<< Revenant Faith and Foreign Pilgrimage

“Good medicine for when no medicine is in the body, worse medicine for when there is bad medicine in the body, and a journey for when medicine is needed and nothing else can be done.”

-Yrdkish saying of the fifth age


“That’s a nice shot!” Eihks enthused to the karkshesh, whose every hair stood on end. “I figured you’d be a quick study at this, what with your slinging skill.”

It was a good thing he’d rigged the revolver to fire at most once every five seconds, or he’d have a few more bullets flying around his domicile – and in places where they might do considerable damage. The click of a finger spastically pulling the trigger ratcheted out twice more, before the woman’s massive eye and hands both stabilized.

“Here,” he said, and got up, crossing the room after sending a signal to the remote mechanism he’d attached to the gun’s safety. The barrier erected to catch projectiles around the room’s perimeter held one brassy kernel afloat, just in front of the makeshift practice bullseye. The dinner plate with blue rings and crosshairs had stopped its slow-moving progress just after the instant of trigger pull, and it made the marksmanship of his guest readily apparent.

Yes, she’d gotten just barely within the range of the target’s compass. Yes, a real target would keep moving and usually require an adequate compensation for projectile drop. However, considering it was the very day she’d found out that chemical-based munitions EXISTED, it was a respectable achievement. He plucked the bullet from its placement in midair, backed off, and eyed her.

“Like I said,” he told her one shaken-looking eye. “It’s inordinately noisy, smelly, and resists your attempts to keep it aimed in the right direction. Let’s try again, and this time don’t let it point YOU.”




The demand he’d made, enroute to home from her farm, was that she pick up a new self-defense skill. Out there in the wild, pickax and sling might not cut it. Despite the lack of guarantees that it would be consistently useful, he’d recommended expanding her understanding of projectile weapons. She’d agreed, so long as his plans for her meant it would be “something she wasn’t likely to need to use.” He’d told her that she would fall under his aegis under most circumstances anyway, at least at the beginning, but he’d compromise. She’d insisted she’d only give it a go if it would line up with her existing talents and have other possible applications, like hunting or fieldcraft. He’d assured her it would.

A handful of bullets and some minor coaching later, she managed to put herself into the category of “above adequate shot.” Another handful of bullets after that, Eihks wondered if she might someday pass muster as a military sniper in facetary armed forces.

“Very well done,” he told her. “We can cover crossbows and similar sometime later. Now, you still aren’t versed in using your cerv-mesh for doing things like compressing your possessions, so I’ll keep this for now,” he allowed, setting the spent casings and projectiles in a neat little pyramid on the end of his second-lowest shelf. The gun went away to his personal storage, to reside alongside his many explorer’s tools that he kept separate from his sack of more kosher goods.

“I… like it,” she said in a moderately worrying voice, after a moderately worrying pause.

He brushed it off absently.

“So. We have a big day tomorrow, huh?” he asked, both upbeat and grave.

“It sounds like it will be quite the adventure,” she replied. Her behavior lay between vibrating and uncomfortably distant. Sleep, despite her variably melancholy mood, wasn’t happening yet – though whether this was because of her need to get used to the extrafacetary standard circadian rhythm, or jitters – or a newfound love of guns – he couldn’t say for absolutely certain.

He sighed, figured there was no tender-footing it, and jumped right into the deep end.

“What are your plans concerning your family?”

There was a longish period of quiet, alongside some foot-tapping.

“I do hope to make peace with them, someday. For today, that is not possible.”


What else he could say, he wasn’t sure.

“It is. But you heard my banishment. What would I do? Go back only to have my exile emphasized again?”

The poor girl wasn’t getting an inordinate amount of sympathy. On the other hand, Eihks wasn’t carved from stone. He heard the depth of her soul’s wounds, and he hoped she could forgive herself soon.

“I won’t be second-guessing your actions yet.”

She glared over at him.

“Thank Gegaunli for that consideration,” she said, not quite spitting.

He simply raised an arm and an eyebrow.

“I’m hoping we’re going to become friends in the long run. If that should happen, then I’d be derelict in my duty if I didn’t point out ways I thought you could better yourself. I don’t know for sure that an attempt to patch things up with your family would fail. Obviously you know better than I.”

The arm bobbed, varying numbers of fingers outstretched, as a knife floated onto the back of his hand and started dancing.

“If you’re not going to listen, that’s your right, and… eventually… I’ll stop nagging. You’re not stupid. I’m sure you’ve had thoughts like these before. Consider me a well-intentioned idiot if that helps.”

He waited for her to say something about how he ought to go and compare notes with her father and enigmatic mother, but she didn’t.

“You mentioned seeing some of your… writing, earlier,” she muttered. “That may prove profitable.”

Eihks blinked, then set up the holojector.

“Alright,” he said, before putting on the same episode that he’d surreptitiously sampled earlier at the Broken Ship. “Just hold onto your questions at first; you’ll have a bunch of them.”

Ktsn’s reception was one of very focused bafflement. Eihks also read her some fan letters, during the lulls in action. Good ones. Bad ones. Especially the bad ones.

“So, what are your thoughts at this juncture?” he asked, after the snippet of sensory finished.

“I do not know what to think,” she eventually said. “Beings of Old. Planet theft. Immortality.”

An eye shuttered open, zeroing in on him.

“You did not make me immortal, did you?”

“That’ll come later, if you want it and you join the hallowed ranks of us normal citizens instead of… being whatever ‘unintegrated citizen’ status implies. Immortality as we have it doesn’t usually mean that you become invincible and unkillable by anything imaginable or otherwise, and it’s not something you’re given, as such. It’s more of a series of processes that get continually renewed to keep you at optimum condition forever, or regenerate to that point if you suffer undue stresses. What we call ‘weak’ immortality as opposed to ‘strong’ immortality.”


She deflated a bit.

“I suppose it is better than some possible futures,” she said. “I might be unconditionally banished from my family’s estate, after all.”

“You ought to sleep,” Eihks advised her, picking up after the carnage of her mealtime demolition. “You’re the guest – you get the bed-pad; I’ll take the floor.”

She snapped an eye in the direction of the bed-pad, as though it were a springtrap and she an innocent game animal.

“I’ll show you how to work the thing. It’s more comfortable for sleeping than you might think. Not like I have the ability to really appreciate a good resting position.”

He grinned with impish delight as he paused, then twisted his spine through three hundred sixty degrees with an almost musically resonant series of cracks.

“Please stop doing things like that!”

She sounded well and truly alarmed, and (if momentarily) no longer annoyed and universally resentful. That was good.

“I make absolutely no promises.”

Turning sober, he waltzed over to the bed-pad, and began fiddling with its console.

“I’ll assume you prefer staying not too far off the ground. This thing here dictates elevation, this thing sets how ‘squishy’ your simulated cushion is, and these parts set up the size of the bed.”

He gave an exhibition of the thing in action by throwing himself onto the exudation of invisible force, then rolling around without budging from his perfectly centered position.

“I think this will mimic your sleeping arrangement at home fairly adequately.”

A carefully-timed twist caused the force to dislodge him, and he rolled back onto the floor.

“Try it out,” he said, then laid himself out closer to the door with eyes shut.

“It is comfortable enough,” came a wobbly voice shortly after. “Thank you.”

A thin smile at his more laconic housemate.

“Don’t mention it.”

Then, with a soul-deep sobriety: “Partner.”

She said nothing.

He slept the dreamless sleep of the dead.

The next morning – following a few last-minute errands, of the sort which he undertook alone with her waiting nearby – they managed to arrive in one of the neighborhood’s context hubs. He’d picked out the direction of the first facet they’d visit while she slept, and the simplex connection taking them there was already booked. He sank back into the comfort of his mind’s most abstract halls, picturing the thousands of possible subclasses of environments they might encounter on this jaunt.

“Well,” he said, as they stood in the naked-white chamber, waiting to be shot off into the gem’s expanse.

“Gegaunli see this tribulation resolved amicably,” she intoned in something close to a chant.

He turned to Ktsn, thumbed his forehead at her.

“It’ll be a pleasure to have company along, whatever else happens. Let’s make it memorable, shall we?”

She gave him a handclap in response, slightly shaky. He smiled, trying to be honest as the day was long.

“Don’t worry,” he said, soothing and buttery. “Your family will probably have the opportunity to straighten things out with you again in no more than a year, if they have the inclination. I think – I hope – you’ll patch up your differences in due time.”

He paused.

“Assuming we don’t end up as meat sandwiches or get translated into being laws of entropy or something.”

The karkshesh stopped breathing after a moment, and her eye snapped to his face.


Simplex connection succeeded, and the pair got sucked up and across abstract boundaries not meant for the foot traffic of mortal creatures.

The last thoughts Eihks had were, first, a prayer whose slightly shifting words were well-worn from years of use: that the Way would guide him effectively – as it had in coping with his unmasking – and, if it should be his time, take him down the Way that waited on the far side of mortal existence. He appended to these words, asking that the Old-touched one with whom he traveled would be safe as well.

Second, he dwelt on the potential strain into which he was bringing his accomplice. A wide gem, full of dread icons like Beasts and the Ripper, but other ominous things besides. Things that made him nervous.

Third, he cast back through the pool of his mind, and contemplated the wonders he’d seen, and the good that might be done, and the truths that two people could now seek together… and he smiled at the thought of what was to come.

Off they went, to think the secondhand thoughts of God.

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