Didn’t get a chance to post this last night, so I’ll put it up now.
It’s odd that I don’t write more fantasy. I grew up on fantasy. As I got older I gradually leaned more toward science fiction, and then in college I had to read a lot of non-genre stuff. Fantasy just kind of fell away, for the most part. It doesn’t help that a lot of fantasy tends to be pretty bad. By fantasy I’m talking about classic sword and sorcery.
It seems incredibly difficult to me to come up with something genuinely fresh for fantasy. I also have a hard time truly identifying with fantasy characters. Really, they’re nothing like us. Complaining that your cell phone reception is bad? Really? Well guess what, Rolf’s village was burned down by a fucking dragon last week. And what are the interactions between ancient people’s like on a day-to-day basis? I have a hard time imagining conversations that aren’t rife with corporate logos and movie quotes.
So here’s a little bit of a fantasy story I might work on. It seems like there are a few things today that we can link to fantasy settings–religion and its influence on people and governments, systems of justice, and politics. Those sorts of stories are pretty prominent in fantasy stories. Kings and clerics and holy wars and what not. So I thought I’d focus on the justice system. I imagine some of the problems police forces run into in a fantasy setting are not terribly different from what they run into today. It’s at the trial and judge level that things begin to get really different. At the most basic level, cops are cops. So I made my main character a cop. About 700 words.
On a cool fall evening, Brennan wandered into a tiny unnamed village at the edge of the Heranoc frontier with little more than the tattered clothes on his back. He kept his only valuable possession strapped to his back, a slender sword. The scabbard and handle were undecorated, but none of the passersby missed the Emperor’s Seal etched into the hilt. Few in the village had even seen a sword, so the weapon caused as much a stir as the man.
As he strode down the dusty Imperial road that wound through the village, everyone he passed cast him curious looks. Even without the sword, his broad shoulders, stocky frame, and shaved head marked him as a warrior. The lack of armor marked him as a failed warrior—at best, wandering mercenary. At worst, a deserter. They all gave him a wide berth, farmers guiding their carts to the far side of the road and herdsman pushing their cattle or sheep a little faster to get past him. Brennan passed through a small but busy market, and most of the merchants quieted as he walked through, only to resume their sales pitches after he’d gone.
Brennan paused briefly at the village square, surveying the town’s scant offerings. A few specialty shops, a small courthouse with an even smaller barracks attached, and a tavern. At that late hour, only the tavern showed any activity, though a single guard did doze in a chair outside the courthouse doors. At the center of the square, a tall, lanky man lounged in a gazebo, apparently comfortable despite the heavy red and gold Imperial armor he wore. A spear leaned within easy reach against the side of the gazebo. The man stood and stretched to his full height, his bald head nearly grazing the gazebo roof.
“You’ve walked a long way, stranger,” he called, his voice easy and friendly.
Brennan stifled a smile. “Kiren. You defend this town now? Who did you anger?”
“Who have I not angered at some point?” Kiren laughed. “Aye, I’m appointed Defender here.” Kiren squinted at the sun, dipping into the western horizon. “Can I buy you a drink?”
To Brennan, who’d spent the past week on the open road, the tavern felt hot and stifling. The crowd made him anxious, and the smoke irritated his eyes. He guided Kiren to a corner with fewer patrons and sat with his back to the wall. Kiren took a swig of the local ale and watched him curiously.
“You seem nervous, old friend,” Kiren said. “What has happened? Where is your armor? Are you no longer the Defender of Higaard?”
Brennan glared at an overly curious old man at the bar until the man turned away. “I no longer defend Higaard,” he said simply, a note of bitterness creeping into his gruff voice. “There are people there who…did not like me.”
Kiren chuckled. “There are people everywhere who do not like you, Brennan. You can be…difficult. Stubborn, perhaps. Some might say.” He shrugged. “Soldiers like us, I mean, real soldiers, not these boy conscripts who’ve never been outside their own cities, we surround ourselves with trouble. It is how we became Defenders to begin with, eh? How do you think I got here?” He waved a hand at the farmers who populated the tavern. “It’s not because there is a dragon a week here, my friend.”
“This was different,” Brennan said.
“You are still in favor with his Highness, correct? Why head this direction? Go north, to the capital. He’ll favor you with a new city. Or reinstall you at Higaard.”
“This was different,” Brennan repeated. He lowered his voice, forcing Kiren to lean close to hear him. “The Temple to Himora. Something is going on there. They wanted me out. The new Defender is a disciple.” He leaned back and drank deeply.
Kiren grimaced and shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “Look, Brennan, that sort of thing, it’s just politics.”
“No, it’s more,” Brennan growled. “I saw things there. Dark things. Before I could investigate, two disciples came forward with lies about me. I was expelled from the city.”
“What sort of lies?”
Brennan brushed aside the question. “I need warriors. I need to get back to Higaard. I need to take back my city.”