11 – 39

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The carriage attempting to flank them on the left suddenly skidded, veering back and forth as its driver fought for control. There had been no sign of magic used that was visible from within the passenger compartment of Glory’s vehicle, but Schwartz had told them that with so much snow already in the air, manipulating ice to deprive their pursuers of traction would be one of the easiest spells available to him. He was probably responsible for the sliding of that carriage, since he apparently did nothing to prevent the other one from pulling up almost even with them.

Rasha had snatched up one of the wands Glory had distributed and now pushed open the window, stuck it out and fired.

The lightning bolt flew wide, sparking against a tree trunk in passing, but the pursuers fell back slightly, rather than try their luck against random wandshots. The Eserites didn’t have a better angle of fire without opening the doors to lean out, the rear window being fully attached to the frame. Rasha jerked back in, leaving the window opening and ignoring both the snowflakes and icy wind which blew in and Layla’s shriek of protest at them.

“Here,” Glory said in the momentary lull, tugging a piece of the seat beside her. A section of it slid partly forward, exposing a hidden compartment, into which she reached to pull out a gold-hilted Avenic short sword in a glossy leather sheath. She handed this to Jasmine. “Best to be prepared.”

“What in the world is she going to do with that?” Layla screeched. “Has everyone forgotten what century it is?”

“Not much use right now,” Jasmine allowed, “but the plan is to engage them on foot at the end of this.”

“She can do more damage with that blade than you can with a wand,” Glory added.

“Hold on!” Rasha shouted.

The carriage at which he’d fired approached again, this time almost directly from behind, cutting off the view of the truck bringing up the rear; the angle kept it out of the way of wandfire from their windows. All four of them looked back at Rasha’s shout, then braced themselves barely in time to keep their seats as the pursuing vehicle slammed into their back right fender.

The carriage rocked, but Smythe kept it on course, quickly adjusting out of the resulting skid and then accelerating until they were very nearly tailgating Vandro’s carriage up ahead. The dwarves’ vehicle did not fare so well from its attack; it swerved and barely kept from sliding off into the trees, forced to drastically reduce speed to regain control and compelling its own allies to quickly maneuver out of the way. It had lost one front lamp in the impact.

“Falconer traction charms really do beat Dawnco,” Jasmine muttered, still gripping the bench. “I know someone who’ll be smug…”

In the meantime, the carriage first deflected by Schwartz had recovered its traction and was coming up again; Rasha and Glory both shifted to the opposite side, ready to lean out the windows with wands. The window next to the driver’s seat on the oncoming carriage opened as well, and a bearded dwarf leaned partially out, aiming a wand of his own at them.

“Get down!” Jasmine shouted.

Before they could, however, a tiny streak of red struck the dwarf directly in the beard, and while he flailed, bounced into the driver’s compartment of his vehicle.

An instant later, the compartment was literally full of a huge, glowing cat.

Meesie’s roar was audible to them even over the road noise; her sheer bulk popped open both doors on the vehicle’s driver bench. The driver kept his seat, barely, though his passenger was flung out into the road, and immediately run over by the pursuing truck, which rocked alarmingly but did not capsize or lose significant traction. Meanwhile, the carriage with Meesie in it now lit up a fierce gold as multiple occupants channeled huge amount of divine magic. It had the desired effect; the elemental vanished with a bellowing yowl of protest, but that was an empty victory. The carriage itself veered entirely off the road even as she disappeared, spinning about ninety degrees and toppling over on its side, where it continued to skid on the snow until its front fender smashed against a tree.

“One down,” Glory said with grim satisfaction.

“Oh, no.” Layla pressed both hands to her mouth; in the brief time between Schwartz’s arrival at the townhouse and their departure, she had been immensely taken with the tiny elemental. “Oh, poor Meesie.”

“She’s fine,” said Jasmine. “According to Schwartz, if damaged enough to disappear she’ll just come back to—look out!”

The other carriage had pulled forward again; this time, one of its passenger doors swung wide open, and out leaned a dwarf clearly being held by another inside the compartment, considering he had both hands occupied aiming a battlestaff at them.

All four hurled themselves to the floor as lightning flashed past outside.

More bursts of white light flickered through their windows, accompanied by the crack of thunderbolts and the deeper retorts of trees being struck by the discharges, but nothing hit their carriage. After a few more seconds of this, Jasmine warily crawled up onto the back seat to peak out the window.

“He’s missing,” she reported.

“Well, obviously,” Layla said scathingly. “Why is he missing? Did they designate their only blind confederate as the trigger man?”

“The lightning bolts are being diverted away!” Jasmine replied, grinning.

“Bless that witch,” Glory said fervently, lifting herself back into the seat and retrieving her wand, which she had dropped in her lunge to the floor.

“Yeah,” Rasha agreed, peeking warily out beside Jasmine. “The question is, how long can he keep that up?”

Suddenly their carriage shook under the thump of something impacting the roof, and swerved momentarily before Smythe got it back under control.

“And what the blazes was that?” Layla cried.

Perched precariously atop Vandro’s speeding carriage with one hand clutching the edge of the roof and the other holding to her staff, Tallie watched the confrontation behind them with a lot more worry for her friends in the line if fire than her own very immediate prospects of falling to a particularly ugly demise. Heights and unstable footing were downright comfortingly familiar to her. Granted, speeding down a dark highway in a snowstorm was new, but hey, you had to shake up the act now and again or the punters got bored.

She grinned savagely as the first pursuing carriage went down. In the next moment, though, she reflexively ducked, nearly losing her footing, as lightning began to flash around to the side. It kept shooting off to the left of Glory’s carriage, and it took only a moment’s study for her to understand what must be happening. She could see Schwartz, silhouetted in the glare of the truck’s powerful lights, standing upright somehow despite the snow, wind, and motion of the carriage. He was also holding one hand forward toward their pursuers.

Tallie didn’t know a thing about witchcraft, but she knew how exhausting anything that demanded concentration and physical stamina could get. And she knew what would happen when Schwartz’s energy flagged. How far were they from the point Glory had suggested?

The gap between their vehicles had narrowed when Smythe pressed forward to gain room, but now Wilberforce began to accelerate, pushing Vandro’s carriage to a truly dangerous speed in order to create space between them again. The gap began widening, and Tallie came to an abrupt decision.

She didn’t bother trying to get a running start; she could never have kept her balance doing that under these conditions. Instead she slid her body forward, planted one foot against the rear edge of the roof, and kicked off as powerfully as she could without sacrificing her footing.

The moment of arcing through the snowy air above the highway was one of the most terrifying and exhilarating of her life.

She had misjudged the jump slightly—forgivable, under the circumstances—and slipped upon landing, coming down on her knees instead of her feet. The pain was sharp and bright, and Tallie ignored it completely, being fully occupied with losing neither her staff nor herself over the side. Throwing her body flat, she managed to grasp one edge of the carriage’s roof, dig one toe in against the ornate molding lining it (bless Glory’s extravagant tastes), and stop her horrifying slide over the edge. For a moment she clung there, one foot hanging over the windscreen probably right in front of Smythe, before rallying and pulling herself back up to kneel. This position put more pressure on her already-traumatized knees, which she continued to ignore.

Tallie looked up in time to spot Schwartz glancing back at her; he quickly returned his attention to their pursuit, but at least that mean she could speak to him without accidentally frightening him off the roof. He struck her as being of a generally nervous disposition—or at least, had before she saw this performance.

“I thought you couldn’t use an energy shield on an enchanted carriage!” she shouted over the wind.

“Arcane shields, no,” he replied, strain evident in his voice. “Not shielding, anyway, redirecting. Lightning is practically natural, easy to do with my craft… If they’ve got a proper enchanter wand in there, we’re in serious—”

He broke off suddenly, falling to his own knees and holding out his other hand. Only when another barrage of lightning bolts went flashing harmlessly off to the opposite side of the carriage did she realize that their pursuer’s opposite door had opened and another dwarf was attacking them with a wand.

Meesie, who had been too small to be visible from Vandro’s carriage ahead, squealed furiously at Tallie, despite having to cling to Schwartz’s collar with all four paws to avoid being blown away.

“Now,” Schwartz snarled, “would be…a good…time!”

Tallie was already bringing up her staff; she had to creep forward till she was next to him and take aim from right under his arm to avoid the very real prospect of blasting him point-blank, given the way their perch was rocking.

She had never fired a staff before; she’d fired a crossbow, though. This had much less recoil, which seemed ironic.

Tallie wasn’t a great shot, but she managed to rake the side of the carriage, causing the dwarf with the wand to fall out with an audible cry. The carriage itself bucked from the impact, its upper left edge a scorched ruin and actually on fire in a couple of places, but the driver regained control and kept on after having to sacrifice a few yards of proximity. That was still easily within staff range.

Given that only one side in that firefight had any defensive measures, that pretty much decided the matter.

The barrage coming at them from the dwarf’s staff intensified so much that the weapon had to be in immediate danger of overheating; clearly their foe could analyze the tactical reality just as well. Tallie’s second shot punched right through the windscreen, though not on the side where the driver perched. She had been aiming for the driver’s seat, but these were hardly optimal shooting conditions. Her next shot at the driver didn’t hit him, either; their carriage bumped right as she fired, causing both herself and Schwartz to slide terrifyingly backward, and her staff jerked straight down as she fought for balance.

However, that meant the shot blasted one of their pursuer’s front wheels clean off.

The carriage crumpled forward onto itself like a horse with a broken leg, its fender plowing into the highway and causing its back end to reel upward. Too close to avoid it, the following truck plowed right into its ally, the driver managing to swerve only just enough to make the collision relatively indirect. It finished the work of smashing the vehicle, though, and knocking it fully off the road.

The truck came on, now missing one of its brilliant running lamps, but apparently undeterred.

“Nice shot,” Schwartz said breathlessly. Meesie squeaked and nodded.

Tallie grinned at him, not about to argue despite that shot being a complete accident. “Not so bad yourself. Hang tight, though, we’re not nearly out of this yet.”

“I say, is this ominous?” Layla asked nervously, peering through the rear window at the sole remaining lamp of the truck following them. “I mean, it seems odd that we’re doing so well. We are outnumbered, and I learned long ago to be suspicious of anything that seems to be going like a bard’s story.”

“A rider is only as good as his mount,” Glory replied calmly. “Those are cheap, mass-produced vehicles acquired locally for the sake of anonymity. Our carriages were the absolute top of the line even before Webs and I commissioned our various personal enhancements, and both are being driven by Butlers. No, this is proceeding more or less as I expected. The real test will come once we’re off the road.”

A persistent chiming rapidly grew in volume and their carriage swerved to hug the right edge of the road, following Vandro’s ahead, and followed a moment later by the truck behind. Another vehicle shot past them on their left—actually moving far slower than they, but quickly lost behind due to their speed, along with the sound of its driver frantically yanking his alarm bell in panic.

“That’s an important reminder,” Jasmine said grimly. “Storm or no storm, this is a public highway scarcely a stone’s throw from the Imperial capital. It’s amazing there’s not more traffic.”

“What do you want to bet that guy goes right to the nearest police with this story?” Rasha asked. “I mean, even if he couldn’t see the damage to these carriages, he’s about to pass two wrecked ones that have obviously been shot, and probably bodies in the road.”

“All according to plan,” Glory said soothingly, patting Rasha’s shoulder. “Official vehicles will be out soon anyway; this storm came on quickly, but they try to keep up a presence in dangerous weather in case anyone needs help. Secrecy is more than we can hope for. Remember, getting the Empire involved will be to our benefit. It’s the dwarves who attacked first.”

“Which means,” Jasmine reminded them, “they have an urgent need to stop us before the Imperials catch up.”

“It’s that thing I want to know about,” Glory murmured, staring back at the truck through narrowed eyes. “Those little Dawnco rigs didn’t last long, which was no surprise. That one, though… What have they got in there?”

“Why are we slowing—oh.”

Schwartz turned to face forward as the carriages decelerated. Up ahead, lights rose through the gloom, and after only moments longer the forest fell away to both sides.

Imperial foresters kept the immediate surroundings of Tiraas as pristine and natural as possible, a policy established by Emperor Sarsamon, the founder of the Tirasian Dynasty, but this forest was scarcely a century old. Before that, Tiraan Province had been thoroughly settled farming country, but during the Enchanter Wars battles had torn up the landscape, and in the lawless and tax free years which followed, much of the land had been despoiled by opportunistic companies, strip-mining and mass-logging until the once-proud capital stood surrounded by a virtual wasteland. Tirasian conservation efforts or no, however, this was still a populated region; the cities of Tiraas, Anteraas and Madouris stood quite close together, and there were numerous smaller towns and villages in the vicinity. The highway now passed straight through one.

Here, even more than in the capital, people had retreated inside to escape the cold, dark, and the rapidly thickening blanket of snow which had piled nearly a foot deep in only a few hours. It was far from deserted, however. Lights blazed from many windows, and as the quality of the highway’s paving improved with its transition to village main street, regularly spaced lamp posts appeared lining the way.

Two people were trudging along the snow-buried sidewalk, heads down and hands jammed in coat pockets; they ignored the short convoy of enchanted carriages which now passed through the town, having decelerated to a speed that would not garner attention. Another man stood on the corner of a cross-street, however, smoking a cigarette. Or at least he had been; it was blown from his fingers into the slush-filled gutter by an errant gust of wind, which he appeared not to notice, being occupied staring at their procession.

The two lead carriages were both clearly expensive, though Vandro’s also bore the significant scars of its rough treatment back in Tiraas. The hulking delivery truck bringing up the rear had also taken a beating, its front fender totally smashed by the recent impact with the wrecked Dawnco sedan, the lamp on that side torn clean off. Only Glory’s carriage bore no signs of damage. It did, however, have Schwartz and Tallie sitting on the roof, in the snow, he with a cheerfully burning little elemental on his shoulder, she clutching a battlestaff.

In the light of the village’s street lamps, they could, for the first time, see the dwarf ensconced in the truck’s driver seat. He tipped his hat politely to the staring man as they passed.

“We could make a fuss,” Tallie said quietly. “There must be police close to here, either Imperial or House Madouri. Tell ’em what’s been going on…”

“Glory picked out a destination for the ambush,” Schwartz replied quietly. “Jasmine has a plan, and anyway, we’ve got allies waiting for us who will be left high and dry if we don’t show. At least one is a friend of mine. Besides,” he added, directing a scowl at the truck behind, “I think Jasmine’s plans can be trusted, as a general rule.”

Catching his look, the dwarf driving the truck smiled and waved at him. Tallie calmly made a crude gesture in reply.

“Did you know Jasmine before we all wound up in that jail?” she asked him.

Schwartz grinned in spite of himself. “Well, I mean, sure. We were all in that warehouse before we were in jail.”

“You know what I mean,” she snapped.

“Yes, I do,” he said more soberly, not meeting her eyes. “And no…I didn’t.”

“Mm.” Tallie studied him critically, the light fading around them; they were already moving toward the opposite fringe of the village. “And yet, you know something about her that I don’t?”

Schwartz glanced at her, then shifted uncomfortably. Meesie turned to give Tallie a look, pointed one paw at her and squeaked a warning.

“Mm hm,” Tallie said smugly. “Ah, well, people keep reminding me others are entitled to their secrets.”

“It’s probably significant if people have to keep reminding you of that,” Schwartz said pointedly.

“Let’s table this for later,” she suggested. “Sound like it’ll be a fun argument, and right now I just don’t think we can spare it the attention it deserves.”

Up ahead, Wilberforce signaled the end of their reprieve by pouring power into the wheels, his carriage blazing off into the darkness. Smythe kept Glory’s smoothly right behind it, and for a few moments they started to leave their pursuer in their wake. After dropping back until the truck’s remaining lamp was almost a pinprick, though, it began rapidly swelling again. The truck could not match a Falconer carriage for acceleration, but even with the best available traction charms and Butler drivers, everyone’s top speed was limited by what they could safely do in the snow and the darkness. In only another minute, the truck was once again bearing down on them.

Now, however, the vehicle emitted a sudden bang, and the flat roof of its cargo compartment—which made up the majority of its size—suddenly shot into the air, falling to the road behind them.

“Oh, what the hell now,” Tallie groaned. “Look at the size of that thing—they could have a mag cannon in there!”

“You can’t put magical artillery on top of anything running on wheel enchantments, either,” Schwartz said pedantically even as he stared at the truck. There was definitely some kind of mechanism in it; groaning and clacking noises were emerging, loud enough to be clear despite the wind blasting past them. “Mag cannons work by channeling a burst of otherwise standard wandfire through two tiny dimensional portals affixed back to back, which exponentially increases the power using the ambient energy that causes the universe itself to function. Most of a mag cannon’s bulk is the charmed apparatus that safely contains those spells, and even so, unstable portals mess up all kinds of other charms, especially anything designed to be specifically mobile and adaptive. Believe me, the military would love…

“Why in hell’s name does he think I care about this?” Tallie muttered to herself, taking aim with her staff. Meesie glanced over at her and shook her tiny head.

This time, her shot was true and struck the target head-on, but this time, it accomplished virtually nothing. Lightning veered off course, arcing over and into the open back of the truck.

“What the fuck?!” she screeched.

“I say, how clever!” Schwartz exclaimed.

“I thought you said you can’t shield an enchanted carriage!”

“You can’t, the innate wear on shields increases hugely at the speed carriages travel, and more importantly the necessary phasing to allow airflow catastrophically disrupts wheel enchantments—” He noticed her glare and broke off, wincing. “Ah, yes, but anyway, that’s not shielded, it’s got a lightning rod!”

“What the f—I thought those have to be grounded!”

“They do!” Schwartz said enthusiastically. “Which means it’s being redirected into some kind of power storage unit inside the vehicle! If I could only get to it, I could easily overload the thing—”

They both had to drop down and hold on for dear life as the highway went into a wide curve; despite Smythe’s obvious skill at the control runes, the carriage skidded, only righting itself properly once the road straightened out again an interminable few seconds later. At least the same disruption put a temporary halt to whatever was going on in the back of the truck, though the loud ticking and grinding resumed almost immediately.

“Then you’d be in there when it blew,” Tallie pointed out when she felt she could spare the attention for talking.

“Hmm.” Schwartz scowled back at the truck. “I bet I could get Meesie into there, but with no way of knowing exactly what she’d find, it’s impossible to give her the right tools or instructions. She’s not a very adaptive oh come on, are you kidding me?!”

The machinery finally revealed itself, a huge apparatus rising up above the truck’s driver compartment, its wide arms snapping outward and locking into place. It truly was an ingenious piece of engineering, and altogether remarkable that the dwarves had such a thing on hand. Of course, as military hardware went, the thing was so outdated the Imperial Army would have scoffed at it, but in their present situation, there could be no doubt what the ballista would do to their carriage at that range.

A bolt almost as long as Schwartz was tall was already locked into place; the pointed end aiming at them had been machined in a spiraling pattern like the head of a screw.

Tallie fired her staff right at it, with exactly the same disappointing result as before.

Schwartz, however, stood upright and held his hand aloft; after a second’s concentration, a ball of fire burst alight in his palm. Before the ballista could fire, he hurled it directly at the front of the truck.

The fireball missed the driver compartment, but impacted the truck directly on the flat wall behind it. Like nearly all carriages, the truck’s body was made of wood, and whatever lightning-deflecting apparatus it possessed did nothing at all against fire.

The truck’s frame caught as if soaked in oil; clearly Schwartz’s weaponized fireballs were packing more than just fire. Blazing merrily and spewing smoke, the truck kept after them without so much as slowing. And the entirely metal structure of the ballista itself was visible through the flame, still aimed right at them.

Another loud cranking noise sounded from within.

“Dodge!” Tallie screamed at the top of her lungs, throwing herself flat and pounding a foot on the roof of the carriage. “DODGE!”

The sound the ballista made was oddly melodic, though far too deep and powerful to be rightly called a twang.

Smythe got the message; the carriage abruptly swerved as widely as the space of the highway would allow.

Tallie felt the wind of the massive projectile whip past her. If she had not lain flat and if Smythe hadn’t adjusted their course, it would have gone right through her body. The bastards were either worse shots than she, or weren’t even aiming at the carriage.

There came a crash from ahead, followed by the screaming of braking wheels on the highway, and she turned her head to look, horrified by what she might see.

Vandro’s carriage was not a loss, however. The ballista bolt had grazed it, ripping off a chunk of its roof, but Wilberforce fought it back into a steady course even as she watched. Smythe had to decelerate sharply to avoid plowing into his rear fenders, causing Tallie and Schwartz to slide toward the front of their rooftop.

“All right, that is it!” Schwartz growled, and hurled Meesie at the truck.

She transformed in midair, plummeting to the road to land directly in front of it. The truck did not slow.

Its front bumper, what remained of it, crumpled completely upon impact with the huge cat; the truck rode high enough off the ground that she was swept beneath it rather than smashing directly through its body. However, in that form, Meesie was too big for its wheels to simply roll over.

The entire truck bucked off the highway, veered, skidded, and flew into a spin. As their carriages accelerated away, their pursuer was traveling completely sideways when it finally toppled over, smashing the intricate collapsible ballista protruding from its bed, still burning fiercely.

Tallie’s scream of triumph managed to compress a surprising number of obscenities into only a few seconds. In the middle of it, Meesie popped back into existence on Schwartz’s shoulder, herself emitting a shrill tirade that sounded unmistakably of cursing despite containing no words.

“Look!” Schwartz shouted, pointing ahead of them. The forest opened up to reveal a broad field; Wilberforce and then Smythe slowed their respective vehicles, turning through a gate which lead into the middle of it. If there was a road, it was completely buried under the snow. Up ahead, there loomed the landmark Glory had pointed out to Jasmine as the ideal ambush point: an old fortification from the Enchanter Wars, abandoned but left there by the Imperial government as a reminder. Its crumbling battlements covered nearly an acre, with the round central structure rising five stories from its center almost wide enough to appear squat.

“We made it!” Schwartz crowed. “Principia and her squad are in there waiting for us!”

Before she could even reply, the night lit up like noon.

The size of the explosion was such that the century-old fortress dissolved entirely in a column of fire.

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67 thoughts on “11 – 39

    1. actually, I generally despise car chases. However, you did an uncommonly good job with this. It actually fit the plot (unlike most hollywood crap), it was entirely clear, and it continued to advance various character arcs (in numerous small steps). So, good job! Oh, and it was entertaining and I have no idea what’ll happen next. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  1. BASRA!!!!

    I feel pretty safe doing that, because of the way diverging plot-lines and mysteries in any given chapter have explained each other. And the tracking thing this chapter was shown before in the first Basra v Locke showdown.

    I’m really impressed by the writing here by the way. At no point was I confused or turned around, despite the chaotic scenery. Really cool.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. My thought too, I’m thinking she deliberatley let Basra warn the dwarves so she has proof Basra is trying to kill squad 1 and the dwarves get complacent thinking they have outsmarted her. She probably asked Mary to trail Basra and then once she caught her telling the dwarves let the squad know and create and illusion of them going into the tower.

      Also I’m wondering if we will see Zanzayed show up, a single squad of legionaires doesn’t seem enough to make the dwarves back off and she can’t call in more without giving away who she is, but if she discussed her plan with Mary beforehand Mary would know about him and be ables to suggest him.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I don’t think Basra is doing anything nefarious this time. And if Mary didn’t tell her about Zanzayed, then Trissiny has no idea she could call him in for help. Although I’m not sure it would be that easy. I mean, Zanza is lazy and the weather is terrible and she doesn’t really need him, does she? He’d expect some sort of compensation in return. Maybe setting him up for a date with Arachne? 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’d think the compensation would be Mary not giving him another beatdown like she has before, though now that you said it yeah, the opportunity to use it as an in with Arachne might work for him too.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. This setting has moons, plural, IIRC
        Plus, the moons are well outside the transencion fields, which elves (and half-elves) are utterly dependent on for existence. So no, I DON’T think Tellwyrn has the power to do that. Congrats on finding an actual limit to her power!

        Now, if she knows how to expand the necessary field, or create a new one…anyway, sorry Jreengus, it’s a good conspiracy theory, but it’s just not realistic. I can’t see Jassiny asking so much of Mary either, especially when it boils down to Mary obediently following instructions like that. I don’t think she would go for that, and I think TJ knows better than to ask her.


      4. Well, see, there have been mentions in this story before of mages teleporting themselves to the moon, usually in the context of a massive fuckup.

        So, it is POSSIBLE… just not a good idea if you like breathing.


      5. It’s not like she can’t get her to low earth orbit and then punch her hard enough she gets to the moon in a conventional way anyways.


      6. Huh, well this is me, corrected. I know I’m not making all that up from nowhere…I feel like it was something the Librarian hologram said, about the fields extending just into low orbit territory or something. That….changes a hell of a lot. Here I was imagining a planetary scale,


    2. OOOO, word of god world buiding.

      Would it be spoilers to tell us where the fields are centered?


  2. Aside from being awesome, this chapter had me smile at a few things, like:

    “Falconer traction charms really do beat Dawnco,” Jasmine muttered, still gripping the bench. “I know someone who’ll be smug…”

    It’s also neat to see how Rasha is never refered to by a pronoun, only by name.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The Meesie caused crash reminds me of the helmet kill in Harlan Ellison’s short story, “Along the Scenic Route”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. DAMN I had forgotten that story, now I need to read it again. Though a lot of Ellisons stories seem to specifically tick me off now I’m older … I hope that one still holds up.


      1. Damn right it does. (For anyone who has not read Ellison’s Deathbird stories, you should. and… read the forward. He warns you not to read more than one a day. If its your first read, LISTEN TO THE MAN! I ignored the warning and read the whole book in a few hours. and was WORTHLESS the next few days. Malaise, brain fever, just…. destroyed by that book of stories. )


  4. I can’t remember… Where’s Darling’s strike team right now? Cause they’d certainly be useful now, and there’d be no real cover blown. Sure Weaver would recognize her, but Joe could explain to that to him ahead of time. Darling’s strike team is nearly as powerful as Triss’s classmates and with a much better reason to be there, since they’re working for Darling.


  5. Webb: all of your writing has been fantastic lately, even by your usual standards. Do you feel like regurly writing 3 chapters a week is helping you to get into your flow state more easily? Or is this pace getting you dangerously near a burnout? No matter how great the writing is, nobody wants that to happen!I

    Or is your hot streak related to something else entirely? Maybe an increased self-confidence due to a new hot smile?


    1. I’m glad you’ve been enjoying it! I think part of that is just narrative flow; we’ve had some major reveals and entered the climax of this book, both of which are bound to make things feel more intense. In fact, I have been rather drained lately, but that’s due to other matters. Don’t worry, I’m not feeling near a point of burnout.


  6. Too bad there weren’t any Veskers there: they could have predicted the “we won, we’re at our ambush point where are allies await, BOOOOM” sequence… although they might have let it happen anyway, just for the story.


    1. OW. Don’t do that! Mind over matter!

      [Maybe: I did that once while standing on top of a ladder… that was terrifying enough it seems to have convinced my body never to do it again. Crossed fingers.]


  7. Okay, so…this is serious. I had to miss work; I can walk, but just barely. Every moment is pain.

    I have a chronic back injury so this is not a new and unfamiliar experience for me, and not even the worst episode by far (one time I was horizontal for three days and took eight months to fully recover), but it’s more than a little twinge.

    I can’t sit in my chair for more than a few minutes at a time. Only thing I can do for more than a few minutes at a time is lie down. This is going to affect my writing schedule. Working on the chapter and it’s early, yet, but I’ll warn you in advance to expect delays. I’m sorry.

    Ibuprofen doesn’t particularly help, and that’s pretty much the strongest stuff I can get without a prescription. Honestly prescription-strength painkillers scare me anyway.


    1. I would like to make a suggestion. Try yoga. I have had back problems since I was 14. Couple bad car wrecks. I have noticeable crooked spine now. Had my back out so bad I couldn’t get out of bed without help. Lifting a foot high enough to get up a curb was excruciating. I get your pain. Really. I tried yoga at the beginning of the year on my therapist recommendation no more pain and no more meds.


  8. All right, I have to go to bed. I’m sorry. I’m not really sleepy but I have to lie down. I’ve got some work done on the chapter, and I have tomorrow off (not that I’m in any shape to go in anyhow) so I’ll continue working in bites of time as I’m able to sit and have it done when I can.

    I was really hoping to stay up and see the election results, too… Well, it’s not like there was any good outcome possible.


    1. I hope you feel better soon Webb. Sorry I can’t do more. Take as much time as you need and please just focus on taking care of yourself.


  9. It’s not your responsibility, it’s not your job, and it’s not an expectation.

    But man could I use reading a chapter out of a fun, complex, but overall optimistic story about people learning to treat everyone like people.


    1. I kind of feel like it is, though. And I agree; I could use a chapter myself.

      Writing is ongoing. I can stay seated for up to half-hour blocks at the moment, which is an improvement. Couple more hours, I hope.


  10. All right, here it is.

    Any other day I’d have quit by now. My back is doing better and I can write for enough time at a sitting it should theoretically have only taken a few hours to finish this. I’ve got barely more than a thousand words done all day.

    The whole day I’ve been in a state of depression and suspended panic because I do not know what’s going to happen to me in the immediate future. My country just elected its “fuck the poor” party into power, which means my life is about to get measurably harder. And hell, it’s going to be easier on me than most; it’s not just the poor they hate. I’m white, male, cis/het and not an immigrant or Muslim. It is a hell of a thing when your whole society declares collective war on… Everyone, pretty much.

    I’ve been sitting here all day struggling with this because I DO consider this story a commitment and calling in sick with election results is just about the whiniest, most entitled bullshit I can imagine. It’s the kind of nonsense I wouldn’t even write onto a character to establish their inner weakness because come on, that’s just too on the nose to be believable.

    But I’m having literal panic symptoms and have been all day. And depression symptoms, and those two things really aren’t supposed to go together. I mean, I’m no psychologist, but aren’t those basically opposite things? The point is… I have spent much of the computer time I could manage before the pain drove me back to bed staring at my screen. I’ve erased half of what I managed to write because it was crap and had to start over. The main thing that has kept me at this even though I’ve learned the hard way to respect my brain signaling that it can’t do this right now is I’m not sure my remaining self-worth can hold up to delaying a chapter over something like this, but it’s now 4:30PM, I’ve been at this all day and I’m as exhausted as if I’d been out cleaning up the highways. I am a mentally ill, emotionally fragile person and I’ve just received a painful shock and I am coping poorly. Because I’ve been trying to work instead of cope.

    This is dumb and I hate it and I’m sorry, but I’m going to read the writing on the wall and stop here before I manage to make this worse on myself. We’ll be back Friday, and if I’m not more or less recovered by then… Well, frankly, I’m not even going to think about that because I consider it unlikely. The upside to these episodes of mine is that my bipolar phases cycle very rapidly compared to most people with the condition; I tend to bounce back pretty fast.

    This puts us three chapters behind, but in a way, that’s sort of perfect. After this Friday’s update, that’ll be the funded Fridays done, and with three more Friday chapters guaranteed without funding it’ll mean steady Fridays right up till the donation goal is scheduled to drop back to a more realistic level.

    In the meantime, the curse of Wednesday continues. May I just remind everyone that, as disappointing as Wednesdays tend to be around here, that is A Practical Guide to Evil’s update day, and if you’re not reading that, do yourself a favor and go do so immediately, because if you like this story you will love that one.

    Frustrated and beleaguered author signing off for now, with apologies.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Do what you need to take care of yourself. We love your story and look forward to reading it but we also don’t want you to come to harm over it.

      At this point you’ve built up a healthy store of author credit, at least from where I’m standing. Taking a day off to deal with physical and emotional pain simultaneously isn’t going to break the bank, so make sure you’re OK.

      We’ll still be here when you get back.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Hi Webb, I just want to say that I love what you’ve done with TGaB, missed updates and all. I get so much joy from the story, and there are so many things about it that I’m impressed with. I wish you well with processing and generally getting better.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Dear Webb,
      I have to respectfully disagree with what you call bullshit and entitled, while I think I get where you are coming from, this election result is extremely symbolic and having strongly negative emotions about it and the problems it stands for seems not at all inappropriate to me. You are most certainly not alone in that, so, for what it’s worth, don’t feel bad about feeling bad. (I am currently trying to cheer up a friend, for similar reasons, and we don’t even *live* in the US. It’s simply symptomatic for some of our own problems over here, and, frankly, fremdschämen.)
      Anyways, I hope you recover soon, and until then, all the best from two of your readers 🙂


      1. As European, despite being on the other side of the world, despite also being a straight white male, I’m still shocked and scared. We’re all in the same screwed boat here – I for one fully understand.

        Liked by 1 person

    4. Don’t think you’re overreacting and being irrational or anything when it comes to election stress – everyone is feeling it this year, to the point where it’s wearing out therapists and psychiatrists with all the new patients they’re getting. I dunno how this will show up, but I’ve included a link to an article about this in the website wordfill beneath the post. It’s only gotten worse now that he’s won. You are not alone, emotionally or politically.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I must dissent. Do think you’ve overreacting. (Consider seeing a therapist anyway.) The election is not going to eat your babies. You are probably in more danger from Obama’s could-have-been-sons rioting than from Trump’s right-wing-death-squads coming to take you away. Outside the realm of hyperbole, Trump isn’t “fuck the poor” any more than Clinton was “fuck the whites”. (Do you want white identity politics, though? Because that is how you get white identity politics.)


      2. Erik, It is not hyperbole to say that the Republican party in America has a very ‘fuck the poor’ kind of attitude. While there are certainly exceptions to every rule, all you need to do is watch Fox news or some other right-wing centred news channel to find that the general Republican consensus on the poor is that it is usually their own fault for not having much money. That if they just worked a bit harder, they could achieve the ‘American Dream’, and anyone on benefits is usually a lazy moocher. For crying out loud, Trump himself has stated that he got where he is today with a ‘small loan of a million dollars’. Does this sound like a man who understands the realities of being poor, or even being upper middle class? D.D.Webb has every reason to feel scared about the election results – throughout this stories publication he has gone through health disaster after health disaster. Often, these health scares would not have been much of an issue for him if he lived in a country with a free National health service, something the Republican party is adamantly against. America is a country where more than half the people that live in it think that being healthy and even alive is not an intrinsic right, and that only people who can afford it should have extremely serious and often life threatening conditions treated. If that isn’t ‘fuck the poor’ I don’t know what is.

        Also, what the hell was that about ‘you are probably in more danger from Obama’s could-have -been-sons rioting’? You know, just because you avoided saying ‘ you are in danger from black people’ does not stop what you said from being racist.

        Liked by 3 people

      3. Hannah, yes, it is hyperbole. The Republican party has a “fuck the poor” fringe, like the Democrat party has a “fuck the whites” fringe. Please don’t buy into the propaganda of either one exaggerating the other’s fringe; that’s how you get communists wanting to gas the kulaks and nazis wanting to gas the jews. Also panic attacks.

        There is no intrinsic right to be healthy or alive. Ought implies can; we can’t currently cure death.

        As for what the hell, it was a statement about the fact that violent and disproportionately black anti-Trump protests have already hurt people, whereas Trump is still three months away from power.

        And if you keep screaming “racist” any time someone points out anything uncomfortably related to black violence in the US, you’re going to keep feeding the nazi narrative about the “fuck the whites” fringe, so I suggest you stop that.


      4. Erik, this is extremely one-sided. Trump supporters have already assaulted people as well. The whole country is on edge at the very least; I think we’ll be doing well to get through this without igniting a civil war.

        To be perfectly frank, I have only ever seen accusations of “screaming racist” from racists seeking to deflect the onus of basic civilized conduct and human empathy from themselves when called out on their racism. And yes, talking about “black violence” is inherently racist, because it assumes by default that the violence in question is somehow intrinsically black. Violence is widespread in black communities for much the same reason it is so in the poorer white communities in rural areas: poverty is a major contributing factor in violence. As it is in drug abuse and numerous health problems.

        And when I was speaking of the “fuck the poor” party, I was referring to their overall track record. Despite the ticket on which he ran, Trump is not a Republican, and he’s not a conservative. He’s a reality show reject whose only skill is drumming up publicity. Just because he learned how to push all the right verbal buttons to motivate the Republican base does not mean he understands or cares about their political goals, because he does not. His election is a disgrace to our country, but I don’t think Trump himself will actually do much. I am more concerned about Republicans in general taking Congress, because that will mean the loss of my health insurance and the closing down of essential public systems as money is diverted from the government in the form of tax breaks for their corporate paymasters.

        This is a very, very bad time to be anything but rich, white, male, straight, and Protestant in America.

        Liked by 3 people

      5. ‘To be perfectly frank, I have only ever seen accusations of “screaming racist” from racists seeking to deflect the onus of basic civilized conduct and human empathy from themselves when called out on their racism.’

        To be perfectly frank, I have only ever seen accusations of “crying heresy” from heretics seeking to deflect the onus of basic pious conduct and holy obligation from themselves when called out on their heresy.

        See how the kafkatrap works? You’re taking objection to an accusation as evidence of guilt. Fuck that noise, and fuck further engagement here. I’ll just go back to ignoring the comment section.


    5. If you seem to have trouble updating 3 times per week, maybe do a different thing on wednesdays? For example, some sort of AmA thread might work, where people could ask you questions about the setting that are minor enough to never get any attention devoted to them in the book itself-what fashions are popular in Tiraas, what does each province produce, how are wands made, what are popular names there, etc etc etc. A slew of minor questions you could answer quickly in an unofficial way without devoting a lot of time to it, that would still be very interesting for us readers.


    6. Please don’t do yourself harm for the sake of trying to maintain an arbitrary schedule. Please. Much as I love this story, it’s not worth your health.

      Liked by 1 person

    7. Dude, be strong, give it some time, Trump is a wild card. I live in a country where the only system that works is bloody nationalist dictatorship and everything else destroys our economy and drops us back into being a third world hellhole, the funny thing about going for a history degree is that i end understanding everything and how i can´t do anything atm…

      An idiot like Trump has possibilities to be either the best or the worse but only time will tell.


    8. Sometimes being depressed is one’s brain screwing with them, but sometimes it’s just that bad stuff happened and it’s so bad it’s sad and upsetting to an almost paralyzing degree 😦 I think for those of us with depressive tendencies it can sometimes be hard to seperate the two, but in this case I think it’s the external world that’s genuinely fucked up right now. Stay safe, do whatever you need for self-care, and take some solace in the fact that the majority of voters (narrow, but still…) cast their vote against hate.


  11. Emotions are real things and yours no less for being the ‘whiny bullshit kind’.

    Over here on the other side of the side of the pond US citizens and locals were calling in to radio stations expressing their frustration, disbelief, anger and shock (or joy) at the result, some were in tears (both of grief and happiness).

    Regardless, feelings are real and those chemical changes in your brain that follow hang around till they are dealt with.

    As to why you might get panic attacks at the same time as a depression that would usually be the noradrenaline flooding your system. Seratonin keeps the system calm dopamine gets you going and in a depressive phase dopamine usually drops. If you try and keep going the system pumps noradrenaline out which might explain the panic attacks as opposed to the manic phases which are more high dopamine (or so scientists think, possibly, maybe).

    If you get the chance read up on foods containing tyramine and tyrosine and how they relate to seratonin and dopamine. It can be a way of influencing your long term health. Hopefully understanding what’s going on will help you deal with it.

    As for


  12. So far Trissiny has “met” all except 2 of her named relatives, or did I miss anyone?

    Principia, mother
    Lanaera, grandmother
    Kuriwa, ancesstress

    Not met:
    Zanza, distant cousin
    Raea, distant relative?


  13. “in the line if fire” > of fire

    Man, that dwarf driving the truck, he kept smiling even after 2 carriage worth of his pals were basically killed. Acting or not, that guy isn’t sane.

    And last line : WELL then, you have no reason to complain about the cold anymore ! *cheer*


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