The story of Divergent Paths.
I’ve always loved reading, with high fantasy frequently receiving top marks in my opinion. My high school librarians knew me by name, and I often hung out there during lunch. One time I tried to check out too many books at once – I wanted to read C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia over the weekend. Needless to say, Mrs. Hale was entertained but thought that 4/7 was enough for one weekend. On top of simply enjoying the stories themselves, I also have an academic interest in writing, finding linguistics both fascinating and entertaining. Not only did I read Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, I was the sort that read The Silmarillion (and loved it) and some of the History of Middle Earth books that Christopher Tolkien published as well.
Many other activities occupied my time, but occasionally I’d end up with an insatiable urge to write. From oceanic poetry to circular-time museums hosted by Merlin, it was always something fun. Nowadays Facebook, Twitter, and “read more” encourage readers and writers alike to think in terms of tiny sound-bytes of information, failing to truly engage with the written word. It isn’t just the topics of conversation that are often simplistic and banal, it is the writing itself. I’d rather dedicate more time to a work and be proud to share it, even if the topic is fictional. In truth, fiction can often make you reflect and consider your choices more thoroughly than non-fiction writing does because the scope of possibilities is so much greater.
Working on the story of Divergent Paths, which is based on characters in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, has certainly engaged me in a way that I appreciate as a result of having read many excellent works of fiction over the years. Some of the questions I’ve recently had to consider include the simple but engrossing:
How does he dress?
Does she walk gracefully or saunter?
Would he care if it was snowing out?
Is his hair long, or short? Beard? Moustache?
What would her bedroom look like?
How would he drink hot tea with a beak?
Other questions can be unsettling, provocative, or simply unexpected:
Why did they make this choice?
Does he oppose necromancy because of tradition? Church doctrine? Personal beliefs? Fear?
Did he actually care about her, or was it just infatuation?
Would she be bitter that her father was rarely there?
Should I actually write about how ill-used she was by the brothel that raised her?
Is is really alright to write about rape, murder, torture, abuse, suicide, erotica…?
Would he betray his lover to serve the will of his god?
On top of those add in fate, inter-racial relationships, and war…you see what a fascinating morass I’ve ended up diving into for a story that began as simply fleshing out the backstory for my Dungeons & Dragons character. Oh? Who is my character, you ask? MacHuginn is a 13 year old kenku who serves the god Denier as a powerful cleric. Kenku are the result of a strange wizard’s experiments thousands of years ago, which created a half-raven, half-human creature. He’s pictured below, and there is a link to the drawing as well. [Yes, he has wings. The 5e Monster Manual doesn’t rule in my world.]
Most kenku aren’t talkative wielders of magic that are trying to save the entire realm, however. They are typically roguish sorts, or fighters, speaking in a strange avian language and mimicking the phrases of other beings in short bursts. They’re quite good at this mimicry, but MacHuginn’s unusual upbringing and intelligence resulted in this kenku speaking (and writing) 7 or 8 languages quite well right now.
Divergent Paths was created to look backward in time and find out what brought our valiant suite of heroes to the current time of the campaign, when they are all impressive members of the Order of the Silver Dragon with heavy burdens on their varied shoulders. The characters and their companions all have histories that are not entirely known to any member of the group, and some of the heroes’ paths are darker than others. Where do those paths cross, and how convoluted are their trajectories? That, my friend, is the tale that you are about to begin.
Gwaihir wasn’t actually short, for an elf. His long braid and tailored clothing somehow seemed to accentuate the fey part of his elven heritage, though. It had never truly bothered him, as one look from his intense green eyes usually left everyone either unsettled or fascinated. Perhaps it was the way his gaze swept you up, confidently and unabashedly taking you in and saving you for later. He certainly used this talent to great effect in his work, and the wood elves of Sharandar were even more forgiving of artists’ quirks than many other societies. For decades Gwaihir had been known for creating beautiful, realistic portraits of the people and creatures at the heart of Neverwinter Wood, bringing much joy to the reclaimed elven settlement and much honor to the Talagan family.
This isn’t actually the story of Gwaihir Talagan, the painter from a family of musicians, however fascinating that might be to tell. This is the story of how his life’s path took a turn that would change the fate of many, although no one would piece together the truth of the matter until nearly 3 decades later.
featured image: MacHuginn, Kenku cleric of Denier