Rhiannon: Yarn, Cats, and Benign Misanthropy

Happy spring, threes of fans!
Who else is glad to see little signs of the season popping up?
We are starting to see daffodils and tulip leaves emerging from hibernation, and kids are playing outside more. I also know it’s spring because my older daughter had a birthday and The Man and I celebrated our wedding anniversary. I’m looking out at a very frosty morning with some fresh graupel on the road, but I know it can’t last, because the calendar doesn’t lie. Spring is really here.

 

Now that The Heart of the Goddess is done and uploaded and ready to go live this Friday, I’m turning my attention back to The Taurin Chronicles and, specifically, Soultainted. I’m thinking about the next batch of character illustrations I want to commission from Robyn, but in the meantime, there are a few previous ones that I haven’t given profiles yet. Case in point: menopausal truth-teller Rhiannon.

Character Profile: Rhiannon

The Basics

Rhiannon first showed up in Ravenmarked when Connor had been beaten to a pulp by the men who wanted to capture Mairead. I was as surprised by her entrance as anyone. I fully expected that someone would be there to help Connor and Mairead, but Connor’s former nursemaid? That was a shock.

Which, as you all know by now, is how I operate.

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As I tried to delve more deeply into Rhiannon’s backstory, I found myself sort of stuck. She doesn’t want to share much about her past. All I really know is that she was living in Kiern around the time Connor was born, she had a baby at the time, and the baby died. She became nursemaid to Connor and midwife to women in the surrounding area.

I’m not sure when Rhiannon left Kiern, but I think it was probably in Connor’s early teens, before he was initiated into the wolf tribe. While she lived on the estate at Kiern, she discovered the mysteries that she continues to practice in her little hut in the woods. She tells Maeve that the Syraf Bronwyn also visits her, and it was Bronwyn who told her to wait in the woods to help Connor when he needed it.

Rhiannon is one of those characters who doesn’t like to share information until it’s relevant. She plays her cards close to the vest, and when you least expect it, she drops something important.

And as frustrating as it can be sometimes to deal with a character like that, I think I know why: I already know her.

Defining Quotes

Rhiannon wasn’t in Bloodbonded, so I’m giving you one of her short quotes from Soultainted.

“Ha. You think I fear you? Come test me. See how old Rhiannon can hold up under the fires of Namha’s minions. I’m not afraid to see my transgressions, no. I’ll look at them and laugh. I stand firm, yes.” — Ravenmarked, Chapter 20

“You can’t rest without a strong cup of tea, no.” — Unquickened, Chapter 37

“Bah. We’re old friends.” — Upon meeting the lioness Devyn in Soultainted

How It Started

In the acknowledgments at the front of Unquickened, I shared this:

Aleta Sanstrum, my BFF and the inspiration for Rhiannon’s badass cat lady midwife character, shored up my sanity with her usual combination of pedicures, yarn, coffee, and conversation. She also beta read for me and made sure that I brought the cat in for the night.

I haven’t really been shy about this over the years, but I feel like I need to be very clear in a profile about Rhiannon: she draws a lot of inspiration from my best friend, Aleta. When Rhiannon showed up in Ravenmarked and took charge of the situation with Connor, I got the same vibe from her that I get when my bestie decides that she’s going to make sure I’m taking care of myself.

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From there, it was inevitable that Rhiannon would be the same sort of badass-knitting-livestock-tending-cat-loving-tea-drinking woman that Aleta is. And I think that’s why I don’t get a lot of detail from Rhiannon about her past–because I was there when it was happening, and it’s all baked in.

“Amy,” you’re probably asking. “What in the world are you talking about?”

Here’s the thing… Aleta and I have known each other since the fourth grade. We’ve seen a lot of each other’s formative moments, and we know a lot about why the other one is the way she is.

So I think that as I try to look at Rhiannon’s past, all I can really see is Aleta’s past. They’re sort of merged in my head. And I know that a modern, real-world life doesn’t really work in the made up world of Taura.

What I can tell you, though, is a lot about Rhiannon’s personality and approach to life now, as a woman in her 50s with absolutely zero effs left to give.

Anatomy of a Hermit

While I don’t know all the details of Rhiannon’s life, I do know that there have been some incredibly painful events in it–certainly her baby’s death, but also probably dozens of other things. First, there’s the father of her baby. Who was he? Did he die? Was he a criminal who assaulted her? Someone who just ran away? No matter what, there’s pain there.

And then as Rhiannon started to delve into the mysteries that she now practices, people would have become distrustful of her, most likely. She was likely called a witch or worse, and she may have even suffered various harms from people who didn’t really know how to integrate her into society.

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Living alone in the woods probably shaped her personality quite a bit as well. She was there for probably fifteen years or more by the time Connor and Mairead showed up. She makes references to her “friends,” but there’s no one around for miles. She clearly wants to stay far from society.

And yet… When called upon, she’ll help. She helps Connor and Mairead, and then she helps Igraine, Logan, and the children they’ve acquired at the end of Unquickened. She can be abrupt and brusque, but she doesn’t really mind people too much. She just doesn’t want to get particularly close to them.

Which is one reason she has ample yarn and cats.

The GenX Influence

Rhiannon doesn’t really hate people. I think she actually sort of loves people. She’s just been hurt a lot, and in her world, there’s nothing to be gained by being a sweet, Jesus-y church lady. For Rhiannon, it’s a lot easier to take care of people with a little tough love.

Witness how she cares for Connor. Once he was up and about, she started ordering him to do chores. When he expressed stupid opinions, she gave him a little smack on the head and told him to wise up. She’s not afraid to face stupidity head on and call it what it is, but she’ll also fix you a cup of tea and let you cry in her kitchen.

This is sort of where a lot of my 50-something GenX lady compadres have ended up. We are just so done with pretending that we can have it all, do it all, be everything to everyone that at some point, we dropped all the pretenses and became the unfiltered badasses that Rhiannon is. That may be less of Aleta’s influence on Rhiannon’s character and more of an entire generation of menopausal truth-tellers who are speaking through one minor character.

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You can say we put that pressure on ourselves. You can posit that the Boomers or second-wave feminists put that pressure on us. You can blame the patriarchy, if you want. You can put the onus wherever you want–I don’t particularly care what you think the cause is.

The result is the same: 30-million-ish women in the US who are kind of done with crap and feel slightly misanthropic, but will also make sure you have food and drink and maybe a place to lay your head for a night, as long as you’re gone the next day.

How It’s Going

Rhiannon really didn’t have much of a role to play in Bloodbonded and Unquickened, but she’s back in all her glory in Soultainted.

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She’s taken on Mairead as her personal project, and she’ll be hanging around through the end of the series to make sure Mairead takes care of herself and shows up in all the places she needs to be at the right time.

Maybe it’s good that it’s taken me this long to write this series, because I don’t think I would be in the right place as an author to write the menopausal truth-teller character if I weren’t also in that age range myself.

Just like Rhiannon, I’m in the right place at the right time.

I don’t know what I’ll be bringing you next week. My daughter is coming up to visit us for Easter weekend, and I’m sure we’ll be cramming in some mother-daughter moments. Next week may be a rerun…

In the meantime, have a wonderful Easter weekend!

 

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