Well, kids, now my BACKUP computer has fried itself. The good news is this will probably motivate my housemates to help me get one of the two fixed. I had a discussion with the computer savvy friend-of-a-friend and it's probably the power supply in that one too. Which makes very little sense to me because the backup is only a year old...but it's also an all-in-one, which to me seems like it'd be more likely to have overheating issues, given that it's got less space to work with.
The better news: I do still have access to a computer and my working files, and will be able to continue to write and edit at a sane pace. In the same vein, The next Exiles book, which I intend to serialize a'la Dragonbreath, is one third of the way done, which means ya'll's first chunk is complete. The bad news: Due to the nature of the backup-of-the-backup, I don't have access to a full version of Word, which means I can't format the final files, and I have no access whatsoever to any art programs at all.
THAT SAID: I will shoot for a mid april, early may release date for the next chunk of Starbleached. As I said, I can edit just fine. The friend-of-a-friend will be able to replace the power supply in at least one of our busted computers and I am going to try very hard to get one of 'em working by the end of next week.
So there's that. Now. Book
Chapter 21 starts off with a "Fix the busted morale" feast for Paks' company. Now that they're home, they're sleeping in their old barracks, and there aren't enough people to fill half the beds. Company commanders understand that this is an immediate reminder of the shit they went through at Dwarfwatch, so it's time for a party, speeches, and awards. Everybody who survived Dwarfwatch gets a ring, including Paks. That's the award. The speeches are, basically, "Death to Honeycat", which gets the only real response out of the crowd.
We're introduced to a bunch of the other companies over a briefly summarized winter, and then Stammal and the other sergeants bring in the new recruits. The usual showing off by the vets is accomplished in short order, and Paks gets assigned a few newbies to show around. She manages to remember her own first year without dwelling on her dead friends, which is probably a big accomplishment all on its own. Then Stammal drags her off to have a drink and to get her version of Dwarfwatch out of her.
She agrees, but not before Vik introduces her to his newbies. One of them is named Saben.
The vets get a couple days off, so everybody's heading to the village. Paks puts them off because she and Stammel are heading off for that drink.
She gives them a very choppy version of her hike to find the Duke, neatly avoiding any mention of Canna and Saben past a very general "We" and "They". The other vets quickly switch the conversation over to their own accomplishments. The recruits ask to hear her version in full, and she politely declines, then gets a little more pointed when one of her shadows starts pushing. They get it and shut up.
Stammel lets her know that the recruits were trained in an awful hurry and have even less training than she got, because the Duke is in an incredible hurry to start marching. They small talk for a while and then Stammel takes Paks to the inn and gets her quietly drunk before pulling the whole story out of her. Probably the best therapy she could get, given the time this is set in. He also brings up the issue of sex with Saben, and correctly picks up that Paks feels very guilty that she and Saben never slept together. He tells her that it's natural for friends to want to give everything to friends, that it's obvious Paks doesn't want sex, that it's probably the hardest choice people can make, and that she doesn't need to feel guilty for not sleeping with her best friend before he died.
The entire thing is fucking gorgeous.
Then he asks about the medallion, because it's truly unusual for Canna to have left it to Paks. She brings up the incident with Canna's shoulder. That it was infected before, that nothing happened when they prayed over it, but that from that point on it improved to the point that she could draw a bow a few days later. Stammel gets kind of freaked and suggests that Paks finds a marshal or a preist or something to get the whole story out. He then moves on to advice about the newbies, and the chapter ends with them polishing off the ale and heading back to the keep.