So I’ve reached the point (again) where Raphel has convinced Saeli to help him overthrow the gods. I had to do it a little differently (again), because her internal struggles are a little different. On the first draft of the story, Saeli was very naive, so Raphel didn’t have to try all that hard to bring her in. In the second draft, she got a lot more shrewd, so Raphel actually had to get a little more scary. This time around, I’ve backed Raphel’s mean streak off a bit, although I think he’s still much harsher than the original version of him. Interestingly, being directly in Saeli’s head has allowed me to play Raphel’s mystery up more. I’m also playing up his seductive nature, and on this draft I’m trying to hold off Saeli feeling outright betrayed by him until the very end, when he goes after Aschamon. That way all the various small betrayals will pile on top of her at once, and she’ll realize just how badly he’s played her.
Once again I’ve laid out Raphel’s explanation of why he needs Saeli, how the war started, and his idea of how to bring down the gods. During the last draft, I had done some brainstorming on Verre’s history, specifically about the Cursing, because I needed more information on Scisaxar’s character. One of the ideas I had come up with was that there existed a group of majahel who belonged to neither Scisaxar nor Yuril, and they could use both sattva and rashas qi. The gods destroyed them. The war between Mantles and Cowls began soon afterward.
Raphel thinks that the gods were threatened by the grays, because the grays knew how to travel to other worlds and they knew about the Keeper. He thinks the gods started the war to cover up the true reason for the Cursing of the Midplains.
What he doesn’t know was that the grays were actually delving in some very dangerous things, and the gods had very good reason to step in and stop them. However, due to some personal drama, the gods admittedly did not handle the situation very well. That’s info for the sequel, incidentally. Saeli actually reestablishes the Grays as an actual Order at the end of Shades, and makes an effort to uncover their lore. Or course, some of the new Grays rediscover the dangerous stuff the old Grays were doing, and try to recreate it. As creator of the new movement, Saeli has to uncover the truth of the movement she’s been emulating, which will mean revisiting some of her pain with Raphel. Anyway…back to Shades.
The gray majahel are new to this draft, and that’s become the primary hook Raphel is using to entice Saeli into this plan to overthrow the gods. Secondary hook: ending the war is all about justice, and knowing the truth. That’s a big deal to Saeli, who’s never really liked the war. Raphel is giving her reasons to hate it. Third hook: Raphel is seducing her. It’s subtle, but it’s there. He’s observed her weak spots. He knows she’s intrigued by him, so he’s playing up his atypical-ness as a Cowl. He knows she’s an outcast, so he’s enticing her with a grand vision of saving the world from itself. He knows how she’s struggled to earn the Mantle, so he uses that to undermine her loyalty to Scisaxar. He knows she has a compassionate heart, so he throws out some of his own painful history to illicit sympathy from her. He also knows how to touch her hand or face in such a way as to deliberately make her stop thinking too hard.
Anyway, they are having this conversation in a cafe, where Cara had previously ordered tea. So the teapot and cups are still sitting there on the table, and once or twice I had Raphel messing with them. Just for something to do with his hands while he’s talking. There was one point where Saeli was considering how logical Raphel’s arguments were, and simultaneously watching him trace a circle on the rim of the teacup. The symbolism of that really struck me: how Raphel can sound all logical and straightforward, and all the while he’s actually leading you around in a circle.
So all of a sudden I had this really neat, subtle metaphor I could use during this scene. The teacup is actually a gauge of what Raphel is mentally doing to Saeli.
When he tells her he’s going to teach her rashas qi, she jumps up, bumps the table, and accidentally knocks the cup off its saucer. If you think about it, Saeli has literally been knocked off her Mantle foundations, and the last straw would be her learning rashas. And who picks up the cup and sets it back on the saucer? Raphel. Because what is he doing but setting up a different foundation for Saeli to rest on?
He plays with the cup some more while he’s telling her about the gray majahel. When Saeli finally asks if he can prove he isn’t making stuff up, he sets the cup back down on its saucer and says “Yes, I can prove it.” (He then proceeds to pull out an old scroll and do just that.) Foundation, again. He’s plucking her out of her old beliefs and setting her back down in his.
When Raphel claims the gods destroyed the grays, he spins the cup on the table. That’s because he’s departed from actual history and is conjecturing. That’s what he thinks happened. He doesn’t know what really happened…no one does…but he’s spinning the story that way because he knows Saeli will fall for it.
Raphel points out that the gods fear the Keeper, and knocks the cup over again. He says he thinks the gods were afraid the grays would bring the Keeper to Verre. This time, Saeli picks up the cup. Because ultimately, it’s Saeli who is going to save the gods, not from the Keeper…but from Raphel.
While Saeli is wondering how Scisaxar could have been part of the Cursing, she’s studying the dregs in the teacup. When Raphel finally tells her that they’re going to overthrow the gods, she drops the cup and it spills. This time it stays spilled for a little bit. This is no small thing he’s just told her, after all.
He picks it up while talking about his past, and grips it hard enough Saeli is afraid it will crack. That’s the part of Raphel that could destroy her, after all…his anger over his past. It’s what ultimately forges him into the villain of the story. In her sympathy, she takes the cup away from him…because she will, at the end of the story, pull herself out of his clutches, and she’ll do it out of love.
He finally pins her down with a question of whether she loves Scisaxar or not. To give herself time to answer, she mops up the spilled tea on the table. White cloth, brown stains. This is what her view of Mantles has become. What she thought was pure is actually stained.
Raphel takes the napkin away from her. He folds it up into a little square, and clinks the teacup down on the saucer. Pretty decisive. It’s after this that he really ramps up the seduction bit, cupping her face and telling her he can’t do this without her, that sort of thing. He switches from “you’re going to do this because it’s a good idea” to “you’re going to do this because you really like me”.
Who knew you could pack all that into a teacup. I love symbolism.