“Due to the grand nature of this request, I am sending one of my most trusted men, Lilllith of the Royal Guard to negotiate on behalf of the Royal Title. Likely, she will test the worth and potential of you, our guests to be. Should anyone be found wanting, she will have the right to reject their route. Certainly, she will be welcomed by all the Solune!”
Chloe finished and then looked up at her father. “The Lussa are alive – and they know of us!”
“Yes, and they called the woman Guard a man…” mumbled her mother.
The King said, “Judging by the letter, it seems that they knew of us in a similar manner that we knew of them.”
“No,” Gwenhime said. Her face was tense, a studied look. Chloe had a feeling that she had been paying more attention than they had. “We know from the Emperor of the Djeb that the Westerners have had contact with the Lussa for decades.”
“What?” Chloe was enraged. “The Djeben people know of the Lussa?”
Gwenhime frowned, “Yes but, would you travel across the desert as we are now? The Kingdom cannot afford such an expedition.”
Chloe stood silent. She looked at both of her parents, then down to the letter. Then, everything shifted into place, and she realized exactly what sort of discussion she had interrupted. Her father had been informing her mother of the letter, that’s why Gwenhime had been holding it when Chloe had entered. They hadn’t yet decided who was to be sent to the Lussa City.
Chloe’s neck tightened again. She strode to her mother and handed back the letter. Gwenhime frowned, but took it. She began scanning through again, this time for important information. She knew what she was looking for.
Where exactly is the Lussa City anyway? Lilllith would know but… I do not know if I would have the courage to ask… Chloe thought back to the letter, When was Lilllith to arrive?
“Ah,” she stammered, “does it say when we are to expect Lilllith?”
“It does not,” both of her parents said in unison.
“But,” the King continued, “shortly after receiving the letter, I sent out an agent, Astore, to find her and calculate the duration.”
Chloe nodded. She knew that, of all the King’s Agents, Astore could courier the fastest, despite his height. “The trick is to take long strides!” He would say. She knew he could cover three days’ worth of land in one.
“We will know the date of Lilllith’s arrival in a matter of days.”
And then she will test whomever intends to return to the City with her. Will that be me? The muscles in her chest and shoulders constricted to match her neck.
“Who will be going with her once she arrives? Who is to be tested?”
“I haven’t decided that yet.”
Chloe didn’t hear him, but by the time he had finished speaking, her mind had finished processing. She said, “It will be me, won’t it.”
It was a statement more than anything, and she knew it to be true whether her father had yet realized it or not.
Rhye looked at his daughter with an expression that bade her continue.
“Well go down the list. Zealott is exiled, we don’t know where he went, Kent is far to the south doing some form of physical research… Ah, Janna and her husband are still hunting for Venus, I think. That just leaves Natasha.”
“And as captain of the capital’s guard, she’s quite busy with all the immigrants,” Gwinhime finished.
“Crystal Jealousy is also out of the Kingdom. Although, she has rarely returned.”
Chloe had forgotten about her eldest sibling.
“Yes.” Gwehime’s face turned cold. “Even if she was here we would not send her.”
“So,” Chloe said, “it will be me, will, ah, won’t it?”
There was a silence as King Rhye’s ancient mind ran through the scenarios. Since Chloe’s late adolescence, he had noticed a sharp increase in her mind’s reason, precision, and breadth. All that, as well as the speed of her youthful brain combined to make it obvious that her mental capacities had far exceeded his own.
Eventually, he said, “Yes. Unless by some accident of fate Jealousy or Kent should return, you will have to be the one to go. It does seem to be in your best interests. At least, it falls within your current interests.”
His words were true, Chloe knew, but she still didn’t like being forced, or even defaulted into things.
“I would rather remain here and continue my research.”
Chloe was intending to continue and explain that if there truly was no other option for her, then she would go, but that she would rather not, and that if she was to go they should not expect too much from her, but her mother interrupted.
“What research? This request is your research. There is not a topic in the Solune libraries that you are not well read in except this. Even were you not the only person we could send, it would be against your own interests not to go.”
Chloe caught in a fight or flight response loop. She said nothing.
Of all the King’s few talents, verbal conflict was the greatest. He said, “I will let Chloe make that decision for herself. Until Astore returns, we do not have a stable timeframe. It is late. We will rest, perhaps deliberate by dreams. Chloe, I would know your resolution before the Agent’s return.”
Chloe mumbled an agreement, and they separated. She returned to her room, and lay down, exhausted.
King Rhye could deliberate through dreams, whatever that meant, but Chloe preferred to deliberate through thought.
She lay in her bed, and turned her head. She looked out the window, her eyes saw nothing.
Chloe Rhye looked out the window and saw nothing. Her mind was filled with thoughts and considerations, many paths of thinking that seemed to end in cliffs no matter which she followed. It was the first time this had happened, the first time that there was a gap in her knowledge that no amount of research could fill. The capital city and all its libraries, archives and institutions had no answers for her, and she was left here, in her room, with nothing but her reason. Her mind wandered through informational wastelands.
Who were the Lussa people? Where were they now?
The only information Chloe had to stand on was what little her father had time to tell her. She had, as a last resort, asked him about it earlier that day, but he’d only had a few minutes to talk at the time.
“The Lussa people are our ancient ancestors.” He had said.
Chloe replied, “If that is true, then why is so little known about them?”
“The split between the Lussa and Solune societies predates recorded history. Even though I am the King, the knowledge was passed down through our family from that time is limited.”
“Why? It seems to me to be important.”
The King looked at his daughter and nodded. “I agree. I personally believe that those involved in the incident itself didn’t pass too much of it down to their children for emotional reasons. The splitting of a civilization can be a time a great stress. Further, it is the Solune who left the homelands, the result of which you already know.”
“That’s why there are no artefacts or ruins!”
The rest of that conversation, Chloe remembered, consisted mostly of her father trying to get back to work. He had been engulfed in boarder issues and foreign relations since the kingdom’s walls had opened two years ago.
Chloe stood from her window seat and walked to her bedside table. The little notebook that sat on it contained the small bits of information she had collected on the Lussa in the past three or so months, complete with citations for future reference. She picked it up and sat on her bed, entering one final state of deep thought before going to sleep.
All the information I’ve gathered is from the capital. Only the capital…
Two floors down, Gwenhime paced back and forth. “Rhye, once already you’ve tried and failed to encourage that child to make something of herself. Why should this attempt be different?”
The King stood in front of the throne, listening to his wife with care. This had been their habit for decades. Nearly all of his decisions and ideas, both as ruler and father, were passed through her doubt and scrutiny first. Thus, the kingdom was ruled by his raw wisdom tempered by her zealous reason.
“When we sent Chloe out of the city one a recruiting mission, it only failed because it went against her temperament. You might remember that she did participate in the war.”
Gwenhime frowned, “Yes, but she had a spell of nerves on the battlefield—”
“That worked in our favour.”
“Even so, had I been her commander, I would have discharged her for it. Not that I would have had to! After the war, even before most of her friends left the city, she returned to her den and the library.”
King Rhye nodded. “It seems to me that Chloe will not bother to maintain any activity that does not suit her interests.”
Gwenhime considered this. “I suppose the circumstances are different in this case? A military mission did seem an unsustainable pursuit for such a page-minded girl.”
“Yes, this time I intend to send her on an expedition seeking precisely what she is looking for.” He brandished a letter from his coat pocket and handed it to his wife. Before he could give it any context, there was a knock at the door and the head of a young woman peeked inside.
“Father!” Chloe said, a little too loud.
“It is good that you have come. Your mother has something for you.”
“What?” Chloe entered the room and shut the door behind her, striding over to her mother.
Due to the length of the letter, Gwenhime had time only to scan it before she met her daughter.
Chloe received it. “First, I should tell you why I came here at so late an hour. I think it would be a good idea to visit another city’s knowledge bases and see if they know of the Lussa.”
She gave a defeated smile. It seemed to Chloe something of a hopeless endeavour since the capital was the centre of knowledge, but it was the only thing she could think of.
Her father gave her a look that agreed with hers. He said, “I believe the letter will give you some better ideas. Please read it aloud for your mother, I’m not certain she had time to finish it before you came in.”
Chloe looked from one to the other, and then to the letter. Everything between her shoulders tightened, and she swallowed. Once I start, I should be fine. It’s just my parents.
She began reading. “Hello, Member of the Solune Royal Family—blood relative of our Lussa Royal Family!”
Chloe stopped reading, “This is a letter from the Lussa! They, ah, they’re still alive! And, ah, it seems that whichever of them wrote this very much enjoys punctuation.”
Chloe’s mother squinted at her with a look of pent-up doubt. This, Chloe knew by now, was a common expression of hers. Her father simply nodded, added that the style was certainly unique, and bade her continue.
Chloe did, now deeply interested. “We, the Lussa Royalty, are the ancient kin. We are your land-crossed family! It is with this in mind that I, Prince Ryann, after thousands of years neglecting our distant relations, ask with deep regret for assistance.
“Our King has been dead for one-quarter-annum. He died a martyr at the hands of an outsider, in defence of our City. Of course, we immediately began the planning of the new heir’s coronation. But, alas! She, rightfully so, sought her father’s revenge, and took half the guard and one of the two Captains, out of the city to seek it! Fourteen days later, they returned, and she was missing!”
As Chloe read, Gwenhime considered her carefully. She was often unkempt, and even today her unnecessarily long hair fell down her back in a mess of blond curls. Gwenhime always believed that her daughter looked a lot like her, except for the features that were muddled with elements of her father. She had the same feminine brown eyes and small, upturned nose, but the effect was interrupted by the King’s wide chin. The same quirk was continued in the rest of her body. Chloe had moderately broad hips but, to Gwenhime’s chagrin, a slightly broader chest, and almost masculine shoulders. Gwenhime was concerned that her daughter’s mixed-bag physique and attitude would end up working against her in the future.
Chloe glanced at her mother as she read. They locked eyes, and Chloe saw her severe look. Unaware of the banality of Gwenhime’s thoughts, she nervously returned to the letter.
“Both the death of the King and the missing of our heir have left the Kingdom in a state of flux. Worse, the City Denizens have deemed none but the original heir as worthy enough to lead. They demand that she be found and crowned. The desert continues to be searched, even as I write this message. This would have been managed internally if it had not been for rising unrest. My advisor, the ancient and young Lilllith, reminded me of the ancient split. Certainly, the conflict that arose between our people four thousand years ago has been left behind in irrelevance, if not memory—my appeal relies on it!
“Now I proceed to the request. It is simple, but not easy. We are in need of someone of Royal Blood to aid us and to help sway the people to peace. Should, heaven forbid, the heir be found dead AND the Denizens a second time reject the rest of the potential heirs, then the line may fall to you, our distant kin. Please send us a reply IMMEDIATELY, or any time near.
Since this is sourced from planning notes, there are a lot of brackets with extra information.
The young (relatively speaking) King Rhye had a habit of abandoning the throne for the first fifteen years of each of his children’s lives, and leaving the kingdom to a hand-picked, voted individual.
Chloe’s childhood was therefore easy and carefree. She spent a lot of time in the northern woods with her family (Immediate and extended). The north wood was (and is) a mystical haven of sorts, technically owned by her uncle, Prince Rhye, and previously resided in by his wife.
Chloe was free to associate with and learn about her family, nature, and the wisdom of those around her. Her parents, Rhye and Gwenhime, had four children before her: Zealott, Natasha, Kent, and Janna.
At fifteen, Chloe Rhye was moved back into the Solune kingdom’s capital city, Murdock. The family’s return to the city was a culture shock of sorts. The experience was redeemed by the completion of her literacy, and the discovery of books.
In only five years, Chloe became more well-read than anyone in her family. During those years, she began to mature physically, and her ageing began its slow down to the rate of the rest of her family.
During this time, she took a degree in the seven Liberal Arts—
“Grammar, logic, and rhetoric were the core liberal arts (the Trivium), while arithmetic, geometry, the theory of music, and astronomy also played a (somewhat lesser) part in education (as the Quadrivium)” (E. B. Castle, Ancient Education and Today (1969) p. 59)
—although, at the Solune Academy, the Quadrivium is composed of arithmetic, geometry, natural studies, and civics. Shortly after, Chloe returned to complete a degree in history, although she found it somewhat disappointing.
By the end of it her decade of education, her aging had slowed down to that of the rest of her adult family (about 1/100th the normal rate.) Chloe became a well-rounded citizen ready to take on the world.
Chloe did not take on the world. Instead, she retreated into the city’s libraries and continued reading. She lived the kind of “life of ease” that only a distant-heir prince of the throne could afford to. However, despite her low Conscientiousness, Chloe’s high Self-Discipline and moderate Achievement-Striving kept her learning throughout her early adulthood.
A century passed, and she took on an intellectual apprentice named Zeth. After decades of learning together, they managed to develop what would become the field of physics.
When he died of aging, she was finally faced with the immortal’s dilemma. Instead of accepting that people die, as her siblings Janna and Zealott had, or focusing on career and broader pursuits as her sister Natasha had, she used it as an excuse to turn further inward. She ordered a hundred years worth of imports and also began learning new languages. She also educated herself in kemia and biology, which she found built on physics, and both of which she found more interesting. At the same time, Her oldest brother Zealott was exiled for a few decades.
During this time, the King did what he could to urge her out of the castle, and out of the books, but he was either ignored or subverted. She went out to the academy and the library, she would tell him.
The Legendary Event
When the King’s Agents reported threats from the north, her habits were jarred due to a couple of synchronistic events. First, Chloe was getting sick of second-hand information. Second, the King, her father, decided to send her as an envoy to recruit Plainkind to help defend the kingdom.
A small group of young warriors were assembled, and Chloe was chosen as to become one of them. Suddenly, she had a group of friends.
After the Legendary event, the walls of the Solune Kingdom opened for the first time in a thousand years—the first time in her life. Chloe and Yaska May Däwngale, the only Plainkind she had managed to recruit, remained friends.
After the walls fell, Janna, Chloe’s closest sister, both in relationship and in age, left to find Zealott, and Yaska left to explore the east.
Alone once again, Chloe returned to the academy and completed a degree in Rhetoric and Poetry (the equivalent of a Doctorate in Law)
Janna returned two short years after leaving. She returned a failure and with criminal charges. Chloe defended her in the Solune court. (Note: The current draft of Evidence has Chloe representing the plaintiff (Natasha/the Law), not the defendant (Janna). This is to be altered in the final draft.)
The Solune Prince
This is where Chloe is at the moment, narratively wise.
She intents to go to the Underside in order to learn about the Lussa people. Instead, she gets caught in a political struggle.
“I found this behind the bar.” Setzer handed Natasha a thumb-sized glass vial. It was empty, but lined with a distinct maroon residue. “They must have been poisoned.”
“Yes,” said Jade, “There was something wrong with the taste.”
For the first time since the inn had been built, there was more than one person in its attic. Three of those seven were dead.
Setzer didn’t like the involvement of Jade Sing. He disliked her for a lot of reasons. Jade was an unusual foreigner, and worse, she was a cannibal. Natasha didn’t seem to be interested in arresting Jade, despite Setzer’s suspicions. Every time he’d investigated one of Jade’s catches, she had come away innocent. Did she eat people? Yes. But did she kill them? Not according to the evidence. Cannibalism wasn’t technically illegal, and so it appeared that Jade simply took advantage of other people’s murders. She was a clever opportunist. Jade had broken into the inn attracted by the scent. She had found the bodies and apparently sampled them. Then she had alerted the nearest guard, Sergeant Alice; a small, jumpy woman built like a brick wall. Alice told Natasha, the towering, stoic, guard Captain, and they had both arrived along with Constable Setzer, a short, often cross young man with long black hair, pale skin, and dark eyes.
To Setzer’s chagrin, it seemed he was again going to prove Jade’s innocence. He surveyed the corpses. Each was missing part of its calf, and one’s face was so bludgeoned that it was unrecognisable.
“Easy to draw a conclusion based on this,” he said. “First, based on the vial and the… taste, we can assume that these people were poisoned. Second, Dhesmond Machina owns and runs this inn. He could easily spike his alcohol and claim that the victim passed out. Finally, the inn didn’t open today, and,” he handed Natasha a copied document, “yesterday’s travel ledger shows he skipped town and hasn’t returned!”
“Wonderful!” Alice clapped.
Natasha studied the list and felt her neck tighten.
“Good job, but this is not enough.”
“Okay…” Setzer said, “what else do I need?”
She looked at him calmly, “Who are these people? Where did the poison come from?”
Setzer wasn’t happy, but orders were orders. “Fine, we’ll identify the bodies first.”
“Good.” Natasha’s face was stern, “After you two are finished, meet me at the Ph.Ch. lab. Alice, I would like you to visit the undertaker for this area and get them to identify the body, whether you identify it or not. If the district mortician can identify it quickly, bring us a note, otherwise, come without it.”
“Sure,” Alice nodded
Setzer sighed. “Alice, do you know who usually comes here?”
“I know almost just about all the people from around here.” Alice’s grasp of syntax faltered when she was excited.
Natasha left them and exited the building, studying the ledger. She surveyed the cobbled streets, and then headed northwest to speak to one of the city’s construction foreman.
Setzer and Alice sat at a table in the bar and drew up a list of all the patrons. Alice identified the two who were dead, and they crossed them off. Then Setzer went out into the city and sought out the rest of the list. Jade stayed behind, tasked with keeping people out of the bar. After much frustration, he had bargained her into promising that she would “try not to eat anything,” and “definitely not touch the mysterious body.” He hoped he wouldn’t have to answer to families again.
It took until noon to find everyone on Alice’s list. Most of them wondered why the bar was closed. One person mentioned that Dhesmond had become too touchy. Most of the other patrons agreed that, in the past month or so, he had seemed more stressed than usual. Setzer and Alice thanked each person for their time, and soon the list was empty, except for one name.
Alice looked, and shook her head, “Reighleigh Straker. We only checked his house, remember? He’s maybe at work.”
It dawned on Setzer why the Captain wanted them to meet her at the lab. “Does he work at the Ph.Ch. lab?”
“Natasha must have known all along… Now we just have to confirm that he isn’t there and our bases will be covered.” Setzer nodded to himself.
Alice just shrugged, “We’ll meet there after I go to the cemetery.”
“I doubt we’ll need it, but orders are orders, I guess.”
To his surprise, Setzer arrived first and had to wait a few minutes. Natasha arrived with the slight sheen of a person who just walked halfway across a city and back.
“Where did you go?” asked Setzer.
“I went to where they are extending the wall.”
“Did you find the identity of the third body?”
“Reighleigh Straker. Not sure why Dhesmond would beat him up like that though.”
The Captain shook her head.
“You will see when we go inside the Philosophy of Chemia Laboratory,” She returned the vial he’d found at the inn. “Search his desk.”
Natasha knocked on the door. It was answered by a woman who looked like her, except she was younger, smaller, wore a white coat, and had more hair.
“Natasha?” She asked.
“Chloe,” she nodded. “We are here as part of an investigation.”
“Ah, sure. I’ll get someone who actually works here.” She turned and called, “Straker?”
Setzer glanced at Natasha. If Reighleigh was here, alive, then his investigation was worthless. A moment passed, and she called out again, but for someone else.
“Finch? Yes, ah, the guard is here.”
Chloe let them into the lab. It was brightly lit, with large wooden desks. Some were capped with thick layers of metal, but all of them were covered with instruments and lined with drawers. In the far corner was a small room sealed with a heavy door.
Finch approached them. He was a short man with pale skin, dark hair, and dark eyes. He wore a white lab coat and held a mess of papers.
“Oh, Captain Rhye,” he looked from Natasha to Chloe, “Here to talk to your sister?”
“No. We speak when we are not working.”
Setzer said, “Is Reighleigh here? I need to—” see if he’s alive, is what he thought. “I need to search his desk.”
“He’s in the supply locker right now.” Finch pointed, “It’s heavily barred to prevent theft. Some of that stuff is dangerous.”
There was a loud metallic creak and Setzer’s stomach churned. According to his deduction, the man who stood before them was dead, his body stashed in Dhesmond’s inn. He took a deep breath. He hadn’t earned the rank of Constable through faltering. He defaulted to his orders.
“We are here to search your desk.”
Reighleigh gave him a deep frown.
After a pause, Finch pointed to one of the counters, “It’s that one.”
Setzer strode to it and began opening drawers until he found one filled with thumb-sized test tubes, and a labelled jar of distinct red liquid. He took out the vial from the inn. Its size and shape matched, and the colour was the same.
Natasha stood with Reighleigh and Finch on one side and Chloe on the other. She looked sidelong at the doctor. He seemed to be stifling his nerves. She watched his hands and saw that his knuckles were blue.
Setzer read the label on the jar, Hyperthermic Coronary Accelerator and then looked up and nodded to Natasha. She nodded back. They’d found the poison supply.
Then Alice flung the front door open, and jumped inside.
“I got it!—Oh, hi Finch—anyway, I got it!” She waved the mortician’s note in front of her, “The last dead person is not Reigh even for sure now, it’s Dhesmond Machina!”
Reighleigh’s face hardened. He sprinted to the door. Alice smiled and repositioned slightly. Reighleigh tried to tackle her, but unfortunately for him, Sergeant Alice was nearly twice his weight in muscle; a capable guard in the occupational sense well as the literal one. She easily restrained him.
“You’re under detainment for killing three people using this poison!” Setzer ran to the man and seized his hands. he began winding a cord around Reighleigh’s wrists.
The man retorted, “How could I have murdered someone who isn’t even in town!”
“You—” Setzer had no idea.
Natasha finally spoke, “You followed him, but not through the gate. You went through the part of the wall that is under construction.”
Setzer and Alice looked at each other across the man who stood between them. Reighleigh remained silent.
Finch was unsure what to think.
Chloe called out, “go on!”
Natasha strode to the nearest desk and sat down.
She faced Reighliegh, “Jade confirmed for us that all three of the victims were poisoned. The liquid and vial found at the inn match with the poison and containers found here. Likely they were killed under your instruction, using your chemical.”
Setzer had finished, so he presented the items Natasha mentioned.
“Shortly before we came here, I confirmed that, on the same day that Dhesmond left, the foreman saw him return through her construction site, along with someone else; you. I assume you exited before the workday started and managed to convince the poor back. Then you poisoned him like you did everyone else; except he would have known his fate when you handed it to him.
“You threw Dhesmond’s body with the rest. But,” Natasha pointed to his bruised hands, “you beat the recognition off his face first.”
She took the ledger, and dropped it beside her. “You left Dhesmond’s closet full of skeletons, with his name on a document proving that he left town. You framed a dead man. It would have been the perfect crime—if there was no one who could identify a dead body. But what is the job of a coroner if not identification?”
Natasha stood, and said, “Dead men do not sneak into cities or poison and brutalize themselves.”
This is the second draft of “Decay.” There are a lot of differences, to the point where I can comfortably call them different stories, so feel free to check it out.
This was written as an exam for my Detective Fiction course, 01-26-202-01. I got a decent mark in the end, so maybe that’s indicative of the quality of this piece.
I know I’ve been talking about The Solune Prince ALOT and not actually posting about it. Fear not, it isn’t “stuck” or something I’m just talking about, without actually working on. I have around forty notebook pages full.
Mostly, I’m just adjusting to my new job and whatnot. If I don’t have anything started, I’ll publish a backstory or something.
On this, the one year anniversary of the first post of my blog (proof), I’ll be looking into the past and the future in one fell swoop, and all on one topic. This post will contain talk on The Solune prince, followed by a re-release and edited version of the second rough draft of The Solune Prince. (What a sentence…)
Tracing the Origins of The Solune Prince
The Solune Prince is a novel that I’ve been trying, and failing to write since September 6, 2016. That’s the first time I wrote it down in text. The idea underneath The Solune Prince—the idea of Chloe, sixth prince of the Solune going to the Underside to fight some sort of revolution—has been around for far longer. I don’t know when the ideas for The Solune Prince first came into my head, but it was very early into the creation of Däwngale as a world. The oldest concrete date would have to be October 10, 2014, nearly four years ago, when I ran the “Demonic Chaos” Dungeons and Dragons campaign. It’s hard to track the specific date of any idea, but I can say with some confidence that it came after September 30, 2013. Let’s start there. Mind the old drawing quality.
September 30, 2013: Chloe as a Character
The development of Chloe as a distinct character is sort of interesting. I may get into the specifics in a later post, but essentially, above is the oldest picture I have on my computer of the character who would become Chloe. By her expression and dress, the woman on the far left looks of it a lot more like Janna, and there’s good reason for this. Chloe, Janna, and Natasha were all once represented by the a sort of primitive Psuedo-Chloe character, who I will be referring to as “Chloe” with quotes.
Long story short, Chloe started off as something like two and a half characters in one. I have a couple more pictures in storage that illustrate this development quite well, but I only have access to one of them right now, as you can see on the right with the “Height Comparison.” Maybe next time, if anyone is interested, I can get into what used to make each of the three sisters distinct from one another.
You can see that the confident, combative Janna isn’t in the height comparison picture. She would become her own character shortly after, although you could easily argue that she came first—and you would be partially right, but not entirely. That’ll have to be another post.
The “Height Comparison” established some core aspects of young Chloe, and Natasha that remain half a decade later. Natasha remains a very tall (I think 6’6″ or higher, although Solune people are about a foot taller or more than an average human), stoic, and an agent-to-be. (Currently she’s a guard, who appears briefly in Alice and Finch, and has a detective story to call her own.) Here, young Chloe has a sort of waifish, airheaded expression. I say “young Chloe” specifically, because, while she does retain airiness, she grows out of a lot of things. I mean, she has to, especially considering her role in The Solune Prince.
It’s this young Chloe who displayed amazing potential in her Laszor/Laszor-eyes abilities—which is linked to her potential as an individual who is capable of projecting their vision into reality, symbolized literally. The Solune Prince is about the realization, and taking control of that potential.
October 20, 2014: “Zeroith Draft”
My early (and to only a slightly a lesser degree, my later) Dungeons and Dragons campaigns were very scattered, and often included references to the ideas and stories floating inside my head. The second one I ever ran, “Demonic Chaos,” took place in the midst of Chloe’s adventures on the Underside. Why? I don’t really know. It didn’t really help the campaign much, and it sort of fell flat. However, this was the first inkling I had of Chloe as a sort of revolutionary figure. And, it was the first time the Lussa people had appeared, previously known for their striped faces (related to their unusual laszor eyes) and still known for their outlandish everyday fashion.
The idea came out of the fact that the I had recently come up with the Underside, and the Lussa, and the fact that Chloe was on the Underside. And Chloe being on the Underside actually originated from this song:
I don’t really listen to Anarchy Club, but I did enjoy a lot of the music in the first Rock Band game, and this was one of them. I have a drawing from these days that shows Dooll (from the drawing above (also, apparently I did not make creative names in 2014)) teaching Chloe how to use Lussa Laszor Eyes, (also known as flamethrower eyes, despite being purple). In those early days, the Underside was dangerous, dark, and oppressive.
Since then, I’ve found a city, and the flamethrower eyes have faded, but it was essentially still like that in “Demonic Chaos.” Chloe and her army liberated all the Lussa and Chimera (the creature on the far left) people from the work camps that were run by Venus. Venus is still sort of relevant, although I’m pushing him in the back for later. The Chimera are interesting, but I don’t know if I want to include them in this story. It’s fair to say that they still exist though. As for work camps? That’s all but gone. I feel like, what with all that happened in the twentieth century, labour camps might be too blatantly evil, and also imply things that this story isn’t about.
What did stick is Chloe having some sort of army. It’s weird that she has an army even though she’s an outsider, from the other side of the planet—literally—but I guess that’ll be one of the conflicts in the book.
September 6, 2016: The Awful Second Draft
Almost nothing was salvageable about this endeavour. It was written during a particularly hard time in my life, and to be honest, there’s just a lot of problems with it that I won’t bother explaining because they’re embarrassing. What did survive from this draft was the character Rickur, and our good friend Lillith.
Figuring it Out
The events that occurred during “Demonic Chaos” were more similar to what will be found in The Solune Prince than what I wrote afterwards. Let my try to roughly illustrate what I mean. Here’s an exhaustive list in chronological order, including unwritten, non-canon and canon items.
40% relevant: Chloe during Evidence(Canon, but troublesome.)
60% relevant: Chloe during The Legendary Event (Unwritten, canon)
50% relevant: Chloe during “Demonic Chaos” Draft 1 (Not canon)
15% relevant: Chloe during The Solune PrinceDraft 2 (Very Not canon)
70% relevant: Chloe during The Solune Prince Draft 3 (Goodish draft)
There are some issue with Chloe’s development. The two bolded bullets define her character development, whereas the two bullets with links have her as a solid side character. The bolded events might need to happen first for consistency reasons. It’s very frustrating trying to organize all this. Can a Chloe who is overall nervous be a teacher to Finch in Alice and Finch? How the Chloe who is a lawyer in Evidence? That sounds like a career-move, and yet she’s still adolescent-like during The Legendary Event. This might work better.
60% relevant: Chloe during The Legendary Event (Unwritten, canon)
40% relevant: Chloe during Evidence(Canon, but troublesome.)
50% relevant: Chloe during “Demonic Chaos” (Not canon)
15% relevant: Chloe during The Solune PrinceDraft 1 (Very Not canon)
70% relevant: Chloe during The Solune Prince Draft 2 (Goodish draft)
This means that during The Legendary Event, Chloe has already been a teacher. Then, in The Solune Prince, Chloe has already been a teacher, a fighter who has Laszor-exploded (see above) and a poet/lawyer (although only once).
What I mean to say, is that Chloe Rhye is a very difficult character to work with. She’s functionally immortal, due to her father’s gene quirk, she’s been reading for hundred’s of years, has a bit of formal education, and has already had an adventure.
There are also other glaring issues.
I have a couple of antagonists, but I don’t really know their motivations, or how they struggle for control of the city.
I’d also like to explore the subcultures of the Lussa city:
the metal workers
the nightclub life (which dresses even more extremely than standard Lussa clothing.)
I need to actually figure out what the supporting cast is like. Maybe I’m bad at characterization?
How do I manage the creeping power of the state?
How does Chloe actually get to the Underside?
And more! Maybe I can’t handle it as my second full-length novel. I’ve already failed twice. However, I think it’s necessary to see if I am to fail a third time. Especially since the previous attempts got progressively better. So, without further ado,
August 1, 2017 – November 23, 2017: The Second Draft
It all started with a song, and so it continues with a song. A lot of what exists in the planning for the Second, and even Third (present) drafts was “dreamed up” while listening to one song.
The most recent draft, and it was live on this blog for a long time, months really. It ran a whopping twenty-five chapters, that were decent, a microstep above Evidence. but I couldn’t figure out where to take it. Chloe didn’t have motivation, and so I guess neither did I. I didn’t know why she had to do the two things she had to do, and certain ideas I’d imagined out of songs didn’t fit into the reality of the narrative. That’s what I’m trying to avoid with all the planning for the third draft.
I decided that there were issues here and there, and also giant things I would feel uncomfortable with people reading. One of them being the descriptively indulgent first chapter, which I’m including at the end of this post. It has been slightly edited, but I’ve left the absurd amount of description of Chloe Rhye—almost Victorian-era-like.
The Solune Prince (Act I, Scene i)
Second Rough Draft
There was a conference going on in the next room. Chloe could hear the voice of the King, her father, booming through the wall. Apparently they were visitors here, foreigners from the other side of the planet. They were called the Lussa.
Chloe had never heard of Lussa. She had read thousands of books, and despite all the information, the Lussa people still managed to fall outside her ocean of knowledge.
They were strange, the two of them. They had the darkest skin then she had ever seen, darker even than that of an N’Tariel or an Elken. And they were so different from each other, too. One of them was small, the other huge and burly. One had a two-handed sword, the other had some sort of unusual dart launcher.
The King had stopped speaking, and Chloe assumed it was because one of the Lussa had begun. The King, it seemed, was the only person with a voice deep enough to penetrate the masonry. Chloe sighed and sat up from the clinic bed. She had been trying to eavesdrop, but unlike her mother, she wasn’t used to it. She hadn’t figured out how to translate the deep buzz of her father’s words into sentences.
“Well, I guess I could just walk into the throne room and listen like a normal person. I’m a Prince, I’m allowed to these things, I think.”
Chloe’s voice was sweet, and it was accepted generously by the air around her. She had a feeling that this was a vocal quality inherited from her father. Her voice carried and almost always demanded attention, but she never knew what to do with that attention. That was why she avoided talking to people. They always seemed to expect her to say something important or tell them what to do, and she rarely did either of those things.
Chloe decided it was time to go, before she missed anything important. She was her mother’s clinic. It was a long thin room with two beds and a large hardwood desk. After her Gwenhime had retired and the hospital had been built, this little castle medical centre was rarely used.
Chloe hopped off the bed and walked to the door. She wore a white button-up shirt and light-coloured shorts. She crossed the room in four long strides. Chloe’s immense height was mostly due to her legs. When she used to go to the academy she would run or jog, but since her graduation she hadn’t been particularly active.
She could still run, and did occasionally when she went out. Her arms were toned, but this was mostly from moving stacks of books and the occasional combat training her mother, an ex-general, gave her; so she wasn’t particularly strong. She had what could be called a balance. Most of her time was spent in the library or at the Solune Academy.
Because of this, Chloe had a few layers of fat throughout her midsection and thighs. She didn’t mind though, such was fairly common for her class. Otherwise, Chloe was particularly well endowed, like her sister and mother. Unlike them, Chloe was at times frustrated with her breasts. Whenever she tried to do anything dexterous with her arms they got in the way.
The face that sat above her shoulders was that of a young woman who had just exited adolescence. She still had a round chin and open eyes. Her head was covered in knee-length blonde hair that was noticeably yellow. Chloe was convinced that she had gotten it to its maximum length because it had nearly stopped growing. This made her feel excited, did head hair have a specific length it grew to like body hair? Chloe eyed the door with deep brown eyes, and then opened it.
After passing through another doorway and a foyer filled with people, She approached the large double doors of the throne room, and swung it open, entering boisterously. She walked across the room, her legs were a deliberate rhythm of muscle as they did their work to push the rest of Chloe’s body forward.
When she arrived at the second throne, Chloe turned and sat in the seat next to the King. It was usually her mothers, and was less ornate. Even without the royal bands around their necks, it was clear that they were both royalty, both related; both father and daughter had an unquestionable regal air about them.
The tall man continued, “That is correct, Majesty.”
“And why does it have to be a member of the royal family?” The King asked.
“This is a conflict between the Lussa royalty and it’s government. Another member of royalty would look good.” He shrugged, “The Queen is desperate. Our heir is missing.”
The King shifted, silently urging the Lussa man to continue.
“The Lussa Queen, Riley*, has asked specifically for a member of the royal family, that’s all that’s official. I am bound to his word.”
“Do you have proof of his statement?” The King boomed.
The smaller one spoke now, and Chloe realize he wasn’t as short as she thought. Just short in comparison to everyone else in the room. He was probably almost average.
He said, “We have a letter, he signed it and put the royal seal on it. We should be good, right?”
Chloe, still not entirely sure if she should be there, decided to push her luck. She said, “Alright, fine. I believe you even, but what about other heirs?”
The taller man shook his head, “That’s not how it works on the Underside any more. There is only one heir, and she’s missing. Out in the desert somewhere. We sent,” the man paused, “Well, I am not at liberty to discuss it, but she is missing. Neither of the older children, Riley* or Jesssssssssssssssssssper are allowed to rule. They have taken the title of Queen, which I’ve heard even here implies that one is not allowed to take the throne.”
“Riley* and who?” Chloe asked.
“It’s as unusual to spell as it is to say.” The man put a hand in his hair. It was matted into dreadlocks, “Jesper* but with nineteen S’s.”
Chloe’s face scrunched up, “Why?”
“If there is one thing about the Lussa language that is distinct,” The smaller man said in scholarly tones, “It’s the presence of extra and unnecessary extra letters, specifically consonants. In fact, seeing as you can clearly understand me, that may be the only major difference between our languages.”
Chloe thought to herself, letting her father take over again. She had actually heard of the Underside of the planet before. Her father had said that four thousand years ago the Solune came from the Underside, aliens to this side of the planet. That’s why he struggled for so long to claim land and build a kingdom.
The King nodded to the visitors, then said, “You may stay on the second floor. It is specifically for guests.”
They had added a third floor in around half a decade ago and moved all the royal quarters up. The floor was very thick and insulated against sound. Gwenhime, Chloe’s mother, had been complaining that she could hear the citizens through the floor in her room. The castle doubled as a public town square, and so it remained loud most of the time. And so, the castle guard had been called in to build a third floor with more soundproofing. Chloe had realized that soundproofing meant brick-tiled slats of softwood over a cubit thick. And it worked.