Work in Progress: Ashes and Light, week four

Ashes and Light
Swords of Charlemagne, Book 3

26938 / 85000 (31.69%)
It’s always a good thing when you can take a day off and still be ahead on your work. Today, I was a zombie — allergy attack in the middle of the night means Benadryl coma means Liz is a zombie the next day. But I didn’t lose a day in writing because I’m already a day ahead.
I’ve spent time the past few days writing my least favorite character — Ganelon. Usually, villains are fun for me to write, and I have to be reined back a little (okay, a lot) from mustache twirling and overly dramatic dialogue. But Ganelon isn’t my usual villain.  For one, I didn’t create him. He’s not my character, so he’s been an awful bastard for hundreds of years now. But there’s not much detail given on him in The Song of Roland, so we never really know why he hates Roland so much. He’s jealous, yes. But is that enough?
Not really. Not for me. I needed a little more depth. So what did I come up with?
I came up with a character who owes every title he has and everything he owns to a bargain that he made and a child that isn’t his. He married Roland’s mother because she was a stepping stone for his ambition — marry Berta, take care of her and her son, and get riches untold. Sounded like a good deal, so Ganelon did it. And he got his titles, but Berta died, leaving Ganelon saddled with a child who wasn’t his.  A child that he neglected and abused, and who could ruin him if he ever told Charles the truth.
Roland, on the other hand, swore to his mother that he’d honor his step-father. He wants to love Ganelon, despite everything. He refuses to reveal what happened to him at Ganelon’s hands, because he knows that being stripped of his titles and lands is the least that will happen to Ganelon. He won’t ruin his step-father, but he can be pushed too far… and finding out that Ganelon has started treating his younger son the same way he treated Roland is that far.
Here’s the excerpt:
There was an oil lamp burning on the small table next to the bed, casting just enough light to see Roland, stretched out on his back. His hands were resting loose on his stomach, and his ankles were crossed. He looked as if he were asleep, but his eyes were open.
“Roland?” Turpin said gently. “I can go, if you want to be alone.”
“No, you can stay,” Roland answered. There was a thickness to his voice, the remnants of old pain and of new tears. “I think I need for you to stay.”
“It’s done,” Turpin said, moving to sit on the edge of the bed. “Olivier has taken the papers to Charles, and Baudoin will be safe.”
Roland nodded. “I heard. Thank you.”
Turpin rested his hand on Roland’s leg. “I’d advise you to walk carefully for the next few days. Ganelon is brainless enough in his temper to try and turn on you while I’m gone.”
Roland snorted. “I’ll keep my promise to my mother. I won’t say a word against him, or treat him with anything less than his due as my step-father, but I’m not letting him hurt anyone again. If he tries to hurt me again, I’ll kill him.” His voice was flat and cold. “If he tries to hurt my brother again, I’ll kill him. If he tries to hurt Olivier, or you—” He smiled. “You get the idea.”
“I do,” Turpin said. “And I will promise you the same, my Roland. If he attempts to hurt you, or any of our loved ones, I will make him disappear so thoroughly that God Almighty will forget He ever created a mistake that went by the name of Ganelon.”
Roland frowned. He propped himself up on his elbows. “I thought God couldn’t make mistakes?” he asked.
“Created a louse in human form, then?” Turpin suggested. It drew a chuckle from Roland.
“That raises the question of why did God create lice?” he asked, sitting the rest of the way up. “They don’t seem to have much of a purpose.”
Turpin smiled. “I imagine the common louse has a great deal of purpose…to another louse.” He squeezed Roland’s leg. “You never told me. Any of this. I never knew.”
“I’ve never told anyone,” Roland admitted. “Olivier guessed at some of it, years ago. In Pavia. But I’ve never told anyone.” He covered Turpin’s hand with his own. “And I’m not going to. I don’t need the nightmares.”
Turpin nodded. “As you wish. Just know that none of it changes how I feel about you.”
Roland barked with laughter. “I know that, Turp!”
***
In other work, I’m getting close to dropping the first mountain in Heir to the Firstborn. It’s looking like it will happen in chapter 8. Chapter 5 just went live last Friday, so now is a good time to get caught up (especially since now one gets charged until the end of the month.)
And that’s how things are in this part of the world. No hurricane this year, at least not for us yet (we’re having the first anniversary of our first serious hurricane since we moved to Central Florida).

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