Weekly Free Short Story – The Captain’s Mad Plan

Hi everyone! JMD Reid here! Each Saturday, I’m going to post one of my short stories for you all to enjoy! It’ll be up on my blog for a week before it gets taken down and a new story replaces it!


The Captain’s Mad Plan

The Skyland of Fwelal, the Free Nests of the Soweral

Charele flounced into the smugglers’ den.

Her pink satin skirt swirled to a stop, the lacy hem clearing the dusty, wooden floorboards of the creaking warehouse by several fingerswidth. Her curly, blonde hair bobbed about her round, youthful face, bright dimples shining as her smile spread across her ruby-painted lips. Her cheeks possessed the ruddy glow of a young maiden only emphasized by the girlish squeal that burst from her mouth.

Even after a year serving beneath her, Varen found himself transfixed by her.

“Oh, I am so excited to meet you!” she gushed as she swept towards the leader of the smugglers, a wizened Sowerese hen named Straedris.

The old hen’s one good eye widened as the taller Human swept her up in an embrace. Straedris’s black-feathered wings thrust out from her side as her waxy-yellow beak opened wide then snapped closed. The dull-gray robe she wore hid the rest of her delicate body save for the dull-black claws of her feet protruding out the hem. The Sowerese were a race of Luastria, the bird-like beings who dwelled in the northern skylands above the Storm.

“This is . . . I . . .” chirped the hen. Her feathers rustled.

“You remind me of my own grand-mama,” Charele said, continuing in that breathy gush that made Varen shake his head.

The burly man watched the exchange as he leaned against a wooden support pillar, his brawny arms folded before him. Like Charele, he was a Vionese Human from the south, though his skin was a much darker shade of tan-brown than hers, his hair not quite as fair. His eyes squinted in the dimly lit warehouse.

Above, the rafters creaked.

Eyes watched. The rest of Straedris’s smugglers lurked, Soweral Luastria all. Varen caught glimpses of their clawed feet gripping the rafters, roosting up there like a flock of pigeons. Only pigeons don’t peck your eyes out if you offend them, thought Varen, staying at his ease as his breathy captain planted kisses on both of Straedris’s downy cheeks.

“Y-you’re the smuggler,” the old hen finally managed to chirp out, her voice a trilling lilt, musical even in her shock.

“I am!” Charele said, stepping back. Her flowery scent caught Varen’s nose. He shifted his stance as she planted her hands on her hips, emphasizing the way her dress narrowed about her waist and fit her torso with the snug intimacy of a lover’s hand. “I have been so eager to meet you, Straedris!” Another rush of giggling mirth spilled from Charele’s ruby lips.

Straedris glanced at Varen. Some looks crossed the species barrier, and the helpless gleam in her one good eye almost made Varen crack a smile. He shrugged his shoulders, his leather vest shifting across his broad torso.

“You’re truly Captain Charele?” Straedris asked again.

“Well, who else would I be?” asked the young woman, her sun-bright curls swaying about her face. “Captain of the Varele. Now, I believe you have a case of Fwelalin perfumes lacking those pesky custom stamps.”

“I do,” Straedris said. “Sorry to choke on my gizzard stone, but . . . I did not expect a . . . a . . .”

“Ravishing woman?” Charele asked, lifting her chin, her smile growing, setting off the dimples in her tan cheeks.

Straedris clucked her beak. “Yes, yes, that’s a word. My apologies, but Vionese is not my best tongue to speak.”

“But you do it so well.” Charele glanced over her shoulder at Varen. “Doesn’t she?”

“Yup,” he grunted.

“See, you do it very well.” Charele clapped her hands together. “Now, the perfume. I have to confess, I’m going to keep a bottle for myself. I’ve always wanted Fwelalin perfume, but it is so expensive in the Autonomy. Three sets of tax collectors really drive up the price.”

An honest merchant would sail his ship from Hreasrow, Fwelal’s capital, through the Free Nests of the Soweral, cross the skies of the Empire where another excise tax would be charged, and then finally reach the Autonomy where Varen and Charele hailed.

“I do not have the export stamps on them,” Straedris said as two Luastrians carried in the crate. They used their prehensile distal feathers on their wings to heft the crate. Unlike Straedris, these two were drakes, their brilliant, emerald crests contrasting with the raven-black of the rest of their feathers. Male Luastria always stood out, loving to preen.

“I can fake those,” Charele said, giving a dismissive wave of her hand.

The crate rattled with glass as the two drakes set it down before Charele, both clucking beaks and ruffling the feathers of their bare torsos. Straedris’s scaled foot appeared from beneath the hem of the robe. She grasped the edge of the crate and pried off the lid, the bone nails popping free. She uncovered the contents: rows of delicate bottles containing a pale-amber liquid.

“Oh, my,” Charele gushed. She darted her hand down, the lace of her cuff ruffling. She snatched up the bottle and worked out the glass stopper. Her dainty nose wrinkled. “Oh, Varen, this is true Fwelalin perfume. Care to sniff?”

“Nope,” Varen grunted. It’ll wreathe the ship in no time. Captain Charele loved her exotic comforts.

“Is it true that the base water the perfume is made from is precipitated out of the air via Mist?” asked Charele.

Mist was one of the four Blessings that the Goddess Riasruo bestowed, via the priestesses of her Church, upon every adult in the skies. Mist, Pressure, Lightning, or Wind allowed society to function in a world suspended over the ever-churning Storm. Ships sailed between lonely skylands propelled by powerful breezes summoned by Windwardens and held afloat by engines charged with Riasruo’s gift. With Moderate Mist, a person could manipulate the water vapor in the air, creating a fog or causing the moisture to precipitate out of the atmosphere and fill containers.

“They do,” answered Straedris. “But only at the fields of the Fwelalin roses, picking up some of the natural scents of the flowers and enhancing the final product.”

“Well, that is worth the price of a dozen emeralds,” Charele said. She glanced at Varen. “Bosun, if you please.”

Emeralds were the largest denomination, a holdover from when the Vaarckthian Empire ruled much of the skies. Coins, from sapphire pennies to emeralds, were made of porcelain impregnated with the corresponding crushed gemstone. The dies that stamped them were some of the most guarded objects in the skies. Varen reached into his vest and produced the purse. It clinked as he tossed it to the old hen. She squawked in annoyance, fumbling to catch it with her wing.

“Varen!” huffed Charele. “Manners.”

“Sorry,” Varen grunted, folding his thick arms again. His eyes flicked to the two drakes who still flanked the crate. They stood too close to Charele.

Straedris slipped the pouch into her robe’s pocket.

“Oh, you’re trusting,” Charele said. “I like that. There’s so much suspicion in the skies. Why, I was carrying this gentleman on my boat. He was a rather ravishing Vaarckthian with the most beautiful gray eyes, who thought I was trying to pry into his affairs when I just wanted to enjoy a cozy supper in my—”

“You can leave now,” clucked Straedris. “I don’t need to hear your blather.”

“But I haven’t told you why he was so suspicious about—”

“Leave!” snapped the hen, her voice shrill.

Charele sighed and shook her head. “Fine, fine. Bosun, if you would be a dear.”

Varen pushed himself off the post, but before he took a step, the two drakes slid between the crate and Charele, their clawed feet spread wide, their wings tucked in close to their black-feathered bodies. Varen’s skin grew taut.

“I see,” Charele said, the breathiness vanishing from her voice. “No trust at all.”

Straedris clucked her beak. As she walked towards the darkness, her claws clicking on the wooden floor, she said, “I’m allowing you to leave with your lives.”

“Not good enough,” Charele said. Her hand moved fast, darting to the lacy cuff of her left sleeve and grasped a concealed hilt.

The drake on her left hardly had time to chirp before she planted the hogbone dagger into his breast. Dark blood welled over the black feathers. She wrenched her dagger free, skirt swirling as she slashed the crimson-stained blade at the second drake. He swept a wing up before him to block her attack.

It was a feint.

She ducked low beneath his feathers, layers of petticoats swishing, and slashed the dagger across his belly. He squawked as his wings clutched his stomach, holding in innards as he stumbled back and collapsed.

Above, the Luastria cawed and shrieked with the ferocity of a murder of crows.

Varen built his charge in his fists as they descended in a mass of black feathers, leaping down from the rafters. Though Luastria were smaller than Humans, their hollow bones giving them a delicate build, they came equipped with natural weapons: slashing claws and jabbing beaks.

His fist slammed into the first Luastria’s head. His Blessing of Lightning discharged. Sparks flared from his knuckles. Feathers sizzled as he sent the lethal jolt of current into the smuggler’s body. Varen’s foe collapsed, scaled legs twitching.

Pink skirts flared, flashing white petticoats, as Charele slashed and stabbed with her knife, driving back her foes while a pair of black-feathered drakes advanced on Varen, one’s crest a brilliant green, the other’s the deep hue of rain-fed grass. Mist spilled from the first, a thick fog that swelled through the warehouse.

Not just Moderate Mist, but Major, the strongest form of the Blessing Riasruo granted. He sought to choke the world to disorienting gray, reducing Varen and Charele to a mere arm’s length. Like most, Varen had been gifted with two Blessings by the Sun Goddess: Moderate Lightning and Minor Mist. As the thick, wet curtains swallowed the warehouse, he peered through the vapor like it wasn’t there.

“Theisseg’s scrawny tail feathers,” cursed Charele. She lacked Minor Mist.

“Hold on, Cap’n!” he bellowed as the two drakes rushed at him.

He grinned. Lightning crackled across his body. He had nine more discharges left before he ran dry. His bare feet shifted on the floorboards. Claws scraped on wood. Wings flapped. The drakes launched themselves at him, sharp beaks flashing at his chest.

Heart pounding, exhilaration flaring through his veins, he darted to his right. Brilliant-crest’s knifing jab streaked past Varen. His hand lashed out at the second, sliding beneath a sharp beak to grasp the bird by the throat.

He discharged.

The fog lit up with the sparks arching out of his palm into the smuggler. Instead of convulsing, the bird hissed. Clawed legs lashed out while wings spread wide. Leather tore, pain flaring across Varen’s thigh. The bird also had Lightning, rendering him immune from electrical attacks.

Behind Varen, brilliant-crest’s claws scratched at the wood, coming around for another attack. Varen pivoted, swinging around the Luastria he clenched by the throat. The bird squawked, wings flapping hard. Fog eddied around them.

Varen thrust his living shield before him. A sickening crunch echoed through the swirling mist. The Luastria spasmed in Varen’s grip. The tip of a bloodied beak burst from the drake’s chest. Varen flung the dying bird to the side.

Brilliant-crest recoiled, cawing and shrieking, his compatriot’s gore clinging to his beak.

Varen’s fist crashed into brilliant-crest’s chest. The sternum snapped with a loud crack. Lightning flared. The drake hit the ground hard, smoke rising from his caved-in chest. A thick, black tongue protruded out of his beak.

“Charele!” Varen growled, casting his gaze through the chaos of the mist. Not all the Luastria could see. Some stumbled around, crashing into crates and flapping wings. Others lay bleeding, chirping in pain.

“I’m here!” Charele answered.

He spotted her by the perfume crate. A foot lashed out at her, but she used the air around her as a shield, compressing it with Pressure. The dense atmosphere blunted the Luastrian’s attack, slowing it and giving her a chance to respond. Her skirts swirled as she thrust her dagger forward, taking her foe in the throat.

As she wrenched her blade free, she snarled, “Grab the crate! We’re leaving.”

“How?” Varen grunted as he rushed for the perfume.

Charele favored him a wild grin, her tanned face flushed not only from her rouge. Sweat beaded her forehead, giving her a vital gleam. “I have a plan.”

No words terrified Varen more.

Chirps echoed around them, the Luastria calling out in the mist. Their language spilled too fast for any Human to understand. It was too lilting. Too melodic. The songs came from all directions. He caught glimpses of the drakes moving through the crates while others stalked the rafters.

“Let’s see,” Charele said as she shifted around. “This fog is making it difficult and . . . Here we are.”

As Varen hefted the crate in both his hands, grunting at the strain, he watched as she stared down at the floor. Wood groaned beneath her. Dust covering the boards puffed into the air. He frowned and then gasped as the wooden floor snapped and compressed into sawdust, the weight of air ripping through the boards.

She dropped through the hole, her skirts fluttering up, exposing dainty petticoats and a flash of bare calves.

“Theisseg’s bunghole!” Varen snarled, rushing at the opening.

“I’m fine! It worked!” Charele called from below.

He peered down into darkness, her face swimming out of the shadows as she stared up at him. She took a step back and beckoned.

The bottles shifted in the crate as he threw a look over his shoulder. Claws scratched across wood. Beaks clucked with ferocity. Cursing, he stepped into the jagged hole she’d ripped through the floor with her Pressure.

He bent his knees and grunted as he landed hard. Pain flared through his shin bones as his legs bent to absorb the impact. His cut thigh throbbed as he snarled in wordless agony. He leaned back against an earthen wall, heavy breaths exploding past clenched teeth.

“Good, good, the perfume appears unbroken,” Charele said.

“We have deadlier eels to worry ‘bout,” grunted Varen, glancing up. The pain dulled to a throb, exhilaration soothing it away.

“Indeed,” she said. She bit her lower lip for a moment. Then she darted a hand into the box and yanked out a glass bottle. A wistful look crossed her face. “I would have smelled beautiful in this. I suggest you stand back.”

The chirping and squawking grew louder. Mist poured down the hole, tendrils of spindly gray. Varen stepped back down the tunnel, his shoulder brushing the soil. Dirt cascaded off the wall and spilled over his arm. The earth was cold beneath, his toes curling into the hard-packed floor.

Charele slammed the bottle of perfume hard on the ground at her feet. It shattered. What had been a sweet scent now overpowered Varen’s nostrils. His eyes burned from the tincture’s fumes. Charele covered her mouth with a frilly handkerchief she’d produced from . . . somewhere.

“If you would use your Lightning and start a fire,” she said. “That should delay their pursuit.”

Understanding sparked through him. Nodding, he shifted his grip on the heavy crate. He guided his static charge down to his right foot as he extended it, his big toe nudging the puddle of perfume soaking into the earthen floor.

He discharged his Lightning.

An arch of white-hot plasma zapped from his toe into the liquid. Flames burst across the perfume’s surface. He yanked his foot back as the tongues of orange and red leaped into the air, reaching for the hole.

“Come,” Charele said, staring off into the darkness lit by the dancing flames. “This way.”

She placed her hand along the wall and marched forward with confidence, skirts whisking. Grunting, he limped after her, thigh throbbing with his heart’s heavy beat. He ducked his head as the tunnel’s height descended. The bottles rattled in the crate, his fingers aching as they gripped the heavy load.

“What is this?”

“Zalg tunnels,” Charele said.

Behind them, loud screeches echoed. The flames danced, causing his shadow to flit across Charele as she led the way. She rounded a corner, vanishing into the deeper darkness. Varen glanced behind him at the fire.

Water splashed down. Steam hissed and half of the light died.

Skin tightening, he followed her around the corner. “Zalg tunnels?”

“They built much of Hreasrow,” Charele answered out of the darkness.

He couldn’t see her as much more than a shape as she moved ahead. A shiver ran through Varen as he stumbled after her. More steam hissed behind him, the last of the firelight snuffing out. The little illumination spilling around the corner vanished.

Darkness pressed in on him. He could feel the weight of Hreasrow above him. He shifted his shoulders. He’d never trusted those furry, mole-like creatures. Zalg grubbed in the dirt. They didn’t sail the skies above the Storm. They didn’t spend their time bathing in Riasruo’s sun. They hid in the bowels of the skylands, always digging, worming through dirt and rock. Their skill at quarrying stone and shaping crystals were unparalleled, but . . .

How could they survive in this?

The blackness had a texture. He felt it against his skin, squeezing at him. A gibbering fear swept through Varen. He’d rather have been back in the warehouse, swinging his fists into the flock of Luastrian smugglers.

“Now we go left,” Charele’s voice drifted out of the darkness before him. “You still with me, Varen?”

“Yes, Cap’n,” he muttered. “You know the way?”

“Of course.” A girlish laughter swirled around him, driving back the oppression.

His shoulder rubbed down the wall until he felt the passage. He stumbled after her, chasing the sweet scent of her perfume and the rustle of her skirt. He gripped the crate to his chest, the weight something familiar against the terror of the tunnels.

His head scraped along the ceiling, soil spilling over his shoulders. It tumbled cold down the back of his vest. He shuddered. Sweat dripped from his brow, but not from the exertion. He shifted his grip on the crate, clammy palms slipping.

“Now another left,” Charele said, her words almost an illumination against the umbral weight. “Isn’t this thrilling, Varen?”

“Not my word for it,” he muttered.

Chirps echoed through the tunnels. Sometimes light would flash around the bend, the dancing of torches beckoning with the seduction of a friendly barmaid. Feathers rustled and scaled feet slapped on dirt. He almost wanted to be found. To fight in honest light, not skulking through the skyland’s guts.

“First left,” Charele chimed, her words drawing him through the heavy night. “Second left . . . And here we are. Third left.”

“You know where we going, Cap’n?” he asked, throwing a look behind him.

A ruddy glow danced in invitation.

“Trust me, Varen.”

“Did you know they’d rob us?” he demanded, his spine itching. He wanted to throw down the Storming crate, let her perfume rot, and charge the smugglers.

“When I was in the Navy, my warrant officer always taught me to expect a sunny day but plan for Theisseg’s rain to ruin it.”

“My pa shoulda paid heed to that one,” Varen grunted. The ruddy glow approached. So sweet.

“And now we go right,” she said. “I think.”

He froze. “You think?”

She laughed. “Oh, Varen, relax. You need to take the time to enjoy this. We’re skulking through Zalg tunnels being hunted by Sowerese smugglers!”

“I know what we’re doin’, Cap’n!” he snapped.

“Really, Bosun,” she huffed. “I expect better from you. Now, we just go straight here and . . . yes, yes, here we are.”

The chirps and squawks swelled louder and the torchlight burned brighter as they turned towards another tunnel. Ahead, the darkness looked different. He frowned, his head cocking, then he noticed the little glimmers in the sheet of night ahead, little gems that twinkled like . . .

“Stars,” he croaked. “Riasruo’s sun be praised.”

“Yep,” Charele said. He could see her silhouetted against them, her figure separating from the shadows as she marched forward. “The skyland’s edge. See the coral growing around the perimeter of the tunnel’s mouth?”

Varen’s heart sank. Skylands tended to have sheer cliffs for edges. Various species of coral, differing from skyland to skyland, covered the sides. They gave each one a unique look, some beautiful in the mix of colors, others a riot of hues that clashed so badly it made your stomach sour to look upon.

But it also meant this tunnel dead-ended above nothing. Skylands hovered over the endless Storm, Theisseg’s domain. The Dark Goddess tortured those who fell in it, or so Varen’s gramma had always said in her cackling voice. The coral along the side of skylands was too sharp to climb.

“Then we’re trapped,” he muttered. He turned around to see the torches approaching the corner. The squawks were almost on them. Relief filled him as the light came closer and closer. “Guess this is a good spot to fight.”

I don’t gotta die in darkness, he thought, Lightning crackling down to his fists.

“What are you talking about?” Charele asked. “That’s utter foolishness. There’s at least thirty of them. How much Lightning have you used?”

He shifted his shoulders as he glanced at her. She stood right at the edge, the wind stirring her blonde curls and the skirt of her dress. “They can only come at us one at a time. I’ll take enough down to give you a chance, Cap’n.”

“Varen,” she said, shaking her head. “That is the most foolish thing I have ever heard. Dying spoils all the fun.”

Then she leaped off the edge.

“Charele!” he shouted, his heart’s beat crushed by shock.

He raced towards the opening, bottles rattling. Terror had seared the image of her stepping off, her skirt flaring as she fell towards the Storm in his mind. Icy fear screamed through his veins. Behind him, the Luastria squawked in triumph.

He didn’t care.

He reached the edge, screaming, “Cap’n!”

“Varen?” she asked, a quizzical tone to her words.

She stood a few ropes down in a small boat that hovered beside the coral-coated sides of the skyland. Isan and Humith, a pair of sailors from the Varele, were at either end of the boat, both of them grinning up at him.

Varen’s jaw dropped as she shook her head. “Y-you . . . you . . . I . . . That . . .”

“Come now, Bosun,” she said. “Hurry, those birds sound like they’re almost on us.”

A loud caw cried out behind him. Feathers rustled. Torchlight danced along the walls. “Theisseg’s scrawny tail feathers!”

He jumped off the edge and landed in the boat.

It shuddered and sank, bobbing beneath him. Charele swayed with the shifting skiff, her skirts rustling, a merry smile on her face. She winked at him as the boat surged away from the skyland, propelled by the small wind engine in the back, the hiss of air crashing into the pea-green coral.

Varen’s legs quivered. They buckled and then he sank down onto one of the benches, the crate shaking on his lap. He trembled as he stared up at his captain. The smile on her face brimmed with triumph.

“You didn’t tell me?” he croaked. “You had this all planned out and . . . and . . .”

“Aren’t surprises fun?” Charele asked, clapping her hands together.

He shook his head as the longboat sped away from Fwelal. It rose into the air, the Luastrian city of Hreasrow gliding past as they headed for the harbor where their ship, the Varele, awaited, loaded with legitimate cargo to screen the illicit goods they smuggled.

“You’re mad,” he groaned, his eyes squinting at his captain.

Isan laughed as he guided the boat. “That she is.”

“I don’t know what you’re complaining about,” Charele said, eyeing the crate. “We got our merchandise.”

He groaned and shook his head.

With the wind whipping around her dress, Charele winked at Varen. She spun and marched to the prow, dressed for a ball. A slender woman, her hair styled and waving in the breeze, the delicate lace around her cuffs fluttering, a bloody dagger clutched in her hand. She stood proud of herself. She was the most ruthless captain, honest or not, Varen had ever served beneath. He clutched the crate of perfume to him, the bottles rattling inside, and groaned.

She’s going to get me killed from fright, he thought. Riasruo Above, defend me from her downyheaded plots. Keep my backside whole from her wild schemes.

Charele’s chortles rose above the wind.

Varen had a feeling Riasruo didn’t hear his prayers over his captain’s mirth.


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The Last Flight of the Intrepid takes place in the universe of my novel, Above the Storm!


To save the skies, Ary must die!

If you love the works of Brandon Sanderson, Robert Jordan, George R.R. Martin, R. Scott Bakker, and Steven Erikson, then check out my first ever Fantasy novel!

You do not want to miss out on this awesome adventure!

You can buy or burrow Above the Storm today!

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REVIEW: Midnight Tides (Malazan Book of the Fallen 5)

Midnight Tides (Malazan Book of the Fallen 5)

by Steven Erikson

Reviewed by JMD Reid

At the end of Book Four, Trull Sengar began to tell the story of how he became chained to the wall in the drowned pocket of Kurald Emurlan.

As the events of Deadhouse Gates and Memory of Ice was happening (sort of, since the Silanah stuff really throws off the timeline) on the other side of the world, the Tiste Edur tribes have been united by the Warlock King. They are facing annexation by the greedy Lether to the south, a nation merchants who want the natural resources in Edur lands. They have destroyed other tribes through shady treaties and deliberate betrayals.

The Warlock King has a new ally. He plans to send the Sengar Brothers (Fear, Trull, Binadas, and young Rulad) on a quest to receive a gift in the arctic wastes north of their lands. Will it prove the salvation of their people or their ruination.

Another set of brothers, Beddicts, have their own goals. Tehol Beddict appears impoverished after his financial collapse, but he had actually discovered the secret to destroying his people’s economy and flinched. However, when those whose people were destroyed by the Lethers want him to try again, will he accept? In the palace, Brice Beddict is the king’s champion. Emroiled in the complex politics of Lether, he vows to protect his king even if the man isn’t worthy of his devotion. Last, Hull Beddict plots his people’s destruction in another way. He wants to save the Edur from the fate of other tribes, weighed down by guilt.

A large cast of characters, both mortal, undead, and immortal, clash and swirl. This is one of Erikson’s best books in the series. Tehol and Bug number among my favorite duo and it was great to read them again. Tragedy and misfortune swirl as no one’s plans quite work out right. The darkest parts of humanity are exposed once more.

This fantasy series continues to be unique and amazing. If you haven’t read any of Malazan Book of the Fallen, you need to. It is worth the journey.

You can buy Midnight Tides from Amazon.

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Interview with Clay Gilbert Author of Pearl

This week, I spoke with Clay again. He’s a prolific indie author writing from SciFi to urban fantasy. Now he’s got a suspense thriller with supernatural overtones coming out called Pearl. We’re going to be getting into this interesting novel today!

Check out Pearl on Amazon!

First, let’s get to know Clay with some fun, quirky questions! Part Duex!

  1. What was your favorite subject in school? English
  2. What is the most dangerous thing you’ve ever done? Answering interview questions like that one, haha. 😉
  3. Favorite color? Purple. Royal purple, not that pastel stuff. 😉
  4. Does pineapple belong on pizza? Absolutely. Love me some Hawaiian pizza.
  5. If you could travel back in time, why would you do it? I’d like to attend every Grateful Dead show ever, not just the ones I actually saw between 1988 and 1995. Of course, it’d be fun to see some of the historical periods I missed out on, too.

Now let’s get down to brass tacks!

  1. Where did the idea for Pearl come from? Well, I’ve loved monsters for a long time, particularly the more sympathetic monsters, like King Kong and Frankenstein’s Monster. For years, I’ve thought about writing my own sympathetic monster story, but I wasn’t sure really how to go about it. Eventually I decided that nothing could be more sympathetic than a ‘monster’ who was a child. Many of my novels are written from the perspective of a female protagonist, so, in this case, my little monster was also a little girl.
  2. What sort of research did you do to bring the story of Pearl to life? I did some research on the history, folklore, and language of the Smoky Mountains, including specific legends involving supernatural creatures, and also the abandoned town of Elkmont, which plays a prominent supporting role in the novel.
  3. Writing a novel can, at times, feel like a chore. Did this novel ever make you want to rip your hair out, or did it flow smoothly from imagination to typed words? The initial composition of the book was smooth, but the editing process was unusually rigorous. This book is set more in the here and now than many of my novels, which are often set far in the future or on other worlds. This book has fantasy elements in it, but the elements which are not fantasy were things—and some real places—I knew people would call me out about if I got too off-base with. I wanted to make sure the fantasy elements were as believable, in their way, as the real-world aspects were. It’s also the first book I’ve written from the perspective of a child, and I wanted her to be as believable on the page as she was in my head. Pearl’s mode of speech was also challenging to handle. Anytime you deal with dialect in a book, particularly in the voice of a person of color, you run the risk of offending people or being accused of stereotyping. Since the book is itself so concerned with marginalization, it was important to me that neither Pearl nor any of the other people in the book come across as caricatures. I intend all my books to speak to the universal experience of being human, and both to acknowledge diversity as well as our commonalities as people, no matter what gender, ethnicity, cultural or educational background we spring from. Thankfully, I had an editor working with me on this book who really helped let me know when I was pulling those challenges off, and when I needed to work on some things. It was a lot of work, and I’m proud of how it turned out.
  4. Fans of what sort of books would enjoy Pearl? I think this book will appeal to a wide audience. Pearl’s wit, spirit and humor, and her determination to uncover the mystery of her own strange history will appeal to the Harry Potter audience, I think, and there is certainly magic here, too. Fans of 1980s horror, especially Stephen King’s work, will find elements here that echo the particular ethos of that era in horror history. I hope there are some elements of such Steven Spielberg films as E.T. and Poltergeist here, as well as books such as King’s IT and Robert McCammon’s Boy’s Life. It’s one-third coming-of-age drama, one-third horror novel, and one-third fantasy epic.
  5. Creative writing is opening your soul and exposing yourself. How much of yourself do you think made it into Pearl? A good bit. Matt Chandler, the writer who becomes a father figure to Pearl over time, is a good bit like me. And Pearl, with her childhood involving being treated like an outsider because of the way she was born and how she looks, reflects some of my childhood as well, even if I never outright got called a ‘monster’ like she does. My Christian religious beliefs and much of my personal outlook on the world found their way, I hope, into the book as well. Also, of course, my love of monsters, something I share with, among others, the filmmaker Guillermo del Toro. Fans of his work will enjoy this book, I think.
  6. What is a good habit for a writer to adopt? Discipline. Put your backside to the seat for a set number of hours every day, set daily word-count goals, and do not allow yourself to back out of them. Also, read a lot.
  7. Would you like to share a little preview of Pearl with us?

I’m not sure how little this is, but here you go.

* * *

Run, Pearl. When you get the chance, run. And don’t stop until you’re somewhere safe.”

That’s what Dr. Steve told her to do, and when the chance came, that’s what she did.

Sirens in the dark. Rain all around; on my head, soaking through my hood.

Don’t care. Gotta get away.

And she had. She ran until the sirens were gone and the branches of the thick trees in the woods rose between her and the rain. Mostly, anyway.

And then, Pearl was alone.

In five days, that would be a year ago: a year of white squares colored in on a calendar, like a brightly-hued sidewalk between then and now.

Bright squares on a wall, and peaceful woods, all around.

It was quiet, mostly, here in the woods. Quiet meant no people, and no people meant peace.

Pearl knew some people in the world hated silence; always turning on the TV or punching at their cell phones like they were scared to be alone in their own heads.

Pearl had some thoughts in her head she didn’t like, but she didn’t mind being alone, and she could live with the silence.

She’d lived with worse.

The bad place she left behind was worse: the lab, with all its chains, cold cuffs for her wrists, and the cage they kept her in, like she was a prisoner instead of a girl who’d done nothing but open her eyes one day and take a breath. But the cuffs and chains had stayed the same while Pearl grew and changed, and one morning, soon after her ninth birthday, she found the bonds that were so strong when she was little weren’t so strong anymore, and she broke them, and she was free.

In her first year of freedom, the woods were quiet; a place where Pearl could be alone with her thoughts, and with the animals, and once in a while, read one of the books she’d brought from the bad place with her in her backpack, or color in one of the coloring books she’d brought from there, with crayons from a box she’d found in a dumpster near a store, the first night she was on her own.

Not found; scavenged. She liked that word better.

She’d happened upon the cabin on the third night of that first year, and, after making sure no one else was there, she’d taken a bath in the nearby lake, put on some clean clothes, eaten one of the packs of Pop-Tarts from her backpack, and fallen asleep.

Across from the cabin, Pearl saw something that made her curious: a big house, with three levels. Nobody seemed to be home the night she first arrived in the woods. The cabin was enough for her. Besides, that house looked fancy, and she thought it might have some alarms on it, like the bad place had on its doors, so that if she went too close to it, the police would come running.

I sure ’nuff don’t need that, she’d thought.

* * *

Almost a whole year had gone by since the day she moved into the cabin, and all that time, the big house across the way from it stood empty.

Pearl knew, because she kept a watch on it.

She figured as long as the big house stayed empty, it’d be more likely folks would leave her alone.

Five white squares were left on the calendar before the one she’d circled in green (October 6th, she noted, tracing the circle with her finger). That green circle marked a whole year’s worth of white squares since the day she found the cabin; squares she’d filled in with her crayons, one by one, on the last three pages of one calendar and almost the whole first nine of another.

In all that time, she and the world had passed each other by.

This morning was different.

This morning, Pearl had seen something—something that changed everything.

It was the middle of the day, when the sun was high in the sky. Most times, it was a peaceful part of the day, but not now.

Two big trucks were pulling up the driveway of the big house, where none had ever pulled up before.

Both trucks had the same thing written on them: MYSTERY CREEK MOVING COMPANY.

Pearl knew that meant whoever it was the stuff in those trucks belonged to, they weren’t just coming for a visit. They were planning to stay, and that was something she hadn’t figured on.

* * *

Pearl wasn’t scared of sleeping in the woods alone. As long as all she saw were animals, she’d be just fine. Pearl wasn’t scared of any wild animals. They couldn’t do anything to hurt her.

Neither could men with dogs. They’d tried, too.

Men with guns, that was something different. But for a whole year now, they’d stayed away from her, except in her nightmares. For a year, everyone had stayed away from her. That was how she liked it.

Now all that was changing, in just one day.

Clay Gilbert says he’s always liked stories, and that from the time he knew there were people who told them for a living, that’s what he wanted to do. Clay’s work in various genres has been in print since his first short science fiction story, “The Computer Conspiracy,” was published in Scholastic magazine when he was just thirteen. Clay is the author of the science fiction series Children of Evohe, including the novels Annah and the Children of Evohe, Annah and the Exiles, Annah and the Gates of Grace, and Annah and the Arrow. He is also the author of the YA dystopian novel Eternity, the science fiction novel The Conversationalist: Out of the Blue and its sequel, The Conversationalist: Mission to Mercy Prime, as well as the vampire novel Dark Road to Paradise, and its sequel, Cassie’s Song, all published by Dark Moon Press. He lives and works in Knoxville, TN. His author blog can be found at http://portalsandpathways.wordpress.com/, and the official website for his Children of Evohe novels resides at https://childrenofevohe.com/.

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Reread of The Judging Eye: Chapter Two

Reread of The Aspect-Emperor Series

Book 1: The Judging Eye

by R. Scott Bakker

Chapter Two


Welcome to Chapter Two of my reread. Click here if you missed Chapter One!

We burn like over-fat candles, our centres gouged, our edges curling in, our wick forever outrunning our wax. We resemble what we are: Men who never sleep.


My Thoughts

It’s a nice reintroduction to the Mandate Schoolman. They used to be men at the edge of their resources. They are working themselves too hard. They are driven to push themselves to their utter limits. Why?

Because of Seswatha’s dreams.

And since this chapter starts out with Achamian, it’s a fitting introduction.

Early Spring, 19 New Imperial Year (4132 Year-of-the-Tusk), southwestern Galeoth

There would have been nightmares aplenty had Drusas Achamian been able to dream a life that was his own. Nightmares of a long, hard war across deserts and great river deltas. Nightmares of sublimity and savagery held in perfect equipoise, though the cacophony of the latter would make all seem like misery. Nightmares of dead men, feeding like cannibals on their once strong souls, raising the impossible on the back of atrocity.

Nightmares of a city so holy it had become wicked.

And of a man who could peer into souls.

Achamian can’t dream of these things because, even though he renounced being a Mandate Schoolman, he still dreams of Seswatha and the First Apocalypse. He relives the horrors of the past. Tonight, he’s dreaming of a feast that the High King Anasûrimbor Celmomas has thrown. He’s reclining on his Urthrone drunk and almost passed out. His Knight-Chieftains are partying. Toasts are cried out and mead is drunk. Achamian (as Seswatha) is at the end of a table only drinking water. He is watching “the High King—the man he still called his best friend—drink himself into unconsciousness.”

Seswatha slips out. No one notices. He moves through the palace and finds a door open as expected. Candles light the room, illuminating Suriala, a wanton beauty. “He knelt in accordance with the very Laws he was about to break.” He’s overcome with her beauty. He goes to the bed, mounts her.

Made love to his High-King’s wife—

A convulsive gasp.

Achamian bolted forward from his blankets. The darkness buzzed with exertion, moaned and panted with feminine lust—but only for a moment. Within heartbeats the chorus call of morning birdsong ruled his ears. Throwing aside his blankets, he leaned into his knees, rubbed at the ache across his jaw and cheek. He had taken to sleeping on wood as part of the discipline he had adopted since leaving the School of Mandate, and to quicken the transition between his nightmares and wakefulness. Mattress, he had found, made waking a form of suffocation.

It takes him some time to banish his arousal from the dream. If he was still a Mandate, this would have been momentous to dream. He wasn’t one, and he had many such revelations in his dreams to be overawed. He glances at the sun shining through curtains thinking exposing truth to the light is “never a bad thing.”

He can hear the children of his two slaves playing outside. He savors the sound because today it felt like a “profound miracle.” He wished to just stay in this moment, a good way to spend the rest of his life.

He looks at his room in a Galeoth military tower. It’s simple and barbaric compared to his life spent in the “fleshpots of the South.” But it had been his home for twenty years. The place where he studied.

He walked different roads. Deeper roads.

How long had he travelled?

All his life, it seemed, though he had been a Wizard for only twenty.

Breathing deep, drawing fingers from his balding scalp to his shaggy white beard, he walked to the main worktable, braced himself for the concentrated recital to come…

The meticulous labour of mapping Seswatha’s labyrinthine life.

Thanks to writing down Seswatha’s dreams for years, he’d learned the best way to do it. Before his memory could taint the recollection, he had to write it down fresh. The first thing he did upon awakening. However, he could only write: “NAU-CAYÛTI?” He stares at the name of Celmomas’s son who helped steal the Heron Spear. That weapon slew the No-God. Achamian has read dozens of books devoted to him. His military exploits. His heroic deeds. How he was slain by his wife, Iëva. Some have noted how many of Seswatha’s dreams had involved Nau-Cayûti. Achamian is realizing Seswatha had bedded his lover, which is in itself a significant revelation. As much as Achamian wants to jump to the conclusion that Seswatha is Nau-Cayûti’s father, he thinks to the dream, wanting to date it to see if was possible. He’s interrupted by one of the slave children asking a question only for a strange woman to reply.

He’s shocked by the accent of the newcomer. She spoke like a Nansur or Ainoni. Someone from the south, not someone from Hûnoreal, a province in northern Galeoth. He looks out the window across the grounds and doesn’t see where the voices are coming from. He scans past a few outbuildings and spots a mule while the voices “continued to chirp and gaggle somewhere to the left.” The boy cries out for their mother and Achamian spots him moving through the trees on the slope. His mother, Tisthana, comes out to meet the children. There are children talking to the stranger, a woman, asking about her sword and the name of her mule. She’s wearing a fine cloak marking her noble caste, but he can’t see her face. He wonders how long it had been since a visitor had come. Maybe five or six years ago.

He remembers how it had been just him and Geraus in the beginning. He often had to use the Gnosis to kill packs of Sranc, leaving marks of the battle all over the place. Geraus still has nightmares about it. Later, Scalpoi came to win the bounty on Sranc scalps. They often brought their own problems, but his Gnosis took care of that.

No matter, the rule had been simple over the years: Visitors meant grief, the Gods and their laws of hospitality be damned.

The woman appears friendly as she greets Tisthana, and Achamian thinks the woman acts like caste-menial despite her fine clothing. He relaxes when he hears Tisthana laugh, knowing she’s a trustworthy judge of character. The two women now walking side by side to the tower, chatting in the friendly way of women. Tisthana points out Achamian. He tries to put on a dignified pose but the mortar of the windowsill crumbles and he almost falls out the window. The children laugh in delight as he rights himself.

The stranger looked up, her delicate face bemused and open and curious…

And something in Achamian suffered a greater fall.

No matter how surprising an event is, there is a reason for it. Cause and effect rule the world. The newcomer calls him the Great Wizard in a tone “balanced between many things, hope and sarcasm among them.” She reminds him of a child with poor manners. He demands to know what she’s doing here after sending Tisthana and the children away. Despite how short she is, she’s standing on the highest fold of the ground to loom over him out of instinctive. He recognizes her. She’s beautiful, her face that of his wife. This is Mimara, Esmenet’s daughter who she’d sold into slavery during a famine. Achamian wonders if finding Mimara is why Esmenet stayed with Kellhus, choosing the Dûnyain emperor over “a broken-hearted fool.”

Not because of the child she carried, but because of the child she had lost?

The questions were as inevitable as the pain, the questions that had pursued him beyond civilization’s perfumed rim. He could have continued asking them, he could have yielded to madness and made them his life’s refrain. Instead he had packed a new life about them, like clay around a wax figurine, then he had burned them out, growing ever more decrepit, even more old, about their absence—more mould than man. He had lived like some mad trapper, accumulating skins that were furred in ink instead of hair, the lines of every snare anchored to this silent hollow within him, to these questions he dared not ask.

And now here she stood… Mimara.

The answer?

Mimara is glad he recognized her. Memories of Esmenet ripple through Achamian at the sight of her, and he says she looks a lot like her. She doesn’t seem pleased about that. He repeats his question, asking why she is here. She gives a flippant, obvious answer that forces him to ask a third time. Anger glazes through her, startling Achamian. The world that had slowly faded away from his valley now has returned. He’d found peace here and realizes he’s about to lose it as he shouts at her to know why she’s here.

She flinched, looked down to the childish scribble at her feet: a gaping mouth scrawled in black across mineral white, with eyes, nose, and ears spaced across its lipless perimeter.

“B-because I wanted…” Something caught her throat. Her eyes shot up, as though requiring an antagonist to remain focused. “Because I wanted to know if…” Her tongue traced the seam of her lips.

“If you were my father.”

His laughter felt cruel, but if was such, she showed no sign of injury—no outward sign.

He explains he met Esmenet after Mimara was sold into slavery. He should have realized Esmenet would have used all her new power to find the “girl whose name she would never speak.” He tries to explain how Esmenet sold Mimara to save her from starving to death and how it broke her. As he says them, he realizes this is just the “same hollow justifications” she’s heard again and again. It’s clear that though Esmenet found her years ago, it was too late to fix her. She then starts pressing that she remembers that he bought her apples. He claims it wasn’t him and he’s not her father because the daughter of whores “have no fathers.” He tried to say it gently, but it comes out too hard. It hurts her. “You said that I was clever,” she accuses.

He ran a slow hand across his face, exhaled, suddenly feeling ancient with guilt and frustration. Why must everything be too big to wrestle, too muddy to grasp

“I feel sorry for you, child—I truly do. I have some notion of what you must have endured…” A deep breath, warm against the bright cool. “GO home, Mimara. Go back t your mother. We have no connection.”

He turned back towards the tower. The Sun instantly warmed his shoulders.

“But we do,” her voice chimed from behind him—so like her mother’s that chills skittered across his skin.

He reiterates that he’s not her father, but she says it’s something else that brought her. Her tone makes him turn back to face her. She says she’s one of the few. A witch. She continues that she isn’t looking for her father, but for a teacher. She wants to learn the Gnosis.

There is a progression to all things. Lives, encounters, histories, each trailing their own nameless residue, each burrowing into a black, black future, groping for the facts that conjure purpose out of the cruelties of mere coincidence.

And Achamian had his fill of it.

Mimara realizes that her mother “the old whore” is right: Achamian likes to teach. It’s been three months since she’s run away from the Andiamine Heights in search of Achamian. She had to dodge the Judges and survive the hard winter. She can’t believe she made it. She’s dreamed of this place, imagined it so much, it actually fits her fantasy. Everything but Achamian.

He’s the Apostate. The man who cursed the Aspect-Emperor out of love for Esmenet. She’s heard many versions of him. Even her mother talks about him in different ways. It’s the contradictions about this man that left the impression. “In the cycle of historical and scriptural characters that populated her education, he alone seemed real.

Only he isn’t. The man before her seems to mock her soft-bellied imaginings: a wild-haired hermit with limbs like barked branches and eyes that perpetually sort grievances. Bitter. Severe. He bears the Mark, as deep as any sorcerers she has seen glimpse through the halls of the Andiamine Heights, but where they drape silks and perfume about their stain, he wears wool patched with rancid fur.

How could anyone sing songs about such a man?

He asks if it’s true that witches aren’t burned. She says there’s even a School, the Sawayal Compact. That shocks Achamian who then asks why she needs him. Her mother won’t let her and the Sawayali won’t anger Esmenet by taking her. “Socerery, she [Esmenet] says, leaves only scars.” Achamian agrees with that.

“But what if scars are all you have?”

Achamian is taken back by Mimara’s statement then asks if she wants power to “feel the world crumble beneath the weight of your voice.” She sees this as a game and asks isn’t that why he did it and strikes a nerve, but she finds no satisfaction in winning. He tells her he’d rather be her father than teacher.

There is a set manner to the way he turns his back this time, one that tells her that no words can retrieve him. The sun pulls his shadow long and profound. He walks with a stoop that says he has long outlived the age of bargaining. But she hears it all the same, the peculiar pause of legend becoming actuality, the sound of the crazed and disjoint seams of the world falling flush.

He is the Great Teacher, the one who raised the Aspect-Emperor to the heights of godhead.

He is Drusas Achamian.

She builds a bonfire that night wanting to burn down his tower. She pretends the fire is living, a fantasy she often indulges in to put magic into the world. “That she is a witch.” It starts to rain. Lightning flashes. She crouches in the downpour, soaked. It slowly smothers her fire. Her misery grows. She finds herself before the tower hollering for him to teach her.

He simply has to hear, doesn’t he? Her voice cracking the way all voices crack about the soul’s turbulent essentials. He needs only to look down to see her leaning against the slope, wet and pathetic and defiant, the image of the woman he once loved, framed by steam and fire. Pleading. Pleading.



Only wolves answer, howling with her. It mocks her, but she’s used to people “who celebrate her pain.” She throws her hurt back at the world, declaring he will teach her. Then she sees him watching her from a doorway. He steps out into the rain, hobbling towards her. She can see the unseen sorcery shielding him from the rain. She trembles when he looks down at her from the stairs while the storm rages around them. She feels embarrassed under his scrutiny and demands he teach her.

Without a word, which she could now see is made not of wood, but of bone. Quite unprepared, she watches him swing it like a mace—

An explosion against the side of her skull. Then sliding palms, knuckles scraped and skinned, arms and legs tangled rolling. She slams to a stop against a molar-shaped rock. Gasps for air.

Stunned, she watches him pick his way back up the shining slope. She tastes blood, bends her face back to let the endless rain rinse her clean. The drops seem to fall out of nowhere.

She begins laughing.

Teeeach meeee!”

My Thoughts

A great way to introduced Achamian and remind us of the Holy War and what happened. We cut right to the most important part of his motivation in this series: finding out the truth of Kellhus. He has to know the truth of who he is, and those keys lie in his dream of Seswatha. A dream about a sorcerer cuckolding a king.

So is Seswatha the father of Nau-Cayûti? This certainly seems to imply it. Why else would Achamian dream this moment.? Or more specifically, why else would Bakker write this passage? My theory on why both Nau-Cayûti and Kelmomas are both able to activate the No-God when no one else can is their bloodline. The Anasûrimbor bloodline. It is implied that the only successful mating between human and Nonman happened when an Anasûrimbor daughter was raped by a Nonman. However, if Nau-Cayûti isn’t Celmomas’s bloodline, how does my theory survive?

Well, as we can see from the appendix of Thousandfold Thought, the Anasûrimbor dynasty was large. It ruled several different kingdoms. The Anasûrimbor that Kellhus is a descendant of is a cousin to Kelmomas. If you know anything about royalty, they like to marry important people. There is often quite a number of close kin marrying amid royal families. It is possible that Suriala is also an Anasûrimbor by blood even if her maiden name was another.

In fact, estimates of human history show that most marriages in the history of our race (hardly dented by the small fraction of the modern era) have been between first and second cousins. So the Anasûrimbor bloodline was spread out wide, it was preserved in the Dûnyain as one of their various lines of descent because of its innate gifts. I also think this is why Kellhus has trouble with children. The Dûnyain have bred the Nonman part of the Anasûrimbor genetics to its limits through their program. The reason for their greater intelligence and reflex might be, partly, accounted by this strengthening of the Nonman genes. I think the Mutilated figured this out, but by then they were the last Dûnyain left alive and none of them wanted to do the activation.

They were trying to save their souls, not sacrifice them, so they needed a replacement. And one was coming. Their enemy. They were certain Kellhus would work. They had to have figured out the Anasûrimbor bloodline was the key. They could take out the greatest threat to their power and turn on the No-God in one step. Leave Kellhus alive, and he’d probably figure out how to destroy the No-God again even if one of them activated it.

There is precedent for it happening. Hope they find that missing Heron Spear.

The sound of children laughing and playing, a simple joy, is what Achamian yearns for. He wants to keep hearing it because it means the Second Apocalypse hasn’t come. That there is still innocence in the world.

We noticed near the end of the last book, that Achamian’s dreams with Seswatha were focused on Nau-Cayûti. Now, he’s dreaming things no other Mandate has. The things that the Seswatha-in-his-Soul didn’t think was relevant to their mission. What’s changed for Achamian. What makes him different.


I believe when Kellhus hypnotized Achamian in the Thousandfold Thoughts, something changed. Perhaps Kellhus talking with the Seswatha caused him to react and start feeding Achamian more information, or whatever Kellhus did to free Achamian to teach the Gnosis loosened the other restraints on the Seswatha in him, and now he’s dreaming all sorts of things.

On another note, Mandate who get obsessed with dreams invariably fall into the conspiracy theory traps and get lost in them. Achamian, at least, is studying new things. But obsession can do a lot of damage if it consumes him.

Poor Achamian, having to dream about an adulterous wife while missing Esmenet. Twenty years, and it still hurts. He’s like Leweth from the first book. The man who went into the wilderness to preserve memories of his wife. Achamian is obsessed with his quest to unmask Kellhus and prove himself right. Esmenet went back to him without telling him why. She probably thought he was dead, she was pregnant, and she had a chance to find Mimara.

Achamian is always the teacher, even if his only pupils are slave children who’d normally never learn to write. The Turtle Shell rock is a nice and subtle reminder of one of Achamian’s core characteristics.

Why did Esmenet stay? I’ve always said it was for her children: Mimara and Kayûtas, the one she was pregnant with. She had to be a mother before a woman, choosing them over her heart.

I think I’ve mentioned this, but altruism is hard to maintain when you’re starving. The hungrier you get, the more you retreat into instinct. And instinct is selfish. We know from Esmenet’s point of view she sold Mimara to feed herself. In a fit of selfishness, she did it and only regretted it later. Once she’d eaten and could think properly, she wanted to take it back. Ironically, it did save Mimara’s life, but the girl suffered greatly anyways. A wound that being told her suffering was for her own good won’t work to heal.

I’m interested in the next series. Will becoming a mother herself bring Mimara and Esmenet together?

Achamian is lying about never meeting Mimara. He’s not her father, but he did know her as a child. He helped Esmenet to try and get her back after the famine but failed, and that was when Esmenet stopped talking about her. I imagined he’s denying he’s Mimara father out of guilt for that. She would have been sold off when he was away. When he couldn’t help Esmenet. Now he can’t be her father. He’s too old. He wants her to leave, not to bond with him.

Mimara being one of the Few is not a surprising plot twist if you were paying attention to the last series. Esmenet mentioned that her mother could do things that she refused to teach her daughter. She was a witch, but Esmenet didn’t have the ability. It’s a recessive gene or something and skipped her generation. So Mimara being one of the Few is not a clue she’s Achamian’s daughter.

She sees his face slacken, despite the matted wire of his beard. She sees his complexion blanch, despite the sun’s morning glare. And she knows that what her mother once told her is in fact true: Drusas Achamian possesses the soul of a teacher.

This is Mimara’s first POV paragraph. Notice the verbs. They are not in past tense like EVERYTHING else in the series. They’re present tense. It’s a subtle thing Bakker does with her POVs. Whenever we’re in her head, it’s not like the past is being retold to us, but that we’re living in the present with Mimara.

We’re seeing what her Judging Eye sees as the world unfolds before her.

I have to confess, I had read The Judging Eye maybe three or four times before I began seriously pursuing my own writing. The next time I read it after I did, in preparation for The Great Ordeal’s release, this leaped out at me at once and it made me ask, “Why did Bakker do this?”

Remember this lesson: if an author has even a modicum of talent, they write things for a reason. Now, don’t get lost in why they made so-and-so’s dress blue, or why such-and-such person has a wart on their nose. Most of the time, those are just there to paint the world, not for any special reason. But pay attention to which details an author shares and how they convey information. Bakker so far has used 3rd Person Omniscient Past Tense for the historical sections and 3rd Person Limited Past Tense for the character POVs. Now we have a shift to 3rd Person Limited Present Tense for Mimara and only Mimara. Why?

The Judging Eye.

When it opens, we see the world as she does. We experience it as she does. She’s the conduit for the God, the Oversoul, to peer out at the world and witness it the way IT sees the world. Damnation and Salvation. It makes her POVs have an immediacy that other sections can lack.

Like many abused as children, she has a great deal of anger inside of her. She’s lost. Looking for the family she should have had while rejecting the one who sold her into that horror. As we later see when she seduces Achamian, she’s been taught by her abuse that her body only holds value in pleasing a man.

Achamian sees too much of himself in her. He wants to hurt Kellhus and the world that has taken everything away. Mimara cuts too close. To protect himself, he has to drive her away. But she’s determined. She’s come too far to give up. Hitting her on the head won’t work. She thinks she has nothing else but this. She has a driving need to be here, manipulated to come here by her darling little brother Kelmomas.

He wants mommy all to himself.


To save the skies, Ary must die!

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