In 2013, Jonathan Salt and I created the concept for a fantasy world. Recently, I’ve created some art trying to capture some features of the world using DALL-E 2.
Our world is not like your world. From what your scholars tell me, your world is young… you’ve had barely a thousand years of civilization. Our own world goes back ten times as many as that, and possibly more. Your world is shaped by kings and wars and the occasional innovation - the stirrup, a new kind of plow, plate armor. Our world is shaped by enormous displays of magic, the kind that move mountains. And by subtler expressions of this magic, the kind that create new species, new peoples. And of course, by the wars and intrigue to capture and harness this power.
It’s hard to explain the tower, or the Tower-city to people of your world. It is said to be the source of our world’s power, a vast tower rising above the capital city of our land. A city that has existed for ten thousand years. And once every three or four centuries, wizards fight to enter the tower, with one victor. That victor ascends the tower, in spirit as well as in flesh, and becomes a Maker.
No one really understands the power of Makers, or the effect the power has upon them. In the first decade or so the power is most raw. Makers can destroy cities with a wave of their hand, harness great energies of the deep to create new islands or mountain ranges, summon armies of spirit to settle old scores. Of course, it’s not always as dramatic as all this. But everyone knows the Maker holds these powers, and so in the early days of their rise, there is almost no resistance to their will.
Over time, it is said that the Maker’s power wanes and their mastery grows. Their abilities become more elegant, refined. They can no longer move mountains, but their subtlest creations are the ones that have the most lasting effects.
One thing Makers are known for – it’s a stereotype at this point – is their love for creating dragons. Ancient legends tell of giant, flying, fire breathing reptilian creatures. They were said to be intelligent, long lived, and nearly impossible to kill. No such creatures exist today, of course, but the remnants of many–excuse the heresy–failed attempts remain. The winged lizards of Denthel, the Tenrar beasts, the jungle dragons, there are many such examples. Early in their power, Makers can create enormous dragons of pure spirit, powerful and deadly, but not able to live long or reproduce. Hybrid spirit-flesh dragons can do better, but spirit does not naturally lend itself well to self-sustaining reproduction. And on the other side of the spectrum, the biological creations are not easily made to support fire breathing or flying with a large body mass. We have records of many attempted dragon-creations that survived generations before dying out, or surviving but losing many of their dragon-like traits.
Our world has adapted to the chaos of successive generations of Makers. How strange it is to try to describe this to you. Our children learn of the Makers and and the great transitions between makers, as they learn of the passage of the Sun and Moons across the sky. The more distant a city is from the tower, the less dramatic the transition – usually. But all in our world are witness to that great and terrible power. It is not the only magic in our land. We have our wizards, and many with a small talent. But it is the Makers who shape the very land on which we plant our crops. It is the Makers who build us great systems of irrigation and architectural wonders uncraftable by human hands. They are not called Makers for nothing. And yes, sometimes - intentionally or accidentally - these great powers wreck havoc on our world. There have been calamities, great famines, the sky blotted out from volcanic ash and the like. Under our breath we might refer to those Makers who did these things as Breakers. But for the most part, our world is richer – far richer than yours – for the presence of the tower. Or at least, so it was thought until a hundred and eighty years ago…
There are many rumors about what led to the most recent calamity that wrecked our world. I will not bother you with them, for there is much speculation and little substance. What I can say, is that an old Maker died and a new one ascended the tower. The succession war was brief, the victor unexpected. And when she ascended the tower, something unusual happened. She disappeared into the tower and did not come out – for a while this was not unusual as Makers often isolate while they feel into their power and learn to wield it, but almost never for more than a decade. This time she never came out, still hasn’t come out. But even so her effects began to be felt upon the world.
Massive seedlings began to sprout, seemingly at random across the land, and grew into massive giant trees, trees hundreds, sometimes thousands of feet tall. Superficially, they were just much larger versions of natural trees - spruce, oak, cedar, etc. But our scholars said they were infused with a powerful magic, which they could detect but not determine the nature of. Where they grew, the soil became rich and unnaturally productive. Agricultural towns began to spring up under them. For a decade, things were very good. The absentee-Maker had seemingly blessed the land with a creation more impressive than most, even in written memory.
And then the Wasting began. People became sick. Fevers, splitting headaches, internal bleeding. This sickness befell cities, towns and villages everywhere, suddenly, from Thuleth to the wastes of Darm. It killed quickly. Within weeks, more than 19 in 20 of all people in our world were dead. A few places were spared. The interior of the Tower-city was unaffected. The land surrounding the giant trees was also protected. In that first week, the word quickly spread. Those who understood, and could travel to a nearby tree survived. Most could not, or would not, and died.
Our world today is a skeleton of our once-proud civilization. We live under the shade of our giant trees. They protect us from the mysterious wasting illness we still do not understand. For a while, travel between our tree-cities was impossible in most cases. Then, our arborists figured out how to cultivate saplings from the great trees. These would not grow into a full tree themselves, but they could be kept alive under the right care, and they were small enough to transport. Saplings were grown and cultivated to enable the first caravans, which awakened trade, travel, immigration from city-tree to city-tree.
If you visited our world now, you’d find hundreds of city-trees, connected by networks of trade caravans. You’d meet scavengers, who travel to long-abandoned cities to find magical items, rare metals, and lost machinery. The old cities, and much of the countryside, is quite dangerous. Most animals and magical beasts were not affected by the Wasting, and have flourished in its absence. The wild has reclaimed most of the land. The Tower-city is a fraction of its former glory, but still it is the center of civilization, one of the places with real continuity of governance and society. Outside of the capital and the religious sects, people curse the “Breaker” openly. They curse the one that cursed this land. Some speculate that she has died, but the tower’s bells have not rung, the doors have not opened, and the Wasting continues to kill any not sheltered by tower or tree or sapling.
So it might remain, indefinitely, were it not for a disturbing development. Rumors have spread that some of the great trees have begun to sicken. It is said that a distant tree, across the scarred mountains has died, its protection failing utterly, its residents force to flee or perish. I do not know if this means our trees will begin to fail. I hope and pray they will not, for without them, we will all fall. We wait and hope for the tower bells to ring, though the Maker is not old for a Maker, if she still lives. But we hope she is not, and that someone new can enter the Tower, and use its great power to save us, to shape the world back to its rightful form, to once again restore our world to greatness.
Some DALL-E inspirations for some of the features of this world. A bunch of possible towers & Tower-cities. A bunch of tree-cities. Some caravans carrying saplings, some attempts at dragons, a wizard, abandoned cities.