Viridis: The Whistling City

Brontë Sobotka

Welcome, dear traveller, to the city of Viridis. I know it has been a long and tiring journey to make it all the way here, all the way to the Whistling City.

The world of Viridis City is a world of practical magics. Familiar magics. An extra line in a mathematical equation, a specific turn of linguistic phrase, or a certain way of tending to a plant: in this world, these simple things can conjure pure magic.

There are rules to magic, of course. Human rules. Rules that are absolute to their rulers. But worry not, dear traveller, for Viridis is a benevolent city. You’re very lucky you ended up here, and not on the other side of the Impasse.

Why do I praise Viridis so, you ask? For it is a city of endless magical possibilities. All magics are allowed here, encouraged even (its academy for the Artes is essentially world-renowned, you know?). Just make sure you have paid the appropriate fees for the appropriate licenses if you’re planning on doing any magics while you’re here. Security is important. Safety is important. We can’t have random folks on the street using Artes without any proof they know what they are doing.

Oh? You don’t practice any Artes? Honestly, that’s probably for the best. All that bureaucracy is a nightmare.

Well traveller, I think you know everything you need to for now. Go on, go explore the city. Viridis isn’t considered the artisanal centre of the country for nothing.

You can see the telltale Viridian glass roofs of the inner city in the distance, far up the mountainside. Baleful winds weave through the wind towers, causing a high-pitched whine to bear down into the city streets. You can see why they call it the Whistling City.

Art and storytelling are inseparable to me, so comics and graphic novels are where these passions naturally overlap. This worldbuilding project, specifically, has a number of stories I want to explore. One of these stories is this 17 page comic. Textile making and its processes are fascinating to me in their tangibility and complexity. I also frequently enjoy crocheting, sewing, and other textile crafts. In Viridis, however, these tasks do not remain solely mundane.

All aspects the textile processes can be imbued with magics, from the mordants, to the dyes, to even the pattern on the jacquard loom punch cards. The Textile Artes are a lucrative business, but also an expensive one. My dear traveller, have you inquired into the costs of running a licensed Textile Artes Business? No? Well… let’s just say I wouldn’t want to shill out the money, despite the many possible returns.

That being said, it’s necessary that any Textile Artes are properly licensed. It’s one of the most versatile and subtle Artes out there, but also one of the most dangerous. Not keeping the magical textiles under control could endanger each and every citizen of Viridis. Would you want someone with cloaks of Unnoticing sneaking into your private rooms? Or how about someone who can charm a quick coin out of you with a shake of their sleeve?

I didn’t think so.

Beyond short stories and small ideas, most of my focus within the world of Viridis has been on the overarching main plotline. 

It follows the story of Kasra, who wakes up across the Impasse with no magic and no memories of getting there. Thrust into the middle of a political conspiracy, Kasra has to reckon with not only their perilous situation but the realization that Viridis and the academy are not as benevolent as they appear.

The following section explores some of the visual development I have done on the city and the characters.

This is a rough painting of the city, alongside a diagrammatic rendition of the academy library.

Kasra, huh? They’re one of those odd wizarding types. I heard he’s studying the Physical Artes at the Academy. I’ve also heard that he’s been living something of a wild life. Most people have heard of his escapades. I don’t want to spread any unsavoury gossip though, my dearest traveller.

And yet, somehow, they manage to maintain their high academic standing. One of those assholes who somehow does nothing and still manages to succeed. I bet he’ll get what’s coming to him sooner or later.

Jana is the inciting incident in my creation of this project. She started as a doodle in my sketchbook but quickly turned into a character that begged to be placed in a world. Initially, she was going to be the main character of my story, however, I decided that Kasra has a more engaging arc.

Marnie? She’s great, she started her apprenticeship at the Academy’s archives earlier this year alongside her full-time studies. She’s friends with Kasra. Surprising, I know, traveller. I agree with you. But they’ve been friends for years and I guess it’s too late to get rid of him.

She’s inquisitive, dare I say, to a fault. She can’t let a mystery go, that one. I just hope she can figure out that sometimes some things should be left alone, for her own sake.

This final section of my project is a recounting of some of the rough visual sketches I did, alongside a summary of some of the more in-depth worldbuilding research I conducted. 

I began with a colour. Viridian is a lovely shade and the idea of green glass-domed buildings had me enthralled. I also thought there was something poetic about being an artist and building a world inspired by a pigment. I discovered that viridian is a compound called Chromium (III) oxide and I was astonished at the various uses for this material, including ceramics, glassware, fabric dyes, and surprisingly, for stropping blades (the final stage of sharpening a knife for the finest and sharpest edge). This led me to do in-depth research into textile dyes and how the chemical processes of dyeing depend on the fibres being dyed, the use of additional binding chemicals, or even the physical way it is dyed.

I also conducted some research into architectural engineering that provides efficient cooling for buildings, with a specific focus on Iranian wind towers. There are multiple different ways that wind towers can be set up, however, commonly a pool of water is used low down inside the tower so that the wind blows cool damp air through the building. Additionally, Iranian architecture employs close-together buildings that help block the sun and bring the temperatures down.

While these lines of inquiry do not come through directly in my work, I enjoyed researching them and feel they helped me explore different aspects of the world that would otherwise be overlooked. My comic is a direct result of my explorations into the uses of Chromium (III) Oxide.

The following images are sketches that were made that include research notes and explorations, alongside some loose narrative compositional explorations.

Well, dear traveller, I’m afraid I’ll have to leave you now. I had a wonderful time showing you around the city. Spend as much time as you want wandering the streets and admiring the view. It’s a shame I can’t stay with you any longer, but, well, my lunch break is over and I really ought to get back. You’ve made it this far alone already. I’m sure that with all your experience travelling you’ll be fine on your own…

“People who deny the existence of dragons are often eaten by dragons. From within.” – Ursula K. Le Guin

Brontë Sobotka

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My work focuses on creative storytelling through the form of comics, concept illustrations, and general worldbuilding illustrations. I enjoy how stories open the space for imagining new realities that critique dominant narratives surrounding institutions, identities, and ways of thinking. My favourite genre to work in is fantasy, in all of its forms, since the exploratory freedom of fantastical worlds presents boundless opportunities to creatively interrogate reality.

At any given time there is at least one dachshund on my knee.

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