Apart from being shorter, my version of this scene put the burden of reaching Syr’Nj on different shoulders. It was a lot less on Byron to do it and a lot more on Fr’Nj. Most importantly, it had Fr’Nj asserting that this is just the Bough’s power magnifying Syr’Nj’s own emotions, and “Graiya’s voice” here is more like the grief-torn Syr’Nj’s IDEA of what Graiya would say (“That’s not the Syr’Nj I knew talking, and it’s not the Bough either! Continuing to argue with Father won’t keep him alive”). In this version, Byron (who is, admittedly, less of an expert) claims that Graiya is a vengeful goddess who needs the very mortals she created to show her a better way, which is more in line with Phil’s thinking on gods.

In retrospect, my idea was probably another subconscious Swamp Thing homage. The end of Alan Moore’s first major arc is a somewhat similar plants-go-crazy near-apocalypse, centered on the supervillain Jason Woodrue (same guy as the one I mentioned here, but appearing and identifying as much less of a man and more of a plant). Swamp Thing ends Woodrue’s reign of terror by observing that this isn’t the plants speaking through Woodrue as Woodrue has claimed, but his twisted mind directing their feelings to violent, and ultimately self-destructive, ends. As soon as the plants realize he’s leading them to their own doom, they ghost him. (Click the thumbnail for a clip.)

The version had some strengths, but Phil’s was an improvement. It would’ve been a challenge to get Fr’Nj into the heart of the action and establish that she knew about Naror’Nj’s death. More importantly, a climax needs as much payoff as it can get, and that comes from reaping the benefits of the relationships in which you’ve invested the most. Even though we’d invested some work into Fr’Nj and Syr’Nj’s bond in Chapter 17, we’d clearly invested a lot more into Syr’Nj and Byron.

(And it felt like a compliment to me that, even while Phil was seething about my failings, he still put in a callback to one of my favorite bits I wrote for an earlier chapter.)