Chapter 31: Sleight

“Oh, give me a bloodthirsty, fire-and-brimstone conquering villain any day. It’s the schemers you have to watch out for.”
– Queen Elizabeth Alban of Callow

Before I could properly process the sight of a hero actually being helpful for once, I felt the metaphysical equivalent of a hammer fall down over the entire avenue. The pressure lightened after a heartbeat but… No, lightened wasn’t the right word. It had been gathered, into walls that sealed off the battlefield. I shot a look at Masego but he seemed as surprised as I was. Not his work, and neither of Lady Ranger’s pupils could do magic as far as I knew. A consequence of Hakram’s finally formed aspect? Ah. Juniper. Of course she had a contingency in case the demon actually showed up. We’d been fairly certain it wouldn’t but the Hellhound wasn’t one for leaving things to chance. The mages who’d helped Masego with the ritual had been given an additional set of instructions, was my guess. Why hadn’t she told me, though? Because I’d been crippled? The thought made me grind my teeth, but I dismissed it as unfair. Juniper had not treated me any differently after my failed foray into dream visions.

So what was it about the nature of our opponent now that would make her wilfully keep me in the dark? It was a demon, and very dangerous. Not much of a justification there, even if it was a demon of – corruption. Oh. It was a given I’d be in the thick of any fight with the abomination, and the longer I stayed there the higher the chances I got corrupted. She hadn’t told me the contingency plan because I might end up being the Fifteenth’s opponent, before the battle was done. I felt a flare of grudging admiration for my grim-faced legate: she didn’t balk in the face of bad scenarios. She prepared for them however she needed to, and if someone’s feelings got hurt then so much for that. Still the ward, for I was pretty sure that was what it was, that had sealed off the avenue wouldn’t be enough on its own.

Given enough time I might be able to break through it and Masego definitely could which likely meant the demon could as well. So it was meant as a containment measure, until the actual killing stroke could be readied. That might very well explain why I hadn’t seen trace of Robber’s sappers since their scrap with the devils, and I doubted this was the last contingency she’d had the Legion mages lay. Had Kilian been privy to all of this, I wondered? She must have been, as Senior Mage. I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about that, but now was not the time to linger on the subject of my lover. Hunter had been – well, doing pretty good against the demon actually.

“Feel the might of my wrath, hellspawn!”

Could have done without the heroic declarations, but I wasn’t about to look this useful of a gift horse in the mouth. The haft of Hunter’s spear spun and caught the bloody form of the demon in the mouth, scattering the guts that made it up. Lack of head did not seem to hinder it: it grasped for the hero with misshapen hands, only for a violent explosion of blinding light to knock it back. I had to close my eyes, and even after that my vision swam. Of the demon there was only a smoking smear on the ground left, but I knew better than to get my hopes up. Screams came from the few remaining Silver Spears as flesh and corruption began to flake away from them, sliding to the ground in trickles. From some of my legionaries too, I saw, and I found Nauk’s eyes across the battlefield. Feeling sick in the stomach, I inclined my head in their direction and slid a finger across my throat. He grimaced but nodded – crossbow quarrels took the afflicted men in the back moments later. It didn’t stop the demon. The flecks of flesh slithered across the ground until they formed some sort of foul pile, then began coalescing into a larger form.

“Apprentice,” I called out. “We need options. Can you banish it?”

The dark-skinned mage shook his head.

“Not from inside the threshold,” he said.

Bloody, Burning Hells. Had it planned that? Known that as long as we covered the city in a ritual, we couldn’t trap it in a ward and force it back to the Hell it had escaped? Demons weren’t supposed to be sentient but this one had proved capable of deception. Then again, so are animals. Anyhow, who knew what being bound to an Imperial standard for a few hundred years could do to a creature like that?

“What can you do?” I asked.

Apprentice let out a long breath.

“I can go all out,” he said. “But you’ll need to buy me time.”

Well, Black had never promised this would be an easy job. I glanced at Archer, who’d allowed the string of her bow to slacken as she eyed the forming body of the demon. No immediate solution from there. I found Hakram already looking at me when I turned towards him and sighed.

“Fuck it,” I said. “Not like running’s going to help.”

He snorted and we moved towards the enemy as one. Getting the child-form brutalized by a hero had apparently prompted the abomination to trade up for a larger model: the coalescing shape was easily the size of a two-story house. Not as thick though: two clawed legs with half a dozen articulations had already formed to supports its spindly torso, but offhand I counted at least five arms aggregating flesh into long limbs touching the ground. That the fingers at the end of those limbs looked suspiciously human-like wasn’t something I wanted to think about too much. At first I thought it wouldn’t bother to make a head but when a long, thick strand of skin formed and started dangling from the torso I realized with disgust I’d been wrong. At the end of the strand a bubble of flesh expanded, sprouting eyes by the dozens that were set in dark purpled flesh. Muscles popped from underneath the bubble and grew large horse-like teeth, because apparently it hadn’t been looking nightmarish enough.

While Hakram and I moved, Hunter hadn’t been wasting his time. The tip of his spear wreathed in light, he charged forward with a wince-inducing war cry. The hero scythed through one of the arm-limbs effortlessly, only to back away with haste when it started crawling close to his legs. While he put some distance between them, the demon picked up the limb with another arm and casually shoved it into what was likely supposed to be its spine. With a wet squelch, the severed limb re-joined the whole. Well, that’s going to be problematic. We arrived at Hunter’s side just as the abomination put on the finishing touches on its form.

“If we can hold it back for a while, Apprentice has something that will harm it enough for you to finish it off,” I said.

“Squire,” he greeted me with disdain. “You are only slightly less of a blight upon Creation than this thing.”

“If I could cut off your hand twice, I would,” I replied cheerfully. “There, we’re friends now. Maybe we could attend the thing that wants to swallow all of the city?”

He sneered, but did not disagree.

“I’ll take the lead, minion of Dark,” he decided, and before I could argue he was charging again.

“You know he has another hand, right?” Adjutant said. “So technically…”

I didn’t have time to reply because the fight had finally started again. Hunter, either entirely fearless or magnificently stupid, had slipped under the demon’s jaw and was evading its limbs with impossible swiftness while scoring wounds on its abdomen. The light on his spear had dimmed, but heroic Names must have been painful to the monster: it was ignoring us and focusing on him. Even limping close to the demon was enough for me to feel the corruption wafting from it, creeping at the edge of my mind. I gritted my teeth and pushed back against the feeling, ducking under a flailing limb and hacking through the tip with my sword. The dark ichor that spilled from the wound blackened the steel, but I’d have to worry about that later – as long as it didn’t touch my skin I should be fine. I could have used a helmet right about now, though.

From the corner of my eye I saw movement headed for Hakram’s back, but there was a sharp whistle and an arrow took the corrupted man-at-arms in the throat – the mercenary collapsed to the ground twitching, then suddenly burst on fire. Archer has a few tricks up her sleeves, apparently, and we could stop worrying about the last of the enemy host getting to us. Arrows kept singing as Hakram and I started methodically going for one limb after the other, one of us getting close enough to bait a strike and the other hacking through while it was overextended. Eventually it realized that while Hunter’s spear was more painful the villains were doing more actual damage: it flexed its legs and with a push forced itself upright on two hands, spinning in a whirl of limbs that forced all of us back. Hunter got slapped away by a hand and the part of his bare chest it touched started warping but he screamed and another burst of violent light burned away the corruption, leaving only singed flesh.

The legs wriggled back into the demon’s torso with a squelch and spray of ichor, bursting back out in front as it steadied its footing. I frowned. Staying too close wasn’t an option for Hakram or me, given how much more vulnerable to corruption we were. Hunter would have to handle that part. What could we do that would actually hurt it, though? Three times we’d cut away an arm, only for it to shove it back somewhere more convenient to attack us with. I glanced at Apprentice, who fifteen feet away from all this was kneeling on the ground with his eyes closed and his palms held upright. Gods Below, Masego, you could have at least gone further away. Sweat was dripping from the bespectacled mage’s forehead, and even from where I stood I could feel the weight of the power he was gathering. No incantation though. Unusual, that. How much longer would he need? There was no way to know for sure.

Wreathing my sword with my Name was no longer an option, both because I was running low on power and because I didn’t like the looks of what the demon blood had done to the blade. Don’t think of this as a fight, Catherine, it’s a puzzle. How do you solve it? To keep it contained, its mobility needed to be hindered. Simply cutting off the limbs was useless. What else did I have in my arsenal? The avenue was thick with corpses and I could probably raise one, but given the nature of the demon that would be more liability than asset. I didn’t know what would happen if it touched a corpse with my Name’s power invested in it, or if it could reach through the strings I used to control my necromantic constructs. I clenched my fingers, then unclenched them. No obvious solutions, so I’d just have to try things. Hunter charged in again with a cry, so it was time for round two.

Adjutant moved like an extension of my body, always where I needed him to be exactly when I needed him there. Something about his Name, or had we simply been through enough battlefields together? I half-stepped out of an arm’s way and scored a long mark against the side but it wasn’t a strong enough hit to go through. No matter, Adjutant finished the work a moment later with the side of his sword, bringing up his shield to prevent the blood from touching him. The demon picked up the arm but disdained putting it back this time: instead it swung it at us like a mace. I knew, even as I saw the hit coming, that I wouldn’t be able to get out in the way in time. Not with the way my leg was hobbled. Hakram squared his shoulders and I felt his Name flare up, but it wouldn’t be enough. I still remembered how drained using an aspect for the first time had left me: that he’d been able to fight at all afterwards was a testament to orc constitution. With a sharp whistle, an arrow fell on the mace limb. Larger than the previous ones, and spinning wildly on itself, it tore through the flesh and dispersed it like smoke before clattering uselessly against the ground.

Saved, for now. I glanced to where the Silver Spears had been and now stood only a field of corpses. Weeping Heavens, she’d killed at least forty corrupted men in less time than it took to say morning prayers. A good person to have on yours side, Archer. Oversized fingers spread against the ground and pushed the demon up as it tried to swing its legs at Hunter, but the man deftly dropped to the ground and let the limbs pass above him. That was as much attention as I could grant the hero, because some of the other fingers weren’t merely holding up our opponent. They were scrabbling around the broken pavestones and took a handful, carelessly tossing them in Masego’s direction. I cursed: it had been too much to hope for that it wouldn’t notice what was going on there.

I reached for the last scrapings of my power, formed a spear of shadows and shot it without missing a beat, bursting through a pavestone and clipping another. There were four other rocks flying and the same spinning arrows took out one, then a second, then a third – until the angle took the last beyond Archer’s angle of fire. It would hit Apprentice in the head, I gauged. And kill him instantly. Fuck, fuck fuck– Adjutant stepped in front of Masego, shield up and legs spread. The impact caved in the shield and broke the arm behind it, but the orc remained on his feet and the stone fell to the ground. Teeth bared, Hakram ripped away the useless wreck of steel and forced back his arm in its socket with a horrible cracking sound. Gods, he hadn’t even screamed or flinched. Just… taken it, and moved on. Slowly, Apprentice rose to his feet. I called out for Hunter to run and he did so without argument for once, scything the lesser half of an arm on his way out and leaping through a house’s window with all the grace of a rushing bull.

Lines of flame rose from the ground into the sky from all over the city, too numerous to count. The threads of fire linked into a single point high above the demon and I finally understood what Masego had been doing. He’d broken his ritual, piece by piece, and taken the wild flames that would have exploded from the hearths as his own. Usurpation is the essence of sorcery, Apprentice had once told me, paraphrasing some Dread Emperor. He’d usurped his own work, and was now bringing its full strength to bear against our enemy. From the point where all the flames had gathered an enormous pillar of flame descended, enveloping the demon in the blink of an eye. I’d half-excepted the spell to disappear after a moment, but it kept on going. There was a strange sound coming from our mage’s direction, and I realized with a start it was a laugh. Masego was grinning madly as he convulsed in laughter, the glare of the flames reflecting on his glasses as he peered over them at his work. His hands were thrusting forward, unmoving as the fire raged and waves of heat scorched stone and distorted the air.

How long we stood there, watching the son of the Sovereign of the Red Skies proving the truth of his lineage, I did not know. Long enough for my limbs to turn mellow as the stress of the fight left me, and long enough for Hunter to burst out of a different house than the one he’d entered and join us. Archer leapt down from her perch moments later, eyes wary.

“Will that kill it?” she asked.

I chuckled tiredly. “Well, it probably won’t be moving for a while. We’ll still need Hunter to finish the fight: I don’t think Masego will have enough juice left to cage and banish it after that.”

She arched a fine eyebrow.

“That was an option?”

“From what I understand,” I said, “our chances of managing to trap it if it saw us coming were… not promising. This is probably as good as the Fifteenth can reasonably have expected this fight to have gone.”

Hunter himself was studiously ignoring us, and I returned him the courtesy. He’d been eager enough to attack so far, I had no doubts he’d finish the monster off when the time came. Hakram was more important to me, and I had to limp as quick as I physically could to catch the orc when he began to collapse.

“I think I’m done for the night, Cat,” he rasped.

“You did good, Hakram,” I murmured, gently setting him down against a wall. “Better than anyone had a right to expect.”

“I-” he started, but exhaustion caught up with him.

His mouthed closed and unconsciousness finally took hold of his body.

“Steady fighter, this one,” Archer commented.

“The steadiest,” I agreed softly.

Masego’s spell showed no sign of thinning. I limped to his side and put a hand on his shoulder.

“How much longer?” I asked.

He remained silent for a moment. At the edge of my sight, Hunter raised his spear – immediately, my hand dropped to my sword and I cursed myself for having ever sheathed it. I’d thought the hero too straightforward to turn on us, but now that the battle was done he must have thought he could take us out when weakened and then take care of the demon on his own. Shit, what side was Archer going to take? She was the least tired among us.

Hunter spat blood, and the demon’s hand finished ripping its way through his chest.

It looked almost human now, though naked and with unsettlingly large eyes. Archer’s retort hit him in the throat but it didn’t even seem to notice. It withdrew its hand from the dead hero and tossed him at Masego, breaking the mage’s concentration – the column of flame immediately rippled, then went up in an explosion that flattened all of us to the ground. I forced down a scream of pain as my bad leg snapped at an angle but desperately scrabbled back to my feet just in time to see the demon go for Apprentice. The same blue panes of light that had stopped the corrupted monster earlier materialized in front of the mage when the abomination leapt at him, holding it at arm’s length as its caressed the magical shield. Masego grunted as I moved to flank the demon, the shield light bursting and throwing it back. The impact had wiggled the arrow in its throat, spraying blood in an arc as it landed fluidly on its feet.

A single drop landed on Apprentice’s left wrist. Immediately he brought up the other hand, the tip of a finger glowing red-orange, and with a hoarse scream he cauterized the skin. Would that be enough? Shit. It had to be. I heard Archer unsheathe her blades and the demon lazily turned to look at me. It took a step, and then stilled. The sound of hooves against stone was heard in the distance, coming towards us from where the Silver Spears had once stood. The pace was unhurried, like the rider had all the time in the world. I let out a breath of relief. Black. My teacher had come for us. Through the smoke and dust kicked up by the breaking of Masego’s spell, a single silhouette rode. A cage of bright red and green flames formed around the demon, spinning slowly at first and then quickening until it took the shape of a whirling cone and then burst, tearing into the sky so high the whole city must have been able to see it. Behind it, no trace of the demon remained. The horse was reined in twenty feet away from us, and finally I was able to make out the rider.

“Well,” Heiress spoke with a pleasant smile. “Quite a mess you’ve made here, Squire.”

51 thoughts on “Chapter 31: Sleight

    1. Cicero

      shame you can not edit posts.

      on further tought, considering all the previous drama with heiress in general, the undead pscho-goblin and the spy in squires army, the next chapter is bound to be interesting.

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    2. FP

      I quite agree. She’s seems like a pretty great character, and I really want her dead.

      easily the size of a two-stories house
      usually “story”

      mark against the side but it wasn’t a strong enough it to go through
      remove “a” and second “it”
      (Or maybe you meant second it -> hit ?)

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    1. Well, duh. One must gloat with proper conviction: there are conventions, no?😛

      Oh, how I loathe that lass… Something tells me the Name of Squire doesn’t like her much, either. It’s not just Catherine who’d like to punch her face in on general principles at this point.:/

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    2. Phantom Renegade

      Not gloat, this move is classic Heiress, by killing the demon herself she stole most of the thunder from Cat and the 15’th.

      Sure Black and the Empress will know Cat did most of the work and wore down the demon, and the people of the city will know the 15’th stayed behind to protect them and did a great job of it, but all the nobles and normal people will get out of this story is that Heiress stepped in and killed the demon when five other named were faltering against it (because of course that’s how Heiress is going to tell the story and she definately already has a gossip and rumor network set up to spread it arround).

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      1. Sir

        I’m not sure anyone will believe that. Heiress isn’t a fighting name and I doubt she is a strong magician how could anyone believe a fragile girl took down a demon.

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  1. alegio

    well…. fuck, only one standing is archer, if she helps or heiress gloats long enough for everyone to take a breath maybe they get out alive.

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    1. M

      Completely unrelated to this chapter, but I have recently realised that “fire” can be used as a verb, in the same way as “destroy” or “seek”. Logically, so can derivative words from “fire”, like “goblinfire”.

      Now, I am not saying that Foundling should get a full-fledged name after defeating a goddamn demon, but that would make a whole lot of sense, since demons should be worth a whole lot of XP. Really hoping that in the next chapter that will happen, one of her aspects will turn out to be “goblinfire”, and she will use goblinfire to goblinfire Heiress right in her smug ugly face.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. stevenneiman

        Also, fire as a verb means something not entirely related to the burny kind. You can either fire pottery, which involves fire but in a very specific manner, or you can fire a weapon, in which case the term is still used even if no fire is involved anywhere, like with a crossbow.
        Ergo, it is unlikely that there is any way “goblinfire” could be used as a verb. Burn, Char, Immolate, or Incinerate, though, could all be used as verbs.

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  2. And then due to pure hate, miraculously her third aspect comes back, she gets a nice power reserve and black spears the bitch? Right? I still dislike that something coming from the gods got taken that easily…

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  3. devourer123

    She loss the name thing right she is incomplete so particularly she is weak way weak on her generation right? And now heiress is here hahahaha can’t wait for next chapter

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  4. I don’t think we’re ever going to see her Name just magically upgrade to the next tier. The impression I got from her initial arc was that a Name had to be specifically selected, worked towards, and earned. If someone else already has that Name, or is simultaneously questing towards it, you need to defeat them or otherwise prove yourself the more worthy applicant.

    We haven’t even seen any hints about what her next name might BE, much less that she’s proven herself ready to claim it.

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    1. Phantom Renegade

      Yeah i agree, plus even if you did get a name by just being super awesome, Cat didn’t kill the demon Heiress did, maybe that’s a technicality but i doubt the gods giving trope themed superpowers would see it that way.

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  5. AVR

    Typos

    hadn’t seen trace of
    (insert ‘a’, ‘any’, or something similar between ‘seen’ and ‘trace’.)

    formed to supports its
    formed to support its

    on yours side,
    on your side,

    I’d half-excepted
    I’d half-expected

    His mouthed closed
    His mouth closed

    the shield light bursting
    (Doesn’t look quite right. Maybe drop either ‘shield’ or ‘light’, or make it ‘shield of light’?)

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  6. wreggs

    Man, I hate heiress… On another note though, when she gets her name, hopefully it will repair the damage on her leg and face. Also be cool if the name she gets is more of a neutral/grey name rather than full on evil or good.

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  7. Nairne

    Well a masterstroke on Heiress part for sure.

    I’m wondering though – this chapter basically tells us that Cat will never achieve her goal – she will either have to go under Heiress thumb to rule her homeland or take revenge when Heiress lets her guard down i.e. after Heiress completes her goal. The latter is unlikely though seeing as Heiress plans so much further down the line that Cat will most likely be unable to do so at that point.

    I understand you cripple her – but why kick her when she is down? Do you hate your MC?
    This sentence “Quite a mess you’ve made here Squire” is so much a threat to Cat – it says “i can spin the story so you seem incompetent and i will take your Legion from you effectively taking all your Named or guys coming into their Name”. I really hope you made Juniper have some countermeasure unless it was actually her who called Heiress to the City – which would really suck by the way. Also this move by Heiress deprives Cat of any reward from the Plot because she “screwed up at the end” – and honestly it feels like thats all she does lately.

    Can you at least give us a bone here and tell or at least hint at why you did that?

    I think most of us here want Cat to succeed some more and have Heiress get her fair share of “decisive failure caused by Cat”.

    Would really like some good news for Cat – because as I see it right now she is fked.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Akim

      Well I am pretty sure now that Almavora is around somewhere too.

      A demon, two heroes and four villains duking it out .. no way in creation or any hell the name of Bard is going to miss this.

      Oh and with the death of hunter someone makes Rangers shitlist today and it will not be Squire

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    2. You seem to be, uh, jumping ahead a bit.

      Cat’s tired out but she also has allies and, well, an /army/. As for her being crippled, people have been making their own conclusion to the extent of it. While I’ve read some comments theorizing that even getting another Name wouldn’t get her a third aspect back, I don’t recall saying anything of the sort. It’s significant that a character as obsessed with accuracy as Masego called it damage to the Name and not the Role. As for your other worry, Heiress can’t take the Fifteenth from her regardless of the outcome here. Those assignments are under Black’s purview and he’ll be well aware of what went on here. Politically powerful backers is not something only Heiress has. As for Cat “screwing up”, the battle wasn’t over yet and she’d achieved every single objective set out when said battle began save for one. While not an outright victory, calling that a defeat is reaching.

      As for Catherine being unable to achieve her goal in the long term, that’s a prediction that’s a bit early to make. Heiress is good at some things, Cat at others. That aside, keep in mind that in a world that runs on stories being the designated winner of a confrontation is not without its own risks.

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      1. Nairne

        Thanks for your reply.

        It just feels like she planned the whole thing and snatched the killing blow from right under Cat’s nose effectively depriving her of the victory – and that feels crappy enough to feels like defeat and a particularly vexing one at that.

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      2. Think of the Role as the water supply and the Name as the tap. Having your tap damaged might affect how much water you can get out, but the water supply itself is unaffected.

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      3. James, Mostly Harmless

        Heiress is making a classic Evil mistake, gloating before your enemy is truly defeated. And she is putting Cat in the perfect position to pull a classic Good reversal on Evil. Cat and Juniper had to suspect that Heiress would come to gloat, I wonder what countermeasures they have prepared?

        On another note, Heiress’s line about “Quite a mess …” sets her up to be Stan to Cat’s Ollie. I wonder if Cat’s world has stories about Laurel and Hardy type characters, and what happens to Stans who try to blame Ollies for the problems they caused?

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      4. M

        >As for Cat “screwing up”, the battle wasn’t over yet and she’d achieved every single objective set out when said battle began save for one.

        Honestly, at this moment we can’t even say wherever demon died or is pulling the whole “now you see me” trick a second time.

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      5. stevenneiman

        Nairne: of course Heiress planned this all out and it went exactly as she wanted it. Her evil scheme worked. What else did you expect to happen with the penultimate plan of an unsympathetic character in a world where being predictable and cliche actually makes something more likely?

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      6. Cicero

        thank you for the extra explanation. Personally i do not feel like Cat got the short end of the stick because Struggling is kind of her thing. Would be boring eitherwise. Either way keep on trucking.

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    3. stevenneiman

      Second confrontation begins now. Odds are good Heiress wins this round, but inconclusively. Besides, even if the demon might not have been, Heiress is bound by the laws of Fate, which means that she can’t win completely until the nemesis arc with Swordsman is concluded. She can’t even get a crippling victory, because then the Hero wouldn’t be an underdog in a climactic battle against a Villain.
      Hell, when you think about it Cat is contractually bound to get something nice to replace the lost Aspect, else the fight against Swordsman wouldn’t have the proper dramatic tension. Although I suppose she could just get a bonus against Will personally. Now that I think of it, I bet this is going to turn into a case of poor communication, because fighting to the last to protect a city full of innocents is not the sort of thing unsympathetic Villains do, and only winning because the opponent lost an aspect saving others is not something any kind of Heroes do either. That means they either make up and possibly fall in love, or she gets killed off just in time for Will to feel stupid about killing her. Considering that from a meta perspective she is also the protagonist of PGtE, she really can’t die this early in the story and likely can’t do anything that would make the title inappropriate to the story. Ergo, she and Will must reconcile by Will going over to the side of Evil, and likely team up to trounce Heiress.

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  8. Bookworm

    I’d like to post a theory that the demon is not actually dead. Look at the name of the chapter. Sleight occurs mostly by deception through misdirection … and a pillar of flame is one heck of a tool for misdirection. Further, does anyone truly think that Heiress can summon that specific type of power? Brute force and manipulation of natural forces to cause direct mayhem seem more the venue of a wizard, warlock, or other spell-slinger.

    If true, the question becomes: who is deceiving who? Is the deception on the part of Heiress working together with the cunning of the demon? Or is the demon conning Heiress? Or both?

    Of course, one could make the argument that the demon was on its last legs, and Heiress committed a legitimate kill-steal. It just seems to run counter to the story development of the unusually cunning demon.

    Well, that’s what I think is happening, but only the next chapter will tell … maybe.

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    1. Phantom Renegade

      Heiress stated in internal mologue that she’s a better mage(or whatever magic users call themselves, i forget) then the person she hired to help her set the demon free so i’d buy she can muster up that much power, i doubt she’d tip her hand like that though so her mage friend is probably in the background somewhere.

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      1. stevenneiman

        I’m pretty sure it said in so many words that only the purest of Heroes can actually kill a demon, but anyone can seal or banish one.

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    2. Nairne

      Now that you mention – It could be that she just sealed the weakened demon to be used at some later time like a granade but I think Masego would see though that, because while she might be a better mage/spellcaster than her friend I doubt the same holds when comparing her to the Apprentice.

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  9. Man Square Red

    I have taken the liberty of writing a short piece of fanfiction for the setting, which takes place roughly at the same time as this chapter. If the Author is not pleased, feel free to delete this comment and e-mail me to request that I do not write any more.

    http://pastebin.com/JHxgsPiX

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    1. stevenneiman

      I felt like a few sections were written a bit clumsily, but overall it was very nice. The last bit gave me quite a laugh. And I could definitely believe that the events and characterization would fit right in.

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  10. stevenneiman

    “and if someone’s feelings got hurt [then so much for that->too bad?].” “so much for X” generally means that it needs to be dealt with or abandoned, and she definitely wouldn’t abandon a plan because if would offend someone.
    “already formed [to supports->to support/as supports for] its spindly torso”
    “Archer’s retort [hit] him in the throat but it didn’t even seem to notice” Unless that was Archer finishing Hunter off before he got corrupted, you referred to the demon as “him” instead of “it” once, then switched back.

    “Hunter, either entirely fearless or magnificently stupid” Either? I’m 99.9% certain he’s both.Had the writing thus far been any less surprising, I would say 100%
    “Something about his Name, or had we simply been through enough battlefields together?” I think the two options are less distinct than she believes.

    General thoughts- Heiress really needs to work on not being a Bond villain. Even more than in most series, a character as well-versed as she should be in the workings of Names should know better than to play to the hilt an archetype that always loses despite massive advantages. But no, she continues to act smug and superior, remain confident in her own abilities even when she doesn’t know what she is really up against, and act like such an asshat that any kind of audience would be rooting for her destruction even aside from her actual agenda.
    This was a very clever plan as I understand it, wearing the 15th down against a terrible foe before sweeping up the pieces with a carefully prepared spell to re-seal the demon (I assume that’s what she did). She also made the mistake of confronting someone who currently has thicker plot armor than Rincewind. I think her shtick is that she decides what she is going to do and then finds the best way to do it and does that, but she doesn’t actually think about what is and is not beyond her ability.

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    1. Bart

      > “she continues to act smug and superior, remain confident in her own abilities even when she doesn’t know what she is really up against, and act like such an asshat that any kind of audience would be rooting for her destruction even aside from her actual agenda”

      That’s ridiculous, of course she’s amazing — everyone around her that matters has always told her so.😉

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