Sir Anton van Pulowicz took one last look at the army just coming into view over the horizon. He turned back to the castle and canvassed its defenses. Its walls were massive and substantial enough to withstand a long bombardment; they were well-perforated with arrow slits from which archers could pepper any attacking army. Its moat was deep and murky, with ripples across the surface from unknown creatures moving just beneath. All of these defenses would do little good against a determined attack given how badly outnumbered defenders were. If the invading army planned a long siege, the castle had few enough provisions and no hope of relief.What do you think? Another 10,000 pages or so and I've got a million dollar fantasy epic?
Anton nodded at the gate guards and paced over the moat’s drawbridge, marched past the portcullis, and stalked through the tunnel beneath the murder holes. His stride halted abruptly in the audience chamber. Long-buried memories suddenly flooded his consciousness. The castle at Hauxford had been the site of both his greatest triumph and his greatest loss.
As a youth, barely out of his teens, he had won the joust and the melee during the great tournament of Hauxford. His victory led to his knighting by the Viscount de Crowsey, but when he went to celebrate his victory, he found his love, the maid Ysmene, kissing his cousin Galabrad, her gown badly askew. Anton had turned on his heel and joined the campaign against the Pursanii during the War of Convictions. He could not count the compromises he had made in service of the crown’s extermination of the natives of Pursane. Yet his loyalty to the king had been rewarded with higher and higher offices, and now he had been given command of the garrison at Hauxford. Had he not been so driven by anger and jealousy, he never would have embarked on that genocidal course in the first place. But, after he embarked on the campaign, his honor would not let him betray his vow to his sovereign.
Reliving that fateful morning and the purity of his victory reminded him of hope and innocence. This time he would not let bitterness cloud his judgment. With little hope of relief, Anton needs must avoid a siege. The invading army was led by Manard O’Lethe, a veritable giant of a man, brutal but vain. If Anton could tempt Manard, Man to his few friends, into single combat, Anton was sure he could emerge victorious, if perhaps not whole. Anton had watched Man fight, had fought beside him for years until the deplorable affair of drunken Le Vint and his accident at dinner with the goat cheese and makerouns. Man was overconfident, too aggressive, and telegraphed his blows; he relied too much on his enormous size and strength advantage. That alone was enough to destroy most men. Stepping into a circle with the giant was often so terrifying that the battle was won before the first blow was struck.
However, there was one thing Anton was good at, and that was killing men. Perhaps even Man. If he could somehow prod O’Lethe into single combat, Anton could save the garrison. He did not like to think about the sacrifice he might have to make to survive such a battle, but it would be worth it if he could save his hold on Hauxford and his recruits.
First, though, he needed a shield. His own had been smashed to flinders in the last battle as they retreated to Hauxford manor. His audience chambered was festooned with the detritus of a decade of military campaigns and tournaments. Anton looked over the escutcheons and weapons hanging on the wall. He could not even remember how he had acquired most of them. An enormous black blade carved with indecipherable runes, nearly as tall as Anton, hung behind the dais. To the left hung the Three Hearts and Three Lions shield of the Son of the Carl of Holger. Farther to the left hung another shield, seven stars and seven stones and one white tree. To the right hung a lion rampant on red and gold. To the right hung the de Crowsey rooster, rampant on a red background, the Bantam of the Bloodfields. He took down the de Crowsey rooster, a reminder that he had unhorsed the viscount’s son in that long-ago tournament. Anton’s wearing this shield would enrage O’Lethe. O’Lethe had always contended that Anton had not deserved the victory. This shield and, perhaps some needling about O’Lethe’s role in the affair of the makerouns, would be enough to push O’Lethe beyond reason. O’Lethe’s well-known failures of self-control was Anton’s only hope to save his keep and his people.
Anton secured the shield on his arm and went to stand beside the murky moat to await the arrival of the advancing army.
Then he was eaten by a crocodile.
Thursday, July 5, 2012
Fantasy Fiction: A Fray of Antagonists
With the recent success of certain epic fantasy novels, I thought I would try my hand at the genre.