Ah yes, the topic I've long been avoiding. What the hell happens in this story? Let's put some thought into this, shall we?
I've been alternating between two schools of thought on this point. On the one hand, the original idea was that the lie, and the catastrophe, would be immediately relevant to the story. That the catastrophe would be coming, or have come. The characters would be acting to overcome the catastrophe following the wisdom laid out in the holy book immortalizing the lie, and realizing over time that said wisdom is a bunch of bunk, leaving them without a map.
Then at a certain point, I decided that seemed unwieldy and would require me to explain all about the lie and the catastrophe, which was territory I didn't necessarily want to get into. I thought that the story could follow L. as she does her own investigations, her own thinking, independent of the catastrophe. Looking back on it now, that seems lazy, frankly. That's what the damn world is about, so why shouldn't it be what the story is about?
So, if that is the plot, what happens?
We can keep the war in the backstory. H. and C. are mercenaries in the service of the Duke trying to reunite the country of which the City is a part. L. is a servant of the Goddess, whose church is based in the City, who becomes involved with the mercenaries as the religion dips its toes into politics on the city's behalf.
It just occurred to me, though, that I'm approaching this the wrong way. I'm approaching this in a role-playing way, if you would. Come up with some character concepts then build a story around them. No, this novel is a story. Let's get the bones of that worked out and see which characters we need, hmm?
Ok ok ok. So. L. is the center, so she stays. A young woman. She's virtuous, intelligent, poised, outspoken, and brutally honest with herself, at least when it comes to ideas. She's a part of a church - a nun, really. She's considered a woman of promise, a young up-and-comer, looked up to by her peers and treasured by her superiors - but also envied by rivals and frightening to authority figures who don't appreciate her point of view. Her life is mapped out: steady advancement, debate and scholarship, devotion and good works. It's not a quiet life by any means, it's a busy and accomplished one, but there is a plan.
But everything is thrown into confusion. Those plans are disrupted, and the life she could lead falls under threat - from the catastrophe's return. Now, the catastrophe shouldn't return, because as I've described, that leads to such chaos that a considered hero's journey becomes nearly impossible - there genuinely would be no opportunity, let alone time, for a measured debate over the merits of arguments for and against the lie. Rather, there's a clear reason to expect the return of the catastrophe. Let us say, a flair up of catastrophic activity.
A mini-catastrophe occurs. Mysterious deaths, unexplained phenomenon, etc. Wizards are able to confirm that what occurred was the result of spiritual activity. There's always been a "prophecy movement" in the church, and all of those people come forward and say, "See, the end really is nigh." And the thing is, L. is like, "Oh, come on, you're full of it, you were just as surprised as we were," but not everybody has the same reaction. And that's what sets the wheels turning for L. Given that a lot of people can be convinced that these madmen and -women really know what's going on, maybe a lot of people could be convinced of a lot of things.
But of course, that's not the end of the story. L. is asked to take part in a substantial way in an effort to prevent / prepare for the catastrophe, but as she tries to actualize the text, and the interpretations, of the writing about the next catastrophe, holes appear.
More to follow.