This is our alliterative second look into the mind of our aptly-named villain. By this point, Vilnius sees an unexpected flaw in his plan (Charlotte’s escape), and begins taking increasingly villainous actions in order to stop her. This early in the story, it’s just setting Sandy Lane on our heroes, but Vilnius’ actions will get more intense when we revisit him in later sections. “A Vile View of Vilnius” was difficult and generated so much discussion between Luke and I that I wrote an entire article devoted to it. It’ll tell you why I didn’t quite get Vilnius right, despite some really killer lines from our villain in this section. The comments in this section are particularly enlightening, and show a map of a developing conversation that eventually landed us at the conclusions covered in the linked article.
“Barnabus, that is, another— a fellow— soldier, sir, he emerged from the forest.” The man’s stuttering was nearly insufferable. Vilnius would not stoop to learning his name. Clearly, he would never merit any sort of promotion, and was thus useful only as a warm body, fodder, filling a rank in the Royal Guard. “He reports that he tracked, or, um, found a pair of… of teenagers in the woods carrying what looked to be, uhh, the sword. You know the one, the one that is missing? The one you’re looking for My L– or, um, Your… Your Grace?”
Vilnius did not immediately reply, but waited for a few heartbeats and allowed his gaze to bore into the man. The soldier before him wilted measurably, and Vilnius was gratified to see that at the very least, this small man knew his place in the order of things. Lowly. “Where is this soldier?”
“Barny, or, uh, that is Barnabus, rather, Your Grace? He’s, ah, resting… on account of having been up a night and a day running here. He’s in the barracks tent down the other side of the camp, sir. My, uh, Your Grace.”
Vilnius again paused, and allowed his displeasure to fill the silence. “Go inform this… Barnabus… that it will be my pleasure to question him. I will attend him shortly.”
The quivering soldier3bowed in salute, and quickly ducked out of Vilnius’ tent. Vilnius made no move to rise from the ornate chair he sat in. Let the small men stew in their discomfort for a time. Let them stew in worry and doubt and fear of their betters. If this Barnabus brought good news, if he were to counterbalance the setbacks and delays Vilnius’ party had experienced in the past few days, perhaps then Vilnius would be inclined to think better of him. Perhaps the soldier could even earn a reward. Yes, Vilnius would question the small man, but he would do so as a … friend. If this soldier could provide the location of the sword, if he had blooded it even… but no, no, that was too much to hope.
Vilnius closed his eyes and leaned back against the battery of uncomfortable metal rods that lined his back, the secret, hidden portion of the apparatus that gave him his extraordinary power.4The machine had been humming and vibrating oddly ever since they had made camp, as if it was seeking to draw his attention. He carefully ignored the strange pulses and lurches the metal gave, and reflected on recent events.
The remains of the Fort City entourage, culled of the less desirable aspects, of course, has settled for the night against the base of rocky outcropping on the edge of the Steppe. Vilnius had ordered the halt earlier in the day than he would have liked, but the position was in the lee of the wind and offered a measure of defense.5Although they had passed the edge of the Cottonwood earlier in the day, scattered straggly trees still dotted the landscape. None could fully hide the creeping savages of the Cottonwood, but Vilnius still prefered to take as few chances as possible. With the loyal – if not entirely competent, Vilnius added to himself, thinking of the mewling, stuttering soldier who had just reported to him – Royal Guard standing picket around the collection of carts and tents, Vilnius felt certain those he wished to protect would remain safe from any violent action taken by Cottonwood rogues. After all, according to Vilnius’ plan, they were in a de facto state of war with the various tribesmen of the forest.
The petulant, tree-loving fools that had vexed Vilnius for years, squatting as they did on such a precious resource and hardly knowing what they held, had finally been roused to direct action against Fort City. It had just taken some careful prodding. When he controlled the full might of Fort City’s armies, Vilnius would crush the small people of the forest, but for now he was forced to fight a rearguard action as he retreated to the city.
Sorties and probes had harried the train of Fort City dignitaries, soldier, merchant-folk and various hangers-on since they had departed the summit grounds.6 Unfortunately, Vilnius could see that those raiders represented the smallest fraction of the Cottonwood’s many clans. The great forest was as divided as ever. Typically, the ignorant savages could not communicate clearly, and according to Vilnius’ direct observation and his spies, no two clans seemed to agree on what exactly had happened at the summit or what course of action should be taken. Some had tried to attack Vilnius, it was true. Others, perhaps more intelligently, had probed at the defenses Vilnius had set up around his train, attempting to see if the Fort City company could be killed… or perhaps just robbed. Still more sent representatives wanting to join Vilnius and his guard against the rest of the Cottonwood. These were the clans and individuals who were reluctant to join Augusto’s union. Vilnius had expected his old allies in the Heartwood Clan to join him, as they had aided him since the years he had occupied the abandoned fortress deep in the forest, but the others were a welcome surprise. Vilnius accepted them with open arms as tools to be used and, once broken, thrown away. To his vexation, though, too many of the clans had not been seen or heard from.7 Far too many for his liking. It made Vilnius angry to think of it, and an alarming rattle of the metal bars8he wore accompanied the sudden flash of emotion.
Through of all this, sending out Royal Guard, question Cottonwooders, enemies and allies alike, he had no word of the missing sword, the object that carried the mark of agreement between the interminable meddler Lucinda and the savage wrestling oaf that thought the best way to unite a people was with strong drink. Chaos in place of order… Vilnius hated that. Small men standing in the place of their betters.9
Vilnius rose heavily to his feet. The apparatus under his robe was heavy and after a long day, it made it difficult to move. A rest from marching under such discomfort had been welcome.10If there was time to adjust the rig when he returned to Fort City, make it more comfortable to wear… but that would have to wait. With the sword missing, Vilnius’ plans must needs 11remain fluid. He had to be able to adjust to a shifting landscape. As leader of the remaining Fort City forces, he would be expected to return to the King and report fully on what had happened. He could not run after the sword, so he had sent soldiers armed with a lie used to manipulate them to run for him. Now, it seemed, one of the soldiers had returned. As he swept from the tent, affecting as graceful a posture as he could given the uncomfortable metal hidden beneath his robes, Vilnius hoped this Barnabus would have useful information.12
The light of the sun still glared over the western horizon as Vilnius began to make his way across the camp. The sky was stained with golds and red clouds catching the sun. It was nearly dazzling. Vilnius sometimes forgot how big the sky felt as it hung over the Steppe. And everything it hangs over will soon be mine. 13
The camp was decidedly rag-tag. There was none of the careful organisation of the summit here, and very little of the opulence. A few of the finer tents had survived the chaos and been brought along, but many of the camp’s denizens were preparing for another night spent directly under the stars. The members of the Heartwood Clan had already made a mighty bonfire and were roasting an animal over the flames. Vilnius noted that none of his Fort City company dared camp too close to Cottonfolk. The Heartwood Clan rogues and sneak thieves, for their part, had erected a thistle of arrows, points stuck in the ground and ready to be set to the strings of the bows that were never more than arm’s reach away. Trust was an issue, and Vilnius made a mental note to be careful of those bandits when it came time to betray them. 14
Vilnius passed a few groups of soldiers that would taking a later watch. Some stiffened as he passed, others nodded companionably, but Vilnius was pleased to note, with appropriate deference. A butcher’s cart that had been converted into a mobile stockade held a handful of the Cottonwood prisoners caught over the past few days. Most were sleeping, all bore the recognisable marks of intense questioning, but Vilnius was nearly certain that none had any real knowledge of the sword.
At the far end of the encampment, Vilnius came to the barracks tent. It was slightly singed, and there was at least one extra gash in the side where somebody had cut a hasty exit, but it still offered a kind of shelter for a number of the troops. 15Vilnius paused outside the tent to collect himself. The bars of metal under his cloak were beginning to feel unnaturally warm.
Vilnius ducked through the canvas flap and allowed himself to adjust to the gloom inside the tent. There were a few rough cots, but much of the space was filled with bedrolls thrown on the ground. Most of the billets were unoccupied, but here and there a soldier snored gently. Vilnius immediately recognised the man he was looking for. A tired looking soldier stood at attention beside a rumpled cot, managing to rescue some dignity from a dirty uniform, two days of stubble, and the steaming mug by his feet.
Vilnius walked over and stood before the man, waiting his usual few seconds before speaking. Although the soldier was taller, Vilnius did his best to look down at the man. The soldier, for his part, did not flinch, and gained a modicum of respect from Vilnius. “Barny, I presume?”
“If it pleases my Lord,” the soldier sounded as weary as he looked, but still managed to be polite and address Vilnius properly—a feat many of his kind had failed in the past. “I prefer Barnabus.”
Barnabus remained rigidly at attention. “My Lord. As directed, following betrayal and the theft of the sword from the summit, I tracked a pair of travellers in the woods. They stopped to sleep the first night, affording me plenty of time to catch them up. I recognised the ambassador’s apprentice. I assumed her companion to be a lover, the two of them enjoying some sort of tryst–”
“The relevant details, soldier.”
“Of course, my Lord. Apologies. They openly discussed plans of escaping the Cottonwood. I couldn’t hear all the details as I had to keep a safe distance to remain hidden, but I did learn that they intended to resupply at a Cottonwood village – Madera Clan – and access a largely unknown route up the cliff-face nearby.”
“Where is this route?”
“I’m largely unfamiliar with the local geography, my Lord, but the Forestman left a map sketched in the soil. I could recreate it for you, though I do not know exactly where the landmarks are.”
Vilnius felt a bitter disappointment rising in his gut. It was accompanied by a slight mechanical trill along his back. “And you returned only with this intelligence?”
“No, my Lord. Begging your pardon – it is all I have returned with, but I did not turn away from the traitor with only intelligence. I deemed it prudent to stop the two travellers before they had a chance to resupply.”
Despite the disappointment, Vilnius was impressed with Barnabus’ prudence. “I was informed these two carried the sword?” Again the device against his back gave a shudder. He had to exert careful control not to betray its presence. Why was it acting so strangely? Although he had managed to use it to kill Lucinda, the device had not behaved entirely as he had designed it.
“That is correct my Lord,” Barnabus was saying over Vilnius’ wandering thoughts.
Forcing himself to focus, Vilnius continued. “And yet, I see no sword with you now.” His voice was soft, but a barbed edge had worked its way into his words. Barnabus, already at attention, stiffened slightly.
“Also correct, my Lord. I attempted to stop the traitor and her companion, my Lord…” Barnabus paused and swallowed heavily. “But I failed. I overestimated my own ability and tried to ambush the pair, but they outfought me.”
“You were bested by a child and a forestman?” Vilnius could not help but let some disdain work its way into his voice.18
“I’m afraid so, my Lord. When I awoke they had gone, presumably up the stream, because I could not find a new trail to follow. Given my options, I thought it best to return directly and report.”
With a sudden flush of furious cold from the rods, Vilnius felt his disappointment redouble. He knew it wasn’t disappointment in the soldier before him. Barnabus had been close to resolving the problems associated with the missing sword, and the disappointment was rooted in the near miss. In truth, Barnabus had shown considerable merit. He had not failed in his duty. He had executed it well, and in the face of exhaustion and a frustrated master he still stood at attention and did not shy from his own failures or make excuses. Vilnius looked over the man. Barnabus’ legs were shaking almost imperceptibly out of exhaustion. Despite that, his face stayed rigid, his body at attention. This is no warm body filling the ranks, Vilnius thought. This man shows promise, dedication, and merit. His name is worth remembering.
Vilnius smiled hugely, though the expression did not extend to his eyes. “Sit down, Barnabus, and drink whatever is in that mug. You’ve done the right thing. I would have prefered the sword, of course, but a recreation of that map will be a fair consolation prize.”19
Barnabus seemed slightly confused by the sudden courtesy, but sat all the same, saying “Thank you, my Lord.” He began rummaging in a pack for something to write on.
Vilnius turned and walked until he was standing over one of the sleeping soldiers on the ground. He recognised the lowly, small man who had delivered the report of Barnabus’ return. Sleeping! When a loyal, good soldier who hadn’t rested in days stood waiting! The flush of anger was joined by another rattle from the apparatus Vilnius wore. He kicked the soldier, hard. The soldier sprang up with balled fists, but blanched when he saw who had woken him.
“Fetch one of the Cottonwooders from the Heartwood Clan, then report to picket duty.”
The small man sputtered, voicing objections, but Vilnius had already turned away. The soldier left, muttering all the while.
As they waited, Vilnius felt his device shift temperatures and move uncomfortably under his robes a number of times. It felt constricting and alien against his body. A thought dropped into his head, as if voiced by another person. He felt suddenly compelled to follow it out the tent, up the rise and onto the ridge that overlooked the camp. Something up over the edge of the rocky outcropping was… summoning… him. Vilnius resisted the urge for the time being and watched Barnabus sketch carefully.
“To whom do you report?” Vilnius asked, making a sudden and impulsive decision.
“Begging your pardon, my Lord, but I’m not sure who the ranking officer in the camp is at present.”
“I meant for general assignment, not this particular mission.”
Barnabus nodded. “Of course, my Lord. Thinking is getting a little fuzzy without sleep. Captain Hendershaw – she commands the third garrison on the wall.”
Vilnius nodded in return, allowing just the slightest hint of familiarity. “No longer. You will be transferred to my personal guard. For now, you will report directly to Corporal Lane… After a good night’s rest, of course.”20
Barnabus showed no reaction, but said “Thank you, my Lord.”
As silence again descended, Vilnius felt the return of the impulse to leave and explore the ridgeline above the camp. His legs tingled with a strange sensation, as if they were ready to start walking with or without the cooperation of the rest of his body.
The Cottonwooder burst suddenly into the tent. “I was sent for?” he said haughtily.
Vilnius scowled at the newcomer. “ You are of the Heartwood Clan?”
“I thought you didn’t care about clans.”
This time, Vilnius did not manage to suppress the surprised gasp when the rod along his back flashed uncomfortably hot. “ I don’t like your impertinence,” he said slowly.
“I’m here to see that the Heartwood Clan gets its just place in what is coming, not to grovel at your feet. I don’t like being summoned, and yet here I am. What do you want?”
Vilnius again mustered his best stare and leveled it at the man. He willed his cold eyes to bore into the man and felt a corresponding drop in the temperature of the rods. His hand began to itch, as if it were calling to have the rings put in place. Like so many others, the man flinched under the withering gaze, and only then did Vilnius speak. “First your name. Then, you will look at this map.”
“Martin of Heartwood.” The Cottonwooder spoke only reluctantly.
“Well, Martin of Heartwood, tell me… if this mark here” Vilnius jabbed a finger at Barnabus’ map “is to represent the Madera Clan village, do you know what this is?” Vilnius pointed at a line up the opposite side of the page.
“Could be the old goat path up the escarpment… can’t think of any other landmark over that way.”
“Excellent.” Vilnius’ voice did not sound as though he thought this was excellent. “What do you know of this path?”
Martin looked as though he was ready to be impertinent again, but something in Vilnius reined him in. “It’s a goat path. Goats go up and goats go down. Raul de Madera claims to have climbed it, but I don’t believe him. Tried to get one of my clansmen to pay three goats for making the climb, but with no witnesses…”
Vilnius waved the story away impatiently with one hand. “Could you explain the fastest way to get to this goat path to one of my soldiers?”
“Yes,” Martin replied.
“Good. Expect someone to find you shortly. Go.”21 Vilnius pointed to the tent’s exit.
Martin bowed exaggeratedly22 and ducked out of the tent. Before following him, Vilnius turned to Barnabus. “You’ve done very well.”
“Thank you my Lord,” Barnabus said, still sounding a little unsure of himself. Vilnius dismissed the tone as fatigue. Barnabus struggled back to his feet to make a salute. Vilnius thought to show the man some gratitude by waving him back down, but perhaps one last show of determination on the soldier’s part would be good for his morale. It was only proper, after all, and soldiers were happiest when faithfully executing orders.23Barnabus saluted carefully, and stood at attention until Vilnius ducked from sight under the tent’s flap.
Outside, the light of day had faded and evening was giving way to dusk. Vilnius strode out to the picket line and met one of his most faithful followers, a tall soldier named Vestra. Vestra had her eyes carefully trained on the horizon, staring into the fading light. She did not look at Vilnius as he approached from behind. She bowed as he approached, but did not turn to face him so that her night vision would not be ruined by the light of cook fires. Not for the first time, Vilnius congratulated himself for recruiting such a dedicated and conscientious soldier. He hoped that Barnabus would prove as faithful.
“My Lord,” Vestra said by way of greeting.
“Vestra.” Vilnius stood beside her for a few moments, gazing out at the gathering dark. “Is Lane still… hunting?”
Vestra grinned wickedly. “Found a Cottonwooder not twenty minutes ago. Rogue’s in the stockade now, awaiting some careful questioning. Lane’s back out looking for another.”
Vilnius sighed. “Alas, we must all indulge our hobbies.” The draw calling Vilnius to the ridgeline pulse more strongly. “Even I must indulge mine. May I leave you with a message for when the Corporal returns?”
“Of course, my Lord.”
“Have Sandy meet me in my tent. I have… special instructions.”24 Vilnius thought he caught the shadow of a leer on Vestra’s face,25but judged she had earned a bit of leeway. Sometimes a Count needed guards that would leer, and Vestra had proved herself discrete time and again.
Vilnius said nothing as he strode off into the growing dark. Although he did not fear being accosted by his enemies even outside the camp’s picket, he nevertheless began to pull the rings and chains of his apparatus onto his fingers. They pulsed and rattled in time with the rods at his back and he knew without knowing how he knew that it was all linked to the strange draw he felt to the ridgeline above the camp. Boulders loomed out of the dusk and concealed dowdy tufts of plains grass that seemed designed to turn ankles and trip up anybody that came to pass. Despite having never stopped here before, Vilnius felt as if he knew exactly where he was going. Before too long, he worked his way around the outcropping and up onto the ridge above the camp. As he stepped up to the edge of outcropping and looked out at the cook fires and tents below him, he felt his device come to rest at last. Looking left and right, Vilnius searched for a source for the strange impulse that had brought him here. Surely, something magical had been the draw. His eyes settled on a form a few paces away. At first glance, it appeared to be nothing more than yet another boulder, albeit slightly taller than the others around. As Vilnius looked, though, he could almost see the shape of a person in the stone, a crude mockery of human form looking as if an amateur sculptor had left his work to the weather for centuries. “Ah… I should have know. And I should not have wasted my time.”
Vilnius was looking at one of the ancient Stone Men of the Steppe. They were undoubtedly magical. Vilnius has spent a considerable time studying them in his youth. They had proved to be nothing but a frustration. Although they were the focus of many folk legends, and although magic somehow gave them the ability to speak, they showed almost no agency whatsoever. At best, they muttered in tongues long forgotten. There was no truth in the legends that the Stone Men would grant wishes, solve problems or impart the wisdom of the ancients – at least, not in words that anybody listening could understand. Privately, Vilnius wondered if perhaps they enjoyed the irony of giving excellent advice to those that could not understand.
Vilnius turned to go, but was stopped by the Stone Man’s voice. It was a low rumble that seemed to come from the ground itself, made up of the low tones of rocks smashing together. Vilnius was riveted. For the first time in his life, he could very nearly understand what the strange figures were saying.
“Trowed ye commyng heren, Y callen.”26
“You… called me here.”
“Ye woot the ancynt alchemy.”
“Alchemy of miller, miner ond wytch.”
“One who employs sorcery.”
Vilnius felt cold. “No others can do what I have done.”
“Mordryng?27Mordryng man has long done.”
Vilnius took a step back. How? How could it have known?
“Ye witen the earth is alwayes yknowing.”
Even something as inconsequential as a speaking stone, one that barely speak in any manner that could be understood by a common person, could undo what Vilnius sought to accomplish with such an accusation. It wasn’t done. It was taboo, yet he had done it. With an impulsive fury, Vilnius lashed out28with his hand and felt the power that was stored in the rods begin to flow. It spiraled out around him, causing the air to spark occasionally with flashes of faint blue light. He poured his anger and malice into the gesture and focused on the stone. Over the edge, Vilnius saw the cook fires below flare hugely, erupting into whirling torrents of flame. Shouts of surprise and alarm reached his ears, but he did not hold back, he poured the magical energy fourth, he let it drain as he willed his anger to damage the Stone Man, not caring in the slightest if he used every bit of energy he had, not caring if it took days to charge the rods again.
Yet, in the face of such fury, the stone remained stone. A low rumbling sound began to shake the ground gently beneath Vilnius’ feet. At first, he thought he was having some effect with his manipulation of magical energy, but as the last of his power drained from the metal rods, he realised the sound was laughter. Laughter from some deep place, voiced by the ground itself. 29
“What would ye accomplishe? Ymake me turn to stone again? Ye wost the capture ond the spread of sorcery. Ye, as we, will not woot the control of it. None but the gods may ymake the sorcery bend to will.”
Vilnius breathed heavily as he dropped his hands. Cold fury pulsed in his veins. “None have ever done as I have. None! I am the first and the only master of magic!”
“Ye are the maestro of nothing, least yourself.”
Left with nothing but his wits and a drained weapon, Vilnius spat on the face of the Stone Man and whirled away. His temper foul, he stalked back into the night, leaving the Stone Man behind him. A mild rumbling in the earth told him the Stone Man Laughed on. It felt like another defeat. The Stone Man would be his last failure. He would find a way to silence the very earth itself, but until he did, he was left to his reflections.
His well arranged plans were fraying at the seams.30Years it had taken him to get to where he was. In the summit, he had seen an opportunity, so he had seized it. Killing Lucinda was just the start, he needed to engineer an entire war and cease control of the Cottonwood. There, his device would most easily and readily gather the natural magical energy of the world. But he had not anticipated just how fractious the Cottonwooders would prove to be.31 How much influence had that wrestling oaf really had? The clans had divided, but too many had not taken direct action against his party. Too many seemed ill inclined to fight. And the sword! Proof that an accord had been reached. Yes, he would manufacture a story of betrayal, but would his word stand to the King’s scrutiny if an unsullied sword was delivered by the ambassador’s apprentice? Would her word be strengthened if she arrive with a Cottonwooder at her side to corroborate her story? The girl would have to be stopped.32She was the King’s favourite orphan. It would be best to break her, keep her alive but no longer herself… yes, that would add emotion to the lie, the King would be angry at what the Cottonfolk had done to his precious Charlotte…
Vilnius found he had passed that camp’s picket line. Likely that useless soldier that had been plaguing him all day had been on duty in the position he passed. In short order, he found his tent. The gap between the flaps glowed with the homey light of a lamp. Ducking inside, Vilnius found Sandy Lane lounging in his chair, using a short sword to clean under fingernails. Vilnius glared at his top lieutenant,33 but Sandy made no move.
“You will find a Cottonwooder named Martin of Clan Heartwood. He is at the large bonfire. Have him tell you exactly how to reach a goatpath that climbs the escarpment near Madera clan village. You will go there and await the ambassador’s apprentice. Interrupt her plans. Bring her and the sword to me. If the sword is blooded, all the better, but I want her alive. Kill any others she is with.”
Sandy nodded and made as if to rise, but Vilnius held out his hand.
“Martin of Heartwood is impetuous and course of manner. Dispose of him… discreetly. Do not let the other members of Heartwood clan know, I have need of them yet.”
Sandy nodded a second time. “Anything else?”
Vilnius turned to glare out of the tent flap and up at the ridgeline above the camp. “Yes. Find me a hammer.”34
Luke: I don’t like this for two reasons:
1) This is the second time we’re in Vilnius’ perspective, and using his full name seems weird in the second one.
2) This moment is a chance to subtly show a part of his character, and the name isn’t doing it.
BONUS: I don’t like the name.
James: 1)you’re totally right: this is a case of me using the writing to get into the scene
2) I disagree. Giving his full name can do a lot for him and us – whether or not it should be in this section, well, probably not.
BONUS: you actually love it, you just don’t know it yet.↩
Luke: Love this, though 😀↩
Luke: Is he quivering from fear, or is that just his thing?
Are the regular troops that afraid of Vilnius? Or has he done something in the last section to make him one to be feared?↩
James: I’m sort of expanding how Vilnius’ magic apparatus works. He’s found a way to absorb, store, and project magical energy, right? So he needs somewhere to store it on his person. Thus, some rods hidden under his cloths (I imagine a special alloy – see below – but I leave it fairly unexplained because, well, I don’t think we need to explain too much of it!)
Luke: Hmm… I guess I was thinking that he needs to absorb it in the moment—that’s why he played with the fire before burning Lucinda—but storage seems within the realm of possibility. But if he always has a store of it, then do we run into the “fireballs all the time” scenario?
James: Ohhh… I thought he was just doing that to be cool and/or amplifying the fire to burn Lucinda out. We’ll need to talk about this but for the record: nothing about fire in inherently magical, and it isn’t really a source of Vilnius’ brand of power. Also, see the end of the section to answer your question!↩
Luke: Perhaps this is exactly what you have happen, but if the Cottonwood is reeling a bit from the strange circumstances of Augusto’s death, then someone just might attack someone else…
Could be a chance for us to show the destabilization of…oh, but then we have Madera clan village. Still, dual points may not hurt OR be superfluous. (Raul, the sword, an FC ally—Madera can be calmed. But those without Raul….)↩
Luke: I wrote that previous comment and then just knew you’d have something about it in here.↩
Luke: Rather than some joining him so quickly—other than his established “allies” of the something clan—because no one in the forest agrees on what happened, why not have no one, and that can still vex him. His plan called for clans to rally around him (not all, obvs) but when they don’t, it’s already a part of his plan breaking down. (Maybe he’s not such a great planner afterall, of course this is not really V’s fault, oh no, had those fools only….)↩
Luke: I’m not sure I’m down for the battery on his back. But V can total take to wearing the glove all the time, and we can still have it do the reaction that the bars are giving, here and other places.
James: I thought you’d have this reaction. Let’s talk, but again for posterity: the glove is flashy – we’ve already equated it to jewelry, but that’s all about appearance. The truth of the matter is in something beneath the surface, hidden. Subterfuge and hidden ways… that’s V all over. Fully expected him to be wearing the glove all the time by the end, BTdubs.
ALSO, having big metal rods up his back TOTALLY sets up some drama for our climactic scene. Just sayin’↩
Luke: I’m digging this moment. I want to massage it a bit, but yeah, liking V getting all worked up over his memory of Lucinda and Augusto.↩
James: you’ll note that this is a different reason for stopping early than covered above. That’s intentional.↩
James: dunno why, but it came out
Luke: I’m thinking our must needs put it back in…
James: You think I want my brain stuffed up with shitty archaic expressions?↩
Luke: I really like these lines. For no particular reason—they just have good flow.
So, instead of a battery, what if it’s a siphon, or something? It’s protective wear to keep V’s device from turning on him (or getting hit with a backlash). It can keep driving him nuts from the second we get into his head until just before his final confrontation—where he actually takes it off as he’s striding through the castle’s halls. (Sure, makes it kind of obvious he’s going to get blasted himself, but it’s the how, and the why, he gets blasted that’s important.)↩
Luke: This is a great moment for him to think this! I think in redraft we should downplay this thought up until this point, though. Yeah, he’s always thinking about “owning it all”, but if this is the first point, in this section at least, where we hear him say it (even in his head), it’ll carry more oomph↩
Luke: So, unless Vilnius is making an order of the sort, I feel like the soldiers would be made to sleep under the stars, and the remaining “higher class” folks would take the tent.
James: you’re probably right. There is no reason this bit needs to be in a tent.↩
James: I think this is the only joke in the entire section.
Luke: Because Vilnius is a villain?↩
Luke: So, we’re in V’s head, so we know he’s faking kindness/respect…
But what if he’s not completely? I mean, wouldn’t V need to come off as charming, or something, to be able to convince people to do some of the things he has? He’s been playing a bit of a Palpatine gambit for years, no? Hiding in plain site? He can’t very well be acting the villain, otherwise the king would catch on. Even Lucinda—probably the smartest person in the whole area—didn’t realize it. She helped him put his glove on! Sure, she and Charlotte felt uncomfortable around him, felt he was skeezy (again, she’s the smartest person in the area and is training Charlotte), but V would have to have some sort of shields up (and as the plan falls apart, he’s losing that. We’re seeing the true Vilnius after all these years…)
James: Bruh, your comment. V isn’t faking it. He needs other people. He genuinely likes Barnabus.
Luke: He genuinely wants to use Barnabus, but like? He likes that he’s a competent tool to be used…↩
Luke: A crack in his shield, as it were.↩
Luke: Okay, I want to chat about your intentions for this moment. I see it continues when V kicks the other soldier…
But wouldn’t it be more in the character we’re trying to establish for V that he would be mean to the reporting soldier? But also “kind”?
“You’ve done could work, Barnabas. Sit down, finish what’s in that cup [I like that line, FYI].” Barnabas sank into his chair, clearly greatful. “Once you’re done, take six men and go back to pick up their trail. Immediately. I want an update—or the sword—within 12 hours.” Barnabas face sank. “Yes sir.”
James: I think the Vilnius at the end of the story might act that way, yes. But not yet… he’s nefarious and evil, sure, but he isn’t corrupted yet. That process is ongoing, and is kinda the point of having this section at all. He’s still got hold of his sanity here, and it’d be pretty dumb to send a guy out to do a job that he already failed at. Sandy Lane will take care of it – that’s what Sandy Lane is for! Barnabus will stick around and be indoctrinated into V’s (figurative) camp (’cause he’s already in the literal one)↩
Luke: Ahh, do you have something in mind? Is Barnabus going to turn up later? “A loan of a knife is all, sir.”↩
Luke: Yeah, this is how V would act towards the Cottonwood folk. Like it.↩
Luke: He’s being sarcastic I assume, but he doesn’t like much to be summoned? Bow seems a little much.↩
Luke: Shit dude—now this is an excellent line! Really shows multiple aspects of Vilnius’ character. Well done!↩
Luke: “But I didn’t order a pizza…” BOW-Chicka, wow-wow!↩
James: I’m not sold on this yet. The implication that some people suspect Vilnius and Sandy are lovers is interesting, even if it doesn’t ever come up again, BUT I’m also a little worried that Vilnius’ posse is too evil. That’s why I decided to have him recruit Barnabus, a fundamentally good soldier that thinks, but knows how to follow orders. It might pay dividends to have Vestra be a little more like Barnabus, just to balance out the whole Sandy Lane angle
Luke: Ah, excellent! (As you’ve probably seen, I left a note to ask the reason for Barnabus.)
I don’t like everyone thinking V and S have a thing. In short, I just don’t think Sandy would put up with it. Also wouldn’t care, but… Yeah.
I think you’re on to something about us seeing good soldiers in V’s crew. I like the idea of V looking for talented soldiers—that follow orders and show the appropriate respect to their “betters”—and drawing them into his ranks. I really want him to send B. back into the forest but also recruit him. It’d be great for Barnabus to realize that is to be his life now. Used up until discarded. Especially if we can show V being personable and almost good to him, up until V finishes getting what he wants.
James: As discussed (and I believe agreed): can’t send B. back – is sending Sandy instead. V is smart – Barnabus has no idea where these landmarks are, is exhausted. Not logical to send him back out, he can’t succeed. Sandy can – thus Sandy is sent. Plus, need time to bring B. into the ‘inner circle’↩
James: I want the Stone Man to speak middle english. An average reader might not recognize it, and will be entirely lost with certain words “trow” “witen” etc… but should be able to pick up enough to gather the gist of the conversation. Anyway, the point is, my middle english ain’t great, so these sentence might need some actual research to patch up (although, middle english plays fast and loose with rules, and there is no standard for spelling, so ehhhhhhh)↩
James: (say it out loud if you need to)
Luke: More dringe man. Ah, yes, the More Dringe Man…
—even out loud I don’t get this one.
I’m down for the middle english bit. But let us do that research!
James: You gotta sound it out proper. One try ain’t going to do it. its like learning to read all over again. try different angles until you get to it, and forget standard pronunciations of letter groups (or, don’t forget them but lets them slide around a little). remember that vowels sound like each other, and sometimes when you don’t know how to spell, you leave vowels out.
incidentally, I looked this one up. Spelled it the same as Chaucer
MOR – DER – ING↩
Luke: Have to put in some reference to him picking a “source” upon which to direct the magic through.
James: “his anger and malice” – about two lines later? Can emotion be used as a source?
Luke: YES! I know you want to understand everything in a very, “This is Batman in the real world” kind of way, but for this one thing—for now—let us not worry too much re: “what can be used as a source” The only place I see us having to worry about it is the final showdown, and this is the first time I’m saying this, I think we should leave that one until we’re almost done the rest. I really want to write it, but I’m not ready yet. Anyways, way off topic.
Emotions = yes. But, being emotions, they’d be harder to pin down (and it’s never just one emotion, is it? Which complicates an already complicated procedure (“using” raw magic) which one cannot do successfully↩
Luke: Let’s not say it. Let’s…show it 😉
But seriously, I don’t think V would admit that, even just to himself. That’s why his sanity is wearing away, because he can’t reconcile his brilliant, perfect plan with the reality that it’s not working.↩
Luke: And why they didn’t immediately rally to him… ;-} (see earlier note)↩
Luke: I like this mental reasoning, but I think it should end up in the first V section. He should know he needs to get Charlotte right away. It can start to worry him here, perhaps.↩
James: Got it in one! Yesssssss↩
Luke: Oooh! Yes. Love it. THIS is Vilnius. 😀
In fact, you’ve hit a few points I really, really like to show Vilnius’ character. There are some I want to chat about, but yeah, you’re giving him flesh. I look forward to writing a V scene based on what you’ve started here.↩