Fitzroy Angursell is one of my core characters–he and Raphael are the two whose stories I come back to again and again. Fitzroy is by far the more flamboyant of the two: a folk hero beloved for his daring, his dash, and his general brilliance. He is a tremendous amount of fun to write about; I hope readers will find him as delightful to read.
Fitzroy is a mage and a poet, a decent musician, the heart of the Red Company. He tends to have strange and wonderful ideas, and unlike most people has the wit and energy to pull them off. He possesses very few inhibitions indeed. His background is mysterious–he never tells anyone more than what is contained in The Tower at the Edge of the World–and he disappears as mysteriously as he arrived into Damian Raskae’s life. In the stories of the Red Company he is said to have had an affair with the Moon.
I have been wanting to tell the story of the return of Fitzroy Angursell for years. It will be years before I get to it, as I decided a couple of years ago that I wanted to write the adventures of the Red Company first. They happen in the last final flowering of the Empire of Astandalas–the Return takes place some time after. I spend a lot of time spinning through possible stories of what each member of the Red Company might be doing, before, during, and after their heyday as folk heroes and outlaws on five worlds. (I’ll write more about the Red Company under R.)
As I said, you can read the introduction of Fitzroy in The Tower at the Edge of the World. Here’s an unpublished snippet of what happens shortly afterwards, when he meets Damian Raskae for the first time.
The Coming of Fitzroy
Damian Raskae was rowing across the Greenwater Arm of the River Whitefeather when something fell out of the sky and landed on top of him.
He was not surprised. He knew the fates were against him today.
The thing came enveloped in a stupendous quantity of cloth. Damian tried to keep hold of his oars while simultaneously disentangling himself from the suffocating weight, an effort made more difficult by it starting to writhe. They were both nearly overboard when Damian, now quite hot and somewhat flabbergasted, was at last able to sit back, steady the boat a little, and see what had accosted him.
Facing him over a sea of sky-blue velvet was a young man of about his own age or a bit younger. He had very dark skin and tawny, almost golden, eyes, and was grinning so merrily Damian reluctantly smiled back.
It had been a slow week, and Damian had been reading Voonran romances to practice his languages in between brief moments fulfilling his duties as a bouncer at the Rose and Phoenix Inn. The strange young man was so immediately foreign, and so obviously from the fabled Empire of Astandalas, and so utterly magical in his mode of arrival, that Damian formulated his first words in careful and somewhat literary Shaian.
“Who in all the nine worlds and the lands beyond are you?”
The stranger lifted his eyebrows conspiratorially, which he thought (fairly accurately, if slightly optimistically) made him look intriguing, and happily followed the lead in linguistic register. “Would you perchance believe me if I were to say I were the Prince of the White Forest, come down from the high places to test hospitality and good humour?”
“Is that a god?” Damian asked; he was hazy on imperial beliefs. “I doubt that you would say, if you were.”
The stranger laughed gleefully. “Perchance a scion of the Sun-in-Glory – no?”
Damian had no idea what that even meant, but he was pretty sure it was not a title anyone could actually lay claim to. “No.”
“Peradventure a lover of the Moon …”
Damian realized he was drifting back across the current towards the cityside bank. He hastily put the oars back in the water and started to row again. He tried to remember where he’d been in his count, but the abrupt change in course caused by the precipitously arrived stranger had meant his crossing was far from the straight line he’d been aiming at. He snorted in aggravation. “Peradventure drunk.”
“Only on life, fair stranger, only on life. You may call me Fitzroy.”
Damian waited but there was no surname, patronymic, house, location, title, or occupation to follow this. He did not reflect on his ignorance of Astandalan culture; he merely thought it strange. He also added it to the tally of things suggesting that the stranger was drunk on something fearsomely effective and probably magical, before midmorning as it was. But then it could have been any time at all wherever his visitor was from.
On that thought he recalled his manners, and nodded courteously – though he did give his unwieldy full name in half-deliberate condescension. “I am Damian Raskalaúrien Inelusakkaar.”
The stranger – Fitzroy – watched him scull with evident fascination. He stared with such constant attention, in fact, that Damian (who spent his mornings running around the city, to the amusement and opportunistic tourism of his fellow citizens) felt obliged to say something further. “Where did you come from, ah, Fitzroy?”
“Oh … a tower at the end of the world.” Fitzroy looked at him, seemed abruptly to realize something. “Is this the Lands Beyond? Will you require a wish or a dream or the colour of my hair in exchange for passage?”
Damian was wrong-footed by theis question, which sounded even more out of a book than his own. Not to mention Fitzroy was completely bald. He rowed for a few moments. Finally he said, “This is a land beyond the bounds of the Empire, I suppose, but nothing special.”
Fitzroy looked around in puzzlement. They were in a broad body of water, over half a mile in width, which moved with a powerful if somewhat lazy current in an arc around what he later learned was the city of Ixsaa on its way into the Delta and the eventual mouths of the River Whitefeather on the Central Sea. The Greenwater Arm was a rich milky green in colour, which hid the abundant aquatic life and much of the surface greenery, though mats of late-blooming white waterlilies were in evidence closer to the bank. Damian had been not quite halfway across when Fitzroy fell out of the sky, and the period of drifting had taken them some five or six hundred yards further downstream, into a portion covered with yellow water kingsfoil.
The sky above was a bright grey, nearly silvery in places, fading to a rich blue haze in the distances as the land piled up into low hills on its way to the Mountains of the Sun. A freshening wind bustled around them as the boat rocked gently across the eddies. A few gulls wheeled over another boat off to the south, and a low-flying bird shot across their bow in a flash of black and white and orange.
Fitzroy turned his gaze more closely on the boatsman. Damian Raskalaúrien (euphonious name! he thought, pleased it sounded so fantastical) was a confident-looking young man with fair skin and golden hair. He had strong eyebrows pulled down in concentration as he rowed. He was dressed in a black coat over a white shirt, with dark leggings and ankle-high leather shoes, and to Fitzroy’s delight had a sword belted on his hip. It had a complicated silver hilt full of flanges and curling metal like the drawings in the old commonplace books he had seen.
The boat itself was brightly painted inside in orange, white, and yellow, with little charms made of mirrors and tassels and glittering sequins running up and down the gunwales. Fitzroy contemplated the feel of magic in the air, which was utterly different from anything he’d come across before. The yellow flowers around them, with the green water where the oars dipped in and disturbed them, looked like heavy gold cloth.
“How is this not the Far Country?” he asked, having been taught to be logical. “You are a man of legendary fairness and nobility of mien, rowing across a river of jade, under a pearlescent sky, in a vessel of elegant lines and strange colours hung about with charms and wild magics. It is certainly not the Empire. You have stopped rowing, fair sir.”
Damian had dropped one of his oars in a great burst of laughter. He was generally a serious young man – earnest, he thought of himself, devoted to his craft – and knew people found him handsome – and yet – to be mistaken for a fairy –
“The river is muddy, the sky is cloudy, and I borrowed the boat from my neighbour the witch!”
“Oh,” said Fitzroy.
He looked up in time to see a bright circle as the sun passed behind a thinner patch of cloud. He blinked away from the brilliance, thinking that there was evidence Damian was speaking the truth – it was mentioned in all the books that the Sun and the Moon were not the same in Faerie as they were in the mortal worlds – and was just in time to see a falcon shoot down the wind behind Damian.
He laughed aloud. It did not take much to delight in what he saw. It wasn’t as if he’d been intending to go to the Kingdom between the worlds, anyhow. That wasn’t the point of his adventure – which was merely to have one. Someone leaves town – and a story starts.