Possibly the hardest thing in trying to write a stand-alone story within an existing series is trying to find the tricky balance between writing for the readers who don’t know any of these characters, and establishing the right dynamics for pre-existing characters who still need to “act in character” even in front of readers who don’t know what “in character” means for them.
Not all of the prior viewpoint characters have cameos, and Antuniet only gets this one, where she is stern and exhausted and yet the person most likely to be sympathetic to wild quests for the sake of experimental magic. And—for Iulien’s sake—it helps that she probably feels the least impulse to be over-protective of adventurous young women.
* * *
“We?” I asked.
Maisetra Iulien looked sideways at the tall woman and I could see that dangerous spark in her eyes, like she’d had when she first talked about exploring the chanulezes. Or that first day I met her when she’d run away from home in boy’s clothes. “You’ll need to come with me. I could scarcely go running around in the palace basements with a man I’m not related to and keep my reputation unless I have a chaperone with me.”
Mesnera Chazillen frowned at her but I could tell her mind was upstairs with her baby. “Don’t expect me to answer to your cousin for this.”
I wasn’t sure if Maisetra Iulien needed her permission or just wanted her blessing, but Mesnera Chazillen sighed and turned to open up the wooden case she’d set on the table. “Here. If you’re going to be running around with fever in the streets, at least I can give you this. It’s no protection but if you get sick it may help. We just worked out how to make them reliably.” She tucked a small, smooth stone as clear as crystal into Maisetra Iulien’s hand and then offered one to me as well. She looked down at my muddy skirts. “Ainis, perhaps you might lend this young person a clean dress so she looks respectable enough to be a proper vizeino. Go to the palace gates on the north side of the grounds. Tell the guard I’ve sent you to fetch something from my workshop. Iulien, you know the way. After that, you’re on your own.”
I looked at the stone in my hand. It felt cool—not just in my hand, but I could feel the cold in my belly and all along my spine. I tucked it away in the pocket under my skirt.