New Fantasy Times

New Fantasy Times: Advancing Fantasy Technology

Advancing Fantasy Technology

Fantasy equals a sword, a bow, and a golden prophecy, right? Wrong. Do you honestly think that the realm in which you live contains the smartest, most advanced people? Of course, ‘advanced’ can have plenty of definitions. That aside, you might be surprised to find the realms which people in this land deem as ‘fantasy’ have a few tricks of their own.

What is technology after all? A thin device which carries words and pictures. An invisible thread in the air which connects the aforementioned devices. A globe of glass which glows. A chest which keeps things cold. A metal box which hurtles across the country at high speeds… It’s not quite so grand as some like to think.

Plenty of worlds have their own forms of useful (and not so useful) tools. There are the Silver Shells, which one can speak into and their voice will travel outwards to all other shells which are properly tuned. The Ruby Crystals hold pictures, even if they do tint them all red. Fire globes can carry heat and light for up to a week. One ice globe can keep a whole room cool. Swooping, kite-like contraptions carry individuals from one place to another.

The abilities of other realms are not limited to comfort and information. To be sure, swords and bows are quite popular. They were used for over three thousand years in our own realm, you will remember. But I have seen many other weapons. Powders that burrow into the foundations and, once fire catches on them, nothing can put it out. Catapults hurl explosions at iron-clad walls. Tubes send such explosions half way across the world. Hologramic soldiers march in rank and scatter confusion among the enemy. Mixtures seeped in water to weary the limbs and terrify the hearts. Other realms are not lacking in imagination or resources, let me assure you.

It is not just about what great men can think up either. The very air of some lands is different from those of others. There is one realm where currents layer the breeze. Two people in the same current can speak to each other though they are miles away. In other places, pools capture images and stones leave impressions of who was last there, while wind caves catch voices and echo them through deep caverns of the earth.

How people communicate and what they wield is just the beginning. The realms themselves are hardly what so many histories nowadays show them as…all green and swords and golden light or else dark and stony and hard. The past is not always pleasant, nor the future always hard.

Fantasy worlds are destroyed as well and must rise from the ashes. Realms and creatures from other realms interconnect – be they coming from the moon or from the sea. Wagons roll north over great deserts inhabited by wolves. Sleek silver ships combat dragons in the sky over glittering cities.

Quite frankly, no matter how many different ideas you can twist or merge, you will be able to find an existing world within the details. There is no limit except your imagination…and your realm leaper abilities.

 

Have any questions, legends, or trending cliches you’d like Kirin Quillblade (or Elena) to address? Please comment below; he promises to at least read what you have to say between his realm leaper’s missions, even if he holds the rights to choose what to write about and what to ignore.

 

Join the Legend Seekers for monthly stories about the realm leapers and fantasy time-travelers, Kirin and Elena. Click here to sign up

Posted by Hope Ann in fantasy, My Writing, New Fantasy Times, Writer's Corner, writing articles, 4 comments

New Fantasy Times: Independent Sidekicks

For this study, Kirin discovered that at least one character didn’t take kindly to being called a side-kick. Following which, said character wrote the following letter. Ladies and gentlefolk, meet Jagger, one of Ethaniel’s friends in Fidelyon.

Firstly, it’s companion, not sidekick. I mean, honestly. It’s not as if the ‘hero’ is any more important than we are, even if he does happen to be king, or chosen one, or something of that sort. Admit it, all of you. That term ‘hero’ is used for the person the story is focused on. The rest of us somehow are viewed as… less.

Surprise! We’re warriors and heroic in our own right too. Well, sometimes. I’m not saying every person in every story is heroic. But if the story were about one of us instead, you’d see what I mean. The only difference is that, instead of trying to run a failing kingdom and face down deadly enemies, we are standing guard, protecting our king from assassins… and still facing down deadly enemies. Though I’m sure if you were interested, you could find all sorts of fascinating things about us, even if our actions don’t change the fate of the age.

What do we do, then? I just answered that, didn’t I? We are… well, we are people. Just normal people placed in very not normal circumstances. (Just like the hero, I might add.) Though even that depends on the situation. Sometimes we might have prepared our lives to fight and defend others.

Because that is a great part of our duty. There are secondary characters, but the ones called sidekicks (shattered spears, who thought that term up? Did they have something against us to give us such a derogatory term?) Anyway, as I was saying, we companions are close to the hero, and so close to all the danger he naturally attracts (because what is a hero without an assassin before breakfast?). Hence we normally have our work cut out for us. Not that the hero is a poor fighter himself, but the enemy sends people against him without taking us into consideration. Which is both enraging and yet slightly convenient.

Still, like I said, we are just people, even if we are awesome people. There’s no one ‘type’. Some of us are funny, some serious. Some young, some old. We are generally loyal to our friends. All of them. We live, we die…

But such is life. In the end, we are no worse than the hero. Generally, we’re even better in one area or another. (Juggling and wielding twin blades would be my forte.) And I just have one note for all of you who still aren’t getting it.

Don’t underestimate us. Your regret at ignoring us will be the last thing you think.

Humbly,

Jagger

Posted by Hope Ann in A Writer's Life, New Fantasy Times, Writer's Corner, writing articles, 4 comments

New Fantasy Times: Mentors for Hire

Mentors for Hire

Mentorship used to be relegated to those who had nowhere else to go. The former experts who outlived their glory. Older men, frequenting alehouses to pick fights or brooding in the dark corners of their bare cottages until some stripling, in desperate need of training, brightened their life and pulled them out of apathy. Perhaps the reason most retiring soldiers avoided mentorship was the high mortality rate once the apprentice learned almost everything they needed to know. But for you experts out there in need of a job, I have good news. Mentorship is now becoming respectable again. Its ranks have opened for many kinds of trainers and you are more likely to survive nowadays than you ever would have in the past.

There is really only one requirement for mentorship…a thorough knowledge of the topic to be studied. I’ve seen younger men teaching professional soldiers how to shoot bows. I’ve seen girls train retired rangers in the art of writing. I’ve seen old women teaching boys camouflage, stealth, and mending, while mere children give pointers on tracking, weather, or living on the street. Princes teach peasants and farmer’s wives train kings.

Of course, those who are older do tend to know topics better, but this isn’t always the case. A twenty-year-old who’s been practicing survival to keep alive for half his life will have more expertise than a ranger who knows the facts but has only been on the field for a few years. And really, a thorough knowledge isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. No one knows everything, and as long as a mentor can admit that, learning from his apprentice even as he teaches him all he knows, things will be fine. Probably. Frankly, some of the most flourishing mentorships I’ve known is when both parties play the part of both mentor and apprentice in different topics.

Another point of note is that an apprentice can have more than one mentor, while a mentor might have several apprentices. This doesn’t happen all the time, of course, but such interweaving does tend to make the best use of resources.

As for the mentors themselves, rest assured you won’t turn gloomy and grim if you take the job. That’s not to say some frustration and pain won’t be involved. Unless you have an ideal apprentice, it won’t be easy…but there’s nothing to say you can’t face it with your own spirit and character. Jokes, pranks, teasing, reading while your apprentice practices their postures, surprises, dryness…each mentor has their own way of teaching and their own way of keeping up spirits, which is a vital task no matter your temperament.

Of course, while your apprentice will likely pick up on some of your quirks, they will be much quicker on picking up on your flaws. A sharp tongue. Brooding silence. A perchance for too much food or comfort… they will see it all. And they will use it as an excuse for their own behavior. So beware. If you think you’re not flaws, then take an apprentice and you’ll recognize your mistake very quickly.

And I think…oh yes, there is that final important matter of terminating the mentorship without dying. It’s quite easy, really. Leave before your apprentice faces whatever challenge he’s been trying to overcome. Let him fight his own battles and don’t throw yourself in front of a spear or sword or arrow, no matter how emotionally attached you’ve become during mentorship.

What? You don’t like the idea of abandonment or ditching self-sacrifice? I should have known better…though I might point out that some mentors teach solely for money and have no problems leaving him be. Moving on, there are alternatives to death and dishonor.

For one, you (probably) have a life too. Send your apprentice off to finish a task on his or her own while you turn to more personal matters. Sometimes life gives you a way out by throwing circumstances at you which force your apprentice to operate alone. Maybe you are wounded, are captured, are out spying, or are dealing with some other life and death matter of your own. Maybe you have another apprentice you are teaching, or a mentor of your own to save. Or maybe you just happen to be relaxing in some secluded valley during a peaceful lull, and can’t be reached in time for the main fight.

Perhaps you even stand by your apprentice’s side during the whole fight but be warned, there will come a time that he will need to rise up on his own. You may be there to see him do it, or you may have to leave if he is too dependent on you. But, mentally, each apprentice will need to come into his own and claim the prize you’ve been teaching him to acquire.

And really, besides the late nights, hard work, meager payment (like glory…which one can’t eat), emotional trauma, danger, and some likelihood of death (I said death was lessening, not that it was gone), there is no duty so rewarding as a mentorship. Assuming your apprentice doesn’t turn against you in the end, but that is a topic for another day. For now, if you have knowledge and love to teach, then at least consider the mentorship path. You won’t regret it.

Hopefully.

 

Have any questions, legends, or trending cliches you’d like Kirin Quillblade (or Elena) to address? Please comment below; he promises to at least read what you have to say between his realm leaper’s missions, even if he holds the rights to choose what to write about and what to ignore.

 

Join the Legend Seekers for monthly stories about the realm leapers and fantasy time-travelers, Kirin and Elena. Click here to sign up

Posted by Hope Ann in fantasy, My Writing, New Fantasy Times, Writer's Corner, writing tips, 3 comments

New Fantasy Times: Musings of a Minion

Musings of a Minion

Heroes have overwhelming expectations placed upon them, and villains are pressed into stereotypes, but the one character who no one seems to expect much of are the minions. They work hard too, and they’d appreciate some recognition as this anonymous letter from a minion, delivered by Kirin testifies.

To whom it may or may not concern,

Everyone has a trade or craft or position of some sort, from smiths and bakers, to farmers and soldiers, to architects and sailors. I so happened to choose the path of a minion. Not, of course, that you should ever, ever, use that term. It’s a great inside joke, but do you know how demeaning it is when someone address us as a mere minion of some great leader? No? Well, try it sometime to our face and just you wait. You’ll be sorry.

Because honestly, face it, you use the term minion as if it is degrading. As if we are less than the one we serve, less than other people, and sometimes less than human. Is a soldier in the army treated as less than a person just because he’s under a great general? We are people, same as anyone else. We’ve loyalties, duties, likes, dislikes, families…we aren’t some brainwashed mass who does a villain’s bidding. I’d best add here that villain is just another term bandied about. To us, he is our employer. Perhaps a master. Perhaps a friend. Yes, there are some who might serve him out of fear, but then he’s little more than a slave driver. Generally ‘minions’ work because they choose to for money or for other rewards.

We might have ambitions to become like him someday, or we might just be working to put food on the table, but either way where do you think he’d be without others like us? No one, hero or villain, can do everything. So they hire helpers and others volunteer for the job. You don’t see the people helping heroes called minions, do you?

Though, frankly, the gross underestimation that generally comes with the term ‘minion’ does help us out quite a bit. I mean, how do you think we got our jobs? By shooting at a target and the one who hits the least gets promoted? We work to earn our way. If we deal in security, then we are at least a notch above the average shot or swordsman. If we work indoors, we are constantly on the alert. Our rise and fall is intimately connected to that of our employer (do you know how hard it is to find a job after working for someone termed ‘villain’?). This is also the reason a good villain will hire his helpers, not enslave them. But we aren’t just going to look the other way or fall asleep while guarding prisoners (there are severe penalties for that anyway) or (generally) accept bribes. Well, I take that back. It depends on the quality of our employer and what we think the long-term damage will be and how it affects us. The best course of action is to acquire the bribe then go to our employer. Hey, you don’t expect us to act honorably anyway. Why should we?

One thing we don’t do is fight among ourselves. There is a certain code among us, which we all follow for our own good. Sometimes, I admit, some man or woman gets ambitious, but such uprisings are generally put down from the top. Because no house will succeed when ripped apart from the middle. Now there is one exception. If faced with ‘minions’ from a different villain, insults and then blows might fly. But who can blame us? The others are generally insufferable.

We come from all walks of life and for all kinds of reasons. Adventure. Love. Revenge. The need to provide for a family. The experience. If we fail, there are standard punishments like anywhere else. If we betray, we die. But if we work hard and use our skills, we are able to obtain a view from the shadows that very few can see.

Remaining nameless to protect myself,

A Sharpshooting ‘Minion’

 

Have any questions, legends, or trending cliches you’d like Kirin Quillblade (or Elena) to address? Please comment below; he promises to at least read what you have to say between his realm leaper’s missions, even if he holds the rights to choose what to write about and what to ignore.

 

Join the Legend Seekers for monthly stories about the realm leapers and fantasy time-travelers, Kirin and Elena. Click here to sign up

Posted by Hope Ann in A Writer's Life, fantasy, Fidelyon, New Fantasy Times, writing articles, 4 comments

New Fantasy Times: Damsels in Defiance

Elena has taken it upon herself to write this article. Kirin’s hurried agreement may or may not have had something to do with the arrow she was twirling between her fingers as she made the request. But regardless, Elena, everyone!

Ever been on the receiving end of a rescue? Yes? Well, you might have noticed they don’t always go as planned. You know those minor details which tend to crop up. An alert guard. A well defended dragon lair. An absent prisoner off on an escape of her own. Until, of course, the captive ends up in the grip of her captor with a dagger pressed against her throat. Not an enviable position.

Of course, all rescues don’t go like this. There was the time the pompous prince of Athada arranged the capture of his betrothed, then showed up in a scarlet cloak, accompanied by servants bearing silver crystals to record the event. He battled through a dozen apathetic guards before swinging open the door of the poor damsel’s chamber only to be splashed with several bucketful’s of tar rigged up on cleverly disguised ropes. The princess and I, concealed back at her father’s castle in perfect innocence, laughed over the transmission of the prince face for the rest of the night.

But, admittedly, not many captures are going to end this well.

Avoiding capture in the first place is always a good idea. Not as if we’re always given that option. But there are some things a girl can do. Like not disobeying a father or other authority and deciding to venture out the dangerous dark alone. I’ve nothing against a bit of danger, but if you slip off on your own in some rash attempt to prove your skills, you are practically asking to be captured.

And as for valid captures, the reasons aren’t limit to kidnapping a princess and bringing her to a castle in the hopes that riches will sway her to marry her captor (I mean, if she does agree, is that the sort of woman any man is going to want?) or to evil generals who want a ransom or a pressure point on his enemy (which is completely unfair to our friends, even if it’s not our fault, and we ought avoid this capture if at all possible, even if it means sacrificing some of our own freedom and staying safe).

But we woman are also captured for other reasons unconnected with the desire of our hand in marriage or the capture of those who love us. As messengers. As spies. As slaves. Or even intentional captures to manipulate the enemy from the inside.

Anyhow, readers of common stories sometimes expect their captives to act in an exasperatingly simple way. Now if you what to enhance this view of yourself, there are a few pointers you can follow:

  1. At least several times.
  2. Huddle in a corner. Preferably while crying.
  3. Make no effort to move (actually, the dead-weight tactic is a great passive-aggressive technique for many angles of behavior)
  4. Refuse to tell your captor anything, while clearly showing your answer through facial expressions (another way to trick your captor, if you are good enough at it).
  5. When your rescuer comes and gets in the inevitable fight with your captor, stand to the side and scream, ignoring the any weapons at your disposal (really not the best option since, at this point, it’s probably do or die).
  6. Basically, have no more use than a delicate golden curtain.

However, waiting around for rescue isn’t always a viable option. And there are many things a woman can do to while away the time and try to escape.

The first thing is establish your value, because on that depends your own safety and how far you can go before you press against the limits of your captor’s goodwill. If you’re being held by a prospective suitor or someone who needs you alive for a ransom, you can have some fun. Pranks on guards. Riddles. Sarcasm and insults. Of course, gauge yourself carefully. It would never do to be placed under stricter guard because you’re merely being annoying. If you’re being held by a slave driver or as a spy…it’s probably a good idea to shut up and make the least noise you can. Or maybe the most noise. It depends a lot on your guards and your captor’s personality. Each situation is different.

But, whatever the case, there are a handful of personalities one can choose and use to the full:

  1. The tearful princess: basically acting as weak and helpless as you can while preparing for one sudden push. This can be quite fun to reenact. The hard part is not laughing at everyone’s looks of disgust while you sob or pretend to be so delicate you can’t even walk on the rough ground.
  2. The steady maiden: take it all in stride. Keep informed. Don’t show much fear, but don’t show how much you know either. Act like everything is normal. The confusion this causes can be hilarious as well, though you will probably be watched fairly closely.
  3. The defiant damsel: insults, sarcasm, pranks, either with brazen triumph or practiced innocence. You can say what you want, demand what you want. Also quite fun to act. Of course, you’re likely to be kept under a fairly heavy guard, but you’re also likely to get some of the things you need for an escape.
  4. Using two or even three layers of personality can also give you some good results.

Also, always remember that persistence pays off. Want a view of the courtyard or extra sheets to tie together for a rope? Ask and plead and cajole until your captors are so annoyed they give in. You can veil your reasons in foolish girlishness, guilt your captors, or use hard brazen logic. Again, it all depends on the mood of your capture.

Conceal anything which could be used as a weapon in your clothing. And be prepared to use it. Especially in aid of a rescuer.

Finally, help your rescuer in any way possible, leaving behind clues. If you happen to escape, tell others as soon as possible so your rescuer doesn’t fall into your captor’s clutches and the roles reversed. It’s always very inconvenient when that happens, believe me.

 

Have any questions, legends, or trending cliches you’d like Kirin Quillblade (or Elena) to address? Please comment below; he promises to at least read what you have to say between his realm leaper’s missions, even if he holds the rights to choose what to write about and what to ignore.

 

Join the Legend Seekers for monthly stories about the realm leapers and fantasy time-travelers, Kirin and Elena. Click here to sign up

Posted by Hope Ann in fantasy, My Writing, New Fantasy Times, Writer's Corner, 6 comments

New Fantasy Times: Heroic Grievances

Inspired by Elena’s discovery of Villainous Complains last month, Kirin has stepped in to write his own take on the grievances he believes heroes are forced to suffer due to stereotyping.

Everyone likes to throw the word hero around. Saving the world. Heroic. Saving a nation. Heroic. Saving a city. Heroic. Saving a king. Heroic. Saving a tiny lamb from drowning in a flash flood. Heroic. Saving chocolate. Not one mention, thank you very much. Didn’t even get a free sample.

I mean, come on everyone. What do you really think makes a hero?

In this realm, a hero is a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds, noble qualities, who has performed a heroic act, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. You get the idea. A heroine, of course, is a girl or woman who has the same qualities, but because I’m not about to write hero/heroine throughout this whole complaint, I’m just grouping everyone together as a hero. So replace man with person in that first definition and if anyone with this land’s tender sensitives gets offended, well, umm, I frankly don’t care.

Anyhow, it’s not that I don’t agree that someone saving a nation is heroic. Though I do claim there is a difference between doing something heroic and being a hero. Anyone with power can doing something heroic, and the weakest person can be a hero. But for some reason, people always expect the hero to win. Sure, they tend to in books, because who wants to read about a hero who fails? But in reality – all right, Elena is telling me to get on with it and stop being so discouraging. I’ll pick up the topic again in a moment.

You’ve probably all heard the common quote about how some heroes are born, some achieve the position, and some have events thrust upon them…or something like that. Greatness? Or was it about greatness in the first place instead of heroes? Never mind. It works for heroes pretty well, besides missing the most important part of the role.

Frankly, the heroes that are born (to the greatness part; all heroes are born) tend to be a bit smug in my experience. They’re born to a prophecy. They are the long awaited one. They’ve been raised and pampered and trained and beefed up and then go on their quest…etcetera, etcetera.

The heroes who become heroes consciously, vary. Why anyone would want the position is beyond me. Apparently they didn’t do their research on the work involved. Or maybe they really, really, cared about people and had no one close they had to protect. All the more power to them.

Then, of course, there is the most common hero who’s normal until events come tumbling down on his head, burying him and demanding he shoulder the weight to survive…and save the nation, king, lamb, and chocolate besides.

But it’s really the spirit of a man or woman which makes the hero. The circumstances and events will bring their character to light so everyone recognizes them as a hero, but their wills and determinations and strengths are already there. That is what makes one a true hero. Their character, not what they do.

Of course, what they do is effected by their character. And there a number of common misconceptions here which ought to be rectified.

Like death having to start their story. We, I mean, heroes, don’t lose a father or child or family or village, and then decided to change the course of their life and become a hero. They really can start acting heroically before they lose something they love dearly.

And as for their poor mentors…they’re smart. They’re strong. They’re generally wise. That’s why they’re mentors, after all. And they don’t die all that easily, despite what this realm’s stories try to make it sound like. More often they stick around long after they are needed.

And as far as training is involved, heroes don’t get a pill which gives them accelerated learning speeds or abilities to train so they can take down a fighter who’s been practicing for years after only a week’s work of training on their own. A pity, really. I could do with a handful of those pills. But real skill takes months. Years, even. And heroes have to learn the long hard way like anyone else. Or else they die. Or they learn trickery, which I recommend as the better option if they’re short on time. Why do you think I became a stealthmaster?

All heroes don’t have broken families either. Some do, of course, but many have normal lives until somehow they are dragged into the light and effort of being a hero. I’ve known transcribers who have edited a perfectly good supportive, or not supportive but still pretty good, families out of their records because it was too much work to write about everyone.

Oh yes, and as far as getting wounded goes, we bleed and hurt and take just as long to recover as any other person. Whippings, getting shot in the shoulder, getting stabbed in the leg, generally getting beaten within an inch of life and yet not dying ISN’T PLEASANT. And we will lie abed recovering like a decent human being. You can’t throw us through physical and emotional mills and expect us to continue operating as if everything is still find.

On which note, I’ll go back to what Elena shut me up about earlier. Heroes don’t always survive. And they don’t always win. But when they don’t win, they get back up and keep fighting. When they don’t survive, their memory keeps others going. I would also like to point out here that I really don’t care for the records where heroes die. Yes, it’s true. It happens. I know. I just told you so. But I’ve seen enough of that. I don’t read to see failure. I read to see success. To see what I could do. Theoretically, of course.

And please, please, please, don’t expect heroes to dodge bullets, break into unbreakable compounds, rescue everyone, save the dog’s life, go days without sleep, and still have the brain-power and strength to save both their girlfriend and a busload of kids – who happen to be hanging off opposite ends of a bridge. Try it yourself sometime and tell me what you think.

Really, in the end – oh, right. I almost forgot. I mentioned personality, the will, the spirit…all that stuff which makes a hero. I stand by that. But at the same time, remember that a hero is a human. Well, most of the time. I’ve known a good number of…never mind. My point is, we make mistakes.

Also, we have, umm, *coughs* flaws *coughs*

So yes, there are qualities most heroes have, like courage and never giving up and loyalty and all those noble things. But we do get angry. Or sometimes we don’t want to get out of the bed in the morning. Or we want to give up. Unless chocolate is on the line, of course.

And self-sacrifice is all very good. But just because we’re willing to give our lives, or maybe aren’t terrified of dying, doesn’t me we want to die. I mean, come on. Life isn’t that bad. Even with villains on every side who refuse to tell you their evil plans. If we treat death carelessly, that’s only because that’s how we deal with it. Please don’t think we don’t care and just send us into more danger. Seriously, it’s like ‘oh, he survived, well here’s an even more dangerous mission. Let’s see if he makes that one.’

But, yes. I think that covers it. We’re human. Amazing humans, yes. But the anticipations place upon us are…staggering.

Like expecting us to do all kinds of random things.

While our love ones lives are on the line.

Normally with a sorrow of some kind in our background.

But we have to stay strong.

And be kind to everyone.

And rescue everyone.

And have witty comebacks.

And have a quality romance on top of all that without actually talking about any of the important problems with the girl. What’s with the not talking? And the romance? Not that I’m completely opposed to the romance part, I suppose. But who has the time?

We do try, all right. But we get thrown overwhelming odds, sleepless nights, awful food, pitiful pay (fame doesn’t feed anyone, though it might give your best friend or mentor a nice grave-site. All right, Elena, I’ll shut up about the depressing stuff now). But the true heroes will never give up…even when they aren’t given chocolate.

Have any questions, legends, or trending cliches you’d like Stealthmaster Kirin Quillblade to address? Please comment below; he promises to at least read what you have to say between his realm leaper missions, even if he holds the rights to choose what to write about and what to ignore.

Join the Legend Seekers for monthly stories about the realm leapers and fantasy time-travelers, Kirin and Elena. Click here to sign up

Posted by Hope Ann in fantasy, New Fantasy Times, Writer's Corner, 11 comments

New Fantasy Times: Villainous Complaints

Villainous Complaints

Elena recently discovered fragments of a handbook compiled by a villain (who will go unnamed) who also deemed himself a writer. After one defeat, he spent the better part of the night ranting to himself about the perceptions of villains by the common public.

There’s too many people claiming the title of villain now days. One has only to kidnap a princess or destroy a town and their names are suddenly spoken in hushed whispers. Ridiculous. There are some of us who actually had to WORK for our titles.

And the public perception of villains…I mean, I remember when the no one would dare speak the name of one who held their life in their hands. Now people laugh behind our backs and underestimate us in the most astounding ways. Do they honestly thing we got our positions with careless henchmen or soldiers who couldn’t shoot straight? HONESTLY, PEOPLE! Let’s think about this a moment here!

And besides that, why must our name be blackened and twisted into some cruel merciless form? What do they think a villain is? Someone who slaughters for fun?

Actually, that’s a good question…who a villain is, not the slaughtering for fun part. Slaughtering, by the way, is not to be recommended unless in the most dire cases. Nine times out of ten it only succeeds in raising up a rebellion among people who would have been grudgingly content to live under higher taxes and stricter laws as long as they themselves were left in peace. Plus, it gives us a bad name; as if we don’t have enough of that going around as it is. But I digress

A villain can be one of two things. The common definition nowadays is that he is a ‘cruelly malicious person who is involved in or devoted to wickedness or crime’. Basically, he’s a scoundrel or, as we call them, lower-class villains. But sometimes they are just the major evil agency opposing the hero, some character or another everyone always seems to like. Don’t ask me why. These ‘heroes’ tend to be beaten, captured, and have everything they love torn from them and still everyone wishes they were them.

But back to the ‘evil agency’ or, as I like to call it, the higher class of the villain guild. I’m not exactly opposed to the definition, but can we please bend that term ‘evil’ slightly to mean something more than gloomy towers, black clothes (where has the fashion sense gone now days?), and a love of death, gold, and pain?

Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up…the main points anyhow.

For starters, we villains can be in almost any position. Of course, we normally prefer a powerful place in society…say a king or a general. But sometimes we’re spies. Or tavern keepers. Or teachers. Or housemaids.

For one just starting a career, a lesser position might be a good place to start since you’ll be under less scrutiny. Of course, even as something like a blacksmith or actor, it’s taken for granted you’ve a powerful following of people who you can raise up at a moment’s notice to accomplish whatever schemes you intend to…well, accomplish. Otherwise, don’t you dare take the title of villain because the guild is growing aggravated at incompetents claiming to be villains. We in the process of hiring assassins to deal with the matter.

On the other end of the scale are the dark lords. SOOOO annoying. They might not do much, but their presentation is enough to make the bravest cower. Of course, presentation is half of what being a villain is about, but still they needn’t flaunt themselves over the rest of us.

Oh, and family relations have nothing to do with a person’s success, though it may place some people in a better position to exercise authority than others. But a nephew is about as likely to try to kill and take the throne from an uncle, as an uncle is from a nephew. Flaming terrors, but what is it with the poor uncles now days? Almost everyone becomes an uncle eventually, provided he has siblings. And what about the Aunts? They can be just as deadly, sometimes even more so.

Back to our grievances.

Like people thinking we’re some sort of monsters. All right, I admit, there are some who do enjoy causing pain or death. But most of us just have something we want. There may be a particular small group we hate and will inflict pain on if we can, but for the most parts life is just life. We may even show a touch of mercy here or there to keep the subjects in line. Ruling by fear is all very well, and we rarely rule by love. Too much work, the love part. But we can be nice if we wish. And besides, when those who fear us are also treated decently well, then tend to let us do as we please.

And honestly, there are far more entertaining things than stuck away inside some dank torture chamber.

Dancing, for instance. Music. Feasts. Hunting. Counting over treasure (for those with dragon blood in their veins, as well as a few mathematically minded souls. Most of us just like to spend it.) Hunting. Swimming. Climbing. Hiking. Racing. Chess. Writing. Reading. The list could go on and on. Basically, we can be very sophisticated if we please. And there are many of us who do please.

And on the subject of likes, can I just touch on clothes? Put quite simply, we’re as varied as any other guild. Some like black. Some like scarlet. Some stay in fashion. Some start fashions at the point of a sword. And some of us don’t care how we look as long as we’ve several weapons nearby. But everyone looks good in black; hero, villain, or idiot. It doesn’t have the same flair it used to. And we don’t all use such dark colors.

And…oh yes. Minions. If anyone knows where to get simple, mindless, happy minions, please tell me. Because I’ve yet to find them. One either has slaves, or they pay others for labor.

Also, just because we tend to control many people by fear of one kind or another, doesn’t mean we don’t have friends who help us simply because they like us. We, or at least I, can be very charming if I please. We don’t give power to anyone unless there’s a reason. And that reason is normally because we like the person. A friend. A brother. A son. Of course, if they betray us they’ll die. But isn’t that how life goes with heroes too, and no one complains about them.

We true villains didn’t get where we are by making mistakes, and we are careful our subordinates are smart as well. They support us, we reward them. Everyone is happy. Also, they know their success is bound up in ours. And we rarely kill someone for failing. That’s a disastrous waste of talent and those who do kill subordinates who fail tend to be villains of the lower quality.

Oh, and the skills. We’re the same as any other person. What did you expect? Of course, many of us can fight well or are at least skilled at tactics, but that’s to be expected. But we have interests and skills like any other; reading, music, debate, riding, sports. Even cooking and gardening.

Our security, on the other hand, tends to be top of the scale. Your hero can’t run across twenty paces of open garden while being shot at. Either he sneaks in, or he’ll die, because we only hire the best. Actually, cut out the sneaking in too. Even that would be very difficult. And when we capture the hero *insert mocking tone* we DO NOT tell him all our plans, or stand around taunting him and giving him time to escape. The villains who do this are, in reality, double agents or are so insecure they need to see the hero’s fear to ensure they have succeeded. A ridiculous mindset when they already have prove their power by capturing him or her in the first place.

But really, in many of our tastes, we’re like any other person. We’re not monsters, at least not normally. As for our choice of career, there’s many reasons. Sometimes it’s revenge. Other times its love of family or nation. Sometimes we want power or riches. Sometimes a villain really is a bit insane mentally (they also tend to be great masterminds. Why do the ones who don’t enjoy what they get always succeed?) But in the end, it’s because we want something, either physical or ideological, and so we set our mind to get it. And we do get it, no matter the price.

Also…presentation. Anyone can kill or lie to take what they please. The real villains do it with such class that their foes feel honored to be defeated by them. (Yes, I know they’d deny it, but they do).

Disclaimer: The views held in this report is in no way supported by either myself or by Kirin or Elena. It is the copy of a diary rant only, to give you a quick glimpse into the mind of a villain. Please do not put this advice to play in your own life.

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Posted by Hope Ann in fantasy, My Writing, New Fantasy Times, Writer's Corner, writing tips, 14 comments

New Fantasy Times: Mysterious Pasts

Tip: if you take in a child and decide not to tell them their past you had 1. Better have a good reason, and 2. Don’t leave notes and paintings about, or decide to talk about the circumstances surrounding said child 18 years later while they’re eavesdropping.

My own past wasn’t straightforward in the least. That’s not a story for here, but suffice it to say that the glitter and glory of mysterious pasts as told in so many histories is far from the truth.

Mysterious pasts are far from common. That’s the main reason they’re still mysterious. Obviously, if a child never knows what happened in the past because no one will talk about it, that’s a pretty big clue that there’s something to discover. If they’re told they were picked up by the side of the road, that’s an even harder but just as obvious jewel to crack. But there are other ways children of normal families have figured out something is amiss. A stray line here. A picture or letter there. A family heirloom. Growing up and noticing differences between themselves and their siblings. Evasive answers or too many answers. Fragmented memories from their infancy. Or the reaching out of others who know their past. If one has a mysterious past, then one will at least discover that it is a mystery if they just know where to look.

But there are also dangers. Just because you don’t know your parents, or your past, or where you came from (or if you think you know these things then discover it’s all a lie) that doesn’t mean the truth is better. i.e. it doesn’t mean you’re a hidden prince and the golden hero of an ancient prophecy like so many of this realm’s stories like to portray. Most likely, it means your parents weren’t married and the matter has been hushed up. It’s wrong, and it’s sad, but that is the harsh truth.

Still, to take the bright route and assume that’s not the case, the secret of your past isn’t (probably) going to be kept from you unless there’s a reason. Like ‘you will die if anyone discovers this and we don’t trust you enough to protect your own life’ (annoying, I know) or ‘we don’t actually know ourselves, but there’s this old lady who might have heard something…’ Anyway, there are only so many princes. But sometimes mothers pity lesser, or should I say, lower, children. The starving child of an executed criminal, for example. There’s a reason she kept that story from you. Or nobles have been known to adopt the children of servants or even slaves. There’s even the occasional adoption of an abandoned child from some rebel encampment or enemy nation. Who knows, you might be a prince…but of the wrong nationality. Whatever your lot, make sure you really, really, really want to know the truth before trying to find it.

Of course, every son or daughter will want to know, whatever the warnings given and whatever their age. They might discover something at a young age. Or when they are coming of age. Or forty years down the road and they are settled with a family. Whatever the stage of life, it’s fairly certain they’ll take the adventure set for them no matter where it leads. Courage or foolishness, you decide.

But be careful in your search. There’s normally a reason your past is mysterious. Parents don’t just decide not to tell their child important facts about their birth on a whim. The reasons range from their own ignorance as to where you came from, to prices of honor, pride, or even danger. Basically, be subtle about it. Don’t go telling everyone you know or yelling the mystery for the world to hear. And start by asking. Unless there is a very good reason not to, go to your parents and ask them. There’s this thing called talking to each other that so many families forget now days, and the trouble it gets everyone into is ridiculous. If they don’t or can’t tell you, you’ll have to pursue other directions, but start with asking.

And, through it all, recognize that, no matter how hard you search, you may not get all the answers you want. Especially if you’re in a realm where records aren’t kept of births and adoptions, there may be no trail to follow. And depending on your age, many if not all the people with the answers might be dead. I don’t say this to discourage you, but just to give you a realistic view of what might happen. If your whole life is tied to your past, then you’ve lost an important battle before you even started.

Then again, who knows? Maybe there is some ancient prophecy. Maybe you are a prince or princess. And maybe you will save the world. Though, secret here, you don’t have to be royalty or in a position of authority or even have a prophecy written about you to save the world. But, in the end, remember that your life is your own. Or rather, it is your Creator’s. And don’t you dare ignore or spurn the present because you can’t remember the past.

Have any questions, legends, or trending cliches you’d like Stealthmaster Kirin Quillblade to address? Please comment below; he promises to at least read what you have to say between his realm leaper missions, even if he holds the rights to choose what to write about and what to ignore.

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Posted by Hope Ann in fantasy, My Writing, New Fantasy Times, Writer's Corner, 4 comments

New Fantasy Times: Other Dragons

I met a dragon once. And I lived; always a plus when dealing with unpredictable beasts such as those great scaled monsters. Not that I’d ever say such a thing to their face. Or faces, as the case may be.

Dragon, as defined by the New Fantasy Handbook of Common and Uncommon Creatures, is ‘a creature, generally with scales, wings, fangs, and claws. Are clever, can sometimes talk, quite often have eyes with varying degrees of hypnotic ability, and should never be treated like a normal wild beast.’ Due to the necessarily vague and loose structure of that definition, it is wise for one to research deeper before meeting dragons face to face.

In some realms, dragons have been relegated to myths but in many others, they are alive and well today. But even within realms, dragons can differ very drastically. As any classifier of such creatures knows, the word ‘dragon’ stands for a family, not a species.

Dragons cover every spectrum of color, but what many people don’t know is that the color quite often is related to whether the dragon is cold-blooded or warm-blooded and what climate they live in. A quick side note here, both types of dragons are good in their own way, but if you’re using one to escape after a midnight raid on a frozen tundra, don’t chose a cold-blooded variety. Just trust me on this one.

Dragons are also all sizes. While they do tend to have a larger average bulk than many animals, there are quite a few which are no bigger than birds or cats. Others are a comfortable size to ride, while a few could crush whole houses under their scaly chests. Thankfully, these later beasts are growing less common today.

To add to the complication, dragons have no steady shape. Some dragons have long necks, thin bodies, and narrow faces. Others are muscular. Others have double wings and some have none at all. Scales aren’t always a given either, though they are very common. But there are rare breeds of dragons known to grow manes. And even with scales, there are some which shimmer, some simply dull, some which fade and change colors to meld into the background…you get the idea. As for claws and teeth, I can tell you they’re generally sharp. Frankly, I’ve kept as far away from them and failed to find or take any good photos.

Oh, and don’t forget the eyes. Rarely is a dragon without some hypnotic power in its eyes. Normally it lasts only while eye-contact is being made, though there are rare cases when it can develop into a sickness which continues for months. But, quite often, the effect won’t even be noticeable. You’ll simply find yourself treating the dragon with more care than a normal mount, or not shooting one when on a hunt. The latter technique is very annoying, let me assure you.

The wit of dragons is as varied as their size. In some lands they are simply wild beasts, hunted for meat and scales, or gliding though the tree-tops with wild songs. Tamed dragons of a smaller size have been found in the homes of the rich as pets, while others pull carts. There are even accounts of dragon fighting, though in many realms this is illegal, and it is always dangerous.

Dragons are most commonly used as mounts; many nomadic groups greatly favor these beasts because they are hardy and (if you have the right kind) a ready source of fire. Some dragons can understand human speech, and a few can even communicate and talk. There are even rumors of dragon societies, but I’ve yet to find one myself.

Not all dragons breathe fire, of course; only about a quarter of them have that ability. And the ones which do breathe fire don’t breathe out smoke. This misconception comes from a species of dragon which breathes out steam to frighten off enemies, but are otherwise harmless.

Though, as far as harmless goes, no dragon is without a quality defense. Even subtracting the fangs and claws, some dragons also secrete poison. Some have stingers in their tails or in their wing tips. Then there is fire, heated breath, freezing breath, poisonous breath, a whip-like forked tongue… The good part is, most dragons won’t attack people unless provoked. Repeat, I said most. And for those idiots who decide to attack dragons for the fun of it, outside the lands where dragons are butchered for meat and where the skill of hunting is down to an art, well, they deserve what they get.

Taking down a dragon isn’t easy. Most normal weapons won’t cut through their scales. There are generally soft spots, but not always. And they vary from beast to beast; a cracked scale, behind the ear, the eye, the back of the inside of the throat. Generally, it’s safer to not try at all unless the dragon is massacring whole villages. Besides, riding them is so much more fun.

The topic of dragons is extensive; it could take a whole book to cover them. Where they live, for instance (from tree tops to caves to burying themselves in desert sands to making hollows in the sides of snowbanks). Or what they eat (pretty much everything, from reeds to cattle to melons). Or what sounds and songs they make. The differences between males and females. How many young are raised at once, by who, and for how long? Ages of dragons (hint: most get pretty old). Their hobbies (quite often includes gold, polished stones, or sword hilts). What they enjoy (riddles and swimming). What they can do and what they will do and how they appreciate music…the list could go on and on.

But I can’t.

And so I’ll leave you one final tip. Many people know to never trust a live dragon. This is questionable, since some are actually quite friendly. But never, ever, trust a dead dragon. Dragons which die of natural cause are rarely found; they hide themselves away in a tomb of their own making. If you find a dragon which appears dead, and there’s no knight there to claim the victory, steer well clear. If you don’t, you’re very likely walking into a trap from which there will be no escape.

Have any questions, legends, or trending cliches you’d like Kirin Quillblade to address? Please comment below; he promises to at least read what you have to say between his realm leaper’s missions, even if he holds the rights to choose what to write about and what to ignore.

Join the Legend Seekers for monthly stories about the realm leapers and fantasy time-travelers, Kirin and Elena. Click here to sign up

Posted by Hope Ann in Legend Seekers, My Writing, New Fantasy Times, Writer's Corner, 12 comments

New Fantasy Times: Powerful Blades

Ever hear of Flameslayer? A great, two-handed, black blade, quenched in dragon’s blood and of unbreakable steel. It, or so the legends claimed, was the only sword which could pierce the scales of the great fire drake, Garagon. The only small problem being Garagon killed the first hero who came after him, then kept the sword to pick his teeth; apparently it was the only piece which wouldn’t snap in two when he dug out slivers of bones between those great incisors of his…but that’s irrelevant.

The point was, there was only one blade which could kill him and he had it in his possession. Predictably, he grew cocky, and a cocky dragon is not something you want to meet. Worse, though also predictably, he killed every hero who came against him (a surprising amount, given his reputation and Flameslayer’s legend). In the end, it was a woodsman from the next village in Garagon’s route of terror and flame which brought the vile creature to a well-deserved death. And the man accomplished the deed with a magic axe.

What I’m trying to say here is magical swords are greatly overrated, despite rule 107 in the Hero Handbook stating one must find, make, capture, or otherwise obtain a weapon of great power and strength. (Please note, for the record, that it says ‘weapon’ not sword.) Swords all very well in their own time and place, but where are all the legends about magical spears, axes, daggers, and bows?

Whatever you interest in magical blades, be it questing for a dragon, rescuing a captured maiden, or perhaps saving your land from annihilation, there are a few things you might want to consider before drawing the first magical sword you come across.

Firstly, do you need a sword? If you’re going to be in heavy battle, a sword might be a good idea. Of course, invincible armor or undentable shields might be an even better tactic; it really depends on your skill with the blade.

But if you’re going to be leading raiders or assassins, there are other choices which, though less flashy, might stand you in better stead. Ever heard of daggers which are invisible to your enemy? Knives which always hit their marks? Crossbow bolts which you can anchor on a target and let fly no matter how far or how many walls your foe might be behind? Magical bows or arrows which always hit their target are a little more common, but even these have a far greater range than is generally recorded, such as releasing arrows which will remain invisible until a set time before striking down your foe. All of these weapons could very well be a better choice for a quiet operation.

Spears and javelins which return to your hand after thrown, however, are making a rebound. Yes, I really said that. But axes are probably among the greatest of the underrated magical weapons. Strong, hard hitting, able to hew down several enemies at a blow; if you’re going after a giant or even a dragon, you might want to check these out.

Secondly, what fashion of weapon do you want? While it might be harder to rally warriors around a plain blade with a leather bound grip, going to battle with with gold and jewels encrusting your hilt isn’t the best of ideas. Besides it tending to slip as your hand grows sweaty, it will also mark you out as an important foe to your enemies, no matter your true rank. Plus you’ll have trouble from robbers at every other inn during peacetime. Also, it will cause unnecessary emotional turmoil when it comes time to grime up the hilt so it won’t glint in the moonlight on some secret mission and betray your whole company. Balance and strength comes first, then beauty. And while beauty is admirable, it should be in moderation.

Thirdly, do you need a magical weapon at all? Despite being common rallying items, soldiers respect their leader for the man he is, not for weapon he carries. Though more difficult with a mortal blade, tasks which only a magical weapon can complete are becoming extremely rare. There are many cases when a magical weapon might be more of a hindrance than a help, wrapping up the bearer’s attention when they ought to be focused on a comrade, not retrieving their sword.

And finally, if you do buy yourself a magical blade, be very wary of terms and conditions. They always apply. If there are vague prophecies attached, steer clear. If someone is trying to give you a magical blade at no cost, steer very clear…the blade is probably stolen and won’t protect you from those coming to retrieve it. Check to see if the magical qualities have a time limit or a quantity limit; one-dragon swords, for example, are becoming quite common in the market places of Niverteen. Finally make sure you know the name of your blade and can pronounce it right. The weapons tend to be on the sensitive side when it comes to such things. They’ll rarely turn against you but, if ignored, they very well might ignore you back; not a good thing in the heat of battle.

Above all, never place all your faith and hope in a magical weapon. Remember, they are a tool for you to do a task; quite often a good tool, granted, but they are not the only way you can succeed. And it is not what men will rally to and foes will flee from (well, except in rare cases like the Flaming Whiplash…now that was a sword worth writing about). A magical weapon is only that, a magical weapon.

But you; you are the hero.

Have any questions, legends, or trending cliches you’d like Kirin Quillblade to address? Please comment below; he promises to at least read what you have to say between his realm leaper’s missions, even if he holds the rights to choose what to write about and what to ignore.

Join the Legend Seekers for monthly stories about the realm leapers and fantasy time-travelers, Kirin and Elena. Click here to sign up

Posted by Hope Ann in fantasy, Legend Seekers, My Writing, New Fantasy Times, Writer's Corner, 14 comments