Welcome to the continent of Alphor, the world of my Silent Skies Dystopian Fantasy trilogy. This is a world of hardship and danger, with large predators, fierce raiding parties and frequent famine. To survive here, you need to be tough, shrewd and knowledgeable, but there's magic here, too.
Once, this continent was full of wealth and splendour, with advanced technologies and vast cities. But a hundred years ago, that all changed.
The greed and negligence of the old world meant that the flying insects went extinct.
They were followed by the flying birds and many of the smaller life. And despite the wealth, knowledge and technology of those great cities, it was the loss of those smallest of creatures that brought them tumbling down.
Now, those cities are ruins reclaimed by nature and the remains of humanity scrape a living in disparate villages. They wouldn’t be able to survive at all if it weren’t for the Earth Whisperers, a mysterious group of nomadic humans who possess a strange and vital power; the power to talk to plants and make them grow.
Nonetheless, this is a harsh place to live. So, before you enter the world of Alphor (and I hope you will, when book one, The Last Beekeeper, comes out in Spring!) here are 5 things you need to know to survive.
1. Stick to Your Village
Now, Alphorian humans live in small, fiercely territorial villages, run by leaders called Stewards. Some villages are wealthier than other villages, but all are small and none are anything like as big as the old cities.
They’re the places you’re most likely to stay alive, though.
Villages have a relatively stable leadership and a soldier caste—the Gatra—who provide protection. They also grow food and keep predators and raiders at bay. It’s not an easy life, but if you want to survive in Alphor, you stick to your village.
The rules of the Stewards are strict. Many like to know everything that goes on in their village. Some won’t even allow marriages without their permission. Some, though, are a little more liberal, but all dish out exile as a punishment for breaking the rules. And exile means certain death.
Without the protection of the village, exiles are in danger from marauding raiders, big predators or starvation.
And it’s difficult, as an exile, to find safety in any other village. No Steward wants to let in someone who committed a crime in another village.
Alphorians who want to stay alive stick to their village. And sticking to your village also means you should …
2. Stay Loyal to Your Caste
The caste system in Alphor is strict. There are five key castes.
The Fei and the Oritch are land workers. The Fei, who wear grey uniforms, work the fields and the glasshouses, where vegetables grow. The Oritch, who wear blue, work the orchards and grow fruit.
Fei and Oritch might have other skills, too, like woodwork or metal work, which helps keep the village going.
The Gatra are the soldier caste, who protect the village, patrol the borders, act as police and hunt for big game over the winter. Their uniforms are black. The Aldren are the elder caste and wear brown. They’re often people who can’t do manual labour, such as the elderly or the chronically ill, but they’re responsible for looking after the children of the village. They’re often cooks and weavers, too, and help supply the village with blankets, clothing and food.
There are only two castes who don’t have an assigned colour. The Yuen are the children of Alphor. Everyone starts of as a Yuen when they’re born and, when they’re old enough to work, join one of the other castes.
Most Yuen will join the caste of their parents, but some are picked by the Stewards to join the Gatra, even if their parents weren’t Gatra.
Children wear whatever clothes the village are able to supply to them, so they may end up in the threadbare, patched up remains of old work clothes, regardless of the colour.
The final caste is the Steward caste. Stewards also have no assigned colour and are allowed to keep their surname (or sire’s name), rather than take their caste title like the other castes are expected to. Stewards will often arrange marriages between their children to forge alliances between villages. Stewardship passes from parent to child, like a monarchy.
Every caste has a role to play in the running of the village and, if you want to survive, you stick to your role. You might have other skills that help your village and make you valuable, but you always make sure you stay loyal to your role in the village.
3. Know Your Flora and Fauna
Every Alphorian knows their wildlife. If you want to survive, you have to. The most common predators villagers come across are redbears and wildwolves. Redbears are large hunters with russet fur. When they’re young, they can climb trees and hunt small animals, but when they get larger, they’re unable to do this.
A full grown redbear is taller than a man when on all fours, but twice that height when rearing up.
There aren’t many animals left in Alphor large enough for a redbear to eat, so they’re rare, but they’ll also eat humans if they get a chance.
Wildwolves are smaller than redbears. They’re old, domesticated dogs that went feral when society collapsed a hundred years ago.
They travel in packs of varying sizes and are vicious. They work together and are intelligent hunters.
Wildwolves are less likely to invade a village than a redbear, but they have been known to attack lost children.
A less common predator, and much more elusive, is the darkcat. As tall at the shoulder as a full grown human, these are powerful predators with black fur that hunt in the dark. They tend to live in the mountains and eat wild goats or livestock, but they’ve been known to attack villages when they’re desperate.
The other major threat are the giant wild boar that often live in forests near to villages. The villagers manage the forests as best they can because they rely on the boar for meat during the winter, but the boar are huge and vicious.
Twice the size of a typical wild boar, these pigs are ferocious and just as likely to kill you as any of the predators.
In fact, that’s how my main character, Solma, lost her leg. She was hunting wild boar and one turned on her. If you want to survive in Alphor, you know which animals to shoot at and which ones to run from.
4. Beware of Raiders
The animals of Alphor aren’t the only dangers you need to be aware of beyond the village. Parties of raiders also prowl the wilderness.
Many of them were exiles from villages that have banded together, but some were born in the harsh wild. Either way, they survive by invading villages, stealing supplies and killing when they need to.
Raiding parties are often fairly small, but raiders have survived the harsh of the wilderness, so they’re merciless and strong. The village Gatra are trained to defend against raiders, but every village in Alphor fears a raid. Even if no-one is killed, which is rare, the loss of vital food and supplies can mean sickness and starvation after a raid. Most villages have a strict patrol. Many have watch towers that are manned by Gatra.
Some of the richer villages might have the means to build walls or fences around their territories, but most don’t, and so rely on the strength of their soldiers to defend them.
5. Never Trust an Earth Whisperer
Or do, but grudgingly. The Earth Whisperers are a strange and powerful bunch. They’re nomads, wandering the wilderness as they go from village to village, offering their power. Earth Whisperers have an affinity with the land, and a talent that some might describe as magic.
They can talk to the plants and persuade them to grow, a vital skill in a land blighted by famine.
They often name themselves after species of snake. (There is a good reason for this, but you’ll need to read The Last Beekeeper to find out!) They shave their heads, regardless of gender, and wear green robes to signify their connection to the land.
Earth Whisperers don’t tend to live very long, as they spend a lot of time in the wilderness where they’re at the mercy of predators and raiders, so many of them are young.
No one really knows much about Earth Whisperer society and how it works. (But you will, if you read the whole series!)
Any child in Alphor might be an Earth Whisperer. They may discover their talent young. But the law of Alphor says that an Earth Whisperer can’t belong to a village. Their power must be shared. Lots of villages try to hide children with this special power, but the Earth Whisperers always know, somehow, and turn up to spirit the child away. Because of this, they’re figures of suspicion amongst many villages, even though village folk need the power of the Earth Whisperers to survive.
Life as an Earth Whisperer is tough, and they’re often driven out of villages if they fail to help the crops to grow.
So that’s Alphor. Not exactly the hottest holiday destination, but the people there are hardy and determined. They have to be in order to survive. Here, you’ll meet the characters that populate the Silent Skies trilogy, including Solma El Gatra, a young soldier, Warren El Yuen, her brother, and Bell El Fei, their aunt. More on them and the books of Silent Skies in later blog posts!
If you would like to find out more about my content, books and any deals and offers, you can sign up to my mailing list here.
If you found this useful and would like to show your appreciation, please click the link below to leave a small donation. Even a small amount goes towards helping me create more useful content for you!
You can donate through buymeacoffee.com here.