Meet some more characters from Book Six.
Marcus, Son of Berend
“Sorry to disappoint you, but I think anything would be better than becoming your next meal.”
Age at the time of this story: 24
Physical Characteristics: 6’0”; 168 lbs; brown hair; green eyes
Marcus is the son of a nobleman from the continent, tasked with captaining the voyage of the Valknut, a merchant trading vessel. Upon his return, with his holds full of gold, Marcus will gain the hand of the Grand Duke’s beautiful daughter, Claudia, and become an advisor to the king. Such a place at court is coveted and difficult to attain, but the best part about it, in Marcus’ view, is that it will be dry. Marcus hates being wet.
A privileged upbringing allowed Marcus an excellent education and plenty of sporting activities such as riding, swordplay, and sailing. Brave and energetic, Marcus was often found with his timid friend, Julius, lurking in his shadow. He met Claudia at a party at the Grand Duke’s home about six months before the Valknut sailed and won her affections despite other, wealthier suitors vying for her hand.
Determined to prove his merit to both the king and his future father-in-law, Marcus mapped out a bold trading route for the Valknut. He was returning home from a successful voyage when the storm struck that would change his life and fortunes forever.
“My opportunity to captain the merchant ship, Valknut, was a golden one. Her route was long and daring, the perfect chance to prove my merit to King Jannik. A bold journey of exploration and a return to port with my holds full of foreign treasures would secure me a high place in the king's court and the hand of the Grand Duke's beautiful daughter, Claudia.
My future was secure. Our journey went smoothly: we mapped, traded, made a considerable profit, and set sail for home.
But then the storm hit.
I'd never experienced a worse one. My crew and I barely kept the Valknut afloat. We lost our bearings completely, and we were forced to throw much of our precious cargo overboard to lighten the vessel.
Everything was soaked. I hate being wet. And I had the horrible premonition that something big was stalking the ship...
By the time the storm let up, we had lost several crew members, and the Valknut was battered and bruised. Our best hope was to find land to repair the vessel and reorient ourselves.
We drifted aimlessly and came upon the most inhospitable coastline I have ever encountered in all my days at sea.
We hoped to find a harbor, but the monsters found us first. I don't know how I'm going to explain this to the king. If I ever get home.
Caledon. Curse Caledon!”
Background Information—The Continent
“The continent” is mentioned several times throughout the series, initially as a vague place from which ships don’t dare to venture to Caledon, and then as a trading partner and source of royal spouses. I always had Europe in mind, and a specific European city gets its first mention by name in The Curse of Caledon.
Marcus is from the continent. European languages and borders were in a state of flux in 779, and obviously, nothing like they are today. Marcus comes from a nation on the north coast of Europe, which has a good dose of Roman influence prevalent in the culture. The Valknut’s trade route encompassed the shores of modern Denmark, Norway, and Scotland before she was blown off course, beginning Marcus’ adventure and unwelcome state of wetness.
“You tell me lies. Everyone says there is no Caledon.”
Age at the time of this story: 73
Physical Characteristics: 5’11”; 157 lbs; gray hair, blue eyes
The king of Marcus’ unnamed European nation, Jannik took the throne at the age of 34. Progressive and bold, his reign has been one of exploration and aggressive trading, as well as forceful military action. Jannik has expanded his borders substantially since becoming king, absorbing small tribes and nations, enslaving or enriching them to best benefit him.
Jannik loves stories. His favorites involve a mystical land named Caledon, said to be guarded by dragons and inhabited by races of faeries, giants, and monsters. The greatest of these tales are those of the Dragon’s Fire—a legendary marvel of tremendous value that would grant magic powers to whoever possessed it.
In 744, when Jannik had been king for four years, a band of tradesmen returned home after everyone thought them dead. They claimed to have seen an island called Caledon. They brought a man who could not speak their language, delirious with infection from a bad wound, who they said came from the place they had sojourned.
Jannik executed most of the returning band, refusing to believe their stories, for all the legends say that no one leaves Caledon alive. The remainder recanted. But the injured stranger, nursed back to health and held prisoner in the dungeons, learned to speak Jannik’s language and began communicating with him about Caledon.
Jannik sent an exploratory mission to search based on the man’s description of Caledon’s location. They found nothing. Disappointed, Jannik kept the prisoner alive so that he could tell more stories, and always wondered what the truth was.
“I like hearing stories. There's a fellow in my dungeon who can tell stories like no other. He probably figures that if he keeps me entertained, I won't have him executed.
There's some truth in that.
He tells me stories of a place called Caledon: an island shrouded in mist and guarded by fierce storms. And dragons. Of course, there are many stories of Caledon, but this fellow speaks as though he's been there.
Which is nonsense. All the legends say that one's chances of finding Caledon are slim to none and that if you are unfortunate enough to land there, you will never leave alive.
My prisoner tells me stories of the Dragon's Fire: a mystical light, visible only from the water after dark. The Dragon's Fire holds strange powers, and 'tis said that were it ever to leave the dragons' lair, the entire island of Caledon would be destroyed.
Nonsense, all. But he speaks as though he genuinely believes it. If only I could find someone to corroborate his stories, perhaps it might be worth sending an expedition to try to discover this elusive place.
I will not be posting character sketches for Book Seven until after its publication. So, I will come up with something different for the blog next month! See you then!
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