We write the Rook and Rose novels in a series of shared Google Docs, swapping back and forth multiple times during the course of a scene. Because of this setup, we often leave comments in the margins of the draft. Many of these comments are logistical ones like “check timing” or explaining alterations we’ve made . . . but some are just us getting chatty with each other. We actually leave those in the draft for the entertainment of our editor; now we want to share them with you. Below are a selection of the choicer ones, with the relevant quotation from the book that the comment was attached to.

(Needless to say — but we will say it anyway — here be spoilers. Albeit context-free ones, since the quotations are relatively brief.)

For this book in particular, we should also note that we did a lot more cutting, adding, and rearranging than for The Mask of Mirrors. We’ve done our best to list the comments under the chapter number they eventually wound up in, and not to include comments for scenes we cut entirely, but it’s possible we missed a few.

Chapter 1

(Ghiscolo, to Grey) “I’d like you to join in a command position.”

(Marie) “I’m pretty sure I can use my medallions to mold you into exactly the tool I want.”

Chapter 2

Partway through this, [Vargo] caught Ghiscolo watching him with a faint, puzzled frown.

(Alyc) Right here is where Ghiscolo is all ‘why does your collar want something?’ [because he glimpsed Alsius]

Chapter 3

Vargo let the conclusion drift as Serrado stepped off the skiff after Renata. “Captain.”



Then she looked up to find a small beam pinning her legs, a much larger one where she’d been standing, Serrado running one soothing hand down a horse’s neck, and Vargo climbing to his feet on the far side of the chaos. He stripped off his ruined coat with a snarl.

(Alyc) Ahahahaha. I love this echo. Vargo: I lose more fucking coats this way.

(Marie) At first I had him just scowling at it in distaste, and then I realized . . . no, I’m not just being shameless; he really would strip it off.

Chapter 5

The crowds were restless — from the summer heat, from too much drink, from the worry that this week would follow the pattern of the Night of Hells and Veiled Waters, and end in chaos and disaster.

(Marie) I don’t blame them for being gun-shy . . .

(Alyc) well, yeah 😀 But some of them are probably HOPING for it. Cause y’know… excitement

The Rook briefly considered crushing [Peabody], but refrained. The spider was innocent.

Its master was not.

(Alyc) Ahahahah. Oh man, can you imagine what a different book this would be if Vargo suddenly collapsed in the middle of the initiation?

(Marie) And then cut back to the Rook saying “WHY — WON’T — THIS — SPIDER — DIE!?”

[Trufact: We still laugh now, imagining the outtakes from the filming of some Rook and Rose TV show where the actor playing the Rook is smashing a rubber spider prop with a book and it’s bouncing all over the desk, while behind the camera, the actor playing Vargo mimes convulsions.]

Chapter 6

(Tanaquis) “I’d dearly love to take a tracing of [Vargo’s numinatrian brand].”

(Marie) [My sister] can attest that I snorfled out loud at this. 😀

(Alyc) I was only waiting for you to finish typing this note to add a “Not a euphemism” of my own 😀

Cheese, however tasty, could not make up for a lack of noodles.


(Alyc) I was just going to say… embrace the power of And

His sardonic gaze suggested he could tell she was trying to seem more authentic; by the time she passed the deck to him for the last shuffle and cut, she had to glance away to escape the weight of those blue eyes.

(Alyc) heeee. The player has been played 😛

Chapter 8

(Vargo) “That doesn’t look like Šidjin Gulavka. Got too many eyes, for one thing.”

(Marie) TFW Alyc sends you a chat message saying “Too many eyes. And a penis.” without context . . . [We routinely just say “tag” to one another when handing off the scene for the next bit, but in this instance, Alyc chose to be more . . . enigmatic.]

Vargo ignored him. “Renata, you look a little flushed. Why don’t we get you some wine?”

(Alyc) Hey look! The third rail! [in reference to the poisoned wine at the Charterhouse, where Vargo had sent Ren — right when she’s about to rip him open for that betrayal]

Chapter 9

(Tanaquis) “No, what you experienced had to do with eisar. They’re a type of spirit, without physical form, an emanation of . . .” She trailed off, as if weighing how much scholarly explanation Renata would tolerate.

(Marie, attaching the comment specifically to the ellipsis) “the Primordials. Wait, no, if I say that you’ll scream and run away.”

(Alyc) Heheheh. Never mistake a Tanaquis pause for tact…

(Vargo, about to meet the Anduske at the Talon and Trick) By comparison, this felt easy. A simple bit of street politics, easily solved with fists and blades.

(Alyc) Oh… Vargo. Wee spiderlamb.

I feel like this book’s alternate title is “Let’s give Vargo a bad day.”

(Marie) Well, the alternate title of Book 1 is “Let’s give Ren a bad day.”

Hey, Grey! Looking forward to Book 3?

Vargo got a cell of his own, on the top floor of the prison. It had a chair and everything. And a window, through which a spot of bright color scuttled.

(Alyc) Vargo: Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?

Chapter 10

Ryvček spoke of [Contorio] with odd fondness; she’d always enjoyed interweaving flirtation with her work as the Rook. Even flirtation with nobles.

(Alyc) Um. Grey. Honey. I hate to be the one to tell you, but… she’s not the only one.

(Marie) Oh, I might have put that there specifically for some pot-vs.-kettle comparisons. <g> Though Grey is more selective.

(Alyc) As we pointed out, like, only ten paragraphs ago (yes, ten. I counted)

Grey is more selective = he only flirts with ACTUAL medallion holders…

“I have my compass, my edge, my chalk, myself. I need nothing more to blow the shit out of the cosmos.”

(Marie) Non-metaphorical LOL at this 😀

Chapter 11

“Good boy,” [Tess] whispered [to Meatball]. “If I ever form my own knot, you’ll be my top fist.”

(Marie) Dawwww!

“Your bout of stomach illness was very convenient.”

It hadn’t been convenient at all. Sedge had to go rooting through trash heaps to find some mussels that had gone off, and then there had been all the puking that followed.


(Marie) You mean Sedge’s commitment to not having Varuni kick his teeth in because she thinks he’s malingering.

“I was dealing with unexpected intruders.”

(Alyc) There’s a double meaning in that

[It’s the Rook referring to the kitten, but also Grey talking about finding Arenza asleep in the bed he intended to use. Also, if y’all haven’t seen Much Ado About Nothing, get thee to the Branagh/Thompson version!]

“Who taught you the naming of cats? What about Velvet? Coal? Thorn?”

(Alyc) might need to rephrase, but I couldn’t help this callout [to T.S. Eliot/the musical Cats]


[Further context: Velvet was the name of Marie’s childhood cat; Alyc’s cat Thrace is properly named Anthracian Dawnwing Mittenpaws the Third and anthracite is a type of hard coal; Thorn is, along with Thorn Mews in The Mask of Mirrors, us making a random nod to Thorn, the RPG character we based Sedge on.]

“Her public name will be Nox.”

(Marie) Fun facts to know and tell: this means “Night,” and it was [my sister’s] name in Latin class.

Chapter 12

“You came not for this,” Alinka said [to Arenza], with the determined air of someone trying to pretend to normalcy. “But I’m sorry to say Grey isn’t here.”

(Alyc) Alinka ships it

It startled an embarrassed laugh from Arenza.

(Alyc) Ren has no idea there is something to ship

The eyeless mask on the card resembled the one Renata had worn to the first Praeteri initiation

(Marie) I AM SO PLEASED that this literally dropped into my lap when I looked up what I’d decided The Mask of Nothing looked like!

(Sibiliat) “Well, if you want to exact some other kind of revenge on him, let me know.”

(Alyc) Sibiliat isn’t just the friend who will help you hide the bodies, she’s the friend who will offer to make you some bodies to hide

The question came from Tanaquis, looking remarkably tidy and elegant in a midnight surcoat of satin-woven cotton with constellations embroidered around the hem — all accurate to their celestial placement, Tess had told Renata with a put-upon groan.

(Alyc) Tanaquis is now Twilight Sparkle and Tess is Rarity in my MLP crossover fic

What [the Rook] was doing in the story [Ren] didn’t know, but there were hoots and catcalls as [the actor] made his way from box to box, stepping on a ledge that seemed to have been installed for the purpose, making flirtatious gestures and even kissing any audience member who would play along.

(Marie) Fontimi missed the memo that the Rook is Grey now, not Ryvcek. 😛

(Alyc) Heheheh, yeah. He’s very disappointed by the new Rook (and I wonder if he’s one of the few people who noticed the change because… character research 😛 )

Another smirk flashed across [Sibiliat’s] mouth; she had a face made for it.

(Alyc) Sibiliat and Xue Yang were separated at birth. And she’s the good twin.

“I wouldn’t mind another taste of House Acrenix’s best,” Vargo said, watching Ghiscolo carefully as he poured.

(Alyc) “You know, I’m perfectly fine fucking you as well”

[. . . followed by a discussion in our chat window of how he would probably draw the line at Carinci.]

Chapter 13

[Vargo] wasn’t certain how the story of his encounter with the Rook had gotten out, but if he ever found out who’d talked, he was adding them to his list of people to ruin.

(Alyc) Giuna. It was totally Giuna.

(Vargo, to Arkady) “That why you tied yourself to the cat? So he won’t give you trouble?”

(Alyc) I’m just imagining this adorable outtake where Arkady is face-to-face with Doomclaw, whispering her oath, “your debts are my debts, your secrets are my secrets, let there be no debts or secrets between us” <3333

Chapter 14

(Iascat, to Vargo) “Close your mouth unless you mean to use it.”

(Marie) G’dang, Iascat.

(Alyc) heh. yeah. I think he heard about the Fadrin hook-up and drank some vinegar.

With the precision of someone re-assembling his defenses, [Vargo] straightened his coat, shot his cuffs, and retrieved the spider from where it had fled to the edge of the carriage window, setting it back onto his shoulder.

(Marie) Man, now I want the side scene that is whatever the hell Alsius was saying during all of this. Assuming it wasn’t just horrified silence the whole time.

(Alyc) heh, probably something like ‘Don’t just let him hit you… hit him back or… something! Use your… knees!”

“I can’t hit him back when I’m being choked out! What do you want me to do? gasp on him?”

“I don’t know! You’re the one who’s always going on about how street tough you are… Don’t you have a knife hidden somewhere?”

“Yeah. In my boot. You wanna drag it up here for me, spider-dad?”

“Look, there’s no need to get snippy”

The rooftop [the Rook had] been on before would do; he’d see when Beldipassi returned home from the Traementis ball. Which also meant he could see if the man was bringing anyone extra.

(Alyc) Beldipassi always brings the extra

(Marie) Beldipassi is the extra

Chapter 15

No. It would take too long, with no certainty of finding Tanaquis in either place, and too much risk of the Praeteri. Grey couldn’t afford that kind of mistake.

That left only one inscriptor.

(Alyc) Even knowing this was coming, even being a part of it… I still totally grinned at this realization

Relief and exhaustion made her stupid; she pronounced the Rs too distinctly for a Seterin accent.

(Marie) Dying from lack of sleep: Ren keeps her accent going. Vargo and Grey nearly die: that cracks her persona.

(Alyc) d’awwww. She DOES care

Chapter 16

(Fontimi) “Nillas Marpremi! He hired me. Gave me this costume, too. It’s much better than the one I wear on stage. You wouldn’t believe how flimsy that thing is, no lining or anything. And nobody would believe me as the real Rook if I were flashing my chest –”

(Alyc) His portrayal of the Rook is going to improve by leaps and bounds. He’s going to go down as the most famous Rook Nadezra has ever seen 😛

People are actually going to speculate that he’s really the Rook, and pretending to be him on stage is part of the disguise

“To be honest,” Renata said

(Alyc) “‘To be honest,’ Renata said, and proceeded to lie.” — the epitaph on Renata’s tombstone

Chapter 17

There was no doubt that teaming up with the Black Rose had helped the Rook in his mission, but Grey had never let himself consider how satisfying it would be to join forces with Alta Renata.

Or how distracting, he thought as he backtracked to the tenement he’d walked past while thinking of her.

(Alyc) Grey: It’s so hot when she goes over contract law

Chapter 18

(Vargo’s thoughts) Possibly I should have told [Varuni] about that.

(Alyc) Varuni: Ya THINK?! asshole…

(Vargo, as remembered by Ren) Can you imagine what this city might be if everybody just did their fucking job for once?

(Marie) Note to self: never ever ever let Vargo near the Primordial of control. He’d make the trains run on time, that’s for sure . . .

(Alyc) Vargo: I see nothing wrong with fascism as long as I’m the one in charge…

(Suilis, discussing Sedge and Pavlin with Tess) “What happened to the brute? This one’s pretty enough, but the other had shoulders I could die over”

(Marie) Varuni can arrange that 😉

(Alyc) SS Edgeplay

[Yes, we ship Varuni/Sedge.]

The door burst open again, and Orruciat made a croaking sound like a stomped-upon frog. “What… you… my numinat!”

(Alyc) Cabbages!


Chapter 19

“As fascinating as this all is,” Vargo said in a tone as dry and stale as next-day bread, “in general I’m opposed to my nightmares using numinatria against me.”

(Marie) Vargo: “Fucking hell, the last thing I need is zlyzen learning inscription.”

Learning numinatria under the tutelage of a spider meant Vargo had never practiced cooperative inscription

(Alyc) totally not a euphemism. I in no way kept thinking ‘dual cultivation’ while writing this.

Ren forced herself to pick [the ash vial] up, but back when Breccone Indestris had been selling the excess on the streets, it had only been distributed in single doses. Vargo hadn’t left any for her to use.

(Alyc) Oh, Churl, drunk all, and left no drop to help me after.

(Marie) I may have had the same scene in my head as I wrote that . . .

Chapter 21

“It worked!” Tanaquis said, clapping her hands in relief and even cuffing Diomen on the shoulder.

(Alyc) ahahahhaah. Tanaquis – High Sebat!

(Marie) . . . Tanaquis has seven fingers on that hand?

(Alyc) Somebody is looking for her…