zodiacal_light: Humour: Because angst is not jolly. (Default)
It was not quite a week before the start of Midwinter festivities when Neal's lovely knight-mistress kicked open his door.

"Up and at 'em, Queenscove," Alanna ordered. "Let's get a move on."

Neal blinked blearily. "Why?"

Alanna's brows snapped together in a terrifyingly familiar glower.

Neal, frantically, threw up his hands. "I just meant, I thought you said you were going to stay here for Midwinter."

Alanna's face smoothed out. "We are. We're just going into Corus. Now come on, Neal. I'll meet you at the stables."

An hour or so later, they pulled up in the courtyard of a very nice townhouse. The door swung open as Alanna dismounted, and an elegant lady Neal recognized as Baroness Eleni walked forward to embrace her daughter-in-law.

"Alanna, you look well," Eleni said. "And this must be your squire."

Neal dismounted and bowed. "Nealan of Queenscove, my lady, but please, call me Neal." He flashed her his most charming smile. Next to him, Alanna snorted.

"So like your father," Eleni said.

Neal … didn't really want to think about that too hard. Alanna, fortunately, came to his rescue.

"Are the children here?"

"MA!" came a bellow from inside the townhouse; too much experience with a little sister caused Neal to duck aside out of the path of not one but two hyperactive blonds who came flying out the door towards Alanna.

Alanna wrapped her twins in a hug, the biggest smile Neal had ever seen on her face. "Aly. Alan. You've been behaving, I hope?"

The two eleven-year-olds nodded. Their grandmother, behind them, smiled and nodded as well at Alanna's glance.

"Good," the Lioness said, clapping each twin on a shoulder. "Where's your brother hiding?"

Aly eyed her twin, who shrugged. "In the library, I think," she said.

"I don't think so," Neal said softly. Alanna looked at him, and he nodded at the open door, where a shy, gawky redhead was peeking around the doorframe.

"Thom," Alanna said. "Come here."

The boy ducked back behind the wall with a nervous glance in Neal's direction. Alanna sighed, exasperated.

"That's Squire Nealan. I wrote to you all back in June that I was taking a squire."

Thom muttered something inaudible. Aly giggled, then subsided at a glare from her mother.

"You know Duke Baird. This is his son."

"My lady?" Neal asked softly. "May I?" At Alanna's questioning frown, he tipped his head at the door.

Alanna's frown cleared. "Don't upset him, okay? I don't want him holing up in his room again."

Neal nodded and, with an apologetic bow to Lady Eleni, walked inside the house.

Thom, taken completely by surprise, squeaked. He stared up at Neal with wide greenish eyes that must have come from his father. Neal, undeterred, bowed.

"My name is Neal," he said. "Your mother talks a lot about you."

"She does?" Thom whispered. He startled as if remembering himself, then bowed. "I'm Thom. Those are Alan and Aly. Don't mind them too much."

Neal grinned. "I won't. I have a little sister."

Thom looked dubious. "There's two of them," he pointed out. "And Ma always says Aly's as bad as three people."

An outraged squawk came from outside.

"That's okay, then. Father always said Jessa was as bad as any four."

Thom ducked his head, but not before Neal saw his shy grin.

"Your mother says you've applied to the University," Neal said. Thom glanced up at him. Neal grinned. "Did you know that I went there for a while?"

"You did?"

"Yup."

Thom, shyly, reached out to grip Neal's hand. "Can you… Can you tell me a bit about it?"

Neal squeezed his hand. "Let's let your ma inside, first." He looked back over his shoulder at his knight-mistress. "We don't want to make her grumpy."

"Ma's always grumpy," Alan grumbled. Alanna mock-glared at her youngest.

"Well done," she whispered as she moved past Neal.

It was later, after dinner, when Eleni shooed her grandchildren into the kitchen and Sir Myles had moved into the lounge, that Alanna took Neal aside.

"This is my Midwinter tradition," she explained. "I'm away from the Swoop a lot, and I usually have to be at the palace for the Midwinter festivities themselves. You've been to them; they're not exactly the place for rambunctious children."

"No," Neal murmured, remembering how many mishaps there had been with nothing but sedate adults.

"And, well." Alanna fidgeted uncomfortably. "You've met Thom."

"He's going to have an interesting time of it at University," Neal said. He remembered what his classmates had been like; he doubted Thom's yearmates would be any less boisterous.

Alanna squeezed his arm. "Talk to him? Later?" she asked, worry in her eyes.

Neal bowed. "Of course, my lady."

Alanna swatted him, relieved. "Enough of that."

"Ma! You're supposed to be in the lounge!" Aly hollered, outraged.

Laughing, Alanna dragged Neal down the hall. Neal resisted.

"I can go upstairs," he said at her look.

Alanna snorted. "Don't be ridiculous, Queenscove. I didn't drag you down here just to let you hole up like Thom."

"But-"

"You're my squire, now. That makes you honorary family." She shoved him into a chair. Myles covered a laugh with a cough.

Neal accepted a sugared Midwinter bun from a shy Thom and smiled. He'd always wanted a large family.
zodiacal_light: A map of Tortall (tortall)
I am becoming more and more convinced that by Alanna's time, it's not that it's illegal for girls to be knights, it's that cultural pressure is against it, so there hasn't been one for 'round about a century.

This would neatly solve one of the most inexplicable things of SotL, for me - why Roald lets her keep her shield.

I don't buy that he can't take it away because she passed her Ordeal; there pretty much has to be a mechanism for removing knights who are unfit for duty - and unfit for not upholding the moral standards, or for disobedience that doesn't rise to death-penalty levels, or so on. And frankly, Alanna lying about her identity for her training should have been enough to kick her out over; I still suspect the reason that was allowed to slide was that Jon knew.

But if it's actually illegal for a girl to be a knight, Roald wouldn't have had a choice.

(As a corollary, this basically means that it was technically legal for Alanna to have gone openly for her shield, too, though I do doubt that she would have been allowed to. Oooh, yet another AU idea...)

Alanna

Dec. 28th, 2010 02:49 pm
zodiacal_light: A map of Tortall (tortall)
Of all the Tortall series, I fic most for SotL, so I have to spend a lot of time thinking about Alanna. After Kel, she's my favorite of the heroines, but I always feel at least a little bad writing her - it always feels like I'm taking something away from her, because I mostly write AUs, and things go so ridiculously, implausibly perfectly for her in SotL that literally any change makes things start falling apart. (Not that this means her life in these AUs turns out bad, just different.)

So I guess, in retrospect, what bothers me most about Alanna is how contrived her life is by the end of SotL. Also, in getting my thoughts in order to make this post, I came to realize that I unabashedly like SotL-Alanna; it's the glimpses we see of her later that drive me nuts. She really starts going off the rails for me in that first scene in FT, where it seems she's almost become a parody of herself.

I don't find even early Alanna unproblematic, though. It bothers me endlessly that the story never grapples with her biggest flaws - her temper (which is treated as cute), her self-righteousness (she's always right), or her hypocrisy (she's all about duty, supposedly, yet repeatedly runs away and encourages others to do so). The story also never grapples with how her ambition and her drive are double-edged swords. I think that her being made Champion only serves to exacerbate these flaws, not temper them; I can think of few jobs she's more ill-suited to. I honestly think she would have been better served and even more useful as an ordinary knight.

This next thing is a problem I have with all the heroines, but I might as well mention it here: they never seem to lose anything, never seem to give anything up that actually matters. That's one of the reasons I'm so mean to Alanna in fic; I want to see what she'd do if she actually lost something - an opportunity, an accomplishment, a person who actually impacts her. I firmly believe that it's how we react to failure that really matters - but Alanna never really fails.

I am endlessly intrigued by the little glimpses of more depth to Alanna that we get in SotL - I am especially intrigued by her clear interest in the Old Ones and Myles' ruins, and I wish all that hadn't been dropped like a hot potato.

Head-canon
-A lot of Alanna's success is, actually, due to the fact she's god-touched. If nothing else, it's the only way I can satisfactorily explain away the progress reports.
-Alanna doesn't have a great relationship with her kids. At the least, it's a distant one fraught with a lot of misunderstanding. How bad it is, exactly, depends mostly on how angsty I feel like writing at the time.
-Jon only sent Alanna off on that diplomatic trip to Carthage because she was getting on his nerves and he wanted her gone for a while. (In fact, I think that explains everyone he sent, since that envoy's filled with a lot of dumb choices.)
-I sometimes like to think that later, if she ever actually matures a bit, Alanna ends up retiring from being Champion to take over Myles' role as history teacher. I liked the glimpses we saw of Alanna the teacher, though I think she'd be a shitty training master, and I liked the glimpses we got of Alanna being interested in history. (I can see basically two paths for Alanna - she never really grows up, and so never really retires, or she eventually learns to accept aging with grace and finds some other way to be useful.)
-She was never afraid of magic, but she used it as an excuse enough (because she didn't like practicing it) that she half believed it. Honestly, though - even before the Sickness she's awfully quick to threaten Coram with visions, and the whole thing with the cook's visions sounds far more Alanna-ish to me than Thom-ish, not least because she seems to be the more dynamic of the twins.
-She never had the best relationship with Thom, and is not entirely sure why. I see her as a rough-and-tumble girl, and there's that line about her ducking him in the pond that she uses to basically shut him up. I suspect that what she saw as just roughhousing he saw as bullying; I also think she sees him as somewhat pathetic. She really doesn't seem to think too highly of her brother in canon.
-Alanna thinks she got over Thom's death, but never really did. (Why yes, it does rather disturb me that in canon she seems to grieve more for Liam than her own brother.) I sort of suspect that she's used to pushing thoughts of her brother aside, even while he was alive, and she just does the same here and thinks she's over it. I also suspect this colors her relationship with her eldest, because superficially there's enough similarity there to raise all sorts of old ghosts. (Again, how deeply this taints Alanna's relationship with her son depends on how angsty I'm getting.)
-I'll get into this more in a later post on the kids, but I think Alanna feels that none of them turned out quite right; I also think the one she actually understands is Aly. Alan (even my happy version of him) deeply unsettles her; Thom is different and distant in ways she can't quite get.
-At some point in the ten-year gap between LR and WM, someone actually made Alanna get some more comprehensive/official training as a healer. (Honestly, in canon this bugs the SHIT out of me - all other healers we see in Tortall are trained; Alanna isn't, but somehow that's perfectly ok, she's just as good as the trained ones. See also: WWRLAM, and how barely-trained-in-magic Alanna is suddenly competent enough to be a Bazhir shaman and teacher of magic.) Either that, or somehow despite Alanna's apparently incredible reluctance to learn, Maude somehow forced her to learn enough healing that Alanna's actually qualified to do so.

***

My Alanna Fics
Alanna is a secondary or background character in a lot of my fics, and in compiling this list, I realized that I have written a lot of fics that are about her but do not have her in them. Those fics aren't linked below, only ones in which she is a major character.
Canon compliant:
Midwinter Tradition - It's Midwinter, and Alanna has someplace to be. So of course she has to kick Neal out of bed for it.

Canon-compliant but I consider it AU:
Red and Yellow - Jon really shouldn't have sent her to Carthak.

Miscellaneous AUs:
Kiss and Tell - Delia figures out a thing or two about Squire Alan. Could, with some juggling, be considered canon-compliant.
Song of the Seer - My first "the twins don't switch" fic. I am not nice to Alanna in this fic, at all.
Stricken to the Bone - Thom and Alanna both go for page training.

Allegiance AU:
Difference - Daine comes to Tortall. Things are different, in this world.

Discovery AU:
Discovery - Lord Alan gets two progress reports.

The Iron King AU:
This AU is all about Alanna, in a way, as it is her decision to marry Jon that starts the divergence. The only fic so far directly featuring Alanna is The Iron King.

Making the Best of Things AU:
Another series heavily featuring Alanna; the fics where she is a major or main character are the only ones listed below, but she shows up in others.
First Impressions - Jon and company meet Alanna.
Odd Couple - Francis attempts to woo his ladylove.
Burning Brightly - Jon attempts to clear out the Black City.
Heroism - the major Alanna fic in this 'verse. What happens to Alanna when she goes to convent instead.
Scrap of a Dream - Alanna dreams.

Patchwork AU:
Another AU that heavily features Alanna, though so far she only shows up in the founding fic. In this 'verse, the Grimhold Mountains are their own country, and Tortall itself is very small.
Ten Scenes from Another World - A short history lesson, and what happens when Tortall sends an embassy to Grimhold.

What a Flicker Brings AU:
This AU diverges because of and centers on Thom, but you can't really write any AU about Thom that doesn't heavily feature Alanna. She's central to these two stories in particular.
What a Flicker Brings - Thom gets a glimpse of the future in his mug.
Three Months - What happens during the time skip in What a Flicker Brings.

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