CJ Bernstein

CJ Bernstein

The Making of The Monarch Papers – Episode Twelve


In this episode, CJ and Simon discussed Fragment 12: Aorthora, the last fragment of Phase Three. Simon recalled how this was a big fragment for the story, and he created an audio component to help enrich that. At one point, they wanted to do something with fake security footage, instead, but this proved to be too difficult.

At the end of the previous fragment, Aether’s body was disconnected from his mind, and he informed the Mountaineers that Kemetic Solutions had sent out a virus to try to destroy his mind, because they were worried about The Mountaineers trying to break into their offices. The Mountaineers had to find a way to reunite his mind with his body, or he would die. This was a big ticking clock for them, which created quite a bit of drama. Whistler wanted to tear apart KS, and Martin Rank explained that all The Mountaineers wanted to do was rescue Aether, and that they were mainly a humanitarian organization (he of course didn’t want to reveal the truth about magiq). Whistler thought she knew where Aether was, and then Teddy Fallon had her monitor the security system, letting her figure out the circumstances surrounding Portencia’s imprisonment. The Mountaineers were stressed out, because they didn’t know if they could trust Whistler, or get Aether back to his body in time. CJ explained that as a writer, he’s super-proud of this section, because readers cared so intensely for so many different characters, simultaneously. CJ and Simon then discussed how even if this drama was composed of tropes, that is nothing to be ashamed of, because that was the way to give readers what they wanted. Tropes are tropes for a reason!

CJ continued to say that a number of subtle lore dumps appeared in this fragment, which readers didn’t even notice (and CJ still isn’t going to say what they are), because of the sheer amount of stuff that was going on. Most distracting was the fact that the readers knew that previous generations of Mountaineers had never gotten further than this, before they were wiped by the storm.

Back to the story, Mountaineers became aware of the fact, via Whistler, that Portencia was being tortured by KS for 14 hours at a time, to try to open a door to a place where there is more magiq. Marty then took from this that the level of urgency had risen, and that it was time to reveal the truth about magiq to Whistler. A lot of Mountaineers were reticent to do this, but CJ had to force their narrative hand, because there was no other way to get Marty into KS without the story devolving into nonsense.

Augustus_Octavian then asked what would have happened if Mountaineers hadn’t wanted to break into KS. CJ answered that they didn’t, because it was so narratively necessary that no other solution would have worked. Despite this, the actions of The Mountaineers still significantly affected how it happened.

Whistler, with the vision implanted in her mind by Portencia, then realized there was a way to drop internal security inside KS for ten minutes, so Marty could sneak in with Aether’s mind on his phone, and reunite him with his body, before anyone could realize what had happened. To do that, the Mounties had to create a spell (for the first time), so that the security officers at KS wouldn’t see Marty&Co. on the screen. He was also otherwise magically shrouded from sight.

The Mountaineers still didn’t know who Climber was, and they were in for a big surprise, when they found out that it was AlisonB, the Mountaineer who had been so helpful in earlier phases, and who up until then, they had assumed was a real Mountaineer.

As a side note, back in Phase One, Reader pickpocketed someone’s phone, so they could communicate with us. In this fragment, Whistler says she was able to get a phone, but it was disconnected, and she switched to email. This was a subtle hint that the methodology of The Devoted was coming back.

Aether streamed the audio of the break-in from Marty’s phone, while the Mountaineers performed the two spells they had created. CJ and Simon reflected that the idea of a magiqal firewall, which surrounded Aether’s body, was great, and inspired by certain 80s movies.

During the mission, Marty&Co. Found out that the whole mission was a trap, and tons of lore and character reveals happened: Whistler turned out to be Sacha, the head of the Devoted, Marty was a human well, Kendrick never had the last fragment of Portencia’s mind (Fallon did), and all of this was to bring Martin to KS, because a human well is so valuable. Fallon also knows that Martin has a charm on him, which made it so Martin had to come to him. Fallon previously sacrificed his own son to the Wanderer Project. Martin then surprised Fallon with the reveal that Aether had never left his earpiece, and had dropped the KS firewall, uploading gigabytes to an outside server. CJ said that if he had known that Marty was going to be such a big character, doing things like this, he would have given him a better last name. However, he says he can’t feel too responsible for what happens to these characters who suddenly become so popular, because so much of their development comes from the readers.

Fallon then escaped, as the storm descended, and Portencia used her powers to open the door to the future. Portencia and Climber climbed through the portal, and the whole facility was destroyed. The Mountaineers then found out that KS has been trying to close doors, not open them, to bar the Council of the 18 Gates from helping them. While the Council was protecting them, it emerged that the Book of Briars had been totally decimated, because the Council was no longer protecting it. Lastly, Fallon revealed that Itsuki had been an informer.

After this, CJ and Simon talked about why they made the decision to kill Itsuki. Endri was too loved, Eaves was also needed, and Bash was also loved, though they didn’t interact much with The Mountaineers. In the end, Itsuki was chosen, for another reason. Originally, the Campfire Chronicles were going to be turned into a book, consisting of readers’ stories. But because people were so into the main story, and school was in session, the initiative never took off. So, the Mountaineers weren’t being punished…per se. All the same, it made Itsuki’s story more tragic and interesting. He knew he was dying of brain cancer, and wanted to collect the readers’ stories, to give to his daughter. Since he died, Campfire Chronicles has really taken off, so it completely worked!

At the end of this fragment, Deirdre dreamed that she was Anne of Brittany, and with the help of Sullivan’s journals, realized the importance of the pin and scarf left to her by her father, coming to know that they were the original artifacts of the Wool and Silver. This made every door in the brownstone start knocking.

Questions and Answers:

 

Viviane

Q: I have a third assessment question. What was the process like for creating that crazy global constellation puzzle? Did you create the constellation shapes around that assessment design, or did the constellations come first, and you found a way to fit them into city landmarks? How much was the Myth of Elainnor influenced by all of this?

A: The myth came first. The plot of Phase Four was peppered at the end of Phase Three, and that’s part of why it felt so cohesive. We always knew Phase Four would be about time. CJ was very proud of this. Simon handled most of the constellation stuff. The shapes were roughly designed ahead of time, and interesting cities were chosen. Then, interesting locations were found within each city, and drawn on a map, and sent to CJ, so the constellations could be created. They sought to make each location have timeless historical significance. This left open the potential to insert them into our lore. Each city was hinted at by the previous one (there was a street in Mexico City called Paris, for example), but readers never figured this out. With all of this, they were able to upload their results to Fletcher Dawson’s website, earning them the third assessment.

 

Robert

Q: I seem to remember we never got the last piece of Portencia’s drawing. Was that intentional? We were collecting them, and then Teddy revealed that he had the last piece of the drawing in his head. Then, KS was destroyed, and we never got to see the last piece fill in. Was there significance in that last piece?

A: No. The drawing contained a mantra given to her by her father to keep her powers in check. We knew that since the last piece was in Fallon’s head, she would never get that final piece. This gave her the impetus to unleash her full powers, since she no longer had the mantra.

 

Augustus_Octavian

Q: This fragment saw a big influx of new readers, from what seems to have been a successful run of ads. Did you have to do anything to handle the increased number of readers on the forum, in terms of things like numbers of posts, or in things like organization and spellcasting? It was a pretty big risk to leave us to our own devices. Do you believe that this worked well?

A: Absolutely. We ended up leaving you to your own devices more and more, because of how well it was going. CJ even stopped checking the all the time, so he could experience his own narrative as a reader. Having new people didn’t matter, that much, partially because only a few of them were able to catch up on the story quickly enough.

 

Links:

Fragment Twelve (wiki): http://magiq.wikia.com/wiki/Fragment_Twelve

Fragment Twelve (forum): http://forum.basecamp33.com/c/tmp-fragments/fragment-twelve

Phase Three: http://magiq.wikia.com/wiki/Phase_Three

Aorthora: http://magiq.wikia.com/wiki/Aorthora

Aether:http://magiq.wikia.com/wiki/Aether

Deidre: http://magiq.wikia.com/wiki/Deirdre_Green

Kemetic Solutions: http://magiq.wikia.com/wiki/Kemetic_Solutions

Teddy Fallon: http://magiq.wikia.com/wiki/Theodore_Fallon

Whistler: http://magiq.wikia.com/wiki/Whistler

Portencia: http://magiq.wikia.com/wiki/Portencia

Climber: http://magiq.wikia.com/wiki/Climber

Notable Replies

  1. Remus says:

    I haven’t had the chance to review this Fragment before now, so I’m really happy you included the end bit with the whole live stream. Also, the thing that the storm said at the end was incredible, CJ! Great job as always!

  2. And then there were those like me, who tried catching up and said “screw it, I’ll figure it out as I go!” :deirdrexd:

  3. I probably missed out on asking (if the third assessment was tagged onto aothora), but how suspicious was it for everyone when my very :fire: username came up right after the BoB went all crispy?

    I know I was concerned about being blamed for it.

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