Letha Catspaw: An Unexpected Life

Well, it’s a little late, but it appears that winter is finally here for a bit in North Idaho. We started getting snow late last week, and the forecast is for more all week with probably the coldest temps we’ve seen all season. We had some snow earlier in the year, but nothing that stuck around for very long. This might be a real storm.

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In truth, I don’t mind snowstorms much. I usually don’t have anywhere to go that can’t be postponed, and the snow is prettier than the gray rain of a winter in the Portland area. As much as I love fall, winter isn’t really too objectionable.

But check in with me later after I’ve been cooped up for a week…

Now that the holidays are over and I’ve had a chance to rant for a minute about my approach to goalsetting this year, I want to get back to talking about characters. In general, I intend to talk more about writing this year and maybe share more essays and fiction with y’all. I’m kicking off those plans with a new character profile about Mairead’s bestie, Letha Catspaw.

Character Profile: Letha Catspaw

The Basics

Letha’s character showed up in Bloodbonded when Connor and Mairead first arrived in the lion tribe. She was the first earth guardian that Mairead met upon arrival and the only one I named. When Mairead first arrived, Letha was somewhat adversarial, but I think only because she wanted to be sure Mairead was the real thing. I think she liked Mairead from the beginning, but she felt some kind of obligation to her tribe to be skeptical.

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Letha was an only child, the daughter of two run-of-the-mill farmer/warrior/peasant-ish members of the lion tribe. When she was very young, her father was killed in a skirmish defending the tribe from plainsmen. Her mother never remarried. I imagine that Letha’s upbringing to that point was generally pretty happy, and afterward, she and her mother managed well enough that Letha never worried about material provision.

From a very early age, Letha wanted to serve the tribe as an earth guardian. Her earliest memories involved rituals and ceremonies she witnessed, and as she grew, she sought out other girls and women within the guardian sisterhood to teach and mentor her. She was never drawn much to men–not because of a lack of desire, but simply because she was more drawn to the mysteries of the earth than to anything else. Aside from her earth guardian sisters, she didn’t even have any really close female friends.

Until Mairead came along.

Defining Quotes

Letha didn’t show up in Ravenmarked, so her defining quotes are from books two and three.

“The first day you came here, do you know what I saw? Not pain, sadness, or fear. Not the earth. I saw zeal—but not for power or wealth. I saw zeal for truth.” – Bloodbonded, Chapter 24

“Servants. They should be bouncing grandchildren and great-grandchildren on their knees and mentoring young leaders and passing on their traditions.” – Unquickened, Chapter 15, when the lions liberate one of the slave camps and Mairead comments that the elderly were captured because they make good servants.

“No one questions your devotion to the people or your own principles. Perhaps it’s time to accept that you are more than a humble saya.” – Unquickened, Chapter 27

 

How It Started

Although I introduced Letha after Mairead and Connor arrive in the lion tribe, she was actually sort of present earlier in the story.

When Mairead meets Letha in Chapter 14 of Bloodbonded, she learns that Letha was the earth guardian who sent the lion warriors out to find her on the night of the half-dark moon. Letha believes that she was drawn to the earth for the sole purpose of guiding Mairead to her destiny on Culidar. During her training, Letha regularly had visions of the lion deliverer, and in some sense, she’s been following Mairead for years.

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But Mairead was not at all what Letha expected, and I think meeting Mairead threw Letha’s confidence for a loop. She thought Mairead would be an earth guardian or perhaps even more of a blank slate–someone the lion tribe could sort of write its software on. I think Letha may have even thought that Mairead would be a child–someone Letha would have to care for as more of a mother. At a minimum, she thought that she’d be a trusted advisor to this promised deliverer.

She had no idea how her life would change when she cast her lot with Mairead.

Anatomy of a Friendship

Instead of finding a blank slate or a timid child, Letha found a strong-willed, determined young woman about her own age. While she wasn’t an earth guardian, Mairead had grown up around women in the sayada, so she had some similar experience to Letha’s as well.

What neither of them had was a real friendship.

Mairead was always held somewhat apart from the women of the sayada. Because she was meant to inherit the Taurin throne, the sayas educated and trained her to be a queen, not a saya. And although she was raised as an orphan, they never presented the option for her to live with a family that might want to raise her; they wanted her to remain safely within their care and control.

While Letha had more freedom, she has something of an aloof, distant personality. In her training as an earth guardian, she was the young woman who excelled at everything–even her connection to the earthspirit. She studied and read everything she could about the prophecies, and she focused on her duty to the tribe and the coming deliverer.

I think that after months of traveling with Connor, Mairead was more than ready to hang out with another woman again. And I think that Letha was so thrown off by the reality of Mairead’s personality that they were already friends before Letha realized what was happening.

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But friendship with Mairead was one thing. What really rocked Letha’s world was meeting the giant raven, Wyll.

Unexpected Love

When Letha accompanies Mairead and her lion guards to the raven village in the woods, Connor introduces Wyll as the closest thing the ravens have to an earth guardian. Of course, this description gets Letha’s hackles up–how could a man claim to be connected to the earthspirit in that way!

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But Wyll is like no warrior Letha has ever met. Despite his ravenmark, he is kind, humble, and easy to relate to. He’s also remarkably gentle, and he makes Letha laugh. Wyll doesn’t have the same resentment some of the other ravens (including Connor) have about their mark and the consequences of it. He long ago accepted it and determined to make the most of it.

Letha never intended to develop a relationship with any man, much less a raven, so she is entirely caught off-guard by Wyll. He doesn’t so much pursue Letha as just let her decide she likes him. Eventually, she can’t resist the allure of the gentle giant who seems to understand the burdens of being a spiritual leader.

By the time we get to Soultainted, Wyll and Letha are married, and Letha is expecting a baby. This development causes a little bit of an identity crisis for Letha. As her belly grows, so do her limitations. Wyll becomes much more protective of her, and she struggles to reconcile becoming a mother with what she sees as her duties to the lions and their deliverer. She fears that she’ll disappear into childrearing and lose touch with the mysteries she’s grown to love. Most of all, she’s no longer surrounded by women; she has this big, moderately smelly warrior taking up space around her, and it’s not what she’s used to.

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In that moment, Mairead is the person Letha turns to.

How It’s Going

Every woman needs a woman who has her back, who can reassure her, who can talk her off a ledge. In Bloodbonded and Unquickened, Letha played that role for Mairead by reassuring her that she was in the right place, even when things weren’t going the way Letha expected. When it’s Letha’s turn to question her choices and wonder about her future, Mairead returns the favor. She reassures Letha that Letha’s spirit is too bright and bold to disappear into some other role, and she gives Letha comfort about her future with Wyll.

Letha thought she had a pretty good idea of how her life would go, and Mairead’s arrival completely disrupted her plans. But although it’s an unexpected life with more twists and turns to come, Letha can’t imagine trading it for anything else.

Next week, I’ll delve more into the role that Letha plays as The Best Friend. Hint: It’s pretty significant.

 

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