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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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.

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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.

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