[Spoiler alert, but by the time that book is published you will have forgotten.]
In volume eight of The Chronicles of Mídhris a devastating magical fire is unleashed. It spreads like the shock waves of an atomic blast and lays waste an immense territory. The flames are magenta and violet. Its southern spread is mostly stopped by rivers but at one point where the River Gethwick meanders about the castle at Hurnen the flames, which clearly have a will of their own, gather like a giant wave poised to crash across the river and destroy Hurnen and beyond.
A foreign monk who had arrived with merchants stands on the battlements with anxious watchers. Bystanders and even a few soldiers flee as the threat increases. The first draft of the tale, from about 1974, continues as follows:
"In clear, unwavering pure Old Mithron, which only he and the elements understood, he forbade the fire to touch Hurnen, since [H] was dead and he, Matija of Burnley and Dyrnmantle, was now master of the keep. The violet flames hung in the air, wavering, struggling to blast Hurnen from existence.
"'You shall not!' he cried out, and the fire withdrew, scattering crimson sparks in the air. Then it dimmed, grew small, and faded to embers on the far shore. The monk lowered his arms and turned to behold a courtyard full of kneeling villagers and of soldiers with swords drawn."
Evocative of Gandalf crying, "You shall not pass!" is it not? But it is my own.
Sir Matija, as he was known among the Isseni spies and Perrine merchants, is Matthew Roger Deveril from our own world, a California boy (of sorts) with bloodlines from all over Europe.
His great grandmère, shown in the lower right, was a wise woman to whom people turned for herbs and secret knowledge. The only thing that kept her from being denounced as a witch was her friendship with the village priest's mistress. She often went out at night and sometimes her daughter secretly followed. The little girl was enchanted by what she witnessed, though she did not understand it. Berthe would sing to the stars. She also sometimes found an unusual plant with star-shaped flowers.
Readers of Darkslayer will understand that Ian's family were not the only ones who had links between Earth and the planet of which Mídhris was but one region.
For all that, Matt was never viewed as something special. Yes, he was on the football team and rather handsome but he was just the good guy down the street. It was not fame or glamor or anything unusual that appealed to Gwyn Owens but rather his solidity. When her world was shaken he was always there for her. Yet he was called to Mídhris as surely as she was, lured or driven by the Stars, and in his long journey there he found unusual powers and inner resources within himself. And when it came time to defend the one he loved, he stood, alone, against the Great Devastation. For a brief while he became a mighty usjeva, a person of power. Who knows how the blood of star singers, penitentes, gypsies, and mystics combined in him and became potentiated by the forces of that magical other world? But happen it did, and was remembered in the arms granted to him: Per chevron Or et Vert du Roi, over all a Sword erect with a blade argent, pommel and haft Or, the blade surrounded by flames Gules. The field or gold and olive green borrowed the colors of his lady, Gwyn, fellow student at UCLA and Terran Margravine of Wolmsley through her Mithron genes. The sword that evokes cherubim guarding Eden speaks of his ability to establish an inviolable barrier.
We do not all get to be superheroes but we love them in our comic books and movies.
Matt acted out of a love that would dare anything to protect his beloved. Whether we turn into heroes in the eyes of the world or not, we all have something of this in us. Most parents strive mightily to protect their children from harm and equip them to survive (and thrive) in the world, even though we all know that no one can keep anyone perfectly safe from accidents and tragedies, large and small. But we try.
Matt came to mind when pondering the issue of standing up to defend what matters and who matters.
I have something of a mama bear in me when it comes to people I care about. You do not want to hurt them because I will want to hurt you. I may not act that out but I will want to. It is my knee-jerk response and it can be ferocious and mindless. On at least one occasion I even ran into the face of unknown danger to rescue a damsel in distress and she was only a neighbor. I gave no thought to it; I responded by instinct. In fact, I roared as I did so. I am also pretty good at being there for consolation and encouragement when friends and loved ones are discouraged or hurt.
When it comes time to stand up for myself, to defend myself, to be fierce on my own behalf: not so much. Slowly getting better at it. The challenge is that just as I might not hesitate to roar and rush in for someone else, it does not even occur to me that I can stand up and roar on my own behalf. An immense conscious effort is required for me to say, "No!"
Granted, I can be stubborn, self-indulgent, and passive aggressive. Those are hardly healthy ways of standing up for myself, of defining salutary balance and appropriate boundaries. Lots of work remains.
May we all find the hidden defender within ourselves when that is needed. We don't usually need a superhero but we do need the courage of love. Including love for ourselves.