8 – 24

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Both elves leaned back, straightening, and Mary gently trailed her fingers through the puddle between them. It was hardly uncommon to find standing water on the rooftops of Tiraas; they’d not had to look hard to find a suitable location, no farther in fact than the inn in which Sheyann was staying, though both had employed a little shamanic skill to ensure their impromptu scrying mirror wasn’t disturbed by wind or rain.

More skill had been needed to ensure that they weren’t disturbed. Scrying was arcane craft; the degree of ability and power in the fae arts that enabled it was enough to bring curious people sniffing about if they were detected. Some of those people would come wearing silver gryphon badges.

“I still cannot believe you left the hook for this in the High Commander’s office,” Sheyann said at last, shaking her head. “If she learns of it, there will be trouble that may task even you. The Sisters of Avei are not the Tiraan Empire.”

“If anything, they are less skilled in the hunt,” Mary replied with an aloof little smile. “Farzida would not go so far, and anyway, she won’t find out. I am frankly surprised my little charm lasted all week; it is fragile enough to be erased by the merest touch of divine magic. Apparently she has had no need to call upon Avei directly in the last few days, but regardless, a woman of her mindset would bless her working space regularly. It will be gone before anything more can be learned from it.”

“Is there more you planned to learn?”

“No, in fact, I consider this matter now concluded, as far as my own interests are concerned.”

Sheyann gazed at her thoughtfully, but her attention was inward, not on her companion’s face. “I’ve not followed Principia’s career in any detail since hearing she gave Arachne her child—that’s a combination of events that would seize anyone’s attention—and now I am not sure whether this is fully in character for her or completely out of it.”

“The method is a well-trod path for the girl,” Mary said, her expression more serious. “It’s the motive which is new. She has ulterior motives, to be sure, and I’m positive she plans to work against or around the Sisterhood’s rules at some point, but at the same time, she is taking the matter of her enlistment seriously. And now she has the charge of four young women. I believe this will lead to better things for her than I had previously dared to hope.”

“Are you going to intervene further?” Sheyann asked. “Even from what little I saw of that woman Syrinx, I am certain she is disturbed in some manner, and very probably anth’auwa. She is also not gone in any permanent sense, nor will she forgive this humiliation. Principia has likely just bought herself more trouble later.”

Mary nodded. “But she has bought time in which to prepare for it. Syrinx had the element of surprise and a vast advantage of positioning here. I interceded only to the point of preventing her from leveraging it to the fullest; it was Principia’s own cunning that turned the tables, and it is that upon which she will have to rely in the future.”

“Ah, yes,” Sheyann said, deadpan. “Because now that she’s become interesting, you’re going to give up paying attention to her.”

The Crow smiled a sly little smile. “You know very well that I like to keep an eye on things that are interesting to me. And who knows? The girl may need another nudge in the future. By and large, though, I deem it best to leave her life in her own hands, as we always must with the young. After all, Sheyann, with this matter wrapped up, you and I have someplace to be.”

“Indeed.” Sheyann stood, Mary following suit. “We may as well take the opportunity to sleep; the Rails will not resume until morning. Last Rock is also not a regular stop; chartering a caravan is a somewhat more involved process than simply purchasing a ticket. We will need to take the first scheduled caravan to Calderaas and make arrangements from there. It is likely to be afternoon before we reach Arachne’s University.”

Mary narrowed her eyes. “I have no intention of riding that infernal contraption. If you absolutely insist on prioritizing speed over all other considerations, I will meet you in Last Rock tomorrow evening.”

“Kuriwa,” Sheyann said patiently, “you know what is at stake. What method could you possibly have of traveling so far, so fast? Manipulating the winds like that will cause storms across the continent, and even so would take your little wings a week to make the trip.”

“There are faster methods, as you know.”

Sheyann stared at her. “The place between? You would seriously rend a hole in the fabric of reality and risk traveling through a netherworld of doom, beneath the eyes of the great uncreators and the lessor horrors that prowl between the planes, just to avoid riding the Rails?”

Mary tilted her head to one side, making a thoughtful expression. After a moment, she nodded. “That’s correct, yes.”

“Nonsense,” Sheyann said flatly. “You will glamour your hair blonde and I will buy you a ticket. Honestly, Kuriwa. It has been five thousand years; I think it is about time you grew up.”

The Crow very slowly raised one eyebrow. “Oh, I see. You object to my aversions. Very well, then, Sheyann, if we are in such a hurry, why did you not simply arrange to have Arachne teleport us hither and yon? I would wager my moccasins she made the offer.”

“That is a completely different matter,” Sheyann said stiffly. “Don’t change the subject.”

She lost patience and went below in search of her bed before the Crow was done laughing.


“All right, Ruda, what’s this all about?” Gabriel demanded, coming to a stop. He was the last of them to arrive at the small landing just before the bridge to Clarke Tower. “It’s late. What was so important?”

“Late?” Ruda said, grinning mockingly. “It’s late? Gabriel Arquin, you’re a college student, you’re under the age of twenty, and it’s before midnight on a Friday. You call this late? You have officially failed at everything.”

“That’s it, I’m going to bed,” he announced, turning around.

“Wait, Gabe,” Toby urged. “The word went out from Ruda because I asked her to make some arrangements. This was my idea.”

“Yours?” Trissiny asked, raising her eyebrows. “Well… Gabriel’s question still stands, then. What is so important?”

“Guys,” Toby said, slowly panning a serious expression around his assembled classmates, “we need to talk.”

“And…what would you like to talk about?” Fross asked.

“Let me put it this way,” Ruda said, folding her arms. “Can any of you think of something you would like to talk about?”

A silence fell. Gabriel chewed his lower lip and gripped the hilt of his sword; Teal flushed and lowered her eyes, and Shaeine stepped closer to her, moving her hand so that the backs of their fingers touched. Juniper swallowed heavily and sniffed, hugging Jack closer to her chest. For once, the jackalope didn’t seem to mind the treatment. Trissiny frowned thoughtfully at them.

“I can’t, specifically,” Fross declared. “But I can talk about whatever’s on anybody’s mind!”

“I’m glad to hear that, Fross,” Toby said. “But for this… I think we need some privacy. The kind that even professors, even Tellwyrn, aren’t in a position to overhear. And that’s why you heard about this from Ruda instead of me; she has the tools we’ll need, and when I asked her, she said to leave her the arrangements.”

“And I was glad to do it,” Ruda said firmly, her mirthful expression lost in seriousness now. “Because I’ve been watching you clowns all week and I am beginning to be concerned. In fact, right now, Shiny Boots and Fross are the people I am least worried about, and that should give you a hint as to how fucked up we very nearly are.”

“Thanks!” Fross said cheerfully.

“I think,” Trissiny muttered.

“And so,” said Ruda, drawing an object from within her coat pocket and holding it up to them, “I dug into my stash. I trust you remember how these things work?”

“Whoah, wait a second,” said Gabriel, frowning at the blue-glyphed Crawl waypoint stone in her hand. “Why do you have that? Aren’t those basically all Teal’s? I mean, Melaxyna gave her the black one, she bought that one and it was her flute-playing that got us the last one…”

“And I risked my ass actually collecting that, which you seem to have somehow forgotten,” Ruda snapped.

“I gave them to Ruda to hold onto once we were out,” Teal said hurriedly. “Remember, we were gonna let her handle the loot from the Crawl, since she’s the best with figures? I just thought it made sense to add those to the pile.”

“And I hung onto them,” Ruda said, “because they are useless except to University students, since no one else has access to the Crawl, and they’re more useful to us as ways to get around down there than as currency; we’ll probably have more Crawl excursions.”

“Definitely more!” Fross proclaimed. “At least one per year!”

“Right, so we’ll sell ’em off our senior year,” Ruda continued.

“That reminds me,” Gabriel said, “I’d forgotten about that. What happened to our loot, Ruda?”

She shrugged. “Don’t worry about it. I sold off everything except the bacon, which I donated to Mrs. Oak. Over the break I had my family’s bankers open nine interest-bearing accounts. Split that many ways it wasn’t a huge haul, so I had them pursue a fairly aggressive investment strategy. Risky, but there’s lots of development going on in enchantment and industry, and last I heard we were doing quite well.”

“Why didn’t you mention this to us?” Shaeine asked.

Ruda grinned. “Because most of you wouldn’t care, Arquin would’ve yanked his out and spent it—”

“Hey!”

“—and Boots here would’ve just donated her cut to somebody.”

“In point of fact,” Trissiny began.

“No.” Glaring, Ruda thrust a finger directly under her nose. “You let me work! Dammit, woman, this ain’t the Age of Adventurers; you cannot stomp around living off the land. People own the land now; they’ll either charge rent or shoot you for trespassing. Trust me, you will need funding.”

“I’m backed by one of the biggest worldwide cults—”

“Boots, if I’ve gotta explain why it’s smart to have resources that don’t appear on the Sisterhood’s books, you truly do not understand this century.”

“Anyway,” Toby said firmly, “here we are, there’s our waystone, and I think it’s time we visited our old friends in the Crawl and had a long conversation. Don’t you?”

“What friends?” Gabriel exclaimed.

“Do you really think this is that important?” Trissiny asked.

“I think it a good idea,” Sheaine said quietly.

“Me, too,” Juniper whispered.

“We’re really not supposed to go in the Crawl except on approved class exercises,” Fross fretted. “On the other hand, campus rules aren’t the only important thing, and sneaking down there is sort of a major tradition. I mean, Chase does it at least twice a month…”

“We’re settled, then,” said Ruda, grinning. “I trust you guys remember the drill, right? Link arms and hold onto your stomachs.”

“Speaking of which,” Gabriel said, “can we pause for a moment to collect our own snacks to bring? Because I still have the taste of mushrooms and bacon on the back of my—”

“Arquin, shut up and hold my hand, y’big baby.”


“Omnu’s balls, Prin, no!” the innkeeper exclaimed the moment they entered, clutching what remained of his hair in a pantomime of fright. “Not the Legions! Have you no sense of self-preservation? Con someone less dangerous, like the Black Wreath!”

“Been there, done that,” Principia said airily. “Anyhow, Pritchett, I have no idea what you’re on about. I am a duly enlisted soldier in Avei’s mortal army.”

“In fact, she’s the sergeant!” Casey said helpfully.

Pritchett, a man in later middle age, whose retreating hair and advancing gut mirrored each other almost perfectly, gaped at them. Or specifically, at Principia. “You’re not serious,” he said finally.

“As a steak dinner,” she replied, winking. “Look, we’re gonna need one of the quiet tables, an hour or so of privacy, and a pot of Black Punshai tea. The extra-strong blend. Ooh, with cucumber sandwiches. And do you have some of those fantastic butter cookies still?”

“Cookies,” the innkeeper said, still staring at her. “I mean… Sure, yeah, they’re the most popular… Prin, are you sure you’re not in some kinda trouble? If you need a place to crash…”

“Pritch,” she said more kindly, “I’m exactly the same as I always am. Up to my pointy ears in trouble, completely in control and loving every minute of it. I remember where the tables are. Tea, sandwiches, cookies, and I’ll drop by again later so we can catch up, okay? Swell! Toodles! C’mon, ladies, this way.”

“You always take us the nicest places,” Merry grumbled as she followed Principia and the others into the farthest, dimmest corner of the inn’s common room. It was built on a sprawling, rambling plan that resulted in more corners than it seemed a building should have, most of them unnecessarily dim. It was also shabby, with peeling wallpaper, scratched and dented furniture, and cracked, flickering fairy lamps. For all that, though, it was clean.

“There’s nothing more ridiculous than a snobby guttersnipe, Lang,” Principia said cheerfully, seating herself and sliding toward the wall, making space in her selected booth for the others to pile in. With their armor, it was a cozy fit, but it did afford them a measure of privacy. Despite the late hour, the inn had multiple occupied tables, and those sitting at them were very unaccustomed to seeing Silver Legionnaires, to judge by the stares they accumulated. No one seemed hostile, though, and they were not approached.

“Okay, I think we’ve been fairly patient about this, Sarge,” Farah said pointedly, “but it has been a long and stressful day, and I really want to just sleep. What could possibly be so important at this seedy bar that we have to come do it tonight?”

“Story time!” Principia declared, folding her gauntleted hands on the table and smiling at them.

“Story…time,” Ephanie repeated slowly, as if uncertain of the meaning of the words.

“So there I was, in Last Rock,” Principia began. “For about three years. Honestly, I viewed it as being on vacation; I just sat on my ass, mostly. In theory I was keeping an eye on Professor Tellwyrn for the Guild, but hell, they don’t care what she does with her time. It’s just that it’s not smart to ignore somebody like that, y’know? The Thieves’ Guild doesn’t get along by letting the world’s most dangerous people swagger around outside their range of view. So, they needed nominal eyes on the scene, and I needed a break. Anyhow, there’s me, hanging around in bars with the students and adventurers and generally having a grand old time, when up rears the politics of the big city, which is never so far away that it can’t bite you on the ass. It started with some shit between the Black Wreath and the Imperial government, and the next thing I knew…”


“Kids!”

No sooner did they materialize on the lower floor of the Grim Visage than they were greeted with evident delight. Melaxyna leaned over the railing from the upper level, emphasizing her cleavage even more than that position required, and smiled at them with every appearance of happiness. Of course, appearances didn’t count for much with a succubus.

“Welcome, welcome!” the demon said, beaming. “Only the best for my favorite patrons! Drinks and a meal on the house, your money’s no good here.”

“Well, damn, girl, look at you!” Ruda exclaimed, grinning up at the succubus. “You work fast. How’d you get out of Level 2 so quick?”

“Ah, ah, ah,” Melaxyna chided, winking. “That is for me to know, and Arachne to tear her hair out wondering.”

“She let you out, didn’t she,” said Gabriel.

The demon’s expression didn’t alter by a hair, but her tail began lashing behind her like an agitated cat’s, hard enough to be eye-catching even though it was barely visible from that angle. “You know, Gabriel, it’s the funniest thing. I have so much reason to be grateful to you, and yet here you are, not in the room even sixty seconds and already getting under my skin. Sarriki! Our finest table for these most honored of guests.”

“You mean our least shitty table?” the naga suggested, gliding over to them bearing a tray of empty goblets. “’Finest’ isn’t really a word I hear much in this joint. Hi, kids.”

“Hello, Sarriki,” Teal said, smiling.

“Yes, yes,” said Melaxyna, “the least dank one over by the fireplace. And the best of whatever we’ve got in the back, I’ll not have a poor review of my hospitality making its way back up top.”

“The best of whatever?” Sarriki asked, raising one of the ridges that passed for her eyebrows.

“Well, of course,” said the succubus reasonably, her smile remaining in place. “Unless, of course, they seem to be trying to take advantage. Then poison them. Enjoy your stay, kids.” She turned and sashayed back toward the bar, flicking her tail at them.

“I can’t help liking her a little bit,” Gabriel mused, “and I’m not sure why.”

“She’s got an amazing figure,” Juniper pointed out.

“Nah,” he said, “it’s not that… Hard to put my finger on.”

“It probably wouldn’t be hard at all to put your finger on anything of hers,” Trissiny said sharply. “Regardless, don’t.”

“Oh, come on,” he said, offended. “Give me a little credit.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Why?”

“You two are just too precious,” Sarriki chuckled. “Right this way, little biscuits.”

“Oh, gods, she’s doing that thing,” Fross stage whispered. “I thought that was just Rowe. Does there always have to be somebody in this pub who calls us desserts?”

“Rules of the house,” Sarriki said gravely, gesturing to the large corner table to which she had just escorted them. It was, indeed, comfortably close to the hearth, spacious and slightly less splintery than most of the furniture in the Visage. “You lollipops get yourselves settled in, and I’ll be back with something for you to nosh in just a moment.”

Ruda had already plopped herself into a chair; the others followed suit more carefully as the naga slithered off.

“So,” Trissiny said, “now that we’re here, what is the big issue?”

“It was about two hundred years ago,” Ruda said, producing a bottle of rum from within her coat and setting it on the table. “Like all the events which have led to great changes in the world, it was random and hilariously stupid. So Ankhar Punaji, the prince of Puna Dara, went out and had himself a little too much to drink, which is pretty much a fuckin’ tradition—it’s how we celebrate important events, like surviving to see another sunset, or waking up without having died of alcohol poisoning in your sleep. So there’s Prince Ankhar, staggering around as sloshed as a sloop in a typhoon, and pauses to take a leak on a convenient rock by the harbor.”

She grinned, popped the cork, and had a swig of rum, pausing the wipe her mouth on the sleeve of her greatcoat before continuing. “Turns out the rock in question was a small shrine to Naphthene. Just for a bit of historical background, I should mention that shit like this is exactly why she doesn’t like people putting up shrines. They always do, anyway, and she mostly leaves ’em alone. It’s only worshiping her in an organized manner that gets your ass hammered into the ground by lightning bolts. But anyway, yeah. The prince pissed on a shrine.”

“I bet you get extra smote for that,” Gabriel said in an awed tone.

“Well, Naphthene is as capricious as the sea itself,” Ruda continued. “We always make our offerings to her when setting out on a voyage. It’s no guarantee at all of fair sailing—she just doesn’t play nice with anybody—but not doing it markedly ups your chances of getting sunk. She’s a gigantic bitch, is what I’m sayin’, and doesn’t generally mind having that pointed out. Closest thing we’ve got to a Naphthist dogma is the old saying, ‘the storm cares not.’ Still and all, pissing on a shrine? That is the kind of shit that gets a deity’s attention. Sometimes. If they’re a pretty pissy one to begin with, that is. So the goddess cursed Ankhar with the worst fate that could be inflicted on a pirate.”

“Hanging?” Trissiny said dryly.

“Poverty?” Gabriel suggested.

“A peaceful system of maritime trade enforced by sophisticated modern navies?” Fross chimed.

“Worse,” Ruda said gravely. “Sobriety.”

For a moment, there was silence around the table.

“I just…wow,” Gabriel said at last. “It’s just begging for a smartass comment, but…what can you say? The thing itself is its own punchline.”

“Pretty much, yeah,” Ruda said lightly, pausing to take another swig of rum. “Naphthene cursed Prince Ankhar and all his descendants to, and I quote, ‘drink but never be drunk.’ This is why I get a campus exemption to the ban on drinking. The Punaji royal line, despite being completely impervious to the intoxicating effects of…well, anything…suffers a compulsion to consume alcohol.”

“What happens if you don’t drink?” Trissiny asked curiously.

Ruda’s expression darkened. “One of my uncles tried that. I do not want to talk about it.” She took another drink of rum.

“Um,” Juniper said, slowly stroking Jack’s fur, “that’s a neat story and it’s interesting to finally know why you’re immune to drugs—”

“Actually that really straightens out something that had been bugging me!” Fross exclaimed. “If it’s a divine curse, that explains why it didn’t work as well on infernal intoxicants! It probably saved your life when you got hopped up on hthrynxkh blood, Ruda, but didn’t manage to completely obviate the effects like it does everything else. Fascinating!”

“Yes, but my point was,” Juniper said patiently, “why are you telling us this now?”


“Because, as I said, it is story time,” Principia said in response to Farah’s question. The others were silent in the aftermath of her tale, not reaching for the tea or sandwiches which had been delivered while the elf spoke. Principia folded her arms on the table, pushing her teacup away, and leaned forward to stare earnestly at them. “And because it’s a pretty basic rule of command not to ask anything of your troops you’re not willing to do yourself.”

“Holy shit, Locke,” Merry whispered. She looked downright nauseous. “I had no idea… I mean, I knew that guy was skeevy, even before he betrayed us, but I never figured… If I’d even imagined he’d do something like that…”

“Relax, Lang,” Principia said gently. “To look at it another way, I could’ve warned you about him if I wasn’t so tied up in worrying over my own skin. Let’s face it, none of us came out of that mess looking good. Can we just, finally, put it behind us and start over?”

Merry nodded, and gulped. “I… Yeah. I think I like the sound of that.”

“If I take your meaning,” Ephanie said slowly, “you want us to tell you our stories.”

“It’s like this,” the newly-minted sergeant said seriously. “We are not out of the woods, girls. Syrinx got slapped on the wrist, no more. We have four months in which to shape up without having to worry about her descending on us, and probably a small grace period after she’s back in which she’ll be careful not to piss off the High Commander again. But she is not gone, and in fact her last memory of us is the humiliation of being knocked down a peg while we watched. This isn’t over. She’ll be coming for us again, eventually.

“Furthermore,” she went on, her expression growing grimmer, “there’s the fact that Commander Rouvad made it plan she doesn’t like us. She also set us up for future confrontations with Syrinx by arranging for us to be witness to the Bishop’s comeuppance, which let’s face it, was completely unnecessary. That woman is too sharp to have done something like that accidentally or at random. I think, next time we have to take on Syrinx, it’ll be with the tacit approval of the High Commander. She’s setting us up to clash with her.”

“That’s completely bonkers,” Farah objected. “Why?”

“It actually makes perfect sense,” Casey said, frowning. “She can’t get rid of Syrinx without having a suitable replacement—and it might not be smart to get rid of Syrinx anyway, because then she might go over to the Church completely and become an outright enemy. One who knows the Sisterhood’s inner workings. But if she wanted to replace Syrinx…here we are. If we shape up, take her on and take her down, Rouvad has a whole roster of women who can do the Bishop’s job—at least, her political job, I dunno about being a priestess. And if we fail, well, we’re a convenient chew toy for Basra to focus on while Rouvad sets up something else.”

Ephanie sighed heavily. “I hate politics so very much.”

“I am afraid that’s just too damn bad, Avelea,” Principia said firmly. “Politics, as of right now, is what we are. We have at least one powerful enemy who will be coming back for us, and we cannot count on the support of the High Commander when her own interest lies in making us fight our own battles.”

“Captain Dijanerad has our backs,” Farah pointed out. “I mean, Locke, the fact is your little tirade against Syrinx ended on a big fat gendered insult. Rouvad didn’t mention that at all, which I’m pretty sure means she didn’t know about it. Which means Dijanerad didn’t tell her.”

“And that’s something to consider,” Principia said nodding. “But we’ve been over the fact that Shahdi Dijanerad is a good soldier and not much of a political operative at all. No, ladies, what we have to rely on is each other. And right now, we are a big bundle of unknown elements to one another. I love my privacy as much as the next gal, but that’s not going to work. There are too many unasked questions, here, and not enough trust.”

She leaned back, dragging her stare around the group, meeting each of their eyes in turn. “So I went first. Now, we need to know just who and what we are dealing with. I’m sorry to have to put you all on the spot like this, but I’m doing it because I have to. As of this moment, we are family. We succeed together, or we all fail, and the consequences of failure for each of us are likely to be far worse than a damaged military career. You all know that, right?”

“Commander Rouvad pretty much told us that straight out,” Merry said in a hollow tone.

“Yeah,” Principia said grimly, nodding. “So we are not going into one more day without knowing who we’re fighting beside. Who’s next?”


“It’s not even that I think it’s urgent, or that anybody’s in danger,” Ruda said, pouring rum into her teacup while the others stared disconsolately at the steaming pot of mushroom stew now in the middle of the table, “but it’s been a week of watching most of you lot moping and sulking and fidgeting and generally acting off-kilter, and dammit, I’m getting worried. I’m not the only one, either,” she added, nodding at Toby. “Look, guys, I respect your privacy and all, but we’re family, here. There is clearly some unresolved business from the battle this spring weighing on several of us. I know this is hard, but we have got to deal with it. Keepin’ it to yourself isn’t going to help you at all, whatever’s troubling you. Fuck it, I love you guys. We’re all in this together. Let’s deal with it together. Okay?”

Juniper sniffled, tears beading in her eyes, but she was smiling at Ruda as she did so. Toby smiled, too; Trissiny looked thoughtful. Teal was twisting her hands in her lap, stopping only when Shaeine reached over to take one of them in her own.

“Well,” Gabriel said after a moment’s silence, “this is not something I would’ve expected or thought to try, but when you put it that way… Yeah, Ruda, I think you’re right. So, I guess I’ll go first.”

He leaned to one side, drawing the black sword from its sheath, then pushed aside his still-empty bowl and set the elven saber on the table in front of him.

“Everyone, this is Ariel.”

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28 thoughts on “8 – 24

  1. Had a random thought as I was doing this: it says something about the elves in the Bastardverse, the nature of things in their language for which we have established translations.

    Tauhanwe – Troublemaker (literally, shit-stirrer)

    Versithorae – A flower that only grows from ashes

    Anth’auwa – Psychopath

    Veth’na alaue – Untranslatable obscenity

    Kinda grim.

    Anyhow, there will be at least one and probably two more chapters in Book 8. I’m kind of eager to move on, but if it turns out to be too much text for one chapter I’m not going to rush it. Quality first.

    I know we have several readers in France, and I dearly hope you are all safe and well.

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    1. Kind of grim? Nah, unless you are studying language formally, the first things you usually pick up are the curse words and other high-emotion ones, because those are the ones the speakers emphasize, so they stick in your mind. That’s my theory from personal experience – the first Spanish words I learned would have gotten me in a lot of trouble if I used them.

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  2. Yesssssssss! Finally people are sitting down to talk. I was waiting for this for so long.🙂

    Lots of the drama in stories is created from misunderstandings and assumptions, from bad communication. I know that this is kinda realistic because no one simply puts all their cards on the table at the first opportunity but it bothers me when a group of friends does it. I always wish I could go into the story and just make them talk to each other, so they can avoid the bad consequences down the line.

    Are there any secrets we don’t know about yet? Ruda’s was one but aside from that, I think we are at least aware of everything they are going to tell, even if we don’t know all the details.

    I doubt Principia told them about her connections to Trissiny and Mary though and I am quite sure she didn’t mention that she’s conning the Thieves Guild itself. So even now she’s hiding stuff from her squad. Not that she could tell them about giving birth to the Hand of Avei, her enlistment contract forbids her from mentioning it.

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    1. (Wish I could edit my posts)

      Mary and Sheyann are too funny. It’s nice to see that even the stoic Mary can still laugh. 5000 years, mh? That’s how old Mary is? Or was that when they first met?

      Ruda continues to be awesome. She’s looking out for her friends and does what needs to be done even if her friends don’t quite agree. I like that.🙂

      Prin entering an old haunt in full legionnaires armor and shocking the owner was hilarious, too. ^^

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    2. I love this update, and I can’t wait for the next one. So much information’s about to come to pass! It’s also nice seeing the sophomores together again. Felt like it’s been forever since we’ve seen that.

      That being said, outside of Gabriel, I have no clue what everyone else is going to share, since it’s just been so long.

      Juniper might talk about Aspen. Toby might come out maybe? I have no recollection of why teal is all out of sorts – maybe something to do with ravana? What came to mind when you wrote your post?

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      1. Ephanie = her history of being married to a follower of Shaath, which is highly unusual considering she grew up in a temple of Avei.

        Casey = her parents being Black Wreath and her being competent enough to control demons, plus all the subterfuge necessary to stay hidden

        Juniper = her failure in trying to convince Aspen and the fallout of that

        Teal = Webb mentioned that a short novella featuring Teal and Shaeine during summer break is meant to go between book 7 and 8. They met Ravana then. There isn’t much else I can think of unless Vadrieny’s memories are coming back.

        I don’t think Toby has anything secret to share, everyone already knows that he’s gay. He could share his feelings about his role in the team and his current problems but that’s it, I think.

        Ruda and Gabriel already had their turn, as did Principia. Farah, Fross and Trissiny aren’t hiding anything.

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  3. Yes! Gabe’s come clean about Ariel! Well, at least he still has the knack of pissing people off in record time, everyone needs a character flaw.

    Looking forward to finding out what’s actually on Toby’s mind.

    Like

  4. Chapter 7-4:

    “[…]But you’re the only heir the Punaji have.”

    “Not how it works,” Ruda said quietly, not turning from the window. “I’m no relation at all to most of those who’ve worn the name Punaji. The surname is attached to whatever family holds the crown, which changes. My people won’t tolerate weak, incompetent, corrupt or selfish leaders. You hold onto the people’s respect or your ass gets kicked out and someone more worthy takes your place. We have succession crises more often than other countries, sure, but on the other hand our royalty isn’t so goddamn inbred they need six servants to use the shitter.”

    Chapter 8-24:

    “Pretty much, yeah,” Ruda said lightly, pausing to take another swig of rum. “Naphthene cursed Prince Ankhar and all his descendants to, and I quote, ‘drink but never be drunk.’ This is why I get a campus exemption to the ban on drinking. The Punaji royal line, despite being completely impervious to the intoxicating effects of…well, anything…suffers a compulsion to consume alcohol.”

    So… how does this work? Is there even a Punaji royal line or are people just taking over the name after a succession crisis?🙂

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  5. Typos:

    Sheaine/Shaeine

    Reactions:

    At last! Time to put a dagger in the back of the sitcom trope of poor communication leading to problems. Having the major groups do it at once is 1) slightly contrived and 2) pretty much guaranteed narratively to set them up for further problems. Action in book 9?

    But the 5000 year old and the 3000+ year old (or thereabouts) are notably not getting things out in the open to resolve them; instead, they are rehashing old debates.

    “The method is a well-trod path for the girl”
    Sharing confidences helps become friends, so Prin has every reason to know this. Of course, for a con artist, they are often skewed or outright lies, but hopefully not in this case.

    @Daemion
    “There isn’t much else I can think of unless Vadrieny’s memories are coming back.”
    Most of the other secrets aren’t causing operational conflicts, but:
    Fross: Jacaranda is an idiot god and faeries eat each other to survive. Other mentions of Jacaranda don’t talk about her intelligence, although the others do know that Jacaranda is a former dryad. Ruda knows the second part since she was with Fross in the hall of fears, but do the others?
    Farah (5-10): “And surely Avei must expect us to change with it. Why else select a half-elf as a paladin?”
    Farah stumbled…
    So, someone might have a secret.

    And of course the newest batch of freshmen girls have some secrets, but at least one of the secrets isn’t getting shared.

    Like

    1. I think Farah was just surprised, she wasn’t the only one reacting to Trissiny’s comment. Casey got a case of hero worship from that encounter.😉

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  6. OH my gods, finally! I hate when miscommunication and secrets all fester and make everything worse, so story time is exactly what’s called for and what NO ONE ever writes, so I’m so very glad to see it happening here.

    So, let’s see.. Ephanie’s secret doesn’t seem to be my initial thought (but still headcanon, nyeh), and it does have something to do with being married in the Shaathist cult. Was it ever said that she’d ALWAYS grown up in Avei’s cult? Or, as I’ve been assuming, did she come into it a bit later on (maybe early teens is what I’m thinking) and adopt the Avelea name, eschewing her family ties?

    I’d thought, at the beginning of this chapter, that Toby had called them to gather to talk about his issues he’s having with divine magic, since he kinda recently was told that it’s best to talk about issues with people who care about him and that he should do so. But, also, we know that GABE knows he’s gay.. do the others? I can’t remember. (Just saw it as a guess of his topic to share in the comments.)

    Do they know Fross is a one-of-a-kind pixie? That she alone, of pixies, is growing smarter and could theoretically pass up nearly anyone alive at this point as far as intelligence and maybe even arcane might goes? (Or does SHE even know that? The whole thing was a while ago..)

    I’m wondering about Ruda’s story in this one, and how someone else noted that earlier she’d said the royal line isn’t so much inherited as claimed. Maybe that’s what she meant by “his descendants”? His descendants in the royal line? And maybe if Ruda is no longer in line or to be on the throne, the curse would vanish for her? I don’t know.. maybe even if it’s by the Prince’s bloodline, maybe his came back around to take the throne later. Or maybe it’s remained as the royal family, because any of the monarchs challenged in that time have been strong enough to keep their title. Plus, because of the rules for succession, it’s not necessary for them to marry suitably-royal people to produce heirs, which is consistent with Ruda’s mention that they’re not inbred royalty.

    ..I have the feeling that, if the next chapter that goes over story time (which I hope there is one, and it’s not skipped in a time jump!) and if it picks up right where this one ended, Ariel will refuse to talk and demonstrate that she really is alive, just to bug Gabriel! It seems like something she’d do. :p And then everyone else will be like, “..Okay, Gabe, that’s nice, so, who’s next?”

    Like

    1. Ephanie grew up in Avei’s cult as an orphan, then left to marry Feldren… which didn’t work out for some reason. I have a feeling that divorce is rather uncommon amongst Huntsmen. There might have been some resentment towards her for leaving Avei in the first place, too.

      Toby being gay is common knowledge, the entire class is aware and probably quite a few other people on campus, too. The class knows about his difficulties with divine magic, too.

      Fross being special isn’t news to them either. Juniper has always known, Ruda was told directly and the others know at least that Fross is a special case like November. I think Fross mentioned it either during the Crawl adventure or when tricking Arachne during the Hellgate incident.

      I’m not even sure if Ariel -can- talk to anyone but her wielder. It seems touching her or being in very close proximity to her is necessary to “hear” her. Although she might have been very careful and discreet so far and is more able than shown so far.

      Ruda and the royal line… well, that’s up to Webb to figure out.😉

      Like

      1. Toby being gay isn’t common knowledge. Gabe is the only one who knows that.

        The Punaji royal line has a tendency to change hands a lot, and by tradition whatever family rules takes the surname Punaji. The prince who was cursed happens to have been a direct ancestor of Ruda’s; her family has been more successful than most. As such it’s not been tested yet, whether the curse would follow that bloodline if they lost the throne, or transfer to whoever held it. Only Naphthene knows that, and she’s even less inclined than most gods to explain herself.

        Like

      2. How the hell can they not know? Trissiny should at least have an idea and so does Ruda. I can’t believe they accepted his behaviour without a good explanation otherwise.
        Juniper definitely knows, it’s what she does. If she can tell that Trissiny is straight, she can tell Toby is gay.
        They are young adults at an university, the topic of sex has to have come up several times – they can’t be that oblivious to Toby.
        What about Teal? She knew him from before, she’s gay and got bullied for it and Toby never mentioned his orientation to her? That’s almost as bad as the elf who never told her about it, too.

        I’m sorry, but how can they not realize this? And why the hell would he never talk about it with his friends? Is he such an amazing actor that he can fake interest in women? Do his eyes never wander? Or does he explain his disinterest with him having a holy duty and no time for romance?

        Seriously, if I spent more than a year together with a guy, I’d at least notice -something- and if you put all the hints together it shows a pretty clear picture.

        I can’t believe they aren’t observant enough to catch on. And here I thought they were getting better at that.

        Like

      3. Trissiny obviously thought he was straight since she declared to him. At that point, I assume that sexuality and relationship was a topic she avoided with Toby.
        Toby seems pretty discret about it anyway and we know that his cult was disaproving (yet not forbiding) of gay reliationships.
        Ruda only knows that Toby rejected Trissiny and Juniper seems to have taken a policy of not talking of “Dryad stuff”.

        Some gay people manage to hide the fact all their life even while married. Toby doesn’t have that much occasion to even meet people : he’s in a small university. Spent most of his time with his team which is, not counting his not gay childhood friend, female or asexual only.

        “her family has been more successful than most”
        Being the only royal family that has to be sober and being immune to mind affecting effect may help in being successfull…

        Like

      4. Chapter 4-21:

        Then those eyes widened in sudden comprehension, and Toby moved backward with a speed that was just barely short of abrupt. He quickly schooled his features, but not quite in time to disguise a wince.

        He’d moved back. And winced.

        Something in her felt as brittle as old leaves.

        “Ah, look,” he said, very carefully. “I think you’re a great girl, Triss…”

        Everything after that was kind of hazy.

        That doesn’t look like he’s terribly good at hiding it. I had assumed he told her the truth there… but if he didn’t, then he lied to her and has been lying to her and all his other friends for months.

        Like

    2. He clearly didn’t disguise he didn’t want her. Not only was he not ready for his fellow paladin to declare to him but he wasn’t trying to conceal he didn’t want to begin a reliationship with her.

      As for “lying to her”, he didn’t and even if he did his sexual orientation is not her business. I don’t see how he could have some moral responsability to give intimate informations about him because someone else was attracted to him. The only thing he was expected to do was giving an honnest answer whether he was attracted or not to her and that’s exactly what he did.

      Like

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