Character creation, part 1: Luka
So, I’m going to toss this out there and see what kind of feedback and interest I get. The working title of the novel I submitted for NaNoWriMo is First Empress. It’s a fantasy novel that takes place in a Bronze Age world. Queen Viarraluca Tolles (Luka), the title character, has been kind of an interesting challenge to write. I’ve essentially tried to combine qualities from every great leader and ruler I’ve ever studied. I like to think there’s a bit of both Julius and Augustus Caesar, as well as Philip and Alexander of Macedon. Figures like Pericles, Xenophon, Charlemagne, Trajan, Marius, and Constantine are others I tried to pay attention to. But I think most of all I tried to combine traits of various strong, women leaders, notably Theodora I, Joan of Arc, Elizabeth I, and maybe a little of Queen Victoria.
I paid particular attention to Caesar, Alexander, Marius, and Joan’s respective abilities to gain unwavering loyalty from their soldiers and lieutenants. In all four cases, I believe the biggest factor was their willingness to pass themselves off as common soldiers. Their willingness to share in the same trials and dangers as the men fighting for them. In the following excerpt from my current draft of chapter 1, told from the point of view of one of the yeoman archers, her majesty shoots a quiver of arrows at the practice range, allowing her to fraternize with the foot archers. The scene occurs while the queen’s island city-state is preparing for an upcoming invasion by a hostile foreign power.
Berran had never seen her in the flesh, but the famous copper hair and jade eyes identified the approaching woman as Queen Viarraluca. She wore an archer’s linen cuirass and bracers and carried a standard-issue short bow. She had a full quiver slung over her right shoulder and a short sword on her right hip. The queen was flanked by a pair of handmaidens of some sort. Both were rather skinny, the one on her right looked to be late teens while the girl on her left was eleven or twelve. The handmaidens wore long dresses but carried short swords on their belts.
“As you were, archers,” the queen announced. The other groups of archers slowly returned to their practice and conversation. “May I join your group, yeomen?” the queen asked as she approached Berran and his colleagues.
“I… by all means, your majesty,” Berran answered, bowing.
The queen drew and notched an arrow. “Call it,” she requested.
“Ah… heart,” one of the other archers suggested.
Thwack, the bronze-tipped arrow struck where the dummy’s heart should be. Someone whistled and several archers clapped.
Once their group had each taken their turns, the queen notched and aimed another arrow. “Call it,” she said again.
“Head shot,” Berran said.
Thwack, the arrow pierced the dummy’s forehead. “Higher than I wanted,” they heard the queen mutter.
“Call it,” her majesty said when her turn came around again.
“Nuts!” the younger handmaiden piped up.
Thwack, every man watching winced as the arrow hit where the dummy’s testicles should be.
Some of the archers not practicing started to gather around as the queen continued taking calls. Berran heard a few bets being taken.
She’d hit her mark eleven times in a row when someone called “left elbow.” A handful of bystanders chuckled at the joke, given that the dummy’s entire left arm was covered by its shield.
Unperturbed, her majesty studied the target for a moment. She took two steps to the right, aimed, and let fly. The shot looked like a clean miss, going low and to the dummy’s left. The arrow ricocheted off a rock behind the target and bounced back to strike the dummy’s left elbow from behind.
A number of laughs and a round of applause went up at the queen’s impossible shot. “Is that legal?” Berran heard Temmis mutter.