16 – 43

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“So he’s at least making an effort to keep all this on the level,” Grip explained as they strode rapidly up the sidewalk toward the Imperial Casino looming ahead. “Not gonna commence any proper beatdowns until there’s public confirmation, and that buys us some time while they get Rasha down there to ID her attackers. Hopefully more than some, if Glory’s got the sense to stall this.”

“Glory’s got no shortage of sense,” Sweet agreed. “Rasha’s no fool, either, and they’re both aware of the broader stakes, here. I don’t think Glory will go so far as to try to stymie Tricks outright, though.”

“Yeah, me either, but she really doesn’t need to. Better for us all if Tricks is persuaded to ease up on this, rather than making it a power struggle between him and…hell, anyone. Glory won’t make it any easier for him even if she doesn’t put her foot down.”

Sweet nodded. “So, you’re in the loop on this, Grip. Who else?”

“Pretty much goddamn everyone,” she said grimly. “He’s doing this in public, Sweet. Making a big fucking spectacle. Anybody working at the Guild itself knows, and everybody not actually on shift at the Casino’s come to gawk. At least, the ones who haven’t run to spread the word, and bring more rubberneckers home to see.”

“Shit,” he said with feeling. Grip nodded mutely. Neither felt a need to voice the obvious: the more people were there to watch Tricks put on the show he was arranging, the more pressure he was under not to back down. With effectively the entire local Guild looking on, it might not be possible to talk him down without posing an outright challenge to his leadership.

And the day had started so well, he reflected in resignation. Unless Sweet or someone else managed to come up with something extremely clever on the fly—or, as a dim part of him still dared to hope, Tricks was employing one of his classic fakeout schemes and not doing the damn fool thing he appeared to be doing—this could very well result in him having to topple the Guild’s leadership before lunch.

He didn’t know if it was better or worse that he stood a good chance of pulling it off. Webs and his faction were explicitly behind him, and he was reasonably sure Glory would lend her own influence if it came to a confrontation. Sweet, Webs, and Glory were the biggest players in Tiraas who dealt in networking and influence specifically, so that was as good as cinched. Grip famously disdained politics but her first instinct had been to come get him, which boded will for his support among the rank and file. Even Style, loyal as she was to Tricks, was recently questioning the Boss’s actions, and she had no reason to be negatively disposed toward Sweet. Yeah, he could almost certainly win that contest.

Damn it, he didn’t want to be Boss again. Quite apart from being personally done with the job, he was right now urgently needed in his role as Bishop. Even as they were dealing with this, the paladins were moving into position to launch their political attack on Justinian and upset the entire order of the Universal Church.

Sweet almost missed a step. How had he failed to put that together before now? Could Justinian have arranged this? He didn’t see how, but clearly something was up with Tricks and possibly the Big Guy himself. It was too perfectly timed to be a pure coincidence at the best of times, and where Justinian was concerned, coincidences never seemed to be just that.

“And speaking of rubberneckers,” Grip added after a dour pause, “does she really need to come?”

Sweet glanced back at Juniper, who managed to give him a smile despite being visibly somewhat out of breath due to their rapid pace.

He knew little about dryads, but it stood to reason that a tree spirit wouldn’t fare well moving at speed over a prolonged period. Some kind of metaphysical effect like that was the most probable explanation for her discomfort, as he had spent much of the previous night discovering that Juniper did not lack stamina or the capacity for physical exertion. She certainly wasn’t doing their discretion any favors, as even the jaded urbanites of Tiraas all had to stop and stare at her passing. The dryad was wearing a disguise ring that changed her coloring to a human normal, otherwise they’d be in deep trouble already, but even so, she was walking through the icy midwinter air in a short, elven-style dress with no sign she felt the cold. Moreover, striding along at her side was a hound-sized bird with a tail half again his length, which drew even more stares than her odd attire. Sniff, blessedly, was a well-trained specimen of whatever he was, sticking silently at his mistress’s side and not spooking or lashing out at the startled cries they passed, or the occasional child who unwisely tried to pet him.

“Don’t feel the need to push yourself if you’re having trouble keeping up, June,” he suggested with a kind smile.

“Oh, don’t worry about me!” Her voice was a bit breathless, but she smiled cheerily back and didn’t falter. “This is nothing. I should tell you about racing across half the Golden Sea sometime. That was a trial.”

“Right. Well, we are going to a fairly sensitive Thieves’ Guild…function. Most of the people there aren’t going to be really comfortable involving outsiders.”

“That’s okay,” she said brightly. “I’m with you!”

Sweet turned his eyes back forward, mulling. He didn’t know Juniper well, except in the purely physical sense. Obviously she wasn’t stupid; whatever else it might be, ULR was academically competitive. On the other hand, it wasn’t known for producing politically cunning graduates. There were institutions of higher learning which had that reputation, but Last Rock alumni were more known for being idiosyncratic. He simply didn’t have enough context to guess whether she was just a blithe fairy unfamiliar with human social nuances and failing to pick up the subtext here, or deliberately pretending to be.

Grip, as usual, favored an approach which sidestepped such dilemmas entirely.

“He means this is Thieves’ Guild business, and none of yours,” the enforcer snapped. “You should go back to wherever you came from. It doesn’t concern you.”

“This is about Church politics, though,” the dryad puffed, not slowing. “This whole thing Trissiny and the guys have been trying to straighten out all week, right? I’d better come keep an eye on it.”

Grip’s face settled into a calculatedly mulish stare she used on fools who needed a relatively gentle push out of the way rather than those who posed a significant threat, which warned Sweet that she didn’t appreciate what she was dealing with here. “Listen, you—”

“Grip,” he interrupted, “there’s an old joke about situations just such as this. Where does a dryad sleep?”

The enforcer hesitated, then scowled furiously and turned her own attention forward again, mutely leaving Juniper to trot along behind them. That was another thing neither of them needed to answer aloud:

Anywhere she wants.

This couldn’t be the first time Grip had come up against someone she could neither coerce nor intimidate, but it surely wasn’t a common experience for her. Nonetheless, the situation remained what it was. Sweet himself could possibly (probably, he figured) persuade Juniper to butt out and go about her business, but they simply didn’t have time to deal with the distraction.

So the two thieves and the dryad rushed into the Guild and the very heart of this fresh disaster.

It wasn’t happening deep in the shadowy bowels of the Guild proper, which was both good and bad. Tricks had assembled the thieves and his prisoners in an enclosed courtyard behind the Casino, a space occasionally used for events such as this but more commonly dedicated to receiving cargo for the kitchens. Doors opened on two sides into warehouses and larders, and a huge, sturdy wooden gate on the exterior wall faced a broad alley behind, wide enough to admit trucks and only not a street in its own right because all the buildings lining it faced the other way, with only their own rear delivery portals opening onto it.

This was good because it was a quasi-public space, open to the air in the only part of the district likely to be trafficked by people the Eserites respected—servants and teamsters, not the fancy rich who entered the Casino’s front doors. That suggested Tricks wasn’t planning to do anything which would result in a lot of screaming. It was bad because Tricks’s actions were neither logical nor in keeping with his own customary patterns, and if he was about to make a truly ugly spectacle, the ramifications could hurt the Guild’s perception in more eyes than those of the Sisters of Avei.

Sweet arrived in the nick of time, striding out of the storeroom entrance to find the loading area thronged on all sides with thieves, surrounding the spectacle of their Boss as he stared down three miserable-looking women in the vestments of the disbanded Purist sect. Their swords had been confiscated, obviously, but they’d been allowed to keep their uniforms on, chain mail and all.

Without hesitating, he pushed right through the onlookers to the unfolding drama in the center, where Boss Tricks was already in the process of grilling Rasha.

“Yes, I’m sure,” the apprentice was saying, her eyes on the three Avenists, expression clearly unhappy. “But Boss, I don’t want—”

“Then that’s all we need from you, Rasha,” Tricks said, gently and briefly patting her on the shoulder. It was one of those little touches that reminded Sweet his longtime friend and ally was still the man he’d always known, skilled at offering a bit of comfort where it was called for but mindful of Rasha’s history and how women in her position were often leery of being touched by men. “I’m sorry to have dragged you out here and especially for making you relive that bullshit, but absolute certainty was necessary. You’re welcome to stay if you want the satisfaction, but don’t feel any need.”

“Boss,” Rasha said more forcefully, causing Tricks’s attention to snap back to her face. “Am I or am I not the aggrieved party, here?”

Tricks blinked once, raising his eyebrows. “Well, of course. I didn’t think that was in question.”

“In that case, I believe I’m owed a say in what happens to them?”

The three priestesses clustered closer together; Sweet didn’t know what kind of night they must have had, but he saw none of the backbone he was accustomed to in Avenists. They were hollow-eyed, bedraggled, and at least one had clearly been weeping recently. Gods above, how bad had Tricks made this already? Was it too late to prevent the situation from getting even worse?

A stir went through the crowd at Rasha’s words, Eserites shifting closer in malicious anticipation of watching vengeance unfold even as the prisoners pressed into each other. Sweet came to a stop within two yards of the Boss; Tricks acknowledged him with a glance before again focusing on Rasha, and Sweet took the opportunity to take a quick visual census. Style, of course, loomed behind the Boss with her arms folded, wearing a leather-and-fur ensemble that looked almost Shaathist and a thunderous scowl. Glory herself had actually stirred from her nest for this and also stood at hand, right alongside her apprentice in a clear show of support. He noted her other three apprentices hovering in a knot in the crowd, alongside Jenell, to whose side Grip had just silently returned. Juniper had, fortunately, stopped just inside the courtyard to watch, behind the back row of thieves. Good; Sweet wasn’t worried about her being recognized, but that bird-thing of hers was going to start drawing attention the second somebody noticed it.

Webs was not in evidence, of course, it being his habit to deal with people only from his own secure ground. Thumper and Gimmick, however, were both across the courtyard in the front ranks; both looked right at Sweet and nodded once with significant expressions. He did not nod back, for the same reason he didn’t let out a sigh of sheer annoyance. Honestly, he understood that those two were specialists and not in political maneuvering, but they’d both been on multiple infiltration missions. Had absolutely everybody forgotten the value of basic discretion today?

Tricks was regarding Rasha solemnly, his jaw working as he mulled an answer with care before finally speaking.

“You’re not wrong, Rasha. I will definitely hear you out, and you’ll be accommodated if possible. But this, I’m afraid, goes beyond just you and them. This is a matter for the Guild as a whole. The one thing for which we can absolutely not show the slightest tolerance is the deliberate and knowing assault of one of our apprentices. For this, we require blood.”

An ugly growl stirred through the crowd, accompanied by several louder jeers and catcalls.

“Is blood more important than justice?” Rasha asked, her quiet tone a deliberate counterpoint to the growing intensity of the onlookers. Sweet noted, with approval, Glory’s secondhand techniques at work.

“We don’t deal in justice,” Tricks said with a sardonic little smile. “That’s Avenist business. I know you’ve been taught our doctrines on retribution, Rasha. When dealing with beasts like these, we employ pain, and fear. That’s all they can understand.”

“Yeah, no argument there,” Rasha said, turning to dispassionately regard the three beleaguered Purists. “They look plenty scared already, to me.”

“Not enough,” Tricks stated, his voice cold. “What’s your request, Rasha?”

“Avenist business, like you said,” the apprentice replied. “I want this to be done with, Boss. Roughing these up is going to cause no end of trouble, and just…look at them. Look at these dregs.” she shot the priestesses another look, filled with pure contempt. “They’re not worth it. The Guild shouldn’t be so much as inconvenienced over the likes of them. Send them back to the Temple of Avei. Let these assholes be Rouvad’s problem.”

Glory, now, laid a hand on Rasha’s shoulder, her face lighting up with approval and pride. Sweet was equally impressed; he hadn’t followed Rasha’s progress closely, but Glory had clearly taught the girl how to work a room. In the space of a few sentences, much of the tension had leeched from the crowd, and now a number of the watching thieves were nodding in agreement.

Not the Boss, however.

“I see your point,” he said, already shaking his head, “but on this, we can’t bend. It is an inviolable rule. They went after a Thieves’ Guild apprentice. There has to be punishment. There has to be fear. That fear is the only reason any apprentice of the Guild is left in peace long enough to be fully trained. If the bastards aren’t afraid to come after you…you’ll be cut down before you have a chance to fight back.”

“I also know the Guild’s codes on retribution, Boss,” Glory said, her smooth voice projecting over the stir in the watching crowd. “We retaliate only when it both brings satisfaction and serves a purpose. What purpose does this serve?”

“Seriously?” Tricks replied, shooting her an annoyed look. “I’m pretty sure that’s exactly the thing I just explained.”

“Not really,” she said, arching an eyebrow. “How does beating up these spread fear? They are already terrified witless. The Purists are simple bullies; there’s nothing to them but inner weakness and a pitiful desire to project it onto others. The work here is done, Boss. Going further would be nothing but a provocation against the Sisterhood of Avei, at exactly a moment when we need their support.”

“Ah, yes,” Tricks said, his voice soft but carrying. “Politics. The old bugaboo we can never quite get away from. But there’s a line, Glory. A point comes where principle has to win out. As long as I’m Boss, I’ll decide where the line is drawn, and I draw it at assholes attacking our apprentices.”

The muttering swelled again, once more accompanied by a few shouts. Rasha kept admirable composure, but the wide-eyed look she gave Glory revealed her growing nerves. Glory herself drew breath to continue, but Sweet could already tell that was futile; clever as she was with her tongue, Tricks was equally so, and a contest of verbal acuity was pointless when only one contestant had the authority to order an end to it.

“Where’d you get them, Tricks?” he asked, lightly but loudly.

Everyone turned to look at him, the Boss himself with a faint lowering of his eyebrows. At any other time, Sweet would have assumed it was strictly performative; Tricks was too good to reveal what he was feeling. But then, he could usually tell when Tricks was playing a game, unless he snuck up on him in one of those disguises he loved so much. Now, he had the unsettling feeling his old friend was exactly as close to the frayed end of his rope as he seemed.

“That’s in the category of business you don’t need to worry about, Sweet,” the Boss said brusquely.

“Cos the way I heard it, these were last seen being hustled away by the Huntsmen of Shaath. Right?” Sweet turned to Rasha, who nodded emphatically. “Specifically, the Orthodox faction that’s loyal to the Archpope. The Archpope who we’re within a hair’s breadth of proving set up the Purists in the first place to fuck with the Avenists. The Avenists who got this trouble dumped on them specifically for sharing our position with regard to Justinian’s fucked up shenanigans in the Church.”

“Sweet,” Tricks warned.

“And now I gotta wonder,” he pressed on, “how the hell you got them from Shaathist custody to yours in the space of one night. Did you actually kidnap three hostages out of a lodge, or the Cathedral itself? Because that’d be a feat so incredible I’m pretty goddamn sure nobody in this Guild has the capacity to pull it off.”

Nods from around the courtyard. Eserites did not deal in kidnappings, for both doctrinal and pragmatic reasons. Professional ethics aside, it was messy to steal anything that could think and fight back.

“And the other option,” Sweet pressed on, staring at Tricks unblinkingly, “is that they were given to you. By Justinian’s Huntsmen.”

Silence. The crowd seemed to hold their breath.

“Hey, you’ve gotta protect your sources, I know how it works,” Sweet said with deceptive lightness when Tricks just glared at him. “No worries, I know who else I can ask. Hey ladies! A moment of your time?”

He had actually turned and taken a step toward the captive priestesses when the Boss answered in a much sharper tone.

“Do you wanna be Boss, Sweet?”

At that, he had to stop and turn back to him.

“I’m not challenging you—”

“That is not what I asked you,” Tricks snapped. “Do you want to be Boss again? Because quite frankly, Sweet, I’m pretty sure I enjoy sitting in the big boy chair even less than you did. If you want the job, you just say the word any damn time. We’ll go invoke the Big Guy’s presence and get it done, and that’s a promise. But until you say the word, I am still Boss. I’m the one who has to keep the big secrets and handle the ugly shit nobody else wants to do. As long as that’s the case, you can either fall in line, or shut your mouth. Those are the options, Sweet.”

“This doesn’t need to be a whole thing, Tricks,” Sweet said, facing him fully and not breaking eye contact. “I wouldn’t’ve backed you for Boss in the first place if you hadn’t more than earned my trust. All I’m asking is some reassurance. Tell me there’s more going on here than I know. Tell me you’re not swiping at obvious, low-hanging bait dangled by an enemy of the Guild. Because it looks like you’re letting yourself fall for a brazen con, and I know you’re way too smart for that. Just let me know what else is up, that you’re not about to undo every bit of my work for the last half a year and plunge the Guild into an unwinnable fight for fucking nothing. Come on, Tricks, that’s not much to ask. Is it?”

Tricks stared back at him.

The silence stretched out, until someone else pushed forward into the center.

“Whoof, what a mess.”

Juniper was watching Antonio push forward into the unfolding confrontation, where the Boss of the Guild was grilling Trissiny’s friend Rasha about three miserable-looking priestesses huddled together in the center of the courtyard. She could barely see between the heads of the crowd anyway, even though she was taller than most human women. It was no great loss to turn and regard the person who’d suddenly spoken immediately to her left, and then she had to stare.

He was a scruffy-looking Tiraan man of indeterminate age, wearing (oddly enough) a tuxedo with the neck open and untied cravat hanging down his chest. Sniff flattened his crest, staring up at the man in clear unease. Juniper, for her part, didn’t recognize him, but she could perceive at a glance what he was. Given his presence here of all places, that pretty much told her which one.

“But don’t worry,” Eserion continued in the same low tone, giving her a wink, “I have a plan. Now, thing is, it’s a pretty bad plan. Countless steps, lots of moving parts, no end of people to manage. A whole big thing, know what I mean?”

“Trissiny says the best plans are simple plans,” she replied carefully. “She said any plan with more than three steps is a daydream.”

They were speaking quietly, but not whispering, and yet none of the thieves immediately around seemed to be aware of them. It was odd that no one had reacted to Sniff yet. In the middle of the courtyard, the well-dressed woman with Rasha had just interjected, but her voice wasn’t so loud as to drown out their soft conversation in the back.

“Thorn’s a smart cookie,” the god agreed with a pleased grin. “Not one of our best people by far, at least not yet, but she learned from some of the best. Knows her theory. Yeah, this whole business has me really stretching my legs; gotta run around putting out fires, make a million little corrections when shit starts to go belly up. You see how it is. That, now, is another example.”

He nodded toward the drama unfolding up ahead, where Antonio had just interrupted the conversation. Juniper was only following with half an ear, but it didn’t even take that to see the quickly ratcheting tension between the Bishop and the Boss.

“Case in point,” Eserion said more quietly, his expression sobering as he watched the unfolding argument. “That’s a confrontation that needs to happen. But not now, not yet. It gets impossible to keep the timing straight, y’know? Right now, what I need is to put a complete halt to this whole affair, slap a hard wall between Tricks and Sweet and get those damn Purists out of here.”

He turned back to her with an amiable grin.

“So! Can I ask a favor, June, honey?”

“I’m…still very much learning how to use fae magic,” she said carefully. “I’m just a novice. Last night was the first time I felt spirits actually tell me I should do something, but they did, so I stuck with Antonio like they said. Did you have something to do with that?”

“It’s my policy not to mess with Naiya’s little helpers,” he said, winking again. “Honestly, I never really find a reason to, anyway. So long as I’m not up to any bullshit I shouldn’t be, it usually turns out their nudgings line up with mine. That being the case! If you’re willing to do me a solid, how about you go put a stop to all this?”

A chilly silence had fallen; she glanced aside to see Antonio and the Boss locking eyes. Juniper nodded once to Eserion, then turned and pushed her way none too gently through the crowd. So heavy was the atmosphere in the courtyard that few of the discommoded thieves even protested beyond irritated mutters, though a couple cursed as they caught sight of Sniff pacing alongside her.

She stepped out into the center, her sudden appearance causing everyone to turn their gaze on her, and took off her disguise ring.

That prompted a general outcry; enough people knew the basics about dryads to recognize when her green hair and golden skin meant. Juniper had found that even among humans not inclined to get it, her recent preference for elven attire often helped them connect the dots for some reason. Thieves pressed back away from her and Sniff, many cursing or shouting. She could smell shock and fear suddenly rising. And, oddly enough, more than a handful of cases of arousal, interlaced with nuances of scent that her sexual senses parsed as belonging to people particularly attracted to the monstrous and dangerous. Actually, there were a lot more of those scattered around than she’d have expected from a crowd of the general public this size.

Eserites. Who knew?

She strode forward to plant herself in the middle of the space, equidistant between the three prisoners and the knot of Guild leadership who were now staring at her in dismay, and put on her sunniest smile.

“Hi! I’m Juniper!”

One of the Purists fainted.

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27 thoughts on “16 – 43

    1. But I’m like Arthur and his Knights after facing the Rabbit, or Sir Robin after the three-headed ogre. I’m not facing anything!

      Liked by 4 people

  1. Exciting! Hope youre still feeling better Webb. Eserion is setting Tricks up to fail, by having him act stupidly, when Justinian is expecting people to act smart, wonder how it all comes together. Maybe it’s all a big distraction for Vesk, who we know identified the issue with Eserion many chapters ago. If so, its working, Justinian doesnt realize Vesk is at work based on his confrontation with the paladins.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Well, I think Eserion can’t act directly against Justinian, can’t even think about it. But he can set up different goals that requires more or less the same steps that will lead to the removal of the archpope and then has free hand to act.
      The disadvantage to that is probably the utter chaos he’ll create in his wake.

      From what I gathered he’s setting up opportunities for Justinian to profit and when the archpope actually tries, a counter will be in place. Just look at the robbery of Teal and Shaeine and where it lead eventually.

      I think since Eserion can’t attack the archpope himself, he’s attacking the position/area Justinian is in.
      Basically an advanced version of this: https://youtu.be/OnDxxQugCI0?t=36

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Well done, you’re right on the money by noting that Eserion is getting around the hack of being unable to oppose Justinian by “helping” him. There’s another layer to it * beyond that: He’s indirectly opposing other people unintentionally advancing Justinian’s goals too, instead of directly acting, or acting to oppose Justinian’s actions. This is a case of nested semantic conflicts being exploited by a hostile actor. For those of us familiar with certain, infamous bugs like Heartbleed that’s interesting.

        * Depending on how you process it that may be an extra two or more layers of semantic dodging around the idea that he’s opposing Justinian.

        Liked by 4 people

  2. Well, having a god owing you a favor should be useful down the line.
    I hope she will have the opportunity to make just as powerful a line/threat as the one she did to the elves in Sarasio because that was probably one of the most awesome Juniper moments as of yet and facing down a high priest in front of his entire cult is an opportunity you don’t get every day.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. She could literally just pulverize the Purists and say the problem is solved, and dare anyone to fight her over it…


      1. That doesn’t solve the problem. There’s a good reason Eserion asked her to get them out and not kill them.


      2. That does work but as @Jordan Leighton already pointed out she needs them alive.
        Apart from that though, it would also be a betrayal of Juniper’s character arc. Juniper’s goal is to not fall back on just using her raw strength and protection granted by Naiya. Having to resort to maiming or even killing the Purists (or the other people in the room for that matter) would probably hurt her more than every Eserite in that room stabbing her in the back simultaneously would.
        That being said I wouldn’t be surprised if she has to showcase her strength through some violent way (they’re Eserites after all), and while she is an Omnist now she’s definitely not a pacifist… I guess we will just have to see if Juniper’s training at not being an OP killing machine pays off or not in the next chapter.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. “Oh no you don’t!”

    “What are you going to do, get that guy who can stop me? What was his name, Michael McDoesn’texist?”

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Sometimes cleverness and politics back you into a corner. In times like those, sometimes what you need is a powerful but careless person blundering in to overturn the board. Juniper may actually be the spiritual successor to Tellwryn if she keeps up this kind of performance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nah, she has far greater awareness of, and responsiveness to, what other people think and want than Tellwyrn does. (Generally at least, there may be an exception in that for Tellwyrn’s acquired expertise in the behaviour of teenagers at her boarding school.) She also lacks Tellwyrn’s signature teleportation excellence, which is a huge part of what makes Arachne Yells at Dragons so unpredictably annoying. Last and probably not least, don’t forget the elven bullshit senses and reflexes.


      1. I *did* say “spiritual successor”, did I not? Obviously she won’t act the same way or be able to do all the same things, but her social role might end up being quite similar: the sledgehammer to use when the rapier of politics breaks down.


      2. @Crimson Doom
        No, that does makes sense as far as how both of them personally talk to gods and even trade favours with them, but that’s most of the similarity. Juniper doesn’t have anything like the same magical skillset, or the same social skillset, or the same personal goals and social habits. Natchua Leduc is a lot more relevant if you want to talk about plausible Tellwyrn substitutes.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. I actually think Arachne understands just fine what people think and want. She’s just powerful enough to not have to play by those rules and instead “make” people do whatever it is she wants. She is considered to be an entity on par with a natural catastrophe after all.

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    2. I actually thought of this when I went to bed Monday night, and then reading this comment made me compare some things. Specifically the gaining favors from gods part is what gave me that realization (poor Arachne, spending centuries on gaining goodwill with the gods, and Juniper just walks inside the main “temple” of a god and within five minutes gets to meet him). Both of them has to learn (again in Tellwyrn’s case) how to not just utterly destroy whatever problem stands in their way or else they will just create more problems for themselves. Also, they’re both hurting emotionally, but for Juniper it works as a motivation to become better, she wants to get rid of her guilt and find healthy ways to cope with her negative emotions. For Arachne I believe it is an impediment to her progression, she is still grieving her husband and she was/is still coming to accept that her lifelong quest was all for nothing. It is no wonder that she’s stopped being “cunning” and just plows right through whatever problem stands in her way. She doesn’t have the patience for it anymore.
      Juniper’s turnabout was when the goddess of Justice told her that she has to learn to take responsibility and grow up. Arachne’s was when a demigod (although I believe that Kitsune’s are a lot closer to gods than people believe since this particular one was hinted at being powerful/skillful enough to fight against the aforementioned goddess) famous for her Trickery told her to shape up and look back to her roots. Both of them decides to fully dive into things they already had with them all along, but never really bothered with for whatever reason. For Juniper it was Fae craft, for Arachne her already existing political connections that she’d managed to build up over her career as adventurer and educator. Of course I might just be connecting non-existing dots here but it is fun thinking and theorizing about their similarities and dissimilarites, wether they’re intentional or not.

      Furthermore, tbf @anonymous coward, Arachne didn’t teleport in her early adventuring career either. That and I think that it is a bit unfair to compare Natchua and Juniper when it comes to magic since Natchua did win the superpower lottery after all. Give Juniper two centuries, perhaps a few more, and I’m sure she will be on the same level as Natchua. Magically speaking that is, when it comes to political maneuvering I think they’re about the same level. Apart from that I don’t have any more good counter arguments except for *insert Why Don’t We Have Both? GIF here*

      And hey, this reminded me of yet another powerful line, Natchua paraphrasing Arachne regarding the fact that for all the devious trickery people can try to pull on you, in the end if you have “true” power, you don’t need to play on their level. You can just blast them to dust. *cue Kheshiri receiving one of the most epic curb stomps so far in TGAB:s history.*

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  5. I wonder how far Justinian can bully the gods into doing what he wants? If Tricks is doing this because Eserion told him to and Justinian can control Eserion to the extent that Tobi can control Omnu then things are going to get real rough for a bit. Not to mention the drow priestess and the demon that Justinian has in his temple.


  6. Solve Eserion’s problem by making it, kind of, Naiya’s problem? Well, that might be one way to go about it. Now I’m really curious though, how Juniper will deal with the issue.

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    1. This doesn’t seem like a difficult thing to figure out to me, but maybe I’m missing something. Here’s my guess:

      She just has to say that her friend Trissiny needs these prisoners back for a little while before they get executed: Avei herself told them not to do what everybody here is upset about, so Rouvad needs to find out why they thought they might get away with doing that first before they die. After explaining all that the terrifying dryad they can’t attack will ask them, nicely, to help her bring them back to lockup at the temple of Avei.

      Cue someone asking why they have to listen to her, someone explaining that she could kill them all with her bare hands. Cue someone else saying, “Not if we kill her first!” and getting dogpiled by a dozen people tackling them while others stand in the way as human shields for Juniper while the word gets passed to the ignorant that attacking Dryads is even more dangerous than being attacked by a dryad.

      In the end this confrontation may inspire some Eserite enforcers to act more nice and cheerful. Tell me it wouldn’t be great to see one tagged “Sunshine” because they’re charm, sweetness, generosity and courtesy most of the time.

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      1. Or, she might simply state that she herself wants them and that they are hers now. Who could gainsay her?

        Like you point out, no one there is powerful enough to stop her, certainly not without hurting her. And those who might be able to achieve that will think twice, unless they want to risk the city being reduced to rubble by Naiya’s vengance… One way or another, I think this will be glorious. 🙂


      2. @samshadar
        That could work, that could definitely work, but Juniper has been trying to follow a bit of Omnism for a little while now. If asking nicely may work I’d expect her to try that first. The fact that her asking nicely is inescapably connected to threats of murder and catastrophic disaster ought to make her politeness count for more, shouldn’t it?


  7. You can tell how high the stakes are getting just based on how often the gods are popping up in these later volumes. Except in the side stories, I don’t they ever really appeared in the first ~10 volumes. Now it’s more of a surprise if there isn’t one. I can definitely feel the tension rising.

    As a sidenote, I’m a little curious if Justinian has any influence over Naiya. Her being the only old god to switch sides puts her in a unique position. Now that I think of it, do we know if Naiya’s cult has ever been part of the universal church? Does she have an official cult? I feel like that could be important in the grand scheme of things.

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    1. I doubt Justinian has any control over any god not connected to the divine field. And even then I wouldn’t be sure about Themynra since she’s keeping her distance and/or has put up filters that differentiate her divine magic from the Pantheon.
      Naiya could only ever be influenced if you changed her daughters, she doesn’t have any other parts of herself accessible in the world. Which is the whole reason Juniper exists and is attending university.
      I’d like so see anyone try and influence the dryads, valkyries and kitsune against Naiya though. That sounds like a very elaborate way to commit suicide.

      Although things do become a bit complicated once you add the faerie queen and her sapient pieces of aura (the faeries) fluttering around, not to mention all the spirits tuned into Naiya’s field. The Archpope possesses several oracles using the same field… but reading is not editing, so not sure if he can do anything.

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