15 – 9

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“What is a vampire?” Hesthri demanded.

The carriage went over a bump, jostling them all and causing Natchua to growl wordlessly as she had to scramble to sustain the plate-sized spell circle she was crafting in midair between them out of lines of fire.

“A vampire is an apex shadow magic creation,” Melaxyna replied. Unlike the rest of them, she appeared perfectly relaxed, having spun around on the carriage bench to lean her back against Sherwin’s shoulder, with one leg extended to brace a bare foot against the door. “The only monsters of any significant power that don’t derive their nature from any of the four primary schools of magic. It’s…a lot to go over, actually, what’s immediately relevant is that most of them are not to be trifled with. There are different blood lineages with different powers, as I understand it. Malivette Dufresne is a pretty heavy hitter.”

“Uh…huh,” Hesthri said slowly, wide-eyed. “And why are we just passively going along to her house, then?”

“Because she demanded it,” Sherwin said bitterly. “Which she can only sort of do, legally, but it’s the vampire part that concerns me more than the Imperial governor part.”

“Is it?” Jonathan grunted. “I’m a bit more concerned that a vampire is an Imperial governor.”

“Makes sense to me!” Melaxyna said lightly. “You want a governor who won’t be pushed around, right? And if she’s also an object of fear and revulsion, you don’t have to worry about her building a power base and leading a rebellion. Maybe all the Imperial governors should be vampires!”

“I wouldn’t make suggestions like that in front of Vette,” Sherwin advised. “The vampire who gave her the curse also wiped out her entire family.”

A strained quiet fell, in which they stared at each other and listened to the grinding of the carriage’s wheels and the clopping of hooves that pulled it along.

“Okay,” Hesthri said at last. “New question, then. How are we going to fight her?”

“No fighting!” Sherwin insisted, actually shrugging Melaxyna off to straighten up with an alarmed expression. “You may’ve got the wrong impression from that ‘heavy hitter’ talk—Malivette isn’t a thing like me or Natchua, or Mel, or you. She is off the Circle of Interaction entirely, which means there’s no easy counter to her powers. And her powers are just ridiculous to begin with. I’m frankly not sure the whole group of us could take her down in a fight, if it was her alone. But she’ll have her whole gaggle of thralls around, so that’s not even slightly possible.”

“Oh,” the hethelax said in a very small voice, leaning forward to look at Jonathan. The two of them were separated by Natchua on the bench. He shifted to meet Hesthri’s eyes, and started to reach across to take her hand, which brought his own close to the circle Natchua was creating in the air.

“Out of the way!” she barked.

“It’s not exactly all bad,” Sherwin added, almost grudgingly. “Vette probably won’t do anything too violent to us, for the other reason we shouldn’t try it on her.”

“Other reason?” Jonathan said incredulously.

“Imperial governor, remember?” Melaxyna prompted with a grin.

Sherwin nodded in sour agreement. “Even if we could take her, there’d be hell to pay. Likewise, she can’t just up and murder a bunch of people.”

“Why not?” Jonathan asked in his driest tone. “Aristocrats do that all the time. Who the hell cares about us?”

“I am the last member and nominal Head of House Leduc,” Sherwin said with a heavy sigh. “It’s not exactly a conventional situation up here, but Houses Leduc and Dufresne have been feuding and struggling over the control of Veilgrad and Lower Stalwar Province for generations. Only thing that kept it from getting nasty was the rest of the Houses watching the situation. The Empire wouldn’t give a crap about anything that happened to me, but if the vampire aristocrat was even implicated in my demise, the other Houses would raise a stink until the Silver Throne had to come down on her. They can’t have her bumping off competition, especially since nothing in any of their arsenals would even slow Vette down. Nobles reliably freak out about anything that even smells like a threat to their power, so she can’t afford to be anything but a model citizen. Fucking politics,” he added in a sullen grumble, crossing his arms and leaning his head against Melaxyna’s. “This crap is why I never leave the house.”

“Oh,” Jonathan said neutrally, “is that why.”

Sherwin narrowed his eyes at him, while Melaxyna grinned. Jonathan, meanwhile, shifted his attention to Natchua.

“Do you really have to do that right here and now? I’d at least like to know how much cancer we can all expect to get from being this close to hasty infernomancy.”

“Nothing I ever do will be so uncontained as to cause splash effects,” Natchua sneered.

“She’s right, that spell is fully inert beyond its boundaries,” Sherwin added. “Very tight confinement work. That’s the most important skill a warlock can have, you know. Which is not to say I can tell what she’s doing; I’ve never seen anything remotely like that.”

“The Black Wreath would make anybody they caught doing this disappear,” Natchua said, eyes on her spell. “Since the whole plan is to go after them before they even think to come after us, worrying about that would seem somewhat redundant. And no, Jonathan, I would rather not be doing this here and now. Handling it in a moving carriage makes it orders of magnitude more difficult. Circumstances have kind of forced my hand, though. There.” She lowered her hands, and the glowing runic circle remained in midair, rotating slowly and remaining perfectly in position relative to the carriage. Natchua snapped her fingers and opened her palm, and a dagger dropped from the empty air into her grasp, a short knife with a wickedly sinuously blade whose cutting edge glowed as if red-hot.

“Whoah, now,” Melaxyna said, finally looking somewhat perturbed.

“Hesthri, give me your hand,” Natchua ordered.

Hesthri immediately scooted away from her against the side of the carriage, tucking her hands against her chest and frowning. “What? Why? What are you going to do?”

“There is not time to go into it!” Natchua snapped. “I’m not going to hurt you; I didn’t go to the considerable trouble of tracking you down to treat you wastefully. But you also weren’t called here for a vacation! You agreed to follow my orders on this campaign, and if you’ve decided you’re not going to do that, you may as well go right back where you were.”

“Hey,” Jonathan said sharply, “don’t talk to her like that!”

“Hush, boy,” Melaxyna drawled. “Every word she just said was right. This whole scheme is crazy, but we did all agree to follow the drow, and by implication, trust her. Anybody who’s having second thoughts urgently needs to fuck off.”

Hesthri drew in a sharp breath as if anticipating pain, but then extended her hand to Natchua, albeit with some hesitation.

The drow seized her index finger with her left hand, and with her right, very carefully began trimming away the claw on her fingertip. Hesthri winced, watching, but did not twitch.

“Huh,” Sherwin grunted, peering at this in fascination. “I thought hethelax armor was completely invulnerable.”

“Not to that thing,” Melaxyna said in a tight voice, her eyes now locked on the dagger. “How did you get your hands on one without tipping off the Wreath? I thought they hid all of those away.”

“They did,” Natchua said absently, focusing on her work. “I made this one myself. There we go.” She released Hesthri’s hand and the hethelax immediately snatched it back, retreating again to the edge of the bench. “That should grow back on its own, Hesthri. If it hasn’t started in a couple of days, let me know and I’ll fix it. Are you okay? That wasn’t supposed to hurt.”

“No,” Hesthri said, grimacing and holding up her declawed finger. “I mean, yes. I mean—I’m fine, it doesn’t hurt. Just feels weird.”

Natchua carefully dropped the trimmed claw into the circle of glowing lines, where it immediately snapped to the center and hung there. “Your turn, Mel. Hand.”

“What?” Melaxyna squealed, abruptly scrabbling away from Sherwin. “Me? Why?!”

“Hush, girl,” Jonathan said solemnly. “We’re doing as the nice warlock orders, remember?”

“Jonathan Arquin,” Natchua growled, “we have established that you’re here explicitly because I don’t have the heart to kill or disappear you. If you’re going to do shit like that, my mind can change. If the succubus can refrain from needling everybody, you have no excuse. Mel, we don’t have time for this, we’re getting closer to the vampire’s lair by the second. Give me your hand.”

Melaxyna whined like a kicked dog and made gruesome faces, but obeyed, even more hesitantly than Hesthri had. Natchua had to reach out, seize her wrist, and haul her hand closer, but the actual procedure was much quicker: she simply jabbed the succubus’s fingertip with the knife’s point, causing an entirely excessive squeal of pain.

A single drop of black blood welled up. Natchua released Melaxyna, who yanked her arm back, but the droplet remained behind. The warlock gestured and it drifted through the air to join the slice of hethelax claw.

Instantly the entire circle snapped inward, forming a tiny ball of fire around the two joined specimens. That burned out in half a second, emitting a puff of acrid smoke and leaving behind a blob of viscous black substance with an oily sheen on its rippling surface. It undulated and squirmed in midair.

“If that’s what I think it is,” Sherwin said warily, “I can see why the Black Wreath wouldn’t want you doing it. Or anyone, for that matter.”

“And…what do you think it is?” Jonathan asked in the same tone.

Natchua simply took the wriggling thing between her thumb and forefinger; it squirmed but failed to escape. “All right, Mel, other hand.”

“Whyyyyy,” Melaxyna whined. “Come on, I already donated! It’s her turn again!”

This time, Natchua simply pointed at her with the hand not holding the blob, and chain of orange fire lashed out of her fingertip, twined around one of the succubus’s arms, and dragged it closer. Before Melaxyna could react further, she dropped the blob right into her palm.

It immediately sank into her skin and vanished.

“What did you do?!” Melaxyna squalled, struggling so violently the carriage rocked. “Get it out! What is that? So help me, you knife-eared little darkling freak, if you’ve—”

She broke off suddenly, as the other hand which she’d raised in a fist was suddenly encased in a black gauntlet with spikes protruding from the knuckles.

“Oh, no,” Sherwin whispered. “Natchua, what have you done?”

“Good,” Natchua said approvingly, ignoring him. She let go of the glowing dagger and it vanished, freeing her hand to pull out her mundane belt knife. “It’s made with your own blood, so it should sync directly with your native shapeshifting and give you full intuitive control. Make a gauntlet on your other hand.”

The other hand was still imprisoned by the chain, which did not prevent Melaxyna from obeying. A second gauntlet formed over her skin.

Natchua lashed out with elven speed, stabbing the blade right at the center of Melaxyna’s palm. It impacted the armor with an impotent clink, snapping off its tip. The gauntlet was not so much as scratched.

Melaxyna’s expression morphed to one of incredulous delight. “Best. Boss. Ever.”

“D-did you just give hethelax invulnerability to a succubus?” Jonathan breathed. “Natchua, no!”

“Natchua, yes!” Melaxyna crowed.

“Pardon me while I just double-check that the wards in here are actually preventing those thralls from hearing this,” Sherwin muttered.

“It’s not total invulnerability,” Natchua explained, finally dismissing the fiery chain and releasing Melaxyna’s arm. “Your shapeshifting has been, in a word, upgraded: you can now create armor which, yes, inherits hethelax invulnerability. That means it’s vulnerable to all the things you already are, like divine magic and valkyrie scythes. The theory is you should be able to alter the appearance as you see fit; you can make ordinary-looking clothes that will stop a wandshot, or a full suit of armor. Whatever you like. And the point of all this,” she added more loudly as three people drew breath to begin protesting, “is to have an ace up our sleeves! Just because Malivette Dufresne is generally disinclined to murder us all does not mean she can’t, and in case I need to remind you lot, we have a notable lack of legal standing, here. Of all four schools, infernal users are least equipped to deal with a vampire, or with undead in general. I want to go in there with at least something Dufresne isn’t expecting and won’t have a convenient way to handle, just in case, and this is the only idea I had prepared.”

“Well,” Hesthri said after a short silence, “you’ve absolutely just created a crisis for somebody somewhere down the line, but that’s the future. I guess right now we’d better concentrate on dealing with the vampire. So if we can’t fight her or run away, what the hell are we going to tell her?”

“I was counting on our presence here being a secret,” Natchua said, giving Sherwin a look.

“Oh, don’t scowl at me,” he snapped. “If you didn’t know her vampire senses would spot you landing here, how the hell would I?”

“The point is, I didn’t plan for this! I don’t have a story that would explain this group and I don’t know how fast I can cobble one together.”

“I dunno if you even can,” said Jonathan. “Unless you actually work for the Empire, the Church, or the Topaz College, summoning sapient demons is pretty damn illegal. Summoning a Vanislaad is the kind of illegal that gets you locked up for life!”

“Well, everybody’s clear, there,” Melaxyna said absently while changing the appearance of both her armored gloves and admiring them. “Natch didn’t summon me, I was already on this plane. Arachne can vouch for that, if it comes down to it.”

“That’s true,” Sherwin agreed, “and merely consorting with a Vanislaad isn’t a crime. The presumption of the law is that anybody entangled with them is probably a victim of their manipulation.”

“That’s the dumbest law I ever heard of,” Hesthri scoffed.

“Yeah, you’re welcome,” Sherwin grumbled. “House Leduc called in a lot of favors to get Empress Theasia to institute that one. Gods, am I glad my whole family is dead. Legally speaking, we’re in trouble, here, but not mortal trouble. The hethelax is a relatively minor threat…”

“This hethelax in particular is going to create waves if the Empire identifies her,” Jonathan said grimly, “which they might from my presence alone.”

“Vette isn’t the Empire,” Sherwin offered. “And she has her own reasons for not wanting attention called to her business. We can spin this, hopefully in a way she’ll go along with, but… Honestly, Natchua, we may have to just tell her what’s going on.”

The carriage lurched as it came to a stop.

“Time’s up,” Natchua said fatalistically. “Looks like we play it by ear.”

Further discussion was precluded by the opening of the carriage door.

“Welcome,” Ruby said pleasantly, stepping back and gesturing them out with a graceful bow. “Please, honored guests, this way.”

They disembarked one by one, feet crunching on the gravel drive. The gravel, at least, looked relatively fresh, unlike the waist-high weeds which choked the surrounding lawn. Before them, the manor house itself was largely covered by climbing ivy.

“Do the nobles here just not bother taking care of their property?” Melaxyna muttered. “At least this place looks better than yours, Sherwin.”

“The nobles here don’t want company,” he said pointedly.

“How’s she govern the province, then?” Hesthri asked, equally pointedly.

“The actual administration is done by her steward, Grusser, down in the city,” Sherwin explained, already shuffling toward the mansion’s front door. Natchua caught up in two long strides and then held back to glide along at his shoulder. The rest followed more warily, Jonathan pausing to peer at the stone obelisk which stood in the middle of the circle drive.

The manor’s front doors opened before the reached the steps, and two more women emerged, also wearing striking evening gowns. So far all of Malivette’s attendants were beautiful young women of local Stalweiss extraction, and all were uniformed in extravagant dresses that were identical apart from being color-coded. Ruby and Jade had driven them in the carriage, garbed in red and green respectively: these were in white and blue.

“Sapphire and Diamond, yes?” Melaxyna prompted.

“Pearl,” Sherwin corrected her.

“Welcome,” said Sapphire courteously. “Please, step this—”

“Yeah, yeah, spare me,” Sherwin interrupted her, stomping up the front stairs. “Nobody but you has the energy to pretend this is a polite social call. Let’s get this bullshit over with.”

“He’s not used to being around people,” Melaxyna said apologetically.

“We’re familiar with Lord Leduc,” Pearl replied with a smile. “We wouldn’t dream of disturbing his solitude except at great need.”

“Ladies,” Jonathan said far more politely, bowing to each of them before entering.

“If any of you were thinking of trying something, let me just repeat: do not.” Inside the remarkably bare front hall of Manor Dufresne, Sherwin paused to turn a warning look on the rest of his party. “Vampire thralls are as strong as a human in good shape, and as fast and agile as elves. They’re basically Butlers, functionally. In fact, my pet theory is that’s literally what Butlers are, since nobody’s seen whoever leads the Service Society in the eighty-odd years since it was founded.”

“Good guess, but no!”

They all jumped at the voice which came from the top of the staircase before them. A moment ago no one had been there, but now at the head stood a young woman in a black dress, smiling cheerfully down at them. She had the gaunt look of someone who habitually didn’t get enough rest or food, not to mention an unhealthily pale complexion. Even so, she might have passed for human if not for her crimson eyes.

Malivette Dufresne descended the stairs with mincing little steps, trailing her fingertips along one of the banisters on the way down. “I’ve been around Butlers; believe me, I would know if they were even vampire-adjacent. My pet theory is it’s done with alchemy. You know, like how the Silver Legion can turn elves into specimens with basically human strength.”

“Huh,” Sherwin grunted, “well that’s disappointing. Alchemy? There’s no romance in that.”

“Tragic, I know,” Malivette agreed, alighting at the base of the stairs. “I welcome you, Lord of House Leduc, to my home in the spirit of mutual interest and the long respect which has stood between our great Houses. In honor of that friendship, and with the deepest apology for disturbing your much-cherished quiet, I must make a most humble inquiry.” She swept an arm in a wide gesture to indicate the whole group, and abruptly her tone and expression changed to one of sheer exasperation. “What the hell, man?!”

“Me?” he exclaimed. “Which of us is sending their goons to drag the other one outside on no notice, huh?”

“Sherwin!” Malivette pressed the heels of both her hands against her eyes. “How many times have—look, I seriously am not trying to start something here. You know I don’t have a problem with you. Heck, in another life, you and I might have found ourselves joined in a loveless political marriage, and I assure you the revulsion I feel at that prospect is purely general, not personal.”

“Right back atcha, buttercup,” he huffed.

“But, for the last time, you cannot have a succubus!” Malivette pointed dramatically at the demon in question, glaring at Sherwin. “I was willing to overlook this when you built the world’s most excessive Vanislaad cage, but I know for a fact you’ve had that thing dismantled and now here’s this creature traipsing around my province unattended, and holy shit, Melaxyna?”

“Hi, Vette!” Melaxyna said cheerfully, waving. “You’re looking terrible. But less so than the last time I saw you, so… I guess you’re doing well?”

“Still always hungry, but less pissy about it,” Malivette replied, tilting her head quizzically. “And here you are, out of the Crawl. Did Professor Tellwyrn finally let you go, then?”

“Well, Arachne hasn’t come storming out here to haul me back, and that’s well within her capability,” the succubus said thoughtfully, “so I take that as notice that my services are no longer required.”

“You two…are acquainted?” Natchua said pointedly.

“I did go to that cockamamie school, you know,” Malivette replied. “Crawl expeditions and everything. Mel’s been an institution down there since long before you enrolled, and by the way, hello, Natchua. I’m so glad you’ve stopped wearing your hair up in that ridiculous spiky number, the green stripe is actually quite fetching when you let it lie flat. Drow have such lovely hair.”

“You two are acquainted?” Melaxyna asked, blinking.

“Most years there’s at least one field trip per class to Veilgrad,” Natchua explained, eyes locked with Malivette’s. “This city is prone to the kind of weird nonsense that makes for Tellwyrn’s idea of a useful class exercise, and also the governor is an alumna. It’s a handy little arrangement. I will point out for the record that my class excursion wasn’t the one that unleashed a zombie horde in the city.”

“I do say when I was warned of a succubus and a drow warlock I was not expecting either to be a familiar face, much less both.” Malivette turned her quizzical look on Jonathan and Hesthri. “Don’t tell me… Nope, you two aren’t ringing any bells. Well, then again, I don’t know any hethelax demons.”

“Yeah, about that,” Sherwin said belligerently, “we need to have a talk about whatever means you’re using to monitor my estate!”

“You just go ahead and hold your breath waiting for that,” Malivette retorted. “Look, here it is: I don’t know what all this is about, I’m glad Sherwin is finally making friends—truly—and I am nothing if not sympathetic to someone operating with what amounts to an illness that compels them to be dangerous to others. I probably relate to a succubus better than anybody who’s not one. But the fact remains, Mel, you are what you are and you cannot be running around loose in my city!”

Natchua stepped between the vampire and the succubus. “Then let’s talk about this.”

“Oh, we’re going to talk about this,” Malivette agreed, “but we’re going to do it once I’m certain she is taken care of.”

“I see old times don’t count for anything,” Melaxyna muttered.

Natchua continued matching Malivette’s stare. “You’re not touching her.”

“Young lady,” the vampire said, smiling in a way that displayed her elongated canines to great effectiveness, “would you like me to explain in detail why every part of that sentence was more wrong than the preceding, or shall I save time and demonstrate?”

“She is with me,” Natchua said coldly. “You take one of my people, and I’ll take one of yours.”

There was a moment of absolute silence.

“Okay,” Jonathan said finally, “however all this shakes out, can we establish a rule that Natchua doesn’t handle negotiations from now on?”

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41 thoughts on “15 – 9

    1. Ehhhh, Elilial got more or less what she wanted from Chase.

      Natchua’s brand of fuckup-in-progress is way less flashy and draws far less attention. For now, anyways. If it all blows up in her face, it’ll probably be as bad or worse than Chase opening a Hellgate.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Chase (and the story about antagonizing Arachne) was mostly a red herring, is what I’m thinking. Natchua is the valuable one. Look at all the neat stuff she’s bringing into being!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. She got way less from Chase then she wanted, matter of fact it has almost 100% backfired. Rey.member the key part of the discussion between Arachne and Elilial, that what she has done will not cause harm to Arachne’s students. Because of that promise she had to go and wake Shaine up because she and those other students would have been most permanently harmed from Chase’s actions. It was the height of stupidity to give a Sociopath the knowledge of Infernal Magic she did. Elilial for all of he guile is not a good long term planner, and the nature of her “godhood” is making that even more prominent as time goes by.

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  1. On the one hand, I firmly support Jonathan’s motion.

    On the other, and I’m sure that Vesk would agree with this, it’s ever so much more entertaining when Natchua does the talking.

    Besides, it’s not really like there’s a noticeably better alternative to Natchua being the party face.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. And here I thought that infernal magic was inherently destructive with little to no constructive aspects.

    Guess what they said about the highest application of any magic was the ability to overcome it’s limitations was true.

    Also:
    “Natchua, no!”
    “Natchua YES!”

    I get the feeling that’s going to be a common phrase

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Great chapter and really fun to see infernomancy put to use in a more advanced way. Also thanks for clearing up how vampires fits in in this world. However since all the shadow magic sources are dead (or dreaming in Rhyleh) how can they support powerful vampires?

    On another note, lately you have made a habit of cliffhangers. In the beginning of the series you didn’t like them, what changed?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s been mentioned that a few transcension fields other than the main four are still minimally active. Shadow magic seems to mostly involve using one or more than one of the main types of magic to manipulate shadow magic indirectly.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. In the part where we see Infernal Magic being used from the perspective of a Wreath-trained Warlock (Merry, is it? I lose track of the characters), she was using Shadow Magic as a means of manipulating the Infernal Magic without directly interacting with it.

        That said, there are several Shadow Magic forms and no guarantees at all as to how they function in comparison to one another (or how they might function in comparison to the main 4 if fully powered)

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    2. Given that vampirism is transmissible like a disease, it is possible that it is nanite based. It would certainly explain the ability to turn into mist or a swarm of bats and would explain the hunger. Yes, I know that the Infinite Order were terrified of nanotech accidents and put strict controls on how it could be used, but we also know that they had a long history of doing things that they knew they shouldn’t.

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    3. That actually has more to do with pacing and where it ends up being a convenient place both structurally and in terms of my mental energy to put a chapter break. That’s not usually on a cliffhanger, it’s just worked out that way a few times in succession. I don’t anticipate it becoming a pattern.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Uggggh. Natchua is literally the definition of “gain a short-term advantage at the cost of a long-term disadvantage”. Just because you aren’t going to have to personally deal with the fallout doesn’t mean you get to fob off all your messes on everyone else! Or, well, it shouldn’t, anyway.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. But she’s planning on dying, and probably doesn’t expect a pearly gates at the end of that. She planning on one last act of grand spite.

      I think it’s safe to say that that’s a mindset that doesn’t have the time or space or motivation to give a flying **** about long term consequences. It’s in fact the main benefit of such a mindset. Why bother adopting such a mindset in the first place if you were going to worry about such things.

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  5. I’m a little surprised at the number of people (both in-story and in the comments) who are assuming that the upgrade Natchua gave to Melaxyna is 1) permanent 2) solely under Mel’s control, and 3) free of any back doors. She’s improvising and adapting to an unexpected situation, yes, but everything she’s done with infernal magic has indicated extreme control over the outcome. As none of the observers knew exactly what she was doing until the very end, how could any of them have been able to tell what failsafes were built into the spell?

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  6. Vampires in the GAB universe are frankly ridiculous, how come there isn’t a vampire empire or something of the like? If this lineage that Mavette is apart of can take on “the most knowledgeable warlock on the planet”, another warlock, an hex( which Gabe, a half blood, can tank low atmosphere dropping) and a succubus.

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    1. They seem to be very rare – Malivette is the only vampire we’ve heard of in-story, and we haven’t heard of them playing any role in the history of Tiraas.

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    2. While vampires are shadow magic based, it was mentioned previously that they are weak to divine magic. So it’s just that this group is very infernal based.
      Also I think they are underestimating Natchua, or they don’t quite grasp just how much knowledge she has

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      1. Natchua still was cautious enough to give a succubus invulnerability. Which speaks testament to the opposition that Mavette has.

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    3. I don’t think Hesthri has any sort of advantage, because her invulnerability doesn’t make her a heavier hitter. It’s easy to immobilize her.

      And we have to consider that vampires have this constant hunger to deal with, so they are possibly prone to infighting. Also, I assume Malivette’s family was killed to satisfy the vampire’s hunger, which is why she was then infected. Perhaps if her family were smaller, she would have been eaten as well.

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      1. It was implied that Malviette killed her family on being awakened as a vampire but doesn’t remember because she was in a non sapient state of pure hunger at the time.

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    4. Valkyries can auto kill them from the dimensional isolation layer. Same as Succubi.

      Malviette is supposed to be the most dangerous variety of vampire and Trissiny thought She could take her implying the gods gave Divine magic an advantage against Shadow magic when they setup the circles of interaction.

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      1. It’s possible that Trissiny was incorrect, or her assessment was based on incomplete information.

        However, assuming that Trissiny was correct in her confidence that she could take Malivette, rather than Divine/Pantheon energy necessarily having an advantage over Shadow Magics, which would be contrary to everything else we know about the Circles of Interaction and Shadow Magic, it is more likely to be related to the fact that Trissiny is a Paladin of Avei – and that in extremis, Trissiny has the ability to directly call upon Avei and get Her personal attention and presence.
        It doesn’t really matter how powerful Malivette is relative to mortals, she’s not in the weight class as an actively invoked deity in a situation relevant to the deity’s sphere of influence.

        It’s also possible that when the Circle was being developed, vampires (and possibly other forms of undead) got assigned the same sort of or similar special attention/treatment by the Pantheon that demons get. IMO, that’s probably more likely than Divine/Pantheon energies getting a bonus against all Shadow Magic.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Trissiny quite clearly stated that she stands no chance against Malivette. She could take one of the color coded girls, but not the undead chick in fluffy slippers.

        Shadow magic is just a general term that groups everything not in the Circles together. Which means there is no clear counter to them and you have to come up with those yourself.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Remember that there are things that aren’t known about the circles of interaction, and that the circle is not perfectly balanced; this was touched on in one of the very early Yornhaldt lectures, way way way back in Chapter 3-3, where Yornhaldt says:

        “There is a final point of these interactions which we must cover, and that is the imbalance in the Circles of Augmentation and Interference. You will note these straight lines, moving from the upper right to the opposite side. These indicate the fairly balanced nature of these interactions. However, see how the lines crossing in the other direction are considerably wider at one point and narrower at the other? That is because this,” he tapped the arc between fae and infernal magic with the pointer, and then the one opposite, between the arcane and divine, “is considerably stronger than this. Fairy magic is an absolute menace to diabolic magic of any kind, to an extent which goes well beyond any other interaction on this circle. Very few fae have anything to fear from the infernal; in fact, some species of fairies which are not noted otherwise to be predatory make a habit of hunting demons and draining them of energy. Conversely, the interfering effect of the arcane against the divine is substantially muted, compared to the other interactions between magics. Wizard spells do disrupt deific workings…somewhat. They are not nearly so effective at it as any other school is at disrupting its clockwise counterpart.”

        At least one implication of this is that the Gods cheated somehow when reforming the magical system in the wake of victory over the elder gods. It’s entirely plausible that the Shadow Magic forms are part of the reason for the imbalance in the Circles of Interaction.

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  7. I am amused that this silly argument counts as state level politics of a potentially lethal and precedent-setting nature. It’s also amusing that Natchua’s quest manages to combine both petty spite and matters of world-changing importance. Thank you for showing us interesting times we don’t have to suffer the consequences of living in, dear author.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Looks at the moment like there won’t be a Friday chapter this week.

    There is still a funded chapter backlog, but I’ve decided to take the non-funded day to take a break for mental health reasons. I am okay, simply recognizing the strained and tired feeling that always comes before I push through it and then trigger a depressive episode. This activates my professional guilt, of course, since I’m not currently having a burnout or depression. I’m simply trying to do better about being aware of my mental state and avoid kicking those off. The last one cost a lot more than one un-funded update day, which is what I’m trying to avoid.

    It’s been a struggle all week; not a severe one, but I’ve noticed the difficulty writing. My little side project has actually helped a bit with that. Having something other than TGAB on which to work in small amounts here and there has helped to keep the creative juices flowing freely. That, too, is a potential trap, as overdoing that could also push me over the edge; I’m making a point to discipline myself against diving too deep into something I don’t have the energy for, even when it’s captured my inspiration.

    I’ll see you all back here on Monday. Hope everybody has a wonderful weekend.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Have you thought about writing essays about the Bastardverse, a la what nobody103 does for Mother of Learning at https://motheroflearninguniverse.wordpress.com/ or the essays about selected magical creatures in Iron Teeth?

      I’ve no idea whether that would interest you or if it would help, but I’d LOVE to read an essay about, say, the history of Avei’s paladins, or the political history between Tiraas and its neighbors, or anything interesting about magic that might not make it into the story. Even a general overview about a Bastardverse topic topic would be interesting to me.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Hope you have wonderful weekend too. This actually in my opinion a good/responsible thing in terms of self-management for avoiding burn-out(has been something I’ve needed to learn myself) so while might feel professional guilt you can also I think feel good about that maybe.

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