My fascination with maps and cartography led me to research and write Map of Shadows, which features the Mapwalkers, who can travel through maps into the Borderlands, a world adjoining our own made from places we push off our maps, and creatures and people we write out of history.
When Sienna and the Mapwalker team need to travel over into the Borderlands to follow in the footsteps of the lost expedition before them, they travel through the Hereford Mappa Mundi.
Here's an excerpt from Map of Shadows chapter 9 when the team arrive at Hereford cathedral:
“Mappa Mundi means map of the world,” Mila explained, as they walked across the forecourt. “It dates to around 1300AD and gives a view of how the medieval monks understood the world back then.”
They entered the temperature-controlled room to find the Mappa Mundi lit with dim lights behind glass. Sienna walked closer to get a better look. It was truly incredible, a single piece of vellum illustrated by the hand of faith, with representations of myth and legend next to places that really existed. Perhaps this was the truth of maps. In part, they reflected the world as it actually was, and in part, they reflected the way the world could be, or as it was imagined. As Sienna looked at the Mappa Mundi, she began to understand why her father had gone on this quest.
At the very top, an enthroned Christ held his hands up to show the stigmata, the wounds of crucifixion. Next to him, believers rose from their graves and entered Heaven, while on the other side the damned were stripped, chained and dragged down to Hell where a great beast waited to devour them. Sienna shivered as she looked at the creature, imagining an Illustrator like Xander drawing it and calling it into existence. She looked over at his handsome profile. Was it possible that he and others like him could create something so terrible?
Sienna turned back to the map. An inaccessible circular island at the top of the world represented Eden, surrounded by a ring of fire and closed gates. A serpent waited while Eve held out her hand to accept the apple, ready to taste the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. Sienna understood her temptation, her need to know, because that's just how she felt about the Borderlands right now.
There was a picture of Noah's Ark, the woven hull floating above a sea of red when God sent the great flood to wipe out the wickedness of humanity. The map showed a path through the Red Sea, the color still fresh after so many years, marking the wanderings of the Israelites from Egypt, out of slavery and into the Promised Land.
There were beasts on the map, a unicorn, a lynx slinking towards the southern coast of the Black Sea, a war elephant with a tower on its back, a strange parrot creature with a curled tail. There were strange-looking people too: a man with no head, only eyes on his chest holding a sword, another with one huge foot. There were troglodytes, cave dwellers in Africa, and men with heads of dogs.
“What is this map about?” Sienna asked. “It can't be real, surely?”
“A map is never truly real,” Mila said. “It's only one aspect of the reality of the creator. But we need to pay attention to the cities on the map. Maybe your father took the Force through one of those?”
Hereford was marked by a tiny building on the River Wye, almost rubbed off by pilgrims touching it over the years. Jerusalem was right in the center of the map, with a circular wall and a castle city with eight towers, marking the place of crucifixion.
Rome was shown as a towering cathedral with text next to it: ‘Rome, head of the world, holds the bridle of the spherical earth.' Towers and pinnacles marked Paris, where the medieval University focused on philosophy and theology.
“The map is apparently a single piece of calfskin, but I think it's something different.” Xander bent as close as he could get without the alarms going off. The map was drawn on the flesh side of the skin, not the hair side, making the map undulate as one was naturally more taut than the other. “I think it's the skin of an animal from the Borderlands. There's a vibration from it as if it calls to go home. Maybe something wandered over back then, but it's certainly more than just calfskin from Earth-side.”
A labyrinth caught Sienna's eye, a circular maze, like the one in Crete with the Minotaur at the center. In the Middle Ages, many medieval cathedrals had labyrinths and pilgrims would walk around them looking for a way to the center, metaphorically searching for a way to God. She had visited Chartres Cathedral with her father years ago and they had walked the famous labyrinth together.
Mila pointed to a particular area of the map. “This is the camp of Alexander the Great. His conquest of the Persian Empire and domination of the known world was a popular theme, and there are several references on the map about Alexander. This restraining wall was built to save the world from the destructive force of the Sons of Cain.” She turned to Sienna. “Does anything here seem familiar?”
Sienna stared at the map, trying to see it with her father's eyes, trying to understand what he might have seen. He had traveled to many of the places portrayed but her eyes kept being drawn back to the labyrinth.
To read more of the Mapwalker adventures, check out Map of Shadows, available in ebook and print editions.