I did not finish Usurper by the 2014 deadline. I felt a little bad about that, but then I looked at all I accomplished in 2013 and decided one miss wasn’t going to kill me.
Besides, I was stuck in Usurper because I knew Trenna and company were going home to Kiavana and I needed to figure out what had changed while they’d been away.
And boy, a lot has changed.
When I wrote Saboteur and Nelek had his brief visit home I didn’t have much trouble because … well, because 20 years hadn’t passed and there wasn’t much different. But walking into Kiavana Fortress now has to be both familiar and foreign.
This is the key to sequels, I think. This mesh of familiar and foreign, the appearance of beloved characters and the surprise of new situations … this is what can make or break a sequel. And it’s supremely hard to do.
Honestly, I don’t think I quite managed it in Saboteur. In my defense, Nelek isn’t in Kiavana long enough for it to really matter. But in Usurper we get to spend quite a bit of time in the castle, and I am very excited by it.
Fans of the books should be pleased by what they find. (At least I hope they are. I was.) And because I promised a bit of a teaser on my Facebook page, I’ll post a bit of what I wrote this week.
—– NOTE: This is an unedited version ——
Troy dismounted his horse and frowned at the ruins. They’d ridden most of the night, resting the horses just long enough to eat and this was what they were looking for?
It might have been a manor once but age and weather had crumbled the walls to an almost unrecognizable state. The dilapidated building was situated on a small inlet with a wide, undisturbed lake surrounding it. The forest seemed to be doing its best to overtake the half-collapsed conical towers. Vines and weeds crawled over pale stone, and peppered throughout what he could only assume had once been the courtyard were small trees sprouting between bits of rock.
He didn’t know whether to be sad that a manor could be reduced to such a state or amazed at the relentless growth slowing eating away at it.
“What is this place?” Liana asked.
Her voice was quiet, almost reverent, and when Troy looked at her he saw her shiver. She kept hold of her horse’s reigns but her blue gaze was fixed on the highest wall. She looked unsettled, maybe even frightened, and Troy frowned some more. He looked back at the ruins, trying to see what she saw, but could only find rough rock and greenery. He wondered if something in her Eldur blood was speaking to her but was afraid to ask. He found everything dealing with magic to be deeply troubling.
“This was my mother’s home,” Nelek said.
“Grandmother Auliere?” Kaden asked as he dismounted.
Troy moved to tie his horse to the nearest tree. He felt painfully out of place and needed to do something so he busied himself with unloading his saddle bags. He knew Kaden would scoff at him for thinking it, but when it came to Dyngannon family history he knew he didn’t quite fit. He was human, the son of their mother’s rival, and while Trenna had always called him a sign of peace for the future, his love and involvement in their family could not blot out the past.
He pulled his sword from the saddle and started strapping it on, barely listening to the conversation behind him.
“Brenson and I used to spend hours swimming in the lake,” Nelek said. “There’s a river that runs just past Kiavana fortress and ends right here. One of my earliest memories of your mother is in that river. Our camp was overrun and we had to flee.”
“I didn’t take mother for the running sort,” Liana said.
“I’m sure your mother would have loved to stay and fight,” Nelek said. “But she was my bodyguard at the time. Her first duty was my safety. So we ran.”