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Chapter 2 - Methods and Assumptions

My general strategy has been to deduce what I could, and then speculate from there, and guess only as a last resort.

To a degree, this is a fool's errand; the very act of trusting what Steve has to say about Dragaera is speculative on my part due to his use of unreliable narrators. Nonetheless, I have attempted to take what he writes at face value as much as possible.

Comparison to Earth

I asked Steve how big the planet is, and he replied,

I use "roughly Earth" for convenience.

It orbits its parent star every 17 months, each of which is 17 days in length, for a total year length of 289 days:

The days became weeks ... and these weeks, likewise, turned themselves into months of seventeen days (The Phoenix Guards, Chapter 9)

Why are there seventeen months in the Dragaeran year? (Taltos, Chapter 9)

Each day is 30 hours in length.

thirty hours, or a full day and night. (The Phoenix Guards, Chapter 20)

This means there are approximately 8,670 hours in a Dragaeran year, and 8,766 hours in an Earth year.

Furthermore, the planet's surface appears to have been shaped by plate tectonics:

Ten millions of years before, a battle had taken place. On one side had been billions of tons of rock, mostly granite, wishing to go east. On the other, billions more tons of rock, mostly limestone, sandstone, and shale, desiring to travel west. The battle lasted for hundreds of thousands of years of pushing, withdrawing, looking for avenues of escape, and head-to-head duels of pure strength. In the end, the limestone had succeeded in passing beneath the granite. The victorious limestone, except for occasional patches, remained invisible. The granite could be seen for scores of miles ... Its base was near enough that individual evergreens could be see, yet trees at the top were merely a blur. The peaks further back, and higher, gleamed white with snow in the early morning sun. Those still further back showed faint white that the sun couldn't reach. (Brokedown Palace, Chapter 1)

The Wandering Forest wrapped itself like a sheet around the base of the Mountains of Faerie. Here and there, intermixed with trees, brooks, weeds, and shrubs, were outcroppings of granite--an advance guard, as it were, for the eastward march of the mountains. Some of these where almost high enough to be considered mountains themselves, or at least hills. They were new, as such things go, and hadn't been around long enough to develop a layer of topsoil for the use of grass and trees. Only occasional weeds sprang from flaws in the rock. (Brokedown Palace, Chapter 3)

Over the span of millions of years, the reshaping of a planet's crust by plate tectonics is described by the supercontinent cycle, which argues that the continents merge into supercontinents, then rift and break into multiple smaller continents, then merge back into supercontinents, &c.

Beginning from a supercontinent, rifting generally begins when a hotspot forms under the plate (or the plate moves on top of an existing hotspot and stalls). The pressure of the hotspot pushes the plate upward, creating a dome that typically fractures into three evenly spaced (120 degrees apart) rifts. As soon as two of the three rifts develop far enough to begin spreading, the pressure is lessened beneath the third rift, which typically fails.

Where the seafloor spreads, a mid-oceanic ridge forms, and the new oceanic crust being extruded as the continents move away from the ridge are called abyssal plains. Most continental shelf is on the rift-side of the plate (known as the passive margin).

An example of this on Earth is the separation of South America and Africa, which formed the southern Atlantic Ocean (for clarity, I have removed all other landmasses):

Plate Tectonics
Plate Tectonics

Please note that the eastern coast of South America, the mid-Atlantic ridge, and the western coast of Africa all mirror one another.

I have assumed that in all ways not specifically stated, Dragaera is similar to the Earth. That is, it was formed under the same circumstances, and its surface was shaped by the same processes that shape the face of the Earth.

In a number of places, I have applied what I know about these processes to Dragaera in order to derive otherwise unknowable information. I do not consider such cases guesswork; they are more akin to the sort of speculation practiced by paleontologists who look at how living things are today and use that to imagine how extinct organisms might have looked and how they may have behaved.

Descriptive Names

I have assumed that descriptive place names are accurate. That is, Southpoint is at the southern point of something, the Great Northwestern Road runs primarily to or in the northwest, the Yendi River twists and turns like a snake, and so forth.

Of course, I cannot rule out that there is a Dragaeran equivalent to Iceland or Greenland out there, but I think that assuming descriptive place names are accurate will help more than it will hinder this enterprise.


Where possible, I have treated all directions as exact. That is, "north" means "due north".

However, most places that are referenced more than once do not fit neatly within such narrow definitions, so where needed, I have broadened my definitions of directions as follows:

North means more N than E or W. That is, +/- 45 degrees of due N.

Northeast means more NE than N or E, or +/- 22.5 degrees of due NE.

North by Northeast means more NNE than N or NE, or +/- 11.25 degrees of due NNE.

North by East means more NbE than N or NNE, or +/- 5.625 degrees of due NbE.

Directly North means +/- 5.625 degrees of due North.

Here is a compass rose showing the relationship of all of these directions.

Compass Points
Compass Points


There are a number of cases where a location is given as a range of possibilities, not as a single point. In such cases, I have assumed that the point is located in the center of the specified range.

For example, if a city were 300-400 miles from another point, I would assume it was about 350 miles as a starting point.

Similarly, if port B is along the coast between port A and port C, and I think I know where A and C are, I will assume B is midway between the two.

Finally, when mapping contiguous terrain features such as coastlines, rivers, mountain ranges, and roads, I believe the best I can possibly do is to map out those specific points along the feature that I can, and then simply connect them by lines.

I realize it is absurd to think that the few points we have along a river really identify all the places where the river twists or turns, but anything beyond this is pure guesswork.

The only time I will stray from this methodology is when the feature between two points is described as being explicitly NOT a straight line (for example, to get from Candletown to Northport you go "around the corner").

As Steve writes more books, hopefully he will mention more places along such features and the map will become increasingly accurate over time.


Often times, we are given dates in the form "Early Spring" or "Late Winter." Using the 1st day of summer as a base point:

The ground was broken on the new Imperial Palace at a ceremony held on the first day of summer: the fifth day of the month of the Hawk. (Sethra Lavode, Preface)

I calculated the 1st day of each season as follows:

Event Day of the Year Full Date
1st Day of Spring 1st 1st day of the month of the Phoenix
1st Day of Summer 73rd 5th day of the month of the Hawk
1st Day of Fall 145th 9th day of the month of the Vallista
1st Day of Winter 217th 13th day of the month of the Yendi

From this, I was able to extrapolate the mid-point of each segment of each season as follows:

Event Day of the Year Full Date
Early Spring 13th 13th day of the month of the Phoenix
Spring 37th 3rd day of the month of the Lyorn
Late Spring 61st 10th day of the month of the Tiassa
Early Summer 85th 17th day of the month of the Hawk
Summer 109th 7th day of the month of the Issola
Late Summer 133rd 14th day of the month of the Tsalmoth
Early Fall 157th 4th day of the month of the Jhereg
Fall 181st 11th day of the month of the Iorich
Late Fall 205th 1st day of the month of the Yendi
Early Winter 229th 8th day of the month of the Orca
Winter 253rd 15th day of the month of the Teckla
Late Winter 277th 5th day of the month of the Athyra

In other words, if a date is given as "early spring", and there is nothing more accurate to go on, I will translate that date as the 13th day of the year when calculating travel times and the like.

Miles in a League

Dragaerans and Easterners appear to measure leagues differently:

Sandyhome ... is hardly fifty leagues [from Pepperfields] ... we are bound for Redface, less than fifty leagues from Pepperfields. / Fifty leagues of the city, or fifty leagues by the Easterner's reckoning? / A day's brisk march by the footpaths ... or else two days' quick ride by the horse-paths. (The Phoenix Guards, Chapter 15)

And Dragaerans have at least two types of leagues in use:

A league in the Sorannah is almost two leagues within the ancient confines of Seawall, that is, within the barony that once held the city of Dragaera (The Phoenix Guards, Chapter 20)

However, I have found that assuming there are 3 miles per league (the same way we measure statute leagues) has worked better than any alternative, so I have done so except where noted.

The Size of Mountains

Dzur Mountain

Pel ... left Dzur Mountain, after which he made his way to a near-by posting house, some twenty or thirty miles away (The Paths of the Dead, Chapter 28)

we left [Pel] in a small village on the southern slopes of Dzur Mountain (The Lord of Castle Black, Chapter 35)

Taken together, these two passages suggest that the slopes of Dzur Mountain extends at least 20-30 miles.

The Broken Mountain

the House of the Dragon [had] dwellings not twenty leagues away, on the other side of the Broken Mountain (The Paths of the Dead, Chapter 1)

It appears that the Broken Mountain has a diameter of around 60 miles, or a radius of about 30 miles, which is very similar to Dzur Mountain.

The Southern Eastern Mountains

they arrived in Kliuev, a small village nestled into what here were called the Mountains of Faerie, although only fifty or sixty miles to the west they were part of that great chain called the Eastern Mountains (The Paths of the Dead, Chapter 27)

While there is no indication that there is a single peak between the East and West here, this observation occurs toward the southern end of the Eastern Mountains, when the range is trailing off.

I think these three passages, taken together, suggest that mountains in Dragaera are, on average, between 25 and 30 miles in radius. I'm certain that every peak is unique, but when I have to estimate the size of a mountain (or the distance from its foothills to its peak), I will assume a radius of 25-30 miles.

Measuring Distance by Time

Sometimes the distance between two points is stated in hours or days rather than miles or leagues.

The first consideration that must be made is how to relate hours to days when it comes to traveling. I have assumed that no more than 18 hours a day will be spent traveling in most cases, based on this passage:

The naive observer might believe that Morrolan, Teldra, and Arra would, in fact, slow down upon procuring mounts ... instead of traveling ten or twelve hours a day, as they had been accustomed to do, they now began, without anyone making a decision to do so, to make stages of eighteen or nineteen hours a day, with the result that, though at no time did they consider themselves to be in a hurry, nevertheless they significantly increased the pace at which they made their way toward [Southmoor]. (The Paths of the Dead, Chapter 27)

Here are all the references I could find to how many miles one might travel in a day. I have ignored as atypical those travel times made via the post system, as they appear to be much, much faster than any other form of travel short of teleportation.

Distance Time Miles/Day Source
30 leagues
90 miles
30 hours
30/18 days

the distance from the Gate of the Darr to Ripple Point is scarcely a league, while it is a good thirty leagues from the Gate of Iron to Fosson's Well, yet, because the latter is over level ground with a good road laid on it, while the former is nearly straight up a mountainside covered in loose and crumbling rock, we may in justice assert that each of these places lies the same distance from the heart of Dragaera City, that distance being about thirty hours, or a full day and night. (The Phoenix Guards, Chapter 20)

40-45 miles 1 day 42.5

The distance from [the future home of Castle Black] to Dzur Mountain was not long--only some forty or forty-five miles (The Lord of Castle Black, Chapter 50)

How far is Castle Black from here [Dzur Mountain]? A day's ride. (Dzur, Chapter 4)

15 leagues
45 miles
10 or 11 hours
10.5/18 days

there are the ruins of [a floating] castle nearby [from Bellows] Perhaps sixty or seventy miles west of here ... Then let us go there ... ten or eleven hours after setting out, they had traveled some fifteen leagues, bringing them, at the end of that time, to the wall that circled the village of Nacine, on the Hightower Brook (The Lord of Castle Black, Chapter 37)

65-70 leagues
195-210 miles
8 days 25.3

Dzur Mountain, a distance of some sixty-five or seventy leagues [from Adrilankha]. (The Paths of the Dead, Chapter 10)

[Zerika's journey from Adrilankha to Dzur Mountain] took us only eight days! / That _is_ good time! (The Paths of the Dead, Chapter 24)

10 leagues
30 miles
1 day 30

in the old days, we made ten leagues a day without ... using the posts. (The Paths of the Dead, Chapter 26)

2.5 leagues
7.5 miles
2 hours
2/18 days

take the road to the west [from Six Horses], in half a league, you will come to an elbow. Continue there as if there were no bend, and you will find a small path. When you reach a stream, follow it to the left for two leagues, and you will come to a cottage built into the side of the mountain [Tsira's home] ... they mounted their horses and, following the directions... found themselves, two hours later, looking at a small cottage next to a brook and surrounded by siju trees. (Sethra Lavode, Chapter 90)

20-25 leagues
60-75 miles
1 day 67.5

[From the Pepperfields back to Dragaera City] they made stages of twenty or twenty-five leagues across the pushta, sometimes not stopping until full dark had fallen ... before many days had passed they found themselves once more in sight of Beed'n's Inn (The Phoenix Guards, Chapter 31)

The average travel time is 51.97 miles per day, and the median travel time is 54.0; for convenience, I rounded these figures to 50.

When distance is stated as a function of time, and there is no more specific way of determining the actual distance, I have assumed that the average traveler goes 50 miles in a day and 3 miles in an hour.

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Copyright © 2011 Bryan Newell, unless otherwise noted.