OK – I know I’m crap at marketing, but I’m great at re-cycling! 😀 Treat this as ‘another chance to see’ the recent blog tour that launched the eBook, only in it’s spiritual home (well at least where it was written, since it’s permanently on display on the actual book blog). The printed edition is now well and truly out there, sailing down that big ole river and out onto the oceans of literary consciousness, so let’s mooch around in style for several days worth of freebooting-related postings. Mojitos anyone? ❤
Day 5 ~ Fan fiction as backstory
Because we weren’t allowed to play even minor characters from the original books (and films) we were given a pretty free rein with creating our own ‘original’ characters. Who you chose, and where and how you decided to play them was up to you. Some people only wanted to play in classic canon style threads and so their hobbits, elves or dwarves etc, tended to retain the original profiling as written by Tolkien – salt of the earth hobbit types like Sam Gamgee, or enigmatic, serious Rangers like Aragorn. You knew where you were with that kind of character.
For a Bard like Jano, you were of course expected to sing and tell stories, and so that was an opportunity for you to build up your own backstory as well. When I was playing to strict canon rules, I had the chance to wow people with my versions of the older tales from the legendarium, and for that I could, of course, name drop like crazy. It was in fan-fiction that you could really start to cut loose however.
Before I began to get into roleplay, my first piece of fan-fiction wove baby Janowyn firmly into Minas Tirith, right after the Battle of the Pellennor Fields. I had her mother give birth in the Houses of Healing after being saved by a cavalryman of Rohan as she lay injured in the ruins of a tower destroyed by a Ringwraith (this really ‘happened’ in the Return of the King, so I simply had Jano’s mum standing on the roof terrace of the tower when it fell). This man, who became Jano’s stepfather, was also harmed during the battle (being me, I gave him PTSD rather than a flesh wound!) and so he was also with the Healers, acting as a messenger for the Lady Eowyn… And because it wasn’t part of a game thread, I could put in as much canon character interaction as I wanted.
Some of my writing for Jano was not so ardently plagiarised however. I killed Jano’s natural father off just before she was born, but I still wanted to let him have some part in Jano’s history, so I wrote this short piece for her to roleplay at a tavern. The canon bending was very minimal, because I made her father a cousin of Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth (who’s barely mentioned in passing in the books), but when they were young boys on a sailing trip. The following was therefore never written by Professor Tolkien…
The Sea Horse
On this day, Erlrohil and Imrahil decided to go sailing in their glider, the Princess, taking care not go too far out to sea as the currents there could be treacherous. At first all was well and the wind took them scudding across the waves faster than a gull can fly. They did not intend to stray too far from the shoreline, but after they had been out for an hour, what seemed to be a light mist surrounded them. For a while they could still see the shore and all they had to do was hold the course they were taking. So, when the mist got thicker and the beach gradually disappeared, they held their tiller steady, still unafraid until suddenly they were aware that their craft was travelling much faster.
Try as they might they could not turn the little boat to the starboard to hug the coast. The current held them for several minutes longer, but then, as suddenly as it had begun, it released them into clear sunshine once more and their small vessel slowed. Looking around them, the lads saw to their relief that they were in a beautiful sheltered bay they had never seen before. Realising they had come much further than they had intended, they decided they would head in towards the shore and then follow the coastline back to their summer home.
As they turned toward the shoreline they saw some horkas leaping in and out of the water not far from their boat. They smiled at each other as these small blue-grey dolphins were thought to be lucky creatures. The wind was getting strong again, and, as they did not want to be blown back into the current they decided to take the sail down. Regrettably Erlrohil, who had not often seen horkas, and could not resist looking at their agile jumps, did not concentrate enough on the task in hand. A strong gust suddenly snatched the sail and boom, which Imrahil was trying to tie down, and swung it sharply in Erlrohil’s direction. He had turned away again and did not realise his peril, despite Imrahil’s loud cry of dismay, as the boom hit him squarely in the shoulder and sent him flying through the air and into deep water.
He fell with a great shout and splash. There was a strong undertow and he was dragged irresistibly underwater back out towards the main current. Had the blow been to his head there is little doubt that he would have drowned. As it was, he was fighting for air as he finally surfaced almost back where they had arrived, far from the Princess and still being pulled away out to sea. Erlrohil was a good swimmer and struck out for the little boat, but his shoulder ached horribly and the current was far too strong for him.
He could see but not hear Imrahil, yelling at him, ashen-faced, and desperately trying to reset the sail to follow him. Seawater was filling his nose and mouth and he was pulled under once more. He could hear a hollow clanging sound and felt something swim between his legs. Instinctively he tried to grasp hold of the object, which he suddenly realised was a horka’s head and beak. The creature, supple and smooth as leather to the touch, seemed to understand his distress, and positioning itself beside him, nudged him none too gently until he took hold of its high dorsal fin. The animal immediately surged off in the direction of the Princess, Erlrohil clinging frantically to the rigid fin. It took him a while to realise how powerful the fish was. It almost felt like he was riding a horse as the horka flexed itself in an up and down rhythm through the waves, and he gradually realised the creature had actually pulled him out of the current and was taking him back towards the Princess.
As the little dolphin, barely as long as Erlrohil was tall, neared the small boat it began to slow. Imrahil, seeing what had happened, had stopped struggling with the sail and was reaching out toward him. The horka’s beaky mouth was almost touching the hull of the Princess as Imrahil, leaning over, grasped Erlrohil’s lower arm with both hands. Erlrohil almost reluctantly let go of the slick, warm fin and clasped one of Imrahil’s arms firmly as the little creature rose beneath him, boosting him out of the water.
“He’s smart!” Erlrohil shouted, teeth chattering, as Imrahil hauled him into the boat.
“Just as well he is!” Imrahil yelled angrily back at him. “Why didn’t you watch what you were doing!” then he clutched Erlrohil to him fiercely and burst into tears. “I thought you would drown,” he sobbed.
They were both crying with relief now. The horka was chittering at them, head bobbing a few yards away from the prow now, it’s long beaky mouth almost smiling at them. They both turned and watched laughing, as the horka made one huge leap into the air, twisting away from them as it hit the water and swam furiously back to its family, who were still playing their leaping games off in the distance.
“That fish just saved your life!” Imrahil’s voice was filled with wonder.
“It let me ride on its back!” Erlrohil spluttered, shivering violently. “It’s not a fish! It’s a sea horse!”
In A Freebooter’s Fantasy Almanac, because I couldn’t use any canon names at all, I changed Erlrohil’s name to Ruari, and Imrahil’s to Ærdhen. These are two of the main characters from my new (and wholly original) fantasy series, still being written, The Tomes of the Havenlands.
The sigil on the left is one that Jano designed for the hilt of her father’s sword for her’s and Silen’s combined coat of arms;the House of the Sea Horse and the Fiery Moon of House Aranor.
A Freebooter’s Fantasy Almanac back blurb
This is poetry, wrapped in fantasy, within a memoir… Or, to put it another way, it’s a true tale that might well apply to many fantasy fans and gamers who can’t be bothered with keeping their realities separated from their more lurid imaginings.
In my case, this is a sort of ‘real’ cyberspace profiling, during a phase of my life when roleplay truly did need to be therapy, because what was happening around me for real was not what I wanted to participate in. So, buckle up your swash and prepare to witness a titanic battle played out on the field of sanity – where what happens in your head is the only truth that matters.
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Twitter – @SianGlirdanBard