Character creation part 6: Pella
As one might guess, Pella is named for the birthplace of Alexander the Great. I honestly don’t intend for this to be symbolic in any way, I just happened to feel that the name suited the character and ran with it. So there.
Pella comes into the story in chapter 1 of First Empress, as a fellow orphan and prisoner with Zahnia. The girls and the other orphans are victims of illegal arcane experimentation—experiments that give other children wings or monkey feet or neon-colored hair. Early in chapter 1, Pella is taken away to be experimented on by the orphans’ captors, and returns with an extra set of arms, attached just below her real arms. Pella and Zahnia become friends largely because they’re the only orphans who speak Tollesian. Pella is of northern descent, and is the first red-haired person Zahnia has ever met.
As a character, Pella is something of an ongoing experiment with dialect. As I’ve discussed in the past, I love reading and writing dialect. With Pella being an northerner, I opted to give her a Celtic or “northern” accent to differentiate her from the other characters. While I’ve done research on Irish, Scottish, and other Celtic dialects of the English language, because places like Ireland and Scotland don’t exist in my story, I felt it wisest to aim for a non-specific Gaelic accent for Pella. (Yes, I realize Gael doesn’t exist either in First Empress; that’s not the point.) I attempted a somewhat watered-down version of this with a couple characters in Chronicle of Pren, but with Pella being an orphan and something of a wild child, I felt it more fitting to make her accent stronger.
The following is a brief exchange between Pella and Zahnia from chapter 1, when Zahnia wakes up after being experimented on by their captors. I don’t know that it’s the best illustration of Pella’s personality, but I think it effectively shows what I’m attempting as far as the dialect.
Perhaps minutes later, perhaps hours later, Zahnia awoke once more. She still hurt all over, but it was a dull hurt. The burning in her chest was still there, but she found that she could move her arms and legs again and the effort didn’t make her black out. The hurt little girl groaned as she sat up and scooted over against her cell wall.
“Zahny?” she heard Pella say. “Zahny, are ye alright?” She heard Pella move around in her cell.
“Not really,” Zahnia rasped in response. She scooted next to her cell door and looked through the bars, hoping to see her friend. Across the hall Pella sat looking back through her own door, three of her four hands clutching the bars.
“Thank the gods ye are alive,” Pella smiled, looking relieved. “Ye looked dead when baldy hit ye inta tha wall, an’ when they brought ye back in. Nae matter wha’ happens, Zahny, lass, I’m proud o’ ye. Ye fought like a bear again’ the fockers. Tha’ curly-hair is still missin’ part o’ an ear. Since ye done tha’, they been bringin’ nets tae get us from our cages. Ye made ‘em tha’ scared o’ us.”
Zahnia laughed despite the pain. “What’s a bear?” she finally asked. “I’ve heard of them, but don’t know what one is.”
“I dinnae ken for certs,” Pella admitted. “Me mum used tae spake o’ tha beasts. Fierce monsters in tha north, they were. Bigger tha’ any horse or kine. And mean, with sharp teeth and long claws. Bot tha meanest bear is a mum-bear when ye mess wi’ her wee ones. If me mum’s stories be true, ye fought like a mum-bear.” Both girls giggled at the thought. Then Pella’s brow wrinkled with concern. “What did they do to ye?” she asked. “D’ye ken?”
“I-I don’t know,” Zahnia answered, panicking suddenly. The scared little girl started checking herself over—no tail, no wings, no extra arms or toes. All she could find was a semicircle of stitches at the base of her ribcage. Just above them and on the inside of her, she could feel that same burning in her chest. Zahnia could tell that something was wrong there—something was inside of her that shouldn’t be.
What did they do to me? She started to panic again. Somehow not knowing what they’d done was a thousand times scarier than waking up with wings or monkey feet. Zahnia pulled her knees to her chest. Oh, gods, what did they do to me?