So, to get this thing started, allow me to introduce you to Queen Anahid of Arpiar.Anahid was a character I'd written about before turning my pen to Moonblood. Several years ago, after writing Heartless (and while in the process of finding first and agent then a publishing house for that first novel in my series), I took a step back in time and drafted a novel called Goblin Son. A novel set five hundred years before Heartless. It opened like this:
The Queen of Arpiar bore twin sons, but only one could inherit the kingdom, so she was faced with a choice.
"No," she said to her two handmaidens, Sosi and Anahid, when her labor was complete and both babes were swaddled in gold-edged linen. Her handmaidens were her only attendants in that dark chamber, both sworn into her service with vows so strong that should either girl ever break her word, she would fall dead upon the spot. "No, I do not wish to hold them. Not yet." She motioned the bundles offered her away, refusing to so much as look at them. "Bring Zada the Soothsayer to me."Those of you who have read Moonblood will immediately recognize the parallel openings . . . the queen of Arpiar upon her birthing bed . . . newborn children untouched by their mother . . .
But in Moonblood, the former queen's handmaiden has become the queen.This backstory is hinted at in the pages of Moonblood. Do you remember? The statue of the old queen of Arpiar, whispering her angry secrets to her granddaughter, Rose Red?
"I told Sosi to kill it . . . Sosi was too squeamish for that kind of work. Anahid was better. But a queen? Faugh! He's made her pretty enough, I'll grant you, but she'll never have the force to rule Arpiar!" (Moonblood, p. 164-165)So Queen Anahid, we learn, has a long and bloody history with Arpiar, from back before her husband, King Vahe, was even born! A history which, we know, includes her love of a young knight named Diarmid.
Regret and repentance do not always walk hand in hand.Queen Anahid wore guilt like weighty chains about her neck, but repentance was far from her. Thus she inflicted upon herself all the torments of love forsaken and the bitterness of slavery under the King of Arpiar. It seemed just punishment for her sins . . . for the lives she had taken as the old queen's slave. For the atrocities she had committed at the bidding of monarchs; first the queen, now King Vahe. She suffered every day, hating each moment of her life, waking or sleeping--for even her sleep was plagued with nightmares.
But it was punishment meted out by herself alone. And in that, she found a grain of satisfaction. (Moonblood, p. 185)
Anahid, we see, is so twisted up inside with bitterness and resentment, it is difficult to find any shred of goodness left inside her. The one redeeming light in all her life is that daughter she bore: Princess Varvare. For this daughter, she risks everything, fleeing even to the mortal world to find sanctuary for her tiny newborn.
She closed her eyes and placed hand upon her daughter's heart. "With all the love I have to give," she murmured, "though that is little enough." (Moonblood, p.12)
Her bitterness has driven her too deep for her to allow any grace for herself, however. Even the gentle call of the Prince of Farthestshore fails to move her, though we must guess that once she had followed his Path. See what she says to the yellow-eyed dragon who was once Diarmid:"I want you to go from Arpiar. I want you to return to the Prince's Haven. Return to that place where we met so long ago, and where you loved me once. Find the Knights of Farthestshore and warn them of my husband's plan." (Moonblood, p. 186)
Yes, she once communed with the knights and knew safety at the Haven of the Prince. How she came to this dreadful state of power and slavery we do not yet know. But perhaps, one day, I shall have an opportunity to tell you . . .
What did you think of Queen Anahid? Do you think she and Rose Red share any characteristics?