13 – 2

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“YOU DO NOT FUCKING ROB THE FUCKING SISTERS OF FUCKING AVEI!”

“We didn’t,” Darius protested. “I mean, quite specifically, we did not rob them!”

“If anything, we un-robbed them!” Tallie added. “They were getting snookered and we—”

“Do not get cute with me,” Style snarled. “You entered their facilities under false pretenses and appropriated shit which was not yours. This is the fucking Thieves’ Guild, if you little wankstains haven’t noticed. I know what a fucking robbery is, and you just pulled one.” She stopped her pacing right in front of Tallie, and leaned in close. “ON THE GODDAMN SISTERHOOD OF FUCKING AVEI.”

“We’re not evading,” Jasmine said in perfect calm. “The matter just wasn’t as simple as you’re making it sound. We took things out of the temple, yes, but—”

“Let me see if I got the details,” the enforcer interrupted, straightening and turning to pace again. “You interrupted a Salyrite delivery of potions, reagents, magical shit in general, to a local temple of Avei. Jasmine, dressed in Legion armor, drags in Layla, pretending to be bringing her in as a prisoner. Scuffling ensues, everyone is distracted. Meanwhile, Tubby and Smarmy, here, drive a delivery truck up to the temple and accidentally block the Salyrite vehicle in.” She scowled at Ross and Darius in turn as she paced by them.

“How come the girls don’t get nicknames?” Ross muttered.

“While the scrawny one engages the Salyrite driver in an argument and generally adds to the confusion, the beefy one starts loading crates in and out of the place, and lifts the Salyrite shipment while they’re all distracted. And while this is going on, our little burgeoning cat burglar oozed first into the temple through an upper window and then the Salyrite truck to swipe documents.” Again, she stopped, folded her arms, and glared at them. “I miss anything?”

“After that,” Layla said primly, “we made copies of the documents from both cults, which prove that agents within the Sisterhood and the Collegium were massaging the figures of what had been delivered and how much paid to skim revenue and poach supplies from these transactions.”

“Which,” Tallie added with a grin, “we then had delivered to the central temples of Avei and Salyrene, along with giving the Salyrites their stuff back. So nobody lost any property, and both cults now know who in their ranks was screwing ’em over.”

“They’re welcome, incidentally,” Darius added.

Off to the side of the room, Lore chuckled, still lounging against the wall. “Not gonna lie, kids, that’s a pretty damn neat job. I’d expect full Guild members to do that kinda work, never mind apprentices on their first unsupervised heist. Only thing you forgot was how to get yourselves paid.”

“We are but lowly apprentices,” Jasmine said with a beatific smile. “Happy to work for the experience and prestige.”

“You, stop helping,” Style barked, pointing at Lore, then turned to glare at Jasmine. “And you. If you’re so insistent you didn’t actually rob the Sisterhood, wanna explain what the fuck you were doing with a set of Silver Legion armor in the first place?”

“I borrowed it,” Jasmine said blandly.

Style took two strides and leaned down directly into her face. “You wanna try again, squirt?”

Lore cleared his throat. “I’m not sure if any of your trainers have covered this explicitly, Jasmine, but the ‘borrowed’ defense isn’t regarded kindly around here. We’re thieves; we steal stuff. Taking without permission is theft, whether or not you bring the item back. Have some pride and don’t make excuses or beat around the bush.”

“Actually nobody had mentioned that, but thank you,” Jasmine said, glancing at him sidelong but keeping most of her attention on Style’s uncomfortably close glower. “Really, though, I wasn’t doing that. I did borrow it. Glory hooked me up with a dealer who had two almost-complete sets of armor. I helped him assemble them properly and showed him where to get the missing pieces, and he let me take one for the day as thanks.”

“I still say we should have borrowed both,” Layla huffed. “I would really have liked—”

“Layla,” Darius said in exasperation, “you couldn’t both be Legionnaires. If neither one was the prisoner, what the fuck would you have been doing there?”

“And if she was a prisoner,” Style growled at Jasmine, “how the fuck did you get out without her being in a cell?”

“The story we used was she was a runaway Legion cadet,” Jasmine replied, leaning subtly backward in her seat. “Which is breach of contract at the worst; it’s a legal gray area whether the Sisterhood has the authority to detain people for that. It made the perfect cover for her to kick up a fuss for half an hour and then still get to leave. Can I get some personal space, Style? I can taste what you had for lunch, here. Not everybody likes Punaji curry.”

Lore burst out laughing.

“Kid,” Style said, slowly straightening back up but not releasing Jasmine from her glare, “there are days when I think you were put on this world specifically to be a thorn in my ass.”

“I thought the expression was ‘thorn in my side?’” Tallie piped up.

“Thorn in the foot’s also used,” Ross grunted. “The ass thing is new.”

“Classic Style!” Darius chirped.

“Shut the fuck up,” Style ordered, and they immediately did; she had spoken calmly and flatly. Style cursed and yelled and threw things as part of her ordinary conversation. Everyone who survived a month of Guild apprenticeship knew to step very lightly, however, when she lowered her voice. “Lore, I can’t deal with this magnitude of horseshit. Explain their stupidity whilst I take a mental health break.”

She turned and stomped over to a cabinet against the far wall of the underground meeting room, from which she extracted a bottle of wine and took a long swig.

Lore coughed, suppressing his earlier laughter, and finally straightened up from the wall, stepping toward them. He was one of the Guild’s few actual priests, and its foremost specialist in Eserite philosophy and what little actual dogma the cult had. For the most part, that meant he stayed around the Guild’s headquarters, assisting the Boss and training apprentices.

“You kids have really stuck your collective foot in it,” he said more somberly. “You know our relations with the other cults can be dicey. There are long-standing tensions, such as the way we like Avenists more than they like us, and Vernisites like us more than we like them. In general, though, there’s a lot of widespread dislike of thieves. Lots of groups, religious and secular, have the attitude that Eserites are only tolerated because Eserion is a god of the Pantheon, and they resent having to tolerate us. And that, kids, is why any jobs pertaining to other cults are undertaken very carefully. Very carefully. Usually with the direct say-so of and organization by the Bishop and the Boss himself. Not a gaggle of out-of-control apprentices…you know, as a general rule.”

“Ohh,” Tallie said quietly, then swallowed. “Um…”

“In the time it took you to drive back to wherever you staged all this, transcribe those documents, arrange to have them delivered, and get back here, the beehive you kicked hasn’t stopped buzzing. Sweet has already had an earful from Bishops Throale and Syrinx. The Universal Church has gotten involved, trying to smooth things over, and the Boss has been fully occupied keeping some of our hotter heads in check, because all they can see is spellflingers and soldiers getting up in the Guild’s face apparently on their own initiative.”

“Oh, fuck,” Darius mumbled.

“WELL SAID,” Style thundered, slamming the bottle back onto a shelf and turning to glare at them. “Let’s have a little pop trivia! Who can tell me under what circumstances it is acceptable for the Boss of the Thieves’ Guild to have to clean up after a pack of goddamn apprentices?”

“Um…none?” Tallie ventured.

“Wrong! Who else wants to try?”

“Well,” Jasmine said carefully, “I suppose, theoretically, in a situation where the Boss himself was considered corrupt—”

“Jasmine, it’s a constant mystery to me how you can think so goddamn much and never about the right things. Anybody else got the answer I’m looking for?”

Ross hesitantly raised a hand. “…fucking none?”

“WINNER!” Style shouted, pointing at him.

Lore shook his head. “Look… How the hell did you kids find out about this in the first place? Shenanigans between elements in the Sisterhood and the Collegium aren’t the kind of thing into which random junior Eserites normally have insight.”

“Well, actually, that was just a right place, right time sort of deal,” Tallie said almost timidly. “See, our friend Schwartz is in the Emerald College, and he’s been involved in both interfaith relations and disseminating supplies. Apparently it was all part of his own plan to get to know Eserites, which, I guess, worked. But he mentioned he’d been seeing some funny activity…”

“And then there’s our other friend Rasha,” Darius added. “Who happens to have insight into some of the alchemical reagents the Avenists use, you know, cos he goes to them for—I mean, she—they… Dammit! I knew her all of a week the other way, why am I still not used to that?”

“Because you’re a clod,” Layla said fondly, ruffling his hair.

“Rasha,” Jasmine said quickly before Style could swell up any further, “has treatment sessions with the Sisterhood as part of transitioning. She’s not using alchemy yet because they do very thorough counseling before starting on that, but she talks with the sisters about the program, and they’ve mentioned there are unexplained shortfalls in some of their alchemical supplies.”

“Which was the other thing with which Glory helped,” Layla continued primly. “She really is the most fabulous source of gossip, and I enjoy very much being a guest at her salons. There, I heard rumors about some unexpected personnel changes in various cults; individuals who are known to favor the Universal Church have been maneuvering into positions where they serve as the intermediaries between cults. It’s all very subtle, and might never have been noticed at all except one has some kind of feud with the Avenist Bishop, who made noise about this particular priestess horning in on her territory, so to speak. Even so, only the sort of people with whom Glory associates follow these dealings. If not for our very fortuitous acquaintance, the likes of us would never have learned of this.”

“But we put that together, saw a pattern, and looked further,” Jasmine finished. “Black market dealings, places where those mislaid alchemical supplies might have been turned into untraceable cash. Pick’s connected to those, and he helped us out.”

“Surprisingly decent little prick, in his way,” Tallie added thoughtfully. “Prob’ly just cos he owes us for getting him away from those dwarves, but still.”

“Mm,” Lore grunted. “Well, you kids do impress. That was good work, spotting an opportunity and finding a way to exploit it. But what you should have done when you figured out something was fishy was go straight to Style with it. Apprentices have no business messing in other cults’ affairs.”

“But we were helping them!” Layla protested. “At least—”

“The man didn’t fucking stutter!” Style snarled. “Apprentices have no fucking business fucking around with other fucking cults’ business! You don’t help them, you don’t thwart them, you stay the hell out of their shit entirely! If you spot something fucked up going on in another Pantheon cult, or between two of them, you bring it to the Guild. The Boss will decide whether it’s something we need to intervene in, and if so, how. Not. You.”

“I realize we emphasize independence and distrust of structures,” Lore said much more gently. “It’s an understandable mistake; most of the time you’re expected not to bother the Boss, or rely excessively on the Guild. But for exactly that reason, in the few areas where the Guild does need to be involved, we take it very seriously when people go off on their own and create exactly these kinds of problems.”

“Sorry,” Ross mumbled.

Style snorted and threw up her hands, but Lore nodded gravely. “I believe you. Look… This was overall damn fine work, all right? You planned and executed an extremely neat job, and that after making excellent use of your connections and available resources. But you acted without considering the ramifications, or the role the Guild would have to play in this. That is what we can’t have.”

“And before you start getting big heads,” Style said, “he was warning you, not praising you. That’s a dangerous spot to be in, kids. If you’ve got the skills of Guild members and don’t grasp what it means to be Guild members, you’re a potential problem, if not a threat. People who land themselves in this position and don’t straighten the fuck out usually end up getting dealt with in other ways.”

Tallie swallowed heavily again. “Um…”

“No, I’m not threatening you,” Style said with a sigh. “If I thought you were gonna be that kind of problem, I’d be kicking your asses, not telling you about it. You’re students; I’m teaching. Now you understand where you went wrong. Fix your shit.”

“Understood,” Jasmine said quickly.

“I believe you,” Style replied. “Which just leaves the matter of putting this right. For now… Just leave it alone. Stay close to the Guild and wait for orders. Since you little shits are the ones with firsthand knowledge of what went down, you’re likely to be part of the process of smoothing it over, but first the Boss and the Bishop need to figure out what’s what and how to straighten it out. In the meantime, wait. And for fuck’s sake, behave yourselves.”

Jasmine cleared her throat. “Okay. And…since we’re not being punched, what’s it to be? Are we going to be scrubbing the kitchens again?”

“Jas, shut up,” Darius hissed.

Style rolled her eyes. “Punishment is for assholes; dumbasses get correction. You never have figured out the difference, Jasmine. No, when I said you were gonna make this right, that is what I meant. Now you understand how you fucked up; once you do your part to fix it, that’s that. Abusing you further isn’t gonna accomplish anything. All right, enough. Get outta here and stay in this district until I tell you otherwise. And I suggest you keep in mind that malice accounts for the lesser part of all fuckups. Trouble is much more often caused by stupidity. You wanna avoid getting in trouble, fucking think.”

“Surprisingly good advice,” Darius murmured as they filed hastily out of the room before Style could change her mind.

“Yeah,” Jasmine agreed as quietly. “Actually, it reminds me of another teacher of mine. She’s fond of saying much the same thing.”

“But with less cussing?” Tallie asked with a grin.

Jasmine sighed. “It…depends.”


“I know you’re well aware of the phenomena, Professor,” said Wrynst, the designated spokesman of the group. “Demons which bleed or otherwise dispense bodily fluids inflict infernal corruption on whatever the substance touches—yet when they are killed on this plane, the bodies dissolve into ash which leaves minimal corruption behind, and in some cases none. In order to be magically reactive, spell components harvested from demons must be taken while the demon was alive. Yet, sapient demons which can use infernal magic mostly leave behind intact bodies, which may or may not be infernally active, depending on the situation. Vanislaads in particular appear to leave behind a fully intact body, and the very same demon may return later to this plane in a new body, while their previous one might still exist here. Altogether the nature of demons’ connection to magic, to life, and to this plane is not understood. We have only lists of observed effects and no understanding of the underlying principles involved.”

“Yes, of course,” Tellwyrn said neutrally, interlacing her fingers and regarding him over them. “And of course, you know why that understanding is lacking, even after thousands of years.”

“Actually, Professor, for most of that period, infernal magic was considered far more dangerous to use than it is today, and understanding of its use was correspondingly lacking. Until as recently as the Hellwars, ‘warlock’ was considered synonymous with ‘servant of Elilial,’ because no one without that goddess’s specific protection could even touch the infernal and not combust or mutate on the spot. The word itself is said to mean ‘oathbreaker,’ as the only people to whom it applied had specifically betrayed the gods. Now, though, there are not only the Wreath, but also organized warlocks in the service of Salyrene and many national governments and other organizations, not to mention independent practitioners—all because of the advancement of knowledge.”

“And you propose,” she said slowly, “to advance it again.”

Wrynst nodded, stepped forward, and laid a thick folder down upon her desk. “Yes, Professor. The full details of our proposal are there for you to peruse at your leisure. In brief, however, we have outlined an experimental protocol which will involve the repeated summoning of and experimentation upon lesser non-sapient demons to study the nature of their dimensional connection to Hell, and thus the nature of infernal magic itself. Katzils, mostly, as they are the most manageable. At present, infernomancy is more an art than science; its safe use is largely intuitive, and therefore difficult to teach and fraught with peril. We propose to study and quantify it. If our program meets with any success, it would be a great leap forward in magical understanding, as well as taking much of the inherent danger out of infernal magic. This will make it not only safer to use, but help in devising methods of resisting demons and their masters.”

Tellwyrn glanced at the folder without moving to touch it, then across the small knot of people assembled before her desk. Behind Wrynst stood the representatives from the factions which were backing Rodvenheim’s proposal: a warlock from the Topaz College of Salyrene, a magelord of Syralon, a robed Black Wreath cultist, and a battlemage of the Empire’s Azure Corps.

Strange bedfellows, indeed.

“This is, of course, possibly the most dangerous research project ever undertaken.”

“Yes, Professor,” Wrynst said solemnly, not even quibbling with her obvious hyperbole. “We are well aware of the risks, and seek to take all possible steps to mitigate them. That fact is why this research has never been conducted before.”

“Oh, it’s been tried,” said Fedora, who was lounging against a bookcase off to the side. “By many a warlock throughout the years. In slow bits and bites over the millennia, they added gradually to the knowledge of the craft, while meeting a succession of swift and grisly fates.”

Tellwyrn shot him a brief, irritated glance, which was mirrored by each of the research delegates before her. “I’m sure this lays out your proposed containment methods. Leaving that aside, in brief, what do you intend to do about the dimensional effects of such repeated summonings?”

Wrynst coughed discreetly and glanced behind himself. At his look, Colonel Azhai nodded and stepped forward.

“In short, Professor, we intend to monitor them. This campus’s inherent protections, and the fae geas laid upon it, will do a great deal to mitigate the inherent dimensional thinning effect. Our containment protocols will do more. But as part of our research protocol, we will be closely observing the state of dimensional stability in the region. Our program calls for a cessation of summoning activity should signs of dimensional instability appear, and that only as an initial measure. You are of course aware of the methods of repairing such unintended rifts.”

“They aren’t easy,” Tellwyrn murmured.

“No, ma’am,” Azhai agreed. “Which is why our strategy emphasizes prevention. But we will be prepared to take whatever restorative action is necessary, should the need arise.”

Tellwyrn looked at Fedora and raised an eyebrow.

“I’ll want to read over their protective measures, just to be in the loop,” he said with a shrug. “Ultimately, though, you know a lot more about this hoodoo than I. Suggest having Yornhaldt and Harklund sign off on it, as well. Long as everyone’s confident, that’s that.” He cleared his throat and straightened up. “I do have an additional thought on this, which I’d prefer to share with you in private, Professor.”

“Of course,” Wrynst said hastily, bowing and taking a step back from the desk. “We can come back…”

“Oh, I don’t think that will be necessary,” said Tellwyrn. “Let’s not take up any more of your time than we must. If you will excuse us for just a moment?”

“Certainly!”

She nodded politely and gestured.

A distortion flickered across the office, as if a wall of frosted glass had appeared to separate Tellwyrn and Fedora from the guests. Behind it were revealed only vague shapes, and no sound penetrated.

“Well?” she asked, swiveling her chair to face him directly. “What do you think?”

“In short,” he said, “I think you have to go for it.”

She raised one eyebrow. “Oh, I have to, do I?”

“C’mon, don’t get all Tellwyrn on me,” he said with a grin. “You’ll do what you want, and we both know it. But in this case, with regard to your stated goals for this whole program? This is just too perfect to pass up. It’s dangerous and potentially incredibly valuable if it’s a success. It’s exactly the kind of research you launched this whole initiative to do. This is the first real test of the whole plan. If you’re not willing to take this on, it all becomes kind of…moot. This research hasn’t been done elsewhere because nobody was willing to touch it. If you’re not…what’s the point of the new research division?”

“Mm,” she grunted, glancing at the obscured shapes behind the barrier, which were now shifting slightly as they interacted with one another.

“There’s more,” Fedora said in a less jocular tone. “This is also the perfect opportunity to deal with the other thing I warned you about when you hired me. It’s not only incredibly dangerous, it deals with warlocks and demons—exactly the subject that gets people riled up and frightened. It is the ideal avenue of attack for your enemies to use against you.”

“And so,” she murmured, “by controlling the path my enemies take, I control their fates.”

He tilted his head. “Huh. I dunno why it should surprise me that you’ve read the Aveniad, but it does.”

“If anything it’s more surprising that you’ve read it,” she sighed.

“Some good, solid advice in there,” he replied, winking. “Take a little time to review the proposal in detail; that’ll give me a little time to make preparations for whoever’s gonna take advantage to try it. This is it, Professor. Make or break.”

“All right,” she said, suddenly brisk, and turned back to the desk. The barrier vanished, and the assembled magical specialists turned expectantly to her. “Very well, upon consultation with my head of campus security, I am strongly inclined to endorse this program. Obviously, I will need to review your proposal in detail; there may well be adjustments upon which I will have to insist.”

“Oh, of course,” Wrynst said quickly, nodding.

“But, barring some absolute dealbreaker in the fine print, I believe you have just become the proud progenitors of this University’s first major research project. Give me a few days to review in detail, consult with my faculty and make some arrangements. I shall try not to drag my feet about it.”

“Professor, we are glad to grant you whatever you need,” Wrynst assured her, glancing back at his compatriots and getting a chorus of affirmative nods. “After all, you are being more than generous with us.”

A soft chime sounded, and everyone shifted to look at Fedora, who pulled a large silver pocket watch from inside his coat and flipped it open.

“Ah,” he said in a tone of deep satisfaction. “Professor! You remember that thing you asked me to watch for yesterday? It’s happening.”

“What?” she exclaimed, shooting upright. “Already?”

“Yes, well,” Fedora said glibly, shutting the watch and putting it away again. “I may have encouraged it along a little bit.”

“I asked you,” she grated, “to watch for the sophomore class trying to sneak off campus, not to goad them into doing it!”

“I swear to you I’ve not said a word to them!” he replied, holding up his hands in surrender, but grinning unrepentantly. “I did, however, have a few selective words with Raffi at our poker game last night, on the assumption they’d find their way to Zaruda and onward from there. Sometimes, Professor, watching for bad behavior means strewing a few seeds. That’s how you find out which soil is the most fertile.” He winked at the delegates.

Tellwyrn growled wordlessly. “Mr. Wrynst, everyone, I’m sorry to cut this meeting short, but it appears I have something rather more urgent to attend to. If you will excuse me.”

“Not to worry, Professor, we…” Wrynst trailed off; Tellwyrn had vanished in the middle of his sentence.

“She does that a lot,” Fedora confided. “It’s all part of the charm.”

 

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35 thoughts on “13 – 2

  1. Man I love Style. She’s the best xD
    Also, I love it that Jasmine is settling into her stay at in the theives’ guild, and that she yet again found her way into a bunch of people who are too talented and curious for their own good. Good to see that Layla stayed and is contributing to the group too 😀
    Also I’m assuming that this book will in involve the sophomores too? This is gonna be fun as heck

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  2. Not included on Fedora’s given reasons of why he wanted to work for Tellwyrn is that he *thoroughly* enjoys being in a position to sometimes fuck with the most powerful mage on the planet and get away with it.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Also… messing with the many dangerous and interesting people who are not her, but are either 1) attending college as either teacher or student or 2) trying to inconvenience those attending the college and/or 3) idiots who are trying to maliciously inconvenience Tellwyrn, be they student body, faculty or outsiders.

      His trolling doesn’t count (because he’s carefully made sure of it — see “for reasons of not being an idiot”). XD

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  3. Yesss, the apprentices and the sophomores in one book!! This is all I have ever wanted. Nice to see the results of Tellwyrn’s research project thing; from how she reacted to the studying infernomancy thing, it’s gonna be really hard for her to go with something she’s so actively opposed to. Letting random strangers run wild on her University runs counter to a lot of her principles, presumably.

    Also, is it just me or is the added obstacle of getting through an incubus detective just plain unfair? Sometimes kids just have to sneak out, yknow? And surely Vestrel could come up with a way around that the next time, unless she’s only good for killing Vanislaads and not getting around them. I can honestly think of no better way to use your god-given warrior guard than to play pranks on Tellwyrn.

    Lore speaks!! He seems nice enough, like the good cop to Style’s terrifying bad cop. I love Style, she’s absolutely amazing. And yet again, Jasmine is part of a group who try their best but end up causing insane amounts of trouble. Do you think Style or Tricks ever curse Avei for choosing a paladin who causes them so many problems? Or Sweet, actually, this has to be at least the second time Trissiny’s got him in a right mess. Being yelled at by Basra cannot be fun. Ugh, just imagine, that’s actually a horrendous prospect.

    I am so proud of Rasha for coming out to everyone though!! Darius messing up her pronouns but recognising that it’s his fault and trying to do better was incredibly heart-warming and argh everything about Rasha’s story makes me so happy. And she wasn’t even in the chapter and she’s made me almost cry. Webb, as usual, you have excelled with character building.

    Great chapter like always! I’m already pumped for Book 13, sounds like it’s gonna be one of the best yet.

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    1. Using the valkyries to prank Tellwyrn is not a good idea. She’s one of the few people who can see them.
      Not to mention, even if you managed to prank her… she’s the person grading your tests.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. True, but can an incubus see them? Valkyries are the anti-Vanislaad, iirc. And Tellwyrn had to get Fedora to monitor the sophomores, so if you got around him you’d probably be able to get off campus undetected…at least until you came back or they noticed you were gone and you realised exactly why your principal is called Professor Spider-Priestess Yells-At-Dragons. And then, yeah, she’s the person grading your tests…but then again, a truly unbiased teacher would grade purely on the quality of the test. Not saying she couldn’t dish out a truly awful punishment though, that much is true.

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  4. On a side note, because WordPress doesn’t allow edits, I don’t actually like Fedora and Tellwyrn’s dynamic. This is supposed to be character development but instead she gets ordered around? This isn’t just advice, since he just kind of tells her what to do and we the audience are positioned to believe he is right on all fronts. On a meta level Fedora has all the agency here and it’s undercutting Tellwyrn’s character.

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    1. I have to disagree with you here. Fedora is acting as a voice of reason, going up against Tellwyrn’s naturally headstrong and contrary nature. He has done nothing but point out the obvious here, and in their other interactions. The Professor has a stated goal, creating an environment that is open to collaboration and research that couldn’t otherwise occur. If she isn’t willing to accept something too dangerous to try anywhere else, then why is she even bothering?

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I don’t get this chapter.

    It starts with the protagonists getting chewed out by something that happened off-screen. The misdeed they supposedly did – the heist – sounds like fun. It would have been nice if we got to read it. Instead, we got to experience the shitty aftermath without having experienced the fun part.

    Not to mention, this whole section was just exposition in the form of dialogue. It was a long, huge infodump. None of the characters did anything. We’re told they did something, and we’re told that something had consequences, and that the protagonist were thoughtless for having done that thing. We’re told that stuff is going on even more off-screen by higher ups who are doing things to ameliorate that thing that happened. None of which we got to see first-hand. Instead we’re supposed to accept that all these things happened and everyone is feeling the things we’re told they’re feeling.

    It’s weird, is all. Maybe show a bit more and tell a bit less?

    And if you didn’t show us the heist because the heist doesn’t matter in the narrative, don’t devote half a chapter on deconstructing it and telling the readers how smart and simultaneously dumb the protagonist is. They haven’t earned their smartness and dumbness; and side-characters praising and chiding them for whatever smartness and dumbness they did off-screen feels unfair.

    Readers tend to place ourselves in the shoes of the protagonists, and while the protagonist might feel they did something wrong and earned their lecture, the readers won’t feel the same way because they haven’t done the misdeed together with the protagonists.

    If the narrative structure of this book requires the protagonists to start from a position of weakness or start with things going bad for them, that’s fine, but there has to be a better way of achieving this than a long lecture slash infodump telling us why they’re in said position.

    tl;dr I don’t get why this book starts with the protagonist being lectured for something they did off-screen and likely isn’t important anyway.

    Now that I think about it, the previous chapter had a long infodump in the form of a dialogue too. You realize there’s no word-limit on the internet, right? You don’t have to stuff all your exposition in one or two chapters.

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    1. I think the Thieves’ Guild stance on interfaith jobs might be important in this book? If so, then this method could be a fairly neat way to set the stage.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. To me it reads as a fun way to show some of what the characters have been doing since we last saw them, as well as establish them as a smoothly working team, with the added benefit of seeing Style blustering about in the same chapter.
      As for the lecture, as George said, it could be a case of foreshadowing. It’s too early in the story to know for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. The last two books went on much longer than originally intended. I’m guessing the author is experimenting with their writing to prevent that from happening again. Personally I enjoyed the seeing dynamic between the apprentices and learning more about the guilds few policies.

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    4. I mean, everyone’s tastes differ, but I think this is the best way to get information across in a short amount of time. Imo it’s actually been quite effectively done here; this chapter and the last have been sort of checking up with each group before we get into the main plot, but we still know what the plot is, so there’s a bit of context and we’re relaxed into the various characters’ positions quite gently but quickly. Dialogue is often the best way to get information across in an interesting way; the days of Tolkien-esque pages of exposition are mostly gone, especially in a story like this which has a more modern fantasy feel. The whole Avenist temple thing is just a Noodle Incident; I can’t speak for what Webb intended, but I think it was supposed to be a Noodle Incident. Just a fun story to show us what some characters were doing, give us some character development even incidentally – I wouldn’t be surprised to find Chekhov’s Gun or foreshadowing in play, but at the end of the day that’s irrelevant to this discussion.

      Word counts themselves are the lesser barrier; the real issue is pacing and plot creep. Which, obviously, isn’t a problem here, but if every single off-screen incident was developed definitely would be. We’d end up with ASOIAF, where the amount of books, characters and plotlines swell to almost unmanageable proportions, or ToMU, which is filled with character pieces at the expense of plot. Both of those are still good stories, but fell victim to bad pacing choices. That’s what’s at issue here – so far it doesn’t really seem to be an issue. There have been books, like 12 and 6, where pacing has been a slight problem, but I don’t think this particular example is the same.

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    5. Jimjin- you realize this is 13-2, right? This isn’t the start of the new book, as you incorrectly asserted several times. That was 13-1, which it sounds like you may have missed. I suspect many of your complaints will drop away upon realizing that, and reading this chapter in its proper context.

      I feel like Webb DID SHOW us the heist, it was reconstructed in our imaginations! The best kind of “showing” there is!

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    6. I disagree that the explanation of their heist was unimportant. In fact, I think it’s the driving factor that forces the Apprentices into the main plot of this arc.

      To explain, I think this chapter, the one before it, and likely the one after it are serving 2 structural purposes: getting us all updated on what everyone that wasn’t in book 12 has been doing and explaining how everyone involved ends up in Puna Dara in the first place, despite it probably not being a great idea.

      First, it’s been a long time, both in the story and in real life, since we’ve seen the Apprentices. Taking this chapter to bring us up to speed ensures we remember who these people are and what they do before the action starts, even if Trissiny is in disguise* right now. It makes sense that they executed a heist since they’re training to be members of the Thieves Guild, it makes sense that they ended up stealing from the Sisters due to what was explained in the chapter and Trissiny’s vested interest in rooting out corruption within their ranks, and it makes sense that Style is verbally tearing them a new one because they pulled this heist without thinking of the implications beyond their personal motivations.

      *Speaking of that disguise, cutting from Jasmine alluding to Tellwyrn straight to Tellwyrn herself was a great way to remind us that Jasmine is Trissiny, in addition to being absolutely hilarious.

      Second, Mr. Webb needs to give good reasons for the characters he wants to use in this arc to be in Puna Dara. Having the Apprentices do harm to the Sisters and the Collegium gives the Guild a good reason to throw them at the inevitable mess: to re-normalize relations between the Guild and both injured cults. It’s probably more reason than Mr. Webb needs, since he probably could have just had Grip insist on bringing them all along to keep them out of further trouble in Tiraas, but this setup gives him an opportunity to consolidate. If Principa and Squad 391 approach the Guild and ask for the Apprentices to accompany them to Puna Dara, that’s 1 less piece Webb and readers need to keep track of as he’s setting up the board for this arc. Fewer pieces to manage means Mr. Webb can get through the setup and into the action sooner, which he’s said is a priority for him this arc.

      Disclaimer: all of this is speculation. I’m not D.D. Webb. I just happen to like the story he’s written, and am super hyped for this arc. He seems to be throwing all my favorite characters in the general direction of the most intriguing mystery TGAB’s introduced in a while, so I’ll be here every update, trying in vain to get my friends to read along with me. 😦

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    7. So you told webb to show more and tell less. He did. Through implication, he summed up in half a chapter what would have taken two or three chapters to fully flesh out. The action described is still extremely vivid because in previous books he fleshed out the various characters, and the actions described triggered an image based on what’s known about that character.

      Take Layla, she had only a few lines and some brief descriptions of what she did, playing the part of the rogue soldier, but it fit with her character, the rebel noble, and you could just imagine the damn ruckus she caused in the temple. Rasha was only mentioned in name after the fact but Style said “aspiring cat burglar” and Rasha snapped to mind.

      That is showing, not telling.

      Now Walker is an example of telling, not showing. She’s the exposition fairy after all. But even she has begun to get some meat to her existence, and not just unload a century’s worth of boredom in one long monologue.

      And above all else, this is the start of a new book, with a time skip. If there weren’t some catching up scenes you’d be as lost as Gabe in a social situation.

      Webb, I love this story and I really particularly love the characters you’ve created. The growth trissiny has shown from book 1 is wonderful, particularly because it wasn’t all at once, one quick decision and she fixes a deeply ingrained trait. She struggles, she has to fight hard against those traits and that resonates strongly with me. I don’t think (could be wrong but meh) there has been a single character that is completely one dimensional, which is just STAGGERING considering how many are in this story.

      Anywho, just my thoughts.

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      1. Actually, I’m pretty sure Tallie was the cat burglar.
        If Rasha we involved in this other than the tangential info-gathering she would have been in the room being yelled at too.

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  6. ” individuals who are known to favor the Universal Church have been maneuvering into positions where they serve as the intermediaries between cults.”
    – I suspect that’s the part that’s going to be important later…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. In the breakdown of what the apprentices did and didn’t do, one very important detail seems missing.

    They stopped some people that weren’t guild but were stealing, without tithing to the Big Guy.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Ooh, something I’m only catching on my reread but now really want to know: who’s Syralon?! Another deity, I’m presuming, but of what? Do we get to know yet? Or is this like Calomnar, and the mystery’s part of the point?

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  9. A few remarks, not specially on this chapter, but on characters and plots and subplots in TGAB. I made a rapid count of the oversized protagonists in the characters sidebar and found near 55, it’s true several are parts of groups, and a count of all characters to the midst of Book 9 found more than 300, now I suppose we are near 400. In the Wikia I created for TGAB, I tried to account for several groups.

    I will now make a rapid census of groups and plots

    Unseen University :

    Class of 1181, Class of 1182 naturally and class of 1183 have their individualities, the later two are represented in the subplots, the former is more in background. we have also subplots on the faculty.

    Tiraas:

    We have many plots and subplots with the Thieves’s Guild (Bishop Darling “Family”, his Adventurers Group and now the ” Jasmine apprentices, also the various clans : Tricks, Vandro, Ironeye). The Sisters of Avei have many groups and subplots also (Squad 391, Bishop Syrinx, Viridill Province with Mother Narny. The Universal Church has many divisions (!), Justian is a longtime conspirator as the last interlude demonstrate. On the other cults of the Pantheon we have also the Shaatists, Vidians and Salyrites.

    I will continue tomorrow in details, but we have also demons, sailors, dwarves, elves and demi-goddesses

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  10. Hey, all. Once again I was planning to get a Wednesday chapter up to work down the backlog, but I seem to have done something to my back. I’ve had a slipped disc since I was 15, so back issues happen. Right now I’m having trouble just sitting in my chair; I think I’m gonna have to take a pass this time.

    Regardless, the donation goal was adjusted downward after three weeks of not being met, as is the system, and was very quickly met thereafter. So! Friday chapter will be posted. Don’t miss it!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. You outdid yourself on the first part of the chapter again. Looks like the UC got it in the shorts again, and that was one of the funniest dialogues you have written to boot.

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