Here be…

I’ve historically been reticent to write much fantasy. I was raised on fantasy, reading lots of bad (but fun) Dragonlance novels and playing D&D and watching Willow gods’ know how many times and what not. The Hobbit was the book that inspired my love of reading to begin with. But every time my mind wanders to writing fantasy I tend to shy away from it, primarily because I have a hard time coming up with ideas that don’t feel like they’ve been done a billion times before by writers both better and worse. How many times does a reluctant hero need to be yanked into the world to find some magical whoosit and rescue what’s-her-name so they can become the new king of wherever? The world doesn’t need it.

(To be fair, I could certainly say the same of any other genre, so…Also the likes of China Miéville and Gene Wolfe have considerably expanded my idea of what fantasy can be, so maybe I’ll start foraging in this direction more.)

But I had a fun image in mind and thought I’d play with it a bit. So here’s the beginning draft. It’s kind of stalled out a paragraph or so after the clip here, because it started to veer in the direction of another Allanah story, but then I realized it would be virtually the exact same story, but with some fisticuffs. So maybe this will go nowhere. But it’s kind of a nifty beginning, I thought. I think adding a technological element makes it easier for me to identify with the characters, and juxtaposing that with an old-world aesthetic is interesting and offers possibilities that don’t exist in other genres. Then again, maybe I’m just a fan of guys in armored suits.

Untitled Fantasy Bit

Mists curled from each of a thousand miniature cave entrances along the slope of the mountain, laying a thick fog across the blasted landscape. Sir Jelani strode ahead of me, his boots chipping away at the rock with every ponderous step. The buzzes and whirs of the servos in the joints of his armor echoed off the fog.

“Seems very dragon-esque to me, sire,” I said. I did my best to keep the tremor from my voice. I had witnessed Sir Jelani eviscerate no fewer than six dragons in my time as squire, but none had been this obviously close to a monster’s lair. Usually we caught them in open sky, or sleeping in a newly slaughtered field of livestock.

“Quiet, Clare,” said Jelani. He stopped, holding up a gauntlet for silence. I froze mid-step, toes perched painfully in the next foothold. The small armory on my back suddenly felt twice as heavy. I saw the top of Jelani’s smooth head above his neck guard, rotating, listening for the flap of wings or scramble of claws across stone.

The gauntlet clenched. “Load me up, girl!” Jelani growled his words through clenched teeth. His helmet snapped into place, segmented plates emerging from his armor to enclose his head. I darted forward as I grabbed a handful of arrows from my pack.

I felt a gust of wind, and the mists swirled aside to reveal our quarry. Twenty, maybe thirty feet from snout to tail. Dark, densely packed scales. Small wings, enough to batter but not to fly. Short ridge of horns along an angular head. A stygian blue, and a young one at that. Rare but not unheard of in this part of the world, and infamous for their higher-than-average kill rate against knights. Nobody kept records of how many squires they killed.

I put that out of mind and focused on the job, aiming for the tiny steps built into the back of Jelani’s armor. Climb up. Load the arrows. Tap the helmet. Duck. Climb. Load the javelin. Tap the-

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