Chapter 208 – Red Guard Meeting

Siobhan

Month 8, Day 21, Saturday 6:35 a.m.

One unexpected benefit of no longer needing to sleep was that Siobhan could set appointments at times that would be inconvenient for others. Such as before the sun rose on a weekend morning.

One of Oliver’s people had ferried her across the Charybdis Gulf in a four-person speedboat, and would be waiting to take her, Enforcer Gerard, and Enforcer Huntley back from the Lilies in an hour if all went well. The two men escorted her toward the place she had chosen for her meeting with the Red Guard—an enormous magical hedge maze.

As they approached one of the entrances, which was barred by a Red Guard cordon and a repelling compulsion, Siobhan’s eyes widened.

Gera was waiting for her, which they had agreed on and Siobhan had expected. The woman had agreed to accompany Siobhan to the meeting as her remaining payment for saving Millennium’s life. She would keep the agents from successfully lying as well as secretly give Siobhan some insight into the opponent.

But Siobhan had not expected that Gera would allow Miles to get anywhere close to anything involving the Red Guard. And yet, the boy stood beside his mother, grinning brightly as Siobhan and her two bodyguards approached.

Siobhan raised her eyebrows at Gera, who shook her head with weary defeat and gave a minuscule shrug.

“Nice outfit,” Miles said when she stopped in front of him. He reached forward to run the luxurious blue-black fabric between his fingers, then peered at one of the subtle spell arrays embroidered into the fabric.

“Thank you,” Siobhan replied automatically. Except for Liza’s work examining and warding the maze itself, this dress had been her single most expensive purchase. It was luxurious enough to fit the image she wanted to portray, was designed for a woman to fight in, and contained several additional minor enchantments. All that, in addition to being self-repairing. If not for Oliver’s connections, she wouldn’t have had a chance to buy it, no matter how much gold she could throw around. It was a horrible waste of money, but if it increased her chances of successful negotiation, or escaping alive in the case of failure, any amount of gold would be worth it.

It also didn’t show moisture as Siobhan wiped her sweaty hands on it. “What are you doing here?” she asked bluntly.

“I came to listen beforehand and let you know if I heard anything important. The Red Guard agents are already here, waiting for you inside,” Miles said.

Gera clenched and unclenched her fists. “I tried to stop him, but he was…insistent.”

Miles scrunched his face at her. “I know. I’m not going in with you. But I can still help a little.”

“The whispers?” Siobhan asked, unconsciously lowering her voice. “What have you learned?”

“They have three people inside. One of them you know, and the whispers know him, too. People like to talk about him.”

Thaddeus Lacer,’ Siobhan guessed.

“He likes you, so you don’t need to worry about him, but the other two sound like greed and trickery and…something. I can’t hear clearly enough. And they hid another eight people all around the outside of the maze. But…since you hid some, too, I think that’s fine?”

“Can you point out the hidden agents? Discreetly?”

Miles did so, though the whispers were too capricious to give him exact details.

Siobhan placed them on her mental map of the area. It wasn’t ideal, but it could have been worse. “It’s fine. We expected that. Is there anything else?”

“They have a plan. It kind of sounds like…making you slip, or pulling the ground out from under you so you fall over. And then when you’re down they’ll trap you in a net.” He closed one eye and tilted his head. “And the strings will…wrap you up and make you dance like a little puppet?” He shook his head, wincing and pressing his hands against his ears as if he’d heard a loud, jarring noise that was inaudible to the rest of them. “Sorry. I’m still not very good at this. But they talked about it beforehand, and they are who they are. The wind hears everything.” He shuddered, then rubbed at his arms and the back of his neck.

“If it hurts, stop listening,” Siobhan said.

Miles gave her a sad, wry smile. “I can’t. Not really. But you’re known to the wind, too. So what you should do, it’s like, smile with blood-painted teeth. And, um, if you trip, just lean into it and keep spinning all the way around? Make yourself look big and win in a staring contest.”

“Did the whispers say that?”

“Oh, well they don’t really talk. I mean, I can hear speaking, but it’s just memories that got trapped by the wind. I…I don’t know how to explain it. Uh, maybe it’s like when you watch a stage play and the music goes along and changes with what’s happening? The wind changes with meaning, too.” Miles jerked his head to the side again, pressing harder against his ears. “Ugh!” he squeaked with pain. “It’s too much meaning. The wind wants me to hear everything, but my head is too small.”

Gera let out a low, suppressed moan of distress.

Siobhan sank down onto one knee, pressing her own hands over his to better protect Millennium’s ears. “You can’t stop the wind from blowing, but you can stop listening. What’s your favorite meditation exercise?”

Miles hesitated, but eventually whispered, “My tintinnabulating sand. But I don’t have it here.”

“You can still imagine it. Close your eyes and meditate. Focus in until everything else is just background noise.”

“Can you hum? Do the humming magic.” Miles asked, his eyes clenched shut tight and wetness shining on his lashes.

As soon as she understood what he meant, Siobhan tugged him closer, spinning him around so that he was crouched in front of her, his back pressed against her front. She pressed the Circle of her hands against the boy’s chest to cast Newton’s vibrational calming spell.

Miles hummed along with her, his voice much higher pitched and wavering at first, but slowly settling into a steady tone.

“I knew I shouldn’t have brought him,” Gera murmured to herself, her voice distant and her blind eye staring sightlessly down at them. “I know that. But I was afraid he would sneak out alone. I can’t stand not knowing where he is. Not after what happened last time. I told him I would pay the debt on his behalf, but he wouldn’t…”

Siobhan couldn’t speak past the humming, but she tried to convey some comfort in her expression before realizing that whatever magic Gera used to perceive the world couldn’t see Siobhan past her divination-diverting ward.

But Miles had already calmed, and so with a few more breaths, she released the magic. “I’ll teach you how to do this spell yourself one day,” she whispered to him.

Gera’s face tightened. “I’m sending my son home now.”

A squad of Nightmare Pack enforcers stepped forward from the shadows across the street at Gera’s commanding motion.

Siobhan nodded. “One of you, go with them,” she said to her own escort. When Huntley opened his mouth to protest, she added, “You cannot come with me past the maze entrance anyway. Go, and come back to escort me when I am finished.” Really, his and Enforcer Gerard’s presence was more for show than anything. Even if one of them left, she would still have the aid of the other people Oliver had placed along her various pre-planned escape routes.

Huntley drew the short straw and limped off after Miles, scowling like a bulldog with indigestion.

“I’ll be fine,” Miles called back over his shoulder as he patted his breast pocket.

“You got him a battle wand?” Siobhan asked as she and Gera watched them leave.

“Two. One is hidden in a calf sheath. And every bead on his necklace is a single-use shield artifact. It’s all charged with the strongest spells gold and favors can buy, and we’ve hired a tutor to teach him some footwork and technique. If someone tries to harm my son again, it is my dearest hope that they are reduced to a few dozen chunks of meat and bone.”

Enforcer Gerard raised one dubious eyebrow, but said nothing.

Siobhan hoped that Miles was never forced to witness something like that, and even more so that he wouldn’t be the cause of it, for his own sake. She looked to the east, where the white cliffs still blocked the hint of an oncoming sunrise, and took a deep breath of the briny air. It was too bad that there was no fog this morning; it would have fit the mood. “Shall we go?”

Gera steeled herself, checked her warding artifacts, and linked arms with Siobhan. Together, they stepped past the Red Guard’s cordon.

Siobhan walked slowly, her head held high, quite conscious of all the warded jewelry that she was renting from Liza. It was all rather bold and somewhat gaudy, and she would have felt like some noble showpiece if not for the extremely pragmatic purpose it served. As they neared the center of the ten-foot tall maze, one of the tiny golden dragons curved around the shell of her ear let out a soft sound to alert her that at least one of the other linked wards had been activated.

Which meant that one of her four anti-compulsion artifacts or three anti-memetic effect artifacts was actively protecting her from outside influence. The muscles in Siobhan’s back tightened. ‘Relax,’ she warned herself. ‘You need to seem totally confident, not rigid and on-edge.

As they got closer, the dragon let out another sound. ‘Two artifacts activated. It’s not surprising, but I’m still somehow in awe of this kind of blatant manipulation attempt.’ As Siobhan stepped into the center of the maze, which held a game board big enough for real-life game pieces, she ran through a series of mental questions to determine if she was affected. ‘A ward against untruth and a compulsion to speak freely,’ she determined. ‘If they’re strong enough to get anything past Liza’s wards, they’d be enough to leave me a gibbering mess if I were unprotected. Such spells are illegal, but they’re the Red Guard. Who’s going to stop them? I wonder if a piece of an Aberrant is fueling the effect, of if their artificer is simply that much stronger than the spells Liza can put into a piece of jewelry.

Professor Lacer stood beside two other Red Guard agents. He wore his usual long jacket over a simple white shirt, while they wore crisp, fully-equipped red uniforms.

One of the agents had two fluffy tails, marking him as a kitsune. He wore a sly, amused smile, and carried a luggage case of supplies.

The other was…big. Large enough that he might have had some jentil blood. They all turned to watch as she and Gera stepped from between the hedges onto the checkered marble game board.

To her credit, Gera did not falter, and Siobhan retained the faintest of smiles, just enough to make her seem as if she thought everything she looked at was under her control. She had practiced in a mirror beforehand.

Professor Lacer made introductions. The kitsune was Agent Marcurio, and the large man was Captain Aisling.

Gera reached into the purse at her side and drew out two small pieces of fabric. They unfolded an unreasonable number of times and fluffed up into square pillows, which she placed on the ground. Their surfaces were embroidered with yet another protective spell array. She and Siobhan sank down onto them as if they did such things every day.

Professor Lacer reached into his pocket for a beast core and then moved to the side and sat in an invisible chair, halfway between Siobhan and the other two agents.

Agent Marcurio and Captain Aisling shared a look. “Should have brought chairs,” Marcurio muttered before both of them sat down on the marble board with crossed legs. To Siobhan’s disappointment, neither seemed particularly discomfited by the arrangement.

“I am here as a mediator,” Professor Lacer said. “My presence is meant to ensure the safety of either side in case the other tries to go against the agreement of neutral ground.”

Gera didn’t give the pre-agreed symbol that anyone was lying, but Siobhan still raised an eyebrow. “You are also a Red Guard agent. Somehow, this arrangement does not seem truly equal.”

Captain Aisling cleared his throat. “If it came to a fight, Special Agent Lacer’s abilities are overwhelming enough to take on both myself and Agent Marcurio, and probably you two as well, all at the same time. And he has been known to reinterpret commands to his preference before. Seeing as he’s a large part of the reason we’re having this amicable meeting, I think his presence is appropriate.”

That answer was less than satisfactory, but Siobhan gave a one-shouldered shrug.

“Shall we begin?” Captain Aisling asked.

Agent Marcurio opened the case of supplies and brought out an artifact with several different lenses. He put it on his head so that one of the lenses was over his right eye.

Siobhan immediately felt the effects of the divination magic sweeping over her. Her divination-diverting ward was already active because of Gera’s presence, but the disk in her back grew colder and began to prickle painfully as they absorbed her blood to power themselves.

Gera shuddered, Agent Marcurio’s eyes widened, and Professor Lacer looked on in fascination as the ward’s spillover effect strengthened, too. Only Captain Aisling remained stoic, though Siobhan sensed something like a large, patient predator waiting for its prey to make a mistake behind his gaze.

She considered attempting to maintain the divination-diverting ward. Being able to get away with a lie during the questioning would be immensely useful. However, she doubted that she had the capacity to maintain its effect in the face of their efforts.

If they had been trying to find her location, of course she would have failed immediately. Here, they were trying to scan her for anomalous effects and later, ensure the results of their assessment were accurate. The divination would scan her physical form and calculate any of a long list of anomalous effects that might emanate from her.

Likely, once the questions started, they would want to ensure she didn’t somehow manage to lie despite their compulsions. For that, their divination would catalog and translate the meaning of her micro-expressions, her heartbeat, and tiny shifts in her muscles. All of this should be slightly easier to fight against than a divination as simple as finding her location, but she was still a relatively weak thaumaturge.

Before Agent Marcurio could increase the power, Siobhan reached forward as as if grabbing the hem of a long, invisible veil and lifted it. She and Liza had discussed the possibility of the agents using invasive divinations beforehand, and Liza had made some slight tweaks to the disks in Siobhan’s back. It had required the use of a scalpel, some blood-clotting potion, and some carving tools, and overall been one of the more unpleasant experiences of Siobhan’s life.

But the improvements allowed Siobhan to adjust the output of the disks to cover only themselves, just in case the agents tried to scan the composition of her body to make sure Siobhan wasn’t secretly made out of raven feathers on the inside, or something.

“Human, no anomalous effects,” Agent Marcurio reported.

Professor Lacer leaned back and crossed his arms as a quick smirk flashed across his face, and Siobhan tried not to seem relieved.

“We’ll ask you some questions now,” Captain Aisling said.

Siobhan waved one hand with graceful nonchalance.

“What is your name?”

“Siobhan Naught,” she answered immediately.

Marcurio and Aisling shared a look, and Marcurio gave a subtle nod. “Truth.”

“Have you ever been called by another name?” Captain Aisling asked.

Siobhan nodded easily. “Many times. Here, they also call me the Raven Queen.”

“Are those your only two names? Have you always gone by Siobhan Naught?”

Siobhan raised her eyebrows. ‘What are they getting at? Surely they don’t know about Sebastien.’ Aloud, she said, “Siobhan Naught is my primary name. But I often go about in disguise, and I use other names then.” This was even true. She had half a dozen identity papers with different names for her female form.

“All truth,” Agent Marcurio muttered again.

Captain Aisling crossed his arms and tapped one finger against his elbow. “Is it true that you do not lie?”

Siobhan’s body tried to blurt out, “No,” under the effects of the compulsions, but she was able to guide her words to a more useful truth. “I mislead and deceive people often. I have found that one need not lie to make someone believe an untruth. With the right guidance, some people will do all the work of misguiding themselves better than I ever could.”

“But do you lie? Are you able to lie?”

“I can, and I do,” she grudgingly admitted. “But I strive never to make promises that I do not keep.”

“Why?”

She hesitated. “Because I feel like it.”

With another confirmation from Agent Marcurio, Captain Aisling continued. “How old are you?”

Siobhan frowned. ‘What kind of questions are these? Are they just trying to get a baseline of what truthfulness looks like, or does this have some kind of unfathomable purpose?’ “I believe I’m twenty.”

They shared looks. “Is your mind also twenty? All parts of your mind?”

Gera tapped her left pinky finger against her thigh, the signal they had come up with to convey that the agents were particularly emotionally invested.

Siobhan had thought they might try to hide fear or anger, but if she was reading the situation right, they were…fascinated? But the question left a cold stone at the pit of her belly. “I can’t say,” she admitted, as she had no other choice. “Such a strange question, I am unsure how to answer. But I certainly think of myself as twenty, no matter what disguise I may be wearing at the time or what name I answer by.”

“Have you ever met Myrddin?”

Siobhan blinked slowly, feeling like she was sliding down a steep, muddy incline into surreality. “Is that question relevant and necessary to determine if I am or am likely to become an existential threat to the world?”

“Yes,” Agent Marcurio tried.

“Lie,” Gera rebutted immediately, in a twist of irony that Siobhan found deeply satisfying.

Captain Aisling shifted and cleared his throat, but his expression remained undaunted. “You have been accused of multiple and varied crimes, some of which may be relevant. “Have you ever performed blood magic on a sapient being?”

Siobhan suppressed a cringe, but remembered Millennium’s advice and answered boldly. “I have. I can heal using blood magic, but I have also used modification spells on ravens that Sacrifice other ravens, and used ravens for the Lino-Wharton messenger spell and the like.”

“Is that all? Have you ever cursed anyone? There are accounts of nightmare curses, strange blood magic rituals, and strange misfortunes that befall your enemies.”

“I have cursed someone. But only once, and with an insect-attracting spell that was ultimately harmless. Technically, I cursed the threshold of his house, so I would suggest that it does not even count. As for nightmares, perhaps some people have experienced them after meeting me, but not because I have gone tiptoeing through their dreaming minds. I accept no responsibility for their lack of mental fortitude.”

“Truth,” Marcurio said.

Even Professor Lacer seemed to find that surprising.

Captain Aisling’s eyes narrowed. He turned to Gera. “Madam, do you believe that to be the truth?”

Gera flinched. “My lady would know better than I. It is not the answer I would have expected, but I accept the words that pass her lips.”

Captain Aisling turned back to Siobhan. “Do you, or any companions or associates of yours, have some sort of natural fear or other mind-affecting aura or other passive effect—anything that might have caused this recurring misunderstanding that you bestow nightmares and even madness on your enemies?”

“Not to my knowledge. My best guess is that people are quite gullible and fall prey to my theatrics.”

“Truth,” Marcurio said, though even he seemed to doubt the word.

“Have you colluded with other rogue magic users?”

“Well, I have attended some underground thaumaturge meetings, and I have a working relationship with an artificer I often call on for various projects, but I feel like the word ‘collusion’ might be somewhat excessive.”

“Do you consider yourself to be a possible existential threat to the world?”

“Yes,” she said immediately. When they tensed, she smiled. “Every single thaumaturge is a possible existential threat to the world. Without us, there would be no Aberrants.”

“Do you consider yourself to be significantly more likely to meet the requirements for a threat that the Red Guard would generally deal with than the average thaumaturge?”

Siobhan’s thoughts jumped to the thing sealed in her mind, and the “Yes,” had slipped out of her before she could stop it. She smiled again, even larger. “The majority of thaumaturges spend most of their lives after schooling casting the same spells over and over, never really stretching their Wills. More importantly, they do not engage in magical conflict with other thaumaturges. I will continue to actively improve my Will and explore new magic for the rest of my life, and at the moment, it seems likely that I will also end up in more than my fair share of magical conflicts. The easiest way to shatter celerium is to oppose another’s Will, after all.”

She paused long enough to let that set in, but continued before they could respond. “But here’s the answer to the question I think you really want to ask: I will do everything in my power to keep myself from becoming an existential threat to the world, and I would do the same for other thaumaturges, where possible. I am not mad.”

Captain Aisling let out an almost inaudible snort. “Are you in contact with or aware of anyone who meets the previous criteria?”

“I am not. I would have already acted if that were the case.”

“What is your purpose for the organization that calls itself the Undreaming Order?” Captain Aisling asked, the “Ah-ha!” of trying to catch her off guard obvious in his tone.

Siobhan pressed her lips together. The Undreaming Order was apparently the edgy, villainous-sounding name that Deidre and the others had recently come up with. “I have no purpose for them. I was not involved in their creation. I will do my best to keep them from doing anything crazy, dangerous, or too fanatical.”

Agent Marcurio’s tails swished back and forth violently. “How could it be that you are uninvolved with them?”

“I have presumably met them. And saved some of their lives. But I certainly did not encourage them to create an organization or start calling themselves by such a…fanciful title. Truly, if I did not know it to be happening, the idea of such a thing would be almost unfathomable.”

She tapped a finger thoughtfully against her wine-red lower lip. “I suspect the common person’s willingness to become infatuated with the idea of me might be an imprecation against the quality of life under the rule of the Thirteen Crowns. Either that, or the average person has a much more active and childish imagination than I knew, and is bizarrely willing to indulge it. Or…” Siobhan grimaced. “Or these followers of mine simply happen to be the strangest outliers of society, and a bizarre confluence of events has allowed them to come together and start feeding each others’ faults.”

Frowning, Agent Marcurio adjusted his divination artifact, then tapped it a couple of times as if he suspected it wasn’t working properly. At Captain Aisling’s pointed look, he grunted and said, “Truth. Everything so far has been the truth.”

Captain Aisling was now repeatedly tapping three fingers against his elbow. “Do you have any plans or the intention to do anything that would be considered a crime, or require our involvement?”

“This is getting ridiculous,” Siobhan said. “I refuse to be judged based on things I have not done and may not do. I am certain to commit crimes of some sort, as it seems that the Thirteen Crowns are willing to take anything I do and belatedly label it a crime. But I can freely confirm once more that I have no desire to cause harm to the innocent or endanger this world. Beyond that, I will actively work to ensure my own safety, that of those I care about, and the livable state of the world within which I must continue to exist. Working rules of society, production pipelines, and basic safety for everyone are basic principles that also make my own life bearable.”

Professor Lacer nodded as if all of this was common sense.

“What is your relation to Sebastien Siverling?”

Siobhan felt the blood drain from her cheeks, but forcefully stopped herself from responding. “I refuse to answer,” she said, baring her teeth in something like a smile.

Gera tapped her pinky finger again, and then blinked for an abnormally long moment. This was the trap, or one of them, and they believed they had caught her.

Captain Aisling smiled back at her triumphantly. “Do you admit that you bestowed a boon upon the boy?”

“I provided him the ability to resist divination,” Siobhan replied slowly. It was even basically true, if one accepted the fact that she had purchased that ability for herself, and that she was Sebastien.

“How did you do that?”

She met the captain’s gaze unblinkingly. “I did not do anything dangerous or unethical to provide the ability. Next question.”

“Why did you do it?”

“I like him. Something like that could help keep him safe.” Siobhan had been told several times that she loved herself too much, and was, in fact, a narcissist. Did this count as close enough to the truth?

“Partial truth,” Agent Marcurio said, showing cute snaggletoothed canines as he grinned.

“The device you used in your fight with Agent Gale recently, the one that contains fabric spell arrays that can be released or retracted at will… We tracked that back to a craftsman who had been working with Mr. Siverling to develop the devices. How did you come into possession of it?”

Siobhan’s heart was pounding and her mouth had gone dry. She tried to come up with an excuse, but the artisan himself was the weak link, and she was not willing to commit murder to keep him silent. Under the pressure of the compulsions and the threat of being caught in a lie, she didn’t have enough mental power to come up with a good lie that kept her two identities separate. Not without noticeably pausing long enough to come up with something plausible. But she remembered Millennium’s advice. She forcefully loosened her muscles, tilted her head to the side, and smiled right back into Captain Aisling’s smug face. “I got it from the craftsman, of course. However, I have to admit that the man would not remember giving a second prototype to me, if you were to ask him.”

Professor Lacer uncrossed his legs and sat in a more upright position.

Gera plucked at the cuticle of her forefinger’s nail.

Captain Aisling tried to act nonchalant, but Siobhan could smell him almost slavering, believing she was trapped and wounded and ready to take a bite of her flesh. “Are you aware that we do not allow thaumaturges to practice memory manipulation on others? It is very easy to cause mental collapses and break events when such delicate work frays or unravels. In fact, this is some of that very blood magic we asked about earlier,” he asked.

Siobhan’s mind flitted to the new battle wand attached in a holster on her thigh. She could reach it through the open seam in the left hip pocket of her dress. And Liza had given her the strongest three-hundred-sixty degree battle shield she could make. As soon as something activated it, Siobhan would have ten minutes to get herself and Gera to safety. If they could use the hedge maze to escape direct line of sight, Siobhan thought they could make it.

Siobhan leaned forward, as if telling a secret. “I am aware that you restrict that particular privilege to your own agents, and that they do indeed occasionally lack the skill and delicate touch required. Why, just earlier this year, poor Newton Moore’s family became positively unhinged after your peoples’ tender care.”

Captain Aisling’s smile slipped, but he, too, leaned forward toward her. “And as for your other claims of harmlessness… We have extensive, repeated, and confirmed testimony from several Pendragon Corps operatives of the dangerous nature of the thing you call your ‘shadow-familiar’ and the long-term effects it causes. My own agents who confronted it recently reported that it caused a deep discomfort and existential dread within them. Special Agent Lacer has relayed your insistence that it is a simple, harmless trick spell, but I have my doubts. How did you break the mind of a Pendragon Corps operative who had been trained to withstand torture?”

Siobhan opened her mouth and closed it again. “I…did not? Are you saying one of the High Crown’s men had nightmares? Well, I suppose my shadow-familiar can be made to seem quite frightening, but I’ve never ‘broken anyone’s mind.’” She hesitated, “Or, if I did, it was by accident and there were probably a lot of extenuating circumstances. Maybe that operative had pre-existing mental conditions.”

“Truth,” Agent Marcurio said.

But Gera pressed her lips together to signify that the men did not actually believe Siobhan.

Siobhan resisted the urge to throw up her hands in exasperation. ‘What is the point of their truth-telling divination, then!?’ She let out a sharp sigh. “I can prove it,” she said aloud. “I would be willing to demonstrate my shadow-familiar spell if it would put this to rest. I assure you, it is perfectly harmless.”

 

Two things today!

1. I’d like to sincerely thank everyone for their patience! This chapter was extremely difficult to write and took me many, many hours and 4 days of late nights to finish. Some of you commented earlier about how things always end up taking longer than you expect. That’s unfortunately true.

I’m quite aware of this, so I try to gauge my actual capabilities on what I previously have accomplished. (I track my work time and the results religiously and then do all sorts of calculations based on the data.) But this chapter was a huge outlier. It probably took me at least twice as many hours as the average chapter of its same length.

I’m going to just lay in bed tomorrow letting my brain recover. Unless I end up in the hospital, the next chapter should come out on time next Thursday. (I really hope that doesn’t turn out to be an ironic statement.)

2. As you’ll have seen in the chapter, I picked the name for Siobhan’s followers. I was considering something slightly less edgy, but then I thought, “The people who are going to decide to become followers of the Raven Queen–wanted blood sorceress, rumored to drive men mad, walk through dreams, and extract unrelenting revenge on her enemies, all while pulling stunts like raven clouds and cryptic messages delivered to the Edictum Council–those people like edgy stuff.”

I believe Keid was the one who put forth this offering. Thanks, Keid! Your naming sense really matches up with my own, and I loved a lot of your ideas. Let’s talk and see if I can offer you a reward or goody that you’d enjoy as a reward for the winning name.

There were many, many great ideas some other offerings that I had a good giggle at, too. shadow-of-doubt, you know who you are. Raptor Transactors? quid-pro-crow? Love it. I still recommend that thread on the Alcove if anyone who hasn’t already wants to read some awesome ideas.

 

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