"Boughs of Freedom": The Inside Track....

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Like the last story ("Roots of Contention") this was an original Brom Shriker story, now only the second in 20+ years. Shrike Team #6 will be the next one to dip into my old well of stories to any real extent.

It was asked whether Felicity is aware of what is happening all this time she is under Gen'a'too's control (page 3). She isn't -- she's essentially asleep in there. But it is all being recorded in her unconscious mind even so, and that will come in handy soon.

We'll also get the scoop on the "why" of those green eyes (page 9). Brom is quite far even now from understanding the true nature and source of his power.

Not many narrative changes were made in this one as I progressed. There was a great deal of complexity behind Tyra's paranoid reasoning (page 12) and her plot to use Brom "under the table" against regulations (page 15). A lot of loose ends there, and hopefully I tied them all up into a neat package and didn't leave any strings hanging. I played around quite a bit with Gen'a'too's torments of the Confederacy Army members (page 17); this scene originally had him using "afterimages" of himself to confuse the soldiers into firing on each other, and the same gag was planned in the first scene as well when he stood between the two soliders. In the end I came up with the more interesting gags of leaving the first two soliders in dress-down mode and having the pack of five punched out, with Tyra scared into jumping sky-high and landing. The cake scene (page 18) was also a last-minute inspiration.

Brom's citation of the Oracles of the Covenant (page 13) is their equivalent to our Romans 13:1.

There will undoubtedly be repercussions from the destruction of a quarter of Greeter's Pass (page 14). Not only the cost of the loss, but further economic results such as loss of jobs and trade. Someone's got to help Felicity out of that mess at some point, and he will. "He" is not Brom Shriker, though. Someone else.

The full extent of Eidolon's powers of mind are in the air for now, but we can assume he used his "mental locator" abilities (seen in Shrike Team #2, when he sought out Von Lucre's mind) to get a fix on where Gen'a'too was (page 19). We'll learn more about the origins of Eidolon's power, and his learning of the precursor language, in a special mini-series that will close out the Cartel cycle. Be forewarned though that this mini-series will be the first thing available only to subscribers to the Annals, once I get that in place. If 5 bucks a year is too much to spare, break your addiction now while you still can. (hee hee)

The capture of Gen'a'too and the "Heimlich" rescue (page 20) went through some permutations. In the iteration 20 years back, Brom captured Felicity by tossing marbles on the ground so that she slipped and fell, and I briefly considered a scene in which she was taken by Brom throwing down a crate of ball bearings. Using the invisiblity spell instead occurred to me as a way for Brom to first pick up some of that white magic from Eidolon, and was also consistent with Eidolon's return to the scene.

So now the question arises (page 21)....the seed of the selalghi is out; Felicity no longer has her powers...she has to get them back somehow later, right? Yes indeed. But it won't be by swallowing the seed again. Seeds, I should note, often are indigestible. They may pass through the system or conceivably become "stuck" somewhere in the digestive tract....or in this case, Gen'a'too likely did his best to keep the thing in one place. Brom's power came about when he actually ate the fruit of the selalighi, and there won't be any changing him back. I chose a seed as the instrument of Felicity's initial transformation precisely because, unlike the whole fruit, it had the possibility of not being digested and thus a reversal was possible. Felicity, anyway, will get her powers back in Shrike Team #6, and this time, it will be her own choice to have them.

I wouldn't worry about Brom dropping that incantation too much (and yes, I did think of that -- page 22). Only a Covenant member can use the incantation, and by the time the city is "un-evacuated" the paper will be in a gutter somewhere....

At last, too, we see a "softer side" to old Grim Face, as one of my readers calls Eidolon (page 23). He's suffered a long time, and be advised...he's not immune to a little self-deception. He's of the view that once the circle closes, the end of the age will have no impediments and the resurrection will occur (see his semi-sermon in ST #1). I'll tell you this much...he didn't get that from prophetic insight. He's very much wrong. And he's going to be very upset when he realizes that he deluded himself that way. It won't have been the first time he deluded himself either. In fact, the next time we see him, in the crossover story with the Range Patrol, we'll learn about one particular instance which has been haunting him for a long time...no points for guessing that meeting with Annabelle Ketterling will be the trigger.

Some hints on what the judgment on the Tilkrig was all about (page 24) will appear in Shrike Team #6, but the full story won't be told until that mini-series.

Sorry -- anyone hoping for Brom and Felicity to become an item, that pretty well seals the matter against it (page 25). But let's face it...athlete and scientist? No way, not as a couple. They're good as buddies and as a working team, but that household wouldn't have a lot of concord if they had to live together as a married couple. Besides, we need the door open for Brom for reasons to be seen. Tyk Jyn-Rayana? Yes. And....

So what does Eidolon have in that Shelter of his, besides what we see (page 26)? I'll leave that open for now, but answer one question....yes, there's probably a kitchen in there, and he does need to eat. I've decided that if he doesn't, he goes into a sort of hibernation mode. So I'd say the Shelter is fully stocked with what passes for ramen noodles on Hearthstone. His tastes are most likely very simple since he's no doubt tried everything there is to try over 40000 of their years.

Nevertheless, we'll keep some of the playful tension between these two folks (page 31) up until one or both is actually committed to someone else. Hey, Felicity thinks it's her job to give Brom a hard time...that's why she makes such a good sister figure to him. She actually reminds him a great deal of Pepper.

Brom is assumed to be about six of their years old in the flashback (page 28). Since the Prycene lifespan is in the 600 range, this led to some discussion over how they age. A good analogy can be to how dogs were once thought to age, and how that has changed. Formerly it was assumed that every year for a dog was equal to 7 years for a human, so my 15 year old poodle would be 105. But now, it has been decided that a dog's first two years are equal to 25 human years, then each year after that is four human years, making my pooch 77. Not that he acts like it when he scampers around at mealtime. So we can assume that a Hearthstonian's early years are ones of quick growth, followed by slow growth for the bulk of their lives. We can also assume there are not many children compared to adults on Hearthstone (and that fits with that we have seen only two, aside from flashbacks, in the stories so far).

The gag about Eidolon in a wig and with a basket (page 29) developed from a misunderstanding by someone who saw a black and white drawing of Eidolon and mistook him for "Little Red Riding Hood"! A reader said, "I'd like to see that" and I designed this avatar for him:

Grim Face is definitely not happy with this. On that page also, we'll have some interesting stuff explaining how the K'rek'skran managed to rope the power of the seraphs off, in Shrike Team #6.

Eidolon the Sunday Driver (page 32). Yep. Just another example of how he has trouble keeping up with the times. If it were up to him he'd just walk everywhere or use the portals as best he could.

Tyra (and Gen'a'too -- page 33) will be back to cause trouble near to the close of the Cartel cycle. She'll also nurse that grudge against Eidolon for a while...and as she gets older, and when she finally learns that he is immortal...well, you can smell something brewing.

The Recommended Next Read is Range Patrol #5.