Every once in a while, a reader provides an opinion on the Alpenia books that makes me wish my publisher used pull-quotes. A reader posted this on Twitter this morning about The Mystic Marriage: "She has all the girls being competent and intelligent and rounded people. *hugs book* It's Ghostbusters for the Regency set." That goes in my file of "Things to re-read when I worry about whether my books are finding their audience."
One of the things I love doing as I write is to plant random details that may become relevant some day. Quite frankly, I don't always know whether they'll be relevant. And I don't want the reader to be able to tell which ones are foreshadowing and which ones are just part of the background tapestry. Some of them are character details that suggest bits of backstory. In Daughter of Mystery there was a throw-away comment from Aunt Bertrut that, yes, there had been something in her past that she had wanted badly enough to tell the world to go to hell over it, just like the things Margerit wanted. I still don't know exactly what it was, but perhaps some day she'll tell me.
More often it might be a bit of history. A reference to some past event. A description of a building. An object, described and then forgotten. There was one of those mentioned in The Mystic Marriage that comes back to bite Margerit in Mother of Souls, but to say more would be a spoiler. Here's another one, from Chapter 5 of Mother of Souls, providing a suggestion that the social "mystery guilds" prevalent in 19th century Alpennia may have had a much more practical function in the past, when craft guilds were an important part of manufacture and trade. This is a key plot element in a planned independent prequel book about the 15th century philosopher Tanfrit (the subject of the opera in Mother of Souls). The specific object mentioned here is going to be a point of minor interest in a later book, but I'll leave that just as a hint.
* * *
[Margerit and Serafina are preparing for a detailed observation of the Tutela Mystery of Saint Mauriz in Rotenek Cathedral.]
A wistful look came over Serafina, but then something caught her eye and she pointed off toward the base of the donor’s windows where the seats had been placed for the royal family. “What’s happening there?”
Margerit stared where she was pointing. The effects were pale and masked by the light coming through the colored glass. She had never noticed anything odd about the design before, but now that her attention was drawn to it, she could see a thin rain of light drifting down from the fragments of the original window where the saint’s halo encircled the darker glass of his face . The newer portions of the glass only let through mortal light.
“I never noticed that before,” she whispered back. “There’s a legend that one of the glassmakers for the cathedral had set mysteries in the panes, but I never thought what that might mean.” Now that she was looking for it, she could see the fluctus drifting down to the dais where Princess Annek and her family would sit and pooling as it faded there. Some ancient blessing? Or a protection perhaps? Or was it chance that it fell in that spot? Had all the windows trapped fluctus like that at one time? Most were from the renovations in Prince Filip’s day.
“There’s an entire section in the Vatican library on mysteries of the craft guilds,” Serafina whispered. “I never had permission to explore it. A few people still study them, but they say most of the secrets have been lost or were never written down in the first place. If words and prayers can weave a mystery, and art is a prayer of the hands, then why shouldn’t any creation be capable of carrying the living word? I’ve always thought Mesnera Chazillen’s alchemy to have more of mystery than science to it.”
Margerit shook her head. “No, I doubt it. I know that many alchemists combine their work with meditation, but the heart of the practice is different. It must be, for so much of alchemy was learned from unbelievers. A true mystery can only come from God through the saints.”
Serafina gave her an odd sidelong glance. “If you believe that, then there must be many strange and wonderful things in the world that are not true mysteries.”