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

 

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