This is your spoiler warning. If you haven’t already read both parts of Blood and Dragons, I do not suggest that you read this post. We’re going to be talking, in detail, about some of the major decisions I made with respect to the plot, characters, and storytelling in that episode, so even if you don’t care about spoilers, you probably won’t understand half of what I’m talking about if you haven’t read the story yet. In other words, go read the story. It will be worth it. Then, you can come back here and find out what happened behind the scene. With that out of the way, we can get into the content.
I say scene, not scenes, deliberately, because this post really exists to talk all about Vere’s scene in the second part of Blood and Dragons, when he journeys with Opal into the Spiritual Plane to seal the rift and keep the Ipemav out of Merolate forever. It’s a three thousand plus word scene, and it was almost much, much longer. This battle, with Vere and Opal fighting together in the Spiritual Plane, has been the scene rattling around in my head for most of writing the third season, and is the culmination of groundwork I started laying way back in Here There Be Dragons?, the second Blood Magic episode ever. It is also where we say goodbye to Guardcaptain Vere.
Yes, Vere is gone. I don’t say that he is dead, because he’s not. Neither is Opal, but more on that later (and by later, I mean in another post). When Vere and Opal seal the rift, that’s the end for them. They’re still around, doing stuff in the Spiritual Plane, but they cannot come back to the Physical Plane, ever. I haven’t killed off a really major character since Wezzix, so I suspect that this may have caught some readers by surprise, especially because, well, it’s Vere. Vere’s whole role in the story is that he can get out of anything, that he’s the master warrior, the classic hero of sorts. I’d like to think that makes what I did here all the more impactful.
I didn’t just do it for the impact, though, and like I said, this scene was almost much, much longer. Since studying some ancient mythologies and story archetypes, I’ve become fascinated with the aspect of the hero’s journey where they journey to the underworld. These days, that’s usually some kind of a metaphor. Luke Skywalker never crosses the river Styx in A New Hope – the setting of Hades is fulfilled by the Death Star. Yet in most older examples of the hero’s journey archetype, it was a little journey to the land of the dead. I played with this concept most notably in Destiny of Kings, which is both one of the strengths and weaknesses of that story.
What I learned from writing the journey to the underworld in Destiny of Kings is that if I’m going to have a really interesting underworld, I better have the time and words to explore it properly and help readers make sense of it. The Spiritual Plane is not the place where people in Blood Magic go when they die, but it is serving a very similar role, story-wise. We’ve been setting it up for the whole series, and now we get to see it through Vere’s eyes, replete with what I think are really striking visuals. I wanted to play a lot more in this new sandbox, and I’d like to think that readers do, too.
That’s why, when I was writing Blood and Dragons, the second episode almost became nothing but Vere trekking around in the Spiritual Plane, having a quest, and searching for a way to seal the rift. That could easily have been eighteen thousand words or more by itself, but I didn’t write that, because that’s not what Blood Magic is about – it’s about Kiluron, and Doil, and leading the Merolate Union. So I mentally had to reorganize the episode, chop most of Vere’s time in the Spiritual Plane, and find a way to seal the rift without the whole long quest. If Opal and Vere destroying the Heliblode inside of the rift felt a little deus ex machina, that would be why. I hope that I’ve provided enough mystery and hints about the Heliblode’s power that readers won’t feel too cheated. Making Opal and Vere sacrifice any hope of returning to their own Plane of existence hopefully helps with that by upping the costs significantly.
It was one of the hardest cuts I’ve had to make while writing this series, mostly because of how much I was looking forward to writing Vere’s quest in the Spiritual Plane. I was going to get to do so much exploration of the magic system, explain so many things that will probably never need to be explained in the main storyline…but it just didn’t work, not in this format. Even if I weren’t concerned about length (and you know, if you’ve read the other episodes, that I’m not a stickler if I think it’s worth going over or under my target word counts), and extended Vere quest simply is not right for mainline Blood Magic. It would slow things down too much, distract too much from the main focus, and I think that, no matter how much fun I might have writing it, or how interesting I might manage to make it, readers would end up getting bored, because they’d be spending all of their time wondering when we were going to go back to Merolate.
So I had to settle for a much shorter scene, that leans heavily on spectacle and action to compensate for not having much time to explain what’s really going on, and then transition back to Kiluron as he picks up the pieces back in Merolate. I chose not even to show the final destruction of the Heliblode and sealing of the rift, because there wouldn’t have been enough time to explain what was happening – it would have completely destroyed the pacing and thrown readers out of the story. Instead, we get another cut scene, like I never showed Redra actually solving the Heliblode puzzle with Cinnabar and Arval and the others, in which I just allude to what happened. After all, Kiluron has know way of knowing what really happened on the other side of the rift, only that it’s been sealed, and the Eldar is confident that nothing will be able to form a new one (Eldar is only mostly right on that count, by the way).
One other thing that I never got to explain in these episodes, which I always meant to, was the Society of the Broken Promise. That was the title for the second episode of this season, but since we never have a nice chat with them over tea and sandwiches, and they don’t get any viewpoints, I still haven’t been able to explain who they are. The short answer, as I think that many of you have probably guessed, is that the Society of the Broken Promise is related to the Gälmourein. However, it’s a little more subtle than that. After the Guardian’s return and subsequent defeat back at the end of the first season, its surviving followers formed a splinter group. They were mostly Gälmourein, but they were led by people who were more like priests than assassins, and their original goal was the return of the Guardian.
Eventually, they found out about the Ipemav, or at least something about the Ipemav. I suspect that the Ipemav somehow made contact with them from the Spiritual Plane. Anyway, that was when these survivors vowed to return the Ipemav to Lufilna, and started calling themselves the Society of the Broken Promise, because they considered themselves descended from those who had failed to preserve the Ipemav and the Guardian in the first place, never mind that the Ipemav chose to leave. Why they chose to come back is another question to which there is no obvious answer, at least not one that I’m disclosing at this time. Suffice to say that it has to do with the nature of Blood Magic and Balance.
The Society of the Broken Promise ended up playing only a very marginal role in the return of the Ipemav, which is why I wasn’t able to work that into the story. But, since I was already giving away spoilers and talking about things behind the scenes, I figured I might as well get that information out there, in case some of you are interested.
I hope this little discussion on some of the decisions I made “behind the scene” was helpful or interesting to at least some of you. Normally, I am content to let the stories stand on their own, or at least resigned to it – I think a good story should be able to do that – but in this case, I spent so much time thinking and pondering these decisions that I wanted to share some of that thought process. We’re in the last half of the final season, now. As always, thanks for reading. I can’t wait to talk to you all about the ending.
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