brief encounter with protagonist

Tonight I opened the document containing my miserably neglected and unfinished novel. The protagonist of the story sat in the corner, hood pulled low to shade his eyes. Despite his pretense of studying the partially burned map, I sensed him glaring at me. His long sword lay in its sheath on the oak table beside a recently finished pipe and a cup of steaming hot coffee.  “Where have you been?” he growled.

“I’ve been busy,” I replied, knowing full well that while that was true, it did not sound good in light of my promises to be more attentive.

“Right. Busy. Mhmm.” He reached for a nearby lantern and held it closely to the lower right hand corner of the map. He grunted again.

“Well, I have been busy. I finished school, I changed positions and locations for work, and I have had a lot of other things going on!” My protestations rang hollow against the wood floors and heavy timber craftsmanship of the centuries old pub, betraying a dissonant counterpoint to the smoky environment.

He looked up and made eye contact with me for the first time, pulling back the hood of his cloak. A freshly made scar lined his left jawline. Fury boiled out of his black eyes. So dark. So angry. At me. He spoke his next words slowly and crisply so that there would be no mistaking his meaning. “If you do not write, I cannot live. Nor can I do what is necessary to stem the tide of evil which threatens my people.” His lower lip trembled. “My family.”

I felt cornered and not a little defensive, but my desire for self-preservation overruled any thought of continued excuses. He was right. I had abandoned him and his people like marionettes dangling from a narrative hook without the liberty to explore their world and live their lives fully, for good or for ill. I felt ashamed. “I will try to do better,” I promised.

His eyes squinted while he scowled darkly at my good intentions. “Trying will not put an end to this madness. You have to keep that promise and write. Write as if it were your family, your people, your life which stands on the brink of enslavement and destruction.”

Now my eyes narrowed. “Mind your tone, protagonist. I know my responsibilities. You want to be unleashed? Fine. I will write. But you may come to regret this moment when you discover what is in store for you.”

He grunted again, and then let out a soft chuckle. He glanced toward me and then turned back to the map.  “Of that, I have no doubt. Now leave me. I have work to do and so do you.”


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