A Tale of Two Maps — Part II

Previously, on “A Tale of Two Maps”…

PK hired genius map-maker Tom Parker to create maps of his world, and learned valuable lessons about friendship and growing up.

With Lake Province mapped and hung, it was time to turn to the world itself. Fortunately, fantasy worlds tend to have only so much “discovered” territory, so it makes the job a lot easier. Still, it’s your World, and once it’s spinning, there are no re-dos, unless you write an apocalypse. OK, so yeah I guess there are re-dos.

I’ll start this by showing you the finished product, and then break it down once you’re able to start breathing again:

It’s gorgeous, right? I mean it just leaps off the page and catches your eye. It feels at once old and dynamic, tangible and ethereal, a symphony of details which all coalesce into a breathtaking, unified tableau.

I really can’t take much credit. Like I said in my previous post, I only applied two lessons — pick a POV, and let the art happen. We’ll take a tour of this masterpiece, but first, let’s look at how it started…

Sepia. Wouldn’t wanna… beepia?

My previous world map was done in Photoshop. It represents the absolute limits of my creative skills. You can tell I put a lot of thought and detail into the big continent on the left, and then got really tired.

This took me like 200 hours

There was no way I was going to put this map in any of my books, but it at least gave me something to give to Tom. Now, as we got to talking, my mind went crazy with ideas for the border, so I also sent Tom this sketch:

Look at my lightning bolts. Just look at them.

Now I want you to go back and look at the finished map, then come look at this. It’s… I can’t even. When I explained this drawing to Tom I think he described it as “A graphic novel in a frame”. I said, “Yup!” or something. It’s possible what he really meant was, “You’re not paying me enough to do a graphic novel.”


Anyway, this particular story starts in Ennyk Land, one of many island kingdoms in the Union

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The people of Ennyk consider themselves to be above pretty much everyone else. They are the only nation in the union where “Etificer” — someone who keeps track of etiquette — is a full-time job. Think, the court of Louis XIV, with maybe a soupçon more pretension.

As masters of their own PR, it seemed natural to me that Ennyk would take charge of designing the world map, highlighting all that their rich culture has to offer, while subtly throwing shade at the nations they despise.

It was the East of times, it was the West of times

Yes, I used that joke already in Part I. It just gets funnier.

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Ennyk is in the East, the oldest part of the world, the most polished draft of history. Hence, their half of the map is written on the finest velum, heavy with the black ink of night, the stellar remnants of the oldest gods, and the divine emblem of Talfar — the Dawn, the one true power.

The East is also sealed with the stars and lion of the Union Leaver — a coin minted by the greatest realm in history.

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The Union Gold Leaver

The West, meanwhile is home to the dirty mines of Gleistus, the frozen wastes of Wintereiss, the backward, religious zealotry of Olo. Never mind that the greatest library of all time is in the West, or that the fabled King of the World built his Winter Palace there. It’s a hot wild mess, a hastily scribbled first draft of a story that makes the civilized folk of Ennyk roll their eyes and cluck their tongues.

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Epinyres, the hundred-handed god of the old religion, unfurls the scroll of the world with his human hands, as his other hands scribble the rough shores of the western kingdoms.

The Gods Must Be Crazy

While Ennyk folk are devoted worshipers of Talfar, the one True™ god, they’re not above borrowing from other faiths to round out the borders of their maps.

In addition to enlisting Epinyres, (a scribe god invented by the King of the World and still worshiped by Monarchics throughout the modern realm) to help unfurl the scroll of the world, the map’s authors enlisted two other cultures to frame the north and south.

Up north, we have Munnikot, the beast god of the Hyfnar pantheon. My conversation with Tom went like this:

PK: Munnikot is like this nine-headed bull, with like a lion head, and a wolf head, and a bull head, and a snake head, and like a horse, and maybe a goat… oh yeah and an ape, a fish, an eagle… yeah… yeah, but sometimes he’s a bearded man whose head constantly changes.


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Munnikot. Look at how those faces are stacked. It’s just… ugh. I love it.

For the fish part of Munnikot, Tom incorporated a creature who is extremely prominent in my novels — the benthite, a creature inspired by the Russian Zolotaya Rybka. Tom did such an amazing job capturing this creature, it has basically become the emblem of my series:

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The Benthite

One of my D&D players even tattoo’ed a benthite on his arm:

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Now, in the south, we have Patheran, a vast continent of nations that have always known conflict with the north. Their cultures are old, their cities are mighty, and their gods are numerous.

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The city of Wulluk Rypethiti is guarded by clay labyrinth a mile thick and nearly a thousand feet high. It traps sea water and desalinates it, providing clean drinking water to the city in times of drought.

Of all the Patherene gods the map-makers could have chosen to border the south, it’s a little suspicious that they settled on Thyriel, the God of Desires, whose symbols are the snake, the ram, and a harp made from the bones and hair of his slain bride. Again, one suspects the Ennyki authors are trying to highlight the strangeness of their southern rivals, but Patherenes are proud of their pantheon, and Tom did a masterful job bringing their gods to life:

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A Million Little Things

There are, of course, lots of little details I won’t bore anyone with that will give me endless pleasure to study as this map hangs in my work space. We’ll probably colorize it at some point, and there will probably be revisions as we get closer to publication.

For now, the big takeaways are:

1. Don’t hire Tom Parker

If he gets too busy I’ll never be able to afford him again.

2. If you do… let the art happen.

There’s a reason this world map is 60% border.

Oh, and here it is in its beautiful 3’x4′ printed form, about to go on my wall:


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