This is the updated reissue of the first book in the trilogy, previously known as Fire On All Sides.
A note on the previous version, Fire On All Sides:
this will remain available in hardcover and paperback through major distribution channels until just after the reissue becomes available in each format.
The story remains intact, the main change being a set of singular agendered pronouns for Dragons. This partial restart was also a good opportunity to align the volume titles better with my original vision. As follows:
1: Fire Within
2: Abyss Surrounding
3: Greater Beyond
Hardcover and paperback of Fire Within are to follow this summer!, featuring the amazing artwork of Leo Shallat and Genesis Grey on the covers. I’m going to release these without my author sketches from book 1 and collect them elsewhere, in a different way.
Meanwhile, Book 2: Abyss Surrounding will continue to wrap up here on this website, with the participation (all along) of wonderful watchful editor Alex Bear of Constellation Editing.
I’m at MisCon 32 in Missoula this weekend, roving and promoting this release. I’m making some handout autograph stickers (which you can put ANYWHERE). As shown:
But there’s going to be a backing, so I can hand them out, and it’s going to take way more work than you see here! By which point, they’ll be practically precious, right.
Unicorn meets skinchanger:
“This is disheartening,” said Soleil finally, with none but Garlic to listen. Dragon Food and Rosy Glow had departed on their own matters, possibly helpful to the situation. From where she sat on Moonshadow’s platform, she looked around the designated sidespace where she’d ceased arguing with a machine being that didn’t seem to entirely understand. It hadn’t been so hard in the midst of their trial of deep space survival. Now they sat parked in a place where they could officially or unofficially be found. At this level of frustration the novice pilot barely cared, though their potential visibility made it urgent that she learn how to use the new trick up her sleeve. Returning to that realization, she addressed Garlic again where it floated next to her at the level of her head.
“I need to ask you how I look,” said Soleil. “I’m trying something, though I don’t want to explain completely. Will you just watch me?” Garlic turned another side toward her, which she took to mean that she had its attention.
She looked down at her reflection in the mirror-shiny floor of the platform. “Okay, now I’m doing something.” She felt an aural rush flow outward through her. “And, now I’m not.” The rush dissipated. Throughout this, her reflection as she saw it in the floor mirror hadn’t changed. She knew what it was she was doing; she was changing how she looked, how she was perceived. She knew her chosen parameters, but she couldn’t see the results, so she kept it simple. Maybe Garlic would be able to tell her.
“I can understand it like it’s always been a part of me, but I still need to figure out how it works.” Soleil touched her lips as she concentrated on this puzzle, remembering the way the dragon’s gift had sunk into her skin. She accustomed herself to turning the glammer (‘glamr’) on and off by engaging it with her intentions of appearance. To herself, she looked the same. But what did someone else see? How deeply could she trust it, how extreme would the illusion go, with what nature would it manifest?
This matter of concentration safeguarded her from the disappointment that their next travel effort had gone awry almost instantly. She and Moonshadow just couldn’t seem to understand each other right now, or Moonshadow couldn’t figure out how to get there with the information it was being given. Soleil had ridden equinax when she was younger, and the psychology of this mount (as it had referred to itself) felt somewhat similar; but this being was also verbal, could understand code, mathematics, signals and power, and she didn’t know how many other differences there might be to this type of mind.
“If you would please hold up with me and observe – tell me, if you can, how I’m doing or what you see. On… off. …on… off.” She was looking between her reflection and Garlic, which was doing something strange. There was now another garlic next to Garlic. At this moment, when not engaging the glammer (‘glamr’), the garlic next to Garlic looked exactly the same.
With thought, Soleil consciously shifted some traits to those of a different person; and the garlic next to Garlic looked like a different kind of garlic! The second garlic was about as different from Garlic as the intended personage was different from Soleil. She examined different extremes of alteration, and Garlic demonstrated the effectiveness back to her. All the while, the reflection in the floor remained the same to her.
When she inquired, Garlic demonstrated to her that her apparent reflection also matched the given illusion, with a head of garlic under the different garlic that matched the different garlic, not today’s original Garlic.
A new thought occurred to her while she held an unusual glammer, one of an easily welcomed ally that should soon go on their own business. “Garlic, if you touch me, do you feel that you touch the form that you see, or my usual form?”
The two different garlics hovered before her. Gently, they both approached to touch either of her cheeks. One drifted back, while remaining was the garlic of altered appearance. So then, Garlic felt that it was touching what it could see. The altered garlic then moved back, and floated in again to gently bop her on the nose, then rested once more against the tip of her nose. So, the illusion was thorough.
Soleil wondered if the camouflaging panels of her Vedani gearsuit were superfluous, then figured it didn’t hurt to have extra layers of reliance, in case holding a glammer was tiring. Her dragon gift whispered about itself in a specifically coded inner language; any question about it, she could check and be informed. But she had to ask correctly or at all, except for those times it would volunteer itself to a specific demand. It was like using a new, yet innate sense.
There is an abyss, infinitesimal or gulflike, between any two understandings in the communication of an impression. What one is, and what the other perceives. Now, she could intentionally influence this space. Now she could decide how she was perceived. Though in a sense duplicitous, there was an honesty to it; she could honestly effect what she honestly decided. She must hone her intention in order to use it well.
“Tell me how this goes. Can I appear as something other than a different person?” With a little difficulty, as she wasn’t entirely sure how to project the right set of traits, she attempted something like a pard cat. The second garlic flickered rapidly between looking like Garlic and looking like some kind of large pod. So it may be successful but she wasn’t good at it yet, or garlic wasn’t good at imitating anything other than garlic, or it was only semi-successful. Okay.
They needed a catalyst. She decided to activate the sidespace flag for assistance signaling, and filled out the list of possibly helpful things. Soleil continued to focus on practicing her new ability while bothering Garlic as little as possible. She could keep on doing this for the rest of the time in her active day.
There was a passerby ship, the first in this out-of-the-way location. Soleil watched it reappear as it doubled back around, lucky day. The maneuvering looked inexpert but careful. It was returning her flag with a wave.
Looking at Garlic, she remembered she was hungry. On a slim hope, she asked, “Hey can you make food, something I can eat?”
A clove of garlic fell to the floor, and upon hitting it turned into a garlic chicken wing. “I guess it’s a good thing I like garlic,” she said as she picked it up. Garlic rolled around in midair. Soleil scarfed the food before she had to face the incomer, placing the bones in an ejection vesicle. She watched the vesicle pop its contents out of the field, releasing them to the vacuum. She turned her concentration inward to identify what she needed to be in this situation, and she answered the ship’s reply.
A Vedani woman relaxed, cradled in a conductive therapy hammock. The faintly luminescent walls radiated pearly moonlight. The occupational therapist walked in through the angled doorless archway.
OUSRK FNSD: Hello Eivnr, it’s good to see you. What do you need today?
EIVNR KFNT: I’m glad to see you as well, Ousrk. Open me up and reconnect everything, please.
The therapist activated the sling hammock’s transduction, causing all of Eivnr’s medium-length silver hair to lift into the air.
OUSRK: How and why do things feel disconnected?
Her hair bobbing with the differentiating current cycles, Eivnr sighed.
EIVNR: Imagine what it feels like to have five hundred different fingers that disappear abruptly. The connection pathways are strongest and easiest through the hand’s dense neural maps, so that’s also where the wear and tear accumulate. Including phantom effects, feeling things that aren’t there.
OUSRK: Then I’ll start by isolating and singularizing your manual sensations.
Ousrk’s longer silver hair was plaited down her back, but the ends waved a little when she made contact with the part of the hammock sling supporting Eivnr’s arms. She gently pressed each limb into its sling with holds that enhanced the field’s effects on her patient. She also folded the sling around the limb using various modes of wrapping, including strips around each long finger.
OUSRK: What’s your emotional valence?
EIVNR: Oh, that’s another thing. My primus, the most significant individual in my connective, has really strong emotions – there’s been a lot of anger and confusion, which can turn into determination mixed with helplessness. Though it is also driven by love, that serves to make things more intense.
The therapist chose a cycling pattern to run down the sling supporting Eivnr’s torso. The patient closed her eyes and breathed more deeply.
OUSRK: I have a funny question for you.
Her patient made a receptive facial expression.
OUSRK: Why are the messages from the connectives formulated in awkward archaic semi-prose?
EIVNR: Aside from the nebulous nature of collective transmissions focused with a primus, we discovered a type of human communicative medium that they themselves largely ignore: amateur poetry. If the humans in our connectives are to share a message amongst themselves with unrestricted initiative, it is still likely to go unnoticed and disregarded even by the attentive. It’s very easy to translate these effects from their interlingua to our speech and vice-versa. It’s become an entire craze among the youngsters!
OUSRK: I have not yet encountered that.
EIVNR: Dear hearts, they’re digging up all the least-read human poetry and forming a new culture around it – which is so incredibly Vedani. As we know, nothing exists to remain unlooked-upon. So much curiously beautiful work, and the transitive iterations get even better. Without any need for organization or instruction, they’re serving our purposes in a number of ways. One, that the messages reach as many as possible; another is that should the humans somehow learn to tap our signals, the messages will be surrounded with clouds of similar-but-different noise, being transmitted in the manner of idle entertainment. Furthermore the young are also using it to earn their autodidactic education levels. Thus, our people’s knowledge of humans will continue to outpace their general knowledge of us.
OUSRK: It sounds fun. I’ve been examining totally different areas lately, but now I’m piqued. Maybe I’ll participate.
EIVNR: I’m a default main participant through my role. I have another request… my neck, please? It’s the balancing hourglass multimolecular coilhat I’m using – piles on the neck stress while ensuring that I remain in optimal connective posture. The vocal chords are also similar to the fingers with significant active multiplicative connections there, that suddenly disappear. The sadness pockets could also use your attention…
Ousrk squeezed her patient at the junctures between neck and shoulder, in addition to the neck and vocal muscle groups and structures.
EIVNR: I absorb a lot of that from my particular connective. Even though my role in the beloved-aspect is the friendliest out of all of them, it’s also the most numerously populated at the moment. They all just personally experienced a hidden means of mass slaughter, that they now recognize as such. Along with their motivational fury, which nearly matches that of the surviving Hirylienites, they carry a lot of grief and guilt. That’s where I feel it, even though it isn’t mine, though I understand.
OUSRK: Are you having any numbness due to your own experience of the Affliction?
EIVNR: A little, a nearly imaginary amount – maybe having more to do with recovering straight into the connective as conductor. Could you trace me back out to finish the session? Wires feeling frayed, you know?
The therapist gently ran her fingertips along key nervous pathways toward out-points on her patient’s body, where she grasped the invisible-but-perceivable energetic bundle there, and drew it out into the air and aetherscape. Vedani must maintain their aetherscape connections, or languish. She did this around Eivnr’s entire body, including her floating tresses. After a full addressing, Ousrk switched the hammock cycles to move towards the heart.
OUSRK: I’ll shift the light to full spectrum now. I recommend that you photosynthesize here for at least three thousand beats without a coverlet.
EIVNR: I will, yes thank you.
The therapist walked out of the room and altered the wall settings to a blinding shine. Not exactly natural sunshine with all the combined elements, but still delectable. Eivnr closed her eyes and relaxed in order to gain a deeper shade of blue.