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Month: March 2020

Working on the Craft: Historical Omniscience

Another really cool exercise from The 3 A. M. Epiphany, this one aiming at omniscient view of the past (or a past, it doesn’t have to be real). The goal is to utilize a type of omniscience that takes a bird’s eye view of an event or people, using the knowledge of that period’s “future” as part of the narrative. It is a very different approach than the present day omniscient POV that I was used to, and the new relationship with the world was interesting to explore. It reminded me of Scott Bakker’s Prince of Nothing trilogy, in which the tight third person would shift to omniscient bird’s eye view during great battles or epic events.

This piece of text is part of the history of the world in which my current novel is set. I hope it isn’t thoroughly embarrassing…

[Excerpt] from “The Fall of the Chantry: Exploration of the InevitabilitY of the Dissolution”

By Kasheem Se Khaledun, Second Historian of the Sovereign College, member of the Guild of Lorists

In a world where the Gods are real, faith cannot survive.

That the Chantry would lose power as people lost faith, was not immediately obvious in the last decades before its collapse. There are records of religions older than the Leviathan Pantheon, dating as far back as the Age of Mythology. Faiths and splinter sects, devoted to deities both imagined, and likely already inspired by the Gods themselves. In all documents surviving such ancient times, we can see cracks in the façade. Abuse of power, corruption, dressing malevolence in piety. It is an easy conclusion to make, that not all who partook of such religions were truly faithful.

So we need to see the world as the Chantry saw it. For all that many quoted scripture while failing to follow its dogma, this was the most powerful religious institution in the history of the Jade continent. Lack of faith had never impeded its influence, nor its control over the political leaders of the land. It was so powerful, in fact, that we have documents showing said influence expanding to other continents, when they Converged with our own during their journeys through the mists of Ocean.

(Such knowledge is perhaps less impressive to the modern reader than it rightly should be. It is of note that the Chantry existed before the Fael skyships came to our lands, before the gift of Gleamdark artifice that would allow the birth of the Guild of Navigators. Traveling to other continents was impossible at the time, and we only knew of their existence due to the rare phenomenon of Convergence, when the currents of Ocean would bring our home in contact with other land masses for a time.)

What is the key to the Dissolution then? How did the greatest power on Jade collapse into the isolated cults we know today? The answer is simple: the Gods spoke to their chosen.

People receiving the gift of God power have existed as long as the leviathans themselves. Those possessed of the ability to change the world, performing what for generations was deemed miracles. Heroes whose mysterious sacrifices would pay for boons humanity could barely comprehend. We know the Pantheon existed during the Age of Mythology. In fact, the leviathans certainly swam the deep mists of Ocean before humanity even stood on two feet. And in every age of our existence, the gifted have been with us.

So what changed? I have outlined in detail how the number of the Gods’ chosen increased dramatically, seemingly overnight (though records reveal the transition happened over decades). Not only did they become numerous, but the leviathans were now speaking to them, directing their efforts to the Gods’ own mysterious ends. The question of “why” has plagued us for centuries, and I have listed some of the more reputable theories. A common thread among many of those deals with the imminent arrival of the Fael, the rise of arcana and artifice as the dominant drives of our societies, which would lead to the beginning of the Audacity and the world we know today. Surely, some among the leviathans can see the strands of the future, as the powers they gift indicate.

But whatever their reasons, one fact remains certain: The Gods spoke, and the Chantry fell.

The dogma of its scriptures had always had an uneasy reverence for the chosen. Those rare few who bore the mark of a God or Goddess of the Pantheon, were an aberration that the power structures of the religion could neither control, nor fully incorporate into their teachings. Many gifted women and men used their gifts in sharp rejection of the Chantry, and yet they were not smitten down for their blasphemous deeds.

The balance held only because such people were so rare.

And then they were not.

More and more awoke to a gift, more and more heard the whispers of the Gods. When they spoke, their word clashed with the dogma of religion. And where religion had faith, the chosen had proof. The former can only survive the latter if their conclusions overlap. But they did not. What we know today, the simple truth that brought the Dissolution, that turned the Chantry into subservient cults more interested in tradition, ritual, and service than any real power, was unthinkable to the people of that period. But over time, it was also undeniable.

The simple reality of the world is that the Leviathan Pantheon cares nothing for our deed and thought, our desires and needs. The Gods are indifferent to all but the ones they choose, and even them they view as but tools to their will. And if certain rituals have survived to the present day, they are hollow tradition, unburdened by the tenets of faith.

In the following chapters, I have laid out the first cracks in […]

The Dumping of Info in Secondary World Fiction

This one is narrowly focused on writing a specific type of science fiction and fantasy, but it’s a fairly prevalent issue, so I figured I would drop my two cents in that particular slot.

Something I had to deal with from pretty much the first paragraph of my current book, was how to naturally insert the necessary information, so that readers would have any chance of understanding what the F is going on. I believe I have overcome this issue with some level of competence (courtesy of obsessing over it for literal years), but it did make me evaluate the role of infodumps in secondary world fantasy and science fiction.

First of all, the terms, for that one person who potentially doesn’t know what I am talking about:

Infodumps are compressed chunks of information about the story, world, or characters in fiction. It is, by definition, something to avoid, as it stops the narrative in its tracks. Rather than the reader submerging themselves into your work, they are taken out of the story in order to read a glossary.

Secondary worlds, on the other hand, are locales that exist outside of our present day world or its known past. Your Middle Earths, Narnias, Westeroses, and Roshars, for sure. But just as much your Cultures, Dunes, Urths, and Foundations, because whether an alternate reality, or a distant future, the further away you get from the reader’s point of origin, the more terminology and circumstance they will have to learn, in order to become part of your worlds.

So, with that said, it is staggering how many ways there are to present information poorly. Talking heads (which I’ve heard described as “Maid and Butler dialogue” and “As you know, Bob…” as well) that spout exposition when they have no reason to be having such conversations. Farm boys or fresh-out-of-the-portal/cryochamber earthers who need everything explained to them. Students in magical/SF military schools who supposedly know a lot, but get to still give the reader tutorials through their daily experiences.

And of course, the old faithful – the omniscient point of view in which the author’s voice itself stops everything to explain to us what we are reading and how it works.

The types of infodumping are infinite, but what struck me, as I was thinking of how best to reveal my own worldbuilding to the reader, was that when it comes to secondary worlds, not all in-depth explanations are infodumps. And the delivery of information is not a binary, but a spectrum.

To give examples, on one end you have a Brandon Sanderson. He likes everything neatly explained and structured, from the magic to the workings of the world, to cosmology and theology. And if something is a mystery, the reader knows it is a matter of time for it to be revealed. However, he rarely falls into the trap of artificial explanations. He worldbuilds with the reader, but he does it organically, and this approach to writing is at the core of his work.

On the other end, you have someone like Steven Erikson, who — in Gardens of the Moon — parachutes the reader into the middle of a war in an unknown land, right as some kind of dark elf on a flying mountain has a chaotic magic battle with a group of humans. Names, titles, factions, and plot points fly around and bounce off of each other, and none of it is explained. You are left to slowly build your own picture of the Malazan world, if you have the patience for it.

I tend to prefer understanding a world by myself, absorbing it through the eyes of characters who are part of it. As I empathize with them, I can empathize with their reality and circumstances, and it is my favorite type of “learning curve”. However, I still need some core principles and terminology to be if not explained, then immediately obvious (and there are many naming conventions that help with that). Otherwise, curiosity turns to confused frustration.

Meanwhile, the opposite approach has great merit as well. A gem like Mistborn does not work if Kelsier is not around to explain allomancy to Vin. The glorious battle scenes of that book only impress because we understand the “science” of what the characters are doing. Some stories need the reader to have a firm grasp on their setting in order to tell the story they want to tell.

Both extremes, and anything in-between can be done well, or poorly. But I have come to realize that whether you want drop the reader in the middle of your world, or introduce them slowly to it, some measure of infodumping is unavoidable, at least for larger works of secondary world speculative fiction. In this aspect, SFF is fairly unique in comparison to any other genre, which can lean on the real world for support in its narrative. We don’t have that luxury, and so we must use tricks and shortcuts to give the reader enough to work with.

Ultimately, I don’t mind some direct infodumps in the books I read. If the world, magic, space-faring tech, or the complicated relationships between characters and factions, are key to understanding the plot, but not the point of the plot, I’d rather know enough about them from the get go, rather than trying to piece them together, while figuring out where the story is going. Some of my all-time favorite authors are able to do that seamlessly enough that I don’t even notice information has been dumped on me.

And so, this is what I aspire to as well. Because, really, you try telling a space fantasy story comped as “Final Fantasy meets Mistborn on a terraformed gas giant” without some infodumps!

Reading Update 03/25/20 – Conscientious Purchases

Navigating any field when you want social justice to be a consideration, is tricky. Literature has its own fair (read “gargantuan”) share of awful people, well meaning mishaps, toxicity, representation issues, and good old-fashioned bigotry.

On that last note, I have no trouble admitting that Orson Scott Card is probably the ONE famous name in the field of Speculative Fiction that I have no qualms over trashing. He is a horrible human being. Not uniquely horrible. In fact, chances are he probably isn’t close to the MOST horrible person even in SFF. However, I take his horribleness personally, because A) I used to love his work and it was a huge drive for my love of science fiction; and B) he hates homosexuality, and I am very intensely homosexual.

All that said, it is a rule of mine to never directly support people that I consider to be problematic in ways that are important to me. And by that I don’t mean my tween gesture of throwing my copy of Ender’s Game into the trash back in the day, when Card announced that any government that would support gay marriage was his enemy, and he would take up arms against it. No, I am talking about money. I cannot purchase a book by a person like that, knowing that even a fraction of my dollars would go to their wallet.

However, for all his character flaws (and supposed massive drop in writing quality, which I would not know anything about, as it’s been a decade since I have read any of his work), Orson Scott Card remains someone with a lot of knowledge about the craft of writing. After finding his How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy in a used bookstore last year, I had decided that despite the sexist undertones, I could learn a lot from him. Which is the end of my extremely and unnecessarily long prelude to the admission that I just got Characters & Viewpoint through a second hand retailer, and I now feel vaguely gross, despite knowing Card won’t see a red cent from the transaction. But I think that if one wants to read a work by a problematic person for whatever reason, second-hand is the only conscientious way of going about it. Bigots shouldn’t get your money.

Working on the Craft: Implication

Today’s exercise comes from Ursula Le Guin’s Steering the Craft. In both of its parts, the author has to describe something without the help of characters. Part 1 is dedicated to a room, which should describe its occupant without them being present at the time. In Part 2, the goal is to depict the aftermath of an event without anyone currently participating in it. I really enjoyed both segments. The exercise seems very useful as a tool in writing longer works, and Le Guin herself points out that it doesn’t have to be limited to omniscient authorial view. A character could be describing these things from their own point of view (though I opted for the former option).

Part 1:

The room was more statement than office. Every aspect of it designed for a marriage of utility and the demonstration of rank. From the first step one took inside, a portrait of the House’s first ruler greeted them, hung on the wall behind a massive oak desk. Its height was perfectly positioned so that the stern face of the ancient noble would look above the head of the desk’s occupant, adding weight to their every meeting. The desk itself was designed for full integration with the Network, smart surface seamlessly crafted into hand-worked wood, of the kind one had to import from off-world at obscene cost.

Floor to ceiling bookcases covered the dark blue walls to each side of the desk, their shelves packed with physical books – tomes that were clearly priceless artifacts, yet meticulously selected for their relevance to the House lord’s projects. The faintest smell of ozone marked the high-end security fields protecting the paper from entropy or unauthorized fingers.

The office was equipped with complete overlay capabilities as well – projectors and forcefield generators designed to meld with the walls. Yet none of them were ever active, unless necessary for e presentation. Where lesser nobility might simulate expensive art or other objects of great value, this room belonged to a House that could possess anything it wanted in the real world.

And often used that capability, for the sake of demonstration, because it sent a clear message to rival Houses: Anything could be bought.

Part 2:

The sweet smell of rotten wood permeated the small clearing, the bent limbs of branches reaching out with arthritic fingers from the wall of mist, yellow poison seeping out of split bark like pus.

It was almost enough to mask the stench of blood from the bodies on the stunted grass. The tableau told the story of sudden violence. Limbs splayed in unnatural positions, farm-made clothing torn to shreds by sharp claws that had gouged ragged groves into the flesh beneath. And the look of frozen terror on slashed faces, no longer seeing the monster that had taken their lives.

Each body had a totem attached to its wrist – a bracelet of simple copper and High Technology meant to protect in a world where the very air could manifest teeth, even when one could see beyond three feet into the mist. The ancient devices had helped not at all, for the protection they offered was a chance, and not a promise.

The mist advanced now, swallowing the bloated limbs of the diseased trees, closing in on the corpses as their totems no longer repelled it. Grey wisps slithered over dying grass, like a thing alive questing for food. They closed in on the bodies, caressing shredded clothing, covering wounds.

Before the clearing was fully swallowed, the first corpse began moving.

Love (comma, Simeon) in the Time of Coronavirus

Today’s post is more stream of conscience-y than usual, mostly because I need it for therapeutic reasons. Hopefully, it’s not entirely useless to read, but either way, I have to process this.

We live in a shitty time, all the shittier for how unclear everyone is on how much we are actually supposed to panic, and on what axis. Is our health in danger? Certainly, though not all that much, unless you are old or immunocompromised. Is society in danger? Definitely, because of said old or immunocompromised people who you would put in grave danger with your healthy ass walking outside and potentially spreading a virus you don’t know you are carrying.

Is the economy in danger? Uh, yes. Very much so. Duh. Especially with this incompetent mobster in charge of government.

All of the separate factors add up to this weird miasmic feeling of disquiet, where one feels both kind of safe, and really seriously threatened. Simultaneously overreacting and underreacting in a time that is both a complete emergency, and somehow totally normal.

Or maybe that’s just me. Either way, I have been reading and listening to the professionals, I have not stocked up panic-level amounts of toilet paper, and I am overall fine. I have the luxury of a nice home, human contact, and not risking bankruptcy just yet. My situation is on the privileged end of the spectrum.

But that doesn’t mean I am immune to the oppressive feeling of doom and gloom. Self-isolation is still isolation. It doesn’t matter if you normally work from home, or that you might be anti-social or introverted. Even with company, the awareness that you can’t (or at least shouldn’t ) leave the house, and if you did, there is nowhere for you to go, can tear you down.

So what I am doing about it is, I wake up at normal times. I don’t sleep in late, just because I have nowhere to be. I dress up in adult human camo, even though no one is likely to see me. I have me super gay iced coffee (from concentrate, organic). Then I sit down and I try to do some work, be it editing my novel, scheduling a new post for the blog, writing book/movie reviews for other places, or setting up violin lessons on Zoom.

Before videogames or reading yells at me that adulting is too hard (which inevitably happens). Because then, once I log onto Destiny or puddle myself into bed with a book, I know I did something with my day.

I think it is of profound importance to act like life goes on, like you can still work, or find other ways to be productive. To me this is the best way I can think of to stave off feelings of depression, panic, or plain old apathy. Not terribly novel, I know. But it is what I can do.

Reading Update 03/18/20 – The Forgotten Pile

In honor of self-quarantining (which, I am told, is now official euphemism for masturbation), I figured I should reveal the shame of what is currently occupying my nightstand. Those are books I have at one point or another bought on a whim, thought to pull out of my bookcases because I “really wanted to check them out”, etc. An odds-and-ends affair, patiently waiting for a better world, in which I read something like five books a week, or have otherwise magically caught up with all my “urgent” reading. Thoughts and prayers.

Working on the Craft: The Royal We

Another exercise from The 3 A.M. Epiphany, aiming at a split personality first person plural narrative, in which the perspective is from the point of view of the group, while each individual member is described in third. The point is to describe a melding of thoughts and feelings within a tight-knit group. For some reason, this instantly made me think of telepathy or data-share, which naturally led me to dystopian cyberpunk, because my brain is extremely predictable. I opted out of geshtalt-writing, because that felt like cheating. Anyway, here is my 600-word attempt.

We climbed to the top of the crater at dawn, and the Cluster bloomed in front of us. An ugly, disjointed sprawl of prefab housing cubes, piled precariously on top of each other, surrounding the dome of Paris like filthy beggars reaching desperately for scraps. Which they were.

Jeriko flashed the sight to Axe, who was being led by Shim while her goggles rebooted. Axe’s eyes had been taken the year past, sold to some Corpling by her douchebag father, and replaced by a subpar implant that kept glitching more and more with each passing month. She beamed now, happy to see what Jeriko did. Shin tried her best too, with her sinth-leg being the half-assed job that it was. Jeriko got flashes from her, discomfort making her lose control of her priv-filters.

We were all broken in one way or another, none of us mint. But together we were whole. The three of us were all we had, and we were about to make a play for the big leagues.

Her goggles rebooted, Axe let go of Shim’s hand and walked to where Jeriko stood, staring at the expanse of the Cluster. We flashed comfort at one another, like little bursts of tranq, to keep us afloat. We knew the dangers of crawling out of the crater were nothing, compared to those lying ahead. Miles upon miles of slums, where cy- and chem-drugs were the norm, you were either in a gang, or at the mercy of one, and everything that could be sold, was fair game for trafficking. We had escaped poverty and were about to enter desolation.

Shim checked the blades in her arms, humming with satisfaction when they vibrated in response under her skin. Jeriko’s hand rested on the hilt of the sword on his back, and Axe’s memes were armed, ready to debilitate any system that even so much as looked at us.

We had to make it through the warrens of the Cluster, hopefully in one piece, or close to. We could ill afford to lose parts at the best of times, and no time was less “best” than the times ahead. If we were hacked or dismantled, the only help we could hope for, would be for a price, and we could not pay. Axe’s weaponized meme-engine, Jeriko’s claymore, and rations for a week’s journey had depleted our already non-existent resources.

All three of us had agreed that this was a one-way trip, and it would end in one of two ways. Success. Or… not.

Because beyond the Cluster lay the dome of Paris. Few corp-cities left on the ground, most of them having gone orbital a generation ago. And fewer still even considered allowing outsiders in. And none of those were anywhere the three of us could reach on foot. So Paris it was. Not a paradise, by any stretch of the imagination. Corps had seen to that. But better than where we had grown up, better than what future we had out here.

Axe knew deep-server ops. Jeriko was auged for strength and speed. And Shin had connections sprawling throughout the Cluster. Not enough for safe passage, of course. But between the three of us, we had a chance for a foot at the door, and a hand hopefully strong enough to hold said door from slamming on said foot.

The Cluster awaited us. Beyond that – the corp-dome. And beyond that still, maybe a chance at the stars. We flashed emotion at each other, the three of us sharing this experience, standing at the threshold of a journey with no certain end. A hand reached, and another clasped it. A muscle smile here, a flashed one there.

We started forward.

Review: Seven Blades in Black

At C2E2, I decided to look smart at one of the “Writers Talking About Writering” panels, and once the floor was open for questions, asked mine: “If you struggle with obsessive-compulsive tendencies, how do you avoid solving problems too neatly for your characters?” (Let’s pretend I phrased it this way, rather than a mumbling shortness-of-breath situation.) Sam Sykes was one of the people who answered, and his answer, which I am paraphrasing here, was on the lines of “I think of everything that could go wrong in any given moment, and then explore where that takes the character.”

And OH BOY does he! Seven Blades in Black (first in the The Grave of Empires series) is a masterclass in Things Going Wrong, and I loved every. Single. Second. Of it.

Sal the Cacophony has an axe to grind. She was once a mage of the Imperium, whose power was stolen during a conspiracy to dethrone an Emperor. She has a list of the people responsible, and she is going through it. With a demon-possessed hand canon that shoots magical explosions.

The book takes place in a no-man’s-but-kinda-every-man’s-land called the Scar. Once a new frontier for the magicratic Imperium from across the sea, it has been ravaged by a generation-long war between Imperial forces and their former slaves, who have wrested freedom through mystical relics and a gun-powering substance found in the new land, and formed the no less bloodthirsty Revolution. Nobody cares about the little people, huddled in their freeholds and townships. Including Sal, who also doesn’t care about either side in the war.

Seven Blades in Black is an anti-heroic fantasy. Sal is a broken, broken woman, and the worst of the scar tissue isn’t even on the surface. She is cynical to a fault, a painful knot of dry wit and nihilism, placing little to no value on her own well-being, so long as she can kill everyone on her list. And when your enemies are some of the most powerful mages of your generation, things tend to get.. damaging. Sam Sykes somehow manages to throw every available kitchen sink at his protagonist, and yet the book never falls into gloom-and-doom territory. While the world and story are certainly grimdark, the narrative is so action-packed that at no point does it even consider dragging.

Another thing Sykes said in answer to my question at C2E2, was that characters who feel very strongly about something will always clash against the rest of the world. This is what drives much of Seven Blades in Black. Where Sal has a monomaniacal drive to kill those who wronged her once upon a time, the people around her do not. The few side characters of the book clash with Sal on a deeply intimate level, and for how action-driven the story is, I found myself genuinely entangled in the borderline toxic relationships she has with others nearly as much as I was with her quest.

So, if you have ever wondered what would happen if you mixed a techno-magical Final Fantasy style world with a classic revenge samurai story, added some serious emotional trauma and made your character somehow still read as the absolute coolest, then Seven Blades in Black is your book, as it was most certainly mine. And I am definitely vibrating on high frequency, waiting for the sequel in August!

Reading Update: 03/11/20 – The Relentless Arc!!!

Another braggy post, but I can’t contain myself! I thoroughly adore the Lady Astronaut books by Mary Robinette Kowal, and have been eagerly awaiting The Relentless Moon. And now I get to read it months in advance! However, I shall be strong. Not keeping to reading schedules is the mind killer. It is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my reading schedule, and integrate The Relentless Moon into it, rather than blasting it to smithereens (again). I will permit it to pass through me, and… Ok, you get it. I’ve read Dune.

But still, The Relentless Moon! Squee!

Working on the Craft: Journalism

Continuing with the exercises from The 3 A.M. Epiphany , today’s pick is Exercise 5, titled Journalism. The idea is to tell a short story through journal entries and try to convey important parts of it in the gaps between what is written. A play on the writer’s perceptions and the reader’s expectations. Which, of course, made me think of Gene Wolfe, and his Seven American Nights, which to this day is one of the best short stories I have ever read. So, without further ado, here is my mediocre tribute to Gene Wolfe.

January 7: I arrived in Reprobation at sunset. It’s a small, shitty place, way out of any trade route that still exists in this blasted wasteland. One of those townships where prospectors gathered back when everyone thought they would strike crystal if they only dug deep enough. And once it was clear this asswipe of a land would rather swallow them up than give anything of value, the dregs remained, too obstinate or too desperate to move.

I got a room in what passes for an inn around here. Too expensive for what it is. But I think the guy saw the hand cannon and decided I would want to do this question-free style. He is right.

Everyone is weird. They act almost like normal folk, but then give me these long looks, like they measure me for a coffin. Doesn’t matter. If anybody is moron enough to try something, my gun loves making examples.

Moonless night. Reprobation is too quiet. Maybe it’s such a depressing town that even those whiny murder lizards  from the wilds don’t want to be nearby and make noise. I miss the moons. That was a dumb war.

He is here. And if he isn’t, he sure as fuck passed through, and someone knows where he went.

January 9: This town has fewer than a 300 people, only one purifier station, no means of long-range communication, and so little high technology that it might as well be from before the diaspora. Yet, some-forsaken-how, it has a church! Because obviously it would. People who stay in places like Reprobation tend to find gods. Or worse – a God, singular. Still, made sense to go there first thing yesterday.

Why do religions with just one dude – and it’s always a dude – in charge suck so much more ass than those with a merry crowd of drunks and sex abusers?

This one had three gods, maybe. Or four. Barely any finery. No icons, just a drab alter and some carvings on the walls. Creepy stuff. Tentacles and fangs, and big bulging eyes. What fucking religion is this?

A single woman taking care of the whole thing. Priestess. Or High Bishop, Supreme Wizard, whatever. I guess she told me, but who cares. Weird like the rest of the township. Stared at me like she wanted to mate with me and feed my body to her young. And she knew nothing. Which is bad, because it seems most of this glorified latrine passes through her hovel on whichever day service is. So either he is hiding better than I thought he could, or she is lying to me.

Or he passed by so quietly, that nobody noticed.

But he didn’t. Not his style. And a place this small will notice the corpses.

Still, the day wasn’t a total waste of life. Inn has a bar. Reprobation has drunks. Drunks love talking. When they don’t love talking, a hand cannon in the face makes them talk. And mine is fancy. Exo-tech. It whispers to them, so they get extra scared.

They still looked at me funny, but I guess alcohol loosens their buttholes a bit. Got some information there. Someone did pass through, a week ago. They didn’t want to tell me, and I doubt they knew much. I don’t know if they’re secretive, or unobservant. Perhaps both.

But why would the Grand Hierophantess not want me to know?

Going to check the nearby caves today. Mine didn’t work out, but tunnels still make great hidey holes. They say people go in there sometimes, to avoid trouble. If he is still around, that’s where he would go.

Innkeeper looks like he will try to go through my things while I’m gone. If he hasn’t already. Doesn’t matter, everything I care about is in the holster at my hip.

And maybe the nearby caves.

January ???: I don’t know

Woke up in room how did I get here

Hurts so much but only when I breathe should stop breathing

I can barely move. Don’t know how I got back to the inn. I am not sure what happened in the mine. Got shot. Maybe stabbed.

Bitten? Why would that be an option?

I remember noise. Loud. And then something was on me, and I think I fell. I remember the pain, but nothing after. Was there bulging eyes?

Don’t know how long I was out, or what day it is. Panicked real good when I could think straight. No pants and no shirt is fine, but if they took my hand cannon, I am fucked.

It was fine. Gun was in its holster on the chair. Not fucked.

Maybe a bit fucked. My side is all bandaged up. Wasn’t me. Inkeeper guy? The Archpopetress? Fresh bandage too, so they changed it at least once. Hurts when I breathe. But manageable.

Thank you for the memories, Reprobation, you lizard nutsack.

But also, no memories. What happened in the mine? My thoughts keep going back to the church for some reason. Who in the endless starless void worships things with tentacles? This is some fifty-million-years-ago shit.

Must go back to tunnels, but hurts too much. Gotta gather my strength. Should rest now. Maybe getting feverish.

January 12: I woke up and felt wonderful. The bandages were such a great relief, and I was thankful to the kind soul who had taken such good care of me, nurturing me to good health so quickly. If I ever find who they are, they shall have my love.

I endeavor to leave this place now, for what I seek was not here. Perhaps I shall abandon this journey and settle down elsewhere. Certainly far from here, even if Reprobation has proven a worthy township.

This will be my last entry. I leave this journal here, as a memorial to the life I leave behind, and a promise for a bright, beautiful future in a distant land.

Do not look for me.