Chapter 46: Squire (Redux)

“Note: only offer the hero the chance to replace my right-hand man when my right-hand man is no longer in the room.
Additional note:  find out estimated rebuilding cost for the summer palace.”
-Extract from the journal of Dread Emperor Malignant II

Two things happened in quick succession.

First, I snarled something very unkind about Chider’s mother and a he-goat. Second, I snatched the sharper out of the air and threw it back up. Unlike during my first run-in with the goblin, I was now familiar with goblin munitions. I knew how long they took to blow – the standard issue stuff anyway. The sharper exploded halfway up, giving me a gentle hint the mixture had been tinkered with. What was it with all my enemies getting their hands on goblin munitions? The Legions really needed to keep a closer eye on their stocks: they were supposed to be the only organisation with access to munitions. I’d have a talk with Black about it, I was starting to get pretty irritated with how people kept throwing those at me.

“Yeah, I won’t be calling you that,” I said, dragging myself up to my feet.

I’d expected to feel aftershocks of what I was pretty sure had been my Name getting ripped out of me, but there were none. My limbs moved surely and smoothly. The pain must have been in my soul, horrifying as that thought was. I could still feel an itch in the back of my neck, though, almost like I was missing a limb. Chider replied to my polite announcement by dropping a brightstick, this prepared to blow up directly in my face. One of these days, the Gods were going to have to grant me dumber enemies. There had to be a finite number of clever ones, and I was starting to murder my way through that list. I ignored the falling cylinder and wedged my foot into a crevasse. The flash of light and the deafening noise might have been a problem if I were still alive, but at the moment I was past worrying about burst eardrums. They’d make no real difference.

Jumping while in full plate would have been hard even when I’d still had my Name, but I was just about done playing around. Ripping a few muscles to get the job done wasn’t something I was going to balk at. My first leap got me halfway up and I forced my limbs into making me jump again when I hit the side of the pit, landing in a sprawl back on top. I heard Chider scuttling away from me, hiding in the rocks. The novelty of having an enemy shorter and physically weaker than myself was quite refreshing. Well, weaker for now. She’d be settling into the Name any moment now, and it was all downhill from there.

“I should have seen this coming, really,” I said. “Warlock mentioned the only place in Callow to ‘bind or usurp a Name’ was in Liesse. Figured I was safe with no other claimant around, but that was evidently incorrect. Breaking the laws of nature to screw me over – classic Heiress.”

I heard the snap of a crossbow being shot and turned in time to see the bolt coming for my chest. My hand snapped up, following my will, and snatched the projectile out of the air. One out of two, I mused, breaking the haft and dropping it on the ground. I’d had better success rates, but also much worse.

“The part of this that puzzles me,” I continued, “is you. You’re smarter than this, Chider. I’m on my way to fighting my two rivals and you’re a middling threat standing between us. There’s only one way this can go for you.”

The undead goblin slipped out of the rocks to my side, jamming a knife in my knee joint. Frowning, I slapped her across the face. I hadn’t held back even a little bit and it showed: her neck twisted sharply with an unpleasant sound. She picked herself up from the rock the hit had thrown her against, idly snapping her neck back in place. No full resurrection for her either, then. Weren’t we quite the pair, jolly undead abominations brawling in the middle of place that had been freshly forced into existence? I took the knife out of my knee, gauging the weight of it. Good goblin steel. It would do.

“That would be true,” Chider said as she rose to her feet, “if you were still the Squire. You’re free meat now, Callow-girl.”

I sighed.

“I’m serious,” I said. “What’s the end game for you here? Say you manage to somehow destroy my body. Heiress manages whatever the Hells she’s up to with your help. What do you do after?”

“I change things,” Chider replied, pulling out another knife.

Gods, was that what I sounded like to other people? No wonder I got stabbed so often. Never assume a goblin is out of knives, I thought, watching her twirl the blade between her fingers. Robber carried so many that by all rights he should clink whenever he walked around.

“As the Squire?” I said. “The moment Black meets you, he’ll hack you to pieces to put the Name back in play. If he’s in a bad mood, he’ll give what’s left of you to Warlock. Do you still dream, Chider? Because that’s the stuff of very real nightmares.”

“I have friends of my own,” the goblin said.

“No, what you have is an owner,” I said. “And she’s not gentle with her tools – today should have shown you that clearly enough. Chider, you’re about to get thrown under the carriage. You really think Heiress is going to stick her head out for you? Gods, you think the Truebloods will? They don’t hide what they think about greenskins.”

Snarling, the goblin attacked. Rude. She could have at least informed me we were done talking. What was it with telling people they were wrong about everything that made them so aggressive? Already Chider was faster, quick enough she was hard to follow with the naked eye. I felt the blade scrape my chest plate but it failed to go through and I kicked her before she could stick it into my neck. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what she thought that would do at this point. Make me bleed out? My heart wasn’t beating anymore, and the stuff inside my veins was basically red water giving me a little more mass. I caught her wrist when she came for me again, initially forcing it back before something dark flared in her leering eyes. She begun turning the struggle around. Name strength, I decided, was a lot less pleasant from the other side. I spun around her and helpfully handed her back her knife, sticking it into her neck. Didn’t seem to have much effect, but my boot on her back did: she was sent sailing again.

“You think I don’t know all of this?” Chider spat, landing in a crouch, “I’m not drowning in options, Foundling, unlike you. I’ll survive today, then tomorrow and then the day after that. That’s what goblins do. We survive, even when Creation is out for our blood.”

I unsheathed my own knife.

“You know,” I said thoughtfully, “I think that a year ago I would have tried to help you. To compromise. But I’ve lost too many friends since, Chider. Crossed too many lines to turn back.”

That burned face split into a horrifying grin.

“If you think I’ll lay down and die for your little narcissism trip,” she said, “you’re in for a rude awakening.”

Fair enough. I strolled forward, pace unhurried. She darted in my direction but I feinted for her hand. Unnaturally quick, she brought up her knife to block – and I swiped mine across her face, ripping through her teeth. She backpedalled hurriedly, free hand coming up to touch the ruined fangs.

“I’ve been doing all this talking,” I said. “You probably thought it was a blunder. She’s been Named too long, she got cocky. What I was actually doing, though, was giving them time to settle in.”

She leapt for me with a howl but that was mere savagery. I’d fought more dangerous things than an angry undead goblin in the past, even a Named one. Hells, I’d fought more dangerous things today. I calmly stepped aside, left her to slide on the rock and feinted for her eyes. The knife came up again, faster than a blink, but I’d already redirected the strike and was ripping through the shoulder muscles on the right. She’d likely thought she was being clever when she’d traded chain mail for leather, banking on speed over taking hits. Her limp right arm now taught her differently.

“The reflexes, I mean,” I said as I circled around her. “They take a while to get used to, don’t they? I remember how odd it was when I first came into the Name, getting a set of reactions that weren’t entirely mine.”

I brought up the tip of my knife and this time she reacted properly, not falling for the probe – which didn’t help her when my other hand unsheathed my sword and hacked through her bad arm. The limb fell to the ground. I intended for this to be theme for the evening, as it happened.

“You can ignore them, of course,” I said. “But that costs you a moment, while you push them down. A lot can happen in a moment. Still, I imagine that given a fortnight you’d get used to it.”

My eyes turned cold.

“Unfortunately for you, you don’t have a fortnight.”

Chider spat out teeth, bringing up her knife.

“Fuck you, Callow-girl,” she said. “No matter what you do, I will Surv-

I rammed my sword through her mouth, tip coming out on the other side. There would be no aspect comeback for this one. I jammed my knife into the soft side of her elbow, cleaving the muscle. Her fingers convulsed around her weapon but there’d be no more swinging at me. Holding her upright, I ripped out the clasps holding the upper part of her leather armour together. The flesh under was scarred with burns, barely even flesh at all.

“I warned you,” I said, “Now give me back my Name.”

I struck her as hard as I could, my armoured fingers ripping into her flesh. I dug through the necrotized organs, finding the snake-like length of her spine after jostling around a bit. Hand inside the goblin up to my elbow, I grit my teeth and tore out her spine. It snapped halfway through her abdomen and Chider fell limp. Dropping her to the ground after withdrawing my smeared gauntlet, I wrenched out my sword and beheaded her for good measure. I stood there, eyes closed. I would have let out a breath if there’d been any air in my lungs. I did not have to wait for long before awareness flooded into me for the second time in my life. It felt like coming home.

I was Catherine Foundling, daughter of no one and nothing. I’d broken armies, snatched victory from the jaws of my enemy. I’d spent lives like coin and bought the fate of a kingdom, cheated death and spat in the face of Corruption. On the night I’d first claimed this Name, I’d branded my path on the soul of a hero. And on the night where I claimed it again, that path was coming to an end. I was, once more, the Squire.

My senses sharpened and I waited for the beast that rode my shoulders to make itself known, already smiling. I’d almost grown fond of it. The expression faded when it made no appearance. I frowned and sunk in the depths of my Name. They felt shallower now. Not weaker, but as if the depths had not yet been… earned. My blood ran cold when I realized I had not claimed back my Name – I’d just claimed it, period. I was starting at the beginning again, and I couldn’t feel a single one of my aspects. Just the potential for them, those bundles of shapeless power. My eyes opened in sheer surprise. Those three bundles of shapeless power.

“Oh, Heiress,” I said gleefully. “You fucked up.”

Chider had been her work, of that there was no doubt, but why would Akua have done this at all if she knew it would give me back strength? I might not have my aspects anymore, but my Name was effectively restored to the strength it had possessed before my run-in with the demon. I had the well of power to effectively use the tricks Black had taught me once more. Why would Heiress make me stronger? She’d made a habit out of sabotaging me at every turn. Even if she was planning on using me against William, this made no sense. Unless she didn’t know she was doing that, I thought. Only two people knew there had been more to my crippling than the leg: Masego and Hakram. And Black, though that hardly counted.

I’d not told another living soul, and as far as I knew neither had they. And it wasn’t like Heiress could just take a look at my aspects whenever she pleased: Apprentice had needed to set up an entire room full of hellishly complicated wards to operate on my soul. Akua had never been allowed into the Fifteenth’s camp without heavy guard, and any use of magic on her part would have been met with immediate force. She hadn’t known, I realized. She hadn’t known I’d robbed myself of an aspect. She’d thought that by using Chider as a receptacle for my Name she could weaken me for months, maybe even kill me when she ripped it out – if she was lucky. That was the thing with luck, wasn’t it? It never landed quite where you’d thought it would.

“And instead you put me back on the horse, you scheming bitch you,” I murmured.

Gods Below, it was about time one of her little plots backfired. Now I just needed to cram her next one down her throat and make her choke on it. I knelt by Chider’s twice-dead corpse, wiping my sword on her before sheathing it. I did the same with my knife after wrenching it out. If I’d had anything to set her on fire just to be sure I would have, but for now this would have to be enough. I didn’t have any munitions on me, much less goblinfire – not that using a substance that burned magic in a dimension made by a mage wouldn’t have been a horrible idea anyway. I peered in the distance and saw the gate of light was still there. For how long that would remain the case I wasn’t sure, but I thought it best to hurry.

Feeling the mantle of my Name on my shoulders after that distressing period where I hadn’t made a tedious procession more tolerable. I could no longer remember what I’d felt like before I’d become the Squire. Being entirely human was just a… hazy concept. I was beyond sickness now, beyond the old limitations of my body like heat and cold or not being able to tinker with my own senses. After tasting true power, there was nothing more horrifying than being powerless. The honesty of that thought made me uncomfortable.

It was hard to gauge lengths of time in a place without a real sky, but I felt like I’d kept a good pace. The gate of light I’d glimpsed at a distance was even taller than I’d thought, thrice my height – so more or less twice anyone else’s – and almost as broad. I couldn’t make out anything beyond it. Apprentice had said there would be a way into the ritual site, but I found it odd he hadn’t said anything about a gate. For that matter, if he could make a gate why hadn’t he crafted one for me to enter here in the first place? I frowned, then picked up a stone from the ground and threw it. For a moment it looked like it would pass through, but then there was a flash of light and a loud bang.

“You’re getting predictable, Akua,” I said.

Stepping around the gate, I found the exit Masego had actually made after looking for a few moments. Like the portal that had allowed me through, it was transparent and hard to make out in the lack of proper lighting. Akua’s false gate was just close enough to make it hard through wiggle through, because why make it just a death trap when you could also make it an inconvenience? I took a deep breath I didn’t strictly need, finding the familiarity of it reassuring.

“Final round, winner takes all,” I muttered before passing through.

81 thoughts on “Chapter 46: Squire (Redux)

  1. nick012000

    You know, I wonder if Cat’s going to get different Aspects this time. Her experiences as Squire the first time around have certainly shaped her character; she’s no longer the lowly orphan girl she once was.

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      1. stevenneiman

        That would be “Avenge” Remember, Aspects are always imperative verbs, never nouns. Frankly, though, I don’t think she’s really changed enough to change her aspects, as she still gets by by Struggling through adversity and Seeking ways to apply what she’s Learned. They are also a very practical Aspect loadout, with 1 that grants a long-term advantage, 1 that grants a medium-term advantage and 1 that gives her the best chance of scraping through the tight spots.

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    1. Soronel Haetir

      Well, except I believe we’ve been told Learn is intrinsic to the name of Squire, and I don’t think that Struggle has gone away (if anything that one is even more firmly draped upon her shoulders).

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      1. RubberBandMan

        By another token, most squires get learn because they need it. How many squires lost the name, and then re-earned it? Everything she learned she still knows, so depending on what other aspects she get, she may not need it.

        And Struggle was a response to constantly being outclasses in every level, by skill, experience, and brute power. Now she’s learned a lot of tricks to out think or out plan her enemy, instead of just charging headlong. Some sort of fighting aspect (Maybe even ‘fight’?) may be in the cards for her.

        In gamer terms, I suspect her name will be more min/maxed for her situation, thinks that a rookie named wouldn’t be able to make effective use of, but she can now use effectively. What’s instinctive and natural to her now is very different to what felt normal to her before. Where she brute forced her way before with struggle, she now out-finesses her way though, even when she is more physically dominating then her foe.

        And did anyone wonder at the implication that Black and Warlock didn’t know about her missing aspect? That’s a ponderer for you. Were they really in the dark about that?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. “And did anyone wonder at the implication that Black and Warlock didn’t know about her missing aspect? ”

        Dunno about Warlock, but she outright told Black that her name was crippled.

        “I get why you’re angry,” I admitted. “I lost an aspect. That’s not something that you can just walk off.”

        Black snorted. “A minor loss, that. The risk you took in the attempt is the infuriating part.”

        I blinked. “I permanently damaged my Name, Black,” I spoke carefully. “Crippled the amount of power I can use by at least a third until I come into another Name.”

        PS: I really need sleep. I almost encapsulated that excerpt within html tags named ‘blackquote’

        Liked by 1 person

      3. “[Aspects will] change from one incarnation to the next, to some extent, but some aspects are as good as set in stone. Conquer is a staple of the Role of Black Knight, for example.”

        So far as I can tell, that only means that based on precedent, certain named not having a particular aspect would be unusual, perhaps even exceedingly so, not that they’re actually intrinsic. Learn and Conquer tend to be useful for those who become Squires and Black Knights, so they tend to get those aspects. Catherine’s been treading new territories in Name feats for a while.

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      4. nipi

        Guys we have the power of an angel to throw into the mix real soon. Reincarnation or what not. Thats got to leave a mark. I wouldnt be surprised if she somehow stole a lesser version of Rise from the Lone Swordsman. If you can high-jack an angels power then surely its possible to steal an aspect from a hero.

        Wouldnt it be fun if she got an aspect named Usurp that allowed her to Usurp anothers aspect? (Add restrictions and limitations to balance things out.)

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      5. stevenneiman

        RubberBandMan Black and Warlock did know about her Name being damaged. Warlock commented to Black about someone having “taken a butcher’s knife to her soul”, and Black never forgets things that obviously important.
        She also did specifically comment that Black knew, but that it wasn’t important for secrecy concerns, since he is much harder to steal a secret from than Masego of Hakram.

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  2. Nafram

    Ohohoho, and here I thought that Chider was gonna be more of a threat, but then again, she was surpassed long ago. And now, Heiress has empowered Catherine.
    I think you have the right idea Archdevil, but I believe one of those Aspects is gonna be something like Defy or Trascend, something that lets Foundling overcome or, well, Trascend patterns

    Liked by 1 person

      1. nipi

        I dont like Seek. Its too deliberate and takes too long to make use of. She already suffered because of that drawback. Cat flourishes in chaos so something that would augment her in it would be more likely to pop up.

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    1. Letouriste

      For aspects…maybe a version upgraded of struggle and something different from learn? Like understand or clear mind or smart?
      I think her situation is rare because most squire or named don’t gain another name often so maybe learn will not ne exactly the same because she don’t need to learn much now the basics are set…(language,organisation,history etc…)

      For the third aspect,i’m pretty sure she will finally have seek🙂 the first time look like a trailer,prevue ^^

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      1. stevenneiman

        I don’t think that the imperative verb form of Smart is really Aspect material, even if it is something she does often.

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  3. Typo and error thread!:

    Only two people knew there had been more to my crippling than the leg: Masego and Hakram.

    Black knows, she told him as much in 34 Lesson.

    I did not have to wait for lone before awareness flooded into me for the second time in my life.

    I don’t see what William has anything to do with her name awareness at this point, so I’m assuming you meant ‘long’.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. stevenneiman

        That’s obscure enough that it makes sense to have characters use it. People don’t always use good grammar, and that’s little-known enough that you need to link to an explanation.

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      2. Berder

        I certainly see the error a lot, which is why I linked – it’s on the order of there/they’re/their errors. It’s annoying to those who know the right conjugation, while those who don’t know it don’t care.

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    1. stevenneiman

      Black did know, and she said as much in the next line. She just didn’t consider him a meaningful threat to the secret.

      Also
      “Akua’s false gate was just close enough to make it hard through wiggle through”
      The first “through” should be a “to”

      Could somebody with better html-fu explain how to do quotes?

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  4. arancaytar

    She picked herself up from the rock the hit had thrown her against, idly snapping her beck back in place.

    – “Are we to be two immortals locked in an epic battle until Judgment Day and trumpets sound?”

    – “Or you could surrender.”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. arancaytar

    “Fuck you, Callow-girl,” she said. “No matter what you do, I will Surv-“

    I rammed my sword through her mouth, tip coming out on the other side. There would be no aspect comeback for this one.

    So Chider as Squire has different aspects, even after usurping the name directly.

    I wonder if she still only gets two of them, or has the potential for three. If the latter, I wonder if Cat can get a third aspect from a different name.

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    1. Phantom Renegade

      I don’t know about you guys but if i was Black and Chider showed up in front of me, even ignoring the fact that she’d ruined a project Black had put a lot of effort into, i would not take a underling with “Survive” for an aspect, in a villain that’s as good as declaring you’re a cowardly backstabbing bastard that will do anything to ensure you don’t go down, awful trait in a evil empire built on pragmatism.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. arancaytar

    I really have the impression that Cat didn’t use enough overkill here. Of course she’s on a schedule, but cutting her into some smaller pieces and maybe destroying the head might have been safer.

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    1. Phantom Renegade

      Then again Chider is standing on a improvised magical pathway with an unclear relation to Creation so the body’ll probably vanish or something when the area its in does.

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      1. fbt

        yeah, still, I’d have scattered the pieces, used any flammables I had on key bits, extracted gray matter and mixed it w/ mud an maybe some pee..etc.Maybe eat a key vetrabrae just to really put a damper on any pesky Chider recovery options. Dilute hydrocloric and distance ftw!🙂 Keep another key bit in a pocket, too, so reanimating is harder. can always feed any spare bits to several geographically separated pigs later. Overkill? you keep using that word…I do not think it means what you think it means. Making sure your enemies have been blasted irrevocably out of creation; it’s not just good business, it’s fun too!🙂

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    2. stevenneiman

      I’m guessing that even Heiress will give up after her previous results. One loss and one draw leads to one win, but I don’t think Heiress wants to find out what one loss and one worse-than-loss leads to.

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      1. stevenneiman

        It would also mean sacrificing everything that she has already accomplished, and giving up on the goals that were the whole point of coming as far as she has. A Villain is allowed to do whatever they can get away with even if what they use it for is helping people, but a Hero has to serve Good even when that means acting like the North Koreans.

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    1. Kilimandaros

      True resurrection sounds about fine, but completely healing body? It’s like she was collecting scars and disabilities which changed her (for example her fighting style) and were some sort of lessons, but suddenly everything she had to pay for them is fixed. It’s sounds too much hero like. Her death, on the other hand, was calculated move to ‘survive’ her due loss and with prior informations about possibility of true ressurection. If she were to get Learn and Struggle again it will also make her getting Name again kind of erasing her prior mistake of rushing to get 3rd aspect. Well, it also might be my little fancy of scarred characters speaking and full recovery is completely reasonable.

      Btw. Even Bard mentionted that her limp was good for villainous image.

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      1. Letouriste

        Honestly she is bond to have more scars later given her personality and luck^^
        New pristine body or not will just be temporary

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      2. stevenneiman

        Her getting her third Aspect back was less a product of her own Role and more a product of Heiresses. It is in her nature to concoct schemes beyond her capacity and have them disastrously backfire, and what better way to do so that un-crippling her greatest enemy while also giving up the chance at a free win against her?

        As for the full heal, that seems like the kind of freebie a Heroes gets because it is the kind of freebie Heroes get. That’s why she wants to kill a Hero and steal it from him. Count on Cat to deal with the unfairness of Good vs. Evil by actually working to get what they have for free.

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    1. stevenneiman

      I think Villainous Names like being part of crazy schemes, and in its own way trying to actually win is the craziest scheme of all given the circumstances.

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  7. RandomFan

    I wonder if stealing the name counted as heiress’ victory, despite the fact that Catherine came out the better for it. I wonder if, with the losses Catherine took on her so-called *draw*, it didn’t count as a draw. Otherwise, she’s still bound by the pattern, which is worrying. More-so when you consider how nasty those patterns can be- half the reason swordsman kept getting deus ex machinas was because the pattern was ensuring his victory.

    I wonder why heiress wants to keep picking fights with squire- because I’ve never seen the point. Unless it is Heiress, the name, that’s picking the fights.

    I doubt I’ll get answers before things start going wrong. I’d say again, but there’s something stronger than a demon being summoned, and a villian who is entirely happy to summon demons, in the same place and both opposing squire.

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    1. Cicero

      I am not sure, but maybe this is a turning point. With a fresh name she might not be forced to struggle so much, so a better outcome is in the cards?

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  8. Josh

    Wouldn’t this mean Heiress discharged her rule of three with Squire with Chider acting as Cat’s proxy? Squire lost due to Heiress’s machinations, meaning it went squire up, tie, squire down.

    I’m confused by the whole rule of three and what applies and what doesn’t, but it seems a safe bet that Cat is free of that now.

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  9. Dragrath

    Ohh name reset that is useful glad something went well for a change Heiress did something useful for a change. Well off to the epic showdown though doesn’t this mean the rule of three with Heiress got reset? Or wait Heiress would have to survive the first encounter huh… hehehe

    Considering my expectations of what is to come part of me feels bad for Heiress in over her head in a game she never had a change to win(because villains of her type can’t win) and she just handed over a new deck of cards to Cat. Cat’s only issue right now is that she is a pseudo lich lol.

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  10. Akim

    So I guess at least one of those aspects will manifest itself in the upcoming battle.

    Any guesses which would help her through best ?

    Struggle coming back would be a strong contender … since they know each other very well.

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  11. nipi

    “I was Catherine Foundling, daughter of no one and nothing. I’d broken armies, snatched victory from the jaws of my enemy. I’d spent lives like coin and bought the fate of a kingdom, cheated death and spat in the face of Corruption. On the night I’d first claimed this Name, I’d branded my path on the soul of a hero. And on the night where I claimed it again, that path was coming to an end. I was, once more, the Squire.”
    Hmm… Is there a hint to the first aspect she will awaken somewhere in there?

    “My senses sharpened and I waited for the beast that rode my shoulders to make itself known, already smiling. I’d almost grown fond of it. The expression faded when it made no appearance.”
    Noooo… Not Fluffy!!!

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  12. eduardo

    Will Catherine get more grey now? I wonder if the squire given by Black was darker because it came from him. Now is a neutral name obtained in a neutral, almost good, way.

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  13. Nairne

    To be honest in short term Heiress got a boost, but screwed up bad in the long term. Cat has to come into her aspects again now, and we do not know what they are gonna be. Is the decision on what some of them are gonna be influenced by what will happen during the confrontation? I’m really curious.

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  14. Unmaker

    Chapter 27
    “The Name of Squire is permanently crippled,” he [Masego] replied just as quietly.

    He didn’t say “The Name of Squire is crippled as long as you have it”, he said “permanently crippled”. I am guessing that the Name she got feels off not only because she doesn’t have any Aspects unlocked, but because _the_Name_she_got_isn’t_Squire_. Many other commenters were saying this just one chapter ago – why didn’t anyone else bring this up?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Sardek

      ErraticErrata said that Cat’s NAME was permanently crippled, but the ROLE of Squire was not. Her manifestation of the Role was damaged and would never heal, but Squire itself was undamaged. Because Cat ceased to be Squire, the Role was open and Chider manifested the Name in herself. Once she was killed, Cat claimed the newly vacated Squire Role, taking its Name into herself as a new manifestation. Because of that, she has the ability to call on 3 fresh new Aspects, as soon as they unlock within her. Given that she’s acting in a time of war, I doubt it will be long before we see her Aspects coming alive, as war is definitely a time for stories, and Roles are essentially all about stories.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. samshadar

        Also, I think that the Aspects will unlock faster (if indeed she reaquired Squire) since she is now rather comfortable with the Name; I doubt she will have to relearn how to BE the Squire from scratch.

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      2. Akim

        I wonder if the aspects will manifest themselves as monster again.
        My guess the beast was mainly the manifestation of Struggle and the way Catherine saw herself in what she had to become.
        We know Black feels his Name as a Calculation Machine which I would Attribute mostly to his aspect of conquer ..which could be applied in a very broad fashion ( see Impressario for that ) always planning and scheming. And I wonder if his Name felt the same when he was the Squire.

        Seek would have enhanced the beast for Catherine.
        Now that everything is reset and she finally admitted, to Adjutant and herself, what her goal as a villain is, maybe her Name will get a new Manifestation. A new feeling and sense of purpose for herself. More befitting for a Ruler of Callow and equal to the Calamities.

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  15. Shequi

    Catherine seems certain that the name she has after beating Chider is Squire, but is she right?

    Apprentice was very certain that Squire had permanently lost one of its Aspects.

    Catherine doesn’t experience the same “grinning beast” feel from her name now as she did before.

    Squire is fundamentally a transitional Name towards either Black Knight or White Knight, both of which are taken. By losing Squire (without being totally removed from Creation), Catherine could have sidestepped the normal progression of Squire to Knight and become something else.

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    1. George

      Hmm, I guess there’s a small chance but I think she’s still Squire. As the above commenter said, the Role itself wasn’t damaged, and this is a new Name of Squire so there’s no damage.

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  16. Sardek

    Regarding the Rule of Three against Heiress, as I recall, she lost comprehensively (politically) at the banquet at the Tower. They had a draw when Heiress literally announced it as being a draw. So we know Heiress is bound for a loss against Squire. Would it be considered a loss having one of her plots result in her underling (Chider) losing to Squire AND make Cat stronger in so doing? That seems like a comprehensive loss to me, which would put their upcoming showdown on completely even ground. Also there’s the concept possibility of the Rule being bound up in the Name and not the Role, in which case having it usurped would cancel it effectively. Either way, odds are pretty good that Squire vs Heiress is now a fair fight and is not destined to be Squire’s win. Given the stakes though, I think we can assume the main character will win, if only because she kind of HAS TO given where the plot has taken us.

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    1. Kilimandaros

      Rule of Three against Akua was brought to us by Wandering Bard in Interlude Nemeses and she told LS that Catherine is due a loss against Heiress. Defeat for Akua at Blessed Isle and draw in Marchford, so Squire is due loss against Heiress now. If Chider’s fight were to count to this whole rule thing it wouldn’t be that easy for our dear Catherine. On the other hand Heiress’ plans with releasing devils and depriving Catherine of auxiliary forces could be considered as some kind of win if not for the fact that it was turned around with including citizens to fifteenth and making devils kill each other.
      I think that Catherine is due loss (unless it was canceled with dying or losing Name) which probably means one of three:
      – after LS death (from her or Heiress hand) Catherine will somehow use summoning to ressurect her body and loss in the political aftermath, which I don’t really think will happen unless Heiress is going to be main enemy longer (we are probably looking for Named enemies outside the Empire in the near future);
      – Catherine will win against Heiress (possibly killing her) somehow opposing Fate (maybe getting some sort of Fate-opposing Aspect);
      – Catherine will make Heiress admit victory (classic Villains are known for monologues after defeating and before killing, or in this case destroying bodies, of enemies), complete Rule of Three and then kill Heiress (or use LS to kill her).

      Outside of Rule of Three topic: writing this comment it struck me that this time Squire is bound to dead body with soul hanging on the pendant-thing. Which still can make her lose Squire name after ressurection thus avoiding transition to some sort of Knight.

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      1. Nairne

        My guess is that Heiress got the win already when Chider got her Name (but it might be weak, due to Heiress not planning on LS killing Cat) or if thats weak as a win, then she has to make Heiress admit she won on that front. I doubt she will get a fate/plot-defying aspect, that would be a cheat, which would be extremely useful against Bard though.

        The point with her losing the name at resurrection is interesting. It would be even more interesting if she got resurrected, and got Heiress’ name (as in Heiress to the Kingdom of Callow) or some type of mix between the two (still 3 aspects though, no cheating here).

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  17. cdos93

    Ok, off topic to this specific chapter, but I was playing Civ V and a tech tree quote came up that gave me an interesting thought. It’s something along the lines of “As soon as good men decide that any means are permitted to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil that they seek to destroy.” Remember when she basically tells Lone Swordsman to do whatever he has to in order to try and defeat her? What happens if this ends up with the above situation resulting in her managing to corrupt the Lone Swordsman (as a Name) from a Heroic role into a Villainous role without WIlly losing the mantle for betraying its’ ‘role’? (accidentally of course, because; c’mon it’s Cat we’re talking about here).

    Suddenly Black and Malicia have an interesting new game plan given to them. Heroes will always arise to take the Name of a previously defeated one, but if that name still exists but is under their control, then that’s a powerful tool that Good have just lost. And of course, if you keep control of that Name long enough, people will begin to forget it was ever a Heroic Name in the first place….

    After all, remember, Black Knights in real history weren’t considered evil, it was black as they were mercenary knights that had no leige-lord’s coat to display on it, and blackening it helped stop rust forming. Literature is the same- In Ivanhoe the Black Knight is none other than King Richard, while some early versions of Athurian legend have the Black Knight Arthur faces just before and after he receives Excalibur from the Lake to be King Pellinore (who joins the Round Table). What’s to say Black Knight wasn’t a Hero far in the past, before the then-ruler of the Empire subverted it by recruiting the holder of the Name?

    Probably wouldn’t actually be able to happen because curent evidence shows Names are so linked to their actions that betraying a Name weakens or strips it from you, but it’s a fun little idea that I enjoyed chewing over nonetheless.

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    1. Cat weakened her name by sparing Willy when she was supposed to be a villain, despite Squire not being an inherently villainous name.

      Thus, I think it would be reasonable for corrupting/redeeming a Hero/Villain to the other side to be possible, but the natural alignment of their role probably wouldn’t change for a few generations at least (stories love their threes).

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    2. George

      grooves in fate(or something similar to fate, if forget) have been talked about in-story; I think if she had stuck with heroics then over time she would strengthen again as the idea gained weight. She would need the trappings and reputation too, though; secret heroics or anything that muddled the narrative would be bad.

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