About the Author
Liam Perrin is no stranger to storytelling. He worked for half a decade on the legendary Myst series selected by the Smithsonian American Art Museum as one of five featured games out of 240 in the Renwick Gallery’s standing Art of Video Games exhibition after 3.7 million votes were cast in 175 countries. Liam worked on the series in various roles including technical art, technical game design, and finally as the Live Content Director on the beloved Myst Online (formerly Uru: Ages Beyond Myst). His debut novel, Sir Thomas the Hesitant and the Table of Less Valued Knights, is available via Amazon and LiamPerrin.com.
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And then she shrank literally a handbreadth. Thomas was looking right at her when it happened, but it was so quick – and so preposterous – that he couldn’t be certain what had just happened. Gorgella stood very still. Her body and face were posed in a perfect image of what they’d been a moment before, but her eyes widened ever so slightly and gave her away.
Thomas broke the silence, “What just happened?”
I was reading some of the original Arthurian legends one day when I came across this paragraph:
“Know that there were three kinds of tables there. The first was the Round Table. King Arthur was companion and lord of this one. The second table was called the Table of Errant Companions, those who went seeking adventure and waited to become companions of the Round Table. Those of the third table were those who never left court and did not go on quests or in search of adventures, either because of illness or because they had not enough courage. These knights were called the less valued knights.”
At the time I was working at my dream job on a video game series called Myst. I had been plucked out of a poorly-paying, stressful, research programming job to work on the best-selling PC game of all time (until The Sims came along a decade later). I had moved my new wife across the country to a land I was sure was full of happily-ever-after. I spent my days and many nights inside what was to me a cathedral of creativity. I quickly learned there was a difference between being in the company and being in the fellowship.
The idea of a Table of Less Valued Knights appealed to me, but I was certain their plight had been misrepresented. As I thought more about who those knights might be I started to realize they were probably a lot like you and me: We struggle daily to do the right thing. We fight battles that are heroic in our eyes but largely go unnoticed by the people we think matter. We may be an arm’s length from where we want to be, but that arm’s length may as well be the chasm that eternally separates Lazarus from Abraham’s bosom. I could reach out and touch the Round Table if I wanted, but my lot was with the Less Valued.
Gorgella fell to the ground, weeping. “I’m shrinking you great fool! Can’t you see? Oh, what will become of me?”
Thomas knelt and tried to comfort her. “How long has this been happening?”
“I don’t know, but it’s speeding up. Yesterday this dress was my left sock.” With that, she began to sob with heaves so great that she couldn’t get any more intelligible words out.
I almost wished I hadn’t landed the job. Someone will say, “I’d rather be a janitor in heaven than a celebrity in hell.” I understand the sentiment, but talk to me again after a few eternities cleaning proverbial toilets – after your conviction has really been put to the test. I decided to make the best of it. I intuited that I could either let this experience harden or soften my heart. I made a choice of the will to soften.
And then things went from bad to worse. My wife suffered permanent nerve damage in her abdomen during labor with our one and only daughter. We didn’t know this until years later when a lingering, manageable pain suddenly became persistent, unmanageable and debilitating. We embarked on a long and torturous road in search of healing. That road would prove fruitless. The last procedure involved removing a 3 inch section of abdominal nerve. It had no effect. The doctors believe her nervous system has centralized the pain – pain has become her brain’s ‘normal’ chemical state. My wife now spends most of her life in a special bed fighting pain she equates to giving birth on a daily basis.
Suffice it to say, we have different dreams now than we did when we began. What do you do when your heart’s desires are denied you with such clarity and finality? We entered a life or death battle with nihilism and depression. I am happy to say we won that battle but not without sacrifice. That experience finds fable-like expression in the relationship between Gorgella and Thomas in my debut novel, Sir Thomas the Hesitant and the Table of Less Valued Knights.
Our society measures a person’s worth by what she can do. For many, the mentally and physically handicapped are invisible – or worse, a burden – until they can find a way to do something productive either through a Herculean effort on their own part or through well meaning assistance of some sort. The thing is, you can be productive and still feel invisible, alone, worthless. Perhaps we beat depression because being productive was completely off the table – we were denied the saccharin self-worth that comes from doing things. We had to face the enemy head on, and in doing so we found a legendary weapon of unimaginable power.
To make a person feel valued. To make a person feel like her life has meaning. To make her think, “He can see me.” There is only one way to do this. Love her.
On his way to Camelot, worried his idea of becoming a knight might be as ridiculous as his family believes, Thomas is sent on a quest by an enigmatic healer. He must retrieve a bottle of tears from a giantess whose weeping is the source of a nearby stream. The tears, says the healer, have remarkable healing qualities. The giantess in question is the last of her kind and had been exiled to her mountaintop for the crime of failing to be loved. Believing herself guilty of the crime of unloveableness, Gorgella the giantess sits on her mountaintop and sinks into a deep depression. When Thomas arrives he finds her physically shrinking. In a bond of mutual terror at the prospects facing Gorgella, Thomas fashions a tiny boat out of a leaf and carries Gorgella to the healer in a bottle of her own tears. Gorgella shrinks beyond sight before Thomas reaches the healer. He is frantic, but the healer is dismissive. He assures Thomas he will keep Gorgella safe and disappears to fetch Thomas’s reward. When he returns, Thomas leaps at him.
“You have to help her! You’re a healer! Can’t you make her herself again?”
The healer paused with one hand ready to pull the veil and reveal the thing beneath. “My dear boy, looking like a thing has little to do with being a thing. Be the thing first, and you will grow to resemble it, if not in this life then when God’s trumpets blow at the end of days and all of us are changed. Gorgella started out a giant, but she believed what people told her she was. In her heart, she saw herself diminished and she became so, shrinking bit by bit. Though your mind might be of one conviction and proclaim it with steep vigor, your heart will find a way to betray you. Your heart is who you are, all else follows. Guard your heart, Thomas. Guard your heart.”
Then he whipped back the cloth with a flourish.