16 – 28

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McGraw had spent by far the majority of his career in the wilderness and small towns of the Great Plains frontier, but not all; he had ranged widely enough over the years to have been in more than a few urban safehouses. Enough, at least, to recognize one on sight. When you’d seen one, you’d seen them all, these empty but well-maintained residences kept by various powerful organizations against times when they needed to discreetly stash someone for a while.

They were so empty, despite being fully furnished. There was no personality or character, just bland arrangements of styleless furniture and only the most neutral and inoffensive of decoration, when there was any at all. Interestingly, he had always recognized the home of Bishop Darling as another such place. That had been only the first hint that “Bishop Darling” was a role being acted rather than a real person, McGraw was just as glad to have parted ways from the man on amicable terms before he had to find out what was underneath that mask. The Darling residence had even less personality than this place, which at least identified its owners by having golden eagle sigils or casually displayed copies of the Aveniad or Avenist librams in every room. The front parlor even had a full shrine to Avei; a small and plain one, but still. Avenists might occasionally mutter “war is deception” or some such aphorism but as a rule they didn’t care for sneaking around or hiding their intentions.

Following his careful exploration of the mid-sized middle-class townhouse (only three bedrooms, but none of the team were overly particular about their living conditions), he returned now to that front room, his first view down the hallway revealing Joe leaning against the wall and watching something.

“Serviceable place,” McGraw observed, approaching. “Cozy, but not—”

He broke off when Joe raised one finger to his lips, crossing the last few feet in silence to peek into the room.

Everyone else was here, Shay lounging in the room’s most comfortable chair and Casey also leaning against the wall, next to the door in a position which made her invisible to someone approaching it. McGraw had noted her tendency to do that and similar things; someone had taught this girl stealthy habits. They were all watching the fifth member of the group, who appeared to be doing particularly unconventional witchcraft in front of the little shrine to Avei.

Like most who’d gravitated or been assigned to the First Legion, their two actual priestesses of Avei did not exactly fit in with the rest of the Sisterhood. Shay Iraa liked beer and loud, off-key singing, and thus spent a lot of her free time in taverns frequently getting into brawls, which had only been tolerated because she had extricated an astonishing number of battered women from their situations. Even so, the Sisterhood was just as happy to have her off training in Viridill rather than having to be retrieved from jail every other week. All in all she resembled the popular stereotype of an Eserite, and was always ready to demonstrate that upside the head of anyone unwise enough to point it out.

Bandi Avelea, on the other hand, was easy to mistake for an Omnist, given her stereotypically serene bearing and devotion to the martial arts, as well as her emphasis on meditative and spiritual disciplines which were held in less esteem in the pragmatic Sisterhood. Indeed, upon first seeing her demonstrate her fighting style during a First Legion training session, McGraw (and others present) had mistaken it for a Sun Style sequence until she began serenely explaining and demonstrating on a luckless target dummy all the ways in which she could kill a person with one unarmed hand.

Now, Sister Bandi stood in a defined spell circle consisting only of seven crystals arranged around her, which McGraw only knew was fae in nature because of the unpleasant prickling it caused against all the arcane magic he had stored in his own aura. There was a limit to how much fae magic a priestess could do, if only because most fairy spirits objected to being in the presence of so much divine energy. But by settling for strictly low-tier spells and getting a little creative, one could always pick up some extra versatility from outside one’s own preferred skill; he’d done so himself.

What she was doing more resembled a very slow dance, or perhaps a martial arts sequence performed at half speed. The priestess, eyes closed, moved evenly through a fluid series of motions with her arms and legs, flowing in a manner that almost resembled water held within the tube delineated by her spell circle.

Casey leaned over to him and murmured, “She’s checking if we can pick up any traces magically. I figured it’s worth a try. Hate to just sit on our hands while we wait for General Avelea and Nandi to come back with more orders.”

McGraw nodded once, understanding. Trissiny was engaged in some high-level political maneuvering with the aid of her fellow paladins and had to return to their current base in Madouris to check up on the progress of that, while Shahai was at the Temple of Avei meeting with the High Commander. She, at least, would be back with orders by that evening, but Trissiny had been clear that there were numerous unexpected events in the air and she might not be able to return that day.

He leaned over toward Casey in turn, lowering his head and his voice to mumble in a low tone even Joe shouldn’t have been able to pick up. “I’ll get ya a rolled-up newspaper t’whack me with if y’want, boss lady, but meantime, a word of advice.”

Her eyes flicked up to his face, expression neutral, as he continued.

“Best way to impress folks like General Avelea is by not tryin’ to impress them. People of action only get irritated if the spot you maneuvering for favor.”

The sergeant’s cheeks darkened slightly and he saw her eyes narrow in displeasure, just as expected.

But then Casey turned her head to resume watching Bandi’s odd ritual, her expression of annoyance turning to one of contemplation. She didn’t even try to deny it; by that point, no one in the First Legion didn’t know Casey Elwick was an ardent fan of Trissiny Avelea and undoubtedly over the moon at having the chance to work directly under her.

“Okay, thanks for the tip,” she said softly, “but I don’t know what else to do, here. Irrespective of impressing anybody, we accomplish nothing by loafing around waiting for orders. It’s not like this is a regular Legion. If we can’t take some initiative toward the mission, what’s the point of us? If you’ve got a better idea for how to spend our time, Elias, I’m open to it.”

He quite liked Casey; for someone so young (he’d eat his hat if she was eighteen) she had a good head on her shoulders, and not only the habit of thinking carefully before acting but the solemn aspect of someone who had learned her restraint and strategy through suffering. She reminded him a lot of Joe, in that respect.

“When you put it that way, it does seem like the most solid move in our position,” McGraw agreed, tipping his hat. “My apologies, Sarge. Y’get to be my age and it’s easy to forget y’ain’t the only person in the room who knows what he’s doin’.”

She gave him a sidelong smile at that, but further conversation was cut off by the end of Sister Bandi’s ritual.

She straightened up, first raising her arms out to both sides and then bringing them up, overhead, and down to fold her hands at her waist, and finally opened her eyes. At that signal, all seven of the crystals around her tipped over in unison.

“It is well you insisted on this measure, Sergeant,” she said seriously.

“You got a lead?” Casey asked, straightening up.

“I did warn you that my very basic oracular craft is unlikely to pick up on trails of subtle maneuvering, and indeed I did not. But focusing upon the Purists, I was touched by spirits their intentions have moved. Vengeance, and violence. They are about to strike.”

At that, Joe also straightened up.

“At who?” Casey demanded.

Sister Bandi shook her head, the beads in her multitude of thin black braids clattering softly. “While the spirit is still upon me, I can lead us toward the place. But it is like a hound tracking a scent. I cannot see where it will end, or what will meet us there.”

“If those fools go after Trissiny, they’re toast,” Joe said. “They can’t be dumb enough not to know that…”

“Oh, I dunno,” Shay disagreed, “they are pretty damn dumb.”

“Trissiny’s Eserite friends,” Casey said. “Rasha, the Sakhavenids, and…what’s her name, the acrobat.”

Shay finally joined the others in bolting upright. “Shit. Disgraced or not, if priestesses of Avei stick swords into Guild apprentices it’ll be war in the streets by sunset.”

“Okay, we’ve gotta move,” Casey said, glancing rapidly back and forth across the group, all of whom were staring expectantly at her for orders. “But… We can’t just…”

She faltered, and McGraw gave her an encouraging nod. He could tell what needed to be done, and he would tell her if she didn’t work it out herself. But he waited, at least for a moment. Casey was smart enough and she’d grow faster as a leader and tactician by doing these things for herself. He knew his role in this party; it was the wise old wizard’s job to support the scrappy young heroes, not take over. Showing some faith in the young sergeant was worth a delay of a few minutes.

In fact, it only took a few seconds before her eyes fixed on him and widened slightly in inspiration. “Elias! Can I borrow one of those portal runes of yours?”

“What’s mine is yours, boss lady,” he agreed, already fishing one out of his pocket to hand over. “Though you do realize it won’t let you teleport without a push from yours truly.”

“No, but you can find it, right? And teleport to it?”

“Ah,” he said, nodding and deliberately clearing his expression as if catching onto her plan. It was the best strategy, which was why he’d immediately thought of it, but it cost nothing to encourage her. “You’re right, that I can.”

“Defending this position isn’t important in and of itself,” Casey said to the others, “but this is where the General and the Bishop expect to find us, so we can’t just disappear from here. Elias, I’m sorry, but we’ll have to leave you behind for now. Wait here in case one or both of them returns; the rest of us will go try to intercept…whatever’s about to happen. You’ll be able to bring either of them right to us, if that’s what she orders. If we’re in deep trouble and need backup, I’ll destroy the rune. Will you be able to sense that?”

“With a little bit o’ concentration, I can manage that,” he agreed, nodding again. “Shouldn’t be too hard to ‘port right to its last position, then.”

“Good. If that happens, be ready for maximum trouble. Our goal here is to prevent a big messy fight from breaking out; if I have to call in our wizard for firepower, situation’s FUBAR.”

“Understood, Sarge.”

“Sorry for ditching you,” she said again. “It’s the best I can think of. All right, everybody, move out. Bandi, lead the way.”

The formal announcement would come the next day; Rouvad, like Trissiny, wanted to move fast and begin working before Justinian or anyone else had time to prepare political countermeasures. But before embarking on her new set of duties, the High Commander had wanted Nandi’s impressions of the project her previous squad had been working on and had to abandon upon the First Legion’s formation. Locke had, with Billie Fallowstone’s help, quietly continued her weapons research in Viridill, but now it seemed her erstwhile research partner had finalized her original project.

And so, Nandi found herself in Sister Eivery’s basement workshop with the gnomish priestess and the High Commander, holding and studying what had apparently been a regulation Silver Legion lance before it had been heavily modified.

“Well?” Eivery prompted, grinning up at them. “How’s it look?”

“Expensive,” Rouvad said flatly, taking the spear from Nandi. “Are the glowing runes and this… Is this shaft coated in lacquer? Eivery, is this absolutely necessary?”

“Arguably not,” the gnome admitted. “It put ‘em on the demonstration model, there, so you can see it’s doable. There’s a reason most battlestaves don’t ‘ave that, it adds to both the cost of manufacture an’ the weight. But the point is that it protects the runic engravings, see? Yer average battlestaff ain’t gonna see use as an actual staff, whereas the whole point o’ these, so I was given ta understand, is for ‘em to double as firearms and spears. Thus, they’re gonna be seein’ a lot o’ physical contact.”

“It can probably be dispensed with,” Nandi said. “If properly used, a lance’s head will see physical impact a lot more than the rest of it. Eivery’s right, though, the proof of concept is valuable.”

“Darn tootin’,” Sister Eivery agreed.

“Agreed,” Rouvad rumbled. “All right, I understand the clicker mechanism and I think I can intuit the reason for this clunky device at the base of the spearhead. What I note is that these runic engravings are a lot more extensive than on any battlestaff I’ve ever seen. Can you explain why?”

“Aye, give it ‘ere,” the priestess said imperiously, ignoring the sardonic expression with which the High Commander handed the modified lance back to her. “It’s the enhanced engravings that make it all work, see? I actually didn’t ‘ave the inspiration meself, but stumbled across th’basic method from the works of an old Hand of Salyrene, Andronimus the Spellblade.”

“Curious,” said Nandi. “If this solution was found as far back as Andronimus’s time, I wonder why no one has adapted it already? Magnan, at the very least, would have pounced on such an innovation, and he certainly had access to Salyrite records.”

“Aye, but it wasn’t in those records,” Eivery replied, grinning madly. “Andronimus ‘ad quite the stick up ‘is arse about people stealin’ ‘is works an’ never wrote down ‘is methods. This one was noted in the last place anybody’d think ta look, cos nobody studyin’ magic reads Tellwyrn’s published journals. They’re mostly a list o’ complaints about legendary figures, good fer comic relief an’ a touch o’ historical detail. But! In between gripin’ about how Andronimus snored an’ ate ‘orrible stinky cheeses and ‘ad terrible taste in music, she mentioned a sword he made that cast lightnin’ from the tip an’ how clever the method was. See, metal’s no good fer electrical enchantments on account of ‘ow conductive it is, so Andronimus placed the enchantment on the handle, which caused the lightnin’ bolt to form a few inches beyond the tip o’ the blade!”

“Hm,” Nandi murmured. “Modern firearms do that anyway, albeit just beyond the tip. Even a wooden shaft would be destroyed if you tried to channel that much electricity physically through it.”

“An’ there’s been no reason to modify that,” Eivery agreed, raising the lance to firing position and grasping the clicker, “cos nobody’s considered puttin’ blades on a firearm till that crazy elf came along. Modern armies fight at a distance. And so, behold!”

The crack of the weapon was functionally indistinguishable from that of a conventional battlestaff. Its lightning bolt charred and half-destroyed Eivery’s unshielded target dummy, with no backward arcing along the shaft or spearhead.

“And that heavy bit at the base of the spearhead,” Nandi said, “that has a grounding charm to prevent accidents?”

“Just so! Also, talkin’ of accidents, I discovered quite coincidentally that if ye do this, make the bolt form more’n a foot forward o’ the end o’ the staff, ye gain a lot of accuracy! These aren’t as precise as beam weapons, obviously, but they won’t arc nearly as much as an ordinary staff.”

“So,” Rouvad said, muted excitement in her voice, “you could increase that even further?”

“Sorry, Commander.” Eivery shook her head, raising the staff to plant its butt on the floor; in that position, it towered over her. “This is as far as I’ve been able to extend it. That’s why its engravings are so long. There’s just no room fer more.”

“But you said the original inspiration was a sword. On the handle! That was a much shorter surface and a much longer distance, if it sparked beyond the tip of the blade.”

“Aye, an’ I also said it was Hand of Salyrene that made it! Whaddaye want from me?”

Rouvad turned back to Nandi. “So you see where we are. Eivery has already refined Locke’s armor enchantments for efficiency; the updated versions will stand up to staff fire and augment soldiers’ abilities in several important respects. That makes an inherently more expensive kit than any Imperial trooper’s, but that’s the price to be paid for better-equipped soldiers. With the finished firing lance, we only have to begin training our soldiers with them.”

“First we ‘ave to make this stuff,” Eivery objected. “I don’t mind workin’ me fingers down, Commander, but I’m one gnome. If ye want me to equip a Legion, gimme ten years.”

“Yes, production is an issue,” Nandi agreed. “The Sisterhood does have a contract with Reviani Firearms, does it not? I know we don’t order many energy weapons, but for just that reason, they would likely appreciate the business.”

“I am…reluctant to give these specifications to an established firearms company,” Rouvad said, frowning. “We will have the element of surprise upon the first battlefield deployment of this equipment. The more people who know of it…”

“Well, buildin’ an in-house enchanter corps’ll take almost as long,” said Eivery.

“Our paladin has contacts with Falconer Industries,” Nandi commented. “They don’t make any weapons at the moment, but have the manufacturing capacity to produce almost anything. And if FI can’t do it, Geoffrey Falconer undoubtedly knows who can, and could arrange an introduction.”

“That’s a good idea,” Rouvad replied. “We’ll both be in close contact with Trissiny over the next few days anyway. I will raise it with her at the next opportunity. In the meantime, Eivery, please put together as many kits of the new gear as you can without exhausting yourself. I’ll assign you whatever enchanters we have who can be trusted. Ideally, I’d like to send a few to Locke’s outpost and be able to outfit one squad from the Third’s Cohort One to begin training.” She paused, then smiled. “I’m glad to have you back here, Nandi. I’ve missed your insight.”

“Aye, well, if we’re done with all the huggin’ an’ kissin’,” Eivery huffed, “I didn’t get ta tell ye the really neat thing I discovered.”

“There’s more?” Nandi asked, raising her eyebrows.

“Aye, another ‘appy little accident, ye might say,” the gnome chuckled, already at work unscrewing the spearhead from its shaft. “A neat trick that works as a result o’ this specific model’s design. If ye just take off the bayonet, like so… ‘Ere we are.”

She bounded over to a low stack of bricks she’d erected in the middle of the workshop in the form of a wall that was shoulder-high on her. Grinning, the gnome pressed the head of the lance, minus its blade, against the wall aiming at the half-wrecked target dummy which was across the room on its other side.

“Wait,” Nandi objected, “don’t tell me… There’s no way that thing can fire through walls?”

With another perfectly ordinary thunderclap, a bolt of lightning flashed from a point a few inches beyond the wall and finished demolishing the target.

“Eh? Eh?” Eivery cooed, waggling her eyebrows at their expressions. “Ehhhhhh?”

It had already been a full day not long after noon, and so by the time Trissiny returned to Madouri Manor she found herself eagerly looking forward to some lunch and a cup of hot, strong tea, and not just to help wash away the winter chill. A steward informed her upon arrival at the Manor that Ravana was not present at the moment, which she had to admit was something of a relief. Trissiny had yet to decide exactly how she felt about the diminutive Duchess, but one thing was certain: Ravana Madouri demanded her full attention when she was present, for much the same reason she would have carefully watched a large spider if she found herself in a room with one.

Returning to the suite her classmates were inhabiting during their vacation, she was pleased to find Toby and Gabriel there waiting for her, in fact having a conversation just inside the door, rather than in the sitting area of the main hall itself.

“Trissiny!” Gabe said, grinning in welcome. “You’re a sight for sore eyes. How’d it go?”

“All according to plan,” she replied, smiling back, “though my business today was mostly just squaring away details. I had a couple of interesting conversations with dragons I’d like your opinions on, but that can wait. How’d your meetings go? Are we ready to move?”

The boys exchanged a look, and then a nod.

“I’m as certain of Gwenfaer’s support as I reasonably can be,” Gabriel replied, turning back to her. “She gave every indication of wholeheartedly supporting the plan. And… Before that, we had a little chat about trust. I’m convinced of her reasons for opposing Justinian, and I made a point that she’s going to have to start being generally less squirrelly about it, but if she can behave I am willing to extend a little trust. At least, enough to let her earn more.”

“Well, good. It’s kind of funny, though, you being the one to make demands like that of your cult leader. Usually that relationship goes the other way.”

“Yeah, well.” He shrugged. “I did not mention how I have valkyrie friends who can invisibly watch everything she does and a valkyrie scythe that Vidius explicitly wants used to cut the rot out of the cult. Seemed kind of redundant, y’know? She’s a sharp enough lady to have figured all that out already.”

“Good plan,” Trissiny agreed, nodding. “That’s Eserite practice, too, you know. If you’ve got an unspoken threat to hold over somebody, you only cheapen it by pointing it out.”

“Good to know,” he said wryly.

“Sounds about as straightforward as it went with the Dawn Council,” Toby reported. “I gained…some support, and I’m afraid I burned a few bridges in the process. But most importantly, the Bishop is on my side. I’m as certain as I reasonably can be that the cult will fall in line with the plan.”

“Good,” she said seriously. “I’m sorry if it got you in trouble with them, though, Toby.”

“Thanks,” he said with a soft smile, “but to be honest, the fault here is theirs, not yours or even mine. The Dawn Council’s entire method of dealing with everything is to bow to inevitability, after they’ve waited to be certain what it is. It was just a matter of making myself inevitable. They’ll bow. Some of them are not going to be happy about it, though. Future engagements with them may be… Well, not as good.”

“Man, it’d be nice if we could just convince everybody to do the sensible thing,” Gabriel complained. “Sometimes, though, you just gotta apply the stick instead of the carrot. If we can help with anything, Toby, we’ve got your back.”

“I appreciate it,” he said, smiling again. “But anyway! Before we move on to that, Trissiny, there’s something unexpected to deal with.”

“Well, of course there bloody is,” she said with a sigh. “I’m really starting to sympathize with Ravana. What this time?”

“It turns out,” Gabriel said, grinning, “that you have a visitor.”


“You,” Toby confirmed, already turning to head back toward the doors into the remainder of the suite.

She followed, alongside Gabriel, already frowning in thought. Who would be seeking her out here? Practically everybody she knew, she’d already talked with today. Herschel knew she was staying in this Manor over the winter break, but now that she thought about it, she hadn’t notified Ravana or her guards to let him in. One of her elvish relatives? Trissiny wouldn’t put it past Lanaera to be able to bully her way into a noble’s house, but she didn’t care for leaving her grove any more than any other Elder shaman did.

They only made it a few more paces before the mystery resolved itself, their guest emerging from a side parlor. She had no doubt heard the whole conversation; Trissiny’s visitor was, indeed, an elf. Just not any of the elves she would have expected.

Trissiny came to a stop, blinking in surprise. “Natchua?”

“Trissiny, good, you’re back,” the drow greeted her tersely. “I’m sorry to barge in on your vacation like this, especially when you’re obviously having a busy day, but I need your help.”

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35 thoughts on “16 – 28

  1. Everything went well at the dentist; smooth procedure, good recovery so far. Very little lingering pain once the bleeding stopped. Three separate people in the office told me to be sure to take it easy for a few days as I was leaving, which I found funny at the time, but in hindsight I get it. As ordered, I rested yesterday, and didn’t find out till I tried to do a double chapter today that having power tools applied to your skull followed by mild to moderate blood loss will have lingering effects on your overall health. It really doesn’t seem like it should; it’s such a small area that was worked on, and such a quick and minor procedure. But man this tired me out.

    Well, at least the depression is lifting. I should be adequately healed up by the weekend and back in the saddle by Monday. Hopefully I can catch up on the update schedule next week; the missed chapter has been noted on the funding page.

    Thanks for sticking with me, all!

    Also, I’ve started reading the Wandering Inn, which is really good. I recommend it if you haven’t. It’s a LitRPG which I usually don’t like, but it’s very well executed. Only caveat being, if you’re one of those who likes TGAB specifically because of its upbeat and relatively bloodless nature, maybe give that one a pass. TWI is very good, but hooooo boy does it get dark.

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    1. I have found that there is 3 types of LitRPG stories and 2 of them make bad stories imo. The first is that the author gets so caught up in the RPG aspects of the genre there is no story there. The second is almost the opposite the author doesn’t use the RPG elements to tell the story, they just get thrown into a fantasy story and muck it up. The third is the middle ground where the author is telling a story and the RPG elements move the story along. One of the best examples of this imo is the “Limitless Lands” series on Amazon, where the author is telling an over arching story dealing with 3 generations of the same family but it is all through the context of a virtual reality MMORPG. The story is in the future when drones have replaced soldiers and the last soldiers are in the last VA hospital including the MC. He is in a coma and heading towards death, his son is a game company exec that is working with a medical company to come up with a way to use nanobots and a virtual world run by an AI to repair peoples brains and the first test subject is his father. Then there is the Granddaughter who never knew her Grandfather except now she can through the new virtual MMO “Limitless Lands” which the AI puts the old soldier in while his brain is being repaired, except most of his memories are blocked while the work is being done and doesn’t know who she is and the AI censors what he hears from her.


    2. I’m glad you’re feeling better.

      The Wandering Inn is an excellent serial which I’ve been reading for years now. The author started small but quickly added to the world building and characters. It’s grown quite large and complex by now.
      Even better, despite (or even because) some dark moments almost every update has something that makes me laugh.

      I don’t know how far you’ve gotten yet but in my opinion TWI is generally more upbeat than TGAB… but it also swings into dark/sad moods far more often.

      What’s really amazing is the length of the chapters though. I have to set aside at least an hour each time there’s an update. No idea how the author does it.

      Liked by 2 people

    3. Typo thread:

      People of action only get irritated if the spot you maneuvering for favor.”


      Thanks for the chapter, excellent as always!


    4. TWI is pretty excellent, yeah. Of the 7 web serials I’m currently reading, it’s grown to be my favorite, even overtaking Practical Guide to Evil now. Great world, lots of interesting characters, good handling of RPG elements, it’s real solid.

      Only real complaint (and this is something you handle a lot better with TGAB actually) is the balancing of perspectives. There are some characters I would be happy never reading about again in TWI, like Flos, because they so utterly subsume everything else when they’re onscreen and just frankly arenty likable. Because of the vast gulf of space spanning the world, the events of Chandrar in particular feel too disconnected for me to care, since there’s none of the personal connection to Erin that even the Baleros chapters have.

      But that’s not a big enough gripe to prevent me from recommending it to everyone.


      1. > There are some characters I would be happy never reading about again in TWI

        For me it was the goblins, I tried skimming and then skipping the goblin chapters entirely, but I discovered skipping large swaths of a story makes the remaining parts less fun, so I stopped reading a year or so ago. I love most of the story — the setting and worldbuilding is phenomenal — just not enough to overcome the parts I don’t like.

        I liked Flos okay, but I can definitely see your criticisms. My favorite characters were the necromancers, both the fat, friendly one (I don’t remember his name) and the evil boss one.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. @Screwfloss: I’d assume by “fat, friendly one” you mean Pisces, since he’s the only other necormancer, though I think you got the wrong impression of his description; Pisces is INCREDIBLY fit and lithe, and a master fencer. He’s my favorite character too. =)

        I’d recommend giving it another shot. The goblin chapters grew to be some of my favorites, and the series gets better and better over time. Even my least favorite characters are no more than I’ve suffered through for other series (most of Ward, the first book of this very serial, the Grey Pilgrim interludes of Practical guide, etc.).


  2. Show of hands: How many people are surprised that the bigots whose faith has very publicly been declared in conflict with their bigotry decided that the bigotry was more important than the faith? They do this even after that declaration was made by the goddess their faith was nominally dedicated to. It says something ugly and true about humanity to me that so many people care more about defeating and subjugating people they consider enemies than doing anything useful or pleasant.

    Also, shit… if this is what the inside of a Justinian plan looks like all I’ve got to say about it is that the guy is no genius: He merely knows people so well the implications of acting on that knowledge is practically mind control. Is this a fable-shaped warning about certain aspects of surveillance and propaganda in modern life?

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    1. I’d say it says more about human nature in general rather than bigots specifically. People always try to find someone else to blame for their problems. Sometimes justified, but usually not, and almost never productive.

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      1. My best simplification is that it’s status-seeking and ally-seeking behaviour. People who aren’t feeling safe may try to put other people lower in the status-order to do more suffering than they do. Banding together to commit violence against other people is also one of the more effective means of generating and reinforcing a group identity that makes allies. The issue that these ways of trying to do these things will usually cause more problems than they can solve fails to matter in the emotion-driven hind-brain where angry and fearful people make most of their decisions. The first step to calming down those kinds of problems is addressing what makes people so afraid.

        This is a simplification though, and we should all guard against fundamental attribution error.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Hmm. Prin’s weapons team bringing manufacture to Falconer’s? They certainly can do it, but wasn’t Goeffrey noted for not being particularly discreet? Also this would make Teal the heir to a military weapons manufacturer, and she… might have some objections.

    On the other First Legion thread, the Purists are apparently planning to attack someone — whether it’s the Eserites is another question. A bigger question is exactly whose orders they’re following now…. Also, I wouldn’t count on the troublemakers they find being limited to the chumps that Trissiny smacked down.

    And lets see, Natchua comes asking for Trissiny’s help on the eve of her adoption/ennoblement. This should be interesting….

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m actually struggling to think of what Natchua would need from Trissiny in particular. Natchua’s abilities are versatile enough to handle most issues, so it’s probably not something like that. Access to one of her contacts perhaps? Advice on a very niche topic maybe? Should be interesting at any rate.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. This is only a guess, but she’s the only “hand” of a goddess that she knows? Natchua did just recently get hooked up to Lily’s brain and all, and it would be a good idea to find out what that means from a source she trusts to be more honest than Elilial herself.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. I considered the paladin angle as well, but Gabe and Toby were both there already. I don’t remember Natchua and Triss having any particular relation that would make Natchua seek her specifically. And Toby would be generally considered more approachable than Trissiny for most people. Though it is entirely possible I’ve forgotten about some interaction between them. I’ve been reading for years now, now that I think about it.


      3. The wanting advice about being a paladin/Hand of Elilial is a possibility.

        However, I’d call it more likely that Natchua wants help in relation to whatever the potentially chaos thing under Veilgrad is that she discovered when the Black Wreath lured her into the tunnels and complained at her. That is something that cannot be ignored either.

        Or perhaps it’s in relation to Natchua being about to become Natchua of House Leduc.
        We never did find out who Ravana was considering adopting into House Madouri to become her heir until she’s got kids of her own. Maybe Ravana intends to surprise Trissiny with it, but Natchua doesn’t know that it’s supposed to be a surprise to Trissiny.


      4. @Javies
        Those are other good guesses too, perhaps better ones if Natchua is either trying to ignore the “Hand of Elilial” thing or keep it utterly secret. Others may include asking for advice on turning the Black Wreath into something useful, advice on exactly how outrageous she should be when dealing with other aristocrats, a starter on useful contacts and advice for general military and religious-political topics, and maybe also advice on specifically what to do about the Shaathist schism.

        I’m 80-20 sure that Natchua is unconsciously misandrist, because of her upbringing. Remember how she was specifically recruiting female demons when gathering up a construction force? I could easily be wrong, but a childhood where people of one sex (and/or gender?) have all the highest authority may be powerful and subtle bias programming. On top of that, Trissiny does have a notable record of both calling on Avei and doing divine magic, which is a good place to start looking for what Natchua can get out of her situation.


    2. I really hope Trissiny will point out all the problems with using Falconer Industries as a supplier when she is approached. FI will not take on something like this without notifying the appropriate Empire authorities, which will kick off all sorts of questions about a cult undertaking a big military expansion in the heart of the Empire.

      That’s before avowed pacifist Teal’s reaction to her good friend asking her father to become an arms manufacturer.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Ohhhh, dangling us from a cliff like that, with both Trissiny and Natchua and even more action, set up this and the previous chapter, about to come down upon our heads … *shivers with anticipation* Oh, this will be good!

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  5. Most of the major implications have already been discussed, so I’m just gonna say McGraw definitely endeared himself to me a little more here. He was very quick to admit that he made a mistake and did so without reservation.

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  6. I’m late to the comments and all I would have noted has already been said so I limit myself to a thanks for the chapter and best wishes to your recuperation.


  7. Random note: You seem to have picked up the neologism “libram”. This word turns out to have been coined by Jack Vance, then popularized by first Gary Gygax’s Dungeons & Dragons, then by World of Warcraft.



    1. The inclusion of words that came out of 20th century Earth popular culture fits perfectly well in this story. The nerds who settled this planet based it around Tolkien, Star Wars, etc. Jack Vance and D&D fit right in.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. In this week’s episode of “that’ll teach me to think something went well” I have just developed a lovely case of dry socket, right in time to try to work on Monday’s chapter.

    This isn’t a medical emergency, but it’s a very distracting amount of pain and I’m gonna be nursing it all night until my dentist opens in the morning. I’m afraid a chapter is not in the cards for the usual midnight deadline.

    Still gonna aim for catching up next week, this’ll just mean a bit more to catch up on. Dentist can usually straighten this out pretty well, once I get back in there.

    And so it goes.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hey, don’t worry about it.
      Your health and wellbeing is the top priority.

      Real life happens.
      And when it does, you do a good job of keeping us informed. That goes a long way – especially since physical and/or mental health issues are legitimate reasons to get behind schedule. It’s not like you get behind and miss chapters just because you felt like it or because you procrastinated or something of that nature.

      Also, I think wordpress ate my comment on the last chapter when you were giving us a heads up about being behind schedule, but at that point (on the 20th), you’d published 634 (635 now) chapters in 5 and a half years, 66 months, or 2010 days exactly, which worked out to you averaging ~9.6 chapters a month or a chapter every ~3.17 days (3 days, 4 hours and change), on average. The numbers will be a little different as of right now, but not by enough to matter much.

      Anybody who is seriously complaining is straight up an asshat not worth paying attention to.

      Liked by 3 people

  9. Update: Vicodin is very good for pain, and not so good for brain work. My mouth is better after I filled that prescription but I’m groggy as hell.

    Hopefully my face’ll be healed up enough by tomorrow I can shelve the rest of the pills and just finish the chapter. I’ll keep everybody posted.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. My mouth is a little better but I just lost an hour’s work to a computer crash. I’m gonna grab some sleep; not sure whether this’ll be a nap or me calling it a night but I need the brain reset right now. Work was going okay despite the vicodin fog but the frustration of this has knocked me right off my rhythm.

    I’m not giving up on a Wednesday update but it’s gonna be later than I would’ve hoped. Sorry.

    Liked by 1 person

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