Two Times Delia Learned About Gender

This is part of a longer piece (6 times Delia learned about gender, and one time she didn’t), but the other bits mostly kinda suck right now, so I gotta rewrite them. This does reference those a bit, but uhhh, you’re gonna have to guess from context, I guess.

CN: mention of snakes in a metaphor, gender feels, mild misgendering-ish. Yes, this is a happy piece. Reminder, Delia is Zanchese-Anitian, which is pretty much equivalent to Chinese-American, and speaks Ie, which is a conlang of mine (that I need to work on more…). Please let me know if I screwed up. Nathan is her husband.

There’s some more notes at the bottom.

Continue reading “Two Times Delia Learned About Gender”

Shard-verse Rambling about multiplicity

I swear I’m going to start actually drawing the comic, but I keep getting distracted by my conlang.

I know I have at least a couple multiples who read my tumblr, so if you want to comment / critique / offer suggestions, I’d appreciate it.

I’ve been a bit annoyed because I have two multiple-ish systems 1  who are both villians / antagonists. 2 Which sucks, because that’s about the only exposure people get to multiples/pluralities.

I had already planned on having Delia’s admin assistant at Future-Tech be multiple, but that’s just one (and I want to change their system name) and I don’t know how often they’ll show up. BUT. I’m going to make Delia’s cook (Jane Quigley is the legal name) also multiple – and they helped the other guys get the job at Future-Tech (both groups belong to a multiple like club/support group thingy in or around Shard City). I gotta figure out how exactly that’ll work and work it into the story asap (Swordcat first appears in issue #5). Jane first shows up in the story after that.

I kinda want to keep things simple for the first few issues – keep the Burton’s to Delia and Joel, with her brother-in-law showing up briefly as support / someone to elicit some info-dumping. But I may switch those two stories around, because I’d rather some civilian / good guy systems show up before a criminal one. 3 And I still need to figure out who the people in the Quigley system are.

Darn me and my attempts to be a responsible writer.

  1. I say multiple-ish because in-universe they’re questionable. Swordcat doesn’t really have two people in one body – one has a body of its own, it’s just that that body is a sword so it also uses Swordcat’s. Because swords don’t have, like, legs. The other is Iosis/Ostanes who are questionable because they split themselves with magic alchemy.
  2. If Iosis/Ostanes were the protagonists, they could be anti-heroes, because although they kill people and stuff, they’re doing it for a good reason and they don’t do it indiscriminately.
  3. Iosis/Ostanes won’t get published for years still, so Swordcat should be the only problem for a while. And neither of them are really terrible people – Leon is kinda sweet actually  – but they’re still in prison and stuff, so…

Shard-verse diversity – the Flock

Input welcomed to make stuff more realistic or to point out stuff I missed, especially from people who are multiple. (I am not)

Delia’s admin assistant is multiple (in-universe there’s something called Multiple Consciousness Condition – it’s NOT a disorder or disease. Multiples who need help get something similar to family therapy to work together and communicate better). (I’m specifically working on getting a ‘normal’ multiple in there because I have a couple characters, Swordcat and Ostanes/Iosis that are artificially multiple.) (Er, spoilers?)

(I’m going to say right here, anybody who’s going to try to say that multiplicity isn’t real or that it can’t be healthy or that people are doing it for attention or any other garbage like that can just shut up right now. I don’t want to hear it, I won’t approve comments along those lines, and, also, you’re wrong.)

The person who fronts the most at work is Irina. The body is female, 30-ish, and white. Over time Irina has grown to resemble the body more, although she’s still blonde while the body has dark hair. She’s non-binary and her in-world body is genderless. She showed up with a dozen others when the original was about 11, for no especial reason. (The home life was chaotic with lots of moving and family members in and out, but nothing horribly abusive). They faded / left for other worlds / died along with the original leaving Irina scrambling alone for several months. Irina took the legal name (was just ‘the pink girl’ – they were mostly named after colors by the original). She has anxiety and depression. She’s got a bit of a short temper which she tries to control. She tries to polite and nice to everyone, but she’s stubborn and impulsive.

The next people to show up were the twins Kim and Viola Violet who showed up when the body was about 13.

Kim’s a little boy aged about seven. He’s got periwinkle-ish skin, violet eyes, and butterfly wings. He can’t walk, but floats. In meatspace he’s very clumsy and stumbles a lot. He likes boys and gets lots of crushes. He likes birds and dinosaurs and loves to birdwatch. He’s very forgetful and kind of selfish (like a little kid), but loyal to his friends.

Viola age slides between 12-ish and 25-ish. She’s got red eyes, red hair, and dark purple skin. She’s asexual, has depression, and light and noise sensitivities. Because of their chaotic life she overcompensates by trying to control everything. Kim helps her remember to lighten up. She’s got tons of survival skills, the most useful one lately being able to pick locks. She loves languages and is always learning new ones. She fronted for most of the body’s teenage years. She takes a long time to warm up to people.

They’ve had a large amount of headmates show up and then fade over the years. During their teenage years it was about one a month on average.

The last one to stick around is William Beck. He’s moody, a bit of a hoarder, and has anxiety and paranoia. He’s about ten years older than the body and ages with it. Walked in from another world about when the body was graduating high school, and their family was moving across country (they decided to run away not long after that). He likes opera and has a good voice. He’s very loyal and kind. He’s got an excellent memory in-world but loses time when not fronting or co-fronting so he makes lots of notes.

William can be co-present with anybody but when not co-fronting can’t talk it Kim or Viola. Viola can only be co-present with Kim or William and loses time when not fronting. Kim can co-front with anyone. Irina doesn’t lose time and can always talk to everybody. They’re all generally co-conscious but during times of stress the fronter will get locked in for up to months at a time, which everybody hates. Kim hardly ever fronts because he can’t fake being an adult well.

They’re estranged from their family because they couldn’t handle it. They’ve got overlapping groups of friends. Delia, their boss, knows they’re multiple as do all their friends (because it isn’t stigmatized except by very conservative people). It’s easier to let strangers and other random people think they’re a singlet.

Comments? Suggestions? Critique?

Puzzle-verse – Doll Eyes (updated)

So the old version was before I decided that one of the Lloyd siblings should be a girl. Same trigger warnings apply:  immobilization / claustrophobia, discussion of blood. Honestly nearly all the changes are just to pronouns (I may have made one other change?)

Continue reading “Puzzle-verse – Doll Eyes (updated)”

White Knight wiki – Zashemism (& religion)

As requested. Please request more, this is fun and encourages me to make the wiki entries readable (aka more than jotted notes and half-sentences.)

Zashemism is one of the religions in the world of the White Knight. I’ve decided that at least some of the deities are real.

aka crying god

The many-named god exists in the pantheon of almost every culture. They send prophets to tell people to be good to each other and helps believers as they can. They are not omnipotent and uses their power to answer their believers prayers.

Zashemites / Zashemists, named after Gregory Zashem who discovered in the 1830s that the same god existed in so many cultures.

symbol: paisley (symbolized tears)

God Mode: Real. Culturally similar to Protestantism in America (or at least in my life), in that it’s highly prevalent, the majority of the believers are pretty good people who are moderate in their beliefs, and that it’s more of spice in life for more people than a major thing (in that they go to church, or not, and celebrate the holidays).

Yeah. The symbol is totally not influenced by the fact that I love paisley patterns. God mode is a reference to that part being out-of-character.

Writing – BJD (Puzzle-Verse)

The sequel to Doll Eyes. There’s another vignette coming (focused on Rowan) and a short story I need to finish writing. And I need to edit Doll Eyes to reflect me changing Roland to Rowan. But anyway, enjoy.


The screwdriver slipped from my fingers. This wasn’t working.

“Rowan!” I yelled toward my sister’s flat.

A shouted reply from the other flat. “Oy! Some of us are trying to sleep!”

I ground my teeth. The new tenant. A physician. Moved in two days ago. Kept mostly diurnal hours. I wasn’t sure why Ms. Harris thought he would work out. Bother. What time was it?

I glanced at the clock set to this time zone. Nearly eleven. The doctor would have gotten in an hour and a half ago, most likely and Rowan wouldn’t return to her flat until one. I’d just have to make do until then.


Ten till one. The smell of curry from the hallway – Rowan’s usual takeaway. I opened my door slightly. “Would you come in?” Her mouth twisted. “Please?”

She huffed slightly. She hated eating anywhere but home, but I wouldn’t ask unless it was important. She pushed the door open with her foot, her expression growing darker as she gazed around my flat. I found cleaning a distraction and rarely bothered.

“What is it?” she said irritably. She caught sight of my left arm and her tone changed. “Oh.”

I’d already laid out the tools on the kitchen table and she gingerly set her bag on the cleaned counters as I sat down. I’d scrubbed the kitchen, as well as I could considering. It’d given me something to do while I waited, as boring as the process was.

“What happened?” she asked as she leaned in to inspect. My arm hung limply, the shoulder slumped.

“I must have jarred it harder than I thought during the fight last night. The rotor’s frozen.”

She frowned, peering over her glasses. “The socket is corroded.”

“I’ll have it looked at.” She glanced up, eyebrows raised. Admittedly, I had the habit of forgetting things, but I’d filed this one as important. “Tomorrow. I’ve no desire to have it fail again.”

It took her only a minute to adjust. The time wasted waiting for her was irritating, but there just wasn’t a way for me to get to the back of my own frozen shoulder.

“I’m reconnecting the terminals now.” She closed the access panel and the skin melded, once again seamless. I bit my lip hard as sensation rushed back down my arm. It was nearly overwhelming but I allowed myself only a hissed breath as Rowan washed her hands.

I rose, flexing my hand to chase away the last of the pins and needles. “Thank you. Enjoy your dinner.”

Writing – A Mouth Full of Ashes

This probably isn’t very good and it has no ending. It exists just to be whump. This is the one I was talking about earlier, with Albert inspired by BaaingTree’s Alpert. But not as cool. This not a nice story.

Trigger warnings: slavery, torture of a fantasy being (golem), sexual abuse of a being unable to consent

Continue reading “Writing – A Mouth Full of Ashes”

Writing – Doll Eyes

Referencing, somewhat, Asimov’s Robot series, and of course highly influenced by Sherlock and the delightful characters on it. (I would seriously just watch an hour of Sherlock and Mycroft bickering with John’s reactions.)

content note: immobilization / claustrophobia, discussion of blood Continue reading “Writing – Doll Eyes”

Where my stories come from

I generally prefer to call my stories that, instead of writing, because I don’t write the majority of them down, and even the ones that I decide I should, usually don’t get written immediately. (For example: my vampire mystery novel that might have to end up being a trilogy or getting a lot of stuff cut out.)

All my stories start as daydreams, generally when I’m laying in bed, but I’ve started stuff to keep me from falling asleep in class, when I was in the car, visiting family for the holidays, etc, whenever I have mental energy that isn’t getting used (which is often…). Most of the stories start with me using the names and characters of whatever I’m currently obsessing with. The characters will get stretched and molded to fit wherever my mind roams. I also have character types of my own creation that show up under a variety of names.

A lot of my imaginings are blatant Mary Sues, interacting with my favorite characters. My most current one, who I’ve been using in more or less the same form since I graduated high school (so thirteen years now) is a fire mage who can do anything she can imagine in fire terms, including shape changing and traveling between worlds and into stories. She beats up demons, monsters, and the occasional god. And runs a school for other superheroes, including recruiting a young version of the Phantom of the Opera. Like I said, blatant Mary Sue. Incredibly blatant. Which is why I’ve completely discarded the notion of ever recording those stories (just getting rid of the copyright infringements would… well, basically remove most of it, honestly, and it’s too much of a massive crossover for me to want to do it as fanwork). I’m trying to replace her with another mental centerpiece but I haven’t come up with a story for her yet (and she’ll probably end up horrendously overpowered as well. It’s a recurring problem.)

I lot of it, I’ll just repeat the same stuff over and over. The fire mage and her friends have been working as singers at the Iceberg Lounge for like three years now, with various misadventures including demons showing up to fight Erik, helping Batman, and mostly just lots of snark and banter. Before that she was redoing the file room in Arkham and occasionally getting dragged into doing security work. Yes, it’s all very very self-indulgent.

But some of the smaller stories, the non-epic length ones and the one-shots, end up pretty good. And I try to write them down. The problem becomes when it’s a series of adventures with no specific end. And then I don’t know where the plot is going and it becomes a mess. I have two of those novels in process.

A lot of them I can pick out what influenced them. Some of them I can’t, aside from liking certain things (why do I like whump? No idea, but I sure do. I only just learned there was a specific term for it, for pete’s sake.) And it’s usually a giant mix of things (I have one – that’ll post once I get it edited a bit – that has an character inspired by Alpert, one of BaaingTree’s characters, some of the set-up inspired by a Sherlock fic, and most of it just my own really messed up brain.)

Link Dump – Mandrill edition

Prints & Photographs, Tissandier Collection – hundreds of old prints, including lots and lots of hot air balloons. Good for steampunk stuff. (from the Library of Congress)

The Magazine Rack – free digitized magazines that are out of copyright. Omni, Galaxy, Heavy Metal, lots others. Available in PDF, epub, mobi, djvu, some more. Preview it before you download – if they did OCR it’s terrible, but scans are good. (from

My Robot Nation – design a robot and get it 3-D printed. It costs to get it printed, but it’s fun just to play with it.

Stagecoach Mary Fields – incrediably badass black woman. (link CN: violence, gun violence, historical racism). Apparently she’s going to get a movie soon, which will be awesome. (from

From gay marriage to cougar wives, the Victorians have much to teach us (CN: ableist language) (From

Pattern Cooler – where I got my background. You can customize the colors and size of thousands of seamless patterns. PNGs are free, other options cost.

What Good Writers Still Get Wrong about Blind People, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. A talk delivered at Readercon in 2010. (from

How not to be a privileged ass: A lazy person’s guide (from Stealing Commas)

Giving the gift of worlds – “Non-fiction opens up the world we live in, teaching us more about our surroundings. Fiction opens countless others. It lets you climb inside the head of somebody else and see the universe through their eyes for a while. If the character in question resembles you, it can make you feel less isolated. If they don’t, you gain understanding and empathy for people whose experiences of life are entirely different from your own.” She’s looking for recommendations for ebooks with minority or women protagonists. (from Tea-Fuelled Musings)

(Sorry, I don’t have the energy to deal with selecting, resizing, and linking pictures. Look here for pretties.)

On Mary Sues

In writing, and fanfic especially, Mary Sue gets thrown around a lot. But what is a Mary Sue? Well, you could go read the TV Tropes page… I’ll wait.

You back? And just as confused as ever? Alright. This is my definition of a Mary Sue (and I’m using it as a gender-neutral term because I don’t see a good reason not to): A Mary Sue is a supposedly supporting character* that warps the story to be about them and how special they are. The story becomes focused on other characters’ reactions to them and relationships with them.

* In  fanfic, unless you’re doing a story that absolutely doesn’t focus on the main characters, any character is eligible to be a Mary Sue.

There are still the usual pointers:

  • Mary Sues are extra special, whether by being extraordinarily beautiful / handsome, the last of their kind, having unusual powers for their type, etc.
  • Their backstories are often more violent or more special than other characters, way out of proportion to anything else in the setting (hybrid of the two most powerful races, parents are dead AND was a slave, etc).
  • They are often previously unknown relatives or lovers of main characters.
  • They are often better, smarter, more powerful, more competent, etc than the other characters.
  • They are often also self-insert characters or characters that the author considers ideal.

A Mary Sue or two (or ten) does not necessarily mean a bad story. It’s can be a symptom, but no character is inherently bad.

Why limit it to supporting characters? Well, the story can’t get warped to be about a main character, because it’s about the main character. Main characters are usually more fleshed out to start with. If the main character is special in some way, it’s more expected. (For example, in a superhero story, you expect the main character to be the strongest or smartest or both. In an historical fiction, if the main character is a super-genius, that’s no big deal.) You expect the other characters to be defined in relationship to the main characters.

So, let’s look at a few of my favorite things with supposed Mary Sues.

  • Star Trek: The Next Generation. Wesley Crusher, super smart kid that has all the answers. Has Gene Roddenberry’s middle name. Related to the doctor, gains the respect of the kid-hating captain, best friends with Geordi… Has several episodes centered around him and how smart he is… Mary Sue? Yeah… (Further analysis here)
  • Hellsing. Alucard. Super-strong vampire, better and older than any other vampire. Mary Sue? Nope, he’s a main character.
  • Dragonball Z. Goku. Super-strong. Better than everybody. Makes everybody his friend. Again, he’s the main character. Not a Sue.
  • Star Wars. … There are so many options. Anakin. Luke. Jacen and Jaina. The other Anakin. Wedge Antilles in the X-wing novels. Sort of every Jedi ever. Okay, I’m just including this to point out, Mary Sues show up. Often. AND that’s not bad.
  • Got more examples?

And a couple of examples from my own works:

  • Clythia. Regenerates, travels into other stories where she meets all my favorite characters and they all like her and often give her gifts (she had a dragon from Pern at one point, a Shi’ar warship, Merlin showed her to a new world…). Brilliant, snarky, knows more than everyone, super-competent… She’s the main character, yes, but also (originally) a self-insert character, and always a Mary Sue. Which is why I stopped working on her stories.
  • June Tind, fire mage. If it involves fire or can be thought of in fire terms she can do it.Travels into other stories where she meets all my favorite characters and they all like her and… Yeah. Yeah. Which is why her stories will never get written down. (And there have been two or three iterations of this character. And they’re all terribly, horribly, overpowered. If it was anything but fantasy it’d be really sad. One of them had a relationship with Darth Maul and taught Klingons to be Jedis to prove that Yoda wrong about the whole anger thing. I have problems.)
  • In my novel, Ostanes. In the second half (which I haven’t posted), Ostanes’ mentor shows up. (Currently a guy, going to be changed to a woman. I’m going to use male pronouns here though). Dusty. Older than dirt. Taught Ostanes and his parents. Knows everything. Snarky and can put everybody in their place. But the story isn’t about him. We know next to nothing about him. Not a Mary Sue (see, I’m getting better… One day, maybe I’ll even be good.)

So what do we learn from that?

The problem is not so much that they’re self-inserts as wish fulfillment characters. And that the wish fulfillment is through them being better than everyone else. Which, in my opinion, is poor characterization. It’s not as much fun for the audience when everything comes easily to a character. We want them to work for it. We want to watch them learn.

Except for those genres where we just want over-the-top adventures and fights. But even then, limits are good things. Limits give them something to struggle with. As an example, one of my favorite characters: The Shadow.

He’s brilliant. He speaks and reads basically every language ever. He has cool gadgets. He’s physically superior – he can climb up walls with his bare hands. He has the best technology. He can disguise himself as anyone. In the radio plays he can read minds (sometimes he basically can in the pulps). BUT, he still gets hurt, he still can’t be in two places at once, he’s still loyal to his agents (who often do poorly-considered things), he can get temporarily out-witted and surprised. If he wasn’t the main character, he’d be a total Mary Sue. Considering he started in the radio plays as the narrator, he could be considered a Mary Sue.

And the stories are awesome.

Let’s talk about Batman for a second. He’s a great example for so many things because he’s had so many versions and so many writers. Batman is over powered. Don’t try to justify it, it doesn’t matter. Batman is a wish fulfillment character and often a proxy for the author’s opinions.

That’s where things get to be a problem. When the author has him smacking around criminals and taking justice into his own hands, instead of working with the police, that can be a problem. When the author Batman spouting misogynistic garbage that can be a problem. (Alternately, when the author has Wonder Woman spouting misandrist garbage that is also a problem). When a character is being bigoted or anti-anything, shown as completely correct – with no shades of grey in there – Batman said it’s bad, everyone else who says it’s right or it’s more complicated is WRONG – that’s a problem.

It’s not a Mary Sue. It’s poor writing. It’s poor characterization. It’s an Author Tract (TV Tropes link redacted) which is a completely different – and much worse – trope (and off-topic for this post).

I have one more thing to talk about. Something that made me sad when I was researching this.

Apparently, any strong, competent, woman character is accused of being a Mary Sue. Because… I don’t know. Actually I do know, and that’s why it makes me sad. I’m going to backtrack a sec and talk about the history of Mary Sues.

It’s named for a character from a Star Trek story from the 1970s (cite) meant to parody something the author was seeing over and over in zines. Now why would a fan genuinely write an over-special female character into Star Trek? Let’s see, they’re amateur writers. They’re new at this. So they haven’t learned how to be skillful in characterization yet (writing OCs is a different skillset from writing canon characters. Canon characters you can let the audience fill in the blanks). This was the original Star Trek, which had all of three named woman on the crew. And most fanfic writers are woman. What if the story doesn’t need a nurse (Chapel), a comm officer (Uhura) or a secretary (Rand)? And let’s be honest, it’s perfectly natural for a writer (of any experience) to write a self-insert character, and for an inexperienced writer to let that character to take over the story.

So, fine, any self-insert character is a Mary Sue. And a female writer is going to make her self-insert character powerful. So, you can see the jump to ‘strong female character written by woman = Mary Sue’ and then, because fans are judgemental, ‘strong female character = Mary Sue = bad’.

I do not agree with this. Actually let me emphasize that more.


Competent characters are good. Competent women are good. Competent queer women of color? Shit, point me to that, okay? I want to read that.

A Mary Sue is not just a competent character. A Mary Sue is not just an overpowered character or a self-insert. A Mary Sue is a character (of any gender) who warps the story from being about what or who it should be about, to being about them and how amazing they are.

This does not mean it won’t be a fun story to read. Or an interesting character.

In summary:

  • Well, Mary Sues are fine for fantasies. It’s in your head, who the hell cares?
  • Mary Sues in fanfic (and for that matter, ANY fanfic or writing) is practice for better things.
  • Everyone writes Mary Sues, from utter beginners to great producers.
  • Mary Sues – and overpowered or wish fulfillment characters –  are not inherently bad. But they are something to watch out for, if the intent is NOT to make the story about them.

In conclusion: Write. Write whatever makes you happy. Then write more. When people give you shit about your writing, weigh what they say. Are they just throwing shit or is there good advice in there? Take the good, ignore the rest. Write more. Read, a lot. All sorts of things. Then write more. Read lots of TV Tropes. Use what you learn to write better things.

(edited June 7th)

Of interest to no one but myself: my recurring themes and tropes

I have a ton of stories and characters that I come up with that I never write down (mostly because, hooo boy, Mary Sue and self-insert ahoy, wow.) I’m including those in these, because, well, I can. It’s my site. ;)

At nothing else, you can use this as a reason to get lost on the TV Tropes site for a few hours. I’ll be adding stuff as I think of it, basically so I can then get it out of my head and preferably stop making the same list over and over again.

  • Villain Protagonist I love writing villains and bad guys, so I tend to write more of them than heroes. It does mean some of my other recurring themes get some Unfortunate Implications because every time I write that kind of character it’s a bad guy.
  • Morality Kitchen Sink, Even Evil Has Loved Ones, Even Evil Has Standards, Blue and Orange Morality. It’s hard to write an absolutely evil character when you’re in his head (although I manage if the situation calls for it). And, well, complicated characters are more fun.
  • Mind Hive. I like to write characters who have a couple of people living in their heads. Unfortunately, this is one of the ones that bugs me, because right now all those characters are bad guys right now. And I do believe in Healthy Multiplicity so I want to fix that (The one good thing is that those characters are generally complicated and are more grey morality than black. So, that helps. Still need to fix it though.)
  • The Sleepless. Several of my characters have weird or irregular sleep schedules that don’t impact them poorly. For some of them it’s to emphasize that they’re odd. Some of the others it’s just the way they are.
  • Tall, thin men in nice suits. Yeah, it’s Author Appeal. Also cat people, barefooting, and a bunch of things that don’t need to be mentioned here.
  • Superpowers. Mutants. Spandex. Yeah, I read too many X-men comics as a kid and now I read too many Batman comics.
  • Hurt / Comfort. Sometimes without the comfort. (aka Whump)
  • Masks and Scars. Partially goes with the superhero stuff. Partially just because masks are cool. Sometimes goes as far as Full Body Disguise, especially for superheroes (I’m not a big fan of the domino mask…)
  • One True Love. Which is silly, because it’s not something I believe in real life. At least when I write it, it doesn’t mean that the relationship will be easy. Usually combined with some sort of soul-link thing (I rarely go as far as telepathy. Because telepathy is highly overrated).
  • Nearly instant language learning or Universal translator. Generally through some sort of telepathy or magic.
  • Older than they look. I keep writing these characters that are practically immortal or have a healing factor that keeps them looking young. (yes, alright, I read too many comic books, okay?)
  • Characters with mental illnesses or personality disorders, usually things that don’t exactly match up with anything real. I did mention too much Batman, right?

Progress Report 1 – Camp Nanowrimo, April 2013

Hey, how about an excerpt? No context necessary.

Many came to visit Conya when she was free, for the witch woman wasn’t needed to heal often. She passed her time preparing herbs and collars, sharing stories with anyone available to listen. When they drank, they were merry. He had seen fights spill into streets in the Empire and the fighters hauled away by armored police. He had seen wealthy men drinking, staring sullenly into their glasses.

This reminded him of home, of drunken warriors holding trials of strength in firelit rooms or dark fields lit with wavering touches. Or of hearing the songs of farmers weaving their way home from the fields and homekeepers singing in front of their homes. The Thurzin were free people, free from the Empire’s laws. The homekeepers and farmers worked long hours and rested equally well, while the warriors fought in the Rajah’s wars to keep them free.

He wanted to go home, to his mother’s warm kitchen, where his grandmothers helped her cook bread-wrapped meat and the thick stews that kept the warriors and farmers working. To the longhouses of the warriors, where it smelled of steel and leather and wool, where there was always the clang of weapons and curses. To the trees where the young warriors would perch to watch the farmers work and trade stories of their training and compare wounds.

He could go home. If he was strong, if he was brave, he could go home. They would conquer this place, sell it to the Rajah or build warrior longhouses and family roundhouses here, and he could go home. Even with no honor, ever if he’d be reduced to a farmer or homekeeper, when the Thurzin conquered here, he could go home.

I reduced my goal to 15k words, but I’d still like to make it to 25k. My current count is 5k, but I have more to get typed up today.