As I understand it, this week’s topic is about characters getting away from us when we’re writing. Um, mine don’t do that. Sometimes a secondary character may become more important than I had originally expected, or readers will ask for one to be the subject of their own sequel.
I did have a monster who became even more of a monster. In Mission to Mahjundar, the characters end up as prisoners of a bloodthirsty civilization who worship a terrifying god known as Tlazomiccuhtli. No spoilers but in the original draft, there were some mild unpleasantries between a couple of the main characters and this god inside the temple, but he/it never actually materialized to threaten them. He allowed his priest/warriors to do all the evil deeds. Ah, but in the final version, as it turns out, there’s a very tense standoff between him and Shalira, the heroine:
Shalira felt a cold breeze on the back of her neck. Next moment she had the sensation someone whispered her name. She glanced at Mike, but he remained unconscious. Half turning, she scanned the cave stretching behind her, wondering if there was an exit. Not that they could leave, with the drone on its way to them, but neither did she want to be surprised by an attack from the rear.
Blinking, she realized her eyes weren’t playing tricks on her - there was a glow in the gloomy recesses of the cave. Rising to her feet, she crept cautiously toward the light. Behind her she heard Johnny say something but her ears were full of the whispering she’d heard before, in the chamber with the giant statue of Tlazomiccuhtli. Goosebumps made her skin crawl as she came around the last rocky outcrop and confronted another effigy of the Nathlemeru deity. The voice in her head grew louder, and there was harsh, triumphant laughter.
Closing her eyes, the only defense she knew, she tried to back away but felt as if she was standing in glue. She caught her balance with an effort as she tripped over loose stones.
You are mine, little oracle. And I will have the heart of your warrior, as I was promised by Ishtananga before he died. And I’ll loose the cherindors in your family’s precious scepter on all who oppose me.
“No!” She screamed her protest out loud. Blinking, she stared at the statue, which was about eight feet tall, semidetached from the cave wall. The sculptor had made this representation of Tlazomiccuhtli somewhat less graphic than the one in the main temple in the plateau above but the effect remained horrific. She saw bleached human bones lying on the ground around the statue. Apparently the Nathlemeru conducted sacrifices here on occasion as well. Bad luck had drawn them into another place of its influence over humans. Voice trembling, she tried to deny the reality. “You have no power over us.”
But I do. Your goddess owes me. And through his fears, one of your companions has given me mastery over him. Watch.
She heard Everett yelling and next moment Johnny came walking past her, blaster in his hand but aimed at the cave floor. His face was slack, as if he was asleep. He stumbled over the cave floor, dropping the outworld weapon. As he headed toward the statue, one hand fumbled with his belt knife. Horrified, unsure if Tlazomiccuhtli was going to try to make the soldier kill himself or her, or even Mike, helplessly comatose in the cave entry, Shalira grabbed the sergeant’s arm as he shuffled past.
“Johnny, you have to fight this off,” she hissed.
He stopped walking but the moment she moved her hand away, he lifted one foot to take the next step. Wondering where Everett was and why he didn’t come to investigate, she snagged the back of Johnny’s shirt and he paused again.
Red snakes of light had materialized from thin air and were writhing around the statue of Tlazomiccuhtli, becoming more and more solid, developing eyes and mouths. She wished she could close her eyes again rather than look at them but was afraid of what might happen if she cowered like a child.
“My goddess owes you nothing, and neither do I,” she said. “You have no power over me.”
Wait until you’re in the grip of my servants, wait until I touch you myself and then tell me I have no power. Perhaps I’ll make you sacrifice your warrior to me yourself. How much you humans have forgotten in the millennia since the world began.
If you’d like to know what happens next, or what leads up to this moment, the SFR Galaxy Award Winning novel is available here:
The audiobook was just released this past week and here’s an audioclip, narrated by the wonderful Michael Riffle, although the scene is from earlier in the book, not from the Tlazomiccuhtli encounter: