There comes a time in every fantasy world where the hero must do battle. Whether Sir William and Lady Jane are in Outer Space or in Jolly Old England, it is a given that there will be a battle. It is a fantasy, after all! When I write a battle scene, I first make for myself a complete description of the man or beast that I am battling. I have to know what the antagonist looks like and what their capabilities are since I am going to describe the way they fight and (hopefully) die!
Let us assume that we are fighting a dragon. In a story from “The Last Good Knight” Julian and Mags are sent to rout a beast that has made the Grimmenstock Mine its home. Normally, the King would have sent twelve good men to route the beast because, as Lackland tells the miners, “We don’t usually deal with dragons, because the standard method is to keep throwing men at it, keeping it busy while other men hack away at it. You usually lose five or six before the damned things grow tired enough that you can swarm and kill them. Mercenary companies are not able to support those kinds of losses. ”
Now the reason that I knew that little bit of information is because I made a description that was for my own reference before I began writing the dragon into the tale. I knew exactly what he looked like, what he normally ate and what his style of movement was like. None of that was written into the tale. The description of the dragon actually came out in the course of the tale as incidental information, other than the initial snippet, “Didn’t they tell you? We’re sure it’s a dragon of some sort,” said Colin, with some surprise. “I told the messenger that it was most definitely a dragon. The damned thing bit poor Jakey in half! I’ve never seen anything like this beast, but it’s every bit as most bards describe them: wings, large head, hundreds of teeth, long neck and tail, and as big as a house. I am sure that you’ll agree it’s a dragon.”
I knew what my dragon looked like, how my dragon lived, what it had been eating, even how it moved. Knowing the way a creature moves is critical if you must face it armed only with a sword! Is it fast? Is it random, or does it have a pattern to its movements? How does its musculature look when it moves? My dragon was bird-like in its quickness and in the way that it moved.
So once I had my own detailed description I was able to plan how my heroes would go about fighting such a thing. That was when I realized that two people could not possibly successfully battle such a beast in face to face combat, so an alternate method would be required. That is how the whole idea for the story called ‘The Dragon and the Daisies’ came about. It seemed to me that a woman would find a way to get rid of the beast because women rely on craft and guile to get the dirty jobs done when brawn won’t do the trick.
Until had my complete description of my dragon, I really had no story, only the idea that a knight should have the opportunity to fight at least one dragon in his life.