Last night (11/11/17), I finished drafting my latest short story, “The Coward’s Son.” This story of Derke and Manegold trying to clear a man’s name ended around 9,000 words. Used to, that was too long for a short story. They needed to end at 6,000 max. I still like to have them under 10K. A prior adventure of Derke and Manegold can be read in the freely available Fellowship of Fantasy anthology Fantastic Creatures. (“Destiny’s Flight” isn’t necessary to read before “The Coward’s Son,” DF just takes place before TCS with some of the same characters.)
“The Coward’s Son” came about after listening to an Old Time Radio adaptation of Robert Buckner’s “The Man Who Won the War.” (It was either Escape! or Suspense! that performed the adaptation.) My story is very different, but I say this to note where the inspiration came from.
The adaptation spins a tale about an English naval officer who really won WWI but does so by disobeying orders. Since he cannot prove the actions he took (his allies cannot be located), he is drummed out of the service for insubordination. Years later, he has died in disgrace, but his son wants to join the royal navy. The father’s name must be cleared before the son can be a midshipman. The story is told from the POV of the officer, explaining through a letter his actions. The radio edition differed in several notable respects from the print edition.
My story starts with the same premise of a disgraced soldier and his son, but, as it should be since this was not a retelling, is very different inside. Where Buckner tells about the event that cost the officer his career, my tale is from the POV of the son. We see only a little of the events with the father, Sir Greeth Martel. The son Michael is a squire of age to be knighted, but that cannot happen because he is the son of a coward. Michael goes on a quest to clear his father’s name. Accompanying him are Manegold, Derke, Manegold’s father, and a dwarven knight. Where do they go? The same place his father’s actions were deemed cowardly–The Citadel of Shadows.
I will not spoil the story for anyone, but it turned out very different than I planned. For one, I didn’t expect to be writing a dungeon crawl when I started! It was actually going to explore an old battlefield and speak to witnesses and soldiers of the battle. Secondly, I realized I have written about wyverns (small dragons) but never about the great ones. At that point, the final guardian in the story became a dragon. Finally, I really didn’t think there would be a riddle in this story like in “Destiny’s Flight.” Though, I have been told by several people whom I tested it on that this riddle is much harder.
As soon as “The Coward’s Con” gets back from the beta reader and receives its final work over, it will be submitted!