15 – 4

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“I suppose it is possible,” Crystal said, her metal footfalls echoing on the path in the early morning quiet. The two of them walked through a rare bank of fog as a passing cloud drifted into the mountaintop, Tellwyrn’s passage as silent as any elf’s. The golem’s new body was actually lighter than her old, it metallic parts being much leaner and in fact designed after a human skeleton, padded on the limbs with lightweight material to fill out the suit she wore. The only shoes which had fit over her spring-loaded metal feet, however, were clumsy galoshes which she found awkward to wear, and so she went barefoot, hence the distinctive metallic sound of her gait. Though Crystal had taken to wearing gloves to conceal her skeletal-looking hands, as their appearance unnerved some of the new students, she once again had a simple steel mask for a face. She claimed it suited her.

“You were linked into that thing as closely as can be,” Tellwyrn prompted. “Is that really all you can tell me? It’s possible?”

“It really is, Professor, I’m sorry. The Crawl’s systems may have been as orderly as dwarven clockwork when they were first designed, but I think that was actually well before the Elder War. Millennia of being used by resident monsters and passing adventurers, adapting and repairing and growing, have made it something that seems very much organic in structure. I could isolate specific pieces of data to examine, but their organizational system made little sense, and the results of trying to perceive the overall whole were frustratingly vague. I can tell you that I don’t recall seeing any structures such as the students described to you, but I also could not swear that the functions of such a device might not have been integrated into the Crawl’s own ancient machinery, somehow. Everything down there is a ten-thousand-year hodgepodge.”

“It’s probably nothing about which we need worry,” Tellwyrn murmured, frowning into the fog around them. “It hasn’t caused any problems in fifty years and with Rowe gone, the Visage is no longer attracting critters from other realities… But these gates would account for that effect so very well, I don’t want to just ignore the possibility.”

“I didn’t hear the paladins’ report, obviously, but the way you described it, Professor, it sounded like Vesk had them all locked away except for the one lost under Puna Dara.”

“I never assume any god has full control over anything they’re supposed to, especially that one. Well, with Elder God crap in general the best policy is usually not to poke at it, so the last thing I want is to start tearing apart the Crawl to look for a putative dimensional gate that only might be down there. Still, I feel a little investigation is warranted. Morning, Andrew.”

“G’morning, Professor, Crystal!” Finchley said as the two of them passed through the inner security gate, lifting a steaming cup. A single fairy lamp glowed in the gatehouse office, illuminating the window through which he greeted them. “The kids have all gone through already. We’ve got a pot brewed if you wanna stop in on your way back. Some jasmine blend from Shengdu, real fancy stuff! Fedora either stole it or won it in a poker game, he was unclear.”

“I may take you up on that,” she said with a smile. “Work first, though.”

“As always. Watch your step going down the mountain, it’s pea soup out there.”

“I am an elf, you twit.”

“Wasn’t talking to you, Professor,” he grinned, unoffended.

“Thank you, Finchley, I will be careful,” Crystal promised, and they proceeded down through the new research campus. At that hour, it was even quieter than the old campus; students on the upper levels were already heading off to classes, but the visiting brains pursuing research projects tended to set more indulgent hours for themselves.

“When everyone’s settled into the new semester and you have time, Crystal, I’d like you to have another look, if you’re willing. With Alaric and Admestus along for safety’s sake, of course.”

“I certainly am, Professor, if you feel it is important. I may have better luck, knowing a specific thing for which to look, but I stress that I’m reluctant to guarantee any results.”

“Of course, this is just due diligence. As I said, it’s unlikely to be a problem if it hasn’t become one before now, but considering the mess that could have resulted from Rowe’s tampering if he wasn’t stopped… You’re certain he’s no longer an issue?”

“No child of Vanislaas is ever not an issue, Professor. They can’t be eliminated, just inconvenienced. I feel comfortable asserting he will have a harder time getting out of where I put him than he ever did escaping from Hell. If Rowe becomes a problem again, it will be for future generations.”

“I’ll take it,” Tellwyrn said with a smile. “All right, thanks for keeping me company; I see my next appointment up ahead. You’d better get the library opened.”

“Of course. Have a good morning, Professor. Let me know when you want me to investigate the Crawl again.”

“Will do. Take care.”

Crystal turned to head back up the path into the main campus, while Tellwyrn continued on down the wide avenue through the terraces of the research complex. In the morning quiet, she could already hear the conversation going on at the lower gate of the University’s expanded property.

“You did not call her a bitch!”

“Bet your sweet bippy I did. Right in front of my captain, the enforcers and the Huntsmen.”

“Bullshit, I don’t believe you. I used to hang out with the Fourth Legion when they were stationed where I grew up and a soldier who pulled that would’ve had the wrath of Avei come raining down on her.”

“Yeah, I think the LT was cursed by a fairy to never have to suffer the consequences of the crap she does.”

“Good to see everyone’s getting along,” Tellwyrn said, coming to a stop in the shadow of the outer gate, where three people in uniform were standing around apparently swapping stories.

“Hey, Professor!” Rook said cheerfully, rendering a singularly half-assed salute. “Morning, you missed the juniors by a few minutes.”

“How nice, they’ve developed the skill of showing up on time, finally,” she said, turning to the two Legionnaires. “That must have been an awkward meeting, Locke. Did you already spill the beans?”

“Oh, we only just got here a minute or two before you, Professor,” Principia replied, her tone suddenly far more polite than the one she’d used to josh around with Rook. Merry stood off to the side, apparently willing herself to be invisible. “Haven’t encountered the kids yet.”

“What amazingly precise timing you have,” Tellwyrn said dryly. “As always. All right, come along, I fear for the village if those little goons are left unattended in it for too long. See you later, Tom, try not to burn the place down.”

“The question is when I’m gonna burn the place down,” Rook said with a broad grin as she passed through the gates, Principia and Merry falling into step behind her. “You want in on the pool? I’m down for the week before graduation! If it involves a talking donkey and not Rafe’s alchemy lab I stand to really clean up.”

“He’s my favorite,” Tellwyrn commented while Rook and the gate receded into the distance behind them.

Principia cleared her throat. “I appreciate how gracious you’re being about all this, Arachne. I promise you won’t have cause to regret—”

“Cut that out,” the Professor growled.

“Pardon?”

“Being all polite and diplomatic, as if you were some kind of grown-up professional. I’ve known you too long, Prin. It’s creepy.”

“People do change, Arachne.”

“People can change. They usually don’t.”

“Then why take the risk?”

Tellwyrn turned her head to give the other elf a very wide grin, then faced forward again and continued walking in silence.

“Now that was a predatory look,” Merry mumbled. “I can’t decide if she wants to eat you or screw you.”

“Read the room, Lang. I think this situation calls for an awkward silence, not banter.”

“Oh, good. I’m great at those.”

To anyone familiar with the town of Last Rock over the last few decades, the view as one descended the mountain into its streets displayed its recent, rapid changes to great effect. The village was larger, with new construction spreading in all directions except up the mountainside itself, and now had even crossed the Rail line in a series of three sturdy footbridges and, a short distance to the south of the town proper, the beginnings of what would be a vehicle-friendly bridge crossing over the Rail. It also had new landmarks, with the flat but distinctive spread of the Vidian temple to the north and the white marble dome and columns of the Silver Mission in the opposite direction near the old road into town from Calderaas, two new windmills on the western edge beyond the Rail line, a new water tower and grain silo, and the jagged framework of what would be a second telescroll tower when its crystal orb was installed.

The three of them walked in silence, gazing out at the spread of Last Rock as they passed beneath the level of the cloud cover, and soon were stepping into its streets. It was sleepy as any rural town at this hour, but a few early risers exchanged polite greetings with Tellwyrn and gave the Legionnaires curious looks, often doing double-takes when they recognized Principia. She was smiling smugly at the trail of staring people they left behind by the time the group had reached their destination: the Rail platform.

New growth was evident here, too. Benches and street lamps had been added around the perimeter of the platform itself, the ticket stand was in the midst of a significant expansion into a proper office, and a newsstand selling papers from Tiraas and Calderaas had been erected at the edge of the street. The hot new rumor around town was that the Surveyor Corps was considering adding Last Rock to the regular travel rotation, instead of requiring caravans there to be specially commissioned.

The new junior class was taking advantage of the recently-installed benches. Teal and Shaeine were seated at one end, leaning against each other, while Juniper stretched out on the rest of their seat; the bench terminated against a lamp post, with another on its other side, where Gabriel sat straddling the wooden seat with his back against the pole, reading a comic. Fross was hovering around the top of the new street light, apparently inspecting the fairy lamp, while Toby and Trissiny stood talking quietly a few feet distant. Ruda paced up and down the edge of the platform, humming the tune of “I’d Hit Sally” under her breath. The animals played under the watchful eyes of Shaeine and Teal, F’thaan gamboling around the end of their bench while Sniff had retreated a few yards to study the young hellhound intently, his head twisting this way and that.

“Now, that’s what I like to see!” Tellwyrn said brightly, striding onto the platform with her escort trailing along behind. “Everybody in place, fully dressed, and mostly conscious, with no need for me to teleport anyone.”

“Don’t lie, you love teleporting people,” Ruda snorted.

“What is that doing here?” Shaiene demanded in a frigid tone.

“I see you all remember Lieutenant Locke,” Tellwyrn said. “One thing at a time, Mrs. Awarrion. Juniper, sit up; I require that my students at least pretend to be awake when I am addressing them. Now! I assume you’ve been clued in by your fellow students about the traditional junior class excursion, but for the sake of thoroughness and because many of your classmates are hysterical liars, I will summarize. You are going to a site in the Wyrnrange known in this era as the Desolate Gardens. This is a location of immense historical significance, currently administered by the Order of the Light, who will be your hosts. It is the location where the Third Hellwar started and ended, the site of the single largest hellgate ever created, which was the source of the demon invasion and the site of the last battle of the war. Now it is a sanctified place of healing, meditation, and retreat.”

“How sanctified, exactly?” Juniper asked. “I assume you wouldn’t send us to a place that would be inherently dangerous for Fross and me…”

“Thank you for crediting me with extremely basic sense, Juniper. Yes, the Desolate Gardens is mostly fine for you. There are powerfully divine-blessed locations on the site, some old chapels and shrines, but also a few spots of fae significance. The Order of the Light, despite its name, isn’t a strictly divine-wielding institution. They have always made heavy use of mages and witches, and even fairy allies.”

“What are we to do there, Professor?” Toby asked.

“This is a free-form exercise, rather like your Golden Sea trips. Rather than survival, however, the point of this trip is to test your mental and emotional balance.”

“How so?” Trissiny demanded.

Tellwyrn smiled vaguely. “Now, now. If I explain everything ahead of time, there is virtually no point in going. The Desolate Gardens are a place where people tend to find…what they need. With you lot, the results should be very interesting indeed. As a side note, it is also the place where Vadrieny and I came closest to encountering one another prior to her enrollment here. We were both present at that last battle, though we did not personally interact. I tell you this,” she added directly to Teal in a more serious tone, “simply to forewarn. I know she has had unexpected memories pop up before, and this is the first time I’m sending you to a place where that’s specifically likely to happen. At this point, Vadrieny has earned trust, and I am not worried. I just don’t want that to sneak up on you.”

“We both appreciate that, Professor,” Teal replied.

“So,” said Gabriel, glancing around the quiet platform, “does this mean you’re going to be our guardian on this trip, Professor?”

Tellwyrn sighed softly and adjusted her glasses. “Right. This is, as I said, a free-form exercise. Usually students are accompanied by one of the dorm guardians rather than a Professor, as the objective is not to pursue academic goals. Your attendant is along more as insurance than leadership, there simply to watch over you in case of some severe injury or other unforseeable disaster. None of which have ever happened on this particular field trip, but as you know my rule about letting students off-campus unattended is inviolable. And besides, if there were going to be an unforseeable disaster it’d be you little bastards who brought it on.”

“Man, you run off and charge one hellgate and everybody gets a fuckin’ attitude,” Ruda snorted.

“I’m sure I needn’t explain all the changes affecting our school, so I won’t,” Tellwyrn continued, “except to say that the research campus is not the end of it by far. For most of its history the University has stood effectively apart from the world, but that’s not going to work for much longer. Rather than lurk on our mountaintop and wait for the world to overtake us, I am taking steps to reach out and be the initiator, or at least active participant, in forging new connections. In the last two years I have been actively in contact with the Imperial government, and since the construction of the research facilities we have made formal academic exchanges with several other universities in the Tiraan Empire, the Five Kingdoms, Syralon, and most recently in the Republic of Sheng-La. Point is, from here on out, we are going to be less and less isolated out here. Students at ULR will have ever more interaction with the wider world. Given the way the world is shaping up and what our students need, I think this will be all to the good.”

“Hang on, now,” said Ruda, looking at Principia. “You can’t be leading up to…”

“Yes, in fact,” Tellwyrn replied flatly. “This trip will be an experiment toward that ongoing goal. It will mark the first University excursion overseen by non-University personnel. On your visit to the Desolate Gardens, your assigned chaperones will be Lieutenant Locke and Corporal Lang of the Third Silver Legion.”

All the students immediately began talking at once, most loudly. The exceptions were Ruda, who was laughing so hard she had to slump against the lamp post to brace herself, and uncharacteristically Gabriel, who simply studied Locke in silence.

Tellwyrn let this go on for thirty seconds, and then raised one finger. A thin, piercing whine rose in the air, causing the general furor of complaints to dissolve into a few pained shouts.

“What the fuck?!” Ruda roared the second it cut off. “Naphthene’s tits, you sadistic old bag, I liked it better when you just blew shit up and made loud noises!”

“Dunno, that was a pretty loud noise,” Toby said, still twisting a fingertip in his ear and grimacing.

“It’s year three now, and incredibly, I still have to say this,” Tellwyrn sighed. “Think. Use those brains instead of just reacting. I know your history with Locke; she’s guilty of offenses against you, in particular, for which I have been known to fling people bodily off my mountain. And now I’m placing her nominally in charge of you, out from under my watchful eye. Rather than flying off the handle, read between the lines and see if you can figure out what this means. Anyone?”

“It means,” Gabriel said quietly, still staring at Principia, “you literally don’t care if we kill her.”

In the stillness, Trissiny and Shaeine both shifted their heads in unison to look at him, then at Principia, and finally back at Tellwyrn. Locke herself wore a vague smile which had not faltered during the whole conversation; Merry, now, began edging away from her.

Tellwyrn pointed at Gabriel. “You know, Arquin, I have come to regard you as one of my biggest successes. Not that you’re the brightest star in the firmament by any means, but you are ten times the man you were when you arrived here, and if there’s one thing I like to see in my students, it’s self-improvement. As is becoming a pattern with you, you’ve hit the nail on the head.”

“Interesting,” Shaeine enunciated tonelessly. At that, Principia’s smile finally slipped.

“In the years to come,” said Tellwyrn, “things like this are going to become more and more frequent. I foresee a variety of scenarios in which students at this very exclusive University will be placed temporarily under the guidance of people from other institutions. My intention is to get a feel for how this will work, iron out the kinks, and suss out ahead of time any unexpected problems that may arise. This particular assignment is going to be a test case, and I have chosen it specifically because of the lack of risk involved.”

She began pacing slowly up and down the platform while speaking, hands folded behind her. “Locke came here to reach out on behalf of High Commander Rouvad, who is looking to ingratiate the Sisterhood with my school in pursuit of a new goal of hers, not dissimilar from my own. This makes a perfect low-stakes test case because the Sisterhood has nothing I want. If you kids manage to screw this up beyond all hope of redemption…” She shrugged. “Oh, well.

“The risk is further minimized if I make your class the lab rats in this exercise, for two reasons: one, hardly anything in the world is a severe physical danger to you, so I worry less about your actual safety than most other students. And two, despite some early hiccups, you have grown to be a reliable group. I trust you not to cause trouble that didn’t need to be caused. Those of you who are smirking had better cease immediately. I don’t do flattery and the second I see a need I can give a ten-minute off-the-cuff speech on the crippling character flaws of each and every one of you.”

She stopped speaking and pace, sweeping a gimlet eye across the whole group, under which there was total silence except for a tiny growl from F’thaan.

“And finally,” Tellwyrn continued at last, “there is, as we have mentioned, the curious case of Principia Locke. In a hypothetical worst-case scenario, Rouvad will have to make offended noises if one of her soldiers gets mangled, but in this case they will be less than emphatic. You can always tell where Prin has been because that’s where you’ll find people pissed off at her. I expect you to comport yourselves properly as representatives of this University and not inflict unnecessary trouble upon your chaperones, but let’s face it: if this whole thing ends with Principia’s head rolling into a ditch, nobody’s going to be especially cheesed off at me about it. I would be disappointed at the lack of respect shown to Trissiny’s feelings, should that occur, but even she would get over it pretty quickly. Any disagreement on that?”

This time, she turned to include Locke in her inquisitive stare. Nobody raised an objection, though Trissiny frowned, Merry and Ruda grinned, and Principia and Shaeine had both gone eerily expressionless.

“Very good, then,” Tellwyrn went on briskly. “Locke has your full travel itinerary, though it’s not too involved. You will be going by Rail to the town of Hollowfield; it’s a caravan ride of only a few minutes that’ll put you about equidistant between Mathenon and Stavulheim. There you will be met by representatives of the Order of the Light, who will conduct you on a roughly two-day trip overland through the mountain roads to the Desolate Gardens. As is both traditional and part of the exercise, your time of departure will not be known to you. Locke knows the schedule. As does Lang, who seems a fairly inoffensive person, so if you little buggers can’t behave, at least try to keep one of them alive.”

“Hey, question,” said Ruda, raising her hand. “How come you can’t just teleport us right to the place, like you did in Puna Dara?

“Because too much convenience is not good for you,” Tellwyrn said placidly. “Especially since that incident required me to intervene before you lot could run off without me, and there are consequences for putting me out.”

“Well, I think it sounds like fun!” Fross chimed. “I’ve never gone on a journey into the mountains before! I always felt like we missed out on that in Veilgrad.”

“Ah, ah,” Juniper chided, scowling up at her. “No legs, no opinion on the two-day hike.”

“I’ve got legs,” Fross protested. “And I’d like to see you fly everywhere if you think it’s so easy!”

“If the Golden Sea didn’t kill us, this won’t,” Toby said, firmly but with a smile.

“That’s the spirit!” Tellwyrn said cheerfully. “All right, you know what you need to. Locke will be able to reach me in the event of an emergency. Keep in mind her position and if she is forced to remind you of University rules I’ll expect you to listen, but aside from that, she is not actually authorized to order you about. She is hundreds of years old, a veteran Eserite, and apparently a surprisingly competent soldier, so in the event of a crisis, I suggest getting her input. By and large, however, you’re under your own guidance.”

“In the event of a crisis,” said Principia, “I’m not going to try to stop this group from racing to the fore. I understand that’s something of a pattern with them.”

“Oh, naturally,” Tellwyrn replied. “Equally naturally I will still hold you fully accountable for whatever befalls them, whether or not you could have stopped it. That’s the job you signed up for.”

“Of course,” Principia replied with a sardonic grimace.

Ruda cracked her knuckles loudly.

“And with that,” said Tellwyrn, grinning wolfishly, “you are officially on your own, kids. Your caravan will be here at the top of the hour. While you wait, know that I’m going to be enjoying a cup of imported jasmine tea in the comfort of the guardhouse. And I’m not even going to have to walk there!”

At the distance she stood from them, even the tiny puff of displaced air caused by her teleportation was inaudible; she was simply, suddenly gone.

“How long do you think it’s gonna be till she forgives us for Puna Dara?” Gabriel asked. “Seems unfair. We didn’t even succeed in running away, that time.”

Ruda cackled. “How long can elves live?”

“That is the question of the day, isn’t it,” Teal said in an innocent tone, not looking in Principia’s direction. Shaeine silently took her hand, interlacing their fingers.

Principia herself put on a broad smile and clapped her gauntleted hands together loudly, stepping forward to the center of the Rail platform. “Well! Here we are, then, campers. Who’s ready to go on an adventure?”

All of them stared back at her in total silence. Except F’thaan, who growled in tiny dislike.

Merry took a circumspect step backward from her commanding officer.

Undeterred by this chilly reception, Principia opened her mouth to speak again.

A wall of silver light flashed into being behind her and swept forward, shoving her bodily past them and off the platform. The shield dissipated at the edge, though by that point it had built up enough speed to launch her all the way over the Rail line itself.

While Gabriel applauded, Ruda shouted criticism of her landing and Toby hopped down to help her up, Trissiny sidled over to the end of the bench where Shaeine and Teal sat and leaned over to murmur to them.

“Please don’t actually kill her, though.”

“Of course, Trissiny,” Shaeine said immediately, nodding deeply to her. “I would never show such disregard for your feelings. Besides, my mother always taught me that homicide is a lesser revenge.” She paused, turning her head to glance over her shoulder at Principia, who had landed lightly and was now reassuring Toby as to her condition. “I have much better ideas.”

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66 thoughts on “15 – 4

  1. Sorry about Friday. Turns out it wasn’t strictly bipolar symptoms; I’m running a low fever now. It doesn’t feel serious, I’m sure it’ll pass within another day or two.

    The next update day happens to be Christmas! I’m at home alone with no plans, so this shouldn’t affect the schedule. I hope everybody has been having a wonderful holiday season and continues to do so for as long as whatever festivals you may observe are going on!

    Liked by 4 people

      1. That’s it?
        Surely it doesn’t warrant homicide?
        Isn’t Shaene the diplomat? Supposed to understand Prin’s motives?
        Fine to be chilly etc etc but she is obviously trying to reinvent herself, something that Shaene should notice, that should stand for something?
        I’d thought she would be more sanguine about it.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. I think that what a lot of people are missing here is that during the last major(full) party interaction with Principia, she not only drugged them, but also placed a Black Wreath-esque tracking charm on a paladin. That’s probably the bigger sticking point for some of them.

        Like

  2. I think Shaeine is blowing this way out of proportion. All Prin did was make her delicious pancakes laced with drugs lots of people probably pay good money for.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Shae is being surprisingly petty and vindictive about this. I like it. Also, got a horrible feeling Prin might actually die doing something shockingly heroic to protect Triss and everyone is gonna feel bad about this moment.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Even discounting the fact that we know Principia better than they do and the fact that getting people pissed off at her was actually part of Principias calculated strategy, most of the people here, and especially Shaeine, come across as real assholes here.

    Shaeine refusing to forgive her was warranted, slyly trying to trick Prin into approaching her mother was warranted, even shoving her off the station would be warranted if that was the end of it, but based on the last comment she is definitely the bad guy here. Everyone else just casually disliking hero’s understandable, but things like Shaeine implying she’s not killing Principia because it would be rude to Trissiny and it wouldn’t be enough of a revenge makes her seem like a goddamn psychopath

    Liked by 4 people

    1. One has to consider the source though. Since this is Shaeine we’re talking about, it’s probably safe to assume those “better ideas” are NOT actually going to be genuinely vicious and her saying that homicide was too little revenge was just Shaeine being sardonic.

      That said, we can probably expect Shaeine (and everyone else who isn’t Merry) to creatively mess with Prin, at least at first. Prin can certainly take care of herself, but given the composition of that group, I almost feel sorry for her. Almost.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Sure, but the last time we saw someone get “pranked” like that in justified anger, Trissiny shoved Schwartz in the canal as well.

        We’re either going to get Principia messing with the class and it being entirely justified, or it’s just going to be cruel. While Principia is a bit of an asshole, she’s also been a target of unwarranted amounts of abuse throughout the entire story…aside from being thrown out of a church and scorned for some time by Trissiny which was pretty warranted.

        Liked by 5 people

    2. I think it’s the drow culture. They take offense very seriously. It’s like Sonny Barger used to say “You treat me well, I’ll treat you better. You treat me badly, I’ll treat you worse.”

      Liked by 2 people

    3. It might make her seem like a psychopath in human terms but I suspect it’s a fair and reasoned response for a drow. With Shaeine’s ambassadorial veneer it’s easy to project humanity on to her; this seems pretty much in line with what we saw of Tar’naris culture in Kuriwa’s background story and the handling of Chase. Kids in spider boxes, etc.

      Liked by 4 people

    4. Tellwyrn said it right at the start, this whole exercise is about growth… is it any wonder someone is being actively an asshole when they shouldn’t?

      But that won’t be the extent of it, oh now the author is real damn good at the whole misdirection thing 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    5. Don’t forget that their ultimate authority figure, Tellwyrn, basically encouraged them to be an asshole to Principia and then BAMFed out.

      I’m pretty much assuming that this is a setup to teach them a lesson about hostile work environments.

      Like

  5. I don’t think Shaeine, or any of the others, is actually serious about getting revenge on Principia. Aside from it going against most of their own beliefs it is counter productive.

    I can see them playing pranks on Prin for a while though.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha ha, but probably no? Gabriel seems very-anti Principia atm, second only to Shaiene and Teal, and I’m not sure where he in particular is coming from with that. I may have forgotten some interaction they had.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m not going to lie, I’m really put off buy the whole hating on Principia. It’s certainly understandable that the cast would be mad at her, what they’re doing now is just bullying. They are a group of powerful, largely unpunishable people core being cruel to someone basically because they don’t like her. This cruelty extends not only into icy hostility, but also violence. Principia’s actions, while certainly upsetting, had no significant long or short-term consequences for anybody. I’m particularly Disturbed that a paladin of the God of Justice is putting up with this, even if she doesn’t like the person in question. Perhaps even especially as she doesn’t like the person question.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m really hoping this isn’t going to continue like this for several chapters. So far people who are assholes (beyond what she deserves) to Prin have been murderers and rapists. Unless this gets a lot more lighthearted soon it’s going to be super weird to have the main class in the category with them.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The group don’t know any of that though. All they know is that this is Trissiny’s weird stalker-mother, who once drugged them in order to selfishly inject herself into the life of the daughter she abandoned as an infant. She’s also a thief, which most people don’t like, for good reason.

        They don’t know about her time in the Legion, or the good work she’s done. All they know is that Trissiny’s stalker-mother joined the Legions, somehow conned her way into the rank of lieutenant, did a fairly good job during her mission in Puna Dara, and has now shown up again, presumably to get closer to Trissiny.

        Is it really surprising that they would be suspicious of her?

        Liked by 2 people

      2. @dresden67 It’s not surprising that they would be suspicious or even outright hostile, but their group is ridiculously powerful and several of them are sitting around casually tormenting Principia and talking about how killing her isn’t enough of a revenge. Sure they’re almost certainly not serious, but it comes across as more cruel than pranking.

        Also, I know they don’t know anything about Principias life, I meant that it’s weird to put our main characters in the spot usually reserved for the more despicable people in this story.

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    2. The group can get pretty judgemental, like most almost-adults. Their response to Milanda was pretty brutal, leaving her massively traumatised in a pool of blood as they thought she was being extremely irresponsible – they didn’t like the way she helped.

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      1. Milanda was being extremely irresponsible.

        She was handed significant power that she had no understanding of, she did nothing to earn it and had no idea how to use it. Her total combat training consisted of ‘growing up in Viridill’. Her only previous mission was a complete cock-up that ended with her losing control and massacring a bunch of defenseless soldiers. She was then advised to get counseling, which she blithely ignored. In an ordinary person, that’s stupid. For soldiers and law enforcement it’s stupid and reckless. For someone who is capable of slaughtering a room full of people in under a minute, it’s negligent homicide.

        She showed up in Puna Dara and arrogantly assumed that the sophomores were just going to get in her way; even though they, unlike her, actually earned and trained with their abilities and had experience in this sort of situation. She then proceeded to mess with something she didn’t understand and screw up the students’ diplomatic effort and cause a giant monster to be unleashed in the harbour. Great job.

        She then cheerfully went on to go into a dangerous and unpredictable situation without informing her companions that at any moment she could snap and start killing people.

        That’s not helping.

        Also, being hostile and suspicious towards someone who once drugged you isn’t judgemental, it’s sanity.

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  7. I did think the rest of the group would have gotten over the anti-Principia thing by now, since they were allies in the Puna Dara episode. With the exception of Shaiene, who wasn’t there.

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  8. Huh. Prin seems to be pretty much just *letting* everyone push her around. There’s definitely a balance to be had between being a doormat and retaliating with everything, a balance which Prin is too clever not to know how to walk. This implies that she’s *allowing* herself to be pushed around, rather than firmly setting appropriate boundaries (such as “don’t shove me across rail tracks with divine light, asshole”). Makes me wonder what her goal is here; Prin isn’t the type to enter a situation so obviously stacked against her without a plan to benefit somehow from it, but her mind is twisty enough that I can’t reasonably predict yet what she’s going for by allowing herself to be bullied.

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    1. Well, the most obvious one here is that there is actually only one person whose opinion she cares about here, and getting her daughter to actively stand up for her would be a big victory that she might leverage to build some bridges.

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    2. Remember that command to start building Avei’s first legion, the one that’s supposed to be able to break any and all opposition? I bet you anything this is part of Principia’s plan to try and accomplish that.

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    3. One of the first rules of leadership is to never give an order that you know won’t be obeyed. Similarly in this situation, never try to exert authority when you have no means of backing it up.

      Principia is by a wide margin the least physically or magically powerful person present. Her moral authority amounts to zero. How exactly is she supposed to set boundaries with people who neither respect nor like her, and have been told that there will be basically no consequences no matter what happens to her?

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      1. That’s not what they’ve been told. They’ve been told that Tellwyrn doesn’t mind, and that she expects Commander Rouvad won’t be overly upset, but that’s actually no guarantee that nobody else would take offense at her being mistreated. Further, she’s officially an Eserite in good standing so getting too rough with her would have consequences. Any more than some disrespect and roughhousing is probably pushing it, and Shaeine may learn that the hard way.

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    1. Nothing specifically. She was there with Maureen during the Hand’s assault. If you’re asking why she seems to have left the juniors despite them rescuing her, it’s cause she’s kind of integrated more with the sophomore girls. Ravana was giving her lessons on etiquette, Maureen was her little friend to protect, she just kind of fit better with them than the junior class. Nothing has been done to her to send her back to hell, I don’t think, and if something has occurred during the time skip Webb just hasn’t brought it up yet. For that matter, what ever happened to the conclave of the winds? They’ve been offscreen longer than Scorn, and have a bit more punch to them that would be interesting to see what they’ve done.

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  9. This is really embarrassing, especially after I announced an intended chapter for midweek and after a schedule slip last Friday, but I’m hit with a really bad depressive episode. A sudden one and a lot worse than I usually get; it’s actually physically hard to move. I think it might be seasonal affective thingy, which I’ve never had before but this is my first holiday over a thousand miles from any family and I’ve spent it sitting alone in my apartment.

    I will try again first thing tomorrow and see if I can’t get some work done. Sometimes a night’s sleep helps work it out. Sorry for the delay.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It happens, nothing to be embarrassed about especially during depressive episode when that might just cause more shitty thought loops. Just concentrate on taking care of yourself for a bit, you’ve obviously got through rough periods before so can make through this.

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  10. For people thinking Shaeine is over reacting and holding a grudge against Prin, remember that the drugs Prin used didn’t just make the kids docile, it made them happy and lowered their inhibitions. It caused Shaeine to drop her public mask and fully emote in front of people who were still mostly strangers. As a drow in general and a diplomat specifically, that kind of abuse is going to be extra damming. It would be like if someone dosed you and then had you tell your most private secrets to strangers.

    Also, Prin hasn’t really apologized or done anything to show remorse about her actions. Shaeine is still pissed but doesn’t really have a reason not to be.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Keep in mind nobody outside of Avei herself and the Commander knows that Prin was basically chosen by Avei to be doing what she is doing. I don’t remember if Trissiny even knows. So most people assume she is pulling some sort of long con on the cult like she always does.

      However, tossing an elf about like a rag doll, when it is known how physically frail they are, is pretty messed up. Prin might be a little more resilient since she is supposedly taken that potion that strengthens elves bodies, but the Juniors don’t know that.

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      1. Actually, there was a brief mention that Prin did not go through the procedure to strengthen elves usually required to admit them to the Silver Legions. She put in a ton of effort to get swole enough to pass the strength requirements all on her own.

        I honestly don’t remember when it was, but I distinctly remember she had that conversation.

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  11. This has been one of the worst down phases I can remember. I barely managed to sleep last night; it’s not often depression actually keeps me awake. I think I’m starting to swing back upward, thank god for my rapid cycling. At any rate I feel a little bit better, though it’s obviously hard to tell in any objective sense. It’s still pretty bad, though. I’ve been trying to write all morning and accomplished nothing except to stare at a blank word processor for ten minutes at a stretch.

    I’m really hoping this was a seasonal thing. If this is my actual disorder making a sudden change I’m in trouble. Don’t know how many episodes like this one I can make it through.

    I will have a chapter up, or something up, as soon as I’m able. I’m just not functioning enough to be useful right now.

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  12. Maybe you should just say the story updates once a week, but then continue to just write as much as you can. That way if you manage to write anywhere close to your current target like getting bonus chapters. Occasionally getting extra chapters when only expecting one a week would make everyone a lot happier than sitting around waiting for chapters that don’t come. Might take some pressure off of you too.

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    1. I think that that is the best idea.
      Make a schedule that you can stick to, however long between updates that is.
      That way we all know the routine and you get to focus on your writing and dealing with your mental health without the added pressures of deadlines.

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  13. I think Shaeine needs to be careful with her vengeange.
    Prin will accept punishment where merited, and won’t complain (much) about people giving her shit.
    But Prin is an Eserite, and a bloody good one at that, so if Shaeine goes too far, or abuses her position, be it as a friend to paladins, member of a noble house or a diplomat, Prin can, and will, teach her humility.

    Prin is my favorite character in this story, with no exceptions, she’s fun, intelligent, and mature on a way most characters are not.
    Though i guess the comparison is kinda unfair as most of the characters are still basicly children.

    That said, Shaeine is also pretty high on my list of favorite characters, so i am really waiting to see these two interact.

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      1. Remember dude, Prin has built up an image of being an irreverent pain in the ass, but think back to the stuff when Prin and Shook were still in Last Rock. Sweet, Style, the Boss and the Archivist (I’ve forgotten both their Tags) found Prin’s 17 (or was it more?) Entries in their filing system, detailing her entire career as what essentially amounts to the most devout perfect Eserite. Hell, they said Prin paid tithes out of her own pocket if a job didn’t make enough to cover it.
        That’s pretty damn mature to me.

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      2. Exactly, when evaluating Prin, we need to remember that she is a devout Eserite, to a point that even the High Priest and Bishop of Eserion are impressed.
        And Eserite religion is built around the central concept that the powerful should not be allowed to get too comfortable.
        And most of the important cast are among the mighty, or involved with systems, political or religious, and Prins whole raison d’être revolves around reminding these people not to get too arrogant.
        So it is pretty easy for Prin to come of as nothing more than an annoying joker.
        And, yes, she often is an annoying joker, but she is so for a reason.

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      3. @Big Brother She’s built up that image because she is an irreverent pain in the ass. She’s a highly competent con artist and a devout Eserite, but that faith doesn’t particularly require maturity. It’s outright doctrine to treat life as a game.

        Remember the time she got pregnant in order to con some nobleman, then after she had the kid decided it would cramp her style to keep her around, so she handed her over to Arachne Tellwyrn of all people to deal with. So very, very mature.

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      4. @Jani Nyyssönen Yes, they dislike the powerful and wealthy and act to counter their ambitions… by setting themselves up as above the law, acting as totally unaccountable vigilantes and stealing from anyone some random Eserite decides deserves it. What heroes they are. Eserites are at least as arrogant as any of the people they target.

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      5. Eserites will be among the first people to tell you they are not nice people.
        It’s one of the more endearing qualities they have. That self awareness that lot of other cults seem to lack.
        But as neither crime nor corruption is going away anytime soon, Eserites tend to be a lesser evil to unbridled corruption, abuse of power, and organized crime as we see in the real world.
        Best part of the Eserites is that they are just as, if not more, vary of each other as they are of the mighty they seek to humble. They are by no means unaccountable, they are constantly watched by each other, by the law enforcement (they are not above the law, the need for lawyers clearly shows that), the Avenites (they take everything so seriously), Eserion himself, etc…

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      6. @Jani Nyyssönen Some Eserites are very self-aware, but others are annoyingly self-righteous about stealing from people.

        I agree that the Thieves Guild is the lesser evil, but a lesser evil is still an evil.

        You’re right that most Eserites are constantly on the look out for corruption within, but that’s still thieves judging each other by their own internal standards.

        As for Imperial law enforcement or Avenists, I’d question how effective they actually are. In the entire series we’ve yet to see an Eserite face any real legal consequences for their actions. You mention the presence of Thieves Guild lawyers, but if anything what we see of them goes against your point. When Rasha was arrested there was never any doubt in anyone’s mind that a Guild lawyer could get him off for almost anything.

        I’ll believe in legal consequences for Eserites when we see them and thus far we haven’t. They might not technically be above the law but in reality they operate with near impunity.

        Anyway, my original point was just that being an Eserite doesn’t even remotely mean that Prin is a moral, ethical or mature person. It certainly doesn’t mean she isn’t arrogant.

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      7. I’m not saying that being Eserite makes Prin a mature person, just pointing out that much of her more annoying actions stem from her being Eserite surrounded by the high and mighty of the world.

        Prin is a rebel, but not simply for the sake of being a rebel, she has principels she follows, there’s a method to her madness so to speak, and her time in the legion has shown her to be mature, capable and thoughtful individual who does care about the soldiers under her command.

        She makes mistakes, getting pregnant for a con and giving up Trissiny for adoption may have been among them, her first attempts at meeting Triss almost certainly were, but she owns up to them and learns from them.

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  14. I think that what a lot of people are missing here is that during the last major(full) party interaction with Principia, she not only drugged them, but also placed a Black Wreath-esque tracking charm on a paladin. (See: WH40K “Heresy”)

    Hell, the main three man band (the paladins) themselves have enough reason to kill her just on those grounds. Beyond the drugging, she used one of Elilial’s tricks on a paladin, at a time that it was implied that doing so was just for Prin’s own benefit. Further, Shaeine is really protective of Teal, and drugging someone who shares the soul of a fuck-mothering Arch-Demon is probably not a good play.

    In all, the party not only has good reason not to trust her as far as they can throw her (which is actually pretty far, for some of them), but in fact has justifiable cause to outright kill her.

    Also worth mentioning/remembering is that Triss is the only one with any reason to want her alive. She’s the only one who has really seen Prin change in any way. If the other’s aren’t killing her (Toby excepted, because he’s nice to everyone), my bet is that it’s legitimately because of Triss’s feelings. They missed out on the character building we (the readers) got to see. If we didn’t get to see it, then we would probably ourselves wonder why she wasn’t killed by Tellwyrn just for showing back up.

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    1. Your “reason to kill” is a pretty low bar to clear, especially considering all that crap the student team has gotten up to since then.

      I would not expect them to like Priss, or trust her, but homicidal rage is not really in the cards here.

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  15. @Jani Nyyssönen Yes, they dislike the powerful and wealthy and act to counter their ambitions… by setting themselves up as above the law, acting as totally unaccountable vigilantes and stealing from anyone some random Eserite decides deserves it. What heroes they are. Eserites are at least as arrogant as any of the people they target.

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  16. I expect attitudes towards Principia to change once the story comes out about her squad’s interactions with Basra. Her actions there more than make up for the earlier ill-advised shenanigans.

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