Behind the cut tag are details about Bujold's Chalion universe gleaned from the con and a reading at Flights of Fantasy yesterday, including details about the work in progress.
Stuff about the first two books first.
Initially, I asked if we'd find out what was going on with the Father and the Golden General. Bujold stated that she wasn't sure; she thought it would be hard to work into the next book, which is the Brother's. I said, "Was the Father really trying to wipe out the Quintarian faith?!" Her response was along the lines of: not necessarily, it may have been a misunderstanding or all kinds of other things. The gods are interested in souls, not governments and such. I asked if this meant that the gods weren't omniscient. She said that she wasn't sure; history in the Chalion universe is chaotic, on one hand, and on another, it depends whether the gods are seen as inside or outside of time, which is currently undetermined.
At this point, I wanted to ask if they were omnibenevolent, but there were people behind me. This may have obliquely come up later, though:
At the Q&A session before the reading, someone asked about the origins of the Chalion universe. I don't remember all the details, but one was that she wanted a religion that avoided duality: there's an odd number of gods and it was ambiguous if they were "good" or not. (Personal comment: I didn't get the impression that the gods had bad purposes, just that they went about them in ways that were difficult for their tools.) Also, a new religion allows exploration of religious issues without baggage.
I asked if it was particularly difficult to write the gods as characters. They were because they had to remain mysterious and mostly off-stage, though the Bastard found his way on-stage rather a lot in Paladin, but he already had a lot of character.
The next book:
Working title: "The Hallowed Hunt." It is set in a Germany-analogue, with new characters except for the gods. The time in relative to the other two is not yet set. It's the Son's book.
It was inspired by an episode in a book found on Patricia Wrede's floor, Mad Princes of Renaissance Germany (Amazon link), together with Bujold being approached by Harlequin about writing a romance for their new line. (She declined, because they had a six month deadline.)
A summary of the first chapter can be found elsewhere. The second chapter is "Ingrey Has a Very Bad Day." She read from the third chapter last night.
As best I can recall, it opens with the protagonist having a nightmare/dream flashback. He and his father are preparing for a rite involving wolves; there are two, an older one for the father and a young, beautiful one for him. After religious ceremonies, his father slays the first wolf; despite being bitten by the wolf in the process, he tells Ingrey that it worked, go ahead.
The wolf had rabies. Ingrey's father died shortly thereafter. The priest (? not sure of title) may also have died. Ingrey wonders if the priest planned his betrayal from the start; it's not clear to me if this means the rabies or something else. I believe that the rabies is what killed the father, at any rate.
Ingrey despairs of killing the young wolf who trusts him, but does it cleanly. He is overwhelmed by a spirit rushing into his mind; the images include castles and forests and hunts, but never with a wolf pack. Then he faints, to people yelling that something has gone wrong.
I believe at this point he is awoken while sleepwalking, during the present portion of the story, half-dressed, carrying his sword, and having left a locked building in search of—something. He is carefully put back to bed by the staff, and lies awake thinking how rapidly his life has gone downhill in the past few days—maybe it was empty in some respects (my characterization), but he was trusted and competent at his job. And he was definitely not wolf-haunted or anything like it.
The earliest it would possibly see publication is fall 2005, I think, but the impression was that this was unlikely.