Inspirations from a Bad Ending

I’m sure I’m not alone in reading a story which you’ve enjoyed right up until the end then go “No! Dammit!”, hurl the story against the wall–

–and then write your own story to fix the ending you hated.

That’s how The Hordes of Chanakra came to be. There was a comic series I read back in the day “Arak, Son of Thunder” The titular Arak was a Native American, the last (not quite, as he learns later) of his tribe who was adrift in a small boat at sea where he was picked up by Vikings and raised as one of their own (anachronistic since I don’t think Vikings were crossing the ocean that early, but, hey, comic book). For various reasons after raiding Lindisfarne (the famous raid that marks the start of the Viking Age) he separates from the Vikings and heads south into the kingdom of the Franks, where Charlemagne (referred to as Carolus Magnus in the story) and adventures proceed therefrom.
Second major character is the sorcerer Malagigi. Arak helps him escape from a witch that is holding him prisoner and befriends him.
Third major character is “Valda, the Iron Maiden”–a warrior woman, daughter of that Bradamante who was killed at Roncesvilles pass along with Roland et al. She starts as very hostile to Arak once they meet but as the story progresses a romance grows between the two. While I thought it developed naturally at the time, looking back I think it was actually kind of forced.

For the most part, I bought the comics as they came out and enjoyed them. I was frustrated when they had Arak and the other two go their separate ways but later they are reunited. Arak is on a quest by this point to reach his people who he has learned exist but are living in squalor. For reasons that are never quite clear (hey, comic book) instead of going North and hitching a ride with Vikings across the North Atlantic (he was raised by them so he should have an “in” there), he’s going East across the breadth of Asia and then across the Pacific back to the Americas. And, as it happens, Carolus Magnus has authorized Valda and Malagigi to accompany him and learn what they could for the greater glory of Frankland.

And so, they travel through the Middle East, to India, across southern Asia to China, and finally to Japan.  Malagigi, however, is having dreams. Turns out the dreams are prophetic. Carolus Magnus is going to be crowned as Emperor of the Romans on Christmas Day, 800AD.  Valda, when she learns of this, decides that he’s going to need all his knights so she has to go back. Arak has to go forward. She goes back Arak goes north and East (apparently the idea is he’ll island hop up from Japan to Siberia and across the Aleutians, then down from Alaska–no, it didn’t make sense to me either). That’s it. The end.

Later, during DC’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths” Arak and Valda met briefly during one of the time and space warping battles in that giant crossover and we learned that he did make it back to his people, but again they separated, the end.


And so, that was the origin of The Hordes of Chanakra. Kreg was the “stranger from a strange land” (an analog of our world). Kaila was the warrior woman. Shillond the wizard. And I set as a key plot goal to have _this_ romance have its happy ending (more or less). The story, of course, as I wrote it evolved in completely different directions and bears little resemblance to its inspiration, but that one point, the romance between Kreg and Kaila (and I mean “romance” in the sense of the growth of a committed, loving relationship–this story is not one for on-stage sex) remains.

Because, dammit, that other ending sucked.

One thought on “Inspirations from a Bad Ending”

  1. It’s not just you. I read a series of Post Apocalyptic Robin Hood Novels & Novellas that was so God-Awful that the only reason I kept reading was morbid curiosity to see just how bad they could get. Somehow they managed to get worse than I could even fathom. And the final novella, which was set about fifteen or so years later, had Robin and his son managing to screw everything they’d built up in a matter of hours… and that’s it. The end. Series over. I threw the book across the room in outraged and disgust and vowed that I would write a better post-apocalyptic Robin Hood Story… now I just have to find the time to write it.


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