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This may well be the longest chapter of the book so far, clocking in at 2,772 words. Given that my weekly target is 1,200, that’s quite a bumper edition. Not uncoincidentally, this chapter arrived a day later than usual.

I wrote this while on a fmaily holiday in a lovely, quiet village in Devon. I knew what was coming in this chapter and I also recognised at the time that my brain was absolutely NOT in the right space for it. I was feeling far too relaxed and cheerful, while at the same time being pretty tired in that relief-from-work-stress kind of way that holidays invite. Therefore after managing the first half of the chapter – basically up to the moment Tarn leaves the tower – I then put it aside and finished it off the following night, by which point I felt prepared to give Hachim Arondir a decent send-off.

This is the first major character to die in the book. Sure, Hachim was only introduced a few chapters back, but he was already shaping up to be pretty cool and was making an impact on the story and our more established characters. That I was focusing on him over the other new squad members was quite deliberate, although his death wasn’t always on the cards. It was only after writing ‘Through the gates’, his introductory chapter, that I decided to have him succumb to the monsters of the north. Even so, killing the guy wasn’t easy or pleasant and I felt decidedly annoyed by the whole affair. The story gives and the story takes away, and losing a character I was enjoying writing was a bummer.

Still, the fact I REALLY didn’t want to do it gave me increased confidence that it was the right move. It raises the stakes for the survivors, it impacts heavily on them – especially the other squad members, who we will now get to know through the lens of Hachim’s death – and it does so in a limited, controlled way. After all, I could have killed ANYONE in the Crowjun encounter, but bumping off Fenris or Tranton would have been a far bigger deal at this point in the story, and ultimately a wasted opportunity. Unless you’re George RR Martin, character deaths need to be earned, otherwise they eventually undermine the story and make for a dissatisfying experience.

There’s other important bits and pieces going on in this chapter: we see Tarn taking charge of his own destiny once more, for the first time really since he first escaped the machine rooms. About time, Tarn! We also have the mysterious and unexplained wibbly-wobbly stuff that Tarn thinks he’s glimpsing throughout the chapter. Mystery piled on mystery. I’m very conscious that I need to start delivering actual answers soon if I’m to avoid irritating people – and Arc 5 will definitely have those before it’s done.

Also, I rather like the title of this chapter. Apt, and it has a good feel.


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