Chapter 178 – Death Wish


Month 4, Day 9, Friday 11:30 p.m.

As Gera and Katerin left the Raven Queen’s room, Gera eyed the red-haired woman dubiously. To be so disrespectful to the Raven Queen, Katerin must have a death wish. But, to Gera’s surprise, the woman had only been mildly rebuked.

Perhaps she had done a favor for the Raven Queen at some point without receiving anything in return. Katerin might be using up a little of the credited goodwill that would have bought her with every moment of disrespect. Gera couldn’t think of any other reasonable explanation.

If Katerin was not careful, she would spend over the limit of the Raven Queen’s patience without realizing it. Gera could imagine the sudden and malicious retribution that would follow. The hair on her arms rose, and she pushed the thoughts away.

“I know you did not ask for my advice, but I will give it anyway, and freely. You should be more cautious. It is dangerous to be disrespectful to someone so powerful,” Gera said.

Katerin snorted, still reckless from her fear and anger. “So powerful? She is still a young sorcerer. What can she do to me? I doubt she’s going to try to arrange an assassination in revenge for a few words.”

Gera blinked, a leftover habit from when she needed her eye to see and closing it could clear her vision. She opened her mouth and then closed it again as the confusion swirled and her understanding of the other woman rearranged itself. In a low, hesitant voice, she asked, “Surely you are aware that the Raven Queen is more than just a young thaumaturge? You have been involved in several of her endeavors, if only adjacently. Have you not received any reports on her abilities? Her body may seem youthful, but do not take the face of a thing as the reality of it.”

Katerin sighed, patting her breast pocket and pulling out a pipe. As they walked back to their children, she took the time to silently pack the bowl with etherwood leaves and light it. Only after she had taken a puff and blown it out again did she speak. “Being a prognos, I had imagined you would be more insightful. The rumors circling about her are exaggerated.”

Gera suppressed her immediate outrage at the doubt of her abilities. She had dealt with that kind of thing repeatedly since she lost her vision, and though she had grown used to it, she had not grown content. She, too, kept her silence for a while, until they reached the room where those who the Raven Queen had saved waited.

She checked that her son was fine, first, and was pleased to see him blinking sleepily but awake and unharmed. The healer nodded to her from where he was crouched over the leg of one of the young Verdant Stag enforcers, which had obviously sustained a grievous wound.

Gera’s brother by choice, the leader of the Nightmare Pack, smiled at her. Wrinkles creased the corner of Lynwood’s eyes. “Miles is well. Merely exhausted.”

Gera picked Millennium up from his chair, ignoring the strain on her back muscles, and sat down with him in her lap. Only then did she speak. “Katerin, while you may know the Raven Queen’s personality better than I, please do not make the mistake of thinking I judge her abilities only from rumors. I discern from what I have sensed and experienced. The Raven Queen is no ordinary, mundane sorceress.”

Katerin, who had moved to stand beside Theo’s chair and was carding her fingers through his copper curls, sighed. She pressed her lips together as if considering how to respond. “She is clever, intelligent, and innovative. She cares more for others, even strangers, than she lets on. I would also guess that she is fairly powerful for her age, and will one day be even more so. But these ideas that she is some vengeful and mischievous being with powers that others cannot understand?” Katerin shook her head. “She cannot hear prayers, accept offerings, or travel through the shadows. She is a human, and a sorcerer, and constrained to results that can be achieved with knowledge and accumulated power.”

Several of the others were drawn to their conversation. A woman missing half her hair and sporting a wide stretch of mostly healed burn scars opened her eyes. She stood up from the corner where she had been sitting. Her skin glistened with the burn salve spread over her wounds, but she did not move as if in pain. She sneered, lifting her jaw and raising her unburned eyebrow. “An over-reliance on skepticism isn’t rationality when the evidence of things outside of your prior experience is right in front of your face.”

Katerin gaped, dumbfounded by the disdain dripping from the woman’s words.

Gera nodded to the burned woman. “I am Gera, of the Lynwood family.”

The woman nodded back. “Deidre Johnson, follower of the Raven Queen,” she said before turning back to Katerin. “It may seem so amazing as to be unbelievable, but I have collected the evidence of her deeds, taken directly from those who have witnessed them. I’m thinking of collecting them all into a book to be copied. Perhaps you have never seen the Raven Queen in action? I, too, was somewhat skeptical deep in my heart. I played at believing, but until I was in her presence, I did not truly believe. But tonight, what I experienced…” Deidre shook her head.

A man sitting on the floor with his forehead on his knees finished her sentence. “It can never be denied.” He wore a strange mix of nice boots and tattered, rough clothing, and Gera did not recognize him.

“When they took us, they put us into some void spell, our minds plucked from our bodies and tossed into the emptiness between life and death. It cannot have had any other purpose than to drive us insane,” Deidre added.

Lynwood cursed, narrowing his eyes with hatred, and Katerin’s fingers tightened hard enough in Theo’s hair to make the boy wince and bat at her hand.

“It was entirely silent,” Miles murmured wearily. “I couldn’t even hear my own thoughts properly.”

Gera rubbed his back in small circles. “You’re safe now,” she said, kissing his forehead.

Deidre nodded gravely. “Yes. The High Crown is an evil man, to order something like that done to anyone, but especially to children. But do not worry. I have noticed no lingering effects, perhaps due to the protection of the Raven Queen. She is obviously fond of both children.”

The healer had been listening with interest at first, but now with growing unease. “I…don’t think I should be here for this,” he muttered. “I will be in my office. Have one of the workers call me if you need anything.”

As he left, two men entered with a huge, decrepit dog limping along beside them.

The man with the strangely nice shoes and tattered clothes lunged forward, everything about his demeanor changing as he hugged the dog’s neck, pressing his face into its short fur.

The creature was missing an eye and a leg, and its thin skin sagged in places and pulled tight in others, without any fat to mellow the appearance of stringy muscle and knobby bone beneath. It was either very sickly, very old, or both. The dog gave a low woof, its tail wagging lethargically.

“It’ll all be worth it, if you can live for a long time,” the man muttered into its fur, almost beyond the range of Gera’s hearing. “If I don’t lose you, too.” He pulled back, looking into the dog’s watery, clouded eye. “Sorry for waking you in the middle of the night, Bear,” he said in conversational tones, running his hands over the creature’s saggy neck and bony side. “I think we’re going to have to move. But don’t worry, I’ll find you a place with a good spot by the window, where the sun comes through in the morning.”

He looked up at the men who had escorted his dog, frowning. “Did you not get his favorite toy? I specifically mentioned it. A stuffed brown bear?”

The men shared a look, then one took out a ratty brown plush toy from the back of his waistband.

“How old is that dog?” Theo asked.

The man smiled sadly. “Twenty-two.”

Katerin did a double take. “How?”

“An extremely delicate regimen of specialized potions. The same ones all those old Crown Family members take to keep one foot out of the grave. But the Raven Queen promised me she could heal him. His wounds were past the point they could be healed with most magic by the time I could afford to do so, and now he’s got too much planar magic in him to handle the influx of anything that could regrow a long-forgotten limb.”

His fingers ghosted over the stump of Bear’s missing foreleg, his smile tight with anxiety. “She can fix that with her secret blood magic. It is the boon she promised for my aid. For Bear to be healthy and live ‘an absurdly long time.’ That’s how she said it, I think.”

“That dog has already lived an absurdly long time,” Katerin said, pointing rudely. “Do you expect her to work miracles?”

The man glared at her.

Deidre cleared her throat. “If she promised it, she can do it. But to continue with my testimony…” She looked around, ensuring everyone’s attention was back on her. “While trapped in the space between, I panicked horribly. It seemed my very soul would unravel.” Deidre stared at the far wall with a haunted look in her eyes as she recalled the ordeal. “But then I prayed to the Raven Queen. I…did not actually believe that she would come. But I had to do something, and it was the only hope I could grasp onto. And she did come.”

Katerin narrowed her eyes. “I was under the impression that she was taken along with the rest of you? So really, she would have been there whether you prayed or not.”

The man with the dog and the maid Martha both shook their heads simultaneously.

The man spoke first. “I checked the identities of those we took.”

Gera stiffened, giving him another perusal. Was this man one of Lord Pendragon’s lauded elite? But the others seemed comfortable around him, which surely could not have been the case if he was one of their attackers.

He continued, “If the Raven Queen was already among the captives, then the rumors that she can shapeshift are accurate. However, I suspect that it is more likely that, rather than shapeshifting, she somehow possessed the body of one of the women—Silvia Nakai.”

Millennium made a small sound of confusion, tilting his head to the side.

Katerin pressed her lips together as if she wanted to speak but was holding herself back.

Martha shook her head again. “No, it must be shapeshifting. Millennium led us to a woman who could supposedly help, and she did look similar. But at most she could have been the aunt of the woman we saw later. But Jackal recognized her, and Millennium did, too. They were the same person, right?” Martha looked to the two for confirmation.

Jackal nodded. “I saw her when we were helping out the Verdant Stag with that stuff at Knave Knoll. She looked different then, too. Lightning-blue eyes.”

Gera hummed. “She is getting better at looking entirely human, it seems. I cannot see color and light as most can, but I am told she forgot to add the appearance of an iris around her pupil the first time we met, and that her hair shimmered with colors hidden in the black, like an oiled raven’s feather.”

Katerin had dropped her head into her hands and was rubbing her temples. “I need to sit down,” she muttered, then dragged one of the few free chairs over to sit beside Theo. “There are both items and magic that can change one’s appearance. It need not be some special shapeshifting skill. And…” She looked to the Pendragon operative. “Identities can be forged.”

But Gera could see that Katerin was being slightly untruthful, hiding something. “You may lie to others,” she said, “and even yourself. But you will find it harder to do so to me.”

Martha, who had been nodding to herself as if Katerin had offered a reasonable explanation, looked between Gera and Katerin in surprise.

Katerin gave Gera a dirty look but remained silent.

The Pendragon operative spoke again. “I am not a good man, and I do not pretend that I am. But the spell we placed you under should not have had any long-term deleterious effects if the exposure was limited to less than a day. It was only meant to keep you from escaping or calling for help. Those tunnels were being retrofitted, but they were never meant to be used for anything more than an extra escape route for the Pendragon Family. So far from the palace, they don’t have the same kind of embedded wards that the official Corps facilities do.”

Lynwood snarled, the sound rumbling up from deep in his chest.

“It’s true,” the other man insisted, shifting closer to his dog. “The spell was developed to keep enemy spies from killing themselves when captured. I have experienced it myself, and it is far from the worst the Pendragon Corps has to offer. But I didn’t consider the danger it might have presented to a child’s undeveloped mind. Even I would have refused to torture children or animals.” He looked up, meeting the gazes of the others who had been taken. “I am sorry,” he added simply.

“Why keep us there at all?” asked Martha. “Surely there was some better place? Harrow—well, no, not Harrow Hill.” Martha frowned at the floor, pinching her chin. “She already broke into and out of Harrow Hill twice. But surely the Pendragon Corps must have some secret jail?”

Deidre’s eyes glinted. “Surely. But not quite as secret as the High Crown must have wanted, right?” she asked the Pendragon operative. “Not when he can’t trust the University…and maybe not the Red Guard, either?”

The man gave her a nod and a half-shrug. “Perhaps. All I know for sure is that the High Crown had a cell created specifically to counteract her abilities. He spared no expense. Even I thought it would be inescapable. And if the Raven Queen had attacked in any more conventional way, from the outside, the wards may have stood, and our men would have been in position to deal with her. But she got inside somehow, without even triggering the alarms, and we hadn’t done much of any preparation for a scenario like that. And then, once the Radiant cell proved useless…I made the only choice I could.”

Deidre’s smile was lopsided, avoiding the side of her face with burns.

Gera considered how she might repay her own debt through the secondhand fulfillment of the Raven Queen’s promises. The High Crown would be after these people, and especially the traitor. It might be easiest to send the man far away, but if he was willing, Gera would prefer to keep him.

Her anger at the High Crown had diminished not at all with Millennium’s safety. With every moment that passed with the knowledge of what the leader of their country had done, her wrath bubbled up hotter inside her.

Like a volcano, it would not stay contained forever. And keeping this former Pendragon Corps operative around would undeniably have its benefits, if he was willing to continue working on the Raven Queen’s behalf. Or even on Gera’s behalf, for payment in coin.

Deidre leaned over and placed a hand on the man’s shoulder. “Atonement will be made with your actions, Anders. And as it is not given for free, you will know that you deserve it, and that it cannot be taken away from you.”

Anders grimaced. “Well, that’s a hassle. But back to the topic of the Raven Queen’s arrival, I am more inclined to believe your theory, Deidre. Everyone under the effects of our spell was totally incapacitated. Parker and I were on guard anyway, because we’re professionals. It had been hours with no sign of anything strange. And then, suddenly, the shadows started moving on their own. But not like normal shadows. Total blackness. It seemed like they were exploring around the room, and then they found what they were looking for and fell onto one of the women. And then she started moving. I ran to get help, but Parker stayed behind. He saw the whole thing.”

Jackal had taken out a small dagger and begun to play with it. “It was very strange, the way she moved. Especially in the beginning. Like a puppet on strings. And when she coughed up darkness… What did you all make of that?”

“Imperfect possession,” the young man in the corner with the leg injury said, piping up for the first time. He nodded to Gera and the others, introducing himself as Enforcer Turner. “That’s what I think, anyway. And maybe it wasn’t the first time, if the woman knew to pray for it. So she’s an acolyte of the Raven Queen or whatever. She’s got a special connection. Things go wrong for her, and she calls for help. Maybe she promises some kind of payment, maybe not. The Raven Queen hears her, and maybe she hears Deidre too, and sends… I don’t know.”

He waved a hand vaguely, shrugged, and continued. “Is the darkness the Raven Queen herself? A piece of her? Some strange creature of shadow that can channel her presence? Maybe it’s even a spell. Whatever it is, it allows the Raven Queen to use some of her abilities and partially control the body of the woman,” he concluded confidently.

Enforcer Turner hesitated, then rubbed his chapped lips together and asked, “Did you guys notice that a couple times, the darkness split twice?” When no one responded, he said, “There was the physical, flesh-and-blood woman, cloaked in darkness. And the warrior shadow creature with that giant beak.” He mimed a pulling motion in front of his nose, drawing the approximate shape of the creature’s single facial feature with a grimace. “But a couple times, there was another woman, made entirely of darkness. I think that was the actual Raven Queen, manifesting separately to make sure her shadow servant was handling the danger to her acolyte properly, or something.”

Enforcer Turner looked around, and seeing that everyone was listening intently, continued with more enthusiasm. “So after coming in with the darkness to find her acolyte, the Raven Queen is trying to get everyone out, and then the guards come and attack her with fireballs and that Radiant bomb. And the light is too strong, or the connection through the shadows is too weak, and it disrupts things for a moment. They take the woman away, and I don’t know what happened then, but obviously the Raven Queen came back, tried again, and got her out. And when she did, Anders and that poor Parker guy were suddenly on her side.”

Anders nodded. “We took her to the cell. It was an extremely well-warded room imbued with Radiance in every centimeter, from the floor to the ceiling. It took a while for the living darkness to regain its strength, but light is not the debilitating weakness we believed it would be.”

“A shadow is always darkest against the light,” Deidre said as if reciting something, though Gera suspected the woman just liked to make up phrases that sounded meaningful.

“Yes. The flesh of her body was contained, but her power…” Anders shuddered. “Her power was not contained. I—I am not ashamed to say that seeing it spill through the doorway and stand up again was one of the most horrifying moments of my life. It does not have a body like us. I am not sure that there is even the suggestion of flesh under its cloak. But you can feel it. It is cold. But not just cold. It was hungry. Empty. It touched me—to threaten me, and I could sense its wrongness.”

Anders rocked forward and back, his arms around his knees, then relaxed as Bear hobbled forward to lick his face and lean against him. “It’s normal to lose heat when you touch something cold, but this felt different. I can’t explain it.”

He clutched the dog to his side, petting Bear absentmindedly as the creature drooled on his pants. “So she said that if we didn’t help, she would have to make us enemies, and then she would get out anyways, after plucking the necessary knowledge from our minds, and, I guess, utilizing our dead bodies to work the lock. And she offered to help Bear. And something for that idiot Parker, too. So we made a pact and let her out. And she was definitely moving like a puppet on strings for a while there.”

Turner nodded eagerly. “Yes! So the Raven Queen gets the woman’s body out, and then we all go on the attack. She’s not content to let the High Crown keep any of our stuff, like, at all. And maybe she is a little weak to Radiance, but the body she’s using is hurt. Maybe from the fighting, or maybe just from whatever she has to do to keep control of it. So she takes one of those healing potions anyway, because she cares about her believers. In a whole, ‘I protect what’s mine,’ kind of way, right?”

“Most certainly,” Deidre agreed.

“Yes! So she took the potion anyway. And then, when we were escaping and the reinforcements came after us, did you see how she fought? I saw her slap a fireball aside into the wall. And the shadow warrior, or living darkness, whatever you call it, it definitely has some connection to nightmares. I’m thinking it pulls on a person’s greatest fear. The way it moved… Did anyone see it crawling on the ceiling?”

Martha raised her hand solemnly, as did one of the few who had yet to speak, a Verdant Stag enforcer. “I saw it.”

The Verdant Stag enforcer added, “Whatever it is, it holds to none of the laws of a mortal being. I speak not just of gravity but…also the laws of space? I don’t pretend to be some master of natural science, but the way that thing moved, still for one moment and then, in the space of a blink, somewhere else. It shouldn’t be possible.”

Turner lifted a finger. “Let me also point out the darkness fabric, always moving in some wind no one else can feel? Did you notice how it waves rhythmically, on a kind of repeated pattern, and sometimes with that cold fog wafting off it?”

The Verdant Stag enforcer tried to crack his knuckles, pressing too hard but not seeming to feel the pain. “I’m pretty sure some of the shadow warrior’s joints bent backward when it was…you know. Crawling inside that man. Which also, just—” He heaved with sudden nausea, holding a hand to his throat. Then he looked to Katerin. “I’m sorry, but if you think the Raven Queen is anything like a run-of-the-mill sorcerer, either she really did descend on that woman tonight and you’ve only ever met her acolyte, or you don’t know her at all.”

Deidre smiled again, looking down her nose at Katerin.

Katerin was less dismissive than she had been, but more disturbed. “I know Siobhan. She would have come to me, to us, if there was some being possessing her,” she said, but Gera could hear the note of underlying uncertainty in her voice.

Millennium frowned. No doubt, he could hear even deeper.

Martha clenched her fists around the fabric at her knees. “We all saw her cough out darkness,” she said in a small voice.

“It was pretty obvious,” Enforcer Turner agreed.

Jackal looked at Katerin’s pinched expression with sympathy. “Maybe the Raven Queen finds it amusing that some people mistake her for a normal woman,” he suggested. “She’s got a wicked sense of humor, according to the stories. And I mean that literally.”

Enforcer Turner grinned, pale faced. “Oh, yeah. Did all of you hear the things she was saying to me while she was working her blood magic on my leg? I could hear the smile in her voice. That’s part of why I was thinking maybe she feeds on fear.”

“And she agreed that she could use that darkness just the same for m—” Deidre cleared her throat. “For someone loyal, if they were willing to bear the side-effects.”

“I bet it hurts a lot,” Enforcer Turner said, shaking his head quickly. “No, thank you.”

Millennium shook his head. “You guys are making her seem weird and scary, but she’s not—well, actually… She is really scary.”

He looked to Theo for confirmation, and the other boy nodded solemnly. “Really scary,” he echoed.

“But she’s not weird,” Miles continued. “She’s nice, and she knows a lot of strange and amazing things, and she can help you if you have nightmares or visions or need help with your sleep.”

“She does know a lot of really awesome stories,” Theo agreed. “But the first time I met her, she was pretending to be a totally normal homeless person. And she can totally shapeshift. Like, big time.” Fingers splayed, he spread his hands wide for dramatic emphasis, and then jumped as Katerin secretly pinched him on the side. He scowled at her. “What? It’s not like they didn’t already guess.” He turned back to them. “You better not tell anyone. She would probably be upset. But if you ask her real nice-like, she’ll play with you with magic. That’s how I met Empress Regal.”

Katerin raised one eyebrow. “Empress Regal, your imaginary raven friend?”

“Empress Regal is not imaginary!” Theo protested. “She just won’t come when you’re around. And maybe it’s because you refuse to give her any gold, which I told you she wants.”

Deidre seemed quite interested in this, but her attention was drawn back to Millennium as he ignored Theo and continued speaking. “But she’s basically normal. The Raven Queen is just another one of her names. I don’t think she’s possessed or anything, even if she does have a strange echoey sound to her whispers.”

“What is this about her whispers, darling?” Gera asked.

“Well, she sounds different from most people. It’s…well, I don’t know how to explain it. Like if she were in a crowd of people, she’d be the only one walking around with a bubble of water around her. Or, like, she sounds just a little behind and ahead at the same time?” He squeezed his eyes shut and rubbed at his ears, though just as with Gera’s eyes, plugging his ears would not stop him from hearing.

“Shh,” she whispered. “I was only curious, you need not stress yourself.”

Deidre raised both eyebrows and then winced when the motion tugged on her burns. “We know that she likes children. She would want them to be comfortable around her. And I think we all heard the boy say how he doesn’t dream anymore,” she added pointedly, then looked at Gera. “That is thanks to the Raven Queen?”

“Indeed. I do not know what Millennium told you, but I will not reveal the details. Suffice it to say, she saved his life,” Gera said. “All others had failed. It was not a matter of gold, nor influence, nor of those we called upon lacking experience or skill. She did what others could not.”

“Sleep is one of her domains of power,” Deidre agreed.

Katerin had grown pale, and the muscles around her eyes were tight. Most likely, she was now replaying all the times she had offended the Raven Queen in her mind and remembering all the clues she had missed and times she had been deceived.

Jackal raised his hand to draw their attention. “What I want to know is, how do the rules work? The woman either was the Raven Queen from the beginning—”

Turner interrupted him excitedly. “Oh, if she really is, maybe, like, she only has limited power and most of the time, it’s sleeping? Maybe it takes time to recover. But then when it’s important, or someone makes her really angry, that part wakes up? The dark part,” he added gleefully, rubbing his palms together.

Jackal continued, speaking a little louder to express his irritation at the interruption. “That woman either was the Raven Queen from the beginning,” he repeated, “or she prayed to her. And presumably, if she did need to pray to her, she made some kind of agreement at that time. We all know that the Raven Queen requires payment for any boon she gives or favor she does, preferably in advance. Anders here made a very explicit pact with her, and fulfilled his side of the bargain already. But what about the rest of us?”

“I will pay for my son,” Gera said immediately.

“And I,” Lynwood added. They shared a wordless glance of understanding, and he squeezed her elbow with warm fingers.

Jackal nodded at them both. “Of course, and the Raven Queen is probably fine with that. She likes children, like Deidre said. But you can’t pay for all of us, and would she even let you, if you could? Is there any precedent for what to do in this situation?”

Hesitantly, Gera brought up Mrs. Dotts, who had been in a somewhat similar predicament to this one. “Mrs. Dotts told me that the Raven Queen said she doesn’t take offerings, only tributes,” Gera remembered. “But sometimes she will accept favors paid later.”

Lynwood crossed his leanly muscled arms, glowering. “It is good to ask these questions. These are the kind of conditions that can lead to…ironic conclusions.” Surely most of them in this room could think of more than a few childhood tales of beings that traded in favors, and the unfortunate endings of those stories.

Deidre nodded. “I’ve heard that. If you pray to her with a request and she doesn’t take your offering, she’s either not listening or she didn’t agree. But sometimes, a raven will come and accept the tribute on her behalf. And when that happens, you know that your problem will be solved. Of course, if your tribute wasn’t substantial enough…maybe you will remain in her debt. I’ve also heard that you can collect goodwill and make her more likely to notice you by feeding the ravens. One man nursed a raven with a broken limb back to health, and the week after he released it back into the wild, he had a dream of the bird. He woke up to find that his shop had been selected for a huge contract that would earn enough money to send all three of his children to school.”

Martha worried at her bottom lip. “So can we pay her back with favors she didn’t specifically ask for? I really don’t like the idea of being on the hook for anything, at any time, indefinitely.”

“I have been thinking about that,” Gera said. “When I spoke with the Raven Queen privately earlier, she mentioned that we may plan our own revenge on the High Crown, but that we should not expect her to be a part of it, because she needed to rest. However, we know her to be vengeful and, frankly, vindictive.”

Several of the others nodded gravely.

“So unless she somehow already obtained her revenge, she will be carrying it out later. Once she has rested. Perhaps, rather than attempt revenge of our own, we can simply be ready to lend our own efforts to hers when the time comes. This could be dangerous. If you feel that you would prefer to pay her back in a different way, perhaps you could do so proactively. She once did the same for me, choosing to pay me back for a small favor I had done her in a way that I did not request or expect.”


Author Note 9/21: I mentioned a few months back in the Inner Circle newsletter that I hoped to hire an assistant to help manage some of my gigantic workload.

I’m ready to do that now. I’m looking for 1-2 people to join my team part time. If you’re interested, or you know someone who might be interested, there is more info here:

(And wouldn’t it be great if getting some help allowed me to write even a little bit quicker?)

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