“What happens to the ‘chosen ones’ when they aren’t so ‘chosen’ anymore?“
Katrina Selene Lamont was born the only child of Brandon and Diana Lamont, the King and Queen of Vigor. The Kingdom of Vigor was once the most beautiful and powerful in all the Realm, acting as a balance of power between the Two Empires and leader of the world. The Lamont Royal Family had ruled in prosperity for centuries—their bloodline said to go back to the Seraphim.
Tragically, shortly after Katrina was born, the throne was usurped by the renegade general, Armand Tyrell. Aligning himself with dark powers, including a legion of orcs, he overthrew the King and Queen and declared himself ruler, enacting a brutal purge of the royal line. Thanks to the efforts of some still loyal to the Lamonts, the infant Katrina was smuggled from the capital city to safety.
His rule secure, Tyrell began a despotic reign that saw the once prosperous kingdom fall into decay and corruption. However, although believed to have been killed in Tyrell’s takeover, a prophecy foretold of the day when the Princess would return to reclaim the throne, destroy the usurper, and avenge her family. She would then restore Vigor to its former glory and lead the kingdom to a new golden age.
Katrina spent the first years of her life in a small orphanage on the outskirts of Vigor with no knowledge of her true identity or birthright. At the age of five, she was found by Sofia Synclaire, a surviving cousin of her father and member of the resistance against Tyrell. She told Katrina the truth of her family and the prophecy that foretold her destiny.
Although initially terrified of the great responsibility expected of her, Katrina went with Sofia to begin her training.
Much of Katrina’s life from then on was battle, preparation, and turmoil. She was trained by the finest warriors the rebellion could gather. She faced trials and tribulation, gained and lost friends and loved ones, suffered crushing defeats, and achieved great victories—always with the knowledge she was the Chosen One to her people. It was her destiny to face Armand Tyrell for the fate of her homeland.
At the age of nineteen, armed with her father’s sacred sword, Katrina fought the mad tyrant who killed her family and stole the throne that was rightfully hers. She plunged her sword into Armand Tyrell’s heart and at last fulfilled her destiny, promising a new age of peace and prosperity for her people.
Or so she thought.
What no one knew was Tyrell had a contingency plan, for he knew the prophecy that foretold his doom. With the help of his mages, he arranged it so, should he die, the Red Plague would be released from beneath his fortress and spread to the farthest corners of Vigor—killing everyone in the country, save whoever happened to be in the castle.
So it was that Katrina slew her enemy, only to watch as her land was then consumed in a plague that left no survivors in its wake. She had fulfilled her destiny … with nothing but death and ruin to show for it.
Believing herself the only survivor, Katrina soon found her way to Graylands a broken woman. In the years since, she’s drifted aimlessly around the country under the alias Rien, trying to drink away the memories of her past. Over time, she became a bitter, cynical woman with no hope for the future and a seething anger bubbling just beneath the surface, ready to lash out if provoked.
A ghost of the princess she once was.
Some characters in fiction have distinct arcs that involve a definitive ending. Others are designed to be open-ended so they can remain ongoing as long as the stories stay fresh. On one hand, the characters with endings can offer more satisfying stories with closure. But they do have to end sooner or later. Meanwhile, the open-ended characters can keep going and going, but have to exist in a relatively static state with only subtle changes and development, if at all.
Reading a lot of books and comics, and watching movies and TV shows, something I’ve found interesting is the characters who exist somewhere in between. The ones that have clear arcs and eventually reach a point of closure, but exist in ongoing franchises. So if the character in question is popular enough or considered an integral part of the series, he/she will keep coming back no matter what.
Sometimes it’s fun to see what creators do to keep these characters going … at least until they pull the plug and reboot the whole thing. On a meta level, I was interested in the existential horror of such a situation. That no matter what these characters go through—even if they achieve their happy ending—it will all get undone or reset to the beginning.
Such is the nature of franchises: the story keeps going and popular characters always come back.
That was pretty much where the initial spark for what would become Katrina came from. I saw a protagonist going on their proverbial “Hero’s Journey,” completing all the steps, doing everything he or she was supposed to do, fighting and defeating the big villain—getting his/her ending, in effect—only to find the “story” needs to keep going, and therefore, all her accomplishments are undone and her happy ending is robbed from her.
Thinking on this, my idea soon expanded into, not just a hero on a journey, but a Chosen One who was destined to do whatever they were meant to do, and I was intrigued by how disillusioned this character would be to have believed their whole life they were the destined messiah, fated to save the world … who did everything that was expected of them … only for it all to go to hell for completely unforeseen reasons.
And further, what would become of this character in the aftermath? What would he/she do with themselves, and—more importantly—what would happen if that character was forced back into action?
And thus, Katrina Lamont took shape in my mind.
I prefer to stay loose with character description in my novels. I’ll provide key details to give the reader an impression of what the character looks like, but I usually don’t go deep into it and only specify the things I think are worth pointing out.
My main reason for this is I’d rather let the reader decide how he or she envisions the character’s appearance. I believe it’s more engaging for the audience, and I also think it’s better writing to not go through a check-list description every time a new character is introduced.
Having said that, for this commentary, I’m going to offer a little more detail than I might include in the books.
Katrina Lamont has long, raven-black hair save for a white streak that grows from her right temple. She has light blue eyes and a pale complexion often described as sickly. She speaks with a harsh, scratchy voice, as though she has a permanent sore throat.
When we first meet her in The Ghost Princess, she is twenty-eight years old, and despite her years of drinking, she retains a fairly slim, athletic build. As pointed out in The Jinxed Pirate, she has a long scar up her back thanks to Armand Tyrell. She also has scars on her wrists from a suicide attempt.
She’s almost always dressed in black. I haven’t given much thought into the particulars of Graylands’ fashion, but Katrina wears pretty basic, practical clothing. And unless the weather is too hot, she often wears a black overcoat that hides her figure and renders her rather shapeless.
Katrina is about 5’10” (or 1.778 meters, if you prefer), although she has a tendency to slouch. Her hair is straight and goes to the small of her back, but because she takes so little care of herself, it tends to hang lifelessly from her scalp.
She has an oval-shaped face with a thin nose, and her default expression is usually a scowl which, combined with her sunken eyes, gives her a perpetually sullen, dour appearance.
Yes … Katrina has a resting bitch face.
Katrina’s backstory is, by design, a very prototypical Joseph Campbell “Hero’s Journey” Chosen One narrative with some fairy tale elements.
We have the magical, seemingly perfect kingdom with its benevolent rulers taken by the villain and his evil powers. Although royalty, circumstances cause our heroine to begin her life in humble surroundings with no knowledge of her heritage. She receives her Call to Adventure in the form of a mentor figure thanks to a prophecy foretelling her destiny. Although initially reluctant, she accepts her Call and begins her journey—encountering tests, allies, and enemies. She has a literal Seizing of the Sword moment before eventually confronting the villain in a climactic showdown.
The reason I made it so formulaic was to make the moment the rug is pulled out from under her all the more devastating. I imagine, within the world of Graylands, there have been all sorts of myths and legends of great heroes and fulfilled prophecies—each with their own alleged Chosen One.
I liked the idea of another such story derailed because everyone just assumed things would work out because destiny said so.
And I was intrigued by what that would mean for the “Chosen One” in question. One of the reasons I decided Katrina would be only twenty-eight years old when we first meet her was it therefore meant everything she went through with Tyrell and the rebellion happened in her childhood and teenage years.
Being the prophesied Chosen One destined to defeat evil is, it should go without saying, a lot of pressure to put on a child, and it makes her eventual failure all the more crushing and traumatic.
It was also important, I thought, that Katrina’s failure be something that could not have been avoided or anticipated. Her tragedy doesn’t come about due to arrogance or hastiness on her part. There was nothing she could have done differently, and there’s no lesson to be learned.
For all the talk about destiny, fate, and prophecy, it all fell apart due to a random act of cruelty.
And that tragedy is what defines Katrina as a character when we’re introduced to her in The Ghost Princess. She’s bitter, cynical, disillusioned, damaged, and tries to bury her pain away with heavy drinking.
But however novel a character’s backstory might be, I knew she needed to be more than the standard “grim, brooding warrior with a tragic past.”
The approach I wound up using was to take all those traits and make them worse. As I worked on her, drinking a little too much soon became full-blown alcoholism. Brooding and reluctance to fight developed into post-traumatic stress with panic attacks. And a bad temper grew into potentially psychotic rage.
Not a very groundbreaking discovery, I suppose, but essentially I found Katrina became a more compelling character to write the more of a wreck I made her. And the more of a wreck she is, the stronger her struggle becomes when she’s forced back to action.
And she has to be forced into action … otherwise there’d be no story.
But it ties into what is probably her greatest fear: that she has no control over her life. Her childhood was driven by prophecy and destiny, and after that blew up in her face, she’s left with unsettling questions about how many of her choices were her own and what she wanted. Was she truly an active agent in her quest to free Vigor, or a prop moved along by mentors who only saw her as a weapon?
Even aside from the Chosen One prophecy and all that baggage, Katrina is also a Princess with royal blood. That too makes her a target of people who would exploit her for their own ends.
And considering this is a woman with elite fighting skills, who is suffering pretty severe post-traumatic stress, forcing her onto an adventure might be the worst possible thing to do with her … with violent results.
All this plays into what I think is the heart of Katrina’s story: as much as she tries to hide herself away from the world, as much as she’s been let down by her faith, there will always be that part of her that feels compelled to fight for the sake of others.
And that, I hope, will make for a potentially compelling journey as this fallen (and severely damaged) hero must choose between shutting herself away from the world or sticking her neck out for others … and always with the very real possibility she could snap and become the kind of monster she spent her youth fighting.
*As I recall, I landed on Katrina’s name merely because I thought it seemed suitably regal-sounding and ran with it. I did eventually look up what her name means and found Katrina means “pure,” and Lamont means “law man.”
*Speaking of names, Katrina’s go-to alias, Rien, is a French word meaning “nothing.”
*I hand-wave Katrina’s physical condition as due to her status as a “Chosen One” with royal Seraphim blood. It may seem an odd thing to harp on in a world of dragons, demons, and wizards, but realistically, if anyone drank as much as she does, for as long as she does, they would certainly not remain bad-ass warriors … assuming they weren’t dead.
The notion that certain people (usually royalty) have “special” bloodlines that grant them the right to rule is an archaic (and problematic) trope. As said, I used it mainly to justify how/why Katrina isn’t in shambles after years of heavy drinking, but I also saw an opportunity to subvert and/or deconstruct, which I do to an extent in The Ghost Princess and hope to go even further with in future books.
*The inspiration for Katrina’s white streak came from movies like Poltergeist, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Evil Dead II among others where a character, after experiencing or witnessing something especially traumatic, is left with a streak of white or gray hair.
I thought it would make for a striking visual if she had this thin streak of white hair.
*Katrina is fond of cats and horses. She’s also an Aquarius.
Both are available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.
Katrina Lamont & Graylands ©2017 by M. Walsh