Karl El-Koura’s story “The Azurian Shield” was published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 29 October 2021.
Some time ago, an image popped into my head of a soldier on a horse in a field, facing a cracking dome from the inside. I was so excited by the idea that I started writing the story almost right away (often, though not always, a mistake). I wrote about a thousand words of the soldier trying to hold the line while monstrous creatures poured through. I had this notion that the magic of the shield could only protect them while a righteous king or queen sat on the throne, but after about a thousand words the idea ran out of steam.
From time to time, I thought about that poor soldier facing the cracking shield, but I didn’t have a strong sense of where to take the story.
Then one day it occurred to me: what if the shield isn’t there to keep chaos out? What if they only thought it did? And what if the price to keep the shield whole is a terrible one?
I began to see the outline of this new version of the story: my soldier, named Bathar now, and head of the elite guard sworn to defend the realm, would have a deep need to ensure that the shield didn’t fall (which would lead, as he supposed, to the destruction of the kingdom). But he’d also be unable to pay the terrible price required to restore a failing shield. An impossible position–except for the possibility of recovering a forgotten truth about their situation. That line of thinking seemed to unlock the story for me. Now when I started writing, I didn’t stop until I had a fair-sized novelette.
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