Orientation 1-04

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Professor Dare’s voice faded into the background, transitioning into a distant rumble of thunder. The blinding light gradually lessened, leaving spots on my vision for a few more seconds until I could finally see again. Which was good, except that what I was seeing wasn’t at all what I should have been.

I wasn’t standing at the top of that lighthouse anymore. Instead, my feet were planted firmly on a rocky, volcanic landscape. The ground beneath me was as black as obsidian, and hot enough that I could feel the warmth through my shoes. The area was lit by various fires throughout the rocky, uneven terrain, and I could see a river of lava in the distance that emerged from a dark and utterly forbidding cave.

Spinning in a circle, eyes wide, I searched for anything that might tell me what the hell was going on. Nothing. No one. “What…” I trailed off, then took a breath to call out for anyone that might be within shouting distance. At the last second, I clasped a hand over my own mouth, cutting off my own cry.

Stupid. I didn’t know where I was or who was around. After every warning about evil and monsters that Professor Dare had just given, was shouting out loud to get attention really a good idea? I didn’t know what might hear me, and I had absolutely no reason to believe that they’d be in a helpful mood.

No, if I was going to figure this out, I had to do it without being an idiot. Think, Flick. Standing in the middle of volcano world with nobody in sight, how do you figure out what the hell is going on?

Okay, let’s go with the options and narrow it down one piece at a time. First question, was this intentional or unintentional? In other words, did Professor Dare know that this was going to happen, or was this something new? A point to the former was that they’d apparently been doing this sort of thing for a long time, so it seemed like they would know what they were doing. Point to the latter was that she hadn’t warned us about anything like this. On the other hand, maybe this was a test or something.

Right, so it could be either. I was leaning toward them knowing about it and just not warning us for whatever reason, but whichever it was, knowing for sure wouldn’t help me in the moment aside from telling me if this was something dangerous or planned. Whichever happened to be the truth, the fact was that I wasn’t planning on being reckless anyway. I needed to take my time and think this through.

Just as I came to that conclusion, the thunder returned, bringing Professor Dare’s voice along with it.

“Wherever you see yourself now, it is an echo, a memory passed along through your family line of a time one of your ancestors saw one of the Strangers. Some of you may find yourselves standing in a prehistoric world, while others may only be a few generations back from your own, or even less. Wherever you find yourself, know that you cannot be harmed. You are a ghost within a memory, and your only duty is to observe what your ancestor witnessed. Watch, listen, and know the truth. The vision will translate the language spoken to one that you are capable of understanding.”

The words seemed to come from every direction before being swept along with the fading of the noise in the sky. I blinked, turning around while trying to understand. I was seeing a memory of my ancestor? Then where were they? Because all I could see was more volcanic nastiness everywhere I looked.

Abruptly, my attention was drawn toward movement. Twisting that way, I stared as a group of figures crested the hill across from me. There were six of them, and they were massive, powerful-looking beings that stood a solid eight feet tall, or very nearly three feet over my paltry five foot four. Their skin was yellow-green, and their muscles made most body builders I knew of look like paltry weaklings. They wore armor made of furs, and their faces were like warthogs, with long tusks.

Four of the six walked in front, their beady eyes scanning every part of the black rocks ahead of them. Their gazes passed over me, never slowing. I was, as Professor Dare had put it, a ghost in a memory.

The remaining two were slightly further back. For a moment, I thought it looked like they were carrying the poles of a litter, one in front and one in back. Then I realized that the box attached to the poles they held wasn’t a luxurious, antiquated method of travel for royalty. It was a cage. The massive, ugly beasts were carrying poles that held up a large cage, where three huddled figures cowered.

I stood still, staring as the enormous figures hiked closer to me, grunting back and forth at each other. They were obviously communicating, but I couldn’t understand the words. So much for what Professor Dare had said about the vision translating for us. Unless that only applied to human languages.

Just as they reached the same hill I was standing on, one of them made a loud barking noise and held up his fist. With a grunt, the two carrying the cage set it down, and the warthog things stepped away. One of them kicked the cage, giving an obvious laugh when the huddled humans cried out. He kicked it again, then said something to his companions, who chortled as well.

From here, I could see that the people in the cage were dressed in what looked like medieval clothing. Two were male, one in peasant garb while the other clearly wore noble clothes. The third imprisoned figure was a female in clothes that were just as shabby as the peasant man. All looked terrified.

While I stood there, unsure of what I was supposed to do next or what I was supposed to be learning from this (if anything), the nobly-dressed prisoner stuck his hand partway out of the cage. His voice cracked a little bit. “Please, please.” He cupped his hand. “Just a little water, just a swallow.”

Sneering, the nearest of the warthogs stomped closer and leaned in. He spat into the cage, then started to belly laugh while bringing his foot down hard to stomp on the man’s outstretched hand.

Except the hand wasn’t there anymore. The second that foot came down, the imprisoned noble withdrew it. Then, as the foot hit the ground and the warthog was thrown off balance, the man’s hand snapped back out of the cage like a striking snake. He caught hold of the stumbling creature and yanked hard. The warthog was hauled off balance, falling onto his backside with a heavy crash.

The other five hogs didn’t seem to know what was happening, it was going by too quickly for them to react. Before the one that had fallen could collect himself, the nobleman yanked hard. That big leg was forced into the cage far enough that the man was able to reach up and grab the dagger out of its sheath.

Newly armed, the nobleman lashed out with three quick strikes as high as he could reach, practically laying on top of the fallen monster to stab into his stomach. The creature howled out in deafening agony, which finally got the remaining five to realize something was horribly wrong (or right, depending on your point of view toward human beings imprisoned by monsters). Unfortunately for them, the reaction was coming too late. The nobleman had already snaked his free hand out of the bars, snatching a single large key on a ring off of the warthog’s belt. He jerked back and quickly unlocked the cage, springing out of it with the nimbleness of a cat. His voice called out a challenge as the five warthogs came running. “Approach in turns or as one, beasts. For all that the order of your attacks shall change is the picture your blood will paint upon the ground.”

He then proceeded to actually follow up his boast with action. The man moved with almost impossible speed and skill, evading the rather clumsy attacks from the warthogs before striking with deadly precision. One by one, they fell to that simple dagger, until only the final warthog was left. This one was both warier and more skilled than his companions. It looked like he and the nobleman were fairly evenly matched. The human couldn’t get a decent lethal strike without leaving himself too open to a devastating counter-attack, and he was too quick for the monster himself to land a good blow on.

In the meantime, both terrified peasants had crawled free from the cage. The man stood, looking around wildly while the woman hauled herself up with one hand on the cage. She was keeping her weight off her left foot, wincing in pain each time she had to use it at all. Yet she was standing, and pointed past the dueling combatants. “More of the creatures!” Sure enough, a good dozen were rushing across the ruined landscape to join the fight. Several rode large armored horses.

Still circling his opponent, the nobleman called out, “Good man, escort the lady away from here. Tis no place for such a lovely form, and no sight for eyes so pretty. Take her swiftly now, and escape.”

Instead, the male peasant just looked at the injured woman. I could read the hesitation and thoughts in his eyes. She would slow him down. Helping or carrying her meant that there was a chance those monsters could catch up, particularly the ones on horseback, with no guarantee that the nobleman would stop all of them.

He bolted, racing away while leaving the woman behind. She shouted in dismay, calling him a coward. Her words seemed to have no affect, and the man simply continued to run, abandoning her.

Standing away from his skilled opponent, the nobleman cast one look toward the incoming horde, then looked to the abandoned woman. “Fear not,” he assured her. “For one such as you shall not fall to these beasts. I will see you away. Of that, you have my word.”

Suiting action to word, the man launched a flurry of attacks designed to drive his opponent back. Given a wide enough bit of room to work with, he turned and kicked one of the fallen warthog’s swords up into his hand, then threw it at the nearest of the incoming horse-mounted monsters. The horse screamed and pitched forward while the man rushing straight at it. He leapt, kicking off of the falling horse to use its body as a platform, launching himself straight at the next horse. His feet planted themselves in the rider’s chest, knocking him off his mount and to the ground. Meanwhile, the man himself landed hard on the saddle. In one motion, he kicked the horse’s sides to get it moving faster, while throwing his stolen dagger across to the third and final remaining horse.

A collective scream of outrage and war bellows went up from the remaining hogs, even as the nobleman kicked his stolen steed into a faster sprint. Reaching the injured woman, he stopped the horse and put his arm down to haul her up onto the horse with him.

“Ride, my lady.” The nobleman urged her even as he himself slipped off and landed lightly on the hard ground. “The steed slows too much for two to escape upon it. Escape to the north. Flee until the grass returns. I shall slow their pursuit as much as I am able, but you must make haste.” When the woman opened her mouth to object, he interrupted. “Please, the knowledge that you have escaped these creatures shall be eternal life to my soul. I could do nothing to endanger that. Flee now. Go.”

“If that coward had only…” The woman clutched the reins of the horse, head shaking rapidly. “If I see his face again, I will kill him myself.” With that vow, she gave the reins a shake and held on tight as the horse leapt into a gallop once more, racing away from the scene.

With her departure, the nobleman turned to face the incoming monsters, unarmed and outnumbered. Still, he raised both hands and beckoned them onward. “Come then. I have not yet seen enough of what lies inside of you creatures to know how far you differ from humanity, and it shall be interesting to see what spills out when you are thoroughly cut.” He cracked the knuckles of one hand, then the other. “Bring me your weapons. I shall return them to you hastily, and with great enthusiasm.”

Okay, seriously, if this guy was supposed to be my ancestor, I had a lot to live up to. God, he was even handsome. Which was weird to say about someone I was apparently related to, but still.

Then… as the armed monsters came charging in, my view grew faded. The area around the fighting man was covered in fog, and I stumbled backwards as something pulled at me. What the hell?

Turning, I found myself pulled along as a figure crawled out from under a distant outcropping of rock. He stood, and I recognized him. The other peasant, the one that had fled. He’d circled around and hid, watching what had happened from a safe place. Now, he had crawled out of his hiding place, dusted himself off and… he was leaving. The coward was quickly walking in a different direction, leaving the nobleman behind in his haste. He never looked back, never so much as hesitated in his rush to escape.

And with every step he took, I was dragged along with him. I couldn’t see how the nobleman’s fight went, because what I had been witnessing wasn’t his memory. It was this man’s, the cowards. This was my ancestor. He was the one I was related to.

With that realization, the bright light returned. I reeled backwards, hissing as the blinding glow enveloped all of my vision for several seconds before finally fading.

I was back in that lighthouse, back with the rest of the group. The others, aside from Professor Dare and the twins, Sands and Scout, were all rubbing our eyes and blinking. Conversation rose quickly as people talked about what and who they had seen, the excitement from their visions obvious.

It didn’t seem like any of them had witnessed an ancestor who had been as much of a coward as mine.

Over those excited voices, Professor Dare spoke up. “The Light of the Heretical Edge has touched you.” The conversations quieted, and she continued. “You have all seen a significant event within the lives of your ancestors, related to the Strangers. You have been welcomed into the Knowledge, and even as the Light has burned your eyes, it has also opened them. You will see the creatures for what they are now, and none of their disguises shall fool you ever again. Be warned, however. They will know that you can see them. They know you as you know them, and they will strike without mercy.”

Her gaze swept over the room, lingering on each person for a moment before she went on. “But sight and understanding are not our only weapons. Part of the Light of the Heretical Edge remains within each of you. When you destroy one of these Strangers, that light draws in part of their strength, transferring it to you. With each of the monsters you destroy, you will become stronger, faster, more powerful. Their abilities shall, over time and effort, become yours. A sufficiently successful and long-lived Heretic becomes a force to be reckoned with. The abilities they use to hunt humanity are turned against their kind by the Heretic who kills them. But rest assured, you are still but children. In time, your strength will grow. For now, you must learn from your instructors, and grow into the warriors that I know you are all capable of becoming.”

With that said, the woman let out a breath. “Now, normally I would have your second year adviser escort you to your rooms so that you may have some time to explore before lunch. But as Mr. Adams has chosen to abandon his duty…”

“We can show them where to go, Professor.” Sands waved a hand. “I mean, sure we’re little firsties too, but we have been here before, you know. It’s just the dorms, we can do that much.” Scout, hair still hiding part of her face, leaned in and whispered to her. Sands listened before adding, “Scout says we can show them around too, since, you know, we’ve been exploring this place for a long time.”

Professor Dare seemed to consider that for a moment before bowing her head. “Very well. I have other duties to attend to. You may show them where their rooms are located.” She extended a hand, and a piece of paper seemed to materialize directly in it. The abruptness of the paper appearing in her hand made me jump, staring as she simply handed the paper to the girl. “Their dorm assignments are here. I trust you will be able to handle this without any… incidents?”

“We promise to be good,” Sands grabbed her sister’s hand and held it up. “Scout’s honor.” Then she giggled.

Sighing, her expression showing that she thought she was going to regret the decision, Professor Dare nodded. “Go then.” To us, she added, “Stay with Sandovo—Sands and Scout. They will show you to your rooms and then give you a tour of the island before lunch. In your rooms, you will find your belongings. This afternoon we will take your sizes and determine your current specialization track for the semester. The specialization track will determine what classes and skills you focus on as Heretics.”

“Yeah,” Sands spoke up. “See, purple.” She waved a hand over her own tie and her twin’s. “That means we chose the investigation track. You know that whole Men in Black thing where they work with the cops while pretending to be FBI or whatever so they can look into mysterious things to find out if it was something not normal? Yeah, that’s basically what we’re getting into. Then there’s like, the people that build stuff, the straight up combat people, and some others.”

“Thank you, Miss Mason.” Professor Dare gave a short nod once more. “There will, of course, be much more information on that soon, but for now just know that you should not fear making such a decision when the time comes. You will have one week at the beginning of every semester to change it if you so choose. Go now, see to your rooms and your exploration. Talk with each other. You will meet your fellow students, the rest of those who, like Sands and Scout, were raised within the Knowledge before too much longer.”

People started filing out then. I moved as well after hesitating briefly, but as I started for the exit from the lighthouse, my gaze found a painting hung over the stairway and I stopped short.

“Who… who is that?” I asked, looking back at Professor Dare.

She followed my gaze before smiling faintly. “Our headmistress, Baroness Gaia Sinclaire.”

I looked back to the painting, swallowing as I stared at it. Because I knew the face in the picture. Not well, but I’d seen her very recently, and it was too perfect of a resemblance to a coincidence.

The headmistress of Crossroads Academy was the woman I’d seen in my vision, the one who had sworn to kill my cowardly ancestor.

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46 comments

  1. Making a mess in the halls before knowing the school even existed and now it seems she made an enemy of the Headmistress before she was even born. Flick is certainly not an honor student that’s for sure.

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  2. I like how thoroughly you’ve inverted the heroic ancestor trope. This should make for an interesting motivation for Flick.

    I wonder if her confrontation with her boss tipped the scales for letting her into the school? It certainly proved her not a coward.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, that was kind of a major point I wanted to make. That and the whole choice thing. Flick is not a chosen one. There’s no prophesy, no super special ‘you’re the only one who can end a thousand years of darkness.’ What she does in this story is her own choice, her own actions.

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    2. I don’t see how it proved she wasn’t a coward? She had a cop right outside the door, she was in no danger at all. Even if the dealer was someone likely to be a risk (and he wasn’t, he was just some guy selling pills out of a movie theatre, not some crack-dealer in the ghetto) he would hardly do anything in a crowded place and she had backup literally listening right outside the door. It didn’t prove that she wasn’t a coward, though the way she orchestrated everything to take down this small-time dealer of drugs that are perfectly legal as long as a major corporation with plenty of lobbyists is shilling them did seem as self-righteous and aggrandizing as possible.

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  3. I don’t think she’d take it out on Flick. The sins of the father do not passed down to the child or descendant. Besides, she’s had plenty of time to make his lineage miserable if that was the case.

    In other news, you level up with every monster you kill and warthogs were a thing. Awesome.

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  4. I’m very intrigued by this; especially the magic in this setting. From the barest glimpses we have had of it so far, it falls into two categories; ‘muscle magic’ and ‘large scale magic’. The ‘muscle magic’ looks to be the kind of magic used by Heretics; by fighting Strangers they become stronger and can preform greater physical feats such as what that noble had accomplished in the update. Then there’s the ‘large scale magic’; the light of the light house, the sound damping(Possibly enchantments?), the mirror/portal and possibly the island itself too.

    Very, very intriguing, you have my attention, I’m looking forward to what comes next.

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    1. 😀 Glad you’re intrigued. The magic itself will be detailed more fully as we go. Just don’t want to dump too much random exposition ahead of time. That’s what classes are for. 😉

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  5. Well, that vision of her ancestor’s memory of an encounter with the Strangers was an awkward experience for Flick, finding out that she’s descended from that cowardly fellow who cut & ran, leaving the woman & nobleman to fend for themselves. And if that wasn’t potentially inconvenient enough for her, Flick’s new headmistress is none other than the woman abandoned by her ancestor so many years ago & was angered enough by that to swear vengeance on him. Between that & the mess her pet rock made in the hall while she was checking out that mysterious doorway, Flick might not be making the best first impression. Wonder just how much of a factor the way she confronted her former boss at the theater was in her being offered a spot.

    Interesting to hear that beyond what skills & abilities the Heretics are taught, every time they manage to kill a Stranger, they gain a bit of their strength, and if they can do that enough, they can become truly powerful indeed.

    And with the twins explaining the different specializations & what the colored trim signifies, guess that anyone whose taken a peek at the art will know what track Flick’s going to be doing. Also hope we’ll be seeing a lot more of the twins, as they seem like an interesting pair.

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  6. “The headmistress of Crossroads Academy was the woman I’d seen in my vision, the one who had sworn to kill my cowardly ancestor.”

    That’s…rather awkward to find out, eh? I wonder what Flick is going to do with that information. Hopefully, the headmistress isn’t one to carry grudges across generations.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This seems like it’s redundant given the previous paragraph:
    “They were making noises at each other that sounded like a conversation, though I had no idea what they were actually saying.”

    It reads very Harry Potter-ish, which, while an unavoidable comparison, is a good thing. Not that it’s a rip-off, but rather story flows pretty well, is easy to read, and engaging.

    Thanks for the chapter! ^_^

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    1. This seems like it’s redundant given the previous paragraph:

      Whoops, you’re right, that is a bit redundant. Thanks for that.

      It reads very Harry Potter-ish, which, while an unavoidable comparison, is a good thing. Not that it’s a rip-off, but rather story flows pretty well, is easy to read, and engaging.

      Thanks for the chapter! ^_^

      Why thank you very much. The HP comparison is definitely understandable. That’s one of several influences, alongside things like the Dresden Files and Percy Jackson. There’s definitely heavy influences, but I’m glad the story itself is enjoyable. 🙂

      Like

    2. I dunno if I’d say being ‘Harry Potter-ish’ is a good thing. I mean unless you’re saying that the story will have hundreds of millions of dollars thrown at it even if it ends up being a nonsensical morass of plot holes and plot armour and half-assed populist fantasy cliches.

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  8. Damn you. Damn you right to hell. I’m supposed to be doing an assignment right now, but I already can’t stop. Where do you get the nerve writing an interesting story I want to know more about?

    On a more serious note, I love the idea of getting stronger as you kill more monsters like in a video game. That’s not normally something you see (outside of The Gamer it’s fanfics) but it’s something I think holds a lot of narrative promise.

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  9. Lol. Saw the coward being her ancestor coming from a mile away, but it was funny nonetheless. Though in reality not sure he’s any more cowardly than the woman who ran off without even making a single protest. I guess she gets a free pass since she’s a woman.

    On a side note, the noble was completely unbelievable as a character. Despite popular misconception, chivalry didn’t apply to peasants, but only people of an equal station. Nobles of the middle ages did not even consider peasants to be people, much less worthy of sacrificing their lives. It wasn’t even a morality thing – there weren’t good nobles who loved the peasants and bad nobles who hated them, even the ‘good’ ones didn’t think about peasants anymore than you or I would think about an industrial press or a plowshare. They were tools, property, not people.

    That sort of character, the chivalrous noble standing up for the little man, only exists in children’s stories and is in fact relatively harmful. At the least such fantasies make people dumber for believing in them, and worse they make folks forget about or at least forgive the uncaring cruelty that such hereditary privelage creates in the upper classes.

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  10. Are the warthog-like creatures Orcs?
    Love the concept of getting stronger/more abilities the more enemies you kill. Do they have like weak strangers that they capture so that newbies can level up by killing them? Also, I can totally see people in this world hating kill stealers even more than some videogame communities.

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    1. Essentially, yes, they’re what humans know as orcs.

      Do they have like weak strangers that they capture so that newbies can level up by killing them?

      Keep reading. 😉 Arc 2 should answer your question.

      Like

  11. “you may find yourselves standing in a prehistoric world”
    How does that work out of the creatures would have consumed the world without the heretical edge and it only existed for a few hundred years?

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  12. If you’ll excuse me for saying so, but i think the mugle …err … Outsider-Kin/Silverstones introduction was done very, very poorly.

    First Prof. Dare simply says that there are some non-humans, called Strangers, around and calls them enemy (fun fact, stranger, other and enemy can and have been used as synonyms throughout history in pretty much all languages, exempels include but aren’t limited to Jews, Communists, Homosexuals, Moslems… come to think of it, the non-human label was and is applied to them pretty often too) without giving a single reason as to why they are regarded as enemy.
    Then she has the mugles look at a blinding light without any explanation beforehand, a wishy-washy one during and a vaguely threatening one after.
    After that she flat out states that all of them are expected to go out, find the Jews… err… Strangers and kill them in the not too distant future.
    And no one, not even the supposedly quite smart wannabe investigative reporter, mentions that that reeks of evil cult?

    Also, none of usual targets of racism picks up on the fakt that Outsider-Kin/Silverstone(s) is used in a degrading manner?

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      • AUTHOR NOTE: BE AWARE THAT THE FOLLOWING CHAIN OF COMMENTS CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR FUTURE CHAPTERS. PLEASE BE CAREFUL IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO BE SPOILED.

      Cerulean

      I’ve always felt that the first arc is overly rushed and the weakest part of the story, but not quite to the extent you do. There’s a few things I always keep in mind when thinking about this stuff that relates to your concerns.

      (Minor spoilers to follow)

      1. Remember that Flick is the only person who was brought there that day. Everyone else has been there for a few days to a week or even more. So it’s possible that they did bring up the concerns you did but were talked down by others, or that they’ve already been getting lectures.

      Also, how do you know the others aren’t questioning things silently? We’re only seeing things from one perspective at this point.

      2. As for why Flick herself the, “supposedly quite smart wannabe investigative reporter,” as you put it, doesn’t bring them up, I think you’re underestimating the effect of HOLY SHIT, MAGICAL SCHOOL can have on someone’s judgement. Especially when it’s as fresh as it is for Flick. Imagine telling someone who just got a Hogwarts acceptance letter delivered to them by an actual owl and then saw an animagi transform right in front of them that Dumbledore is as evil as Voldemort. I mean, you can make the argument, but the person is going to be too excited to listen at that moment or for the next few hours. After that it’s a matter of socialization.

      3. Crossroads can reek of “evil cult”, but it can also reek of “storybook adventure school” (and in all honesty, it’s both, though a true use of the word evil is highly debatable). Dare’s introduction isn’t all that different from what Percy Jackson hears when he comes to Camp Half-Blood, or what Buffy is told about Hellmouths, or what the students of Beacon Academy know about the Grimm, or what Soul Reapers learn about Hollows, and so on and so forth. Note that while Dare doesn’t give outright reasons for why all Strangers are evil, the ones she lists are “vampires, aliens, and demons,” which are generally creatures that most people in America and other Western nations are conditioned to think of as dangerous monsters. Even with the rise of the sympathetic vampire over the last few years (aliens get about a 50/50 portrayal, there’s an Alien for every E.T.). This brings me to my next point,

      4. These kids are being told something that they in all likelihood want to believe. This is straight out of a TV show, or a video game, or a movie. Who didn’t imagine that they were fighting monsters as a kid?

      5. Those visions, whether you believe them or not, is now the first impression these kids have of nonhumans. They believe it, and first impressions are powerful.

      6. It is entirely in keeping with Crossroads’ MO to recruit students that are unlikely to question these things. Remember that they do a lot of research on potential recruits. A lot.

      Building on this, something as the story goes on is that a lot of the students have histories of isolation. Flick’s will come up as time goes on, Columbus got bullied in school, Shiori spent much of her early life in the foster care system, and Vanessa and Koren have both survived Stranger attacks as children.

      7. Prejudice is a lot more nebulous than “people used to believe it, but now we know better,” and those who think otherwise are kidding themselves. A major contributing factor is the whole notion of the “Other”. One of the reasons Jews have been so mistreated historically is that their habit of entering into other nations, cultures, groups, and refusing to fully conform to the way of life around them. It marks them as “different” to the larger group, and thus threatening and strange and less than normal. The same thing happened when the Europeans decided that the Other people living in Africa were less than normal, and thus less than human.

      A major factor of the general weakening of racism in Western cultures over the last half-century or so is the reducing of the Otherness of minority groups. Jews, black people, homosexuals, and others all seem less Other than they did in the past for all kinds of reasons.

      A great example of this can be found in the early Christian Church. which suffered much of the abuse it would ironically inflict on others a few centuries down the line. When Nero scapegoated them for the Great Fire of Rome, most people were all to eager to persecute these Others they perceived as different and frightening, only stopping when Nero started to take it too far. Fast forward to the Great Persecution by Diocletian’s Tetrarchy and the Christians had proliferated Roman society to the point where they weren’t as Other as they were in the past. So many of those in the Empire actually worked to protect the Christians when in the past they would have happily joined in.

      In this case, the new students are perceiving the creatures they just saw as more Other than other human beings, so they’re more inclined to take Dare at her word.

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      1. It’s not just the 1st arc that feels overly rushed, as you put it, the 2nd has the same feel (and that’s all I’ve read so far). Especially the weapons/combat training is so fucked up that i can’t believe they’re actually getting somewhat capable warriors out of it. But that’s a discussion for the appropriate chapter that I’m way to lazy to start.

        As to your points:
        1st) Yes, the other mugles ware around for a week or so and might have been more prepared for the go out and kill everything that isn’t us speech. And no, I don’t know whether they question things silently. But they are described as being in quite upbeat and happy afterwards so I’m guessing they’re not thinking too hard about all of this.

        2nd) You’ve a point there. I didn’t really consider Flicks mind going >>TILT<< due awesomeness overload.
        And it would explain why she went from carefully investigateing the door to mindlessly lapping it up once she went through said door.
        (Spoiler: And she's distracted by somewhat lesser mysteries once she got her feet on the ground.)

        3rd) Dunno about Percy Jeckson, Beacon Academy or Soul Reapers, but Buffy was in the middle of her 2nd life-or-death fight with vampires when her mentor showed up and started to explain things (At least in the original movie, on which the series and subsequent comics are based. Ain't much of a fan of the later two…).
        The way CRA is introduced feels more like Violators introduction speech to Spawn.
        Which was actually my main point, unless the author wanted it to be blatantly obvious to the reader that the CRA isn't your friendly neighborhood magical school (and I somehow don't think that was his intend) he's done a very poor job at hiding it. And since we readers experience the story from the 1st person view of the protagonist he/she/it has also done a poor job of hiding it from Flick
        I might have expressed that very poorly in my previous post.

        4th) A valid point. Can't argue against it.

        5th) Doesn't matter if I believe in those visions or not (for the record I don't ), but those kids didn't get any other reason then "Whoa, magic school" to belive in them. Together with the large amount of clues that something is off should make them at least questionable to the owner of an intelligent and investigativ mind. Once she gets her head around the "Whoa, magic school" stuff anyway.
        And yeah, first impressions are powerful. And Flicks first impression was being abducted to the middle of nowhere, told that she has been spied on extensively and being threaded whith a mind wipe if doesn't go through the magic door…
        K, Flick doesn't see it this way (yet?)…

        6th) Yupp, they researched them quite throughoutly. And bluntly told them so, along with the memory wipes/implants they do regularly and causally. Which should raise some flags.
        But otherwise this point is yours.

        7th) Aside frome some minor differences about the Christian-Jewish relations and how these affected the relations to the rest of the Roman population, which are way too off-topic to be discussed here, we seem to be on the same page.
        Can't even argue your final conclusion when i consider the asumed state of mind of the kids ("Whoa, magic school!!!!") during Deres final speech despite all the not so little clues about Dere and CRA not being exactly trustworthy.

        Like

      2. Especially the weapons/combat training is so fucked up that i can’t believe they’re actually getting somewhat capable warriors out of it.

        What weapons/combat training are you talking about? Literally the only combat stuff in there (that the school PLANNED rather than being an assassination attempt) is ‘go in this room and kill this bug that won’t fight back so that you get regeneration power.’

        So I have no idea what you’re criticizing.

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      3. I need to preface this reply by saying something I say to everyone I recommend this story to:

        Make it through the first two arcs in their entirety. If you’re not enjoying it or interested at that point, stop, because you’re probably not going to start enjoying it later.

        If you’re on the fence, or otherwise unsure if you’re enjoying it, try to make it through at least arc 4, preferably up to arc 6. If at that point you’re still unsure, stop.

        Moving on. My problem with the first arc has always been the pacing. I’ve thought that pretty much everything that happens in it is rushed and awkward. In my opinion, the pacing evens out in arc 2 and stays that way. If you disagree, fine. This is strictly a matter of opinion.

        1. Fair enough about them being happy and upbeat. But again, they’ve been here for a little while, and they were spoken to multiples times before that (I actually didn’t know that until Cerulean said so in his response to this discussion).

        3. I can’t actually respond to this one without giving spoilers. Let’s just say that your initial impression is a bit more accurate that you think it is.

        Point of order though, the Buffy show and comics actually aren’t based on the movie. Joss Whedon wrote the original script for the movie and didn’t the like end result. So when he got the chance to make the series, he made it to align much more closely with his original vision. The movie and the show are essentially two different plants sprung from the same seed and tended to by different gardeners. (I actually still need to see the movie.)

        As far as the show and comics are concerned, the broad events of the movie took place, but the details are different (Buffy’s initial intro to the supernatural was her watcher walking up to her after school and telling her about it, the events end with the school’s gym burning down, etc.).

        And for the record, Percy Jackson and Ichigo Kurosaki were attacked by a Greek monsters and a Hollow before they were told what they were, so those two examples also make the point you were making with Buffy.

        5. At this point in the story, you can reasonably make the argument that the visions people receive from the Heretical Edge are fake. However, later events and revelations make it very clear that you are unequivocally wrong. Those visions are showing exactly what happened in them without any modifications or changes.

        They are one hundred percent legitimate.

        The fact that Gaia is present both in Flick’s vision and events of the story is already very strong evidence against your disbelief, but more information is coming. This mostly consists of the students gaining information that they couldn’t possibly have otherwise which is then confirmed elsewhere.

        5 & 6. As for the rest, it seems like you’re making the mistake of assuming that every intelligent person is going to act and react to things the same way, with no regard for various neurosis, issues, or other factors that may inhibit rationality. Otherwise intelligent people are perfectly capable of doing stupid things or missing warning signs that someone without those same issues may see instantly. I apologize if the impression I’m getting is wrong, but that’s what it seems like. I also apologize if this passage comes across as condescending, that was not my intent.

        Here’s the thing, Flick is a lonely (she has mentioned no friends so far), very bored (she’s been clear about that) teenager with abandonment and self-esteem issues (it’s clear that she is still deeply hurt by her mother’s leaving, although the self-esteem stuff isn’t necessarily apparent at this stage (you can see it, but you have to look)). While she’s generally intelligent, she’s also the exact kind of person who’s vulnerable to the pitch she’s getting.

        She’s being told that the world is filled with magic and wonder, and that she passed enough of the school’s exacting standards to make them want her (unlike her mother). This pushes all the right buttons to make Flick want to believe what she’s being told. And as you yourself admitted was a valid point, it’s a lot easier to convince someone of something when they want to believe it. That desire overcomes rationality more often than not.

        Also, and this is another little spoiler, Flick isn’t quite as convinced as you might think she is.

        And one more thing about the Bystander-kin/Silverstone thing. I can see your point about prejudice against Bystanders/muggles (it’s something I worried about when I started reading). But having read the rest of the story, I can tell you right now that very few Heretic-born we’ve seen hold any real malice or condescension for Bystander-kin or Bystanders. Wyatt may have seemed that way at first, but he really isn’t. As of arc 13, there’s been exactly one named character who is outwardly a genuinely prejudiced against Bystanders, and most of the characters don’t like him anyway.

        Like

      4. Whoa dude! Spoilers!
        Not so much for me, because I don’t care about them all that much and I’ve already read past some of them. But still, there might be other new readers wandering this way and stumble over them.

        As to 3rd:
        You’re aware that stating “Won’t say anything because spoiler.” is a spoiler on its own, right? Especially if it’s followed up with “But you might be more on the money than you think.”!

        And did I really manage to make my point with three exemples despite knowing and mentioning only one of them? Niiiice!

        As to 5th:
        Major spoiler there.
        Gaia? Is that the first/given name of headmistress Sinclair? Her appearance doesn’t say much on its own.
        But I’ll accept that there is more proof for the authenticity of the visions coming and stand corrected.
        Still, doesn’t change much if anything of my initial impression of the CRA though.

        As to 5th&6th:
        Another major spoiler and several smaller ones. Luckily, I’ve come across the major one and some smaller ones already during my forays into arc 3.

        I don’t think that I’m assuming that every intelligent person is going to act and react to things the same way, with no regard for various neurosis, issues, or other factors that may inhibit rationality.
        But I might be wrong about that. After all self examination is notoriously difficult.
        Also, no apologies necessary. I don’t care all that much about what impressions others have about me nor did it come across as condescending.

        Yeah, Flicks ongoing characterisation makes it fairly clear, that she’s a good candidate for being scouted be a cult. If the other muggles have similar character traits it’s understandable that they didn’t recognize the warning signs.
        Too bad that not enough of that info is available at this point in-story and/or that the introduction of the CRA was too botched to keep my disbelief suspended.

        Like

      5. 3. Yeah, I know that can be seen as a spoiler. But pretty much everything I spoiled happens within the purview of the “First Episode Spoiler,” which is to say that all of the information is given early enough in the story that it’s not really spoiling the plot. It’s like talking about how Harry Potter is a wizard, or that Percy Jackson is a demigod. Those are technically spoilers, but they happen early enough in their respective it’s kind of hard to talk about the series without mentioning them.

        In this specific case, the fact that Crossroads is either lying or wrong about Strangers is proven by second interlude. There’s a reason I tell people to make it to the end of arc 2.

        Also, I admittedly may have lost myself for a moment, because pretty much everything I spoiled are things I figured out for myself before they were actually revealed.

        5. Gaia’s name is not a spoiler. Dare named her as “Baroness Gaia Sinclaire” in 1-03.

        The info on the other students is not available yet, but the info on Flick is. You can find evidence of all her various issues in the first two or three chapters. The loneliness is apparent because she doesn’t mention any friends and because when Dare made her offer, literally the only person Flick worried about leaving behind was her dad and none of her peers. Abandonment issues? Mom walked out on her at age seven. Self-esteem? That whole drug bust thing can very easily be read as a cry out to her mom, either as a giant middle finger or as a plea for the woman to want her again (both, most likely). Boredom? She’s very clear about how bored she is in Wyoming.

        So, while the info on the other students is not available yet, the info on Flick is.

        Too bad that not enough of that info is available at this point in-story and/or that the introduction of the CRA was too botched to keep my disbelief suspended.

        This next part is easily the most confrontational part of my various posts, and I apologize for that, but I feel the need to be frank.

        You are not having great insights and seeing things that nobody else saw. The cult warning bells start ringing for plenty of other readers in the early chapters of the first two arcs.

        Granted, they started ringing for you more quickly than most, but the conclusions you jumped to are flawed.

        The difference is that many of those of us who noticed all these things before actually did assume that everything you pointed out was intentionally written that way.

        If you’re not enjoying this story, that’s fine. You’re not the first and you won’t be the last. But plenty of others have and do enjoy it, and that’s also fine.

        It’s a matter of opinion. You’ve explained the reasons for your opinions, and I’ve explained why those things don’t bother me.

        Like

      6. 5. Gaia’s name is not a spoiler. Dare named her as “Baroness Gaia Sinclaire” in 1-03.

        Her name wasn’t what I meant with major spoiler. It was her appearance in Flicks vision. That isn’t revealed until the next chapter. Or was it the one after that?

        You are not having great insights and seeing things that nobody else saw. The cult warning bells start ringing for plenty of other readers in the early chapters of the first two arcs.

        Did I leave that impression? I honestly never thought of it this way. And I saw some comments on later chapters, voicing the same or similar thoughs about the CRA. Yours among them.

        Granted, they started ringing for you more quickly than most, but the conclusions you jumped to are flawed.

        Yes some of my conclusions are definitely flawed. The ones about Flicks willingness to join up with the cult for example. I didn’t really pick up on her personal issues until I started reading the 3rd arc. If I had picked up on them earlier, or if I have to remake the conclusion with the knowledge I’ve now, I wouldn’t make the same conclusion. And I would use way less snark because instead of viewing her as bumbling investigator I see her now as a somewhat tragic cult victim. But even that isn’t too bad ’cause she’s probably having the best time of her life since her mom left.
        Or my conclusion about the visions being unreliable. You’re saying they’re and that there’ll be proof later on. Haven’t seen (or picked up on) any yet, but if my conclusion is wrong than it is wrong.
        Or how about that blunder where I based a rather large part of my reasoning why the weapons/combat training as showed in the first 2 arcs is fucked up on a reading error? I still think it’s somewhat fucked up, just not that much than I originally thought. And with having read the beginning of arc 4 I think that I can see that is moving into the standard manga/animee training by battle with too little risk management category. Which I still find fucked up.

        Have I made other false conclusions? Feel free to point them out. If possible with showing me where I made the error so that I can correct it and avoid similar errors in the future.

        The difference is that many of those of us who noticed all these things before actually did assume that everything you pointed out was intentionally written that way.

        See, that’s what I would really like to know. Because the way I read the story, I get conflicting massages.
        The overall story gives me the vibe that the dark side of the CRA is supposed to be revealed piece by piece while the way Dare introduced the CRA gives me the vibe of “Of course we’re evil, why do you even ask?”. And I don’t get the feeling that this discrepancy was intentional.
        Sort of a lose-lose situation…

        But I still enjoy the story enough to keep reading and since I’ve read “Intrepid”, which I still enjoy very much, I’ve hopes that this will turn out to my satisfaction too.

        I’ve explained why those things don’t bother me.

        It bothered you enough to feel the need to be frank. Sorry for that.

        Uhmm… was this your subtle way of ending this discussion? If so, please don’t feel obliged to reply.

        Like

      7. DISCLAIMER: My last message was written in the morning right before I went to work, so it was a bit rushed and not as constructed as I usually try to make them. As a result, I didn’t properly articulate everything I was trying to say and came off as more hostile than I was intending.

        OTHER DISCLAIMER: I asked Cerulean to put a bolded and italicized spoiler warning in all caps at the first of my replies here.

        Her name wasn’t what I meant with major spoiler. It was her appearance in Flicks vision. That isn’t revealed until the next chapter. Or was it the one after that?

        Nope. 1-04. The chapter we’re on right now. That’s actually why I was so incensed about what looked like an assertion (more on that in a moment) that the visions were fake, because evidence that it was real comes literally at the end of the chapter it happened in. I mean, you could argue that the vision was programmed beforehand or something, but at the very least, both possibilities are visible from that point

        And that’s my whole problem here. Your early messages are peppered with your opinions given as definitive statements rather than, well, opinions. When you say something like “the introduction was botched” rather than “I didn’t believe the introduction” (I’m paraphrasing, but you’ve expressed both sentiments), the language carries the implicit suggestion that you’re stating what you think is objectively true for everyone, rather than your personal opinion. And that implication further carries the suggestion that everyone else is wrong for not seeing the same thing you did, and that raised my heckles and prompted me to respond as strongly as I did.

        To put it simply, your comment in 2-05 is not the only one you made that comes across as condescending.

        I realize now that I misjudged your intended tone. And once again, I would like to apologize for that.

        This is also what I meant by “flawed assumptions,” (along with the reasons you’ve already outlined). There’s nothing inherently wrong with the conclusions you’ve reached (although I still wish to grumble about the picture of Gaia literally showing up at the end of the chapter with the vision). But I kept getting the impression that you were treating those conclusions as the actual truth before they were actually confirmed even though there’s plenty of info in the rest of the story that you haven’t reached yet.

        At this point, I’m re-examining my statements and realizing that I was being slightly irrational.

        It is probably very apparent at this point (and will definitely become obvious if you keep reading the comment sections) that I really, really enjoy this story. I recognize that it has its issues especially with exposition of certain details (though I personally have not yet found anything to be internally inconsistent… except for one thing, but that’s comparatively minor). As a result, I tend to get defensive in the face of messages as snarky and (apparently) dismissive as your initial one was. Hence the… enthusiastic response.

        Uhmm… was this your subtle way of ending this discussion? If so, please don’t feel obliged to reply

        If we do keep going, I’d rather move it over to the much easier to use PMing systems on SB, SV, or Fanfiction (you mentioned reading Intrepid, but I don’t know which site you use). Or the discussion threads on SB or SV if you’d prefer. I use the hendy853 name on all three sites, so you can find me if you want to keep going.

        If we do keep going, I can tell you that I’ll be arguing against just slapping the “evil” label on Crossroads and calling it a day. You’re not the first person to call it a cult (I’m pretty sure that was me), and if you do read everything that’s been posted you certainly won’t be alone in calling it evil, but I argue and maintain that the overall situation is ultimately too complicated to use that term for the entire organization.

        I can’t really go into detail without getting into MAJOR spoilers, as opposed to the minor spoilers I dropped earlier.

        Like

      8. I screwed up this paragraph a little bit:

        It is probably very apparent at this point (and will definitely become obvious if you keep reading the comment sections) that I really, really enjoy this story. I recognize that it has its issues especially with exposition of certain details (though I personally have not yet found anything to be internally inconsistent… except for one thing, but that’s comparatively minor). As a result, I tend to get defensive in the face of messages as snarky and (apparently) dismissive as your initial one was. Hence the… enthusiastic response.

        I meant to add more.

        It is probably very apparent at this point (and will definitely become obvious if you keep reading the comment sections) that I really, really enjoy this story. I recognize that it has its issues, especially with exposition of certain details (though I personally have not yet found anything to be internally inconsistent… except for one thing, but that’s comparatively minor), but those flaws have bothered me so little for me that they haven’t hurt my enjoyment at all. This story hits so many of my interests and . As a result, I tend to get defensive in the face of messages as snarky and (apparently) dismissive as your initial one was. Hence the… enthusiastic response.

        Oh, wait, there is one other, more important thing that really bugs me. But Cerulean has already told me that he plans to fix that problem in edits, so I’m not overly bothered by it.

        Like

      9. Nope. 1-04. The chapter we’re on right now.

        Huh? Oh… yeah, you’re right. So no spoiler at all.
        In my defense, after 3 days on an archive binge the chapter breaks tend to blur a bit. For me at least.

        Your previous comments ware strong and/or enthusiastic? To me they came across as polite and slightly friendly. Except for the one before my previous post, that one loft more of a unfriendly impression.

        I can try to tone down my tendency to come across as condescending but I’m unsure of how successful I’ll be.
        And if I really came across as condescending as you make it sound, I’ve to thank you for engaging in a discussion with me at all. And for explaining the issue to me.

        And by now I’ve reached the point were maintaining the claim that the visions are fake would require conspiracy theory levels of logic. I’m also past the point were slapping the evil label on every adult in Crossroads would be inappropriate. Still think that the evil and cult labels are pretty fitting for the organization as whole, but a surprising number of members is working to change that.
        Including the one person who tipped me of to the evil cult thing in the first place… Which doesn’t help with my conflicting impressions.

        I’ve read “Intrepid” at SB, but don’t have an account there. Besides, think it’s terrible bad manners to start a discussion in public at one place, for everyone to read and chime in if they want to, and than moving it to another place.
        Also, I think this discussion is just about exhausted, unless we want to go an about how we misinterpreted each others tone for a bit.

        Like

      10. Maybe condescending isn’t quite the right word. But whatever the right word is, it made me a bit defensive.

        I’m glad my early messages came off as polite. I was trying to be polite. Although I meant “enthusiastic” in the sense that I was practically writing essays.

        The question of whether or not Crossroads is evil is, as I’ve said, highly debatable. There are a number of up to date readers that strongly believe it is.

        Personally, I view the organization as being “the bad guys” in the same way I see the Imperium of Man from Warhammer 40k.

        Like

      11. Also, I ended up seeing things I hadn’t noticed before over the course of this back and forth. Like that stuff about the potential subconscious reasons for Flick’s drug bust, or how uniquely vulnerable to that kind of recruitment she really was. I was aware of her flaws before, but I hadn’t seen the extent of them until I brought them up here.

        So thank you.

        Like

    1. Hendy covered most of what I was going to say. 🙂

      Thanks for the feedback in any case. The first arc is a little bit shaky. But yeah, a lot of what you were talking about is either explained there or there’s more to it that’s shown later.

      As he said, Flick’s situation is not the NORMAL recruit situation. Normally, they’re talked to and interviewed several times before the actual start of school. The Bystander-kin (not Outsider-kin) who are recruited are approached and talked to about the evil monsters that need to be hunted. They are also told what the Heretical Edge will do and all that. Flick’s situation was very different for reasons that have already been explained later on in the story, once you get to that point.

      And while I understand what you mean by the quick comparison to racial things, there’s… well, I don’t want to say too much for fear of spoiling it. Suffice to say, it’s addressed later.

      That said, it’s not quite a perfect comparison because, again as Hendy said, there’s a major difference between telling people that these humans who believe differently are evil, and telling them that these literal monsters who EAT PEOPLE and are usually already portrayed as inhuman monsters in stories and movies and such are evil.

      Personally, I don’t think it’s hard to accept that people would believe ‘monsters, demons, aliens, and more are going around torturing and killing people, and we have to train you to stop them.’Especially given the examples they give them.

      Also, none of usual targets of racism picks up on the fakt that Outsider-Kin/Silverstone(s) is used in a degrading manner?

      Every group everywhere has terms meant to divide people into groups. It’s a fact of life. Some mean it insultingly, others don’t. It’s slang, and it’s everywhere. If Heretics didn’t have their own slang terms for people born Heretics and people who aren’t, it wouldn’t seem realistic.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, I don’t have a problem with the whole “There’re Monsters, they’re evil, we have to fight and kill them.” as such, but more with the way it was presented. I’ve tried to make that more clear in my reply to handy. Sry, didn’t see your reply before writing that wall of text.

        But it’s good to hear that the other mugles were more carefully prepared for the “go out and kill” speech. Makes their agreement to it more believable.

        As for the Monsters are always (chaotic) evil, that’s sort of a pet peave of mine and has nothing to do with your your story and everything to do with why humanity as whole is extremely unlikely to ever accept another species as fully sapient, sentinent, intelligent and of equal right to live.
        Well, maybe it has something to do with your story…

        As for the Bystander-Kin/Silverstone(s), again my issue is with the existence of those words but with the fact that the blacks, asian, hispanic and native american didn’t pick up on the fakt that it’s used to make the mugles something less then the heretic-born. Maybe they will in time …
        Also, in this context outsider is perfectly synonymous to bystander and in some ways even more fitting. ‘Cause they’re outside of knowledge, the group, the power and most importantly the ability to effectively defend themselves.

        Like

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