The Remaking: A Brief History of the Wolfglen Legacy’s Origins

I thought I could start coming back to this blog with a fresh start, and keep talking about the world for the (still in-progress) fantasy series, The Wolfglen Legacy. I’m impatient to get things off the ground at the moment, but I’ll make sure the books are worth the wait.

In the meantime, here is a condensed history of the world these books will introduce to you. I’ve been working on it off and on since 2004, and hope you enjoy it. I might as well start at the beginning.

The Remaking – Earth’s new start

Toward the close of the 22nd century AD, mankind is crumbling and crippled, on the edge of extinction at his own hands. Wars, nuclear bombs, engineered viruses, and a loss of willpower have pared the ranks of humanity to a few million.

But that is where outside help arrives at last. The creator of this and every other universe, known as The Maker, shows mercy to mankind and gives them another chance. He does this by sending creatures called Founders to Earth, to repair and reshape it. The Founders sculpt new islands and continents, carve out new oceans and rivers. Unforeseen minerals, plants, and animals take shape under their craftsmanship. Structures are given to mankind as well, including cities and towers and deep caverns, as well as structures whose functions are still not recognized.

However, the Founders are not willing to let all their hard work be wasted from mankind nearly destroying himself yet again. They decide to give the remaining humans humbling reminders that they are the Earth’s tenants, and not its landlords. To do this, they remove most fossil fuel deposits to prevent another industrial revolution, lest humanity become capable of destruction on the same scale as before. They even recall the dinosaurs from extinction, and create living, breathing dragons — if you enter a world full of big, strange, wild creatures that weren’t there before, it’s a good reminder that you answer to a higher order.

Earth is not only being renovated for our sake, though. The Maker Himself intervenes more directly by creating new intelligent races, to share the Earth with man as his equals. Five new races are created:

  • Elves, who tend to be even more passionate and aggressive than us, and can live several times as long as a human.
  • Nymphs, an all-female species that look human, apart from the white stripe of hair on their heads.
  • Fairies, two feet high and possessing four leathery wings.
  • Roklew, a green-skinned race of creatures with large, long-snouted heads.
  • Merfolk, more akin to amphibians than fish, who can live in both salt and fresh water.

Humans now have a new world to explore, fill, and share with the five new races. It’s a better world than we had made for ourselves, full of countless mysteries, treasures we never dreamed of…and more danger than we ask for.

It is in dangerous times when the best qualities of these peoples at last come to the forefront. In future millennia, that will become all too clear. And soon that history will be shared as well.

Thank you for your time, and God bless you all.

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The Hobbit: Get Ready for Smaug to Desolate

The trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is finally here. Only question is, Why do we have to wait another six months? I can’t get to the theater fast enough for this.

Radagast returns. Smaug is terrifying. Giant spiders and Beorn are finally on our doorstep. Even Legolas is back, and seemingly has a huge role to play (which is awesome!). The cast and crew are bringing a bigger, more epic story than the original book ever could. And even as a Tolkien devotee, I have to admit, I am absolutely delighted with that decision. Everything about this is shaping up into something incredible, and I couldn’t be happier.

Another feathered dinosaur ramble?! On Jurassic Park IV, Science, Plausible Doubt, etc.

Hey, guys. Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly say anything more on why fellow paleontology geeks need to loosen up on feathered dinosaurs, I had a couple of extra thoughts to contribute (or reiterate, in some cases). I don’t want to make a huge deal out of this again, except it seems others are bent on making a big deal out of the issue. I wonder if anyone else is going to call them out on it.

Not really a unified angry rant so much as it is a couple of thoughts bundled together. And I’m trying to be charitable and composed here. Honest.

Xiphactinus, on the other hand...

Xiphactinus, on the other hand, isn’t. My thanks to Dinomemes.

One

Sometimes it’s hard to be charitable with other paleontology enthusiasts when they make such a big deal out of “OMG why aren’t the ignorant masses accepting feathered dinos?! We’re shoving the facts down their throats as hard as we can! Facts! Science! Argh!”

Maybe that’s the problem? Perhaps we can afford to back off from the battering ram? Entice people with the awesome fact that some dinosaurs had feathers (as XKCD does, quite admirably). Facts coupled with charity and grace will generate a greater impact. The problem isn’t that science is making dinosaurs less cool. The problem is that those with facts on their side are addressing the subject in such an adversarial manner that they alienate everyone else.

[One-B]

There’s a lot of derisive humor at the expense of outdated raptor depictions. Oh, so scaly raptors would have been pathetic and ill-equipped for survival…because they lacked feathers? A large, warm-blooded archosaur needs plumage (crocodiles and Carnotaurus notwithstanding), or else it’ll keel over and die? The muscles, intelligence, claws, pack hunting, etc. all count for naught? All righty then. Let me know when the cloned raptors are stalking you in Jurassic Park’s kitchen and immediately collapse because this essential tool of survival is not available for their use. Stupid geneticists. What do they know?

Two

Not everyone who’s less than ecstatic about feathered dinosaurs is anti-science, or a stick in the mud, or someone who’s overtly nostalgic for the scaly movie monsters of yore. Sometimes people’s aesthetic tastes (mine, for example) just lean more toward scaly raptors. I know they’re inaccurate. I am not contesting that. And if I ever design a painting of a Raptor for a museum exhibit, you can bet your Dinosaur Revolution DVDs it will have plumage in plenitude.

For crying out loud, I’m editing (well, I’m supposed to be editing) a fantasy novel that has dinosaurs in it, and I’m putting feathers on the appropriate species to keep the animals as accurate as possible. A fantasy novel!

But sometimes, people simply find the Jurassic Park Raptors awesome or frightening. Those people are neither lame, nor out of date, nor anti-progress. It’s a testament to the excellent work of Stan Winston and his animatronics crew, Steven Spielberg, and the CGI crew in bringing the movie’s versions of Velociraptor to life. Talking down to someone for appreciating a good movie monster doesn’t make you pro-science. It makes you look like a condescending jerk.

Three

The transition to feathered raptors being considered “cool” by the public will take time. Patience is required, but it’ll happen eventually. Here’s what I want to know: why is it so important that a Deinonychus with feathers be considered “cool” right now? What cosmic fate balances on the public’s awareness of the sort of body covering an extinct animal had? Normally I want animals to be accurately portrayed, or as accurate as possible. But I don’t scream for a boycott of adventure movies when the hero comes face-to-face with a “poisonous” jungle snake, and I can see it’s a harmless kingsnake or garter snake. I take the movie with a grain of salt, and enjoy it all the more when Indiana Jones encounters a real, live cobra.

Four

One large Tyrannosaur we know had feathers — Yutyrannus — doesn’t automatically mean all large Tyrannosaurs had feathers, too. The region where most of the known feathered dinosaurs lived — China and Mongolia — was, if I remember correctly, a colder region at the time, which would be conducive to feathered dinosaurs, at least when the feathers are being used as insulation against the cold (Note: please correct me on this and show your sources if I’m wrong!).

[Additional note: Yutyrannus is much more closely related to the other feathered Tyrannosaur we know of — Dilong — than it is to T. rex, so strutting around and pretending this is “proof” that T. rex had feathers is overreaching with the available evidence.]

T. rex and other large Tyrannosaurs, on the other hand, seem to have inhabited warmer climates, where they might not have needed any such insulation. Nothing to do with feathers that are used for display, of course. Tyrannosaurus rex may very well have had feathers anyway. I grant that. But it’s a plausible scenario, for the time being. Not knowledge. Until we can confirm it through physical fossil evidence, please don’t tell me we “know” T. rex had feathers. I don’t dread a discovery of T. rex having feathers, but I worry that it’ll be abused as another cudgel, wielded by OCD dino-nerds against those Ignorant Masses they love to rail against.

Five

So Jurassic Park IV isn’t going to put feathers on its raptors. Yes, I know it’s a huge fricking deal. Museums will have to close their doors. Paleoartists will be forced at gunpoint to strip their paintings and sketches of every quill and feather, because that’s how much people hate scientific accuracy. People will riot in the streets. Fossils will be smashed.

It’s a movie, guys. A movie that includes “Genetically engineered theme park monsters” in the words of Alan Grant. Dinosaurs that can change sex thanks to frog DNA being used to patch up their degraded genomes. Maybe they look a little different than the creatures from prehistory? It seems the OCD dino-nerd crowd is just hurt that the Jurassic Park franchise isn’t catering to their demands.

Consclusion

If I read one more of Brian Switek’s tantrums on this subject, I’ll need to visit my physician and request some blood pressure medication. I know, I’ve complained about him before. My apologies; I ought to be better than picking on one person. But I don’t like it when someone sneers at others who appreciate dinosaurs in a different way than he does, and I hate it when his fans join in with outright insults and ill will.

I am excited about paleontological discoveries. I’m grateful that there are surprises around every corner, that a new discovery can change our view of these animals completely upside down. But a smarter-than-thou attitude ruins the fun for everybody.

EDIT: I’m not sure if it’s Brian or me who’s doing the most whining, but I know one thing for certain: This has got to stop.

Worldbuilding — Races — Fairies

I have been doing a Worldbuilding of the Day series on my author’s page on Facebook, and decided to start putting up the information here instead. Seems like more of a fit here, aside from the Facebook policy of “What you type, we own. Forever.”

Anyway, here’s the entry about fairies in the world of The Wolfglen Legacy. I hope you enjoy it!

Social Influence

Rather than being reclusive people isolated from everyone else or hiding under garden toadstools, fairies are quite well-integrated in most societies. Many have positions of wealth or political power. Almost all large cities have groups of fairy apartments or homes, oftentimes perched on the roofs of other houses or even built into the walls of buildings, resembling large dollhouses. Occasional fairy ghettos or “nests” as they are called will consist entirely of these structures and are sometimes known to hold well over a thousand residents.

There are select roads in many cities with raised platforms, like broad stone railings, that are called “fairy-walks.” Inns and hotels usually have a few fairy-sized rooms available, and all will have appropriately sized cutlery, dishes, cups, and chairs for their pint-sized customers. Currency is an issue, but fairies often can barter gemstones or small bags of spices for meals and drinks, or they’ll have satchels over their shoulders that can hold a few coins.

An average fairy’s diet consists of fruits (particularly berries), sugary foods, and lean protein. Their bug-based cuisine is highly prized, even among humans. Butter-fried winged termites have been known to turn even the most insect-averse eater into someone who will eagerly snack on the little invertebrates.

Anatomy

The smallest of all the world’s races, the fairy stands 18-24 inches high, and possesses four wings. Each wing is framed by one long finger-like group of bones and has a leathery skin membrane, meaning it is structured like the wing of a pterodactyl, rather than like a bat or dragon. However, these are wings made for powered flight, not for hovering. Hovering is a rare art among fairies, which takes a lot of training and discipline.

Most males are slightly taller than the females. All fairies have a light and thin build, with heads the size of nectarines or large plums. When they give birth, the wing buds are either invisible or only show up as four tiny bumps on the baby’s back.

Their bone cells adopt a honeycomb structure, they can utilize body energy more efficiently than any other race, and they have large flight muscles on their back. This means a reasonably healthy fairy can fly for over an hour (at sea level — very high altitudes can cut that time in half) before he or she is too physically exhausted to do anything but walk.

Common Roles

Due to their small size and ability to fly, fairies can excel at espionage, scouting and reconnaissance, lookouts for hunters, message delivery, and prospecting. They don’t make good soldiers because of their frail and small bodies, but they can serve a military on the sidelines, such as delivering orders or looking for threats on the road ahead when ranks are mobilizing.

The darker parts of society have found them quite handy for pickpocketing (for small items they can fly away with, like jewelry), assassinations, and subtly whispering to passersby to advertise brothels or gambling dens.

Like all other races on this world, magic-workers are rare among fairies. When a fairy is a magic-worker, he or she doesn’t obey different rules or get the magic from some other source. The same principles (as outlined here) apply to them, except that they cannot control nearly as much physical substance with magic, due to their own small size.

Vipers in the Frost (fiction)

Another quick bit of fiction. I do hope you like it! Now I have to finally go back to polishing the novel. Catch you later!

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With a quaking hand he held out the flintlock, knowing it was his one chance for revenge.

Bellem’s boots crunched snow as he stepped inside the abandoned estate, each footfall announcing his presence. Sunlight shot through broken windows on the rotunda’s other side, threading the chamber’s air and catching stray flakes like airborne diamonds.

The witch had to be here somewhere, but where were her footprints?

Icicles hung by the hundreds from the metal fountain in the room’s center, from railings and staircases. Bellem tiptoed around a flow of ice spilling out under another broken window like a giant white tongue.

He tried to not think about Danlec’s corpse outside. The old elf had died shuddering in his pale skin, the snow drinking blood as if to absorb his life and color.

Turning his anger toward steadying his grip on the gun, he knew she was probably watching him now. She must have used a spell to hide her tracks, concealing herself like the coward she was.

“Dryandra! Come on out, Dryandra!” The ruined mansion echoed his demand back to him. She couldn’t be gone. The witch had disappeared into the mansion only a few minutes before.

Icicles started to drip, each new jewel of liquid water boring a tunnel into the shadowed gray snow. But he was still chattering and frozen to his marrow, his breath sending ghosts into the frigid air. The stalactites each seemed to have an off-white core. Something more than ice was hanging from the fountain and rails.

A new chill sank into Bellem’s backbone, deeper and more painful than anything winter in this godsforsaken country had inflicted on him and Danlec. He knew what Dryandra was doing.

Thin, white-scaled bodies unlatched their jaws and dropped into the slush beneath. Snakes. Hundreds and hundreds of serpents glided over the fountain’s frozen-over basin and trickled down staircases, contorting like sidewinders when lifting their bodies off the desert sands.

Stenyran vipers. Uniquely suited to the cold, they’d hibernate while hiding from predators by hanging off of tree branches and letting ice form over their scales. Something in their blood kept them from freezing solid as they were sealed off from the world.

Bellem had stumbled right into a den of creatures whose venom could kill five grown men with every bite. Dryandra must have cast a heating spell on their icy cocoons and woken them up early.

The snakes all closed in on Bellem, a writhing living barrier between him and the doorway outside. He was trapped inside the mansion, and in order to fully wake up every one of the reptiles needed a heat source. Like him. They glared at him with yellow eyes like sparks in the reflected sun, throwing their black forked tongues at him.

All he had was the flintlock’s solitary shot, meant for the witch who killed his best friend.

Fantasy: Too Gritty?

Lots of fiction, especially fantasy fiction, seems to be quickly succumbing to all that is grimy, gritty, and grim. Game of Thrones, Prince of Thorns, The Night Angel Trilogy, The Blade Itself, The Song of the Beast, and many other titles besides take their readers into the darkest, roughest, sharpest, most cynical corners of the genre.

As far as I’m concerned, a little darkness and despair goes a long way in fiction in the same way a little spice adds to the flavor of a given food. But too much ruins the dish, and pretty soon you’re only eating that buffalo wing because one of your buddies promised you $20. (I might actually read The Blade Itself for $100; everything I’ve read about Joe Abercrombie indicates I wouldn’t touch his books otherwise)

Maybe it’s because I’m a big softy, and am immature or naive or expect too much fun in fiction. I don’t know. What I do know is that more books are coming out where the characters’ loved ones get mutilated, raped, and murdered. Literally no one cares about showing them kindness or understanding. It’s pretty much casual, sneering brutality and suffering all the time. And that’s just in the first chapter.

At what point did this start sounding realistic or reasonable? It’s a classic overcorrection against much of the fantasy of yesteryear. Adventures were treated like paintball matches in these books, and you never got the sense your heroes were in any danger. And of course lots of people got tired of the Disney movies that defanged the folktales of the Brothers Grimm.

Reasons abound for why that grit is there. It’s for the sake of honesty and realism, making people care about characters, flavoring the book, and many other reasons besides. Nevertheless, this isn’t really a trend I want to give in to. If possible, I’d rather show more restraint with darkness and make it count for the moments when it’s really needed. Little black needles jammed deep into the story’s nerves.

I got into fiction for adventure and discovery, not to watch the genuinely good guys get betrayed and beheaded, while everyone else gets into petty fights, then they drunkenly amble off to the local whorehouse. That’s all good and fine for a few chapters, but a book becomes manipulative and dishonest when that tone takes up almost every page in the book.

Understand, this grit isn’t the same thing as realism, despite many writers’ claims to the contrary. A cut getting infected if someone doesn’t tend to it? That’s realistic. Getting knocked unconscious causing lasting, even permanent damage (as opposed to all the characters who get knocked out and are perfectly fine afterwards)? That’s realistic, too.

No one at all showing your protagonist any kind of pity or compassion? That’s not so realistic. Everyone in their family being either depraved or a victim of moral degeneracy? Unlikely, albeit not impossible. Every event in someone’s life being meaningless, spent in squalor and sewage, and punctuated by failure, rape, and torture? Definitely not realistic.

Edit: It’s also not necessarily a sign that the genre as a whole is maturing. Grit isn’t the same thing as maturity, even if a story can use some as one ingredient among others (three-dimensional characters, consequences to their actions, etc.) to become more mature. Whatever the case, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of maturity in the “arms race” where the newest big name in fantasy tries to display more rapes, more severed limbs, more sociopathic protagonists, and more excrement than the last big name. One day this movement is going to run out of steam. It truly cannot go on forever, and fantasy will grow out of it.

It is so much easier to contemplate the terrors of Hell than the beauties of Heaven. Anyone can tell a story that basically says “Life sucks, and then you die.” It takes patience and care to see the light that shines through anyway. Sometimes you have to look hard to see something beautiful, like a character doing a noble act for the right reasons (and not losing his head afterwards), but that doesn’t imply the absence of good. I admire those stories that combine grit and smoothness, acting appropriately when one is needed more than the other. Show some kind of balance in your work, and you’ll make the light shine brighter even as the darkness is deepened. Plus, it will be a more convincing story.

The Wolfglen Legacy: Sathra’s Introduction

I’m posting another piece from the book’s beginning. Please forgive me for the infrequent updates; it’s been a month of many changes in my life.

This is the start of Sathra Wolfglen’s first chapter. She is a princess who recently witnessed her mother’s mysterious death.

As before, this is entirely open to critique and suggestions. Thanks for reading!

File:Andes bolivianos.jpg

Image courtesy of Wikipedia. A lovely view of mountains to set the scene.

——————————————————

Sathra chased the echoes of broken laughter and screams, her feet pulling her down endless halls of tile and closed doors. The noise gushed from the only open doorway like blood from a wound, and she wheeled inside.

It was a room a thousand miles from home. The bedchamber was bathed in red fabric with splashes of brass. An older woman twisted on the carpeted floor, spewing nonsense while clapping her hands together and clawing at the sleeves of her blue dress trimmed in gold. The balcony door behind her gaped like a jaw into a ferocious blizzard. Its breath placed a bone-frosting chill in the air and sharpened the figure’s ringing cries.

Seeing the mad woman’s head whip about under a flourish of dark hair, Sathra faltered back when she saw the face.

No. Impossible.

“Mother?”

Denial fractured under reality’s weight. Queen Iribeth’s eyes adopted a feral look as she cackled. Making up the lost ground, Sathra reached down to help her up from the floor, willing the nightmare to end. She would see a regal queen stand before her again.

Iribeth’s only reply was to shove away her own daughter with an unnatural strength. The room whirled as Sathra flew back, pain shooting through her head when it pounded against the floor. Her eyes shut from the jolt, and when they opened she saw the queen skittering to the balcony, over the open door’s threshold and onto the ice-encrusted platform. A railing ran at shoulder height along its edge, and her mother came to rest prostrate at the base.

Sathra scrambled back to her feet. “Mother, please. Come inside!” Her own voice was a phantom, a strangely detached blur tripping over a dull tongue.

Fingers flexed like talons as the queen’s incoherent mumblings waxed louder and more forceful, as if she tried instilling them with purpose. Iribeth grabbed the terrace’s balustrade and pulled herself up.

Sathra only watched, like the scene played out for someone else, far removed from her and everything she loved. The queen leaned too far over the railing. She raised herself high, and for one terrible second she looked almost majestic. The wind, swimming with snowflakes, caught the tatters in her dress like ragged flags.

Mother fell quiet. And then she tumbled over the rail and disappeared.

Frozen for one moment more, Sathra finally unleashed a scream which split the cold mountain air. It was too late. Her mother had fallen into the storm.

*          *          *          *          *

Gasping, she opened her eyes.

She was in the same room. The blizzard’s frigid white melted away from the guest quarters where her family was staying. The cold remained, though, seeping through her gauzy nightgown.

Flame danced dimly behind the blue glass of an oil lamp, all the more hypnotic for its cool color. Sathra was in a chair at the writing desk tucked into the room’s corner, hunched over and with her head resting on the polished mahogany. Charcoal sticks and papers with sketches of mountains lay next to her. She straightened up and rubbed away the crick in her neck. Outside, the sun prepared to set. Shapes of furniture, half hidden in the glaring light from lofty windows, surrounded her like a crowd of accusers.

“Princess?” a girl’s voice said, muffled through the guestroom’s door. “I brought you something to eat.”

She cleared her throat. “Just a moment.” Most likely the servant was carrying a tray with both hands, and it would be easier for her if Sathra opened the door. Brushing a lock of brown hair behind her ear, she gripped the chair’s armrests and stood up, pushing some of her exhaustion away. Her feet shuffled across the carpet as she approached the door, past the tumble of crimson pillows and bunched-up blankets on her bed. The beds for her father and sister were empty. Both of the striped red-and-gold canopies were vacant shells, each bed’s blankets pressed and set as if already awaiting more guests. Where is everyone? she thought.

Opening the smooth white door with a carved relief of an oak tree, she saw one of the empress’s attendants. A blonde serving girl of ten or eleven, wearing a dress of green with white lace on the sleeves and shoulders. The girl carried a tray with plates of food on it, and a porcelain pitcher with steam rising from the spiced coffee it held.

“Oh, Princess, you didn’t need to do that,” the girl said, looking apologetic. Even guilty. “I would have put down the tray and opened it.”

“I insist. I suppose it’s time I ate.” Hardly a morsel had passed her lips in the seven days since she watched her mother fall. Nineteen was no age for a child to say goodbye to a parent. But Mother would want her to be strong. She always said so.

“Do you know where my sister and father are?”

“Your sister went to the bathing floor about an hour ago. The empress came to meet with your father around the same time. I guess she wanted you to have some rest, so they let you sleep.”

Sathra kept her breath measured and her face calm, despite her burning cheeks. “I see.” They let her face another nightmare rather than wake her up from drifting to sleep on a hard desk. She had tried drawing to hold back another wave of grief, but Sathra must have fallen asleep, exhausted from trying so hard to keep so much sadness away. She would not sleep after eating, being sure the dream would repeat if her head touched a pillow.

“I hope I didn’t wake you,” the serving girl mumbled as she placed the tray on a low-lying dresser. “The empress ordered the food for you, and it was getting cold.”

Most of the food was simple, easy to digest to accustom her to eating again. A plate held plain toast and a wedge of mild white cheese. In the corner a silver bowl held alternated slices of cucumber and yellow squash. There was an empty space on the tray where a side of rare golden raisins normally would have been. Kilfira Lundill, head of the Fwanglind Empire, was careful to always have them included with meals, a gesture of generosity to her guests. They had been a staple in Sathra’s limited diet for the last week.

“Thank you. And don’t trouble yourself about the raisins,” she said. “I have had enough of them for now.”

The girl’s cheeks flushed. “Oh, right. Yes, I must have forgotten to put them on.” She picked a tiny wooden box out of a pocket in her skirt and handed it to Sathra. The girl was careful to avoid eye contact. Sathra noticed it right away.

“No, you didn’t forget.” She whispered it, gently.

It may as well have been a proclamation of guilt. “Attendants have to keep taking these meals back and forth,” she babbled, “and we’re not supposed to eat anything on the trays, even leftovers. Princess, I am so sorry.” Tears welled up in her eyes. “Like you said, you wouldn’t have eaten them, and I never get to eat them. I know it was wrong, but — ”

Opening the girl’s shaking hand, Sathra gave the raisins back to her. “They’re yours, then.”

Shock and relief fought on the girl’s face, until she gave a low and awkward bow. “I can’t thank you enough, Princess,” she said.

Sathra knew she was not referring to the raisins. The girl made a quick exit and closed the door, leaving Sathra with her meal.

She knew she could have had the girl arrested for stealing. But Sathra didn’t want her to suffer for such a minor theft. Her home country was already full of nobles and preceptors who had remade hasty punishment into an art form, and the royal family would not help matters if they started adopting the same habit.

In any event, she herself had much better reasons to feel the cold grip of guilt around her heart. She had been telling her family and the empress that Mother’s death was an accident, the tragic outcome of leaning just a bit too forward over the railing to enjoy the view of the Doheston Mountains. How could she explain Iribeth climbing with purpose to throw herself off the balcony? How could Mother have displayed madness when she had never been tainted with it before?