I take my story titles quite seriously. Of the five for Riparia’s series, four are derived from the same scene in Bk1, Trust in the Forgotten. Where, though, does that one come from? It’s a product of the the novel’s plot, but also possesses a deeper meaning for Riparia, and for me.
*If you’ve suffered from trust issues, as I have, it’s for you to decide if this post could be a trigger. If not, then let my show you why Ontyre fantasy isn’t standard genre fantasy.
Typically, when asked about the premise for Bk1 my response avoids spoilers and goes something like this:
A nation entering its mechanical age is overthrown by sorcerers who ban magic (except their own, of course), rendering the country dystopian almost overnight.
For the novels, it’s fifty years later. Those who remember life before the overthrow are few. People struggle to survive while the Ministry of Magic spreads a fear of magic. Thus, people have forgotten magic’s benefits and technology’s promise.
Saving the nation, then, requires inspiring a vision of a brighter future magic could make possible.
Early in Bk1 Riparia notes the problem:
Somehow he knew how to stir her imagination via her ire. “Magic has been outlawed far longer than either of us has been alive, Paran. Trolley tracks are just something to trip over now.” She pointed at the closest inoperable gas fixture.
The plot for Bk1, then, is how a lowly, reclusive courier is swept into the effort to end a dystopia.
The deeper meaning could apply many characters, but the one who matters most is the protagonist, Riparia Dellbane.
Born sixteen years after the overthrow, her perspective is unique. Her father, though in hiding as a farmer, is also an inventor and master storyteller. Over her first six years, Little Riparia follows him around soaking up his stories.
Riparia is a dreamer in her own right. She passes hours on a massive rock along the Sentinel River where she wonders at the world.
The deeper source of Riparia’s possibilities, though, is her mother. Tarnabeth was a bright, gifted spirit whose teachings are lost to trauma in Riparia’s sixth year when tragedy begets tragedy and her child’s trust in adults is destroyed.
To protect herself, Riparia locks away her trust. As Bk1 opens the only one she truly trusts is her horse, Doppla. Early on, though, her lack of trust proves to be an ally time and again.
Riparia sprung in front of Doppla and brandished her blade. “Who are you?”
In the dark gray of too little light there was the crinkle of paper. “Is that your name?”
“I have no name until I’m comfortable with who you are.” Doppla snorted. “He won’t hurt you, girl.”
He chuckled for a second and cleared his throat, his voice far deeper than he was tall. “Yup, you’re just as described. Woman with what he called a caution sense beyond what most normal folks possess. Sword. Satchel. Bay mare you’d die for.”
“And you still haven’t supplied me with a name.”
“Because I was told not to give it.”
Her childhood memories corrupted, Riparia clings to the dwindling spark that is hope while believing action is for someone else to do. Instead, she delivers messages, rides a lonely road, both figuratively and literally, and forgets.
Meanwhile, not trusting serves her well—until it doesn’t.
My original vision of Riparia, way back when, was that her reclusiveness came from a different source. Instead, at the moment she was teased for her caution sense her trust issues appeared, as did a theme, as did memories I was avoiding.
My child’s hope was convinced there was an adult I could trust. At fifteen, in desperation, I went to my guidance counselor believing the man would help me when there was no one else. Surely a man, a professional, hired to help students, could help me (in those days there was no counselor or social worker).
Summoning my crumbling trust, I explained just a few of the reasons each day at home was terrifying. Holding my breath, I waited, my growing hope believing I was about to be saved.
Instead, he told me I was exaggerating, misinterpreting, and basically, lying, though he didn’t say it outright. He then preceded to make matters worse. Much worse.
He told me to make another appointment for January, enjoy my Christmas break, and we’d meet again then. In January, he told me as the floor dropped away, he’d call my father in for the meeting so the misunderstanding could be straightened-out.
I left his office numb, a deep terror building inside. Who alerts an abuser that their victim is seeking help? When I reached the lobby, one of the receptionists looked up, smiled, and asked if I was supposed to schedule a follow-up appointment?
Shaking, I did my best to steady my voice. “No.” Little did I know my response saved me.
Regardless, I spent the following six weeks terrified the man would call my father anyway. My depression deepened. I waited for my bedroom door to burst open for a new reason. I wrote. I searched for a way out, but could find none.
Salvation, to a degree, came from an unexpected source. The following April, the day cold and my coat insufficient, I stepped into the street, miscalculated the traffic, and was hit by a car.
On the surface, Trust in the Forgotten is a typical fantasy in that it’s about a quest to save a nation. So, too, it’s Riparia’s search for trust and me trying to learn from her. She makes a lot of mistakes along the way.