Thursday, May 17, 2012
Change Yourself, Change the World: Departure of Inspiration
Leon took a deep breath. Now came the moment he was dreading. “I’m going to be going over the wall. Going to see what they’re doing on the other side, and see if we can’t take some of our lands back.” It was Canna’s turn to fall quiet now. She was young, but far from stupid and she knew exactly what this meant. To Canna, her Uncle Leon wasn’t just a great guy, but rather a hero and inspiration. He was a guardsman in the strongest human military force left on the planet and a genuinely kind spirit. The young redheaded angel always adored the idea of being a warrior, but that concept was considered pure lunacy by her mother. Her Uncle was the only person who tolerated her attitude, let alone encouraged it. She didn’t love her uncle just because he was fun and treated her kindly—she loved him because he was the greatest influence in her life. As the realization he’d be leaving dawned on her all she could do was stand in disbelief as she felt her passion fade away into a pathetic somber emptiness. Leon dropped to his rear and embraced one arm around his niece’s shoulders, gently pushing her into a sitting position beside him. He knew this wasn’t going to be easy, and it would require tact, care, and a lot of luck to have this all work out for the better.
“Yeah, I’m going to be gone for a while. It could be a really long time. I’m sorry Can, but it’s something I have to do.”
“I’m going to be all alone.” Canna replied, futilely trying to hold back the upcoming sobs. Leon frowned, but knew this was an inevitability. He gripped her shoulder tightly; his firm grasp gentle but comforting. He knew it was impossible, but he hoped such a touch could help the veteran soldier transfer some of his strength to the broken hearted little girl.
“You won’t be all alone, Can. You’ll still have your mom and your dad who both love you very much, and very soon you’re going to have a little brother or sister who will love you too. I know that this hurts, and trust me it’s going to be hard for me too. I was looking forward to seeing you grow up in a bright, strong, and beautiful young woman, but I don’t know if I’ll be around during those years. Not physically at least.” Those last words caught Canna’s attention and a small flicker of hope lit up in her heart. She looked up at her uncle with her eyes circled by infant tears.
“Wha-what do you mean?” Canna’s words were lightly buried in a sob, but the brave little warrior-to-be held her tears at bay to keep this sadness from overwhelming her.
“Well, I mean that I can still be there for you in spirit, and I can give you a few life lessons that you can take to heart. Consider them a code to follow, like a warrior’s oath.”
Canna’s attention was pulled in by the idea of a “warrior’s oath”. She’d heard stories about noble soldiers who only fought in accordance their code of ethics or the religious champions who lived by a set of commandments their gods placed on them, and these valiant souls were as painted as disciplined heroes worthy of praise and adoration. Canna wanted to be like those grand idols; a stalwart example of virtue, but more than that she wanted to be like her uncle. She took a deep breath and clenched her teeth as she wiped the tears from her eyes so as to ensure all of her senses could fully absorb these fundamental truths. Leon grew a warm smile in response before digging into his life and pulling out the most important lessons he could depart.
“Can, in this life there are three things you have to remember. First: family is the most important thing in your life. We don’t get to choose who our families are, but remember that your family is a group of people who can to love you regardless of what you do. There are going to be many people you’ll meet in your life: friends, colleagues, romances, but for all of those people you have to remain a certain way for them to love you. It’s always great to have those people, but when it comes to family always remember that their love is unconditional. No one in your family is ever going to stop loving you no matter what you do, and the same is true in reverse. Now you’ve got a little brother or sister on the way and it’s going to be your job to protect them. Always look out for them and keep them safe. Can you do that?”
Canna nodded her head in agreement as a strange feeling of pride swelled up in her stomach. “Second: always be yourself. Don’t let people tell you what you can’t do, and never accept another person’s plans for you if it’s not what you want.” Leon could already feel the piercing gaze of Jude staring daggers into his back from this sentiment. “You have free will in this world, and you need to use it. There’s going to be a lot of hard times in your life when you’ll feel lost, but remember to stay true to yourself and you’ll find your way. And third…” Leon paused.
“And third: if you change yourself, you can change the world.” This sentiment was the most important thing in Leon’s life. It was the motto that became the crux of his entire existence after his father once said those words to him when he was at his lowest. Leon never told anyone about his darkest hours; the ones spent contemplating a meaningless existence for a talentless individual with nothing but will in his favor, but these words gave purpose to that passion. Leon could only pray that Canna would take the same from it. “Never accept complacency. Don’t just let the world dictate your life. If you have a goal you have to take risks for it. Luck favors the bold as they say, and sometimes you’ll need to make some mistakes before you do something right. Just make sure you always do something. You’ve got an amazing passion, Can, and I know that one day you’re going to do amazing things. Don’t let somebody stop you from changing this world. Okay?”
Canna nodded her head, putting on a brave face as she committed each word to memory. She watched her uncle’s proud grin slowly slip into a bittersweet frown as their moments together were now quickly coming to an end. Leon stared out into the distance, absorbing this nostalgic view one last time before turning back to his niece and extending a hand. “Remember what I taught you, right? Whenever you’re meeting somebody or saying good-bye you should greet them with a firm handshake.” Canna responded with an uneasy grin as she placed her tiny palm against his massive paw. The two shook hands, but as always Leon was not quick to let go.
Canna laughed as she tugged to free her arm before eventually shouting out the words that Leon would demand for release. “I yield!” she cried. “I yield!” But Leon didn’t let go. Canna’s giggles trailed off as she looked to her uncle who’s head was hung in shame as a series of tears dropped from his cheeks to the cold stone ground beneath him. Not letting go had always been a part of this game, but at this moment Leon felt a swell of emotions overtake his body. He realized that this handshake was the last memory he was going to have with his beloved niece, and he didn’t want to let go. It was so easy for Leon to tell himself it would be simple and that it would be worth it, but once he felt the warmth of her touch, heard the sweet tone of her voice, and saw the hope in her eyes it stopped being a matter of will. He couldn’t restrain his emotions any longer, and they came rushing to the surface without the slightest bit of control. Leon tugged on his arm and pulled the young girl into his chest where he wrapped his arms around Canna in an embrace. The feeling of comfort he had at this moment was one he never wanted to end. For Leon Corbett, this was the best and worst moment of his life.
“Thank you for being born into this world, Canna.” He wasn’t Canna’s father, and he knew that. He would never be that person in her life, but for this lonely soldier whose life had become one long crusade against an unconquerable foe, he found someone he could share himself with. And now, he had to say good-bye.
Leon returned Canna home later that night, and the next morning he left for his venture over the wall. Days without hearing any word back about his fate turned into weeks and then months. After a while Jude gave birth to Darek, her second child and the family’s attention turned to him—with the exception of Canna who continued to wait for any news back. Unfortunately, no news ever came back about the optimistic soldier with the seemingly ever present smile, and after a full year he was declared dead by the Corbett family. This brought about a violent change in Canna who turned to anger at the slightest provocation and locked her face in a bitter scowl that no one could budge. The subject of her beloved uncle brought out the worst in Canna, and so Jude decided that Leon’s name or presence would never be spoken of again. All that remained of his memory was buried in the heart of his niece; the young girl who lost the guide for her passion and the inspiration in her life.
And thus ends the Leon Arc. Is it an arc when it’s only three pieces? Fuck it, I’m calling it an arc. But yeah, this is the end of the whole relationship between Canna and Leon, and it’s a rather sad one. Canna is a lot like Leon when he was younger, but with a lot more aggression. The tragedy here isn’t just how a man had to leave behind someone he thought of as a daughter, but for how we know Canna’s story turns out… at least to a certain point. We don’t know her ultimate fate and maybe there’s a happy end to this story, but the reality of this story is that Canna’s life is very different because Leon left. When she was with her uncle Canna was restrained and calm. Leon was similar as a child and knew how to direct and develop Canna’s more aggressive nature which means that had he stayed behind Canna might have grown up to be a completely different person. Would that be for the better? Who knows, but it’s something to contemplate. A lot of the pain she goes through growing up could have been prevented.
When I build a character in D&D I try to put a piece of myself in them and for Canna it’s that feeling. Not to start the sob story, but as many of you know (or don’t) I grew up without a dad for most of my life. My grandfather (we called him Poppi) was the male influence in my life and the man I respected the most. Sadly, he died when I was five, and that void never really got filled. I often wonder how different my life would have been had my grandfather been around as he was a tremendous presence in my life. He likely would he gotten me involved in more sports and activities as a child which might have meant I probably never would have become an anti-social kid who grew up glued to a television and video game console. No one can know for sure, but it’s something I contemplate from time to time and I wanted to explore that with Canna. As I mentioned before the handshake is something my Poppi did with me, and the mountain this scene takes place on is called Validus Mountain in a reference to Validus O’Toone, a character I based off of my grandfather in another story I did back in high school. So this part is a whole lotta Poppi.
While I’m at it, the whole first paragraph is a memory I have of a place my family used to go to when I was a kid called Peter’s Mountain. It’s the only time I’ve ever seen a snake in the wild, and I have more than a few memories going up on that mountain and throwing rocks with my cousins at old soda cans other hikers would leave behind that my uncle would set up into targets. Good times, and even though I hate that opening paragraph (a common theme you’ll find), I do enjoy using those memories.
Some of you who listen to Weekly Manga Recap might know that final line Leon says to Canna. I wish I could take credit for it, but it’s actually from Skip Beat. I don’t normally lift quotes directly, and originally I just had a simple “I love you, Canna.” in its place, but I just couldn’t think of a more appropriate and beautiful line for that sentiment. Oh boy, I have to hand in my man card now, don’t I? Maybe I’ll get it back once the Cormag stuff comes up.
So about Leon, as I said last time I like adding depth into the mentor figures so we know what makes them tick, and I got into that a bit with Leon. There are a few factoids about the guy I didn’t openly state, but some others might pick up on them. However that would insinuate I have talent and subtlety as a writer, so not likely. I really do like Leon’s character and what he means for Canna. However at this point his story is out of my hands and into Peter’s (MechaGM’s). I told him about Leon and Cormag and gave him free reign to do with them as he pleases once they crossed the wall. I told him it was completely kosher to kill them off or keep them alive as it was appropriate, so we’ll see what Peter plans. Maybe there’s a happy ending for Leon?
Up next I’m going to get into Canna’s life in Arkhosia, and what prompted her to leave her home. Honestly were a few standalone stories I wanted to tell in between, but I didn’t want to drag this series out due in part to something secret I’m working on. I’ll be vague, but I’m planning on doing something bigger than this backstory series based on whether people seem to like reading my writing, so if you do leave me a comment. What I’m planning is something I’ll keep in my back pocket for now, but it could be extremely awesome (see: magnificent failure).
Alright, so I think that’s all for this week. If ya’ll have any questions or thoughts lay them on me (no homo) in the comment section below. Peace!