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G is for Garyn

Garyn is a minor character in the series, but like many minor characters, several of his decisions become pivotal to the plot and serves to alter the courses of the main characters, even though none of them are aware of it at the time. I think of Garyn as the typical boy-next-door. He’s not overly ambitious, not overly talented, not overly handsome or overly anything. He’s pretty much the quintessential “average dude” which is part of what I like about him.

Ohhhh, a farmer’s life for me!

Garyn grew up in a quiet farming community in Bodor, the only child of a placid couple who doted on him and expected him to follow in his father’s footsteps, possibly marrying a girl of solid, homespun values and settling into the farming life in the same village, or at least one near enough to walk to on holidays. He should have found that local girl, bought a small house, planted a vegetable garden, and acquired a couple of hunting dogs before heading out to the fields every day to check on the pumpkin crop. Garyn would have been happy with that life, I believe. Much to his parents’ dismay, there was one obstacle to that plan, and her name was Sellaris.

Image gakked from Google, but isn’t it awesome? Artist found here: http://alunne.deviantart.com/

As happens with many average boys-next-door, Garyn fell in love with the wrong girl. She was his opposite in nearly every way, spontaneous where he was careful, outspoken where he was meek, loud where he was quiet, and domineering where he would would give in merely for the sake of keeping the peace. He was drawn to her fiery personality, her intense ambition, and her need to be anything other than a farmer’s wife. She craved adventure and travel and mystery. While Garyn would have been perfectly happy living the quiet life of a farmer, she infected him with her desire for more, and instead of settling down he found himself packing his belongings and heading out for a life of, well frankly, a life of crime. Where Garyn also had very solid morals and a healthy sense of right and wrong, Sellaris most definitely did not.

(This is actually cosplay.) *bows before greatness* Linky: http://community.eidosmontreal.com/blogs/Thief-Cosplay-Spotlight-Lyz-Brickley

While Garyn willingly follows Sellaris into a life of adventure and danger, he isn’t fond of it at all. As she grows more into her element and takes on larger and more perilous jobs, Garyn wrestles his conscience and questions whether or not their course is a wise one. He takes it upon himself to try and counsel Sellaris, hoping to drag her back to what he considers to be a more normal life, and hoping against all odds that she will finish sowing her wild oats and want the same things that he wants: a stable home, a family, and a peaceful life without the threat of death breathing down their necks. Unfortunately for him, instead of growing weary of their hazardous, homeless existence, Sellaris seems to thrive on it.

When the series begins, Garyn must decide if his steadfast devotion to Sellaris is worth the sacrifice of his values, and when he finally makes a choice it turns out that even a minor character can have major influence.

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F is for FUN!

I know you were probably expecting F is for Falara, but I just touched on Eaglecrest in the last post and, frankly, Falara isn’t the most exciting place. It’s often cold and they spend a lot of time indoors, drinking. The food there is pretty good, which speaks even more highly of Toryn’s cooking since managed to impress Brydon. But I digress because this post is about fun!

Some fantasy novels, I’ve found, become mired down in their own seriousness, and every word drips tension and drama until, by the end, the reader feels as if they’ve walked every agonizing step with their heroes and need a couple of weeks to rest their brains. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing and I’ve devoured plenty of those in my day, but I appreciate it when an author takes the time to give their characters a little bit of fun, because without that life is pretty much a dull, endless quest towards that lava pit on Mount Doom.

Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Volcano_q.jpg#/media/File:Volcano_q.jpg

“Volcano q”. Licensed under Public Domain via

For my characters, fun can have vastly different meanings. Brydon’s idea of fun is a nice workout with his sword, shooting at targets to perfect his skill with a bow, or possibly sleeping. He enjoys sleeping much more than he lets on in the book; don’t let him fool you. He pretends to enjoy reading, but most of the books he’s read have been dull histories or church documents discussing the proper way to live a noble life.

Toryn, on the other hand, thinks the best way to have fun is hours of companionship of the naked variety. He doesn’t have much opportunity for casual dalliance during the quest and he finds it ironic that Brydon gets more action during their journey than he does. Of course, being attracted to the more volatile sort of woman is a drawback in that regard, first with Alyn and then Daryna. By the time he meets Daryna he has, thankfully, learned that sometimes it’s better to not get involved with the ones who might shred all your clothes during the night in a fit of jealous rage. I’m not saying Daryna would do such a thing, except that she totally would.

Romantic shenanigans aside, Toryn has a tendency to add elements of fun to what might otherwise be a boring journey, although Brydon doesn’t always appreciate his assistance in that regard. Toryn is always ready with a sardonic comment, which sometimes provokes the others to certain levels of annoyance.

The cleft was far too narrow for Brydon to climb down and assist her, and she could not reach her own ankle.

“Can you slide your foot out of the boot?” he asked finally.

“Don’t you think I already tried that?” she snapped. Brydon’s urge to leave her strengthened.

“Well?” Toryn called. “Is she dead?”

“No, she’s stuck in the rocks,” Brydon replied.

Alyn groaned as Toryn’s guffaw reached them. “Too many meat pies and pastries?” Toryn asked.

Alyn shouted several loud slurs about Toryn and his parentage and then she wrenched at her leg. Rage must have lent her strength, for she was suddenly free and clambered out of the hole like an angry badger.

Brydon eventually gets used to Toryn’s quips, although he never gets past the urge to bruise him for the privilege.

“I need to tell you something.”

Toryn sighed and set the pot near the fire. “You’re not planning to confess your undying love, are you?”

Brydon punched him on the shoulder.

Or shove him into nearby water features.

“And if you return without the gauntlet?” Toryn asked.

“I resume my old life as before. But I would be privately considered a failure.”

“What does your princess want with it?”

Brydon grinned and then laughed. “My place is not to ask why, Tory, my friend. Mine is to quest and bring back.”

“Sort of like a hound?” Toryn asked.

“I suppose,” Brydon replied with a growl and shoved him at a nearby fountain.

Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Larus_heermanni_in_a_fountain_in_Sausalito,_California.jpg#/media/File:Larus_heermanni_in_a_fountain_in_Sausalito,_California.jpg

“Larus heermanni in a fountain in Sausalito, California” by Wingchi Poon – Own work.

Although occasionally Brydon gets to turn the tables.

Toryn sat up and tugged his boots on. “When I agreed to come with you, I expected a nice, quiet journey,” Toryn grumbled. “What have I gotten? Lions. A viperous Akarskan wench. An insane Penk who thinks he’s a werewolf. Captured by thieves. A battle with thieves. A battle with more thieves. A man who disappears into thin air before I can slice him in two. A Falaran who can read my mind. Swamps, mud, rain, bugs, and fever. A city full of howling madmen and tax collectors. Now this. I can’t wait to see what happens next. Did you plan all this?”

“If you are finished whining, I suggest we go find Davin,” Brydon said mildly.

When all is said and done, one fun character can spice things up just enough to keep the others on their toes, and prevent long journeys from getting monotonous.

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D is for Davin

Davin is one of the more interesting characters in the series, and one that I feel achieves a great deal of growth. He starts out as someone with no interest in life after suffering through a traumatic and abusive childhood, and then losing his best friend through a situation involving paranoid jealousy. He meets Alyn after she is kidnapped by slavers and she finds herself oddly bonded to him. Her reliance on him begins to shake him out of his self-imposed distaste for living and although he is resistant to joining Brydon and the others on their quest, it eventually becomes clear that he has skills necessary to the survival of the group.

Davin’s history is never quite revealed in the series, although it is hinted at. His mother, Faan, is a full Vai who became mentally unstable for unknown reasons. She exists in human form but shuns people, except for rare villagers or travelers who seek her out for assistance. Davin’s father is a complete mystery. Davin grew up hearing an assortment of tales from his mother, each wilder than the last, until he began to wonder if she even remembered how he had been conceived. At times, Davin’s father was said to be a wandering bard, a prince from a faraway land, a fanged demon, or a black were-panther wearing man-flesh by night and a furred pelt by day. In one memorable tale she likened him to the wind itself. Davin tried to gather any kernels of truth from the stories, but had no idea what was fantasy and what was real. As a child he always felt that his father would return one day, possibly to come and claim him as his precious son, but as time passed Davin realized it was unlikely he would ever meet the man, if man he was at all. In hindsight, it’s entirely possible that Davin’s pureblooded Vai sire went off to study rocks or trees or ocean dwelling creatures, unconcerned about any progeny he might have left behind.

Blackleopard

“Blackleopard” by Qilinmon at the English language Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blackleopard.JPG#mediaviewer/File:Blackleopard.JPG

Due to his mother’s madness, Davin grew up having little idea who or what he was. His mother was content to remain in her human form, living in seclusion, selling herbs and cures and magical charms to locals who called her a madwoman or a sorceress, fearing her even while seeking out her special gifts. Thankfully there is no stigma against magic on Tarma, as the most common tales of the supernatural involve Kerrick and the gauntlet. There are stories of magical beings, but most are considered to be helpful or at least harmless. The Vai themselves are known only to a few, mainly the highest scholars of the church or those that have some sort of connection to existing Vai.

As Davin’s abilities began to manifest, he had no idea that there were others like him. Instead, he believed himself to be a freak, especially when he learned that he could alter his shape into that of any animal. Although desperate to know where his abilities had come from, he had no desire to ask his mother. Her thoughts had become an open book to him, broadcasting wildly until he had learned to block them out. They were no more coherent in raw form than they were articulated. Finally unable to tolerate his mother’s madness, Davin fled his childhood home and went to seek out someone, anyone, who might know who or what he was.

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A is for Alyn

I started writing this series in high school and despite multiple revisions, the main plotline never changed, nor did most of the original primary characters. The initial concept I had for the book was simply “a group of adventurers going on some sort of quest”. Deep and thoughtful, I know. With that in mind, I scribbled out a list of random possible characters and then rolled a 20-diced die to determine which would make the final cut. (I still have this list, stuffed away in a folder full of random notes.) The first three were as follows:

The Bridegroom

The Assassin

The Horsemistress

There were actually six in the original lineup and they immediately gave me a quick framework with which to work, and the story expanded from there. Four of the main characters are men, and two are women. Looking back, I’m thankful that I didn’t make them all men, not realizing at the time that there was a dearth of active female characters in fantasy. With that said, Alyn, the whip-cracking, horseback-riding, Toryn-hating Akarskan, is not my favorite character. I’ve tried to like her, I really have, but she is abrasive and hard-headed. She is mercurial and sometimes doesn’t know what she wants from one moment to the next. She is angry a lot. She frequently falls for the wrong men. She may be the fictional embodiment of some of the qualities I don’t like about myself, which could explain why I don’t care for her very much.

While it wasn’t intentional, Alyn ended up being similar to the main character, Brydon. They are both rather single-minded, exhibit near-extreme loyalty to their personal beliefs and adherence to duty, and they will hotly leap into battle when they perceive an injustice. They are both superior with a bow, although Alyn’s whip-wielding skills makes her a unique and handy person to have in a fight. Personality-wise, however, she differs vastly from Brydon. Where he is open and friendly, trusting and patient, Alyn is guarded and frequently hostile. She trusts with difficulty, if at all, and is impatient to the point of explosive. When she meets Toryn, these qualities acted like oil on flame, igniting an ongoing antagonistic war, the sparks of which re-kindle each time they see one another. The sexual tension between them is obvious from the beginning, noticed even by Brydon who can, admittedly, be a little oblivious when it comes to affairs of the heart..

By Cgoodwin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Little is known about Alyn’s past, and it’s hard to say what motivates her, as well as what shaped her into the hardened warrior first encountered by Brydon and Toryn in The Gauntlet Thrown. We might have learned more about her had she not traveled with two men who were far more concerned with their own troubles to bother asking about hers, although it was likely that her prickly nature prevented them from digging too deeply into her affairs.

I like to think she has grown as a character, evolving from a self-absorbed hothead into a vital member of Brydon’s team. She exhibits both vulnerability and strength, and discovers that there are things worth fighting for beyond the ideals with which one has been raised. As the author, I can congratulate myself on Alyn’s successes and failures, and revel in the fact that she is a relatively solid character at the end of the day. But I still don’t have to like her.

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