10 – 34

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“Well, I do believe each of us who plans to attend has arrived,” said the woman with shifting patterns of light irridescing across her midnight black skin. “For whom of the mortal persuasion are we waiting, Izara?”

“No one,” said the goddess of love, currently no more dramatic in appearance than a somewhat homely young woman with unruly hair, her only odd affectation being the choice of peasant garb a century and a half out of date. “I appreciate you all going out of your way to join me; I realize not everyone enjoys coming here.”

“Some of us enjoy coming here very much,” Eserion commented from the table in the corner, raising his eyes from his card game to wink at her.

“Why here, then?” Salyrene asked with a reproachful frown, causing the ripples of blue and gold light decorating her form to shift subtly to more angular patterns. “Particularly if you’re aware that we do not all find this place equally comfortable.”

“This, I believe, is not a conversation that should be had in comfort,” Izara said seriously. “And forgive me for pointing it out, but we all know that assuming a discrete form improves our ability to focus.”

“Assembling on the mortal plane is an unnecessary risk,” Avei said, swiveling on her stool to put her back to the bar and giving Izara a very direct stare. No one took offense at her brusque tone, which they all knew was characteristic and signified no hostility. “We established this place to have a secure meeting spot wherein to speak with significant mortals, in neutral ground outside the aegis of our cults or the Universal Church. If no mortals are to be involved in this conversation, I suggest moving it to someplace less vulnerable.”

“Forgive me, sister,” Nemitoth mused, not looking up from the massive tome laid out on the small table at which he sat alone, “but ‘secure’ was the operative word in that declaration. No one presently has any designs on us. No one is aware that we are here.”

“You know the glaring weakness in that book,” Avei said pointedly.

Vidius chuckled, leaning back in his chair so that it tipped up on its hind legs. “Yes, and Elilial is always after us and usually hidden from view, but come on. If she had any weapon that posed a threat to the lot of us gathered here, we wouldn’t only now be learning of it. Besides, Izara’s right and you know it. Too much divinity is not healthy. Or have you forgotten how our…predecessors…ended up?”

Avei’s answering snort was evocative of a disdainful warhorse, but she offered no further comment, merely reaching for her whiskey on the rocks and taking a sip which did not lower the level of drink in the glass.

“Thank you,” said Izara, nodding graciously to the god of death, who tipped his broad hat to her in reply. “Then, in the interests of not keeping you all here any longer than absolutely necessary, I will come to the point. We need to discuss Arachne.”

From the assembled gods there came a chorus of sighs and groans, and two muted laughs.

The expensively appointed common room of the Elysium had rarely been this crowded; as a couple of its current occupants had mentioned, most of them did not enjoy coming here without good and specific purpose. For all of that, the majority of them would not at a glance have been taken for anything but a gathering of perhaps oddly-dressed friends at a posh bar. Of those present, only Salyrene and Ouvis made themselves visually striking, and only the goddess of magic did it as a deliberate affectation. The god of the sky sat by himself in a corner, facing the wall, and manipulating the tiny clouds and whirlwinds surrounding himself like a child lost in the inner world of his toys. In fact, he hadn’t even been specifically invited to this gathering; none of them were ever certain how much of their conversations he was aware of, much less paying attention to.

The entire Pantheon was not present, of course. Some of those whom Izara had included in her call had not troubled to show up, which was characteristic of the group as a whole. The usual absentees were, of course, absent. Shaath and Calomnar disdained any sort of gathering they weren’t firmly bullied into attending, and nobody went to the trouble except at great need; they generally weren’t missed. Vemnesthis, as usual, could not be bothered to tear himself away from his own ceaseless vigil, and even kind-hearted Izara hadn’t troubled to invite Naphthene, who these days tended to reply to social overtures with threats.

Most of them had clustered together at a few tables, though as usual Nemitoth had taken a private table upon which to lay out his book, and Avei preferred to seat herself at the bar, where she had a more tactically useful view of the room. Eserion and Vesk had tucked themselves away at a small table in the corner, playing a card game whose object appeared to be making up increasingly ridiculous rules and bullying or tricking each other into abiding by them.

“I have a very effective way of dealing with Arachne, which I’m surprised you haven’t all adopted,” Avei said disparagingly. “Just slap her when she needs it. She doesn’t even mind all that much; some people simply have to be constantly reminded of their boundaries.”

Izara sighed. “I’m sure you know very well why I’ll never embrace your tactics, sister.”

“Because you’re soft-hearted,” Avei replied, but with clear affection.

“And others,” added Omnu in a basso rumble, “because those tactics are about as productive as they are kind. I’m sorry, Avei, but I don’t think you’ve ever really understood the Arachne. Brute force is what she prefers to use, not what she is. She isn’t the least bit impressed by pain or the threat thereof.”

“And yet, my methods get exactly the results I want,” Avei said dryly.

Eserion chuckled again. “I’d have to say that most of you have never bothered to understand Arachne, you least of all, Avei. Arachne doesn’t continue to push at you because you don’t have anything she wants. Be grateful she’s running that school, now; for a while, there, I was seriously concerned she’d just get bored and start seeing how much she could get away with before we had to step in. Go fish.”

“You can’t tell me to go fish,” Vesk protested. “It’s a Wednesday and I’ve already played a ducal flush.”

“Oh, bullshit, that rule was retired when I annexed your queen.”

“Aha!” Grinning, the god of bards plucked one of the cards from his hand and turned it around, revealing a portrait of Eserion. “But I get to re-activate a retired rule of my choice, because I have the Fool!”

“Oh, you are such an asshole.”

Verniselle cleared her throat loudly. “In any case! The Arachne’s personality and general goals are not news. I assume, Izara, if you’ve brought us here to discuss her, there is new business?”

“I’ll say there is,” Vesk muttered, eyes back on his cards.

Izara sighed. “I’m afraid she’s rather worked up at the moment, more than ever before. She’s taken to barging into temples and threatening priests in order to get our attention.”

“Temples, plural?” Avei said sharply, glancing over at Vesk. “Our?”

“She’s done it to the both of us, now,” Vesk affirmed, nodding distractedly. “Checkmate.”

“Foiled!” Eserion proclaimed, laying his hand down face up. “Full suit of Cats! And since it is Wednesday and you forced me to crown your red piece, your entire hand is converted to wave-function cards!”

“Son of a bitch,” Vesk cried in exasperation, but grudgingly laid his hand face-down on the table, where they each became indeterminate, their values only determined when observed again.

Avei cleared her throat pointedly. Vesk ignored her, picking up his hand again and scowling at its new contents.

“Can you two keep it down, please?” Salyrene said irritably, her luminous skin patterns taking on a subtly orange hue.

“Sorry,” both trickster gods said in unison without looking up from their game.

“Well, that kind of behavior is not acceptable,” Avei said sharply. “Something must clearly be done about this. Thank you, Izara, for bringing it to us.”

“That is not why I brought it to you,” Izara said firmly. “Please don’t rush off and do anything drastic, or rash. I wanted to talk about this, because I’m not certain that she doesn’t have a point. Arachne is having trouble with Justinian.”

“Justinian?” Vidius inquired, frowning. “What’s he done now?”

A sudden hush fell over the room, even Ouvis’s clouds falling momentarily still. Nemitoth blinked, then frowned, flipping back and forth several pages in his book as if he had suddenly lost his place, which none of the other gods seemed to notice, each of them also frowning into space in apparent confusion.

The moment passed almost immediately, and Verniselle spoke in a sharper tone. “Nonetheless, we clearly cannot allow the Arachne to think she can bully us this way. I saw no harm in indulging her when her aspirations were lower, but if there is a repeat of what happened to Sorash…”

“That isn’t going to happen,” Vidius said wryly.

“No, it won’t,” Avei replied in an even grimmer tone than usual. “Because if she tries—”

“Oh, settle down,” Vidius said, folding his arms. “Honestly, I’m appalled at how little most of you have troubled to even understand how Arachne thinks.”

Both trickster gods cleared their throats pointedly, then shouted “Jinx!” in virtually perfect unison. Eserion, who had been roughly a quadrillionth of a second behind, let out an irritated huff and tossed two cards face-down in the center of the table, where Vesk selected one smugly and added it to his own hand.

“I said most.” Vidius gave them a sardonic look before turning back toward Avei. “Sorash was an extremely anomalous case; she is simply not going to light into any of us that way. Do you even know what he did to set her off? He tried to keep her on a leash.”

“Sorash was always obsessed with power and dominance,” Omnu rumbled pensively. “Arachne never failed to do her research; surely she knew to expect that before campaigning for his attention.”

“I don’t think you understand,” Vidius said darkly. “That was not a coy turn of phrase. It was an actual leash. It came with a jeweled collar and a skimpy little outfit, and a cute nickname.”

Salyrene winced, her lights abruptly shifting to a dark blue. “We don’t need to hear—”

“Silky,” Vidius said, giving them all a long face.

Avei’s whiskey glass abruptly shattered into powder. She hadn’t been touching it at the time.

“So, no,” Vidius continued, “there’s not going to be a repeat of that incident. Sorash went well above and beyond the call in antagonizing her, while simultaneously placing her in such a position that he was uniquely vulnerable to attack. None of the rest of us are foolish enough or, to be perfectly frank, assholish enough to do such a thing. And let’s not pretend that anybody here mourned Sorash’s passing. Those of you who didn’t actively express relief were merely being discreet, and you all know it.”

“I wasn’t discreet,” Avei said grimly, pausing to sip from a restored glass of whiskey, this time neat. “I made no secret that I was glad enough to be rid of him. In fact, I never knew the details of that; I find myself rather regretting the mild ire I felt toward Arachne for the sheer presumption.”

“This is why I wish we wouldn’t keep secrets from each other,” Omnu said sorrowfully. “It leads to nothing but misunderstanding. In Sorash’s case, his lust for privacy was his downfall.”

“It sounds like that wasn’t the lust that caused his downfall,” Vesk commented cheerfully.

“Hah!” Eserion grinned at him. “You said the L-word! And since you brought the Seven Deadlies back into play…”

“Oh, bullshit,” Vesk protested. “You do not have the—”

He broke off when the god of thieves plucked a card from his hand, turning it around to reveal the portrait of a succubus garbed in filmy scarves, looking coquettishly over her shoulder.

“Omnu’s balls,” Vesk said in exasperation, pulling out three of his cards and handing them over.

“Excuse me?” Omnu exclaimed. Verniselle placed a hand over her eyes, slumping down in her chair.

“Be all that as it may,” said Salyrene, “it is obviously a matter of concern if Arachne is going to start being overtly hostile. Even if we take it as given that there will be no further deicide, it’s just not acceptable for her to push gods around toward her own ends.”

“Especially if she is going to use such violent tactics,” Salyrene added.

“I really don’t think she would have harmed any priests,” said Vesk distractedly. “Complain all you want about the woman’s general lack of social skills, but have you ever known her to deliberately hurt someone who hadn’t done something to deserve it?”

“I had the same feeling,” said Izara, nodding. “Consider who she tried that on. Vesk and myself would both intervene on behalf of our people, and she knows us well enough to know that. I think she is wise enough not to attempt it with someone who would call her bluff.”

“Still,” Salyrene said pointedly.

“Yes,” Avei agreed. “Still.”

“Still,” Izara said doggedly, “at issue here is that she isn’t necessarily wrong—in her purpose, if not her methods. When, as appears to be the case, she is under an unprovoked and undeserved attack by the Universal Church, the matter reflects upon us.”

“So,” Vidius mused, “you believe this will sort itself out if we rein in the Archpope?”

Again, a momentary pall fell across the room, marred only by Nemitoth’s irritated grunt and the ruffling of pages.

“I think it’s worth appreciating the source of her hostility,” Vidius continued as if nothing had transpired. “She blames most of you for being selfish and cowardly when she came to you for help. And she isn’t wrong, there.”

“Not this again,” Verniselle groaned, rolling her eyes.

“Her story was sheer nonsense,” Salyrene said sharply, the patterns of light limning her shifting into a far more rapid speed.

“Elilial believed her,” Vidius retorted. “More to the point, Themynra believed her. Whatever you think about either of them, the fact is they have been dealing more closely and regularly with Scyllith than any of us since the ascension.”

“Have you even thought about what you’re suggesting?” Salyrene said heatedly, her lights glowing redder and speeding up further still. “It is simply inconceivable that Scyllith would have the power to do a thing like that. None of the Infinite Order could have managed it before we brought them down, and the survivors now are deprived of most of their power and agency. Scyllith, further, has never been anything but a troublemaker; if she could impact the world so severely, we would definitely have learned of it.”

“We know that the fundamental nature of the surviving Elders was changed by the ascension,” Nemitoth interjected thoughtfully. “That was the whole point of it. Don’t think in terms of sheer power—you of all people should know better than that, Salyrene. Naiya and Scyllith have both been trying to acclimate to their new circumstances ever since, experimenting with different methods. If Scyllith’s fundamental nature and approach to manipulating reality altered significantly from what we knew when last we had her directly under our gaze, it’s reasonable to conclude that she might be capable of things which would surprise us.”

“Don’t tell me you believe that fairy tale now,” Salyrene exclaimed.

“I believe nothing,” Nemitoth said calmly. “There is not data to support Arachne’s claim—and notably, it is an unprovable hypothesis. Reasoning, however, suggests that it is not necessarily impossible.”

“And consider this,” Vidius added. “We all know how severely Scyllith was further weakened after her clash with Arachne and Elilial. It only makes sense that she wouldn’t be able to pull off a feat like that a second time.”

“That works the other way, too,” Salyrene countered, her lights moving in calmer patterns now. “Why would she suddenly have the capability in the first place? And how? Remember, Elilial took her down alone—and that while she was isolated from support in Scyllith’s own realm.”

“I’m not sure how significant that is,” Avei murmured, gazing into her glass. “Elilial was always the vastly superior strategist, and Scyllith’s brutality and overweening arrogance frequently caused her trouble. We all know about the Belosiphon affair. Elilial turned the demons against her, which was as much Scyllith’s fault for how she treated them as Elilial’s for suborning them.”

“This is an old argument, though,” Izara said patiently. “No, I can’t find it in myself to believe Arachne’s account of her history, either, which has little bearing on this situation. The question is this: is she right to be specifically upset with us now? Because if so, I feel she should not only be forgiven for her suddenly more aggressive moves, but we should also think seriously about defending her to Justinian.”

Silence held sway for a moment. Nemitoth narrowed his eyes, bending closer to his book as if having trouble making out what was written on the page.

“I’ll give you my two bits,” said Vidius. “Arachne is a difficult personality, yes, and it’s undoubtedly true that she takes full advantage of our need to protect her. However, I have never found her hard to predict, or even to work with. The key is simply to extend a little compassion and patience—more than we are accustomed to having to offer anyone, anymore, and for that reason alone I say she’s worth keeping around. We have all seen firsthand how badly it can go when gods have no one to keep them humble.” He nodded to Izara. “I support a patient approach.”

“I agree,” Omnu said quietly. “I cannot say I have troubled to know her as well as you have, brother, but the broad strokes of your analysis are borne out by my own experience. The Arachne is not more problematic than we can bear…and she does not inflict harm without provocation. If she has become more aggressive, we ought to consider that she may be justified.”

“That is not how justice works,” Avei said flatly. “She doesn’t get to invade temples and assault priests just to make a point!”

“It was a matter of threats more than assault,” Vesk commented.

“I consider them to be in the same category of actions,” Avei retorted. “Whether she was provoked or no, I see only trouble coming from indulging her in this behavior.”

“I abstain from this,” Salyrene declared, glowing slightly more golden. “It was not my temple she desecrated—if she had, I would certainly not have indulged her in anything but a blistering reprisal. What she has done to Izara and Vesk, I’ll trust them to have the judgment to address themselves. Until Arachne starts another campaign of dragging us all into her problems, I say leave her alone. This isn’t an issue the Pantheon as a whole needs to answer.”

“There are points to be made on both sides of this,” Verniselle said thoughtfully, flipping a platinum coin back and forth between her hands. “Arachne’s nature does suggest that she would not be so assertive without reason…but on the other hand, there are lines she should not be allowed to cross. I think I concur with you, sister,” she added, nodding to Salyrene. “If anything is to be done, let it be up to those who have a personal stake.”

“Hm,” Nemitoth grunted, gazing abstractly at the wall.

All the gods present, including the onlookers who had abstained entirely from the convesation, turned to study the two card players in the corner.

Eserion slapped his hand down on the table. “Zoological flush. Eat it, banjo boy.”

Vesk carefully laid out three cards in a row, then pantomimed setting down an invisible fourth one. “Queen of Cups, Queen of Rods, Queen of Diamonds, and the Emperor’s New Clothes. The game is still afoot.”

“Oh, come on,” Eserion exclaimed. “You seriously expect me to believe you had the Taming Maidens just waiting for that play?”

“Would you like to phrase that as an accusation?” Vesk asked sweetly. “Of course, you know the penalty a Penitent Jihad carries if you are wrong.”

“Just deal,” Eserion said sullenly.

“I see,” Izara mused, then smiled around at the assemble deities. “Well, I’m sorry to have brought up such a difficult cluster of subjects…but I thank you all for your contributions.”

“Have you come to a conclusion, then, dear?” Vidius asked, smiling.

“I believe I have,” she replied. “Now the question becomes one of timing… In any case, I appreciate you all coming at my request. I’ll take up no more of your time.”

With a final smile around at them and a respectful nod, she vanished.

Avei drew in a deep breath and let it out as a sigh through her nose, then likewise disappeared. One by one, the other deities flickered out of being, all except Salyrene disappearing without fanfare or production. The goddess of magic made sure to leave early enough that she had an audience for the rather overwrought light show that marked her departure.

Quite soon, the Elysium was again as quiet as usual, nearly all of its inhabitants gone.

“You know,” Vesk said casually, studying his cards, “I really like Justinian. I think he’s a great Archpope.”

“Mm hm,” Eserion replied in an equally mild tone. “Stand-up guy. I don’t have a thing to say against him.”

“Exactly! In fact, it’s a funny thing, but I can’t think of anything I would change about him.”

“I’ve noticed the same. I don’t remember the last time I had a thought about him that wasn’t purely approving. All right, I didn’t want to do this, but I’m playing the One of Unicorns.” Smirking with intolerable smugness, he laid down a card face-up, which bathed the entire room in a glow of breathtaking silver purity. “All cheating is now suspended; lay down all the cards up your sleeves.”

“Oh, you did not just do that,” Vesk grumbled, setting his hand down face-down and grudgingly extracting five whole decks from various places within his coat and adding them to the cards already on the table. “You realize how long this game is going to drag on, now?”

“You could always yield.”

“You could always blow me.”

“I’ll take a rain check.” He drew another from the now-towering deck, adding it to his hand and gazing thoughtfully at his cards. “Yeah, though, great guy, Justinian. I can’t think of a single thing wrong with him. I can still think about thinking about him, though. Seems almost odd, when I think about thinking about it. I’m ordinarily so…critical.”

“I’ve thought about thinking about that myself,” Vesk agreed idly, studying his own cards. “Almost makes me glad I’ve got people who can do my thinking for me.”

“Mm hm,” Eserion said. “Very fortunately, I’ve a few of my more trusted mortals circling the very excellent Archpope even now. If anything in particular needs to be thought about him, I’m sure they can attend to it.”

“You know, I’m glad to hear you say that,” Vesk replied. “I’ve been thinking about considering such a thing myself. Perhaps I’ll make an idle mention of my thoughts in a few particular ears.”

“Oh, sure, that’s a good idea. There’s never any harm in spreading rumors, after all.”

“All right, wiseass, you asked for it.” Smirking, the bard god pulled two cards from his deck and stood them on end facing each other. “Facing Portal Jokers. I can now draw any face card of my choosing from the aether. You want to call this now, or shall I drag you down screaming?”

Smiling beatifically, Eserion selected a single card from his hand and stood it up between the first two. They were both instantly sucked into it, and the remaining card crumpled itself into a tiny ball, then vanished. “And my portable hole reduces your standing wormhole to a quantum singularity. Did you enjoy wasting your turn, buttercup?”

“Oh, you magnificent bastard!”

In the far corner, Ouvis idly played with his clouds, seemingly oblivious to the world.

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79 thoughts on “10 – 34

  1. I hope the other gods besides Eserion start shaping up, so far it seems like he’s constantly being shown to be the best god there is. Everyone’s talking about how they don’t want to be on his bad side, and now he’s among the first to realize Justinian’s up to something shady.

    I’m going to be very disappointed in Justinian if he doesn’t have an extra plan to deal with Eserion. Like I said before, multiple characters have stated he’s the #1 god they don’t want to be on the bad side of, and he’s known to be the most likely to get around god-manipulating tricks. And he’s already involved in a cold war with the second highest ranking priest of Eserion. Although maybe the only reason he’s done so well so far is that whatever trick he’s pulled with gods has gotten him a ton of resources, and there’s nothing else going for him.

    I’m curious as to what Sorash was the god of. Going just by what the chapter provides, I’d guess BDSM, but that seems like a rather narrow focus for a god’s domain.

    I’m also curious as to why Eserion and Vesk don’t share their discovery with the other gods. It really wouldn’t reflect well on the pantheon if the reason is that only Eserion and Vesk can think laterally enough to be aware even if it’s someone else doing the explaining.

    —-

    Webb, would you mind if I use the setting of TGaB for a contest? Alternate History Hub, I youtube channel I quite enjoy, has started a contest where you submit backgrounds for five symbols that are given in the video, and I want to use TGaB as the base for the background for those symbols. I’d of course credit you for the world in the submission. There’s no money involved, he’ll just feature my submission in a video should I win.

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    1. As to the sharing with other gods thing, go back and reread the end of this chapter and how Vesk and Eserion are talking to each other…they at least suspect that someone is listening in and there is that one god which never says anything still sitting there. Another thing I’m starting to suspect is that one or more of the Pantheon is helping Justinian in his plot and that is why Eserion has been playing things close to the chest.

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    2. >I’m curious as to what Sorash was the god of. Going just by what the chapter provides, I’d guess BDSM, but that seems like a rather narrow focus for a god’s domain.

      I dunno, something like domination or control seems like it be quite a broad focus.

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  2. Oh wow. That chapter was awesome. There’s so much to talk about here…

    1. Vesk and Eserion are hilarious and their game handily demonstrates their knowledge of and power over physics. As if being gods wasn’t enough, they are centuries ahead of any scientist/engineer/research mage. Also interesting to see that discrete forms improve their focus.

    2. Each time Justinian got mentioned and the gods went quiet and moved on as if nothing happened was horrifying. The Archpope somehow managed to manipulate the entire pantheon? That’s one of the most scary things I’ve seen in this story so far. I’m glad that in the end Eserion and Vesk noticed that something wasn’t quite right.

    3. “The Arachne”. This isn’t the first time she’s adressed as if it was a title and not a name. To me it sounds like Scyllith somehow backstabbed Arachne and changed reality so she wasn’t an Elder God anymore and instead wandered the lands as a wood elf without past or family. Arachne sought help from the gods but they all turned her down, because they didn’t believe her. Only the two sisters outside the Pantheon did and they probably lack the power to help.

    4. Sorash basically turned Arachne into Slave Leia and ended just like Jabba the Hutt? Haha. Good riddance.

    Excellent chapter and I feel like parts of it have been planned for quite some time now. I’ll read it again later and see what else I can find out. ^^

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    1. Notice too how they said placed himself in a place that he was vulnerable. a leash. he was the god of weaving and bonds, having taken the position from her. And she showed him she still knew how to work a bond. I bet she strangled him with the leash while wearing it.

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      1. @Daemion The original Arachne from greek myth was a weaver, so there’s some basis for it. It seems like a very large stretch though, and TGaB is only very, very loosely based on greek mythology, so I doubt it’s going to be related.

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      2. Arachne’s name came from the spider goddess of the drow, Mary/Kuriwa mentioned that in the bonus chapters. She has been shown to be very good at sewing (turning rags into a robe, quickly altering an entire outfit to fit her)… that much isn’t new.

        What I don’t see is the jump from that to “Sorash was the god of weaving and bonds and he stole that from Arachne”. If he did steal it from her (temporarily, since she definitely got it back), wouldn’t that mean she was a goddess herself at the time? Wouldn’t the pantheon have intervened? This runs contrary to evidence.

        All we know of Sorash is that he was obsessed with power and dominance, he was an asshole and a fool and the other gods didn’t like him at all.
        We don’t even know if power/dominance had anything to do with his domain or if that was just his personality.

        So yeah, it seems like a very large stretch to me, too.

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      3. The whole Arachne/Spider/Weaver angle is based on the Greek myth of a mortal girl that boasted she was the best weaver around and when confronted by the Goddess Athena about it, she challenges the Goddess to a contest. In the Roman chronicler Ovid’s version Arachne beats Athena but what she wove was insulting to the Gods in Athena’s eyes so she destroys the tapestry and turns Arachne into a spider so that Arachne and her descendants can weaver till the end of time. There are other endings to the myth but one part remains constant a Goddess changes Arachne into a spider or in TGaB’s case it seems a Wood Elf. What is funny is that the Gods of the Pantheon are overlooking one little fact about Arachne: She killed two gods (Sorash solo and another with Elilial’s help) and when a deity dies that power has to go somewhere. That fact was brutally shoved into Elilial’s face the first time Arachne threatened Elilial if she harmed her students and Elilial scoffed at Arachne being equal to her power and Elilial backed off after Arachne pointed out that little fact. It would be funny if Izara goes to “spank” Arachne now and finds out about that fact the hard way and gets sent running home with her own butt spanked.

        Lily simply stared at her for a long moment, allowing naked surprise to show on her features. “My, my. You’re actually that confident you’re a match for me?”

        “And I couldn’t have done that without you,” she acknowledged, “nor you without me. You’re good, but you’re no Scyllith. Besides, that was then; this is now. I finished off Sorash without anybody’s help. And as I was recently telling my kids…” She raised an eyebrow, the faintest hint of an icy smile crossing her features. “When a god dies, all that power has to go somewhere.”

        Lily regarded her thoughtfully. “Very well. You have my oath: I mean your students no harm and will do them none.”

        Also I think you will find that Arachne plays up that whole “blunt object” thing a little much and is mostly an act to throw others off. I got that from something Arachne said to Elilial in that same conversation:

        “You know, one of the more reliable ways to outmaneuver someone smarter than yourself is to make them so angry they can’t think straight. I get excellent mileage out of that technique. Always have.” Tellwyrn’s eyes bored back into Lily’s, not giving an inch.

        Chapter 4-3

        She puts on that act and people/gods get pissed and distracted and she then maneuvers them into doing what she wants.

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    2. I also found it interesting that the more personable-seeming gods all referred to her as ‘Arachne’ with no article. I noticed Izara, Vidius, and the tricksters doing so.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. And, why do I think the literal Cloudcuckoolander… has more of a grasp of what’s going down than even the Tricksters do — and, they know it?

    Ouvis may be one to be wary of: the sky must pack as much clout as the sea… And, be as hard to change or restrain. <_<

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  4. Exiting chapter! I feel like I know a lot more and a lot less about the gods now than before at the same time, kinda love it.
    I was really curious about why Arachne killed Soras, so I’m glad that got cleared up.

    I’d really like to know what got Naphtene upset with just about anybody around her.

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  5. I do hope you don’t mind me using this space to do something else than comment on the chapter (which was good), but I’ve done this elsewhere and it has been a success.

    Seeing as the summer’s closing in and people, or at least me, will be having some free time on their hands, what better way to while away that time than by reading. Since the people commenting here have had the good taste to read Webb’s work, presumably they have good taste otherwise as well and thus I’d like to ask if any of them have any book recommendations I, or anyone reading this, could use to fill their summer with.

    All kinds of suggestions are welcome, but perhaps avoid the most commonly recommended works, such as your Games of Thrones, Dresden files, Tolkiens or Discworlds.

    Like

    1. Here is few since I don’t know your preferences in reading that run across different tastes

      Baen Books use to make CD’s of their authors past works and put them into the hardbacks of that authors newest work and they allowed those CD’s to be hosted online for free download. Just go to the website and download the CD Zip file or the ISO to burn a CD/DVD from and you can get such things as most of David Webers Honorverse.
      http://baencd.thefifthimperium.com

      You don’t need to download all the CD’s because most of them are part of a series, example the CD Mission of Honor has everything the CD Torch of Freedom does plus all the works David Weber wrote between those two books including the book Torch of Freedom.

      There there is the Baen Free Library where you will find more e-books for download:
      http://www.baen.com/categories/free-library.html

      Some works are in the Library and on the CD’s such as the novel 1632 but there is other that are only in the Free Library such as the books Agent of Change and Fledgling the first books in the two Liaden Universe series by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

      Online reading/download:
      The works of James Galloway aka Fel:
      You have his Fantasy series of books the Firestaff and Pyrosian Chronicles, his Science Fiction series of books called Subjugation, his future history series Spiritwalker, and three other play series. You can get the complete works easier here:
      http://www.weavespinner.net/worlds_of_fel.htm

      To get his most up to date work you have to visit his website here:
      http://forums.sennadar.com

      He releases a chapter at a time as RL allows however his chapters are bigger than a webserials chapter.

      A Spartan’s War by Mike Cropo:
      http://aspartanswarchronicles.com

      The earliest books (1 and 2) are still rough and are awaiting revision (author tried things that just didn’t work and dropped them in book 3 and the megatome book 4 which is 29,197 kb Word.doc when the chapters are put together with over 80 chapters and a chapter usually being 40 to 60+ pages long). Author is currently working on Book 5 with at least 2 more books planned.

      Beyond the Far Horizon website where you can many older online works (reguires registration) as well as the home for author Gina Marie Wylie’s newest works:
      http://www.beyondthefarhorizon.net/phpBB2/index.php?sid=a0e68c8e5965ea637c965b91ec741daa

      The works of Wes Boyd which are mostly coming of age/slice of life stories surrounding the people that live in a small town called Spearfish Lake in the upper midwest and for a small town they are weird, examples from some book blurbs:

      “A snake crawls out of a bathroom drain, and a woman kills it with her hair dryer . . . That’s all it takes to set townspeople, media, crooked environmentalists, a country music singer, the federal government and a bunch of dogsledders to getting at each other’s throats. Of course, nothing’s quite normal in Spearfish Lake!”
      Busted Axel Road

      “The blonde jogger wore handcuffs! Brenda Hodunk couldn’t believe the sight before her eyes as she jogged down Lakefront Drive. Her new job had already taught her that Spearfish Lake was a little different, but this was a little more different than she had expected. Yet her natural reporter’s instinct smelled story, and she decided she needed to know more about what she’d seen – and it leads her to places and things she never would have believed.”
      Andomeda Chained

      Some books can be read out of order, others only make sense if read in order due to references to things characters have done in previous books. There is also multiple but related series: Spearfish Lake tales, Dawnwalker, Bradford Exiles. All books are free to read online and can be purchased for download.
      http://www.spearfishlaketales.com

      Like

      1. I ~!@#$%^&*()_+ hate you – you just ate up most of my free time for a while. Thanks for the rather comprehensive list.

        Like

      2. The funny thing is, is that I got a “recommendation list” that is a word doc that is single spaced with hyperlinks that is 2.5 pages long. I pick and choose what to link in these type of situations based on the type of site and what the person asking states they like. An example is if it is a site that favors Urban Fantasy and spills into the Erotic area of that, I wouldn’t pull any hard scifi off my list of recommendations. Also since this if the comment section of a WordPress site if you put too many links in WordPress gets a little wonky and I’m not just talking about going into moderation either. On a self run website such as the Sennadar website they have a couple of threads that is nothing but recommendations some chock full of links. Here is the largest one:
        http://forums.sennadar.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=777

        Like

    2. Limiting myself to fantasy, since that’s the genre you seem to be going for:

      The Bartimaeus trilogy, by Jonathan Stroud. The British Empire is run by a ruling caste of magicians, in a pseudomodern setting. Most of the books’ appeal comes from the narration of the title character, a several-thousand-year-old djinni with an absolutely hilarious snarky attitude to everything.

      Literally anything by Roger Zelazny, but especially the first five books of the Amber saga (which are a complete story; the second half of the series follows a different protagonist many years later). If one of the things you liked about TGAB was the sheer number of epically powerful beings pursuing conflicting agendas, Zelazny’s your man: I don’t think he ever wrote a major character who couldn’t reasonably be described as a god. Unlike our good Webb, who does an admirable job reinventing well-worn fantasy concepts to seem fresh and exciting, Zelazny relies very little on established tropes, while still writing books that feel fantastical rather than just weird.

      John Dies at the End, by David Wong (of Cracked.com fame). Comedy horror, a combination that’s difficult to do well and which Wong pulls off brilliantly by having actual insight into the way those two genres are alike. Contrast with Welcome to Night Vale, which is also “comedic horror” in that it plays a lot of horror tropes for comedic effect and occasionally plays them straight, so it’s usually funny but sometimes scary. Wong’s books manage to be funny and scary simultaneously.

      Orson Scott Card’s Alvin Maker series. Fantasy America in the early 1800s. As anyone who’s read Ender’s Game knows, Card’s best skill is building ludicrously overpowered protagonists and then throwing them into a plot that manages to challenge them anyway. In this series, the protagonist eventually has almost complete control over matter in a wide area around him, and an important supporting character can read minds and see possible futures. Their mission is to end slavery in America without the Civil War.

      The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell. Um. Kinda hard to describe. Vaguely similar to Cloud Atlas, except in all the ways that it isn’t. It might be subtly saying something profound about the nature of good and evil, or I might be reading too much into it.

      (Also Neil Gaiman, but I assume he falls into the commonly-recommended. category. Also a whole bunch of web serial novels, but since you’re here I assume you’ve checked out those that looked interesting to you.)

      Like

    3. Anything by Neil Gaiman, especially the Sandman comics.
      Anything by Patrick Rothfuss, especially The Name of the Wind.
      Since you already mentioned the Dresden Files, look into Butcher’s other works, like Codex Alera.
      The classics like the Dune and Hitchhiker novels, if you haven’t read them before.
      Personally I enjoy novels set in large, sprawling settings like the BattleTech/MechWarrior universe, Forgotten Realms or Star Wars EU, too.
      George R.R. Martin published the anthologies, “Rogues”, “Dangerous Women” and “Warriors”, those might lead you to other authors you like.

      Other authors I would recommend were mentioned already… and while I own a lot of books and have my own favourites, it’s difficult to recommend something to a stranger. Like, would the themes in this novel offend you? Maybe you aren’t into horror at all or dislike hard sci-fi? I don’t know. ^^

      Like

    4. I picked two, based on the idea that I can’t imagine a TGaB fan not being fans of these as well.

      (1) Rowena’s Rescue by D.D. Webb.
      You can get an ebook here: dhttps://www.amazon.com/Rowenas-Rescue-Rise-Book-ebook/dp/B00KGLR81M

      It only costs 99 cents, and it’s good! It’s another side of our own Webb, there’s there’s really no excuse NOT to read it! Seriously, I mean YOU, before you even read more of this post, go upload your dollar! RIGHT NOW! Hell, if you don’t think it was worth it,1*I’ll* pay you the $1 back.

      (2) Mother of Learning by Nobody103
      https://www.fictionpress.com/s/2961893/1/Mother-of-Learning

      Another high fantasy, it’s actually very comparable to TGaB. In terms of humor, character development, worldbuilding, dramatic tension, just it’s overall quality in general, yeah, MoL is in the same league as TGaB. I love both because they have a high fun-factor, both to read and to ponder when you’re out listening to music or wherever you like to do your thinking.

      In short, it’s about a student mage that gets splashed with some weird magic that didn’t work like it was supposed to, which inadvertently brings him into a month-long time loop that repeats the first month of his third year at the mage academy, over and over and over. Even death no longer holds power. You die in the loop, you miss out on the remaining days, then wake up in your bed on the first of the month again, just like last time. The POV character, Zorian, takes full advantage, using his foreknowledge and wealth of time to work towards becoming a powerful archmage, perfecting his skills, widening hs area of expertise to include more and more. Problem is, there are two other time travelers looping along with him (one a friend, probably, the other undoubtedly an enemy), but the loop didn’t begin with Zorian. The others have a huge head start, and while Zorian was obliviously getting killed at the end of every single loop, they were already working hard. So Zorian isn’t just training for fun, he needs to get better if he wants to even survive the real death when time becomes normal once again.

      It’s also incomplete, and although the writer doesn’t update on a schedule, he does update regularly, so you don’t need to worry about getting stranded with an unfinished story any time soon. Plus, his updates are LONG, so it’s always a treat when I get that notification in my email.

      Like

    5. I honestly can’t believe this hasn’t been mentioned.

      My recommendation is Malazan Book of The Fallen. It has the AMAZING world building and over arching plot lines of TGAB, the epic scale and fights of The Wheel of Time, a world with such history as to rival Tolkien, and it’s told in the tone of a Vietnam War memoir. I

      If you really enjoy the dynamic nature of the gods in TGAB, the complexity of how they interact with the world, and how their immense power comes with aspects that impose certain limitations and vulnerabilities, then you will love Malazan Book of the Fallen.

      Like

      1. I gave it a try, I honestly did. I love TGAB, I loved The Wheel of Time. I completely failed to be taken in by Malazen Book of The Fallen. I read the entirety of the first book and simply failed to be hooked. Maybe it gets better later on, but if an entire book is not enough to sell me on the series then I’m not sinking any more into it.

        As for why that is, I think my biggest problem with the series(or at least the first book) is the characters and their development. They’re all so one-dimensional, I couldn’t relate to any of them. The dialogue is (at least in my opinion) really shitty, and this contributes to the first point. Also, it takes a *lot* of time to even begin understanding what anyone is talking about. I mean I get being dropped into a new world that you discover bit by bit, a lot of fantasy does that. But in this case, the author kept introducing new things every chapter. New magic systems, new species, new everything all the time. To the point where you can’t keep up with it and you can’t even try and reason about how/why things are happening or try and predict what is going to happen. It all just ends up being random shit happening because the author said so. I seriously hope I’m missing something, or maybe that the other books in the series get better in this respect. If that’s the case, I might just go back and read them, but it would take a very strong recommendation, otherwise I’m not wasting my time.

        As for suggestions, I just finished the “Powder Mage” series(only 3 books, and already completed) and if you like Brandon Sanderson’s work(especially Mistborn) then I definitely think you’ll like this one.

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  6. Hoo boy. Amazing how such a low-key chapter can drop a huge number of revelations on us. Things we now know that were previously unknown or only suspected:

    1. Someone has put some whammy on the gods to stop them thinking ill of Justinian. This neatly answers the question we’ve all been wondering about for a while (“what do the gods think of Justinian’s mass ascension plan?”), while raising about a million more. It also means the Archpope (if it was him who did it) has gone absolutely all-in; if that effect is ever lifted, he is going to get smote harder than any mortal in history.

    2. The Pantheon tolerate Arachne because for some reason they need to keep her around:

    she takes full advantage of our need to protect her.

    Although why exactly they need to keep her around is an open question.

    3. Arachne came to the gods with some crazy story about her history that only Elilial and Themynra believed. The only confirmed detail is that it involved Scyllith doing something to her that Scyllith was not previously thought capable of doing. Out-of-universe story logic implies that story was almost certainly true.

    4. Sorash was a massive asshole, and Arachne killed him because he tried to enslave her (although she may have had other reasons).

    5. The Book of Nemitoth is now canon (woo!), but it can’t keep track of Elilial.

    Also a whole bunch of stuff about the individual forms and personality of the gods (Salyrene is kind of a peacock, for example).

    Anyone got anything else?

    Like

    1. At this point we can take it for a fact that Arachne is more than just an elven archmage. There have been enough hints that she’s somehow special and with what the gods said about her now added to it… yeah. She’s an unique existence.

      This leads me to my next questions: If the gods are aware of her being unique, then how do they explain Arachne’s history if they don’t believe her version? I mean, what’s their explanation for Arachne? Or why call her “the Arachne”?
      What’s her function and purpose in the world so that the gods feel a need to protect her? Did Arachne abuse that protection in her adventuring days because she knew that even if she went up against dragons, the gods would see to her safety?

      Like

      1. Ooh, yeah. Good catch.

        I find this interesting from an out-of-universe perspective. We know Webb makes up some of the story on the go (Darling’s main character status being the best example), so do you think Arachne was always meant to be more than just an immortal archmage? My money’s (narrowly) on “no”, for reasons that I can’t qutie pin down.

        Obviously this has been the plan since at least the “Along Came A Spider” interludes, and probably at least a couple of books earlier.

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      2. I don’t think she was supposed to play such a big role at first. To me that doesn’t matter, all I care about is the finished story and I quite like her character as it is now.🙂

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  7. Daemion and Cyrid covered almost everything I thought of. The only other thing is that it keeps getting harder to believe Ellial is justified. Some of the gods are dicks (Salyrene), but they’re not even at Greek-god levels of dickery yet, so that’s probably not why Ellial hates them. The idea that Ellial turned away from the Pantheon and fought them for 8000 years because something happened to Arachne is a little weird, especially since Arachne as we know her only appeared 3000 years ago, long after Ellial turned.

    Like

    1. That 3000 year ago time frame is the first reference in mortal documents not what the gods have known. Think about what we know about the world prior to Sumeria since there is no written records but we do known that mankind has existed many thousands of years prior to that. Something that occurred in that prehistory would not necessarily have been written in the Sumerian records and even if it did such as the legend of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, that record was partially destroyed and others were mostly definitely lost. So Arachne could be 8000 years old and the records of her from that long ago could be lost in some dusty tomb or even destroyed over the years in a war or natural disaster.

      Like

  8. Good morning! I usually comment right after posting, but what can I say, I wanted a break last night.

    As most of you know, I rather obsessively track my stats, and there are a couple of things about which I am curious.

    For one, I keep getting single hits from webcomics–and not from their front pages, but from specific archive pages. Then when I follow that back, presuming somebody linked to TGAB from the comments, I can never find such a link. There’s another one today, from Schlock Mercenary. I wonder if anybody knows why this happens?

    Also, hello to our new friends in Japan! For some reason, starting not long after posting time, TGAB got a bunch of hits from Google.co.jp (and of course I can’t tell why because Google hides their search terms), and right now Japan is the fourth-highest source of pageviews, right after the four big English-speaking countries. Which is very unusual, because usually Germany, France, and Israel come in right after Australia. This is very fascinating to me; I’m quite curious what brought this on, if anyone cares to enlighten me!

    Anyhow, I’m glad you guys seemed to enjoy the chapter. Have a great weekend!

    Like

    1. Well I did drop a link in a discussion in one of the forums of Baen’s Bar, the website for the publishing house Baen Books, and Schlock Mercenary is a Bar favorite (and the idea behind John Ringo’s Troy Rising series of books).

      Like

    2. The webcomics may have been me. I follow about ~40 of them so it’s possible that I came from Schlock Mercenary to your site (it’s the first comic I read every day).

      I didn’t think it would show without a direct link on the page though. Does that mean I need to avoid going from porn pages to TGaB now so you won’t see it?😀

      Like

  9. OK, this took longer to write than I hoped. Also courage/Lazyness was lacking for a while:

    So, as I recently finished getting up to date, I wanted to make a lengthy ‘impression report’ that’s apparently turning into something of a criticism, mainly because my nature is such that I remember the details that made me grind my teeths more than those that made me cheer and jump in enthusiasm.

    First is the habit that has been formed, over the series, to have a “first character ever to do that” cliche. It sadly not only is annoying as hell given the timeframe of the setting, but some of those incidentally promote a sexist/humanist agenda. Those includes but are not limited to:

    Fross and Juniper are first presented as Blue/Orange morality and as alien viewpoints, but then are quickly domesticated and their character arc is pretty firmly set in the “When they transcend their limits they’ll be basically humans” trajectory, which is reminiscent of chinese mythology where animals/plants can be enlightened and become humans (but worse than other humans, of course) and is humanist as hell .
    Now, plot-wise it happening NOW could be explained as Naiya only now giving the possibility to her fairies to evolve because of the incoming Apocalypse/Planar movement/whatever, but it doesn’t change not only the previously mentioned humanist overtone (as well as the ‘white man’s burden’ one) but it also sort of contradicts a lot of what we later learn about what happens to other Dryads.

    Fauna/Flora (sorry, can’t recall their real names) are textbook version of “penis healing”. They basically are described as possibly-lesbian twin girls who were going insane and couldn’t control themselves until a man came and took charge. The worse part of it is how basically Darling acted toward them in the most stereotypical way one would usually portray the cruel “I got mine” monster when he comes across a pair of of girls (not kids) he takes a fancy to. Pretty much all their interactions are more or less the most cliche interaction headhunter-like being could have gotten upon being recruited (classic handler relationship), so it makes the whole “first time this is happening” even harder to swallow. The “Flaura/Fauna” naming is just cherry on top when it comes to the creepiness of the situation.
    Now, plot-wise this again could be a result of the nature of Flauna/Flora being special compared to other headhunter as well as the usual god-interference/etc culprit, the problem with this is that it seems the writing takes great pain to have characters like Mary saying to multiple people it’s Darling’s doing, which is just bizarre.

    Principia revolutionising the Silver Legion. This one doesn’t quite promote anything flagrantly sexist or humanist, thanksfully we didn’t have Principia being a token guy in Silver Legion improving everything, but it does promote the usual Anarchist undertones you can find pretty much everywhere in the story. Basically you have the “you need to see many different religions angle to improve a limited PoV” which can be interesting, but the way it’s actually done here is “Characters dress down person in position of authority in order to say you need to accept blatantly obvious improvements on current gear. It just…reeks of artificially creating a problem in order to have a main char swoop down and tell them organisations sucks and bureaucracy is ineffectual.

    Now, to be fair, a lot of those are probably coming from plot changes. It’s severely hinted that Fross and Juniper WERE supposed to have Alien Mentalities until there was blowback from the readership, and Likewise it’s very possible that Darling wasn’t supposed to be there, and if Flaura/Fauna still existed then everything would have a very different narrative, as it would be more “Couple girls trying to survive and getting better” instead of “Guy comes and heal girl with his paternalistic manipulations and they are only there as eye candy”

    My Second big problem is basically how in recent chapters there is no dialogues anymore. I am unsure if there were dialogues earlier on and I just didn’t notice how the chapters were set up or if it’s a more recent thing, but chapters nowadays have a fairly ridiculous set up where there is one character talking about their beliefs and another listening without any input. It’s not only all one-way, but it has the really frustrating tendency to also work no matter who those speech are for. Some examples:

    When Mary makes a big speech to Ingvar, not only does Ingvar internalize it and doesn’t have any arguments against it (it doesn’t matter how right someone else, people will always find ways to have arguments) but in his own inner thoughts he flat out use the same patterns of arguments Mary used instead of ones that would make more sense for his own viewpoints.

    The same happens to pretty much anyone Darling talks to: they repeat his own arguments verbotem in their own thoughts, without giving it their own ‘spin’. Joe is a specifically aggravating victim of Darling in this sense, as it feels he went from a fairly helpless badass to a mere thug.

    Less annoying examples include the Vesk/Teal meeting, Rouvad/Shihad (only less annoying because we haven’t got a chapter of Rouvad fellating Shihad yet), Gabrlier/Vidus priest, and so on.

    This one is particularly frustrating because not only it feels like there is a “Only one character is allowed to have agency in a scene” policy, and if that’s the case it’s just lazy writing, but it also makes me doubt every single instances where people were hinted at having depth, as given how people are just being ‘fit one sized’ lately all the depth must be me lying to myself.

    It is also why I still much prefer the Kids chapters to any others: there is still a somewhat tenuous feeling that more than one of them matter when they are together, though there is a distinct tendency for some of them to have everyone be impressed by them (Ruda, Gabriel) some of them to be scenery (Shaiene, Teal, Toby), and some to be insulted (Trissiny).

    My third big problem takes a bit from the second, but deserves its own special mention: everyone is an anarchist, and even characters that should by all rights not be one will always, always make anarchic speech either in their inner thoughts or even aloud. I think Trissiny is the only PoV character that hasn’t actually made such a speech, and even then I’m not quite sure. This is especially grating because people in the setting take it as such a fais accomplis that people hate authority that I’m half expecting a future plot twist where we learn that the gods actually changed the nature of humans to make them such. Except it would be too little too late. Especially annoying examples include:

    When Basra tells Darling she was the one ordering to stop the riots. This one has a special place in my heart as the specific scene that made me doubt myself about the depth of the characters. Here we have, Darling, the bishop of the Thief Guild, who only knows very rich or very criminal people and not the normal 98% of people, and who personally believes all governments are corrupt, deciding unilaterally that Basra is a sociopath because she tells him normal likes feeling safe and having a strong government.
    And it makes sense for Darling to believe so. It also makes perfect sense for Darling to be dead wrong. People love safety. People love government showing their strengths. People love military and police being overbearing: Darling being blind and not seeing it, however, fits perfectly well with his character…. Except that pretty much everyone around agreed with Darling’s take on it, instead of laughing at him/humouring him. Pretty much the best instance of “showing Darling isn’t a total mary sue”… ended up with showing him to be a total Mary Sue.

    When the red-haired Avelea private under Principia’s order talks about her past. This part was kind of mind-boggling because she does the equivalent of saying “So I was fired because I betrayed the legion’s dogma and was complict for crimes, I ran away from the Hunter because I realised I was complict to their crimes, but it taught me the Silver Legion is horrible because how dare them throwing me out because of the horrible crimes I agree I did?” and everyone nods along. I understand there was a need to make a whole “bringing in things from multiple angle to improve the PoV width of the legion”, but when the actual examples presented are basically “The Legion is right”, there is an issue. It’s basically the recurring problem of “how dare they have rules? Rules are awful”.
    The sad part, there, is that there was just so many ways for the same theme of “we need more inclusion” to happen without doing that mistep, but it feels more and more like the misstep is the whole point of that theme.
    The second sad part, there, was that I more or less believe that earlier on we have big hints that Arachne was a sub during some of the Elial/Arachne encounters. If so, it would have been a perfect occasion for Principia to offhand mention it instead of going “humans” and to mention something like “Avelean mostly knows Arachne shares your sexual tastes but none of them would ever say she is not a warrior”, bringing in the beginning of an actual dialog between the characters instead of this pat-in-the-back that we had there.

    Joe. Oh, Joe. You went from someone paralized by indecision because he didn’t want to make mistakes… to someone who basically is a White Raider. And all of this because instead of your previous characterization, you are now full on “All governments are corrupt” mindless drone.
    I mention Joe mostly because of how sad I am on how his character just gets more and more monstrous each time we see him. Well, it sort of makes sense when you are following a mass murderer along, but still. I liked the character, and it hurts me to see what he has become.

    Corvin is an amusing example. She is rich, and she likes being a bitch and criticizing people and being haughty and so on… except she still makes anarchist speech about how money is bad and moneyed people are bad. Because every single PoV character must do so, no matter how unlikely it is.

    Now, I have plenty of possible theories on why pretty much every person is seemingly saying “All systems are corrupts” instead of saying “All people are corrupts, only Systems can be pure”, but the fact of the matter is that with how heavily all of this is shown, it’s really hard right now to care if a big plot twist comes later on about it.

    I also don’t mean to be negative here: these are issues I have, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t tons I like about that serial. Sorry if the rant was a bit more negative than necessary.

    Like

    1. I do get email notifications whenever a comment is posted, so I have, in fact, been reading your litany of complaints as you worked through the series over the last couple of weeks.

      I am baffled that you would subject yourself to an entire series of this size, given how much you seem to hate it.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. It has a lot of good things.

        First, the mid-term plotting is fairly solid. There is a LOT of hints about what multiple characters are doing to plot against each others or, in some cases, for each others, and it’s just plain fun to theorize on what’s happening where. A particular favorite arc is the Principia/McGruff/Shook/Anarche game, where each players have a couple different plots on how to manipulate other people and even at the end of it we can’t be quite sure of what exactly happened there.

        I’m still semi-convinced that Principia and Anarche allied more than 20 years ago and planned to have a Half-elf Avel Paladin whose mother was the Hands of Eselion from the get go. The hints of Principia being part of Anarche’s recruiting of Ruda in the school are quite well done, or I am fooling myself believing they are.

        Appart from that, I also really really like the different style of the different chars. Sure, they are arch-typical, but you’ve really tried to showcase how most of those archtypical styles work out. So we have the Rafe/Vampire Gal who are seemingly following the Anarche school of manipulation (though not as evolved), you have Darling who is all about personal contacts and ingraining himself into people’s good graces, you have Principia who is ALSO eerily similar to Anarche in that she purposefully makes herself hated as part of her plots, and so on.

        This is what really makes me hope that, well, what I’m seeing of Trissiny constantly being humiliated/Worfed hides a plot, or the same for Basra/other people who follow ‘order’, though I’ll see.

        I also really love the games about wide-scale manipulation of people by manipulating the gods. The way you had the Huntsman god actually propagating Misogynism while his power grow through his Pioneer concept, EVEN THOUGH it’s actually not part of his religion, is pure genius. Especially considering how you had Arachne using him as an exemple of ‘wide-scale control’, which gives hints that she is pushing the kids to look into that.

        So, yeah there is a lot of stuff I like.

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      2. You don’t seem to like it well enough to get their names right.😉

        The whole Principia/Arachne thing probably only exists in your mind. It’s too convoluted and unlikely to be true. Same is true for Principia recruiting Ruda for the school, there is zero evidence of it happening.

        You should read the chapter about manipulating gods again.

        Btw… the “kids” are all adults.

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      3. I think it actually goes back to two things you’ve commented on recently: TGaB deals with a lot of things that are politically charged in our world, and you’re taking a cue from Wildbow to avoid Space Battles and Sufficient Velocity. Arkeus appears to be active in political discussions in those communities.

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    2. I usually read all comments fully before I respond to them but I’ve got to be honest with you: About halfway during your rant I just skimmed to the end because you’re repeating yourself.

      First of all, this is not how you criticize something. A proper critique deals with facts and consists of both positive and negative elements. Later on your opinion comes in, how certain elements made you feel or how you (mis)understood them. Now, you aren’t a professional critic so this is just an opinionated rant about all the elements of the story you personally don’t like.

      Secondly, I don’t think you understand the story at all. To me it seems you formed a narrative and then picked whatever seemed to fit into it to validate your point of view. You got pretty much all the facts wrong, even before you misinterpreted them.
      Darling knows people, that’s his main skill. We’ve seen him walk among common people, he isn’t blind or unaware of them.
      Ephanie Avelea didn’t commit any crimes, anyone can leave the legions and join another faith. There were no crimes happening at the Huntsmen either and she explictly explained her reasoning for going back. You simply ignored them for your own narrative.
      The dryads were basically unknown to the outside world, everyone assumed they just thought differently. It took time for everyone to realize that they had been human all along, just incredibly spoiled. There’s nothing humanist about it, Juniper doesn’t get elevated to a higher status or anything. In fact, it shows us that humans have the potential to be monsters if given too much power without checks and balances. Naiya created Juniper and allowed her to go to school now because humanity has developed to a level that could pose a danger soon and Arachne campaigned for it. This is all explained in the story.

      I could go on like this for quite a while but essentially it always comes down to this: You are wrong. Sorry.
      I don’t know how you even got to your interpretation, you must have ignored almost everything the story told you about the characters and replaced it with explanations you made up yourself. I also doubt you know the definition of anarchism because you’re dead wrong about everyone being an anarchist, too.

      Thirdly, what did you expect to happen in response to your rant? Webb changing the story to your liking?
      Look, you have a right to your opinion just like everybody else, even if it is completely wrong, makes no sense and isn’t based on facts. But do you have to present it in this way? You state your opinion as if it is fact, you only say negative things and you’re condescending about it, too. Not only that, you went to the trouble of posting negative comments on old chapters, too. Even going as far as contradicting the author because clearly you understand the characters and their motivation better than him. What’s the reason behind this?

      You’ve been spewing vitriol like “I must say, I am not a fan of how by now 80% of the PoV are from morally repugnant people that makes me sick to even read their thoughts.” for at least the past week and I have to ask: Why post this in comments on months old chapters? Is it your goal to demotivate the author?
      Why do you continue to read this story if you evidently don’t like it and it even makes you sick reading it?

      This clearly isn’t a web serial for you and that’s fine. Different tastes and all that. Maybe find something that’s easier for you to comprehend because I think you’d enjoy a story more if not all of its themes went way over your head.
      Trying to force it to comply with your standards though… that’s a bit of a jerk move, wouldn’t you agree?
      It is what it is and it seems quite a few people like it a lot, which should have been something to make you stop and think about it. If your opinion is completely different from the majority, then perhaps it is wrong. Unless you are so arrogant to think that you know better than everyone else (this is where we come back to your condescension in your comments).
      I apologize for being too stupid to understand what you in your brilliance saw on first glance, please enlighten me so I can accept your interpretation of the story as gospel, I don’t know why I listened to the author anyway. *rolls eyes*

      “I also don’t mean to be negative here: these are issues I have, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t tons I like about that serial. Sorry if the rant was a bit more negative than necessary.”

      Yeah, no. If you know the rant was more negative than necessary, then why post it like that? What’s your intention here? Hurt the author’s feelings? “Sorry” … yeah, sure.

      So, what do you like about TGaB? What makes you come back and slog your way through nauseating thoughts of morally repugnant characters who are all hypocrites, anarchists and have their dialogue more and more replaced with descriptions of the setting? (All your words btw)
      Honestly, if I go by your comments you said something negative about pretty much every element of the story… so what is left? I doubt it amounts to “tons” of things you like.

      Ugh, what a waste of time.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Can everyone try to be nice, please? It’s the Internet, sometimes the things we say don’t come out right and sometimes it’s difficult to really imagine how the person on the other side might feel as a result of reading them. I’m sure nobody is intentionally being a dick.

        Arkeus – I believe you when you say you weren’t trying to be too negative, but sometimes even saying sorry isn’t enough if the content of the post doesn’t make that look sincere. I understand that you are sincere, but looking sincere is over the Internet is really hard. I don’t envy you trying to critique a work on a comments section full of that work’s fans, but if you’re still inclined to stick around (and I for one would appreciate having you), maybe try mixing positive and negative things so people don’t get all defensive? Imagine what it would be like if you wrote something and someone went through the archives saying lots of negative things about it and only a few positive things – it would be tough.

        Daemion – I think the principle of charity applies here, i.e. don’t assume someone is a troll unless they’ve proven it beyond a reasonable doubt. This is obviously a subjective call, but really, what’s the harm in taking someone at their word if they say they’re not intentionally being hurtful? Even if they’ve been accidentally hurtful anyway (and even if you think they haven’t put in enough effort to avoid it), I think we can agree that explaining their mistake in a non-confrontational way is probably better. We’ve managed to get through a couple of years of this story with no personal insults that I can remember; let’s not ruin our record.

        Webb – I can only imagine how bad it must feel for someone to be so harsh on your story, especially considering how hard you obviously work on it. It’s your comments section and you are 100% entitled to do whatever you like, but don’t you think there’s value in encouraging people to be honest, even if they don’t phrase things sympathetically? I try to be honest about the things I don’t like as well as the ones I do, but the fact that I like the story so much can sometimes blind me to flaws that a more critical eye would find obvious.

        So yeah. Don’t be hatin’.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I don’t think he’s a troll or being intentionally hurtful. I do think he’s rude and insulting and this needs to be pointed out.
        Benefit of the doubt? Meh. Go backwards through the chapters and search for “Arkeus”, then read his comments. He may be sincere but he comes across as a jerk.

        Anyway, I wrote a fairly long post explaining my reaction already, just scroll down a bit.😉

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    3. @Daemion Please be polite to Arkeus, there’s no need to insult him. Even if he was very heavy on the criticism, at no point was he rude. He never called Webb a misogynist pig or anything like that. I think it’s probably good that Webb gets some criticism now and then, regular commentators are in general very supportive of the story, and there’s certainly room to make TGaB better. That said, I do agree he is completely off base on most of his points.

      @Cyrid Completely agree with you, everything you’ve said is spot on.

      @Arkeus I’m going to go one by one why I think each of your points are wrong.

      1. The “first character ever to do that” problem.
      I think this is addressed because the Great Doom is approaching and things are shaking up. New things are getting put into play that never would have existed before the setting of the story, and the story is taking place in the current setting because of the Great Doom.

      2. Fross and Juniper’s Blue and Orange morality
      Part of it is that Webb is saying that the human mind is capable of covering virtually every area in the morality spectrum, I think. And given in real life we don’t have any of species we can effectively communicate, you cannot disprove this. Now, you could say it’s bad that he’s saying a morality system in which the strong take whatever they want from the weak is objectively wrong, and I have to give you that. If you feel that it’s wrong to force vague guidelines of morality on others, I think that’s going to be a bit to much to ask. I’m very doubtful Webb is ever going to state that eating other sapient creatures for fun is alright, ever.

      2.I really don’t think this is penis-healing. I’m pretty sure it’s a character, who happens to be male, taking on a protective and mentor role to Flora and Fauna who were struggling. You might have an argument if there were no other strong female characters, but between Ellial, Trissiny, Principia, and Arachne, every ‘strong’ characteristic is covered. Then it being the first time isn’t that unlikely. If I recall, head hunters have only existed for the past 200-400 years. Normally they kill everything in sight from their destructive voices in their heads, so that’d mean capable people like Darling wouldn’t try to get close to them. And normal capable people like Darling would get killed for doing what he’s doing, but Flora and Fauna are something of an example as they already somewhat stabilized each other by working together before Darling. There are three clear requirements here, each one by itself fairly rare- A capable person to act as handler, a person willing to act a handler, and there being two, not one, head hunter. Perfectly believable this is the first time.

      3. I quite frankly agree that this story is a bit too anarchist. But I don’t think it’s anywhere to the extent you seem to think it is, I suspect emphasizing Eserite philosophy over all others is an innocent mistake on Webb’s part than anything else. There’s some clear evidence authoritarian structures are not considered totally evil in this. Firstly, the empire. It is an extremely successful state, very easily argued more successful than any state that has existed in real life. It has lasted hundreds of years on a very authoritarian system, and has conquered or otherwise subdued all enemies. Its citizens are happy as well. Another example are the religions. There are many successful religions, most with an authoritarian god at its head and a clear command structure of priests.
      Darling doesn’t only know the rich or the criminal either, he walks among most everyone. It’s stated near the beginning that Darling liked to make regular rounds through every district of Tiraas, but since being the Boss and then the Bishop he hasn’t had time for it.
      I can’t remember the story well enough to say whether your analysis of Basra being proven a sociopath was correct. I think I recall Darling just telling people to be on guard for it and that he was not certain, but that may not have been him. There were many people independently realizing Basra was a sociopath, so it’s hard to remember.
      4. The Silver Legions did not throw Avelea out for committing a crime, they threw her out for being a submissive and enjoying a man dominating her. Someone’s personal life should never be grounds for professional discrimination. That’s why the Silver Legions needs some reform.

      5. On Joe, I have absolutely no idea what a White Raider is. I checked TV Tropes, it’s not there. I don’t see what’s wrong with his character. I don’t find him particularly interesting, he doesn’t have a ton going for him for me to like him, but he is definitely not annoying in any way.

      Note: I do not actually speak for Webb. I think I’m right, obviously, but I do admit there’s a possibility I could be wrong about parts.

      And I’ll be clear, I totally understand your position in finding it hard to find good stuff to say even though you do like some stuff. I have a question for you, out of ten, how much do you like this serial so far? 10 being you have to resist the urge to tell random strangers about how great TGaB is, 1 being you absolutely despise everything in this serial, 5 being indifferent and it’s just something to pass the time.

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      1. That was me being polite.

        I already mentioned that this was just a rant and not a critique, so this kind of response is all it deserves.
        It was also rude as hell, intentionally or not. You don’t walk up to an artist and tell them how dissatisfied you are with their work, how much it sickens you to experience their art and then completely misunderstand their work… over the course of weeks. Check the older chapters for his comments and then tell me that’s the way to interact with an author.
        The entire tone of the rant was condescending, he presented his opinion (or critique, if you feel very charitable) as fact. That’s something you simply do not do. You always preface it with “I think/feel/believe that…” or “It seems…” and similiar phrases.
        The lack of swear words or direct insults doesn’t make the rant less insulting.

        Yes, the normal response to TGaB is very positive and we rarely point out things we feel are wrong… but is there anything in particular that we are dissatisfied with? I can only speak for myself of course but I can’t find a fault with the story. Sure, it could probably be improved somehow but I wouldn’t know where to start. For a webserial that is written hours before posting, without the help of an editor, it is excellent. It rivals published novels. Compare it to Wheel of Time, written by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson and it’s pretty much on the same level. Now, how you experience a story is very subjective. We all have our personal preferences and expectations. Those don’t count for more than facts though.

        Example. If you were to criticize a movie, you would go and rate each element seperately, going by facts that anyone else can see, too.
        Script
        Acting
        Camera work
        Stunt work
        Lighting
        Editing
        Music
        Special Effects
        personal enjoyment
        etc

        Let’s say it was an action movie and there was lots of shaky cam. If you say it was too much, you have to say why. “The sequences with shaky cam made it hard to admire the outstanding special effects, they were hard to see.” would be a valid reason.
        You do this for each element, then tally up the score and that’s your critique.

        I really shouldn’t need to point out the difference between destructive and constructive criticism, but since people assume I was overly harsh with Arkeus, I probably should do so anyway.

        Destructive criticism demeans and hurts, it discredits the person and their work. Examples: “This sucks!” or “I hate it!”
        Look at Arkeus’ post and note how often he used words like aggravating, annoying, frustrating, cliche, bizarre, stereotypical etc
        Try to find a single point where he offered an alternative or improvement. There isn’t one. It’s all destructive.

        Constructive criticism is meant to improve without becoming personal. Most importantly, it’s free from assumptions. You only talk about the specific things you can see, you don’t try to infer other things of it. (For example, a female protagonist doesn’t mean the author is a feminist.)
        You talk about specific flaws and offer up alternatives or corrections. You don’t just say, “I don’t like it.”

        If your “critique” is filled with your personal feelings, if you don’t mention a single positive element, if it is entirely destructive… then it’s a rant at best.

        You don’t have to take my word for it. Google “constructive criticism”, “how to criticize art”, “proper critique” etc… and read up on it. Or read some actual critiques.
        Of course, I don’t expect a professional critique from random commenters but I believe we can agree that it should at least make an attempt at being polite and constructive.

        Imagine you’re a painter and you’re exhibiting your work in a gallery. Every other day over the course of several weeks a visitor comes in and tells you how much he dislikes your pictures. That he’s disappointed. That the subject matter sickens him. That he expected better from you. And at no point does he comment on the perspective used, on the colors, on the composition, the brushes or anything else but his feelings. And he comes back despite his obvious dislike.
        It gets worse: He starts to contradict you, he interprets your pictures completely differently. For example, one painting depicts siblings playing tag in a meadow and he interprets it as boy hunting the girl for sport, maybe with a sexual reason and then goes off on a rant about the patriarchy and how trite a subject matter that is.
        Are you honestly going to tell me that this behaviour isn’t rude and insulting? Because that’s pretty much what Arkeus did here.

        On the anarchist angle: I don’t see it, sorry. Yes, the Eserites -say- that all systems are corrupt but they don’t reject all authority.
        Definition anarchism: Anarchism is a political philosophy that advocates self-governed societies based on voluntary institutions. These are often described as stateless societies, although several authors have defined them more specifically as institutions based on non-hierarchical free associations.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarchism

        So who exactly is an anarchist in this story? The Archpope?
        Joe is being anti-authorian towards the Empire and its justice system but he readily accepts other authority both on a personal and general level.
        Ruda? She’s a fucking princess. She’s not an anarchist.
        The paladins? They definitely accept a higher authority and their rules.
        Darling? He doesn’t reject the government, authority or rules, he embraces them and uses them for his own goals. If you get down to it, he -is- the establishment.

        I honestly can’t think of a good example for an actual anarchist but I’m willing to let myself be convinced if someone feels like making a case.

        I also don’t see how Webb is emphasizing the Eserite philosophy over all others. It gets mentioned more often but so far we haven’t seen if it is indeed correct. I could easily argue that Avei’s philosophy makes just as much sense.
        If I am not mistaken, then it’s a point of the story that no religion is 100% correct.

        Oh… the White Raiders were the criminals/rebels who attacked Sarasio. The antagonists of that arc.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. @Daemion

        “I apologize for being too stupid to understand what you in your brilliance saw on first glance, please enlighten me so I can accept your interpretation of the story as gospel, I don’t know why I listened to the author anyway. *rolls eyes*”

        There was absolutely no purpose for this paragraph except for insulting Arkeus. That’s the type of thing to be avoided. The first half or so of your response was good, when I was rereading it I actually forgot why I thought it was rude, then it gradually deteriorates to comments like the one above.

        I agree that he did have a rant, not a critique. It’s still something for Webb to think on, or would be if it was accurate. As is, very little of what Arkeus said is an accurate reflection of problems in the story.

        He did suggest improvements. He suggested that getting rid of Darling, the anarchist support, and making Juniper and Fross have Orange and Blue morality would improve the story.

        The Eserites are anarchists, they just aren’t very good anarchists. Principia, canonically the best Eserite we know of, only uses systems to abuse them, up to joining the Silver Legions. And we’ve seen the most examples of Eserite philosophy and the Eserites are shown to be the most effective cult, that’s the problem. TGaB is weighted toward Eserite philosophy over others. We’ve barely even seen the philosophy Nemitoth has, for example. But I do agree this is small, and Arkeus made a mountain out of molehill. I agree the point of the story is that no one religion is correct, but Arkeus has misunderstood that, and I’d say it’s only 95% his fault.

        Just because he was ranting is no reason to be disrespectful.

        Something to note also was that when Webb asked why he was still reading, he described all the positive things he liked. This suggests not including them originally was more of an innocent mistake than him trying to cruelly tear Webb’s self confidence down.

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      3. Point taken about that one paragraph. I guess I went on a bit of a rant myself there.😀

        He didn’t suggest improvements. I just read his comment again and he never wrote anything about changing Fross/Juniper or removing Darling entirely. He lamented about the fairies not being alien after all and that Darling annoys him.
        Even if he did… eh… that wouldn’t be very constructive at this point of the story. It’s not something you can change anymore.

        The Eserite philosophy has anarchist elements, true. The entire cult though? It’s thoroughly organized, has a hierachy, does joint operations with other cults and exists within the Universal Church. They have a bureaucracy, career paths and all the other stuff you’d expect from a large organization.
        Some of their members like Keys and Webs are fiercely independent but that’s still not quite anarchistic.
        Basically, everything the Eserites do runs counter to the definition of anarchism.

        Darling says “all systems are corrupt” but he’s a bishop of the Universal Church, a high ranking member in good standing of the Cult of Eserion and a member of the inner council of the Empire. He lives in Tiraas and thus enjoys the benefits of at least a dozen other systems, which includes money.
        Anarchism simply doesn’t work in larger, civilized societies. People may say they prefer anarchy but in reality they don’t.

        I read the entire article about anarchism on wikipedia and tried to find parallels with TGaB. I didn’t find any except for the pieces of Eserite philosophy that systems are corrupt, authority isn’t to be trusted etc… but those are just things they say. I doubt even half of them believe it and even less act on it. Webs might be the closest any Eserite gets to being an anarchist and he isn’t even close to the punks here in Germany (who are basically just beggars with a style).
        Being aware of the faults in systems isn’t the same as wanting to abolish them completely.
        To live within society means to live within many systems. You can’t have one without the other.

        I completely believe that Arkeus didn’t have any bad intentions. This is what happens when people only look at one side of an issue though. In my response I asked him what his goal was, what he imagined the reaction would be. Why would he invest so much time into something he dislikes? I have a few theories but those wouldn’t be … nice.

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      4. I’m an actual anarchist. No character has struck me as being an anarchist in this story and I find it a bizarre allegation. It’d be nice to see a sympathetic anarchistic point of view in a work of fiction for once but for all the great points of TGaB, and it is a nice work of fiction, it is not that work.

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    4. Most of your criticisms are not strongly consistent with the facts of the story (fact defined as element that is not in conflict with other elements) or ignore contrary evidence.

      And here’s where I could be very wrong, but best guess is…

      In my experience that most often happens when there is some personal stake in the results. The author is not attacking you; the story is not attacking you. If you feel that way anyway please think about why that might be.

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      1. Yes, that’s my impression, too.

        I think Arkeus came up with some sort of narrative and then tried to force the facts to align with it.

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      2. I too would have to concur.

        Arkeus, I certainly don’t mean to personally attack you and obviously I don’t know you, so I could be wrong, but here’s the impression I got from your latest post and a few of the older comments you wrote.

        It seems to me that you have some rather strong ideas about what things are like and how they should be and you apply a rather thick layer of confirmation bias to this story in order to have it fit those ideas, leading to some conclusion that simply aren’t factually or logically supported.

        I doubt you’re doing this on purpose, as people very rarely do, so there’s no blame there, but it’s still something you’ll want to be on guard for. Confirmation bias is a very common and very human thing and it’s mostly pretty harmless, but it can also lead to some real ugliness.

        On another note, regarding the discussion of the Thieves Guild’s “All systems are corrupt” mantra, I’ve personally always read that as being followed by “so remain vigilant for that corruption.” This doesn’t necessarily mean they want all systems dismantled however.

        As has been pointed out, the Thieves guild itself is rather heavily organized and one of those very systems they speak of. However, while most members of the Thieves Guild (including the Boss) seem to dislike the fact that their cult is as organized as it is, they also acknowledge the absolute need for such systems. In that regard, the Thieves Guild is in fact anti-authoritarian yes, but also anti-anarchist, because anti-authoritarianism is in fact not necessarily the same thing as anarchism.

        In short, I see the “All systems are corrupt” statement as being fairly similar in nature to “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried.” The Thieves Guild considers systems, any system, corrupt by definition, but still thinks it’s better to have those corrupt systems than it is to have none at all. That’s my take on it at any rate.

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  10. I liked this episode a lot. It answered many questions, and posed many more. I loved Vesk & Eserion’s card game, and their careful stepping around the fact that there’s clearly something wrong about Justinian. I wonder how long the two of them have been carefully testing the edges of whatever spell Justinian is using to evade the scrutiny of the Pantheon?

    Thoughts:

    It’s very interesting that it’s the gods whose aspects embody something of the natural world seem to be the ones who go a bit… strange.

    Ouvis seems to be completely out of it – or at least, the other Gods seem to be assuming he is, but he knows to turn up in places without invitation. Ouranomancy (divination by signs in the sky) could be a part of his aspect, or at least a consequence of his having it?

    Why is it Izara, and not one of the big three, that appears to be “chairing” the meeting?

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    1. One reason could be the fact that Arachne pulled Izara’s leash hard over the fact it is her clerics that are causing trouble that Izara should never had allowed in the first place. Notice Vesk wasn’t all that upset about it and he was the other god called onto the carpet so to speak.

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    2. I think she’s chairing it because she convened it, because it was her temple that Arachne teleported into the desert.

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    3. I think Izara called it because it was her Arachne insulted, the other gods like Avei weren’t even aware of it until now. Vesk could of called it, but I think either he didn’t want to or actually couldn’t have because he’s a trickster. Izara’s still pretty important, she’s one of the top non-big three gods.

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  11. Webb, is there a name for the continent the story takes place on? I ask because I’m making a map of the continent(a good copy of my old one) for the Alternate History Hub contest, and it should have a title. If there isn’t, could I make up an unofficial one?

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    1. It has multiple names, varying by culture, but at this point in the universe’s history it’s mostly referred to as Tiraas or the Tiraan Continent. Keep in mind that the Empire is a thousand years old.

      Someone mentioned above that the Tiraan Empire seems to be more successful than nations in our world; as an interesting aside, the Tiraan Empire has so far lasted about as long as the Roman Empire did.

      And I have no objection to fan works, but for the record, an official atlas is forthcoming. I have to find time to (A draw it and (B re-read the whole story, making note of place-names I’ve used, because there were several I’ve used once and subsequently forgotten.

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  12. YES! This chapter was exactly what this story needed! Brilliant work! I’ve been wanting to finally meet Salyrine, though I kind of wanted to see more of Schwartz in her. I suppose she’s how Herschel wishes he could be.

    And we’re given a HUUUGE hint about Justinian. I wonder how the hell he puled that trick off; the situation is much, much scarier now that we can understand it a little better. It was a bit ambiguous, but Eserion and Vesk are at least aware that there even is a problem. Probably a few others are as well, but I suspect the tricksters are the only two that have a good idea about the nature of the problem. Izara might be getting there, Vidius probably might be too, and who can guess what Ouvis knows?

    Yes, those guys are bastards all right, especially that flaming bitch Avei who’s trying to make Triss into an obnoxious, presumptive twat-sniffer, exactly like she is. Still, I love at least half of them anyway. Even Avei qualifies as “love to hate” instead of just hate.

    I was cracking up at everything about the card game. Calvinball’s adult form! If you were going to choose a god to follow in this universe, why would you follow anyone but one of the trickster gods? Too damn serious rhe rest of the lot, save Vidius probably, and Izara. Salyrine is surprisingly uptight.

    What is Verniselle the goddess of, again?

    Is Ouvis the Sky God’s similarity to Uriel in Unsong deliberate? Probably not because I suspect you’re not reading that story, but it was a neat parallel to see, stretched across two very different stories.

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    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the chapter, but let’s please keep it civil, as Cyrid suggests. Comments like “twat-sniffer” aren’t necessary or pleasant to read.

      Verniselle is the goddess of money, patron of merchants and bankers, against whom Embras Mogul has a personal grudge.

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  13. I’ll weigh in on this discussion: there are no anarchic factions in TGAB. Anarchic individuals, yes, but they generally are presented as antagonistic. There are, however, multiple libertarian factions, with the Thieves’ Guild being a notable example. Much as they talk about systems being corrupt, at no point does any Eserite suggest overthrowing all systems, and at least one (Timms) has commented outright on the fact of systemic corruption creating a need to work outside and around them, but that you specifically don’t overthrow the system.

    A thing to keep in mind (calling back to our previous discussion on politics) is that the state of political philosophy in the Bastardverse is very different than in our own; there’s not a liberal/conservative divide as we would recognize it. For one thing, the primary philosophical argument is between different camps of social conservatives, in a setting where there are multiple contradictory and competing religions thousands of years old. Further, there is nothing that we can interpret as modern liberalism; the concept of an expanded government for the purpose of creating a wide social safety net has never been propounded except in dwarven cultures and that hasn’t even come into the text. The Tirasian Dynasty generally has that effect, but that’s a function of benevolent authoritarianism which most modern political commentators would find abhorrent.

    Thieves’ Guild aside, an entire cultural segment of the population, the frontier people, are loosely based on the old American West, which is a very libertarian culture even today. Joe exemplifies this, but even Sekandar has observed that these people don’t respond well to being ordered around. That doesn’t make them, or anyone else, anarchic.

    The problem with the idea of anarchic factions is that in a setting like this they would get swiftly steamrolled by one of the other well-organized and highly motivated factions.

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  14. Not going to touch that discussion with a ten foot pole! It does make me wonder though, were Juniper and Fross really going to be more alien originally and only got humanised as a result of readings whining?

    That would be a tragedy.

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    1. The author may have different ideas, but…

      It has been flat out stated that the gods, including Naiya, have human forms because the started out human. It has been strongly implied, or maybe stated, that their intelligent creations have humanoid forms because the gods do. Based on that, I interpret the “alien” more as a combination of derangement due to mental feedback (remember that gods get feedback from their magic and worshipers) and the things that happen to people with too much power and too little responsibility, tempering social interaction, and challenge.

      Think about Jacaranda (the pixie queen) – she surrounds herself with sycophants and generally doesn’t interact with other powers. That sort of thing would make a human insane even if they started out stable and she didn’t start out stable.

      So, Naiya was human, which means that what she is still has human aspects. She created Juniper and Jacaranda in a similar mould. Jacaranda created pixies in a similar way. Juniper and Fross moving towards human interactions isn’t “removing the alien” it is rediscovering the fact that they are offshoots and/or creations of humanity.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. so some of the gods in this universe also like to play paradox billiards vostroyan roulette fourth dimensional hypercube chess strip poker.
    who would have guessed it.

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  16. I came down to comment on what, for me, was a very fun and engrossing chapter, and stumbled upon a minefield. I’m shocked someone would embark upon a campaign of dedicated non-constructive criticism, and wow those are a lot of comments…
    Moving on, that Calvinball-esque hand of cards was hilarious, I laughed long and hard at that, especially the mention of Omnu’s nethers. It only lacked an appreciation of Naphthene’s (also, totally on board for Ruda as her paladin lol) finer points lol.
    Also, yes, the pauses were terrifying. I’ll look forward to finding the reason for that in the future. The sky god, was it Orvus? I would love to see more of him in the future, assuming he becomes more active.

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