Round Two: My Fake Entry

As I thought about this prompt, I thought of the scene in the the classic movie Get Crazy, when Reggie Wanker emerges from a dressing room filled with naked women only to discover that the girlfriend he’s been ignoring (and who saw him in the room filled with naked women) is now with another guy. Said Reggie: “Betrayed! Turn your back for half a second and they stick a knife in it right up t’hilt.” As he goes back on stage (this has all occurred during a drum solo) he says. “I’ve finally found the meaning of the bleedin’ blues. Ol’ Reggie can take the pain… but can they?

Classic stuff. Malcolm McDowell makes a great Mick Jagger.

Anyway, I pondered for a while about what to do for my scene, but because I didn’t want to work too hard at it, I borrowed characters from a story I’ve already been fiddling with, called The Quest for the Important Thing to Defeat the Evil Guy. Tatra is a new addition, and hey, what high fantasy story can’t be improved with a smart-mouth goth chick? Once again I’m heavy on dialog without much physical action.

EXT. FOREST - NIGHT
Tatra (17, Goth - black hair and nails, black dress with metallic accessories) is staring into the campfire flames. She has a blanket wrapped over her shoulders. Nearby she can hear Bixby snoring gently. The rest of the party are arrayed on the ground, all asleep.
Kitty jumps up into Tatra's lap, purring softly.
TATRA
Hello, Kitty.
Kitty settles into her lap, and Tatra strokes her fur gently. Kitty's purring intensifies.
TATRA (CONT'D)
So pretty...
Tatra's fingers stop at the base of Kitty's skull.
TATRA (CONT'D)
I could snap your neck in half a heartbeat.
The purring stops. Kitty looks up at Tatra in surprise.
TATRA (CONT'D)
Can you talk like that?
Kitty shakes her head but doesn't try to escape.
TATRA (CONT'D)
I should probably just kill you.
Kitty tenses, and Tatra tightens her grip. They freeze that way for a few heartbeats, then Tatra relaxes slightly.
TATRA (CONT'D)
If I let you go, will you kill me?
Kitty shakes her head no.
TATRA (CONT'D)
Can I trust you?
Kitty shakes her head no again. Tatra smiles. She releases Kitty's neck. Kitty jumps down from her lap. Space distorts and standing before Tatra is a woman, slender and lithe, with long black hair poorly protecting her modesty.
They both look around nervously to make sure the others are sleeping.
KITTY
Crap it's cold.
TATRA
Where the hell are your clothes?
KITTY
Which do you think looks better on a cat, an evening gown or a tutu? Of course I'm naked.
Tatra tosses her the blanket.
TATRA
Put this on. You're grossing me out.
Kitty takes the blanket but hesitates before putting it on, posing, smiling at Tatra's jealousy-fueled discomfort.
KITTY
There's still time for you. You might still develop a body like this one.
TATRA
Oh, goody. Then I can be a slut, too.
Kitty wraps the blanket around herself and stares down at Tatra.
KITTY
Be careful, Tatra.
TATRA
If I was careful I would have killed you already.
Kitty hesitates, then sits on the log next to Tatra.
KITTY
I guess I deserved that. So, what is it you want?
TATRA
What's your real name?
KITTY
Dacia.
TATRA
Who do you work for?
KITTY
What do you mean?
TATRA
What the hell do you think I mean? Who do you work for?
KITTY
I work... for The Master.
Tatra stifles a laugh.
TATRA
Who?
KITTY
The Master. Surely you've heard...
Tatra's face is blank.
KITTY (CONT'D)
How can you be here, now, with us, and never have heard of The Master?
TATRA
The Master? That's the best he could come up with? Oooo... The Maaaaaaster! Scary!
Kitty looks around in alarm.
KITTY
Quiet! You'll wake someone up.
TATRA
Or what? You'll tell the master on me? Oh, no!
She makes her eyes round with mock alarm and puts her hands to her cheeks, then starts to laugh - but quietly.
TATRA (CONT'D)
What are you doing here?
KITTY
The Master—
Tatra snorts.
KITTY (CONT'D)
My people have a great interest in the outcome of your quest. There are prophecies.
That gets Tatra's interest.
TATRA
No kidding? Like what?
KITTY
For instance, in the great tome "Insane Ravings of Hu'upman and other Vague Pronouncements", it says that if the elf marries John the Smith, then The — my master's designs will be thwarted.
Tatra looks stricken. She speaks past a lump in her throat.
TATRA
Lada and John...?
KITTY
IF, my dear. I would prefer that not to happen.
Tatra stares at the ground.
TATRA
I would prefer that not to happen, too.
Kitty sighs and pats Tatra's knee.
KITTY
You like him.
TATRA
He doesn't even know I exist.
Kitty begins to say one thing, stops, then says another.
KITTY
No, I don't think he's capable of seeing anyone not of royal birth.
TATRA
Like Princess big-boobie bitch-face? Ugh! I just want to strangle her sometimes.
Tatra looks around now, alarmed by her own outburst. Kitty smiles and moves closer to Tatra on the log. She puts her arm around the girl.
KITTY
I agree. What would you say if Princess Skoda ended up with your friend Bixby instead?
Tatra puts her hands around her throat and makes a gagging noise.
KITTY (CONT'D)
He might become prince...
TATRA
He'd be better off with Elf-Lady.
Kitty smiles. Her teeth are white and even, her eyes gleam in the firelight.
KITTY
Then we are in complete agreement. Lada must not mate with John the Smith.
TATRA
Ewww. Thanks for that image.
KITTY
Tell me, why did you not kill me?
TATRA
Because... because I think you want Bixby to live. And I thought maybe you could help me. You know, with magic.
KITTY
Help you what?
Tatra turns away, suddenly shy.
TATRA
You know.
KITTY
Will you help me in return? When we find the Important Thing?
TATRA
Sure.
KITTY
"Sure?" That's all? You're OK with allowing The Master to plunge the world into darkness and despair?
TATRA
Pf. Welcome to my world, cat-lady.

1

The Fantasy Novelist’s Exam

I ran across The Fantasy Novelist’s Exam while reading the archives at Miss Snark’s no-longer-updated-but-certainly-not-dated blog. It’s a pretty funny list. The theory is that if you answer ‘yes’ to any of the questions, you should chuck in the novel and start again. Would that more people took this list seriously.

For giggles, I decided to see what the score would be for my epic fantasy work in progress, The Quest for the Important Thing to Defeat the Evil Guy. I’ve only included the questions here that I have meaningful answers to.

1. Does nothing happen in the first fifty pages?

Heck no! By the end of chapter one Bixby has been tormented by his distressigngly hot stepmother, met with an old kook who turns out to (also) be a wizard, and has been sent pajama-clad (with his axe) out into the rain to meet a mysterious bunch of people for some important job.

2. Is your main character a young farmhand with mysterious parentage?

Yes. Yes, he is exactly that.

3. Is your main character the heir to the throne but doesn’t know it?

Hm… that’s probably something that I should add…

4. Is your story about a young character who comes of age, gains great power, and defeats the supreme badguy?

How could it not be?

5. Is your story about a quest for a magical artifact that will save the world?

All hail the Important Thing! Whatever it is…

6. How about one that will destroy it?

All hail the Important Thing! Whatever it is…

7. Does your story revolve around an ancient prophecy about “The One” who will save the world and everybody and all the forces of good?

I’m pretty sure that there is a prophecy about Bixby. There are certainly some pretty racy prophecies about some of his companions.

8. Does your novel contain a character whose sole purpose is to show up at random plot points and dispense information?

You know, now that I think about it, QITDEG is lacking this rather annoying feature. Good thing this exam is here!

10. Is the evil supreme badguy secretly the father of your main character?

Oh my god! HOW DID YOU GUESS?!

11. Is the king of your world a kindly king duped by an evil magician?

Hmm… not yet.

12. Does “a forgetful wizard” describe any of the characters in your novel?

Insane would be closer, but we’ll say yes to this one.

13. How about “a powerful but slow and kind-hearted warrior”?

Everyone assumes that’s what Bixby is, but sometimes you have to wonder.

14. How about “a wise, mystical sage who refuses to give away plot details for his own personal, mysterious reasons”?

See #8 above

15. Do the female characters in your novel spend a lot of time worrying about how they look, especially when the male main character is around?

I think it would be more accurate to say that I spend a lot of time worrying about how they look, but the result is the same.

16. Do any of your female characters exist solely to be captured and rescued?

One of them might use it as a ploy, but for the most part they are not interested in being rescued by anyone.

17. Do any of your female characters exist solely to embody feminist ideals?

Yep. They are smokin-hot feminists.

18. Would “a clumsy cooking wench more comfortable with a frying pan than a sword” aptly describe any of your female characters?

No.

19. Would “a fearless warrioress more comfortable with a sword than a frying pan” aptly describe any of your female characters?

Hell, yeah.

20. Is any character in your novel best described as “a dour dwarf”?

I wouldn’t call her dour. She has a lovely beard as well.

21. How about “a half-elf torn between his human and elven heritage”?

No, but there will be plenty of half-elves should there ever be a sequel.

23. Does everybody under four feet tall exist solely for comic relief?

You mean Chavdar the horny halfling who would just as soon cut your throat as head-butt you in the nuts? Yeah, he’s pretty funny.

25. Do you not know when the hay baler was invented?

I hadn’t considered the humorous application of anachronism yet. Might be some potential there.

26. Did you draw a map for your novel which includes places named things like “The Blasted Lands” or “The Forest of Fear” or “The Desert of Desolation” or absolutely anything “of Doom”?

I haven’t drawn the (absolutely required) map yet, but “of Doom” will appear more than once.

27. Does your novel contain a prologue that is impossible to understand until you’ve read the entire book, if even then?

Not yet.

28. Is this the first book in a planned trilogy?

As little planning went into the still-incomplete first book, it would be hard to say yes to this (for now).

29. How about a quintet or a decalogue?

As long as people keep buying the crap, I’ll keep writing it!

30 – 32. [my summary] Is your novel a long-winded and directionless “epic”?

This is an action story, baby!

33. Is your name Robert Jordan and you lied like a dog to get this far?

Hah! I’m happy to report I’m not.

36. Do any of your main characters have apostrophes or dashes in their names?

What the hell kind of fantasy novel would it be otherwise? (Um… though actually, no. They are named for Eastern Eurpean automobiles.)

37. Do any of your main characters have names longer than three syllables?

Only if you include their “the’s”, e.g., Trabant the Immutable.

39. Does your novel contain orcs, elves, dwarves, or halflings?

Well, DUH!

41. Do you have a race prefixed by “half-“?

I expect Chavdar’s half-halfling progeny will have to wait for a sequel.

42. At any point in your novel, do the main characters take a shortcut through ancient dwarven mines?

Yes, not long after they take a shortcut through the mist-shrouded ruins of a once-mighty kingdom. Other suggestions for things they can take a shortcut through are welcome.

46. Do inns in your book exist solely so your main characters can have brawls?

If there’s another purpose of an ‘inn’, I’ve never heard it.

48. Do your characters spend an inordinate amount of time journeying from place to place?

Heck yeah! It’s a Quest!

49. Could one of your main characters tell the other characters something that would really help them in their quest but refuses to do so just so it won’t break the plot?

Oh, my characters keep secrets for iron-clad reasons!

55. Do you think horses can gallop all day long without rest?

No, but Bixby can come close.

56. Does anybody in your novel fight for two hours straight in full plate armor, then ride a horse for four hours, then delicately make love to a willing barmaid all in the same day?

Bixby is far too polite to make love to a barmaid, and wears a lot less.

57. Does your main character have a magic axe, hammer, spear, or other weapon that returns to him when he throws it?

You mean Orc-O-Matic? So far, Bixby has kept it firmly in hand.

61. Does your hero fall in love with an unattainable woman, whom he later attains?

Only one?

62. Does a large portion of the humor in your novel consist of puns?

Actually… no.

63. Is your hero able to withstand multiple blows from the fantasy equivalent of a ten pound sledge but is still threatened by a small woman with a dagger?

More ‘confused’ than ‘threatened’.

70. Does your main villain punish insignificant mistakes with death?

Helloooo! He’s Eeeeevil!

73. Is the countryside in your novel littered with tombs and gravesites filled with ancient magical loot that nobody thought to steal centuries before?

Not nearly enough.

74. Is your book basically a rip-off of The Lord of the Rings?

Closer to a rip-off of Bored of the Rings

75. Read that question again and answer truthfully.

Honest!

Let’s tally up the score then, shall we? By my count I hit on fifteen of the questions, and I’m in a gray area for a few others.

This list is awesome. Using it, I have been able to identify some glaring holes in the story. Should I ever get around to revising it, I’ll have a solid foundation to work from.

6

The Quest for the Important Thing to Defeat the Evil Guy

Bixby awoke with a start. He had been dreaming again. His stepmother had taught him to remember his dreams and record them; she said that dreams carried messages and told of the future. Dutifully he picked up his journal and turned a blank page to the moonlight streaming in the window. His stepmother insisted that he include every detail of his dreams. “You never know what will turn out to be important,” she would say. She was renowned far and wide for her knowledge of magic.

Bixby thought back over the dream. It was one he’d been having often lately. There wasn’t much conversation to speak of except for things like “Oh! Oooooooh! Yes! Yes! YES!” but he remembered the elf-maiden vividly. Not her face, so much, but the way her elf-hair cascaded over her smooth elf-shoulders, the softness of her generous elf-breasts as they defied gravity, her narrow elf-waist… Bixby set to work sketching what he had seen in his dream. He didn’t know much about dreams, but he was really hoping this one would come true.

Over the years Bixby had demonstrated a flair for sketching and drawing. His mother had always encouraged him, and if anything his stepmother was even more enthusiastic. He was uncomfortable sometimes sharing his drawings with his stepmother, but she always just shushed him. “This is important,” she would say. “Don’t be such a baby. Now, think carefully. Are you sure there weren’t two elf maidens?”

Suddenly the moonlight was broken by a shadow. He turned and was looking into a pair of beady black eyes. The squirrel regarded him, unblinking. “We know you have it,” the squirrel said. The squirrel grinned. “And we’re gonna get it.”

In shock Bixby jumped up and turned to face the creature. Had it just spoken? Was he still dreaming one of those dreams where you dream you wake up but really you’re dreaming and then you wake up and you’re confused because you didn’t think you were dreaming before? He shook his head to clear the cobwebs.

“Honey, are you all right?” came his stepmother’s voice from the doorway behind him. “I heard a noise.”

“Um, I’m fine, ma.” Sure, fine. Talking squirrels. No big deal. It must have been a dream.

“Oh, I see you’ve had another of those dreams,” she said.

Not a dream, a nightmare. He turned away from her, back toward the window desperately trying to find a way to disguise the bulge in his pyjamas gracefully. The squirrel was gone.

Bixby did not get any more sleep that night. His stepmother had wanted to sit next to him on the bed and hear about his dream right then, but he had finally managed to put her off. Between getting caught by her in that condition and the talking squirrel, he was a wreck. At first light he decided to chop some wood to work off some of his tension. Ax in hand he was stepping out the door when his stepmother stopped him. “I think we have enough wood already, Honey,” she said.

“Can’t be too safe,” Bixby said. “Winter’s only a few months away.” He dashed for the forest. It was a longer dash than it had been; Bixby had transformed the small meadow that held the cottage into a much larger clearing, dotted with the stumps of the trees he had felled and chopped into firewood. He found a stout oak and set to work with the ax. Once the tree was down he hauled it over to the woodpile. It was much easier for him to move the trunks around these days; his constant chopping had caused his body to bulge with hard, lean muscle even as he grew into his tall frame.

He split up the log in record time, climbing the tiers of ladders to reach the top of the towering woodpile where he put the new logs. He could see all the way into town from up there, high above the treetops, and he imagined them laughing and pointing his direction, mocking his mighty accomplishment. “Just wait till winter comes,” he muttered. The exercise did the trick, though. He felt much calmer. He would be able to face his stepmother now, as long as she didn’t say anything that made him think… those thoughts.

He was surprised to find the tall, thin man waiting for him at the bottom of the last ladder. People mocked Graybeard, but never to his face. He wore the long flowing robes of a man who doesn’t have to work for a living, and the tall conical hat of a wizard.

“Hullo, Graybeard,” Bixby said.

“Hello there, young man. I have something very important to discuss with you. Is there somewhere we can go where they can’t hear us?

“Who?”

“The squirrels. I see you’ve done your best to eliminate their hiding places near your house, but they can be sneaky.” The wizard looked around and lowered his voice. “I need you to do something for me. There’s a thing, see, that I need you to go find.”

“What sort of thing?”

“Shhh!” Graybeard glanced nervously at the woodpile and steered Bixby away from it. “It’s an important thing. I’m putting together a team of experts.”

“I’m not expert at anything,” Bixby protested.

“Can you chop heads as well as you can chop wood?”

“I don’t know. Maybe.”

“There you go then. The others are gathering in a rough tavern in a rough town many leagues from here. The journey will be very dangerous, as the squirrels and their evil minions will hound you every step of the way. Keep your crackers sealed tightly.”

“Why should I go, then?”

“Oh, there you are,” his stepmother said. “Oooh, you’re all sweaty.” She ran a finger over his sweat-slicked pectorals. ‘Rarrr,”

“When do we start?” asked Bixby.