Literature / Mother of Learning
Mother of Learning
by nobody103 begins with fifteen-year-old Zorian Kazinski, a studious, solitary young man, waking on the morning he is to catch the train to his third year of training at Cyoria's Royal Academy of Magical Arts. A man with no idea that in a month's time, he would find himself embroiled in circumstances far beyond the capacity of any fifteen-year-old mage-in-training to deal with ... and then find himself once again waking on the morning he is to catch the train to begin his third year at Cyoria
The story is presently incomplete — new chapters have been posted at irregular intervals (every month or two circa mid-2014) since the story began in October, 2011. The 'Target Date' for the next chapter is posted on the author's profile page.
This work contains examples of:
- Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Many cities choose to seal off parts of the Dungeon (an underground maze of caves and tunnels) to serve as sewers — which is why said sewers are so labyrinthine and oversized.
- Actually a Doombot: At least you canít say Red Robes isnít serious about defending himself and his identity, and Zorian started using literal remote controlled magic robots as body doubles
- Amnesiac Hero: Zach.
- An Offer You Can't Refuse: Zorian is blindsided and utterly helpless when the aranea matriarch pays him a visit. He's then presented with some annoyingly logical and reasonable suggestions why he should accept help from a colony of giant telepathic spiders.
- Applied Phlebotinum: Nearly everything in the story runs off of mana.
- Arranged Marriage: Kirielle's husband has already been chosen six years in advance.
- Bizarre Alien Senses: Extra eyes, a sense of vibration, a sense of taste through touch... Zorian has to learn to cope with them in order to be able to read the Matriarchís planted memories.
- Boisterous Bruiser: Taiven is a just-graduated Magic Knight looking to get apprenticed as an explorer and shameless in her ability to railroad through anything in her way.
Taiven [barging into the room]: Roach! You're just the man I... wait, am I interrupting something?
Taiven: Never mind, it will only take a minute. [shoving a newspaper into his face] Did you see this?
- Butterfly of Doom: Zigzagged. Zorian's actions don't always have an effect proportional to the effort expended: big changes sometimes do almost nothing, small changes often spread and have knock-on effects.
- Chekhov's Armoury: There are innumerable details in the early chapters whose importance only come to light many, many chapters later.
- Combat Pragmatist: Knowing that he'll likely be less powerful than those he'll have to fight, Zorian plans much of his fighting style around tricks and traps.
- Crazy-Prepared: Zorian may be invisible, but he still uses a scarf to hide his face. He also purchases a gun to supplement his combat magic.
- Cynical Mentor: Professor Xvim has impossibly high standards he expects Zorian to live up to immediately. Everyone hates him.
- Deader Than Dead: With the possible exception of a few males, the aranea all die immediately upon the start of every loop. According to Red Robe, itís because he didn't just kill their bodies but their souls as well.
- Deadly Gaze: Just another reason to not get too cocky against an unknown enemy.
- Death of Personality: One of Zorianís true fears, given that thereís not much else that can harm him inside the time loop.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: Some traditionalists in Zorian's neck of the woods believe it's a waste of time to educate female children. But until she tells him, he doesn't know his parents thought that way about Kirielle. He promises to teach her, no matter what.
- Dungeon Crawling: One common source of employment for mages and students of magic is exploring The Dungeon (also known as the Underworld or the Labyrinth), an enormous underground maze of caves and tunnels. Appropriately, the deeper one travels, the stronger the magic and the more dangerous the inhabitants.
- The Empath: Entertainingly, Zorian, considering that he is probably the most misanthropic character in the setting.
- Giant Spider: The aranea are a somewhat downplayed example ó Zorian's narration describes them as being the size of his chest. But no matter ó there are still giant tree spiders, giant trapdoor spiders, and the grey hunters left.
- Good Morning, Crono: Zorian's loop always begins with his little sister jumping on top of him and shouting "Good morning!" repeatedly.
- "Groundhog Day" Loop: Although, unusually, the central character of the loop is not the protagonist, but Zach Noveda, one of Zorian's classmates.
- Grumpy Bear: Zorian can't be having with all the cheerful, boisterous people around him trying to involve him in parties and other excessively social situations - that's for his brothers and sister.
- Hive Mind: Completely applicable to Cranium Rats, partially applicable to the Aranea.
- Immune to Mind Control: Golems and the undead, for instance.
- Kid-anova: Among Zorian's classmates is Benisek, a boy whose primary occupation at school is the pursuit of girls.
- Kill It with Fire: Zorian's solution for dealing with the Yellow Cavern Guardians' frog monster.
- The Law of Conservation of Detail: Especially with all the exposition dumps and side characters.
- Leave Me Alone!: At least initially, Zorian tends to be dismissive of people trying to help him out, like Byrn on the train.
- Literary Allusion Title: Repetitio est mater studiorum — repetition is the mother of learning.
- Magic Knight: Taiven is a combat mage who has been training in nonmagical combat since she was a little kid.
- The Magic Versus Technology War: The Splinter War was so named for the knock-on effect the first mass deployment of artillery and rifles had on the country. The highly-trained, magical elite couldn't quite prevail against large numbers of poorly-trained, massed rifle troops. When the houses who were the most prominent battlemages were also the politicians, the effect was further fragmentation of the country.
- Magikarp Power: Shaping exercises are shaping up to be this. With enough practice, a mage can cast despite disruption wards, bypass wards that are triggered by structured spells, and can create mind shields to rival those used by actual psychics, all without speaking or gesturing.
- The Magocracy: The old Alliance of Eldemar was definitely ruled by the leading mage families; the situation post-Splinter War seems to be less straightforward.
- As revealed in chapter 49, after The Splinter Wars and The Weeping the loss of life, and thus skilled mages, all of the noble houses suffered led to a huge upswing in the number of first-generation mages unaffiliated with any noble house needed to fill suddenly vacated economic positions. This furthered the decline of the noble houses, as unaffiliated mages are far more likely to side with the crown or the mage guild then any of the houses in a political conflict. This gives both the royals and the mage guild more influence within Eldemar then they have had at any other point in their history.
- Manipulative Bastard: Zorianís mother.
- Meddling Parents: Zorian's mother is a close-minded, status-obsessed social climber who tried to groom him into a worthy successor for their merchant family. It didn't take.
- Mind over Matter: Zorian is in process of learning to do this without spells.
- Mundane Utility:
- Mixed in with the dramatic battle or creative magic are spells that do such useful things as "keep off the rain" and "make a floating platform which can be used to carry things".
- Among Zorian's tricks is picking mechanical locks by sensing and moving the tumblers with his mana.
- Necromancer: Since necromancers have knowledge about soul magic, they are one of the primary dangers to someone inside a temporal loop.
- The Nicknamer: Taiven calls Zorian "Roach", and her two partners in Dungeon Crawling "Grunt" and "Mumble".
- Liches: The variety that comes with phylacteries.
- Power Incontinence: Zorian's empathetic powers used to cause him headaches whenever he was stuck in crowds of people.
- Psychic Block Defense: The book explores Mind Arts quite a lot.
- Psychic Link: Users of Mind Arts (e.g. the Aranea, Zorian, etc) can establish one.
- Psychic Radar: Zorian gets the perk after receiving some training in Mind Arts.
- Psychic Static: Zorian tries using this against the aranea Matriarch only to find out that itís already too late.
- Rational Fic: There are almost no blunders on protagonistsí part that can be called out on.
- Sand Worm: The invading forces have several specimens.
- Sarcastic Confession: Going backwards in time is widely known to be completely and utterly impossible — so in Chapter 16, when Taiven asks Zorian how Zach, a third-year student like Zorian, managed to slay a dragon, he goes ahead and tells her, knowing she won't believe him. Unfortunately — or, rather, fortunately — his sister and his roommate do.
- Secret Test:
- Ilsa Zileti gives him one before he even gets to the Academy.
- The second meeting between Zorian and Detective Haslush Ikzeteri turns out to be one of these: Haslush combined a disguise and a compulsion spell to make Zorian think he was in the wrong place. Haslush explains afterwards that part of his motive was emphasizing the importance of perceptiveness for divination.
- Seeing Through Another's Eyes: In one instance, Zorian through the Matriarchís.
- Training from Hell: The entire time loop serves as this for both Zach and Zorian. It involves both of them to gain skills and abilities to survive against hordes of monsters and enemies. Justified as the true purpose of the time loop was to train the Branded One in a simulation of reality.
- Transferable Memory: Aranae are capable of transferring their memories to others and even storing them in someone elseís mind for future retrieval.
- The Unchosen One: Zach Noveda quite probably thinks he's the main character, the Chosen One who will save the country single-handedly through his own power. Zorian, whom the story actually follows, isn't so sure this will work, concentrating instead on building his meagre skills and investigating the root cause of the loop.
- The Unfavourite: Zorian's lack of personal charm and disinterest in the family business are heartily disapproved of by his parents.
- Vestigial Empire: Some politicians insist that The Alliance of Eldemar still exists ... it's just shrunk.
- Weak, but Skilled: Zorian's mana reserves are much smaller than those of combat mages like Taiven and Zach, but as the loop continues he picks up enough finesse and trickery to hold his own against a lot of very dangerous opponents.
- During a conversation about mana reserves in Chapter 22, Taiven tells Zorian that this trope is a general rule: mages with larger mana reserves simply can't hone their shaping skills to the degree than weaker mages can.
- Wham Episode:
- Chapter 26. The third time traveler reveals himself just before he figures out that Zorian's looping, kills the aranea permanently, and Zorian only avoids a similar or worse fate by mind-wrestling him to a standstill, shooting him with a gun, and jumping down an extremely long vertical shaft with a monster at the bottom and blowing himself up midway down. End of Arc 1
- Chapter 53. Zorian and Zach reconcile their differences and finally meet the secretive Ghost Serpent who tells them that the time loop is not a one-time event and can occur every 400 years, and tells them they are experiencing a training simulation where none of them are real.
- Chapter 54. Zorian concludes from their talk with Ghost Snake that only a single time traveller can leave the virtual reality with their powers intact,, finally decodes the matriarch's memory packet with Kael and Zach's help and finds out about the facility where the exit to the loop is located. The two eventually infiltrate said facility only to find out from the Guardian of the Threshold that Red Robe has already left. End of Arc 2
- Wham Line:
- Chapter 26: "When I killed them in the last restart, I didn't just kill their bodies. No matter how many times the time loop repeats itself, the aranea will always start the time loop dead, their bodies present but their souls forever gone. Soul magic is so fascinating, isn't it?"
- Chapter 54: "I'm sorry, but the gate is barred."
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Discussed in Chapter 22 with regard to the aranea living in Cyoria; "Grunt" (Oran) mentions humanity's tendency to assume that intelligent non-humans are hostile, but the matriarch argues that there are counterexamples, and says she hopes to expand them in order to secure a place for her web in Cyorian society.