The two towns of Vinds-Hallr and Heilluhalla are built one on top the other so I thought that separating them into levels would be the most efficient way of depicting them. I kept the idea of "playable areas" in my head while drawing these, I'm not sure if it helped or hurt the design.
Synopsis can be found below.
The landmass of Valdsey is largely made up of a steep mountain range to the west and a thin coast to the east with a small plain in between. There are small settlements sprinkled about the coast of the island with a larger kingdom to the northeast.
One can focus on a small village, the farthest inland, to spotlight. The only civilization for miles, the only one in the Kols mountain range, the town of Vinds-Hallr is special because of its deceptiveness. The town is in fact two towns, stacked on top of one another. Above ground is Vinds-Hallr, the surface-dwellers. They have braved the harsh wind and snow of their peaks and thrived. Below, shaped into the mountain itself, is Heilluhalla, the home of the mountain-dwellers. Their more hospitable location has allowed them to give their attention to the growth of their city.
Because of the similarity in the two peoples’ iconography, it can be assumed that they share a common history. Vinds-Hallr was the first town to blossom out of the snowy mountainside. The inhabitants, Mellr (bear-like creatures), sought freedom from the overbearing (haha, because they’re bears, get it?) taxation of the northern kingdom Regins-Ha. With impenetrable defense from the kingdom’s large army by its hostile mountain environment, Vinds-Hallr grew into a prosperous little town. Its growth was indebted to the trade routes with its otherwise isolated neighbors in the cliffs to the west, its main export being animal skins that prior to were extremely hard to come by. Unfortunately, civil unrest split the town. Some wanted to tunnel into the mountains for ore and better shelter. Others refused, Valdsey’s primary “religion” forbidding the devastation of the natural landscape. Civil war threatened the mountain-seekers’ new homes, yet with the risk of also destroying the promising Vinds-Hallr an armistice was called. Thus Heilluhalla was born.
A century passed and today the armistice is long forgotten, as well as most feelings of ill-will. Passage between the two villages is quite accessible to the common Mellr with a naturalization process both ways. One can tell the Vinds-Mellr from the Heilla-Mellr fairly easily because of the colorations and patterning of their fur, though “inter-racial” mating does exist. Both, however, have developed distinctly smaller ears than their coastal cousins.
Both towns are alike in that they each include town squares (the Vinds-Hallr center would be primarily used for religious ceremonies), a city hall, a community building, recreational spots, storage houses, shops, educational systems, and living quarters (individual and group). Since the war Vinds-Hallr has spread vastly, filling small passes and caves. Their main building materials are rock and wood and grass that is traded for. Their buildings are characterized by their functionality, low roofs, and air vents which allow the harsh mountain winds to safely pass through the structures. Vinds-Hallr’s main export is still animal skins. Heilluhalla, on the other hand, has grown downward, although artificial lakes for water collection had to be made ironically because of the city’s height above sea-level. Its buildings are carved directly from the natural rock of the mountain. Heilluhalla’s architecture is richly ornamented and the city has a small tourist trade beginning. Little trading is necessary for materials, but food is an important concern as the lack of agriculture makes animal herding virtually impossible. Observably, the mountain city’s main export is ore and precious stones.