Fun fact: The first chapter of “Killing Time” is “The Night Visitor” as a nod to the 1971 film of the same name starting Max Von Sydow. There’s no other relation to the film. I just love the title. The movie’s pretty good, too.
We’re getting deep enough into the “canon” that spoilers abound for those who haven’t been reading the stories in order. That said, none of them are likely to undermine your enjoyment of the stories that come afterward, nor of any single story or novel, but if chronological order is your thing, you might want to read “A Lesson in Taxonomy” before this post. There will also be some mild spoilers for a later novel, but really nothing that takes away a big surprise.
As you might have noticed, there’s typically a new piece of web fiction before each new Pathfinder Tales novel. “The Lost Pathfinder” started the trend, and “A Passage to Absalom” bridged the gap between Prince of Wolves and Master of Devils.
After the events of the latter novel, I wanted to address the violent and asexual year Radovan had spent in Tian Xia. I also wanted to remind regular readers of Varian’s tenuous relationship with the Pathfinder Society, to show the difference between a spoiled noble with genuine intellectual curiosity and one’s who’s just a dilettante, and to lay pipe for a future conflict—but not one from Queen of Thorns.
Of course, because it was to be a short story, I needed to limit the settings right away. Library for Varian was a natural. And, I admit, brothel/gambling hall for Radovan was intentionally on-the-nose. Once I had figured out the basic conflicts and the settings, the rest flowed naturally from the characters’ pasts and the emotional conflicts I knew they were going to face in Queen of Thorns.
Fun fact: My initial conception of Prince Kasiya’s unusual form of vampirism was much creepier, but the dev team wanted me to reign it in. Instead of turning into mist, I had his once-pulverized body “relaxing” into a fleshy ooze that could slither around like the classic gibbering mouther. I don’t think anyone was squeamish about the horror element, but they wanted him to work closer to the Pathfinder rules for vampires. The end result seemed a good compromise.
While both of the boys suffer setbacks in the novels, usually I don’t end with a gut-punch, as I did in “Hell’s Pawns.” This was a good opportunity to make both of them hurt because they lost something important while fighting. For Varian, that’s the burning library and the additional harm his misadventure causes to his relationship with the Pathfinders. For Radovan, it’s the desire not to be an instrument of murder but finding out, yet again, it’s something that comes easily to him.
Fun fact: I chose the name Iolanda because of a great song by a local musician, which I’d mis-remembered as “Yolanda.” In fact, the song’s title is “Orlanda,” an even better name. I’ll have to use that one another time.