There’s something rather thrilling about putting a massive spoiler in the chapter title. It feels a little cheeky.
There’s a quote by Ernest Hemingway. When asked how he want bankrupt, he replied “Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.” That’s the feeling I wanted for Guijus’ defeat here – it’s been a long time coming, of course, with every poor decision he’s made since, what, act 2? But it’s been defined primarily by a gradual deterioration of his moral and ethical integrity: conversely, his power has appeared to increase at the same time. Such is the way of tyrants and demagogues. But with the foundations hollowed out beneath him, it wouldn’t take much for everything to come tumbling down. Ultimately, it’s his own decision to turn his army on itself that does the job – Bruckin and Aviar only needed to sit back and watch, really.
The interesting thing here is the opportunity to explore Guijus’ perspective on events. We discover that he has no understanding of the Aviar forces, thinking it instead to be a Bruckin fleet. He sees himself as a strategic mastermind and bold leader, even while everything is crumbling around him. He views the assault on Bruckin as a rescue mission, rather than an aggressive invasion. He doesn’t consider that Kirya might be working against him, and instead assumes she is a captive. He sees insurgency and traitorous behaviour in Bruckin, rather than a people fighting for their survival.
Essentially, this chapter confirms that he’s been living in a fantasy land of his own creation.
The other fun aspect of this chapter is that we don’t know for most of it where exactly it fits into the overall timeline. It’s only near the end, when Pienya arrives, that we slot it into context with the previous chapter.
I had grands plans for the end of the Battle of Bruckin. All the gang were going to meet up in the square for the final showdown: Tranton would be there with his awesome sword, Tarn would swoop in like Thor in Avengers: Infinity War, the Bruckin elite squad would get to show off their stuff in front of their home crowd – big, Lord of the Rings-style, Helms Deepesque armies crashing into one another.
Thing is, though, the battle had already lasted arguably 9 chapters, beginning with Pienya’s attack on the council chamber. There’s been a lot of fighting already, from multiple perspectives. We’ve seen Tarn in combat, we’ve seen Tranton come to Roldan’s rescue, we’ve seen Kirya on the command ship being strategic. Simply doing MORE didn’t really appeal, once I got to it.
Conveniently, my characters offered the solution – Guijus, to be precise. Come the moment, and given the build-up and his motivations, it made perfect sense for him to end the battle by turning his army on itself. It was also the perfect metaphor for the political situation in Lagonia – self-inflicted wounds etc (can’t imagine what makes me think of that in the UK at the moment). Specifically, this turns the end of the battle into a character-motivated scenario, deepening Guijus’ character and introducing interesting elements to explore subsequently. Simply having a BIG OL’ BATTLE wouldn’t have done that, even if it was satisfying on a purely visceral level.
The other reason for avoiding yet more battle is that this isn’t the end of the story. As the chapter title noted, this is ‘the precursor war’. I didn’t want the climax to arc 6 to be TOO massive in a way that would off-balance the rest of the book.
What’s probably self-evident while reading this chapter is that it’s clearing the board somewhat for Arc 7, which is now only 3 chapters away.