Bonus #65: The Girl from Everywhere, part 2

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Joe wasn’t really surprised that he had to wait for those explanations. Jenny had cited the need to make preparations and the fact that there would be plenty of time for long discussion while they traversed the Golden Sea, and while Joe knew a deflection when he heard it, that one had the benefit of making good, solid sense. He resolved to pin her down harder if she tried it again once they were out of town, but this didn’t seem the moment to push. You had to read the other player, know when to fold and when to hold.

Thus, he arrived at the head of Sarasio’s main street the following morning none the wiser about the adventure on which he’d agreed to embark, not to mention slightly bleary despite the strong black tea he’d downed before setting out. He had ended up cutting short his usual night at the poker table, for the sake of notifying the Sheriff of his plans—not that there was much she could do, but he’d promised—and then getting an early night’s sleep. He hated being poorly-rested for the same reason he didn’t drink: any condition which messed up the normal functioning of his brain made it amazingly uncomfortable to exist with his specific package of talents and perceptions. Joe required his body to immediately and precisely turn information into action, otherwise he felt naked, vulnerable, and stressed occasionally to the verge of panic.

Given what little he knew was going on, it was altogether not that surprising that the surprises began immediately.

“Jenny,” he greeted her with a nod, then tipped his hat fully to the other individual present. “Elder Sheyann. I confess I’m surprised t’see you here.”

“Always a pleasure, Joseph,” the elf replied with a warm smile that made the sentiment sound sincere. He enjoyed every opportunity to converse with elves; their facial expressions were so minutely detailed and varied. Joe wondered whether that was something they did deliberately or just the natural result of living for centuries, but had never thought of a polite way to ask. Elven and prairie folk manners alike emphasized minding one’s own business. “I could hardly pass up the opportunity to see the Shifter off. It is rare enough that we have been blessed to be her neighbors for a few years.”

“The Shifter, huh,” he drawled, turning back to Jenny.

She grimaced. “Morning, Joe. C’mon, Sheyann, you know I hate formalities.”

“We all have our little burdens to bear,” the Elder said with a serene smile. “It has long been a pet peeve of mine when immortals drag well-meaning souls into dangerous business without properly warning them. Perhaps recent events here and in the grove have left me more than usually sensitive to the issue.”

Jenny gave her a mulish look, and received a bland smile in reply.

Joe dutifully absorbed and filed away the layered implications in this exchange but decided the better part of wisdom was not to insert himself into whatever was going on between those two. Instead, he stepped around Jenny and carefully patted the third member of the party on the neck.

“Mornin’, Beans.”

The mule turned his head to give Joe a long look, then snorted, shook his mane and went back to staring glumly at the horizon. That was a positive interaction as far as Joe was concerned; the infamously cantankerous Beans was known to greet even people he knew by biting or kicking.

Jenny had hitched him up to a small cart, two-wheeled and comfortably sized for two people to ride in along with the pile of provisions and equipment for an extended camping trip she’d stowed in the back, but not big enough to use as a place to sleep on the trail. Joe looked this whole setup over with a critical eye, then cleared his throat.

“Don’t take this the wrong way, Jenny, but does Widow Milwood know her mule—”

“Yes, Joe, I bought him,” she answered, more amused than irked to judge by her tone. “Mrs. Milwood seemed altogether happier to have the doubloons than the mule. Can’t imagine why.” She patted Beans’s haunch; he smacked her with his tail.

“Thank you, Beans,” Elder Sheyann said, bowing to the mule. He snorted at her.

“Right.” Jenny stepped away from him, brushing stray tail hairs off her mouth and giving the elf a wry look. “Look, Sheyann, if you have some kind of problem…”

“This is not how I approach those against whom I bear a grudge,” the Elder interrupted her, still smiling. “I know you well, Jenny, and I know you have no malice. In truth, I trust you more than many of my own tribe who have no excuse for such inconsideration to move carefully among the people of this world. Sometimes, however, a reminder is needful.”

Both of them turned to look at Joe, who straightened his lapels.

“It’s a funny thing I’ve noticed,” he drawled. “Talkin’ with elves, a body can sometimes end up bein’ both the subject of a conversation an’ completely incidental to it.”

“See, you do it too,” Jenny said, nudging Sheyann with an elbow. “Don’t worry, Joe, I promise I’m gonna bring you up to speed on everything.”

“In any case,” Sheyann added, giving him a nod, “I’ve seen to it that you shall have aid on at least part of your journey. It is not impossible that Jenny’s intentions will suffice to draw others to you; such movements are just the sort of thing to ignite the interest of fae spirits, which is how I was forewarned of your intentions. You are leaving more than this town, are you not?”

“Yeah.” Jenny absently patted Beans again, though this time he just shuffled his hooves and ignored her; she had already half-turned to stare off into the distance, where beyond the last outbuildings of Sarasio the endless horizon of the Golden Sea lay. “It’s not something I do often, or lightly, but it’s time to leave this world entirely.”

“Here, now,” Joe said in alarm, “there are some things I will not sign on for! Do I needta sit on you or somethin’?”

“No, no!” she said hastily, turning back to him and raising both hands. “Omnu’s breath, Joe, I’m not killing myself! It’s…well, like I said, I will explain.”

“I’m glad to lend a little aid, and see you off,” Sheyann said, her expression more serious, “but I have my own motivation for being here, Jenny. If something has happened to provoke you to such an extreme measure, particularly this close to my grove, I would hear of it.”

“I doubt you’ll feel any ripples from this once I’ve gone,” Jenny assured her. “No, this is… This one’s my fault, I’m afraid. I’ve been careless. It’s just that the Tiraan Empire is so… It’s not usual.”

She gestured helplessly at the town, as if it were a stand-in for the Empire; Joe raised an eyebrow and peered around, not seeing anything amiss. People were just beginning to be out and about, and many gave curious looks to the trio standing with the mulecart up at the end of the street right where it departed Sarasio itself. None were approaching them yet—save Sheriff Langlin, who emerged from her office and set forth at an unhurried stroll even as he watched.

“Gods know there’ve been bigger empires,” Jenny said, pensive now, “and more powerful ones. But they don’t tend to last so long. It’s been, what, eleven centuries now? And they did it through the strength of their bureaucracies and logistics, not any of the usual things. That, and managing to turn every inevitable collapse so far into a rejuvenation. You just don’t see that very often, historically speaking. I guess Rome was just an outlier, not a complete fluke after all; the method can be repeated. But I’ve just been popping in here and there, going about my business and generally not being a big picture person, and now suddenly I find myself in the middle of a huge country with a thousand years of records collected in a central location with highly motivated people to sift through ‘em, and from there it’s a short jump to somebody taking an unhealthy interest in me. I let myself believe that was done with after the Arachne torpedoed that Ministry of Mysteries bullhockey, but…here we are again.”

“Occasionally useful as Arachne’s outbursts can be,” Sheyann murmured, “it seldom pays to rely on her to properly clean up after herself.”

“Hey, I’m sure she does her best,” Joe protested. Both women turned to give him long looks, and to his great annoyance, he flushed. Turning his back on them, he busied himself with tipping his hat in the direction of the footsteps approaching from behind. “Mornin’, Sheriff.”

“Jenkins. Jenny. Elder.” Langlin gave Sheyann the courtesy of a grave nod, receiving one in return. “’fraid you two might’ve left it too long. I just had my morning tea interrupted by a warning: the guests in town are on the move.”

“Which—aw, no,” Joe grumbled, resting one hand on his wand.

“Yes, I observed this, also,” said Sheyann. “You are wise not to take this lightly, Joseph, but do not worry yourself excessively. I have had my people observing the interlopers, and it seems they have miscalculated the situation.”

“You’ve set elves to spying on Imperial soldiers?” Langlin demanded with an edge to her tone.

“The spirits warned of false intent, bearing arms,” Sheyann replied, unruffled as ever. “Whereof they warn, I heed. Rest assured, Sheriff, it is not my intent to draw the ire of Tiraas, especially after recent events here, but the Empire is a huge and complex beast, rather infamous for not knowing how many hands it has, much less what each of them is doing. I do not believe these men are here reflecting the will of their Emperor.”

“That’s what the Marshal said, too,” Joe murmured to Langlin.

Sheyann nodded. “And I see, Sheriff, that your mind follows a similar current.”

Joe, of course, had already taken note of the additional movement as more of Sarasio’s residents than might ordinarily be out and about with the sun barely gleaming on the horizon were wandering into the streets. He had definitely noted that many of them were armed; Deputy Wilcox, who now strolled up to join them with a courteous tip of his hat, was actually carrying an Army-issue battlestaff.

“Uh, Sheriff? Did you…” Joe waved vaguely around the town. The White Riders were one thing; legitimate or not, he could foresee no good coming from any armed confrontation between townsfolk and Imperial soldiers.

“There’s nothing going on here that warrants invoking my authority to form a civilian posse,” Langlin drawled, tucking her thumbs into her belt. “I also feel no need to keep any secrets about the state of the town. Folks around here do a fine job of looking after themselves and each other.”

By that point he could her more footsteps—these in unison, and accompanied by the crunch of displaced tallgrass, signifying a sizable group marching around the town rather than through it. He couldn’t see them past the buildings yet, but to judge by the progress of the bootsteps they’d be in view within seconds.

“Joe,” Jenny said, quietly but urgently, and he paused in drawing his own wands. “The Avenists say a battle avoided is a battle won by the only ethical means.”

“I thought we established last night you’re not an Avenist,” he muttered back.

“But when it comes to war, you listen to them. I know you’re the best shot on the frontier, but trust me: sit this one out. It’s already won.”

“Hm.” He packed a wealth of doubt into one grunt, but after holding her eyes for a moment, slowly pushed his wands back into their holsters and released them. Sheyann gave him an encouraging nod.

Then they rounded the outlying building, and there was no more time for asides.

There wasn’t much to see, truthfully. If you’d seen one squad of soldiers, you’d seen them all; that was rather the point of uniforms and drills. Joe had seen quite a few Imperial troopers in the last few weeks and had it not been for multiple sources warning him that this batch were up to no good he’d never have taken them for anything different. He took a head count as they marched past the wall of the stables into the space where the main street of Sarasio turned into a trail of dust straggling away into the tallgrass. Twenty-two, one of the standard sizes for an Imperial Army squadron; the way other officers had explained it to Joe, the deployments varied by mission and type of unit, but these looked to be standard infantry, uniformed and each carrying a staff.

They efficiently changed formation on the move, arranging themselves in a double line that effectively blocked off the exit from the town. At this, rather than showing any sign of intimidation, the people of Sarasio began moving more purposefully toward the scene. And not just those out on the street; doors opened and individuals who had to have been watching from behind curtains slipped out and came forward. A lot of them were carrying weapons, too.

Joe held his peace with an effort. If the plan here was to set the locals against the troops… He chose to trust, for now, that Langlin and Sheyann knew their business better than he; they’d both provided enough evidence of it. And clearly there was more going on with Jenny than he’d ever suspected. Still, this looked a lot like everyone involved was angling for a shootout.

One man detached himself from the end of the line and strode forward, a fit-looking fellow with a colonel’s insignia in his middle years with a prominent mustache beginning to go gray in streaks, just bushy enough to conceal his mouth. Joe watched his eyes; the fine muscles surrounding them were often more revealing. This fellow was not happy about what he saw, particularly as he swept his glance across the gathering locals. Then he fixed it on one person.

“Jenny Everywhere.” The colonel projected well, in an accent that hinted at education and more than hinted at the Tiraan heartland down south. “You will come with us.”

“On whose—”

“Hush,” Langlin interrupted, patting Jenny heavily on the shoulder as she brushed past. The Sheriff planted herself between the rest of the onlookers and the soldiers, her deputy drifting silently along behind to stand at her shoulder as usual. Riker Wilcox was tall and good at looming ominously, and had no problem letting a woman take the lead; Joe suspected Langlin had deputized him as scenery as much as anything else. “I’m the law in Sarasio…” She made a show of squinting at his shoulder patch. “Colonel. If you’re planning to haul away one of my citizens, show me an arrest warrant.”

The soldier’s eyes narrowed and Joe detected a ruffling in his mustache as he let out a short, sharp breath. Annoyance, based on that and other situational cues.

“With all due respect, Sheriff, my authority supersedes your—”

“No, it doesn’t,” she interrupted, proving she could project as well as he. “An Imperial Marshal can make an arrest on his own authority. In the absence of martial law, which was rescinded in Sarasio four weeks ago, Imperial Army personnel have no such prerogative. Show me a warrant, or come back when you’ve got one.”

The man’s mustache fluttered again, and his grip on the staff he carried tightened. Behind him, a woman wearing captain’s stripes was glowering at the Sheriff; the rest of the soldiers were looking distinctly unhappy. He slowly moved his own hands to rest near, but not on, his wands. Joe didn’t chance a look behind him at the gathering townsfolk but he knew exactly how they would feel about this: the way he did, more or less. Any second, he expected those battlestaves to come up and…

And nothing. The colonel scowled as the silence stretched past tension and into awkwardness, and suddenly Joe understood.

That was why Sheyann had said the soldiers were unprepared, why Jenny said this was already won. This man and his troops had come here expecting to rely on their official presentation and show of force to capture their prey with no interference and, at most, mild physical resistance from Jenny herself, nothing they couldn’t overcome. They had no backup plan, and at the first encounter of a significant hurdle, their commander was left floundering.

The realization was…actually, it was reminiscent. Joe was reminded abruptly of the events of a month ago, when a handful of paladins, demigods, demons, and who knew what else had chosen to refrain from annihilating the White Riders as they easily could, and chosen to act more carefully. To work on the motivations of the people involved, instead of deploying force. The lesson was not entirely welcome, keenly aware as he was that this lay specifically outside his own strengths and, in fact, square in the realm of things with which he struggled.

But while Joe was chewing on that burst of insight, the colonel found his footing.

“The interests of national security trump such niceties, I’m afraid,” he said, gruff with his own irritation. “You may of course file a grievance with Imperial Command after we have left.”

“You’d better believe I’ll be doing exactly that,” Langlin replied. “And you will be leaving without what you came for. In this town, we follow the law. The people of Sarasio have had all they can stomach of bullies with battlestaves.”

The colonel bared his teeth so widely it was actually visible under his mustache. “My mandate does not require me to consult the people of Sarasio, Sheriff. The Tiraan Empire is not a democracy.”

“You know why that is, right?” Jenny piped up suddenly. Ignoring Langlin’s annoyed glance, she clambered onto the seat of the mulecart and stood, immediately making herself the focus of every eye. “Why Tiraas is so dead set against any whiff of democracy, I mean. You know the big secret behind it, the one thing all the nobles understand? It’s something you learn the first time you try to govern any group of people who aren’t having it.”

“I don’t have to listen—”

“Every country is a democracy,” Jenny barreled right over his interruption, grinning down at him. “End of the day? Power is consensus. The people always decide who gets to have it, and they can change their minds. It’s just that most people, most of the time, cannot be assed to vote, whatever political system they live in. The key to staying in power is to encourage that natural apathy. The last thing you want is to have your subjects take a notion to change things up. It’s only when you’ve failed to manage that much that you need to provide ballot boxes. Because once people decide they’re gonna go vote, you’d better let them do it at the polls. Otherwise they’ll do it with their weapons.”

She let the silence hang. All around, hard-eyed citizens of Sarasio had stepped closer and now stood in silence, close to the same numbers as the soldiers and more than two thirds armed.

Then Elder Sheyann pursed her lips and emitted a soft birdcall.

Instantly, blond heads appeared on the roofs all around as fifteen elves who had been lying flat suddenly stood and stared down at the soldiers, blank-faced and aloof as only elves could be. They were not carrying weapons…but they were elves, and no less than seven wore the clear accouterments of tribal shamans. That was enough.

The soldiers held their discipline, but they were suddenly a lot less stern-faced, many of them visibly nervous.

“Don’t call an election, Colonel,” Jenny said into the quiet she had created once she judged it had hung there long enough. “Those favor the incumbent.”

He met her eyes, glowering. “Don’t think you’ll evade the Empire forever, Shifter.” Holding her stare for another pointed moment, he finally turned and made a hand signal.

“Fall in,” the captain barked, and the soldiers stepped back and began to file away with the same impressive discipline as before.

“Colonel,” Sheriff Langlin called as he started to move. The man paused and half-turned to stare at her. “I know a little something about working around the bureaucracy. There’s always a way. If you’d been legitimate, you’d have tried to negotiate. I’ll be making a full complaint and demanding an investigation from Mathenon and ImCom. However long it takes me to write that up and walk to the scrolltower, that’s how long you’ve got to be outta my town and over the horizon. Unless you’re harboring some fool notion about stopping me.”

He stared at her in silence for a heartbeat, then snorted, turned, and strode off after his soldiers. Jenny, Joe, and the rest of the onlookers held still, watching as they filed back out of sight around the corner.

A small hand lightly touched Joe’s upper back, and he turned in surprise. He had, of course, known Sheyann’s position, but elves were usually persnickety about physical contact. The Elder leaned close, pitching her voice low.

“Jenny is a kind soul and a good friend; I have never known her intentions to be less than pure. But you should always be careful around beings who have a different perspective of life than yours. Those who move through time, or space, or worlds, in a way that you cannot will not share your frame of reference when it comes to attachments. For most young men on the cusp of an adventure, I would advise a careful distance from dreams of storybook heroics. In your case, Joseph, remember the stories you have heard, and be mindful of what sort may be unfolding around you. Even such as she may be impelled by greater powers.”

With a final smile, she stepped back and melted away into the crowd before he could respond. Joe glanced up and was unsurprised to see no sign of the elves on the rooftops anymore.

“I hope I don’t have to tell you two that man meant every one of his final words,” the Sheriff stated brusquely, alternating her stare between Joe and Jenny. “You have not seen the last of that—at least, not if you’re planning to head out into the prairie. If you stay in town a while longer—”

“Then the next attempt will be subtler,” Jenny interrupted. “That guy’s not the brains behind this, Sheriff. Whatever this is about, it started down in Tiraas, and I don’t want my business hurting the town. Sarasio’s been through enough.”

“Besides, it’s a pretty short ride to the frontier,” Joe added. “It ain’t like he can track us into the Sea itself. Nothing can.”

Langlin shook her head. “I hope you know what you’re getting into, Jenkins.”

“I am all but positive I haven’t the faintest inkling, Sheriff,” he said ruefully. “But…you know what it is. Some things you gotta do because they’re winnin’ propositions, and some because they just gotta be done. Ain’t always that we’re lucky enough one of ‘em’s both.”

Slowly, she nodded. “Well. I feel a little better, knowing you’ve actually given this some thought. As I just finished explaining, nobody who’s broken no laws is going to be held against their will in my town, so I can’t very well stop you. Just be careful, you two.”

“As much as we possibly can, Sheriff,” Jenny promised. “You can count on that, at least.”

Langlin tugged the brim of her hat, then turned without another word of farewell and headed back up the street toward her office, no doubt to get started on that report she’d declared her intent to make. Abigail Langlin did not issue idle threats.

With a sigh of his own, Joe hopped up onto the cart’s seat while Jenny finally sat down next to him. “All right, if we’re gonna do this harebrained thing, best not dally. Hep hep, Beans!”

He flicked the rains.

Beans swished his tail, laid his ears back, and very slowly turned his neck to give Joe a baleful look with one eye.

“C’mon, Beans, let’s go,” Jenny said in a gentler voice.

The mule snorted, then stepped forward, and in seconds the cart was bumping along the last few yards of road before they turned into prairie.

“Yep,” Joe muttered as they left the town behind, “this is off to a great start.”

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28 thoughts on “Bonus #65: The Girl from Everywhere, part 2

  1. More tense than I expected and a bit of a reflection on current issues in the writers world.
    Thanks Webb.


    1. You don’t like the hypothetical of magical reins reigning over rain on someone named Rayne? Excuse me while I go work on fantasy setting fiction where people regularly go hitch up a stormcloud for a ride in the sky.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Setting aside the political implications of this chapter for a moment, I think Joe would do well to spend a few moments pondering why Beans responds reasonably well to Jenny and Sheyann while responding poorly to him. I suspect the reasons are similar to the broader theme of the chapter.


  3. > “Every country is a democracy,” Jenny barreled right over his interruption, grinning down at him. “End of the day? Power is consensus. The people always decide who gets to have it, and they can change their minds. It’s just that most people, most of the time, cannot be assed to vote, whatever political system they live in. The key to staying in power is to encourage that natural apathy. The last thing you want is to have your subjects take a notion to change things up.

    Black in APGTE has a very similar philosophy. But I don’t know how well that’s held up historically.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s a not-unheard of political philosophy – if you want to know more, I suggest Hannah Arendt’s “On Revolution”.

      In how far it works historically… it’s a plausible account of most major revolutions, at any rate. I’m afraid history as a field of study doesn’t really lend itself to “it always works like this”-accounts, generally.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’d say it *is* always true, but what varies is how much of a (super)majority consensus you need to enact change, and how hard it is to coordinate that effort. That variation is a combination of technology, bureaucracy, culture, geography, politics, economics, and a bunch of other things.

        Magic messes things up somewhat, given that it has much more potential than technology to concentrate overwhelming power in the hands of a few, but that’s kinda the whole theme of TGAB, right? That with enough connections forming as the world develops, no individual or small group is strong enough to really be in control, not even the gods, let alone an imperial dynasty.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. I feel that we lack more mature characters, like Panissar, those soldiers reek incompetence like a geyser. Jenny have very good filosofy but I miss things like the conflict between Sweet and Joe after the demon attack in tiraas, and the like.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know if the real blame for this mess belongs with the colonel guy, with some interfering noble shmuck, with some other interfering bureaucrat, or with someone else entirely, but I’m pretty sure these soldiers didn’t come up with this plan to seize Jenny entirely by themselves. (I vaguely remember this may have been one of the many Justinian schemes, but don’t count on it.) They probably didn’t have any responsibility for the idea at all, and they probably also don’t have any way to say no to it that doesn’t end with them getting whipped, jailed, fined, fired and/or executed. So what are they supposed to do?


      1. if i remember well, tactical positioning and show of strength is the standar way of the militia around the world for this kind job, and more to point, to allow a monologue and do nothing, that sound more like the god of stories manipulating reality, maybe its a extreme explanation but professionals doing dirty jobs are more paranoid and warry to loss the control of the situation. this is like the true mastermind send the botom of the barrel. the problem was not after they were sorrounded but before.


      2. @rdwlf
        Oh, well, there was no good answer to that problem. If he’d split up his force to go skulking around into a distributed tactical positioning that would risk a bunch of things he didn’t risk in this situation. Doing it that other way could do an even worse job of antagonizing bystanders into interference by acting suspiciously for one thing. It would also endanger his force by splitting it up into chunks small enough to be taken out or tied down by armed, motivated individuals, which is more appropriate in a battlefield scenario with greater threats from grenades, artillery fire, and entrenched fire positions that could attack the whole unit at once if you bunch it up. Perhaps the most important reason they did it this way is that in this setting the soldiers are known to be equipped as standard with shield charms designed to work well collaboratively, which would work best if they stay together in one grouping like that. Last and not least, surrounding and threatening someone of unknown capabilities believed to have lived an eventful life of more than a thousand years is a great way to make them feel threatened, and perhaps to convince them to strike first or demonstrate whatever other mobility or defense options they may have to avoid or escape your capture attempt.

        I agree this was not a very well thought out capture attempt, but whoever set this up sent conventional forces out to deal with an unconventional threat, under intelligence which anyone with sense would assume to be dangerously incomplete. I expect the supposed colonel doesn’t want to die, and that sort of scenario tends to particularly motivate the personnel on the pointy end to prioritize self-preservation at all costs.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. You shouldnt forget that this is a world of inmortals, gods and dragons, so they should be more prepared no less.


      4. @Rdwlf
        I didn’t forget. Perhaps you’re overdue to (re-)read Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 though. Have you never seen a political proposal die by bureaucratic revision, where the first version of an idea is sound and workable, but someone concerned with cost cutting or some other agenda messes with it? Then someone else does more messing with it, and then a third person messes with it yet again, and by the time it actually gets to the people who can approve it the proposal is an unworkable mess that should just be thrown in the circular file.

        Sometimes those proposals get approved anyway, and you get a safety warning sign trapped between two walls where nobody can see it. Or, in this case, perhaps a colonel that was supposed to have a full battalion, an azure unit and four strike teams goes out on an impossible capture mission with a single squad. Then he has to pretend to seriously try to do his job while doing his best not getting smote into a burning crater.

        Frankly, that is the charitable interpretation of what could have happened here: A superior that doesn’t like the guy might have done this to the colonel fully intentionally because he’s building a paper trail to fire him for incompetence, set fire to him for treason, or just plain get him killed in action. An awful lot of political and business decisions that look idiotic are often a lot smarter than you’d think just like that, because they were set up that way to solve a different problem than the nominal purpose of the exercise. All human systems are corrupt, eh?

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I still say the soldiers being that incompetent adds more evidence to the theory that whoever is behind this is benevolent, but can’t or won’t be direct with her.

      Most likely Vesk. We know Jenny winds up with him. That he can’t directly go against Justinian. And that being run out of town makes a better story.


  5. “Yep,” Joe muttered as they left the town behind, “this is off to a great start.”

    My favorite line in Firefly is:
    “Yep, that went well”
    When you realize he meant it.
    Despite sitting naked on a rock in the desert.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Okay. The long and the short of it is, I’ve completely fucked up this entire week.

    For once I’m not doing too badly, mental health wise. This current debacle is brought about by a combination of pretty run of the mill writer’s block and my own bungling of the schedule due to making a misstep while trying something new. The former I assume to be self-explanatory; the latter stems from the rollout of the first ever monthly bonus chapter topic voted on by Patreon backers.

    What happened is I ended up having to divide that topic into smaller chapter-sized bites, and when I put out the first one on Monday I went ahead and, as is my habit, posted the current Patron advance chapter on the main site. That was a mistake as in order to avoid mixing the voted monthly bonus chapter (Ezzaniel backstory) with the currently running bonus arc (Joe & Jenny in the Golden Sea) on the main site archive, the voted one isn’t going to move to until it’s finished. And this left me with nothing to put on the main site when I get the next thing written for the advance chapter.

    Yeah, this one’s on me, I straight up dropped the ball. Rolling out a new feature is usually bumpy, I half expected something to go wrong.

    What might otherwise have been a bump in the road ended up being a bigger problem due to writer’s block, because in order to resolve this, basically I have to produce two chapters at once, in an arc on which I find myself blocked and not knowing how to finish the next one, let alone both.

    And that leads into my overall fragile bipolar mental state, where being on the horns of this dilemma kicked off a spiral of anxiety that has shut down my ability to make any more creative progress.

    So basically, at this point the least damaging thing I can do is call this a wash. I’m going to add two chapters to the owed backlog on the funding page at, and focus on finishing Ezzaniel’s arc, which I expect I can get done over the weekend at the latest as I already worked on that a lot and can finish it quickly, while the other simultaneously running story needs a lot more workshopping before it’s anywhere near ready.

    That is where we stand. I’m sorry for messing this up and depriving you of a week of content; I take full responsibility. I’ll try to make it up to you as fast as possible.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Your apology is not accepted, because you have in fact done nothing wrong.

      Part of the social contract between reader and writer is that we accept reasonable delays in the name of a better product. No one wants you to rush and write badly, so please take your time and stop giving yourself a guilt trip over something that happens to everyone who does creative work.

      Liked by 6 people

  7. New reader here. My comment about is an ald chapter, I Just reached. Please bear with me, or even ignore it, I Just cannot sleep. Just reached this chapter:
    It is beautifully written. I have a few issues though.
    Everything is fine with the chapter for me except that it somehow seems to be about politics. When Rasha looks in the mirror and says she feels powerful… and after the little speach about how they gonna show to EVERYONE… it is Just smells of identity politics. I am of the belief that whatever one does in the bedroom is noones besiness beside me and my partner. The suggestion that I am weaker, or more covardly Than others because I keep my business to myself, is extremely offensive. Even the Word ‘closeted’ implies, that you are lesser, Than those WHO make a coming out. So I am who are concerned with my privacy is not less freer nor less liberated nor less powerful Than others. Sadly identity politics does this, confusing the issue, painting their own supporters with a favorable colour, while those who do not but they think SHOULD BE are treated as misguided, opressed, etc.

    On a side note some branch of feminism seems to do the same, demeaning those women who Just want to live their lives withot involving themselves with them. They are treated as obstacles to reach political power.
    This is not the authors fault. Not at all. Dont take it On yourself if you read my rant.
    I blame society, and politics.


    1. In order:
      1. That chapter isn’t about “what one does in the bedroom”. It’s about gender presentation. Those are entirely distinct topics, and the latter- the one the chapter is specifically about- is kind of an inherently public thing, given that it relates to one’s presentation of self.
      2. Please point me to the exact passage that describes anyone as “closeted” or uses it derisively. Searching the page turns up no results.
      3. If you “blame politics” and can’t seem to stand them in media, I’m baffled that this is what you chose to get upset about and not any of the many, many other political topics in this story.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. They might as well have gushed about girl power you know. This confrontative mindset is what is worst about identity politics. Making issues about THEM AND US, instead of about finding your true self. Searching for enemies, instead of focusing on ones own self. Not that I mind particularly, but in this case it was somehow jarring to me in a way that was not with the Ingvar chapters.


  8. For those of you who aren’t in my discord or just get pings and announcements and don’t follow discussions in other channels, this week there was an unexpected death in my family.

    We weren’t especially close; I actually hadn’t spoken to my aunt in a few years, not since just before I moved out west. So, I’m not really devastated or anything. It’s not a small thing, though. I actually have still not managed to sort out my feelings. I’m mostly…disoriented, and oddly numb. I don’t know how to contextualize this.

    Whatever inscrutable thing is going on in my head, it is not interacting well with my existing mental illness and the stress of isolation. I haven’t been able to work all week. This is totally unlike writer’s block, burnout, or depression: I load up my word processor and I simply…can’t. I don’t know. It won’t come. I have no frame of reference for this. Obviously I need to get my head back together, but I don’t know how.

    I’m not calling an official hiatus, just gonna chalk this up to delay and add more tallies to the missed chapter count as needed. I will try again tomorrow, and later tomorrow, and the next day, and keep at it until I can write again. That has to be sooner or later, surely? Hopefully sooner.

    Anyway…looks like no chapter tonight. I’m sorry. I’ll try to do better.


    1. Life is strange. While I’m disappointed by the lack of updates, we are all only human and can only do the best we can. I’m reminded daily of my own failings, so encourage you not to beat yourself up too much about it.


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