The gentleman on the right has killed twelve men in battle. How do we know this? Well, that's what the title says, true, but it's all about the braids in his hair. Years ago, in an unfinished novel, I posited a highly warlike culture among elves, and one of the ways in which they show their battlefield accomplishments is by adding a braid in their hair for every opponent they've killed in battle. Of course with the more successful of these long-lived warriors they might run out of hair long before they run out of dead enemies that need honoring. So they have attachments that show one braid equals ten dead enemies, or a hundred dead enemies, and so on.
This fellow is wearing one braid with a ten-dead-opponents sigil, plus two single-opponent braids. Therefore he's claiming twelve enemies killed in battle. Tough little guy, huh?
Matthew Sturges, my friend and longtime writing partner (and future Fine Fellow here -- bet on it) borrowed, with my blessing, this practice for one of the characters in his excellent novel Midwinter, which was published once in very limited release some years ago, but a substantially new version of which is due out in a major release from Pyr Press later this year. He also borrowed my notion that the reason the queen of fairy is often called Titania and other times called Mab is because they are two separate individuals, one of which is queen of the seelie court (Titania) and the other queen of the unseelie court (Mab). In fact Matt was so busy borrowing ideas I left lying around that I was able to lift his wallet without getting caught. Okay, that was a joke. Not a big joke, mind you, or even a funny one, but a joke nonetheless. One day we'll try to add up all of the good ideas I've borrowed from Matt. It's the nature of our business. When it's done above board and openly, it's a sign of the generosity and general goodwill among folks in our racket. When it's done clandestinely, surreptitiously and without permission, it's a sign that a new Harry Potter novel is about to be published.
Okay, now that was a much better joke.
But seriously, folks, the reason I point this out is to mark a bit of territory, so that later, when my own prose work comes out using the same ideas, I'll have this item to point to, to demonstrate that I don't steal all of my best ideas from Matt -- just most of them.
My sketchbooks in this period of time show many examples of tough, warlike elves, so this must have been when I was beginning to work up ideas for that as yet unfinished novel (which I won't name here, since it needs substantial reworking before -- if ever -- it sees the light of day). The notion of very tough elves -- as opposed to the prissy, twee, fancy-pants, emo versions in so many other fantasy worlds -- is not new to me. Not by a long shot. My first exposure to the idea was with Ralph Bakshi's cult favorite animated feature Wizards. It's a very flawed, but still remarkable, film.