Writing notes #IrinChronicles: The Staff and the Blade

IMG_0180I was talking last week about how difficult it’s been to not only go back in time for the Irin Chronicles (because two of the four novellas in The Staff and the Blade happen in the past) and then to overlap a good part of the third with events of The Singer. It’s been a challenge!

I thought it might be interesting for you guys to get a peek at how that works, so I’m posting one of the scenes I’ve written that directly overlaps. That is, it’s the same conversation (which happened in Chapter Two of The Singer) but from Damien’s point-of-view.

From a technical aspect, what happens when I have to rewrite a scene like this is that I copy and paste the whole scene from The Singer into the current manuscript. Then I have to go line by line and pay attention, not only to Damien’s internal dialogue (which may or may match his external) but also what each person is doing within the scene. Where is Ava? What is she looking at? Where is Damien? Is he looking at the person he’s talking to or is he looking at something else? Is he noticing Ava and what she’s doing? Is she noticing him or has something else caught her attention as she’s talking? In some ways, it’s far more complicated than writing a scene from scratch because you have to be very careful not to contradict yourself.

In case you’re worried that this part of the book is going to be a big rehash, trust me, it isn’t. This is the only scene so far, and I think one of only three planned, that directly overlap with something you have already read. I chose to overlap this scene because Damien’s thoughts are so interesting here. This is right after his fight with Sari when he and Ava first came to Sarihöfn.

As for why I decided to go backward in the series before I went forward, it’s because this is a big, big world. And there are a lot of stories I want to tell in it. Exploring the depth and breadth of Damien and Sari’s relationship allows me to show readers a lot about Irin history that will be important moving forward while still ending in a place that has progressed the fictional universe as a whole.

Plus, I just really love both these characters and I wanted to write about their relationship.

Does that make for kind of a weird book? Probably, but I think it’s going to work well. I’m really excited for you guys to read it.

So without further ado, enjoy this peek into Damien’s head. Keep in mind, as with all teasers, this is unedited and there will be mistakes.

“Why did you fight with her?”

Damien heard his brother’s mate as he was finishing in the washroom. The girl had been patient so far. She was a patient kind of person, but exhibited the mercurial, almost excessive energy of an Irina too long in isolation.

“Because she needed a fight.” Damien stepped out of the washroom. “And I give my mate what she needs.”

When Damien and Sari used to meet in London, she exhibited the same erratic power. Ava had been raised among humans and was still trying to get a grip on her magic, which was unlike anything Damien had felt. He was doing his best to help her, even if he had to take a beating for it.

He donned the modern clothes he felt most comfortable in: worn denim pants and a short sleeved cotton shirt. There was much about modern life that he enjoyed, like indoor plumbing and finely woven clothes. He didn’t enjoy electric lights. He’d never rested as well once they’d been developed, and he was grateful for the more primitive conditions in Sari’s valley.

He took a deep breath, inhaling the scent of damp earth and Sari’s magic.

“Where are we?” Ava asked him.


“Yeah, I figured.”

Damien tried not to smile. He supposed he was too long out of feminine company. His brothers at the house in Istanbul didn’t seem to mind the curt answers he gave. He sat down by the fire and waited for the scent of the smoke to drown the familiar trace of Sari’s power that permeated the air.

“We’re in the Nordfjord district,” he elaborated. “Sari’s family has had this property for hundreds of years. It used to be just a small cottage they used for holidays. Very private. Her family was always very private. They liked their own space and never took well to living in retreats. After the Rending, after we lost… so many, she left me and came here. I knew she’d gathered other Irina, but didn’t know how many.”

It wasn’t the whole story. But then Ava didn’t need the whole story. She had enough to deal with.

She looked out the window at the setting sun and the rays touched her face, making her skin glow.

How many years did she have? Twenty-eight? Twenty-nine? She was a child in his world. Yet the Creator had seen her mated to one of his own brothers. A fierce wave of protectiveness rose. He hadn’t been exaggerating to Astrid when he said she could hurt others without even meaning to. She did need to be trained. But more, she needed to be kept from harm. The honest part of Damien knew that protecting Ava had become about so much more than honoring his brother Malachi.

This young human girl had become every child he had lost. Every Irina under his watch who’d been butchered by his enemies.

She looked back at him. “This is your first time here?”

“No. I came here before. When we were first mated.” Waves of memories threatened to drown him. “We spent time here together. I’m one of the few Irin scribes who even knows this place exists. We’re safe here; I’m sure of it.”

“When was the last time you saw her?”

He leaned toward the fire, enjoying the heat on his neck. “It’s been years. We used to try to meet in other places. But it was too… It’s complicated, Ava.”

“You would abandon your men?”
“Defy the council?”
“I don’t believe you.”

The memory of her bitter words still made him angry. Sari and her sisters had abandoned everything. The villages. Their seats on the Council. The halls of the Library that were once bathed in song. Centuries of tradition and learning had been lost, and without the tempering influence of the Irina, Damien saw the leaders of his race become cold, corrupt, and insular.

But even more painful, the singers had abandoned their scribes. Their brothers. Their colleagues. Their sons. Their mates.

“Does she really hate you so much?”


And yet, even in his anger, he couldn’t escape his fierce pride at the memory of their fight, which echoed so many training sessions in the past. His Sari had not held back a single strike.

“She hates me as she loves me,” he said ruefully. “Wholly and completely. Sari never does anything by halves.”

“Are they all angry? Are all of the Irina angry like Sari?”

“No. Maybe. There’s not a simple answer.”

“Try. I need to understand.”

Ava knew about the Rending, but how could Damien explain a two hundred year old wound that still bled? And the centuries of mistakes that led to a horror he still saw in nightmares? And he hadn’t seen the worst of it. He’d witnessed Tala’s death, but Sari had born witness to so many losses Damien didn’t know how she ever closed her eyes.

“You can see how powerful they are. The Irina, I mean. An Irina singer at the height of her power, trained by her elders, can wield frightening magic. With a word, they can change the course of the wind. Render a strong man weak or a weak man strong—”

“Break a stick in half and then mend it?”

That was a new one. He hadn’t seen her do that before.

“All Irina have different powers. Seers. Healers. Elemental magic. Some of that is natural and some depends on how they train. In the past, they used their magic for mostly creative endeavors. Healing. Building. Teaching the young. Scientific discovery. These were always their greatest strengths. The more… martial magics were not valued. The oldest Irina derided offensive spells. ‘Male’s work,’ my grandmother would sneer at my father and me.”

His paternal grandmother kept to politics and manipulation, as obsessed with bloodlines as his grandfather had been. She’d derided battle training, as much as she pursued warriors’ blood. She’d been pleased by Damien’s placement with the Templar order because of their political power, not their battle prowess.

Damien continued, “All Irina knew some protective spells, of course. And many to help themselves blend in with the human world, but it was the Irin scribes’ job to protect them. And for our part, we didn’t encourage our mates to learn offensive magic.”

Thank heaven, he hadn’t been able to keep Sari away from it.

“Why would they need it? They had us. And we…” His throat threatened to close on him. “We would never leave them unprotected.”

“Except you did.”

He tore his eyes from the fire. “We did. And we learned how desperately wrong we were only after we had lost everything.”

“Not everything. You and Sari still have each other. Lots of people—most of the Irin—lost their mates.”

“I am one of the lucky ones. We aren’t exactly a peaceable pair, but then, we never have been.”

Ava frowned. “Will she ever forgive you?”

“I don’t know.”

You’re the only thing in Sari’s life that can make her lose her balance like that. You know that, don’t you?

Hope pushed past the bitterness in Damien’s chest. “But I’m tired of being patient. And as I give Sari what she needs, so she will give me what I need. If meeting you has taught me anything, it’s that there are things in this world that are not as they appear. We lost half of ourselves during the Rending. Then we allowed this wound to fester. We’re dying from within, and it needs to stop. Change must happen.”

“Do you think they’re ready for change?”

He had to believe they were. Had to believe it, or he’d go mad.

“I don’t know,” he said honestly. “But look at you, Ava. You shouldn’t exist, and yet… you do. Change has already come. They just don’t know it yet.”

Copyright 2016, Elizabeth Hunter

Posted in Irin Chronicles, Writing.


  1. Love it when author’s replay scenes from another character’s POV. It adds a richness and depth that you can not get any other way. You are a true mistress of the writer’s craft.

  2. Went back to re-read Chapter 2 of The Singer, before reading this. I. LOVE. THIS. It is a totally different read from Damien’s point of view. I also understand how difficult this has to be for you to write. But, I think I understand how totally soul fulfilling this journey is going to be for you. With your love for your characters, it will be soul fulfilling for us readers, as well. I am in awe of your gift. I think that this book may well be EPIC.

  3. <3 <3 Didn't seem like a repeat at all just more enhanced and richer. This conversation has given us more depth into Damien's character, Damien and Sari's relationship and more detail into Irin history. Thank you for all your hard work and attention to detail on this story it really shows through. Wonderful!!

  4. Not weird at all, I love reading back stories from other characters’ points of view. I think it adds depth when the viewpoints are spread around, and when done well like this, the same scene from an alternative perspective adds to the clarity. As usual, I am trying to be patient.

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