Using Fantasy Cliches the Right Way

Clichés abound in fantasy. The dashing prince rescues the helpless princess. The mentor dies and his student going on to save the world. The villain dresses in a long black cape with a pet snake on a staff.

A cliché, by definition, is anything which is trite or commonplace through overuse. These can be phrases, such as ‘right as rain’ or ‘red as a cherry’. They can also be a character, such as the carefree friend or the grim mentor. And, of course, there are cliché scenes: a handsome prince glimpsing a beautiful princess through a tower window and falling desperately in love. The mentor dying. The villain telling the captured hero all his plans.

How to Use Cliches

Many clichés remain popular because they work. Who doesn’t thrill over the heroic rescue or ache for the main character as his mentor dies saving him? Yet, because of the overuse, once exciting scenes can lose a bit of their luster. Don’t throw out all clichés at once, however. They have their uses.

Twist clichés

It is amusing to take a cliché and twist it just enough that it’s recognizable. Keep the grim mentor, but let him make puns with a straight face to infuriate his apprentice. Perhaps the foolish antics of the court jester covers a formal character who drops hints about his king’s table manners along with his jests. Maybe the new knight tries desperately to be heroic, completely fumbling the bows and formalities of rescuing his betrothed, while the demure maiden provokes her captors with irritating pranks they can’t trace back to anyone.how to use fantasy cliches the right way

This is especially pleasing when done with phrases. Start with a common cliché phrase, then twist it into something completely new. Instead of ‘pale as death’, find something suiting the character, the setting, and the emotion for ‘pale as the marshmallows he inhaled by the dozen’. Instead of ‘all’s fair in love and war’ change it to ‘all’s fair in love and the pursuit of chocolate’.

Make fun of clichés

Or, instead of simply freshening a cliché, you can make fun of it. If something is cliché, and the character recognizes it as cliché, the possibilities are enormous. They may embrace it, or make fun of it, or use is as a starting point for other actions. ‘Well, since I’m obviously the villain and wearing black, I decided I’d better take a trip to the pet store and find an intimidating animal’ *presents hamster* *alternately presents snake, holding it as far from self as possible with thinly disguised disgust, then quickly depositing it back in its box*

Change cliché endings

Opening with a clichéd line or scene and then changing it halfway through can be hilarious. Although not fantasy, one of my favorite moments in Avengers: Age of Ultron is where Iron Man asks Ultron about something. Ultron replies with ‘I’m glad you asked that, because I wanted to take this time to explain my evil plan…’ and then proceeds to attack.

Note the normal course of events in clichés, then turn the character or setting on its head. Maybe it’s the apprentice who dies and the mentor has to go save the land. Maybe it’s the dragon who rescues the prince from the princess.

Overused fantasy clichés

While clichés can be twisted or sometimes used outright, there are several main ones which have lost their effect through extreme overuse.

The villain monologue

These are easy for the writer because we can give our character and reader the information they clearly need. It’s also lazy on our part.

A scene where the villain tells the character his plans could work in the right setting, but it needs to fit with the characters and the themes. Is it something the villain would really do? Does he need recognition? Is he someone who has to prove what he can do or rub it in the main character’s face? Or is he cautious and quiet? There are other ways the main characters can figure out what has happened: vague comments and orders, notes, letters…

The mentor’s death

No matter how heartbreaking the scene, too many mentors have died. Your reader’s eyes will begin to glaze. Yes, they might be sad your mentor is dead, but the death of a more unexpected character, such as a best friend, will have a deeper emotional impact.

Sometimes mentors need to die in a story. But since they are generally wiser and more skilled than the main character, don’t let them die for a minor reason. Only kill them if you must. And, if you do kill them, make the scene as fresh and memorable as you can and make sure there is a valid reason for their death.

Villain security

He’s reached his position by being cautious and smart. His security is going to be tight. He’s going to hire good soldiers. If your character is attacked by several guards, he’ll have to be very good to defeat or escape them. Slipping past the villain either for infiltration or escape is not an easy task.

Clichés are still used nowadays because they worked. They had power. Even the ones fading from overuse can be dissected. Figure out how they pull on emotions, then build up a new idea around that grain.

Keeping clichés in mind can be very useful. But, because of how common they are, work on freshening your clichés, making fun of them, or turning them on their heads.

In the end, you’ll get a story worth its weight in gold. Or chocolate. Or maybe even moon gems.

Day 3: Writing Tools

3-2-1 WRITE! party

Well, I’ve talked about it enough you might guess what my number one resource for writers is, but I’ve no problem with saying it again.

Kingdom Pen!

Kingdom Pen is a website, but it is so much more than a website too. For starters, don’t let the ages of the writers posting there fool you. There is so much great information posted every week, along with poems and the occasional short story.

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Day 2: Writing Advice

3-2-1 WRITE! party

Two pieces of advice… *grins* What to choose?

My first bit of advice sounds a bit cliché, but it is true nonetheless. This is persevere. Writing isn’t always easy. It is rewarding, in the end, but there are times you hate your work. Times you wonder why you ever started; why you even thought this idea was ever good. Don’t give up. Keep moving. Upward, outward. Keep working, keep pressing forward.

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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.

 

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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

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

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

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.

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

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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