Alpin Morgan is a fascinating character from the new book Of Kings, Queens and Colonies. He is the governor of the colonists that are settling the planet Tirgwenin. He leads a sect of the Church of Enskari, which believes that God can talk to women and does talk to women that most people call the Bucklers. These people are colonizing on the planet to escape religious persecution. But the persecution follows them into space. Early on one ship, The Sebastian disappears, which puts a lot of pressure on the other colonists as they hope for the best but fear the worst. The disappearance of The Sebastian seems to even have a strong enough impact to have a supply stop last weeks instead of the day or two they were hoping for. The colonists miss the planting season, which puts them at the mercy of the natives who have been dealing with the soldiers that were left behind on the planet. It is unclear whether they will be seen as allies or foes.
When they arrive on the planet, they received no extra provisions, get reunited with The Sebastian, and find that many of the soldiers in the camp have died. Upor, the captain of the spaceship they travelled on, decides because of this loss of the soldiers that he is going to leave the colonists on the queen’s land instead of taking them further inland. This sets off Morgan because he has been feeling since the supply trip that Upor has been sabotaging their voyage. It later comes to light that this is true, and it is because he is loyal to Prince Brandon. Leaving the colonists on the land the queen owned put them at risk of running into angry natives who were abused and killed by the soldiers that had stayed behind and being in the realm of the laws that persecuted them and threatened their lives.
After a lot of convincing, Morgan convinces the captain of the Sebastian to bring back one person so supplies could be brought back to where the colonists were and arrange for those badly needed supplies as soon as possible. While trying to convince the captain before they left world, he struggles with Millie’s independent spirit not meshing with the other women, and the birth of his granddaughter. He goes back to the colonists, hoping to lead them through the hardship and send someone else on The Sebastian to get supplies, but in the end, his followers chose him as the most likely to get aid to the colonists. He goes back with some resistance but finds that The Sebastian continues to see misfortune as he returns to Enskari. Upor beats him back to Enskari and begins to bad mouth him to all the nobility and paint him as a traitor and coward.
When Morgan finally reaches Enskari, he is a man with a poor reputation in need of help who is unsure of what has become of his family in the months since he left his family back on Tirgwenin. He struggles to plead with the secret bucklers and the person who sponsored their trip to get him more money and ships to resupply the colonists who have already struggled through the winter at this point. It’s a hard sell, but through convincing others to come with him and pledge their possessions to the voyage, he can get 2 ships ready to resupply the colonists that went before.
Misfortune strikes again, and the Queen claimed the ships that had been supplied and made ready to resupply his family for her war. He goes to the Second Ear of the Queen to plead for them to release the ships to allow him to resupply, and during this exchange, we saw what really caught my eye with Alpin Morgan. We see the stress and trauma of everything he has gone through and the worry he has begins to effect him in the form of hand tremors. He is showing physical symptoms of his anxiety; I realized it reminded me of a condition I deal with every day. It reminded me of Functional Neurological Disorder (FND).
FND is a disorder where the nervous system doesn’t function properly. Signals get misinterpreted or lost as they are sent through the body, which results in symptoms like muscle tremors, seizures, paralysis and speech issues. The shaking in his hands reminds me of the near constant tremor I have in my neck. I also don’t see it as a stretch for Morgan to have a seizure later on if he continues to struggle and not take care of himself. Like how FND was first described to me, Morgan’s nervous system is stuck in fight-or-flight mode as he’s been fighting to survive and do the best he can for his followers. I think it rings true because the author based Morgan on a real person.
I got to interview the author which you can read on Big Shiny Robot. During that interview, I asked about Alpin Morgan and learned he was based on John White, the leader of the colonists who settled in Roanoke. Because of issues with supplies, John White also had to return to England to get supplies, leaving his family behind. Also like Morgan, White ended up getting delayed on returning ships because of a war between England and Spain. When White finally returned to Roanoke, the colonists were gone with just the word “Cro” carved into a tree. White took it as a sign that they went to one of the neighboring island but even after searching, he never found his family that he left behind. Also, like Morgan, White was someone who had a talent for capturing discoveries in art.
FND has a strong link to trauma, though it isn’t a factor in all cases. When trauma occurs, the brain can become trained to always be on guard to survive. This causes the broken loops that cause the symptoms we face. Having seen Morgan’s journey, I can believe that his fight-or-flight system went into overdrive, and those symptoms of tremors plagued him for the rest of his life. I appreciated this honest look at someone who is so broken by trauma because we see the damage that trauma can cause and how some people break and you can’t fix it.
The character spoke to me because he is trying to make a great new life for his followers and so many things outside of his control smash him down until his own body can’t let go of survival mode. I fully appreciate this representation that I don’t even believe was intentional. We can see his struggles and come to sympathize with him because he’s just trying to do what is right. He is a person who struggles and broke but still fights for what he believes. That makes him a great way to show the condition I face because he is realistic. He struggles, he breaks, but he still has to do what he can to get the life he wants.