Many of you will no doubt be aware that there were a number of 'lost' Fighting Fantasy gamebooks - gamebooks which were in the pipeline, typically only at the ideas phase, when the Puffin series came to a close or which just never made it into production for one reason or another. I'll explore all of these in more detail in another post or series of posts, but right now I want to consider a possible geography for one of them, The Keeper of the Seven Keys, as recently described in detail by Dave Morris on the Fabled Lands blog.
Now of course Seven Keys never became an FF gamebook, as it never got past the concept phase, and Dave Morris and Jamie Thomson may even end up reusing the idea without connecting it to FF at all. But it's such an interesting idea for an FF gamebook, with lots of nice names of people and places, that it's fun to imagine how it might have fitted into the world of Fighting Fantasy had it been published as part of that gamebook series.
Let's start with what the original proposal for the book tells us. The adventure is set in the continent of Khul in Titan and revolves around a conflict between the 'evil' lord Karabane of the 'Tower of Doom' and the nearby city of 'Arkand'. Neither of these two places had appeared on FF books or maps before, so we're left wondering where in Khul they might have been. Let's look at what else we can learn about the geography of the adventure from the outline on the Fabled Lands blog. Firstly, the names associated with Arkand (Karabane, Araminta, Kalara, Arkand itself) look Khulian enough without looking like they come from places such as Hachiman, southwest Khul and the Inland Sea, which have their own unique linguistic 'flavours' (i.e. Japanese, Turkic/Mongolian, Sumerian respectively). So we can rule out those areas. Where else might Arkand lie? Well, most of the centre and south of the continent is a chaos-warped wilderness or desert, so that doesn't fit with the 'poor harvests' and 'blighted crops' that the people of Arkand are blaming on Karabane. The west of Khul is a relatively settled and well documented part of the continent. The northeast is less well known, but this is Robin Waterfield territory, with Masks of Mayhem, Phantoms of Fear and Deathmoor all being set here, so we know a bit about this part of Khul. In addition, it looks like Clash of the Princes is set in the same part of the continent too, especially given the retconning done by Andy Wright in the new Beyond the Pit. All that being the case, that really only leaves us with one part of the continent which hasn't been explored or detailed in any of the FF books - the central eastern part of the continent, between Hachiman and Corda. Could Arkand and the Tower of Doom be located here?
Let's look at some other evidence from the Seven Keys outline. One obvious feature is the presence of two characters from Hachiman in the adventure: Uldarik Hsao and Fudoshin Raiko. Hsao's first name isn't very 'eastern' at all, but maybe that's what we'd expect from someone from that secretive land who now lives amongst people from a different culture. One other name in the outline is vaguely 'eastern', if not exactly Japanese or Chinese, in type too - Prince Chemcho (of Sariandor). So although Seven Keys can't be set in Hachiman, it looks like it might not be a million miles away from it, given the Hachimanian element in the adventure. That fits the area between Hachiman and Corda in eastern Khul rather well I think.
There are a few other places named in the outline which may be in the same general area. There's 'Fernor', home of Mogresh the Alchemist, 'Kelados', home of Syrena the Amazon, 'Sariandor', home of Prince Chemcho, and 'Qor', home of the Wizards of Qor and the Longbow of Qor. Amazons are a well-known element in society in some parts of Khul (see Beyond the Pit), so we can assume it is somewhere in the continent. The location of the other places relative to Arkand is of course unknown, but we can guess that they aren't too far away, as people from those places are involving themselves in this adventure. In the map below (adapted from the original by Steve Luxton in Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World), I've marked most of these places to give an indication of where they might have been had Seven Keys ended up as an FF book - Arkand in a plain amongst the hills, the Tower of Doom in the nearby hills to the west, Qor on the edge of the central Khulian wastes, and Fernor and Sariandor as ports on the eastern coast. I'd be interested to know what you think!
South of Qor lie the lands of the Inland Sea. There's a whole lot more detail about those in Andrew Chapman's non-FF novel, Ashkar the Magnificent, especially the lands north and east of Lagash, which I'll talk about in another post. So although none of this is part of Fighting Fantasy canon, there is a considerable amount we can project for our own adventures in this otherwise undocumented part of Khul.