Jaritta is one of those characters writers will tell you about, one who takes over a story and demands recognition.

She is an outcast, an untouchable, who spends time at Chaitan’s house with Rashul and all the other dreamers who imagine a different world, one where the castes are no more—or at least have much less influence. At around thirty years old, she’s older than many of the dreamers. When she can’t be sitting around the Rashul’s group, she’s often on the streets, begging for money or helping other untouchables get whatever they need.

Having spent half her life on the streets, she knows the city well, and especially knows the secret routes that can let someone travel without being seen, often from roof to roof.

Wait, half her life? Jaritta was not born an outcast. In fact, she was born to one of the most powerful families in the Eghsal Valley, from within the princely jati (subcategory) of the highest caste. Her father was one of the Thirty Ruling Princes who oversee the governance of the entire valley. He was not a particularly noteworthy prince himself—not especially charismatic, neither loved nor hated by any faction—but being one of that group made him influential.

And so when his fifteen-year-old daughter was burned by lamp oil, one side of her face horribly scarred, the priests had to intervene. Fire, to the priests of the valley’s major religion, is sacred. So her injury and especially her scarring, are taken as proof of the gods’ rejection of her. And she is cast out.

Jaritta is the first character I created for the novel. As I often do for novels, while I was brainstorming plans for the overall storyline, I wrote a short story set within the world to begin to help myself shape the world in my head. So I told the story of fifteen-year-old Jaritta. That story is called “Untouched by Fire” and was eventually published in Guardbridge Books’ Myriad Lands anthology.

It was meant to be a one-off story and a one-time character—someone created for that story who wouldn’t have any specific connection to the novel. But she wouldn’t let go. As the story of The Silk Betrayal took shape, I kept coming back to her character, wanting to include her in the events of the story.

So she ended up there at Chaitan’s house, when Pavresh showed up. She’s older, has grown far beyond the pampered life she had as a child, but is still somewhat self-conscious about the scar that covers half her face. And it’s through her that the world of Chaitan’s house, and especially Pavresh, becomes enmeshed in the intrigues of the Thirty Ruling Princes, where her brother has now succeeded their late father.

And what Jaritta discovers over the course of the novel is that even as an outcast, she still wants to have her hands in shaping the future of her city and her people. A wish that may bring trouble to many, including herself...