The Man Who Sleeps Among Demons

Also known as Ma Shou, the man who set out to improve his station in life by conspiring to assassinate an imperial officer of the court of Sheng Fan.

Disgruntled and feeling overlooked as a competent mystic of fire, Ma Shou sought to gain fame through association and alliance with a veritable anarchist who disagrees with the current dynasty. Any story involving an empire at war may be familiar with an individual like Ma Shou. However, this is no rebel with an honorable cause. This is a disgruntled, vain, and in many ways lazy man, who thought that he would take a short cut to greatness.  This is a character, who when I first met him, I didn't believe would carry himself very far. I mean, he was standing against the hero of the story--one of the Empire's most brilliant men and an accomplished mystic of the winds, who was on a mission on behalf of his oath-sister, who also happened to be the Empress. I presumed that Ma Shou was going to die, or that he was going to realize the unlikeliness of success and drift off to seek other roads to fame and glory.

What I didn't expect was for Ma Shou to be so bent on survival when all of his plans went awry, and by way of his determination to live, that he would become a recurring and integral part of larger events. He's what I refer to as a sleeper, someone who seems that they will not be around for long or who will not accomplish much for the time they are around, but who lingers and comes back on the scene with greater impact each time.

This is Ma Shou, who will find glory after all, though not in the way he hoped.  In his defeat, he is discovered by a necromancer of horrifying talent and finds himself in a struggle to survive against demons and vengeful ghosts.  He finds himself pushed to succeed by an ambiguous spirit bent on showing him why his earlier ways were utterly foolish and that the path to atonement and accomplishment is a far darker and more brutal road than he could ever have dreamed.  Through all of this, Ma Shou makes an important connection with the man he would once have killed for a mere opportunity that may or may not have panned out. This connection and the road that he is forced to travel over his greed and shallowness will awaken him to a vital role in the broader scheme of existence as a mystic of Sheng Fan, and as a person.

I do not write throwaway characters, because no life is for anyone to throw away(these characters are real people, in control of their own destinies).  So, this is not a character who simply got written more, as a plot may have demanded. This is a person who wanted to live, and so far he is doing just that, even if by the skin of his teeth.

Ma Shou has appeared in each of the Dryth Chronicles: Celestial Empire books, which is currently published up to book four in a six book set. He has also appeared in his own short piece entitled The Bone Tree, which details events he experienced at the School of Seven Mystics, versus demons finding their way onto the mortal plane. I have no doubt that we will see or hear of Ma Shou again in book five of the Celestial Empire series.

Anyone else have a sleeper on their hands (someone you might be reading or writing about)? Feel free to share in the comments.

The Dryth Chronicles are available from Raventide Books
Celestial Empire includes:
Six Celestial Swords
Five Kingdoms
Four Barbarian Generals
Three Fates
Two Warring Dragons (Coming 2017)
One Empire (TBA)

Tales from Sheng Fan is a series of shorter works devoted to characters like Ma Shou
The Bone Tree is available in all ebook formats and on audio

Cover Art by Charlie Creber