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Some things matter, worth getting upset about. Most do not. Like Chinese water torture: minor in the short term, corrosive over time. Consider: is this a little thing or a big thing? Is it worth the cost of arguing? Eventually your kids grow up, your obnoxious brother-in-law will join a monastery and your parents will die.

You got it… Mr. You and your partner need to be the eye of the hurricane. They add up. Even cleaning up when you accidentally pee on the toilet seat seriously, someone said that —these things all matter and add up over the long run. This seems to become particularly important once kids enter the picture. The big message I heard hundreds of times about kids: put the marriage first. Children are worshipped in our culture these days. Parents are expected to sacrifice everything for them. But the best way to raise healthy and happy kids is to maintain a healthy and happy marriage.

A good marriage makes good kids. So keep your marriage the top priority. Make time for it. And you know how you know if you or her are slipping? Sex starts to slide. No other test required. I still remember back in college, it was one of my first relationships with a cute little redhead. We were young and naive and crazy about each other. And, because we happened to live in the same dorm, we were banging like rabbits.

We fought more often, found ourselves getting annoyed with each other, and suddenly our multiple-times-per-day habit magically dried up. To my surprised adolescent male mind, it was actually possible to have sex available to you yet not want it. It was almost as if sex was connected to emotions!

For a dumb year-old, this was a complete shocker. That was the first time I discovered a truth about relationships: sex is the State of the Union. If the relationship is good, the sex will be good. You both will be wanting it and enjoying it. When the relationship is bad—when there are unresolved problems and unaddressed negative emotions—then the sex will often be the first thing to go out the window. This was reiterated to me hundreds of times in the emails. The nature of the sex itself varied quite a bit among couples—some couples take sexual experimentation seriously, others are staunch believers in frequency, others get way into fantasies—but the underlying principle was the same everywhere: both partners should be sexually satisfied as often as possible.

But sex not only keeps the relationship healthy, many readers suggested that they use it to heal their relationships. That when things are a bit frigid between them or that they have some problems going on, a lot of stress, or other issues i. A few people even said that when things start to feel stale in the relationship, they agree to have sex every day for a week.

Then, as if by magic, by the next week, they feel great again. The sooner everyone accepts that, the happier everyone is. We all have things we like to do and hate to do; we all have things we are good at and not so good at. TALK to your partner about those things when it comes to dividing and conquering all the crap that has to get done in life. Everyone has an image in their mind of how a relationship should work. Both people share responsibilities.

Both people manage to finely balance their time together with the time for themselves. Both pursue engaging and invigorating interests on their own and then share the benefits together. Both take turns cleaning the toilet and blowing each other and cooking gourmet lasagna for the extended family at Thanksgiving although not all at the same time. The fact is relationships are imperfect, messy affairs. Well, maybe if you had been listening, asshole.

My wife loves cleaning no, seriously , but she hates smelly stuff. So guess who gets dishes and garbage duty? Here honey, let me get that for you. On top of that, many couples suggested laying out rules for the relationship. To what degree will you share finances? How much debt will be taken on or paid off? How much can each person spend without consulting the other? What purchases should be done together or do you trust each other to do separately? How do you decide which vacations to go on?

Have meetings about this stuff. She immediately told me not to laugh, but that she was serious. I have been married for 44 years 4 children, 6 grandchildren. I think the most important thing that I have learned in those years is that the love you feel for each other is constantly changing. So even if you feel like you could never love your partner any more, that can change, if you give it a chance.

I think people give up too soon. You need to be the kind of person that you want your spouse to be. When you do that it makes a world of difference. Out of the hundreds of analogies I saw these past few weeks, one stuck with me. A nurse emailed saying that she used to work with a lot of geriatric patients. And one day she was talking to a man in his lates about marriage and why his had lasted so long.

The key is understanding that few of those waves have anything to do with the quality of the relationship—people lose jobs, family members die, couples relocate, switch careers, make a lot of money, lose a lot of money. Your job as a committed partner is to simply ride the waves with the person you love, regardless of where they go. Because ultimately, none of these waves last.

And you simply end up with each other. Two years ago, I suddenly began resenting my wife for any number of reasons. I felt as if we were floating along, doing a great job of co-existing and co-parenting, but not sustaining a real connection. It deteriorated to the point that I considered separating from her; however, whenever I gave the matter intense thought, I could not pinpoint a single issue that was a deal breaker. I knew her to be an amazing person, mother, and friend.

I bit my tongue a lot and held out hope that the malaise would pass as suddenly as it had arrived. Fortunately, it did and I love her more than ever. So the final bit of wisdom is to afford your spouse the benefit of the doubt. If you have been happy for such a long period, that is the case for good reason. Be patient and focus on the many aspects of her that still exist that caused you to fall in love in the first place.

As always, it was humbling to see all of the wisdom and life experience out there. There were many, many, many excellent responses, with kind, heartfelt advice. It was hard to choose the ones that ended up here, and in many cases, I could have put a dozen different quotes that said almost the exact same thing.

Exercises like this always amaze me because when you ask thousands of people for advice on something, you expect to receive thousands of different answers. It shows you how similar we really are. And how no matter how bad things may get, we are never as alone as we think. I would end this by summarizing the advice in one tidy section. But once again, a reader named Margo did it far better than I ever could. You can work through anything as long as you are not destroying yourself or each other. That means emotionally, physically, financially, or spiritually. Make nothing off limits to discuss.

Never shame or mock each other for the things you do that make you happy. Write down why you fell in love and read it every year on your anniversary or more often. Write love letters to each other often. Make each other first. When kids arrive, it will be easy to fall into a frenzy of making them the only focus of your life…do not forget the love that produced them. You must keep that love alive and strong to feed them love. Spouse comes first. Each of you will continue to grow.

Bring the other one with you. Be the one that welcomes that growth. Be passionate about cleaning house, preparing meals, and taking care of your home. This is required of everyone daily, make it fun and happy and do it together. Do not complain about your partner to anyone. Love them for who they are.

Make love even when you are not in the mood. Right when you were here, under enormous pressure. You trying to rebuild some good faith with Teal and Shaeine, while everybody made you a punching bag for practical jokes. You were good and primed to be spooked so hard even your self-control slipped, Prin. Heck, I bet he prompted Vidius to time it when he did.

We inadvertently brought Mr. Arquin there by helping Weaver un-doom his doomed romance.

Weaver and Yngrid said nothing, but looked at each other, their eyes wide in an expression of realization that was as good as any answer. Vesk put you under every kind of simultaneous pressure he could bring to bear, made you think about what was at stake instead of what you were doing. You stopped playing, for probably the first time in a century, and you immediately lost. Take the lesson, Keys, and stop doubling down on your screwup.

Principia had already gone utterly still, her eyes fixed straight ahead and hands suspended in the act of reaching to poke at more screens. As Trissiny finished speaking, even the rotating panels of light around her stilled, fixing themselves in place and ceasing to alter their displays. She hung that way as if frozen in the five seconds of silence which followed, before finally speaking a single word. Gabriel and several of the others ventured small smiles of relief, and Mary began muttering unintelligibly to herself in her hoarse avian voice, ruffling her feathers.

The panels resumed their cycling and Principia went back to glancing about and periodically touching them as if nothing had happened. Falconer, I will not compel you. I will be disappointed, but forcing action on your part would defeat the purpose. Doing anything on orders from you is going to require some trust. What was the word you guys used…? Tarthriss, in this case, according to the Avatar we were just speaking with in the Golden Sea. He got no response, save perhaps the sudden utter stillness of Mary in the cage he was still holding. Whose agenda are you following now?

I calculate a high probability of the latter, as your active involvement in this plan would obviously be advantageous. Operatives in the field are expected to react to changing circumstances and apply their best judgment as necessary. Knowledge is power, Locke, and it follows that absolute knowledge is absolute power. What does power do to people? How does power affect the brain, Locke? Another silence fell. The rotating panels seemed to glitch, momentarily reversing their course and then freezing for a second.

It was hard to tell behind the mini-screens bristling from her crown, but Principia appeared to be frowning slightly. A couple of times now, people addressing you have spoken of Principia Locke as if she were a separate person, not party to this conversation. Also, you yourself spoke pretty disdainfully of Principia before. Is that even still you in there? Prin cares about people, and about values, and does her best to do some good in the world, in her own way. I trust that a lot more than some detached information-processing servitor making abstract plans for me and who knows how many other people.

And I think I know what Prin would say about someone like that, too. Principia Locke has ruined everything she ever touched; I can fix it. I really do understand.


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The world is not for saving. No flaws means no virtues. A perfect world would be hell. All of us will do what we can, where we are, using our best judgment, just as Tellwyrn taught us. Several of the screens began to wink out of existence, creating gaps in the translucent globe around her. If you…if the woman I was getting to know is just… gone, now, then… Damn it. I already miss her. Principia hung there—not just hovered, hung, with her arms dangling at her sides and her head drooping forward in a defeated posture. Just…intelligence and a plan, and maybe I could make up for everything.

Without flaws, what the hell are you? You have to become a better person and do better things. Then, abruptly as if trying to surprise herself before she could react, she grabbed her own face and pulled. Trissiny darted forward with her arms outstretched and Principia tumbled right into them, her head lolling back. Fross swooped in as the Mask of the Adventurer went spinning off to the side, seizing the artifact and making it disappear back into her aura storage before circling back to rejoin the group.

The elf was still slumped weakly, but now began to twitch violently, her eyes rolled up into her head. Reaching out to place one hand on her forehead, the drow closed her eyes, frowning in concentration. Principia stilled, then let out a heavy sigh and finally relaxed, her head rolling to one side as Shaeine withdrew her hand. A mind, to my awareness, feels much like a deep pool. Something with a serene surface but great depths beneath. That would make anybody crazy. But I do believe sleep will help her, Trissiny. Dreaming is how the brain sorts away extra information; that is why people begin to go mad if deprived of sleep.

She needs to dream. I suspect she will sleep much longer than normal, and I strongly advise that she be allowed to. We should not wake or try to move her until she comes to on her own. Which might also take days. In the meantime, everyone should take a breather while we can.

For the moment, at least, everything is back to normal. Mary began screeching, squawking, and flapping about in her cage so violently that Joe had to struggle to keep his grip on it. The plateau itself, an ancient plaza surrounded by stone buildings, might have been any moderately well-preserved patch of ruins anywhere, but beyond it was the stark grandeur of the Wyrnrange stretching in all directions, and the incredible shape of the Great Tree commanding the whole horizon to the north. Both groups were easy to overlook, however, in the presence of Principia Locke.

Her black hair was tied back in a sleek tail not wholly unlike a Legion regulation braid, and further constrained by a silvery apparatus resembling a crown fitted most of the way around her skull, its front apertures bristling with tiny translucent panels attached to spidery silver arms, positioned where she could see them peripherally without blocking her forward vision.

Patterns of light flickered across the metal band of the crown, and on the metallic trim of her glossy white robes. Whatever material they were made of did not look like fabric, though it moved easily enough; it gleamed as if it were metallic itself, and was further augmented by structural traceries of what might have been steel or possibly mithril, these further augmented in places by tiny lights of various colors.

Huge, heavy-looking bracers covered her forearms, also bedecked with lights and set along their backs with long display panels, and her waist was encircled by a thick silvery belt, at the front of which glowed a circular display which cycled rapidly through different colors and inscrutable symbols. She stood surrounded by a ring of hovering shapes, mostly rectangles with rounded corners, made entirely of pale light and displaying columns of text, symbols, complex diagrams and patterns that looked like maps. Principia kept her eyes on these, deftly manipulating them with tiny movements of her fingers, causing the displays to move about and change content in some pattern comprehensible only to herself.

Hi, Joe. Sniff, picking up her mood, placed himself in front of his mistress and hissed aggressively at the new arrivals, fanning his wings and head crest. I advise approaching this with all due care and precision, one step at a time. And it seems to me the first step should be obvious to us all. Principia, you feckless child, what have you done to yourself? Gabriel Arquin.

What could you possibly have been thinking, shunting yourself off to a remote nexus of unfathomable power amid a gaggle of dangerous reprobates in the middle of the events that have been transpiring here? As I suspect Trissiny told you because she got all the common sense in your entire bloodline, I was sent on a mission directly by Vidius.

Anybody should be able to infer from context that I was fine. And your reaction to this was to go and put that goddamn thing on your face after all the moaning you gave us about what a terrible idea it was? The simple, stark statement cut through his tirade and brought him up short, mouth slightly open.

Going on missions for Vidius is the thing that will kill you. More immediately, the lot of us are standing at the center of a web of connection and prophecy stretching through the very nature of magic itself and eclipsing the scope of the world. You, who have spent more time than most of us recently dancing on his strings. In the best case scenario, the rest of us would have been forced to ride to your rescue amidst who knows what carnage.

At worst, it was a death sentence. It takes nothing less than changing all the rules of reality to cheat a god. Especially that one. As she spoke, the ring of hovering screens around her doubled, forming two bands as if flanking the equator of a sphere, rotating slowly in opposite directions. The crown on her head sprouted more tiny sets of arms, projecting a new set of smaller panels around the edges of her eyes. That conclusion is growing perilously close. With no malice, simply a lack of understanding any other way to relate to people.

In any case, you should disregard that instruction. At the time I did not know the merest fraction of the things I know now. I have much better ideas. The elf emitted a single, hoarse squawk, and then the entire net of air tightened onto her like a clenching fist and she shrank down to the form of a crow. Before the bird could take flight, a sphere of light flashed into place around her.

This instantly imploded, collapsing just like the streamers of her own hijacked spell of a moment before, but instead of crushing her, it formed a shape. Specifically, a golden birdcage. All of this coalesced into being at about chest height. Then the cage plummeted to the ground, where it bounced twice and rolled over onto its side, Mary furiously cawing and flapping about inside it. It will all be more than worth it for the sheer satisfaction of knowing that for one sweet, blissful moment in history, nobody had to put up with any of your bullshit. Trissiny darted over to pick up the cage, carefully holding it upright to peer between the bars.

It dissipated upon crossing the boundary of the screens surrounding her. McGraw coughed discreetly, stepping forward. Because a biological sapience can neither exert those forces unassisted nor perform the necessary math, each of the four schools expresses spells according to its particular idiom. To bypass these innate restrictions and tendencies and express subjective physics without artificial limitation, one must simply do all the calculations oneself without relying upon the calculator function of the magic fields.

That capacity appears to be a function of the persona I am borrowing. I have never seen nor credibly heard of any practitioner capable of doing this.

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You guys hear it too, right? Please take that thing off. The rings of screens multiplied again; now there were three, apparently conveying even more information to her. Her feet lifted bodily off the ground and she gradually floated upward to levitate about a yard up in the air. Since absolute security is obviously impossible, this may be the only way to nullify the inherent danger posed by existence. Princpia Locke is a broken, sideways-thinking creature developing a real conscience disgracefully late in life and even so expressing it through the lens of self-indulgent, self-centered slyness.

An arrested adolescent smugly mistaking her own failure to function in a socially normal manner for mental and moral superiority. Clearly no one will miss her. We like you anyway, dumbass. I calculate this group is not able to coordinate with the necessary precision, anyway. Please do not risk injury by trying, Trissiny.

There are significant events developing and all your strength will be urgently needed very soon. I am forming a plan. They were only wiped out by direct action of the Pantheon, and that only after their patron gods were all gone. Come down from there and quit being a smug, all-knowing dong before you get your ass smote.

Principia shifted her hands rapidly, tapping several points on various rotating screens in passing—five rings of them, now—as if she were activating runic controls. The light on the plaza grew paler, and suddenly there were thick, tangled steamers of cobwebs binding each of them to one another, and extending off from the mountaintop in all directions.

Several of them shouted in alarm and tried to pull away, causing the whole web to shift with them. The effect was purely visible; their movements were not restrained, nor could they physically feel the spider silk. The light returned to normal and the webs faded from view. On the contrary, its purpose appears to be preservation. The existence of time travel as a factor confirms the influence of a god, most likely operating from the future. No one else could circumvent Vemnesthis. What I know is that I, personally, have been directed toward a specific end by Avei via the orders of the High Commander, and I now see the opportunity to advance my strategy far more rapidly that I anticipated before, and avert a major crisis in the process.

The panels had continued to expand until she was now encircled by a full globe of them, hovering well above the level of their heads and rapidly reaching out to touch points on the passing screens in some pattern that made sense only to her. The forces assembled here, once connected with those already operating in Ninkabi, should prove more than sufficient.

To explain it all would simply take too long. For the time being, you will just have to trust me. Even acknowledging how generally shifty you are, I know what you value and what your goals are. I know Principia Locke will always try to achieve what she believes is right, and in the end, I mostly agree with the end objective even if I take issue with your means of getting there. I trust you, Locke. This thing that mask is turning you into. Please, Locke, take it off, get your head back together, and then talk to us. That is an order, Lieutenant. Finally, Principia turned her head to look directly at her, staring down her nose from high above through a gap that opened up in the translucent screens orbiting her.

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Trissiny stared out across the edge of the plateau, through the space where he had vanished. He was getting really good with these charms. Not for the first time, Trissiny resolved to focus more on her light wielding. Raising her eyes to gaze again into the distance, Trissiny absently rubbed one thumb across a clear patch along the edge of the paper. Once it went dark, it was just colored ink on paper, good for nothing except possibly as a little keepsake to tuck away….

Trissiny spun, instinctively reaching for her blade, and found herself almost nose-to-nose with Principia. She took her hand off the handle of her sword, deliberately straightening up. Trissiny narrowed her eyes at the flat tone. Principia was staring at her in a way she never had: like an authority figure demanding an explanation. Vidius needed him for something. Furthermore, he described it as…family business. Trissiny frowned more deeply.

Ring any bells? To her vast displeasure, Trissiny felt color rise in her cheeks.

So do you want me to chase the little brat down myself, or would you rather spare him the embarrassment and show me which way he went? When Vidius chooses to help him do it, Gabe can shadow-jump. Principia clamped her lips into a thin, unhappy line. She shrugged. Could be anywhere. I suddenly feel very maternal. At the very least, you should have warned the rest of us something was happening! All of that was well within your power, and glaringly obvious.

And yet, here we are! Despite herself, Trissiny was struck silent. All she could manage to do was stare, her mouth open with her half-formed rebuke forgotten. But if you have an iota of sense, Trissiny, you will listen to me when I criticize you. Trissiny was mortified to observe that the entire rest of her class was assembled in the doorway, watching in silence. Thunder rumbled along the distant horizon to the south. All of them turned to stare in that direction, save the projection of the Avatar, who just cocked one eyebrow in silence.

A moment later, though, she frowned in confusion. This guy? This family-sized tin of hickory-smoked buttholes? Settle a bet for me, Arquin: can you actually read? I suggest you keep that firmly in mind at all times, you greasy wedge of pepperjack dickcheese.

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You wear the mask, you become the mask. If someone acts like an insufferable asshole, that fact alone means they are one, irrespective of their tragic backstory or whatever else. I know our orbits have only crossed here and there, but the fact is I do think of you as a friend. Man has the capacity to make solid friendships, and I hope my own judgment means at least a little bit. Gabriel heaved a deep sigh, shifting his stance as if he were actually leaning his weight on his scythe. Regardless of that, we still have the matter of a rogue valkyrie loose on the mortal plane and my obligation to do something about it.

Did you ever even ask Vidius for any kind of reprieve? Most of them, anyway. Gabriel lifted the butt of his scythe off the stone floor, beginning to pace back and forth. This is going to have wide ranging repercussions. A valkyrie back on the mortal plane is a big deal, Yngrid! Also, apparently you girls are inherently terrifying to dryads, and there are at least two of those interacting regularly with mortal society now! Wait, no, five, that I know of. What happens the first time a dryad accidentally flies into a panic and people are in the way?

And for that matter, Yngrid… What about the rest of the girls? You know all of your sisters would want the same chance, if one was available. Did you give any thought to how they would feel after you ditched them? He stopped pacing and rested the butt of his scythe on the floor again. Everyone had the presence of mind not to look at the Avatar, who himself obligingly remained silent.

But Yngrid, we have to do something. Do you have any ideas? Because believe me, I am open to suggestions. Hath he never before sounded you in this business? Never, my lord. But I have heard him oft maintain it to be fit that, sons at perfect age, and fathers declining, the father should be as ward to the son, and the son manage his revenue. O villain, villain! His very opinion in the letter! Abhorred villain! Unnatural, detested, brutish villain! Go, sirrah, seek him.

I'll apprehend him. Abominable villain! Where is he?


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  • I do not well know, my lord. If it shall please you to suspend your indignation against my brother till you can derive from him better testimony of his intent, you should run a certain course; where, if you violently proceed against him, mistaking his purpose, it would make a great gap in your own honour and shake in pieces the heart of his obedience.

    I dare pawn down my life for him that he hath writ this to feel my affection to your honour, and to no other pretence of danger. Think you so? If your honour judge it meet, I will place you where you shall hear us confer of this and by an auricular assurance have your satisfaction, and that without any further delay than this very evening. He cannot be such a monster. Nor is not, sure. To his father, that so tenderly and entirely loves him. Heaven and earth! Edmund, seek him out; wind me into him, I pray you; frame the business after your own wisdom.

    I would unstate myself to be in a due resolution.

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    I will seek him, sir, presently; convey the business as I shall find means, and acquaint you withal. These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to us. Though the wisdom of nature can reason it thus and thus, yet nature finds itself scourg'd by the sequent effects. Love cools, friendship falls off, brothers divide. In cities, mutinies; in countries, discord; in palaces, treason; and the bond crack'd 'twixt son and father. This villain of mine comes under the prediction; there's son against father: the King falls from bias of nature; there's father against child.

    We have seen the best of our time. Machinations, hollowness, treachery, and all ruinous disorders follow us disquietly to our graves.

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    Find out this villain, Edmund; it shall lose thee nothing; do it carefully. And the noble and true-hearted Kent banish'd! This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune, often the surfeit of our own behaviour, we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars; as if we were villains on necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical pre-dominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforc'd obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on.

    An admirable evasion of whore-master man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of a star! My father compounded with my mother under the Dragon's Tail, and my nativity was under Ursa Major, so that it follows I am rough and lecherous. I should have been that I am, had the maidenliest star in the firmament twinkled on my bastardizing. Edgar- [Enter Edgar. My cue is villainous melancholy, with a sigh like Tom o' Bedlam. O, these eclipses do portend these divisions! Fa, sol, la, mi. How now, brother Edmund?