Category Archives: State of the Lands

State of the Lands: Memorials

Thou art wise to consider such a synthesis, Solemn. There are worlds aplenty, but only a single nature.

-Final Judgement, The Eye of Kog

It struck me while driving, like many worthy thoughts do. And that meant of course that I was doomed to forget and recall it many times, each round trip getting closer to permanent remembrance. How do we commemorate those we know, who we admire and want to emulate? There are many kinds of memorial, of course, but the first I think of are those carved in stone, in a field of many others, each with a few brief

Hope Cemetery VT

words burdened to somehow say it all. And it’s not always stone– sometimes you see “In Memory Of” on a dark wooden pew or fading in and out with the credits of a movie. But it’s almost always brief, here in the Alleged Real World: even when the medium is intended to last forever, the words take just a flicker of time, as if they were only a spark to kindle on the fuel of our recollection.

The Lands of Hope have none of these, not really. Some few, the heroes, are echoed in living devotion bordering on worship. For the rest, either someone remembers you or they don’t.

There is a narrow category of exception, though; the Children of Hope DO indeed memorialize at times, in very much the way we do. There are plaques commemorating the Battle of Tor Perite, and the discovery of Liftos Gas, the liberation of the Giant-siege of Stathos, the first bridge across the River Sweeping. You see the pattern? Events, great deeds of Hope are usually severed from

Just lighten up on the gas pedal awhile.

the persons who performed them. The Pious Warrior Yula won that battle and is duly mentioned in the inscription– hardly surprising, since he became Emperor of Argens as a result. The names of Able Patent and such are included on those others as well, toward the end. But not always, and never prominently. Succeeding generations of Hope are taught to attend to the act, not the actor.

But there’s another, tougher difference that needs mention here. One reason the Children of Hope do not dwell on the lives of those they erect plaques to celebrate is because in nearly every case, those lives are not yet over.

Hope does not memorialize the dead. At all.

To be honest, they don’t even much like thinking about death, because the Children of Hope haven’t had any guidance on what happens to them after they die. This is one of the chief reasons folks reject the Man in Grey: Solemn Judgement was not born in the Lands and since his father spent his last breath getting him there, Judgement is driven to find out whether death has a “sequel”.

Of course many of us share this need, and there is nothing at all wrong with marking the end of an earthly life. The Alleged Real World has an advantage in this, because many of us believe in a life after death. And also, we have a place, a natural spot set aside to create the memorial.

But in the Lands of Hope, loved ones are cremated, the ashes scattered. Only the Children of Despair put the bodies into the earth; the word kemetaria conjures horror, and the prospect of necromancy. When Feldspar explores Old Cryss in Fencing Reputation, he comes across a rare example of a surviving graveyard:

To my left in the nook of the next corner was a small area ringed with a low, two-foot fence of metal spikes; I caught only a glimpse of the irregular rows of stone markers within and turned my head away with a snap. I had heard the stories, but hoped like most children that this one wasn’t true. No such luck- they had really done it, those grand fools of long ago. So proud, so eager to show their spirit even in death, they had built a kemetaria, and allowed their bones to be put under the earth- an added challenge for their souls, to rise despite the odds and still attain heaven. Confident and sure, they had put their flesh into the ground, like the children of Despair. No wonder death had rained down on this place.

-Fencing Reputation

There may be other graveyards built by Hope, but very few (it was the passing fad of an Elvish nobility influenced in ways beyond their understanding by Despair). The colossal ancient kemetaria discovered by Solemn Judgement in The Eye of Kog was immediately destroyed by virtue of the miraculous lore he unearthed (quite literally) during his adventure there.

Point being, if you have no place to put the body, you tend to emphasize deeds during life instead of trying to summarize it at the end.

In the Lands, there are songs sung and stories told of great deeds, naturally; but not all of them are old or concerning folks who only lived long ago. Trekelny in Three Minutes to Midnight seems confident that there will be songs sung about his stupendous act of Stealth, and looks forward to hearing them himself. And yet, almost no person in the Lands knows what an epitaph is.

Here in the ARW, we’ve come to memorialize outside the graveyard, especially in places where people are likely to pass and see. Roadside memorials always make my heart drop, because I instantly know I’m looking at an unhappy ending. It’s a little like the graveyards have burst, and now spread among the living. But from what I see, the messages sometimes get longer, and are often uplifting or even hopeful. For those that are sad, I understand. It’s not usual to know a loved one has suddenly died and think “ah yes, they lived long enough”. No, it’s always too soon.

Stone Mountain Georgia, Confederate Generals a hundred feet high: Lee never wanted memorials to his war

One last thought comes to me, more triggering really but a difference that must be mentioned.

When the doer of a deed is alive to see the inscription, there’s a lot less monkeying around with their legacy.

But those long dead can have memorials erected that they did not aspire to, with messages twisted to suit a later generation. We are wrestling today with such a problem, trying to sift out the good from the bad like mixed grains of rice and wheat, and as a result some memorials will come down. If driven by justice, that will be good.

Better still, if we remember the virtue as well as the deed, as they do in the Lands. Let us tell the tale of each other’s glory, sing songs and keep the flame of those we admire alive. Surely what happened in life is of more value than the loss we feel on its passing.

A somewhat more joyous remembrance
Hope Cemetery



State of the Lands: Getting There

Thou art wise to consider such a synthesis, Solemn. There are many worlds, yet only a single Nature.

-Final Judgement, “The Eye of Kog”

At first I thought this was not a truly worthwhile topic. Transportation, seriously? What could be more obvious; folks in the Alleged Real World can travel further and faster, duh. Well, except for the magic parts… and traffic jams OK. We use more metal when we travel; the Heroes of the Lands, oftentimes, take out the metal once they arrive. It’s a question of plane-cloudswhether the end is the means, when looking at moving in the two worlds I know of.

Here, We’re There

What lecture should I offer to fellow residents of the ARW about what it means to travel? I’ve been privileged to ride first class on train and plane, helped to sail a trimaran, looked down from a (safely-tethered) balloon, and pretended to be on all of those vehicles as a child, riding my bike for endless hours. Jumping in the car with the family and driving further than a wagon-train could go in a week? No big deal, be back home in time to feed the cats. I take travel casually, don’t you? We need to hit three cities in different parts of the country on business, an expedition that would have taken DeSoto or Polo weeks to arrange, forty men to support, and have no certain chance of success. Now, it’s click-click on a screen, ho-hum and what did you bring me? By any comparison to the Lands of Hope, traveling across the Alleged Real World means we’re already there.

commutersAnd gobs of us are there. We travel in myriad packs, we flow like water in and out of airports and carparks, released through gates at the sound of a bell like some plethora of greyhounds. The race is all, but we don’t expend much effort, mighty engines do the work. Heads half-down, we pass canyons and forests but stare at screens we already had back home. There’s a kind of horrid, undifferentiated sameness to the traveler, because nothing exists except the destination. Our name is legion.

A People Set Apart

In the Lands of Hope, the great majority don’t travel at all. The heroes of ancient days, much like the adventurers of more recent times, are distinguished by– and feared for– the distances they cover. Because it’s hard, for one thing. I have estimates, in my notes, about the space one can cover in a full day’s riding, or walking, and the numbers are pathetically small. The Lands are roughly the size of the continental US turned on its side, around 3,000 miles north to south and at least 1,000 wide between the Western Sea and the Swords of Stone. A few people, a very few, can use hoof or keel to move them about. The rest need to walk, and most, quite understandably, never bother.

Walk with Me

LoH_kg_1_map northern landsSolemn Judgement undertakes a great peregrination of three kingdoms in The Eye of Kog. Ejected from Conar (picture the “10” on a clock), he sails south (counter-clockwise) for more than three weeks in his one-man skiff to the Elven land of Mendel (“7”). There, he is denied the convenience of further travel up the River Sweeping and is forced to walk to the capital fourscore leagues inland. Being neither wealthy nor well-liked, Judgement needs to stop along the way and work off his passage at the estate of a local Theme. He receives mail from his friend Cedrith too late to arrive in the city before his wedding day. On to the ferry crossing and into Shilar (“4”), he hikes north across that kingdom to the foreboding wildlands of the Plains of Ranebruh (“2”), where he can at last hope to locate a dread secret that may protect the Children of Hope from the curse of necromancy. If he’s not eaten first. It’s five hundred leagues if it’s a step, at least half that distance solely on foot (pun). When Solemn Judgement approaches a village, the sound of his boots and iron-shod staff are enough to unnerve the inhabitants.

Tak ting-tak, tak ting-tak, a measured, relentless pace clicking closer and hinting at doom. Strangers always attracted attention here in the remote northern reaches of Shilar, and in winter they were as rare as warm days. Several dozen people had gathered between their cottages before they could even be certain whether it was man or woman who approached along the south road.

No one in the village of Barden had ever seen the Man in Grey before, but that made them only more certain what to do.

-Excerpt from The Eye of Kog

Judgement is a hard man despite his youth. The scary parts, the ones I tell you about with Created with Nokia Refocustombs and sorcerous bolts and ghouls in them, sometimes pale in my mind compared to the staggering alone-ness he suffers, walking endlessly from hamlet to town, varying the lack of company on the way only with the distaste of everyone he meets when he arrives. In the book I’m chronicling now, he has been in the Lands of Hope for less than eight months. In that time he’s covered enough miles on foot to get a free flight to Disney World. For two. But why would he ever go? And who could he possibly ask to come along?

How Slow Can You Go?

Yet Judgement sets a strong pace when he walks, alone and without treasure. Sometimes the price you pay for company in the Lands of Hope is moving at a crawl. In The Plane of Dreams, a party of adventuring types has arrived in the southern city of Wanlock, telling hiker2tales too tall to be believed if not for the priceless artefact they have with them. From deep in the desert, a party of nine would-be heroes  hauled out a human skeleton turned to solid gold, a distance of at least 50 leagues from the subterranean Despairing city of Jengesalamur. I was so fascinated by this exploit I did some back-of-the-envelope calculations about the weight and the strength of the party. It’s a staggering feat, and “stagger” probably best describes their pace for most of the distance they covered. But all that wealth… and did I mention the nine-foot animated iron statue pursuing them? No white Bronco could hold a candle to the drama of the low-speed chase I witnessed coming off the Shimmering Mindsea in 2002 ADR. It’s nothing we in the ARW would trouble with. We either move it at 60 mph or we leave it behind.

So in the Land of Hope, the journey is itself an adventure, not measured by distance so Created with Nokia Refocusmuch as the purpose (which on its face is often life-threatening) and by the company kept on the way. It can take what seems like forever. I often tell you about the part of the characters’ lives that you pay least attention to in your own. they can also cover limitless spaces in the blink of an eye. The major cities of the Lands are endowed with gates, and now that things are starting to pop as the Age of Emptiness ends, a few are using them. Poor beleaguered Cedrith, wanting nothing more than to return to his homeland and marry his beloved Kia, is able to win such a trip in The Eye of Kog. Immediately recalled to Conar, he insists on the ceremony, and is denied the honeymoon. His travails, as seen in his later letters from the road, sound somewhat modern as he frets over separation from his bride on the long overland route from Conar to Shilar– 10 to 2 in clockwise fashion– where the small towns have no gates and those at the destination have forgotten how to use them.

Between the Leagues

The heroes of later years sold that golden skeleton, then traveled without moving an inch, as they had to fall asleep to access the Plane of Dreams. But the first stage, finding the Chamber of the Troll Kings where their nightmare-trip could start, was a slog through many dangers and grim opponents. And the Plane itself is both nearer and farther than any terrestrial voyage could be. You’d have to ask Galethiel the specifics, or perhaps the Man in Grey she met there. But don’t expect either one to be too talkative.

No matter the distance, the journey itself, I find time and again is the part I need to tell you about. It doesn’t really matter if you drive or fly hundreds of miles a week, or never leave your own back yard; if you take your “where” for granted, then any time you have to think about it becomes an adventure. No conflict, no story sure; but maybe we should be a bit hiker1less focused (driven!) to “get there”, as if our whole tale lies at the end of the line. As a chronicler I hope to take readers on a kind of journey– like a dreamquest or vision– that could bring you as far away as you’ve ever been here. Yet you can stay on the couch the whole time!