Did you know there’s a brand-new novel set in the Kings of War universe?! After the wonderful, Tales from Mantica, a collection of short stories published by Winged Hussar, they’re back with: Steps to Deliverance. In the first ever Kings of War novel, author Mark Barber focuses on Basilea (perfect timing, considering the new army sets have just come out) and tells the story of Dionne.
For today’s blog we’re handing control over to Mark, as he talks about the creation of the book. You can download the ebook or order the paperback direct from Winged Hussar’s website here. Anyway, enough from us, it’s over to Mark…
I was one of many people who were very excited to see Winged Hussar Publishing’s anthology of short stories set in the Kings of War universe. I was blown away with the breadth and depth of stories and characters and so, naturally, when the opportunity came to write a novel in the Kings of War universe, I grabbed it with both hands!
Writing in a setting with a loyal, long-standing and international fan base was an intimidating prospect. First and foremost I felt I needed to ‘get it right’. On the one hand, many would say that this is ‘only a game’ and that with none of the setting being ‘real’, there isn’t much risk when compared with writing about real world events or history. However, an example of the counter to this is that when Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes he received death threats in the mail, so passionate were some of his readers. Even with fiction, if the formula is mixed just right, there is enough magic to fuel a spark that will lead to a truly engaged and loyal following. Kings of War has this formula, this magic and this following so from the very start my main concern was giving the fans what they wanted and what they deserved.
Mantica is a huge place to explore with its own history, mythology, politics and cultures. I wanted the heroes of the story to be Basilean paladins; classic knights in shining armour who fought for justice and good, even if there was some zealous narrow mindedness and corruption in the system they supported. With the faction set for the protagonists, the most obvious choice for the villains was the forces of the Abyss. However, even with a straightforward encounter between good and evil, I wanted to blur the lines a little by having characters with clear vices and weaknesses, and villains with causes that were believable beyond just being ‘evil’.
This train of thought brought me onto Dionne. Dionne begins the story as a disgraced captain of the Basilean Legion. When Dionne is given orders to take all of the supplies from the surrounding area to stockpile for his soldiers defending the borders against the Abyss, he is faced with a real moral dilemma as he knows he will cause famine and death for those he has sworn to protect. He refuses to carry out the orders and whether it is a consequence or not, his enemies break through his area of the defensive line and he is blamed. This leaves Dionne as a renegade, a disgraced soldier with his integrity and personal honour still intact, who now feels deeply resentful and betrayed. A small force of paladins are sent to bring him before the Duma to explain his actions and after a tragic misunderstanding there is a clash of blades, and now he has the deaths of two paladins to add to his growing list of crimes.
We then move forwards a decade or so, and Dionne is at large in the Mountains of Tarkis, fighting evil threatening the borders of Basilea, still wanted for his crimes but loved by the locals as a heroic outlaw. With Dionne’s back-story created I now had an avenue to show how the forces of the Abyss might go about tempting a fundamentally good man to fall. To tell that story I also needed to show the confrontation from the side of the Abyss; to give the demonic hordes their motivation, to dig deeper into the lore and mythology of Mantica and what values the Abyss actually stands for.
But whilst Dionne faces his choices and his own journey, there are those charged with apprehending him. Leading the paladins on his trail is Tancred, a knight from a wealthy and politically powerful family who is driven by his desire to advance the family name. Tancred faces the challenges of command, of choices between doing what his knows is right and doing what is best for his own advancement in a society with flexible morality. Alongside him is Orion; a survivor of the initial confrontation between the paladins and Dionne’s band of rebels, he is now driven by his violent temperament and use of intimidation to achieve his goals, even if beneath his angry exterior there is a gentle man still trying to get out.
Overall command of the expedition falls to Hugh; a Dictator with a dark reputation for achieving the Duma’s goals, no matter what price needs to be paid. Part of his dark history is Constance, a mercenary leader whose soldiers are attached to the expedition. Constance is herself an ex-Legion soldier who once served under Dionne’s command but chose her loyalty to Basilea over her loyalty to her captain, and suffered as a result. Along the way we meet Aestelle, a driven and deadly adventurer who is not all she appears to be, and Valletto, a battle mage turned teacher whose loyalty to his wife and children now overrides any interest in the politics of Basilea.
With my cast of characters fleshed out, I now had my palette to paint my vision of a little part of Basilea. With thousands of miles for other authors to explore and describe, the last thing I wanted to do was lay claim to a huge part of the world and so I constrained the story to a little corner of the map! With a setting, characters and individual motivations, fears and goals for them, all that remained was to describe their journey. The fights along the way borrowed heavily from the rules and feel of Kings of War itself, as well as nods to Vanguard and Dungeon Saga. But, ultimately, the aspiration was always to write about the characters: about people. My plan was to tell the stories of an assorted cast of characters who I hoped any reader could identify with and cheer for at least one, characters with heart and soul who, whilst acting as a vehicle to flesh out Mantica, could ultimately exist in any setting.
It’s been fantastic fun writing this adventure, getting opinions and ideas from the Kings of War community and other authors, and being a small part of such a rich and vibrant world as it continues to develop. I truly hope that this is the sort of story the fans want – that has been the most important goal from the very start. I really hope you enjoy it.