The Genre Tourist’s Guide to Epic Fantasy – Part Two (of however many I need to get you through this)

The Quest

mythic-journey

The Quest (always capitalized) is one of the essentials of Epic Fantasy. A Chosen One has no purpose but to quest.

Of course, they usually don’t have any desire to leave their home, so it is bound to happen that Fate Takes A Hand. If you are a minor character or walk-on extra in the first chapter or so – if you have had less than four lines to speak, or your physical description had to share the sentence with another character – then I am sorry to tell you that this usually means that it will be curtains for you.

Fate lives by the maxim of “Go big or go home.” In order to get the Chosen One to leave family and friends behind and to get out there and fulfill the ancient prophesy, Fate generally will stop at nothing to make this a certainty.

A lot of the time, that means entire villages or royal families will be sacrificed.

However, there are exceptions. If you are extraordinarily pretty or clever, or were especially kind to an outcast version of the Chosen One, it is possible that you may survive the devastation, although this usually remains unknown until after all the interesting storylines have been resolved.  Conversely, if you were in secret league with The Evil One, you may also survive, although this merely increases your chances of a painful end later on.

But for the more central characters, The Quest is paramount. If you are the Chosen One, no planning will be necessary. You are free to simply act on impulse and run from the destruction of all you hold dear, or, as in many plot arcs, attach yourself to older, wiser, and usually magically-adept persons whose sole purpose in life is to get you to the sticking point where you can conquer the evils besetting the land and/or take your place as the rightful ruler.

The main thing is that you need not worry over the mundane. Your friends, past or future, will provide. There will be that old wizard whipping up feasts in the desert for you, or your childhood pal/faithful servant will have conveniently managed to put together a packsack full of bread, cheese, dried meat, and a spare change of clothes, right before you are forced to flee.

Be polite and kind to them. In general, wise wizards and faithful companions do not live much past Book Two.

(This first appeared in the November 2016 issue of Fantasy Worlds eMagazine, reprinted with permission.)

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