Belzetarn’s Battlements

In The Tally Master, the elite of the citadel possess quarters in the uppermost levels of the tower. Its warlord, Regenen Carbraes, inhabits chambers with an internal stair connecting several lower spaces with others on the upper floor.

Gael, the protagonist of the novel, chooses not to use the official apartments that go with his position of Secretarius, but he pays an unplanned and fateful visit to his empty rooms one evening.

Another turning point in the story occurs on the terrace ringed by the quarters of the elite. Carbraes and the general who commands his legions (the March) are enjoying a rare moment of conversation and leisure under the summer sun, when Gael brings them startling news.

For more about the world of The Tally Master, see:
Belzetarn’s Great Halls
Belzetarn’s Treasures
Belzetarn’s Formidable Entrance Gate
Belzetarn’s Smithies and Cellars
The Dark Tower
The Fortress of Belzetarn
Map of the North-lands in the Bronze Age
What Does the Tally Master Tally?
Mapping Ancient Rome onto Belzetarn
Gael’s Tally Chamber

 

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Belzetarn’s Great Halls

The tower of Belzetarn possesses three great halls. Too many trolls dwell in the citadel for one hall to hold them all, and even so, many of the craftsmen and craftsmasters dine in the mess halls of their lodges, located in the artisans’ yard or the bailey.

The topmost hall (level nine) serves as the official hall of the regenen, the warlord who rules the citadel. But Carbraes’ practical instincts push him to dine in company with more than the elite, and thus he randomly takes some of his meals in the middle great hall (level six) and the lower one (level five).

When Gael goes seeking the castellanum one evening (the castellanum manages the domestic concerns of the citadel), he starts by checking the topmost great hall, but comes up empty. The middle great hall is equally bereft of the highest officers. Carbraes dined in the lowest great hall that night, and the castellanum, perforce, dined there with him.

For more about the world of The Tally Master, see:
Belzetarn’s Treasures
Belzetarn’s Formidable Entrance Gate
Belzetarn’s Smithies and Cellars
The Dark Tower
The Fortress of Belzetarn
Map of the North-lands in the Bronze Age
What Does the Tally Master Tally?
Mapping Ancient Rome onto Belzetarn
Gael’s Tally Chamber

 

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Belzetarn’s Treasures

Belzetarn’s wealth is measured in its metals and the war gear made from those metals.

Great vaults at the core of the tower hold stores of weapons and armor for the legions. Smaller vaults, stacked within the thick outer wall, guard the swords and breastplates intended for officers, as well as the ingots of tin, copper, and bronze from which they are forged.

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Gael’s tally chamber lies off the lowest great hall, where the lowly in the tower take their meals. Gael’s personal quarters sit immediately above the tally room, while his assistant’s apartment perches third in the stack.

For more about the world of The Tally Master, see:
Belzetarn’s Formidable Entrance Gate
Belzetarn’s Smithies and Cellars
The Dark Tower
The Fortress of Belzetarn
Map of the North-lands in the Bronze Age
What Does the Tally Master Tally?
Mapping Ancient Rome onto Belzetarn
Gael’s Tally Chamber

 

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Belzetarn’s Formidable Entrance Gate

Three significant scenes take place in or adjacent to the melee gallery of the tower (on level three).

In the earliest, Gael first sets eyes on the cursed gong that his warlord’s scouts dragged from the bottom of a ruined well. The gong will bedevil him through much of the book!

In the second scene, Gael must pronounce a young prisoner to be either troll or human. If the youth is human, he will be executed. In the third scene…well, too many spoilers for me to say a word about that one! 😉

Gael’s friend Barris is the chief cook in the Regenen’s Kitchens, and Gael stops by the servery often as he goes about his responsibilities. Barris presses food treats such as smoked fish and fruit conserves upon his friend whenever Gael looks in to say hello.

For more about the world of The Tally Master, see:
Belzetarn’s Smithies and Cellars
The Dark Tower
The Fortress of Belzetarn
Map of the North-lands in the Bronze Age
What Does the Tally Master Tally?
Mapping Ancient Rome onto Belzetarn
Gael’s Tally Chamber

 

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Belzetarn’s Smithies and Cellars

When I made the (vague) plan to share my floor plans for Belzetarn’s tower on my blog, I envisioned a vast spill of drawings showing all of the main levels. But when I opened my computer to write the post, I realized that just as the proverbial “wall of text” is unappealing, so is the “wall of floor plans” a bad idea.

I almost scrapped the whole thing.

But… but… but! Floor plans are cool! I bet some of my blog readers would like to see them!

So, instead of reserving the floor plans for the appendices of The Tally Master only, I put my thinking cap on. How can I present the floor plans in an approachable way? Thinking… thinking… thinking…

Ah, ha!

How do you spread the waist-high pile of mulch? One shovelful at a time. How do you make the long journey? One step at a time. I would not try to show the whole tower in one go.

Plus, I could then talk about what’s on each level, which would be fun.

So, here are the lowest levels of the tower and the kitchen annex.

The cellars under the kitchens are a little lower than the smithies inhabiting the roots of the tower proper. Two separate stairs give access to the root cellars, but the mead cellar deliberately has only one locked entrance. No illicit tapping of the mead barrels allowed!

Many of the drinking vessels used at table are made of horn (much more delicate than the pottery bowls and copper cooking pots) and possesses special cleaning requirements. Thus there is a horn scullery devoted to washing drinking horns! The leather bottiles in which mead is carried to the great hall, where it is served, also posses their own scullery.

The Castellanum’s kitchens, right above the cellars, prepare food for the bulk of the denizens in Belzetarn. The Regenen’s kitchens (one more level up and not on this floor plan) handle the fancy dishes reserved for the high table where the warlord and his elite officers dine.

The smithies occupy the great stone vaults at the foundations of the tower. They are shadowy spaces, lit by the fires in the forges and echoing with the shouts of the smiths and the ringing of hammers on metal. The color of heated bronze – or copper or tin – indicates its temperature and when it is hot enough to be worked, so strong sunlight would be a hindrance.

For more about the world of The Tally Master, see:
The Dark Tower
The Fortress of Belzetarn
Map of the North-lands in the Bronze Age
What Does the Tally Master Tally?
Mapping Ancient Rome onto Belzetarn
Gael’s Tally Chamber

 

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The Dark Tower

My inspiration for The Tally Master came as a sort of vision, although “vision” is a misnomer, given that the sense of sight had little to do with it.

I felt as though I were Gael as he sat in a small and gloomy chamber hollowed from the thick stone wall of a dark lord’s dark tower, hunched over a parchment, quill scratching tally mark after tally mark.

There wasn’t much light, just flickers of firelight and shadows and the sensation of great weight pressing my shoulders down and my spine into an uncomfortable curve, while sound filled the air around me.

The roaring of great forges deafened me. The clanging of smiths’ hammers on beaten bronze clamored. Sudden shouts made my heart contract in alarm. Spurts of running footsteps pounded in a nearby stairwell.

Gael and the sounds of his setting seemed very real, and I wanted to tell his story. I knew that he was a troll and that he managed the wealth – the metals – for his dark lord, but I didn’t know much else.

So I engaged in the process that has become so familiar and effective for me over my years of telling stories. I asked myself question after question, made extensive notes of my answers, and drew bunches of maps and floor plans. Over several months, I came to know a lot about Gael, about his overlord (not quite the typical “dark lord” at all), and about Belzetarn, the citadel that was their home.

In my initial stabs to make Belzetarn match the feeling I had for it, I placed the kitchens in the tower proper, which was utterly wrong. I was so relieved when I realized that they were located within a sort of annex slabbed onto the lower southeastern side of the tower. Once I got that piece, the rest of the fortress almost fell into place by itself, although it took me a while to draw it all.

My goal was always to sculpt the physical form of Belzetarn to express the mood and the ambience of my initial inspiration.

The style of this drawing doesn’t truly hit the mark. The photo at the beginning of this post does that better. But the design of the tower itself is close to right. It’s tall – very tall – it’s dark, it possesses clawed protrusions at the top and a lumpy, spiky annex on one side. Plus, all the chambers and offices are in the right place, as you can see when you slice the tower in half.

For more about the world of The Tally Master, see:
The Fortress of Belzetarn
Map of the North-lands in the Bronze Age
What Does the Tally Master Tally?
Mapping Ancient Rome onto Belzetarn
Gael’s Tally Chamber

 

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The Fortress of Belzetarn

Belzetarn – the fortress in which The Tally Master takes place – occupies the top of a bluff above a lake in the Hamish wilds.

Summer Landscape Telemark

I envision the landscape as looking a lot like that of Telemark, Norway, although Belzetarn would be much closer to the lake than the vantage point in this photo.

Belzetarn’s outer bailey possesses room enough to permit an entire cohort (600 warriors) to practice drills. Stables, kennels, the hunters’ lodge, the gluemaker, and many other offices line its curtain walls.

The artisans’ yard, located along the cliff edge, is smaller, but encompasses the hospital, the felterers, the harnessmakers, the woodcarvers, and so on.

Belzetarn’s tower, erected by potent troll-magery long before Carbraes came to rule it, dwarfs both yard and bailey because of its extreme height, more than 300 feet (~90 meters) from the foundations to the battlements.

Belzetarn is big!

The Tally Master is so close to its release that I can almost taste it! I’d hoped to click the publish button this week, but…no. Next week is looking good though. 😀

For more about the world of The Tally Master, see:
Map of the North-lands in the Bronze Age
What Does the Tally Master Tally?
Mapping Ancient Rome onto Belzetarn
Gael’s Tally Chamber

 

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Map of the North-lands in the Bronze Age

I created the first map for my North-lands right after I wrote Troll-magic. I remember immersing myself in the feeling I had for the world, and the different moods and geographies that seemed in my mind to go with each culture, and then attempting draw coastlines and rivers and mountains that matched my very subjective experience of the place.

It wasn’t easy at all, but it felt right. And I did manage to achieve a result close to what I wanted.

The Tally Master is set roughly 2,000 years before Troll-magic. While a few rivers have changed their courses, the basic topography of the landmass remains the same. Human elements, such as nations, fortresses, and cities – and, especially, the names for the various regions – are markedly different, of course.

I knew I wanted to include a map in The Tally Master and that I could not use the one from Troll-magic. I would need a new one!

But I like maps and drawing maps, so creating the new one was a pleasure and a treat.

If you wish to compare the North-lands of the Bronze Age (the time of Tally Master) with that of the Steam Age (the time of Troll-magic), you can see maps of the latter here.

 

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What Does the Tally Master Tally?

The wealth of Belzetarn is measured in its metals.

How many ingots of bronze, copper, and tin – tin, so rare – lie in its vaults? How many bronze swords? How many shirts of bronze scale?

The technologies required to make superior weapons and tools of iron don’t exist yet, but those for the working of bronze are well developed, and the bronze implements of Belzetarn rarely fail. Were it not for the scarcity of tin, the denizens of the citadel would be well equipped. But tin is incredibly rare, and every grain of it must be well guarded.

Gael, the tally master of Belzetarn, is the one who ensures that none of the tin – or any of the metals – is lost or stolen. The day he discovers that his vaults are one ingot short is grievous!

* * *

In order to write The Tally Master, I needed to know a fair bit about metallurgy, about mining, about smithing, and about the shape and size of ingots through history. I researched all of these elements, and some pertinent bits have made their way into the book’s appendices. Here is a sneak preview of the appendix on ingots.

About Tin, Copper, and Bronze Ingots

The ingots issuing from Belzetarn’s copper mines are massive ’oxhides’ shaped like an animal hide with four ’legs’ that make it possible to carry them. They weigh 80 pounds and measure roughly 70 centimeters (~28 inches) long by 40 centimeters (16 inches) wide by 5 centimeters (~2 inches) thick.

Belzetarn’s tinworks yield ‘pebbles’ created in a rough smelting on site. These pebbles are transported to the citadel’s forges in sacks loaded onto a mule.

Neither the copper oxhides nor the tin pebbles are pure enough for immediate use. Both must be smelted again to remove impurities, and the resulting high-quality metal is poured into molds which create small ingots shaped vaguely like hats.

These ‘hat’ ingots each weigh one pound and measure roughly 9 centimeters (~3.5 inches) per side of the ’hat brim’ – the widest part. The ’crown’ rises 4.2 centimeters (~2 inches) high.

Tin is the least dense of the three relevant metals – tin, bronze, and copper – and the tin hat ingots have a thickness of 2.421 millimeters. Bronze, with more density, yields ingots 2 millimeters thick. And copper, the most dense, possesses ingots of 1.995 millimeters thickness.

The hat ingots are shaped to nest in neat stacks. But because of their different thicknesses, stacks composed of the different metals would wobble a bit, while stacks of all tin, all copper, or all bronze are very stable.

The smiths of the individual forges – sword, armor, and privy – each create their own bronze from the tin and copper hat ingots, because each requires a slightly different ratio of tin to copper. Any leftover bronze is poured into its own hat ingots. The blade smith regularly produces one bronze ingot every day, so precise and standardized are his processes.

The privy smith, who makes tools and household implements for the citadel, is experimenting wildly with different metal mixtures. He rarely has enough leftover bronze to pour an entire ingot, so his leftovers return to storage at the end of the day as a lump which is weighed.

The armor smithy always needs wire (to ‘sew’ the many small platelets of bronze into mail shirts), so any excess bronze is poured into long narrow molds, yielding metal that can be readily hammered into wire.

THE TALLY MASTER

Seven years ago, reeling from a curse in the wake of battle, Gael sought sanctuary and found it in a most perilous place. But the citadel of a troll warlord—haunt of the desperate and violent—proves a harsh refuge for a civilized mage.

Set in the Bronze Age of J.M. Ney-Grimm’s North-lands, The Tally Master brings mystery and secrets to epic fantasy in a suspenseful tale of betrayal and redemption.

Coming soon!

For more about the world of The Tally Master, see:
Mapping Ancient Rome onto Belzetarn
Gael’s Tally Chamber

For more about ingots of the ancient world, see:
Photo of an Ingot of Cyprus, British Museum
About Oxhide Ingots, Wikipedia
About Tin “Hat” Ingots, Wikipedia
About Tin “Hat” Money, Time Capsule Money Museum
About “Bun” Ingots, Parys Copper Mines

 

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Mapping Ancient Rome onto Belzetarn

When I’m world building for a fantasy novel, I do a lot of research. I’m sure some writers are able to create cultures and hierarchies and organizational trees straight from their heads that are as detailed and irregular as the real thing. But when I do that, my creations are a little too neat and tidy, a little too logical, to have the feel of reality.

Roman army and chariot

So I choose a period of history and a place in our world that has a lot of the right features for my purposes, research it, and then map it onto my world, tweaking the details as needed to make it fit.

When I was creating the society for Belzetarn, the citadel in which The Tally Master takes place, I researched the kitchens of Hampton Court during the reign of King Henry VIII, because they provided a good model for Belzetarn’s kitchens.

Of course, the time period of Henry VIII was much later than my own Bronze Age setting. Which meant that I eliminated such places as the wafery (which relied heavily on sugar and grains), the confectionery, and the pastry yard. But the complexity of Hampton Court was perfect.

I modeled the military hierarchy of Belzetarn after the armies of ancient Rome. Rome was an Iron Age civilization, but the effectiveness of its legions was matched by my warlord’s effectiveness.

The main reason humans switched from bronze weapons to iron weapons was because tin was so darn rare. And one needs tin in order to combine it with copper to make bronze. There just wasn’t enough tin, with deposits close at hand, to outfit hundreds of thousands of soldiers.

The early iron weapons were inferior to the late bronze ones, because bronze metallurgy had been honed over millennia to produce superb results, while no one knew the best techniques for iron. But there was a lot more iron, with more convenient locations. So the switch was made.

Roman scale armour detail

By the time the Romans came along, iron metallurgy was well developed. But imagine a world in which tin was more prevalent. In such a world, the Romans might have been just as dominant with bronze weapons.

Belzetarn is not Rome. It’s not even a North-lands analog to Rome. It’s a lone outpost of desperate men – trolls – commanded by an exceptionally able warlord, Carbraes. But it’s large enough to field two legions, roughly 10,000 men. And the hierarchy of Rome’s military could be mapped nicely onto Belzetarn’s military.

I knew that ancient Rome had legions, cohorts, and centuries. I knew that within those units were legates and tribunes and centurions. But I needed a lot more detail than that. So I went researching.

I learned that a legion was composed of ten cohorts, that a cohort was composed of six centuries (except the first, which had only five), that a century possessed only eighty men, and that they were divided into 8-man squads.

Roman HierarchyActually, in the early days, a century had one-hundred men, but that number dwindled as the years rolled past. Then it increased to one-hundred-twenty men when the time of foreign conquest arrived. And then dwindled again. But never mind that. I was going to show Belzetarn at one instance in time, not write its history through the ages.

Information on legions and cohorts and centuries was fairly easy to find. What I really needed, however, was a listing of the ranks within them. A detailed listing.

I was delighted to find it on a site called HorridHistory.

The High Command

Legatus Propraetor (Imperial Legate) – commander of two or more legions; in modern terms, a general
Legatus Legionis (Legion Legate) – commander of one legion
Tribunus Laticlavius (Broad Band Tribune) – second in command of the legion, although not during battles, because the men holding this post were young and inexperienced, new senators at the start of their political careers
Praefectus Castrorum (Camp Prefect) – second in command of the legion during battles; the men of this rank were chosen for their experience
Tribuni Angusticlavii (Narrow Band Tribunes) – five per legion; serve as administrative officers; in modern terms, majors
Tribunus Cohortis – commander of an entire cohort (6 centuries in a cohort, 10 cohorts in a legion)

The Centurions

Centurio Hastatus Prior (centurion of the first spear) or the Primus Pilus (first file) – commander of the first century of the first cohort
Pilus Prior – commander of the first century in any of the second through tenth cohorts
Princeps Prior – commander of the second century
Hastatus Prior – commander of the third century
Pilus Posterior – commander of the fourth century
Princeps Posterior – commander of the fifth century
Hastatus Posterior – commander of the sixth century
Optio Centuriae – second in command of the century
Tesserarius (Guard Commander) – second in command to the optio

Where the Real Work Gets Done

Decanus – commanded an octet, or a eight-man squad
Miles Gregarius – title given to a legionary who performed exceptionally well in battle
Miles – a normal legionary

roman-legionary-re-enactors

So far, so good. But I could not simply borrow all the Roman terms. If I did that, Belzetarn would feel like an outpost in ancient Rome. And it’s not!

So I started mapping our world onto my North-lands, adjusting structures and creating my own terms. I kept a few of the Roman terms, just enough of them to orient the reader.

Troll hierarchy in BelzetarnI worried that I might need a terms for the equivalent of the Roman Tribunus Laticlavius, the second in command of a legion, or the Tribunus Augusticlavius, who seemed sort of like British aides-de-camp during the regency period.

So I came up with Magno and Agusten, respectively.

I tried to carry on with filling out the hierarchy of seconds in command and thirds, but I was running out of inspiration. Plus, I figured that while The Tally Master takes place in a military citadel, its protagonist is not one of the warriors or their officers. He controls the flow of metal from the mines through the forges and into the armories as weapons. The focus of the story is on his tally room and the smithies. I could develop more military titles when and if I needed them!

Last weekend The Tally Master came back to me from my first reader, and she’s given me awesome feedback. As usual! I’m currently doing a little more research – needed for the fixes I envision – and then I’ll start revising.

I’m excited! This is going to be one of my best books ever! 😀

 

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