The action takes place in a fantasy world, similar to medieval Europe.
The story follows the adventures of Saaelle, from her birth in Year 170 AW to the final battle between humans and Larifurrs in Year 202 AW. (AW standing for “after war”, the end of the great war between humans and Larifurrs.)
Magic is real in this world. Uncommon, but real. There are also non-human creatures and supernatural entities.
Magic, however, is a broad concept and there’s a clear distinction between:
- Practical Magic This kind of magic is based on enchanted items, summonings, potions and rituals. Practical magic can be performed both by men and women. Practitioners of magic are referred to as Magicians, Sorcerers or (rarely) Wizards. Even if female, they are never called Witches. Magician’s powers depend on their knowledge or the power of the entity summoned.
- Natural Magic This is an innate talent, sometimes referred to as the gift, and only women can be born with this talent. These women are called Witches and very few of them are known to exists. Their powers are said to be unlimited, connecting “earth’s deepest recess to the remote stars in the sky” (as Vendebar describes it to Saaelle in volume II “The Dame of Soborche”). Even if this natural power is difficult to control, stories are told of a single Witch defeating an army of soldiers with only her willpower.
This is a reasonably accurate map of the continental land at the time of the events told in the story of Saaelle.
Other continents are known, among them Curolhan beyond the Wide Sea, the elven land. Sailing the Wide Sea is dangerous and only elven shipmasters know the routes to reach the continent, that’s why no other territory has been cartographed.
The Story (sanitized and spoiler free)
Of noble origins, Saaelle is raised in the prison-college of Arramann until her coming of age, in Year 184 AW, when she marries Dravi Reillan, usurper-Lord of Soborche.
Shortly after the marriage Reillan dies and Saaelle becomes Dame of Soborche. She gives birth to a daughter and exiles her immediately, to be raised outside the continent in the lands across the Wide Sea.
After an year of reign, and against the advice of her counselor Vendebar, Saaelle leaves Soborche and travels alone. She’s now convinced to be a true witch, born with “the gift”, and wants to discover the truth about herself.
She travels under the false name of Sarzanne, a name she’ll often use in her adventures, and joins a caravan of gypsies, where she is taught the rudiments of magic by an aged magician named Molvenda that falsely claims to be a witch.
Recognizing Saaelle’s talent, Molvenda urges her to find Geflyde of Gairech, Master of Witchcraft, to learn how to control her powers.
From Year 185 AW to Year 191 AW Saaelle faces many adventures that lead her to work at The Tannery, cross the lost Lordship of Lythe-Wilf and finally to study at Gairech where she meets her familiar, the cat Coire.
Saaelle comes back to Soborche in Year 191 AW, and must face the consequences of having left Vendebar in charge during her absence.
In Year 192 AW she seats at the Council of Hordern whose son went missing during a Larifurr raid.
Her speech against Mestadon and the Larifurr’s ever increasing raids is the beginning of a two years long rescue mission in the Larifurr’s territory, backed among others by Vardadir and Bodker the barrelmaker that she met at the Council.
After these two years, she becomes the de-facto leader of the humans and Mestadon swears revenge against her.
In Year 194 AW she faces the curse of Sarr, a sorcerer, and is helped by Vardadir and the outcast elven lady Drelie to survive the ordeal of Caer Mor.
In Year 195 AW Saaelle travels across the Small Sea, is captured by a pirate ship and discovers the secret of the Rocks of Lafi.
In Year 197 AW She reaches Bash-ra in the southern lands, facing Miasar the witch and her hordes of Larifurrs.
The five remaining years see Saaelle facing Greim, spirit of decay, while the struggle between her and Mestadon escalates and reaches its apex with the events that put an end, in Year 202 AW, to the second — and last — war between humans and Larifurrs.
Along with their power, Witches are born with a disinterest in the mundane details of everyday life. They do understand desires and feelings, they do take political stances and participate in wars. However, they are said to be unable to actually feel any human emotion.
No Witch is known to have ever fallen in love or had her judgement clouded by emotions. In this world, lies are commonly referred to as “Witches’ tears”.
The only restraint for a Witch is steel. This metal league has already been discovered and is known as the rational metal. It’s common name is Kalyb and the meteoric iron needed to produce it is mined in the craters of Erzbern, belonging to the Lordship of Gharen.
A witch can’t let her powers flow if she is somehow encircled with steel. For example with a ring, a bracelet or a restraining collar.
About Humans and Other Creatures
Humans used to be the only race in the continent until the Larifurr tribe conquered the east, in Year 231 BW.
Other creatures are known, such as the elves of Curolhan beyond the Wide Sea and there were giants living in the north east before the Larifurr’s invasion.
However, meeting a non human has always been and still is rather uncommon in the continent.
Larifurrs look very similar to humans, except for the fact they tend to avoid daylight and this led humans to commonly call them, despisingly, Light Shunners. Little is known about Larifurrs.
They live underground, in intricate caves hundred of them dig relentlessly day and night. Despite not using in any way the land they conquer, they have an ever expanding need to extend the caves.
The only above ground structures built by Larifurrs are watch towers, usually near the entrance of the cave, whose position often changes due to the continuous building of new underground quarters.
During the Great War soldiers swear they saw dead Larifurrs with bone hooks protruding from their bodies and even with what looked like wings. These memories are considered children’s tales, and the Lordships after the Great War have ruled once and for all that Larifurrs are human.
Except for occasional diplomatic meetings, there are no contacts between humans and Larifurrs. “The Field”, as it is now known, is a large portion of no-man’s-land where the final battle in the Great War was fought.
Politics and rulings
For as long as can be remembered no king has ever ruled the entire continent.
The land is split in several large lordships. Each one of them has its ruler, and is politically and militarily independent from the others.
Treaties and diplomatic marriages are common, as a mean to strengthen each lordship’s power and safety.
The title of Lord or Dame is the only used in the continent and is held in great respect. All the Lords and Dames are equal, even if some lordships are wealthier or more powerful.
However, the power and importance of each Lordship has reached an uncanny equilibrium over the centuries and each lordship somehow depends on the others for its prosperity or even for survival.
There are also a couple of independent states, such as the isle of Arramann, the Rocks of Lafi in the middle of the Small Sea, and The Tannery, formally belonging to the Lordship of Sigrhan, but apparently a self sustained city, built around a foul and polluted lake.
Religion and deities
Among humans, there are no religions nor gods since a long time. In written history there are few references to deities and cathedrals, but the only place where a Chapel still exists, in ruins, is the lost Lordship of Lythe-Wilf.
Especially in the western lordships of Gharen and Sigrhan, the richest and most scientifically advanced, religion is despised and considered nothing more than superstition.
This misunderstanding played a key role in letting events escalate towards what is now called the Great War with the Larifurr. Such a devastating war it was, that history is now divided in Years “Before the War” (BW) and “After the War” (AW).
Larifurrs follow a discipline that looks like a religion: the Inner Circle. Whoever ascends to the highest role in the Inner Circle is said to be speaking with the voice of the gods, and Larifurrs seem to follow their leaders blindly.
Across the continent distance is commonly expressed in leagues, approximately 3 miles each league.
Traveling by foot is the norm. Only nobles, soldiers and merchants can afford horses and carriages. There are very few roads, and are mainly well established commercial routes.
At the time of this story all Lordships have access to the sea, but navigation is dangerous and usually limited to the Small Sea. Elven ships are able to cross the Wide Sea, and every once in a while they reach Gharen.
Humans are not allowed to board elven ships and no human has ever visited the elven continent, with the notable exception of Miach, Saaelle’s daughter.