Long, long ago in the once upon a time, a child drew a map to impress the new girl at school. The child often drew maps, but mostly they were of places that already existed because someone else had already created them. This time, the place did not exist until the map was finished, because no one else had created it yet.
Asrellion was born.
It really was that simple – and simplistic – back then. I mean, I’d always been making up adventure stories in my head and pretending to fight orcs and dragons and things in my playtime. But up until that moment, I’d never committed anything to paper. I’d never settled on any continuous canon details. I just liked to pretend that I was an elf sometimes, usually a tragic orphan because so many of the stories are about tragic orphans (and because being the youngest of seven children, an introvert in a household of nine people, I loved the idea of being alone.) Usually I was in Middle Earth, because I was very familiar with Middle Earth. The important thing was that I had a cape, and a sword, and a trusty steed (played by my bicycle), and bad guys to defeat. The details were inconsistent and irrelevant up to that point.
But this, when I drew that map? This was the first time I started making up stories in a place with a name I’d invented.
Turns out, though, there’s a lot more to developing an entire fantasy world than just drawing a map and slapping a few made-up words onto it.
The evolution of Asrellion, in life as in-universe, can be looked at broadly in three phases: 1. excited, naïve, careless genesis; 2. cautious slowing and intentional retooling – the heavy lifting years; and 3. rebirth, carefully making thoughtful tweaks and additions while watching the world grow organically as life moves through it,
Phase One: flinging oatmeal at the wall
I really wish I still had that first map so I could show you how ridiculous my little-kid ideas were, but also how surprisingly-not-as-different-as-you’d-expect the final form of Asrellion actually is. It probably looked something about like this though:
What’s extra hilarious is that back when I was 10 to 12, I had this starry-eyed notion that I’d write these stories and send them anonymously to some publisher who would be like “THIS IS AMAZING. THE NEXT TOLKIEN. SOMEONE FIND THIS GENIUS AT ONCE SO WE CAN SHOWER THEM WITH ACCLAIM!” and then I’d reveal that I was A KID and everyone would be so shocked.
So as you can see, the first phase of Asrellion was not terribly serious.
What it was, was fun. My friend and I would share our princess adventure story ideas with each other, and together we came up with a loose mythology for the worlds we were playing in. There wasn’t a lot of consistency but it didn’t matter. What mattered was fun and creation. We’d get together to play and a new adventure would emerge.
I think exactly two names from that first Asrellion have survived from their earliest incarnation into the present day: Grenlec and Telrisht. Maybe Dewfern also? Not a single one of the characters, although Lyn is close – formerly Lynne. The main cast of characters were almost all around by the first version of Mornnovin, though, and more or less like themselves. The name of the world did at least begin with an A, but it was a horrifying portmanteau of three or four nonsensical things that I happened to have on my mind at the moment that I blurted it out.
Some of the delights we’ve lost since that first draft include but are not limited to:
- a talking unicorn
- talking horses
- a whole pack of helpful dog friends
- an inter-dimensional portal (yes, really)
- an undead army brought back to fight for the bad guy Black Cauldron-style
- a plucky comic relief dwarf character
- a zany, possibly-mad wizard who helped the heroes when he felt like it
- random magic rings
- magic singing
- a magic sword
- Lyn and Loríen as identical twins so hilarious mistaken-identity hijinks could ensue
- a really kickass dragon fight
- a visit to a whole entire fairy city
- secret waterfall caves
- everyone in love with Loríen, actually
- so much kidnapping
- just, like, so many magical doohickeys
- a hundred distracting and unrelated subplots
- at least 80% more angst
I wasn’t writing down any of the lore during this time, roughly 1989-1996, which is a shame. In fact, I still have copies of absolutely none of this early writing or worldbuilding anymore. (Most of my earliest recorded stories were saved on floppy disks which erased themselves spontaneously. There was swearing.)
The only form in which any of this has survived is in the DNA base code of what came after.