Marching back into town gets us some looks.
The artillery going first is just odd; five tonnes of sheep with blood drying in its underwool and eel-tree ichor splattered all over the rest of it is unexpected.
Rust has found a couple of horse-favouring town kids happy to earn some money by making much of the horse-ghost’s feeding and grooming. It’s essential to the ghost to have contact with some technical variety of innocence Rust is unable to provide. A delegation of matrons resulted; Blossom was able to reassure them with impeccable tact that the definition of innocence was on the order of “never summoned a demon”. Since good Creeks don’t do any such thing, and even more do not mark themselves as suitable for consumption should a demon arrive, all was well.
Halt’s comprehensive definition — never consumed a human soul, never slaked wrath by wide killing, and, oh yes, never coerced a bound demon into a shape empty of all but pain — was not provided to the matrons. Even more fortunately, Halt’s oddly wistful expression was not observed by any townsfolk at all.
That's the beginning of chapter five of The March North, the first Commonweal novel by Graydon Saunders, and I'm sharing it with y'all for two reasons.
The first reason is that I'm privileged to know some damned good writers. One of them is graydon, who'll soon be releasing a third Commonweal novel by the title of Safely You Deliver (find links for obtaining the first two here). The consensus opinion expressed by reviews of the books, if you're curious, is "definitely worth the effort"; this is original, subversive fantasy-with-hard-SF-underpinnings that doesn't "see spot run" readers through the details of the (amazing, richly crafted) world, a world I think is well-captured in a line from chapter two, describing the five-tonne sheep upon which possibly the most powerful living sorcerer on the planet, who happens to look like somebody's grandma, has just ridden into town: "It breathes slow, which you'd expect, and fire, which you would not." Even the reviews themselves make for interesting reading (at least to me, admittedly biased with squee and vicarious pride that something somebody close to me made is attracting such an enthusiastic following); many of these are collected unsurprisingly on goodreads (that's book two, A Succession of Bad Days, and topmost review is v. spoilery; The March North is over here) but there's also this (which is basically the first chapter of The March North as free sample glued together with my sales pitch when it came out in 2014), this (spoilery), and this.
G's not alone in my dwircle; I'd run out of original things to say if I tried to list all the writers I follow here whose work I adore but I want to pick on my other two regular interlocutors/best friends currently active on this platform, who are also extremely talented (if you're not comfortable with me hyping you here I'll take it out; I just want y'all to know I think you're great). kore posts fic as actonbell, fic that's not only beautifully written and often heartrendingly poignant but assiduously researched and supported with cross-references and links to visual and audio garnishes tucked in like easter eggs. thatyourefuse writes like sinfully rich dark chocolate cake with bee stingers inside, and I mean that glowingly; current/simmering projects include in their ranks a Crimson Peak epic from the POV of an omniscient atemporal haunted house and a novel adaptation of King Lear, and it is all devastatingly good. (recessional/Feather gets an honourable mention because we don't converse as much and I still haven't come close to catching up on YBEB and its outgrowths, but what I have read is exquisite and I'm very happy to have her on my reading page.)
The second reason is that I am apparently a bound demon. I've spent the last week and a half (more?) in fucking agony. Not consistent agony, it varies in both intensity and flavour (sometimes achy tension, others like a full-body migraine), but agony as the soundtrack for daily life sucks. It's not only unpleasant but boring and extremely frustrating. I hope very much that the acupuncture appointment I have to run off to ten minutes ago will help; either the one I had on Sunday didn't do much or I'd have been howling without it. ETA: and I'm a fucking idiot because the bloody appointment was for 4:15, not 4:45, so I'm SOL and forfeit the free appointment credit (this was already rescheduled from yesterday afternoon when I was going to be too late to get there in the miserable pouring rain because I couldn't drag my ass out of the shower).