Worldbuilding Wednesday #07: Under the Tormal Shadow
Time for a new subject for my Worldbuilding Wednesday posts! I’m going to start talking about my oldest ‘verse: the Tormal Shadow verse. Once again, please bear in mind that these posts do have major spoilers for future and current stories. I’ve released very little of this verse to date but there will be a great deal coming over time for this world. As in somewhere between eight and fifteen novels and scads of short stories.
Let’s start with maps. This one is the first map I ever did for the Tormal Shadow ‘verse. It shows the map of the world according to humanity:
This map was something that I just started doodling. I had no idea of the world or what would go into it. I didn’t know any of the stories. There wasn’t even a basic concept of whether or not this would be a SF ‘verse or a Fantasy ‘verse. I grabbed a sketchbook and started drawing a coastline, then filled in the topography and then later sketched in boundaries for countries. After that I created random names for the various countries.
I do that every three or four years. Making maps is wonderfully fun but I inevitably start creating stories to go with them so I try not to do it too much. Too many worlds to think about at one time is overwhelming for me. Doesn’t stop me from doodling worlds, of course, but I do try to limit myself.
I started by outlining the coast and then filled in the details as I went. One of the first things I added beyond mountains was the legend “Forest of Perpetual Rains”. It was a fun concept, something odd and different, so I threw it in. That sent me in a fantasy direction immediately because only magic, probably Godly magic, could make it rain all the time without every stopping. And yes, the rain never, ever stops in the Forest of Perpetual Rains. The best you’re going to get is a slow misty rain that soaks to the bone.
That bit of random creation influenced the rest of the map. I realized immediately that hey, if it’s always raining the water has to go somewhere. That means a swamp or a really big lake. I decided on a swamp because I already had the thought of D&D campaigns where they slog through swamps and delve into abandoned temples.
Swamps meant Trolls, big people-eating creatures that, being somewhat perverse, I decided were the most intelligent and technologically advanced people on this planet. Also matriarchal because why not? I’ve been fond of matriarchal cultures for a long, long time. I decided on the spot that the females are substantially larger and more powerful physically than the males (by a factor of 35 to 50%) and that everyone on the continent other than the Tormal Dragons are afraid of them.
Because yes, I had to have dragons in this ‘verse. I love dragons, you see, so I decided to include many races of dragons. And then I decided I had to have Elves and Dwarves, too. At that point I was headed for a Lord of the Rings clone-world and I really didn’t want that. Dragons, Elves and Dwarves are such old tropes though that I decided that I needed to add a different spin to each species. Otherwise it would be boring to write, much less to read.
So instead of dragons being monsters that eat humans, collect treasure and get slain, my dragons became intelligent beings that live 50,000+ years. They’re the oldest and wisest races, yes plural, that every other race respects and fears. I spent a little bit of time and decided that I wanted Dragons as big as a one-story house, ones that were the size of a horse, and others that dug into the earth like gophers. I wanted venomous Dragons and Sea Dragons and whole species of Dragons with different languages and cultures and histories stretching back millions of years.
Then I decided that there had to be one race of Dragons who were dramatically different, though I didn’t spell out yet how they were different. I named them the Tormal and they became the biggest big-bad of this entire ‘verse. There’s so much about the Tormal that they became the center of this ‘verse, thus the name for it: Under the Tormal Shadow. I’ll probably talk about them later in more detail just because they’re so strange.
I threw in Dwarves in the far north as a sort of casual thought but then I had to develop how they’re different from traditional Dwarves. So, instead of making them people who dug for treasure, my Dwarves are fighting Ice Demons who want to overrun the world. They’re the defenders of the warmer lands, consigned to their caves because the temperature is too warm for the ice demons even in winter. They’re safe underground. Instead of miners seeking treasure, my Dwarves are the greatest and most determined warriors this world has ever known. I really like the Dwarves and have to write something about their epic battles with the Ice Demons eventually.
Then I thought about the Elves. Most Fantasy stories (which tend to be based on Tolkien) make their Elves immortal and unchanging, graceful beings that know everything and are all wise. I didn’t want that. I decided (after calculating how many generations it would take to span oh, 200,000 years because I wanted cultural drift and change in their societies) that my Elves weren’t immortal. They live 3500 to 4000 years at most. I also decided that there are multiple races of Elves with different cultures and different appearances, just for the fun of it. I even drew pictures of how their ears differed because I wanted to.
Deciding that my Elves had multiple countries and cultures meant I needed to have their view of the world:
When I drew this map it gave me a chance to expand on the first one. And it gave me a chance to expand mentally on how the various races viewed each other. You’ll note that in the human map there are different sorts of Elves indicated: Frozen, High and Sea Elves. But in the Elvish map there’s just one block for ‘Human Lands’.
That set me to thinking about the hierarchy of the races. Obviously, Dragons are at the top of the list. They’re followed by Trolls, Elves, Dwarves, Pixies, humans, fairies and ghouls. You’ll note that ‘human’, ‘fairy’ and ‘ghoul’ are not capitalized in that list. There’s a reason for that.
Humans, fairies and ghouls are not considered truly sentient by the other races.
Which of course means that all sorts of racism happens in this ‘verse. There’s also heavy classism, sexism and pretty much any ‘ism’ you can think of. Tormal Shadow is not a pretty world. It’s one that’s had huge amounts of trauma and destruction, much of which I’ll talk about next time. I’ve gone kind of long already. Up next time, a discussion of the history I decided on for the Tormal ‘verse and how it influenced my world building.