martyn44 (author of The Good and Faithful Servant, in The Phantom Queen Awakes) writes:
When I saw Mark & Amanda requesting submissions for ‘The Phantom Queen Awakes’, I immediately did a little research on the Phantom Queen (ie, I googled ‘Morrigan’). Now that is an interesting lady, a portmanteau goddess as so many of the old ones of these islands are, a prototype of the love you to death, vagina dentate fantasies so beloved of the upper classes of yore. Only I try to write about people, characters, not gods or anthropomorphised forces of nature. Furthermore, I’m a republican whose study of our history shows that kings are simply the most rapacious thieves and ruthless murderers in town, and there’s never been a problem with aristocrats that couldn’t be solved with a lamp post and a length of piano wire. ‘La gloire’, the most disgusting fantasy of all.
Not a promising start, then. But then a character entered, an honourable man who believed what I do not believe, the good and faithful servant who was prepared to sacrifice even his life for what he believed was a higher good. Not a sycophant, not a courtier, but an experienced warrior who knew when to speak and when to draw his sword; a grizzled, grey bearded veteran who watched the new king approaching and even though he didn’t like what he saw went on doing his duty because that’s what men like him do. In the end, he came to realise that the wheels turning within wheels grind very fine indeed and that when it comes to a king choosing between his own interest and that of his best and most faithful servant, there is no choice at all. The story is not about those wheels, but about him and his realisation.
As I write this commentary, I see all sorts of contemporary resonances that didn’t cross my conscious mind as I wrote and rewrote the story. The story is simply about a good man, an honourable man and how he survives in a world where everything is deceit and leading, smoke and mirrors. He’s a man I’d like to sit and talk with. We might not agree about very much (anything at all?) because of the gulf of years between us. Whether or not the setting is historically correct, I don’t know, although I believe it is effective if the light is from the right direction. We only have the most tantalizing glimpses of how our ancestors lived, but those glimpses are enough to show they weren’t so very different to us.
So, that is where the Phantom Queen took me. Thank you, lady. That shirt isn’t mine, is it?