8 – 23

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High Commander Rouvad made the lot of them wait in the hall outside her office for ten minutes while she conferred with Captain Dijanerad, doubtless about the documents the captain had just received from the Eserites. It was, to say the least, a tense handful of minutes.

Squad Thirteen held themselves at attention, which wasn’t comfortable, but was not especially onerous given their training. Far worse was the attention of the other two present, who stood off to the other side of Rouvad’s door. Private Covrin stood at ease, glaring suspiciously at everyone from behind Syrinx’s shoulder. The Bishop, for her part, seemed not particularly stressed. In fact, she regarded the assembled privates with a faintly smug expression. She did not taunt or try to provoke them, nor speak to them at all, but kept panning her stare slowly across the group.

Eventually, Principia turned her head slightly to catch Basra’s eye, and winked.

The Bishop’s stare hardened noticeably, and remained on Prin for the rest of their wait. The elf gave her no further reaction.

Fortunately, the door opened before this could progress further. Captain Dijanerad stepped out, her hand still on the knob, and jerked her head expressively toward the open doorway.

Syrinx nodded to her, expression faintly amused, and strode through, Covrin still on her heels.

“Do you need something, Private Covrin?” Dijanerad said pointedly.

Covrin slammed to a stop, eyes widening, and swallowed. “Ah, no, ma’am,” she stammered, glancing through the door at the Bishop.

“Then I’m sure you can find something to do,” Dijanerad said firmly.

“Wait for me in the hall, Covrin,” Syrinx said from within.

“Yes, ma’am,” Covring replied with evident relief, backing up to the far wall. Dijanerad watched her expressionlessly while Squad Thirteen filed past her into the office, then finally followed, shutting the door behind them.

High Commander Rouvad was leafing slowly through the contents of the Thieves’ Guild folder, and continued to do so, apparently ignoring her guests while they situated themselves. Basra planted herself in one corner, folding her arms; Dijanerad stood in front of the door, and Squad Thirteen arrayed themselves in a line on the opposite side of the room.

“I confess there’s an element of relief in this,” the Commander said at last, still reading. “It’s always disappointing, having to call down soldiers from whom I don’t expect misbehavior. But now, here’s almost the entire roster of everyone I fully anticipated having to chew out this week, right on schedule. It’s very nearly…gratifying.”

She finally shut the folder, pushed it aside, and raised her eyes. Her face was calm, but those eyes were iron-hard.

“Bishop Syrinx,” she said, “do you understand why you’re here?”

“Not precisely,” Syrinx replied, her tone unconcerned. “From the presence of this tragically underperforming squad I gather you have an objection to my handling of them?”

“Well, that’s as good a starting point as any,” said Rouvad, her eyes boring into the Bishop. “You have been given enormous leeway with the handling of the Ninth Cohort, above the objections of its Captain, and as of this moment I am bitterly disappointed with almost every aspect of your management, beginning with Squad Thirteen. Before we even discuss your handling of them, I want to hear an explanation for its formation and composition, which was entirely by your design. Not only is this squad unacceptably under strength, it is stacked entirely with undesirable recruits in defiance of all regulation and policy.”

“I was told,” Syrinx said flatly, “that I would be encouraged to produce agents from this cohort to train for interfaith and political operations. Everything I have done here has been in pursuit of that goal.”

“And so,” Rouvad replied, “when Legion policy is and has always been to disperse potentially disruptive elements through the ranks, so that their fellow soldiers could provide an example at best and at the least a counterpoint to any trouble they might cause, you not only clustered every yellow-flagged name on the roster into one unit, you then bent regulations even further in order to deprive them of positive influences. This looks very much like it was calculated to cause this squad to entirely self-destruct.”

“The use of pressure as a teaching tool is hardly my own invention,” Syrinx said, raising an eyebrow. “I understand there is some slight precedent in the history of military training.”

“Pressure,” Rouvad said flatly, pointing a finger at Merry. “And to pressure this group, you started with our resident ex-convict, here, and surrounded her…” She slowly moved her finger, indicating Principia, Farah, Ephanie and Casey in sequence. “…with refugees from the cults of Eserion, Nemitoth, Shaath—”

“Ma’am, please,” Casey whispered.

“—and Elilial,” Rouvad finished inexorably. A slight but distinct shudder rippled through the rank of Squad Thirteen, Farah, Ephanie and Merry all turning their heads to stare at Casey, who dropped her own gaze to the floor. Principia just raised one eyebrow.

“Attention,” Captain Dijanerad said curtly. The five of them instantly snapped back into position.

“Why them, your Grace?” Rouvad asked, her tone deceptively mild.

“I am surprised it even needs to be explained,” Syrinx retorted. “Their backgrounds have clearly predisposed the group toward maneuvering of the sort—”

“Two of them,” Rouvad snapped, “at most. The former would-be adventurer convicted of civil disturbance, vandalism and assault? The former Shaathist housewife? The librarian?”

“In my judgment—”

“Your judgment is very much on trial here,” Rouvad interrupted. “Let’s discuss what you did after gathering these miscellaneous reprobates into one apparently doomed unit. You spent an absurd amount of time chasing down Locke, even going so far as to try to put her loyalties in conflict, and frankly I can see no point to any of that except trying to get a rise out of her, which ought to be so far beneath you as to be beyond consideration. That is merely troubling.” She pulled the folder back in front of herself, placing a hand upon it, and stared coldly at the Bishop. “What I’ve just learned about the methods you were using to stalk Locke and the rest of this squad is a whole level beyond—and yes, Basra, I was aware of your borderline insubordinate manipulation of the Legion’s bureaucracy to move regulations and paperwork around. And now come the events of tonight.”

Rouvad drummed her fingers once on the folder, her stare growing ever more angry. “There is nothing—nothing—which excuses you sending Squad Thirteen into deliberate conflict with a group of Huntsmen of Shaath. You endangered everyone involved, beginning with a squad of soldiers whose safety was your responsibility. You intentionally disrupted an approved religious ceremony of another cult of the Pantheon. You employed a Vesker apprentice to do this, also placing her in danger—and without informing her of said danger. You abused your position in the Universal Church to first learn where the Shaathists would be operating and then do all of the above. And your eventual goal here was…what? To embarrass Private Avelea? I can’t imagine you actually thought I would allow her to be court martialed over this, any more than Locke would have been because of your similar antics toward her.”

“As I said,” Syrinx replied with some annoyance, “everything I have done with this squad was intended to train them toward the stated goals of this cohort. Despite their insubordination, they’ve done fairly well. I think some credit is due my methods, Commander.”

“Some credit is due to the fact that I now owe apologies to my two least favorite cults,” Rouvad snapped, “not to mention the Veskers. That is the sum total of your accomplishment with this squad. And honestly, Basra, you’ve been leaving a trail of destruction for the last week. Did you think I wouldn’t notice you manipulating the bureaucracy toward your own ends? Or that I was allowing it because I approved of this nonsense?”

Syrinx raised her eyebrows. “Of course. Why else would you allow it, Commander? Silence gives assent.”

“You watch your sly tongue, Basra,” Rouvad said icily. “For your information, I have been monitoring you since you first formed this cockamamie squad. You have been under examination as much as they. Do you imagine I am in any way pleased with what I’ve learned?”

“The Shaathists and Eserites will get over it,” Syrinx said with a shrug. “I don’t know why you’re concerned with their opinions anyway; we’re speaking of a gaggle of religious thugs. Squad Thirteen has learned quickly, thanks to the pressure I put on them, how to handle themselves in various crises. This looks like a successful series of tests to me.”

“I’ll tell you what’s been a successful test. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that I accept you were actually trying to train these women and not squeeze them out of the Legion as every piece of evidence indicates. What I have learned from watching this unfold is that you, Syrinx, will sink your teeth into any foe who successfully resists your machinations and worry at them like a dog until you manage to break them. In so doing you completely lose sight of all surrounding considerations: regulations, ethics, you own well-being. Your penchant for obsessive behavior has been remarked on by everyone who’s worked with or trained you starting from your own first enlistment, but you began your career by making good progress at self-control. It seems too much power and privilege has undone all that work, Basra. And that leaves me needing to do something about it.”

“You could leave me to do my job,” Syrinx suggested sarcastically.

“The whole point of trying experimental training methods with this cohort was to produce women who can help the Sisterhood deal with the ever-escalating intrigues in this city, and beyond,” Rouvad said. “The situation grows more tense and more complex all the time. In this political environment, I cannot have my top operative acting like a rabid dog. It’s clear to me you need some remedial training of your own.”

The Commander folded her arms atop the desk, staring flatly at the Bishop. “There is a situation in Viridill with which I require your unique talents, Bishop Syrinx. You will report to Abbess Darnassy as soon as you can make travel arrangements, and remain at the Abbey for the duration of the problem.”

“What problem?” Syrinx demanded, her own stare sharpening.

“Oh, don’t worry,” Rouvad said with a tiny, humorless smile. “I will think of something by the time the paperwork needs to be filed. For the moment, I am assigning Captain Shahai to administer your duties to the Church in your absence.”

“You can’t do that,” Syrinx snapped. “Bishops can’t just be replaced on a whim. The Archpope has to approve—”

“Yes, and if I were demoting you, that would be a problem,” Rouvad said, still smiling. “Interestingly, Church law provides for situations where a Bishop is incapacitated, on leave, or otherwise engaged. Cult leaders may unilaterally appoint an interim Bishop, who does not require the Archpope’s or anyone else’s approval, for up to one hundred and twenty days. That is how long, Basra, you have to convince Abbess Darnassy that you’re still a good soldier who can do her job without haring off on a sadistic personal crusade. If, at the end of this period, Narnasia is satisfied with your progress…” Her smile widened slightly. “And if his Holiness hasn’t decided he likes your replacement just fine, you may return here and resume your duties. I suggest you put your nose to the grindstone, Basra. Narnasia does not share my lenient attitude toward unconventional behavior.”

Basra was fairly vibrating with tension now, fists clenched at her sides and her face a thunderhead. Commander Rouvad held her stare for a long, silent moment, then abruptly turned to regard the wide-eyed members of Squad Thirteen.

“With that addressed, let’s talk to the other individuals who have added to my headaches recently. I understand that was quite a performance you put on down in the courtyard, Private Locke. Now, under most circumstances, a raw recruit reaming out the Bishop would be headed right for the stockade, but I’m interested in the details of this situation. It defies belief that the great Principia Locke, master thief of two centuries’ experience, who doesn’t so much as twitch an eyebrow except in pursuit of three separate plans, would lose composure that way. I would like to hear exactly, in detail, what you were trying to accomplish with that little speech.” She narrowed her eyes slightly. “This is a good time for you to be honest, Locke, not clever. I advise you not to make any assumptions concerning what I do or do not understand, either.”

Principia cleared her throat. “Yes, ma’am. It was first a diversionary tactic. As I explained to Bishop Syrinx at some length, I am not particularly concerned with anything she attempts to do to me, but she was going for Avelea. I will not have her sinking her teeth into my squad.”

“How interesting,” Rouvad said expressionlessly. “Go on.”

“Additionally,” Principia continued obediently, keeping her own face blank, “there were multiple representatives present of the two cults who had been severely antagonized by the Bishop’s actions. I ordinarily would not show Legion internal division to outsiders, but in that situation where Bishop Syrinx’s affronts were unavoidably obvious, a display of opposition to her from within the ranks was necessary for the Legion to regain face. My words were calculated to appeal to Eserite and Shaathist sensibilities as much as possible, and leave those representatives to understand that Syrinx’s abuses were not acceptable to us and would not be tolerated. I apologize for overstepping my prerogatives, Commander. Aside from the benefit of taking that action immediately, I believe it gained considerable credibility coming as it was from a low-ranking soldier who was clearly taking a risk by speaking out, rather than a high-ranking one whose reassurances could be dismissed as politics.”

Rouvad gazed at her in silence for a long moment after she finished speaking. “Is that all, Private Locke?”

Principia drew in a short breath. “In…addition…there was the consideration that any public punishment which befell me after the fact would have undercut the credibility I regained on behalf of the Legion by speaking out.”

“Oh, you noticed that too, did you,” Rouvad said, deadpan. “Well, Private, that’s a lot of complex effects to have achieved with a two-minute speech. Quite impressive by the priorities of Eserites, I would presume. As it happens, I concur with your assessments. I’m even a little impressed with your results. Considering the training aims of your cohort, I’m actually somewhat pleased, and inclined to let the matter stand so as to be further leveraged in the future. So no, in this case, you have not forced my hand.” Abruptly, her tone was hard and cold as a polar ice sheet, and her stare furious. “And if you ever attempt to do so again, Locke, as Avei is my witness you will beg for treatment as gentle as exile to Viridill before I am done with you. Is that understood?”

“Perfectly, Commander. It won’t happen again.”

Rouvad held her stare for a long moment before relaxing slightly and speaking again. “Needless to say, Bishop Syrinx’s role in this cohort’s management is over, and the experiment in question scrapped. Captain Dijanerad, how much damage do you believe has been done to your cohort by all this?”

“Minimal, Commander,” the captain said immediately, “and fixable. I’ll need officers and a schedule of more reasonable duty shifts, but it’s only been a week. That much more time without this nonsense going on should straighten out any problems. Not many have had time to form properly, yet.”

“Good,” said Rouvad, nodding. “I’ll assign you three more lieutenants to lighten Vriss’s workload. I won’t transfer anyone against their will, but you may have your pick of any candidates willing to take the job. Have their names on my desk in forty-eight hours, or I’ll pick some for you.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Will you need additional sergeants?”

“My squads were promised promotion from within, ma’am. No squads, in my opinion, lack a suitable officer candidate. I believe depriving them of that on top of this week’s events would be a serious blow to morale.”

“Very well, put forward your own choices’ names along with the lieutenants’.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“With regard to this group,” Rouvad continued, returning her stare to the assembled privates, “whether by accident or design, Bishop Syrinx’s campaign of ‘educational’ pressure has yielded some results. The five of you do appear to function well as a unit. You even show some promise in the direction toward which your training theoretically aimed. As such, I’m not willing to discard the only possibly successful result of this debacle out of hand.”

She leaned back in her chair, which creaked with the motion. The High Commander’s expression was impassive now, her eyes slowly moving across the squad.

“Squad Thirteen is hereby disbanded,” she said abruptly. “It will be re-formed to bring your cohort up to full strength in the days ahead, Captain. You will be assigned new graduates from the cadet program, as well as several more seasoned soldiers, just so you have a few to work with.”

“Thank you, ma’am,” Dijanerad said crisply.

“These five women,” Rouvad continued, “are to be re-assigned together under the designation of Squad One.”

Despite their being ordered to stand at attention, there came a sharp indrawn breath from the privates.

In the Silver Legions, “One” was the designation of irregulars and special forces. Depending on the unit in question, it could be a great honor, or a punishment duty. The Second Legion’s First Cohort consisted entirely of magic users of a variety of specializations—all except warlocks, in fact. Its Squad One actually had three holy summoners, and was overall considered equivalent to an Imperial strike team in versatility and combat effectiveness. The Third Legion’s First Cohort were scouts and rangers of great renown, and the only part of the Legion that had remained fully intact during its recent reorganization. By contrast, the Fifth Legion’s First Cohort consisted of diplomats, statisticians and other paper jockeys. Though these were necessary functions (or they wouldn’t have been kept around), it was widely understood that that unit was a dumping ground for women who had nominally useful skills which did not include forming a competent phalanx.

Officially, there was no First Silver Legion. Rumors had abounded for years that such an organization existed off the books, working Avei’s will in places where the Sisterhood could not openly show its hand.

“It’s for good and specific reason I permitted you girls to witness the dressing down of the Bishop,” Rouvad continued calmly. “Considering what’s in store for you, I want you to understand some things. There is room for all sorts in Avei’s service. Basra Syrinx is a mean, vindictive, duplicitous snake, and we all know it. So long as she’s one who acts in accordance with Avei’s aims, I can work with that. I can even extend some tolerance toward antics which strain tradition and procedure. There is, however, a limit: go off on your own with that kind of behavior and I will shut it down. You keep both of those things firmly in mind.”

“Yes, ma’am!” they chorused.

“And with apologies to Captain Dijanerad for usurping her prerogative,” Rouvad continued, quirking an eyebrow, “I am going to go ahead and make the obvious choice for your new squad’s leader. Congratulations, Sergeant Locke.”

There was a beat of silence, in which Basra’s right eyelid began twitching uncontrollably.

“Excuse me, ma’am,” Principia said respectfully, “but it’s pronounced ‘Avelea.’ Common mistake.”

Rouvad held her gaze, blank-faced. “Locke, have I ever told you how much I enjoy your sense of humor?”

A few more seconds of silence stretched out before Principia was certain the Commander actually wanted a response to this.

“I don’t believe so, ma’am.”

“There is a reason for that.”

“Understood, Commander.”

“This is because you are the most appropriate candidate for the job,” Rouvad continued coldly, “which says more about the available talent pool than about your abilities. Let me be frank, Locke: you are not being rewarded. I am giving you the opportunity to fail, and I more than half expect you to take full advantage. In that event, I can rid my Legions of five disruptive losers and be done with it. Or, alternatively, you might surprise me and prove that this squad can be a considerable asset. I win either way; only the five of you have a stake in the outcome.

“Because, make no mistake, after the events of this week, you girls have proved not only your potential in the political and diplomatic arts, but your willingness to play fast and loose with regulations to achieve it. Much like the good Bishop, here. The difference is that she has given Avei years of dedicated and effective service, and you lot have done nothing to earn a fraction of that regard. If any of you went as badly off the Rail as she just did, I’d have you flogged. Am I clear?”

“Yes, ma’am!” all five shouted.

“Those are your alternatives, Squad One. You will either succeed beyond anyone’s expectations and prove your utility to the Silver Legions, or be drummed out of them. Mediocrity is not an option available to you. Clear?”

“Yes, ma’am!”

Rouvad studied them silently for a few moments more, then turned her head and nodded to Captain Dijanerad. “All right. Make me proud, ladies. That is an order. Dismissed, all of you.”

Once again, Basra was first out of the office, this time stalking like an offended cat and still practically quivering with fury. The rest followed her in stupefied silence, with the exception of Captain Dijanerad, who actually looked vaguely amused.

Covrin was still waiting in the hall, as ordered; she took one look at Basra’s expression and paled. The Bishop strode past her, snapping her fingers and pointing to the floor at her side. Covrin swallowed and came to heel like a well-trained dog.

Just as the Captain pulled the office door shut behind them, Principia paused, holding up a hand to halt her squad, and spoke.

“Just a moment, Covrin.”

“I don’t have time for you, Locke.”

“That’s Sergeant Locke,” the elf shot back. “Do not walk away from me, Private.”

Covrin came to a halt, as did Syrinx just ahead of her. Slowly, the private turned, staring at Principia for just a moment too long. Then she came to attention and saluted.

“My squad has the assigned duty of politics and diplomacy,” Principia said, staring into Covrin’s eyes. “And we’re under strength. I need clever, motivated women who possess a certain aptitude for, shall we say, lateral thinking. I’d like you to join up.”

Covrin stared at her for a moment, then half-turned her head, glancing at Bishop Syrinx out of the corner of her eye. The Bishop was watching without expression.

“She just got her butt served up on a platter and is being shipped off to cool her heels in Viridill,” Principia said quietly, still gazing hard at Covrin. “Basra Syrinx is in as weak a position as you have ever seen her, Jenell. Right now, she can’t touch you if you choose not to allow it. This is the best chance you’ll have to get away from her.”

“Permission to speak freely, Sergeant?” Covrin said stiffly.

Slowly, Principia nodded. “Granted.”

“I still don’t have time for you, Locke. May I be dismissed?”

Prin sighed softly. “Dismissed.”

Covrin turned on her heel and stalked back toward Basra. The Bishop paused only to smile coldly at Principia before continuing on her own way with Covrin trailing after her. They were gone around the corner in moments.

Captain Dijanerad clasped Principia on the shoulder as she passed down the hall in the opposite direction. “Good try, Locke, but you can’t do a thing for someone who won’t be helped. Get some rest, ladies.”

Moments later, she, too, was gone, leaving Squad One standing alone in the hallway.

“What just happened?” Ephanie asked of no one in particular.

“Dunno, but I do believe,” Merry said thoughtfully, “that I have never been this tired.”

“Never thought I’d miss that little dump of a cottage,” Farah agreed, “but I wanna go back there right now and make love to my pillow.”

“Gross,” Casey muttered.

“Well, that’s too bad, girls,” said Principia, rolling her shoulders and straightening her spine, “because we’ve a ways to go yet before we sleep. Fall in, Squad One; there’s one more thing we need to do tonight.”

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55 thoughts on “8 – 23

  1. This has been a weird night…

    I’m having recurrent symptoms of that flu I thought I was over as of last week. Persistent scratch in my throat, and earlier today I was having dizzy spells. Very annoying.

    So tonight as I was writing, with my cat sitting calmly in my lap, the other cat suddenly came skittering into the room, chasing a mouse. First cat immediately leaped off me and nabbed it–an act of blatant killstealing. There is no honor among cats.

    Even better, she picked the damn thing up, carried it into the kitchen, and let it go. Alive.

    Some time later I found the cat rustling around in a plastic bag she’d pulled out of the trash, so obviously I took it away from her. Lo and behold, tucked safely in that bag was the mouse–still alive and apparently unchewed.

    Now, I have no objection to cats killing rodents. They’re predators, after all. And I’m willing to set mousetraps, even, as I don’t need the little bastards chewing up my house. But it turns out I do not have the stomach to kill a fuzzy little creature with my two hands once it’s in my power. I also wasn’t about to give it back to the cat, as that was provably ineffective.

    And that’s the story of how I walked over an acre across the highway, at night, in the winter, in my pajamas, to put a mouse down in the woods as far from my house as possible without climbing a fence onto someone else’s property in the dark.

    Only to be informed by a friend via text that mice can find their way back over distances of at least a mile.

    Yeah. Weird night.

    Hope you all have a good weekend. See ya Monday; Book 8 is winding to a close.

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    1. i’ve been mulling over a few thoughts of my own recently. i’ll put them here in case anyone wants to respond to them.

      people come to high fantasy expecting their heroes to win because they deserve to because they’re right – the belgariad’s notion of “where there’s the will there’s the way” taken thoughtlessly. the genre encourages it, honestly. some people, when they grow tired of that notion or disillusioned with it, gravitate towards its mirror opposite – stories like a song of ice and fire where everything is awful and good things can’t survive at all and readers are rewarded for their hopes with cruelty. but this is just the flipside of that coin; it doesn’t negate the misconception of thoughtless takes on high fantasy but reinforces it, by simply never engaging with whether there’s any “will” involved at all – there’s just no way, period.

      very, very few stories are about an imperfect world that doesn’t change easily, where the narrative allows for flawed but sincere characters who believe the world can change much less want it to and then are not handed success as an inevitability but might actually lose in their aims entirely, and then sets these protagonists to the difficult task of saving the world through hard work and learning how to actually cope with setbacks and harshness without being swallowed up by it.

      that’s a level of honesty you just don’t always want to read about, and that’s fine, but it’s a level of honesty even stories that are just trying to be a good way to kill some time could use a bit more of, because it feels to me like we’re often caught in between modes of catastrophe – either the good guys are winning and we’re changing everything, or our times are at their darkest and nothing will ever get better.

      and it’s just blocking anybody from seeing the world we actually live in. there’s bad business afoot out here in the real world, and bad people doing it for reasons that won’t boil down enough to “they’re just nasty people” to be so easily dismissed, and there’s good people too, easily waylaid by those other reasons. and things are changing but they don’t change quick and they don’t change without putting in a lot of hard work and having lots of regrets about battles you couldn’t fight that day because you had to focus on something else coming back to bite you later and they don’t get changed by noble souls but by people, intemperate, complicated, compromised people, working together with equally damaged other people in a community. and community is necessary but a community can bring its own problems and those problems can hurt the people it’s supposed to help, which means it needs to be repaired, but some of those problems aren’t that easy to fix without running up against the nasty business people do for their own personal reasoning, which leads us back to … you’re not going to make the world a better place, or be a “hero”, without the help of your friends and comrades in arms to fall back on, because it takes a lot of messy and uncertain work.

      i will reiterate what i said about certain other aspects of the avenist cult here, again, because it’s still true about this part too: it’s very compellingly done, how much the failings of the sisterhood mirror those of large-scale feminist organizations in real life, and their tolerance for behavior among their leaders like basra’s – down to the very same arguments used to justify their presence and countermand their removal – is just another one of those patterns they have in common.

      i wish it were otherwise. but, like the gods – people are bastards.

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  2. That’s pretty much the resolution I expected… although I find the explanation for Basra’s behaviour kind of weak. She’s obsessive and essentially gets tunnel vision once things don’t go her way? It’s weird.

    Principia getting promoted was bound to happen and Covrin staying with Basra isn’t very surprising. Too bad though.

    Now I wonder what the newly named S1 is up to, what do they have to do now that can’t wait until tomorrow? Also looking forward to them sitting down and talking about their backgrounds. That could be fun. Too bad that Principia won’t reveal who she really is.

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    1. This will be discussed further in the next chapter, and also in storylines to come, but for now: that obsessiveness and tunnel vision is a classic psychopath trait. What’s telling here is Rouvad’s reaction to it, which is also up for later discussion.

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      1. Yup. You nailed it. *nods* People without antisocial personality disorder usually can’t wrap their heads around the distortion and blinkers those with it have. Particularly the effect of the distortions as they go along.:/

        You got the “establishment = lack of caution” aspect down pat.🙂

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      2. I’ve noticed before that you seem to have done a good bit of research on this subject. The workings of the antisocial mind are something I’ve had reason to study myself, and I find a lot of people just don’t grasp how they work. In the general perception of the culture, “psychopath” just seems to mean “evil and crazy.” In reality, most of them aren’t even violent.

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      3. Yup. Heck, there are often clear social advantages in having antisocial traits. It’s when enough of them stack up to meet “disorder” criteria that the individual as much as the people around them start really suffering.😦

        Mum was a psychiatrist; I studied psychology (emphasis on cognitive sciences; and getting as far away from occupational or “evolutionary”* as I could).🙂 I grew up with the DSM knocking about the lounge, kitchen and dining room/office in various forms.😀

        * Evo Psych… boo-hiss-spit. >_< Occupational psychology suffers from being tediously dull with some pseudo-science claptrap… Evo, however… *shudders*

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      4. @euodiachloris: evolutionary psych gets a bad rap on account of being used very frequently by laypeople who don’t know what the heck they’re talking about to justify all manner of strange personal biases. In reality, it’s a tool in the research psychologist’s repertoire just like any other. There are a lot of things we wouldn’t understand about things like, for example, language development, depression, or declarative memory retention, if it weren’t for the evolutionary mode of analysis.

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  3. “Officially, there was no First Silver Legion. Rumors had abounded for years that such an organization existed off the books, working Avei’s will in places where the Sisterhood could not openly show its hand.”

    This passage bothers me a little. A First Legion wasn’t mentioned prior in the chapter, only a First Squad. Since the five women are currently part of the Ninth cohort of the Third Legion, I don’t really see the logical connection to the First Legion.

    They are named the new Squad one, then First Cohorts of various Legions are described and then suddendly a secret/hidden First Legion is mentioned.

    That actually contradicts what we learned in chapter 8-2: “A cohort consisted of twelve squads of twelve women apiece, numbered two through thirteen. Squad One was a reserved designation for any special ops personnel attached to the cohort.”

    So either something went wrong here or the new squad is a specialist squad in a specialist cohort in a black ops legion. That’s like ultra elite. Also not something you’d mention in front of a disgraced bishop and a captain from another legion.

    Something is either wrong or missing here. Or I overlooked something important somewhere.
    🙂

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    1. I don’t see the contradiction. The First Legion is mentioned here as a rumor; it has no connection to the characters except as an example of what the designation First means in the Silver Legion. They’re in the Third. Mention is made of First cohorts and squads to further explain. The chapter you referred to mentioned this in passing, and it’s fleshed out a bit here.

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      1. Ah, so it’s basically just “First is always special”? I see. The First Legion kinda threw me off course there.

        Re-reading the passage with that in mind makes a lot more sense. ^^

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      2. So if there is a first silver legion, first squad of the first silver legion is basically demigods right?😀

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    2. I think the disconnect comes because of the mention of the (currently) mythical First Legion. They’re just the new First Squad for their rookie cohort…. I think. I could be horribly hilariously wrong, too.

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  4. I’ve been holding off on replying a lot because I wanted to see the conclusion before making a decision to say something. Once again, you have crafted a myriad of story lines that I am (by and large) completely captivated by. And once again there is one thing of note that should be brought up.

    You used rape much like George R. Martin does. For it’s shock value. In a religious organization so opposed to rapists as this army, Basra should not be getting off with a slap on the wrist. Even one witness is all it takes. Now if you want to say that it’s like the army where rape is covered up… I wouldn’t believe you. If you wanted to say it was much like our world, where the victim needs to come forward, I still wouldn’t believe.

    The rape was mentioned once and then ignored. It hasn’t been brought up since or touched upon and though you have gone a curious route in trying the ‘battered’ relationship there is a difference. This religion hates the rape of women. Vehemently.

    If you still have something planned, then the criticism changes, and I would say you are once again holding out too long for pay off, as I feel you did with Juniper. If you don’t have anything more planned on that specific front I would suggest an edit to remove the aforementioned rape from your story.

    I am not someone who believes it it ‘unholy ground’ that cannot be written about. Stories are meant to explore the best and the worst of the world, not only for an enjoyable experience but to better understand the world, to frame it in a reference that we understand. For the same reason that I feel this is true, I feel using anything for simple shock value is out of place, a cheap tactic like a Deus Ex Machina that a writer should avoid using unless their aim is to critique the use of cheap tactics or parody it.

    In this story, it serves to highlight a dysfunctional relationship you could have just as easily touched on with something more commonly associated with such. Simple physical abuse, the battered wife syndrome, whatever you want to call it. Still fairly shocking, but serves to illustrate the point you raise in this chapter far better.

    But in this chapter you also illustrate why holding out on the pay off for this rape is not the proper choice. This is not a group of citizens we’re talking about. This is a military organization training recruits. Like hell the Captain or her superior need permission to help someone. Even the suspicion of it, even one objection raised, during all of this from one witness would be enough to but Basra off the list and on to the proverbial (or perhaps literal in the case of this army) chopping block.

    Yet it’s ignored, hand waved as ‘can’t help someone who ‘doesn’t want to be helped’ when the whole point of the rape was that she was put in a position where she couldn’t help herself in the first place because of bad leadership. That’s not a lesson to be learned or something to pity when it comes to Corven. That is a very real, very clear failure for her leader, who put her in that position where she couldn’t help herself in the first place, and let her suffer at the hands of someone who would eventually twist her mind like that.

    You can’t have your cake and eat it too. You want this religious organization to be tough on people who rape women? Then there needs to be more then a brief nod that Locke, someone without much authority, tried to help this person. You need to give us pay off now, when Basra is at her weakest and can’t do crap about it.

    You want your shock value rape instead? It needs to be commented on that maybe… This group is also a bunch of sexist morons that give women more rights then the men they lynch. I know it’s been commented on in the story that women are valued in this army, but so far I’ve seen a ‘true feminist’ slant. Equality, not superiority. And when a woman is being raped, would their goddess really care? In fact, why is a goddess of all beings still giving Basra ANY power when she’s done something so heinous? It’s been spoken of multiple times that the gods do have a voice and do speak.

    Too many questions about the military and the divinity remain for this to be any kind of book end or even pause for Basra’s involvement in the story, and as a reader who is trying to offer useful critique, I gotta tell you that my patience is wearing thin while I wait for there to be something more about what is a very reprehensible act, and the consequences this woman should be suffering for it, or somehow ‘cleverly’ ducking in a religious organization that might just run her through on the spot.

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    1. I don’t think that rape is used for shock in this story.

      I wasn’t surprised Covrin stayed with the bishop. Basra is still too powerful and connected and Covrin is well known in Tiraas, as is her family. If she accused Basra of raping her, the scandal would go public quickly and she’d have that stigma attached to her for the rest of her life. Accepting help from people she normally regards as beneath her won’t come easily to her either.
      She probably tells herself that it only happened once and won’t happen again. If she never talks about it, it’ll go away. If she asked for help, she’d have to tell people about it in detail and she’s too ashamed for that.

      So that is a realistic outcome. There are no other reliable witnesses. Casey, the former Black Wreath member, heard it happen through a thin wall. She didn’t see it or has any evidence to present. It’s her word against Basra’s… and Jenell Covrin would probably deny it, too. And then work hard to shut Casey up.

      I totally understand why you feel this way and I empathize. I’d prefer a clear solution and a happy end, too… but that would be unrealistic.

      Book 8 might be ending soon but that doesn’t mean Basra won’t be punished for her crimes. There are more books to come.

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    2. I really don’t get your complaint.

      You want Basra to be punished? Someone capable of imposing punishment would have to know what’s going on. “One accusation is all it takes” is not how anything works, anywhere, especially in a cult dedicated to justice.

      You think it’s used for simple shock value? You’re entitled to your opinion, but I’m not sure what the alternative would be. It SHOULD be shocking; how else would you have the characters respond to this? What use would not be shock value? Or should the subject just not be approached? Seems like an odd conclusion when you dedicated a paragraph to stating that stories should explore things, a position I agree with.

      You’re not happy because it hasn’t been mentioned more than once? No one’s forgotten this, but why would they sit around talking about it? The only people who even know this has happened are in no position to do anything about it–one just tried, to the very limited extent that she can. I’ve never been afraid to take a stand where I thought on needed taking, but I’m not going to have characters drop what they’re doing once a chapter to lecture the reader about anything. That kind of ham-fisted moralizing is terrible writing even when the moral in question is a good one.

      You think it’s weird that Syrinx and Covrin have a more complex relationship than just the rape? Because that’s odd, frankly. Most rapes occur within relationships, not between strangers. Any relationship where that kind of thing happens is complex and weird. This is depressingly common.

      I’m sorry you thought it took too long for Juniper’s arc to progress, and that it’s taking too long for some resolution to occur here. I’d like to know what you think the alternative should be. Everything should be resolved immediately? This is a complex and very long form story, not an episodic one. You’re basically asking for the whole structure to be altered so as to render the entire thing unrecognizable. Stuff is generally going to take time to go places. You have only the tiniest of glimpses into Covrin’s perspective, and the rest are not going to come immediately. I’m sorry if that bothers you, but I frankly don’t know how you can have read the story to this point and expect resolutions to conveniently spin out on the spot.

      You want a moral lesson here instead of the first stages of an ongoing plot? Fine, here’s one: sometimes, horrible people do horrible things and get away with it.

      I am truly sorry if this subject matter is of personal significance to you. It’s an appalling thing to happen to anyone. You seem to be trying to put me between a rock and a hard place, though. I should either not talk about it at all, which you went out of your way to say you don’t think, or I should talk about it…in what manner? I’m not sure what it is you want. It should NOT be shocking? I don’t see how. The subject matter should be disturbing under any circumstances. I should bend the narrative structure so the character responsible for this should face immediate and satisfying consequences, in defiance of every aspect of the situation which MAKES this matter horrible? Frankly I think THAT would be a cheap, lazy and shock-oriented way to approach the matter.

      If the only way I can make you happy is to rip the structure out of my story, heavy-handedly moralize instead of develop ongoing plots or bend credulity in order to impose satisfying resolutions right after a story line starts, then I’m afraid I am just not going to make you happy. I hate to lose a reader, but if you’re really bothered by the story, I guess you’ve gotta do what’s right by you.

      With all due respect, perhaps you should ask yourself what your interest is in condemning me for this.

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      1. You seem to have read half my comment. I pointed out clear plot holes that you simply ignored in your reply as well as a point that you ignored, and in their place put some kind of intent that I was going to stop reading. I am giving you actual critique here. I have not once insulted your writing. I am pointing out discrepancies in the flow of the narrative.

        In a Military organization that is so apposed to the idea of the rape of women such that they instinctively react with murderous or violent intent towards rapists, should not need more then a single witness to investigate someone. A witness (who you have as someone who told the squad), motive, opportunity, and the display she put on already ignoring regulations would be enough to raise at least some suspicion and see to it that Corvin, who did not have a choice about being ordered by Basra to hang around her, does not have a choice about staying with her.

        Serious charge or not, allegations of rape are enough to get our lacking police force to do entire investigations based off the word of a witness. Your military group has been portrayed as far more thoughtful of matters such as rape.

        When you have a goddess who has been shown to want to have a more active hand in the world you are writing ignoring the fact that someone so high ranking has raped a woman, you have a problem as well.

        On top of that, your chapter goes out of it’s way at the end to mock this problem by saying that Corvin can’t be helped unless she wants to be. You’ve done so well in writing a military group so far that I’m surprised you’d fall short here. If someone was raping her, it’s not just her responsibility, but her commanding officers, to help her. Because they put her there. Because they let it happen. That’s how military works. A commanding officer gets so much power over a person because they get a lot of responsibility for them as well.

        If you wanted to depict it like our military then you shouldn’t have chosen to portray them as so gung-ho against rapists. If you wanted to depict them as the normal civilian reaction, where you need a victim complaining, then you shouldn’t have put them in a military group. If you wanted a bishop of such high ranking to rape someone, then she needs some way to hide that from her goddess. Even a whisper of it in a prayer by someone should be enough to get Avei’s attention and she doesn’t seem to take kindly to rape. I doubt she’d accept it in her own ranks.

        You used this rape for shock value. Yes, you should have done more about it sooner, because as it stands, the only value it has is shock value. You have characters, a Captain of all people, victim blaming. If she doesn’t know, that’s the fault of her and the squad we’ve been following. If she does know, as a military cultist of a feminist goddess who is morally, violently opposed to rapists, she is obligated to do more then ‘sit around because Corvin won’t complain.’ Corvin was put in a position by her superiors that got her raped. Because of their negligence, it is ongoing abuse.

        Now, if you are commenting on the nature of a military organization to ignore such things, you need a lot more then ‘needs more evidence’ and ‘Corvin needs to want to be helped’, because you’ve thus far depicted this group as so morally opposed to rapists they will go out of their way to find them.

        But a lot of this is besides the point because you haven’t hinted at anything so far in regards to how she’s getting away with it. You put the onus on yourself, Author, by portraying this group as extremely biased against rape. So as a reader I am asking you, how is she getting away with it so easy in a military group with a goddess who can check in and smote her?

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      2. Okay, that’s a bit more clear, thanks. Still, none of those are plot holes; they’re your interpretations of the text. Eerevaenshee’s comment laid out most of the counterpoints very well. To them I would add, concerning the lack of Avei smiting Basra, the numerous hints and outright explanations of the nature of gods in this world, and the limits on their independent action.

        Forgive me if I ascribe incorrect motives to you. I still don’t quite understand what’s prompting this reaction, aside from the inherent unpleasantness of the subject matter.

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      3. I am not saying she should not get away with it, to make it clear. I am saying that right now, when she is at her lowest, when she is at her most vulnerable, you need to do more to make me believe she can get away with it. Right now, I do not. The veil that is suspension of disbelief is being pulled from my eyes because questions are being raised by earlier things you have said.

        Would I like her to be punished right now? As an invested reader, yes. But that is not what I am saying. I am saying the world you have portrayed thus far makes it VERY unlikely that she could get away with it even once. I question this scenes logic because it doesn’t fit with the logic of the world and I’ve explained why.

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      4. You really can’t remove a bishop on the word of a lone witness. Imagine if you only had to report one to remove a political figure.

        Testimony is one of the weakest evidence because anyone could lie.
        Working in law, I have seen a few process involving rape. Most of the time there is no evidence, the fact have happened quite a long time in the past and most people aren’t willing to speak about it. Unless the defendant admit he has done it, I rarely saw a case I never had any doubt.
        Also not every rape case are investigated nor prosecuted.

        Add to this that Corvrin, the victim, didn’t seem to want to press charge. You can’t really declare she has been raped (or is victim of a sexual offence depending of the definition) if she’s not going to corroborate the story.

        So here we are with no evidence and a witness that say somebody had sex in a nearby room and she believes that wasn’t consensual how does she know? She don’t think Covrin goes this way (in term of evidence, you will admit it’s a little poor). That warrants a “we will be wathcing you, you better hope there are no more plaints” but what more could be done? I suppose the goddess of justice is also the goddess of due process, so a kandaroo trial isn’t really an option.

        Also the instinctive violent murderous reaction was Trissiny’s, not the cult. She’s empowered and was eager to prove herself worthy. Rouvad had a discussion on the subject with Darling clearly stating that the cult disapproves of summary execution of rapist.

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      5. If I haven’t mentioned it before, I’m a writer. I’ve been working on a story for quite a while and one of the most valuable things my friends have done with my work thus far hasn’t been the small editing but the larger continuity questions that they raised. Much of the time, the questions they raise do have answers in the future that I can’t say, but since they read it a chapter at a time they can’t simply continue reading to get those answers.

        However, sometimes it’s made me look at my story, and all the strings therein, and question a scene, a comment, or even an entire plotline.

        You are not writing ahead of time, as I am. You write on the fly. On top of that, you have about 4 times as many characters as I do, and nearly half of them are center stage much of the time. I only have about 8 timelines for my story to keep track of things, it boggles the mind how many you must have.

        If the tone of my messages comes off as poor, I do apologize. Tone in fiction is much easier to give an impression of. I’m hoping to help, or at least offer critique, on a story I have so far really loved.

        And unfortunately, while I hate to do it, you have implied a great many limitations on gods but you’ve also implied a great deal of power, and in one chapter you implied they have a way of knowing things they could not, which is why a goddess doesn’t give her most loyal cult members her greatest secret until they can hide themselves from the other gods.

        You’ve also got a god with nigh invisible servants, a god who is running counter games that seemingly appose his own head priests games, and a goddess who has been striving to have a larger impact on the world that is rapidly changing.

        I’ve read your story and loved every detail. One of my favorite parts of it is how you handled the deities. They are people. Extremely potent, powerful people, but people. In my story, I’ve got a very specific reason why the goddess doesn’t simply sweep in and do all the work, but we haven’t really seen much implications as to why an Avei with renewed interest in her people isn’t watching over a supposed sociopath who is in fact her representative in this ‘new and changing world she wants to be apart of and must change to keep up with’. Not one person in that cult has prayed to her about Basra doing something cruel? Not one person has tipped Basra’s hand, and caught Avei’s interest? Is Avei really incapable of slipping in and taking note of what her servant is doing from time to time?

        On top of that, there’s still the matter of how the Captain handled the situation. I didn’t mention it in my third post because it was bogging things down, but I really would have thought someone as straight laced Avei follower as her would have been above victim blaming. The ‘can’t help someone who doesn’t want help’ might be true in some circumstances, but in some, especially in a military, it is the responsibility of people like her too help. You haven’t had the group mention it to the captain, so perhaps she doesn’t know the full extent of the crimes, and I can see how this group in particular might not have decided to trust the authority with everything they knew.

        But even with what the captain seems to know, as implied by her statement, she’s acting very… ignorantly for someone in a cult that has to deal with such situations constantly. On top of that, she’s a military officer. See my thoughts on her responsibility. We’ve seen time and again that Basra doesn’t really have the… authority that she wields consistently. Right here and now, the Captain had a chance to rescue her supposed spy, by saying something like ‘Rouvand never mentioned giving you an assistant. I don’t see why I shouldn’t honor Locke’s request.’ What’s Basra going to do? Go whine to Rouvand about how unfair it is? So a new question rises here. Why is she victim blaming? Why is she doing nothing?

        If you’ve asked all these questions and there are answers, great! That goes to show you have much more forethought then myself and I may end up asking for you too look at my work some day to see if you can find anything off, cause that’s impressive. All the same, much like how I felt with Juniper, you also have to be careful about when you reveal things. I felt that Juniper was long lost as a character because her start onto the right path came too late for me. I know that not everyone feels that way, but for me, the character is going to take a lot for me to get back into her.

        Timing, especially in this new, as of yet still fresh and mostly unexplored medium of web serials, is just as important as it is in every book or movie. If a reveal comes too soon the tension is ruined, too late and you’ve lost the audience. I am not saying you should reveal everything hear and now and though I do think Juniper should have been earlier, my main thrust of my comments regarding her arc were meant to have you think more about what you could have done to keep readers like me who do question such things so frequently and do get tired a bit easier then others on the hook.

        Perhaps I’m simply rambling to you, or perhaps it’s coming off as insults. If it’s the latter I do apologize, I am trying to be both forward and polite, and I never was very good at balancing the two. That said, I think you’re a great author and you’ve got a great story going. I also think there’s always room for improvement and sometimes it comes in avenues you don’t expect. Maybe you disagree here and that’s fine, but the fact that these questions are being raised doesn’t raise any thoughts in you?

        @Eerev- The Eserites gave less to the legion and the group was all too willing to be on the look out for him. They didn’t even have their complaining witness around to say anything about it. Just a word, a tip, from a group they really don’t like was enough for this legion to ‘keep an eye out’ at the very least.

        Considering just how much danger Basra put people in with her schemes during this latest foolishness, it was the prime time to say ‘oh, and I heard these things while I was at this woman’s place, and Corven isn’t known for her interest in women.’ Even asking to stay behind and speak to the commander without Basra there, ‘unrelated, but serious matters ma’am’ to point her in the direction. This is a military, not a group of citizens. On top of that, it’s a military with a goddess whose got very strict words about rape, and a military that has been portrayed as having a great deal of initiative in tracking them down. You say it’s just Triss but we’ve seen things in this story that say otherwise.

        After thinking it through I can see why they didn’t do it. None of these squad members have a real reason to trust either the captain or Rovound. The Captain is politically inept and Rovound gave Basra enough free reign to cause them hell, then chewed them out for doing what they were supposed to, which is survive. I’d let the old bat eat crow before trusting her not to kick my ass for claiming to be a witness to such a thing. However, I still think it was the smartest move, at least in regards to Corven’s safety and well being.

        So now I’m questioning Locke. Does she really not care? Willing to let Corven take such a hit in order to keep trouble from what’s become ‘her squad’? Or is she not as clever as I’d imagined? Locke has to be able to think of more then an offer to someone like Corven, she has to have seen worse in her life and known a better response, but failing any hint thus far in this story that Locke even cares, I have to wonder about the woman I’ve thus far been cheering for. If that was the author’s intent, still, then wonderfully played and I’d tip my hat. So far though I can’t feel that it is. Locke is not a typical hero, but she is someone we’ve been seeing the coolest side of since near the start.

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      6. But “one accusation is all it takes” for someone to ORDER said bishop to submit to a truthsayer for verification. Or to ask the Hand of Avei to appeal to Avei for clarification.

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    3. “Why is she victim blaming” I don’t think she is victim blaming as much as regretting that Covrin isn’t taking the only step allowing an official response. Rape is about lack of consent, unless you are in cases where consent is considered impossible (in our society children, some mentally or physically disabled and some peculiar situations). Locke was offering a way out to Covrin, she refused it. There is not much the hierarchy can do if the victim if the victim flat out refuse help. Covrin had to accept the transfer to Locke unit and she would have been out of Basra reach. By refusing it she voiced her preference in being with Basra. In a crime revolving around consent that just stop anything you could attempt.
      Also relationship amongst the troup doesn’t seem to be frown upon so.

      “Just a word, a tip, from a group they really don’t like was enough for this legion to ‘keep an eye out’ at the very least”
      The situation is very different : they were already monitoring Principia who is the mother of their paladin. The bishop of the cult of Eserion come to testify against one of their own about a rape attempt against the mother of their most holy member, Rouvad reaction? We will keep an eye on him. I don’t see much fury here.

      “Locke has to be able to think of more then an offer to someone like Corven, she has to have seen worse in her life and known a better response”
      If you have a solution to this problem please share. Law enforcement across the world is still lacking an clear cut answer as how to make a scared, dependant person testify against his/her abuser.
      That is a sad true that in situations like these you can’t really do much. Your best bet is keeping watch and hoping the next time a situation where unwillingness happen, you will be able to see it. Seeing as it mostly happens indoor it usually blow up when something too serious to be covered up happens.

      About why Avei didn’t smithe, I don’t know the real reason Webb but do Avei even really know about it? She probably wasn’t watching the night it happened, we know the gods rarely pay attention (unless you are a paladin or you sacrifice your life to sent a message) and now that Covrin is in a situation worthy of her attention she seem have to convinced herself she prefered to be with Basra. Also the subject wasn’t spoken of.
      Also smithing people is scary if world went around how many people would stop coming. And what of victims that also abused? What of other cult that have different dogmas? I mean Eserites are criminals, Omnist and Izarites are pacifist(?) and Shaathiste defend quite different values why would Avei just smithe for the women aspect of her domain and not also war and justice ? Why not do it outside her temple? Also why wouldn’t the other gods do the same in return to her followers?

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  5. Echoing the Wynn chapter, I find myself wondering if Covrin’s secret help was in fact under Syrinx’s, Rouvad’s, or both’s orders…

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    1. Or off her own bat: being horribly conflicted and acting in contradictory ways is par for the course for somebody in an abusive relationship.:/ Particularly the later the grooming/ breaking phase occurs in their developement.

      Mixed messages are usually flares… even if they can’t admit to themselves they set them off. -_-

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  6. Typo: Covrin is referred to as “Covring” at one point.

    Thoughts:

    I’ve been out of the loop for a while (sorry about that) and I’m itching to jump back in with analysis, but if the book is wrapping up soon I’ll save it till then. Maybe I’ll go update the TVTropes page in the mean time. (Really, though, nobody’s added Reasonable Authority Figure? The author highlighted it for us!)

    Webb, I’m glad to see you’re doing well (no direct “fuck you”s from God in the past month) and that the Patreon is making a non-negligible amount of money, though you deserve significantly more. Just thought I’d point out that the Patreon page claims that the story updates every MWF, which is no longer true.

    A note on military terminology: there’s a bit where you refer to sergeants as officers (“Will you need additional sergeants?” “No squads lack a suitable officer candidate.”), which is technically correct, since sergeants are “non-commissioned officers”. In actual usage, though, the term is almost always reserved for people with shoulder ranks, i.e. commissioned officers (lieutenant and above). I thought this might be different between different armies, but Wikipedia on “Officer (armed forces)” will back me up.

    (I was also going to chew you out on Covrin saluting Locke after being informed of her promotion, but apparently the tradition of only saluting commissioned officers is a Commonwealth thing. You win this time, Webb.)

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  7. Typos:

    Covring
    Covrin

    more angry
    (spell checker prefers)
    angrier

    more tense
    (spell checker prefers)
    tenser

    Reactions:

    So, generally what Darling said is happening: Basra is still a Bishop. For now. And there are no real surprises in the rest of the text. But I pity Abbess Narnasia Darnassy – no-one should have to put up with Basra in their old age, battle-axe personality or not.

    @Euodiachloris
    Can you give me an example of your objections to evolutionary psychology? From my perspective, evolution is part of what formed our psychology, along with biochemistry, culture, etc. My problem with the field is that it is almost impossible to actually do an experiment in it. Otherwise, it appears to be a field of study that deserves consideration.

    The interesting results from this chapter, from my perspective, are in the discussion started by Arillius. Since both Arillius and DD Webb have stated their positions well and clearly, I will generally talk about tangential points or points I don’t think were gone into in detail.

    To start out with, Casey hasn’t actually brought this up to anyone in the Avenist command structure. Darling doesn’t count – he cannot interfere in Avenist politics without a damn good reason. Specifically, Captain Dijanerad hasn’t heard the accusation and probably thinks that Prin is acting to repay Covrin’s covert help from earlier. Dijanerad’s reaction makes perfect sense from that viewpoint.

    Magical resolution would either require Avei or a spell. The gods’ attention is generally described as diffuse, with few exceptions. Arachne and Darling both illustrated this by going to extraordinary lengths to get Elilial’s attention. The exceptions, to the best of my memory, are:
    —Sacrificing your personal life to the god. Even if it is “suicide by cop” or equivalent.
    —Paladins/Hands. Secondarily, others of high personal interest to the gods.
    —Eserion, who can apparently police his entire set of followers for skipping on tithes.
    Eserior remains the oddity here. I objected before about the gap between his abilities and the apparent abilities of the other gods (https://tiraas.wordpress.com/2015/01/07/4-7/comment-page-1/#comment-527). Assuming he’s the exception, then an individual prayer other than a Hand’s prayer doesn’t have much of a chance to be heard. So invoking Avei directly is not a likely success for Covrin’s problem. There don’t seem to be truth spells, or many things in this story would be different. So, no magical solutions to this problem.

    The Avenists are opposed to rape as a matter of policy, stronger than most organizations have reason for, but magical justice isn’t going to happen (see above). Casey has good reason to keep quiet because Basra would know who made the accusation and would retaliate. Even if she talks, the accusation comes from a person who 1) is on record for actively hating both parties involved, 2) who admittedly didn’t see anything, 3) went to an outside party first (this would generate backlash), and 4) who is less credible because she is a (former?) Elilinist. One of the things that real-world justice systems cannot do without serious cost is diligently pursue every accusation. So, for the potential Basra v. Covrin rape, the only one who will speak up has insufficient evidence, is clearly prejudiced against the other parties involved, and is suspect for other reasons. An Avenist prosecutor might believe her and be sympathetic, but probably has dozens if not hundreds of stronger cases to worry about. Real prosecutors have resource limits and have to prioritize resources, so the current case would end up as a low priority. So there are multiple, major barriers to actual prosecution and everyone involved would incur serious costs that would be difficult to impossible to recoup, Basra and Covrin included. Sucks sh**, but there it is.

    All that being said, Prin’s last statement indicates that she is planning something.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If Elilial was honest during her chat with Darling, then the gods see everything, all the time and they have the power to act on it, too. Otherwise they couldn’t immediately kill anyone who hears their secret.
      So if that is true, then the gods don’t care much about mortals. It means Avei saw Basra and Covrin, Eserion saw Principia and Thumper and neither did anything about it. Hell, it’s possible all the gods saw it, not just those being worshipped.

      Why aren’t they interfering? Because they are bastards. And probably because they have a bunch of other reasons, too.

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      1. Hmmm… Bastards I agree with. There are plenty of other examples, but we also have the WoG on it. I think I see your point but there are counter-arguments.

        “I want to see all the people who are thinking about rape… Well crap, that’s too many, how do I find the exact person I am looking for? And how do I find the ones who don’t think what they are doing applies even if it does? And how do I tell the people who just want to from the people who have done it? And if I target someone who works for me but worships someone else their deity may interfere. And if I actually am discriminatory this will take a lot of time and a lot of smiting energy.”
        “I want to see all the people who are thinking about our big secret… There you [very small number] are! Just thinking about it is a crime! Die!”

        Basically, it is probably easier to find and definitely easier to punish a rare thought than a common one.

        And is probably because they are spending attention and effort on suppressing some things that they have less for others.

        I think my point still stands – no magical solutions.

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      2. Well Elilial was obviously unable to hear her cultist without the sacrifice and Darling talking about the big secret without learning it doesn’t seem to have landed him in hot water yet. We can assume the god can’t see everything all the time otherwise the previous generation would have prevented whatever the new gods have done to remove them as soon as they began to act.
        They probably have limits or their method isn’t foolproof. I was imagining some sort of spell that detect the knowledge.
        The automated pantheon processed demon burning divine energy also makes me believe they have a lot of limitations..

        Also even if you could, assuming you are a god, would you really watch everyone at all time? Just saying this because in a typical day people do lots of thing I really don’t want to see…

        On a different subject. I’m wondering, we have seen Themynra priest(ess) although she isn’t from the pantheon, but we never saw Elilial’s is it by choice that she use mostly/only warlock?

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      3. I’m a bit cautious about taking the word of a goddess of cunning on the subject of her enemies actions. We have no actual examples of nuking those who found out this secret, and as written it’s a huge weapon in the hands of the Wreath. A reliable assassination tool at the least, possibly an incredibly destructive suicide bomb – just yell the secret at those you want dead. Let’s not use it as an example of what TGaB gods are capable of.

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    2. The vast majority of the papers produced by institutions heavily researching in the *cough*field*cough* of Evo Psych have blatantly political and/or religious motivations and very dodgy funding chains. Let alone the horrendously lax methodology on display; you know you’ve got problems when a properly written null hypothesis or raw data presentation isn’t the norm.😦 I could go on, but some of my objections to other aspects of sloppy design and statistical tool use would send people to sleep.😛

      In short: most papers in the field are at the economics level of scientific rigour.😛 Fun for a laugh; useful as bird cage liners.😐 If you want physical anthropology with a psychological or sociological interpretation and discussion, avoid anything remotely touched by Beijing, Texas or Utah.

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      1. PS: If it doesn’t pass Hume and still insists it’s scientific, treat it as the joke it is. You can’t go far wrong with that general yardstick when rooting around any of the social sciences.😉

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      2. That’s true of most scientific methodologies, honestly–the validity of an experiment is only as good as the integrity and diligence of the experimenters. That’s what peer reviews and IRBs are for. You can generally gauge the trustworthiness of a particular paper by the reputation of the journal it’s published in (after all, you do get trash papers from good schools sometimes, and good papers from obscure schools)–the peer review process of the really prestigious journals is a heck of a gauntlet, let alone the triage process involved in weeding the volume of submissions they receive.

        I mean, I don’t think it’s fair to rule out the evolutionary mode of analysis entirely; for example, without it, we’d never have arrived at the current understanding of the forgetting function, which actually reflects the statistical structure of the natural environment. In order to analyze it effectively, you have to view it in terms of negative spaces, through the forces that shaped it over the epochs, rather than simply by directly observable behaviorism–the ideal conception of evolutionary analysis. That study was originally conducted at Carnegie Mellon.

        Of course, declarative memory retention is hardly a politically fraught topic. I do agree that, particularly with regards to topics like gender, scientific objectivity tends to suffer; but then, topics like those get a lot of trash publications in general, whether evolutionary or behavioral or neurological or what. People have too many a priori cultural biases, so the science has a higher degree of baseline bullshit and bias to cut through.

        Something I’m surprised you didn’t touch on though–psychology is, so far as the sciences go, a very new field; it’s only really separated out from general medicine and biology in the past century, century and a half or so. For this reason, a lot of its early history was tied up in the political developments of the first half of the 20th century… which means the Social Darwinists had their fingers in it. To invoke Godwin’s law–evolutionary psych still suffers from the shadow of the nazis, who misused it, as they did many sciences, to hurt innocent people.

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      3. I make the distinction between collaborations between anthropology (be it cultural, physical or social) and psychology’s methodological and statistical toolbox… and “Evo Psych”. Much like I make the distinction in studying the cognition involved with the phenomenon of faith… and paranormal psychology.🙂

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      4. Anthropology? I feel like that’s a terminology quibble, and a nonstandard one at that. Evolutionary context is always a relevant concern in research psychology. A lot of cognitive psych topics have far wider applicability than just humans, since the brain as an organ is considerably phylogenetically older than our species and most of the basic functionality really isn’t unique to us. “Why is this adaptive?” is never not a pertinent question for anything brain-related. Neural matter is the most metabolically expensive type of animal tissue. For humans, brains account for up to 20% of our daily caloric intake! That’s a lot of energy, for organ that’s only maybe 1/50th of our body weight. Every single white matter tract and neural circuit has to pay for itself somehow, because the energy cost is so high that there has to be considerable benefit to offset it, or else it’d be strongly selected against as metabolic deadweight. So evolutionary induction is an immeasurably useful tool for forming hypotheses in a psych context, as much as in any of the biological sciences.

        I’m sorry, I just have a lot of feelings about this topic. You can probably tell, haha.

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      5. Look, you’re preaching to the choir… but, where you see “evolutionary theory”, I see “complexity theory”. Evo Psych as it currently exists screws the pooch when it comes to the physical anthropology side of things, let alone the whole misapplication and blatant misunderstanding of complexity and emergent behaviour. While all too often thumbing its nose at Spearman’s rho.😛

        It’s “evolutionary psychology… in name only”. <_< The "name only" is what I object to: not proven and promising research possibilities.

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      6. Well, sure, bad science is bad science. Evolutionary psychology is useless if it can’t motivate falsifiable hypotheses, just like any other conceptual framework for laboratory science. But, you know, babies and bath water.

        Perhaps we’re simply operating under different category distinctions; I see evolutionary psychology as considerably more general than you seem to. I’m not sure how complexity theory can stand in for evolutionary theory though. I mean, sure, both have applicability in a psychology context, but they mean entirely different things, the conceptual approaches aren’t equivalent. They have different uses.

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  8. Sigh. I hate that the majority of my comment is going to be about the issue in the comments section. But do know, I was totally cheering when Basra was getting her ass kicked in her dressing-down, especially because in the beginning when she was all smirky, I feared she had planned for another loophole and those Eserite reports would reinforce her position as the one “in the right” of the situation. I am SO glad I was wrong!

    So something that’s been briefly touched on in the whole rape thing in the comments, but not fully.. Is Corvin herself. Actually, I’ll start elsewhere.

    Firstly, just because I personally think it’s important to point out, WE as readers don’t know for a fact that Corvin WAS raped. We have Casey’s experience and speculation that we’re going off of, and even she said that her even being there was to play mind games with HER. But even if Corvin wasn’t raped, there’s still abuse going on. And if she WAS raped..

    Rape isn’t about sex, as most of us here know. But it’s also not about evil people doing cruel things, or average people doing cruel things. It’s not about people being horrible to other people. Rape is about power. And, as it was mentioned, most rape takes place inside previously-established relationships, whether it’s a romantic couple, a pair of friends, a father and daughter.. or an authority figure and someone below them in order of command.

    Given that rape is about power, it’s easy to then rephrase as, rape is about the power dynamic–specifically, the power IMBALANCE, as abuse of power and lack of power–in a relationship.

    As it was mentioned by someone else, while Basra IS under scrutiny and being punished right now, she DOES still hold power, a title, and have a lot of connections, through which she can still get things done and enforce the power imbalance firmly in place between her and Corvin. And, as of right now, she is still there in person to hold her position and influence over Corvin.

    It IS absolutely wrong to victim-blame, but I really don’t think that’s what happened at the end, there. What I saw, what I read–from the perspective of a CSA survivor as well as survivor of partner rape later on–was a victim who:

    May not know she was even raped, and that what happened was actually CONSIDERED rape; “knows her place”, especially as loyalties lie in pre-existing relationships and in the chain of command as she knows it/has been taught to understand it BY her abuser; refuses to believe that someone outside of the personal, intimate situation could even KNOW what happened, let alone refuses to believe someone was actually addressing it to her face; refuses to reveal herself a victim IN FRONT OF her abuser, and to condemn her abuser with her abuser present; denies her need for help, especially from a person she believes (or has been taught to believe by her abuser) is beneath her; has been gaslighted extensively by her abuser; is trying to reaffirm her strength by not raising suspicion that she needs saving; has a complex relationship with her abuser, that may only go so far as being loyal as a member of the military to her commander, who, as it’s been stated, personally took Corvin under her wing and trained her personally–but may extend as far as a warped version of friendship, love, and respect; and above all.. does not want to state she is a victim.

    For those who believe that, ANYWHERE in today’s world, the word of a witness, or even the VICTIM, will be taken as serious and/or legitimate, and a rape case will be immediately investigated and resolved with appropriate punishment for the abuser–you are so terrifyingly, unbelievably ignorant of what survivors have to go through. I am incredibly afraid for the survivors in your life who most likely haven’t had their case treated seriously, and for how damaging you could possibly be to them if you spew that garbage set of beliefs onto them.

    It’s more than a few people victim-blaming. As someone else said, when someone being a victim comes out and speaks about what happened, that is a label that sticks to them for a lifetime. It follows you wherever you go. Not just in the way that everyone knows, and it can and will color every interaction with the victim, but also in the way that the victim always knows, always remembers–even when they can’t remember most or any of what happened, or when they’ve been gaslighted to doubt their own sanity and interpretation of reality. It taints every interaction, every relationship built before and after the rape or rapes. Will this person turn on me? Do I really love this person, or are they making me believe I do? Will this person hurt me too?

    And the law, for a large number of cases, laughs it off. (Usually not literally.) The “so-called victim” claims they’ve been raped–they’re just a slut who had regrets after the fact! They’re feminists who believe just LOOKING at a person the wrong way is rape! They don’t REALLY know what happened! And what of the poor, poor accused person? Even being ACCUSED will ruin their life, their hopes, their dreams! Can’t have that!

    Most rape kits to gather actual evidence, if a victim has a shred of luck left after their life and personhood was just destroyed to be able to get a kit done after the fact, are shoved aside, backlogged, never to go anywhere. Not all, but a sickening amount of them, just ignored in the process of going after an abuser. But a lot of victims come out about it MUCH later after the abuse. And that’s not even getting into statutes of limitations, and being told, “Well, it happened almost twenty years ago, there were no witnesses, there’s no available evidence, and you don’t even speak to them anymore, so there’s not much we can do at this point.”

    Sigh. This is too much writing on the subject, so I’ll end it at that.

    Just.. Webb, know that at least one survivor sees your handling and portrayal of the whole situation thus far as realistic and nuanced and.. true. You do a LOT of things well in TGAB, and the writing of the abuse of Corvin–what we’ve heard of it, whether rape was involved as we fear or not–and the subsequent portrayal of Corvin as a person is one of them. Or two of them. Er. Yeah.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. To add my two cents to the rape debate in the comment section:

    I don’t think rape in TGaB is used for shock value. To be honest, the whole idea of rape is pretty foreign to me because in my country it isn’t as commonplace as what I believe is the case in western countries; it happens but not that often. I have never known anyone personally who was raped, and if I read about depictions of rape in a local context by a local writer, I would be rather taken aback because I have this impression that rape is something that doesn’t happen much here.

    However, I understand that in places like the US, one in three women is likely to experience rape in their lifetime. In that case, as a western writer – and I mean western in a cultural sense – it would be odd if Webb did not feature rapes in TGaB at all. Rape is a terrible and discomfiting topic, and therefore, commonly used in fiction for the shock value. That I would agree with. However, I don’t think that’s the cast with Webb’s writing at all. The author is depicting a very real phenomena that happens. From articles about rape in universities that I’ve read, I gather that rapists seldom get punished immediately, and if they do, the due process takes a lot of hassle and victims are often too afraid to speak out. I believe that Corvin is much the same.

    Regarding Avei – a gung-ho feminist – on not smithing Basra, I always imagined the gods’ attention worked very much like a search engine or company database. Eserion just checks who didn’t pay their utility bills, Elilial gets thousands of search results/prayers and only checks those which fulfil specific criteria, and they all pay attention only to those who are powerful or significant to them, such as their Hands, or Tellwyrn who would likely just kick down the door of the hypothetical utilities company if they don’t humor her.

    Rape is taken very seriously by AVENISTs, but even known rapists like Thumper do not get smote by Avei even if her followers know of his antics. I’m not sure exactly why, but it may be due to the god’s limitations or the fact that rape and consensual sex may not have a bold black line between them. Consent while drunk may not be valid, the girl may lie fearfully unresponsive and not fight back, but does stillness mean consent? Even Avei would have difficulty uncovering all the nuances that rightly makes rape rape, so its not exactly surprising that she didn’t smite Basra on the spot when it’s hard to be clear about anything.

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  10. The “does Avei know about Basra” issue is not that complicated. Each cult has exactly one bishop, so it stands to reason that the gods pay attention to those individuals. Much like they see and hear everything going on around their Hands, the pope and in their main temples.

    There is also this:
    “[Basra] is possibly the worst Avenist I’ve ever met,” Eleanora went on conversationally, not even flinching when [Avei] set her whiskey glass down hard on the bar. “Vindictive, underhanded, and altogether a better politician than a priest. But if I do say so, she makes an excellent Bishop.”

    This happened in chapter 1-20, so even if Avei was unaware of Bishop Syrinx and her antics back then (which I doubt very much), she had ample opportunity to look into the matter by now.

    I’m confident history is full of people going against the teachings of their gods, intentionally or not. Some of these people will have been bishops, popes, priests… and it’s very likely most of them never had to suffer repercussions from their gods.

    This is probably something the clergy is aware of. Maybe they never actually formed the thoughts but they kind of know that the gods won’t meddle with mortal affairs on that level. I don’t know what exactly they believe about the attentions of their gods but they know that they have nothing much to fear from them directly.

    Someone like Basra is most likely not concerned with her goddess. She probably sees her as a tool, as a source of power… and not much else. She knows that whatever happens to Jenell Covrin isn’t important enough for Avei to interfer.

    Or she has extreme tunnel vision and is suicidically running towards self destruction by ignoring everything around her.

    Anyway, it’s my belief that Avei is aware but won’t act. Maybe because she doesn’t want to set a precedent (imagine a world where every crime is stopped by a god), maybe because she doesn’t want to reveal the gods see everything (Vidius hinted at that, too), maybe because she has vastly more important things going on (the coming doom for example) or maybe because she doesn’t care.

    Gods are people and people, in general, are selfish dicks. Yes, that includes myself. The thing is… no one has the capacity to care about every other human on the planet. We care for our family, our loved ones, our friends, our pets… maybe our co-workers/neighbours and that’s it. Sure, we have some empathy for starving war orphans in Africa and similiar but in the end that’s not all that important to most people. No one could function properly if they cared more about the lives lost to diseases in third world countries than about themselves. We spend more time and energy pondering the question of what we’re going to have for dinner than we spend thinking if we should do something about the 155k people who die every day. So yeah, minor concerns that relate to us are more important than a human life.

    Avei used to be human. She is a goddess now with all the power and trappings that come with it. That doesn’t mean she suddendly cares more about people than before. She has her favourites, she has her important chess pieces… but beyond that she doesn’t give a fuck. How could she? If she tried, she’d self destruct and go insane. She may be able to see everything everywhere but that doesn’t mean she pays attention to every little detail. If something isn’t relevant to her and her interests, why would she bother with it?

    If she can still be annoyed, cranky, weary and so on… then her emotions haven’t changed since she became a goddess. She may no longer be human, but she’s still… people.

    It would be completely in line with everything we know so far if Avei watched Basra rape Jenell and went, “Eh, whatever.” Especially if she really sees everything going on in the world. How much cruelty, violence, treachery and other disgusting stuff does she see on a daily basis?

    Honestly, at this point I’m not entirely sure if I don’t feel sorry for the gods. I’m sure this feeling will pass once we hear the details of their machinations in the shadows.

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