This is a busy time of year for everyone, so I know it's tough to find time to participate in something like this read-along. However, if you find you have time to go back and read several older posts, your answers to questions will be counted still, even if they were articles from a week or more before! So even if you miss a few days, don't feel like you have to drop out entirely. We still want you! :)
Now on with the story . . .
Captain Sunan: As I believe I have stated previously, I am getting such a kick out of seeing Captain Sunan in this setting. For one thing, it’s interesting to remember how incidental he was at first.
And how thoroughly he refused to stay that way.
Captain Sunan did not feature in the original (rejected) version of Veiled Rose that I sent to my publisher. As you will recall, in that versio Lionheart traveled with a troupe of minstrels and clowns, and there was none of this stowaway business. The troupe was hired for a gig out east, and thus Lionheart had the opportunity to travel and discover the secret he so needed.
But when my publishers insisted I remove the clown troupe, I was left with coming up with other means of getting Lionheart from point A to point B. So Captain Sunan and the Kulap Kanya (a name which, interestingly enough, means “Rose Girl”) were invented.
I hadn’t really intended to do much with the captain. In fact, while writing this scene I didn’t have any more specific plan in mind beyond simply getting Lionheart safe passage. But as I wrote, Captain Sunan sprang into life with such a vivid, dynamic quality that I really couldn’t repress him. He obviously had an intriguing backstory, a history with Faerie and the fey, an understanding of the worlds that Lionheart cannot hope to match. But how did he come by this understanding? And why would a man so apparently profound end up the captain of a humble merchant ship?
I wrote the scene without any clear answer to these questions, figuring that, if he wanted to, Captain Sunan would reveal more in time. And following this selection, I moved on with the story and didn’t really think too much more about him. For a while.
But the character was there and he wanted more of my time and attention. Over the next few years, while working on other stories, I turned back to Sunan now and then, wondering about him. One day, I was going through some notes I had made for another book (that which will be Book 8) and happened upon a certain, roughed-out idea for a character. And I realized that that character was actually meant to be Sunan.
This startled me. I mean, how could Sunan—Noorhitamin sea captain that he was—possibly end up in this Book 8? This book which is set primarily in Parumvir many hundreds of years before Veiled Rose!
But the notion wouldn’t leave me be. So I began to explore the possibilities of Captain Sunan. And I learned that he had, quite possibly, one of the most fascinating plot arcs in the whole of the Goldstone Wood series. I also learned that his story truly began before Book 8.
His story began with Golden Daughter.
With this in mind, I was that much more eager to write my first novella, Goddess Tithe, which features the captain as a main character. Goddess Tithe gave me a chance to play with the themes initiated in this chapter of Veiled Rose, but which I simply didn’t have room to embellish within the novel.
So, if you’re curious to learn a little more about Captain Sunan and the events of Lionheart’s voyage to Noorhitam, you should certainly pick up Goddess Tithe . . . which is currently just .99 on Kindle and only $8 in paperback. And there are illustrations! J
Word of a Pen-Chan: We learn in this selection about the first of the three major people-groups that make up the Noorhitam empire. Captain Sunan calls himself a Pen-Chan, and says the word of a Pen-Chan is “word you may trust.”
The actual word “Pen-Chan” means “full moon” in Thai. This is subtly important in ways that become apparent in Golden Daughter.
Currently, the Pen-Chans are the ruling people of Noorhitam, having taken over from the Kitar not long before, who, in turn, took over from Chhayans several centuries before that. All of these people-groups live together in Noorhitam, layered on top of each other like sediment in the city of Lunthea Maly, where the Chhayans are the lowest class, the Pen-Chans the highest, and the angry Kitar stuck somewhere between.
I had a blast developing the empire of Noorhitam, even just the little bit that I did for Veiled Rose. Noorhitam only features in a precious few chapters in this novel, but some of my most interesting research and development was focused on this nation and the various peoples living therein. I found it incredibly inspiring and intriguing.
Alas, my publishers didn’t like it. Indeed, they would have been happy for me to write it entirely out of the story.
But I insisted, and once more they were gracious. And I’m very glad that they were! If not, I should not have had the opportunity to dive into the history of Noorhitam and explore it as I did this last year while drafting Golden Daughter . . . discovering, as I did so, possibly the most wonderful and fascinating country I have yet had the pleasure to write about!
Ay-Ibunda: When Lionheart makes mention of the name “Ay-Ibunda,” the temple the sylph directed him to find wherein he might discover answers to his questions, Captain Sunan reacts . . . strangely. One would not expect the dignified captain to show any glimpse of fear, and yet Lionheart sees “a flash of fear, or dread” across his face. Captain Sunan knows about this temple. He knows things he is unwilling to communicate to Lionheart.
He knows things about the Mother’s Mouth, the oracle whom Lionheart seeks.
It’s interesting to me now realizing that when I wrote all of this selection I had absolutely no idea that the novel Golden Daughter would ever exist. I had made no plans for it whatsoever. And yet, knowing what I do about that novel now (having just written it this last year), I cannot believe that it hadn’t been in the plan from the beginning. Reading Sunan’s reactions . . . it’s as though Sunan has existed as a character with his complete history since long before I came along to write that history down. I wrote what I observed of him at the time without any idea what his full story might be, but the full story was still there.
This is why I love creative writing and can’t imagine ever loving any occupation more!
No one knows: When Lionheart asks after the location of the Hidden Temple, Sunan informs him that no one but the emperor himself knows where it may be found. And the emperor is not about to tell just anyone.
The emperor’s name: It’s something of a mouthful! Molthisok-Khemkhaeng Niran. Try saying that three times, fast! The way this world works, his actual “first name” so to speak, would be “Niran,” and “Khemkhaeng” would be his father’s name, and “Molthisok” his grandfather’s. This is the naming pattern for emperors, but interestingly enough, not the naming pattern for the other great houses of the Pen-Chan. But I won’t go into that now.
Leonard the Jester/Leonard the Fool: The captain warns Lionheart that, should he find the Mother’s Mouth, she will give him the answer he seeks . . . but the price at which that answer is given will be dreadful. Lionheart insists that this is what he must do, however.
And so this selection closes with Lionheart introducing himself as “Leonard” for the first time. Leonard the Jester. “You are Leonard the Fool,” the captain replies, with much more insight than poor Lionheart possesses at this moment.
And here I had to close this most interesting dialogue and dive forward in time and the story, never thinking to see Captain Sunan again. But it didn’t matter what I thought. This conversation was too intriguing, Captain Sunan’s reactions and words too specific. There was bound to be more story to come . . .
First Goddess Tithe. Later Golden Daughter. And after that . . . Well, you’ll have to wait a little while yet to learn Book 8's title. (But I’ll tell you this: Rohan figured out the perfect title for that book, and I can hardly wait to introduce it to you!)
“You shall find it as a jester.” Visiting his dreams once more, the Lady asks Lionheart to tell her what he wants. In a moment of surprising honesty, Lionheart admits that he wants to be a jester. He will not say whether or not this is the truest wish of his heart . . . but even so, the Lady promises that he will find the Hidden Temple, find the oracle, and find them as a jester.
The young emperor: I was obliged to do quite a large, three-year time jump in Lionheart’s story. To help ease over the suddenness of that jump, I decided to open up his time in Noorhitam from a completely different perspective. I chose to introduce the emperor.
The thing is, by the time Lionheart makes it to Noorhitam, the emperor is no longer Molthisok-Khemkhaeng Niran. That emperor has died, leaving his thrown to his young male heir, Khemkhaeng-Niran Klahan . . . who is nine.
So we are introduced to all manner of potentially interesting political intrigue, tangled up in the fresh young emperor and his “supportive” uncle, Sepertin Naga. A Kitar uncle, though I don’t think the text tells as much. But Sepertin Naga is a Kitar name, so I (with my super-powerful insider’s view) can tell you that the Pen-Chan emperor’s uncle is Kitar and probably has an agenda for his people that goes far beyond the well-being of his nephew.
There is lots of potential of storyline here! But it’s all still just potential . . . so we’ll see where it eventually leads us.
Butchering the language: Some people have a gift for picking up languages. It is a convenient gift in a fantasy story, enabling writers to create a sense of authenticity without actually having to invent a whole new language (which none of her/his readers will understand anyway!).
But I am not one who has a gift for languages. And I didn’t see Lionheart being so blessed either.
Another great advantage to writing in the omniscient narrative as I do is the opportunity to show both sides of a language barrier. We, the reader, get to hear what both sides are saying and enjoy the hilarity that ensues! You can’t do this with the third-person or first-person narratives.
“My name is Leonard of the Tongue of Lightning. What is your name?” I like that Lionheart actually knows this basic phrase and is able to answer. But he adds the “What is your name?” at the end, which sounds just like something you would learn to do when first studying a language.
I wonder if Munny taught him how to say this line?
Lionheart and Klahan: Lionheart feels a pang of sympathy for the boy emperor. After all, Lionheart too was born into a ruling family, expected to lead an entire kingdom one day. And Southlands is nowhere near so enormous as the vast and complex Noorhitam Empire! Emperor Klahan is younger even than Leo was as the start of this book, and yet he is already the nation’s “Sacred Father.”
And yet, Klahan is still present, sitting on his father’s throne. While Lionheart is far, far, far away from his own nation.
Still, Lionheart continues to insist that his motives are pure. After all, he must find some way to kill the Dragon!
Lionheart’s performance: Lionheart’s success as a clown depends much more on his inability to correctly speak the Noorhitamin language than any real wit upon his part. He is hilariously mad in the eyes of the court, and he certainly entertains the young emperor (who is used to clowns who always present a moral of some sort and aren’t really funny at all).
But, for the first time in his life, Lionheart truly succeeds at something: He makes the Emperor of Noorhitam laugh!
Part of the inspiration for this scene with Lionheart came from a day back in a college French class. This was only my second semester studying French, and I certainly was not gifted, though I did enjoy the work. The teacher was going around the table, asking the students to name the parts of the face and head as he pointed to them. When he got to me, he pointed to his hair:
“Cheveux,” I said. “Les cheveux.”
And my teacher started laughing so hard he almost couldn’t speak. I blinked, surprised. I was quite certain that I’d got it right, and I had no idea what he was going on about!
Then he said, “No, Annelise, I do not have horses on my head!”
Yeah. Though I knew the word I was trying to say, my pronunciation was so bad, it came out sounding more like, “Cheval,” not “Cheveux.”
Pronunciation is key, people.
So that’s where Lionheart’s language difficulties came from. He is actually saying words in the language. And he probably knows quite well what he is trying to say. But his pronunciation is so bad, it all comes out mangled. Poor Lionheart. I wish both you and I had that magical gift for languages!
A gift from the emperor: Klahan is so pleased with Lionheart’s performance, that he offers to give him a gift, “anything within his power to give.” And Lionheart, to the horror of all assembled, asks to be taken to Ay-Ibunda.
This is such a sacrilege, such a breach of all etiquette and protocol, that Lionheart probably came within a hair’s breadth of being tossed into a dungeon and lost forever. Instead, the young emperor simply says, “No.”
But the emperor is not one to swiftly forget a promise made . . .
Questions on the Text:
1. What are your impressions of Captain Sunan? If you’ve read Goddess Tithe, have your impressions changed since first encountering the captain in Veiled Rose?
2. What are your impressions of Emperor Klahan after this first meeting? Like him? Dislike him? Think he has a shot at successfully ruling the empire?
3. Have you ever had any embarrassing experiences with language barriers that you’d like to share?
4. Favorite lines of the selection?