by Joseph Lallo
We’ve all read stories of the “ideal” hero; a knight in shining armor selflessly fighting a pitched battle and prevailing against all odds. It is a classic image, and it makes for an inspiring story, but in the end it is a bit simple and a bit naïve. Heroes come in many forms, and the greatest deeds sometimes come from those with morals a few shades closer to black. It stands to reason, doesn’t it? At its root, heroism is about doing the job that must be done but no one else will do. If there’s one thing the world has taught us, it is that some jobs go undone simply because no one is willing to get his or her hands dirty. When heroism is messy work, you need a messy sort of hero.
Nowhere is the seedier side of heroics more prevalent than in fantasy. These are worlds filled with dark corners and hidden alleys. They are settings defined by assassins and thieves, mercenaries and cutthroats. In a world like that even the most gleaming paragon of virtue is bound to get a little dirty seeking out his prize. Blood will be spilled, dungeons will be raided, and graves will be dug. When you get right down to it, aren’t those all jobs better served by professionals? If you need something stolen from an evil warlord, shouldn’t you hire a man who pays for his ale with coins plucked from the purses of nobles? And if you need a dark sorceress killed, who better than a woman who lives her life slinking through the shadows to do the deed? The end result is the same, no precious white cloaks need to get sullied, and a few skilled professionals get a little gold in their pockets besides. For the hellish jobs that need to be done, it’s a match made in heaven.
Blackguards is an anthology celebrating these unsung antiheroes of the fantasy world. Gathering together a host of varied and rich settings, each of the authors has contributed an original tale of a less-than-virtuous hero, a flat-out villainous protagonist, or simply the grimier side of fantasy. Many of these stories tie in to a larger world, giving tantalizing glimpses into each author’s series and serving as an introduction to their greater works.
It has been said by many writers wiser than I that we are all the heroes of our own story. That bandit eying the jewelry dripping from the neck of the heiress isn’t planning to steal them just to be evil. It is his stock and trade. It is how he scratches out a living in a society that would really rather he didn’t exist. When you are a scoundrel, the whole world really is against you, and what’s more heroic than fighting against those sorts of odds? Sometimes it is fun to take a look behind the curtain and see how the other side fights their battles. Blackguards shows time and time again that adventurers need not be pure to be good, and that the most interesting story is often the one the hero dare not tell.
Check out the Blackguards: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues anthology on Kickstarter! It includes stories by fantasy greats Mark Lawrence, Carol Berg, Michael J. Sullivan, Anton Strout, and many more. Read excerpts, watch the book trailer, and find out what great rewards are in store for backers of this epic anthology! The Kickstarter ends on September 24th. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1089607742/blackguards-tales-of-assassins-mercenaries-and-rog