World Building and Wonder: The Lollardum Butchers

Umara is the fantasy world created for the ‘Battle for Umara series of novels. It is an expansive world ruled by Gods, mythical creatures, and magic. The ‘Worldbuilding and Wonder series showcases the who, what and where of Umara. And includes tidbits of the inspiration behind them.

The Butchers, a notorious thief gang in Lollardum, get their name from their boss’s cut throat tactics. The Theatre District was a place for outcasts who entertained for change. However, the vagabonds grouped together. Some formed gangs and guilds; thus the entertainment district was born.

Flann, along with the other sparring thieves fought for territory and the right to pillage the rich. He and his loyal friend Rhett formed the Butchers, in their youth, using brute force to seize control. Together they carved out a piece of existence which the current members share. For the most part the gangs have an unofficial peace, but scrimmages arise when members infiltrate rival territory.

The Painted Horse

The Painted Horse is the tavern that the gang calls home. Located in the Theatre District it is a popular spot for any night time entertainment. Over the years Flann had expanded the building by acquiring the neighboring buildings. Whether the deal was legit is another matter.

He also added rooms above for additional profits, which are not always level. The menu is rather sparse and mostly bland, but the alcohol is generous. Patrons spend their time gambling, drinking, and enjoying live music. And of course indulging in the ladies of ill repute who claim the second floor.

Members

Flann (Leader)

He is best described as larger than life, a wild highland warrior who made the streets of Lollardum his battle ground. Years at the top of the food chain had made his muscles flabby and his gut protrude. However, his reputation of violence ensures most stay out of his way.

As owner of the Horse he employees the prostitutes’. He acquires targets to steal from and gives out assignments. Although most of the time the members follow their own leads, in which Flann takes his own (exuberant) portion of their earnings.

Flann’s greatest strength is manipulating people. He often recruits orphans and acts as a mentor while giving them a promise of wealth and a family. In a twisted sense it works, and the members often feel like a family. Their loyalty is (at the moment) absolute despite’s Flann’s drinking and violent outbursts. However, the Lollardum is changing and his hold over his underlings is on rocky footing.

Hobbies include: whiskey, women, and cards.

Rhett (Number Two/ The Fixer)

Rhett grew up on the streets beside Flann. Together they formed the Butchers, who were at that time more focused on fighting soldiers and rivals than pulling off the next heist. He is a loyal second in command and a classic fixer. If Flann was the idea’s man Rhett is the man who makes it happen.

He always seems to know a guy, has a cousin who knows a fellow, or arrives at the right time to get in on the next conn, heist, or scrimmage. Rhett’s compassionate and level headed personality is opposite to Flann’s impulsiveness.

Although he struggles expressing his emotions, the younger members look to him for guidance. Because of their long history Rhett often acts as an in-between to settle arguments, clarify directions or to make a moral decision.

Rhett is a soft soul with large muscles. He still remembers how to street box and isn’t afraid of a fight. Fun fact: Rhett does most of the repairs around the Horse. He is self taught and despite the crooked planks and uneven stairs, he is quite proud of himself.

Hobbies: whittling wood, carpentry, and feeding the stray animals in the alley beside the Horse.

Julie (Burglar)

Julie’s mother, Natasha, was a dancer at the local playhouse. When she was a child she used to watch her mother perform from backstage. As far as Julie remembers her father never had a job. Unfortunately Natasha fell sick and suffered from consumption.

After her diagnosis her father left them both and never returned. Despite her efforts to help her, Natasha passed away, leaving Julie homeless and an orphan.

Left desuetude on the streets, Flann took Julie into the gang. Where she met Chris, who was similar in age; they became quick friends. Julie, like other street children began as pickpocket. But as she grew she suffered abuse from Flann which the rest of the members pretended not to notice.

Her level headedness provided a balance to the impulsive Chris. As she grew she took on additional roles and honed her skills. Within the Horse, she is the unofficial bar manager. Taking control of the bar gave her a sense of duty and control over her life.

She is the gang’s only female burglar called a House Sparrow. She specializes in sneaking into rich homes, pretending to be a servant and stealing small items that fit into a secret pocket in her custom dress. With prize in hand she walks out unseen.

She is a jaded individual who’s only friend is Chris. However, because of her attachment to him, it creates a strain on their friendship. Something both characters deal with throughout the series.

Hobbies: She enjoys listening to music.

Milo (Pickpocket)

Milo is the youngest members of the Butchers at about twelve years old. He’s a decent pick pocket and is trying to learn card swindling. He has a caring soul and struggles to fit in with the more crass older members.

However, during the timeline in the Thief’s Wager, Milo attempts to do honest work. After hearing how Chris bought his freedom five years prior, he decided he wanted to go into business for himself. With Rhett’s connections he acquired a basic supply of ribbons and sells them on street corners in the Lollardum’s richer neighborhoods.

Rhett has mentored him since he found his way to the Horse, starving and alone, and treats him like the son he never had.

Hobbies: cards, feeding stray animals and visiting the parks to admire the gardens.

Honorary Members

Inkspot

A Dalmatian stray that Milo found abandoned in the alley. He is loyal to Milo and is aggressive/protective of him. He follows the boy everywhere and protects him from rival pickpockets who want to steal his earnings.

Hobbies: running, playing fetch with Rhett.

Chris O’Connell

Chris considers himself a philosopher among thieves, and has an inflated ego. However, his talent for getting out of sticky situations makes up for his egotistical short comings.

He began as a pickpocket, but upgraded into a burglar/lock picker. He prefers to work alone, stealing expensive items, and reselling them to scalpers for a better cut. Although, he believes a poor person shouldn’t be picky; which has led him to do less commendable crimes. His stint with the grave diggers, the lowest on the criminal hierarchy, is an inside joke among both Julie and Zack.

His back story has gone through countless revisions. One item that never changed is he’s in business for himself. Unlike the rest of the gang he scrapped enough gold together and bought his freedom from Flann. Which allows him a unique position as both outsider and honorary member.

He is a witty, playful individual but remains guarded. His curiosity for the unknown leads him to less than ideal situations, as seen in The Thief’s Wager.

Hobbies: reading, drinking, and women.

Fun Fact: Chris has never left Lollardum, and dreams of visiting faraway places.

This is by no way a complete members list. As of now this is the core cast. Although as the Battle for Umara series continues the Butchers will have a recurring role. The concept of the Butchers began in early into drafter After Treason’s planned sequel. However, as with most ideas of the series things have changed. Originally the cast list looked something like this:

  • Boss“- (The name Flann came later)
  • Matt– (a friendly rival to Chris). He is described as a man in his twenties, outspoken, laid back, slightly wild but fun to be around.) He occupied the role of pick pocket and con artist.
  • “Gramps“- Appears to be the original version of Rhett. Although the notes describe him as: always talking about the ‘good old days’. He also had an eye patch. Hobbies included drinking and cards. He played the role of “gambler.”
  • Vince– This is a contemporary to Matt, who “has a little obsession with throwing knives” but don’t worry “he’s cool”. (Past me was so endearing).
  • Shelly- He’s a pick pocket expert, keeps to himself and doesn’t say much.
  • Jeremy– Is the earliest form of Milo. In this version he has the role of lookout, is thirteen and is edger to prove himself. He is one of the more emotional members but hides his feelings in order to “fit in.”
  • Beth- of all the characters this one changed the most. She was the earliest version of Julie. However she was more of a quiet suffering victim than an active character. She was a victim of domestic abuse and was ignored by most of the members. She served as a housekeep/Cinderella trope. Originally she was seventeen but somewhere along the way her age changed to mid twenties as where it is in The Thief’s Wager.

It has been almost a decade since this notebook was opened. Reviewing the list, as an older (and hopefully) wiser person, it’s most likely Matt, Vince and Shelly will change or be removed.

The main reason being is that none of these personalities offer any conflict within the group. Another recent development is Lollardum itself. In The Thief’s Wager, the setting is more gritty. Which suggest a few dark, brooding if not unstable characters tossed into the mix.

It’s exciting to see how this groups evolves in the near future.

Deleted Scene

This scene is in the (still in development) Rivals for Umara. It is the direct sequel to After Treason, where Moira is forced to return to Lollardum. To keep her identity hidden she dons male clothes and goes by the name Alex. She becomes acquainted with the Butchers and in this scene she/he finds Jeremy (Milo) crying.

In the heartfelt scene the boy confesses he misses his mother who passed away, leaving him orphaned. He explains he’s been without her for a few years. “Mum got real sick and died, and Pop, well he couldn’t handle it and left soon after.” In an attempt to ease his grief Moira explains the existence of heaven or in the Mage religion: Paradise.

Scene:

“Have you ever heard of Paradise?” Alex asked.

“No”

“Then I guess it hasn’t occurred to you that your mother is in a better place?”

“My mum’s dead. She’s in the ground somewhere Alex, its not a better place.”

“As a person lives, their actions and dreams form a new dreamscape. A place where their soul lives on forever. Your mother seems to be a kind and loving person. Can you think of a place where she would be happiest?”

“A meadow, she loved flowers.”

“I bet her soul is living in the most beautiful garden, with thousands of flowers, and butterflies, and fluffy clouds that stretch over the sky.”

“But, what if you did bad things? Maybe you don’t mean it, but you have to do it, you know?”

“When you die Alona, the Mother Goddess, determines where your soul belongs. In the glorious Paradise or the Land of the Damned. She has everything written down and knows the intentions behind your actions. She makes her judgements accordingly.”

“You’re about the only one around here that still believes in that Gods stuff.”

“If I don’t believe in something greater than myself then the life I live isn’t really worth living.”

“You don’t sound like other people.”

“Is it a bad thing?”

“No, not really, we just don’t talk about things like that.”

End Scene.

This Lost File was interesting because it was an early exercise in developing the Mage lore. The concept of their heaven and hell is still a work in progress (when it’s finalized expect a World Building and Wonder Post).

In After Treason the concept of Paradise is explored a bit more but there’s still kinks to work out. This is also the only record of Milo’s back story which may, depending on pacing, be included in the final product.

But for now past me has decided “There is already too much happening in Lollardum so remove this.” But then again, past me has been wrong before.