Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

[writing] Killing even more darlings

Yesterday I took a day off from Sunspin to let the book steep a bit in my writing subconscious before diving back in. (Though late in the day I did get back to it.) Instead I worked on revisions to my steampunk fairy tale novelette, "You Will Attend Until Beauty Awakens". A combination of wise first reader feedback and my own confirming judgment have led to me delete an entire scene. Rescued from the cutting room floor, here it is for your perusal.

(Note this is first draft, the raw stuff, and because of the decision to cut it, I haven't cleaned it up at all.)

Queen Margot of Bourgoigne

My son is a fool.

I will not say this, of course, because servants repeat everything they hear, especially those ill-chosen words that even a person of my quality might utter in a moment of extraordinary frustration. My husband’s courtiers are worse, more dreadful gossips than the starlings that swarm in the rafters of our great halls.

For this foolish boy, I have labored to give him every advantage, every possible assistance to make his way to his way to his father’s throne. I would not have it said that he profited only from the circumstances of his birth. I myself rose from humble, tainted beginnings to one of the great thrones of Europe by dint of sheer force. My young prince should be honored and feared just as much as I, not laughed at behind disloyal hands for toddling to a crown and scepter he had not earned.

Nothing but the best for him, and I made sure everyone around Puissant knew his worth before the child himself had come to any such realization. I gave him everything, paved his way to self-reliance and strength on the whipped backs of a hundred servants, the carefully secured loyalties of dozens of courtiers.

And how does he repay me? By leaving the court, by making mock of my rightful ambitions for him. By becoming a hedge knight lurking in the slums of the sun-raddled south.

I was borne in a bothy high in the Pyrenees. I was raised in my earliest years amid the shit of sheep and the foolishness of a mother too stupid to understand who had raped her into pregnancy and what a gift he had given her. When my father in his blood-dyed cap had come calling in my seventh year, to lay claim to his child, people fought and were slain out of sheer, ignorant terror.

He claimed me, and took me to the caves where ancient forges still made weapons that had won battles in the morning of the world. The fae knew the secrets of steam and iron long before the Romans or the Arabs had begun to unlock those doors of knowledge. Once my father’s people and their lesser kin had held dominion over the fields and hills of Europe, binding my mother’s people like cattle and driving them to their masters’ will.

From my mother I had learned how to shear sheep and make bad mutton stew. From my father I learned the history and ways of power, and the tale of how the fae lost their power and became creatures of shadow and night, hiding among leaf and branch when the clatter of horses’ hooves arises.

I learned that we could and would be greater than that once more. I resolved that I would do my part to bring our power back to the days of its glorious zenith.

At fourteen I set out, a girl who had been raised in a cave by monsters and was herself already the height of most ordinary men, to find my way to the top of this world we all must live in.

And I succeeded.

Think you how many mothers would covet a king’s marriage bed for their daughter. Imagine the fierce competitions waged in ballrooms and salons and behind the curtains of women’s quarters the length and breadth of this continent for the sake of putting a girl within seduction’s distance of a crown prince. I, with no one to sponsor me, no family or monied connections or favors from aunties and old friends from boarding school, climbed that mountain surely as any conqueror of old atop his hill of skulls.

All of this to produce my son, to bring into the world his bright smile and broad shoulders and ogre’s blood, that one of the Old People might rule again, and so crack open those doors of opportunity and power that our cattle had slammed in our face a hundred generations past.

I married and mated with one of those cattle to produce that son.

And the fool betrayed me for the life of a knight errant, bedroll and hard tack and bandit arrows his lot.

What a waste. Could any sane man want this for himself, when he had waiting for him everything I had prepared?

Yet there is another chance. A small kingdom, doomed by fae jealousy and the petty scheming of the seasons, soon to fall prey to a curse that such a one as my son fancies himself to be could hardly resist riding toward in hopes of winning honor by succoring the needy.

If he is anything, Prince Puissant is a romantic. I will make sure when the time comes that he learns of the unfortunate fall of Talos, and I shall use that to draw him back to his rightful place in life.

And my father, his grandfather, shall see his own seed rise to the highest places a man – or fae – can go in this modern world.

Tags: fiction, process, stories, wip, writing

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