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I've been just waiting and hesitating - Idiot Control Now
bees on pie, burning rubber tires
mellowcandle
mellowcandle
I've been just waiting and hesitating
Okay, this is the second, flashbacky part. I was up until almost midnight writing it, mostly because I just wanted to get the expositiony setup junk out of the way.

This is all still "unofficial" while I work out the scenes and how exactly to order them and look for much-needed help on getting it together.

Title: [Blank]
Series: ToA
Characters: Natalia, Ingobert (this section); Guy/Natalia (overall)
Part 2 of ?




Natalia was not usually suspicious when she was excluded from the Royal Council sessions. Such instances were rare, and she knew her father would share the pertinent details with her anyway. At present her attendance was not mandatory, but this would all fall to her one day, and the more she understood the Council’s workings, the better prepared she would be when it was her time to rule.

Most of it came down to simple politics, balancing the needs of the country against the overbearing personalities of the Council members, each with their own ideas and agendas. What could seem so clearly right to her was not as obvious to a room full of men twice her age and often resulted in debates and deadlocks. She had learned just how many ways there were to view a situation, how many angles and perspectives were hidden below the surface of any issue. The final decision rested with the monarch, but the opinions and recommendations of the Council were invaluable, once one had the experience and discernment necessary to parse all available information.

It was crucial to learn who could be trusted, and who could not. This she had observed firsthand, and she was determined not to repeat her father’s mistakes.

The antique clock in the private dining room struck the hour, each chime echoing to underscore the empty chair at the opposite end of the table.

One of the kitchen maids appeared in the doorway. “I beg your pardon, but would Your Highness like us to serve now?”

Natalia ran her finger along the engraved handle of her silver soup spoon. “His Majesty will be along shortly. Please wait until then.” Dinner was their special time together, to talk after their separate days, and their unspoken rule was to give the missing party half an hour to appear. Unless she was suffering from spectacular hunger, she tended to give her father as much time as he needed.

“Of course, Your Highness,” the maid answered with a demure bow of her head. The staff always asked the same question, and the princess always gave the same answer. “Would Your Highness like the wine poured?”

“That would be lovely, thank you.” There was no unspoken rule about drinking.

Since she was a child, she played a little game and tried to guess how many sips it would be before her father joined her. However, as a child, she played the game with milk, not alcohol. This adult version required more moderate sipping.

She had only made it halfway through her first glass when he appeared.

“I apologize for the delay,” the king said.

“Ten minutes is not a delay,” she replied. “How was your day, Father?”

He shook his head and sighed. Plates were quickly and quietly placed in front of them, almost as if they had appeared by magic, so unobtrusive was the staff. “Tell me of yours first, Natalia.”

She did so, relaying her meetings with the hospital board. “We discussed the budget and while the board has requested additional funding, I believe there are some spending cuts that should be made as well. They will be preparing an amended proposal for our next meeting.”

“Good, good.” Her father seemed distracted, and she wondered if he had heard her fully. “I trust you to handle that as you have.”

“Yes, Father.” He had heard her, but he wasn’t looking at her. “Is everything all right?”

“I don’t quite know.” Still exhibiting proper, regal manners, he somehow finished his entire glass of wine before setting it down again. His dinner remained untouched. “The Council is worried about the order of succession, and to a point, I must agree.”

“Father--”

“Let me finish. To that end, it is the will of the Council that your betrothal to Luke be reinstated.”

No. No, this could not be.

“He is of royal blood, and no one can deny that the best course is for the line to continue through the two of you. Together,” he added unnecessarily.

“Luke has chosen his path, Father.” Despite his instruction, she couldn’t help interrupting. “We owe it to him to let him have that. He does not want this.” And neither did she. She loved Luke dearly as her cousin and friend, but she did not want to marry him.

The path Luke chose led to Daath. He had joined the Oracle Knights after all, in honor of Ion and Asch, and even Van, he’d sometimes admit. His parents had supported his decision with the understanding that when the time came, he would return to Baticul to inherit his father’s title.

Luke’s decision also allowed him to remain with Tear. Natalia would not come between them. She wished them the greatest of happinesses and would never take that away.

“I know,” her father answered. His sigh was weary, his eyes tired. “Thus I have issued an alternative. You will be allowed to choose your own husband. However, to obtain the Council’s support, you must do so by your twenty-fifth birthday.”

“But that’s next month!”

“Yes. If you have not made an acceptable decision at that time, you will marry Luke.”

She couldn’t do that. She couldn’t. “Father….”

“I understand, Natalia. I would not ask you to do this if I did not agree that it was important. The order of succession must be secured. Some would say I have been too lenient in not insisting before now, but I knew I had to allow you to come to terms with your grief in your own time, and to decide for yourself when you would be ready. But so far, you have made no attempt to consider an alternative.”

The suitors that had been put in her path were hardly what she would call alternatives, unless the alternative was death, and even then, it would take more than a moment’s deliberation.

“If not Luke,” the king continued, “there is still Duke Creemore’s son.”

Natalia made a face that suggested her roast duck had been replaced with a plate of live worms. “Alfred Creemore is a complete… twit.” She substituted a more polite but less accurate word than the one that came to mind when she pictured his insipid face. “He’d just be his father’s puppet. You know that.”

“The Creemores are ambitious, it’s true.”

“Not ambitious. They’re vile.” Her father may have been able to forgive and forget, but it was not a virtue she shared in this particular case. She knew that Duke Creemore did not like her, and no matter how he publicly regretted and renounced his part in encouraging the execution of her and Luke as imposters, she was sure that privately, his feelings had not changed. Even if Luke did have royal blood, Duke Creemore would never support him as her husband when the chance to make his own son king was right before him.

Like hell she’d give him the opportunity.

“Natalia.” Her father had to have sensed her thoughts, and she tried to school her features into a more pleasant display. Her scowl should not be directed at him. “I trust you to make the right choice, and I will ensure that the Council stand by it.”

“But I only have until next month?”

“This is the best solution I can offer. I need to know that the succession is secured.”

Something in his tone startled her. He was not an old man, or in ill health, that she was aware of. “Father?”

“No, don’t worry, my dear. I’m not going anywhere yet. But it is every parent’s desire to know that his child’s future is settled. In our positions, such knowledge is even more imperative.”

“Yes, Father.” On that level, she understood. If anything were to happen to the king, the order of succession needed to be in place, in stone. She knew there were still those, such as Duke Creemore, who believed she had no right to the throne, and without her father here to keep them at bay, she could find herself presented with another poisoned goblet, if not something much worse.

She had to marry while it was still her choice, while her father was still here to support her.

A parade of faces floated through her mind and swirled around in the fig sauce on her plate. Yes, she had rejected every prospective suitor presented to her at balls and other functions. It wasn’t that she was holding out for true love. She just wanted someone she could stand.

With that limited criterion, the field of prospective grooms was reduced to two, and one of them was Luke.

This made her decision quite easy.

The next day, she left for Malkuth.











My pertinent questions about this section:

1. I know next-to-nothing about real world internal royal workings, but is this at least plausible enough that you'd go with it for the story's sake?

2. Have I made Natalia too old? (I mean, this puts Guy at 27, and, seriously, no woman's snatched him up yet?)

3. Does what I've done with Luke make sense for his character?

4. I feel like I took the name "Creemore" from somewhere, but I'm drawing a blank. I kinda like the sound of it, though. Have I stolen it, and should I change it?

5. My initial thought was for this to come first, but the exposition isn't very intrigue-y and fun for a first chapter, so I'd rather have the Guy part first and then this as flashback before Natalia explains to Guy. Does that work, or should this in fact be the first chapter?

6. I know the first few paragraphs seem like they're going somewhere and then don't. I wrote a bunch of other stuff but ended up not using it because politics are just so damn dull. Should I expand on that, or save it for another part of the fic? No sense using up all the exposition up front, right?


I'm also giving this and the previous posts a new "untitled Guy/Nat project" tag for easy reference.

I want to have a good bit of this under my belt and worked out before I go posting it anywhere else.

All feedback is wanted and appreciated.

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Current Music: heart of mine--peter salett

14 pathetic excuses or justify your existence
Comments
cal_reflector From: cal_reflector Date: April 28th, 2010 04:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Nitpicky mode: Disclaimer, to the casual reader, these recommendations of mine may make no noticeable difference. You may find them helpful though:

"simple politics": How about "managing egos"? Also, politics are not simple.

"Each with their own ideas and agendas."

"three, even four times her age." Conveys the decrepitude of the Counsel.

If you're concerned about the politic groundwork being boring, try shortening the exposition by using one word where two words will suffice--experience and discernment=experience, opinions and recommendations=input--UNLESS the use of two words accomplishes some effect.

Unless she was suffering from spectacular hunger
I like this phrase.

I need to know that the SUCCESSION is secured.

The ending was well done, and the reason for her going to Malkuth was persuasive.

In response to your concerns:

1. I think the casual reader will accept this as plausible. I do think the ultimatum is somewhat abrupt, and the fact that it comes as a total surprise to Natalia, who should be the wiser. A few lines indicating her suspicion, or even a sinking feeling, leading up to the King's breaking of the news, might help the transition.

2. I think 25 is too old, for different reasons: The difference between 18 and 25 seems huge to me. Assuming the typical reader is younger than you or I, the gap may seem even greater ("4 years out of college, gasp!"). Also, the reader may have to do extra work to picture 25 year old Natalia when what they know is 18 year old Natalia; 25 is still a young woman, but not by Video Game standards. The same issue applies to 27 year old guy. That's getting close to Van's age.

It's kind of like... celebrities. To many ladies, Brad Pitt will always be that young, hot-blooded hottie in The River Runs Through It. Natalia and Guy will similarly always be the (mature) young adults of the party. Best to accommodate them, and not force them to do extra work picturing the physically evolved couple.

3. Yes.

4. Creemore is a name of several locations, but I think you're good.

5. This should be chapter 2. The transition at the end was very well executed and links to the start of chapter 1 nicely.

6. As mentioned previously, if you're worried about the exposition dragging, you can up the pace by eliminating redundancy and using fewer words. Short sentences, that whole deal.

You can make the exposition more interesting for the reader by having Natalia speculate why she was excluded this time, since her exclusion is a rare thing. This builds anticipation, since (presumably) the reader remembers chapter 1, and has an inkling of what is to come, whereas poor Natalia remains clueless.

By the way, I didn't feel the opening dragged. This was a very good chapter.

Everything becomes interesting when it's your favorite character doing it: Natalia picking out a dress, Natalia studying astrology, Natalia thinking while waiting at the dinner table, Natalia's thoughts on her role to come and politics.

If you show Natalia's feelings towards all these "boring" things, the reader will feel close to her, and it will be colorful and interesting.

I'm not sure what other exposition you want to get out. I think you can allocate here or later (perhaps she meets the Council in person?).
mellowcandle From: mellowcandle Date: April 29th, 2010 02:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
First, thanks for such thorough comments. Until I put this somewhere else, it looks like you're going to be my only reader, so I really appreciate you going through all this for me. I probably won't implement some of these changes/ideas right now only because I want to move to the next part, but if I get to the point where I'm ready to put it together and post it "officially", I'll definitely be taking these comments into account, like I did with the revised version of Out Here. It took me a while to go back to it, but I did incorporate some of your suggestions there.

I know I use too many words. Sometimes the two words I'm using have different meanings, to me, but sometimes I can be redundant for redundancy's sake. I like to create a rhythm with my structure, I like the sound of the cadence, but I'll try to streamline here and there.

My very first line establishes that she's supposed to be suspicious, but then... I did nothing with that. I'll have to go back to my notebook and see what I actually wrote, because as I was typing it out, I basically skipped an entire page I had written as boring. I even had notes in my margins saying "rewrite this", because even as the words were leaving my pen, I knew it wasn't working. I meant to have her contemplating this, and then I just jumped over it to the actual conversation to get things going.

My main issue with Nat's age is really how old it makes Guy, because I can't imagine that Peony wouldn't get bored one day and say, "Hey, I know, let's marry off Gailardia, that'll be hilarious!" But the canon storyline covers a period of three years (one year for the main story events, then a two-year jump to the epilogue), which puts this at three years after the epilogue. I could maybe have it only two years later, but I don't want it to be any less time than that because then it's not enough time for Luke to establish himself. There also has to be a sense that Nat really has just been putting off the whole thing long enough that it's a cause for concern. I'm wondering if I should make Ingo ill but just hiding it, but I haven't decided for sure. (And is transitioning Nat from 19 (21 in the epilogue) to 24 really that much more of a difficult adjustment than taking Tomoyo from 10 to 17 in Shadows? One's going from a young adult to a slightly older young adult, the other's going from a child to a teenager who's sleeping with her boyfriend. I'd think Tomoyo's age jump is the more difficult to wrap your head around, but I didn't get too many comments about that.)

It finally came to me that Creemore is similar to Cumore, one of the bad guys in Tales of Vesperia, but I guess it's different enough that it won't seem like an intentional reference. I really did just like the sound of it.

My big problem right now is figuring out where this is going. I have no actual endpoint in mind. Even if I never finished Shadows or WIDK, at least I knew how I wanted them to end. I have no idea how I want this to end. I'm hoping it'll come to me as I go along. I just have this feeling that once I get to the porn, I'm going to lose interest and stop returning its calls.
cal_reflector From: cal_reflector Date: April 29th, 2010 02:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
You're welcome. Certainly, take these comments as you will and revisit the fic as you please; they're just suggestions. And I perfectly understand the need to Get a Move On; I certainly think that's more important than re-writing something to death.

Ah, I didn't know the game itself spanned 3 years... wait, no, the game itself is just one year. In which case, the Marriage Timer for Natalia would have already been running 2 years by the time of the Epilogue, and five years by the time of your fic. I understand that it'd take at least so long for Luke to get settled, and that Natalia hasn't been doing nothing in the mean time; she's been fending off suitors presumably for... 5 years?

I know I'm very hung up on this age thing, so feel free togo on without me. As for the comparison to Shadows; the amount of canon character development for Tomoyo is so thin compared to what fans know of canon Natalia, Shadows Tomoyo, age 17, was pretty much an OC whom you persuaded through your excellent writing that this was how canon Tomoyo would have turned out. Different, and yet the same. Happily, the Abyss canon saved you lots of work; this time the couple actually receives adequate attention in canon. It will also make aging their personality more challenging.

Where this is going:
By the way, now that you mentioned it, I imagine the Marriage Timer has been running on Guy too. For his own amusement and a good faith effort to help Guy find happiness, Peony probably has been setting Guy up with girls too. It was probably easier for Guy (due to his station and personality) to turn down some, but I think Natalia's predicament is not entirely her own, and this may make things easier for them both.

Therefore, perhaps at some point a change in scene to Malkuth would take place, where Peony is informed of Guy's engagement (in person? through Jade?), before or after the fact. Could provide some comic relief, and time for you write in other character you like while keeping the Political subplot moving.

Possible Ending... umm... Wedding Night? And a 2 Years Later Epilogue, like the Game?
mellowcandle From: mellowcandle Date: April 29th, 2010 09:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I'm going to have to figure out why Guy is still available, when clearly, the second he got settled back into noble life, people would be parading their daughters up and down in front of his house. That was kind of the idea in Out Here, that he knew it was happening but didn't want to play. He can afford to be picky, because he's the catch. So there's that, I guess.

There are soooo many characters I'm going to have to bring in. That's something else I have to work out, who should come in when and where and do what. A royal wedding will have everyone who's anyone in attendance, too. I thought maybe I'd initially handwave the thing with Peony, because I don't like him and haven't written him and there'll be time for him to react later, but I need to do something there. Guy can't just go in and say, "Oh, by the way, I'm off to Baticul because the princess wants to marry me, kthxbye." Who'll walk the emperor's rappigs???? Such an important job Guy has.

I kinda thought the wedding would take place in the middle of the story or so, or sooner, but... hmmmmm.....

This is going to be so much harder than I really want.
cal_reflector From: cal_reflector Date: April 29th, 2010 10:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
You mean this is going to be so much more fun than you thought. :)

The possibilities are endless! Don't forget, there's politics in Malkuth as well. Imagine the horse trading that takes place between Peony's Council and Natalia's dad's Council; like two rival kids trying to work out a trade of baseball cards for ice cream soda. That, and the teasing Guy and Natalia (but especially Guy) must receive from their friends in Malkuth. Who will walk the Emperor's rappigs indeed?

Natalia and Guy's trip to Malkuth can be great too. Guy's valet (and perhaps Natalia's chaperon) would suspect and do everything in his power to stop the two from sneaking off to some place quiet on the ship, even though their not thinking about things like that, yet. Once they arrive, it would be fun too if Natalia realized and experienced first hand just how great a catch Guy is, through the passive-aggressive enmity of the local eligible bachelorettes, once the news is out.

But please, don't let me write the story for you. Wedding in the middle of the story sounds great. Means more stuff.
mellowcandle From: mellowcandle Date: April 30th, 2010 04:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, fun, but... damn series with too many cool characters to play with, that I've spent so much time ignoring in one-shots that they're all ganging up on me now to be included. Anise especially.

I wondered if I should drop the international politics angle, I mean have it be there obviously, but mainly focus on adversaries at home to keep from getting too subplotty. The international focus would be her telling him one reason she married him was for his take on international dealings from the Malkuth point of view, then pretty much ignoring him and doing what she wants anyway. But I don't know.

And I'm still wondering if I should kill off Ingo or if that would just be too much.
cal_reflector From: cal_reflector Date: April 30th, 2010 04:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
For angles/subplots/characters that you want to have but don't want to devote too much time to include, I think you can refer to them by directing them through characters you really want to focus on. Jade/Peony/Jade's sister can represent Malkuth, informing the Couple of the politics and popular sentiment that's in the background.

What would be the purpose of killing Ingobert?
mellowcandle From: mellowcandle Date: April 30th, 2010 04:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Cheap drama.
cal_reflector From: cal_reflector Date: April 30th, 2010 05:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
What if Ingobert decided to play a joke on Natalia a while after her marriage, pretending he had a disease that was slowly but surely killing him? "I've lived a full life. My only regret is not being able to see my grandchildren... Cough Cough Hack!"

I mean, he's the Emperor, he must be capable of manipulation.

mellowcandle From: mellowcandle Date: April 30th, 2010 06:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
Heh, that would just be mean. Deliciously mean.

Maybe I could just have an attempt on his life, enough that puts him out of commission, proves enemies at home are worse than those abroad, and makes Nat show she really has what it takes to lead her country. That would basically be my reason(s) for getting him out of the way, but maybe I could do that without actually killing him.

And of course, we're going to have to bring up this:

Photobucket

No one's forgotten this, Guy.
cal_reflector From: cal_reflector Date: April 30th, 2010 06:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wouldn't it be good to give Ingobert a humorous side, so he's not just old and tired all the time?

It sounds like an attempt on Natalia's life would make more sense; more are opposed to her due to her birth, and killing Ingobert puts Natalia in the throne prematurely.

Yes, breaking the news of the engagement to both sides should be very interesting. Especially if Guy has to do it (Natalia won't let him, of course):

Guy: "I know we've had our differences in the past, but I'd like to ask for Natalia's hand in marriage."

Ingobert: "..." *Picks up phone* "Hello, yes, Minister? Declare war on Malkuth."


I don't really know Ingobert. I'd like to think that as he gets older he's more focused on Natalia's happiness and transitioning into a Santa Clause kind of figure.
mellowcandle From: mellowcandle Date: April 30th, 2010 06:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, yeah, something. I thought of doing something with Natalia, too. It all depends on where this goes, what I decide I need to show, if I want the tension to be between Nat and Guy or if I want it to be the two of them against everyone else, or what. I don't know. That's why I haven't done anything else yet. I'm just throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks.

Exploring old Ingo's personality is going to be challenging. Is he still going to be kinda dumb and listening to the wrong people? And I know I'm going to have to have some good scenes between him and Guy, for sure.
cal_reflector From: cal_reflector Date: April 30th, 2010 07:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, sounds like you have lots of ideas and finding a focus is the issue. Just try to remember the focus/theme of your story, whatever that may be: Something along the lines of... because of their partnership, Guy and Natalia persevere and find happiness in life?

Good luck.
mellowcandle From: mellowcandle Date: April 30th, 2010 07:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks, as I will surely need it.
14 pathetic excuses or justify your existence