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.
- 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.
- Arranged Marriage: Kirielle's husband has already been chosen six years in advance.
- 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.
- 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 thanks to having their souls destroyed by a soul magic attack.
- 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, probably the most misanthropic character in the setting.
- Giant Spider: The aranea are a somewhat downplayed example — Zorian's narration describes them as being the size of his chest. They're still pretty scary, though, not in the least because they are a species of mind-mages.
- 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.
- Kid-anova: Among Zorian's classmates is Benisek, a boy whose primary occupation at school is the pursuit of girls.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Nicknamer: Taiven calls Zorian "Roach", and her two partners in Dungeon Crawling "Grunt" and "Mumble".
- Power Incontinence: Zorian's empathetic powers cause him headaches whenever he is stuck in crowds of people.
- 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: 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.
- 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
- 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?"
- 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.