This is quite a dark chapter to cover on such a merry day . . . but we'll proceed into it as per the schedule, finishing up the last of Part Three as we go. And tomorrow, we'll dive into Part Four!
Remember to look over the November 30 post if you have any questions on how to get your name entered in the weekly giveaways for a chance to win a signed copy of Veiled Rose.
And now, on to our chapter.
A strange contrast: The Dragon in this scene is a strange contrast of overtly creepy and weirdly seductive. His appearance is quite gruesome, but his words are honeyed poison. Normally, one would expect a seductive villain to be equally appealing to the eye. But this monster is truly monstrous.
I wonder if to an eye less discerning than our stubborn, down-to-earth Rose Red the Dragon may have appeared fairer?
Bared face: Even as Rose Red unveiled herself before the Dream back upon on the mountain, now the Dream unveils her in this scene. She is always made vulnerable before him. She is always laid bare, unable to hide.
Courageous . . . or simply stubborn? Our Rosie continues to impress with her stubborn refusal to act afraid of the Dragon. I’m sure she is actually quite overwhelmingly terrified, but her reaction is to put up a courageous front. And you know how it is: sometimes if we pretend hard enough that we feel one way, we can actually make ourselves believe it.
The Touch of a Dragon: When Rose Red slaps the Dragon, the barest touch burns her down to the bone. And remember, Rose Red has a pretty tough hide! So this Dragon must be searingly hot.
I liked the opportunity I had with this character to really fall back on the ancient terror that dragons once were in western mythology (not eastern, so much). Modern fiction tends to prefer friendlier dragons which can either be tamed as pets, or befriended, or which serve as wise mentors. But the old dragons—Beowulf’s foe, Fafnir, Tiamat, St. George’s dragon, and of course the biblical allusions to dragons—they were all terrifying. And I do miss that in my modern fiction. I miss the real foe that a dragon used to me. Though there are several novelists who have done frightening dragons in more contemporary YA fiction. Gail Carson Levine’s wonderful Vollys from The Two Princesses of Bamarre, and Robin McKinley’s unforgettable Maur from The Hero and the Crown. Those were some excellent dragons!
Some folks have complained that I don’t have any good dragons in my series (perhaps you are one of those folks!). And I do try to be sympathetic. But you know, there are plenty of good dragons out there. But in my opinion, there simply aren’t enough bad ones. And I love how literarily symbolic a dragon is by nature, how much fictional history there is to draw upon. So I decided at quite a young age that I would never write a story about a good dragon. A dragon protagonist sure—Una is that, Hri Sora could be considered something of an anti-heroine, and in my upcoming Book 8 we will have another dragon hero whom I hope you will all learn to love, even in his dragon form—but never a good dragon.
Thus my Father of Dragons is burning to the touch, his breath is poisonous, insanity-inducing, and his motives are wicked. He is the Death of Dreams, the Destroyer. And he is quite satisfyingly as wicked of a dragon as I could invent!
Pain shot through her arm, up her neck, and into her head. Have you ever noticed this sensation of pain when you touch something too hot? I remember it from as far back as my early childhood—four or five years old, maybe younger. We lived in England at the time, and one of the lovely features cold, rainy England provides its denizens is heated towel racks. These are electric racks mounted on the wall of a bathroom, and you hang your towels on them, pull a cord (at least in our house it was a cord), and can warm your towel while you bathe.
Oddly enough, our towel rack was in the bathroom without a shower.
Quirky. We’ll call it quirky.
Anyway, because of its location, we never used the towel warmer, so it was almost always quite cold to the touch. But sometimes, somehow, it would get turned on, heating up to quite appalling temperatures. And an unsuspecting little hand might reach out to grab it while sitting . . . um . . . certain places. And YEOUCH!
My memories of that towel warmer are so vivid to this day that just thinking about it sends shivering synapses running up my arm and into my head, telling me to move my hand. I’m not kidding you. I feel it right now as I type!
So when I described Rose Red striking the Dragon, I feel I can sympathize with her completely. She has her dragon . . . I have my towel warmer. Pretty much the same thing.
“I know who the real mountain monster was all along.” Rose Red accuses the Dragon here of being the mountain monster, the one who caused all the fear among the villagers, the reason for her isolation. I wonder though . . . is this truly accurate? Or is he simply her mountain monster?
Because I don’t think the mystery of the monster is quite so easily explained . . .
The Name: Once more, Rose Red feels the Name Beana gave her resting on her tongue, but chooses not to speak. Nevertheless, she feels comfort. And the Dragon leaves.
This is a Name that wields whether or not Rose Red speaks. This is a Name that is not dependent upon the one who calls upon it, though it is ever ready to be called upon.
The poison: So far, Rose Red has appeared to be impervious to the Dragon’s poison. Unlike Daylily, Foxbrush, and all the others in the house, she has not been reduced to a near catatonic state or a mad frenzy.
This is due—I believe—to her nature, which is not mortal. Mortals react very strongly to the Dragon’s poisons. They are much more susceptible. Rose Red is a much tougher nut to crack simply because her nature is not that of a mortal. I think she is still susceptible, ultimately, but it’s going to be a much slower process in her. Besides, she’s been interacting with the Dragon since she was a child. Perhaps she’s built up something of an immunity.
She knew he would: Rose Red continues her work, trying to relieve the suffering of those within the house, all the while comforting herself with the belief that Leo will return. The he will kill the Dragon.
She does seem to have quite the faith in our intrepid young Leo. Perhaps more faith than he deserves . . .
Foxbrush staring: Rose Red discovers Daylily’s disappearance because of the direction Foxbrush is staring. I wonder if Foxbrush wanted to follow, wanted to prevent Daylily from pursuing her mad wandering. But he couldn’t, not with all the poison he has breathed. How helpless all these mortals have become under the Dragon’s influence!
Remember, those of you who have read Heartless, these people have been breathing in the poison much longer than Una did. If I remember correctly, Una only dealt with the poison for three days at the most, possibly not even that long (once more, my copy of Heartless isn’t on hand for reference!). But these people have endured much longer than that, and will continue to endure more.
The door that leads to . . . Here at the end of the chapter we discover the secret behind the door before which Rose Red found Foxbrush and Daylily standing in the previous chapter. We learn that it is Death’s own door.
A door that leads, like the cave of the mountain monster, into the depths of the Dragon’s own realm. Into the depths of the Netherworld.
As I believe I have said in one of my answers to an earlier question, the original Veiled Rose manuscript did not include Rose Red’s journey to the Netherworld. She returned to the Eldest’s House to care for Lionheart’s parents (I don’t honestly remember if Daylily was there or not), and all of her adventures took place in the mortal world as she interacted with the Dragon over the course of five years (the term of Lionheart’s exile).
As I searched for new ideas of how to approach the novel, revising to make it more exciting, one story kept coming to mind: The tale of Orpheus and Eurydice. In that classic story, Orpheus makes his fateful journey to the underworld to reclaim his dead wife, Eurydice. The idea of a journey into Death’s own realm was very intriguing.
But I thought how much more intriguing it would be if, rather than going to rescue someone she loved, my heroine instead went to rescue someone she did not love. Her rival, even. Naturally, we would see Rose Red doing this for the sake of Leo, probably even for Beana.
But can she truly risk all for the sake of the distinctly unlovable Lady Daylily? Lady Daylily who, as far as Rose Red knows, is Leo’s intended bride?
Now there was some drama worth exploring. I also decided to classically give Rose Red three tests along her way before she makes it to the heart of the Dragon’s realm. But more on that as we go . . .
And we have not reached the end of Part Three!
Questions on the text:
1. For those of you who have read Heartless, what do you think of the contrast between Una’s reactions to the Dragon to Rose Red’s? How are the two heroines similar? How are they different?
2. What do you think of Rose Red’s declaration that the Dragon is the true mountain monster? Is she right? Is she wrong? Is she partially right but not completely?
3. What do you think Rose Red’s bare face whenever she’s in the Dragon’s presence might mean? Similarly, what do you think he sees when she is unveiled before him?
4. Are any of you familiar with the story of Orpheus and Eurydice? Do you see some similarities between that story and this? Do you see some interesting differences?
5. Any favorite lines?