10 – 45

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“I guess we missed the freshmen,” Trissiny noted as they made their way across campus toward magic class. “Rafe must’ve let them out early.”

“Or he’s entombed them to serve as components in his foul experiments!” Gabriel suggested.

“Aw, such a shame,” Ruda said, grinning. “Any particular frosh you were hoping to meet?”

Trissiny glanced at her, forehead creasing in puzzlement. “Not really? I mostly get on with the girls, though. And they’ve been helpful in all the…stuff…going on. Most of my social circle is you guys. More friends can’t hurt.”

“I choose not to take that personally,” Shaeine said serenely.

Trissiny sighed. “You know I didn’t…”

“Yes, I do,” the drow replied, turning to give her a smile.

“Well,” Ruda drawled, “I know poor Sekandar must be devastated he missed you.”

“And that’s the third time today,” Trissiny said irritably. “What is with this obsession you suddenly have with Sekandar?”

“Triss, you are not this obtuse. Nobody is this obtuse.” Ruda leaned over and threw an arm around her roommate’s shoulders, leering insanely, and lowered her voice to a widely audible stage whisper. “He desires to sex you.”

Trissiny flushed slightly. “Ruda…”

“Probably in the butt.”

“Ruda!” The paladin shrugged her roughly off, glaring.

“Hey, don’t shoot the messenger!” Ruda held up both hands, but her grin only widened. “Nobility and especially royalty are some freaky fuckers.”

“I guess you would know!”

“Fuck yeah, I would! This one time—”

“Stop!” Trissiny shouted.

“Um…” Teal came to a stop, causing the others to do likewise, looking at her inquisitively. She was peering at a creased sheet of parchment in her hand as if she’d never seen it before. “It looks like class is canceled. I’ve got a note from Professor Ekoi.”

“Huh?” Juniper frowned. “When’d she give you a note?”

“She didn’t. I just found it in my pocket.”

“I can’t decide if Professor Ekoi is so awesome she’s scary or the other way around,” said Fross, orbiting over Teal’s head.

“Huh. I got one too.” Toby unfolded the note he’d just retrieved from his vest pocket. “…mine just says to tell Teal to check hers.”

“Me too!” said Gabe eagerly. Immediately his face fell, descending into a scowl as he studied his own note. “Okay…does anybody read Sifanese?”

“A lot of Sifanese people do, presumably,” said Fross.

“Man, Arquin,” Ruda said with a grin. “What did you do to get on her bad side?”

“Oh, who knows,” he grumbled, stuffing the folded sheet of unintelligible calligraphy back into his pocket. “Just being my usual charming self, I guess.”

“Yeah, that’d do it.”

Suddenly, Trissiny straightened up as if stung, her eyes widening.

“Oh oh oh oh,” Fross said worriedly, abruptly zipping back and forth. “I just got a ping on—Triss, you felt it too?”

“That demon again?” Toby said sharply.

“Yes,” Trissiny said tersely. “Exactly the same as before. Fross, did you modify the wards at all?”

“Um, was I supposed to? They seemed to work right…”

“No, it’s fine. I was just checking if anything was different about it this time.” Trissiny closed her eyes. “So weird to be able to sense something that far away so precisely… It seems to be just wandering around the town. Just like it was doing last time, at least until I got down there.”

“All right,” said Ruda. “This time, we do this smart. We go in organized, and we do something they’re not expecting.”

“Like what?” asked Juniper.

“Getting help,” said Gabriel, absently clutching Ariel’s hilt. “We get Sheriff Sanders and Father Laws. Plus Val, Sister Alia…” He glanced at Trissiny. “And Takli, I figure. Whatever else she’s doing, she’ll help against a demon.”

“You do realize,” said Teal, “we are talking about leaving the campus during class hours?”

“This is not a coincidence,” Ruda snapped, pointing at the note still dangling from Teal’s hand. “We already know thanks to Arquin’s invisible bugaboos that Tellwyrn and Ekoi are in on this. I say we consider it a class exercise and stick with that if they call us on it. But this is the real deal. It’s a fuckin’ demon, or a shadow of one being puppeted by the Black goddamn Wreath, fucking around Last Rock.”

“And Gabriel’s right,” Trissiny said, turning and climbing smoothly into Arjen’s saddle. “I was in error last time for trying to do this alone. Rallying the townspeople is the best move we can make here—both against the demon, and to help mend the rift Justinian’s propaganda has opened. Gabe, we should go on ahead; we move faster on horseback. We’ll get whoever we can and meet up with the rest of you in town. Fross, can you keep up?”

“I’m gonna stay with these guys,” Fross announced. “Remember, the ward network is keyed to your senses specifically—I can find you through it. That way we can meet up without wasting time.”

“Good thinking,” Trissiny said approvingly.

Gabriel raised two fingers to his lips and let out a piercing whistle. Instantly, an explosion of smoke and shadow blasted out of the ground beside him, sending the others scattering from it, and Whisper dove straight up from the darkness. She landed on her hind hooves, rearing and letting out a challenging whinny, before planting herself firmly on the ground and allowing Gabriel to mount.

“Damn,” Ruda said approvingly. “Sorry, Boots, but his is better.”

Arjen twisted his neck around to face her and snorted so hard her hat blew off.

“You’re the demon expert,” Gabriel said, nodding to Trissiny. “Lead the way.”

She nodded back, gathering her reins, and said to the others, “We’ll see you shortly.”

Then both paladins were galloping down through the campus toward the front gates.

“Never thought I’d say this,” Ruda mused, dusting off her hat, “but I gotta get me a horse.”


There were few meeting spaces of enough size in Last Rock to accommodate any serious fraction of the population, fewer still indoors, and both the church and the town hall were spoken for at this hour of the day. Thus, the unofficial town meeting convened in a disused barn on the outskirts of the village, blissfully unaware of the Black Wreath rituals which had recently been carried out there. A few enterprising attendees had lugged folding stools along with them, but for the most part, the three dozen or so townsfolk were standing, or leaning against the walls.

The barn did have the advantage of a raised platform in the form of an old wagon resting on its axles, the wheels having been commandeered long ago for service in a less rickety vehicle. Despite the aid this provided in increasing his height, Wilson was having trouble keeping the arguing assembly on point.

“Everybody, please!” he exclaimed for the fourth time in the last two minutes. Those who intended to quiet had already done so; the rest of the discussions going on continued, paying him no heed. Helplessly, he looked over to the side, where Sam Sanders lounged against the wall near the wagon. “Sam, can ya give me a hand here?”

“Oh, no, you don’t,” Sanders drawled. “I’m just here to make sure this doesn’t degenerate into shootin’ or somethin’ similarly stupid. You buttered your bed, Wilson, as usual. Have yourself a nice nap.”

Wilson sighed, scowling, and turned back to face the crowd. “Would everybody SHUT UP?!”

Somehow, it worked this time—not instantly, but a hush fell over the front ranks of the throng, rippling backward as people nudged one another and pointed up front, most suddenly looking extremely nervous.

“That’s better,” Wilson said in satisfaction, lowering his hands. “All right, now, thanks to everybody for meetin’ here like this. I know we’re all feelin’ pretty sore about the other night, an’ I’ll acknowledge I made just as much a fool o’ myself as anybody. Still an’ all, there’s still a matter that’s been brung up by all this ruckus that I reckon deserves to be discussed! I think you all know what that is.”

He paused expectantly. The gathered townsfolk were edging backward from the wagon, staring up at it; Wilson frowned at them.

“Oh, c’mon, I ain’t gonna bite anybody. Y’all know dang well what I’m talkin’ about!”

“Wilson,” Sam said wryly. “Might wanna take a glance over your shoulder.”

Wilson scowled at him, but followed his advice. A second later, with a shrill yelp, he jumped so violently away from the back of the wagon that he tumbled to the ground, only missing the front row of his neighbors because they had already edged out of range.

“Very graceful,” Professor Tellwyrn said dryly, unfolding her arms and stepping forward from the rear corner of the wagon onto which she’d teleported. “Interesting time of day to be having a town meeting, isn’t it? I always thought these things took place in the evening because most of you had jobs.”

She glanced around with one eyebrow coolly raised, answered only by nervous shuffling. “Now that I think of it, I don’t see Father Laws…or the Mayor…or any clergy from either temple. Hell, Wilson, you couldn’t even get Hiram Taft to come? At least the banker would provide a veneer of respectability.” Tellwyrn grinned wolfishly down at Wilson, who scuttled backward toward the crowd. “Omnu’s breath, if you’re going to go to the trouble of organizing a meeting when I’m in class, you could at least bother to find out what my class schedule is. It’s easy: just tell Chase Masterson you’re looking to put something over on me.”

A couple of people chuckled nervously.

“For heaven’s sake,” Tellwyrn said with a grimace, “quit creeping toward the door, you turkeys. I teach college students for a living. Believe me, if I were in the habit of vaporizing people for arguing with me, you’d have damn well heard about it before now. If you have a problem with me or my University, tell me so. Well, we’re all here now. What’s on your mind?”

A few coughs were all that answered her. Tellwyrn sighed and glanced over at the Sheriff.

“Hey, I’m supervising these galoots, not participating,” he said, holding up a hand. “In fact, with you here I reckon I just might be entirely unnecessary.”

She fixed her gaze on Wilson, staring down at him over the tops of her spectacles. “I’m sure we all know the answer to this, but is there any chance the person who organized this little charade would like to step up?”

“Ah—well—uh—um—” He had managed to clamber to his feet and now nervously clutched his hat in front of himself with both hands, not meeting her gaze.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” Jonas Crete exclaimed, pushing forward out of the crowd. He tipped his hat to Professor Tellwyrn. “Ma’am, I have to confess came along here outta ruffled feelings as much as the belief there was any point to this, after one a’ your students tore through my saloon, damaged my stuffed bear an’ broke into my kitchen.”

“I heard about that,” Tellwyrn said mildly. “I was also told that the kids spent the remainder of the evening fixing damage, but let’s be honest; they’re not always the most industrious little bastards without someone cracking a whip at their heels.”

More chuckles sounded at that, and Jonas cracked a smile himself.

“It didn’t amount to more’n a busted lock an’ some scuffed furniture, easily fixed. Miss Fross came by th’next day an’ even fixed up my bear with a stitchin’ charm, which I thought was right neighborly. Still, a man’s home an’ business is his castle, know what I mean?”

She nodded. “Quite. If anyone wants to put forth a claim for any damages to the University, I assure you it’ll be taken seriously. Sam and the Mayor can reach me at need, if you don’t feel like making the climb.”

“I, uh, can’t speak for nobody else, ma’am, but I don’t feel the need.” Jonas drew in a breath to steel himself, squaring his shoulders. “It’s like this. We’re mostly over all that, ‘specially once it came out what that Vidian witch had been doin’ to the town. In all the ruckus, though, somethin’ came up that still deserves consideration.”

Tellwyrn nodded again. “Go on.”

“It’s like this,” Jonas said seriously. “The way the papers were all carryin’ on, an’ the way Bishop Snowe put it, made it seem like the folks up at the University were holdin’ themselves above us all. Now, for my part, it never really felt that way to me till very recently. This town was a sad little patch o’ farmhouses before the University came along, an’ even if I wasn’t around then to remember it, my pa told me plenty. It’s cos o’ you an’ your staff an’ students that most of us have a livelihood, yours truly included.”

“But?” Tellwyrn prompted when he paused for a moment.

“The thing is,” Jonas continued with a frown, “It gets hard to overlook the fact that who you got up there is nobles, royals, demigods, paladins… An’ a lot o’ miscellaneous others who’re scary powerful, whatever else they are. An’ aside from wherever they come from, they all got places to go. Kids who graduate from that University can write their own ticket in the world. I ain’t bothered to follow up on most of ’em, but the way the papers’ve been carryin’ on, I’d had the chance to learn. The ones who’ve spoken up to journalists all seem to be leadin’ pretty remarkable lives, an’ the lot of ’em give credit for it to you an’ your school.”

“That’s rather the point of education, you know,” Tellwyrn said mildly.

“I don’t disagree, ma’am. In fact…that’s kinda the point. Last Rock’s got kids, too. Not so many, but more of us grew up here than otherwise. All this business… Well, it’s pointed out there’s a divide there. Now, we all know you’ve got a good number o’ just common folk like us attendin’ school, but that’s just it. Them kids go on to lead great lives out there in the world. Those of us just reared down here in the town…well, we stay in the town.”

Jonas got a lot more sympathy than Wilson had; there were a great many nods and more than a few spoken agreements in the wake of his speech.

Tellwyrn, too, nodded slowly, her eyebrows drawing together in thought.

“It ain’t that I mean to criticize,” Jonas said hastily as the chorus died down.

“Of course you do,” Tellwyrn said. “That was a criticism, Mr. Crete. You’ve taken your stand; don’t spoil the effect by backing down from it.”

He coughed, suddenly looking nervous. “Uh, well, anyway…”

“You make a pretty good point, too,” Tellwyrn continued, cutting him off. She nodded slowly, staring into space above their heads. “Hm. I’ll be frank: the fact is, I know very well I’m not the most approachable person. Habits older than the Empire are difficult to shake, I’m afraid. Furthermore, I have a tendency to latch onto ideas that are important to me and not consider other things going on around me. For that reason…if there’s a problem in this town, specifically one with my University, I really need people to let me know. Just because I don’t notice or think about things like this doesn’t mean I don’t care, or that I don’t think you matter.”

Sam nodded approvingly.

“Very well, then,” Tellwyrn said, her tone suddenly brisk. “This is an extremely valid concern, and I thank you for bringing it up, Jonas. And Wilson,” she added puckishly, smiling down at him; Wilson squeaked and backed up into the crowd. “And it seems to have a simple enough solution. Starting with enrollment season next year, any citizens of Last Rock who can meet the academic requirements will be welcome to attend the University, irrespective of any other qualifications. Hm… We normally enroll at age eighteen, but considering the circumstances… I’ll make that open to anyone between fifteen and, let’s say, twenty-two. Any older than that and they’ll be on a different level entirely than the rest of the student body. So, appropriate age, able to pass a basic admissions exam, and at least five years’ residence in Last Rock for qualifications. In fact, I’ll do you one better: we’ll make that a scholarship for anyone who meets the criteria. Last Rock citizens can attend the school at no charge.”

She had to stop there, as the swelling commentary from the crowd became too much to easily talk over. This time, though, the voices were almost entirely jubilant in tone. Some few were still obviously shouting questions, but no hostile or argumentative voices rose above the throng.

Tellwyrn let this continue for almost a minute before snapping her fingers and causing a crack like a thunderclap to ring through the room. “All right, enough! It’s more than half a year till we start enrolling, which should be enough time to work out any kinks. I’ll draw up a more comprehensive document, and anybody with questions or concerns can send them up. I’ll also want to talk with Miss Tanner, who I note is one of those with more important things to do at this hour than attend Wilson’s latest vanity project,” she added more severely. The town schoolmarm, indeed, was at work at this time of day. “And Omnu’s breath, people, if you have something to say, say it. Those old stories are mostly exaggerated anyway; I do not blast people unless they richly and specifically deserve it.”

She shook her head, snorted, and vanished with a soft puff of air.

“Welp,” Sanders drawled, finally straightening up. “That pretty well address your concerns, Wilson?”

“I think that was a, uh, satisfactory conclusion, yeah,” Wilson replied trying at dignity.

“Hey,” Jonas added suddenly, “how come he ain’t in jail, Sam? There was that business about assaulting the Duchess if I recollect rightly…”

“You don’t,” Wilson said furiously. “I never got near the lady!”

“It was assaulting Imperial troops,” Sanders said, rolling his eyes. “And not only did nobody wanna press charges, Duchess Madouri specifically interceded on Wilson’s behalf, requesting leniency.”

“She don’t know him too well, I guess,” someone chimed in from the back of the crowd, earning widespread laughter.

“I got nothin’ bad to say about that young lady an’ I won’t hear nothin’ said against her,” Wilson proclaimed, swelling up like a cockerel. “A right stand-up gal, that one!”

Sam’s attention shifted abruptly; Ox had just entered the barn through its wide-open doors. He towered above almost everyone, making the worried frown on his mustached face very apparent. The Sheriff strode toward him around the side of the mostly-oblivious crowd, rather than trying to push his way through. Ox took the same route, coming to meet him, and as soon as he stepped out of the doorway, Trissiny and Gabriel became visible in it behind him.

They were quickly noticed by the rest of the crowd, and another hush spread through the barn, this one marred by whispers and mutters.

“Sam,” Ox rumbled, “the kids have news you might wanna hear.”

“I see,” said the Sheriff, glancing between them. “Should we head to my office an’ talk in private?”

“I think not,” said Trissiny, her voice low but carrying well through the barn. “This affects everyone.” She turned to face the crowd, all of whom were focused on her now, quite a few still muttering. “There’s another demonic presence in the town.”

At this, there came a mass outburst of shouting and waving arms.

“Will y’all SHUT UP!” Ox thundered.

The quiet was instantaneous.

“Is this anything like the last one?” Jonas asked, pushing forward and folding his arms.

“Exactly like the last one,” said Trissiny, nodding, “and probably the same thing. And after last time, I realize that I made a serious mistake in trying to deal with it. If we just keep chasing this thing away, it’ll just keep coming back.” She glanced across the sea of faces aimed at her, and took in a deep breath. “More importantly, I’ve come to realize that Ms. Cratchley hit the nail on the head. You are all capable people who are accustomed to being responsible for your town and your own lives. For a paladin to come riding in here trying to rescue everybody is a completely wrong-headed approach. This thing is interested in Last Rock, specifically; it’s for Last Rock to fix.”

Sanders nodded approvingly, as did some of the onlookers.

“What can we do?” someone asked.

“It’s an invisible demon!”

“Repent!”

“Carl, I’m beggin’ you.”

“Please!” Trissiny called, holding up both hands, and for a wonder everyone quieted. “We have the outlines of a plan. Some of our friends are on the way down from the campus right now, but to do this we need numbers. Specifically, we need men and women who have weapons and know how to use them, and who can keep a level head under pressure.”

“To put it plainly,” said Gabriel, smiling thinly, “we’re rounding up a posse.”

“The demon is currently on the other edge of the town,” Trissiny continued over the low hubbub that arose, “and so far it doesn’t seem to be hurting anyone directly. We should have a little time, but it’s best not to dawdle. Everyone who’s willing to help, please gather in the intersection right outside here; take time to run home and grab wands if you can, and bring along anybody who might want to help. I’ll also need someone to collect Val Tarvadegh, and Sisters Aria and Takli.”

“Ox, Jonas,” said Sanders, nodding to each of them, “head to the temples an’ do as she says, please.”

“Sheriff,” Jonas said in acknowledgment, tipping his hat and following after Ox, who had simply nodded and strode out into the streets.

“Time is a factor, everyone,” Trissiny said seriously. “Don’t rush, but move as efficiently as you can. Remember that this creature’s method so far has hinged on agitating people and causing damage incidentally, so it’s vitally important that everyone remain calm. I believe I can trust the people of this town to do what’s needed. All right, let’s all get moving. We’re going to try to set out from this spot in fifteen minutes, so I’ll need everyone back here in time to go over the plan.”

Nods and verbal agreements met her pronouncement, but the people appeared to be taking her plea for calm to heart; there were no cheers or shouts this time. People poured out of the barn, streaming around Sanders and the paladins and heading off into the side streets.

“You certain about this, Avelea?” Sanders asked pointedly. A handful of townsfolk remained nearby, those who apparently had nothing and no one to collect; most were now holding wands, pointed safely at the ground. Frontier people were generally most conscientious about wand safety.

“It’s a mistake to be too certain about anything,” Trissiny replied seriously. “This is a demon, after all, and a tricksy one besides. Also…” She hesitated, glancing around at those listening nearby, then nodded almost imperceptibly, as if to herself. “We have intelligence suggesting the Black Wreath is involved in this directly.”

“Here now,” said a middle-aged woman in denim and flannel, two wands holstered at her belt, “think somebody oughta go get Tellwyrn?”

“If someone wants to,” said Gabriel, “we won’t argue. We didn’t, though.”

“Why not?” asked a younger man.

“It comes down to this,” said Trissiny, resting the palm of her left hand on the pommel of her sword. “This demon, or warlock, or whatever is behind it, has not targeted the University—probably because they’re afraid to challenge Tellwyrn. Which is just sensible. What they’re doing is feeling out the town, seeing what reaction they get from poking at people here. Last time, I came charging down here to drive it off, doing a lot of incidental damage and accomplishing nothing in the end. I owe you all an apology for that. And, notably, as soon as things calmed down, it came right back. This is not a problem that can be solved by higher powers coming to the rescue. Demons, warlocks, and servants of evil stop when they are stopped, and not before. They are held back only by the awareness that they cannot win, and only when and where that point has been made inescapably. I don’t intend to leave them any gap to wiggle through, no hint that they can come back here and work their mischief as soon as there’s no paladin or archmage keeping an eye out.”

She drew her sword, pointing the blade at the ground, and spoke subtly more loudly, her voice ringing with confidence. “I intend, by the end of this day, for there to be a very chastened warlock out there who won’t be trying their luck on Last Rock again. Not because of any University on a hill, but because they’ll have seen the character of the people here, and will know that they came to the wrong town.”

This time, the cheers broke out in earnest, and neither she nor the Sheriff made any attempt to stop them.

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39 thoughts on “10 – 45

  1. All right, this is only thirteen hours late. Please excuse the lapse; I hope it hasn’t disrupted anyone’s daily routine too much. It may be presumptuous to assume my little story is part of anyone’s routine, but that’s kind of how I am about the serials and webcomics I follow. It’s a little jarring when something doesn’t update. I’m extremely sorry.

    On a lighter note, though, I’ve missed the Class of 1182 these last few chapters. Writing them is always entertaining.

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    1. I really love your story the quality and frequency is amazing, and i know its rude to ask for other serials here since i wouldnt want to give free publicity to competitors neither. But can you please tell me some of the serials you follow if i give you my email?

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  2. So, Tellwyrn was a lot more sympathetic to the townspeoples’ ask than I expected, because really, they weren’t making a lot of sense. She takes in students who already have some kind of special abilities or status, and aims to teach them to use their power intelligently. How is it going to work with an ordinary person, how can that person expect to keep up with the others, and then go on to the same kind of greatness as the townsfolk think will happen? What are these entrance requirements going to be anyway, and how will it help town-gown relations if it turns out they involve innate abilities that no ordinary Last Rock youth meet?

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    1. I think the entrance requirements will be similiar to any other university. Purely academic.
      Some of the current students aren’t powerful or connected, like Chase Masterson. I have no idea how he managed to get in though.

      What Arachne did here was giving Last Rock the option to send their children up to the university… that doesn’t mean all of them are going to do that. Remember, it’s an university that basically trains adventurers and that’s not something everyone wants to do.
      Bi-annual class trips into dangerous territorities is a hard sell for most parents.😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, that’s a good point actually. Tellwyrn can justify sending students like the class of 1812 into the Golden Sea or the Crawl because most of them are just as dangerous as anything out there. With ordinary kids it would be murder.

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      2. Those trips are standard though. Every class does them, even those without paladins, archdemons or vampires.

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    2. They’re still going to have to get tested, so… it won’t be every kid in the town. And, Last Rock is odd as it is, so the chances of producing the sufficiently gifted is likely higher than the norm. The odd teen cropping up every five years with skills is actually quite high… Not least because weirdness happens to the place quite a lot for them to get a bit of practice in if they’ve keep their ears open.😄

      You won’t always get somebody in the top five of the university’s intake, but for a steady drip of representation and a decent leg-up as a result? Sure.🙂

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    1. So when Avei ordered Triss to go to Unseen U., did she know that more than one of them would end up educated, giving the order with precisely that in mind?

      But wasn’t it Avei leading the charge for Tellwyrn to serve whatever purpose she serves locked in a cage somewhere? That would severely hinder her and Omnu’s (and now Vidius’ and maybe Vesk’s) growth… I’m getting the feeling that Avei doesn’t have much of a grasp on how these things work. She reminds me of Voldemort as much as anyone (at least HPMOR!Voldemort1.0).

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      1. I think Avei has a strong desire for punishment even when it’d be an incredibly bad idea for just about everybody.

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    1. Nah. Only Vesk can hope to out-drama Vidius, so… the penchant towards dramatic entries is totally legit and not Gabe-related.😄 Although, having an appreciative nerd to drama at probably helps.😉

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  3. Can I just say what a great name for a banker “Hiram Taft” is? It’s a name that just smells of money somehow. It could be either sleazy money or classy money, but either way, plenty of it.

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  4. Reflecting on this chapter while doing other things tonight, it stands out to me as funny how no one is ever reassured when Tellwyrn insists she never blasts anybody without good and specific reasons. I imagine a few might string a few thoughts together and say something like “sure, it ain’t too hard to think up a justification for blasting almost anyone, after the fact.” But I imagine most of them being stuck on “didja hear that? She just admitted to BLASTING PEOPLE! Just like in the stories! I guess all of those stories you hear about her really are true!”

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    1. I would be pretty hard to reassure just from the knowledge she has the power to blow up people. If I was talking to someone and they had a loaded bazooka ready to fire, I’d be pretty nervous, no matter how much the person reassures me they won’t use it on me.

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  5. Have we caught up on missed chapters? I haven’t been really looking at the donation goals, just noticed it’s gone up from $105 to $200😛

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    1. Missed chapters are indeed not caught up; two are still owed.

      The situation with the donation goal is due to the great generosity that was extended some weeks back when I had the car issue. That put us waaaay over the goal, and left it at such a point that with the Patreon balance refreshing it every week, the donation total was only going down by a small fraction of the total. Basically, Friday chapters were assured with no further donations indefinitely.

      At least for the first three weeks. My policy is to raise or lower the goal whenever it is either met or not met for three consecutive weeks; that was what put it up to $200. Based on the general donation patterns to date, I don’t think that’s a sustainable goal. It actually was met last week, but I’m expecting it not to be henceforth, at which point I plan to drop it back to $115, which is where it was before all this.

      So yes, I have not forgotten the missed chapters, and un-donated Fridays are the perfect time for those. I’d planned to start on that today.

      But I got to my desk last night exhausted, frazzled and feeling generally uncreative, and realized that this has been my emotional state almost every time I’ve tried to write for the last few weeks. Getting the chapters out has been an increasing struggle. Basically, I needed break. And this has been good; I took it easy yesterday afternoon and got plenty of sleep last night and I already feel worlds better. With a few more days till Monday’s chapter is due, I think I’ll be in much better shape by then.

      Unless people are unexpectedly generous again, there’ll likely be two more un-funded Friday, which will give me the chance to catch up before the donation drops back to a more realistic level and we can proceed as normal again.

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      1. I hope you enjoy your break. You deserve one. We all want you to be happy & healthy. My 16 year old son has started reading TGAB and really is enjoying it.

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  6. I call shenanigans on Tellwyrn’s reassurance that she doesn’t blast people without them “richly and specifically deserving it.” She blasted those Scyllithian priests from the Crawl into oblivion without a second thought despite that the allpowerful archmage probably has dozens of ways to restrain them beyond the time stop. She killed that one dude because she wanted to write Ellial a note.

    Sure, we hear in story that the priests of Scyllith are crazy violent evil people but we hear the same thing of demons and Scorn’s gotten along with everyone well enough to prove she doesn’t deserve an automatic death sentence. There might even be some sort of “no, seriously, if Scyllith gets any claw onto the surface by having a priest there ever it’s the end of the world” thing, but until we get that reassurance, Tellwyrn totally just ended the lives of three sentient people because of their race/religion and nothing else. She didn’t show she knew that they specifically deserved it. (Though it does underline Professor Ekoi’s point that Arachne and Triss are similar people).

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    1. She killed that “one dude” because that was the only way to send a message to Elilial and seeing as he was a member of an evil cult and his actions resulted in the death of an innocent girl, she had a good reason to kill him.

      What she’s saying is that she doesn’t just kill people because they annoy her or for petty reasons. She never said she doesn’t end lives if the situation calls for it. Remember what she told Gabriel, she can’t go and throw her weight around because that would draw attention and someone would stop her. Empire, Gods…

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      1. Gyndroid had a good point about Scylith’s priests though. She killed them for no reason. It may even have been detrimental to her; after all she could have used them for something, they seemed like they were desperate for something if I remember correctly. Repeating Gyndroid, maybe allowing Scylith’s priests even a few minutes of free time on the surface could spell disaster, but that seems very unlikely since if the conditions of world-ending were that simple one would think the world be long gone.

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      2. That doesn’t mean she killed them for no reason, we just don’t know it yet.

        Consider that Arachne is connected to Araneid in some shape or form and that Araneid created the drow, that Arachne is telling a story about Scyllith doing something no one believes is possible and that Elilial and Arachne blew up a drow city ~3000 years ago, which is also the first event on Arachne’s timeline and that some drow worship Arachne…
        … there’s plenty of potential for a very good reason.

        Scyllith is the goddess of beauty, cruelty and light, imprisoning her in the underworld basically removes one of her aspects and limits her powers… if her priestesses were allowed to freely wander the surface world, who knows what that could mean for Scyllith.

        Themynra forsaw Scyllith’s banishment and positioned herself to prevent any of those drow from reaching the surface. Arachne just cleaned up a few stragglers who slipped through the net because an incubus was manipulating the Crawl.

        ***

        Midnight had long passed and the moon was drifting toward the horizon when the doors to the Crawl eased open again. A wary, slate-gray face peered out, glancing left and right, before pushing them wider. The figure who stepped forth was followed by two others, all looking around in blended wonder and nervousness.

        “Just as he said,” the lone male whispered in the subterranean dialect of elvish.

        “We will go directly,” said the woman in the lead. “There are sure to be wards and defenses, and we are not out for a fight. Stay low, and—”

        The soft pop was the only warning they got.

        “Right on schedule,” Professor Tellwyrn said grimly, stepping out of thin air. “Congratulations! Most of your compatriots aren’t dumb enough to try this. You get the rare honor of being an example.”

        The three drow had fallen to their knees before her as soon as she spoke.

        “Arachne,” the second woman said breathlessly. “We’ve—”

        “I don’t think I like hearing that from you,” Tellwyrn interrupted. “Well, the good news is, with Rowe’s nonsense at an end, it shouldn’t be too hard to find and plug whatever hole you lot are creeping out of. I do not need drow in my Crawl, except the ones I send in myself. Hm,” she added thoughtfully, frowning. The three kneeling elves flinched. “Now, there’s an idea. A Scyllithene priestess would be a worthy check on Melaxyna’s ambitions. If, that is, I could find one of a modest enough nature not to be an excessive pest. Doesn’t seem likely.”

        “We are both priestesses of Scyllith,” the second drow woman said eagerly, not seeing or ignoring her companion’s frantic expression of warning. “I would be—”

        “Well, not you, obviously,” Tellwyrn said with a grimace.

        The flames were brief, lasting only a split-second, but more intense than the interior of a blast furnace while they burned. In the darkness and quiet after they had vanished, Tellwyrn dismissed the invisible shield over her and brushed drifting ash from her sleeves. A circular patch had been scoured completely clean just in front of the Crawl’s entrance, the upper layers of dirt melted to a puddle of still-steaming glass. It was rapidly hardening, cracking as it did so, the energy of the fire having been removed far more swiftly than simple physics would allow. Nothing was left, not even skeletons. They had not even had time to scream.

        “Stew is going to gripe about this for weeks,” Tellwyrn remarked, wrinkling her nose at the hardening glass. “Ah, well. He loves griping.”

        She stepped around the burned area to the doors, pushing them carefully shut, then paused. The Professor laid a hand against the dark wood for a moment, smiling fondly, before turning and setting off to wake the groundskeeper for the second time that night.

        ***

        That doesn’t sound like she’s doing it for shits and giggles.

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      3. There seems to me a good possibility there’s a good reason, but also a good possibility there is not a good reason. My conclusion is that judgement cannot be passed until more information is gathered. There’s some good evidence that she’s really rather lenient to people who annoy her (Along Came a Spider Part 4) but then the Scylith drow are some good evidence that she’s merciless. She may not commit rampant murders because the Empire/Pantheon would kill her, or maybe the Empire/Pantheon doesn’t kill her because she doesn’t want to commit rampant murder.

        Personally, I place her somewhere in between Basra and an average person on how sociopathic she is; she has very little remorse and reluctance when it comes to killing, but doesn’t take pleasure in the act itself and is not a sadist. But we need more chapters from her viewpoint before this can be confirmed/dismissed.

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      4. “My conclusion is that judgement cannot be passed until more information is gathered.”

        But that’s exactly what Gyndroid and you were doing.🙂

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      5. “Personally, I place her somewhere in between Basra and an average person on how sociopathic she is”

        I believe you have a fundamental misunderstanding about what sociopathy (or psychopathy) is. There is a really interesting This American Life episode (that you can stream for free) where the crew takes a psychopathy test, and while awaiting the results they talk and joke about who they think will score the highest, be most psychopathic. The tester comes out and explains that in fact, every one of them tied. None of them were psychopathic, everyone got a zero, as most people should. Psychopathy is all or nothing: you are capable of empathizing with your fellow humans, or you are not. So you can see why there’s a problem with you describing Tellwyrn as even a little bit psychopathic. She isn’t, as she clearly demonstrates empathy on a daily basis. In fact, I would describe her as being far more empathic than average!

        Note: Since there’s really no such thing as “sociopathy”, and we still don’t have one single accepted definition of psychopathy, I defaulted to what academia generally considers the standard definition, which is focused on the ability (or lack thereof) to feel empathy. There’s a little more to it, strictly speaking. For example, say we have a non-empathic person who nevertheless is able to fake it well enough to get through life without becoming especially selfish or criminal. Some definitions would call him a psychopath (since physically his brain lacks the tools he’d need to feel empathy), and some would say he isn’t one, as long as he doesn’t act out and exhibit selfish and unnecessarily bold behavior.

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      6. @Daemion My conclusion after taking you comments and further thought into account.

        @The Warren Peace NFL Report I agree with your definition of psychopathy and your general assessment. What I wanted to convey is that I think Arachne feels relatively little remorse, but does not have an actual condition like Basra that makes her feel that way.

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      7. Bwahaha. I’m going to keep calling him That One Dude now. I called him that one dude because I seriously didn’t think it was worth it to go look in the archive. I’m lazy by default but it’s fun to get into things so here we go; and yes there’s totally a tl;dr sum up at the end.

        The criteria she gave is that she only blasts people if they specifically and richly deserve it. I’d argue that is either not true–she’s killed/blasted people for other reasons–or not reassuring anyway, since deliberate murder may be off the list but she still does terrifying things to people.

        Or maybe she’s sticking to the Technical Truth, she only BLASTS people who specifically and richly deserves it, but kills arbitrarily if she wants using other methods. Probably not that last one though. I AM beginning to suspect that Arachne has often been technically truthful but ultimately deceitful about several salient points, even when educating her students.

        Killing That One Dude because Arachne needs to send a telegram? Surely we can all agree that ALONE doesn’t mean he specifically and richly deserves it? Unless we can just agree that Arachne’s definition of “specifically and richly deserves” means “I needed something and their death was a way to get it”. In which case, you know. I stick with shenanigans.

        Member of an evil cult? She’s specifically said she has no problem with Ellial or her aims, and even if we grant she’s making a distinction between Ellial and her cult, killing him for that alone is the same problem as blasting those Scyllithian priests.

        No, the only relevant point there is that he painted the target on the girl. VERBALLY, Tellwyrn goes on as if the whole point is that he absolutely deserves death for the incalculable damage he’s caused for removing someone so good from the world and that he’s beyond redemption. She states he clearly should have known the ring would result in a brutal death for her, and should have resisted his cult’s influence/brainwashing/whatever you want to call it.

        But after that? The whole point becomes suspect when Tellwyrn acknowledges in text she played up the drama, lied about the dog, etc, because she needed a willing sacrifice. Did she really think he specifically and richly deserved to die or was he a convenient scapegoat/tool? If he did, has she gone after every other cultist involved in painting targets on the backs of the girls? She said she followed the paper trail for three days–did she stop after that because she found what she needed? I’m not saying that if she thinks someone specifically and richly deserves death she’ll be PROACTIVE in hunting them down, necessarily, just that in this case she DID choose to hunt someone down, and it’s looking like she did it more to send a message, making him, again, a tool in her plans, not a sentient being deserving his death. And whenever your primary reason for killing someone is your own convenience, I’m going to be a bit suspicious not matter how much you claim “but they did totally deserve it.” Her self justification there is murky, and requires giving her the benefit of doubt.

        The best benefit of doubt I can give her is she thinks he and all the other cultists did deserve it, because in this world they all should be fully cognizant of the exact consequences of magical relics, and capable of resisting brainwashing when someone else’s life is on the line (Reasoning I’d be surprised to see in an educator, specifically one who thinks people are stupid, but whatever). But more importantly, she figured Ellial was ultimately responsible, and so she’d go to her as soon as possible. When she got the full story–that the girls WEREN’T supposed to die (though, it’s not at all clear to me what WAS supposed to happen)–she rethought and backed off. And maybe regretted offing Mil–That One Dude a bit.

        Otherwise, why is she allowing Embras Mogul to “play” with her students? If That One Dude deserved to die, surely, SURELY the one in charge of the cult did. Or is the one giving orders somehow less culpable than the one carrying them out? Or does she just not….specifically know Embras is in charge? Possible, “this Mogul character” doesn’t imply much familiarity, but weird. Ekoi definitely knows, she addressed him as high priest, it’d be a surprise if she didn’t share that with Arachne.

        The Scyllithian priests are, again, murky. She claims they arrived right on schedule, implying she somehow obtained extra information on this event. Possibly it means she even knows enough about these specific priests to know they somehow richly deserve it. Possibly any priest on this surface means something very, very specific in terms of their choices and the consequences thereof, which we have not yet been informed of. Maybe they specifically and richly deserve it.

        We don’t know though, so again, she’d have to get the benefit of doubt, and I’m not positive I’m willing to give that to the character. I love her, she’s a great character, but she is not without flaws.

        And, people have died in her wake, if Big K can be believed–her being a shit stirrer in her contest with him ended with a new hellgate opened, and silver legionnaires died of it. It’s not unlikely this is the first time that’s happened, where people have died because of her actions, who definitely didn’t deserve it, and while it’s definitely not the same thing as murder, it’s still something to be concerned about. Whether those rumors are exaggerated or not, she didn’t ADDRESS that to her crowd, only her DELIBERATE murders.

        But she screws with people because she CAN, and has COUNTLESS examples of bullying someone with unimaginably superior force. She’s something to be a LITTLE alarmed about if that person teleports into the room when you’re talking about being pissed at her. Someone who leaves chaos in their wake may not kill people, and may just screw with them or apply some “light mental torture” (teleporting Ravana to what she thought was her death counts, I’d say, teachable moment or not) but it’s still entirely reasonable to be very, very alarmed and careful about what you stay to Tellwyrn the Stampede. So, her reassurance? Isn’t. Or shouldn’t be, anyway.

        Anyway, tl;dr, my point is, I find her reassurance suspect, the townspeople certainly should find her reassurance suspect (They don’t know about those murders but they do know she’s got a habit of causing destruction); her reassurance is either a self lie, and outright lie, or missing the point, and shouldn’t be very reassuring anyway.

        Weird side note, why do Darling and Tellywrn seem to eerily share specific information? Tellwyrn tells a story about cutting off parts of a Hunstman and giving him over to the Sisters of Avei in her bonus chapter, Darling threatens to do the same to the traitor Huntsman. Less strongly, Tellwyrn listens to That One Dude cry about watching a woman eaten alive because she tried to leave the cult, and Darling uses it to hammer home how evil the cult is to Joe. It’s reasonable from the flavortext in their in story meeting to conclude it’s the first time they met but has Darling been doing a bit of specific research on Arachne as well?

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  7. I’m sorry to do this at the end of the month, but just before I took my unpaid week off, I got hit with a massive pay cut. After expenses my free money each month has been cut down to only 20% of what it once was. Long story short, I have to spend a lot of money on expenses because I am a contractor, and with the new contract my boss signed, I’m going to barely be getting by.

    I really am sorry. I’ve been balancing my books trying to make it work, and I’ll still toss you some money when I have a chance, but for now, I can’t make guaranteed monthly donations.

    I’m very sorry.

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    1. Believe me, I understand life circumstances! You have to take care of yourself first of all. No worries on that score.

      I greatly appreciate all your support; it’s made a tremendous difference for me, I don’t think I could really convey how much. I’ll adapt; we always do, don’t we?

      And I certainly hope you keep reading, and enjoy the story!

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