Fantasy World-Building: The Kirif

Pillar-Coral

Pillar Coral. Picture these the size of a fifty story building to get an idea of the spires of Kirif.

As I delve deep into my third book (wow), I find myself at a juncture where I am expanding upon the world. Much of Warbound: The Shield Maiden takes place beyond the borders of the Domains of the Chosen, on the “lost continent” of Ithal’Duin. I am going to share some of my initial world building ideas here. There is a long list of does and don’ts for fantasy world-building. If you are looking for direct advice I would try the worldbuilding and fantasywriters pages on Reddit. Patrick Rothfuss and Brandon Sanderson also have great podcasts and other material on world building. I’m not going to expound on those, but rather go through my own process, which is decidedly utilitarian.

Goals: Ithal’Duin and Kirif

My starting point in this endeavour, other than the world I have created thus far, is to outline a few goals for each civilization and the continent as a whole. Some of these are based on flavour and history, while others are very, very story driven. I will share some of my original goals regarding the civilization of Kirif on Ithal’Duin.

  1. History [general goal] All of the civilizations on Ithal’Duin must be juxtaposed against the Domains of the Chosen. For various reasons the Domains are a very familiar society, early America as settled by the Roman Empire if you will. The names are all easy, based around the Chosen, with only a few hints of the civilizations that existed before the Reckoning and the reconquest. The Goal with Ithal’Duin is to create something more exotic.
  2. Alien Flavour [general goal] The Domains are mostly free of the after-effects of the reckoning. The walls of Krass never fell before the wild magic or the hordes of tainted. The people of the Domains consider themselves the last bastion of civilization and have a very imperialistic past. On Ithal’Duin I want to explore more alien realms, where people learned to live with the wild magic.
  3. Motive [Kirif goal] Kirif is the friendly realm on Ithal’Duin; a society that seeks to ally itself with the Domains. They are willing to cede territory to one of the Chosen and act as a base of operations on the continent.
  4. Appearance [Kirif goal] I want Kirif to be a beautiful, trade oriented society with a style of architecture and cultural traits that are immediately striking.
  5. Politics [Kirif goal] I don’t want Kirif to be a monoculture. The Domains (and the Wyrn) are the grindstone of my world. I also need a fair bit of internal and external strife for story reasons.
  6. Language [Kirif goal] I want the language of Kirif to be a little wierd.

Outline of The Spires of the Kirif

This is a very general outline of Kirif, each point corresponding to a goal above. I realize that this takes a lot out of the romance of world-building, but it is meant only to be a general overview. For me, the real world-building is in the details that I “discover” during the writing, hence I prefer to go in with a strong outline, but leave space for growth.

  1. History [general goal] Kirif is made up of refugees who took shelter in a series of sub-tropical coastal caves during the worst of the Reckoning. These caves were close enough to water that the people could survive by sneaking out to fish, hunt, and gather. They would have been reduced to basic subsistence if not for magic; eventually they learned a form of symbiotic biomancy that allowed them to gain control over their environment, such as a type of coral and some fungus that were changed by the reckoning. Kirifan magic is thus very specialized and not nearly as powerful as the magic of the Domains. However it is so evolved that the species that are in symbiosis with the Kirif respond to those who do not have the gift. Almost all Kirif bond with a parasite that breathes underwater for them.
  2. Alien Flavour [general goal] The Reckoning changed the Kirif. They have odd eyes and their skin is covered in tiny scales, giving them a slightly reptilian look. Most Kirif have very loose kinship bonds, based around their Spire. Children are raised communally by the spire and basic family structure is replaced by relation to the King and Queen of the spire. Those who have no spire make up an undercaste and are always clamouring for new territory.
  3. Motive [Kirif goal] The Kirif are powerful, but they are surrounded by many enemies. The coral with which they build their cities is slow to adapt to new areas, while their Allegiance with the Domains gives them an ally who can support them against the rest of the continent, and also change the internal political balance in Kirif. They value trade and are hungry for friends, but also understand the need for might if they wish to grow. The don’t understand land warfare, particularly attack and siege warfare, nearly to the extent of the Domains.
  4. Appearance [Kirif goal] The Kirif created their own Islands by manipulating the growth of coral and fungus. Eventually they learned to grow huge Spires and shape them into buildings and even fortifications. They are like coral skyscrapers now. These Spires became central to their culture and organization, similar to the castle of a noble house. The Spires have “Kings and Queens”, Bloodlines with whom the symbiotic coral are most attuned to, giving them tremendous power within their home. Individually their clothing is meant to be worn in and out of water and mostly consists of bathing suits. There is less of a nudity taboo, which is not unusual for sub-tropical coastal cultures, and might heat up the story a bit. They love jewelry and consider beauty and art to be of great import. Also they have carnivorous guard dolphins who have rights similar to the Spireless.
  5. Politics [Kirif goal] The Spires are at odds with each other. This is partly based on the strains of coral that each spire is based on. As the coral spreads and grows it comes into conflict with other spires. Wars can occur and some Spires can be destroyed or forced to move. Those without spires are always seeking to start new spires, but the spires gang up to stop them and keep space for themselves.
  6. Language [Kirif goal]  Kirif has basic words can be spoken underwater, it includes unusual sounds like chirping sounds designated by * and clacks designated with a !. To the people of the Domains it sounds like singsong gibberish.
  7. Most importantly, the Kirif have a very different attitude to the magic and the Gift, at least to start off 😉

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