Sunday, 1 June 2014

The geography of Ashkar the Magnificent

One of the mosy interesting aspects of Ashkar the Magnificent from a Fighting Fantasy fan's perspective is what it reveals about the geography of the lands of the Inland Sea. There's all sorts of interesting geographical information in the book, especially concerning the Empire of Lagash and the valley of the River Parine, which we can use to give us an idea of what this under-explored part of Titan might be like (bearing in mind that Ashkar is not actually set in Titan, even though it is set in the Lands of the Inland Sea).

Let's start with the map. The map in Ashkar is almost identical to the one in Seas of Blood. Fewer names are marked on the Ashkar map, and two islands are missing - the one in the bay of Kish, and the southern island of Nippur, which is further south than the extent of the Ashkar map. The Ashkar map also names the Kishian wall ('The Wall of Walls'), and calls the river flowing through Lagash the 'River Parine' rather than the 'Parine R.' of the Seas of Blood map.

Turning to the text of Ashkar, we find the following places and place-names:
  • The Empire of Lagash is centred on the city of the same name, at the north-east corner of the Inland Sea, and it stretches to the upper reaches of the Parine River, southwards to the Rivers of the the Dead, and westwards to the city of Tak (p. 21).
  • There is an unnamed village at the edge of the Lagashian Empire, home to Furdle. It is described as being on the upper reaches of the Parine River (p. 12), in lands bordering the "barbarian lands of Kirf" (p. 13). Beyond it lies wilderness (pp. 12, 15). This village is a long way from Lagash ("many weeks' travel", p. 16).
  • The barbarian lands of Kirf are home to the Kirfmen. The name "South Jin" appears in connection with the Kirfmen sailors of a boat on the Parine River, and may perhaps be a village or tribe of the Kirfmen (p. 88).
  • The next location mentioned downstream on the Parine from Furdle's village is the village of Kul (pp. 55 ff.). The 'Hetman' of Kul is called Baws Klustre (p. 57).
  • The next location mentioned downstream from Kul is called Embre (p. 61).
  • The next location mentioned downstream from Embre is called Uffle (p. 61). Ufflemen, "with their silk skins and loud voices", are described as "ubiquitous" in the lands of the Inland Sea (p. 47).
  • The next location mentioned downstream from Uffle (by two days) is called Aut Haat (p. 62). It seems to be about four days upstream from Lagash (p. 88).
  • The next location mentioned downstream from Aut Haat is called Mantou (p. 102), a day or two upstream from Lagash.
  • The principle trading cities of the lands of the Inland Sea are Assur, Calah, Lagash, Kish, Marad and Shurrupak (p. 46-7).
  • Two other towns/cities are named: Appalanx (pp. 40, 89) and Ixtalan (p. 89). They are said to lack fortifications. No indication is given as to where they might lie in the lands of the Inland Sea, though it seems likely that they are not in the Empire of Lagash, given that they are considered as possible locations (during a scrying) of the girl L'lan, and the style of the street in the vision is described as "definitely not Lagashian" (p. 88).
  • The river flowing into the Inland Sea at the city of Assur is called the Uphom (p. 46). It isn't named in Seas of Blood.
  • In the harbour of Assur, there are ships from all over the Inland Sea and "even regions as far flung as Jje" (p. 46). No indication is otherwise given as to where Jje might be.
  • The orange-haired "Bizenites" (p. 47) might suggest that there is a place in the region called Bizen (cf. Calahites).
  • There is mention of the "Merry harpooners of Nimrud" (p. 160). It is perhaps possible that Nimrud might be a place, but there is no further information.
The most detailed part of this is the geography of the Parine River valley. One problem we have reconciling all this with the geography of Khul as detailed in Steve Luxton's map in Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World is that the Parine is not marked at all, and the big river flowing out of the north of the Inland Sea is the one that flows through Tak. If we're going to fit the geography of Ashkar into Khul, we're going to need to fiddle with things a bit. I suggest that rather than have that river enter the Inland Sea at Tak, we turn it into the Parine. Then it extends quite some way into the heart of Khul, providing us with ample room to accommodate the string of settlements (Mantou, Aut Haat, Uffle, Embre, Kul and Furdle's village) along its length. Furdle's village and Kul are at the upper reaches of the river, and beyond them is wilderness and the Barbarian Lands of Kirf. In the map below, I've done a quick Paintshop job on the Khul map to show what this might look like (with the locations from The Keeper of the Seven Keys added for good measure).

The Parine could maybe loop more to the south from the Aut Haat area before swinging back to Lagash, just to fill up more of that part of the map, but you get the idea, I'm sure. It's easy to imagine traders and slavers travelling up the Parine, and then either through the Barbarian Lands of Kirf to Arkand, Fernor and Sariandor (and then on to Corda and Arion), or skirting through the Wastes of Qor and the edge of the Wastes of Chaos before making for Ashkyos and Gundobad (cf. the buying and selling of slaves in Seas of Blood and the slavers of Clash of the Princes). I'd be interested to know what you think!

As for the locations of Jje, Appalanx, Ixtalan and maybe Bizen and Nimrud, I'd be interested in your thoughts too. Anyway, with the addition of these Lagashian towns to the map, the southwest of Khul is beginning to look like a rather interesting place, rather than the unknown area that it is in Titan. Of course, the map makes one other thing that is in need of attention stand out - Hachiman, which is rather poorly mapped I think, and could do with a proper update based on a close analysis of Sword of Samurai (and Ken Beuden's map of the area). I'll return to this in another post.