After Luke and James each wrote three story treatments for what would become Charlotte’s Journey, James suggested that they should each take the best parts of that initial round of idea development and write three more story treatments. Below is the second refined story outline that James wrote – although not fully developed, it can be read as a short story would be. It stands as an example of how ideas for Charlotte’s Journey were conceived and developed, and demonstrates how thoughts from both creators were shared to make a more complete and better whole.
Although this particular story treatment would not be the skeleton of Charlotte’s Journey, Luke liked it so well he suggested that James hold on to it, saying it would be a shame if he didn’t write this story sometime in the future.
(AKA SUZY: FIRST BLOOD)
(Really, this version of the story looks like the mountains where Rambo takes place in my head. So, the Canadian Rockies, I guess, but with buildings from medieval Europe) (or, SUZY: RED DAWN, but the original not the remake.)
Suzy E. is the mayor’s daughter. The mayor is a fat, jovial man who never has opponents at election time. Even if he did, his victory was assured to be a landslide every time. The mayor is a very popular man for his fair and effective rule of East Bratwurstburg, and he has held his position for over two decades.
Suzy has grown up in the comfort of the small city’s largest home. She has a loving mother and a doting father, and wants for nothing… but she spends a lot of time gazing out at the mountain peaks. East Bratwurstburg was once no more than a fort guarding a mountain pass. There isn’t much in the way of farmland around, but there is a thriving mining industry and many mountain goats to provide wool and meat. The mountains call to Suzy, promising adventures she could never dream of while she remains confined to the cobbles streets of East Bratwurstburg.
Unfortunately, she mostly has to spend her days in dresses, preforming niceties for the city’s elite and dodging the affections of the butcher’s son. She wants more out of life than being a simple mayor’s daughter, and escapes to the mountains to explore whenever she can.
It is an otherwise unremarkable day when Harry McGermanicname rushes into the mayoral mansion ashen-faced. Suzy listens at her father’s office door. Harry McGermanicname is the chief mining engineer for East Bratwurstburg. His crews have found a valuable lode of singing iron, a metal not mined in East Bratwurstburg for close to two centuries.
This is the strange metal that the mayoral sword is made of! As a sign of office, it is from a bygone era, but Suzy loves the way the sword gently sings from its perch when the sunlight creeps across the wall and warms in the late afternoons. Harry McGermanicname explains that the size of the lode is unheard of – this could be the single biggest strike of singing iron in history. He is concerned that news of the discovery could attract an unsavoury sort, and encourages the mayor to bolster the city’s meager guard.
East Bratwurstburg has had no need of a standing military force in ages; it hasn’t been a fort since the War of Reclaimation. The mayor reluctantly agrees, fearing that an increased guard will look like a needlessly increased police force. Suzy, for her part, is excited. Sell-swords within the walls of East Bratwurstburg! The tales of adventure they could share!
It strikes me that Captain Whiskers-stache from Suzy D. could be an excellent addition to this version of the tale, but he isn’t built into this story treatment yet. Assume a guard long past retirement crops up as a friend to Suzy before this point. The news of the strike of Singing Iron is held as a state secret, so naturally the entire town knows within days. Harry McGermanicname’s best solution for guarding the Singing Iron until reinforcements arrive is to simply leave it in the ground – no mining yet. General opinion is that Harry’s move is a wise one. Unsavory looking strangers begin to turn up in town. Some prove to be nothing more than prospectors hoping to strike it rich with their own lode of singing iron, but other are less than wholesome. It just goes to show that the news is out, and that the mayor was right to increase the size of the town’s guard.
Eventually, the company of mercenaries the mayor hired arrives. They come highly recommended and have been the victors in a number of campaigns. Guard duty should be a cakewalk for them. Suzy is very excited to welcome their leader in her own home with an official gala.
Commander Dashing Rogue is everything she hoped he would be and more. Handsome despite the eye patch, well-spoken, full of adventurous stories, a hearty laugh, a stance that keeps his fists on his hips at all times, a flowing cape… this guy is the real deal, a king of adventurers, the symbol of everything Suzy wants out of life. What’s more, he is entirely charming – he might even make Suzy blush and giggle, to her own great annoyance.
The mercenary company settles in, gets a feel for the town, learns its ins and outs, the geography, the comings-and-goings of local characters, set about some simple improvements to fortifications. A week, perhaps two after they arrive, the attack comes. Commander Dashing Rogue leads his men is a startlingly efficient coup.
The popular mayor is imprisoned in his own home – left alive to legitimise the rule of Commander Dashing Rogue. He keeps Suzy around, too. It seems to amuse him that his glammer so thoroughly clouded her vision of him, that his true purpose was so well hidden. He is charming, and that may be his greatest strength, but he wants to be so much more. He wants to a true conqueror, not just the leader of a mercenary guild. With weapons forged from singing iron, his force would be considerably stronger… add in the scraggly young boy who claims to be a mage he has brought along, and you’re looking at something intimidating.
The boy claims to know how to use the singing iron to harness the natural magic that permeates the entire world. He says that with singing iron he can build weapons for Commander Dashing Rogue’s forces that will make they nigh-unstoppable.
The mercenaries are soldiers, not miners, so they compel Harry McGermanicname and all professional miners in the area to work for them. Extracting and processing Singing Iron is a lost art, and if we’re honest, Harry McGermanicname probably isn’t too keen on being the Commander’s slave. The mining process is, as a result, hella slow. The commander doesn’t like this, and begins to squeeze the town in an effort to get his slave crews to work faster.
Further, he is impatient for the magic weapons he has been promised by the scraggly mage. The mage is for the most part a quack. His continued failures are tempered by excuses like ‘this singing iron is too impure.’ The Commander in turn suggests that if he needs purer samples to preform his experiments, he should use the mayoral sword.
Suzy gets pissed.
I mean, like. she totally blows her top. This is the straw that breaks the camels back, the pebble that starts the landslide. No more house arrest. No more confinement. No more East Bratwurstburg slavery. No more goddamn Commander Dashing Rogue! She loves that singing sword.
Suzy punches the Commander in the face, grabs the sword, collapses under its weight, grabs its hilt and drags it off into the night. The Commander, bloodied but really unhurt, orders her immediate recapture.
Suzy flies about the back alleys of town and… what? As the adrenaline drains, she realises she didn’t really think her actions through to logical consequence. She is at a loss. She is out after the mercenaries’ imposed curfew, she can hear the shouting of people setting out to look for her, and she’s armed with a sword she can barely lift that sings gently when it is in sunlight… or when it gets bored, or if the sword feels it is too quiet. Or, as Suzy is quickly learning, the sword sings when it is nervous, as it is now.
She tries hiding the sword, but that just turns its song into a keening wail. It would be found in moments if she were to leave it behind. So, Suzy wraps the sword up – swaddles it really – in order to mute the song. The sword quiets down, but its more the attention Suzy gives it than the swaddling that causes this.
Lacking any better ideas, and indeed any nearer options, Suzy goes to visit the Butcher’s son. Wishing frightfully that she had thought to wear more than a night dress when she made her move against Commander Dashing Rogue, Suzy humbles herself before the Butcher’s boy. She implores his help. Lets be clear here: Suzy is blatantly using the butcher’s son’s affection for her for her own gain. Its an unattractive quality of her person. The Butcher’s son is a pushover, though, and does exactly what she says because he is totally blinded by crazy infatuation. Never mind the fact that he could end up dead – it never crosses his mind. Basically his mind is short circuiting. Not only is Suzy talking to him, she’s asking for his help… and wearing –error– .
Anyway, Suzy spends an uncomfortable night in the butcher’s basement, listening to the commotion outside as the mercenaries search for her through the night and into the morning. When the time comes, the butcher’s boy packs his cart full of the usual sausages, goat cheese and bread. It is his job to ferry the food out to the mine on a daily basis. Suzy is hidden amidst the meat; packed in with the sausages. Gross. She uses a jar of sauerkraut as a pillow.
It is an uncomfortable ride into the mountains, but when the reach Old Troll Bridge (with real troll turned to stone!) Suzy hops off the wagon. The butcher’s son blushes furiously and gives her a package – some rough clothes, a meager bit of food that won’t be missed, and a bit of advice: stay clear of the mercenaries. Survive until the ordeal is over.
Suzy is in the wild, for now she’s alone, she’s ill-prepared, and she has no idea what to do but this: ignore the butchers son’s advice. In the first instance, there is no way she is going to give up, not now that she has her chance to be a hero, not after she punched Commander Dashing Rogue in the face. Further, there is no way she is going to listen to any advice from the Butcher’s son (her treatment of him really is deplorable).
She knows there is an old mine shaft not far from Old Troll Bridge, and if all the adventure stories she read as a child taught her anything, it was that shelter was what she needed first if she wanted to survive. She figures idly she can figure out how to hunt game later that afternoon (it doesn’t bother that she has no idea how, nor that she has never seen a rabbit in this region. Its that assurance of self and lack of forethought pushing through again – these traits get Suzy in trouble).
It takes all day, including a harrowing moment when a cadre of mercenaries passes on patrol, to reach the mineshaft. The entrance is mostly hidden, and Suzy would likely have walked right past it is she hadn’t been looking for it and known where it was supposed to be. She bumbles her way in (again, not bothering to think) only to be grabbed by strong hands and threatened by a deep voice. There is a man living in the mineshaft already. Sonofabitch.
An exchange of stories occurs – this man is Gaston. He is a prospector – he arrived when rumors were still flying, but before the mercenaries took over East Bratwurstburg. His partner is caught and enslaved in the Singing Iron mine. Gaston stays because he wants to free his partner – it feels like a duty. He is ashamed to admit he has been entirely unsuccessful thus far, but is excited by Suzy’s sword. The sword, however, doesn’t like him, and keens loudly when Gaston tries to wield it. It would probably hate to be used in violence anyway.
So, Suzy and Gaston start a resistance. Guerrilla tactics. Wolverines! Initial contact is made through the Butcher’s son, who Suzy continues to blatantly use. They are thus supplied. They hook up with Captain Whiskers-Stache, the old guard who should have retired years ago and former leader of East Bratwurstburg’s small company of protectors.
The butchers son becomes a pretty vital link in the resistance chain, dropping off supplies at Old Troll Bridge when he can, but mostly as a postman – he channels information and letters to Suzy et. al. Gaston is cocky and full of himself, but he’s a prospector and is pretty damn good at roughing it in the bush. Captain Whiskers-stache may be past his prime, but he actually knows his stuff, and can give Suzy and Gaston valuable tactical advice.
Mountain life is rough – cold with icy streams of glacier run-off, hardy pines and an occasional knitting tree (although the climate should really be too cold and wet for them). Goats. Some ancient standing stones, perhaps an encounter with a troublesome yeti, a legend about a rock formation that looks like an old man [nb: good expansion of this idea in Suzy F.], lots to explore and many opportunities to exploit the landscape when besting the mercenaries.
Suzy’s local knowledge of the geography is the perfect compliment to Gaston’s survivalist abilities and Captain Whiskers-stache’s martial ability. The sword acts as a symbol for them, drawing other to their cause, giving them authority, reminded people of East Bratwurstburg’s long and rich history as an independent city, but it is also an ally. The sword is fully and completely a character in and of itself, with moods and ambitions all its own. It sings, but never uses words – think sounds like a tuning fork. The swords singing can alert them to dangers, inform them of opinions, give a sense of the temperament of others… it has a preternatural sixth sense. It can also resonate with other singing iron, which is sort of like a short-distance telepathic connection, although I don’t know how useful that would be.
As Suzy and Gaston become more bold, they begin sabotaging the mercenaries efforts, stealing their supplies, generally harrying. Others from town join them – maybe even a few from West Bratwurstburg who heard of the plight of their sister city. Maybe a betrayer gets in their midst, gives away their secret hide-out.
All the while, Commander Dashing Rogue is causing more trouble in town. A classic megalomaniac, he takes out his frustrations on others, especially the fat mayor who steadfastly refuses to give up any information that might lead to his daughters capture. Maybe by this point, the fat mayor is starting to lose some weight.
As the resistance grows more bold, the Commander brings more power to bare, and eventually the magic comes out. The scruffy-looking mage has finally managed to twist some singing iron into the right shape to focus magical energies, its some sort of new weapon, probably sound based, but who knows? It’s magic anyway, and makes the Commander even more dangerous. Suzy, Gaston, Captain Whiskers-stache et.al. realise they cannot simply out-wait Commander Dashing Rogue. They have to stop him and his magic weapon production or risk letting a powerful warlord out into the world, one who could reap the kind of destruction not seen since… well, since East Bratwurstburg was last a fort, in the War of Reclaimation. Nobody wants another another War of Reclaimation.
Suzy and company enact a final daring plan. Phase one: release the slaves working in the mine. They are an instant army. Phase two: sneak back into town and take out the mercenary leadership. We’re talking major boss fight here. Probably kersplosions. Yeti are involved. Sure, why the hell not? Probably more in phase one than two. Whatever. Yeti.
Suzy faces off with Commander Dashing Rogue (again! – there should maybe be one more encounter not elucidated in this text) and fails. The sword saves her life at least once, Gaston probably jumps in but importantly, it is the mayor who takes Commander Dashing Rogue down.
Suzy has had a huge adventure, and she finds it wasn’t as fun or exciting as she had though it would be. It was cold, hungry, scary, painful, hard, uncomfortable, smelly and involved hiding in a pile of sausages. But she herself has proven a natural (and popular!) leader, she has grown as a person (see character development in butcher’s son subplot, something left largely out of this summary but still potentially fruitful – although certainly not central to the story!) – and indeed she has seen that even a fat jovial man who lives his life in comfort, all soft cushions with too much goat cheese, can be a hero, defeating a hardened warrior who was armed with terrifying magical power.
Being a hero isn’t about surviving the hardships of war nor braving the harshest place in all the world. Heroes do those things, sure, but they don’t do them to be a hero. You don’t set out to become a hero. Being a hero isn’t about deciding you’re going to save the day, but is rather about doing the right thing at the right time to preserve that which you love. It isn’t a lifestyle – it is a flash choice in a single moment.
Being the mayor’s daughter is actually pretty all right, in large part because the mayor is pretty all right, and indeed is Suzy’s hero, just as she is her father’s. Oh, and, Gaston settles in town too. Because why not? He’s a jerk, but at the end of the day, when the chips are down, you can rely on him.