The Battle of Farrow’s Pass changed Ballicorean society in every way. Any organized government or leadership crumbled with each village or city becoming self-contained. Minimal trade and cooperation between settlements was the norm until cooperation began to return about a hundred years ago. As a result, there has been little in the way of technological, medical or economic progress for almost half a millennium. Even magic, which was widely accepted and practiced before the battle, fell into disuse.
Ballicore remains essentially feudal, with agriculture, mining and fishing as the primary economic factors. Vast areas remain unexplored and no one is even certain what lies on the other side of the sea. The inhabitants are starting to embrace the magical arts once more and there is renewed hope that the ancient distrust among races may finally be fading.
Religion is a particularly interesting aspect of Ballicorean society. Unlike Earth, there are no prevailing theologies. Each race and in many instances each settlement has found its own spiritual focus. In fact, no written history of Ballicore’s religions exists, something the Ozone Lostin and his partner Greg Faircloth have discussed remedying.
Major races and important creatures on Ballicore:
Humans are the most prevalent race. They inhabit the towns and small cities along the eastern coast, as well as having settled in several locations west of the Tarnished Mountains and on several island groups, most notably the Hithers and the Gallows. There are a few primitive enclaves living along the shores of the South Arm, a large inland sea several hundred leagues south of Vespersea.
The Elven race: Until the disasterous battle at Farrow’s Pass, the Elves were important members of Ballicore society. They were the planet’s historians as well as astute traders and preminent craftsmen of fine jewelry and magical items. Some scholars believe the Elves have hidden away in the mysterious region beyond the Chrons. Elven treasure caches are still occasionally found by explorers
Orcs: These large, ill-tempered and not terribly smart creatures roam both the civilized and unexplored regions of Ballicore, often preying on traders and unwary travelers. Their interactions with humanoids generally has but one outcome-a dead orc.
Trolls: Trolls are large somewhat ugly creatures. For the most part, they live underground and are good natured. They derive most of their living by bartering gems, magic plants and Elven treasure found in their underground travels for food and clothing. They also earn gold and other coin by guiding humanoids through the mountain tunnels.
Dragons: Ballicore has three types of dragons; Prime Dragons, Wyverns and Guardian Wyverns. Guardian Wyverns were imported from elsewhere in the universe by one of the Solitary Mages to protect the secrets hidden in the Chrons, a mountain range west of the Tarnished Mountains. It was there that the Battle of Farrow’s Pass took place. Prime Dragons and Wyverns have been unjustly regarded as fierce, man-eating creatures. In reality they are highly intelligent, multihued creatures with a varied diet and a subtle sense of humor. For the past 500 years, they have remained seclusive, interacting primarily with Solitary Mages and the Snow Lords. They are led by Songthresher, the Eldest Dragon.
Snow Lords: Like dragons, the Snow Lords have been treated with unwarranted fear. In fact, it was mankind’s ill-fated attempt to eradicate them that resulted in the Battle of Farrow’s Pass where the Snow Lords ambushed the pursuing Ballicorean forces by dropping tons of snow on them. The Snow Lords are a dying species. Ever since the battle, they have been living in the forbidding Crags of Dread, descending only to trade with a few trusted settlers in remote villages. Some unknown illness afflicts them and even the Solitary Mages have been unable to find a cure. Snow Lords are extremely tall, have thick white fur, golden eyes and a climbing toe on each foot that retracts when not in use.
Solitary Mages: While magic has always been an integral part of Ballicorean life, only a minority are able to use it. An even smaller group of mages is truly adept in its use. They are known as Solitary Mages, so called because their single-minded dedication to their craft becomes so overriding that they have little time or interest in anything else. Solitary Mages tend to focus on one aspect of magic. They number less that twenty on the entire planet.
Fairies: There are numerous kinds of fairies on Ballicore, ranging from the friendly and elegant Cave Fairies to the mischievous Swamp Fairies. All sub-races are adept in illusionary and divination magic.

Other Important Species:
Harpies: There are very few left on Ballicore, for which the natives are grateful. Harpies are solitary, ill-tempered and live primarily on decaying flesh. As a result, attacks by Harpies are generally fatal because of the corruption that clings to their talons.
Rocs: These large winged creatures have primarily birdlike features, Rocs love flying, elegant conversation and intellectual challenges. Their feathers are valued in flying potions.
Hags: When witches are born with an extremely evil nature or become embittered following failed love affairs, they often undergo a transformation and become Hags. Hags usually establish mini-fiefdoms in remote areas where they rule over clans of the Animated Undead and prey on unwary travelers; taking their valuables and consuming their flesh.
Animated Undead: These poor unfortunate souls are created when someone dies and is buried under a full moon. Since Ballicoreans are aware of this phenomenon, only the poorest and most ignorant or those whose enemies deliberately bury at that time suffer such a fate. Their transformation leaves them as shambling hulks with little ability to think for themselves, hence their tendency to be ruled by Hags.
Wind Spirits: These quasi-living entities are invisible. They move freely about the planet, often being mistaken for normal breezes. They are intelligent and are able to cooperate with magic users, but often only at a price because of their temperamental nature.

The Major Characters in the first book

Berek Metcalf: Berek grew up in Simonton, a rural Maine town about 20 miles inland from the coast. He was born with an extra finger between the thumb and index finger of his left hand. His parents wanted it removed when he was an infant, but his uncle, Leland Metcalf, raised such a fuss that they backed off. Berek was named for a Norse deity his mother read about when she was a teen. Because of his oddity, Berek has always been uncomfortable around others but learned to be at home among the wildlife on the Metcalf farm which has nearly 200 acres and overlooks Simonton Pond. In fact, he can speak to and understand many of the birds and animals on the farm. Berek is an average student who reads voraciously and has a talent for crafting and building musical instruments including his favorite creation a crude, but beautiful sounding banjo. He is harassed and scorned by the other students at Simonton High where he is a junior and has no real friends. He adored his late uncle who treated him as an equal and often took him to Native American rituals. He has one sister, Kylin who is 5 years younger.
Julia Tilman: Julia is the young woman who unwittingly starts Berek on his adventures in Ballicore when she rejects his stammering invitation to the May Dance. She plays a much greater role in book two.
Leland Metcalf: Berek’s uncle and the one person he loves and respects above everyone else. Leland is thin, wiry and has a very wry sense of humor. He has a masters degree in forestry and an aversion to civilization. Leland spends most of his time in a cabin he built up in the Enchanted, a region southwest of Moosehead Lake that is reputed to have magical spots and creatures hidden among the thick evergreens. Leland was the one person who could see Berek’s secret strengths and treated him like a valued person, taking him on exciting excursions to Katahdin Spirit Ceremonies and to Della Ring’s Emporium where Berek would explore the mystery-laden shelves while Leland, Della and Thomas Alderstream, a Kathadin medicine man, debated metaphysics and other esoteric concepts. When Berek was seven, Leland was killed in a freak logging accident….Or was he?
The Ruby-Eyed One: Most powerful of the Solitary Mages, he lives in a self-imposed exile in order to preserve his powers. He has spent the past five hundred years seeking a cure for the Snow Lords’ affliction, even to the point of scouring the known universe for someone with the right qualities to accomplish the task.
Callomere is a white wolf who appears in Berek’s dreams. Is he a figment of the night or something more. Berek isn’t certain, but discovers the answer as his quest progresses.
Elspeth the Huntress: Elspeth is in her early twenties, the merchant daughter of Wordhin, keeper of Tarn Estates. Until she meets Berek, Elspeth has been content to hunt and oversee the trade of meat and hides that the estate sells in Vespersea in exchange for magic gems and rare ores from the Hithers, a group of islands several days sail from the coast. She is the first Ballicorean Berek meets and from the start, there is a spark of attraction between them. She offers to escort him to the inn at Fetlock’s Meet where the story begins to develop. When Berek saves her life, discovering his mage powers in the process, Elspeth must follow him to the conclusion of his, as yet undefined quest.
Kallista Wolfblood: A thief and minor magic user, Thirtyish Kallista is likeable, but not one you’d want to trust. Her interests are always going to take priority over yours and while she may come on your quest, she isn’t to be relied upon when things get tight. She meets Berek and Elspeth at the inn in Fetlock’s Meet where she immediately senses Berek’s hidden powers and makes him an unbeatable offer; She will help him with his quest if he will help her find a dragon and enable her to obtain some dragon’s blood. It takes quite an effort to pry from Kallista why she would want such a thing and her story embellishes the plot line in interesting ways as they travel through some rugged territory.
Ozone Lostin: With wavy red hair and a moustache to match coupled with small pentagrams tattoed on each cheek, Ozone’s appearance belies his gentle contemplative nature. He grew up in a remote village northwest of Coughlin’s Burrows where his father, a woodwright was blinded by one of the Guardian Wyverns. When Ozone’s restless nature became apparent, his parents gave him their blessing and he became a wandering cleric who spent time studying plant lore with monks as well as with Terralof Vinetrainer, perhaps the most learned of all the Solitary Mages in the area of plants and plant potions. Ozone has spent the past seven years wandering, talking and listening to plants and building his skills in plant lore. He enjoys people, but his essentially solitary nature makes staying with a group often challenging for him. His meeting with Berek, Elspeth and Kallista, high on the edge of a vast hidden canyon is memorable for all and cements a friendship with Berek that is both enduring and an unexpected pleasure for both of them.
Songthresher: The Eldest Dragon and leader of the largest remaining dragon clan on Ballicore is a thoughtful creature. He is one of The Ruby-Eyed One’s closest friends and has been working with both the Solitary Mage and Cairnbuilder, oldest of the Snow Lords, to find a cure for the illness that is slowly killing off the Snow Lords. He has another worry as well, the deteriorating condition of the huge cave where his clan lives. It was damaged by a severe earthquake and is worsening, but he has no idea how to fix it.
Cairnbuilder: The oldest Snow Lord carries a heavy burden, that of trying to find a cure for the affliction that has been killing his people for the past 500 years. Can he and the Ruby-Eyed One succeed with their desperate last-ditch scheme?
Melina: 500 years ago, she was Melina of the Evergreens, a healer who became caught up in the desperate race to find a cure for the mystery ailment. She even sought out the Eldest Dragon, making a bargain in order to find the last location of the Elven Race. When her quest failed, she found herself bound by promise to Songthresher who transformed her into a Wyvern. Now, half a millennium later, everyone she knew and cherished in human form is long dead and she has mixed feelings about any opportunity to regain human form. Melina becomes an integral part of Berek’s race to find the Snow Lords and maybe their cure.
Omiden: She is the swamp herbalist who saved Elspeth’s life by nurturing her when Elspeth’s mother died in childbirth. They have had a mother-daughter relationship ever since. With wise gray eyes and a voice that reminds Berek of summer wind through pine boughs, Omiden teaches Berek much about plant lore as well as sharing a secret that creates a bond between them that stretches all the way back to Earth. In the process, Berek makes a discovery at Omiden’s cottage in the swamp that helps the party as they venture forth through the Vulture Plains and beyond the Tarnished Mountains.
Wordhin: Elspeth’s father loves and respects his daughter, recognizing that her nature could never accept anything like a traditional role accorded women on Ballicore. He oversees the prosperous Tarn Estate which lies on the Wyre Flowage and is owned by a mysterious figure that only Wordhin can access.

Clymer: The most skilled metalsmith on Ballicore lives in Coughlin’s Burrows a small town in the western foothills of the Tarnished Mountains. He is 360 degrees ugly, the result of a misadventure during a tunnel expedition in his youth. Only he has the skills to reforge Berek’s sword and unleash the magic contained within.
The Chieftain: After the disastrous battle at Farrow’s Pass, a small, but fanatic cadre of humans banded together, convinced that the eradication of the remaining Snow Lords was the only way to save civilization. For the most part, they have remained content to mutter and hide in the shadows, but the Chieftain, a fanatic with charisma and a wandering eye, emerged about twenty years ago. He has mobilized the Shadow Militia into a small army that is now prepared to find and destroy what few Snow Lords haven’t been killed by the mystery illness.
Bion Pikelasher: Although Bion doesn’t appear directly in Sojourn, he is important in that he was Kallista Wolfblood’s mentor and knows more about the language and history of Ballicore than any save the Elves. Bion also knows that Ballicore is not alone in the universe and that other races have visited from time to time.

Ballicore would compare favorably with North America in the mid to late 17th century. The only significant differences would be Ballicore having more unexplored territory and using magic instead of emerging technology. The main concentration of settlements lies in a band between the seacoast and the Tarnished Mountains, beginning at Chion’s Reach in the north to Vespersea and then thinning to sparse hamlets all the way down to the South Arm. Several groups of islands have been settled as well, foremost among them the Hithers where most mining activity occurs. In addition, the Gallows lie at the southern end of the explored territories and small islands inhabited by tiny fishing colonies and hermits dot the coastal waters between Chion’s Reach and Vespersea. There are settlements west of the Tarnished Mountains, but they are relatively small and isolated because of the difficulty reaching them posed by the Tarnished Mountains.

SETTLEMENTS:

Vespersea is the largest settlement on Ballicore with a population of ten thousand. It is one of only two towns of any size on the mainland and serves as the conduit from the Ballicorean heartland to Chion’s Reach and the inhabited islands. Vespersea’s harbor is deep and protected by a breakwater. Tidepusher, the famous lighthouse powered by the strong currents that swirl past it guards the end of the breakwater and is the sight most rigging monkeys look for when vessels approach the harbor. Three long granite wharves extend from the cobbled street that curves around the harbor. Numerous taverns and boarding houses line the inland side of this street, while streets fan out into the city proper. Vespersea is divided into three sections; the mercantile area spreads in a narrow fan from the docks halfway to the edge of town. The main residential area and the small square surrounded by three temples and the town council building lie north and west of it. South of the mercantile district lie the slums where the poor, the insane and the criminal element live in uneasy proximity. Because government has been in such disrepute until recently, Vespersea’s council has been reluctant to try anything that might cause unrest in the poorer neighborhoods. One other notable feature is the prison that dominates a barren islet off the southern edge of the harbor. Despite efforts by the council to maintain humane treatment standards, this is no place you would want to find yourself.
Chion’s Reach is the second largest settlement and lies on the edge of the northern unexplored area about two hunded leagues north of Vespersea. Most of Ballicore relies upon shipments from Chion’s Reach for finished timber and salt fish. The plentiful forests of gray and black spruce provide a good livlihood for many of its inhabitants. the town lies at the end of a long narrow fjiord. Strong tides bring schools of fish to the harbor where they are caught in large pens before being split, salted and dried for shipping. A network of rough roads fan out south and west to smaller settlements that are the heart of the timber trade. Water-powered sawmills make processing the logs an easy and profitable task. In fact no less than seven rivers or large streams flow into the fjiord. Chion’s reach has a small town council but there are no direct roads between the town and Vespersea. Some say this is by choice as there is a strong sense of independence among the residents of the reach.
Blessed and Fierone are the only towns found on Blessed and Lesser Hither islands. These lie three days southeast of Vespersea. Blessed is the more civilized town with several nice inns and shops as well as a small cargo facility in the dock area that facilitates transfer of ores out and finished goods and lumber in from docked vessels. If there is such a thing as a vacation spot on Ballicore, Blessed and Fierone would qualify. Blessed attracts families and the wealthy because of its relative isolation while still providing a sense of being civilized and having several nicely secluded beaches. Fierone, on the other hand, lies on the tropical side of Lesser Hither and attracts rougher, primarily male visitors. The island is divided by a steep cliff that splits the center of the island. When warm ocean breezes hit it, they cool quickly, resulting in significant rainfall on the eastern half of the island and arid conditions on the western side. The gem mines lie in dense jungle and in some places reach better than five thousand feet below the surface. Miners are constantly being bitten or stung by several species of poisonous snakes and insects, necessitating the presence of competent healers on the island. There are also several naturally heated pools in the jungle that are reputed to have magical healing powers although no formal research has been done to prove or disprove this. Fierone proper has Ballicore’s only house of ill repute.
Lesser Gallows Harbor lies far to the south. The town sprawls up the steep ridge that forms a half bowl around the harbor and those who are fortunate enough to live at the top have one of the most spectacular views on the planet. Verdance and Glimmertime are particularly pleasant here, but by mid-Harvestway you can feel the grip of Icefall approaching from the mysterious waters to the south. Storms during that season can be particularly brutal, often lasting more than a week with frigid gales that form ice so solid the daring have been known to skate for a full day before having to turn back. Lesser Gallows is renown for its scholars and for the large covered shipyard where vessels are built and repaired. Culture blends with covert lawlessness in the harbor. Perhaps that is why Bion Pikelasher settled here more than a hundred years ago.

LESSER SETTLEMENTS:

Fetlock’s Meet lies halfway between Vespersea and Tarn Estates. The town features a nice inn and a competent stablemaster. The Verging Mary, famed for losing her train of thought in mid-sentence and Lubber, the blade master are often found in the inn. Fetlock’s Meet lies in the heart of orc and gray wolf country which accounts for the stone wall and rugged gates protecting the town.
The Hedgerow on Yenson Flowage lies northwest of Vespersea. Kallista Wolfblood’s uncle, Mervyn owns a significant portion of the town including the prosperous gristmill and the moneykeeper’s house. In addition, an extremely talented, but mysterious metalsmith practices his craft in the Hedgerow.
Tarn Estates isn’t a town, but more closely resembles a large Spanish hacienda. Owned by the mysterious Tarn and managed by Wordhin, father of Elspeth the Huntress, it lies on the Wyre Flowage and encompasses several hundred acres of orchards, vineyards and fields. It functions as the unofficial waystation for those travelers daring enough to try passage through or around the Vulture Plains on their way to the tunnels through the Tarnished Mountains.
Coughlin’s Burrows is the only major settlement west of the Tarnished Mountains and lies at the foot of the mountains just south of the main tunnel exits. Wyatt maintains a fine inn and this is where Clymer, the only smith on Ballicore with skills adequate to repair magic weapons plies his trade. The townsfolk farm, hunt and do a bit of trading with the smaller settlements to the north and west.
Searson’s Crossing lies in the foothills of the Crags of Dread. It is perhaps the most isolated village on Ballicore. The residents raise sheep and cattle and there is a small mine that provides a unique type of gemstones with properties that are significantly different from those mined on Lesser Hither Island. In the years since the Battle of Farrow’s Pass, the villagers have formed a trust and friendship with the Snow Lords who live high up in the Crags.
Thylon’sVale is northwest of Searson’s Stopping, about halfway to the Chrons and Farrow’s Pass. Gildred and Dahilia Lostin live there along with Ozone’s younger brother who is a pretty good woodwright himself. The residents support themselves by farming, selling fine wooden items and by harvesting rare plants with unique properties from the dense swamp that lies west of the village.
Kree’s Fief and Brittle’s Crossing are towns southwest of Coughlin’s Burrows. the fief is a manor town surrounding the house of Lord Douthwick, a self-proclaimed noble who assembled his lands and fortune by a combination of bullying and shrewd trading. He is perhaps the only trader who has had any success negotiating with the fishermen and seclusive folk who live on the coast of South Arm. Brittle’s Crossing, while independent of Lord Douthwick, lies due north of his lands and many of the residents are dependent upon him for their livelihood. It was at the inn in Brittle’s Crossing where Kallista made her ill-fated decision to bed and then rob Lord Douthwick’s son, thus setting her on the path that became Like A Thief in the Night.

IMPORTANT PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY

Mountain Ranges:

The Tarnished Mountains extend from the South Arm all the way to the unexplored regions and lie a hundred-fifty leagues west of the coast.. Until recently, it was believed that the only way to traverse them was through the underground tunnels just beyond the Vulture Plains. Rumors have surfaced recently about a northern route that follows a series of cuts and canyons some hundred leagues north of Coughlin’s Burrows, but nobody has actually verified its existence.
The Crags of Dread lie two hundred fifty leagues west-northwest of Coughlins Burrows. They are bleak and forbidding in appearance, reaching an elevation of nineteen thousand feet at their highest point. They form a rough circle and are not easily traversed save for a steep and little used trail southwest of Searson’s Stopping. It is rumored that their higher elevations hold caches of rare gems and Elven treasure.
The Chrons, home of the famous Farrow’s Pass, lie almost due north of the Crags of Dread. They are low and appear far older than other mountain ranges on Ballicore. The foothills are unsafe, in part because ghosts of men killed in the Battle of Farrow’s Pass roam their twisting gullies, but mainly because Guardian Wyverns fly through the skies overhead and attack anything that attempts to pass through. On the western side of the Chrons lies a mysterious ruin beside what appears to be an ancient road. There is an invisible force preventing anyone from skirting the Chrons to investigate.
The Humblers are the most massive and mysterious mountain range on Ballicore. They lie five hundred leagues west of the Tarnished Mountains and dominate the horizon. Little is known about them save their intense blue color and high canyons. Vague rumors have circulated regarding an imposing building located at the end of one of these canyons.

Other Interesting features.

The Valley of the Talking Rock King lies deep in the Tarnished Mountains. It is almost impossible to access except by accident from the underground tunnels or from the air. The Yenson Flowage begins at one end, fueled by the glaciers in the high peaks above. The valley’s proximity to volcanic activity has made it almost tropical. A living stone known as The Talking Rock King rules over the valley.
The Vulture Plains lie due west of Tarn Estates. They are a bleak desert-like region that is inhabited by various predatory creatures of terrifying proportions. A stupifying haze hovers over them, seeming to suck the very life from the purple tinted air. Most who want to reach the Tarnished Mountains skirt as much of them as possible.

The Inland Sea is another tropical oasis in the midst of a temperate climate. It lies due east of the Chrons and is about thirty leagues wide. The island at its center harbors the Way Temple, a mysterious monastery that trains magic users in the more advanced aspects of this art.
The Tiled Gorge is a massive set of falls due east of The Hedgerow. The Yenson Flowage forms several amazing cataracts as it crashes downward on its way to the sea.
Omiden’s Swamp is due south of Tarn Estates. Elspeth’s godmother, Omiden makes her home there among masses of flowers, clouds of butterflies and the last remaining flock of Swamp Ravens. She has discovered dozens of rare and potent plants in the swamp that she uses to prepare healing and other magical potions.
The Underground is the name given to the endless series of passages under the Tarnished Mountains. Tunnel Trolls and huge venomous spiders live there in wary proximity to each other. Caches of Elven treasure are hidden in false walls and behind waterfalls, while potent plants like Silver Cavegrass and Parson’s Toadstool can be found if you know what to look for. Bion Pikelasher has a scroll that refers to similar tunnels in other areas of Ballicore, but none have been found.

The rest of Ballicore remains undiscovered. Most of what can be observed from the tops of mountains and the rigging of ships is an unbroken span of dark and forbidding forest. Perhaps Berek and his companions will find time in future books to explore and bring back tales from these unexplored realms.

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I got the site a couple years ago, but since then most of my online stuff went on the Maine Crime Writers and CMLD book review site. Expect more here from now on. It will be a mix of thoughts, short stories, experimental fiction ideas and rants (good ones I promise) I may even bring back Band of the Day.