So here’s the ending of the prologue to First Empress. Originally the prologue ended with Viarra confronting her uncle at the end of scene 5, but later I had an idea that I hope puts an unexpected twist on Viarra’s character. It’s a short scene that doesn’t even include Viarra, but hopefully it opens up some interesting implications about the novel’s world. As always, any feedback is welcome!
“Come to gloat, General Derron?” Duke Elladan accused as the general dismissed the guard outside his cell.
Derron waited for what Elladan suspected was long enough for the guards to be out of earshot before replying. “No, in fact I came to thank you,” the general replied, tossing a wineskin into the cell. “Believe it or not,” he continued, “you saved me a great deal of time and effort. You did what you saw as necessary for our people, and, despite appearances, you succeeded better than you could have imagined.”
Elladan frowned as he sniffed the wineskin: an aged white wine with a hint of belladonna and henbane—relatively quick and painless, despite the disorientation and nausea. He’d be dead in less than two hours. Beats dangling to death, at any rate, he decided. “Are you trying to be cryptic or condescending, General?” the duke asked as he took a sip of wine. “I can’t tell which.”
“I know how hard it was for you to make that decision to murder your brother’s family,” Derron told him, leaning against the cell bars, as if in casual conversation. “I was in the process of making a similar decision, if for a different outcome. I loved those four young men like my own sons; in fact I was hoping to marry my granddaughter Ryllia to Prince Dollan. Arrol gave every indication of wanting to continue his father’s pacifistic goals, but without a plan of action for accomplishing them. Kallis was a scholar with no interest in ruling. Emmet and Dollan were intelligent enough, but neither had any manner of decision-making capabilities.”
“They were good, solid sons of Kel Fimmaril,” Elladan agreed as he took another drink, “but not one of them had any business taking up the throne. And now we’re stuck with that damned girl as queen. So tell me how the situation has improved, Derron.”
“I wouldn’t go so far as to say they had no business on the throne,” Derron disagreed. “I think any of the king’s sons could have made excellent caretaker monarchs—ones good at maintaining stability and status quo. Unfortunately, a caretaker monarch is not what we need right now.”
Elladan took another long drink from the poisoned wineskin. “Right, we’re in deep shit,” he agreed. “You probably know this better than I do.”
“No, the shit got much shallower last night,” Derron corrected. “And I have you to thank. For the first time since the old king died, I have hope.”
The duke stared at the old general for a long moment. “Maybe the poison is going to my head already, but I swear you sound sincere, General. Viarra is tough and smart, but do you really think putting an inexperienced, untried woman on the throne is an effective plan?”
“No, Viarra was our backup plan,” Derron told him flatly. “A role her grandfather and I started preparing her for since she was six years old.