20 Heroes in 2010

In 2010, FanLit and Robert Rhodes published 20 sketches of original fantasy heroes for your reading pleasure. In addition to reviews for FanLit, Rob writes fantasy fiction which has appeared in several venues (including Return of the Sword: An Anthology of Heroic Adventure which Greg has reviewed). Rob has been named a finalist in The L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest and is a guest lecturer at Wofford College’s Shared Worlds creative writing camp. Rob’s most recently published short story, “Devotion”, will appear in a forthcoming issue of Black Gate magazine. You can read Rob’s latest news at his blog. If you’d like to express your appreciation for Rob’s and FanLit’s work, feel free to donate.

20 Heroes: The Lady

Last in our Heroes series, by Robert Rhodes. Art is courtesy of Electra Wilson.

In the White Garden are many mirrors and many pools. She wanders among them in the unfailing daylight, watching as glass and water open on the crossroads of distant lives.

In an ivy-framed mirror, a shepherd girl weeps, unable to touch her oldest friend, bound in a tomb of ensorcelled ice. In one pool a young emperor stands at the edge of desert and ruined highway, choosing knowledge above all the pleasures of his world; while in one beside it, a queen becomes a beggar girl, and a servant becomes a queen, so that one might seek her husband's fate, the balm for her shattered heart.

An old man teaches a boy to read. A young woman rides away from the only father she has known. A man of myriad voices gently sings, in his ... Read More

20 Heroes: Love & Winter, Yelena’s Story II

Nineteenth in our Heroes series, by Robert Rhodes, this is part 2 of "Love & Winter: Yelena's Story" which was a finalist in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. Art is courtesy of Lialia.

Continued from part one

She slammed the palace doors behind her and threw herself against the seam. The wood shuddered, and snarls and barking echoed inside. Teeth snapped, then nothingness.

With her back to the doors, Yelena panted from the chase and squinted into the vale’s clouded light. The snowstorm had passed. Above her the white mountains loomed in silence. Her earlier tracks led away from the palace, toward a shape—

... Read More

20 Heroes: Love & Winter, Yelena’s Story I

Eighteenth in our Heroes series, by Robert Rhodes, this is part 1 of "Love & Winter: Yelena's Story" which was a finalist in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. Art is courtesy of Lialia.

The four sorcerers gathered that night in the iron tower by the river Dnal. “Brothers,” they said, “this day has proven us equal in power. Let us depart then, one to each end of the world. Let each hone his craft, take an apprentice, and return in one-and-twenty years, and on that day let the greatest be decided.”

At daybreak they departed, soaring among the clouds: one to the dry grasslands of the West; one to the East, in the woodland of mist; one to South, beyond the burning desert; and one to the No... Read More

20 Heroes: Morrigan

Seventeenth in our Heroes series, by our own Robert Rhodes. Art is courtesy of Anders Finér.

One of the baron's guardsmen grunted and pressed a candle into her hand. No sooner had she grasped it than another shoved her through the shadowed doorway. The door slammed behind her, snuffing the candle, and its iron bar thudded into place.

"Jackwits," Morrigan snapped under her breath. The garments they'd given her, such as they were, were ridiculously inadequate in the keep's dank catacombs, and the door-gust had chilled her skin to gooseflesh. She closed her eyes and calmed her thoughts, focusing on the aether around her. A heartbeat later, she summoned her grim-cloak from it, sighing as the sleek fabric settled around her like a living shadow. Then she held out her hands, tossing the candle aside, and called her arc-s... Read More

20 Heroes: Caterina

Sixteenth in our Heroes series, by our own Robert Rhodes. Art is courtesy of Andreea Ifteni.

Shadows always covered the entrance to the Grotto, and the black muslin of her veil made it doubly hard to see. She easily recognized, though, two of the beggars gathered before it. The first was an old man, thin and handless — a twice-caught thief who seemed to live beneath a particular willow and never failed to greet her. He bowed his head and called, "Hail, your majesty. I am sorry for your loss." She went to him and carefully placed a coin between his toes.

"Thank you," she whispered and, straightening, turned to another beggar, a wild-haired young woman with a dirty face, who sat and clutched a stained rucksack to her chest, swaying and humming an unknown tune — Elisa, her former handmaiden in disguise, whom... Read More

20 Heroes: Takhara

Fifteenth in our Heroes series, by our own Robert Rhodes. Art is courtesy of Emma Rose Paterson.

"Wake now, little sister," she hears Eldest Sister say. She breathes and pearlescent light washes over her eyelids. Outside a woodpecker's beak thrums against a tree trunk; a goldeneye duck calls on the pond. She smells silk and jasmine... and something more.

She lifts herself onto one elbow and finds Eldest Sister kneeling beside her. Never, outside of the temple, has she witnessed Eldest Sister kneel. But a smile illuminates her wrinkled face, and upon her outstretched palms, redolent of leather and steel, lays Takhara's sword. The metal gleams like moonstruck water, with an edge sharper than a wild poet's tongue.

"I ... I am alive," she says. She remembers stepping into the Spirit Garden ... Read More

20 Heroes: Torsten

Fourteenth in our Heroes series, by our own Robert Rhodes. Art is courtesy of Tiziano Baracchi.

He wakes before the dawn bell. His hips and fingers ache, and the flagstones beside his cot send a shiver through his legs. He tugs his feet into his slippers, then stands with a soft grunt and pulls on his over-tunic. He takes a step toward the dim outline of the door and forces his fingers to search the shelf beside it until they grasp a shard from a broken urn. He cannot see the image there, a crescent moon in a bit of night, a bone-white curve on glazing long-faded to gray. His fingers feel its smoothness, though, and the roughness of the fractured sides and the edges sharp enough to draw blood.

“What is known cannot be lost,” he murmurs in words all but forgotten from the outer world. He sighs an... Read More

20 Heroes: Scarlet

Thirteenth in our Heroes series, by our own Robert Rhodes. Art is courtesy of Mates Laurentiu.

"Are you sure, then?" Mathias asked her. "I know this is the life I've led you to, lass." He shifted his crutch, the wood slanting beside the ghost of his right leg. "Are you sure it's the life you want?"

Scarlet finished buckling the saddlebags. She turned and took in his weathered face, the cottage and garrison wall behind him. Now or never. She looked down and smiled.

"Of course not," she said. "But unless the world changed last night, and the Wardens will accept a woman, it's the life I have. The life you gave me, captain." And because it was time, her sight blurring with tears, she added, "Father."

He nodded rapidly, lips trembling within his graying beard. "They'll accept you," he said, hi... Read More

20 Heroes: The Brute

Twelfth in our Heroes series, by our own Robert Rhodes. Art is courtesy of Chenthooran Nambiarooran.

I know what you're thinking. You're here from desperation. Because, most likely, a loved one's been kidnapped or cursed. Or because you — dabbing your brow with a cloth, clutching it like the end of a rope — are the one cursed. And you've come to this tower, beside the Plaza of Red Shadows, where the blazing daylight might reveal the blade drawn against you, but never deter its master. You've come with a bag of silver and turquoise beneath your clinging tunic and a honeyed plea on your tongue. You've come to beg the warlock Korentis Korh for aid.

But what do you find? Not a silver-haired presence, adorned with silk and shimmering tattoos, but a man large and slab-muscled enough to make black... Read More

20 Heroes: Ophelia

Eleventh in our Heroes series, by our own Robert Rhodes. Art is courtesy of Imogen Cane.

So many nights I simply wish I were normal. Almost every other young woman in Port Royal, rich or poor, is in bed now. Perhaps they are gossiping with a sister or friend, offering consolation for a day's sorrow or whispering hopes and plans for the midsummer carnivals. Perhaps they are with a man. Or perhaps they dream.

I never remember my dreams. I did once, as a small girl in the crumbling orphanage on Barrel Lane. Often, I'd dream of my mum, of chasing her through the alleys behind the lane, from the city, into a field while the sky darkened and rumbled. Rain would pour, and my bare feet would slip and sink in mud. Always she'd run ahead of me, her bright hair like a banner, finally darting into a forest as... Read More

20 Heroes: Phineas

Tenth in our Heroes series, by our own Robert Rhodes. Art is courtesy of Christine Martino.

Of course I understand my life is hardly normal. And yes, it's perfectly fair to call me touched. Mad is a bit strong, I think, and deranged is simply offensive. But it's not my fault. Not entirely. I suppose I am partially responsible now, since I rather enjoy how my life runs widdershins to almost everyone else's. But if anyone is responsible, it's the Lady Herself — and who am I to question a goddess?

True, to the teeming masses of Port Royal, the Lady of Blessed Darkness is all but forgotten. Of the countless merchants, sailors, fishwives and errand boys who smooth the cobbles of Ice Street each day, few could tell a stranger the significance of the crescent moon and stars carved... Read More

20 Heroes: Cipher

Ninth in our Heroes series, by our own Robert Rhodes. Art is courtesy of Sabrina Moles.

He waits behind the curtain of crimson velvet, listening to the court's gossip and chatter. At last, silvered trumpets blare — the least subtle of distractions — and he parts the curtain imperceptibly. Across the great ballroom, the Crown Prince and his wife appear in the broad doorway, their golden sashes seeming to glow beneath the gaslight sconces. Arm in arm, they proceed toward the wide curtained dais like pieces gliding on a chessboard of red and white marble. The members of the court — nobles, bureaucrats, officers of the Black Cavalry — having stood from their cushioned chairs, bow and curtsy as the couple passes, sit once the two are seated before the dais. He turns and nods to his four squires, black-clad, porcelain-mas... Read More

20 Heroes: Emilian IV

Eighth in our Heroes series, by our own Robert Rhodes. Art is courtesy of Leonid Kozienko. Commenters are entered to win Changes by Jim Butcher.

The high grasses of the prairie thinned after he passed the final milestone. They grew shorter, sparser, before fading into cracked soil and dust. The desert began where the eroded stones of the road ended, and with them, the Empire that had been his.

Forty-five days ago, before dawn, he slipped through a false panel in his private library. In the dark and narrow passageway, he removed his silk robe and jeweled slippers. He donned the tunic, boots, saber, and cloak of an imperial herald and took up his pack. From the corridor, into a musty cellar, through a trapdoor, down rusted rungs i... Read More

20 Heroes: Tasha

Seventh in our Heroes series, by our own Robert Rhodes. Art is courtesy of Barbara Brashier.

"You're late, milady," Aramis says even as she parts the silver curtain. He snaps shut his pocket watch and tucks it into his checkered vest, his white-tipped ginger tail swishing.

She shrugs and sits on the closest bench in the Armory. "My geology midterm's tomorrow," she says, unlacing her sneakers. (Did I forget to take them off? she wonders.) "It's going to be hard. And besides," she adds as her armor  — helm and breastplate, bracers and greaves — floats from the rack and hovers beside her, "there was a wreck on the interstate this afternoon — a van and a semi. Some people were airlifted. Some died. I think it's going to be rough tonight. I didn't really want to sleep."

Aramis ... Read More

20 Heroes: Tanion

Sixth in our Heroes series, by our own Robert Rhodes. Art is courtesy of Leela Wagner.

"You're a trueborn child of Goldspire," his mother once said while stroking his hair. He'd fought an older boy behind the Butchers' Market that afternoon and lost. "Quick. Tough. Clever. You'll be a lord someday, Tan, if you use your head before your hands and heart."

Later — seven years ago, now — he found her in a snowdrift near their home, her throat cut from ear to ear. Quick, tough, clever. A whore's bastard and, in the wall's shadow, his eyelashes frozen, an orphan. A child of Goldspire in the truest sense.

*  *  *

He is twenty now and a soldier in the city guard, newly promoted to the night watch. Fair enough with sword and dagger, unrivaled with a crossbow or besid... Read More

20 Heroes: Andreas val Dhari

This the fifth installment in our Heroes series, written by our own Robert Rhodes. The art is courtesy of Ida Mary Walker Larsen.

He is free.

He simply stands as the wide gates of the mining barracks thud shut and a wave of cold air hits his nape. He lingers under the gatehouse arch, his boots uneasy on the icy muck, and lifts his eyes. Before the jagged white mountains, under the leaden sky, it remains.

The Spire.

He wishes, for a time beyond counting, he had never seen it. A fool's wish, of course, but he has another — not foolish but chained like a wolf and goaded with spears, fed at nightfall with bloody morsels. Primed for slaughter.

The Spire is dull now, nothing more than a massive metal spike atop the Lord's Citadel, for the sun can hide for w... Read More

20 Heroes: Mad Batson

This the fourth installment in our Heroes series, written by our own Robert Rhodes. The art is courtesy of Allen Douglas.

On a brisk autumn day, Mad Batson went a-wandering.

He closed behind him the door of the forgotten shrine that was his home in Fair Forest and, clicking his tongue, finger-painted the lintel with a rune of sulfur and bean curd. Satisfied that any intruder would be whisked onto the pleasure barge of the Archduchess of Milph and bloated with nose-wrinkling gases, he brushed off his hands and departed.

Red-golden leaves crackled under his leathery feet. He stretched his bony legs into loping strides, letting the air swirl refreshingly underneath his woolen robes. In an oak grove, he interrupted three faeries arguing the virtues of peaseblossoms, declaring, with a stomp of his fo... Read More

20 Heroes: Shaman

This the third installment in our Heroes series, written by our own Robert Rhodes. The art is courtesy of Aiko Rudell.

One night, when I was a child, the Red God walked into my dreams. He laid his burning hand on my shoulder and led me to the borderland where the world of men and beasts ends and the lush vale of his kingdom begins. Together, we stood beside the river of death – a mamba of swift, dark water scaled with countless stars, one for each soul who has crossed between the worlds.

Take your sandals and drum, he said. Gather three stones and a hollowed gourd.  Walk east until the water roars and you weep from the scent of blossoms. There you will find a magician who intends the greatest of blasphemies. Face him and command him to turn from his path.
... Read More

20 Heroes: Remy

This the second installment in our Heroes series, written by our own Robert Rhodes. The art is courtesy of Yoni Danziger.

It is not the first night he has waited on a rain-slick roof in the Lily Quarter, his chest braced on the knobby spine of a gargoyle, between whose curving horns he watches another mansion's diamond-paned windows. It is cheap entertainment — after days when his long fingers have lightened purses or pockets, or evenings when the theaters offer nothing he does not know by rote — to espy Cassant's lords in their paneled studies, its ladies in their curtained boudoirs, and to dream.

Dreaming is also comfort on damp nights such as this, when hunger cramps his belly and the truth — that he has neither family nor friends — grips his throat like a noose. He wishes, he wishes every night, that Nana wer... Read More

20 Heroes: Siltanen

Today we begin a series of series of sketches of 20 original fantasy heroes who have been conceived in the mind of our own Robert Rhodes. Rob's fiction has appeared in several venues and he has been named a finalist in The L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. We're proud of Rob and pleased to publish his work. We'll also showcase several works of art which Rob has chosen to accompany his sketches. Be sure to visit the artists' websites to see more of their portfolios.

We hope you'll enjoy this series (please let us know by commenting).
And our first hero is

The merchant lord’s library is deliciously quiet in the dead of night. She lifts the enameled coffer from his desk—an elegant piece, but stern cool steel nonetheless—and turns it until its lock rests in a window-twisted fall of amber from a streetlamp below. It is the chamber's only i...

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