“Wizard’s Bounty” is an early short story by Charles de Lint, first published in 1979 in Dark Fantasy magazine and only reprinted in de Lint’s collection A Handful of Coppers. As such an early appearance, it does not have the feel of much of de Lint’s work as he was clearly trying to find his voice when the story was written, which certainly does not mean that it isn’t a story worth reading.
de Lint has published a handful of stories surrounding the character Aynber, of which “Wizard’s Bounty” was the second. In this story, which would not have been out of place if it appeared in TSR’s The Dragon magazine of the same era, sets Aynber as a bounty hunter nicknamed “The Huntress” who is after the wizard Nemenor, who has a 5,000 gold piece bounty on his head. A chance encounter at a tavern with Boadar, who claims to know where she can find Nemenor, gives Aynber an unwelcome companion who can lead her to the wizard at the cost of part of the bounty.
Against her better judgement, Aynber accepts Boadar’s company and knowledge on her quest and he does lead her to the wizard’s tower. As a companion, Boadar proves useless when they are attacked. Furthermore, during their journey, Boadar takes liberties with her body when she sleeps, which seems gratuitous, but serves to reinforce Aynber’s own judgment of Boadar for the reader, even if she is unaware of Boadar’s action.
Eventually they come to Nemenor’s tower and Aynber uses an amulet to remove his powers before confronting him. de Lint introduces a couple of twists to the story, one of which is clearly telegraphed through the story, but the other hints at a much wider world that is indicated by this individual story, and which may be fleshed out more in the other tales of Aynber.
Aynber is able to accept changes to her view of the world and reconsider her situation. This adaptability means that even when the outcome of her quest seems most unlikely, she is able to work towards its completion taking unforeseen events into consideration and using them to her advantage.
Readers who are looking for a more typical Charles de Lint story may be disappointed in “Wizard’s Bounty,” but the story does have some hallmarks of de Lint’s later writing, such as the strong and competent female protagonist, even if it is missing some of the mythic quality that suffuses so much of his work.
Steven H Silver is a nineteen-time Hugo Award nominee and was the publisher of the Hugo-nominated fanzine Argentus as well as the editor and publisher of ISFiC Press for 8 years. He has also edited books for DAW, NESFA Press, and ZNB. His most recent anthology is Alternate Peace and his novel After Hastings was published in 2020. Steven has chaired the first Midwest Construction, Windycon three times, and the SFWA Nebula Conference 6 times. He was programming chair for Chicon 2000 and Vice Chair of Chicon 7.