6 – 27

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The alley behind the apartment was less dim than its interior, albeit not by much. Above them, the sky was fading rapidly to orange, though not much of that light penetrated into the narrow space backing the crumbling edifice. Two smaller structures sat behind it, with another thin sliver of navigable space between them, which Joe glanced longingly down as they crept past it. The space was only a yard wide, and it was liberally seasoned with trash. Being Tiraas, the layer of detritus on the floor of the alley had been wet enough long enough to become a layer of homogenized, ill-smelling sludge, with crunchier bits of broken wood and windblown paper sprinkled here and there along the top.

Like an apple cobbler. Peepers had seemed pleased with this metaphor, and even more pleased with Joe’s lack of amusement.

She crept along in near silence, while his boots alternately squelched and crunched; quiet moving had not been part of his education. While Joe kept his wands out and eyes roving, turning frequently to glance behind, above, and at windows they passed for any possible threat, she remained intent on the building they had just exited, peering upward and counting windows.

“Here,” she said softly, coming to a stop. “Straight up.”

Joe didn’t bother to ask if she was sure. He put his back to her and kept moving his eyes, certain they were about to come under some kind of attack. It made no sense to him that the succubus might be the only guardian in the building.

“You can climb it?” he asked, half-expecting nothing but a snarky comment in reply.

She surprised him. “Gods, I hope so. The windowsills help, as does the bad state of this stone… But this was a pretty smooth surface, once. Be sure to glance up now and then, I may need to be caught.”

“If you need to be caught,” he said darkly, “we’ll need to run. Unless you can fall a lot more silently than anyone I’ve ever heard of.”

He glanced at her in time to catch her grin, and then she was off. With one bound she got her feet on the sill of the window. It was bricked up, as was the one on the second floor—apparently there had been ground-floor views when this structure was built—but the third floor, her target, was high enough to see out over the sloped roof of the building behind, and its window was covered with nothing but dilapidated wooden shutters which had once been painted green. Peepers had to press herself flat against the surface; the surviving windowsill gave her a few inches on which to plant her fingers and toes, but nothing more. She stretched upward, groping experimentally toward a crack in the stone above.

“All right, I believe that’s enough of that nonsense.”

He whipped up his wand, aiming at the speaker, and immediately Peepers spoiled his shot, lurching backward off the wall in her surprise and barely managing to land on her feet, right in his line of fire. Beyond his companion’s crouched form, he beheld a person in an all-concealing gray robe, pointing a wand at him.

He had not heard her approach.

“I suggest you put that down, ma’am,” he said. Politely, but firmly.

“No, no, dear, that is not the situation. I am not the one needing to protect a bystander, here.” She adjusted her aim, pointing the wand at Peepers, who froze.

Joe didn’t move, studying her. The robe had a cowl that kept her face in full shadow, but the hand holding the wand was expertly manicured, its nails painted an excessively flashy shade of pink. Her voice was low, and deliberately sultry in a way that was starkly inappropriate in this context. She would be pretty under that hood, he knew. He’d grown up around enough prostitutes to know the type. Even if nature hadn’t blessed her looks, this was someone who would have an expert grasp of cosmetics.

“Ma’am,” he said, “I can disarm or kill you if your finger tightens a fraction. I’d prefer not. Please drop the weapon.”

A throat was cleared behind him, and Joe flattened himself against the wall, bringing up his other arm and aiming his wands in both directions down the alley. Another figure in a gray robe had materialized several yards down, cutting them off. He also was carrying a wand, a mass-produced model with a standard clicker, like his fellow cultist.

Materialized was the word. There had been no sound, nothing to warn of their approach until they were there. Shadow-jumping, then; these were either warlocks or had Wreath talismans.

“Now, young man,” the woman said condescendingly, “you can’t fight in both directions, especially if you’re trying to protect—”

She broke off with a hiss of surprise and pain as a beam of light lanced out from Joe’s wand, ripping the weapon from her hand. A second shot from his other wand simultaneously disarmed the robed man, who actually yelped and stumbled backward.

“Wouldn’t think so, would you?” Joe said. “I did warn you, ma’am.”

“Holy shit,” Peepers breathed.

“Language,” he said automatically. “There are ladies present.”

Peepers glanced at the robed woman, now cradling a singed hand against her chest, and back at him. “Yeah? Where?” He sighed.

Then came the stomping.

“You probably should have surrendered,” the woman said smugly.

Peepers pressed herself back against the wall; Joe didn’t budge, keeping his eyes forward so as to keep both warlocks peripherally in view. Neither of them moved, however, apart from nursing their hands. The footsteps echoing down the side alley were far too heavy to belong to anything human.

The thing that emerged bore out that analysis.

It couldn’t really fit in the alley; its broad shoulders scraped both sides hard, and it couldn’t even raise its arms in the cramped confines. The creature was very roughly humanoid in shape, albeit twice the size of any man Joe had ever seen, with a disproportionately broad chest and stubby legs. And it had no head, just a protrusion at the top of its shoulders; its face was over-large and located in its chest, its fanged mouth hanging below where the ribs would be. It was entirely covered in bronze scales, even its lips; a double ridge of pointed scales extended up over its mouth, making the interior seem a forest of fangs in the brief moment that it hung open. Then it clamped shut, glaring at him through disconcertingly tiny black eyes.

Joe shot it directly in the center of its mass.

The demon growled at him.

“Really should have surrendered,” said the female warlock with unmistakable satisfaction. “A baerzurg’s skin is utterly impervious.”

“Oh?” he said, raising his wands again. “Good. Thanks for the tip, ma’am.”

The next two wand shots took the demon right through what there was of its head. It emitted a hoarse grunt and started to topple backward, immediately wedging itself tight in the narrow alley. Its brawny arms hung limply; smoke drifted up from its eye sockets.

From behind it, the man squalled, “What happened? What’s wrong?”

The woman gaped in silence for three seconds, then raised her good hand. There was no visible effect, but Joe felt the temperature in the air lower slightly.

He pointed a wand directly at her head.

“Do. Not.”

She froze, letting her spell fizzle. In the next second she turned and scrambled all of fives steps away before the dimness of the alley itself seemed to rise up and swallow her.

“What is going on?” the other warlock demanded, kneeling in the muck to peer under the dead baerzurg’s armpit.

“She ran away,” Joe informed him. “In all modesty, you might wanna think about—there ya go.”

The man had risen awkwardly and retreated; in the next second he, too, vanished in improbable silence.

“Holy crap,” said Peepers, staring at Joe. “This really isn’t your first rodeo, is it?”

“Never had to deal with demons before,” he muttered. “I’d rather never again. Can we consider our cover blown and skedaddle, please?”

She sighed heavily. “Yeah, might as well. If they brought out the heavy wands like that, I don’t want to see what happens when they get desperate. C’mon, it looks like that way’s off the table.”

Peepers turned and started off down the alley away from the obstructing demon corpse, Joe right on her heels. They made it all of six yards before the shadows ahead swelled again, and two more figures materialized.

With more agility than he’d expected after seeing her tumble off the wall, Peepers whirled around behind Joe. He raised both weapons.

“I don’t see any need for another dust-up,” he said flatly. “We are leaving. Best for everyone involved if we don’t have to go through you.”

“This kid killed Vhakzud?” the figure in the lead said, craning his head to peer past Joe. “…oh. Oh, I see. That’s actually quite impressive, for several reasons. Anyhow, kid, no. I’m afraid your escape ends here.”

“Don’t let him shoot!” his companion, the woman from before, said somewhat tremulously.

The figure in the lead grinned, faint light glinting off his teeth. In fact, light glinted on other surfaces, along his forehead and shoulders, and lower arms, all of which seemed distorted. In the dimness, even Joe’s perceptions took a moment to make sense of what he was seeing. The fellow had outgrowths of some kind of armor, which seemed natural, or at least melded to his skin. It gleamed faintly like chitin. At any rate, it affected his posture; he kept his knees slightly flexed, his upper body angled forward and his elbows bent, hands dangling in front of him.

“Are you, by chance, another demon?” Joe asked.

“’fraid so,” the self-professed demon replied, still smiling. “Somehow I doubt you’ll take my word that you’re not getting by me the way you did Vhakzud. By all means, go ahead and shoot me.”

“By your leave, then,” Joe said politely, and fired a beam of energy directly into his eye.

“Ow!” the demon protested, twitching his head to the side. “You little twerp, that stings! It’s too dark in here for that kind of light show.”

Joe lowered his weapon a fraction, his own eyes widening. That beam should have been enough to bore a hole through a tree.

“Good trick, though,” the demon went on, blinking his affronted eye. “Baerzurgs have armored skin, so a shot through the eye socket takes out the brain. I am seriously impressed; we’ll have to talk about where you learned to shoot like that. But hethelaxi are just magically invulnerable—no tricks, no gimmicks. So, are we done here, or is there going to be a ruckus that gets you or your ladyfriend injured?”

“Ruckus,” Peepers said immediately. “The hell I’m going anywhere with demons and warlocks. I bet if you keep shooting you’ll find a soft spot.”

“Maybe,” Joe mused.

“I mean over his shoulder,” she said in exasperation, pointing past him at the woman hovering behind the hethelax. At this, she ducked down, concealing herself behind the demon much as Peepers was behind Joe. The two of them exchanged a wry look.

“I’m not much of a scrapper,” the demon confessed. “But the fact is, you can’t harm me, and you can’t stop me. All my employers will want to know is who sent you here and why. With that out of the way, you may as well just leave. Nothing you tell anyone will lead to us, and the Wreath is looking to increase its public profile anyway.” He leaned forward subtly, making no threatening moves. “A quick chat, we get our publicity, you get to spend the rest of your evening not being hexed and beaten on by demons. How is there a downside for anyone in this?”

“Well, you make a persuasive case,” Joe said, nodding.

“We have a deal, then?

“I’m afraid it ain’t really up to me,” he said apologetically. “I’m just the hired wand, I don’t make the rules. The rules are we don’t cooperate with the Black Wreath.”

“Well, that’s a shame,” the demon said with a sigh. “Now somebody’s going to get all mussed. I have to ask, what drives you to be so stubborn?”

“Sheer bloody orneriness, mostly,” Joe confessed, raising both his wands.

The hethelax crouched, bracing his arms apart as if to attack rather than defend against wandshots, but Joe wasn’t even aiming at him.

A spray of white bolts flashed out from each weapon, digging into the walls of the structures to either side of the demon and warlock. Fine beams of light sank deep into the crumbling stone, sending up small clouds of dust and tiny flecks, and followed a split-second later by heavier bursts of power that exploded within the holes just bored. Under the onslaught, the walls gave away, tumbling inward onto the pair.

The hethelax braced both his arms over his head; there came a short scream from the woman, quickly cut off. Empty rooms gaped on both sides of them now, their exterior walls reduced to fragments. Pieces continued to crumble off from above.

Joe turned back toward Peepers, quickly sheathing one wand to tip his hat. “Ma’am, I apologize for the language—”

“Just run!” she exclaimed, grabbing his wrist and dragging him forward.

They had to duck under the dangling arm of the slain baerzurg to get into the alley from which it had emerged, but in the next second they were clear, pelting down the narrow path toward the silent street ahead, neither of them imagining for a moment that this was over.

“What was that?” Carter exclaimed, jumping to his feet at the crash resounding from just below. The entire room shook slightly.

Mogul rose more languidly, stepping over to the window, and pushed up the sash then opened the shutters utterly without hurry. He leaned far out, looking down.

“Ah,” he said in an oddly satisfied tone. “We appear to be under attack.”

“We are?” Carter asked nervously, protectively clutching his notebook to his chest. “By whom?”

“Oh, the usual, I suspect,” Mogul said airily, ducking back in and straightening up. “Well, Mr. Long, it seems we are about to have an adventure!”

“Oh,” the reporter replied carefully, edging back toward the door, “I don’t think…”

“Forgive me if this sounds disrespectful to your profession,” Mogul went on, stepping toward him, “but words are cheap. I brought you here to learn the truth about the Black Wreath. Well, you’ve listened with great patience while I nattered on about this and that, for which I thank you, but you and I both know that my viewpoint is only that. You need facts; your editor will demand hard, objective evidence. Fortuitously, it appears the Church or some of its lackeys have provided you a chance to see them in action!”

“By ‘action,’” Carter hedged, “you mean…”

“I mean,” Mogul said with a canny smile, “you’ll get to find out what the agents of the gods really do to those who commit the egregious sin of not sharing their opinions. In fact, this is absolutely perfect; I couldn’t have asked for a better case in point. Don’t you worry, Mr. Long; you and your pen are far too important to me to take any unwarranted risks. Your person is sacrosanct, I assure you. We’ll not allow you to come to any harm.”

“Well…when you put it that way, this sounds like an opportunity I can’t pass up,” Carter said somewhat reluctantly, but with the eagerness of a hound on the scent beginning to rise again in his face and voice.

“Splendid!” Mogul said cheerily. “It would have gotten all awkward if I’d had to insist.”

The shadows rose and swallowed them up, and suddenly they weren’t there anymore.

“That came from around behind the building,” Weaver said, narrowing his eyes.

“So it did,” said Darling, pausing at the base of the steps up to the apartment’s front door. “Hm…now that we know where the action is, it doesn’t seem worthwhile to get ourselves cornered in this dark maze of hallways, does it?”

“Not that it ever did,” the bard growled. “I suppose you’ll want to go charging blindly into whatever cause that racket, then?

“Oh, don’t be melodramatic, your face’ll stick that way.” Darling hopped lightly back down the steps and brushed past him. “I don’t know these streets as well as some—hardly seemed worthwhile, with them on the docket for renovation. There’s a general grid to the neighborhood that makes a rough sort of sense, though. We’ll make a slightly wider sweep around and approach from a less expected angle.”

“Finally, something distantly resembling logic,” Weaver snorted. “Lead on, then, brigadier.”

“So, what kind of capabilities does your little bugaboo have?” Darling asked, moving down the street at a good clip. He passed the edge of the apartment building and kept going, making for the next alley. “Can’t physically interact with the world, but apparently you can get intel from it?”

“Bugaboo,” Weaver grunted. “Charming. Would you kindly stop with the ‘it’ bullshit? I know you’ve been screwing around with oracles enough to know better. No need to be excessively rude.”

Darling glanced back at him, pointing one finger at his mouth. “This is the face I make when I’m repressing the first six responses that spring to mind. Just for future reference.”

“Duly noted, though I try not to look at your face any more than absolutely necessary.”

“Anyhow,” Darling went on, turning down the alley, “your point is taken. I was simply staying in the habit of using vague terms out of respect for your privacy, but I guess it matters little between just us. So what can she do to aid us in this situation?

“Mostly just keep tabs on what’s up ahead,” Weaver said. “Joe and Peepers are currently running. They’ve—well, Joe has killed a baerzurg and dropped a wall on a hethelax, which I’m sure you know will only slow it down.”

“Attaboy, Joe!” Darling cheered quietly.

“And my companion took out a succubus earlier. No other demons nearby have revealed themselves, but the Wreath in this area are making heavy use of shadow-jumping. In addition to those demons there have been two warlocks that appeared basically out of nowhere. No way to tell what—”

“Wait, stop,” Darling interrupted. “I thought you said she couldn’t touch the physical world? How did she take out a demon?”

“It was a succubus.”

“Oh, good, thank you. Maybe if you repeat it a few more times it’ll spontaneously start making sense.” They emerged into a side street; Darling darted across it to another sheltering alley, Weaver trailing behind him.

“It’s about death,” the bard snapped when they were back under the cover of looming walls. “Most demons are just things stuck on the wrong plane of existence. A Vanislaad is a human soul that’s already died and been condemned to hell. Them being here is fundamentally against the rules. She can send them back. Works for ghosts and undead, too, not that that helps us any.”

“Hm,” Darling mused, filing that away. “Well, giving us a bird’s eye view of the situation is helpful. Speaking of which…?”

“We’ve actually gone past them,” Weaver reported, pointing at the wall. “Back that way, about half a block over. They’re just coming out of an alley.”

“Perfect, I want to come at them from another angle. Anything else she might be able to do? And willing, of course. You know how I hate to impose.”

“Uh huh,” Weaver said dryly. “Actually, now that you bring it up…”

They had just burst out of the long alley into the street when a startled voice sounded from behind them.


Joe and Peepers turned.

“Hi, Carter!” she said, waving cheerfully.

Two figures stepped forward into the light at the very edge of the alley, a dark-skinned man in a dapper white suit, and the reporter from the Herald.

“Why, Mr. Long! You know this young lady? Or is Rupa the lad? Forgive me for jumping to conclusions, but it sounds like a Punaji name.”

“She’s…my editor’s secretary,” Carter said slowly, his forehead wrinkling into a frown as he spoke. “Interim secretary, actually. The real one suddenly took sick…”

“Ah, I can positively see you putting it together,” Mogul said, grinning. He turned to study the two of them; Joe now had a wand pointed at his chest, which seemed to concern him not at all. “You’re a little young to be a Church lackey, my boy. Especially dressed like that. Fashionable, but clearly not a uniform; they typically like to brainwash their kids before anything so outrageous as a sense of personal style develops. And you, my dear! An Eserite? That would suit you being used as a plant. Or perhaps an Avenist? They can be crafty at need, contrary to popular belief.”

“Don’t talk to him,” Joe said, backing away.

“You think?” she shot back derisively.

“Well, now, I consider myself a reasonable fellow.” Mogul took a step forward, his smile growing brittle. “You’ve only murdered one of my companions this evening that I can verify so far. Possibly two, if Hrazthax didn’t manage to shield Vanessa from that little avalanche you created. What I would really like to know is…what happened to my succubus?”

“She just keeled over,” Peepers said honestly. “I think it may have been a heart attack.”

“Look into my eyes,” Mogul said quietly, the mirth fading from his face in an instant, “and take a guess as to how amusing I find that.”

He stepped forward once more, coming to the very edge of the alley.

Light flared up in his path.

Mogul stumbled backward as the glow blazing forth solidified, forming a shape hovering in the mouth of the alley. It was a two-dimensional symbol, a mask with a scythe running through it vertically. There it hovered, its soft golden radiance gently illuminating all of them, the symbol of Vidius cutting off the warlock and reporter from the two fugitives.

“Oh, my,” Mogul said, sounding positively delighted. “How fascinating!”

“C’mon,” Joe said unnecessarily, turning and heading off down the street at a run. Peepers kept pace with him easily.

They both drew up short, though, as they passed a side alley and a voice from within hailed them.

“There you are!” Darling said brightly. “Well done, kids, you’ve smoked them out.”

“This district is lousy with Wreath,” Peepers said accusingly. “I think we’ve walked into a trap.”

“Young lady, as the person who walked into it and forced the rest of us to come in and get you, I think you’re in no position to be taking that tone with me.” Despite his chiding words, Darling was grinning. “Now come on, this way. We’ll talk as we move.”

“Think we can make it back to the main streets?” Joe asked, nodding at Weaver as the four of them set off down the alley toward the next street up. “I bet they won’t get too aggressive with that many witnesses…”

“No, no,” Darling interrupted. “Tactics, my boy, basic tactics. This district is bordered by canals; there are a limited number of bridges in and out. Why chase us around when they can just control the exits? We won’t be on our own indefinitely, but for now, our best bet is not to try to escape. They’ll intercept us at the bridges. If we scurry around and stay hidden in here, though, it’ll be a little while before Embras loses patience and starts trying in earnest to ferret us out. Enough time to try a few tricks of our own, at least!”

“Tricks of what kind, specifically?” Weaver demanded. “Really, don’t keep us in suspense. I’m sure this will be just hilarious.”

“Embras Mogul is a living theatrical streak in a nice suit,” Darling said. In the lead of the party, he grinned ahead into the darkness. It was probably best that none of them could see his predatory expression. “And he has an audience. Hell, that reporter is a proxy for an audience of virtually everyone. I may not know his plans, here, but I know he won’t be able to resist putting on a show.”

“Oh, gods,” Peepers groaned.

“Yup, you guessed it!” Darling interlaced his fingers and flexed them, cracking his knuckles. “I wish we could’ve stopped for popcorn on the way here, kids. This is going to be a spectacle.”

Dinner was strained, awkward, and quiet, the empty place set at the table relentlessly drawing the girls’ attention. Price never set out more places than were needed; they could always tell whether Darling would be there for a meal by whether a meal was prepared for him. Yet, there it sat, growing slowly cold while they finished their own dinner.

Flora and Fauna, though they were encouraged to sit at the table for meals at Darling’s insistence, were still apprentices, expected to be put to work, and ostensibly housemaids to boot; as usual, Price set them to busing their own dishes back to the kitchen. She, as always, had not sat to eat with them. In fact, they had never seen her do anything as mortal as eat. With the master of the house not present, she had not silently presided over dinner, but emerged from the kitchen with her usual impeccable timing as they were finishing up to remove the untouched meal set out for him.

“I must leave you to your own devices for the remainder of the evening,” Price informed them, once the plates were cleaned and drying in the dish rack.

The two elves exchanged one quick glance.

“We’re going with you,” they said in unison.

Price very slowly raised on eyebrow, an expression they had learned to regard with fear, but they both squared their shoulders, staring right back at her.

“You think so?” the Butler asked mildly.

“He’s in trouble, isn’t he?” Fauna demanded.

“We can read between the lines.”

“If you’re going out to help him—which you are—”

“—you can’t be crazy enough to think you’re leaving us behind.”

“You realize,” Price said mildly, “that if you insist on involving yourself in this, you do so in contradiction of the orders of both your Guild sponsor and trainer, and myself, your superior in both the Guild and this household?”

“And you realize we’ll just follow you if you try to leave us, right?” Fauna shot back.

“So long as we are all on the same page,” said Price, then turned and strode into the hall.

The apprentices scurried along after her, grabbing their outerwear from the racks in the foyer in passing.

“This is now a Guild operation,” Price informed them, pausing just before the front door. “Tags only from here on.”

They glanced at each other again.

“Um,” Flora said hesitantly, swirling her cloak around her shoulders in a dramatic swish, “we don’t have tags…”

“And we don’t actually know your…”

Fauna trailed off as Price removed her tailed coat and deftly turned it inside out, slipping it back on. Whether that activated the enchantment or she had touched a hidden rune in the process, her entire outfit melted from the impeccable Butler’s uniform to a casual ensemble of patched trousers, tight blouse and a rakish leather jacket. Settling this back over her arms, she made one swift pass through her carefully coiffed ginger hair with both hands; when her fingers came away, it was slightly, perfectly disheveled, just the finishing touch the disguise needed.

“Savvy,” she said, then pulled open the door and stepped out. She bounced down the steps and crossed the garden in three rangy strides, leaving the elves to trail after her in bemused silence.

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31 thoughts on “6 – 27

  1. So! First things first, I have a line on a car–in fact, an incredibly good deal which fell right out of the sky into my lap. After the run of luck I’ve been having, maybe that’s just the statistical average catching up with me. It’s not finalized yet; I’ll provide more details once they’re available.

    On to story business! In the previous chapter’s discussion about monetizing the story (I hate to be so mercenary about it but damn do I need to increase my base income so I can stop having to beg from you guys every time the sky falls), I was encouraged to think about the crowdfunding model used by Wildbow, and possibly several others. I don’t know any others by name, but it’s a safe bet that in the web serial world, anything Wildbow does has been imitated.

    He offers a donation incentive for bonus chapters, which I’ve toyed around with, but I have come to like the effect of just having bonuses in between books. It works well for me narratively as a way to break up the story.

    Instead of that, I conceived the idea of having a crowdfunded side story. As in, once the donation threshold is reached, a chapter in this story gets published. I’d want to start it out pretty low so as to get chapters fairly frequently; an initial goal of one per week, I think, is not unreasonable. I should be able to do that in addition to my current workload without straining myself unduly.

    So! What I’d like to hear from all of you is, what would you like to learn more about the world of Tiraas? Now that there’s a putative second story on the table, one set in another part of this fantasy realm, it’s a perfect time to weigh in and have an influence on the direction I ultimately go.

    At the end of the day, the author’s inspiration has to guide a story, I think. Good stories are written about whatever the author wants to write, and forced writing tends to be…less than stellar. However, I dearly love inhabiting this world I’ve created, and I have a natural tendency to spin out more and more details from each little thing we discover along the way, to the point that it verges on being a distraction from the main tale. It’ll be good, I think, to channel some of that into another story. My point is, don’t look for this in the next week or so, likely more than that. I have to build up something to the point that it appeals to me, that it speaks and inspires me to write, otherwise it’s likely to be crap.

    Direct my attention, readers! Where would you like me to place my focus, and pull forth another saga in the world of Tiraas? What burning questions do you have, what aspects of the setting do you want to see expanded upon?

    I eagerly await your suggestions.

    In the meantime, I hope everyone had a lovely weekend and I’ll see you Wednesday! Hopefully with good news.


    1. wow

      ideas for branching story arcs
      – can we get the three guards back pls… maybe with their own unique story arc… i liked them and would love to see them save a town or a something through bumbling through everything and come out of it with blown up out of proportion reputations
      – their was a dragon with his own city and vassals, the entire thing was confusing and felt like a lack of world building… give those characters and dragon their own story
      – gnomes… thats it, i love them because of how much they make me laugh, we’ve only met one notable gnome so far and she’s part of the main story. give us a gnome story line of what its like to be dungeon pillagers in that one gnome town joe and the others went to.
      – make a branching story line based on that transgendered shaathist that bishop darling insulted


    2. oh yeah here is another one i just thought of
      -dwarves, we have only seen one dwarf this entire story and he is barely every fleshed out or mentioned we know nothing of dwarven culture really except they are technologically more advanced than humans and hate dark elves because “my economy”. give us any random dwarf in any random dwarf city you want and it will tell us more about them


    3. I’d really like to see a story set at Black Rock. It’d give us more info on demons and Infernal magic from someone who was actually in a position to know them, and something about the place really appeals to me. It’s basically your standard Magical Academy with the plotting factor turned all the way up, and I love plotting.
      With that said, as AVR pointed out, it’s not really a great way to make money. Bonus (or ransomed) chapters of the main story would probably work best, but other than that, I’ve seen authors use cameos or Q&A sessions as ways to reward patrons. I’m not sure whether that violates your “no exclusive content” rule, though.


  2. Based on what I’ve seen of Drew Hayes doing the same trick – he gets more money for bonus chapters in his main series (Super Powereds) than for the second series set in the same world (Corpies). IIRC Corpies was originally going to be donation-only but he wasn’t getting enough money to post it often enough to keep his head in the series – so he just started posting it anyway and gets a trickle of money for bonus chapters in the series.

    IMO if you post 2 chapters a week of the main story and then require donations to post the 3rd you will get significantly more money – perhaps 10 times as much judging by Drew’s experience – than you would posting a new storyline.

    If you want stick with the plan you mentioned above – it sounds like there are a couple of would-be warlocks Lil dropped a huge amount of power and knowledge on who we’ve heard nothing from since. I’d like to know more.


  3. ORCSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!! please i love orcs lol, youve barely touched them! only slightly with the elvenheadhunters! or the lizard people!!! either or….


    1. they are all dead man, the bad lands that made flora and fauna… well they are the bad lands because of orc extermination and the killing of the orc god


      1. The orcs on the Tiraan continent are dead and gone. Their race still exists in plenty, in other lands, and are actively at war with the Empire because of what Tiraas did to Athan’Khar.

        I do see a potential for a story full of intrigue set in Sifan, which is an ally of Tiraas and yet hosts a sizable orcish population.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Just want to say how Much Joe’s attitude amuses me. He apologized in the middle of a fight when peepers heard cursing.

    For side story’s I would like to read about those 3 warlocks in the school that got a massive amount of knowledge dropped on them. That’s seems like it would be an interesting storeyline but it may be to close to the main story, if it is then dwarves are my second choice.

    I do think you would be better off not using this for donations. Using bonus chapters within the story will probably make you more as they are invested in this story.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for the opinions so far! There are definitely some areas of the world people would like to see fleshed out. To the couple of requests about those students who met Elilial, I’ll say that that plot point is integral to the main story and we will be revisiting it in detail.

    There appears to be a consensus, though, that a donation-driven side story wouldn’t garner much in the way of interest. I am seriously opposed to the idea of charging for one of the three weekly main story chapter. I conceived TGaB as a free service and it’s very important to me to keep it that way. Apart from the nature of the thing, it feels sleazy to me to get people used to getting something free and then suddenly demanding they pay for it.

    I did have a thought, though: if you all think it’s more main story chapters that would bring in the interest, what would you think about an extra chapter per week if the donation threshold for that week is met? The more I think about this idea, the more I like it; I wouldn’t be scattering my focus, and it would lead to this story being written that much faster. I’d originally planned for it to run two or three years; coming to the end of the first year of writing it’s starting to look like four or five is more likely.

    Of course, this’ll change everything about the way I write. I’ll basically have to build up a considerable buffer and maintain it…but with some tweaks to my personal schedule, that should be doable.

    Any thoughts on this idea? Donation-driven chapter in the main story, not side stories or bonuses, tallied on a weekly basis?


    1. How much are you looking for a month? I know that everyone can always use more money, but I’m curious.

      Another thing to note is that even Wildbow switched to just normal chapters instead of interludes by the end of Worm. So it’s not a bad idea. I’m just worried about you burning out. It sounds like you are already stressed enough without extra writing stressing you further.

      Also, I love Joe. Though I think he should have mentioned he only went leathal after he had no choice. He disarmed the first two quite politely.

      I’m going to to over my finances and see what I can reasonably donate to you per month.


      1. I’m not prepared to set a target amount at this time. The old proverb about beggars and choosers is applicable to my situation. What I’m planning is to try it out and see how much I get; it’ll be a process of some trial and error.

        My thinking is to start with the donation limit at a reasonable sum and adjust it downward if that doesn’t garner enough interest, or upward if it gets so much that I can’t keep up. It’s hard to know where to set it initially, though; I was figuring on about $50 for the week to begin with. More because that’s a simple, round number than because I have a good handle on how much an extra chapter will be worth to the readership. That’s what I’m looking to learn, here.


    2. If you can produce more TGaB than 3/week that’s great, I’ll read it happily!

      One other idea – giving early access to the most recent page is apparently enough to make some people contribute on Patreon. I don’t know how many, but I know I’ve seen this a couple of times.


      1. Oh, I like that. You keep the story one chapter behind and if people support you they get to see the latest chapter. You don’t need to do extra work, and you aren’t holding any of your work back. I think this is a great sounding idea.


    3. Something else I would pay for new chapters of Rowanas rescue. Only available for subscribers and can be sold when complete. On top of that you’d already have a decent number of people interested.


  6. A good idea I saw on another serial was to post a bonus every time Patreon went up by $10. It seems much more reliable in the long run, as opposed to donations which sorta fizzle out once a story is finished.


    1. yeah make a lot of cliff hangers especially on fridays update, so impatient people that can’t wait for the weekend to be over will throw money at you to get a extra chapter in Saturday or Sunday


  7. I think the idea of meeting a goal of x on patreon and then posting extra chapters or simply worldbuilding chapters would be an awesome idea, perhaps character interviews or background information on different cultures or things like the butlers or the kings guard, the idea of a fluid goal also seems promising, rising and falling with the influx of cash, perhaps doing art commissions of characters or partnering with an artist to do so, or in depth character profiles,

    Sorry for the jumble of ideas, just had an epiphany and thought id share

    Best of luck,
    ~Eli g


  8. I’d like to know more about the other continent, we know next to nothing about them.

    I wonder how much Embras honestly believes he cause is just? He seems to be telling the reporter that the gods are secretly all super-evil and Elilial is actually a great gal, but what he says on the surface can almost be guaranteed to be something he doesn’t actually believe. He probably knows that Joe was reacting in self-defence when he killed the Black Wreath members, but the question is whether Embras is deluded and doesn’t believe it justifies the kills at all, he’s outright lying for the sake of good publicity, believes it is barely justified and the church is still bad for ever committing murder, or somewhere in between.


    1. Joe clearly wasn’t reacting in self-defence : the succubus didn’t attack them and from what we know that’s not their modus operandi. There is apparently good reason for attacking demon on sight but for now I don’t think we can say Embras is lying or deluded.


      1. What succubus? I’m talking about the hethelax, baerzurg and the Black Wreath members accompanying them. They were making clear threats to physically harm him if he did not comply with their demands.
        If you’re talking about the succubus that Weaver’s partner killed though, that’s off on two counts. Succubi are creatures of pure evil, Trissiny gave a very convincing argument on that. The succubus, if it didn’t get killed immediately, would doubtlessly manipulate them into a situation they would either be harmed or go against their agreement with Darling. Embras would be a fool to not believe Succubi deserve death. I’m pretty sure he believes he can manipulate them for the greater good, which he may or not actually be able to do. The second count is that the succubus did not actually die, it was just sent back to Hell.


      2. A succubus may be pure evil and they may have excellent reason to do it but they still shot first while breaking and entering, that put whoever they are sneaking on in self-defense situation.
        About demons ; Embras never said anything about the worthiness of demon, he seems to emphasize precaution while using demonology, he doesn’t even use some assets he deem too dangerous himself (like Keshiri). Not sure he has any illusion on demons neither is he trying to help their cause. He’s a priest of Elilial though and the one thing she isn’t lacking of is demons she has a whole dimension full of them.
        That may also be the reason why he can manipulate them better than some other people; being the servant of their queen, if they try to pull one on him they could have a problem with Elilial when they get back home.


      3. A piece at a time:

        Being a member of the Black Wreath is illegal. Being a demon on imperial territory without specific permission is illegal. Debate whether that is right later.

        Joe and Peepers had as much right as any of the others to be on condemned property. The succubus vaguely threatened them; Joe drew his wands. Joe didn’t shoot. He was completely unaware of Weaver’s companion until she attacked the succubus. As far as the companion, if she is a champion/angel of Vidius, she is operating on her own legal territory in attacking the succubus, who is forbidden from entering Tiraan territory. Based on the dialog, the succubus isn’t even dead, just sent back.
        Result: Joe and Peepers are quite within their rights; the wraith of Vidius is within hers.

        Joe and Peepers get threatened at wandpoint by people who have no legal authority to do so. The cultists don’t say what they want, but it is a good assumption that people who are kidnapped by the Wreath rarely survive without serious problems. Despite this deadly threat (note: kidnapping can be resisted with lethal force), Joe disarms them without serious injury. The Wreath call in an obvious threat to deal with Joe and tell him that the demon will do worse to him than they were planning. The same applies – for all Joe knows, if he is taken he will die. Deadly force is still legally and ethically usable and this time Joe uses it. One cultist attempts a spell – Joe gives a warning but doesn’t otherwise injure her.
        Result: Joe is fully within his rights of self-defense and shows significant restraint against human targets.

        The Wreath threaten Joe and Peepers again. This time they explain – they want information; if they don’t get it, they threaten serious harm. This is extortion – Joe has no obligation to allow them to extort him, and anything that the Wreath then choose to do is their legal and ethical responsibility. The hethelax clearly threatens Joe and Peepers with serious physical harm, and Joe takes the only option to deal with it; the human Wreath cultist is caught in this result but she is also complicit in all of this and therefore culpable. Not only that, she had two clear previous warnings. Yes, this might have killed her, but after aiming wands at J&P and siccing two demons on them, she is also a clear and present serious or lethal danger.
        Result: Joe is finally forced to use what might be lethal force on a human. Still self-defense.

        Really, think about it this way: a criminal gang known to be a serious danger catches you listening into one of their operations. They point guns at you and want to kidnap you. Lethal force in that case is self-defense. Oh wait, they don’t want to kidnap you, they just want to extort you. When you say no, they start to attack. Still self-defense, especially since it is the only option.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Im suprised no one is interested in the preist and vampire class for tellerwyns school. If even half of what it was like for trissiny and gabe is similar, than it would make for a incredible side story.


  10. Typos:

    scrambled all of fives steps
    scrambled all of five steps

    raised on eyebrow
    raised an eyebrow

    and myself
    and me
    (reflexive pronouns are used when both the subject and object of the verb are the same; in this case, the elves are the subject but Price is the object, and Butlers are apparently picky on everything, including presumably grammar)


    I am late on commenting due to being out of town for work for three days.

    the hand holding the wand was expertly manicured, its nails painted an excessively flashy shade of pink. Her voice was low, and deliberately sultry in a way that was starkly inappropriate in this context

    Madeline? Or just someone who has a similar manner?

    Joe was impressive here, just as much for dialog as for his actions. Politely thanking the woman who revealed the baerzurg’s weakness was the best moment, IMO. The “ladies present” was maybe a bit too polite for the situation, but I guess that sort of thing is ingrained in him.

    Mogul stumbled backward
    So Mogul can be put off his game by surprise.

    So is Weaver’s companion an angel of Vidius? She is able to stop the succubus because it is against Vidius’s rules, but unable to do anything directly to other demons. And it seems unlikely that anything in this world would willingly show the symbol of a god if they weren’t actually aligned with that god, because pissing of the gods here is a bad idea. The only people we know of who do it regularly are Wreath, and they have defenses.

    “Embras Mogul is a living theatrical streak in a nice suit”
    Someone’s being doing research, because the last time Darling encountered Mogul the Eserite apparently didn’t know him. But that does explain the “I show my face” bit of Mogul’s character – every good actor wants credit for his work to go to himself.

    And the first ingredient in a disaster is introduced: F&F may have to use powers to get out of the problems that are being stirred up. Which has a reasonable chance to out them as headhunters to several witnesses they shouldn’t or probably couldn’t kill: Joe, Peepers, Weaver, Mogul, and Carter. The knowledge that the Eserites and the Church are apparently using headhunters would cause enough problems to take down even Darling, considering he is keeping it secret from the empire and the Universal Church too (I assume that Eserion knows).


  11. Sorry, skipped the chapters including this one with no dungeon. Hard to read after hearing about an end boss and then switched to a different scene.


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