It will be so gratifying when I don’t have to say that anymore. Five years is a long time for a project, you know?
I think, I think, that the scene I’m currently working on will be one of the last to involve significant changes to the storyline itself. It’s the scene where Saeli meets Raphel in the Sari Cafe…only now she’s already been given her Mantle, she has to sneak off campus in order to meet him at all, she and Cara had to deceive Brendan in order to pull off the escape, and she’s got a two hour time limit to get back (before the school gates close for the night). Thus, the whole dialogue will have to unfold in a different order to accommodate the changes. Plus I’m bringing over a shortened version of the dedication discussion, since the first thing out of Saeli’s mouth is going to be something along the lines of “Uh, they kind of made me a Mantle”…which isn’t going to make Raphel happy.
The next major event is the graduation party. I’m sure Saeli will be able to get official permission to go to that. She’ll also be able to tell Raphel about it, since she’ll have a sorarc by then. Plays right into his hands, that…
At the party, Saeli has to have her confrontation with Brendan. I think I still need to have a short scene with him after Saeli gets done talking to Raphel at the Sari…if only to establish some complication in their relationship. First of all, Saeli and Cara had to have his help in getting Saeli through the gates. The school gates have student guards to keep track of who goes in and out, and the High Priestess has given orders that Saeli is not allowed to leave. The gates also have a pair of qi-sensing panels embedded in the school-side entrance that glimmer if qi is used near them. (Of course, they are only set up to recognize sattva qi, because they were designed to catch students sneaking out, not Cowls sneaking in. The school assumes that any Cowl sneaking in is going to be caught by the anti-intruder ward, or the Anjahel guards on duty [who can sense the presence of rashas qi in a person, not just when it’s in use]. That hole in the system allowed Raphel to sneak in cloaked, with a student’s name on his lips.)
However, Saeli doesn’t know any rashas qi yet, so she’d have to use a sattva cloak to sneak out. That’s where Cara comes in. Cara is also going to cloak and try to sneak through the gate, but she’s going to purposefully get caught. She’ll then explain that she was sent to test the qi panels, and to make sure the guards were paying attention. Such tests are somewhat routine. While the guards are distracted with Cara, Saeli will slip by. However, both girls know that the guards will report the incident, so they need to obtain actual permission to conduct the test. That’s where Brendan comes in. He’s a senior red cord, and on very good terms with Professor Lo, the Advanced Forms teacher and the head of campus security. He’s also known for his honesty. If Brendan were to go to Lo and say he thought the panels needed testing, and the guards needed a wake-up call, he could probably get the permission they need.
Only problem is, Saeli can’t tell Brenden she’s going to sneak off campus, because Brendan would never allow it. Barring that, he’d never go along with it. So Saeli and Cara go to Brendan and pretend that they saw the guards goofing off, and that it’s making Saeli nervous. Saeli suggests sending Cara to test them, but they need permission. Brendan, already vulnerable to any plea from Saeli and already worried about her safety, agrees and gets the permission they need.
The sneaking out goes over without a hitch, except that Cara ends up going with Saeli to the Cafe. Saeli just can’t persuade her otherwise. They get to the cafe, and Saeli doesn’t see Raphel right away. She gets more and more nervous, especially with Cara there, and finally needs a moment to herself. She excuses herself and goes to the hallway outside the bathrooms, and of course there’s Raphel, dressed in street clothes and waiting for her. They have a kind of frantic, whispered conversation, which is interrupted by Cara, who comes looking for Saeli. So Cara meets “Aiden” and is completely and utterly charmed. She now completely understands why her roommate would risk getting in trouble to see this guy again. I need Cara to not be suspicious, because Brendan is about to become suspicious enough for both of them.
Brendan, meanwhile, is pulled into the High Priestess’ office that evening and given the gold cord. The first thing he thinks to do, of course, is to tell Saeli, so he goes looking for her. He doesn’t find her, and he learns that Cara went on into town after testing the gate guards. Well, Brendan’s a pretty smart fellow and he quickly realizes that Cara must have been helping Saeli sneak out. That pisses him off, because not only is she endangering herself by going outside, she tricked him into helping her do it. So he goes into town looking for her.
He finds her inside the Sari, just as she’s about to leave (time’s almost up). Saeli tries to shoo Raphel away before Brendan sees them, and Raphel is quite willing to leave, but Brendan’s already spotted them. Raphel leaves without speaking, and Saeli and Brendan are left alone. Well, now Brendan is triply pissed, because apparently Saeli tricked him into helping her sneak out so that she could meet a guy behind his back. Ouch. And there really isn’t much Saeli can do to persuade him otherwise, without revealing who Raphel is and why she was really meeting him. Problem is, there’s just enough truth to Brendan’s suspicions that Saeli feels too guilty and wretched to tell the truth. Confronted with Brendan’s hurt, the truth actually starts to feel like an excuse. She does like Raphel. She did meet him before she and Brendan spoke in the infirmary. And her own fascination with Raphel was part of the reason she met him again.
So that’s where Saeli and Brendan stand going into the graduation party. It’s probably enough to push Brendan over the edge enough to indulge in a little tanathe weed.