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The hum filled the air, powerful enough to make her bones resonate sympathetically, but not loud enough to drown out the screams. She tore through the corridors, a prisoner behind her own eyes, unable even to scream as she carved away lives.
Palace guards tried to shoot her, but she effortlessly swatted lightning bolts aside with the burning shaft of light in her hand. It pulled her onward, hungry for revenge, and she slashed two soldiers into shrieking fragments with one wide swing. The smell of seared meat competed with the sharp tang of ozone in the air.
She did not stop, pulled forward by the sword. Cutting down servants, clerks, more guards, everyone who came within range of her swing. Faces of people she knew, frozen in horror and betrayal as she ended them. The sword didn’t care; it only needed blood.
Somehow, she had made it to the harem wing, and Isolde was ahead of her, fleeing in panic. Fruitlessly, of course; she ran the other consort down and impaled her through the heart from behind, and Isolde fell, screaming a question for which she had no answer.
Around the next corner, Empress Eleanora had barely a moment to give her a shocked look before the blade whipped through her body in a swift Z formation, reducing her to chunks, and still she pushed forward. Beyond the Empress was what the sword wanted.
Sharidan watched her come, wide-eyed. She could hear nothing but the powerful buzz of the weapon, but saw him mouth her name in disbelief as the blade came down.
The screams finally tore past whatever force silenced them, and everything vanished in confused panic. It took her a few seconds to understand where she was and stop shrieking. There was no angrily humming Infinite Order weapon; she was alone in a shabby little room in Puna Dara, entangled in the thin blanket that came with her rented cot, and one of her neighbors was pounding on the wall, shouting imprecations. Also, there was a frightened voice in her ear.
“Milanda! What happened? Are you all right? Say something!”
“Sorry, Walker,” she rasped, then paused, working her mouth to wet it a bit. “Just…a nightmare. I’m fine.”
Walker hesitated. “You’re…alone?”
Milanda paused in extricating herself from the blanket to give the room’s wall a wry look. “Now that the noise has stopped, nobody cares. I chose this neighborhood for a reason; the odd scream here and there won’t draw a response.”
“So these dreams are now determining your choice of where to stay?”
“Oh, don’t be ridiculous,” Milanda muttered, rising and going to the basin of water to splash her face. “You know why I’m here; the Punaji will not work with Imperial agents on this. They won’t even allow me to work if they find me, and once I’ve been explicitly told to butt out by Rajakhan’s government, my presence becomes a serious provocation. Nobody will look for me here.”
It was a sign of Walker’s concern that she didn’t allow herself to be baited into a long-winded discussion of the situation. “You never did see that mental healer, did you?”
“I haven’t had time,” Milanda said shortly, “and I don’t really care to discuss it.”
“Too bad. Milanda, this is like trying to operate with a high fever or a broken leg. Mental injuries are not less serious because they’re invisible!”
“What time is it?” Milanda asked. Her third-floor shack of a room was luxurious by the neighborhood’s standards for having an attached toilet; a window was not among its amenities.
Walker hesitated, as if about to argue, but then answered the question. “Almost twenty hours. Actually, I was about to wake you anyway. Hope you got some rest; this may be a long night.”
“Why? What’s happened?” The slight tingle of alarm was enough to banish the last of the sleep cobwebs from her brain, and she paused in the middle of the floor, just listening.
“The Avatar wasn’t able to improve the data gain from the transcension field by much, so we’re operating at a very low sensor capacity, but you carrying that receiver in your ear around Puna Dara has helped. We’ve finished mapping the cave systems around the city and found more than one that lead to an obviously artificial shaft which terminates at Fabrication Plant One. One of these, an old mineshaft outside the city, has Infinite Order tech operating at low levels. We weren’t able to interface with any of it to see what it’s doing.”
“That’ll be where the Rust have their base, then,” Milanda said, running a hand over her hair. She probably looked like a mess, but that was a lesser consideration right now. “I’ll have a look before deciding our next steps. Point the way, Walker.”
“Wait,” Walker advised. “The rest of the news isn’t good. Our system was able to identify the technology the Rust cultists are using.”
“Really?” Milanda couldn’t restrain a grin of excited satisfaction. “What is it?”
“I don’t know, and that is the bad part,” Walker said grimly. “It came up as classified. Even the Avatar refused to discuss it. He was very apologetic, but said it’s an absolute rule. He can’t act against his programming.”
Milanda’s smile melted into a frown. “…I thought our whole rigged-up system was logged into the Order’s tech under Naiya’s credentials. Why would anything be classified to her?”
“There are several things that would be; technologies and information that the Order as a whole agreed never, ever to use, or even discuss. Long before their fall they had devolved to infighting of the worst kind. The only thing that brought them all to the table was a weapon or technology which scared them so much they were all willing to permanently give up access to it as long as it meant none of the others could have it either. And these are the people who were screwing around with time travel and solar system-sized spatial distortion fields.”
Milanda drew in a deep breath and blew it out slowly.
“Yeah,” Walker said in response to the sound.
“That’s really bad.”
“Potentially. It also raises very troubling questions. How did these yokels defeat the Infinite Order’s highest security? The Avatar in Fabrication Plant One would never have allowed anyone to access classified technology, and if they somehow disabled him, there should be no way to access it. Only an Avatar governing intelligence is able to extract sealed data from the computers.”
“Hm.” Milanda had been conducting a quick check while Walker was talking; she’d been napping in her clothes and already had everything she needed at hand. Stepping out of the room and shutting the door behind her, she lowered her voice. A young woman walking around muttering to herself was far from the strangest thing to happen in this neighborhood, but still. “Maybe they interfered with the Avatar somehow? Altered him?” The rickety exterior steps creaked woefully as she descended. Milanda had suspicions about the quality of carpentry that had been done after the last hurricane.
“That would almost have to be it, but I can’t see how. Remember that our altered system only works because Empress Theasia convinced the Avatar to help set it up that way in the first place. As nervous as the Order were about AI, they’re supposed to be impervious to tampering. Anyway, I wanted you to be aware of the level of danger you’re walking into—and repeat my objection that you shouldn’t be doing this alone.”
“This is the whole point,” Milanda muttered, tucking her chin down as she reached the street. Nobody was paying her any attention; dark had fallen, but the city was still lively at this hour. “The Archpope is trying to rally everybody under one banner to prevent the Throne from turning on him, and I don’t buy for a second that he didn’t knowingly penetrate our system in the first place. I’ll buy that the Rust are a serious threat, but I also don’t want to let him scapegoat them. If I can deal with this quietly, without involving the Punaji or the cults…”
“Let me remind you that I do not work for the Empire, nor does Akane or the Avatar or the dryads. You’re the only party here who has an opinion on the Silver Throne’s political goals. What matters to the rest of us is that some humans are messing with the most dangerous technology the Infinite Order possessed and have already shown themselves willing to weaponize it somehow.”
“Noted,” Milanda said with a sigh.
“And even that wasn’t why I wanted to wake you. While doing those scans, the system identified someone it recognized moving through Puna Dara, and according to what I’m tracking toward the Rust-infested mineshaft I just mentioned.”
Milanda frowned, picking up her pace, then came to a stop, realizing she didn’t know where she was going. “Which way, Walker? And who is it? I thought those sensors weren’t acute enough for that kind of detail at this range.”
“If you’re determined to stick your nose into this, head to the southern edge of the city and toward the mountains, and I’ll guide you further from there. And no, they generally aren’t, but the presence it picked up resonates very strongly through the specific transcension field it’s using. It identified them as Administrator Naiya with thirty percent certainty.”
“Wait… That means—”
“One of her avatars, yes,” Walker said. “This system knows what kitsune and valkyries are; it’s able to accept our girls as having Mother’s clearance specifically because it doesn’t recognize dryads as a specific, separate thing. That, in fact, is how it identifies them: as Naiya, but without complete certainty.”
Milanda ran a hand roughly over her face. “Omnu’s balls… Walker, I need a favor.”
“It’ll cost you,” Walker said solemnly.
She almost missed a step, then smiled ruefully and picked up her pace. “Uh huh, good one. Has the Emperor made his nightly visit yet?”
“I don’t know, Milanda. It’s not as if he comes down to my hidey-hole.”
“Right. Well…any way you can, please try to get in touch with Lord Vex.”
Walker hummed thoughtfully into the headset. “You understand the handicap we’re under with regard to getting anybody’s attention up top? Everyone down here either physically can’t get to the surface, or really, really shouldn’t.”
Milanda made a mental note to see about having a Hand of the Emperor stationed down there at all times. Waste of talent for what amounted to a pageboy’s job, but given how Hands were made, she doubted they’d begrudge the chance to loiter with the dryads. Akane, though, was another matter…
“I understand. Whatever you can do, please. It’s very unlikely that this is just some random dryad wandering through. That would have created a major incident by now.”
“I’ve already checked the Empire’s reports on dryad activity, which Sharidan so helpfully brought us last week,” Walker replied. “Banana roams up and down the Punaji Coast, but in two centuries she’s never shown the slightest interest in approaching human settlements. Seems more standoffish than most of her generation.”
“Right. Which leaves two possibilities that I’m aware of. Either this is Ash, who works for Lord Vex, in which case he is meddling in my mission without my knowledge and I am going to have words with him… Or, unfortunately more likely, the sophomore class of Last Rock U has showed up to…help.”
“If they have,” Walker suggested, “let them. You’re in over your head, Milanda. If you absolutely insist on not involving any of the cult assets that have been moving into the city, those kids at least don’t have political ties to the Empire.”
Milanda did not bother to address that erroneous statement. “I’m more concerned with their particular manner of help. They shot Sarasio to hell, almost started a riot in Tiraas and burned half of Veilgrad. I’m just going to hope I’ll have to yell at Vex—or maybe deal with a rogue dryad. The last thing I need right now is those meddling kids.”
Fred kept his head down, hurrying on through the gathering darkness toward his destination. Last Rock wasn’t as sleepy a town as it had been not long ago, but even so, it was notably less active than in daylight. Also dimmer, lacking an organized system of street lamps. The mayor had been talking about adding just such a thing, what with all the new construction going on. Privately, Fred somewhat resented these changes in his comfortable life, but at the same time, he knew that for the silliness it was. Progress happened. All a man could do was buckle down and do his best.
“All right there, Mr. Carson?”
He came to a stop a bit too abruptly, so much so that he staggered and nearly fell, but that beat the alternative. Even so, Maureen backed away in alarm, clutching her basket of metal parts and staring up at him with wide eyes.
“Omnu’s—I’m so sorry, missy!” Fred blurted, snatching off his hat. “I plumb wasn’t looking. Didn’t step on you, did I?”
“Not so much as a toenail, don’t you worry,” the gnome assured him, smiling now. “I’m pretty quick on me feet; even the tall folk who keep a lookout can’t always spot me in the dark. Really, though, are ye doin’ all right? Y’look a wee bit under th’weather.”
In fact, he was suddenly feeling even worse, but plastered on a smile, gamely trying to conceal his unease. “Oh, pardon me, miss. Not to worry, just rushin’ to finish off errands I should’ve managed earlier. One o’ those days, y’know the kind.”
“Aye, that I do,” she agreed, nodding.
“Can I, uh, offer you a hand?” he asked politely.
“Oh, that’s all right, it ain’t as heavy as it looks,” she said cheerfully. “Just pickin’ up some scrap fer me pet project. I won’t keep ye any longer. Sorry fer almost trippin’ ye!”
“My fault entirely, Miss Willowick,” he said, tipping his hat again. “You have a good evenin’, now.”
Once he was past her, Fred allowed himself to cringe. That…that was absolutely the last thing he’d wanted to see…
His path took him through the back ways of the old town, along dark alleys that just barely deserved the name. As Last Rock grew, it was developing such features in truth, but in the oldest parts of the village the spaces between the backs of buildings had never been used for much; it had barely had enough streets for such alleys even to exist. Fred stepped carefully in the darkness, mindful of old rubbish tossed back here, and even despite all his efforts stumbled repeatedly over unseen obstacles, having to bite his lip to keep from cursing aloud.
He found the shed without difficulty, though. Annoyance and discomfort, but not difficulty. It had been there his whole life, the storage shed behind the Saloon, tucked into a little nook left by the odd shape of the alchemy shop which had been constructed closer to the mountain and the students who had always been its main custom. In Fred’s youth the Crete’s tool shed had been kept locked and chained shut, but Jonas Crete’s fixation on magical gizmos had resulted in him moving all his stuff into the convenience of extradimensional storage inside the Saloon itself. Thus, the shed was empty, and had been for years.
And tonight, was occupied.
He slipped inside and carefully pulled the door shut behind him, turning to face those present. It was even darker, obviously, though the slits between loose boards admitted faint moonlight, enough to discern two dim figures, and the faint glint of their eyes. Fred couldn’t tell which was which, and so bowed deeply in the general direction of the space between them. Obviously, this wasn’t going to get any better; those same gaps would light the whole shed up like a beacon if they ignited a lamp. All it would take was one person glancing down the alley to see that something improper was happening in the old Crete toolshed.
“Carson,” said the Hand of the Emperor’s voice from the figure to his left. “Well?”
Fred cleared his throat self-consciously, tugging his hat off and kneading it in both hands in front of his body. “Well, sir, like you said, I found a student. Um, students, that is, here in town. The Masterson boy is just across the other side of the square down there, around the A&W.” He paused; the other dark figure had shifted as if turning to stare at the Hand.
“And?” the Hand prompted in a sharper tone. “You said students. There are more?”
Fred swallowed against the lump in his throat. “Th-there’s one other. As I was comin’ to meet you I ran across young Miss Willowick, comin’ out of the blacksmith’s. I dunno what Chase is up to, but she’ll be headin’ up the mountain toward campus. Maureen’s a good girl.”
“Mm. Even better,” the Hand said quietly. “Then we have our target. Reich, focus your ability on the crowd in the Saloon; rile up everyone amenable and target them at the gnome.”
“Oh, but sir!” Fred burst out, forgetting himself. “She’s the sweetest little thing, ain’t never said boo to a goose! Nobody cares what happens to Chase, that boy’s a prick. Couldn’t we—”
“That is precisely the point,” the Hand said in a dangerous tone. “The more sympathetic the target, the stronger the reaction.”
“Carson, I want you to keep two things in mind. First, I am always aware of details you are not, and my plans extend well beyond you; what may seem a cruel action from one perspective may lead to ultimately benign results. Second, I speak for the Emperor. I must balance complex needs and make hard choices—and, if need be, sacrifices for the greater good. Any harm that results will be on my head, not yours. You have served your Emperor well. Do it, Reich.”
“I will,” the voice of Lorelin Reich replied from the other dark figure, “but I want it noted that I am doing this under severe protest.”
The Hand spun on her so abruptly that Fred staggered back against the closed door.
“Why is it,” the Hand grated, “that just now, when I am finally moving to enact all the planning we have done, I find myself surrounded by disloyalty?”
Fred opened his mouth to protest that he wasn’t disloyal, immediately thought better of that, and shut it again, grateful his lapse had been invisible in the dark.
“I know my duty,” Reich replied, her tone perfectly calm as far as Fred could tell. “I will serve my Emperor’s will without hesitation. But I have just spent a great deal of time being reprimanded by my cult, by an Imperial Grand Magistrate, and by Imperial Intelligence that exerting this kind of influence on unsuspecting citizens is a repulsive abuse of my abilities. I took those lessons to heart, sir. I will obey, and trust that a greater good is being served. But for the record, I consider this action vile, and am in a better position than most to know.”
“Your objections have been noted,” the Hand snapped, “and in the future, you will register them after the moment to act is not rapidly escaping us. Do it, Reich! Thanks to you two, I now have to go pull other strings to slow down our quarry, or this will all be for nothing. Carson, make sure she’s not disturbed.”
He shoved brusquely past Fred, who almost literally fell over himself to get out of the way, then vanished through the door into the night.
They stood in frozen silence for two heartbeats before Reich spoke in a soft tone.
“Carson, I think we have a smilodon by the tail, here.”
“W-what’s a smilodon?” he stammered.
Her shadow shifted incrementally as she shook her head. “Something agile enough to kill you no matter where you grab it.”
With that cheerful observation, she sank down into a lotus position to concentrate her magic on whipping up maximum carnage among the people of Last Rock.
As the black-coated figure of the Hand slipped away down the alley, moving silently in the dimness and with none of the tripping that had plagued Fred, a much smaller, chubbier shape reared upright on the roof of the little shed. After watching, whiskers a-twitch, until the Hand had vanished into a nearby cellar, the raccoon scampered to the edge of the roof and then climbed down one corner of the shed, its claws inaudible against the old wood.
Moving with impressive speed despite its waddling gait, the raccoon skittered off the other way up the alley, then rounded a corner and across the backyard of a small house, around to its front porch. There, an old woman in a heavy shawl sat in a rocking chair, creaking steadily while knitting a pair of socks by the light of a single oil lamp. The raccoon scrambled up the porch rail and shuffled rapidly along till it stood right beside her.
Quite unlike the usual prairie-dweller’s response to the sudden presence of a disease-carrying wild animal, she leaned subtly toward it while the raccoon stood on its haunches, craning its neck forward to chitter softly in her ear.
Moments later, she dropped her knitting and rose from the chair with astounding speed and agility. Fortunately no one was in the nearby street to see as the incredibly spry granny vanished entirely from sight in the act of vaulting over the porch rail. There came a rush of air from the beat of invisible wings, and then a figure flickered into view high above, shooting upward toward the distant campus.
The raccoon waddled over to the oil lamp, neatly opened its shutter, and blew it out. In the ensuing darkness, it scampered back into the town, in the direction of the old shed behind the Saloon.
No one was close enough to hear it giggling.
33 thoughts on “13 – 14”
OK, so I apologize if this isn’t appreciated Webb, but I just finished re-reading this for the fourth time, and I’ve picked up a couple things that seemed completely random at the time. If they poke at anything too close to a big reveal at the end, it’s no skin off my nose if you delete it and tell me to shut up about it.
First thing I noticed, back during the Sarasio Incident, Gabe had a conversation with an unidentified individual. Based on the context of the conversation, I am tentatively guessing that it was Vidius. If that’s the case, it’s likely that he, being Vidius, overheard the conversation between Arachne and Elilial about what happened to “Lily’s” daughters. After Gabe was made the Hand of Vidius, he’s stated that he gets the feeling Vidius WANTS him to question the Pantheon. I’m not sure if this is connected by the way, pure theorycrafting here.
The second thing I noticed, and with current story knowledge backing it up, we were told that because of the way Teal had been handling the story, she’d made herself out as the main character, and as such set Shaeine up for a “brutal narrative beat down,” which we now know was the Sleeper getting her. This was said to Teal by Vesk, THE Bard, and who knows the Story better than anyone. (Also, I loved his little quip about younger worlds being more heavily bound to the Story. Not sure if that was a nod to the Practical Guide to Evil, but it felt that way)
The final thing I noticed, and which might have direct relevance to what’s going on right now, was a little snippet that occured when the Pantheon was assembled in the Elysium pub discussing Arachne’s hostile method of getting Vesk and Izara’s attention, and what to do about it. When the conversation was nearing it’s end, right before the gods all left, ALL of them stopped and looked at Vesk and Eserion playing that card game with “made up rules,” during which was said this:
Eserion slapped his hand down on the table. “Zoological flush. Eat it, banjo boy.”
Vesk carefully laid out three cards in a row, then pantomimed setting down an invisible fourth one. “Queen of Cups, Queen of Rods, Queen of Diamonds, and the Emperor’s New Clothes. The game is still afoot.”
“Oh, come on,” Eserion exclaimed. “You seriously expect me to believe you had the Taming Maidens just waiting for that play?”
“Would you like to phrase that as an accusation?” Vesk asked sweetly. “Of course, you know the penalty a Penitent Jihad carries if you are wrong.”
This seemed like a pretty harmless thing at the time, and most of us, myself included, focused on the conversation Vesk and Eserion had about thinking about thinking about the Archpope. But re-reading this with current knowledge, that first part stands out. “Queen of Rods, Queen of Cups, Queen of Diamonds and the Emperor’s New Clothes.” The Emperor’s New Clothes might, and again this is pure theorycrafting, refer to the time period when Sharidan went incognito as “Danny.” From this, I’m going to assume that the Queens were the three women most heavily involved in that time. Eleanora might be the Queen of Rods, since it’s been stated she’s the more disciplined of the Royal pair, and to use a popular phrase, “Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child.” Cups could refer to Peepers, who gave “Danny” a place to stay during this event because after all, what greater hospitality is there than allowing a stranger I to your home and letting them drink from your cup?
And last, but certainly not least, we have Milanda filling the Queen of Diamonds. From simply being one of Sharidan’s “concubines” to essentially being the unofficial head of the Hands of the Emperor, and a valued agent to boot, the pressure she was under to protect Sharidan and fix the Hands really brought out her true value.
What worries me now is the Taming Maidens, and the Penitent Jihad. I haven’t seen a scenario where these fit yet. The Maidens might refer to how there are 5 dryads we know of receiving an education and lessons on how to interact with the world properly, being Juniper, Aspen, Hawthorne, Apple and Mimosa, but that’s a stretch at best.
As stated previously, this is all my own personal theory and may be completely wrong. If it is, it was fun coming up with this theory. If not, we’ll find out later in the story. Thanks for reading guys.
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I will say, for the record, that everything which transpired in Trickster Hold ‘Em was made-up nonsense with no intended reflection on the wider story.
That’s not meant to discourage such theorizing, however. I enjoy reading reader guesses like these.
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Don’t underestimate your subconscious 😂 !?
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The stranger who talked to Gabe in Sarasio was Vidius, that has been made clear.
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That one bit just seemed to coincide with the whole Hand arc so neatly. If it was unintentional, that’s a pretty cool coincidence.
People, we’ve actually dropped a massive amount of votes! Go vote!
I hope the mysterious forbidden technology isn’t nukes. People have already invented those and used them too. It might be cloning or resurrection though, to fit with the general transhumanism theme.
It’s something to do with the metal limbs. If you created growing, self repairing metal, wouldn’t you be scared it’d outgrow it’s container and spread across everything, converting the entire planet into a type of living metal?
That’d be a massive hiccup in their plans for the planet.
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Grey goo scenario. Something every proper nerd should be wary of… and the Infinite Order were super nerds. 😉
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I wonder, sometimes, how to introduce to introduce people to this story. It’s more sci-fi than fantasy at this point.
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Science fantasy. It’s a thing.
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Yeah, self-replicating nanotechnology is my guess. We’ve been told the arms are somehow alive, which fits.
Grey goo is bad. Intelligent grey goo is worse. And, the Order knew AI.
The Borg, minus the hive mind. I’m calling it.
Are you suggesting a grey goo scenario? By the way, I believe the classified tech has to do with what stopped the legions. On that thought, could the Sleeper’s magic and the Rust’s “weapon” be related?
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That has also occurred to me. Because how exactly was the Legion disabled (not killed)? I don’t think it’s been specified outright, but I bet it was either sleep or they all became too weak to move (like the geas laid on Ulster in Irish mythology).
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Well if the Rust’s control of metal can be spread past their arms then a legion wearing metal armor would be easy to disable.
meddling kids… and the next character named is Fred… you did that on purpose… :narrowed eyes:
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Why else would Fred have met the short nerdy girl after that ?
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Bad depression kicking in today. I may be uncommunicative for a bit. Friday’s chapter should not be affected.
It seems like your depressive episodes are much longer and deeper than your manic ones. That really stinks, if so
I finished a Medication Switch this week. And went cold turkey the last five days when I finally stopped taking the Medication I wanted to get rid of.
You are doing an amazing job.
And if it means something to you, you still write faster than that other Author whose name I will not mention and is suddenly publishing all those spoilers on TV
This is rather nitpicky but it still bears considering. Milanda refers to the university as “Last Rock U” implying she is already totally adjusted to the name change. That’s not really how people are. Even those who work there would take a while to adjust how they casually refer to it in conversation. And the rest of the world? It would take years and years for them to gradually switch over to the new name.
It makes the world feel a lot less substantial when little bits like that creep in.
*I* would have been referring to it as Last Rock U for years before it became official, were I a denizen of this continent , because you have to call it something, after all. I didn’t even blink at that line
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Ditto. Previously it was called “the university at Last Rock” and we know people would have shortened that to “Last Rock U” quickly. Arachne merely made it official.
It seems like people would have associated it with Tellwyrn before anything else. I seem to remember Tellwyrn’s University being the official/unofficial way to refer to it. But this is the most insignificant of details so eh.
And why further fuel coincidence by casually mentioning the one Archmage they want even less at the scene ?
I could not concentrate on the Details earlier because Banana.
Sure, but it can be associated with more than one thing at the same time. You could call it floating dorm u and probably be understood
Sorry about the radio silence; first few weeks of school are always busy! I’m really enjoying all the current arcs though, with the possible exception of Milanda and Walker – it may just be me, but I never really know what’s going on with them, even if I love Walker with all my heart. (Milanda’s great too, but Walker’s a favourite of mine). I’m just going to put all my thoughts about the last five or so chapters here for ease of reading.
I thoroughly enjoyed Prin and the sophomores (juniors? I’ve slightly lost track of where they are in their schooling now) reunion. Gabe continues to be far and away my favourite, he’s just so bad at the whole Vidian keeping secrets thing; presumably that’s intended on Vidius’s part, and the duality there makes me very happy. I think I’m partial to the Vidians because duality and contrast and parallels are literary devices I really love, and the way it’s working with Gabe right now is awesome.
One…not exactly complaint or criticism, but thought, I guess, is that it’s getting a bit hard to follow. I noticed this in Book 12 too as well, especially with Milanda and Walker’s arc, as technobabble and all that never makes any sense to me. I think it’s something that’s common to fantasy and sci-fi, actually, in that the growing complexity of the plot is being handled very well and by and large I can keep the threads together, but the addition of all the pseudo-science is kind of complicated. It could just be me, or it could be intentional, but that’s the only even vaguely negative thing I have to say right now.
That said, this is still far and away one of my favourite fantasy series from any medium! The characters are still their wonderful, engaging selves and I remain completely hooked. One thing I especially love is how even new characters quickly become ones I love. Like, Rasha? I would probably die for Rasha. And Schwartz and Tallie and Darius and all of them. They were introduced two books ago and it can take a while for me to warm up to new characters but this lot? Nah, I loved them after about three chapters. I’m surmising that their arc isn’t going to lead them to Puna Dara, but that’s probably for the best; that’s got two groups whose plots are converging and that’s probably enough.
Also, I have to ask, but Omnu’s breath…is that inspired by Dragon Age, by any chance? I’ve been playing the games recently, and the resemblance was really striking, but I can’t think of anywhere else I’ve heard it and it’s kind of a weird swear if you think about it.
I’m not actually familiar with Dragon Age, apart from being aware of its existence. I have friends who love it and I’ve meant to give it a try, but honestly after Skyrim burned me I haven’t felt enough drive to get into a really deep fantasy RPG.
I’d definitely recommend trying it out if you ever get a chance. That said, all three games are 100-hour RPGs that get very addictive, so if you’re already feeling burned out with TGaB maybe you’d prefer not to. Still, they are very good! I much prefer them to Skyrim because I’m not really one for open world at the expense of story, and Dragon Age is much more story and character-focused (how well you think they did that in each game is up to you, of course, but it’s definitely the aim). Inquisition is my favourite just because of its nice balance between open world areas but engaging plot. I haven’t finished it yet so that might change, but personally I’d say they’re a LOT more fun than Skyrim, though obviously it depends on what you’re looking for.
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