Double-bill of chapter notes today. Here goes.
The blackening of Bruckin
This is where the war kicks into high gear. The immediate challenge is in how to portray it, when we have few of our lead characters in the fray at this point. I wanted to keep the perspective with the Bruckin side, so as to feel under attack, and that limits the characters to:
- Roldan Stryke
- Vicsount Lief
- And I suppose Lord Halderman, at a stretch?
Roldan is the only person we’ve spent significant time with and have proper empathy for, but I didn’t want to fall into the trap of Roldan conveniently being at the centre of every single part of the battle.
Therefore this chapter is told primarily with him as an observer, and the first draft of the chapter came out rather dry. It was exciting events but told distantly and without emotional investment – bombvastic but shallow, like a Michael Bay movie. I ran the chapter through a second pass where I specifically layered in some additional responses to events from Roldan, aiming to shift the focus away solely from the events towards Roldan’s REACTION to those events.
The escalation of tactics here shows the desperation on both sides and their lack of regard for each other. THey live in the same valley, but have evolve into city-states with highly distinct identities.
The use of the civilian fleet to bludgeon Bruckin’s walls and gates was the result of me trying to figure out how Treydolain could successfully invade a city which I’d already established as being largely impregnable. An extreme tactic, deployed early in the battle, which would ordinarily be withheld as a last resort, seemed like a legitimate explanation.
Right from the start of the chapter, I wanted to evoke the kind of imagery you remember from films like Apocalypse Now, with flying vehicles approaching from the far distance, shimmering in the heat, inevitable and unstoppable.
Ultimately, this chapter is one part of a huge multi-pronged mini-arc, that being the Battle of Bruckin.
Bodies on the line
Kaido Ghent returns! A number of guest characters have come and gone in the book, and they’re often useful ways to provide an alternative viewpoint on events. Here we have Kaido, who has appeared in a couple of chapters previously based around the shipyard. He’s a really useful ‘on the ground’ perspective, especially with this chapter following on directly from the previous.
As with the burning ships showing up in the first line of the previous chapter, here we also have the sense of unrelenting pressure, and impending doom. We also know that this group of people are woefully inadequate for stopping it. These chapters are back-to-back and near-continuous, whereas most chapters in TMC tend to have a bit of a time skip.
What we have in this chapter is a double cavalry moment: first with Stryke showing up to help defend the shipyard, and then with Tranton and the Aviar forces arriving. Both should feel like exciting moments, though the latter is intended to be a full-on Gandalf-arriving-at-Helms-Deep shivery moment. We even get to unexpectedly finish the chapter on a typical Tranton line delivery.
The meat of the chapter is in Stryke’s behaviour, and Pienya’s arrival. Although the chapter isn’t from Stryke’s POV, everything that he does is informing his character. Sabotaging the Mountain Breaker was a defining moment of regret for him, and it’s driven everything he’s done since, from venturing into the forest to find Lief, to sneaking back into Bruckin, to helping mount the defence of the city.
Here we see that not only is he thinking on his feet, having acquired a shield – he knows the power of Pienya’s bow and arrows, even if he doesn’t know she’s the archer – and we see him throw himself into the battle. He’s not trying to absolve himself of the guilt – he doesn’t believe that to be possible – but he is trying to offset his actions somewhat by now doing the right thing.
The critical mement for Stryke in this chapter is not when he gets hit by an arrow and is defeated by Pienya; he’s always been a man of violence, and always expected to go out that way. The harder moment is when she reveals to Kaido and the others what he did – not that he wanted to keep it a secret, but he’s certainly ashamed. That Kaido then refuses to back down, refuses to give in to Pienya’s hateful world view, and maintains his own dignity in light of the shock, will be the hardest of all to bear for Stryke. Had Kaido stepped aside, he wouldn’t have blamed him. Had Kaido picked up a weapon and finished Stryke off himself, he wouldn’t have tried to stop him. That Kaido chooses to place himself between Stryke and harm is unexpected and will prove to be a pivotal moment for his character.
Anyway, by the end of this we have Tranton Seldon and the Aviar gang arriving in suitably dramatic fashion. The remainder of Arc 6 is about to pivot. It’s been, I think, 6 chapters (aka 6 weeks for serial readers) since we last saw Tranton, Tarn, Fenris, Kirya and the others. That’s over a month of real-time reading for anyone keeping up with the original chapter releases. Thus the tension has been ratcheted up, with us wondering what’s been going on that side of the mountains, and when/if they were going to show up.
Now that they’ve arrived, we can have some fun.