But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hopes apart
And they turn your dream to shame
- "I Dreamed a Dream", Les Miserables
This fic was started when I was on a Susan Boyle kick ("I Dreamed a Dream" and "Wild Horses" in particular) sometime late last year; as such, one of the titles I was considering was "Voices Soft as Thunder" (the original working title was "One Year of Silence", but the fic soon outgrew that), except I already have that Eliot title ("What the Thunder Said") in mind for a mostly unrelated fic, and I wanted to keep the bird theme*.
* debated herons/egrets vs. storks for a while. It was ultimately the storks' muteness that won over my other considerations. coulda still worked it in better though. On a certain level I'm not sure this fic even made any sense AT ALL.
I don't know that Isadora is in the same position as Fantine in the book/musical -- nowhere near comparable actually, as I don't think Isadora considers her current life "hell", far from it in fact; I think "Wild Horses" is perhaps closer to where she is in this fic. But there is definitely some of that same regret and cynicism present.
To be honest, Isadora and Harken have never been favorite characters of mine. (LOL, what's new.) I thought Harken had an interesting backstory though shoddily executed compared to similar characters in the franchise (and to be honest his backstory was more interesting to me in terms of what it said about Elbert), and Isadora was fairly likable in her own supports if a bit bland, but together they came across as a couple with serious issues in their supports. Like whoa, where did all that melodrama* come from all of a sudden? Good grief!
* A lot of the angst surrounding the disappearance of Elbert and his men seems to hinge on the (faulty) assumption of instant communication. Gosh, they've been gone for a month. Big deal when it's gotta take more than a week just for a messenger to get from point A to point B... (No warp staffs in this verse!) I tried to work this out within reason, obviously. And yeah, I understand grief can be pretty irrational, but still... they're both knights, and presumably familiar with death, including that of people they care for. Anyway, Isadora overreacting is one thing, but Harken constantly trying to reframe the problem as being ALL ABOUT HIM is the worst of it, imo. Emotional manipulation ahoy, even if he's unconscious of it -- which I do believe he is.
What changed? Well, Serenes Forest posted up a complete set of paired endings, among them quite a few I had never seen before (I was previously relying on the incompleteness that is GameFAQs). Including the Legault/Isadora ending (I liked their supports, but didn't think they had one), and more importantly, a Renault/Isadora ending. To which I went, "Huh."
Renault simply vanished after the battle. Isadora, now alone, returned to Pherae as a member of the imperial guard. Years later, she entered the service of Elimine, hoping to find answers in the clergy.
I mean, what was this, the one single M/F ending that didn't have any romantic subtext to it whatsoever? XD
Anyway, from that moment, I was fascinated. I mean, I'd already been toying with the idea for a dysfunctional post-game Harken/Isadora fic where Harken's still sorta pining after Vaida and Isadora's still sorta pining for Legault and the marriage is not the happily ever after either one of them expected even though they still love each other, but. That, I think, was the moment I began to fully sympathize with Isadora as a character in her own right, a character unafraid to travel off the beaten path, unafraid of making her own decisions in a world where she has, well, very limited choices.
And you know, the more I thought about it... None of Isadora's paired endings are actually incompatible. She marries Harken, meets Legault ten years later as an enemy, and eventually joins the clergy. What an interesting journey that must be.
So I guess I wanted to write a story in which true love is not the answer, where justice and peace, lord and country, are not the right answers. Because for Isadora, evidently they weren't.
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Nemea, Harken's destroyed canton: In keeping with the ancient Greek city theme, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nemea. (Though who am I kidding, I'm about as consistent as the games are in terms of naming -- that is, not much at all. XD)
Anyway, I've always found it curious how this tidbit makes it into the story as just this weird offhand mention in the Marcus/Harken supports. You'd think there would be, you know, serious political repercussions...
My reasoning for the timing of this event in fic is to give Isadora time to "grow up" with Harken (she's 15ish when they first meet) and fall in love with him. Also, I'm pretty sure Lowen's anecdote about Harken saving his village from bandits, based on his wording, had to have happened after Harken's... rather dramatic defection to Pherae rather than before. (btw this particular support again seems to say something about Elbert...)
And most importantly, I had to time it to occur before the gathering of lords at Ostia in 970. Because I have to assume that THAT's why no one gives a damn about Harken's former canton by the time of the game -- it's already been more or less "taken care of" by then.
And perhaps provides some better motivation for Santaruz to side with Laus/Black Fang initially -- presumably all that territory gets (unofficially?) swallowed up by Pherae. Otherwise Santaruz is completely unexplained aside from some random references to Helman's "follower" personality and the even more random dislike of random Santaruz soldiers for meddling outsiders.
And yeah, Legault just likes to keep cameoing in everything. :P Like I said in my notes for "The Gray Men", once all the pieces are in place he'll start making sense...
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Brief characterization note: Isadora's not close to her family much at all. In fact, if you read carefully I think you can kind of tell who she cares for and respects (or at least, who matters to her), and who doesn't even register on her radar.
- - -
On faith -- yeah this is part of a newer thematic arc that started cropping up the more I delved into the universe of Elibe. Lucius in "Sunlight" was the first, of course. But Isadora and Renault's conversation about doubt has always struck me in particular. (Nimue and Jodel in FE6 are the other pair that fascinate me in terms of contradicting beliefs.) Elibe is really the only FE universe that openly addresses issues of faith in both games (well I don't know, Tellius might or something, but Magvel doesn't give much of a shit except maybe as a joke and Archanea/Jugdral have a pretty cynical take on the "divine"), and imo in the end suggests that each individual must search for their own personal truths.
And as I've mentioned elsewhere, in my 'verse, Eliminism is most widespread in its home country and to a lesser extent in Bern. (This is actually fairly canon, if I recall the scripts correctly.) This has political overtones and implications in both kingdoms, but in Lycia, which is by far the most heterogeneous of the various nations*, it plays more into a sort of cultural aspect. And the fluidity and ambiguity involved in that is something I like playing with.
* again, see Kent's remarks re: Mani Katti vs. the Badon sailors' (occasionally Elimine-related) superstition vs. Isadora/Eleanora's more "orthodox" belief (though Isadora notes that she's not the "most pious of souls") among other things.
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As for the seasonal thing and the time-jumping... well anyone who's followed my fic for a while has probably noticed that I am a sucker for seasonal crap. I readily admit that it's a device I fall into way too often. :P That and gardens. -_- In fact there's at least one other fic I've written in which I used this exact same combination of seasons + interweaving past and present (guess which oneeeee), though in this fic it's a bit more complex, mixing up multiple time periods within the same section. Oi, wtf self.
Hopefully I didn't lose anyone!
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Randomly, any readers out there who are familiar with FE3 -- between Abel and Harken, who do you think is the more fucked up? LOL.
More seriously, don't think they're all that comparable -- Abel I think is a flawed man who was faced with a difficult decision but nevertheless fully conscious of the repercussions of his choice; Harken, on the other hand, has always come across to me as a deeply damaged individual. (I frankly don't buy his speedy recovery in his Marcus/Lowen/Eliwood supports. At least, I think shifting his obsession from Elbert to Eliwood is only a temporary fix that doesn't really address his underlying issues. Maybe it's a problem with the translation, but it just doesn't convince me, anyway. Note also that Harken doesn't appear to be one of the candidates for Marcus's replacement in FE6, despite him and Lowen being the "obvious" possible successors in FE7. And it's not like outsider status is a factor since Lance, a former mercenary, is one of the candidates Marcus considers.)
Anyway, Marquess Nemea & his general were NOT very pleasant people... I was deliberately ambiguous on that front for various reasons (most notably Isadora's own deliberate refusal to find out) but I do wonder if the fic might not be more effective if I had hinted more at exactly what Harken had to undergo and the kinds of things he was forced to commit under their orders.
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Incoherent notes ftw!
Well, you did a good job. You addressed a lot of the issues the game really didn't, especially Harken.
Vaida's Harem. Oddly enough, the author claims it's an excuse to write smutty yuri, but there's actually quite a bit of plot, character and relationship development within...it does, however, use a few out-there kinks (no blood or scat, but still a few notches up on the meter) and splits up Pent/Louise. (But the author does it in a rather believable manner and keeps the love between them, it's more like "my work is gonna keep me busy, please make sure Louise doesn't get lonely") It's a good read, though!
I actually can imagine a happily ever after for them too, but like you said it would take a lot of work, and of course for that to happen there also needs to be some recognition of said issues as well as the willingness to confront them. Isadora's issues are perhaps easier to deal with, but you're definitely right about Harken needing help not just from Isadora but from everyone else around him as well. He's just got way too much to sort out.
*nod* Isadora, Eliwood, Eleanora, Marcus, Lowen...the man has quite a few people who believe in him, and they would pull out all the stops to remind him of this and make sure he doesn't sink into complete despair.
I do kind of like that idea, and it's actually similar to where I was ORIGINALLY planning to go with their storyline in this fic-verse... But that was before I learned about the Renault/Isadora ending. When I found out about that ending I just couldn't help it; I knew I had to use it because it's just such an unusual choice to see a character making in your typical fantasy video game. XD
Yeah, I was surprised at the Renault/Isadora supports myself, she seems to take such pride in being a knight but I never imagined she might have serious issues with having to kill people, enemy or not.
Renault is really the only other support of hers where Isadora seems to think she can be completely honest about her feelings. Sain and Legault's flirtations are a welcome distraction, Lowen and Marcus keep her mind on her duties to Pherae...with Harken she can unleash her fear and anger while with Renault she can confess her doubts.
As for Harken...all I can suggest is expanding on his backstory and Nemea.