Inspired by the Upper Ohio Valley, the following descriptive article depicts a detailed setting seen in Northern Knights. Enjoy the read!
An unoccupied demilitarized zone lays within a two-mile strip between Libertarian North Columbia and Occupied South Columbia. In the center of the zone flows the Hocking River, a winding arrow of water which begins in a remote wooded area far off in the Native Columbian-laden Western Wild, lows across the bounding landscape, and into the Atlantean Sea.
Just north of the river, sit twin villages of Muralville and Richfield, North Columbia. A fork in the scenic highway leads the navigator to their destination point. If one makes a hard left, they’re on to Muralville, yet if one decides to take a right, their destination is Richfield.
Venturing to Richfield
Upon taking the exit leading to the village, the driver may turn in two directions; make a left and they’ll enter the town, or make a right and they’ll head for the countryside. However, if one makes a right but takes a left-hand turn at the following intersection, they’ll ride across Two Ridge Road, a shortcut to the last remaining university campus in the North, Summit University, where each year defectors from the economically-depressed South make their way through a series of complex avenues created in the South by North Columbian spies.
Once those dwelling in the South travels to the Kent International Airport, their tickets state they’re headed to Loudon, capital of the nation of Southland, as well as the Southpoint Empire.
What Southpoint isn’t aware of, however, are plants in the pilot’s cockpit, and even in the TSAS, Southpoint’s imperial transportation security agency. Up in North Columbia, plants make the trip to Loudon, to undergo work for more North Columbian spies posing as Southpoint imperial leadership employees of multinational corporations all over the World of Gaia.
The man behind such a complex puzzle of arrangements in his hope to someday infiltrate the Southpoint Empire is Randelo “Rand” Jefferson, leader of the voluntary defense force in North Columbia called the Freedom Flames. Since the border established itself along the Hocking two decades ago, Jefferson has since implemented such strategies before Columbia was forced to fold during the Revolution which saw his greatest apprentice, Adam Syndari, defect to Southpoint.
When the planes, which travel to North Columbia in increments, land at the Richfield Airpark, a tiny airport with just a few runways with no real airport amenities, defecting students are greeted by the Freedom Flames. Here, the Flames welcome and encourage all to undergo extracurricular courses like firearm training, as ownership and open carry is encouraged in North Columbia due to the perpetual threat just below the border.
However, if one like our protagonist, Cain Riscattare, possesses ability in the classical elements, they may opt to increase their natural ability in favor of open carry, as their fingertips can become lethal weapons.
Now that we’ve greeted the Flames, Richfield’s countryside gleams in the distance as the sun shines over deciduous trees, hills that erupt into mountains all around, along with a landscape dotted with farms and even a stray coalmine or energy field (all the above energy is encouraged in North Columbia), Cain leads his crew consisting of Lira, Micah, and Blaze into town.
The four take a road known as Fernwood, unless they wanted to wait for a jeep ride through the winding terrain of Bantam Ridge, where open fields bearing cat tails along with the occasional fir tree and brush pop up, toward town.
But before heading into Richfield’s heart, they’ll hit an intersection and move on to Cross Creek Road, which leads to a creek of the same name at the base of the road had they made a right, near a cemetery where the spirits of several souls dwell. Yet our crew is starving for some food at William-Morgan Hall, located at Summit University’s center, so they’ll take the right.
Within a few minutes, suburbia greets them with houses lining a small valley below which if one looks far enough into the distance, the small airpark resides before endless landscape follows into the horizon. They’ll pass the sub-divisions and embark on a road called School Street, which houses one of many private grade schools, but much unlike the private schools we’re used to seeing in the real world. Yes, each school in the area is in competition with one another, fighting to recruit and sell their services to selective parents, many of whom opt for homeschooling.
Finally, the crew hits the main street, where residents all over town have stands set up for entering students (no licensing required). Cain and his friends will pass local businesses, a church, a grocery store, and a water tower that watches over the entire region, from the Richfield Airpark to the Overlook Hills.
They’ll descend the hill and enter Main Street’s valley, passing the mural of Mr. George Santos, one of the first permanent settlers in Columbia over a century beforehand. The crew reaches Cross Creek High School, and their high school field, known as Kettlewell Stadium, which houses Summit’s fall sports, particularly shotball, a sport that began in Ddraigoch centuries ago.
Once the crew bypasses the school (after Cain relays his daydreams of winning the Neo Skyehawk Trophy), they climb an adjacent hill on Main Street where the first skyscraping apartment complexes within Summit University grounds appear.
As the sun sinks into the bounding hills of the woods and countryside not far behind Summit, the university comes into the clear, where the new semester begins in a free world, even if that free world resides just a few miles above the corruption of Southpoint and their oppressed colony of South Columbia.
Early on in the making of my Lord of Columbia blog, I wrote about a town called Wintersville, which served as the model for Richfield. My hometown for a few years and a place I still visit often (especially when I have to make a bank run for a car payment), it served as the perfect place to derive some fantastical landscaping elements for my own Original Trilogy in Lord of Columbia.
While the landscape isn’t a direct carbon copy of Wintersville its neighbor, the more well-known albeit infamously well-known Steubenville, Ohio as the two towns lay to the west of the Ohio River, not north, it does, however, bear many identical features to Richfield.
For example, it’s not far from the Ohio River, and two highway exits dictate whether one ends up in Steubenville or Wintersville. The Jefferson County Airpark, which is often used for air shows is the basis of Richfield Airpark.
Bantam Ridge, Fernwood Road, and Cross Creek Road all exist, as well as the legends attached to the area at the cemetery and even Cross Creek itself, along with its ghost trains and other lost souls.
No, really, I actually had this odd de ja vu moment about seven years ago in October 2012.
I’m riding down toward the old cemetery with my cousin at about ten at night and on Cross Creek Road, one can see these strange, metal box cars, not much unlike ones I have had (and still have) recurring dreams of, before reaching the cemetery. Strange, I know. Anyway, these roads all exist.
At the intersection of School Street and Fernwood, many sub-divisions meet the eye along with a funeral home and a Christian school, which used to operate as a grade school for the local school district years ago and before that it was Wintersville High School, which served the town when the population higher and smokestacks from the steel mills overtook the town and surrounding areas. Those mills have all but vanished in the Rust Belt.
Turning left onto Main Street takes you to my setting, while a right turn will take you through town and ultimately to Sunset Boulevard, which ultimately leads to Downtown Steubenville.
Making the left, however, takes you by a church, a grocery store, and down the hill where many businesses are indeed local in this village of 3,693, a small decrease from 3,924 as of the 2010 census. The high school exists, as does the football stadium directly behind it.
Summit University’s Location
No, there’s no university campus in Wintersville as one would have to venture into Steubenville to find one, the world-famous Franciscan University of Steubenville, a conservative Catholic institution that people attend from all over the world.
However, Summit University is named after Summit County, Ohio, and as I’ve stated previously Richfield gets its name from Richfield, Ohio, a village in Summit County. Summit University is loosely based on Kent State University, which I attended for two semesters before embarking on a college education in wellness and fitness from California University of Pennsylvania.
So, don’t bother trying to Google Map Summit University or any university in Wintersville, but you will probably find a few cool places that are loosely based on other cool places in Northern Knights.
The main entrance to Bantam Ridge resides at the edge of Main Street, before the road hits a dead end and one takes a turn onto State Route 152, which is actually mentioned in Missing in Columbia.
Fernwood State Forest, home to another popular legend, is known in the works as Summit Forest. Fernwood State Forest is a huge park for hikers, runners, and other active outdoorsy kinds of crowds. Located in Bantam Ridge in the books, Fernwood State Forest is actually just beyond Bantam Ridge, when one crosses a tiny bridge above Cross Creek, and ascends a steep hill. At the hill’s apex, lays the destination.
Alright, I hope you all enjoyed this little descriptive article regarding Richfield, North Columbia, and places that inspired it. I enjoyed writing this as well as my little break from other real-life influences behind the Series which I’ve been talking about lately; those on the global scale.
However, I did want to share a few real-life influences of the Series on the local scale and the micro side of things. There are many more local influences I want to cover, though for some I do need to be cryptic, as if I get too detailed and less vague about certain local people who’ve influenced this work (and other unrelated works) trouble might arise and trust me, we don’t need to be on the wrong end of trouble.
So, Freedom Flames, thank you for reading and if you’re ever passing through the area, be sure to exit your vehicle and take some awesome images of the surrounding landscapes; they truly are a sight to see and cherish.