I confess that I get a thrill out of planting bits of information in a current novel that also serve the purpose of setting up events for a future story. It's one of the reasons I've made my peace with having things plotted out in advance in a fair amount of detail. If I don't know the general who, what, where, when for the overall series arc, how can I know what seeds I need to be planting now? When I knew I wanted to write Floodtide, and realized that it would weave into the events of Mother of Souls, I had some careful planning to do. I knew I wanted to bring in all the "teenagers": Brandel, Iulien, Celeste, and Anna. But I wanted/needed to keep the story centered on a queer female character, and to the best of my current knowledge none of them fill that bill. (Well, I have an idea about one of them but...still incubating.) I also wanted to tell Floodtide through the point of view of someone who wasn't "special". Not just an ordinary girl, but a working class one, and one who wouldn't have any special magical talents. I wanted her to be a catalyst and a nexus for the interaction of the other characters, but in a more ordinary way. And that was how Rozild came into my life.
You get two glimpses and one offhand reference to Roz in Mother of Souls. Not enough to know she has a story of her own to tell (unless you have an inside line from the author). And, of course, those glimpses serve an entirely different purpose within the current novel: to shine light on some of the social dynamics and anxieties around sexuality for those who don't have the privilege to be given a pass as "eccentric", and to serve as a challenge of empathy to some of our main characters.
Jeanne de Cherdillac has received a rather odd note from her dressmaker, begging a few moments of her time for a favor...
* * *
Chapter Twelve - Jeanne
Several days later, Jeanne’s thoughts returned to the note from Mefro Dominique and she sent a reply. Several more days passed before she found the time to travel down to the neighborhood near the Nikuleplaiz where the dressmaker’s shop stood. There had been just enough of a delicate hint to pique her curiosity. A favor, Dominique had said, and so not some new fabrics to be shown only to special patrons, or any of the other imaginable reasons Dominique might have to contact her.
At the chime of the bell on the door, Dominique herself came out from the back rooms to greet her and invite her into the side parlor that served both for fittings and as a workroom. Two girls scrambled to their feet at their entrance. She recognized the dressmaker’s daughter, of course, but the other girl was new. She was nothing much to look at, with mousy brown hair pulled tightly back under a linen cap, a whey-faced complexion, a long thin nose and sturdy arms that spoke of hard work, but her eyes were bright and curious before she remembered to look down.
Dominique gave them brief instructions. “Celeste, go to the front and see to anyone who comes. You may leave your work here. Rozild, do you think you can see about fetching some tea for our guest?”
Jeanne saw a flash of panic in the girl’s eyes before she nodded and slipped through the rear door to the private rooms. “A new apprentice?” she asked. Dominique certainly had the custom to support one, but usually the extra work was hired out.
“No, Mesnera, not an apprentice, though if I dared take her on, that would be a better choice.”
Dared? Well, who knew what these arrangements required. Every trade had its rules. Jeanne made a shrewd guess. “Is it possible that the favor you want has something to do with the girl who is not your apprentice?”
Dominique nodded with a glance toward the back rooms, and so Jeanne held her tongue until—after a lengthy wait—the girl returned with a tea tray that would not have passed muster in any respectable household.
“Thank you, Rozild,” the dressmaker said in dismissal. “Take your sewing upstairs until we’re done here.”
She waited until the footsteps had faded overhead before continuing. “Rozild was in service until recently. Not a parlor maid,” she said with a rueful smile and a nod toward the tea tray. “Laundry and mending at one of the houses near the Plaiz Nof. She helped out with the sewing when the Maisetra and her daughters all needed new gowns at once. That’s how I met her. She’s a good girl: quiet and well-mannered. There’s not an ounce of vice in her.”
“And yet,” Jeanne observed dryly, “she is no longer in service.”
There were several possibilities. She wasn’t particularly pretty and she looked scarcely more than fifteen, but men didn’t always care about that, and no one would ask whether she’d been willing or not.
“Is she with child?” Jeanne felt an inward shiver. Such a fine line between respectability and shame. A girl like Rozild couldn’t bluff her way through with tales of alchemy. But why had Dominique come to her? There were charities for fallen girls.
“No, it’s nothing like that. Mesnera de Cherdillac, it’s not my business to make judgments of my betters, so I hope you will forgive me if I speak of things that are not spoken of. Rozild was accused of a…a particular friendship with one of the other housemaids, if you understand my meaning. She has no hope of being given a character.” Dominique’s hesitation seemed born, not of reticence, but of uncertainty over the right words. Her gaze was direct and without accusation. “I hoped that you might know of an employer who would overlook that particular sin.”
“Ah,” Jeanne sighed.