14 – 18

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“You okay, Gabe?” Toby asked in a soft voice.

“Fine,” Gabriel said shortly. At that, Trissiny looked over at him as well. He was staring out across the Rail platform with a fixed little frown creasing his forehead. Following an uncomfortable pause, he explained further, still without looking at them. “Just concentrating. There’s a Vidian magic technique to deflect attention, which I haven’t practiced as much as I should’ve, so it takes focus.”

“Ah,” Toby said, nodding. “Good idea.”

Vrin Shai’s Rail station was outside the city proper. Even in an age when mag artillery made stone walls somewhat redundant, the city’s fortifications were practically a sacrament, given which goddess claimed it as a sacred seat. Though Imperial codes required Rail stations to be located in areas with easy access to city streets, there had never been a prospect of the Rail line itself penetrating the outer defenses. Popular rumor was that the Surveyor Corps, when planning the Rail route and station, hadn’t even bothered to ask. Thus, the walls stood proud, and Rail traffic to and from Vrin Shai involved a rather inconvenient trek.

Trissiny had once again left her armor behind; the central temple was of course proud to hold onto it for a while, though Sister Astarian had seemed somewhat bemused at the Hand of Avei’s preference not to wear it. She had, however, smilingly promised to see about removing what remained of the blinding alchemic polish the steward in Calderaas had applied. In civilian clothes, the five of them might have been any mixed bag of travelers, their only distinctive feature being that Darling, Trissiny and Schwartz made an unusual concentration of Stalweiss descent for this part of the country. Still, Gabriel’s precaution was wise. In their short time in the city, the paladins had managed to make public spectacles of themselves several times; it was hardly beyond possibility that someone might recognize them.

And none of them were in the mood for curiosity seekers.

Darling and Schwartz had stepped off to the side to converse in a low tone; the three paladins simply clustered together on the platform, ignoring and being ignored by the other travelers awaiting caravans. Now, the other two turned and approached them again, causing Trissiny and Toby to look up, though Gabriel continued frowning fixedly into the distance.

The Bishop cleared his throat. “So! Mr. Schwartz has just been telling me that I was much too hard on you three.”

Trissiny sighed. “Herschel…”

“Now, hold up,” Darling said, raising a hand. “The fact is, he’s right.”

At that, even Gabriel looked up, his expression becoming quizzical.

“It’s tricky to find the right…perspective, here,” Darling continued, turning his head to gaze abstractly at nothing, much the way Gabriel had just been doing. “In reality, you’re young. Not only are you bound to make mistakes; you’re supposed to. That’s all part of the process. On the other hand, you three have such a huge weight of importance resting on you that everything you do creates waves that’ll end up affecting more people than you can imagine. In short… You can’t afford to be and do the things that you naturally, inevitably have to. And yes, that is wildly unfair, to which I must say, tough luck. That’s life. But, it’s something I should’ve been more mindful of.”

His eyes snapped back into focus, and he met the gaze of each of them in turn before continuing. “You fucked up, kids. You didn’t think carefully enough and created a big damn mess. But I also fucked up by reaming you out when what you needed was advice on how to not repeat that mistake. For that, I apologize.” He nodded deeply, the gesture verging on a bow. For a moment, the three of them could just stare in silent surprise. Schwartz folded his arms, looking satisfied; on his shoulder, Meesie did exactly the same.

“Well…apology accepted,” Trissiny said at last. “It’s not as if you were wrong, anyway. And your advice and help has been appreciated.”

“Glad to hear it,” Darling replied. “We’ve dwelled enough on what you did wrong, so let me offer the opposing perspective: you saw a problem, and you took action. Thanks to you, Calderaas is getting a bunch of new schools. Which…isn’t the kind of outcome the bards sing of; it’s not flashy, it’ll be years before the results start to show and a generation before it really changes things. But that is still important. Not to mention, you reminded some of society’s worst people that their bullshit does have consequences, which is something they need on the regular. Next time do it more carefully, but…” A faint frown of concern appeared on his own face. “Like Herschel just reminded me, what’s important is taking action. You might mess up and cause problems, but that’s nothing compared to the losses that’ll accrue if you never intervene. I really hope I didn’t scare you away from stepping in when you see a need.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry too much about that,” Gabriel said.

A bell chimed twice from nearby, where a large clock was displayed above the ticket master’s stand. The woman behind the counter glanced up at it, then leaned over to speak directly into an arcane apparatus enchanted to amplify sound, making her voice resonate through the station. “Caravan from Madouris is inbound, ETA one minute! Travelers departing for Ninkabi, please assemble on Platform Three! Please remember to make space for disembarking passengers before boarding.”

“That’s us,” Toby said unnecessarily, turning to gaze up the line toward the east.

Trissiny stepped over to Schwartz, and he met her with a hug. Meesie hopped down from his shoulder to hers, spreading her tiny arms and pressing her warm little body to Trissiny’s cheek in an embrace of her own.

“Be careful,” he murmured. “I know you can take care of yourself, but…”

“But it’s good advice, anyway,” she replied, pulling back to smile up at him. “You be careful too, Herschel. Listen to Darling and let him do what he does.”

“I know the plan, don’t worry,” he replied, grinning. “I hate to leave you guys right in the middle of your quest…”

“You need to have things ready in Tiraas when we get there, though,” she said, “and remember that no plan survives contact with the enemy. Listen to Darling—and Principia, for that matter—but listen…circumspectly. Senior Guild people are good at this kind of plotting, and neither of those’ll screw you over, but that doesn’t mean you should absorb every thought they try to put in your brain.”

“I’m not a complete idiot, you know,” he said wryly.

“Yeah, neither am I. Doesn’t mean neither of us has ever done anything idiotic.”

Flickers of blue lightning began to arc along the Rail line. The caravan appeared over the horizon before anyone could see it coming, throwing up sparks from the line and blue repulsor charms flaring alight in front of its lead car as it slowed. A whine so high-pitched it barely registered to the human ear sounded, as if physics itself were shrieking in protest at the sight of an object decelerating so fast without destroying itself.

Trissiny and Schwartz separated, Meesie hopping back onto her partner’s shoulder with a forlorn little cheep at his sister, and the other two paladins stepped over to them while the caravan’s doors open and dazed-looking passengers began to emerge.

“Take care of yourself, Schwartz,” Gabriel said, slugging him lightly on the shoulder.

“You, too,” the witch replied with a grin. “Don’t make my sister work too hard to keep you alive.”

“Don’t worry,” said Toby, raising an eyebrow. “Somehow it’s always me who ends up doing that.”

“You’ll be fine,” Darling added from behind them. “If this is a Vesk thing, he’ll strain you to the very edge of your capabilities and no further. You’ll come back smarter and harder, right in time for us to take care of business back home.”

“Any last minute advice?” Gabriel asked him. In the near distance, the ticket master started calling for passengers to board. “You probably know as much about Vesk as any of us, at least.”

“Yeah,” Darling said dryly. “Try to have fun, when you can. I hear tell it’s a riot, living through an actual adventure story—right up until you get to the part that’s meant to make the audience cry.”


Ninkabi was a city of terraces and bridges, and the striking contrast of heights and depths. Built along the last stretch of the N’Kimbi River, it was defined by its geography. In truth, within the Empire flatland cities like Mathenon and Onkawa were the exception, rather than the rule; most followed the model of Vrin Shai, Veilgrad, Calderaas, and Tiraas itself, occupying immense stone features which gave them each a distinctive skyline—and a considerable defensive advantage.

The N’Kimbi had carved out a double canyon over the eons, which itself had been somewhat broken by some long-ago seismic event, resulting in a series of waterfalls which descended from the rocky N’Jendo coast into the sea. Ninkabi occupied both banks of the canyon and the long island in the middle, descending the three tiers which had been re-shaped by mortal hands into regular terraces from the jumble of stone which it had been originally. The canyon walls, too, had been carved into and built outward, until the faces of buildings descended almost to the surface of the river, though the lowest two stories were usually unoccupied due to the annual flooding caused by snowmelt in the Wyrnrange. Numerous stone bridges crisscrossed the canyons, both at the surface levels and between openings along their walls, creating a veritable maze that boats couldn’t pass under during the flood season—not that most would have risked the waterfalls, anyway. Up top, Jendi architecture manifested itself in Omnist-style ziggurats and soaring minarets, the city as bristling with towers as it was rent by deep shadows. Within the shade of the many towers, though, the long central island contained numerous gardens, many with ancient, towering trees which added a lushly organic touch to the city’s angular lines.

The outskirts of the city along the canyon were delineated by high walls, of course; Ninkabi itself had rarely been sacked, but most of N’Jendo’s history had been marked by raids back and forth between the country and the orcs of Athan’Khar to the south, and the human nation of Thakar to the north. Those defenses had been tested innumerable times, over the centuries. Even during the long peace since the Enchanter Wars, Ninkabi had followed the example of Vrin Shai rather than Veilgrad; no suburbs had been allowed to spring up outside the walls. The Thakari were allies now and what dwelled in Athan’Khar never came out anymore, but the horrors lurking there discouraged any risk-taking with defenses.

The Rail station was at the highest point on the central island, at its easternmost edge with the looming Wyrnrange walling off the horizon in that direction, and the setting sun casting the rest of the city in orange and gold as it descended toward the sea on the other side. From this angle, they had an excellent view of Ninkabi’s maze of towers, bridges, and canyons. This, even at a glance, was a city of deep shadows. Now their task was to find the right scoundrel lurking in them.

“But before that,” Trissiny said, when they’d stepped to the edge of the Rail platform, “there’s something I need to do while we’re in the city.”

“Oh?” Toby asked. Gabriel, though, was already nodding.

They had to ask for directions, and it was a bit of a hike; what they sought was situated at the base of the second-to-last cliff on the central island, most of the way along the city. The trip involved descending three layers, where they found that there were both switchbacking stairs at the edges of the cliffs and long ramps which passed through tunnels, to allow horses and vehicles to pass between levels. Between this and the bridges, getting around in Ninkabi involved quite a bit of planning and backtracking; those tunnels had to be long enough that to come out at the base of a cliff, you had to enter almost the whole way back along that terrace, nowhere near the stairs.

Upon descending the first staircase, Gabriel successfully bullied the other two into renting a rickshaw to take them the rest of the way, pointing to the setting sun as evidence that they really ought to hurry this up.

They finally arrived, though, at a kind of amphitheater built right into the base of the cliff. The broad, semicircular space within was calm, deeply shadowed beneath both the cliff itself, the tall round walls which separated it, and overhanging boughs of trees which stretched outward from the gardens planted atop those thick walls.

Against the great wall stood the monument which was the focus of this place, a fountain which rose in tiers almost two stories, pouring water down in levels like a ziggurat. Stairs rose almost to its peak, creating access by which people could set down candles along the multiple rims of each level, where little indentations held them upright even against the water. Right now the candles were sparse, leaving the space dim as they were its only illumination.

This was, technically, a Vidian temple, and was watched over by priests of Vidius, but it was neither Vidians nor the general public who came to this place, as a rule. There were no icons displayed, no decorations anywhere in the space except for the inscription carved along the base of the Fount of the Fallen:

WE ARE STILL HERE

It was one of very few places in the world that the generally irreverent Eserites regarded as sacred.

The three paladins entered through an arch along the northern arc of the outer wall, pausing just inside to look around. Few were present, just the Vidian priests in their three alcoves spaced along the inner curve of the wall, and only two people currently visiting the shrine. A woman with Stalweiss coloring, in an expensive-looking silk gown, sat on the lowest edge of the fountain, trailing her fingers in the water and seeming to speak quietly to no one. Halfway up one of the staircases, a dark-skinned man who might have been local had just finished setting a candle in place and lighting it, and now bowed his head, whispering in prayer.

“Welcome,” a voice greeted them quietly from the alcove just a few feet away. It had a stone counter built in front of it, leaving the priest behind partially walled off like a shopkeeper. Shelves lining the back held row upon row of unlit white candles. Currently occupying the space was a Tiraan woman who stuck out somewhat, due to her expensive-looking and obviously tailored suit.

Gabriel frowned at her. “Are…you a priest of Vidius?”

“Oh, not me,” she said diffidently, waving a hand. “I’m just watching this post for a little bit, as a favor to a friend. I work with the Universal Church.” Gold glittered at her sleeves; her cufflinks alone looked pricey enough to be an affront to Eserite sensibilities. Actually, with her short hair and sharp suit, the woman looked a lot like Teal Falconer, with a darker complexion and more expensive tastes.

Trissiny stepped over to the counter. “May I have a candle, please?”

“Of course,” the woman said politely. “It’s two pennies.”

“You charge for these?” she demanded, frowning.

“This is genuine locally-sourced Jendi beeswax,” the woman in the suit replied with a placid smile. “Those bees worked hard to make these for you, and no telling how many keepers got stung in the process. The candles are hand-made by traditional artisans—no factory products here. Two pennies is exceedingly reasonable, especially considering that even a holy site requires some upkeep.”

Trissiny shook her head ruefully, already reaching into her pocket. “Well, when you put it that way, fair enough.” The woman smiled, accepted the coins and handed over a candle with no further comment, and Trissiny turned back to her friends. “I won’t be long.”

“You take as much time as you need,” Toby said firmly. “There is no rush.”

“Yeah, we’ll be fine,” Gabriel added. “Say whatever you need to.”

“Here,” the woman said suddenly, holding out an arcane cigarette lighter to Trissiny. It was as expensive as her suit, crafted of silver with gold embossing and engraved with a stylized V. “There are also matches and lighters for sale here, but you can borrow mine. I don’t recommend using matches anyway; the splashing water doesn’t agree with them.”

“Oh. Thank you very much,” Trissiny said, accepting it. “I’ll bring it right back.”

“Like the boys said, hon, take your time. I’m in no rush, either.”

She headed off to the fountain, and Toby and Gabriel discreetly edged away to stand with their backs to the wall on the other side of the arch. They tried not to stare, but there really wasn’t much else to look at; the woman at the candle stall was also watching Trissiny, wearing a small smile.

Trissiny picked a staircase some distance from the other two Eserites currently at the fountain and climbed, selecting a spot about halfway up. There, she wedged the white candle into one of the slots, lit it with a lighter, and then produced a gold doubloon from inside her sleeve. The paladin kissed the coin before tossing it into the water. Then she paused, bending over her candle, and speaking softly to nothing, like the others.

“His name was Ross,” Gabriel said suddenly, barely above a whisper. Toby looked up at him in surprise. “Evaine collected him. He died protecting Schwartz from wandfire. Trissiny and her other friends were just seconds too late to save him. I think you would’ve liked him, Toby. He didn’t much care for fighting; he was trying to talk his enemy down when she shot him, and he’d been really close to succeeding.” He hesitated, and sighed softly. “Ross was a bard, before apprenticing with the Guild. This whole thing… It’s a constant reminder that can’t be easy for her. I wonder how much of that was deliberate on Vesk’s part.”

“Did…she tell you all this?” Toby asked quietly.

Gabriel shook his head. “Evaine did. She was very impressed. Ross went right to the realm of heroes.”

“Have you told Trissiny?”

“I…no. That’s not exactly an easy thing to bring up, y’know? And I’m really not supposed to be ferrying information between the living and the dead, anyway. There’s a good reason Vidius insists on a solid barrier, there. I was going to tell her and her other Eserite friends anyway, back in Puna Dara, but…” He trailed off, and shook his head again.

“Yeah,” Toby murmured. “Not easy at all. I think she would like to know, though.”

“I’m still wrestling with it. Trissiny is my friend and I want to. But…that would be pretty blatantly playing favorites. If I reassure my own friend about dead loved ones, how do I justify not going around and doing the same for everyone else on the planet? Favorites are something death cannot have.”

“I see the dilemma.” Toby laid a hand on his shoulder, squeezing and giving him a very gentle shake. “I’m not sure what the right thing is, there, Gabe. But I’m confident it’ll be what you end up doing.”

“Thanks,” Gabriel said, a little wryly.

The woman in silk had just stood up, turning to go, but she paused with a visible gasp, staring upward. Gabriel and Toby twisted their heads to follow her gaze.

Three stories up, at the edge of the outer wall beneath a tree, stood the blurred but unmistakable shape of a valkyrie, scythe in hand and black wings spread. After a moment, seeing that she’d been noticed, Vestrel stepped backward out of sight of the space below.

“Vidian holy ground,” Toby said thoughtfully. “Hm. Does that just…happen? The way you described events at the temple in Last Rock, I though valkyries had to specifically want to be visible, even there.”

“You know,” Gabriel said, lowering his eyes to frown at nothing, “it occurs to me I’m not actually sure what the rules are about that. It hadn’t seemed important, before, but…maybe I oughta ask Vestrel for a rundown.”

“That might be a good idea. More information is always better than less.”

“Yeah.”

Trissiny, true to her word, didn’t take long. Whatever she had to say to Ross or on his behalf, she was done while the other man on the other stairs was still kneeling. She looked suddenly tired, though more pensive than morose, giving both of them a wan smile while crossing back to the alcove with the lighter in her palm. Toby and Gabriel drifted over to meet her there, all three paladins arriving at about the same time.

“Thanks again,” Trissiny said, handing the lighter back to its owner.

“You are welcome,” the woman replied, inclining her head courteously. “Glad I could help. Now, are you kids about ready to go?”

There was a beat of uncertain silence.

“Excuse me?” Toby asked, frowning. “Go where?”

“Ah, my apologies, I did that in the wrong order. I’m Nell; pleased to meet you.” The woman bowed to each of them in turn, wearing a knowing smile. “We have some friends in common, and I hear tell you’re in town to see Mortimer Agasti and get your hands on one of his treasures. I can help you with that.”

“You said…you work for the Universal Church?” Gabriel asked suspiciously.

“With,” Nell corrected, raising one finger rather like a schoolteacher. “Not for. An easily-missed but very important distinction!”

“And…what’s your stake in this, exactly?” Trissiny demanded.

“Personally?” She shrugged, still with that bland smile. “I gain nothing from it, save the satisfaction of being involved. It’s been a long time since paladins were active in the world and longer still since they were on an honest-to-gods quest. Even if it is just Vesk trying to weave himself a shiny new fairy tale. There’s no way I’d pass up the chance to gawk at this from up close!”

“If you don’t mind my asking,” said Toby, “are you Vidian or Eserite?”

“Neither,” Nell replied pleasantly. “What I am is well-informed and connected. I know everybody interesting and everything important in Ninkabi. More to the point, I know Mortimer, and that means I can help you get what you want. You should be aware that he sees nobody. No visitors, no petitioners, no nothing. I’m one of very few acquaintances for whom he’ll break that rule. If you want to get a chance to present your case to the man himself without kicking up a ruckus that’ll upset Ninkabi even more than you did Calderaas, you’ll be needing to have me along.”

“You are awfully well-informed,” Trissiny said, narrowing her eyes. “How could you possibly know who we needed to talk to? That name was only mentioned—” She broke off, eyes widening again, and glanced down at the lighter, which the woman was still holding in one hand, positioned so its engraved V was facing them.

“Ah, ah, now. A little discretion, please! I’m sure you three understand not wanting to make spectacles of yourselves. It’s just Nell, to my friends.”

Verniselle winked at them, and tucked the lighter away in the breast pocket of her tailored coat.

“We very much appreciate your help…Nell,” Toby said carefully. “Your guidance would be more than welcome.”

“Oh, please don’t start being all formal,” she said, lightly punching him on the shoulder. “Trust me, where we’re going, that’ll only draw exactly the attention you don’t want. All right, kids, if we’re all done here, let’s head out. You’ve got good timing; we should reach Mortimer’s place a bit after dark, if we selectively dawdle. It’ll be open but not too busy yet. Thisaway!”

The goddess of money, merchants and bankers turned and strolled off through the nearest arch, casually flipping a platinum coin that would have bought a lower-end enchanted carriage. There was nothing for the three paladins to do but follow.

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31 thoughts on “14 – 18

  1. Huh. I guess we’re gonna get a close look at how Verniselle conducts herself. I can’t help but think that she’s a lot… friendlier than I expected the goddess of merchants and commerce to be. On reflection, I suppose that makes sense: I don’t recall the exact quote, but the Traders from the Circle of Magic series ran with the philosophy that you could either insist on having your way at any cost and beg for bread with your pride intact, or you could work around your customer’s needs, no matter how inconvenient, and gain loyalty for generations. I’m not sure how much we see of Verniselle is going to be representative of what she actually thinks, feels, and believes as a result; she may just be looking to get in the good books of the paladins so that when they have financial needs, they’ll look to her cult and not think too hard about what the interest looks like on that debt they’ll owe her.

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    1. A good merchant always has a friendly smile on their face as they charge you a shade under what hurts but a shade over what is actually comfortable, skinning a sheep can only be done once, shearing them can be done over and over and if you’re friendly while you do it they’ll even thank you for it 🙂

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    2. I was expecting a Wall Street Trader whom I would feel a deep-seated urge to punch the shit out of. But that may be a few centuries down the line.

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    3. that was the exact thing i was thinking off, i have actually had that thought a few times in my life that it might just be smarter to do whatever “they” want and move on with my life.

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      1. It is my personal Tinfoil Hat hypothesis that the Shaathite treatment of women is a Sorashi(?) cultural corruption. That dude who codified the Huntsmen into what they are today being an ex-Sorashi religious refugee after Arachne stabbed Sorash crotch-to-face. Since gods are affected by their Faithful’s beliefs, it resulted in Shaath’s current trapped predicament and Ingvar’s Quest.

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      2. Huh, yeah, that’s a good theory. I don’t want to get too far behind it because there’s just not enough data about Sorashi doctrine, but it’d make sense. Merely from Sorash’s treatment of Tellwyrn and the fact that Avei and her cult apparently really don’t like him, I can see it.

        Still, I wonder how cognisant Shaath is of the current specifics of his cult’s doctrine – also why he didn’t do more to stop that guy who changed it all, and whether, if he did end up meeting the paladins, would he be absolutely batshit insane or would he be just a normal guy who disagrees with his worshippers? Also, does he habitually appear as a wolf of his own free will or is that another thing the Shaathists have made up? And how aware was he of these changes, where does Shaathist doctrine come from – actually, where does Pantheon doctrine come from, is it like Avei appears in Vrin Shai and tells everyone to jot down what she’s saying, or is it more like the gospel of St John and it’s some guy who thinks it’s the word of god but it’s just what he thinks and the gods don’t…actually care what people think they think. Does it vary from god to god?

        And, if it turns out that Shaath was fully aware of what the Huntsmen were becoming, why didn’t he stop it? What makes me think that he’s not so great on the feminism front himself is that surely he must have had some way of knowing what the Hunstmen were doing to women, and he absolutely could have manifested and told them to stop if he really wanted to, before it all got out of hand. So did he just not care and then realised later what a mistake that was, or am I wrong in assuming he knew a little of what was going on?

        I have a lot of questions.

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    1. Not necessarily all… but it’s a Vesk quest with all 3 paladins when paladins hadn’t been called for decades and one is unprecedented.
      A good chunk of the gods are going to keep an eye on this, and as for the rest… pretty sure Vesk thinks they need to be more involved with the world.

      On the other hand, Vesk has probably given up on Ouvis, and I don’t think anything good ever happens when Vemnesthis or Napthene gets involved.

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  2. So, will Nell turn out to be a bastard or not? I’m keeping track!

    Avei……………. BASTARD
    Calomnar……. ?
    Elilial………….. BASTARD
    Eserion……….. mixed
    Izara…………… unlikely to be a bastard
    Naiya………….. BASTARD
    Naphthene….. BASTARD
    Nemitoth…….. ?
    Omnu………….. BASTARD
    Ouvis…………… ?
    Salyrene………. mixed, but in a different way
    Scyllith………… BASTARD
    Shaath………… BASTARD
    Themynra……. ?
    Vemnesthis….. BASTARD
    Verniselle…….. $
    Vesk……………. mixed
    Vidius………….. NOT currently believed to be a bastard!

    Araneid?……..  definitely if exists

    [Khar]…………. [doubtful]
    [Sorash]……… [duh!]

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    1. Just out of interest, why’ve you put Avei and Omnu as bastards? I absolutely agree with Omnu but that’s mostly just because either he or his cult or both are apparently rather homophobic, and I’m protective of Toby (because he’s not a great mentor-type person what with the whole complete no communication thing he’s got going on and I’m on Toby’s side here). And just being in the Pantheon with no visible redeeming qualities, I guess. But I always thought that was just me, I’m glad to know it isn’t and I’d be interested to see if you have any different reasoning.

      I’d personally classify Avei as mixed, though. Maybe it’s just because I really like her character? But in her relationship with her paladin she seems to be probably the best – at least in that although Triss has had her own issues with being Hand of Avei but she never seemed to wonder what Avei wants from her and there seems to be a fair bit of communication there. And I’ve recently thought she seems to be trying her best in a situation she really doesn’t want, and seems to be willing to change – I don’t know, it’s all subjective, but I originally classified her as bastard and then switched firmly to mixed. Or maybe bastard but at least she’s sorta trying?

      Upon rereading this I’ve noticed that I sort of have double standards when it comes to Avei and Omnu. Perhaps I’m harder on Omnu because he hasn’t given any noticeable indication that he’s sorry for his cult’s bad habits and at least Avei apologised to Gabe.

      Also, I died laughing at ‘Izara: unlikely to be a bastard’.

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      1. You only disagree with one? That’s great! I can’t remember OTTOMH why I have Avei as a bastard. She seems pretty harsh and inflexible, and I agree with you that she and Omnu are similar in a lot of ways. I’d probably have to re-read to find specific examples though. I do remember not having any doubt about her 😉

        For me Salyrene is the hardest to classify. Seems like she doesn’t want to be one, or she resents that side of herself. Maybe Magnan turned into a bastard and she got influenced by him, which suggests that Triss can conceivably influence Avei in the opposite direction…

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      2. IF we belive the succubus from the crawl, then Izara was definitely a bastard at some point. Letting her followers die because she didnt want he priestesses using their power for violence, even in self defense or the defense of others. But absolutely no one would be surprised that a succubus isnt being 100 percent truthful.

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    2. I dunno, man, the title of the story is “The Gods are Bastards”, not “Some of the Gods are Bastards”. I’m just inclined to list all of them as either “Bastard” or “Presumably a Bastard”.

      Unless the meaning of the title is just that they were literally all illegitimate children and is not a commentary on their behavior. XD

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      1. I consider anyone who is willingly part of a conspiracy to instantly kill anyone who learns a particular thing to be pretty bastardly. Given that Vidius is one of the Big Three, there’s no way that solution went through unless he signed off on it.

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      2. The title actually is what it is just because Webb thought the first line of the story was catchy, rather than any grand statement about the story.

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  3. Big news, all!

    The Kickstarter campaign has paid out; the money just hit my account. Thanks once again to everybody who contributed! Now, I just have to spend another couple days on bank transfers because the artist and editor I’m using need to be paid via Paypal, but that shouldn’t take more than a day or two at the most.

    I can get started on the backer rewards before that finishes up, is the good news! The only one already available is the free copy of Rowena’s Rescue. I still need email addresses from a couple of folks who qualify for that one, so if you supported the Kickstarter campaign, please be sure to fill out the backer survey I sent out! I’m gonna work on that over the next day or two. Unfortunately there’s no way to mass-mail them, at least not that I’ve figured out, so it’s gonna involve a lot of repetitive clicking. But I have time at home and I don’t expect it’ll take too excessively long to get through the whole list.

    These are exciting times!

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    1. I’ll add a recommendation that everyone should buy a copy of Rowena’s Rescue even if you’re not a Kickstarter! It was only $1 on amazon a couple years ago when I got it, and it’s a nice read.

      I’ve long suspected the book gives a kind of sneak peek at what orcs are like in this universe, and the reveal about Khar a few chapters ago supports this theory!

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      1. Yes, RR is awesome and a must-read for any fan of Webb’s writing. Silly at first and then it gets you with a whammie, and then the wild ride is on.

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  4. Huzzah! I’m finally caught up with the story! On the one hand, yay I can comment and participate in the discussion. On the other hand, there are four fingers and a thumb.

    Wait, no.

    On the other hand, I can’t archive binge anymore, and, considering that’s been my main form of recreation for at least the past week, I’ve gotta find something else to do!

    Anyway, glad to be caught up, I’m loving Book 14 so far, probably even more than Book 11 (I actually liked 12 more), especially because we might see Trissiny FINALLY STOP MAKING THE SAME MISTAKE. Sorry.

    And Basra seems on the outs, which be good. I’ll write up something more comprehensive tomorrow (later today, really) when I’m not using my phone and haven’t been awake all night. Ta!

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    1. Oh! Also, Webb, I understand you’re leery of interacting with SpaceBattles, but have you considered the Sufficient Velocity forums? Many of the authors and other users there actually came from SB because they found it too stifling, toxic, etc (I’m not sure, honestly, I’ve really mostly lurked on both forums and only used them to read Worm fanfic). Off the top of my head, Earthscorpion, Mr Zoat, the author of Taylor Varga, and many others are examples.

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    2. EarFluffly, if you like Bastards, my suggestions are Practical Guide to Evil, Heretical Edge, Mother of Learning, and Require:Cookie. (Yes, one of these things is not like the other, but I ALWAYS suggest Require: Cookie. )

      Also, if you aren’t familiar, http://www.webfictionguide.com is a wonderful repository.

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