WIP Blog Hop

Basically, this blog hop involves answering seven questions about my current work in progress, tagging five new participants, and linking back to the person who nominated me.  I was nominated by the lovely Tricia Drammeh, and you can find her post here. 🙂

Vegin Artwork by Hazel Butler

Vegin
Artwork by Hazel Butler

1. What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?
Vegin is the Crown Prince of Lokana and very much a figment of my imagination.

 2. When and where is the story set?
The story is set in the kingdom of Lokana in the present day, but present-day Lokana looks very much like the Middle Ages.  Eventually there is a small detour to Arkona, a mythical world based on our own that looks very much like present-day eastern Iowa.

 3. What should we know about him/her?
Vegin is an idealist.  He wants to improve living conditions (among other things) in his kingdom, but feels powerless to change anything.  He’s headstrong and naïve, charismatic and caring.  He tries to do the best he can with what’s at hand.

4. What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?
In Book One, the main conflict revolves around Vegin’s relationship with a commoner named Lipei.  His father and her brother are on opposite ends of the kingdom’s political spectrum and are adamantly opposed to their union.  When her brother murders his parents, the precarious peace in the kingdom is threatened and Vegin must find a way to stop it.

5. What is the personal goal of the character?
Vegin’s personal goals involve protecting his family and bringing peace to his kingdom.

6. Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
The working title is The Price of Mercy: Book One of the Lokana Chronicles.  Here’s the opening scene:

Dirty tears carved grooves through the layers of grime on the poor farmer’s face as he fought and lost the battle for his dignity.  “Please, your Highness, have mercy.  I beg you.”

Toqarnna Vegin sympathized with the man, whose pitiful appearance was exaggerated by the colored light filtering through the stained glass windows lining the gallery.  But drought or no, he still had taxes to pay; surely he had other ways of obtaining the necessary funds.  Even if he didn’t, was prison really the most suitable penalty?  How could he ever hope to earn what he owed if he was stuck in a prison camp?  But he couldn’t simply let the man go, either.

As Vegin opened his mouth to speak, the room’s heavy wooden door burst open.  The prince flinched as his father stalked into the room, the queen trailing behind him.  Kintarnna Tol swept his gaze around the room as the court fell to its knees before him.  The guards scattered about the room stood at attention, ready for anything.  The pathetic heap of a peasant trembled, prostrate, before him.  The prince, out of habit, stood atop a dais in front of two intricately carved thrones, and froze the king in place with the sternest gaze he could muster.

“Vegin!”  Tol’s voice boomed through the chamber, commanding attention.  “If you’re not going to sentence this man, I’ll be more than happy to do it for you.”

The prince’s eyes narrowed.  “That’s really not necessary, Father.”

“Oh?  So you’ve sentenced him, then?”

“Well, no.  I was about to, but you interrupted.”

“You can’t interrupt something that hasn’t begun.  What is his crime?”

One of the king’s advisors stepped forward from his place behind the throne.  “Failure to pay his taxes, your Majesty.”

“Very well then.  If you can’t pay your taxes,” Tol said, turning to the farmer, “then you’ll simply have to work off your debt.  Guards, take him away.”

“But your Majesty, please!  My family – without me, they’ll starve!”

“And if they die, you’ll have only yourself to blame,” Tol said coldly, dismissing the guards.  “Now then, have you any other matters that need settling?”

“No, Father, that was the last one,” Vegin said through clenched teeth.

“Good.  Court is adjourned.  Come, Enya, our work here is done.”

The court once again fell to its knees as Lokana’s king and queen exited the room.  Kintarnna Tol was a giant of a man who towered over his wife, his son, and everyone else in the court, which was just the way he liked it.  He counted each extra inch as a weapon in his arsenal.  As king, he needed all the weapons he could get.  Knowing Vegin would follow him, he drew himself up to his full height.  An argument was coming, and he had a feeling he’d need all the inches he could get.

“Father!”  The door to the throne room closed behind the prince and the sound echoed down the hall, masking his voice.  “Father!”

Tol stopped in the middle of the corridor; it took Vegin only a moment to catch up.  “Father, what was that all about?”

The king turned toward his son.  “My dear boy, whatever do you mean?”

“You know exactly what I mean.  Debtor’s court is supposed to be my responsibility, for me to administer as I see fit.  How could you do that to me?”

“Well, perhaps if you’d done your job, I wouldn’t have had to do it for you.”

“I was doing my job!” Vegin said, nostrils flaring.  His father always seemed to know just what to say to set his blood boiling.  “I was about to send that poor man to prison until you showed up.”

“Prison?  Really?”

Vegin nodded.

“For how long?  Ten years?  Twenty?”

“One, as a matter of fact.”

Enya’s mouth fell open.  “One year?  For failing to pay his taxes?  What possible purpose could such a paltry sentence serve?”

“The taxes still have to be paid, Mother.  How can he earn the money to pay them if he’s incarcerated?”

“Well, I…I’m sure his family must have something of value with which they could part.”

“Like what, their home?  These are peasants, Mother.  They have little with which they can part.  Lenience will sometimes gain you more than any iron fist.”

“Vegin, you’re but a boy,” his mother said, condescension dripping from each word.  “What could you possibly know of the world?”

“I’m no longer a child, Mother – I’m a grown man and I will have my say.”

“Then let’s have it,” Tol said.  “Why does this peasant deserve my mercy?”

“You would show mercy to a courtier who couldn’t pay, would you not?  Why can you not be as lenient with a farmer?”

“Because courtiers are honorable people and peasants will cheat you every chance they get.  The whole kingdom suffers from drought, yet others have paid their taxes.  Why should he get special treatment?”

Vegin caught his mother’s warning glance, saw the plea for deference in her eyes, but he couldn’t back down now.  “All that man asked for was a little more time, Father.  Did he really deserve a lifetime of hard labor for that?”

“Ten years is hardly a lifetime, Vegin,” Enya said.  “When his term is up, he’ll be free to go.  Isn’t that right?”

“Yes, quite right,” Tol agreed.

“If he lives that long.  You know as well as I do that most prisoners never leave the camps.  Was ten years really a just sentence?”

“A just sentence?  No, son, you’re right, it wasn’t a just sentence,” the king said with a sigh.

Vegin smiled, his chest puffed in satisfaction, but his pride was short-lived.

“For having the audacity to think that he, a common Outlier, and the lives of his family were worthy of my mercy, my grace, I should have sentenced the grasping little beggar to death.  Lenience, you say?  Lenience is weakness.”

“It is not, Father, not always.  I –”

“Where do you come up with these things, Vegin?  Have I taught you nothing about leadership?”

“You have, Father.  When I was a boy, you taught me that a good leader is merciful.”

“But surely he never said anything about showing mercy to peasants,” Enya suggested, horrified at the thought.  “Wherever did you happen upon this silly notion of equality?  I mean, really.  It’s positively absurd.”

“It’s not absurd, Mother.  We depend just as much on them as they do on us.”

“Nonsense,” Tol scoffed.  “And if that’s all your lessons have become, nonsense, then perhaps Surat’s services are no longer required.”

“Surat isn’t filling my head with nonsense, Father, you are!”  Vegin shook his head, his nose wrinkled in disgust.  “To hear you talk, you’d think the entire lower class is out to get you.  Are you really that afraid of them?”

“I fear no man,” Tol said, his voice deadly calm.

“If you would just listen to them for once, they might grow to love you.  Happy subjects are loyal subjects.”

“I’ve had enough of your impudence, boy.  You will respect your king.  Or else.”

Fury blazed in Vegin’s gray eyes, fed by the helplessness his father’s presence always engendered.  “Or else what?  You’ll mount my head on a pike in front of the Obsidian Spire and live forever?  I don’t think so.”

A mirthless smile spread slowly across Tol’s face.  “My dear boy, you have no idea of what I am capable.  I do hope you will never find out.  Come, Enya.”

He turned calmly away from his son and, with his wife at his side, resumed his previous course, leaving Vegin alone with his anger.  The corridor behind the gallery was emptier than the others, which suited it perfectly to private conversations but not to displays of temper, which might echo into adjacent hallways.  Not one to make a spectacle of himself, he turned away from his father’s course and marched off in search of his tutor, little caring that his footsteps sounded louder in the vacant hallway than had his voice.

7. When can we expect the book to be published?
Uhhh…Ten years from now?  Honestly, I have no idea.  I’m currently rewriting the first two books in The Lokana Chronicles, and then I’m going to resume querying.  If I don’t get anywhere this time around, I’ll probably put them out myself, but I have a long way to go before I even start thinking about that.

These are the authors I’ve nominated to participate in the blog hop:

Donna Yates
Roger Lawrence
Emily McKeon
Jenni Sweet

Hope you enjoyed reading a bit more about what I’ve been up to away from the blog lately.  Let me know what you think of the excerpt in the comments below, and don’t forget to check out the other brilliant blogs mentioned here!

(c) 2014.  All rights reserved.

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