It is Week Seven, Mounties! The final week of TMP Vol One will have us peeking beyond the veil into what may be the darker nature of the magimystical world, not for the first or last time. You already know what to expect in these chapters—we’ve been building up to this and I, for one, have been salivating (is that weird? Don’t mind me). Without any further nonsense from me, let us begin.
1. In these chapters is, for certain, one of the most intense and dark displays of power and magiq in TMP on the whole. Describe the impact of this scene on you.
2. Is it possible that the imagery of Lauren melting into snow upon inheriting the powers of the Cagliostro is related to her memory of her first experience using her own adept powers on her sister?
3. The second assessment was tied to a model of the same frightful device that ended the Cagliostro’s life. In iterations past of the Mountaineers, what might the complication of the second assessment have looked like?
As always, Mountaineers, if you can pick out any themes or Easter Eggs from this week, please feel free to share! Your original thoughts, related ideas, or favorite lines from the book are always welcome in our discussion. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to @ me or another Guild Leader!
Creative Prompt: The theme of the week is “Beyond the Veil.” Using this theme for inspiration, please share with us your own written/visual/auditory creation.
I joined the Mountaineers some time after this whole thing with the Translation went down. For a while, it was actually hard to get the other Mounties to tell me what had happened. A lot of you seemed reverent towards the Translation, and (half ironically) worshipful towards Cags. When I asked about Lauren, I got answers like
“She was Cag’s assistant.”
“She was in love with him.”
Based on what I’d heard from the Mounties, my mental picture was something like a grand, mysterious, stage magician, preforming dangerous stunts for the wealthy while a waifish girl in a sequinned dress pines for him in the wings.
While that initial image isn’t exactly what the event was like in reality, it’s still an appealing idea.
When I read the events in the book for the first time, I remember flying through it so fast that I tore the corner of a page from flipping it with slightly too much enthusiasm. (It’s okay just a small tear)
While the image I held in my mind matched up more or less to the beginning of the show, it soon spiralled into something faster and more dangerous than I had anticipated, and I had to wait a day and a half before going on to the next part.
While Cags is hard to know, Lauren is more interesting to me. She’s just so real. Her feelings for Cags, somewhere between eager puppy love, and a more mature, hopeless sort caught me. Her devotion and ambition intermingling made her feel stronger than what I had first pictured.
I don’t think the change to the Snow Woman was as abrupt as it looked on the page. I think that from the moment we met her, she was in the process of changing. Everything that happened leading up to the Translation was changing her, confusing her, waking her up. Idk the idea of this character only existing in this sort of liminal space within the narrative really fascinates me. And then the Snow Woman reflects that, not quite a normal person, not quite the force of nature she appears to be. Like she was frozen in the middle of a transformation (or Translation?) and now is in a state of in-between-ness. Idk I have lots of feelings about Lauren.
Lauren Ellsworth is one of those characters that I love like a fan, even though I wrote her. I can’t help it. And for many of the reasons @Sellalellen mentions above.
Lauren and The Cagliostro was a really interesting creative exercise.
Readers by and large felt especially close to these characters, not only because of their personal histories or because their relationship dynamic was intrinsically interesting (By that I mean the satisfying trope of master and apprentice, not necessarily my execution of it) but also because we were eavesdropping on their complicated relationship as it formed.
Cole and Deirdre’s romantic relationship happened largely "off page” because as a stickler for what characters would and wouldn’t do, I couldn’t imagine either of those two oversharing their falling in love on a blog. Even though it would’ve helped sell it, I didn’t think readers wanted that or would’ve believed it. It felt like a cheat. Also, Deirdre was as much a plot mechanism as she was a heroic figure, so having a blog post where she fawned over Cole instead of moving the narrative forward felt out of character and also frustrating to people experiencing TMP live.
But with L&C I could have them express deeper, truer feelings, because (as far as we knew at the time) neither knew we were all watching their correspondence. It did come with its own challenges early on though… I needed you all to know more about Lauren personally, so you really cared for her and her well-being, but she was trying to professionally impress her new boss. That’s why early on Lauren accidentally sent an email meant for her mom to Cags instead. It helped establish Lauren’s backstory, including planting the seeds of her sister, and would also help humanize her with Cags, opening up a deeper, less professional discussion between them.
And not to step on anyone’s toes, but the idea of her turning to snow came much later, once I established what happened with her sister. I needed a threat to them both being lost, and harsh, cold weather was the key. And because it was an event that had plagued Lauren most of her life, it felt like the appropriate callback in the end, and a way to show that she is The Cagliostro now but she is also still Lauren (like Cags was also “A.C.”) and she still carried those memories and emotions with her, even after her Translation.
It is one of those well-executed tragedies that breaks your heart a lottle (more than a little) but it is narratively so punchy and striking and intense. What could they have been if The Cagliostro hadn’t had to die for A.C., the human, to be free? Or if their goals hadn’t brushed up against the Mounties’ and Lauren had, perhaps, been able to get to the letter left for Deirdre before Cole did?
Lauren’s changes and her mental state are such a fascinating part of the narrative. How she begins as this young secretary to a magician, just doing her job – and then becomes, not so slowly at all, this immense powerhouse of a person with so little knowledge, but this seemingly great confidence and natural aptitude. She seems to grow incrementally darker, too, as her desperation to save the person she cares for grows.
Lauren is hands down my favorite tmp character. We really had no idea what to make of her well into even Act 4.
We knew, pre magic awakening, she was intelligent, efficient and an excellent problem solver with a complicated history. When you take a character like that and drastically throw her into a new world with all the feels and they could do just about anything, good or bad.
At the time of the Morgan library we were all convinced she flat out tried to murder Cole. We just figured the Well stopped her. Cj had to correct us months later that it was just an illusion.
The best part of Lauren to me was as a counterpart to Deidre. Here you has two strong people, exposed to magic at a young age both made forget. One from denial and sadness one from her father trying to protect her.
Both were coming to see beyond the veil at the same time. Deeds process was slow and careful and she was surrounded by the love of her father, Cole and us. Lauren was dropped into the world in an almost violent explosion and handed incredible power almost overnight. And then her mentor and anchor was torn apart in front of her eyes and she was alone with power and no guidance
The thing that scared us was that Lauren knew about Sullivan and Deeds and we had no idea what she would do with that info.
I would have liked to see the parallel paths of Lauren and Deeds more. I honestly thought we were looking at the making of the second half of the stories main villian in Lauren. Im glad she was kept more mysterious in the end though. More room for the imagination that way.
I was reticent to even bring her back for the Day of Change, simply because she was so well-loved. I learned in writing this that we writers have a special burden to bear when someone we create is appreciated on the level of Lauren or Cags. It’s hard not to ruin that goodwill for the sake of my ego by dragging them out over and over for the s. I want it to feel right, and earned.
I also have to try and discern both what my readers want and need, and felt that a possible exploration of Lauren/Cags some time down the road would be more impactful if I let time pass.
I always thought it’d be neat to have a standalone Cags novel. There’s so much to explore, with such an ancient character. Plus exploring Lauren and her path, where is she headed now that she’s around for the return of magiq, a new era?
But I’m always craving more Cags content, haha.
I’m all about a book about the history of the Cagliostro.
I looked up from the desk at which I sat
seeing an abstract art print on the wall.
I had looked at it so many times before,
but I had never really seen it.
Shapes and colors and lines, and a phrase:
“The eye cannot see what the mind does not know.”
It was there when I had started,
and I presumed it would be there after I was gone.
Who put it there? I do not know.
Could they have known, all those months or years ago,
that I had seen behind the veil,
Into the hidden world beneath the surface?
I had peeked behind the mask that hides the truth,
and glimpsed something so beautiful and complex,
I could never have imagined it on my own.
Now it cannot be unseen.
“The eye cannot see what the mind does not know,”
but once the mind knows, the eye cannot stop looking for
the beauty behind the lies glazing over it all,
making it all overly neat, overly plain, overly simple.
Once the eye sees and the mind knows that magic is there,
it cannot be unseen.
Okay. I call Mandela Effect on this one. This hung at a workstation at one of my first jobs out of grad school, and I used to look at it at least once a week for years. I think about it often, and I could have SWORE the phrase was different! I had someone who still works there send me a picture for nostalgia’s sake.
Whew! I finally caught up (granted, it’s the final week of Flora & Fauna, but still, I did it)! Finishing up the book for the second time left me with a lot of feelings I didn’t feel the first time I read it. When I read it this past summer, I enjoyed it, but I felt like I needed to be focusing on other things the entire time I was reading that I should have been doing something else instead; this time, I was able to dedicate myself to reading the book, guilt-free, and I think that made it a much more valuable experience. I guess the thing that I wanted to focus was the first prompt you proposed, @Deyavi.
For me, the complete Translation is something that’s truly unique in its scope and impact in TMP. I know in Acts 3 and 4 we have several emotionally-hitting scenes, but the complete Translation is unique because of the nature of the scene. It’s harsh and unforgiving and results in the end of one of the community’s most beloved characters. And best of all, it’s incredibly riveting. I was trying to read the chapter as folks at my homestay were chatting and watching TV, and I just wanted to sequester myself in my room, to mimic the horrified silence of crowd that watched the performance. I felt completely immersed as Cags was mercilessly torn apart by the monster he’d brought upon himself, willingly. As much as it all hurt and made me feel uncomfortable, I ultimately felt hopeful at the end of it all. In contrast to [spoiler for Cosmos]the BoB getting destroyed, this event, regardless of the terrible scene it presents, ultimately leads to the freedom of Cags. These chapters make me ache for Lauren (and Marty, to an extent), but I think they’re a reminder of why we, the Mounties, have fought so hard for a magiqal world that doesn’t have to be witness to rituals like the complete Translation.