The village of Crowjun has been in the plan from the very start. It featured briefly in the first draft of the story over a decade ago and always served as a creepy entry point to the mountains. Originally Crowjun was a deserted village at the foot of the mountains, but it made more sense to move it up beyond the ice wall and into the wilderness, given the way the story has evolved.
The first half of this arc is intended to be unsettling: it’s about things unravelling, things being unexplained and disturbed, and there’s a sense of corruption filtering through everything. That tonal shift began when they first ventured into the mountains but it really hits home with ‘Crowjun’. The new camaraderie between the regular gang and the Bruckin squad has somewhat disguised the tonal shift, but the sense of “new adventure!” starts to dissipate here, as they (and we) realise just what they’ve got themselves into.
It’s a large party to juggle – eight characters, doubling the usual number in a scene. So far I’ve focused primarily on Hachim from the new characters, drawing the others only in broad strokes. I didn’t want to overload these early chapters with character exposition and backstory – but the stressful situation they’re now in provides good opportunities to explore how they react to events.
What we also get here is more glimpses of Ancient Lore, with Crowjun filling in a bit more as well as raising new questions. This journey into the mountains is very different to the one we opened with, where Tranton was alone and fighting for survival. This time round we have a team of highly qualified experts, actively looking for answers. You can expect Arc 5 to start pulling together lots of separate threads.
The end of this chapter is more of a direct cliffhanger than most, not least because I’d already made the decision by this point to continue the action in the next chapter, rather than shifting to a different part of the story. Knowing when to shift perspective is a tricky balancing act – firstly in terms of the story, ensuring that all the plates are kept spinning (this has evolved over time, but right now we’ve got at least three distinct storylines: the main journey into the mountains, Stryke and Pienya’s activities, and whatever is happening back at court with the king and queen), and then secondly in choosing which specific character to hold the narration.
This time round it was Tranton’s turn: next it falls to Tarn. The were the first two characters to be introduced in the story, so there’s something rather pleasing about returning to them.