Ammey McKeaf: The Chronicles of Azulland, Book 1 by Jane Shoup
By SMW Staff
Over the course of the last several years, I have developed a fascination with the science, craft, and art of cartography. Often I look upon a favorite old map, fixated on the island of Azulland, and I can clearly picture the Blue Mountains we were known for. In my mind’s eye, I can see the great cities of Nawllah and Bellux-Abry, the grand castles and estates of the southern valley, the cold, clean rivers, and fields of wild loira – a deep blue flower so sweet in scent, nothing can compare. It does not grow anywhere else and so it will fade with the memory of the few of us who still remember it and who will, too soon, vanish from the earth.
I state this vow with utter conviction; if I am ever able to cross back to my homeland, I shall never leave those shores again, no matter what forces rip and tear at her.
Whatever history may ultimately conclude, we were not a wicked people. The greatest crime that we are accused of is heresy, and for that we are condemned after the fact. The church has pronounced that Azulland was destroyed by God as punishment for paganism. As to that fallacy I will state the following: it is true that we were not ruled by the church, as so many other nations are or declare themselves to be, but I contend we were a more civilized people for relying on our own law and wisdom rather than the dictates of the church. I further contend that Azulland is still there. It is merely cloaked from the mortal eyes of the outside world.
It may well be that no one will take an interest in these forbidden chronicles when the church has banned them, but that cannot be my concern. I will write what I have seen and know to be the truth—and truth always finds a place in the hearts of those courageous enough to hear it.
The fact of the matter is, I have wanted to begin this narrative for years but could not. The delay was not a lack of inspiration, but rather a surplus of vanity. It was only when I utterly surrendered this vanity that I began having the visions that allowed me to proceed. In these visions, I have been transported back in time and made privy to past events. What I have seen is what I share with you now.
I will be invisible in the telling, as it should be. Furthermore, I will not sign my name to this or provide any information as to my person, because it is of no importance. It is the story of Azulland which bears significance. So, with no further explanation or ado, we begin. I say ‘we’ because you will now be part of the journey. By the magic and power of words and your own imagination, I grant you a bird’s eye view as we approach Azulland from its northern end. The sea, you will notice, is a deep blue, then azure, then nearly green as we reach the shore of Bellux-Abry, the northernmost city. It boasts the grandest palace in all the land, constructed in 1214. You will surely be awed by the elaborate, gold-tipped turrets and, if we dip down, the wide moats filled with shimmering redfish.
As we travel southward, there are many villages and towns, small and large. There is rich farmland and countless rivers, lakes and creeks. You will see fields of red poppies, cultivated for their yield of opium, and fields of wild blue loira, indigenous to the island. As we approach the Blue Mountains, we will have to gain altitude to clear the snowy peaks.
If you dare, venture east and you will see Oisenbant, home of the leviathans. They are a giant race, averaging some nine feet tall. Their faces looked somewhat deformed to our eyes and they were commonly perceived as stupid and dangerous, but two things should be noted regarding that perception, or perhaps misconception. They always held their own in battle, and they never initiated the skirmishes that led to war. They are not a threat, provided you do not come within their reach. They no longer venture beyond the region of Oisenbant, and no sane person ventures in.
If you do not wish to see Oisenbant, stay on a straight course as we pass over the mountains and we will come to Nawllah, the city in the center of Azulland. The palace there is long and flat, built around multiple courtyards with flowering trees and massive fountains.
Further south, we come to Vihlae forest. Its towering trees are ancient, and an eerie feeling of mysticism emanates from this place, long purported to be the home of white magic. Beyond the forest is Wydenyl, an ancient village settled by druids, which boasts a remarkable eight-sided temple built from the great oaks of Vihlae.
Southward still is the area known as the southern valley, renowned for its vast individual estates. We’ll pass the well-kept grounds of Stonewater Forge and then turn eastward and continue to Thender, a castle built with the pale-blue stones mined from Vhahas cavern. As you draw closer, you’ll no doubt marvel at the castle, as it is rather fairylike in its beauty. In fact, you might not be able to help yourself from stopping momentarily to watch the guards drilling with swords and shields. The clanking of metal is distracting, as are the sparks of sunshine gleaming off blades. But should you turn and look up the castle, there, on the fourth floor near the center, you will see the golden-hair of Ammey McKeaf, the eighteen-year old daughter of the general who made the name famous. She is perched in the window seat, also watching the men below.
Beyond Ammey is an elegantly appointed bedchamber in shades of gold, indigo and violet. It is the bedchamber of Julia Cator, a dark haired young noblewoman, who sits frowning into a looking glass as her hair is dressed by an older woman, a servant of the house.
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