Recent entries

    Steelheart Seattle signing ()
    #3401 Copy

    Questioner (paraphrased)

    (Speaking of the division surge) Is that a re-framing of, at one point in time you were talking about weak/strong forces?

    Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

    Um, weak/strong forces, yes, that's the one that sent me there partially. Like, I'm not actually... the idea of the fundamental forces is a cool thing to me so it's not like I'm actually trying to use the weak and strong forces, the idea of there being fundamental forces. I wanted to go off on it in a fancy way. Like this one right here I told them was surface tension. But it's not really surface tension. It's more like um, the people with this could take a piece of cloth and snap it out and it would become hard as if the cloth became steel. I'm trying to explain this scientifically, but it doesn't work scientifically. Imagine as if they could restructure the atoms so that they became a latticework like a crystal rather than being soft like...cloth. I'm calling it surface tension, but it's not really surface tension.

    Questioner (paraphrased)

    Tensile strength?

    Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

    It's kind of like tensile strength. I have to go through Peter and say "Alright Peter, come up with what we should really call this." He does the hard science a lot better than I do. I do the armchair theories and then he goes, "Ok, now this is the math if someone were to actually fall off of this and 0.7 gravity and the weight of the bridge...". (looking back at the chart) So what can I give you that I didn't give her? Um, one of the orders is called Bondsmiths.

    Steelheart Seattle signing ()
    #3403 Copy

    Questioner (paraphrased)

    What was the inspiration for the necromancer pizza delivery story?

    Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

    Death by Pizza. I came up with laws of necromancy that I thought would be super cool and I tried to find a book that would fit it. And, that book was fun, but bad. The rules were that necromancy is someone that has been killed and returned to life and each time they return they are more powerful. So a guy who has died five times and got more powerful throughout the course of a novel is a cool archetype that I thought would be a fun thing. So, it's like at the end of the novel, "I need more power, so do I die and get it? Or, not" and things like this. It was a cool concept and even with a mash-up with an urban fantasy world, the world was not built enough so that in the end it was like he was running around an empty city not one populated with as much mythology and wonder and storybook as I wanted an so I eventually said it isn't working and maybe I’ll pick it up again another time.

    Steelheart Seattle signing ()
    #3407 Copy

    Questioner (paraphrased)

    Will The Alloy of Law be a trilogy of its own or is it just going to be the one book you read from tonight?

    Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

    Well, the 1st one was The Alloy of Law, the one I read from tonight is the sequel, so there's at least two. I signed a contract with, well, I haven'’t signed anything yet. I offered Tor two more beyond The Alloy of Law; so, Shadows of Self and one more. So, I have promised Tor three of them.

    Questioner (paraphrased)

    So, there could be more?

    Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

    I have not plotted this one. It does not have the same sort of interconnected arc as the others. It could go further. I think I would cautiously most likely do three or four and stop and if I wanted more short books like that, I'd pick different characters in a different location.

    Steelheart Seattle signing ()
    #3409 Copy

    Questioner (paraphrased)

    Do you have in your mind all, like, 150 different metallic effects?

    Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

    Yes, but I haven't named them yet. I approached that and thought, "This is just mind-numbing". So, yes; one of the things I'd like to be doing and you may see more of this... each combination has a slightly different effect than what you'd anticipate.

    Steelheart Seattle signing ()
    #3410 Copy

    Questioner (paraphrased)

    If you have a series of Inquisitors, like a family of Inquisitors having children for generations over...

    Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

    Would the Hemalurgy influence the sDNA of the children? Is that what you are asking? That is a hypothesis that has merit in the way the magic system works (grin). It is not a supposition to be discarded out of hand.

    Steelheart Seattle signing ()
    #3412 Copy

    Questioner (paraphrased)

    The change in how the magic (on Scadrial) interact with each other, was that done by Sazed?

    Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

    Yes it was. You will find a theme. The snapping in Mistborn is actually a repeated theme through a lot of the different magics. Um, but what I felt at the end of the day Sazed would do something about it. So, even though that is part of the magic system, he changed that. The change to Feruchemy is more a matter of other factors such as the large amount of interbreeding that happened following...and things like that. And so a lot of people with Feruchemy sDNA mixing with people with people with Allomantic sDNA has affected the way the magics blend, so to speak. That's not done by Sazed. That's just kind of an effect.

    Steelheart Seattle signing ()
    #3414 Copy

    Questioner (paraphrased)

    Are there going to be other characters other than Hoid that will be crossing over between books?

    Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

    Yes, in fact there are characters in the way of kings...(essentially mentions the known Ishikk interlude worldhoppers). I told people that there is a Terriswoman in Warbreaker somewhere, I believe that would be somewhat hard to spot. That one, I don't think you will be able to pick out until you see her later on and then go back and say 'wait a minute'.

    Idaho Falls signing ()
    #3419 Copy

    Questioner

    What was your... like, with The Rithmatist, cause that's my favorite story, I love the plot. What inspired it?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Muggle at Hogwarts. Kid who goes to magic school who does not have any powers.

    Idaho Falls signing ()
    #3421 Copy

    Questioner

    If you could do that, [write Kaladin's fourth Oath], I would very much appreciate it.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah I know, the whole internet would very much appreciate it. You're gonna get a RAFO. Or do you want me to write one of the other ideals instead? I gotta keep a few things close to my heart. Now, that can also be a RAFO that, when the appropriate book is out, and you know what it is, you could come and have me revise the book to put it in.

    WorldCon 76 ()
    #3423 Copy

    Thousandarms97

    I know Allomancy is, like, "alloy" and "mancy." Were you inspired by "alomancy", which is the divination of salt?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I wanted to use "mancy" because in part I was working in a seeing-the-future with atium. And I thought: number one, it's resonant; and number two, it works because we are looking at the future. So that's where the name came from.

    Thousandarms97

    No future salt-based magic system, though?

    Brandon Sanderson

    No. I've toyed with it for a while, but I just have never come up with anything that I'm satisfied with.

    WorldCon 76 ()
    #3424 Copy

    Questioner

    The Letters in Stormlight Archive. Wit and Sazed; are those the two people that are talking to each other?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Wit and Sazed are both involved in the Letters. Sazed is in there, and there are others, as well.

    WorldCon 76 ()
    #3425 Copy

    Questioner

    Rithmatist? Is there...

    Brandon Sanderson

    Someday, there will be a sequel. I sat down and tried to write it. And I ran into some things that were just kind of problems, both in the worldbuilding and in the story I was gonna write, and it just didn't work. So I put it aside, and I've been working on the outline, and when I feel comfortable that I can do a sequel that's as good as the first one, I will write it, but it was not going well enough, that I felt it was... something was missing. So, I will take another stab at it before too much longer...

    I now wish that I had not left that little teaser at the end of the first one. If I would have wrapped that up a little tighter, then you wouldn't have... I mean, I would still write it, but I feel bad about that teaser that there's more when it has been hard to get that sequel done.

    WorldCon 76 ()
    #3427 Copy

    Questioner

    How much longer will that Oathbringer series...

    Brandon Sanderson

    So, it's two arcs of five. So, we've got three books out right now. Book Four and Book Five will be about two, two-and-a-half year things, maybe as much as three between. They are big books. I write them as a trilogy, so they take about three years. Each volume is a trilogy with three books put in together as one. That arc shouldn't take me too much longer, though; I'm starting on Book Four in January, and it is-- I will write until that one is done. Then, there's gonna be a second five-book arc. So, if you're waiting, wait until Book Five is out. My editor says I have to finish it before he retires, and he's in his sixties. Moshe, yeah. We'll see if I can manage that, but that's what he wants.

    WorldCon 76 ()
    #3428 Copy

    Questioner

    What was the metal that Hoid gave Vivenna and her crew to use the fabrial?

    Brandon Sanderson

    You're asking, what metal it was that let them use the fabrial without the screamers detecting them? So, should be aluminum. I don't think there's anything sneaky about that. The only thing that I've had to change is, I wanted the sheathes that they use with Shardblades to be aluminum, and Peter tells me I just can't do that. It's not in continuity. So we have to have some sort of aluminum... alloy, or something like that. I'm not sure exactly what I wrote that broke the continuity on that, but he is certain that those can't be aluminum. So, those aren't aluminum, but it was aluminum around that. And Hoid's bag has an aluminum lining, too.

    WorldCon 76 ()
    #3431 Copy

    Questioner

    Do you have any general advice for an aspiring fantasy writer, things I should be doing to try to--

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah. So, coming to WorldCon's a good start. I don't know if you found them, but going to any panels that editors are sitting on. Often, there's a panel that will be like, "What's new from Tor.com" or "What's new--" That's just a good place to watch what the editors are excited about and learn from them. Maybe if you see them at a party or something later on, you can ask them about the things that they're releasing, and stuff like that.

    The number one thing that makes a great writer is a mediocre writer who's willing to practice. Try not to put too much investment into any one piece. You wanna put your whole heart into it, but don't base your whole career whether on that piece turns out right. I'm not explaining this well, but idea is that the purpose of your writing time is to train yourself to be a better writer. And hopefully the product is this awesome book that you're passionate about, but if it goes haywire, that's gonna teach you, sometimes, a lot more than anything else. So just stick at it. Practice. Be willing to do it regularly and consistently. And if you can teach yourself to be consistent, that's your number one goal.

    I was asking my agent the other night, just last night actually, I'm like, "So what breaks someone in these days?" 'Cause the market's so different. He said, "It's the same thing that always broke someone in: they write a great book." He says, "I've never picked up a book by an author as an agent that I have been passionate about and thought was great that didn't sell." So it says that a good book still sells, in his opinion. Breaking through that agent veil can be really tough, and self-publishing is a totally valid method of going these days.

    I have a series of YouTube lectures, which are my university course that I just recorded. So go give those a watch. We talk a whole bunch about writing and the business and things like that.

    WorldCon 76 ()
    #3432 Copy

    Questioner

    How do you get illustrators for your leatherbounds?

    Brandon Sanderson

    My assistant Isaac, who's my art director. He just looks around on the internet, and finds people who are doing really interesting art, and he asks if he can license them. So, if you know an artist, or are an artist, that's done art of my work, you send it to Isaac.

    WorldCon 76 ()
    #3433 Copy

    Questioner

    When you finished a book, or years away from a book, when you realized, "Oh, there was a loophole here, something didn't make sense." How do you react to that?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I react to it by saying, "Well, that always happens." Happens to everybody. You got two options. Well, maybe, like, three. One is, you just leave it alone. One is to do what Tolkien did, where he just rewrote the book. The Hobbit, he just did a new version that had the loophole closed. Or you can later on find a reason to explain it in world, which we call 'retconning' it. Any of those are fine. Don't stress about it: everybody makes mistakes. If Grandpa Tolkien had loopholes, then everybody's gonna have loopholes.

    WorldCon 76 ()
    #3434 Copy

    Questioner

    I'm an aspiring writer. I want to be a writer, and I'm working on submitting a story to Writers of the Future. Would you recommend starting shorter? Something less ambitious?

    Brandon Sanderson

    So, here's the thing: there are advantages to both ways. Sometimes, if you're the type that might get discouraged by trying something so big, and having it spiral out of control, then sometimes it's better to start small. Most of the time, as long as you're okay with the fact that your first one might spiral out of control, that process will teach you so much, that it's better to start ambitious, and just see where it goes. And just know, you may have to come back to it. Like, my first book, I never finished. I started when I was sixteen. But I wrote a big chunk of it, and it taught me so much. And then my next book, I did finish. And then eventually I came back to that first one, and used those ideas again for another book later on. So as long as you're okay with the idea as a new writer, it may not turn out exactly like you want it to, go ahead and start with something ambitious. Write what you're passionate about, and what you're excited about, and just be willing to let the process teach you. 'Cause nothing will make you a better writer than practicing.

    WorldCon 76 ()
    #3435 Copy

    Sparkle Hearts

    The Girl That Looked Up. Is that a real story that happened in Roshar? Or just a metaphor?

    Brandon Sanderson

    So, Hoid heard it from someone. He did not make it up.

    Sparkle Hearts

    Because I think Shallan told the story...

    Brandon Sanderson

    Well, he told the story, too- He knew the story, she knew the story... What you're asking is if it's actually historical?

    Sparkle Hearts

    Yes. Did it happen?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I'll give you a RAFO. Because there's actually a little bit to it that I can't talk about. That probably tells you more than I even should already...

    There are some weird things about that story, particularly the version that Hoid is involved in.

    ...Shallan tells half the story, and then later on, Hoid comes, and the story happens again differently. But there are weird things when Hoid is involved in the story that are relevant.

    WorldCon 76 ()
    #3440 Copy

    Questioner

    Is there a TV show or a movie that you really like in the fantasy genre?

    Brandon Sanderson

    My favorite fantasy movie? Uh... probably Willow. No, it's gotta be The Lord of the Rings... Probably the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings. They're just better. But I really liked Willow.

    Questioner

    I'll check that out.

    Brandon Sanderson

    It's from the '80s, so... It's still fun.

    WorldCon 76 ()
    #3442 Copy

    Questioner

    In the '80s arc of Mistborn, is there going to be a lot of traffic in Elendel? Because I worked for Google Maps for two years mapping Paris and London, downtown, and I take one look at that map, and I'm like, "Oh, they're gonna have traffic problems."

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah. We anticipate really tough traffic. And they thought they laid it out well, but...

    WorldCon 76 ()
    #3443 Copy

    Questioner

    My daughter... wants to know how old you were when you finished your first novel?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I started my first when I was sixteen, but didn't finish a novel 'til I was twenty-two.

    WorldCon 76 ()
    #3444 Copy

    Questioner

    So how's Waxillium doing?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Slow but sure. I'm pretty sure I will be finishing it up soon here.

    Questioner

    It'll be out next year, then? 2019?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Maybe. Maybe. I can't promise yet. It depends on how the writing goes the last half of this year. January 1st, I have to start on Stormlight Four. And so I'm trying to squeeze the last Wax & Wayne in after I finish Skyward 2.

    WorldCon 76 ()
    #3445 Copy

    Questioner

    Was the Thaylen accent changed between The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance? Because the Wind's Pleasure crew and Tvlakv all sound a bit different.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah. That's not intentional. That is just more, I leave the accents completely up to the audiobook readers. I don't tell them an accent... I do try to send them pronunciation guides, but those don't always arrive in time, which is why you can see some discrepancies. But, yeah, I let them pick the accents.

    General Reddit 2018 ()
    #3446 Copy

    Fiechair

    Is Eshonai really going to be the flashback character for book 4? Don't you mean Venli?

    Brandon Sanderson

    No, it is Eshonai. (And has always been planned to be Eshonai.) As the series progressed, I knew I wanted to do some unusual things with the flashbacks to keep them all from repeating the same themes and format. My hope is to craft something that is very interesting in the way that it both informs what Venli is doing in the future, and expands upon who Eshonai was in the past.

    Idaho Falls signing ()
    #3448 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    So, that's called The Apocalypse Guard. I'm not exactly sure when it's gonna get published, because I had some real troubles with the plot near the end of the book that kind of broke down. And I'm still trying to figure out what to do with them. I gave it to a friend of mine who's a really good writer, Dan Wells. And he's been working on the book and coming up with suggestions and things like that. Sometimes that happens with books. The Way of Kings, if you've read that one, I originally wrote the first draft of that in 2002. It wasn't until 2010 that the book finally came out. Sometimes you just need to let a book sit for a little while. So this one will sit for a little while. It might be a year or two before I figure out what I want to do with it. But eventually that will come out. My father is planning already for me to have the launch party up here. He is very, very proud of having influenced the Iona part of this book.

    Idaho Falls signing ()
    #3449 Copy

    Questioner

    How do I decide whether to do first person, or third person?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Good question! If you're a writer, one thing I'll mention to you if you haven't watched them, I recorded my BYU university lectures, which are on writing science fiction fantasy, and put them on Youtube. So if you just Google "Sanderson lectures," you'll find my whole class there, and I do a whole section on first and third person.

    It breaks down to a couple of decisions. Third person tends to be really good with a large cast. Because you can take this large cast and you are constantly mentioning their name. It's actually a pretty big deal. First person... How often do you guys finish a first person book and you can't remember what the character's name was? You've read a whole book about them. And if you have three or four characters, jumping between, it gets real easy to lose perspective. And first person also, depending on how you do it, can sometimes lack a little bit of immediacy. Because the person themselves is telling the story, there's a part of your brain that says, "Well, they obviously survived long enough to tell me their story." Even if they're telling it in present tense, or even if you know that occasionally you'll read a first person book where it turns out they were a ghost all along or something like that. Like, that happens. But there's just this sort of thing in our brain that says, first person tends to work really well for a single narrator, maybe two, in a story that they are telling yourself that they can infuse with their voice. Third person tends to work very well for longer epics, and tends to work with multiple viewpoints a little bit better. It's just easier for readers to track and things like that. Partially it's just kind of a gut instinct, what feels right for the book.

    Idaho Falls signing ()
    #3450 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    The two woman loaded up their single pack animal. A short creature that looked kind of like a camel, but was more the size of a llama. It eyed me lazily, chewing quietly on its cud. After their packs and bed rolls were tied in place, Echo placed a curious item on top. A long tube, wrapped in cloth. It was almost five feet long. A map tube? If so, those maps would be the size of walls. Once that was done, the camp cleaned, Echo looked me over with a critical eye. I looked down at my ripped slacks. Though my flats were sensible business shoes, they weren't intended for extended hikes. She dug in her pack and came out with an extra pair of boots and a pair of trousers. "Uh," I said, taking the trousers and looking them over. Echo was lean and athletic, and I was... not. She noted my hesitance and said something that sounded like agreement, but I did try on the boots. It took several pair of socks to make them fit, but the end result was better than the flats. I didn't much look the part of a heroic Apocalypse Guard member - my jacket was too big, my business slacks ripped, and poorly matched by a pair of hiking boots. But it wasn't like I needed to appear in any company photos. "I'm good," I told them. "Let's go." Echo looked towards the last thing on the ground, near the center of camp. The shadow rig. Right. I considered putting it on, but was instantly reminded of that melting world where everything became paint. Let's pass on that for now, I thought, packing away the rig beside where Echo had put the trousers. After that, we started walking.

    Emma's Instructions for hiking. One, wear comfortable shoes, so when your feet hurt anyway, you can at least feel like you tried. Two, remember tons of bug spray, so you smell like a vat of cleaning liquid. Bonus points if it makes the dirt stick to your skin while walking. If you can, wear a backpack filled with things that you won't end up using, but which will somehow always manage to arrange inside so they can poke you in the gizzard. Four, return to your sweet air conditioned, bug free, shower containing home, renewed and reminded how nice it is not to be a caveman.

    People always assume that I'm inexperienced at outdoorsy stuff, just because I tend to throw things at them when they suggest camping. Truth is, I'm very experienced with camping. I spent countless nights with my family, huddled up in the cold by a barely working fire, listening to Father tell stories of when he was a kid in Iona. Shockingly, it had been even more rural back then! Nowadays, we have a stoplight. It's practically cosmopolitan! So yes, I've done lots of camping, and hiking, and canoeing, and backpacking, and skiing. I kind of like that one, but don't tell anyone. Truth is, there's not a lot to do in Iona that doesn't involve pretending to be a caveman. Back when I was little, and apparently brain dead, we kids would spend two entire weeks every summer up at Scoresby's Ranch without even running water, let alone wifi. In my later years, my family and I had even kind of come to a truce on the matter. I pretended to look forward to our yearly camping trip, and they pretended not to notice the phone I always brought along. Or the sets of instructions I may or may not have posted relating to the experience. None of this meant I was prepared for the extended hike through the wilderness with Echo and <Whisprien>, but at least I knew how unprepared I was. I could spot the warning signs of a blister forming, and do something about it. I knew how to pace myself, and how to let others know when I needed a break. These two were obviously experienced survivalists, so even <Whisprien>'s endurance put mine to shame. I tried not to focus on my embarrassment at that, instead studying the landscape. Strangely, it didn't look that much different from Idaho. Mostly filled with scrub grasses and weeds. More of those were brown then back home for some reason, but they seemed healthy anyway. It was a lot more humid than home was, and less dusty. There was real dirt here, not just powdery dried clay and Iona topsoil, also known as rocks. And then there was the sky. Any time I was feeling a sense of familiarity with the hike, I caught a shimmer on the ground, or a shadow passing overhead. Then I'd look up, and my brain would break anew. There was a freaking ocean in the sky. Despite the distance, I could see ripples and waves from passing wind. The things that moved within it were mostly just shadows, but I got a sense of darting schools - not just noble leviathans. Were there sharks? Sky-sharks? The idea made me smile. My adopted brother would have found that incredible; I'd have to tell him. If I survived. Don't be like that, I thought, you'll get out of this. Look, nobody has even tried to kill you all morning.

    We stopped for lunch, and they gave me more guard rations while they ate something that looked like beef jerky. Nearby, a strange herd of animals passed through the brush. How to explain them? They were big, almost as tall as a person. And covered in armor that almost looked like a football helmet. Seriously, they had this ball of a body, and a little flat head stuck out the front, with a stumpy tail and flat beak. I'd have called them dinosaurs, except for the face. I was pretty sure they were mammals, like, prehistoric armadillo turtles. Echo didn't seem concerned about them, so I just perched nervously on top of my fallen log and watched them wander by, then felt stupid. I'd faced the <Hex>! I could face an armadillo or two, even if they did seem to be on the wrong side of a radioactive spill.

    Echo was obviously a practical woman. She didn't smile often, but it wasn't that she was stern. Maybe just straightforward? Compass in hand, she calmly picked our heading after each break. She would occasionally try to draw her daughter into conversation. <Whisprien> resisted these. The thin girl trudged along in her rugged backpack, eyes down. I never heard her speak in anythingbut  a whisper, and her attitude seemed to be more then your average "sullen tween resents life" sort of thing. But who knows? Maybe she just really hated camping. 

    Echo would periodically seek a tree or something to climb so she could check to make sure we weren't being followed. Her voice was always upbeat when she came down, and I could sense a lingering concern from her. She was very worried about those soldiers. One of them had a rig, I thought again. It didn't take a math degree to notice that a lot of things weren't adding up. Part of the secret perhaps lay stowed away in that camel-llama's pack. I walked up beside the animal, who walked placidly beside <Whisprien>, and placed my fingers on the partition that held the shadow rig. I had the distinct sensation of blending realities, of the grass around me melting into colors, like a wet watercolor painting left in the rain. I snatched my hand back. <Whisprien> looked away, and grumbled something, falling back in the line. A short time later, I caught her glaring at my back, eyes narrowed. 

    When the sun finally settled beyond the envelope of water, I was exhausted. But it was more a wholesome exhaustion kind of exhaustion than I felt yesterday. It was the exhaustion of having been forced to weed an entire potato field. 

    Echo chose a camp that looked like it had been used by other weary travelers. A forested nook beside a weathered section of rock. I heard water gurgling somewhere nearby, which seemed like a good sign that I might actually get to take a bath. Echo unpacked the camel-llama, then grabbed her large water jug and moved off towards the sound of the stream. When she returned with a filled jug, I held out my canteen eagerly, but she shook her head and gestured towards the fire pit. "You have to boil the water first?" I asked, "Probably a good idea."

    Fortunately I'd been immunized from all the local viruses, both from here, and from a host of other planets that the Guard was working with. That was standard procedure. I wasn't certain how the Guard prevented themselves from carrying diseases to the worlds they worked on. I hoped I wasn't the latent carrier of, like, smallpox or something. Accidentally harboring the advent of an all-consuming pestilence would be super embarrassing.

    <Whisprien> started working on the fire, and she gave me a glance that distinctly seemed to say "Isn't there anything useful you can do?" So I powered up my phone for today's ration of power and snapped a picture of her for my blog. I snuggled back against a comfortable looking log (it wasn't) and ate up a little of my batteries working on some instructions, hoping the whole time my distress beacon would bring a response from those looking for me. No such luck.

    About halfway through my allotted half hour, I brought up the map and had Echo point out out current location. She noted a very small distance traveled. Crap on a stick. (I got that one from one of my Iona friends.) Was that really the only progress we'd made? How were we going to reach the Guard outpost in three days? It didn't seem possible. Particularly because we were going the wrong direction. "Echo, isn't that the wrong way?" I tapped the map, then tried to make myself understood by pointing. The outpost was north of where we started, but we'd been walking west. I suppose I could've told that from the sun, if I'd thought about it. Echo said something in her language, then pointed at something on my map. Not a town or an outpost, but a little spot of brown. It was hard to tell what it was on the two dimensional map, only barely touched on topographical features. "Okay...." I said, "I guess I'll trust you know what you're doing." She nodded and went back to working on the fire, which was crackling nicely and boiling our water. She could be leading me into a trap, of course. Perhaps she hadn't saved me out of goodwill, but to gain a potential hostage against the Guard. But it wasn't like I could do anything about that. I'd be laughably ineffective at trying to sneak off. Echo would track me down with little effort, assuming I wasn't immediately devoured by some prehistoric carnivorous elk or something.

    I moved to sit on a rock that looked somewhat comfortable (it wasn't) and continued working on my blog, trying not to think too hard about how sore I was going to be from. A harsh whisper hissed from behind me. I jumped, and turned to see <Whisprien> standing behind my seat. She pointed at my screen and hissed something angry. I glanced at what I had been working on. The picture of <Whisprien> I had taken with some handy instructions about living in the wilderness. I switched off the phone, but <Whisprien> reached for it. I barely kept it out of her reach, worried she'd shatter the screen. "Okay, okay," I said, "Sorry, no pictures. I'll delete it, chill!" I tried to do so, but <Whisprien> kept hissing at me and reaching for the phone. The scuffle drew Echo, who barked a question. Finally <Whisprien> backed off, and I reluctantly showed her mother the screen. Echo just nodded. Again, it didn't seem like she was unfamiliar with technology. She didn't demand I delete the photo or anything, but she did pull her daughter over and have her help make what appeared to be an evening soup. Great job Emma, I thought, I apparently needed a set of instructions on not being a giant idiot.

    "Hey," I said, walking over to Echo, "is it alright if I go take a bath?" I pantomimed swimming, and washing my hair, then pointed to the water. "Is it safe?" Echo said something, then dug from her pack an old-timey bar of soap and a hairbrush, which she handed to me. I nodded in thanks, then made my way over to the small river. It was more muddy then I'd hoped, but I supposed I couldn't expect something out in the middle of these plains to look like a Grand Teton Mountain spring. I made sure I had line of sight to the other two, just in case, then I stood there, holding the bar of soap, uncertain. Was this a good idea? Taking a bath in the middle of the wilderness on a foreign world, while potentially being chased by mercenaries? I was basically guaranteed to be attacked by, like, a dinosaur or something the moment I stripped down. But what was I gonna do? Go the entire way without ever washing off? I was still bloodied and smudged with ash from the explosion, not to mention caked with sweat. Perhaps taking a bath was tempting fate, but this way if a dinosaur did eat me, at least I'd taste like soap. Truth was, it actually felt empowering to take that bath, like this was my choice. Getting clean was something I wanted, and I wasn't going to let myself be too scared to accomplish it.

    That said, I did still watch my surroundings with keen attention as I quickly bathed in the cold water. Unfortunately, once finished, I was left with the same dirty clothing I had taken off. Lance's jacket, my incredibly wrinkled blouse, and the torn slacks. Quite the inspiring uniform. Still, I felt a ton better as I put it all back on. Echo offered me some thread as I rejoined them, and I thankfully started working on sewing up the rips along my leg.

    The stew was kinda good. And I turned in feeling kinda clean, kinda full, and kinda not in extreme danger. I woke up the following morning to shouting. Echo called me in her native tongue, and I shook awake, then scrambled to my feet. "What?" I said, "Dinosaurs? It's dinosaurs, isn't it?" I paused. "Do you have dinosaurs here?"

    Echo gestured toward the sky. Morning at dawn, and through the branches above, I could see an enormous disturbance in the waters, like ripples of a dropped boulder, only moving inward in a ring. The center of that shrinking ring of waves looked like it was just above our position. Great. I had been starting to feel ignored.

    Chapter 13

    "The flood can't be happening already!" I shouted as I scrambled back into camp, "We're supposed to have weeks before the apocalypse!"

    Echo shouted something back as she grabbed the llama-camel's harness and towed it after her through the trees. <Whisprien> had climbed on its back. "Wait," I called after them. I waved toward the bedrolls and boiling water, "Our stuff! What about..." I trailed off as <Whisprien> looked toward me from the camel's back. The girl's face was still blank of emotion, but her eyes were glowing. They had a ghostly cast to them, pupils melded into the white, shining forth like something bright was behind them. It reminded my of the floodlight eyes of the <Hex>. I stumbled to a stop, gaping, until Echo sent the animal and the girl on ahead, then looked back to me, waving urgently. Above, the sky darkened. The sun faded behind the ocean, as if growing suddenly distant, or as if the water were somehow growing deeper up there, thicker. Echo shouted something at me that sounded a little like "Run", so I ran. I grabbed the shadow rig from inside my bedroll, and left everything else, dashing after the two of them. Once I was past the tree, Echo fell into place beside me. The llama-camel ran on ahead with a loping gait. <Whisprien> clung to it's back.

    I wasn't in nearly as good shape as Echo, nor was I, shockingly, a camel. But I made a pretty good showing for myself, and didn't lag behind too much. At least, not until I glanced over my shoulder. The sky rippled, and then broke. Water crashed downwards, the front edge fuzzing, like mist. The enormous column of water seemed to drop in slow motion because of the distance. It wasn't as nearby as I first assumed. Man, it was big. A ring of water the size of a small village just dumping billions of gallons of water down from the sky. I stopped in place, jaw dropping, staring until Echo grabbed my arm and towed me away. What good would it do to flee? We were three little specks before an ocean of destruction. We couldn't outrun the end of the world.

    Still, Echo seemed determined. I started running again, but I was built to deliver coffee and the occasional sarcastic quip, not run across the freaking wilderness. Pain seared up my side. I slowed, gasping. A violent crash suddenly washed over us, an engulfing sound that made the very air vibrate. Holy heck. How much water had to fall before it hit the ground with the sound of a bomb going off. Echo looked back at the sound and hesitated in front of me, as if torn between protecting me and running after her daughter. She lingered, urging me on, and I did my best. "What," I said, panting for breath, "What's the use?" Sweat streamed down my face. Echo gestured in front of her, then made a raising motion with her hands. High ground, I thought, She's saying we need to get to high ground. And considering it, the direction we were running did seem to have a gentle slope to it. It wasn't like we were running for the mountains or anything, but maybe this would be enough? If this really is the end though, the high ground won't matter. Most of the planet will end up submerged.

    Still, I broke into a weak jog. Ahead, I saw our goal: a rise in the grasslands, a kind of ridge, like a long low hill. <Whisprien> had stopped there with the camel-llama. A cracking sound behind along with the low roar of rushing water made me glance over my shoulder. Water flooded between the trees of our camp, first slow, then in a rush that ripped away branches. Another surge of muddy water engulfed the entire stand, shattering the trees.

    I forced myself forward, practically crawling the rest of the way up the hilltop. Water flooded the plain we crossed. It looked deceptively lethargic, like seeping tar, until you focused on something like an individual sapling. On the smaller scale, your mind could comprehend that this was an enormous river, rushing with might and power, pushing debris before it.

    I reached the top and collapsed beside <Whisprien>. The waters came, and I realized, I'd just let them swallow me, if it came to that. I couldn't move another step. Blessedly, the rise was high enough. The front of the wave turned aside and fled the other direction. In the distance, the spout of water from the heavens slowed to a mist, then to rain, and finally stopped altogether. This wasn't the end of the world, not yet. More like a warning shot. I lay on the rough grass, listening to the sound of the water growing below. I already felt sweaty and dirty again - so much for my bath. Of course, if I wanted another one, it didn't look like I'd lack for water.