Wind howled as Bohriam trudged across the pathless slope, legs dragging through a foot or more of snow, with only the clouded light of the Dancers and his sword to guide him through the darkness. Icy sharp snowflakes plummeted from ahead, slamming into him and pinpricking his skin like daggers too small to avoid. He grit his teeth as another furious gale roared against him, threatening to rend him into oblivion.
The Transiosphere released a brief storm of crackling energy—and then Vaxal found himself in the middle of a conference room full of very confused diplomats, all staring up at him in disgraceful assortments of surprise and alarm. He was in Thannica now, the capital of Beleria, a thousand miles away from Stormwatcher’s Peak. He had appeared right in the middle of a session of the Court of King Valion—and he was standing on top of their table.
Bohriam and I escaped from the Provincial Estate with little further danger. He led me through the maze of hallways and stairways and secret passageways like he had lived here for years—carefully avoiding detection by any of the castle’s guards, none of whom had any idea yet that their Exarch was dead. They carried on about their business like it was any other day, only casually speculating on what the ruckus downstairs had been, while Bohriam and I fled like invisible phantoms under their very noses.
Bohriam tore himself out of the indent his body had made in the wall, nearly collapsing to one knee as he fell. He held himself up with his lightning sword, bladepoint digging into the stone floor. “I’m not going to let you hurt Ashleigh,” he declared. Trembling, he lifted his sword with both hands and prepared himself for battle.
I sat on the floor of the Exarch’s dungeon, legs curled up to my chest and head resting limp between my knees. There was no light except for what meager amounts emanated from the torch down the hall, far beyond the bounds of the iron bars that made up my cell. Metal chains connected my manacled wrists to the wall behind me, but I didn’t care—it was pointless to keep thinking there might be any way for me to escape. There was no getting out of this one.
I stared at the blinking cursor on the screen in front of me, buried at the bottom of an impenetrable wall of error messages. The server didn’t have enough memory available to complete the package uninstallation—as if that made the slightest amount of fucking sense. Frustration rising, I placed my hands back on the keyboard and typed out another string of terminal commands, all while grumbling “I hate DevOps… I hate DevOps… I hate DevOps…”
The sun shone diagonally through my half-closed window blinds. The pitter-patter of typing fingers and the hum of Ubliquo workstations surrounded me.
It was 3:10 PM on Friday, April 16, 2021—three hours before I died.
Vaxal’s fingers clasped around my neck, squeezing with such force that my metal collar deformed under his pressure. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t even look away. Vaxal stared into me with eyes so full of malice that they practically glowed.
One of the most important details of good science is the ability to reject the null hypothesis. To not only be able to test your own wacky hypothesis in the first place, but to be sure that your test disproves all the other, less wacky possibilities. Falsifiability is a good start, but it doesn’t take you all the way—you need to be able to reject the null hypothesis.
Do the words “captured” and “captive” have the same etymology? They probably do in English—both sourcing from the same root word, some Latin infinitive I didn’t know. But what about in Beleric? Would they have the same etymology there? Maybe not, if the story of the multiverse was one of convergent evolution—of languages inching ever closer to their multiversal ideals over geological time scales. If that was the case, then it might be possible to compare and contrast the etymologies of all the words in English and Beleric to figure out where both languages were heading next.