Thursday, August 16, 2012

Change Yourself, Change the World: Empty

It’s only about three feet deep, so how can it hold everything? Canna stared at her backpack curiously as everything she would possess in the next stage of her life was so carefully arranged inside. There were few spare sets of clothes, several sunrods to help pierce the undoubtedly hideous, dark lairs of the Drow, a month’s worth of banausic trail rations, a length of rope coiled tightly, a filled waterskin, and an inconspicuous black coin purse filled with a meager salary of gold pieces tucked tightly into the corner. She was preparing to combat the strongest army the world has ever known, and yet there was still room left in her backpack? She sneered as she thought how easy it was to obtain this equipment; proving the only thing stopping someone from taking up the fight was cowardice or complacency in the face of oppression. With a sigh she sealed her pack and tied her bedroll to the top before looking over to the enormous axe which rested on her bed. She bent over and slid her hands underneath the weapon’s handle just to feel the weight of cold steel in her hands. Instinctively her fingers tightened into a grip and her muscles tensed in preparation of an attack. There was nothing to fight inside of the humble Corbett home, but it didn’t keep Canna from swinging her devastating weapon about. Each movement stretched a muscle aching to engage, and the weapon now felt like a comfortable extension of herself as she arched it down with a restrained grunt. The blade hovered just inches above the ground when a sarcastic tone interrupted Canna’s trance.

“You’re expecting to do a lot of fighting during your pilgrimage?” Jude Corbett stood at the doorway of her daughter’s room, and her glower was enough to set another miserable tone to this exchange between mother and child.

Canna shrugged as she set her weapon back on her bed. “It’s there to keep people from trying to rob me. It won’t hurt to make it look like I know how to use it,” Canna replied without an ounce of passion in her voice. In contrast to the stories she told her father and brother, Canna barely cared about humoring her mother’s concerns. However, she was also certain her mother was more agitated than concerned; a feeling she would reflect as her face bent into scowl.  She turned to lean her rear on the edge of her bed; crossing her arms over her chest as she waited her mother’s response.

Jude chuckled lightly, though it was a sardonic laugh brewed from disbelief. She shook her head and forced a condescending grin that neatly fit the aging beauty’s face. “Canna, I’m not an idiot, and you can stop this charade of going on a pilgrimage with me.” Jude’s tone began deceptively tender, but became cruel as she waved aside her daughter’s faulty excuse. “I know you’re going to try and go over that wall, and if that’s true then I suppose I won’t be seeing you again after tonight.” Her daughter didn’t grasp the true intention of that statement, though she did have the decency not to continue defending her poorly veiled lie.

“I don’t plan on coming back for a while, but I’ll be back eventually,” Canna replied as she met Jude’s intimidating stare with one of her own. She expected her mother to make a condescending remark about her naivety, but instead Jude’s contempt only seemed to increase.

“No,” Jude shot back, “You will not come back eventually. If you leave this house tomorrow to go over that wall, then you will never be welcomed back.”

Canna snickered. “What, like you’re going to disown me?” her disbelief captured in arrogant grin. She wasn’t fazed by Jude’s unflinching reaction; never in her worst nightmares could she envision a world where her parents would ever turn their backs on her. That innocence was cruelly shattered.

“You were gone for a year, Canna. An entire year you spent off in that city of monsters, and we never knew why. I stayed up night after night praying that I’d hear a knock on the door and it was you, and fearing that I’d hear a knock on the door and it was someone who found your remains along the side of the road. And why did I have to go through that daily suffering?” There wasn’t a trace of the vulnerability she was recalling in her voice. Her words were vicious and absolute. “For twenty-one years you’ve fought with me on everything and I endured it because you were my child. I gave you the chance to enjoy a great life, and now you’re choosing to throw it all away just so you can be a martyr.” She paused as she took in the sight of her daughter, a woman who nearly identically mirrored herself physically, and frowned in contempt. “I’m not going to stop you from throwing your life away, but don’t expect me to waiting by the door for you to knock.”

Emotionally, Canna had just been fatally wounded. Even if she fought with her family on a near constant basis she held onto the sweet reminder that a parent’s love is unconditional. That, however, was a lesson Leon had taught her, and Jude proved herself once again to be diametrically opposed to her daughter’s inspiration. Canna’s scowl grew more intense as she mentally broke apart her mother’s argument before lashing out into her own cruel rant. “Fuck you, Mom. Two generations have passed by, and neither can ever say they know what a clear sky looks like! Trees struggle to grow, but just because you have a house you assume that means no one is suffering! We’re not safe because that wall separates us from the Drow; it makes us slaves! I’m going to change that!” Her words were intense as she fiercely stood just inches from her mother’s face. Her focus completely unwavering in the face of her mother’s cold glare. “I’m sorry I’m throwing your life away,” Canna sarcastically spat, “but maybe I don’t want to spend the rest of my life blasting out kids and wondering what to make for din—“

A loud crack echoed throughout the Corbett household as Canna was forced into silence. She slowly rose a hand to touch her ruddy cheek only to feel the sharp stinging pain at her fingertips. Her expression was one of utter horror as she stared at her mother’s outstretched hand. “Don’t you ever, ever speak of me like I’m a villain for choosing to have children.” Jude withdrew her hand and allowed the long, white, flowing sleeves of her gown to hide the red tint in her palm. “You keep thinking of everyone as your enemy because all you know how to do is fight. If that’s all you care about, then do it. But I won’t let you be an impression on Darek anymore. You’ll ruin him, just like that fool ruined you.”

There was no ambiguity as to who “that fool” was. Jude had indirectly referenced the late Leon Corbett in the past, but never before had she done it in a blatantly derogatory manner. However the word Canna latched onto wasn’t “fool”. No, there was a far more grievous insinuation in her mother’s speech; one Canna could not forgive. “Ruined?” she muttered as she tried not to disrespect her uncle’s memory by succumbing to violence. “He saved me! He’s the only person to ever walk this planet that told me I wasn’t wrong for being born the way I was! He went over that wall to fight for all of our sakes, and all you can do is complain that he did a better job of parenting me in five years than you could do in a century!” Her breathing was becoming faster and her arms tingled with a thirst for violence. A single punch would be all she’d need to vindicate her uncle’s legacy, but she refrained. However, her hatred had passed the point of suppression and it needed an outlet. Instead of a fist, she attacked her mother with something far more heinous. A single phrase that shattered the frail, aging mother more than any physical force could. “I wish I had been his daughter instead!”

Even Canna was stunned by the words that just escaped her lips, but she adamantly stood behind them. Her mother’s expression didn’t change, but Canna could swear that it seemed her eyes grew colder. Jude twisted away and spoke one last time. “You can spend the night here, but tomorrow you leave. And never come back to this house again.” Her words had been eroded of their vitriol, and now just felt exhausted and weighty.

A moment of clarity allowed Canna to recognize the extent of her actions, and she quickly tried to mend her damages “Mom, I lo—“ Her mother turned to face her, but Canna lost her words against horrific sight in front of her. “I’ll leave first thing tomorrow,” she stuttered. She couldn’t believe what she had just seen, and yet there was no mistake about it. When Jude turned back to look back at her daughter, her eyes were devoid of love.

She was staring at a stranger.


I was excited to write Jude because of a large goal I had for her. She’s a condescending and absolute person which is a huge pet peeve of mine, so I wanted to write that personality as an antagonist. However, I absolutely wanted to make sure that she was not completely without merit. In fiction parents tend to hit either extreme—they’re such amazing parents that it’s absolutely crushing that they’re gone or they’re irredeemable monsters. Either extreme works, but I always feel it robs the character of a bit of their humanity. It’s my personal belief that no one is truly evil and even the worst people have a reason they are the way they are. In this example, Jude is a woman who tries to control the lives of her children, but in the same respect she also kept them well fed, sang them lullabies every night, and never beat them. She’s a woman who cares deeply about her children even if her attitude comes off as cruel. Now, don’t get me wrong; she’s not a nice person. But, even if she’s made mistakes she is still more complicated than just “what a bitch”.

In Penn Jillette’s book “God, No!” he speaks about the awe-inspiring value of unconditional love within a family and how it’s one of the most incredible parts of being human. Great concept, but sadly that isn’t a catholic value that all families hold in the same regard. Jude and Canna put up with years of frustration for the sake of family, but this moment was Jude’s breaking point. To her, Canna was throwing away the most precious thing she ever gave her daughter. Canna then unintentionally accused her mother of being a bad person for choosing to be a housewife, and then said she wished she had been Leon’s child instead. Now I’m not a mother, but I can imagine hearing those words would be extremely devastating—especially to a woman like Jude. Granted, Jude said some horrible things too, but I wanted both parties to come away looking awful and wounded. Jude disowning her daughter was something she never wanted to do, but it was something her pride and bitter attitude drove her to.


Welp, that’s going to do it for Change Yourself, Change the World as the next day of Canna’s life is the start of the first session, so the end of these storylines have yet to be determined. I have to say I’m glad to have written this series even if it became a frustrating experience more often than I’d like. Truth be told, I really wish I had changed Canna’s character early as she became difficult to write consistently and doesn’t always reflect the character I roleplay. If I could do it over, I would have made Canna’s family more developed, tried to incorporate Darek more, and probably eliminated a lot of the Arkhosia stuff away, but it just makes me want to improve on my next character even more.

Considering the views for individual pieces lowered significantly towards the end of this series I imagine most viewers felt the same way—or I didn’t promote enough. I can completely understand that sentiment if that is indeed true because I’m just aware of the faults as anyone else it. I’m still proud of CYCW because it brought me back to writing and I definitely feel I’ve grown as a writer from the first piece to this final installment. As always, I’m always open to criticism good or bad on what you thought. If you’re nervous about starting a negative opinion in a public venue, then hit me up via e-mail at

With that out of the way, I want to thank everybody who did read this series, and if you enjoyed then thank you for doing so as my only goal is to entertain (clearly my ego is too picky to be fed). This was fun to do, and I’m still kicking around the possibility of starting a fantasy novel before the end of the year. Thank you all for reading, and I’ll see you this Sunday for some more Shadowlands! Huzzah!


  1. I'm sad to see it end but I enjoy CYCW alot. I do think it needed a segment with Darek but the way I see it Shadowlands kind serves as that portion anyway.
    I'm kinda glad you wrote her parents the way you did. You could have just as easily made them sympathic but you stuck to your guns and still managed to make them human at the same time. I might hate Jude's guts but I understand why she is the way she is. And you definately didn't make this a one sided arguement either, Canna (while I support) didn't look in the right either.

    Thanks for all the entertainment. Looking forward to any other work you do.

  2. I can see where some of the headache in dealing with consistency issues and whatnot may come into play, but I found each part of the whole to be great. I also enjoyed voicing the characters in my head, painting a picture of each scene and the emotional weight with them. I feel, while not flawless, this was a great endeavor and it turned out wonderfully. I always love reading fleshed-out backstories for characters, especially one like Canna, who isn't some straight-laced, paper-thin holy hero. She's a person, with goals, a personality, nuances, inspirations, passion, and so on, as do all the people in her life.
    I agree that, at least with these last parts dealing mostly with the family, there could've maybe been a part between Canna and Darek, giving a little background between those two and little hints at their specific comradery. Though I suppose Leon's words to Canna regarding the importance of her family (especially with Darek being essentially the only one in her family that shows the same sort of love she tries to maintain unconditionally) explain enough reasoning behind her emotional interaction with Darek and each session where you and Nik are able to roleplay can serve as background material easily.
    Anyway, with this lengthy comment finished, thanks for the great reads, Chris, and, as always, looking forward to Shadowlands!