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And here we go!
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?