Wednesday, October 31, 2012 4 comments

Writing Wibbles

It is with great pleasure that I welcome EJ Hobbs, a former FAR Manor inmate, to the online version of the free-range insane asylum! EJ is trying to devote more time to writing, so go check out his #FridayFlash for this week and give him some encouragement. Drop him a comment, all that good stuff.

With the White Pickups blog tour dwindling in the rearview mirror, the Accidental Sorcerers decided they were done tormenting me for a while. I’m going to try getting a #FridayFlash out this week; maybe a new “On the Georgia Road” segment, to tie into the fall tourist season in full swing here in Sector 706.

But Mik’s and Sura’s story, which doesn’t have a decent title yet, is about 2/3 done now. I have place settings or topics for at least three more stories, so this might make a nice little series of novellas. I think the hardest thing will be keeping them out of each other’s bedrooms remembering to age them properly as the story line progresses. I suppose, now, the overall arc becomes a coming of age story, while they have lots of interesting adventures (and everyone thought the age of adventures was long over, haha).

In between, I’ve been working on an expanded version of UW-401, the “pre-zombie apocalypse” #FridayFlash. This too, I think, will end up in the novella size range. That one, I’m writing by hand, while the Accidental Sorcerers get the keyboard. Interesting, how different stories want to be drafted different ways. I should break out the old manual typewriter some time and see what stories want to be literally banged out. With any luck, I’ll finish both of them by the end of November.


If the Launch Cannon appears in the Wibbles, it means more of my stories have escaped the friendly confines of the blog. It begins with the recent #FridayFlash It Begins, which coincidentally uses the main characters and situation in UW-401. The editor of the Were-Traveler actually asked me to submit it for her “Alternate Zombie History” issue! Go check out the other stories, there are some really good ones in here. From ancient Egypt and Rome, to WW2, to other big moments in history, to the near future, the dead are walking. Perfect for Hallowe’en, right?

And a #FridayFlash from last year, Assignation, got itself cleaned up for an appearance in the Best of Friday Flash, Vol. 2 anthology. This marks my first fiction available in print, and that’s kind of exciting. You can drop 10 bucks on a paperback (which includes an eBook version), or 5 bucks just for the eBook.



And somewhere in there, I’ve been doing some editing for Green Envy Press. I thought I had an ambitious set of launch goals for next year—Angela is pushing for even more! I really need to stop procrastinating and get the Pickups and Pestilence draft out to the beta readers, that’s like the biggest of the bunch so far.

So, Lord willing and the Internet don’t fall over, I’ve got at least Pickups and Pestilence coming out in the spring, along with the to-be-retitled Chasing a Rainbow, both Accidental Sorcerers stories, and UW-401 scattered throughout the year. I’d planned to start on Wings: Unfurled before now, but with a couple more royalty direct-deposits the wife might give me some time to get it done!

Come back tomorrow, when I’ll post a pic of Mason in his Hallowe’en outfit.

Monday, October 29, 2012 No comments

Winners!

The White Pickups blog tour drove off, and left two winners in its wake:

2nd place, a copy of White PickupsJess Richardson

And the Grand Prize winner: Laura Hill
That big ol’ pile of loot includes:

  • White Pickups by Larry Kollar (um, that’s me!)
  • Being Human by Patricia Lynne
  • Snapshots by Patricia Lynne
  • The Violet Fox by Clare Marshall
  • Within by Clare Marshall
  • The Skeleton Song by Angela Kulig
  • Dust of the Dead Sea by Angela Kulig
  • Pigments of My Imagination by Angela Kulig

If you’re one or the other, and haven’t seen my email yet, check your spam filter? (Actually, one winner has already responded.)

I appreciate everyone who entered and followed the trucks around the blog tour… without, you know, actually climbing in one…

Wednesday, October 24, 2012 2 comments

Writing Wibbles

With the White Pickups blog tour in the rear-view mirror, I heave a sigh of relief. There were a large pile of guest posts to write, plus an interview. As I type, there’s still two days to enter the raffle. You can’t win if you don’t enter!

October is the crazy month. Well, they’re all crazy months at FAR Manor, but October stands out as the real moonbat. It’s not Hallowe’en so much as that it’s tourist season in Sector 706 of Planet Georgia. That, and the “change of season” feeling that we don’t get much of the rest of the year. So it’s natural that I get the Biggest Word-Bomb Ever, or at least my personal biggest, in October. Perhaps I should explain…

If you’ve been around a while, you might have read at least parts of Accidental Sorcerers, a serial I've been blogging for a while. What is on the blog is about half of a completed novella, roughly 30,000 words. But that’s not all of Mik and Sura. Not by a long shot. I’ve had an idea for a second novella for a while now, and took a shot at writing one scene. One. This story really puts Mik and Sura through an emotional wringer, and frankly those two voices in my head got angry. Very angry. And while they may be kids, they can do magic. One has summoned an Elemental Dragon, and lived to tell about it; the other one gets the urge to set people on fire when they cross her. They chained me to the keyboard and made me write the ending (with the resolution), then sent me to the beginning where they were having a really good time at first. I call it a word-bomb, because it didn’t really feel like a Download from God like I’ve had a few times in the past. Still, 17,000 words in a week was mentally taxing. At least I excerpted a little of it for my #FridayFlash last week.

So I’m over halfway done with this story, and they’ve left me to muddle through the middle. Anyway, I need to finish beta on the first story, and then get the second one up.


I got a rather pleasant email from Amazon this morning. My first royalty “check” is going to be direct-deposited toward the end of the month. Nothing huge—I’ve sold about a dozen copies each of White Pickups and Xenocide—but it’s a start. The wife is suddenly realizing that I could have a little income out of this… so maybe I’ll get more time to write? Let’s hope.

Friday, October 19, 2012 19 comments

#FridayFlash: Mik and the Merchant

The barge reached the Captain Rietha Bridge, and the crew offloaded the wagon. With Mik leading the donkey, and crewmen pushing behind, they got the wagon up from the landing and onto the Royal Highway. With evening setting in, they crossed to the way station opposite the bridge. There were several wagons, merchants by the looks of them, standing covered outside.

"I think the donkey likes you, Mik," said Sura, as they unhitched it. "If you get him in the stables, I'll put supper together."

"Fair enough." They embraced for a moment and went their ways.

After accepting another handful of grain, the donkey let Mik lead him into the stable. He found an empty stall and tied the donkey within, then spread fresh straw from the hayrick on the floor. Mik took the bucket and walked back down to the river to fill it. Familiar chores, once done in a place that he would soon see again.

As he went to find Bailar and Sura, he heard a hiss and a voice. "Hoy. Boy-sprout."

Mik turned to see a merchant, beckoning to him. He shrugged and ambled over. "What?"

"I have something for you," whispered, holding up a tiny vial. "A love potion, from the faraway East. I saw you and your girl out there. Put this in her tea, and she'll do anything for you. And I mean, anything!" The merchant grinned and made a suggestive gesture.

Mik frowned, fingering his blue sash. Is it possible he doesn't know what this signifies? he thought, but decided to play along. See how truly ignorant this folkman was. He leaned forward, gazing at the vial. "How does it work?" he asked.

"It's strong magic," the merchant assured him, warming to his pitch. "Sorcerers in the faraway East have preserved lore of such things from the time of Camac That Was… or perhaps even before! I've traveled far, looking for one who could benefit. You, I think, are the one."

"Enchanters," said Mik.

"Eh?"

"A potion would be an enchantment," Mik explained, "imbuing an object with magic. Sorcery is harnessing the elements, usually for a physical effect."

"Sorcerers, enchanters," the merchant made a dismissive gesture, trying to regain his footing. "Quite the young pedant, you are. But we're talking about your love life, no?"

"No." Mik's hand shot forward, grasping the vial for a moment, before the surprised merchant could snatch it back. "You were talking about a supposedly magical potion that would… well, it would do nothing, because I felt no magic in it just now. What you have there is probably a concoction of herbs, or perhaps a swallow of liquor."

"And you're some great mage?" the merchant sneered.

"Only an apprentice sorcerer. But I know enough to recognize a bargeload of rotten meat when I hear it." Mik turned. "And now, good evening to you, sir."


As they shared supper, on the way station porch, Mik related the encounter. Bailar laughed heartily. "You taught him a fine lesson! I hope he applies it!"

Sura was not at all amused. "I wish I'd been there," she growled. "Setting him on fire might have been a better lesson." Below them, a small patch of grass began to smolder.

"Sura, put that out!" Bailar looked alarmed. "Petty fraud does not warrant serious injury, in any case!" Sura shook her head, but hopped down to stamp out her small fire. "No harm was caused, and I expect he'll be more cautious with his touting from here on."


Later that night, Mik was drifting toward sleep when he heard Sura whisper. The three of them shared a tiny room in the way station, the bed little more than a wide platform above the floor. “Mik. Are you awake?”

“I am.” He eased himself up. Between them, Bailar breathed slowly.

“Can I ask you something?” He could see little more than her outline in the dark.

“Anything.”

“If that merchant really had a love potion, would… would you have bought it?”

Mik shook his head, forgetting for a moment that Sura could not see. “No,” he whispered. “When…” he paused, thinking Bailar might be awake and listening. “No. Is it my turn to ask a question, now?”

Sura sighed. “Ask.”

“Would you have really set the merchant on fire?”

She giggled. “No, but after he heard what I had to say, he might have wished I had!”

Mik snorted. “That would have been fun to watch!”

“Go to sleep, you two,” said Bailar. “If you are hoping I will find a quiet place to sleep, and leave you here by yourselves, I will not.”

“Apologies, mentor,” said Mik, although they could both hear the smile in his voice. “Sura started it, though!”

“Mik!” Sura laughed, snatched up her pillow, and flapped Mik with it over her protesting father. He covered himself and chortled under her laughing assault.

Monday, October 15, 2012 5 comments

A Fragment of the Great Nothing (pt 5)

Prologue: World with End
Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4



Source: WikiMedia Commons
In later years, when Jakrom’s children had completed their apprenticeships and were making their own way in the world, a visitor came calling. Jakrom did not recognize the man, but invited him in.

“I came to thank you, Jakrom,” said his visitor. “You aided me long ago, when all hope was lost, and I have not forgotten your kindness.”

“Forgive me, sir,” said Jakrom, “but I do not recall. When and where did I help you?”

“At the Edge of the World, as you made your final climb to gaze upon the Great Nothing.”

Jakrom gasped as a name leapt into his mind. “Perin! I had forgotten. You healed, I see.”

Perin smiled. “Indeed. The leg still pains me on rainy days, especially now as I grow older, but thanks to you I do yet walk the world. It is said, ‘Blessed is he who remembers a kindness received, and more blessed still is he who forgets the kindness given.’ You have been greatly blessed, I see.”

“I have,” said Jakrom, squeezing his wife’s hand.

“Do you still have the Fragment? I see chips of it on your rings—a clever token and one that marks you.”

Jakrom laughed. “I could never bring myself to sell it. Let me bring it forth.”

Perin shook his head. “Knowing you still have it is enough. I did not come to see it, but to answer the question you never asked of me.”

“Why were you on the mountainside?”

“Yes. That question.”

Jakrom smiled. “And what is the answer?”

“I must first ask you a question. You know the legend of our world’s creation?”

“Of course,” said Trenah. “Thurun Made it for folk who insisted that their own world had an Edge. But in the middle of the Great Nothing, he Made a city of refuge for other Makers. A fine tale to tell children at bedtime.”

“The tale is true.”

Jakrom’s eyebrows climbed into his thinning hair. “And you call that city home?”

Trenah gasped. “You say you are a Maker yourself?”

“I do call it home, but I am no Maker,” said Perin. “As with sorcerers, not all children born to Makers have the ability. Those of us who do not are sent into the world of Day, to travel and observe. We are the eyes and ears of our city. Long ago, Makers were persecuted and hunted. In those times, they swore that no kindness shown them would go unrewarded.”

“But we have wealth to outlive us,” said Jakrom. “We need no reward. Your thanks is enough.”

“What I offer,” said Perin, “no wealth under the sun can buy. You have a welcome and a home in the City of Refuge. There you would lack for nothing, including a long and vigorous life. And more children, if you wished. In fact, such would be encouraged.” He paused a moment. “It—”

“Wait,” said Trenah. “How does one cross the Great Nothing?”

“I am here, and it is harder to come to Light than to Darkness. But when Makers will a thing done? It is usually done. For those who know the way, crossing the Great Nothing is less arduous than the journey from here to the Edge of the World.”

Jakrom and Trenah looked at each other for a long time. “We must think about this,” said Trenah. “Until we decide, please remain with us as our guest.”


Larbam was old now, and preferred to sit on his upstairs balcony where the sun could warm his bones. Yet his merchant’s mind was as sharp as ever. On the day Jakrom came calling, Larbam’s granddaughter Carinah brought them tea and cakes. After they had eaten and drank, Larbam said, “You are moving on.”

“How did you know?” Jakrom was surprised, for he and Trenah had only made the decision that morning. Perin knew, but he had not departed the house.

“That day so long ago, when you departed for the Edge of the World, your eyes were already on that journey.” Larbam chuckled, and sipped his tea. “This day, you have that same look about you. What wonders will you see this time?”

“I will tell you, for it was you who set my feet on this path. But only if you will not spread the tale further.”

“Of course, of course. I myself will soon take my own journey, the one from which there is no return.” Larbam sighed. “Your secrets I will take with me.”

“Nor do I expect us to return here.” Jakrom told Larbam of his visitor and the invitation they had accepted. “We have agreed to tell everyone else that we will spend our lives seeing all there is of our world. But you, my friend? I thought you should know the truth.”

“I have oft regretted that I was not your father, Jakrom. But I am always grateful that you have been my friend, instead.” Larbam looked into his teacup, then at Jakrom. “I believe we shall not see each other again. Therefore, let me embrace you as a father embraces his beloved son when he goes to make his way in the world.” And Larbam embraced his friend. “Go and do, Jakrom,” he whispered. “Speak my name in the City, that shines by its own light, under the eternal Stars.”

Thus did Jakrom and Trenah depart from the world of Day. It may be that they were Made young again, and bore sons named Larbam and Perin, and daughters named Arah and Rakah. It may be that they live there yet.


Sarna gave Galbron a wide-eyed look. “To be Made eternally young, like the Unfallen… what a thought!” she breathed.

“Many have sought the way to Thurun,” said Ethtar, “but none have yet found it. Or if they did, they never returned. Perhaps that is for the best.”

“So our wisest say,” said Galbron. “Makers in these days would be nearly like gods, doing whatever they pleased. But even Makers, we believe, would come to see life as a burden and lay it aside. Thus is the balance maintained.” He gave his friend’s daughter a warm smile. “Perhaps Jakrom and Trenah did the same. The important thing is, they seized the adventure before them. As do you and your father!”

“Indeed!” Sarna laughed.

THE END

Friday, October 12, 2012 11 comments

White Pickups Blog Tour!

One of the benefits of joining a publishing co-op is that I get a lot of help with promotion. Oh, did I not mention that? I’ve joined a publishing co-op! It’s a very new thing, and we’re all still feeling our way forward, but we’re all pooling our not-writing skills, so everyone benefits.

Once we really get going, I think we’ll have a top-notch operation, and be able to match or beat anyone on quality.

Blog tour. I was talking about a blog tour. Yes, White Pickups is taking an online road trip of its own…

It’s amazing how quickly this all came together. I had to blast out four guest-blog posts in a week, and of course the one that came first was the absolute hardest one to do. But meanwhile, Angela Kulig, the marketing expert at Green Envy Press, was lining up tour stops and had time to throw together a short video. Check it out…



There’s goodies to be won! In addition to an eBook copy or two of White Pickups, there’s a slew of other books from some of the other Green Envy Press authors in the pile. So here’s a list of the wonderful bloggers who are helping out:

Oct 12th: http://www.faeryinkpress.com/category/blog
Oct 14th: http://jamiebmusings.webs.com/
Oct 15th: http://www.sonyaclark.net/
Oct 16th: http://www.patricialynne.com/
Oct 17th: http://safireblade.com/
Oct 18th: http://www.angelakulig.com/
Oct 19th: http://www.smreine.com/
Oct 20th: http://www.hmjacobs.com/

You’ll get to read guest posts, the “craziest interview ever,” and other fun things, so don’t forget to follow that truck!

And now… the Rafflecopter giveaway! Rafflecopter giveaway Don’t forget to enter, there’s plenty of good stuff to win!

Monday, October 08, 2012 3 comments

A Fragment of the Great Nothing (pt 4)

Prologue: World with End
Part 1Part 2Part 3



Source: WikiMedia Commons
“You have seen it?” Perin asked. “You need not answer. I see it in your eyes. It is something you will not forget.”

“Indeed,” said Jakrom. “It was awesome. I know now, how one might go mad in that place.” He shuddered. “Now, to get you out of this place?”

“Walk that way,” Perin suggested, pointing down-slope. “It may be that this crevasse opens up on the mountainside farther down.”

Jakrom followed the crack, and it was indeed as Perin guessed. He returned, and supported Perin until they again reached the trees. There, Jakrom found a stream and built a travois for Perin after hunting some game for them both. Jakrom stopped once, to retrieve his cached gold. When they again reached the river, they built a raft and floated downstream, using the broken pickaxe and a pole to push them away from rocks. They slept at mining camps, trading their wondrous story for food and drink along the way. Finally, they reached the last town (now the first town) and Jakrom took Perin to the local Healer.

“It will be some time before he is fit to travel further,” the Healer told them.

“I have gold a-plenty,” said Jakrom. “Enough for us both to stay here, as long as needed.” The prospectors had made good on their promise, and left Jakrom more gold in town. He was now a rich man, as he reckoned things.

“You should go,” said Perin. “You have a wife to claim at home. I will perhaps see you again some day, and I will tell my folk of how you brought hope to the Edge of the World, where I had lost my own hope.” There were more words, but Jakrom finally assented. He did pay the taverner to see that Perin lacked for nothing, however, until he was able to make his own way.


Jakrom returned home, nearly two years after he left, and he came home to find much had changed—not the least thing, himself. Feeling unsure of why he did so, he found Larbam’s house.

Larbam wept when he realized who it was at his door. “Come in!” he cried. “I feared I’d sent you to your death. I rejoice to see you alive, yet I grieve that I cannot keep my end of the bargain.”

“So I heard,” said Jakrom. “But tell me anyway.”

“A year passed after you departed, and young men of good families presented themselves. I allowed them to marry Arah and Rakah. Since then, my own fortunes have suffered, and now I am nearly a poor man myself. If you would hate me for one, and mock me for the other, I would understand.”

Jakrom shook his head. “I will do neither. I came to show you that for which you asked, though,” and showed Larbam the fragment of the Great Nothing.

“It’s beautiful,” Larbam breathed, after a long while. He lifted his eyes away, with some difficulty, and met Jakrom’s. “Will you sell it? There are only a few who could afford a fair price!”

“I don’t know,” said Jakrom. “I have thought I would, and I have thought I would not. However it is, I brought home a great deal of gold as well. That in itself is more wealth than I need.” He withdrew a small pouch. “I heard that you had fallen upon hard times. Take this. Consider it a loan, if you wish. Your fortunes will improve, then you can pay it back.”

Larbam wept again. “My fortunes have already improved,” he said, “for you bear me no ill will after all that has happened. You have helped me, now let me help you. You will be invited to travel in the circles of the wealthy, as you possess something that no other man has. I can advise you.”


Jakrom found Larbam’s advice sound, for Larbam himself had once traveled in the circles of the wealthy. Jakrom bought a modest house, and hid the Fragment there with his family curse. Larbam taught him how to act at ease among the high-born, and how not to let his words trap him in a ruinous course of action. Jakrom did not sell the Fragment, but put a small piece in a ring. Soon after, he gave a similar ring to his bride, the sorceress Trenah. Their children were strong, healthy, and had sorcerous talent of their own. Over time, Larbam’s fortunes did indeed improve, and he paid Jakrom twice what was lent. Both men prospered, and grew influential in their city.


“And that’s the end?” Sarna glowered at Galbron from across the room, holding their full wineglasses. “A fair adventure, to be sure, but not deserving of being served your wine!”

“Not quite,” Galbron assured her. “There is yet a little more.”

continued…

Thursday, October 04, 2012 15 comments

Origins: Miss Siles (#FridayFlash)

This is a followup to an earlier flash, Miss Siles



Miss Siles’s logo
“Thanks for inviting me over, Montana.” Miss Siles settled into the leather recliner, wine glass in hand.

“My pleasure.” Montana Rack took the love seat. A glass-top coffee table stood between them. She poured her own wine, and set the bottle on the coffee table.

“I guess you want to interview me, right?” Miss Siles asked. “There has to be a reason for this invite. The dinner was great and all, I just figured… you know.”

Montana laughed. “That’s not the reason. If you want to talk about anything, though, I’m all ears.”

“And tape recorder.”

Another laugh. “A good transcription starts with more than memory! No, I wondered if you’ve given much thought to who you wanted to have for your Recording Journalist. I think we’d be a good fit. I won’t get distracted by your, um, superpowers, and I do have experience. Now that Captain Heroic’s retired, I’m open. He’ll vouch for me.”

Miss Siles laughed herself. “I bet he would! Sure, why not?”

Montana nodded. “One drawback. I give it maybe ten more years before I’ll have to give up live reporting and move to the anchordesk. But that gives us plenty of time to find a replacement.”

Miss Siles shrugged, making the recliner shift. “Fair enough. I guess you want to hear my origin story, then.”

“Of course!” Montana rose, and returned with a recorder. “Just tell the story. Once I have it down, I’ll pass it to you and let you add or correct things as necessary. Then it goes into the archives until you’re no longer active.”

“When is Captain Heroic’s story coming out?”

“Not right away. He still might have to come out of retirement.”

“Oh. All right.” Miss Siles began:

I was born June Stiles, a corn-fed girl from small-town Nebraska. I’ve always been a big girl—I mean, not like this, more like you—and I learned early on how to make it work for me. But I mostly earned my school grades, and I was accepted into IU without a personal interview. I majored in biochemistry, with a minor in genetics, and Sontanmo hired me after graduation. Despite knowing how to work what I had, I have to admit I was still pretty na├»ve. I bought that whole line about Sontanmo wanting to work with nature, improve on it, and feed the world.

They know how to work the idealists, too. Keep up the happy-babble, and keep us busy on small corners of the Big Picture. Get us tied to that paycheck, so we’ll look the other way the first time we catch a glimpse of what’s really going on.

I’m sure that’s what caused the accident. After a couple peeks behind the curtain, I was having some—okay, a lot of misgivings about working for Sontanmo. So I was distracted, wondering what I should do. I’d not even worked for a year, yet, and already I couldn’t afford to just quit. I had an apartment, car payment… oh, you know the tune. Besides, I was gnawing at a technical problem. EG-12 was a genome we were trying to splice into corn. The goal was halving the time to harvest—which meant we’d get two harvests in a season! Being able to double production would have been a game-changer, you know?

Like I said, I was distracted. I usually put my lab coat on backwards, so everything up front got covered, but I didn’t that morning. And it was a hot day, so I was wearing something low-cut. Lucky I had my face shield down when the centrifuge came apart, but my upper torso wasn’t shielded nearly as well. The seniors designed EG-12 to be delivered as a bath, so we could soak the corn in it. For all my working my assets, I was kind of modest at heart, so I didn’t do the smart thing and get out of my clothes and jump in the shower right away.

“So the EG-12 soaked into you?” Montana looked shocked.

“Right,” said Miss Siles. “Next thing I knew, I was… growing. Then the men in black showed up. That’s how I always thought of them. They gave my family some line about Sontanmo sending me overseas on a special project, and brought me to Professor Zero. He helped me learn how I’d changed, helped me develop my new talents, and sent me here to Skyscraper City.”

Montana gave her a sympathetic nod, and refilled their wine glasses. New superheroes were always vulnerable, as they adjusted to their new lives. She remembered Professor Zero’s words: as a Recording Journalist, your job is to simply listen, at least as much as covering the exploits of your assigned superhero. Your careers are symbiotic. With no secret identity, this poor kid would never have a normal life to fall back on, so she’d be even more vulnerable. Zero should have addressed this before sending her out.

Well, she’d been Captain Heroic’s friend all those years, and more than a friend now that he was retired. She could be June’s—Miss Siles’s—friend, too. She turned off the recorder. “That’s enough for our first night,” she said. “How about a movie? I have Nextflick.”

Monday, October 01, 2012 4 comments

A Fragment of the Great Nothing (pt 3)

Prologue: World with End
Part 1Part 2



Galbron lowered his wine glass and continued.

Source: WikiMedia Commons
“Down—” the cough again. “Down here. Help me.” Jakrom looked, and saw a narrow crack. He peered down, and was surprised to see a man looking back up.

“What are you doing here?” Jakrom gasped.

Even in his distress, the man smiled. “I will ask you the same thing, but not just now. I am Perin. Do you have water?” he whispered.

“Of course, of course.” Jakrom found a place to wedge the handle of the broken pickaxe, tied his rope to it, and slid down. He found a man covered head to foot in furs, resting on a pack. He gave the man a waterskin, and the newcomer sipped at it.

“Ah. Better.” Perin still had more croak than voice, but he sipped again. “To answer your question, on the Edge of the World a foot placed wrong can kill. Two days ago, I slipped on loose stone up above and fell here. It is warm enough in this sheltered spot, and food I have, but lost what little water I carried in the fall. And my leg is broken. But what of you? What brings you to the Edge?”

“This is how I shall prove myself worthy of marrying the daughter of a merchant,” said Jakrom. “I have been sent to stand on the Great Nothing, and bring back a fragment as proof.”

“If the bride-price for all daughters is so great,” Perin chuckled, “I am surprised there are folk left in the world!”

“Larbam offered me his older daughter with no bride-price, but I know her not.”

“Then she is a prize indeed. But do not chip at the Great Nothing. I have a fragment that I can give you instead.” Perin reached into his furs, and withdrew a large chip of black stone.

Jakrom took it and stared into it wide-eyed. It was the deepest black he’d ever seen, darker than any windowless closet. In its flat side, he thought he could see sparks of distant lights. He felt as if he could fall into it. Finally, he looked away. “I thank you, sir. But if I need not chip away a piece on my own, I must still stand on the Great Nothing. I will not deceive the father of the woman I wish to marry.”

“And to have come this far?” He nodded. “Of course. You are nearly there. Go have your look. But take your rope, that you may find your way back. Those not accustomed to the Great Nothing find it confusing. And when you feel lost, look up.”

“It is said that you lose your way, and then your mind, in the Great Nothing,” said Jakrom. “Your counsel is wise. But first, let me splint your leg. When I return, I can help you further.”

Jakrom left his waterskin and the rest of his pack behind, taking with him only his rope and the pickaxe. So close to his goal, and free of his pack, he felt light as a feather. He quickly scrambled up the steep slope, nearly bounding. But remembering what Perin had said, he kept a close watch on his footing. As he climbed, the sky before him turned a deep shade of blue, then almost black.

At last, he reached the peak. He stood watching, one with the stone, for how long he could not say. Before him, sunlight scattered over the Edge and marked a way down into a blackness as black as the fragment that now rested in his own pocket. To either side, a yellow-white line stretched away as far as he could see: the mountains that formed the Edge of the World. Above him… pinpricks of light, the “stars” of epic poems, hidden by Thurun’s eternal day. Finally, he focused on the slope before him and found his way down.

By some magic—or perhaps only his eyes craving what little light there was—he found that he could see better as he went. As the slope began to level out, to a pool of utter black, he again found a place to wedge his pickaxe and tied his rope to it. And thus Jakrom stepped onto, and stood on, the Great Nothing.

No poem, no story, can prepare a creature of endless Day for endless Night. A frigid wind cut through Jakrom’s jacket and thick clothing, but he felt nothing. Each breath he took made a little puff of fog. The vast plain of black obsidian was filled with the stars that twinkled above, and he thought he might float away to dance forever with those tiny sparks.

“I must go back!” he cried, but his words were swallowed in the Great Nothing. Then he remembered Perin’s advice: look up. As he raised his eyes to the stars, wondering what good the injured man had thought this would do, he saw a line of yellow-white stretching away. There was the Edge of the World, and perspective snapped into place. In his numb hand, he remembered the rope that anchored him—and his sanity—to the world he knew.


“When I heard Ethtar tell his tale,” Chelinn mused, “I did not see how the ‘Great Nothing’ would be so terrible. It would be little more than a clear winter night in the Northern Reach, or perhaps the Icebound Islands. I did not consider the thought that those who grow up in eternal daylight would not know how to cope with night.”

“Indeed,” said Galbron. “And the change we heralded, that morning we winded the Seventh Trumpet, will leave many unable to cope as well.” He looked to their host. “Protector Ethtar, have you thought about how sorcerers will fare in a world that increasingly has less need of them?”

Ethtar gave him a sour look. “I have. But as yet, I have no answer.” He shrugged and forced a smile. “You should finish your story, though.”

“That I should.” Galbron drained his wineglass once again, and continued.

continued…

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