I figured the rats metaphor in this chapter was appropriate. It seemed like the kind of connection that Hrathen would make–and it says something about him that he would think this way. He might be a sympathetic villain, and he might have some measure of nobility, but he isn’t by any means unprejudiced. He is, in that way, a product of his culture. You can be a good man and still be prejudiced–I know a lot of people, good people, who simply don’t seem to have the ability to see beyond their own assumptions.
So, I contrast this bit of prejudice from Hrathen with a sincere measure of humanity on his part. He’s worried about Sarene. Not worried simply because of his desire to use her, not even worried simply because of his latent affection for her–though both are motivations for his actions. He’s worried because he feels guilty for using her like he is. It’s that pesky conscience of his, messing things up again.
And yes, Hrathen does have some feelings for Sarene hiding inside that armored chest of his. I’m always very subtle in the way I have him show them–for instance, his coming up to the wall to try and see if she’s all right.
In the Mad Prince drafts of the book, I was still holding off on revealing him to the readers. His army was out there in this chapter–visible because of its fires in the night. I revealed that Hrathen considered the newcomer an ally, but I hadn’t yet given away who the newcomer was.
The Mad Prince’s disappearance was probably the most time-consuming cut I made, not to mention the one most difficult for me personally. I’m happy to know he lives on in his web presence–he’s practically be the star of the ‘Deleted Scenes’ section. The cut came at the suggestion of Joshua “Axe Man” Bilmes. The stark truth is, the story didn’t need another random diversion here. We’re getting very close to the climax, and introducing another whole character–with his own plot, problems, and tangents–just wasn’t good for the pacing. Eton was, in my opinion, a brilliant character. However, he just didn’t belong in the book.
Hrathen’s deal with Eventeo here is the final piece of his most brilliant plan in the book. He milked those two vials of poison for a whole lot. He managed to regain his own faith, defeat Dilaf, turn himself into a hero, and get Eventeo’s promise all with a few clever political twists. After he’s pulled off a few tricks like this, three months suddenly doesn’t seem like an unrealistic amount of time to convert a nation. (Or, at least, convert its nobility–which, as Hrathen has pointed out, is the same thing.)