Chapter 13: Order

Mercy might be the mark of a great man, but then so’s a tombstone.”
– Extract from the personal memoirs of Dread Emperor Terribilis II

It was dark inside the Commander’s quarters, the only light coming from the candle on the woman’s desk. He stepped behind her quietly, his Name’s power silencing the sounds of his armour as he raised his blade. The dark-haired woman stilled for the barest fraction of a moment, and Squire knew then that his chances of taking care of her quickly had evaporated into thin air.
Quiet or not,” the Commander spoke with a voice that bore the soft accent of the Deoraithe,“you reek of blood.”
Squire’s blade came down but the woman spun, hand grasping for the longknife on her desk and batting the killing blow aside at the last moment. The green-eyed man sighed and shifted his footing as she rose to her feet.
I do hope that was a figure of speech,” he said mildly. “I bathe every few days.”
The Commander bared her teeth in mockery.
Some things don’t wash off with water, Praesi,” she replied.
His blade flicked forward, tasting the edge of her defence and finding it unfortunately steady. No less than he’d expected, of course – the woman’s Name was one that could only be earned through years of hard fighting, and not even Ranger’s tutelage was enough to overcome the disparity between their levels of experience. Even nurtured, talent could only bring you so far.
So tell me, assassin,” Commander jeered, “what was it that finally pushed the Chancellor to send a killer after me?”
The longknife was a blur of sharpened steel in her hand and she stepped forward, turning a thrust into a vicious flick of the wrist when he stepped around it, dancing away before he could strike back and leaving behind a shallow cut on his cheek.
Was it the punitive expedition on the Red Boars?” she asked.
Squire have ground fluidly, trying to find an angle where his sword’s longer reach would be able to come into play. It was unfortunate that his way into the quarters had meant travelling light, because fighting an opponent this dangerous without his shield was quickly becoming more than he’d bargained for.
No,” Commander mused, “it’s not like we’ve never done that before. Which means someone opened their damned mouth about my plan for the Lesser Steppes.”
Squire smiled.
I might have heard a thing or two,” he agreed. “But you seem to operate under a misconception, Commander.”
Illuminate me, then, assassin,” she replied coldly.
Not Assassin,” he corrected her. “Squire.”
That was when the bells started ringing. Three rings, a pause and then three rings again: the signal for a fire in the fortress. Apprentice had already started his work, then, which meant it was time to wrap this up: Grem’s clansmen would be in position soon. His opponent spat a few words in the Old Tongue. From the intonation, he would venture a guess they were nothing particularly polite.
So you’re one of the pups who wants to be the next Black Knight,” she growled. “You made an error in coming here tonight, boy – it’ll be my pleasure to nip you in the bud before you become a real problem.”
Which was, he was forced to concede, a very real possibility. When she moved forward again, it was with the weight of cold anger behind her attacks – again and again he was forced to give ground, pushed out of her quarters until he was at the head of the stairs. Commander slipped under his guard when he overextended, ignoring the deep cut he carved right above her ear to close the distance and slam her palm into his chest. Had anyone but a Named done that on full plate they would have broken their wrist for their trouble, but instead her blow sent him tumbling down the stairs. About halfway down he managed to roll back to his feet, but before he could bring up his sword she nearly sliced through his jugular, forcing him to scramble back desperately. In a matter of moments she’d driven him all the way out to the inner courtyard, and now they both knew the game was up.
If you kneel,” she said flatly, “I’ll make it quick.”
If this were a story,” Squire told her, “this would be the moment where I revealed I was left-handed all along.”
Are you?” the dark-haired woman asked gruffly.
No,” he replied, sheathing his sword. “I’m a practical man at heart, you see.”
The first arrow took Commander in the side of the throat, punching straight through and coming out the other side. Ranger’s work. The short bow volley from Grem’s clansmen followed a heartbeat later, filling her with so many arrows he could no longer make out her face.
That’s the thing with practical sorts, Commander,” Squire told her gently. “We cheat.”

I woke up in a room I didn’t recognize.
I could still feel the cold of the northern night on my skin, cheek still stinging where the Commander’s longknife had drawn blood. That particular sensation paled in comparison to the rest of my pains: my entire body was a raw wound, the worst of it centred around the long gash that snaked across my entire torso. I pushed myself up against the cushions, wincing as a flash of agony went through me. Tossing the blanket covering me aside, I took a closer look at the bandage-covered cut the Lone Swordsman had gifted me with: it was an angry red and would scar rather gruesomely, but at least it wasn’t bleeding. The rest of my body bore no marks, which sent a shiver of unease down my spine: I’d been healed by Zacharias enough to know that magic couldn’t heal this well without dipping a toe in unsavoury waters. I was alone in the room, I saw as I took a look around: sparsely furnished in the Callowan style, no windows and I couldn’t hear so much as a hint of noise from the outside. Everything in here smelled of blood, I noticed with a jolt of surprise. I hadn’t noticed because I’d smelled the same thing in the dream, and wasn’t that a creepy thought?

I forced myself into a sitting position at the edge of the bed, pushing down a pained groan. The identity of the Squire in my dream wasn’t exactly hard to deduce: Black still looked more or less the same, if a little older, and there was no way I could confuse those eerie green eyes with anyone else’s. There’d been too many details to the vision for it to be just a fantasy cooked up by my mind while I slept, though: even now, closing my eyes, I could still hear the low voice of the Commander and the shriek of those arrows as they fell form above. A Name dream, then. My mind still felt too fuzzy to puzzle out exactly what was going on here, but I knew that there was bound to be a reason for it. When Black had shoved a sword through my chest, I’d ended up confronting two versions of me that could have been. So the dream shows me the previous Squire killing a hero when I just let one go. A little heavy-handed, as far as hints went, but I was not a subtle girl by nature: it made sense that my Name would be equally as blunt. I passed a hand through my tangled locks with a grimace. Gods, I smelled awful. I needed a bath, or at least a change a clothes.

The door creaked open and Captain came in, ducking her head under the threshold. The sight drew a smile out of me: very few things must be Captain-sized, outside of wherever the Hells ogres lived.

Good,” the warrior grunted. “You’re awake.”

Barely,” I agreed. “How long was I out?”

It’s been two days since your little stunt,” she said. “You came damned close to never waking up.”

I’d suspected as much, but it still sent a shiver down my spine to hear it said out loud.

Should I sent a thank you note to the Legion healers, then?”

Captain snorted.

You tore your body up way past what they can handle,” she informed me. “Luckily we had a blood mage from the Swiftfoot tribe in camp – still took three bleedings to get you back to something manageable.”

Bleedings. Gods Above, I hoped she wasn’t saying what I thought she did.

You mean they bled me, right?”

The olive-skinned woman graced me with a quelling look.

Don’t be obtuse, girl,” she grunted. “You had little enough of the stuff left in your veins. Black had them spill the lifeblood of three. Rough stuff, but it usually works.”

I felt my stomach sink and let out a ragged breath. Three people dead just to heal me, and Captain didn’t even seem to think of it as particularly notable.

Who were they?” I croaked out. “The people that died to save me.”

She shrugged. “Death row prisoners,” she told me. “Never learned their names, but Scribe would probably know. Had to file some papers to requisition them.”

Requisition them, like a resource. Same as if they’d asked for a new set of armour or some sewing equipment. Like they were things, not people. Oh, they weren’t likely to have been very nice sorts – they wouldn’t have gotten a death sentence otherwise – but at the end of the day what I saw was a Praesi spending Callowan lives like currency. Three stranger’s lives spent to preserve mine, without a second thought. Would I have agreed to it if I’d been awake, I wondered? It disgusted me that I was no longer as certain of my answer as I would have been a month ago. Captain’s presence suddenly felt intolerable, a blight to everything I was trying to accomplish. Just another cog in the Empire’s machine, grinding down the lives of the people they’d conquered.

And yet, what could I do? For all that I itched to lash out, I was all too aware that even at my best I’d never manage to do more than scratch her armour. She was a woman who’d faced entire battalions of knights and slaughtered them effortlessly. They’d been kind, Captain and Black, so easy-going and helpful I’d ended up forgetting I was dealing with monsters. Calamities, the monsters even other monsters fear. And the worst of it was that we were on the same side. I’d chosen, willingly, to align myself with people who saw human sacrifice as just another tool in their arsenal. The taste of bile in my mouth drowned out the smell of blood, and I suddenly felt like throwing up. It was one thing to make the decision to sacrifice lives in the abstract, but now that I was faced with the reality of it… How could I have ever thought good would come of this? Look upon the foundations of your better world, Catherine Foundling. Another three corpses for the pile, and they will not be the last. I retched, vomiting all over the bed. The concern on Captain’s face was the most hateful sort of kindness I’d ever seen. My stomach settled after a moment and I wiped my mouth against the blanket.

I’ll talk to Scribe, then,” I muttered, shivering.

I’d remember the names, carve them deep enough I could never forget. Find out if they had families, people who’d depended on them: an insipid way of repaying a debt that ran so deep, but what else could I do? I still had my savings from the Pit and would not use so much as single speck of Imperial gold for this. My debt, my penance. Gods have mercy on my soul.

You can do that later,” Captain grunted. “Put a tunic on, Black wants you outside.”

I felt too drained to tell her that all of them could go fuck themselves, as far as I was concerned.There was no dresser, but someone had neatly folded some clothes on top of the chair in the corner. I forced myself to my feet, rebuffing Captain’s helping hand when I swayed. I was in no mood to take help from Praesi. Changing my underclothes with someone else in the room was almost nostalgic, a reminder of the days where’d I shared a dormitory with the other orphanage girls. Nobody set out clothes for me then, though. It bothered me that I’d stopped noticing luxuries like that: they crept up on you, the trappings of power. One inch at a time, until you forgot you’d ever lived without them. My lips twisted in distaste when I saw the woollen tunic I was expected to wear was dyed black. It felt like a claim was being made on me, and I’d always balked at those. I buttoned up the collar anyway and smoothed my face out of emotions. I’d get clothes of my own as soon as I got the occasion.

What does he need me for?” I asked Captain as I finished slipping on my boots.

Just needs you to be seen out and about,” the gargantuan Taghreb replied. “Rumours are you’re dead, and people want a face to put to the fire.”

I blinked. Shit, the goblinfire.

That’s still burning?” I asked.

They managed to cordon it off,” Captain said, “but almost half the quarter went up in flames. Istrid had her legionaries evacuate the people in time, at least.”

A small relief, that I wouldn’t have to add more lives to my tally so soon after the last ones. I tightened my belt and made sure my knife’s sheath was properly placed. No sword, but that was to be expected after the Lone Swordsman’s blade cut into it.

Let’s go and get this over with,” I muttered, more exhausted than even my wounds warranted.

The inn we were apparently in was deserted except for a handful of Blackguards covering the entrance. I ignored them and followed the brown-eyed warrior into the streets. I heard the crowd way before we got to the Court of Swords. The large paved plaza had once been where the counts of Summerholm held justice, though the Imperial governess had preferred the fortress for that purpose. The name came from the way Count Harlay the Grim had taken the arms of a slaughtered Praesi army and piled them up to offer the king of the time instead of the taxes owed that year. What must have been the better part of Summerholm’s population had gathered in the Court and the sound of all those thousands whispering among themselves was almost deafening. Gallows had been erected in the centre, surrounded by a square of legionaries six men deep. Black sat astride his mount in front of the structure, Scribe standing next to him still as a statue. For once, she didn’t seem to be paying attention to anything but what was happening in front of her.

The people parted in front of Captain like a receding tide, falling silent at the sight of the tall Named striding across the stone. From the corner of my eye I could see people pointing at me when they thought I couldn’t see. Squire, I heard whispered. Traitor came up nearly as often, and the epithet wouldn’t have stung as much had there not been a grain of truth to it. I kept my eyes fixed straight ahead and matched Captain’s stride as best I could. Black was in full armour, I noticed as soon as we drew close – he wore a helmet, for once, a heavy piece ornamented to look like a grinning devil.

Squire,” he greeted me, still looking towards the gallows.

Black,” I replied. “What the Hells is this?”

The restoration of order,” he said.

The gallows were no more than thirty feet away, so I could see who was on them now. There must have been fifty people standing in two lines behind the nooses, and I recognized every single one of them. Patrons from the Lost Crown, a handful I’d glimpsed in the Royal Foundry who must have survived the night.

You can’t do this,” I said urgently. “Not all of them were members of the Sons. Some just had sympathies and -”

And so were party to the assassination of an Imperial governess,” he interrupted me flatly. “High treason, which fetches the noose.”

You already knew who the members were,” I spoke pleadingly. “You could have hung them then, no need to do it now.”

Green eyes stared me down through the holes in his helmet.

They were tolerable, so long as they were harmless,” he stated. “They are no longer harmless.”

This is butchery,” I hissed. “You’ll be hated for this.”

I am already hated in this city,” he noted. “An acceptable loss, if I am also feared.”

I reached for the power of my Name but there was nothing. Not a drop of the power I’d used to crush my enemies, even as I reached as I deep as I could.

You bound my Name,” I accused him.

Your powerlessness is of your own doing,” Black replied. “You took action that ran against your Name’s nature, and so damaged your access to it. Something related to your confrontation with the hero, I assume. No body was found.”

So you’re punishing me by killing Callowans?” I snarled.

I am hanging traitors who took up arms against the Tower,” he corrected sharply. “I am not in the habit of wasting lives over petty lessons.”

I’d never hated anybody more than I hated the man in that moment. Sitting there on his horse, looking down on me from above. He stood for every fucking sneering Praesi I’d come across, eyeing me like I was just cattle in their herd. Pretending the laws he upheld were anything else than rules the Wasteland used to fix the game so they’d win every time.

I will have no part in this,” I spoke, voice so cold and furious I could hardly believe it was my own.

My fingers closed against the handle of my knife. His stare never wavered and I realized how absurd I must have seemed to him, the girl who couldn’t even use her Name and was still threatening to pull a knife on the Black Knight. There were two Calamities standing within ten feet of me, and even through the haze of rage that fact managed to sink in. I loosened my fingers.

I will have no part in this,” I repeated, more calmly.

I might not be able to stop this, but I didn’t have to pretend I endorsed it in any way. I turned to leave, to go anywhere but here-


I thought I knew fear. I’d felt it the night we first met, when the Knight’s power had choked the very air of the alleyway. I was wrong. Oh so very wrong. My limbs froze and my heart spasmed. Dark things lurked just out of my sight, thirsting for my death.

Turn around.”

I did. I couldn’t even think about not obeying. The monster studied me without a speck of emotion in his eyes, the almost indolent amusement he always displayed sliding off his face like water off a clay mask. There was no humanity in the thing I was facing, and finally I could say I’d met the Black Knight. The real one.

Did you think this was a game, Catherine? That actions would not have consequences?” the green-eyed man murmured. “Power cuts both ways. Authority comes with responsibility. Ambitions such as your demand sacrifice, so stand here and watch.”

My body did. Even as I screamed inside, my body did. A hush went over the crowd as General Sacker scuttled up onto the gallows, giving her legionaries a sharp gesture to get on with it. Levers were pulled, the ground opened beneath the prisoners and twenty-five Callowans died of a broken neck. Thousands stood in the Court, and you could have heard a pin drop. Legionaries untied the corpses as soon as the last one stopped twitching, letting them fall down the hatches as they pushed the second row of prisoners forward. I read their faces one after another, too dazed to be properly horrified. In the middle of the line stood a slender blond girl with grey eyes. Elise.Our eyes met and recognition flickered across her face, followed by pleading. Gods, forgive me. I didn’t know. You have to believe me, I didn’t know. A heartbeat passed and the beautiful face turned to disgust. She spat on the ground as the noose was settled around her neck.

General Sacker gestured again and she died.

The crowd let out a long breath, and just like that it was over. Tens of thousands stood in the Court of Swords, surrounding less than two hundred legionaries, but as the last corpse dropped under the gallows they started to disperse. Cowed, just like me.

We leave with the noon bell,” Black spoke calmly. “Get back to the barracks by then.”

Without another word he rode away, his steel-clad horse obeying the unspoken commands of his Name. I staggered away numbly, my legs taking me away from the Court. It didn’t matter where, as long as it wasn’t here. Anywhere but here. How long I wandered I couldn’t say, but I ended up at the bottom of a dead-end alley. No one else was in sight. I leaned against a wall, forehead coming to rest against the roughly hewn stone. Slowly I fell to my knees, welcoming the burn of my wound as my body stretched. I was so very, very tired. Over two hundred miles stood between me and home, and suddenly I was aware of how alone I really was. Surrounded by people who hated me, people I’d willingly set aside for the company the monsters killing them. And now here I was, without even the protection of the Name I’d bartered my soul away for.

A dry sob wracked my throat and I rocked myself slowly, closing my eyes. I’d done this to myself, feeling clever and in control every step of the way. It had felt like a dream, really. One colourful absurdity after another, Names and visions and claims. The stuff legends were made of. Maybe that was why it had come so easily to me – I couldn’t quite believe it was real, so I treated it like a story. I’d bantered with villains who’d soaked the pages of history books in blood like I was an equal instead of an ant they could step on without a second thought. Just the memory of the way I’d mouthed off on the first night was enough to chill my blood now, now that I knew I’d been speaking to the green-eyed creature I’d met in the Court instead of the lackadaisical villain I’d thought I was facing. There was no believing this was dream now. Not when I can still hear the sound of Callowan necks snapping under the rope. Tear fell down my cheeks and I let them.

If this wasn’t worth crying about, what was?

62 thoughts on “Chapter 13: Order

        • Really not necessary to get insulting. Some of us just enjoy seeing her rise to power and the exploration of this world and her Name more than an entire chapter of ‘woe is me, I made my bed but don’t want to lie in it’ melodrama.

          Liked by 5 people

          • There is nothing in Catherine’s nature that shows her to be some evil, ambitious witch motivated by personal gain so why on earth wouldn’t she be conflicted? Her whole excuse for this is to “make things better” for the very people her decision has lead to death. Have you been reading this book at all? If you want a story about a pure villain without any humanity, go read some comics. I’m surprised it took this long.

            Liked by 8 people

            • The story as a whole is more than awesome enough to keep reading – which doesn’t mean it has to be flawless and have zero boring chapters.

              I’m not complaining about Cat having morals – I just happen not to particularly enjoy the more introspective parts of her story.

              Liked by 1 person

          • @pieter999 Hahaha that is the funniest way I’ve read someone rag on angsty character moments. I personally really like introspective moments and conflicted characters (definitely like Cat). But the whole schtick of “If YoU lIkE eScaPist PoWer FanTaSy so You ArE a lOSer” undermines the ‘more well read than thou’ attitude of portraying conflicted characters as inherently better literature. And the insultes thrown your way franky gross. On the other hand, from my reading up until this point ‘Do ends justify means?’ appears to be the main concern of this book(?). So I expect a lot more angst and introspection from it.


    • The interesting thing is, this very moment COULD have been cats turning point to hero if…. Well if she had asked for it.

      But she kept to her own counsel. Above everything else, cat is her own worst enemy.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. How did the crowd know to call her a traitor? She was literally half dead at the end of the fight. Barely able to pull her sword out of the scabbard. Who could say that she could do anything other than what she did in the state she was in. Falling off a wall might not be better than a crooked swing of a sword. And I doubt she was loud enough to have her conversation with the hero be overheard. I cant imagine there to be anything but speculation and rumors to come to such a conclusion.

    Did Black let loose the rumors? To punish her? To steer and mold her? He was the first on the scene. Probably watched it all from a distance. And Id imagine he felt her getting the name and then loosing it.

    Did she really lose the name? She let a hero live sure but with a bloody ulterior motive. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the name is “Squire”.

    BTW love this story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Knowing that she was Callowan and on the Empire side (which was obvious there) was probably enough for the crowd to call her a traitor, whether they knew anything about her prior actions or not.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Slipped my mind completely that most of the population in the city hated the empire. Heheh!

        That leads me to another question tough. Why are the those loyal to the empire (Legionaries and the merchants that follow them around) camped around the city. Meanwhile those that resent the empire are living behind the thick walls? Doesnt that make it more likely to loose the city in case of an uprising?

        The discomfort of the conquered can be damned if it is a threat to the new rule.


        • There’s a heavy Imperial garrison in the city itself, but logistically speaking it’d be impossible to lodge two entire Legions inside the city without evicting most of the inhabitants. Summerholm is a fortress-town, not a proper city. The higher-ups in the Legions of Terror made the decision that manning all the important choke points would be enough in peace time, in part because you need actual civilians around for trade.

          Liked by 3 people

  2. Typos:

    Squire have ground fluidly,

    That’s the thing with practical sorts, Commander,” Squire told her gently.
    missing opening quote

    fell form above

    it made sense that my Name would be equally as blunt

    smoothed my face out of emotions
    phrasing seems weird to me

    Pretending the laws he upheld were anything else than rules the Wasteland used to fix the game
    I’d expect “other than” instead of “else than”; not sure if that’s right/wrong or depends on dialect

    Ambitions such as your demand sacrifice,

    missing space

    for the company the monsters killing them
    company +of

    Comments on the chapter:
    I didn’t really get Catherine’s reactions in this chapter. In the beginning of the story, she was willing to personally cut the throat of two criminals. Why’s she suddenly so upset about prisoners already on death row being killed to heal her? She had already accepted that people would have to die for her goals, and here she doesn’t even have to watch anything unpleasant while conscious, just gets told about it later in the abstract. Having that seemingly upset her so badly that she even thinks of “penance” and compensating the families of the prisoners (who presumably didn’t lose much extra due to anything related to her, given the prisoners were already on death row) seems unjustified.

    Her reaction to the hangings also felt like an exaggerated shock to me. Given her earlier talk about how resisting the empire is stupid, did she really expect no reprisals after the killing of a governor? Overall, I felt the sudden attitude change to “they really are MONSTERS!” was not justified by the events of the chapter.


    • I don’t know. I think the blood sacrifices thing worked because it wasn’t in reference to attempted criminals going free, but using condemned criminals as resources.
      I hadn’t expected the Black Knight to use mind control on her, though. That was just stupid.


    • The blood sacrifices hit her, in part, because the justification for why she shouldn’t care was because *Praesi* justice put them on death row. Then there’s the religious angle; somehow the Church of Light is suffered to operate in Callowan and their moral teaching has something to say about blood magic and human sacrifice in general. Even if Catherine rejects that church, taboos like that still live in your psyche.

      The hanged men bother her because they were real people she’d talked with and, in some cases, started to form connections with. It’s also probable that killing the Lone Swordsman would have saved them; after all, they were a threat less because of their opposition to the empire than because of their connection with the Swordsman.

      Which is why Black insisted she watch the executions; Catherine’s choice led to this outcome like clockwork. She needed to be aware of the consequences of the game she was playing at; most of those people could have been executed a day or two earlier, but Black needed her there to absorb the lesson.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I agree on the sacrifices thing but, I think she was rightfully horrified at the executions. Because not all of them were actually involved with any of the terrorist attacks. Some of them just had sympathies and others seemed to just be patrons of the tavern. Seeing guilty people she knew get killed because of her was bad enough, but seeing almost entirely innocent ones?

      There’s also the fact that the two soldiers from the start were a lot more personal. They were trying to rape a girl in the slums and then when she tried to do something about it, they tried to murder her. Here they just bombed a few places. Sure, one of those was a tent she was staying in but she didn’t really know before that and couldn’t fully attribute it to them. It sounds strange but not putting a face to that bomb for a couple days might’ve helped detach the rebels from involvement in her mind.


      • At the same time, or just a couple of days earlier, she cold calculated that letting the lone swordsman go free would result in an uprising that she could use to further her career by stomping it out. And all it would cost was many thousands of lives.

        Girl needs to get her ducks in a row…


    • Have you ever made decisions in the heat of the moment? The consequences of what you have wrought can be a sobering experience. Cat’s resilient, I’m sure she’ll be back in the swing of things soon enough.

      I’m curious to see the degree of pain the name cue ignoring will have. Did the Wizard of the West suffer from something similar when his power broke?

      Good update, can’t wait for next week!

      Liked by 1 person

      • The Wizard of the West was actually the one doing the breaking – he’s largely responsible for the descent into incompetence of Dread Emperor Nefarious after the latter’s failed invasion attempt. The breaking does have similarities, but it’s a lot more traumatic when it’s done by an exterior factor (i.e. the Wizard) than by the fallout of your own decisions (as in Catherine’s case).

        Liked by 3 people

    • It’s one thing to kill people who obviously deserve to die like Mazus and the rapists, or to kill in the abstract without seeing the consequences, or to fight to the death for self preservation. It’s quite another to watch fifty people executed after the fact, when you know that most of them were likely harmless. And another thing entirely to realize that you’re the only person who even finds it worth thinking about that the blood and lifeforce of three people was taken to heal you.
      She might have been willing to spend more lives than that to see her reforms to the government through, but this is the first time she’s been calm enough at the right moment to realize that everything is real, including the people she’s condemned to death whether or not they deserved it. She is being hypocritical here, but it’s kind of inevitable given the amount of harm she’s willing to cause for the good of Callow. I think Black deliberately hit her with the blood sacrifices and then the executions so that she would feel the crushing guilt when she had time to deal with it, rather than, say, during a battle with the Swordsman.


  3. Well, that was not a very happy chapter. I’m in agreement with the other posters about Cat’s reactions being off. Through the whole story she’s been pretty accepting of deaths, including killing people in cold blood. The most I would expect of her is a dejected sense of “the thing about planning for innocents to die in the future, is that the future turns into the present” as she watched the executions.

    It was a pity seeing Elise die. She’s about the only person who’s death I could see really impacting Cat’s feelings. I wonder if Cat will later think that she could have saved Elise’s life by taking her as a slave. Obviously, this would be a terrible idea, but I could see the thought coming at times when Cat’s mind wanders to past regrets.

    Also, aside from her uncharacteristic squeamishness, I’m not clear on exactly what problem Cat is having with her name. Last chapter, she deliberately chose an action that would kill thousands of people, both innocent and not. This was a betrayal of both her homeland, and the Empire. And she did this because she expected to gain more power from it. How is this not in line with her Name? How is this not Evil? I’d ask if her Name required her to be Stupid-Evil in alignment, but Black implies that this isn’t the case.

    On an unrelated note, the table of contents isn’t working for me. This chapter’s link was off the screen, leading me to think that there was no update until just now.


    • Her unusual reaction to the executions and her troubles with her Name are related. Hints have been left in the following chapter, though it might be hard to pick up on.
      Slavery is actually illegal in the Empire since its founding, as it was associated with the Miezans who are still very much despised in Praes. The Kingdom of Callow never really practiced it either, and broadly speaking most Good-aligned nations have a cultural bias against it.
      As for the table of contents, it’s an issue I’m working on fixing at the moment.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You know, I’d be interested to hear Black’s reasons for doing what he’s doing. What’s his endgame?

    As for our protagonist… Innocence -9,000, Evilness +1, Character Development +1.


      • Well, apparently it includes turning his own Squire against him. Why else would he bother with a public execution, instead of sending them to Human Resources? Mazus was a special case, sure, worth hanging to make a point. But nameless rebels? Cut their legs off, so they can’t be rescued without a truly amazing Healer, blame their deaths on the fire, and ship them off to blood mages on the far side of the Empire.


        • You completely mise the point of these executions. Or the presence of the crowd. Back said it himself, it’s to put fear in the populace heart. This has as much impact as mazus death for anyone not from Laure


  5. Typos:

    (not cross-checked with the other list; may be duplicates)

    (the opening quote looks funny, the first line is larger than the rest)

    (many of the paragraph breaks are single line feeds instead; I presume WordPress has much to answer for, since other authors have this happen too)

    Deoraithe, “you

    fell form above
    fell from above

    a change a clothes
    a change of clothes

    Should I sent
    Should I send

    concerned. There

    Elise. Our

    Squire have ground
    Squire gave ground

    again and again he was forced to give ground, pushed out of her quarters until he was at the head of the stairs
    (I understand the idea behind this, but with the construction “pushed” would refer to “ground”, which doesn’t make sense)

    Had anyone but a Named done that on full plate they would have broken their wrist for their trouble
    (not really, see all the martial arts styles that teach how to hit hard objects, as a specific example; but that sort of thing is not in this genre, I guess)

    I was alone in the room, I saw as I took a look around: sparsely furnished in the Callowan style…
    (this sentence is awkward, and the overuse of colons instead of other sentence constructions is back; I keep mentioning it because it keeps bothering me, not trying to be a pain)

    help from Praesi
    (should that be ‘a’ Praesi?)

    “Turn around.”
    (tags are misplaced on these – opening quote is bold but the closing one isn’t)

    people I’d willingly set aside for the company the monsters killing them
    (I think there should be an ‘of’ between ‘company’ and ‘the’)


    So the Lone Swordsman’s blade causes hard-to-heal wounds. Unsurprising, I guess.

    I am going with the chorus here and saying that Catherine’s reaction seems a little over the top. As “late” as the last century, experimenting on convicts was allowed (see Tuskegee syphilis experiment, although note that race was also involved in that), so the kind of thinking she has for the death-row convicts is anachronistic. I would expect her to have more reaction to the hangings and Elise, but even “good” justice in medieval societies was heavy-handed when it came to rebellion against the crown. It would make sense if it is a result of backlash from her Name, but we only have circumstantial evidence for that.

    While the traitor designation is apt, and there were plenty of witnesses, tying her to the goblinfire makes no sense. Chidder did that in an open room with plenty of people – someone would have seen it despite the combat going on.

    “An acceptable loss, if I am also feared.”
    Machiavelli, anyone?


    • The goblinfire’s been linked publicly with the fight between the claimants, which she is the only survivor of – with victory comes the blame, unfortunately. The collateral damage might actually boost her reputation in some circles, though.

      Liked by 1 person

    • “Machiavelli, anyone?”

      Not quite. Machiavelli taught (if you accept The Prince as straightforward teaching rather than some kind of satire) that it’s best for a ruler to be both loved and feared by his subjects, but since that’s a very hard balance to match, you’ll probably need to choose one or the other, and in that case it’s generally better for the sake of effective, stable leadership to take their fear rather than their love. However, he noted (and this is something many forget or never knew), you need to make sure that they don’t fear you so much that they start to HATE you, because that mixture of hatred and fear is potent enough to start a revolt, which, in the BEST case (for you, at least), is going to destabilize and distract you, possibly for years. Meanwhile, Black’s reasoning is “They ALREADY hate me, so I might as well reinforce their fear while I have the chance”.

      Black’s been at this business for a while now, so I’m sure he’s more than smart and prepared enough to know how to avert, suppress, or use the revolt Machiavelli would’ve predicted (in the unlikely event that such an uprising ever gained traction), but the fact is that with those executions he kinda did the exact OPPOSITE of the Machiavellian thing. Not that I know exactly what the Machiavellian thing would be in this case. It still probably wouldn’t be nice, but it wouldn’t be a highly public mass execution including many people who weren’t actually resistance members.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Agree with the previous comments. Seems as if, in an effort to dredge up plenty of emotional turmoil and angst, you ended up pushing the MC’s behavior over the easily accepted/believable realm. Perhaps if her healing / resurrection had required a several dozen prisoners…no actually…how about the sacrifice of some of the traitors who would have otherwise been hanged. Yup, that would tap into some nasty and deep feelings of guilt as well as work in terms of a delightfully ironic conclusion. Plus, if you’re trying to keep blood magic to scale then saving the half-necro empowered half-dead Squire should cost a lot more than just three lives anyway.

    Sure, I biatch. But that’s just because I’m a grumpy critic who actually likes your story.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m cool with how she was portrayed. A little hypocrisy is human nature. You just need to show better that it is indeed hypocrisy, maybe with a reflection how strange it was she cared about one life and not another.


  8. “Squire [have->gave] ground fluidly”
    “{‘}That’s the thing with practical sorts, Commander,’” a number of other paragraph-starting lines of dialog are also missing the first quote mark.
    “So you’re punishing me by killing Callowans?” I snarled.” renders in a different font, but grammatically correct.

    I guess this shows that Black is perfectly willing to kill good people to get what he wants. What that is remains to be seen.


  9. Rereading the story, and this chapter makes WAY more sense the second time around! Not to spoil anything, but there is a method to the madness, and the payoff is very much worth it!


  10. Well this sudden morality makes the character not only unempathetic but seriously annoying.

    She killed two people who were not on death row, who would have been in prison for only 5 years. Yet for some reason people who must do an awful fucking lot worse are not to be killed?

    Her disgusting double standards are far worse than Black’s utilitarian standard


  11. That’s the thing with practical sorts, Commander,” Squire told her gently. “We cheat.” This was missing an opening quote
    “arrows as they fell [form->from] above.”
    “my Name would be [equally as] blunt.” should be just one of those.
    I’ll talk to Scribe, then,” again, missing opening quote
    What does he need me for?”
    That’s still burning?”
    The restoration of order,”
    You bound my Name,”
    I will have no part in this,” more with no first quote mark
    “So you’re punishing me by killing Callowans?” I snarled.” This is rendered smaller and in a different font, when I assume it was supposed to be italic
    “Sitting there on his horse, looking down on me [from->from] above.”

    I’m guessing it might have been some kind of weird computer problem considering how many times you dropped opening quotes, especially given that I haven’t noticed that problem anywhere else at all.


  12. Still on my first read through, and I’m glad at least one other commenter wasn’t bothered by Cats reactions. I thought she was weirdly not herself, but that’s not unbelievable or even surprising, I didn’t think she seemed healed enough to be up and walking around.

    Two possible ideas for why she woke up conveniently just in time for the executions: deliberate meddling of Black’s, or just story universe being story universe.

    On a binge-read it is jarring to get such a hazy hangover of a chapter after the previous one’s energy and intoxication, not the most awesome reading that makes me want to tell everyone about it, regardless of appropriate it apparently will be to the story. But Godzilla says it’ll be worth it, and I don’t see any reason to doubt him. So that’s something.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This blood magic is so convenient! What are the limitation apart the need of bodies? Why not using that more? Like in war,by using enemies soldiers or for the face of sacker…


  14. Missing the ” whenever you start a sentence with somebody talking, it’s fine when it’s the same person but not when it’s two or more people.


  15. Hahahaha. What a cheap Bitch. So it’s okay to doom thousands, if not tens of thousands, to death by war and all the horribleness that comes with it but it’s not okay for a countries General to hang traitors who tried to assassinate the Countess of a city? What utter bullshit. Catherine has such a sense of self-cantered morality it’s kind of sickening.

    One minute she dooms thousands to death through War all for her own benefit, innocents and not so innocents alike, the next she pukes and acts disgusted and horrified because three death row inmates instead of simplying dying instead died to keep her alive.

    It’s disgusting. I hope she sees and acknowledges her hypocracy in the future. Perhaps with someone rubbing it in her face. Because she’s no better in the slightest than all those she judges. Hell, with how she pretends to herself to be better than how she really is, she’s in some ways even worse. If there’s no place for a Black Knight in the world she wants to make… there’s no damn place for her either. Because they’re so very much the same deep down. He just knows it, while she pretends otherwise and hate and schemes.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Everyone is complaining about characterization, but I find the most awkward thing about this chapter is the formatting. WTF, can’t the author be bothered to come back and at least add all the missing ” symbols? I found the chapter almost unreadable because of it.


  17. Fun story so far, but very disappointing formatting.
    Hard to stay immersed without a single paragraph that doesn’t have some issue of sorts..

    A few careless typos is expected in a serial, but this much is just total disregard for the quality of the work in my opinion.


  18. You seem to be missing the open quotes at the beginning of a new paragraph with someone talking, starting on the last line of the italicized portion


  19. I am surprised that in the Empire there are still people on “death row”. Seems very unpractical to just let people live for a time while still condemned to die. Why not hang them all already? The executions here seem very efficient, looking at how many were hanged on such a short call.


  20. You gotta love a guy who has, as part of his ‘not left handed’ statement, a disclaimer that that isn’t what he’s doing. It’s very Amadaeus, though, because despite it being a lie it’s a literal truth. Also a distraction for the telling blow.


  21. When you are knocked out for two days, you cannot hold your bladder. Her underwear must have been soaked as she was changing in front of Captain.


  22. Just want to say, after reading Worm and Mother of learning, I have been Searcy for a web serial that grabbed me the same as those two did…and this one has grabbed me. I do agree that this chapter was a little weak with the somewhat out of character responses to the situation… well at least it seems that her reactions were a bit more harsh than previously shown for her character…but either way, I’m loving this! Thanks Erratic!


  23. It is fine to feel sad for your countrymen but you sign up for this so you just gonna suck it up, Cat. It is not like there is anything you could do for them. Once they are discovered, they are doomed.

    Besides, Black is killing people who would kill him if there were a chance – they are rebelling after all. Look on the bright side, hanging is actually a very humane way to go. In Ancient China standards, hanging is the tamest way to go. Some of our country’s rebel leaders got cut into 108 pieces or their limbs got torn off by 4 horses or the traditional stoning or thrown into a river or get experimented on. There are so many nasty ways and I think hanging is the one with the least amount of cruelty.

    Death is part of the deal when you are a rebel, I am sure every adult there knows what they are getting into. They know and still do it anyway so they are true patriots. When you have a chance, you can build a shrine or stuffs like that to honor your countrymen.

    I think Black is doing his job and while you may find humans sacrificed distastefully, he obviously does it for your sake, to save your life so you are in a position to judge him. The three inmates are going to die anyway, just consider them organ donors.


  24. “dancing away before he could strike back and leaving behind a shallow cut on his cheek.”
    *her cheek*

    “Squire have ground fluidly, trying to find an angle where his sword’s longer reach would be able to come into play.”
    No idea how to fix the first part

    “and the shriek of those arrows as they fell form above.”
    *from above*

    “Ambitions such as your demand sacrifice, so stand here and watch.””
    *as yours*

    “There was no believing this was dream now.”
    *was a dream*


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