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I really, truly enjoy that you are continuing to write about Vivika. This line: 'She killed the bandits easily, but afterwards she cried and cried. She kept shaking. I think she was experiencing something in her past. Do you have a word for that?'

In fantasy stories it's so common for a character to be killed and that is more or less that, and with Vivika's death coming so early in the tale, I was not expecting to learn anything about her... let alone start feeling *so much* empathy for her. I really appreciate this approach.

I can't exaggerate how much I love everything Bab does and says: 'Maybe treasure?' Bab asked, looking around the ruins.

It may be worth mentioning that part of why I am so in love with Bab is because the character is incongruous with the others, as well as from the tone of the story. Bab works so well for me *because* the story has such a grounded tone with such serious characters (who I also am very invested in, to be clear). I also think that the language shifts are key, here, because Bab is endearing when speaking poorly in the language he doesn't know well, but then he is relatable when he speaks clearly in his own language.

As for the narrative, and that ending... all I can say is it is *working*. The tension is at the exact right pitch, the mystery has my mind racing in the fun way fiction can spark, and I think the way the characters are reacting (taking things in stride, continuing on) feels completely appropriate and natural given who they are showing themselves to be.

This is really fast becoming my favorite fiction on Substack, and I genuinely mean that.

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