Good afternoon everyone! It’s that time for another edition of creating a horror/fantasy novel. Before we get to the meat of the material, I got a question from a friend/reader over the weekend.
Jeremy – how do you come up with the settings for stories?
This is a great question. The setting of the story is one of the most crucial elements to the preplanning phase. Picking the appropriate era and place for your book pretty much lines up the rest of the novel. Obviously for this story, I’ve picked Europe and the late 1700’s.
Here’s the problem with a lot of settings out there; the authors don’t really know much about a place they’re trying to describe. If you’ve never been to Paris and suck at doing research, a romantic novel underneath the Eifel Tower is not a great story for you to write. You either need an intimate knowledge of the place, have studied a time/era to the point where you can make it completely believable for the reader, or need to invest research time before you start your novel.
That, or make up your own damn world and become a GOD!
For me, I pick settings I know a lot about. My 11th grade world history teacher pushed us to learn about multiple times, countries, etc. Thanks to his nonstop projects and tests, I have so much useless knowledge that writing books is the only way to use it. And that’s where I get my settings from.
**Hungaria; 1775 the year of the Lord**
Winter had given way to springtime as we left the very northern tip of Wallachia and entered the Kingdom of Hungaria. What hadn’t given way was the evil that gripped Europe. No sooner did we cross the border than we ran across a pack of werewolves. Not just any werewolves mind you, ones left behind by Vlad himself, led by a vicious creature named The Jackal.
The five werewolves left as a welcoming party for Radu (a name we will use between ourselves) and I attacked with a viciousness I’d never seen from daemons. Even the gargoyles, eaters of man’s flesh, were more civilized than these heathens. With my sword held high, I gutted the beast that had leapt at me from on top of the tree I was standing beside. His viscera oozed out of the wound.
One more quick movement from my longsword cleanly removed the beast’s head. To my right, Radu was in full vampyre mode. Even as the sun began to rise, its power had little control over the Dracul I traveled with. His fangs ripped the throat clean away of one of the werewolves that chose to attack him. As the creature fell to the ground, he stabbed him in the heart with his impressive longsword. I was thankful to God that Radu was on my side. Seeing him in full action let me know just how little he tried when he fought me.
There were three wolves left. Not wanting to wait for another to attack me, I released the axe I carried on my back. Its blade had also been forged in the same steel/salt forge that my sword had been. I aimed my throw perfectly and the axe rotated in the air before finding its mark, burying itself into the wolf’s forehead. He dropped to the ground, blood gushing over what snow was still left on the ground.
The last two wolves were Radu’s to slay. He jump kicked the first one to create space. With a full arm’s length to work with, he thrust his sword forward into the first wolf. When he whipped his arm backwards, the tip of the blade pierced the second’s eye. As both wolves dropped to the ground, he made quick work of them. Soon, two decapitated wolves twitched their final movements. Radu cleaned their blood off his blade in the snow before sheathing it.
“It appears the further east we venture, the more our enemies will come out of the shadows,” he told me.
“Let them come,” I said. “I’d rather deal with enemies in front of me then those who choose to hide.”
Radu stepped over the dead bodies of the wolves and sniffed the air. “A village is close. I can hold off the effects of the sun for a bit but we need to take refuge soon.”
In our travels, I’d come accustomed to sleeping during the day and traveling at night. Radu, as he said, could hold off the effects of the sun, something most normal vampires couldn’t do. However, it took much out of him and was unneeded if we could avoid it. That was one of the few things I learned about him. He once slipped and said he was married before his turn, but didn’t elaborate. I knew not to press, but my curiosity was certainly piqued.
As he said, there was a village just around the bend. To keep a low profile, we found an abandoned farm on the outskirts and set up our camp in one of the barns that was still standing. With the sun as our guardian, we rested as best we could.
I woke up a bit earlier than I hoped. I soon realized it was due to the scent of cooking meat finding its way into our hiding spot. Radu was fast asleep up in the loft, so I figured it was fine for me to venture out and get a real meal for once. He may’ve been fine supporting himself on animal blood, but I was tired of hunting and eating game meat. I wanted something cooked well and expertly seasoned. And a mug of ale would be nice, too.
It was midafternoon and the taverns were just opening. No one made eye contact with me, as a stranger to a small outpost in a very dangerous area. These people feared for the nights, that much was clear. Everyone was armed in some way, be it a dagger, sword, or bow. That didn’t change as I entered the first tavern I came across.
Behind the bar was a beautiful blonde woman. Sitting on the bar was a rare weapon, a crossbow. As I entered, the woman didn’t look up. She looked like she may have once been in the army of the Vatican, as the crest of her overcoat was easily identified. If a woman was in that army, she must’ve been tough.
I casually walked up and sat down. “Is it too early for a mug of ale?”
“Depends on what coin you got in your pockets.” She looked up, her blue eyes were touched with defection. The bartender was blind! “Gold coins and it’s never too early. Silver coins, come back at sunset.”
Quickly, I tossed two gold coins on the wooden counter top. It was just the two of us and it couldn’t be a coincidence that I ran across a blind woman. Not after the prophecy Julius informed me of. The bartender scooped up the coins and bit them. Satisfied they were true gold, she filled a mug up and slid it over to me.
The ale in some of these low key settlements was truly divine. “I haven’t had ale this good since I left my own home.”
“And where might home be?” she asked.
“Stefania; I’ve traveled from Moldavia and am headed towards the Vatican on a spiritual pilgrimage.”
She snorted in her own cup of ale. “Bullshit. You may be a man of God but you’re a warrior, not a religious scholar.”
“How can you tell such things?” There was no hiding the disbelief in my voice.
She reached out with her hand and ran it over mine. “Just as I thought. I might be blind, but that doesn’t mean I can’t see.”
The blind seer… yes, this was the Lord at work! He brought me to the third companion. “As a bartender,” I started cautiously, “I’m sure you hear all sorts of tales, don’t you?”
She sipped her ale. “Before those flea bitten creatures showed up, I heard a lot of stories.” She slammed the mug on the counter. “These days, we get the scared farmer that comes in who claims the pack ate five of his sheep. The only sheep around here are the ones unwilling to fight back.”
“And you’re willing to fight?”
“Before this happened to me,” she gestured to her eyes, “I was a member of the deadliest archer company the Vatican ever produced. With this condition, I can barely defend this hell hole that I was left in.”
There was quite the story to be told. “Your company left you in this little outpost? They didn’t even take you home?”
“My commander, a stern man, said he couldn’t care for the weak. In exchange for blessings and continued prayers, I was left with the people here. Instinct and skill haven’t left me, but without my sight, what good is an archer?”
“Your handicap isn’t a handicap. It is a gift from God,” I declared. Before she could voice her opinions about my proclamation, I continued on. “My name is Maximus Brinza, guardian of Stefania and slayer of unholy creatures. A great prophecy was written in regards to me… and you.”
She picked up my mug and sniffed it. “Nope, just standard ale. You just must be a special kind of insane.”
“No, I’m far from insane. I’m traveling with a man named Gabriel and we’re headed towards the Vatican to end the threat of Vlad Dracul.” I’m not sure where this confidence was coming from, but it was there. “The great prophecy speaks of a false angel, the heritage of hunters, and a blind seer being the ones to bring back the light.”
“Leave,” she said. She picked up the crossbow. “Leave now before I put a bolt through you and let you bleed out on my clean floor.”
I got up and backed out slowly. “Is it crazy to think that we were chosen by God to put an end to this creature?”
“Don’t talk to me about God! I gave my life, devoted everything to Him and the teachings of the Bible! If God wanted me to be a part of something, He wouldn’t have taken away my eyes.” Tears were coming from the useless organs. “You’ve had your ale – leave.”
There was no forcing someone to accept their destiny. “Very well, miss, I’m leaving.”
I backed out of the bar and into the lonely street. With nothing left to do, I made my way back to the barn. Seeing where the sun was, it was only a matter of time before Radu woke up. The few people who lingered on the street watched me walk off back out towards the outside of the village.
Upon arrival, Radu was awake and sitting in a shady spot. “Where were you?” he asked quietly.
“I went for some ale and meat. All I got was ale.”
He opened those red eyes of his. “Ale wasn’t the only thing you discovered, Brinza. I take it she reacted poorly when you told her of our task.” Then he adopted a sarcastic tone. “You uneducated fools, always using the Bible as a means to an end. Lord above, would it kill any of you to read another book?”
How in the name of God did he know the extent of my conversation? “Eavesdropping on me now?”
“I don’t need to; your aura gives off everything one needs to see.” He stood up and stretched out. “Put it out of your mind for the moment. When night falls, we stay here. Something tells me The Jackal is going to send some more wolves for us to cut up.”
If that was the case, I needed to sharpen the edge of my blade. I removed my sword and began to smooth out the rough spots from the tip to the pommel. Radu walked over to inspect my work. “What is the name of this blade?”
“My sword doesn’t have a name,” I replied. No one named an unknown sword, that was common knowledge.
He removed his own. “This is the Dragon’s Fang as Dracul means dragon.” He stabbed it into the ground not even a foot length from me. “Your father hadn’t named his either, until he met me. He settled on the name Star Light when he looked towards the Heavens for an answer.”
“Are you telling me I need to come up with something?”
“What if this is the weapon that kills Vlad? The world won’t know what weapon to honor.”
If my dad named his weapon at Radu’s suggestion, then I too would name mine. Just as he did all those years ago, I looked towards the Heavens in the hopes of finding a name. The sun was giving way to a crescent shaped moon in the night’s sky.
“Crescent Moon,” I told Radu. “The name of the blade to kill Vlad The Impaler is Crescent Moon.”
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