Some time last school year, (I don’t remember exactly when), I took the first chapter of The Four Stars into Rough Writers, the writing club that brought me to the university I now attend and which I have been a part of since the very beginning. There is nothing more refreshing for me, as a writer, to get together with other writers and get their opinions on my work, and I was curious to see what the club members had to say about my first real book.
Their opinions varied, (all the members were my friends and some are slightly more biased than others *you know who you are*), but one thing they did mention was that in my original version of The Four Stars, I introduced all the characters far too quickly.
It seems to be a common failing on my part. I have never really believed in such a thing as a “lone hero”, and so most of my stories involve a relatively large cast. In regards to The Four Stars, with four main heroes who all have creature companions, it was really easy to rush right in and glide over character introductions. After all, the original story was written for me and my friends. It was a private matter. I didn’t need to spend a lot of time introducing them because they were us.
As such, you can imagine that one of the first things I did when rewriting The Four Stars was to spend more time introducing each character. And, as I have posted very little from The Legend of the Stars series, I thought perhaps I would introduce you to the characters as I go.
The first character that I introduce is Razi. You can see my inspiration for her below:
Razi starts out as a timid, daydreamy character who frequently compares herself to others and underestimates her own abilities. In the original story, my introduction of her lasted all of a few paragraphs. This time I took a little more time not only to introduce her but to build up the environment as well.
I will post the introductions of other characters as I go. Please enjoy and don’t forget to post if you have suggestions for improvement!
Bright rays of late-morning sunlight glittered off of dewdrops as the sun began to peek over the cliff edges into the winding valleys of Ardenia. The cry of an eagle echoed over the landscape as it swooped low across the sky, gliding effortlessly on the gentle breeze that danced between the valleys’ cliff faces.
One valley, though small in comparison to the many others that surrounded it, was still easily noticed, for even at a distance a traveler could see the tall, spreading branches of an enormous tree poking up above the cliffs’ edges.
The tree, the greatest of oaks, was spread out wide across the valley floor, being some 50 feet in diameter and built like a small fortress. A round-topped doorway and a few scattered windows had been carved into one side of the old tree, and a chimney of river stones and mortar protruded from the oak’s massive trunk, spewing a steady stream of smoke from the fire that burned inside.
The valley itself was something of a little paradise. Opposite the river-rock chimney, the great oak plunged its massive roots deep into the bed of a crystal clear stream. Horse chestnuts and Hawthorn shrubs, all very big and old, dotted the valley and sidled up to the stream’s edge, their blossoms perfuming the fresh valley air.
Off to one side of the stream sat Razi, a young woman of 18. She was currently perched atop a flat boulder that protruded out into the stream, her bare feet dangling in the cool water below. Her dark brown eyes stared down, as though mesmerized, at her slender feet which she swayed back and forth in contentment. She didn’t even shift her gaze when a light gust of wind twirled her long red hair around like a festival dancer.
“What are you looking at?”
The young woman’s head flew up in surprise and she turned to look at the speaker, a cream-coated equine with large, downy wings and a long, spiraling crystal horn. This was Davin, Razi’s faithful companion. Half-unicorn and half-pegasus, which Razi most commonly described as a winged unicorn, Davin was a loyal mount and protector, one that Razi had raised by hand when she herself had only been a little over six years old. Of course, she had had the help of her father, but Razi was still Davin’s mistress and the pair were very nearly inseparable. He was a misfit among unicorns and pegasi alike, but that had never mattered to Razi.
“Oh,” the young woman laughed, grinning sheepishly at her equine companion. “Um…I don’t know what I was looking at, actually.”
For a moment Davin said nothing. Then he snorted, “I never understood how you could stare for hours and not know what you were staring at. I think I will never understand humans.”
A quiet laugh escaped Razi’s lips as the winged unicorn bent his neck and began drinking from the stream. It wasn’t just non-humans who didn’t understand her tendencies for daydreaming, for lapsing into thought or, in this instance, to lapse into a state of no thought at all.
For a moment the young woman watched her companion in indifferent silence. Then her eyes softened slightly. She was fond of Davin, sure, but what she liked more was the fact that he was a constant reminder of her father, Delwynn, and the life she had lost ten years earlier.
It was hard to believe that it had already been ten years since she and her three friends – Rayne, Eryn, and Gavin – had been brought to live in this little valley, a paradise and a sort of balm that had helped them to forget that they were orphans, their fathers dead, their mothers mysteriously vanished. Well, forget wasn’t really the right word for it. Perhaps cope was the better term.
Quietly Razi glanced over her shoulder, down along the valley to a stand of birch trees and wildflowers in the distance. A long pile of river stones could be seen peeking through tufts of bright green grass, the final resting place of the one who had taken care of Razi and her friends during the hardest moment of their lives. She had been generally known as Aunt Effie, a caring old half-human, half-valley elf who had cared for a great many youngsters in her long life. She had been the nurse of Gavin’s mother and seemed to have readily taken on the four orphans after they lost their parents in a matter of days. It had only been two years since she died. It hardly seemed real.
Razi knew that she must have become lost in thought again when Davin bumped her shoulder, shaking her out of her daze.
“I came to tell you something,” the equine said as the young woman turned to look at him.
“You make me aware of this how much later?” Razi laughed. “What is it?”
“Rayne sent me,” he replied. “She says that breakfast is ready.”
With that, the young woman bounded to her feet and set off at a brisk pace toward the great oak. She was just reaching for the door handle when the door flew open, causing her to jump back in surprise.
In the doorway stood another young woman. She was a few inches taller than Razi, but though none could tell, she was a few months younger. Her hair was shoulder-length and a mixture of blond and brown, her eyes brown and flecked with gold.
“Rayne!” Razi said in surprise.
“There you are!” the other girl replied. “I was beginning to think you had gotten lost.”
“She did seem to be lost,” Davin put in, “though more in mind than anything else.”
Razi rolled her eyes.
“Davin only gave me your message a moment ago.”
“Nevermind,” Rayne shrugged. “So I guess the boys aren’t back yet.”
“No,” Razi responded, shaking her head, “but I’m sure the horn will do the trick.”
“You blow it, then,” Rayne said, heading back into the great oak. “I’ll…watch over the food until they get here.”
“As if it’s going to run away,” Razi laughed, lifting a curved horn off the wall.
“You never know,” her friend replied with a mischievous grin.
The red-head rolled her eyes at this comment, then stepped back out the door. Drawing in a deep breath, the young woman put the horn to her lips and blew. A high, quivering note echoed along the valley floor. Unless the boys were hiding in a hole somewhere, the sound would reach them, and there was no way they wouldn’t come when they heard it.