A character to whom I owe a great debt of gratitude.
He started out with the names "George" and "Gideon" and was, in fact, two brothers. That didn’t last very long. Within a few hand-written scenes of the first draft, I realize that I didn’t have enough material for two brothers, so George was X-ed out.
Under the guise of Gideon, the younger brother of the princess continued his minor role in the story, appearing here and there as needed for a snarky remark then vanishing for vast portions of the manuscript (not that the first draft was anything like vast, finishing up at about 40,000 words).
When the Dragon arrived, I chased poor “Gideon” out of the palace, quickly wrote him off as having gone into hiding up north, and proceeded on my merry way, following the adventures of the princess. Near the end of the drafting, I felt guilty for neglecting the little brother, So I had Una make a brief visit to “Gideon” before finally going to confront the Dragon.
Heheheh, I just dug up a portion of that long-forgotten scene! Have a look:
“I want you to tell all of them that I came to you and . . . and give them my . . . my best." She could not give love, not without her heart. Her voice darkened. "Tell them I'm sorry."
"Sorry for what?" Gideon rolled his eyes and clenched his fists. "Bother it all, Una, why must you be so mysterious? Just tell me, what are you doing here?"
"I came to say good bye." She sighed. "I wish I could speak plainly to you, Gideon! Please, it will all be made clear in time!"
"Oh, it's pretty clear right now." He hated himself for snapping, but it was that or cry, and he could not stand to cry. "My sister who was dead is—surprise!—alive, and speaking to me from the shadows and won't tell me a thing! Surprise again. No one tells me anything. I'm convenient to keep around and not tell things to, you see. You know, I haven't seen or heard from father in six months? Can't, because knowledge is dangerous or some such nonsense, they say. Six months, Una! He's going to be pretty hard to get a good-bye message to."
"I hope you'll be together again soon," she said. Her voice sounded closer behind him now, but he refused to turn. "I want you to be able to go home. Gideon, I hope to make things right, and you and father won't have to hide any longer. But I doubt I'll be able to return to you."
"More mysteries," he growled.
"You'll understand later, I think. And if not, perhaps it's just as well."
He was quiet, scuffing his boot in the powdery snow.
"I must go now,” she said.
"So soon?" he said dryly. Gritting his teeth, he whirled about, but not fast enough. A dark shape darted back among the trees, rustling the concealing bracken.
"Una, wait!" he called after her. "I'm sorry. Please, just tell me what you're doing to do!"
For a long, dark minute he thought she had gone. Then he heard her say:
"I'm going to kill the Dragon."
"What?" He thought he would choke on his own surprise. "Una, you’re not fit for that!"
"I'm better fit than you think."
There was a burst of hot air and a powerful wind. Gideon gasped and fell back. He heard Monster growling in the treetop. The boy scrambled up from the snow and pine straw, gazing into the darkening sky.
A great heavy shape on spreading wings disappeared into the night.
And that was the last we saw of poor Gideon for the rest of the draft!
I got to the end of that first round, however, and read the thing through. I liked the overall flow of it. I liked Una’s string of unsuitable suitors. I liked the dynamic between her and the Dragon. I liked how unexpectedly heroic Aethelbald became (in the original draft, Una sent him away, and we don’t see him again until he shows up suddenly in the Village of Dragons).
But I said to myself, “Half the story is missing!”
I needed more perspectives on Prince Aethelbald (since I wasn’t getting into his point-of-view). I needed someone with whom Prince Aethelbald could make a friendly connection so that we would have a chance to get a little attached to him even before he began to show his true colors.
Thus Gideon—renamed Felix—came into play. I revamped him into an entire character with a plot arch. We actually see his side of the story after fleeing the Dragon, and we see him come back at the end and do what he can to help in the climax. I gave him a hobby, fencing, which would give him an opportunity to interact with Prince Aethelbald.
And thus the favorite “fencing scene” was created. I really enjoyed that scene. I don’t think it’s difficult to see while reading it how into the action and interaction I got. I loved how Felix and Aethelbald related to each other, I loved seeing Aethelbald in a firm but patient teacher’s role. I loved the swashbuckler quality it created, with the budding young hero and the experienced instructor.
But when I finished and sat back with a satisfied sigh, it suddenly struck me . . . I knew nothing about fencing.
So it was that I signed up for my first round of fencing classes. And met a handsome young stranger with black eyes. And was married less than a year later.
Thank you, Prince Felix, for insisting on needing a larger role! I shall remain forever in your debt.
But alas! Poor Felix doesn’t end Heartless on a high note. There are more adventures in store for the prince of Parumvir before he can have his happily ever after . . .