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Posts Tagged ‘fantasy writer’

Custard is the unlikely hero of a comic children’s poem by Ogden Nash. “The Tale of Custard the Dragon” was first published in 1936 but retains its appeal after 81 years. Indeed, in some ways it was ahead of its time. Whenever you hear someone say there were no girl heroes in 20th Century literature, you can remind them of Belinda, who was “brave as a barrel full of bears.”

The setup is that Belinda has several pets — kitten, mouse, dog — who are all brave and bold, while her “realio, trulio, little pet dragon” just wants a nice quiet cage. They all tease poor Custard — until the day a pirate shows up. Then they learn who’s really the bravest of all.

What the heck, you can read the poem here! It’s more fun than a barrel full of bears.


A few of my other books:

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection and Masters of Air & Fire, her middle-grade novel.

The Grimhold Wolf, my Gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

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One of the great heroes of Persian lore is the mighty warrior Rostam. He is part of several legends, but the most substantial of these is the epic poem Shahnameh, recorded by Ferdowsi around 1010 C.E.

Rostam dwelt in Sistan, part of modern-day Iran, where he stood high in the favor of King Kay Kaus. Unfortunately, the king undertook an ill-fated invasion of neighboring Mazandaran. He was defeated and captured. Learning of this, Rostam rode to the rescue on his faithful stallion, Rakhsh. The hero endured several trials. He was lost in the dessert and battled a lion, several demons — and a dragon.

Rostam was asleep one night when Rakhsh heard a noise near the camp. A dragon was lurking in the bushes! The horse whinnied and stamped on the ground, making such noise that the hero woke up. He also forced the dragon to retreat, so that Rostam saw no danger and was highly annoyed with his steed.

He lay down to sleep again, but a short time later the dragon returned. Again, Rakhsh sounded the alarm and woke his master. Rostam was furious and threatened to kill the horse, but then he spotted the dragon! The battle was joined, the monster was defeated, and all was well. One hopes that faithful Rakhsh got a good brushing as reward for his help.


A few of my other books:

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection and Masters of Air & Fire, her middle-grade novel.

The Grimhold Wolf, my Gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

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The evil spirit Ahriman found his perfect puppet in the person of Zahhak, a prince he deceived into becoming king — then cursed with a dragon’s head growing from either shoulder. And these dragon heads could only be placated by one food: human brains.

Whatever goodness may once have been inside Zahhak, he now gave himself completely to evil. His greatest fear was that the two dragons might turn and devour his brain someday. Using a network of spies, he began to arrest anyone who spoke against his rule. And there must have been plenty of protest — no matter how great or small the crime, two prisoners each day were sacrificed and their brains served to Zahhak.

Ahriman must have settled in to enjoy the reign of terror. Zahhak did not rest easily, however. After some time, he had a terrible dream that a rebellion arose. The leader struck him down with a mighty club, then dragged him off toward a high mountain. Upon awakening, Zahhak summoned all his wise men and advisors to interpret this dream. They hemmed and hawed, none wishing to present bad news when their brains might be at stake. The king demanded answers! Finally one admitted that the dream foretold the end of Zahhak’s bloody rule. He even named the man who would bring about Zahhak’s doom. His name was Fereydun.

Nobody knew anything about this person, but Zahhak at once sent his spies to find out. After long searching, the spies discovered that Fereydun was a young boy who lived hidden in the mountains and fed on the milk of a magical cow. Somehow Fereydun must have learned that the spies were coming, for he fled before they reached him. They killed the cow and returned to Zahhak.

While the hunt went on, a pair of dissidents managed to work their way into the kitchens of Zahhak’s palace. There they worked out a plan where they served sheep’s brains instead of human and allowed some of the prisoners to escape. The dragon heads didn’t seem to notice a difference, but Fereydun’s army grew steadily.

Meanwhile, Zahhak embarked on a political campaign to head off the rebellion. He drew up a document that testified to his righteousness, thinking that this would remove the justification for a revolt. Then he summoned leaders from every part of the land and commanded them to sign it. Fearing death, most of them complied. However, a blacksmith named Kava stood up and protested that all of his sons had been arrested and only one was still alive. Seeking to appear merciful, Zahhak agreed to release Kava’s son. Once his son was freed, Kava tore up the document and fled.

He raised his blacksmith’s apron as a banner and gathered many followers. Soon they joined Fereydun’s cause. As the boy had now grown into a man, Kava made for him a mighty mace shaped like an ox’s head. They marched forth to war. The tyrant fled with his army in retreat, and Fereydun soon took the capital city. The surviving prisoners were freed.

Zahhak’s government officials swore to serve the rebel leader. However, the treasurer, Kondrow, snuck off with information on where Fereydun’s forces were arrayed. Zahhak snuck back in, thinking to catch his enemy unawares. But it all happened even as he had dreamed. Fereydun struck him down with the ox-headed mace and dragged him to Mount Damavand, a volcanic peak in modern-day Iran. There the bloodthirsty tyrant was imprisoned for all time, with his own dragon heads gnawing at his skull.

Wow. There’s just nothing like a true dragon legend, is there!


A few of my other books:

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection and Masters of Air & Fire, her middle-grade novel.

The Grimhold Wolf, my Gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

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In 2014, I retold the legend of Zahhak, a dragonlike character from Persian and Zoroastrian mythology. Recently a comment pointed out that I had called Zahhak an “Arabian dragon” when in fact the myth is Iranian. This is true, and I apologize for assigning a generic nationality. However, the legend is complicated, as stories often are.

According to this article, the legend of Zahhak does come from Iran but the character of Zahhak is described in the legend as an Arab. It seems that Arabs had conquered Iran in the 7th Century. When it came time for storytellers to identify Zahhak’s origins, they were not able to resist the temptation of linking him to the conquerors.

Here is my original post, edited properly.


Zahhak

 

Long ago in Persia, a king named Merdas had only one son. Prince Zahhak was clever and handsome, but his character was weak. He found it easier to go along with what the courtiers and advisers said than to think for himself. This was observed by Ahriman, an evil spirit rather like Satan of Jewish and Biblical tradition. Like Satan, Ahriman aspired to cover the earth with his malevolent rule, and Zahhak seemed like a perfect tool toward this goal.

Ahriman wormed his way into King Merdas’s court and became close to Prince Zahhak. Over time, he persuaded Zahhak to murder his father and assume the throne. The means was to dig a deep pit in a place where the king often walked, and conceal it with brush. This was done; the king fell into the pit and was killed, leaving his son a bloody throne.

Perhaps the new king repented at this, for his former friend was banished from the court. But this was no impediment to Ahriman. He changed his form and returned in the guise of a chef whose food was so wonderful that after some weeks King Zahhak promised him any reward he wanted. The “humble” chef asked to kiss the king on both shoulders. This was agreed. But when the chef had kissed the king’s shoulders, he suddenly disappeared.

In that same moment, two black serpents grew from the king’s shoulders. The horrified king commanded that they be cut off, but as soon as that happened, two more dragon heads grew. Days passed by, and no one could find a way to remove the dragons. In fact, the hungry beasts bit and snapped at everyone, so that no one dared approach.

Except for Ahriman, who now wore the shape of a wise physician. Ahriman told King Zahhak that the dragons couldn’t be removed, but they could be temporarily sated. The only food they would accept? Human brains.

…Oh, didn’t I mention this is a zombie dragon story? Check back next time for the next chapter.


A few of my other books:

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection and Masters of Air & Fire, her middle-grade novel.

The Grimhold Wolf, my Gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

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Over the summer, I’ve been working as director of programming for SpoCon, my local science fiction convention. I’m going a little nuts, frankly. But it has given rise to a few fun thoughts. If dragons had a convention, what would their programming look like?

Humans: Friends or Food? Older and wiser dragons share their advice on whether to play nicely or take what you want.

The Perfect Hoard: A great hoard needs more than mountains of gold coin. Maybe you’ve thought of adding some gems or a bit of gold-plated armor. Experts discuss how to give your hoard personality and flair.

Fang and Claw vs. Flame Breath: Warrior dragons debate the best way to slay those pesky knights.

Lair Security: Are you troubled by sneak thieves and traveling salesmen? Learn a few new tricks to keep intruders out of your private space.

Human Arms and Armor: Information on the most common equipment used by knights and adventurers, with tips on how to overcome them.


A few of my other books:

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection and Masters of Air & Fire, her middle-grade novel.

The Grimhold Wolf, my Gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

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We’re going to the lake today, so here’s a reblog from February of 2012.


The Real Tiamat

Tiamat is a name you hear bandied about in games and books, always as a powerful dragon foe. But before pop culture got ahold of her—long, LONG before—Tiamat was a goddess worshipped by the Babylonians as a creator god.

Tiamat is mentioned in sagas dating back to 2,000 BCE. Her original role was as goddess of salt water. Together with her husband, Apsu, god of fresh water, she created the world and the first other deities. Later myths described her as a huge, bloated creature and associated her with the chaos of the open sea. It’s said that Tiamat and Apsu warred against their descendants. Marduk, the sun god, eventually defeated Tiamat by cutting her in half. From one part he created the sky, and from the other, he created the land.

Interestingly, this is quite like Greek/Roman myth, where the elder god Chronos also tried to destroy his offspring.

Babylon was an important city in Mesopotamia, a region where a number of civilizations rose and fell through Biblical times. These included the Akkadians, Sumerians, Assyrians, and of course, the Babylonians.


A few of my other books:

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection and Masters of Air & Fire, her middle-grade novel.

The Grimhold Wolf, my Gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

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Do lake monsters take sabaticals? It appears that they do. In May, a Nessie sighting was reported on Loch Ness, after an absence of 8 months. The last previous sighting was in August of 2016.

Rob Jones, a tourist from Wales, recorded a strange object while visiting the mystical lake. It moved in front of a boat, then disappeared from view. You can view the images here at The Mirror’s website.

The cynic in me thinks the “strange object” looks a lot like a navigational buoy, the type installed to warn of submerged hazards. It’s claimed that the object moved in front of a boat, but if you look at the foliage on the lake shore, it’s clear that the object is stationary. Only the boat is moving.

What really interests me is the second half of the coverage. The Mirror interviewed a man who keeps a web site where anyone can report Nessie sightings. Gary Campbell once experienced a sighting himself. His search for information led him to establish his web site, The Official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register.

Over the years, hundreds of reports have been cataloged. With the popularity of smart phones and similar devices, more and more photos and videos have been uploaded. Although most are quickly explained, Campbell is able to maintain something of an online journal around Nessie’s supposed activities. This is how we know that Nessie had “been away” for 8 months.

Even cryptids can’t escape the paparazzi!


A few of my other books:

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection and Masters of Air & Fire, her middle-grade novel.

The Grimhold Wolf, my Gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

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