Friday, September 3, 2010

Short Stuff: Take 2

Jan van Eyck, "Knights of Christ"
(detail from the Ghent Altarpiece).
Here are a couple short works of fantasy that comment on heroism from a third party's perspective.

"Regarding Sir Chahan," by Matthew Wuertz in Mindflights.

Cole of Arkessler, the narrator of this story, is a scholar tasked with recording a biography of Sir Chahan for the "annals of the knights of Salincia." Cole tells his story with a charming voice and wry sense of humor. After much traveling, Cole finds Sir Chahan at a festival. Cole's meeting with Chahan is comic and not at all auspicious. Chahan appears to be a boorish jerk, and Cole learns that Chahan will soon be leaving for a tournament. Cole travels with the party of seventeen knights, including their squires, pages, and followers. He interviews Chahan at night around the campfire. Towards the end of their journey to the tournament, they come across a merchant and his daughter, Mydrianna. Being citizens of Salincia and traveling to the same place as the tournament, the knights offer to escort the merchant. Cole finds the tournament, which lasts for weeks, bewildering and less than enjoyable. The merchant comes to Cole's room one morning with a wild story, claiming that Mydrianna has been kidnapped by darivs, evil creatures that live in the forest. Cole takes the news to Chahan and a group of knights and warriors leave the tournament to rescue Mydrianna. Cole sees a different side of the knights during the ensuing battle. The self-centered knights willingly sacrifice themselves to defend someone in peril. In this wonderful mix of humor, sadness, and heroism, Wuertz comments on human nature through Cole's transformation and growth. I so enjoyed the narrator's voice that I was sad to reach the story's end, but according to the author's website, "Regarding Sir Chahan" is the first of three stories about Cole. The second and third stories in the series will also be found in Mindflights.

"Homecoming," by Fran Jacobs in Golden Visions Magazine.

Most fantasy stories cover the run up to a confrontation, a fateful battle between good and evil, the story's climax. How many readers number the last chapters of The Lord of the Rings, when Frodo fades into obscurity and finally leaves the Shire, as their favorites? "Homecoming" tells the sad story of a hero after the heroism is done. Plucked from his life as a farm boy in a rural village, Tyran learns that he is really the Sun Prince of the prophecies, the one who would wield the Crystal Blade and banish the Dark One, restoring vigor to the land. Told by his sister Myla, the story begins when Tyran arrives home with a Princess in tow after vanquishing the enemy. Myla finds her brother much changed and not for better in her opinion. From Myla's perspective, we see the public and private sides of Tyran. Late one night, he confesses to her his doubts. He admits that the victory over the Dark One had nothing to do with his skill or strategies. Others planned everything. His only contribution, he laments, was his ability to use the Crystal Blade. Tyran is uncomfortable with his fame and status and longs for the life he once hoped for that is now forever lost. He leaves a celebration in his honor, returning home drunk. He insults his betrothed the Princess. After talking with his mentor, Tyran seems to recover some of his old cheer but not for long. Tyran's battle with self-doubt proves far more difficult than any confrontation with a physical foe.

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