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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 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 every three weeks (and rarely every four weeks). 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 can’t say Red Robes isn’t serious about defending himself and his identity, and Zorian started using literal remote controlled magic robots as body doubles
  • 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.
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    • 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 always 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.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Nearly everything in the story runs off of mana.
  • 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.
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  • 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?
  • 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 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. It later becomes apparent 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 they find themselves in, the only consequence of death is the loss of a bit of time. Of course, later time becomes a 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.
  • 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 — 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 cultures sexism and xenophobia, a Morlock who wants to become a great healer, an undead hunting priest with a dark past, a thief going straight for her daughter's sake, an adventuring archeologist . . .
  • Hive Mind: Completely applicable to Cranium Rats, partially applicable to the Aranea.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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: 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 local princess, which very much goes against the parents' plans of having a local, influential in-law.
  • Melting-Pot Nomenclature: we have Zorian Kazinski, Zack 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 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.
  • 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".
  • Older Is Better: Explicitely subverted. As Zorian learns upon request, lost magic was lost, either because it relies on nowadays unavailable or unethical requirements or was simply unpractical
  • Our Liches Are Different: 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 it’s already too late.
  • Rational Fic: There are almost no blunders on 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.
  • Sand Worm: The invading forces have several specimens. The Sulrothom 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. Haslush 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.
  • 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 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."
    • 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?
    • 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.
  • Wizarding School: Much of the early action takes place within the Cyorian Academy of Magic.

Example of: