(Bear with me on this one…)
Stormblood rode to the crest of the hill and squinted out across the bleak landscape with sharp, black eyes. The Eternal Mountains sat like hunched giants on the horizon, daring anyone to approach. Below him were the smoking Darklands with their sudden, glowing crevices and the firebeasts that lived on narrow ledges within them waiting, hungry for travellers just like him. He set his jaw in grim determination, knowing that was where he had to lead this group of humans and half-breeds. He turned to look back at them. They had been watching him closely as he surveyed the way ahead; they were nervous, but ready.
He was impressed with each of them. The old magician had earned his place with his knowledge of the ancient tongue, the only language used on this side of the Silver River. Stormblood doubted that the old man had much real magic, or he might have used it when they fought off the migrebeasts. He promised the Lady Lillian he would escort the magician to the Eternal Mountains and so he would keep his word. The two Eringore men and their silent communication with every living thing made Stormblood uncomfortable. No weapons but thoughts? Subtlety was not his talent—unless he was with a woman. Plenty of women have appreciated his subtlety.
But this woman, the tall, dark skinned beauty that had slipped into their camp one night during his watch (he still ground his teeth at the thought of that) and begged him to take her to the Eternal Mountains had not been interested in his subtlety, only his ability to lead her where no other could. He worried she would be a liability but even she had surprised him with her bravery over the past few days. The vicious attack from the skellers in the Olden Woods showed her skill with the spark-knife and he made a note that she would be especially useful as they crossed the Darklands where the firebeasts waited for them.
The half-elf scowled at Stormblood all the time, as if he smelled like a rotten regengut to the fey creature. Perhaps he did. He didn’t care. The elf must have thought his smell was worth enduring for the safety Stormblood could offer. No one alive in the Westlands had ever gone to the Eternal Mountains and returned, apart from Stormblood.
The pay to escort these people to the most terrifying place in the world was enough to build a palace. He didn’t do it for the pay, but for an agenda all his own, and known only by one other. If his plans weren’t successful the coins would be worthless, as there would be nothing left to buy. But these people didn’t need to know that. Yet.
Stormblood gripped the handle of WorldRage, his sword and favourite companion, forged in the fires deep in those mountains. He knew what price he’d have to pay on return to them, but he kept that to himself. He took a deep breath and turned his mount, walked the great warbeast past the others on their smaller horses and they all in turn followed as he made a path through the tall grass, towards the Wyrwoods that bordered the Darklands.
And so it began.
* * *
So that was a bit over the top but it was meant to be a tribute to fantasy fiction, not a real attempt. I’m writing a psychological thriller right now, but I must admit I am drawn to the world building, suspense creating aspects of creating good fantasy fiction. Perhaps one day.
I was in Waterstones the other day looking for more psychological thrillers to read, trying to decide between a Susan Hill and a Stella Rimington and discussing both with a bookseller.
(Note: I have a special respect for booksellers and you should too. They read a huge volume of books. They’re more interesting to talk to about the books than all the Amazon reviews in the world. And they’re not on commission so they will tell you how it is. I know all this because I was once a bookseller in London.)
Anyway, we were talking about the Susan Hill being a ghost story and so perhaps more suitable for this time of year and I added that mysteries, ghost stories and fantasy fiction seem to be the only genres I crave in Autumn. The bookseller said they sell more fantasy fiction in the autumn than at any other time of the year.
Why is that?
(It could be because the highest number of fantasy releases are in the autumn.)
Autumn is a time for watching the skies, gathering firewood and supplies, and preparing for the winter to come. (Winter is coming. Sorry, had to say it.) The darkness arrives earlier and we light the fires, pull in close around the hearth, hold a warm drink in our hands and then the story telling begins.
The echoes of times past are everywhere in Britain, where we live daily with artefacts from over 2000 years of human history. Echoes of the older religions based on the cycles of nature are also everywhere. These echoes draw our minds to wander and wonder; imagination is allowed to flex her muscles, shake her mane and run a little wild. We’re drawn to subjects that help us exercise the imagination just a bit more. Mysteries, thrillers, ghost stories and fantasy fiction do just that.
My usual walk across the fields, along the river and through the woods feels the moods change into autumn as well. In the summer a breeze ruffles the leaves, whips through the crops, lifts the ghost fairy seeds of dandelion flowers. In the autumn the damp stillness holds the sweet scent of the fallen leaves, until from somewhere beyond the river a breeze pauses, changes direction and chases along the Hawthorne hedges, picking off leaves as it goes, mischievous and irritable, curling up in the shadow of a stone wall, then races out again, finds me and lifts my hair then runs on through the darkness of the woods past the ancient oaks behind me. I shiver and think about the warm cup of tea and the roaring fire at the end of the walk. And maybe I’ll take the afternoon off, curl up in a chair by the fire and read a good book.
Autumn is also my favourite time to write and you can see why. The muses arrive on autumn breezes.
Are you a writer? When do you feel most inspired to create?