull something from each, and combine them to create the culture and the people of a land ruled by winter. The people of Estilleon have a reputation for being blood-thirsty and are indeed war-like, but for good reason. Life is hard there, and even those who are privileged find it tough. In terms of social structure, it is a land ruled by a Chieftain, with each of the nine villages being ruled over by a Chief, whose allegiance is sworn to their Chieftain. They are great swordsmen and masters of the horse, and have learnt to adapt and survive in a landscape that gives then little comfort.
Then it was to the great forests of Eshlune, and Sitra, the capital city of the fae. This was where I pulled up a moment. I didn't want my fae to be the same as anything else I'd read. I didn't want them to be all-powerful. I didn't want them to be immortal. I didn't want them to rule the humans or even want to. But I wanted their land and their culture to be different enough that humans would both covet what they had, and treat them with suspicion bordering on fear at the same time. So I settled on a magical race who were long-lived, and who worshipped and revered the earth, who cared for the Mother in an act of stewardship, who acted as custodians of the land. I wanted them to live in harmony with the environment but, they're not a bunch of hippies either (not that there is anything wrong with that!). They have a warrior class who are not afraid to fight to protect their borders, and are possessed of elemental magic (more on magic in a future post). They are ruled by a King, who is chosen by the earth.
In each area of Aileryan, people follow the seasonal calendar and the Wheel of the Year, showing their connection to the earth and the seasons. This took a lot of research again and took me back to my pagan roots and led me down some paths I had not travelled in a very long time, but it was an enjoyable process.
I hope my love for my world comes through in the stories set within Aileryan, and you all fall in love with each place and the people that inhabit it.