Sunday, 29 January 2012

One of my prime motivations for writing The Scorpian Visitant was to create a fantasy novel in which the protagonists were neither completely good nor irredeemably bad. Clearly, there is a starting point for the main characters of Robbie and Louise and naturally both change as they journey through the narrative. I'd like to share the development of these and other characters in a series of blog posts.
Robbie begins as a complex synthesis of psychosis and paranoia. He is an immature seventeen year old whose obsession is causing fires and explosions on the chemical dumps of Maldervale. He does this at considerable risk to himself, since he comes from a respectable working class background and is employed as an apprentice fitter (mechanic) in one of the many chemical factories in the town. His worry about getting caught induces a suspicious mistrust of others, which is often unjustified. However, all worries go out the window in the critical moments of fire-starting...
 Here's Robbie starting a blaze in the hayloft of a barn in the fantasy town of medieval Oakwood. An act which starts out as a diversion to allow theft from the adjoining property soon turns into a crazy celebration of destruction...

He fumbled in his pocket for his matches. He opened the box upside down and several fell out to lie scattered on the wooden floor of the gallery. Steady son. His hands were shaking terribly. He picked out a match and struck it. Damn thing was damp and left a red trail on the sandpaper. The phosphorous head was through to the wood. No good, he dashed it down. The second match spluttered halfway along the rough strip. Then it flared, and he held the stalk downwards in cupped hands, so that the flame climbed the little splinter of wood, broadening as it came.
Robbie grinned, as he always did, at the golden light warming his curved palms - the Power and the Glory. He had to let it out. His head was wringing wet with sweat. He knelt and offered freedom to his little flame. One by one, the yellow stalks caught, smoked, blackened, shrivelled, went out. But just as the flame in his hand was dying, one hollow stalk snatched it like an Olympian and carried it into the dry harvest. At the crisis, Robbie could not care less whether he lived or died. Everything outside the precious little bundle of flames sharpening his pupils was obliterated by a blackness in which nothing mattered. He felt a great yell building towards the point of no return, when the flames would assume a life beyond his control. That moment was coming fast as the fire went deeper in, while a slow but increasing emission of grey smoke and flammable combustion gases rose to gather between hay and roof.
Suddenly the hot gases flashed and the inferno erupted. Robbie did not cry out, but stood teetering in glory upon the edge of the loft. The whole damn lot burned and he loved it - the crackling, the heat, and the firelights dancing about his head like golden phantoms. The flames mounted higher and higher to lash the rafters, and then a surge of air rushed through his hair as a halo appeared in the roof to let out the tide of smoke. It was impossible to leave it. But someone was shouting outside. Some bloody rotten busybody in the street had seen smoke billowing from the roof and was bawling the place down, curse them. It was always this way. Robbie stumbled along the edge of the loft to the ladder, and then slid down the stiles. At the big exit, he gave the bright roaring galleries one last hopeless look. Then he was gone.

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