The birth of a minor character

Among the many rules for creating good fiction are these: that conflict must ratchet up the tension continually throughout the story, and that all characters—even bit-part players—should be fully fleshed out. They should be physically described—even if it’s only in shorthand, and have a backstory that sets them firmly in the story. Paramount, they must have a reason to be there.

And so Father Thomas Roos elbowed his way into The Luck of Two Magpies after another minor character, Father Cletus of Escomb, was murdered.

I knew nothing about him and so I resorted to my usual method for familiarization, I asked him questions. Here are his answers.

I am Thomas Roos. I was born and raised in Bishop Auckland, a wealthy market town in the Durham diocese and home to the Durham Prince Bishops’ Auckland Castle. My father and mother and their siblings were born and raised here. My closest companion as a lad was my cousin Cletus. We attended the school supported by the Church of St. Andrew in Bishop Auckland.

When Cletus was 6, his father was gored to death by a boar. When Cletus was 8, his widowed mother remarried, this time to a farmer met at market, and moved with her children to Escomb, a separation that affected me greatly. My own father was not an easy man to please, and though I am chastened to admit it, often I did bully my cousin Cletus to feel some sense of empowerment.

In time, we did both became priests. I did so to escape my fate as father’s whipping boy, but more so because I was ambitious. My cousin Cletus, who loved letters from the first time he put chalk to slate, entered the priesthood because he had no talent for anything but ‘scribe-ing.’

I met Father Justin at a synod in Durham. As I sensed the same sort of ambition in him, and in truth was impressed by his royal stature, I applied for the position as his secretary, and was accepted. Father Justin knew I was acceptable to the King as trustworthy for passing messages, but ittle did Justin know but that our King, ever suspicious of his cousins Beaufort because they were his Uncle John’s progeny, had recruited me to spy on Father Justin.

And now, my ambition may lead me to outdo Father Justin in bringing down the House of Grifon and in gaining greater favour with His Grace King Richard. I was on my way to accomplishing this when I made myself agreeable to Lady Elisa. Her trust enabled me to spend time at Grifon’s writing desk, sampling his ledgers. This is the way to bring Grifon down—not through reporting treasonous activities, but by proving the man withheld monies owed to the King. It would be a triple satisfaction. Bringing down Grifon, besting Father Justin, and gaining justice for my cousin’s murder, for I am certain that either Beaufort or Grifon ordered it.

Whether he succeeds or not, we’ll have to wait to see. As of now, Father Thomas has gone silent.

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