The last chapter was a bold statement about moving on to a new phase in your life and the acceptance of death versus the fight for life. We wanted to bring Byron back and set up changes in Gravedust’s life, but those are simple and undemanding plot goals.

This chapter, by contrast, is almost entirely plot-driven. A little theme stuff sneaks into some of its segments, but as a whole, it’s not really about anything:  it’s just here to (slightly) streamline our sprawling story as we gear up for a big plot twist or two.

A number of characters get demoted in relevance. Kur’Ik, E-Merl, and Sundar end their time as “main party members” here, partly to free up a little space for Byron and Gravedust’s impending return. The Heads of Houses go from schemers to subordinates, one of the Rebel leaders commits her last important political act, and one of the Champions is quietly dropped from its roster. There is, however, one former protagonist who steps forward, not back: though it had seemed like the plot was done with her, she here achieves at least deuteragonist status.

I’ve got mixed feelings about some of these moves. In theory at least, it would’ve been nice to bring Kur’Ik, E-Merl, and Sundar on the adventure that begins as this chapter ends, and at least a couple of the Heads could’ve provided a little more lively drama in the last days of the republic than what we got. But we needed to start setting up Taro’s reign of terror, and we would shortly do some more scenes between all the active Champions and all the active ex-Peacemakers. Jugglin gthat combined crew of ten adventurers (plus Weo) was going to be hard enough: taking the number any higher might’ve been asking for trouble. Plus, the ex-Peacemakers who will participate in that adventure have more important things to learn from it than the ones left behind would.