A Traveller’s Guide: Kolchin (Guest Post from Thomas Howard Riley)
Hiya! Welcome to another “Traveller’s Guide”!
“A Traveller’s Guide…” is a fun little project where authors introduce us to their realms, worlds, and hidden places. There will be times where I (or a certain goblin) will guide you around parts of Venari, but there will also be times (like today!) when another author will pop in and take us on a little adventure.
In this edition, author Thomas Howard Riley will be introducing us to Jathan Algevin and the city of Kolchin as part of the Escapist Book Co’s tour for “The Monsters We Feed”.
“The Monsters We Feed” is a standalone ‘Luminaworld’ story, written by the author who created the AWESOME “We Break Immortals”. Trust me, you’re gonna want to read both of these books… and everything Thomas Howard Riley writes in the future.
About “The Monsters We Feed”:
The morning before he found the dead body, Jathan Algevin thought he had his whole life just the way he wanted it.
He knows his city inside and out, and doesn’t bother carrying a sword, trusting his wits and his fists well enough to get by, hustling extra coin by ratting out loathsome magi to the law for execution.
He and his sister, Lyra, have watched out for each other ever since the day they were orphaned by a bloodthirsty rogue sorcerer, and now they finally have steady work, good friends, and the freedom to spend every night laughing at the bottom of a bottle.
But nothing lasts forever.
When he stumbles across a brutal murder, Jathan discovers a strange crystal lens that opens his eyes to an invisible world of magick and terror lurking just beneath the surface of his own, making him question everything he thought he knew.
But will gazing into this new arcane realm lead Jathan to save lives, or help destroy them?
With dangerous people hunting for the lens, monstrous lies unraveling his life, and a hidden underworld calling to him, it is only a matter of time before his whole world comes crashing down.
Will he find the answers he is looking for, or will he only find a monster needing to be fed?
Rated-R Dark Fantasy Noir in a city of hope, lust, and brutality, where swords are banned, and magick is just as likely to get you killed as it is to save your life.
There are always things about ourselves that we don’t want to see.
There are always things we can’t stop doing no matter how hard we try.
We all lie. We all have secrets.
We are all feeding monsters.
Got all that? Now, it’s time to take you to Kolchin…
Welcome to Kolchin, the city where I was born and the place where I will likely die. My name is Jathan Algevin and I would never think of leaving this place I know so well. This city is a whole world of its own that you are either forever a part of, or eternally an outsider. It’s the city where everyone has a place, whether lushborn or scumborn, whether oozewealth or deservingless, ganger or magistrate, wrinkled grey or newborn pink. It’s a place where everyone knows where they stand, and every position has its rules, and if you follow them you will prosper just enough.
It’s a place where you are born and you live and you work and you play and you die. There’s no need to go anywhere else. To all the people here, the city of Kolchin is still the jewel of the shore, like in the old days.
I know my way around here better than most. If you find your way down here I will show you around. I’m plenty good with outsiders, as long as you lot know that’s what you’ll always be. You’ll never know this place like I do. But that doesn’t mean we can’t shake the center square of a dancehall in the East Uppers or rattle the walls of a sourhouse on Winesink Row.
I work on the Promenade so I know the best deals for wares, and the best times to stop by the iceries, and which midnight friers have the best food to pair with your drink of choice. I’m up for anything. Whether you want to brawl with bowlfolk, or smoke the leaf with wave rats over at Beachside, I’ll be there for the fun of it. As long as you promise not to tell my sister where I’ve been. She rains down seven hells on me when I get into trouble.
What’s the matter? Still not quite exciting enough? Well, there is one other secret I know. If you want to get lost with me down on the maze of Tenement Lane, where the buildings are like mountains and the streets are like ravines. I know the way though it. Not even them that live there could say the same. If you want to turn your world upside down with me I could take you there. I’ll show you around. A lot of dark things to see there. If the moons are right we might even spot a body or two. People always ending up murder-dead there. Half the streets the Magistrates won’t even walk down. Afraid they’ll get lost or killed by gangers. But I know the safe way through. I’ll keep the gangers off our scent and keep you from getting murdered. So what do you say? You need a vacation from all your regular kinds of trouble. You need some new trouble. Come get up to it with me. You won’t regret it. Or maybe you will.
HERE IS A LITTLE SNIPPET FROM THE BOOK ITSELF ABOUT THE PLACE KNOWN AS TENEMENT LANE:
He then descended into the winding maze of streets that most everyone tried to avoid, unless they lived there. The city administrators knew it as the Tenement District. To the beachers it was Tenement Range, owing to its structures, tall like mountains to the eyes of sandslugs and wave rats. Bowlers called it the Knot. People of the East Uppers called it the Web. The oozewealths called it Tenement Stain, wishing they could wipe it off the city like a drop of spilled oil.
But to everyone else, even the people who lived there, it was called Tenement Lane. It bore that name even though it was actually hundreds of narrow streets, all crisscrossing, all intersecting, winding and curving and doubling back, every one hemmed in on both sides by the forty-foot high stone walls of the many hundreds of tenement blocks, pocked with windows for the multitudinous apartments they contained, some constricted by haphazard attempts to build shacks up against the actual tenements…and then more shacks atop the shacks.
Some said there was a mythical perfect route through them that, if followed, would be one unbroken path through the web. Jathan had never tried to find out.
Each tenement was a square block with an open atrium in the center, reached by arched walkways or tunnels. Dull charcoal grey was everywhere, with no deviations in architectural boldness anywhere within the warren, only the shapes and positions and orientations creating any semblance of variety to the space within. Each one was full of winding stairs and long corridors and walkways on every story, and none had their doors in the same places, making even the buildings themselves into labyrinths within a labyrinth.
The stone was everywhere chipped and cracked from a hundred years of weather and hard use, roofs crumpling, windows missing, walkways stained with the contents of unknowable bottles whose shards had long since been kicked away or weathered into colorful beads. The alleys were choked with pools of black water, never drying out, some with planks of wood and blocks of stone forced together into makeshift bridges.
Each block was a tangle, festooned with ropes and cords and wires floating between buildings, many strung through with drying clothes, some made into pully systems to lift possessions to the high floors, and many others that were simply abandoned, nothing more than silent shackles holding the tenements in bondage.
Every atrium boasted a single ancient tree on a small grass plot. Some of the trees flourished, overgrowing until the roots crawled along the ground and the branches climbed onto the walkways or speared through high windows. Other trees had long since died, leaving dry skeletal husks, empty branches reaching solemnly to the sky, begging for their leaves back.
For many who lived in Tenement Lane, these plots would be the only greenery they would ever see. Many worked and toiled and played and lived and loved never knowing there was a horizon, the days only lasting the hour or two it took for the sun to transit the narrow ravines between the mountainous tenements. If his sister hadn’t rescued him from his secondparents’ apartment in these warrens all those years ago, he would have been one of those people.
It was more than a neighborhood in this way. It was its own little civilization wedged into the heart of Kolchin, where the poorest and the unluckiest and the victimized all shared their lives packed together within the walls, held inside by its own immense gravity. Most were unable to ever escape it.
It was like wandering through an enchanted forest. You were just as likely to make it through to your destination as you were to wander off course into an atrium grotto you had never seen before despite having lived there for decades.
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About the Author:
Thomas Howard Riley is an Epic Fantasy writer who grew up on Fantasy and Sci Fi and decades later still can’t put that stuff down. A former lead guitarist and sword-fighter, he spends most of his time now creating worlds and trying desperately to get them on paper and hopefully into the hands of those brave enough to step into the corridors of his mind. He is obsessed with cats and music and comic books and has little to no shame about any of it. He is frequently on twitter @ornithopteryx, and can sometimes be seen on clear nights when the moon is gibbous. He is the kind of person who stands in the rain on purpose, who goes on vacation just to write, and who always takes at least one book wherever he goes.
On Twitter he is @ornithopteryx.
On Instagram he is ThomasHowardRiley, where you will see books, and cats, and mayhem.
Author website: http://thomashowardriley.com