Today in a series of replies to FAQ (frequently asked questions) sent to me by fans (and sometimes not so much), I answer the question: “Who is Marsha in “Dead Beckoning”, and what part does she she play in relation to the character of Blachart?“
In “Dead Beckoning“, readers get to see a different, softer side to the character of Blachart – whom they first met two books earlier (in “Blachart“) – and who turns out to be only Human after all. In this story, I set out to explore the depths of Blachart’s character, and in doing so, I had to create the feelings prevalent in a romantic relationship – an actual attachment between the man so deservingly nicknamed ‘the Bloody’ – and someone who is special to him – and why the reader should care. As you can expect, that wasn’t easy!
To answer that question, you should first have a fair idea of who Blachart himself is.
A Little Background
Blachart the Bloody, as he’s first named in “Blachart” (book 1 of the Galaxii Series) is introduced as one of the most ruthless, frightening space pirates who ever breathed – and his presence in that first book is justified as a tenacious villain, and a worthy adversary for the main character of that book, Mykl d’Angelo.
In the course of that first book, Blachart undergoes a metamorphosis – suddenly all that familiar power and the trappings of his life as a Corsair are snatched away by circumstance, and he’s offered a choice by his Terran captors – one which essentially comes down to “Help us, or die!” But Blachart – whose real name is a closely-guarded personal secret, and probably isn’t ‘Walter Turlington‘ either – is a pretty adaptable and extraordinary person who manages to surf out his existential crisis rather well. He assists the Terrans in exchange for a full pardon.
If you haven’t read the book yet, you may wonder why the Terran Empire would offer a captured Corsair or space pirate of such dangerous ill repute and infamy, a pardon at all – let alone to ask him for help!
The answer to that mystery, in brief, lies in the nature of the pirate threat against the Terrans themselves. For a century, the black ships of the Corsairs had raided and plundered smaller, under-defended colonies and outposts, and preyed upon traders, freighters and loderunners traveling the space lanes in the outblack; and once sated, they returned home to a planet they called Meradinis – the Turtle Island of the stars… only thing is, nobody but Corsairs knew where Meradinis was – and without knowing where to strike, the Terrans were really powerless to do much to end the Corsair’s reign of terror. It’s really a pretty big universe, after all.
Enter Blachart the Bloody – at the time of his capture, he’s very well-known as a Corsair; Terran parents even threaten their kids to eat their veggies or Blachart the Bloody would get them! As the Captain of his own raider, Blachart not only knows the location of the Corsair’s base, he’s also intimately familiar with any hidden defenses or booby traps laid out along the way there. The Terrans have had a century of Corsair shenanigans, and they’ve had enough! For years and years, they’ve been literally dying to send a squadron of warships to put an end to the Corsair menace, once and for all!
A lot hinges on getting Blachart to agree to their terms – hence the generous extent of the pardon.
The Redemption of Blachart the Bloody
Not only does Blachart surprisingly agree to the terms of the arrangement that will guarantee him a pardon for all his crimes, but over time, a sort of friendship forms between him and the Terran Captain – Mykl d’Angelo – who leads the initial expedition to Meradinis to scout the place out before the Space Fleet goes in with the big ships to blow the bejesus out of it. In fact, Blachart – a man they both feared and hated – is the one who saves all their lives.
In the course of the book, the character of Blachart changes from being a villain or ‘one of the bad guys’, to gradually someone the reader grows to understand, and perhaps even to like. After all,
doesn’t everyone don’t some people deserve a second chance at life?
Once their part is done, Blachart receives his pardon and sets off to rediscover his true self – which is his current chief activity at the start of book 3, “Dead Beckoning” (Book 2, “Demonspawn” has an entirely different set of characters, which do not relate to this part of the story – at least until much later).
At the start of “Dead Beckoning“, the Black Fleet has been destroyed, and Meradinis has been successfully captured by the Terran fleet and has been under Terran control for months.
As far as the Terrans are concerned, the Corsair scourge they’ve lived in fear of for a century, is over. For Blachart, life is both easier – and harder. He has his freedom and his pardon, but he’s alone and lonely. A price has been put on Blachart’s head by his former comrades in black.
Blachart – currently going by the name of ‘Adam’ – finds himself fighting off would-be Corsair assassins working to track him down to earn the bounty put out on him by the leader of the new Corsair faction, an old comrade called Kilroy.
Having to dodge hit-men and crude killers who think just because they’re good enough to find him, they’re good enough to take him, is not only annoying to Blachart, it also places the life of his new love – a girl who seems to have ‘a few extras the other girls didn’t leave the factory with’ – at an unacceptable level of risk.
Enter Marsha, Stage Left
Marsha is a girl who came to the fringe to make a fresh start, and to get away from her former male past. Life on the fringe is definitely not what she expected, and for her – having met someone she can finally feel safe and open with is a relief met with the counter-weight of risk to her safety by whatever it is her love interest ’Adam’ has got himself into.
She owns and runs a small saloon at the spaceport on Caries – a small and barely established new Terran outpost. The town is very ramshackle, frontier-sy and quaint. Due to the terraforming process – which is still ongoing, there is a lot of mud, and so the dirt streets are lined with wooden boardwalks and the whole thing comes across as the set for a kind of spaghetti Western.
Marsha has had a rough life – she’s transgender, and as a result, has had difficulty in finding accepting, loving romantic partners. She’s been in abusive one-sided relationships – and that’s part of why she’s moved away from the bright lights of ‘civilization’ to the outblack, to start over in the quiet. Here she hoped to meet the right guy – and it’s where she met Adam.
Marsha is a loyal person, and she’s willing to pledge her loyalty to Adam, but there’s so much about him that she realizes she doesn’t know – and she’s not an idiot – she realizes he doesn’t want to tell her. And yet there’s still a magnetism between them, an undeniable appeal that’s ensured she hasn’t already sent him on his way… Nor he her. For Marsha, it’s not about wealth or power – or any of those superficial things – what matters to her is honesty and certainty. She wants to know where she stands with the one she loves – and who that person really is.
Marsha is someone who Adam fears sharing his background and past with, on account of it being so ugly and filled with horror that he thinks she will leave him if he does so. Can a bad man turn over a new leaf and become good? He didn’t know – but he had to hope. Marsha is patient with Adam and his internalized wrangling, after all, she understands only too well that hardships can be mental and spiritual as well as physical. So they play a ‘name game’ every day, in which they both adopt different names and pretend they’ve never met before. At least, until the weight of reality intrudes in the form of a black ship that lands on the muddy ground at the spaceport. Shortly after, another pair of assassins enters the saloon and call him out…. and he’s forced to put them down in front of witnesses, including her. The fact that he kills them in a matter of seconds with his bare hands doesn’t really help their relationship move forward.
At this point in the story, Fate intervenes… that is, if Mykl d’Angelo – captain of the starship Antares – had a sideline job and a penchant for pseudonyms…
The Space Fleet has just learned that a Corsair splinter group that escaped during the capture of Meradinis has started to form a ‘new Meradinis’ – which means that the Terrans would soon face the same old threat of perpetual raids by space pirates all over again! This is obviously unacceptable, and the Antares and another ship, the Mordrake have been tasked to seek out this new Corsair base and to kill or capture its new leader – Sona Kilroy. Mykl knows he has no hold on Blachart, but he asks him for his help in tracking this man down anyway.
Adam feels he has a lot of bad mojo to make up for, and considering how his presence is endangering the one he loves, he agrees to help Mykl as a consultant aboard the Antares.
In the context of the story, Marsha represents Adam’s motivation to get through the trials that lie ahead. She’s someone to return to when it’s all over. She represents the challenge: what would you do to earn the right to come back to the one you love? What would you do to make yourself worthy of a future with that person?
Adam was determined to find a worthy answer to that challenge, no matter how hard or deep he had to dig to find it – or what part of himself he had to sacrifice.
Where can you get “Dead Beckoning“?
For South African readers, Kobo lists all available titles in South African currency!
I hope this answers this question to your satisfaction!
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All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2019.