Last week I posted about the story seed I'd been infested with. This week's post is kind of a diary of the things that have emerged since then - mostly character, which is usually the first or second thing I 'get', although there are likely to be other bits of world building and assorted strangeness as well. What I end up with on plot at this stage is usually a starting scenario and what the basic plot and main subplot are likely to be about.
Thursday: Characters begin to emerge. Two of them, one male, one female. Definite sense of a romance subplot. He insists his name is Alvar Seraph, which is... somewhat ridiculous. Arguments over the name begin. She is Millie - possibly short for Amelia or Millicent, although she's being rather close about that.
He's noble and might be willing to accept "Alvar" as a noble title rather than his actual name. It's got to be there, though. Yes, it's weird, but characters will not cooperate for me if I don't have their names right. Long white-blond hair, dark blue eyes - the kind that look like they could be black until you get close - carries a sword-cane. Early twenties, but has had responsibility for a whole lot of things since 14 or 15. His manner isn't so much arrogance as assurance: yes, he really is that good.
She's a street brat. Mama was a whore, and died of her pimp getting pissy. She figures begging, picking pockets and running whatever errands she can get paid for - and pretending to be a boy - is safer.
Okay, so we've got a massive social differential here. Fine. Possibly a Pygmalion aspect.
There's some bioengineering way back - probably from Earth for the spaceship crew, although no-one in story-now knows anything about it. They see an inheritable gift which allows the person who has it to feel the workings and effectiveness of machinery. They 'know' when everything is going well, when something needs maintenance, and when something is going to break. They need training to be able to consciously focus on the gift, and to actually do something about what they feel. They're in two classes: Mechanics can diagnose and fix when told what to do. Engineers can do all that as well as design new machines. Both groups are highly regarded.
He is - of course - an Engineer as well as a nobleman. She has the gift but was never talent-scouted even though the Imperial Academy of Mechanics and Engineering is supposed to find everyone with the gift and train them up: well-maintained machinery is essential to their survival, especially the dampers that keep volcanos from developing in the middle of the cities and the steam turbines that provide power to the cities - powered by diverting water into the volcanic regions to generate said steam.
Opening involves her sensing before he does that a set of dampers under a busy square is about to go, realizing he's got the gift and is more likely to get people out of the way than she is. She'd run away after that, only he's not letting anyone that talented get away from the Academy. The dampers go, but his orders prevent any deaths when a rift opens up across the middle of the square.
He drags her to the Academy - thinking she's the boy she looks like - and goes to arrange a team of Engineers to upgrade the dampers.
Friday: Okay, I was wrong. Milord Alvar is definitely an arrogant sod. Millie is an imp. Sarcastic, self-assured the way street-brats can be (think Gavroche from Les Mis the musical). She's going to cause chaos in the Academy, especially since the Dean of Admissions is one of those unsackable incompetents who gets shuffled to where he can do least damage. Said Dean has problems with well-born girls having the gift, thinks that low class boys who've got it must have got it from a noble ancestor somewhere, and can't possibly learn to be Engineers, and as for low class girls, well they must only be after one thing.
The Academy Arch-Chancellor is one of your ineffectual avuncular types, and really hasn't got a clue how to run things. He's there because he was the most senior staff member when the previous Arch-Chancellor died. Negotiating Imperial political appointments and talented students from the full social range is beyond him. He'd much rather be buried in designs for new mecs.
Social structure/culture is probably most like the British Empire towards the late 1800s, although the colonies have rather more representation than they ever did in the Brit Empire. At this point I think the story is entirely within the capital city (I don't have a name for that yet), but there is a much larger world out there. The Nightside barbarians are a constant threat to the outlying colonies. I'm not sure what/who they are yet, except that it's rather more than just 'barbarians'. I know that at least some of them are exiles and descendants of exiles.
And the little light-bulb just went on to inform me that Milord Alvar and Millie are going to be exiled by the end of this - hence book 2, Nightside.
Weekend: Conflating all of the weekend's news into one piece...
Milord Alvar is still being unfriendly about his name. Millie is a brat. She managed to give all the stick-in-the-mud types collective conniptions in very short order and ends up being taught by Milord Alvar who is amused by her antics rather than horrified - I'm not sure why he finds her amusing, but I imagine I'll find out eventually.
The ending of book 1 involves the Crown Prince, who is the grandson of the Emperor and a nasty piece of work. I'm not sure yet what he's into/up to, but at minimum there's slavery (which is supposedly outlawed) and attempting to arrange granddaddy's murder so he can have the throne. I'm not sure why he ends up crossing swords with Milord Alvar and Millie, but he does, and he dies in a spectacularly ugly fashion - which is why they end up more or less exiled (as in, they're not sure they'd get a fair trial and decide that discretion is the better part of survival).
Monday: His Imperial Majesty is getting to the end of a long life, and outlived all his children. He's still mentally with it, enough that he's got his heir tied up in layers of bureaucracy and is quietly looking for a way junior can have an unfortunate accident. That's not a problem. The problem is that it's kind of difficult to classify "sword cut from navel to chin" as an accident - which means he has to try and convict the culprit.
Tuesday: Well, well. Milord Alvar is in the line of inheritance - distantly, but close enough that if His Imperial Majesty chooses to select an heir rather than appoint his closest male descendant his heir, Milord Alvar is in the running. I think His Majesty hopes that after a suitable absence he can blame junior's death on someone who's already going to die - or already dead - and appoint Alvar his heir. It's not an option that gets used a lot because it causes civil wars: imperial princes tend to get a little upset when they're passed over for the distant cousin they never thought was worth considering.
Wednesday: Weird synchronicity. In the MMORPG I play for decompression I just got to the final world. The 'feel' of it is exactly the feel for this piece - advanced civilization corrupted and dying/dead. Oh, and parts of the cities crumbling into lava. No dragons, though, more's the pity.