Have you ever, in the course of writing fiction, had a character come to life on the page?
I mean…like suddenly this is a new person, not the one you envisioned? Happens to me every now and again.
Case in point, Merren, head of the Kai (roughly, “emperor”) Suhuru’s security guard. He has picked up a new man from a training center and is bringing him back to the estate, where the young fellow will serve as the first of a team (eventually to number five) devoted to the Kai’s daughter’s safety and convenience.
They’re riding a high-speed public-transit vehicle under the city of E’ho Cinnora. While they wait to arrive at their destination, they gamble at a board game and chat, tentatively getting acquainted. They live on Varnis, the center of a vast galactic empire. Chadzar is the offspring of natives of Michaia, an ice world in continual rebellion against the empire; Merren is from a world called Samdela. Merren has, earlier in the chapter, silently wondered if Chad is the son of his now-former master, Haddam. Chad’s mother is a handsome and (in Merren’s opinion) much-indulged Michaian slave woman.
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“E’ho Cinnora is big, isn’t it?” Chad remarked.
“As Varn cities go, I guess it is,” said Merren. “It’s not like Samdela, though, where the whole damn planet is a city. You’ll find it’s not very hard to make your way around.”
“You’re Samdi?” Chad asked.
“Mostly. My mother was Samdelan. They say my father was part Varn. I wouldn’t know, though — never saw him.”
“Me neither. Ever saw mine, I mean — my mother was pregnant when she was brought here.”
There’s a question answered, Merren reflected.
“Is it true what they say? That all of Samdela is covered with cities?”
“Pretty much. It’s all built up. Except for maybe a few mountain peaks.”
Chad seemed to think about that for a few seconds. “So, without farmlands, where do you grow your food?”
“We don’t. We eat our children,” Merren said.
The Michaian’s green eyes widened.
Merren chuckled. Gotcha! “They make food in factories. Or sometimes grow it there.”
Chad gave him a dubious glance and then laughed. “Should’ve known,” he said.
Et voilà! Merren has a sense of humor. A pretty deadpan sense of humor.
It never occurred to me that he could or would say a thing like that. During the several years that he’s inhabited the back of my mind, he’s shaped up as a hard-bitten veteran of Samdela’s criminal industries, which dominate the planet’s culture. Forcibly reformed and, by dint of talent and luck now employed in the house of a man who amounts to the king of the universe, he is stolid, wary, skilled with weapons and electronic surveillance, potentially murderous, and unwaveringly loyal. Not the sort of guy to see much humor in anything.
Or…so I thought.