I have already written about what it’s like to write about Lorcan. Twice, in fact. Moreso than any other character, Lorcan has the sort of voice that gets thrown off-balance very easily. There is so much dragging him toward being the hero–enough that I’ve definitely seen readers claim he’s sweet or doting or even heroic despite the horrible things he does–even when that’s not where he belongs. But since he isn’t an unredeemable devil or a moral and thoughtful man, Lorcan takes a lot of tries to get right.
In The Adversary, this was particularly the case. Without going into too much detail, the first draft of this book had Lorcan basically accepting something that Farideh does without his permission or his knowledge. In another devil’s case, it would be reason enough to kill her or trade her pact or something worse. By the time I was three-quarters of the way through the book, I would have used the word “supportive” to describe where Lorcan was drifting, despite my best efforts to rile him up.
That’s when I stopped and shouted at the computer screen, “WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS, YOU STUPID CAMBION?!” The answer was, of course, “Because Erin didn’t work very hard on a good character arc in the outline. Womp-womp.”
I had to stop. I turned in that draftish thing, explained the situation to my editor, and turned around to fix Lorcan. Starting with how he reacts to what Farideh does.
Do you remember Endless Quest books (or Pick-a-Path or Choose-Your-Own-Adventure)? Wizards of the Coast re-released a few titles some years ago–I got to work on them. The first thing I did was make flow-charts to keep track of all the possible storylines. If something was changed at the head of a storyline (say, changing a character’s gender to balance the cast better or changing a detail to be more accessible to modern kids), you could follow that flow chart down and make sure every scene was accounted for. Plus when the books were typeset, it was easy to make certain that all the choices ended up tagged to the right pages.
Remembering this, I made an enormous chart titled “Lorcan’s Endless Quest.”
Farideh does X–is he immediately aware that she does it? After, he’s confronted by Sairche–does she tell him what happened? a version of what happened? does she stay mum? Does Lorcan get a chance to plot, or is he thrown into the next scene? Etc.
I ended up with ten “paths” (well, nine, since there was one where Sairche drives him crazy and he kills Farideh and The Adversary doesn’t happen, which wasn’t really on the table at that point). Four of them lead to one generalized ending. Five lead to another. What you get in The Adversary is a blend of the best parts of #7, #8, and#9. And thank god, that felt like the right answer. Lorcan was finally Lorcan again. And I just had to completely rewrite 90% of his interactions..
Moreso than the other Adversary posts, I would say this one has a takeaway if you’re working on your own writing–sometimes making a character work takes throwing out what you’ve already done. Sometimes you have to start over, and that’s okay! Some part of what’s written is right, but the closer you come to the furrows that other characters and other tropes have made, the more likely you’re going to have to haul your character out of a ditch and start him again, back a ways down the road. The book will be better for it.
This excerpt is contained within the sample chapter currently posted on wizards.com. So you can read it here, or you can go there and read the whole prologue and first chapter. Or if you’ve read it already, you can scroll down and talk about Lorcan in the comments.
An army of scents assaulted Lorcan once he crossed the threshold—arispeg, bitter marka, myrrh, and juniper—crawling so deep into his nose, they lay across his tongue. Long ropes of drying garlic hung from the rafters like garlands, and bins of seeds and blossoms and teas lined the walls, making the space feel much closer and narrower than it was.
Lorcan never understood why Temerity had such a banal cover for her powers—perhaps the smell covered the stronger components of her rituals, perhaps she liked being the one who came by such rare and precious commodities, perhaps she just enjoyed having a supplier for her personal perfumes—but the little shop seemed to satisfy her, which was good enough for him. He had everything he needed from Temerity.
Almost, he amended, crossing the shop. Which step triggered the magical tinkling of a bell, he couldn’t have said, but Lorcan was ready when an auburn-haired tiefling woman with the angry tips of a pact-brand reaching up from under her low, wide collar came around the shelves behind the counting table. He leaned against the table with the sort of smile that usually made her forget he was such a bad person to trust. “Temerity,” he said. “Well met.”
She stopped dead. “Well met,” she said, a smile of her own creeping across her lovely features. “Didn’t expect to see you coming in by the door.”
“All these years, I can still surprise you—I like that,” he said. That sounded right. He was out of practice with her—with any of them, really, aside from Farideh. “I was in the city, and how could I pass through without checking on you?”
She held his gaze, eyes like silver pieces. Eyes empty of the sort of warmth and interest Temerity usually had for him. Lorcan tensed. Reconsidered.
“How long has it been?” she asked, coming right up to the edge of the counting table. “Do you remember?”
He didn’t, which was sloppy and he knew it. He’d been distracted by other things—the plots of his mother and sister, the complicated machinations of the Lords of the Nine. Farideh.
“Too long,” he settled on, with a tone of regret.
Temerity’s smile didn’t waver. “Indeed,” she said. “Ten months. And another two before that.”
“And you didn’t call,” Lorcan said. He took her hand in his. “I assumed you didn’t need me. I hate to be a nuisance. I do hope,” he added, lower, drawing a small circle on the skin of her wrist, “that I’m not being a nuisance.”
A little warmth stirred in Temerity’s features. She was simple—much simpler than some other warlocks he could name. Make her feel special. Make her feel wise. Make her think that she’s making the best possible decisions, even when she isn’t. Make her think there’s something there, under the surface, between them.
“Too long,” she agreed, brushing her curls away from the side of her face. Then, “Long enough your rivals have come calling.”
“Oh?” Lorcan said, as if it didn’t concern him. “I’m glad I can still count you mine.”
“For now,” she said, but she relaxed.
“Well,” he said smoothly, still toying with her hand, “you’ll at least give me the chance to make a counteroffer. I’d hate to lose you because other people’s mistakes kept me away.” He brought her hand to his lips and she exhaled unevenly. What sort of idiots were those other collectors if they couldn’t sway Temerity? “Haven’t I given you everything you want?”
“Not everything,” she said.
“Well we’ll have to see about remedying that, won’t we?” he murmured, even though he knew what she was asking for and he wouldn’t dare try to get it. It didn’t matter—not now. She was listening, and that was enough. “But in order to do that I do need a small favor. A little ritual—no,” he cut himself off and leaned a little nearer, close enough to kiss her just below the ear. “We can get to that later, of course, darling.” Temerity raised an eyebrow and smiled. He drew another slow circle across her wrist.
The bells chimed again, and Lorcan glanced back over his shoulder, careful to hold tight to Temerity as he did. Things weren’t nearly far enough along that he could risk her getting distracted by some customer.
But it wasn’t some customer. Farideh stared back at him, frozen.
No, not at him. At Temerity’s hand in his.
Lords of the shitting Nine, he thought.
“Well met,” Temerity said, the picture of a sweet-tempered shopkeeper. But Lorcan knew better and heard the sudden venom in her voice. She yanked her hand free and moved around the table. “Can I help you?”
“I . . . um . . . ,” Farideh trailed off and she looked away at a chain of seedpods hanging down from one of the heavy shelves.
Shit and ashes, Lorcan thought, already sorting through all the things he was going to have to say to soothe her. Every option would turn into something far more complicated than he wanted to handle. Why couldn’t she be like Temerity, wanting to be soothed?
If she were like Temerity, Lorcan thought, you’d have a much bigger problem on your hands. For now, he needed space and quickly, before anybody got any more ideas.
“You’re interrupting,” he said.
When Farideh looked up at him, her expression was guarded—nothing for Temerity to see there. There at least was that. “Clearly.” She looked to Temerity and held out a hand. “You must be Temerity.”
Shut up, he thought. Shut up, shut up. There were too many things still hanging hidden in this conversation. Too many risks. And as much as he wanted to intervene, that might make things worse.
Temerity glanced at him, then crossed to take Farideh’s hand. “I should have guessed. Were you just going to leave her out there in the dark?” she asked Lorcan.
“She can handle herself.”
“But can she handle Proskur?” Temerity considered Farideh. Looking for all the world as if she and the younger tiefling were about to be dear friends. Lorcan edged nearer.
Temerity turned Farideh’s arm up, revealing the fading streaks of dark magic tinting her veins. “A warlock,” she said, rubbing a hand over her forearm. “And so young.”
“Not that young,” Lorcan pointed out. “No younger than you were.” But the jab didn’t shift her attention, her growing ire back to him.
“Well,” Temerity said to Farideh, “then you still have time to grow wiser.” Still holding Farideh’s arm, Temerity looked over at Lorcan. “Whose heir is she?”
Shit. Shit. Lorcan sighed dramatically. “Can’t you guess? I feel as if every time I replace my Greybeard heir, they can hardly don their own clothes without instruction.” Lorcan shook his head, as if exasperated—not a lie, but the careful placement of truth by truth, and he prided himself on the difference. It was, after all, the sort of thing that separated devils from the cacophony of fiends howling throughout the planes. “What part of ‘sit outside and wait’ did you misunderstand?” he asked Farideh.
Farideh kept her blank expression, but her cheeks reddened and she wouldn’t look at him. Good enough, he thought. Fix it later. You’ll think of something.
Temerity held his gaze for a long time, as if she were trying to decide whether there was something to tease out of his comment.
“Don’t you have a little side room or something she could wait in?” he asked. “I seem to recall you do.”
Temerity rolled Farideh’s sleeve down over her wrist, any trace of her previous tractability gone. “Ten months is a long time,” she said. “I’ve had offers. Several. I won’t tell you it’s not tempting. But none of them said they could get me what I really want, so what was the point?”
“It’s hard to reclaim that sort of thing,” Lorcan admitted. This was going all the wrong ways. Four steps to Farideh. Twelve steps to the door.
“But not impossible,” Temerity said. “It sounds to me like there are plenty in the Hells who’ll consider a trade,” she said. “A soul for a soul.”
“Not many gods look kindly on that sort of trade,” Lorcan reminded her, shifting closer to Farideh, who was still watching Temerity cautiously. Good, he thought—she knew something bad was happening here. “You send another to the Hells, you might well end up unclaimed when your time comes. End up in the Hells anyway.”
“Better odds than I have now.” She stared at Farideh again. “Whose heir are you?”
Farideh glanced at Lorcan. “The Greybeard. Didn’t he say that?”
“It’s Titus Greybeard, dear. You’d know that if you descended from him.” Temerity shook her head. “You’re the Brimstone Angel, aren’t you? The heir of Bryseis Kakistos.”
“Would I walk the streets with such a valuable heir?” Lorcan scoffed. He slipped between the two women, pushing Farideh away from Temerity. Prod her, he thought, provoke her. Get her mad at him. “You knew I had more than one warlock. Just because she’s younger and—”
Temerity shoved him into Farideh. “Don’t play me. You don’t walk the streets with any of your warlocks. Not like this.”
“Necessity makes us all change paths eventually,” Lorcan said. He reached back to push Farideh toward the door, taking careful stock of Temerity’s expression. She’d likely try to scratch his eyes out—she’d tried it before.
“You’re wiser than this. Or you were. Temerity, tell me you—”
Temerity pulled the rod from her apron so quickly he couldn’t react. But in the same moment as he spied the spell surging up the implement, Farideh kicked his knees in so that he fell under the bolt. He felt the magic sizzle across the edge of the spell that disguised him.
Before he could stand, Farideh grabbed his shoulder and pulled him back, with a soft gasp of Infernal, through a vent in the world. One moment he was looking up at Temerity, at the rod pointed at his throat, the next there was a fold of darkness and brimstone closing over him, and when it passed, they were at the door. Farideh stepped in front of him, her own rod out and aimed at Temerity. Lorcan scrambled to his feet.
“If you don’t believe I’m no one,” Farideh said quietly, the faintest tremor in her voice, “then I think you know this isn’t a fight you want a part of.”
The dark powers of Malbolge crept up Temerity’s brand, clawing at her throat. “Little girl,” she said coolly, “don’t defend him. He’ll bring you to ruin in the end.”
“So will you, by the sound of it, and a lot quicker,” Farideh said, not lowering the rod. “Lorcan seems to have some fond feelings for you, but I don’t know you. I don’t like you. And your neighbors already seem to think I’m a criminal, so don’t think there is a thing stopping me. If I see you set one foot out into the street after us . . .” She hesitated, no doubt sorting through suitable threats. “I’ll show you what it means to be the heir of Bryseis Kakistos,” she said.
Perfect, he thought.
Want to make sure you continue the story? The Adversary will be available December 3, 2013, and can currently be pre-ordered from many major booksellers. You can also pre-order a signed copy here on slushlush.com.