Trivia: The Salty Mageknight and the Sweet Dark Lord

So… I didn’t plan any of this.

Okay, eventually I did. Let’s rewind.

In Lavender’s story, Solan was an antagonist of sorts, or at least an irritant, someone for her to bounce off of. I’d intended a growth arc for him centered around the idea of realizing that you’re not the protagonist of this entire isekai universe, you’re just a selfish dingus. So that happened in the background of Lavender’s story, and he went from an irritant to a grudging ally. Classic trope.

In order to kick off this arc, Solan meets a counterpart who seems to fit the role of the challenger Solan thought he wanted, but who thinks he’s in his own kind of story. Meanwhile, I had a separate character, the demiurge’s little brother, who was, in-universe, indirectly responsible for the story-world being LGBT+ friendly. See Therapist part 4 for more on that.

While I was outlining Therapist 4, the goofy idea popped into my head to combine those two people. Mind you, books 1 and 2 were already out in the world, including Drekar’s intro. This novella in some ways is an exercise in trying to fill out a character based on some disconnected details.

At that point, Solan’s story could stop with the forging of a new friendship with his former rival. That’s where Therapist 4 leaves off. 

But in the process of editing book 4, the idea for a scene swallowed my brain: Solan climbing the stairs to Drekar’s tower, trying to convince himself that he doesn’t have a crush on his new friend. Some bits of that were spread out into other chapters, but by and large it’s now the first half of the “Return to the Bloodstone Tower” chapter. The rest evolved from there: not just this story, but the idea of writing a series of side stories about characters introduced in books 1-4. 

After finishing this one, I wrote Berry’s story, then Hazel’s, and then went back to add epilogues to braid the three together (Solan + Hazel and Morel, Berry + Hazel, Solan + Berry). They were released in the order they take place in the story’s timeline, meaning that I had the longest time — nearly a year — to sit and stew over this one.

This is my first finished attempt at a romance-focused story. I like reading the genre at times, and it always sounded fun to try — not easy, mind you; a “real” genre romance takes a delicate balance of tropes and surprises, and a more encyclopedic knowledge of the genre than I have. Just fun, because there are so many character feelings involved, and I love delving into feelings. As one might guess. This book doesn’t quite qualify as A Romance Novel because of its story structure, which is why I call it a romantic comedy instead. (It does have a HEA. In case anyone was wondering.)

Maybe it worked and maybe it didn’t, but I had a good time. I hope you did too.

References, influences and shout-outs:

Zilyana’s update is kind of a trick question: all of the items tie into past happenings except one. The accord between the two nobles is only mentioned here and doesn’t tie into anything. It’s just an example of the sort of thing Drekar should know about.

“You don’t have, like, therapists or accountants” – this is an allusion to something that isn’t fully confirmed in canon, which is that Drekar was an accountant on Earth. Solan was an electrical engineer, which is alluded to in Therapist 4.

Faux media:

Also noted in the notes to Therapist 4 — references to media are intended as a means of not getting sued, and not as a sign that Solan and the other Visitors come from an alternate Earth. That said, they also aren’t one-to-one copies, as with the version of Star Wars in Therapist 4 where the space princess actually gets to do stuff.

All of which is to say that The Threefold Kingdom, which Solan reads in this book, is their analogue of The Lord of the Rings. Nightstorm is named after a horse in the book, i.e. Shadowfax. It’s briefly mentioned that Drekar is into a series called Chronicles of the Time Spiral, which is their Wheel of Time analogue.

Dark Lord as corporate overlord:

I am very tempted to do a book focusing on the Dread Army sometime. They ended up as such a weird, sweet mix of cult, found family and workplace comedy. I truly had none of that in mind before starting this book. They were just identical mooks in book 2.

“Dark Lord goes shopping” is one of those comedy bits I couldn’t resist. It’s not really necessary; we just needed a breather after all that angst.

The (still unnamed) golden retriever librarian first appeared in Therapist book 2. She deals with a lot, I think.

I keep using the blacksmith’s apprentice Lysanthir for bit parts as well. He shows up in Therapist 2 and 4 as well as the cover of the volumes 1-4 omnibus edition. It’s a small town, after all.

Berry’s joke about writing a book at a rich friend’s house is a reference to the story of how Frankenstein came about. Originally it was a longer riff comparing their group to the historical one, but the “get murdered or write a book” riff was less confusing. Now it’s Clue and/or Frankenstein, I guess.

Happy to give Samantha something to do here. Overall, putting Solan in therapy was deeply satisfying.


I really don’t know why, but I listened to Vampire Weekend’s Father of the Bride almost on loop while writing a lot of this story. Which is bonkers, because it doesn’t fit the tone at all. What can I say. Brains are weird.

Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You)” by Bombay Bicycle Club

I Wanna Get Better” by Bleachers

You’re My Best Friend” by Thumpasaurus

Top of the World” by Carpenters (or Shonen Knife’s cover if you prefer)

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