Like Vikings and High Fantasy? Read My Short Story Below

Next Saturday, I am speaking on Worldbuilding at the Breathe Writers Conference. Worldbuilding is what makes our nominal worlds believable.

Normally, worldbuilding happens below the surface like the unseen portion of an iceberg, propping up a story. The reader never gets to see most of these writings, just feel their influence on the story. Today I pull back this veil for a moment.

This is a short story I wrote to help me understand the mythology of a people in the second book of my fantasy series. I don’t normally write with this tone but this people group has a rich oral tradition.

Imagine this story presented by an elder in the heart of the darkest winter around the warm fire of a viking-esque longhouse.

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A Long Dark Winter

It happened during the Long Winter. The longest yet and the longest still. Your grandfather was just a boy, barely tall enough to carry a Gungnir. Winter was colder then. Snow deeper too. Not long had Daleheim been settled and the stones for Olof Tower had been hewn but not laid.

At that time a son was borne to the Great King Adolphur. That night, the torches of Daleheim burned bright fighting back the endless dark of winter. Mead was poured generously and the people were warmed in body and spirit. Adolphur named him Litill Madur for he was strong even as boy, and was soon numbered among men.

As Madur grew, he braved the wintry passes of the mountains for game and even crossed the frozen river Hvita. It was then he noticed the fair Bloma, and she him.

They were pledged to be married when It came. Our people were not prepared. A fell winter descended from the mountain peaks and stayed until summer. The cold brought snow and the snow brought death. Sheep and mountain goats died in numbers not seen since but not from the tempest. For the weather brought more than biting cold, ice and snow. It brought them. It brought the Vargr.

The day before their marriage Bloma and her servant Ivana went to the wood at the foot of Mount Teldor in search of white crocuses. The day grew dark and Bloma sent Ivana to fetch lanterns and men to watch over them. When Ivana returned she came upon a scene of great struggle. Dirt and brush had been cast about the snow and all that remained of Bloma was a single patch of her dress soaked in blood.

Just then Madur returned from a three day march in the mountains in search of game for the wedding feast. When he heard of what happened he was struck mute with grief and despair. He fell to his knees and stared at the scene and did not move.

In time, a darkness beyond pain and anger filled him. Then, to mock his anguish, their came a great high-pitched cry as if the beast laughed from afar. The cry roused Madur and he took up his Gungnir, bade his hunting party stay, and ventured forth into the dark.

When the king heard of what had occurred he took his Gungnir, went to the edge of the wood and waited. The hunting party requested permission to enter the dark foot of Mount Teldor in hopes of finding Madur, however, King Adulphur forebode it as this would not honor Madur’s quest.

Days passed.

King Adulphur did not speak. He refused food and drink. No one spoke but instead stood by their King in deafening silence.

On the ninth day, a commotion was heard from the pine wood and from beneath the shadow of an evergreen tree came Madur. He was covered in dirt and wounded unto death. In his arms he carried Bloma. She was dead. Slung over his back was the head of a creature unknown to them.

Madur laid his bride on the cold, hard earth.

‘The beast took her to the far north toward the Forbidden Wall. These creatures live there in great numbers.’ He told them no more. Instead, he lay down next to his love, joined hands with her, and breathed his last.

The king was overcome and wept. He looked at the head of the beast. It had the look of a fey wolf, but the size of a bear. He gazed at it for a long time before taking it in his hands and marching to the foundation of Olof Tower. King Adolphur placed it there, next to the cornerstone.

The people of Daleheim gathered round and the king spoke.

He told them of his son’s deed and love for Bloma. He then decreed for this beast to be hunted to extinction. If any boy should be called a man, he must claim such a prize as the head of this beast, this Vargr.

In a months’ time, the Great King Adulphur died during a hunting quest of his own.

Thus began the coming-of-age hunt for the Vargr and the end of the line of the Daleheimian Kings.

 

 

 

Worldbuilding 101 Part 1 – History & Myth – Where Worldbuilding Begins

At Jot 5 I’ll being doing a Workshop on Worldbuilding. If this sounds uber nerdy to you please head to the previous post or patiently wait for tomorrow’s. Today is for the nerds. Or is it?

My firm belief is that great stories, whether classic literature or commercial fantasy, all go through a world construction process. Authors call it many things – research, plotting, and the like but it is all the same. We are creating a believable world that beckons our readers. Galaxie_peinture

All stories start before stories begin. To be less confusing, en medias res is Latin for “in the middle of things” and it is a common phrase we writers know. The ship has already sailed, the orphan is already orphaned, the civil war lost, the argument over, and it is from this aftermath that we start.

Where would Harry be without the Death Eaters and their previous war with the Order of the Phoenix?

Where would Oliver Twist be without the unfortunate death of his forebears?

Exactly. The happenings before our story are essential.

History can bring shame or laziness to a people. It can also produce tenacity or vengeance. It is not a ripple effect but the exact opposite, sloshing toward and interacting with the center point of it all – our story, our people, and our characters.

Whether you are writing a myth like The Simarillion or something concrete with a litany of historical facts like a history book, this is where we begin the process of formulating the culture from which our hero, heroine, or anti-hero rises. It does not have to be intricately detailed but we must know what happened before it all.

If you are a writer of fantasy or science fiction please stay tuned. We’ll talk about maps next.

What are your thoughts on this?

How do you start to build your world?

Cheers,

Bob