Monday, May 04, 2009

The Danger of Getting your Protagonist Mad

I've been slogging my way in "The Between," knowing that Lydia had to eventually get to Queen Titania's court and get to the place where she shifted from reaction to decision and action.

I just didn't know exactly how that was going to happen, nor did have have the clearest sense of Titania's personality. Unlike many 'changeling' tales involving the Fey, my Fairy Courts are not aligned with the seasons, nor are they split between 'seelie' and 'unseelie'. In "The Between," the Fairy courts have split into those who pledge to Oberon and those to Titania. They represent the difference between overt magic (Oberon--no subtlety, all flashy persuasion) and covert magic (Titania--subtlety and manipulation.)

But neither of them know how to deal with Lydia, who, although Fey, has been raised to believe she is Mortal and sees her allegiance to her human family, all the more so since both Fey monarchs have screwed with her life.

This is a sloppy first draft (hot off the keyboard) of how Titania missteps in trying to manipulate Lydia (starting mid-scene for the sake of length):

Lydia studied Titania's face. It was strange--the Shadow Queen seemed sad. She wasn't anything like Lydia had expected. And nothing like Oberon. "Can I ask you a question?" Lydia asked.

"Of course. You are my guest here."

Taking a deep breath, Lydia struggled to figure out how to word it so she wouldn't cause an international incident. "You and Oberon. . ." She paused and Titania frowned. Lydia pressed on, afraid if she backed off now, she'd never get the answers she needed. "You were once. . . there was only one court. What happened?"

Titania looked past her into the darkness of the surrounding trees. "It was a long time ago."

Lydia waited as the silence took on weight around them.

"We had a child. He was what the Mortal physicians call stillborn."

She held her breath not wanting to risk distracting Titania's story.

"Oberon wouldn't speak of the babe." The Queen stared into Lydia's face. "You are but a child. You cannot understand the loss. There are so few born of the Fey bloodlines."

An image of Taylor rose in her mind and Lydia had to blink back tears. Taylor wasn't her baby, but yes, Lydia knew about loss. Far better than the Fey seemed to, despite what Titania said.

"I mourned my lost child for many seasons and finally Oberon decided he had had enough."

Lydia was fascinated, despite her wariness. "What did he do?" she asked.

"He took a baby boy from a Mortal family and gave him to me."

Another family torn apart by Oberon's lies. "What happened?" Lydia asked, her stomach clenched.

"He took one of my attendants for his lover. I left the child with them and never returned."

"The baby. What happened to the baby?" Her voice was low, insistent.

"I neither know, nor care to know. My child was gone and Oberon thought to placate me with a changeling. As if one equaled the other."

A hot surge of anger pushed Lydia to her feet. It was hardly different than what Oberon had done to her family—change one child for another. As if. As if. Tears burned their way down her cheeks and it only made her madder. Now a stranger was living in her life, being the big sister, the daughter, and the friend. It was Oberon's fault. He had no right.

A breeze rustled the night dark leaves, tugging on Lydia's unbound hair, and sweeping dust around her in a small whirlwind. The bottom of her feet tingled. The skin along her bare arms buzzed as if she were charged with static electricity.

Thunder rumbled close enough for her to feel the thrum of it in her chest. Heat lightening flickered around the clearing.

"I can show you how to aim your anger like a weapon," Titania said, her voice so close to Lydia's ear, she could feel the heat of the Queen's breath. "I will take nothing from you that you do not freely offer. Neither tithe nor allegiance. I only ask for your vengeance."

Lydia staggered as if she'd been hit. Raising her hands in unconscious defense, she took a step away from the Shadow Queen.

"Do not deny your desire, Lydia. You have been grievously wronged. I feel you cry out for justice."

Her cheeks blazed with sudden heat. It wasn't justice she wanted, or at least not the kind the Fey seemed to offer. "I want my life back," she said, barely breathing the words. "I want to wake up in my room and look up at the ridiculous rainbow wallpaper. I want to argue with my brother and complain about homework." Lydia shoved a knuckle in her mouth to keep from crying out. The wind died. The trees stilled.

"You cannot unmake what Oberon has designed" Titania said, her words like the slap of sleet across bare skin. "But he can pay like for like. His pain for yours. For mine." The Shadow Queen smiled and Lydia swallowed, her body urging her to run. Behind the elegance of Titania's features, the jeweled brilliance of her blue eyes, and the sculpted cheekbones, there was a madness eroding her perfect control. If Titania was a smoldering fuse, then Lydia was the spark.

She fought the urge to flee Shadow court and take refuge with Aeon in his maze for however long she would be safe there. But that would mean placing the gardener in danger and punishing him for sheltering her. If both courts pursued her there, he wouldn't stand a chance.

And neither would she.

Titania studied her, trapping Lydia in her gaze for several long minutes as her heart raced in a panicked rhythm. The Queen nodded, satisfied and Lydia feared what she had seen in her.

"We are sisters in this," Titania said.

Lydia turned away so the Queen wouldn't see the answering anger in her eyes. She had a sister. And she was going to find a way to get back to her. Even if she had to destroy Fairy to do it.

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