When I was a child, my mother read tales of Greek, Norse, and Celtic myths from a book called The Firebringer and Other Great Stories. (now out of print)
Those old tales awakened an interest in epic stories of heroes on quests, performing remarkable deeds for remarkable purpose. Still young when we moved to Italy, I was fascinated by old Roman shrines, classical art, and the grotto in Sperlonga where they discovered a Villa of Tiberius containing life-size sculptures of Odysseus blinding the Cyclops.
Eventually reading Tolkien’s works and discovering Dungeons and Dragons all but sealed the deal for a lifelong love affair for epic fantasy.
From then on, I started writing stories, and mapping out my own fantasy worlds. I scrapped and restarted the mythos many times, but though them all some elements were retained and characters carried forward into new incarnations. Valkrage first was a purple dragon (Valkrage the Violet) who appeared as an elf. Then he made an appearance in my party in The Bard’s Tale II, Destiny Knight on the Apple ][c. Then he was a mortal magic-user in Dungeons and Dragons. Later he became a character in my stories. For over a decade he remained as a normal, but notable, mortal wizard. It was later that I added some dark edges to his character concept, making him one of good intentions, but maybe not all that sane. Thus, he was returned to the concept of an incarnation of a calculating god-like dragon, for whom the ends justified all means. It wasn’t until the first draft of Lightfall was complete that I decided to make him gay and Aaron bisexual, and I went back and revised the manuscript to make the adjustments. All my characters have similar lines of development, their stories evolving as they get reused in games, and new stories are imagined.
The concept of Artalon worked its way into the lore while I was in high school, as the imperial seat of the Shadowlord Aaron. Aaron was originally a good guy, a sort of demigod who was near perfect and near all powerful, a combination of sorts of Superman and Duke Leto Atreides from God-Emperor of Dune. I realized the difficulty of making such a character sustain interest, and he quickly became relegated to supporting cast, and I focused on mortal, imperfect characters who struggled. As I grew older, he too darkened over time, influenced by my own growth of seeing the world as more than just black and white.
Artalon fell from a central theme for a while, becoming a historical empire that died, providing a backdrop story for other fantasy adventures. It evolved into a sort combination between Atlantis and Avalon, a magical city that has been used for good and bad, with cycles of rising, being cataclysmically destroyed, being forgotten in time, and then being restored. It is now central to the lore of Ahmbren.
I’ve written on and off again through the years. During my second deployment to Kabul, I sat down to write again, wanting to go back and reboot the whole world, and finally pen to paper the story of the Archdragons and the Shadowlord/Champion, and their final triumph over the Black Dragon. But when I started, I somehow became more interested in what happens after all of that. We have plenty of stories about killing some version of the Dark Lord (e.g., The Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter books, among others), and I started to wonder, what happens after the Dark Lord dies? If a world’s history has been oriented to opposing an existential threat for so long, there has to be a different kind of destabilizing consequence when the Dark Lord is vanquished. That’s what this trilogy has been.
Now that When Dragons Die is complete, I’m dipping back into classic fantasy to write Myth and Incarnation, the story of the dragon avatars and the finding of the Champion. After that, I plan to take the world forward into a full steampunk era.
Until next week,