Sunday, September 6, 2015

Character Spotlight: Orlando of Thessaly (Knight of the Blue Surcoat)

I am working through some posts on my upcoming novel, Knight of the Blue Surcoat (description here), and last month, I did a post about the protagonist, Melora. However, Melora isn't the only important character in the novel. In fact, there is a second main character, Prince Orlando of Thessaly, and it's time to introduce him to the blog. (All pictures are either in the public domain, or my own, and were inspirations for Orlando)
A Macedonian statue of Alexander the Great (link)

Who is Orlando?

Orlando is the third (and youngest) son of King Gustavus of Thessaly. Thessaly, of course, was a large region in the middle of Ancient and early Greece, and was known as Aeolia in the writings of Homer (and other early writers). It was famous as the home of "heroes" Jason and Achilles, and was renowned for its horses. Both of those facts actually come up in KotBS.

As the youngest son (or the spare*), Orlando has devoted much of his time to besting his brothers Jason and Heracles in every subject, in the hopes of getting Gustavus to acknowledge him. This has backfired, making his brothers despise and envy him. To escape his gloomy home, Orlando studies Greek, Latin, and history, and horse training. This has left him little time for socializing, and he has only one real friend, his manservant Hector. Of course, if you asked him, Orlando would say the stallion Pégosos was his best friend. Orlando raised Pégosos from a foal, and has trained him into one of the most spirited and excellent war horses in Thessaly.

Image Source
Image source
 Pégosos is said to be descended from Poseidon's horses (like Pegasus, his namesake), and I imagine him as a cross between the traditional Thessalian horse (left) and the White Friesian (right).

Orlando's Family:

Orlando's mother died when he was five, and like all children, he was devastated. His brothers and father mocked him for his easy emotions, and Orlando quickly learned to hide his feelings from them (though he finds it unnecessary and fatiguing).

Jason and Heracles are significantly older than Orlando, and model warrior princes. As such, they used Orlando as a whipping boy until the latter became skilled enough to defeat them. After years of incessant training in everything from hand-to-hand combat to javelin throwing, Orlando is a phenomenal soldier and warrior. His brothers, if possible, hate him even more than before.

Gustavus, as king of Thessaly with a healthy heir and second son, was indifferent to Orlando from the beginning. He views his easy-going youngest son as superfluous, and has little in common with him. Despite this, Orlando has always striven for his father's love and favor, even when Gustavus continues to ignore him.

Naturally, Orlando chafes under these conditions, and he decided to seek his fortune elsewhere. Word from Rome was that the British court was the place for a man to prove his mettle, and Orlando decides that he'd rather chance the cold northern shores than stay home any longer.

Orlando and Melora:

Fun loving and mischievous, but just a little arrogant, Orlando expects the Britains to be a pack of savage brutes. He is surprised to find them more welcoming to a man of his talents than anyone in Thessaly, and he becomes a bit of an overnight celebrity. 

The attention doesn't go to Orlando's head (it embarrasses him). Instead, Orlando is intrigued by the grim-faced Princess Melora, who observes silently and dislikes him from the beginning. He decides to befriend her, but his good intentions get misconstrued by Melora's serious suitors. The intense Sir Mador, in particular, seems offended by both Orlando's easy manner and careless skill.

I colored it :) However, thanks to my pesky scanner, it looks a lot better in real life.
The crayons and colored pencils (belonging to my little sister) didn't blend so well, but what can you do?

Orlando and Tournaments:

As a newcomer to Arthur's court, Orlando is expected to take part in any tournaments or competitions. This is partly so the others can watch his skill for sport, and partly so he can prove himself their equal. He came all the way to Britain trying to prove himself, so he's eager to compete against the legendary Knights of Arthur. Still, he isn't combative by nature, and he has zero desire to make enemies.

However, he can't stop other people from feeling threatened by him.
I don't even know . . .

A note on the names and setting:

The Knight of the Blue Surcoat is a novelization of a Irish-Arthurian ballad. All of the main characters' names come from this ballad and Arthurian lore, but I've basically anglicized them, or used a more standardized spelling. The Red Hall (my equivalent of Camelot) is in early medieval Wales, and the rest of the books locations are also based on real world, early medieval locales.

Footnotes:
*I keep referring to Orlando as "the spare," which isn't very nice of me. (Note: this is not an authorized definition). Basically, a spare is a royal back-up plan. If you lose the heir to battle or treachery, the next son can still take the throne and produce his own heir. A third son is even better, like a back-up for the back-up. And that's Orlando.