In my middle-grade chapter book, The Right Hand of Velachaz, the twelve-year-old hero asks his companions a question that no one else seems to have considered…if dragons are intelligent, why not talk to them before attacking with sharp pointy things? Taking the time to do that winds up saving the day.
Similarly, in Mutiny on the Moonbeam, one of the most misunderstood characters in the story proves key to the final resolution because our heroine bothers to be kind to her. Who is this mysterious creature?
The spider Queen Mab.
Mab is seen, when we first meet her, to be a fearsome, untrustworthy menace good only for supplying the silk to mend the pirates’ sails. She is locked in a crate when not working so that she will not hurt Branwyn—though to be fair, the elves do like to keep people in cages—and considered to be dangerous and insane.
When Branwyn bothers to be kind to her, however, she finds companionship behind Mab’s behavior, and learns that there is intelligence and wisdom behind those multi-faceted eyes.
Johnny is shocked to find she can talk—but no one had ever bothered to ask before. And the story she tells is heartbreaking.
The spider is the last of her family on the ship. Her children were all taken from her—it’s enough to drive anyone mad! But when Bran, and then Johnny, actually listen to her, they find an entirely different creature than they had originally surmised.
This lesson of taking time to listen, of learning to accept and adapt to new circumstances is something I like to come back to time and again in my work. It is a lesson that serves all of us well.
From the moment I conceived the idea of Mutiny on the Moonbeam, I knew my pirates would be elves. This is not the usual profession for those enigmatic beings, and that’s part of the fun.
Aidrian is a bored aristocrat who wanted to go off and have adventures. While he could just as easily been a human lord, it seemed to me that adding the fey component gave me a lot to play with. The enmity between the elves and the fairies speaks to a common history that is outside the human realm.
There is a song by the Corsairs called Pirate’s Life that outlines a pirate code of conduct. This was one of my key references in creating Aidrian’s code. However, I picture the elves making some adjustments:
The Pirate Code (with Elven Amendments)
We accept no man as master, lord, or king. (or woman as Queen for that matter!)
We call no place home.
We take what we want. (Pate will take care of paying)
We speak truth in all things. (within moderation)
Captains drink rum(brandy); ale (wine) for the crew.
We live every day like it might be our last.
We allow every man an equal vote. (But the Captain has final say)
We allow no woman aboard the ship. (Except the fae, of course.)
We give Quarter when craved in time of Engagement.
He that may be Drunk in time of Engagement shall suffer what Punishment the Captain thinks fit.
The Captain and Quartermaster shall each receive two shares of a prize, the Master Gunner and Boatswain, one and one half shares, all other Officers one and one quarter, and private gentlemen of fortune one share each.
The bottom line is that the elves are mostly playing at piracy. They are not out to hurt anyone, though they might steal a cargo or two. But even that goes against the laws of the Elven Court, and this is what gets them in trouble.