Good morning, dear Reader! Today I am participating in Kendra E. Ardnek’s Character Encounters blog link-up. I have been wanting to participate in one of these for a while now, but have been a bit too shy to actually dive in. However, she announced that she might be retiring the meme if people don’t start participating, so I had to get over my shyness and just do it!
This month’s character encounter is supposed to happen in your character’s OWN world. Since I’ve been immersed for the past several months in the Stone Curse project, I thought it might be fun to introduce you all to the main character and let you see a glimpse of the world inside that story via a Character Encounter. I have to admit, Karyna really gave me a difficult time at first. I struggled a lot with climbing into her head; moreso than with any other character I’ve ever written. I have come to realize that this is because Karyna is one of the most “different than me” characters I’ve ever written, which is good, and means that I’m continuing to grow as a writer. I also think that as a result, Karyna has become one of my favorite characters I’ve ever written.
Anyway, enough disclaiming, on to the Character Encounter!
I blinked, wondering where I was. I had just been out in the garden watering the flowers, when suddenly the world had shifted slightly. As I turned around, I realized that nothing looked familiar. And yet, it was also hauntingly familiar. I was still in a garden, but a much grander and far more well-kept garden than my own. Before me stood a most majestic rose bush that looked as though it had just burst into bloom. The sun beat down on my head, and I could tell it hadn’t rained in several days, the ground was much drier here than at home. Butterflies flitted about as if I were inside one of their pavilions, and I stared in wonder at the variety in both size and color. What my daughters wouldn’t give to have such butterflies visit our humble garden!
“Who are you, and what are you doing in the Queen’s Garden?” a voice demanded behind me.
I whirled around and my eyes widened. A girl in her teens stood behind me, her chin raised and her green eyes flashing. Her dark hair was wound around her head in a braid. She was dressed elegantly, making me feel suddenly uncomfortable and boorish in my ripped jean capris and family reunion t-shirt. But I was no longer confused, because this could only be Karyna. I had been expecting a trip to her world, ever since I decided to take part in Kendra’s Character Encounter, but I hadn’t expected it to be so sudden. Or to arrive so sadly underdressed. Surely my imagination could have placed me in the correct attire, at least?
“How do you know me?” she narrowed her eyes, taking in my appearance. “Are you a new gardener?”
I grinned, starting to feel more at home. This was my world and my character, after all. “No, I’m your author.”
“My author? Whatever do you mean?”
“You know, your story? Your adventures? I’m the author of them.”
“What adventures?” Karyna furrowed her brow. “Perhaps you have been out in the sun too long. I do not know what you are talking about, but I would not let the Queen see you shirking your duties. There is much to prepare for the celebration tonight.”
“What celebration?” my heart began to race a bit. This was not at all going the way I had expected. I was having a hard time getting a read on Karyna, she seemed so… different from the way I had written her. She was relaxed, peaceful, there was no invisible burden of worry or guilt weighing down her shoulders. What was going on here?
“Why, Princess Bellenya’s eighteenth birthday, of course!” Karyna smiled, and her face glowed. “You must be very new if you don’t even know what today is, it’s all anyone has been preparing for for weeks.”
She doesn’t know! I realized suddenly, and everything that didn’t make sense fell into place. I had arrived too early, in the pre-story era, and Karyna had no idea who I was or the story that was about to unfold at her feet. My heart thudded, I had to get out of here!
Karyna must have noticed the look on my face, because she stared at me in sudden concern. “What is it?”
“Oh, uh, nothing,” I replied. “I think I’ve been out in the sun too long. Perhaps I should go inside and lie down.”
Karyna became all business and care, transforming into the young woman I had written – the one who takes charge in a crisis. She hurried me inside the large stone castle and bade me lie down. She brought me some broth and a cup of water that tasted a bit stale and instructed me to eat and drink, commenting that I was probably suffering from heat exhaustion.
As I was sipping the broth from a spoon, another young woman, the same age as Karyna (actually, a year older, I reminded myself) peered in. She was taller than Karyna by a fair amount, and where Karyna was lovely, this character was breathtakingly beautiful.
“Karyna?” she asked, her voice wavering a bit, as though on the verge of tears.
“Princess…” I breathed, my eyes widening as I rose and made a hasty curtsy, that probably did not come across as very elegant… capris can ruin even the best of curtsies.
The princess barely glanced at me as she entered the room. “Oh, Karyna, I need your help!” she wailed. “My dress came back from the tailor and just LOOK at it!”
It was even more beautiful than I had imagined: a plum satin dream come true that fell to the floor and swished around her feet when she walked. Long trailing sleeves of an impossibly delicate sheer material (I don’t think such material even exists in our world). A similar layer of delicate material covered the skirt, worked with shimmering stones. A silver belt worked with pearls around her slim waist, and just a hint of the same beading and silver around the collar. I might have gasped a little, because they both were suddenly staring at me. (Imagine the picture to the left in dark purple and you might get close to what the dress looked like).
I took a sip of water and nearly choked to death as it went down the wrong hatch. Bellenya’s gorgeous face twisted in confusion for a moment. “What… who?” Then she shook her head and pointed to her shoulder, “I don’t even care. Karyna, there is a tear in the dress, my beautiful dress!”
“Oh here, where is it?” Karyna asked, pulling a small purse from somewhere, I have no idea where, and suddenly she had a needle and thread and was expertly sewing up the broken seam so that no one would ever see it had been torn. Then she guided the Princess to a chair and made her sit down and take a deep breath. I smiled a little at their friendship, but my heart ached for what was coming.
“There, all better,” Karyna said, a gentle smile on her face. “Are you nervous?”
“A little,” Bellenya admitted, taking a few deep breaths. “I just… I want everything to be perfect!”
“Princess Bellenya?” I murmured, a bit timidly.
“Yes?” she frowned at me. “Are you the new gardener?”
“Uh, yeah. I mean, yes.”
“Well, what is it?” she demanded.
“I just wanted to say, er… Happy Birthday.”
Her face lit up in a warm smile and my eyes grew a bit misty. My vision blurred. When I could see again, I was back in my own garden, where my 21st century attire made much more sense. A sigh escaped me. It hadn’t been the encounter I had expected, but perhaps it was better that way.