The week of writing this chapter, an old friend and colleague of mine was killed in a car crash. He was the kindest man I knew, ridiculously skilled and quietly insightful. The worst of times.
There was no extricating what was happening in my real world with what I was writing in the world of The Mechanical Crown. Hence this chapter becomes slightly different to what it might once have been – a triumphant launch of the Mountain Breaker as our heroes begin their final adventure – turning instead to something more inward-looking and contemplative.
The conversation about Fenris’ death is also me working through some of my disagreements with fate. That sense of childhood innocence, when you assume you’ll live forever and everything will be great, is impossible to go back to once you realise the true nature of the world. Of course, I’m lucky to have even had those childhood years – many don’t have that luxury. That’s the point that Tarn makes to Kirya.
Around that acknowledgement that the world is complex, and dangerous, owes you nothing and is prone to bursts of immense unfairness, there’s the ongoing struggle to find purpose and definition; to find reason to persevere. To find hope in a universe that repeatedly does awful things.
I don’t really have any answers to any of that, but it’s what was preying on my mind during the writing of the chapter. Any writer will be influenced by their surroundings, of course, but serialised writing is particularly vivid in that it’s a weekly chronicle of my mental state and the world around me. This chapter, regardless of how much I edit it in the future, will always wear the shadow of my friend’s death. For my selfish part, I’m glad that I have a safe, fictional space in which to work through some of these thoughts. Channelling it into my writing has helped me to process events in the real world.
In and around all of that, this chapter also ticks off a few essentials: a tour of the Mountain Breaker, so that we all know what it is and what it’s like aboard. We finally get Tarn and Kirya addressing the elephant in the room. Although we now have OUR knowledge that Tarn is seeing visions of Aera, which from Kirya’s POV is not at all obvious.
The story continues.