Today we have a guest post by Will Hahn, chronicler of the events and tales in the Lands of Hope and author of the newly released Reunion of Souls. [Don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below.]
Will chose for his topic:
If the reader sees certain words in a fantasy—such as knight, castle, nobility—it naturally evokes the full-blown imagery of the European medieval feudal system. As a former Ancient History teacher I can understand the impatience, even from fans of the genre; there’s an entire world to be explained and the political arrangement seldom has much to do with the “real” plot. Folks assume, and usually with good reason, that if certain characters are “noble”, they must be:
Rarer than most
Richer, more powerful, better educated
Better at fighting
Set for life in terms of their job
And if the reader is honest, they’ll admit in addition that noble characters are at least assumed to be somehow better than average folks—peasants, thatchers, potters, merchants and the like.
But these are fantasy stories. We delight in the poor boy who proves himself worthy, the peasant girl who has beauty and wit to win acclaim; and we love to see the dastardly baron defeated, the hypocritical bishop exposed and brought down. But is that all they’re doing, waiting for the democratic-minded heroes to take them down a peg? The upper strata of a fantasy world should have a job to do, other than posing before a mirror and trying to pick their spouse at a dress-ball.
The Way it Was (Here)
In Europe, as long as the nobles had a job to do they were powerful, rich, and all the things I mentioned. That made sense. The Dark Ages was a time of constant threat from outside; the feudal system pooled the meager wealth of thousands through labor and tithes to provide a small number of soldiers the ability to train and arm for war in heavy armor and weapons. Each knight provided security that hundreds of peasants with forks and hoes could not. So sure, he got to collect the taxes, run the courts, own the land.
But you don’t vote for kings, as the movie says. As soon as warriors on foot began to have an impact (which happened when the protection provided by the knights created enough security and prosperity to allow it), then the nobles were quickly out of a job as far as war was concerned. Their land, wealth and reputation hung on for varying lengths of time but it was really all over.
In the Lands of Hope, a curious thing has happened. There are knights, baronesses, Marks and kings; curates, mysters and other ranks of the church devoted to and descended from the heroes of hold. They were established by the earliest customs of the kingdoms, in a day when Hope was struggling to survive against hordes of Despair who occupied the Lands that Hope was at first invading. The need for a noble class, including those who could cast magic spells and holy miracles, was more urgent than it ever had been in the Alleged Real World. And struggle they did, eventually freeing the kingdoms and erecting an enormous barrier, the mountains known as the Swords of Stone, to keep the armies of Despair physically locked away from the people they wished to protect.
That was two thousand years ago; the heroes shortly disappeared from the Lands of Hope and the kingdoms and orders they established have carrying on since, in times of relative peace and security. No Hopeful kingdom would dream of going to war against another; only those insane few called adventurers dared to hunt remnants of the ancient enemy in the furthest corners of the world.
Meanwhile, the nobles of Hope carried on the traditions they were shown. The kingdoms are ruled justly and honorably, even petty crime is well under control. Wealth is well distributed, leaving few causes for complaint. Knightly armor and wizardly staves have become somewhat ceremonial, with few occasions for use. But no one wishes to overset the social order.
Yet in the course of Judgement’s Tale, some dare to question the place of the nobility in the Lands of Hope. A quiet sage, an eager young student, a talented Woodman and a grim, grey-dressed outcast have no claim to noble blood, but are picking up clues in ancient tomes and wicked weather, to the plot of ages spun by a liche of Despair. And some among the knightly classes remember their obligations. The heir to the largest noble clan in Conar abandons home and family to seek the legendary Order of the Watchers, while the prince of Shilar chafes at his father’s protection, feeling a duty to avert violence with the neighboring Bordbeyonds by offering his hand to their unseen princess.
This is one of the themes I noticed in chronicling this epic tale; from the oldest times the heroes regarded nobility as a quality, not a birthright. The established crowns and staves of the Lands of Hope will have much to examine in their conduct—if, that is, the world survives at all.
Blurb for Reunion of Souls:
With a world in crisis, its heroes reach out to find companions, to take stock for the struggle ahead, and to look beneath the surface at clues that may make the difference between a person’s fame and a nation’s doom.
On the fringe of the cursed Percentalion, Treaman’s adventuring band revives the glory-days of Trainertown, celebrated by all—except themselves—as the hand of destiny. Somewhere in the remote Marble Swords, Sir Renan abandons name and fortune to seek a brotherhood that no one else believes exists. Near the forests north of Shilar, Prince Gareth wrestles with the choice to preserve his honor alone, or rejoin his royal father’s house and in so doing, cause a war between the children of Hope.
Now at the heart of Conar—safest city in the Lands—Solemn Judgement, the Man in Grey, uncovers the gateway to peril; he is thrown among adventurers that include his only friend, the woman who refused to teach him, and a man who has vowed his death, in… Reunion of Souls.
You can contact Will at: