Villains of LEGEND

I love a good wicked villain! In that respect, “The Legend of Allyn-a-Dale” is a treat-and-a-half for me, because it’s got not just one bad guy, but three. Since you’ve had a chance to meet most of the heroes in Books 1 and 2, how ‘bout we now take a sneak peek at the antagonists of Book 3?

Villain #1 – Lord Swanton, Sheriff of Nottinghamshire

Sheriff_of_Nottingham

Swanton in a single quote: “Something one learns in the position of Sheriff, Locksley: Somehow, the amount a person is able to give always totals less than what can be taken by force.”

Swanton in a scene:

Swanton swept through the door, his brow deeply furrowed and mouth set in a snarl. “Whiners!” he growled, slamming the door shut behind him. “Whiners, every one of them. Nothing but complaints, all day in and out!”

He stalked around the room like a wolf denied an opening to pounce, his voluminous dark robes swirling with every turn. “I am too hard on them, they say, these hedge-born curs. Hard! It is not I that is hard. I am not the law, only its enforcer — and if those under the law like it not, how am I to blame? Yet do they blame me. And I would care not a whit, if they would only do it silently!”

He threw himself down, grumbling, onto the cushion of his high-backed armchair. “Hard… I suppose snubbing the law would be less hard, would it not? Keeping their coppers for themselves instead of paying their taxes, feasting on ill-gotten meat, oh yes, that would be very easy. Nothing easier than utter anarchy! But we do not all have the luxury of turning our back on the law.”

“Is it a luxury, My Lord?” Allyn asked […]

“Indeed,” Swanton seethed quietly, gray eyes glinting. “A priest is bound by God’s law, a king by his own laws, those below by those given from above. We are not to break the rules, but work within them. …Creatively, if need be.

“To live outside of the law is a privilege that none have been granted, and yet will the lowest of men grasp for it. They scorn the governors placed over them, live by no code of conduct but that which they see fit to devise, and laugh behind the backs now bent beneath the double weight of having to deal with such vermin in addition to our own troubles! Time, funds, and effort which might have gone toward easing the burdens of the common folk, allotted instead to hunting down delinquents and meting out their due punishment. And then the whiners complain to me … only to speak praises of Robin Hood on their next breath!

An ill-placed goblet flew from its perch on an end table to crash into the wall opposite Swanton’s chair. … Swanton sat rigid, the nails of his clenched hands digging into his seat’s armrests, sweat beading on the brow over his wildly glittering eyes. “Play for me, Allyn,” he said hoarsely. “Sing.”

Why I love to hate him: Let’s just say… I can relate.

Villain #2: Sir Guy of Gisborne

Rowan Hood cover

Gisborne in a single quote: “The Sheriff cannot do the half of what I can. […] His tied hands cannot reach out and deal with outlaws as they must be dealt with if they are to be beaten: On their own, lawless terms. And so did he turn to me.”

Gisborne in a scene:

It was like looking at a demon. Tall and wiry, clad in black and darkest brown, with a horse head skin — long face and ears, mane and all — draped over him like an unholy masked helmet. His eyes were in shadow. His teeth, bared in grimace or grin, gleamed white […]

“You thought yourself safe, did you not? You thought I would not play your game. But you are not the only one willing to defy the law’s limits in the name of justice. And this is justice most complete.” The voice dripped with gloating malice. “The great Robin Hood, shot down with his own arrow. And though you will not live to feel it, yet will you hang.”

Straightening, he said, “Take him,” and two of his followers nearest at hand moved forward to obey. Then both startled back with a dual shout […] Robin’s body was gone from the tree […]

Alone of those left alive in the open, the horse-hooded man stood statue still. “Did anyone see that?” he asked.

A man at his side exclaimed, “Of course we saw—”

He got no further than that, the sword in his leader’s hand lashing out to cut him off at the neck.

“I ask again,” he said, voice sharp as bloody steel. “Did anyone see that?”

Why I love to hate him: This creeper gives my spirit chills!

Villain #3: …Well, that would be telling.

Gotta keep some surprises for the book, right? But here, we’ll throw in a scene with this reprobate thug:

“A fine day to you, Goodman Clank-and-Clang,” the man in the road said with a distracting smile. How very much like Will Scarlet his cousin could look, when his expression had mischief in store. “Making rather a lot of to-do about your passing, are you not?”

“’Tis to keep the outlaws away,” the driver said snappishly. “Stand aside, will you?”

Rather than comply, Robin tipped his head quizzically to one side. “Are outlaws truly as easily affrighted as all that? I should rather think they would come running from a mile away at what sounds enticingly like a king’s ransom in coins, clinking together.”

The driver grunted. “Only if a king’s captors are like to take payment in pots and kettles in need of a tinker’s repair. Not much worth robbing there, now is it?”

“Rob?” Robin repeated, as if such a thought had never entered his head. “Why, my good fellow, who’s come to rob you? I stand here only to collect the road’s toll.”

“Toll, is it? And how much is the toll?”

“That depends,” said Robin. “How much have you got?”

All this depravity and more, coming to you in 3 weeks! ^_^

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A Few Bars of BALLAD: Overture

With 3 weeks ‘til the release of the “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” (have you pre-ordered a copy yet? Don’t forget there are thank-you gifts to snatch up!), I thought it high time for a bit of sneak-peekery. Today, we get an abridged look at…

The Prologue!

(Or rather, in keeping with “Ballad”s musical themes, the Overture.)

“A prologue, eh?” you ask. …sounding distinctly, now I think on it, like the voice of Gant-o’-the-Lute. “Aren’t those a bit frowned upon, nowadays?”

By some, I suppose. Just as there are those who aren’t big on opening a book through a side character’s point of view. But lookee there – I did that, too!

“This your idea of living on the edge, is it?”

Pfft, hardly. This has nothing to do with writerly rebellion, and everything to do with the idea that sparked this book in the first place: What if what patrons thought was a run-of-the-mill Renaissance Faire was secretly home to the real-life Robin Hood?

Most of the novel is from an insider perspective, but for the beginning, I wanted to show how Avalon Faire looks to an outsider’s eyes – to provide a baseline of normalcy against which all the magic to follow can more vividly pop. Hence the prologue overture, in which Ordinary Gal™ Loren and her sister take in a typical Ren Faire performance, and— well, why don’t you all step up to the Archer’s Green and watch for yourselves? ^^

The map that could be yours, all yours (and outlaw-signed, to boot!) with a “Ballad” e-book pre-order.

The map that could be yours, all yours (and outlaw-signed, to boot!) with a “Ballad” e-book pre-order.

…A man bedecked in a quite official-looking getup — all bright velvets and a hat to beat the band — took his place on a raised platform to one side of the Green. A fawn-brown young woman in a fuss-free gown of darker browns and greens stepped up beside him, the pair of them in the middle of a conversation so loud, it couldn’t have been intended to remain private.

“What say you, my lady?” the man asked, with a hint of swagger. “Is it not a fine day for a shooting match?”

“I daresay, sir,” the woman agreed, hands held demurely not far below the cascade of curls at her back. “But perhaps almost too fine! ‘Tis a fair-weather day, with scarce a breath of wind in the air. Surely anyone with a bow in hand could send an arrow near the mark in such ideal conditions as these — especially as you’ve placed the targets almost insultingly close by.”

“Close by, say you!” cried the man, gesturing toward the row of hay bales marked with bull’s-eyes that stood, to Loren’s mind, a rather intimidating distance from the Green’s edge. “Far enough, I’d say! Would you have me place the mark on the far side of Nottinghamshire? What man would be able to win the prize then?”

The young woman offered a sly sort of bright-eyed smile. “I know tell of one man who could.”

The spectators around the platform began to buzz and chuckle with anticipation, one or two even going so far as to call out the name they guessed was hinted at. The gaudily dressed man’s face grew comically red.

“Who dares speak that name?” he bellowed. “There will be no talk of that rogue here — not while I’m still Sheriff of Nottingham! This is a contest for honest men, not sneaking scoundrels! For men and women who like to earn their gold through fair play and skill, not tricks and robbery! Show these good people the prize, my lady!”

The crowd ooh-ed and ah-ed as the woman held up the shining article for all to see. “Behold,” cried the Sheriff. “The Golden Arrow! Let whoever aims truest today take the prize. And let’s show my lady, here, that there stands at least one in Nottinghamshire who can shoot better than even this outlaw favorite of hers! Who will aim first?”

A dozen hands shot up and waved wildly in the air, Loren’s among them. The woman on the platform made a short show of consideration before pointing the Golden Arrow at a youngster in a chainmail shirt. Loren could have screamed with jealousy; though she wasn’t overly miffed at having not been selected to shoot first, she’d have killed for some awesome chainmail.

[…] Four random others went up in succession. That Loren was not among them was more of a disappointment than a surprise. By this point in her early adult life, she was more or less resigned to the likely truth that she would never be any kind of Chosen One outside of her fantasies.

“It’s probably just as well,” she muttered as a guy in a hooded green poncho shuffled forward to have his turn. “I’d probably just end up hitting something behind me, anyway.”

“Yeah,” said Janey, the nod of her head setting her floppy hat’s bells jingling. “With the bow.”

Loren was still undecided whether to laugh or knock her sister around a little (for the love of all things medieval, she wasn’t that clumsy!) when a gasp went up from the throng. Green Poncho Guy had hit the target dead center! The crowd’s impressed cheers and whistles at their fellow amateur’s lucky shot filled the air, cut short by another startled intake of breath when a second arrow from the same bow zipped forward, splitting the first bull’s-eye arrow right down the middle.

“Ohmygosh…” Loren whispered, even as the Sheriff leaned over the end of the platform and demanded, “You there! Archer! Show your face!”

“Why, my good Sheriff,” Poncho Guy laughed, the casually grand removal of his hood revealing a fall of chestnut hair and a beard-framed grin. “Can it be that you do not know me — again?”

What comes next?! Well, to start, a short wait. But after that, the release of “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” in its fantastic entirety!

<<<>>>

Ballad Cover, front 02

Welcome to Avalon, a Renaissance Faire where heroes of legend never die. Where the Robin Hood walking the streets is truly the noble outlaw himself. Where the knightly and wizardly players of King Arthur’s court are in fact who they profess to be. Where the sense of enchantment in the air is not mere feeling, but the Fey magic of a paradise hidden in plain sight.

Enter Allyn-a-Dale. The grief of his father’s death still fresh and the doom of his own world looming, swirling realities leave the young minstrel marooned in an immortal Sherwood Forest, where he is recruited as a member of Robin Hood’s infamous outlaw band. But Allyn’s new life may reach its end before it’s scarcely begun. Their existence under threat, the Merry Men are called upon to embark on a journey to the dangerous world Outside – ours – on a quest which must be achieved without delay, or eternity in Avalon will not amount to very long at all.

Coming soo-oo-oon!

P.S. — You wanna hear/watch me read this excerpt aloud? ‘Cause you can!

When Deus Met Machina (Jack and the Genre-nauts, Act 14)

W.A.I.T. Button, 78 percent

“Welcome, one and all,” says Will Scarlet, with a broad smile and a bow, “to Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre!”

“Every second Saturday,” says Allyn-a-Dale, “Will and I and our friends from the story world of ‘The Outlaws of Avalon ’ trilogy—”

“Coming one of these days to a book retailer near you!”

“—Will take at random two of the suggestions gleaned from you, our gentle audience, and incorporate them into… well, the sort of tomfoolery Will calls entertainment.”

“So make yourselves comfortable,” says Will, “as we now present to you: ‘When Deus Met Machina’!”

<<<>>>

[The curtain rises on an airship hanging over the stage. A motorized backdrop provides the illusion of a passing sky. Little John as the Antichristmas Beast paces the gondola, giving the vessel the once-over. At the ship’s wheel stand Annabelle Gray and Sir Wilbur Lamb from INSPIRED. Acting as the ship’s aviatrix, Annabelle wears a damsel gown accented with a cool leather corset, the veil hanging back over her curls held in place with some sweet goggles, while Wilbur’s in his usual knightly ensemble supplemented with a smart bowler hat.]

Little John/Beast: The Sheriff of Steampunk Nottingham, hmm?

Annabelle: Yup! I think you’ll like it here. Thanks to Robin Hood ‘n’ ‘em, you’ll still get to harass a team of heroes, but there’s plenty of room for you to make the story your own. Plus, we’ve got an airship! Boo-ya!

Sir Wilbur: How much farther to Nottingham castle?

Annabelle: Not far at all, once we’ve cleared Sherwood Forest. After that, Beastie, I’ll leave you to write your own adventure. Wilbur and I need to get back to the Genre-nauts.

Little John/Beast: Return to my enemy? Why would I allow you to do that?

Annabelle [frowning ]: Um, because we made a deal?

Little John/Beast: A deal to show you out of the Labyrinth in exchange for my story. You’re out, and I’m here. I owe you nothing more. And if I let you go, who’s to say you won’t team up with Jack Snow to defeat me?

Annabelle: I could say I won’t. Wilbur could corroborate it. And what with him being a man of his word, and me being a smith of mine, that ought to be enough to set your mind at ease.

Little John/Beast: Killing you would be simpler.

Sir Wilbur [placing himself between Annabelle and Little John, hand on the hilt of his sword ]: Would it indeed?

Little John/Beast [drawing a pistol from beneath his cloak ]: We’ll find out shortly.

Annabelle: WHOA! No shooting people! I will turn this ship around, bucko!

[Sir Wilbur spins around and knocks Annabelle to the gondola floor a split second before a bullet whizzes through the air. Rolling up into a crouch, he then lunges at Little John’s knees, taking him down, while another shot flies wild. They’re on the verge of a serious grappling match when Gant-o’-the-Lute as Loki in jester’s motley appears on the ship’s rail.]

Lute/Loki: I say! What’s all the hullaballoo?

Little John/Beast [looking up with a snarl from where he and Wilbur are locked in some wrestler’s hold ]: Who are you, and why are you on my ship?

Lute/Loki [with a bow ]: Loki the Trickster, milord Sherriff – your personal fool, courtesy of the author.

Annabelle [looking in confusion at the audience ]: I never wrote that. Pfft, characters with minds of their own, am I right?

Little John/Beast: A fool, hmm? Well, we’ll discuss how you can entertain me after I’ve done away with the girl and her knight.

Lute/Loki [cheerfully ]: That may be a discussion a long time coming, your lordship. There’s the small matter of the crash to get through, first. [picking up the fallen pistol, he raises it over his head and shoots the ship’s gas bag; with a jolt, the vessel tips steeply downward, wind machines from below creating the effect of a speedy fall ] We seem to be losing altitude fast.

Sir Wilbur: Annabelle, the wheel! You’ve got to guide our descent!

Annabelle [panicking ]: How the heck am I supposed to do that?!

Little John/Beast: Come on, don’t say you don’t know how! You were flying this thing just a minute ago!

Annabelle: Flying is easy! Landing is hard – especially when we’re losing all our gas through a bullet hole!

Lute/Loki [laughing ]: Looks like you were right, Antichristmas: Killing is simple!

<<<>>>

“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will.

“Thank you to audience members Chelsea de la Cruz and Kelton de la Cruz,” says Allyn, “for providing us with the inspiration ‘hullaballoo’ and ‘flying is easy, landing is hard’.”

“If you enjoyed yourselves,” Will says, “(or if you didn’t, but you totally did, right?), don’t forget to leave suggestions for future productions in the comments! Words or phrases we’ve got to include, a prop to use, a prompt to run with… anything goes! ‘Til next time, friends: Will and Allyn out!”

“Robbed” or “How the Sheriff Stole Christmas”

W.A.I.T. Button

“Welcome, one and all,” says Will Scarlet, with a broad smile and a bow, “to Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre!”

“Every Saturday,” says Allyn-a-Dale, “Will and I and our friends from the story world of ‘The Outlaws of Avalon’ trilogy—”

“Coming one of these days to a book retailer near you!”

“—Will take at random two of the suggestions gleaned from you, our gentle audience, and incorporate them into… well, the sort of tomfoolery Will calls entertainment.”

“So make yourselves comfortable,” says Will, “as we now present to you: ‘How the Sheriff Stole Christmas’!”

<<<>>>

[The curtain rises on Allyn-a-Dale – oh,

A fine sight, he, in white robe, wings, and halo –

Sitting high up at the very tip-top

Of an evergreen-like tree-ish-shaped ladder prop.]

~

Allyn: The outlaws of Sherwood liked Christmas a lot,

But the Sheriff of Nottinghamshire did not.

Or rather, with the holiday he had no quarrel,

But how the Hood and his band made the Sheriff’s blood boil!

~

[Enter Will Scarlet with a growl and teeth-gnash

‘Neath the waxy black glory of his false mustache.]

~

Will/Sheriff: How dare they make merry! How dare they go free!

Well, I’ll ruin their day, oh-ho-ho, just you see!

I’ll steal all the gifts from their dearly loved peasants!

For what is a Christmas without any presents?

~

[Will dashes to and fro all over the stage,

As Allyn continues from the script’s next page.]

~

Allyn: So the Sheriff betook himself right through the wood

To a small village known to be friendly with Hood.

He searched high and low in his villainous zeal,

On the hunt for wrapped packages that he could steal.

But lo and behold, not a parcel was there,

For the poverty-stricken had no cash to spare.

~

Will/Sheriff: That’s what I call a nuisance. How am I to filch

From a bunch of poor people with zip, zero, zilch?”

~

Allyn: The Sheriff thought it over, then, aha, had a plan,

And back to his Nottingham castle he ran.

That night, as the peasantry slept, he returned,

His wicked grin glinting beneath eyes that burned.

~

[After a brief trip offstage, Sheriff Scarlet is back,

With Sirs Gawain and Bedivere pulling a cartload of sacks.]

~

Will/Sheriff: Man-at-Arms One and Man-at-Arms Two,

Take the sacks from the wagon. You know what to do.

Spread out. Leave no hovel unvisited. Quick!

~

Allyn: And they ghosted through town like so many Saint Nicks,

Leaving gifts under trees that they hung all with lights –

Shawls, boots, and winter coats, new hats and tights,

Toys and candy for the young ones, and oodles

Of fine supper fare with meat, veggies, and noodles.

~

Gawain/Man-at-Arms One: Can the Sheriff’s coin cover costs of this amount?

~

Bedivere/Man-at-Arms Two: It’s coming out of the “Stick It to Hood” account.

~

Allyn: Come the morning, Sheriff and co. ducked out of view,

Peering out to see just what the peasants would do.

All their attention held by the scene at their fore,

They noticed not, at their back, the coming of one more.

~

[Will’s crew crouching to one side of the ladder-tree,

Enter Robin Hood walking up to join the three.]

~

Robin Hood: Why, hello there, Sheriff, and Joyeux Noel.

What brings you to this humble village, pray tell?

~

[Will Scarlet and knights jump in well-feigned surprise,

And turn to face Robin with hate-narrowed eyes.]

~

Will/Sheriff: Well might you ask, Hood! For your information,

I’m here to bring to these folks some cruel devastation!

~

Robin Hood [raising an eyebrow]: By giving them gifts they could never afford?

By seeing them happy and well-fed and warm?

I don’t see how you figure that, Sheriff of mine.

~

Will/Sheriff [flustered]: Well… I… it seemed like a bad idea at the time…

I’ve forgotten a step. What am I missing, Men?

~

Bedivere/Man-at-Arms Two: Give the peasants their presents, then take them again.

~

Will/Sheriff: Right! Yes! That was it! What think you of that, Hood?

~

Robin Hood: I think it’s high time you got out of Sherwood.

‘Tis a season of peace, so my asking’s polite.

You’ll leave quietly now, or it’s after a fight.

~

Will/Sheriff: Says you and what army? We’re three to your one!

~

Marion [poking her head out around the other side of the ladder-tree]: Shows how well he can count, doesn’t it, Little John?

~

[With the entrance of Marion and Little John behind,

Will Scarlet goes pale as honeydew rind.]

~

Allyn: Shouting curses most ill-befitting the day,

The Sheriff and posse quickly went away.

~

Little John [gaze following the exit of Will and the knights]: That one’s got naught of Christmas spirit at all.

~

Robin Hood [shrugging]: Methinks his heart may be two sizes too small.

~

Allyn: Thus it was the Sheriff, through no love of his own,

Made the loveliest Christmas one town had e’er known –

Proof that even malicious deeds may come to good

With some Christmas magic. …and, of course, Robin Hood.

<<<>>>

“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will.

“Thank you to audience members Miranda McNeff and Tirzah Duncan,” says Allyn, “for providing us with the inspiration ‘noodles’ and ‘It seemed like a bad idea at the time…’”

“If you enjoyed yourselves,” Will says, “(or if you didn’t, but you totally did, right?), don’t forget to leave suggestions for future productions in the comments! Words or phrases we’ve got to include, a prop to use, a prompt to run with… anything goes! Until next week, friends! Will and Allyn out!”