Time for another Tough Traveling with Fantasy Review Barn. Unlike last week when I had absolutely nothing, this week I actually have a few examples to showcase!
The topic for this round is Hidden Kingdoms:
Usually reached through Caverns or after an arduous trek into the heart of the central massif, this is often the object of the Tour Quest and much of the Tour will be devoted to getting directions to find it. When you get there you will discover it is very beautiful and very orderly. The Dwellers will be either Mystical Masters or Elves, or both. The ruler, who will be grave, wise, and comely, will talk to you long and seriously about Magic and your aims in life. People will play fine, restful Music. You will be able to relax and feast. One good thing about this place is that they will either not serve Stew, or if they do, it will be strangely spiced and vegetarian. For a few days, you will think this is the perfect place, but after that you will be anxious to leave because it is really very boring. The Dwellers want you gone too. They find you unrestful. So they will give you a magical preview of what you do next (see Prophecy) and fresh supplies of Waybread and send you on your way to Saving the World.
So. This entry might as well be stamped Lothlorien.
I use these entries to talk about my own use of tropes, though, and this time I can identify four examples. The first is the most obvious, as reaching it is the initial objective of The Splintered Eye — and featured on the cover.
See all those thorns and that rose with the eyeball in it? Those are representative of the ‘hidden kingdom’ of Haaraka, or Haaracan il’Ninsyc’haithe to lay on some vowel-ful wraith-speak. Called the Accursed Thornland, the Realm of Lost Souls, or the Summerland alternately, it’s not really all that hidden; you don’t have to cross any mountains to get to it, or go through treacherous caves or labyrinths, or even fight any monsters. All you have to do is be able to see the place where its border intersects with that of its neighbor-kingdom, Amandon, and have one of the items that permits entry.
Seen below, it’s the large slightly-reddish area on the bottom right.
Why is it hidden? Why is it a required destination on Cob’s quest? Those questions are dealt with fairly thoroughly in the text. As for the other aspects of the trope, it does have its ‘Mystical Masters and/or Elves’, though I snicker up my sleeve when I say that. It also has a grave and possibly wise ruler, though he/she/it is not particularly comely. There is a discussion of magic. There might even have been music! Though I don’t think so, since music is something I fail regularly at putting into the text. Alas.
And they’re all vegetarians, so if they have stew, it’s definitely that option. Also hilarious to me. No prophecies though. No waybread, and no boring goodbyes. And certainly not a manicured or controllable landscape:
The grasses grew taller swiftly, interwoven with flowering thorn and berry brambles. The sky was thick with clouds but here they felt welcome, like in Illane when they graciously blotted out the searing sun. A mist of tiny raindrops touched him, remnants of the falling snow, and butterflies and fat bees flew up from the flowers as they passed. Creeper roses clung tight to the trunks of trees and laced bushes with their dark red blooms. …
There seemed no sign of civilization in this place: no fields interrupting the sprawl of grass and briar, no pruning on the wild apple trees they passed, no regimented stands of orchard in the distance. No houses, no gardens or vineyards, no rutted roads for carts. The path itself was little more than a deer-track. …
They had rolled into a cleft in the landscape; here, the briars thinned around a small, oblong lake, and further down the cleft he saw a cluster of low shapes growing from the sod, irregular and furred over with green yet obviously some kind of dwellings. A thick stand of fruit-trees shaded them, uncultivated, as if the homestead had been formed around them rather than vice versa.
No further details this time around.
The other three don’t get seen until later. Technically, the first might not be seen at all; Cob and company get near it but don’t enter it, and I’m not yet sure if they ever will. It’s called Syllastria, and it’s one of the wraith-cities hidden in the Forest of Mists — dead-center among those big trees in the middle of the lower-left section of the map above. It’s not very friendly, but has its Mystical Masters/Elves as well, if that’s what you want to call the airahene wraiths. None of the other bolded trope-words really apply except Magic, but that goes hand-in-hand with wraiths anyway. Cob’s companion Ilshenrir comes from there … sort of.
Second is the Imperial capital at Daecia City — the big star on the upper left side of the map. How is it a Hidden Kingdom? Well, the entirety of Daecia Province used to be its own kingdom before the first Emperor united the Heartlands, and technically it’s still a subordinate kingdom within the hegemony of the Risen Phoenix Empire. It just happens to house the Imperial Seat and be ruled directly by the Emperor, while the other kingdoms in the hegemony are ruled by kings and regents who bow to the Emperor.
And it is largely unreachable. There is only one road that crosses Daecia Swamp, extending from the city of Keceirnden in Amandon all the way to Daecia City. Subordinate roads branch off from it but none of them extend past the kingdom’s boundaries. Thus, short of slogging through the swamp, there is only one way in — and no one who travels up that road comes back out.
Not unchanged, anyway.
But that’s for The Living Throne to explain.
Finally, I want to briefly mention the Silver Kingdom of the Muriae. It’s believed to be located in the topmost heights of High Country Kerrindryr (not shown on that map), and is where the people of elemental silver supposedly live, their doors barred to humankind. Several of the series characters already have connections to the Muriae — Cob through his heritage and the spirit of Aloyan Erosei the Younger, Enkhaelen through *cough cough mumble cough*, et cetera — but we will be visiting them in the future. Up in their cold, thin-aired, tomb-like realm. They probably hit the fewest of those bolded tropes just because they don’t do magic, don’t eat, and sure as hell don’t sing.