I have a confession to make: this episode was written out of order, but probably not for the reasons you might think. While it’s true that I did have trouble writing the two-part Contaminant story, I did not decide to set aside the second part in favor of working on episode eight. No, I ended up writing this episode before I’d finished S2:E7 because I found myself with a lot of unexpected writing time and no access to my existing episodes. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, I ended up being very pleased with how Rest for the Weary turned out.
In many ways, this episode is a response to my struggles with Contaminant, as well as some concerns I’ve had about other recent episodes. In short, I’ve been worried that I’ve moved too far from the strengths of the series, which rest, in my mind at least, mostly on the shoulders of Kiluron and Doil, with the Blood Magic itself, and the interactions of the characters and plots with it, playing a strong supporting role. This episode was the perfect opportunity to return, as it were, to the roots of Blood Magic. I think you’ll find it a better reading experience as a result.
When I put this episode into the outline, I think I originally intended for it to be a bonding episode for Kiluron and Fetrina, which didn’t really end up happening; she mostly takes a back seat to Kiluron and Doil. I hope I didn’t overdo Kiluron’s confidence crisis, but I think it’s an important aspect of his character that wouldn’t just disappear completely after a few successes. Yes, he’s not as inherently self-doubting in the moment as Doil might be, but he’s also a young man with an enormous amount of responsibility, and from the very start he’s not always been the most internally confident. While he’s made a lot of progress, especially in the second season, I think an experience like he had in Contaminant could reasonably cause him to have a bit of a relapse.
Despite this being a “back to basics” sort of episode, I did end up including some possibly strange elements. I was worried that the main plotline with Kiluron might be too slow and dull, and the investigation of some ruins seemed like the perfect excuse to tie in a separate plotline that would be a little more intense, and also do some interesting world-building. Although synchronized, the two plotlines are not connected, and you should be able to read either of them as an independent story. That being said, I really like the way I wove them together. No, Kiluron is not having visions, since I know that’s the obvious implication; I hope that the fact that he never mentioned it to the others makes that evident in the text itself. The only insight that the trio has into what might have happened 1500 years ago is what they gain from the artifacts they find. And no, I don’t know what ultimately happened to Eldri and Cruba. That is deliberately left to the imagination of the reader. Personally, I like to think that they survived, but that’s just me.
For those who are interested, I will say that the events that happened 1500 years ago are true, and that there are a lot of world-building elements and hints to the greater context of the Blood Magic world contained in those brief scenes, if you’re looking for it. You don’t need to notice them, remember them, or understand them at this point, but I do intend for some of them to become relevant again in later episodes in ways that are not directly linked to the sequence contained in this episode.
Rather than babbling on, I think I will conclude by saying that I really enjoyed writing this episode, and I think that you’ll enjoy reading it, too. It’s one of my favorite of the second season.
Sea spray burst like a wet sneeze up over the out-thrusting sandstone cliff, reaching almost to Kiluron’s booted feet like grasping fingers that could not quite reach their goal and instead slipped back into the morass from which they had been extruded. With his arms folded and his legs slightly apart, Kiluron imagined he was defying the ocean, daring the sea to touch him with its salty fingers if it only could stretch so far. That strength was mere defiance to the traitorous trembling that still took his limbs if he was careless.
Footsteps crunched in the fine gravel behind him, but he did not turn to see who was approaching; better that whoever it was not see his face. His peripheral vision showed him Doil’s boots come to a stop beside his, the shorter man’s stance narrower, less commanding, than Kiluron’s. That made Kiluron wonder when he had started thinking of Doil, or himself for that matter, as a man, rather than a boy. Regardless, he was pleased that Doil did not break the silence, and returned to his defiance of the ocean.
Far to his right, the sun was setting in the sky, imparting a ruddy hue to the landscape that belied the chill wind that whipped up the waves into whitecaps and pressed Kiluron’s loose clothing tight against his pebbled skin. Kiluron relished the cold; it helped him to pretend that his tremors were from the temperature, and not the continued weakness in his muscles that persisted even since his recovering from his sickness. Salty, briny air coated his throat and his skin and filled his nostrils, and that felt refreshing. Maybe what Doil had claimed had some truth.
Merolate would be in skillful hands while he was away, perhaps better than his own; Borivat was certainly more experienced and better educated than Kiluron. To think that he had been beginning to think he was worthy of being Prime, that he could do a good job…then he had spent most of his second major crisis unable even to get himself out of bed, while Doil found a way to keep the Union safe and stable. It would have been better if he hadn’t been growing confident. Maybe it would be better if he never returned from this isolated retreat on the coast.
“Nice sunset,” Doil remarked.
Kiluron offered him a grunt, in acknowledgement more than reply, and otherwise stayed silent.
“You’ve been out here awhile,” Doil observed. “Lady Fetrina’s already gone to bed.”
To this, Kiluron did not even bother with a grunt.
“You don’t want to talk, do you,” Doil noted.
That was so obvious that Kiluron wasn’t certain why Doil had bothered to note it at all.
This whole time, Doil had been looking out to see, his gaze parallel to Kiluron’s, but now he turned his head to face him. “Do you need to talk?”
“No.” It felt like a tremendous effort just to force out the word, and Kiluron knew it came out strained and angry, but he didn’t care.
Doil was silent for a long span, until the sun had finished setting. When Kiluron still gave no sign of moving or speaking, he gave a soft sigh. “Alright. You know where to find me if you change your mind.” Wrapping his cloak around himself against the chill wind, he went back inside. Kiluron followed him with his ears until the heavy door of the coastal fortress thudded shut, but he did not move.
“Unbalance it,” Kiluron whispered to himself. A part of him wanted to scream it out to the grasping ocean and the roosting seabirds, but he lacked even that much conviction. “Unbalance it all.” It sounded more like a cry than a curse. Feeling even more useless than before, he turned his back on the sea and made his slow way to his bedroom. At least when he was asleep, he didn’t have to think.
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