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2012-04-30: I had the great pleasure of speaking with Harriet McDougal Rigney about her life. She's an amazing talent and person and it will take you less than an hour to agree.
2012-04-24: Some thoughts I had during JordanCon4 and the upcoming conclusion of "The Wheel of Time."
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So, this chapter gets the grand prize for most edited and revised chapter in the book. There are other chapters that have more new material—but only because they were added in completely after the original draft. This chapter, good old chapter two, was the one that underwent the most tweaks, face-lifts, additions, and edits during the ten drafts I did of ELANTRIS.
And, I think poor little Sarene is the cause of it.
You could say that she played havoc with the book in much the same way she did with Hrathen, Iadon, and Raoden in the story.
As I worked on the novel, Sarene as a character took on a much more dominant role in the plot than I had intended. Perhaps it's because she's the intermediary between the other two characters, or maybe it's because I liked her best of the three characters. Either way, in my mind, this book is about Sarene. She's the catalyst, the force of change.
In the end, she's the one that provides the solutions to both Raoden and Hrathen's problems. She gives Raoden the hint he needs to fix ELANTRIS, and she gives Hrathen the moment of courage he needs in order to turn against Dilaf.
Moshe and I agreed on just about every edit or change made to ELANTRIS. There is one small thing, however, that we kind of went the rounds about. The word Kolo.
Galladon's 'Kolo's are, in my mind, an integral part of his personality. I characterize him a great deal through his dialogue—he doesn't really get viewpoints of his own, so everything I do for him at least until the ending
I either have to do through Raoden's thoughts or through Galladon's own words. When I was coming up with Galladon's character, I realized I would need a set of linguistic features that would reinforce his culture's relaxed nature. So, I went with smooth-sounds, and gave their dialect a very 'chatty' feel. The Dula habit of calling everyone 'friend' came from this—as did their habit of softening everything they say with a question tag. Linguistically, questions are less antagonistic than statements, and I figured a culture like the Dula one would be all about not antagonizing people.
A number of languages in our own world make frequent use of similar tags. Korean, the foreign language I'm most familiar with, has a language construction like this. Closer to home, people often make fun of the Canadian propensity for adding a similar tag to their own statements. I hear that Spanish often uses these tags. In many of these languages, a large percentage of statements made will actually end in a softening interrogative tag.
Anyway, enough linguistics. I'm probably using the standard 'literary' posture of falling back on facts and explanations to make myself sound more authoritative. Either way, I liked having Galladon say 'Kolo' a lot. In the original draft, the tags were added onto the ends of sentences, much like we might ask 'eh?' or 'understand?' in English. "It's hot today, kolo?"
Moshe, however, found the excessive use of Kolo confusing—especially in connection with Sule. He thought that people might get the two words confused, since they're used similarly in the sentences. Simply put, he found the kolos distracting, and started to cut them right and left. I, in turn, fought to keep in as many as I could. It actually grew rather amusing—in each successive draft, he'd try to cut more and more, and I'd try to keep ahold of as many as possible. (I was half tempted to throw a 'kolo' into the draft of MISTBORN, just to amuse him.)
Regardless, we ended up moving kolo to its own sentence to try and make it more understandable. "It's hot today. Kolo?" We also ended up cutting between a third and a half of the uses of the word, and losing each one was a great pain for me. (Well, not really. But I'm paid to be melodramatic.) So, if you feel like it, you can add them back in your mind as your read Galladon's lines.
Other than that massive tangent, I don't know that I have much to say about this chapter. I thought that it was necessary to set Raoden up with a firm set of goals to accomplish—hence the three distinct gangs he has to overcome. Since Sarene and Hrathen's storylines were going to be a little more ambiguous plot-wise, I wanted a conflict for Raoden that could show distinct and consistent progress.
I knew from the beginning that I wanted him to set up a new society for Elantris, and the gangs represented a way for him to approach this goal in an incremental manner.
The cliffhanger at the end of this chapter, by the way, is one of my favorites. The chapter-triad system gave me some amazing opportunities for cliffhangers—as we'll see later.
This chapter includes two very important events. The first is the establishment of Hrathen and Sarene's relationship. The 'dramatic eye-lock' is, admittedly, over-used in fiction. However, I found it appropriate here, since I later have Hrathen remark on Sarene. I wanted to establish that the two had an understanding, and I needed to introduce an overplot for Sarene. Hrathen got his thirty-day timebomb in chapter three, and Raoden not only has his exile, but the problems with the gangs established in the last chapter. So far, Sarene only had her suspicion regarding Raoden's death, which really isn't enough to carry her sections of the novel.
One of the plotting elements I had to establish in this book was the fact that a single man—in this case, Hrathen—can have a serious and profound effect on the future of an entire people. If I didn't establish this, then Sarene's sections would lack a sense of drama, since Hrathen himself wouldn't seem like much of a threat. You'll have to judge for yourself if I actually manage to do this or not.
The second important part of this chapter, obviously, is the introduction of Kiin's family. Sarene's personality makes her less independent than Raoden or Hrathen. It isn't that she lacks determination, or even stubbornness. However, her plots, plans, and personality all require other people—she needs politics, allies, and enemies. Ashe provides a wonderful way for her to talk through her problems. However, I felt that she needed someone within the court of Arelon with which to work and plan. As the book progresses, you'll notice that Sarene's chapters include far more side characters than Hrathen or Raoden's chapters. In fact, I'll bet she has more than the other two combined. This is just another manifestation of her communal personality—she excels in situations where she can coordinate groups, and she needs a lot of different people to interact with to make her personality really come out.
I have gotten a little grief from readers regarding Kiin's family. Some think that the family as a whole feels too 'modern.' It is an anachronism that, to an extent, I'll admit. One of the quirks about the fantasy genre is how it generally prefers to deal with ancient governments, technologies, and societies without actually making its characters conform to more ancient personality patterns. In other words, most fantasy main characters are people who, if dusted off a bit and given a short history lesson, could fit-in quite well in the modern world.
I'll be honest. I prefer the genre this way. I don't read fantasy because I want a history lesson, though learning things is always nice. I read for characters—and I want to like the characters I get to know. I like putting characters in situations and exploring how they would deal with extreme circumstances. I just don't think this kind of plotting would be as strong, or as interesting, if the characters weren't innately identifiable to a modern readership.
My in-world explanation for this is simple. Just because our world placed a certain kind of cultural development alongside a certain level of technological development doesn't mean that it always has to be that way. In many of my worlds, culture has out-stripped technology. This does have some rational basis; I write worlds that involve very distinct—and often very prevalent—magic systems. Because of the benefit of these magics, many of my societies haven't been forced to rely as much on technology. There is more leisure time, more time for scholarship, and—as a result—the societies are more developed.
That said, Kiin's family is a bit extreme, even for me. However, the honest truth is that I wrote them the way I like them. They work, for some reason, to me. They stand out just a little bit, but I'd like to think that it's their brilliance and forward-thinking—rather than a mistake in narrative—that makes them seem so much like a modern family.
In this chapter, we first get to see some of the scars that Hrathen is hiding. Part of what makes him such a compelling character, I think, is the fact that he considers, questions, and seriously examines his own motivations. The things he did in Duladel are a serious source of guilt to him, and his determination to do what is right—even if what is 'right' to him isn't necessarily what we would consider right—gives him a strength of character and personality that is hard to resist.
He combines with this sincerity an actual force of logic. He's correct in his examination of Arelon. It has serious problems. It has weak leadership, weak military forces, and a weak economy. Hrathen's logical explanations in this chapter of why he feels justified in trying to overthrow the government should sound fairly convincing.
On the other hand, we have his whole 'Tyranny in three easy steps' discussion with Dilaf. It's this sense of twisted goodness that rounds out his personality as a villain. He's not just earnest, he's not just logical—he also has an edge of ruthlessness. That's a very dangerous combination in a character.
Speaking of the "I will show you the way to destroy a nation line," this concept—that line, actually—was one of the first things I came up with in my mind while imagining Hrathen. The way that he logically approaches something that would seem daunting—even impossible—to an outsider is a strong part of what defines who he is. I also really enjoy finding opportunities to show how Hrathen sees the world. Whenever I place him on the Elantris city wall and let him inspect the defensibility of the city, I give a clue as to how he was trained, and how he thinks. I don't believe that Sarene ever pauses to consider just how weakly fortified the city of Kae is—but Hrathen thinks about it on at least three separate occasions.
I worry, just a bit, that people will read this book and think that I'm anti-religion. Those of you who know me will realize how opposite this is of the truth—I'm actually rather devout in my own beliefs. However, because of this devotion, that I understand religion and the power it can have over people. I think that something so potentially good also provides great potential for evil. And, as a firm believer in religion—and religious freedom—I can think of few things quite as frightening or as evil as a religion gone bad.
I am not anti-religion. In fact, I'm not even really anti Shu-Dereth. I tried to construct a religion in Shu-Dereth that had some very interesting, and valid, teachings. However, like some very good religions in our own world, an evil—or even misguided—leadership can transform good teachings into a force for destruction and evil.
My own religion teaches that contrast is a good thing. Because of pain, we can appreciate joy. Because we understand evil (though we don't necessarily have to partake in it) we can understand and appreciate good. Because we have choices, we have the opportunity to take responsibility for our actions. In this way, I believe that a religion should have no qualms about teaching that it has the truth—and like the fact that we have many options in religions in our own world. When we get into trouble, however, is when we begin to enforce our religious opinions with sword or legislation.
I guess this belief is the main basis for my painting of Hrathen as an antagonist in this book. Yes, his logic is good—Arelon probably IS going to fall. However, that doesn't give him the right to speed that collapse, or even manipulate it to his own good. It doesn't give him the right to overthrow or suppress the beliefs of others. Resisting him as he tries to destroy the belief system of an entire people is a good far greater, in my mind, than the good of self-preservation.
(Man. That last bit seems a little melodramatic, now that I look back at it. Forgive me a bit of that on occasion, if you please. Occupational hazard.)
This third 'chapter triad' is the first one where I do a real intersection of the three viewpoints. Raoden sees Hrathen on the wall, Sarene and Hrathen spar, then Hrathen thinks about his run-in with Sarene on his way to the meeting with the noblemen.
I'm not sure if I'd ever want to use the chapter triad system again. It made all kinds of problems for writing the book. Almost everything else I've written has been strictly chronological—if you jump from one viewpoint, or one chapter, to the next, you're always progressing forward in time. By jumping backward in two chapters out of three, I gave myself some challenging pacing and coordination issues. For instance, the important events in each of the three storylines had to happen on generally the same days. Also, I had to rotate the chapters strictly, and so I couldn't just skip a character during a given time-frame. That meant I had to have important events happening in all three viewpoints all the time.
However, the benefits of this situation are moments like you see in this triad, where I could flow from one chapter to the next, having the timeframes play off of each other. You might have noticed from this triad that I had to fudge just a bit. Not all of the viewpoints happen at exactly the same time. The rule I set up for myself is that they had to all happen on the same day—preferably as close to overlapping each other as possible.
This chapter is one of the prime 'show Hrathen's competence' chapters. Most of what goes on here is in the way of character development for Hrathen. The plot of him swaying some of the noblemen is important, but not specifically so. However, I've always said that the stronger—and more clever—the villain is, the better the story is. By showing how Hrathen deals with the noblemen, I re-enforce his abilities, and justify him as a threat to the city.
There were a few small edits to this chapter. The biggest one was a change where I slightly-weakened Hrathen's treasonous talk. In the original, he told the noblemen that he was the gyorn assigned to Duladel before it collapsed. Moshe pointed out that this was a little too subversive of him to imply in the middle of a group of men who may or may not end up supporting him, so I made the change.
This chapter introduces a couple of minor characters for Raoden's gang. One thing you'll notice here is the good-natured humor I include in the chapter. (Or, at least, I hope you found it humorous.) I had a real worry that ELANTRIS would be too dark a book, considering the things that Raoden has to go through. That's why Galladon's character is so important. In my mind, Galladon fits the most basic definition of a humorous character—he is a juxtaposition. He is a pessimist from a culture of optimists. He is a foil to Raoden, yet at the same time his comedic pessimism lifts the story and points out just how ridiculous their situations are.
Galladon isn't simply comic relief—I have never used, and never intend to use, a comic-relief character. However, he allows for some farce and some fun-poking, which in turn lightens the air of what could otherwise be a very gloomy book. His relationship with Raoden proves that even in the hellpit of Elantris, things like friendship and trust can exist.
Because I have three separate storylines in this book, I have to move quickly. (Or, at least, quickly for me.) This allowed me to keep up the pacing, and to have a good amount of tension in every chapter. Of the three viewpoints, however, I think Raoden's chapters seem to move the quickest, though Hrathen has the smallest number of pages.
The language metaphor I use in this chapter is one of my favorites in the book. Hrathen's attitude can be quickly summed up in the way that he decides it is all right to preach to the people in their own language. He admits that he probably shouldn't do such a thing, but the logical justification is just too strong for him to deny.
I've spoken earlier about how fantasy books tend to place modern-like characters in more archaic settings. The Seons in this book are one of my rationalizations for the way that people act. I believe that a lot of our civility and maturity as a global culture comes from our ability to communicate quickly and effectively with one another.
Instantaneous communication changes the world. It makes countries seem less distant, and it allows for faster resolution of problems. Often times, when I'm creating a magic system, this idea is one of the first that I consider. Can this magic provide for instant communication or travel? If it can, I can use that to shrink the world, allowing me to place characters in more distant settings and still have them tied to the plot. (This isn't something I have to do often in this particular book. However, the ability to communicate with Wyrn and Sarene's father does have the effect of shrinking the world, making it easier to plot such drastic events in such a short period of time.)
Dilaf's outburst in this chapter is my first real hint that things are not going to go well between him and Hrathen. In a way, this chapter is a paradigm for events to come—Hrathen sets up what he think is a perfect, careful presentation. Then Dilaf arrives and throws chaos into it. Yet, despite that chaos, Dilaf has a profound—and arguably successful—effect on those around him.
I didn't originally intend for Hrathen to have a Seon. However, as I was working on this chapter, I realized how much sense it made. It lends a bit of hypocrisy to the Derethi religion, and I found that I liked that a great deal. The Seon also allowed me to move more quickly with Hrathen's plans. I couldn't have made the storyline nearly as compact if Hrathen didn't have access to a Seon.
As a side note, I'm planning this Seon here to make an appearance in the sequel (if I write one.) She would be Adien's own Seon, as he would probably be the hero of the sequel. (Along with his brother and sister.) For those of you who think I didn't deal enough with the Seons in this book—the sequel would have strong focus on them. In fact, I'm tempted to make this Seon a viewpoint character. However, that would bump me up to four characters, which wouldn't let me use the chapter triad system.
Perhaps the most interesting of Hrathen's internal thoughts in these chapters is his conviction that it's better to do things that cause him guilt, as long as it saves people's souls. This is a logical conundrum I've considered on several occasions. Taking Christian theology—which says that a soul is best off when it is 'saved'—wouldn't it be the ultimate sacrifice not to die for your fellow man, but to somehow sacrifice your own soul so that he could be saved? In short, what would happen if a man could condemn himself to hell so that another man could go to heaven? Wouldn't that act in itself be noble enough un-condemn the man who unfairly went to hell? (Enter Douglas Adams, and god disappearing in a puff of logic.)
Anyway, that's the logical fallacy I see Hrathen dealing with here. He knows he bears a heavy guilt for the bloodshed he caused in Duladel. However, he's willing to take that guilt—and all the damage it brings—in order that people might be saved. He allows his own soul to bear the burden, rather than turning it over to the church. Again, I see this as a fallacy—but it certainly does make for an interesting line of reasoning.
One of the major post-sale revisions I did to ELANTRIS came at the suggestion of my agent, Joshua Bilmes. He noted that I had several chapters where Hrathen just walked about, thinking to himself. He worried that these sections made the middle of the book drag a bit, and also feared that they would weaken Hrathen's character. So, instead, he suggested that I add Telrii to the book some more, and therefore give Hrathen opportunities to be clever in the way he achieved his goals.
This is the first chapter that shows any major revision in this direction. In the original, Hrathen simply walked along, thinking to himself. I added Telrii to the second half of the chapter, putting some of Hrathen's internal musings into their discussion. I cut some of the more repetitive sections, and then left the others interspersed between lines of dialogue.
The result is, I think, a very strong new section.
Sarene's visit to the chapel is probably the strongest scene in the book dealing with the Korathi religion. I felt this scene was important for the sake of contrast. Hrathen, and therefore Shu-Dereth, gets quite a bit of screen time. Unfortunately, Sarene and Raoden just aren't as religious as Hrathen is. I consider them both to be believers—Sarene the more devout of the two. Religion, however, isn't as much a part of their lives as it is for Hrathen.
I've actually seen this kind of aggressive religion/passive religion dynamic before. (Referring to the dynamic between the peaceful Korathi believers and the aggressive Derethi believers.) In Korea, where I served as a full-time LDS missionary, Buddhism and Christianity are both fairly well represented. Buddhism is having problems, however, because it doesn't preach as aggressively as most Christian sects. It is not my intention to paint either religion in a poor light by adopting the aggressive religion as the antagonist in ELANTRIS. However, even as a Christian, I was often troubled by the way that the peaceful Buddhists were treated by some Protestant missionaries. I was there to teach about Christ's gospel—I believe that Christ is our savior, and that people will gain happiness by following his teachings. However, I think you can teach about your own beliefs without being belligerent or hateful to people of other faiths.
The most memorable example came when I was walking in the subway. Often, Buddhist monks would set up little mats and sit chanting with their bowls out, offering prayers and chants for the people while trying—after the tenet of their religion—to gain offerings for their sustenance. Standing next to one particular monk, however, was a group of picketing Christians holding up signs that read "Buddhism is Hell." You could barely see or hear the monk for all the ruckus.
I guess this has gotten a little bit off from the source material. But, well, this is a book about one religion trying to dominate another. In the end, I don't think Hrathen's desires are evil (it's okay to want to share what you believe—it's even okay to think that you're right and others are wrong.) His methods, however, are a different story.
In other words, I think we should be able to preach Christianity (or whatever you happen to believe) without being complete jerks. (Sorry for that little tangent. I'll try to keep the rants to a minimum in the future.)
This chapter went through some heavy edits. First off, I originally had Hrathen interrogate the Elantrian off-stage. At a suggestion from my editor, I put this in-scene, showing Hrathen talk to the Elantrian. The intention here was to give a little characterization to Hrathen by showing his logical approach to studying and interrogating his prisoner.
The other big change to this chapter came in the middle. As I was working on the later revisions, I realized—at Joshua's suggestion—that I really wanted something here in the early middle of the book that showed Hrathen sparring against Dilaf and winning. In certain sections of the book, Hrathen's character came off too weakly—and this was one of the chapters. Originally, I had Dilaf extinguish the torches of his own accord, then burn the Elantrian later, despite Hrathen's protests.
In the new version, I get to have Hrathen prove his competence by having him wrestle control of the crowd. He is the one who burns the Elantrian, which enhances the scene by letting Hrathen feel guilt for it. He comes off much stronger in this chapter than he did before.
Those of you who have read on realize how important this is to the plot, because from here out, Dilaf starts to get the better of Hrathen. I needed to reinforce Hrathen's strength at the beginning of the story, otherwise I feared that the scenes of Dilaf winning would make Hrathen seem too weak. Hopefully, things now feel like they are balanced—one gaining dominance for a time, then the other wrestling it away, and so on and so forth.
Some of the most fulfilling experiences in writing this book came from the Hrathen chapters. Though Joshua still occasionally complains that he finds Hrathens internal monologues to be slow and ponderous, I find them essential to the plot. Chapters like this—chapters where we really get to see how Hrathen thinks—are what makes this book more than just a nice adventure story.
The section where Hrathen tries to appoint a new Head Arteth is a more recent addition to the book. I wanted to show the power Dilaf was beginning to have over Hrathens work in the city, and thought that this made another nice little sub-conflict for Hrathen to deal with.
The chapter used to begin with Hrathen trying to send Dilaf away. Though I added some new information at the beginning, that particular scene is pretty much intact from the first draft. I do worry that some of Hrathen and Dilaf's posturings don't come across as well as they could. This exchange is a wonderful example—I haven't had time in the book to do as much explaining about the Derethi religion as I would like. Because of this, I have to explain Dilaf's move as he tries to perform it. This is always a weaker narrative structure than if the move itself is an obvious outflow from the dynamics of the world. If readers had understood just what an Odiv and a Krondet were, then all Dilaf would have to do is mention that he'd sworn a bunch of Odivs, and the reader would know what he was doing.
Even still, I like what happens here. For the first time, the book expressly shows that Dilaf is planning and working against Hrathen. Before, he's always been able to fall behind his excuse of, I was caught up in the moment. This, however, is an obviously planned maneuver intended to give him power over Hrathen.
I'm very fond of this last scene for two reasons. First is the fact that I get to show Hrathen being charitable. He really does care. When characterizing him in my mind, this scene always jumps out as showing something very important about him.
Contrasted with that moment, however, is Omin's lucid presentation of Hrathen a hypocrite. All this time, Hrathen has worked against Shu-Korath, trying to stamp it out. Yet, in one brief moment, Omin scores a personal hit that is more painful than anything Hrathen could do in return.
Notice how Hrathen keeps trying to pull the discussion away from discussing truth in this scene. He knows that he can dominate if he can get the conversation to center around logic. However, truth is something that is hard to define, and something even harder to argue against. Despite his priestly mantle, he finds truth outside of his authority and experience.
As you can probably deduce from what I've said before, this Telrii scene is a late addition. It's not one of my favorites between Hrathen and Telrii—re-reading it, it makes me feel like Telrii is simply there to be persuaded. While the intention of these scenes is, indeed, so show Hrathen as a stronger character, their secondary purpose is simply to let him voice outloud some of the thoughts he's been mulling over. If you have trouble characterizing or motivating one of your characters in a book you're writing, try giving them someone—either friend or foe—to talk to.
Anyway, this particular scene is a little weak, and I suppose I could cut it without too much loss. It is a good idea to keep people thinking about Telrii, however, since he will be important later in the story. Also, there is his warning to Hrathen about not being a pawn, which is some good foreshadowing for what happens later, when he casts Hrathen off and tries to become a Gyorn himself.
As I've mentioned before, the Hrathen chapters tend to be shorter than the other two. As Raoden and Sarene's chapters pick up, I was left struggling just a bit to find things to do in the complimentary Hrathen chapters. I probably could have sped up his plot through these middle chapters just a bit. However, the triad system means that I had to give him a viewpoint every third chapter. That is probably why he got so many contemplative sections—and, possibly, is what in turn made him into such an interesting character personality wise. It's kind of hard to dissect these kinds of things now that the book has been done for five years.
Anyway, I did need this chapter to give Hrathen a chance to do some more foreshadowing on Dilaf. The emergence of Dilaf in these chapters is, I think, one of the more interesting and surprising elements from the middle Hrathen chapters. When Dilaf is originally presented in the book, I expected people to see him as a simple sidekick to Hrathen, much in the same way that I established Galladon and Ashe to be counterparts to Raoden and Sarene. With this parallelism in servant characters, I hoped to pull of a subtle surprise with Dilaf when he started to make trouble for Hrathen, as he is doing in these chapters.
One of the shortest, but most powerful, chapters in the book.
I added the 'head arteth' conflict (the idea of everyone rejecting the appointment) later in the revision process so that I could have one more thing to push Hrathen over the edge. My only worry about this scene is one of pacing—if I've done the novel right, then this will seem like a climax that has slowly been building for some time. If I'm off, then this chapter will seem out-of-nowhere, and lack power to the reader.
This is really where Hrathen's chapters have been pushing. The questioning and self-doubt, the problems with Dilaf and conversion. . . . He's pretty much been defeated at every turn. It was time for him to either crack, give up, or do something spectacular. In a way, he kind of does all three.
Yes, his drinking of the poison is supposed to be a zing. Theoretically, this will push you on into the next section of the book. The slower portions of the novel are beginning to wind down—from now on, the events start to move a little more quickly. Even still, this is probably one of the more slow-moving of my novels, which is part of its charm—as I noted in a different annotation.
As for the first section break, I just really like ending with having Hrathen poison himself. This makes our first section incredibly long—it takes up well over half of the book. I thought that was all right, however, since I figured increasingly short sections would enhance the pacing near the end of the book, speeding things up (hopefully.)
And, as a note on the final exchange, did you forget about the cliffhanger at the end of Raoden's chapter? My hope was that knowing, from Raoden, that the gates to Elantris opened sometime after the attack, the reader would assume that Sarene actually failed to stop the soldiers. Now that she has, however, stopped them, you are reminded that SOMEONE is entering the city. One guess who it is.
Father Omin, by the way, 'traces Aon Omi' on Hrathen's chest as part of the religious service. This should look familiar. It is a subtle little thing, but I wanted to show how the Korathi religion has been influenced by its proximity to Elantris. The priests probably wouldn't do something like this in Teod. In a way, Hrathen is right—Elantris has had a corrupting influence on those around it.
However, 'corruption' is probably too strong a word. Religions adapt as their people adapt, and often times cultural elements are incorporated into belief structures. People have asked me, as a Christian, what I think about Christmas itself being set in place of a pagan holiday. Doesn't really bother me. The day we happen to celebrate the birth of Christ doesn't have any doctrinal importance to me. A religious person has to be willing, in my mind, to accept that while truth may be eternal, the way we interact with it—as changing human beings—must needs be influenced by the way we think and the way society works.
It doesn't matter if my religion 'borrowed' things from other religions or cultures—especially if the things we filched added good things to the religion. That's what humans do. We adapt. We steal. This especially makes sense if you happen to be a writer. (We're really good at stealing. . .uh, I mean 'adapting.')
Another short, but powerful, Hrathen chapter. This is the head of Hrathen's character climax for the first half of the book. He has been questioning his own faith ever since he first met Dilaf. It isn't that he questions the truthfulness of the Derethi religion—he just has become uncertain of his own place within it. I wanted this moment, when he's semi-consciously watching the eclipse, to be the moment where he finally decides upon an answer within himself.
This is a major turning-point for Hrathen. His part in the book pivots on this chapter, and the things he does later are greatly influenced by the decisions he makes here. I think the important realization he realizes here is that not every person's faith manifests in the same way. He's different from other people, and he worships differently. That doesn't make his faith inferior.
In fact, I think his faith is actually superior to Dilaf's. Hrathen has considered, weighed, and decided. That gives him more validity as a teacher, I think. In fact, he fits into the Derethi religion quite well—the entire Derethi idea was conceived as a logical movement.
When I was designing this book, I knew I wanted a religious antagonist. Actually, the idea for the Derethi religion was one of the very fist conceptual seeds for this novel. I've always been curious about the relationship between the Catholic church and the Roman empire. While Rome itself has declined greatly in power, the church that grew within it—almost as a side-effect—has become one of the dominant forces in the world. I wondered what would happen if an empire decided to do something like this intentionally.
The early Derethi leaders, then, were a group who realized the problems with the Old Fjordell Empire. It collapsed upon itself because of bureaucratic problems. The Old Empire was faced with rebellions and wars, and never managed to become stable. The Derethi founders realized the power of religion. They decided that if they could get the nations of the East to believe in a single religion—with that religion centered in Fjorden—they would have power equal to, or even greater than, the power of the Old Empire. At the same time, they wouldn't have to worry about rebellion—or even bureaucracy. The people of the other nations would govern themselves, but would give devotion, loyalty, and money to Fjorden.
So, these men appropriated the teachings of Shu-Dereth and mixed them with some mythology from the Fjordell Old Empire. The resulting hybridization, added to the Fjordell martial work ethic, created an aggressive, intense religion—yet one that was 'constructed' with a logical purpose in mind. The Fjordell priests spent the next few centuries converting and building their power base. The result was the New Empire—an empire without governments or armies, yet far more powerful than the Old Empire ever was.
And, as for the ending lines—yes, I did it again. The same little cliffhanger-extension from before. I figured that it was fitting, since this structure threw Hrathen into the city. Why not use the triad system to do the same thing with his getting healed?
Dakhor. One of the better words I came up for this book, I think.
Be patient with me—I'm going somewhere with this whole Dakhor monastery thing. We'll get there eventually. For now, enjoy Hrathen's visions. Or, rather, be disturbed by them. (Dakhor, if you haven't noticed, isn't a very friendly place. . . .)
Yes, all this time Hrathen was under the effects of the potion. It was a little bit contrived not to tell the reader that Hrathen had asked for the effects to be temporary, but I figured the drama was worth it. You should have been able to figure it out anyway—it was the only logical reason Hrathen would drink the potion.
Of all the politickings, maneuverings, and plannings in this book, I think this is the best one. In a single brilliant gamble, Hrathen managed to make himself into a saint who is seen to have power over Elantris. He out-witted Sarene and Dilaf at the same time, gaining back everything he'd lost during his arguments and self-questioning. This isn't really a 'twist,' in my mind—it's something better. It's something that makes logical sense, something that carries the plot forward without having to trick the reader, yet still earning wonder and appreciation.
In my mind, this sort of plot twist is superior to gimmick surprises. I don't often pull it off, but there's something. . .majestic about a plotting device that is obvious, rational, yet still surprising.
This chapter asks the question 'What is a miracle?' You've heard me wax pontificatory too much on religion, so I'll hold off here. Instead, I'll just point out that what Hrathen thinks—that something can be a miracle even if there was nothing 'miraculous' involved—makes perfect sense, I think. Look at it this way. A) Hrathen believes (as many in our world do) that God controls everything. B) Hrathen believes (as many in our world do) that God can do whatever he wants without expending any resources or weakening Himself. C) Therefore, it doesn't matter to God whether or not He has to 'magically' cause something to occur or not—as long as an event is made to coincide with what He wants to happen, it is miraculous. It's just as easy for Him to make something occur through the natural flow of the universe as it is for him to make it occur through breaking of normal laws.
(This, by the way, is why 'miracles' such as faith healings or the like should never, in my opinion, form one's grounds for belief in a particular religion.)
I did this triad a little differently. You might notice that the Hrathen chapter starts off right where the Sarene chapter ends. Again, I eventually decided to be more loose with the triad system than I'd originally intended. It would have been to limiting to force all three chapters to happen during the exact same time. So, instead I have them all happen on the same day, usually overlapping, but not always.
Anyway, this chapter was a nice little place for Hrathen to feel proud of himself. You may have noticed that the chapters are speeding up—getting shorter, things happening faster—as the book progresses. This is an aspect of my style, and while it's not quite so noticeable in my new books (I've tried to even out my climaxes and surprised better during the last few years,) ELANTRIS is an 'Old School' Brandon novel. My books tend to push toward the endings quite dramatically, and you usually hit a place my friends affectionately call 'The Brandon Avalanche.' Generally, my books tend to go haywire in about the last ten percent, the pace increasing drastically, the viewpoints going wild.
That hasn't happened at this point in ELANTRIS, but we're getting closer.
The only other thing to say about this chapter is that it's about where the Mad Prince subplot began in the original drafts of the book.
Though this is explained other places on the site, I should probably note it here. The Mad Prince, a character who has been cut from the book, dominated about three or four chapters in the last quarter of the manuscript. Originally, Raoden wasn't an only child—he had a brother who was something of a madman. Eton—the Mad Prince—was sent away by his father to live in seclusion. He was mentioned several places in the text, foreshadowing the time when Hrathen decided to pull him back into Arelish politics to try and use him as a pawn.
In this chapter, the Mad Prince arrives in the area—though we don't know it. Hrathen finds out that Eton has arrived, and goes to meet with him off stage. The reader doesn't know what's going on yet—you only know that Hrathen has some other little scheme he's been cooking up since Sarene's fall. (Remember, in the original draft of the book, Telrii was far less of a character. Hrathen gave up on him early in the book, after the plan to sink Iadon's ships ended up being a wash.)
I figured the rats metaphor in this chapter was appropriate. It seemed like the kind of connection that Hrathen would make—and it says something about him that he would think this way. He might be a sympathetic villain, and he might have some measure of nobility, but he isn't by any means unprejudiced. He is, in that way, a product of his culture. You can be a good man and still be prejudiced—I know a lot of people, good people, who simply don't seem to have the ability to see beyond their own assumptions.
So, I contrast this bit of prejudice from Hrathen with a sincere measure of humanity on his part. He's worried about Sarene. Not worried simply because of his desire to use her, not even worried simply because of his latent affection for her—though both are motivations for his actions. He's worried because he feels guilty for using her like he is. It's that pesky conscience of his, messing things up again.
And yes, Hrathen does have some feelings for Sarene hiding inside that armored chest of his. I'm always very subtle in the way I have him show them—for instance, his coming up to the wall to try and see if she's all right.
In the Mad Prince drafts of the book, I was still holding off on revealing him to the readers. His army was out there in this chapter—visible because of its fires in the night. I revealed that Hrathen considered the newcomer an ally, but I hadn't yet given away who the newcomer was.
The Mad Prince's disappearance was probably the most time-consuming cut I made, not to mention the one most difficult for me personally. I'm happy to know he lives on in his web presence—he's practically be the star of the 'Deleted Scenes' section. The cut came at the suggestion of Joshua "Axe Man" Bilmes. The stark truth is, the story didn't need another random diversion here. We're getting very close to the climax, and introducing another whole character—with his own plot, problems, and tangents—just wasn't good for the pacing. Eton was, in my opinion, a brilliant character. However, he just didn't belong in the book.
Hrathen's deal with Eventeo here is the final piece of his most brilliant plan in the book. He milked those two vials of poison for a whole lot. He managed to regain his own faith, defeat Dilaf, turn himself into a hero, and get Eventeo's promise all with a few clever political twists. After he's pulled off a few tricks like this, three months suddenly doesn't seem like an unrealistic amount of time to convert a nation. (Or, at least, convert its nobility—which, as Hrathen has pointed out, is the same thing.)
This ending scene is where Hrathen and Raoden come the closest to speaking to one another. Hrathen stands there, looking down on Raoden. Then he leaves. In case you were wondering, no. They never say a word to one another throughout the entire book. Sarene mixes with both of them, but Hrathen and Raoden barely interact.
I love this exchange at the beginning of the chapter. We actually don't get many scenes in the book where Hrathen gets to interact with Sarene, let alone her friends. The dialogue in this section is rather spiffy, if I do say so myself. The exchanges feel quick, poignant, and telling of character.
One part of that is probably due to the pair of extremely good metaphors Hrathen makes during the scene. The crushing mountain, the bird banging its head against a stone—these are didactic metaphors, exactly the kind of thing you'd expect a priest to say. He places them quite keenly, and his oration has an effect on Sarene and the others. I'd call this scene the final cap of Hrathen's victories during the last few chapters.
By the way, I'm still fond of the fact that Hrathen is more skilled a warrior than Eondel. Eondel's good, but he's not in the same league as a warrior-priest. Besides, Eondel is a leader, trainer, and general—his skill set is different than Hrathen's. If the two were to spar, Hrathen would win nearly every time.
Interestingly, this is one of the first real action sequences we've gotten in the book. So far, all we've really had are: the fencing match between Sarene and Eondel, the place where Hrathen fights off Shaor's men, and a couple of short battles between Raoden's men and Shaor's wildmen. Really not very much. I'm quite proud, actually, of how well I managed to keep up the tension and pacing in a book without much physical action.
Of course, that doesn't mean that I'm not a sucker for some good action. Go read MISTBORN if you want to see what I mean.
Now we're getting into the most heavily-edited chapters of the book. From here, if you're curious about the Mad Prince version of the book, look in the 'Deleted scenes' section. For the rest of the annotations, just realize that what the Mad Prince once did, Telrii now does. There is, of course, a lot of cut material—however, all of the essential elements of the plot still occur.
Basically, the Mad Prince gave aggravation and problems to Hrathen in these late chapters. He'd had so much success with his Elantris-poison plots that I knew I had to give him a few more wrinkles during these chapters. In the original draft, he instigated the arrival of the Mad Prince, then realized that he couldn't control what he'd unleashed.
These were all difficult edits. I still think the Mad Prince worked better in the role than Telrii does—however, the book as a whole works better without the Mad Prince in it. Sometimes you have to cut something good in order to achieve a better over-all effect.
So, all of Telrii's characterization through the novel has been pushing toward this chapter. I knew I wanted him to throw a huge wrinkle into Hrathen's plans, and so the basic thing I had to decide was what Telrii could possibly do that would be as disastrous as the Mad Prince's uncontrollability. In the rewrite, then, I made certain to make Telrii a more unpredictable character. He's not just wasteful, he's arrogantly wasteful. At the same time, however, he's not as much a fool as people assume. He likes his spending, but he also likes how that luxury makes him look. It makes other people underestimate him, and makes them assume that he's predictable. That lets him pull little coups like the on he throws at Hrathen in this chapter.
Hrathen is, of course, right. Telrii doesn't have any clue how great a misjudgment he just made. The idea is not that Telrii is brilliant—he's just smart enough, just wily enough, to be surprising. He's just dangerous enough to do something disastrous like this.
This is a different kind of Hrathen chapter. With it, I wanted to set the tone for the final section of the book. Only about 15% of the novel remains, and things are going to change for the last bit. You may have noticed a slight tone shift in this chapter—I made it a little darker, filling it with death imagery. (Incense, ash, darkness, Svrakiss.) I wanted to subtly get across that things are growing more dim for Hrathen and Arelon.
This scene ends with a question. Hopefully, the reader is reminded that we haven't really seen anything from Dilaf in the last few triads. Hrathen has been in control ever since he left Elantris, and what we've seen of Dilaf has been cursory and ignorable, for the most part.
Now, however, he's back. His low profile in the last chapters was intentional. My hope is that the reader will hit the last few lines of this chapter and think "Oh, wait. I've been ignoring Dilaf lately. That's not a good thing. . . ." In other words, I want them to feel like Hrathen does. He's suddenly realized that he's let a foe slip under his notice for a time, and now he's worried about what Dilaf has been planning.
Some people are very surprised by this chapter. It isn't the most narratively-surprising death I've ever written, but it was one of the more sudden ones. I'm sorry if you really liked Roial.
I wrote this book to be less of a 'violent book than some others I've written or read. However, on reflection, I realize that what I intended by this was to write a novel where the protagonists didn't rely on violence as much as they did on their wits. I didn't mean that I wouldn't let the bad guys be. . .well, bad.
(In addition, by the way, this is part of why Raoden and Sarene are such competent people. They don't have swords or magic to perform flashy fight scenes—so, instead, I gave them competence in relation to their personalities. In part, this is what amuses me by complaints that Raoden and Sarene are too flat as characters. Make a man the most brilliant swordsman ever, but make him emotionally incompetent, and you have a 'deep' character. Make a man incapable with weaponry, but emotionally mature, and he's flat. Go figure.)
Anyway, back to the topic at hand, I don't think I'm particularly brutal with my characters. (I'm no David Gemmel, for instance. I swear, the body counts in that man's books. . . .) I am, however, realistic. People die in my books. Sometimes they're viewpoint characters. It happens. From a storyteller's viewpoint, I think it makes the tension more real. There IS danger for the characters. In a more philosophical bent, I think this makes the characters more heroic—they aren't protected from the consequences of their decisions. Even if those decisions are good. Choosing to try and overthrow a dictator like Telrii is a dangerous decision, and if the heroes are going to be considered 'heroic' for that action, then I have no right to protect them from harm. Doing so would take away the 'will' of my villains.
Poor Hrathen. He's been getting jerked around a lot lately—it's hard for him to react to events before new ones draw his attention. In addition, most of the Mad Prince scenes happened in his chapters. That meant that when I did the revision, he lost the largest number of pages. So, his sections here got even shorter than they had been.
Regardless, things have obviously changed for him again. The guard switch-out here is one of my favorite moments in the book. I like the urgency of Hrathen's realization, not to mention how this introduces the scene into chaos.
Originally, the fight scene here took place in the Mad Prince's tent. I had to stretch a bit to keep the dripping flames from above—I just really liked that image. And, I apologize for actually using the words 'Time slowed.' That mechanic is a bit over-used in fiction, I admit. However, this is one of my early books, so you'll forgive me, right?
I worked for a while on the last line of Part Two. Originally, Hrathen thought to himself "Well, this isn't good." However, Moshe disagreed with that line. First, he thought it was too quippish. He wanted something more serious here. Second, he didn't think that these events were actually bad for Hrathen. Telrii, a man who had been giving Hrathen serious troubles, and Eondel, one of his main enemies, had just killed each other. On top of that, Roial—the main rival for the throne—is dead. All in all, a lot of annoying people are dead.
Moshe had a point, though I did disagree a bit. I think Hrathen would see Telrii's death as a wasted investment. He was still hoping to control the man, and having Telrii on the throne and amiable to Hrathen would have been a much better outcome, since it would leave Hrathen looking less powerless before Wyrn.
However, I went ahead and changed the line. It now reads "So much for avoiding a bloody revolution." It gets across the same ruefulness as before, without being as flippant.
As I've mentioned before, I didn't want Hrathen's affection for Sarene to ever be overt in the book. He's not a man of passions, and I think he would be very good at keeping his interest unacknowledged, even in his own thoughts. He has 'learned to ignore' the passions of the flesh. We only get a few small clues as to his attraction to Sarene, and this chapter is probably has the most of those.
Still, hidden though they are, I wanted it to be obvious that Hrathen is a man, and does have masculine desires. He's found a woman whom he considers his equal—the fact that she is of a heretic religion would only make her more appealing, I think. Hrathen is attracted to challenges, and Sarene is nothing if not challenging.
I use this chapter as a strict triad chapter—it covers the same space of time as the other two chapters. With Sarene and Raoden running around together now, the triad system has been easy to forget. While I still start each chapter with the correct character, I often let the viewpoints intermix after that.
Again, this is intentional. After this last Hrathen chapter, I have the triad system break down completely. It's supposed to be a subtle indication of the chaos of these last few chapters. I'll even start throwing in viewpoints that aren't of the core three, which I hope with give the reader a sensation that something different is happening. The world, even the narrative structure of the book, is breaking apart. None of the old rules hold any more.
Ah, and Hrathen's three month timebomb. It's always nice when you can have a timebomb go off early. Hrathen thinks in this very chapter about how he's got a month left on his deadline. However, I suspect that readers will look at the book and realize that there's less than a hundred pages left. Hopefully, with these chapters—Raoden crowned king, Hrathen apparently beaten—I invoke a sense of confusion in the reader. They'll be expecting something big, something they weren't looking for.
The arrival of the Dakhor monks is it. You'll get some more explanation of this later, of course. Anyway, now you know why I kept mentioning the Arelene market and how unprofitable it seemed. The merchants there weren't even really merchants.
In the first draft, I had the monks hiding on the merchants' ships. In a later rewrite, however, I realized that this wasn't as powerful as if I had them actually playing the part of the merchants. If I had them on the ships, I had to have Hrathen follow Dilaf all the way to the docks. In addition, those monks would have had to spend weeks cooped up in the holds of a bunch of merchant ships. So, I changed it so that the monks were impersonating the merchants themselves—a better plan, I think, on their part. This lets them infiltrate the city, move around and scout the area, and essentially hide in plain sight.
I've only mentioned Gragdets a couple of places. Hrathen never thinks much about them, since he doesn't consider them part of the traditional Derethi structure. In truth, they aren't—but they do have authority over a Gyorn in their own small sphere. I don't think that the reader needs to understand the entire social structure of the religion, however. Hrathen understands what is happening, and knows that he should probably let himself be under Dilaf's authority. That should be enough for most readers.
And, yes, Dilaf always had bones that were deformed. That's why I mention that they're not terribly disfiguring—they would be quite easy to hide under robes. And I often pointed out in the book that Dilaf was wearing his enveloping robes.
Hopefully, these moments—Dilaf's unleasing—have been building for you through the entire book. By now, you should have realized that Dilaf was always the main villain of the story. He's the one with true hatred, and true instability. Hrathen is an antagonist, but he's no villain. Dilaf, however, has been built-up as someone who can do some truly terrible things. Now he's unleashed, and he has an army of demonic monks at his control.
And yes, we'll get to more about how Dilaf was able to imitate an Arelene later.
Hrathen's conditioning is manifesting here. We've always seen him as the leader of the area, but he spent many years as a lesser priest beneath other leaders. In the Derethi religion, you do what you're told by your betters. As soon as it is established that Dilaf is in charge, Hrathen's training would force him to become a follower.
I hope that Dilaf's explanations about his past are suitably creepy. I also hope they give some explanation. He is a man who betrayed his religion when he thought it would save the woman he loved—only to find himself, in turn, betrayed by the Elantrians. His wife became Hoed, and he himself burned her. This would have something of an effect on a man's psyche, I think.
Now, recall that Elantris was at the height of its power when Dilaf took his wife in to be healed. I mentioned her earlier in the book, in a Raoden chapter. He found a story in one of his textbooks about a woman who was improperly-healed, and it turned her into what the Elantrians now are. This is Dilaf's wife. (Go re-read Chapter Twenty-Five for the story.) I find this little item beautifully circular.
Anyway, we now have an explanation for Dilaf's instability and his hatred. I really like how Dilaf, normatively, grows into being the prime villain for this book. He comes to it slowly, kind of stealthily, while the reader is focusing on Hrathen. Yet, Dilaf is there from the first Hrathen chapter, always dangerous, always trying to destroy Elantris, always making his own plans. I worked hard to bring about his rise to power in the book, and I hope that it worked. Puling off the Dilaf/Hrathen reversal was one of my main goals in the story.
I actually didn't plan to use the 'teleportation' aspect of the Dakhor magic. However, I wrote myself into this chapter, then suddenly realized that I needed to get the group Teod in a real hurry. I couldn't let days pass while Sarene, Hrathen, and Dilaf sailed to the peninsula as I'd originally intended. (I have no idea what I was thinking.) So, I added in teleportation. It ended up working out very well in the book, as it let me add another dimension to the Dakhor magic—that of having it cost a life to create some of its effects.
This, more than anything, should instill in the reader a sense of disgust regarding the Dakhor. I particularly like Hrathen's story about Dilaf making someone die so he could travel to a place fifteen minutes away. It characterizes Dilaf perfectly while at the same time giving a clue to how strict and obedient his order is. This isn't a group of people you want to mess with. It's the ultimate exaggeration of Derethi beliefs on loyalty and structure.
I really wanted to bring these Dilaf scenes in and make them personal. That was my prime reasoning behind sending Sarene with him. I wanted the reader to care, and I wanted Hrathen to care—which, hopefully, would make the reader care even more.
Dilaf was very interesting to write as an antagonist. By the time he finally came to his own, I didn't have to worry about developing him as a viable threat. His personality through the entire novel had prepared the reader for the awful moment when he finally got the other characters into his power. And, because Hrathen was so sympathetic a villain through the entire novel, I think I can make Dilaf more raw and unapproachable. It's nice to have sympathetic villains, but with Hrathen in the book, I didn't feel that I needed much sympathy for Dilaf. Also, with one such well-drawn villain, I felt that if I tried to do the same with Dilaf, the comparison would make him come off very poorly. So, I went the other direction, and the contrast gives the readers someone that they can just hate.
If they didn't hate him already, then this last scene with Sarene was meant to push them over the edge. Here is a man who kills for pleasure. No matter how wronged he was in the past, he has no justification for the cruelty and enjoyment he displays in anticipating Sarene's death. This is an evil man.
As I've mentioned, Hrathen has the most progression of any of the characters in this book. It's fitting, therefore, that he should get the best character climax.
Essentially, ELANTRIS—at least Hrathen's third of it—is a redemption story. It is the story of Hrathen trying to make up for the massacre he caused in Duladel. Beyond that, it's the story of a man struggling to understand what faith is, and what that faith requires of him. In the end, his decision to save Sarene comes as a rejection of the sins of his past. And, in a slight way, it is a rejection of the heartless, logical man he assumed himself to be.
There is some good, if terse, exposition here with Hrathen sorting through his feelings. I don't think he really wants to come to any answers right now. Logic has lead him astray before, and now that he's doing what he feels is right, he doesn't want to pause to give himself a chance to consider the ramifications of what he's done.
Again, Sarene has fulfilled her purpose in the book. She's thrown chaos into Hrathen's otherwise-orderly life. However, her chaos here—just like the chaos she caused in Elantris with her food—eventually proves to be a good thing. It inspires change for the better, even though that change is painful.
And, of course, I remind the reader here that there is something odd about Hrathen's arm. I've only mentioned it in a couple of places, so I don't expect people to remember what is going on here. I actually forgot to have the sleeve in the original rewrite. I didn't even think to notice that his Dakhor arm would be exposed to Sarene in this scene. . . .
I keep promising that I'll tell you about some of the other silly character revelations I had pop up in the book. This one is particularly embarrassing. To be honest, I have NO idea what I was thinking.
In the original draft of the book, Hrathen turns out to have been from Duladel the entire time. It's revealed in this scene, when he and Sarene are running from the Dakhor. He was of Dula blood, having grown up there, then moved to Fjorden as a teenager.
Yes, I know. I must have been tired when I wrote that chapter. Anyway, at one point it must have seemed like a good idea. It didn't make even the first cut, however—my first readers rose up in open rebellion, and I joined them.
I figure I must have decided that it was more dramatic to discover that Hrathen had betrayed his own people by destroying Duladel. (Note, in the early draft of the book, I made more of a habit of pointing out that the Duladen republicans weren't generally dark-skinned.) In the first draft, I always had Hrathen wear black die in his hair and pretended to be from Fjorden.
Yes, again, I know. It was stupid. We writers do stupid things sometimes. I didn't even pause to think that the drama of Hrathen betraying his own people and religion in the present is far more powerful than a betrayal that happened before the book even started. I denied his entire character by trying to rely on some whim that seemed like a clever, unexpected twist. Don't let yourselves do things like this, writers. Let the twists help develop the character, not exist simply to surprise.
Anyway, I'll post this scene in the deleted scenes section. It'll keep me humble to know people can read it.
Sarene doesn't get it. She has no clue how Hrathen feels—of course, he doesn't even really acknowledge it himself. At least, not until he's dying in the street.
So, Hrathen wasn't really dead. (Ironically, while many of you are probably saying 'yeah, yeah. That was obvious,' I actually didn't have him appear here in the first eight drafts of the book. I'll explain later.)
I think this is my favorite scene of this chapter. Not only is it written a little better than the rest of the book (I added it quite late—just this last summer) but it gives final closure to the Hrathen-Dilaf relationship. It uses Hrathen's time in Dakhor as an ironic twist against Dilaf. In short, it is a pretty good scene. Fulfills character, plot, and theme at the same time—while giving us a nice image to boot. (Though I do hate to do the "Hey look, a guy we thought was dead is really alive" twist.)
The story behind this scene is pretty recent. One of the original rewrites Moshe asked for was a fix of the ending, which he thought was too Deus Ex Machina. (Which, indeed, it was.) I don't think I'll go into the entire original version here—it was quite different. You can read the alternate ending in the deleted scenes section, when I throw it up next month. The short of it, however, is that Ien (Raoden's Seon) showed up to save Raoden and Sarene from Dilaf. I used a mechanic of the magic system that I have since pretty much cut from the novel (since it was only in the book to facilitate this scene) that allowed Ien to complete his Aon, 'healing' Dilaf. Except, since Ien's Aon was broken, it turned Dilaf into an Elantrian instead. (A non-glowing Elantrian. One like Raoden the group used to be—like Dilaf's own wife became after she was improperly healed in Elantris.)
I know that's probably confusing to you. The scene, over all, was just kind of weak. It relied on a barely-explained mechanic mixed with a tangential character showing up at just the right moment. When Moshe asked for the change, I immediately saw that I needed to bring Hrathen back to life for a few more moments. Letting him die on the street just wasn't dignified enough (though originally I wanted him to die this way because it felt more realistic.) I wanted a final confrontation between Hrathen and Dilaf, since it would give most people's favorite character a heroic send-off, and would also let me tie in the aforementioned Dakhor irony.
In the end, I was very pleased with the rewrite. It's good to have an editor.
This is the dénouement to the denouement, I guess. We get to end with my favorite character, tying up some of the small loose ends that were related to her storyline. There is some good material here—she points out that Raoden is doing well as king, how Ahan is fairing, and gives a nice prognosis for the future of Arelon.
However, the important part of the epilogue comes at the end. I love the last line of the book, despite the fact that Joshua disagrees with it. (He wanted something else there—I can't quite remember now what his quibble was.)
Anyway, I always intended to end this book talking about Hrathen. He was their savior, after a manner—and he certainly was a dominant force in the book. I wanted to give him one final send-off—to honor him for what he did, both for Arelon, and for the story in general.
1) Most people who read the book find themselves gravitating toward one of the three characters. Which was your favorite, and why? Did you find yourself disliking the time I gave to other characters, and if so, which one was your least favorite?