Did I do it? Did I stick the landing on this three-year series, some three hundred sixty thousand words of story? Only you, dear reader, can answer that question, but I think I might have done it. At least, after writing and revisions were finished, I sat down to write this post and thought I managed to hit all of the right notes and wrap up all of the important points in this final Blood Magic episode. And I didn’t even break my word count goal (unlike last season’s finale, when I went six thousand words over and still felt like it was too short).
In the interest of time, and saving many of my overall thoughts (with potential spoilers) for a later post reflecting on the series as a whole, I’ll keep this release post brief. As you hopefully realized by the end of Balancing Act‘s first part, no easy answer or workaround existed to solve the problems Kiluron and Doil faced, and this episode doesn’t get them out of it. That was important – sacrifice has been a Blood Magic theme since the beginning – as was some strong character moments (and strains) between Kiluron and Doil, whose dynamic is, in my opinion, one of the strongest parts of the series. That I was able to complement it in this story with the new dynamic between Evry and Arval was a bonus.
More than anything I might think of to say, I want to hear what you have to say about this episode. You know I’ve been working to improve my endings, and this was my biggest test yet of those efforts. Was it satisfying? Were most of your questions answered and important plot elements resolved? Did the solutions make sense? Was what happened convincing? For that matter, do you somewhat understand what transpired? A lot changed, and Kiluron and Doil are going to be figuring out exactly what happened and how the world is different for a long time to come, but there should still be a sense of closure, that the story we began with a negotiation in Corbulate has come to an end.
Because as much as Kiluron and Doil still have to figure out, they will be doing that in your imaginations, not on the page. This is the end of their story as I intend to write it, and even if I one day return to the Blood Magic world, it would not be to pick up where Balancing Act concludes – I would be more interested in writing about the founding of the Union, or maybe a story from the days of the Blood Empire, or even further back to when the Ipemav ruled Lufilna. Even those stories, though, will probably continue to exist only in our imaginations, because I have other stories I want to write that have nothing to do with Blood Magic.
This was an immensely valuable writing exercise, and while the end of Blood Magic means that our programming will be very different in the year to come, I hope that you will stick with me and see what comes next. Thank you for your support of the series through the past three years. It’s been a wonderful adventure, I’ve learned a lot, and I am proud to present Balancing Act, Part Two.
Merolate’s guardcaptain glared at the disheveled figure darkening her doorstep. With pronounced slowness, so that her visitor would have no doubt that this was no idle gesture, she cleaned her ear with her pinkie finger. “I’m certain I misheard,” she said, “and that you did not just ask me to give you an enchanted sword.”
Chief Inventor Arval pushed a hand through his hair, which emphasized how little of it he had, and sighed. “Er, I mean, not permanently. I’d return it, of course. I’d just like to, uh, study it.”
“Study it,” Ulurush repeated.
The Inventor nodded, not noticing the expression on Ulurush’s face. “Perhaps I can, you know, identify the mechanism by which they function and enable us to make more without leaning upon the Gruordvwrold.”
“Then this request has nothing to do with ghosts?” How Ulurush could know about that, Arval could not imagine, but he flinched.
Arval didn’t have to answer her; his supremely guilty expression was all the answer Ulurush required. “Permission denied,” she told him.
“But I promise I’ll return it,” Arval protested.
“Permission denied,” Ulurush repeated. Arval opened his mouth again, and she preempted him. “Permission denied.” She pointed at the door. “I have real work to do.” She did not move until Arval sheepishly departed and shut the door behind him, and then she dropped backwards into her chair.
On the other side of the door, Arval’s shoulders slumped, and he grumbled to himself as he left the guardcaptain’s office behind and returned to his own warehouse. He didn’t think it such a significant request when an entire armory was full of the weapons the Gruordvwrold enchanted for use against the Ipemav, but he also couldn’t be surprised at Ulurush’s response. Even if he obtained such a weapon, what would he have done with it? He was the last person who should be wielding a sword.
Not just Evry was waiting for him when he returned; two guardsmen were standing near the door, looking apprehensively at the various, half-finished projects scattered across the space. Evry jerked her thumb at them as Arval walked inside. “I told them they could just give it to me, but they said they had to deliver directly to you,” she said.
Arval frowned, scrubbed a hand across his face, and turned to the guardsmen. “Hm? What’s this about?”
“Letter for you, Sir.” One of them held out a sealed envelope with an unfamiliar crest, and Arval took it from him. “It’s from Meronua.”
“Meronua,” Arval frowned. He started to unseal the letter, realized the guards were still standing there, and flushed. “Uh, carry on. Thanks.”
The guards departed, and Evry edged around to peer over Arval’s shoulder while he opened the letter. “Who’s it from?” she pressed.
Arval was still scanning the letter. “Cinnabar,” he mumbled. “How did he even manage to write this?” His fingers felt at the paper, and he wondered if the Gruordvwrold had somehow conjured the letter into existence.
“What’s it say?” Evry pressed, breathing down Arval’s neck. Arval flinched and stepped away from her.
“You want me to just read it to you?” he demanded. Not at all embarrassed, Evry nodded, and Arval sighed. “Fine.” He cleared his throat. “’Arval, I dictate this letter to you through Redra, though it draws not insignificantly upon my remaining strength, and goes against my pride, because to travel to you, or to project my thoughts so far, has become beyond me. A sickness hitherto unknown to us strikes the Gruordvwrold, and our efforts thus far to ascertain a cause are unsuccessful. I write to you, therefore, in the hopes that your unique insight may offer some value in restoring us to health before we vanish forever from this world.’”
“The Gruordvwrold are dying?” Evry interrupted.
Arval glared at her. “So it would seem. If you would please allow me to finish reading…”
Evry ignored him. “Why bother? I can guess the rest. The Gruordvwrold are dying, some sickness they don’t know about, and they need you to go and help them figure out how to cure them. When did you become so in demand?”
Although Arval tried to protest, upon reading the rest of the letter to himself he found that it was much as Evry summarized. “Do you think it’s related?” he asked.
“Why should it be?” There was no doubt to what Arval was referring. “There’s no reason to think it’s anything other than coincidence. Cinnabar doesn’t say anything about ghosts.” Evry snorted. “Then again, in this backwards land, why wouldn’t it be connected? It’s probably the same thing. Maybe the Gruordvwrold are infected by ghosts.”
Arval climbed up to the loft and tossed the letter down on his desk. “How am I supposed to help with this? With either of these problems? I’ve been working on the ghost thing for ages now, and I’m no closer to a solution. And I don’t know a thing about Gruordvwrold illnesses. I barely know things about human illnesses.”
“Didn’t I suggest going to Meronua before? Seems like that’s the place to be to solve both of these problems,” Evry observed.
“I guess.” Arval sighed. “I really don’t want to do that trek again.”
Evry glanced down at the half-covered hulk of the aeolipile-driven wagon. “What if you didn’t have to?” she suggested.
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