Worldbuilding: Elaya’s Grief

Art credit:  Ben Watts  on Unsplash

Elaya loved her sons equal. Tre, the first of the twins, she cherished for his integrity. His bravery. Ro for his wits and never ceasing need to bring laughter to the people she shelters in her lap. And Tiern she adored for how his stalwart believe in kindness never faltered and his heart remained made of gentle things. So when the Wicked tore Tiern from the skies and broke him across the lands, she grieved without measure.

The Grief, as it’s most often referred to, divides the western continent of Trero straight through the middle. It’s said to be the scar left by Tiern’s passing and the site of Elaya’s never-ceasing grief. Her mourning, profound and never-ending, lures Reapers into the shadows of its valleys and jungles, where it drives them to rabid madness.

That’s the age-old tale about it, anyway.

Geographically, it’s an oddity. Even for Trero’s standards. The majority of its core is made of deep canyons and islands of jungles between them, while the northern and southern borders are mountains with only a handful of possible entries. While the north is a little cooler, even seeing snow sometimes, the Grief generally holds a steady warmth throughout the entire year. Which, in theory, would make it attractive to live in. But there’s always a but in those sorts of situations, such as the Reapers who thwart every settlement effort – and the tales of how its canyons and mountains are ever-shifting, creating an impossible labyrinth to traverse. 

Well, except if you’re a Shielding.

According to enduring legends, only a Shielding can reliably find a path through, though how much of that has to do with the supposedly every-changing landscape is a bit of a mystery. Maybe it’s down to how they’ve spent generations mapping out a safe route — or maybe it’s just their uncanny affinity to the Grief that helps them avoid the Reapers roaming it. 

An illustration of Elaya's Grief.
Elaya’s Grief

Regardless, you’d go to them if you wanted to pass between the north and the south and they’d get you across, often leading entire merchant caravans and twice even small armies. Two possible crossings existed for the longest time: The shallow tail in the west, which was always a much longer route and much more fiercely guarded, and one route through the Grief’s thick centre. While both routes had their unique perils, the latter was the most used one, as it connected the rich south with an even richer north (or the other way around, depending on who you asked).

But time changes everything. Before the Folly left the north in shambles, an industrial boon (fuelled by war and conquest) led to the construction of a railway running around the Grief to the far west. The old crossing up there has since then been abandoned, and the original passage through the centre hardly ever sees travellers any more. Too much of a risk for too little time saved.

Not that the Shieldings care much. They own the railway, after all.

But that doesn’t mean the Grief is no longer of any interest to people with adventurous character. Reapers, tricky terrain, and superstitions aren’t the only things tucked away in it, after all. Ancient cities, abandoned by Trero’s Benefactors, hide in its mountains and sit in the steep walls of its canyons. Except no one has had any luck with them. Yet. Their doors remain stubbornly shut, with no lock or key in sight, a challenge brave souls can’t often pass up. 

Adventures which tend to end in death, unfailingly feeding the tales of the Grief’s treacherous heart. At this point, the Shieldings still living in the old waystations are mostly there to keep people out, rather than bringing them through.

. . . it’s a fun place, I swear!

Originally, the entirety of Sinvik’s adventures centred around it, back when Sinvik was mostly a treasure/artefact hunting daredevil. Which the Grief really lent itself to well. But there’s always been a bigger purpose for it and I’m not sure I want to spoil that just yet. Let’s just say every myth and every legend has some truth at its core and leave it at that.

ShieldingThing.com  |  Read on Ao3 |  The Tafftreon (Patreon)

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