The Baen Free Library is a section of the Baen site where a good number of books is offered for free download, as a way to sample authors and their works. During one of my visits, I discovered the existence of a series of short stories collections, grouped by year of publication: as it often happens, anthologies can be mixed bags, but I found a few stories that truly caught my attention: in my next posts dedicated to shorter works I will review the ones that I liked most in this collection from the best of 2016.
THE LAVENDER PALADIN
This was a quite unusual story, on many levels: it might be labeled as Fantasy since it depicts knights in armor and their attendants, but at the same time those knights are considered gods and addressed as “deus” by those same companions; and each of them travels with a bird-sized dragon, whose venomous bite can confer a wide range of powers. Yet there is not indication about the origin of these ‘gods’, so that for all we know they might as well be human-looking aliens coming from a far-off world; what is certain is that they seem to be at odds with each other – at least the two portrayed in this story are, to the point that one of them is pursuing the other and not stopping at anything to capture his enemy.
The most unusual detail of The Lavender Paladin, though, is the setting: while the story follows many of the traditional guidelines of a fantasy tale, the background, the names and description of the characters and the general feel of the narrative point to an African-like context, which makes for a very different flavor – and a very welcome difference, at that, since it’s something you rarely find in this genre.
Young Nia, the main point of view of the story, is quite taken with the unexpected guests in her mother’s house, the blind god Astonaris and his paladin Kwambo, the latter wearing the titular lavender armor: the two are enjoying a moment of respite in their flight from Saegon, another god and Astonaris’ enemy, and little do they know about the consequences this visit will have on Nia’s little family. Once they learn about them, the two men will have to decide whether to survive or do the right thing, knowing that each choice will require a price…
I was quite taken by this story, not least because I would love to learn more about this world and how it came to be: this is indeed one of those instances where a novel-sized narrative would be very welcome…