Thursday through Sunday: Well, the last few days someone turned off the valve and slowed the information to a trickle. I'm not sure why - possibly it's the day job ramping up again for the next phase of the Neverending Project (I seem to get a lot of these. I think someone 'likes' me). At any rate the most I've gotten in a few days is that Milord Alvar is quite willing to hold out as long as necessary until I get his name right. And Millie finds this very amusing.
The Evil Prince has yet to show himself, although I have the weird feeling that he's there, he's just still buried somewhere in my subconscious. Based on past experience, this probably means I'll wake up one morning with him kibitzing with some of my other villains - all of whom are certifiably evil psycho bastards (so are most of my heroes - the difference is the heroes tend to fight it rather than revel in it). This does not reassure me at all - and anyone who knows what my villains are like will be cringing at the prospect.
Monday: So after days of silence, I get a major dump courtesy Subconscious Data Delivery - a service about as reliable as a two-bob watch - when I start drifting to sleep. It proceeds to haunt my dreams, and I'm still processing what emerged.
To start with "Seraph" is the royal family name - only it's actually a corruption of a much older title that related to the ship that crashed on the planet in the first place. I have no idea what that title was, but it applied to the people who had been genetically engineered to have the Engineering gift - the rapport with machinery. There's a vague sense that the gift was essential to keeping people alive initially, so those who had it became a kind of nobility during the time the accidental colony struggled to survive. It's translated to a sense that it's very wrong to have any kind of "useful" ability and not use it in the service of one's people.
His Royal Horribleness is a little clearer: physically he could be Milord Alvar's twin. They're cousins through most of the branches of the family lines back to the common ancestors, although it never got closer than second or third cousin, I think. The royal family has full time geneologists keeping track of who is where in the accepted line of inheritance. It doesn't help that they all tend to use the same given names - generally honoring particularly notable ancestors. Who, of course, are shared all over the family trees of the extended royal family. The Emperor is His Imperial Majesty Arthur James William Seraph, Twenty-Fifth of the Name, Forty-Second of the Dynasty, Lord of Eldarsund, Defender of the Holy, etc etc (the full list of titles goes on for half a page or thereabouts).
The Evil Prince is only "Royal", not "Imperial" because he's not confirmed as the heir, only presumed to be as the closest male line relative.He rejoices in a similar list of titles, most of them courtesy titles attached to being the heir presumptive. The names that matter are William James Albert Seraph. Milord Alvar shares all but one of them - his family name is William Arthur James Seraph. Without all the extraneous titles, he's generally known as Will Seraph, Lord Alvar - or just Lord Alvar. I think he's a little older than HRHorrible - no more than a year older.
HRHorrible is straight out of Evil-Bastard-Central - which seems to be where my subconscious lands no matter what I do. Even in my lighter stuff there's elements of it. Hell, Milord Alvar is just as much a product of Evil-Bastard-Central, only he chooses to control that aspect of his personality where HRHorrible doesn't.
Millie is the catalyst. She's the wild card that kicks off the whole sequence, and to some extent part of Milord Alvar's redemption. Oh, and she's the cause of the ending of book 1. She's found one of HRHorrible's 'playhouses' and - naturally - goes in there to free the women (in a permanent and lethal fashion if necessary. Yes, HRHorrible is that perverted. I'm not sure how I'm going to make that work without overdoing the ick or backing off too much from it). Milord Alvar finds out, and goes charging in to "rescue" her - not only does she not need rescuing, she ends up back-to-back with him fighting off MRMorrible's henchmen. While the whole place is sinking into lava, since the only way Millie could get the slaves out was to disable the damping systems in the complex. Several of the henchmen find out what it's like to become a carboniferous anomaly in a volcanic deposit.
Of course - as those of you who know how my mind works have probably already figured out - HRHorrible isn't the main villain. I'm not sure who is, except that it's someone who's around in a minor role in book one, apparently something of a non-entity. I'm not sure Milord Alvar and Millie know who he is by the end of book one: only that he exists.
HRHorrible... think cold, arrogant, superior, convinced the rest of the world exists to serve him. Constantly looking for something to "entertain" him - and growing more depraved and decadent with each new amusement he contrives. Nucking futz, but in that kind of cold, rational, self-interested way that's a hell of a lot more frightening than ranting and raving crazy. The only thing I'm sure about is that the Ultimate Nasty is worse. The Ultimate Nasty is convinced he's doing the things he does for the Greater Good...
Religion. This is a religious society. I'm not sure they were terribly religious when they crashed on this world, but they sure as hell are now. Something about surviving by the grace of god and the quality of one's mechanical expertise will do that. The general ethos is along the lines of God helps those who help themselves mixed with if God gave you the gift it's a sin not to use it for society. Sorta-kinda-Christian based, although not really recognizable as such any more - although the hellfire and brimstone part is very familiar, since they live with it all the time. At some point the idea that they're there to "redeem" their world crept in, so there's a lot of social value attached to "improving" the land by siphoning energy off the everpresent volcanic substrata to power all manner of mechanisms, by speeding up the process of turning lava to productive soil (which in turn leads to a voracious demand for more improvable land and an outwards expansion of the Empire), and so forth. Think the words of "Jerusalem" - "And we will build a new Jerusalem in England's green and pleasant land": that's their notion of Heaven. Greenery, pleasant climate, and real night and day. Most people believe God intends them to build it themselves.
Tuesday: Now I know why HRHorrible gets involved with all of this - it's Millie. She's seen too much, but while she was still a street brat it was too much trouble to track her down and eliminate her. Besides, who would ever listen to a street brat? If the information comes via Milord Alvar, it's much more credible. Also, Alvar has the resources to dig up evidence that can't be covered up: the pair of them are a risk to HRHorrible's existence.
Ah. Yes, the little lightbulbs go on while I'm writing this. The ultimate Big Bad is someone in the Academy. He recognizes the threat Millie poses to HRHorrible and passes on the warning. I'm still not entirely sure what he recognizes, since to him one street brat is much the same as any other, but whatever it is Millie has no idea about it. It's not appearance or her name... so it has to be something she says without realizing what the impact could be. Oh. (Cue little lightbulb again - I just love the way my subconscious works). Alvar wants to know why she's so skittish with him. She tells him he looks just like the man who killed her mother (trust me, it's not nearly that simple or clean). Big Bad hears the conversation - and since he knows what HRHorrible does for recreation, and is working his way towards greasy eminence, he naturally warns HRHorrible.
Wednesday: I need to find a new name for book 1. Twilight would be perfect if not for certain sparkly vampires, and this book does not have sparkly vampires. It doesn't have vampires, period. Shadowlands is also out, courtesy a rather better book that's also too well known. Since I suck at this kind of thing, any suggestions would be welcome.
Oh, and for those who might be wondering, no I'm not worried that anyone is going to steal my idea. I could hand this set of notes to a dozen people and ask only that the names change, and get a dozen totally different books - with everything from horror to hysterical comedy and all points between.