Tidbits and Tales: Romance, and it’s impact on storytelling

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s Amore~

Don't look back!

Orpheus and Eurydice. Yeah. That ended well.  /sarcasm

I always thought that line was a little off.

Anyway.   Blogging.   I want to talk about the topic of Romance; fictional romance specifically.

Romance is an element in the Dimanagul books that holds important weight to the events of the story despite it not being a Romance Novel.   It is a fantasy story with a romance in it.  When you’re dealing with bad situations on a day by day basis the good things in life seem that much more beautiful and important.   This goes double with romance.

It is no coincidence that characters start pairing up when the world is ending or a huge war is going on.   Humans need comfort, and without it we break down or we become steel cold.  The main character, Derrek Graymer, in Dimanagul is a normal person.   He is not a military savant or a hardened soldier, things like death he has only had exposure to it through media and natural loss.   When you are forced to cope with things, you look for release.   It’s just that simple.  Getting through tough spots and getting their support in times of need is a true trial of love.

One thing that is true in all romances, including real ones, is the people you love sometimes act irrationally and patience is strained.   In a fantasy scenario where love is featured but is not the main theme, there is another issue to address.   If you have a group of people that need to complete a task, romance can be as much a complication as it is a release.   If things go sour among a group of people that need to be travelling together it becomes a drama device.

Tension is an issue as well.   In Dimanagul there are times when one person may know details another does not.   It is a game of checks and balances and waiting for sparks to fly once things become known.   Romance is unique because it is a special sort of unforgivable betrayal when information is with-held.   Feelings and emotions are directly affected, and the mood of the group may be soured.  Sleep can be lost, or judgment can be affected.

The Monkey

Finnrick glowered behind the scrap of wood he whittling at, something he always did when he was preoccupied. Wood didn’t betray him. It let him strip its skin off layer by layer without complaint, content to be molded into an incomprehensible lump or a poorly formed statuette.  He stole glances at Tillie as he worked, but was careful not to stare.  He didn’t want to aim that scowl at her.

Mattis laughed his obnoxious laugh.  He must have told a joke Fin hadn’t heard. The delivery drowned by hushed words and the crackle of the well-built campfire. Tillie’s smiled and a titter escaped her lips. She aimed her smile at Fin and deepened her laugh.

Finnrick’s chest tightened. They were laughing at him. He knew Mattis well, a friend Fin’s entire life.  They were born in the same block, had the same birthday, liked the same food, and fancied the same woman.

Finnrick turned his attention back to his whittling. He didn’t want to know what they were laughing about.

“Finn,” Tillie said.  Her voice was always music to him, even if it meant mocking him. He was helpless but to turn his eyes to her.  Her cool blue eyes and long golden hair drew him in with little effort.

“Yes, Tillie?” Finnrick spoke, his tone cowed and cautious.

“Must you look so sullen? The day is beautiful and you’re carving wood with such intent. Are you trying to make a new friend?” Tillie stood and walked over to him.

Mattis made a face at that.  He lifted his arm, an attempt to pull her close, but her movement thwarted that.  Mattis was a brute of a boy, wearing clothes that bulged in all places, and brown hair that looked like an animal made its home atop his head.  The mighty broadsword strapped across his back was a testament to his strength as well.

Tillie stood front of Fin when his eyes returned to her. She stooped over, inspecting the scrap of wood he held in his hand.  He had put a notch a few inches down to form a neck. He hadn’t even noticed he had done it.

“Oh I–” Fin glanced briefly down at it, then back to her.  Her shined with curiosity and beauty, something he had admired since their meeting. Now, at seventeen, she was stunning.  A mere year younger than him, with Mattis three years older than that.  Stooped so, Tillie’s loose shirt hung away from her body and Fin could see her simple undergarments.

His face reddened as he put his eyes back on his sculpture. Mattis couldn’t have seen his expression from where he sat, for that he was thankful.  Despite this, Mattis knew him well enough to lean forward and confirm what he already knew.

“You dirty little monkey.” Mattis laughed. “You’re pretty desperate ain’t cha.”

Fin didn’t react immediately. He was lean and tall, so Mattis called him monkey out of familiarity. He was also handy with a sling, the moniker fit. The little wooden scrap did look rather obscene once his mind went there, and it was that Mattis talked about.

“Oh grow up. You have to start somewhere.” Fin gave the sculpture a shake.

“What are you making?” Tillie straightened, pushing her hair behind her ear.

“I haven’t decided yet.” Fin held it up appraisingly. “I’ll tell you who it isn’t. Mattis; the head isn’t fat enough.”

Tillie laughed and Mattis made a sour face. “Oh stuff it.”

Fin’s hand jerked as an arrow tore the wooden statuette from his hand with enough force to draw blood, it buzzed past missing Tillie narrowly. Her eyes went wide and focused on the spray of blood before her. The shallow gash sprinkled blood across Tillie’s white shoes.

“Finn I–” Tillie’s words were cut short by a gentle tackle.   Finnrick brought her to the ground, keeping his head low.

“I’m fine. But you need to stay safe,” Finnrick said.  He calmly fished a sling bullet from his satchel. Mattis stood from his log and drew his blade. If there was anything he was good at, it was drawing fire.

“Where’d it come from?” Mattis glanced about urgently.

“Behind me. That way.” Fin pointed after bringing himself to an elbow. He could feel warmth in his hand. Tillie hand her hands clasped around his bleeding palm. The gentle glow and sensation intoxicated him.

“Not now Tillie, I’m fine. You need to make sure you focus on defense.” Fin stood and brought his sling to a whirl. His eyes darted between trees, scanning for their assailant. The forests were usually so safe.

“I don’t see em’,” Mattis said. “Come on out ya’ coward! I’ll rip yer balls off!”

“I’m sure that motivated him to come out, moron.” Finnrick winced, the twirl of his sling aggravated the cut on his hand, distracting him from a glint in front of him.

He let the sling bullet fly on the next twirl. It crashed into an arrow headed straight towards him.  The impact sent the arrow upwards, sailing over his head.  He ducked for good measure.  He slipped another bullet into the sling and primed it with three full spins, launching it into the forest.

If there was one thing Finnrick knew, it was trajectories. When the archer let an arrow fly in his field of vision, he sealed his fate.  The bullet punched through the small fragile tree the soldier had taken shelter behind and hit him clean in the face. The cloaked man flew backwards as splintered fragments of teeth hit the air along with a spray of blood.

“Bullseye.” Fin pumped his free hand, reading another bullet.

“Nice shot Fin!” Mattis gave an approving nod.

Fin saw it in the distance, a glint of metal. His sling had two twirls in, he needed a third spin to stop it.  It would be close.

“She’s mine. You stupid Monkey.” Mattis’ words echoed in his head. “You’ll never have her.  She’s mine. Tillie is my girl.”

The words seemed foreign. Fin had sworn he had never heard them. But they were true, as long as Mattis was around.

The third swing happened. Fin’s muscles were tight and ready to let the stone fly. Just in time to stop the arrow’s flight toward Mattis’ unarmored head.

Then the arrow plunged deep into Mattis’ brain as the bullet made its approach towards its fourth rotation.

Finnrick sobered and let the bullet fly.  His mind had done all the work. The arrow gave away the assailant’s position better than the last, and he had a sling bullet at the ready at the time of impact.

It took to the air, the assailant had been unguarded and the sling bullet crashed in between his eyes, shattering the bridge of his nose.  Gore erupted behind him as the bullet made its way through the man’s skull. He fell backwards in time with Mattis’ limp body.

“No,” Fin said, falling to his knees.  He didn’t care if there was a third archer or not. Mattis lay dead, and it was his fault.

Tillie’s eyes were wide and vacant as she absorbed the reality of the moment.  Mattis lay still, his blade still clutched in his meaty hand.  The arrow jutted from his forehead, lodged in deep.  No doubts remained that Mattis was dead.

“Mattis…” Tille crumpled over in the agony of the moment.  Her hands shone with light as she remembered her gift.  She reached out to Mattis, but Fin stopped her.

“Don’t, he’s dead,” Finnrick said, he calming enough to confirm there were no more men about, no clear signs at least. “You don’t want to endure the pain of death directly. This isn’t a cut on the hand.”

Tillie’s eyes filled with tears as the light faded from her hands. “You’re right but–”

“The only one to blame for this is me, I’m sorry Tillie.” Fin reached out and closed Mattis’ eyes. The feeling of loss in his heart was painful, but there was something far worse lingering deep in his soul.

Relief.

Romance is a powerful tool.  Fin’s desire for Tillie was the difference between life and death.   While he didn’t kill Mattis himself it was his choice not to act when he knew he could that was the difference between life and death.

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