Welcome to Realm Explorers! In this weekly series, we visit a variety of unique worlds created by talented science fiction and fantasy authors. Enjoy your travels! And don’t forget to read to the bottom of the post to find out more about each author and see how to purchase the featured book.
Author’s name: Laura VanArendonk Baugh
Title of book and/or series: Shard & Shield (The Shard of Elan, 1)
Brief summary of the story:
He can save her life—if he sacrifices himself and those he swore to protect.
King’s bastard Shianan Becknam buries himself in his military career to avoid the family that never wanted him and the dangers of drawing political attention. When the artifact intended to end an interdimensional war is damaged, the mage Ariana is trapped on the other side of the rift with her servant—only the cheery young boy is really one of the monstrous enemy, disguised as a human. Shianan is desperate to rescue Ariana, one of his few friends, but to do so requires committing treason and betraying his duty, leaving his people open to attack.
State mage Ariana struggles to survive as a prisoner of war in a world of deadly magic and unfamiliar customs. Her only ally is her former servant, now a renowned warrior caught up in political machinations. To survive, he’ll have to once again take up the fight against Ariana’s world.
As their people’s wasted armies prepare for fresh battle that will devastate both sides, bastard, mage, and monster must set aside prejudices and rivalries to find an end to centuries of conflict, before they die as traitors.
Book 1 in a new epic fantasy series.
Brief description of the world or location you created for this story:
This was really fun, because I got to create twoworlds!
Chrenada is a land in the human world, surrounded by countries and states such as Vandoga, Tyrg, and the trading empire of the Wakari Coast (settled originally by pirates but no one talks about that now). Chrenada is most similar to, but not exactly like, southern Europe during our Renaissance, if Greco-Roman culture had persisted a bit longer.
But there’s also the Ryuven world, and its inhabitants can magically intrude into the human world, wreaking devastating raids like interdimensional Vikings. When Ariana finds herself there, she discovers cities of wide avenues and tall buildings, where glittering nets shield private areas from other winged citizens.
Bridging the culture gap, especially in a generations-long war, is a part of the story.
And now, I’m going to turn you over to Captain Torg, a career soldier who is going to take you around and answer your questions. Have a good trip!
Hello, your lordships and ladyships. As the scribe said, I’m Captain Torg. Mind your step as we go around.
If we were to visit Chrenada as tourists, what would you recommend that we see or do there?
There’s an annual festival in the capital city of Alham which is usually enjoyable, even though it’s a lot of work for us officers. The military gives a big parade, and then there are duel tournaments to watch, featuring the best fighters like Shianan Becknam. This is important because it’s the soldiers who protect the people from the marauding Ryuven.
What dangers should we avoid in Chrenada?
Well, the usual. Bandits come in human form as well as the raiding Ryuven. Or you could be caught by an unscrupulous slaver and sold, as slavery is such a large part of the economy. And of course the big danger is the Ryuven, but they tend to strike agricultural targets more than cities, so just stay inside Alham. No worries about the beasts, all the worst ones tend to stay in the mountains these days.
Is there a distinct or unusual type of food or meal that we might be served in Chrenada?
You know, it’s funny you should ask, because we have just the usual vegetables, grains, meats like chicken and mutton and pork, all the regular staples. There’s always the worry that the Ryuven will take it and supplies will be short, but fortunately we have plenty of plains for growing and grazing and a good trade network. But some other of you Realm Explorers visitors have asked for strange meats, like—what was it called—beef? From a really large goat? What did they call them… Something like cats, except obviously cats are small and not good eating… Oh, cattle! That’s the word. I’ve never heard of any domestic animal so large as what they describe, to be honest! Except for a horse, of course, but no one would eat a horse; it would be like eating gold.
The oddest part was a lady tourist asked once, if we had no cattle and with horses so rare, how did we use our wagons and plows? ‘Soats, I have to say I don’t understand you Realm Explorer folk sometimes. We were walking right through a slave market.
What types of weaponry or fighting styles are common in Chrenada?
We’ve got all kinds of fighting, plenty of opportunity to develop it and adapt it to fending off the Ryuven. You’ve got to fight a fast, aerial enemy differently than a human army. Our armor is specialized to provide extra defense from above, and we have arrowheads that are harder to pull out so that the Ryuven can’t heal so quickly.
The good news is, while they can fly and they’ve got magic, they’re pretty fragile things. Break like birds if you can hit them. You’ve just got to finish the job before they can heal.
Oh, and I guess I ought to mention the mages. We’ve got mages for defense, too, grey mages for all the common work and then the Great Circle for strategy and magical defense. But take my word as a captain that it’s the soldiers who do most of the real fighting.
Oh, look, there’s the Great White Mage himself, Ewan Hazelrig! Yes, we certainly do owe a lot to the Great Circle for keeping us all protected!
What types of vehicles, animals, technology, etc. are used to travel in or to Chrenada?
Here in Chrenada, we mostly walk, or we’ll use wagons for loads or if someone can’t walk well or far. Over on the Wakari Coast they use litters, too, with bearers, but you don’t see that as much here.
What types of plants, animals, or sentient races might we encounter in Chrenada that we don’t see on Earth?
Well, you should hope you don’t, really. The most likely is the Ryuven, and that means you’re caught in a raid. They’re tall and lean, like youths that haven’t really filled out yet, with big skin wings coming out their torsos. A little delicate, almost, because their bones are hollow. Like birds. But they’re dangerous.
There are some of the old monsters still around, but mostly in the mountains now, as I said. Leucrocutas and the occasional catoblepas. But you’re not likely to see them unless you go into the passes at the wrong time of year.
Is there a particular religion practiced in Chrenada? Please describe what it involves.
We’ve got one primary religion, though to be honest it’s not the important beyond a cultural tradition. I guess I mean a lot of people don’t use it that much beyond swearing by it. But some people take it pretty seriously.
There’s a scattering of other beliefs around, too. There’s even some sort of war cult with little strongholds spread all over the kingdom. Mostly rituals about preparing for the war of wars, or something. I don’t understand it, except I know Commander Becknam had to offer them his townhouse as a new property to get the Shard of Elan from them. Weird folk. Don’t see any of them volunteering to fight the Ryuven, don’t think they know much about real fighting.
What is the political or government structure in Chrenada? Who is in charge there at the moment, and what kind of leader is he/she?
We’re a kingdom, so we’ve got a king. He’s good enough, as kings go, mostly makes decent policy and listens to his council for the most part.
What’s that? Yes, two sons, the prince-heir Soren and the younger prince Alasdair.
Well, yes, there is another son, the bastard Shianan Becknam. How is he with the third son? Well, I don’t know that it’s my place to comment, and I certainly wouldn’t have any insight to that, not as a captain, would I? By the way, how’s the weather where you folks are from? No need to rush out, it’s been lovely to have you, but that’s enough here and I have work to do. I hope you have a great trip back home! Take care!
Thanks everyone, this is Laura again! I hope Captain Torg gave you an informative tour.
Has anything in your actual life inspired the locations, cultures, etc. in your book?
It wouldn’t be fair to call this an East-versus-West book, as the cultures are not that defined, but of course I drew on aspects and influences from our own world. There’s a lot of historic Italy, north and south, represented in Chrenada and the Wakari Coast, Alham and Chrenada are named from my time living in southern Spain, and I drew on historic Asian cultures for some Ryuven practices.
What, if any, “hot-button” or controversial topics do you touch on in your book?
There are some messed-up relationships in this book, no question, which have created some broken people. There are themes of abuse, and I would alert readers that if this were a film, it would likely carry the MPAA rating of PG-13. However, the story is written from a positive worldview and the intent is not to wallow in the dark but to provide hope, so please look for the light!
Where, and in what formats, can we purchase your book(s)?
Shard & Shield
is available in ebook, paperback, and audiobook. You can find it at many of your favorite outlets at https://books2read.com/ShardandShield
, or ask at your favorite local bookstore or library.
Where can readers connect with you online?
My website is www.LauraVAB.com
and all my social media links can be found there as well. Please be sure to sign up for the newsletter—it goes out only occasionally and you get free stories! 😊
I hope you all enjoyed the trip to Chrenada. Questions about the world or the book? Ask them in the comments and the author will get back to you!
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-Annie Douglass Lima