Saturday, 6 December 2014

The northern borderlands of your kingdom

At the start of The Forest of Doom, you are told that "You are an adventurer, a sword for hire, and have been roaming the northern borderlands of your kingdom ... Not once during the last ten days since entering the northern borderlands have you set eyes upon another person" (FoD, Background). And during your adventure in the middle of Darkwood 'Forest', you may encounter a man riding a white stallion and accompanied by a pack of hounds (FoD, paras. 194, 396). If you chat to him, you learn that he is a hunter and that "the best game in all the northern borderlands can be found in this grassy plain within Darkwood Forest". These are very interesting little nuggets of information on the as yet unnamed lands the adventure is set in, and given what we now know about those lands from the later adventures and source-books, it's a rather intriguing reference. What is meant by "the northern borderlands of your kingdom"?

Other Fighting Fantasy fans have of course considered this issue. Here's what Simon Osborne had to say about it in on p. 121 of his excellent, though unfortunately no longer available The Atlas of Titan (I believe he was asked to take it down from his website due to it containing a large number of maps copied from FF sources CORRECTION: Simon tells me he had to remove it from his website as the file was too big and he was going to be charged for hosting it):
Later maps call this area south of Darkwood Forest the Windward Plain, the nearest city to which is Chalice on the Silver River.
   A marriage alliance was proposed between Barinjhar, son of King Pindar of Chalice, and Sarissa, daughter of King Salamon LVII of Salamonis. However, Barinjhar had no desire for such an alliance for fear of Chalice becoming nothing more than a vassal city-state, allowing Salamonis to extend its borders northwards and become a small empire. Further south is the Kingdom of Salamonis, though its distance from the Windward Plain seems too considerable for it to have borders toward Darkwood Forest. This seems to be borne out by the events of 285 AC.
   This being the case, it could be that the term “northern borderlands” refers to a wild area of the Windward Plain some days’ walk northwest from Chalice, and adventurer in this vicinity could therefore hail from an outlying village under the protection of that city-state.
   Alternatively, the term northern borderlands could be an old term referring to kingdoms long since perished. If the ancient kingdom of Allansia, with its capital city of Carsepolis, stretched this far east, or if the kingdom of Salamonis extended further north before the War of the Wizards, then this archaic term could have stuck in the memory of those living in countryside that once belonged to either kingdom.
I think Simon has hit the mail on the head with the latter idea. While it's not impossible that the reference is to Chalice, I like the idea that a memory remains of the old political border between Allansia, with Carsepolis as its capital (and Salamonis as a smaller town towards its eastern edge), in the south and Goldoran, with its capital Gar-Goldoran, in the north (and with the Dwarven towns in between as a kind of buffer between the two states). Perhaps the people of this part of Titan still think of the area south of the Red River as a single historical kingdom, now centring on Salamonis, which, however, is not really in control of most of the lands that were once ruled by Carsepolis (especially the rebellious Port Blacksand). It makes for an interesting view of Allansian geo-politics - Salamonis as the pompous inheritor of Carsepolis, which ruled all the lands south of the Red River (and Dwarf towns), from the sea to the edge of the Flatlands. But although Salamonis feels, as a result, that it has a historical claim to rule the same area, Port Blacksand has sprung up in the ruins of Carsepolis and pays heed to no-one, and Chalice, a relatively new power if Crypt of the Sorcerer is to be believed, considers itself to be an independent polity (as evidenced by Dungeoneer) and is resentful of Salamonis' presumptions of superiority. That just leaves Silverton as the only major settlement in the old kingdom of Allansia, and given that its ruler seems to be a 'Mayor' (City of Thieves) perhaps it is still notionally under the rule of Salamonis, even if the power of Salamonis is rarely felt so far west. Of course, north of the Red River things have changed even more dramatically, with the destruction of Gar-Goldoran and the emergence of two new polities, Chiang Mai and Kay Pong, with their eastern names and (in the case of Chiang Mai at least) rulers, perhaps in origin eastern barbarian inheritors of Goldoran's power after its destruction.


  1. Hi Paltogue

    Thanks for the quote1 It always pleasantly surprises me when something I wrote while stressing to get that Behemoth finished actually turns out to be relevant and of interest to other fans!

    Just a small corection: The Atlas was not removed for copyright reasons--it being fan compiled, written, and produced. Unfortunately, at about 100Mb it's a hefty file to host, and with the disappearance of my former webhost ( it seems I can no longer host the file without paying a lot of money for the privilege! Any ideas as to how I can host/serve this file without having to pay annually for the privilege would be greatefully considered!

    Simon Osborne

    1. Ah, I see! I'm sure I'd heard the rumour you'd been given a cease and desist order. I'll correct the post. Can't think of any obvious answer to the problem of hosting it, but I'll have a think.

  2. I really like the idea of there being a history of this land that gets gradually revealed
    as the Fighting Fantasy world developed.

    I think though, that the northern borderlands also may refer to the wild hill men and barbarians that seem to pop up in this area. We see two barbarians enter the Walk in just a few books, and there's one tied down crazy inside the Forest. The Wild hill men seem to occupy the space around the forest as well as inside it.

    But since we didn't see anyone for 10 days before arriving at Yaztromo's tower it's a pity we don't know in what direction we travelled for half a day to get there.

    1. Definitely, the northern borderlands seem to be a wild area inhabited by people like the Wild Hill Men. But a northern borderland from what is that question?

      On the issue of where you've been travelling for those ten days prior to FoD, if we assume that FoD follows on shortly from Caverns of the Snow Witch and that you are the same adventurer, then you have come from the direction of Firetop Mountain, which makes sense, though you must have spent some time taking it easy in the wild lands to the east of Darkwood.

  3. Why do you assume that FoD follows from Caverns of the Snow Witch?

    Coming from the direction of Firetop Mountain does make sense if you think that the area is still largely deserted because of the Warlock's reputation. However if he's dead we know that farmers began to move into the area (though that's in Return to Firetop Mountain it says that there were livestock grazing on the area in and around the mountain for decades)

    I guess it wouldn't make sense for you to have travelled from the west seeing as that's where the evil dwarf came from Mirewater.

    So South and West would seem to be the best places for you to have been camping out for 10 days. That would be the Moonstone Hills or the Windward Plain if I'm reading this map right?

    It would seem more likely to me that you'd be wandering the Moonstone Hills from east to west getting closer to Stonebridge. The dwarven party that left Stonebridge gets ambushed about halfway around the forest as they were making their way to Yaztromo to ask for aid. Bigleg the dwarf stumbles away and in a delirious state wanders east into the Hills where he meets you. This would give you about the correct time for half a days walk to lead you to Yaztromo's Tower.

    1. See here: Now, that doesn't mean for definite that you are the same adventurer, but you could be. In any case, FoD can't be very long after CotSW.

  4. I could never decide if you're supposed to be the same adventurer or not. If you are it seems odd that you'd spend 10 days wandering, but at the same time you must have been moving towards Stonebridge during that time in order for a wounded Bigleg to reach you.

    I wonder, how large do you think the "norther borderlands" area is?

    1. I don't think there's any suggestion that you HAVE to be the same adventurer, only that IL wrote the books in such a way that you could imagine yourself being so.

      As for the timeline, it's not too tricky. After Firetop Mountain, you spend some time camping out in the northwest Moonstones, Symm-style, then decide to head south along its eastern edge, bumping into Bigleg as you do. Who knows, maybe you even found time to go to Anvil, then decide to investigate under Firetop Mountain which you so recently climbed! After that you head south and bump into Bigleg.