A new lake

220119

‘Can’t we just boil the water?’ Alice asked.

‘Could do,’ Sarrem said. ‘Any potential problems with that, you think?’

Alice frowned, looking up and down the backflow they were trying to clear. ‘Might interfere with the blockage, but I don’t think so.’

Sarrem nodded. ‘If it does, that’s pretty solvable, too, right?’

‘Yeah.’ Alice glanced at him. ‘It’ll be hard, obviously. That’s a lot of energy. But anything will be hard, right?’

‘That much water is certainly going to be exceptionally heavy.’

Alice nodded. ‘I’m not sure, obviously, but I think trying to move it will be harder than boiling it all off, surely?’

Sarrem shrugged. ‘I’m not sure either.’

Alice glanced at him again. ‘The riverbed isn’t that conductive, either.’

Sarrem nodded.

‘Do you have a suggestion, or you just trying to test me?’

‘Both, I suppose,’ Sarrem said. ‘The more surface it has, the quicker it will evaporate, so if we can make the pool wider, boiling it will be easier. I think you’re right that it’s too heavy, though.’

Alice nodded. ‘We could maybe slide a lot of dirt from the edges into the pool and the stream.’

Sarrem nodded. ‘A good idea,’ he said. ‘The banks felt fairly solid…’

‘Not that solid.’

‘I meant the rivers, sorry,’ Sarrem said. ‘Just thinking about how fair out we can dig, and how deep.’

Alice nodded. ‘The soil is pretty deep.’

‘We could make it a big triangle, deeper around the cliff I think.’

Alice nodded. ‘Why deeper at the cliff?’

‘The plants are a bit weaker, so it’ll be easier to dig under them.’

Alice nodded. ‘I’ll take the narrower side, then?’

Sarrem smiled. ‘It’ll be easier to combine forces.’

Alice frowned up at him, thoughtfully. ‘Sure. We can meet in the middle, right?’

‘Of course.’

The pair sat at the top of the cliff, legs dangling off the edge. Alice leaned against Sarrem’s side and they closed their eyes. Immediately, they met in the middle and started spreading into the ground again.

They could feel, on the edge of perception, the cavern behind the old waterfall. But that wasn’t the focus this time. They spread into the earth, checking and testing for stability. It was easy, this time, it was quick.

They pulled the earth into the steam and pool, pushing the water out of the way to fill the wider space. Like spreading butter on bread, they levelled out the space until it was a wide, shallow, triangle pool.

Alice was breathing heavily when she opened her eyes. Sarrem noticed that she wasn’t really hiding it, for once.

‘Maybe we can take a break before heating the water?’ Sarrem suggested. Alice nodded.

Not alone, now

220119

‘I’m sorry, Alice,’ Sarrem said.

Alice looked up from the small fire, chewing on some of the dried food they’d inherited from the people they’d run into. She didn’t say anything, and her face was basically blank.

‘I shouldn’t have goaded you into the mind-sharing,’ Sarrem said. ‘I could have just looked myself, even if it took a bit longer or wore me out a bit more.’

Alice kept on looking, silent and blank.

‘I’m sorry I couldn’t get us out of that memory quicker. I am sorry, Alice.’

‘Are you sorry for me, Sarrem Anselli?’ Alice said, muttered. ‘Do you pity my sad upbringing. Is that why you showed me your happiness? Your family and friends all having fun an enjoying yourselves?’

Sarrem started, frowned at the girl. ‘Of course not,’ Sarrem said. ‘Your childhood is a shame, Alice, but it’s not a shame to you. I didn’t mean to… I didn’t even think, I guess. I didn’t mean to see your life, and it only seemed fair that you see mine.’

Alice stared.

‘I wanted relief for myself,’ Sarrem said. ‘Something calm after seeing you.’

Alice nodded. ‘If my life is a shame on this world, then I want to avenge it,’ she muttered. ‘What do you want, Sarrem?’

Sarrem smiled, just a little, sad sort of smile. ‘The difference… one of the differences between us, is that I am not alone in being a shame on the world, Alice,’ Sarrem said. He held out a hand. ‘Will you look, or will I tell you?’

Alice sat perfectly still for long seconds, staring at Sarrem’s hand outstretched across the fire. Then she reached out and took his hand. Sarrem smiled, and closed his eyes. ‘When you’re ready.’

Alice was cautious, was slow, was nervous. But her mind reached out toward Sarrem, and eventually he caught her and brought her into his memory.

Sarrem was four, maybe five years old. He was sat beside his mother, leaning his head on her arm and trying to read the book she was taking notes from. He was sure he knew the language, his mother had taught him those, but he could barely make sense of the words.

There was a resonant boom from outside. Mestra, Sarrem’s mother, got up from the table in their family library and hurried to the window. ‘Oh no.’

Sarrem clambered out of the chair and hurried after his mother. He could barely see over the window sill, but he could see enough. The wall around the family’s ancient castle lay in smouldering ruins. People with weapons and torches and magic were pouring through the broken wall.

Sarrem couldn’t see who was trying to fight them off, but there weren’t enough of them. He couldn’t see who, of the people he had known his whole, short life in this castle, fell trying to protect them. But he saw them fall.

The door slammed open behind them. ‘Mestra, we have to leave!’ shouted Keman, a young, brawny man with a shaved head. His sword was in his hand.

Mestra grabbed Sarrem from the window and swung him onto her back. ‘Whatever you do, Sarrem, do not let go.’

Sarrem gripped as tight as he could, pressing his face into his mother’s shoulder. It felt like an age of blasts and slashes, screams and fires and smoke. Sarrem witnessed none of it.

But he heard the shouting. ‘Heretics,’ shouted the crowd. ‘Monsters.’ ‘Halfway’s children.’ ‘Animals.’ ‘Beasts.’

When Mestra gently brought him down from her shoulders and he saw again, he saw the blaze of their crumbling home behind them, and he saw eight people remaining of the hundred who had lived with him all of his short life.

They were all crying, and Sarrem joined them.

Sarrem opened his eyes. ‘You are not alone, Alice,’ he said. ‘At least not now.’ Alice fairly leapt across the fire to hug Sarrem. He wrapped his arms around her and rubbed her back and let her cry on his shoulder.

What’s going on with Alice and Sarrem

So, I figured I’d make a post or something with a little explanation. Dunno if it matters, really, but I felt like it. Basically, I decided to turn the story into a novella (or novelette or whatever), so I’m writing it even in between writing the daily stories. It doesn’t feel the sort of story where skipping to just what I wrote on a certain day will work very well though, so I’m probably going to keep posting the draft in sections as I wrote it.

Basically, the ‘change’ for the moment is that the ‘daily’ stories are going to have been written some time in the past for a bit.

Blocking the river

220118/220119

Sarrem and Alice stood on the lip of the pool at the bottom of the old waterfall.

‘I certainly can’t see it,’ Sarrem said. ‘So you were right.’

Alice didn’t say anything.

Sarrem had no idea what to do about that. He liked to think he was fairly good with people, fairly good at understanding them, fairly good at helping them with problems. He wasn’t sure what to do here, though. He was hoping that Alice just needed time, but he wasn’t sure.

‘If we break straight through, it might flood,’ Sarrem said. There were obvious solutions to the problem, of course. But he was hoping that leaving the issue seemingly open would give Alice an opportunity to suggest something.

Alice nodded.

Sarrem frowned to himself, glanced around and tried something else. ‘Alright, I think we can pull more dirt from the slide,’ he said, pointing at the collapsed side of the confluence. ‘Probably block the backflow alright. Then it should be… doable to drain this before we break it open.’

Alice nodded.

Sarrem led the way over. ‘Pull from the middle,’ Sarrem said. ‘We’re trying to basically emulate natural erosion.’

Alice nodded.

Sarrem tried to visibly reach out into the middle of the river, particularly up toward the top of the rise, pulling silt and sand and dirt down the river. He let the water do most of the work, guiding the loose ground into already forming deposits in the confluence.

Alice nodded, and Sarrem could feel more and more of the riverbed being pulled free. He helped guide the runoff into place until they two of them had almost built up a solid bank behind the confluence and the water was almost no longer running back.

‘This bit’s going to be harder,’ he said. ‘I think we want to weaken the outer bends of both streams and pull them back into the bank.’

Alice frowned at him slightly.

Sarrem led the way over to the confluence and pointed to try to make it more clear. ‘See where the rivers join?’

Alice nodded.

‘If we can pull from there and increase the southward pressure, the river ought to mostly stop backflowing into that pool.’

Alice nodded.

Sarrem reached over and dug his magic into the far bank of the river. He encased a chunk of earth and stone and dragged it through the river, over to the blockage they had just made.

Sarrem took a deep breath. ‘Do you think you can do the other side? A couple of small chunks should do.’

Alice shrugged and carefully walked over the blockage to the other river.

Sarrem grabbed another large chunk and pulled it through the gentle water over to the blockage. He was short of breath by the time it was done, his legs and arms felt weak.

Carefully he followed Alice over the blockage, where she was struggling to pull a similarly sized chunk through the much faster river. Sarrem didn’t mention why he had said small.

‘That should be enough, if not more than,’ Sarrem said. ‘Maybe release a bit, so it’s narrower, and try to keep it pointed in the same direction as the current.’

Alice glanced at him, but still didn’t say anything. She did as he suggested, though, and her speed increased noticeably. She got her piece jammed into the barrier and water completely stopped flowing through it.

Alice was breathing deeply, as usual trying to hide her panting.

‘At the very least, we need something to eat before we try to empty the pool,’ Sarrem said.

Alice nodded.

Old memories

220117/220118

Sarrem and Alice sat, cross-legged and facing each other, in the dry bed of the old waterfall. A cool breeze rustled Sarrem’s loose clothes and tossed the end of Alice’s blonde braid. Birds chirped quietly in the trees, the undergrowth rustled, the branches of trees whispered.

‘Take deep breaths,’ Sarrem said, quiet. ‘Close your eyes and see nothing.’

Alice closed her eyes and took deep breaths.

‘Try to calm your mind, try not to worry that I’ll see anything. Try to see nothing. If you see nothing, I will see nothing. Nod when you think you’re ready.’

Alice took another deep breath and her nose wrinkled and she really looked her age. It was too easy to forget just how young Alice actually was, but there were times when Sarrem would glance at her as she was practicing some magic, or concentrating, with her little face scrunched up, and he would remember just how young she was.

Alice nodded.

Sarrem reached out to take her hands, folded in her lap. He let his own mind wander, it felt unfair to see into Alice’s strongest thoughts if she saw nothing of him. As gently as he could, he reached his consciousness toward Alice.

She flinched, when she noticed him reaching for her mind, her mind recoiled from him and Sarrem almost let go, almost pulled away. But Alice was trying. She was trying to calm down, trying to see nothing, trying to let him show her this magic.

And so Sarrem kept on with his reaching, waiting for Alice to invite his presence. His mind wandered to his own childhood, his own teenaged years.

It was a hard decision for Alice to invite Sarrem into her mind, it was a hard thing for her to force herself to do, but she did it. It felt like that first time she had hugged him, after stabbing him in the chest. Maybe it was like the reverse.

Sarrem tried to be as quick as he could, grabbing Alice’s consciousness and pulling it out of her body. But time doesn’t feel the same in your thoughts, it doesn’t flow the same. Sarrem could be as quick as he was capable of being, but he couldn’t miss what Alice tried hardest to hide.

Memories slammed into Sarrem like shards of glass. She was small and comfortable, she was warm and loved. She was not alone. Her parents were tall and blonde, smiling and warm and soft.

The three of them lived in a fortress, high stone and log walls protected them from the Unending Intrusion. They had done something, something interesting and blank in Alice’s mind. But the more she tried to see nothing, the closer her memory drifted to the shards of glass.

She was hot and her throat hurt and her mouth tasted of smoke. Her mother was shaking her awake. It was late. The room was barely illuminated but bright orange and red flames licking up through the gaps in the floor.

Alice let herself be dragged down the stairs into the burning house. The smoke was blinding, was choking. There was shouting outside, there was laughing outside.

Alice and her mother crashed out the back of the house and there were men and women with torches and weapons. There were people surrounding the house, setting the blaze. There were people, struggling with her father. There were people coming for her and her mother.

Alice screamed and shouted. She felt small, she felt useless, afraid.

‘Kill the Wanderer child.’ A voice called and Alice felt the blade pressed to her neck. ‘Hurry up.’

Her mother shouted something and tried to reach for her and a sword was stabbed through her back until it protruded from her neck. Her father thrashed and struggled and the sword was turned on him next.

Alice shrieked and tried to remember something to do. What had she seen? What could she remember?

She grabbed the blade of the knife pressed to her throat and it dug into her fingers and the arm that held her spasmed and relaxed. The man who had grabbed her fell to the ground, muscles spasming.

Alice ran for her slain parents, sure that they were alive, sure that she could do something. And the sword was turned on her. Alice stepped around the lazy thrust and her fingers sank through metal plates and into the flesh of the man who had commanded her death.

She took his sword and she brandished it at the ring of people surrounding her blazing house. They backed away and Alice ran.

It felt like an age before Sarrem found his grasp and pulled Alice out of her body, pulled himself out of her mind and plunged them both into memories like a cool river in a forest fire.

Sarrem was nine years old, lounging in the shade of a stand of trees surrounding an oasis. The fine sand barely peeked between blades of green grass. He was lying on his back, staring with half-lidded eyes at the canopy above while his mother played with his hair and chatted with the friends that surrounded them.

Sarrem was ten years old, letting the hot sand run between his fingers as he watched his mother and one of their friends spar with canes and bucklers. They were grinning, laughing and failing to land a single hit on each other.

Sarrem was eleven years old, walking with his mother and their friends through the darkening desert when suddenly, as if from nowhere, a Wanderer stood in the stand, not quite looking at them. Everyone stopped.

‘Do we try it?’ Sarrem’s mother asked.

‘Why not?’ another voice answered. People were nodding.

‘It’s dangerous,’ Sarrem said.

‘I know,’ said his mother. ‘But we won’t know unless we try it.’

Sarrem gripped his mother’s hand and he felt her gentle presence in his mind, guiding his magic as the eight of them pulled together complicated constructs and watched the unmoving Wanderer.

The Wanderer moved, too quick to see, but the trap snapped shut. The Wanderer stopped dead, and the magical trap was pulled into its body. Sarrem felt the magic flowing. And then the Wanderer turned, took a single step, and was gone.

Sarrem saw nothing.

The old falls

220117

Alice and Sarrem arrived at a dry waterfall, that was the only thing it could be. A wide river on the left rushed down a steep slope, a narrower river on the right tumbled over what had to be the remains of an old landslide. The two rivers met not much more than a hundred metres from the base of the worn cliff, even flowing back into the small lake that had formed at the base of the old waterfall.

‘You were right,’ Sarrem said.

‘I usually am.’

Sarrem laughed. ‘Seems like.’

Alice puffed up in that way that people, especially children and young teenagers are somewhat prone to do in the face of compliments. ‘How do we find the ruin or whatever, though?’ Alice asked.

Sarrem shrugged. ‘We’re standing on the old falls, right? Look around.’

Alice groaned. ‘Can’t you do magic or something?’

Sarrem shrugged. ‘Depends if you want me in your brain?’

‘What? No.’

‘In that case, not really.’

‘Elaborate, you fuck.’

Sarrem smiled. ‘When you look for faults or caves or disruptions in the ground, it’s usually because you know where they are, but they’re buried or not immediately in evidence. You have to shove your consciousness into the ground, which is hard to begin with. Looking around will take ages and wipe me out for at least a day.’

‘What does that have to do with my brain?’

‘Your delicate, private brain?’ Sarrem asked. ‘If we combined forces, it would be faster and easier, but it’s not a kind of magic I can demonstrate visually.’

‘Why can’t I just peek in your brain then?’ Alice asked, glaring. ‘My brain is not delicate.’

‘Everyone’s brain is delicate,’ Sarrem said. ‘Do you know how to peek into my brain?’

Alice grossed her arms and pouted. ‘No.’

‘Then I have to look into yours to show you the whole process,’ Sarrem said. ‘It won’t be long, and once it’s done the first time I’m sure we won’t have to do it again if the necessity ever comes up.’

‘Can’t you just teach me normally? How did you learn to do it?’

‘A lot of meditation and time, and someone I trusted reaching in a yanking me out of my body a few times. It takes too long. If I spend a month teach you how to do it, we might as well have just walked around and looked.’

‘We might as well do that anyway.’

‘That’s what I said,’ Sarrem pointed out with a smile. ‘Does that mean you were wrong?’

Alice crossed her arms harder, if such a thing was possible, and her new spear hovered threateningly nearby. ‘Never.’

‘I leave it up to you then,’ Sarrem said. ‘We walk around and look with our eyes, or I show you how to use magic. Either you’re wrong or you have to let me into your brain. But I’m happy to just look with my body.’

Alice glared up at him.

Sarrem gazed neutrally down at her.

‘Fine,’ Alice fumed. ‘Let’s do magic.’

On the issue of spears

220116

Alice’s spear thudded into a tree ahead of them in the woods, then wrenched itself free and landed back in her hand. Sarrem half-watched as she hefted the spear and repeated the process.

‘What’s the first lesson?’ he asked.

‘Shush, I’m having fun.’

Sarrem relaxed his grip on his own spear, and a moment later it hit the tree beside Alice’s with a little less force. Both spears flew themselves back to Alice’s hands.

‘I knew you were going to do that,’ Alice said, not giving Sarrem’s spear back.

‘Did you see me do it?’

Alice groaned. ‘Fine.’ She let go of both spears and they rocketed into the woods. Sarrem’s spear missed a tree, bounced off a branch further into the woods and embedded itself in the ground. Alice’s spear stuck in a tree, but not very deeply.

‘Maybe practice with just the one for now,’ Sarrem said, as his spear drifted lazily back over to his hand.

In the early evening, they set up their newly acquired tent and ate their newly acquired food. Sarrem looked over their newly acquired weapons and armour, wondering if he particularly wanted to do anything with any of it.

He glanced at Alice’s who was sitting a bit away from the fire, watching her spear move around apparently of its own accord. The girl wasn’t really in need of any more armour, as far as Sarrem could tell.

Sarrem pulled the knife that had been used to threaten him from his belt and started cutting the handle off one of the swords. ‘Do you want any of this stuff?’ he asked Alice.

Alice glanced over and her spear stopped moving, but didn’t fall. ‘Maybe,’ she said. ‘But I dunno what for.’

Sarrem nodded. ‘I was going to turn this sword into a longer spear blade.’

‘There are two swords.’

‘There are.’ Sarrem gave Alice a look. ‘Do you want a sword, or do you want me to make you a new blade.’

Alice gave Sarrem a look and her floating spear pointed at him. ‘If I mess one up, you can fix it, right?’

Sarrem shrugged. ‘Probably. Depends how bad you mess it up.’

Alice stood up and her spear met her as she wandered over to sit next to Sarrem. She picked up the second sword and started disassembling the handle. ‘Just make it watchable, and we’ll see how it goes.’

Sarrem nodded. ‘Sure. But the skill isn’t all in the magic.’

Alice shrugged a few times. ‘We’ll see how it goes.’

‘You ever watch a smith work?’

‘I’ve been around smiths, watch is a strong word.’

‘You know how they have hammers and the like?’

‘Yes.’

‘Do you have a hammer?’

‘No.’

‘Process is a bit different, it’s got a couple of extra steps. You have to heat the metal up way more so it’s pliable, but once it cools it’s going to be brittle, right?’

‘Sure.’

‘So we have to heat it up again to the right colour, then quench it.’

Alice nodded.

‘And then we have to heat it up a couple more times and let it cool so that it’s not too brittle.’

Alice nodded again.

‘But we can’t cool it too fast except when it quenched, or else it might explode.’

‘Cool.’

‘Yes, but not what you want out of a functional weapon.’

‘True. But it sounds like you could make bombs out of it.’

Sarrem frowned at the girl. ‘Probably.’

‘What, you disapprove?’

‘No, it’s good thinking. But it’s dangerous. Unpredictable is the problem.’

Alice nodded. ‘So, we’d need to experiment first?’

Sarrem grinned. ‘Exactly.’

Dealing with people

220114/220115

I think that the problem with the story of Alice and Sarrem is that, in isolation, they could be any kind of people. They are competent, they have a particular interest and a particular kind of relationship with each other that, in absence of interaction with other people, is neutral.

What happens when they meet other people, though?

Sarrem was looking at his map, at a big circle he’d drawn on it. He was just about certain that he was on the northern edge of that big circle.

‘So, it’s somewhere around here, then?’ Alice asked, looking over his shoulder.

‘I think so,’ Sarrem said. ‘I don’t know where it is.’

‘What’s the circle, then?’

‘It’s like… a poem?’ Sarrem shrugged. ‘Not specific directions. But the two lines were “where the rivers turn to raging falls/your search begins in ancient halls”.’

‘No good.’

‘I didn’t write it.’

‘You said it.’

‘The poem was written about three hundred years ago, I’m basically certain. So the fork down here’ – Sarrem pointed to the centre of the circle – ‘is the waterfall, definitely.’

‘Is it a fork when they converge?’

‘No. But now I’ve got to find ancient halls, right?’

‘Right, near the falls.’

‘There’s no waterfall there.’

‘What?’

‘The confluence has moved over the last three hundred years.’

‘Do rivers do that?’

‘Yes.’

‘Cool.’

‘Agreed. But I don’t know how far it’s moved, or exactly where from. Because the old map I found in a different country barely lines up with this one.’

‘You were like, totally wrecked when we met, how did you get the map?’

‘Stole it.’

Alice nodded. ‘Good. While bleeding from most of your body?’

‘I found a medic first, obviously.’

‘Obviously,’ Alice mimicked. ‘So, let’s start walking around, surely?’

‘Or we can go to Urbol.’ Sarrem pointed to the fortress marked probably two days walk south-west from where they were.

‘People are stupid, and young, no one will know.’

‘You might be young, not everyone’s young.’

‘Fine.’ Alice threw up her hands and leaned away. ‘I just don’t want to go to a fortress, then.’

Sarrem could feel Alice’s tenseness. ‘Fine, we won’t,’ he said. ‘Why not?’

Alice didn’t exactly relax. ‘People are also mean, as well as young and stupid.’

‘Sure.’

‘If we’re about here’ – Alice poked the northern tip of the circle – why not go basically straight south and look for the riverbed? I get that rivers move, but I bet their tracks are easy to follow.’

‘Sounds like a good place to start.’

The pair headed almost directly south, into the woods rather than approaching the nearby fortress. It was almost two days before something interesting happened.

Sarrem and Alice were looking for a clear space to set up their little camp when Alice stopped and cocked her head. ‘Someone’s coming from that way,’ she said, pointing ahead.

Moments later, Sarrem heard the rustling and then the panting of someone approaching. He glanced at Alice, made a vague gesture with his spear and didn’t set up in any way to prepare for a fight.

The pair of them waited, a couple of metres apart.

A young man in a chest plate, sword swinging at his hip, crashed out of the undergrowth. He pulled himself up as Sarrem stepped fully out of the way when it seemed like the man would fall.

‘Problem?’ Sarrem asked.

The man took a deep breath and nodded. ‘Wanderer.’ He pointed back into the woods, where Sarrem could hear more people running through the woods.

Sarrem looked at Alice, whose eyes lit up.

‘Better keep running, then,’ Alice said, and started back in the direction that the man had pointed.

Sarrem grinned, gave the man a wide berth and followed Alice into the woods.

A middle-aged man and a slightly younger woman almost crashed into Alice and Sarrem, giving the pair confused looks. They pantingly pointed back the way they had come and assured Sarrem and Alice that there was a Wanderer that way.

‘Better keep running, then,’ Sarrem and Alice told the pair.

They kept pushing into the woods, following the obvious trails by the trio fleeing the Wanderer. Sarrem glanced back from time to time, confirming that they weren’t being followed.

‘We need to be careful, Alice,’ Sarrem said. ‘Even going as far as I did last time is dangerous.’

Alice nodded. ‘Dangerous how?’

Sarrem grimaced. ‘Wanderers are incompatible with people from this plane,’ Sarrem said. ‘Absorbing their energy is just as incompatible.’

Alice nodded a few more times. ‘So, you survive because of your stupid healing?’

Sarrem grinned. ‘Sure. Though I don’t think it’s stupid.’

‘Well, it is.’

‘When I get killed, you won’t think I’m stupid.’

‘I will eulogise you fondly,’ Alice said. ‘But I’ll still think you’re stupid.’

Sarrem couldn’t hold in laughter any more, loudly cackling as they pushed through the woods. ‘That’s different, though. My healing isn’t stupid, even if I am.’

They came across the start of the trail, the remains of a small campsite with a smouldering fireplace.

‘We might both be stupid,’ Alice said.

Sarrem shrugged, pointing with the tip of his spear at the marks of tent pegs near the fire. ‘I don’t know.’

Alice smiled. ‘A tent would be nice.’

‘Can you hear them?’

‘Not yet.’

Sarrem closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He let his mind spread out like water from a broken fountain. ‘There’s certainly no Wanderer.’

Alice nodded. ‘Opinions on the sanctity of human life?’

Sarrem shrugged. ‘Opinions on the sanctity of your own life?’

Alice laughed, her eyes darting to a point behind Sarrem. ‘Higher than the sanctity of your bodily integrity.’

Sarrem laughed, doubled over on his spear. Sarrem was impressed. An arm snaked around his chest and a knife pressed against his neck, held barely from his skin by his magical shield.

As he was pulled straight, Sarrem saw the other two circling behind Alice.

The girl arched an eyebrow and Sarrem shrugged, then nodded.

Alice rammed her spear into Sarrem’s left shoulder. The blade skidded over his shield and there was a crunch and a gurgle. The grip of Sarrem’s chest relaxed and he stepped past Alice to intercept the older man darting toward Alice. His spear sank into the man’s neck and he choked and stumbled.

The first man, the younger man, turned and ran.

Sarrem stopped pushing the older man off his spear.

Alice, hands empty, sprinted past him, armour barely clinking and she ran, hands empty. Sarrem leaned on his spear and watched. The man was fast, but Alice was faster. Sarrem, as always, wished for Alice’s ability to feel magic, or his old friend’s ability to see it. Since he’d fixed Alice’s armour, it was vastly harder to tell if she was using it to propel herself.

The chase was short. Alice launched herself into the air. With a thud a whoosh of breath, Alice knocked the man to the ground. Her spear rocketed across the clearing and into her hand. She stabbed the man in the back of the head.

Sarrem frowned to himself.

Alice dragged the body back over to Sarrem. ‘You disapprove?’ she asked.

Sarrem shrugged. ‘Your magic is much more subtle these days, which is impressive,’ he said. ‘You didn’t need to chase him, though.’

‘I should have let him go?’

Sarrem shrugged. ‘I don’t care about that either way. You could have hit him from a distance. No need to chase him.’

Alice frowned at him.

‘You can call the spear to you, you can throw it as accurately as you’d like.’

‘It’s more fun to chase him.’

Sarrem frowned, then shrugged. ‘To each their own. But might be worth trying.’

‘I can try it from the comfort of my new tent.’

‘Don’t rip our tent because we even have it.’

The right-wing desire to be ruled

So, here I am trying to work out some thoughts for my PhD, right? In particular I’m trying to work out a way to summarise some theory. Fair warning, this might be a little impenetrable, but I think it’s fine.

Basically, there seem to be two kinds of right-wing accelerationism, and part of the problem is that one of those types is essentially pessimistic accelerationism. It’s less a right-wing position as a prediction of a right-wing or authoritarian future. It’s pessimistic left-wing theory, for the most part.

Like if Nick Land predicts some cyberpunk dystopia where tech companies own our lives and everything’s shit, that’s not a right-wing position (everything’s shit, remember), it’s just dystopian fiction pretending to have more of a claim to prophecy than most dystopian fiction does.

To be clear, I don’t actually know for sure if that’s Nick Land’s position. But I bring it up because my adviser suggested that one of the areas of distinction I should make is between accelerationist fiction and ‘Cassandra’ fiction, named after the prophet Cassandra who was cursed to never be believed.

The reason I’m thinking about right-wing accelerationism is because I’m thinking about the idea of the Fascist in Our Heads, from some various theorists whose names I should probably look up.

Basically, the position is that some or most people have some kind of subconscious desire to be ruled, and that is what can lead to support for fascism or (possibly) authoritarianism. It’s a whole psychoanalytic theory that I won’t get into the detail of because that shit is going to be impenetrable for people who aren’t familiar.

If some subset of people desire to be ruled, and that would be generally right-wing, fascist and monarchist types (authoritarians), then actually right-wing accelerationism and dystopian or post-apocalyptic fiction reflects that desire to be ruled, whereas Cassandra fiction (and accelerationism) does not reflect the same impulse. Rather it’s a kind of pessimism.

One of the things that I need to get my head around for my PhD is a definition of terms, right? So I need to be able to define these various streams of accelerationism and catastrophic (dystopian and post-apocalyptic) fiction.

One of the central interests of my project is the right-wing’s ‘desire for dystopia’ which is reflected in a lot of far-right rhetoric and some of the more explicit right-wing fiction like the Turner Diaries or Unintended Consequences. This desire manifests in the rhetoric that basically any kind of left-adjacent progress is, in fact, the third step into some kind of social-justice, ‘fascist’ dystopia.

For example, trans acceptance is often viewed as like the third step into a society where it’s fine to cut boys’ genitals off or something, right? You have to go that hard to keep up the fear and the anger. The solution to this problem, then, is some kind of actually fascist or authoritarian overtake of the government.

(This sort of shit is really prominent in the US since it’s kind of a mainstream position in the Republican party, but it’s also present around the world.)

The ‘desire for dystopia’, then, is actually reflective of the desire to be ruled that some psychoanalysts diagnose the far-right or right-wing with, right? What I mean is that the ‘desire for dystopia’ is a necessary piece of the progress from some version of capitalist pseudo-democracy that’s common around the world to the development of a fascist state or fascist world order.

Basically, the long view of that kind of far-right rhetoric is that since we’re descending into some kind of social-justice hellscape, we actually need far-right authoritarian rule to save us and make the world a ‘better place’.

Ok, I think I’ve worked it out a bit.

I know this is very different from even my usual blog posts, but I had no ideas and I need to work some stuff out for my PhD real quick. Hope it’s at least readable and I’ll see about getting back to fiction writing tomorrow.

Podcast Episode: Wars with Lithez

World Cycle Ep.15 – Wars with Lithez The World Cycle

Once again, it’s extemporaneous so there’s no script. But, because I talk a lot of shit about countries and such, there is a map.

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