Oh, hey, everything’s fine! I vaguely remember things looked pretty dark two-and-a-half chapters back, but I also vaguely remember some bit where Bayen and Brayen returned. Looks like they and Byron have made up for lost time together, and it’s clearly been good for them: they actually look a lot younger than the last time we saw th–ohhhhhh. 

The first five pages here are my work, after which it transfers over to Flo for a fair stretch. There was a balancing act to perform here: I felt like there should be a slight hint of foreboding as we transitioned from the celebration of the last chapter to the horror lurking ahead, but it would’ve been too obvious, as well as out of character, for much somberness to creep into the dialogue. The answer was to be found in the weather, which I think John understood instinctively from my “a light snow falling” direction. A light snow falling is appropriate weather for chopping firewood, but it also triggers some kind of instinct in us: dangerous times ahead, get inside, get warm, get safe.

I said “John” there, not “John and Jason.” With this chapter, Flo and I transitioned back to the three-a-week schedule, which we’d maintain until the end of the series. This meant John could finish out the rest of it unassisted. It’s a sign of how in sync he and Jason were that very few people noticed the change.