Yet another dream-come-true gone wrong. Well, Una asked for it. She wanted suitors, and suitors she's got. Her newest one being the completely awful Duke of Shippening . . . perhaps the most un-nuanced (and yet one of the most entertaining) characters in the entire novel. He's big. He's vulgar. He's far too old. He's cruel. He's greedy. He's just absolutely everything you would NOT want in a suitor. Not even Nurse, who at first thinks, "Hey, it's a duke! Why not marry him?" is horrified at the notion of her little charge ending up with such an oaf.
But everyone must be polite. Shippening may not be a kingdom, and the duke may not be a king . . . but the Duchy of Shippening includes Capaneus City, a vitally important trade city. I wish I could show you a map, for it would explain just why. I've not yet drawn up an official map for my world, however, because it is always growing. But there are some basics set in stone.
For instance, Southlands is connected to the rest of the Continent by a thin isthmus. On one side of the isthmus is Chiara Bay, and the on the other is the western ocean. Capaneus City is built right on the end of that isthmus and controls all trade between ships from the west and Chiara Bay. Neither Parumvir nor Beauclair have eastern coasts, so any trading they want to do with the Far East, they have to send their merchants waaaaaay down south, either sailing around Southlands, or . . . putting in at Capaneus. Which means the Duke of Shippening ultimately controls a vital link between these western kingdoms and all eastern trading.
He may not be a king, but the Duke of Shippening is sittin' pretty! Not a man you want to offend.
Anyway, I don't know if that was interesting to you or not. One day, I'll draw up a final map, I promise! But probably not for another few books . . .
Una's Reaction. Una is, quite naturally, horrified. I liked the description of her face mirroring the expression of her bean-man tapestry, his mouth open in a silent scream. I always find when I illustrate that my face takes on the expression of the character I'm illustrating. I don't know why! I've caught myself, bent over the drafting table, pencil in hand, my face contorted into the most frightful expression. It's all unconscious (Do some of you artists do this? I hope I'm not the only one who does!).
I smiled when I read about Una doing the same thing. Yet another little way that she inherited my own attributes!
The scene in the Wood. Funny story! So when I was reading along in this chapter, I fully expected to come upon a scene between Una and Leonard . . . only set inside the house itself while he cleaned windows! Oh, I expected the same conversation, just not out in the Wood.
You see this scene of Una meeting Leonard down by the Old Bridge was a rewrite in one of the very last drafts of Heartless before it went to print. For a good six or seven drafts before that, I'd had them have this conversation inside. And that's where I still expect to see it, even now!
I remember I switched the location because I got so tired of the scene between them. It felt really stale after a few rewrites, but it's full of important moments. So I uprooted it and put it down by the Old Bridge, and it took on new life again.
And, of course, if you've read Veiled Rose, you know there's much more to this scene than meets the eye . . .
Remembering. Una thinks of Aethelbald in this scene! To everyone who thinks she is totally indifferent to him, I cry you mercy and beg you look upon this scene with a more careful eye! Here it is five weeks later, and her thoughts still go back to him. Sure, she's telling herself that he'll never come back, and she might even try to convince herself that she's glad. But he's still there in her mind. And I'll bet he's a little more deeply embedded in her heart than she might realize as well.
Leonard. But, ultimately this scene is about Leonard. We've got some big revelations coming up about him, and in this scene we get some set-up for them. We also get another chance to see Leonard and Una together, to see the rapport they've developed, despite the differences in their ranks and personalities.
We definitely see how resentful Leonard is at being made to sweep and mop and pursue other menial tasks. Which does seem a bit odd! He doesn't strike one, at first glance, as being so very proud. But he is proud. And he doesn't like for Una to imply that he is not her equal . . . even though she is a princess, and he is a jester.
But he also regrets his sharpness with her right away and tries to make her laugh. I think this scene demonstrates a number of conflicted emotions on his side! He really cares about Una, wants to see her happy. But he feels so confined, so restrained.
Or, perhaps he's just playing a game of his own . . .
A pity he's a jester. One way or the other, after this exchange, we notice a sharp difference in Una's attitude. Suddenly, she's comparing Gervais to Leonard, and the Prince of Beauclair is coming up wanting. And Una even indulges, however briefly, in the thought, A pity he's a jester.
Her feelings have shifted suddenly and--in typical Una fashion--very strongly into a new avenue. And no matter how much she tells herself to stop, she does not have so much control over her wayward heart as all that . . .
Enter the Duke. It is with the arrival of Una's third and most obnoxious suitor that we begin to hear more solid rumors of dragons and the fate of Southlands. Shippening is not very far from Southlands, and the Dragon's smoke can easily be seen from Capaneus City.
We learn from the duke that the Dragon is "looking to procreate." Not quite the first thing you'd expect from a dragon, is it? But when Felix questions further, wondering just how it is that dragons procreate, Fidel cuts off the duke and won't let him speak anymore on this topic.
The duke also tells us that the crown prince of Southlands, Lionheart, was killed by the Dragon.
Retired to the sitting room. I confess, I got a chuckle of the mental picture of the duke puffing pipe smoke Una's way just to watch her cough. What a completely odious man! He's so over-the-top, which technically isn't very good writing on my part. But I have to admit, I really love him! He's hilarious and just so hideously villainous. Even though I know better--I know that villains should have good qualities as well as bad to make them fully fleshed-out--I don't think I'd change a thing on the Duke of Shippening.
The Beastly Lout. Oh, great Lights Above! The jester demonstrates tremendous gall by singing that horrible song to/about the duke. And the duke appears to oblivious to the insult . . . though the rest of those listening are not! In one moment of irritable jealousy and maddening foolishness, Leonard the Lightning Tongue loses his job and is ordered by King Fidel to pack his bags and leave.
Much to Una's dismay!
A revelation. Una, horrified, makes a hasty getaway from the sitting room, following in the wake of the jester . . . who is waiting for her, as it turns out. Interrupting poor Una in the midst of one of her fumble-tongued tirades, he makes a stunning declaration: "I am Prince Lionheart of Southlands."
Dun, dun, duuuuuuuun.
My Personal Favorite Lines
1. Una paused with her needle pulled partway through a bean man's eye. "The Duke of . . . But Nurse, he's older than Father!"
"A sturdy age, practically the prime of life."
"Close enough, anyway." (p.141)
All romance seemed to have vanished from life in one fell swoop. She might as well give it all up now and begin preparing herself for the role of spinster princess of Parumvir--
"Ouch! That was my foot." (p. 142)
"Don't be silly," Una said.
"Can't be helped. It's my job." (p. 143)
"And what brings you down here, Princess Una?"
She sighed. "Suitors."
"You make it sound like the descending hordes. How many this time?" (p. 144)
"Then I think you are a very brave Fool," Una said quietly.
"If I were not a Fool, do you think I could be brave?" (p. 146)
When (Fidel) had received word that the duke wished to "pay his respects," his own heart had sunk--not so much for fear of losing his daughter to this man, but because he'd known the duke since childhood, when they'd been obliged to play together as noblemen's children should. He retained vivid memories of being sat upon by the large boy which had not improved with time. (p. 148) Hahaha! Sounds like young Fidel had his own set of adventures back in the day!
Questions on the text:
1. So, tell me honestly . . . how many of you guessed Leonard's identity the moment you heard the duke mention the supposed-dead crown prince Lionheart of Southlands?
2. When you first read this novel, what were your thoughts on the mysterious rumors of dragons? Could you guess how a dragon might procreate?
3. What are your favorite lines?
1. "I have a question about Aethelbald's father, the High King. Will we meet him some time in a future book or is he always in the land of Farthestshore? Was the thrush the representative of the Holy Spirit?" -- Little Brown Sparrow
The High King beyond the Final Water will be mentioned throughout the various books. At this point, I don't have an active plan to introduce us to him face-to-face. But that could change . . . And yes! The wood thrush does represent the Holy Spirit, at least loosely. Good spot!