Saturday, September 14, 2013

Consortium of Chaos paranormal romance novel character bio #13: The Headless Horseman

Let’s do Ceann today.  There are going to be a few spoilers for The Guy Your Friends Warned You About in this one.

Ceann is the Headless Horseman, of Sleepy Hollow fame.  (“Ceann” means “Head” in Gaelic.) 

No one has ever given his last name, but I would imagine that it’s “Maguire”, since Cynic used that name at one point.  At the moment, he is not a member of the Consortium, but I think that given the organization’s current troubles (see the end of [book:Electrical Hazard|17912552]), that will change shortly.

Ceann is Cynic’s older brother, although the two do not really get along all that well.  He is described as being quite tall; Marian says that if he still had his head, he would be almost as tall as Hazard, who is the tallest man in the series’ “world.”  He is described as being muscular, and wears black leather from head to toe.  His right arm is bare though, and features a variety of red and black Celtic tattoos from his shoulder to this wrist.  He wears a long tattered cape, and heavy boots.  He is armed with a broad sword made of fire, and is described as having once used a whip made from a human spine (which is part of the actual legend, by the way).  He rides a horse named “Enbarr” around, and seems to genuinely care for the animal.  Whether this is the same horse from Irish mythology or not has not been specified.  Along with his siblings, he “works” for his parents, although their “job” appears to simply involve randomly attacking travelers at night.  The purpose of this activity is lost on them, but they don’t let it trouble them too much, except for Cynic.

Since Ceann has no head, he communicates through the use of a 1980s Speak & Spell toy.  The toy can speak exactly 1,220 words, many of which are simply different conjugations of the same basic words.  (You can try it out yourself here: Speak & Spell Emulator) Thus, Ceann has a rather unique vocabulary, and sometimes has difficulty communicating with the people around him.  Why doesn’t he upgrade to some new technology which would give him more words to choose from?  I honestly have no idea.  It would make sense, but that would be an utterly out of character thing for him to do.  I think he uses the toy because that’s what he uses.  I think if you asked him, he’d just stare at you.  …Well, not really stare at you, since he has no head, but you know what I mean.  In either case, he is incapable of eating anything and he apparently doesn’t “breathe” in the traditional sense.  He has been shown as being basically impervious to bullets, and has great physical strength.  If he has any other powers, they have not been revealed, although Cynic claims that they differ from his own.  He evidentially shares his brother’s aversion to gold though, and prefers to loom in the shadows rather than exhibiting his brother’s desperate need for attention. 

Ceann seems to have a grudging affection for his little brother though, no matter how annoying the other man is.  True, they often fight, but neither of them is seriously hurt in the altercations.  I get the sense that Ceann spends a lot of his time trying to get Cynic out of messes.  He seems to genuinely worry about the wayward black sheep of his family, although he tries to hide it.  Honestly, I think it’s probably the only hobby he really has.

I get the sense that he’s deeply unhappy, which probably shouldn’t be too surprising, as he doesn’t have a head.  He still showed up at his brother’s wedding though, and was still willing to help his brother’s fiancée fight her enemies.  I think he’s got a deep sense of honor and personal responsibility, which his brother lacks.  He views it as his duty to protect his family, and is willing to trade his happiness for theirs.  He will stand with them, no matter what.  He’s a protector by nature, and does what is asked of him, no matter how distasteful he might find it.  I’m sure he’s never been exactly thrilled with his role as “Headless Horseman,” but he does his job without complaint.
Cynic seems to view him as some sort of “Golden Boy” who succeeded at everything, and is obviously jealous of him.  Deep down, I think he blames himself for the loss of his brother’s head, although the circumstances have never been given.  Their sister Morrigan (well, the Blonde one anyway) insists that the injury was not Cynic’s fault, but I think he blames himself anyway.  For his part, I think Ceann views Cynic as the one who just gets life handed to him, and never has to accept any responsibility for his actions.  I think he’s as jealous of Cynic as Cynic is of him.

As far as friends go, he seems to spend a lot of time with Seth Van Diemen, the casino-owning Egyptian god of evil.  Whether this is because they just both happen to enjoy annoying Cynic and thus are occasionally in the same location, or if they are actually friends, has not yet been determined.  In either case, the men appear to get along fairly well, although again, that could have more to do with the fact that they both share the same hobby.  I don’t think Ceann actually works at Seth’s casino though, despite the fact that Seth seems to employ a lot of eternals people.  Honestly, I don’t know what Ceann does when he’s not “onscreen” in the books.  …I just picture him silently brooding in a dark room someplace, praying that his family will stay out of trouble for 5 seconds.  I feel sorry for him.  I think they’re just so used to him being there to protect them, that they take him for granted.

I have no idea where Ceann came from.  As a kid, I used to watch the old “Sleepy Hollow” Disney Short a lot, and the Headless Horseman used to scare me in an utterly delightful way.  I always used to rewind his scenes and argue with my friends about whether or not he was really Brom Bones.  To me, the point was obvious: he was not.  Ichabod is clearly shown looking down the collar of the Headless Horseman in one scene (29:55 into that video), and it he were really Brom Bones in disguise, this would expose the prank.  In my mind, the cartoon clearly indicated that the Headless Horseman was real, and utterly awesome in an utterly scary way.  His character is clearly the most interesting of the piece IMO.

Ironically, a week or two before my first draft of The Guy Your Friends Warned You About was completed, my sister looks at me out of the blue and says: “You know who would be a cool romance novel character?  The Headless Horseman.”  Since I hadn’t told her about Ceann at that point, I found that kind of scary.

I remember researching information for Cynic’s backstory, and stumbling across the Dullahan on the list of Irish myths, and thinking: “Bingo.”  Eventually, I split the headless horseman aspect of the myth into a separate person though, as Cynic already had enough going on.  This puts Ceann’s evolution fairly early in the series though, long before [book:Yesterday's Heroes|17231951] was even published.  It just took him a while to show up “on screen.”  He actually did have a scene in Yesterday’s Heroes though, but I took it out.  It would have come near the end of the book, when Stacy, Cory and Hazard are walking around the city.  It was edited both for length, and because I decided to hold him back for a later book, even though I enjoyed the idea of the Headless Horseman showing up without any explanation and then leaving again.  As it was, I included an in-joke with one of Cynic’s shirts, which referenced decapitation.

As for his Speak & Spell, again, I have no idea.  I remember looking for a way for him to communicate, and at first I was going to go with dry erase board, but then rejected that idea.  It was too easy, and in a written medium, lost all comedic value.  A deleted scene in The Guy Your Friends Warned You About had him trying to communicate with someone he wasn’t used to “talking to” in the hotel though, and after several unsuccessful tries at making himself understood (at one point, he even tried writing on the wall in blood) he became frustrated, left the room and returned with the silliest thing I could think of.  The second he walked through that door with his toy, I realized how awesome the Speak & Spell would be, and immediately changed the character again.  Since then, it’s been his “thing.”  It’s so incredibly clear in my mind. 

From the beginning, I have gone to great lengths to ensure that every word he “says” is an actual word the toy could “speak,” which adds hours and hours to all of his chapters, but for some reason, I’ve always thought it was important.  I change the way the toy declares the word, but the words themselves are all in there.  If I gave him an out, and allowed him to say whatever would be easiest for him and me, then it would stop being a problem for him.  If he can say anything, then it loses both its comedic appeal, and the rather tragic nature of his condition.  It needs to be more “real” than that.  He simply has no way of communicating some things, and it frustrates him.  I find that compelling. 
Plus, some of the words he’s forced to use are really amusing.  :- )

All in all, I think Ceann is probably one of the most successful of the second series of characters introduced in the series.  I always enjoy writing him and intend to use him a lot more in the future.


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