Tag Archives: Versali-Virai

Cover Art – Arise

Hey there folks!  How long has it been since a cover reveal?  If you answered “too long” you’re absolutely right!  I mean, really, it’s only been about a month, but with nine new Tellest books coming your way in the next two years or so, we need to get on the reveal train pretty quick, huh?

So let’s get right down to business then, shall we?  We’ve already shown you work from Lord of Thunder and Transformed, so it stands to reason that we should show you the next sequel in our Tellest Legends collection.

Arise is the follow-up to the very well-received Awake.  Where we looked at psychology in a fantasy world with the first book in this series, with dreams, guilt, post traumatic stress and so on, in Arise, we knew we needed to raise the bar somewhat.  With Venathryn cured of the dreamplague, we needed a new challenge for Maravek in the follow up.  He and Vandelas head to Versali-Virai, a land far away, to help the people there with an even greater threat that comes when they should be slumbering.

Here’s how we started piecing together the cover:

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The first thing you’ll likely notice is just how busy the cover is.  There is a lot going on in this story.  It’ll be fighting with The Fall for the biggest cast, I’m sure.  Whereas Awake focused on just two characters (and only one on the cover), we have a quartet of powered individuals that grace the cover of Arise.

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We opted to go with this variant of the original sketch, because it gives a more gloomy, monstrous feel.  Our characters are in for a pretty decent fight on account of the mob of villagers, the spell being enacted on the minotaur statue and the shadow creature in the back there.

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Here, the landscape is put together a lot more.  Leo did a beautiful job bringing Versali-Virai to life in one of its darkest hours.  You can see the bazaar in the background there, and the gorgeous architecture even further in the distance.

The minotaur also gets a fresher coat of paint, and it makes him look plenty imposing.  It’s still coming together at this point though.

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Two of our leads are fully realized at this point—well, except for Maravek’s feet.  There’s a good reason for that though!  Joining him on the front cover is Venathryn, our hero from the first book.  She went over so well for so many people, we had to figure out a way to get her involved, and we pulled some pretty cool strings to get everything working the right way.

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Both the crowd and the looming shadow are given some badass new looks here.  There’s a lot of that red magic floating around, so you can see that this locale is a bit more dangerous than a few goblins in a forest.

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We’re almost to the end here.  Our other two leads, Vandelas and Faradorn, grace the back of our cover.  Vandelas was introduced in Awake as another elf in Venathryn’s sect, while Faradorn was introduced in the short story The City of Light and Darkness.

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We had one huge change to make here.  With his grey hair, Vandelas looked a little too much like Geralt of Rivia (a favorite of Leo’s, mind you).  We gave him a blond main that made him look a little more like a classic elf instead.

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Here you have it, our final piece.  There were only a few more changes here—some lighting and texture shifts, but it’s important! Also, I forgot to mention it earlier, but you can see why Maravek’s feet weren’t finished.  He’s obscured by the shadow of that frightening creature in the back there.

That’s about it for now, but we’ve got another gorgeous cover coming your way in about three weeks.  You can’t say that Leo wasn’t prolific!

The City of Light and Darkness, Part Two

Gillette turned east at the intersection instead, pushing down a long, straight street that passed between lines of shops.  With butchers, bakers, and tanners, that street was more commercial than any row Faradorn had been shown.  It stopped abruptly by a wall and a small archway with two parapets above, not unlike several they had seen throughout their journey.

Once they had passed beneath that archway, they could see eastern Versali-Virai was much humbler.  Smaller houses lined the road that seemed to fade into disrepair before becoming naught but a dirt path.  Still, even in that meek area, Faradorn took solace that the way was still lighted.

“Can I ask you a question?” Gillette wondered.  “You seem to be awfully predisposed with the lights around here.  Anxious almost.”

“What is your question?”

“It just seems odd you would come here in the middle of the night if you’re so worried about the darkness.”

For the first time since his arrival, Faradorn allowed a grin to cross his face.  “The night doesn’t frighten me, nor does the darkness.  It’s a shroud—a shield—and the light is a weapon.  There’s a balance to it I find comforting, which is why Versali-Virai sounded so appealing to me.”

“The City of Lights,” Gillette said.  “So that’s why you came so late.”

“I had heard you could see this place illuminated from the sea, but I must admit I’m almost happier to see it’s speckled, not awash with it.  I’ve seen brightness like that before, and it is overwhelming.”

The tour guide nodded and hummed to himself.  “Well, there’s one spot toward the end of the tour you might enjoy.  We’ll be passing by closer to Wolden’s Lighthouse on our way back on the north road.”

“I should like very much to see it.”

Gillette drew to that unexpected warmth, and his smile returned, stretched broad across his face.  His pace hastened, and he continued through the poorer section of the city, the visitor behind him every step of the way.

The way before them fell further into disrepair, with houses crumbling away in their weaker corners and lanterns being traded for more primitive torches.  The smell of fecal waste hung heavy in the air, and Gillette waved it away as if it had substance to it.  Faradorn seemed not to mind, his sight set on the next gate that led past.

The guide was not so quick to leave the area, even if it did smell particularly offensive.  Just beside the archway, illuminated in the warm orange glow of the braziers there, a poor unclean child rested his back against the flaking wall.  His clothes were no better off, with holes torn into his shirt and his slacks much too short to cover his legs.  If Versali-Virai had been a colder city, the boy would have most likely succumbed to the elements.

“Ravi,” Gillette called out.  The boy stirred, blinking weary eyes that struggled to see the world.  “A job for me is a coin for you,” the guide said.  That generous offer had the pauper on his feet in an instant.  Gillette fished in his pockets and pulled out a handful of gold and silver—money he had received from Faradorn earlier in the week by courier.  With a little trepidation, the guide plucked a golden doubloon from his palm and flicked it to the lad.  “Get yourself something to eat, boy.”

Offering only a smile in return, Ravi skittered backward through the gate.  He turned about in the darkness, but both of the men could hear his sandaled feet slapping against the stone road on the other side.

Faradorn cast a discerning glance toward Gillette.  The glare was not lost on the guide, who shrugged away that judgment.  “I remember a time when I was where that boy was: living in the gutters.  Besides, a little generosity shared never hurt anyone.  After all, it was you that gave me the hefty purse just to perform a job I always do.”

“He would have been just as happy with silver.”

“And I would have been none the wiser if you had decided to pay me my usual rate.  Sometimes we decide to give a little extra, it would seem.”

“Perhaps.”

“Let’s continue along.  We’re in no rush, but if we catch Bernard before he closes up the bar, maybe he could get you that deal we talked about.”

They pushed past the archway, arriving on the other side of the wall, where the houses regained their stability and, farther on, even their luster.

“This part of the city, the farthest east, is well maintained,” Gillette said.  “They want to make sure any visitors who come from the road there see a healthy, thriving city, not a shantytown falling into disrepair.  Truth be told, most of these houses close to the poor district are all owned by one man, and they’re left vacant.  Nobody wants to live there except for those who can’t afford it, and he’s not exactly known for his generosity.”

“Sounds like a scourge on this town.  He must have plenty of money, if he’s leaving homes empty here.”

Gillette swallowed away the tension in his throat.  “Well, it’s not my place to say where someone’s money should go.  If Plesson Howell wants to hoard his coin, I say let him.”

“’Tis a shame for all the people in the poor district though.  People like Ravi, that is.”

“I suppose you’re right.  But don’t tell anybody I said that.  Howell’s got ears in every shadow.  Suppose that’s like the shroud you talked about.”

“You seem intimidated by this man.”

“I didn’t say that.”

“You didn’t have to,” Faradorn pressed.  “I should hope I never have the misfortune of meeting this Howell.”

Gillette squared his jaw and kept walking, averse to continue down the path of that topic.  Instead, the guide stepped off the road and waved his client over.  “If we keep walking that way, we’ll venture too far off course.  This shortcut will speed up your return to the King’s Charter, and you won’t have to worry too much about the boring parts of the city.  How many houses can you see before they all start to look the same?”

Faradorn didn’t say anything, choosing instead to observe the glances down every alleyway his guide seemed preoccupied by.  That far from the main road, the street lamps were at their backs, but Faradorn could see other sconces affixed to the backs of houses.  He reached toward them, as if he could feel their warmth even from afar.

“You really shouldn’t be here this late at night,” both of them heard.  Gillette gasped and hopped back, for another fellow emerged from the darkness between two houses.  His windswept hair and thick mustache were dark enough to shield his face where the shadows couldn’t.  “Dishonorable folk prowl around here.  We wouldn’t want to see you hurt.”

“I have money,” Gillette announced.  “I’ll give you everything in my pockets.  Just let my friend go.”

“Now why would we do that?”

The emphasis on that word again—we—was not lost to Faradorn, who looked to his sides.  Two more men sidled from the alleyways on either end of the smaller street, and they weren’t shy about brandishing weapons.

“This isn’t going to end well,” the visitor to the city said.  “For any of you.”

Gillette spun on his heel and looked at his client with concern.  “Just give them whatever money you have on you, and they’ll leave us alone.”  The guide took his own coin purse and threw it to the ground in front of the mustached thug before him.

“I’d sooner take theirs,” Faradorn said.

Incited by those brave, foolish words, the men on his side inched closer, even as he raised his hand.  Somewhere behind them, the sound of glass shattering reported into the darkness.  Everyone turned to look except Faradorn, who kept his eyes trained on the nearest robber.  Another glass shattered, and another, closer and closer.  They realized the lanterns and sconces that hung behind the houses dimmed, not as if their flames were being extinguished, but as if the fire was pulled through the air into something insubstantial.

Faradorn’s raised hand made up for that encroaching darkness.  His digits shined with a new light, illuminating his eager, vengeful eyes.  As more lanterns broke around them and more flickering flames pulled toward him, even his lowered hand was aglow with magic.

“Don’t just stand there, you idiots,” their leader cried out, pushing past Gillette.  “Take him down!”

With a jerk of his wrist, Faradorn’s hand shot forward to the nearest thug.  A blast of energy accompanied that movement, landing upon the man’s chest.  That weaponized light threw the thief backward with intense force.  He slammed against the wall of a nearby house and slumped to the ground before the light ever faded.

His companion across the way lunged forward, brandishing a knife that glimmered in the light of the visitor’s hand.  Faradorn spun about in the blink of an eye, ducking beneath that attack.  Before the thug could turn his head, an elbow struck against the back of it.  He was unconscious before he even hit the ground.

The mustached man wasn’t fazed in the least by the quick, sour treatment to his henchmen.  He rushed forward, a rod drawn back in his hand.  Faradorn sank to one knee and let the light out one more time.  Like quarrels fired from a crossbow, those energy projectiles met their mark.  The leader of the bandits couldn’t halt his momentum, and those shots of light thrust him airborne.  Faradorn alternated his hands, firing one missile after another, the groans and gasps from the robber shrinking with each blast.  His body flung to the roof of the nearest house, collapsing through the roof.

None of the bandits budged, and Faradorn breathed easy.

Gillette stood with his mouth ajar, ready to bolt at any moment.  But in the sight of that surprising attack, he was fixed in his spot.

“Howell has a habit of making things look different than they are, doesn’t he?” Faradorn asked.  His eyes still drew to the damaged house the leader of the bandits had crashed through.  As he turned on his heel, he kicked the rod the mustached man had dropped and scooped it up, holding it in his hand, which still pulsed with light.  “After all, I saw through his designs with you.”

Stammering and holding up his hands, Gillette couldn’t begin to protest or plead his case.

“I saw you slip something to Garvey when we arrived near the King’s Charter.  That was his instructions to have Ravi meet you by the arch back a ways, was it not?  But even then, I saw you hesitated to lead me here.”

“Howell is—”

“My problem, not yours,” Faradorn said.  “But I do need you for one more thing, Gillette.  I need you to carry my message to your employer.  Tell him this city is going to change.  Tell him people no longer need to fear what lurks behind the shadows.  Tell him…” he went on, sweeping back his long hair to reveal the pointed ears of an elven people, “the last son of the Kolari is here, and Versali-Virai no longer belongs to him.”

Gripped between his fingers, the rod he had acquired from Howell’s henchman glowed, until it was brighter than the light on his hands.  Gillette saw then the light was being transferred, leaving Faradorn’s skin and entering the weapon itself.  It grew so bright that if those houses were occupied, their inhabitants would have confused night for morning.  The guide lifted his hand to block that intense light.

Then, all at once, it was gone—the light, the rod, even Faradorn.  Gillette was left in darkness, left to swallow away the tension of the promise the stranger had made.

Somehow, standing in those shadows, Gillette didn’t feel quite as afraid.

The City of Light and Darkness, Part One

The crackle of the flames within the lantern was all he could hear beyond the wind that howled below.  High above him, the walls of the palace seemed like they stretched on toward the sky, but his focus drew to the view below.  The city’s many lights sparkled like a sea of stars, and he knew most everyone slumbered.

But there were some, he knew, that would still be awake at that hour.

Huffing and puffing, the young lad he had fetched earlier returned up the earthen ramp, a grin upon his face.  “I found him for you, mister,” he cried, holding out his hands.  “I found him!”

Far behind the boy, a burly man labored his way up the incline, hunched over from the journey.  From there, the only thing the visitor could see was the top of his head, but even in the darkness, he noticed the man’s hair was marred with sweat.

“Run along, child,” the man at the overlook said, flicking three coins into the air.  One by one, the boy caught them, and he wasted no time running off into the night.  The visitor offered no words to the new arrival, neither of encouragement nor condemnation.  He simply waited for the man to reach him and catch his breath.

“You’re Faradorn?” the burly fellow wondered.

“And you’re late, Gillette.”

Propping himself up as best he could, the man offered as sincere a smile as he could.  “You can call me James, if you like.  And you have my apologies.  It’s just… I waited here for hours.”

“And you were paid well to do so,” Faradorn said.

“It was an excessive delay.”

“And it was an excessive amount of coins.”

Gillette lifted his hands in concession, still wearing that mercantile smile.  “Right you are.  You paid handsomely, and I suppose I should have been here.  But I thought you would simply not show at all.  It was far later than I had ever expected to see someone here.”  For a fraction of a second, that smirk was replaced with an arching eyebrow.  “You do know what I do here, right?”

“You’re a guide,” Faradorn said.  “You show people the more important things there are to know about this city.”

“Right again.  Seems you know an awful lot about me and an awful lot about this place.  What is it you even need me for?”

“I may have done my research, but there’s a level of familiarity you have that would give me infinitely more insight to this place.  I’ve paid your fee.  If it’s not too late, I’d see you perform your duties and show me what this has to offer.”

Almost prying his pursed lips apart, Gillette nodded and endeavored to smile one last time.  “In that case, welcome to Versali-Virai.”

 

*          *          *          *          *

 

“…And if you’re ever in need of a hot pork sandwich, there’s no better place to get it than Dessam’s.”

Their trip had been meticulous, with Gillette stopping every so often to announce the history of a particular shop or whisper rumors about a tawdry affair.  Over-rehearsed as it was, Faradorn still found it amusing when his boisterous descriptions were met with angry shouts for silence.

“I’ll not be needing food during my stay here.  Just a place to rest my head where I don’t have to worry about catching bugs of any sort.”

The guide’s nostrils flared as he considered that statement, and he cocked his head to the side.  “Well, I suppose the King’s Charter is as fine a place as any to hang your hat, if you had one.  It’s a bit too pricy for my tastes—I’m naught but a humble guide, after all—but you’re more than likely equipped to handle the cost.  We’ll actually be passing it on the right here in a few moments.”

Street lamps lined that wide road, and just beyond, a quartet of them illuminated an intersection.  Faradorn looked at each one discriminately, until a new voice reached his ears.”

“Fancy seeing you this way this late at night, eh, James?”

“Garvey!” the guide cried, his voice cracking beneath his exuberance.  His friend arrived beside them, and the two men shared a handshake.  “You know me.  My job is never done.  This is Faradorn, a new arrival to the city.  I was just telling him the King’s Charter is a nice place to rent a room.”

“Yeah, if you’re the king,” Garvey said.  “Costs a pretty bit of gold the likes I never see in a week just to spend a night there.”  He stopped himself when he caught a look of Faradorn’s stern gaze.  He shook his head.  “I’m sorry, mister.  I didn’t mean to presume.”

“A man of your renown surely has his connections,” the visitor said to Gillette, ignoring the irksome fellow.  “Who would I inquire as to a bargain on one of those rooms?”

“Well I… I suppose Bernard would be a good place to start.  He minds the tavern, but I’m sure a few coins at the bar could help you work your way to a deal.”

“Excellent.  I shall make note of that for my return.  Shall we continue with the tour?”

Gillette turned his head so quick it looked like had been slapped.  He squared his jaw and nodded to his friend.  “I’ll see you some other time.”

“Best of luck,” Garvey said.

Faradorn was already walking before his guide could show him the various sights in the southern side of the grand city.  The stranger seemed drawn to the lights, the cast metal lanterns just out of reach if the tall fellow lifted his arm up to them.

Gillette had to jog to catch up to his client, his heft swinging with every stride.  “If you needed me, you wouldn’t be walking off yourself,” he said, attempting a semblance of confidence.  “You paid me to show you about, and I will.  I’ll cut the idle chitchat, if that’s what you want.”

“It’s no bother.  I wanted to admire these designs.  These lights are all over the city.  You could see them from the overlook.”

“Yes, they’re almost everywhere.  But surely you’ve seen street lamps like these before.  Where did you say you were from again?”

“I didn’t,” Faradorn pressed.  At that, he began walking again, passing through the intersection to the southern street.

“I wouldn’t keep going that way,” Gillette said.  “There’s nothing out there but another path out of the city and of course the cemetery.  And this time at night… Well, who knows what lurks in the shadows?”

Sure enough, the visitor saw the edge of one pair of Versali-Virai’s gates.  They were closed at that point, with the only true entrance being the one just beneath the palace at the overlook.  Faradorn was pleased not to have travelled to that gate, though he did take some small satisfaction in the sight of the lamps that clung about that place too.

“Lead on,” he said.

Art – Versali-Virai Map

Hello there, friends of Tellest.  We’ve got a pretty cool entry to show you today, courtesy of an excellent cartographer, a Mr. Tom Fayen.

But first, we ought to step back to the middle of 2014, when certain things were only being put into place.  I knew that Versali-Virai was going to be one of the central hubs of my D&D group’s Tellest campaign.  I also knew that Versali-Virai was going to be a place that I planned on exploring somewhat in the book series, which is why I sent Maravek that way at the end of Awake.

So once I knew that, I tried to do a little bit of research to figure out how it all ticked.  I knew that Versali-Virai was a sort of pseudo French-Indian city.  I knew which continent on Tellest it would take place.  So I had to scour real life places to make sense of it.

I ended up with a crudely done map that I made.  Be warned, I’m no cartographer.

OG Visibility

 

did warn you.  That was the basic shape and structure that I wanted for this majestic city.  I knew the way I wanted it to look from ground level (especially with a little help from Leo).

Versali-Virai Flipped

 

But I also knew that I couldn’t get that far on my own.  So we hired Tom Fayen to really put things together.

Versali-Virai (draft)

 

Here, Tom put the basic structure of the city together.  We knew that the palace was going to be on the northwest side of town, and we knew we were going to have a plateau and some walls to deal with.  We worked on the poorer district first before we moved back around to the slightly larger buildings.

Versali-Virai (draft) 2

 

That’s an honest-to-goodness little city coming together there.  If you click on the picture to zoom it in, it’s very much in line with something you’d get from a D&D manual or adventure booklet.  I was thoroughly impressed, and after a short little wait, we had the rest of the city too.

Versali-Virai

 

There was so much smaller things that really put finishing touches on this amazing brought-to-life city.  There’s little trees, the bridges are all fully realized (you’ve got that stone one with the pillars a little further northeast, and the smaller drawbridge a ways south).  Tom really did a good job bringing it all together.

And then, just for good measure, we have a nice parchment version that you can take a gander at.

Versali-Virai Parchment

Art: Versali-Virai

Hi there everyone!  We have a very quick art release today.  There was no real development process for it or anything, but just a real quick and dirty (yet somehow deep and beautiful) construction of a piece of concept art.

Versali-Virai is something that was mentioned at the hind end of Awake.  Maravek is going to take his new companion there, and we don’t really hear much more about it.

But that’s not to say that the place hasn’t grown in my mind.  A group of friends and I have begun a gaming session that we’ve placed in the world of Tellest, and in our next scenario, they’ll be moving into Versali-Virai.  It’s a sort of pseudo French/Indian city, and I really wanted to get a good glimpse of what it looked like for them.  There’s no one out there who knows the inside of my brain as it pertains to art besides Leo, and just as I expected, he managed to nail down the concept of the town with ease.

 

Versali-Virai Flipped

 

 

Not only was I able to better conceptualize what we have going on with this awesome new locale in the world of Tellest, but I was also able to take this piece of art to other industry professionals, who are helping with other aspects of its creation.  But that’s a post for another time!