21 days to The Lost Queen!
As Zandria continues her journey, she must cross several thresholds. These can be viewed either literally or metaphorically as doorways deeper into the special world. Many times these doors are blocked by guardians which test the hero's resolve and worthiness.
Aside from the hero structure, I wanted to incorporate familiar elements from other fairytales and folklore. I wanted to see characters that I knew, that my kids new, or maybe some we'd never heard of before. This led to extensive research. The result being that the major threshold guardians all come from our global subconscious and mythology.
First there is Baba Yaga from Russia. Then The Four Musicians of Bremen. In The Fourth Queen, they are quite opposite of their origins. The Kappa, who seems to be an audience favorite, came from Japan. Then Vasilissa and Psyche take on new personae from their source material.
The final threshold is guarded by an essential archetype of fantasy, the dragon. What fairytale would be complete without a dragon? I wanted Empyrean to feel ancient, so I decided to make common fantasy characters, like dragons and unicorns, either endangered or extinct. To me, this kept the focus more on the characters than on the monsters.
All of this leads to the Inmost Cave, Final Ordeal and finally the Death of the Hero.