Sometimes the best stuff you come up with is a surprise. The adventures of Roy Harper, Firespinner, is just one such example in my own body of work. Roy wasn’t intended as a major character he was just someone I thought up when plotting out an entirely different series. I spent a lot of time thinking about him as I organized that story and inevitably writing about Roy as well. Ideas for stories about a roving mercenary, armed with magic and the chip on his shoulder, just kept occurring to me, far outstripping the initial idea I had for a tin star sheriff with a magic sword.
I often pitch the basic concept of Roy Harper’s adventures as “Have Spell, Will Travel.” To me, his story has always been much more complicated than that, deeply tied to ideas I have developed about chivalry and its importance to understanding the modern age. Such philosophical concepts are interesting to discuss among friends but rarely get a lot of attention from strangers. Why is that? Well, mostly because a philosophy doesn’t count for squat until we begin to live it out.
Stories are about living things out. If you really want to explore ideas about philosophy, morality or politics you’ll get much further, and interest far more people, if you present those ideas through stories and not just through idealized stories about how your philosophy will play out under ideal circumstances but stories where those ideas are challenged in the most extreme fashion. Roy is a man who tried to live out a very important part of his philosophy – his patriotism. He went and he fought in a war and what he saw in that war challenged him greatly. He’s still struggling against those challenges.
If you’ve read Roy’s pervious stories you know that his past has played a big part in how he looks at situations and this one is no exception. There will be talk about the virtues of chivalry in Roy’s world. But for the most part this story is culmination. We’ve seen Roy in every aspect of his life – honoring his connections from the past, dealing with trouble as he finds it and actively hunting down evil throughout the West. In this story he’ll do all three and deal with them in ways only he could.
This story was a surprise to me. It occurred to me during a brainstorming session and quickly jumped ahead of several other Roy Harper stories I was developing. It’s the perfect capstone to introducing the character. It’s exciting, it’s fun and it lets Roy do what he does best – hit far above his weight class because he sees through to the truth of the matter. I’m very delighted to present it to you, starting today.
But before we get started I do have one thing to bring to your attention. While I always intend to put all my fiction published on the Internet on this blog this will no longer be the long term home for my fiction. All chapters of A Candle in the Wind will be available here while the story is being published and for six weeks after the story wraps up. Then all chapters of that story, as well as all Roy Harper stories previously published here, will be removed and only available through the archive of my newly established Substack. Reading the archive will require a paid subscription.
While I believe the Internet is a fantastic way to attract an audience the fact is if I want to make a living at this, and I do, then sooner or later I have to sweettalk someone into paying for the stories I write. It’s my hope that a Substack that allows me to paywall all my older work while still offering my current projects for free will be a good way to do this. Don’t worry, this blog won’t be going anywhere. All of the content that has appeared here in the past will continue to appear here. I don’t plan to move anything outside of the Roy Harper archives to Substack any time soon and before I move other fiction there in the future I plan to give at least two months notice. My generalized posts on writing, philosophy and the like will continue to appear here and will never be paywalled.
If you’re interested in supporting me on Substack you can find me there by following this link:
However if you chose not to join as a paid subscriber I fully understand. If you’re reading this here you’re some of my oldest and most faithful readers and I have always appreciated you for just reading. I hope you’ll stick with me through this latest installment. Now, after all that housekeeping, we bring you to the prologue of Roy’s latest outing. Thanks as always, and enjoy the show!
The sandstone statue of Jonathan Riker was quite new in monumental terms. The citizens of Riker’s Cove commissioned it the year after he was killed fighting Wendigoes during the Summer of Snow. They collected the money and hired a somewhat famous sculptor from the capitol in Hancock. The artisan was given a painting of the town’s founder that depicted him dressed in his sailor’s pea coat, carrying his ship’s log and sextant and then left to his work. Two years later it was unloaded from the skytrain and put in place overlooking the town graveyard after the rainy season.
Due to the problems of tide and storm surge the graveyard sat on top of a grassy bluff that shadowed the northern side of the cove. Now Riker’s likeness looked down from the highest point, keeping vigil over both the family crypt and the town that bore his name.
At the moment said crypt was visited by a lone man. He was a head shorter than the norm and dressed in a simple but well tailored brown suit with a red waistcoat. A crisp, new derby hat was currently held over his heart as he contemplated the grave. He wore a sword belt with a long, wickedly bladed falcata strapped to his side. The beginnings of crows feet wrinkled the corners of his eyes and light brown hair swept across his skull in short, neat lines.
The man came to town on the evening sky train. He hadn’t been impressed with the bare field where the weekly train landed. The absence of platform and station was something old Riker had always intended to remedy but never gotten to so the statue was not offended on the town’s behalf. It silently watched as the stranger made his way into town, stopped at the only inn for a few minutes and finally made his way back out of town and up the bluff to the graveyard. He’d stopped at Jonathan’s crypt for five minutes or so. Then, having lingered as long as was appropriate for an acquaintance rather than an old friend, he put his hat back on and was turning to leave when the second man entered the graveyard.
He wore a battered slouch hat over wavy blonde hair, a long leather duster and denim pants and shirt. A tin disk with a five pointed star engraved on it was pinned to his coat. An archaic straight bladed sword with a simple crossguard was strapped to his side and he carried a candle in a flat, silver holder by a ring shaped handle.
The graveyard wasn’t large and the stranger spotted the sheriff right away. He paused, hand still on the brim of his hat, looking a bit surprised. That was a fitting reaction. The statue had never seen the town’s current sheriff visit the graveyard before. Then again, he’d only moved to town some two years ago and it was possible he didn’t know any of the town’s deceased.
The stranger finally lowered his hand to his side and moved to meet the sheriff in front of the crypt. The sheriff looked him up and down then said, “Are you Roy Harper?”
“That’s me. You seem to have the advantage on me.”
“Avery Warwick,” the blond man said, “and I’m the sheriff of Riker’s Cove. Can I ask what brings a professional mercenary to my town?”
The candle in the sheriff’s hand suddenly popped, sputtered and coughed then burned normally again. Both men stared at it in surprise. Once it was clear the candle was back to normal Roy said, “My business is actually related to yours, sheriff. I’ve learned that a wanted man is laying low here in Riker’s Cove and I’ve come to take the matter in hand.”
“You’re here for a bounty, then?”
“I’m here because I made a promise to an old friend. Bringing in a wanted man just so happens to be a part of that.” Roy made an indifferent gesture. “I don’t have to collect the bounty myself, although I won’t complain if I do get it.”
“I see.” Avery gestured back to town. “Would you mind moving this discussion into someplace more private? If you’re after a fugitive then you don’t want to tip your hand.”
As the two men moved back through the graveyard their voices grew distant. “Can you tell me who this fugitive is?” Avery asked as they went.
“Heinrich,” Roy answered. “Heinrich von Nighburg.”
Then they were out of earshot and the statue was alone again, keeping silent vigil over the Cove once more.