I do hope all of you saw the old year out in style and are looking forward eagerly to all the possibilities that 2014 brings. I know I am! I'll be doing a "Doings at Rooglewood" post sometime in the next few days (along with the read-along) to let you know some of the exciting things currently brewing.
But in the meanwhile, we have a read-along to continue . . .
The most difficult part: As of this chapter we hit upon the most difficult part of the manuscript to write. Which was particularly tough since it was right near the end of the book, with my deadline swiftly looming. I had absolutely no time to dither, no time to wait for “inspiration,” no time for anything but to just write . . .
But I had to be very careful. Because as of this chapter, we really begin to see Veiled Rose overlapping with Heartless. And while the two stories needed to sync up harmoniously, they also needed to feel like two distinct stories. The last thing I wanted was for readers to feel like they were simply reading the same book twice (though I received plenty of reviews early on claiming that I obviously didn’t have any new ideas, so I just rehashed the old one. Sigh. It’s impossible to win with reviews.)
One thing that did help tremendously with this section of the book was that, in Heartless, I didn’t get into Lionheart’s point-of-view while he was at Oriana Palace. I don’t think he got a point-of-view at all until we encountered him again in Southlands. Thus I could be pretty flexible with his thoughts and impressions as he first arrived at Oriana.
And we finally learn the big question we’ve all been wondering since Heartless . . . what did Lionheart really feel for Princess Una?
King Abundiantus V: Fun to see this name referenced again! This particular king (who is known primarily by one of his other names) is one of the major characters in upcoming novels. But first, I’ll be writing the novel about King Abundiantus I . . .
Glimpse of a princess: Of course, Lionheart doesn’t know it’s a princess he glimpses as he tussles with the gate-guards, attempting to get through to Oriana Palace. He just sees a curious young girl, peering out from behind a bush. She is dressed simply (for all Una is a spoiled princess-type, she doesn’t go in for frills and ruffles. You definitely have to give her points for that!), her hair in a long, messy braid, and her face is round-eyed, sweet, and maybe a little scared. Quite a charming aspect, really! And Lionheart calls out to her for aid . . . but she slips away.
I do like this opportunity to meet Una from a different perspective. I think Una’s popularity suffers mightily in Heartless because we are so deeply and honestly invested in her thoughts and heart. There is no hiding for her, no opportunity to present a gentler, sweeter perspective to her readers. But here, we get to meet her from a whole new point-of-view . . . and we discover that she is actually quite charming!
After all, how many of us would like people to root around in our deepest, most honest thoughts? How many of us would come across particularly better than Una, less selfish, less spoiled? I know I wouldn’t . . .
Sleeping in a Faerie forest: A reader who has spent any time at all pursuing the various Faerie forests of literature will know what a very bad idea it is to take a nap therein. Lionheart is lucky he didn’t end up with a white beard as long as Rip Van Winkle’s!
The Other: Once more the Other mentioned several times previously in the text makes a brief appearance. Singing into Lionheart’s mind, it declares, You know the Princess Varvare.
It also says that she has gone “beyond reach of my voice.” So we know this cannot be the Dragon! No, this is something else entirely, some new dread.
SPOILERS: For those of you who have read Moonblood and know who/what the Other is, you see here how swiftly the unicorn can move through the Wood Between. It has been stalking the Wilderlands, patrolling the boarders of Southlands for years and years (which probably seems like no time at all for such an entity), searching and calling for Princess Varvare, the hidden Faerie child. But the moment it senses Lionheart’s in the Wood—Lionheart’s mind which contains strong memories and feelings for Rose Red, even if he hasn’t consciously thought of her for some while—the unicorn immediately speeds through the Wood to appear before Lionheart. And it leaves him a message, a message that may be a command or may be a prophecy. “When you see her, you will send her to me.”
He had a ring to find: We definitely get a new perspective on Lionheart’s arrival at Oriana now that we know what he seeks. Before, we had no idea that he sought anything but a job. But there was much more going on in Lionheart’s head. He has a very specific task to fulfill . . .
Again, I find it interesting to read former work and to see it in the context of new work—new work that I hadn’t even begun to plan at the time I wrote these early stories. For instance, Lionheart’s seeking of Una’s ring is so much more pertinent to me now that I’ve written Golden Daughter. Because, you see, in Golden Daughter we are going to learn where exactly that ring came from . . . and what exactly it signified. Originally, it was nothing more than a physical representation of Una’s heart (and a literary nod to George MacDonald’s Princess and the Goblin). Since then, it has become so much more . . .
A Jester’s demise: I enjoyed reading again the scene of Lionheart’s jesterly apology to Una, in which he wins her over with his amusing antics and earns her forgiveness for leaping upon her. This scene as written in Heartless was part of the very earliest draft, and I’ve always particularly liked it. Again, it was a challenge to present it again in Veiled Rose, trying to make it both amusing to new readers and not repetitive to old. But it’s fun scene to read, one way or the other.
In love with a stranger: At the sound of the nameless girl’s laugh, Lionheart—for the first time in his life, the text tells us, despite any flirtations and thoughts of marriage with Daylily—falls madly in love.
And now we know. The Lionheart from Heartless was a fool, a coward, and a user. But he did love Una. An immature, fragile sort of love to be sure. But love nonetheless.
If anything, that makes what’s coming that much worse . . .
Certainly not as a beautiful: I like this indication that physical beauty isn’t of primary importance to Lionheart. Una is certainly not as beautiful as Lady Daylily, but that doesn’t seem to bother Lionheart for a moment. Credit where it’s do, he does have a slightly better idea of what qualities are important than one might expect!
The picture in the hall: The painting mentioned in this chapter—the three men, two in chains, one in a crown; the weeping woman; the gold stone and the figure lying upon it—we mentioned a few times in Heartless. Here we see it again, and it also gets referenced in Moonblood. So you can bet, with all those references, it’s important to the series, though the specific story has yet to be told!
And one figure of the mix, Lionheart recognizes immediately: the Dragon.
Half as skilled mopping floors: Following Lionheart’s jesterly performance for King Fidel and his family, we learn that our favorite jester has been hired, not only to perform, but also to scrub.
The Crown Prince of Southlands has become a household lackey. Again.
“Lionheart.” Though Lionheart has only given his false name, “Leonard the Lightning Tongue,” suddenly he hears a strange voice calling him by his real name, “Lionheart.” The Prince of Farthestshore, a man he has never before met, speaks to him in the hall. What’s more, this mysterious Prince knows exactly what Lionheart is about.
Questions on the Text:
1. Why do you think Lionheart fell in love with Princess Una so suddenly upon their meeting?
2. Lionheart mentions the Siege of Rudiobus. Any of you have a guess what story he might be referring to there?
3. At one point in this chapter, Lionheart looks at himself in a mirror and whispers, “I don’t even know who I am anymore.” Who of you have felt this way before? When was that? Is it a feeling of the past, or something you’ve worked through?
4. Any guesses as to the story behind the picture in the hall?
5. The text says that, during his encounter with Prince Aethelbald, Lionhearted “wanted to run, to escape those kind eyes, to never again hear that voice.” Why do you think he feels this way?
6. Any favorite lines?