There are several answers to that question. Back in the nineties, I was writing books faster than my publisher could fit them into its catalogue, so the “Longdirk” series was sold to another company and published under a pen name, Ken Hood. Poor Ken had no track record, so sales of Books 1 and 2 were slow. Then I was late delivering Book 3—the only time in my thirty-plus years of professional writing that I committed this sin.
By the time Book 3 was published, Books 1 and 2 had been allowed to go out of print. (Digital books did not exist back then.) I considered this a very strange business decision, and still do. The contract had been for three books, so that was that. At least Book 3 was published, but Ken Hood died, unmourned and buried in unmarked grave.
Had all gone well, though, so that I had been required to write Book 4, I would have had a plotting problem. Book 3 closes with Toby commanding a personal army of 60,000 men—all needing food and shelter—but with no source of income. The text implies that he will lead his horde north and overthrow the Fiend. Granted that we are in Fantasyland, a seasoning of realism makes a dish more palatable, and armies of those days were largely financed with plunder. Europe, we were led to believe, had already been looted by the Fiend. Longdirk’s Army of Liberation is likely to find slim pickings and a hostile population.
Besides, Book 3 has already depicted total medieval war with unlimited magic. Book 4 should not be more of the same. I never did bother to work out a scenario, but the puzzle has niggled at me ever since, and now I think that Book 4 (Demon Author, perhaps?)would have run something like this—
Lucretia is a minor thread still untied, and must be disposed of while the story is still set in Italy. Possibly her next attack on Toby would provide an opening curtain-raiser. Exit Lucretia, stage left.
News of Nevil’s loss in Italy causes uprisings all over his empire. Toby demobilizes his army with silver provided by Baron Oreste, and sends the men north to aid the cause of freedom in their own homelands.
Lisa is Queen of England, with Toby pretending to be her husband, and Hamish her Lord Chancellor. This arrangement is very stressful for all three, especially for Toby.
The laws of fiction require that Toby’s struggle with the Fiend should end in an eyeball-to-eyeball personal confrontation, so Toby arranges this. Nevil loses, obviously. Exit Nevil.
Lisa and Hamish return to England, meeting with wild acclaim. Toby remains in continental Europe to help stamp out some smoldering embers of Nevil’s regime. When he reluctantly agrees to be crowned King of Scotland and sets sail, he is shipwrecked on the shores of Moray. (The hob’s doing?) He realizes that this is a good way for him to disappear, and his feet lead him home to Fillan, where the hob returns to its grove, and Toby finds Meg, his first love from Book 1. Rory is dead, so all is well for romance.
I will not write that book, but I hope that these notes can soften the too-sudden impact at the end of Book 3.
(a.k.a. Dave Duncan)