Bonus #27: Scion, part 4

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If one had to be sentenced to an eternity of indentured servitude, the citadel of the Scions of Vemnesthis was surely the best place for it.

Though at first appearance the place seemed as spartan as it was purely weird, the accommodations proved downright luxurious. Most of them, it turned out, were concealed in the eclectic hodgepodge of floating structures which surrounded the complex. Given their sheer number, and the fact that several were clearly larger on the inside than their physical dimensions should have allowed, there was space for virtually everything a person could want. Except, of course, the freedom to leave.

Many were left empty, which was because these also provided housing for the Scions themselves. Everyone had the freedom to pick a dwelling from any of those not in use, and it seemed there as no rule or even convention against taking prime real estate. At least, nobody seemed to mind that one of the largest structures, a castle of medieval Syrrinski design, was Rispin’s personal residence. Aradidjad, doubling down on the lifelong enjoyment of irony which was helping to keep her sane, picked the lighthouse upon which she had nearly broken her neck immediately after arriving in the nexus.

At the moment, it was a spartan place to live. The method by which physical objects could be acquired in the nexus was not yet known to Aradidjad; all she knew was who was responsible for this. Kaolu created food, which it seemed the Scions did not need but were encouraged to eat as it was a pleasurable and satisfying experience, and as Rispin had warned her, taking care of their own mental health was an important duty in this state of eerie servitude.

Everything except food came through the auspices of Q. And apparently “everything” meant virtually anything; Rispin and Yalda both showed her their fully-furnished homes, and while Yalda had simple tastes, his was downright luxurious—not to mention huge. That made Q a living bottleneck in the process of requisitioning anything, and Aradidjad was beginning to feel the effects of the first impression she had made on him. So far, she had a hammock, a small stack of books, and a tacky fairy lamp which he claimed was “art deco.”

That aside, there were facilities for basically everything concealed in the floating buildings. The Scions had gymnasiums, swimming pools, botanical gardens, workshops, laboratories, a theater, no less than five museums and two smaller recreational libraries in addition to the “official” one Chao Lu Shen oversaw which supplied research material for missions. Kaolu’s residence was an apartment over the Tilted Hourglass, a pub which apparently served as the Scions’ principal casual hangout. It was stocked with vintages from across ten thousand years, and staffed by a funny little wheeled cylindrical golem with metal spider arms and bells for a voice, which was apparently an Elder God relic.

And that was just what Aradidjad had discovered in her initial poking around and talking to people. She met another dozen or so of her coworkers and found them, unsurprisingly, an eclectic bunch. Evidently they had plenty of leisure; there was no set schedule on which missions happened. Tellwyrn just showed up suddenly and started barking orders. According to Dravo, a talkative wood elf from the second century after the Elder Wars, she did a good job of spacing them to break up the tedium and avert any serious altercations, without overworking anyone. Aradidjad supposed that kind of thing was easy enough to arrange if you had a bird’s eye view of the timeline.

“Rise and shine, doctor,” Tellwyrn ordered, striding into the Hourglass, where Aradidjad was sitting at the bar with Yalda and Styrronski, a wizard she had just met and whose story she did not yet know. “Report to Shaft Three, you have an assignment.”

“What, just me?” she asked, glancing at the other two—and noting how flat their expressions had suddenly gone. This was only her third time being sent on a mission, and on both of the previous two occasions Tellwyrn had interrupted a gathering and dispatched everyone simultaneously.

“This time, yes,” the archmage said, wearing a pensive look which began to alarm Aradidjad slightly. The elf was usually the very incarnation of disdainful self-absorption. “I’ve been easing you into this, but now I’m afraid the leading strings come off. Shaft Three.”

She turned and strode back out, without waiting for a response. Aradidjad sighed, shook her head, and stood to follow.

“Hey.” She glanced back to find Yalda regarding her seriously. “Listen… It’s not going to be the end of the world. Okay? I don’t mean that to be condescending. Nothing she drags you through will be more than you can recover from, no matter how it feels at the time.”

“Well, that just shot right past ominous and straight into horrifying,” Aradidjad replied, frowning. “Is there something in particular I should know?”

“Yes,” Styrronski replied, then scowled at Yalda when she jabbed his arm with a fist. “Yes. She deserves a forewarning, same as all of us—”

“I was forewarned,” Yalda snapped, “and it made it infinitely worse. The anticipation was the cruelest part, and exactly why Tellwyrn doesn’t give those out. Look, Cyria, after you’re back and…you know, feeling up to it, come visit my place, all right? I’ll set up a girls’ night. Or…whatever you need.”

“..sure,” Aradidjad said suspiciously. “Thanks. I guess I’d better report to Shaft Three before the boss comes looking for me.”

“She won’t,” Styrronski said morosely, glaring down at his vodka. “She has all the time in the world.”


“So the Scions are what anchor your perception and time-altering powers to the world, is that it?” Aradidjad asked upon stepping out of the place between onto a familiar street in Calderaas. The city was frozen, like Tiraas had been on her last assignment, but other than that looked…normal. This must be very close to her own time.

“Not bad. How’d you reach that conclusion?” Usually Tellwyrn affected a vague blend of condescension and approval that befitted a seasoned professor addressing a precocious student, but her voice was still tense. It was not improving Aradidjad’s nerves.

“Logic, and awareness general magical principles. Apparently you have to guide a Scion through the place between to actually perform time travel, but once we’re here you can open gates right to us. Which makes sense as magic requires a sapient mind to be actively performed. There’s a precedent for the presence of such a mind serving as a focus for passive enchantments and supplemental effects, too.”

“Mm hm. All right, you know the surrounding area. This is not an intervention against a time traveler; the perpetrator enacted their spell from several years into the future. Another Scion dealt with them. You’re here to plug a hole, that’s all. A temporal rift will form in Calderaas and you are to neutralize it.”

“Well, that’s idiotic,” Aradidjad snorted, sidestepping immobile pedestrians. She didn’t actually know where she was meant to be going, but preferred walking to standing around. And it was nostalgic, seeing her city again. No telling when or even if she’d have another chance to visit. “Why didn’t the other Scion just stop it from that end?”

“One of Vemnesthis’s more arbitrary rules, I’m afraid. Everybody cleans up their own mess.”

She stopped cold.

“Keep following the crowd you’re presently weaving through. There’s a market on the next street over, and a demonstration occurring at an ice cream shop—”

“No.”

“The rift will form directly on that location. I know you’re familiar with—”

“I’m not doing this, Arachne. Get someone else.”

“Yes, you are. You’re familiar with the specific spell, but I can walk you through the steps— No, Aradidjad, it’s not going to be that easy.”

She had turned and started running back the other way, heedless now of the time-locked people she jostled in passing. Aradidjad got half a dozen steps before Tellwyrn rewound her right back to where she had started.

“Keep walking. As I was saying, the surrounding obstructions rule out a nice, neat spell circle, but I’ll show you how to compensate using the available space.”

She gritted her teeth, focusing arcane power. The familiar whine of building energy rose in her ears, and with a blue sparkle of magic, Aradidjad teleported away. The scene around her was still frozen, but changed to the highway extending south from the gates of Calderaas, toward the distant capital of the Empire.

“Oh, you like teleporting?” Suddenly, Tellwyrn’s voice lost its grim flatness, replaced by overt anger. “Fine, let me show you something.”

This time she vanished and reappeared instantly and far more cleanly, a humiliating reminder of how far Tellwyrn’s magical capabilities outstripped her own. Aradidjad was now standing on a flat rooftop, overlooking the market street. In fact, directly across from the ice cream shop, the proprietor standing out front demonstrating his exotic new delicacy, with beside him the brand new, state of the art, unknowingly faulty freezing apparatus which was the cause of so much misery.

She squeezed her eyes shut, turned, and started running back across the roof. Not that she had any plan for what to do once she reached the other side; all she could think was to get away.

“No, you don’t,” Tellwyrn grated. Aradidjad slowed to a halt, then was reversed through time back to her starting point at the edge of the roof.

This time, though, she remained frozen there. Below, the street came to life with movement, but she herself was fully suspended in time. Physically, at least, unable to move even her eyes. Her consciousness, however, remained fully in sync with the world. Somehow, she couldn’t manage to marvel at the finesse of Tellwyrn’s control.

“Since you’ve decided to make this difficult,” the elf’s voice informed her, “you’re going to watch yourself get your wish, and see how much you enjoy it. Pay attention.”

They were there; she couldn’t look away. Right there at the very head of the crowd, nearest the demonstration.

Dashar was a tall man even without the four-year-old boy perched on his shoulders; naturally they stood out, and given how close they were, the vendor immediately fixed on them as ideal volunteers for his demonstration.

She wanted to scream. Couldn’t, but desperately wanted to. Tellwyrn could at least have given her that much.

At this proximity, having studied the Imperial Inspectors’ analysis after the fact, she knew exactly what happened, knew what to look for, saw the things that would lead to the disaster even from a rooftop across the street. The tiny imperfection in the arcane containment system which created intense cold within a sealed compartment; a flaw so minute it had doubtless been right on the threshold of the factory’s quality control standards. If operated as intended, it would never have mattered. But the stupid fucking ice cream man had the unit, designed to sit in the back of a restaurant kitchen, running out in direct sunlight, an hour before noon, in midsummer, in Calderaas.

Even that wouldn’t have caused such a crisis, though. From her perch, Aradidjad could sense, helpless, the flicker of infernal magic within the crowd, not far from Dashar and Selim. She didn’t know who the warlock was or what they were trying to do; there were limits to what investigators could reconstruct after the fact. A Black Wreath spy committing an act of terrorism, a hedge warlock with poor control who’d have been doomed for a messy death one way or another, maybe even some hapless oaf afflicted with a curse whose existence they didn’t even know if. It didn’t matter in the end.

She watched her son, perched on his father’s shoulders, getting his first and only taste of ice cream. At that angle, she couldn’t even see his face. But she was focused enough on the scene to feel the flicker of infernal power brush against the nimbus of arcane energy surrounding the cold unit, catch in that tiny flaw in its spell boundary, saw the containment begin to unravel. Had there been another mage in the audience, they would have noticed the same, maybe even been able to stop it. There was not.

Except this time, another power intervened.

The temporal portal burst into being directly over the crowd. It wasn’t visible to the eye, but caused an immediate change in air pressure which made every ear on the street pop, eliciting outcries. It would take someone with magical senses to realize something was happening, let alone something that big; that thing was a blaring beacon that would alert every arcanist in the city. The only reason Imperial or Sultanate troops weren’t on the site already was they would know better than to try teleporting that close to an obvious rift.

The characteristic high whine pierced the air, and flashes of blue began sparking around the front of the crowd. With a final burst of light, Aradidjad’s husband and son vanished, teleported through the rift to a point six years into the future. To safety.

This, of course, generated even more of an outcry, but that lasted only moments before the thermal containment charms on the ice cream maker finished unraveling. The first thing that happened was that the damn device exploded as metal parts under pressure were suddenly flash-frozen while exposed to hot sunlight and destabilized magic. The force of the blast lifted the vendor himself and hurled him away like a doll.

On the heels of the explosion, which bowled over the entire front row of the crowd, came a torrent of super-chilled air. Every drop of moisture in the local atmosphere froze. The nearest people froze. Flesh turned as brittle as glass—and in the midday heat and the tumult of people falling over each other, the results of that were immediate and grisly.

And her Dashar and little Selim were meant to have been right there at the forefront of it.

Aradidjad had never had much use for Avei or any of the professions which looked to her as a guardian, but the lawyer she’d found had had a paladin’s fury over injustice and a soldier’s ruthless aim for an enemy’s weakest spot. By the time she, the other victims, the Sultana and the Empire had finished with the manufacturer of those cold boxes, the negligent piece of shit’s great-grandchildren would be out of business. It had been a fairly successful company up to that point, too. The proceeds had funded her temporal research.

“So much stupid suffering from such a random little thing,” Tellwyrn murmured. “Fate is way too fond of that callous plot device. Oh, but what comes next is very different.”

It was. That rift wasn’t going away. Vast quantities of arcane energy funneled through a planar portal presented nigh-insurmountable problems; it could be stabilized on one end through tremendous effort, and on the other… Well, that was possible, in theory. She hadn’t managed to do it.

She hadn’t cared.

The rift was only sealed on the other side.

That left a hole to nowhere in the street above the already-screaming crowd. Distracted as they were by the horrid aftermath of the explosion, it was several more seconds before anyone noticed the lightning arcing out of a spot in the empty sky above.

Aradidjad had no idea it could have been this bad. Punching a hole through spacetime and leaving it to feed back on itself quickly unraveled more physical laws than she had anticipated. Things began lifting off the ground as a rival force competed with the planet’s gravity. Trash, then objects displayed on storefronts, trash cans… And soon enough, people. Then carriages.

And while the contents of the street started rising toward the rift, so did more power from nearby. Calderaas was an industrial center; no single spot was far from massive factory antennae discharging electricity into the atmosphere. There were three of these within sight of the street, and all of them began pouring lightning bolts in the direction of the market. Then, streams of pure arcane magic as the rift seized these power sources and began to suck them in. The antennae themselves bent toward it…

“I believe I’ve mentioned, doctor, that way too many Scions were fools who had no idea what they were messing with. So this is somewhat anomalous, you see. On the other end of that portal was a theoretical arcanist—one of the best in her field, in fact. One of the very few people in this era who had some idea what would happen if she pried open a temporal rift and shoved a teleport spell through it, then failed to close it properly.”

It was ripping up pieces of buildings and sections of the street, now. Masonry, metal, lightning, and screaming people were being crushed into a ball above Calderaas right before her frozen eyes. The very roof on which Aradidjad stood fractured and crumbled; only she, suspended in time, remained unaffected amid the carnage. Vemnesthis’s grip on her was more than a match for the spell she had unleashed.

“This is a great deal more destructive than most of what we have to clean up after, you know. And also, a great deal more maliciously fucking negligent. This is the act of an obsessed, unhinged, selfish monster who cared about no one and nothing except her own pain.”

Tellwyrn made her watch until the unstable rift reached a critical mass, stopped drawing in matter and energy, and instead expelled it. All of it, at once. The explosion sprayed debris and loose arcane energy for miles, and instantly flattened a good quarter of the city.

Only then was she rewound. Back through all the horror of the market, and then her futile attempts to get away. Back further, across two teleports, and leaving her standing in the middle of the street, a block distant from the ice cream shop.

Aradidjad instantly slumped to her knees.

“In the hours to come,” Tellwyrn said coldly, “you’re going to be complaining at length, and in a very loud voice, about my heartlessness. I just thought you should have some context before we got started. You know how this ends, Dr. Aradidjad. We can take as long as you need to before you accept it.”


She still fought. Of course she did.

And, of course, she lost.

She tried to flee, on foot, via magic, by stealing a carriage. She sat down in the street and refused to do anything, and even managed it for a long time before reliving the same three seconds on an endless backward-then-forward loop drove her to the brink of madness. She tried attacking—first that stupid warlock, then the ice cream vendor, then random people in the crowd. She attempted to warn or rescue Dashar and Selim countless times. Tellwyrn just implacably rewound anything Aradidjad did that was not following her instructions to intercept and seal the temporal rift before it even finished opening. The damned elf even let her spend three hours purchasing a wand, a sword, and a Rail ticket to Last Rock (after stealing the money from the ice cream shop) before rewinding and forcing her to live through every second of those hours, at the same speed only backward.

Aradidjad tried to teleport to Last Rock, after that. Since that was way outside the range she could manage and she’d never been there anyway, that only resulted in dropping her from a height of thirty yards above some random patch of prairie. Tellwyrn let her lie there with a snapped spine and generally mangled body for a few minutes to reflect on her decisions before rewinding that one.

Even her vivid and flexible imagination was running out of new ways to kill herself by the time Tellwyrn got tired of cleaning up after her increasingly extravagant suicides. Aradidjad took a faint, grim satisfaction in the fact that the elf’s patience broke before her own. Even that was immediately stripped from her.

The archmage suffered Aradidjad’s struggling for some time before she started asserting herself right back—by using a combination of her own much more powerful teleportation and temporal freezing to make her watch the cold box explosion at the end of every rewind. Aradidjad had long since lost the ability to keep track of time; it felt like she had been fighting this forever, but she had no idea how many hours or days it had actually been before Tellwyrn changed tactics. She started counting after that, though. Forty-seven times, she watched helplessly as own temporal rift decimated her city.

“Surely you know you didn’t save them,” the elf said after the forty-seventh. “You were caught in that explosion, idiot. All you’ve done is create a paradox which split off a splinter timeline in which they, you, and most of Calderaas are continually massacred because this situation can’t resolve itself in a linear manner. I realize you don’t like the eternity you’ve been sentenced to. Is that one really so much better?”

Tellwyrn, at least, gave her as long as she needed to cry until she no longer could.

Setting up the spell array across multiple surrounding rooftops was fiendishly complicated. Fortunately, Tellwyrn was a better mage than she, and understood time travel far more thoroughly; all she had to do was follow directions. She still made mistakes, which Tellwyrn had to rewind, but at least the elf didn’t make her watch the carnage again so long as she was behaving.

And so, finally, she stopped it. Neutralized the rift before it could even form. Calderaas was not destroyed by her hand; no one’s ears even popped. And her husband and son were caught right at the brunt of a stupid, random accident, frozen and shattered like crystal sculptures.

Over a taste of ice cream.

Tellwyrn, apparently only a sadist when she was making a point, didn’t make her watch that either. Aradidjad hurled herself through the rift, away from that day, before the cold box finished destabilizing.

She slumped against the rail of the elevator, and refrained from hurling herself off it only because she knew it wouldn’t do any good. Aradidjad stared emptily past the astonishing spectacle of the citadel as the vehicle slowly descended, reached the bottom, chimed pleasantly, and opened its door.

For several minutes, she just hung there, draped against the upright support of the elevator. It took that long for her to summon even enough energy to raise her head.

Tellwyrn was standing there, watching her over the rims of her golden spectacles.

Exhaustion and numbness vanished in blinding torrent of rage.

Aradidjad burst out of the elevator, screaming incoherently and hurling spells without strategy or restraint. Fire, lightning, pure arcane bolts, blasts of kinetic force, localized gravity wells—everything she could think of that could possibly break something, she flung at the archmage.

Aside from having an elf’s capacity for mana storage and three millennia (and who knew how much longer, if she’d spent a lot of time in the nexus) of practice, Tellwyrn’s reflexes were thrice as fast as Aradidjad’s. Her attempting to assault the elven archmage with magic was exactly as efficacious as a child pounding on a brick wall with bare fists. Tellwyrn barely even bothered to gesticulate as she cast, calmly backing away and unweaving every spell Aradidjad shot at her before it could so much as singe or dent the platform.

She kept doing it anyway. Aradidjad poured every spark of mana she could muster into hurling destruction at the elf until, with surprising suddenness, she found herself without the energy to keep standing upright, much less cast spells.

Slumping to her hands and knees, she stared at the metal plates of the floor with blurry vision, panting for breath.

“Feel better?” Tellwyrn asked.

To her own surprise, she managed an incoherent screech and conjured a combination of heat, gravity, and kinesis that manifested as a tornado of pure fire. She didn’t even see what Tellwyrn did to it, but just collapsed onto her side with the sudden stabbing pain in her temples and spontaneous nosebleed which signified the onset of a solid case of mana fatigue.

“No, of course you don’t,” Tellwyrn said with a sigh. Aradidjad couldn’t muster the energy to react, even internally, when the elf sat on the floor next to her.

They were silent for a while. The show she’d just put on had doubtless attracted the attention of every Scion in the citadel, but nobody came anywhere near them. Based on Yalda and Styrronski’s earlier reactions, they probably knew exactly what was happening here.

“What’d you do?” Aradidjad whispered finally. That wasn’t one of the things she’d urgently wanted to know. She was too tired and too numb even to be surprised at herself for asking.

“To get sentenced here, you mean?”

“Yes.”

Tellwyrn shrugged, gazing into the distance. “Every Scion except me wanted something. Tried to get something for themselves. All of them were either after unreasonable power, or trying to recover something precious they’d lost. Me, all I wanted was Vemnesthis’s attention. I fired a four-dimensional flare across his nose. It harmed no one, affected nothing, and presented no possibility of profit to me. What I wanted to ask him about didn’t even require any time travel expertise.”

“…you were actually punished for that?”

“Rules are rules. But…no, not exactly.” Tellwyrn shifted, bringing her gaze down to meet Aradidjad’s eyes. “That’s what all of this is about. The reason we were all sentenced to this. Because we are not special. We all tried to unmake reality for our own purposes, and we don’t get to do that. A Scion of Vemnesthis is a wizard who, at some point, decided that having power over space and time meant we were entitled to do whatever thing we wanted. We are confined here and compelled to serve to disabuse us of that notion. I am no threat to the timeline, Vemnesthis told me that himself. But in many ways I embody this problem—the idea that I get to do whatever goddamn thing I please because I damn well can and hardly anyone is in a position to stop me.” She shrugged again, raising her head to stare up at the endless hourglass. “He decided to impose some limits on me, because no one else had. I can’t say I appreciate it, but… I also can’t say I blame him.”

Aradidjad closed her eyes. She was lying in a very uncomfortable position. Somehow she didn’t care enough to move. “And this warrants eternal servitude.”

“You want justice? Well, Avei probably wouldn’t have done it this way,” Tellwyrn said with a bitter laugh. “But if we’re talking proportionality, you do realize that you’d be here longer than anyone. None of your colleagues actually tried to destroy a major city, Cyria.”

There wasn’t really anything to say to that. Another long silence fell.

“I’ll tell you what I know, though,” Tellwyrn said quietly. “Two things. Gods never reveal everything… And there are far too few Scions.”

Aradidjad opened her eyes to stare a mute question at her.

“Given the rate at which we recruit them? How often some fool wizard tries to mess with existence and won’t listen to reason?” Tellwyrn shook her head. “There ought to be hundreds. Thousands. This place is certainly big enough to accommodate that. We have barely three dozen. And I don’t remember any others, but… Would I? Speaking as high priestess I can’t promise you anything. But just as someone who has been watching the comings and goings here for quite a while, I am absolutely convinced that there is some kind of retirement clause for Scions of Vemnesthis. And when they’re done, they are simply…erased from our timeline.”

“That’s the most twisted fucking thing I’ve ever heard of.”

“Yeah.” Tellwyrn scrunched up her nose in distaste. “He tries so hard to be considerate of us, and just does not understand what it’s like to exist as a linear person. The result is a lot of existential horror. Well.” With a sigh, the elf stood up, then bent to offer Aradidjad her hand. “Come with me, Cyria. There’s someone you need to meet.”


Standing with Tellwyrn on some miscellaneous piece of prairie in the horrible place between places, trying not to think about the writhing monstrosities that filled the sky, Aradidjad reflexively grabbed at her revolver when a black shape came swooping out of the sky at them.

“Easy,” Tellwyrn said, placing a hand on her arm. “This is her. Doctor, this is Evaine. Evaine, Cyria Aradidjad.”

“It is a sincere honor to finally meet you,” the valkyrie said enthusiastically, and swept a bow. It was an elaborate gesture involving a horizontal brandishing of her scythe and arching of her great black wings overhead. Aradidjad eased backward a half-step in response.

Her voice, even to her own ears, was unnaturally flat. “Why.”

Evaine straightened up, still smiling at her and clearly taking no offense. “I understand your suspicion, Dr. Aradidjad. I’ll try to explain things in order, since if I know Arachne, you have no idea why you’ve been brought here.”

Tellwyrn rolled her eyes under their combined stare, but said nothing.

“The afterlife,” the valkyrie began, “is a dimensional plane like the prime material plane upon which you were born. The Elder Gods set it aside for the purpose of…well, power. You know, I’m sure, that magic requires a sapience to be initiated?”

“She’s one of the best theoretical arcanists of her era,” Tellwyrn said. “You can skip the review.”

Evaine made a wry face at her before turning back to Cyria. “Very well. That, doctor, is the reason the Elders began harvesting and storing souls. In the suspended state which is normal there, they have no will as such. They can be used to create magical workings on a scale no mortal caster could even dream. And now, that vast soul battery is under the control of the Pantheon.”

“Why,” Aradidjad asked faintly, “is every new thing I learn more horrific than the last?”

“Because you messed with time and blew up Calderaas,” Tellwyrn said brusquely. “Hush up and listen.”

“Still working on those people skills, I see,” Evaine said cheerfully. “Anyway, doctor, don’t worry—things are much better since Vidius took over. The souls of the dead aren’t being used for anything, just allowed to exist. And no longer in neutral suspension, either. The afterlife is just…bliss. Pure, existential happiness. Except!” She held up one finger. “The few souls my sisters and I are sent to gather… They retain a consciousness and individuality. Not just everyone is added to that roster, because, well… The world would be filled with them, and it would have all the same problems as the mortal plane. The honored dead are given a paradise in which to live as people, and even that requires an awful lot of maintenance, even for the comparatively few of them.”

“Who are the few?” Aradidjad asked woodenly.

Evaine’s answering smile was gentler now. “Mostly? The brave. We bring those who fell in acts of great courage and heroism. But…there are a few extras. Now, this part probably isn’t strictly allowed, so don’t spread it around. Arachne here pulled strings with us. We don’t mind at all, and neither Vidius nor Vemnesthis has said anything, so hopefully that’s that. Some of the Scions, I understand, end up serving because they lost someone and tried to bend time to get them back.”

Aradidjad didn’t dare speak. Her pulse was suddenly pounding in her throat.

“For those,” Evaine said with a knowing smile, “we make exceptions. Those dead loved ones are brought to paradise. It’s a chance for life to go on. And… A chance, at least, for children to grow up, to actually live. It’s not the world, but it’s a life.”

She opened her mouth, not sure what she could even say. It ended up not mattering, as her voice was gone. For what seemed the dozenth time very recently, Aradidjad slumped to her knees, too overcome to carry on holding herself upright.

Evaine knelt with her, wrapping arms around her shoulders and holding her close.

“We won’t often have the opportunity for our paths to cross,” the valkyrie murmured, “but when I can manage it, I’ll bring you news. I was the one who brought Dashar and Selim home; I made sure they knew they have you to thank. I’ll let you know how Selim is growing when I can.”

“I know it isn’t much,” Tellwyrn said. “It’s not…enough. Not the same as having your life back. But it’s what I could manage to arrange, thanks to Evaine and her sisters being willing to help.”

Aradidjad drew a shuddering breath, the valkyrie’s wings folding protectively over her. No, it wasn’t enough. But it was something. It would strengthen her enough to keep going.

And maybe, if Tellwyrn was right, she could be with them again. For now, that was something she could cling to.

For a time.

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40 thoughts on “Bonus #27: Scion, part 4

  1. Yay, double update. I hope this in some small way makes up for the schedule slip.

    It’s kind of a long story… I decided to scrap what turned out to be Part 3 because it wasn’t the meat of the story, but upon review found it had valuable exposition which I couldn’t cram into Part 4 in a way that made sense. And then I had to put them in the original order for pacing reasons. So that took a long time.

    Also, I’m pretty seriously depressed right now. That sure didn’t help. Hopefully that won’t last too much longer, my phases usually cycle in just a few days. Gonna go sleep now.

    Anyway. The real story resumes Monday!

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  2. Nicely written, though I suppose I still have the same problem Vemnesthis I had at the start, who made him judge, and where does he derive his authority. For someone handing out the lesson ‘you are not special’, he’s granted himself a special place, and more arbitrarily then any of the Scions, who at least had to work for their authority over time. His was a mad accident.

    Things like this make me wonder about the major critics of the gods, and if they have a point buried under their misanthropy.

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    1. If you ignore the obvious point that it’s fiction and none of this is real, I think that for us reading this from the outside it’s pretty easy not to be able to imagine having any kind of devotion to these gods ourselves, simply because we know so much about how they came to be. We know that they were just humans at one point, and we’ve seen them in action enough times to know that having divine power grants them no moral superiority to others. The major snag for me in terms of the gods is exactly what you’re saying – that they’re considered moral authorities rather than just beings of insane power. Not from a storytelling perspective, it’s great worldbuilding, but merely as a concept.

      However, for someone who lives with the tech level of Tiraas and who doesn’t know the first thing about ascension or apotheosis, it’d be easy to truly worship the gods, or at least believe that they’re all-powerful and moral judges etc. And then, if they found the knowledge and understanding that we do, that the gods are fallible and came from the same place as every other human in Tiraas, it would understandably push someone into criticising the gods, and misanthropy’s an easy pit to fall into from there.

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      1. Individuals are worshiped in our world. It’s not too hard to see a human given incomprehensible power and deciding to use said power to help the world to the best of their ability as a person worthy of praise/worship. Vemnesthis might not be the cuddliest of the gods, but he spends every moment in front his existence making certain that time doesn’t unravel. What gives him the right to act in judgement is he is doing something that needs to be done and no one else has both the power and the will to get it done. So it gets done as he sees fit.

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      2. I can see where you’re coming from, and I agree that he’s definitely doing good work with regards to protecting time. ‘Someone has to do it’ is definitely a perfectly good reason for Vemnesthis to be god of time. My point was more in the terms of recruiting the Scions and acting as though everything he does is a kindness. It’s a really interesting look at what godhood does to a person, because it’s not intentional hypocrisy, it derives from an inability to understand a non-godly perspective, but as the op of this comment thread said, it’s hypocrisy nonetheless.

        I can’t remember who, but someone in the comments mentioned that the purpose of prison sentences should be rehabilitation — I agree, and if the Scions were presented as such it would be a great arrangement for people who seriously messed up the time stream. My problem is just the attempted moral justification for it — Vemnesthis should just admit that it sucks and it’s what the Scions have to suffer for messing with the time stream, instead of acting like he’s doing them a kindness.

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    2. Simple. To quote another web serial, somebody has to and no one else will.

      People are messing with time and causing incredible damag and Vemnesthis has the ability to stop the damage, so he does it in the kindest way he can think of. By all accounts, Vemnesthis is essentially a cross between a superhero, Santa, and an alien. He has appointed himself authority to enforce laws and improve the world, he is a very kind person who doesn’t want criminals to suffer, and he has absolutely no idea how ordinary peoples minds work.

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      1. There needs to be some kind of time cop, yes. But nothing really says Vemnesthis’s way is the best, or even particularly good. Someone had to stop Aradidjad, but the only reason anyone had to stop Ethliron was that Vemnesthis made a rule and decided to enforce it.

        And the only reason Vemnesthis can stop people like Ethliron is that he’s breaking his own rules. Fundamentally, there’s no difference between saying ‘no time-travel’ and ‘no fire’ or ‘no metallurgy’ except that we, outside this novel, have metallurgy and fire so the cost of metallurgy and fire is baked into our assumptions about the world.

        But both are used to do incredibly destructive things. Still, we accept that because ultimately tools empower and better our lives and the lives of those around us.

        Or to put it another way…

        http://dresdencodak.com/2009/09/22/caveman-science-fiction/

        but with more hypocrisy.

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      2. Vemnesthis is the authority to impose and enforce time laws, yes, but he is a self-appointed authority, and that gives him no moral right to to impose endless servitude on those who break his laws. While he has the power to do so and he has support from the Pantheon, at the end of the day his authority doesn’t exist outside of the Pantheon’s power. Tellwyrn’s comments at the end about how he decided to impose limits on her because no one else had is what gets me the most about this whole thing — where does his right to impose those limits derive from? If you want to take this from Tellwyrn’s point of view and look at responsibility rather than right, who decided Vemnesthis would be responsible for arbitrating the timeways other than he himself?

        In all fairness to him, I agree with you that he seems like a genuinely kind person, but his kindness is also severely misguided. There is a need for the Scions, and it is honestly an effective punishment, but does every Scion deserve it? Aradidjad certainly deserves some kind of punishment, and proportionally hers should be greater than, say, Tellwyrn’s. But to masquerade such punishments under the guise of kindness is extreme hypocrisy, especially considering that no one other than Vemnesthis and the Pantheon decided that he should have that power in the first place.

        If the whole thing were approached from the direction of ‘people can’t mess about with time because it’ll seriously fuck things up for the rest of the world, so that’s why you’re here’ kind of deal, that would be fine. That’s how, ideally, most justice works. Then everyone there would at least understand that it was designed to be a punishment instead of some crazy sort of mercy, and it’s far more just. But that it’s presented as ‘you broke Vemnesthis’s rules and that’s why you’re here’ makes it seem a whole lot more tyrannical. Add to the fact that Vemnesthis shows no apparent interest in remembering what it was like to be human, and in my view the whole thing becomes arbitrary tyranny, no matter how well-intentioned.

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      3. It kind of has to be that way, though. You’ve seen Aradidjad try to commit suicide multiple times. If she were told that she just had to do X jobs and then she’d get to go free, she might not learn anything.

        I think Vemnesthis holds them until they have a change of heart.

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      4. Vemnesthis authority comes from the fact that he ascended into godhood. He has the power to address the problems that have to be addressed and since his “mantle” is presumably time related, he is the best candidate and possibly the only candidate for the job.

        Where else is his authority supposed to come from? Should countries get together and form a charter? If some group says they refuse to be subject to these laws then you can’t just let them mess with time anyway so there wouldn’t actually be a point. This is why I brought up superheroes in my previous comment. Vemnesthis’s Authority comes from the fact that he is an extraordinarily powerful individual who gave himself that authority because that what extraordinarily powerful individuals do if they can get away with it.

        All I know is this, if someone ascended to godhood in our world and then didn’t remove all nukes or do the bliss afterlife thing because they didn’t think they had the “moral authority” then that person would be a fucking monster.

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      5. I believe the answer to your discussion is at the top of the page. Aaaalll the way on the top, in the top left corner 🙂

        On a more serious note: This is a discussion on the origin of morality, a topic that we (as a species) to this day cannot agree upon in any significant measure. Some of us (read me++, I’m just overcompansating 🙂 ) are definitively heavily biased against authocracies like Vemnesthis’ rule, given that we live in democracies, but they are not inherently more unfair for the individual that some sort of democracy. You might have heard the expression “the tyrrany of the many”. It illustrates that even if the majority is behind some moral system, there is nothing other than the use of force that validates that system for non-included minorities but the fact that the majority has the power (in whatever form) to enforce it.

        The problem of morality is that there exists no obvious “right” to impose any form of moral system on any other being, but that we still have to. Morals are the framework for sapient interaction, and the only way to avoid them is to invalidate the concept of interaction altogether (as purposeful non-interaction is still an interaction protocol). Thus most of us just live with the rules that are forced upon us until they become to much to handle and we lash out.

        To tie this back into the story, most people on the material plane would probably agree with Vemnesthis goal of stopping time magic, and since they would not run afoul of his methods, his “solution” is a morally acceptable system for them. the question is whether he “has the right” to inflict his system on those that don’t agree with him and actually try to manipulate time; the very people his system exists to interact with. This is primarily a question of personal opinion.

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      1. That’s not an answer, outside of perhaps ‘he has the power to do so.’ But then, every mage he punishes had the power to do what they did, so that just makes him a tyrant.

        His authority isn’t moral. It isn’t derived from the people he governs, it isn’t about the rule of law. It’s arbitrary, derived from nothing but himself, which is what he supposedly disdains in others.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I don’t think Vemnesthis has the right to punish the Scions. As nehemiahnewell says, he doesn’t have any moral authority, and his judgement is severely flawed.

        However, he does have an absolute right to stop the Scions from engaging in time travel, just as any person would have the right to stop someone from playing with fire in a munitions plant. He should just find a way to stop them that doesn’t involve enslaving the Scions and torturing them into doing what he says.

        Time travel is not fire or metallurgy. As we see, it creates an inherent paradox that warps the fabric of the universe. People should not be messing with the timestream.

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  3. The fact that the citadel has multiple “bigger on the inside” places makes me wonder what the plural of TARDIS is, so I can describe them properly. TARDISes? TARDISs? TARDISen? TARDen? TARDEN?

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  4. I got a bit annoyed by the reveal about the outcome of the elves’ negotiations, but the way you had me bawling at the end more than made up for it, several times over.

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  5. I’m not crying, you’re crying.

    Great chapter. Quick question, is V-God-name-that-I-can-never remember also against too great displacements of space? Like if a mage started creating tech/magic to go back to OG earth or to another dimension, is that ok? Ik it was brought up earlier that, that usually brings out Chaos, but if a mage could handle that, would a God intervene?

    Also, fuck V-God-name-that-I-can-never remember. They used to all be mortal, and none of the other gods act with such disregard of what it’s like to be mortal. You just had a wonderful interlude demonstrating that with Avei, where she both related to a sentient horse, and to humans not wanting to die alone. I get that he is trying to be nice, but he’s not really trying. He’s not putting himself in their shoes, at all. That’s my two cents at least.

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    1. I feel like V-God may be a little different from the rest, due to his domain. Whereas the others have near-omnipotence by dint of their divinity, they are likely still just as old as their time-since-Ascension (Maybe a few thousand years) Obviously we don’t know what this kind of time-span does to a human psyche, but clearly most of the Gods have managed to hang onto a shred of their former humanity by either constant interaction with their devotees (Eserion) or through anchors (Gods with Paladins) which might explain why those that do neither (The Sky-God who was introduced in the Bar scene) Are a bit more spaced-out and distant.
      Vemnesthis on the other hand controls time, which very well might mean that at the moment of his ascension (or whenever he claimed that domain) he suddenly had access to the entirety of time (or perhaps, the entirety of the timeline within the transcension fields). That would mean he is essentially infinitely old, having experienced everything that ever was, is or will be, all at once, and constantly.
      I’d say that excuses his inability to recall or empathise with mortality… just a little. Hell, it at least shows some foresight (no pun intended) that he even has human delegates doing his intervention work at all.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. @Jordan: Time and space are not really separate things, so Vemnesthis would likely take notice. Note that this is mostly in the case of somebody restructuring space. Translocating things, through the material plane or between planes, should not be a concern of his.

      Also, Vemnesthis is likely among the gods of the pantheon that interacts the least with mortals, and he might have some time perspective issues, as @Digitize27 points out.

      This space-time idea leads to another interesting question, though: If some mage or god descided to create a new plane, would Vemnesthis interfere? Would he allow a new Hell?

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  6. Well, I have to say that I really enjoyed that little extra arc and that although time travel shenigans are usually not something I’d count among my favourites. Very well done.

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  7. Excellent chapter and a good object lesson why time travel always makes a mess. Even the guy who only wanted glimpses of the future would be quite destructive. By collapsing probabilities you gain tunnel vision, especially if you look for a certain future and not have an eye on all possibilities (which is pretty much impossible). There’s a good chance that he would have led his people down the wrong path.
    Not to mention how easy it would be to abuse such a machine. Verniselle would definitely be upset if someone used precognition to trade stocks, stuff like that can collapse the economy. And that might not be the same as blowing up half a city, but it affects far more people negatively.

    I enjoyed that Arachne’s explanations and guesses mirrored mine from the comments. 😉

    I think we can safely assume that the Arachne we know is still the high priestess of Vemnesthis, which is where she got the divine magic she showed in front of Chase.

    The only magic we haven’t seen her use yet is Fae… but then there is this rather powerful Fae geas over the university and dryads usually can’t use their magic themselves…

    Vemnesthis is accidently cruel, but it could be so much worse.
    For one, there are only ~50 scions… out of all the people on the planet, ever. That’s a really tiny percentage. If a few have to endure hardships so that the time-space continuum remains intact, then that’s probably acceptable.
    It also seems like it’s not an eternity, so the enforced servitude ends.

    We also don’t know what happens to the souls afterwards. If they are being taught a lesson before they are released, then maybe reincarnation is a thing and Vemnesthis is simply setting things up to prevent them from violating his rules again?

    It is my conviction that prison sentences should be used to rehabilitate people, not to punish them. No one benefits when a criminal is just being punished, it doesn’t even work as deterrent. A god with access to all the knowledge we have should know that as well. So for now I’m giving him the benefit of a doubt that he simply has information we do not and is acting in the best interest of the scions and his mandate.

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    1. @Daemion: Yeah, these two chapters pretty much answered our initial discussion and mirrored some of our opinions (as far as I remember, feel free to correct me if my ego is getting the best of me). It makes me wonder, though: Was this the plan from the beginning, or a response to our musings? 🙂 Either way is excelent; either we are reading something with some philosofical depth and consistency, or we inspired some chapters to be more introspective (I like introspection, in case that wasn’t clear).

      TLDR: I think Avei is a godess of revenge rather than justice.

      On the off-chance that we actually are having an impact, and because I enjoy arguing questions without answers, I want to expand upon your prison sentencing comment with a discussion about justice. It is my opinion that Avei, as she has been characterized so far, is not a goddess of justice as much as a goddess of vengeance. Keep in mind that this is heavily based on my personal opinion of what justice is, in an ideal case. I’ll try to explain.

      Justice, to me, is about correcting and discouraging behaviour that is contrary to a set of rules. It is about both intent and action (and consequences thereof). The first step in achieving justice in a give case is therefore to limit and counteract the consequenses of case. If someone has stolen money, have them give it back.

      The second step is to discourage the perpetrator from doing this again. Someone that has stolen money might be forced to pay a fine, or give the victim extra money. The reason the perpetrator needs to be disuaded from trying again is that they are not guaranteed to be caught, so prevention is better than fixing. Another important aspect of this step is propotionality. If the punishment is uniform regardless of crime, then the rules are no longer able to distinguish those crimes.

      The third part is to disuade the general public from trying the same. This point is really more for efficiency as it would be inefficient not to let others learn from one person’s mistake. This effect also works across rules: Seeing one rule in a collection enforced strengthens belief that the other rules in that collection will also be enforced.

      All three of these points could potentially be combined for efficiency. For example: A vandal has demolished a wall and is forced to rebuild it.

      These three steps are not sufficient, however. They, as they stand, would probably encourage increadibly cruel punishments. You might want some different levels of punishments to morally distingush crimes, but since I’m not convinced there is a theoretical upper bound to human cruelty, that doesn’t mean much. We could very easily construct a system where the mildest punishment is death, and just add more torture from there. We could also inflict punishments on close relations of the perpetrator, as this could be even more effective in curbing unwanted actions. Nevermind that overly cruel systems of rules tend to be unstable, they seem innefficient to me. We need a restraint. I therefore propose that we should strive to minimize the punishment. The punishment should be the absolut least we have to do to correct and minimize consequences of the crime and disuade the perpetrator and the general public from breaking that perticular rule, or any of the other rules. This ensures we spend the minimum amount of resources on a given case, and aknowledges that humans can change, especially given a chance for redemption. This minimization is my idea of justice.

      Given this, Avei’s hard and brutal punishments cannot be called justice in most cases. From what we know of the Hands of Avei, only one sought other punishments than death (or something crueler) before Trissiny, and she wasn’t avenist. From what we know of Trissiny’s upbringing, there did not seem to be a lot of emphasis placed on the importance of propotionality and restraint. This could be attributed to the Hands being primarily sent in against threats that required no restraint, but we’ve seen them fight humaoids as much as much as demons. Triss was fairly young and inexperienced in her first encounters with Gabe, but that was not the reaction of a judge, that was the reaction of a mass murderer. Nothing we have seen, as far as I remember, from the Sisterhood in general changes this perception of avenist doctrine. We’ve seen an politically important person avoid justice and we’ve heard that htey flog people for disobedience (I assume that that is a standard punishment in military outfits in this setting), so we have nothing to suggest Avei’s followers place any particular importance on justice as a concept rather than a word. Avei herself, in the glimpses we’ve had of her, as been grumpy and agressive. When she was channeled into Trissiny’s aura by the Wreath, she turned Triss into the archetypical stab-happy smiter.

      Revenge, on the other hand, is all about dispropotionate punishments. Thus Avei, as she has been presented, is a goddess of revenge rather than one of justice.

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      1. “Justice, to me, is about correcting and discouraging behaviour that is contrary to a set of rules.”
        I think this might be a “flaw” in your thinking.
        “LAW” is about enforcing adherence to a set of rules.
        “JUSTICE” is about fairness and balance.

        You might believe that the punishments meted out are excessive.

        But if Avei is enforcing the law rather than setting the law, then justice has nothing to do with it, and she’s also not responsible for determining the punishment, merely implementing it. given that the deities are moulded by their followers, it’s likely they all enter into a self reinforcing spiral of aspect change over time.

        Then again, it could also be “bleed over” from the war aspect.

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      2. @Rodger W: TLDR; this is some clarifications in response to the first half of your response, and an agreement with and continuation of the second half.

        I would call the rules themselws “law”, and let “justice” be a descriptor for the execution. Example: “No stealing” is a possible law. The law is enforced through some punishment, forexample execution, prison, forced labor, fines, etc. This punishment could be described as just or it could be described as unjust, and I attempted to define a framework that lets me examine whether a given punishment is just. I chose to make justice a minimalization problem because that fits with my perception of the concept, doesn’t seem to directly clash with the in-story idea of the concept, and is relatively easy to evaluate (relatively being the operative word).

        While it could be argued that Avei is trying to enforce a set of rules deviced by somebody else, this would clash with Trissiny’s personality and character arc. She has never been overly concerned with rules in general (that was Fross), and the reccent guild arc culminated with her basically telling Avei to her face that she wouldprusue the spirit of justice over the laws. Given what we know of Avei and her relationship with Triss, I find it hard to believe that she would let this go completely unchallanged, and even encouraged this line of thinking, if she didn’t at least partially agree with it.

        That being said, I totally agree with you that this could be caused by bleed over from her war aspect through her followers. 8000 years of justice=demon/cultist/raider hunting would probably do that. I think that is why we see her choosing Triss as her paladin and having her educated in the way she does. A more peaceful age requires a less fast and hard form of justice that she has to struggle to adapt to.

        On that note, one could actually argue that Avei’s swift and brutal punishments would fit my understanding of justice in previous ages. My understanding of justice demands minimalization of consequences. When resources were stretched thin, such as under the various in-story wars during the last 8000 years, it may therefore be “optimal” to spend as little time as possible to stop the perpetrator and then moving on, in order to cover more incidents. Since the contemporary in-story society has much fewer large and serious incidents, punishments that once were just by my definition might no longer be.

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  8. TLDR; Fross is my spirit animal, and I felt like doing some public education to a bunch of people that probably already knew what I’m telling them.

    I just have to support Fross in her attempt to steer the world away from arcane mysticism. Not that I’ve seen anyone that seems to be laboring under any such illusions here, but it took me an anoyingly long time to find a justification for why observation seemingly affects quantum mechanical states, and I would like to share the answer with those that might be interested. This idea that an “observer” changes how quantum mechanics works seemed weird to me, as it raises the question of what constitutes an “observer”. A human counts, but does a dog? A mosquito? What is you measured it, but didn’t look? This last question turned out to be key.

    The answer is that observation doesn’t change quantum mechanical states. Measurement does. This difference might seem pedantic, but it isn’t. You see, we live in a world where you can measure something without seemingly changing it. Say there is a ball on a field. You want to know where it is, so you look. You now know where the ball is, and you assume that position was not changed by observation.

    In the world of quantum mechanics, this assumption breaks down. Anything that lets you measure a quantum mechanical state changes it. It would be like if you could only locate a ball in a field by kicking it and feeling where your foot was when you hit. You would know where the ball was when you kicked it, but you also changed its position.

    In reality, any observation can change the state, this is true even in the macroscopic world. Anything you see is reflecting or emitting photons at your eyes, and since photons carry energy, there must be a force acting in the oposite direction on the observed object. the sum of all these forces are to small to be noticable on the macroscopic scale, but not on the scale of what is normally referred to as quantum mechanical states.

    This idea of observation altering quantum states is a good basis for a maggical system in fantasy, hovever, as it allows the writer to apply basically all the physical laws of the real world but still break them at convenience. Good choice 🙂

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  9. So does teleportation/shadow jumping/et al move you nearly instantaneously, but actually at the speed of light or slower? It seems like Vemnesthis would necessarily have to be a traffic cop loosely enforcing c as well.

    Imagine if the world didn’t have Vemnesthis, and people had to learn on their own through trial and error not to destroy reality.

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  10. Holy gods, I loved this. The moral ambiguity, the existential horror that is time manipulation, Tellwyrn moonlighting as a goddamn Time Lord?

    My favourite side sorry since ‘Along Came a Spider’.

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  11. Gods. Having to watch your loved ones die again and again and again is possibly the worst hell you could come up with if you tried. Vemnesthis is such a dick, and even more so because he obviously doesn’t mean to be, in that twisted out of time amoral way of his.

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    1. Except as far as we know they never had to do that. Cyria watched her husband and son teleport safely away, and then watch the city blow up. Which is to say, they were merely forced to watch the consequences of their own actions. I don’t find anything particularly wrong with that. After she corrected the timeline, she was able to leave immediately and didn’t have to watch her loved ones die. You might want to read a little more intently.

      That said, It’s probably pointless to try and read into Vemnesthis’ personality from Tellwyrn’s actions anyway. As demonstrated in this chapter, Tellwyrn seems to have a lot of leeway in how she encourages the individual scions cooperation. Even if she did make Cyria watch her loved ones deaths, which she didn’t, that would be on Tellwyrn, not Vemnesthis.

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  12. While the ending was touching, I found it kind of ruined the moral of the story. Don’t fuck with the timeline for your own selfish reasons… but if you do we’ll make a special exception for your loved ones just like you wanted.

    In a way, doesn’t that basically encourage such behavior? Consider these two scenarios. One, they mess with time and their loved ones are taken to the special afterlife. Two, they don’t mess with time and are forced to grieve like the rest of humanity. Given perspective, option one still seems like a better choice to the kind of people who would do such a thing in the first place.

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    1. Except that nobody who’s not a Scion knows about it, so you don’t have any issues with people preferring that outcome.

      Also, to your first point, I think the main Point here is that if you’re forced to live for eternity, and to yourself undo your actions which saved a loved one, instead of being eternal torment, you at least know that there in a decent place, which lessens your own anguish.

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  13. Is no one going to comment on the absolute fucking horror of actually having a select afterlife, where everyone else is just subjected to wireheading? This, disregarding literally anything else the gods do/did means they need to be taken down and replaced. It’s actually one of the worst possible things someone could do.

    Billions of people (real, living people!) are written off as NOT SPECIAL ENOUGH and have their individual existence erased. No, are murdered. Then, fucking then, some special fucking cadre deciders that people who exhibit certain qualities get exist? No, fuck you, Vidius.

    I’d had some thought that Vidius might be the coolest god, if he actually created an afterlife, but no. Fuck him.

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