Saturday, 16 August 2014


Say what you will about Luke Sharp's fantasy-themed FF gamebooks (I know some of you hate them!), but I don't think anyone can disagree that the man had an eye for an interesting setting. Whether it be the Dark Chasms beneath Gorak, the Turkic-inspired lands of Kazan, or the weird mix of cultures and environments that make up Zamarra, he really did a lot to add interest to the world of Titan. I'll explore these lands in more detail in later posts, but in this post I want to pick up on one intriguing little reference in the Background section to Sharp's fourth Fighting Fantasy gamebook, Fangs of Fury. As he tells you about Ostragoth's plans for the destruction of Zamarra, Astragal the wizard suggests that:
"If he succeeds here, Gorak, Kazan, Transoxalia, all of south-west Khul will fall to his power."
Very interesting. These are lands in south-west Khul which were not detailed in Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World (Luke Sharp's books having appeared after Titan was published). We know about Gorak from Chasms of Malice and Daggers of Darkness. Kazan we know from Daggers of Darkness, and of course Zamarra is the location for Fangs of Fury itself. But what about Transoxalia? It's clear from the context that it is in south-west Khul and that it is probably a land like Zamarra, Kazan and Gorak, but other than that we know nothing, as this is the only mention of it in the whole of Fighting Fantasy. I like to think that it would have been the location for Luke Sharp's next book had he kept writing them or had the Puffin range not been cancelled. But where might Transoxalia be? Let's have a look at south-west Khul and the locations of other lands we know more about.

I've marked in the areas of the maps in Chasms of Malice, Daggers of Darkness, Fangs of Fury, and Peter Darvill-Evans' Portal of Evil for reference, as these are the only FF maps we have of this part of Khul apart from the Titan map. As you can see, we know a reasonable amount about the geography of south-west Khul, and there are a number of areas we can rule out as the location of Transoxalia. Firstly, anywhere north of the River Swordflow seems unlikely, as these are the vast lands of the Council of Seven and don't really constitute south-west Khul anymore. Secondly, we can rule out anywhere east of the Cloudhigh Mountains (essentially the Wastes of Chaos and the Scythera Desert), as again these aren't in south-west Khul and anyway they aren't settled lands which anyone would care about falling under Ostragoth's rule. Thirdly, we can rule out the lands already detailed by Luke Sharp: Kazan itself (i.e. all the lands between the River Swordflow, the River Dart and the coast; Zamarra, between the Lesser Ilkhan Mountains and the sea; and Gorak, between the River Dart, the River Swordflow, the Lesser Ilkhan Mountains to the south, and extending an unknown distance to the east.

So where does that leave us? One possibility might be one or both of the islands of Soldragar and Pendragar, but as they are already named this seems unlikely. Another possibility would be the area immediately east and south-east of Gorak, though there isn't a lot of room here before bumping into the forests around Kleinkastel. Better might be the area between the River Dagger and the River Swordflow, which isn't part of Gorak (see the Background section in Chasms of Malice). It might even be that this area could include lands south of the River Dagger, east of Gorak. The area around Zagoula is unlikely, as this ruined city is clearly an emerging centre of Chaos in the region, so Astragal is hardly going to be concerned about it being conquered by Ostragoth's chaotic forces. (Exactly where Ostragoth, his army and his fleet have come from to besiege Zamarra is another interesting question which I won't go into right now, though Zagoula must be one possible candidate.) Areas south of Zagoula might be possible locations for Transoxalia, including the peninsula southwest of it and the area around Yaziel and Hyennish (which was once the southern reaches of the kingdom of Klarash according to Titan, so we could imagine it retaining vestiges of civilisation). The only other place that Transoxalia could be is in the area between the River Swordflow and Lake Mlubz - i.e. the area detailed in Portal of Evil, the new southern limits of the lands of the Council of Seven. This is the location of Transoxalia assumed by Ken Beuden in his map of Khul but locating Transoxalia here isn't altogether unproblematic since Peter Darvill-Evans never uses the name for this region, most of it is unsettled or only recently settled forest and jungle and, in any case, it is part of the Council of Seven lands rather than a separate land in its own right in danger of falling under the rule of Ostragoth.

One clue as to the location of Transoxalia might lie in its name. Like many other names in Luke Sharp's fantasy books (see my Fact of Fiction article in issue 3 of Fighting Fantazine), this name is modelled on a name from the Near East and Central Asia - in this case the name of the Central Asian region Transoxiana, the land beyond the Oxus (Amur Darya) river as far as the Jaxartes (Syr Darya) river (note the name Jaxartes, also used in Fangs of Fury). The name Transoxiana contains the Latin prefix trans- meaning "across, beyond, on the other side", so it means "(land) beyond the Oxus". If we apply the same principles to the FF name Transoxalia, then it means something like "(land) beyond the Oxal" or something to that effect. The Oxal (or similar) would then be a geographical feature such as a river, a mountain range or a plain, beyond which lies Transoxalia. Now obviously this doesn't give us a location for it, but it might help us to work out where Transoxalia might lie.

So there you have it. My personal preferred location for Transoxalia is the area between the Swordflow and the Dagger, or the area around Yaziel and Hyennish, but I'm sure some of you have other ideas, which I'd love to hear.


  1. Good stuff!

    This place don't even crossed my mind before you pointed it out.


    1. Yes, it's one of those intriguing little references that adds depth to the world of Fighting Fantasy. Exactly the kind of thing I like pursuing!