Another character who went through a drastic evolution. And another character I have written about since long before Heartless was dreamed up.
The first time I wrote a story about Dame Imraldera was my sophomore year of college in a creative writing class. Short stories are never my “thing,” so to speak. I've always preferred the novel format. But whenever I got the chance, I would try to tell one of the many stories I had noted down about my world. The time for a short story assignment came around, and I would turn to my files or handy-dandy red-spiral notebook and see which of the dozens of histories and legends I had jotted down inspired me this time.
Of course, the one titled Imralderé and the Wolf Lord stood out as the most intriguing.
Classmate: “I’m trying to pick a topic for my short story.”
AE: “Yeah, me too.”
Classmate: “You know, everybody talks about how you should write what you know, and stuff. I think I might write about my high school prom. How about you?”
AE: “Hmmm. I’m thinking about writing something on ritualistic human sacrifice . . .”
Imraldera's story opened like this:
Let me tell you a story.
They led the girl up the winding path, slowly, in a long fluid line. Four men headed the procession, solemn torchbearers armed with daggers. Behind them came three men and a woman in robes of deerskin dyed brilliant scarlet, their faces smeared with black streaks like streaming tears. After them, the elders, somber in gray cloaks. The Eldest followed these, and his face was that of a man who died long ago.
In their midst walked the girl robed in white. Black hair, her only hood, hung over her face, shielding. Her feet were bare but uncut. In her hands she held a wooden bowl filled with blood. Imral flowers adorned her head, a circlet of red stars . . .
Moody. And a bit belabored. But I do love this introduction of the character!
So, the story was written, enjoyed by my professor and a handful of students then shelved for several years. But when I began expanding Heartless into something much more complicated than a fairy tale, I decided I wanted to connect it to that older, more complex world I had long been inventing. Which meant, it was suddenly connected to the world of Imraldera. Which gave me the perfect opportunity to bring Imraldera back into my stories once more!
Let me just say up front that I love Imraldera. I really do! I’m not saying I don’t love the other girls in my series, because I do. I enjoyed writing my Una, who is funny and heartbreakingly real in her naivety and selfishness. I thoroughly enjoyed working with Rose Red (whom you are about to meet when you pick up Veiled Rose), who appears simple and straightforward at first glance but lives with a world of secrets.
But I really love Imraldera.
She is everything a heroine wants to be. She is beautiful. She is wise. She is experienced yet innocent. She holds secrets and great responsibilities of which we can only begin to guess in Heartless. She is kind and she is firm.
And she has crooked teeth. Which I really love about her. She is beautiful, but she is not perfect. What is more, she is immortal, but she is not Faerie.
And she is a Knight of Farthestshore, Lady of the Haven and, we learn late in Heartless, current keeper of the sword, Fireword. Whether or not she has always been this keeper . . . well, we’ll learn of that in more books, won’t we?
I find I cannot expound on my dear Imraldera as much as I should like. I don’t want to give away anything! Watch for her come Moonblood. We’ll learn a little more of her secrets then . . .
Oh, and did you notice her at the end of Heartless? When she makes an appearance at the Prince’s wedding? When she calls Monster a wretched beast? *smile* That is one relationship I look forward to developing with great anticipation!