Like I said, Arc 5 is about answering some of the questions that have been buzzing around this story from the very start. ‘Tainted promises’ isn’t explicit but it does have some pretty strong clues and indicators.
For most of the time I’ve been writing TMC, I’ve worried about NOT saying enough. I’ve been concerned that it’s a bit too vague and obtuse, with a) no clear baddie, b) no clear backstory and c) no clear threat. There’s been hints of all three all the wya through, sure, but none of it has come into focus. If I’ve done that right, it’s hopefully been mysterious and intriguing – but it could very easily just be tedious, frustrating or confusing. Given that people are STILL reading the book I assume it’s worked to some degree, though.
Arc 5, therefore, is turning out to be a LOT of fun. Rather than raising questions upon questions, I now get to start dropping big hints, which will gradually form up into actual reveals. There’s a certain thrill to that slow drawing back of the curtain.
In this chapter we continue to get the sense of how Pienya has been influenced throughout her life, suffering subtle and pernicious emotional abuse from Queen Anja, always pit against Kirya. Always the inferior sister – and not even recognised as a sister, despite being almost adopted by the queen. It’s a far cry from the character’s representation in the original draft, where she was simply an antagonist, monotonous henchman.
Here’s how she was introduced back in that first draft, on page 50:
“A clinking of metal prompted Feng to glance over Kyra’s shoulder and immediately return to his normal, reserved self. Kyra knew who it was before she even turned to look. With her brown leather uniform overlaid with chainmail and light armour plating, Pienya Martoc was an imposing young woman, only a few years older than Kyra. As the queen’s protector she carried herself with a quiet and cold intensity, her eyes constantly searching for a hint of deception or a treasonous thought. The tight armour outlined her strong but slight figure, her size disguising a hidden strength that enabled her to stand tall in such an uncompromising uniform. Small flecks of white interspersed her otherwise deep black hair that flowed almost to her ankles from beneath a wafer-thin, silver headpiece.”
Aside from anything else, I used to write a LOT more description upon first meeting a character. These days I tend to prefer to keep detail light and let the reader interpret the character according to their behaviour and a few key observations.
Back to ‘Tainted Promises’ – this chapter is all double-speak and manipulations, with Anja sounding entirely reasonable while saying entirely unreasonable things. She present highly circumspect thoughts as being in the king’s best interest. Pienya, alas, isn’t yet savvy enough to recognise that – I’m not sure she ever will be.