Some people jog; others dance; still others buy hamburger, make cute little three-dimensional animals out of it and leave them saran-wrapped on the porches of their co-workers.
Me, well, my pass-times are a little weirder. Probably because of an early childhood bout of Tolkienitis, I tend to now and then fall to sketching imaginary worlds: a map, a few names, rising and falling kingdoms and empires, flags, battles and successions, exotics and old familiar things, all that.
And, of course, annals, like the following gloomy excerpt where my immense irritation about one specific storytelling cliche bursts out, bursts out like a self-confident starry-eyed youth with a Destiny, taking up the lead when his superiors fall, and charging to victory showing that thirty years of experience apparently aren’t that big a thing, really.
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Year 1899 of Falyon Founding: The Shimondan Free Kingdom splits from the Great Union.
The only battle during this split was that of Deep Well — a relatively minor clash between the Free Kingdom militia and a heavily armoured unit of Tionite Knights. The latter were ambushed but their superior, better-trained and better-armed numbers might have won the battle despite the early loss of most of their leading officers, had not ”fate” intervened. That fate was the combination of a consumptive but charismatic young woman and a self-confident young cadet — and most surprisingly for all those that read tales, these two were on the Tionite side.
Tama Angrous, the young cadet, with only a few weeks of training under his belt, stepped up and took command, and the shocked and momentarily leaderless Tionites obeyed. Ganina, the ”prophet woman” (actually a questionable companion of one of the officers fallen early during the battle), took a spear and charged alone at the foe, and half the Knights charged after her. The rest were swerved away by Angrous on a risky flanking maneouver. Ganina’s attack failed to break the Free Kingdom lines but held them in place, giving Angrous’s men time — time that they wasted trying to first ride over a treacherous bog (many were thrown; some sunk into the swamp under the weight of their armor and drowned), and then leading their horses, losing much time and exhausting themselves (the heavy cavalry armor again): when their flanking move was done, they were in no condition to fight, and stopped to rest.
Meanwhile Ganina’s part of the Tionite Knights was driven back and torn to pieces; when Ganina and her ad hoc bodyguard were surrounded by the enemy, she cried out in a great voice, and like a fool Tama Angrous came, leading his sore and unfit-to-fight Knights to slaughter against a flank long warned of their approach, and well armed with spears and stakes. Ganina was struck down and taken prisoner; Tama Angrous swooned out of either despair or heat and was likewise taken.
The defeat of their better-trained and numerically superior force was such a shock that Tionites hesitated, and by the time they had divined the full causes of their defeat, the Free Kingdom was too strong to be toppled without a major war they were unwilling and possibly unable to start. The Free Kingdom leaders were kind to their two prisoners, knowing full well they couldn’t do them any worse than they had already done to themselves. As a ”gesture of goodwill” they were returned to the Tionite Knights a year later, when the threat of war had passed. Tama Angrous was court-martialled and sentenced to death, but escaped before the sentence was carried out. Ganina was very eager to testify against the young cadet, no doubt wishing to save her own skin. Thus it no doubt was a great shock to her that after Angrous’s escape the next court-martial was hers; she did not escape, and was hanged.
An unconfirmed tale (memoirs of a Korite ship captain published in 1950) tells that Tama Angrous took the name Taman Shinos (recorded as living 1882–1917) and tried to enlist in the War Navy of Kor; failing this, he became a bouncer in a Kor waterfront bar, retired from that job after being blinded by a drunken sailor, and spent his final years as a basketmaker somewhere in the city’s Poor Artisans’ District. If this tale is to be believed, he was happy in these two vocations: the first, where no-one followed his commands without backbiting and authority-questioning, and the second where he had no followers at all, and no chance of harming anyone at all. Reputedly he died sad, but at peace with the world and himself.
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All I can say is this is a marginally better way to spend your free time than kicking old ladies with steel-toed boots. (Because some people say old ladies with steel-toed boots are aliens in disguise. Okay, one person says that. Maybe. Okay, no-one has said it.)
Well, a nice pass-time, unless you let the silly little thing get to your head. Whipping up lies, no matter how artistic, entertaining and self-consistent, is a little thing compared to the study of reality — but it’s entertainment for yourself even if for no-one else. And, since I began with a mention of Tolkien, let me say that the construction of a whole world, not just a lazy photocopy of ours but something big, a bit alien, pretty complex, and somehow realistic and consistent within its own subtly different rules (“How come 4000 years passed without a single bit of technological or social innovation?” should be the most common consistency question in fantasy), is a game like no other.