Penny woke up groggy, tasting cotton in her mouth. She expected to die, so as these things went, this was an improvement. Once upon a time, she thought being a witch was a gift; now, she cursed that she’d ever celebrated being born with power—it led to situations like this.
“A witch conquers the contours of an approved school of magic. A sorceress commands them all.”
Penny looked up at the voice that had just spoken. “I’m sorry…what?”
“I was just thinking about you,” he replied calmly, “And I thought I would explain it.”
Penny quickly glanced around the room as she struggled to her feet. It was all white. “Room,” though, was not quite the right word—more like space. Was she still in the basement of Magic HQ?
“You were considering not being witch, and so I thought you’d like to know that you aren’t one. Not really. And you are in the basement, just trapped inside a binding spell.”
“I see,” Penny agreed, even though she didn’t. “And you can read my mind?”
“That’s important to know?” He seemed perplexed by her question as if the thought had not occurred to him that this information might, in fact, be troubling—might, in fact, be a thing that doesn’t usually fucking happen.
“Ah, I see the problem now. My apologies. I only meant to try and understand you because, well, it’s been centuries since I had a conversation with someone else. I thought this would help.”
Panic galloped through her at such a pace she almost fell over. Don’t be stupid and don’t look alarmed, she scolded herself.
“I would be shocked if you weren’t alarmed. This situation,” —he gestured around the space— “Is alarming. That’s why I need your help.”
“My help?” Penny breathed.
He dropped his arms. “Yes, well, I’ve eaten everyone else. And you’re a sorceress. You know some of the old magics, so you can pick apart this spell and release us.”
Help him get out, why would she—
“My plans are very solid for once I get out of here.”
What kind of plans could he possibly have? Who even was he?
“Good plans. I’m going to pull the worlds apart at the seams, remake them into something new. And I need you to call me something better than Transmutation.”
Penny stumbled back, her heart pounding wildly. She didn’t want to help him escape and pull apart the worlds. She’d rather die if—
“You don’t want to die,” he replied conversationally, “There’s a chance that things might change. That’s the thing about me.”
“Change—Transmutation. That’s me.” He shook his head sadly, “They don’t teach witches about the old magics anymore. That’s where you come in. The magics binding me—binding us—are very old. But you can work around them. And you should give me a name, or else things will get confusing.”
“A name?” Penny didn’t mean to keep repeating the last part of his statements, but she couldn’t wrap her mind around what he was saying.
“I can’t be Penny,” he explained patiently, as if the reasoning were obvious, “You’ll have to call me something else because you’re not going to die.”
He was right about that. A more valiant witch than she would go on and on about standing between him and destruction of the worlds, but she was not valiant; she was practical and a survivor. Penny Pizzazz didn’t plan to die until she was good and ready.
“Exactly. I sensed that about you and—”
“Get out of my head,” Penny declared suddenly.
“I need you to get the fuck out of my head,” she repeated, “I can’t think or do anything with you rummaging around in there, responding to my every thought before I even say it. You want me to get us out of here, I need to think, and I need you not to respond to those thoughts unless I voice them out loud.”
He furrowed his brow and started to say something but seemed to think better of it. “I’ll try.”
“Good,” Penny said, a wave of relief washing over her. He could still read her thoughts, of that she was sure. But at least she could pretend that wasn’t happening for the sake of her own sanity.
She crouched down, trying to determine the boundaries of the space and get any kind of clue about the different magic involved. She did know about many of the old magics, her mother made sure of it. Still, that knowledge was primarily theoretical and how it translated into picking apart a spell was not immediately clear to her.
“How long have you been…” Penny stopped herself before she asked how long he had been trapped down here. L. Faba pushed her down the stairs so this was definitely a trap, but Transmutation did not seem like a victim. He talked about pulling the worlds apart like he was making a New Year’s resolution or declaring his intention to try making pasta for dinner.
“Did the Sages bind you because you’re dangerous?” she asked instead.
He put a hand on his chin, appearing to give the matter serious thought. Then, a wary expression passed over his face. “I wasn’t before,” he said finally, “But I am now.”
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(commenting out of order because why not?)
!!!! Penny is a wielder of calculus! Penny is a wielder of calculus! Calculus mess! Calculus mess!!!!
The only reaction I had to this was yelling complex-analysis theorems at Penny during the entire second half. So if Penny keeps concentrating and a voice from another dimension instructs her to use Rouche’s Theorem, that’s why.
REPLYING OUT OF ORDER LOLOLOLOLOL Have I ascended that Rouche’s Theorem has been mentioned as a joke on my blog? To be fair, my polynomial game is v. weak. That’s the husband’s territory. Now, I did go through a phase in high school physics where I wanted to talk about a multiplicity of universes for approximately 10,000 hours but to be fair to myself, I had just learned about multiplicity and also, I thought I knew everything 😂
In other news, the things I have planned for the Goddess of Reason and Valeria “Tenure Track” Martin in Book Two are varied and wonderful. Now that I can take a break and just read simlits and play with the dream home decorator pack, I’m just writing down jokes and insane scenarios as they pop into my mind.
LOL my brother wants to get back into sketching again and was looking for inspiration and I sent him to CT so you might get some insane fan art too hahahahha
sorry i’m drinking a lot of wine so my grammar game is also weak
Well, I mean, you know I was going to drop a Rouche’s Theorem reference at some point. It was only a matter of time.
I know nothing about multiplicity in the context of universes, but I did friend-ship Solis (? bad at names & can’t quickly look it up) and Dr. Martin super hard, like repeatedly smashing two Barbies together hard, ever since Solis showed up with that So-Done look on her face. YES!! I AM READY FOR THIS.
Hi Ferosh’s brother! And aww, awww, you’ve got me looking up microbraid references. (But I still have a a lot more commenting to do as well, as you know.) Is it inspiration he wants? In that case, you force my hand, Madam. Because nothing in CT is more A E S T H E T I C than (spoilers! spoilers!!) Chantel’s Halloween costume from the upcoming chapter.
If any costume could distill the perfection of Chantel, this is it. She is one of my favorite characters. Whenever she is in a scene I find myself wondering: will someone get stabbed or is this just Chantel’s chaotic energy that I’m feeling?
Lololol take your time on the commenting!! Do whatever works! It’s called self care and none of this is going anywhere…unless Chantel wishes it. I would be hard-pressed not to do something she demands.
You know, this epilogue with Penny and Transmutation almost feels like a callback to the story’s beginning – there’s definitely a parallel in there somewhere with Penny learning she has powers she has not been aware of up till now and being stuck in an unlikely plane of existence with an embodiment of pure magic who can read her mind to how we started, with Alice, a girl with unsual powers she didn’t quite understand or know how to control and a god in her head that was trapped in a plane where he was not meant to be… In a way, we’ve come a full circle!
Speaking of Alice and Ben, I am ver curious how their reunion in the Underworld will go. Oof, so much to come!
Congratulations on finishing book one and enjoy your break – even though you’re clearly not resting 😆 Can’t wait to see what you have in tore for us in the next book!
YES!!!! Gah, work has been bonkers, so I’m just now getting a chance to catch up on things. I’m just going to answer all your comments here because I’m reading over them all again and just squealing with happiness. I’m so glad you enjoyed the story and felt like it came full circle. I was hoping that would be the vibe. Penny is a very different creature than Alice, so it will be interesting to see how she handles things (I say as if I haven’t been furiously jotting down ideas about her story arc).
Chapter 44: I was distracted by the Fates looking so good, too, lol! I took so many screenshots I had to reel myself in. I was both executing an insanely complicated worldbuilding/plot idea in BBD Book One and flying by the seat of my pants, so I didn’t always get to give the characters an exact look I saw in my head. It was fun to do a reset for this chapter because I really do see them as otherworldly. One thing I’m doing for Book Two is experimenting with CC looks and then merging the files in Sims 4 Studio, so it’s easier to switch between their “mortal” form and their “true” form.
The video took an insane amount of work, and I’m still a little scared, lol. Especially since I had to make it before I finished the last few chapters, so I knew what it was leading up to. Yeah, the idea is that they were never there in the first place, and Morgyn was just animating a bunch of homunculi. I think Omar is going to take that embarrassment well, don’t you?
Hehe, but as for the story stuff, well, I think you’re right about stepping back from the constant meddling. We’ll see how retirement suits the Fates in Book Two. Excellent question about Miko, very astute! Miko does not have time travel powers or anything related to her being a Thread, which means she can die and not come back by looping her timeline. She does retain her powers to manipulate people’s emotions…for better or worse…
Chapter 43: Ah! More image compliments! Thank you! I wanted to take my time with these and actually do some editing. I used to do that a lot, but then I ran out of steam towards the end. Your distrust in Morgyn is delightful and completely reasonable. Like. Gwendolyn was hurt, but Morgyn is not above manipulating a situation to suit their agenda.
You made a perfect point about them constantly getting cut off. BBD Book One moved a breakneck pace because the characters were dealing with a lot being dumped on them, and there was a literal countdown clock in the form of the contest. But Book Two sees many of them settled in locations where they won’t just be rushing off to the next crisis, and the time to finish their sentences will be…uh…well…both good and bad.
Oooh, you are seeing so many people change. Miss Hell is not where she started at all (yay! at least one person is rooting for her!). Vlad is definitely regaining his humanity…or I guess as much humanity as you can have to be the living embodiment of Fear itself (as evidenced by his glee in chasing down Miss Hell but stopping because Gwendolyn called his cell phone). But Alice is changing too. We are for sure going to see an evolution for her. Becoming a god is hard! She will have to figure out how much of her humanness she can really retain and still handle all that god stuff. Though I will say that grief comes in different packages, and I wouldn’t say Alice has finished processing her feelings about Mikel’s “death” just yet.
I am excited about all the stuff with Gwendolyn and Vlad, and Alice in Book Two. Being parents to The Owl of Undoing is going to be very interesting.
How much did I enjoy reading BBD? Great question, I would love to tell you.
It was a joyride. It was clever. It was intricate all-encompassing heartfelt chaos.
The characters, the themes they represent, and the wisdom dripping from their stories are at the core of what makes this story gleam. The characters are fleshed-out, they’re complicated, they grow and I grow with them.
The found family that is Alice, Vlad, and Gwen is my favorite. Alice, who came into her own, from near obscurity with a weird voice in her head, to wielding massive power and godhood, with vulnerability and flaws, but always like an absolute baller, wins the game by not playing (for now, I suppose…) Vlad’s growth into humanity arc is spectacular. Especially the theme of learning not to eliminate, nor succumb to, but rather accept the monsters inside you and figure out how to live with them. Like I’ve said before, the connection between time loops and healing during every iteration is superb, and Vlad and Alice exemplify this theme beautifully. But, of course, hellion Gwendolyn will always be my favorite.
Angsty boy Caleb is my favorite. Just look at all the progress he’s made breaking out of that codependent relationship! Sure, he’s got some work to do (will finding his sister help or hurt??) but luckily he’s got a zombie godmother to guide him (speaking of which, Deacon is my favorite).
Miss Hell comes in hot as my favorite not-*quite*-good character. She’s complex, she’s driven, she’s sympathetic despite everything. I don’t want her to die. I don’t want Mikel to die either! I also stan Morgyn and William and I will cheer for them as they dust off their relationship skills with each other. Alice’s family is also excellent – they have their flaws but they care – and I would join their nerdy clan if I could.
Akira was a wild ride of redemption before the tables flipped and I’m now rooting for Akira and Titania’s sibling love. Miko is my favorite failed character. She’s got some of the most powerful abilities – time and emotion manipulation – but that’s also what’s precluding her from making any meaningful progress on herself and her relationships. Brilliant.
Like a multifaceted diamond, the whole story changes depending on whose perspective you look through. My favorite perspective is Penny’s, because for her, this entire novel is just her backstory. She’s just about to get started. We’ve come full circle and I’ve got my foam finger ready to watch Penny go full Alice (I peep that same skull necklace!) – except going about it *her* way, for better or worse.
This feeds into my next favorite theme – how one character’s entire livelihood may be negligently or obliviously toyed with by higher entities. Similarly, how the petty whim of someone in power can ripple into something much larger, affecting many others, often to their detriment. I love ending the story with Alice’s guilt about Mikel, who was among the first of her collateral damage. Alice is freshly ascended, now what kind of god will she be? Will she remember Mikel and do something about it? Or will she forget about the plight of a single mortal amidst her godly duties, like many all-powerful deities? Amazing open questions! How to wield power responsibly, indeed…
(Oh, what’s that, you say? Every character can’t be my favorite? That’s not how that works? LALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU OVER THE SOUNDS OF THIS EXTRAORDINARY STORY)
Anyhoops, the characters are deeply explored, each one with their own shortcomings and triumphs, uniquely affecting every other character, and I learned so much from them. The sheer EQ behind creating all these characters is evident, and I’m grateful that I get to learn so much from you! (Though I already knew I would, haha, based on the Discord server! I feel like I’m always behind and skimming messages to catch up, but I always stop and slow down to read large swaths of text from you because I know they’ll contain gold nuggets of wisdom that will change my life).
Aaand I haven’t even touched upon the exquisite execution and incredible production value of BBD! It deserves its own essay!
The worldbuilding and lore are incredible. I have no idea how you wove together so many strands so neatly; most of the time I didn’t even realize what a beautiful tapestry was being built before my very eyes until the final thread fell into place and my mind was blown.
Finally, the screenshots, establishing shots, backgrounds/settings, poses, post-production – all exquisite. And the machinimas, good lord! I still reminisce about Vlad’s epic landing during the Good Order Monks fight scene. (And, like, I already think your machinimas are incredible, and then you go and drop Holidays x Strauds and my mind is even more blown). The overall attention to detail in your story is off the chain. If I’ve learned anything, it’s to go back and pay attention to shoes and outfits and “background” characters and other things that I definitely missed my first time around. One day I’d like to reread it all with fresh eyes. One day.
Thanks for the absolutely epic time ❤️ And I’m DELIGHTED that you’ve got more stories for me to read! Here’s to future adventures!! 🍻