And HERE we see Stryke’s reaction to recent events. As I mentioned last time, this was originally going to be the previous chapter but I decided to insert ‘Ashes of peace’ so that this chapter felt a bit more raw.
It helps us feel Stryke’s regret, but it ALSO means that we don’t entirely sympathise with him, because we’ve seen how awful the consequences were – without seeing what happened when the explosions went off, it would have been too easy to forgive Stryke, given that his general portrayal in the story has been positive and as an honourable person.
We’re getting into the sticky, unpleasant bit just before open conflict, where nobody comes out smelling of roses and clear moral justification seems to evaporate.
One interesting thing to note at this juncture is that Stryke was only ever a brief guest star in the first draft of the story. He was a young Aragorn-proxy, sauve and dashing, who took Tranton to Treydolain and then vanished from the story. Roldan, on the other hand, was an entirely separate character who no longer exists.
I discovered an old print proof edition of Evinden on a shelf recently, in which I note that the story first started forming in 2001, but that I didn’t start writing it until 2004 (which is later than I recalled). Back in that first draft the pacing was wildly different – all the events in Bruckin were confined to a single chapter, for example. Here’s how the town (it wasn’t a city back then) was introduced:
Rather than a town wall, the residents of Bruckin seemed content with a putrifying line of rotting vegetables, dead animals and excrement. Kirya was glad she was up on horseback and not walking on foot as the horses moved gingerly through the filthy, wet streets. Huddled figures lurked in doorways and down alleys, staying just far enough away for their faces to remain hidden in the murk, while rats scurried about the clogged, feeble street guttering. Her face was scrunched up, her nose wrinkling in protest at the stench. Tarn was making a low moaning noise in the saddle behind her and seemed to be slumped against her. “Not the nicest place we’ve been to,” she muttered under her breath.
In other words, it was a vague rip-off of Bree, from Lord of the Rings.
There are some weird remnants of that chapter in what became Arc 4: they end up stumbling across Tranton, though this time in a brothel rather than the arena; they still have a chase across rooftops, but it’s short, slight, and they escape easily. Bruckin itself is not a political entity, the Liefs don’t exist and there’s no sense of the town being important.
I’ll aim to share some more snippets from the old version in future notes.