A shrowde is a living creature that looks, to the unsuspecting eye, like a ragged white sheet or cloak. Beings of the Shadow realm that cannot bear direct sunlight will sometimes go about concealed within a shrowde. According to some chroniclers, the "wearer" and the shrowde form a relationship of mutual dependence. The being that wears the shrowde as a cloak comes to depend on its protection and concealment, and the shrowde feeds off the thoughts and emotions of the one that wears it. Whether a shrowde has thoughts and feelings of its own is unclear, but it will act as an independent being if separated from its wearer.

A shrowde can move about on its own, much in the way that a sheet will be tossed and blown about by the wind. Shrowdes can thus glide through the air, or flow over the ground, and in these ways the shrowde will sometimes act as a scout or spy for its wearer. (Some scholars of the Perilous Realm believe that sightings of shrowdes are the source of our world's depiction of ghosts as figures draped in white).

At the will of its wearer, a shrowde can also envelop others. Those few who have been "swallowed" by a shrowde and lived to tell the tale report that they experienced a sense of being lost within a vast, murky expanse, as if the shrowde is somehow larger on the inside than it looks to be from the outside.



He handed Will a small leather flask.
“Drink this,” he said. “It is called everenth. It will restore
some of your strength and help you resist, if Lotan appears to
you again.”
Will took a tentative sip. The drink tasted slightly bitter,
like unsweetened tea, but almost immediately he felt a warmth
flowing into him.

--from The Shadow of Malabron, Chapter XVII, page 217

The drink that Moth gives Will is called everenth. It is a herbal drink brewed of extracts from several plants collected by the Shee n'ashoon, but especially from the hard black berries of the evergreen shrub called everenth, for which then drink is named. Everenth grows only in the windy highlands of Lyrr, far to the northwest of the Bourne.

As Moth says, one of everenth's qualities is to restore strength, although this is somewhat misleading. In our world we drink coffee or tea because we think it gives us energy, when in fact the energy is already there inside us, in potential -- the drink merely allows our bodies to access it. More than anything else, everenth is a drink that clears the heart and mind, allowing you to find that energy within, that you thought was lost but was always there.

the Untold


Many who live in the Perilous Realm, the world of Story, call our world "Elsewhere" or "the Untold." Just as we people of the "real" world have only a dim, woefully incomplete understanding of the vast universe of Story, the folk of Story have difficulty understanding our world. That is why they give it names which imply that it is "somewhere else." A vague, mysterious place without stories.

Jeremiah Redquill is a writer, scholar and mapmaker who once lived in our world (in Peace River, Alberta, to be exact) but now makes his home in the city of Fable. For years now he has been working on an atlas of the Perilous Realm, a task which he himself admits can never be completed.

When Redquill first arrived in the Realm, he couldn't understand why folk here used the term "Untold" for our world. It didn't make sense to him, since we have lots of stories. The real world is constantly being "told."

After he spent some time in the Realm, though, Redquill gained a new perspective on the place he had come from. In the real world we surround ourselves with stories because deep down inside we sense that we don't really have a story. Our lives don't have a nice, neat, complete, finished shape. Things change. We change. Nothing every really ends, the way it does in a story. Something always goes on, something gets left out, something new comes along. Our world will always remain unfinished, "untold." And so we long for the world of Story, which we believe is unchanging. Our storytellers and writers visit the Realm and they bring stories back to us and we listen eagerly. We want our lives to be like stories. With a happily ever after, of course.

But Redquill also discovered that the world of Story is changing all the time, too. Stories don't stay the same, either. Every time he visited a particular storyland, he found that it was not quite the same as the last time he had been there. So for Redquill, the world of Story is also "untold." It will never be complete, never finished. There will always be new stories.

But he keeps working on his atlas.


The Kantar


The Perilous Realm is the realm of stories. All the stories we know, and many we don't know yet, are woven here. They grow and change and sometimes mingle with one another to create new stories. Like an endless tapestry woven on an infinite loom, these stories weave and are woven and weave themselves anew.

The Story of all stories is called the Kantar. Every storyteller dips into the Kantar, like taking a cup of water from an inexhaustible well. To take a tale from the Kantar is not to diminish it but to allow it to grow and continue.

Some storytellers know more of the Kantar than others, but no one can know it all. Some say that the first line of the Kantar is this:

"In the darkness the spirit awoke, and danced."

But no one knows for sure, because it may be that the Kantar has no beginning. And it may never have an end.



Nightbane is the collective word for beings from the shadow side of Story. They have also been called "Banefolk," although some scholars object to the term "folk" as being too nice and neighbourly for creatures known to perpetrate acts of horrific violence.

Nightbane include such familiar entities as goblins, ghouls, vampires, werewolves, some giants (not all) and witches (not all).

Lesser known to people in our world are such creatures as:

mordog: large man-shaped creatures with doglike faces and bloodthirsty appetites. Many mordog look more ursine than canine. The name does not derive from "dog" in fact but from an Eld word meaning "plague," as these creatures were thought of as a plague upon peace-loving folk.

creech: smaller creatures of naked bone and sinew, with sharp beaks and claws

hogmen: as the name suggests, these beings are porcine in appearance, and are notorious for a taste for human flesh. Fortunately, they are not particulary intelligent (although they like to believe they are) and can often be outwitted by stratagems that wouldn't ordinarily fool a five-year-old child.

While any of these creatures should be considered extremely dangerous, they themselves go in fear of some of the darker, truly terrifying beings of the shadow side of Story. Such beings as reavers, dark angels, and deathdancers.

Having long been on the side of wickedness in the realms of Story, Nightbane have been recruited in great numbers by Malabron the Night King. Many of them worship him as a god, who has promised to make them lords of the Realm over all of the "good" folk. In recent years, however, a number of Nightbane (either singly or in bands) have rejected Malabron's authority and joined the alliance of free folk against him, thus disproving the age-old notion that they are purely evil by nature and cannot change.

Image by T Wharton

On giants 2


One of my all-time favourite giant stories is the one about the Irish giant Finn MacCool (Fionn Mac Cumhail) and his wife Oonagh outwitting a rival giant who has come to find Finn and challenge him to a fight.

In some versions this rival is a Scottish giant named Ben An Donner, in other versions he is Cuchullain, the mythical Irish hero transformed for the purposes of the story into a giant.

The gist of the story is that when Finn finds out this giant is coming to find him, he panics and pleads with his wife to get him out of trouble. Oonagh dresses Finn up as a baby and puts him in a cradle. When the rival giant arrives at Finn's house, Oonagh tells him Finn is out, and invites him in for tea. The giant is startled at this enormous baby, and wonders fearfully how huge Finn must be if this is his child. He reaches into the crib to tickle the baby and Finn squeezes his finger and nearly crushes it (or bites it off, in some versions). The giant gets up and runs off, not daring to wait around for the father if the baby is so strong.

I haven't done justice to the wit and comedy of the story here at all, of course. There are several published versions which tell the tale with wonderful words and pictures, such as Mrs. McCool And The Giant Cuhullin: An Irish Tale, by Jessica Souhami.

on giants


Since the Perilous Realm is the realm of Story, there are giants here. All different sorts of giants. Nasty, people-eating, harp-stealing giants; frost giants and storm giants; giants with multiple heads; Nephilim; jotuns and ettins; colossi; Brobdingnagians; giants that live up in the sky, in the earth, under the sea; giants that can change size and change shape; giants that don't look like giants, but don't tell them that; unemployed giants in Greenland; friendly giants...

There are many places in the Realm where you can see the work of giants. Rings of huge stones, great mounds of earth, clefts in the sides of mountains, ravines and river valleys. Near a range of hills called the Winden Tors lives a good-natured, sleepy giant who does little but lie around all day and is often mistaken for a hill. Whether he will turn into a hill eventually is uncertain, but some say this is how many geographical features are formed. Like Nose Hill and Elbow Creek in Calgary, commemorating the body of Naapi, Old Man, the primeval ancestor of the Blackfoot people.


The Perilous Realm

The Perilous Realm is the world (or worlds) from which all of our stories come. 

Dreamers and storytellers have journeyed often in the Perilous Realm and returned with the tales that tell us who we are, and who we may be. 

To those who live in the Realm, our world is known as Elsewhere, or the Untold.

The Realm is apparently infinite in extent, although in places it conforms to a geography and a cosmology similar to ours. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. The moon circles the earth and the earth the sun. The seasons have their cycle, and the directions conform to what we know: the further north you go, the colder and more barren become the lands. To the south are warmer climates.

Within this familiar framework, however, there are unusual distinctions. The Realm is home to innumerable storylands, each of which is (or was, before the Great Unweaving) separate and distinct from any others. Stories come from innumith, the “storystuff” that lies in potential in the realm, in its earth, trees, water, stone, and all beings. 

Innumith is also the name for a power of being able to see and manipulate the very threads of stories and the paths between them. One with such a gift is known as a loremaster.

The present loremaster of the city of Fable is Nicholas Pendrake. He owns a toyshop in Pluvius Lane, where he lives with his granddaughter Rowen.


Greenwoods Books, Edmonton:

Wednesday, September 10: 7:30 p.m.
Thomas Wharton presents The Shadow of Malabron
The Shadow of Malabron is the first novel in the trilogy, The Perilous Realm. Long ago, Malabron the Night King tried to turn all stories into one – his story, a nightmare of absolute power. But when Will, a rebellious teenager, stumbles from the present into the realm where stories come from, he is caught up in Malabron’s evil designs. Aided by some of the story folk – including the feisty Rowen, her grandfather Pendrake (a loremaster) and Shade, the laconic but loyal wolf – Will must combat a host of perils, if he is ever to find the gateless gate that will take him home.

“The Realm is not just a world with stories in it. This world is Story. It is the place that all of the tales in your world come from. Whatever you might find in a story, you will find here. Adventures, strange encounters, riddles. Goblins, ghosts, wizards, dragons. Heroes and monsters. Bravery, goodness, and terrible evil. And many other things that have yet no name in your world. And you are here now, and that means you are in a story, too."




One of the great pleasures of writing the Perilous Realm trilogy has been creating the epigraphs at the head of each chapter. If you've read my book The Logogryph you know that I'm fond of imaginary books, and the epigraphs for the chapters of The Shadow of Malabron are all "excerpts" from such made-up books.

Like the Spindlefog Misguidebook to the Realms of Story. In this case I thought that if most real-world destinations had guidebooks, the Perilous Realm, being (in part at least) the land of Faerie, would have misguidebooks, either out of sheer caprice or in order to keep people from finding the place too easily. Spindlefog is the name of the publisher of this and other misguidebooks. I'm sure there are more stories to tell about him.

Then there's the Book of Errantry, which is a kind of "scout handbook" of rules and useful advice given to every young person who joins the Errantry as a knight-apprentice. (There will be more on the Errantry in a later post.)

And Redquill's Atlas and Gazeteer of the Realm. A book of maps and information about the worlds of Story. Could such a book ever be completed?

And Balthazar Budd's Flora and Fauna of Wildernesse. This one is based on a real book that I had to read and study when I was a biological sciences student, years ago: Budd's Flora of the Canadian Prairie Provinces, a huge tome cataloguing and describing the plants and flowers of the Canadian west. The book was named for Archibald Charles Budd, an Englishman who emigrated to Canada in 1910 after winning 250 pounds in a limerick contest. (I'd love to read the winning limerick). A.C. Budd worked as a botanist in Saskatchewan and became an authority on the plant life of his adopted home. If you ever need to differentiate hay sedge from broom sedge, Budd's book is the place to go.



...from The Spindlefog Misguidebook to the Realms of Story

Arzareth, the land that no one has visited:

Follow the river Abrach south from Brythar for twenty-one days, until the stream finally runs dry in the wastes of Houl. Make for the Talon Rock on the western horizon and strike out across the deathly plain, for a further thirteen days, until you reach Quef, the country that is all border, with no interior. From here it matters not which direction you take, for you will always find Arzareth before you but unreachable, on the far side of a dry riverbed, or seen through flickering leaves, or glimpsed, blue and inviting, from the top of a hill, or across a channel of surging ocean surf....

"another land" Esdras 2, 13:40-46)


Welcome to the blog for The Perilous Realm, my fantasy trilogy in progress. The first novel in the sequence, The Shadow of Malabron, will be coming out in August 2008.

The "Perilous Realm" of stories is a vast place, with some familiar lands and characters, though most of it is still unknown. In this blog I will chronicle some of what I have learned in my own travels, as well as providing information on the people, creatures, and places in the trilogy.

This is a simple map of Fable that I made on one of my recent expeditions. Folk who travel to the Perilous Realm from our world are called Wayfarers. Many of them who ended up staying in the Realm live in a small country called the Bourne, the main city of which is Fable. It is a kind of crossroads for folk journeying through the Realm, and many stories are told and shared here, especially at the Golden Goose Inn. From time to time on this blog I hope to share some of the stories I heard there.