Swords vs. Sorcery
When writing a “swords and sorcery” style fantasy like The Son of Dark, it is very easy to let the sorcery overpower the swords. I’ve noticed this trend in so many fantasies, and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For my book, though, I wanted a more even playing field. I wanted magic to be ever present, certainly, but when fight scenes came I didn’t want my non-magical characters to be deadweight. To make this work, I had to do two things. First I had to build my magic system with weaknesses that sword-users could take advantage of. Second, I had to write non-magical characters who could still hold their own in a world full of magic.
In many ways the magic system for The Son of Dark is very traditional. For wizards, magic is performed through a language of power, and the strength of the spell comes from the energy of the wizard’s soul. This has its obvious disadvantages when fighting. It takes time to explain to the elements around you that you want them to do something, and whether your spell is offensive or defensive, time is something a swordsman isn’t going to give you. The very versatility of language becomes a drawback. There are a hundred things a wizard might say in response to a sword thrust. While all the possibilities are crossing the wizard’s mind, his practiced opponent doesn’t need to think deeply in order to deliver a killing blow with a sword.
Further, the wizard can’t influence the swordsman directly with his magic.
The magic still has its bite, though. Wizards can call swords to them or turn them against their opponents, turn sand to glass and throw shards of it in all directions, or conjure flesh onto dead bones to create terrifying allies. Dragons can possess humans, or create a magical kind of fire that ignores flesh and cloth and burns the very blood inside your veins. Thrown into this magical world are characters like Zar, Morkin, and Largalarg.
Zar is easily the least magical major character in The Son of Dark. He’s a pirate turned merchant, and his most valuable asset in a fight against magic is his quick decision-making. He takes in a situation quickly and determines the best, most logical course. Before swords are drawn and spells are spoken, he has often already leveled the playing field by changing the environment to his advantage.
Morkin quickly becomes Zar’s most trusted ally, in spite of a vague background and even vaguer motives. The idea behind Morkin has always been that of a man who has turned a disability into a weapon. He and his entire people are cursed with silence, such that they can neither hear nor be heard. This silence extends to all human noises, including footsteps, clapping, and breathing. As a result, Morkin has perfected a ninja-like regimen of skills.
Largalarg, on the other hand, is a ten-foot-tall troll known as a Grag. Grags are known for making good non-magical mercenaries, and sure enough Largalarg serves as Zar’s personal bodyguard. His weapon of choice is a ball and chain, and his superior size and strength makes this a formidable choice indeed. Though impractical on a medieval battlefield, I figured that in a one-on-ten fight, wielded by a behemoth like Largalarg, a cannonball on a length of chain would be a sensible option..
Balancing the world so that characters like this could hold their own against magic-users was a personal goal of mine as a writer, as I hope I can demonstrate with the excerpt below.
“Someone’s coming,” Smyra whispered. She ignored
Skel’s frantic gesturing to try and get her to release him.
Skel struggled to dig the dirt fingers out, but they were
almost as hard as rock. Also, they seemed to be fitting to the
shape of his mouth. He even tried biting them, nearly
chipping a tooth in the process. He would have tried a spell,
but he couldn’t form the words he needed.
“It’s Cree. I mean Dawto,” Smyra said, staring through
the dune next to them. A quiet smile broke across her face,
chilling Skel to his bones.
“He must want a rematch,” she said with amusement.
A loud grunt sounded from the south, on the other side of
the dune. Skel imagined Smyra had conjured phagim
directly underneath the wizard to capture him before he
knew she’d spotted him. He thought of Dawto in the same
predicament he was in, and had to admit Smyra had
probably won the fight already.
The sand beneath their feet turned to reflective glass, so
suddenly and so perfectly at first it seemed as if the sky had
swallowed the earth. Smyra fell backwards as the ground
became slick. In the midst of his shock, Skel barely had time
to realize the phagim holding him had turned to glass as
well before he heard a small explosion. There was an
ominous tinkling as shattered glass began to rain on them
from the other side of the now glass dune.
“That’s it,” Skel heard Dawto yell. “I’ve ridden for two
weeks straight, lost my horse to an aja-aja, killed six more
aja-aja trying to save it, and gone without sleep for three
days trying to catch up to you before Azmat did.”
Dawto appeared over the crest of the hill, striding across
the smooth glass surface with remarkable ease. He’d grown
a short, unkempt beard since the last time they’d seen him.
Some of the hair was missing and his face sported some
nasty burns. They were still fresh, and they oozed pus. A
torn cloth bandage hung from his right shoulder, dark with
blood and grime. His eyes looked crazed as they peeked out
of his swollen face.
“You’re coming with me now,” Dawto demanded.
Publisher’s website: http://www.classactbooks.com/index.php/component/virtuemart/cat-young-adult/the-son-of-dark-tales-of-the-darksome-thorn-book-1-detail?Itemid=0
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Son-Dark-Darksome-Thorn-Book-ebook/dp/B01IG983XC/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1469026331&sr=1-1&keywords=The+SOn+of+Dark+by+Jeremy+Higley