13 – 26

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“You said Chase couldn’t be the Sleeper!” Rafe accused.

“What I said,” Fedora retorted testily, “is that it doesn’t make sense and is a complete departure from his personality and all established patterns. Masterson is all about trouble for trouble’s sake, sure, but he always stops short of challenging boundaries once he knows where they are. Furthermore, if he’s the Sleeper, it means he started by Sleeping himself, forcing you to expend the hellhound breath and establishing an alibi while some kind of delayed reaction cast the curse on Natchua. That would be a brilliant, devious action, and totally outside his wheelhouse.”

“I’ll vouch for that analysis,” Yornhaldt added, glancing at Tellwyrn. “If Chase had ever exhibited that kind of lateral thinking… Well, his grades would be an entirely other story.”

Standing by the office door, Ezzaniel cleared his throat. “Our conversations have been very instructive in the short time you’ve been here, Murgatroyd. I have learned a great deal about the children of Vanislaas, I feel. You’ve spoken of a compulsion to scheme and cause trouble. The manifestation of the aggressive nature that comes from infernal corruption, channeled into subtlety by Prince Vanislaas’s protection.”

Fedora stopped in his pacing, where he was already threatening to wear a groove in the carpet before Tellwyrn’s desk, and turned to frown at him. “The Sleeper’s a warlock, not an incubus.”

“Yes,” Ezzaniel agreed, folding his arms. “And as we all know, a warlock’s first and most important task is always to keep the corruption at bay. Using infernal magic without becoming tainted by it requires patience, restraint, and exactitude… Traits which Chase Masterson decisively lacks. To speak hypothetically, if Elilial appeared and gave him vast knowledge of the infernal, the very first thing he would do would be to cast something reckless and corrupt himself good and proper. And then, draw upon that knowledge to contain and conceal the taint, but if he could not excise it—which to my knowledge no warlock can… I could well imagine such methods having a similar effect to the blessing of Vanislaas. Warlocks historically tend to be as devious as they are belligerent, do they not?”

A hush fell on the office, Fedora frowning in thought. One by one, the assembled Professors turned to look at Tellwyrn, who was sitting behind her desk, elbows propped on its surface and chin resting on her interlaced fingers, staring into the distance. In the corner behind her, Maru stood holding a tray of teacups, which now rattled as he trembled slightly.

“It’s plausible,” Fedora finally said, almost grudgingly. “But one hundred percent wall-to-wall conjecture. It’s a critical mistake in criminal investigation to form theories before you’ve got facts. What we know, now, is that he’s been seen suddenly using infernal magic at a level of skill way beyond what a junior would know even if that were a course of study at this school. Professor.” He turned around to face Tellwyrn. “How certain are you that Masterson wasn’t dabbling in the dark arts before you brought him here?”

“Absolutely,” she replied tonelessly.

Fedora nodded. “Then this is academic. Chase is one of the kids the Dark Lady blessed; if he’s not the Sleeper, he knows who is. Either way, he’s our answer to the sleeping curse.”

“Alaric,” Tellwyrn said quietly, shifting her gaze to him, “how close are you to a cure?”

Yornhaldt heaved a heavy sigh. “Arachne… I am working with one of the greatest arrays of magical talent ever assembled to unravel what might well be the most excessively elaborate curse ever devised. There is simply no frame of reference for predicting something like this. We could have the key breakthrough literally any hour. Or it could take…potentially years.”

“And the Hand sent him off to Tiraas, knowing we’d have to go fetch him,” Rafe said in disgust. “Damn, but that’s some good bait.”

“It should go without saying he did this specifically to get you off the mountain,” Fedora said to Tellwyrn. “Obviously, he means to make a move of some kind as soon as you’re gone.”

“I have other warning of that already, yes,” she agreed. “He’s diverted the Imperial presence away from the research program. Is there any chance, do you think, that order came from a legitimate Imperial source?”

“My connections there are long-distance and a lot weaker than they were,” Fedora cautioned, “but I can’t see it. Vex was well pleased with the results he was getting from this partnership, and Sharidan listens to him. If you’ve gone and done something to piss off the Throne, that’s another matter, but if not… No, that was just this guy clearing the way. They won’t have canceled his rank or warned anybody about him; if they wouldn’t admit there was a problem when all the Hands were haywire, they won’t for this one guy. The Silver Throne can’t afford to look any weaker than it is.”

“Do you think, gentlemen,” she asked softly, “you could find and retrieve Chase if I sent you all to Tiraas after him?”

“If we could persuade him to come…perhaps,” Yornhaldt rumbled. “I am not absolutely sure that’s possible, nor would I really know how to do so. If you are talking about forcing him, Arachne, may I remind you the Sleeper fought the entire sophomore class to a standstill?”

“If we instigate something like that in Tiraas, it could mean the end of this school,” Ezzaniel added. “And Alaric’s right. We wouldn’t win, anyway.”

“And the other option,” she continued in the same quiet tone. “If I leave the mountain and you are left to protect it…can you?” This time, she fixed her gaze directly on Fedora, who shrugged helplessly.

“Pound for pound, against a disgraced Hand of the Emperor and whatever allies he’s cobbled together?” He grimaced. “Sure, absolutely we can take him. The faculty could, the new research fellows could…hell, the students probably could, even without the sophomores. But this guy’s nuts, Professor. I can’t diagnose his brain but the symptoms I observed were paranoia and blind aggression. There’s no predicting what the hell he’ll try, and the fact that he can’t win isn’t going to stop him. That’s a battle that will have casualties. As your head of security, I have to tell you we can’t guarantee the students’ safety if it comes to that.”

“Veth’na alaue,” Rafe muttered.

“All right.” She stood up abruptly, her tone suddenly filled with its characteristic iron. “Thank you, gentlemen, for helping me organize my thoughts; I believe I see the whole situation, now. I am going to Tiraas to retrieve Chase. Now, this is what you will do…”


“You have got some fucking nerve,” Ruda snarled, drawing her rapier.

“Honestly,” Embras Mogul said with a grin, adjusting his lapels and ignoring the soldiers who surged forward with staves leveled at him, “do you kids plan out your one-liners ahead of time? Concurrently?”

“And what is this now tracking mud on my floors?” Rajakhan rumbled. He seemed quite relaxed, lounging in his chair at the head of the long table, but his dark eyes were fixed piercingly on Mogul. At his side, Anjal practically vibrated with tension, a hand on the hilt of her saber.

“This, your Majesty,” Toby said quietly, “is the leader of the Black Wreath.”

“Ah,” the King rumbled. “Stand down, men.”

“Why, your Majesty, I am truly touched!” Mogul tipped his hat courteously. “I so rarely—”

“Don’t read a welcome into my refusal to waste lives trying to wrangle one of the world’s greatest warlocks,” Rajakhan said disdainfully. “If it turns out I need you dead, these preposterous young people will see to it. Explain your intrusion.”

Mogul had shadow-jumped straight into the conference chamber where they were tensely waiting for Teal to return. Now, as the guards lowered their weapons and grudgingly stepped back, he carefully settled the hat back on his bald head and took a discreet step back himself, placing a little more distance between him and the students.

“I’m here as a favor to Vadrieny,” he said, “with whom I just had a conversation. She regrets that she will not be accompanying you on your excursion; she’s gone to Tiraas to fetch the Sleeper.”

“The longer that sentence went on, the less sense it made,” Gabriel snorted. “You wanna try again?”

“That is how manipulators operate,” Toby warned. “The longer he talks, the more ground he gains…”

“Oh, honestly,” Embras exclaimed, throwing up his hands. “This whole mess is already enough of a debacle without me poking the bear. I’ll tell you frankly, Vadrieny heading off after the Sleeper is a mistake. She was baited into it specifically to make your job harder, now that you’ve gotta do it without her, and I told her not to go. I guess I can take some blame, there,” he added more thoughtfully. “Given a little effort I probably could’ve manipulated her into doing the smart thing and my say-so did have the opposite effect… In my defense, that girl is just irritating as hell to talk to.”

“I suggest you watch what you say about Teal in our presence,” Juniper growled.

“Oh, I was talking about Vadrieny,” he clarified, grinning again. “Truth be told, I’ve a rather high opinion of Miss Falconer. Somehow I doubt she’d appreciate hearing it, though.”

“And just what does the Sleeper have to do with Tiraas?” Gabriel demanded.

“Here’s what you need to know,” the warlock continued, his expression growing serious. “Your problems in Puna Dara are one chapter in a thicker book. There’s trouble going down in Tiraas and Last Rock, and our mutual opponent in this has just made a move designed to exacerbate and prolong these conflicts. The Sleeper was just exposed as Chase Masterson—” Here he paused for a moment until the cursing died down. “—who was then directed to flee to Tiraas and seek shelter working with the Imperial government. I doubt he’ll actually find any, but that’s not the point. The ploy was to get Tellwyrn out of Last Rock and Vadrieny out of Puna Dara, to make sure none of what’s about to happen in either place gets wrapped up too quickly.”

“That checks out,” Milady said suddenly. “Archpope Justinian’s whole gambit here is to try to forge an alliance between the Empire, the cults, and his Church, so he can evade the consequences for some of his recent antics. You kids are too close to cleaning this up and most of his people haven’t even got here yet; he needs this drawn out longer.”

“Well, then,” Anjal said dryly, “we would know exactly whom to thank for our recent troubles, if only any of the people talking where remotely trustworthy.”

“Hey,” Gabriel said reproachfully. “What’d I do?”

“Shut the fuck up, Arquin,” Ruda sighed. “Question is, are we gonna believe this guy?”

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again,” Mogul said airily, “you should never trust anybody. What you should do is know who you’re dealing with—know their personalities, their agendas, the situations in which you interact with them. Trust’ll just lead you into mistakes, but understanding helps you predict what someone will do.”

“Damn good advice,” Principia said approvingly. “And on that note, the Black Wreath will absolutely trick you into doing whatever gets you out of their way, but they don’t just wreck people’s lives for the fun of it, despite what the Church likes to preach. Most people who aren’t summoning random demons have nothing to fear from ’em, but the sheer concentration of paladins in this group means you kids had better step carefully around this guy.”

“Fuck that, I say we stab him,” Ruda snorted, taking a step toward Mogul.

He retreated, raising his hands. “Now, now. You remember what I said last time we talked?”

“I remember a lot of sniggering about stealing our divine disruptors,” Fross chimed, “and then a lot of whining when Malivette single-handedly kicked your butt.”

“There was no sniggering or whining,” Mogul said reproachfully. “Really, young lady, I expected you to gloss over the part where I saved your lives, but such casual slander is beneath you. No, I was referring to my ultimate goal. Beyond these little squabbles and adventures, the business in which my Lady and her faithful have been engaged for millennia. Your gods have lied to you.” He grinned broadly, tilting his head forward just enough that the wide brim of his hat concealed his eyes, leaving his smile a white gash in his dark face. “What I want is to see what shakes loose if their own precious paladins find out their secrets. I can think of no better shortcut to that goal than helping you kids get yourselves into one of the Elder Gods’ strongholds.”

“You know about that, do you,” Rajakhan said quietly.

“We know where all of them are,” Mogul replied. “Our mandate is to protect the mortal plane from demon incursions, and there are still more than a few demons who once bowed to Scyllith. Demons or modern warlocks getting their mitts on Elder God junk is a worst-case scenario. These Rust aren’t demonic and thus not our problem, but you’d better believe we noticed and have been watching them. Yeah, I know all about that thing under the harbor and I’ve taken pains to be up to date on what’s happening here. Justinian wants you slowed down, and Vadrieny is halfway to Tiraas by now. You’re looking at hours more to make your way through the old mining tunnels.”

“Hang on, halfway to Tiraas? There’s no way,” Gabriel snorted. “She’s not that fast.”

“Vadrieny’s flight has little respect for the laws of physics,” Mogul said, tilting his hat up to wink at them. “One of her sisters once circumnavigated the planet in two days, and that was on a wide zig-zagging course being chased by a Hand of Salyrene. How fast she goes is a function of how anxious she is to get somewhere. So yeah, from here to Tiraas? I’d say half an hour, tops. More importantly, I oppose whatever the Church desires. As I was just saying to your classmate, I’m starting to question whether Justinian’s agenda really lines up with the Pantheon’s, but after due consideration I’ve decided I don’t like the son of a bitch anyway. If he wants you wasting time, then I want you making progress. So!” He swept off his hat and executed a deep bow. “I’m not goin’ in there with you, but I can have you at the entrance in seconds.”

“Or,” Juniper said, folding her arms, “you could shadow-jump us to the bottom of the ocean, or into a volcano, or…”

“The Wreath is part of Tellwyrn’s new research initiative,” Fross pointed out. “It wouldn’t make sense for him to harm us. Or even to refuse to help us, not that we asked.”

“Full disclosure,” said Milady, “my agenda aligns with his on this one point. If Justinian is trying to slow down our progress, I’m all the more eager to get there faster. Remember, we have no idea what we’ll have to do down there, or how long it might take. I’m willing to risk working with him, if you are. I’ve dealt with scarier beings,” she added, giving Mogul a cool look.

“I don’t trust this, obviously,” Toby said. “And please don’t start lecturing about trust again. Ruda? This is your city, and we’re here explicitly to back you up. I’ll follow your judgment on this.”

Ruda drew in a breath and let it out slowly, looking at him, and then over at her parents.

“You know the risks, and you have a good mind, little minnow,” the King said, nodding gravely. “I share your friends’ misgivings. And their regard for your judgment. I have already declared this mission is yours.” Anjal took his hand, inclining her head once toward her daughter.

“Fuck it,” Ruda said, turning back to Mogul. “We passed the point of pussyfooting around when we let our bard spit in a goddess’s eye. Bunch up, everybody. We’re letting the asshole help.”

Gabriel cleared his throat. “Can I just remind everyone that last time he helped—”

“He saved your lives,” she interrupted, “did exactly what he promised, and also tried to further his agenda at our expense. I expect exactly the same shit this time, and it’s my judgment we can clean up whatever additional fuckery he causes after we put out the immediate fires. I’m not gonna force you, Arquin. Either you trust me or you don’t.”

“Aw, you know I’m with you, Zari,” he said with a grin. “If I was gonna break from the group I think it’d have been when you fucking stabbed me.”

Mogul cocked his head to one side. “You kids have some interesting stories, don’t you?”


“It’s not much of a plan, is all.”

“Well, Darius, you’ve got till we get there to come up with a better one,” Tallie said, striding along at the head of the group alongside Jasmine. Meesie hadn’t left the latter’s shoulder, and was their guide, pointing the way and squeaking urgently the whole time. They’d had to ignore a lot of passersby, many of whom stopped to stare at the little elemental. “I’m really, really hoping that Ross is following them, too, and didn’t also get captured. But if not…that’s what we got. Find ’em, get Schwartz back on his feet an’ let him make with the mojo.”

“It’s not that I mind charging into certain death,” Darius growled from behind them. “They’ve got our friends; that’s what you do. Certain death or no, you don’t leave people behind. But we’re dragging my baby sister along on this…”

“Yes, because gods forbid she make any decisions for herself,” Layla huffed.

“You are sixteen!”

“Really, Darius. Where do you see that argument leading? In what possible outcome does it end well for you?”

“How’ll you feel if I’m the one who gets hexed into ashes, hm?”

“Insert obligatory comment about peace and quiet,” she said lightly. A moment later, though, she shifted closer to him, and he draped an arm around her shoulders as they walked.

He could be forgiven for being on edge; even apart from the inherent tension of the situation, Layla had circumvented the need for Jasmine to round everyone up back at the house by emitting a blood-curdling shriek at a pitch and volume that had set dogs barking all through the neighborhood. It had also brought Darius crashing into the kitchen in a panic, half-dressed and hefting a candlestick in preparation to bash someone.

That was also when they had learned that Ross was absent, as well. He was ordinarily so quiet, there was no telling how long that might have taken to discover, had they tried to find him the old-fashioned way.

“It’s not that Darius is wrong, though,” Tallie said more softly. “Pretty scary enemies. Lot of unknowns.”

Jasmine nodded, glancing back and forth between Meesie and the sidewalk ahead of them. They had just emerged from Glory’s expensive residential neighborhood into an equally expensive shopping district; their plain clothes and shabby coats made them stand out somewhat, not that any of them cared.

Tallie looked at her sidelong and sighed, her breath misting on the air. “Look, I don’t wanna—”

All of them stopped and reflexively flattened themselves against the storefront they were passing when screams suddenly broke out along the street behind them. The four apprentices braced themselves for action, turning to face whatever was coming as the cries of shock and fear spread.

A streak of living fire had just crested the city walls, soaring toward them, even as the mag cannons spaced along the guard toward began clumsily turning, trying to track the intruder. Its form grew clearer as it approached; it was a person, held aloft on wings of pure flame. All of them except Jasmine ducked slightly when the creature arced directly over their street and banked, gliding away toward the center of the city.

“What the fuck,” Darius wheezed, pressing Layla against the wall with one arm. “What was that? A phoenix?”

“An archdemon,” Jasmine corrected, staring after the flying creature, which had vanished over a nearby rooftop. The cries around them were still ongoing, having changed in tone as the demon vanished from view but not begin to abate.

“A what?” Tallie exclaimed.

“A daughter of Elilial,” Jasmine clarified. “The last living one, actually. Vadrieny.”

“Oh, gods,” Layla whispered. “That has nothing to do with us… Please, please let that have nothing to do with us.”

“Is there any point in asking how you know this?” Tallie asked wearily.

“I’ve seen illustrations…” Jasmine trailed off, shrugging irritably when they all turned to stare at her. “And I’ve seen her in person before. She has a Talisman of Absolution; she’s not going to go around attacking people.”

“Well, that’s dandy, I suppose,” Darius snapped. “Any insight into what the fuck she’s doing in Tiraas?”

“Not a glimmer,” Jasmine admitted, then winced when Meesie began tugging violently on her ear, squealing shrilly and pointing ahead. “Walk and talk, guys. We’re still losing time.”

“Right.” Tallie once again took the lead, straightening up and setting off, and the others fell in. She let it rest for a moment before asking, “So, Jas… Is there anything you want to tell me?”

Jasmine sighed again. “I…”

“I don’t mean to put you on the spot.” Tallie kept her eyes forward as she walked. “I’ve been thinking, though. Remember when Style kicked your ass?”

“No, refresh me,” Jasmine said sourly. “How did it go?”

Tallie grinned, but her expression sobered again immediately. “The thing is… Quite apart from you being more physically dangerous than almost anyone else I know, the thing I’ve noticed about you is you don’t overestimate yourself. You know what you can do and don’t push it; your restraint has kept us out of a bunch of trouble. I’m sure you remember that business with the Vernisite caravan.”

“I’m still annoyed I even had to talk you clowns out of that. Boosting anything from the Vernisites is expressly against—”

“Yeah, yeah,” Tallie said impatiently. “What I’m getting at is… You rushed into that thinking you could win it. It’s the only time I’ve seen you screw up that bad, and I’ve been wondering about it, and why Grip was so hellbent on getting you as an apprentice. Why you were so adamant not to go along with her, too. I keep coming around to the idea that you’re used to having more to throw around in a fight than just your own muscles.” She snuck a glance at Jasmine, who was staring ahead as they walked. “I mean… You know an awful lot about alchemy and magic for somebody who doesn’t do them.”

Jasmine heaved a sigh. “Look…”

“When I asked if there was something you wanted to tell me,” Tallie said hastily, “I meant exactly that. It’s your life and we’re all runnin’ from something. You don’t need to share if you’re not ready to. But right now, this situation, we’re going up against Silver Legionnaires and Salyrite casters. People who have already killed. This is serious shit, and all we’ve got for a plan is ‘hopefully wake Schwartz up.’ We only know he’s not dead because Meesie’s still here.”

“When we were riding out of the city,” Layla said suddenly, “that night when we fought the dwarves, you started to suggest something, and Glory cut you off. She said something about not playing your trump card too soon.”

“I just wanna know,” said Tallie. “If it goes as bad in there as it might… Are we as fucked as it seems? Or is there something more we can count on?”

Jasmine was silent for a long moment. Even Meesie trailed off her constant squeaking, watching her in concern.

“Whatever they’ve got to throw at us,” Jasmine said finally, not turning to meet anyone’s gaze, “I’m certain I’ve faced scarier. And killed some of it. But there’s a big difference between being able to dish out pain, and being able to protect people. If this goes as badly as it could, that is still going to be very bad.” She looked over at Tallie, eyebrows drawing together in worry. “Let’s concentrate on Plan A. Schwartz is still our best bet.”

Tallie nodded, and they continued on in silence. After a moment, she reached over and tucked her arm through Jasmine’s.

“Seriously, though, that demon thing,” Darius said suddenly. “That’s not gonna get involved in this business, is it?”

Jasmine sighed. “We should be so lucky.”

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35 thoughts on “13 – 26

  1. There we go. Sorry about that.

    Took a lot longer than I thought today, both because of mental health reasons and because I got looking at what I’d done so far and hated it. Went back to the drawing board and wrote an entirely new chapter. It all worked out for the best; this is much better than what I’d started with.

    Yesterday the issue was that I’m the fastest at shelving product and the whole store is horribly backed up due to new asshat regulations from corporate concocted by some simpleton who has never actually worked in one of these stores. I’ll spare you the rant. Much as I like my managers, I honestly don’t think the company I work for has a future.

    Hopefully soon that won’t be my problem anymore…

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Really enjoying it so far, came here from a written recommendation from the author of A practical guide to evil. My favorite character is Arquin, so I might be biased, but I feel that the mastermind in the earlier chapters has taken almost a backseat as just comic relief. I love some great humor, but I feel that we need the person who beat Trissiny in chess with complex strategies and was considered by Toby to be skilled at handling multiple aspects of plans. Also his badassness has taking a bit of a drop, as everytime the mighty soul realing scythe comes out, it dissapears soon after. This is just a personal preference and in no means criticism. I love your work, and am a loyal reader no matter what.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. >“Well, then,” Anjal said dryly, “we would know exactly whom to thank for our recent troubles, if only any of the people talking where remotely trustworthy.”
    *were

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      1. I don’t think that is necessarily a typo. Depending on how omniscient the narration is supposed to be in that scene, we readers are the only person who know her identity as Milanda. To literally everyone else in that room she would be thought of as Milady, or some variation on “that Imperial black ops agent that borked our whole plan”.

        Like

  3. Vote now!
    So everything’s coming together. There are so many ways this could go I have no idea. And this is the end of the volume, so some major curveball is probably gong to occur.

    Who knows what, who believes what? Who doesn’t know what? I need one of those crazy conspiracy charts.

    Like

  4. I can’t wait for the day when Trissiny faces something that she knows will kill or maim her little troupe, and finally decides to charge in wings blazing. Then everyone who didn’t already know will just be stunned at how they missed the Hand of Avei right in front of them. For weeks.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I absolutely love it. I love seeing Jasmine work at keeping herself as limited as she has, and the anticipation is huge.
    I love that we’re seeing Verd.. going kinda solo for a bit, I’m looking forward to seeing how she does in the city. She wasn’t subtle in the least.

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  6. I can’t imagine how Tallie’s subplot is going to be resolved. By the end she either knows or she doesn’t. If she does then Trissiny’s development is undermined because she failed at this cloak and dagger business.

    If Tallie doesn’t then what was the point of this whole subplot? If Tallie refuses an offer to learn the secret then her character arc comes to a satisfying conclusion but then what was the point of her existence in the greater narrative? Jas fooling her would feel sort of dickish and render Tallie’s development useless, and Tallie would still be similarly pointless.

    That said, I’m confident Webb won’t disappoint.

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    1. Would it really be undermining her development, though?

      She isn’t learning how not to be an almost unstoppable paladin. She’s learning how to not rely on that side to get her through everything. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a time and place it’s appropriate to draw it out into the open. It’s the same lesson the rest of the Sophomores are showing – only pull your power into play once friendlier routes have failed.

      That’s why plan A is to save Schwartz and have him do the heavy lifting as much as possible. When it fails (because of course it’s going to fail) the time where being subtle was an option is over. In fact at that point every path is closed – the only option is to brute force one into existence, and Trissiny is the only one of them who is actually capable of that.

      As for Tallie, I never considered that. But I’m sure Webb knows what he’s doing on that front.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Why do you reduce Tallie to a sort of vehicle for Trissiny’s development? She doesn’t have to fulfill any function in the story beyond this arc, she just has to be.

      Without Tallie and the other apprentices, Triss wouldn’t have had many interactions . There needed to be a counterpart.

      It’s not important if Tallie knows and in the long run I think it would be better or everyone involved if Trissiny manages to keep her secret. It would be fun to see her reaction once Jasmine shows off her golden wings but a paladin is an important person and Tallie is not. It would put a divide between them.

      Far better if Jasmine simply becomes a full fledged member of the Thieves Guild and then goes off into the world, leaving Tallie and her friends behind. That gives her the option to come back later, for example when she needs information. The thieves would be far more willing to talk to one of their own instead of to the Hand of Avei.

      The point of the subplot is not Tallie. It’s Jasmine. It’s how Trissiny manages to hide herself in plain sight. It’s how she deals with a lifetime of being as honest as possible while telling lies to people. Tallie is a constant challenge in that regard.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Even if Triss does have to let the cat out of the bag, I feel like she has grown close enough to her fellow apprentices that the consequences wouldn’t be that bad. And its not like there isn’t precedence for a guild member living a double life.

        Our first introduction to Darling has him transitioning from his public persona as a Bishop of the Church, to Sweet the Guild member. We have also seen Darling’s Butler go from a stoic servant to a wise cracking guildy. If any group can mentally juggle a person having two distinct lives it would be the Thieves Guild.

        As long as Triss can complete her training and gain full status then there is no reason why she can’t spend most of her time running around as the Hand of Avei, and then put on her Jasmine persona when she needs to go the subtle route or get some help/info from the shadier elements of society.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. A part of me thought, when we cut to Jas and the apprentices, that Chase was about to shadow walk in and trying claiming sanctuary via Trissiny. (I’m still 100 percent not buying that he’s the Sleeper)

    Still, we now have Jas and the Apprentices, Vadrieny, Chase, and the usual cast all in Tiraas, with Tellwyrn incoming.

    Meanwhile we have the Hand and the rest of the university staff and students, along with The Actual Sleeper. (I think)

    Oh and the rest of the class, Milanda, Principia and co, and the Black Wreath getting all mixed up in Elder God Shenanigans.

    Thats THREE colossal clusterfucks just getting all revved up and about to really kick it into high gear. Cannot wait.

    Also.

    “Your problems in Puna Dara are one chapter in a thicker book.”

    Heh

    Liked by 1 person

  8. By this point I’m not even doubting that they’ll learn of her being a paladin, all I care about is whether she gets the tag nonetheless.

    I mean, that would be friggin awesome, and meanwhile we can guess at the tag. Mh, something like “Halo” would be nice and ironic…

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      1. I was thinking of the scene in Sarasio, where she called the attention of her goddess and taught them bandits a lesson. Don’t know if that’s just bad memory, but in my mind she (and no I’m not talking about the goddess/gods in general) had a halo there.

        Halo not as in “ring over her head”, but as in “could be used as a flashlight in a dark cave because she’s emitting so much light”.

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      2. Nah, it’s the Guild. I think they have a tradition when it comes to faintly embarressing ironic nicknames for those who are likely to climb high.

        She’s in danger of being either Fluff (mimosa flowers are very puffy) or Feathers (wings). xD

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  9. Ok, love is stupid, but that doesn’t mean that Vadrieny stupidity doesn’t still piss me of. She could just trust Tellwyrm talk to her first or talk to her friends or do literally anything else other than stupidly charge into this. Well hopefully I underestimate her.

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    1. If the situation in Puna Dara could be solved with a fight, then it would be Vadrieny’s duty to stay because she’s the hardest hitter the team has. The plan isn’t a fight though. It’s to sneak past all the cultists and then start a therapy session with an Avatar. Neither of which requires her presence. Sure, things are bound to go sideways and having an archdemon as backup could become useful… but if everything goes according to plan, then her presence would be a bit of a waste.

      On the other hand, she also has a duty to her wife. Maybe she won’t find Chase, maybe Arachne won’t try to turn the fleeing warlock into finely ground paste and maybe she’ll arrive far too late to do anything… but I don’t think she’d ever forgive herself if she didn’t try.

      Basically, she’s between a rock and a hard place right now. Teal/Vadrieny represent House Awarrion, so they have a duty to contribute to their house, honor their family and stand by their wife. I’m pretty sure the matriarch values the life of her daughter somewhat higher than some mission in Puna Dara.
      She also has a duty towards her class/friends. She’s on an assignment from Professor Tellwyrn and promised to help Ruda… simply leaving everything is going to disappoint people.
      No matter what she does, in the end she will let someone down.
      I wouldn’t want to be in her place and having to make that choice.

      I certaintly can’t blame her for her action, even if Embras was right and from a rational point of view she should have ignored the new information. Problem is, emotions are rarely rational.

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    1. Because Scylith is a bitch. Seriously though, she’s the goddess of cruelty. Stuff like that amuses her. It’s the same reason that demonic language is fiendishly (heh) difficult to learn.

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    2. I think the corruption is an unintended side effect. After all, even the goddess herself got corrupted by it.
      If it was like that from the start or became like that later due to the resonance with her personality I don’t know but to me it seems certain that the transcension field was never planned to behave that way.

      I find it interesting that the other members of the Infinite Order allowed her to rule over an entire dimension filled with her creations. Naiya was more or less the caretaker for the entire planet, too.
      I wonder if the others had large playgrounds like that, too. And if they did, where might they be today?

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      1. We know there is a ‘higher plane’ that the dead upload to, that’s suppose to be pretty nice all things told. I assume it’s also one of the original planes they created/modified.

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  10. So in this chapter, Embras tells everyone how Vadrieney made a mistake going to Tiraas, but in the previous chapter he went out of his way to tell her about Chase and Tiraas! If Embras really didn’t want Vadrieney to go, all he had to do was not tell her!

    Therefore, Embras WANTS Teal and her demon away in Tiraas for some reason, and he seems to be playing fast and loose with his credibility all of a sudden.

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