Storytelling is an art of concealing as well as revealing. One of the reasons I enjoy using a very tight point of view is how it enables me to control what I show to the reader by means of what my viewpoint character does and doesn't know. Bits of reader feedback have suggested that some people disagree with my choice to conceal the events that immediately preceded the scene below, revealing them only by means of Barbara's fever-muddled memories. I can understand where they're coming from; we've been trained up to expect a very visual, active mode of storytelling and if there are exciting deeds, we want to see them vividly in front of us.
And for those who had that reaction: it's perfectly valid and I can only hope I'll give you scenes of more satisfying action in the future. (See last week's discussion on that point!) But I did have a specific reason for presenting the events as I did. Trauma often isn't experienced in real time. And major trauma often erases the real-time memory of the events and leaves us desperately trying to reconstruct them. All of my continuing characters either have been or will be completely knocked off their metaphorical feet at some point. The events of this chapter are the start of a major change in how Barbara understands her life, her purpose, and her sense of self. One of the biggest things she will experience is a feeling a complete loss of competency and (eventually) a greater acceptance of not being able to control her surroundings. Have you noticed that Barbara has MAJOR control issues?
Having her reconstruct the "missing scene" from a place of confusion, (temporary) amnesia, and physical helplessness is a key symbol of the challenges she's about to tackle in books to come.
Chapter 29: Barbara
It was a dream—that much Barbara knew. Images came in snatches, one after another without connection. Bright sun and a spirited horse between her legs. Voices, talking somewhere out of sight.
“Have you sent word to Rotenek?”
She heard Tavit answering and her mind drifted off. If Tavit were there, he would manage things. There was something she’d meant to tell him. Something he needn’t worry about. They were both riding out in front of the coach and she called to him but he didn’t turn. They’d passed the bend where the road overlooked Mazuk’s canal. Mazuk? Was that what she’d meant to tell him? He needn’t worry about Baron Mazuk.
“What did she say?”
“Something about Baron Mazuk. She must have guessed somehow.”
If she were riding with Tavit, where was Brandel? Now she remembered. He was riding up with the coachman. She’d borrowed his horse, for her own had gone lame. She tried to turn back to look at him but the sun was in her eyes and she closed them against the light.
They’d been riding such a long time, surely they’d come to the inn soon. She was tired and thirsty. They’d be there soon. She’d toss the reins to a stable boy and call out, “Ho, innkeeper, a drink!”
“I think she asked for a drink.”
The river water was cold and clear. She didn’t remember dismounting but she dipped cupped hands in the current and raised them to her lips. The water slipped through her fingers, running red back down the bank.
“We have to go.”
Tavit was urging her on. They were on the horses again, racing down the road with the coach on their heels, and beside her Tavit’s voice shouting, “Go! Go!”
There was a sharp crack…the axle of the coach? She tried to turn her horse but Tavit was at her side, grabbing her arm and screaming, “Go! Go!” And she would have obeyed, but he had her arm in a grip of iron, his fingers digging through to the bone. She cried out.
They’d been riding through the woods, but the woods were on fire. Where was Brandel? Had he been on the coach? Aunt Heniriz would never forgive her. Was Brandel caught in the fire? There was no fire, it was a dream. She knew it was a dream.
“Shh, he’s gone to Rotenek to fetch Maisetra Sovitre.”
Margerit? But why would Margerit be coming here? She had her own duties…the college.
“No. Tell Margerit…don’t come.”
“Mesnera, it’s worth more than my life not to send for her.”
That was Tavit’s voice. But why was Tavit still grabbing her arm? She tried to shake him loose but she couldn’t move. It was a dream. These things happened in dreams.
“The surgeon says you won’t lose it.”
That wasn’t in her dream. She struggled to rise. “Tavit!”
“More laudanum now I think.”
She must be in the coach now. The slow rocking lulled her to sleep. They must have fixed the axle. But where was Brandel? Brandel was in Rotenek, fetching Margerit. When Margerit came, everything would make sense.