Both thoughts were in my mind as I drafted the second novel in my fantasy series. It’s working title is (no surprise) Wanting Justice.
In the novel, my hero Terek, who’s about eighteen, is beginning to observe the world he lives in a bit more carefully. He’s been brought up to believe in the values promoted: peace, safety and fairness as the way to prosperity for all.
The problem, as Terek sees it, is that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of peace or safety. Bandit attacks on traders and travelers between villages and towns are becoming more frequent and the King’s Guard appear powerless to stop them.
Fairness also seems to be in short supply. As a trader’s son, Terek was brought up in the markets, watching his father negotiate prices. Terek’s seen plenty of false scales or clerks who don’t seem to know how to count, or to record their counts accurately. And those in charge don’t seem to care.
The more Terek observes, the more he wonders. Fairness for all, and the sacrifices all are to make to achieve it, is supposed to bring about prosperity. The country is four hundred years old. Terek wonders how long the elusive prosperity will tarry before that dream is realized.
Injustice spills over into Terek’s family. Terek’s mother and her family despise his father, to the point his father has not been permitted into the family home for over five years. Terek’s heard whispers of his father’s womanizing, which naturally stirred up some resentments. But as he began traveling with his father more, he saw no evidence of carousing on his father’s part. Rather, there seems to be an almost ascetic, prim attitude toward women.
Then a series of revelations rock Terek’s world. All that he thought about the kingdom he inhabits and the family he belongs to was proven to be false.
And so he sets out to discover the truth and to figure out how to set things right.
Several moral questions arise for my characters. For the adults in Terek’s life, the question of how and when to reveal the truth of his birth. Some chose to delay the truth out of concern for him, others to retain the knowledge as a weapon to be used against each other.
Knowing when to tell a child hard things about their past is a dilemma many parents have faced. When is the best time to reveal devastating secrets? Will telling the child too early be destructive? Will telling too late be seen as deceptive, destroying trust?
Another question is defining “fairness.” We all frame what we think is fair from our own perspective. Another’s perspective gives them an entirely different idea. Both points of view could be right, partially right, or flat out wrong.
How is one to know?
And what should be done about it?
Terek finds that sometime the answers are more disturbing than that questions. And that some actions people take may appear to be wrong on the surface. But when he learned their motives and perspective, what appeared evil at first turned out to have been done for his benefit. And those who pretended to help may have had selfish intentions, making their “good” actions really bad.
As I write I realize the novel could be summarized by saying that making judgements without having all the facts doesn’t always lead to justice.
Something I’ve often see play out in my own life.
Have any of you?