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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Minor Keys No. 7
Sometimes characters in books have no description to make them physical entities in the mind’s eye yet they still provide volition to a narrative. One such is an envoy in a city where the Magus agrees to protect a young princess from assassination. There is a deadline, for the attempt on her life must take place within 24 hours of the first sign of her first menstruation. The envoy reveals much about this time of wandering warriors when he pleads that the Magus should accede to his queen’s request for protection, as follows:
-She wishes to entertain you. You are a great warrior and have magical powers. A shaman. Such men are rare.
-Such men may not exist at all except in the minds of the gullible.
-Yet you are such. There are many tales about you. How you wield an invincible sword. How you can throw a knife with the deadly accuracy of God’s blessing. How you can cure kings. How you speak with your horses as easily as with people. These stories are true?
-These are just stories. Is there a face in the moon?
-Some can see it.
   -That is my point.
One of the central themes of Azimuth is how a moral code comes into existence and becomes the basis for civilized social life. Today, in film particularly, whether we are talking about Kurosawa or Tarantino or manga comics, I feel the popularity of the genre owes much to modern warfare’sanonymity, the political indifference to civilian death or, indeed, the death of the young men sent by politicians to kill for their country. Samurai codes and behaviours represent a return to a time of face to face mortal combat on a human rather than inhuman scale. Whether we have blood lust or are pacifists, it is far more comprehensible than a military drone.
Anyway, in the envoy’s words above the mystique of a warrior’s skills are revealed.
So what kind of man is this young fellow? He must have been born of parents loyal to the throne and with the income of at least the semi-skilled. As soon as he is able he runs errands for all the nobility. He is good natured and with a quick smile and generally trusted for he learns to say nothing of his go-between activities, some of which border upon deception and unfaithfulness. The queen likes his looks as he enters manhood and ties him to her with gifts and social elevation. He even stands outside her chambers and tries to shut his ears to her moans beneath the thrusting noble thighs of courtiers.
Meeting the Magus, even for this brief few seconds, stirs in him the desire to emulate and when the iconic stranger has gone, he also leaves in order to find fortune and skill with the blade. He finally finds a sword school led by a retired mercenary of some repute who does not feature in the pages of Azimuth, though his roguish exploits would have been worthy of Kamil’s inclusion. He does well and establishes himself as a leading apprentice here but, as with so many young men enamoured with fantasies of personal invulnerability he is killed in face to face battle with a man from the east, a man who is seeking out the Magus to add him to the list of his victims thus adding lustre to his growing infamy as a feared assassin.
You can find details of Azimuth at 
This and my other books can also be found at


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