“The Terror in the Vale” by E.E. Knight
Reviewed by Cyd Athens
Wicked men with wicked goals are mainstays of fantasy. Where would the Evil Overlord list be without them? The Evil Overlord in E.E. Knight‘s “The Terror in the Vale” is the Scripton, who is angered when the peaceful vale folk take offense that his soldiers are lifting the skirts of females to determine whether they are girls or women. He alleges that this is necessary because some adults are weaseling their way out of paying taxes by impersonating children. Yeah, right.
As is the way of these things, the people resist and fight. This, of course, ups the stakes, forcing the Scripton to prove that he really is an Evil Overlord. He orders his Evil Henchman, the Bannerhail, to flex some military muscle and show the peons who’s the boss. This requires the Legion of Terror, here more like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, to hang a few people in each town by the neck until they’re dead. That doesn’t go so well once a Hero, Discern, thwarts some of the evil efforts.
The Scripton decides to change tactics and does this story’s equivalent of releasing the Kraken–he creates a monster and sics it on the vale. Then he withdraws his “protection” from the people with the expectation that they will come groveling back, and begging him to save them from the terror. This Evil Overlord is smarter than the average bear.
As trope stories must, this one puts its own spin on the inevitable ending. For what it is, it’s a satisfying enough read.
Cyd Athens indulges a speculative fiction addiction from 45ø 29 30.65 N, 122ø 35 30.91 W.