62K words into The New Thing, which will have a finished length somewhere in the 250K-300K range.

Are you reading carefully?

The Bear’s private audience chamber had carved double doors. Bean, the herald-secretary, opened them for me.

The room was restfully cool and dim. One side was lined with shelves that were stuffed full of books and ledgers. A large map was hung on the far wall. The two beautiful dogs sat obediently to one side, elegant muzzles between their long paws and doggy-eyes turned hopefully in my direction. The dominant decoration of the room, though, was a shelf that ran along two walls, on which were perched at least two dozen human skulls. They were so stark and startling that I forgot to greet the Bear. I barely heard him when he spoke to me.

“The heads of all the previous Bears, Ms. Drinkwater. A savage custom, but it’s ours.”

“I see.” The leftmost skull in the row had a perfectly round hole bored through its cranium. My eyes widened.

“Some day I’ll show you what we do to the rivals. For today, we have other business.”

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