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?
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
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?