This chapter was always going to be a tricky one. There’s a lot of information to share, and I do what I can to lessen the weight of it by a) presenting it in the form of a museum and b) having the characters explore the information for the first time, alongside the reader (note how this chapter is from the point of view of Tarn – the least informed of the group).
It’s also not a complete info-dump – it arranges and puts into context some of what we already know, introduces a few new elements, but holds back from being a top-to-bottom, Gandalf-history-lesson chapter. I also try to avoid a monologue-style exposition dump by having Tarn interact with various characters, so that the history is told primarily through their reactions to it rather than simple recital.
Ultimately, it’s a chapter that had to happen at some point, and 147,000 words into the damned book seemed like as good a point as any. This has been an unusual story so far, in that much of the broader motivations have been murky (it’s not entirely clear what The Stakes are, in terms of the wider world) and there’s no clearly identifiable Bad Guy (Pienya sometimes fits into that role, but not always; same with Baron Lief). There’s rumours of an old threat, but we’re unsure of how real that is.
Instead, we have individual character motivations: Tranton’s bloody-minded determination to keep walking away from the Headland, no matter what; Fenris’ beliefs, built on somewhat shakey foundations; Kirya’s desire to help the valley and her family, even if by non-conventional means; Pienya’s need to belong and to serve; Tarn’s need to be free and to have a family. As a result, it’s a book which has been driven primarily by characters rather than plot, and I’m entirely comfortable with that. At some point, though, the story has to start heading towards some kind of conclusion: this is that moment. Which isn’t to say that the end is imminent – far from it – but it does mean that we’re now approaching the very peak of the rollercoaster.
Soon, it’ll be all accleration and downhill stomach-churning thrills.