Azaria M.J. Durant
(Darkened Destiny Saga #1)
Publication date: July 29th
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
An ancient power
long kept dormant stirs in the shadows once more as one boy embarks on a quest to
earn his freedom and the freedom of his world!
Magic has turned to myth, the Vaelhyreans of old to legend, and the power wielded
by the ancients has long been forgotten. However, with Ealdred, a mere half-breed
slave boy, myth becomes real, the forgotten remembered, and the power of legend is
reborn within him.
Ealdred is merged into a world of mystery, brimming with deceit, where the
remaining Vaelhyreans are in a desperate fight for their very survival. When Ealdred is
kidnapped by the power-mongering dark lord Zeldek himself, he must make a choice; to
commit his newfound magic to Zeldek’s service or die. But when he meets Bellator,
clever yet treacherous servant of Zeldek, an alternative is presented to him: to escape
from Zeldek’s stronghold and embark on a quest to find a cursed arrow and free the
Vaelhyreans from the spell that keeps their powers at bay.
Yet how can he survive in a world where magic is illegal, half-breeds are hated, and
the four countries are on the brink of war?
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“That time is already upon us,” the Master stated, rising to his feet. “Many nights
now, my gaze has been turned to the stars. The constellations Heroi and Retsu are
aligning for the first time in two and a half millennia. Prophecies connote these coming
years as the last of mankind. This is the opportunity I have been waiting for. I must not
His eyes glowed with the passion his words expressed, and murmurs of agreement
echoed through the room.
“Our toils have been rewarding and our preparation has been long,” the Master went
on. “Yet we must not deceive ourselves into thinking that our position is secure.”
The murmurs fell to silence. The Master had never spoken so freely of such things
before. The most this council had ever discussed were the brief updates concerning the
progress of each respective country and its assets. There was the occasional new order
from The Master, but such a thing was rare, and was always followed by a long, tedious
discussion concerning the politics of the task, and thus was never interesting.
“It has been predicted that there is one who has the potential to stand in my way;
one who may have the power to end my supreme rule before it has begun.”
“My lord, who could possess the power to rival you?” Valamette asked,
The Master lifted his gaze to glare at Valamette from beneath the shadow of his
hood. “You of all people should know.”
Understanding dawned on Valamette. He nodded slowly. Bellator glimpsed the other
figures, looking to find a shred of understanding among them. But they too turned to
look at Valamette, hoping to glean what they could from his bearing.
“The boy, my lord?” he asked.
“Yes,” the Master replied. “The boy.”
Bellator was intrigued. When had a boy ever entered their conversation?
“But my lord, how could he be a problem? Didn’t we do away with him as an infant?
How is it possible that he still draws breath?”
“Does it matter how?” the Master snapped. “What matters is that he lives and that
he will pose a threat if we aren’t careful to hone his abilities to our favour.”
“I can do it.” Valamette took a breath. “I can kill him, if you wish it. I will not fail
“No!” The Master’s fist slammed on the altar. “If I wanted him dead, I would have let
him die! I wouldn’t have kept him safe all this time.”
Azaria M. J. Durant is a young, passionate writer of fantasy with plans to branch out
into sci-fi and dystopian. She enjoys writing stories with action, adventure, unexpected
plot twists, and fleshed out characters that challenge gender roles and
Azaria lives in Atlantic Canada with her family, cats, and dogs, and her big dreams
to travel the world. In the moments when she isn’t writing, she is sketching concept art
for her stories, participating in community theatre, or curled up with a good book and a
bag of mint chocolates.
Into the Veil of Shadow – Annalyn’s Story
The tavern was a buzz of excitement as the midday rush neared its close, but
Annalyn’s thoughts were elsewhere as she stared out the window. Beyond the docks, the
waters of the lake shone in the sunlight, and the forest on the outskirts of town whispered
her name. She stood, transfixed, only coming out of her stupor when the mug of ale on
the trey in her hands toppled over.
“Oy, miss!” a disgruntled customer exclaimed, leaping up as his table was soaked
with the stuff.
“Oh!” The white haired maiden grabbed a fold of her apron and rushed to dry the
mess. “I’m so sorry, Mister Dowel. I’ll get a replacement for your meal right away. On
The crankily old man grumbled, but accepted her offer with a nod. “Best keep
your head outta the clouds, little miss.”
“Yes,” she agreed, taking his food. “I’ll have the replacement out in a moment.”
She walked around behind the counter and into the scullery.
“What happened out there?” the tall, pale woman with equally as white hair as
Annalyn asked as she scooped beans onto a plate.
Della was the most gossiped about woman in town, not only for her unnatural
appearance and the fact that she’d appeared out of nowhere, but also for the grace and
beauty that she carried herself with. A lot of people said she was the only thing that held
the town together sometimes, for her motherly nature extended beyond her own family. If
someone was in need, she’d be there, and never once did she expect anything else in
return. She was the kindest, most sensitive woman in town, and despite the townspeople
knowing nothing about her or where she came from, they loved her nonetheless.
“I got carried off again,” her thirteen-year-old daughter replied, dumping the ale
soaked food into the slop bucket. “It is so lovely outside today. I wish I was out in the
forest instead of stuck in here.”
Her mother laughed, her silver eyes twinkling. “Is that so?”
“It’s so hot and stuffy.” Annalyn tugged at the collar of her dress.
“I’ll tell you what,” her mother said, moving a strand of her daughter’s sweaty
hair behind her ear. “Why don’t you finish cleaning up the mess, and then you can go out
and pick blackberries this afternoon? Does that sound like a good exchange?”
Annalyn’s lightly freckled face lit up. “Yes! Thank you, mother!”
Della laughed, and handed her a plate of food. “Alright. You bring this to poor
Mister Dowel, and then you can run along.”
Annalyn took the plate and hurried out into the tavern. Handing the plate to a now
appeased Mister Dowel, she headed for the nearest exit. She undid her apron as she
pushed open the door, and pulled it over her head, leaving it hanging on the railing
outside of the tavern. She hovered about long enough to retrieve a basket from the
stables, and then hurried up the road and out of town. The breeze caught her as she
neared the top of the ridge that surrounded the town, and the sweet scent of the forest
filled her lungs.
She entered, swinging her basket care-freely, and searched the underbrush for the
juicy clusters of berries. Hours passed as she hummed happily to herself in the peace
and quiet of the forest, listening to the birds chirping in the treetops as she wandered
further and further north. Annalyn was a smart girl, and kept track of where she was
going as her basket was quickly filled with berries. She had a set destination in mind; a
small glade with a little brook running through it, which was the home of her childish
fantasies of fairyland, where she reigned as queen. Her pace quickened as she heard the
soft bubbling of the brook, which soon swept into view. She set down the basket of
blackberries beside a tree and went to the water’s edge, washing the berry stains from her
fingers in the cool flow.
All at once, a shadow fell over the water, and she glanced up. Across the brook
from where she knelt stood a figure, wrapped in a dark cloak and peering at her from
under a deep hood. She froze, looking right back at him. The two stared at one another,
him with his dark eyes, and her growing both frightened and curious.
“Hello,” she greeted at last, her voice hesitant. “Are you lost?”
He shook his head once.
“Forgive me, but do you live around here? Is this your brook?”
A bit of a smile turned the corner of his mouth. “No, child,” he said, his voice
quiet. “I am simply passing through.”
“I live in an inn,” she said. “I can show you where if you are looking for
somewhere to stay.”
“That would not be wise,” he replied. There was a slight breeze, which blew aside
the hood of his cloak, revealing a scarred, wrinkled face and long, white hair. “I am on
my way to my home.”
“Oh.” Most of her fear had vanished by now. “Where do you live?”
“A castle, far from here. To the north.”
“The north?” she echoed. “There’s nothing north of here. Nothing but
“You think not?” He smiled. “I see I have succeeded in hiding my castle quite
Annalyn returned his smile, but then grew suspicious. “Why were you watching
He hesitated. “You remind me of someone. Someone I knew a long time ago.”
“Oh.” This surprised her. “Did she have hair like me?”
All feeling left his face. “She did.” His eyes fell to the necklace that hung around
Annalyn’s throat. “Where did you get that?”
She reached up to touch the pendant. “My mother gave it to me.”
“Is that so?” He vanished suddenly, appearing right beside her. Bending to one
knee, he took the pendant carefully between his long fingers. Kneeling down, he was as
tall as she was. “… how lovely.”
Annalyn stared at him, surprised and even more curious. “How did you do that?”
He looked at her, and she noticed that his pupils were dark red. “Magic,” he said.
Her eyes widened. “You’re a sorcerer?”
“Are you afraid?” he countered, letting go of the necklace.
She hesitated. “Should I be?”
The man rose to his feet, observing her. “I’m not going to hurt you,” he seemed to
decide. “I will take you to see my home.”
Annalyn hesitated. She’d always wanted to see a castle. But… her mother and
father would worry. “No thank you,” she said politely. “I need to get home. But it was
nice meeting you.”
He watched, looking a little disappointed, as she turned to leave. He raised his
hand, his fingers moving in a ripple, and a black veil of mist stretched in the girl’s path.
Annalyn gasped, backing away from it. But before she could speak, it had swallowed
both her and the sorcerer whole.
The shadows cleared moments later, and she stood in the midst of a large, empty
scullery. Everything around her was dark and gloomy, and the air smelled of sulphur
instead of pine.
“What have you done?” she cried, frantically turning in a circle. “Where have you
“To my home,” he responded, turning his back on her. “You are my servant now.
Do as I tell you, and I will return you to your family in time. Disobey me, and you will
never see them again.”
Annalyn couldn’t breathe. She clutched her hands to her chest to keep them from
shaking. “No. P-please… sir…” She couldn’t go on.
He glanced back at her, his eyes now glowing in the darkness. For a moment, his
stone heart softened as he saw the likeness of the girl he’d once known. But it hardened
up again when he remembered the fate he’d brought upon her. “You should have been
afraid of me.”
Then he turned and walked out, leaving her alone. Annalyn’s breathing grew
louder as she tried to stop the sobs from coming, but it was no use. Tears streamed down
her cheeks and her knees gave out. She stumbled, catching herself against a table, and
held onto it, her body trembling.
A loud clatter came from behind her, and she turned with a cry of alarm. A boy
peered at her from the scullery’s garbage chute.
“Who’re you?” he asked, climbing out. He was filthy, and smelled of rotting
matter. “Ain’t never seen you before.”
She sniffed, trying to wipe away her tears. “… A-Annalyn.”
“You must be new,” the boy said with a crooked grin, brushing rotten onion peels
out of his curly orange hair. He extended a hand. “The name’s Uri.”
Annalyn looked at his hand, not moving to take it.
“You’ll get used to it here. Really, it ain’t that bad so long as you remember four
things. One, you ain’t never gonna see the sun, so get used to it. Two, yes, the ezixs
always smell like that. And three, stay clear of Bellator. She’s a nasty one.”
She frowned. “What’s number four?”
“Four?” Uri’s smile faded. “You’re gonna be stayin’ a while.”
“That time is already upon us,” the Master stated, rising to his feet. “Many nights now, my gaze has been turned to the stars. The constellations Heroi and Retsu are aligning for the first time in two and a half millennia. Prophecies connote these coming years as the last of mankind. This is the opportunity I have been waiting for. I must not fail!”
His eyes glowed with the passion his words expressed, and murmurs of agreement echoed through the room.
“Our toils have been rewarding and our preparation has been long,” the Master went on. “Yet we must not deceive ourselves into thinking that our position is secure.”
The murmurs fell to silence. The Master had never spoken so freely of such things before. The most this council had ever discussed were the brief updates concerning the progress of each respective country and its assets. There was the occasional new order from The Master, but such a thing was rare, and was always followed by a long, tedious discussion concerning the politics of the task, and thus was never interesting.
“It has been predicted that there is one who has the potential to stand in my way; one who may have the power to end my supreme rule before it has begun.”
“My lord, who could possess the power to rival you?” Valamette asked, bewildered.
The Master lifted his gaze to glare at Valamette from beneath the shadow of his hood. “You of all people should know.”
Understanding dawned on Valamette. He nodded slowly. Bellator glimpsed the other figures, looking to find a shred of understanding among them. But they too turned to look at Valamette, hoping to glean what they could from his bearing.
“The boy, my lord?” he asked.
“Yes,” the Master replied. “The boy.”
Bellator was intrigued. When had a boy ever entered their conversation?
“But my lord, how couldhebe a problem? Didn’t we do away with him as an infant? How is it possible that he still draws breath?”
“Does it matter how?” the Master snapped. “What matters is that he lives and that he will pose a threat if we aren’t careful to hone his abilities to our favour.”
“I can do it.” Valamette took a breath. “I can kill him, if you wish it. I will not fail you.”
“No!” The Master’s fist slammed on the altar. “If I wanted him dead, I would have let him die! I wouldn’t have kept him safe all this time.”
A log in the fire coughs, sending sparks into my eyes and I blink. When I blink, the world changes suddenly before my eyes.
I no longer see the sizzling skin of the pheasant and the blackened stones of the oven behind it. Instead, I stand between the brick walls of a narrow, dead-end alley. The ground beneath my bare feet is dirt instead of rough wood and putrid city air replaces the savoury smells of the scullery. A cool, midsummer breeze finds its way to me over the high walls around the alley, caressing my clammy skin, bringing with it the buzz of late afternoon hustle and bustle on the street outside. Yet somehow, I can still feel the heat of the fire on my skin and hear the familiar sounds of the scullery behind me.
My attention is quickly drawn to movement at the dead-end of the alley as a beggar emerges from the shadows. He has the looks of a man in his thirties, yet his dirty face is cut with more scars than a warrior twice his age could’ve acquired. A tattered cloak is wrapped around his shoulders, mostly concealing his ratty green tunic and patchwork trousers. An eye-patch covers his right eye. He steps softly, his shoes simple cloth bound around his feet, and surveys the walls cautiously with his good eye. His gaze passes through me as though I wasn’t there.
Knotted, dirty-blond hair whips his face as he jerks his head to look up the alley and his lip curls in a fierce snarl.
I recognize the beggar at once. Though I haven’t met him in person, I’ve seen him often enough to imagine him a figment of my own imagination. In every city, in every town I’ve ever worked, the beggar has always been there – lurking behind corners, in dark alleyways, in every crowd – and always, always watching me. But he’s never there long enough for me to see him on second glance.
This is a dream. It has to be. I survey my surroundings once more and the cool breeze greets me once again. A very vivid dream. Maybe I’ve fainted.
Whatever is happening, I seem to have little control, so I decide there isn’t much else to do but accept it.
I begin to start forward, my goal to get directly in the beggar’s way, but something binds me in place.
A rough, throaty voice rings out from the mouth of the alley, and a shiver shoots down my spine.
The beggar whips aside his cloak, putting a hand to the spiked club attached to his belt.
An old man limps into view, leaning on a stout, gnarled walking stick. He picks his way along the downward slope, lifting the hem of his drab grey robes clear of his feet.A pointed beard and sleek white hair peek out from the baggy hood draped over his head. His face sags with deeply set wrinkles, and his eyes are narrow, squinty, but there is an authority gathered in the indent of his brow. A beaded braid of leather is tied around his forehead, the tails of which dangle down the side of his face, and I contemplate how annoying that could get over time. There’s nothing threatening about his appearance at all, and I wonder why I shivered at his voice.
A sudden chill, obviously. He’s just a friendly old man. Not everyone is out to get me.
Recognition dawns on the beggar’s face, and he relaxes his grip on the club. “Ulmer? This is… unexpected, to say the least! Why have you come here?”
The old man – Ulmer, I infer – begins to speak slowly. “Listen to me. The boy is in danger. I think it prudent that we get him to safety. Tonight.”
The beggar sighs, nodding. “I knew I felt something amiss.”
“Your intuition serves you well.” Ulmer glances around, lowering his voice. “Zeldek is coming for him.”
As he says these words, a raven screeches from the rooftop and soars into the air, disappearing beyond the thatched peak of the building next to us. Dread washes over me, and I look up enviously at the raven that can fly away so freely. Zeldek.The name sounds vaguely familiar, but it is meaningless to me.
“Why now?” Banner’s voice is tremulous, yet resigned. “He could have come for him at any time. What is he planning?”
“My source was unclear. Simply that he plans to capture the boy himself.” The old man shakes his head. “I must inform the council of this development. We may not have the numbers to wage war against him, but we can distract him while you get the boy to safety. We will reconvene at this location at midnight. Be sure he is with you then. If Zeldek gets to him first, I fear he will be beyond our help.”
Banner nods. “I will protect him with my life.”
“I know you will, little brother,” Ulmer says, resting a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “I must be off.”
“All speed to you,” Banner returns, lines of worry sinking into his brow.
Ulmer pulls the hood down over his eyes and slips into the crowded street outside.
No sooner has he gone than I feel a tugging on my shoulders, and I am jerked back into the wall. Next thing I know, I am once again breathing in the heavy air of the scullery, the flames of the fire dangerously close to my face. I stumble backward, my eyes stinging from smoke. My foot catches on a loose brick in the hearth, and I hit the floor before I even realize I’m falling. All air flees my lungs.
When everything comes back into focus, the alley is gone.
“Who is it that you seek?”
Deep and ageless, the voice echoes as if from within my own mind, penetrating a dimension beyond sound. My heart bounds into my throat, and I spin around.
A man in a dark velvet cloak smiles down at me. His face is shadowed by a deep hood, but what I can make of it is long and ghoulish. His chin is pointed, his nose oblong, and his complexion has a lingering white pallor that differs from the bluish pale of the half-breed. A deep scar cuts across one side of his face, crossing over his left eye.
Despite his fearsome looks, his composure is dignified and his clothing is very fine. He is fully attired in black armour that glints in the moonlight. An expensive, dragon-hilted broadsword hangs at his side, upon which he rests his hand. Though his attire is dazzling, my eyes are at once drawn to the glittering black signet ring on the middle figure of his right hand. On it, a fierce dragon with eyes of ruby is trapped within a circle of silver chains, its wings lifted in flight, and a golden ring dangling from its fangs.
I step back from him distrustfully, pulling my cloak further around my shoulders. “I seek no one.”
The man chuckles good-humouredly, which does nothing to ease my discomfort. He seems delighted to have found me here, though I don’t judge him to be the type to go after a runaway slave for the reward money. My eyes scan the walls for the easiest path of escape should it come to that. I’m not a fighter, but I’m swift on my feet. This man may have a sword, but I doubt he’s as agile as I am.
“Who is this Banner?” he asks.
“Just a beggar that lives here.” I speak as though I’m sure of myself. I’ve heard that looking people in the eyes means you aren’t lying, so I do that too. “I owe him some money.”
He raises his scarred eyebrow in concern. “You? But you’re just a boy!”
I straighten up, as if somehow that might make me look older. “I’m fifteen!”
He doesn’t look convinced. “Where are your parents?”
“Don’t have any.”
Feigned sympathy replaces his suspicion, and his earlier good humour fades. “I am sorry. Perhaps I can help you find your friend?”
I shake my head, annoyed by his false kindness.
His mouth turns down in mild disappointment. “You certainly are a mistrusting child… Ealdred.”
My façade fails me. “H-how do you know my name?”
I’ve never told anyone my name. Not that anyone has bothered to ask. I have held it as a deeply cherished secret.
He steps forward and appraises me. If I’m going to make a run for it, I should go now. But then I see something that makes me freeze. His eyes, which had been shadowed only moments before, now glow crimson.
“Don’t be afraid, Ealdred.” His voice is a biting mockery as he emphasizes my name a second time. “I only want to talk.”
“Who are you?” I demand. “What are you?”
He throws off his hood, revealing a crown made from some sort of black metal on a head of long, wispy white hair. The crest of the crown renders two dragons facing one another, each with a foot on an oval ruby between them. Tiny rubies glisten in their eyes and all the way around the scaly circlet of the crown.
“I am Zeldek,” he cries, his voice booming in the still night air, “Lord of Gaiztoak, Keeper of the Aemurel, Ruler of the Vaelhyreans, and King of Theara; and I will have your allegiance!”
My mind works out the details on its own. Zeldek came here to wait for Banner and Ulmer to return with their charge and found me instead. However great my fear, I quickly decide that the best way to handle this situation is not to stammer like an idiot.
“King of Theara, you say?” I ask, my voice quavering in spite of myself. “I’m not sure I’ve heard of you.”
He stiffens and his eyes spark with anger. “It matters not who you have or haven’t heard of, half-race! You will bow to me!”
“Why?” I scoff. “What good would the service of a lowly half-breed be to you? I’m a nobody!”
A hint of a smirk turns his lips. “You truly do not understand your own worth, do you?”
I shrug, and my words are as biting as the truth itself. “I am worth nothing.”
Suddenly, a smaller dark figure drops lightly onto the balcony, stooping quickly to its hands and knees. It stays that way for a moment, and then rises slowly and silently to its feet. Even though the figure is blurred by the glass in the door, I know who it is.
Bellator pushes the doors softly open, and tiptoes into the room. Her helmet is on her head now, and she is fully armed with her bow and a quiver of arrows at one side, a belt of daggers around her waist, and a sword at her other side.
She stops short when she sees me and puts up her hands in mock surprise. “Whoa! Easy there, half-breed. I thought you were asleep!”
“Would you prefer that I was?” I demand coldly. “Perhaps so you can more easily kill me?”
She clicks her tongue, wagging a finger at me. “Someone’s a little cranky. Didn’t get much sleep last night, did we?”
My irritation grows. “What are you doing here?”
“Oh dear. You don’t look too good at all. Were you up allnight?”
I point my dagger at her. “Answer my question!”
The corner of her mouth turns up in a smirk. “Were you frightened?”
“You would be too if you had to worry about someone coming in and trying to kill you while you slept.”
“That’s why no one knows where I sleep.” She wipes her bangs under the rim of her helmet. They are damp with perspiration and a thick strand sticks to her forehead. “Put the knife away and come with me.”
I eye her with suspicion. “Where do you plan to take me?”
“I think you’ll like it. If you’re brave, that is.”
I hesitate. “You’re not going to try to kill me again, are you?”
She snorts, but doesn’t make any promises. “Come on! Fyra is waiting outside.”
“Fyra?” I repeat, casting a nervous glance into the sky.
“Fyra, my dragon.”
I slide my knife into my belt, not feeling very encouraged. But I keep my hand close to the hilt in case she tries anything.
Bellator goes back to the balcony and steps up onto the parapet, spreading out her arms to both sides like a bird in flight. Glancing over her shoulder, she beckons for me to follow. I approach warily and look up at the sky. The dark shape of her dragon is nowhere in sight.
“Follow me!” she cries, and dives over the edge.
My stomach drops with her, and a shocked cry escapes my throat. I throw myself to the railing and look down. Her body is plummeting toward the sharp rocks at the foot of the tower, stretched out like a leaf in the wind. I expect at any second to see her crash into the cliff side, and fall forever into the depths below. But then a black form almost too swift for the eye to behold shoots past me and is beneath her in an instant. It opens its wings, stopping itself mid-dive, and she lands on its back, unharmed. She leans forward, resting a hand on the beast’s head, and they sweep around as smoothly as if Bellator were just another extension of the dragon’s body.
“Your turn!” she calls as they begin their ascent back toward me.
I must be a fool for even considering this.
And yet I find myself climbing up onto the railing. My knees wobble and I fling out my arms to catch my balance. The rocks below seem to sharpen their teeth and the water opens its foaming mouth to receive me. I am well aware this is probably a trick on Bellator’s part, trying to get me to commit suicide, or something equally as cruel. But a small voice within urges me to jump anyways.
As though she hears my inner voice, Bellator shouts, “Jump!” as the dragon soars past me.
I look down again, and the small voice grows still quieter. I’m not an imbecile. And yet I long to be able to jump like that. To feel like I am flying for even a brief moment. To grasp that kind of freedom. The thought exhilarates me.
Besides, Bellator was right. There are things worse than death, and serving Zeldek is one of them.
I take a deep breath and let myself fall forward.
Fire and Blood — Bellator’s Story
A flicker of torchlight spread across the floor of the cold cell, almost reaching the small form that huddled in the shadowy corner. All that could be seen was the edge of a tattered cloak partially blanketing a pair of small, dirty feet. Footsteps echoed in the foul-smelling air, which – upon first breathing in, stung the nose – but one could get numb to it over time. The shadow of a man blocked the light, before the bars of the cell, his golden hair outlined in the light.
“Good evening!” a masculine voice greeted cheerfully.
The feet recoiled into the shadows.
A rattle, a click, and the door swung open. The man stepped into the room, richly dressed, a cloak sweeping the floor behind him, though he picked it up daintily between two fingers.
“I think you and I should come to an understanding, little one.”
There was no response. Nor had the man expected one. He sighed, resting his hand on the hilt of the fancy sword that hung at his side.
“Let’s start with your name. Can you tell me that?”
Again, no reply.
He sighed. Clearly, this was going nowhere. It was time for a new approach.
“Where did you get that brand on your hand?” he demanded gruffly.
A shuffle of feet. The man squinted into the shadows, but the glaring torchlight made the shadows even deeper.
“Look, missy, I can’t help you if you won’t cooperate!”
“Don’t call me that.” The voice was soft, feminine, and very young. Yet the childishness it carried was hollow.
The man was too wrapped in his own self-importance to notice. “At last. She speaks!”
A face materialized from the shadows as the girl moved forward. Her gaze sent a chill down the man’s spine. He wasn’t sure if it was because of the way the torchlight caught her eyes, or the fierce hunger and rage trapped behind them.
“I know who you are,” she said, her soft voice becoming harsher. “You are King Leonel, and you’re a despicable coward who gorges himself while his people starve!”
“And you’re a loose tempered brat, apparently,” he said evenly, smiling in an attempt to keep his bearing.
“Your people hate you,” she continued, just as calmly, yet venomous all the same. “I’ve seen it. I feel their hunger. You’re going to die if you keep ignoring them.”
He gritted his teeth. “Do you know what that symbol on your hand means? It is a brand, given to you by one far greater than you or I. It means that he is your master. You belong to him, and so I’m going to take you to him.”
The little girl’s eyes narrowed. “No one owns me!”
“My master does.”
Her breathing quickened, and she backed into the shadows again.
“That’s right,” he chuckled, using the ground he had gained. “I’m taking you to my master. Not that I know what use a scrawny, pint-sized brat—what the-!”
A foot hit him square in the throat, throwing him back into the wall. The girl had darted from the shadows, and now used his momentum to climb up him, wrapping her legs around his chest, and beat him about the head.
“G-guards!” the king bellowed when he could finally breathe again, his voice squeaking pathetically. His voice was quickly silenced as she grabbed his coveted hair in one fist and his beard in the other, and slammed his head back against the wall.
The guards rushed into the cell and grabbed hold of her, trying to pry her off of him. It was a few minutes before they succeeded. Still she struggled, trying to get at him again, shouting at the top of her lungs, “No one’s ever going to own me! You hear? No one!”
King Leonel reached to comfort a deep, bleeding scratch across his face. “Throw that little brat into the pit! Fire and blood is how it’s going to end, missy. Fire and blood!”
She was dragged from the room, kicking and screaming insults back at him. Fighting, biting, and scratching, she was half-dragged, half-carried through dark passageways until at last they stood on the edge of a deep, dark pit. Though she struggled to hold on, they grabbed her wrists and dangled her over the pit.
“Don’t!” she squeaked, just as they let go.
The girl fell for a brief moment, quite sure that she’d be dead at the bottom. But then she landed, her legs crumbling beneath her. There was a snap as her ankle twisted the wrong way beneath her, and her scream echoed from the abyss.
Only the darkness replied, and that was to envelope her in its cold grip as the torchlight slipped away.
Along n the dark she lay, her foot throbbing as the pain grew only worse. The walls around her seemed to come alive and press in on her, and she was sure that she heard a dull hiss from somewhere close by. A hiss which grew louder, and louder, until it was coming from all around her. Something brushed against her, and she froze, gritting her teeth. Another something coiled around her broken ankle, and yet another slithered up her arm to drape itself over her chest. A tongue flicked against her face. She could practically smell the poison in their fangs.
As the night passed by slowly, she remained still, taking only light, shallow breaths. Her skin was pale, and every breath felt like her last. All the while, hatred as strong as a raging fire burned in her veins, filling them until they ached more than the pain of her injury. All her life, she’d been pushed around, and she was done. She’d show these people they couldn’t own her, or break her for that matter.
Swallowing hard, she slowly started to pick herself up. A snake hissed threateningly as it slid off of her arm, and she froze. But it soon got bored and moved on. She managed to pick them all off one by one and rose steadily to her good foot.
When King Leonel returned the next morning, he threw a torch down into the pit. It hit the bottom, sending snakes slithering away in all directions. But instead of finding a lifeless body on the floor, he found the space empty. He gasped, stumbling backward, which was the only reason he didn’t fall into the pit when the rock struck his scalp. Black spotted his vision, and a cry of rage echoed in his ears as the girl grabbed him and dragged him to the ground from behind.
A deep chuckle rocked the ground, and the girl felt a shudder of fear. She looked up, mid strike, and saw a cloaked man standing in the shadows.
“I believe you have underestimated her, Leonel,” the man’s chilling voice said. “She’s quite the fighter.”
“Who are you?” she demanded, pressing her knee into Leonel’s chest.
He stepped into the torchlight, pushing back his hood to reveal a crown of black gold on a head of braided white hair. “My name is Zeldek. I am your master.”
She swore, leaping to her feet. Leonel tried to move, and she stamped her broken foot into his neck, ignoring the pain.
Zeldek raised an eyebrow. “How old are you, exactly?”
“Not your business!”
“You look quite young. No older than ten, I’m guessing? And yet,” he took a step forward, a sinister light in his eye, “you just took down not only a grown man, but a skilled warrior. I see great things in your future.”
“Go crawl back to whatever hole you came out of!”
A smile twisted his pale lips. “I’ll take her.”
“Excuse me?” The little girl’s fists clenched
“You did well to call me here, Leonel. For once, I am not disappointed.”
“The girl is all yours,” the king choked. “Take her, please!”
“No!” the girl growled, picking up the rock from the ground and clenched it in her fists. “You can’t have me!”
Zeldek’s eyes flashed red. “Do you really think you have a choice?”
“Yeah,” the girl tossed her head of straggled, chestnut hair. “I do.”
Leaping forward, she hurled the rock at his head, and then sprinted at him. But however quick she was, this man was quicker. He caught the rock in his hand without so much as flinching, and it broke unto flaming pieces, dashing sparks into her eyes. She stumbled, and he struck her to the ground with the back of his hand.
“You will learn to respect me,” he said coldly. “Or you will suffer greatly until you fear me.”
Blood filled her mouth, and she spat it out. Yet there was no fear in her eyes as she glared at him. She pushed herself back to her feet, only to be kicked back again. The air was thrown from her lungs as she hit the opposite wall. A sharp pain penetrated her lungs, and her broken ankle twisted at an odd angle.
Again, she tried to pick herself back up.
Zeldek raised both eyebrows in astonishment. Leonel, who had picked himself up, drew his sword and raised it to run her through.
“Leonel, stay your hand!” his master ordered in a voice like thunder.
“She’s dangerous, sir!” Leonel protested. “Too dangerous to be kept alive! If this girl is allowed to grow up, she’ll be—“
“Perfect,” his master finished for him, casting his dark eyes over the girl. “She is going to be perfect. I see a warrior so strong and fierce that legions flee before her. I see a devouring darkness that cannot be stopped, a resolve that cannot be shaken.”
“I see a stupid old man trying to plan my life out for me,” the girl said through her teeth.
He bent down beside her, his hand glowing like embers. Heat radiated from it, and he held it close to her face. “And a will bent entirely to my command.”
She gritted her teeth hard as the heat blistered her neck and sizzled the edges of her hair. Darkness seized her vision as the pain grew unbearable, and she was left with the echo of his voice to haunt her nightmares.
On Darker Waters – Uri’s Story
Uri hadn’t seen the sun for days.
It had been a long voyage as it was. They’d been at sea for months, after making that detour to steer clear of the Isle of the Damned. But they were s’posed to have gotten to port at least a week ago. Instead, they were heading into the middle of nowhere, low on food and fresh water. Of all the bad decisions Captain Stavery’d made, this was by far the worst.
A loud screech echoed through the mist that cast a thick veil all the way to the surface of the waters, which were swirling and foaming all strange like. It weren’t the first one; the screeching was becoming more of a constant thing the deeper they got into the mist. But Uri cringed all the same, trying to peer for the source of the sound from the railing of the crow’s nest, where he was leaning. All he could make out was the dark cliffs that loomed to the right of the ship. They were sailing unusually close to them, which even he knew was dangerous. The odd screeching from the top of the cliffs and the occasional falling rocks weren’t helping to ease his nerves.
It weren’t normal; none of it. He just wanted to go back to where the sun was shining and he could watch it glinting off the waves like a bunch of glittering crystals. Or actually feel the breeze. That’d be nice.
There was a sudden commotion down on deck, and Uri peered down the mast. The crew was drawing anchor and preparing to lower one of the row boats. He barely had time to wonder what was going on when there was a shout of, “Captain on deck!”
The crew all clambered to salute, but Uri only scowled. He was up in the crow’s nest anyhow. It weren’t like they’d see him if he didn’t fall over himself to pretend respect he didn’t feel.
“Hurry it up!” Captain Stavery shouted, then took a swig from the bottle that rarely left his hand. He cast a glance at the cliffs all worried like, and then turned all the sudden, his gaze landing straight on Uri. Uri ducked back, hoping he hadn’t been seen.
“Boy! Get down here!” the captain’s course voice echoed in the still air.
Uri had no choice but to do as he was told. He scrambled down the rigging and approached cautiously, ready to high-tail it back up the moment he saw there was any trouble.
“Get in the boat,” the captain snapped. “You’re comin’ with me.”
Uri moved his bare toe over a knot in the wood of the deck. “Why for?”
“‘Cause I said so! I don’t want no back-talk from you, ya hear? Get in the bloody boat!”
Uri glanced nervously to the cliff. “Where we goin’?”
“It ain’t your concern! Get in the boat before I throw you over the side.”
The boy high-tailed for the rigging, but two of the crew members grabbed him, dragging him to the boat. He struggled against them, but it was no use. They tossed him into the boat. Pain vibrated up his leg, and he swore loudly.
The captain climbed into the boat after him and it was lowered into the churning waters below. Uri glanced down. He didn’t trust this sea.
Captain Stavery shoved an oar into his hands. “Start rowin’,” he ordered, sitting down across from him.
Uri noticed no one else was coming with them, but he didn’t dare ask why not. He took the oars and started rowing. His orange hair stuck to his forehead with sweat. The air was unbearably warm.
Their destination soon materialized from the mist in the form of a dark fortress, which rose above a narrow pass between two cliffs. The pass led to the harbor they were in. There was a strange glow around the fortress, almost like it was on fire. Only there were no flames that he could see.
They reached the docks at the edge of the rocky shore, and Captain Stavery stepped out, the boards creakin’ under his feet. He was greeted by a whole lot of fellows in black outfits. They seemed not to like people lookin’ at them, ’cause their faces were all covered up. After a few words with them that Uri couldn’t make out, Stavery turned back to him.
“Don’t just sit there, boy. Get up!”
Uri quickly scrambled out of the boat, tripping over the edge and falling down. Got a splinter in his hand from the rough wood of the wharf, but the captain grabbed his arm, jerking him to his feet. He shoved him to walk in front of him as they followed the guards up a steep pathway toward the creepy castle. They were led up to the front door, which they reached by climbing up a long flight of stairs and then crossing over this pit filled with this spitting, glowing gold liquid fire stuff. Uri was relieved when the front door was opened for them, until he saw inside. Everything was all black: the walls, the floor, and the ceiling. There seemed to be designs carved on the walls, but he couldn’t make them out because there were hardly any lights in the place neither.
A squad of even more of the guards with covered faces came to meet them. At their head, there was this short girl near Uri’s age. She approached Captain Stavery, folding her hands behind her back, and Uri could swear he saw the captain flinch.
“This way,” she said, all stern like, and the captain followed. Uri trotted after them.
They were led to a large room where there was this red carpet and a throne, and lots of big stone statues of people holding torches on either side of the carpet. Oh, and big metal bowl things that had fire in them up in front of the throne. Uri was too busy looking at it all that he didn’t notice the others had stopped, and ran into the captain from behind. Captain Stavery grabbed his arm and made him stand beside him.
“Stavery,” a soft, chilling voice resonated in the room. “It has been a while.”
“My liege.” Stavery bowed, shoving Uri onto his knees while he was at it. “I’ve come as always to show my loyalty to you, and to make a request. That request bein’ that which I’ve always wanted: a better way to serve you, master.”
“And I have told you,” the controlled voice responded, and Uri thought he saw a person on the throne in the shadows now, “that I cannot give you the fleet of ships you desire unless you give me something valuable in return.”
“Well,” Uri piped up, “if its gold you’re after, the captain’s got tons of it.”
Stavery cuffed him upside the head.
“It is not gold that I require, boy,” the voice said from the shadows. “I need something more precious than that.”
“I have another offer to make,” Stavery said, shoving Uri forward. “My son. You can have ‘im. He’s the most precious thing I got.”
There was a long and dreadful pause. Uri wasn’t sure exactly what was going on, but he didn’t like it.
“You would trade your own son?” the voice said at last.
“Yeah, I would.”
“No he wouldn’t!” Uri cried, starting to panic. “P-pap, I’ve been good! I’ll be better! You can’t-”
“I can do what I want,” his father replied gruffly. Then he turned back to the man on the throne. “Is it a deal?”
“No! I ain’t gonna stay here! Please-”
He was cut off as Stavery struck him, knocking him to the floor. “Is it a deal?”
Again, there was silence. Uri lay still, tears wetting his face. He shoulda known. His pap had never wanted him. Never really…
“If this is a bargain you are willing to make,” the voice said slowly, “than yes. You shall have your ships. But you must know that there will be no going back on this trade.
Stavery glanced at his fourteen-year-old son. “I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Meet the Characters:
Meet Ealdred (MC of Broken Arrow)
Ealdred is a half-breed, the hated mix of the people of Lavylli, who live in the heart of the earth, and the people who live under the sun. He has been a slave since birth, tossed from master to master throughout his childhood. In spite of being put down and abused his entire life, he still fights to be worth something, even though he believes deep down that he is worth nothing. He learned to fight through the anger and pain caused by the constant abuse he was shown, and instead looks for the good in others. Even so, he never really trusts anyone.
He doesn’t see himself as brave, but if he sees someone who is wronged or hurt, he can be quite dangerous in defense of them. Sarcasm comes naturally to him, but he keeps it to himself unless he’s especially annoyed. His biggest dream is to one day find the family that he imagines he was taken from as a child and to live happily ever after with them.
Height: 4’ 8”
Appearance: Black curly hair, unnaturally blue eyes, pale skin. Thin eyebrows, slightly pointed nose. Thin, hollow face. Very thin and small build.
Personality: Sweet, gentle, can be fierce under pressure. Intelligent, but doesn’t know much about the world other than how to survive the cruelty of others.
Weapons: Dagger, sword, magic
Magic Type: Unknown
“My respect must be earned before it is given.” — Ealdred to Zeldek
“Well, what do you think?”
For a moment, I think that she is talking about herself and I am grasping for something to say when I realize that she’d gestured to everything in general.
“Oh!” I stammer, glancing around. “Right! Yeah. It’s nice. Has a lot of interesting detail. And fire. Who would have thought to use a mountain range as a wall?”
She grimaces in irritation. “I was talking about Fyra.”
I try to speak clearly, but my tongue won’t let me. “Oh- oh, right. Her. She’s great too. Flying is amazing!”
— exchange between Ealdred and Bellator after their flight on her dragon
“She told me to jump off the tower and I did it,” I say blandly. “I’m pretty sure I knew what I was getting myself into.” — Ealdred to Zeldek
Concept art (drawn by me):
Meet Bellator (Ally of Broken Arrow)
Bellator is a skilled warrior and assassin in the employ of the sorcerer Zeldek, who she serves as general of his elite guard. She enjoys fighting, terrorizing her master’s servants, and flying with her great black dragon, Fyra. Bellator takes pride in being undefeated, as no one has ever bested her in combat for many years.
In spite of her scorn of courage, Bellator is courageous, bold, and intelligent. She is always two steps ahead, and quickly comes up with a clever plan for any problem that comes her way. Trust is not something she gives easily, and loyalty even less. She is not good with friendships. Most often, she seeks to benefit herself, though overall she has a keen sense of right and wrong and tries to keep to her set moral code. She has a soft spot for half-breeds, as one saved her from getting her hand cut off for theft when she was young. Emotions are foreign to her.
Bellator values cleverness, intelligence, and honor above all, though she herself struggles with the latter.
Height: 5’ 2”
Appearance: Dark brown wavy hair which she always wears in a tight braid around her head. Ocean blue eyes. Light tan skin, cut scars all over face. Thick brows.
Personality: Vicious. Takes shit from no one. If you try to control her, she will plot your swift demise.
Weapons: Sword, daggers, bow and arrows.
“Your head would be at the end of my sword if my master elected to give the order.” – Bellator to ‘Zandelba’
“Lord Zeldek does not tolerate disrespect, and neither do I. You will learn your place here, or you will have me to answer to. And I promise, I won’t have as gentle a touch with you as the Master has had thus far.” – Bellator to Ealdred
“If courage is a sufficient substitute for foolishness. I’ve always seen them as synonymous.” – Bellator to Zeldek
“I am no mere child, you insolent swine! I am Bellator, known as the Crimson Shadow. I demand to know who you are and what your purpose is with this town!” – Bellator to a crowd of ruffians
Concept Art (drawn by me):
FAQ with Azaria M.J. Durant, Author of Broken Arrow
Hello! My name is Azaria and I am the author of Broken Arrow (Book 1 in theDarkened Destinysaga). I am twenty years old, an artist as well as a writer, and I write fantasy, sci-fi, historical fiction, and some fanfiction (so far). I started writing my debut novel Broken Arrow when I was fourteen, and six years, two editors, and many, many cups of tea later, it is finally published!
I just want to share some things about my book with you, as well as answer some questions you might have about the cast, the writing, and the world of Broken Arrow.
What is the genre and age range? The genre is young adult fantasy, and the age range is 13+ for some violence. Even though it is classified as young adult, I find that a good portion of my audience tends to be adults as well, so it’s hard to narrow down to a specific age range.
What is Broken Arrowabout? In the land of Theara, half-breeds are the most despised race, second only to magic users, who are rounded up and executed. Luckily for Ealdred, he’s just a half-breed. That is, until an unexplained event has him pegged as a sorcerer, and he is forced to flee for his life. Suddenly, he has the attention of the mysterious and devious sorcerer Zeldek, who demands one thing of him in exchange for the world: his undying allegiance. Ealdred must choose between his freedom and a life of acclaimed luxury. When he meets Bellator, Zeldek’s clever yet treacherous right hand, a new choice is presented to him: to escape and free a golden arrow from an ancient curse, and claim the power it wields. But exactly how far is Ealdred willing to go for his freedom? And is there more going on than he realizes?
Who is the main character? There is actually a lot of confusion about this, because I talk about Bellator all the time, as she is the most interesting character (in my not-so-humble opinion). The real main character of the story is Ealdred. It’s told from his point of view. He’s the one that suffers and bleeds for the story to happen, and he definitely doesn’t get close to the recognition that he deserves. He’s a very sweet child, fierce in his own way, and empathetic who just needs to be protected.
What is my favourite scene? My favourite scene in Broken Arrow is the entire flying sequence with Bellator and her dragon, and introducing the layout of Gaiztoak. It is all very breathtaking, and I loved writing it!
What is my least favourite scene? There aren’t any scenes that I don’t like, but there were some that were more difficult to write than others. The one that comes to mind is the section after the fight in Bynvantalyn, when Ealdred is remembering the death of his half-breed friend. The emotion in that scene was more difficult to capture, and the entire memory was disturbing to me.
Who are my five favourite characters?
- Bellator (for being so epic)
- Ealdred (he’s such a sweet, precious little bean)
- Zeldek (because he’s a good villain)
- Hamish (my tortured child 😥 )
- Either Uri or Marianna (I can’t decide… they’re both cool in their own completely opposite ways)
Who is my least favourite character? I would say Queen Algitha wins top least favourite, though it’s a close tie with Ralcher. They’re both just terrible people (though are still great characters in their awfulness).
Out of all five countries of Theara, which one is my favourite? It’s difficult to say, because the answer keeps changing. Though Valamette is the country the story is set in, I love the simplicity and beauty of Lavylli, the corruption of Zandelba, the strength of Avia, and the mystery of the ruined Sylvaria. I’ll pick Lavylli, though, because that’s what I’m focusing on right now as I go into writing the third book.
How important is the lore and mythology to the story? The lore and mythology is as important to understanding the cultures and people as the happenings of the story are. Not only was it fun to write, but it is extremely relevant, which adds a feel of realism to the world. It feels like an echo from the ages that only grows louder and more prevalent over time.
Are there any hidden messages or themes worked into the story? When I started writing this version of the book (there were many, many drafts) I had started to notice a lot of things in books and movies that I had issue with. Bellator especially is an embodiment of my rebellion against these things. Fantasy as a genre tends to depict women a certain way, and that way is not usually very good. Women warriors are highly sexualized instead of showing real strength, and other women in fantasy are abused, made submissive to the culture and to men, and really just depicted as love interests or weak damsels that need saving (if there are women in the story at all). Men, on the flip side, are depicted as cruel, tough, and unloving, hardened, and (in the case of the main character) there to win the story goal and gain the love interest as a prize in the end. My goal while writing Broken Arrow is to show women as truly strong in their own rites, not sexualized, taking shit from no one, with flaws and weaknesses without being made pathetic and useless. You know, like real people. I do this not only with Bellator, but also with my other female characters (and there are many). In contrast, I want to show men with weaknesses, empathy, and a respect for other human beings, seeing women as equal and valuable, not just as prizes to be won. Yes, sexism is an ugly thing in Theara as it is in all flawed worlds, but I hope the way I address it is a refreshing breeze in a world so often torn apart by gender inequality. It certainly is for me.
Are there any pronunciation issues with the names in the story?While most of the names are self-explanatory, there are two which are pronounced differently than you would expect. Hamish is pronounced Haw-meesh instead of Hay-mish (in my preference; honestly, you can pronounce it however you want), and Lavylli is pronounced La-vil-lee.
Are there more books? If so, how many? Broken Arrow is the first in a series of six books, so there’s a lot more epic story to come. I plan to release the second book around this time next year.
If you have any comments or further questions about the book, or if you just want to chat with me, please feel free to visit my website (https://ofswordsandquills.wordpress.com), twitter (https://twitter.com/HerMajestyMJ), or the Broken Arrow FB page (https://www.facebook.com/azariamjdurant/). I would love to chat with you!
To purchase Broken Arrow as an eBook, go here: https://amzn.to/2nmkGV2
Paperbacks coming soon!
Bringing the Characters of Broken Arrowto Life – by Azaria M.J. Durant
When I think back on the creation of the cast of Broken Arrow, it looks less like Aslan singing the people of Narnia into existence, and more like the orcs being ripped from their sacks roaring and kicking. Let me give you an example of what I mean.
Me, creating the main character: She will be beautiful (but won’t know it), flawless, everyone will fall in love with her, she’ll be good with the bow, with a fiery temper that gets her into trouble, and is ‘not at all like other girls’.
Bellator, looking at herself: What the heck is this? This isn’t me! Where’s the personality? Where’s the fear, the respect I call with just a flash of my eye? This perfect do-gooder with irrational emotional breakdowns is pathetic.
Me: Oh, sorry… I’ll give you a cute love interest. Is that good?
Bellator, her temper boiling: You think a love interest will fix this? And who even is this idiot? This guy’s unbearably perfect! And since when do I need saving?
Ealdred enters with the script, taps me lightly on the shoulder: No offence, but I’m not like this. This guy is… well, he’s a bit of a jerk, isn’t he? I get what you’re trying to do – you know, make me dashing and all that – but it’s just… not working. It isn’t me.
Me: You’re right, you’re right. I knew something was off. You need a better character arc.
Bellator crosses her arms: This’ll be good.
Me: You need more pain, more suffering…
Ealdred: That isn’t what I—
Me: But there’s still a problem. How can I express all of this through Bellator’s unfeeling eyes?
Bellator: Just forget about that idiot. What point is he anyways? I don’t need a love interest.
Me: That’s it! This story needs a gentler perspective. Someone people can actually care about. *glares at Bellator* Ealdred, you’re now the main character.
Ealdred, in shock: Oh… um, thanks?
Bellator in her quietest, deadliest voice: WHAT!?
Ealdred, backing away: It wasn’t my idea!
Me: It works better this way, Bellator. Now you can be the mysterious and terrifying assassin that you’ve always wanted to be.
Bellator, narrowing her eyes at Ealdred: Fine. But I’m not going to forget this, half-wit.
And that’s pretty much how it was creating all of the characters. Hamish was the big bad villain, but begged and pleaded until I changed my mind. Uri was in an entirely different book, but stole his way into the pages of Broken Arrow when my guard was down. Annalyn was a random extra in one scene that turned into one of the six main characters. Banner was a normal, mysterious bagger when I realized he was hiding his true life from me. Jambeau was both good and bad without reason, so to fix it I had to split him in half, one remaining Jambeau, and the other becoming Ralcher. Leonel was a good and wise king before he showed his true colours. And on it goes.
Looking at it, Marianna and Zeldek are the only ones that haven’t been difficult so far and have stayed in the roles they were originally placed. We’ll see how long it lasts.
I’ll see if I can narrow down each step…
For this cast, I started with pulling out a pad of paper and googling “medieval baby names” with a bit of an idea of the cast of characters that I wanted for the story. I went through a couple of different sites, and wrote down every one that caught my eye, felt right, or that I liked the meaning of. A couple of names popped off the screen right away, and fit perfectly with the ideas that I had. Hamish, for example, which means “usurper” or “to supplant”, was the perfect name for the villain I had in mind. Elroy was another one that fit well with the heroic love interest, though I also liked Ealdred a lot too, so I decided on both. Bellator was actually the last character named, and it took me five years to finally figure out the perfect name for her. Before that, Briella, Bree, and Gailene were names I alternated between using, but she hated all of them. It was about a year ago when I integrated using Google Translate to find names that I discovered the word “bellator” which is Latin for warrior. And it was perfect. She has never been happier with me than she was that day.
Once the names were figured out, and I had a (very large) cast in mind, I then had to figure out the ages. At the time, I was fourteen, but I wanted the book to be relatable to all teens, so I had all of the main characters be sixteen. Not that I knew how to write a sixteen year old at the time, but I thought it couldn’t be too hard. Since then, pretty much all of the ages have changed to have more or less variety, and I have the experience to be able to write a proper sixteen year old. Even if Ealdred is now fifteen, as he is quick to point out.
After all of the ages had been established, I started coming up with faces. At first, Pinterst was my guide, and I came up will all the face claims that I could. But as my art started to progress, I was able to start to work out the details of each character, and the face claims no longer worked. The clothing style of my world was also something I worked on at this point as I tried to think up each character’s signature outfit. I had to settle with signature style, though, because I’m not sure I’ve ever once been able to draw a character in the same outfit. I have a designing streak, as it turns out.
Discovering the roles and personality of each character was something that happened as I started writing. And even when I thought I had them all figured out, roles switched, personalities changed, and back stories formed. I’m still trying to work out a lot of their back stories and personalities, to be honest. But now I used character development lounges to work out most of that. Character development lounges are where writers put their characters in scenarios along with another person’s characters and watch as they interact, go on crazy adventures, and find who they are.
As my characters changed, so did the story, until it all became the epic tale that it is today. Though the story may be good, it is the characters that make it so good.
A Letter to Ealdred, Main Character of Broken Arrow – by Azaria M. J. Durant
My sweet, gentle child and beloved hero.
You may not have been the first chosen to bear the burden of the main character of Broken Arrow, but you stepped into the role with as much grace and responsibility as you have in your daily life. Ever since, my admiration for you has been deep. How you remain so noble and good throughout all of the bad things I’ve thrown at you is a mystery to me. Sure, you have your flaws, many of which are a reflection of my own cast upon you. But you hold fast to who you are even in the darkest times. I could only hope to have such iron resolve and a dedicated moral goodness as you have.
If I could apologize for what I’ve put you through, I would. But you see, to apologize isn’t yet in my power. If I apologized now, I would be inclined to end all hardship for you at once. Your story is only just beginning, as you wisely predicted. I hope you can remain strong through the whirlwind of pain coming your way. Stay strong, find courage, and remember that there will be a light on the horizon. True, being the only candle in a dark, dark world can burn you up. But I know you can handle it. You’re smart, even if you don’t feel that way sometimes.
Don’t just stand there and let other people push you around. I know you feel like it is what you deserve after how you’ve been treated your whole life, but it isn’t. Stand up for yourself. You’re worth more than that; more than you could possibly understand.
The world is a cruel, cruel place, as you well know. Don’t be afraid to fight for what you want. You are not a wasted space.
That’s all for now. Stay strong, and be yourself. People will come to see you for the amazing person you are soon enough, and you will find someone to cherish you.