I’m solidly in the middle of editorial revisions for Mother of Souls. There was a request to up the stakes a bit, so I’m layering in an additional set of magical perils across the board. It’s a bit harder to see if I can find a way to hit the reader with angst and peril at the very start of the novel as requested--it doesn’t really fit the shape I enisioned, which was more of a gradually growing realization that something has gone very wrong with the Alpennian Mysteries. In the end I’ll be true to the story, but I’d like to make my editor happy as well, if I can.
For much of the book, Luzie’s chapters are more contemplative, more about everyday relationships than about The Fate of Alpennia. I set myself several challenges with Luzie but perhaps the most difficult was depicting a woman who had experienced a happy, though tragically brief, heterosexual marriage but now finds herself unexpectedly receptive to a woman’s overtures. This plot thread--just like the peril--builds up slowly over the course of the story. At its heart is a deep loneliness of both body and spirit that we see a glimpse of in this chapter.
(You may notice that last week’s chapter and this week’s are both numbered nine. One of the editorial requests was to not number the “prelude” and “coda” framing chapters, so this is the revised numbering system.)
Chapter 9 - Luzie
Luzie hadn’t expected to return to solitude, but Issibet was still at the opera house sewing room, with the opening coming so soon. Elinur had taken to her bed with a wet cough—she would need to make sure that Silli made up some broth for her. The cough often ran through the city at mid-winter but rarely this badly. The apothecary’s physic was having some effect but perhaps she should send Charluz for a thaumaturgist. No, Charluz was out for the whole day. And there was never any telling when Serafina would come or go. A cough could turn bad so easily. It could… A dull ache began to grow beneath her heart.
The house was still except for the faint pattering of the rain on the windows again and the distant footfalls and clinks of Mefro Alteburk and the maids at their work. Luzie brushed her fingers across the keys of the fortepiano, but she’d lost all chance of denying the date. The tenth of January. Ten years to the day since Henirik’s death on yet another cold, dreary winter day.
Luzie crossed to the secretary desk and fumbled in the back of a drawer until her fingers closed on a small round object. She took it out and sat in a corner of the sofa by the front window, opening the chased cover of the pocket watch and gently touching the dark curl of hair tucked into the case. The timepiece itself had stopped ten years past and she had never re-wound it. Some day she would pass it on to Iohen.
She shut the cover again and closed her fingers around it. No portrait to gaze on. They’d always meant to have their likenesses taken, but time had slipped away. She could still see his hands—the way they drew the watch from his waistcoat pocket and clicked it open, all in a single movement—but his face had faded.
A tear slid down her cheek, then another. She no longer mourned the loss of the man she’d thought to share her life with. Now she mourned the loss of the memory of him. Life had always been as it was now. Alone. Even her sons had been given up to the dreams Henirik had traced for them. Every summer they were more and more strangers. It had seemed so important to hold on to Henirik’s home here—equally important to send the boys to the school he’d chosen. Perhaps it would have been better to remove to Iuten with her parents where she could be near them all. It would have meant giving up teaching music, but she wouldn’t have needed the income.
Luzie wasn’t sure how many hours had passed in reverie when she heard the front door open. Gerta had come in to poke up the fire but had carefully left without speaking. Luzie recognized the soft tap of Serafina’s boots, met by the quicker staccato of Gerta’s steps as she hurried to take her wet coat and parasol. A few indistinct words passed in the entry hall, then Serafina’s face appeared in the doorway. Luzie expected her to withdraw silently. She was grateful when Serafina instead crossed the parlor to sit beside her and take her hand without a word.