The Insurmountable Challenge

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Opposition is a constant experience in our human lives. To make even the simplest of changes by necessity requires that we exist in one state, with our destination in another, and some form of resistance in between the two. If I wish to stand it must be that I am first in some more reclined state and then exert force against the pull of gravity. It is a simple logic that if these different states and the resistance between them did not exist, there would never any change for we would already be at our destinations.

Furthermore, it appears that this resistance which we encounter always flows more strongly in a particular direction. Specifically, it always flows against order and improvement. Tied into the very fabric of the universe seems to be a universal principle that it is always easier to make a mess than to clean one, to end a relationship than to build one, to ruin a reputation than to establish one, and to damn oneself than to find salvation.

To become the men and women we dream of demands, then, that we live a life of constant effort, always moving upstream and against the grain. Given the exhaustion we see at that end of the spectrum and our repulsion for the depravity at the other end, most of us settle on a more comfortable middle ground. In a word we choose “mediocrity,” days spent performing no great evil but also accomplishing no great good. An existence of forever living beneath our potential.

We might even try to convince ourselves that this is as good as life ever gets. Heroes are a fantasy, we say, and effort would only lead to broken dreams. The world is too big and too evil, and trying to stand against that storm will only get you snapped like a dry reed in the wind.

It is at times like these that stories, true stories, provide an all-important lesson on the power of endurance more than strength, of sacrifice more than fortification, of perseverance more than speed. Consider the situation under which Gandhi chose to defy the British rule in his homeland of India. Most of his fellow countrymen had accepted their dejected state because the British just seemed too great a force to stand against. As Gandhi swam against the current he raised no armies and fielded no battles, at least not in the military sense. But he did refuse to obey and he did refuse to be curtailed. His victory was achieved simply by being willing to face that tide of resistance longer than the British monarchy was, a feat all the more impressive given the principle I mentioned before: that the resistance is stronger against the good.

Stories of real world change shake us out of our cushy chairs and demand we face the reality that we could be more. We all have our demons, the forces that send us scurrying back under the bed whenever we consider improving ourselves. They might be ignorance, poverty, depression, or shame. “I would like to be a better person, but to do so would mean facing the guilt for past misdeeds.”

In this way our demons hold us back, and seem to wield greater power than we possess. Even so, they can be worn down if we are simply more persistent than they. More willing to pick ourselves up after a setback. More willing to endure, to sacrifice, and to give. If we learn anything from Gandhi’s example, let it be this: you can beat a man into submission simply by standing up more times than he is willing to knock you down.

As such, I care very little for stories where the hero wins the day just by being more skilled than the enemy. If he simply shoots faster, has bigger muscles, or hits harder until he wins, then there is no relatability to me and my situations. If I could simply punch my personal flaws into submission I would have done that a long time ago.

A far more meaningful narrative example is that of Disney’s animated feature: Hercules. Here we have a protagonist who literally is the strongest all around and does indeed try to punch all of his problems into submission. Eventually, though, he is frustrated to learn that life simply will not work that way, and ultimately he gives up his physical strength to instead learn endurance of the heart. It is by this path that finally he becomes the god he dreamt to be.

Like Hercules, our personal improvement often requires sacrificing that which gives us strength and comfort: our addiction, our complacency, our facade. Growth comes by taking off the armor that doesn’t fit and facing Goliath in our true form: small, vulnerable, and weak. This deliberately stacks the deck against us and puts us in the role of the underdog.

If you want a director who is master of the underdog tale, look no further than Steven Spielberg. From his early film-making titles like Duel, to his suspenseful thrillers like Jaws, to his gripping adventures like Indiana Jones, Spielberg consistently gives us an everyman who is entirely out of his depth. For each of them their path to success is a journey of setback after setback, failure after failure, one plan crumbling after another until finally their perseverance sees them through. I finish each of these films feeling exhausted for just having been witness to such constant struggle.

Another underdog tale I appreciate is King Henry V by Shakespeare. What I like most about this is that it leaves no question as to whether the uphill battle is worth the effort. The story certainly spends its time in the trenches, setting Henry and his small band against a series of losses and facing down innumerable foes. But then, at long last, there follows the triumph on St. Crispin’s Day, the charmingly bumbling courtship of Katharine, the King of France adopting Henry as heir, and the peaceful union of two great nations.

The play speaks a great truth, one that all of us would do well to remember when facing our own uphill battles.

Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of anyone laying on their deathbed and saying “I just wish that I had tried less.” In the end we never do regret our efforts, only what we were. I cannot name all of the rewards we may find by our betterment, but the first of them, the heart that has its reclaimed itself, is already more than enough for me.

 

At this time I would normally do a little plug for my short stories, instead I would like to take a moment to dedicate this post to a dear friend of mine who passed away unexpectedly on Saturday.

Corey Holmgren was a military chaplain, therapist, youth teacher, father, husband, and friend. He was also the mentor who initiated me into the ranks of those that fight for their best selves. He did so much to show me the complacency I had accepted, and the potential that was waiting for me. It was he, and others like him, who inspired me to wake up and improve myself, making a number of changes, including writing these regular blog posts. Corey was a part of me that I was not ready to lose.

His family was not ready to lose him either and I’m including a link to the GoFundMe that has been set up for them. As it says over there: “If you are unable to donate, please keep them all in your thoughts and prayers.”

Fly in peace, friend.

Following Footsteps

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Children tend to look like their parents. You’ve probably noticed this. Not only that, but they tend to act like them, too. For most of my life I merely attributed that to developmental nurturing, I assumed that people just tended to become like those they spent most of their time around. Undoubtedly that is true to a great degree, but it was remarkable to me when my wife and I first met our son how many of our personality traits and temperaments he already possessed, even before he could have learned them from us through direct experience.

I guess that makes sense. Why would we assume that the only things we pass on through our heredity are the physical attributes like facial structure and eye color? And so I believe that people have both a spark of individuality that is all their own, and then are added upon by all the people that are most important in their lives.

 

Projections)

This is an important consideration in crafting a character for a story. I’m sure you’ve heard that it is that each character in your story must have their own voice, their own characterizations, to be unique and distinct from one another. That is generally good advice, but we also shouldn’t t force them to be different just for the sake of being different. If your story includes two characters that are closely tied to one another, either by family relation, or years of association, it will feel more honest for them to share personality traits that they have projected onto one another. If one character is a descendant of another, ask yourself what characteristics they might have inherited from their forebearers.

There is an excellent example of this in the Lord of the Rings with the characterization of Aragorn. I’m specifically referring to the film adaptation here, as his character is one area where the film improved on the book. Aragorn is supposed to be a king, but he has removed himself from that path because he is haunted by the idea of failure. Why? Well among his ancestry there was a former king who was guilty a great betrayal, one which plunged the world into its current sea of darkness.

Aragorn says of the matter, “The same blood flows in my veins. The same weakness.” It is clear he is not expressing a hypothesis, a mere assumption that weakness probably exists in him, rather the conviction in his voice suggests that he has personally had moments of being weak, of failing, of shunning his duty. And when in his introspection he has tried to identify why he is so flawed he has recognized this as his inheritance from his ancestor. Thus he fears making the same mistakes as those that went before, and ironically, it is in his running from his title that he self-fulfills his own fears of failing to measure up. He makes himself more into the image of his forefather by trying to avoid that very thing.

This is a wonderfully rich character, and all by delving into some soulful examinations on what has made this man and who it was that did that making.

 

Second Parents)

Of course not all those that mold us are of our direct lineage. In our infancy and early childhood our parents and other direct family members are undoubtedly our greatest influence, but as we venture out into the world those initial personality traits start to get bent my new interactions. We have our mentors and friends, neighbors and coworkers. All of them rub off on us and can even forever alter the character we first began as. For better and for worse.

Typically when we use expressions like “he was a second father to me” or “she took me in like I was her own child” we often are referring to this sort of influence. We perceive that some person has remade us to be more like they are, and we signify this by assigning them a secondary-parent title. I’m not sure if there is anyone who doesn’t have these remaking characters in their lives, and it is a fascinating phenomenon to draw on in our stories.

In Les Miserables we have a harsh and fearful man in the form of Jean Valjean. He is a former convict and under the strict French regime he will always be a convict. Born in poverty and defined by his background to never amount to much. He fills that role well, even going so far as to beat and rob a priest whose only crime was showing him kindness.

When that priest responds to that cruelty with only greater kindness Jean Valjean is deeply moved and ultimately transformed. He has a moment of conflict between this new influence and this new impressions that has been made on him, then he ultimately allows himself to be remade in the likeness of that priest. He becomes devout, self-sacrificing, and generous, completely unrecognizable from the man of his origins.

 

Competing Voices)

It is very clever of Jean Valjean to have that moment of conflict between the two voices within him. After all, we do not typically emulate only one single persona in our lives either. We are mixed beings with a plethora of influences chattering within us. Some people even describe how those voices take the actual sound of a person that they know: a mother, a friend, a coworker. Those voices might disagree with each other, even argue. When a decision is difficult to make, we might remain at a standstill until we are able to identify which of all these competing voices really represents our own true self. Not all influences are good, after all, and at some point we have to prune ourselves to the person we really want to be.

Where do we find examples of this in stories? Actually we find them once more with Aragorn and Jean Valjean.

Aragorn is afraid of his heritage and own personal weakness. However that is not all that defines him. One mentor’s voice, that of Elrond, urges him to “Put aside the ranger. Become who you were born to be.” Elrond’s advice is able to strike a chord in Aragon, in no small part due to the fact that Elrond is literally a second father to him. When Aragorn’s birth father died it was Elrond who raised him as a son, and so has imprinted in the man a sense of wisdom and power. This is actually an element of the character that is better defined in the book than in the film, and is critical to understanding how and why Aragon is able to answer that call and evolve into something greater.

Jean Valjean, meanwhile, is not entirely in the clear after defeats his previous persona and turns over a new life. Throughout the rest of the tale he is haunted by the cruel guard that was set over him during his many years in prison: Javert. Javert is a manifestation of the voice in Jean Valjean that would pull him back to his former self, who tells him he can never be anything more than a convict. Javert tries to persuade Jean Valjean of this many times, and at times it is clear that Valjean is almost convinced by his arguments. It is only by constantly reaffirming his newness of soul that Valjean is able to hold onto his better life until the very end.

 

In conclusion, as we define the characters of our stories we ought to consider not only how they behave but also why they do so. What was their personality originally? How was that personality built on through nurturing influence? How was that then challenged by external influences? How are they, in turn, influencing others? For indeed, we cannot view influence as flowing one way only.

Parents, mentors, and friends may mold a man or woman, but they will also be molded in turn by that same individual. That’s a notion that deserves a little more elaboration, and on Thursday I will post a story that highlights this concept. Where my previous story gave a tragic tale of a father unable to connect with his son, this next one will portray a father who successfully gives to his child, but also receives from him as well. I hope to see you then.

Hey, Coach, I Love You

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A classic consideration when designing the protagonist of a story is what will their arc be? Is this a coming-of-age experience? A heroic epic? A tragic downfall? Will it truly be an “arc” in shape, where the character will consistently slope towards their destination without any deviation, or will there be an inflection point where the arc abruptly changes from one eventuality to another? While all these considerations are essential in the formation of a well-rounded protagonist, it is important to note that there exist other characters who typically do not include such an arc. These roles instead remain stagnant, and represent constants. These characters typically function as guiding fixtures by which the main character flings him- or herself to the story’s resolutions.

Such permanency, of course finds, its roots in our very human desire to find something constant to depend on. Each of needs a degree of certainty in our lives, the kind that is only possible when one has become a part of something greater than oneself. We are all drawn to find some north star or solitary mountain peak that we can chart our course and measure our progress by, something by which we can know we are facing a good direction and advancing in its way. Popularity and worldly luxuries may be fun to pursue for a while, but their fickle nature leaves much to be desired, and our hearts tells us that if we had a more secure foundation we could build upon it something of ourselves that would last forever. We look for this sort of constant foundation in our pursuit of spiritual enlightenment, scientific laws, philosophical certainties, and any other exploration of deep and constant truths.

But when we find that something upon which we can make our mark, there yet remains the concern of knowing how exactly to go about doing that. We want to be an apprentice to this craft, but to be so we need a master. For any greater calling to avoid extinction, it will require experts to propagate its teachings to the rising generation, and here we see the role of the mentor taking form. In our literature, heroes tend to represent those still in their youth and working out who they want to be in life, but mentors have already gone through this process and are grounded in their elevated ways. Perhaps in their backstory they once wandered through their own self-defining adventures, too, but all that was resolved long ago and ever since they have held to the conclusions that they now share with others. We need teachers and guides in our lives, and we look for them in religious prophets, wise professors, respected town elders, and weathered coaches. These sages have been where we are now, and they are now where we wish to be.

With this understanding the core attributes of quality literary mentors become obvious. There are a three main qualities that we ought to consider when attempting to craft a mentor that any reader would want to be taken under the wing of.

The Mentor as a Parent

Sometimes the mentor character may be a literal parent of the main character, but often they are not. The reason for this is that we each have a heritage given to us by the home we were raised in, but we also have a vocation that was chosen by us after we left that nest. And so the mentor is the father-figure or mother-figure in inducting us through that second birth, the birth into our great life work.

And what does it mean to be a father or mother figure? What do I mean when I say someone was a second father to me, or that someone welcomed me like my own mother? At the root of it means that here is someone who has been reshaping me to be like them. I identify the men who reform me in their own likeness to be my fathers and the women who nurture me to share their own qualities to be my mothers.

The Mentor as the Ideal

Of course a mentor is more than just a teacher. No doubt each of us can remember teachers that left us with no passion for the lessons they taught, while others made the material come alive. It isn’t so much the subject as the person behind the instruction, and our mentors, therefore, have to possess certain characteristics about them, specifically the very ones we wish we held ourselves.

Most often the literary mentor will not only have found the way the hero wishes to walk, they will be the person the hero wishes to be. They possess all the wisdom, the power, and the will that the heroes recognize the roots of in themselves. Indeed the mentor would probably be undertaking the hero’s great quest already if they still had the youth and vitality to do so, but since they cannot they send the hero in their stead.

The Mentor as the Catalyst

Which brings us to our last point, the mentor is the one that gives the heroes their mission. Every great cause comes with work that needs to be done in it and that work is never-ending and needs all willing hands to participate. All that remains for us is to find the role that we fit into, the one that both plays to our greatest strengths and will shore up our greatest weaknesses.

In choosing this undertaking we turn again to the wisdom of a mentor. We trust in their ability to see us for what we are and what we can become, to have our best interests at heart, to give us the advice that will be good for us. Very often it is the mentor who first tells the hero in no uncertain terms exactly what they must do. Perhaps the main character isn’t ready to receive that counsel yet, but inevitably they will return to take the mantle that rightfully belongs to them when they are ready to accept their calling.

 

Now all of this is well and good, but frankly it isn’t enough. We may want to fill the stature of our mentor, but we don’t necessarily want to win their hearts, not in any greater sense than that of a parental approval anyway. And all the guidance and instruction and advice will do us little good if we don’t also have a passion for the work behind it all. Passing curiosity will not suffice here, the journey of a thousand miles is bound to be fraught with pitfalls and dangers, anything less than burning desire will see us throw down cane and cowl at the first sign of trouble and flee back home.

So where is the love, the passion, and the determination? Storytellers have long recognized the need for these elements and have saved some of their finest characterizations to fill this role. Of course we are speaking here of the love interest in a story. This role can, of course, be misued for the sole pupose of selling tickets, feeding off of our voyeuristic pleasure in watching two humans romance one another, but of course this approach misses the point entirely. Yes, it is a fact that the root emotions we are trying to emulate are love and passion, and yes this does make romantic love an excellent allegory for that concept. But we must not lose sight of the ideal for the façade that is representing it. The tired cliche of burly men rescuing damsels in distress isn’t what literary romance should be all about. What should really be at the root of that romance is the notion of all heroes, male and female alike, finding a cause for which they are willing to lay down their lives. It is about being selfless for something that is more important than the self. It is about finding the power to fight for that which is right, to find the satisfaction in protecting that which we love. These are universal needs to all races, sexes, and creeds, and these needs can only be met in deep, abiding love.

It is the discovery of a passion such as this that will make meek men mighty, and weak women wise. The selfish will sacrifice and the proud will be prudent. Why? Because if the mentor represents all of the wonderful things that lie at the heart of the hero, the loved one represents all of the wonderful things that do not. The best love interests are those that complement the hero, the ones that make up for the hero’s weaknesses and help him or her to become that which they could not otherwise be.

And now at last we are coming to the human experience at the core of the literary love interest. It all has to do with the basic truth that we are flawed and incomplete beings on our own, and that we depend on the strengths and abilities of others to become a composite in some greater being. That union to others is something each of us needs to be whole and healthy, and we have been given the sense of love to drive us to those meaningful connections. Again, that connection might be to anything: a church, a community, an army, a family, or indeed another individual. The point is that the resulting connection is greater than the individual because it is comprised of more than just an individual. It lifts and supports us and makes us into more than we are, and we love it for those reasons.

 

And so we can see that the mentor and the love interest work together in tandem more than might have been expected, they are two halves of the same principle. Most often the mentor holds the superior mind, and the love interest holds the superior heart, together they can bestow these upon the hero in his or her quest to become the best version of themselves that they can be. They work together to stoke our passion where it is waning, but also to reign in our excess where it would lead us to folly. They teach us moderation and direction, they keep our engine running warm but not overheating.

Each one of us personally needs both of these characters in our lives, and each of our heroes needs them as well. On Thursday I posted a piece of the Revelate storyline from the perspective of a character called the Clockmaker. As with most mentors, his was not a dynamic and changing character, rather he remained a constant, one that spoke to the other more malleable characters with confidence and truth. His influence helped both Kael and Ayla to discover their own roles in this story and know how to act.

Another key character in that post was Ayla, who is, of course, the love interest for the story. In every form that our main character had moved through she has remained the constant motivation for each transformation he undertakes. In his first two forms he finds her captivating due to how she feels what he cannot and does what he doesn’t dare. Through her he redefines himself, only to find that he is too late, though there yet remains a hope that if there is an afterlife out there for him, it will necessarily be with her.

Ayla is the one remaining that character that requires special attention in this Revelate series. Please come back Thursday where I will share a few remaining scenes from her perspective. In that effort I will be taking particular care to fashion her as the complement to both Cee and Kael, and better establish how it is that she motivates them to be more than what they are.

Revelate: Clockmaker

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Beneath the mist the heart vessel continued beating, and as it did so the shriveled tendrils of the dead parasite broke apart and were passed down and out through the vessel’s discharge valves. The veins bristling at the crown of the heart at last had room to wend their way up and through all of the circuitry and framework that housed them, and like blind fingers they felt their way into the dead husk’s actuators and controllers, restoring each to life one at a time. The cracked glass on the optics glowed back to life and the head spun haltingly to take in the surroundings, the memory banks began tabulating the which systems were available and which were broken.

Locomotion was entirely offline, due to extensive hardware failure, but one arm was still available and there was plenty of material strewn across the ground nearby, things he could use to fashion new body parts. With that the automaton reached out and started rummaging through the scraps. To his side was the chassis of some great brute, and he noted that almost all of its parts were in excellent working order. The repairs would have to be done in phases, the first order of business would be to fashion a second arm. It couldn’t be too heavy or intricate as he would have to install it with  his single remaining limb, but then he could use it to help fashion a more superior replacement. Bit by bit, motors and rods were cobbled together in the basic form of a two-hinged arm. There would be no hand, not yet, but its stump would at least help to hold things in place. Now there needed to be a proper socket to connect its shoulder to his chest. Looking around he noticed the remains of a strained, broken arm. His arm perhaps? Yes, some vague memory of it tearing off began to resurface. He extracted the socket connector from it and took a moment to smooth out its bent pins, then added it to the new arm. He inserted it, waited for it to come online, and then tested its motion. It would do, now for his legs. He pushed up to a sitting position and assessed the situation there. The left one was broken clean off halfway between the thigh and knee in a sharp jagged edge. It would need to be totally replaced. The right one might be brought back to working order by just replacing a few snapped pieces, at least until he could improve it.

He was a skilled worker, and he went quickly, his sensors summarizing the materials available, his control unit ordering the best of them into new schematics, and his motors whirling away at crafting them into a reality. He added a new leg and repaired the other, then set to work replacing his stumped arm for one with finer motor capabilities. His chest plate was quite shattered as well, and soon he had a replacement for that, before moving up to replacing the cracked lenses on his optics. He even found some advanced modules in the husk of the behemoth and he gave himself a few upgrades.

All while his body was working his memory banks hummed away as well, replenishing their charges, cataloging their databases, and retrieving important files. Bit by bit he rediscovered his memories, although he found that he perceived them differently now. Many of these files were initially composed in confusion and ambiguity, but now he was finally seeing everything as it really was and he made annotations to them to clearly define the true from the false. All of it built up to one final revelation, one that he had somehow sensed in times past but never fully acted on until just recently: she was everything.

*

“You want to give me a gift?” she asked with skepticism. “Why?”

“Because it is for you. It rightfully belongs to you and no other.”

“I still don’t understand,” she said flatly.

“Indeed. I’m certain that you’re far more accustomed to giving than receiving after all.”

Her head cocked as she realized the truth of his words. “Yes, I suppose that you’re right about that. Although I don’t know why.”

“It’s because you have a heart, and hearts give.”

“And no one else around here has had a heart to give me anything in return” she added dejectedly.

He sighed heavily. “That, unfortunately, is too true. And that is why I want to give this to you, you’ve deserved it for far too long.”

She gave a small smile. Still morose, but appreciative of his gesture regardless. “Alright then.”

He reached into his open chest and extracted an intricate mechanical clock. Like him it was built without any plating so that all the internals were on full display and it seemed to have been cobbled together in a playful chaos. The gears were numerous, and a number of them were attached to small spindles with spheres on their end, which revolved above the upwards-facing clock-face that made up the base. The overall effect was that of a miniature solar system, with little planets spinning along orbits that lay in perfect synchronization to the actual night sky above. The clock-face was the world beneath, and there were very small knobs spinning around on top as if they were ant-sized people going about their rounds each day.

In spite of her melancholy Ayla couldn’t resist an audible gasp at the delicate beauty of it and she took it into her hands with utmost care. “It’s incredible” she breathed.

“Yes, well, don’t forget its key now,” he reached back into his chest and pulled it out. “Without it there is no life after all.”

She took the key, and as she did so she noticed the heart-shaped medallion on its end. This gave her pause, and she stared blankly at it for a time. “Was there ever even another heart vessel?” she finally asked. “Somehow I’m sure you know.”

“What do you think?”

“I really did believe that there was one. I was sure of it…But now I can’t help but feel if there had been I would have found it already.”

“You certainly have searched a great deal for it, I know. Something about you seems to say that there must be another one, doesn’t it? If there were then you could give and receive to one another in turn.”

Her eyes grew misted and she nodded. “A heart doesn’t want to be alone.”

“It’s against its nature,” he sighed.

She buried her face in her palms and sobbed deeply, the walled up anguish finally spilling past her defenses.

His face grew pained and he stared off towards the horizon, his hands folding quietly in front of him. “We’ve grown old,” he said softly.

“And broken.”

“And too close to the end of our time.”

They sat there in silence for a while, any words seeming an affront to their shared solitude. There was a despair to it all, yet somehow a peaceful and understanding one.

“What happens to the broken anyway?” she finally asked.

“Well, we operate against our natures, we break, we become finite.”

“We die.”

“Yes.”

She nodded in calm acceptance. “In some ways it makes things easier. There’s only any need to struggle if there is still something left to fight for. I just wish it had been for something.”

“Wasn’t it? Perhaps it can’t all come right here where things are built to break, but in the after all these efforts still come to fruition…”

She narrowed her eyes at him, trying to determine if he spoke from hope or knowledge. Gradually the first warm smile since he had arrived graced her lips. “That seems right,” she said. “I thought it all was for today, but perhaps it was always for tomorrow.”

“And tomorrow wouldn’t have happened if not for your efforts today.”

She sighed contentedly. “And we could even leave something for our yesterdays.”

“Yes, of course,” he smiled back. “Indeed we ought to if we’re ever to see them come to us. I suppose you have your things to do and I have mine, but I’ll see you again soon.”

And with that nodded to one another and parted.

*

He saw her one last time after she had passed on. She had lasted long enough to withdraw herself back to her dais where she still remained sitting perfectly upright, her head reclined against the neural network behind her. At her side the small clock he had given to her lay still, it having long since unwound itself and grown motionless, its world frozen in a moment of time. Midnight.

As he stepped up to her side he was struck most of all by her expression. All of the different forms he had met her in had always found her very exuberant and happy, but never truly content. She had been a hopeful searcher, but now her face was one of genuine and restful peace.

“I’m sorry to disturb your rest,” he said to the husk. “But they will need you or they’ll never find their way.” As he spoke he turned a sphere at his core and revealed his heart vessel within. “Besides,” he continued, “I have a promise to keep.”

He reached up to the panel next to the neural network and entered the reset sequence. Ayla’s body shivered slightly as a fresh current passed into it, though her face remained lifeless. The Clockmaker entered another sequence and her chest panel opened to reveal the cavity where her cracked heart had resided. “You’ve already kept yours of course. You’ve always been the one to lead.”

He reached back to his own heart vessel and twisted, unlocking it from its socket. It bore on its surface a shadow of the same crack that hers had. Though it had mostly healed, there yet remained one permanent scar, the slight imprint of a parasite. The heart was placed within her and down by her side the clock’s key turned itself and then released, setting the gears in motion once more.

“I always just wanted to hold you,” he whispered longingly, then turned and faced the sun as it resumed its setting. As the light faded his body began to illuminate of its own accord, a thousand shimmering pinpricks running the length of his body in a chaotic dance. The lights intensified in brightness and motion, and as they did so his body began fading away as though it was being scorched into nothingness. Or perhaps it was merely ascending to somewhere else. He turned his head to the side and as his eyes dissolved there was an expression on them as though he had just seen someone familiar, a deep smile illuminating his face. Behind him Ayla awoke anew, her first vision being of his strange phantom disappearing into the ether. Her heart burned within her.

***

Our Clockmaker is definitely a positive character in our story, and is even a permutation of our protagonist. However, he really isn’t the hero of the tale, at least not in the sense we discussed in Monday’s post. Instead he fills another role, that of the mentor. Many hero’s journeys feature these wise sages, ones whoare able to drive through all of the noise to get to the heart of the matter and provide the simple wisdom which will carry the adventurers through to the very end. In Revelate: Kael we saw him performing this function for our story’s hero, and obviously in this entry we see the same between him and Ayla.

While the mentor character usually receives far less attention in the story than the hero, it is a vital role to understand if it is to be formulated in a significant way. As such, it is a topic that I will spend some more time on in my post this next Monday. Then, next Thursday, we’ll take a look at the last section of the Revelate series. Until then, have a wonderful weekend!