Writing: Backstory

This may never show up in the novel it is for. I don’t know. I kind of like the “start with some intriguing backstory of the world” introduction to a novel. I get mildly frustrated when it’s clear there is “known lore” in the world that the characters all just know but it takes the author AGES to finally tell ME (the reader). I also like a world-history deep enough people go “oooh, I want to see that story written out too.”

Twelve hundred and eighty two years ago the great age of magic ended. It was called the magical bane; within minutes every man, woman and child with the mage talent died. Their spells unraveled, their magical compulsions snapped, and many magically created creatures escaped their enclosures. Deals with demons caused the greatest havoc as those deals were not ended properly, the demons did not get the souls of the magicians they had contracted with. No one knows how or why.

Over the next century these problems wrecked great calamities on the land. The great river nymph of edonies moved her flow around a dam and flooded the lowlands. A tribe of mountain trolls took the lands of the Indolcae people and enslaved them. The trolls still control those lands, although most of the humans have either fled or been eaten. No one knows what happened to the dwarves in the mountains. Diplomacy and trade, although desirable for the deep gold mines in those lands, comes with a risk of ingestion. The plains on the far side of the Naimere range became infested with monsters, an infestation which six hundred years of annual culling has only diminished, not ended.

North of the edonies river and west of the Naimere mountains Queen Gewhen carved out a safe haven after her uncle and father passed in the bane. She held off the incursions of the Indolcaen trolls, relocated the edonies lowland refugees, and accepted thousands of refugees to farm the new fertile river banks. Her eldest daughter died defending the Drumcana Pass in the Naimere mountains from monsters crossing from the plains. Gewhen passed soon after, leaving her fourteen year old son to inherit the throne of the country known as Gewhenia.

Fortunately, King Nemor knew his uncle wanted the throne, and as soon as he became king, the young man called on his five warrior friends to come to the new capital. The smartest of these young men was the king’s best friend and the son of his wet nurse, Sir Chamocan. It was Sir Chamocan who routinely outwitted the ambitious of the king’s uncle to wrest power from his ward. With these five warriors as his designated guards, King Nemor was able to survive until his nineteenth birthday when he claimed his rights as the sole king. In the millennium since, the king has usually appointed five advisors and warriors to guard and guide his successor. 

The King’s Five acted as friends and advocates for a prince and then as guardians and advisors for kings. Generally close in age, these young men have proved to provide a bulwark against corruption of the royalty. Over the years it has become tradition to always find a youth without nobility and raise him with the royal family from the age of ten or so, instilling the traditions and manners of the court. This particular advisor, known as the Chamocan has over the years often been an advocate for the people and a powerful bulwark against noble oppression of the people.

Then, during the millennium celebration of Queen Gewhen’s coronation, the King’s Five were murdered by plainsmen from across the Naimere mountains. The king at the time, Taedal, was still a young man, only twenty-three. He mounted his knights and called in levies across the land. Leaving his young wife and infant daughter, the king rode onto the plains on a path to destroy any plains clans he could find. Ten thousand men crossed the Drumcana pass. Less than a hundred returned within a few months with tales of horrific monsters, a strike from a clan of plains men wearing red hats who crucified the king, and each died within days of returning home as though they had only been animated by the need to tell their tales.

The kingdom nearly fell to chaos in the ensuing decades. The young queen, terrified that her child would be murdered as her husband and his advisors had been, emptied the coffers to build a massive fortress for the king, his family, and many high ranking nobles. When a famine struck eleven years after the death of the king, there were no funds to import grain from the southern land of Prinait or from across the inland sea. Thousands died while the queen demanded they finish her protective fortress.

When Duke Laizinmore finally brought his own guard to the fortress, he found the young king, Bitis, nearly starved, the queen attempting to whip a corpse to continue building, and many of the prisoners she had enforced into labor resorting to cannibalism. Declaring the queen insane, the Duke took the twelve year old boy in custody. For six years no one in the kingdom saw the young king.

When the young king was coronated at nineteen he was already a father to an illegitimate child by Duke Laizinmore’s daughter. The young countess had no shame in her liason with the king, nor did he suggest they should marry so any future children could be legitimate. Without five advisors, King Bitis began to rule with a selfish demand. He enticed several young women in the court to become his courtesans, soon having six illegitimate children and no clear heir. He passed when he was thirty-five without ever marrying any of the dozen or so women he fathered children on.

Duke Laizinmore declared his grandson was the rightful king, bringing in his own levied men and knights to defend his grandson’s claim. Thus began a brutal civil war which lasted four years. In that time, seven of the twelve children of Bitis were killed or disappeared. Three were taken out of the kingdom by their relatives and promptly married into Prinait or western island families. 

One princess of Bitis fled into edonies river, preferring drowning to the death her half-brother and Duke Laizinmore had planned. A child of eight, she re-emerged three days later without human eyes, instead being a green so intense none could meet it for long. Princess Yimotor then cast a spell. The first spell seen in a millenium.

The river split, forming an island around where the child stood. Trees lifted their roots and came to her, shifting and growing into a living tower in the center of her island, nearly three miles across and ten miles long. Within days an army of flying monsters landed and in their own tongue swore loyalty to her. She declared herself not the heir of Bitis, but rather of her forefather far removed, the mage who once ruled near the river edonies. She would remain on this island, and so long as none attempted to harm her or any who sought sanctuary with her, she would never attempt to take land from her half-siblings or their kin. So it was the first new school of mages was founded, the Edonies Island School. Two of her half-brothers joined her although they did not share her mage gift.

Queen Ovuca eventually emerged triumphant. The second child of Bitis, his father struck a deal with Duke Laizinmore when the duke’s grandson lost a leg and an arm in the fighting. Queen Ovuca would marry her half-brother. If in five years there were no heirs, she would be free to remarry. Duke Laizinmore’s son bore no children with his queen, instead having bastard children with the daughter of his wet nurse much like his own father. The Queen remarried and when her first son was born, she betrothed him to her half-brother’s youngest daughter, a girl of three. 

The Queen installed ten children around these two chosen royals when they turned eight and eleven respectively, six from the noble families, two from the merchants, and two from landed free folk who had been tested as intelligent and capable. She brought all twelve children to her court and wrote a law that until the named heir was eighteen they would be required to have a King’s Five with them at all times. Once they reached their majority, they could choose to dismiss these advisors, but while they were minors they must live with their Five. 

The union of King Cronada and Queen Tenada finally put to rest all questions of the succession in Gewhenia. 

Meanwhile, a hundred years after murdering the king of Gewhenia, the plains clans banded together to form a country they called Wearid. These clans crossed through the Naimere mountains again. None knew the paths they used over the mountains, the trails and streambeds instead of the pass. The guard at Drumaca pass were unprepared for an assualt at their rear and were slaughter to a man, woman, and child. Villages miles north and south of the pass were raided. Women and children stolen, cattle, food taken back through the pass. When help arrived , they found carrion monsters from the plains feasting on the remains of the pass guards, the fortifications burned or toppled.

King Cronada learned from his forefather. He did not attempt to lead an army onto the plains, but offered a reward for the head of every confirmed Wearid warrior. So knights and lords planned smaller raids onto the plains. A war of small battles, raids, and stealing ensued for the next two hundred years.

When King Kaga was fifty years old, an envoy from Wearid arrived in livery as fine as any in Gewhenia. Speaking on behalf of thirteen of the fifteen clans on the plains, he was an emissary to sue for peace. The bounties had become a burden to the royal family, and King Kaga was seeking to ensure his twenty-two year old daughter married well, so he settled on a non-aggression pact with the emissary.

Then, fifteen years ago, the peace was broken. It is unclear who broke the peace. A hunting party, including the prince’s sister and brother-in-law were riding in the Naimere mountains. A hunting party of Wearid men met them and fighting ensued. The Princess was killed, and her husband the Duke returned with a child of the plains. He claimed they were attacked, the emissary of Wearidsoon had intelligence which claimed the princess instigated the fight and initially stole the child.

The duke insisted the plains men had lied. The emissary soon left to confer with his king and no further emissaries came back to Gewhenia. Fighting broke out for a short time within the mountains and on each side. The Wearid men withdrew, allowing monsters to fester along the mountains’ edge instead of directly engaging Gewhenia. A stale war with rare raids from one side or the other usually ended in an engagement with monsters rather than warriors.