White Assassin in India/Tamil inspired country
I’m writing a fantasy series, with four countries loosely inspired by/built on real-world historical cultures. One is based on ancient Scandinavia, and one on ancient Tamilkam (now southern India).
MC is an white assassin from the Scandinavia-based country who uses magic. In book two, she takes an assignment in the India/Tamil-based country. The son of a wealthy merchant hires her to stop his father from using a magic ritual to destroy a motha (there is valuable ore under the motha).
The son asks to be there to perform the proper funeral rituals immediately after death, but refuses to be the one to actually hurt his father. He already tried going to the local council, and pleading with the sanyasini to leave, but nobody believes his well-known father would do this, and he doesn’t know how else to stop his father.
MC does, with another (Latine-coded) character’s magic help, succeed in killing the merchant and stopping his magic ritual. The son performs funeral rituals and grieves, while the MC and other character have to flee due to the unrelated second storyline.
1. Would this be a white savior story? How do I avoid that?
2. How can I avoid portraying the Indian-coded people as only victims (plus one bad guy)?
I thought about having the son or another Indian-coded person help MC in the climax instead of the Latine-coded character, but that character is one of the main 3 in the series, and that moment is supposed to be a crucial piece in developing their relationship with MC. Also, it’s key to the plot that the merchant’s son isn’t a high-level magic user, so he wouldn’t be able to fill the same role in that scene.
At the risk of sounding negative, I’m afraid your current premise does read as a white saviour narrative. However, you can still fix that.
Reconsider if it is absolutely necessary to have the Latine-coded character help the MC while in India (why not give them a bonding moment on a mission elsewhere, or in a moment outside of a mission?)? If yes, then consider creating a third character- an Indian who works as a guide and a comrade in the mission. Removing Indians completely from the scene except for their capacity as a grieving, ineffectual son/villainous figure feels like ineffective representation.
Creating an Indian companion can drastically reduce the white saviour tone. They can guide your MC through unfamiliar terrain, get them acquainted with local customs and help them blend in so as to not arouse suspicion before the mission. In any event, it would be quite difficult for a Scandinavian to just waltz into Tamil Nadu and kill an esteemed merchant.
Consider your internalised biases.
Is the son really helpless?
Why write him thus?
Why hire a woman from a far-off land, aren’t local mercenaries available?
Why can’t an Indian assassin deal the blow, while your MC provides a distraction and/or performs her duty in a separate way, infiltrating archives for example, or trying to evacuate people from the ceremony?
The only way I see this working out is involving many Indian people as accomplices in the mission. A spy guarding the doorway, a priestess whose loyalties lie elsewhere, a travel companion, a boatman who helps them flee. Don’t make them drip in adoration for the MC, that reeks of white saviour, rather show them eager to get rid of the merchant for their own, well fleshed-out backstories and agendas.
Lastly, a gentle reminder. The figure of the white female assassin killing/taking advantage of people of colour is a very harmful, yet popular trope that seeps through a lot of popular Western thrillers and fantasy. In Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series, two Black women violently die to further the emotional growth of white characters, one of whom is a white female assassin. In the Codename Villanelle novels, as well as the show Killing Eve, white assassin Villanelle mutilates Chinese men (in the books, this horrific murder takes place in Shanghai itself) and terrorises an Asian assassin, proclaiming her own superiority. In Jay Kristoff’s Nevernight series, a young white assassin takes sexual advantage of a Black-coded man to attain her personal goals under training and he is later replaced by a white person as her love interest. Trace your logic and ask yourself if a white woman murdering an Indian man and fleeing the scene is something that is absolutely indispensable to your story
And here is my ko-fi, appreciate a tip.
- Mod Mimi
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ASOIAF fruit symbolism: Plums (Viserys)
I continue my plum series with another example: Viserys!
Like Pycelle’s, his story is already over, which makes it easy to judge if the plums really hold up as a signifier for important narrative consequences.
(I think they do.)
So, Viserys and Dany actually give us the very first example of the plum in use, and though it is not immediately named, it opens her very first chapter.
So does Viserys.
Her brother held the gown up for her inspection.
“This is beauty. Touch it. Go on. Caress the fabric.”
Dany touched it. The cloth was so smooth that it seemed to run through her fingers like water. She could not remember ever wearing anything so soft. It frightened her. She pulled her hand away. “Is it really mine?”
“A gift from the Magister Illyrio,” Viserys said, smiling. Her brother was in a high mood tonight. “The color will bring out the violet in your eyes. And you shall have gold as well, and jewels of all sorts. Illyrio has promised. Tonight you must look like a princess.” (AGOT, Daenerys I)
Why does Dany need to look like a princess?
Her brother hung the gown beside the door. “Illyrio will send the slaves to bathe you. Be sure you wash off the stink of the stables. Khal Drogo has a thousand horses, tonight he looks for a different sort of mount.”
Ah, of course, her brother and Illyrio are selling Dany to Khal Drogo. (By which we are also naming the four people who will principally be involved in shaping the path Dany ends up taking. But this is not about all of them, only Viserys.)
He had hung the dress beside the door. The point of entry and exit.
They dressed her in the wisps that Magister Illyrio had sent up, and then the gown, a deep plum silk to bring out the violet in her eyes.
There it is. The dress is the color of a plum. Placed onto her by Viserys and Illyrio in order to make her a handsome enough prize to tempt Drogo into making her his child bride. They are successful.
We know how excited Dany is about this. We know where it will lead. Why does she feel unable to resist?
His anger was a terrible thing when roused. Viserys called it “waking the dragon.” (...)
“You will not fail me tonight. If you do, it will go hard for you. You don’t want to wake the dragon, do you?” His fingers twisted her, the pinch cruelly hard through the rough fabric of her tunic. “Do you?” he repeated.
"No," Dany said meekly.
Her brother smiled. "Good." He touched her hair, almost with affection. "When they write the history of my reign, sweet sister, they will say that it began tonight."
Dany looked at Khal Drogo. His face was hard and cruel, his eyes as cold and dark as onyx. Her brother hurt her sometimes, when she woke the dragon, but he did not frighten her the way this man frightened her. “I don’t want to be his queen,” she heard herself say in a small, thin voice. “Please, please, Viserys, I don’t want to, I want to go home.”
“Home!” He kept his voice low, but she could hear the fury in his tone. “How are we to go home, sweet sister? They took our home from us!”
“Please”, she begs. But Viserys has no pity for his “sweet sister”.
Viserys, her only family in the world, her only protector, is also her tormenting abuser and he has no qualms about using her as an object to further his desire to regain the throne. As far as narrative crimes go, this is a pretty simple one to identify.
Do the plums agree?
Viserys fortunes have not turned for the better since he sold off his sister:
Her brother was miserable out here. He ought never have come. Magister Illyrio had urged him to wait in Pentos, had offered him the hospitality of his manse, but Viserys would have none of it. He would stay with Drogo until the debt had been paid, until he had the crown he had been promised. “And if he tries to cheat me, he will learn to his sorrow what it means to wake the dragon,” Viserys had vowed, laying a hand on his borrowed sword. Illyrio had blinked at that and wished him good fortune. (AGOT, Daenerys III)
To make matters worse, to cope with her suicidal misery, his sister has burned away her own feelings and chosen to embrace what power is offered to her by her position as khaleesi. She has dragon dreams and a close relationship to the expensive dragon eggs given to her by Illyrio - given like that plum dress. She grows bold enough to defy him, even.
He was still screaming. “You do not command the dragon. Do you understand? I am the Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, I will not hear orders from some horselord’s slut, do you hear me?” His hand went under her vest, his fingers digging painfully into her breast. “Do you hear me?”
Dany shoved him away, hard.
Viserys stared at her, his lilac eyes incredulous. She had never defied him. Never fought back. Rage twisted his features. He would hurt her now, and badly, she knew that.
The whip made a sound like thunder. The coil took Viserys around the throat and yanked him backward.
It’s tough being Viserys. He sold his sister to these people and she inconveniently starts identifying with her role as khaleesi. He is shamed, made to walk, and once they finally reach Vaes Dothrak, his rebellious sister has the gall to invite him to a meal.
A meal featuring plums.
She brought back a haunch of goat and a basket of fruits and vegetables. Jhiqui roasted the meat with sweetgrass and firepods, basting it with honey as it cooked, and there were melons and pomegranates and plums and some queer eastern fruit Dany did not know. While her handmaids prepared the meal, Dany laid out the clothing she'd had made to her brother's measure: a tunic and leggings of crisp white linen, leather sandals that laced up to the knee, a bronze medallion belt, a leather vest painted with fire-breathing dragons. The Dothraki would respect him more if he looked less a beggar, she hoped, and perhaps he would forgive her for shaming him that day in the grass. He was still her king, after all, and her brother. They were both blood of the dragon.(AGOT, Daenerys IV)
Dany making a last ditch effort at not usurping her brother in her heart, but already the gift of clothing implies that the tables have turned. Viserys didn’t even own the dress she was given, but Dany has ordered garments in the style of her new people for Viserys.
Viserys doesn’t appreciate the gesture. Dany doesn’t appreciate Viserys being alive.
He grabbed her arm. “You forget yourself, slut. Do you think that big belly will protect you if you wake the dragon?”
His fingers dug into her arm painfully and for an instant Dany felt like a child again, quailing in the face of his rage. She reached out with her other hand and grabbed the first thing she touched, the belt she’d hoped to give him, a heavy chain of ornate bronze medallions. She swung it with all her strength.
It caught him full in the face. Viserys let go of her. Blood ran down his cheek where the edge of one of the medallions had sliced it open. “You are the one who forgets himself,” Dany said to him. “Didn’t you learn anything that day in the grass? Leave me now, before I summon my khas to drag you out. And pray that Khal Drogo does not hear of this, or he will cut open your belly and feed you your own entrails.”
What a dismal day. Dany is no longer afraid of waking the dragon and Viserys is shamed again. Dany openly threatened him with his own death.
It’s almost as if that brilliant plan of selling his own sister did not pay off the way he had hoped it would.
Viserys’ final plum shows up after Dany’s Stallion prophecy. She’s eaten a horse heart, bathed in a sacred pond and had another round of public marital relations with Drogo, while Viserys was otherwise engaged.
The sounds of drums and horns swirled up into the night. Half-clothed women spun and danced on the low tables, amid joints of meat and platters piled high with plums and dates and pomegranates. Many of the men were drunk on clotted mare's milk, yet Dany knew no arakhs would clash tonight, not here in the sacred city, where blades and bloodshed were forbidden. (AGOT, Daenerys V)
Piled high with plums? Is that... ominous?
“I saw His Grace this morning,” he told her. “He told me he was going to the Western Market, in search of wine.” (...)
“He had planned to take your dragon’s eggs, until I warned him that I’d cut off his hand if he so much as touched them.”
Viserys is bitter (and possibly feeling less than entirely safe) and thought he could trade Dany’s eggs for some sellswords. Alas, Ser Jorah is a treasonous traitor and would not let him take them. Way harsh, Jorah.
What is a Targaryen King to do if he has been cheated? Oh, right, go back to his instincts: boast and wave about a sword and demand his due. Which is, ultimately, ownership of his sister.
He laid the point of his sword between Daenerys’s breasts and slid it downward, over the curve of her belly. “I want what I came for,” he told her. “I want the crown he promised me. He bought you, but he never paid for you. Tell him I want what I bargained for, or I’m taking you back. You and the eggs both. He can keep his bloody foal. I’ll cut the bastard out and leave it for him.” The sword point pushed through her silks and pricked at her navel. Viserys was weeping, she saw; weeping and laughing, both at the same time, this man who had once been her brother.
I wonder if this will go well.
Daenerys had gone cold all over. “He says you shall have a splendid golden crown that men shall tremble to behold.”
Viserys smiled and lowered his sword. That was the saddest thing, the thing that tore at her afterward … the way he smiled. “That was all I wanted,” he said. “What was promised.”
Viserys smiled when he handed Dany her dress, too. And when he told her that night would be the beginning of his reign.
Even now Viserys did not understand. “No,” he shouted, “you cannot touch me, I am the dragon, the dragon, and I will be crowned!”
Touch the dress, he had told her. It had frightened her.
Viserys began to scream the high, wordless scream of the coward facing death. He kicked and twisted, whimpered like a dog and wept like a child, but the Dothraki held him tight between them. Ser Jorah had made his way to Dany’s side. He put a hand on her shoulder. “Turn away, my princess, I beg you.”
“No.” She folded her arms across the swell of her belly, protectively.
At the last, Viserys looked at her. “Sister, please … Dany, tell them … make them … sweet sister …”
When the gold was half-melted and starting to run, Drogo reached into the flames, snatched out the pot. “Crown!” he roared. “Here. A crown for Cart King!” And upended the pot over the head of the man who had been her brother.
The sound Viserys Targaryen made when that hideous iron helmet covered his face was like nothing human. His feet hammered a frantic beat against the dirt floor, slowed, stopped. Thick globs of molten gold dripped down onto his chest, setting the scarlet silk to smoldering … yet no drop of blood was spilled.
He was no dragon, Dany thought, curiously calm. Fire cannot kill a dragon.
Ah, the textual echoes. “Please”, he begs. But his “sweet sister” has no pity for him.
I wonder who taught her that.
I wonder what the plums will end up meaning for Dany in turn. After all, Viserys had hung the dress beside the door for her. The point of entry and exit. Dany has a special door of her own. Red as smoldering scarlet silk.
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A year in the life... Part 3
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3
Warnings: Kidnapping, violence, spicy🌶, killing
Summary: You are kidnapped by Mafia Leader/Mob boss Natasha Romanoff.
Inspo: 365 Days movie
You shouldn’t have gone with her. You told yourself it wasn’t your fault. You told yourself that you were the victim, well maybe not the victim but definitely not the cause. You tried to convince yourself that it wasn’t your fault. You were lying.
The trip had started off good. You’d ridden in the backseat of an admittedly beautiful limo. Natasha sat next to you. She was more relaxed than she had been earlier, smiling at you as you got in the car.
“Y/n,” she had said happily, “do you have everything you need?” You nodded and couldn’t help smiling back. The ride had been an hour and it was mostly silent but not an awkward silence. No, it was rather comfortable as far as car rides with the woman who kidnapped you based on a weird delusion could be. You’d even caught yourself humming to the radio.
The shopping wasn’t bad either. Her men held your bags as the two of you went from store to store. You bought thing after thing, dresses, hats, shoes, jewelry. Natasha didn’t spare a single expense either, allowing you anything you wanted. She seemed to have a bottomless bank account. You hated to admit that you enjoyed yourself.
At least until the lingerie store. You’d picked out an all black set and went into the dressing room to try them on. As you looked at your almost naked body in the mirror, the curtian open. You reflexively moved to cover your exposed skin. Natasha smirked and batted your hands back.
“So pretty,” she said in a low voice, her eyes trained on your half exposed boobs.
“Take a good look now cuz it’s the last time you’ll see them.” Looking at her dead in the eyes, You pulled your shirt back on and moved to walk out of the room. She stopped you with a hand on your shoulder.
“Dont touch me.” You growled quietly. She ignored this, “You plan on stealing that?” You ripped the tag of and pressed it into her hand. As soon as she moved her hand off of you, you stalked out of the store, escape the only thing on your mind now, you broke into a run, approaching the nearest person. A middle aged woman in workout wear, a gym back slung over her shoulder with a purple yoga mat sticking out of it.
“Please,” you grabbed her arm, “you have to help me.” You glanced behind you, heart pounding.
“She kidnapped me, my name is y/n l/n, ‘i’m from america-” looking behind you again you caught a flash of Nat’s red hair. “She’s coming. Go, call the police.” The woman nodded at you and turned pulling her phone out of her pocket, her eyes wide with worry. Natasha’s too familiar hand clamped down on your shoulder.
“What did you say to her?”
“N-nothing,” you cursed yourself for not being better at lying, “she asked for directions, that’s all.” She narrowed her eyes at you and pulled out her gun. It was as if it was happining in slow motion. Natasha cocked the gun and aimed flawlessly. There was a bang, the gun kicked back and the woman dropped like a stone. You ran towards her, Natasha walking calmly behind you. The area had cleared completely. You stopped when you reached the woman, a pool of blood was forming around her crumpled body. Her leg was bent the wrong way and a there was a bullet hole in her back. She lay face down. You took a step back and then another until your back hit a wall and you slid down it, pulling your knees to your chest.
Natasha walked past you, sparing you only a glance as she approached the woman, kicking the back out of the way she reached down to the woman's phone and ended the phone call. You didn’t really see her crush the phone under her foot because something had rolled over to you, stopping just short of your sneakers, now stained with blood. Your heart dropped. It was as if the horror stopped your body from working. A baby bottle filled with golden liquid. Apple juice probably.
“Y/n. It’s time to go.” You just stared at the bottle, picturing the kid who would never know their mother because of you.
“Y/n, get up.” You didn’t move, you couldn’t. Your head was spinning and you felt like throwing up. Without warning you were pulled to your feet by your arm. You squealed at the sudden pain and heard Natasha bark at the man to loosen his grip. You stumbled behind, still being pulled by the arm into the car. As soon as the doors closed, the car pulled out.
“Na-” you started, your head still spinning. She turned to you, face terrifyingly blank,
“No.” That was all she said on the ride back. You arrived at the house and she got out of the car. The doors locked behind her and you stayed put. You heard the trunk open and close, then she got back in. They’d taken you to a hotel. Natasha escorted you to a room.
“Mine is across the hall.” She said stiffly then left the room. You knew her guards would let you leave the floor, let alone the hotel, so you nodded a thank you and did as you were told for once. You collapsed into the bed, finally letting yourself cry. A woman was dead because of you. You knew it was your fault. Another motherless child all because you couldn’t obey. No more, you thought to yourself. You would be good. Behave. Do what she asked you to. After all, it was only a year. No one else had to die.
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