SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT about Sesskia’s Diary

I started writing Sesskia’s Diary as an experiment in epistolary form. It very soon grew out of control. While I was publishing one or maybe two entries twice a week, I was writing well ahead of schedule. The diary is now complete, and I’ve just been posting excerpts on that twice-weekly schedule. The plan has always been to publish the whole thing as a book, or several books, as soon as it was all up on the blog.

But I’ve run into a problem. I’m impatient, and I want everyone to be able to read the story. The slow pace of the blog schedule means if I keep to twice a week, I’ll finish in a couple of years. Even going to a daily schedule is going to take forever.

So I’ve made the hard decision to stop publishing Sesskia’s Diary on the blog and offer it for sale as the trilogy Convergence, with the individual books being The Summoned Mage, The Wandering Mage, and The Unconquered Mage. (Currently Sesskia’s Diary is in the middle of The Wandering Mage.)

I realize this may come as a disappointment, since I’m now going to be charging for what I was offering for free, so I’m making a special offer available for readers of Sesskia’s Diary. Write to me at writer@melissamcshanewrites.com with the subject line Sesskia’s Diary, and I will send you the ENTIRE Convergence trilogy, which contains bonus scenes from Cederic’s point of view. Convergence goes on sale in one week, so you’ll have it in advance of publication.

Thanks to those of you who’ve been reading along. I hope you enjoy the conclusion of Sesskia’s adventures!

Sesskia’s Diary, part 208

11 Seresstine, evening

Back to work. Cianan and Kerkessa both killed, Cianan by a lucky rifle shot, Kerkessa by a lightning bolt created by one of those battle mages. I don’t think it was on purpose, or rather I don’t think the mage knew what Kerkessa was, or we’d have had several more bolts to deal with.

Saemon collapsed—I wasn’t paying attention to how often he was using the mind-moving pouvra, maybe I didn’t care because he’s got the longest range of any of us and had the clever idea of targeting the mages themselves. So he was flinging one of the battle mages across the field and into the middle of the fighting, and then his eyes rolled up in his head and he just folded up on himself so fast no one even caught him. We took him back to his tent and Alessabeka’s sitting with him. She still feels guilty about Rutika, though I think she knows it’s inappropriate guilt, so whenever I can give her something to do that takes her away from the battlefield, I do.

We don’t really know how the battle’s going, though Mattiak doesn’t look grim, so I don’t think we’re losing. I hope. I’m writing this in between bites of bread and cheese, which is all we get for dinner because our “servants” are off fighting somewhere. Then I’m going back to try the fire-summoning pouvra again. There has to be a way to keep them from putting out the fires quickly. At least it keeps them from attacking our people, if not permanently.

11 Seresstine, late

Fighting’s stopped again for the night. They haven’t used the war wagons against us again, don’t know why. Had a talk with Mattiak about us changing tactics and attacking their officers. He approved. I told everyone the new plan. They are all so tired. I’ve never used so many pouvrin so often. It feels like the ground is pulling us down to meet it, the dead grass binding our feet so we can’t move. I think we need to be more careful.

Saemon’s still not totally recovered from his collapse and hasn’t been able to work any pouvrin since then. I had to reassure him that magic isn’t something that vanishes like water down a drain, but it’s true that I’m having more trouble bending my will to meet the pouvrin as the hours pass, so there might come a time when none of us can work magic. Trying not to dwell on that, as there’s nothing we can do about it.

Sesskia’s Diary, part 207

10 Seresstine, after dinner

Some kind of cease fire so the armies can collect the dead and wounded. I can’t tell how things are going and I don’t want to go to Mattiak for fear he’ll think I’m weakening toward him. No casualties among the mages. Dinner tasted like sand, not the fault of our cook.

11 Seresstine, maybe 9 a.m. morning

I wonder if I should get a watch. I’m not usually in a position to care about the exact time, but if I’m going to make several entries a day, maybe I should be accurate.

That was a really stupid thought. I don’t care what time it is. I’m crossing that out. Fighting started again about an hour ago. This war is so stupid. We’re all too tired still to fight, so I sent everyone back to bed. Then I had a loud argument with Mattiak about it that ended with him shouting at me and me shouting at him, then me storming off to my tent. I know he’s the commander, but he needs to listen to me when I tell him we’ve reached our limit.

11 Seresstine, a little later

Mattiak came to apologize. I apologized too. Then he tried to embrace me and I had to shove him away and shout again. Then I started crying. I hate this war. He had the good sense to leave without saying anything else.

Sesskia’s Diary, part 206

10 Seresstine, afternoon

We’ve been fighting for seven hours now and we’re all exhausted. The battle mages were, as I predicted, prepared for our assault. They have defensive kathanas now, shimmering pale shields that protect them from missiles, and while they can’t defend against fire, they can dismiss it before it does too much damage. The shields don’t hold up against really big missiles thrown really fast, but there are fewer of us who can do that. The only good thing about them is they make it easy for us to see our targets through the nightmare furor that is the battlefield—people milling around, clustering so we can’t even tell our men from theirs.

Everyone is trying to come up with alternative forms of attack, even the pacifists, though their plans are more for how to sneak in and disable the remaining war wagons. I’m just grateful for the following things:

  1. The Castavirans don’t have Cederic’s shield. We’d have no chance against it.
  2. The melee fighting hasn’t reached us yet, not anywhere close.
  3. The war wagons have stopped firing now that they’ll pulverize their own people as well as ours if they do.
  4. The battle mages still have no idea who or where we are.

Number 4 can’t last long. I’ve had our people move occasionally and spread out into little groups so we’re not obvious, and of course I’ve forced them to abandon Norsselen’s gesturing, but at some point someone’s going to use logic, and then we’ll be in trouble.

I’m going to nap, and maybe this will all look better later.

Sesskia’s Diary, part 205

10 Seresstine, too early (continued)

We passed one of the other war wagons, and I saw an unconscious battle mage on the ground and another one perched on the seat, painting rapidly and swearing (I think; it was too loud to hear). The war wagon was silent. I stopped and circled around to where I could see what he was doing. The brass plate was a smeared mess of clay filling the grooves, and silver paint coated it above the engraved th’an. As I watched, the mage tried again to paint the activation th’an on the flat, gleaming surface; nothing happened.

“Have you lost your mind?” Nessan growled into my ear, grabbing my wrist and towing me along after him. After a few seconds, I regained my balance, and we began moving as if we were panicked soldiers and not ruthless spies. Even though we were still in the Castaviran camp and therefore still in danger, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so relieved. I’d forgotten how difficult it is to scribe th’an without lots and lots of practice. Those mages might have the innate ability to scribe the magic that makes the war wagons work, but they still needed the pattern of the grooves to do it. Our raid wasn’t a waste of time, after all. Thank the true God. I don’t think I could have forgiven myself, otherwise.

We came out of the enemy camp on the southeast and circled around back to our camp. It was full dark at that point, and Nessan stumbled so often I eventually took his hand to lead him in the moonless, cloudy night. Neither of us said anything about it, me because I didn’t want to make him feel awkward and him, probably, because he didn’t like the route I’d chosen, not that it was a bad one—he just doesn’t like having to follow anyone.

Tobiak and Relania were at the picket line, our agreed-on meeting place, when we returned. “We only got four of our five,” Relania said. “There were more battle mages at the fifth, surrounding it, so we couldn’t get through. And I think one of them spotted us.”

“Fair enough,” Nessan said. “And it might be good they saw you, if they know you were concealed before that. Give them something to worry about.”

“Rutika and Alessabeka aren’t back, though,” Tobiak said. “Should we go after them?”

“Even if they aren’t concealed, you’d never find them in the dark,” Nessan said, “and as I told your fearless leader, you should give them credit for knowing what to do.”

“And they have farther to go, if they retreated north rather than trying to cross the entire camp to come out where we did,” I said, trying to make myself feel better. I don’t know how convincing I was.

We waited for a long time. Once or twice someone tried to start a conversation, but it never went anywhere. We were all too nervous, especially since after a while the pounding started up again, and we worked out there were three war wagons still active. If Rutika and Alessabeka hadn’t disabled two of theirs…

My stomach felt full of acid, and I realized none of us had eaten recently. I think I’d have thrown up anything I tried to eat at that point. Eventually, the pounding stopped with one last defiant blast, and then it was still and cold and black, thanks to the thick cloud cover that probably didn’t mean snow, which would have delayed the inevitable attack in the morning.

Then someone was approaching us, and I had just enough time to register it was only one person and think Why is she still concealed? when Alessabeka stumbled and caught herself on one of the picket ropes, and sobbed, “They killed her. They saw her breath, and she tried to get away but she tripped and hit her head and lost concealment, and we ran away but it was right into a couple of soldiers—I’m sorry I ran, I left her behind, I’m sorry I’m sorry—”

Relania put her arms around the weeping woman and said, “It would have been stupid for you to stay and be killed as well. Rutika would be the first to tell you that. Shh, shh.”

I was—I couldn’t even think. It had never occurred to me that Rutika might be the one to fall. She was so good at all of it, and—damn her, she relied too much on that damn pouvra and it got her killed. I’m so mad at her I can’t even s

I’m not mad. I’m grieving. What a waste. And they didn’t

I can’t believe I was about to blame a dead woman for failing to complete her job. The truth is, I’m irrationally blaming myself for not going after them the way I wanted to, the way Nessan told me not to. Irrational, because he was right, but I do this every time, think about what might have happened if I’d chosen differently.

All right. Suppose I’d gone north instead of south. We might all have been killed. I could have been drawn into a fight and been overwhelmed. Or worse, they could have captured me and dragged me to the God-Empress to be tortured to death. There’s no reason to believe a different choice might have been a better choice. So I’m not going to think like that anymore.

We made a difference. I wish we could have stopped them before they managed to fire any projectiles, because they did a lot of damage in the camp, just not as much as if they’d been allowed to attack unhindered. Mattiak finally looked at me the way he used to, as a friend and a respected colleague, and that helped. But mostly we’re all in mourning now.

It’s…I don’t know what time it is. Late. Or early. Nobody feels like sleeping, which is stupid because we’ll need to be fresh in the morning when the real battle begins. I wish I had Cederic’s th’an he used on me to help me sleep when I kept having those nightmares about everyone I love being killed by the God-Empress. We could all use it now.