Beans: I think internal monologues make fine stories. I love the chess symbolism. You do it well.
Now, I have stories, called: Decisions. It's yet another one about Harley Zorzo, which I wrote during the endless hours I spent on all those planes. Mostly backstory. For the sake of helping me keep things straight, I'll have a short commentary before each one, and also how it fits in in the previous backstory thing I wrote, and how it brings her to be where she is now.
The First Decision happens chronologically between Pain and Lies. She's a young adult/late teenager at this moment. The way I see it, it's her first life-changing decision in her life, which defines who she wants to be, in spite of her weaknesses.
Spoiler: First Decision
The wind blew through my hair. The wind blew like an angry tiger chasing after its prey. To me, it seemed like the wind was portending a dark future - warning me to not go on. Warning me not to plunge into the storm I knew was coming. No matter what it said to me, I decided not to listen. I had already made my choice, and nothing would stop me.
I had decided to flee from here and go join a knight's order. NOt just any order - the same one my father belonged to. Or, rather, the one of the man whom I believed to be my father. I didn't really know, for sure. It's just that I suspected that man locked down away in the dungeon to be him. He was such a grand knight, or at least he looked to be one. My mother - often known as the "witch queen," among other similar names - didn't know I went down there or even that I knew about the secret entrance in the corner of that room. . . .
Maybe I'm not actually related to him and it was just my young mind that imagined up fantastic stories of knights and dragons and shadows and heroes. Nevertheless, I decided to join up and claim to be his daughter. I'd have his sword and sheath. I'd know what he looks like and what his voice sounds like when pleading and begging and threatening for his freedom. Nobody would have proof to the contrary - after all, he did go "missing in action" around the time I was born. He's still locked up in that dungeon - although, i would tell the knights he had died an honorable and brave death. That's what I had decided to do.
I turned away from the ominous winds and went inside, looking for the secret entrance. Upon finding it, I also found a brand-new lock on the door. I suppose she knew more about my secret voyages than I had thought.
The lock was no matter - I quickly broke it apart with the knife I had brought along. Then, the next step in my decision was the stairs. I rand down them much more quickly and much more loudly than I had initially planned. I guess I was just nervous. The new lock was also a bad sign. The coming storm was a bad omen. The impending darkness was a misfortune - it was dangerous to be out at night, even for a trained band of knights. Everybody knew that. I had decided what to do. I had decided what I was going to do. There was no going back.
I reached the bottom of the stairs and made my way through the dark corridors, not distracted at all by the many other doors and pathways. I had gone through this path so many times, I could take every step blindfolded and backwards. This would be my last time traveling through this trail, so I proceeded confidently and not sneaking as I had done before.
Finally, I reached the last door - the one he was behind. I opened it, and there he was, as always: chained to the wall, looking tired and haggard, but brave and knightly. If he was wearing armor instead of rags, I'm sure it would be shining. He was asleep though - and it wasn't my objective to talk to him this time. I wanted his sword and scabbard, which were always kept near him, even though it was locked just out of reach.
As soon as I grabbed the blessed weapon, he woke up. I could feel his hand on my leg. It took all my strength to get away. I didn't look back, but his angry voice echoed throughout my head all the way back up to the surface. It pounded through my ears even louder than the thunder outside.
There was no turning back. I had already decided what to do. The storm wasn't strong enough to blow me off my course. The rain wasn't strong enough to purify my wicked deed. The darkness wasn't strong enough to frighten me away. The guilt wasn't strong enough to stop me.
Now, at this moment, I'm not strong enough to keep everything from falling apart.
The Second Decision happens immediately after the first, and Lies happens during this decision. It continues with the theme of the first: defining who she wants to be and how it contrasts with who she is.
Spoiler: Second Decision
I arrived at the city gates in darkness. It was night. The storm was still raging on. THe wind blew harder than a shipwrecked sailor's thirst for land. The soldiers at the gate were surprised to see anyone still out so late after nightfall. They brought me in and started to question me, but after seeing the knight's insignia engraved on my scabbard, the questions stopped and they sent for someone.
I waited. I waited longer. I continued waiting. Eventually someone came. He introduced himself as one of the knights. I told him my name - but, instead of giving my mother's last name, I gave the last name of the man I supposed to be my father. He examined the blade and fell silent. "Come with me," he said.
I was brought to the knight's keep, in the center of the city. Even at night, it was everything I had imagined it to be. Every last brick spoke of honor, bravery, and loyalty. Every last torch shone, casting away the darkness. The swords, the armor, the pictures, and even the doors looked like things that only exist in dreams, for how beautiful they looked.
He took me to the grandest door I've ever seen. Behind this door was the judgment room, where the highest-ranking knights made important decisions. He brought me in. Dozens of knights - some whose beards showed their great wisdom and whose eyes showed their strength - sat already in the judgment seats around the room.
They asked me questions about everything, from the man whose sword I bore to where I lived. Half of what I told them was a lie, but they still believed me. They asked me if I would join their order. It took everything I had to not sound too excited. I was to report for beginning training with the other new recruits who had arrived a week ago.
At that moment, I decided I would be the best knight they had ever seen. Of course, I had to keep my true heritage a secret. If they ever found out my mother was the dreaded Witch Queen, the Vile Temptress, an Evil Shapeshifter, born of chaos and darkness. . .
I would never let them find out. I would be the best knight they had ever seen. I would hide the truth from them always. I would make my father proud. . . of course, he would never find out, either. I was the only one who would know, but I vowed to myself I would be the best.
I went to my first training session bright and early the next day, before the sun had awoken.
The Third Decision takes place just before Freedom, a few weeks before. This decision makes her realize how the two parts of herself are irrevocably in conflict with each other, much like the Chivalric Code. Different parts of her ideals come in conflict, and she has to decide between them, and it leads to one of her greatest regrets.
Spoiler: Third Decision
I had a bad feeling about that mission. Everything about it just felt off. However, it was my job to lead my squad. I had to be the example. Ha! Can you believed it? Me? Why any one of them wanted to follow such a horrible person is beyond - but... I guess they didn't know better.
The mission was simple enough: enter an abandoned outpost, retrieve some old documents, then return. The first problem came when the documents weren't where it was said they would be. As we searched, we grew careless. After all, we thought we were alone.
We weren't. We were attacked and captured one-by-one in secret, until I was the only one left. When I looked around for my squad, there were only a few traces and tracks here or there. I found where they were, eventually: surrounded and captured in an enemy camp. Overhearing small conversations, I discovered they were to chase me off and force me to return to the keep - it would disgrace my honor losing the whole squad like that, and I would be demoted. Then, they would kill my squad members - most of whom were fresh from training - so nobody would be the wiser.
I analyzed the situation. I couldn't leave them to die. They were my men. They trusted me. They had faith in me. For most of them, it was their first official mission. They had so much to live for still.
However, I couldn't save them. Actually, more accurately, I couldn't save them without using any of my strengths as an Evil Shapeshifter. That would, of course, reveal my heritage. It would destroy everything I've worked for along these past several years. I would be shown a liar. I could be disciplined, or worse - excommunicated.
I couldn't let that happen. Everything I'd worked for, everything I've done...
But I couldn't leave them. They trusted in me. They hadn't done anything wrong. They didn't invent lies to become a knight; I did. They didn't steal to get their swords; I did. They weren't born in wickedness; I was. They weren't deceiving everyone who trusted in them; I was. They weren't unforgivable; I was.
They didn't deserve this. I did. It was my fault.
I knelt down and prayed fervently, for it could be my last. I asked for my squad's safety, and then I snuck into the camp, shapeshifted. Using my powers, I broke my men out. They questioned how it was possible, but we all escaped.
Everything was fine until we returned to the knight's keep. I was imprisoned, stripped of my honor, and I awaited the results of my trial.
I was excommunicated and sentenced to death.
The Fourth Decision happens simultaneously as Betrayal, years after her third major decision, but it fills in some of the gaps in the story. Something unique about this one (compared to the previous ones) is how time passes during this story. It's not exactly chronological, due to all the flash backs that happen every paragraph. Time and how it works is actually something significant throughout it. Regret is what Harley won from making this decision.
Spoiler: Fourth Decision
The gates pounded. Everything else had fallen. Only these last gates and doors were left, and I soon expected them to fall. I had called all of our defenders across the country back here, but out defenses fell one by one. Only we were left - me and my men, the elite guard. I told them we would fight to the last man against these insurmountable odds. It was our duty to protect the Queen, and we would sooner die than surrender.
The castle shook. Another wall fell. I gave some more commands and roused them. Reminded them of our strategy: arrows first, then I lead the charge. It was a grim meeting. We knew how much longer we had. We knew how long it would take the catapults or the mages to get through each door.
The next gate fell and its echo resounded like a death knell. I repositioned my sword and whispered a command to one next to me. This entire assault was, in fact, the Queen's fault. Her daughter - my sister - broke me out of prison before my sentence and brought me back. I became a guard, but her (the Queen's) aggression and dirty manipulations had already offended a lot of people.
The next door fell. We had to defend from a lot of attacks and assassination attempts. The more we defended, the more frequent and complex they became. We lost several men over the course of the years and received new guards every so often, promoted from other guard positions to the royal guard.
The next door fell. The attacks had stopped for a moment, and we grew complacent. What we didn't know - we had lost too many spies over the years - was that a large army was gathering from all the kingdoms that wanted to take down the Eternal Queen.
Another door fell. There weren't many left. The army had come all at once, destroying the cities and countrysides we had previously conquered.
Another wall fell. I received a message from the back of the room. I was to go and leave with the royal family, out a secret exit.
The castle shook again. There wasn't enough time for the entire guard to leave; there were only two more doors.
The next door fell. How could I leave my men? they would have to stay and buy us time while I fled like a coward. I went back with my family - my mother and sister. Nobody knew I was, in fact, related but none protested because I was the leader. What I said was true and they obeyed.
The final door fell. I left them behind.
I wasn't fit to be their leader. I betrayed them and let them die while I lived. I betrayed them. Each one of their lives bought me a precious second. I knew every one of those seconds and I could hear their cries. I knew every one of their names. I knew the sound of their voices. I knew everything about them. Each second echoed through the night, ringing for the last time. I felt each and every last second fly away into the cold and eternal night, not to be reborn again until tomorrow. Each second lasted a lifetime but ended too suddenly; their echo fell silent.
Time clung to my tears as they fell to the ground. Every last one, I counted them all.
One minute and seventeen seconds.
The Fifth Decision. These words describe it: Sorrow. Repetition. Despair. Hopelessness. Loss of control. This decision, really, is the big decision that made her stop trying to be heroic. This story is not dictated by chronology or time, by the way - it happens pure psychologically. It takes place between Honor and Change. Interesting fact: the same other character from Honor makes an appearance in this decision, although his name is still unknown.
Spoiler: Fifth Decision
All the soap int he world can't clean my hands. All the soap in the world can't clean my conscience. No matter how many times I wash, I can't forget.
Several days had already passed and that mantra never left my mind. All the soap in the world can't buy me forgiveness. I wash my hands over and over, but it's still there.
I thought I had lost everything already. I thought there was nothing left. I couldn't control myself. I couldn't control my powers. As I slept, I shapechanged. As I slept, I had nightmares. Is I slept, I cried out. When I woke, there was blood. He was dead. I was alone. If I were anyone else, this wouldn't have happened. All the soap in the world can't clean my hands.
I thought I had lost everything already. I thought there was nothing left. It was cold, even moreso in our makeshift hovel. It could barely keep the snow out. The wind blew, and I didn't have the strength to move. The snow fell, and I was too weak to speak. The cold set in, and I wasn't strong enough. Our newborn died from exposure. If I were anyone else, this wouldn't have happened. All the soap in the world can't clean my conscience.
I thought I had lost everything already. I thought there was nothing left. We were on the run, looking for shelter. There was nothing to eat. Even though I hunted and searched, I couldn't find anything in time. I wasn't fast enough. I didn't search long enough. I couldn't throw far enough. Our son starved. If I were anyone else, this wouldn't have happened. No matter how many times I wash, I can't forget.
I thought I had lost everything already. I thought there was nothing left. We were chased from place to place, persecuted. Places to flee were running out. I was tired. I was exhausted. I didn't stay up to stand watch. I chose to sleep. I didn't get up fast enough to get everyone out. The house caught fire, and our daughter didn't get out fast enough. I failed her. If I were anyone else, this wouldn't have happened. All the soap in the world can't buy me forgiveness.
I thought I had lost everything. I thought there was nothing left. Our revolution failed. I wasn't brave enough. I hesitated. I didn't want to repeat my past. I thought I could do it all.I thought they would be safe if I went out alone. I thought they would be fine if I left them behind. I thought my powers were strong enough.
They were not. If I were anyone else, this wouldn't have happened. All the soap in the world can't change who I am.
I lost everything. There was nothing left to lose. It has all been taking. I would do anything. Make sure it would never happen again. I'll start a war. I'll turn everyone against another. I'll deceive, trick, lead, and assassinate. I'll whisper lies into ears and give away secrets. Infiltrate. Fight. Betray. The more dangerous, the better. High risk? I'll do it.
I have nothing left to lose. I have nothing left to gain. I have a vengeance that needs to be filled. I thirst for blood.
The Sixth Decision is the reason why she came to the Nexus and joined AMEN. It takes place moments before coming to the Nexus. More than a large decision, it's a reflection on her life - on who she was, who she wanted to be, and who she has become.
Spoiler: Sixth Decision
I can't do it anymore. I'm not one of the "good guys" and I can never be one. It's not in my nature. I've been struggling to be a hero, to be a savior, to be someone else. I can't. It's just not who I am. It's not who I was born to be. It's not who I'll ever be.
I've tried to give up who I've become. It's impossible. Looking back at my life, I've noticed that I've become more and more like my mother. Even though I've tasted the light - seen it, touched it - it was never mine to begin with. I've been trying to be a good person. Over the past two years, I went on missions to help. I've helped defend the weak. I've used my sword to attack the wicked. In the end, though, I always go back to my old ways. Beneath this fašade of righteousness, I'm really and truly a terrible person.
My whole life was a lie. I've been lying to myself. I stole to get my first sword - my "father"'s sword. I know he's not my father now. I lied and deceived to become a knight. I betrayed and abandoned those who trusted in me. I was too weak and foolish for those who needed me. As much as I hate it, I have no control over who I am. My friends - if they can be called that - only want to be with me when I'm doing good. When I needed them, they abandoned me. When I needed strength, they let me be who I actually am. My family wants me back with them - but, to do that, I need to give up this fašade of a life I've been living. I don't want to. If I could, I would abandon every last memory of my mother, the Witch Queen, the Eternal Queen. But I can't. Every time I look in the mirror, I see her.
I lost my father's sword and my new sword hates me. All I have left of him is his old, worn scabbard. In his memory, I'll throw away my own last name - my mother's name - and take his. Rather than Martinez, I'll be called Zorzo. I'll throw away who I've become - the Obsidian Butterfly, a knight - an assassin - and just be myself.
I can't be anything other than myself. I can't be good. I can't be the hero. I can't be a knight.
I can only be who I am - a villain - and that's who I'll be.
The Final Decision hasn't happened yet, and may never happen. That is why it isn't written yet. With the Nexus, anything can happen. Harley can be redeemed. She can die a hero. She can remain a villain. She can become worse. She can become better.
Spoiler: Final Decision
Destiny does not dictate our decisions.