When Val Con was re-attached to the DOI

Author’s Intro: When Val Con was re-attached to the DOI

At the bottom of this intro is another splinter from the “Pieces” file that gave us the first draft of Scout’s Progress.

It’s not dated, but I’m calling 1984, for two reasons:  (1) the scene was typed  and (2) the notation at the top of the page reads: near end of the third? book…p.1  Which says to me that it was written either during or directly after we finished writing Agent of Change.

The writing’s a little cheesy, though the punch line is pure Miri. Still, not too bad for baby writers who were trying to feel out a potential confrontation, and trying to see what hooks they might have to plant.

What interests me most as one of the author/creators is recalling that Steve and I had known going in that, at some point in the story arc, the Department of the Interior would reacquire Val Con and point him at Korval.  That was a given.

Later, we considered that perhaps Miri might be acquired, as a hostage, but role-playing proved to us that this strategy would leave the DOI with a dead hostage and Val Con free, in command of Korval’s considerable resources, and bent on Balance.

That scenario would have been interesting, given that Miri is the keeper of Val Con’s soul, and without her he’s no better than he was, but, ultimately, we’re not the kind of writer who enjoys working in a pitch-black tunnel, without even the light of an onrushing locomotive to hearten us.

Also, things — history, geography, relationships, the universe — changed around and under us as we went forward with the story.  Val Con and Miri revealed themselves to be lifemates in the old sense of a Wizard’s Match;  that meant they both suddenly had available to them resources that we hadn’t, err, known about, going in.

Still, the DOI didn’t know about the lifemate bond, and recapturing Val Con would greatly increase their chances of success in the Big Game of Galactic Domination — so they were bound to try it.

So, we worked on, bearing this important, and inevitable plot point in mind; and it was determined, in the way that writers determine things, that the DOI would make its move in Plan B.

. . .and that’s where the book stalled.  I was lead writer on Plan B, and I must’ve written 50,000 words of scenes setting up Val Con recapture — none of which worked.  I spent some time under the desk — this is true; I sometimes will sit under my desk if a story has stalled, to get a Different Perspective — I took long walks; Steve and I role-played…

Nothing worked.

Nothing worked.

As Shan mentions in his comments to Nova, Val Con and Miri are by the time Plan B rolls out, extremely dangerous people.  Also?  Val Con made it quite plain that he would far rather die than return to the care of the DOI. . .

. . .and Miri was on-board with that plan.

In the end, we did find a way for Val Con to be retaken by the DOI that was believable and in keeping with who he and Miri had become together — and even incorporated that business about “wanting, rather, to die…”

. . .but it wasn’t what we had envisioned — what we knew had to happen from day one — and it was mostly to salve our auctorial pride.

Now, you may, with some justice, be asking yourselves, Why is she telling us this?

The reason is to remind us — all of us — that stories that are true, are also fluid; nothing is certain; everything is on the table; anything is possible.

I know that some people don’t feel comfortable just “writing out of their heads”; they want to know what happens before they Get There, so they don’t get lost, or wander too far astray of the story.  Given the number of times we’ve gotten to a Certain Place in a novel and the author-days we then spent beating our heads against What Happens Next?, I can’t really advise anyone not to plot.

But I can say. . .be flexible, be aware that, as the characters move across the story-space, they change — themselves, the plot, and sometimes even the thrust of the story.  Certainly, they change their authors.

* * *

Splinter: When Val Con was re-attached to the DOI


near end of the third? book…p. 1


After that first quick glance at the gun, Miri never looked away from his face.

“Will you kill me now, Val Con?” she asked him softly, in Low Liaden.

She did not believe it. She had, he reflected, never believed it. “That is the assignment,” he said, in his clear, accentless Terran. “Will you fight me?”

“Fight you, cha’trez? I could never lay a hand on you, unless you let me. Kill me, if you must…” She tipped her head. “I would ask a boon, however.”

“Ask,” he said, never moving the gun.

“Do you still have your Clan blade, cha’trez?”

Straight brows twitched together in a frown. “Of course.”

“Of course,” she echoed the Terran words, then returned to Low Liaden. “Then I ask you to kill me with it.” She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. “It is my right as a Clan member to die by the blade of a kinsman.”

He looked at her. Valiant Miri. Then he shook his head, minding the tick of the inner clock. It grew late.

“Come close, then,” he told her.

She covered the distance between them in six firm strides and stood looking up; her throat a sweet, unprotected curve. He moved his eyes to her face. She met his gaze squarely and he saw that she was crying.

“Why do you weep” he asked her, returning the gun to its holster. “Are you afraid?”

“I love you, Val Con,” she said, singing the Low Liaden words. And then in Terran. “I love you. Now do what you will.”

Edger’s knife was in his hand, she saw the flash of it. She forced herself to look only into his eyes, clear and green and utterly without expression.

Quickly, she thought, feeling her courage begin to fail. Lest he see, she closed her eyes —

And was hit by a force that sent her spinning across the room, pinned to the floor by the body atop her. There was warm breath in her ear.

The noise of the explosion sent her to the threshold of unconsciousness; the wild twisting of the floor brought her back.

When all was quiet, she lay still beneath the man that held her, waiting for the cold bite of crystal.

“I love you, Miri,” came the Low Liaden words in her ear. “Valiant, courageous and strong. Cha’trez; beloved lifemate…”

She took a breath, daring to shift, just a little. “Val Con?” disbelieving.

“Yes.” He moved, rolling clear of her and coming to his knees, gun in hand. Pointed out, covering the wrecked room.

Twisting, she sat on the ruined floor, watching the side of his face. “What did they do to you?”

He turned his head to smile at.her. “I don’t know,” he said, “I didn’t listen…”

She waved her hand in a large gesture. “All that was an act?

“Forgive me,” he murmured, watching her face, “It did seem best.”

She sighed, rolling to her feet. “Remind me to break your jaw.”

 * * *

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  1. Esther E. Willson’s avatar

    Whew! That was fierce. An interesting look at an alternative angle for a novel I recently finished rereading. I am looking forward to more Liaden publications and splinters as they appear. No pressure. Some people work well, some people work quick, and very few do both. As best I can tell, Steve Miller and Sharon Lee work well. VERY well.

    “Liad means never having to say you’re sorry.”

    : )

    Best wishes,
    Esther E. Willson



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