5 – 15

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On her way back, Trissiny chose to sacrifice speed for the luxury of not being gawped at by every single person she passed; to judge from the questions and pleas that were constantly shouted at her, it was her rank and station that everyone found irresistibly interesting, not the unconscious man draped over the back of her horse. Thankfully, on the way to the Temple, she’d had her prisoner as a vivid excuse for not engaging in chitchat and having to face a lot of questions to which she really had no good answers. Once there, after having deposited the soldier in the care of the Third Silver Legion and left orders concerning his treatment, she had requisitioned a heavy cloak from the quartermaster and proceeded back to Lor’naris on foot, with her armor hidden and no distinctive silver steed to draw attention.

She drew back the heavy hood as she approached the intersection where the street began to descend into the border district. Walking around in a heavy hooded cloak had been odd enough to earn her no shortage of glances, but apparently a certain amount of oddness was permissible in a city the size of Tiraas, and she’d been left alone. Now, as she brought her face back into view one of the individuals casually leaning against the wall near the mouth of the street straightened and approached her.

“Welcome back, General,” said the drow. Avrith, that was her name; she’d been briefly introduced during the episode earlier, but it had been a little hectic.

“Just Trissiny is fine,” she said with a smile. “How are things here? It looks fairly quiet.”

“Indeed,” Avrith said calmly. Many of the Lorisian drow, Trissiny had noticed, were a tad less self-contained than the example Shaeine set, but they still tended to be hard to read. She thought there was something unhappy in Avrith’s expression, but couldn’t have placed a finger on it. “We have had a very helpful visit from the city guard. They helped clean up the scene of the attempted firebombing.”

“They what?” Trissiny scowled. “…soldiers from Imperial Command, or guards you recognize from previous encounters?”

“The latter, I am afraid.”

“So, any evidence suggesting any such bombing was attempted is now safely back at the barracks, where I’m sure it’s being analyzed with all due diligence and justice will be served,” said Bob, Avrith’s husband and patrol partner. He was a tall, lean human man with sharp features who Trissiny thought might have some elven blood—or maybe her own issues were just making her oversensitive to narrow faces and physiques.

She drew in a deep breath and let it out in s heavy sigh. “I should have anticipated that. Did anyone attempt to stop them?”

“Not as such,” Avrith said with a faint smile. “Clearly, none of us have the legal authority to interfere with the guard, and it is not wise to antagonize them any more than we must.”

“Wasn’t a complete loss, though,” Bob added, grinning. “Lady Shaeine clarified that Princess Zaruda’s diplomatic immunity extends to little things, like cussing at the police. I am in awe of that girl’s vocabulary.”

Trissiny clapped a hand over her eyes. “…and she tells me not to make things worse.”

“Actually, Trissiny, there is some potential good news,” said Avrith, pausing to nod to the two drow standing guard on the other side of the street. “It’s easier demonstrated than explained, however, if you’ll follow me?”

“Lead on.”


 

The shop to which they led her was labeled “A Trick of the Light,” which didn’t tell Trissiny anything about what it sold. It didn’t immediately become clearer once they were inside, though she did appreciate the relative warmth. The only items she recognized were on a small rack of shelves near the door, things she’d have expected to find in Elspeth’s shop, which she could identify mostly thanks to Yornhaldt’s class. Arcane power crystals, vials of glittering enchanting powder, spell parchment and charged ink, even pre-forge metal filaments suitable for use as arcane conductors in complex magical instruments.

Everything else was a mystery, though. The rows and stands of equipment made no sense to her; they looked more like pieces of disassembled telescopes than anything. At least half the shop appeared to be some kind of art gallery, with banks of drawings or paintings on display. Quite a lot were slightly fuzzy, and all were in a peculiar range of sepia tones.

Gabriel, Ruda and Fross were present, all studying the pictures, though they looked up when Trissiny entered with Avrith and Bob. The shop was quite well-lit, with very good modern fairy lamps, so Fross’s glow didn’t have much effect on the lighting even when she zipped excitedly over to Trissiny.

“Welcome!” exclaimed the shopkeeper, approaching Trissiny before she had the chance to greet her classmates. The woman was a half-elf—of the obvious variety, with the ears and everything—dressed in jarringly loud fabrics that made her stand out in this sea of sepia. “Welcome to the future! It’s an honor to host you in my humble shop, General Avelea. Take a look around! I’m sure you’ll appreciate the tactical value in what I have to offer!”

“Ah,” Trissiny said intelligently.

“I am Arpeggia Light, enchantress and innovator, dweller on the cutting edge of progress! My authentic Light-brand lightcappers are the best to be had, hand-crafted by myself and guaranteed to capture the clearest, crispest pictures available, or your money back!”

“…oh?”

“Just think!” Arpeggia exclaimed, making a sweeping gesture with both hands that encompassed her entire peculiar stock. “Images of enemies and positions, frozen in time with the flick of a switch! In this room you see the birth of a whole new form of art, soon to revolutionize every aspect of mortal society. Behold the future!” She finished with both arms outspread, beaming ecstatically.

“Do you by any chance know an Admestus Rafe?” Trissiny asked hesitantly.

Ms. Light dropped her arms and her smile. “Okay, seriously. Why do you kids keep asking me that?”

“Hey, roomie,” said Ruda, grinning. “Bout time you made it back.”

“Where are the others?”

“Shaeine went to speak to the folks at the Narisian embassy, and Teal went along because they are attached at the hip.” Gabriel’s tone was light, but his expression solemn and a little tired. “Juniper…is boycotting the human race at the moment.”

“Um… What?”

“I think she’s just overstimulated,” Fross chimed. “Tiraas has more people and less greenery than she’s ever seen in one place. It’s gotta be a lot to take in! I’m having a great time!”

“She’s on the roof of the inn, enjoying the cold,” Gabriel said with a shrug. “The privates are staying nearby because…well, they have to. And Toby’s guarding the ladder to the roof like a gargoyle. He’s got it into his head Juno is one more little disappointment from some kind of apocalyptic tantrum.”

Trissiny frowned. “What do you think?”

“Me?” He looked surprised.

“I realize there may not have been much talking,” she said dryly, “but what with one thing and another, you’ve probably spent the most time with her.”

“I think,” he said slowly, “Fross is right. She’s just adjusting. But…that’s not a bad thing, it’s what she needs to do. June’s got a very good handle on her own needs; if she wants a day of quiet, I say she should take one, and no cause for worry. If anything, I’m more concerned about Toby. He gets like this sometimes, when he’s afraid something bad is going to happen.”

“He feels responsible for everybody,” Fross said knowingly. “Poor boy’s gonna give himself a heart attack or something. I read about those. They sound painful.”

Avrith cleared her throat.

“Right, yes, sorry,” said Trissiny. “What was it you wanted to show me?”

“Thanks to Peggy’s lightcappers and willingness to donate her time,” said the drow, “we have a visual record of the guards removing the firebombing materials from that alley.”

“Avrith’s idea, she’s the strategic mind around here,” said Peggy, grinning maniacally. “I’ve got the prints developing in the back! We have those bastards dead to rights!”

“Wait,” said Trissiny, turning to look at the wall of brownish pictures. “You can actually take visual records with these devices?”

“It’s actually pretty awesome,” said Ruda. “Yeah, it captures an image of whatever it’s pointed at. Seems our new neighbors here were expecting some underhanded fuckery from the guards and set themselves up to catch it on paper. Peggy set up camp on a roof across from that alley and capped everything the guards did.”

“These are a new enough form of enchantment that nobody thinks to account for them,” Peggy admitted, “yet. But! They have already been held up in courts as admissible evidence! I’ve actually got the records somewhere around here…”

“That’s brilliant!” Trissiny exclaimed.

“I know!” Peggy cried.

“But it’s not going to be enough.”

Everyone in the room deflated slightly, even Avrith.

“Why the hell not?” Ruda demanded.

“What you’ve got is evidence of the guards removing dangerous materials from a crime scene,” Trissiny said, frowning and beginning to pace back and forth. “Which is part of their job. It builds toward the case we’re making about their corruption and abuse of power, but it isn’t conclusive. It doesn’t prove that one of theirs set the bomb in the first place.”

“Isn’t that the Sisters’ job from this point?” asked Gabriel. “I mean, that’s why you took him down there, right?”

“They won’t be able to hold him for long,” Trissiny admitted. “Legally, the Sisters can assist in criminal and judicial proceedings, and with as many Avenists as there are in the courts we’re often given a lot of leeway, but the letter of the law is they can only hold a suspect until the actual police take custody of him or her. There’s usually not much hurry, but in this case…”

“In this case, the fuckers will want their boy back ASAP,” said Ruda. “Fuck.”

“I took him to the Temple in the hope that a confession can be extracted,” said Trissiny grimly, “but he was already showing signs of being stubborn when he woke up. A man in his position knows the law and knows the guards’ policies; he only has to sit there for a few hours refusing to talk. There’s no real pressure on him.”

“What, don’t you Legionnaires have interrogators or something?” Gabriel asked. “With the thumbscrews and the dripping water and all that?”

“We don’t use torture,” Trissiny snapped. “It’s unjust, and also ineffective. A person who breaks under torture just says whatever they think will make the pain stop, which is not necessarily true or useful. Yes, we do have methods of breaking resistant prisoners, but they involve building rapport and using a lot of careful manipulations, which takes time. I made sure there would be no hurry for the Sisters to report they have the man in their custody, but something tells me the local barracks will know about it pretty soon anyway.”

“So…this was all for nothing?” Peggy looked positively crushed.

“It’s a start, as I said,” Trissiny reassured her. “It’s part of the puzzle. We still have a long way to go. If only I could get at the barracks’s records!”

“Pfft,” Ruda snorted. “You think they made a log of their illegal arson attempt?”

“Not that specifically, obviously! But the Army, like everything else in the Imperial government, runs on paperwork. There’ll be something. Avrith, these guards… Have they shown signs of being generally corrupt aside from trying to push you around?”

“In fact, they seem to have been relatively upstanding,” Avrith said calmly. “Racist, impolite and overbearing, but we have heard no complaints of illegal activity on their part, and I assure you we have looked for it. This event is the first thing I have ever heard from the local barracks that pushed past the boundaries of the law.”

“That’s…good,” Trissiny mused. “It means they won’t be practiced at covering their tracks. That oil and enchanting dust came from somewhere and likely wasn’t stolen. It wasn’t purchased on a guard’s salary, either; I’ll bet it was supplied by the barracks out of its operational budget. There may be other things, adjustments to shifts and schedules that explain why that man was here at this time.”

“You really think they were dumb enough to send a guard who was on duty?” Ruda said scornfully.

“Probably not,” Trissiny acknowledged. “But the Army feeds on records the way fire needs fuel. There’ll be something.”

“So, you want some unnamed records, you’re not even sure what, which you can’t get at in the first place because not only are they locked up in a barracks full of guards who specifically are pissed at you, but you won’t be able to use anyway if you managed to get them, because you’re trying to build a legal case and stealing paperwork pretty much undercuts the whole point.” Ruda shook her head. “Gotta tell you, Shiny Boots, this doesn’t seem like a real useful line of inquiry.”

Gabriel cleared his throat hesitantly. “Um, I’m not an expert on the law, but… If we could find and get those records, and if they proved the guards were up to something illegal… Wouldn’t they still be admissible in court?”

“Yes,” said Trissiny firmly. “There’s a precedent for that, and for the forgiveness of any charges relevant to acquiring the evidence in question. Anyway, we don’t strictly need to build an airtight case. If it looks like we’ve nearly got one, that will motivate Imperial Command to step in and remove the corrupt regiment before a group of citizens ends up putting a black mark against them in the courts. The newspapers alone would have a party with that if it got out.”

He nodded. “All right, then… I may have an idea.”

“An idea?”

“Of how to get those records.”

Trissiny frowned. “…go on.”

“I sort of…know somebody who knows somebody. Ruda said you made some kind of understanding with an Eserite Bishop, right?” At her nod, he continued. “Well, Elspeth down at the enchanting shop is in good with the Thieves’ Guild. I mean, she hasn’t come out and said it, but she’s hinted.”

“She is,” said Bob. He shrugged when everyone turned to look at him. “Everyone in the district knows it. You need to get a message to the Guild, Elspeth’s your girl.”

“Really,” Trissiny mused. “She’s self-righteous enough I wouldn’t expect her to be into anything illegal.”

“She is not involved in anything remotely illegal,” said Avrith. “In fact, due to her condition, her premises are inspected regularly by the Church and the Empire. Everything that happens in that shop is scrupulously aboveboard. Such an establishment is extremely useful to an organization like the Guild for a variety of reasons. She is not prone to involving herself in city events, however, or making use of her contacts on behalf of others.”

“I think she’d do me a favor,” said Gabriel. “Especially if I can honestly say Bishop What’s-His-Name—”

“Darling,” Bob supplied with a grin.

“Right, him. He’s tacitly signed off on this.”

“I am hesitant to involve thieves for all kinds of reasons,” Trissiny said, grimacing.

Gabriel shrugged. “You want to get something out of a locked barracks, who better?”

“Okay, wait a sec,” said Ruda. “Trissiny, a word in your ear, please?”

Trissiny let the pirate lead them over to a corner while Gabriel engaged the others in conversation. “You realize this is kind of pointless, right? Avrith and possibly Peggy can hear everything we’re saying.”

“These Narisians practice respect like it’s their religion,” said Ruda. “Unless we start plotting her murder, Avrith won’t hear anything she doesn’t think is her business. Look, Shiny Boots, I get that you’re wanting to help these people, and I’m with you on that, but come on. You’re actually considering launching operations against the Imperial Army. Who died and made you Horsebutt?”

“Not the Army,” Trissiny said patiently. “One corrupt fragment of it, which is only a problem because General Panissar isn’t motivated to get off his rump and do something about it. The law is on our side.”

“Yeah, that’s one interpretation,” Ruda said skeptically. “But remember that guy in the street said the General was coming down on them? Which he might not have done if you hadn’t lit a fire under him—that’s a pretty quick turnaround, considering he didn’t know this was going on before last night. This all started getting really interesting when you started putting the pressure on.”

“Are you saying this is my fault?” Trissiny exclaimed, forgetting to lower her voice.

“Don’t be stupid,” Ruda said sharply. “This would all have come to some kind of a head sooner or later, we all know that. There’s no guessing what might have happened if you hadn’t gotten involved. But the reality is, shit started going down pretty much exactly when you stepped in. I don’t believe in coincidence.”

“Well, what’s your suggestion, then?” Trissiny demanded. “Do nothing?”

“Not nothing,” Ruda said, shaking her head. “C’mon, Boots, you know me better than that. Just… Look, maybe I’m the one being irrational, but I’ve got a feeling you’re not being as careful about this as you could be. You don’t have to save the day yourself, you know. Why not see what resources the Lorisians have to solve their own problems?”

“That is precisely what we’re doing,” Trissiny said firmly. “Including their connections to the Thieves’ Guild. Believe me, Ruda, I am not looking to start a war with the guard. All we have to do is collect the necessary evidence, and this can still be put to rest quietly.”

“If you say so,” said Ruda, doubt plain on her face.

“Gabriel,” Trissiny said more loudly, turning and striding back to the rest of the group, “let’s have a word with your friend.”

“Ah…” He winced. “Actually, Triss, it might be better if you don’t come.”


 

“So, for our discussion that is to be kept private from the ears of a ranking member of the cult of Eserion, you bring us here.” Weaver dragged an expressive gaze around the Imperial Casino’s attached restaurant. “This just might be one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard of. Just to put that into perspective for you, I’ve spent the last few years dealing with college students and their rich parents.”

“I know!” Billie said, grinning cheerfully. She was barely head and shoulders above the table, but didn’t seem put off by the size of everything. “It’s so stupid, it’s brilliant!”

Joe was studying Billie sidelong, fascinated and trying not to obviously stare. She was the first gnome he’d been around in person, and she was so different. Elves were delicately built, but aside from their ears, they could potentially be very fine-boned humans in appearance, albeit with rather big, childlike eyes. Dwarves, too, were broad and stocky, not to mention short, but could have fallen at the extreme ends of the human body type.

Gnomes, if Billie was a typical example, came from entirely different stock. The proportions were all wrong: her arms were a hint too long, her legs too short, her skull a smidge too large, none enough to be striking but enough to register on Joe’s mathematical awareness. It was hard to make out, fully clothed as she was, but it also seemed her muscles and ligaments attached and moved in ways that weren’t quite right. Gnomish women had a reputation for curvaceousness, and while Billie wasn’t particularly buxom he could see where the idea came from. Her short frame was wider from side to side but proportional from front to back; that, and her spine had a deeply sinuous curve that made her seem far more rounded than she was. There was also the faintest elongation of her nose and lower jaw—not that she had a muzzle, but that she might be descended from something which had. The ears which poked up through her dense mop of hair were pointed but also tufted, more like a cat’s than an elf’s, and it was hard to tell with her frizzy mane in the way, but they seemed to move of their own volition from time to time.

He averted his gaze, determined not to stare, and caught McGraw watching him. The old man smiled faintly, turning his attention back to the conversation.

“Anybody who uses that argument is only one of those things,” Weaver was saying.

“Thanks!” Billie said brightly.

“That wasn’t—no, nevermind, fuck it. Where’s that girl with our drinks?” he grumbled, slouching in his chair and folding his arms.

“Actually, it’s not a bad idea,” said Mary. Being technically a public enemy, she had applied a little glamor, turning her hair a typical elven blonde, though her attire was still drawing stares. “The measures we would need to undertake to really keep Darling out of our business would be borderline hostile in their intensity. We must simply trust that he will choose to grant us space to speak in private. Meeting here is an expression of that trust.”

“You seem more acquainted with the man than the rest of us,” said McGraw. “In your opinion, is that trust warranted?”

“He is what he is,” she replied calmly. “A thief is a thief, no matter the scale on which he operates. But Darling is an intelligent thief, who knows when pushing will not serve his interests.”

“Which is a roundabout way of saying…what, exactly?” Weaver raised an eyebrow.

“In this case,” said Mary, “I think he will grant us our space. In general, I think he will treat us respectfully. I am not, however, comfortable broadly describing the man as trustworthy.”

“That sorta brings us to the topic at hand, doesn’t it?” said Joe. “I’ll be honest: whatever reputation I have, I’ve been on exactly one adventure in my life and it ended last week. The rest of the time I was just protecting my town. Being admittedly over my head, here, I’m very interested in hearing what y’all think of Darling’s proposal.”

“He’s full of it,” Weaver grunted.

“Hell yes he is,” Billie said easily, “but like Mary says, that doesn’t mean he’s gonna screw us over. An honest person might up and do any damn thing at all if they’re pressured; a really good trickster doesn’t lie if he can help it.”

“Seems…counterintuitive,” Joe said carefully.

“Yup!” The gnome grinned up at him. “All the really good stuff is.”

At that moment, a young woman in the tight uniform of the Imperial Casino approached their table, bearing a tray laden with drinks. “Here we are,” she said cheerfully, setting each in front of its patron, and glanced at the menus, most of which were still lying unopened on the table. “Had a chance to decide what you’d like to order?”

“Hello, yes,” Billie said, suddenly all business. “We’re still contemplating meals, but on the recommendation of my very good friend Mr. McGraw, here, we’d like an appetizer plate of fried calamari with Punaji curry sauce. And I would like to bury my face in your cleavage, please.”

Joe choked on his orange juice.

“That’s not on the menu,” the waitress said with amusement, reaching down to ruffle Billie’s hair. “One calamari platter coming up.”

“Just as a point of reference,” said McGraw in a somewhat strained tone as the girl sashayed away, “everyone working here is technically in the employ of the Thieves’ Guild. Some of the servers and guards and such are actually apprentices, who answer to individuals I really don’t want irritated with me. So can we keep the harassment of the staff to a minimum, please?”

“Yes, I am,” Billie said seriously. “That was the minimum. So, Joe! What was this one and only adventure of yours?”

“Had to go to the center of the Golden Sea,” he said noncommittally. After a moment’s silence, he looked up from his orange juice to find them all staring at him. “…what?”

“The center of the Golden Sea?” Weaver demanded. “It has a center? I call bullshit.”

“No one has ever been there,” said Mary. “It was thought to be unreachable, if indeed it even existed.”

“Oh,” he said thoughtfully. “Might have had something to do with the company I was keeping. The Shifter needed to get there and needed an escort to do any necessary shootin’. There’s a kind of dimensional portal in the center; she used it to leave this world.”

“Wait, you know the Shifter?” Billie exclaimed. “Just what the hell kind of town is Sarasio?!”

“The Shifter left the world?” Mary frowned. “That makes little sense. The Shifter is in all worlds; that’s the whole point of her.”

“What the hell is a Shifter?” Weaver demanded.

Joe sighed and shrugged. “I wasn’t claiming to understand the details. You’d have to ask Jenny, which as I just indicated isn’t really an option anymore. Some folk from the Imperial Army were after her; apparently the situation was a little rich for her blood. Anyway, we’re getting off topic, here. Not that I’m averse to swapping stories sometime, but we were discussing whether we’re going to take Darling’s deal.”

“I am,” said Billie with a shrug, taking a sip of her cocktail. “Pay’s good and it’s not morally abhorrent; that’s all I really ask out of life. Plus, dragon! Always wanted to fight a dragon.”

“There are cleaner ways to die,” Weaver said, curling his lip.

“Pfft, who wants to die cleanly? Cowards and lazy people, that’s who.”

“Well, you can sign me up for both,” he said, toying with his own drink but not lifting it to his mouth. “This isn’t even the kind of job I’d normally consider; if it wasn’t for what he’s offering, I wouldn’t even be having this conversation. For all that, it’s not the job that leaves me uncertain, but what it implies.”

“That, I think, is the real issue before us,” said McGraw. “I might be mistaken—it wouldn’t be the first time—but what Darling implied about the Church looking to recruit or destroy everyone left in our loose little fraternity of wandering souls… Well, that smacks to me of the end of an era.”

“The Age of Adventures has been over for centuries,” Weaver said dismissively.

“Has it?” McGraw leaned his head back to stare down his nose at the younger man. “The word ‘adventurer’ may be synonymous with ‘grandstanding fool’ these days, but the very fact that people find the need to seek other terms for the likes of those of us at this table proves there’s still a place for us in the world. If the Archpope has his way, that’s about to change.”

“It sounds to me like this matter is the sticking point,” said Joe. “Those of us who’re uncertain whether to go for the deal are worried about those longer-term implications, not about this job in particular. Right?”

“Pretty much,” Weaver said reluctantly. “I mean, it’s a crap job, but… Darling’s got us by the short ones there, if he can actually back up his promise.”

“He strikes me as a man too intelligent to make promises he couldn’t back up to the likes of us,” said McGraw.

“I agree,” Mary nodded.

“Then that’s our point of contention,” said Joe. “Mary, you know Darling better than most of us, and you’re the oldest person here by a pretty huge margin. What do you think?”

She cocked her head to one side, a strikingly birdlike gesture. “Great powers rise and fall; the Church itself will not endure forever. I agree with Elias; the Archpope’s plans, if brought to fruition, would severely hamper our ability to move. I, as I have no intention of serving his ambitions, would be forced to lie low for however many centuries it would take for the political structure of Tiraas to collapse. In the long term, however, they always do. This is not without precedent; in the days of the Heroes’ Guild, a similar situation prevailed. All things pass.”

“It’s a pretty well permanent state of affairs for those of us who aren’t immortal,” Weaver commented.

“Oh?” Mary turned to him and raised an eyebrow. “Can you actually die, Gravestone? Will you?”

He only grunted and took a drink.

“What are you going to do?” Joe asked, staring at Mary.

“I will take the deal,” she said, calm as ever. “In this matter, Antonio Darling can be relied upon, because his nature and his interests align with my goals. And those of each of you, if I may assume that none of you wish to either retire or work for the Church.”

“Until this week, I was retired,” Weaver complained.

“And the other option?” McGraw asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Hell with that. If the only option is doing Justinian’s dirty work, I’m goin’ right back to Last Rock and my nice, quiet library.”

“Yeah, I think we’re pretty much all in agreement on that,” said Billie cheerfully. “So the question becomes, why do you think throwing our lot in with Darling’s the best way to achieve that?”

“Darling is a priest of Eserion,” said Mary. “The former High Priest, in fact. He is also a Bishop in the Universal Church, and a high-ranking official in the Imperial government. Those loyalties contradict each other directly. The Church and the Empire feud constantly for power; the Guild’s driving force is the goal of preventing anyone from acquiring too much power. At issue is which of these alignments truly has his loyalty. In my estimation, it is that of his god.”

“How certain are you of that?” McGraw asked quietly.

“Very. I have watched him with care; he embodies the principles of Eserion’s faith in his daily life. I do not know the full extent of what Darling is planning, but his plans are not Justinian’s. I believe that when it comes down to it, he will act to undercut the Archpope. On that day, I would prefer to be at hand and involved than in some distant corner of the world, waiting to learn how my fate has been decided.”

A grim silence fell over the table. In unison, all five of them sipped at their drinks, staring into the distance.

“Hi there,” said their waitress, bustling back up to their table with a platter of steaming calimari and bowls of dipping sauce. She bent over to place it on the table, ignoring the way Billie craned her neck to get a better view. “Come to any decisions?”

Weaver sighed. “Yeah… Looks like we pretty much have.”

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22 thoughts on “5 – 15

  1. If you support Avrith and Bob, vote for The Gods are Bastards!

    It is so wonderful to type chapters on my own computer again. I’ve got adequate backups for files and such in the event of computer problems, but…damn, working with that desktop was awful.

    Just because my life was lacking excitement, I have another toothache. Yay! It’s in the same one they “fixed” last time, which makes me suspect something went wrong with the procedure. Hopefully that means I won’t be charged overmuch to have whatever it is re-done, but who knows? This just started over the weekend so I haven’t even been able to make an appointment.

    And so it goes. See you Wednesday!

    Edit: Sweet baby Cthulhu, WordPress is annoying. Had to edit the vote link seventeen times (yes, I counted) to make it work. WordPress absolutely insisted on turning the link into meaningless gibberish. It’s correct on my screen now but I don’t trust it so to be on the safe side here’s the URL:

    topwebfiction.com/vote.php?for=the-gods-are-bastards

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  2. Dang it, why do you have to complicate even the amiable characters that are ungodly powerful with the character flaws and eccentricities that such power/privilege would be likely to produce and/or cement? In other words, thank you for your wonderful characters. Dang it, though, Billie.

    By the way, while it may mostly be attributable to my generally-high appreciation of/tolerance for exposition, I found Tellwyrn’s lectures to be an interesting, well-broken-up, and amusing way of delivering it with dialogue and occasional character development mixed in.

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  3. I think both Toby and Triss are flunking their main lesson around about now. Not badly, but enough to get See Mes if they don’t start picking up the clues and actually learning.😉

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      1. Fruit of the poisoned tree:

        Doctrine which holds that “evidence gained trough illegal means is inadmissible in a court of law” (because it has been tainted).

        I believe the name has been coined in the US, but the principle does not only apply there.

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  4. Wow! Just broke 70 votes on TWF! You guys rock. TGaB is now basically at the top of its class, in the sense that there’s a large gap between it and the next group of serials, all of which have well over a hundred standing votes. But we’ll get there!

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  5. Waitwaitwait, not only is evidence obtained via illegal searches permissible in court, there’s precedent for clearing all charges collected in obtaining this evidence? So like, if someone shoplifts, you can smash a window and rob them as long as you can provide the stolen item to show that they were guilty? Ooh, or if someone threatens you or runs over your mailbox, you can lock them in your basement without food until they confess? Oh, or march into their house with a regiment of armed soldiers and confiscate everything as “evidence?” This justice system sounds pretty messed up.

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    1. Well, in our world evidence obtained without a search warrant is permissible in court if the person who stole it is not an officer of the law, meaning if the people trying to solve the case don’t do anything illegal themselves.

      I’m with Ruda here… I think Triss should let someone else handle this.

      Like

  6. Typos:

    no, nevermind, fuck it
    no, never mind, fuck it
    (maybe)

    calimari
    calamari

    Reactions:

    Hey, we may have met the Tiraan equivalent of George Eastman (Kodak’s founder)!

    “forgiveness of any charges relevant to acquiring the evidence in question”
    Yeouch, that is ripe for abuse, which is why we don’t allow that in most modern jurisprudence.

    “Who died and made you Horsebutt?”
    Snicker.

    “But the reality is, shit started going down pretty much exactly when you stepped in. I don’t believe in coincidence.”
    I agree. If trouble keeps starting just when you get to places, either you fanned the flames or someone is poking at you. Trissiny is abrasive, but for speculation’s sake, assume that’s not it. One possibility is that the aura of Avei affects some people badly – we just got a lecture on how the gods can affect reactions at an empire-wide level just by their aspects, so I bet it is worse when you are near their Hands. For a simpler explanation, maybe Avei just nudges Trissiny towards impending problems. Another possibility is a powerful and/or connected person is stacking the deck. Arachne comes to mind even though this is a bit subtle for her, partially because she hinted something was up, but also because getting Trissiny mired in a nasty situation with no good way out would be a good way of teaching the paladin to not charge into complex noncombat situations. If any other candidates exist, the question is how do they perform their actions without running foul of Arache?

    “This just might be one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard of. Just to put that into perspective for you, I’ve spent the last few years dealing with college students and their rich parents.”
    More snicker.

    “And I would like to bury my face in your cleavage, please.”
    Hey, at least she said please!

    “Can you actually die, Gravestone? Will you?”
    Tease, tease, DD.

    Like

  7. Random question – Are we going to get a full(er) explanation of what led Jenny to vacate the Bastardverse, or is that something that you can fill in a bit better due to it not giving spoilers for anything that’s coming up?

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