12 – 27

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It was not without relief that he finally delegated the immediate clean-up and departed. Ildrin could handle the more urgent practicalities, while Delilah attended to the more trying duty of calming Rector, whose understandable upset at the sudden loss of so much of his hard work was considerably exacerbated by his inherent…difficulty. Getting him under control would be a necessary first step before the project could be cleaned up and resuscitated; he would be nothing but an obstruction to anyone trying to work in the ruins until then. Hopefully Ildrin could arrange the important matters alone, but if worse came to worst, he was prepared to involve Nassir. For obvious reasons, the number of people aware of, and involved in, this particular project had to be kept to an absolute minimum, consisting only of his most trusted lieutenants.

Justinian strode through the deep passages below the Cathedral at as rapid a pace as he could manage without resorting to unseemly haste. Not that there was anyone nearby, as his innate sense of others’ emotions revealed, but there were habits he maintained even when they seemed unnecessary, precisely because they were so necessary the rest of the time. He also kept his expression clear and serene, despite the turmoil of his thoughts.

Occupied with his inner whirl of plans, countermeasures, concerns and stratagems, he passed deeper and deeper below the Cathedral, penetrating layers of security with the minimum attention necessary to get through them. Several were magical devices which recognized him and required no conscious input, but he ardently eschewed the laziness of over-reliance on sophisticated gimmicks. The confusing layout of the deep passages was a help, which he had enhanced by placing barriers in such locations that he had to backtrack repeatedly through even more twisting, switchbacking corriors to retrieve various keys from their hiding places.

The descent took the better part of an hour. It was fairly rare that his demanding schedule allowed him the leeway to come here aside from his weekly visits, but that was for the best, considering how demanding these visits often were, themselves. And in the end, it was not optional. No one could know what he kept here.

The final door was hidden in plain sight, one simple wooden barrier in a hallway lined with identical ones, the rest of which were all trapped in some way. Justinian opened the correct door and slipped through, closing it behind him, and availed himself of the remaining few moments it took to traverse the opulent entry hall of this subterranean apartment to make extra certain that his face and bearing were composed.

He emerged into a grand chamber which, on its own merits could have belonged in any palace. Round, three stories in height, and with much of its second level encircled by a balcony from which doorways branched off, reached by a curved staircase beginning immediately to the right of the entry, it was carved entirely from marble and liberally gilded—with actual gold. The domed ceiling high above was a single piece of crystal, and also the primary source of light. A grand pianoforte and a large harp stood against one wall on a dais, though they were not the source of the music currently playing; a string quartet echoed from one of the adjacent rooms, with the characteristically scratchy undertones of a soundisc player. Rugs and pillows were scattered about more like the detritus of fallen trees than any deliberate attempt at décor, mismatched and drifting into piles against the walls.

The curtains covering the doorways, in contrast to the expensive quality of the room itself, were practically rags, dusty and torn. Only upon closer examination did one see that they were not, in fact, ragged or dirty, but that shape and color because they were nothing but dense masses of spider webs, arranged in roughly flat shapes. More of their kind were draped across the dome above, giving its clean light an eerie quality. Those immense cobwebs shifted slowly, as if in response to a breeze which was not there, causing peculiar patterns of light to sway gently across the floor.

“Where I am from, a man entering a woman’s home uninvited would experience…consequences.”

Justinian’s smile was only partially faked. Partially because on several levels, he truly did enjoy these exchanges. Faked because on other levels, they could be utterly nightmarish.

She had appeared in the doorway to his left, silently as always, and now posed with her arms braced against it, shoulders slanted one way, hips the other, smirking mysteriously. Everything a pose, a slice of pageantry. From some women, such behavior seemed like manipulation, and to be sure, she was manipulative in everything she did. He had come to understand, though, that there was no hostility in it, and not necessarily even an agenda. She manipulated like she breathed, and quite possibly could not stop.

He bowed, ignoring the obvious rejoinders about where she was from, or who provided her with this luxurious space in which to live.

“Ah, but if I were well-behaved, Szaiviss, you would find me so much less interesting.”

Her answering smile could almost have been genuine. Perhaps it truly was. It was a sly smile, but that might be the most genuine thing of all, from her.

Few Tiraan would ever see truly black skin on a drow; in Tar’naris, after millennia of interbreeding with (mostly enslaved) humans, drow came in an entire grayscale palette, ranging from a deep slate color to the nearly white of some of the modern half-drow who could be found in Lor’naris. Szaiviss came from an older and undiluted line, one which had had no contact with the surface since before the Elder Wars, and her skin was black, and subtly glossy, like living obsidian. Her eyes, too, were startling; unlike the more muted colors common to Narisians, they were a vivid scarlet which seemed almost to glow when the light hit them just right. That wasn’t due to her blood; the likes of vampires and some succubi had eyes like that, and for similar reasons. She wore a short gown that was necessarily filmy, being woven of cobwebs like her curtains, clinging to her and concealing almost nothing of what little it actually tried to cover. Against the dingy off-white garment and her black skin, her ankle-length white hair seemed almost to glow, falling all around her like a cloak.

“Let’s see,” she purred, her Tanglish fluent but heavily accented, and oozed out of the doorway to come slink toward him. “Only two days since you last came just to spend time with me, my love. Not long enough for the desire to overwhelm you again… I know I don’t yet have you that addicted to my charms. Which means…” She had come to stand very close, gazing up into his face from mere inches away, near enough that her breasts grazed the front of his tabard. “You want something.”

“Aside from the obvious?” he murmured, slipping his arms around her. Szaiviss did not pull back, but her expression hardened.

“No, no, beloved. No games, not till later. I rather it not hang over us in the meantime.”

“You seek to put me in a box too small for my comfort, my dear,” he replied, pulling her closer, which she allowed. “I can have more than one goal at a time. Any pressing need makes a perfect excuse.”

Szaiviss chuckled low in her throat, and finally did extricate herself, pressing her hands against his chest and pulling back out of his grasp. “Then I shall have to prioritize, as usual. Before we take time to play, you had better tell me your problem. Otherwise, you’ll be too…distracted.”

She turned and sauntered away, rolling her hips fluidly as she went. Justinian followed her through the curtained doorway into a much dimmer space, also bedecked with webs across the ceiling and pillows all over the floor, this one narrower and lit only by a single fairy lamp. The soundisc player was in here, as well as a stand currently burning incense. She did so love her sensual distractions, particularly of the kinds not available where she had come from. Then again, precious little was available there.

“My project with Rector and the Avatar has been stalled,” he admitted, watching her stretch herself out in a pile of cushions. She did not invite him to sit yet, and he did not presume; her jokes were one thing, but he had learned to respect some of the drow cultural mores she held in sincerity. “In fact, completely destroyed. Rector and his minders barely escaped unscathed, not to mention myself.”

“You’ll be wanting the goddess’s touch to access it again, then?” she mused. “How…prosaic. How disappointing.”

“Eventually,” he agreed with a grim little smile. “I have more urgent problems, however. Rector’s machine exploded with the full force contained in its power crystals, which I have made very certain before providing them that it should not be able to do. Someone at the other end of the connection did that quite deliberately. After replacing his display with the Imperial sigil.”

Her grin was a white slash across her face in the dimness. “Oh, Justinian. Poor, clever boy. Even your setbacks are just so fascinating.”

“Open confrontation with the Silver Throne has always been part of the plan,” he said with a shrug. “But it is much too early. Everything could be ruined if I am forced to proceed to direct hostilities before the other necessary factors are ready.”

“Then perhaps your plans are less thorough than you thought,” she said, her face devoid of levity now. “That forces me to question things, Justinian. Many things. How will you provide what you have promised me if the Empire comes storming in here before you can arrange it?”

“They will not,” he replied, beginning to pace back and forth. It was not his habit, but he preferred to show a few nervous tics and mannerisms in her presence which he did not ordinarily betray. Keeping her under control was far easier so long as she assumed she held the upper hand. “Even at the height of the Enchanter Wars, the Imperials did not dare invade the Cathedral. Sharidan is quite capable of eclipsing my ability to move, however, which would be bad enough.”

“Yes. And so, here we are, in this pit you have dug.”

“Rector grew too focused on his task and failed to adequately cover his tracks,” Justinian said, as if to himself, which continuing to walk slowly back and forth across the piled carpets. The lowest-hanging spider webs brushed the top of his head; he raised a hand to push one aside, though it didn’t really bother him. “Quite typical of his particular type of aberrant personality, and a risk I was aware of when I employed him. My errors were in overestimating the control his handlers have over him, and under-preparing for such an extreme breach of security. Minor breaches I expected, not…this. Even so, however, this is a setback, not necessarily a disaster. I find it is a mistake to over-plan; much better to surround oneself with the resources necessary to adapt to the unexpected.” He came to a stop, turning to face her, and spread his arms, smiling down at her. “And in that, I am still well-positioned. Even the Empire does not possess a resource such as you.”

Szaiviss regarded him in aloof silence for a moment before answering. “You imagine, Archpope, that you possess me?”

“As much as anyone does anyone, my dear. You are no one’s creature but your own, but our aims are in harmony.”

She smiled at that, but only briefly, before her expression hardened again. “And in all your scheming up there, what progress have you made toward my needs? I’ve heard nothing of it since that absolute silliness with the newspapers backfired on you.”

“That was only an exploratory probe of her defenses,” he replied calmly. “I continue to make them. A creature like Tellwyrn is not to be attacked openly, or without detailed knowledge of her capabilities. In point of fact, my dear, circumstance has recently conspired in our favor. Tellwyrn has her own problems lately, and though I did not intend it, Rector’s interference with the Hands of the Emperor has quite accidentally exacerbated them.”

She came smoothly to her feet, as rapidly as a pouncing cat, and pressed herself into his space, this time with no hint of allure. He did not back down from her, simply meeting her glare in perfect serenity.

“I must be the one to kill her, Justinian, or this is all pointless. Do not overstep yourself.”

“She would destroy you as effortlessly as she has all your predecessors,” he said calmly, declining to acknowledge her furious hiss. “My plotting is what will make your aim possible, Szaiviss. And Tellwyrn’s newest strength also provides her a weakness she has never had before. This University gives her many new advantages, but she is too bound up in it to abandon it at need. And the University is vulnerable as all institutions are, in many ways that an archmage is not. We will destabilize it, and thus her, to create the opening you need. But first, we must watch, and prepare, and lay the groundwork. I assure you, none of what I have done thus far will come close to ending the Arachne’s life. But every little step helps me learn how it may be done.”

She narrowed her eyes, but after a pause, slowly nodded, and drew back. “Very well, then. Your problem with the Empire…what do you wish me to do about it?” Her lips curled back in a displeased grimace. “There will be a price, Justinian, if you seek to invoke her presence.”

“Quite apart from the price she demands, there would be a cost,” he said, grimacing in return. “No. My dictum stands; under no circumstances must you invoke Scyllith’s presence here. No shrouds I can throw up would prevent the Pantheon from noticing that, and then we will both be finished, and all our plans come to naught.”

“Good,” she said with a wry little smile. “I meant a price I would demand, though, quite apart from whatever she wants. I desire nothing more than to be out from under the lunatic old bitch’s thumb as long as possible. The only reason she has a cult at all is the cursed Themynrites prevent my people from fleeing the Underdark.”

“We are in accord, then,” he replied, indulging in a small grin of his own. “No, not Scyllith, my dear; only you do I trust. I need your ability to find the unknown.”

“What, your room full of oracles is not enough?”

“Those sources are obstreperous,” he said, “and take time to use—time I don’t believe can be spared, in this case. Besides, my little tests have verified that all four of my Bishops have figured out how to ascertain who has been studying what in the Chamber of Truth. I don’t yet trust them with matters this sensitive, and for now, I’d rather let them chase each other’s schemes than catch a whiff of mine. Besides,” he added with another slow smile, “all the accumulated oracles of the world have never performed as well as your skills.”

“Your flattery is blunt,” she said, folding her arms and raising an eyebrow. She did it with a smile, though.

“I flatter you only when the simple truth gives me the opportunity, my lovely. It happens more often than I would have expected.”

“Yes, good boy,” she said approvingly. “Later, you may spend time praising me in detail. But! Work before pleasure. What is it you seek?”

“An enemy,” he said immediately. “Last year, one fortuitously appeared in the form of a hellgate, accompanied by a new stage in Darling’s own plot, which enabled me to ally the Church with the Throne against a common foe. One is not conveniently available, now, which means one will have to be found. I must re-cast this…little indiscretion as just that, and not the dramatic breach it truly is. To that end, I need alliance with the Throne against a common danger. To begin with. The rest I can arrange myself.”

Szaiviss turned away without answering, strolling toward the opposite end of the narrow room from the entrance. It was more of a wide hallway, really, its sides lined with occasional articles of furniture and thick drifts of pillows. Across from its entrance, the back wall was entirely swathed in more cobweb-curtains.

She shrugged and then rolled her shoulders, and her paltry garment slipped from them, slithering down to lie puddled around her bare feet. Szaiviss languidly raised one hand; Justinian, having seen this before, now knew to watch the shadows on the wall, barely visible as they were in the dimness of the one nightlight. He could see, however, the shadow of her arm. The arm did not move further, but the shadow did, reaching out to entangle its unnaturally long fingers in the darkness swathing the multiple layers of ragged silken drapes concealing the back of the room. At the shadow’s touch, the whole arrangement was pulled to one side, gathered up into a bundle, and draped over a hook on the wall, revealing what lay beyond.

The semi-circular space was bathed in pure white light which had been invisible behind the thick curtains. Its walls were of obsidian, crisscrossed by lines of white paint designed to resemble spider webs. Its floor was a raised dais, upon which was engraved a sigil which had been unseen on the surface of the world for eight thousand years, deliberately expunged long ago by the Pantheon. Scyllith’s personal glyph did not depict anything Justinian recognized; it was simply an arrangement of lines, like the Infinite Order’s. Perhaps, though, both of those had meant something more concrete in those days.

Szaiviss turned to glance at him over her shoulder, just in time to catch his eyes wandering over her body—because she expected and enjoyed it, mostly, but she was beautiful enough that his appreciative smile was the result simply of relaxing his customary reserve, not faking an expression.

The shadow priestess stepped up onto the dais, turned to face the room, and knelt, closing her eyes. Her chest swelled with a deeply in-drawn breath, then relaxed. Then again, and once more.

And then she opened her eyes. They were pure white, blazing with light. In trance, the drow began to speak. He listened intently, even after the first words revealed that she said exactly what he expected.

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53 thoughts on “12 – 27

  1. Thanks to this week’s very generous donors, I’ve paid off my dentist and made an appointment. First thing Monday morning, which is the earliest she can get me in. Not a moment too soon, as this tooth is getting progressively worse.

    By the way, I cannot pull up my Patreon page right now, or Patreon itself. Isup.me says the site’s fine; can you guys check that it’s still working? My ISP is awful, so it’s quite believable that I’m just currently blocked due to random (hopefully temporary) nonsense. There’s a precedent.

    On to more serious and unhappy news. I’ve resisted doing this for a long time, despite repeated advice from multiple readers, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to dial back the update schedule. Starting next week, the serial will have a guaranteed update on Monday, with a Friday chapter if funded.

    I am not happy about this, and it’s a temporary change. The truth is, though, I’ve been failing to make three chapters a week so consistently that I have to acknowledge, for whatever reason, this is my current level of capability. For the first year this damn thing was running I did three a week, no problem, so I’m going to cling to the optimistic belief that this is just a phase of some kind. When possible, I’m going to ramp back up to a more aggressive pace–otherwise this thing’ll run for ten years, and much as I enjoy the story, I don’t mean to spend that much of my life on it.

    And there may still be some Wednesday updates soon; on days when I’m able to do it, that’ll be a great time to work through the backlog of chapters owed. For now, though, TGAB is going to be mostly two a week. I’m sorry about this. The apology is to all of you, and to myself; I feel like this is letting us both down. In the end, though, it’s better for my mental health and long-term productivity to set a goal I can meet, rather than constantly fail to meet one I clearly can’t anymore.

    I appreciate all of you, those who donate, those who comment, and every single one who reads. I love having readers, you make all of this worthwhile.

    Have a great weekend, everybody.

    Liked by 11 people

    1. While I appreciate the apology I personally can’t accept it. The fact is that you’ve done nothing wrong. You’re a creator whose found where his line is and what he can reliably do all the time and now you’re going to grow as a creator as your explore that line.

      I would also suggest a look at the formatting you’re using for chapters. The fact is that you and the guy who wrote Worm are pretty much the only fellows on the market who released as much as you regularly did for the longest time. Also pretty sure that creator is doing it as their full time job so it’s not really comparable (though don’t quote me on that.)

      If you’re only releasing 10k words a week regularly, think about tackling these things in more bite sized chapters, or release parts of a chapter at natural breaking points. The ‘every chapter should be a scene’ adage is fairly ignorant of how detailed and complex fictional stories can be these days.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. If you need to you need to, I’d much prefer to get less frequent updates rather than have you burn out and stop completely, which is a serious danger for web serials it seems. There have been a couple that I enjoyed that… just stopped.

      Another reason you scaling back is not a problem, your updates are always strong. I have not seen filler updates just to get something out there, they always without fail move the story along and are just plain good to read.

      So go to whatever schedule works for you, I mean there are other very high quality serials I read that are on a once a week schedule, it can work if needed. I hope it doesn’t get there but if it does well, shit happens. I’d rather finish reading the story in 10 years instead of seeing sporadic updates with many excuses for a few months then total silence for up to another 6 months or so followed by the old schedule for 3 months about, then the final death of the serial.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Now I’m curious: what’s everyone’s favorite web serial to quit saddeningly prematurely?

        My vote is for–ehile not precisely a serial–the Akexandra Quick series, a planned seven book series paralleling the Harry Potter format. Inverarity wrote four full books about Alexandra, which take place in the US and weave in the myths of American Indian spirituality quite well. The author hasn’t ruled out finishing, but to me it seems unlikely
        RIP so much potential!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. tieshaunn
        Shiny new justice
        cloudy path
        None of those are exactly dead, but none are consistently outputting

        Dead. long time with no update. Given his output in a small time, then dead stop, I’m wondering if he’s manic/depressive, and hasn’t picked it back up on an upswing.

        Shapcano’s shadowrun
        Dead-dead; as in he’s not around to write anymore. But it went dark a decade before he left us, and just stopped mid-story.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Tieshaunn is back and updating again, albeit still struggling a little with the schedule.
        Stone Burners is not quite dead yet, there was an update a month ago.

        The rest… yeah, they are gone.

        I can add…
        Tales of MU
        The Monster They Deserve
        Anathema (at least here the author explained it in a note and promised to finish the story eventually)
        Twisted Cogs
        Saga of Soul
        A Grey World
        … to that list.

        I don’t speculate on the writer’s lives or reasons, I keep the links for a year or so, then remove them. No point reading a story that stops midway.


      4. The web serial I really hope it picks up again (so much so that I won’t remove the link after a year like I have with others) is The Monster They Deserve, definitely one of the better written and interesting takes on the superpowers genre. The side project on the site Yes Your Highness was quite good as well and the project that took me to that site in the first place Second String Supers a fan written story in the Drew Hayes Superpowereds universe all very well written all stopped, all sad.


    3. Don’t apologize please. Webb, you enrich our lives with this vivid fantasy world you created. It has depth, it has meaning, it often puts contemporary issues into a new perspective, it is epic in the truest meaning of the word and despite the complexity and the seriousness of the plot you still manage to make us laugh in almost every chapter.

      If you had written all the chapters already, if you had published this story as a series of novels … then I would have bought them and devoured them, skipping sleep and food and human contact until I was done.

      I’m already used to waiting. At this point it makes zero difference if I have to wait a few days longer for the next chapter, we’re here for the long haul. 🙂

      I know how important this story is for you and that you write it because you need to, so to speak. But perhaps you could do me a little favor? When book 12 finishes, could you take a week or two off from writing? Take a step back. Take a short vacation. Relax. If TGaB was your job, then you worked non-stop for 2.5 years without any significant breaks. That is not healthy. Take some time off and do something else for a change. Draw some art, play some music, watch a movie, read a novel… do something you enjoy. You more than deserve it. And when you come back, maybe you’ll find you have more energy than before.

      Don’t worry, this change in schedule won’t impact the popularity of TGaB. I’m confident that Friday chapters will be funded more often than not. I’m still telling all my friends about this story and most have started to read it. Soon I’ll be able to donate again, too.

      You’re not letting anyone down here. You have our full support.



      1. I second this. Take two weeks off, then another two to edit book one and put it on amazon and Kobo.

        But don’t remove the train ride. That was a great piece of ‘show, don’t tell’ world-building, and established a lot about Triss too.

        Liked by 1 person

    4. Like everyone else, I don’t think you scaling back is a problem. Your health is the most important thing. I’d even encourage you to put any prospective Wednesday updates you write into a buffer instead of posting them immediately. That would give you a lot more flexibility to miss writing an update without ever missing posting an update.


  2. Well, we all already knew that Justinian was making spectacularly bad life choices. These shrouds he mentioned must be what keeps the gods from thinking bad things about him. I wonder what price he’s paying to keep them going. We do now know they have limits.


  3. Oh crap. I think we all know that this is going to have a spectacularly poor end. I suspect Justinian’s end goal is to (as he’s said via the secular humanist-style stuff earlier) wipe out the gods, and possibly ascend himself. He’s certainly not working to build a legacy for future generations.

    We have still more subtle confirmation that Arachne is the missing deity.

    Lots of players; I wonder what everyone’s endgame is?

    We have new people introduced regularly, but almost nobody has left the story (via death, etc.). So far it feels like we at most early in the middle third of the story, with lots left to happen. There is a risk of Wheel-of-Time style narrative bloat; we’re at the point where I am starting to forget where some people are or who they are from time to time, and if we get another dozen significant characters, I’ll probably be there.

    The only other web serial with this much depth and detail that I have read is Worm, and I think Wildbow had an endgame in mind from fairly early on.

    Is the decision to not kill off any major or secondary characters a deliberate style one, or is it just the way the story has developed so far? There’s a war of some sort just around the corner. With this much physical and magical firepower, I can’t imagine an actual conflict being without substantial casualties… IF you’re going for realism in your escapism. That’s a big if, and it can also be hard to do realistic war without being a bit grimdark because that’s how war is.

    I’m starting to ramble, so I’ll stop.


    1. TGAB is never going to be as gritty or as bloody as has become the trend of modern fantasy. To a very large extent, this story is my personal rebellion against that trend. For me, fantasy began with the Lord of the Rings, and its core defining trait is more than magic and the distant descent of fairy tales: fantasy is about hope. That there’s still some good in the world, and it’s worth fighting for. My work will always reflect that.

      On the subject of character death, though…

      When G.R.R. Martin kills a beloved character, it’s a chapter break. The first time J.K. Rowling killed a beloved character, after setting up fully half a series that seemed far too innocent for blood, it stopped the world. I know which had more of an effect on me.

      The Gods are Bastards is, right now, just short of its halfway point.

      Brace yourselves.

      Liked by 10 people

      1. This is why I prefer reading your story over anything Wildbow writes. I love Worm, but it’s something I need to be in the right mood for to read.

        Many authors use the death of a character as development for another, which is such a frustrating trope because it a. is almost never done well and b. requires a character to be just a sacrifice.


      2. “TGAB is never going to be as gritty or as bloody as has become the trend of modern fantasy.” Thank you, thank you, thank you!

        I really can’t stand all the grimdark stuff that’s so common these days. It doesn’t provide me with the escapism I crave, and feeds my depression. So it’s really nice to see something with more optimistic undertones.


  4. Ok, on to the chapter commentary:

    Hello, hidden faction! We finally meet at last.
    I had predicted that there had to be another player hidden in this big tangle of connections some while ago. Of course, seeing her now only makes me ask even more questions.

    She seems to be a priestess of Scyllith, but with a connection to “the Arachne”, which seems to be the title of a high priestess of Araneid. I need more data to properly speculate.

    Arachne outright kills any priestess of Scyllith who finds a way to the surface and I’m pretty sure the Pantheon does the same. They most likely have a compelling reason for that.

    The implications are concerning already. Now we know how and why Justinian has accumulated so much political power. Her alluding to him becoming addicted to her is either a coy reference to men’s lust for power or she believes she can seduce him and make him fall in love with her. Not a good situation either way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Could she be a Paladin of Scyllith? We certainly don’t have definitive evidence but her divination is awfully powerful and she can invoke Scyllith’s direct attention for the permissions for the computer system.


  5. “The only reason she has a cult at all is the cursed Themynrites prevent my people from fleeing the Underdark.” So even the dreaded Scyllith cruelty worshiping drow don’t really want to be, like the demons don’t want to be in hell. Seems there is an immigration ban in effect.


    1. Knowing Scyllith’s rep for cunning, this is a blatant lie that she has fed Justinian to make an alliance with her palatable. Ten bucks says this “shroud” is how Ellis actually hides Embras Mogul and his cronies.

      Also: in this case we have another trope being turned on its head–huzzah! As was the case with Keshiri and Shook, you have two people who are both certain they have the other wrapped around their finger. Justinian is being spoofed because his Izarite senses will only detect what the drow will let him, and she’s spoofed by an over-reliance on seduction. What’s more, they both know the other will manipulate them, and thus believe even more that they have the upper hand.

      Thing is…Scyllith. Not sure if the drow is sincere in her dislike or not, but if Scyllith is crazy then there is certainly someone keeping her that way. Thus there is obviously a true cult somewhere, which Scyllith is using to attain her ends. The trope will get turned on its head because the principle actors rare both confident they hold the strings, when this whole deal actually revolves around one puppet master–Scyllith.

      My belief is that Scyllith and Araneid disagreed about the fate of the Underworld–Araneid wanted it left alone, and Scyllith didn’t. Scyllith attacks Araneid in some way, inflicting damage that will accumulate over time–possibly infernal corruption. Araneid went to the fae in the hopes that they would help stave off the corruption; the Pantheon got involved, and the result is that Araneid’s body was hooked into the arcane transcension field. To prevent her mind from being affected, her consciousness was transferred into another physical form, that had limited or no memories of what had happened.

      Over time, Arachne came to discover a portion of this. Quite possibly Ellial told her. In revenge, Arachne helped Ellial unseat Scyllith. She then confronted the Pantheon and was stonewalled, etc.

      But Arachne knows that Scyllith is not going to stay “disappeared” forever, and has prepared the Unseen University as a defense against Scyllith. Scyllith was responsible for the binding of the wolf-god, and seeks to do the same to the other gods by pinning the blame for the death of Ellial’s daughters on the Universal Church, thus provoking a war between the Pantheon and Hell in which she can maneuver free.



    Okay, so, my car just died. Again. It’s always dental problems or car problems with me–why not both at once? It was just a matter of time. Tried to go home from work today and the damn thing wouldn’t start.

    The bad news is my sister had to come get me, which is an hour out of her way, but she’s reliable and uncomplaining about these things. The good is I work all of two blocks from my garage, so having it towed there is cheap, and my insurance covered it.

    Still waiting to find out what the problem is–it’s not the battery. The guy said in cases like this, 80% of the time it’s an ignition wire or something similarly simple; they were diagnosing it still when I had to leave with my sister, and said they’d call as soon as they know something.

    Still no call. They close in half an hour. I’m growing increasingly fatalistic. It just figures my car would find an exciting new way to break.

    Really hoping to have this straightened out, ideally without forfeiting my soul, before I got to the dentist on Monday.

    Just never ends…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Admit it, you boiled a goat in its mother’s milk or something. Also +1 on the don’t worry about update schedule, no apologies necessary etc

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Got my car back. It needed a new starter; I’m down five hundred bucks. Dentist first thing in the morning. Having a depressive episode now, which irritates the hell out of me; I know it’s in response to this weekend’s setbacks. Come on, brain, this is not damn well helping.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Having a writer’s block issue. I’m gonna sleep for a few hours and get up early to finish the chapter. Tomorrow’s schedule is shot to hell anyway because of the dentist appointment; depending on how that ends up going, I might have to miss work. Hopefully not. Anyway, chapter soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Webb please don’t stress yourself out. Take a break. Eat. Sleep. Do what you need to do. Don’t worry about us. We can take care of ourselves. Your health is what’s important.
      Feel better soon!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Fuck today.

    Went to dentist, got the filling. Turns out my new (better) insurance has an anti-scammer clause where it won’t cover procedures like that for six months, so I had to pay out of pocket. Less than $200; affordable, but I’m pretty well broke now, between that and the car.

    Went on to work.

    Got there as the anesthesia wore off, resulting in what is without hyperbole the worst pain I have ever experienced. I turned around and went back to the dentist, literally crying and intermittently screaming in the car. Got filling re-done with a temporary material which will require me to go back in a few weeks, but will in the meantime should give it more room to heal the inflammation. Got a prescription for antibiotics and painkillers, meanwhile.

    I’ve never taken painkillers before. Seriously, never had anything stronger than ibuprofen. I don’t even drink; I’m a little nervous about this. But fuck it, I will do just about anything if it means never having to feel pain like that again.

    But I’m missing work and might tomorrow too, because the dentist and pharmacist both warned me not to try driving while on this stuff. Haven’t taken it yet, I’m still numb from the second round of injections, but I will be when this wears off.

    During all this, discovered my car’s brand new ($500) starter doesn’t work right. It starts, but struggles to. Will have to go deal with that. So, to recap, this weekend there has been much suffering, wasted time, and expense, but nothing definitively accomplished.

    I will write as soon as I’m not too exhausted/pained/stoned. Right now going back to bed. Chapter’s likely to be another day or two. I am sorry.


    1. Do something that makes you feel better, because that’s the kind of thing that just wears you down and puts you in a bad headspace.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Take care of yourself dude. I know what it’s like, and don’t try to get anything done before you’re okay cause it won’t end well. As long as we get some regular updates on how you’re doing (I at least worry way too much about others), we’ll be fine.


    3. You may want to consider finding a different dentist, this doesn’t sound like you’re getting the best care. Hope you’ll feel better soon.


  10. Hokay! The second procedure seems to have fixed what went wrong with the first one; I’m sore, as is expected from having one’s teeth drilled upon, but not much worse than that now. I’ve only needed to take the wacky pills a couple of times (including just a little bit ago) rather than keeping on them constantly. The pharmacist said they’d cause drowsiness, which I haven’t noticed, but they DO make me dizzy as hell. I definitely see why they don’t want people driving on this stuff. Still, though, it’s not as bad as I feared. I’m a bit paranoid about drugs.

    I’ve made halting progress on the chapter; it is still in the works. Should have time to work more tomorrow.


    1. I feel like we get a second book alongside the first. The wakky adventures of DD Webb!

      Your crazy experences and your reactions to them are almost like a second story.

      Best luck!


  11. G’morning. I was planning to get up early and get some writing done, but I had a less than restful night. Turns out a side effect of these pills is fits of uncontrollable laughter if I try to sleep under their influence. Shit like this is why I’m scared of drugs.

    Gotta head off to work now. I’m hurting a bit but I’m going to stick to ibuprofen for the time being, for obvious reasons. Will be back this afternoon and try to finish the damn chapter already.


  12. Webb, I know you’re likely WAY too busy, but, I figured I’d ask anyways. The Top Web Fiction crowd has asked, so I am again running an April fools day swap. It’s fun, and on the bright side, there is usually a much SHORTER post expected than what you tend to write.

    Please take a look at the basic info, and see if you might be interested? http://forums.webfictionguide.com/topic/april-fools-swap-2017


  13. Work sent me home after two hours of me stomping around grimacing to the point it was disturbing the customers. Apparently I actually do need the dizzy pills. Heating some soup now, and will take one as soon as I’ve got something in my stomach.

    Meanwhile, writing again. Chapter in a couple more hours, hopefully.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did not think that all the way through. Dizzy pills cause dizziness… I gotta go lie down for a bit, and not sleep because they mess with that, too.

      God damn it, I hate this whole week.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And so begins what history will call Webb’s Opiates Period

        Not to worry, it worked beautifully for…uh…Burroughs? And that…other guy….and…

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Just take your meds, okay? You’re right to be sceptical of overusing them, but the can be literal lifesavers. If you trust your doctor’s knowledge, don’t suddenly stop taking them the moment you feel a bit better either. Either it gets worse again because your body can’t fight without it, or you feel worse because anything opioid related needs some time to get ‘clean’ again. And read the manual, it’s really important but no one ever does it except to scare themselves into imagining side effects. Don’t do that.


  14. Do try take care to try not to get addicted. A bunch of my construction co-workers have gone through that, and it does not sound pleasant. When I had a sinus infection, several people asked me if they could have my t-3s.

    Read the manual, and maybe consult a pharmacist about avoiding longer-term effects.


    1. Opiates are weird. I’ll own up to being a former addict, and so I’ve studied them extensively (both through personal experience and reading medical studies, because that’s what I do in my spare time). They have a much different effect on the brain of someone actually in pain then they do on someone just taking them for fun. The former type of patient runs a much lower risk of addiction than the latter. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be careful–you should–but you shouldn’t not take them out of fear either when they really help.

      The dizziness/gigglefits ought to be a short-lived temporary thing. If they’re not, you’re likely on too high a dose. While I agree in principle with the poster who said to follow the instructions, no doctor in the world knows how high a dose an opiate-naive person will need. If you feel like sharing what drug you’re taking and the dosage, I can offer more specific advice, but I also understand if you don’t want to share that with everyone.

      (Just be aware: if it says vicoden or percoset or some others, you’re actually taking a low lose of opiate mixed with a HIGH dose of Acetaminophen, the latter being EXTREMELY dangerous in high dosages, often lethal, so be sure to not take ANY Acetaminophen on the side)(and I bet your doc didn’t even bother mentioning THAT bit to you, because doctors are actually pretty uneducated when it comes to pharmacology)


      1. I think mixing opiates with acetaminophen is a fantastically stupid idea, because if you actually want both, you can take two pills and make sure you stay in the safe zone. I’d always run a CWE (cold water extraction) on them so I could toss out the damn acetaminophen. It’s a really easy process, but most people don’t want to mess with that stuff. Just be certain not to take acetaminophen on the side, plz? It really is a horrible chemical


      2. I can’t reply to a reply, but can reply to a top level?

        Anyway, that is the first I’ve heard of a CWE for pain pills…really wish that advice was more widely known than it appear to be. I don’t think I’ve ever taken an opiate based painkiller to my knowledge, but I stopped using Tylenol and other acetaminophen base painkillers years ago after I learned about how easy it is to actually take too much and cause damage. I think cold medicine might be the only thing containing it that I take (and I rarely every take that for anything).

        Basically, thanks for that post. Learned something new.


      3. im one of the few formers that runs a possible risk. I have a VERY high pain tolerance, and am a clutz, so I have a LOT of minor aches and pains, bruises, cuts, ect, that I usually don’t notice. First time I took oxy, ALL the pain went away. It was glorious. Best night sleep id had in forever. And… after 24 hours of not feeling it, ALL the little pains came back at once, and I shotgunned my next pill, and again, it was glorious. I realized right then this could have been a baaad path, because its amazing how great it is not to feel the pain i normally feel all the time but ignore…

        Liked by 1 person

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