A Learning Experience 17-08

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“Professor Kohaku wants me to join the Security track next semester.”

It was a few hours later, shortly after the end of our final Investigation track meeting before the winter break. I’d asked to talk to Professor Dare privately once the meeting was over (we’d mostly spent it talking about what we’d learned about various early investigative techniques), and she had led me into an empty classroom in the main building before gesturing for me to go ahead and talk.

Now, she raised an eyebrow. “Does she?” A thoughtful look crossed the blonde woman’s face briefly before she nodded. “That’s not a terrible idea. After all, Investigation and Security pair together well.”

Blinking, I hesitated. “So, does that mean you’re not disappointed or anything? I mean, I really like Investigation, Professor. I do. It’s just-I think I might need to… with everything that’s happening, I just-”

Dare raised a hand to stop me. “Miss Chambers,” she interrupted gently, “I’m not insulted by the idea that you wish to broaden your horizons. On the contrary, I’m glad that you won’t be limiting yourself to a single track. Learning more is always good. My question was that, are you sure you wouldn’t prefer to look into the Explorers track? You already seem to have a knack for making your way to new worlds.”

Flushing at that, I squirmed on my feet. “I-um, I thought about it. And I do want to look into it. But I think that—Um… I think that Security might help me more in the short term. The things they learn how to do, the um, the defenses they can make. I think that um—I think that with everything I’m already learning from Professor Katarin and Avalon and the headmistress, security can fill in more gaps.”

Dare gave a slight nod after watching me for a second with a thoughtful look. “Miss Chambers,” she started quietly, “if there’s something you need to talk with someone about, something bothering you…”

About the fact that when I turn eighteen, the monster that kidnapped my mother and forced her to have a child with him is going to come back for me? The thought ran through my mind, and I flinched before looking up to her. Our gazes met, and I opened my mouth to say something before stopping myself.

Just tell them how much trouble you’re in, Flick, my brain insisted. It was right. I needed to be open about everything, especially with Gaia. I needed to explain the whole thing, that not only was my mother Fossor’s prisoner, but that he wanted me as well. I needed to tell them the truth. All of it.

Even as I thought that, however, my old doubts kept creeping in. What if they overreacted? What if they stopped me from visiting my father? The Heretics could do that, after all. And how would that affect Dad? If I disappeared, no matter what excuse they made up, either it would kill him, or they’d just erase his memory. Erase his memory of… of me. And that was something I couldn’t let happen.

And yet, it was Professor Dare. And Gaia. I trusted them. Even after everything that I’d found out about how the Heretic leadership had treated my mother, I had no reason to doubt Gaia, and every reason to believe her when she said that I could trust Professor Dare.

“Professor…” I started slowly, swallowing hard as I met her gaze. “I need to tell you the whole truth.”

In response, the woman raised an eyebrow. “The whole truth?” she echoed curiously. “About what?”

“About what happened back in Laramie Falls when I was visiting for my birthday.” Straightening a bit, I looked straight at her. “About Fossor. He was there. I need to tell you about it. I need to tell you what he said.”

******

So I did. I told Professor Dare all of it, from beginning to end. I explained the whole thing with Fossor and what he had promised. I told her about how he had easily and dismissively shut down Ammon and ordered him into the car. And I explained my own failed attempt to hurt him by taking away his ashes. I told her everything, the words continuing to spill from my mouth even as Dare urged me to sit down.

When I was finished, the first thing she said was, “So that’s how you met the vampire and the pooka that are watching over your father.”

I did a double-take at that. “You knew about—oh, I guess Gaia would’ve told you about Asenath.”

She shook her head, watching me for a moment before continuing. “She did, but I knew before that. Did you really think I’d leave your father alone after what you said about Ammon escaping if I didn’t know that he was already being protected? I looked into it as soon as we finished our interview here with Runner Kline and Risa. When I found out you had a vampire and a pooka staying there, I figured that there was a little more to the story that you left out. I was not given the job of Investigation Adviser by accident, after all.”

“So you know about Asenath, and–” I stopped, blinking up at her. “Um, Professor, there’s something else. Something you might not know about her.”

Raising an eyebrow, Professor Dare asked, “Is there?”

“Um, yeah. Well, about her and her father.” Taking a breath, I met the other woman’s gaze. “Her dad’s name is Tiras.”

Well, clearly that surprised the woman. I saw her rock backwards a little, blinking a couple times. “Tiras. That… that makes… he has a daughter.”

Nodding quickly, I explained what I knew from Senny herself and from Shiori, that Tiras had left to do something about the Akharu’s enemies back on their homeworld, and hadn’t been seen since.

By the end, Professor Dare’s expression had gone through several intense emotions before she controlled it. “I hope he returns in time to see the incredible woman his daughter has become.” Winking at me, she added, “I may have looked into this Asenath myself to make sure she was safe to be around your father. Not enough to find out her own parentage, but… there are plenty of stories that assured me that you chose the right bodyguard.”

“You should meet her,” I blurted. “I mean, you spent time around her father, and she… she needs to learn more about him. She hasn’t seen him in hundreds of years, Professor. Hearing about him from you, it would–”

“It’s not a bad idea,” the woman confirmed. “I’ll… see what I can do about visiting your home without attracting too much attention. If you don’t think it would be too awkward with your father.”

“I’ll figure something out,” I insisted. “I don’t think he’ll object too much to have a teacher visit. If… if you want to come.”

She smiled faintly, giving a slight nod. “Of course. It would be… nice to see Tiras’s daughter in person.”

Her gaze turned stern then. “However, Miss Chambers—Flick, you should have told us about what Fossor said before now, as soon as it happened. You can’t hold things like that back from us, if we’re going to be able to help you. We need to know what kind of danger you’re in.”

“I know, I know.” I squirmed a little, nodding. “I just—I didn’t know if I could trust you yet, not with that. And then the whole thing with Gaia on the Meregan world happened and I should have told her about all of it then. I told her a lot, but not… not what Fossor said about coming back for me. I don’t know why. I guess… I guess I didn’t want you guys to stop me from visiting my father.”

“We wouldn’t do that,” she informed me flatly. “He’s your father. Listen to me, Flick…” Raising a hand to my shoulder, she squeezed it firmly. “We—I won’t let them take you away from your dad, okay? No matter what happens, we’ll find a way to make it work. We may have to move him, might even have to adjust things. But no matter what, you and your father are not going to be separated. I promise.”

Her words made me swallow hard, and I felt the urge to hug the woman. So, I did. She seemed surprised by the gesture, making a noise that almost sounded like a protest before stopping herself. Then, gradually, her arms came down to wrap around me. “Flick,” Professor Dare murmured softly, an odd level of emotion in her voice considering it was just a simple hug. “We’ll teach you to protect yourself. Fossor isn’t going to take you. I swear, we won’t let him have you. I won’t let him have you.”

“You… say that like you have history with him,” I managed after a moment.

Dare coughed. “I do. More than a little. I…” She paused before adding, “I’ve had a run-in or two with him. The last time was when I had to stop him from creating another plague.”

My eyes widened, and I leaned my head back to stare up at her. “You… you fought him? You stopped him? You won?”

“He is not invincible,” the woman replied. “Powerful beyond most belief, yes. And dangerous. Never doubt that. But he is not omnipotent. He can be beaten. But that is a story for another day, perhaps when you return from your vacation.”

“You’ve got to be kidding,” I retorted. “You tell me that there’s a way to beat him and tell me to wait to hear about it? That’s insane.”

Chuckling in spite of herself, Professor Dare raised an eyebrow. “I’m saying wait for it not because you don’t deserve the story now, but because it’s getting a little late. And aren’t you supposed to be meeting Miss Fellows shortly for an important conversation?”

“You—I–how do you–” I stammered, staring at her.

She chuckled. “As I said, I was not given my position by accident. I believe she’s waiting for you now.”

Right. It was time to see Koren, to tell her about what I’d found out. And, afterward, to give her a little surprise that Klassin had helped me come up with.

I just hoped she took the news better than I had.

******

“That motherfucker!”

I really shouldn’t have expected any different reaction from Koren when I told her what I’d learned. After all, that had pretty much been my exact reaction, even if I’d only thought it. Still, even though we were far down the beach beyond the school grounds and I had taken the precaution of the privacy coin, I held my hands up to shush her. “I know. Trust me, I know. But you’ve gotta hear the rest, Koren.”

She huffed a little, folding her arms across her chest tightly in a clear effort to hold herself back from some brash action. “You’re saying that our English Lit teacher is the one who snitched like a little bitch and made the whole war blow up? It’s his fault… pretty much everything happened the way it did.”

“Yeah,” I confirmed quietly. “Including the fact that you and I even exist. We wouldn’t be here if things had been different. Our moms never would’ve met our dads, and well, you know how that goes.”

“I–” Koren fell silent briefly, considering that before looking up. “Yeah, maybe. But you know what? He’s still a dick. He doesn’t get to take credit for happy accidents that happen in spite of his dickishness. And now you said he’s talking about taking the twins off your team? I say again, that motherfucker.”

Smiling in spite of myself, I gave a quick nod. “I get it, Kor. Boy, do I ever get it. But he thought he was doing the right thing. He wasn’t trying to win a prize, or snitch to gain some kind of recognition. He was trying to protect everyone. He was wrong, but I’m not surprised. Look at this place. He loved it here, and he thought that my mom was gonna ruin it. He thought she was crazy, and that she was going to get herself and a bunch of other people killed. What he did was wrong, but I get why he did it.”

“How are you not pissed off?” the other girl demanded. “Why don’t you wanna break his face off?”

“Oh, I am,” I replied flatly. “And I do. I mean, if I could figure out how to break a face off, that is. But I can’t. I can’t even let on that I know anything, or the whole gig’s up. Plus, there’s the small but very important fact that he could pretty much slap me around like a hockey puck at the Stanley Cup Finals.”

Koren made a face at that. “Gruesome and very specific. But true.” She heaved a sigh. “No punching?”

“No punching,” I confirmed. “We have to play it cool. And to do that, I had to start thinking about it from his point of view instead of mine. I had to think about how I’d react if I really did believe that all Strangers were evil and then someone came up and started talking about allying with them. It’s not easy. I’m still really pissed off. But I can control it. At least, for now. But let’s just say I’m glad we’ve got a three week vacation coming up so I can work through it before we have another class with him.”

Koren didn’t say anything for over a minute. She remained silent, looking away while clearly working through her emotions. I knew what she was going through, considering I’d just done the same thing earlier that day. Finally, she straightened and looked back to me. “Are you going to tell Deveron?”

Wincing at the question, I shook my head. “No. I mean, yes, eventually. He deserves to know. But not right now. I’m just… not sure how he’ll react. Professor Mason did end up ruining a lot of his life. I think it’ll be better to tell him later, once… I dunno. Eventually, but not now. I kinda don’t hate him right now, so I’d hate to ruin that by giving him news that makes him run off and start shooting a teacher.”

“Yeah,” Koren murmured, “that might ruin his chances of being your mentor next semester.” A sigh escaped her then. “This sucks. I liked Professor Mason. He made reading those old books interesting.”

Nodding in agreement, I matched the other girl’s sigh while looking out at the ocean in silence. After a moment, I murmured under my breath. “And I haven’t even told you about the thing with Klassin yet.”

“The therapist dude?” she blinked at me then in realization. “Hey, yeah, why were they talking about all that stuff right before you got there? Because that kind of seems a bit, you know, just a little..”

“Convenient?” I nodded. “It was. Klassin set it up. He wanted me to overhear what they were saying.”

“Why?” she demanded. “Why the hell would the school psychiatrist want you to hear all that stuff?”

“That’s a long story” I muttered. Taking a breath, I started to explain, getting up through the part where Klassin told me who his father was.

She took it about as well as I expected. When I got there, she blurted, “Are you fucking kidding me?!”

My head started to shake, but she had already moved on. “Just out of completely morbid curiosity, how utterly screwed are we?” the brunette demanded while narrowing her eyes at me. “And bear in mind, I’d usually say something like, ‘on a scale of one to insert hypothetical really, really bad example for ten here’, but the example I’d use would’ve been, ‘your therapist is Gabriel Ruthers’ son, and well….”

“Would I be standing here like this if we were screwed?” I pointed out mildly. “I definitely wouldn’t be this calm about it.” When the other girl gave me a weird look, I added, “It’s okay. Trust me. Klassin and his father aren’t on speaking terms. He’s on our side, or rather, on Mom’s side. He was a spy for them.”

So I explained the rest of it, how the formerly named Jonathan’s experience with the Alters who had saved and protected him had changed his mind about them, and how he had spied on his father and the rest of the Crossroads Heretics. I told her that he basically disowned his father and took a new identity after it became clear that he couldn’t stop them from erasing Mom’s identity to destroy the rebellion.

“Why didn’t Gaia tell you about him, though?” Koren wanted to know. “You said before that she told you you could absolutely trust Dare, Nevada, Kohaku, and Katarin. Why wasn’t Klassin on that list?”

“I don’t know,” I admitted while shaking my head. “I need to talk to her about it and find out. Hopefully before we leave for vacation tomorrow. Maybe it has something to do with her not wanting to give away that Ruthers was his father before he was ready to tell me himself. Privacy or something.”

“Maybe.” Koren murmured. “Speaking of fathers, what about Sands and Scout? Are you telling them?”

Again, I shook my head, this time more firmly. “No. Not yet. The last thing I want to do is drop a bomb like that on them just before we all split up for three weeks. They deserve better than that. I’m not going to ruin their image of their father right before Christmas. I’m just… not gonna do that to them.”

There was silence for a few seconds before she gave a slight nod. Her voice was a hoarse, somehow painful whisper. “Fair enough. You wouldn’t want to destroy their memory of their father.”

Normally, I would have flinched then. Probably even changed the subject. This time, however, I looked at her directly. I saw the conflicting emotions in her eyes and reached out to touch the girl’s arm. “Koren,” I murmured. “There’s something else. I talked to Klassin some more after all that happened. I talked to him about my mom, about what he remembered. And eventually, I started thinking about… about your dad. About how you and your mom can’t remember him. I… talked to Klassin about it.”

She whipped around a bit, eyes wide as she stared at me. “You talked to him about my dad?”

Seeing the reflexive anger there, I held up both hands. “I know, I know. But listen. Like I said, there’s more, and it’s important. I—here.” Turning, I put my fingers to my lips and gave a sharp whistle.

“Flick, what’re y–” Koren started before falling silent as a figure emerged from the jungle where he had been waiting for me to give the signal. She stared that way. “Wait, isn’t that the… Runner guy?”

“Tribald Kine,” the tall, incredibly thin man himself confirmed while moving closer to us. “It’s nice to meet you, Miss Fellows.” To me, he nodded. “And a pleasure to see you again, Miss Chambers.”

Koren still looked confused. “Flick,” she demanded uneasily, “what’s he doing here? What’s going on?”

“It’s okay,” I assured the other girl. “Like I said, I talked to Klassin and he… well, he told me about Tribald, and said he could help. I asked him to wait until I gave the signal, so I could have a chance to talk to you about the rest of it first.” Looking toward the man himself, I added, “You can help, right?”

“How?” Koren sounded defensive and a bit critical. Not that I blamed her, after all she’d been through. Her inability to remember her father was a sore spot. “Are you going to do some kind of magic spell?”

Tribald’s head shook. “No,” he said quietly, without looking away from her intense stare. “I’m not going to do a spell, Miss Fellows. I am going to tell you about the kind of man that your father was.”

I saw the flicker of emotion in her eyes before she clamped down on it. Her disbelief and cynicism outweighed her hope as she repeated her question. “How? No one remembers him. The Fomorian made sure of that. He deleted the memories of every single person who knew my dad.” Her hand waved vaguely, voice rising almost hysterically. “And why would you know anything about him anyway?”

Tribald’s own voice was soft, and kind. “Because he was my… distant relative, my cousin’s grandson. And,” he added thoughtfully, “I suppose the Fomorian didn’t actually realize that I had any connection to him. I didn’t exactly advertise the fact that I played matchmaker in that situation, after all.”

The doubt and cynicism within Koren kept warring its way through her expression, but her need to know the truth eventually won out. “You–” She stopped, swallowing hard through an obvious lump in her throat. “You’re… wait, we’re related too? You and me, we’re also related?”

“Somewhat distantly, yes,” Tribald confirmed. “I believe the technical term is ‘first cousin, three times removed.’”

“And you remember.” Koren sounded dazed then, like it was just really hitting her. “You remember my dad. You remember him. You can… you can tell me… tell me about him? You can tell me about my father?” There was visible wetness in her eyes that she blinked away rapidly. “Like… his name?”

Tribald reached out, his hand taking hers gently. “His name was Kenneth, Miss Fellows. Your father’s name was Kenneth. And I can tell you a lot more than that.”

“Take a walk,” I suggested when it became clear that Koren couldn’t find her voice. “You guys deserve some privacy.” Gesturing out into the ocean, I added, “I need to spend time with my sharks anyway.”

So they did. For a few seconds, I watched as the two of them moved out of my sight, their voices a soft murmur in the cool evening air. Then I turned away, giving them their space as I moved into the ocean to whistle for my ocean-bound friends.

Maybe I could never give Koren her own memories back. Maybe she’d never actually remember him.

But thanks to Tribald Kine, she would know who he was.

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39 comments

  1. And that finishes out this particular arc, guys! Hope you enjoyed it. In the next day or two, the donators will be receiving a list of options to vote on for the next interlude subject. If you HAVE donated in the past, but never e-mailed me at ceruleanscrawling@gmail.com, please feel free to do that so that I can add you into the mailing list to do that whole voting thing.

    Plus, we’re still in the Top Ten for Top Web Fiction! 😀 How cool is that? We can keep the votes up by clicking right here! You know, for all the awesome people who like the story. 😉

    Today’s tags aaaaaaaaaare: Felicity Chambers, Flick, God Damn It -Dare – Telling Us You Fought And Beat Fossor And Then Leaving The Story For Later Isn’t Fair!, Koren Fellows, Tribald Kine, Virginia Dare, You Know – For Someone Who Wanted To Be In A Career Centered Around Telling The Truth – It Sure Took Flick A Long Time To Tell Dare What Actually Happened.

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  2. So I was right all along, Flick didn’t tell Gaia and company that Fossor intends to come back for her. That… probably should have been made explicit earlier, to be honest. Oh well.

    I liked all of the conversation with Dare. It was long overdue. And also further convinced me of something. And Tribald comes to talk to Koren about Kenneth! Yay!

    Overall, while I do worry that putting both conversations in one chapter may have been too kuch, it was heartwarming and I love it.

    Although I am now super paranoid that the Committee has also been able to find Asenath and Twister if Dare did it so quickly.

    One odd sentence:

    When I was finished, the first thing she said was, “So that’s how you met have the vampire and the pooka that are watching over your father.”
    I don’t think that “have” is supposed to be there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That… probably should have been made explicit earlier, to be honest. Oh well.

      It’s one of those things that kept slipping my mind whenever the subject came up that I could make it even more obvious.

      Overall, while I do worry that putting both conversations in one chapter may have been too kuch, it was heartwarming and I love it.

      Yeah, I wanted to make sure to get all of it in before the end of the arc, and didn’t want to do a separate chapter for both, since it was time for the arc to be finished so that we can move into Christmas vacation.

      One odd sentence:

      Whoops, yeah, I’ll fix that. Thanks!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It’s one of those things that kept slipping my mind whenever the subject came up that I could make it even more obvious.

        Understandable. It’s not a big deal. Just slightly noticeable.

        Something else.

        “You’re… wait, we’re related too? You and me, we’re also related?”

        “Somewhat distantly, yes,” Tribald confirmed. “I believe the technical term is ‘first cousin, twice removed.’”

        If he’s talking about his relation to Koren, that should be three times removed. Kenneth is twice removed from Kine, Koren is three times removed.

        Slightly nitpicky, but… you know.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. If he’s talking about his relation to Koren, that should be three times removed. Kenneth is twice removed from Kine, Koren is three times removed.

        Slightly nitpicky, but… you know.

        Whoops, yeah, you’re right. I was thinking of his relation to Kenneth instead of his relation to Koren.

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    2. And on the subject of typos:

      “You knew about—oh, I guess Gaia would’ve told you about Asenath.” 1
      I scrolled down but didn’t see a footnote. Remove the “1”?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. ““We wouldn’t do that,” she informed me flatly. “He’s your father. Listen to me, Flick…” Raising a hand to my shoulder, she squeezed it firmly. “We—I won’t let them take you away from your dad, okay? No matter what happens, we’ll find a way to make it work. We may have to move him, might even have to adjust things. But no matter what, you and your father are not going to be separated. I promise.””
    Me: Hm. Heretic-equivalent of Witness Protection? A decent idea that may delay any attempts by Fossor to gain another hostage, though just how long that would work remains speculative at this point. I do notice the language of “adjust things” though- more memory altering?

    ““Maybe.” Koren murmured. “Speaking of fathers, what about Sands and Scout? Are you telling them?”

    Again, I shook my head, this time more firmly. “No. Not yet. The last thing I want to do is drop a bomb like that on them just before we all split up for three weeks. They deserve better than that. I’m not going to ruin their image of their father right before Christmas. I’m just… not gonna do that to them.””
    Me: I suppose I can understand. However, will Sands and Scout truly look back upon this Christmas fondly once they are told about their father’s past actions?

    “There was silence for a few seconds before she gave a slight nod. Her voice was a hoarse, somehow painful whisper. “Fair enough. You wouldn’t want to destroy their memory of their father.””
    Me: That would strike a chord with her, wouldn’t it? Damn Fomorians.

    “Maybe I could never give Koren her own memories back. Maybe she’d never actually remember him.

    But thanks to Tribald Kine, she would know who he was.”
    Me: Perhaps the best Christmas gift Koren could ever realistically receive.

    Nice update.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So any thoughts of how this break is going to be completely screwed over? Personally, I’m betting on a Pace interrupt- it’s been long enough for her to start tracking Flick down.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I can see Pace, Doxer, and Trice pulling something at Flick’s. They haven’t done anything in awhile. That whole “doxing” thing combined with Trice’s impatience (and Pace egging him on because of Valentine’s death) is worrying.

      I can also see Fossor sending Flick some kind of “Christmas present” -or even stopping by- for shits and giggles.

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  5. I don’t trust Dare. She’s portrayed as a nice person, but someone that old must have a whole heap of skeletons in her closet, and I have a feeling that she’ll betray Flick at precisely the worst possible moment – perhaps only due to blackmail, but even so.

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      1. I disagree with widjet about Dare’s trustworthiness, but he brings up a good point. Blackmail has the potential to be a serious problem. By now Fossor likely knows almost Joselyn knows. Secrets, moles that were never discovered, Nevada’s modification to the Heretical Edge (if anyone told Joselyn about that). If he works through intermediaries, he could do a lot of damage with what Joselyn knows.

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  6. @Cerulean:
    Thank you. The business with Dare fighting and stopping Fossor from trying to redo the Black Death 2.0….It makes me feel TONS better about the Fossor element of the story. If I had any money to spare right now I’d donate. If this is too self-centered, forgive me…but I almost feel like you brought that onscreen to address my reasoning about Fossor using bio-weapons.

    I feel like that’s Interlude-money-worth Authorial Attention. I promise when my revenue flow picks up I’ll chip in. You just increased the Narrative Structural Integrity by a huge factor for me. This was already my close-second-favorite Web Serial. That did wonders for the only element that wasn’t “doing it” for me.

    ::Salutes the Great and Powerful Author::

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 😀 Glad you like that it finally got mentioned. Believe it or not, I did mention/hint at the whole Dare-Encountered-And-Fought Fossor thing a little bit earlier before I saw your comment (not in-story, over in one of the discussion threads). It did, however, inspire me to make it clear that the encounter revolved around him trying to set off another plague. And, of course, your comment also helped make it clear that I should mention it in story asap. So thanks for that.

      And hey, love that you like the story so much. That’s great. 😀 Thanks for letting me know how much you enjoy it, that kind of comment gives me warm fuzzies. And, of course, makes me want to write even more.

      Actually: The entire thing with Flick coming clean about Fossor to Dare just gives me a warm glow. It was just..well. smart of Flick. I so dearly love when protagonists go against Trope and do the intelligent thing, rather than the dumb thing that makes the narrative easier. It’s so incredibly rare for an author of a thriving Web Serial to be as interested in the discussion about your story as you are Cerulean. I think that’s really damned cool🙂

      Thanks! That actually wasn’t initially planned out that way. I just got to the point just before that where Flick and Dare were talking and realized that it didn’t make any more logical sense for Flick to keep quiet about it anymore. I was a little worried that her sudden explanation might have seemed like it came out of nowhere, but it’s good to hear that it was well-received.

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  7. Actually: The entire thing with Flick coming clean about Fossor to Dare just gives me a warm glow. It was just..well. smart of Flick. I so dearly love when protagonists go against Trope and do the intelligent thing, rather than the dumb thing that makes the narrative easier. It’s so incredibly rare for an author of a thriving Web Serial to be as interested in the discussion about your story as you are Cerulean. I think that’s really damned cool 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Warm glows and a slightly exasperated “Finally!” aside, how breakable/hackable are these privacy spells anyway? Because it could well be a case of “easy to learn, hard to beat”, but that generally isn’t the case with most magic systems, is Heretic magic an exception in some cases?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A. What kind of a story would it be if people could never really communicate and have all these conversations that we love if they were constantly worrying about privacy?
      B. What kind of a story would it be if there was nothing that could break those privacy spells and let all the “secret” conversations actually be overheard? 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. A story far less interesting indeed than the one currently being sculpted by our dear Author. But details, details are what we live for 😁

        Liked by 1 person

    2. The coin privacy spell (it doesn’t have to be on a coin, that’s just what they’ve been using) was created by the rebellion to allow them to talk about sensitive things where other Heretics could overhear. It’s not perfect, but most students aren’t going to have anything better.

      Mostly it exists because I don’t want the characters to never be able to communicate with each other, and yet I also didn’t want readers to have to suspend their disbelief that they could have these important conversations around all these people with probable enhanced hearing and whatnot without causing problems. Thus, we compromise with the privacy spell. It allows the characters to actually talk about this stuff in familiar settings without constantly walking five miles away from the school, and doesn’t require the readers to assume every uninvolved character politely sticks their fingers in their ears while the main group is talking secret stuff.

      And that’s about all I’ll actually say about that. 😉

      Like

  9. Actually, I have a theory why the coin-privacy spell works as well as it does. It’s counterintuitive actually. The spell is probably so bush-league, elementary spell-casting that no adult Heretic would lend credence to the idea that anyone communicating about anything really sensitive would use such a paltry enchantment to cover up their secret dealings whilst standing in the middle of the heart of Heretic Power.

    Therefore, with adult Heretic arrogance being the rule and not the exception, people like Ruthers could easily be defeated by just such a basic spell. Precisely because they’d be overthinking it and on the watch for much better quality anti-surveillance magic.

    Think about it like this. You’re a cat burglar in the 21st century, come to a museum to steal a priceless relic. You defeat the motion sensors, put the security cameras on looped footage with some inspired hacking, rewire the magnetic keycode-locks on the first three doors you encounter. You come to the final door, behind which your prize sits…and you’re completely defeated because its a simple six inch thick hardwood door with three deadbolts on the inside and a security bar on the inside that has to be lifted into and out of place…and the museum has a permanent guard on the other side of the door to babysit the relics all night, open the deadbolts, and lift the security bar in the morning to let people with legit business in.

    You the super cat burglar were defeated precisely because all your tricks, super high-tech security defeating tools, and hard-won modern era cat burgling skills have the giant blind spot of having no answer for the most incredibly basic, low-tech of security measures.

    I’m sure Ruthers and his cronies have sixty-two hundred high-end surveillance enchantments at their disposal. Designed to defeat the very best in anti-surveillance enchantments. Yet because none of the people who actually cast the sixty-two hundred surveillance enchantments are so pathetically limited in their magical abilities that they have to stoop to something like the coin-enchantment for some privacy, it simply *doesn’t occur to them* to crank out a surveillance spell that incredibly basic.

    It’s the same reason that even after centuries in existence, when the Mob really wants someone dead they just send someone to shoot them in the face three times in a restaurant during broad daylight while wearing gloves. The shooter then drops the weapon at the scene, and flees during the several seconds when everyone hit the deck when the shooting started.

    Why don’t they hire ex-military snipers to kill their targets from a mile away? There’s *no need*…Look it up for yourselves. Except for the rare instances when by sheer bad luck the hitman had the utterly foul luck to encounter a cop who happened to be incredibly near by due to sheer coincidence when the shooting happened, over 95% of such hitmen get away scot-free, never to be prosecuted or even remotely identified as the shooter.

    The method is basic. It works, it works the vast majority of the time for only a modicum of time and effort invested, and defeats the vast majority of forensic measures simply by dint of being so incredibly basic a brute-force piece of simplicity.

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  10. Well, that was a long-overdue conversation between Flick and pretty much anyone she trusts about exactly what Fossor has planned for her, though it’s really interesting that Dare was actually able to stop him once before. Really curious just how she did that, and whether any of that will be of use to Flick when the time comes.

    Speaking of Dare, she sure had an interesting reaction when Flick told her that Asenath was Tiras’s daughter. Though if Dare was able to find out about Asenath & Twister so quickly, wonder who else might have been able to….

    Koren’s not to happy about what Professor Mason wants to do either, but perhaps Kine being able to tell her some stuff about her father might help improve her mood.

    I kinda don’t hate him right now, so I’d hate to ruin that by giving him news that makes him run off and start shooting a teacher.”

    Wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what Deveron’s first instinct would be, though hopefully he has the self-control to not try dealing with that bit of the past until a more appropriate time.

    Like

  11. Realistically Professor Mason, who will hereafter be known as “The Snitch” is on borrowed time. He robbed Deveron of the woman he loved. Also consider this, while Mason doesn’t as Koren said get to take credit for happy accidents that occurred despite his dickishness, He IS responsible morally for every bad thing that happened as a result of him snitching. Meaning, Professor Mason is responsible for Joselyn being wiped from memory, depowered, and subsequently snatched by Fossor and turned into a sex/torture-slave.

    His motives are *irrelevant*!!! If I see someone running madly down the street with two people chasing him and shouting “Stop!” Then the guy running falls, and I quickly help him to his feet…Which turns out to be the critical action that helps him escape his pursuers…When I later find out they were plainclothes detectives, and the man I helped up is a serial killer responsible for the rape, torture and murder of fifty-one young women…When bodies continue piling up because he’s still free, according to my moral code I am responsible for those murders. Not as responsible as the murderer, but STILL responsible.

    If you use your free-will to interfere in a situation, your intentions are absolutely irrelevant. Only outcomes matter. Want to dispute the point? See how many times you get punched in the face by a male relative of one of the brutalized and slain women from my hypothetical when you try to explain “The detectives should’ve identified themselves as police! I DIDN’T KNOW he was a serial killer. I DIDN’T KNOW my helping him constituted helping him elude the authorities who otherwise would’ve captured him.”

    If said relative of the victim bothers to say anything to you once they’re done hitting you, it’ll go something like this: “You NOT KNOWING doesn’t bring my (insert designation of loved one) back to life. It doesn’t make it so her last moments on this planet weren’t filled with torment and degradation. It doesn’t change the fact she died in pain and terror, with no one there except for a monster feeding off that pain and terror. Go to HELL you MONSTER!”

    Professor Mason A) Turned a quiet underground Alter railroad into a full-fledged war. His responsibility: For every life lost, otherwise destroyed, or damaged during said war. B) Responsible for endangering an entire household full of Alter children, as cover for stealing Joselyn’s and Deveron’s children Abigail and Zedekiah/Wyatt away from them. Responsible for Joselyn giving herself up to save the lives of said children. C) Resulting in Joselyn have to CHOOSE to be wiped from everyone’s memories so Ruthers faction could win the war to avoid the blood-curse being used to enslave all her allies and their descendants for all time.

    Professor Mason is responsible for Joselyn being depowered and sent back out into the wider world where undoubtedly hundreds, if not thousands of Nocen/Evil Strangers wanted revenge upon her. Someone like Fossor laying hands on Joselyn was a foregone conclusion.

    He stole the love of Deveron’s life from him. Plus, he romantically complicated that life. Even if they manage to spring Joselyn, she might well now choose to return to Flick’s father over Deveron, making Deveron’s loss a permanent one. Mason stole Deveron being able to be a father to his children growing up from Deveron. (Stealing the same from Joselyn), Mason is a co-conspirator in the MIND-RAPE of probably thousands of individuals…robbing them of their free-will, and mutilating their lives into paths they did NOT choose for themselves.

    Professor Mason is responsible for a monster like Fossor being given the opportunity to ENSLAVE a woman who all the evidence points to being literally one of the greatest heroines the human race of Heretical Edge-Universe will ever known.

    You don’t get to walk away from, or see the punishment for your crimes mitigated by, “I DIDN’T KNOW”…Not when the level of ruin caused by your crimes exceeds the atrocities committed during many African bush-wars.

    Professor Mason is one of the worst war criminals his world is ever likely to know. Along with Ruthers and all their allies, the penalty for all their crimes is obvious:

    As they enslaved others. So should they be enslaved. Since the corruption has progressed unabated through multiple generations of these war criminals, we can safely assume the majority of their offspring will be just as bad as they are.

    Ruthers blood-curse should be used on Mason, Ruthers and all their allies. Creating a permanent slave-caste to be used as Heretic cannon-fodder and given all the shittiest, most utterly degrading tasks when no suicide-mission level combat is available to throw them at. They should be bred like cattle to the most offensive partners that would individually horrify them. And never, for an instant, know one iota of safety, compassion or undegraded moment ever again.

    In other words: They should be sent to Hell. But since their punishment is too important, Hell can’t be trusted to do a good enough job.

    The cry of “I DIDN’T KNOW” has been used to attempt to excuse some of the worst atrocities in human history. It doesn’t fly in the real world. It shouldn’t fly in ANY world. These villains actually deserve worse than Ruthers blood-curse…But it’s early where I am, and I don’t have enough brain cells firing yet to find the words to describe “Worse than being blood-cursed to eternal slavery.”

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    1. Ok, eventually you hit the limit of what you’re responsible for. How long do you continue the chain? Eventually you hit other people, like Ruthers, who made their own choices. You can’t place all the blame on Mason.

      Also, intentions matter. It’s the difference between 1st degree murder, 2nd degree murder, and manslaughter. Did he actively murder anyone? Not as far as we know, so the worst he could be guilty of would be manslaughter.

      If you have a gun, and your friend says that there have been burglaries in his area and that he heard noises inside his house last night, a lamp was knocked over, he yelled, then he heard a door open and close, and he’s worried that they’ll come back again the next evening. So he asks to borrow your gun for one evening, you loan it to your friend, then your friend walks into town hall and murders the mayor with your gun, is it your fault? No, not really.

      As far as Mason knows, he reported people who weren’t smuggling Jews away from the Holocaust, he reported people who were smuggling Nazis away from the Nuremberg trials.

      Intentions matter. Are we still responsible for our actions even if our intentions turn out to be wrong? Of course, that’s why manslaughter is still a thing. But intentions still matter.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Ok, eventually you hit the limit of what you’re responsible for. How long do you continue the chain? Eventually you hit other people, like Ruthers, who made their own choices. You can’t place all the blame on Mason.

        I’m really glad you said this. A lot of the responsibility for what happened falls on Liam Mason’s shoulders (and his refusal to accept that responsibility is disgusting), but placing all the blame for only the bad things on him is a little ridiculous.

        Playing the indirect blame game opens up the chance to shift the blame to everyone else. If you’re going to blame Mason for the decisions other people made seventy years after his actions, someone else can come in and shift it to Joselyn for choosing to trust him in the first place, and then someone can shift it to the Seosten for setting the school up, then to the Fomorians for making humans, and so on and so forth.

        They all bear some level of responsibility for what happened, putting it all on one person alone is ludicrous.

        And placing all the blame for unintentional bad while denying credit for all the unintional good doesn’t make sense. That’s just arbitrary.

        Like

  12. Actually, I found the moral weakness in my argument: Order the newly-enslaved villains not to breed. Cursing the unborn isn’t cool. Cursing the villains is quite enough. (Apologies, it’s early and my biblically vengeful nature often races ahead of my reason)

    Liked by 1 person

  13. At what point did I “Only blame Mason”? I blamed “Ruthers and his allies” as primary villains as well. As for intentions mattering. You subscribe to one school of thought, I subscribe to another. To be frank, in the real world my school wins, because people who think like I do are willing to do more horrifying things to see their will done than more “moral” people. In the games of War and Revenge, he who races fastest to the lowest road imaginable, wins.

    Back to the debate, however: To refute your “Mason thought Joselyn was smuggling Nazis away from justice.” Klassin made it pretty clear Mason didn’t do anything objectively to determine for himself if who Jocelyn was smuggling were Jews or Nazis. Jocelyn said Jews, the Traditional Authorities said Nazis…and Mason just blithely believed the Traditional Authorities…DESPITE Knowing his Traditional Authorities are fallible to the point of LITERALLY choosing to have seen the world end in Fomorian Domination, rather than see the Baroness of Desoto temporarily reveal Heretics to Bystanders as she evacuated the State, to make its annihilation (and thus the Fomorian Beachhead it contained) a morally viable possibility.

    Stop right there. It’s on the RECORD that the Prevailing Authorities *preferred* Fomorian Domination to “Breaking the Rules”…and before we quibble over whether that’s what they meant..The Traditional Authorities presented no viable plan for stopping the Fomorians. All they did was try to interfere with the Viable Plan Presented by Gaia to stop the Fomorians. When you try to stop a Viable Plan, without presenting a different Viable Plan, it’s the same thing as Choosing For the Enemy You Need to Defeat With a Viable Plan Winning.

    So Professor Mason was aware that the Traditional Authorities whose word he was taking for the fact “All Strangers are Evil” have been so fundamentally wrong in the past that if his Traditional Authorities had their way, none of this debate would be going on, because all the Heretics would have been dead and Humanity would’ve become the Mind-Slave Universe Conquering Genetic Absorption Killing Machines of the Fomorians five hundred years prior to now.

    That SINGLE mistake destroyed every bit of Credibility of Judgment that the Heretic Traditional Authorities once possessed. You only get ONE mistake that bad, when your error was so large that it WOULD have lead to the destruction of all Heretics and the Eternal Slavery of all Humans.

    So, we’ve established Professor Mason had STRONG reason to doubt the infallibility of the Traditional Authorities of the Heretic Hierarchy. That removes the Reasonable Man Standard for him to claim it was Right and Moral to make the *ASSUMPTION* that the Authorities were definitely right in stating “All Strangers are Evil.” He HAD Evidence the Authorities HAVE been *World Endingly Wrong” in the past. Their blanket statements could therefore no longer be reliably trusted as close-to-factual.

    So, morally (even by your argument that Intent Matters) Mason had a DUTY before he acted to determine, FACTUALLY whether, to continue the analogy, it was Jews or Nazis being smuggled. Mason FAILED in that moral duty by making the EASY assumption. The one that didn’t require any effort on his part. Just like it was EASY to *pretend* to be Jocelyn’s Ally, and then Snitch on her and her allies. Making Mason inevitably, inarguably, responsible for the atrocities which occurred as a result of his actions.

    It doesn’t make him the ONLY ONE responsible. Ruthers made choices that lead to this outcome, Ruthers allies made choices that lead to this outcome. They are ALL, *collectively* responsible for this hideous outcome.

    Even if I concede that Mason is guilty of Manslaughter (which I do not)…He’s guilty of the Manslaughter of Every Alter that’s been killed by a Ruthers-Style Heretic that Jocelyn’s Allies otherwise would’ve saved. He’s guilty of the Manslaughter of all the Jocelyn-side Heretics killed during the war…and (to a lesser, more morally attenuated extent) partially guilty of the deaths of all the innocents that the Heretics who died on BOTH sides of the conflict otherwise would’ve been alive to save from Nocen.

    My point is this: Even if you keep whittling Mason’s guilt down to partially-guilty for this, and somewhat guilty for that, and a little guilty of this other thing over here…it all adds up to more guilt than the man has life to expiate.

    More simply still: When a Court finds you guilty of 20, 50, 100, or 1,000 counts of Manslaughter, you get the same sentence as if found guilty and given the maximum penalty for a single First Degree Murder in a state without the death penalty. Life Without Parole.

    Go further than this…get exact and figure out the exact “Fraction of a Manslaughter” that Mason is guilty of in each situation. Again, I argue that the total sum of collective guilt is so great given the sheer weight of the horrors which occurred as a result of his actions and you still come to a place where the only just thing to do is levy the maximum sentence against him.

    Of COURSE people like Ruthers Sr. are far guiltier in all this than Mason. There’s enough guilt to go around in a Series of War Crimes this large. But this last story entry didn’t deal with the characters discussion THEIR wrongs. They were discussing Mason’s.

    The only reason I even bother not assuming that the Protagonists will simply be excessively merciful in victory like they are in most every novel is Cerulean has demonstrated a distinct tendency to avoid playing to Trope.

    I have hope that THIS time the bad guys might *actually* get whats coming to them, in a literary sense, rather than the auto-pass Protagonists always give the Judgmental Bigoted Authorities as a demonstration of how Merciful and Enlightened they are.

    These people have ended, destroyed and mutilated a countless number of lives. They deserve to get what’s coming to them.

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    1. Let me see if I understand you. There was a council who was supposedly all knowing and all powerful (although any statement like that should likely be taken with a grain of salt — they are people). This council promulgated the idea that all Alters are evil.

      Fast forward. Some evil aliens attacked, incredibly evil and powerful doppelgangers who could literally reshape people’s minds and they wanted to basically kill or enslave all humans. The council didn’t really know what to do in the face of this terrible menace. The evil aliens were only stopped by heroic sacrifices and the sinking of the entire Gulf of Mexico.

      And this “holy cow, these guys are tough, we don’t know what to do, guys we may be in some serious trouble here” attitude in the face of an incredibly evil race of literal doppelgangers from another dimension, who apparently were the ones who created our human race in the first place, should have shaken Mason’s belief in the idea that all Alters are evil?

      It kind of seems that I don’t really understand where you’re coming from with this.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You know Bart, I disagree with you fairly often, but today you’re just making sense to me.

        Maybe it’s just me, but I find it at least somewhat tragic and pitiable that people like Mason are apparently incapable of overcoming years (or centuries, in some cases) of indoctrination and operant conditioning.

        I still want to see those people get ripped new assholes, but I also see a certain level of nuance in the overall situation.

        At least, that’s my opinion.

        Like

    2. The only reason I even bother not assuming that the Protagonists will simply be excessively merciful in victory like they are in most every novel is Cerulean has demonstrated a distinct tendency to avoid playing to Trope.

      I have hope that THIS time the bad guys might *actually* get whats coming to them, in a literary sense, rather than the auto-pass Protagonists always give the Judgmental Bigoted Authorities as a demonstration of how Merciful and Enlightened they are.

      These people have ended, destroyed and mutilated a countless number of lives. They deserve to get what’s coming to them.

      If Cerulean’s other stories are anything to go by, you’re going to be dissapointed.

      Based on his previous and current writings, guys like Fossor and whoever is trying to murder Avalon will be given crushing defeats while well-meaning but indoctrinated/conditioned/brainwashed types are more likely to get tragic deaths or redemption arcs.

      His worm fanfic Atonement is literally about a manslaughterer atoning and working to become a better person. Three of the four protagonists of Intrepid (one of whom is a different version of the protagonist of Atonement) get redemption arcs after tormenting someone into a(n apparent) coma. You know what other characters get redemption arcs in those stories? Brainwashed mass murderers (Riley/Bonesaw in Atonement and Elsa/Greed (and probably Riley/Wrath/Seven again) in Intrepid) and socialized neo-nazis like Rune and Purity. The premise of his Harry Potter fanfic is a pureblood supremacist student Becoming The Mask while impersonating Harry (though I haven’t read that one), and I would bet actual money that a Yeerk or David or someone gets a redemption arc in his Animorphis fanfics (haven’t read those either).

      You can see hints of this in Heretical Edge already. You can see it in this chapter, where Flick spends passages emphasizing with Liam Mason even while admitting that she hates him. You can see it back in arc 11, when Flick expresses genuine sympathy for Ruthers about what happened with the Black Death (and she specifically notes in her narration that she was being entirely sincere). And you can see it when Asenath was explaining her understanding of Crossroads’s teachings back in arc 5.

      I say again: if you’re expecting all the indoctrinated/conditioned/brainwashed antagonists to get destroyed like the purely self-interested ones will be, you’re almost certainly going to be dissapointed.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Pretty fair assessment, really. I’m not really going to say much about where it’s going since… well, spoilers. Though two comments I have are that in Harry Potter, Daphne is such a complete non-entity/blank slate that she’s not really a ‘pureblood supremacist.’ In fact, she makes a point early on in her narration that people tend to think ‘slytherin pureblood = pureblood supremacist’ but it’s not really true. She’s not so much redeemed in that story as she just… starts out as a decent person. I mean, prideful and jealous of Hermione and whatnot, sure. Character flaws. But it’s not like she’s this Draco-like supremacist that learns better and changes her ways.

        I believe she also makes a note that people see her as an ice queen (a common fanon depiction of her) because she takes the time to quietly plan things and doesn’t react outwardly nearly as often as normal teenagers.

        And in Animorphs, David is very much an evil bastard. Even if he does have to find ways to work around his

        *****SPOILERS******

        Pacifist programming after morphing into one of the Chee (long story on why he can do that, trust me, it makes sense in context) after which the pacifist programming refused to allow him to morph back OUT of it because it knew he’d hurt people.

        My personal indulgence was mostly centered around writing out the overly moralizing Author’s Pet super-special Cassie and replacing her with Melissa Chapman as essentially an OC. Also, in bringing Loren back earlier and retaining her badassness from the Andalite Chronicles rather than her totally switched character at the end of the actual series.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Right, sorry. Like I said, I haven’t actually read your Animorphs or Harry Potter stories. I probably shouldn’t have brought them up because of that.

        And uh… while I do stand by the predictions I make for this story, I have to admit that I’m not quite as convinced as I’ve been in the past about specific plotlines. After all, I wasn’t expecting some of the more recent directions you’ve taken in Intrepid.

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