Since this story isn't available online, I will keep this post spoiler-free (as it were).
The Final Encounter started as a fantasy-writers.org prompt. It was one of their monthly challenges, but wasn't submitted for the challenge - in fact, it was originally posted before I joined. However, I got bored at one point and went looking back through old topics for a sparker. "After the adventure" appealed to me.
And I got to thinking ... what if the last, climactic encounter between the hero and the villain never happened? What if one - or both - walked away? What would be the consequences? Where would they go from there?
I wanted to create a very recognizable action-fantasy scene - the kind you might even see in a genre movie - but with some deeper and unusual details and twists ... then build out from the pivotal reversal, that both had the chance to fight and walked away. I had editors reject it as using too many tropes, but that was the point. To play with the story the way I wanted to, I needed those familiar archetypes. Luckily, Tyree Campbell over at Aoife's Kiss decided to give it a home.
I've been published with Aoife's Kiss before and always enjoyed working with them. My first publication there was what is still one of the plum-weirdest pieces of fiction I've sold: Good Taste, a story told from the POV of a sorcerer's created servitor whose flesh is regenerating foodstuff. (This is one of the few stories that was inspired by a single image: I cannot remember how I stumbled across it, but it was so disturbing / evocative it demanded a story.)
In any case, The Final Encounter is also about respect for the dead versus celebration of the living, destiny versus free will ... and an alicorn. Because the world needs more alicorns. ;-)