Music Magic: The Songs That Inspired War Witch (Part 4) – “Crying” Hunter Valentine

Music can be the driving inspiration behind many things, from social change, to an individual finding the strength to overcome hardship. For me, it has always been what helped me write. It’s what I use to find the heart of a story, help me construct a perfect scene, or get to the essence of a character.

In many ways, the music I listen to tends to be the soundtrack of whatever I’m writing. It ranges from pop to rap, country to heavy metal. The genre of the story is less important than the feel of the song, and how it inspires me.

This is something I’ve always believed, that music is a source of inspiration. Many folks think of fantasy, and they go straight to Enya, who is an amazing musician, but not necessarily the voice of the genre as a whole. For me, rock and roll has always been that.

Which is why so many of the songs I’ve shared already are from the rock genre. To me, nothing says fantasy like some good old fashioned rock. While I don’t have any AC/DC in this particular list, they are the kings of fantasy writing in my mind.

Seriously. Listen to Hell’s Bells and try to picture a Dwarven army marching to war.

You can see it, can’t you? I’ve never been able to see it any different from the first time it wandered into my head. I’ll get more into that some other time, though.

This week, I’m focusing on the last of the main cast from War Witch, the Werejaguar from another dimension, Esteban. Where I had to find Ramora’s voice, and Chara’s balance, with him, I needed to find his soul, and the place I saw it more clearly was right here.

Much as with Chara, Esteban is much easier to understand in how he relates to Rakiss, the rogue Ascended with plans of his own. Mostly because Rakiss is responsible for everything that happens to Esteban in the first book, and throughout the series.

First, let me explain a bit about why I refer to him as a Werejaguar from another dimension, a term coined by my friend and fellow writer, Matthew Catania. It has to do with the fact that Esteban is not from the same world as Ramora and Chara, but a Shadow Realm, a world that exists slightly out of focus with the Middle World.

This has to do with the mythology of the world setting. Way back, when Grannax, the Emperor of Heaven, separated the One World of Creation into three worlds, echoes of possibilities rose up, alternate worlds with different histories. Among the many that exist, there is one called the Savage Realm, where everyone is a Werefolk.

These aren’t lycanthropes, mind you. They aren’t people that turn into animals. They are hybrids, half animal and half, let’s say human for sake of argument. When you have Dwarves and Elves running around, saying human isn’t always clear, after all.

The Savage Realm, as it was named by Shadow Travelers, mostly Druids and Wizards, is a world where the Gods created mortals in their own image. They have a much more advanced grasp on magic, and have developed advanced technology based on that. Chara’s mystic handguns come from there, and that’s the just the beginning. Flying ships are a common fixture as well, as is a massive floating landmass, home to an entire nation.

Esteban was born in that world, but ended up in the Middle World after being found, lost and alone in the woods, by a Sorcerer named Imicot. When he couldn’t find the child’s parents, Imicot took him home and raised him as his own son. Over the next forty years, Esteban became a very intelligent and learned man, able to speak over a dozen languages, some long dead, and can decipher even mystically coded script.

I often refer to him as the smart one of the bunch, which isn’t really a joke, as of the three main cast members, he’s the one with the most advanced education. However, it’s all book smarts, and he has no real social skills, having lived his entire life in an isolated tower, with only Imicot for company.

As a result, Esteban is rather shy and awkward, not really sure what he wants out of life, and most certainly not a fighter. In combat situations, he relies on his natural fast regeneration very heavily, since he doesn’t possess much in the way of combat training. Of them all, he is the one who wants to be involved in all of this the least, and actively seeks a way to escape it whenever possible.

Rakiss comes into the picture at this point, however, as he has manipulated Esteban’s thoughts and aura to make him believe he is in love with Chara, and willing to follow her to the ends of the earth, and even to the gates of Hell if she asked it. Just why he’s done this isn’t made clear just yet, but where Chara is strong willed from a life of resisting the expectations of tradition, Esteban is not, and never questions the false feelings he’s been given.

This adds a layer of the tragic to him, as he is unaware that his choices are not really his own, but the desires of another. The worst part, for Esteban anyway, is when he wants one thing, but Chara wants another. Because of what Rakiss has done to him, he can’t tell her no, even though he wants to. He has become a pawn in Rakiss’ game.

All of that aside, he does believe his feelings for Chara are real, though he isn’t certain where they are going, or if they even have a future together. This is where “Crying” really hit the right chord for me.

So many factors in the output of relationships
Never thought I had the parts not to sink the ship
You single handedly picked my face from the crowd
I never thought I could be your dark cloud

Despite his own wishes and desires, Esteban does believe his love for Chara is real, and doesn’t want to give it up, willing to make compromises in the process. Even then, he wonders if both of them would be better off going their separate ways, and the only thing that stops him from doing that is the belief it would hurt her. The saddest part of it is he can’t help but wonder if being together is hurting her, leaving him no clear choice, only that dark cloud of uncertainty and fear.

Week one it was smooth, it was easy
You felt like you already knew me
We didn’t know we were destined for disaster
Yeah it was all roses, what were we after?

This pretty much sums up their whole relationship, right here. Sooner or later, Rakiss’ manipulations must come to light, but will it be before or after his plans for Esteban come to pass? Either way, Esteban and Chara are headed for disaster, no matter how hard they both try to make it work. Even when things are good, there is also that question in Esteban’s mind of where the two of them are even going.

Time tells I was the last one told
All your secrets and what they could hold
That smile tore right through me,
I was a product of my own worst enemy

It was in these lyrics that I really found Esteban’s soul. So many secrets swirling around him, both from Rakiss, and from Chara, who can’t quite bring herself to show him her true self. He feels it all, but endures, for the sake of her smile, and puts himself in situations he wants only to avoid for the sake of that.

‘Cause I feel like crying tonight
I feel like crying tonight
I feel like crying tonight
‘Cause we threw it all away and we’re not quite sure why

Then, there was this part, that spoke so heavily to the nature of the relationship between Esteban and Chara. It will end badly, and neither of them will ever understand why, at least not until Rakiss is exposed, and even then, they probably won’t be able to really grasp the why’s of it all.

It is Esteban, who will end up hurt the most, though. His life, his free will, his hopes and dreams, taken from him by a force he can’t grasp, for reasons he can’t understand. This is the tragic soul of Esteban, a scholar and kind hearted bookworm, who has been dragged into a war he wants no part of, and can’t escape.

Only time will tell if he survives it.

Next week, we look at secondary character who will cast a long shadow over the rest of the series, even though his presence in the story is brief.

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