So I hate reading poorly written fight scenes in fantasy books. Whenever my characters fight, I try to make it as realistic as possible. Here's how you write a concussion:
Holt caught a glimpse of a flanged mace heading right for the side of head, breaking his momentary confusion and forcing him to fall to the ground to avoid being killed in a single blow. The edge of the mace caught his helmet with a loud crash, instantly disorienting him and replacing all the sounds of battle with a harsh, screeching ring in his ears.
Luckily, his attacker overbalanced in the assault, and Holt wasn’t simply obliterated by a second blow from the fearsome weapon. Clutching his stolen axe like a cane, Holt pulled himself to his feet and tried to steady the spinning world. He felt drunk, overwhelmingly drunk, and a wave of nausea crept into the back of his throat as he failed to get his bearings perfectly straight.
The mace-wielder turned back, a wide grin splayed across his unarmored face. He slapped the head of his weapon in his open palm, and Holt saw a few streaks of blood rub off on the man’s skin.
The captain tore his helm from his head and tossed it aside. The fresh air seemed to calm his roiling stomach, but only by a fraction. When he looked ahead, he could barely focus. Everything was blurry around the edges. The man came forward again, swinging his heavy mace from left to right. Holt raised his axe to block, and the mace head shattered his weapon’s shaft into a hundred splinters.
“Now you die!” the attacker bellowed. The man’s teeth were yellow and jagged, and his breath smelled like vomit.
Holt stifled a chuckle when he realized it was his breath that carried the pungent stench of stomach acid, not his attacker’s. Still spinning helplessly in his own mind, he tumbled back to the ground unarmed, heaving the contents of his gut across the stones at his feet.
The captain fell onto his side with a sullen whimper, waiting for the killing blow to quickly bring an end to his scrambled senses. After a few seconds, he realized it likely wasn’t going to happen.
He wanted to open his eyes, to see what fate had befallen his attacker, but he knew it would be useless. Even with his eyes shut, all he saw was a shifting field of slowly spinning color blotches that made him scream in agony. The screaming brought on another round of painful vomiting, and then everything finally, mercifully, went black.
So if you read my last blog entry, you know I'm pretty excited about the new magic system I conjured up in the car one day. Well, here's the update:
Shadowlith (still a working title) has officially become my next expected full length release. I'm currently about 30% through writing the novel and I (realistically) hope to finish the first draft by the end of January, 2017. So, to give everyone a little taste, here is an unedited excerpt:
Alster nearly fell to the ground. The shade from the archive, or whatever it truly was, stood in the doorway to the record room, a towering black menace of twisting shadows.
A host of incomprehensible screams poured from Elsey’s mouth as she tried to scramble away. Her feet tangled as she jumped, and she hit the ground hard, but the lantern did not go out. The closest horse kicked at its stall door, rousing some of the other creatures from their sleep.
The shade moved directly over Elsey, filling up almost every inch of the darkness between the lantern’s partial light.
Suddenly exploding in a flurry of action, Alster did the only thing he could think to do. He ripped Alistair’s dagger from his belt and lunged, losing his balance completely. In the small hallway of the stable, his accuracy with the blade was irrelevant. As he fell, Alster gripped the dagger as tightly as he could and simply held it above his head, letting his momentum do the work for him.
Alster didn’t fully understand what he heard when he crashed into the ground. The shade yelled, the voice a mix of shock and pain, and then evaporated, leaving behind a cool mist like a cloud of fog.
As quickly as it had begun, the stable was once again calm, though the horse behind Alster seemed intent on breaking its stall to escape.
When Alster pushed himself up to his knees, he felt something tingle inside his stolen gauntlets. It felt warm and comforting, whatever the sensation was, and Alster found himself grinning from ear to ear. With one hand against the doorframe for balance, Alster stood up fully and brushed the dirt from his clothes.
Mixed with the flickering lantern light, a soft reg glow emanated from the filigree on Alster’s gauntlets. He turned his hands over in wonder, half of his mind expecting some dazzling display of magic and the other half not believing his own eyes.
“Did you see that?” Alster whispered.
Elsey collected herself and righted the lantern, though her body shook with fear.
“I think I killed the shade,” Alster said, never taking his eyes from the gauntlets. After a few more seconds, the red light faded and the gauntlets returned to their mundane state.
Deep in Alster’s chest, he felt something begin to stir. He felt stronger. He felt more alive than he ever had before. His grip on the dagger tightened, and he thought he felt the newfound energy pulse within his very bones.
“I,” Alster began, but he didn’t know how to describe what took place within his ribcage. “I think… I consumed the shade,” he said after a moment.
“I think I drank it,” Alster said. “You know the feeling when it is cold so you drink something warm and the heat spreads from your chest through your whole body?”
Elsey nodded, her eyes wide with some emotion Alster could not pinpoint.
“The dagger killed the shade,” Alster continued. He slide the weapon back into his belt and unclenched his hand, relaxing the muscles of his arm. “When the shade was dead, I drank it,” he concluded.
A new fantasy series?
So I had an idea while driving from Tennessee back to Kentucky this Labor Day. I've been thinking of ways to incorporate new and exciting magic systems into my fantasy writing and well, I might have it figured out.
Here's the pitch: this new fantasy series will surround characters who are 'Shadowliths' - gifted with the ability from birth (or perhaps learned as well) to consciously take the form of their shadow and go about doing things. Fantasy things. I like this magic system for a few reasons. Firstly, it makes an interesting circumstance arise: the caster can only control his / her shadow during the daylight. The night does not provide enough light to make substantial shadows after all. Putting such an ominous feeling magic system into a new fantasy setting where they only have power in the day seems oddly refreshing to me. I'd expect a shadow-based fantasy magic to be more powerful at night, not less.
Secondly, I like the idea of the shadowlith going into a stupor while controlling the shadow. A lot of fantasy worlds (DnD, WoW, etc.) feature absurdly powerful wizards casting spells until they run out of strength, energy, favor, mana, etc. Until their spell power is fully drained, they are basically immortal. I'd love to see casters made incredibly vulnerable by their art. That could be a great twist on a fantasy staple which I have personally never read before.
So did I try it yet? Of course! I've officially begun work on a side-project fantasy book (or maybe novella, who knows?) which I tentatively call: "The Shadowlith" - cheesy title but I'll probably change it.
Maybe I'll have something ready for the publisher in the next 6 months, but it isn't likely. I'd bet this idea won't be fully fleshed out until the fall / winter of 2017.