I considered putting this at the end of the last chapter, but thought it was a little long. Please let me know if you think it should be there instead.
I reasoned that, after leaving you like that, you deserved some sort of an explanation as to why these now dead characters will continue to surface in my stories, whether directly or indirectly.
I began writing stories about the Undiscovered Island when I was eleven. I will quite likely not post any of those early ones on here because, since I was eleven, they're not the best writing in the world. (Actually, they're not even close.) The typical plotline went something like this: A kid is having a bad, generally boring, day. Then a mysterious but amusing old man named Peter comes along with some problem or other or some battle to fight or something. The kid goes with Peter to this island and the day gets even worse but is no longer quite so boring. The kid goes home. The kids, for some reason or another, all loved Peter. The parents, naturally, weren't so fond of him, to say the least.
Most of these kids didn't last any longer than a story or two. There was one named Samuel who stuck around for quite a while, but his parents started to get on my nerves, so, eventually, he, too, faded away.
Then there was Morgan. Morgan's story was similar to start out with, with two very important—eventually crucial—differences. First of all, her family, except for her sister, Avanwë, didn't know a thing about what was going on.
Second, Morgan was more like me than any character I'd ever written. She was quiet, detached, secretive, and quite content to remain that way. Peter provided her with the niche she needed to put that to good use. Out of necessity, she developed into an able liar and acquired a somewhat sarcastic sense of humor, the ability to see the irony of a situation, and to remain calm no matter how badly the world was falling into chaos all around her. All of this mirrored, in one way or another, changes that were taking place in my own life.
A little while after Morgan showed up, I heard somewhere—probably from an English teacher—that it wasn't a good idea to model a character after a real-life person. I took the comment way too seriously and, after the next story or so, Morgan was dead. My sister, who was the only person I actually shared my stories with, insisted that I bring her back because she was an interesting character. She wasn't one of those perfect little kids with a bad day that I'd taken to writing about. She had good and bad qualities. She was real.
So I brought the character back, said there had been some mistake and everybody had thought she was dead when she actually wasn't, (rather like what Michael Crichton did with Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park) and everything went on as usual.
My stories have gone through phases since then. I went through a rather amusing (or, at least, it seems amusing now) phase where I wrote a lot of FanFiction what-ifs that involved the Woodland Wanderers somehow being transported into various stories. A lot of my other—mostly shorter—stories were simply everyday things that happened to Morgan, and how her situation affected her thinking.
At some point in all this writing, I realized that this war is not going to go on forever. Eventually, something will happen, and things will come to a head. So I wrote a few stories where something happened to push things over the edge. Since Athos is the one clinging to the fantasy that they can win the war without death, typically what happened was that he was wounded during a battle and Angelica took over in his place, or, more drastically, there was a flat-out rebellion and he was overthrown.
This is, in my opinion, the best of those stories. There are two others that make reasonable sense, but the problem is that they take place mostly after everything has already happened. One centers around a priest who receives a late-night visit from Morgan, who has been fatally wounded during the Woodland Wanderers' last stand but somehow made it to the safety of the church in time to pass on their story. The second is about a girl—an acquaintance of Morgan's—who finds a letter that Morgan left and hid in the balcony of the church to be found in the event that she died or was missing. (She's missing during the course of the story, and then ends up dying.)
Typically, when I write something like this, two things happen. First of all, most—if not all—of the Woodland Wanderers end up dying. I suppose it's just their nature to go down fighting. Second, the survivors end up hiding out in Sherwood Forest, trying to devise the best way to continue to fight the Gleems.
But once I try to go beyond that, I run into problems, because, even though I've written these stories where everybody dies, I still continue to write about my characters' lives—Morgan's in particular—as if they're still alive. I'm not ready to think of them as dead yet, and, from the reactions I got to Peter's death in chapter eight—and my rather amusing lack of reviews for chapter nine—I don't think anyone else is, either.
So that is, briefly, the reason these characters will continue to appear in my stories, and also why characters will sometimes be older in those stories than in this one—quite an impossibility if I'm thinking of this as the end of the story. I prefer to think of it as one possible end, something that could happen, rather than something that has happened and is set in stone.
Part of that is just me being selfish. I want to keep writing about these characters because I enjoy them. They're an unbelievable amount of fun. There are some like Peter who are like old friends now, some like Athos who have developed into wonderfully complex characters, and some like Angelica who I still don't understand fully. I have no desire for my journey of understanding this world I've created to end any time soon.
So they will continue to surface in my stories. Sometimes, I may come right out and say that I'm talking about the Undiscovered Island and the Woodland Wanderers and flying monsters called Gleems. Other references are more subtle. So many of my first-person stories and poems are an inseparable combination of my thoughts and Morgan's. Shadows from the Southwest—true story, I might add—combines my thoughts with Morgan's in the way that they usually are combined inside my mind, a way that would scare everyone but a psychiatrist, who would be convinced that I have DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder, often confused with Schizophrenia).
In fact, if, in my stories, there's something left unsaid, some mystery hidden in the shadows, some ambiguity about events in the background of the story, chances are that it came from these stories. If I ever mention a southwestern wind and you're wondering why it matters at all in the story which direction the wind is coming from, well, now you know. If I'm complaining about how oblivious people are to what's going on around them, the frustration is as much Morgan's as it is mine. Between Earth and Sky is a complicated combination of ideas that only the person it's directed at—my sister—would fully understand.
Not to say that these folks show up everywhere. If you think you found something relating to the Woodland Wanderers in I Call You Friends or April Showers, you're over-analyzing. But it wouldn't be a stretch at all to say that there are Woodland-Wanderer-ish overtones in A Warrior's Choice or Because of You, or that there are a suspicious amount of flying-monster jokes in Just Call Me Dr. Jekyll. My characters are always there in the background, affecting my thoughts, bringing memories that aren't my own to mind when people discuss war or death or torture or whether it's ever morally justifiable to lie. I can't watch a Robin Hood movie without thinking of Sherwood Forest as Aramis' home. Whenever I hear the name Athos or Aramis in reference to The Three Musketeers, I perk up. Wayfaring Stranger has a special place in my heart, as do other spirituals that Peter's fond of, particularly Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.
So that is the very long explanation of why you shouldn't be surprised that I still write about Morgan and Peter and Eric and Athos and the Elves and the Gleems and the Undiscovered Island. Thank you so much for reading and reviewing; there are more people reading this than I had dared to hope for. Thank you for your feedback and your questions and your complaints—and your silence following chapter nine that let me know that I'd done what I set out to do. And, the next time a southwestern wind blows and you seem to hear a song floating through the breeze . . . remember us.