This afterword is a retrospective on characters and change. A character's change and the retaining of identity.
This one is a longtime coming.
I knew it was coming. The moment things begin, their end is known. We all know we will end. The definition of it, however, is unknown.
But I knew this was coming.
See, the moment Hequera began, well, not the exact moment, a bit later, I knew she was going to end. She was not the part that I needed. She was the part that would give way to what was needed.
Xesh, Tosh, Chag…all also made knowing their tragic ends. The exact scene, the exact definition of their ends, I did not know then. But I knew it would be bloody, it would be brutal, and it would carry the sense of extreme finality.
Above all, it was necessary.
It was necessary, but still…I could not take them away without giving them anything in return. If I am going to kill one of my characters, they are going to get a respectable send-off or that death is going to mean something so powerful that’ll echo through stories to come.
That was the basis for my concept with this book: vignettes with each one of the to-be-gone, vignettes that gave my characters the time to express themselves one last time unfettered. I gave them that.
And I also took them away but that was how it had to go. They all had to die for the story to be complete. That was what was needed…but what was the story? Why was this the way of things?
Let me explain like this:
Hequera and Riag’wug were never in the original story. Original, as in the super rough draft of How to Stop Wildfire. But I needed something more—something to start the long game that would come to head much later. The Guardian and Malcolm Zfnoc were another end game just like the Trinity and the One. An end game that took six books to get to. The end game that was sparked with Hequera and Riag’wug’s little side adventure. They were the ignition to a series of quests that had no point until they culminated in this book.
But one of that pair persisted past the start.
Hequera…Hequera lived. Hequera was seemingly a nobody to the grand game I had planned long ago. But I had to do something with her. I brought her in and so I had to take care of her.
There was something else I had to take care of too.
There was another character I knew I had to bring into the fold. That character had always been a part of it, looming in the background. Awaiting the pieces and events to finally fall into place.
As in the coming, rather, the return, of Malcolm Zfnoc. The Master of Dark, the mystery villain plaguing this set of four books, now no longer mystery. Malcolm Zfnoc…Malcolm Zfnoc was the villain that awaited them—one that would persist and linger through more than one quest. One that would change them.
One bit of legend did not change.
In the misty legends, Malcolm Zfnoc had a winged mount. That bird-like dark creature was a slave to Malcolm Zfnoc, wrought into being by Malcolm Zfnoc’s command over dark. This character eventually became a part of the Trinity and the One.
This being was named Dien.
The change came in this:
Hequera…Hequera would be the sacrifice to bring about Dien. I’ve known that for a while now.
So this was a long time coming.
And it was perfect.
Hequera to Dien. Hequera was part of this beginning and so she was part of the end game. She was a critical piece of this end. It was due for her. This change…this change was owed to her. She deserved to become more. To become Dien.
So Hequera becomes Dien—Hequera changes into Dien. Names change. The definition of it…the definition changes just a little bit too.
Definition and identity, the changes of each—that’s what the The Corruption of Dark is about, one way or another. Hequera struggles with accepting her changes and then changes completely into Dien. Her identity is viscerally altered.
Hequera to Dien…Dien from Hequera. One thing to another. Transformation. Rebirth. Not rebirth. An exchange.
Where’s the continuity?
That’s the question that haunts her. That’s the question that haunts me.
Have I lost myself? Am I even that self anymore? What is myself?
The answer is simple:
No. I’m not—I’m different. But I’m also the same. There’s a link between every iteration. There’s remembrance. There’s persistence. There’s continuity. It can’t be explained. It can’t be articulated. But there’s continuity through some flicker of being that is the very essence of a person. That keeps it tied together. That sustains the continuity.
Knowing that essence…that allows you to know where you are.
Dien knows where she is. Dien’s here.
Here is now and here contains all that came before and the potential for all that shall come after. Here…here is where Dien realizes she is…and realizes here is infinite. That we have so much connecting us. We have so much extending ourselves beyond our form and immediate being. The true passion of being. That’s here.
And one day I won’t be here. Someone else will. Maybe no one else will. But the markings left on this world will. The constellation of connections I have developed will persist the essence of me. These words will keep the idea of this coherent me alit in the minds of others.
This is all even when ‘me’ has ceased into ‘we’. Ceased. Changed. Started and ended.
Dialona is the beginning and the end. And it is always here.
In that sense, there are no goodbyes. There are no welcomes either. It’s just here.
And I’m here and ready.