Our way forward could only be half guessed across the almost vertical gash of loose dirt and stone, the aftereffects of a major landslide. The slide had erased what little path there had been and I couldn’t see a safe way across. Just a little way down the slide path from us, the loose stone stopped and the open air began. I sniffed the wind.
“What do you think?” Merla asked.
“I don’t smell or hear anything. What do you see?”
“The path is totally gone, but I can see a way across, not easy, but doable. Let’s go. But, please, be careful!”
Merla picked her way first. I followed close behind, trying to place my feet exactly where hers had been, knowing she had a sense of the path that I couldn’t match. It wasn’t easy and, with the sun beating down on me, I began to sweat.
We were almost across when I felt my feet go out from under me as a rock I was trusting slid out, bringing a double handful of pebbles with it. I grabbed at a boulder that was just below me, jostling my arm and scraping my hands in the process. I caught a foothold and dug in. I was scratched, scraped and bruised, but I didn’t go down with the loose gravel. I hang on to my boulder, stuck in the position, and listened.
Tink. A small stone was still bouncing its way down.
Satisfied that I was fine, Merla turned back to task and finished her way across to the woods.
Tink. The bit of gravel was still going down.
There was a pause with no sound. Had it come to a stop? But then, tink, the stone, very far away hit the bottom of the cliff. I knew that the noise had long been out of Merla’s range, but I could still hear it and created the landscape, with a few large drops, in my mind as if I was seeing it with my eyes instead of following it with my ears.
After I knew the stone had come to a rest, I pulled myself up to Merla’s track and crossed the gap. I was soon able to join Merla in the woods.
“Stupid suicide mission, if you ask me.” I didn’t mean to say it out loud.
“Oh, quit complaining, Lorounce,” Merla said.
The above clip is the opening to my novella, The Mad Quest. Lorounce and Merla are on a scouting expedition that takes a twist and turns into a never-ending, seemingly impossible, series of quests. Hey, you saw the title, you were warned 😉
The idea of the quest story has been around as long as the idea of the story has. Think of The Odyssey. It is huge in the genre of fantasy. Think The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
A good quest story, though seemingly about an outer journey, is really about an inner voyage. That is, any self-respecting quest is really about self-discovery. It might seem to be about destroying the evil artefact, finding dragon’s gold or making it home and freeing said home, but the real voyage takes place between the ears.
Look at the clip of The Mad Quest above. You can already see a few things about Lorounce. He has a great ability to hear and even build worlds from sound, like a bat. And yet he feels inferior to Merla. Merla is leading this expedition even though the society of Lorounce’s world is patriarchal. We soon find that Lorounce is ultra-pessimistic, something that is hinted at in this clip. In ways, Lorounce is an “everyman”. He is far from perfect, something Merla points out with her “please, be careful”.
No book should have perfect characters. They all need room to grow. There is an even greater need in a quest story. There needs to be a lot of room to grow and yet the character never really becomes perfect. No, not even Odysseus.
I seem to gravitate towards quests, even in more modern settings. My novella, On The Run, found in my short story collection Embers, is such a story. A female computer nerd is chased by villains all over the Western Hemisphere. A lot of it is action and spy-vs-spy, but in the end, the entire story is about Margret Field’s inner journey.
There is something about that journey called a quest, be it the obvious metaphor for what’s happening internally, or if it is just easier to create new challenges in new geographic settings, that makes them fun for me to write.
OK, a lot of my writing can’t really be called “quest fiction”, though the longer forms are all more about inner discovery than anything else. In fact, I would say that the main theme of almost every story I’ve written that exceeds 1500 words ends up being self-discovery and growth. Elliot has to “find his role” to figure out the riddle of The Fireborn. It is the same for Trevor in The Halley Branch – the book is about him much more than the history he uncovers or the evil Halleys. The title story of Embers is about a family’s discovering themselves after the loss of wife and mother, though it is very much a quest story – it is a figurative and literal self-rescue from the wilderness, ending only after each member of the family faces his own grief and fear. (His = a widowed man and his three sons).
Perhaps I took it to the extreme in my serial story based on Sue’s writephoto prompts, Of Wind and Wings, which can be found on my blog. Every character is searching for something, but they are all looking in the wrong place.
Isn’t this what fiction is about, if there is little plot curve or if there is a great adventure – self-discovery? And what better way than using that fantastic metaphor known as the quest.
“Towards the Light” and “The Mad Quest” are two fast paced, farcical Fantasy novellas. With visible winks and nods to the great Fantasy works that came before, but with a few unexpected twists, these two stories are light-hearted valentines to those classic works of the past; love notes but with pokes in the ribs and “bunny-ears” behind the head fun.
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About the author
I never decided what I wanted to do when I grew up. I compose and play music, draw and paint, take a lot of pictures, and yes, I write. I’ve written a couple of books that are sitting on my shelf waiting to go out and I write a new short story almost every week, which I often post on my blog, trentsworldblog.wordpress.com. I’ve collected some of the best short stories I’ve written and put them out as “Seasons of Imagination”.
I also like to eat, so I work as a computer nerd during the day while I figure out what it is I really want to do.
If you really need details, I was born and raised in Ohio by the shore of beautiful Lake Erie and now split my time between mountainous New Hampshire and the coast of Massachusetts.
One thing to know about me is that I hate to write bio-blurbs in the third person.
Find Trent’s books on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle
In the shadowy area where myth and history collide, an unlikely hero is forced to save the world from an ancient Celtic curse. Dr. Elliot Everett-Jones knows that shadowy area well, having spent most of his life exploring its dimensions as given by a host of unreliable sources and imaginative speculation. Some would say he daydreams over the improbable plots of second-rate Romantic era authors. These fantasies, however, come to life after the discovery of the Cauldron of the Dead. When the Cauldron produces the evil fireborn, Elliot is forced to confront an army of these mythic undead with nothing but his obscure knowledge and the hope of finding the legendary Lady of the Lake to give him Author’s sword. Even more frightening is the idea that he might have to confront his ex-wife, Eleanor. “The Fireborn” is part joyful romp through history, myth and legend, and part fast paced adventure set in modern England and New York. The entire book, though, revolves around Elliot’s relationships with a large variety of characters. These relationships form the key that may unlock the mystery or lead to utter defeat.
Trent P. McDonald’s Seasons of Imagination contains an eclectic mix of stories covering many places, times and even different genre, yet they all hold one thing in common, they are all about people. Be they silly, serious or speculative, all of the stories are about us. What makes us tick? Why do we say the things we do? Why do we react as we do?
So whether it seems the stories are exploring outer or inner space, in reality they’re always exploring the human space.
Here is an invitation to open the page and come with me to explore the Seasons of Imagination
The Halley Branch
An evil 300 years in the making. A trap set 150 years in the past.
The day should have been a normal “family day” at the Hawkins’ Mausoleum, but a premonition followed Trevor into the crypt. To make matters worse, he couldn’t shake his morning vision of a dead woman draped in a funeral-shroud.
After rescuing a girl trapped in the tomb, repressed memories forced him to reevaluate everything. Was his extended family a cult with roots going back to America’s colonial past? Was the evil Benjamin Halley still stalking his tomb after 150 years? Was there any truth to the Power described by the family’s patriarch, Miles Hawkins?
Trevor realized that he was being manipulated and drawn into a trap set in the 19th century, and feared that everyone around him had already been ensnared. Who could he trust? The members of his own family’s Branch, The Bradford’s, like his cousins Bill or Stan? Perhaps members of the Hawkins Branch, such as the beautiful but jaded Amelie? The one Branch he knew not to trust was the extinct Halley Branch.
But the Halley’s were the ones who were welcoming him with open, if dead, arms.
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