It has become vogue in this day and age that before telling certain types of story you should first tell the origin story of each character who takes place in the narrative.
Starting in this way it becomes possible, perhaps, or easier—at least—to comprehend how a character “came to be a way”.
With this intention in mind, the characters begin somehow deconstructed into unformed lumps of clay or plasticine; lumpish babes in swaddling cloth.
And from these humble origins the characters become either great heroes, or villains, or sometimes neither, or sometimes both and rise up against adversity or break against it like a boat against rocks.
The story, in a way, becomes not a story about a thing but a story about a character. And we, the readers, are granted some insight into how that character was formed… how they became.
This is certainly a valid and sometimes necessary way to tell a story.
And yet… I wonder, what if we were to do away with that mode and instead chose to begin our story somewhere else. Perhaps right in its very centre, perhaps right at the critical moment at which their decisions begin to become relevant.
At such a moment of crisis—at that point of that critical mass—might we learn what we need to know about a character in a matter of moments, or seconds, or sentences?
This too would be an origin story, perhaps, but of a different nature than those which came before. No longer need we know from where exactly our characters came, or how they came to be; we are merely with them.
And in being with them, might we not come to a more immediate understanding of who that character is, not from the beginning, but a beginning.
The answer is of course we might start a story this way.
Which is how we now found ourselves in the middle of a bustling street, in a city carved from dust-stained stone, watching as four characters enter into the bustling dockside crowd.
These four are far more than they may initially seem–of course–what characters are not, yet there is scarcely time for introductions for the four are being pursued by the soldiers of the Warlord Karg, who rules this city and is just about as friendly as you’d expect somebody called “Warlord Karg” to be.
The first of them is a woman, feet bare and fleet-footed, a long red braid trailing behind her and glinting like a flame. Her weapon is her bow and arrows, each one crafted by her own hand. Her name is Eluria and she carries with her, always, the Song of the Forest.
Behind her follows a man with dark hair and dark eyes to match his dark temperament. His weapon–the shadows that surround him. In the Verdant they once called him the Black Knight, but here he is known as the Man-Who-Can-Kill-Anything. To us, his name is Strife.
Charging alongside him, a Go’At, easily identifiable for the shaggy beard and blunt horns protruding from his forehead and the hooves he has for feet. He is wiry and muscular and his weapon is a large spade slung across his, for it is taught to every Go’At at a sensible age that they must never kill anything they are not prepared to bury.
Trailing behind, the shaven-haired monk named Isa, which means Lion in the Tongue of the Texts. Isa is the smallest of them all and clad in the simple robes of a missionary they are invisible to most except for those in want of miracles. Isa carries no weapons.
And so these four push against the flow, knocking people over and sending them spinning in circles even as voices give rise behind them, shouting: “Halt!” and “Stop there!”
A short distance away, aboard his ship Scheherazade, a sea-captain named Sinbad (who is also far more than a mere sea-captain) whispers for his crew to prepare the boat for a rapid departure. He does not know why except for a certain feeling in his gut that he has learned to trust; this does not always work out the way he hopes.
Within moments he is beset by those very same four that we first met, clambering over the gangplank and onto his ship where they immediately begin to beg him for the use of it in aiding their escape post-haste.
“Is there a problem?” says the sixth, a fragile-looking girl whose eyes shine like embers. She had once been sacrificed to a volcano in order to save her village; she had survived, but the village had not.
“Pyhra, get below deck,” says Sinbad and already his crew are beginning to push away from the docks. The decision was already made, it appears, before these four strange characters even made it aboard.
A strong wind was beginning to kick up now, rushing across the docks and causing the boats to rock to-and-fro in their moorings. Pyhra, who had ignored Sinbad’s order, raised an eyebrow and said, simply: “Shall I?”
“No,” said Sinbad and then to his crew: “We must away!”
On the dock a group of the Warlord’s men had arranged themselves and were shouting and swinging their blades. One among them drew a bow, but the wind would likely knock any arrows astray.
“Away!” Sinbad repeated and the boat began to move. Without warning a wave surged across the docks and knocked the Warlord’s men to their knees, coughing and spluttering.
The ship, Scheherazade, was pushed away from the city by that strange wave and as the sails unfurled they were immediately filled by the strong wind. The ship almost seemed to leap from the sea as it surged forward.
And thus they rode the winds of the freakish storm to freedom, even as the sails strained with the strength of the wind. Sinbad was about to tell his crew to draw the sails so that they would not tear when those same sudden winds that had aided their escape dropped suddenly away to the merest zephyr.
“I’m sorry,” said the Go’At, now slumped against a barrel.
“Wait,” said Sinbad. “That was you? The wind, I mean?”
The Go’aT did not nead to answer, for in that moment the truth was as tangible as the taste of the salt-water spray on their tongues.
Above them, dark clouds parted just enough for a bright beam of light to bear down on Sinbad upon the deck of his ship. He squinted at the sudden light.
“That’s me,” said Isa, offering the captain an impish smile.
Sinbad glanced across at the other two—the sullen warrior and the girl from the forest.
“What about you two?” Sinbad asked.
“Just you wait,” said Isa. Eluria tried to smile, but the man with darkness all around him did not. Sinbad sighed. The answers would come, eventually, he knew. But no longer was he sure that he wanted to know. In any case, it was too late now, he had let these four aboard his vessel and that strange feeling in his gut had returned, a feeling that told him a new adventure was beginning.
A new adventure had already begun.