Heroic Interlude – Prise au Fer

“There is nowhere angels fear to tread.”
– Callowan proverb

William’s mother had been a woman of some education, a knight’s daughter. His father had only barely known how to read and always deeply distrusted any writing but the Book of All Things, which was said to have been spoken to the minds of mortal men by the Gods. It had been his mother who’d taught him his numbers and letters, and she’d been the one to keep his attention on the lessons by weaving stories from ancient Callowan rulers into them. The Queen of Blades had been the kind of vivid story that fascinated, never once defeated in battle though her invasion of Daoine had failed. So had the story of Eleanor Fairfax, the knight turned founder of the Fairfax dynasty who’d risen in rebellion against Triumphant when the Dread Empress had ruled over the entire continent. Now, though, as he walked the streets of Liesse alone and the moon was high in the sky, it was a king’s words he remembered. So had spoken Jehan the Wise: “Evil is cruel, and so men think it follows that Good is kind. This is a mistake, my son. Though fire is warm and in the dark of night we huddle around it, it also burns.”

This had unsettled him, as a child. Jehan had been Named, the Good King. A hero. Why be so wary of the very power he wielded? He understood now. Had ever since he’d gone into the wilderness half-mad and been presented with the face of Contrition. He’d seen the searing fires and felt them scour his soul clear. There were sorceries in the East – and even in some of the Free Cities – that could make a slave of a man. There were some who would compare standing in the presence of a Hashmallim to such a thing, but that was a fundamental misunderstanding of the thing. William had seen his life through their eyes. Every sin, every wrong, every petty unthinking cruelty. All of it without the veil of lies everyone cloaked themselves in without even realizing it. The lies of well-meaning and wilfully chosen ignorance. It had stripped William of his delusions and allowed him to see what he truly was.

Just a man, and not a particularly Good one.

He’d gone through those fires and come out a sword of the Heavens, handed a single feather from the wing of Contrition to see its will done upon Creation. Had they known, even then? Perhaps they had. Angels saw deeper into the nature of the world than mortals could, beyond artificial constructs like time. There was, to them, no difference between the first step of a journey and the last. That was what really changed people, when they met angels. The realization that in the end they were nothing but an assembly of sins. Choirs helped you accept this truth differently. Those touched by Compassion never took another life again, not even those of the worst monsters in Creation. Those touched by Mercy spent their days alleviating suffering wherever they went. Those touched by Judgement… did not survive the experience, should they be found wanting. Contrition was different from the others, in a sense.

The Hashmallim had never once forced anyone to take up the sword to fight Evil, but then they’d never once had to ask. Once you saw the truth of yourself and then then truth of Creation, what was left but to take arms? The only path to contrition was to leave the world a better place than you’d found it – and how could lesser be solutions be tolerated when so large a part of Calernia was still under the yoke of the Gods Below?

Nine crusades had been waged, all in all. Of those, five had been led by heroes aligned to the Choir of Contrition. Sometimes it amused William that the red cross that was the mark of all crusaders had been a symbol provided by the Dread Empire. Triumphant, in all her cruel madness, had been fond of having children crucify their own parents as a sign of obeisance. She’d paid for it eventually, when a Duchess of Daoine who’d consigned her own father to the cross met with an idealistic young knight named Eleanor Fairfax. Eleanor had been touched by Contrition, and when she rose in rebellion all of the continent gathered behind her banner and carried it all the way to the foot of the Tower. In the beginning only the Duchess’ soldiers had worn the cross, but symbols spread – by the time Triumphant’s empire was pulled down on her head every man and woman in that army had a scrap of red cloth sown on their clothes. Or branded into their skin.

And so the First Crusade came to an end. The Second came when the Praesi rose in revolt against the crusader kingdoms their realm had been divided into, and they were crushed into dust. When the Wastelanders rose the second time, though, they were led by the man who would become Dread Emperor Terribilis II. The Third Crusade ended in disaster and the end of the crusader nations – to further compound the disgrace, a weakened Callow was occupied by Procer in its wake. The Fourth Crusade, a last-ditch attempt to reclaim Praes, was drowned in such a sea of blood by Terribilis that never again was a crusade to turn East. After that the four crusades that followed were led by the hand of Contrition. Failures, all of them, for they were fighting the Dead King and his realm of horrors, a monster who called even devils to heel. Of those it was the Seventh Crusade that William found important, for as far as he knew it was the only time in the history of Calernia a Hashmallim had come into Creation.

Contrition had touched Salia, the capital of the Principate of Procer, and every soul inside had taken the cross – including the First Prince of the time. The rest of the continent had gathered behind that holy host, and for a time it seemed the endless hordes of the dead would finally run out. Siege was laid to Keter, the seat of the Dead King and ancient capital of his derelict kingdom. They’d lost, in the end. The Dead King has poisoned the land and called forth infernal hosts until there was nothing left standing in front of him but bones. But they’d come close. Liesse was smaller than Salia, only a hundred thousand people lived within the walls, but it was not the Kingdom of the Dead it would fight. Malicia was no great warlord, not the way Terribilis had been, and her greatest general was getting old. Sooner or later, a hero would finally manage to slay the Black Knight.

The First Prince of Procer was plotting a Tenth Crusade, holed up in her capital, and William would give it to her. But it would not be a Proceran enterprise, and it would not end with Callow as her protectorate. The rest of Calernia would not stand for that sin being committed a second time. The Lone Swordsman came upon the shores of the Hengest lake and looked up at the stars, breathing out slowly. There were small docks with fishing boats further down the waterside but that would not take him where he was headed. Every Callowan child knew there was a holy place somewhere in the waters, an island said to be untouched by war and the depredations of time alike. An island, it was said, but none could be seen from the city. Boots in the sand, William watched the shining waters and waited.

The white ship came, a small thing rowboat without any trace of an oar. It did not float so much as glide, the swan-shaped prow and stern almost lifelike. It beached in front of him and without a word William climbed on board, sitting on the only seat. It had been a clear night out but the ship led them into mist. How long he sat there alone with only the dark waters and the mist for company, he could not say. He’d been into Arcadia Resplendent, where time ran to a different stream than in Creation, but this was different. Whatever lay ahead was not in another realm, just a part of this one mortals were not lightly given access to. The Penitent’s Blade, always at his hip, was warm to the touch. It felt the proximity of its likeness. An angel had died in the waters of the Hengest, the legend went. He would soon find out the truth of that. He didn’t see the island until they were almost upon it, to his surprise. Pale sands formed a perfect circle in the water, entirely bare for a small chapel of roughly hewn stone.

William had been to Laure before and seen its beautiful cathedrals. He’d seen the many basilicas of the south, for that matter, and the outrageous wealth and splendour of Salia – capital of the mightiest nation on Calernia. For all that, the sight of that small chapel brought out… something in him. A sense of wonder. There were no grand materials or sculptures: it was, in truth, little more than a stone house with a pointed ceiling and a tower. The ship beached on the sands in perfect silence and the Lone Swordsman stepped onto the shore. There was, he now saw, no bell in the tower. Yet there was an empty space for one, a bar of ancient wood to hang it from. It was the first imperfection he’d glimpsed here, and he almost frowned at the sight. Dismissing the thought, he strode inside through the open door.

There were seven rows of benches on each side, little more than bare slabs of stone. No murals on the walls of paintings on the ceiling. Even the window in the back was without stained glass, revealing only endless waters blanked by swirling mists. For all that, he felt a little awed. The chapel felt unearthly, more than even Arcadia had. It was too real. The stone was the very essence of stone, the air the very essence of air: the only intruder here was him, a living imperfection in an otherwise flawless scene. Beyond the benches lay a small altar of pale stone, with a single mark on it. A sigil. It was a sinuous, complicated thing but his mind could not help but perceive it as the number three, in Miezan numerals. The Penitent’s Blade was so warm it almost burned his fingers when he touched the handle.

“You know what happens next, don’t you?”

Almorava’s voice was soft, almost kind. He was not surprised she’d turned up, though he glanced in her direction nonetheless. She was seated to his right, for once without a bottle in hand. Even she would not desecrate this place with idle drinking.

“The sword goes into the stone,” he said. “I may not know stories the way you do, but I know that.”

He’d also stay in prayer until dawn. There would be exactly seven hours left before the sun rose, no matter when he started praying. These things saw themselves into being.

“I wonder what the last hero though, when they called on Contrition,” he said quietly. “If they had doubts, too.”

“She didn’t,” Almorava replied. “The White Knight was in Salia, when the Dead King’s offer came. Five hundred children every year for peace on the borders. That the First Prince even considered it had her in such disgust she did it that very same night.”

He didn’t ask how she knew that. He wasn’t sure he’d liked the answer. Heroes were bound to the lifespan of a mortal, unlike villains, but the Wandering Bard had always known too much about things she seemed much too young to ever have witnessed with her own eyes. Perhaps it was part of her Name. Perhaps it is something else entirely.

“A better woman than me, then,” William said. “I know what I will be putting them through. It is not a gentle thing.”

“Good doesn’t have to be nice,” Almorava murmured. “Just righteous.”

The Lone Swordsman remained standing, looking at the pale stone and the sigil on it.

“She could take the Fifteenth out of range,” he finally said. “Forty-nine hours is more than enough time.”

“She won’t, though,” the Bard replied. “That’s not her nature. She’s the very worst kind of villain, you see – the kind who thinks they’re doing the right thing. In that sense, she’s even more dangerous than her teacher. He doesn’t labour under that impression.”

“And us?” he asked. “Are we also just clutching a delusion? I had a talk with Thief, before coming here. She told me she’s staying for the siege, but that she’ll be leaving Callow afterwards.”

Some vestige of amusement quirked his lips.

“She was, I believe, quite disgusted with me.”

“Thief sees Creation through the lens of her Name,” Almorava said. “That allows her more clarity than you’d think, but people with her kind of Role are not meant to look at a broader picture. She fights what she perceives as injustice wherever she sees it, but she’ll never root out the causes.”

The same, he thought, could be said of so many heroes. Theirs was a losing fight, from the onset. You could bring down the mighty who abused their power, turn back the great tides of Evil that would sweep over mankind, but how could a single person change the world? There was a reason for that, he believed. The Heavens had put the Fate of mankind in the hands of mankind, not the Named. Heroes, given extraordinary abilities, were meant to deal with extraordinary threats. Not to take the reins of the world.

“There are no root causes,” he said tiredly. “Or only one, if you prefer. People are people, with all the flaws that come with that. We strive to do Good and fall short, because we’re not meant for perfection. Sometimes I wonder if it’s all just a great jest at our expense, Almorava. If they placed a better world just out of our reach so that they can watch us try and fail to touch it.”

The Bard hummed. “Did you know it’s a matter of some debate among the priests of the House of Light whether or not Evil is inherent to the soul?”

William was Liessen: of course he knew that. Even after the Conquest the brothers and sisters were everywhere in the south of Callow, and their public debates on theological matters were considered a good show in most villages. People actually travelled to witness famous debaters at work. There was a great deal of betting involved, which was a lot less pious, but people tended to remember the arguments made even after money changed hands.

“Are you about to impart some great revelation onto me?” he asked. “That debate has been raging for as long as the House has stood, and some say the priests who built it were arguing as they lay the stones.”

“I think it’s a very interesting question, when you look at the current breed of villains we’re dealing with,” the Bard said. “There’s only three that matter: the Empress, the Knight and the Squire.”

Almorava raised a finger.

“Malicia has made a point of of improving the lot of common Callowans whenever she can. Purely out of self-interest, but she does it nonetheless.”

She raised a second finger.

“The Big Guy is stricter about enforcing those laws of the old kingdom he kept than the Fairfaxes were before him. He’s not gentle about it, but he keeps order and enforces something that looks like justice if you squint a bit.”

A third finger.

“Foundling. Well, you’ve met her yourself. She thinks she’s saving Callow. You could argue her intentions are heroic, even if she’s a little more complicated than that.”

“You despise the Empire even more than I do,” the hero frowned. “Yet this seems like a fairly impassioned defence of it.”

“The thing is, William,” she said, ignoring his interjection. “They’re not the first villains to ever win a few battles. It’s without precedent for the Empire to keep Callow for over twenty years, though. Why are they different?”

“We’ve never dealt with villains quite as skilled who did not compulsively backstab each other,” the Lone Swordsman said. “Or get killed by rivals.”

“That’s another thing, yes,” Almorava said. “There’s loyalty there. Affection, even. Not traits you usually associate with villains. Not that they’re incapable of them, but Names magnify everything you are – and you don’t get to shake hands with the Gods Below by being a choir boy.”

“I don’t follow your point,” William admitted.

“These are some of the most successful villains in the history of the Empire,” she said. “And they became that by going through the motions of being Good.”

The dark-haired man’s brow rose. “They are most definitely not.”

“Oh, I’m not arguing that they are,” the Bard said. “See, I think that we are born Evil. Because Evil is instinct. It’s that animal part of us that wants things for ourselves no matter what it does to others. It’s been dressed up in philosophy since, but that’s the heart of it.”

She smiled mirthlessly.

“But I want to believe that when the Gods made us, they gave us thought as well as instinct. We teach ourselves to be Good, William. Because we want to be better. It’s not as easy but maybe, just maybe, if we do it long enough it will be what comes naturally to us.”

“So you’re saying the Carrion Lord is trying to be Good?” he said sceptically.

“I’m saying these are the first villains in a long time who’re going with thought instead of instinct,” Almorava replied. “It’s why they’re weaker, too. They’re leaning in the wrong direction and it has cost them.”

“I don’t see how that makes anything better,” the Lone Swordsman sighed.

“Earlier, you spoke of a root cause. People being people, was it? Except people are learning, William. Even the other side’s noticed, to the extent that they try to bastardize what we are. They say that the Heavens gave us laws, but that’s not really true is it? What they actually gave us is guidelines, to make a better world. And it’s working.”

The Wandering Bard rose to her feet. Almorava wasn’t pretty, though in some light she could be called striking. The dark skin, curly hair and strong nose made her face interesting to look at but not so attractive to be intimidating. Normally she had her lute, but tonight it was nowhere in sight. She always wore the same clothes of silk and leather, but this time they were freshly cleaned. And for once she doesn’t smell like a brewery, William added a little less kindly.

“Day by day,” she said. “Year by year, century by century – we’re making Creation a better place. Even the bottom of the barrel is pulled up when you hoist the whole thing.”

“It’s a pretty thought,” the hero said. “Doesn’t help all of us who live in Creation now instead of in a hundred years, though.”

“I know,” she said, laying a hand on his shoulder. “But I don’t want you to put that sword into that stone thinking it’s for nothing. We’re part of something larger than us, William of Greenbury. Something that uses us sorely. But…”

“Good doesn’t have to be nice,” he quietly echoed her words from earlier. “Just righteous.”

He’d shivered, when she’d said his full name. He’d never told it to her, and no one had called him by that in years. What felt like a lifetime ago. Almorava stayed close to him and for a moment he thought she was going to kiss him. She’d certainly not been subtle about being attracted to him, or to quite a few other people. If she did, he would turn away. Instead she lay her head on his chest and looped her arms around him, sighing quietly. After a moment he hugged her back.

“Every time,” she whispered. “You poor Contrition fools break my heart every time.”

She drew away, hand lingering on his chest, and left without another word. Silently, William of Greenbury stepped to the altar. He unsheathed the Penitent’s Blade and slid it inside smoothly, the sword entering without resistance or leaving a mark. He knelt before the stone and closed his eyes. Behind all that Almorava had said about thought and instinct, he found a deeper truth. It Evil was truly inherent, as she seemed to believe, then to be Good was to make a choice. The thought moved him more than he thought it would.

“It is, we are told, the only choice that really matters,” he murmured.

The last line of the first page from the Book of All Things. He was making his choice, tonight. For seven hours he would pray, and then return to Liesse.

Forty-nine hours later, a Hashmallim would come into Creation the exact moment he died.

58 thoughts on “Heroic Interlude – Prise au Fer

  1. And so the final arc of Book II begins in earnest. Last interlude until the end.
    I’ll take this occasion to plug a favourite read of mine, called “The Gods are Bastards”. Another web serial and if you enjoy fantasy done right with complicated plots, magic and well-executed character developments you should definitely check it out. (That serial is one of the reasons I didn’t get nearly as much done as I thought I would when I took a break between Book I and II of the Guide, since I ended up binging through all the existing chapters over a week.)
    Here’s a link: https://tiraas.wordpress.com/about/

    Liked by 6 people

      1. Theo Promes

        I very much agree – considering its scale, worldbuilding and characterization, in my opinion it outclasses most works I’ve ever read – definitely up there in my hall of fame amongst the good stuff like Dune, Malazan Book of the Fallen, Song of Ice and Fire…

        Liked by 1 person

    1. alegio

      Well, hahahaha this is funny cause im reading gods are bastards right now after I saw it in your favorite list at web fiction guide.

      Im new at reading in general, any other recomendation other than gods are bastards and Worm?

      Like

      1. Super Powereds, a story about the discriminatory politics of superheroism
        The Zombie Knight, a story about a badass hero with severe social anxiety
        Citadel, a very dark story about superhero training
        I’ve also heard some good things about The Iron Teeth, but haven’t read it myself yet.

        Like

      2. Bart

        Super Powereds isn’t really about discrimination in the way we usually use the word. Yes, the main characters do face discrimination, but it’s not for any legally protected categories: race, gender, sex, age*, etc. It’s because 1) evil people in their backgrounds, and 2) the very special world-changing medical treatment that they are the first group to go through, and which nobody really understands yet (well, somebody understands it at least, but that someone isn’t the government, their friends, or their school).

        *It’s legally ok to recognize that kids still in college probably don’t have as much experience as adults who’ve been doing their thing for decades.

        Like

      3. Gonna throw a couple of serials into the mix: Legion of Nothing (Superheroes done comic book style) and outliers (Superheroes based on a rather interesting concept which is showed of early on in the serial) and for some fantasy Twisted cogs and the iron teeth is pretty good.

        Like

    2. nipi

      Were doing recommendations? Ill throw in a couple that dont advertise themselves enough to get the attention they need:

      Contact 1955
      https://forums.spacebattles.com/threads/contact-1955.328914/
      A trader on a magical space ship reaches Earth in said year.

      Last Angel (Book 1 is complete Book 2 is at ch15)
      https://forums.spacebattles.com/threads/the-last-angel.244209/
      Exploring a battered dreadnaught of a ship that happens to be run by a somewhat crazed AI.

      Like

      1. Bart

        I liked that first one, until I got to the end and the author basically said, if I’m going to make this amazing and into a book, I need a proper editor and to basically finish the story, etc., so this is pretty much done.

        Like

      2. Bart

        These are good, from topwebfiction.com:

        interval:
        1
        twig by wildbow

        Twig

        info | vote
        298 votes
        2
        worm by wildbow

        Worm: Doing the Wrong Things for the Right Reasons

        info | vote
        192 votes
        5
        the gods are bastards by d. d. webb

        The Gods are Bastards: Wizards, elves and cowboys

        info | vote
        139 votes
        6
        aethernea by cloe d. frost

        Aethernea: Two mages. One Academy. Lots of trouble.

        info | vote
        126 votes
        7
        super powereds by drew hayes

        Super Powereds: A story of what comes before the capes and cowls.

        info | vote
        111 votes
        8
        a practical guide to evil by erraticerrata

        A Practical Guide to Evil: Do Wrong Right

        info | vote
        104 votes
        9
        the bridge and other short stories by leonard petracci

        info | vote
        104 votes
        10
        heretical edge by cerulean

        Heretical Edge

        info | vote
        99 votes
        12
        the legion of nothing by jim zoetewey

        The Legion of Nothing: Not all superheroes are bigger than life

        info | vote
        80 votes
        13
        pact by wildbow

        Pact: Devils and Details

        info | vote
        74 votes
        14
        anathema by chrysalis

        Anathema: Those comic books were lying about superpowers.

        info | vote
        67 votes
        15
        delvers llc by blaise corvin

        Delvers LLC: Two friends get kidnapped to a sword and sorcery world!

        info | vote
        59 votes
        16
        the zombie knight by george m. frost

        Death is coming. And he wants to help.
        info | vote
        18
        the gam3 by ephemerality

        info | vote
        49 votes
        19
        citadel by unillustrated

        Training in Necessity
        info | vote
        43 votes
        21
        void domain by towercurator

        My domain. My rules.
        info | vote
        35 votes
        22
        taint by liv

        info | vote
        27 votes
        26
        life magic by leonard petracci

        A Fantasy Tale
        info | vote
        22 votes
        27
        twisted cogs by maddirose

        A fantasy adventure in magic-touched renaissance Italy

        Although 16, 18, 19 ate either on hiatus or have stopped updating

        Like

      3. nipi

        @Bart

        Not a big fan of Delvers LLC. Comes off too much as a “my perfect speedrun in a fantasy world”. And the fact that space fairing and magic wielding aliens who have been on that world for who knows how long ago hadnt come up with the protagonists “inventions” long time ago is kind of unplausible.

        The Iron Teeth is good,
        Life Magic is good,
        Super powerds is ok,
        Worm has been at the top of that list for like forever.

        ___________________________________________________________________________

        Id also recommend:
        How to avoid death on a daly basis – An over the top, unpredictable and fun take on the “summoned to another world” genre.
        http://www.fictiongrill.com/how-to-avoid-death-on-a-daily-basis/htaddb-chapter-1/

        Unsong – Apollo 11 crashed into the crystal dome surrounding the Earth and broke it, reality and science. Angels, demons and magic manifested. Oh and corporations search for and patent words of God with which one can perform specific miracles. Everything from driving away tiredness to boiling seas. Judaism and the Kabbalah are center stage. And of course nothing is a coincidence.
        http://unsongbook.com/prologue-2/

        Subjugation by Fel – Blue telepathic space elves conquered Earth. Things do get erotic although the author claims thats not intentional he just wanted to portray a telepathic society where male and female roles/mindsets were kind of reversed. Anyway later books in the series have some nice ideas on FTL travel and their effect on the military situation.
        http://www.weavespinner.net/data/fel/Subjugation%20by%20Fel.htm

        Daybreak of Hyperion (slow updates) – Summoned to another world as a mages familiar.
        https://krytykal.org/daybreak/volume-1/chapter-1/

        Flicker – Early days after superpowers were discovered. Superpowers from being “posessed”.
        https://flickerhero.wordpress.com/table-of-contents/

        The whisper of the nightingale – Master assassin reborn in a world of spiritualist warriors. Channeling inner energies into attacks and techniques and all that.
        https://snowy.pub/the-whisper-of-the-nightingale/prologue/

        Magelife
        https://magelifeblog.wordpress.com/table-of-contents/

        Like

      4. Renny

        @Bart
        I’ve read/tried all bar Aethernea (which I’ll take a look at)

        @nipi
        There are a few there I haven’t seen which should keep me going for a couple of days :p

        Like

      5. Wiggy

        I should go read last angel again, last I looked it was just shy of wrapping up the first arc.

        I would advise against how to avoid death on a daily basis, I tried and the man character is about as arrogant and unlikable as possible. I had to stop after he justified murdering a couple random nonhuman sapients because they wanted revenge for having their family and friends slaughtered by human acquaintances of his

        Like

    1. nick012000

      Squire has the power to raise the dead as undead minions, remember. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she could call Lone Swordsman back from the dead if she really wanted to.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Soronel Haetir

        As I understand Cat’s ability to raise dead it’s a simple body animation rather than anything to do with the actual spirit. Remember with her horse (or the undead suicide goats) the bodies do not move unless she wills them to do so, and she can only have one in motion at any given moment. And recall that the same is true of Black.

        We have seen what an actual raise dead accomplishes (when the goblin claimant to Squire was seen with Heiress). I don’t think such a limited power to raise dead would have any use when it comes to William. I suspect if William (or any other Hero for that matter)were killed and Cat came across the body and then invested the power to raise it the result would be no different from her animating any other dead human, just a shambling corpse she could move around.

        Like

      2. nipi

        Well she has Apprentice with her so she could have him raise William. But I rather doubt she wants to risk anything of the sort at the moment. It wouldnt end well if it turned out Apprentice truly was corrupted.

        Like

  2. Berder

    So… guesses about Almorava:
    – Just an extremely powerful Hero. Maybe. Arguments against: her seemingly long life, where she has seen multiple heroes of Contrition; and her demonstrated teleportation, which is beyond the normal magic of this world.
    – a God Above. Would explain her strange power and long lifespan, as well as her desire to watch the world. Would also explain her appearance in this very holy place. Arguments against: Gods don’t intervene directly in the world because their power is too great. If a lesser angel has such a devastating impact, how much more would a God have? On the other hand, Almorava may be only a tiny facet of a God Above, or may have learned to conceal her power better.
    – a disguised angel. Implausible; she demonstrates humanlike thinking, which is not how angels think.
    – a Villain. Would explain her long lifespan. Would not explain her teleportation ability. Her motivation would also require some backflips to explain as villainy. Perhaps she considers that Black, Empress, and Squire are tainting the purity of evil with Good, and wants to put a stop to it. Or perhaps she started as a Villain, but changed her alignment to neutral or good over the years. A point against: the Wandering Bard is not a trope often associated with evil. Overall, not likely.
    – a God Below. If being a secret Villain or a God is a possibility, why not the combination of the two? Not likely, though.

    Like

    1. Daemion

      I think it’s just that she has fully comitted to her Name and that gives her knowledge of a lot of things relevant to the story she sees. The downside is that she has no power whatsoever herself, she’s just a vehicle for her Name and teleported wherever she’s needed.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. anon

      “Gods don’t intervene directly in the world because their power is too great.”

      But so far the Bard hasn’t directly intervened, besides convincing William of collecting heroes and delaying Hakua’s battle for Black’s arrival. Not sure if those can be considered direct actions.

      On the other hand I remember Black sayinf that Bards are the hardest to kill. Not sure if he was talking about the same Name, but if he was that means she’s not a god.

      Like

      1. AVR

        She keeps saying ‘we’ and ‘us’ in a way which implies she’s more similar to William than set above him. Also her actions are very in keeping with someone touched by Compassion as defined in this chapter.

        Evil = instinct is a problem for me. Even dogs and toddlers can have some basic sense of fairness and certainly affection. ‘Nature red in tooth and claw’ is never more than half right.

        Liked by 1 person

    3. KageLupus

      I am going to agree with Daemion and say that she is just very well connected to her Name, which gives her a very strong insight into history and the stories of various Named. I can see Almorava as a kind of living embodiment of the Bardic Name, Storytelling given form. She does not teleport, she just exists wherever an important part of the story is. And since Names drive the narrative and Narrative drives the Named, that means that Almorava will do things like pop up near Black while he is having his lunch, or inside the same chapel as William even though it is on a hidden magical island tangential to reality.

      I was actually thinking during this chapter that Almorava is actually just the Wandering Bard itself instead of a Named who took up that mantle. But thinking on it I like the above idea better, that Almorava was a human who took up a Name and then immersed herself in that nature fully. The difference is subtle but very important. It is the difference between a being that is only concerned with the narrative nature of reality, and one that tries to apply that nature to human sensibilities and interests.

      Like

    4. nipi

      Nah I think she doesnt have a long lifespan. Instead she just exists during important events and doesnt in the intervening time. Basically when nothing of notice is happening an aspect of her name plucks her out of creation and freezes time for her.

      PS. Thats bound to mess with anyones head enough to make them drink.

      Like

    5. Nick

      I think she has an aspect, lets call it Wander, that simply puts her in the right places(Even against her will maybe). So she Wanders from story to story, regardless of space and TIME(it was mentioned at some point she might spend time “nowhere” when in between appearences, i think black said it). It would explain teleportation and time issues.

      Like

  3. Daemion

    William summons an angel by sacrificing his life… I think I see how that is meant to play out. It’s clever, too. He will meet Squire on the battlefield… either he wins by killing her or he wins when she kills him and an angel descends.

    I don’t believe things will go as planned though.😉

    Like

    1. Vamair

      Forty-nine hours, seven times seven, after seven hours of praying, is too exact of a number to be a mere plan, at least when you’re not the Black Knight. William probably dies no matter what happens as a result of the ritual. It’s possible for him to have a conversion before death, but I wouldn’t bet on that.

      Like

    2. malpollyon

      Villainous Names give powers of necromancy… Just because William dies soon doesn’t mean we’ll have seen the last of him. We’ve already seen one antagonist raised from the dead to trouble us further.

      Like

  4. Bart

    Typo thread

    Once you saw the truth of yourself and then then truth of Creation,
    change the second then to “the”

    some typo that I missed because I didn’t copy paste it immediately, took something out of the oven, then went straight back to reading

    It Evil was truly inherent, as she seemed to believe,
    change It to If

    Like

      1. AVR

        shores of the Hengest lake
        shores of Hengest Lake

        entirely bare for
        entirely bare but for

        small thing rowboat
        (Remove ‘thing’ or ‘rowboat’)

        Like

  5. The Gods are Bastards is wonderful. Someone linked it in the comments several chapters ago… late July, and I was hooked after the first chapter. This and that are two of my top web novels I’m reading at the moment, and are the ones I try to get my friends to read. The Gods are Bastards is quite long at the moment and updates very often, so there’s a TON of great material to suck all your free time away. It has character growth, slow, painfully realistic at times, but growth none the less. It has great characters. It has moments that make you laugh on-par with necromatic Goat-Bombs. Heck, at one point it even subtly references this Webnovel with comments about universes that run on story elements. I could go on, but I think I’ve rambled enough.

    Thanks for the chapter, really looking forward to that battle now.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. nipi

    I still consider it to be brainwashing. Has to be if makes crusaders out of people that feel proud about being evil. Mind you that in the real world evil people dont consider themselves evil.

    Like

  7. Chel

    Good versus Evil? You mean LAW versus CHAOS right? Because that’s literally what you described, Exposition Fairy Almorava. Incoming giant asshole banana head and bifauxen in a nice suit!

    Like

      1. Soronel Haetir

        I would call Black Neutral Evil, most of the time he prefers to work within the laws he has created but is also not adverse to ditching them if that will get him closer to his goals. Consider the example of the Thieves Guild from early in the first book, they are completely outside the( official) law but are tolerated in order to provide a pressure release.

        Classifying Black on the Lawful-Chaotic slace is made somewhat more difficult because as far as Callowians go what he decides at any given moment _is_ te law.

        Like

      2. William is willing to use mind control to enslave a hundred thousand people, to do what someone in charge told him is right without giving any justification. That’s about as fanatically Lawful Neutral as you can get.
        Black, on the other hand, is planning to break the most fundamental rule of the world he lives in, for no better reason than to stick it in everyone’s faces. I would call that Chaotic, although an argument could be made for CN or CE.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I would actually deffine black as more Chaotic than lawfull really, his whole existense basically revolves around fucking the gods established rules over. For him the rules he follow is more means to prove that the higher set of established rules can be broken.

        Like

  8. “The lies of well-meaning and [wilfully->willfully] chosen ignorance.”
    “Once you saw the truth of yourself and then [then->the] truth of Creation”
    “The white ship came, a small [thing] rowboat without any trace of an oar”
    “entirely bare {but} for a small chapel of roughly hewn stone.”
    “I wonder what the last hero [though->thought], when they called on Contrition”

    So, I guess this disproves my guess that WB is actually trying to help Malicia’s plans by making William doubt. She could probably have somehow convinced him to back out if that was really her objective. I have 2 thoughts on how it is that she has had multiple Contrition Heroes break her heart. Either she retains the knowledge of all the stories learned by her Name’s past hosts, or she can Wander through time as well as space. She always seems to know more than she should, and there’s no way to observe her actions between locations, so I wouldn’t be surprised if she did Wander into the past from time to time. It would make about as much sense as her not existing at all between locations.
    As for her aspects, here are my thoughts:
    Wander: the Bard is always wherever she needs to be. This one is always tied to the Name of Wandering Bard and may not appear elsewhere
    Taunt: The Bard can inspire rage in anyone, whenever she wants or needs to. Self-control is not as effective as it should be in restraining it.
    Inspire: The Bard’s actions generally lead others on the path to doing what is right, by Good’s definition of what is right.

    Like

    1. nobodi12

      Time travel is much more powerful then not existing.

      IT’s freaking powerful. Even hpmor used it with tons of conditions and avoided it in the final battle.

      I believe that the wondering bard was around the last crusades but in peacetime she didn0t exist. This is why she didn’t age. Time was not passing for her.

      Like

    1. nipi

      Nope. As it was said the angel will just pop up for a second or two to mess with all the non-nameds heads. Then its off to do whatever angels actually do.

      Like

  9. Captain Amazing

    That mentioning of the limitations of Contrition is a clear set up for Catherine saying “no” to it. She becomes a villain and hero at the same time OMG GREY KNIGHT CONFIRMED. I’m looking forward to a Crusade in favor of the Tower against a Trueblood rebellion. I mean, they’re called the Uncivil Wars; that means more than one. Also she has a rule of three with the demon itself too. She’s set up to WIN that battle.

    Like

  10. JackbeThimble

    I would have expected the choir of Mercy to be the one that prevented you from killing. Is that just a typo and Mercy and Compassion were switched?

    Like

    1. Cruel mercy is a thing, friend. Compassion and Mercy are completely different – one can have compassion for the worst criminal, for one does not simply become one, and still demand justice to be exacted.

      Like

      1. JackbeThimble

        Exactly, Mercy literally means to forego or mitigate punishment, or to refuse to use violence when violence would be practical or just. There is nothing about Compassion that necessarily precludes killing (Euthanasia is compassionate). That’s why I would expect the Choir of Mercy to be the one that prevents you from killing.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s