Content begins at the Fish Bowl!

Sorry for the gap in coverage; I was too lazy to spend fifteen minutes scheduling posts before my move, so it had to wait until after. They’re scheduled now, running on the regular Tuesday/Friday schedule at the Fish Bowl. (Follow the link in the menu bar.) Parvusimperator has some writing for you on a wide variety of gun- and procurement-related topics, moving on into general military equipment commentary at the start of June. Stop in, read, leave a comment.

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The Long Retreat No. 26

They came to the end of a gentle rise, and the abrupt change in the terrain struck Falthejn, as it always did when he traveled this part of the world. He stopped. Before them was a steep descent, the road cutting back and forth amidst the rock outcroppings dotting the hillside. Patches of sunlight pierced the canopy where even the conifers couldn’t grow, though the trees still stood so densely that Falthejn couldn’t see more than fifty yards down the slope. The sound of rushing water was prominent, now more than the birds.

“Grevdarsflod,” Hrothgar said. “The first lodge is three leagues beyond the bridge. I do not come this way often.”

Falthejn rubbed his chin. “I doubt the lodge will still be open, and in any case, it is a target.”

“A logging camp stands a league further, if it has not been torn down.”

Falthejn thought it over. They’d made good time so far—almost a league per hour, by his reckoning. The terrain only grew rougher from here, though, and it would be past midday by the time they crossed the river. Another four leages in the afternoon was not an easy walk. “We will aim for the logging camp,” he decided. “If we do not reach it, we will make camp away from the road.” Falthejn waited, but against his expectation, Hrothgar raised no objection. “Very well. We have a long walk ahead of us,” he said, unnecessarily, and set off down the hill.

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Commentary, The Long Retreat No. 26

So, here we are—a summer vacation. I’ll be driving across half of the US, getting married, and spending some time in Ireland, among other things.

Fortunately, Parvusimperator is less busy, and has been churning out military and firearms posts for the Fish Bowl. They’ll be running two or three a week until my return in late June. Head over there, and leave comments. Don’t break anything while I’m gone.

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The Long Retreat No. 25

“Why?” Sif said, brow furrowed.

Falthejn shrugged. “Nobody knows for sure. To some degree, the very fact that a thing exists means that it has a weave-shape, and no thing—well, few things, and none we should name here—has a weave-shape that does not also exist in the physical world.”

Sif’s head canted, and her expression put Falthejn in mind of the few examples of dweorgr clockwork he’d witnessed in more peaceful times. “That’s… strange.”

Falthejn looked over at her for a moment. “I suppose so. I began my training when I was very young. I’ve never had another way to look at things.”

Sif seemed on the verge of saying something else, but Alfhilde spoke before she could. “While you are revealing your secrets, what of spirits? How do they fit into this weave you speak of?”

Falthejn glanced over his shoulder to see Alfhilde and Hrothgar, both listening attentively. He’d not realized he had an audience. “That, at least, is not difficult. A weave-shape, in the manner of those I mentioned, can be simple or complicated. As a weave-shape grows in its complexity, its effects on the physical world grow stronger. A weave-shape of sufficient strength becomes a mind, of sorts—a being that can communicate, if you know its language, and reason, if in its own way.”

“Mm,” Alfhilde said, satisfied.

They forged ahead. The road here had been built by magiker, in simpler days when the risks of magic were less known. Fifteen men could march abreast along the smooth stone. The jordenmagiker had formed it in one piece, twisting and curving to fit snugly into the landscape.

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The Long Retreat No. 24

Sif blinked, head canted. “A shirt?” she ventured timidly.

“Yes.”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

Falthejn gestured to his arm. “The sleeve of my tunic is a piece of cloth. That cloth is the structure. The greenness of my sleeve is built on the structure of the cloth. So also is our world built on the structure of magic—natural magic, a framework far stronger and more complicated than this fabric.” He took a breath, and saw her nod thoughtfully. “I’ll tell you how our magic fits in sometime later. You know enough, now, that I can answer your question from this morning.”

“Okay.”

“Have you ever walked down a narrow street and felt as though the buildings to either side were closing in on you? The shadows deepening, the air growing heavier?” Falthejn said. Sif nodded. “Why do you think that is?”

Sif took a guess. “Magic?”

The corners of Falthejn’s mouth turned up. “Exactly. Some alleys are dark and closed—in, some rivers are fast and deadly, and some roads are safe and easy to travel, all, in the end, because of magic. Why? Because people think they ought to be.”

Sif blinked. “Is that all?” she said.

“It’s a little more complicated, as in the case of the river, but yes. If there are people to think about a thing, the way they think about it influences its shape in the magical weave of the world, and its shape in the weave influences its shape in the reality we see. If there aren’t people to think about a thing, its shape in the weave is controlled by how people would think about it.”

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The Long Retreat No. 23

Sif, though—the girl had nowhere to go, as far as he knew, and he had no need to look to his skills to see how that story ended. The world was an unkind place to those with nothing and no one. He turned the problem over in his mind for fully half a mile. He could do something. It was a drastic move, and not altogether in keeping the rules which bound magiker, but the latter difficulty had never stopped him, and the former only required the girl’s say-so.

“Sif,” he said.

She took a double-time step to walk next to him. “Falthejn Arnarsson,” she replied.

“What do you know of the workings of the world?” he asked.

She shrugged expansively.

Falthejn smiled. “I’ll start from the beginning. We live in a world of magic. This much is obvious. I can see into the future. Others wield fire, lightning, or water, or steel themselves to catch a sword in their bare hands, or travel many days’ journey in the blink of an eye.” Sif listened, but was silent. When Falthejn paused, she looked up expectantly. He went on. “There is another kind of magic, though, the magic on which the world is built. Look.” He held out his arm, and framed a portion of his outer tunic’s sleeve with two fingers.

“It’s green,” Sif observed.

“Yes. Think of the green as the world you see with your eyes. What else is it?” Falthejn gave her a moment to think.

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No-update-week update

Sorry, I’ve been preoccupied with my upcoming move, but mostly just lazy and easily distracted. (I know I said I was excited to get to the bits of the story ahead of where I am now, and I still am. Next week.) Scheduling-wise, we’ll likely have two weeks of updates, then I’ll be off until late June for the move, the wedding, the honeymoon, and the other half of the move.

In the interim, Parvusimperator (primarily) and I have some content up at the Fish Bowl, and I’ll try to schedule it evenly over my break so that you have something to peruse while I’m gone.

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The Long Retreat No. 22

The cold, gray light of dawn persisted into the mid-morning, before the fog began to burn away. They’d made passable time, by Falthejn’s estimation, though he had hoped for better. The army had a full day’s head start now, and if they were indeed taking the straighter, cross-country route, his little band of survivors would be hard-pressed to reach the fort at Flodsvadgard before the army marched the refugees further north.

He looked over his shoulder. Sif kept pace with him, a respectful step or two behind. She had kept her own counsel since they’d set out. Deep in thought, she missed his scrutiny.

Behind her, Alfhilde carried Jakob, his swaddling tied over her shoulder. Hrothgar brought up the rear, head swiveling at the slightest of forest noises off the sides of the road. They made an odd pair, Falthejn thought. He turned his eyes forward again, as the road sloped gently toward the crest of a slight rise. Hrothgar Hrafnssen still had no trust for him, but his wife would keep him in line. She had evidently been impressed by some diviner in the past, a rare enough happening that Falthejn resolved to ask for his name.

Hrafnssen and his family would thrive after this ordeal, Falthejn decided. Hrothgar could find work anywhere in mankind’s territory, and Alfhilde’s army days would have cut any roots she’d put down. Refugees though they were, they seemed sturdy and reliable, and Alfhilde, at least, had faced greater dangerous and worse uncertainties before. Falthejn decided to check on them in a few years. When next he had the chance to peer that far ahead, he would see for sure.

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The Long Retreat No. 21

Sif looked at her feet. The boots were leather, fur-lined, and the nicest thing she owned. “I bought them,” she said, then froze.

To her surprise, he didn’t ask the obvious question. “That was responsible of you.”

She tried not to show her relief. She may have been a beggar and a thief, but she didn’t have to be proud of it. “My feet kept getting cold,” she said, covering for herself.

His amusement didn’t go so far as a laugh, but she saw it in his eyes. “As good a reason as any,” he said. He stood, lifted his pack as if to check its weight, and nodded to himself.

Sif watched for a moment, then ventured, “Why are we taking the road?”

“You disagree?” he said. The words might have made a rebuke, but Sif didn’t think his tone carried one.

“I don’t have an opinion,” she said. “I just want to know.”

“Diplomatic of you.” Falthejn set his pack down. “One: the army will be off of the road, though I can’t guess at their reasons. Regardless, we don’t want to be between our army and the ontr. Two: we may be able to rest at the lodges along the way. If we need not set up camp at night and break it in the morning, we’ll save some time. Three: during the campaign to defend the city, we used a great deal of magic. To those animals which use magic by nature, we set off a signal fire a league high. The road is safer.”

“Why?”

“Because people believe the roads are safer.”

Sif frowned. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

“It does, when you know how the world fits together,” Falthejn said. She must still have looked puzzled, because he added, “Once we’re on the way, I’ll explain.”

“Okay.”

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