Chapter 18 of my serialized novel Golden Threads can be found here, or read the whole novel to date by clicking on the book title. Laura, David, and Matthew are beginning to integrate into their new world. It’s a comfortable place, with a level of material security they’ve never before experienced, kind guardian witches to teach them, and new friends. But are they safe from the dark forces which gather against them?
One of the premises of this adventure story is that there are power-hungry forces allayed against the rest of the world, and that a witch can turn from a regular person, with all of a human being’s foibles, to one who practices dark magic in order to gain power. Laura and David’s uncle Thomas is one such witch. In order to become Lord of the Manor, he accused his brother and sister-in-law of being witches, and had them taken into custody in a manner which prevented them from using their powers to escape. The church did the rest, burning them at the stake.
In Thomas’ case, he did not start out evil, but his desire for power, and perhaps his frustration at being the younger brother of the heir, led him to point his finger at his older brother, and have him swept out of the way. But, once that choice had been made, there was no turning around. Those evil emotions poisoned his soul, so that the desire for more power, and the fear of losing out to others, rule him. With this point of view already, his growing anger at his niece (and others) causes him to do some awful things.
But is Thomas completely lost, or does he have shades of gray? In melodrama, there are true villains, characters so evil that it’s almost difficult to imagine real-life people thinking, feeling, and acting that way. Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale from the Bullwinkle cartoons are perfect examples. In many horror stories, there are evil beings who attempt to destroy the world as we know it. People like that apparently do exist. Think of serial killers. Or, those with personality disorders. I once met a woman whose ex-husband was a psychopath. He’d murdered three people for very little reason. He, she claimed, was truly evil, the worst of the worst, whose every word was calculated to serve what he perceived as his own best interests: he could be the most charming person you ever met, so nice that you were sure he was your best friend, then turn around and torture you without blinking an eye.
One-sided characters don’t usually make for the most interesting fiction. Shouldn’t even our villains have a weak streak – some humanizing traits? Perhaps Thomas loves his children, or he comes to his senses when he realizes his niece and nephew’s importance. Since I’m writing only a few chapters ahead of the current story, even I don’t know yet what his breaking point will turn out to be.
- Jezebel and Jezzie (briandtaylorplays.wordpress.com)