Beautiful People - Skander & Woodbird

What is a woman that you forsake her,
And the hearth-fire and the home-acre,
To go with the old grey Widow-maker?

Harp Song of the Dane Women, Rudyard Kipling

In honour of the first anniversary of Beautiful People, Sky posted a new series of questions which deals with the relationship of two characters - any two characters, so long as they happen to interact in some critical way. This was challenging and a lot of fun, especially since I needed to take a good look at the relationship of two of my Plenilune characters. I won't keep you long. These two, whose names you have heard before, are

Skander Rime and Woodbird Swan-neck

1. Do they believe in anything that most people think is impossible?

“To the end of the way of the wandering star, To the things that cannot be and that are…” It depends on who one means by “most people.” They believe in God, they believe in angels, they believe in original sin, the depravity of man, redemption, resurrection, a judgment to come… Those seem to be the great stumbling blocks of humanity. As for ordinary impossible things, Skander is typically one to take things carefully in stride, testing the ground beneath his feet as he goes. Woodbird has a strain of the fantastic in her and rather relishes a good impossibility.

2. Are they strong, or the "damsel/knight in distress" sorts?

Once again, it depends on one’s definition of “strong.” Both Skander and Woodbird are capable people, physically. Skander has a naturally big build and good height, which he puts to good use. Woodbird, tall (which gives the appearance of being slender) and sturdy, counts herself one of the best sword-maidens in Thrasymene, with good reason. In disposition they are similar: steadfast, slow to temper but quick of wit, and will long hold both grudge and loyalty.

3. Do they have a special place?

Since she was a girl Woodbird’s favourite place has been Ringsbarrow, a high lump of land atop one of the many fellspurs in Thrasymene. From there she is afforded a good prospect of her Honour and a view of the awful things in time. Skander, whose life has been happier and who is less disposed to brooding, has always preferred the south apsis sunroom and study of Lookinglass or (even better) the back of a horse on a hunt par force.

4. What occupation do they have, or plan on having?

Both Skander Rime and Woodbird Swan-neck are born into positions of power, and fill those positions. Woodbird is the third and youngest of a female triumvirate, Skander is the sole head of the Honour of Capys. Neither of them have ever considered having any other occupation, though in her younger years it never occurred to Woodbird that such a responsibility would fall on her. But there is enough variety in each of their occupations to keep them from growing bored or stir-crazy. Life is never dull.

5. Describe their current places of residence.

After all its curtain walls Margaret had almost expected the House itself to look somewhat small and ridiculous—a small thing couched defensively behind a mind-numbing tonnage of stone. So she caught her breath in spite of herself when they passed up through the last gate of all—guarded by watchtowers and garlanded in hoarwithy—and came under the light-spangled shadow of the House.

Ah, this means I get to describe one of my favourite locations thus far. Skander Rime, Lord of the Honour of Capys, makes his home (as his ancestors have made their home since long ages past) in the House of Lookinglass, only a day’s dusty ride up Glassdale from where Margaret is forced to reside. It’s a big place for a single man to rattle about in, but Skander, somewhat reclusive by nature, is also by nature honest and friendly: his people look up to him and, in turn, he depends heavily on them. They make an odd but comfortable sort of family.

The late light, caught up here like yellow wine in a glass, struck off the House’s numerous windows and scattered it brokenly all over the courtyard. Here the gold air was embroidered with silver. The House itself was loftier-built than Marenov√©, which was squat and somewhat sullen of appearance: it had the delicacy and liveability of a working cathedral with its soaring gables and pinnacles, its ramparts decorated in verdigris copper.

Woodbird Swan-neck lives in the long house of Thwitandrake in Thrasymene, and whether the old name means “Duck” or “Dragon,” no one really knows. Despite its long years and numerous additions attached to it, the building remains roughly axial, rich in hand-worked design, and a growing museum to the Thrasymene heritage. It does not grow very quickly, of course. Thrasymene is not a great Honour on the map.

6. Explain their last crisis. How had they changed when they came out of it?

Their last crisis together would not reflect very well on either of them. Observing the family feud of his neighbouring Honour, Skander’s father took the side of the family member Woodbird least liked. Her sisters have not forgotten this (nor has she), but while Woodbird was willing to exempt young Skander from his father’s alliances, her sisters were not. Their childhood romance was cut short when Woodbird was persuaded by her sisters to refuse Skander’s proposal. Since then both of them have been confused, awkward, angry, and not at all sure if they are willing to break years of bitterness and hurt to restore their relationship.

7. If they could ride any kind of horse they wanted, what would it be?

Well, Skander has the pick of any horse he wants. The horse of his choice and gem of his heart is Blue-bottle Glass, a blue roan courser with a blood-line tracing back to the Carmarthen steppes horses. He has had his courser since it was born and, though their natures are rather divergent (Blue-bottle Glass can have a temper), the two are a perfect pair.

Woodbird, on the other hand, does not care quite so particularly about her mounts. She prefers them skittish and chancy with excellent stamina and a heart for a fight, but colour and breed do not matter much to her. Two horses she cares about: her grandfather’s ancient war-horse, long past its prime and retired to the Thwitandrake paddocks, and her customary flea-bitten mare who, after the nature of most ginger girls, has a quick temper and a fierce bite.

8. How do they deal with change?

Contrary to his attitude on remarkable happenstances, Skander doesn’t like change. He resents it sullenly, and I confess he almost—almost—pouts. He takes change in stride, of course, he’s man enough for that, but he doesn’t like it. (The near-pout only makes an appearance in sullen instances. He looks rather terrible when he is actually angry.) Juxtaposed to his attitude, Woodbird sweeps head-long into change, backed by a giddy wind.

9. If they had to amputate one body part, which one would they choose?

They would both choose the left hand. If at all possible they would keep their legs for walking and riding, their right hands for swords, and, in a pinch, the stump that remained of their left forearms could be trained to hold reins and would be wrapped to carry a hawk. They would get on, Skander and Woodbird.

10. What would their favourite be at the local coffee shop?

Skander and Woodbird enjoy the popular coffee liqueur; Woodbird will have coffee with cream and sugar, or tea, if coffee liqueur is not available, but Skander, cheated of his favourite beverage, will take his coffee black.

11. How did they meet?

They met as children at an influential and singular Moot which I will not go in to, since the children cared little for politics at that time and the whole thing largely passed over them. They were of the same age, they were both stubborn, they both agreed passionately on the subject of kennel construction, and the childhood romance bloomed instantly, putting out a single defiant blossom. Over the years the plant has grown somewhat thorny, but the roots have driven deep.

12. How do these two deal with conflict?

In the throes of conflict Skander has two normative reactions. He will either grow very quiet and contemplative, or, passing beyond that, become sarcastic and even rather witty. Only on rare occasions and with extreme provocation does his usually amiable nature come to a desire for blows. Woodbird plays with conflict the way a cat plays with a mouse, if she feels confident of gaining the upper hand; if not, she shuts up into an awful icy quiet—with her distinct owlish eyes, she makes for an unnerving companion when you have angered her.

13. Do they have a special song, phrase, item, or place?

They do not—or none that they have told me of. I gave them “Only the Good Die Young” for a laugh—a laugh without much laughter in it.

14. What kind of things do they like to do together?

Outside observation would determine their favourite pastime to be quarrelling. At the New Ivy gala, for the first time in nearly ten years, Woodbird actually wanted Skander’s company, but perhaps that was only because she was getting out of Rupert’s. It’s hard to say.

15. Describe their relationship as a whole in three words or less.

Prejudiced. Proud. Persevering.

“Why,” said Margaret, turning from the servant who took her wrap, “I had no idea you lived in church.”
Skander’s smile, quick and pleasant, was oddly mirthless. “You think so? Perhaps you’re right.
I had always thought it the other way around…”

3 ripostes:

  1. Skander and Woodbird sound like fascinating characters! I like Skander's character especially =D. Is this story a fantasy or historical (it is kind of hard to tell, but it sounds like fantasy/myth)? This new Beautiful People looks more challenging, doesn't it! But it is great that it works on two characters, because I've been wanting to write a duel interview for my main characters, Valerius and Claudia... so this is going to be fun :).

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Oooh! I love this month's Beautiful People! Also, it was fantastic to hear more about Skander and Woodbird. :) Great job, Jenny! They both seem like people I'd love!

  3. What a fascinating story, I already want to know more. fantasy intrigues me, because of stories much like yours. your characters sound very neat, and like you know them very well. ?
    it was my first rodeo with the beautiful people but you and a lot of others blogs I have enjoyed keeping up with your characters.
    Rachel Hope>>