Like Love and Thunder

Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig a grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And lay me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
"Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill."

Requiem, R.L. Stevenson

Sparrow: what are the general plot-shaping elements of Plenilune?

This is one of the more serious, and possibly more betraying, questions in this oddment-of-questions that I have got from Ask Jeeves. Whether or not Jeeves can answer you, Sparrow, remains to be seen.

There is hope (and I think I have grounds to hope) for a layered plot with multiple influential elements running through it. But I think the strand that I had best pick up is a strand that will not only open a door into Plenilune, but perhaps others of my works as well, a strand which perhaps shows through most strongly in Plenilune. That strand is keeping faith. I am prone to misjudging how well people will understand me from the outset, so I will explain and say right off that what you understand when you read "keeping faith" may not be what I mean by it. I do not mean, necessarily, faith in God, though that is most certainly the pinnacle of it.

This is an idea, really a way of life, that I had to learn from people long since dead. It is not something you will stumble over often today, I think, this idea of keeping faith. Ours is a disposable age - we make things, we make everything, even our ideas, our loves, our lives, to be disposed of and replaced with something new. We do not have three-hundred-year-old yew-hedges rooted deep inside our souls. Everything is transient. Everything. And when everything is transient, nothing has value. We no longer hold anything dear - nothing trusts us to remain true.

By "faith" I mean allegiance, by "keeping" I mean the endurance in it even to the point of shedding blood. And by all this I mean something deeper than mere spoken oath, something that is woven into the very fabric of a person's being, something that, if broken, would kill them. This is the honour of the servitude of love. It is usually unspoken, and there are often no words to explain it, though perhaps Peter said it rather well when he said,

"To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."

In the object there is a frank and unspoken value, in the person a frank and unspoken faith. This is something I hold with a fierceness, and it comes out in my stories - in Plenilune, perhaps, most of all so far. It looks like white-bronze harp-strings. It looks like a holocaust cloak. It looks like love and thunder.

Keeping faith. It is something so deeply ingrained in the characters, so deeply ingrained that it moves the plot, that they would die if they broke it, and they would die to keep it. It is sometimes called patriotism, or heroism, but it is far more primeval than that: it is love-serving that holds fast, love-serving that does not dream of ceasing - it is itself: it is keeping faith. And this, with all that it entails and all that it circumscribes, is what drives Plenilune and the people within it.

* * * * *

‘If they want this Eagle back; if they fear that it may harm them, where it is, let them send someone else for it! Why need you go?’

‘It was my father’s Eagle,’ Marcus told her, feeling instinctively that that would make sense to her as the other reasons behind his going would never do. A personal loyalty needed no explaining, but he knew that it was quite beyond him to make Cottia understand the queer, complicated, wider loyalties of a soldier, which were as different from those of the warrior as the wave-break curve of the shield-boss was from the ordered pattern of his dagger-sheath. ‘You see, with us, the Eagle is the very life of a Legion; while it is in Roman hands, even if not six men of the Legion are left alive, the Legion itself is still in being. Only if the Eagle is lost, the Legion dies. That is why the Ninth has never been re-formed. And yet there must be more than a quarter of the Ninth who never marched north that last time at all, men who were serving on other frontiers, or sick, or left on garrison duty. They will have been drafted into other Legions, but they could be brought together again to make the core of a new Ninth. The Hispana was my father’s first Legion, and his last, and the one he cared for most of all the Legions he served in. So you see…’

‘It is to keep faith with your father, then?’

‘Yes,’ said Marcus.

2 ripostes:

  1. 'Tis a very important thing, keeping faith. But it is so rare, as you said, these days that when one encounters it, it's hard to trust that it's real. Even I, raised in a solid, loving, Christian family, have been conditioned to expect people to break faith, to turn back on their word, even to turn on me. And I have, in turn, broken faith myself at times.

    But if nothing else it goes back to "Let your yes be yes, and your no be no". Using marriage, for instance, if you vow you'll keep only unto your spouse, by gum you'd better do so. If you don't think you can, you've no business saying it.

    If people kept that command, perhaps keeping faith in other parts of life would be easier.

  2. This sounds wonderful. It's a timeless issue that could always use addressing.

    I'm enjoying all these posts very much! Only thing is, the more I hear, the more I want to read it and it looks to be a long ways off... *sigh* :D