Solstice (Pt. 9)

The world shifted. The hilltop of gentle grass, the stone gateways—changed. Not disappeared. They blended into another form.

A truer form? No. Just a different perspective.

The flowers were swords. And the hilltop was barren.

Just dirt. Dust. A substance that was less than either. A powder of the end of the world.

On the outskirts of the lands of the fae—nothing existed past this place. And each hilltop? A gateway.

This one stood with doors sealed, until you opened it. A vast structure of some metal Ryoka had no knowledge of. And planted on the hill were…swords.

Weapons. Buried in the earth. A warrior’s salute. Broken flags. Armor, hung and torn from the blades the owners had borne.

To war.

How many times? Ryoka’s eyes widened.

Her friend stood there, pale among the starlit sky. A shimmering light like the countless stars beyond. Distant realms amid the blackness.

“You have been in that world before.”

 

“Many times. Once, we came as friend. Later—as warriors. Look.”

 

Ryoka was afraid to. She turned—and the world changed again.

Statues stood in the hallway. The door at the end looked like Erin’s door. Just a simple wooden door, waiting for someone to open it.

But the hallway was vast, so long she would have to run for days without end just to cross it. It was so long because each space was occupied by a statue.

A statue—like the garden. Each one of a fae.

Some were like Ivolethe. Members of the Court of the Fae. Others? Ryoka saw a true Brownie, whose shape Nama had borrowed. Humble pixies. And proud folk like Silver Pine, as tall as the world itself.

She saw Dragons. Wyrms. She saw so many countless statues, all named. All reverentially treated.

Flowers. Swords. Statues.

“No. No.

A terrible fear gripped Ryoka as her feet carried her down the hallway. She did not want to see. The last piece of the truth was at the end. Two in one.

A flower.

It was not the tallest. Not the most unique on the hill, even. Ryoka’s feet halted unwillingly in the grass. She had seen it once before. She had wept for it then. And not known why.

Two blooms twined together. Two ideas.

Summer and Winter.

Ryoka saw, across every perspective. It had always been there. And it was written in her tongue. In English. Spanish. French. In all the tongues of Earth. And all the ones she did not know.

Written in a way she could understand it. Writ in every tongue, in every tear.

 

Here lies Maeve. Queen of the Faeries.

Here lies Titania. Queen of the Faeries.

 

Slowly, Ryoka sank to her knees in the grass. The flower bloomed. The twin statues stood. The two swords stood in the dirt.

Ivolethe was weeping. So was Ryoka. There weren’t enough tears, though.

“How? How did it come to this?”

Ryoka turned to Ivolethe. The Winter Fae spoke through her grief. A simple answer.

“We kept our promises.”

That was all. Ryoka collapsed. Ivolethe urged her upwards.

“I have a promise to fulfill, Ryoka.”

But the Wind Runner had no will to ask her. Not one more. Too many. Too many. She looked at Ivolethe.

And the day ended.

 

—-

 

Abruptly, Numbtongue wondered what he was doing. He raised his head as the night echoed around him.

Mrsha was asleep in Lyonette’s arms, tears still drying on the [Princess]’ blouse. Everyone was silent around them.

Antinium, staff, Bird—but they were in Timbor’s private room.

Not The Wandering Inn. Why? Why had they not been in the inn on the Summer Solstice?

Numbtongue only asked these questions because Shorthilt and Pyrite did. They had been screaming at him all day and he had not heard.

“Reiss? What happened?”

He whispered, but the ghost was not here. Of course not. He was at…

The inn. A dread surmise filled the Hobgoblin. He stood. Without bothering to wake the others, he hurried out of the inn. Ran down the streets. Tossed aside his guitar, his worthless sword to run faster.

Something was wrong. Something had been wrong. He felt it. He ran down the streets, for the magic door, realized it was set to the wrong dial. So he ran out the gates, past the alarmed guards who set up an alarm.

He ran as fast as he could. But he had always been too late.

The door was ajar when Numbtongue reached it. Someone had walked through the front door. But left no footprint.

Reiss!

Numbtongue howled. No one answered him. He ran down the hallway, into the common room! No one was here! For a second, he felt relief.

Then he saw the door to the [Garden of Sanctuary], forced open. The broken iron bands. And the Goblin knew true fear.

He stumbled forwards, with bare hands. Weaponless. But it was too late already. Numbtongue stepped into the Garden, looking around.

And found a statue. A statue barred his way. The Hobgoblin stopped. He stared down at the tiny Cave Goblin.

Its arms were outstretched. A defiant gleam in its eyes as it looked up at…at something. The Hobgoblin stared. The statues had never left the hill. But this one—

Was one of many. The Hobgoblin saw more. And he realized…something had come through this door. And the statue had tried to block it.

The [Bard] reached out with a trembling hand. He touched the statue and found…stone.

Rough, stone. That was all. Grey. Perfect. But stone. Something was gone.

Past the first statue was a second. A trio of Redfangs stood with hands out. Two male, one female. One a hob, the other two short. They were snarling defiance. They formed a chain—but there was a gap.

Numbtongue stumbled past it. He saw more statues, all blocking his way. And he realized—he was following the trail of something.

Something…that had walked through here. Past the pond, where even the Fortress Beavers had fled for a day. Up the hill, past the Sage’s Grass. Past the dead faerie flowers. Up the hill and to the highest point in the garden.

To the hill covered in mists. To the bier of frost.

He was so afraid. But it was too late. So the Hobgoblin stopped. Seeing the path.

The statues blocked it. Diverted, trying to drive it down the hill. But they could not stop whatever had come here. Each statue stood, rooted in place. Dozens…hundreds…thousands of Goblins.

But something was odd. There were—gaps. In the lines of statues. Goblins stood, linking arms, holding hands with…nothing.

Ghosts that had never been known to the [Innkeeper]. Yet the Goblins had held off something as one. The gaps Numbtongue slipped through, climbing, following the slow trail. Higher. Higher, as the day turned to night.

The statues were clustered so thickly at the hill that but for the gaps, he would never have gotten through. Numbtongue ran into the cleared mists on the top of the hill and stopped.

Eater of Spears looked down at him. Grimly barring the way. Spiderslicer was next. Grasping at an invisible sword.

“No.”

There they were. A last group of Goblins barred the way.

Bugear, defiantly shouting. Redfangs. Little Cave Goblins, some piled up on top of each other as if to stop something that way.

No!

Numbtongue ran left. Then he saw the last of them.

Gaps where his friends had been. There had never been a statue of Grunter or the others. But they had been here, don’t you see? Standing here.

And the faces of the Goblins were changing. They had been so bitter. Defiant. Even afraid. But now—Numbtongue saw a laughing Cave Goblin, pointing up triumphantly. A mocking Hobgoblin.

Furiously barring the way. As if…something…had grown impatient.

Just a few steps. And there he was.

Headscratcher’s statue stood in front of a frozen bier. His arm was blocking Numbtongue. And the Hobgoblin’s face was relieved. So relieved. Tears ran from Numbtongue’s eyes. He ducked under the arm.

The last Goblin was laughing. Laughing so hard he was nearly doubled over even as he blocked the way.

Garen Redfang. A fierce grin on his face. Pain—Numbtongue saw the body beyond. And…

Someone stirred as the Hobgoblin stopped. Terrible fear seized Numbtongue. The body was moving. He reached for a sword he did not have.

And then he saw the flickering, tattered Goblin’s head rise.

“Reiss!”

The Goblin Lord made no response as he rose. He blocked Numbtongue. And he looked—

Incomplete. Parts of his body and face were missing. Not missing the same way his wounds in death had been. But gone. Yet he stood, barring the way with Garen, his brother. He spoke.

“—begone. Stay back. Back—

He swiped at Numbtongue. The claws passed through the Hobgoblin without force or feeling. The [Bard] reached out and the Goblin Lord hissed.

“Back! Do not touch her! Back—

He did not recognize Numbtongue.

“Reiss? What happened?”

The Goblin Lord jerked at the name. The head and blank eyes looked around, searching.

“Who? Who is there? Stay back.”

He shielded the body lying on the bier. Numbtongue saw…

Erin Solstice. Resting there. Frozen.

The Goblin Lord tried to block Numbtongue. Softly, the [Bard] shook his head.

“It’s over, Reiss. It is…gone.”

He looked around. But he knew it was true. The Goblin Lord stirred.

“Over? Done? Who…who are you?”

“Friend.”

The Hobgoblin whispered. Tears in his eyes as he understood part of what had happened. He reached down. The Goblin Lord reached up.

They clasped hands. Numbtongue helped him up.

“Thank you. Thank you.

The figure smiled. And then vanished. Numbtongue waited. But all he heard was a whisper.

 

[—ry – Reiss—d obt—!]

[Skil—]

 

Flickering pieces. The [Bard] knelt by Erin, weeping for his friends. Then he stood, and placed his back to his comrades’. That was how they found him.

Amid the statues. Triumphant.

 

—-

 

Five of them howled in fury. The long day had ended. One, a figure that was more ravaged than even the others, so…alien in nature, was raging.

But the fae were triumphant. The last had appeared in fury as the day ended.

Tyrion saw Melidore snarl. He raised his sword and—

—bellowed as the five closed in. The shadows were so close now. The mortals so tightly bunched together. And yet, the Summer Fae roared.

“Nothing assails us, kin! Nothing has dared cross into the boundaries of this party! Nothing has no right to be here.”

He pointed his sword at the five. They had stopped, warily. The six fae warriors stood, swords bared warily. Bloodied. But refusing to fall.

 

You dare to show your craven forms after all this time? You dare to test the might of the fae? On this day? In this place?

 

Melidore roared. The five did not fear him. They wanted the mortals. Laken most of all. But the fae’s presence kept them back. A terrible rictus of rage crossed Melidore’s face. More than a mortal being could carry. It changed his very features into that of maddening anger, such that even the five wavered.

 

There shall be naught for you! Nothing to feed on! Nor anything shall remain! I see you. I remember your names!

 

Laken shouted in horror. Tyrion felt a lurch of dread. What was the fae doing? The figures firmed and seemed shocked themselves. The fae were screaming at Melidore. Why was he doing this?

For answer, the fae raised his sword to the sky.

We uphold our oaths. We will never forget! My liege! My king. I call your name. Oberon! Oberon!

The word was faint at first. But then it began to echo. It rang in the air. The fae jerked. The five’s smiles…vanished.

They began to back up. But they had come too far. Now—the six fae warriors blocked their path. Shadows began to flee.

Melidore stood alone in the light. The fae dropped his sword and howled at the sky as the echoes grew louder. This time his voice tore at reality.

 

“Oberon!”

 

—-

 

The word ran throughout the land of the fae. Ryoka and Ivolethe heard it come through the doorway. It rang through the forest, the city, the lands beyond.

A single word from Melidore’s voice. Ryoka felt the world singing it, ringing like a bell. It shook her.

He calls his name! Is he mad? What has—no. No!

Ivolethe knew what it meant. She darted towards the gate and recoiled in horror. Ryoka looked at her.

Shadows around the fire. She was afraid. But then Ivolethe’s teeth bared.

More fools they. Melidore has trapped them. He comes. He comes!”

“The Faerie K—”

And then Ryoka sensed it. A change in the air. The word kept ringing and ringing, like the tolling of bells. It was more than just one name. She heard Oberon, and a hundred other names. Melidore knew them all.

Ivolethe had told Ryoka she could have summoned one aspect of the Faerie King by luck on that day. Melidore?

He summoned all of them.

Ryoka and Ivolethe’s heads turned as the name faded into sudden, strange silence. They could not help it. And perspective…Ryoka looked past the hills.

Past the distant road leading into the heart of the lands of the fae. Past the forest and the great trees. Past the broken city.

Past the pieces of worlds and homes of the guests from afar.

Past even the Court of the Fae.

In. To the center of this world. And there he was.

Oberon, the Faerie King rode a great stag. No—he was the stag. The Stag King! No, he stood astride a chariot—

Countless forms flickered across Ryoka’s vision. Countless aspects. The Faerie King walked out of the heart of the world. And behind him came his court.

His army.

He walked down the one road in the world towards her. In a straight line. That was how it had always been. The entire world of the fae was one road towards the gateway and the Faerie King passed before all present.

Nama, the giant with three eyes, the three Kings around their sword, the Wyrms—everyone. They all bowed as he passed. Kneeling. Paying their respects to the one ruler of this place.

Oberon. In his wake followed the fae, armed for war. Ryoka had heard of the legendary armies of heaven that would descend during the end of the worlds. This was a host like that.

The world trees walked. Those like Silver Pine, amid their smaller kin. Dragons took wing and then forms like Teriarch’s, walking behind the Faerie King.

Magical beasts joined the army. Ryoka saw them all following that ruler of the fae.

And he saw her as well. His Wild Hunt followed, their enmity with Ryoka forgotten. The Faerie King was far away—and he was right in front of her.

Ivolethe was prostrate. So was Ryoka. She feared his wrath, and she dared not meet his eyes.

But then the great, horned head dipped. Ryoka looked up.

For a second, she met the eyes of Oberon. She saw only a fraction of what was there. Anything more and she would have been overwhelmed. But what she saw—

Was sadness. A terrible grief.

The Faerie King mourns. He was terrible. Terrible and wondrous and…

Not without kindness. Ivolethe had broken the rules, so he had punished her. But there was no malice there.

Just weariness. And resolve. In that moment, he nodded to her. And her transgressions were forgiven. She had broken his laws. She and Ivolethe had defied his will.

This matters more. The Faerie King raised a horn and blew it. And the realm shook as his army marched to war.

How many times? Did it matter?

We kept our promises.

Oberon looked ahead. And his wrath descended upon the world beyond.

 

—-

 

Othius the Fourth saw the ritual burning bright. He felt something opening beyond him. The countless potentialities were about to be sacrificed. An exchange of unparalleled magnitude.

My King! Please! Reconsider!

Laisa begged as the lights burned a hole between times. But she was now caught by the spell. Beholden to its will.

And the Blighted King’s. He saw Nereshal looking at him uncertainly.

A hundred thousand lives this time. Unborn—and yet—the last one had caused the Fool to defect. It had been a price bitter enough.

This time? The Blighted King raised a hand.

“Fear not, Laisa. The Blighted Kingdom shall not give so many lives.”

The High Mage and the others sagged. Othius went on. He clenched and unclenched his hands. And his fury, bittering of centuries, rose in him.

“For so long we have held the breach! We alone, aided so little by the other petty lands of this world! A bulwark only remembered when the fate of all trembled on the balance! This time—yes, this time—let the rest of the world pay the price! Take it from all but Rhir!

Laisa’s eyes widened in horror. The High Mage struggled. Nereshal whirled.

“Your Majesty! The other nations—”

“Be silent, steward! Do it! Complete the ritual!”

Nereshal ran forwards, but it was too late. The High Mages, linked, were conduits for Othius’ words. The spell burned, like brimstone and the scent of pure magic, howling against the dust and darkness in this place—

Othius smelled fresh berries upon a sudden breeze. He heard birdsong. He looked around, mystified.

“What is—”

 

—-

 

The five were fleeing. Backing away from the gateway that had appeared in the sky. A true gateway. But they were trapped. They had come too far, and now Melidore and the fae were trying to keep them back.

 

Die! Die!

 

The fae stabbed something as it fled. And something—

Died with a scream so piercing that even the other shades stopped. Even the five. As pitiful as it had been, Tyrion wept. For a ___ had died—

And more would die. The power filled the air. It filled—

 

—-

 

The treants looked up from the sea. They began to bloom in every profusion.

Wild beasts took wing, flying—mighty Rocs, proud Griffins, even a horned Unicorn knelt in the direction of the gathering.

“What the—”

Eldavin—Teriarch whirled in his cabin. He kicked out the door, gasping.

“It—it can’t be.”

What did Ryoka do? Also—he’d missed this?

 

—-

 

The ritual! Suddenly—the scent of spring was in the air. And something was twisting—twisting the magic apart!

It was as if some other power were ripping it apart! The High Mages screamed and Othius raged.

“Stop! I command you to stop!

The Summer smote him and Nereshal down to the ground.

 

—-

 

“They have returned! Bring them death! Death and fulfill our vows!”

 

Ivolethe had gone mad. She was shouting at the Faerie King. He had not even entered the gateway and already, Ryoka felt the power flowing past her.

She was begging him to do the same. She could have watched that procession forever. But it was also so hard to watch. Look how they rode to war. Again and again.

See what it had cost.

Someone seized her shoulder. Ivolethe. She dragged Ryoka towards the gateway, ahead of the Faerie King.

“Ivolethe! What are you doing?”

Ryoka stared at Oberon. He was watching them as he rode/walked. Ivolethe was panting.

“We must find Erin’s life! This way! This way!”

“But the Faerie King—”

It does not matter! Not anymore! The laws do not matter! With me! We go to find—

They leapt through the doorway. Stumbled into—

 

—-

 

It was all breaking apart. The Blighted King saw something tearing apart the connection. Or was it…mending a gap?

Either way, what had been poised to be his great opening, a rift rather than a gateway perhaps, but still a link of torn reality—

Was closing. He had no idea what it was, not fully. Not even Nereshal could explain as he dragged himself up, head bleeding from where he had fallen.

Your Majesty, stop!

My armies! My prophesied heroes! Come to me! To me!

The Blighted King ran over the failing ritual’s sigils. Past the High Mages struggling against a far superior foe. He almost saw the opening.

“—”

There was a sound coming from the other side. A sound unlike any Othius had ever heard. Strange bells. Shouts of alarm.

Another world lay beyond. Othius stopped in front of it, adjusted his garments, his crown.

“—you. Who—?”

There was something beyond. People! They were asking the most obvious question. The question anyone asked.

Earth? Othius had read all the accounts. Talked to Sir Richard and all the others. He saw—he almost saw someone on the other side. Many people. Where was this?

The image—flickered. He saw a room full of people. A strange multi-bridged place with huge metal things rolling along. Countless faces. The room—asking a question.

He had prepared a speech for this eventuality. Othius reached for his bag of holding. Then he gave up.

Again, the question came. Who are you?

He almost heard it. From many sources. Many places where the worlds connected. The ritual was screaming around him. Othius raised his voice and spoke, shouting to that world beyond.

“I would be your King.”

The voices stopped. He heard gasps. Questions. Someone was saying…

A prayer.

Othius’ ears were ringing. He shouted on, desperately, reciting his speech.

I call you from your world. To me! To fight evil in every form it takes!

The voices from beyond listened. The Blighted King roared, beseeching them.

“Send me your righteous souls, to fight the last war! The eternal war! Until the Demons are driven back and hell itself is cleansed! Bring your greatest armies to make war upon the end of the world! This is the day of reckoning and I call you to my side!

Screaming. Voices—he reached out, but the world’s link was fraying—

 

—-

 

The Faerie King was coming. The five were fighting desperately.

 

—-

 

Ryoka Griffin landed in Innworld with Ivolethe. She stared at the Frost Faerie.

“Why are we here?

“I told you! Erin sleeps in this world? Cure her in this! We follow the threads of fate! Um…here!

The faerie was rummaging around somewhere. Ryoka focused around her.

“Wait. Where the hell are we? This isn’t the party?”

The faerie kicked over something. It crashed onto the floor. She rounded on Ryoka.

“Of course not, you fool! Do you think that party has what Erin Solstice needs? We are where her hope lies!”

Ryoka focused on the place around her. They were in a vast room. With a ceiling. She noted that. Then the giant fresco on the walls. The…armory…of weapons…

As she grew used to the new world and the disorientation faded, Ryoka more clearly focused on what Ivolethe was tossing carelessly around.

“Must be buried…stupid trash!”

She hurled a bowl of glowing waters to the side. It joined what might have been a relic of ancient magic…currently lying smashed on the ground.

“I-Ivolethe?”

“What?”

“Where are we?”

The fae shrugged.

“Where we need to be.”

It wasn’t Teriarch’s hoard. But it was second-best to that. Ryoka stared at the sigil on the wall. She recognized it. She went dead white. But Ivolethe was reaching down.

“Aha! A cure for a half-dead c—”

 

—-

 

And there he was. Aaron felt something was happening. Something…momentous.

Wistram Academy was practically shaking as mages ran about, shouting. They felt it too.

But he felt, no, he knew he was at the center of something just as great. His finger wavered.

All he had to do was…he looked around.

“Do it.”

Emerrhain stood in front of him, over the intensely complex magical circle. Not even Nailihuaile and Feor combined could have copied it. But it was…familiar. Aaron’s finger wavered.

“I don’t know if I should. I don’t—I don’t—”

I don’t want to. But he didn’t even think that. Emerrhain sighed.

“This is the answer to all you wish to know. You will know so much after this, Aaron. I cannot help you if you do not help me. What I want, you want. What you want, I want.”

His eyes. Aaron tried to look away. He tried to put down the iPhone.

It sat in the center of the circle. Aaron’s finger jerked. But it was lowering. He looked up. Emerrhain’s eyes were focused on the glowing screen. Desperate.

 

—-

 

They were screaming. The first of the fae poured through the gateway after them. Things were dying. But the five remained. And yet he came.

Oberon!

 

—-

 

The ritual was failing. Othius thrust forwards a hand, trying to tear the gap apart himself. Nereshal hurtled forwards and knocked him down, dragging him back as the Blighted King fought and kicked.

 

—-

 

“Aha! There!”

Ivolethe had found something in the pile of relics. Ryoka saw…a scroll. It was so gentle and warm she laughed to see it. Ivolethe swore, her fingers touching the thing.

“It is strong. I cannot pick it up as I am. Ryoka—”

The Wind Runner bent…

 

—-

 

Aaron sighed. His sweating stopped. He looked at Emerrhain.

“Did I ever have a choice?”

The scholar had his hand on Aaron’s. He smiled, with gentle compassion.

“No.”

He pushed Aaron’s finger down onto the glowing button.

 

—-

 

Ryoka Griffin stopped. Her hand was almost on the scroll. But she felt it. Ivolethe felt it. She cried out.

 

No! No, no!”

 

The Wind Runner did not know what had happened. But Ivolethe was—screaming. She screamed towards the sky—and Ryoka felt it.

 

—-

 

Laken Godart saw the vengeful fae halt. The five figures turned. They stopped cowering. Stopped fleeing.

At the tiny sound. It filled the world. Interrupted the wondrous sounds of spring. The raging battle. It was just a small sound, but it did not fit. Not in this world.

It was artificial.

Ding.

Slowly, so slowly, Laken Godart reached into his pocket. Across the world—

 

—-

 

The Drake recoiled as the device, which had been out of power, lit up. She fled backwards—then saw something on the screen which stopped her heart for a second. She collapsed.

 

—-

 

Cara O’Sullivan picked up the glowing iPhone with trembling fingers.

“Aaron?”

She turned it. And saw one thing.

A message. A text message. Sent to all the devices from another world. Such a simple thing.

 

The Gods are alive.

 

She dropped the device. She backed away. But the young woman from Earth—

Believed.

 

—-

 

Laisa was screaming. The ritual was warping her. She was glad, though. Something was mending it. Something was bridging the terrible damage she and the others were wreaking—

Then the hands appeared. The song of spring ended.

She felt them. She heard laughter. A man’s voice. Something reached out and tore at the very nature of things. The High Mage collapsed as the magic expended itself. Othius howled in triumph.

 

—-

 

In a bar, past midnight, Rufelt heard a cry. He shot out of bed.

“Lasica. What’s wrong? Lasica!

His wife appeared in the doorway to their room. Her eyes were wide, frantic.

“Rufelt. Something’s—”

 

—-

 

In Rhir, something stirred. Three Hives vanished in a moment.

 

—-

 

The Death of Magic flew into the sky, screaming.

What have you done? You idiots!

 

—-

 

Across the world, great [Mages] were afraid. Az’kerash and Belavierr dug themselves out of the snow and the Stitch Witch stood oblivious in the cold.

“They have torn the threads.”

And her eyes betrayed fear.

 

—-

 

Ryoka felt everything change. One second, Ivolethe was rejoicing. Then—screaming.

And then?

She stood there. The scroll forgotten. She looked at Ryoka—and then tugged her arm.

“Ryoka.”

She dragged the City Runner out of the vault. Ryoka reached for the scroll—but suddenly spectral chains appeared around it and her arm.

“No!”

She struggled to rip it from the magic protecting it.

“Ryoka! We must leave! They are—”

Figures were already shouting, bursting into the vault from the other side. Ryoka heard their voices.

Protect—treasury—

“Ivolethe! The scroll! The scroll! Let me—

Ryoka shouted at Ivolethe, but the fae dragged her through the bridge between worlds, and Ryoka dropped the scroll as the magic pulled it away from her. She was screaming at her friend, but Ivolethe’s eyes were wide with fear. Everything else was forgotten.

 

—-

 

The realms of the fae. Ryoka stumbled through the gateway on the hill of flowers. She whirled.

“It was right there! Ivolethe! Erin—

“Ryoka Griffin. I am sorry. But look.”

Ryoka’s rage faded. Her head turned. And she saw.

The Faerie King, Oberon, stood in front of her. His great head bowed once. In sorrow. Ryoka stared up at him and the host.

She saw the fae warriors, six of them.

Melidore.

Sikeri.

Silver Pine, his head bowed in sorrow and rage.

The Summer Court.

The Satyr.

They were all here. They had walked through the portal. Now—the fae turned as one. They began to slowly march away from the doorway.

“What are you doing?

Ryoka ran after them. What had just happened? They had been going to—

One look at Melidore’s anguished face, Ivolethe’s, and the Faerie King’s bowed head and Ryoka knew the answer.

No more, no more. The hour is past. Too many lives have been spent. No more shall die. It is too late.

Something terrible had happened. And the power of Oberon himself had been thwarted.

“I am so sorry. I tried to make an end to it. But we cannot return. Each one of us becomes a weapon against you. Each blade, each piece of us—”

Melidore looked at Ryoka. He hung his head wearily. The Wind Runner fell to her knees.

“But Erin? Can’t you just…?”

“Look. They are closing our gate from their side.”

Ivolethe whispered. The stones were shifting. Ryoka saw the portal trembling.

“They will not.”

It took Ryoka a long time to realize the voice had been the Faerie King’s. Fae surrounded the gate on this side. She looked at Ivolethe.

“No.”

“My friend. I cannot help you anymore. Everything has changed.”

The fae wept. Ryoka knew it. The fae were struggling just to keep the gateway open. Ivolethe pointed at it.

“We cannot be trapped there. Surely we will return. To do battle. But this day—oh, Ryoka. It is just what I feared when I was told of us.”

She shed more frozen tears. Ryoka looked at the Faerie King, watching. Then at Ivolethe.

“What? Can’t you tell me all of it?”

“No. It will give them…strength. You must find it out yourself. Seek the truth. Seek the wind. You will have it now. You can be more than wind. My King.”

She bowed and Oberon nodded. Ivolethe whispered something. Then she kissed Ryoka’s forehead.

“Go with our ways. Seek out…Goblins. Seek out friends.”

“B-but Erin. But everything. What am I supposed to do?”

Ivolethe shook her head.

“The wind can guide you. More than that? I—I do not know anymore. What can we give her?”

She turned, suddenly desperate. The other fae of the court, great figures, all looked at each other.

“Something. A great weapon! Melidore, your sword!”

“It would only become theirs. You know that, Ivolethe.”

The faerie’s eyes closed. Ryoka saw her shoulders hunch. The Wind Runner looked at the trembling gateway.

Back. Back to…what? Failure. It had all fallen apart. Her great meeting, her time with the fae in these lands? She had searched for a cure. And she had failed.

“No. You did not fail. You have changed. And you will bring that with you.”

Ryoka turned. The Faerie King stood next to her. She saw Ivolethe look up, tear-stained eyes wide.

Oberon had no voice of power. He did not need it. He spoke naturally to Ryoka. He was a horned man. A figure with stag horns, like some stories showed him. He looked at Ryoka.

“A terrible foe of ours waits beyond. One we could not match alone. You have seen what it cost us once.”

“Yes. But—”

But what am I supposed to do? The Faerie King smiled.

“Few are ever alone, Ryoka Griffin. But it is a terrible burden. And you bear another.”

He looked up. And Ivolethe’s head rose. Ryoka Griffin faced the King of Faeries.

“There’s a prophecy about me, isn’t there?”

“Yes.”

One fathomless eye regarded her. Ryoka shuddered.

“Is it…like the King of Knight’s fate?”

“Nothing so certain. It is an if. Then. You have come far, Ryoka Griffin. And it may be the journey ahead is painful. This world is.”

He regarded the gateway. So—then. Oberon turned. He bent and regarded her with kindly eyes.

“If you wish it, I will send you to your first home. And let prophecy end.”

He pointed. Ryoka’s head turned. She saw a blank gate spring to life. She gasped. So too did the court of the fae.

“My king—

Ivolethe cried out. Then went silent. Oberon nodded to her. Then to Ryoka.

“If you wish to abandon it…”

“No.”

He blinked. Once. Ryoka blurted the word out so fast she interrupted him. She caught herself.

“No. I’m sorry, your Majesty. But I’d never choose that. Ever. I have…friends. I can’t run away.”

Go to Earth? Abandon all this? Even if she forgot it—what else was there?

Oberon smiled.

“Very well. Then speak with your friend.”

He stepped to one side, away…towards another hilltop. Ryoka was confused.

“He is so relaxed.”

She confided in Ivolethe. The Frost Faerie looked at him, and then laughed sadly.

“Ryoka Griffin. Ye art the only fool who’d both refuse the Faerie King’s generosity before he even finished speaking and call him relaxed.

Ryoka blushed. She stood at the fading gateway as Ivolethe looked sadly at her.

“I wish I could help you. But…”

“Faeries aren’t you-know-whats.”

“Aye. I’m so sorry, Ryoka. I never thought we would meet like this. I truly had no knowledge, or else…”

The fae shook her head. Ryoka reached for her hand.

“What did the prophecy say about me, anyways?”

“It says many things. I cannot tell you—”

“Of course.”

The Frost Faerie stuck out her tongue. And she was small, glittering. She hugged Ryoka, fiercely, with tiny arms. Then embraced her fully in her other form.

“You fool! It was a prophecy of ifs! Maybes! I searched for you, you know! When it was first spoken! But the fates never tell us when. So I searched and searched for a mortal like you until I was jaded and tired and bitter! And then, after so long, I met you when I had scarcely remembered it! That is how stupid prophecy works.

“But why did you want to meet me so badly? If that’s not secret?”

Ryoka was afraid that Ivolethe wouldn’t answer. But Ivolethe laughed. She floated backwards as Ryoka slowly looked at the door. The Faerie King was returning.

“That I can tell you. The prophecy told me one day I would meet you and something would happen. I laughed to think of it! But it came true.

“What was that?”

The fae stepped back. Then threw her arms wide as she danced in the air. And she laughed like snow falling.

 

“It said we would be great friends!”

 

Ryoka waited. But Ivolethe just laughed and laughed. And so did the fae.

“W-what? Just that? Best friends?”

“Nay! Just great friends! And isn’t that something worth waiting forever for?”

Ivolethe hugged Ryoka one last time.

 

“I will always be your friend. I wish I could come with you. But go. Go—and the wind will help you.”

 

She stepped back, face clouded by sorrow. Ryoka saw the gateway shrinking. She saw the Faerie King returning, though—and the trembling passage halted its end.

“Before you go, Ryoka Griffin. The fae do have something for you. What you have taken, keep. What you have learned, use. You are friend of the fae.”

Her eyes filled with tears. Ryoka sniffed.

“That’s enough of a gift for me, Your Majest—”

“Shh.”

He silenced her. Then he beckoned someone forwards.

“The might of the fae is dangerous in the wrong hands. But take this.

Someone stepped out, looking awed and timid behind the Faerie King. Ryoka saw…a figure in plastic armor salute. She saw him holding out a plastic dagger.

Ryoka’s eyes went round. The soldier saluted.

“I think it might look different where you’re going. It does for me.”

Slowly, she reached out. Oberon took her hand as it closed over the little weapon. He looked in her eyes.

“It will avail you little against your true foes. But may it help you in some small way. I cannot see the future where you go.”

“Do I need it, your Majesty? This is—”

He smiled and nodded at her uncertainty.

“Yes. The time has come for you to do more than just run. Now go.

She stepped through the gateway. Then it closed.

 

—-

 

The longest day passed. A terrible tragedy struck the world.

A party ended, with guests frightened, wondering what had happened. Each one unharmed—even the young woman who stepped out of the sky. Tyrion Veltras saw Ryoka’s pale face as she put something in her bag of holding.

The wind blew around her.

And the Blighted King celebrated. Something had happened. Not all of what he wanted but—he felt it coming. More and more.

He left the frightened children in Nereshal’s care, stepping around the corpses of his High Mages. The [Chronomancer] stared silently after the Blighted King’s back.

Othius the Fourth gave voice in the morning, with a prepared [Scrier]. The Blighted King’s posture was perfect, his clothing brilliant. He spoke gravely to the audience who woke to his words.

“I am the Blighted King of Rhir, Othius the Fourth. This night, the Demon Kingdom unleashed a spell of unparalleled magnitude across the world. Their great weapon aimed at all those who oppose them—

The truth spell glowed serenely behind him.

[A King’s Truth].

 

—-

 

Across the world, the Gnoll tribes of Izril were gathered. A [Shaman] raised high his staff and shouted as they gathered.

Let the Meeting of Tribes begin!

 

—-

 

And lastly? The Wandering Inn.

The hour was dark. Just past dawn. It seemed so few lights were visible anywhere. Even in the light, there was too much shadow.

Lyonette heard Montressa out. She nodded slowly.

Ryoka Griffin had failed.

The [Innkeeper] lay frozen, protected still. But not living. Not here. It was a terrible day. A bitter time.

Not even Erin Solstice had been able to stop this tragedy. No one had been able to overturn this madness. This…broken reality.

The others were silent. What could be done? Erin was gone. Lyonette took a breath.

“Well then. I guess we have to do it ourselves.”

The others looked at her. Selys. Olesm. Mrsha, Numbtongue, Bird—in grief and fury and despair. And all the others.

“Us, Lyonette? But Erin’s…”

Drassi gestured weakly at the door. The one who had been responsible for all the happy chaos, the madness, wasn’t here to make it happen. Lyonette looked at the Drake and shook her head. Slowly, she picked up Mrsha and hugged her.

“Erin is not this inn. She’s the heart of it. But it was never just her. Now, she needs us. More than ever. I won’t give up. I’m going…to Oteslia. To find a way to bring her back.”

“I suppose, then, you’d need an escort, Miss. A proper one.”

Someone tipped his hat to her. The [Princess] turned and the Gnoll and Drake looked at her. Numbtongue’s head rose.

“Keep her safe. She’ll be back.”

Lyonette looked around the inn. And she saw the others’ heads rise. The [Princess] felt tired. Despair clung to her like cobwebs, but she stood, because someone had to. Everything Erin had done…everything she had been?

The fire was not out. The [Princess] walked slowly towards the door. She adjusted it, dial after dial, clicking it into place—

The red gemstone flashed. Lyonette felt the door slam into her foot. She stumbled back.

A Hobgoblin burst through the doorway with staff in hand. She raised it threateningly—and stared down at Lyonette. She caught sight of Numbtongue, and lowered the staff.

“Huh. Where this?”

On a really, just terrible day, a guest found an inn on the hill. She looked around. And then she stared up and read the sign.

Then the story continued.

 

 

 

 

End of Volume 7.

 

 

 

 

Author’s Note: This is the end of Volume 7. As stated. It has been a long, long volume. If you can believe what they tell me…two million words? One year of writing.

I am very tired. And I believe I shall rest for at least two weeks. Probably only two weeks, but I need it. I need to do nothing, not write, just do something…else.

I think we could all use a break from The Wandering Inn. Not forever. For two weeks. That’s all.

But we will be back.

The story is not over. And it is a story. Sometimes, the story ends on a high note. Sometimes…there is something wrong that needs to be fixed. A quest. I hope you have enjoyed this volume, for all its highs and lows. The next ones will hopefully have more of all that.

Happiness and sadness. There’s no meaning to one without the other. I wrote The Wandering Inn because I wanted a story where not everything went perfectly according to plan, even for a story about other worlds. Also, because I wanted characters you cared about. Not so much to talk about food.

I’m exceptionally humbled and grateful that so many people have enjoyed it and found it this year. Which is the proper emotion to be! It’s amazing to think this story is what, five years old? Four? And it will continue next year.

Right after my break. Thank you for reading, and I will see you soon.

 

–pirateaba

 

The Wandering Inn’s Family for Volume 7’s Ending by Plushie!

193 thoughts on “Solstice (Pt. 9)

  1. I personally love where this is going in a wuxia way without it being eastern serialized. As much as I enjoy the slice of life in this story as an online fanbase fiction, in a serial fictional book mindset, you have to understand that things end. And the love we have for pirateaba needs to be reckoned with the idea that it needs a satisfying ending.

    The context of this chapter is built into the hints of the past. The same way that we adore foreshadowing in any literature is that we can look back and see where it was headed without noticing, that twists everything on its head. Pirate said he wanted to make this a grander story 4 volumes ago. He has taken his time getting here and I expect he will take his time getting to the end. I personally will love it the entire way, as long as it does in fact end. Because if he is as greater a writer as we all believe he is, or we wouldn’t be here, he will surely make us remember this series as something fantastic.

    In innworld, it may seem that everything is changing too quickly. But that’s what happens in real life too. Things continue looking like they don’t change, until it creates such a drastic picture of the grand thing when we look back on it. The prophecy isn’t about ryoka, it’s about the gods who have destroyed the immortal creatures of every galaxy. The gods created in a world with magic and spells that defy the laws of other galaxies, who are also in innworld. The fae don’t control levels.

    The governing laws of nature in innworld have said that levels increase based on the challenges people face. What great things will come when everyone is fighting the gods who made such a world. What great stories will be told of the people who stood up to those gods. We need time to see the gods become what everything fears, why they need to be so wiped out that every fae believes it must be done. They honor their word because it’s all you have as an immortal, when everything else passes. They fight gods that kills the things that stand outside time because someone asked them too. They are made up of the stories that other hero’s hear about. That inspire the current hero’s. That’s why they can’t interact until the end. Because they can’t be there until the final battle. The hero’s of our story, our prophecy must stand on their own, and face the gods who threaten the lives of everywhere else. The ones who will hold a major grudge against the immortals of the past.

    Now assume the gods have to abide by the same laws of the universe they come from, because that’s why the fae all went to the innworld universe to fight them, because they aren’t anywhere else. Laws that are determined. Definable. And where there are laws, there is something that makes them. The forgotten god that created everything. The levels, the ability to create other gods, the oddities of their universe that make it so even the fae are envious of what is created. Miracles that don’t happen in other universes, because they are governed by something ELSE. The forgotten one. The one who didn’t reach out to anyone but Erin. The 5/6 gods are at the party. The sixth is making the ritual at wistram. So who’s the forgotten? A seventh? Or the one true God. The creator. Who must be challenged in why he created this in the first place. The one who wants Erin, but can’t get her. Erin, the one who would take up the king of kings by pulling the sword from the stone. He even explains in not a trick, you must be able to take up that mantle. And she could. To be the leader, the stories hero, that innworld needs. The best of the world not because she would be the best ruler, but because she leads the world at it’s time of need.

    We can see how gods can be created, like pawn making their own. This belief could cause the only true heaven and God because all their beliefs only show kindness, not the wrath of creation. This is then a new god, but one that’s been influenced by….. ERIN. OUR HERO. Now everyone gets more powerful because they gave the gods, and must create new heroic stories based on the people in the end of all worlds conclusion, the knolls, the undead, dragons, the drake’s, humans, everyone must now fight the horrible gods, who aren’t actual gods, but stories, possibly just people who’s belief leveled them and turn them into gods. Who might have, if in a different world without levels, made it to the fae lands like who ivolethe talked about, which made ryoka go wide eyed. Instead they are in innworld, influence by it’s levels and laws, and are confined to it, hate the ones that can leave and retain their power like the fae and draw power from people believing in them, so the fae trick everyone to believe they are dead. those tricky bastards. But now they have billions of people who believe in gods, connected via a different way than through the fae worlds which are locked off until the final battle. Now everyone joins, creates a mix of sci-fi and tech to fight gods, in their own slice of life stories, until they are destroyed, the gods explain about the final forgotten one that only erin knows about so far, who’s conveniently dead and can’t tell people about him,which leads to erin being revived via someone like pawn who has the power of his own god, so now it’s ok races, gods, fae, hero’s fighting the last person, the creator.

    I can picture ALL THIS, and I’m not pirateaba, the mastermind behind this who series, who we love who could tell this story in so many different ways, that even if I correctly guessed his future plan, I would have no idea how he did it. And that’s what we are truly here for. The wild ride. The story that we follow is the dash between the first and last publications. Its the friends along the way, the stories we learned and will share that live on forever, that will be told in all universes, who made the final prophecy come true. When the final volume is out, you’ll cry at the stories, laugh at the funny parts, pucker your butt when it gets tense, and love the comic relief of bumbling fools, tricky necromancers and crazy innkeepers, because they are what made the story happen, and they deserve their story told. Every one of them. Even the stories of people who you might not like, or through the eyes of the evil ones, to give them humility, to show their slice of life. To show how things can end up where they are today, and how we overcame them. Not via some big huge action, or simple cheat, but through the small actions each and every person does every day. The choices we make each and every day. Like arthur said, to be good you have to make that choice every day, even if sometimes you fail, even if sometimes things go wrong. You always have the choice. You can turn it down once, or every day, but you have the choice. And those that make the choice, stand out. That’s who you root for.

    Anywaaaaaay. Long rant over. I believe pirateaba could draw this out for 2 more volumes maybe more based just of what I said to give us our final story, and that I’ll love every chapter because it’s another story along the way. my girlfriend doesn’t read this story, but she enjoys what I summerize about it because I enjoy it so much. She likes to see me get happiness from this story, and shares in it even if she doesn’t read it. That’s what pirateaba is trying to do. Share the story so that it can make you happier, and maybe get you to make the choice to be better, to be the change you want to be in your world.

    Oooor he’s pulling it out his ass every day, and is a psychopath who is actually locked up in a mental ward and does nothing but take acid and coke every other day to pump out page after page of drible like some lunatic who speaks for god so that we can believe that his god exists, and that we should believe in it so that it can get powerful and take over the innworld for itself! Mwahahahahaa!!!!

    I’m on to you…

    • “The governing laws of nature in innworld have said that levels increase based on the challenges people face.”

      That’s a misconception. It is believed it is like that by some. It is most definitely NOT.

      That belief comes from the comments around Gazi not levelling up fast enough cause of the “OP armor”. But, do we know all her levels? It might just be she’s level 90 total already which makes it very hard to get level 91 since EXP requirements go up BY LEVEL, considerately more even in the higher levels.
      And what is even Gazi Maining?? EXP needs to be obtained in that specific field to go up.

      • Gazi most likely doesnt have a high total level. She got almost all her levels from serving under Flos, who knows some of the secrets of classes, one of them being that one class is best and he would have told Gazi that.

  2. Pirateaba, thank you for your work, and all you have accomplished over the years with The Wandering Inn.

    You are by far my favorite author bar none, your story is the most engaging, hilarious, momentous, sad and heartrending i have ever had the pleasure of reading and anticipating on a weekly basis.

    I have loved each and everyone one of the volumes you have released, but volume 7 was crazier than even the rest.

    Thank you for your dedication, i wish with all my heart that all of your dreams and goals will be achieved. Thank you for making a horrible year memorable.

    I wish you and your family all the best! Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

  3. I wonder if/how much of the sacrifice happened? IE how many unborn souls the Blighted King managed to throw away in his evil craziness? There were so many interruptions and interventions throughout the ritual. Either way, he’s blamed it all on the demons.

    And whatever is under Rhir twitched when the text message went out saving the gods (in the process destroying three Hives) But we know it is not one of the dead/alive gods.

  4. I just miss here so much. I love every release with here and fear all chapters without here.
    Having to look forward to months without here is dreadful.

    *tearsineyes*

  5. I think you broke me.

    But actually ever since I found this story it has constantly kept me on my toes and this volume did that more than any other. It’s such a complex story and even if it’s dark at times you can always see the light. It’s also the perfect mix of serious and comedy this story really is a master piece.

  6. Once again technology saves the day!

    Why fight through fae protections and earthlings instinctive mistrust when you can just sit at home and use your phone.

    sadly the fae understandably did not have countermeasures for cellphones on innworld :(

    the question becomes what do the gods do now that they have a small foothold, I don’t think we know of any goals they have beyond existing.

    • Worship? Souls? I imagine there’ll soon be a lot of people being forced to choose between taking their hands, and dying horribly to random chance.

    • The gods didn’t really left a good impression.
      They appeared more as manipulative and more concern about their priorities (tricking earthers into becoming “followers….)

      So, personnally, I’m on Team Fae for this one

  7. I have… emotions. Not words, no, I do not think I have the words to faithfully describe how I feel about this ending. But I do have overwhelming emotions. Similar to how I felt in Volume 5, but grander yet. The writing… the stories… the *scope* that The Wandering Inn touches on. Awe-inspiring. Gut wrenching. Beyond fascinating, sometimes.

    You deserve your rest a million times over. Such high-quality writing, and unedited at that (in the way most published books are)! I thank you for your writing. Truly, truly, thank you. I will share this story with every person I meet, in any casual gathering, in every relevant forum I post in, no, with the entire world at every chance I get! Shout its name from rooftops if I must! This must be seen by all!

    And, if this is still just rising action, I can’t even imagine- can’t even begin to comprehend- at how this story will end. I’m so engaged, so gripped with this story, so far past the edge of my seat, that I’ve fallen off of it and had to go grab a longer chair. This will be a welcome break. Thank you again. I will now await the next installment in this post-finale reverie. I wish for you to have the most restful of breaks :)

  8. Erin, when she returns, because I solidly refuse to imagine Innworld without The King of InnKeepers that will never be, is going to royally pissed. Oh, she is going to break something and once she is done, she will turn her eyes on trampling a tyrant king. The Erin will come for the killer of babies. Then she will tear down the gods because they aren’t prepared for THE ERIN. One magical, crazy, illogical and love-filled adventure at a time.

    The ending of this volume had so much going for it! It spanned worlds and realms and charged through so many different things. It was a lot and in the best kind of way. Yet, The Wandering Inn is still waiting for the return of its keeper. Cant wait to experience what happens next.

  9. Nooo, poor Rufelt and Lasica!

    The blighted king is such motherf*er.

    Loved the trip in wonderland! And now another page of the story turns… things look grim but there is hope still for heroes are not all dead.

    And on that note wretched 2020 ends, let next year be more joyous!

  10. I see. Ryoka is the hero and Erin the ruler of the land.

    I wonder what’s the King’s compulsion.

    This feels like the end of the beginning.

    • Something like that, yeah.
      Ryoka has always being about risking herself to save others, since her first chapters rescuing the Horns of Hammerad. Erin is about gathering people around her and changing society.

      Also: there are hints about Ryoka’s prophecy being mentioned by the Faeries in Volume 2. They state that the one to defy fate and challenge the Gods is Ryoka. Ivolethe also noted that not receiving the System was important.

  11. Great chapter!

    Please, don’t let volume 8 be 1,000,000 words without Erin! Sure, Lyonette is right that the Wandering Inn is more than just Erin but there have to be limits to how long a protagonist can be put on ice.

    • Just sayin’: The Path of Daggers REALLY sucked; it was where the whole series went irrevocably downhill. It spawned that excruciating interminable “Faile has been TAKEN1111!” but literally NOTHING else happened: Rand and the Seanchan spent the novels entirety developing mutual misunderstanding into an epic transcontinental war for which both were increasingly eager–then both independently decided they lacked the stomach to actually FIGHT. That neatly summarizes the WHOLE NOVEL; Wikipedia says it was the shortest of the series, but try telling that to any of the many who had the misfortune to READ it cover to cover. The shortest, and the ONLY one (of FOURTEEN) with NO Mat. Maybe that is just coincidence, but… Jordans Author-Proxy Perrin Aybara was wholly absent from The Fires of Heaven, and readers polls for going two solid decades or more have consistently ranked it neck and neck with The Shadow Rising as the best of the lot (which, again, consists of fourteen.)

      Gotta say this too: These are pretty awful gods; did Innworld have nothing but Evil and (possibly) Neutral deities? I have noticed that people have an amazing facility for both putting their words and motives in the mouths and hearts of deities and holding deities responsible for people who do that. We should thank God for the gift of free will rather than condemn Him for how all of us misuse it. If anyone a resolution for theodicy, there it is: God is merciful enough not to immediately annihilate each and every one of us for our countless knowing and willful abuses of divine gifts we receive without merit. More merciful than that even; Merry Winter Solstice to all, and to all a good night….

      • Ha, Wheel of Time fans can be found everywhere! The Faile plot was an absolute disaster, it completely neutered Perrin as a character for most of the series. A million words of him just whining and not actually saving her.

        About the gods, we haven’t seen all of them but all we’ve seen so far are absolute jerks. Including the god of familial love or whatever it was that got Luan fireballed. Turns out the gods don’t even have rules: “taking the hand” can be cheated by grabbing the hand of a blind man, extorted with threats of violence or outright forced!

        Maybe the gods were more chill when they were not so desperate? I sure hope so. Because right now they are monsters that do not care who has to die or suffer for their return to power! Why were they so cool when offering Erin the 3 gifts? They didn’t even rage against her when refused, although, the coin was almost certainly intended as a Trojan gift, not a sincere one.

        I think it’s a worrying sign that the Innworld, apparently, is the world with the most martyred immortals. It’s kinda obvious now that they died in battle against the gods and their playthings. So it means that even by the standards of the multi verse, Innworld gods are a whole other level of Jerks, the Greek pantheon has got nothing on them!

      • At this point, I’m pretty sure that the Innworld “gods” are mortals who managed to (and still can) steal higher powers, which is why the fae were reluctant to give Ryoka a weapon. Also, the “wretched thing of dead gods” was probably the method they used to have humans dependant on them. I mean, most just use Skills because they’re convenient.

        They probably gpo sealed years ago and by killing everyone with the wretched thing, they effectively “died”, though apparently that thing still existed.

  12. i feel like eventualy when erin wakes she gets a shit ton of levels cause you know she deffetted a god in her in even if it was just her skill and also shes going to be pissed when ryoka tells her about the fea’s situation and that the gods caused it she’ll probably beat them to a pulp or kill them with ryoka

    • SHE did not defeat any god though–in fact, the god forced his/her/its way through all the defenses her previous levels provide the inn: The Garden of Sanctuary provided the ghostly goblins who held off the assault all night, but THEY, not it, quite literally won the day at the cost of their very being. Quite the sacrifice; perhaps they will somehow return with Erin around Easter, but we will await the Vernal Equinox and see… .

      • I’d argue that she DID defeat the god. Well, at least as much as any leader can be said to have defeated anyone, considering that it is her followers that did all the fighting and dying.

        Her actions made Goblins her natural allies.
        Her actions earned her the [Garden of Sanctuary] that made the battle possible.
        Her respect, love and grief for all those who fell in her defence made them fight even in death against a fate worse than death.

        It all comes down to her. Just like [Kings] and [Lords] of the world grow by the deeds of their followers, so does she. Otherwise, how could she have grown to level 46 in a year if it was only her bar fight and acid jars that literally killed anything? She served as an inspiration and everyone who bled and she’d bled for her is her own triumph.

        A sillier example would be how Farmer Lupp started levelling up just because Ryoka “advertised” his corn to Izril and Fae nobility. The corn was always good but it wasn’t till a friend did something with it that he earned his latest levels.

        • Oh yes, Farmer Lupp’s example means theoretically, since the Garden of Sanctuary’s hill’s properties and Reiss calling the ghosts to her… it happens Inside her inn so..
          maybe she gets a nice level boost while she is doing her Sleeping King routine to make her more of a threat to the Blighted King. Killer of Babies. And the King will level hopefully rarely while the Erin and all the Earthers still might sail upwards.

  13. That. Was. Fucking. Stunning.

    I’ve been reading The Wandering Inn for a while now, and frankly it’s one of the best stories I’ve ever read. And I read a lot. You weave personal and grand threads together in such a great way, and moments like this multi-part chapter to round off volume 7 are awe inspiring.

    There’s many deep threads that sound like they’re going to finally be unearthed in the parts to come, and I can’t wait.

    But I will, because as you say you need a rest. This is such a good story on many levels, and it can be exhausting and exhilarating just to read, I can’t imagine what it takes to write it. So rest, for as long as you need to, because when you come back it will be all the more amazing if you come back into it refreshed.

    • Incredible, I haven’t felt such wonder at reading something ever since reading Lord of the Rings as the first ever novel I read by myself. It’s truly a breath-taking adventure you’ve written so far Pirateaba. Can’t wait for it to be continued.

  14. All of your work is stunningly beautiful. Thank you for those seven books, and i hope you enjoy these weeks of rest, you deserve them.

  15. Someone is going to have to tell Saliss he ain’t the hero of this story anymore.
    Just. Wow.
    I have no words to describe what you have done with your own. What a mind blowing end to a volume.

    Thank you PirateBae

    • You know, there’s something I wonder about this situation:
      Emerrhain sent the message to the iPhones that the Gods are alive, but the people from Earth come from a world that has the notion of Gods and worship them, so why does it matter?

      Like, there’s a bunch of Muslims among the United Nations Company that still prays and keep practicing their faith (Daly once mentioned that there were fights about it among the group).
      Similarly, some already knew that the gods of the Innworld were real, or had serious suspicions due to their interactions with them, like Laken, Aaron, and Erin. And Ryoka clearly knew about them thanks to Kblkch, she even knows about the one that’s almost alive in Rhir.

      I think it would be one thing if the message had been sent through the Scrying Network of Wistram and hundreds of thousands of inhabitants of the world became aware that the dead gods were returning (though that apparently gives them a heart attack just thinking about it). But the people from Earth are pretty much indifferent to the concept of deities.

      Although there’s obviously more to the message than just the words and information, it’s still a bit weird that it apparently has such a big effect that the Fae decide to give up altogether.

      • It matters cause while some of the Earthers will believe in gods, they don’t know/worship the Innworld gods. It’s like how Pawn has started religion within the Antinium but not one of the gods could actually piggy back off it cause the premise is different.

        The point of sending it to the Earthers was to overturn their belief in the Innworld gods being dead. That’s important cause Earthers will have at least some concept of gods unlike the vast majority of Innworlders.

        As for why the god didn’t send the message across the Wistram Network, well we have already seen that there is some rather extensive censoring of gods going on by the System/world. It wouldn’t surprise me every scrying orb just suddenly lost their enchantment as soon as the message appeared.

        • The way I understand it, I agree with your assessment that having the Earthers aware of the gods of Innworld is important. What is especially important is if they have a widely popular mouth piece to spread this information-enter the Queen of Pop! I don’t know if believing in the gods is enough for her to be controlled by them although I can guess that is their intention. I think that having other Earthers starting to believe in them is a bonus. This would be an interesting struggle to see between Cara and whatever gods want to slap their hands to hers.

      • It’s that the gods interacted with InnWorld reality with a literal record. The message isn’t important, that it’s written down is.

        • Plus the goss probably only came alive again after the ‘Ritual of 10.000″ and the coming of the first thousand Earthers – the belief in the possibility of living gods was enough for that.
          And I think the ritual was probably provided by the Dead God of Rhir as a means of reviving himself.

      • The difference is, that the on Earth there is no system, so its people are not ‘playthings’ to be harnessed. I believe the belief or whatever gives them power is only obtainable from people who have levels. It is a bit contradictory of why then Ivolethe didn’t just tell everything to Ryoka if she is ‘safe’ by that logic, but this is the best idea I have so far.

        The gods were dead for millenias, too many years. And at some point, the untainted people come and keep screaming “oh my god” left and right, giving them power. So they slowly woke.

      • Who’s to say the Innworld gods aren’t like that? In that case, unless one of the summoned earthers pulls a deicide, only Earth deities would be able to out-asshole any other god.
        Also, in their own religions, abrahamic-like gods are the best thing since cooked meat because we the humans are the imperfect ones.

        • I’m pretty sure you could say the same about Innworld’s gods. To their followers, they’re the best thing ever. To everyone else? Not so much. So, just like Earth’s gods, heh.

  16. Well, that really hit both the feels and the panic button quite thoroughly.

    Of course, I am a little confused / concerned / suspicious why the Winter Queen is named Maeve rather than the far more common Mab (And yes, I know those names are interchangeable).
    Also, I now want to read the adventures of the ‘Surviving Six’ as the return to spaceworld and introduce magic and reality bending perspectives.

    Finally, I hope everyone will have a great New Years and a more pleasant 2021.
    Pirateaba, thank you for your amazing work and hope you have a relaxing and well deserved break.

    ArdanKhael

    • In what sense? You think if the 3 previous gods or the other 3 had shown up to her this time, they’d overpower her? It is the only danger that she “dodged” that I can imagine. Ironically, it is exactly the effect of the noose gift one of the gods offered her last time but without having to pay with her soul for it.

  17. Tnxs 4 vol7
    Merry Xmas & Happy New year 🎆🎇🎉
    Have a nice enjoyable break
    I had to say this multiple part chapter is one of the best among the whole novel so far. I seriously considered dropping TWI after this arc ever since the latest disgusting screw up chapter where pirate write one of the main character ryoka with a lizard who has a daughter her age. Now i changed my mind and stick around since with this chapter alone the story became far more interesting. This is one of the greatest chapter but in my opinion as complete vol it didnt give off the satisfaction and completeness like vol5. I think its mainly because of all the inconsistencies and the huge amount of plot twists .
    So Erin’s fighting, leading goblins to war all are part of the sword she took? Also which vault ivolothe and ryoka break in to get cure for Erin? If she know where she could try to break in again if there are no other means to cure erin. go prepared with horns or something.
    So goblins gonna play a major role against the gods. I guess maybe niers taken to high pass is to set things up? Hopefully rags and gobs side storyline pick up in next vol.

  18. Hmm… I wonder if in Rhir those called the demons get affected with the corruption of their body and the “normal humans” with the corruption of the mind, which basically results in the never ending war. I mean Tom is insane, the King is insane, the high lvl officials seem to be insane. Maybe it’s the sleeping things effect.

    • The blighted part of the Blighted King is definitely his mind but I don’t think the ‘normal humans’ there are also blighted in the mind. His long lifespan and his [King] Class connecting him to the land would expose him a lot more to the blight than his subjects. I always figured that is why the Blighted King is so ‘driven’ to expand his boarders and wipe out the Demons if his Class/mind is craving some more blight.

  19. This is going to be a long two weeks.
    Amazing chapter and damn im really wondering what ryouka picked up. Some space lightsabre perhaps. Everything is happening so fast i wonder how pirateba is going to have room for everything. It seems like niers and the gnollmoot are going to be pushed way to the backalong with alot of the ongoing subplots now that the mainplotline has revieled itself.
    Either way im more hyped than ever before to see what happens next. Erin please come back soon!

  20. So Erin is not back yet? And it’s still unclear if/when she will return? One thing is certain: I’ll have a lot of chapters to binge read if she does ultimately return.

  21. “On a really, just terrible day, a guest found an inn on the hill. She looked around. And then she stared up and read the sign.

    Then the story continued.”

    My personal theory is the next vol will have a goblin and Antinium theme to it with a side of Erins other friends.

    Theres been a huge amount of talk about the god’s schemes though the very presence of the Earthers, including Erin is all the product of said schemes. The “mysterious ritual” that was discovered in Rhir after so long was an obvious plant by the waning gods. The material its made of goes beyond magic, aka divinity.

    I haven’t been able to quite puzzle out the Antinium and the so-called sleeping gods interactions but my hypothesis is that, like I pointed out in a previous post Prometheus wasn’t a god but a Titan. So perhaps the sleeping god is a Titan?

    Anyway if the next volume had lots of goblins and Antinium I’ll be able to manage without my Erin fix, so here’s to hoping!

    • Nah. It will get focused on the King. He needed an army in the desert and now he got more Earth humans.
      His Mage is getting “released” soon and he may turn to attack Wistram? Rebellion of the Golems is close too.

      • I agree that it’ll probably focus on the King’s lands. I also think that this is a chance for Pirate to develop other characters from the story that need development. I think Teres is a big contender for a narrative focus while Trey may be second considering his possible role in Wistram. If we still need to focus on the Wandering Inn I would say that the Reinhart Earthers are a possible focus (more specifically Leon since he hasn’t actually picked something to do yet). I also think Aaron needs to find a way out of his situation so there is a possible sense of character development there. These are my theories though. What do you think? Are there any characters that would need the most development right now?

  22. I’m not sure where the story is headed, but hopefully the slightly darker seeming tone still works out!!!

    Eagerly waiting for January

  23. No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no ….aaaarrrrrrggggggghhhhhhhhh!!!!!

    FFS! Please don’t torture me for long…. it’s been such a bad year, and this has been my happy place… but without Erin, it becomes bleak… like life…. I need Erin and her escapades to cope with life in general.

    Bitte bitte Pirateaba, habe erbarmen! 🙏🏻
    Please show Mercy 🙏🏻

    • i feel ya man. this ytear has been absolute shite. this book has really helped me deal with a lot of the stress ive had going on this year.

  24. Ha! I knew that a second ritual would kill Lasica’s baby as soon as pirateaba introduced that plot point. Also I don’t think the gods are really all that bad. They are just desperate. You would be too in their situation. My guess is that the fairies and the Innworld have been at war for eons and the fae finally won when they killed the six and the minor gods under them. I am on team gods for now. The dancing man seems pretty cool. Also I really hope Kent Scott shows up in volume 8.

  25. Been rereading favourite scenes and chapters as its that time of year and now I have a suspicion that one of the Antinium that went overboard to fight the Kracken on the crossing from Rhir might have caught a Drownedman symbiote. Did they recover Galuc’s body? Is that why the Queen’s were able to base the Workers form on his? Because they had a corpse to reverse engineer?

    Since Garry was trying to organize a Rite of Anastases for Erin I have this weird idea of her waking up in an Antinium body … and being strangely fine with it.

    Also, I’m wondering what the Antinium of the Free Hive did with all the rxlvn they produced before they started selling it to bars, since they apparently have little or no concept of getting drunk.

  26. Thank you for the literal millions of words aling these years. Ive spent three of my years with the wandering and its brought me tears and smiles and laughter and that uncanny feeling you get when words become people. I only ever replied to comment theorising about where the stoey would go but after one of the worst years Ive lived through I figured Id leave here my sincere appreciation for your work, for it has warmed my soul. Pirateaba if you ever read this, know my weeks are brighter because of the mind boggling amount of time you spend writing this.

    That being said I still think Erins death was weird and a lot of the worlds workings just stopped so it could happen :p
    (but then again I still cried when everyone was mourning her so idk)

  27. Just caught up. Started reading in April and read several hours per day. Truest amazing story line. I thought things were wrapping up but excited to see what is to come. Also love the Easter eggs left in the text throughout the the readings! Thanks for all of your hard work.

  28. It always annoyed me when the “smart scientist” people approach this stuff & liken it to something like an onion meny layers. The joke being that an onion is all of those layers, but I do always feel like they miss the point, that they are supposed to exist in the same space, not removed below& above. So yeah im happy.
    Like the land of the fea, the monsters of the demon God or what ever it really is, felt the same, there time.e was over, but they yet lived again in its aura.
    Now its awake, are they as “sold” on being there.

    • Erm…. yes go back to part 4, you will see “next chapter” which will be greyed out for the next 8 to 12 hours approximately, please hurry pirateaba – thousands are desperately waiting for your brilliant story :)

  29. So here’s a question I haven’t seen yet. If the Fae completely sealed InnWorld away… does that mean no more seasons? They brought winter, and summer. The move from winter to summer brought spring and fall. So… no Fae… no seasons? Yes? I think I vaguely remember something about the Fae having an agreement with someone or something from before the war to cause the changing of the seasons. So if they aren’t doing that anymore what does it mean?

    • I don’t think this was a big permanent blockade, merely a “we’re not fighting this battle anymore today” type of timeout.

      Remember, all those immortals that died, died fulfilling their oaths. I don’t think the Earthers being manipulated into bringing back the gods invalidates the ancient oaths binding the immortals. They died fighting the gods, so the return of the gods is certainly no reason to leave Innworld alone to the “tender mercy” of those same gods! They will be back when needed.

      I don’t remember the Fae changing the seasons ever being explained as part of some kind of deal. It was just a thing they did, without being rewarded in any way that we have seen. If it is the result of a deal then maybe it was the “fix” for the Fae having helped kill the god(s) in charge of seasons. If that’s the case, then maybe the gods can now do the change of seasons themselves.

      In any case, the Blighted King’s speech “in the morning” across the entire world at the same time (the Solstice itself) as if there are no time zones at all seems to be further proof that Innworld definitely isn’t any kind of planet. Maybe it’s a literal discworld held together by magic, with no “natural” seasons, no timezones, and a Last Tide being the literal end of the world at the edges of the map.

      • My theory is that It is a planet. And the edge of the world is the part of the planet consumed by darkness. Where the gods are banished. And if the gods becomes stronger the darkness spreads.

  30. I just realised that the blighted king’s speech moment must have sounded like Biblical rapture to the people of Earth. What with simultaneous disappearances around the earth, the aesthetics of his speech with war against demons and hell cleansing and what not.

    Even the part where he goes; “…this is the day of reckoning and I call you to my side.”

    Religious people probably be thinking ‘that’s the voice of god’

  31. I discovered this series exactly one month ago, and have been feverish, obsessive, absolutely glued to it these past 4 weeks. I was terrified when the dates ticked over to 2020 and tried to slow down… but Vol 7 didn’t let me. This is the most exciting and most epic fantasy I’ve ever read since I started reading the genre 25 years ago. I can’t believe i have to WAIT now to read it in real time :cries: Thank you so much for writing this.

  32. I started reading the Wandering Inn not too long ago and have spent numerous hours absorbing the story over the past month or two and have enjoyed a lot of it in that time.

    This isn’t the last chapter available, however, I felt like I had to comment as I come to the end of the final complete volume. Because despite the comments in the author’s note about stories sometimes ending on a high note, I don’t think I’ve seen that yet from a single volume. There is inevitably tragedy and despair at the end of each of these stories. And while there may be high notes in between and moments where I laugh or delight in the protagonist’s wit, it feels at this point like every victory will be pyrrhic at best.

    I’m invested enough after seven million plus words that I want to see where the story goes, but I also had to at least let the author know how her writing has impacted me. Because unfortunately, the lows don’t really serve to highlight the highs for me anymore if they ever did– they don’t make me care more about the characters you’ve introduced, they make me attempt to distance myself from them.

    I read to live a story– to be the characters and explore worlds that have never existed. This is a great world that deserves to be seen, but journeying through it can frankly be exhausting. It feels like the less I care at this point, the better because I’ve gotten to the point where I expect bad things to happen to the characters more than I do good (death in particular) and it doesn’t feel great when I’m putting myself into their shoes.

    I loved seeing Ryoka get to explore the fae realm and finally reunite with Ivolethe and there’s any number of things that I am looking forward to immensely: Niers finally reaching the Wandering Inn, Saliss approaching the inn as a safe haven for Turnscales and revealing herself, and more. Moments like these are what I look for in this story, I just wish they didn’t have to be accompanied by something like a god eradicating the souls of a hundred thousand goblins who we’ve already seen suffer immensely and leaving me with decidedly mixed feelings about where the story is heading.

  33. I cannot help but think that this quest difficulty was too high. I wish everyone was better prepared for what’s to come. This universe contains true evil, and I have no idea how they can possibly overcome it.

  34. I had taken a break from this epic at about the time the flames of retribution were loosed on the Unseen Empire, and have been catching up since late last year. By some curious stroke of fortune, I arrived at these chapters on the summer solstice itself.
    Dead gods, there’s a lot to process here, not least of which the gods themselves, clawing their way back from the edge of oblivion. I can only suppose they’re that brand of entity who are sustained by people’s memory and acknowledgement. If so, it may be impossible to get rid of them altogether, for all that someone gave it a really good try once. After all, even if there’s almost no records left and everyone has agreed up til now that the gods are dead, no mortal in Innworld disputes the fact of their existence.
    Aside from that, wow. Ryoka accomplishing nearly all she set out to. Poor Erin, looks like she’s staying frozen for awhile. I wonder if her spirit can still haunt the inn and bestow her boon?
    Lasica and Rufelt lost their baby, saw that coming miles away, sadly. Along with the whole rest of the world though, ouch. Good for Othius he can lie to the world about it, the bastard.
    I wonder if they figured out how to aim the spell this time? If not, is he just banking on having enough Earthers fall in his lap again, or that he’ll be able to snatch up the new arrivals before someone else does?
    The road ahead is sure to be interesting, whichever it is, with gods making their comeback and Earthers falling from the sky. A hundred thousand this time? Maybe more? Let’s find out.

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