Garden of Stone - Encounter Map
Probably past time I post my 2nd map here. This one was made entirely in GIMP. (really should move WoodHaven over here someday)
I guess you would call this an encounter map, or battlemap. Inspired by a well I created using an arch from CGTextures. Just learning GIMP and mess around with dimension, and perspective, with vines, steps and shadows led to this. Was never happy with the white lines around the vines in blown up mode, but since then found out it was part of my cutting the background process that did this, just havent found the urge to recreate it all :(
The story/intro, well basically, I hadnt written anything, other than a small bio for an upcoming anthology, in the month I have gotten into digital mapping or art, so I was glad to see something pop out of my head. It is only first draft. It revolves around characters for stories I have written for my daughters, who always ask me when I write, "Why can't girls be heroes? Why are they always rescued?"
Free for personal use, non-commercial.
Garden of Stone
Kaia slid from her saddle, and let her fingers trace along her mare's neck, seeking comfort in the quiet strength that trembled within. The stout mare was born to the wilds, her lineage traced for generations, for strength and speed.
Everything that Kaia was not. Found beneath the Steppes of Sadness, she was adopted into the Kings family. A gift from the Gods they said, to silence his tears at the loss of his one true queen. But she was far from royal. She slid over the tangled roots and vines, her lithe frame making no sound. This is where she belonged, out here in the wilderness, not in her chambers, not in court.
Her brother dismounted behind her. "Kaia, wait."
"Because this is someone's garden. We don't know who lives here, but someone lives here?"
Kaia nodded, and forced a smile to her face. Yeah, like a hundred years ago. "Whose ever it is, they're long gone. No one has been here in years."
"It's not just that. It just feels wrong." Aiden slid his sword from his scabbard, sending chills chasing up Kaia's spine. She loved the sound of that.
She never understood it. If she was half as good with the blade as he was, she wouldn't be afraid of anything, nothing at all.
She shook the chill free, feeling the excitement rise inside her, and laughed. When had she ever let fear stop her before? Never. And she wouldn't this time.
She crept down the stairs; sending debris tumbling down the vine covered treads, to land softly on the carpet of moss in the sunken garden below. Her brother was right. It was all wrong. So green and full of life, only it reeked of death. As if the moss and vines in their fight for survival had devoured the true beauty of the world beneath.
Trees broke through the stone covered patio, sending their roots, twisting, turning, like hands reaching from the decaying earth beneath, only to dive back into the darkness below.
She stopped. "Aiden." She lifted a trembling hand. A head and arm reached from the layers of moss and vines.
The older boy knelt. "It's alright," he laughed, his voice catching. "It's-it's just a statue."
He pulled the moss back, prying the vines free of their death hold around the statue's legs. "It must have fallen." He rose to his feet and continued searching, his voice trailing off, "This place is unreal, all the trees, the vines, pushing through the stone…"
Kaia ran her fingers along the statue; it was exquisite. She had never seen the like. Each link of armor chiseled deep and true. And his face, twisted in horror as if looking back. His knees bent.
She shook her head. This was wrong. He hadn't fallen. He was crawling! Trying to escape. She lunged to her feet. "Aiden!"
She ran for him, tripping on the gnarled vines hidden beneath the moss as if refusing to let her go. Rolling to her feet she grabbed Aiden by the shoulder. "Aiden! We have to go."
He didn't look back, instead parted the vines in front of him. "It's another statue. She's beautiful." He slid his hand along the porcelain goddess standing before him.
And she was beautiful. Tall, and elegant. Young. She couldn't have been much older than Aiden, sixteen winters, no more.
Tears traced down his face. "Who? I mean, how could anyone catch her essence so? So real. So beautiful."
Kaia grabbed his arm and jerked him back. "They didn't! Statues have pedestals. These don't. They were once flesh and blood. The same as you and me." Even as she said the words, she could barely believe them. But it was true. It had to be. They were too perfect. And the goddess? She touched her. She was warm, as if she was still fighting the magic that sought to claim her. But she was wrapped tight in the vines grasp. Vines didn’t grow that fast. A sick feeling swept over her. How long had she been fighting? Days, weeks, years?
"Aiden we have to go! Now!"
But he wasn't listening. He stumbled to the once magnificent pool in the center of the garden, and fell to his knees. Vines clung to the sides, dropping into the darkness below. "Do you hear her? She needs me."
"Aiden, no!" He was going to go down. She lunged for him.
He spun and hit her across the face, sending her reeling to the steps. He had never hit her before. Pranked her, and tricked her, often leaving her in tears. But never before had he struck her.
She bit her lip, tasting the blood in the mouth, and rose to her feet.
Aiden had already swung his feet over the side.
She dove for him grasping his sleeve for a moment, before he jerked free. He stared up at her. She flinched expecting hatred, anger, contempt, anything, but there was nothing behind those eyes, nothing at all.
They were void of life as the garden itself.
Slowly he descended into the darkness.