(a thinking-in-public post)
So I sat up until 2am because I couldn’t stop editing. And then I had to stop editing because the draft ended. What I’ve got would be almost good enough to send to beta readers –I need to rename one character– if it didn’t end at that point.
In the middle of a mystery. Someone has been impersonating his own brother. I know who it is — well, he’s the character’s brother of course, but I know which brother, he’s got at least three but this is Eldan. I know of one man Eldan is in cahoots with, Lydan astin Eraday.
I don’t know why they’re doing it. The young queen rejected Lydan’s proposal and is now somewhat happily married to someone else, but that can hardly be enough motivation.
Summary (not much chance it triggers already-written syndrome and make me seize up for good, because this is a summary of what I have already written):
We have Ardyth, who has been the queen for a couple of months since her father, Vegelin later-to-be-called the Great, abdicated in her favour. For health reasons: after a battle four years ago he’s never been really fit. She’s twenty-one, newly married, newly pregnant, still mourning her best friend and aide, Leva. (Yes, Sara, I did have to kill Leva. Some of the things that need to happen couldn’t have happened otherwise.)
Leva died of overexposure to psychic power which nobody saw coming, but it’s becoming clearer and clearer that being close to Ardyth has made her extra sensitive because the same is happening to other people around Ardyth. Her husband, for one, who wasn’t particularly gifted in that field before the marriage. And her apprentice, but it’s what the apprentice is learning anyway so it won’t be so apparent.
Loryn, the joiner, is Ardyth’s friend, who she had a brief crush on but she realised that following through on that would make him unhappy — he needs to be a craftsman, not a nobleman who is only ever allowed to dabble. He’s the one being impersonated.
Lydan proposed to Ardyth and she rejected him. He then asked Loryn to come to the palace to measure an awkward corner in his room for a wardrobe. Lydan himself was away at the time.
While (everybody could reasonably know that) Loryn was at the palace, Eldan-impersonating-him seduced a linen maid and told her that the queen had jilted him but she was much nicer than the queen anyway. Associated darling:
Loryn sat shuffling his feet. “I was in the palace, in fact,” he said. “Measuring in Lord Lydan astin Eraday’s room. But I’ve never seen this young woman before. I can’t prove any of it, the valet left before I was finished.”
“It can’t have been you,” Ardyth said. “Why would someone want to pretend to be you? To discredit you, or to discredit me?”
“And if he wanted me, why not just do it as himself?” It was the first thing Hylti said after they had sat down. “I mean I’d have liked him anyway. It wasn’t because he was Master Loryn. Oh, no, he wasn’t of course.”
“Did he take advantage of you?” Ardyth asked. If anything came of it, they’d
better be prepared.
Hylti looked blank. Maile, coming in with a tray, came to her rescue. “She means, did you fuck?”
Now it was the girl’s turn to shuffle her feet. “Er, yes.” She hastily added, “Not that I minded.”
Now there was nothing to jilt, because there’s never really been anything between Ardyth and Loryn, but the maid Hylti obviously didn’t know that. And I’m not sure whether Eldan knows, or even whether Lydan knows. Lydan might actually be convinced that Ardyth sent Loryn away in order to make a marriage of convenience to Arin. (This was the version Eldan told Hylti.)
Ardyth and Arin’s marriage is in fact a marriage of convenience. They like each other a lot, they’ve both discovered that lovemaking is pleasant, they’re looking forward to the baby, but it’s not a tempestuous love affair, they’re just good friends doing the thing that seems to be to everyone’s advantage. Loryn will probably marry his master’s senior apprentice in the same way, and they’re likely to go on being friends as couples. (Now everybody and their dog will be all over me with talk of class distinctions, but please consider that, though I take a lot of inspiration from what I know of the history of the world we live in, the story is not set in our own historical past. They’re all in the Guild of Anshen — well, apart from Arin who doesn’t know he’s entitled to be yet — and though class distinctions do exist in the setting they’re irrelevant for at least the private side of their friendship. End mini-rant.)
Lydan wants to make Ardyth’s life hell; Eldan wants to make Loryn’s life hell (he’s been doing that since Loryn was born, nothing new there). They seem to have combined forces. I don’t know all their motivations — villains’ motivations are always the most difficult part of writing for me.
I don’t know what’s going to happen now, but I’m in the write-to-find-out school so that’s the least of my concerns. I’m not a Mercedes Lackey who springs the very worst on people when they’re just settled and comfortable, so it probably won’t be anything really horrible, just major confusion and temporary distress.
What I need:
Motivation for the villains other than “she jilted me!” and “he’s my horrid little brother who we all used to dogpile on when he was living at home!” Come to think of it, I can just make Lydan a rejected suitor with a grudge, he has a tendency to think much of himself, and Eldan can follow him because he’s lost both his eldest brother and sister and needs a new leader figure. [ETA: partially solved, see below.]
A way to show Ardyth’s influence on people without spooking her into a morass of guilt for Leva’s death. The commander of the Order of the Sworn, Jerna who was Leva’s superior, is already aware of that danger so she’s treading very carefully.
One particular loose end tied off: why did someone ambush the messenger with letters from Ardyth’s parents and Jerna’s former superior? And who was it, for that matter? (Conceivably Eldan; Lydan is a much smaller man than the messenger reported attacking him.)
Plot, confound it.
What I already have:
A vague idea of what’s going to happen in the future. Ardyth is going to have two sons, calling one Vegelin after his grandfather and the other Ruyin after her grandfather. One son will become a mediocre king, the other, brighter and much more gifted, will run away to Essle or be sent to Essle for his grandfather (Vegelin the Great, remember) to deal with and set up an inn that will be famous a couple of hundred years down the line. Loryn will marry Riei. Villains will have their comeuppance.
A large enough pool of already known characters with connections to the POV characters that I can take major players from that.
And OH JOY! I found a document called “loose ends” which contained, among other things, the writeup of a Twitter conversation I had with @selcaby about the villains’ motivations. I can absolutely do a lot with that. It involves a claimant to the throne, who makes a much better arch-villain than the two who are already on the scene.
Back to the word mines now!