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Literature / Mother of Learning

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Mother of Learning by nobody103 (Domagoj Kurmaic) begins with fifteen-year-old Zorian Kazinski, a studious, solitary (read: antisocial) 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.

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The story is presently complete as of February 10th, 2020.


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. Word of God is that the Dungeon spans the entire planet; no one knows how such a honeycomb holds up under its own weight.
  • Actually a Doombot:
    • The aranea and a group of mercenaries ambush Red Robe, aiming to incapacitate him, but accidentally kill him instead - except that the simulacrum just turns to smoke and vanishes, after which the real Red Robe (or maybe even another copy) ambushes them in turn.
    • Zorian uses a literal remote controlled magic robot as a body double to disguise his true movements within Iasku Mansion. The villain eventually works it out, but is already cornered by then.
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    • Near the end of the story, Zorian's simulacra are regularly clashing with Red Robe's simulacra, although Zorian's are tougher and usually win. The real Red Robe is out of the country at the time.
  • Affably Evil:
    • Quatach-Ichl can be quite polite and reasonable for someone plotting mass murder.
    • When Zorian invades his home, Sudomir Kandrei (a necromancer, mayor of a city, and the person responsible for the deaths of various soul mages around the area) greets him casually, even cordially, as if talking to an old friend.
    • QI's Affably Evil nature takes a sudden turn when it turns into a race between him and the protagonists to see who can stab the other in the back first. Amusingly, the protagonists are usually the ones who betray him, and they even point out his honorable nature as a way to get him on their side.
  • 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.
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    • After the time loop, Zoroan has no hesitation in using the same tactics back against her.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Nearly everything in the story runs off of mana.
  • The Archmage: While Archmage has a specific meaning in-universe and several characters have the skills, Quatach-Ichl is the person all other mages are measured against.
  • Arranged Marriage: Kirielle's husband has already been chosen six years in advance.
  • As You Know: Zorian sometimes gets tired of review lessons or teachers spelling out basic magic theory.
  • 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 Matriarch’s 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?
    Zorian: Yes?
    Taiven: Never mind, it will only take a minute. [shoving a newspaper into his face] Did you see this?
  • Bonus Content: The story began as a world building project, and the author posts more background information on his blog from time to time, explaining the history of the nations, the different fields of magic, the intelligent species humanity has encountered, and a variety of other topics.
  • 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.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Among Zorian's classmates is Benisek, a boy whose primary occupation at school is the pursuit of girls.
  • Chekhov's Armoury: There are innumerable details in the early chapters whose importance only comes to light many, many chapters later.
    • In chapter 2, he makes a very passing reference to the absence of Veyers Boranova, who was expelled. Veyers turns out to be a crucial link to the identity of the third time traveler, but is never mentioned again until chapter 56.
    • Also in chapter 2, Taiven invites him to pad out her team's numbers on a find-and-retrieve job in the local Dungeon. The spiders that she would encounter eventually become crucial allies, after chapter 17. Then, much later, the ward breaker device that she was hired to retrieve turns out to be crucial in accessing the secret research chamber within the aranean base, which is essential in developing his ability to properly coordinate with his simulacra for the endgame.
    • His first time going to Cyoria, Zorian helps a girl to pull her bicycle out of a creek. Nearly 40 chapters later, when Kirielle befriends the girl, she becomes an important lead in tracing the activities of the Dragon Cult.
  • 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, traps, and bombs.
  • 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.
    • When he investigates the Ibasan base, he doesn't expect to find hordes of undead - so he "only" has five dispeller grenades. When he tries it again, his explosives are being magically blocked, so he tries a succession of different types of grenades until he finally succeeds with a purely alchemical bomb containing no spells.
      Sudomir: Just how many expendables did you bring with you?
  • Cynical Mentor: Professor Xvim has impossibly high standards he expects Zorian to live up to immediately, and whenever Zorian reaches it, Xvim just expects even more next restart. Everyone hates him. It's later revealed that he spends one month putting all his new apprentices through hell to break down what he sees as arrogance and see where they most desperately need instruction. Zorian couldn't possibly get to the 'real' tutelage inside the Time Loop without revealing himself. Even when he relaxes somewhat, he's still a ridiculously difficult teacher.As expected of an Archmage who specialises in defensive applications of unstructured magic.
  • 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, it’s because he didn't just kill their bodies but their souls as well. In reality, Red Robe simply ejected the spiders from the loop, meaning that after the final iteration they wake up just like the rest.
  • Deadly Gaze: Just another reason to not get too cocky against an unknown enemy.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: Due to the nature of the time loop Zorian finds himself in, the only consequence of death is the loss of a bit of time. Of course, later time becomes much more valuable...
  • Death of Personality: One of Zorian’s true fears, given that there’s 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.It turns out to be a little more complicated as Zorian later learns that the reason his mother doesn't want Kirielle to learn magic is because there's a specific stigma against the daughters of witches, Zorian's mother dealt with that stigma and doesn't want her daughter to, as well.
  • 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.
  • Dysfunctional Family: The Kazinskis.
    • The parents seem more or less united by their shared ambitions, although Cikan is seen openly disparaging her husband in front of her children.
    • Daimen is the "golden child" who nonetheless has alienated all three of his siblings, and their parents are now unhappy with his fiancee and are traveling to another continent to talk him out of it.
    • Fortov is charismatic but unmotivated, failing in his studies and falling out of favor with their parents as a result. In the many years Zorian spends repeating the month, he never checks how Fortov copes during the invasion.
    • Zorian is now being activated as the spare heir after Fortov's failures, but wants nothing to do with his parents or their business. He doesn't approach Daimen until it's clear that escaping the loop will require Daimen's help, and doesn't want to touch Fortov with a pole.
    • Kirielle is the Annoying Younger Sibling and yet also the only family member Zorian claims to like. She's a little more understanding of Fortov's faults than Zorian is, but still doesn't like him, and Daimen is almost a stranger to her. As for their parents, she's trying to get out of an arranged marriage and into magic school, firmly against her mother's wishes, and can't even reveal her interest in drawing.
  • The Empath: Entertainingly, Zorian, considering that he is probably the most misanthropic character in the setting.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Quatach-Ichl may be leading an invasion intended to kill tens or hundreds of thousands of people, but he has a clear foreign policy am in doing so; he doesn't approve of Red Robe's plans for mass slaughter and chaos.
  • Every Man Has His Price:
    • With no need to save wealth beyond the end of the time loop and the knowledge of where large amounts of extremely valuable crystallized mana deposits are, Zach and Zorian (and anyone else they let in on the secret of the time loop) are free to offer people whatever it takes to get their cooperation, even if it means paying much more - in wealth, information, or any other resource - than the help would normally be worth.
    • They even manage to do this during the Final Battle. Zorian gets Oganj the dragon mage to abandon his allies and leave by making him a better offer than Red Robe did - two of the five divine artifacts that make up the key to the Sovereign Gate.
  • For Want of a Nail: Zorian is able to explore this in detail during the many loops.
    • He and Kael easily obtain a pass to visit the local Dungeon, but in the next restart, when he goes to Ilsa alone, she refuses to authorise it. Apparently Kael seems more self-sufficient and capable.
    • Without intervention, Sudomir's assassins kill Alanic in his sleep. However, if Zorian instead rescues Alanic's friend Lukav, then they rush to an immediate frontal attack, fearing that Alanic will be forewarned.
    • All Zorian's known patterns are disrupted by the ripples from the aranea being persistently killed. Even Taiven's sewer run has been upstaged by other opportunities.
  • Giant Spider: The aranea are a somewhat downplayed example — Zorian's narration describes them as being the size of his chest. But no matter — 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.
  • Hero of Another Story: All over the place, from the princess of a shifter tribe dealing with her culture's sexism and xenophobia, to a Morlock who lost his wife in a plague and wants to become a great healer, an undead-hunting priest with a dark past, a former thief going straight for her daughter's sake, an adventuring archeologist . . .
  • Hive Mind:
    • Completely applicable to Cranium Rats, who need to form a sufficiently large gestalt to even have substantial intelligence. Isolated rats just act like regular rats.
    • Partially applicable to the Aranea, who are individuals, but are constantly in telepathic contact with each other, so ideas spread quickly.
    • Hydras have eight heads that closely coordinate their activities, to the point where it's as if they have just one mind.
    • By studying the above examples, Zorian achieves a similar unity with his simulacra, at least when they're coordinating on parts of the same task.
  • Hope Spot: Early in the story, Zorian seems to have the solution to the time loop, by breaking the invasion of Cyoria — but this turns out to be a Red Herring. Much later, Chapter 89, "Victory". All five key pieces are collected by the loopers, but it turns out that the resultant deal is cataclysmic — and then Silverlake snatches freedom away anyway.
  • I'm Having Soul Pains: Soul magic attacks have very unpleasant effects, including excruciating pain, nausea, and in some cases ongoing weakness.
  • Immune to Mind Control: Golems and the undead, for instance.
  • 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 studiorumrepetition is the mother of learning.
  • Magi Babble: The story was originally created to illustrate the author's world building and magic system. It shows.
  • 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, and thus took the heaviest losses, 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.
    • Xvim later tells Zorian that for a true arch-mage, there are even more foundational exercises than shaping, focused on developing better awareness of mana.
  • 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, suffered by all of the noble houses 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 than any of the houses in a political conflict. This gives both the royals and the mage guild more influence within Eldemar than they have had at any other point in their history.
  • Mana: The source of everyone’s magical power.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Zorian’s 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. Later on, it's revealed that the reason why they are traveling all the way across the world to meet Damien is because he intends to marry a princess in Koth, which very much goes against the parents' plans of having a local, influential in-law.
  • Melting-Pot Nomenclature: We have Zorian Kazinski, Zach Noveda, Xvim Chao, Akoja Stroze, Tinami Aope and many, many more. We also have places named Cyoria and Knyazov Dveri (Knyaz' Doors) in one country and not too far from each other. Justified, as the country was founded by refugees/conquerors from another continent.
  • Mind over Matter: Zorian is in the 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," and even "transmute alcohol in drinks into sugar." Zorian also spends his spare time putting his extensive knowledge of spell formulae and golemancy in use to create toys for his little sister.
    • Among Zorian's tricks is picking mechanical locks by sensing and moving the tumblers with his mana - just like a shaping exercise.
    • Being a skilled psychic also allows nifty things like photographic memory, storing entire books as mental packets, and in extreme cases, mental modification of the self: Multi-threaded processing, calculation, sense-changes, time dilation, adding compulsions or damping extreme behaviours.
    • Zorian's early experiments in magical item crafting take the form of puzzles and toys to keep his little sister out of his hair. When he later studies golem making, he's able to provide her with animated dolls.
  • Necromancer: Since necromancers have knowledge about soul magic, they are one of the primary dangers to someone inside a temporal loop.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: By letting one wrong person to retain his memory for six loops, Zach immensely complicated his initial task.
  • The Nicknamer: Taiven calls Zorian "Roach", and her two partners in Dungeon Crawling "Grunt" and "Mumble".
  • Older Is Better: Explicitly subverted. As Zorian learns upon request, lost magic was usually lost either because it relies on nowadays unavailable or unethical requirements or was simply impractical.
  • Only in It for the Money: Zorian succeeds in bribing a dragon mage to leave the final battle alone, by offering him a better payoff. Red Robe is furious about it, but helpless to stop Oganj from just flying away.
  • Our Liches Are Different: The variety that comes with phylacteries.
  • Playing Sick: Zorian is skilled enough with alchemy that he intends to make himself actually sick through a deliberate potion "mistake", to get out of the school dance.
  • 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:
    • Most mages, and many civilians, have some amount of training to carefully discipline their surface thoughts, making it harder to read anything without a more invasive and noticeable scan.
    • Zorian tries using this against the aranea Matriarch only to find out that it’s already too late.
  • Rational Fic: There are almost no blunders on the protagonists’ part that can be called out on. To elaborate, the character doesn't do anything stupid based on the information they are provided with, rather than never make a mistake.
  • Removed Achilles' Heel: Troll regeneration can usually be overcome with fire, but many of the invaders' war trolls are magically warded against it.
  • Sand Worm: The invading forces have several specimens. The Sulrothum have a divinely enhanced and controlled one beneath their home, which they use for defense.
  • 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. He explains afterwards that part of his motive was emphasizing the importance of perceptiveness for divination.
    • Xvim Chao likes to put his students through a month of hell to test their dedication and work ethic.
  • Seeing Through Another's Eyes: In one instance, Zorian through the Matriarch’s.
  • Seen It All: Over the course of the loops, Zorian goes from thinking "a freaking Aegis" to wondering why a mage used such a basic spell as an Aegis to protect his superweapon.
  • They Killed Kenny Again: Many characters are killed, only to be reborn when the month inevitably resets.
  • 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: Aranea are capable of transferring their memories to others and even storing them in someone else’s 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. It turns out that Zach was indeed chosen to fix everything singlehandedly, but since he got himself stuck, he needs Zorian to help him out.
  • The Un-Favourite: 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 that 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, 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 from 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."
    • Chapter 80:
      Master mage. Incredibly proficient in soul magic. Xlotic in origin. Someone they were targeting. Very old... older than he looks? Fake appearance? Obscure name... possibly an archaic one? Old enough to go out of fashion?
      Fuck...
      Quatach-Ichl?
    • Chapter 89: "It doesn't matter anymore," Panaxeth said. "Someone else has already taken my offer."
  • 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.
  • When the Planets Align: The whole time-loop occurs every 400 years, based on a rare planetary alignment.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Referenced when Zorian shoots Red Robe rather than using a spell.
  • Wizarding School: Much of the early action takes place within the Cyorian Academy of Magic.
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