11 – 42

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Trissiny exhaled sharply in relief as her boots touched down on the rooftop, though she did not fully un-tense until Kuriwa had let the rift she had opened close behind them.

“With all due respect,” she said fervently, “I devoutly hope I never have to travel that way again.”

Kuriwa gave her an amused smile. “Then, if you wish to keep making dramatic and surprising entrances, I suggest you keep company with friends who can teleport or shadow-jump. This is the best I can do with my craft; the divine offers nothing at all for rapid travel.”

Trissiny nodded, peering around to get her bearings. They were atop one of the mansion-like structures in Tiraas’s government district; just down the street, she could easily see the Svenheim embassy, which Kuriwa had just transported them into and then back out of by tunneling through a deeply creepy space between dimensions.

“I’m not sure about this morning’s work,” she murmured.

“I believe your ultimatum to the ambassador will have the desired effect,” Kuriwa replied, “coupled as it was with an alternative. Contracts for his country’s metalworkers to re-outfit the Silver Legions is by far preferable to having the Hand of Avei obliterate Svenheim’s intelligence agency. The stick always works better when the carrot is proffered as an alternative.”

“That’s what Commander Rouvad said. In almost exactly those words. That’s not really the part I’m concerned about, though.” She turned her back on the embassy, facing the shaman again. “I know Bishop Syrinx’s account of last night passes inspection, if just barely. But… Kuriwa, almost everyone we spoke with believes she honestly tried to kill Principia. And her entire squad!”

“Everyone,” Kuriwa said calmly. “Not almost. Don’t mistake Weaver’s mask of disinterest for disagreement.”

“It made sense when the High Commander explained it to me, but the more I think…” Trissiny shook her head. “I’m just not sure we did the right thing, letting her off that way. And apparently this is becoming a pattern. How many times is Basra Syrinx going to get away with literal murder and only face temporary exile or the loss of some possessions?”

“I would say,” Kuriwa mused, “that Farzida Rouvad is wiser than you, simply by dint of her longer experience. But one can be wiser and still be wrong—I know it all too well. In this case, however, I happen to agree with her assessment. Basra Syrinx, for all the disastrous potential she represents, is presently better left where she is.”

“I know why the Commander thinks that,” said Trissiny, studying her closely. “Why do you?”

“For entirely different reasons.” Kuriwa stepped over to the edge of the roof and seated herself on the low wall encircling it, tucking one leg under herself and regarding Trissiny seriously. “In fact, I strongly disagree with Rouvad’s assessment: she thinks she has Syrinx under control, and she is deeply mistaken. No, Trissiny, I am an old schemer, and I see the long-term value in this. Principia, for all her faults, is only a mere match for Syrinx because she allows herself to be constrained by her duty to the Legion and her care for her soldiers; when Syrinx pushes her too far, or when Principia advances herself enough to have the leeway, it will be swiftly finished. Then, too, the Bishop is rapidly accumulating enemies whose potency, or very existence, she does not realize.” She shook her head. “Basra Syrinx is not long to be a free agent…and perhaps, not long to be a living one.”

“So you think we should stand back and just let things unfold?”

“I generally don’t recommend that as a motivation, though as a course of action it can be valid. No… At issue is that Syrinx represents the rot that has accumulated in the heart of this Empire, as well as in the Church and the Sisterhood. Corruption, complacency, the triumph of individual profit over the greater good. It happens, when social structures grow too large. They begin to perpetuate themselves first and foremost, often at the expense of their original goals.”

Trissiny sighed heavily. “All systems are corrupt. Yes, I can’t seem to get away from that.”

“They really are, though,” Kuriwa said, smiling placidly. “Sometimes—well, often—one must swiftly excise rot when it grows. However… One treatment for infection, when magical means are not available, is to introduce maggots to the wound. They will eat the infected tissue and leave the rest healthy and clean.”

“That is revolting,” Trissiny said, grimacing.

Kuriwa shrugged. “The healing arts frequently are. So it is with other things. Sometimes, child, it is more profitable in the long run to let the rot spread, even help it along, so that it can eat away at old structures. When they collapse, new and better ones may be built. If Syrinx is simply removed as she undoubtedly deserves, well… There is nothing to stop another creature such as her climbing as high as she has, which itself indicates a serious failure of multiple safeguards. I deem it best to let her cause the destruction she inevitably will, and let the Church and the Sisterhood heal from the wounds which result.”

“That’s consigning a potential lot of people to significant pain,” Trissiny said quietly. “And possibly much worse. I’m sorry, but I’m still not sure I can stomach the cost.”

“Good.” Kuriwa nodded slowly, gazing up at her, then turned to stare down at the street four stories below. “Look at everyone, going about their day… They look so small from up here. Living too long can have the same effect. One sees the larger picture, sometimes to the exclusion of a thousand smaller ones. Having watched too many lives come and go, they begin to blur together, to lose the spark of significance… And yet, that is only perspective. None of those people are smaller than you or I, nor any less alive. We see the world differently, Trissiny, but your perspective isn’t less valid than mine. It may be less informed, but still worthwhile for that; too much information can introduce confusion. Just make sure, as much as you can, that you are thinking clearly and carefully before you act.”

Trissiny drew in a deep breath and let it out very slowly. “That’s a lesson I’m trying very hard to learn.”

“All you can do is try.” Kuriwa unfolded herself, rising, and reached out to squeeze the younger woman’s shoulder. “For now, I believe this business is settled. Don’t hesitate to call me again if you need me, child…or if you just want to talk. I always have time for family. You can get down on your own, I trust?”

“Wait.” Trissiny turned back to her, frowning suddenly. “Before you go… What does iyai mean?”

Kuriwa tilted her head to one side, and then smiled warmly.

“It means no.”


“Man, it seems like we’ve been gone from here a lot longer than we have,” Darius commented, setting his tray down on the table in the Guild’s apprentice cafeteria and plopping himself onto the bench. “Been a hell of a few days, right?”

“I already miss Rasha,” Tallie said a little sullenly, taking the seat across from him. “I mean, I’m happy for him, I honestly am. But he’s, I dunno… Kinda the conscience of the group. Know what I mean?”

“Not even a little,” Darius said cheerfully. “Hell, Tallie, he isn’t dead. Glory said we’re all welcome to visit—if anything, he’s our in with an established Guild member with a lot of cred. Be happy he got himself a sponsor, and a cushy room in her mansion, and be happy we’ve got ourselves a Rasha!”

“Yeah,” Ross said. “Cos we’re not gettin’ sponsors of our own. Y’know that, right?”

“Thank you, Sergeant Sunshine,” Tallie said acidly.

“It’s like the Boss said,” Ross grumbled. “Politics. We’ve been too deep an’ too high up; we’re mixed up with too many big deals. Nobody’s gonna wanna touch us; no tellin’ what kinda mess we’re tangled up in, far as they know.”

The other two frowned at him, then surreptitiously turned to peer around the room. No other apprentices were sitting nearby, and no one was paying them any attention. That could have been normal, of course; lunch was always sparsely attended in the mess hall, and the Eserites in general stayed out of one another’s business—except when they didn’t. After Ross’s glum pronouncement, though, the way everyone’s eyes slid past them was suddenly suspicious and disheartening.

Their own perusal of the cafeteria enabled Tallie to spot a friend approaching, though.

“Jas!” she called, immediately brightening. “Hi! Where the hell have you been all day?”

“Hey, guys,” Jasmine said, striding over and sliding onto the bench next to Tallie. “Sorry, had family business to deal with all morning.”

“I’ll just bet,” Darius said, grinning fiendishly. “It’s okay, Jasmine—it’s always a shock to learn you’re related to a dragon fucker. That’s natural.”

“Thank you, Darius, for your concern,” she said dryly.

“Now, I don’t say that to be judgmental,” he went on, airily gesticulating with a forkful of broccoli. “I, of all people! Why, you’d be amazed how many dragon fuckers there are among the nobility. We’re the ones, after all, who are so filled with ennui from our lives of tedious, idle luxury that we may be inclined to try something ridiculous to break the monotony. Like, you know, fucking a dragon. Not to mention that our womenfolk are often bred for beauty like prize racing hounds, exactly the sort who might tend to draw a dragon’s attention. It’s a deadly combination, really.”

“Anyhow,” Tallie said pointedly, glaring at him, “Ross may be right, but we’re not out of luck. So maybe we don’t get individual sponsors, fine, we’ll live. By the same token, we’ve got friends.” She grinned. “Glory, Webs, and Grip. C’mon, we all went through hell together! I bet we can finagle some training and maybe a few favors outta that!”

“I’m not sure I’d be willing to trust everyone on that list,” Jasmine said, frowning. “Two thirds of them, in fact.”

Tallie waved her off. “Pfft, this is the Thieves’ Guild. It’s not about trust, it’s about mutual interest. They all know we can be useful—we’re good people know!”

“Also,” Darius said thoughtfully, “we were involved in wrecking two very expensive carriages belonging to a couple of those.”

“I’m sure they will forgive us!”

All four turned to stare at the person who had just plunked a tray down next to them. Layla gazed challengingly back, wearing a simple and practical dress for the first time since they had met—with no jewelry or makeup, even.

“You can all just wipe those fish-like expressions right off your faces,” she declared, spearing a bite of her own fish. “Especially you, Darius. You surely didn’t think I was just going to toddle off back to my personal hell under Father’s increasingly heavy thumb where you so blithely left me, did you?”

“Uh, Lady Layla,” Jasmine began carefully.

“Ah, ah, ah!” Layla wagged a finger at her, smirking. “There will be none of that lady nonsense, understand? After all, I have it on good authority that we Eserites don’t have the highest opinion of the nobility. Really, putting on airs as they do. Just who do they think they are?”

“Kid,” Tallie said more bluntly, “no. This is a bad idea. Someone is gonna break your goddamn legs within a week.”

“Well, I’m not saying I necessarily will succeed all the way to full membership,” Layla replied, shrugging. “But I’m sure the education itself will be valuable, and in the meantime it’s something to do. Something which does not involve going home. And we make a good team, do we not? You lot can show me the ropes, and I’m sure we’ll be getting into and out of just all sorts of exciting scrapes in no time at all!”

She tucked the bite of fish delicately into her mouth and chewed smugly, clearly unperturbed by their expressions of dismay. Her own expression quickly began to wilt, however, and for decidedly different reasons, as she announced after finally swallowing.

“Eugh,” Layla said, grimacing down at her plate. “This is awful.”

“Yeah,” Darius agreed, still staring at her in something akin to horror. “Yes, I’m afraid it is.”


The shadows were lengthening over the prairie when the Sheriff of Port Nonsense finally headed home for the day. Aside from its amusing name, it was a frontier village much like all its kind—a small patch of streets surrounded by outlying farms and cottages, one of which was her own home. Some Imperial sheriffs preferred to house themselves in apartments attached to their offices, so as to be close to the action, but there’d been none of that to speak of in this entire region since the days of Horsebutt’s crusade. Even the Cobalt Dawn had never struck this far south, and their annihilation seemed to have deterred any other elves or centaurs from leaving the Golden Sea, a mile or so to the northwest. As such, the Sheriff kept herself in the small house a good twenty minutes’ ride from town which she and her husband had bought. There she would stay, at the very least, until her remaining child was grown enough to leave home.

Rosalind Schwartz pulled her mare up just outside the gate to her own yard, studying the unusual scene unfolding there under the orange sunset. Her daughter’s presence was typical enough; Melody wasn’t one to stay indoors, or to stay still at all, and as usual had managed to get herself thoroughly dusty and inflicted a fresh hole on the already-patched knee of her trousers. This time, though, she’d had help.

It had been a good while since the Schwartz home had been visited by a Silver Legionnaire, and this one was a more unusual sight than most.

“Footwork!” the woman said, grinning indulgently at the teenager, bracing her own feet to demonstrate and extending her sword forward. “It all starts with how you stand. Stop that flailing around, an enemy could knock you off your feet with a good sneeze if you can’t balance properly in action.”

She wore a sergeant’s stripes on her shoulder, and was an elf—a black-haired elf. Rosalind had lived here long enough to know what that meant, though she’d never suspected one of them had joined the Legions, of all things. The elf, of course, had to have heard her coming, but for the moment kept her attention on the still-oblivious Melody.

“That’s so boring,” the girl whined, brandishing the stick she was using for a mock sword. “Come on, swords! Battle! Action! How can you—”

“Because the fundamentals are how you survive the battles and action,” the Legionnaire said dryly, sheathing her weapon. “Something tells me this isn’t the first time you’ve heard about it, either.”

“Yeah, it’s even more boring when Ma does it.” Melody moodily swiped at imaginary foes with her stick. “I’m gonna enlist as soon as I’m old enough, Ma said I could. I just wanna have some adventures before I have to settle down and get all stiff and boring.”

“Military service doesn’t have a lot to do with adventure,” the sergeant replied with an indulgent smile, “though ironically, if you go into it thinking that, a stint in the Legions might be exactly what you need. Probably not what you wanted, though.”

Lucy picked that moment to snort loudly and shake her mane, irked at standing around out here when she had her stall and bucket of oats to look forward to at the end of a long day. Melody whirled, nearly overbalancing (and underscoring her visitor’s earlier point), to grin at her mother.

“Ma! Hi! We’ve got a guest!”

“So I see,” Rosalind replied, nodding at the soldier, who had turned to face her and now saluted. “Can’t say I was expecting this. I’m Sheriff Schwartz. What can I do for you, Segeant…?”

“Locke,” she replied. “Squad 391. Don’t worry, it’s not Legion business.”

“Wasn’t especially worried,” Rosalind replied, raising an eyebrow at the salute; she was discharged years hence, and anyway had been a sergeant herself. “Seeing as how the Legions have no business with me anymore. That wouldn’t be Principia Locke, by any chance?”

“Ah,” the elf replied with a wry grin, “I see my reputation precedes me.”

“She says she grew up right over there in the grove!” Melody offered brightly.

“Mm hm, so I’ve heard,” said Rosalind. “I don’t get over to visit the elves very often, myself, but I do find reason every now and again. Enough times to have heard their opinion of you a time or two…Sergeant.” She slowly raised her chin, studying the elf down her nose. “I have to say, the sight of you in that armor is very… Incongruous, that’s the word. A more suspicious person might wonder where you came by it.”

“Mother!” Melody protested, appalled.

“It’s all right,” Principia said with a grin. “Yeah, I’m well aware what you’d have heard from those rigid old trees in the grove. I probably won’t be around long enough for it to matter, but you can check up on me if you are so inclined, Sheriff. I’m with the Third, currently stationed in Tiraas; my captain is Shahdi Dijanerad. Anyhow, this is a personal visit. I was actually a friend of your husband.”

“You knew Dad?” Melody exclaimed.

“I did.” Principia turned to her and nodded. “Anton was a fine man and a good friend; I was very sorry to hear he had passed. Sorrier still that I didn’t hear of it until very recently. We’d fallen out of touch.”

“Interesting,” Roslind said quietly, patting Lucy when the mare snorted again and stomped a hoof in annoyance. “Anton never mentioned you. Not once. You seem like a peculiar thing to just forget about.”

“Yeah,” the elf replied with a sigh. “He was a great one for not mentioning things. I happened to run into your son Herschel in Tiraas this last week, which marked the first time I ever heard that Anton had a family. I never even knew he was married.”

“I see,” Rosalind stated flatly, stiffening in her saddle. “And is there…a particular reason that fact is relevant?”

Principia met her gaze directly, but sighed again. “Yes. It is. You and I need to have a long, awkward conversation, woman to woman.”

The Sheriff studied her guest in silence for a moment before speaking—to her wide-eyed daughter, not Locke. “Melody, it’s getting late, and Marjorie’s still laid up with that ankle. Go help her bring the sheep in.”

“But Ma—” Melody’s protest cut off instantly when Rosalind shifted her head to give her a look. “…yes’m.”

The teenager flounced out of the yard, shutting the gate harder than was called for, and stalked off down the road toward the neighbor’s property, just visible in the near distance. Neither woman spoke again until she was well out of earshot.

“I’ve had years to come to terms with life,” Rosalind said finally. “It’s been hard without Anton, but I stitched myself back together. And it’s not as if I didn’t know he was an imperfect man, or had my ideas about how some of his…adventures went. But that’s all history. Before you say anything else, I want you to think very carefully about what you came here to talk about. Be sure it’s something that needs to be dragged up again. Because if it’s not, and you drag it… I’m not shy about facing hard facts if I need to, but I’d just as soon not dig up the past for no good reason.”

“There’s good reason,” Principia said, her expression dead serious. “I haven’t said anything about this to Herschel, because… Well, I consider it your prerogative. You’ll know best how to raise the matter with the kids, and this is all outside my realm of experience.” She grimaced. “This is not about reminiscing, though, and it’s not just about family. There are serious, practical reasons Herschel and Melody will need to know about their sister.”

Rosalind closed her eyes for a moment, drawing in a steadying breath, then opened them and swung down from the saddle.

“C’mon into the barn,” she said shortly. “I’ve a horse to look after and evening chores to see to. You can help while you talk.” She turned her back on the elf, leading Lucy away. “Apparently, it’s the least you can do.”


Daksh sat on the pier, gazing out to sea as the sunset faded over the mountains behind Puna Dara. He had been there for over two hours when the weirdo came and sat down beside him.

After nearly a full minute of silence, he finally shifted his head to glance at his new companion, who was attired in an all-concealing robe of brown sackcloth, tightly closed over his chest. As if the deep cowl weren’t enough to conceal his identity, he had a coarse cloth scarf covering his neck and face below the eyes. His exposed hands were tightly bound in bandages.

In Puna Dara’s climate, the outfit was ridiculous to the point of suicide, even now with the heat of the day beginning to dissipate.

“Do you want to talk about it?” the newcomer said in a deep voice muffled by his absurd mask.

“Why?” Daksh asked without thinking.

The robed figure heaved slightly in what Daksh only realized a moment later was a shrug. “It can help.”

He returned his stare to the darkening horizon. Somehow, even this absurdity did not make much of an impression. “It doesn’t matter.”

“That’s the same as saying you don’t matter.”

Daksh actually laughed, bitterly. “Clearly, I do not matter. Not to my daughters, who chase me away from my own house. Not to my son Rasha, who disappeared to Tiraas to become a thief. I certainly don’t matter to any of those who used to buy my fish.”

“Is something wrong with your fish?”

“They are Naphthene’s fish now, not mine. My boat sank.” Daksh caught himself, then shook his head. “No, that is not truthful. I sank my boat. I was drunk. My family’s livelihood… No, I do not matter. Not even to me.”

There was silence for a while longer before the stranger spoke again.

“Would you like to?”

Daksh heaved a short sigh. “Ugh. Which cult are you recruiting for?”

The man’s laugh was a hoarse rasp, with a strange undertone like metal grinding on stone. The odd sound finally drew Daksh’s full attention.

“Perhaps there is a better question,” the man said. “Regardless of what…cult, or whatever else I may represent. If you could matter. If you could be strong. Fearless. Powerful. Invincible. What would that be worth to you?”

“You are mad,” Daksh said matter-of-factly.

“I may well be,” the hooded figure agreed, nodding. “My question remains.”

“If you could do this?” He shrugged. “You can’t, but if you could? Anything but my soul. That is all I have anyway, now, so it seems I have nothing to barter. Which makes two of us.”

“You are so wrong.” The robed figure abruptly stood, grabbed his coarse garment at the throat, and tugged firmly, dragging the enveloping layers of cloth from him in one improbably powerful sweep. Daksh shied away from his sudden movement, and then found himself gazing up at the man in awe.

He now wore only his arm bindings and a simple wrap around his groin, exposing the metal which partially covered him. His entire right arm was lengths of copper and steel, slightly twisted as if they had been repurposed from scrap, bound together with hinges and springs—and yet, below the wrappings on his hand, his fingers seemed to be normal flesh. Metal was his left leg from the knee down, and fragments of scrap clustered on the skin of his right like barnacles, as if peeking through from structures beneath the skin. From the artificial joint of his right shoulder, irregular lengths of scrap metal crawled across his chest, forming a very rough triangle whose tip covered his heart, over which a battered compass with a green glass casing sat.

Half his face was covered in copper plates and brass wires, including his left eye, which was a small blue fairy lamp.

“You, my friend, are not dead,” the half-metal man proclaimed, grinning exuberantly and exposing—unsurprisingly—iron teeth. “And that alone means you have much to offer. You are still a man. You still matter. You are worth preserving!”

He leaned forward, holding out the wrapped hand of his metal right arm.

“But you can always become…more.”

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58 thoughts on “11 – 42

    1. I just noticed that 11-40 is missing the Schwartz tag. Gabriel, Jonas Crete, Principia, Finchley, Major Raszha, Milanda Darnassy, Nandi Shahai and Shaeine still exist twice in the list of character tags either because of added/missing last name or because of a typo or in Nandi’s case because she was first listed as bishop and then with her full name, if you think that’s important enough to fix.🙂

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      1. It’s something that needs to be attended to, thanks for catching it. I first have to summon up the motivation to trawl through multiple pages correcting typos and clicking buttons.

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    2. errrm…wait, what? (steampunk) Borg? in a fantasy/western? …head ‘SPLODES. Splodes, I tell you. Everywhere. Very messy.
      The timing of that was a bit too aligned (Rasha gets semi settled, shit instantly goes south on the far end of his trajectory), but otherwise it was a very nice piece (as usual). I do love seeing Triss’s inchwise progress, and the mentoring she’s getting from many sources. It’s nice some competent caring folks are stepping up…if it were all Grips and Webs and the like I think I’d find it too depressing. She’s growing up! That said, it seems to me Rouvad is a bigger tumor than the psycho Bishop (arguable, views on mgt and responsibility). It is curious the big lady hasn’t said/done anything…the gods can see and act against their UC bishops, as Snowe found out rather dramatically. So why is big A leaving nutsy-cuckoo and her enabling supervisor alone, I wonder…hmm. Me, I’d have applied lightning to both until they were nothing but plasma and bad memories. Avei: hey Syrinx! what do a Bishop and a neon light have in common? Basra: …I’ve got a bad feeling about this… (ker-bzzzzZZZzt!)

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      1. So far everything I’ve seen from Rouvad was good management for a military commander. Her only blind spot is Basra and the related matters.

        Btw… Rasha is female.

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      2. Schwartz found out that the Bishop’s sociopathic personality disorder stops for her from feeling guilt, and usually people feel a bit of guilt or other feeling that they aren’t doing what their god wants, and that’s what alerts the god that action needs to be taken. So Syrinx is almost invisible to Avei’s eyes. I’m not sure how Avei didn’t notice how Syrinx is evil when Trissiny was interacting with Syrinx though, since Avei should almost always be watching Trissiny and therefore should have caught Syrinx being a terrible Bishop. Or maybe she’s leaving Syrinx there as a test to Trissiny.

        As for Rouvad, she doesn’t seem that bad. Maybe not a great leader who will be remembered in the history books or even slightly below average for someone of her station, but not anything Avei should directly intervene with. Or maybe she’s a wizard with paperwork and Avei’s willing to put up with Rouvad’s morals for the😉

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      3. Everything about the dwarves has had steampunk written all over it so far. This is just the first time we’ve seen it get this explicit.

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    3. Another thing that I just noticed – this adds a follower of Salyrene to Trissiny’s circle of friends (assuming she and Herschel learn of their relation), so there is yet another god in relatively close proximity to the Hand of Avei. Between Principia as the Hand of Eserion, the Hands of Omnu and Vidius, a priestess of Themynra, a (kinda-hand-thing-daughter) of Naiya, and Teal being tutored by Vesk, poor Ruda wont be able to turn around without accidentally stabbing a paladin. The accumulation of divine interest around Trissiny is most definitely noteworthy.

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  1. Yet another surprising revelation: Anton Schwartz was Trissiny’s father, which makes Herschel her halfbrother. Trissiny just increased her family even further. I want to be in the room when they are being told.😀

    What’s next? Steampunk cyborgs! This continues to be awesome.🙂

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      1. Actually, people came to that conclusion because of a wrong assumption. There was very little that supported the theory at that point of time. (I just read the comments from those chapters again.)
        That it turned out to be true is pure luck.

        Btw… “a lot” were just two, maybe three, people.😉

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  2. Well the Metal dude is ominous as all get out. So new things learned: Triss is related to Herschel, that’s neat. Layla is either going for the long haul or will quit in two weeks not sure which one yet. The Dwarves got off pretty good, hope they don’t hold to bad a grudge.

    Also needs to be stated again, Metal Dude is really goddamn ominous and I can’t wait to see who and what he does later.

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  3. I think the real question (at least for me) is what comes next? As in, what is the next book going to be about?

    Personally I’m hoping for a continuation of the thieves guild plot line. Sort of kinda a slice of life ish style book. It’s the sort of thing that probably wouldn’t work well in a physical book but works perfectly in a serial format.

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  4. I don’t want to put pressure on you, and unfortunately I’m not in a position to give a donation, but if you’re interested in writing a bonus story about Principia’s exploits that would be awesome. Bonus points for including cruel practical jokes against fellow Eserites poking in her business. Take it as a suggestion from a fan.

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    1. Because Basra’s condition isn’t her fault. She’s mentally ill and doesn’t think she’s doing anything wrong. What’s Avei supposed to do? Smite her for being sick? That would set a bad precedent.

      Look at our world. Many top managers of the Fortune 500 companies exhibit psychopathic tendencies. People tolerate that because those managers produce results. Leaders who don’t hesitate to make a profit even when it hurts people are very successful in a capitalist society.

      http://www.forbes.com/sites/victorlipman/2013/04/25/the-disturbing-link-between-psychopathy-and-leadership/

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      1. I can’t see Avei being summoned to judge a serial killer, only to say “actually, you get a free pass because you’re mentally ill”. That would set even worse precedents, including “motivations matter and actions don’t”, “mental illness is a get-out-of-jail-free card” (criminals would start abusing this in droves when word got out, especially since sociopathy is only even understood by the elves) and “Avei is cool with having a serial killer as her bishop as long as the serial killer doesn’t think she’s doing anything wrong”.

        It would also be a huge blow to the credibility of the cult for Avei to pardon Basra, because it would look an awful lot like she was letting Basra get away with her crimes because she was Avei’s bishop.

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      2. Basra isn’t a serial killer though. As far as we know she only ever killed a thug and that could be seen as justice since he murdered an Eserite, declined to cooperate peacefully and presented a threat.

        Basra almost killed several people, including Principia’s squad. She raped Covrin and she used violence and intimidation tactics when it wasn’t necessary. She’s dangerous and should stand trial for her actions… but in her mind, what she’s doing is right. That’s the reason why she can still use Avei’s divine magic.

        It’s all bad but is it enough to kill her outright, if you truly desire to have justice done?

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      3. I find it very difficult to believe that Basra isn’t a serial killer. She places no value on human life, makes enemies easily, and is comfortable blowing up a fortress to kill people she doesn’t like as long as she has plausible deniability. And she’s had all the power and authority of a bishop for quite a while now.

        But while I do think there’s a strong case for killing her outright, because she is both completely incurable and extremely dangerous, nowhere is it written that Avei has to do that. As the supreme authority over the Silver Legions, she can merely command them to have Basra court martialled. With the eyes of the entire continent on Basra, Rouvad no longer able to cover for her, and all of Basra’s enemies promptly coming out of the woodwork to testify, justice would probably be served very quickly.

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      4. Doing so would harm the Legions even more than keeping Basra in her position. The political consequences alone would be severe, not to mention the hit to their reputation.

        We haven’t seen Basra murdering people and the belief that she probably has done so is not enough for a conviction.

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      5. I think with a bit of effort they could happily spin it into “no one is above justice in the Silver Legions/Church of the Pantheon”. Justinian could manage something like that with a snap of his fingers if he thought Basra had become a liability and wanted damage control.

        Besides, reputation-wise Basra is a ticking time bomb. The majority of the things we’ve already seen her do would wreck the cult’s reputation if any of them were made public, and it’s not like she intends to change. Getting rid of her in a way that doesn’t make the detail of her crimes public should be top priority for the leadership.

        As for the statement that Basra has probably been killing people, that’s my belief and irrelevant here. Either she’s been killing people as a general practice in her career or she hasn’t, and if Silver Legions court martials uphold justice properly, they should be able to establish which it is. At which point, if she turns out to be pure as the driven snow, then the issue ends there, with Basra only suffering the reputational hit. Though I doubt her reputation was stellar to begin with.

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      6. Guys, it doesn’t matter if Syrinx is a serial killer or not, because she is a rapist, which is roughly equally bad. That’s enough to be locked up for several years. And there’s definitely approaches beside “let her keep her high ranking position consequence free” and “throw her in prison for life for being mentally ill” in possible reactions to Syrinx.

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      7. If you call down Avei’s judgement on the matter, it’s going to be the same as with Juniper. Basra would likely die despite it being not the most strategic choice in the matter.

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    2. As a simple answer to the question of why Trissiny isn’t calling down Avei’s judgment, I’m guessing the “Like Rouvad, Trissiny trusts in her goddess” is the core explanation. If Basra can call on Avei’s divine light, Avei clearly has noticed she exists, therefore she must somehow pass muster. There’s no point in Trissiny inviting Avei’s attention personally if Avei has basically allowed it.

      Schwarz is the one who speculates that Avei isn’t paying enough attention to her priesthood to know the differences between “isn’t guilty” and “feels no guilt”, and he hasn’t shared that discovery yet. And there’s STILL the possibility that the archpope has interceded on her behalf, or in some way has her under the same “Move along, nothing to see here, gods” cloak that he’s apparently got running for himself. Which, side note, is another tie between the Black Wreath and Justinian, aside from just philosophical overlap and desire to Seek the Truth. Not saying their in league, although Embras might not have been told if they were, but it’s sort of setting up this “two sides of the same coin” parallel.

      If Avei knew more, the problem *probably* would have been taken care of already. Serial killer or not, mentally ill or not, you probably don’t let continuing rapists keep using your divine light if you’re a goddess of women and justice. But who can say? The ways of the goddess are mysterious indeed…..

      That said, Avei was DIRECTLY clued into Basra being a terrible Avenist way back in the very beginning. The empress directly stated, in Avei’s presence, that Basra was the “worst Avenist she’d ever met” and Avei REACTED. Yet the follow up? None that we’ve seen.

      So. Something’s going on there, and something’s yet to come.

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    3. To me, Basra’s arc in this book basically felt like the following:
      Trissiny: If you keep feuding, I will literally kill you
      Basra: I’m gonna blow up Principia now
      Trissiny: No
      Basra: Totally doing it
      Trissiny: Guess I’ll just light your house on fire.

      Also her explanation of events somehow convinced Rouvad, yet didn’t pass Trissiny’s scrutiny? Feels like Basra is just kept around on fiats.

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  5. I did not see that reveal coming. And I probably should have. This is how you do good foreshadowing: when the reveal happens and you go, ‘so that’s what that meant!’. Prin’s been dropping hints about Anton for chapters, but it only clicks now that the reveal has happened that they were closer than anyone knew.

    So now Triss has even more family. And she hasn’t even gotten to know all of the first lot yet.

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  6. The bit about “iyai” – it doesn’t come up in any of the other chapters as far as a search can find.
    Anyone have any thoughts about what that’s a reference to?

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    1. its in 11-40.
      That close, in a wrestling match, he was considerably stronger than she. Her arm strained to hold it off, but the blade descended inexorably.

      She gritted her teeth and reached for the light inside her. There was a time to break cover, after all.

      “IYAAAAIII!”

      Rogrind jerked his head up, then released her and tried to stumble back, not quite fast enough. The lance that flashed down at him nailed him directly in the shoulder

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    1. im gonna guess that he is actually Anton Schwartz, who turns out not being dead but turned into a cyborg instead… he probably got burnt during one of his adventures and lost most of his body… he and Triss+Hersel will become enemies… and then, when things seem desperate comes the reveal: I AM YOUR FATHER

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The dwarves wanted information about the staves, where they came from, how they work, if they can be countered, who was involved in their creation… that sort of thing.

      Why? Because those weapons present a new threat that could shift the balance between nations, if mass produced. Most, if not all, dwarves can use divine magic and I assume every soldier and operative of the Five Kingdoms can shield themselves. If the Empire suddendly has a weapon that negates that advantage, then that’s something the dwarves need to know.
      Even worse, if they find proof that the Empire was developing these weapons in secret, then that could have a huge impact on ongoing negotiations.
      Last but not least, the dwarves are technically at war with the drows, so new weapons entering the equation could change a lot there, too.

      It might be something we don’t know yet, too. Maybe the existence of the staves helps to explain how gods are made, since they apparently can disrupt transcendence fields. Maybe those weapons would even be effective against the gods themselves, which would be a huge deal and well worth the lives of a dozen agents.

      Countries and their spy agencies in our world went to even greater lengths for smaller prices, so this isn’t totally out of character.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Another thing worth considering is the combination of anti-divine weapons and guns… as we have seen at various points, divine shields are kinetic barriers (remember the hellgate fight) and might be a counter to massed-fire tactics (which seems like the natural way that early gun armies would work). Think Shaeine’s barriers, angled to deflect incoming bullets. Having divine disruptors on hand to stop that would be extremely useful.

        Liked by 3 people

    2. The Black Wreath has significant influence in the Dwarvern kingdoms too, they managed to send an agent in to capture that dwarf professor of Arachne’s(forget the name). They clearly wanted the staves for themselves, and they haven’t made an overt moves toward the staves this entire arc, so they could be related to this.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Well I’ll be damned…. and I thought Meesie made that flying leap at j/t in the second chapter of this book because she’s a paladin. Seems like the elemental knew they were family first.

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    1. Yup. Hence my “Smug Meesie is best Meesie” — that chunk of cute flame knows a lot more than she can say.😄

      She’d sense both things immediately. Ditto about Prin’s interrelationships, too. Heck, everybody’s.🙂

      In short, trying to keep relationship secrets around the fae is a hiding to nothing.😀

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  8. so Triss got a big family Hahahahaha, damn, didn’t see that coming but is awesome, Schwartz is such a badass big bro. The cyborg thing sounds creepy but amazing. Can’t wait to see what comes next.

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  9. So, all of a sudden Herschel being a bit of a hidden badass makes a lot more sense. It is in his genes, after all. It also means that those dwarves will accidentally biting off way more than they could chew when they threatened him and his family. It may not be a very strong connection, but Herschel is at least more closely related to a dragon than the average witch. Even if that dragon is the cousin of his half-sister, and neither is probably aware of that fact…

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  10. 😀 I think I accidentally came to the conclusion that schwartz sr was triss’s father a few chapters back.
    Yep, made the guess back in 11-3. Wanted to take my guess back but I turned out to have guessed right!
    Triss went from no blood relatives to far too many with very complicated relationships.

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  11. That robot guy is bad ass. It’d also be great if as a twist he wasn’t a bad guy who wasn’t tricking a poor sap into metaphorically, not literally, selling his soul for power and really did just want to make a new adventurer to do good and help people.

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  12. First time poster, finally caught up after marathoning this series for the past few weeks! Kudos to the author; I’ve loved everything so far.

    A question in general that popped into my mind: do guns neuter the threat of headhunters?

    As I understand it, they are so dangerous because they can counter all magic types and react on an instinctual level – faster than even elves can move. But guns bypass shields by all but the most powerful casters, and readers have been consistently reminded that headhunters are NOT powerful casters, just extremely fast, versatile, and unpredictable. They react quickly, but seemingly only when aware of a threat. Equipping a unit of snipers to take down headhunters from afar seems much safer than sending several Imperial strike teams facing a high mortality rate.

    Looking forward to seeing where the next book goes! And as much as I liked the Triss Locke plot, I would really prefer to see the University gang back together again; hope they show back up soon🙂

    Onward to GLORY! (Or book 12 at least!)

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