Arc 5 has been about a gradual, creeping sense of dread. It began with Fenris’ gang taking their first steps into the mountains, a place clearly touched by some kind of unnatural force. Then back in Treydolain we see the corruption and disintegration of rationality. Returning to our adventurers, we find that their journey has been for naught.
And then we kick off the ‘Purge’ trilogy of chapters: Investigations, in which Roldan starts to suspect that the situation is worse than he’d realisd; Matters of Trust, in which that tension is ramped up to breaking point; and now The Purge, in which that pressure bursts out in a single, violent explosion.
This, in a way, is TMC’s Red Wedding. My writing never gets as nihilistic or deliberately cynical as in Game of Thrones – after all, the purge does not happen to any of our major players – but the feeling of hopelessness should be the same: that distinct understanding that it’s all too late, and that there’s no going back.
Originally, this chapter would have played out very differently. I’d intended to tell it from Guijus’ perspective, as he gives the order and then has to live with the consequences. It would have been an opportunity to experience his muddled thinking. That felt like it would have been too distancing, however, so I then pondered using Pienya and having her take part in the killings – but, then, that felt like a step too far, too soon, for her character. It would have made her too explicitly The Bad Guy.
I’d like to say that introducing Elia back in ‘Late warning signs’ was a deliberate move, setting her up for this specific payoff, but it wasn’t like that. Elia was created back then purely to react against Roldan – she was very much a plot device and exposition-giver. But all writing, and serialised writing in particular, is all about that meeting of opportunity and preparation, and she became the perfect point of view from which to experience these events. Even if we don’t know her very well, we know that Roldan has a connection which will have further ramifications.
I didn’t enjoy writing this chapter. All the way through, I was hoping to think of an alternative, and considered giving Elia an escape route, or an ambiguous sign off. In the end, though, sometimes the story has to do what the story has to do.