Coda to an Age of Heroes

Back in 2000, I decided to put my fingers where my disdain had been and write a pulpy fantasy novel without forethought or revision. (This was before NaNoWriMo got big, it was a less obvious thing to do at the time.) So I wrote and published about a thousand words each week, without knowing where I was going. Until, having sat with the material for a few months, I started to know where I was going, and then I slowed waaaaay down. Thus I learned the failed novelist’s truth: writing fifty thousand words of story is much harder than writing a thousand words of story fifty times.

I got through 29 episodes over five years, and then I went to law school. And the end of that story has been squatting in the back of my brain for fifteen years, new worldbuilding details and spinoff narratives accumulating on it like barnacles.

So I’m going to take another run at it, having learned a thing or two about finishing things. For one thing, it has a title now.

Episode 1: In which we meet our hero, and he dies.

Erik and the Goblins
(June 11, 2015)

Once, there was a young man whose name was Erik, and who was deeply, profoundly annoying.

When he had a fruit that went bad, he would throw it at someone else’s house, or their goat, just to watch the splat.

He would find other people who were in the middle of something and say “Hey.  Hey.  Hey.” until they put it down and said “What?”, and then he would say “Nothing.”

He liked to point out to other people when their clothes were unflattering, or the humidity unfortunate for their hair.

He was roundly disliked in the neighborhood.

One morning, he awoke to an unpleasant sensation in the big toe of his left foot.  He tried to scratch it on the sheets, to no avail.  He flexed his foot, but the unpleasant feeling persisted.  Finally, he pulled off his blanket, and was shocked to see, clinging to his toe by its mandibles, a goblin.

“What are you doing?” cried Erik.

“Mmm chmmmm mm mmm.  Mmmm.”

“What?”

“She said she’s chewing your toe.  Duuuuhh,” said a shrill yet scratchy voice in his right ear.  Erik whipped his head to the right, to find another goblin squatting on his pillow.  It proceeded to poke him, painfully, in the earhole.

There was a crash from the kitchen.  Erik leapt out of bed and hobbled to the kitchen, where he found a third goblin carefully selecting each piece of Erik’s crockery and then hurling it to the ground.

“What are you doing?”  Erik shrieked.

“Cleaning.  Go away,” the goblin retorted.

Erik ran out of his house and banged on his neighbor’s door.  His neighbor was underwhelmed to see him.

“You have to help me!  I’ve got goblins!”

“Figures,” replied the neighbor, and closed the door.

Erik ran to see the mayor of the town where he lived.  The mayor was equally unenthused about Erik’s goblin problem, but it was an election year, and maybe this year Erik could be persuaded not to vote for Butts.  “We’ll go to see the wise woman,” said the mayor.

The wise woman looked at the afghan being knitted out of Erik’s hair and said, “Ah, you’ve got goblins.  Irritating little critters.”

“How can I get rid of them?” cried Erik.

“Only one way to get rid of goblins,” mused the wise woman.  “First you have to take the East Road through the deep forest, through the badlands, up through the Skyscratchers, until you reach the mysterious lands on the other side.  There, you must seek out the most secret Fountain of Oobalatah, and bathe in its waters.  When you do, the goblins will disappear.”

Erik hesitated, but when the goblins began a farting contest inside his shirt he returned to his home, gathered a few belongings, and promptly set off down the East Road.

The mayor and the wise woman watched him go.  As he faded from sight, the mayor asked, “How did you learn about all those mysteries of the distant East, anyway?”

“Oh, I didn’t,” said the wise woman.  “But it seemed like a good opportunity to get rid of Erik.”

THE END

Coda to an Age of Heroes
Episode 3
(May 22, 2000)

Judging from the state of the camp, the Ebony Cormorant Legion had been hard-hit by the battle. Usually there were dozens of men moving about the central grounds of the camp on some errand or another; now there were only a handful, and most of them had at least one bandaged wound. Kamendian noticed one man aiming a bitter glare at him. Probably he assumed Kamendian had kept to the rear and avoided injury through cowardice. Not an unreasonable assumption; under ordinary circumstances, no common legionnaire would be completely healed the day after a battle. Powerful healing was reserved for officers and nobility.

“I’d like to stop by the healers’ tent, if you don’t mind,” Tellias said. “Last night they preferred to keep their resources for worse wounds than mine, but if they’ll close this up now, it would be much easier to get around. Particularly if we need to impress other legions’ recruiters.”

The two men made their way to the ground in front of the healers’ tent. The tent was surrounded by wounded men lying on the ground, several ranks deep. Among them the healers moved, giving water to one, changing a bandage for another. Tellias caught the attention of one nearest the edge. He was an older man, and he wore the characteristic torc of the Hospitallers.

“Excuse me. I suffered a wound from a javelin in the battle. Last night, the healer who tended me didn’t have time to do more than clean and bandage the wound. I was hoping that now that the camp is calmer someone might be able to help me further.”

“Of course. Eh…let me find something for you to sit on.” The Hospitaller bustled off to another tent. He returned shortly with a stool, and rapidly seated Tellias and began unravelling the bandage on his thigh.

“Hmm. Well, you’re fortunate to have gotten such a clean wound. And whoever cleaned it did an adequate job. I think I’ll forego disturbing the wound again.” He reached up and placed two fingers on Tellias’ neck, muttered to himself, and placed the same two fingers in the crook of Tellias’ elbow. Then he placed both hands on Tellias’ leg — one above the wound, one below. A moment passed.

“Aaagh!” Tellias bellowed. “What are you doing?!”

“Helping your body heal itself. The pain will pass,” replied the healer. “Please stop squirming.”

A few minutes passed, with Tellias gritting his teeth and pounding his free foot on the ground the whole time. Finally, the healer released his grip. He rose and moved behind Tellias.

“What are you doing? Oh, no! Not there!” Tellias cried as the healer placed a hand on the back of his neck.

“What kind of soldier are you? This shouldn’t hurt as much, and if I don’t…well, I suppose at least your leg would be fine.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Well, if I don’t finish the process, the healing would drain all of your…manly energy, let’s say. But it is your body. If you want me to stop, I will.”

Tellias fumed. “Go ahead and finish, you torturer.”

After a few more minutes, which were at least less painful-looking, the healer removed his hands from Tellias and called for a salve. One of the assistants brought over an earthen jar, and the healer began to smear a yellowish paste onto the wound.

“This should help. The wound will probably seal up in an hour or so. I would avoid running for a few days, but you should be able to walk around with no trouble.”

The healer quickly wrapped a clean bandage around Tellias’ thigh and tied it off. Then he looked over at Kamendian. “Do you need any healing?”

“No,” Kamendian replied. “I’m fine, thank you. I–” He was about to explain that he’d been wounded but had been healed the night before, but the Hospitaller had a strange expression on his face. “Is something wrong?”

“No, no, not at all. I just thought I’d met all the war chaplains in this legion. Were you transferred recently? Or are you not of the Ebony Cormorant?” inquired the healer.

“I think there’s been some mistake. I’m just a legionnaire; I’ve been here for four years. I’ve never been a chaplain.” Kamendian replied in confusion.

“Really? You are a priest, though, yes?”

“No. Why do you ask?”

“Strange,” said the Hospitaller. “You have the mark of divine favor right there on your forehead. It’s an unusual place for the mark of War, but it’s quite clear.”

Kamendian paled and clapped a hand to his forehead.

“What does that mean?”

“It’s self-explanatory, really. For those who have the eyes to see it, it says that you are favored by the Lord of Battles. Sometimes the mark also carries with it special gifts, but that would depend on how you got it. And, of course, after death you will be admitted into the Lord of Battles’ cohort. Weren’t you told all this when you were marked?”

“No. I didn’t know I had been.”

“That’s unusual. Most of the gods are very strict with their followers about handing out marks indiscriminately, and War more so than most.”

“I…think the person who marked me probably isn’t subject to the normal rules.”

“Not subject to the normal protocols? That seems unlikely…oh.”

The healer looked taken aback. He scrambled to his feet.

“A man or a woman?”

“A woman. It was after the battle, I think. I’d been wounded. I woke up on the field, and I’d been healed.”

“The Marquise of Nemi. This is interesting.”

Kamendian nodded. There didn’t seem to be much else to say.

“You should know that, to the best of my knowledge, Lady Morgami has never conferred the mark of divine favor on anyone else. Why she chose you I couldn’t say, but that does make you rather special.”

Tellias laughed. “Kamendian, how do you get yourself into these things?”

“I didn’t ask for this!” Kamendian snapped back.

“No one does,” said the Hospitaller quietly. “It may not be important; the Marquise is young, and she may have had a momentary whim. In either case, now you know. I should return to tending the other injured men. It has been a pleasure to meet you, Kamendian. May your path be a fortunate one.” So saying, the Hospitaller withdrew. Before Kamendian could struggle through bewilderment to say anything, a herald’s trumpet sounded at the other side of the compound.

“Men of the Ebony Cormorant, assemble!” the herald bellowed. His voice rang out across the camp. Men came struggling out of tents on every side, until perhaps two hundred men stood in the compound. The legion had numbered a thousand the morning before.

“This is it,” murmured Tellias. “They’re going to disband us.”

“His Excellency the Chancellor of the North, on behalf of His Majesty Anarias, Emperor of Sarangia and Defender of the Light, has decided, the threat of the Storm King and his allies being quelled, to retire the Ebony Cormorant, held until lately by the honorable Legate Orontes, may the gods take him under their protection.”

As the legionnaires made their way through the thick ritual language, murmuring began to rise up among the men. The herald plowed on, his voice booming out over the muttering.

“The retirement of the Ebony Cormorant leaves you legionnaires free of further obligations to the Chancery and Ministry. You may go wherever you choose. If you wish, you may seek a place at one of the other legions here encamped. Be aware that the Amber Lynx, the Tourmaline Wolf, the Carnelian Dragon, the Jade Bear, and the Jade Dragonfly have also been retired.

“You are entitled to whatever salvaged equipment from the battlefield you can carry, as your final bounty. In an hour’s time, at high noon, you will assemble in battle dress for the Legate’s passing ceremony. At that time, you will surrender your legion insignia. The Chancellor and the Emperor offer you their thanks. That is all.”

Coda to an Age of Heroes
Episode 2
(May 16, 2000)

The boy Lady Morgami had called for him didn’t want to go all the way back to camp. Kamendian could appreciate that; the boy’s job was to find those among the fallen who were still alive and get them healing if possible. Once night fell, it would be impossible to see, dooming any unfound wounded. All the same, he wished there were some other way for him to get back to the main camp other than riding on the dead wagon.

Kamendian clambered up onto the wagon, next to the body of a Khirbitei Elkshirt. He watched the healers and the baggage-boys moving around the field, searching for wounded among the corpses strewn about. Here and there, men dragged the bodies of the dead to wagons, to be brought back to camp for blessings and a pyre. He’d had collection duty himself in the past. It was hard work, but it was preferable to the plague of hauntings which followed a battle where the fallen were left to rot.

In the west, the sun was about to sink below the horizon. It would be dark soon. Kamendian was very tired. He probed the hole in his armor; the flesh underneath was unbroken. He didn’t seem to be wounded anywhere–just a bit sore and disoriented. He should be dead.

A short, solidly-built man came up to the wagon, carrying a dead soldier over each shoulder. He looked Sarangian, probably from one of the eastern satrapies. He slung his load onto the cart, then caught sight of Kamendian.

“Still alive, then?” the short man inquired.

On another day, Kamendian might have been able to be snide. But not today. “Yes. I was hoping for a ride back to camp.”

“Mm. Bout full here. What legion you from?”

“The Ebony Cormorant.”

“Can do.” Without further elaboration, the easterner went around to the front and started the mules across the field.

The sun set while the cart moved slowly toward the main encampment. They stopped briefly at the Khirbitei camp for the mountain warriors to unload their dead, then moved on through the Imperial lines. Despite his surroundings, Kamendian was finding it increasingly hard to stay awake. He almost missed his legion’s encampment; the easterner wagon-driver had either forgotten or chosen to ignore his passenger, so Kamendian had to jump off the moving wagon. Exhausted, he stumbled into the camp. The only people moving around seemed to be from the baggage train, and he recognized none of them. He needed to sleep. In the morning, perhaps the world would make more sense. He found a tent with space on the floor, and curled up to sleep. Within moments, the world went away.

When he woke up, Kamendian wished he’d had the presence of mind to remove his armor before sleeping. Every part of him was stiff, and the padding chafed. Looking around, he saw that most of the legionnaires he’d seen the night before had gone. There were only two men left, and both were obviously badly wounded. He wondered where Tellias was. The lanky southerner had taken a Lemnarian javelin through the leg early in the day and been forced to retreat, so he probably had survived the battle. Tellias was a good man to know; he always seemed to know what was happening.

Kamendian took off his gauntlets and flexed his hands. As he unbuckled his vambraces, it occurred to him that he had no idea what had happened to his sword. He vaguely remembered dropping his shield during the battle, but he must have lost his sword while unconscious. Or dead, he thought to himself. Had Lady Morgami actually restored him to life, or just healed him? Well, he thought, the end result is the same.

He shimmied out of his cuirass–his helmet seemed to have gone missing too–and peeled off the padded shirt underneath. His belly wasn’t even marked where the spear had gone through. It was vaguely unsettling. Kamendian finished unbuckling his greaves, stacked his armor properly, and left the tent to go find Tellias, or at least breakfast.

As it happened, he found both in the same place. Tellias was busying himself wheedling an extra bowl of gruel from the cooks. He was so pleased to see Kamendian alive that he paused in his pleadings long enough to clasp hands and say a few words. Later, with three bowls of gruel and a pickled clubroot between them, they talked at greater length.

“Only after a battle,” Tellias proclaimed, “is there ever enough food to go around.” Tellias’ appetite was legendary within the legion; a single legionnaire’s rations could not satisfy him. It gave him the slightly morbid habit of hanging around the kitchen after battles in hopes of drawing the rations of the dead. Some of the other men had rebuked him about it, but he always replied that as a dead man’s rations can do him no good, he, Tellias, might as well make some use of them. “Now tell me: where have you been? I didn’t see you come back with the main body of the legion, and you don’t look wounded. Did you get separated?”

After a brief hesitation, Kamendian told the story of his wound and his encounter with the demigoddess as best he could. Tellias looked him up and down when he was through.

“If you were any other man, I’d call you a liar. But I can’t see you making up something that complicated.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence. What I want to know, though, is what happened. Did we break the Storm King’s armies? The last thing I remember is we seemed to have broken the Anacharsian lines, but I haven’t a clue what happened after that.”

Tellias was quiet for a moment. He took a bite of clubroot and chewed pensively. “That’s a complicated question.”

“The simple answer, I suppose, is that we won. The Storm King was killed–at least bodily. The Storm Guards were smashed, and the slave armies scattered. We routed the Anacharsians, and the Storm King’s other allies retreated. So the day was ours, definitely.

“Whether we won…that’s less certain. Most of the Storm King’s major lieutenants escaped, it seems. All but two of the Silver Conclave died fighting the Storm King. Worst of all, though…the Princes are dead.”

“Which ones?”

“All four of them. Prince Alaces died with the other Conclave members. Stryses and Gorobin died with their legions. And an Anacharsian mage recognized young Rukunar when they pressed us nearly back to the baggage. They’re all dead.”

“But that means…”

“That means that the only legitimate heir is Princess Navaska. And rumor has it that the Emperor is ill–that he collapsed when he learned Rukunar was dead. I know for a fact that the Imperial carriages left for the Palace shortly after the battle ended. Navaska may be Empress soon, and she’s a thirteen-year-old girl who never expected to rule anything. The worst possible age for an heir, too! Too young to rule well, too old for a real regency.

“It also looks like the Grand Alliance is falling apart. Prince Gorobin was supposed to become the viceroy of the lands we’ve taken from the Storm King. Well, now he’s dead, and there isn’t anyone with the rank and the talent to do the job who’s available. Word around camp is that the Vanatasians claim that if the Empire can’t provide a proper viceroy, they should let the Vanatasians or the Casthaneans take charge of those lands. There’s no knowing if the Emperor would be willing to accept such terms, but the Chancellor of the North certainly isn’t. And this morning the Vanatasians broke camp. My bet would be that the Empire’s friendly days with Vanatas may be over.”

“Do you think we’ll have to fight the Vanatasians?” Kamendian asked. To be an Imperial legionnaire fighting against the armies of darkness was one thing, but fighting an ally was another. To say nothing of the life-debt he owed one particular Vanatasian.

Tellias looked down at his second bowl of gruel.

“I doubt that we will be fighting anyone anymore.”

“What does that mean?”

“Legate Orontes died in the Anacharsian attack. With the emperor ill, it’s highly unlikely that any new legates will be appointed any time soon. Which means they will almost certainly dissolve the Ebony Cormorant.”

Both men were quiet for a while. Tellias moved his gruel around with his spoon. He seemed to have lost his appetite.

“Well”, Kamendian essayed, “we could enlist with one of the other legions. There are sure to be vacancies after a battle like this one, and they take veterans over fresh recruits.”

“If we were the only legion being dissolved, that would work. But several legates died in the battle. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see several more forced into retirement.”

Kamendian looked at Tellias sharply. “What makes you say that?”

Tellias chuckled. “Kamendian, you have the political awareness of this pickle. If the emperor recovers, or if Navaska takes the throne with no difficulties, there’s no problem. But it’s more likely that one of the Imperial Chancellors will take the throne as Regent, or that Navaska will be murdered and someone from a cadet branch of the Imperial family put on the throne. And I have no doubt that the big players at court will take no chances. Which means that they will be trying to drive out any legates that they think would oppose them if it came to a succession war. Which means dissolved legions, which means more former legionnaires roaming around than I care to think about, which means slim chances of finding a new legion.”

Kamendian took a bite of the pickle and thought.

“How can you be so cheerful about a succession war?”

“I’m not cheerful. I’m realistic. If I thought I could affect the succession, I would worry about it. Given that I can’t, I worry about how the succession can affect me. In the long run, it won’t matter to anyone outside the court, anyway.

“We can try to look for a new legion, if you want. But my suspicion is we’ll have to be hired swords for a while at least. Unless you want to turn bandit. Or go back to the farm.”

“They haven’t dissolved the legion yet. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”

Kamendian finished his bowl of gruel; Tellias had already downed both of his. They broke the remainder of the clubroot in half, and went to walk around the encampment for a while.

Coda to an Age of Heroes
Episode 1
(May 9, 2000)

Standing on the battlefield at Shammari with an Anacharsian spear through his bowels, Kamendian learned that death comes easy. Just a moment too slow with the shield, and it’s over.

He could still breathe, meaning the spear must have missed his lungs, but he could feel warm liquid running down his belly and legs. Running quickly. The spearman’s hand on the shaft was only a few inches from the puncture in his cuirass; he’d been run through completely. The hand was smooth; the Anacharsian must be young.

Kamendian lifted his head to look at the man who’d killed him. Just a boy, really — fifteen, maybe. His cheeks were still smooth under the green-lacquered cheekguards of his helmet. He was gasping for breath, and staring at where his spear disappeared into Kamendian’s belly. His pale blue eyes were filled with disbelief, and a little fear.

Well, that’s how it ought to be, Kamendian thought to himself. This isn’t supposed to be fun, or easy. Killing people is our job. We aren’t supposed to enjoy it.

He was vaguely aware of his fellow legionnaires being pushed back around him. They were losing this battle. The Storm King would carry the day. Kamendian would leave his body on ground held by the enemy.

Until then, he thought, I suppose I should try to be of some use.

Abruptly, he spun to the right. The spear twisted out of the young Anacharsian’s hand and pulled him off balance. Coming around to face the young spearman again, Kamendian brought his sword down onto the Anacharsian’s unprotected shoulder, bellowing “Sarangia!” Green hide parted under his blade, and the young man fell to the ground. Kamendian flung himself to the left, knocking the Anacharsian there down with his shield, then sprung forward to attack the next rank of enemies. With all the strength of his twenty winters, he smote in two the shield in front of him. The second rank was holding their spears for attacking an enemy at distance; Kamendian was too close for them to strike, and he gave them no time to shift their grip.

As he struck down his third Anacharsian, Kamendian realized he was starting to lose the power of his sword arm. He dropped his shield — there wasn’t any point in trying to defend himself — took his hilt in both hands, and kept fighting. He was still shouting battle-cries, but he couldn’t hear himself over the buzz in his ears. His vision was blurring around the edges. He appreciated that; it kept him focused on the foe at hand.

The battle seemed almost mechanical now: green forms came out of the mist as he charged, and he struck at them as they passed. He felt a few hit him back, but it didn’t really matter anymore. And suddenly, they stopped coming.

With no one left to strike at, Kamendian could no longer keep himself upright. He fell to his knees. He struggled to turn around and go back to the fighting, but his legs refused to cooperate. He fell back into a sitting position, looking back the way he had come. His vision was blurring, but he could see wine-red shapes amid the green blur — the color of Legionnaire armor. They’d broken the Anacharsian line, Kamendian thought as his vision faded into roiling gray.

He could feel something wet against his face — probably grass. He must have fallen over. He could smell the dirt, and the coppery stink of blood. And then everything was gone.

His head was on something soft. He could hear men shouting to each other, but the sounds of battle were gone. There was a gentle breeze across his face. The air had the smell of a battlefield to it, but there was something else in it — a sort of freshness.

Kamendian opened his eyes. It was twilight; the sun was low in the sky. His vision was still fuzzy, but he could see someone’s face above him. A soft face, probably one of the boys from the baggage train. Strange that anyone should have bothered to scrape a common legionnaire off the field. Stranger that he was alive.

“Feeling better?”, inquired a feminine voice.

Kamendian blinked a few times and realized his benefactor was not, in fact, a boy from the baggage train. She was a smallish woman — Vanatasian, he would guess, from her dark hair and eyes. She looked familiar, which was in itself odd. There weren’t many women in the regular legions, and most of the fighting women he’d met were Khirbitei, large and fair. She couldn’t be a healer or a cook, though; she was wearing armor, and it looked well-used.

It came to him; Tellias had pointed her out as they were marching past the Vanatasians on the way to battle. Her name was Lady Morgami; she was the Marquise of somewhere in Vanatas, and the youngest daughter of the Lord of Battles.

Lords and Kings, he had his head in a demigoddess’ lap!

“You’ve done well,” Morgami said. “If it weren’t for you, we might have lost this flank. It’s good to see valor is still alive in the Imperial legions.”

She was smiling at him. Kamendian felt that he should say something, but his tongue didn’t seem to be working right. He wasn’t sure what to say even if it had been.

“Shh. Don’t try to talk. You’ll probably be weak for a while yet. Try to rest.”

She looked up. “Boy! There’s a legionnaire here who needs help back to his camp. He doesn’t need a healer, but someone will have to help him walk.”

Morgami looked down at him again. “Besides, no one ever knows what to say to me anyway.” She lifted his head off her lap and gently laid him to the ground. Then she leaned over and softly kissed him on the forehead. She smelled like morning, not at all as though she’d spent the day fighting.

“Good luck, legionnaire,” she said. Then she stood and walked away.

Index

Squishy Yellow Elegy
(1998)

Part I: Yearnings

My soul! it cries for comfort of a sort
To soothe the aching brain and calm the heart
And too, my stomach does its mass comport
To send its rumblings into every part

My tongue it thrashes to and fro in vain
My salivary glands do fruitless labor
Throughout my belly rings an empty pain
As if ’twere disemboweled with a saber

What shall I do? This hunger racks my frame.
It cries for remedy, and care most tender. 
What shall I do? How shall I quell this flame? 
My guts are as if put into a blender.

The balm is plain to see, just as you please.
It requires these the noodles, this the cheese.

Part II: The Quest

So to the mart I go to seek my fare
Among the hundred aisles I boldly search
And here I find a biscuit, here a leek
And over towards the back some salted perch

But when it seems that hope is truly lost
And all my plans for dinner come undone
I pass again below the grave sign “Past-
a”, there to seek the prize which must be won.  (Shh, it’s enjambment.)

And there my goal, my shining Xanadu!
The box of cardboard, holding little arcs
of noodles there within the cheerful blue.
(My hair it stands on end, and gives off sparks.)

 It is a box of Kraft on which to dine.
The bargain price: a dollar thirty-nine.

Part III: The Resolution

I charge into the kitchen, box in hand
My goal: a pot, and water thence to boil
So I may cause these noodles to expand,
and for the sauce of cheese, I’ll need some oil.

Heretic! you call me. I’ll deny it.
For the flavor’s in the sauce, the liquid cheese.
And if I may, to teach you, ruin your diet,
Pure vegetable oil is the way to please.

Butter and milk does make a runny sauce;
Butter alone has savor more by far.
But oil will make you rue your lifetime’s loss
That ne’er before you knew cheese thick as tar.

The noodles boiled while we did poke and tease.
Let’s sink our struggles in the mac and cheese.

Fin