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Free Stuff: Preview from Echo of the High Kings, Part 3

A third installment from Echo of the High Kings.  The section covers a skirmish between Lady Katarina’s followers and some of Duke Hector’s men.

Aerion set his back against the tree and took a deep breath.  Through the trees, the squeal of pigs and the rumble of wagons carried.  He listened to that sound, and he waited.  For a moment, he remembered his home.  Aerion remembered Old Taggart’s voice, rough and low, filled with caution, as if every word were some precious coin to spend.  He remembered the smell of his mother’s apron, the scent of stew and bread, and of smoke from the wood fireplace in the inn. 

And then he remembered the fire, and the screams.

At that moment, a clear trumpet clarion sounded as Gerlin signaled the attack.

Aerion leaped from behind his tree, and immediately spotted the wagons, only thirty feet away.  He ran forward, hands clenched on the greatsword.  One of the guards on foot, raised a drawn bow, arrow pointed at Aerion.  The guard released just as Aerion stumbled.  Aerion felt the arrow’s fletching kiss his neck.

The guard reached for another arrow.  Aerion felt his world narrow, as everything but that guard and his bow vanished.  He felt his legs pump him forward.  His heart raced, a steady drumbeat that drowned all else out.  Aerion felt a cry of rage and fear open his mouth, but he couldn’t hear it, couldn’t hear anything.

The guard, knocked another arrow.  The mercenary seemed to move in slow motion.  He raised the bow, drew it back.

And then Aerion had closed the distance.  He swung the sword downward, all memory of his training lost, he swung the four foot blade like an axe.

The sword struck the mercenary between his right shoulder and his neck.  The blade chopped down through his simple leather armor, and a fountain of blood erupted.

Aerion stumbled back, spitting blood and suddenly sickened.  He had to tug hard, foot pressed against the corpse to pull his sword free.  Some motion sensed as much as seen caused him to turn.  He ducked under a spear thrust and caught the shaft just behind the barbed head.  Aerion pulled hard, and suddenly stood, face to face with a blonde bearded mercenary, his eyes wide, pupils dilated.

Aerion saw him release the spear, hands going for a dagger at his waist.  He brought the pommel of his sword up into his opponent’s face.   The mercenary stumbled back with a cry.

A shout made him turn, and he saw one of the Jasen on the ground, a brutish looking warrior above him with an axe.  Aerion lunged forward, sword extended.

The iron tip of his sword skidded off of the axeman’s chainmail.  Aerion continued his move and slammed his shoulder into the larger man’s back.  The axeman stumbled away, and Aerion stumbled back.

Another man, his face drawn in a rictus of hate, swung a sword at him.  Aerion brought up his sword to parry, and a shock went down his arm.  The beserk warrior swung again, and again Aerion blocked.  He kicked out, desperate to get some room to move, but his opponent caught the blow on his shield and continued his wild attack.

Again and again the madman battered at him, Aerion desperately swung his larger sword to block blow after blow.  He backed away, tried to gain some space, but his attacker didn’t slow his own pace, and continued to press him.

His feet caught on something.  Aerion fell back over a still body.  Aerion hit the hardpacked road on the flat of his back.  The impact drove all the air out of his lungs.  Aerion brought his sword up to block as his opponent swung a powerful overhand blow. 

The sword struck just inches above the crossguard with a sound like a hammer striking glass, the brittle iron of his sword snapped.

Aerion held the stump of his blade up in shock as the berserk warrior above him raised his own blade for the finishing blow.  Aerion kicked out hard.  His leg struck his attacker’s knee, which bent backwards with a horrific crackle.

The warrior dropped with a scream, and Aerion stood, still clutching the stump of a sword.  The beserker still swung his sword at Aerion.  He crawled towards him, maimed leg dragging.  Aerion saw Jasen, a bloody gash down the side of his face, drive a spear down into the beserker from behind.

“Grab his sword, boy!” Jasen shouted.  He pointed over Aerion’s shoulder.  “There’s more of them, ancestors know where they came from, but they’re attacking lady Katarina!”

Aerion felt a jolt of ice water pump through his veins.  He looked over, just in time to see eight horsemen push through a cluster of fighting.

He saw her then.  She stood in the middle of the road, only twenty feet away.  She had her sword in her left hand, something else in her right.  She looked like a scene from a story.  She stood like a savage warrior princess, her dark hair back in a braid, her chain shirt spattered with blood.

Aerion blindly reached down.  His fingers found the hilt of the sword that had nearly taken his life.  He charged forward.  Jasen had already run ahead, but Aerion’s longer legs easily outpaced him.

He sprinted past Lady Katarina, just as she raised her right hand.  He heard her shout something as he raced past.  He couldn’t hear her words over the roaring in his ears and his own labored breathing.

One of the horsemen reared before him, and swung down with a blade.

Aerion ducked under the horse’s head, then thrust up on the horseman’s left side.  He felt the lighter blade skitter off the horseman’s greaves, then catch and plunge up under his breastplate.

The horseman sagged, just as the frightened horse sidestepped.

Aerion jerked the blade free and turned, just in time to see two more behind him.  Time slowed again as he saw the nearest had his hammer raised, about to descend upon Aerion.  Aerion tried to force his body to move out of the path, but he didn’t have time.

He heard Lady Katarina shout something, her high, clear voice cut through the shouts and screams.

Aerion watched the hammer descend, saw his death in that swing, with no time to move out of the way or block it.

Then the world flared white.

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Free stuff: Preview from Echo of the High Kings, part 2

And, to continue sections from Echo of the High Kings, here we have a brief piece with Katarina, daughter to Duke Peter of the Duchy of Masov.  This section comes a year after the events of the first preview section.

Katarina moved with quiet feet down the dusty passage.   She hiked up her dress as much as she could, even as she worried that the hem would catch the dust and suggest that she hadn’t spent the afternoon at her studies.

Not my fault that the scholar fell asleep, she thought, though she felt a twinge of remorse that she’d eluded her newly assigned Armsman.  Then again, as rare as free time had become, she felt far better for the opportunity to explore the hidden passages below the castle… and for the opportunity to slip into the nursery and apologize to her little brother.

As if on cue, she came to the intersection of the hidden passages.  One way led deeper into the maze of corridors and the other led up to a door that opened into the nursery.  “Best to talk to my brother, first,” Katarina muttered to herself.  She gave a slight sigh, though, before she started up the corridor.

She hadn’t meant to hurt his feelings.  She knew that, for some reason, he looked upon her with some envy.  As the eldest, she had some privileges that he must think marvelous.  In truth, however, she envied him.  At eight, he had already been introduced into the martial chamber.  The Master of Arms had already begun his training and as a boy, he would train every day until combat became something of reflex and muscle memory.  He had already begun to learn sufficient runic magic to operate various relics and weapons of the Ducal House.

As a girl, even a nobly born girl of thirteen years, the Duke allowed her only the basic arts of self defense and studies of runic magic sufficient to operate only the most basic runic items.  I’m the heir, but I’m still only a female, and little Peter doesn’t realize how much I envy him.

That still didn’t excuse her mistreatment of him earlier in the day.  She’d no cause for her words, despite her frustration.  She dearly loved her little brother, and her recent movement from the nursery had only made her realize how much.  Her father, always so distant, spoke with her only in passing.  Her mother had seemed to withdraw into herself even more after her old armsman was sent away… and had ceased to take any visitors not long after Katarina moved into the woman’s quarters of the castle.

Little Peter was the only one who cared for her and she knew that her angry words had hurt him more than his childish petulance deserved.  So Katarina would make it right.

She reached the hidden door and paused a moment to listen.  This one opened into the small storage room at the end of the corridor, she knew.  Katarina had discovered it first, when she’d needed some place to hide from her tutors.  Her explorations had led her deep beneath Castle Emberhill in the five years since.

She paused as she heard what sounded like a muffled cry.  Katarina frowned, and her fingers dropped to the two wands tucked inside her dress skirts.  Technically, they were her mother’s, but Katarina had learned to use the two wands last year, and her mother had never realized that Katarina had kept them rather than putting them back.

She’d practiced with them too, though she’d had to find a quiet spot out in the countryside to do so, and timed it with thunderstorms so that it didn’t attract attention.  Well, other than the time I missed, she thought sheepishly, and it’s not like the entire forest would have burned down.

She shook her head and pushed the concealed door open.  Whatever the noise she’d heard, she didn’t hear anything else.  She set her lantern to the side and moved through the small storage room.  She paused again at the heavy wooden door.  She opened it just a bit, and then froze when she saw movement.

Her fear at discovery turned to something else as she felt the blood freeze in her veins.  A tall man stood with drawn blade just down the corridor, his back to her.  At his feet lay Maran, the old nurse who had changed her diapers and brought her her meals.  Her mouth and eyes were wide and she lay still in death, her face twisted into an experssion of pain.  The broad spill of bright red blood and the red stains across her simple dress made it clear how she’d died.

Two of her father’s armsmen lay further down the corridor.  Katarina bit into her knuckle to hold back a shriek when she saw several more armed men.  All of them wore strange scale armor, and the cut of their clothes seemed odd to her, as did their golden skin and strangely curved blades.

And then she saw one of the men step out of the open door to her brother’s room.  He grunted something in an odd language even as he wiped blood from his sword with what looked like a stained boy’s tunic.

The cold ice in her blood flashed into white hot heat in a heartbeat.  Her light thirteen year old body could not have kicked the heavy wooden door hard enough to knock down the warrior beyond.  Yet a moment later she stood over his prone body and leveled her wand with a scream.

A wave of fire and destruction swept down the narrow corridor.  For a moment, the image lay seared into her brain, burned into the back of her eyelids as her brother’s murderers burned to ash.

The moment passed and Katarina blinked away tears as her eyes tried to adjust.

She felt an iron-hard hand clamp around her mouth.  Her hand went to her second wand, but her attacker’s other hand grasped it and held her still.  The man I knocked down, he must have captured me, she thought.  Still, she struggled, she would not let this assassin kill her, not without a fight.

“Hold still, damn you, girl,” a gravelly voice spoke.  “I’m not one of them, I’m here to help!”  The voice teased at her memory, until she recognized it as her new armsman.  She hadn’t heard Bulmor speak more than twice in the past week, but it sounded like him.

She froze and when she ceased to fight, the hands pulled her back into the storage room.  The hand over her mouth let go long enough to pull the door closed.

“What’s happening?  Is… Is my brother dead?” Katarina asked.  She hated how her voice broke, yet in her mind she saw Peter still and cold in a pool of blood like poor old Maran.

“I think so, lass,” Bulmor grated.  He released her and she turned to face him.  “Those were Vendakar, probably paid mercenaries.”  His face, when she looked at him in the small dark room, looked to have been carved of stone.  “Do you know a passage that leads out?”  He took up her lantern in one hand.

“Yes…” Katarina frowned.  “Shouldn’t we head up, though?  Find my father… my mother!”  She turned back towards the door, ready to run to warn her mother, but his iron strong hands locked on her shoulders.  “Let me go!  I have to warn them!”

“Stop and think, lass- my Lady, I beg you, think!” For a moment his voice broke from the gravel strength and some raw emotion leaked through.  Katarina realized then that Bulmor feared for her.  All of a week on the job, and her new armsman already viewed her survival as essential.

That realization bored through her and forced her to stop and consider.  The nursery lay at the center of the keep itself.  It was the most heavily defended area and any attackers would have to fight their way through the other living areas to get here first.  Any warriors who had arrived here must have already fought through her father’s armsmen…

“No…”  Katarina froze.  “That can’t be, it’s not possible.”

“My lady, until we know more, we have to assume they’ve already overrun the entire castle.  We must leave.  You seem to know these passages… how do we exit?”

Katarina felt an icy hand clench on her heart.  Her brother was dead… and her last words to him had been cruel and childish.  Her parents were dead… everyone she had ever known, Erik, her father’s armsman, Tomus, her mother’s armsman… had the old scholar Mattews been murdered as well?  Had they killed him as he dozed in the library, surrounded by his old scrolls?

Why had they died… and why did she still live?

Free Stuff: Preview from Echo of the High Kings

I’m travelling for the next week, but in the meantime, here’s a section from Echo of the High Kings, my upcoming Epic Fantasy.  I’ll post a few sections here over the next few weeks, once a week.  These sections are not consectutive, but will cover a fair portion of the overall story.  This section is from the perspective of the antagonist, Lord Hector, who later becomes known as Duke Hector the Usurper…

Hector dismounted from his horse and passed the reins to one of his men.  “You have your orders,” he said.  They stared at him for a long moment in silence.  He saw Sergeant Grel open his mouth to speak, and then close it again.

Hector gave them a stern glare.  “I will not repeat myself, go to your assigned posts.  Prevent anyone from leaving the grounds until I return.”

The fifteen men dispersed, all except Sergeants Grel and Campbell.  Hector turned back towards the door of the manor house and took a deep breath.  He walked past the pair of guards outside unchallenged.  Inside, out of the dark night, the house seemed warm and cheerful.  He heard his cousin’s wife before he saw her.  She swept into the foyer, a plump, cheerful woman who always seemed happy to see guests.  “Hector, so good to see you,” she said.  “What brings you here tonight?  Hopefully not any more of that dreary business?”

“More work, I’m afraid,” Hector said.  He forced himself to smile.  “Lord Estrel and I will need to discuss it for a few hours, I think.”

She shook her head, “Always so serious.  I can tell whatever news has you here so late worries you.  Do not take the world’s burdens on your shoulders, Hector, or it will send you to your grave early, a bitter man.”

Hector stared at her for a long moment, “I am the master of the guard, and Baron Estrel’s military captain.  It is my duty to worry, and to guard these lands for Lord Estrel, and his and your duties to defend the people of Longhaven as the Baron and Baroness.”

She rolled her eyes, “I agree, and you’ll not hear me say otherwise.  If you’ll remember, I have backed every one of your arguments with my husband.  But worry and fear will drag you down, weigh down your spirit, and will age you.  Do not forget to find time for friendship, love and even a family,” Lady Rinata said.

“Thank you for your concern,” Hector said, and felt a surge of guilt as he forced himself to meet her eyes.  “But I must speak with your husband.” He glanced at Sergeant Campbell, “The Sergeant here is from the town of Western Reach.  He’s just returned from visiting family there, I wonder if you’d care to discuss the latest from your home?”

“Why, certainly,” Lady Rinata said.  She immediately turned to the Sergeant.

Hector brushed past her, followed by Sergeant Grel.  They ascended the stairs, and then walked down the hall to the library.  As expected, he saw Captain Grayson, Baron Estrel’s personal armsman outside.  “Evening Robert,” he said in greeting.

“Lord Hector,” the armsman nodded, “Good to see you back, the Baron had not expected your return so soon.  I take it you have news about the Armen?”

“He won’t like it,” Hector said.

Grayson gave him a sad nod.  Hector knew that of all the people privy to the entire picture, Baron Estel’s personal armsman understood best the precarious state of their defenses.  Under other circumstances, Hector knew he could count on the man to provide more weight to his own arguments.

“Well, there may be some shouting,” Hector said.  “I’ll ask that you let him get over his anger without interruption.”

“More like you shout at him to get some sense in his head about this,” Grayson said with a smile.  “But I’ll take your meaning.  Sergeant Grel and I will wait out here and have a good chat while you talk with the Baron.”

Hector could not force himself to meet his friend’s eyes as he stepped past him into the library.

He found his cousin seated at the table, back to the door.  For a moment, a cowardly part of Hector wanted to do the deed then, but he had to at least try to get his cousin to see reason, one last time..

It would prove better in the long run.

“My lord,” Hector said.  His cousin waved a hand for him to circle around the other side of the table.  Baron Estrel did not look up from his book.

Hector glanced at the pile of books as he passed, and he grimaced.  He did not know how such drivel had survived since the Starborn’s arrival.  They included social programs for the poor, and extensive taxation of the wealthy merchant class to fund programs that turned productive members of society into useless drones.  Worst of the ideology, Hector thought of how he gelded the military and his policy of bribery and appeasement of enemies and barbarians.

Hector had no grasp over the history of those books, but he saw the effects on the Barony of Longhaven.  He had no desire to see the end of this particular experiment.  “My lord, I’ve just returned from meeting with my spymaster.  The Armen intend to invade with this next summer.  I have come to ask that our latest shipment of tribute be retained and used to bolster our forces.”

“What?” Estel looked up from his books.  “Hector, you can’t be serious.  I just spoke with the emissary of one of the Semat clans, who assured me that they’ve no intention to resort to military violence as long as we pay them their rightful share of wealth.  We have extorted their lands for too long, and their anger is just something that occurs naturally due to the difference in wealth between their lands and ours.”

Hector took a deep breath, “Whatever the cause, cousin, the effect will result in the destruction of the city of Longhaven and the enslavement of our people.  Hold back the tribute, and send for troops from Duke Peter, else we will face raids which my men cannot hold back.”

“No, this is unacceptable,” Baron Estrel shook his head.  “You always see so much of a threat from these people.  I don’t understand your bigotry.  You even took one of their women as a mistress!”

“I have seen what they will do, you idiot, and I am trying my best to prevent that,” Hector snapped.

“You can’t talk to me like that,” Baron Estrel rose from his chair.

“Sit down and shut your mouth and listen,” Hector shouted.  He saw his cousin’s jaw drop in shock.  He doubted that any man had dared even raise his voice in his presence.  “You have bankrupted our Barony, turned one of the most prosperous cities in the Duchy of Masov into paupers.  The Duke has requested his taxes, and I know that we’ll barely be able to pay our own debts, much less pay our dues to him.  Your father’s military program has fallen into disarray, which is why Duke Peter sent me here in the first place, to prevent Armen raids.”

“Which I have prevented.  Since we began the tribute program, no Armen have raided our lands!” Baron Estel said.  “And I-”

“Those tributes increase every year.  And no matter what, we will be unable to pay them next year,” Hector said.  “Which even the Armen realize, and so they intend to raid us and take what is left by force.”  Hector leaned over the table.  “I refuse to allow that, cousin.  I will do everything in my power to prevent it… even if it means removing you.”

“But…” His cousin paled, then he shook his head and sat up straight, “You don’t have that authority, only the Duke does, and he would not listen to you.”

“No… he wouldn’t, not with how you’ve downplayed my reports.  He doesn’t have the full picture.  I don’t have that authority… but I have that power, as your military commander.  While you have constantly belittled your guard, and undercut their loyalty to you by cutting their pay and treating them as little more than servants.”

Duke Estrel went ghostly white.  He hunched forward in his chair, almost as if he expected a blow.  “You would not dare…”

“I do not want to,” Hector said softly.  “You are my cousin, and whatever your faults, I do not wish to see you dead, much less do the deed myself.  But I will, if you force my hand.”  He met his cousin’s gaze, and for a moment, he thought he saw the man realize Hector’s own seriousness.

Then Baron Estrel sat up straight, “No, I call your bluff.  You won’t do it, not with how Duke Peter will react.  You would face execution, or worse, the Traitor’s Death.  No, I relieve you of command, Hector.  You will place yourself under house arrest, and await my judgment.  I understand the pressures you are under, and I will be lenient when I take that into consideration.”

Hector closed his eyes, “Very well, cousin.”

He drew his sword and swung it in one swift motion.  The blade slashed across his cousin’s throat, and a spray of blood fanned out across his books.  Baron Estrel fell back in his chair, and his hands grasped at his ripped throat.

“I am sorry,” Lord Hector said.  “But you left me no choice.”

He walked past the table, and to the door.  He took a deep breath, then opened it.

He saw Robert Grayson turn.  The old armsman had a moment to see Hector in the doorway, bloodied sword drawn.  Hector did not give him time to react.  He stepped forward and drove his blade into the armsman’s chest, all the way to the hilt, then caught him as he slumped.

“Why…” Grayson whispered.

“Because there was no other way,” Hector said.

He lowered his dead friend to the floor, and glanced at Sergeant Grel.  “Secure the room.  No one enters without my word.”

The sergeant gave him a somewhat shaky nod.

Hector drew the armsman’s sword.  He retraced his steps to the foyer, and found Sergeant Campbell and Lady Rinata had paused their conversation.  Estrel’s wife looked up at him with a look of confusion.  “Hector, I thought I heard something…”  Her eyes dropped to the sword in his hand.

She reacted without hesitation.  Sergeant Campbell’s hand had dropped to his own blade, but Lady Rinata whipped a hidden knife from her sleeve and drove it into his throat before he could react.

Hector gave a curse, and ran towards her.  She ran for the door.

Hector leapt off the stairs and felt something pop in his ankle as he landed in a stumble, between her and the doors.

She tried to skid to a stop, but the smooth stone tiles made her slide towards him.

Hector brought the sword up in a lunge.  She twisted to the side at the last instant, and his strike caught her through the side rather than cleanly through the heart.  She let out a shrill scream of pain, even as she whipped her blade at his face.

Hector dropped the sword and stumbled back.  He clutched at his face in pain.  He heard the doors open behind him.

He turned to find the two armsmen from outside.  They stared between him and the wounded Lady Rinata in shock for a second.  Hector used their hesitation.  He reached down and ripped the sword out of her, and spun to attack the nearest.  His sword caught the younger man before he could get his own blade out.  The other leapt to attack with a shout of alarm.

Hector blocked the strike, then lunged to run the guard through.

He looked down and saw Rinata clutch at her side.  “Why, we loved you like a brother, why would you-”

Hector thrust down with the sword.  He left it planted in her heart.

The Evolution of Fantasy

Fantasy as a genre has its origins in the myths and legends of ancient times.  These myths are often seen as primitive man’s attempts to explain the unexplainable.  Yet in modern times, we have explainations for almost everything… so why the interest in such things?  Personally, I think it is some attempt by us to recreate some of the mystery.  Some people turn to tabloids and conspiracy theories to spin wild tales… and the more mentally stable of us look to spin wild stories in other worlds.  But… I digress.  For this entry, I’ll go into a brief history of the genre of fantasy, talk a bit about some of the current trends of Epic Fantasy I’ve seen as a reader and a writer, and then write a bit about where I see the genre is headed.  I’ll also recommend some authors whose works I think are worthy of checking out.

The first ‘real’ fantasy authors included Rudyard Kipling and Edgar Rice Burroughs who pioneered the field.  Tolkien and Robert E Howard’s many stories broadened it and yet opened it out into two very different areas.   Tolkien’s works gained more wide-stream attention, for a number of reasons, but Robert Howard’s various works still maintain a substantial following.  Other authors like C.S. Lewis and Lloyd Alexander also had their parts.  These earlier authors often featured themes of good versus evil and heroes whose journeys and quests caused profound changes upon their worlds.  The overall themes and concepts tended to be heroes doing good things (or in the case of Conan, living by a barbarian code) as well as the tendency to reject technology and industrialism.  This was the general theme for the more popular and lasting epic and high fantasy for a while.  This changed somewhat with authors like Terry Brooks and David Eddings, who wrote less idealized stories, and more morally ambiguous characters.  Terry Goodkind, George RR Martin, Harry Turtledove and Robert Jordan led the way in the 1990’s with a host of epic fantasy series.  Fantasy became mainstream almost overnight, and the current round of epic fantasy began.  These authors virtually cast the mold for the ‘ideal’ Epic Fantasy series, with overnight blockbusters that continue to sell twenty plus years later.

That leads us into the current setting for Epic Fantasy, with my topic being about the current trends.  The changes brought on by the surge in readership in the 1990’s is still seen.  Authors like George RR Martin continue to sell books in the millions, have TV shows or movies, and have a massive fan base.  Their writing often includes morally ambiguous characters, convoluted plots, and severe, often drastic consequences for the characters as a consequence of their actions.  The pioneers of these types of books are often extremely proficient at both storytelling and manipulation of the reader’s emotions.  A disturbing trend, as I see it, is flood of books and authors who are not up to those standards.  The Epic Fantasy surge has led to dozens of series that come across as formulaic or rote.  There are a wide variety that follows the Campbellian Monomyth to the letter.  They have the main character on the Hero’s Journey.  They have the love interest.  They have the morally ambiguous companion/guide.  They have the mentor.  These stories check off all of the boxes, but they lack the passion and creativity of their predecessors.  Some authors have tried to replace that passion with grittiness or realism.  They often use anti-heroes or simply use lesser villains as the heroes (which can work, if done well) who turn the theme still darker and more ponderous.  In the rush to make money, fantasy has become exactly what we seek to avoid in real life: boring.  Other writers have sought to do something new or bold by changing the rules: fantasy worlds without magic or magic systems that work in some new or innovative way.  Yet I think in the roots, Fantasy started as escapism, a rejection of the world, if only for a short time, and a means to explore the imagination.  The trend of books that I’ve seen are book after book churned out by the big publishing houses, each looking for that next Robert Jordan or George RR Martin.  To me, at least as a reader, that gets old.  Fantasy, by its nature, is something that thrives on new and interesting, which is one reason we’ve seen the shift to urban fantasy around the turn of the century and more recently the expansion of steampunk.  Epic Fantasy has become too dark and too boring to be the inspiration to imagination it once was.

So what do I see in the future of epic fantasy?  As a genre, I think it hasn’t changed enough in recent times.  I think that new authors and new ideas will soon force it to change.   Evolution is a natural thing and something that will help that evolution along is the self-publishing market.  The variety of books that have become available means that new ideas and new blood is bound to shake things up.  Traditional publishing has stuck to what worked (which makes sense, they’re in the business of making money), but individuals, if they want to stand out, can’t afford to do that.  As a whole, I think we’ll see a lot of new ideas and concepts and hopefully some big changes overall in the market.

As a reference, here’s some authors and their books, both old and new, that are worth looking into for Epic Fantasy:

Robert Howard’s Conan series

Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings

David Eddings’ Belgariad

Terry Brooks’s Sword of Shannara

Ryk Spoor’s Phoenix Rising

Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time

Lloyd Alexander’s Prydan series

David Weber’s Oath of Swords

Kal’s Writing Worlds

Now that the insanity of Dragon*Con is past, I think it’s time to tell you all a bit about what I’m writing, what I’m working on, and most importantly, what I’ve got in the chute.

Currently, I’m actively writing in four universes. Two are space opera, one is straight military science fiction, and the last is an epic fantasy setting. I currently have four completed novels, six completed novellas, and some indeterminate number of short stories, all in these same four universes. Each of the novels is intended to be the first books of their own series, while the novellas are a series themselves.

I’ll go into more depth on each of the individual books in a later post, but I thought I’d give an overview here, and later on I’ll link the post here to those later posts.

My first published book, the novella Renegades: Deserter’s Redemption, is the first story in a serial that takes place in what I call the Mira universe. It’s a series of short stories and novellas that cover the adventures of a band of, well… renegades. The second novella, Renegades: The Gentle One, is set from the perspective of Ariadne, a psychic and all around nice person who just happens to light people on fire when she loses her temper. My novel, The Fallen Race, is also in this universe, and there is some overlap and interaction between the two series, mostly in the big events but sometimes in individual characters as well. The Fallen Race is a hundred and twenty thousand word novel and is set around five years after the Renegades series begins. The Fallen Race is the story of Captain Lucius Giovanni, the captain of a warship whose nation and home have fallen to aliens and who seeks to take a stand and make a difference.

My military science fiction setting is the Star Portal setting. In it, a very distant cluster of colonies has become separated from Earth. Alone, they’ve encountered several hostile alien races. In wars of vast scale they’ve managed to survive, but most worlds suffer as protectorates of the core colonies and the Star Guard. My first novel in this setting is Fenris Unchained which is a hundred thousand word novel. Fenris Unchained follows the story of a sister and brother who get dragooned into helping to stop a berserk automated warship from destroying a planet.

The third setting is what I call the Eden universe, and my first book in that is the Eden Insurrection. This universe is set several thousand years in the future. Technology, society, and humanity itself have stagnated and the power brokers within the Confederation prefer it that way. Several waves of colonization have spread humanity in a vast sprawl across the galaxy. In the Eden Insurrection, various factions of humanity seek to seize power within the Confederation and to forge it into a weapon to seize still more power. It is a complex story, with varied plots and morally ambiguous characters.

The last setting is my take on epic fantasy, with the novel Echo of the High Kings. I’ve personally grown frustrated with the slew of generic epic fantasy novels I’ve seen. Particularly where magic is poorly understood or virtually nonexistent, yet technology is undeveloped. I’m also sick of the characters who seem to be recycled from multiple books: the archetypical hero, the scoundrel, the damsel in distress. Or the writer goes the other way and has characters so morally ambiguous they can’t pull on their boots without stabbing someone in the back. The characters in these books are real people, with complex motivations as well as reasoning and logic to their behavior. I also did my own take on magic, one where I applied scientific method to how wizards develop magic. Here the magic has rules, and follows some fundamental physics. Conservation of energy is a big one… so are the principles of thermodynamics. But I think I kept most of that off scene, so for those of you (like me) who hate the math… well, just set back and enjoy the ride.

So that’s what I’m currently working on. The first novel in the chute is The Fallen Race, which dependent upon real world stuff, I should have out sometime near the end of September or early October. The next novel out after that will be Echo of the High Kings, my epic fantasy. All of this is being self-published, and will be made available on Amazon and Smashwords (and through them, their affiliates: B&N, Sony, and Apple stores). My goal is to publish a novella a month, but as I’m also active duty military, that could be somewhat problematical. Since I’m doing this in my (limited) free time, as well as writing… well, I’m doing what I can to get them out. If you like what you see, please tell others. They can find my stuff on Amazon or Smashwords or just follow the Buy My Books link at the top of the page. Monetary incentive means I’ll work harder at getting things written, edited, and published.