Minor Keys No. 10
The last character to catch my eye in Azimuth, The First Journey, is revealed briefly in the following action and dialogue. Again, a minor individual, meriting just a few lines of prose, is actually a prime mover in a grand narrative. In philosophical terms, you and I are here today because of a ludicrously cosmic series of events. From the Big Bang (if that was the very beginning) to today, the billions of years of what may be termed fate (something the Magus must grapple with in his journey towards understanding) has led to this point in time when I write and you read. Each of us is the product of an almost infinite number of forces, changes and twists of fortune, genes, happenstance and serendipity from amoebic life to the complexity with which we are now endowed. Even as you read this you are in constant change and so am I. So, in a narrative such as Azimuth, a characterâ€™s acts before the book begins is just another perturbation of the surface of the ocean of fate, yet the book was written with some kind of implicit recognition of prior events. That is in the nature of all narratives, is it not? We never write from ground zero. Our first words contain assumptions of what went before. So here is the first reference to the individual at the centre of this blog.
Gradually, one after another placed a hand on his heart with the other offered towards the Warrior, palm stretched out and turned up. Except one. The Warrior saw him without moving his eyes. The man was standing at the edge of the circle, drawing a bow. Yet, even as he did so, there was a whistle of a knife, the sound as it struck the manâ€™s body and the sight of him falling to the ground. The bewilderment for all was that no-one could tell who had thrown the knife. The three on horseback had seemed not to move, nor had the six behind them and yet the knife had impaled the manâ€™s chest. One of them must have thrown it.
-Who was he? called the Warrior, eyes probing the crowd.
I am not going to give the answer to the Warriorâ€™s question here. It will spoil the narrative. Instead, let us go back in time to that point (a bit like the Shire in Lord of the Rings) when everything in the valleys was rosy. In one valley a girl is born and in the next valley a boy, younger brother to the rapist-heir to the chief. All their lives become extraordinarily intertwined later but at the moment they are separate. They know of each other via their clans but do not meet. Azimuth contains much information about the girlâ€™s eventual life but elder and younger boy remain ciphers to be partially broken at the very end of the first book. The younger sibling idolizes his oldest brother. From a baby, just able to crawl he follows him around, despite being occasionally harshly treated. When their mother dies, their father has little time for all except his heir, the eldest son. There are no women left who are related by blood to raise them and so the clan chief decrees that his fourth wife, known by all as â€˜the witchâ€™ because of her tendency to curse anyone who stands in her way, to make spells and to attempt the healing of those inhabited by spirits â€“ not very successfully. The younger boy becomes wilder and more ill-disciplined, seeming to try to elicit his eldest brotherâ€™s love through more and more bizarre acts to gain his attention. Though this does not succeed, he is, nevertheless, accompanied by his brother on escapades where he commits acts both lewd and felonious while his brother watches in amusement from a distance. When the eldest takes a first wife to maintain the blood line, he hitches to the womanâ€™s sister whom he treats disgracefully. He becomes increasingly bitter and falls out of favour with everyone in his clan, save that of the beloved brother to whom he is a useful tool and accomplice. His one arena of excellence is archery, for which he is universally praised. It is an irony that this single mÃ©tier should be the cause of his ultimate downfall.
(Azimuth by Jack Sanger also in Kindle books at Amazon)