Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Map Reveal: World of Uhl

Without further ado, I give you, ladies and gentlemen, the world map of Uhl.

World of Uhl map

The one thing that's immediately noticeable is how hard it is to read some of the names! That's why, if you click on the map, you'll be taken over to the World of Uhl web site where you can view a larger version. Even on that larger map it's a bit hard to pick out details. I think what I'll wind up doing is sectioning the map off into quadrants and putting those up. Alternatively, if money wasn't an issue, I'd have my mapmaker break out each kingdom and we'd drill down from there, highlighting each area in greater detail. But, there is that money thing, so that's probably not going to happen anytime soon.

I realize these places don't mean much without their being some context or relation to my books. So, let's drilldown a little.

The Hall of the Wood tells the story of a patroller returning home to the Simarron Hall. That Hall (it's actually one of three) is here:

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In The Five Elements, I jump over to Seacea and the Dormont Forest.

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The shoreline and the forest are really the only points of context here. No Norwynne Keep, no Wildemoore Manor, no witch's house. You'd have to jump over to the map of the Barony of Fallmere to see that level of detail. Therein is one of the problems: detail is nice, but it also clutters up the map. So, I tried to generally stay high level here.

Races of Uhl: Dwarves

Each Friday for the next so many weeks I'm going to highlight some aspect of Uhl, the fantasy world in which I set my novels. Posts will include details on Uhl's people, places, races, and more.

An excerpt from The Five Elements, wherein we find Shanna getting her first good look at her dwarven captors:

"Keln, how went the hunt?"

Right away Shanna saw that this dwarf was indeed different from the others. His clothes—leather breeches and a loose fitting shirt that clung to him from the damp—were cleaner and of a finer cut. Long, blondish-red hair was pulled back straight from his forehead and must have reached halfway to his waist if not further. His beard was braided and neatly groomed, though littered with drops of moisture now. As thick of body as any of the others, surliness ruled the dwarf's narrowed brow and steel-blue eyes. But there was thoughtfulness there, too, especially as he looked past the one named Keln to sweep his gaze across the prisoners.

Keln did not answer right away. Instead, he briefly studied the other. His examination started and ended with the great weapon slung across the other's back. Shanna thought it odd that it should be wrapped from handle to blade in a thick layer of cloth.

"You have it, then?" Keln said, the braids of his beard swaying as he gestured with his chin at the large cloth-wrapped item.

"Yes," the other replied. "I have it and, with it, leadership of the clan."

Again, silence, until Keln said, "Yet, you do not bear it proudly. Why is that, brother?"

"Because," the other said, his voice suddenly a rumbling landslide, "it is an accursed thing and you know it."

Keln weighed the other's words, then he nodded. "Aye, tis a double-bladed weapon in more ways than one, eh?"

"Truly," the other said, his voice calm now. "Pity Kelgin's indulgence with it was brief. I intend my time with it to be longer. When we return home, Soljilnor will unite the clans. With it in my possession, I will claim leadership."

"And if that leadership is challenged?"

"Let any dwarf do so and he'll soon find himself basking in the fires of hell."

The dwarves of Uhl are a chthonic, congenial lot who adhere to a lifestyle ruled by unity, strength of will, and, above all, patience. They believe in what they can see, smell, and touch, having little use for such concepts as luck or fate, and are renown throughout Uhl as master blacksmiths, armorers, brewmasters, and cooks. They take great pride in the sampling of their own creations. Dwarves favor the comforting gloom and solidness that is found underground and will never make their homes anywhere else. Dwarven families tend to be large, with four or five children being the norm. Both sons and daughters are loved equally. They have little use for reading or writing. Lore and stories are passed down through the oral tradition.

They are a short, stocky people, standing about 4 to 4 1/2 feet tall with ruddy cheeks and brown, black, or red hair and beards. Clothing tends towards the drab side as bright colors cannot be seen well in the half-lit dark of their realm and so serve little purpose.

The beard of a dwarven man is sacred and worn with extreme pride. It is a symbol of their honor, courage, and devotion. Some wear their beards braided, others loose. None shave or trim them as a general rule. Only those dwarves who have committed the most heinous of crimes are made to shave theirs off, for a dwarf who has no beard is branded an exile, one who is no longer considered dwarven. A disgraced dwarf is looked upon by his own people with disdain and contempt and, by others, with pity.

Uhl boasts seven dwarven thane fortresses. They are Rillock, Dwathenmoore, Heidelheim, Akenraen-tor, Berjendale, Merkinjel, and Brokken-tor. Only some are in close proximity to any other, but even those are separated by hundreds of mountainous miles. While each thane holds true to a set of common dwarven traditions, each has evolved their own variety of customs, rituals, and way of life. Each is ruled by a single thane lord.

Note from the Author

While I found it an easy decision to do away with elves, there just wasn't any way I was going to part with dwarves. They're too fun of a people to write about. My dwarves are everything one might expect. But don't think of grouchy Flint from Dragonlance or congenial Gimli from Lord of the Rings. In The Five Elements, dwarves are more akin to Viking raiders. Sometimes I think I may have put a little Cimmerian in them as well. They are fierce SOB's who look upon the weak with disdain and the strong with envy and possibly respect if it is earned. They enjoy having a good time—they're dwarves, so of course they do!—and a good fight. In The Five Elements I introduced readers to a handful of dwarves from the Fire Rock clan. As the book ended, some of those dwarves were still onboard the airship, Griffin. I'm not forgetting about them. In The Nullification Engine, which is the next book in The Alchemancer series, they're back and better than ever. That group had some nameless faces in it by necessity. Those characters' time has come, though, as they'll get the full treatment in the next book. Their names? Hirad Bolheim, Kimlor Rusk, and Ardus Arkor to name a few. Kind of strange to think that these characters, who took part in the slaying of many at Norwynne, now get to become heroes of a sort. But that's how my books work. Only a very few are truly evil. The rest are just like you and me, doing some good, some bad, making mistakes, but ultimately trying to come out ahead in some fashion. That about sums up dwarves.

View my gallery of dwarves on Pinterest.

Read more about the people and places of Uhl at the World of Uhl.

Races of Uhl: Eslar

Each Friday for the next so many weeks I'm going to highlight some aspect of Uhl, the fantasy world in which I set my novels. Posts will include details on Uhl's people, places, races, and more.

An excerpt from The Five Elements, wherein Aaron has his first real encounter with the enigmatic eslar mercenary, Ensel Rhe Alon:

Aaron started to round one of the chairs, then froze. A sheathed sword was leaning against the chair and a satchel rested on the seat. Aaron knew neither belonged to his master. The bag was of plain leather, bereft of design, with a fur-lined shoulder strap and nothing to distinguish it from any other bag. But because the sword was there, eslar glyphs so plainly etched on its bone hilt, Aaron knew exactly to whom the items belonged. He also knew that sword, satchel, and owner were never far from each other. Probing the darkest of the shadows, he saw nothing at first. Though his gaze swept over the remainder of the room, it quickly returned to that single corner furthest from the light. Even then, he did not see him until he chose to reveal himself. First, stark white eyes appeared from the gloom. Then a sleek, blue-black skinned face crowned by a shock of rust-red hair emerged. The rest followed until a man stood revealed. No, not a man. An eslar. Master Ensel Rhe Alon. Tall and lean, he was dressed for nocturnal events: black brigandine armor and dark leather elsewhere. A long coat stained dark with dampness from the road reached nearly to the floor. Without a word, the eslar came forward, the starkness of his eyes never leaving Aaron's. He lifted the satchel from the chair with one hand. He extended his other toward Aaron.

"My sword," he said, his words a near whisper.

Eslar are an ancient race whose origins are steeped in mystery and the shadows of elder times. The aura of secrecy surrounding them has remained murky over the decades because eslar lands are cut off by a variety of natural and unnatural geographic features, including the haunted Dead Lands to their north and the sitheri-infested Grimmere Swamp to the south. West lies the Merrow Woods, but there dwell the krill, who suffer trespassers only as long as it takes for them to hunt them down and kill them. While these boundaries have made eslar into a reclusive race, some do find their way to other parts of Uhl. The rare encounter with one of their kind will reveal a people that loves to laugh but that has very little sense of humor of their  own. They are intelligent and industrious, as comfortable around a book of spells as they are an engineering diagram. Their melding of science, sorcery, and alchemy is said to be unparalleled.

They are unique amongst all the peoples of Uhl in that they are united under a single banner. Their kingdom is called Panthora and it is ruled by a magocracy of unknown size and make-up. Isia, their capital city, is a place of spiraling towers, magnificent domes, and vast gardens.

Tall and slim, their skin is blue-black in color, eyes are stark white with no pupils, and hair varies from rust red to copper in color. The hue of their every day clothing leans towards metallic colors and consists of long tunics or gowns, leggings, and simple shoes.

Panthora maintains a standing army of disciplined soldiers who have been known to test their mettle against warriors of the Freelands on occasion. These regulars are experts with sword, bow, and pike.

Like any people the eslar nation has seen dark days. Their darkest came with the ascension of the Masadi Order, a cadre of necromancers bent on enslaving all eslar. Had they succeeded they would have turned their attention to the other nations of Uhl. But their order was broken and scattered, their leaders killed. Many eslar maintain a vigilance to this day to make sure they never return to power again.

Note from the Author

Eslar began their existence as elves believe it or not. I quickly realized though as I was writing away that I really, really, really had no desire to deal with elves on any level. Many other authors have given them their due, and I just didn't feel like I had anything new to add. That being said, I did want to retain some of their qualities. Their Vulcan-like aloofness, exotic habitats, and penchant for sorcery, to name a few. But also I was eyeing another race when I set out to create eslar. That other race was Moorcock's Melniboneans, of which I've always been enamored of through the author's stories about Elric. If you were to make a comparison of eslar to any other fantasy race, look no further than an amalgamation of elves and Melniboneans.

Eslar characters make appearances in both The Hall of the Wood and The Five Elements. In the former we have Murik Alon Rin'kres, an eslar sorcerer. In the latter, Ensel Rhe Alon. The characters are quite different. One is a seemingly jovial wizard and the other a taciturn mercenary. Murik may harbor a dark secret (and the captured soul of his former master), but he generally wants to do the right thing. Ensel Rhe is a bit different. He's depicted in The Five Elements as your basic strong but silent warrior. But in the next book in The Alchemancer series, his background story will begin to unfold and take on a much larger role. I can't go into too many details, but we'll get to see not only his daughter, Jakinda Rhe, but also one of the parties responsible for his exile from Panthora.

Read more about the people and places of Uhl at the World of Uhl.

Races of Uhl: Skeva

Skeva, or rat-people, are the product of alchemical engineering and the magic of a witch named Ulusaba, who long ago transmutated ordinary rats into man-like creatures. Whether early skeva rebelled against their mistress or simply escaped from her is not known, but the rat-people found niches throughout the civilized lands in which to hide and proliferate until almost every major city co-exists (knowingly or not) with their subterranean presence. Skeva as a rule do not attempt to draw attention to themselves. While this policy has allowed them to thrive and grow strong, it does not entirely prevent the occasional surface dweller from being snatched for food or entertainment.

There is no central government or skeva nation. Rather each locale, whether in caves in the wilderness or the sewers of a city, has its own clan. These clans are led either by the strongest warrior or the wisest shaman.

Skeva stand from five to seven feet in height. Their fur is black, brown, or white with eyes that are black, red, or, in some cases, pink. Their eyesight is generally poor. To compensate for this they weave their heads from side-to-side in order to gain perspective on objects in front of them. They are color-blind. Their tails are thick and hairless and provide them with greater balance.

The best of skeva warriors belong to an elite caste known as rinja warriors, or simply rinja. Rinja are stealthy assassins and ferocious fighters. Their prowess matches that of the krill sinji.

Perhaps because of their origins, magic is strong in the skeva people. Those who have taken on the role of shaman or witch possess great attunement to the world around them.

Note from the Author: Ratmen were one of those races which always seemed to find someway to pop-up in my gaming campaigns back when I played. Whether it be a dungeon or a city sewer, they were always there, harrying our heroes. Never very powerful, they mostly attacked from the shadows and ran away if pressed. In too many ways those ratmen were more animal than man. The necessities of incorporating them into a book dictated that they either remain nothing more than monsters or I needed to have them become a true people, with history, politics, friendships and loyalties, and grudges and conflicts. I chose the latter, and thus the skeva people were born. While they've not made an appearance in any of my novels up until now, they will get their debut in the upcoming one, The Nullification Engine. The chapters with them thus far have been a lot of fun to write. At least one or two of them already has a storyline that extends into the third book in The Alchemancer series. The interaction of witchcraft and skeva is a strong one as befits their origins. Don't be surprised if a certain witch from The Five Elements finds herself in their midst.

View my skeva gallery on Pinterest.

Read more about the people and places of Uhl at the World of Uhl.

Introducing the World of Uhl

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For the longest time I considered creating another web site to feature the world where I set my novels. Sometime last year I finally made this into a reality.

The World of Uhl is supplemental information to go along with my books. On it you'll find descriptions of the peoples, characters, and places of Uhl, along with professionally done maps and, of course, purchase information for the books themselves.

Since Friday around here is about the content of my novels—namely the worldbuilding—I thought I'd start with this brief intro post before getting into the details. Moving forward, I'll be highlighting information already on the WOU site—namely the races and places listed there—but also plan to write up some essays on such topics as how magic and science relate to one another in my world, for example. This melding only increases throughout The Alchemancer series, so it's important to lay some groundwork.

I should have my hands on a world map soon from my illustrator. I'll update you all when I get it and once the kinks are worked out.

How to Pronounce 'Uhl'

You can pretty much pronounce it however you want. But the way I intended it to be pronounced is 'ool', as in 'bool' (which is shorthand for 'boolean' in case you were wondering) without the 'b'. Others have pronounced it 'ul'. Either works as far as I'm concerned, so use whichever you like.