Bonus #58: Accursed, part 4

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“I am not unusual among the shadow priestesses for despising our goddess, but only for leaving their sisterhood,” Szaiviss explained later, when they were sitting cross-legged on the floor of the ancient Elder chamber with a few certainties having been established. The drow had not interfered while Kuriwa exercised her own magic to make sure that the web of spells around them did what she claimed. And it did; her guides confirmed that it was a beacon, aiming to draw in powerful aid against the Elder Goddess, and guaranteeing that no one within it would be able to lie. Szaiviss, as the priestess introduced herself, claimed that part was a common ritual working, and it said a lot about the drow that they would commonly need such a spell. At least Szaiviss had sat quietly while Kuriwa worked, demonstrating her willingness to extend the same consideration for which she asked. It was as promising a start as Kuriwa could have hoped, considering.

She had told her story—minimally, but without prevarication. In fact, she had tried to add a few little obfuscations just to test the Scyllithene spellwork, but it was quite impossible.

“Why would it be unusual for priestesses to leave, if it is common for them to loathe Scyllith?”

“You know nothing, golden-hair,” Szaiviss said dismissively. Kuriwa repressed all the obvious responses to that, simply staring at her and studiously ignoring the rune-carved dead man laid out on the slab right beside them. It was a sharp reminder that under any other circumstances she would have refused to have anything to do with such a creature, and perhaps attacked her outright on general principles. Here and now, though, she had not the luxury of choosing her allies.

After a pause, the priestess finally deigned to explain.

“There are some who are fully devoted to Scyllith’s way, who are passionate in their cruelty. Mad, they are. That is not a way for people to be. From birth, we are taught it, but not for everyone does it take. The devotees, the happily cruel, they do not become priestesses. The Lady of Light, she has no need for loyalty. She wants her will done by those who hate it, hate her.”

Kuriwa could only inhale slowly, trying to make sense of that.

“You wonder, why does it all work?” Szaiviss quirked an eyebrow in dark amusement.

“I wonder exactly that. How can you possibly run a society on terms like that?”

“You cannot.” The drow shook her head. “You cannot. It needs a goddess to make something like this run. Without Scyllith, it would all collapse. Immediately.”

Kuriwa narrowed her eyes. Szaiviss stared back, unblinking.

“And so…you want to get rid of Scyllith.”

The priestess just stared at her.

“How?” she prompted at last, not bothering to hide the skepticism in her voice.

“I am not close,” Szaiviss said at last, reluctantly. “I will probably not succeed. An impossible task, it is, to destroy a god. Wildly unrealistic, to disrupt her enough to break her hold on my people. Dangerous and pointless to lurk and meddle and harass, which is all I have done. But I aspire to the impossible.” She shrugged. “It is that, or work to sustain the insanity.”

“I see,” Kuriwa murmured. Faced with a choice like that… She would likely have done the same, in truth. “I am not sure what I can offer you, Szaiviss. I am in a desperate corner myself, and taking a stand against Scyllith is totally beyond my means. Anyone’s, I suspect. If that is the price you demand for helping me, I will have to look elsewhere.” She did not move, not truly thinking that could be the end of it. Her spirit guides often enough led her into trials, but never to a dead end.

“No one is taking a stand against Scyllith,” Szaiviss retorted. “No one, it is madness to even think. We will try very hard to not get her attention, yes? Or anyone’s.”

“Seems wisest,” Kuriwa said noncommittally.

“You have seen things like…this, yes?” Szaiviss leaned to one side, reaching out to rap her knuckles against a wall where pristine mithril peeked out between tattered spidersilk hangings.

About this, of all things, every instinct Kuriwa possessed demanded that she be cagey, but the spell continued to scintillate around them. Refusing to answer was as good as an answer, so she kept it terse. “I have.”


She actually tried to lie, but the words wouldn’t leave her throat. The best she could do was answer with a different truth. “That is a closely guarded secret, and not mine to betray.”

Szaiviss grunted. “Yes. Here, too. Fine, it is not as if I am about to go to your surface and dig in your secrets, I wish now only to know what I must explain. You know what were the Infinite Order, yes? Scyllith’s generation of gods?”

“To the extent that anyone knows, I believe I am up to date,” said Kuriwa, nodding. “Their leavings are best avoided, even the relatively benign ones. Are you actually living in here?”

“Hah! Even I am not that crazy, not quite. Not yet.” The brief mirth leaked from her face. “What you are wanting to do? I mean the hard parts, the time travel, the genetics, the dimensional shifting. For that you will find answers in the old Order’s vaults—some of them. Any adolescent here can cast a curse, but you want knowledge that exceeds Elilial’s. That means Infinite Order.”

“Veth’na alaue,” Kuriwa muttered.

“I do not know what that means,” Szaiviss said dryly, “but I can tell what it means, and it is right. They are bad news. The old facilities that do not just kill whoever looks at them too hard, they are further protected by many guardians and traps. But!” She leaned forward, grinning and raising one finger. Her teeth were yellowed, something Kuriwa had never seen on an elf. “Those defenses, they were made by shadow priestesses, weaving the corrupting fire and the divine light. Your magic, the green magic of Naiya, that is not known here. It is the best, the most powerful against what Scyllith’s people have. My knowledge and your power can get us into a place I know, which has answers we both need.”

A lead, and a solid one. From what she knew of the Infinite Order, it was exactly as Szaiviss said: their understanding of magic and science both outstripped even that of the current gods, but any repository of their data would be a fiend’s nest of terrors. The Elder Gods had used traps and curses practically as décor, both to secure their domains and because, she suspected, the suffering of others amused them. Naturally any such sites would be revered by these deranged dark elves.

And there was another point which made her wary.

“So you’re telling me,” she said carefully, “that the exact thing I need just so happens to be the same exact thing you need? How…improbably fortuitous.”

Szaiviss grimaced, and Kuriwa wondered if she were struggling against her own truth spell. “The old vault I have in mind, it is not any part of my plans. I did not plan at it because I cannot get past its protections, and because I do not know exactly what is there. But you can get us in, I think. And once we go to it, I will find something useful. It is a cache of tools and knowledge from the Order, yes? There is bound to be something. And you, I think, are not to be my personal guardian, adventuring through the tunnels after all my desires, yes? So we compromise at a thing we can both use.”

“If you don’t know what’s in this vault, how can you be so sure?”

“Sure? No. A reasonable guess.” She shifted in place, resting her hands on her knees in a meditative posture belied by the intent set of her eyes. “Not very far away on this continental shelf, on the surface there is what was the great stronghold of Druroth of the Infinite Order, once. It was mostly destroyed by Taluvon before the new gods rose up, half the whole mountain sunk into the ground. Druroth went elsewhere, keeping only some servants and passive systems to watch his old fortress, yes? So it fell into confusion and decay, long before Druroth himself died. And so beneath it, among its deepest roots, Araneid made herself a little nest.”

Kuriwa narrowed her eyes. “Araneid.”

“The spider goddess.” A touch of reverence crept into Szaiviss’s tone. “Creator of all drow, and once the ruler of us all. Until the uprising of the new gods. Themynra came, and then Scyllith, and yet Araneid, she is not forgotten, not gone, even dead. Rumors persist that there is still her arachne, hidden among us somewhere. Scyllith has what was left of the spider goddess, a cosmic egg containing her essence. It is a major source of the Lady of Light’s power, a reason that she is still running a society while Naiya, well… She is not talked to much anymore, yes? Not so able to keep her thoughts in order?”

“Is this…egg…in this place you are talking about?”

“No!” Szaiviss waved both hands urgently. “No, no, that is in Scyllithar itself. We are not going there! But my point is, this is a chamber of two Elder Gods who were not Scyllith. Araneid’s secret rooms, built amid the wreckage of Druroth’s stronghold. It is sealed off and protected, not touched in countless generations. There we will find secrets, things Scyllith does not want known. Things you can use, and I can use.”

“A slender thread,” Kuriwa said, leaning back.

Szaiviss curled her lip in a slight sneer. “And you came down to this sunken hell for what? Certainty?”

“You have a point,” she admitted.

“My beacon, your spirits,” the priestess pressed. “I called for the help which can make a difference for me. You asked to be led to where you can get what you need. We are brought together, and this is my one idea. Yes, it is slender. It is what we have. Will you go back to your cursed family empty-handed instead, golden-hair?”

It was not that simple, of course; Kuriwa could always look in a different direction for resources down here. But when it came to it, she had no better ideas than this. It was no more farfetched or less dangerous than anything she had feared, and not as bad as she had begun to expect after three days of watching the Scyllithene drow and their sadistic lunacy.

And she did not have time to dither. Every hour, the curse progressed.

“Your skill, then,” she said, “and my power. Very well, Szaiviss. Let us…try.”

The unspoken agreement that made their enforced partnership possible hinged on staying out of one another’s way. Kuriwa already detested everything the drow priestess was and stood for, and while she could hardly imagine the particulars it seemed a safe bet that the feeling would be mutual. And so they made no conversation save that which circumstances demanded, kept a wary eye upon one another, and proceeded in silence. Oddly, the tension imposed by their situation made for one of the least awkward silences Kuriwa had had to endure. Once it was established that there would be no socialization, social concerns ceased to apply.

The Scyllithene dialect, while recognizably the same language as the elvish with which Kuriwa had been raised, was even more garbled than that spoken in Tar’naris. Narisian elvish featured multiple levels of formality and several other features owing to their caste system, but apart from that was little different from surface elvish. Szaiviss’s tongue had some weird grammatical features which Kuriwa recognized as coming from the influence of demonic, a notoriously erratic constructed language which was fiendishly difficult to learn, by design. It rarely become enough of an issue to cause communication problems, especially given as little as the two of them tried to communicate; Szaiviss just constructed her sentences backwards, sometimes. Spoken, it made little ultimate difference, though Kuriwa did discover as they passed the odd sign on their journey that the Scyllithene wrote using demonic runes half the time.

They continued along a series of tunnels that avoided contact with other elves, which suited her perfectly. For the most part these were natural crevices, interspersed with ruins clearly crumbling from long abandonment. In an odd way, the ruinous underground wilderness was a lot more comforting than the ornate aesthetic of the well-maintained corridors Kuriwa had followed at first.

For all that, their progress was slow as Szaiviss warned her that anyone else lurking in these forgotten byways would be exiles from Scyllithene society like herself. Some of those might be potentially useful allies, who disdained the cruelty of Scyllith’s commands, but just as likely a stranger encountered here could be a lunatic or criminal, and the kind of people too unstable to function even among the Scyllithene were as dangerous to encounter as rabid animals. Kuriwa suspected her new companion had an agenda in keeping her (and her fae magic) away from other potential competitors, but she was altogether content minimizing her contact with the lunatic drow of the deep dark.

After less than half a day’s travel—it could be difficult to keep track with no sun but Kuriwa had a decently developed sense of time—they reached their first destination, which was another piece of Elder God ruins.

“Good, no one is here,” Szaiviss grunted, brushing past the warning signs and totems affixed all over the half-collapsed entry. Again, the Scyllithenes had not attempted to render the place inaccessible, merely posted warnings. “Oh. Anymore.”

Kuriwa peeked past her and grimaced. This room was built along the same plan as the tower-like space in which Szaiviss had crafted a ritual chamber: circular, hollow, and surrounded by now-inert panels of ancient technology. It had three entrances, though, rather than the one, and all of them were spaced evenly around the floor level. In the center was a raised, circular dais with a slightly convex crystalline floor, and lying against the base were the lower halves of two different corpses.

There was no smell, even. Was the lack of decay due to drow magic, or Infinite Order science? Or a simple lack of microorganisms down here? She was fairly unfamiliar with the normal ecology of caves, let alone what must have developed under Scyllith’s unnatural aegis.

“What is this?” Kuriwa asked while Szaiviss, ignoring the dead, paced around the edges of the chamber and began trying to tug loose one of the dead screens.

“Transportation platform,” the priestess grunted. The screen finally came free and lifted upward on silent hinges, and she reached into the array of inscrutable wires and parts beneath it. “A long way, we have to go, and long ways become short ways in the Underworld. Always, everywhere, things stalk the paths. The more you travel, the quicker doom meets you.”

Kuriwa scowled, flicking her eyes back to the bodies. “It doesn’t look like it’s working properly. You really expect me to get into that?”

“Works properly if used properly, like anything.” Something snapped audibly under Szaiviss’s fingers and she stepped back, lowering the panel back into place. It had already come alight. “The old gods, the things they built do not break with time. These devices are dangerous to use because there is security upon them—curses and traps for the unwary. Jealous, they were, not keen to share their tools with their servants. This one, I have known a long time. Changed the locks, I have. Dangerous for others to use, but I can make it work for me.”

“And…the one at the other end?” Kuriwa said skeptically. “I presume this comes out at a similar platform. Can you make that one work?”

“We go to one that will be safe to land on. But to leave…” Szaiviss turned back to her, a sly grin flickering across her features. “Less safe. Hopefully we find what we want where we are going. From there, I have many ways to get around, and there are paths up through the ancient fortress to the surface for you to escape. Not by this way will we come back, golden-hair. Now step quickly, it is set for two and will not stay long.”

Kuriwa indulged in a small sigh, but did as instructed, keenly aware of the risk she was taking. Of the use of Infinite Order technology she knew nothing; Qestraceel law forbade meddling with it and the Avatar she had met beneath the grove was self-contained and left none of his attendant machinery open to tampering. If Szaiviss intended to lead her into some kind of trap, this was a golden opportunity.

But the spirits had led her here, and one thing she knew Szaiviss did not have the capability to do was deceive them. Like all wood elves, she disliked teleportation on philosophical grounds, but having grown up in a city where it was as mundane a way to get around as it had apparently been to the Elder Gods, her personal objections where less stringent. If being teleported did indeed destroy the person and create a clone, for her that ship had sailed many times before she reached adulthood.

The platform began to glow beneath their feet, and then a flash split the room and their surroundings changed. Not entirely; they were in a chamber built to exactly the specifications of the previous one, which had suffered different particulars of decay over the long years. There were no dead bodies present now, but spidersilk banners hung upon the walls, ragged and thin with age, and scrawled with demonic runes of warning. A rockfall had buried one of the three exits from the room and a second was closed off by a solid mithril door which, to judge by the lack of any active panels near it, wasn’t going to open any time soon.

Most importantly, she was fine. Unharmed, unchanged, with her magic and connections to the spirits fully intact. If Szaiviss intended to ensnare her in some trap, she was playing a longer game.

“Where are we now?” Kuriwa asked, stepping quickly off the platform.

“Closer,” her companion said tersely, following her down. “Below what was the inland sea at the center of this continent. The great prairies, now. Close but not within the spatial distortion that is the Darklands on the infernal plane. How it is on the surface, I do not know, but it is suicide to go in there underground. So we will not. Our goal is right at the edge, should take us less than another day to get there.”

“I see.” Kuriwa let the shadow priestess slip past her and followed her out. This time, rather than opening right onto a natural cave, they followed a narrow mithril-lined corridor of Infinite Order make, its built-in lights long since inert. “Interesting. You measure time in days? I wouldn’t have thought your people even knew what they were.”

“We all of us live in a tiny ball of rock spinning through infinite space,” Szaiviss retorted, giving her a contemptuous look. “Because we live below a ceiling of stone does not make us stupid, or blind. All our peoples are made from the same ancient stock; we spend about the same times awake and asleep. Quiet now, we are closer to traveled paths here.”

Kuriwa, as she was constantly advising the young elves of her grove, extended her senses and shut her mouth.

This new territory, again, consisted of well-kept halls and tunnels. There were a few adjacent caves through which to pass, but mostly they were forced to travel in public spaces in order to proceed, and when thus exposed Szaiviss scurried furtively, on the lookout for any fellow travelers. Kuriwa could have concealed them both from anyone’s senses, but for the time being kept that knowledge to herself, as they encountered no one, and indeed no sign that anyone had been here recently.

It was a far cry from the ornate rooms and corridors leading to Tar’naris. Though carved in the same high-ceilinged style, pillars and all, these were unadorned white stone, and seemed less assiduously maintained; not only was there dust on the floors and patches of mushrooms in some of the corners, there were occasional cracks and chips in the stonework, left unrepaired. Of statuary, mosaics, or paintings, there was no hint. Startling as the artistry of the passages had first been to Kuriwa, they made sense, given that Scyllith was also the goddess of beauty. It seemed strange that her touch lay less heavily here.

Szaiviss was jumpier now and irritable about being questioned, but as they proceeded for hours and found no hint of any other drow, she finally (mostly out of sheer exasperation) condescended to answer Kuriwa’s increasingly insistent questions.

“These chambers lead to the halls of the dead,” she said grudgingly, creeping down a corridor and nodding to a doorway in passing. “All the halls that go off in that direction are to mausoleums. So there is less traffic here.”

“I would have thought there’d be more, given how readily you people slaughter each other.”

Szaiviss seemingly found no insult in that. “Few who die are preserved with honor. Most are left at the bottom of whatever chasm they fell into, or feed the lizards. It takes an important station in life, or a manner of death most noteworthy, to be worth the trouble of preserving a body.”

“And why is it so plain? Most cultures treat the fallen with reverence, and decorate—”

“We are not most cultures,” Szaiviss hissed, baring teeth at her. “It is plain here because beauty is a sign of the Lady of Light’s favor, and for the dead she has no use. Their suffering is over. Only the living can be tormented.”

It gave Kuriwa a sinking feeling, contemplating how much sense that actually made. Presumably, the other demented details of this society would be equally sensible in context. Part of her feared burdening her mind with enough understanding of their insanity to discern the patterns. With any luck, it would not become relevant.

Szaiviss finally selected a side corridor down which to travel, pausing to order Kuriwa to complete silence, and crept forward far more slowly. The shaman stayed behind her, quietly as ordered, and reaching out as far as her senses both mundane and magical could extend. Obviously Szaiviss’s caution was well-founded; there was magic up ahead, of a kind that made Kuriwa’s skin crawl.

The hallway terminated helpfully in an arched doorway braced by thick columns which gave them ample space to hide, with ahead of it a balcony bordered by a chest-high stone wall and curving ramps sweeping away to both sides, to a floor ten feet below. Kuriwa wondered in passing if the drow designed features like this because it created opportunities to ambush each other. For now, it at least spared them from blundering into the monstrosity below.

The chamber below the balcony was the size and shape of a small theater, with its opposite wall taken up by a mighty arched door over three stories tall; though broad enough for two wagons to pass through abreast it looked narrow simply due to its height. The thing was of iron, forming thick bars rather than being one solid piece. It looked impossibly heavy nonetheless, but before getting through that they would have to deal with its guardian.

Kuriwa had seen necromantic constructs cobbled together by humans, things stitched from multiple corpses or pieces thereof. This was on an entirely different level. It had no seams or stitching, looking as if it had simply grown naturally the way it was, which was not possible. Lacking a single head, it had five faces lumped together at the top of its torso, clustered like insane growths from some great tumor. Their eye sockets were empty and flickering with blue flame, all five mouths open and all groaning, gasping, or in one case wailing in obvious, constant pain. Its arms were disconcertingly normal in appearance, but below the torso was a huge swollen thorax like a spider’s—except that the bulbous body was covered in enormous blisters and pustules, all lit faintly from within by the same blue lichfire and several pulsating slowly. Like a spider, it had eight legs, but rather than segments of chitin exoskeleton, they were simply drow bones. Miscellaneous bones, fused together into uneven segments so that they had spider-like proportions, at least. Apart from the bony legs, its skin was the plain black of the drow—unbroken skin, marked by no seams or stitches.

The thing’s incessant noises of agony at least made cover for a whispered conversation.

“And that is…”

“The less than honored dead,” Szaiviss said dryly. “Some rites there are, which call for the use of interred corpses, or must be performed in crypts. Not forbidden are they, but meant to be difficult. To enter the crypts, one must get past the guardians. But not destroy the guardians! That brings more priestesses.”

“So not only the living can be tormented after all.”

“The dead can only suffer if condemned before they are dead.” The shadow priestess grinned without warmth or humor. “Once the spirit passes, it is beyond even Scyllith’s power. The name of Vidius is as despised here as that of Elilial.”

“And why are we going into the crypts?”

“The crypts are made around the old structure where Araneid’s nest is hidden. Much time I spent there, when I served among the shadow priestesses; I know the way beyond. But I now am exiled, and the guardian will seek to kill me if I try to pass.”

“So that’s what you need me for.”

Szaiviss withdrew her head from around the corner, pressing her back to the wall so she was again fully hidden from the room beyond, and looked at her expectantly.

The construct was made of a remarkable fusion of infernal and divine magic. It was amazing that the shadow priestesses could do such a thing at all, given how those two magics reacted when brought into contact. Were Kuriwa more of a scholar—or did she have time to analyze it in detail—she could probably have learned a great deal by studying how it had been done. For now, though, the task was to get by it as quickly as possible. Without destroying it, which was the hard part. Being half infernal, it was incredibly vulnerable to her own arts.

This would have to be done indirectly.

Silently, while Szaiviss stared impatiently from inches away, she considered possibilities. Vines and roots could entangle and immobilize it, or she could cause aggressive lichen to clog the joints in its segmented legs. But she did not know how physically strong it was; undead always had greater brute strength than the living, as they had fewer physical limitations on the stresses to which they could subject their limbs.

Of course, its innards would be vulnerable to the same kind of attack… But no, that ran the risk of damaging it catastrophically, which apparently they must not do. The same problems faced any prospect of simple elemental attacks with wind, fire, ice, or the like; there was an all-important middle ground between what would be ineffectual and what might destroy it outright. Worse, that was likely to be a very narrow gray area, and she had little chance of hitting it precisely given how little she knew of the thing.

Could it be simply distracted? Kuriwa had only a very basic ability to access the thoughts of others, and it would require considerable ritual preparation; telepathy was the province of divine magic, not fae. Empathy was another matter, however. Any shaman skilled enough to be let out on her own would be able to sense the shape of unguarded emotions.

From this thing, she sensed nothing but pain. Kuriwa cringed, immediately closing off her mind an instant after opening it to the monster. She had expected anger beneath its agony, but no, there was only anguish. Sorrow, loneliness, the aching hollowness of a multitude of souls chained to constant suffering, longing for the most basic mortal comforts which were forever beyond their reach.

Scyllith’s evil was truly beyond description.

“You making faces is not pacifying the guardian,” Szaiviss whispered fiercely. “I can make faces! For dithering there is no time.”

Pacifying it…

Struck by inspiration, Kuriwa retreated down the hall till she had space to occupy its center without being in view of the creature. There, she sat down and began removing ritual components from her pouches.

“Do not make a mess!” Szaiviss hissed.

“I’ll clean it,” Kuriwa said curtly. “Hush, let me focus.”

It did not require a highly complicated ritual, anyway, just a few crystals and candles to dilenate a circle; she was a sufficiently advanced practitioner that she didn’t need chalk or dust to fully draw the lines, so long as the space was defined. Two feathers—one sylph, one phoenix—she placed before her on the floor, forming a cross. Their magic made a focus from which to project her own thoughts while also shielding them. A lesser shaman would have needed far greater preparations to attempt this, but not for nothing was she an Elder of her grove.

She found the spirits in the construct easily; their agony was a horrible beacon to her senses. Kuriwa called upon the older, calmer spirits of nature, embodying the sluggish consciousness of the very earth itself. Deep underground, they were surrounded by rock, by the endless, sleepy patience of stone. Inanimate objects had no innate will or awareness, but a sufficiently powerful shaman could imbue the ground with familiar spirits, forming all around them a quiet animation.

The earth was patient, quiet, calm. Its presence was an all-encompassing sense of rest.

Having brought it thus to life, she brought it to the screaming spirits of the guardian.

Kuriwa had expected it to be far more difficult; she had been called on to pacify agitated spirits before, and it was usually as slow and coaxing a process as performing any kind of therapy for a living person. This was not a natural case, however, and whoever had designed the guardian had not anticipated this particular measure. The spirits within it hungrily seized the infinite calm of the earth as soon as she introduced it. With Kuriwa’s guidance, they sank into the surrounding quietude, losing their own sense of identity in the eternal earth itself. She gave them exactly what they wanted most: rest.

“What did you do?” Szaiviss demanded from up ahead, where she was peering into the chamber.

Kuriwa opened her eyes. “I put it to sleep. I don’t know how long that will hold; it is eager for the rest, but such is not in its nature. We should not tarry.”

“Look who tells who not to tarry,” Szaiviss muttered while Kuriwa gathered up her ritual accoutrements, but didn’t henpeck her any further.

They crept with care into the antechamber, but the guardian, having slumped to its side upon the floor, did not stir even as they approached. Its breathing was still loud, strained, but there were no more screams or even groans.

Kuriwa wished fervently that she could give it true, lasting peace. She wished she could do that for all the drow in this psychotic pit Scyllith had made of their world, but that was as futile as wishing for the moon. Trying to test her will against that of an Elder Goddess would be empty vainglory. It would be all she could do to accomplish her own mission here and get out.

Despite its size, the iron gate opened smoothly, the balance of its hinges clearly flawless. The two of them slipped through, carefully shutting it behind, and then hastened silently forward into the halls of the dead.

The crypts were a maze, consisting of towering chambers lined by person-sized notches in which bodies were laid, many with a single huge, ornately-carved sarcophagus standing in the center. Most of these rose four or five stories at least, some as much as twice that and the shortest they passed being twenty feet tall. Doorways and galleries opened onto them from all heights; they might have to pass through a burial chamber at its bottom, or skirt an unrailed drop to the floor of one from high above. These shafts were connected by smooth tunnels which wound in serpentine patterns, not only from side to side but vertically.

The layout was a tangled mess, but Szaiviss moved swiftly and purposefully, seeming to know exactly where she was going. Kuriwa could only trail along after her, keenly aware of how lost she was becoming, and how utterly dependent upon her guide.

Ironically, it was in here that they finally encountered other drow, though fortunately only at a distance. At one point, their corridor opened onto one side of the uppermost level of an open chamber and then followed it three-quarters of the way around its edge before branching off, which gave them an unfortunately long time to observe the ritual unfolding in the chamber below. At least, Szaiviss told her once they were a safe distance down the tunnel that it was a ritual; it just looked like two women violently making love on top of a sarcophagus around which they had piled a bunch of corpses.

Following the shadow priestess in front of her, Kuriwa found herself contemplating that spectacle, and the freshly-sacrificed male drow over whom Szaiviss had been chanting when they first met, and wondered what other twisted things this woman had done that she couldn’t even imagine. It was truly chilling, to consider that someone with such a different threshold for horror had found Scyllithene society so unbearable that she had risked her life to flee it. How could anyone live like this? How many drow were down here? Tens or hundreds of thousands? Millions? The scope of suffering was unimaginable.

Eventually, they emerged from a tunnel onto yet another burial chamber, this time about ten feet up, and rather than heading off to the side again, Szaiviss hopped down to the floor below. Kuriwa followed, watching at a distance while the shadow priestess unceremoniously dragged a mummified corpse out of place so that its stiff legs protruded over the side of its bier, and then crawled bodily into the alcove alongside it. Moments later there came a grinding noise, and Szaiviss’s legs disappeared as she wiggled fully into whatever she had just opened up.

“Come along, golden-hair, there is nothing else to see out there!”

With a sigh and a silent apology to the long-dead drow whose rest she had to disturb, Kuriwa clambered in after her. A piece of the wall inside the funerary alcove had shifted to the side, forming a narrow hole into a larger chamber beyond. Once she was through, Szaiviss reached back out to tug the corpse into its proper place and then push the stone barrier into place again. It was obviously intended to be opened thus; that much rock was simply too big for an elf to shift unaided.

They were now in a natural cavern, and there was light in the distance. Szaiviss carefully led the way toward the faint illumination, stepping over uneven rocks slickened by the underground stream along whose bed they now walked.

“Have you ever been here before?” Kuriwa whispered.

“I have looked in,” the drow replied. “Enough to see that a thing is beyond, to sense the magic that says who made it. I have found records that describe its place, lost and hidden fragments not known to the priestesses. But no…this is farther than I have gone. When I was a priestess, the others watched me constantly. That is their way. Only after being long absent from their ranks am I free enough to come here without leading them all after me, and I did not want to give my sisters access to this. Only with you along could I get past the guardians outside the crypts. I very much think it has been since Araneid’s time that any drow has stepped foot here.”

“That’s encouraging,” Kuriwa murmured. She sensed no living things in the vicinity, but from up ahead came a faint, unpleasant tingle of strange magic at work. Magic, or something older.

The light came from a single glowing Infinite Order data panel, affixed right to an apparently natural cave wall. To elven eyes, its faint glow was enough to discern more such touches upon the cavern in which it stood. It was clearly an already-existing geological feature, a cavern of uneven proportions which spread around them in a series of winding branches and stretched upward into a narrow shaft which ascended into infinite darkness above. More machinery was everywhere, worked right into the very walls and floor, pieces of metal, crystal and glass at whose purpose Kuriwa could not even guess. Only the lone, glowing panel which faced the entrance was still active; of all the artificial structures around, the only thing she recognized was the simple metal staircase and ladders which climbed the cave shaft toward where Szaiviss had said Druroth’s long-destroyed fortress lay, high above.

Both of them came to a stop in front of the panel, then looked at each other. It glowed in the darkness, but there was nothing depicted upon it except a single line of text in an unfamiliar language.

“These things, they work by touching,” said Szaiviss. “But there should be symbols to touch, things that show what it does. I see nothing like that and I fear to poke it at random.”

“Yes, let us please not poke anything at random,” Kuriwa agreed.

They jerked back from the panel in unison when a canned, unnatural voice suddenly spoke from it.

“Dialect identified: I.O. Codespeak, homo sapiens sindarin variant two. Please state your directive, users.”

“Directive?” Kuriwa repeated, frowning. “I hardly know how to proceed.”

“We should see what this thing knows,” Szaiviss suggested.

“Yes… Obviously what we want is locked away in some of this dusty old machinery. The trick is knowing where to look and what to turn on.”

“Acknowledged,” the raspy voice of the machine grated. “Cycling main power core. Primary system boot queued.”

“Wait!” Szaiviss shouted, too late.

All round them rose the hum of technology coming to life, accompanied by the rising glow of tiny running lights, and then artificial lamps producing the clean white illumination favored by the Infinite Order.

“I hope we’re buried too deep for anyone to notice this,” Kuriwa said, wincing.

“Should be,” Szaiviss replied, peering around nervously. “I suppose the risk, it is necessary; we can get nothing from these machines while they are asleep. I did not mean to turn it all on at once, though. There is no telling what—”

It hit them suddenly and with the weight of an avalanche, the force of a consciousness so many orders of magnitude mightier than their own that just to be in its presence felt to the mind like being stepped on by a dragon would to the body. Kuriwa and Szaiviss, both forgetting all the poise and dignity of their respective stations, staggered under the impact, crying out and tumbling to the ground.

Before them appeared a graceful figure of light, slender and lovely more in the way of a doll than an elf, with eyes like miniature galaxies. Her smile was kind and welcoming, even as her very aura blasted them against the far wall of the cavern.

“Why, how very lovely!” Scyllith cooed. “Visitors!”

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70 thoughts on “Bonus #58: Accursed, part 4

  1. Yep, here we go again! It’s always either mental illness or dental illness with me, and this time, it’s the second one.

    Major pain flaring up in the tooth I had filled this summer. My old dentist warned me that might happen, and if it did, it would need a root canal.

    This is complicated by the fact that I’ve used up all my insurance coverage for the year and can’t get more until January. I was only able to get my recent root canal done thanks to the generosity of several readers who donated when that infection flared up. Even that won’t be an option this time, as without insurance I’ll have to come up with almost $2K out of my own pocket, which might as well be a palace on the moon in my position.

    This flared up tonight after business hours; I’m gonna get into my dentist ASAP, obviously. The best case scenario is he gives me another course of antibiotics which will hopefully suppress the infection until January when I can afford to actually address it. If that doesn’t work…

    Well, I might end up putting up a Gofundme for medical bills. I’m really hoping for my best case outcome, though. I’ll keep you all updated; let’s hope I don’t have to come begging again. We’ll see.

    Meanwhile, I still have some of the pain meds left from my last big episode. They help, but not much, and give me serious brain fog. I managed to get this far into the chapter and it’s like there’s a wall of painkillers now between me and what I wanted to write next. In the hours and days to come I’ll see if I can stand to be off them and for how long and whether I can teach myself to get some work done despite the fog.

    It’s always an adventure around here, eh?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Webb, my condolences on the ongoing struggles. Dental pain is the worst. Hope you put up the gofundme. Recently joined as a reader and was about to join Patreon, but happy to frontload five or six months if it helps you get fixed properly.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. You’re flossing, right? 🙂

      Might be sore just because of a bit of rotten food that’s stuck between the teeth. Remove that irritant and your tooth will soon stop hurting.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Webb, you must be one of the unluckiest people I’ve ever encountered. The fact that you manage to keep writing on any consistent schedule is astonishing to me, given that. Here’s hoping it’s not *too* bad this time!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For real. It seem like there is always something going wrong. Makes me even more thankful for the amount of content. I doubt I’d be able to write anywhere near a similar amount if I always had some crisis going on.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m not so unlucky, if you think about it. I have bad teeth and a mental illness; just about every serious problem I’ve had that has interrupted my posting schedule has been directly related to one or both of those. All things considered I feel quite blessed. Sure, I have periods of complete mental dysfunction and excruciating pain, but to take the long view, life could be a whole heck of a lot worse. Nothing’s killed me yet!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Indeed, if there’s one thing I’ve noticed about life, it can always be worse. Especially if you say, “How could it get any worse?” It’s like the universe all the sudden has to prove in detail exactly how.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Whoa.

    Those are some very interesting revelations.

    1. This is the same priestess that’s working with Justinian in present times.

    2. “Not very far away on this continental shelf, on the surface there is what was the great stronghold of Druroth of the Infinite Order, once. It was mostly destroyed by Taluvon before the new gods rose up, half the whole mountain sunk into the ground. Druroth went elsewhere, keeping only some servants and passive systems to watch his old fortress, yes? So it fell into confusion and decay, long before Druroth himself died. And so beneath it, among its deepest roots, Araneid made herself a little nest.” … Welcome to Last Rock.

    3. “Rumors persist that there is still her arachne, hidden among us somewhere.” … Hello Arachne, but who or what are you at this point in time? Also explains why Kuriwa recognized the name.

    4. “Scyllith has what was left of the spider goddess, a cosmic egg containing her essence.” … Elilial and Arachne took that away and probably doomed the drow.

    … I need more. 😀

    Liked by 5 people

    1. It explains why Szaiviss wants to kill Arachne (that’s what she’s getting help from Justinian for in the present). Also explains how Ariel ended up the Crawl, and why the Crawl likes Arachne.

      I remember some description of the mountain in Last Rock as looking like some god had just dumped it there, and probably being the remnant of something or other the Elder Gods did (can’t find it now though). It seems so obvious in hindsight that that’s exactly what it is.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “It explains why Szaiviss wants to kill Arachne”

        It doesn’t explain it to me. It seems like Szaiviss and Arachne would have the same goal. Arachne has been trying for her whole existence to figure out what she really is. Szaiviss seems to have some understanding that the gods either won’t and can’t tell her.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Perhaps killing her isn’t really a hostile act, perhaps it’s meant to help. Arachne is clearly more than just an elven mage, she’s some patch holding a part of the world together and, probably for that reason, has the protection of the pantheon.

        What if removing her mortal shell restores her to who she was before? Or perhaps she’s what’s stopping Araneid from coming back?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Here’s my thinking on why Szaiviss wants to kill Arachne: Szaiviss wants to destroy a god. They way to do that is by destroying/changing/taking over what they represent in the world. All the spider stuff around here seems awfully like Araneid has something to do with it, and we already know Arachne has a lot to do with Araneid. I’m beginning to suspect this isn’t really Scyllith, and it’s actually Araneid pretending to be Scyllith or something. Maybe Araneid or her essence or something is protecting Scyllith? I guess we do have pretty direct statements that it’s being used to imprison her.

        I could be completely misinterpreting all the spider references (spider-like guardian, spider silk in the IO facilities here, spider silk in Szaiviss’s modern hiding hole via Justinian, etc) too though; maybe Scyllith has something to do with spiders directly? Seems like the obvious interpretation is usually the right one though, which points to Araneid being involved.


    2. Arachne setting her university atop of Ariadne’s “little nest”….
      Coincidence??? I think not!

      Whether or not it’s a conscious decision, remains to be seen.

      Also I wonder if Crystal had anything to do with Ariadne, or just Druroth?

      Also definitely implies that Arachne had a separate existence before merging with whatever the cosmic egg is

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Remember that the point we are at in the timeline is post-Hellwar (that is why Elilial has cursed Kuriwa). So by this point Kuriwa had met Arachne already.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Actually, this is after the SECOND Hellwar. Arachne only showed up during the THIRD Hellwar. Kuriwa hasn’t met Arachne yet, I’m pretty sure.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Dentist can squeeze me in at 2PM. Haven’t slept, still can’t, too much pain. Gonna need some resolution to this before I can finish the chapter, my vision is swimming and I can’t even sit steadily upright.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. See if they’re willing to do a pulpotomy or pulpectomy. That’s the first part of the root canal where they clean things out without filling the root canals in. Usually the first part can be done for a lot less than the whole root canal. It sounds like your tooth is in the early stages of dying, so antibiotics are questionable as to whether they will help much. Part 1 of root canal can buy you a few weeks to months so typically it’ll carry you to Jan

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Webb, please get an estimate what fixing everything would cost and then start a Gofundme campaign where we can support you. Relying on patch jobs and workarounds is not going to improve the overall situation and will cost you just as much, if not more, in the long run.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I wonder if we could have you visit Germany for a week and simply treat you here. Travel health insurance for foreign guests costs less than €20. I’ll have to research if that covers existing conditions and so on…
        … but perhaps you’d like to take a vacation in Europe, get everything fixed up properly and only pay 1/5 of what it would cost you in the US? 😉

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Maybe Canada? You are not so far now.
        In 2002, my husband got a hernia operation in Victoria BC for 1/10 of what it would cost in the US.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Back from the dentist with a fresh course of antibiotics. Doc said there’s a decent chance this’ll suppress the infection till January when my insurance rolls over; if not, we’ll have to do something more immediately. Should know in a week or so if it’s working.

    Turns out I do have some insurance money left for the year so a root canal in December will “only” (lol) cost me $530. Which I don’t got but if the pain doesn’t subside in the next day or two I’ll try to raise it on Gofundme.

    Feel like I had more to report, but I’ve been awake going on forty hours, haven’t eaten in about twenty-four, just walked all around my neighborhood to the dentist and pharmacy for a couple hours in the rain with constant pain in my mouth, and fuck I’m tired.

    Chapter will be finished. When I can. Soon, I hope. This week’s not looking good for a Friday chapter. Sorry.


  8. This is misery.

    The only thing that numbs the pain is swishing around that tooth with ice water, so that’s what I’ve been doing. Constantly, for most of the week. I have not slept since Monday. At this point I’m so exhausted I’m starting to hallucinate, and I can’t stop myself from nodding off every couple of minutes.

    And then when I’m adrift and not swishing it takes about half a minute for the cold-induced numb to wear off and the pain to come back and jerk me awake.

    Can’t be awake, can’t be asleep. Exhaustion or agony.

    I’m working on the course of antibiotics, three doses in. It’ll be at least another day before that starts showing results. I don’t know how I’m going to make it that long.

    And now I’m getting a tickle in my throat, which just figures. You can’t subject the body to this kind of abuse without weakening the immune system, I guess.

    The antibiotics will help, eventually. Just gotta survive long enough…not sure how.


  9. This was a really interesting Chapter! I’m so sorry you are in pain again. I had a root canal due to infection and all that jazz just earlier this year and it was horrible. But I remember my oral surgeon warning me not to ice the infected area, even though it seemed like it would reduce swelling, it was actually limiting blood flow and slowing the work of the antibiotics. A prescription for pain killers or possibly some dentist applied Novocaine might dull the pain more effectively than ice so you can get some sleep. (I definitely spent some time sleeping with my face on an ice pack so take that for what it’s worth)


  10. Into day 2 of antibiotics with no improvement, and night 3 of no sleep, and I’m becoming a wee bit unhinged, I fear. I keep seeing shadowy figures in my peripheral vision and there are a couple periods of several hours each today that I blanked out on; I can’t recall what I was doing during any of them. But in the second one I think I managed to take a nap? I don’t know how, the toothache flares up as soon as I drift off to sleep, but I did feel slightly less fatigued after the second blackout so who knows. I’ve never gone this long without sleeping before; it doens’t really surprise me, given my overall mental health, that I don’t handle it well.

    I cracked and put together a Gofundme to get this root canal done:

    I’ll add a link to the author’s note in the main page above. I feel really self-conscious about doing this but the situation’s getting bad and I am becoming quite worried.


    1. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the support this has gotten in just a couple of hours; you guys are wonderful and I’m tremendously grateful.

      In that same period the tooth pain has abruptly taken a turn for the severe. In the middle of the night, of course, so I have no prospect of getting ahold of the dentist until tomorrow at the earliest. But clearly something has gone suddenly and seriously wrong and I need to have it addressed ASAP. For now it’s still responding well to ice water, so I can avoid the worst of the pain, though it’ll mean a long (and again, sleepless) night of constantly swishing. As bad as it’s become, and as fast, I don’t think I can afford to wait any longer; I’ll just have to take whatever funds are available in the morning and get done whatever they can do with it. If I can’t afford the full root canal they may do a pulpotomy.


  11. I finally got some sleep, as a result of completely blacking out. Seriously, I have no idea what happened or how I got into bed, last thing I remember it was 3AM and I was pacing in the living room with a toothache, swishing ice water… Sleep deprivation is a hell of a drug. I was having what I can only describe as semi-awake dreams right before.

    Anyway, the developments are all positive. The antibiotics seem to finally be working; at least, the pain clearly subsided enough to let me sleep for a few hours, and I woke up feeling human again. Confused and very sore, but human.

    And I discovered that my gofundme is almost 200% funded and I’m not ashamed to admit I almost cried. You people are amazing; I have the absolute best readers anywhere. Thank you so much for taking care of me; you guys always seem to come through when I’m in real trouble. I’ve made my appointment to have the root canal done as early as possible, which is Monday; it seems the antibiotics are finally making some progress, the pain has fallen to manageable levels, and if that trend continues I can hopefully finish up this chapter and get back to work on the next during the weekend.

    Things are looking better, thanks to all of you. Stay tuned!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Get better soon, Webb.

      I just wish our country wasn’t such bullshit paying for it was ever a problem to begin with.


  12. I’m sorry I’m not in a position to help. This story has been something I’ve come back to *every* week for a long time. That’s pretty special for me.

    Hopefully you’ll be able to sort out your dental issues for good, I know what a terror tooth pain can be.


  13. Hey all, quick update.

    First of all, again, I’m so very grateful for all the help. My root canal is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon; gofundme may or may not actually pay out before then (it’s a little vague, they say it takes “a few days”) but my roommate has offered to spot me the cash if it hasn’t hit my account in time. So one way or another, it should be possible to have all this taken care of by tomorrow.

    In the meantime, the antibiotics are helping. Pain is down to intermittent now; I’ve been able to get some sleep, albeit not enough and in odd patterns. But compared to what the early week was like, I will take it. If you’ve never been sleep deprived for most of a week at a time, I don’t recommend it. By the end there it was a lot like what I’d imagine being on drugs would feel like. Though I haven’t done that, so what do I know.

    At any rate, I’m feeling human again, though still unwell. Been trying to write but I still haven’t got through the remaining half of this chapter. Lingering sleep disruption and antibiotic side effects are not good for creative work, though they’re a hell of a lot less bad than constant pain and total sleep deprivation. I have made some progress, just not enough. Regardless, I’m still plugging away. It would be nice if I could at least publish the remainder of this chapter by the Monday posting time, though I’m not absolutely certain of making that goal at this point. I’ll see what I can do.

    Thank you all for hanging in there with me. Should all be straightened out soon!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. On the note of payment, don’t most places bill you after the fact? I’ve never needed emergency type stuff, and I am covered under insurance which tends to cause delays in billing as the two companies fight over what’s covered or not, but anytime I go to get something other than a checkup, the bill is usually sent a few days or even a week later, and even then it doesn’t need to be paid all at once. My dentist… strongly suggested I get x-rays of my teeth and I told him since it isn’t covered he’ll have to let me pay in installments, and that was the agreed upon terms. If you find that it hasn’t paid out in time, maybe talking with the receptionist who handles your paperwork could get something worked out? Maybe that’s not common, but it’s worth a shot if you’re interested.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. His issue is that he has already hit the max coverage for his dental plan, so the dentist already knows that insurance won’t be covering this and it will all be out of pocket. My place is generally a “payment due at time of service” place, but I’ve been able to pay some at the time and get billed for the rest with an invoice.


    2. Setting aside all that came before (o_O at all of that), you did actually have surgery. Yes, it’s one performed regularly by dentists, but that just makes them better at the procedure.

      Surgery still takes a physical and mental toll; there’s no reduction on your recovery time just because it’s a common procedure :p

      Hope your healing goes steadily and uneventfully 🙂


  14. Good god, I’m so behind on everything…

    The root canal went very well! Only hiccup was that the anesthesia wasn’t taking for some reason so they ended up giving me about four times as much as usual. My whole face was numb by the time the doctor could drill without me yelling. No harm, though, just some drooling for a few hours. It was done in about half an hour and seems to be healing very well, only some residual soreness left.

    It ended up costing over $700 rather than what they quoted me due to what ended up being left on my insurance after the previous visit, but it worked out. You have all been astonishingly generous on my gofundme so it’s more than covered. GFM still hasn’t even paid out, actually, but my roommate was able to spot me for the operation and I’ll be able to pay her back tomorrow out of my Patreon funds. GFM funds should be available on the 9th, if I read the dashboard correctly (it’s a little unclear). I’ll be fine till then, I have no more plans to spend money, knock wood, and won’t starve or anything.

    Only somewhat worrisome thing is I’m very brain-foggy, constantly weak, and having as hard a time focusing as during a depressive episode (which I am pretty sure I’m not in; it can be hard to tell but I don’t feel any of the other usual symptoms). I can’t walk all the way to the grocery store without getting winded, can’t do any of my usual exercise routine… Seriously, I collapsed after one pushup. One. I’m not even on painkillers or anything. I only found out after my last course of amoxicilin that chronic fatigue and executive dysfunction are known side effect. I’ve been on those pills over half a dozen times in the past and never had it before or even heard of it. Even the last time was more minor than this. I wonder if it’s because I have taken this particular drug repeatedly… For the first time I find myself seriously tempted not to finish the course of pills. I know, I know, I won’t do that. But I’ve heard a lot about the dangers of over-using antibiotic and it’s starting to look like I’m having some kind of cumulative reaction to them. It’s enough to worry me a bit.

    Or, hey, maybe it’s not the pills and I’m just developing some kind of chronic disorder. Wouldn’t that be the cherry on top.

    I have been trying to write since after the procedure yesterday and it’s still a real struggle. I can’t seem to just concentrate on the work; it’s a bad case of that old creative bottleneck that prevents me turning the ideas in my head into sentences on the page. Frustrating as hell, but familiar enough not to be scary.

    Anyway, that means the bad news is I’m still at a creative strangle and not making any real progress on even this poor half-completed chapter, to my unending frustration. I’m about ready to call it for tonight, but I will have another crack first thing tomorrow and maybe have at least something to put up on Wednesday.

    That I’ve made it this far is entirely thanks to the emergency support of readers. Thank you, all of you, so much. I will get back to work as quick as I’m able and get to earning that support. Sorry this has been such a generally disrupted and erratic year, and an especially erratic season. Book 15 looms very close! This and one more chapter in the bonus arc and then we’re there!

    I think I can I think I can I think I can…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Maybe you should get caught up on sleep before you think about work again. Spend a few days in bed and only come out for food… until your body regenerated its strength? 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Long time reader of the serial, mostly a lurker in the comments though. Love it and take all the time you need to recover.

      That being said, severe sleep deprivation can take a while to recover from(and antibiotics most definitely make things worse in terms of overall energy levels). You really should take a couple days to sleep and recover before thinking about work, it’s okay, we’ll wait. A few years ago, my 8 month old son had a really bad health issue: 10 days of very high fever and pretty much no sleep for any continuous period longer than 10min. I was also starting out at a new job so high stress and couldn’t easily take days off. I can definitely say I know what you’re talking about with the waking dreams, weird hallucinations, brain fog, etc… Just give your body as much rest as it needs and you’ll bounce back in a couple days. In my son’s case, his fever finally broke on a Friday afternoon, we all slept almost continuously till Sunday morning and then all was well with the world

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Had something like that happen to me years ago. I was working at a call center and a woman read her credit number to me. I wrote it down then read it back to her and she confirmed. Then I looked at what I wrote down and I realized it had absolutely no relation to what either of us had just said and that there was something really wrong with my brain.


    3. Speaking from a certain amount of experience of fatigue conditions…

      If you have any concern you may be developing one, it is vital to rest rather than trying to push through. Pushing through is the single worst thing you can do. Rest. Finish your course of antibiotics, take the time necessary to recover, and then and (if at all possible) only then get back to work.

      Obviously that’s the ideal, and reality gets in the way, but pushing yourself when you’re already deeply fatigued is the most reliable way to turn what’s currently a sort of extended acute fatigue into the genuine chronic article, and none of us want that.


      1. Seconded. PVFS, CFS, fibromyalgia, lupus… these are not things to court by pressing forward. *nods*

        Weeks of doing nothing in the short term and then pacing slowly up to snuff is worth avoiding the long term damage.


    4. Good lord, man. You just went through extended torture-by-toothache and then had a root canal and got pumped full of enough anesthetic to kill a horse, RELAX!

      I’m pretty sure your fanbase is with me when I say you need to rest and recover, not be trying to jump right back into the swing of things. Trying to go through an exercise routine after a root canal sounds nuts.

      Take the rest of the week off, take the weekend, help your body heal, you wild and amazing author, you.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Webb you would interested in having a Discord server created for TGaB? Where fans could discuss your book more and where you could visit to interact with them, answer questions, and post announcements? Not to take the place of this website at all but as a supplement. I am part of a few other Discord servers that are attached and partially run by the authors of web novels.

    Just an idea for you. I know you have a lot going on and more important things to think about. Like your health, for instance, takes priority.


    1. Discord servers are also great for chapter discussion and knowing when the next chapter is out, too. Might make it easier to get your announcements out there too?


    2. Funny you should mention it, I am actually planning on launching one. I’ve begun hanging out in a few discords to get a feel for the platform, not wanting to go into it knowing as little as I did about how it works. But that’s high on my agenda.


      1. I’m not sure that there’s really a lot to know, tbh. It’s literally just a group chat, and I don’t think anybody has huge expectations of a Discord server. If you want to have someone more experienced with Discord moderate it and stuff then they can handle all of it and you won’t have to worry about really getting a feel for the platform much, especially if it gets overwhelming. But, like Seckoo said, it’s just an idea. Please take care of yourself, and get well soon!


  16. It can take over a week to recover from chronic sleep deprivation, even aside from the tooth infection and the pain it causes. So please just rest and get better!


  17. Current plan is for the story to resume on Monday. I apologize for the continued delays; I’m still under the weather. Tooth is pretty much fine at this point, it’s down to an issue of rest and focus as I’m recovering more from the sleep deprivation while also on antibiotics. The pills will be done tomorrow and I see absolutely no reason I shouldn’t be fine by the end of the weekend at the latest.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I’ve loved this story since I found it, and I’m constantly surprised by how much content you release.

    But dude. Im sure I speak for everyone (and indeed many people have posted saying this)

    Don’t stress about it. Take the time you need to feel human again. It’s gonna be ok.

    Everyone will be here when you’re feeling good again


    Liked by 1 person

  19. Web, I stopped by to read about how the root canal went, and seriously man, take care you yourself. You just had minor surgery on your mouth. It’s ok to take the time you need to heal.

    That said, I’m really glad the procedure went well.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I’d hoped to finish this AND get the next chapter out, but as events unfolded I am still weak and having some trouble focusing. Not nearly as bad as before, though; I’m definitely on the mend.

    And that much is thanks to the generous support of readers. You guys really saved my butt this time. Well, my face, but that’s also important. I’m back at work now and will have the rest of this cranked out just as quick as I can.

    Liked by 3 people

  21. Oh Bollocks.

    Great work Webb – glad you’re feeling better! Please don’t be afraid to take it easy if you’re not feeling 100%.

    Question is – was Scyllith appearance caused by the activation like previously, or is she still somewhat capable at this time frame, and merely waiting for someone to activate the machine?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I suspect Scyllith is still capable and her appearance was caused indirectly by the activation. She saw the spike in energy/magic and investigated.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Scyllith is still completely capable, this is after second hellwar but before third where Arachne and Elial put Scyllith into her current state.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. I fear this is where Scyllith forces Szaiviss back into her service and against Araneid.

    Araneid would be very upset at what Scyllith has done to her drow people.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Given previous comments by Pantheon members about how even other Infinite Order members preferred to avoid her, one would conclude that she was among the worst of the lot.

      Liked by 2 people

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