This month A Drift of Quills is asking our protagonists an important question: “Do you consider yourself honorable? Why or why not?”
What a fun thing to do—fun to respond to, and fun to read what’s going through the minds of other characters. As you will see, they’re all quite different, but equally engaging.
You might notice that we’re down by one panelist. C.M.J. Wallace has decided to resign in order to better focus her attention on other things (you know, like writing!?). We will certainly miss her wit and candor—but hopefully we’ll be able to convince her to visit now and then with a guest spot.
Author of Oathtaker
The question posed to me, Mara Richmond, an Oathtaker bound by a life oath I willingly swore for the protection of my charge, is: am I honorable? I ask myself what it means to be honorable. I suppose it is to act in accordance with principles of fairness and integrity; to be worthy of high respect; to be creditable. Great Ehyeh, I know I seek to be honorable, but can I truly say that I am or, even if I am at this moment, that I will continue to be so?
When I swore a life oath to protect my charge, I put my own life on hold and received, in exchange, continued youth. For so long as my charge lives, I am bound by rules that forbid me from a life with another. I sought to become an Oathtaker, trained for years to do so because—well, because I was running from a family that used me and, truth to tell, from a promise I had made and—and had failed to keep. Now I find myself bound by an oath, the breaking of which could cost me my very life, and I wonder if I will have the strength to see this through to the end.
Who could have known, who could have guessed, that within just heartbeats of my taking my vow, I would meet Dixon? Who could have known, who could have guessed that in the same moments within which I spoke those fateful words Dixon would be released from a similar vow he had previously sworn? Now, I find myself searching for understanding. How could Ehyeh, the master and creator of all things, have allowed this to happen? Am I bound to spend the life of my charge with a heart I fear may simply stop beating? I never intended to love him. Having been betrayed in the past, I thought I was immune. . . .
When Dixon, who was freed from his oath upon Rowena’s passing, looks at another, my heart trips. But should he not seek happiness now? If I were truly honorable, would I not encourage him to find another? He has become my right hand, my confidant, my friend, my— No, not my lover. That would be a breach of my oath that would have me removed from my station. But it does not mean that I do not long to be. . . .
Then, there are the girls, my charge, Reigna and Eden, the first ever twins born of the Select, clearly foretold in prophecy, and the current ranking members of the first family. Even if I wanted to deny my vow and abandon them to be with Dixon, even if the cost of such treason would not ultimately be my own life, could I do so? They are but infants, yet I am all they have ever known; I was there from their beginning. Would anyone else know them as I do, love them as I do? Would anyone else be willing to sacrifice for them? What cost would come of my abandoning them? Besides, if not me, then who? To leave them would mean I would have no say in determining in whose care they would be kept. Moreover, suppose I did break my vow and abandon the girls, would Dixon not anticipate that one day I would break any vow I might have made to him? Would he not always doubt me, watch for my failure? I remind myself that I have failed before. Would Dixon’s inability to trust me be a price I would be willing to pay?
So, I return to the question at hand: am I honorable? I suppose time will tell. But for this Oathtaker, being a woman of honor means living in the state of pain that comes from loving someone while subject to my oath, someone I long for but cannot have. . . .
When I first thought about which character I would ask this question, I leaned strongly toward Sherakai dan Tameko, the protagonist of my current work-in-progress. And why not? He’s one of my favorite fictional people and often on my mind, particularly as I’m writing his story. But… there was Crow, leaning against the doorframe with his arms folded and that familiar cheeky gleam in his eyes.
Here is his answer, in his own words:
Honorable? I declare that I am, although my friend Tanris will gladly tell you that my perspective is completely off kilter when it comes to morality of any kind. He exaggerates. Let me ask you this: is it honorable to watch my friend’s back? Yes, and I have watched Tanris’s on numerous occasions, and do not listen to him when he snidely asserts that it’s because I always let him go first into dangerous situations. Of course I do. He’s the warrior, not I.
Is it honorable to teach young people a profession and to always be aware of their surroundings? Yes, and I am in the process of teaching our young ward everything I know. Well, most of what I know. We’ll see if some day she warrants such extensive knowledge. Tanris, of course, disapproves of my part of the curriculum. She should be taught honesty and hard work, integrity and other such lofty characteristics. I agree.
It’s important to be able to tell if you’re being lied to.
It’s important to recognize the hard work of others. Their education will net a better profit.
And integrity, my friend, is a two-edged sword. Even a non-warrior knows that. High moral principles can put a man in an uncomfortably tight spot. One needs a certain amount of flexibility in their integrity.
Is it honorable to ignore the gifts of the gods? They have bestowed upon me unequaled talents and skills. I turn a blind eye to them at my own peril.
Is it honorable to save the lives of countless countrymen? Yes, I say! And I humbly assert that I have done so—at much personal risk. Yes, yes, I will give credit where it is due: Without Tanris’s strong arm, sharp blade, and peerless brawn my efforts might have gone unrewarded. As it is, the reward isn’t exactly tangible. Yet…
So there you have it: character studies in a nutshell. What do you have to say in response to these fictional folk?
And do you have a favorite honorable (or dishonorable) character? Who? Why?