*Author’s Note: This post contains spoilers for the ending of my novel, Immortality Awaits. The portions currently quoted are taken from the First Edition, but since the entire book has been rewritten, the examples will change to the updated text closer to the release date. I’ve just got to get it perfect first :).
The first image I ever had in my mind that made me want to write Immortality Awaits was that of a shadow, which eventually made its way into two shadows known as Varnio and Xandio.
I saw Xandio floating above a group of people, sticking to the ceiling with his long, tattered black robe swaying in a gentle breeze as various lightning flashes illuminated him.
I saw the image as though it was in a film, and the camera was on the ground pointed up.
I thought it was truly horrific, really, and it caught my attention enough that I had to write toward it.
Where did it come from?
Why was it chasing them?
What was it, besides a shadow?
We all have a side to us that we never want anyone to see.
The side that houses all of our bitter thoughts.
All of our negative emotions.
The “dark side” we often even deny of ourselves.
According to psychologist C.G. Jung, the shadow self mostly consists of the “primitive, negative, socially or religiously depreciated human emotions and impulses like sexual lust, power strivings, selfishness, greed, envy, anger or rage, and due to its unenlightened nature, completely obscured from consciousness.”
This, in its essence, represents Varnio and Xandio, who represent Donovan and Druin’s shadow selves in physical manifestation, posed as a challenge to each other.
In general feedback I’ve received from the First Edition, this idea gets a little muddled, but that’s also because I removed everything I had written about them (trying to fit it into the “correct” length), and intend to make it all make some more sense in the revise.
The theme around Immortality Awaits is the meaning of sacrifice. “With great war comes great sacrifice” was the mentality I had when I first started creating these characters.
It always seemed so easy to write Donovan’s presentation for the challenge, but Druin’s always posed a difficulty.
When I came across the term “shadow self” on one of my random psychological reads, it hit me that that was what Varnio and Xandio represented.
“What means the most to you, Donovan?” asked Xandio quietly.
“And are you as concerned with protecting your manhood as you are with protecting your friends?”
Donovan was smart enough not to snap back to that. He knew he should have been more obedient after he saw his friends tied up, but he thought they were bait, not dinner.
“Your biggest concern is the protection of your friends, is it not?” Xandio prodded.
“Yes,” said Donovan. His mouth dried out and his adrenaline pumped faster through his blood. “And if you lay one more hand on them I’ll slice you to bits slowly and make damn sure you feel every cut.”
“Touching. I’ll be sure to write that down in their eulogy.”
“What do you want?” he growled. His voice raised on its own as his anger started to surface. Perhaps it would be beneficial for Xandio to know about the unforgivable passion he struggled with, and remind him to have some respect.
“You must choose one of them to offer to me, Donovan,” said Xandio.
Donovan’s mouth dropped, and Kaylee, Cesion, and Gabrielle all shifted uncomfortably in their chains.
“What?” Donovan whispered as fear crept through him.
“That is your primary worry, is it not? Losing one of your friends? Not being able to protect all of them? Donovan, you cannot protect everybody. You cannot be at everyone’s side at all times. You cannot sacrifice everything of yourself only to please those around you. That is the lesson you must take from this challenge. Of the friends you love, who means the least?”
A burning resonation of stomach bile lined Donovan’s insides as the thought of sacrificing one of his friends broke him. Everything he had fought for up until this point was now being mocked. He fought with his friends over their protection. He spent all of his time worrying, all of his time strengthening himself with the hopes they would never have to die, and was now forced to watch one of them die. Murdered. On his command.
Xandio here represents Druin, but arrives as Donovan’s opposition.
Druin thinks he is the only one deserving of any magic, any elemental power, and any authority.
He does not care about anyone or anything but himself.
He loves it when people hate him.
He loves having enemies.
He doesn’t even know the meaning of love.
That, on the other hand, is Donovan’s biggest fear.
He never wants to fail.
He never wants to let anyone down.
Broken hearts hurt him more than anything.
He doesn’t enjoy all of the responsibilities given to him.
For Druin’s challenge:
“Xandio and I — Varnio, to keep you from wondering — were created by the Objects. We are reflections of you, of the reasons the Powers find you intriguing. I am everything you long to never be. The challenge we were meant to present to you is along the lines of what you see.” He motioned behind him to remind Druin of what he had done. “You were to pick one of your allies to sacrifice to me.”
She led the revolt behind his back. She made him fall in love with her, and abandoned him at his greatest time of need. He could never part with Aghamore, and Inebrian was a far better asset than her. It didn’t matter, either way. None of this mattered to him anymore. He wanted no part of this war any longer, and as far as he was concerned, he had no allies. Everyone had been against him since the moment of his conception.
Varnio laughed. It was a deep, vibrational laugh that sent chills down Druin’s spine. He could pretend like he wasn’t interested as much as he’d like, but Varnio still terrified him.
“I’m glad you said that, actually.”
Navidia’s eyes widened when Druin said her name, and her eyebrows raised fearfully as Varnio turned and took a step for her. He climbed a few of the steps on the staircase slowly before he climbed over the side and levitated toward Navidia. He elongated a finger and caressed the base of her neck. She winced and cried beneath the gag that shut her mouth before casting a look of both disgust and hurt to Druin.
“As I said,” Varnio continued, “you were to pick one of your allies. However, I have been observing you, Druin. Your lesson doesn’t lie within the sacrifices of others, as I initially thought. Your lesson lies within the sacrifices of yourself.”
Druin folded his arms indifferently, bored of Varnio’s unsavory antics. “What are you talking about?” he droned.
Varnio pulled his hand away from Navidia and floated back in front of Druin. The hood remained pulled, and Druin couldn’t shake the feeling everything he had ever feared lay underneath. Looking into the black hood was like looking into everything he had ever told himself wasn’t real. Everything he feared, everything he hated, everything he had never wanted to become.
A rotten, empty shell of nothingness.
Varnio here represents Donovan, who repeatedly sacrifices bits of himself (even though some are quite destructive), and always puts the needs of others first.
Druin, then, feels his deepest fears as he is faced with his version of the shadow self — the one that would require him to give up his authority and claim everyone else equal.
We hardly find out the resolution to Druin’s answer, but rest assured, that is first on the agenda for Tides of Darkness.
In the earlier drafts of Immortality Awaits, Varnio and Xandio had a much bigger role than they currently do.
One of the main complaints I used to have was that there were too many characters to follow, and they now only have the scenes where the challenges were presented.
They are what the phrase “never forget who the enemy” from the back of the cover centers around, and they are highly significant to the rest of the series.
As it stands, like I said, they still need a bit more sprucing up, but for the First and Second Editions, this is the representation of the shadow selves all of us must face.
Have you ever examined the darker sides of your characters? What did you find? Let me know in the comments!