8 – 4

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“It’s official. We’re being tortured.”

“Oh, stop it,” Prin said, amused. “This might be the cushiest job I’ve ever had.”

“It’s not about the cushiness,” Farah protested. “It’s the principle of the thing! They give this out to people being punished. It’s a mark of shame.”

Principia glanced around. “Okay, let’s keep that to a maximum of none, shall we? At least until we’re back at barracks. I’m pretty sure directly insulting our hosts is against some regulation or other.”

Farah subsided momentarily, looking slightly guilty, which was fortunately mitigated by her helmet. “I…there’s nobody nearby.”

“You don’t see anybody.”

“You think there’s an Izarite priest hiding behind a bush?”

“I imagine they do some of their best work behind bushes.” She paused to wait for Farah’s laughter to subside, then added, “Anyhow, I hear a rumor that some cults have elves in their ranks.”

Farah sighed. “You’re right, sorry.”

“Hey, I’m not one to be a stickler for the rules, generally speaking. But…you may have a point about us being excessively put upon, what with one thing and another. I just don’t want to call down more wrath on our heads.”

“All right, all right, point taken!”

The grounds of the Temple of Izara were exquisitely beautiful, by very careful design. On most days, one could expect to find couples strolling the wandering paths, or priests accompanying worshipers—which, as was often joked, were just couples of a different kind. It was a cloudy day, however, not yet raining but with the taste of precipitation on the air. This was common enough for Tiraas and indeed many of the city’s inhabitants had grown comfortable being outdoors in the rain, presuming the rain was fairly light. Today, however, thunder was rumbling in the distance, and creeping ever closer. It made for a peaceably relaxed route for the two patrolling Legionnaires, though they also had the anticipation of being soaked while in armor to live with.

Principia paused, scowling upward at the branches of a tree with fern-like fronds and little pink blossoms.

“What is it?” Farah asked, following her gaze. “Something wrong with the tree?”

“In the tree,” Prin replied, transferring her lance to her shield hand, then stooping to pick up a pebble. She took aim and hurled it into the foliage.

With a displeased croak, a crow fluttered out of the mimosa, taking another seat atop a statue of Izara, well out of reach. The bird tilted its head and squawked a soft rebuke.

“Shoo,” Principia snapped, picking up another pebble.

“Oh, come on, it’s just a bird,” Farah protested.

“No, it isn’t,” she muttered, hurling the stone. The crow deftly sidestepped, not even bothering to spread its wings, and the pebble arced past to clatter against the wall of the temple. “Filthy carrion-eating…busybody.”

“Seriously, leave the crow alone,” Farah said. “There’ll be hell to pay if you break a window or something.”

Prin lingered for a moment, scowling up at the crow, then pointed a finger at it. “Mathal asua’e timaan che. Auwa dal efeen!”

The bird cocked its head and croaked at her.

“Did you just cuss that bird out in elvish?” Farah demanded, looking askance at her.

“It’s a good language for cursing,” Prin replied, finally turning her back on the crow and continuing on their route, Farah falling into step beside her. “Graceful, elegant. Snobbish. The condescension is built in.”

“Maybe I should learn.”

“Please don’t. I do love being able to talk behind people’s backs right to their faces.”

“Okay, I definitely need to learn. Were you criticizing my butt to that crow?”

“Really, Szaravid? Really? All the things I could criticize and your mind goes right to your butt?”

“What does that mean?!”

Principia grinned at her, and they fell quiet as they emerged from the side of the main temple into one of its front garden spaces, where there actually were people sitting and strolling around, despite the weather. Including a few clerics in white robes with pink lotus pins at the shoulder.

The two Legionnaires returned polite nods from several individuals as they passed, completing their circuit in no hurry. Minutes later they had reached the front of the temple and were climbing the steps to its front doors, pausing only to exchange salutes with the two soldiers posted on either side, then re-entered the sanctuary.

The main sanctuary of Izara’s temple was built along the same general pattern as Avei’s: a long chamber soaring to an arched ceiling, with shadowed galleries lining its sides and a towering statue of the goddess positioned opposite the doors. It was a smaller and narrower space, however, and vastly more ornate. The stonework was elaborately carved and embellished, the stained-glass windows ran heavily to pink, and there were cushioned benches and small stands housing flowers in beautiful urns at the base of each column. Even with the gloomy skies outside, it was brightly lit with fairy lamps, and designed to be warm and welcoming.

Naturally, the Legionnaires within looked distinctly uncomfortable.

Izara’s priesthood acknowledged the need for some protection, but did not care for even the hinted threat of violence on their premises, and so the Legionnaires on site were kept to a minimum. Aside from the two soldiers outside the door, there were only two more visible within, Ephanie and the lieutenant in charge of the temple’s semi-permanent detachment, to which Squad Thirteen had been temporarily attached. Merry and Casey would be in nearby chambers, with the rest of the local squad spread throughout the facility.

Both of them came to attention and saluted.

“All’s quiet, Lieutenant,” Farah said crisply.

“At ease,” Lieutenant Straud replied mildly. “All’s usually quiet, soldier. It’s rare you have to do more than escort drunk petitioners to a room. Next patrol’s in fifteen minutes.”

They both saluted again and stepped across the room to stand opposite Straud and Ephanie.

“At ease, I said,” the Lieutenant said with some amusement. “It’s not a kindness, privates; the Izarites don’t like people bringing tension into their temple. Here, of all places, you’re required to relax a bit.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Farah said, saluting, and very deliberately rolled her shoulders. Prin shook her head and relaxed her stance, leaning the butt of her lance on the floor. Across the aisle from her, Ephanie smiled faintly; she, too, looked more comfortable. Then again, she always looked comfortable in armor, as if she’d been born in it.

Apparently stormy weather was no time for love—or at least, not any public manifestation of it. There were few people about, two couples sitting on benches together, a lone man strolling back and forth admiring the stained glass, and one priest attending Izara’s statue at the far end of the sanctuary.

“I’m going to do my rounds, check in with the troops,” the Lieutenant announced. “Carry on, ladies.”

“Yes, ma’am!” Farah all but shouted, saluting. Stroud sighed, shook her head, and strode off to one of the side doors.

No sooner had she gone than two figures entered through the great front door, and Principia stiffened.

They were a striking pair, dressed in black—one in leather gear that almost qualified as armor, the other in a dark cloak. Both were plains elves. They walked right past the Legionnaires without so much as glancing at them and separated as they reached the middle of the chamber. Gliding into the shaded galleries on each side, the two elves took up positions near the side doors, the one in leather shaking her head at the Izarite priest when he began to approach her. He nodded respectfully and retreated to his dais, seemingly unperturbed at being rebuffed.

“What’s that about?” Farah murmured.

Across from them, Ephanie was frowning slightly behind her helmet. She turned to examine another arrival through the front doors. Principia followed her gaze, and immediately tightened her grip on her lance.

He was a blonde man in his early middle years, wearing a pricey-looking suit and casually flipping a doubloon from hand to hand as he strolled in. Catching the coin in his left hand, he rolled it deftly along the backs of his fingers, and smiled as he drew abreast of them.

“Well hello, there, Prin. Long time no see.”

“Your Grace,” she replied in a neutral tone.

“I suppose,” he said pleasantly, “you didn’t get our invitation to come chat, eh? That was…gosh, it’s been months. I’d ask what you’ve been up to, but…look at yourself. Gotta say, this I did not expect. You are perennially full of surprises.”

“I’m on duty, Sweet,” she said tersely.

“Oh? Splendid!” He grinned as though delighted by the news. “This has to be the coziest post a Legionnaire can pull, eh? So you’ll have time to chitchat a bit with a old friend while you hold down the carpet.”

“Soldiers on duty do not socialize with passersby,” Farah said sharply, catching Principia’s mood.

“Really?” He turned that charming grin on her. “That’s odd. I’ve whiled away many a pleasant hour with Imperial troops guarding some boring patch of street or other.”

“Competent soldiers on duty do not socialize,” Ephanie said. “Move along, sir.”

“I am fairly certain you don’t have grounds to evict me from the temple, private,” he said, turning his head to wink at her. He turned back to fix his gaze on Principia, and despite his smile, his eyes were sharply intent. “I’ve a little long-overdue business to speak of with your squadmate, here.”

“I am on duty,” she repeated firmly. “Unless you have business in the temple, your Grace, you need to move on.”

“Let me just clarify that I am not trying to create a problem,” he said, his smile fading slightly. “You’re not wanted on suspicion of any offense, Prin. Don’t try to claim you don’t understand why we need to speak with you.”

Ephanie strode across the aisle, thumping the butt of her lance on the floor. “All right, that’s enough. Time for you to go.”

“This is Bishop Darling of the Universal Church,” Principia said, looking over at her. “He’s allowed to be in a temple, I’m fairly sure. You do not have the prerogative to harass Legionnaires guarding them, however, your Grace,” she added directly to Darling.

“Sure, I’ll let you get back to your work,” he said amiably. “It looks very diverting. What time is good for you, then?”

“Not now.”

“I really do wish you the best in whatever it is you’re doing with your life,” Darling said, his expression growing serious. “And I really do wish that was an acceptable answer. However…”

Ephanie let out a sharp, three-tone whistle. Immediately, the priest at the other end of the sanctuary began striding toward them…as did the two elves in black. The tromping of boots announced the arrival of more Legionnaires through side entrances at a swift walk.

“This isn’t like you, Darling,” Principia said firmly. “Nor is it in keeping with your faith to be confrontational and make a scene.”

“See, this is not helping,” he replied, tilting his head at Merry, who had just appeared from the side door. Casey approached them from the other, with Lieutenant Straud right behind her. “It looks bad, Prin, you running off to the Avenists to hide from us. I am being confrontational because I’m desperately trying to spare you having to have this conversation with Style and six of her goons. Work with me.”

“You just crossed a line,” Ephanie said, leveling her lance. “You do not threaten a Silver Legionnaire. Get out.”

“Your Grace,” said the Izarite priest with a note of pleading. “Whatever concern you have, I’m sure it can be discussed in a civil manner.”

“I’m afraid Private Avelea is correct,” Straud snapped. “I don’t care what rank or history you have, Bishop, you will not treat one of my troops this way. Are you leaving, or are you being dragged?”

“Fauna, don’t even think about it,” Darling said sharply without looking over at her. The Legionnaires did, however, in time to see the elf in leather sliding a throwing knife back into her sleeve.

“Too late,” she said. Merry stepped back, leveling a lance at her. The priest wrung his hands, looking anguished.

“I’m off duty at sixteen hundred hours,” Principia said, staring at Darling. “If you want to talk, you can meet me in the main sanctuary of Avei’s temple.”

“There!” he said brightly, spreading his hands. “That’s all I needed to hear. Thanks for being so accommodating, Prin. Always a pleasure. Come along, ladies!”

He turned, strolling back toward the door, apparently unconcerned with the lances aimed at his back. The two elves followed, stepping right through the knot of tense Legionnaires without so much as glancing at them.

“Does he mean us?” the one in the cloak asked.

“Has to,” Fauna replied. “Do you see any other ladies here?”

“Oh, mee-ow!”

Darling only paused when a crow swooped in through the open doors and settled on his shoulder, croaking smugly.

“Really, now?” he said to it. “What, are your wings broken?”

Behind, the Legionnaires watched in silence while the odd group finally left.

“Oh, that’s good and horrifying,” Principia whispered to herself.

“Is this going to be a recurring problem, Private Locke?” Lieutenant Straud demanded.

Prin straightened to attention. “I don’t believe so, ma’am. If I change my mind after speaking with him, I’ll report the matter.”

“I will, of course, have to log an incident report about this,” Straud said.

“Of course, ma’am.”

The Lieutenant sighed. “All right. As you were, ladies.”

They shifted back to their stations, Ephanie and Farah now sneaking speculative looks at Principia, who was staring distractedly into space.


She remained withdrawn through the remainder of their shift, and the other four members of their tiny squad restrained their curiosity to questioning stares, which Principia affected not to notice. The relative quiet lasted until they were crossing the parade ground to their bunk that afternoon.

“Private Locke!”

Principia whirled and snapped to attention, facing Bishop Syrinx, who was stomping across the yard toward her. The Bishop came to a stop, planting her fists on her hips and ignoring Prin’s salute. Captain Dijanerad followed her at a more sedate pace, wearing a more calm expression.

“I understand you took it upon yourself to embarrass the Third Legion in front of the Izarites today,” Syrinx said coldly.

“No, ma’am,” Principia replied, remaining stiffly at attention.

“Oh?” the Bishop snapped. “You think having a confrontation with a Bishop of the Universal Church in the main sanctuary of a protectorate cult is less than an embarrassment?”

“With respect, your Grace,” said Ephanie, also saluting, “only Bishop Darling was confrontational. Private Locke acted in accordance with the Legion’s code of conduct.”

“I distinctly heard no one give you permission to speak, Private Avelea,” Syrinx said sharply, her glare still fixed on Principia. If anything, her scowl deepened. “This is not an auspicious start to your career, Locke. I will be reading Lieutenant Straud’s report closely. If I find any indication that your behavior was a hint less than satisfactory, you’ll be out of this Legion on your oversized ear before you know what’s happened. Understood?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“You’re not to leave temple premises until further notice except in the execution of your duties. I want you readily at hand in case I have questions.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Anything to add, Locke?”

“No, ma’am.”

Bishop Syrinx narrowed her eyes, studying Principia’s face in detail. The silence stretched out; behind the Bishop, Captain Dijanerad kept her peace, her own attention fixed on Syrinx.

“I can see the strain on your face, Locke,” the Bishop finally said more quietly. “Two hundred years of Eserite habit don’t just vanish. It kills you to spout ‘yes ma’am’ and ‘no ma’am’ instead of a snarky comeback to every question, doesn’t it?”

“No, ma’am,” Principia said in total calm.

“I don’t know what made you think you belonged here,” Syrinx said coldly, “but time will disabuse you of the notion.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

The Bishop stared daggers at her for another moment, then turned without a further word and stalked off toward the temple complex. Once she was away, the remaining members of Squad Thirteen let out a breath in unison.

“Had an interesting day, I hear,” Dijanerad said mildly.

“It won’t happen again, ma’am,” Principia promised.

“I’m pretty sure it will,” the Captain said cryptically. She stepped forward and patted Principia’s armored shoulder. “You acted correctly, private. Dismissed.”

All five of them saluted, turned, and resumed course toward their barracks.

“Hypothetically,” Merry mused aloud, “what d’you think would be the punishment for slugging a fellow Legionnaire in the mouth?”

“Depends on a lot of factors,” Ephanie replied. “Anything from a stern talking-to, all the way up to lashing or the stockade.”

“Mm hm, mm hm. What about stabbing her while she slept?”

“Hanging,” Ephanie said sharply.

“Rats.”

“Got somethin’ on your mind, Lang?” Principia asked.

“I just can’t help noticing,” Merry said with a scowl, “that every time I’m anywhere near you I get tangled up in Thieves’ Guild drama.”

“Wait, you were actually a member of the Thieves’ Guild?” Casey demanded, wide-eyed.

Principia shrugged. “Technically, I guess I still am, unless they decide to kick me out for some reason. I don’t owe them any dues as long as I’m not stealing anything, so… A member of good standing, even.”

“Then what’s that guy Darling want with you?” Merry demanded.

“Extended fallout from the debacle at Last Rock, I bet.”

“Glad that ruined someone else’s life,” she muttered. “I was starting to feel singled out.”

They filed into the cabin, Prin speaking as she went to her bunk.

“Anyway, this isn’t Thieves’ Guild drama. Whatever Darling wants I’m sure I can settle in a few minutes. The Guild is just the excuse for the real drama, here. You can blame me if it makes you feel better, but you might want to be careful. You’re just as much a target as I am.”

“Oh, hell no,” Merry said firmly. “I’ve made all my deals; that is behind me.”

“Not that,” Prin said patiently. “Come on, think about the timing. I’ve been in this temple complex for the past few months solid; the Guild didn’t know where I was. Nobody but the Sisterhood did. And yet, the very first time I poke my nose out, the Bishop himself lands in my lap?”

“I guess the Eserites are pretty quick on the uptake,” Farah said timidly. “At least…they have a reputation for being savvy.”

Principia shook her head. “That’s way beyond savvy. For them to get intelligence there has to be some first. I’d need to be spotted around the city for them to zero in on me; it would take time. Unless…”

“Oh, stop with the dramatic pauses and spit it out!” Merry exclaimed.

“Unless,” Prin said with a smile, “someone told them where to find me. Now, who do we know who has access to our duty schedule and can get ahold of a Bishop of the Universal Church on short notice, hmm? And here’s another thing. We got back here at the same time as the other squad. No runners were sent. Nobody had time to report this to Syrinx. She knew what had happened before she reasonably could have.”

“Why on earth would Bishop Syrinx try to set you up like that?” Ephanie demanded, frowning.

“That is what concerns me,” Principia said. “I don’t know that woman from a wart on my ass. She has no business with me that I can imagine. The only thing that makes me a target applies equally to all of you. It’s a continuation of what we’ve already seen: our understaffed squad, our apparent punishment duty at the Temple of Izara. She’s after us, for some reason. I suggest you all step very carefully.”

“Do you have any idea how paranoid you sound?” Merry snorted. “Bishop Syrinx is out to get us? That’s crazy.”

“Okay,” Prin said with a shrug. “If you can think of a more logical explanation for what happened today, I’d love to hear it. Bet I’d sleep better.”

A tense silence fell.

“Bishop Syrinx sponsored me to join the Legion,” Casey said in a small voice.

Principia sighed. “Elwick, with all respect to your sponsor—”

“With all respect to my sponsor,” Casey interrupted, “the difference between that woman and a rattlesnake is the serpent gives you fair warning. I’ll believe she’s capable of anything. No matter how shifty, or…cruel.”

“Something you want to share with us?” Merry asked warily.

Casey’s tone was curt. “No.”

“If she’s telling Thieves’ Guild people where our soldiers are, can we get her in trouble for that?” Farah suggested. “That has to be against some regulation, at least.”

“Not technically,” said Ephanie. “Only if we were on operations that involved the Guild, which guard duty at the Temple of Izara does not. It’s pretty common for guard postings at protectorate temples to go through the Church, actually. The priests often request squads or individuals they know and trust.”

“I’d advise you to drop that line of thinking,” Principia added. “We’ve already got enough trouble breathing down our necks. Trying to strike back at Syrinx would lead to nothing but disaster. Our best bet is to be the best soldiers we can and hope someone more reasonable in the chain of command reins her in.”

“But why?” Merry exclaimed. “Why would she do such a thing? None of us have done anything to her?” She paused, looking warily around the group. “…have we?”

A chorus of negations later, Casey cleared her throat. “I have a thought…”

“Yes?” Farah prompted.

“Well… Eserites are known to be crafty, right? And… I don’t know any of your stories, but… That is, this cohort is supposed to be training in politics, if they told us the truth. Suppose… What if we’re not being punished, but we were handpicked for this, and Syrinx doesn’t want us to succeed?”

Ephanie frowned deeply, saying nothing; the others looked thoughtful.

“What makes you think you’d be a pick for that, then?” Merry asked after a moment.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Casey said, averting her eyes.

Principia sighed. “If you think there’s a—”

“I don’t have to talk about it!” she said, her voice climbing. Casey paused, squeezing her eyes shut, and continued in a more normal tone. “It was just a thought, probably not even right. It’s just… I have no idea what’s going on. None of this makes any sense. Any theory has to be better than nothing.”

“A lot more harm is done by wrong belief than incompetent action,” said Ephanie thoughtfully. “Still…”

“Still,” said Prin, nodding, “it’s good to theorize. We need to keep our eyes and ears and minds open, girls. Something is going on here, obviously, and somebody means us harm. Hopefully it’s just Syrinx.”

“Bloody fucking hell,” Merry growled, leaning against her bunk. “Of all the shit I don’t need…”

“None of us need it,” Ephanie said sharply.

“Hey,” Farah said, straightening and turning to Prin. “Aren’t you supposed to be meeting Bishop Darling in the main sanctuary?”

Principia grinned and sat down on the empty bed beneath her own bunk. “Oh, there’s no rush. A little patience will do him good.”

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33 thoughts on “8 – 4

  1. My back is killing me… Every time I think it’s getting better, it flares up again. Ow ow ow…

    So, in yesterday’s comments someone mentioned that this story had driven off a couple of potential readers by being “preachy.” I actually wanted to devote a little time to discussing that because it’s a topic about which I’ve thought at length.

    The thing is, there is no such thing as non-message fiction. Humans evolved storytelling as a way to pass on lessons; our brains are wired to form narratives and extract meaning from them. This informs every aspect of our thought and experience. This means that when it comes to storytelling, there are no tales that aren’t teaching something. And indeed, all the great stories are about something. They take a stand, impart a truth. Star Wars, the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, the Chronicles of Narnia, you name it. Fantasy in particular is a purpose-heavy genre.

    There are a lot of ways this can be done.

    On one end of the spectrum is Ayn Rand, who wrote stories that existed entirely in service to the moral lessons they tried to teach; on the other is Stephenie Meyer, who wrote books which made the point that a girl who loses her boyfriend shouldn’t and doesn’t deserve to live. I don’t believe for a moment she deliberately set out to convey that message or consciously believes it; her work is an object lesson in what can happen when an author doesn’t think carefully about the meaning of what they’re saying.

    To be a strong story, then, the story has to have a point. On the other hand, Atlas Shrugged isn’t much fun to read, either, unless you happen to concur with its ham-fisted points. The moral exists in service to the story, not the other way around, and should not overshadow it. Fantasy is to entertain. Nobody picks up a book because they want to be preached at, and an author who preaches is, I think, cheating their readers.

    Is TGaB preachy? I don’t think so. I certainly try not to let it be. I want to write a story that appeals to everyone; I don’t want a story you have to be of a certain political mindset to enjoy. Of course, appealing to everyone is a lost cause to begin with, but I definitely have never wanted to write something that deliberately excludes anyone.

    You can probably learn a lot about my philosophies from reading this story, it’s true. But I have tried whenever An Aesop was to be delivered, to explore issues rather than pounding them into readers’ faces. The things I believe I’ve tried to express through flawed characters, and expose the flaws inherent in those ideas; I’ve tried to do justice to their opposition, even when I ultimately cannot support those conclusions. Just because I don’t agree with something doesn’t mean the ideas don’t have merit. This is why I’ve been careful to avoid strawmen or cardboard villains in this story. The antagonists just aren’t interesting to me unless they can arouse some sympathy.

    In short, I enjoy a conversation a lot more than I do having a pulpit. If I’ve been preachy…then I messed up, because that’s never what I try to do.

    I hope I’ve generally done well, but of course, only time will reveal the truth of that.

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    1. Hell naw, if people think using clever and very thoughtful ways of interpreting characters and using them to show a different perspective than societies norms is preachy, then honest to god they aren’t thinking in a broad enough manner with regards to the structure of literature, which isn’t your fault. Though, I do believe that’s perfectly acceptable, as they may actually not like the literature you’re writing.

      I don’t understand though how you would be able to consider the first few chapters as “preachy” it’s not about sending a message or to push your beliefs on anyone. It had the functionality of almost all fiction book introductions, which was was about setting the exposition and it did a fairly good job of that (though I believe a bit dry and honestly misleading of how bad ass this story would be) as it firmly set the tone of the literature, the initial characters and a good idea of how much personality this piece of literature has.

      As I mean, for something to actually be “preachy” it has to actual be based on moral/religious advice and all I remember from the beginning of the series was how much of a bitch Trissiny was, though she did ramble much religious bullshit. However, because of the context at the time, anything that she said was used with regards to building and solidifying her character, developing her dynamic between the other characters. Which, as a consequence gives good reason for why she HAD to be like that.

      But as always, I’m just anonymous figure on the internet and what I say both here and IRL will not change anybodies opinion, which I believe can be a beautiful thing.

      Tldr; my analytical review, though will not change anyone’s opinion😛

      P.S Stop being so good at writing. It makes me wish I had money to throw at you, but alas I’m a poor student.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. i think, in fact, the entire reason i have come to love this story enough to help contribute some money towards its continued publication every month is because it is, despite all possible ways it could have been including its most prominent inspirations in the works of eddings and sanderson, the exact opposite of “preachy”.

      those complaints can stick it, as far as i’m concerned.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Short form: some of the characters are preachy, but they are supposed to be and I don’t see the story as being so. But you have been quite good at writing every character and cult with flaws.

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    4. I find the suggestion that this fic is preachy just… baffling. I don’t know what chapter these comments were posted in response to yesterday, except that it wasn’t the most recent or any of the random smattering of chapters I’ve commented on (and so get notifications for comments on). The only guess I can even come up with is that it is the philosophical brethren of … whasisname, I can’t be bothered to remember or go check, but the guy who was commenting on some of the early chapters complaining about you supposedly pushing radical feminist ideology or some such nonsense. Which was such a knee-jerk reaction to a handful of scenes that it said more about the reader’s views – and their reflexively defensive/aggressive posture with respect to those views – than it did about the fic. So if this is more of that, then I would suggest you not let it get to you, and not encourage them by defending yourself. Just politely disagree and move on. If its something else… well, it must be something i agree with you on sufficiently as not to even notice.

      Liked by 1 person

    5. Ehh… I can see how someone could interpret TGaB as preachy in the beginning chapters. There were a couple points where I thought “man, some of these people are really unlikable and the situations ridiculous. Is D.D. trying to do satire and take the piss out of Third Wavers or is he sincere and just really oblivious?”

      Don’t get me wrong, those first impressions were never something I put much stock in. I was hoping my knee-jerk reactions were wrong and further reading showed that to be the case, but I can totally see how someone else might not handle it the same way. It doesn’t surprise me at all to find out that some people dropped during the first few chapters because they mistakenly thought TGaB was yet another internet soapbox.

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      1. this pretty well summed up the opinions of the people i got to read this and made that complaint. that and they said they got tired of some of the strawmen put in the story, they were referring to gabe, thumper, and sometimes trissiny. I personally don’t think they read enough to make that comparison because they get fleshed out as characters much later in the story. honestly i think they read fantasy for the escapism and the story had to many parallels to our reality for them in terms of ideology,so it made them uncomfortable.

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    6. Personally, I’ve gotten the drift of some of your ideas–it seems to me that you sympathize more with the Avenist way of looking at things than anything else in the story, which puts you on the political and cultural Left in the real world. I disagree with you strongly, but still enjoy the story. If I couldn’t deal with your ideas coming through, I just wouldn’t read you–it’s not that big a deal, really.

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  2. Looks like Prin can recognize Mary.

    Oh… remember when Principia dressed up as elvish shaman to “cure” a sick dwarven boy? I bet she dressed up as Mary. ^^

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  3. I second both what Bigfan said (allll of it) and Prin’s comment of “That’s good and horrifying” in regards to her mother/grandmother palling around with Sweet.

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    1. Well, yeah. That’s like five nightmares rolled into two square feet. Which includes two headhunters. Betcha Prin spotted that, too; her ohcrapometer started pinging the second Flora and Fauna came into view.:/ And, I’d put money on it being more than for spotting them as Sweet’s apprentices.😛

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      1. I’d take that bet. If headhunters were that easy to spot, then it would have been impossible for them to hide for that long, especially not in the Guild.

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      2. She’s on rock-throwing terms with her matriarch… who happens to be one of the best shaman in the business. And, you’re telling me she didn’t walk away with skills? We are talking Ms Keys, here: nicking things and ideas is her thing.🙂

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      3. The chances of Prin noticing they were head hunters isn’t too low when you take into account she’d be immediately suspicious of them. There’d have to be something weird going on for two wood elves to have joined the guild, and as Darling’s body guards at that. She’d probably be trying to figure out what’s weird about them, and knowing to look is a big part of finding something. And Prin probably would have some practice is detecting powerful beings; nothing worse than trying to scam someone then finding out they have the power to destroy half a city.

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  4. I don’t see this as preachy in any way other than the way good fiction can give you other views on how things in the world work\interact. Which is the purpose of fiction in any case if all fiction was tailored to suit your own viewpoint, well you end up with Atlas Shrugged readers……

    If this is considered preachy my view is, preach on Brother that’s some good preachin’ right there.

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  5. If someone wants to go through stories with a fine-tooth comb in search of ‘preachiness’, they will certainly be able to find them. Like you said, all stories are meant to convey a message, and whether the story crosses the line from subtly making us reflect to being preachy is a matter of how ham-fisted the author is. I don’t think TGaB is preachy at all, and even if you’re trying to impart a message, you do it in an interesting or funny way.

    I like how you portrayed Trissiny’s growth as a character; she is very black and white about demons in general at first, then she warms up to Gabe, then we realize that her uptightness may not stem so much from narrow-mindedness but a justified fear of a demon’s cunning seen through the succubus episode, etc. Also, characters have opinions and morals, and when they try to pass on their opinions to other characters – and readers as a matter of course – which may be preachy depending on the personality of the character. But that’s a characterization thing, and you have a firm grasp on making the message a character is saying seem in-character and not stick out like a preachy thumb.

    No worries here. About this chapter, I’m finding myself really curious about Ephanie. She seems very smart, and knowledgable, which may be because she was raised as an Avenist orphan and picked up a lot of things about proper Legionaire behavior and politics. There’s definitely something special about everyone in Thirteen.

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  6. D.D. Web I feel like your comment was directed at me specifically. I never said that I found this story to be preachy, I like it just the way it is. but a few people I got to read it did. they didn’t compare it to Ayn Rand, more like Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth, but in the opposite direction of that in terms of views.
    I don’t find any faults in the story you are writing, I’m just conveying what they told me.
    I wouldn’t dwell on it to much anyway, you already are very far into your story, and if you wanted to go back and change things It’d be a bit to late to do it anyway. power through you don’t have to appeal to everyone.

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    1. It was indeed your comment that prompted the inquiry, but don’t worry, I didn’t take it personally. You were quite clear that it was other people who’d said that, and it only resonated with me because, as I explained above, the role of message in fiction is a matter I’ve pondered extensively.

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  7. I think part of why people might find it preachy if they have nearly exact opposite views. Like how Atlas Shrugged is only entertaining if you have those exact views, TGaB would probably be hard to read if you have exact opposite views. I don’t know how that would happen, you’d have to be pro-women-not-having-any-jobs-at-all or something to get exact opposite views, but it’s possible.

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  8. Typos:

    a old friend
    an old friend

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    “tree with fern-like fronds and little pink blossoms”
    Hey, a mimosa, or in one language of this world, a trissiny! Mary is DEFINITELY needling Prin by perching in that tree.

    The commenters who mentioned Prin maybe having shamanistic powers may be on to something. One major difficulty in the con that ended up with Trissiny’s existence was Prin’s ability to get pregnant on a schedule – timing that sort of thing is a major problem for humans. I am guessing that magical aids work, and based on comments of the effectiveness of magic for that sort of problem, fae magic is best. And Prin has certainly had time to pick up at least some knowledge and practice it.

    It is interesting to see Darling and his apprentices from an outside viewpoint. He was definitely unfriendlier-seeming from that perspective, but that might be because he is upset with Prin. It was priceless when Prin realized that Mary the Crow was hanging around with Darling.

    “I don’t know what made you think you belonged here”
    Oh, I don’t know, how about Avei herself? Permission isn’t desire, but at a minimum, Avei knew and specifically let her in. But, while the commander knows that, there is no indication that Basra does.

    Why would Basra want to kill the political program? Either the characters are misinterpreting what’s going on, or the readers aren’t fully informed, or some combination of both. There are other possibilities, of course.

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      1. the dog with aspen i picked up and brushed off, because don’t dryads actually have to focus on the animal to control it and she was far more focused on the human. it seemed like a situation where she could have controlled the dog, but to what real purpose would it serve her so i kind of brushed it off rather than treat it like a potential chekhov’s gun.
        the mimosa i noticed also but thought was just an act of symbolism on webb’s part rather than mary actually sending a message to prin. after bringing attention to it i can see it being a message

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    1. I don’t think its that Basra is trying to kill the political program (though she could conceivably see anyone who excels at that as a threat to her job security) so much as it is that she has it out for 13 specifically. That squad has a probably /not/ reformed Eserite, the daughter of a Black Wreath family, a potential cult-hopping degenerate (how /did/ Farah get to joining the Legions from working at the library?), and a former wanna-be adventurer. The only person in that bunk that she might not dislike on principle is Ephanie, and that could be disregarded so as to hate on the rest of them.

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      1. For all we know, they gave her a similar choice to Merry – “Join one of these cults, or go to jail.” In which case she would’ve been required to sponsor that by Justinian, but then be free to lean on her hard enough to get her to quit afterwards.

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      2. consider that basra syrinx is a bishop for the universal church precisely because she has a proven track record of being a nonstandard avenist with too much political savvy to be discarded.

        consider that squad thirteen is primarily composed of nonstandard avenists specifically being targeted/trained to develop enough political savvy that they can’t be discarded.

        consider what bishop syrinx has to gain from promoting the perception that she is antagonistic towards squad thirteen, especially if she is giving that impression directly to squad thirteen. especially consider it if, as would be in character from everything we’ve seen of her to date with regards to being able to present a lie to the world if it’s just true enough, casey isn’t the only one in squad thirteen to have been sponsored or picked by syrinx even if she’s the only one who knows it for sure. is this a squad that would, politically, be able to do what they were created specifically to be able to do if the public perception within and without the legion was that they were working under bishop syrinx’s blessing or approval, or is there in fact more of an advantage if they are perceived to be working under the exact opposite, particularly if it starts them off at a point where they are forced to use their own resources to claw their way into a position of power without the help of the systems that would normally smooth their situation out, thus forcing them to develop tools other avenists would not need to develop and thus typically lack? tools that, because most of them already are atypical for avenists, they already have a good foundation in as it is?

        consider what she said to trissiny and teal in the prologue. what possible benefit could someone like basra syrinx derive from having a squad within avenist ranks pressured into believing “trust no one, not even your bishops, and question everything we tell you, because you have to trust your own judgment before you believe what we tell you”? what possible benefit could she derive from convincing squad thirteen that their own bishop doesn’t have their back, and they shouldn’t come to her expecting favors or support, and have to invent avenues of investigation for themselves that exist outside the church/legion structure?

        bishop darling is not the only bishop hiding their own agenda. nor the only one capable of playing multiple sides of the issue. nor the only one who believes all systems are corrupt.

        considering the hint here in the chapter is that darling appeared on the scene because syrinx let him in on things, which is a pretty heavy-handed way of implying some sort of con is in the offing somewhere and that syrinx is playing her part in it just like he is, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that this is all misdirection.

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      3. Walloping Text Wall Batman! (Sorry, couldn’t resist…)

        Tara has a point. If Syrinx isn’t hating on them to be a jerk, then hating on them to give them INFINITE COSMIC… ermm… Bundles of political savvy, would be the best (and more plausible) alternative.

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