It’s finally happening: the series finale, the last Blood Magic story. This is where we see if my efforts to improve my endings have paid off, because I don’t only need to satisfactorily conclude a two-part episode, or a season, but the entire series that you’ve been following for three years. Getting endings right might be even more important than getting beginnings right, because while a good beginning will get a reader to give your work a chance, it’s a good ending that will convince them to give your next work a chance.

…Good thing I can put that off until Part Two. Just kidding. While much of the story structure in this first part is in line with any other two-part episode I’ve written, I am writing the entire arc with the knowledge that I need to land this plane within the next thirty thousand words or so. That means answers, resolutions, and strong character moments, and of course I went ahead and gave myself one of the hardest plots to convey convincingly in the whole series. While I think I’ve foreshadowed this adequately, and A Spiritual Journey allowed me to show some background that I didn’t think I would be able to convey, the idea of a sort of gathering apocalypse is difficult to make convincing to a skeptical audience. There are only so many disasters that I can have my characters experience directly, although adding in the minor problems that could be related helped.

What is taking me the most time for both parts of this episode is choosing viewpoints. I want to give most of the story to Kiluron and Doil, since they are the main characters, but I do need to broaden the perspective. Giving Arval a smaller plot really helps both to give that perspective, and to help keep the story more immediately interesting while Doil and Kiluron are trying to figure out what’s happening at a larger scale. There’s only so much readers want to read about Doil doing statistics, and only so much I can do to make that interesting.

With Part One, I think that Balancing Act is off to a strong start. It manages to both be classic Blood Magic and something new. It incorporates elements from recent episodes as well as ones that reckon all the way back to the beginning of the series, and it sets us up well for Part Two. I didn’t even have many revisions to make when I did my pass about a month after initial drafting, which is typically a good sign, and the word count is right about where I want it to be. Now, I just have to make sure that Part Two can bring the series home. I’ll get back to work on that, and in the meantime, I hope you enjoy Balancing Act, Part One.

               It was a bright noontime on which a strange group gathered for lunch at a café where a convivial baker already had a hot, greasy sandwich to hand to Inpernuth.  Borivat waited patiently to place his own order, which was fulfilled with admirable alacrity, but Inpernuth was still halfway through his own sandwich by the time Borivat and the others brought their food to the table for four.  Though it was nearly winter, the city was experiencing an unusual spell of warm weather that was not merely unseasonable; it was almost as hot as a summer’s day.

               They were not a talkative group.  Inpernuth finished his sandwich and was trying to hit seagulls with a handful of pebbles, Arval fiddled with a blacksmith puzzle with one hand even while he managed his sandwich with the other, and Tildain was the guest and new to the language, so he would not be the one to speak first.  Borivat finished chewing and looked around at his dining companions.

               “I appreciate that you all consented to join me for this repast today,” he began.

               “Out with it, lok,” Inpernuth interrupted.  He kicked Arval under the table.  “Tell him to get on with it already.”

               Arval spluttered.  “I, uh, me, what?”  Inpernuth rolled his eyes.

               Borivat sighed at their antics and wondered vaguely how he had missed the Inventor and the Minister of Law and Governmental Policy becoming something close to friends.  It was the sort of thing he would have taken care to note a couple of years ago.  “It is about the matter of my retirement,” he broached.  “I have already spoken with the Prime and Advisor Doil on this matter, and I am confident in how the other Ministers will think on the decision; however, the two of you are…less predictable.”

               “Thank you.”  Inpernuth inclined his head regally, as if Borivat had paid him a royal compliment.  He even made his voice sound richer.

               “I have been considering the possibility of my retirement for some time now, but the Prime and I have been heretofore unable to identify a suitable replacement to serve as Minister of Affairs and Relations with Alien Lands,” Borivat explained.  “After careful consideration, I have concluded that…”

               Inpernuth locked eyes with Tildain and interrupted Borivat.  “So, lok, how do you feel about being a minister?”

               There was a visible pause while Tildain translated the words and then his response, but he was smooth and eloquent when he did speak.  “I am flattered that your people and your government would be willing to place such trust in me so soon after coming from a foreign power.”

               “There would be a probationary period,” Borivat hastened to explain, “and his final appointment would be contingent upon a variety of factors not limited to performance during that time.  He would fulfill an apprenticeship of sorts under me, and his assistant would be required to fulfill his duties in matters pertaining directly to Pifecha.  Furthermore, Prime Kiluron has the final say, of course, in his appointment.  There are risks; however, consider the advantages.  Tildain has no preconceived notions of Lufilnan or Merolate politics.  He has training in a school of diplomatic and political thought divergent from our own, and he will therefore approach matters of state here with a unique perspective.  He is also well versed in philosophy, and he has leadership and organizational experience.  After an apprenticeship period wherein I retain my post and transfer duties gradually to him, I believe he would make for an ideal Minister.”

               Arval shifted in his chair.  “I…okay.  I mean, that all sounds fine.  But why are you telling us this?  Isn’t it the Prime’s decision?”

               “It is, but part of being a good minister is working well with the other ministers,” Borivat explained, looking pointedly at Inpernuth.  “Admiral Ferl is skeptical, but willing to consider the idea, and he shares a nautical background with Tildain.  Regicio will certainly vote against, and Olidryn will likely join him; Adima could go either way, but I suspect she will be willing to give Tildain an opportunity to prove himself.  That’s two opposed and three supporting when you include my own vote.  The two of you, therefore, will determine the majority.”

               Inpernuth nailed a seagull on the wing and sent it tumbling to the repaired docked below them.  “Don’t know, lok.  Depends on my mood when I’m there.”

               That was about what Borivat expected from Inpernuth.  He turned to Arval, who scratched at his balding spots.  “Well, er, I probably ought to think about it a bit before I answer, right?  I mean, it seems fair to give a man a chance, but I…”

               “So, you can count on one,” Inpernuth interrupted the Inventor.  “That’s good enough for your majority?”

               “I would have preferred the greater confidence of knowing your vote, as well, Inpernuth.”  Borivat still wondered sometimes why Kiluron tolerated the man, although he admitted that Inpernuth had shown surprising insight on a few occasions.  “However, yes, I will settle for this knowledge.  I appreciate your time.”

               “Always a pleasure,” Inpernuth called after Borivat as he departed the table with Tildain.  He said something else, afterwards, but Borivat didn’t hear him and was confident it was of no importance.

               It was remarkably warm; Merolate should have been deep into winter weather, but Borivat mopped sweat from his brow with his handkerchief as he walked with Tildain back to the man’s apartments.  Once the former Pifechan captain was ensconced there, Borivat turned back towards the castle.  He knew he shouldn’t complain about the heat.  If it were cold, he would be complaining about that, instead.  All weather seemed worse to him since he got old, and he couldn’t even say when that happened.

               At least he finally could point to a promising successor.  Tildain was a controversial choice, but Borivat’s conversations with him revealed an insightful mind, he had no preconceived notions about Lufilna’s politics, and he would provide the kind of unique perspective that Borivat increasingly considered essential to the robustness of the Prime’s council of ministers.  That he came from Pifecha was a complication, but unlike Evry, he had chosen to desert and come to Merolate of his own free will and braved considerable dangers to do it; to Borivat that made him more trustworthy than someone like Evry.

               That was one matter addressed, so Borivat turned his attention to the other significant issue with which he was wrestling: High Priest Yorin.  The man continued to ignore all messages from Merolate, regardless of the Prime’s personal seal, and it made Borivat uncomfortable.  He doubted the Blood Priests were planning something hostile, but to not have even a semblance of diplomatic relations with the Isle was cause for concern, even if the Gruordvwrold were both more helpful and more powerful in arcane matters.

               Their options were limited, though.  In truth, the Isle was a waning power, something Borivat had never thought to say, but that was before Prime Kiluron legalized witchcraft and established relations with the Gruordvwrold.  Where crises drove followers to the Isle since Exerpies’ day, the recent disasters had instead seen the Isle humbled and new authorities arise; the Gruordvwrold and the witches might not claim religious trappings, but they were still an effective counter to Blood Worship.

               Even his major concern, then, was relatively minor, and Borivat reflected that, if it were always like this, he would not have been as stressed about identifying an appropriate successor.  He walked through a city bustling with workers repairing damage or building new structures.  Glowjars were appearing on wooden posts to provide light in the streets at night.  A Nycheril ship, the wood and canvas still fresh, sat at anchor in the harbor.  With the strangely warm weather, the scene acquired an almost idyllic quality.

               Shaking his head and wondering when he grew so sentimental, Borivat made his way back to the castle.  Kiluron was dispensing judgements and settling cases brought to him with almost as much confidence as Prime Wezzix had once possessed, sitting in the same chair.  On days like this, he wished that the old Prime could have seen his successor come into his own, and witness how Merolate was changing.  Crisis brought opportunity, and Prime Kiluron was seizing it with a vigor that Borivat could hardly remember.

               In one of the studies, Borivat settled himself into a leather armchair with a sigh and thought about his forthcoming retirement.  Now that he had more confidence in who might replace him, he found it much easier to contemplate what he might do with his time when he was no longer serving the Prime.  Several scholars to whom he’d reached out were interested in collaborating, and Borivat replied to their letters to arrange a meeting over lunch two days hence.

               The meeting of ministers that morning went long, so Borivat was running late on the way to his noon appointment.  The sun was passing its zenith as he hurried down the street; he glanced up at it to gauge just how late he was going to be and almost tipped headfirst into a pile of wicker baskets outside of a storefront when the ground bucked beneath his feet.  Bracing himself against the store’s façade, he saw other pedestrians reeling and stumbling as the cobblestones leapt like dumplings in a boiling pot and dust shook from the buildings.

               Everything grew still again after just a few moments, and were it not for the new fissures in the walls, the disrupted cobblestones, the shattered glassware and ceramics, and the overturned stacks, the day could have been ordinary and uninterrupted by any untoward event.  Borivat looked up and down the street at the frightened people picking themselves up and asking each other what happened, and then he turned his steps back towards the castle.  It was with a strange admixture of disappointment and relief that he reminded himself he was not yet retired.

Click here to read the rest of Blood Magic S3:E11: Balancing Act, Part One

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