I’ve been mulling over where to go with this post for a couple of days. So many possibilities, so many angles, all of them leading around into the two topics that seem to induce the most controversy and hard feelings on the internet: politics and religion. So, before I jump in and start talking about Raahi I just want to say this. I write to explore the human experience. I do not write to advance any political or religious agenda. For those people who try to suss out what an author’s beliefs are from reading their books, I’ll save you the trouble and just say flat out, I’m a hard core moderate. As an author I spend most of my time inside the heads of characters with different view points. Therefore, when confronted with political controversy I see things from multiple points of view and so tend to agree with multiple sides. I think the world would be a better place if everyone treated everyone else with respect and kindness despite any differences in beliefs. For the record, I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but I do not base the religions of my epic fantasy worlds on my own religious beliefs. There, I’ve now said enough about my own true beliefs so that everyone on every side can be up in arms 😀 So, on to talking about Raahi.
***Spoiler Warning Dragonbound: Blue Dragon and Copper Dragon***
I mentioned in Part 3 that I very loosely based the Maran culture on imperial-age Britain and Darvat on Peruvian culture. In the Dragonbound world, Maran sees itself as the world’s sole superpower. With their democratic-republic form of government and all the bureaucracy that entails, the Maranies have formed the world’s largest army and navy. Seeing their culture as superior, they have set out to colonize and exploit the other countries of the world. This has often thrown in them into conflict with Varna, their closest neighbor. Maran has not yet succeeded in conquering Varna, because the Varnan’s when pressed, though they don’t have much professional military, are very good at mobilizing all the levels of their society into self-defense. What’s more, the Varnan dragon hunters are fierce fighters and just as fiercely independent. The Varnans, descendants of the humans who overthrew the Nagas at the fall of Stonefountain, would most likely fight down to the last man, woman, and child rather than surrender their freedom to the Maranies.
The only other continent to stand up to Maran is Kundiland. The Maranies would love nothing better than to colonize all of Kundiland, claiming it as their own. The Great dragons, however, particularly the Great Blue dragons have no intention of letting them succeed at that. The war between the Great Blue dragons and the Maran armies has been long and vicious. One wonders what the fate of the natives of Africa and North and South America in our world would have been if they would have had Great dragons to defend them against the world’s colonizing powers. The Great Blue dragons would accept no treaty, they would cede no land, they would give no quarter to the humans who try to colonize Kundiland. Thus Maran barely maintains the slimmest foothold on the continent.
Unfortunately Darvat does not have such avid defenders, and the Darvat people have always been peaceful. The original natives traveled to that land and settled there because they wanted to be in a place no one else wanted, so they could live quiet peaceful lives. In many ways Darvat is an inhospitable land. There is no substantial amount of flat space to farm, and the soil is rocky. Fortunately there is enough rainfall that terraces can be formed to farm small plots of land. Subsistence level food can be grown, but much of their food comes from herding and hunting. The cities are built out of stone on the shoulders of the mountains. The altitude is high, and the people have adapted to that height by being relatively short but having great lung capacity. Having settled into a land that no one else wanted at the time, the people felt relatively secure. They have almost no central government. Individual villages tend to govern themselves. There have been great fighters from time to time when villages have had skirmishes with each other, but over all the Darvaties are peaceful people and might have remained peaceful and independent for a much longer while if the Maranies had not heard tales of the great treasures that could be mined from the Darvat mountains. Iron ore for weapons, gold and silver, and precious stones. With the war in Kundiland sucking up resources, the Maranies needed what Darvat had, and why trade peacefully with indigenous people if you can conquer them almost without a fight and use them as forced labor in the mines while you strip the wealth from the mountains?
Raahi’s father was once a world-renown blacksmith, but at the start of the series he and all his people have been enslaved by the Maran armies led by General Samdrasen. Almost all of them have been put to work in the mines. Samdrasen has taken Raahi as his personal slave and carried him to Kundiland to continue the battle with the Great Blue dragons. Samdrasen is brutal and cruel to Raahi who submits to Samdrasen’s abuses without fuss or complaint. At the beginning of the series, Kanvar is also at the Maran Colony having indentured himself to a Maran soldier in trade for passage to Kundiland. Kanvar and Raahi become good friends as they both serve the Maranies. When Kanvar’s indenture is near its end and Kanvar intends to head off into the jungle in search of a Great Dragon to bond with, he promises Raahi that he (Kanvar) will become a famous and wealthy dragon hunter and buy Raahi’s freedom. Raahi doubts Kanvar will survive long in the jungle, but he wishes his friend the best anyway. Raahi does not know that Kanvar is really a Naga, and Kanvar does not know that Raahi has a secret of his own.
As a small child, Raahi was chosen as the guardian of his people’s most sacred place, the Hall of His Ancestors. Raahi’s people believe that the spirits of all the people who have gone before dwell within the mountain and are tied to the land. The spirits of the ancestors watch over the people, cause the crops to grow and their animals to flourish. No one is allowed to enter this sacred hall. In fact, the Darvatie’s believe that anyone who does will lose his soul. The long-time guardian of the Hall is a Naga named Karishi who is bound to a copper dragon. The Naga, knowing he will not live forever and looking to the future chooses Raahi as the person to pass on all the knowledge and power of the secrets of the Hall. As a child, Raahi’s body and soul are thus bound to the land and the ancestors that dwell in the Hall. He is tasked with being the human guardian to back up Karishi. But how can Raahi be a guardian when he himself is a slave? At the end of book 1, Kanvar does buy Raahi’s freedom, and Samdrasen uses that money to buy his advancement to control of the entire Maran army. Having gained complete control, Samdrasen returns to Darvat to make himself rich by siphoning funds from the mining company that is stripping Darvat of his wealth. In the process he uncovers the greatest treasure cache of all, the Hall of Raahi’s Ancestors, and takes Karishi and his dragon prisoner. The ancestors call out in anguish to Raahi to come save them.
Raahi has a long way to go from being an abused victim to saving the Hall of his Ancestors and becoming the victorious liberator of his people. It is a perilous journey and a seemingly impossible task, but Raahi has some confidence that he has the help of Kanvar and Kanvar’s grandfather, the Great Dragon Hunter, Kumar Raza. But as things turn out he becomes separated from Kanvar and Raza. Raahi has to fight General Samdrasen (a fully trained, fully armored and armed veteran military leader) alone. Well, not exactly alone. Raahi’s soul is connected to his ancestors and they have the ability to possess him and fight through him. The concept that the spirits of the dead can come back by possessing the living is first introduced in this pivotal battle. In this case the possession turns out to be a good thing and Samdrasen is defeated. Raahi still has to negotiate with the new supreme Maran general for the freedom of his people and the security of the Hall of the Ancestors, a delicate matter which Raahi’s quiet thoughtful personality is well suited for. By succeeding in the end, Raahi has had to face all his greatest fears and overcome the traumas of the abuses he’s lived through. Raahi is not a great fighter like Kanvar, but his calm unwavering courage makes him every bit as much a hero as Kanvar is.