(A beig welcome to Deby Fredericks who is here to promote her newest book ‘Minstrels of Skatyhe II: Dancer in the Grove of Ghosts’. Enjoy her essay on when groups fail in fantasy.)
Quest fantasies have been a staple of modern fantasy, right from the beginnings of the genre. J. R. R. Tolkein set this standard by introducing his readers to the Fellowship of the Ring who were dedicated to destroying the One Ring. Even since, readers have enjoyed watching a disparate group bond and grow stronger through a series of adventures.
But what if that bond never formed?
In my novella Dancer in the Grove of Ghosts, the wounded guardsman Cylass is snatched from the brink of death by a mage who hides her power by dancing with a troupe of minstrels. Their accidental alliance could save them both. Unfortunately, the alliance may prove impossible.
Skaythe is an upside-down world, you see. Merciless aggression is “good” and caring for others is “bad.” Cylass has been so warped by his service to the regime that the most reasonable course would be to betray his benefactor. For her part, Tisha took an enormous risk by helping Cylass when she would have been safer allowing him to die.
This might seem like a cynical “genre swap,” but as a writer I found it tremendously energizing. Any quest worth writing about will involve characters who gather for a greater purpose. The adventures of their quest allow friendship and trust to grow stronger. Each of them knows the others “have their back.”
It added a new level of tension when no common purpose existed. Neither Tisha nor Cylass could assume their comrade would have their back.
I can’t claim to have invented this strategy myself. Even Tolkein included a potential traitor in the ranks — Boromir, who lusted for the One Ring even as he was Aragon’s rival for political power. Still, I found it really rewarding to work with two characters who knew better than to trust each other.
I hope you’ll journey along with Tisha and Cylass as their uneasy alliance unfolds.
Dancer in the Grove of Ghosts
“He’s dead. He just doesn’t know it yet.”
Mortally wounded, Cylass is abandoned on the battlefield by comrades who would just as soon have him out of the way. But as he waits for death, a strange savior appears. The dancer, Tisha, heals him with her forbidden magic, but also draws the wrath of his cruel former lord.
Soon guardsman and renegade mage are on the run. Will Cylass help Tisha, as she helped him? Or will he do the smart thing, and turn her over to the vicious Count Ar-Dayne?
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