So, there was enough interest in our last blog post to necessitate a special extra post this month! Just in time for Valentine’s Day as well. Unfortunately for us—or perhaps just Corbet—I don’t think the contents are going to be all that romantic. Any reader of mine will know I love my protagonists sad and tortured, and Corbet, proto-protag that he is, isn’t any different when we really get down to it. I’m not sure if this will enhance anyone’s experience reading The Tempest Series, but I hope maybe it’ll add some relevance to the few lines I was able to slip in over the course of the later books while I desperately tried to make up for my shoddy execution in Brontide.
With that said, let’s get to it!
I suppose the best place to begin with Corbet is in the beginning—meaning who his parents were, and how he came into being. I think there’s always one or two central things that impact a character’s behavior and mentality when it comes to a backstory, and for Corbet, all of his “things” center around his family. I never came up with names for his father, mother, or step-mother, or for any of his half-siblings. I know their surname is du Roux, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten when it comes to naming them. It didn’t seem all that important after the fact, but I probably did too much thinking about them regardless. For some preliminary context, the events of Brontide take place in the mid 1500s. That’ll color a lot of this family dynamic, so keep it in mind.
His dad was a landowning noble with ties to the French government. He had fought in a few wars, earned his renown, and enjoyed his life away from home far more than he did at home. He hated the sedentary lifestyle that came with managing an estate and he found his own fun in his family, which means he was a huge instigator and enjoyed pitting his family against each other just to watch the carnage ensue. Corbet was born when his father was in his mid-forties after he had an affair with a young maid in the household. Corbet’s mom was probably seventeen or so when she had him, and was pressured into the relationship. His mother didn’t have much agency during any part of it, something that was compounded, unfortunately, by the fact that the dad already had two sons and a wife who was pregnant with a third and fairly far along at the time of Corbet’s conception.
The father’s wife—who is Corbet’s step-mother—was the middle child of another proud noble family, though hers was far less wealthy than that of her husband. She was married off as soon as she came of age in hopes of granting her family more prestige to add to their title, and she lived her life in pursuit of rising higher in the social strata. She suffered through a few miscarriages and rough pregnancies took their toll on her health and mindset. When the young, fresh-faced maid got pregnant easily after her husband’s adultery came to light, she took it poorly, and reacted even worse.
I’m pretty sure those of you who have read Deluge have gathered that Corbet’s mom didn't survive the birth. There are a few reasons for this, ranging from her age to the time period to the accessibility of medical care during the time, but the largest contributing factor was the wife. She made it her goal in life to be as cruel to Corbet’s mom as possible—after all, she could hardly take it out on her husband, and even if she had some recourse available to her at that period in time, it wouldn’t have affected him much anyway; he just didn’t care. Her cruelty came in the form of neglect. She did not account for added food, warmth, or care during Corbet’s mother’s pregnancy, and she still expected Corbet’s mother to do her usual duties regardless of her health or the health of her baby.
Now, you would think that the father of this child would care to intervene, wouldn’t you? Any decent human being would try to give some help to the woman he had coerced into sleeping with him and then knocked up, but unfortunately, the dad wasn't much help in improving Corbet’s mother’s situation. Countless times she went to him begging for help or for him to talk to his wife but, well… he’d already used her and considered the matter through. What happened after was on her to deal with, not him. He expected her to be grateful that he hadn’t thrown her from the house after she began to show—further kindness after that didn’t seem necessary to him.
The other servants in the house are the only reason why Corbet’s mom made it as long as she did. They did their best to tend to her and they were the only ones there at Corbet’s birth and her death. They had called for the master of the house but he didn't come. He was off hunting, and ultimately he didn’t care one way or another. His mother never got to hold him. Corbet doesn't know it, but he looks like her far more than he looks like his father.
It fell to the servants to name him. It fell to the servants to do a lot of things when it came to Corbet. They decided upon his name after a crow perched on the window sill at the time of his birth. He was raised alongside the youngest sibling for a time, up to the point of weaning. The servants were the ones who implored the master of the house to allow Corbet to receive lessons alongside the others once they found Corbet tracing out letters in the dirt that he'd seen his siblings scribble in their textbooks. Corbet was smart and the dad saw that. He allowed the lessons to be given but it was mostly to provide competition for his real sons, not so much to educate Corbet. It added another thing for Corbet’s half-siblings to resent him for when he excelled past them, but honestly, they didn’t need much of a reason given their mother’s vehement hatred.
The older two siblings were old enough at his birth to have picked up on the mood of their mother fairly well and that distaste was something they found childishly cruel and fun. They hated Corbet from the start. The youngest was friendly with Corbet at first since they were raised in close proximity, but once a certain point hit, the kid started to really pick up on the reality of the situation and swiftly turned to add onto the abuse. Corbet developed thick skin quickly and grew used to being picked on. His siblings would often steal his food. Corbet grew up malnourished and learned early on to hoard what food he could find, and also to not complain about what he was given. His thief skills developed as a means of survival and only grew sharper once he left home with no money to his name.
As for religion, they were all staunch Catholics, even during the time of Reformation. The monarchy was Catholic and they didn't dare try to break away like other nobles did for fear of potentially losing what they had built by something as pointless as conversion. Corbet was pretty disillusioned with religion since his stepmom spent most of his childhood telling him that he was the physical embodiment of the sin his mother had committed against God, encouraging him to believe that he was already damned by the choices she had made. Corbet didn’t buy into it much but he was left with the feeling that perhaps he doesn’t deserve to be happy, that there is something fundamentally wrong with him as a person and that’s why his life is the way it is. He left that household around age sixteen or seventeen after the death of his father. He would try to leave before, many, many times, but every time he thought about leaving his dad would come to him or call him to his office and tell him, “You belong here, you’re family." And Corbet, starved as he was to belong, would believe him and stay a little while longer. It was only when his dad died that the will was made clear and Corbet’s name was nowhere to be found on it. He was to be left at the mercy of his stepmother and brothers, with no claim to anything and the message, loud and clear, that he was as good as chattel in the household. Free labor and decent competition to sharpen his half-siblings teeth on—that was all.
So, he left. He knew the truth, and he left.
From there, it’s more or less history. He traveled all around and eventually made his way to Ireland. Ruari wasn’t his first sexual experience, but it’s very likely that Ruari was his first actual kiss and definitely the first person to ever make love to him. I guess that’s kind of romantic? Maybe not romantic enough for Valentine’s Day, but it is what it is, and it’s what I’ve got.
Now, for some Corbet speed-trivia:
His birthday is November 21st. He’s a scorpio, and I think that suits him.
His favorite food are berry tarts
He prefers non-fiction to fiction but when it comes to Fae literature, he’ll read anything
Because someone on Twitter asked, he once had to dispose of a horse who died giving birth by himself while working in his family’s stables. The scent and experience really fucked him up and to this day he can’t be around decomposition without heaving. Even remembering it will make him gag
He’s 5ft 7in
He never got to truly be a child, so he’s fairly serious by nature. His time with the fae is probably the first time he’s ever been able to show some levity
Well, that’s the long and short of Corbet’s tragic backstory. Was it what you expected? Curious about more? Let me know and I’ll see how much more lore I can scrounge up on him. To be honest, it’s been long enough since I’ve looked back on these books that I don’t exactly recall how much of this I managed to incorporate into the narrative. The family dynamics definitely didn’t get articulated in full, but I wonder how much of this came through, how much of this resonates with all of your reading experiences.
At his core, Corbet has always been someone searching for a place to belong, and, once he’s found that place, does everything in his power to maintain it—even if it means killing a monarch. Looking back on his previous life before Ruari, I think it’s easy to see why. He’s always done what he has to do. He was lost from the start and only found once he met someone who cared to see him stay. I hope you all enjoyed learning some more about him! This was a lot of fun to pull out of my dusty old character profile folder, and I hope it’s helped more of you appreciate what has to be my least in-book developed protagonist. Who else would you like to learn more about? Let me know in the comments!
Until next time,