Last week, I started thinking about Duchess Josefa of Fontanár, betrayed by King Felipe of Talavera. He promised her marriage. She slept with him and is pregnant with a son. He married another. Oops. That’s the beginning of the story.
The duchess is also a witch—bruja—and for revenge, she stays pregnant for nine years, withholding Felipe’s son. This is officially the start of the story’s middle. For things to move forward, someone has to act to change the status quo.
Felipe has been married to the wrong woman—in other words, someone not Josefa—for nine years. He has a nine-year-old daughter but no sons. His queen dies and Josefa thinks, “Aha, now he will marry me, and I’ll give him his son.” She prepares to give birth.
But no. Felipe—let’s say for political reasons—has decided to marry the much younger princess of a foreign land. Do we need to know her name? Hmm. Depends on the length of the story and the princess’ role in it. For now, let’s call her the princess. As part of the wedding preparations, Felipe sends to Fontanár with a message. “My son must attend my wedding.”
Now, Josefa has a choice. She can continue the pregnancy or go through with the birth. This nine-year pregnancy, like all magic, has a cost. The baby is eating Josefa’s life force. She can’t live and stay pregnant. So she has the child, and what a hateful, awful, terrifying child he is.
Not surprisingly since it’s magic, Severiano goes from birth to nine-years old within a few weeks. Learning about his mother’s desire for revenge against his father, Severiano decides to go to the wedding and kill his father the King.
Rush to the end. Josefa realizes the evil she’s done. She has a change of heart. Hastening to follow Severiano to the palace, she arrives just in time.
The wedding is in progress. Severiano has already killed the princess, her bloody body is draped over the chancel rail. He has his arrow pointed at Felipe, ready to do the deed.
But here’s my quandary. Does Josefa destroy Severiano and save Felipe? Does Josefa arrive that single moment too late and Felipe is already dead? Does Josefa destroy Severiano and in killing her own son, destroy herself?
It seems inevitable to me that Josefa and Severiano die together. But then, whose story is this? Certainly not Felipe’s. First he’s unlikeable as the betrayer of an innocent woman. Second, he doesn’t appear in the story at all until his life is in danger.
No. The transformative moment belongs to Josefa. She is the main character.
Except. There’s that old adage: dead men tell no tales. Okay, in this case, dead women.
Maybe what I need is another character, someone sympathetic, someone who always tries to do what’s right, someone with enough skin in the game that it matters what happens to him. Or her.
Sigh. I have another week of thinking in front of me. Meanwhile, all comments welcome.