Delegation (30/11/09)

Posted in News

I have not changed a word of this. Not a word (except for the spelling).

The Great Battle of the Knights and the Dragon


Christopher Deas

Age 6

Once upon a time there was a big tall castle, where a brave king lived with his knights and they were fighting other knights.

Just then a yellow fire-breathing dragon came and blew fire everywhere at the top of the castle and the fire nearly killed all of his shiny guards. So the king phoned his next door neighbour to help his shiny guards to kill the dragon and they fed the dragon and they asked why he was blowing up the castle.

In the end the dragon said nothing so the knights killed him and turned him into hog-roast and ate him up because that’s what knights do at the end of a big adventure.

The End.

Right. Fleshed out to 100000 words, that’ll do nicely.

Arcs (25/11/09)

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Arcs arcs arcs lov-er-ly ARCS. They’re on their way, people. To, er… wherever they go.

Dragonmeet (22/11/09)

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Dragonmeet. It has dragon in the title, and I shall be there, dusting down the dice and running a short little game of Dungeons and Dragons. What to take on the role of Sollos or Kemir for a few hours? Want to be an alchemist? Or a dragon-knight with a real live dragon at your beck and call (play-test group one called him Fluffy. Group two called him Tantrum. generally he did more damage to them by accident than anything else in the story-line, but I’m sure next weekend’s gang will do much, much better. Heh). There might even be a consequential short story, once the great re-write-athon is done with.

Signings are a distinct possibility. There’s also a panel just after midday with a party of authors-who-game.

If you’re still reading this and still wondering what pn earth a Dragonmeet is when it’s at home, it’s a gaming convention. You can find out more here, along with where (London) and when (next Saturday). The prestigious guest list follows:

Erik Mona (Paizo Publishing/Pathfinder)
Robin D. Laws (Author/Game Designer)
Simon Washbourne (Barbarians of Lemuria)
Brennan Taylor (IPR/Galileo Games)
Andrew Looney (Looney Labs)
Gregor Hutton (Box Ninja; 3:16)
Gareth Hanrahan (Game Designer & Author)
Jeff Richard (Moon Design)
Mark Barrowcliffe (Author; ‘The Elfish Gene’)
Jonny Nexus (Author; ‘Game Night’)
David Devereux (Author; Hunter’s Moon)
Jon Hodgson (Artist)
Linda Pitman (Artist)

See some of you there, I hope.

Die Drachen kommen (17/11/09)

Posted in News

If it’s weird and wonderful seeing yourself in print, it’s even more weird and wonderful seeing yourself in print in another language, and somehow being in magazine is even even more weird and wonderful. Particularly a german one (we’re a half german family here, y’see).

Also, for anxiously waiting German readers, publication seems to have moved forward to the 8th December. At least, according to anyway. Although if the translation of the reviews are anything to go by, I’d take that with at least a small pinch of salt…

Anyway, the English translation of the aricle follows for anyone who’d prefer not to read the original through a microscope. On why I write fantasy, then, and its enduring appeal…

How did I become a fantasy writer? I’d like to pretend that people ask me this question all the time, but actually they don’t. Mostly what they ask (if they ask anything at all) is why aren’t you a science fiction writer? After all, I have a degree in physics, not in history. I have been a rocket scientist (to be fair, I’ve never made the bit that goes whoosh, but I have helped to make the bits that sit on top the bits that go whoosh, and that, my friends, is the hard part) so why don’t I write stories about rockets? Now I like science fiction almost every bit as much as I like fantasy, but it seems to me that there is a difference, a very fundamental one. Science fiction can be about ideas. Fantasy, in the end, needs to be about people. Fantasy doesn’t have a choice. There’s nowhere else for it to go. So I choose fantasy first, because for me, people are nearly always more interesting than ideas.

Well fine, but still, why fantasy? Why not write about people in the real world? Why not write crime or thrillers or love stories. Better than that, if you like people so much, why spend your time all alone writing at all? What does fantasy offer that the real world does not? I think that is the question. It offers something, that’s for sure, something that matters to a lot of people. Many of the most successful series of books in the world, it seems, are fantasy series. Why? Are fantasy writers so much better than other writers? No, of course not. So it must be the fantasy itself. And if a fantasy story has to be about people to succeed, then what does fantasy tell us about people that other kinds of story can not?

I think it is still the wrong question. Try this one: What can fantasy tell us about ourselves as people that other kinds of story can not? Now we begin to get close to why I write fantasy, why I love to read these stories, and why (in my opinion) fantasy is as successful as it is. The heart of any fantasy story is a world that is simple. It may not always seem it, but compared to the real world, it is. The good people are good, the bad people are bad, there is right and there is wrong. This is one thing. Another is that anyone in a fantasy story can be the hero. Rich or poor, weak or strong, black or white. Why do we like this? Because the real world is so very big and so very complicated, and because in the real world almost nothing is clear; it is all very grey and much harder to tell right and wrong apart. Because the real world is full of things we think could be better. It is full of things we want to change but we can’t. Sometimes we can’t change them because we don’t have the power. More often we can’t change things because we simply don’t know how. Fantasy, and only fantasy, is an escape from this. An escape to a world where we can understand and we can have the power and we can fight for what we believe in and we can be the hero and what’s more we can win! It’s good for us too. It helps us to keep on trying in the much more difficult world of reality, because it gives us belief that if we just try hard enough, if we could overcome just a little more, then we can change this world too. The best fantasy stories can inspire us to be more than think we are, and that is something few other stories can do.

Why do I write fantasy? Because there’s a part of me that’s still sixteen years old and ready to take on the world. Because deep inside I still want to be a hero, no matter how hard a thing that is to be. And because I know I am not alone.

The Gazetteer (10/11/09)

Posted in News

Stage one of the gazetteer is complete, which is to say that all the content has been written, re-written at immense effort, proofed at great expense and mushed up with great glee into a single monolithic .pdf. There are 180 pages and a little over 150 entries (all in alphabetical order), and you can download it here.

The plan, eventually, is to put it on-line with hyper links between the entries. The chances of this being done by the end of the year are, frankly, remote, and it might have to wait until I mysteriously break both my ankles and end up bed-ridden for a solid month. But hey, you never know. If the response to this vast effort is tumble weed rolling across the comment-book of this here web-site, why then I just might not bother at all. I figure if you’re a die-hard fan, you probably download the whole thing anyway, right? So – honestly, readers – would it actually be useful to have on-line as linked entries?

As an example, here’s one of the longer entries, the Palace of Paths, the fortress overlooking the city of Evenspire, home of King Valgar and Queen Almiri that gets a little more than a mention in The King of the Crags.

The Palace of Paths

Posted in Uncategorized

The Palace of Paths is built on a flat-topped hill in the centre of the Blackwind Dales, overlooking both the Ashdale River to the north and the Blackwind River to the south. Unlike other fortresses and palaces across the realms, the Palace of Paths did not grow up around an existing system of caves or tunnels, and neither was it built to rule an existing settlement. Indeed, when construction first began, the Blackwind Dales were largely an empty wilderness – a land nominally divided between the lords of Outwatch and Gardin’s Rock, but to all intents and purposes ignored by both. The Palace of Paths was intended as a purpose-built eyrie and fortress that would act as a buffer between the populous realms south of the Purple Spur and the powerful (in terms of dragons) but sparse threat from the northern blood-mage realms. Some historians allege that the fortress was never even meant to be built; that just the beginnings of it were expected to draw the blood-mages out of the desert eyries, precipitating a war that would unite the increasingly discordant voices of the southern realms and eradicate the blood-mage menace once and for all. It is not possible to say whether this is truth or speculation – but if it is the truth, it would be hard to find from anywhere else in history a stratagem that backfired more completely and spectacularly.

The Palace of Paths was begun in the year 84, forty years before the crowning of Narammed as the first Speaker of the Realms. Thousands of men travelled in great convoys along what is now the Evenspire Road escorted by hundreds of dragons. An area of roughly three acres was levelled some fifty strides below the original peak of the hill. Massive trenches were dug and filled with stone and rubble to form the footings of the cascading curtain walls that ultimately gave the Palace of Paths its name. A fifteen kilometre tamped-earth ramp was built to transport marble and materials to the construction site from the valley of the Blackwind River, while harnessed dragons pulled the blocks used for the walls on specially constructed wagons and raised the blocks into their desired positions. Water was drawn from both the Blackwind and Ashdale rivers by a series of rope and bucket mechanisms and piped into three vast cisterns at the top of the hill, from where it was then piped around the complex (these pumps and cisterns still exist and operate today). Laid end to end, the layered curtain walls would stretch for around a dozen miles, and eventually took roughly twelve years to complete.

The remaining parts of the palace (the central fortified palace, barracks, eyrie and gatehouses) took an additional decade, while the tunnel complex dug deep into the hills (believed to reach as low as the level of the Blackwind, the higher of the two nearby rivers) took another decade still. Since the Palace of Paths was built in stages, discrepancies exist in completion dates due to differing opinions on ‘completion’. For example, the fortress, barracks and eyrie were essentially complete by 101, and were a permanent home to a hundred dragons and a thousand soldiers even while work continued on the rest of the complex. These soldiers were modelled on the palace guards of the Pinnacles but were armoured in dragon-scale and trained specifically in techniques for fighting against dragons. It is very likely that these soldiers formed the nucleus of Narammed’s Adamantine Men, and certainly of Vishmir’s later re-casting of them (although the Adamantine Men do not acknowledge this).

The palace was a great success in one respect; it is certainly the largest and most impressive fortification anywhere within the realms. However, construction of the fortress was disastrous for the Order of the Dragon in two ways. The first was the sheer scale of the enterprise: estimates of the cost of construction vary, but the total cost of building the Palace of Paths has been estimated to be equivalent to the current entire annual revenue of Furymouth, the Silver City and the City of Dragons combined. Given the smaller scale of the realms prior to the time of the speakers and the substantially lower population available for taxation, the costs of building the greatest fortress on earth were surely crippling, and this is borne out in the records of the time. However, even this pales beside Prince Jahan’s defection from the Order of the Dragon, complete with fortress, army and an eyrie full of dragons. By declaring Evenspire as a new and independent realm (doubtless heavily encouraged and supported by the very northern realms against whom he was supposed to guard), Prince Jahan precipitated the crisis that led to Narammed, the first speakers, the formation of the Adamantine Men and the separation of the Order of the Scales and the Order of the Dragon. It could also be argued that by doing this, he sowed the seeds of the War of Thorns and the complete collapse of the Order of the Dragon itself.

The Palace of Paths was constructed using materials from all over the realms, and it is estimated that over one thousand dragons were used to transport building materials, workers, foodstuff and other supplies while also providing a constant watch over its construction. Despite the grim functional nature of most of the palace, Prince Jahan’s throne room is a marvel equal to anything south of the Purple Spur (and possibly explains some of the colossal expense of the project). There is local translucent white marble, but also jasper from the Oordish Moors and jade and crystal from the Taiytakei traders of Furymouth (including an entire throne carved from a single piece of jade). There is turquoise from the Raksheh Forest, lapis lazuli from Three Rivers, sapphires from the Desert of Stone and carnelian from the Worldspine. In all, twenty eight types of precious and semi-precious stones are inlaid into the white marble of the palace royal chambers. To anyone with a knowledge of where these stones can be found, it is clear that much of this wealth was supplied from the northern realms (presumably in secret), and thus one may assume that Prince Jahan’s defection was not a moment of impulse but the result of many years of careful manipulations. Particularly magnificent is the Gallery of Glass linking the king and queen’s apartments, featuring some of the finest glass in the realms (courtesy of the Taiytakei) and later copied by speaker Ayzalmir in the Adamantine Palace.

Following the rise of Narammed, Prince Jahan continued to work on the palace until his death in 145, with construction financed primarily by the succession of his own brother Mehmeth as the second speaker following Narammed. The principle additions in this time are the two immense watchtowers, one at either end of the palace, which look out over the Blackwind River to the south and the Ashdale to the north. Following Jahan’s death, and devoid of almost any useful incomes, the later kings and queens of the Ash Throne struggled to afford the upkeep of such a vast fortress, and several parts have since fallen into disrepair. Works were begun to rectify this under Speaker Voranin before the realms were swept into the War of Thorns; now, with Iyanza as the third speaker from the Blackwind Dales, the fortress is undergoing further renovations.

Names revisited (4/11/09)

Posted in News

OK, I give up. You win (you know who you are). Competition over.

If I’m ever short of inspiration, I’ll do this again. Almost every name suggested has had so much character that large tracts of story have sprung up fully formed around them, demanding to be written. Powers Radishfoot, hobbit PI: Noir fantasy with tea and biscuits. Cornelius Carbuncle: Debonair Moorcockian time-travelling scholar. Duckface Wokwok: Er… All right, maybe not that one.

I am quite confident, however, that nothing anyone else comes up with is going to make me spill more tea over myself than Fanny Proudfuck did.

Dear Rafa (3/11/09)

Posted in Critical Failures

OK, I was going to write something snarky about how wonderful it was that Liverpool have finally managed to sort out the problem that’s been holding them back for the last few seasons (namely getting far too many draws). Yeah, phew, good to be throwing that monkey off our backs. Perfect record so far this season too – not a single one…

Yes. I was going to do that, and then I read this and hey, we’re all armchair football managers right, what do we know <biting back the urge to seethe about Alonso going to Real Madrid. Biting. It. Back>?


So I’ll just sit here in bed, eating Chinese takeway, writing aimlesslessly amid a big pile of kittens, taking a break from the re-write-athon, thinking that yes, sometimes writing sucks like any other job. But not today.

Back to the un-real world next week with our silly name competition winner (still open, but the current number one is going to be hard to beat), news on the gazetteer and maybe one or two other things.

Dungeons and Dragons and Diamond Cascade (1/11/09)

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Right. Dungeons and Dragons. Other forms of role-playing games. If this is all some bizarre thing that weird folk get up to when they should be doing something more useful, you should probably stop reading around about now. You probably don’t want to know that I’ve been playing them for twenty-five years. You probably don’t want to know that they’re how I learned to put a story together, and to make it bend and flow around a strong character, sometimes more than one. You probably don’t want to know that I, a grown family man, still regularly pretend to be (currently) an over-sexed, racially prejudiced, selfishly opportunistic teenager much more interested in whores, drink and a good song (in roughly that order) than saving the world. You probably don’t care or even understand when I relate that my Dungeon-Master liked my book.

But hey! My Dungeon-Master liked my book, and that’s a pretty cool thing to know. So in honour of that, and hoping that one final nudge in the right direction will get me the +4 Longbow of Destruction and the Codpiece of  Mighty Prowess that I so richly deserve (but of course in no way, shape or form even remotely need), I’ve decided I shall publish the journal of Diamond Cascade, wanderer, womaniser, archer, songsmith and occasional accidental hero.

I’ll be putting this up as static pages so it won’t show in RSS feeds, but look for the note ‘Diamond Cascade has updated’ which will link to the latest update whenever a new one is available. I’ll shoot for once a week and see what happens.

In the mean time, here goes part one…

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

I’ve had many names. Cosaliades Ebron vel Huyma in the west of Demir, except that might get me killed. Ebra or Caltrop in Gammersbridge. Both wanted men in their own ways. A few wizards from North Horn Ridge might remember me as Tip-Tap. In Osmund the soldiers called me Vale. If you like, you can call me what the women in the streets of Neverrest called me: Diamond Cascade. On account of my eyes, they said. Pale and glittering and hard. I’m seventeen years old, full of piss and vinegar, I’ve walked a hundred miles to be here and I’ve got nothing except an old flute and an urgent need for some new boots. That story’s worth a mug of half-decent ale. Buy me another and I’ll sing you a song.

Nightall 1: Running out of options

I’m in the Fat Cockerel for the fifth night running. I’ve pretty much outstayed my welcome. Free board and lodgings has gone out the window. I’m down to a few free drinks from the bar. I get the message. Pay your way or piss off. Which is going to be a problem. I got enough for a few nights, if I don’t mind eating leftovers, and that’s it. Can’t go back to Gammersbridge. Still too hot. I’ve had enough of scraping a life out here in the country. Quiet it might be, but talk about dull. Same boring dumb-as-shit yokels come in every night without half a clue about what lies over the next hill, never mind other lands. Travellers come through. They throw me coins and looks of pity and next day they move on. Time I did the same.

Diamond Cascade and the Quest for Bat Shit

Well so much for that. Money in my pocket I suppose. Can’t wait to get out of this hole and spend it now. Off to Neverrest, where the grass is green and the girls are pretty. Or at least that was the plan…