I'm still working, just not making as much progress as I thought I would.
I figured out something this morning, if you can call digging up more problems figuring something out. Anyway, the beginning of my story is confusing. You start out with more characters than the brain can keep track of, and it's not clear who the main character is. This, I knew.
Most fantasy stories are about a hero/heroine who saves the day. This isn't, really. There's a hero. He saves the day. But one of the themes of the story is that he makes mistakes, doesn't understand what's going on, has to double back, has to make guesses. Another theme is that the hero isn't alone. Other people's stories matter, their actions matter; they're a community in a way that most fantasy stories aren't. They aren't subplots or tools; they aren't things that happen so the hero can save the day.
If the story is about confusion and community, how else should the story start? It would be misleading to start the story with the hero and maybe a couple of other people off on their own, doing things, then catching up with the rest of the community in order to do more things. Call up any given fantasy epic. There you go.
So how do I pull it off? There is a hero, and he does save the day, after all. Also, it would be nice if people actually enjoyed reading the thing, you know.