One of the things I like to do in my writing is draw contrasts, whether it be between characters or settings. I’m not going to expand on the whys and wherefores now, because I hope to write a post just to talk about it once TKB Month is over, but I mention it because it is prominent in this novel’s setting.
The King’s Bluff and its sequels are set in three countries: Nalycia, Athulia, and Entlaunia. The intertwined politics and history of the three give the trilogy its setting and propel the plot. As it’s Nalycia and Athulia that provide the contrast and are featured the most, especially in TKB, we’ll mainly be visiting them today, with a short foray into Entlaunia.
Let’s begin at the beginning, the very best place to start. Nalycia. If one were to compare its essence with that of real-world countries, it would be the Scotland of Saemyr. The people who live on its moors and in its little villages are steeped in tradition, and music all but comes out of their pores. They are a peaceful, almost medieval, people, one that values history and its lessons highly. This shows through in their motto, Saenchis My Laer Tur Echdryd Atras, “history forgotten is history repeated.” Yet, they have forgotten a piece of history, setting the events of the trilogy in motion.
And then there’s Athulia, my favourite of the three. Contrasting starkly (I hope) against the peaceful, medieval Nalycia, Athulia is a warlike, sophisticated country. To bring in essence matches again, it is the France of Saemyr. Yet behind the two descriptors of “warlike” and “sophisticated” lie the paradox of the post title. Athulia is simultaneously renowned for her battleschool and utter dominance in battle and for her foppish, carefree royal court. Nobles come from many a foreign country to attend one or the other. Since near its inception, Athulia has operated and gone to war under the motto, Jaimys Cainrys, Jaimys Vynaen, “never compromised, never defeated.” Yet there were two times when this was not followed, both of which involved Nalycia, though the Athulians will protest that they were alliances for a common purpose, not a compromise. The first alliance was created to free Nalycia from Entlaunia and garner Entlaunia as an Athulian tribute state. The second, and the one that direct affects the trilogy, was created in response to the growing threat of war from Entlaunia, and is a crucial factor in the plot’s development.
Last, and least, we have Entlaunia, Saemyr’s England, a country that simmers with anger and bitterness against both Athulia and Nalycia. It takes the extra-government Uan Riders to keep the citizens in some sort of peaceful order and to prevent them from kidnapping foreign travellers from either of the other two countries. This unruly bitterness provides external conflict and tension throughout all three books of the trilogy.