In this week’s episode, Stein Cat uses City of Bones property brochures to prepare me for my first look outside Ganhook’s Fortress.
I also discuss how to create unique buildings for your world.
And the Strange but True section, surprise surprise, deals with a property problem in the City of Bones.
How to create unique buildings in your world.
How to properly treat a troublesome ghost who is haunting your house.
Building inspiration: https://www.specialfinds.com
Ganhook never said BOO about my underground adventure. But if felt like I’d passed some test, and that I was a big step closer to seeing outside.
The following morning, when I rolled out of bed at 06:59, Shinytop said, ‘You look happier this morning.’
He was right. For the first time since I’d arrived in Dunari, I had zero morning anxiety, and felt ready for the day. Instinct told me I would soon see the City of Bones.
Boosting this instinct was the fact that the images visible through the room zero window had sharpened. I suspected this has more to do with my Seventh Relic experience than some sudden improvement in my drawing.
OK. So the windows weren’t much sharper. I saw mainly blotches of colour, greens and browns and lots and lots of pale whites.
Bones, I presumed.
The energy in the compound was lighter, too. Warmer. I felt like I’d received the ‘touch of approval’ from the Bone Shadow, and this world would take me more seriously now.
I said to Shinytop, ‘When was the last time you were outside?’
‘Many years ago,’ he replied. ‘And . . . it was dark then. I saw little.’
No matter his mood, it was hard not to pity Shinytop. I couldn’t imagine what it was like to be imprisoned in that stick. I said, ‘Will you be my guide outside?’
‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘And the sooner the better.’
It occurred to me that Shinytop was as keen to get outside as I was.
Having no morning anxiety meant I was hungry. Ravenous, actually. I hurried down to the kitchen before the morning delivery of Shell Valley Bread went cold.
Stein Cat was there. This unsettled me. If we had one core thing in common it was the fact that neither of us liked getting up early. I’d never seen her in the kitchen before ten.
I poked her, just to make sure it wasn’t one of her ghosts.
My finger found soft fur. ‘Sorry,’ I murmured.
She glared at me. She was certainly no morning star.
Yes, she was cranky and selfish and had an ego bigger than Ireland. But she cared, about me, about everything. Besides, she was a cat. And cats were cranky and selfish and egotistic no matter what dimension they were in.
‘You will soon venture outside,’ she said, like she was talking to a five-year-old. ‘It is dangerous outside.’
I said, ‘It’s no joke inside either.’
Stein Cat stretched up to full height. ‘The first sight of Bone City can dazzle you. And when it dazzles, there are those who wait to prey on the blind.’
I remembered overhearing Dad tell Mum that he’d been pickpocketed in Paris in his student days. He’d been gaping in amazement at the Eiffel Tower when his money disappeared.
This sounded similar.
I’d hardly buttered my bread when Stein Cat opened a leather case and spread a lot of manuscripts across the table. Manuscripts with pictures of bones, bones that had windows and doors and gutters and chimneys.
Some even had little gardens.
I thought I was in for some bizarre biology lesson.
Then Stein Cat said, ‘Some habitation dealers I know gave me these.’ She pointed at the bone pictures. ‘They’ll prepare your mind for what awaits outside.’
‘Habitation dealers?’ I said.
Stein Cat nodded. ‘If you want to sell your habitation, you contact them, and they’ll help you.’
I picked up one of the manuscripts. Beneath the picture of an enormous fat bone with four windows and a door, was a mass of words and figures. While I couldn’t read the language, I knew it was an advertisement.
These were the Dunari equivalent of real estate brochures.
Fascinated, I examined the brochures.
A long, curved ribcage, lay sideways, half buried in the ground. An array of windows ran up along each rib. While some had balconies, a few had wooden extensions attached, and a few others were connected with walkways that wound around the structure like some crazy mountain path.
The ribs were attached to a spine, and each spinal vertebrae had windows and a door, too, although there didn’t seem like the structure had any elevators or stairs. An arrow pointed to one of the larger vertebrae at the lower end of the column. Beside the arrow was a scrum of unrecognisable words.
Stein Cat pointed at the habitation, and said, ‘I’ve got a place like that. Cost me a fortune. Great view of the city.’
I honestly didn’t know what to say, so I focussed on the pictures. I recognised leg bones, claws, shoulder bones, hip bones, loose vertebrae, stringed vertebrae. Every one of them huge, and every one of them was converted into a habitation.
I didn’t see any skulls. I said, ‘No skulls for sale?’
Stein Cat replied, ‘Skulls and tusks are rarely sold. Usually kept within the family.’
I analysed the habitations over breakfast. Some made Ganhook’s compound look positively normal.
After giving me plenty of time to fill my head with all this madness, Stein Cat produced a green glass bottle shaped like a bulb. She said, ‘You need to smell the city, too.’
I choked on my bread. ‘Smell it?’
There was something in the bottle. It looked like a piece of bone. It struck me that if the City of Bones was actually made from bones, then it might smell bad. Like death.
And why hadn’t I already smelled the city from the fortress.
When I asked Stein Cat about this, she said, ‘The compound air if filtered. Badness can spread on the air. And Ganhook’s enemies would spread badness here if given the opportunity. Why, even me, with my superb senses, cannot smell the city from here.’
‘Wow,’ I said sarcastically.
Stein Cat sniffed my way, crinkled her nose, and said, ‘And I can smell foulness through a forest of flowers.’
Considering I had a good scrub every day, this annoyed me.
She handed me the bottle. By now, I was expecting the worst stink to emerge from the bottle. I opened it, and sniffed. A lively, fresh smell emerged, and tickled my nose.
Stein Cat said, ‘Spend today getting accustomed to the smell.’
I wondered why. Then the room shimmered, and my legs weakened, and I slumped back into my chair.
Stein Cat said, ‘Overpowering, isn’t it. Spend today getting accustomed to the smell. Otherwise, once we’re outside, I’ll be picking you up off the ground within half a minute.’
I didn’t complain. It beat studying any day. And if it meant I’d get out the front door quicker, I was happy to go along with it.
So, what in the name of my cousin’s husband’s cat was this Dunari property brochure thing all about?
Of course, like most things I initially encountered in Dunari, I thought the idea of demonstrating the city using property brochures was nuts. I didn’t want to look at pictures of bone buildings. I wanted to touch those buildings, explore them, maybe even fear them a bit.
That morning, however, I quickly realised that venturing into a city primarily made of bones did need just a bit of preparation.
To build the city in my head, brochures were a great idea.
They were relatable, too. Mum and Dad were always checking out properties advertised in the local real estate agent’s windows in Dublin.
So how can you use the brochure concept to create what habitations exist in your world.
In short, how can you create a unique environment that stands out among the countless fantasy cities full of generic taverns, markets, castles, churches, and so on?
Firstly, think about the property market.
Is there a property market in your world?
If so, create a bit of history around it, like how it developed over time, how it’s run, and how you can use it to add interesting details.
Even if everyone in your world lives in vast communal habitations, or cave warrens, or lead nomadic, desert lifestyles, there will be some form of property market—even if it only involves rent collectors or tent sales people.
Can a property guide or property seller help build your world for you?
These days, you can get a peep inside the most lavish or weird properties simply by browsing through a real estate agent’s website. Unfortunately, I cannot demonstrate any Dunari habitations for sale here. But if you want inspiration for your core (or any) habitation, check out https://www.specialfinds.com
For your world or city, think about how the property market evolved from the time the first shack was constructed on new land in a new country?
Who owns what?
If you were a real estate broker in your fantasy world, what kind of properties would you sell, and how would you sell them?
Have a bit of fun and make up some fantasy property brochures. Start with your current home. Draw it out. Notice the basic things needed—kitchen, bedrooms, lounge and toilet. Then think about what your home might resemble in your fantasy world.
Property advertisements present a wealth of information about localities, too. Property prices alone will give you an idea of how a city is laid out.
And don’t settle for your local property market. Log into property sites in India, Kenya, Germany, the Middle East, or wherever. Study what’s there – especially the older properties– and compare how people live in different parts of the world.
Most buildings will be partially determined by the environment, and partly by style.
Everyone wants a nice house, right?
How can you add your interpretation of those designs to your world. Once again, if you mix the familiar with the unfamiliar, your buildings will be relatable. Example: Drop a modern bungalow into a fantasy city, but cover it with dragon scales that act as heat protection.
And when you’re finished figuring out the human, why not turn your attention to other inhabitants of your cities. How would nonhumans live in human settlements? Or vice versa? What needs do nonhumans require? Would an alien need a toilet, for example.
Consider what disputes may arise over property? Even though the Dunari City of Roses was occupied by a spirit storm a long time ago, there still are disputes about its property. Special courts were built just to deal with these disputes because, of course, everyone expects to return there someday, and the descendants of those who lost everything want that everything back.
Or go back in time. Check out how the property market in ancient times worked. Of course, the warrior with the biggest sword might get the biggest house. But property laws did exist, and those laws might well inspire the foundational property laws in your world.
Everyone and everything needs a home.
For the record, my cousin’s husband’s cat’s name is Chime, named so because it likes to sleep under their grandfather clock. That clock is practically her home.
That’s it for this episode.
Until next time, Goodbye. Or as we say in Dunari, Dreavik!