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Glimpse into the Far World. We never actually see the Far World of Faerie within the pages of Heartless. At least, not up close. The closest we get are Felix's glimpses as he stands in the Haven, which is built in the Wood Between. Looking out from his chamber, he glimpses a vista of mountains and a snaking river . . . the mirror images of the mountains and river of his own mortal world, except much bigger and more wild and strange. The Far World of Faerie seems to lie right over the top of the Near World of mortals, sharing much of the same topography.
It's quite a staggering sight--and still more staggering concept--for recovering young Felix.
Imraldera's Outfit. I had fun inventing this style for Imraldera . . . or rather, not inventing. It's inspired by a salwar kameez my Pakistani friend, Aqsa, gave to me. Aqsa loves to host enormous banquets for all her Pakistani friends, and she would invite me to attend. I would wear salwar kameez and say, "Assalamu alaikum," to anyone who spoke to me, and most of them believed I was Pakistani . . . until they asked me questions in Urdu which I could not hope to understand! But I really enjoyed those epic evenings, surrounded by the beautiful sights, sounds, and smells of a culture very different from mine. And Aqsa's traditional Pakistani cooking was to die for!
I ended up collecting quite a few salwar kameez outfits, including a red one embroidered all over with tiny mirrors, and a gold velvet and black one with "bangle" trousers. But my favorite was a green and lavender ensemble with a lovely matching headscarf, or "dupatta." Maybe I'll dig it out and model it for you one day . . . .
Imraldera's age. One of the first mysteries surrounding Imraldera is her age. At first, Felix assumes that she's right around Una's age, maybe a little older. But then he believes she might be quite old indeed, despite her youthful features! We learn in a later book that Imraldera is actually over 1600 years old . . . but aged physically since she was about sixteen, younger than Una, in fact. But Felix, who doesn't know this, is understandably baffled.
The silver pitcher. Imraldera offers Felix drink, and the poor boy immediately asks, "Will it . . . do anything to me?" He is in a strange new world now, where his room is both a room and a forest grove, and monsters snuffle on the fringes of the night. And here is this girl who is both very old and very young, offering him drink. What's he supposed to think?
Crooked Teeth. Felix wonders if Imraldera is a Faerie since she is able to the invisible attendants surrounding him. "Mortals cannot see Faeries within the Wood," she tells him. But she obviously can, proving that she is not mortal. But neither is she a Faerie.
This is further proven by one little physical detail added in about Dame Imraldera . . . she has slightly crooked teeth. Now an immortal Faerie would not deign to suffer such an imperfection! If nothing else, it would probably cast a glamour so that all who looked upon it would see nothing but perfection. But Dame Imraldera, with her lovely face and features, smiles and displays her crooked teeth without shame and without glamour. Clearly not a Faerie!
And Felix thinks this imperfection of hers somehow makes her more beautiful. I think someone might be smitten! Just saying . . . .
Invisible Attendants. It pleases me to read this scene with Felix trying to catch a glimpse of his invisible attendants, Faeries of the Haven who will not show themselves to him. For one thing, I just finished drafting the novel where we learn who these invisibles are and where they came from! But here in Heartless they are just one more little enigma experienced by my characters . . . and by you, my dear readers.
The vista vanishes. Felix glances back to look at that sweeping view of mountains and rivers . . . only to discover that he is now looking on a forest of thick trees! The great view is gone, as though it has never been. More than a little terrifying for our poor addled prince!
But, Imraldera carefully explains to him that the Haven rests in the Halflight Realm between the worlds. It chooses what view it wishes to look upon for itself, be it the Between, the mortal world, or the Faerie Realm. And poor Felix had better get used to it or just not look!
Poisoned Wound. We also learn that Felix has been badly poisoned by the yellow-eyed dragon in the Wood. Those claws pierced him deeply. Imraldera's not even entirely certain that it will be safe for Felix to ever leave the Haven, so deep is that wound . . . which notion does not please Prince Felix in the least!
Strange names. Felix thinks Imraldera's name is strange . . . and is strange, being one of the few "made-up" names in this story! Most of the names in my world are derived from real-world sources. Even outlandish names like Aethelbald and Vahe (the goblin king briefly mentioned in an early chapter) come from our own world. But Imraldera's name is derived from a Faerie language and spent a good bit of time in high school inventing . . . with the foolish delusion that I would somehow prove a skilled linguist!
Heheheh. Skilled linguist I am not, but there are many hours of creativity sunk into those grammars and dictionaries, so I make use of them now and again. "Imral" is my Faerie word for "star," and "dera" is the feminized version of "flower." The gender-neutral version is "deri," and the masculine form is "deru." Which is why, in Starflower, when Eanrin first references the blossoms growing on the vine, he refers to them in the gender-neutral form, imralderi. But when he names Imraldera, he gives it the feminine form. (Yeah . . . way too much time spent on that!)
"Felix" is a Latin name that means "happy," and Imraldera is right when she says the name suits him, somehow.
The Prince is my master, Imraldera tells Felix, mentioning that Aethelbald once rescued her from "an evil such as I will not describe to you here and now." FORESHADOWING! I had written copious notes and even a longish short-story version of the novel that became Starflower years before drafting Heartless. So, of course, I wanted to drop a mention here and there of that story!
Meanwhile . . . Una flies from Southlands in her dragon form, seeking nothing. By some unknown instinct, she makes her way to the Red Desert . . . the world of dragons, as she believes.
It is interesting to note at this point in the story, Una is not referred to by name anymore. She is merely "she" or "the dragon-girl" or sometimes "the dragon-princess." But her name is gone. This is something that happens to most dragons when they are transformed.
Names are one of the most important elements in Starflower, but it's interesting to me to see a similar theme running through Heartless. I'd almost forgotten about it! But names have always been important features of fairy tales. Look at Rumpelstiltskin as a prime example.
Meeting in the desert. When I first drafted this novel, I had a short, chapter-by-chapter outline which I followed to keep me focused. Only a sentence or two described each chapter, but for the most part I followed it fairly closely.
When I reached this scene of Una in the desert, everything took an unexpected turn, however. Out of the blue, the yellow-eyed dragon (who in the first draft hadn't shown up yet) appeared on the scene, calling Una "sister" and offering to take her to the Village of Dragons. As intrigued as Una herself, I allowed the scene to keep playing out, following the yellow-eyed dragon down that twisted path. And there we met the oft-mentioned Bane of Corrilond and saw the dreadful squalor in which the dragons lived, as they suffered the burning of their own spirits. A living hell, full of torment and vengeance and sorrow . . . and the loss of names.
The one thing they have is their kinship. They are a hell-bound family of monsters, united in hatred and in flame.
None of this scene or the ensuing scenes of the Village were planned in my outline. But outlines are merely guidelines, not set in stone!
The Bane of Corrilond. And so at last we meet the figure from Una's tapestry, and from the little marble statues down in Oriana's gardens. A giant of a dragon-woman with a harsh, almost manly voice. Long ago, she was betrayed by her lover for a chest full of rubies . . . but there's much more to the story than what the yellow-eyed dragon tells Una here. Much more, which you will have to wait until later to read! But I do hope one day to be able to tell the whole of that tale. Then we can learn more about Destan, Aysel, and the Queen's City of Nadire Tansu, and the last Queen of Corrilond, lover of riddles . . . betrayed and forgotten.
With my uncle. The yellow-eyed dragon claims to have seen Nadire Tansu destroyed. He also mentions his uncle and how the Queen's was more beautiful than the halls of Iubdan Rudiobus. Can some of you figure out who his uncle might be? If he is familiar with Iubdan Rudiobus, perhaps this yellow-eyed dragon was once a Rudioban himself . . . .
The throne of the Dragon King. The yellow-eyed dragon shows Una the stone throne, covered in blood, from which the Dragon King reigns and devours his own children. The Dragon has been a fierce foe up until this point . . . but here, in this scene, even though he is not present, I think we finally get a true glimpse of just how horrible he really is.
Home. So Una finds herself in this hell of a village, and she tells herself that it is her home. All she can now hope for is to make a infamous name for herself, a name that will not be forgotten . . . .
My Personal Favorite Lines
1. "Will it . . . do anything to me?" he asked.
She laughed. "If you're afraid it will doom you to an eternity as my slave or something along those lines, no, it will not. It is water, nothing more." (p. 266)
2. "But you must listen to me and do as I ask, or things may go the worse for you."
He scowled a little. "I'm not a baby," he muttered, low enough that he didn't think she would hear. But the corner of her mouth lifted, and he knew she had. (p. 268)
3. Soon she would have to rest. But if she rested, she might have to think, and that would be unbearable. (p. 270)
4. "No one understood me before, you see," he said. "Tried to control me. But I showed them."
She did not answer.
"Here they understand," he said. "No chains, no obligations. That's what I like."
She remained silent.
He squeezed her hand almost encouragingly. "And you?" he asked.
"Forgotten," she said.
"They always forget as first," he said. "But they won't later. He will show us how to make them remember." (p. 272)
Questions on the Text
1. What do you think it means that the dragons all lose their names soon after their transformation?
2. Both the yellow-eyed dragon and the Bane of Corrilond make comments about "always being forgotten at first." How do you think the Bane of Corrilond and Una might be similar, based on the information we are given? Do you think the yellow-eyed dragon might have a tale similar to theirs? Why are they so determined not to be forgotten?
3. Favorite lines?