Today we celebrate and honor the life, work and inspiration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, but I never experienced a lot of the racism that was prevalent in that era. I was raised to look at the person, not the color of their skin. That was the crux of Dr. King’s message that still resonates today.
When I started writing the Forever Avalon series, I never expected to use the words of Dr. King in my novel. I mean, I was writing about knights, wizards and magic; but as I developed my story, there was something missing.
The premise behind Forever Avalon was a magical island hidden away from the outside world, accessible only through the Bermuda Triangle. The idea was people had been stranded on Avalon for centuries. When you think back to all the missing ships and planes that disappeared in the Atlantic, it made sense.
So, if that’s the case, then what about slave ships? The ships that brought African slaves from the Dark Continent to America. What if they ended up on Avalon too. From that premise, I created Togo, an island unto itself off the coast of Avalon. This was an island where the former slaves created their own utopia, separate from the medieval, magical world of Avalon. Along with the separation came suspicion. Those on Togo distrust the people of Avalon as they distrusted those who brought their ancestors to this strange land in chains.
With this as background in my story, it set up the chance to have a modern man like Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh of Avalon, to bring the words he heard growing up to make a change for the better in his new home on Avalon.
Here is an excerpt from The Dark Tides: Book Two of the Forever Avalon series, where the Gil-Gamesh meets the people of Togo for the first time and tries to breach the mistrust through the words of Dr. King.
In the center of Togo was what appeared to be a mound of earth, approximately 500 feet in diameter and over 100 feet tall. In reality, it was a dome of stone, wood, thatch and tar with large crystals embedded in the structure to reflect the light inside. A large opening at the top of the dome circulated air inside through the four entrances at the base, each facing North, South, East and West.
As T’Ronga brought the Gil-Gamesh inside the Gathering Mount, Bryan was again amazed as to how a medieval society could build such an impressive structure with no modern tools or equipment. Stone arches reached up from the floor to hold up the ceiling, connected by wooden beams. There were no chairs or seats for anyone to sit in. At the back of the dome sat a raised dais, made solely of human skulls, with a throne of bones at the top. A shadowy figure sat there, staring out into the darkness. It was a gruesome sight, something made to invoke fear and dominance over people. Bryan wondered if he’d bitten off more than he could chew.
From the throne, the shadowy figure stepped down. He was a heavy-set man but very muscular, adorned with silver and ivory jewelry. He wore a cloak of various animal furs sewn together, clasped around his neck by an ornate broach of gold and rubies. He wore a leather bodice while the rest of his body was painted like the others. Atop his head was a headdress made from the feathers of a variety of birds with a small skull with precious gems in the sockets centered. He held a staff adorned with metal rings, one representing each of the chiefs of Togo, and a human skull at the top of the staff. It was said that the skull was that of the captain of the slave ship that brought them to Avalon.
“That is B’Rrak, Great Chieftain of Togo,” T’Ronga told Bryan.
Chief B’Rrak walked down and stood in front of the as he glanced back to see T’Ronga and his men with the Gil-Gamesh.
T’Ronga gave an order to the warriors around the Gil-Gamesh and they closed in tight. “You will wait here,” he ordered Bryan as he walked over to Chief B’Rrak.
Bryan stood in the Gathering Mount, awaiting his fate at the hands of these outcasts of Avalon. He watched closely as T’Ronga spoke with Chief B’Rrak; their conversation heated and quite vocal at times. T’Ronga seemed to plead for the Gil-Gamesh to speak. Bryan hoped he found an ally in this Togo warrior. Finally, Chief B’Rrak relented and returned to his throne. T’Ronga signaled his men to bring the Gil-Gamesh forward.
The Togo warriors nudged Bryan toward the throne, still surrounded as he approached the Skull Throne. Chief B’Rrak waved them off as they stepped back behind Bryan. The throngs of people who lined the streets started to file into the Gathering Mount. Their curiosity had brought them inside to see what Chief B’Rrak will do with the stranger.
“Gil-Gamesh, you stand in the presence of B’Rrak, Great Chieftain of Togo,” T’Ronga proclaimed. “Step forward and be heard.”
Bryan bowed to the Chieftain. “I am honored Chief B’Rrak. I am Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh of Avalon. I humbled to be able to speak with you.”
“Do not thank me Gil-Gamesh, thank T’Ronga,” B’Rrak denoted. “The only reason you are still alive is because he says you are a man of honor. You asked for an opportunity to speak, so speak!”
Bryan collected his thoughts, carefully putting together his words so as not to offend B’Rrak or the people of Togo. “I have been overwhelmed by everything I have seen since I arrived on Avalon and Togo is no exception. You have truly built a wonderful life for yourself here. “I will not pretend to understand the hardships you or your ancestors went through when they arrived on Avalon. I have read stories about the slave trade at that time in our history. It was barbaric and unforgiving; but while you have lived here with the hate and contempt for the white man for hundreds of years, slavery of your people ended in the real world. You see, I am not from Avalon, I am an Outlander.
“So much has changed since your ancestors survived their journey and arrived on the shores of Togo. Africans now live, work and worship side-by-side with the white man. In fact, the barriers between the different races are practically non-existent. It happened in the real world and it can happen here. As the Gil-Gamesh, I can help bridge the gap between Avalon and Togo and build a new and lasting relationship.”
“Togo has prospered without the help of you, Gil-Gamesh, or anyone in Avalon,” B’Rrak shouted from atop his throne. “We will not bow down and pay tribute to the white king.” The large gathering of people cheered loudly, encouraged by the Chief’s words.
“And no one is asking you to Chief B’Rrak,” Bryan continued. “All I have heard since my arrival on Avalon is praise and respect for Togo. You have the fiercest warriors equal to any knight and powerful shaman on par with the great wizards on Avalon. We would love the opportunity to learn more from each other. The potential is unlimited.
“I didn’t have to come to Togo as part of my Grand Tour of Avalon, but I wanted too. I wanted to reach out to you, to all of you. The time to open relations between Avalon and Togo is now. All I ask is that you give us a chance.”
“A chance? A chance for what? To stab us in the back and return my people to a life of slavery? That’s all the white man has ever wanted!” B’Rrak condemned.
“With all due respect Great Chief, you’re wrong!” Bryan interrupted. A hush fell over the audience. No one had ever spoken to the Great Chieftain before. “This is the time for us to prove you wrong about the people of Avalon, to show you that we are not like the people who enslaved your ancestors.
“A wise man once spoke of a world where his children would be judged by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin. He said, ‘Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.’ His name was Martin Luther King, a son of African slaves, who believed that all people of all races could live together in peace. It was a dream he was willing to die for. Don’t let that dream die here too. You cannot live in hate when there is an opportunity for peace.”
T’Ronga was moved by the Gil-Gamesh’s words, as were some of the people in the audience. Never before had they heard anything like this from anyone from Avalon.
“Your words touch many here Gil-Gamesh and though your heart may be true, there are many on Avalon who are not as willing as you,” Chief B’Rrak said. “Maybe someday there can be peace with Avalon, but I do not think this is such a time.”
“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak with you Great Chief. May I have your permission to leave Togo in peace?” Bryan said as he bowed to Chief B’Rak.
Chief B’Rrak sat in silence then motioned to T’Ronga. “You may go Gil-Gamesh. May the Gods smile upon you through the rest of your journey,” B’Rrak blessed as T’Ronga led Bryan out. The crowd parted as they moved through, allowing them to leave the Gathering Mount. Some of the people bowed their heads in respect to the Gil-Gamesh, something never done before on Togo. Chief B’Rrak watched his people as he considered what the Gil-Gamesh said.
T’Ronga and his warriors lead the Gil-Gamesh down an easier path from the city to the shoreline. Once there, the Togo warriors saw the carnage of dead zombies Bryan left behind. They were amazed that one man could destroy the powerful magic’s of the Togo witch doctors.
“Our shaman will not be pleased,” T’Ronga stated. “It will take some time for them to raise more guardians.”
“Sorry, but I didn’t feel like joining the ranks of the undead.” Bryan held his hand out to T’Ronga in friendship. “Thank you T’Ronga, for giving me a chance here today.”
To the surprise of the other Togo warriors, T’Ronga clasped his forearm, a sigh of respect between warriors. “If it means anything Gil-Gamesh, you’ve made a believer out of me. If ever you need me, I will gladly fight by your side.”
“And I by yours …”
T’Ronga pulled a dagger from his belt and presented it to the Gil-Gamesh. The blade was long and thin, sharpened on both sides. The hilt is hand-carved ivory, shaped like a tiger claw, wrapped in leather.
“Take this to New Camelot to show your white king that you came to Togo and that you made a friend here.”
Bryan took the blade and admired the workmanship. “It will be an honor to carry this with me. Thank you T’Ronga.”
“I would like to hear more about this Martin Luther King. He sounds like he was a great man.” Bryan was happy to glad to hear him say that. “He truly was … I’d be happy to tell you more about him another time, under better circumstances.”
Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverse. The Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.