8 – 13

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“There is really no way to work your mind around the inherent limitations other than practice,” Professor Harklund said as he paced slowly around the room, watching his students creating staves of golden light and then hitting them against things—the walls and floor, mostly, though some were very carefully sparring, testing the magical weapons against one another. “Remember, the clock is ticking from the moment you summon an object, but its duration depends upon you, and not merely upon the depth of the power you can call up. Every contact with the physical world will weaken it further—the harder the blow, the greater the damage. There are simply too many amorphous variables to properly quantify the lifespan of a summoned object; over time, with practice, you will develop an intuitive sense of what you have made, and what it can withstand. And unfortunately, divine magic does not offer spells of the kind that would let you know this. Your sense will be built of experience, nothing more. Hence, practice. Yes, I will be repeating it even more,” he added with a grin, coming to a stop next to November, who was grimly battering her glowing staff against an identical one held up by Trissiny. “If you are to get any use of these constructs in the real world, timing is essential. You’ll only have them for so many seconds, and if you do not know the timing, your efforts may prove not only useless, but backfire. Practice, practice!”

November’s staff flickered out of existence at her next blow, causing her to stumble forward; Trissiny caught her with one hand, her own glowing staff still extant but notably dimmer than before.

“All due respect, Professor,” said Gabriel, pounding the butt of his against the floor, “but this seems like the kind of unstructured activity we could be doing on our own time. How about learning something new?”

“Are you seriously asking for homework?” exclaimed one of the new freshmen.

“Rest assured, Mr. Arquin, the schedule for this class is carefully planned out,” Harklund replied with a smile. “You will be practicing things on your own, don’t you worry. As a rule, though, I prefer that you do your initial experiments under supervision. Of course, I can’t stop you kids from working ahead on your own, nor would I. Do keep it in mind, though. Striking off on your own may result in the rapid expansion of your abilities, but it can also lead to the acquisition of bad habits I will have to drill out of you before you can proceed to the next step. Everyone should please feel free to ask my help outside of class, too! My office hours are posted.”

Toby stood by himself, facing one wall, methodically re-summoning his staff after every time it flickered out—which it did every time he struck it against the wall. The staff glowed dimly to begin with, and never seemed fully solid. It also took a few seconds longer to fully form than did the other students’ attempts, which were mostly instantaneous. He would focus energy into his hand until the golden rod slowly flickered into being, shift into a proper striking stance and slam it against the well, whereupon it would vanish from existence.

After glancing around the room at her fellow students, Trissiny wandered over to him. “Hey, that’s better!” she said encouragingly. “If it helps, think of it—”

“Trissiny,” Toby said abruptly, not looking at her, “I will get there. Would you please leave me alone?”

She actually jerked backward, blinking her eyes. “I… Um, sure. Sorry.” Looking nonplussed, she stepped away from Toby as he laboriously called up another staff, her gaze meeting Gabriel’s. He looked purely shocked, his expression slowly shifting to one of worry as he moved it to Toby’s back.

November scowled and opened her mouth, then shut it with an audible snap when Trissiny pointed a finger at her and shook her head firmly.

Several of the other students had stopped what they had been doing and were looking askance at the exchange between the paladins. Only when Gabriel turned to sweep a frown across the room did most of them resume their own practice. The exception was Shaeine, who was still watching Toby intently.

Toby manifested another staff, slammed it against the wall, and began patiently calling up the next one.

“All right,” Professor Harklund said in his customarily mild tone, smiling at them as he finished his rounds at the front of the room, “that’s our class time. This was good practice, everyone—remember, keep practicing on your own, and don’t be afraid to experiment a little, but also don’t try to run before you can crawl. I’ll see everyone on Friday. Mr. Caine, could you stay for a moment, please?”

Toby nodded, and just waited calmly while the others filed out of the room, his expression blank. Most of the freshmen and upperclassmen talked and laughed among themselves, but the sophomores and November, exiting as a group, remained pensively quiet, at least until the door finally closed behind them.

“So,” November said, frowning, “what’s eating him?”

The others looked at each other, but nobody had an answer.


“I cannot believe you let her do this,” Sheyann said disparagingly as she paced in a slow circle around the frozen form of Aspen.

“She was utterly confident she could handle it,” Tellwyrn replied, scowling.

“Have you not noticed how consistently Juniper overestimates her reach?”

“In point of fact, I have had distinctly the opposite impression,” Tellwyrn snapped. “In the year I’ve been teaching her, Juniper has consistently acknowledged her unfamiliarity with new subjects, proceeded slowly and always made sure she understood the basics before moving forward. She’s not shy about asking help from other students, and in fact that’s a big part of her knack for making friends. Well, that and her habit of offering sex as a greeting while being absurdly gorgeous. Even despite the need to coach her through basics that almost every other sentient being knows by the age of four, she is one of my least tiresome students.”

Sheyann had come to a stop and turned a look of surprise on the Professor. “Really? That is rather startling to hear. Either myself or Shiraki have been constantly having to pull her back and repair the small disasters she has caused. Not least of which being her choice of a notoriously erratic, intractable and untamable species as her first animal companion.”

“Hm,” Tellwyrn mused, folding her arms and frowning up at Aspen. “On the other hand, you’re mostly teaching her nature-based stuff, correct?”

“Almost entirely.”

“That she probably thinks of herself as already knowing more than anyone else.” She shook her head, spectacles glinting in the blue glow of the runes sealing the chamber. “Ugh, one or the other of us really should have put that together. Well, lesson learned. I will not be letting her attempt anything involving fae magic until I see proof she’s competent enough.”

“Indeed,” Sheyann agreed, nodding. “And this raises some possibilities I can use to further her education on her next visit to the grove. But that is tomorrow’s battle. For now, we have this one to deal with.”

For a long moment, they were silent, staring at the partially transformed dryad.

“Is there any way to tell how far into the transformation she is?” Tellwyrn asked finally.

Sheyann shook her head. “There is no point of reference, no way to tell what she was turning into. The effect is all but random. A dryad’s power is nigh-limitless; the question is, what was her imagination in the process of making?”

Tellwyrn heaved a sigh.

“This spell,” Sheyann murmured. “How does it work? She is frozen in time, this I can see. Is she out of phase with the world?”

“Actually, if you do that the subject just vanishes. It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out that if you dissociate something from physical reality they’re just instantly left behind as the planet orbits. Summoning spells account for that naturally, so I wasn’t thinking in terms of…well. No, she isn’t even frozen in time, merely slowed. Slowed so greatly she might as well be frozen for all practical purposes. Assuming I could ward the room well enough, she’d still be there when the sun goes nova. We’re not short on time.”

The Elder narrowed her eyes. “Then…she would be tremendously vulnerable to impact.”

Tellwyrn nodded. “The room’s built-in protections shielded her to begin with. I’ve since refined them to be sure. She should be safe while in here, provided we don’t introduce any more unknowable variables.”

“All right, then,” Sheyann said, nodding. “That at least tells me the shape of what we must do. It will involve a very intricate blending of arcane and fae energies, which is potentially explosive if we make the slightest mistake.”

The Professor grinned. “Then we’d better not. Fortunately, we’re the best in the world at what we do.”

“I’m not sure I would claim that,” Sheyann murmured.

“I would,” Tellwyrn said bluntly. “I’ll freely admit I rely more on force than technique in many of my workings, but when it comes to time magic I am the leading expert. Not that I blame the other mages; I have an understanding with the extremely persnickety god of time. It’s hard to do the research when you get smote for even thinking about it. And you can be as modest as you like, but I know you’re the eldest living shaman on the continent, if not the world.”

“No,” Sheyann said with a faint quirk of her lips. “I do have at least one senior.”

“Ah, yes. Right.” Tellwyrn grimaced. “When I’m thinking of people I expect to be helpful, she doesn’t spring to mind.” Sheyann actually grinned at her.

“One to handle the temporal magic, then, bridging the gap between Aspen’s frame of time and ours,” she shaman mused to herself, gazing at the dryad but seeing far beyond her. “One to conduct the actual healing. This…will be prohibitively difficult, Arachne. Neither of our systems of magic is innately helpful at touching another’s mind, which is what we must do. I can do it, but that is already a tiring process before the actual work even begins. She must be reached, before she is unfrozen, guided along a path of healing. We are talking about therapy. It is a journey of potentially years, considering the strains upon her mind.”

“Hm,” Tellwyrn said, frowning in a similar expression. “I can possibly speed things along while shifting the… Hm. I will need to be very careful with that, though. Even more than the rest. We’re on thin ice to begin with, emotionally speaking; dissociating someone from their ordinary passage through time can have dicey psychological effects.

“Yes,” Sheyann agreed, nodding. “Anyone participating in this endeavor will be taking on risks.”

“Well, I got her into this; I can’t just leave the girl there, and I’m not just saying that because I still need to know the situation with Naiya regarding Juniper.”

“You do not need to defend yourself to me, Arachne,” Sheyann said mildly, still staring up at the dryad. “I know very well you are far from heartless.”

“My point was, I’m not going to pass judgment if you decline to risk your own sanity over this.”

“That, I think, exaggerates the danger somewhat,” the Elder said dryly. “You are yourself aged enough to absorb a little extra time spent in a pocket dimension without being unduly befuddled by the experience. I was ancient even by elvish reckoning when you first appeared.”

“Mm hm,” Tellwyrn said with a reminiscent smile. “Thinking about it now, I have to agree with Chucky. It really is counterintuitive that I’ve survived this long, isn’t it?”

Sheyann gave her an exasperated glance before resuming her study of Aspen. “Even so, Arachne… This is more than I can take on alone.”

Tellwyrn drew in a deep breath and let it out explosively. “Okay. All right, then. Who else do you need? I don’t mind involving a few other Elders, provided you can temper their attitudes somewhat.”

“I am sure they would say the same to me about you. I could seek help from several Elders—it would take multiples pooling their skills to achieve what we will need to do. I understood, however, that this matter is somewhat sensitive. Elder shamans would be very inquisitive about an issue that may involve Naiya becoming agitated. It might be better not to spread this any farther than we must.”

“Oh, please.” Tellwyrn waved a hand dismissively. “By the time enough of them speak to each other to spread a rumor, all of this will be long done with. You’re probably the most wide-ranging of the bunch, and I’ll eat my spectacles if you’ve been out of your grove in the last thirty years.”

“What a suspiciously specific and accurate number,” Sheyann mused. “Anyway, Arachne, trust me when I say the other Elders would talk. Things change.”

“I am well aware that they do. I’ll be astonished if the Elders are.”

The shaman smiled broadly at that, but the expression just as quickly faded. “There is, though I hesitate to say it, a more pragmatic option. More discreet, and also a better source of help to begin with.” She turned to face Tellwyrn directly. “Do you happen to know how to get in touch with Kuriwa?”

Tellwyrn scowled deeply at her. “You would be far more likely than I to know how to do that. Mary and I have developed the perfect relationship that keeps us away from each other’s throats. At the core of the method is staying as far away from each other as the breadth of this continent will permit.”

“And then, in typical fashion, you settled yourself down as close to the center of the continent as you could,” Sheyann said dryly. “In any case, though I have much less of a personality clash with her, I find I also sleep better when Kuriwa is nowhere near my grove. Nonetheless, she is the best prospect to help with this. Her command of the necessary magics outstrips mine considerably, as does her knowledge of it. And she has had many long and fruitful dealings with dryads; there may not be any higher authority on the subject. We can settle for involving a few other Elders if you are willing to embrace the risks, the inconveniences, the wait and the fact that it is second-rate assistance. If we can find her, though, we’ll need her.” She sighed, and shrugged. “But then, that may be too distant a possibility to consider anyway.”

Tellwyrn closed her eyes, shook her head, and hissed something obscene to herself, shifting through four languages in two seconds. “Last year,” she said finally, “she actually contacted me obliquely. She’d found Caledy’s old amulet and returned it to me. Through an intermediary, though, and without any personal message attached.”

“Both wise precautions,” Sheyann said gravely.

Tellwyrn rolled her eyes. “Yes, well, her contact was Antonio Darling. He strongly implied he was in regular, consistent communication with her.”

The shaman tilted her head. “Who is this?”

“He’s a priest of Eserion, a politician in the Imperial capital, and currently the Eserite Bishop for the Universal Church.”

Sheyann raised her eyebrows. “Indeed. A Tiraan official? And an Eserite, to boot? That is very peculiar company for Kuriwa to keep.”

“He’s not Tiraan,” Tellwyrn said, “just lives there. Seemed like frontier stock to me. You know the type: Stalweiss complexion, old gnomish name. That might make a difference to her… Still, and even considering how odd it would be for Mary to be loitering in Tiraas, I believed him. The man had no motive to deceive me, and is certainly intelligent enough not to torque me without substantial reason.” Tellwyrn paused and sighed heavily. “Are you adamant that we need her?”

“I wouldn’t put it that way. However, this will go much faster, be much easier and involve fewer complications with her help than without.” She paused for a moment, then spoke more gently. “I don’t believe anyone actually likes Kuriwa, Arachne. Possibly not even herself. However, I have learned to understand her, somewhat, and I know the ulterior motive she will bring to this. Other Elders will involve the politics of their groves; she will only see the advantage to herself in befriending a dryad, particularly one as old as this. That won’t harm our efforts and will, in fact, encourage her to be helpful. I would not suggest involving her if I did not deem it more than worth the drawbacks. I think, though,” she added in a wry tone, “I had better be the one to approach her. No offense intended.”

Tellwyrn snorted. “When was the last time you were in Tiraas?”

“It has been…let’s see…at least four centuries,” Sheyann said thoughtfully. “I will be very interested in seeing how the city has changed.”

“Good gods,” Tellwyrn muttered. “Well. On the subject of discretion… If you’re planning to approach Bishop Darling, let me pass on a word of warning about his apprentices.”


“Oh, my,” Ravana said, stopping at the top of the staircase just inside the Well’s front door. “What is all this?”

“Oh, just a little project,” Marueen said modestly, tucking a wrench back into her Pack and hopping down from the rail. “Afritia said I could. I’ve got th’easy part all set up there, see? Those wires an’ pulleys, see how they’re all connected t’that little lever that gets flicked whenever the door opens?”

“I do,” Ravana agreed, craning her neck to peer upward. Indeed, the taut network of white cables vanished from the small apparatus down the stairwell to the floor far below.

“That sounds a little bell in our dorm room when somebody comes in or goes out,” Maureen said rather smugly. “And this,” she patted the much more hefty network of metal rods she was in the process of bolting to the bannister, “when it’s done, will be a means of sending packages down to the bottom from up here.”

“But…why, though?” Ravana asked. “Afritia handles our mail. Anyone bringing a package to the dorm will likely be going there herself.”

Maureen shrugged, leaning through the bars of the bannister—and suspending her upper body terrifyingly over the drop—to tighten the next row of bolts. “The joy of the thing is in making it, not necessarily in havin’ or usin’ it. That’s the only reason I bother at all, since it’s doubloons to doughnuts Addiwyn’ll just take an axe t’the whole thing first chance she gets. It’s… It helps me think, y’know? Straighten out me thoughts, get the blood flowin’ an’ the body workin’.”

“I believe I understand,” Ravana said, nodding slowly. “I have my own thought-inducing exercises. Mine happen to be a bit more cerebral, but then, I was not raised to exert myself physically.” She smiled ruefully.

“Aye, well…I’m also revelin’ in the freedom, a bit,” Maureen grunted, still working on bolts. “Back home, tinkerin’ wasn’t considered a proper thing to do.”

“Forgive me, but my knowledge of your culture is entirely secondhand,” Ravana said, frowning. “It was my understanding that gnomes greatly valued adventuring. And is not one of your most famed current adventurers known for her mechanical skills?”

“Aye!” Maureen paused in her work to grin up at her. “Aye, you’re dead on, but those two facts are in spite of each other, not because of each other. Tinker Billie gets respected because of what she’s accomplished—y’don’t argue with results. But she had a hard road of it, settin’ out. She was always me hero, growin’ up. Let’s just say Mum did not approve.”

“Well.” Ravana moved toward the stairs. “I am glad you’ve found a chance to indulge your passion.”

“Aye, you too. I ‘ad me doubts, right up till the end, but you did get us the only A in the class with that scheme of yours.”

“And made us no friends,” Ravana said with a satisfied little smile, “but all things considered, I would rather we be respected than liked.”

Maureen stopped what she was doing, resting her arms on one of the bannister’s horizontal bars to peer up at the human girl. “So… How’s that factor into your plans to bribe and manipulate your way into friendship with the three of us?”

Ravana’s expression closed down. “I beg your pardon?” she asked softly.

“I’m not trying to start somethin’ up, here,” Maureen said quietly, gazing up at her. “It wasn’t even an accusation. I mean… You really weren’t trying not to be obvious, y’know? And I was more’n a mite offended for a brief bit, but… I get the strong impression you really do want to make friends, here, an’ just don’t know any other way to go about it. And that’s just too achingly sad to let me stay miffed.”

“You are…more perceptive than I fear I’ve given you credit for, Miss Willowick,” Ravana said, staring at her.

Maureen shrugged and turned back to her bolts. “Aye, well, we gnomes are comfortable bein’ underestimated. Better’n bein’ stepped on, which is the other most likely option! Anyhow, it’s been all o’ three days; I’m not too worried about things just yet. We’ll all get our sea legs in time. I hold out hope even Addiwyn’ll come around.” She paused, studying her half-built contraption. “Though I may change me mind after we find out what she does to this beauty of a target I’m settin’ up. This is turning out to be more effort an’ love than I was plannin’ to pour into it.”

“You sound absolutely confident that she will sabotage it.”

The gnome shrugged again, grinning. “Well. I am makin’ an assumption about who’s causin’ the trouble around here, but…c’mon. Is it an unlikely outcome?”

“Hm.” Ravana tapped her thin lips with a finger, and a smile slowly blossomed across her features. “Hm. Not to second-guess your creativity, Maureen, but… I wonder if I could persuade you to make a modification?”


“I assure you, I have been forewarned,” Sheyann said, stepping into the sunlight from the door of Helion Hall.

Tellwyrn sighed, following her. “Forewarned is one thing. The experience of riding a Rail caravan is not the kind of thing for which one can truly prepare. I would be happy to teleport you…”

“Arachne,” the Elder said flatly, “if it turns out that I hate the Rails more than that, we can revisit this conversation. Quite frankly, though, I would find that outcome extremely surprising.”

“Ah, yes,” Tellwyrn said in the same tone. “I know how you venerable Elders despise anything convenient or efficient.”

Sheyann just shook her head, smiling. “I’ll have to ride back anyway, unless you were planning to chauffeur me all over the continent.”

“It would be worth it just for the look on your face.”

They were silent for a long moment, standing on the top step. In the near distance, four students tussled playfully on the lawn outside the cafeteria. A few others walked past on the paths, and two young women were hunched over a book in the shade of the astronomy tower’s small front porch.

“You are actually doing this,” Sheyann said softly. “This…University. I honestly thought you would lose interest within a decade.”

“Yeah, that seems to have been the general assumption,” Tellwyrn snorted. “I don’t know why. It’s not as if I have ever lacked focus or discipline—it’s just that the thing I was focusing on forced me to completely change the whole pattern of my life every few years.”

Sheyann turned to regard her in quiet thought for a moment before speaking softly. “I am sorry, Arachne, that you never found what you were looking for.”

Still gazing out across the campus, Tellwyrn slowly shook her head. “I’m not. All these years later, I find my only regret is how long I spent on it. This is a much better use of my time.”

The shaman smiled. “Well. It is surprisingly pleasing to see you settling down to something, finally.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Tellwyrn waved her off. “Away with you, the Crow isn’t going to conveniently collar herself. Be nice to Darling, he’s a useful sort of person to know, despite the dramatic horrors he’s meddling with. And, as always, give my love to Chucky.”

Sheyann paused in the act of descending the stairs to look curiously back at the Professor. “Why do you insist on taunting him so?”

Tellwyrn grinned wolfishly. “Why do you?”

The Elder was still laughing as she made her way across the lawn.

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34 thoughts on “8 – 13

  1. Book 8 sure does seem to lend itself to small vignettes rather than long sequences.

    I’m planning to do some work on the Table of Contents page this weekend, spiffy it up a bit. The site really hasn’t changed much since I launched the serial. It needs new art, at least. Any other ideas? What could I do to jazz this place up?

    Anyhow, hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable weekend. See you Monday!

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    1. Some form of Character page perhaps? I know you want to play things about them all close to the vest (imagine finding out at the start of book 1 that Triss and Prin were related, oi) but, if it were a basic bio for name, race, and (current) closest group of allies (So, Flora/Fauna would have each other, Darling, Price, and maybe Joe, with The Thieves Guild filling in for that faction) then that wouldn’t really give away much. At… least not yet. Prin and Thumper/Kheshiri would be the two biggest spoilers on that list, but if someone goes digging into the character stuff without being caught up, then there’s probably at least a little expectation of spoilers.

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  2. I love that you dealt with my biggest issue with things being “out of phase” in fiction. Every other time, it’s been like everything except the bottoms of their feet are out of phase, and then only part of the time.

    I’m curious about how this block of Toby’s will wind up playing out and what in his psychology it’s coming from. Is it because they’re currently working exclusively in the form of weapons, and as a Hand of Omnu he’s unable to reconcile doing that for some reason? If they switched to working with shields, would he suddenly be close to the top of the class, like his fellow paladins seem to be? Dunno, but I look forward to it.

    “November scowled and opened her mouth, then shut it with an audible snap when Trissiny pointed a finger at her and shook her head firmly.”
    Aw…. Someone’s whipped.

    I’m very curious about how things will play out with Aspen at this point. Bringing in Sheyann was a good plan, and I look forward to watching Mary and Tellwyrn bicker, but I’m not sure that they necessarily /can/ fix Aspen. I hope they can, because then she could carry word back to Naiya that everything’s cool and maybe come hang out with the rest of the Sophmores, but… it seems like she’s started to go the way of the other crazy/dead sisters.

    Ravana… I swear, if you break Maureen’s thing in a way that isn’t expected and avoids whatever trap you’re helping her set on Addiwyn, I will be most cross. Maureen, keep being awesome. You’re nearly where I want you to hang out with the main Student crew in awesomeness points.

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  3. Sheyann continues to be my favourite Elder. I had almost suspected that it would come down to Mary helping Aspen but sending the Elder into the big city to look for her? This is going to be so much fun.

    I don’t know why people think Ravana is behind the drama in the girl’s dorm. It would be monumentally stupid for her to do this, serve no purpose and is guaranteed to blow up in her face in the future. It doesn’t match her desire to make friends or any of her other actions.
    Addiwyn just seems to be a too perfect suspect so we all think she couldn’t possibly be guilty. But when I look at her reactions, I don’t see an innocent. Or she truly doesn’t give even the slightest fuck about anyone or anything.
    I’m fairly sure it’s not Maureen though. For the rest… I honestly don’t see how anyone could benefit from all that. It’s all so petty.

    I think it’s about time that Toby got into the spotlight. For most part of the story so far he was rather bland. Just there, more or less in the background, supporting everyone else. Considering that he’s the first paladin of this generation, he deserves a bit better. I wonder if something about him is just different though. His spirit bomb attack should have burned him out but didn’t. Creating a divine weapon should be an easy task, but isn’t. Maybe he’s as unique as November.

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    1. toby is the token gay character, he serves no purpose but to be gay and impotent, figuratively and literally.
      but yeah toby doesn’t get many pages dedicated to him, does webb have difficulty writing toby?
      as for the other characters fross is just the glowing ball of exposition. ruda is the shock-value character. really the only ones with an ongoing story is trissiny, gabriel, and juniper. the others are just along for the ride, which is fine every story needs side kicks and such. trissiny is a stretch though, because i can’t really pin point her story other than she slams her nose into everybody’s business and makes it her story.

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      1. Mh. I don’t think you’re fair to Webb or the characters here.🙂

        A story needs conflict to be interesting, a character needs challenges to grow. Toby is a supporter in the group, he’s the main healer and the calming influence. To show him in that role the story needed to be about the others first, so he had things to mend and people to help.
        Toby has had a lot of screentime but he was rarely in the center of the spotlight. It’s also difficult for him because he’s being overshadowed by the rest of the cast. He’s the normal one, the straight guy in comedy. Who happens to be gay but I don’t think that’s the defining trait of the character.

        Trissiny’s story is the struggle of someone who grew up training to be a warrior, with a black and white morality system and who now, as an adult, discovers that the world doesn’t work that way and that being good at fighting and battle tactics isn’t worth much compared to diplomacy. She’s coming to terms with that… on top of revelations about her mother and her being an half-elf. And let’s not forget the whole coming of age thing, including making friends and dealing with love. All in a world that’s watching her every move because she is the only Hand of an active goddess. No pressure, eh?

        Ruda on the other hand avoids unnecessary conflicts. Her brash and rude appearance is just show, she’s hiding a very intelligent mind and a cunning intellect behind it. The only trouble she gets into is stuff she can get out of without problems, otherwise she’s perfectly fine staying in the back and just having fun. That is all mixed with her pride, her temper and a few other things… so it doesn’t work out all the time.

        Yes, Fross is the exposition fairy (although she adamantly insists that those do not exist^^) but that’s fully in line with her character and actually shows how she’s advancing academically. Compare first week Fross with the current one.

        Toby didn’t have a personal challenge yet. Except for the hellgate incident when he was on his own for a while. He hasn’t had to struggle yet. It’s only now that he’s running into some sort of block that his character progresses.

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      2. Characters should get screen time based on who they are and their place in the story – troubled characters get screen time to display and maybe resolve their troubles; combat-oriented types get screen time in fights; loudmouths and troublemakers get screen time getting into fights; world-shaking powers get screen time when they shake the world and it affects others, etc.

        Also, characters should get screen time based on how they advance or enrich the story.

        If one of them gets significantly more or less time despite all those factors, I might suspect an agenda on the part of the author.

        With the size of the cast, some are going to have less screen time than others for a variety of those reasons. For those with less screen time, saying that “X character with Y characteristic is the token ‘Y’ character” or “X character is a sidekick” misses the point, I think.

        As an example, Toby gets fewer pages because he has fewer problems, causes less disruption, and is less of a combat monster or world-shaker than many of the other characters. Peacemakers rarely get the limelight. If he were in the forefront despite that, it would look odd.

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  4. I think the idea Ravena has is to add her lightcapper to Maureen’s alert system. That way, she can catch the perp in action. Dibs on it being Iris!

    There are two significant characters mentioned in this chapter: Caledy, whose old amulet Arachne went to the capital to get, and the god of time. Is Caledy one of the fathers of her children? Is that god the unknown source of arcane magic and/or the spider goddess?

    Things are heating up, I can’t wait!

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    1. I doubt it on the god of time being the source of Arcane magic and/or the Spider Goddess. Mary mentions attaches the name Vemnesthis to the god of Time at the end of book 6, without referencing them in any sort of past tense. Vemnesthis is probably one of the current crop of bastardly ones, and since all magic comes from the Elder Gods, that rules out either of those.

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      1. There’s a named god of time already? Oops, must have skipped over that in my readings.

        “Thank you, no,” he grumbled. “But do you happen to know a time travel spell? What I would like is to go back about a week and a half and warn myself not to get into it too closely with Embras bloody Mogul.”

        “As I should hardly have to remind a Bishop of the Church,” she said evenly, “messing with time travel is an extraordinarily bad idea. Vemnesthis punishes such infractions without mercy. Even I don’t aggravate the gods in person. You might ask Arachne.”

        Yup, there’s one named. That’s really remarkably observant of you🙂

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      2. I finished rereading earlier this week, by binging book 6 through present, so it was close to the front of my mind. I doubt I would’ve remembered it otherwise.

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    2. Iris is the one with the lightcapper, not Ravana.

      Caledy could be one of Arachne’s (former) husbands, one of her kids, a friend, an adventurer she was teaming up with… I don’t really think it’s important.

      The god of time is just that. Became a god 8000 years ago and it seems like he’s against time magic. With one exception.

      If anyone is the (former) spider goddess, it’s Arachne. I mean, just look at the name. I don’t think a former high priestess would be a a) wood elf without family/origin or b) not speaking proper elvish. Only problem with that: Pretty much every single god would have to be aware of that by now, since she spoke with all of them. Several elves like Sheyann and Kuriwa would know about it, too.

      The unknown source of arcane magic is… unknown. Heh. We don’t know anything about it. We could speculate that each type of magic originates from an elder god and the only one not accounted for is the spider goddess… but since we don’t know what happened to her, we are back to square one.

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      1. FFS, I confused Iris and Ravana the entire time. For at least 12 chapters now. That’s embarrassing. -.-

        In my mind Iris was the blonde with the lightcapper while Ravana was the one with dark hair when in fact it was the opposite. Oh well, I can’t be right all the time.😉

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      2. I went back to check, and its actually Ravena with the lightcapper:

        “I am sorry,” another girl’s voice said, closer. “Are you quite all right, miss?”
        Maureen peeked between her fingers, blinking to clear her vision. Right before her, just inside the doorway, stood a blonde human girl who was scarcely a foot taller than she, and so dainty of build as to be almost boyish. She was holding a device like a heavily augmented telescope, bristling with dials and socketed crystals.

        Caledy is most likely to be someone who is long dead, but he’s evidently important to Arachne. He may not be appearing as a character now, but I am always curious about Arachne’s past and her relationships, (and she does have a tendency of meeting interesting people).

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      3. Haha, to be honest, I tend to mix up Iris with Ravena too. Ravena’s the blonde one but it just seem to fit Iris’ bubbly personality better, and Iris’ dark hair is something associated with a raven’s color. It took me two rereadings to stick their descriptions to the name.

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      1. As would I, since her and Lil’s scuffle with Scyllyth was apparently right around when she popped up for the first time.

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  5. Typos:

    Either myself or Shiraki
    Either Shiraki or I

    Marueen/Maureen

    Reactions:

    Every time a gnome speaks, my spell checker goes insane because the vernacular is so thick.

    More problems with Toby. Sooner or later it may be tough love time for him.

    OK, now that’s a good explanation as to why Arachne allowed Juniper to connect with Aspen.

    Oh how fun, we get to see Sheyann’s reaction to the drastically changed world, and we get to see two prickly magical giants try to work together. Things to look forward to.

    “Neither of our systems of magic is innately helpful at touching another’s mind”
    This appears to be a continuity error, or perhaps a misunderstanding on my part.
    Basra, chapter 4-14: “That’s classic witchcraft. Redirecting attention, inducing emotional states…”
    Sweet, chapter 4-13: [after using divine energy to counter fae energy] More importantly, the cobwebs vanished from his own mind, the false sense of security that had made him reckless and talkative
    So we have evidence that at least some fae magic is good for messing with minds, and Basra claims it is normal for that type of magic.

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    1. Hm, I see what you mean. This is all quite consistent in my head; witchcraft is good for emotional manipulation, but actually entering someone’s mind fully would be the province of divine magic. However, when I look back over it there’s no reason readers would know that based on the text thus far. I’ll see about clarifying it in coming chapters.

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      1. I don’t think outright mind control came up yet. Fae magic was mentioned a few times when it comes to emotions (during the Sarasio arc for example) and especially when it comes to luring Darling to a place of Mary’s choice but at no point has he ever been a puppet. She didn’t take away his free choice, she didn’t enter his mind… she merely influenced him, hid certain options from him.

        If fae magic was capable of entering minds, of going through the thoughts and knowledge of the target… then Mary would have done so. Since she didn’t, she probably can’t. At least not easily.

        I’m not 100% sure but I don’t think divine magic and minds were mentioned together yet. That’s the missing point I think.

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      2. The difference between reading and influencing mood, perceptual cues and other unconscious triggers vs communicating by conscious thought and outright manipulation of core memories and personality (well, except for the good, old fashioned brain injury way… :P)?

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  6. So, um…I may or may not have binge-read this entire story in the last week or so. just…wow. I’m going to make some friends read this to check for bias, but right now, gotta say, this is pretty goddamn awesome. Seriously, one of the best works I’ve had the pleasure to read in years, and I do read quite a lot. Anyhow, here’s a bit of a just-finished-binging braindump as a review:

    Going in, have to say the first thing I noticed was a cast and setting surprisingly similar to tales of MU (another web serial) – half-demon, drow, promiscuous nature-demigodess and some other interesting folks in a university class of a modern magical world. Of course, even in the initial few chapters, things went in completely different directions, but the similarity was amusing nonetheless. I guess the background influence of popular fantasy makes coincidences like this not that unlikely.
    The next thing I noticed was the high-quality dialogue (or monologue *cough* rafe) and wit, and after the second Tellwyrn class I was utterly hooked.
    Another thing that became apparent to me only a bit later is that every agent in the story seems genuinely intelligent and driven, something that is sadly quite rare especially when it comes to villains – I love how everyone acts consistently with their own views, especially when it comes to the powerhouses like the gods, Tellwyrn, the various dragons and so on. Those have a tendency to get reduced to plot-devices in a lot of stories, instead I am extremely intrigued to learn more about the motivations and background of people like Elial or Tellwyrn.
    The world is generally very well-built, I have to admit that in other works often stumble over suspension-breaking plotholes and logical flaws, but here I get the distinct impression that you sometimes even actively point these out in dialogue and proceed to close them quite neatly.

    To paraphrase something I’ve read somewhere else, the best way to create a story is just to put a bunch of intelligent characters on a playing field and let them run into each other. This seems to apply here very much, and it’s been great entertainment so far. So, chapeau! Great work, and an extra cookie for productivity. Very impressive, I found myself wishing you’d have started to write this a year earlier, because then I’d have more chapters to read right now😉

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    1. Glad to have you along, and thanks for the kind words!

      The resemblance to ToMU has been pointed out before. I have read the serial in question so I can’t say authoritatively I wasn’t influenced by it, but I certainly did not deliberately or consciously set out to imitate anyone else. They are very different kinds of stories–ToMU is a modern erotic relationship drama, while TGaB is a humorous epic adventure. Both, though, proceed from the conceit of moving classic high fantasy into a more modern era, and it must be said that Alexandra Erin had the idea first by several years.

      Regardless, I’m always glad to hear from new readers! Welcome aboard!

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      1. is this a ship now, not in the crappy force characters together thing but in a boat type of ship. is this the U.S.S. Bastards. how thick is the hull, can it withstand iceberg levels of damage, is there enough life boats that if this starts to sink everybody can escape, and most importantly have we killed Celine Dion before before her music kills us and the ship. I swear I’ll fake being a tranny to get on those life boats if it’s women and children first. i’m sure they well let me on once i explain how i am a woman on the inside.

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      2. I get the impression you’re joking, or at least I hope so, but let’s kindly refrain from making transphobic comments on my blog. I would like readers to be able to participate in the comments section without feeling attacked.

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      3. @common gentry: you’re going to have to get in line behind us trans women, or at the very least find a form of persuasion that doesn’t offensively reinforce stereotypes that get us killed for the sake of what you probably think is a funny joke before THIS “tranny” feels happy sharing any sort of space with the likes of you.

        (if only wordpress would let me reply to the actual comment. for the sake of clarity, then: d.d., this isn’t directed at you at all.)

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  7. It might not be a common problem, but I tend to read this in the mostly dark, and would be all for a sepia-rather-than-white text background. Which is mostly a problem because I read this while I ought to be asleep. (Fantastic work – you made a PALADIN a sympathetic character!)

    Like

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