Fragment 1: Tamed

The first Fragment tale available for download is “Tamed” — a story written in 1998 for the World Fantasy Award-winning anthology Dreaming Downunder, edited by Jack Dann and Janeen Webb. The story takes place in the world of Tharenweyr, which is the setting for Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead, though in a country on the opposite side of the continent to the mercantile state of Vesuula, which is the novel’s main locale. “Tamed” was conceived as a story in its own right, but also as the possible beginning of a sequel to the novel — part of the overall fictional reality of Tharenweyr but having its own coherence. Whether it becomes that sequel is yet to be determined.

Story:

Torm pur Nathal is an outsider who has come to the rural coastal fringe of Tenen, seeking something that remains elusive. When he discovers that the area is home to a “monster tamer”, Bryalt — eldest offspring of the Weller Family, fascination and hope lead him to seek employment on the Weller freehold. But Bryalt is barely keeping a grip on his sanity, and when his mother dies, he succumbs to despair. The drontagis or “monster corruption” he has been holding at bay erupts in force, and all hope seems lost. Yet Bryalt is not the last of his family…

Read it now:

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Is FRAGMENTS A Zombie Story?

Is Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead a zombie story?

Well, that depends which tropes you use to define “a zombie story”. In fact, Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead is an epic fantasy novel, albeit in a dark fantasy mode. It features a zombie-like character that isn’t the protagonist, but is central to everything that happens. His name when he was alive was Valarl.

Valarl is one of the living dead, though he’s neither cannibalistic nor infectious. He is, in fact, a corpse whose unnatural movement is driven not by infection but by what amounts to a curse, a curse that compels him to find and recover a mysterious object that was once in his hands and which he lost in a long-distant apocalyptic event. The object is greatly desired by all and sundry as it is reputed to be the source of ultimate power. The corpse (the titular Valarl) follows the path the object took through history, inexorably retracing where it was taken. Driven by the curse, Valarl only gets violent if someone gets in his way. He has no will of his own and only a faint recollection of himself as a human being. When other seekers of the object realize that Valarl will sooner or later catch up with the object in time, he becomes the central focus of their search. But of course nothing is what it seems and the problem with an Ultimate Power is that the one who finds it may discover they didn’t really want what it has to offer after all.
Naturally I think Fragments is a compelling and quite unique novel, albeit appearing at first glance to be in fairly straight-forward fantasy mode. Jack Dann has described it as “one of the strangest and most interesting visions to come out of the modern horror/fantasy genres” and I hope others will agree. I have no exact date for its release yet but there is a nascent website where anyone who wants to follow its progress can come to check what’s happening: http://fragmentsnovel.undeadbackbrain.com/. No one should expect a standard zombie story though.

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