I’ve always loved fantasy. That Tolkien bloke started it, a Dark Elf made it worse and by the time I’d got through two sets of chronicles of a certain leprous anti-hero I knew I would be addicted for life. If I had any lingering doubts the Malazan Books of the Fallen killed them off faster than a character played by (the incomparable) Sean Bean.
I may love the genre but I have to admit that it does on times all get a little bit overblown and…well…massive.
When you see the word fantasy your first thoughts will revolve around dragons, wizards and some obligatory items such as:-
A hunk of bread
A wheel of cheese
A side of venison
A tankard of ale
And. So. On.
If you’ve read lots of fantasy your next thought will be It sounds awesome but am I really prepared to commit to the next twenty seven books in the series…?
Despite having read so much fantasy, I feel ludicrously inadequate when it comes to writing fantasy. I can’t tell my hauberk from my gauntlet and the inner workings of castles are a world of mystery (I knew I should have paid more attention to the kid at school with all the dungeons and dragons paraphernalia and the 93 sided dice). When I write fantasy it tends to poke fun at the genre but in a good-natured, I-loves-ya-really kind of a way – it’s an easy way to overcome my limitations. Quick…make a fart joke involving a hobbit…someone just got stabbed by a curvy sword and I can’t remember the name of it.
It’s a tricky genre to handle successfully in a short piece. All that world-building takes time and as such I’ve come across very few short fantasy stories that I’ve enjoyed.
A little while back I created a character called Aloren Rend and my plan was to write a solid, interesting fantasy short story. The trouble is, I’ve introduced him, set him up nicely…and I can’t decide what the hell to do with him next.
So for what he’s worth…here’s an intro to Aloren Rend, or, as I like to call him fantasy-dude-wot-has-been-stuck-in-my-story-file-for-months-doing-two-thirds-of-sod-all.
Aloren Rend stamped his way through the river of shit and blood covering the cobbles of Killian’s Hill. The rain slanted in with the fury of gods but Rend, for the most part, remained untouched beneath his layers of leather and steel. Being dry did nothing to salve the sourness of his mood. The few that ventured near fled for the shadows on catching his stare. None followed.
As he crested the first, and smallest, of Killian’s three rises Rend stepped off the main street, lost his footing momentarily on a finger wedged against one of the broken stones, swore, and turned down a narrow alley. The stooped and broken buildings on either side offered some protection against the elements but magnified the diluted stench of the main cobbleway. Rend spat as the breath gagged in his throat and stepped into a doorway bathed in septic yellow light.
“What colour is the moon?”
“Red like the blood in our veins.” Or what’s left of it thought Rend as he waited for the bolts to slide back. He nodded at the squat man holding the door open as he passed and received a grunt in return. He shook the rain out of his close-cropped hair as he walked along the corridor. As he reached the door at the far end he knocked and opened at the same time.
“Please. Come in. I’d hate to keep you waiting. Still raining I see?”
Rend scratched at his scalp. “It’s been raining for four days straight and yet somehow this shit hole only gets dirtier. How is that possible?”
The tall man pushed himself out of his chair with a sigh, moved to the table and filled two glasses. “How indeed. How indeed.”
Rend took the glass and raised it briefly in the man’s direction.
“And to you. Please, sit my friend we have much to discuss.”
Rend drained his glass and held it out for more. “Let’s get something straight. I’m not your friend, your ally or your cohort. I care nothing for this place and I care nothing for you.” He drained his glass a second time and held it out again. “What I do care about, very deeply, is your money and your ability to part with it once I fulfil my end of whatever bargain you summoned me here to agree to.”
The man lowered himself into his chair with scant grace. Smiled. “Very well, I won’t waste your time. I need you to kill someone for me.”
“Then I believe we can do business.”
Thanks to a bona-fide Stormcrow disciple Simon Bloomer for the excellent picture.