Tuesday, December 31, 2013

VEILED ROSE Read-Along: Chapter 6, Part Four

Due to how busy I am at the moment, I may take a few days to answer questions. But please, don't let that stop you from asking them! I will get to them as soon as may be, and I enjoy the chance to discuss further details about the world and stories with you.

Last day of 2013 already . . . wow! Where did this year go?


Chapter 6

The Black Dogs: Interestingly enough, in my original notes for these characters, they were going to be black lions. This was back in high school, and they existed only in notes and ideas. But they were definitely going to be a pair of black lions and, like the Black Dogs, they would drag souls to Death’s Realm.

At the time, they were not the Dragonwitch’s children. And then, when the stories developed a little more and they became the Dragonwitch’s children, they weren’t the Wolf Lord’s children . . . though, oddly enough, the Wolf Lord and Dragonwitch connection already existed. So it was a bit of a humbling “ah ha!” moment when I realized that, Oh! They should be the Wolf Lord’s children as well.

About that time, I realized they could not be lions anymore, attached though I was to the Black Lion theme. So they became the Black Dogs instead.

Encountering the Black Dogs: The scene between Rose Red and the Black Dogs was yet another one that my editors did not like. They really wanted me to take out at least one of Rose Red’s encounters out . . . but I felt that three encounters was a far more literary number than two, so I insisted. I wanted her to encounter three different legends before finally reaching the Dark Water and crossing over into the Village of Dragons. So, again very graciously, my editors allowed this to slide. And I’m very glad they did, since it would have felt odd to me to introduce the Wolf Lord and the Dragonwitch, but not finish off with the Black Dogs!

They’ll not harm you: Though the wood thrush continues to assure Rose Red that she cannot be harmed so long as she holds the gift he gave her—the lantern of Asha—she cannot quite bring herself to believe him. He speaks the truth, but the nearness of these fearful Black Dogs clouds the truth so dreadfully! And, as she says, she does not know her Imaginary Friend anymore. Not as she once did. She has been straying farther and farther from him and his love, and she scarcely knows him to trust him anymore.

Indeed, it is easier to trust the Dragon. Though she knows the Dragon is a liar. But he is a familiar liar, and she though she fears him even more than she fears the Dogs, she also trusts him sooner than she trusts the wood thrush. So though the wood thrush urged her to walk forward in his light and know that she would be safe, Rose Red instead obeys the Dragon and throws the Black Dogs one of her gloves.

The Lake of Endless Blackness: So Rose Red passes by the Black Dogs and proceeds to the edge of the vast black lake, and she recognizes it at once form the games she and Leo played long ago. (Random tidbit: In Faerie language, it would be Brey-el Kron, or Dark Water. I usually just refer to it as the Dark Water when it is referenced in the series. In fact, I don’t believe I have ever referred to it by the Faerie name, and not sure that I ever will.) But Rosie knows that this is the Lake of Endless Blackness, knows it deep in her heart.

As though this evil place has been waiting to draw her in since she was but a little girl . . .

A gold stone: As she sails in the boat of sticks across the Lake of Endless Blackness, Rose Red glimpses a pure gold stone—an altar, she thinks—jutting up from the water.

With a series titled “Goldstone Wood,” you might want to tuck away the memory of that particular gold stone for future reference . . .

“So far I’ve only failed you.” This line of Rose Red’s, whispered in apology to Leo whom she is striving so hard to serve, breaks my heart. After all, she asked only one simple thing of him: that he remember her. That he think of her while he is gone.

His failure is so much greater than hers.

Rose Red sings: It’s interesting to note, I think, that Rose Red sings the same song that Una wrote in her journal back in Heartless. As though the same song is there in their hearts, waiting to be sung, waiting to be released. Rose Red does not trust her Imaginary Friend any more than Una loves Prince Aethelbald of Farthestshore . . . and yet, that song is still there inside them. A seed of truth and longing and love planted deep.

Finally for Beana! At long last, as Rose Red nears the far shore of the Lake of Endless Blackness, the wood thrush calls to Beana, and the gate opens.

Now Beana can pursue her charge. Now we will see whether or not it is too late . . .

Questions on the Text:

1. When Rose Red chooses to listen to the Dragon instead of the wood thrush, my heart just lurches. But how many times have I done the same thing? Do you find yourself relating to Rose Red and her situation? Would you care to share?

2. Why do you think Beana was prevented from following Rose Red for so long? Do you think it was the Dragon preventing her or the wood thrush/Prince? Why do you think this was so?

3. Any favorite lines?

Monday, December 30, 2013

VEILED ROSE Read-Along: Chapter 5, Part Four

Getting so close to the end of the year! But not quite as close to the end of Veiled Rose, so I hope you will stick with me into early January. There simply wasn't time to double-up chapters as I had hoped. Oh, well!

If you are new and don't know how to get your name entered in the weekly giveaway to win a copy of Veiled Rose, check out the post from November 30, which should enlighten you.

And here we go!


Chapter 5

The same night: Rather than a big time-jump, we pick up with Lionheart once more on the same night as his performance for the emperor of Noorhitam . . . just minutes after his disappointment.
And he is given a peacock for his pains.
The peacock: This obnoxious bird has proven one of the most popular characters from Veiled Rose, to the point that he featured in not one, but TWO different fan fiction stories in last year’s contest! First was The Peacock of the Prince by S.F. Gorske, and the other was The Peacock of Lunthea Maly by Molly. Click the links to read either or both! They are quite wonderful.
This may seem like quite the random little interlude, this whole section with Lionheart and the peacock. But I was obliged to include it because of a line in Heartless when Leonard the Jester told Princess Una that he was given a peacock as a “ceremonial gift” after performing for the emperor. Heartless was already in print by the time I was writing this version of Veiled Rose,  so I had to find some way to fit in that dragon-blasted peacock!
Random or not, this little slice of storyline is one of the most amusing in the book. And who knows? Perhaps we’ll see more of the peacock (or his brethren) one day . . .
French Peacocks: When my family lived in England, I often enjoyed visiting the various castles and estates, not for the historicity of it all . . . oh no. I liked that many of  them kept peacocks on the premises! I always loved the peacocks. After visiting Leeds Castle and admiring all of its peacocks, I used to fantasize about taking one home as a pet. The entire long drive home, I imagined what it would be like to a gorgeous peacock companion, living in my (tiny!) back yard, going for walks with me on the Common and down the street.
Sigh . . .
Anyway, one thing I always thought particularly charming about peacocks was their cry. If you haven’t heard it, you can click this link. They really do sound like they’re saying, “HELP! HEEEELP!” So, of course, that’s how I wrote about Lionheart’s encounter with his peacock.
A couple of years later I received copies of Rose Voilée in the mail. Rose Voilée is the French language edition of Veiled Rose. I was curious . . . do French Peacocks say “Help”?
Yes. Yes, they do. Only, they say it, “à l’aide!
Hmmmm . . . some things maybe get a bit lost in translation.
“Like unto the incarnate image of the Mother.” Ooooh, here’s an interesting little tidbit! Turns out that hint of the Duke’s about a possible alternate form for the Dragon’s sister might be more than a rumor. Because, according to this official who showed up at Lionheart’s door, the peacock is, “like unto the incarnate image of the Mother as a Firebird.”
Something to watch for in future books . . .
The emperor: I find the emperor a particularly interesting character, especially when considered in contrast to Lionheart himself. Lionheart, as we know, tended to get pushed around by authority figures in his life (for better or for worse). The young emperor, by contrast, doesn’t seem terribly concerned with his uncle, Sepertin Naga, or what he would think of Klahan’s determination to do what he believes is right. The emperor demonstrates a strong sense of honor and a certain impressive measure of wisdom, particularly impressive in a nine year old who is as interested in clowns as in his own coronation.
This emperor will be an interesting one to watch as he gets older.
Ay-Ibunda: The interlude at the Hidden Temple is another interesting little piece of Veiled Rose. One of the more fascinating locals visited in the entire novel, though we only spend part of one chapter there.  It’s a bit funny to me, reading this selection a few years later. At the time when I wrote it, I seriously intended Ay-Ibunda to be no more than an interlude in Lionheart’s adventures. I had no particular intention of writing about it again, dealing with it in the broader context of the series.
And now it is one of the most important aspects of the series.
Come Golden Daughter, many of the secrets about Ay-Ibunda—it’s origin, it’s purpose, etc.—will become clear. Or clearer, anyway, since it is quite a mystery and not easy to explain all in one go. But there are interesting things to take note of even in Veiled Rose. The gate, for one thing, gives us a strong indication of who this temple was built for: remember the Duke and Captain Sunan mentioning that there are those in Noorhitam who worship the Dragon?
The humming, chanting men in black and white are also important. Lionheart scarcely sees them in this book, and they seem to pay absolutely no attention to him whatsoever. Which may at first seem odd. Would not these denizens of the Hidden Temple be concerned with this unexpected intrusion? But, come Golden Daughter, we will understand what exactly it is these men are doing and why . . . which will also explain why they have no attention to give to these intruders.
The blindfold: At the time I thought it would be a good idea to blindfold Lionheart as he passed into the temple simply to avoid having to do long detailed descriptions. I am very thankful for that now!  It leaves me with so much more creative flexibility for later books. Golden Daughter deals very little with the actual interior of the Hidden Temple. But I rather hope and expect to write a story about Emperor Klahan one day (and perhaps a certain cabin boy as well, who would be only three years or so older than the emperor). That story would certainly continue to explore the Hidden Temple in more depth, and I like the idea that I can do basically whatever I want with the inside. Because Lionheart didn’t see anything except the chamber of the Mother’s Mouth.
Mortally afraid: Even the emperor, proud and intelligent young fellow that he is, is terribly afraid of the Hidden Temple. Again, this hinting storyline leaves us with all sorts exciting possibilities! Possibilities I only just scratched the surface of in Golden Daughter and will really enjoy exploring later on.
The pearl for the Mother’s Mouth: Sadly, the significance of the pearl gift for the Mother’s Mouth—aside from the fact that she requires a gift at all—has been lost in recent years. At the time I wrote Veiled Rose, I had been experimenting with a story in which pearls were significant and which tied into situations in Noorhitam. But that story has long since fallen by the wayside. I might play with it again down the road, but have no immediate intentions to. So, sadly, the moment of the Mother’s Mouth taking (and possibly eating) the pearl is not quite so meaningful as it used to be in my head, no longer overtly connects anything to anything else. It is simply creepy, nothing more.
Notice that the Mother’s Mouth refers to it as “a gift of the water gods.” Since this November and the publication of Goddess Tithe, there is at least Goldstone Wood story that features one of the “water gods.” And yes, that particular “goddess” was a major force in the story I was originally playing with. So you get a hint of an idea what that peal story was about. Now that I’m writing novellas, I might explore the pearl story again. It didn’t work for the novel I was playing with at the time, but it was an interesting theme. And a short story or novella might suit it quite nicely . . . so we’ll see. (You’ll notice that Klahan’s crown was pearl-studded too, back in the coronation scene. Again, this was a reference to the pearl story I was tentatively exploring at that time . . . and again, it’s no longer significant. I left it in because, hey! What does it hurt?)
The tunnel stretched on forever: It is worth speculating (though Lionheart doesn’t see anything, so it’s impossible to know), that the interior Ay-Ibunda is currently in a similar state of being as the interior of the Eldest’s House: existing in two plains of reality at once. This would explain why a distance that should have been quite short stretched on for so long as Lionheart crawls to the chamber of the Mother’s Mouth. Like Rose Red, who both walks in a tunnel and a staircase at the same time, Lionheart seems to be both in a temple and not simultaneously.
The Mother’s Mouth: I really don’t think you can get a creepier character anywhere in Goldstone Wood than the Mother’s Mouth. The Dragon might be more dreadful, and the Lady more frightening . . . but neither of them holds a candle to the oracle of Ay-Ibunda when it comes to pure creepiness!
This was another character whom I invented purely to interact with Lionheart without really intending to do anything more with or about her in the future. And she is another character who has since sprung into such vivid life and vitality that I cannot imagine the series without her! Again, you will see more of her come Golden Daughter . . .
The language she speaks: The Mother’s Mouth speaks in a language Lionheart doesn’t recognize. I will tell you now, that she was probably speaking an old version of Kitar. A good 1500 years old, but still Kitar. Which, since Lionheart isn’t comfortable with any of the Noorhitamin languages anyway, probably sounds that much more foreign!
Another indication that Lionheart is no longer in the Near World is the oracle’s ability to make him understand her words. In the Between, language barriers break down. Though the oracle is still speaking the same language, she suddenly speaks it in such a way that Lionheart can understand her. Rather like events that took place the Between with Mouse and Alistair in Dragonwitch.
by Hannah Williams

The Lady of Dreams: Finally, Lionheart interacts with the Lady of Dreams Realized while he is fully conscious and aware. Via the Mother’s Mouth, he is made able to truly communicate with this being that has been haunting his subconscious for years.
And at last, he is brought to the crisis point, where he must truly decide what it is he wants. He must answer the Life-in-Death’s question. When brought at last the moment decision, he says, “I will be Eldest of Southlands.”
So now the die is truly cast. There is no going back for our poor prince.
Notice: Lionheart does not ask the Lady how to kill the Dragon. Though that was always his intention, it’s not what he actually asks. He asks how to “drive the Dragon out of Southlands.”
And that is what she tells him.
“I must make my way to Oriana Palace in Parumvir.” And now we see the inevitable drawing of Lionheart into Princess Una’s story. So Veiled Rose and Heartless are on a collision course.
I began to approach the most difficult passages to write, just as my crazy deadline drew near. But more on that later . . .
Questions on the text:
1. This one isn’t so much on the text, but . . . I’m curious, did any of you ever dream about owning exotic animals as pets? Anything more outrageous than a pet peacock?
2. How many of you were surprised when the emperor showed up on Lionheart’s doorstep? Or did you think Klahan would honor his word all along?
3. Are you starting to get intrigued for Golden Daughter? J
4. What were your favorite lines?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

VEILED ROSE Read-Along: Chapter 4, Part Four

And we area already finishing up our fourth week of this read-along. I don't know about you, but the time has simply flown by for me! And we're getting pretty near the end of the book, though we'll be continuing into January for a little bit afterwards.

Our winner for this last week's giveaway was . . . .

Congratulations! Send me your mailing address (aestengl@gmail.com), and I will get your winnings in the mail promptly . . . just in time for the new year. :)

And now, we will continue on with our story.


Chapter 4

Poor Beana: Poor Beana continues to wait at the gate of the Eldest’s House, surrounded by thick dragon poison. You can see that she is beginning to despair . . . though she has not given into despair just yet! But how hard it is to accomplish this one task that her Lord has set for her: to wait.

Sometimes waiting is the hardest task of all.

Portrait of the Panther Master: It’s interesting to catch this glimpse of the man who was Maid Starflower’s father. I had fun slipping in a little hint about him, since he was another character I had written about long before tackling Veiled Rose. He featured as a major character in the short story version of Starflower I wrote back during my college days, so I knew pretty well who he was and what his role would be.

Rose Red likes his portrait, which also gives the reader an indication of what sort of character the Panther Master will play in his later story. Notice, though, how historically inaccurate the painting is! This certainly wasn’t painted during his lifetime, and is nothing more than a fanciful envisioning of who he might have been. But there is still some truth in the image. The scars under his robes, for instance, scars revealed in the light of Asha.

His gaze shifted: The text says that, while it may have been a play of the light, it seemed as though the painting of the Panther Master turned and looked right at Rose Red. I wonder . . . since she is in the Netherworld as well as the Eldest’s House, is it not possible that the real Panther Master may have looked at her through the painting? A chilling thought, but not beyond the realm of possibility in this realm so full of eerie possibilities . . .

“Why are you coming for me?” After traveling across many leagues of terrifying Netherworld (while simultaneously never leaving the Eldest’s House), Rose Red finally catches a glimpse of Lady Daylily, whom she’s been pursuing.

But Lady Daylily does not want to be pursued. “You should let me die, goat girl,” she says (p. 277). “I would if I were you.”

Daylily has breathed in so much more dragon poison than anyone else we have yet seen. More even than Una breathed, I think, since Una did not travel down into the Netherworld and the heart of the Dragon’s country. Daylily has lost her desire even to live.

Dare I say, Daylily may have lost her sanity. And if she has, who could blame her? Who could even be surprised?

She also gives Rose Red the cryptic warning: “If you should succeed, you will one day wish you had not.” (p. 277)

I think Daylily knows something dreadful is happening inside her, in her very spirit. And she doesn’t want to hurt anyone. But if she is rescued, she knows that she will hurt people, Rose Red specifically. Perhaps her plea for Rose Red to leave is not a suicidal one. Perhaps, somehow, she thinks she is protecting Rose Red . . .

The lingering smell of a dragon’s dead carcass. This is the first hint of the next person Rose Red will meet on her journey. As I said, I gave her three “tests” as it were before she could reach the Village of Dragons. Three figures out of Southland’s history who have been mentioned before, who would be known and vivid sources of terror to young Rose Red.

She is about to meet one more awful by far than the Wolf Lord himself.

The appearance of the Dragonwitch: Writing this scene was an interesting moment for me. While I had been creating story ideas about the Dragonwitch—detailed notes, lines of poetry, references in other stories—for quite a number of years, this was the very first scene I wrote where she actually appeared on the page, as a speaking character.

It was a bit intimidating!

I mean, this character is vitally important to the series. She is even referenced in Moonblood (which, technically, was written before this version of Veiled Rose) when Vahe compares the Bane of Corrilond to the Dragonwitch. I hoped to someday write a full novel about her. But how to present her in such a way that does not reveal too much of her backstory but simultaneously sticks in the reader’s mind?

It was a bit of a challenge. But one I enjoyed.

I started out by focusing on the Dragonwitch’s appearance. I knew already how she would die, for the scene of her death was the first idea I ever had about this character. I knew she had drowned, but that she had drowned while in the midst of one of her very greatest flaming moments. I also knew that she was a dragon who could no longer take dragon form, who could no longer fly.

So writing her appearance was fairly easy. But the rest was a little more difficult. I had to feel my way along carefully throughout the dialogue so as not to give away anything too important. Nothing about Etanun. Nothing about Etalpalli. Only a hint about the Wolf Lord, father of her sons.

The Dragonwitch’s sons: Do you know, I had forgotten that the Dragonwitch referred to them as her sons in this story? I was thinking about them recently and wondering if they might be a boy and a girl, since they are described as basically sexless in Starflower. But now I’ll need to remember . . . they are sons, definitely sons.

A suffering ghost: The Dragonwitch still smolders from her final fire, her hair burning away only to be replaced by more burning hair. But it is not the actual Dragonwitch who burns . . . this is only her ghostly form. Like the Wolf Lord a few chapters before, she suffers from wounds which can never be healed.

“We can be strong, can’t we child?” Oddly, the Dragonwitch seems to feel a kind of kinship, a kind of sympathy with Rose Red. A frightening thought!

“But you were forgotten.” At the time I wrote this story, I had not actually come up with any other name for the Dragonwitch beyond her title. So this moment between Rose Red and the Dragonwitch was a very easy and honest one to write. Whoever she had been before no longer existed at all.

And it took some digging on my part to discover who she had been, for even I have difficulty seeing her as anything but the Dragonwitch.

Questions on the text:

1. Why do you think the Dragonwitch seems to feel a sort of kinship to Rose Red?  (Readers of Moonblood, consider Rose Red’s future role . . . do you think the Dragonwitch might recognize something in Rose Red that is very similar to herself?)

2. If you’re familiar with the Dragonwitch’s full story from Starflower and Dragonwitch, what similarities do Rose Red and the Dragonwitch share?

3. Why do you think the Dragonwitch calls devotion “evil stuff”? What is it about devotion that is enslaving?

4. Who do you find more frightening, the Wolf Lord or the Dragonwitch?

5. Any favorite lines?


Allison wants to know: "My question is... what originally caused or inspired you to create the tale of Etanun, Akilun, Halisa, and Asha?"

You know, I don't fully remember. If I remember correctly, the first story I told about them was inspired by one of Norse legend of Yggdrasil, the world tree. In that story, Yggdrasil was suffering because a dragon was poisoning it from below. (Though I cannot for the life of me remember more specifics about that legend just now!) Anyway, I loved the idea, and started developing my own thoughts . . . which include two brave brothers, venturing down in to the Realm of the Dead to put a stop to a sly dragon who was poisoning the world (or some important piece of the world which I no longer remember) from below. Those two brothers were Etanun and Akilun, and they bore the Asha Lantern and the sword, Halisa. I did a pretty large colored-pencil illustration of the scene back in high school.

My "little" brother, Peter, modeling to show size proportion.
In the picture, you see a dark cavern with a river rushing through it (an early version of the Final Water, I think). The two brothers, one golden-haired and carrying the lantern, the other raven-haired and brandishing the sword, approach the river . . . and across the rushing water looms a red dragon, peering out of a cavern. The heat of its breath turns the rock and river beneath its mouth flame-colored.

And the dragon looks a bit like a rooster. Sadly, most of my dragons for many years there tended to look like roosters. My father used to tease as I worked so hard to develop fierce-looking dragons and they always--always--looked like roosters!

But anyway, that was the first story I began to write about the Brothers Ashiun, but they've developed a great deal since then.

Anonymous wants to know: "In Moonblood (SPOILER) Lionheart is talking about paths and quests, and Eanrin says, "That is a quest. Not a path. Don't confuse the two." Or something like that. It also says he looked sad or something while saying that. That was also right after Sun Eagle's phantom wafted past them and gave Lionheart the rope. Please tell me, with all the hints your dropping, was that foreshadowing for Shadow Hand, or some other book?"

I don't know if Eanrin's comment about paths and quests is necessarily a foreshadowing for Shadow Hand . . . though Faerie Paths and their dangers are a significant facet of that novel, for sure! However, the look Eanrin gives Sun Eagle . . . and the encounter as a whole in which the phantom presses the beads into Lionheart's hands and urges him to give them to Starflower . . . oh, yes. All of that is heavy foreshadowing of things to come in Shadow Hand.

Caitlyn wants to know: "What would you name the Parts of the book if you could?"

Oh, I don't know. I never thought about it! I suppose "The Hunt," "The Monster," "The Dragon," "The Journey," "The Aftermath." Or something like that. I probably would put more thought into it if I was serious about giving Part-names, but those are what I pulled off the top of my head! :)

Caitlyn also wants to know: "In Chapter 1 of Part 4 it says the Duchy of Shippening, is this a typo?"

No. The Duke of Shippening governs the Duchy of Shippening. A duchy is a territory governed by a duke or duchess, also known as a dukedom.

Caitlyn also wants to know: "What colors do you see Daylily wearing? Redheads tend to wear colors that match their hair."

I picture her wearing a lot of greens, rich browns, and pale blues. And golds, I believe I describe her as wearing golds in one of the books. Possibly Moonblood during her betrothal feast?

Furthermore, Caitlyn wants to know: "The sylph granted a wish to Leo, but never gave one. Will we see the sylph and Leo's wish in another book?"

Absolutely! You may or may not be seeing the answer to this question in a very near book . . . ;)

Caitlyn also wants to know: "In the last post you said something about the Duke of Shippening's guest. Did you mean the two characters met before? Does this book take place before Heartless, even though there is a crossover?"

If you're referring to Captain Sunan and the Duke, yes, they probably did meet upon other occasions. Sunan is a respected merchant traveling to and from Shippening on a regular basis. He probably has dined with the duke before.

Much of this book does take place before Heartless. The scene at the duke's table is approximately four years before Heartless. It catches up with Heartless quite late in the story.

Caitlyn also wonders: "How did you come up with Fireword for a sword name?"

I wanted a name that could stand in for a Southland's version of "Truth," without actually having the word "truth" in it, since that struck me as cheesy. Fireword fitted the bill. Of course, the sword's real name is Halisa, but it has come to be called Fireword in the Near World and even among Faerie folk as time goes on.

Heather wants to know: "Have you ever seen Tammy and the Bachelor? (It's an old movie) I saw the movie again recently and it reminded me of a few characters from Veiled Rose. Pete reminded me of Leo, Tammy of Rosie, and Barbara of Daylily. Tammy even had a goat! And lived by herself with her grandfather!"

Oh, what a funny connection! You know, I have seen that movie, though it's been quite a long while. Maybe there was an unconscious influence???

Saturday, December 28, 2013

VEILED ROSE Read-Along: Chapter 3, Part Four

Last day to get your name entered in this week's giveaway! If you're not certain how, be sure to check out the November 30 post for giveaway rules. It's very simple.

This is a busy time of year for everyone, so I know it's tough  to find time to participate in something like this read-along. However, if you find you have time to go back and read several older posts, your answers to questions will be counted still, even if they were articles from a week or more before! So even if you miss a few days, don't feel like you have to drop out entirely. We still want you! :)

Now on with the story . . .


Chapter 3

Captain Sunan: As I believe I have stated previously, I am getting such a kick out of seeing Captain Sunan in this setting. For one thing, it’s interesting to remember how incidental he was at first.

And how thoroughly he refused to stay that way.

Captain Sunan did not feature in the original (rejected) version of Veiled Rose that I sent to my publisher. As you will recall, in that versio Lionheart traveled with a troupe of minstrels and clowns, and there was none of this stowaway business. The troupe was hired for a gig out east, and thus Lionheart had the opportunity to travel and discover the secret he so needed.

But when my publishers insisted I remove the clown troupe, I was left with coming up with other means of getting Lionheart from point A to point B. So Captain Sunan and the Kulap Kanya (a name which, interestingly enough, means “Rose Girl”) were invented.

I hadn’t really intended to do much with the captain. In fact, while writing this scene I didn’t have any more specific plan in mind beyond simply getting Lionheart safe passage. But as I wrote, Captain Sunan sprang into life with such a vivid, dynamic quality that I really couldn’t repress him. He obviously had an intriguing backstory, a history with Faerie and the fey, an understanding of the worlds that Lionheart cannot hope to match. But how did he come by this understanding? And why would a man so apparently profound end up the captain of a humble merchant ship?

I wrote the scene without any clear answer to these questions, figuring that, if he wanted to, Captain Sunan would reveal more in time. And following this selection, I moved on with the story and didn’t really think too much more about him. For a while.

But the character was there and he wanted more of my time and attention. Over the next few years, while working on other stories, I turned back to Sunan now and then, wondering about him. One day, I was going through some notes I had made for another book (that which will be Book 8) and happened upon a certain, roughed-out idea for a character. And I realized that that character was actually meant to be Sunan.

This startled me. I mean, how could Sunan—Noorhitamin sea captain that he was—possibly end up in this Book 8? This book which is set primarily in Parumvir many hundreds of years before Veiled Rose!

But the notion wouldn’t leave me be. So I began to explore the possibilities of Captain Sunan. And I learned that he had, quite possibly, one of the most fascinating plot arcs in the whole of the Goldstone Wood series. I also learned that his story truly began before Book 8.

His story began with Golden Daughter.

With this in mind, I was that much more eager to write my first novella, Goddess Tithe, which features the captain as a main character. Goddess Tithe gave me a chance to play with the themes initiated in this chapter of Veiled Rose, but which I simply didn’t have room to embellish within the novel.

So, if you’re curious to learn a little more about Captain Sunan and the events of Lionheart’s voyage to Noorhitam, you should certainly pick up Goddess Tithe . . . which is currently just .99 on Kindle and only $8 in paperback. And there are illustrations! J

Word of a Pen-Chan: We learn in this selection about the first of the three major people-groups that make up the Noorhitam empire. Captain Sunan calls himself a Pen-Chan, and says the word of a Pen-Chan is “word you may trust.”

The actual word “Pen-Chan” means “full moon” in Thai. This is subtly important in ways that become apparent in Golden Daughter.

Currently, the Pen-Chans are the ruling people of Noorhitam, having taken over from the Kitar not long before, who, in turn, took over from Chhayans several centuries before that. All of these people-groups live together in Noorhitam, layered on top of each other like sediment in the city of Lunthea Maly, where the Chhayans are the lowest class, the Pen-Chans the highest, and the angry Kitar stuck somewhere between.

I had a blast developing the empire of Noorhitam, even just the little bit that I did for Veiled Rose. Noorhitam only features in a precious few chapters in this novel, but some of my most interesting research and development was focused on this nation and the various peoples living therein. I found it incredibly inspiring and intriguing.

Alas, my publishers didn’t like it. Indeed, they would have been happy for me to write it entirely out of the story.

But I insisted, and once more they were gracious. And I’m very glad that they were! If not, I should not have had the opportunity to dive into the history of Noorhitam and explore it as I did this last year while drafting Golden Daughter . . . discovering, as I did so, possibly the most wonderful and fascinating country I have yet had the pleasure to write about!

Ay-Ibunda: When Lionheart makes mention of the name “Ay-Ibunda,” the temple the sylph directed him to find wherein he might discover answers to his questions, Captain Sunan reacts . . . strangely. One would not expect the dignified captain to show any glimpse of fear, and yet Lionheart sees “a flash of fear, or dread” across his face. Captain Sunan knows about this temple. He knows things he is unwilling to communicate to Lionheart.

He knows things about the Mother’s Mouth, the oracle whom Lionheart seeks.

It’s interesting to me now realizing that when I wrote all of this selection I had absolutely no idea that the novel Golden Daughter would ever exist. I had made no plans for it whatsoever. And yet, knowing what I do about that novel now (having just written it this last year), I cannot believe that it hadn’t been in the plan from the beginning. Reading Sunan’s reactions . . . it’s as though Sunan has existed as a character with his complete history since long before I came along to write that history down. I wrote what I observed of him at the time without any idea what his full story might be, but the full story was still there.

This is why I love creative writing and can’t imagine ever loving any occupation more!

No one knows: When Lionheart asks after the location of the Hidden Temple, Sunan informs him that no one but the emperor himself knows where it may be found. And the emperor is not about to tell just anyone.

The emperor’s name: It’s something of a mouthful! Molthisok-Khemkhaeng Niran. Try saying that three times, fast! The way this world works, his actual “first name” so to speak, would be “Niran,” and “Khemkhaeng” would be his father’s name, and “Molthisok” his grandfather’s. This is the naming pattern for emperors, but interestingly enough, not the naming pattern for the other great houses of the Pen-Chan. But I won’t go into that now.

Leonard the Jester/Leonard the Fool: The captain warns Lionheart that, should he find the Mother’s Mouth, she will give him the answer he seeks . . . but the price at which that answer is given will be dreadful. Lionheart insists that this is what he must do, however.

And so this selection closes with Lionheart introducing himself as “Leonard” for the first time. Leonard the Jester. “You are Leonard the Fool,” the captain replies, with much more insight than poor Lionheart possesses at this moment.

And here I had to close this most interesting dialogue and dive forward in time and the story, never thinking to see Captain Sunan again. But it didn’t matter what I thought. This conversation was too intriguing, Captain Sunan’s reactions and words too specific. There was bound to be more story to come . . .

First Goddess Tithe. Later Golden Daughter. And after that . . . Well, you’ll have to wait a little while yet to learn Book 8's title. (But I’ll tell you this: Rohan figured out the perfect title for that book, and I can hardly wait to introduce it to you!)

“You shall find it as a jester.” Visiting his dreams once more, the Lady asks Lionheart to tell her what he wants. In a moment of surprising honesty, Lionheart admits that he wants to be a jester. He will not say whether or not this is the truest wish of his heart . . . but even so, the Lady promises that he will find the Hidden Temple, find the oracle, and find them as a jester.

The young emperor: I was obliged to do quite a large, three-year time jump in Lionheart’s story. To help ease over the suddenness of that jump, I decided to open up his time in Noorhitam from a completely different perspective. I chose to introduce the emperor.

The thing is, by the time Lionheart makes it to Noorhitam, the emperor is no longer Molthisok-Khemkhaeng Niran. That emperor has died, leaving his thrown to his young male heir, Khemkhaeng-Niran Klahan . . . who is nine.

So we are introduced to all manner of potentially interesting political intrigue, tangled up in the fresh young emperor and his “supportive” uncle, Sepertin Naga. A Kitar uncle, though I don’t think the text tells as much. But Sepertin Naga is a Kitar name, so I (with my super-powerful insider’s view) can tell you that the Pen-Chan emperor’s uncle is Kitar and probably has an agenda for his people that goes far beyond the well-being of his nephew.

There is lots of potential of storyline here! But it’s all still just potential . . . so we’ll see where it eventually leads us.

Butchering the language: Some people have a gift for picking up languages. It is a convenient gift in a fantasy story, enabling writers to create a sense of authenticity without actually having to invent a whole new language (which none of her/his readers will understand anyway!).

But I am not one who has a gift for languages. And I didn’t see Lionheart being so blessed either.

Another great advantage to writing in the omniscient narrative as I do is the opportunity to show both sides of a language barrier. We, the reader, get to hear what both sides are saying and enjoy the hilarity that ensues! You can’t do this with the third-person or first-person narratives.

“My name is Leonard of the Tongue of Lightning. What is your name?” I like that Lionheart actually knows this basic phrase and is able to answer. But he adds the “What is your name?” at the end, which sounds just like something you would learn to do when first studying a language.

I wonder if Munny taught him how to say this line?

 Lionheart and Klahan: Lionheart feels a pang of sympathy for the boy emperor. After all, Lionheart too was born into a ruling family, expected to lead an entire kingdom one day. And Southlands is nowhere near so enormous as the vast and complex Noorhitam Empire! Emperor Klahan is younger even than Leo was as the start of this book, and yet he is already the nation’s “Sacred Father.”

And yet, Klahan is still present, sitting on his father’s throne. While Lionheart is far, far, far away from his own nation.

Still, Lionheart continues to insist that his motives are pure. After all, he must find some way to kill the Dragon!

Lionheart’s performance: Lionheart’s success as a clown depends much more on his inability to correctly speak the Noorhitamin language than any real wit upon his part. He is hilariously mad in the eyes of the court, and he certainly entertains the young emperor (who is used to clowns who always present a moral of some sort and aren’t really funny at all).

But, for the first time in his life, Lionheart truly succeeds at something: He makes the Emperor of Noorhitam laugh!

Part of the inspiration for this scene with Lionheart came from a day back in a college French class. This was only my second semester studying French, and I certainly was not gifted, though I did enjoy the work. The teacher was going around the table, asking the students to name the parts of the face and head as he pointed to them. When he got to me, he pointed to his hair:

Cheveux,” I said. “Les cheveux.”

And my teacher started laughing so hard he almost couldn’t speak. I blinked, surprised. I was quite certain that I’d got it right, and I had no idea what he was going on about!

Then he said, “No, Annelise, I do not have horses on my head!”

Yeah. Though I knew the word I was trying to say, my pronunciation was so bad, it came out sounding more like, “Cheval,” not “Cheveux.

Pronunciation is key, people.

So that’s where Lionheart’s language difficulties came from. He is actually saying words in the language. And he probably knows quite well what he is trying to say. But his pronunciation is so bad, it all comes out mangled. Poor Lionheart. I wish both you and I had that magical gift for languages!

A gift from the emperor: Klahan is so pleased with Lionheart’s performance, that he offers to give him a gift, “anything within his power to give.” And Lionheart, to the horror of all assembled, asks to be taken to Ay-Ibunda.

This is such a sacrilege, such a breach of all etiquette and protocol, that Lionheart probably came within a hair’s breadth of being tossed into a dungeon and lost forever. Instead, the young emperor simply says, “No.”

But the emperor is not one to swiftly forget a promise made . . .

Questions on the Text:

1. What are your impressions of Captain Sunan? If you’ve read Goddess Tithe, have your impressions changed since first encountering the captain in Veiled Rose?

2. What are your impressions of Emperor Klahan after this first meeting? Like him? Dislike him? Think he has a shot at successfully ruling the empire?

3. Have you ever had any embarrassing experiences with language barriers that you’d like to share?

4. Favorite lines of the selection?

Friday, December 27, 2013

VEILED ROSE Read-Along: Chapter 2, Part Four

Rules for getting your name entered in the weekly giveaways are here. We're getting near the end of the week, so be certain to get your name entered for a chance to win Veiled Rose!

And now, moving on into Rose Red's unfolding adventure . . .


Chapter 2

A whole year: This part of the book (Part Four) begins a stage of the story that deals with some CRAZY time-jumps! Because I had established in Heartless than Lionheart’s exile lasted five years, I had to find a way to cover that significant a period of time without letting the story drag. Thus one of the main reasons I decided on Rose Red’s journey into the Netherworld. This provided me with a method in which I could have Rose Red’s story be continuous while Lionheart’s jumped in time.

In the original draft, Rose Red did not journey into the Netherworld but remained in the Near World through the whole five years, dealing with the Dragon. This meant both storylines—Lionheart’s and Rose Red’s—had to keep jumping forward by pretty hefty chunks. One of the reasons, I think, that draft didn’t work so well.

This method is a bit odd unless readers realize that there is no linear flow of Time in the Netherworld (or any of the Between, for that matter). There is some sort of Time, but it doesn’t work the same way as it does in the mortal world. Thus, Rose Red’s adventure doesn’t seem to her to take five years. Indeed, within the Eldest’s House is a timelessness that keeps alive the Eldest, Foxbrush, and the other captured household members, even though they are all but immobile through the whole of the Occupation.

Remember the Name: Poor, faithful Beana has not yet found a way through into the Dragon’s occupied territory. And though she pleads with her Master to come and deliver these people, he remains strangely silent. She must continue being faithful, even in the face of despair. She must continue struggling against impossible odds.

But Beana is no coward, and she is not one to give in easily. Nor is she one to doubt her Lord, even if he doesn’t work on a timetable she finds convenient . . . All she asks is that he give Rose Red what she needs.

Info on the Paths: In this chapter, we  get a little bit more information about the various Faerie Paths.  This is good information to tuck away in your head as you continue reading more Goldstone Wood stories. The Faerie Paths are very important . . . and very dangerous.

We’re going to learn just how disastrously dangerous they can be, come Shadow Hand . . .

The Path to Death’s world: Notice that a Faerie Path does not necessarily have to be in the same place each time it is encountered. Rose Red walked Death’s Path up in the mountains. Now she encounters it again in the Eldest’s House. It is the same path, yet found in two very different locations.

It’s hard to put hard-and-fast rules on the workings of Faerie! One thing I always strive for in my stores is to create a sense of extreme otherness for my Faerie folk and their ways and their rules. Even the rules that govern their worlds. I don’t want my Faeries to seem like humans with wings or other odd features. They are supposed to be different, and their worlds are supposed to be different. Sometimes, that’s led me some crazy directions, like these oddly-mobile Faerie Paths! But that is so much what I love about writing fantasy . . . J

Two Places at Once: In this scene, we find that Rose Red is actually traveling through two places at once. She has stepped into the Netherworld, but the Netherworld is also now fitting into the Eldest’s House. She walks simultaneously in a cave and up a stairway.


I really enjoyed bringing this part of the story to life, this splicing of two worlds together. I had toyed around with the concept a few years before in an (unsuccessful) attempt at a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. The thing I liked most about that story was the concept of two worlds crammed into one, so I borrowed it. If you steal from yourself, does it still count as stealing?

The Dragon’s voice: As she walks, Rosie begins to see a light ahead. Immediately, the Dragon appears in her mind, his voice urging her to avoid the light, to go a different way. He tells her she’ll regret it, that she’ll find only sorrow.

The thing is, our Rose Red is a stubborn sort. And she doesn’t like the Dragon. The more he tries to persuade her, the more stubbornly she pursues the light. This isn’t perhaps the most virtuous motivation in all the world . . . but it works pretty well for Rosie!

The Brothers again: It’s interesting hearing more about the Brothers Ashiun from the Dragon’s perspective. Because his perspective is certainly very different from Leo’s!

I enjoy reading passages like this too, seeing once more how these characters have slipped into my world and stories here and there. I am currently beginning a new novella that prominently features Akilun as a main character (Etanun’s there too, but not as prominent). It’s interesting writing about them during their lifetime and back in the days of which the Dragon is now speaking . . . and then reading about them as they became later known in history.
The lantern from the story: And so, in this scene, we see the fulfillment of the foreshadowing hinted at early on during Leo’s tale of the Brothers Ashiun.
In the first draft of this version of Veiled Rose (the version I pounded out in the two months before getting married!), I didn’t have Leo’s story about the Brothers Ashiun early on in the book. So this scene with the Asha lantern came a bit out of nowhere. I find it much more satisfying to read about  now that I went back and added in Leo’s version of the story. Proper foreshadowing can make all the difference in the presentation of a theme!
Conversation with the Wood Thrush: I think this conversation between Rose Red and her Imaginary friend, short though it is, is the very heart of this novel. Here we clearly see what is at stake for our heroine, the questions she must face that go so far beyond all the mystery of her face and parentage. To whom will she give her loyalty? Because, one way or the other, her loyalty will be given. She cannot, as she asks, simply not give anyone anything at all.
A Gift: Though Beana doesn’t know it, her prayers have been answered. She begged that her Lord would give Rose Red what she needed in order to survive, in order to walk his Path through Death’s Realm. And so, here, Rose Red is given the gift of hope. She is given the gift of Asha to light her way.
It’s hard for Beana—who is still existing within time, you’ll remember—not knowing what is happening as the years creep slowly by. But she trusts that her Lord is working and caring for the girl even while she cannot be there to see the results. And ultimately, her trust is proven well founded.
Yet again, Beana is the most admirable character in this whole story! A true heroine.
The Dragon’s Eye: It becomes apparent as Rose Red’s journey progresses, that the Dragon is not bound to his incarnate body. He can move disembodied throughout his own vast realm. We see this in the terrifying moment when the sun rises and it is no sun, but is instead the Dragon’s own eye.
And he cries out for someone to “Take it from her! Destroy that light!” We don’t know yet to whom the Dragon speaks, but we can bet that he has many terrible servants dwelling within this realm . . .
There is a lot of Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came feel to this selection, I think. That poem has always been one of my favorites, and I used to have most of it memorized (though trying to recite it now, I find all but the first few stanzas have slipped away from me). I know I turned to it many times over while writing this book and crafting Rose Red’s journey in particular. I think this is one of those passages (though not the sun as an eye itself, simply the landscape around and the mood created). I definitely recommend that poem to those of you who may not have yet encountered it!
She stood on a mountain: I half wonder if the Dragon sent her this mountain where she finds herself. She was on a plain when she closed her eyes, and when she opened them, here she is on a mountainside. I really do wonder if the Dragon intended for her to encounter the dark entity she meets here . . . for this entity is one she would recognize from ancient stories and fear, perhaps even more than she fears the Dragon himself.
“Have you no compassion?” It makes me laugh a little as I read this scene again. I had such a time with my publishers over this one little section of the story! They could not understand the Wolf Lord’s dialogue. Over and over they told me that he didn’t “sound like a monster.” Why would a monster say something like, “Have you no compassion?” That’s just not what monsters say!
Of course, I would argue that this is what makes him so terrible in this scene. He is seductive and manipulative and . . . pathetic. He is so pathetic. Terrifying and pathetic.
After all, he’s no longer the powerful Faerie lord who made a demesne for himself out of mortal lands. He is a ghost. A sad, dead spirit, trapped forever in the Netherworld, afraid to venture down to the Final Water.
So no, perhaps he doesn’t sound like a monster. But I think he sounds far, far more dreadful.
I don’t know if I ever convinced my publishers to understand what I was going for. But they, being gracious people, allowed me to get away with it even though they didn’t like it. And I hope all of your find it as satisfyingly creepy as I do!
“They tore into me!” The Wolf Lord goes on to give the reader hints of his story (which is told in full in my fourth novel, Starflower). Again, he makes sad case for himself, monster though he is.
And provides me with a fun opportunity to introduce storyline, later revealed in Starflower.
The story of the Wolf Lord and Maid Starflower had been brewing in my head for much, much longer than most of the other stories in this series. And Wolf Lord’s death by “his own” has always been a major part of that story. So, though I had not yet written Starflower, I was eager to begin introducing some of those storylines, hinting at what was to come. This scene with the Wolf Lord might possibly be the scene I most enjoyed writing in the entire book!
Mending Wounds: We see Rose Red behaving very like herself when she actually attempts to sew up the Wolf Lord’s wounds. But it is no use. Despite her best efforts, she cannot make his ghostly flesh mend. She cannot fix or cure the evil fate that has befallen this evil soul.
But she tried. She always tries, even when she cannot succeed.
And, despite the Wolf Lord’s cohesions and manipulations, she insists on continuing to try rescuing Lady Daylily. But even that is a hopeless endeavor . . .
Slowly uncovered: This journey of Rose Red’s is all about her unveiling. Slowly but surely, her layers are stripped away, and she eventually must come face to face with the truth of who she is and what she is becoming. She must even face the secret truth deep in her heart . . . but we’ll get to that in a few chapters!
Questions on the Text:
1. For those of you who have read on in the series, who is another character who, while walking in the Netherworld, also found the Asha Lantern? What other similarities do you see between Rose Red and that character?
2. Considering that this journey is all about Rose Red’s ultimate unveiling, what do you think Rose Red’s encounter with the Wolf Lord reveals about her? Is it a good, bad, or frightening revelation?
3. Did you find the scene with the Wolf Lord frightening? Sad? Or both?
4. What were your favorite lines?


Caitlyn wants to know: "All that remained of the Starflower statue was the wood thrush. Is this symbolic, foreshadowing?"

Absolutely! But I leave it up to the reader to decide exactly how . . .

Allison wants to know: "I was wondering how old Daylily is compared to Leo and Rose Red. She strikes me as older, but I don't know if that's just because she never had a childhood. Also, does Rosy mature at a rate similar to mortals?"

Daylily is a year younger than Leo and a year older than Rose Red (approximately). She seems older partly because she is better educated than Rose Red and naturally more mature than Leo (girls tend to mature faster than boys . . . generally). And yes, Rose Red matures at a similar rate to mortals, though this is possibly to do with the fact that she lives among mortals. If she lived among her own kind, she might mature at a different rate . . . probably faster.

Fan Art:

Hannah Williams
Above we have a lovely fan art by Hannah! She has depicted Captain Sunan and the Duke of Shippening sitting together at table. On a stage before the table sands the sad, albino jester in clown's motley. Off to one side, we see Lionheart with his hair slicked down, serving drinks and looking very sad for the jester.

This is, I believe, the very first fan art depiction of both Captain Sunan and the Duke of Shippening!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

VEILED ROSE Read-Along: Chapter 1, Part Four

Happy day after Christmas! I hope many of you are still very much in the holiday spirit, enjoying lots of time with your loved ones. My sister-in-law, Kristen, is up visiting Rooglewood this Christmas, and we are having a blast, cooking, baking . . . and working on a super-awesome project that I will be eventually sharing with all of you!

But in the meanwhile, we have a lot more of Veiled Rose still to cover, so let's take the plunge into Part Four. What has Lionheart been up to since his escape from Southlands?


Chapter 1

A kennel boy: As the beginning of this part, we learn that Lionheart only made it as far as Capaneus City in the first year since his exile began. So much for his grand adventure! So much for freedom. He may have believed that it was being a prince that held him back, but in reality, being a prince gave Lionheart much more freedom then most other people enjoy. Because people have to eat. People have to have shelter.

Lionheart, in the humiliating position of kennel boy for the duke, is swiftly learning that true freedom—at least as he perceives it—is much more elusive than he ever imagined.

The Duke: Readers of Heartless should immediately recognize the name of Duke Shippening—the most loathsome character in all of Book 1 (and that’s including the Dragon!). The Duke is a character to whom I didn’t bother to give any virtues. In no way did I try to make him sympathetic or conflicted. He is nothing but awful. Pure awful.

I don’t usually go for caricatures in my work anymore. I try to go for a little more subtly. But I have to admit, I do rather enjoy the duke, extreme though he may be.

An interesting connection: It is also interesting for readers of Heartless to note that two Una’s suitors met each other many years before either made their way to Parumvir. Small world?

The sylph: One of the most intriguing and enigmatic characters in the whole novel is the character of the Duke’s Fool—later revealed to be a sylph, captured in a human-ish form. I had a lot of fun with this character

Sylphs are beings from Western mythology, invisible creatures of the air. When doing research on various fairy tales, I encountered sylphs and thought they would be fun to play around with at some point. So when it came time to introduce the Duke’s Fool—whom I wanted to be a Faerie of some sort—sylphs came to mind.

Of course there was the whole issue of traditional sylphs being invisible and airy. So how would that work for a slave? Thus I made use of the classic Faerie aversion to iron and I had the sylph wearing an iron collar. While wearing this, he is bound to a body, very similar to that of a mortal man (though not quite! He is albino, which made sense to me since he used to be invisible, and pigments wouldn’t  probably stick to him very well. He’s also got those strange extra joints to his fingers).

(SPOILERS) We will get to meet this sylph again in Shadow Hand, and there we will learn a little more of the how and the why of his capture and enslavement to the duke. We’ll also see wild and free sylphs in their natural habitat . . . who are not very much like this sad fellow at all! But you’ll have to wait to learn more.

Faerie language: When Lionheart approaches the sylph, he hears it speaking strange words in a strange language. Here you get a little more of a glimpse of my half-invented Faerie language. We hear the translation on the next page, and those of you who have read Moonblood will recognize Hymlumé’s Hymn. The phrases he utters in Faerie are specifically, “If I but knew my fault!” and “I blessed your name!”

Trying to remember: Didn’t Wamba the fool in Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe wear an iron collar around his neck too? I think he did. It’s been a while since I read that book, but I’m pretty sure there is some literary precedent for Fools and iron collars. So I’m going to claim it as a literary allusion, possibly intentional back when I wrote it! Though I’m a little fuzzy on the details now . . .

“She has you in her hand.” The sylph, with a single look at Lionheart, recognizes the dark mistress to whom Lionheart belongs. He may be mad and he may be a Fool. But he’s possessed of some powerful intuition and insight! And he pities our poor prince . . . this sad, bound slave pities Lionheart.

Observing from a distance: It’s interesting to me seeing the sylph in this scene, so sad and so tragic. When I wrote of him most recently, he is in a very different state of being, and his manner and even speech are not much like we see him here. It makes me a bit melancholy . . . I need to go pick up my draft of Shadow Hand! But I’ll say no more since none of you have read it yet.

Master of the Six Towers: I had forgotten about this reference! Made me smile to see it. I have written stories about the Master of the Six Towers and his sons back in the day. Stories which I someday hope to include in future novels. I’ll let you in on a little secret: one of the sons was named Melesio and the other Capaneus. I used to be a little bit in love with Melesio . . . but I haven’t written about him in a looooong time. I wonder if he’ll be much the same when I pick him up again, or if I’ll find him dramatically altered? I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.

The eastern merchant: Those of you who have read my novella, Goddess Tithe, will be pleased to glimpse Captain Sunan again! Because the duke’s guest is none other than the brave captain of that little tale. He only had a small role in Veiled Rose, but he stood out to me as I wrote him, and I became intrigued. Over the last few years I’ve explored his story a little more deeply and found him to be quite a wonderful fellow with quite an interesting backstory! So I was pleased to give him a featured role in Goddess Tithe.

And I look forward to beginning to tell you more of his history come Book 7, Golden Daughter.

In the meanwhile, it’s interesting to see him here in his first introduction. And what a contrast he makes to the loathsome Duke of Shippening!

Fear in his eyes: It says in the text that Captain Sunan observes the duke with a certain measure of fear in his eyes. This might be surprising to those of you who have read Goddess Tithe! Why would our brave sea captain fear someone like the Duke?

I would venture to suggest that it is not the duke whom Captain Sunan fears. Rather, it is the one with whom the duke associates. And that one is possibly the only being who can truly strike terror into Sunan’s heart.

Worshiping the Dragon: An interesting little tidbit about the Noorhitam empire is dropped in the duke and captain’s conversation. Turns out there are those among Sunan’s people who worship he Dragon and his Sister.

Now wouldn’t that be something worth exploring? Perhaps even in . . . the seventh novel??? J

Some firebird: Note that the duke says something about a “firebird” to the merchant when trying to peg what his people worship. At this point, we have never seen the Lady of Dreams take any other form than that of a woman. But perhaps she has more forms available to her than we yet know . . .

The merchant’s reaction: Captain Sunan is quite shocked to see the duke’s Fool appear in the room. He immediately recognizes it for what it is . . . not a man, but a Faerie creature. Not even Lionheart has realized that, even while conversing with the Fool!

Yet another indication that this merchant is much more than he seems.

The Fool’s Song: This song is one I wrote back in my freshman year of college. I remember it was inspired by a lovely, classical guitar piece that I happened to hear on my roommate’s Pandora radio one day. It was so lovely, and as I lay listening to it (can’t remember the name to save my life now!), the images from this poem came into my head. I’m not much of a one for poetry, as I’ve mentioned before, but now and then inspiration will strike. I really like how this piece turned out. It’s been tweaked since that original version I wrote in college, but it is pretty much the same piece.

You’ll notice that it mentions “Aiven.” And you might also recall that the Dragon previously called Beana “the Lady of Aiven.” So it’s not too big of a stretch to think this song might actually be referring to her.

I’m here to tell you now that, yes, this song is very much about Beana and her ever-so-dramatic backstory.

The sword that will slay dragons: As the sylph sings, Lionheart sees the words as powerful images in his mind. And he knows that the sword of which the sylphs tell—the fearsome Fireword—is the sword that will slay dragons.

But how can he find a sword like that?

Fireword, you may remember from Lionheart’s earlier story about the Brothers Ashiun, is also known as Halisa. The swords of legends and myth.

The duke’s fury: The duke is outraged to hear the Fool sing of Fireword. (SPOILERS) I think this has to do with the alliance the duke has made with the Dragon . . . and the Dragon’s coming doom (which those of you who have read Heartless know all about). As the series progresses, we learn more and more about prophecies that have been in place concerning the Dragon, the Prince of Farthestshore, and Fireword. Beana herself in this book speaks of a prophecy she declared on the shores of the Final Water. (p.214) I think the duke is aware of those prophecies himself, and thus he punishes the sylph for speaking of this sword.

Perhaps the sylph himself realizes the coming end of the Dragon, and that’s why he chose that song.

But the duke, in his cruelty, orders the poor creature to be beaten with iron bars.

By Hannah Williams
A whirlwind! Lionheart liberates the sylph from his iron collar—and immediately, the sylph transforms into its natural, windling form! It catches up Lionheart and bears him from the duke’s house before Lionheart even has time to think.

Quite a dramatic transition! But hey, it moves Lionheart along his way, since he is now on the docks of Capaneus, ready to begin his next adventure far from the Duke of Shippening.

A gift. The sylph wants to  grant Lionheart a wish, but cannot. So instead, he tells him to travel to the far away city of Lunthea Maly and to seek out the Hidden Temple, Ay-Ibunda. There he will meet an oracle who can tell him what he wants to know: how to drive the Dragon from Southlands.

But Lunthea Maly is far away in the Noorhitam empire. Lionheart’s journey has scarcely begun.

And in the meanwhile, because the sylph has not granted Lionheart a wish, he remains in Lionheart’s debt . . .

Questions on the text:

1. So given the song the Fool sings and the little hints the Dragon gave us earlier, what guesses might you have concerning Beana and her backstory?

2. Have you encountered sylphs in other stories before? If so, do tell. I know Alexander Pope mentioned them in his poem The Rape of the Lock, but otherwise I haven’t seen them around much. But I understand they enjoy relative popularity among fantasy novelists, so I’d be curious to know of other sylphs!

3.  What were your favorite lines?