My A-Z Blogging theme is to cover 26 touch-me-not categories of fiction writing. These are frequently the trouble spots which can be useful components of the story if handled properly, but when rushed through, can cause all kinds of trouble. While the genre is fantasy, the tips can apply to anything, from romance to literary fiction.
While exploring the ruins of an old castle, Mordekai and his sister Monique accidentally destroy an old tower only to find themselves in a different place, or time, entirely. Then a giant goat crashes through the wall and carries Mordekai off, leaving Monique with the unpredictable Princess Mural. They begin their journey to a nearby abbey while Mordekai is taken to the villains’ fortress. Once the women reach the abbey, they are welcomed and given a place to stay while Mordekai is cast into the dungeon to await the arrival of Mural’s uncle after he mysteriously survives a crossbow bolt…at the cost of his companion’s life.
P: Power and Prayer
It was late that night or early the next morning–Mordekai couldn’t tell which without his watch, which he couldn’t see in the dark–when there were loud noises in the passageway outside his room. Clumping and clattering, with voices he could actually understand.
“Is he in here?”
“Yes, your honor.”
“She’s not dead yet.”
Another thump, this sounding like hooves scrambling against the stones to get away from a blow. “My niece is not long for this world. Doubt that not. Now open the door.”
The door opened, and Mordekai squinted at the torch light, trying to make out the new, second speaker. Mural’s uncle. It has to be. He could make out the silhouette of a man of adequate build and height, but the features were lost in the glare of the light between them.
“That’s him. Not much to look at, but…”
“Appearances are nothing,” Mural’s uncle said as he turned back to Mordekai. “Do you know who I am, sir knight?”
He decided not to give the man the gratification of a “polite” answer. “We haven’t been introduced, but I think I can guess. You’re the head goat herder.”
He braced himself for a blow, but the man just laughed. A bit forced, and very condescending, but a laugh all the same. At last he added, “I think I shall mourn your death. You would have made a most excellent fool.” Then he turned back to the captain of the goats. “Put him back in his cell to await the arrival of the others.”
“What…others?”the captain asked, even as his troops goaded Mordekai back in place. “My army reported the castle was deserted. Even the red-haired knight was gone.”
“Of course. Princess Mural would not be at the castle anymore. She’ll have gone to seek refuge elsewhere…but worry not. She is still in my power and will be here tomorrow, at the latest.” Then the wooden door slammed shut, cutting Mordekai off from the rest of the world again.
When Monique awoke, Princess Mural was gone. She wasn’t in their bedchamber or the great hall beyond. She was about to get seriously worried when one of the monks directed her to look in the holy sanctuary.
It was small by modern standards, but it was still impressive. Enormous timbers held up the ceiling, and an altar had been set up at the far end, with gold and jeweled whatnots. They probably have a technical term, she thought as she came near. There were no pews and only a hard tiled floor beneath, so she took a seat not far from where the princess was kneeling and waited.
After a moment, Mural turned to her and said, “Will you not pray?”
“I don’t think I believe in that sort of thing.”
The young woman kept looking at her, expectant, so Monique elaborated. “My parents died last year. Car accident.” She shrugged. “I guess I don’t see the point of petitions when no one’s listening…or seems to care.”
“My father struggled with that. Many would come to him, and he could not grant all their petitions since one would cancel the other.”
“He wasn’t all powerful.”
She smiled. “No. He was not. But he told me that grace is not found in giving what you want, but in providing what is truly needed. Providence may not answer every prayer, but the larger things–the ones that matter–have already been granted. Why should we not ask for the small things? We cannot know that He shall not grant that, too.”
Before Monique could think of an answer, there was the sound of footsteps behind them. Turning, they saw the abbot approaching with a handful of monks behind him. “Ah, you’ve awoken and prayed. Excellent. Come, I have orders to help you along the next leg of your journey.” He guided them out a side door of the sanctuary into the early morning splendor of day. The grass was wet with dew and the sky a rosy hue…save for that which was blocked by the head of a giant goat.
Princess Mural turned to face the abbot. “You are in league with my uncle, then.”
“Stelvia is not for a woman to rule. Your uncle is the last of his line, and he has the blessing of the church.” The abbot gestured for the goat, and even though Monique looked around quickly for a weapon, she found nothing more substantial than a grass blade. “Oh, and I would not fight back,” he added, even as Monique clenched her fists for the coming battle. “Or the knight who is even now in your uncle’s hands will suffer for it.”
She turned to look at Mural, uncertain, and the woman nodded. “Do as he says. He would not lie.”
“He lied when he welcomed us.”
“He misled us. But I do not think he is lying now.”
She looked at the abbot, uncertain. But even if they fought, they couldn’t win, not with that giant goat waiting. He could sit on us and end the battle. “Fine,” she said, dropping to her knees next to Mural. The abbot’s men bound them both, and then the goat picked up the long end of the rope in his mouth.
Monique closed her eyes as they lifted off the ground and began swinging through the air, but she could still make out the abbot’s last words: “Pleasant journey, Princess! I will pray for your soul.”
Just what we need. Prayers from innocent people hadn’t helped any. She was certain those of a double-crossing jerk wouldn’t save them any, either.
When you write fantasy, and especially anything set in a medieval-type society, you have to determine what your story’s attitude towards prayer will be. If there is a fight of good versus evil, is there a “master of good” and a “master of evil”? Can prayer or certain actions affect them, giving you extra power or help when you need it? Or is your fantasy universe just “there”?
With fantasy, you have an otherworldly element already in place in your story, so you have to answer the question (at least to yourself) of what brought magic into existence. Did the whole world, with magic and whatever fantasy you use, come into existence on its own? Did it evolve or was it created? If it was made, who designed it and why? Did things go awry, or is the world just as it was meant to be? All these questions will affect how your characters see their lives.
And even if they don’t know the absolute truth of where things stand, your characters will have opinions on the subject. Are they agnostics? Atheists? Deists? What sort of religions exist in your world, and how do the characters feel about them? Unless your fantasy is filled with people very different than humanity at large, there will be those who gravitate towards a religious belief system, even if you yourself don’t agree. Your story should reflect some of that diversity because not everyone relies on themselves and their own abilities in times of needs.
Until the next letter,
Copyright 2017 Andrea Lundgren
Photo courtesy of gratisography