Welcome to the first issue of Harrier Publishing's new sword & sorcery" comic -
BARBARIENNE. It all started when Nick Neocleous approached me at a convention in London, expressing an interest in drawing something for Harrier. Now, Nick has been active as an illustrator for a number of years in Britain, and what he has become best known for is drawings of women -- preferably lissom & lightly-clad. Under this influence, I rather speedily wrote the script for this issue's story. At that time, I was thinking of it as a "one-off" tale...but when it was done, I began to think that the characters ought to be allowed to continue their adventures. This idea was much reinforced when I saw Nick's pages, of course.
Partly for general interest, and partly because the relationship between the two main characters was misinterpreted by a few people who read the story at the photocopy stage, here are the background biographical details we have worked out for Charol and Memree. Be advised that we reveal some things you might rather discover first in the course of reading this issue's story - so, if you haven't yet investigated page three and onwards, now is a good time so to do!
CHAROL is an adventurer, a mercenary. She's in her early twenties, by the way we reckon age. Her parents, now dead, used to live in this city, but now she's just a visitor, back after her part in a mercenary campaign down by the coast.
Charol is impulsive, and reckless. She can be thoughtless, and is definitely the centre of her own universe; if it is easier to kill a guard than to tie him up, she won't worry if somebody slips in the pool of blood that results, and will have forgotten the incident as soon as she's cleaned her sword. Her approach to relationships can be similar; while she has had no problems in getting lovers, the men don't tend to stay around long,
On the other hand, confront her with a bird with a broken wing, or a tearful lost child, and she's as soft as putty. Only with something (or someone) nonthreatening does she feel able to relax, to let the facade of the mercenary drop for a moment. She may know a number of people, as our story opens, but the only person she would call a true friend is Kormenor, who is old, and blind, and can remember her as a youngster.
When you ride with a mercenary band as a fighter. and you're a woman, you have to be very careful to be perceived by your companions as a fighter, as hard as the rest - or they can think of you as a female. And to a mercenary, females are part of the reward for winning a battle. Charol became a capable and experienced mercenary, and, in self-defence, picked up many of a mercenary's traits. This has led to a rather ambiguous attitude to other women. though without any real sexual attraction.
From her past, Charol has gained many acquaintances, and a few enemies. The one responsible for the scars she bears on her back is somebody she'd kill with great relish and slowly, should their paths ever cross.
As a fighter, Charol is an expert with throwing knives and sharp-edged throwing stars, and also an accomplished swordswoman. Strong and highly motivated to be successful, and seen to be successful, she is a formidable opponent who will fight and kill without mercy. She should never be underestimated.
"MEMREE" was a kitchen-drudge in the city's castle, before on a whim she was chosen to be the subject of a magical experiment. Of very low intelligence, she was given only the simplest tasks, paid no money, and often given only part of the official food ration. The second chef fancied himself her "protector", and the kitchen-master made sure that she was not badly abused; she was cheerful, usually, and treated as a kind of mascot by the kitchen staff.
A "memree", incidentally, is a kind of imaginary companion - the sort that your young child might pretend to play with, and blame for any minor misdemeanours.
The result of the experiment was to boost her intelligence up to a normal level---and wipe her memory entirely. It is not known if this was the result that the experimenter had expected, or that the death of the experiment's other subject had been planned. But "Memree" was thrown into a dungeon before she'd even regained consciousness - beyond darkness and the discomfort of her restraints, her first memories are of Charol opening the door and untying her.
To Memree. this makes Charol mother, big sister. and every hero in shining armour you have ever heard of, rolled up into one person. Charol is the only person she knows; even when she is told of her previous life in the kitchens of the castle, she has no desire to visit her old co-workers. She wants to stay with Charol; Charol has her highest loyalty, and can do no wrong. If staying with Charol means pretending to be her slave or her bedwarmer when in public, that is an unimportant detail.
This makes Memree highly dependent on Charol - and Memree's comparative helplessness appeals to Charol's ego, though as time goes by we'll find that Memree is as likely to save Charol, despite her lack of combat ability and ignorance of the ways of their world, as Charol is likely to save them both. However, with Memree pretending to be a toy-slave, she will tend to get treated as such - even, to a certain extent, by Charol herself, if she doesn't think about it---hence the '.punishment" on page 15 of this issue.
Neither Charol nor Memree give any thought to becoming bed-mates, except for warmth in deepest winter; it never even occurs to them, though Charol is glad to boost her "image" as a warrior by having a "slave-girl" companion.
So, that's it. This issue sees the two main characters meet; in BARBARIENNE #2
they go off on their first mission, with the catchy title "Captives of the Churmuk." In the meantime, we look forward to your letters, which should be sent to the
Harrier Publishing address. And we need a decent title for this letters column. But next time, Charol takes over the narration - and Memree actually gets to speak. Don't miss it!