Bark Bay is currently a small town whose population has shrunk to nearly eight thousand residents. The town receives much of its identify from the region around it.
The Frozen North
The novel is set in the northern region of the United States, somewhere in the wide stretch of land encompassing New England, the mid-Atlantic, the Great Lakes regions, and the upper Midwest.
It is the region that represented the Union in the American Civil War, a conflict which nearly two centuries later continues to inform its myths.
About an hour’s drive north of Bark Bay is a medium-sized city, with approximately 200,000 inhabitants in the city and its immediate suburbs. It is the center of a metropolitan area (which includes Bark Bay) of nearly a half million people. When speaking of this city, the residents of Bark Bay and other towns in the region are as likely to call it “the city” as they are to call it by its real name – and since it is by far the most populous municipality in the region, everyone knows what is being referred to when someone mentions “going up to the city,” or “having family in the city,” or “trouble in the city.”
The city’s population has decreased since the boom years after the second world war, but nothing like Bark Bay’s rapid decline. A civic orchestra, several art museums and libraries, playhouses, even an opera – the variety of cultural life in the city makes it stand out in the region. Its proximity to the largest public university in the state also enhances the city’s cultural environment.
Midland High School
The city’s public school system hosts several high schools, the largest of which is Midland, located in the heart of the city. Highland sponsors many athletic programs, and has had a successful fencing team for decades, the only school in the region that consistently challenges the Academy. However, it has been fifteen years since Midland’s last state fencing championship, and the program is facing budgetary challenges from the school.
Midland’s most accomplished fencer is their captain, Mike Paris. Friendly and helpful, he is well respected by everyone on the Bark Bay fencing team, which sees in Midland a school with which it can compete – unlike the other school in their region with an accomplished fencing team.
Hillcrest High School
Also located in the city is Hillcrest High School, with about half the student population of Midland. When the fencing coach at Hillcrest retired and moved to Florida two years ago, the fencing program all but ceased to exist. Only two fencers, both seniors, remain at Hillcrest.
To the immediate south of the city (a little less than an hour from Bark Bay) is a small private school. Outside the region the school’s name is renowned for its academic excellence and legacy of renowned graduates, and wealthy families from all over the world have sent their sons and daughters to its famed campus. But to the people of the region, many of whom live in families with annual incomes less than the school’s tuition, it is most commonly referred to simply as the Academy.
Athletics at the Academy are taken nearly as seriously as academics, and perhaps no sport at the Academy is as revered as fencing. The school routinely wins state championships at both the team and individual level, and several Academy students have gone on to successful collegiate fencing careers.
The students of the Bark Bay fencing team look to the Academy and its fencers with a mixture of envy and resentment. They respect Academy fencers for their skill and dedication, while feeling they have an unfair advantage in resources.
A half-hour northeast of the city (making it nearly two hours from Bark Bay) is a large state university. The fencing team has been a small but respected institution at the university for decades, and has done much to help struggling high school fencing teams in the region.
The university hosts several fencing tournaments through the academic year. Some are restricted to college teams, but most are open to fencers aged 15 to 25. Since few high schools in the region have fencing teams, the university is where the majority of high school fencers find their competitions.
En Garde! Fencing School
With a fair amount of fencing activity (the Academy, Midland, the university) within the immediate area, the city is home to a few fencing clubs. One of these clubs, En Garde!, bills itself as a school for young fencers.
Another small town with nearly the same population as Bark Bay, Wolford is a forty-five minute drive west of the city, and is home to many professors, students, and staff from the university. The school has never fielded a fencing team, but the town’s close proximity to the university gives Wolford High School students the opportunity to practice and compete with the university team.