Mircea Basarab

Q and A #64

The last Q&A was supposed to be it for a while, but a few additional questions came in. Actually, more than a few, but the others were spoiler-ish, and I try to avoid those. So, here it is–the last Q&A for Ride the Storm–I swear! Enjoy, lol!

 

1. Love your Q/As; thank you! Belated (and long) question (sorry). Totally understand if you don’t have time to answer or if it’s spoiler-y. Sooooo… Pythias should be able to see variations of outcomes and/or “ask” their power for “advice” about courses of action, which poor Cassie is having a very difficult, frustrating time with doing and getting responses. However, the other Pythias chasing Cassie (and Rosier) presumably don’t have the same problem because they’ve been trained well. Gertie, and maybe Lydia being her mentor and thereby supportive, is clearly very firmly in the belief she’s always right (plus Cassie is creating a lot of, or being a part of much mayhem, and in the company of a demon lord, so you can’t entirely blame Gertie for her ire or belief Cassie is up to no good). That said, at the big showdown of Jo vs Cassie (or before)—which is Pythia and which is rogue?—aren’t or don’t any of the other Pythias wonder/question their power about what would happen if Cassie disappears (is killed/executed)? I figure a pretty apocalyptic vision would likely present itself, wouldn’t it? Or had Gertie and/or Lydia pretty much convinced them all of her/their POV? (Aside: Really liked the idea/reality of “contingency acolytes,” especially when Jonas was blindsided, too.)

Two part answer:

A. Pythias have two ways of seeing into the future: visions and the short term projection you saw Cassie do in this book a couple of times. The former are a problem, being hard to interpret and also not being the kind of thing you can just order up. You might want a vision about this weird chick who is determinedly bringing a demon lord through time, but you might get one about a traffic accident in Chicago. It’s just not an exact science. The short term projection, likewise, gives you the possibilities branching off from your timeline for the next five or ten minutes, maybe fifteen if you’re really lucky. It would not help in this case, either, because Ares’ return did not fall within that time frame.

B. However, you don’t need all that. The easy answer is that the power knew that helping Cassie in this instance would lose them the war.

The pythias could have asked the power about Cassie, and probably did. Gertie probably did, more than once. They got nothing back. Because the power knew that Cassie needed to have that fight with Jo. That’s one reason it called the pythias away, while she was in the Badlands. Yes, they were needed to hold up Ares, but they also couldn’t be allowed to rescue her. Getting thrown out of time by Jo led to Cassie meeting Apollo’s ghost, which she needed in order to have any chance to win. It also led her to possess the fey commander, and as a direct result of that, she was able to influence the battle and to get the shield down that was protecting the device. There was no other way she could have done either of those things. So “helping” Cassie by allowing the other pythias to get a clear image of her honesty would have cost them the war.

 

2. Why was Mircea able to confuse Ares on the drag (if it was Ares)?

It was Ares, yes.

To explain how Mircea was able to confuse him, you have to recall that seidr was designed by the gods to be a communications spell for their use. It wasn’t intended for anyone else. It wasn’t even thought that anyone else could use it, because of the power drain. But, when calling locally, so to speak, as Aeslinn did on the battle field in order to command his troops, a powerful fey lord can manage it. Or a powerful pythia, hijacking a spell to run amuck. 🙂

However, when used to communicate between worlds, it’s a different story. It takes a huge amount of power. Of course, if two gods are speaking together, each fueling half of the link, it’s not so bad. But when Ares had to bear the burden alone, it limited him, which is why Mircea was able to confuse him in the battle on the drag. It helped that Mircea is a master mentalist, of course, and they were battling in his preferred arena–never a good idea. But Ares would have swamped him easily if he’d been there in person.

Unfortunately for Ares, he wasn’t.

 

3. I love Casanova, but he wasn’t in this book at all. Will he be back?

Casanova asks me to tell you that he is gratified to finally find someone with some discernment. Far too many people spend their time drooling over that muscle bound mage, or that smooth, shifty vampire. He’s even heard of people admiring Marco–Marco! A brick wall in vampire form! When the obvious choice is right here. It’s ridiculous.

So, yes, he will be back; in fact, he never left. But there is so much work to be done, and god knows nobody else does anything around here but him. Did you know the Drag is missing? Someone has to fix that. And, for once, it’s going to be someone with some taste. Like you. <3

 

4. I still don’t understand about Ares. Why is killing him in the 6th century not going to destroy the time line?

Because Ares is outside of earth’s time line for almost all of Ride the Storm. He is in the time line occupied by the gods’ realm for all but the last bit of the book. He’s been there since Artemis banished all the gods back to their realm in ancient times. He has not been able to return to earth since then.

He has, however, been able to influence things here somewhat, for example with his Spartoi (demigod children left behind when Artemis banished the gods, because the banishment spell didn’t apply to demigods), through the suit of armor and accompanying arms that he possessed while still here on earth, and through the seidr spell. But he himself has not been here. He is still in the realm of the gods.

And when is he in that timeline? In what we’re going to call the present day. Time has, after all, been passing there just like on earth. Not in exactly the same way (as with faerie, there are always discrepancies) but close enough. So, if he’s in the present in his timeline, how does he get to the 6th century in ours?

Think of our two timelines as a hotel hallway. There are doors on either side, and each side of the hall is a different time stream. There’s also a hallway of non-time in between. Now, Ares is behind one of the doors on his side of the hall, one labeled “present day”. But that is present day in his timeline, not ours. He wants to be on the other side of the hall, preferably inside a door labeled “6th century” for reasons I explain in the next question. But for now, just picture him on one side of the hall, with a cell phone with wonky service, trying to call a room across the hall to tell them to open a door for him. Okay?

Now. he has to have someone open that door. He doesn’t have the key, much less a master key to open any door like, say, a pythia would have. He is powerful but not omnipotent. He has his skills, but he also has plenty of things he cannot do, one of which is to manipulate time. So he can open none of those doors for himself.

He also can’t just blast through the wall like Jo and fey are trying to do, because Artemis’ spell is too strong for the gods to penetrate it from the outside. But inside of the spell is a different story. It wasn’t designed to keep things in, but rather to keep them out, so it is more vulnerable on our side. Someone with enough power, say four god-forged weapons and everything Aeslinn can muster, might be able to open a crack in that 6th century door, and a crack is all Ares needs. He’ll do the rest.

So, someone on our side opens the door. And when they do, that one is the only one Ares can move through. He can’t shift through time; he can’t even go running around non-time because he isn’t a necromancer with a pet ghost. Ares is an immensely powerful being, but he can’t do everything and anything. Until that door is open, he isn’t going anywhere.

To sum up, Ares did not change time because he wasn’t here to change it. He was in his time line (in his room fiddling with his cell phone) until Jo and the fey cracked that door, and then he jumped across the hall and died trying to muscle the rest of the way through it. He never had a chance to change anything, except through the limited means I mentioned above, which he did while in his own timeline before he transitioned into ours. Does that make sense?

 

5. So why the sixth century? Why not just go back before there was a barrier at all?

A) Because Ares wanted to have it all. Going back to ancient times meant that the other gods would be there, too, because they hadn’t yet been banished. He would have had to share. He doesn’t share well.

But coming back in the 6th century meant that the gods are gone, except for a weakened Artemis who he could deal with at his leisure. In the present day, there are many more powerful forces ready to oppose him, and he while he’s pretty sure he could beat them, look at what happened to Artemis when she became overconfident. He won’t have an army with him when he returns, because the other gods would notice him assembling an army and want to know what he’s up to. If he’s going to rule it all alone, he has to win it all alone, and that means fighting in a time that gives him an advantage. And that means the sweet spot between when the gods were kicked out and the present day. Specifically, it means a time when his fey allies have painstakingly assembled the means to bring him back: the 6th century.

B) How is Jo, who has to open that door, remember, supposed to get back to ancient times? She’d need a river of Tears (which she doesn’t have) and a decade or so to slowly work her way back there with danger at every stop. Or else she’d have to spend a lot of time in the Badlands, and remember what happened to Cassie in the Badlands? It’s a dangerous place.

But let’s say she gets back to the ancient world. What is she going to do for power? How is she supposed to open that door? She wouldn’t have that suit of armor then. And if she makes a plea to the gods, trying to tell them what’s coming, Artemis will kill her. Or one of them will kill her, thinking she’s an upstart human trying to sow division in their ranks. They weren’t exactly known for taking advice from humans, were the ancient gods. And as stated above, Ares doesn’t want to come back then anyway.

Q and A #60

Spoiler alert: If you haven’t read Ride the Storm, you really want to stay away from this one until you have. Just sayin’.

Also, I have more questions that I didn’t get to include here, because it was getting long. So I’ll do another Q&A next week. If you want to ask anything, get it in by Sunday August 20th. Thanks!


1. What is the meaning of Mircea’s gift at the end of the book and why is Cassie furious at him?

He gave her a copy of La Morte D’Arthur. It’s a book all about Camelot. He also sent it to Pritkin’s room, to make it extra clear that he’s figured out who Pritkin is. He’s basically trading his silence for Cassie’s help with Elena.

2. How did Mircea figure out who Pritkin is?

That was actually on the page in the book. But it’s subtle. I’ll let you have the fun of figuring it out for yourself.

3. After reading RtS I’m very curious about wand lore in the Cassieverse. Like how do you make a wand? How do they work? Can anyone use them or just coven witches? I’d just love to hear more about how they work.

Anyone can make one, but they’re only useful if you happen to be a coven witch. They help to focus and direct free floating magical energy, the “wild magic,” of earth. It’s a system based on fey magic (which uses the elements in much the same way) and wouldn’t help a Circle mage at all.

How to make a wand: first, find a tree that originated in faerie, like the alder or the yew, because they’re better conductors. Then cut a piece down to the size and shape you want. Most people are going to want it long enough that, should the worst happen, you have a little buffer between the end of the wand and your hand. Not that that usually helps all that much . . . .

Anyway, once you have the wand, the witch (or wizard) projects some of their magic through the wood, to the tip, like bait on the end of a fishing line. Magic calls to magic, so it attracts the wild magic in the area, allowing them to piggyback a spell onto it. This allows them to cast very powerful spells without using up a lot of their own magic. It’s why the covens, despite being outnumbered, managed to hold off the Circle for so long. They use only a tiny amount of magic in comparison, because it’s just the seed for the wild magic to glom onto. They thus don’t get tired as easily as the Circle, and can throw a lot more magic into a fight than they themselves are capable of making.

Of course, there is a downside: wild magic is dangerous, and can get out of hand easily if you don’t know what you’re doing. The covens also never developed all the special potions and talismans the Circle uses (which also capture wild magic, but do so slowly and in controlled conditions) because they didn’t think they needed them. They seemed so slow, after all, compared to the thrill of using wild magic. And by the time they figured out that, hey, this stuff is kind of useful in battle, they were well behind the Circle in magical “tech”. They still are. But you really wouldn’t want to duel a coven witch! (Hint: if you ever do, try to kill her fast. She will outlast you).

Anyway, you can also add magic runes to your wand, to help you weave particular types of spells more easily, customizing them as you would put apps on a phone. Or just dress them up to look prettier. But you don’t need all that. A basic wand is just a lightning rod for magic, that’s it.

4) When the Pythias wiped Pritkin’s memory, did they wipe the whole of those few days when he met Cassie or just his memories of Cassie? And when he met her again, back in TtD, did he ever have a sense of déjà vu or feel like maybe he knew her?

He had a few moments of déjà vu, but that was because of what happened in Paris (see Embrace the Night) and Amsterdam (see Reap the Wind). He didn’t remember anything about Cassie in Wales because the pythias wiped everything. They also sent him on a quest for some old spells in Ynys Môn (Anglesea) to keep him occupied for a while. By the time he got back, past Rosier was waiting to take him to hell, so he never got a clear picture of what happened at Caerleon. Just that there was some kind of cataclysm involving the fey that shattered the city. And, by then, Arthur was off battling Saxons, the people were at war along with Arthur or scattered, and then Pritkin himself was gone.

5) At one stage, when Cassie goes back to Wales, she thinks that she wants a holiday on a beach with a hot guy and someone says ‘which one?’, which totally cracked me up, but I was wondering, who actually said that?

Rosier.

6) I noticed that a lot of chapters started with Cassie waking up. Is there any kind of symbolism to that, like maybe ‘waking up’ as a metaphor for having a realisation or an epiphany? Or am I just overthinking things horribly, lol.

By the time we get to Ride the Storm, Cassie is utterly exhausted. By the middle of the book, the Tears aren’t even working anymore to enhance her stamina, because she doesn’t have any stamina. She’s at the end of her rope, and her body is using any and every chance for a rest. Kind of like soldiers on a battlefield can sleep in almost any conditions, because they don’t know when they’ll get a chance again.

7) I keep thinking about the runes Pritkin “paints” on Cassie. If they are not protection runes what are they?

As stated in RTS, they are to help him maintain control. When the incubus magic begins to get out of hand, they put speedbumps or brakes on it. He didn’t want a repeat of what happened with his wife.

8) So, while Cassie was trying to rescue Pritkin’s soul, his body was just hanging around in the present. Was his body in some kind of stasis? I mean, did he need to be fed and stuff?

His body worked as normal, there was just nobody home. The beard he grew while Cassie was running around was testament to that. Think of it like being in a coma, only if Cassie wasn’t successful, he would never have woken up and eventually died.

9) Pritkin said he remembered everything. Will he remember his mother?

Pritkin already knew Morgaine (as an acquaintance, not that she was his mother). Most people didn’t know that, with the exception of a close knit group around Nimue. Pritkin just knew her as the king’s sister with frighteningly powerful magic. Now, he’ll know she was more than that, because the witches told him. But he doesn’t have any memories of being with her as her son to recall (he was too young when she gave him to Rosier).

10) How much time does it take for a book to get to our hands after you’ve started writing?

That depends on my publishers. Sometimes six months, sometimes a year. It just depends on when they have an opening in their schedule.

What other books/novellas can readers look forward to in the near future?

Shadow’s Bane, the fourth Dory novel, is being turned in this month (yay!) As soon as I have a firm pub date, I’ll let you know. The ninth Cassie is up next. I also have part of a Lia novel done, if I ever get a chance to finish it. And then, of course, there’s the Dory novella “Dragon’s Claw” already announced, that I’ll be wedging in there somewhere.

Q and A #58

1) When Cassie was in Hell and the Senate showed up, were they all there or just the Consul, Marlowe, and Mircea? Did Jules come with them? Will we get to see what they thought of the scene between Cassie and Mircea?

They were all there because they were linked into Mircea’s mind, in a sort of conference call. They do this fairly regularly (remember when you see old vamps spacing out? They’re probably talking to somebody) because the senate is often spread out all over the place. Getting them all together in one place on a regular basis would be a royal pain, so they don’t. But they do have to meet, so it’s done mentally.

So they were already linked in, so to speak, when Mircea opened up the seidr link with Cassie. He’d expected to see her suite in Vegas, and for the senate to be able to talk her into the whole army thing (which was why they also brought Jules with them). But instead they plopped down in the middle of hell. Fun times!

2) The other thing I was curious about was when Mircea pulled power from the guards. Because Rico is emancipated, like Radu, shouldn’t he have been awake still? Even if he was off duty at the time, wouldn’t he have felt it and known to go to the suite to help? Also, is Rico the only one of Cassie’s guards that is emancipated?

Okay, now I’m confused. First, Ricu was already in the suite. Cassie saw him on the floor, unconscious, when she woke up. So he didn’t have to come from anywhere.

Second, emancipated doesn’t mean a master can’t drain you. Emancipated means that he can’t control you, i.e. force you to do things you may not want to do, at least not without more effort than it’s worth. But the blood bond is still there — it is always there — and he can use it if he must. It’s one reason Tony is hiding out in faerie, because if he was in this world, Mircea could damage him and, if he’s still third level, possibly drain him dry.

Third, a master doesn’t just drain his family indiscriminately, even under duress. That could leave some of them vulnerable to the sun or enemies after most of their power suddenly goes bye-bye. And for a man as obsessed by family as Mircea is, do you really think he would leave his people somewhere to die? So a master controls who he drains and who he doesn’t. Rico and the others were in a secure area, inside some of the strongest wards known to man, and facing no threat. Taking power from them was a no brainer. In fact, they were the perfect people to pick, since they could just hunker down in the fortress of Dante’s, like Mircea is always trying to get Cassie to do, until they recovered.

Radu, on the other hand, was in a different situation. Kit was a friend, but he wasn’t family, and in a crisis, you want a family member there to take care of you. Which, if you’ll recall, is exactly what Radu did. In Fury’s Kiss, Mircea was too far gone even to feed there at the end, until Radu (with some help from Dory) fed him the old fashioned way (which requires basically no effort from the receiver). Radu gave him enough blood to get him back to himself slightly, and then Mircea pulled the rest from whatever family still had any left to give. He could have drained Radu then as well, but Dory and Louis-Cesare were hurt, and Radu was the only one speaking/acting for the family. And Mircea wanted at least one Basarab left on his feet!

3) I’m confused about how the acolytes actually die. Agnes had to step in with Myra, to make sure she didn’t just possess someone else when her physical body died, so can’t the acolytes do the same thing and find a new host?

Myra was Agnes’ heir, not just an acolyte. The heir controls a great deal more power than the acolytes, and thus has more abilities open to her. She basically has all the skills of a pythia, just not all of the power yet. The acolytes do not.

4) Are the two acolytes Cassie supposedly killed actually dead (the one she shifted out the window and the one at the end with the bottle of Tears)? Also, how is the Circle holding the acolyte that was captured when they can shift out of the Traps and pretty much anything, assuming their training was better than Cassie’s? Isn’t that the reason the Pythia has reign over punishments concerning her Court, because no-one else is equipped to do so, considering their powers?

The duel ended pretty definitely, wouldn’t you say? And falling three stories onto cobblestones isn’t usually considered fun.

As to your other question, there are a number of ways of holding onto a badly behaving acolyte. First, they aren’t demigoddesses, so whether they would be able to do Cassie’s trick with the magical traps is debatable. But even if so, to hold them safely for a short period of time, all you’d have to do is drug them, and not even into unconsciousness. Too woozy to think straight takes shifting off the table, much less anything else. Of course, holding an acolyte for the long term would be a lot more problematic for the Circle. But then, it wouldn’t be the Circle doing it.

5) Finally, I’ve been wondering about Cassie’s heritage for a while. How much is her aging and lifespan affected by her mother being a Goddess and will the Pythian power have the same aging effect on Cassie as other Pythias because of this? Can the other clairvoyants actually see ghosts or is this something Cassie got from her parents?

Traditionally, demigods had a wide range of powers and life spans, so it is difficult to say what Cassie’s might be. Especially since Artemis didn’t have any other children to use as a comparison. But, certainly, Cassie did get some things from her heritage. She’s been on the job less than four months, and had no readily available teacher, but she’s already learned to use the Pythian power like a pro. Immanent death is a good motivator!

As far as clairvoyants and what they see, it depends on the clairvoyant. Remember Billy’s hat in Reap the Wind? The little clairvoyant who took it could see and hear him, although not all have that skill. However, the initiates that make it to the Pythian Court are the best and most talented around, so it’s safe to say that plenty of them can see Billy just fine.

But as for Cassie, her abilities go beyond seeing and talking to ghosts. She acts more like she IS one, in a human body, which is a necromancer trait. It allows her to slip her skin for possessions much easier than most people, and to trade energy with Billy Joe. Or to possess huge golems and go on a rampage. 🙂

Hope that helps!

Q and A #57

Major spoilers for Reap the Wind below. You have been warned!

1) Rosier all but told Cassie that his son’s mother had a fair share of fey blood. Will we learn more about her parentage and maybe even meet some of Pritkin’s extended relations?

I don’t do spoilers normally, but I don’t think it really is one in this case since it was hinted at broadly enough in RTW. Yes, you find out about Pritkin’s mother in RTS.

2) Rhea is Agnes’ daughter, does that mean Agnes had her when she was about 60? I guess since mages get much older than normal humans they probably also stay fertile for longer. Did she only get to look so much older and more frail in recent years because of the poisoning then?

Mages normally live more than double the average human lifespan (roughly 200 years) so sixty to them would not be sixty to us, more like late twenties. And Agnes is never described in the books as looking elderly. She looked middle age because the Pythian office is tough on people. And of course, yes, by the time Cassie meets her she doesn’t look well because she is dying.

3) Little hairy nuggets with big noses… I’m picturing an entire village of Captain Cavemans. Did you make them up or are you describing a known mythical creature?

Forest trolls. They’re a thing. 🙂

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4) What enables Cassie to shift a null? Tami caused problems for her power once, is there a way to dampen that effect?

Nulls exert a passive dampening effect naturally, although they can rein it in somewhat. But the majority of the time, their power is like any other witch’s, except that it works in the reverse. In other words, they have to make an effort to counter major magic, which is what Cassie’s is. But, of course, Cassie had to learn that, which she hadn’t done by Embrace the Night (which is what I’m assuming you’re referring to).

5) We have not seen modern day Pritkin pull any major glamors (1790s was the last I recall). If he could rely on his incubus side again or more, would large scale glamors be back on the table or are they simply not useful in his modern fight repertoire?

They would be very useful. But without his incubus side, they are too expensive magically. What you saw him do in Wales is NOT in the repertoire of the average mage, or even above average ones.

6) Once upon a time there was a question in the Q&A about what Mircea’s thoughts were regarding Pritkin. The answer was something like a nuisance that did the job he was given. Now in RTW Cassie had quite vivid dreams about who she thought was Pritkin, even calling his name once, which I think Mircea couldn’t help but notice. If he knows that another man (who is working closely with her) is starring in her dreams does that change his view of the mage? Would he feel threatened by that or take it in stride. I imagine the answer might be slightly different now than she was then…

I think Mircea made it clear in RTW that he isn’t happy about Pritkin being in Cassie’s service. But, at the moment, Pritkin isn’t there to be a problem. He’s lost, and the vampires would all probably prefer him to stay that way.

Mircea, however, views Pritkin as less of an issue than the consul. She is suspicious of his growing power base, and that includes Cassie. So, as I said recently in another Q&A, that puts Mircea in a difficult position. On the one hand, he’s expected to keep Cassie under control for the senate,
and willing to oblige them as needed. But, on the other, he’s being kept from spending much time with her, and thereby deepening their relationship, both because of legitimate senate needs (like filling their empty seats) and because of the consul’s active opposition. She wants Cassie under control, but under her control, not Mircea’s. And she has reason to know first-hand just how charming he can be if he gets the chance.

7) I was a bit embarrassed when my Romanian colleague told me about her then-boyfriend ‘Mirsha’ and I suddenly saw his name written down (she was showing me something of her phone) and it read: Mircea. Until then I had always pronounced it Mir-tseh-ah/Mir-zee-ah or something like that in my head. So could you maybe write the pronunciation in the Q&A section?

I’ve already done that in a previous q&a. But for anyone who missed it, it’s pronounced Meercha.

8) Will Lia de Croissets ever meet any of the main characters from the books (in the books)? Or is that a spoiler?

That would be a spoiler. However, I can say that you may see Lia in some upcoming novellas.

9) What happened to Bezio after Masks? Will he be mentioned in the books again?

If I get a chance to do Bones, the follow up to Masks, then yes. Otherwise, probably not.

10) The vampire Senate distrusts the Circle and their mages (and there is a whole lot of prejudice and resentment on both sides) but I wonder, what do the vampires, especially Mircea and Marlowe (since he had personal experiences with the Coven back in Britain) think about Coven witches and their magic? I’m not talking about their (political) power, since the Circle doesn’t let them get any, but about the Coven members themselves? Circle mage = unreasonable, manipulating, power-hungry psychos, Coven witch?

Coven witch=irrelevant. The vampires don’t think of them much at all. There’s really no separating the power and the person for vamps. It’s how their whole system is organized. As Mircea told Cassie in RTW, the covens are broken into factions with no common leader like the Circle has, so their power is minimal. And little power to a vampire means you are irrelevant.

Hope that helps! 🙂

Q and A #54

Some questions just came in about Reap the Wind. Please be aware that there are spoilers below if you haven’t read it.

1) Was that the senate’s first time into hell? That scene was hilarious they sounded completely out of their depth.

Thanks, I love that scene! Their reaction was surprise as much as anything. They’d expected Mircea to tap into Cassie’s seidr spell, so they could all talk to her in her Vegas suite. To go from that to hell, and a particularly tense moment in hell, took a bit of an adjustment. Some of them may have been there before, but not like that, and not so abruptly.

2) It kind of looked like Mircea was really using sex to get answers out of Cassie about the demon council or am I just being paranoid?

Yes and no. Mircea has never minded mixing business and pleasure, and to be fair to him, Cassie was pretty much doing the same thing there. So no harm, no foul. The problem came a few minutes later, when Mircea made his pitch about the vamp army. Cassie was upset because she felt like he had used their time together to soften her up and that the army had been his real reason for calling her. That it had just been a way to ensure that she’d do as he liked, not because he genuinely wanted to see her, and that hurt. They also had an agreement not to use their private lives to influence each other politically, and Mircea had just broken it. Which was especially annoying because it had been his idea in the first place! He, of course, could make the claim that the army pitch was scheduled for later, but that he’d moved it up in response to a question Cassie had asked, and that it was just an extension of their previous conversation. You could make a case either way, but Cassie didn’t like it.

3) Will we find out how the Silver Circle and the Demon Council formed an alliance? I find that really interesting.

If it becomes relevant. The problem with backstory is that I already get accused of putting too much in the books, so am becoming gun shy.

4) Mircea kind of lost his shit with Cassie way more than we saw him do in the Dorina books in the same timeline. Is there any particular reason for this?

Yes. The scene where Cassie and Mircea get into it was unusual for the number of stressors on Mircea.

a) It was the same night that Lawrence was supposedly killed and ten other masters along with him. The scene at Dory’s house was hours later, and Mircea had had time to get his game face on. The senate meeting, on the other hand, was that same night, only an hour or so after the massacre. Mircea had just lost eleven masters that he was going to have to account for to some very unhappy, very important people. So it started with his nerves on edge. Otherwise, he would almost certainly have handled things better.

b) It was at that same emergency meeting that it was decided to press Cassie for the army. The whole senate was there, but Mircea was the one expected to deliver. The pressure was on him, far more than on any of them, because Cassie was seen as his responsibility. And her intransigence was viewed as his failure. And that was despite the fact that the consul’s concern over his growing power base was one of the reasons he hadn’t been able to spend much time with her/gain her trust more! So he was being put in an impossible position.

c) He’d just almost lost a vampire of his family line (Casanova), and been unable to help him (a major source of shame for a master).

d) He was in hell, not the place he’d expected to be when he tapped into Cassie’s seidr link. That’s going to throw a guy.

e) Jules was still human, and he wanted his servant back.

f) From Mircea’s perspective, Cassie’s attitude made no damned sense at all. If Ares really was trying to come back, shouldn’t they be doing everything possible to prevent that? If they didn’t know how to fight a god–and they didn’t–then preventing his entry into earth seemed the only plan likely to
save all their asses. Yes, an army of master vamps might be a little difficult to control later on, but even worse case scenario, could they really do more harm than a vengeful god? Her counter argument, that all the signs pointed to Ares coming back, and soon, no matter what they did, didn’t have much of an impact. Because that left Mircea feeling helpless, and he’d had enough of that for one night. He wanted something to do, but he needed her help for that and she wasn’t giving it. And his mental state was too messy at the time for the usual patented charm. Basically, he lost it.

Hope that helps!

Q and A #53

Question #1: In TtD you wrote that Mircea put a ward on Cassie’s power. When did he do that? In the past when she was eleven years old? And why did Billy Joe get the “rush of his life” when he broke through it? Was Cassie’s power as a Pythia so powerful and he wasn’t used to it?

Cassie didn’t have any power to ward at eleven. She was just some seer. But when Agnes started dying, the power started passing, and by the time the senate picked her up, she had more than she knew. But it was mostly Mircea’s power that Billy got a rush from, when he broke through the ward Mircea had put on Cassie when Tomas brought her in, to keep her from accidentally (or on purpose if she figured it out) shifting away from them.

Question #2: And what about later in the books? EtN made it sound like Cassie + the Pythian power might be stronger than Mircea, so does Billy Joe get a “rush” more often, or can’t he access the Pythian power when he feeds from Cassie?

You’re confusing two types of magic.

Magic type #1: Magic occurring in the natural world. This is the kind of magic that, in mass, the ley lines are made from. It is the wild magic of the world that the witches capture to extend their power, or that the Circle gathers more slowly in regular old talismans. It is also manufactured in the bodies of magical humans (which act like talismans).

But here’s the thing: it is manufactured by magical human bodies as a byproduct. Like, for example, a cobra’s body manufactures venom. It is something it makes for a specific purpose that does not involve sustaining life. It might help with that, because venom might keep a cobra alive by defending it against an attacker. But a cobra in a nice, safe zoo could live without it perfectly well. It augments, it doesn’t sustain.

Anyway, that sort of magic is commonly used by magical humans the way we non-magical types use electricity—as a power source for things that make our lives easier. It is used to make wards and shields for defense, to cast spells for offense, to power charms, etc. It is not used to sustain life (see above), or if it is (as with some of the dark mages who use it to greatly augment their life spans) it seriously screws up the user, eventually deforming and/or driving them mad. That’s not what it was designed for.

That’s also, by the way, why Artemis couldn’t just feed from the ley lines to restore her power after she was almost drained fighting the gods. It would have been like a human trying to feed off an electrical circuit. Yes, you can get energy from there, but not the right sort of energy. You need food.

Magic type #2: Life energy. This is what every living thing needs to live, and that animates both magical and non-magical humans. It is also what animates ghosts, who are like the scavengers of the supernatural world, picking up the bits and pieces of life energy living people shed, especially when stressed. It’s why ghosts haunt graveyards—lots of stressed people–and because most ghosts never have the strength to move far from where they end up. Scavengers exist, they usually don’t thrive. The exceptions are those like Billy, who find themselves a special sort of talisman that soaks up life energy, or can get energy draws from someone like Cassie. Those are very rare, and Billy is very, very lucky.

Life energy also animates zombies and feeds demons and vampires. The latter types, because they live so long, may eventually accumulate enough of it to start using it for other things than just living. That’s especially true of master vampires, who get regular contributions of life energy from their extended families. This is why vamp magic tends to manifest differently from human magic. It is more about what they are (faster, stronger, better senses) than what they do (throwing spells, etc).

Even master powers, the special abilities only very high ranking first and second level masters get, usually affect what the vamp is (Mircea’s mental powers, the consul’s transformative abilities, Louis-Cesare’s Veil) rather than what they do, because their power stems, ironically enough, from life energy.

This is also why Mircea, who is technically dead, can heal people, and not just other vamps. He can heal humans, because he can give back life energy to them as well as take it. All vamps can do this to a small degree, but Mircea is especially good at it.

So, to sum up, the pythian power wouldn’t do Billy Joe any good. Just like all the magic in all those magic shops, or in the ley lines for that matter, wouldn’t help him. He needs life energy. But he normally wouldn’t have too much luck robbing a vamp for it, especially not a senior level one, who would easily fight off his attack. That’s why ghosts so rarely attack even regular old humans, because attacking someone uses up a great deal of energy, probably more than you would obtain from them.

But Mircea warded Cassie with a mass of exactly the kind of stuff Billy needs to live, and she wasn’t trying to fight Billy off. Neither was the ward designed to resist an external assault. If was supposed to restrain Cassie’s magic—which it did. Right until it was raided by a guy specifically designed to utilize its abundant power.

So, yeah. Billy got the “rush of his life”!

Q and A # 52

Question 1: I really liked Masks and felt like it gave me a much better sense of Mircea’s character.  I don’t want to spoiler those who haven’t read it, but given his history with the Consul, where is her paranoia about his loyalty coming from? Yes, he’s powerful, but it sounds like he’s proven himself and his value to her many times.

But it’s a double-edged sword, isn’t it? Someone powerful enough to be a major asset is also powerful enough to be a major threat. And the consul hasn’t stayed in control this long by ignoring threats. Plus, there’s the burning question Mircea either doesn’t answer or answers in such a way that isn’t convincing: why was he at Tony’s for a year? He has charmed first level masters who hate the senate in a week, yet he needed a year with this child? Why?

He said it was because he wanted to ensure that Cassie would be on the senate’s side if she was to grow up and inherit the pythian power, which sounds good on the surface. But then again . . . a year? A year away from his court, a year of putting up with Tony, a year in a run-down farmhouse outside Philly? And a year in which he never got around to mentioning that he had found a possible pythia until Marlowe discovered it himself. Why a whole year? And why the secrecy?

It bothers her, and it bothers Marlowe, because Mircea is not the kind of man to do something for no reason. But she doesn’t believe his reason here, or doesn’t think that’s all there is to it, and that’s a problem. That is potentially a big problem considering that Mircea has a very powerful family, has a gift for making allies, has mental abilities that she doesn’t know the full extent of, has a close tie to one of her greatest rivals (Ming-de) and now . . . he also has a pythia. Who is loyal to him, and not to her.

Wouldn’t you be worried?

 

Question 2: I love the Marlowe character and his interactions with Mircea and Dory!  I was wondering, if a master’s child ends up committing a major crime (e.g., high treason), is the master ever punished for not having managed his/her child better / not having known?  Is it a spoiler to ask how Marlowe reacted when he learned about Lawrence’s betrayal?

I explained this already in a question that came up on the sidebar, but I’ll do it here for those who may not have seen it. By the way, asking questions that have short answers works okay in that format, but any that require a lengthy explanation (as in more than a couple sentences) are better submitted as part of the Q&A. It gives me more space to answer.

Anyway, a master is responsible for his children until they are emancipated. After that, they are considered to be responsible for themselves. That is one of the main reasons why masters tend to emancipate powerful servants; they become harder to control, and the master doesn’t want to answer for anything they may do that is outside his control. So Lawrence was responsible for himself, having been emancipated from Marlowe years before. As for Marlowe’s reaction, he was furious. But by the time he realized what had been happening, Lawrence was already dead.

 

Question 3: In that near-death scene in FK, Radu seemed shocked by Dory’s outburst. Was he surprised because he wasn’t used to Dory showing so much emotion or because of the topic of Dory’s mom (how much did he know about that anyway?)

Dory always maintained the façade of not caring, either about Mircea or about a past she couldn’t remember. Radu is intelligent but not perceptive, at least not about people, and it had never occurred to him before that she might be lying. Or how much hurt, anger and resentment she had built up over the years that he didn’t know about. He was also surprised that she would speak to her father that way as he lay dying, and dying because he had just allowed himself to be savaged in order to save her. But Dory knew Mircea better than Radu, and what he needed then wasn’t tears and sympathy. He needed to be reminded of what he once told Rafe: Life isn’t a gift, it’s a challenge. Rise to it.

 

Question 4: In DM, Mircea told Dory that he couldn’t give her memories about her mother back to her. In Fury’s Kiss however, Lawrence was able to show Dory a previously repressed scene from her memory (the pier), and she has also shown signs of mental abilities later on (projecting). Presuming Mircea still has his memories about his wife, couldn’t he share them with Dory that way?

Lawrence isn’t Mircea, and Dory at the pier was not Dory as a child. To elaborate: Lawrence tried to remove Dory’s recollection of that night, but when he got into her mind, he found it to be a scary, scary place. He didn’t know what the hell was going on, and was interrupted before he could try to figure it out (not that he was all that enthusiastic about it, frankly). But the result was a hatchet job of a mind wipe that didn’t actually wipe much at all; it mostly just covered things over a little. If it hadn’t also resulted in the fall of a barrier that fey wine had already weakened to the breaking point, it might not have worked at all.

The memories of Dory’s mother, on the other hand, were removed when she was much younger and much more vulnerable. And the wipe was done by someone both more powerful and more careful than Lawrence. Mircea had to do a good job, or shards of returning memories might have caused the destruction of the barrier that was the only thing keeping her sane.

As far as sharing his own memories, yes, he could. But he can’t give her back her own because he doesn’t have them. He never saw Dory and her mother together, so how can he return what he doesn’t have? Also, when Mircea said that to her, it was in DM, before the barrier came down. He would not have dared try to show her anything at that point.

 

Question 5: How did Tony give Sal orders from Faerie when Tomas got relieved of having to obey when he crossed over?

Who said Tony gave them to her from Faerie?

 

Question 6: Marlowe mentioned that Mircea’s interest in Pythias couldn’t be on the behest of a consul he did not know at that time. Shouldn’t Mircea have already known the consul(s) due to his experiences in Masks? Or do they kinda keep that their dirty little secret, even from the chief spy? What does/did Anthony think of Mircea anyway? Can’t imagine him being overjoyed at him coming to Paris after all…

It wasn’t considered a dirty little secret. It was considered an honor, especially for one as young as Mircea, to be noticed by someone in her position. But it also happened long before Marlowe was even born and, to most people, was not a major incident. Mircea’s part in the old consul’s fall was not made generally known, as the new co-consuls needed the admiration that killing him on their own provided (vampires respect strength). It also didn’t take place at court, where the gossips might have been more likely to keep it alive, and was overshadowed by far more important events in most people’s minds. So not too many people even recall that she had a young Romanian lover for what was, after all, a very short time.

Q&A #51

Question 1:   Was Mircea’s first wife’s name Elena or Helena? Or are both correct?

Elena is the Romanian version of the Greek name Helen/a. So both are correct.

Question 2:   In Death’s Mistress, while they were in Mircea’s apartment and just about to leave and meet with Elyas, Dory mentioned that she didn’t know a single vampire other than Louis-Cesare who didn’t tense up slightly when she came within arm’s reach, not even family. I’m wondering – Mircea and Radu (and Horatiu too, I’m sure) clearly love Dory, even if she didn’t know it at the time, so why would they all tense up around her every time she’s near?

Because she’s a crazy, unpredictable dhampir who regularly kills their kind? Roy of Siegfried and Roy loved giant cats. But he forgot what they were capable of, and as a result, one almost killed him. Dory is a dangerous being by her very nature; she can’t change that, and dropping your guard around a predator capable of taking you out is a very stupid move. Readers see Dory’s softer, more human side because they hear her thoughts/follow her reasoning. All the vampires have to go on is what they hear her say, and more importantly, see her do. Most vampires consider Louis-Cesare quite, quite mad for getting within arms’ length of a being who might go into a fit and kill him at any moment. But then, he’s always been a little crazy, too.

Question 3:   What has Mircea done to Dory (before the events depicted in the series, i.e. Dory finding out about his memory wiping) that made her trust him so little? Was it the perceived lack of warmth and nurture a child would normally expect from her parents, or was it because he is a vampire? It’s just that in the books, Dory seemed to think that any show of warmth or concern from Mircea towards her well-being was an attempt to trick her into trusting him so he could get something out of her. This gives me the impression that he has actually done this in the past.

It’s because he is a vampire, partially, yes, but you forget: Dory doesn’t remember her childhood. She didn’t, until very recently, have anything to go on from Mircea except what he told her, and he couldn’t tell her much or risk damaging the barrier he had fought so hard to build. So what did she know? Some vampire sires her, then abandons her for centuries, which okay, is better than killing her outright but doesn’t make her all warm and fuzzy. Then one day, a guy shows up in a tavern in Italy, out of the blue, and claims to be that vampire. It turns out he wasn’t lying, but why does she care? He obviously didn’t, except for finally figuring out that she wasn’t going to die quickly like the rest of her kind and so might be useful. Dory spent centuries seeing herself as nothing more than a part of Mircea’s formidable arsenal—a tool or weapon to be trotted out when needed. She put up with it because, in return, he gave her some much needed protection from higher up vamps, and occasionally shot a job her way. But she viewed him as a necessary evil, nothing more, and resented it greatly when he pretended to any affection. Given the info she had at the time, her attitude was reasonable.

Question 4:   How come when Dory slips into dhampir mode, her voice becomes guttural?

Vampire Dory isn’t human Dory. She may be in the same body, but the mind is very different and draws on the non-human aspects of her being far more than Dory does. She also isn’t used to talking much, since most people assume she can’t! Plus, when Dory relinquishes control it’s usually because things are about to hit the fan. And a sweet/light tone doesn’t really compliment slaughter.

Question 5:   I loved reading Masks, and being able to get a glimpse of Mircea with his first wife. Would you ever consider writing a short story or novella focusing on Mircea and Elena/Helena? Or do you feel that the backstory revealed in the Midnight’s Daughter series and Masks so far is enough? Or (sorry haha) would you prefer to reveal more from within the plot of the the series as it progresses, rather than have a separate short story/novella for it?

Someone who liked Masks! My God, it’s like meeting a unicorn! So I wish I could comment on your question, I really do. But I can’t. I will say that if I ever stop writing these epicly long books and can afford to devote some time to it, I would like to write another book or two on Mircea. His is a fascinating story and I’d enjoy doing more with it. It won’t pay the bills, because you, me and maybe five other people are the only ones likely to ever read it! But sometimes, you have to do things just because you want to, you know? Anyway, we’ll see. And thanks for reading, lol!

Update Dory

This gallery contains 9 photos.

A while ago, I ran a contest on Facebook to “Update Radu”, or give his somewhat . . . unusual . . . style a more modern twist. Not that he needed it; the ‘Du, as he will tell you, is timeless. But Dory is not, and as a newly minted senator, she needs something more than her current whatever-isn’t-too-badly-shredded-today style. Pretty much everyone is getting in on the chance to makeover Dory, from Mircea and Olga to Stinky and Radu. Who do you think is giving Dory the best sartorial advice?

Q and A #50

Okay, so this is a little different. Lately, I’ve been getting these odd questions on Facebook which I’ve mostly been deleting. Because I assumed the asker was trolling, which let’s face it, happens on the internet on a pretty regular basis. But then I got another one today, and after pressing delete, I thought: wait a minute. What if she’s sincere? What if she’s genuinely confused? So then I felt bad. So, for what it’s worth, here goes.

The question du jour was: Do Mircea’s vampire’s disrespect Cassie because Mircea disrespects her, and they’re taking their cues from him, or what?

Okay, so this is a loaded question making certain assumptions which are open to interpretation. Like, that the vamps do disrespect her, which I would argue isn’t the case. You have to remember that they’re used to thinking of humans as fragile, weak little creatures who haven’t lived very long and don’t know much. They aren’t used to giving any human the respect they would give the average vampire, much less the respect due to a master, so it’s a learning curve. But they are learning.

It’s slow, and comes in fits and starts, and in time of stress they still have a tendency to revert to the old “protect the tiny flimsy creature” mentality. But things are changing. You can see that in how Marco’s conversations with Cassie change over time, how he lets her fight her own battles with the witches in Tempt the Stars, how he is realizing that she will come and go as she likes and he’d better just learn to roll with it, etc. The senate, too, just got a glimpse of what a Pythia can do at the end of Hunt the Moon, which prompted them to sign the alliance treaty Mircea had been working on. So disrespect? Not hardly. But changing minds takes time, and ideas that ingrained aren’t going to completely flip overnight.

The second part of the question was about Mircea. And while there’s a whole sea of things I can’t talk about with Mircea because of the risk of spoilers, I really don’t need to in order to answer this question. What I do need to do is make a point about the difference between the romance you see in romance novels and that which you find in fantasy books. Even fantasy books, like mine, that incorporate romance on a fairly regular basis.

In romance novels, the romance is the plot of the book. It is its own reason for existing. It’s why people are reading: to see these two characters come together, overcome their differences and live happily ever after. In a fantasy novel, the romance may be there in lesser or greater amounts, but there is a big difference: the romance is not the plot, it is there to serve the plot.

Example number one: Lord of the Rings.

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In Tolkien’s masterpiece, Arwen and Aragorn’s romance is kind of a big deal. Not because it takes up a lot of room in the book (it doesn’t) but because it provides Aragorn with his reason for doing what he has successfully avoided for most of a century, and go after his birthright. He doesn’t want to be king. He has major issues with putting himself in a position like Isildur’s where, if he screws up, he can take a whole kingdom along with him. He has a serious inferiority complex when the novels start, leading him to assume that the same weakness that destroyed Isildur is lurking in him, waiting for a chance to ruin everything all over again. So he does what you might expect, and runs as fast as possible from any hint of his supposed “destiny.”

At least he does until Arwen.

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Aragorn didn’t want the crown, but he did want her. And the only way to get her, as Elrond made clear, was if he became king. So, to win the woman he loves, he risks taking on the leadership role he doesn’t want, wins the war and becomes the king he was always meant to be. There was nothing else that was enough to make him risk that, besides the idea of losing the woman he had loved passionately, hopelessly, and for most of his life if he didn’t. The romance wasn’t a big part of the books in terms of space, but it was huge in providing Aragon’s motivation.

Example number two: Game of Thrones.

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Cersei and Jamie’s forbidden, incestuous relationship is one of the major pillars of the work.  If they hadn’t fallen in love, hadn’t gotten involved despite being siblings, hadn’t had three children from their relationship, then the War of the Five Kings would never have happened. There would have been nothing for Ned Stark to find out, nothing for him to write Stannis about, no challenge to the throne if King Robert’s children had actually belonged to him instead of being illegitimate products of incest. Cersei and Jamie’s relationship helped set up the whole series, and was central to almost everything that came after. But was it romance novel material?

Lol, no.

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Look, she’s all mad because he lost a hand. Just wait until the sept, Cersei.

My point is that, whether a romance is sigh-inducing, like Aragon and Arwen’s, or cringe-inducing, like the Lannister twins’, all fantasy romance is there for plot related reasons. It is not there for its own sake. It is not there to be some kind of primer on how to have the perfect relationship (although I would argue that getting relationship advice from romance novels is also probably not the way to go). It is not there just for the heck of it. It has a job to do.

So, back to Cassie and her guys. The plot related reasons her relationships exist have, in some cases, already become apparent, others will come out as the books move along. But her relationships all have a reason for existing outside of themselves. They are important, but not in the same way that they would be in that genre I’m not writing in. So can I please stop being asked why the men in the books are acting according to what would make sense for their characters in a fantasy novel, and not like leads in a romance? Can I? Please?

Thank you. Herein ends the rant.