The Music of Heart of a Lion
A big thanks to Armand Rosamilia for giving me another fun challenge, merging my love of writing and music! For Hellscapes, Volume II, he had me come up with a soundtrack, choosing a song for each of the short stories therein. For Heart of a Lion, I’ve been asked to do something similar, in naming songs that would go with the vibe of this book.
Not as easy as it seems, as I am a huge fan of hard rock and metal, and listen to it when I write. A great number of songs come to mind that would be possible fits for this list, but I’ll whittle it down to a few that I think match the essence of Heart of a Lion very nicely.
The story focuses on the Rayden Valkyrie character, a woman who has fought through great tragedy and hardship while maintaining a strong honor code and will to intervene when she comes across the evils of the world. The Rayden Valkyrie story is one embracing resilience, determination and courage. The songs I picked reflected that spirit.
I share several of these songs with Rayden, as part of my own personal fight song soundtrack, but today the focus is one Rayden and her spirit. And here we go…
Def Leppard “Undefeated”
Staying undefeated does not mean you don’t incur pain and scars along the way. Rayden has suffered many trials, but nothing has kept her from moving forward in life with determination. She is undefeated, and these lyrics capture what that is all about:
I got the scars
I will wipe this blood away,
live to fight another day
Pop Evil “Trenches”
This is a song about absolute determination and willpower. It also reflects the vibe of a long, difficult journey, using the metaphor of filling trenches to stand up on level ground once more. Rayden is on that journey and she is a firestorm of determination. She’s filling her trenches and I have full confidence she will also stand up on that level ground one day.
“I’ve waited all my life to get out of the trenches
I’m ready to fight for what I believe you can steal from me
I won’t take this
Gonna fill these trenches and stand up
Wake up, I won’t give up
‘Cause here I come, here I come”
Resistance is something Rayden has never been shy about. Resistance to individuals or even empires, both of which come into play in Heart of a Lion. She is a natural leader too, and helps others stand to resist. This song reflects the idea of looking around, recognizing where things are awry, and resisting those who cause suffering and hardship. These lyrics represent that well:
“Has all we’ve learned been wrong?
Look around at what we’ve been given.
Maybe we’ve taken too long.
Resistance- shouts the man on the right.
Can’t solve the problem overnight.
Resistance- Listen to the call of the wild.”
Hatebreed “To the Threshold”
Rayden has never hesitated to stand with the underdog or to help others find the strength inside of them. She knows that those who think they are broken or beaten can become lions if they believe and dedicate themselves. This song reflects the fire of Rayden’s spirit in a big way and how she will march to the threshold stronger than ever, something in her blood that is much more than any battle cry. The fire also involves picking up others, strengthening others, and helping others find their own strength. The lyrics from this song embrace that fire.
“Give me your broken
Give me your beaten
I will build them up
I will lead them
To the threshold
Make you stronger
Make you believe
I am one in the same
But now stronger then uncertainty
Within this army
This is more than a battle cry
It’s the blood of our lifeline
Flowing faster “
Hatebreed “Live for This”
Rayden understands that true riches reside not in things but in being a strong, free, independent spirit. Living each day, with all of its hardhips, tears, sweat, and blood included, with honor, is where the triumph in life truly is. Rayden does indeed live for that triumph. These lyrics capture that:
“What we have are not possessions we own
It’s not weighed by greed or personal gain
This is real a desire for freedom.
A place apart from a world in abandon.
Every drop of blood
Every bitter tear
Every bead of sweat
I live for this
Live for this, Live, Live
If you don’t live for something you’ll die for nothing.”
FFDP Battle Born
Rayden’s story carries a lot of sadness within it and she does walk the world alone. Deep inside there is an ache and a longing, as she does often feel like she was a castaway by the world. Yet she is a warrior on many levels, a warrior battle born who has grown stronger. A few of the lyrics that reflect that idea:
“Was there such a time
Where I didn’t stand alone
Was there ever a time
And how would I have known
Been a thousand places
And shook a million hands
I don’t know where I’m going
But I know just where I’ve been
I’ve flown a million miles
And I’ve rode so many more
Everyday a castaway
A vagabond battle born”
Machine Head “Now We Die”
Great hardship, adversity and trial were black steel and iron used in the forging of the lionheart that Rayden has. Yes, there is a longing and discontent deep within her, but she is awake, does not hide from that, and goes forward with the heart of a lion. The imagery in this song passage is beautiful in what it represents.
“Black steel and iron
A lion heart is forged from these bones
Fear not, the discontent you hide
Awake from the slumber and define this time”
Rayden’s journey is a marathon. A lot of heartache involved too, which the “heartbreak climb uphill” passage in the lyrics below reflects. It is all a test of will, and while sometimes you need a moment to rest, it imperative to keep moving, which the idea of picking up the pace to stay in the race in the lyrics below reflect.
“It’s a test of ultimate will
The heartbreak climb uphill
Got to pick up the pace
If you want to stay in the race”
Breaking Benjamin “Blow Me Away”
Deep within, Rayden hopes that there is something better ahead, even beyond death. As long as she lives, she’s dedicated to being strong, surviving and fighting against the evils she comes across. She does not seek glory or a crown. She is willing to be that shadow on the wall that will save others, an image from the song that I feel reflects her desire to do things for the right reasons. When the time for death comes, she only hopes that there is someone to lead her to heaven. These lyrics represent that well.
“Only the strongest will survive
Lead me to heaven, when we die
I am the shadow on the wall
I’ll be the one to save us all”
Yngwie Malmsteed “I’ll See the Light Tonight”
Everything involves a choice and that choice is always made in the face of uncertainty. Rayden faces choices often that are shrouded in terrible danger and slim odds. Sometimes the situation involves others Who is to run and who is to fight? What will the outcome be? Rayden can only choose for herself and I think that seeing the light is a good metaphor for the fact that she will fight in the face of uncertainty and will not compromise who she is. The lyrics of this song reflect those notions:
“I’ve seen visions in the night, passing through the stars
Who’s to run and who’s to fight?
Evil tries to pull me in, enslaving me to die
Who’s to lose and who’s to win?”
Black Sabbath “Glory Ride”
Rayden is willing to go against all odds if the cause resonates with her. It does not matter if others might view her fight as a suicidal mission, she’ll fight and she’s certainly well-prepared. This song is another that captures the fiery spirit that Rayden has, a warrior willing to stand even if the odds against seem overwhelming.
“Those who have taken their oaths tonight
Are well prepared they know they’ll
Do or die even if it’s suicide
Let’s take a chance
As the skies will Burn tonight”
Korn “The Game is Over”
When Rayden goes against a true evil, it is an all or nothing battle. She is truly willing to die to see something evil overcome, and she will unleash all in her power to see that happen. These song lyrics reflect that aspect of Rayden, an aspect that makes her a fearsome enemy of the wicked.
“I’m willing to die to see you fall
Power unbound, I’m taking you down
I’m willing to die to see you fall
I am a threat to the opposition
I am no hero, I just have a vision
To terminate and restore this kingdom”
Machine Head “Imperium”
Rayden has her moments of doubt and fear, and the ache and pain she carries deep inside from the numerous things she has suffered do plague her. Yet she does not succumb, and embraces the will to fight. She releases the fear and acts. She strives to live with no regrets, always seeking to keep moving forward. This song represents that determination very well, as the lyrics below demonstrate.
“Will not succumb to doubts that I hold onto
Release the fear of my pain
In so much pain
Give me the will to fight
Every obstacle that I have inside
Release the fear and and
Hear me now
Words I vow
No fucking regrets”
Saxon “Never Surrender”
I will round out my choices with this song, as the chorus carries something that is at the core of Rayden. She does not surrender or compromise herself. Even if she is up against the entire world she is willing to fight to the last. The indomitable spirit she has inspires me often in my own life and in the face of my own trials. She is a lioness that cannot be tamed, who will not bow, and who remains undefeated, and that is because she will never surrender!
When you’re up against the world
Stand up fight them all“
About the author: Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author and filmmaker based in Lexington Kentucky. His work includes the cross-genre Rising Dawn Saga, the epic fantasy Fires in Eden series, the sword and sorcery Dark Sun Sawn Trilogy, featuring Rayden Valkyrie, the Harvey and Solomon Steampunk tales and the Hellscapes and Chronicles of Ave short story collections.
Book Synopsis for Heart of a Lion: Rayden Valkyrie. She walks alone, serving no king, emperor, or master. Forged in the fires of tragedy, she has no place she truly calls home.
A deadly warrior wielding both blade and axe, Rayden is the bane of the wicked and corrupt. To many others, she is the most loyal and dedicated of friends, an ally who is unyielding in the most dangerous of circumstances.
The people of the far southern lands she has just aided claim that she has the heart of a lion. For Rayden, a long journey to the lands of the far northern tribes who adopted her as a child beckons, with an ocean lying in between.
Her path will lead her once more into the center of a maelstrom, one involving a rising empire that is said to be making use of the darkest kinds of sorcery to grow its power. Making new friends and discoveries amid tremendous peril, Rayden makes her way to the north.
Monstrous beasts, supernatural powers, and the bloody specter of war have been a part of her world for a long time and this journey will be no different. Rayden chooses the battles that she will fight, whether she takes up the cause of one individual or an entire people.
Both friends and enemies alike will swiftly learn that the people of the far southern lands spoke truly. Rayden Valkyrie has the heart of a lion.
Heart of a Lion is Book One of the Dark Sun Dawn Trilogy.
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