And then she woke up.
The young woman opened her eyes. Erin Solstice sat up in her bed and thought for a moment it was a dream. Then she realized it wasn’t.
It was her inn. Her bed. Her room.
But the panoply of people who stood around her weren’t ghosts. The Horns of Hammerad, Mrsha, held by Lyonette, who hadn’t put her down for six hours and never would again, Selys, sobbing into an armored Olesm’s shoulder, Antinium [Crusaders] jostling with Klbkch and staring up at a huge Gnoll that Erin had never met before.
She didn’t know them. Not all of them. Erin Solstice looked at the Fellowship of the Inn, grinning Cave Goblins, a white Gnoll with a staff, Inkar, Palt…
And so many others. Ishkr himself was watching the creaking floorboards in alarm, but if the inn exploded—well, they’d gone through worse.
The exhalation when Erin said that was one of a hundred people each with a story to tell. But Erin didn’t mean that.
She’d thought she was on…a battlefield? The [Innkeeper] looked around as Mrsha tackled her and the room broke into a babble. And tears.
She was alive. What Erin didn’t know…couldn’t know was that when she’d been restored to her body, she hadn’t gotten up and walked around instantly. She’d just been possessed by the greatest Drake [General] of Izril. And he had not only gotten her arm chopped off at least once, but fought using her body.
And she’d been dead. The mysterious Gnoll who’d helped complete the ritual—Teriarch—had pronounced her alive. He had been one of the people who offered to teleport anyone who wanted to go back to Liscor.
Erin had missed…the end of the war at the Meeting of Tribes. She had missed the surrender of a number of armies. Fissival had stood down; Zeres and Manus had fallen back on their leaders’ orders.
The worst carnage since the Second Antinium wars had resulted in the death of tribes. If not every Gnoll—then their leaders. Plain’s Eye was no more, and Izril was filled with white Gnolls who had nothing to cling to, not their beliefs, not their tribe.
Izril would not be the same. Not even the land was the same. An entirely new chunk of the continent had risen, adding to the southern half, and already people were arguing over who it belonged to.
The Gnolls had gone through their reckoning but…what came next? Ghosts had stepped across the world, and their words lingered in the lands of the living.
The Dyed Lands and parts of Baleros had been sped up in time. The Titan had returned. Ailendamus was reeling from a disaster at its palace, and the Dawn Concordat had fallen back, but no one had ended the war.
The Wind Runner of Reizmelt was alive…but what would become of her? Or the Terras faction? Erin Solstice didn’t get even a fraction of this information, of course.
What she got were hugs and tears. She looked at Pisces, leaning against the doorframe and trying to sniff and pretend it wasn’t due to tears.
“Pisces? Ceria! Ksmvr, Yvlon?”
The Horns of Hammerad were here. They stood in The Wandering Inn, and there was still sand in Pisces’ robes from another continent. They had come back.
Through the power of the King of Khelt in this desperate hour, and Pisces looked around as if still searching for the people he had left behind. But in that moment—he stepped forwards and grabbed Erin in a fierce hug that surprised everyone. She returned it with all the strength in her shaking arms.
Mrsha was hugging all of them, sobbing and snotting onto everything. She looked at her mother, Lyonette, and the [Princess] sobbed until one of the Thronebearers handed her a tissue. The golden-ish [Knights] of Calanfer looked on the [Innkeeper] and this gathering with awe.
And a bit of wariness for all the strange folk. Not least because Shriekblade, Adventurer Tessa, offered Lyonette her own handkerchief. She had abandoned Salazsar and stood in the inn, looking at Erin with curiosity.
“Sounds like she woke up.”
Outside The Wandering Inn, more people were gathered on the hill, looking up towards the sounds coming through the window. Not just by choice; there was no room inside for so many people to stand.
So, many of the [Crusaders] knelt or stood as the Antinium prayed around them. Pivr, flexing a broken wing, was doffing his hat to everyone in sight next to Normen and Alcaz. Normen had his arm in a sling, but for once…the Brothers had come back.
Even some of the Antinium had survived. The Beriad of 6th Battalion stood, all seventeen of them. Seventeen, where a hundred had been that morning.
A Minotaur with one arm stood next to them. His head was bowed so far it seemed it should have crushed him down.
But honor and pride in them refused to let Calruz kneel. For once—the Minotaur looked up and saw he was not alone. The son of Hammerad looked at the souls of Minos in seventeen Antinium.
And even Bezale and Venaz saw it too. The Minotaur [Strategist] had left Perorn behind in the Great Plains to come here. But now was not a time of judgement. He stood with Wil Kallinad, Yerranola, Merrik, and Peki, gazing up at the window.
Feshi Weatherfur was not with them. The Chieftain of the Weatherfur tribe could not leave at this moment.
Her adventure had ended here. She would never go back to the academy. Venaz looked up, and he saw less glory and far too much heartbreak on this adventure than he had seen when he first left Baleros with Wil.
But what he had found was…something else. He looked at Calruz of Hammerad and wondered where the traitor and monster was hiding. Because he couldn’t see it. He looked at the Antinium, and his world could never look the same.
Their wounds would never heal. A little bee crawled onto Lyonette’s shoulder, clumsily holding onto the cloth with one set of legs. Her good wing fanned as Gireulashia stared down at the bee.
Was it worth it? Rasktooth grinned as Infinitypear carried him on his shoulders. He patted the Worker’s head, and Fierre hugged Garia as Ulvama wiped her face on Octavia’s hair. But after so long…
They were here again. Someone else joined the chaos threatening to break Erin’s bed, and Numbtongue, Badarrow, and Bird bent down as Erin looked up at them. Then she looked past them and gasped.
The Drake was leaning on Embria’s shoulder and Klbkch’s. He kept looking at her and then away.
“Klb, pinch me again.”
“I have pinched you ninety one times. She is there.”
“Pinch me, buddy.”
A hundred times a hundred people wanted to meet Erin. The inn had a line stretching all the way to the gates, but that didn’t matter.
It was a public holiday, after all. The Council had declared it in memorial of the battle of the Great Plains, a celebration honoring Strategos Olesm and Liscor’s army, and when pressed, Councilmember Lism had also added the return of Councilmembers Krshia and Beilmark. It was a commemoration of General Sserys’ ghost.
There were no other reasons at all. Nor did he appear at the inn. Neither did Watch Captain Zevara. She just calmly looked at the chaos on that hill and reset her little calendar marking the days since a ‘Solstice event’ back to zero.
She wasn’t smiling as she poured herself a little cup. The Watch Captain had to be at her desk. She’d go there—after clocking out.
Time. It had been a long time. The chaos would certainly return, and the Watch were already preparing briefings for the new recruits.
In time, they’d surely start complaining about that stupid, crazy Human. Tomorrow. But this hour was for meetings.
Some people had waited a long time to meet Erin Solstice. They could wait and watch a second longer. A minute…savoring this moment.
When Rags got tired of savoring the moment, she kicked everyone in the shins, and Erin Solstice looked up from the swearing. Her eyes met a little Goblin’s, and an [Innkeeper] in her inn stared at a familiar, awkward smile.
She was taller and older, but then Erin was being helped up, and there they were.
A Drake and an Antinium probably wasting Watch hours when they should be on duty.
A strange Human girl from far away, on a long journey.
A sniffing [Necromancer], pretending he was aloof to it all.
And a little Goblin, who hesitated, all the words she’d practiced flying out of her head.
The [Innkeeper] looked at her in shock.
“You can talk?”
Rags rolled her eyes. But then she smiled, and Erin was laughing. She looked around, and her mind whirled.
They were all here. It was glorious. It was a miracle. Erin looked from face to face and realized—Ryoka Griffin wasn’t here. Nor was…
For a second, the vision of the living wavered, and Erin thought she saw another company. Of supercilious rulers. Strange legends. Bossy [Witches]. Her smile wavered, and her friends and guests saw the [Innkeeper] look about.
Erin gazed around and felt, suddenly, a terrible fear sweeping over her.
She had returned from the land of the dead. But a war had been lost. A screaming dead god still fell into the wound of the world. Seamwalkers had been destroyed.
Yet the ones who lived stared up from their nest in the grave of gods and other continents and now knew there was a world above. A’ctelios had gone silent, as had Rhir, but for how long?
The gods walked this mortal land. Four out of the six had been vanquished, but forever? One god was screaming in a box. Two more flew through space as the last ghost and Agelum fought them.
A Dragon lived. But how much of him? Teriarch spoke to Manus and Rafaema, but his eyes flickered to the [Maid] standing there and watching him. Not a trace of recognition was in his eyes.
For, like Erin…his memory of what he had been told was changed. But that was not the only reason.
He was still walking. A half-Elf trailed across the ground, bleeding magic. The armies had fled his death. But he was still dying.
“I don’t want to die.”
Eldavin whispered. He was alone. The Simulacrum was untethered forever from the Dragon. He stumbled and fell.
No more magic. No hope of salvation himself. His heart was empty. He lay there until a pair of figures found him.
Were they even there? The half-Elf looked up.
“Who are you?”
It would be a question that echoed around the world in time. It was a herald, but the two just smiled at him. The first, an old woman with eyes like death, bent down. A mother, a young woman, next to a warrior. Both of them reached down. They whispered to him. An offer.
“Do you want to live, Eldavin? Take my hand.”
The piece of magic and a Dragon’s memories looked up. He reached out.
He wanted to live.
The last foe of the tribes had also survived the battle. She always did.
She had never died. The Spider, the immortal Witch of Webs, always survived. Even the greatest [Witches] of old had gone to their deaths, but Belavierr had defied fate itself.
Why then did she scream? A shriek without ending, which had begun since the [Witches] bound her with truth and magic? They had let her live, for a [Witch], even one who wrought such terrible craft as Belavierr, was a Witch.
But they burned her. And they bound her with something more terrible than any spell she could worm her way out of.
They whispered truth to her and set her the charge of ages. Belavierr tried to resist as she stood on Izril’s shores.
She felt her class trembling. Her very craft threatened to break. A promise older than Belavierr impelled her. She was the Temptress, the Threadbreaker…
A conscript in a struggle against a foe to make Seamwalkers seem small. The last great coven of Witches was not kind. They spared Belavierr her due death to weigh a heavier task on her head.
So, screaming, the [Witch] walked into the sea. Her eyes stared, one orange and ringed, one pale and weeping with the memory of Gnolls. They writhed and danced with outrage, with fury over being compelled. Over being—tricked.
But there was no one to blame. No one to curse. She refused! She would not…the [Witch] struggled. Those eyes stared into the dark waters, and the rings of orange light wavered. The lines of black immortality tried to crawl out of her eye. A spider made of string pulled itself out of one eye, and the other revealed the soul within, bulging with helpless fury.
The woman walked deeper into the waves, for she had no other choice. Her dress spread out like a spill of oil, and her limbs contorted in ways that bones and flesh should not do. In the deep, Krakens stirred and began to suffer nightmares.
Still Belavierr screamed. Her shriek continued, even as the dark waters of the surf raced around her chin. Into her mouth—until her eyes stared up through dark waters. The tip of her hat vanished into the water, and her daughters felt her leave Izril.
On a long, deep journey.
Each nation, each power and group in this world had just witnessed something they couldn’t explain. Khelt had fought…and had it won?
The King of Khelt sailed away from Izril without even bothering to wait for Erin Solstice to wake. He would speak to her again, and besides…the King of Destruction might have been beheaded if Fetohep waited a moment longer.
The presence of Antinium, undead, and Flos Reimarch himself were all threats that the Walled Cities would have done their utmost to eradicate. However—the [Soldiers] had seen their continent split in two. They looked upon the white Gnolls of Plain’s Eye and wavered.
Despite what each city might order, Wall Lord Ilvriss, Dragonspeaker Luciva, First Gardener Shaerrha, and Admiral Asale all refused to lead their armies into battle on the Drakes’ side. Each one for their own reason. Luciva herself listened to the ‘white Gnoll’ with mismatched eyes, and she had found Rafaema.
Moreover, they faced Khelt and the united tribes of Izril. The Drakes still tried to deal with the Goblins and Antinium on the field, but they disappeared beneath the earth or flew away on the backs of Wyverns led by a mysterious [Great Chieftain]. Rags. The rest just vanished, returning home via the power of the Dragonlord of Flame. He had no enemies in any one species, and Fetohep of Khelt swore his vengeance upon any force who drew more blood this day.
In this moment, at this time—when the Walled Cities protested, the world backed Khelt. Their gratitude might wane in time, but when Fetohep spoke, the Four Great Companies of Baleros, the Blighted Kingdom of Rhir, the monarchs of Terandria, and great nations of Chandrar told the Drakes there would be war if they did not heed his words.
So, for once, the Drakes abandoned their vengeance, if not their grudges. They looked forwards and back, counting the cost of this disaster. The wise ones listened to the warnings they’d been given. Perhaps they might change.
As for Chandrar, the warships that had come to Izril had left the bones of countless dead in their wake. The Great Plains were shaped by the magics unleashed there, but the holds of the warships were packed. Not just with the half-Elves or his new subjects, but Gnolls.
They abandoned Izril for a different land that might not be filled with so many petty enemies. Or at least, not Drakes. The King of Destruction was returned to health, but even he looked shaken by what he had witnessed.
King Raelt was free. He and Queen Jecaina, both rulers of their nation, looked at each other and across the sea as Rasea Zecrew took off, chasing her own adventures.
However, the Vizir Hecrelunn did not sail with Fetohep. He had felt Khelta die, and he and the half-Giants of Serept had looked back at their kingdom and found no home there. Hecrelunn flew away from Izril, screaming curses and weeping for his beloved [Queens].
A single Revenant continued the battle after it ended. Though it took him nearly a day, the [Champion of War], Salui, climbed the walls of Zeres. He had no axe. The spells consumed his body, struck his bones—
But he cared not. His-Xe was dead. Salui stood on Zeres’ walls as the magic obliterated him, crying out and looking for his great [King]. Yet he would never find him.
The lands of the dead were no more. A single goddess strode the void, and every soul which perished would belong to her.
In time, she would be too powerful. But the Gnome dangling his legs over the edge of the abyss of nothing, still staring up towards where Xarkouth and Razia had fled, thought that Kasigna would not win so easily.
“You know, they will fight you. Even your daughter, Cauwine. Tamaroth, Norechl, if they ever return. Laedonius may be dead, and Emerrhain’s in a box, but the blood of gods may fuel them. Even the ones who have lost everything. Or interlopers from afar. Who knows?”
Kasigna had begun her great work. In the oblivion, she would remake this place. Better. With some advice. She paused a moment, for the task wearied even her. But she had longer than seven days to do it.
“Little Zineryr. Do you seek to pit me against them? I am aware of every danger, and you will play no more tricks.”
“But it seems I have the honor of being your last ghost. Aside from the Agelum and Void Dragon. Not very complete of you. Don’t you think you’d better wait on remaking the afterlife until Norechl and Tamaroth are gone? You’ll never get it perfect if Norechl stains something. And that beard hair…”
The Goddess of Death glared at Zineryr as he pretended to shudder. She spoke softly.
“This is the end. The ghosts did more than I thought possible, but they are all gone. So, Gnome. So, Zineryr…tell your last joke. Play your last prank. Then take my hand.”
She waited, and the merry look faded on Zineryr’s face. He looked at her and then stood, brushing down the spacesuit he wore. He turned to Kasigna, and when he replied, he looked as young as the days when they had both lived.
“Kasigna. I have always loved you.”
She waited for the joke at her expense, the prank on the divine. But Zineryr went on.
“Of all the gods, I did love you. Because you, for all the arrogance of the others, for all the cunning—even intelligence of some, the bravery of others, I knew that when I died, you would take my hand, and I would have meaning in the afterlife. Even if it was what you thought. I loved you all, but you had a vision for this world I could not countenance. I did weep when I chose to take arms against you. I did hesitate. But I loved you.”
He looked in her eyes, and the Goddess stood there. Zineryr went on.
“When you returned…perhaps the ghosts and I wondered if you had changed. All this strife. This destruction. Even you all wept for what came to pass. An eternity of death, yet you clung to existence. And after so long—you did not change. After all your mistakes? You did what you had done before.”
He hung his head.
“Perhaps…even we hoped you might become something different. Yet even Cauwine only changes slightly. Were the gods we loved so static? Will all of what passed, that even you call a time of legends, be wasted if nothing changes?”
The Goddess of Death had nothing to say. Zineryr shrugged his shoulders wearily.
“I am Zineryr, the first Gnome to fly into the stars. I am the last ghost of the Second-Furthest Travelers. I slew my gods, and I watched the ghosts of the world fight until their end. They fought with a glory and courage that has never faded from the days when I lived and breathed.”
He turned, and his eyes encompassed the entire war in this blackness. The Gnome sighed.
“Yet they did end. And here I stand, the last ghost of all. The Goddess of Death whom I loved and still…still a part of me loves, asks me for a final joke.”
The Gnome looked up at Kasigna, and she gazed down at him. Her head lowered slightly, and Zineryr whispered.
“The joke is this: the gods did defeat the dead. They ate every last ghost. Two gods fell, and two more were carried away, all by ghosts. A single [Innkeeper] escaped the gods, and the Faerie King drew his odd designs across fate itself. Then…then Kasigna said: we will surely win this time.”
He turned and smiled. Up, up at the goddess, and the three-in-one did not smile. Zineryr did, and he chuckled. Then he reached out—
And was gone.
Kasigna stood there a while, his words echoing in her ears. Then she bent her head once more to her great task. After all…they had time.
Time. Erin Solstice looked around in a lull between all the furious voices—she wasn’t hearing much anyways, just getting hugs. Her body was so…weak.
She felt dizzy. She felt despairing and hopeful and…
They had time. But she had a mission. She knew that. Erin Solstice closed her eyes. She…
She had met…?
“Who was he? Who were they? Why can’t I remember?”
Tears sprang to her eyes, and she collapsed backwards. This changing world moved around her, and when she had the strength to get up, there was everything to do.
But Erin was sure…sure she had not just been sleeping. Fetohep of Khelt had known her. Pisces told her he’d heard her horn.
Yet it was all a haze. The memories—too many memories—jumbled in Erin’s mind, and she couldn’t hold onto them. The experiences of a ghost tried to make sense to the living girl, and she began crying.
She had friends. They had been there. She knew it. But the names and faces escaped her. The stories…everything she had been through.
It was too much for one mortal mind. Erin sobbed as she lay in bed. She was so weak.
Her eyes fluttered after she wept, and exhaustion dragged her down. Erin heard a familiar voice as she slept. She supposed being dead really did mean you didn’t hear it. But now…
[Magical Innkeeper Level 46!]
Then a long, long pause. As if something that wasn’t quite sentient, wasn’t quite…alive, but still had methods and ways, a system, was taking its time and figuring something out.
Then Erin heard an uncertain voice.
[Queen of Undeath Level 6!]
[Skill – Command Undead: Lesser obt—
<Khelta, [Queen of the Eternal Necrocracy]> [Not found. Canceling.]
[Sage’s Apprentice Level 2!]
<Velzi, [Sage of a Hundred Thousand Secrets> [Not found. Canceling.]
[Dragonfriend Level 41!]
<Yderigrisel, Dragon> [Not found. Canceling.]
<Xarkouth, Dragon> [Not found. Canceling.]
<Rhiveile Zessoprical, Wyrm> [Not found. Canceling.]
On and on it went. Trying to award her…
[Rebel Level 11!]
<Elucina, [Hero of String]> [Not found. Canceling.]
Erin listened, trying to hold onto the names. Listening to the classes fading out. Only a few tried to stick to her.
[Slaver Class obtained!]
[Level Ups Cancelled.]
[Servant of Nerrhavia Class Obtained!]
[Level Ups Cancelled]
And then…and then the voice in her head was silent again. As if mulling over things it could not explain. But Erin knew why…and the voice, seemingly put out by all the mysteries, gave up and went back to the start.
[Witch Class Obtained!]
[Conditions Met: Witch → Witch of Second Chances Class!]
[Witch of Second Chances Level 12!]
[Skill – School: Witchcraft (Undetermined) obtained!]
[Skill – Basic Brewing obtained!]
She was still crying. Erin didn’t push away the levels. She longed for all of them, except the—the bad ones. She would have been any of them.
The [Queen], the [Hero], a [Sage], a [Rebel]…she would have taken each and every class, even [Pickpocket] like…like who had shown her?
She owed it to them. To those glorious souls. She would have been a [Necromancer] if she could remember what they had told her and given her. But all she had was one class from some intelligent women with hats who knew enough to teach her how to be what they were instead of giving her something.
It almost sounded like the voice in her head knew it too. The apologetic tone listed off the Skills and spells as Erin sobbed into the quiet room. Then it tremulously added one more thing.
…[Magical Innkeeper Level 46!]
[Skill – Immunity: Crossbow Bolts obtained!]
Erin Solstice lay there, and she would have traded everything for just one face. One name. She…
She would never forget them. Never! The [Innkeeper] tried to get up. She had a purpose. She had to…
She had to do more than just things for herself. More than just warn the world or get ready.
They had told her their stories and she could not forget. The [Innkeeper] clenched her fists. She had spit in the face of ___s, or tried to.
“I’ll never forget them! Never! I swore—I swore to break every chain! I promised to tell Pisces—”
Her breath caught. Erin fought to remember that name. The faces. No—she refused to forget anything. Even if her head exploded. She screamed, and people came running, but they found Erin collapsed in bed as she fainted.
I will never forget what I owe them. Any one of them.
The [Innkeeper] could not be them. She had nothing left of them. But stories. But the memory…
In the silence of The Wandering Inn, Erin Solstice felt a flicker in her mind.
There they were. Velzi, Elucina, Xarkouth, Gerial, Califor…the names flickered across the mortal girl’s memory, and she had met the ghosts of every continent. Heard their stories in a place where time had no meaning.
No wonder she couldn’t encompass it. Perhaps—perhaps she didn’t have to. A door opened in the [Innkeeper]’s mind, and Erin Solstice gasped. She heard a triumphant voice speak and bring meaning to everything.
<Class: Innkeeper> [Quests unlocked.]
[Post: Basic Quest obtained!]
[Post: Rare Quest obtained!]
[Post: Heroic Quest obtained!]
[Post: Mythical Quest obtained!]
[Post: Legendary Quest obtained!]
Erin Solstice opened her eyes wide, and there it was. Each face. Each story and each unfulfilled wish.
Cawe’s last words.
Velzimri’s regrets and all his secret potions and the most important man who had regretted being alone. The Djinni’s tears. The folly of Dragons and the glory of small ghosts. Earthers from home and their final words.
The [Innkeeper] lay there a second. And when she opened her eyes—
End of Volume 8.
It’s 5 AM, and I have finished writing Volume 8. I know I will be revising it, but I feel…dehydrated. Exhausted. My body’s cramped, and I don’t think this ergonomic chair is working right.
I’ve written so many words this month that I’m not sure how I did it without snapping a tendon. I have never written this much before, I think, and I know it’s not perfect. But at last, Volume 8 is done.
A few things. I’ve left a note at the top of the chapter…one part of it to check out Casualfarmer’s books. Or buy Book 6 on Audible? I say these housekeeping things because I am not going to be around for a month.
I’ve turned off Patreon for a month and I don’t intend to write here until at least a month has passed. A month is a long time…but I don’t know if it’s long enough.
Frankly, these last few days, no this month, this year as I tried to bring Volume 8 to a close, I worked so hard I could feel myself burning out. To explain what that is because everyone has their definition, I stopped smiling even when I knew a good chapter was done. After I finished writing, on days like these, I would sit for four more hours, playing games, watching Youtube videos and zone out.
Even on my weeks off each month, I didn’t have the energy to start a book or new television show. I called it literally being out of thoughts; I did not have the power to conceptually get into a new television show. Even a new anime or something seemed far too taxing.
Because I spend everything on The Wandering Inn. I try to think of what will happen, write dialogue…and I enjoy it. But I did notice at one point that it was all I was. I used to write a chapter twice a week over one day.
Oh, I’d outline, but I’d do other things and just spend one entire day from dawn till dusk writing. Now? Now I write over three days per chapter, and I spent at least two days with 6-9 hours at the keyboard. I get one full day off and when I take my week off each month, I feel normal by the end of it and go back to writing.
I think, for Volume 9, I will make the chapters shorter. Not as a joke; they have to be. I think a 30,000 word chapter can sometimes be good, but when I do it too much I’m reducing the quality of the chapter as a whole. Of course, it’s a trade. Some writers hone each chapter but they take a year to write 100,000 words of pure quality.
But what we all trade is time. Some writers trade a lot of time for a lot of quality, but I’ve traded some of that quality just to…write. Write 9 million words at this point. And I know it’s a tradeoff, but that is also what a web serial is. Consistency. I don’t miss my days off. In a real sense, I am writing novels of content each month because it’s enjoyable—I assume—to read that instead of waiting multiple years for each book.
I do like it, but I myself have come to my final end of the rope for Volume 8. I took one month to end the most ambitious project ever and, in hindsight, I would do it differently. All the dramatic reveals and conclusions I might space out. I would definitely have considered doing multiple volumes…but I wanted Erin back as much as you by the end of Volume 8.
I have made great mistakes and yet there are chapters I am proud of now. But what I find is that I’m so tired. My arms and shoulders may need physical therapy, and I am exhausted from working, emotionally, from the stress…and that makes me realize I love writing more.
If I may digress: one of my favorite authors ever, Terry Pratchett, once claimed to love the act of writing as much as the finished work itself. I thought he was insane. I hated writing. I liked the finished chapter because that was great, but writing isn’t fun. It’s work.
I begin to see his point and it only took me eight million words. Writing is fulfilling. But if I keep up like this—well, I doubt I’ll kill myself, but there might not be much writer left, and no one can tell stories if there’s nothing inside them. I don’t talk about myself, and I think the author doesn’t need to be talked about.
To be precise, I don’t mean the writer is dead or some fanciful way of describing my relationship with the work. I just think the author is less important than the words. The author is distracting, and frankly? Most of us are boring. It’s a rare author who’s half as interesting as the works they put out. Plus, something about social media and attention here.
But I will tell you this: there have been weeks while I wrote that I looked up and said…oh. I haven’t spoken for more than ten minutes all week. That’s about personality. I am the writer in the cabin. But I think I should do more than just write. It’s been five years? Six years? Feels like eight. I think I started in 2016, which would mean six years where I’ve thrown everything I can at The Wandering Inn.
Because it’s the first great story that’s been a success. Because I enjoy it. I am certain that I will want to be back to writing in a month—but I’ll try to strike a different balance in my life. Go out. Smell roses. Kick roses. I don’t know, maybe I’ll go to conventions or get sick with a deadly plague. I mean, a new one, not the one we have.
But I will try. I’ll almost certainly backpedal on my promises and write too much, but it’s a long journey and we have gotten to a point in the road. I cannot say how much more there is. I am bad at thinking in dates and time.
I don’t imagine that way. When I think of something, I can see…well, let’s take the Beriad of the Antinium as an example. I can picture that scene when I write them. I know their names, some of them, the emotion they feel, why they’re here. What comes next. I know why it matters…
But I don’t see them. Oh, I picture them vaguely, but I don’t imagine in pictures. Nor words. My scenes often lack for detail or even sound or smell, and that’s what I have to work to add in. I can’t picture a mile because I haven’t seen it enough, I guess. The same for how long a chapter is.
So when people ask me how long The Wandering Inn is going to be, I get a bit exasperated and assure them there is an ending because there is, or else I’d be blind. But I don’t know how long from here to there.
But I do know the waypoints. If this is a road, I see the huge streetlights. If it’s a sea, I see buoys or something. Lighthouses I’m steering towards.
This is one of them. I think I can say that we are ‘somewhere’ in the story’s arc of being one third done. Or one half of the way there. Or two thirds.
I know that’s vague. The story could be one of those three options, or in between them. And that would change how it flows. But I know we have reached one of those points. Whether it continues depends on whether I can bring justice to the story. Whether people want to read it I guess…and the unexpected.
But here ends Volume 8. It has been the longest volume, the biggest journey so far. We will return to the inn. The world of the dead is over. This world has new lands. This is the age of adventure and old and new things coming out.
Nothing will be the same, but nothing ever is. And that is okay. I hope you’ll be there when I start Volume 9. For now—thanks for reading. See you in a bit. This strange story has certainly changed my life.