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Regarding wizards and dragons
by Thomas Barczak
I have gotten to have a few conversations lately about certain aspects of my writing that differ from certain fantasy stereotypes. So I thought I would share a little bit more about that, principally regarding wizards and dragons.
One memory that has always hangs with me, is how the wizards of Robert E Howard’s Conan universe first made me feel.
I don’t remember them casting too many spells, or blowing anything up, not like a lot of wizards you find in fantasy, certainly not like the kind I grew up with playing Dungeons and Dragons. Those wizards were all about fire power. Howard’s wizards though, were something else, something just beyond our understanding. For lack of a better term, they were evil, like a miasma, like if you got too close to one or spent too much time with one, something about you would be forever changed; altered. They were fear. They were intimidation. They were certainly scary. It was not so much what they did to you physically. It was what they did to your head.
That’s the way I wanted to write wizards in “Mouth of the Dragon”.
I think I was successful. The wizards I write about are something more, or less, than human, infused with the magic and the fear that they wield. They are evil. Like a whisper in the dark.
Evil that you can see can be dealt with. It’s the evil you can’t see that controls you.
They are the hands of the Dragon.
Self-mutilating in devotion to their master, the Dragon, they do have a weakness though. It’s only eluded to, but it’s there, manifested in their scars made in their servitude to the Dragon’s stronger will. It is this weakness, this fear of their own, what’s left of their humanness, that makes them the most dangerous of foes as well, unpredictable, and not so very different from either you or I.
The same can be said of the Dragon.
To be clear, in “Mouth of the Dragon”, there are two types of dragons, the Dragon itself, which is more spirit than flesh, and dragons, plural, which are its children. They are not the same.
Similar to the fear of wizards, I have spent some time thinking about the fear of dragons.
In medieval times, though history and archeology both confirm there was no such thing, I have to believe though, for the peasant, alone in the woods on a dark night, they were very much real. As real as this keyboard I’m typing on now. Their fear of them certainly was.
In medieval times, the dragon was evil. At the very least, it was certainly the manifestation of the unknown. Sometimes I think that that is exactly why it was seen as evil. We fear what we don’t understand. That’s the dragon that I wanted to tap into. To simply fall upon the trope of wings and scales would be too easy.
So the Dragon, the Dragon of legend, is just that, but even more. It is legion as well. It is everywhere and in everything and in everyone. All at once. It is even more than the wizards, a miasma, and its whispers are ceaseless. It is physical and it is spiritual both. It is a serpent, and it is shadow.
But even it has a weakness, its vanity, its pride, and mostly, its lust. It’s need. It is a wounded evil whose only relief is in the suffering of others, and it longs to reclaim that which it lost. Damnation is said to be a kind of separation. From goodness perhaps? The devil was cast away. Even evil suffers loss. Perhaps, again, not so very different from us.
The dragons, in plural, are its children, brought back into the world, to wreak its suffering onto man. They are monsters in every sense, and they are powerful. They are beasts. They are the personification of the Dragon’s will. But they are flesh and blood. They are wing and scale. Unlike the Dragon, their mother, they are mortal. Like us.
Sometimes, for me, allegory is a hard thing to escape.
But that’s why I write. Or at least I think that’s why the stories, they call to me.
Thomas Barczak is an artist, turned architect, turned writer, who finally got around to actually writing the stories he started dreaming about as a kid.
His work includes the illustrated epic fantasy novel, Veil of the Dragon, the Kindle serials, Awakening Evarun (Parts I-VI) and Wolfbane (Parts 1-2 of 3), along with numerous short stories and flash fiction, including those published in “Heroika 1 – Dragon Eaters”, “Nine Heroes”, “Terror by Gaslight”, and “What Scares the Boogeyman”, as well as two volumes of the award winning “Heroes in Hell” series, “Dreamers in Hell”, and “Poets in Hell”.
He writes because he can’t not. He writes because he needs to tell the stories he already started on way before, in his paintings, in his poetry, and even before that, sitting around a table with friends, slaying dragons.
Chaelus, once Roan lord of the House of Malius, now vessel of the Giver reborn, has defeated the dragon of legend. Now he must try to rescue his brother, and his kingdom, and the pale, from beyond the Dragon’s Veil.
But the dragon of legend isn’t lost. It rises in the east amongst the drums of war, and will not release its hold on the vessel of prophecy who defeated it before, the souls of the ones he loves, and the order of knights who vow to serve him.
Unable to save his brother, Chaelus finds the exiled knights who wait for him have been betrayed. But even with all the power of prophecy at his summons he cannot protect them.
He must confront the Dragon again as prophecy has foretold.
With the remnants of his followers he pursues the Dragon to its hold among the Theocratic States, and the heart of the dragon’s new queen, where he finds the blood of his past has returned to reclaim him.
And even with all the power of prophecy at his summons he cannot defend against it.
Tempted with the return of everything he’s lost, and abandoned by the prophecy he’s vowed to serve, he falls, succumbing to the spell of the dragon’s sleep, where he learns once more, the dragon you hunt is the dragon within you.
His only hope to defeat the dragon for good, and save the pale from its slumber, will be to sacrifice the one thing he has never truly surrendered, himself.