Esther Velez

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Month: March 2014

Story Time 04: Killing Hanrue

Episode 4 of Story Time is here!

Greetings everyone! Today’s episode is going to take us into the Hanrue Universe, as I like to call it. It’s the universe where a lot of my stories are going to be set in the near future. This particular story is an origins story of sorts, but it stands on its own as well. Let’s get to reading!

(For those who haven’t yet read “Killing Hanrue,” click here.)

I wrote this story for an Introduction to Creative Writing class in the Fall of 2012. It follows a young assassin named Paige Romano on her final mission before becoming a full fledged Morland Sister. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, this story is set in a fictional universe, even though it lays claim to places like New York and Kentucky. It is set in the Hanrue Universe, as I have taken to calling it, on Earth, in the days before the Great Flood. Killy Hanrue, a young politician, has taken the world by storm with his rhetoric, and promises to make the world a better place. This is in direct conflict with Paige Romano, who wants the world to be so wicked that it will spark the return of her savior. Her mission is to kill him, and once she completes this mission, she will receive a new name, the highest reward within the Morland Order.

Speaking of the Morland Order, what are they? The Morland Order is a group of men and women who have dedicated themselves to a deity known as the Giver of Life. They live in anticipation of a savior who will right all the wrongs of the universe and lead them to victory over their enemies. They also serve as chaos makers, destroying anyone or anything that threatens to bring peace to the world. Remember: their savior will only return when their world is completely evil and wicked. As an incentive for new recruits to kill, they set up an elaborate system which required each person to complete ten successful assassinations for a new name, assigned to them by the Giver of Life himself. Additionally, they added chastity as a rule to keep their numbers in check, and to keep their recruits under their control. As you have probably guessed, they are a bad group of people.

Paige Romano is caught right in the middle of this. She hints at some pain throughout the story, saying that she believed that joining the Morland Order would make it all better, almost like how people convert to religions thinking it will save them. Paige has a lot of relationship issues, as she finds herself doubting human’s capacity for love. Her parents were her heroes growing up, but when their marriage disintegrated, it left her feeling bitter and cynical. Paige joined the Morland Order thinking it would make her life easier, but it has made everything harder for her. She struggles to remain chaste, and must deal with the feelings of attraction she has toward Hanrue, the man she is supposed to kill. Paige acknowledges that she has messed up in the past before, with a Morland Brother named Adrian, and her sisters have never forgiven her for it. The driving force for Paige’s actions in this story is to clear her name, to show her sisters that even though she messed up once, she is still worthy of the name the Giver of Life will give her.

As you read the story, did you notice that everything was going wrong for Paige? Right from the beginning, she got caught and the security guard turned on her. Then, the taxi driver ratted her out and Hanrue himself tried to stop her from completing her mission. What’s a good story without any conflict, huh? Paige’s struggle to go through with this murder is super important because it shows her growth as a character. Even though she was originally going to kill him and actually went through with her murder, she changed. She came to terms with her parents’ betrayal and essentially forgave herself for what she did with Adrian. She came out stronger in the end.

But what about Hanrue? Was he part of the Morland Order? That little twist at the end was unexpected for me, but it all made sense. Killy Hanrue was an assassin just like Paige. He went through the whole process, killed his ten, got his new name. But he learned something along the way, something that changed his life forever. He left the Morland Order and began his journey to learn more about the Giver of Life, the deity he had been serving his whole life. Hanrue tried to share this with Paige, but she killed him before he could say anything.

As I mentioned earlier, this story is part of the Hanrue Universe. So how does it all fit in? Well – this is about to get a little complicated, so bear with me – Killy Hanrue gave a prophecy before he died, a prophecy that will feature in later stories. Paige Romano found out about Hanrue’s teachings a few years after killing him. She eventually began following the Giver of Life and received a message from him: the world was about to destroyed in a Great Flood. She was to take seven others with her and escape Earth in a spaceship and resettle in another galaxy. This other galaxy, the Sagedell System, is where my Stones of Hanrue Trilogy takes place. Like I said, it can get a bit complicated.

But there is still a bit more to this story. What are some of the themes underneath it all? Well, the Morland Order represents religion, of course, and its effort to stifle people with a list of do’s and don’t’s. But just giving someone a rule doesn’t do anything to change their desires: Paige’s struggle to remain chaste represents this well. In addition, the Morland Order represents people who attempt to create their own “saviors” – whether the savior be pleasure, relationships, or material possessions. They seek out something that makes them feel whole, that makes them feel better about themselves, something that keeps them going every day, something that ultimately isn’t satisfactory. They have so blinded themselves to the truth that they aren’t able to see the truth when it is standing right in front of them.

Love is also another big theme in this story. Paige doesn’t really know what it means to love. She thought love was unconditional, but her parents split up and her friends abandoned her. She thought she loved Adrian, the Morland Brother, but her rehabilitation convinced her that the things she felt for him were not love at all. So she is struggling to understand what that means, and this story shows part of her struggle. She thinks that her Sisters will love her again if she successfully completes her mission, and she is really holding on to this hope. What I like about Paige is that she finds out what love really is when she comes in contact with the Giver of Life – but this doesn’t happen in Killing Hanrue. That’s something that comes later, so at the end of this story, you are kind of left hanging in that regard.

I’ve written extensively about this story because I know a whole lot about it. I was very nervous about this story because I had to present it to my whole class, but most people liked it and everyone understood it. It was super hard to write, though, because I was taking a good number of classes that required a lot of writing, and I struggled to find the time to finish it by the deadline. But, I had fun with it, and it laid some foundation for another story I would write in the future. I am happy with this story.

I hope you guys enjoyed it, along with this episode. Let me know what you thought about what I wrote in the comments section below! As usual, let’s get to talking.


Too Invested?

By Esther Velez

Alex Ruiz, one of the writers on this site, recently went through a series of his top five favorite anime couples (you can read it here). It was a great series and if the comments are any testament, we all enjoyed it. There was one post, #2 on the list, that really struck a chord with me, though. We watched the short video Alex posted at the end, and 3/5 of those watching were left in tears. And not just a few tears, but tears streaming from puffy, red eyes onto equally puffy, red faces.

There’s something different about that kind of cry. You are sad, but it isn’t like someone you love has left or you’re being punished for something you’ve done. Somehow or other, you’ve made a connection with a character or a story, and you’ve gotten so invested with them that this emotional situation – whatever it might be – has left you in a puddle of tears.

I’ve been thinking on the power of stories lately. My sister told me of a line that stuck out to her in The Great Gatsby and I told her that the author had done his job correctly. He had gotten her to think about his story long after he was dead. Another sister of mine told me about a book she didn’t like and how she disagreed with the ending. While I agreed with her analysis, looking back on it, the author of that book did her job correctly as well. Regardless of personal opinion, she got us talking about her book, long after she’d closed the document, long after my sister had finished reading it. The fact that my sister had an opinion for how she wanted the book to end, or at least was unsatisfied with it, shows how much she had invested into the story and those characters.

But why do we get so invested in characters and stories? Why do we want to know what happens next in the lives of our favorite characters or at the end of the episode on TV? A quote from the movie Shadowlands puts it perfectly: “We read to know we are not alone.” That’s right. We read to know we are not alone. What does that even mean? That we’re all depressed loners who search inside of books, TV shows, and video games for friends? I don’t think so.

When we read stories (or watch them unfold in movies and TV shows), we encounter human beings, and if not actual humans, then beings with human-like characteristics. We join with them on the journey that is the story to see where they’ve been and where they are going. But we also see ourselves in them, even if in a small way. We watch a particular show and in one episode, a character says something and we agree with them in our mind. Yes, I’ve felt that way before. Yes, I have dreamed about that as well. Yes, someone has done this to me before. We may not realize it, but stories often show us things we are not willing to see in ourselves. Let me explain.

I recently read an article about a man who had lived in an RV while getting his Master’s degree and wrote a book about it. He said that he felt compelled to write because people need stories. Stories give them the power to feel certain things, to realize that they are not the only ones who have felt something before. This writer said that other writers need to be brave and pick up their pens and tell stories so people can have the power to feel these things. Almost like they can have permission to feel these things. And it might be subtle. It doesn’t have to be overly dramatic.

And that’s where the quote from Shadowlands comes in. We aren’t necessarily picking up a book saying, “I’m reading this to know that I’m not alone.” But we are reading to see other humans interact with each other. We’re reading to see people overcome obstacles. We’re reading to see characters change. We’re reading because we need these in our lives: we need to interact with one another, we need to overcome obstacles, and we need change. And, sometimes, the strength in a character can spill over into our own lives. There are stories and characters that I’ve experienced that have deeply affected the way I see the world. There are characters that are alive in my mind, so to speak, that feel real and I feel like I know them, even though they aren’t real. I’m not being creepy about this. Just think about your favorite character and story of all time.

Stories are super important. Just ask Jesus. He used stories to convey his messages all the time in the Bible. Stories stick with us. The made up ones, and even the real ones, have this strange power when we invest in them, when we connect with the characters and follow them on the journey that is their story. I have some questions for you guys! Has a story impacted you? (It could be fiction or non-fiction – it doesn’t matter.) What’s your favorite character or story of all time, and why? Let’s talk about that in the comments section. I’ll even join you guys in the discussion down there 🙂

Let’s get to talking!

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Love: A Reverse Poem


By: Priscilla Velez


Love is something to be treated loosely

I will no longer believe that

Love is precious and eternal

I believe

Love is momentary

How can you say

“The world moves for love”

In fact

Love is unreachable

I disagree with when I used to say that

“Love is a fire burning in my heart that can’t be extinguished”


Can be destroyed by


I am now sure

Love is deceiving and unrealistic

And I now know that there is no way that

“Love was just around the corner”

I couldn’t forget if I wanted to

Who brought me to this realization

It was someone who I once loved

(Now read in reverse)

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