Regard

“Refuge is not a city so much as it is a cluster of vagabonds, held together by awe of the Lady of the Lake. There are no laws here, save for her whims, and those she inflicts only rarely. The Kingdom Under seems to consider Refuge a protectorate, though they have no real presence on the premises, and I should not need to remind you of Lady Ranger’s infamous ties to the Calamities. The Consortium must tread lightly. This is the woman who once hunted the Wild Hunt for sport, and she has not grown meeker with the passing of years.”
– Varrus Ipsimos, agent for the Consortium

She’d had to steal a boat in Cleves, for no one had been willing to sell one to her when they’d guessed her destination.

They were not Lycaonese up there – Alamans, though a far cry from those of the central principalities – but living in the shadow of the Kingdom of the Dead had taught them hard lessons. People who tried to cross the Tomb, that deep dark lake festering with the animated corpses of monsters and men alike, never left its waters. Their hands joined the thousands of others reaching from the waters to drag fishermen under the deep. The crossing had not been uneventful: the Dead King now had eyes watching the path through the rocks she’d used the last time. It had made for an amusing distraction until she reached the shore on the other side of the river that fed into the Tomb. The path after that had been even more treacherous. The air had been poisoned in the Kingdom since the Seventh Crusade, thick lingering green tendrils of something toxic fouling the air, but that part Hye already knew how to deal with. She’d had cloth enchanted that covered the lower part of her face and allowed her to breathe safely, for even if the poison could not kill a Named it could have made her sick.

That would not have been ideal, in a land patrolled night and day by massive shambling armies. And they’d gotten better at finding intruders, too: the Dead King must have implemented her suggestions from the last visit. The bone wyverns had been unexpected enough she’d almost been caught the first time they appeared, and the closer she’d come to Keter the tighter the defences had been. Using the old roads of the kingdom that had existed before this entire land had been turned to undeath wasn’t even worth considering: they were all heavily guarded and in disrepair besides. No, she’d made her way through the broken countryside and kept to the shadows. It had taken her several months to make it to the old capital, the placed they now called the Crown of the Dead. The seat of the Dead King’s power, and where behind tall walls a permanent portal into one of the Hells stood.

Keter had once stood on a plain, but that was no longer true. Centuries on centuries of mining into the deep had made the city an island surrounded by sheer cliffs going so deep only the ever-burning fires at the bottom could be made out in the darkness. How deep that chasm ran, Hye had no idea. She’d heard the dwarves had mined around all of the Kingdom of the Dead, and immediately plugged any tunnel form there into their lands with molten steel. Whether that was true or not, it did not change the fact that there were four roads into Keter: broad ramps of stone stretched over emptiness, tread tirelessly by sentinels long dead. The walls of the city rose so high only one part of Keter could be seen from outside: a great spire of dark stone, jutting out into the sky like an arrow. An orb of hellfire always hovered above its tip, ever-shifting as the demon bound inside cast its searching gaze on the streets inside. This was the fortress that had broken the spine of five crusades. Impossible to breach, they said, by force or by stealth. Not even the most skilled of heroes could do it.

It would be Ranger’s fourth visit.

Now, the Dead King had started nailing undead under the bridges so they could raise alarm after she’d climbed across under it the first time. He’d had dead sorcerers permanently assigned to stirring up sharp winds in the void between Keter and the rest of the plain after she’d rappelled her way across, the second time. He’d hardened the metaphysical borders with Arcadia after she’d slipped through there the third, and she supposed that after this one he would make sure his bone wyverns collapsed when they were captured. The giant bone creature, flapping through the air more by the grace of magic than by its leathery wings, crashed into the walls of Keter with a resounding clap. She leapt off its back and landed on the stone, finding purchase for her hands and immediately beginning to climb. Hye had been noticed, of course, and she still had the better part of a hundred feet before her before reaching the top of the ramparts. The bloody wind sorcerers had crashed her ‘borrowed’ mount before she could get any closer. The gaze of the demon in the orb landed on her and it began screaming, the noise shaking the air.

“Hello, Artie,” she waved.

It kept screaming. The first arrow streaked past her as she was already moving, scuttling up and to the side to present a harder target. There were, in Keter, four kinds of undead. The Bones, as she called them, were the ones currently manning the ramparts as the demon alarm sounded and trying to put arrows in her. They were not particularly clever on their own, no more intelligent than dogs, but the Dead King could seize control of them at any moment. The second kind, the Binds, would actually be dangerous. Those had souls bound in their bodies, and were just as sentient as the living. The third kind, the Revenants, she would not encounter until she was deeper into the city. They were, as a matter of fact, the reason she had come in the first place. As to the fourth, there was no need to name the category. There was only one entity in it, the Dead King himself. Wedging her feet into outcroppings – they really needed to saw those off, it made climbing easier than it had to be – Hye wrenched out her bow and notched an arrow. Knock, draw, release.

The Bind who’d been directing the Bones shooting at her took it right in the skull, the impact of the arrow shattering the bone under the helmet it punched through and releasing the soul inside. That should buy her just long enough to make it to the top, she thought as she slung the longbow over her back.

It did, as it turned out, though by then masses of dead warriors were snaking their way up the stairs leading into the city. Blades in hand, Ranger idly scattered the closest Bone as she considered her options. The Dead King was trying to clog up the way until his heavy hitters could arrive, she decided, or he had this entire part of the walls blasted with sorcery. She’d need to move fast. Sheathing one of her shortswords, Hye caught the wrist of another Bone and wrenched out the arm. This one was wearing old Proceran armour long gone out of style, bust most importantly he’d had a shield as well as the longsword now clattering on the ground. A big tower shield, the same kind the Praesi used in their Legions of Terror. Bronze and iron instead of steel, she noted. That must have been a truly ancient warrior. Idly sheathing her other sword as she danced out of the reach of another Bone, Ranger took the shield and broke into a run. Those stairs had cover on both sides, thick stone borders with a smooth top.

With a shout of glee she leapt down and put the tower shield under her, using it as a slide. The sheer angle of the borders was enough for her to keep gaining momentum, going fast enough that the Bones headed for her were too slow to react to strike at her. There were a few Binds in the line but those she slapped away with her blades, crouched and grinning.

She was about halfway down when she realized that, for once, the Dead King had anticipated her. There were spikes of iron in the stone from halfway up, jutting out at the right angle to catch her. Before the first impact she leapt off the shield and continued into a run, letting her Name strengthen her limbs so she could keep the pace. That round went to the Corpse Lord, then. Having to tap into her Name this early meant she’d have less fuel when things got interesting. She leapt again, ducking under an arrow and landing in a roll.

Hitting the paved streets of Keter, Crown of the Dead, Hye Su eyed the gathering hordes around her. Run? Run.

The problem with undead soldiers, Ranger decided, was that they never got tired.  She’d been awake for three days and night herself, and if not for her mother’s blood running through her veins she would likely be dead in an alley. She’d inherited different things from her parents: in body she was her mother’s daughter, but in mind her father’s. Dada had never been one to let common sense get in the way of an adventure, to her mother’s mild despair. Being a half-elf had few drawbacks, save for the Emerald Swords occasionally trying to purge you from existence, but then Mother had taught her a few tricks to deal with their lot. She had, after all, taught most of them. Not that elf-killing tactics would help her much here, Hye thought. Putting down a handful of extremely powerful individuals was a different kind of fighting than scything your way through a horde of weaker ones.

Ducking into the shadows at the patrol of Binds passed her, Ranger waited until she could no longer her their steps before moving again. This deep into the Hall of the Dead there were no Bones. Calling where she was the basement of the keep would have been inaccurate, for beneath her went so deep inside the earth the furthest levels were flooded with molten stone. She was around the middle, really, and almost where she needed to be. Putting a spring to her step, the Ranger ghosted through the corridors until she reached the wide-open gates of the nameless room where the portal to Hell stood. The hall was broad and long, had once been a throne room, but now it was bare save for the sculpted obsidian arch surrounding the wound in Creation.

That, and the two silhouettes standing by it.

One was a man, pale and clad in silver-lined armour. His face could not be seen under the helmet and the long white cloak did not manage to hide the heater shield and longsword he kept. The other was a woman, tall and massively built. She had no weapons but for the stripes of leather around her knuckles. No armour but a threadbare tunic, and she hadn’t even bothered to wear boots. Promising. Both Revenants stirred when she strode into the room, walking forward at a pace.

“So one of you is one of those fancy monk-types from Levant,” she said. “And the other some kind of knight? Help me out here.”

The man unsheathed his sword.

“I was the White Knight, once,” he said gravely.

Now we’re talking,” Ranger murmured.

“I was,” the woman said, “the Sage of the West.”

Unsheathing a single sword, Hye offered them a swordsman’s salute.

“I am the Ranger,” she said. “I hunt those worth hunting. Rejoice, for you qualify.”

Nothing more needed to be said. The fell on her without hesitation, the Knight’s sword coming for her neck and the Sage sweeping her feet. Hye tested a parry against the sword and found the dead hero’s strength not overwhelming – she would not need to dodge every time. The sweep she avoided deftly by leaping, leg wrenching out to land a kick on the Sage’s chin – or would have, had the hero not caught the blow and casually tossed her away. Ranger landed on her feet a dozen feet away, then slowly unsheathed her second sword. This, she reflected, might actually be challenging. She knew from experience that this far in the Dead King would not longer bother trying to drown her in lesser undead, so she could take the time to enjoy herself with these two.

The Ranger stepped forward and let her blades sing.

The Sage was the first to go. She could even now turn her skin harder than steel, the ghost of an aspect to a Name she no longer held, but steel was something she’d learned to cut long ago. A hand lost, then a leg, and from there on no amount of fancy magic hand-to-hand tricks was going to save her. The Knight, though? The former White Knight was the hardest fight she’d had in a long time. A century, at least.

“You have no aspects to tap in,” the Revenant eventually said, batting away a probing blow and attempting to bash her face in with his shield. “Unusual.”

Hye laughed.

“You have it the wrong way, Knight,” she said. “I’m always tapping into my aspects.”

She flicked her sword around his and wrenched upwards, forcing the blade out of his gauntleted hand in the exact same way he’d done to her early in the fight.

“Learn,” she said.

The White Knight effortlessly snatched his blade out of the air and struck, but she’d moved ahead of him. The blade passed through the air, and when he brought it back towards his body her own followed. Like flowing water filling a cup. Her own strike bit deep into his armour, shattering the steel and the the skin and bones underneath.

“Perfect,” she said.

The former hero was beyond pain and wounds meant nothing to him, save for the fact that the broken bone of his shoulder made it harder to swing his sword. He retreated cautiously, shield raised, as he sought a better angle of attack. Hye idly sheathed one of her swords and hummed as she came for him. The moment crystallized for her, the Knight carefully placing his sword stroke and the shield rising as he prepared to charge her. It was timed perfectly. She would be caught by one or the other, because she’d come forward too quickly with an improper guard. A swordsman of the dead hero’s calibre would need only one opening like that to kill her. It would not touch her. She spun around the shield, and if the Knight had still been human enough for such a thing his eyes would have widened. It wasn’t that Hye had become faster, because she hadn’t. Tricks like that could be adjusted to, countered. Just sinking the power of your Name into your limbs was a brute force application. What she did was… different. She simply was not where the enemy’s weapon was. Her single short sword swept like quicksilver, taking the Knight’s head. In a blur of movement, she relieved him of one limb after another and then broke the spine itself. Slowly, the necromancy began seeping out of the dead hero onto the floor.

“Transcend,” she finished calmly.

She was out of breath. Ahead of her, the portal flickered. That was as much of an invitation as she was going to get. Sheathing her blade, Ranger idly passed into Hell. The other side led into a banquet room, for the Dead King owned the gate and the places it led to. A long table with stone benches, covered with plates of still-warm food and quite a few carafes of wine, was headed by a wooden throne. On it sat a dark-haired child, too pale to be alive and too gaunt to even try pretend it was.

“Really?” she said, headed for a roasted chicken. “The creepy child route is what we’re doing? You have to know that’s a horrible cliché.”

She was starving, so she broke off a drumstick and bit into it with relish.

“Stop killing my heroes,” the Dead King said. “I only have so many to spare.”

“I’ll think about it,” Ranger lied.

The ancient abomination sighed.

“The wyvern trick won’t work twice,” he said.

“You should also take care of those footholds on the wall,” she spoke through a full mouth, grabbing a plate and stuffing it with couscous. “The spikes were a nice touch, though.”

The monster kept a surprisingly good table, for a creature that no longer needed to eat. Kingly habit, probably.

“Why do you darken my hall, Ranger?” the Dead King asked.

“Darken your…” she snorted. “That’s rich, it really is. Can’t a girl visit an old friend?”

“We are not friends,” the lich denied.

“That’s a carafe of my favourite wine,” Hye said, pointing towards the receptacle in question.

“Coincidence,” the Dead King said.

Ranger sat on the bench, spitting out a chicken bone before she could choke on it.

“Mama went back across the sea,” she said. “Finally talked a Baalite captain into taking her there to lay my father’s bones to rest.”

“You should also go there,” the monster said. “Far away. Give serious thought to never coming back.”

“I hear what you’re saying,” Ranger said. “I need a hobby.”

“You could leap off a cliff,” the Dead King suggested.

Hye poured herself a cup of wine to wash down the couscous.

“It’s just been so boring, lately,” she said. “The most excitement there’s been is Praes trying to invade Callow again and getting hilariously brutalized on the Fields of Streges.”

“The Tower has not been in worthy hands for centuries,” the Dead King said contemptuously.

“We’re not talking about your weird boner for Triumphant again,” Ranger said. “I really don’t want to know the logistics of how that would have worked.”

She paused. Boner. That was was funny because he was undead so- never mind. She had a little wine.

“Anyway,” she said, “I’m thinking about a hunting trip in Arcadia. The Wild Hunt was very uppity when I met them.”

“If I could lock you in there, I would,” the Dead King said wistfully.

“You don’t mean that,” Ranger dismissed. “Wait – are you trying to distract me while massing devils outside this room?”

There was a long pause.

“No,” the Dead King lied.

“Good talk,” Ranger said, rising to her feet hastily. “I’ll see you in a few years.”

“Please don’t,” the lich said.

Hye made for the door, then paused and backtracked. She stole another chicken leg and a carafe of wine before legging it.

The tavern was nearly empty at this time of the night – people in the Green Stretch were farmers, went to bed early and rose with dawn. She would have noticed the three who entered regardless: they had the feel of Names to them, that knotting in the threads of Fate. They headed straight for her table and Hye sipped at her wine thoughtfully. They made for a strange bunch. Two men: one a tall and almost ridiculously handsome Soninke, the other a pale Duni type with vivid green eyes. Amusingly shorter than his companion. The Taghreb woman dwarfed them both, at least eight feet tall and built like a living battering ram. The Duni must have been the leader, because he was the one to talk. He gestured at the empty chairs around the table.

“May we?”

“You are the size of at least two people,” Ranger said, pointing at the Taghreb.

“Is that why I keep eating them?” she deadpanned.

Hye grinned. Well, at least they had a sense of humour. That was surprisingly rare in in villains.

“By all means,” she said, gesturing at the chairs. “What can I do for you?”

“You would be the Ranger, yes?” the Soninke asked in a voice betraying his education.

No weapons on him. Mage, most likely. Praesi did love their sorcery.

“That’s me,” she said.

The Duni sat across from her and smiled. He was handsome, if not as much as his friend. Not really her type, but she could appreciate eye candy when it was offered.

“I hear,” he said, “that you can get people into Callow.”

Ranger hummed. Well, that should kill a few months at least.

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85 thoughts on “Regard

  1. Naeddyr

    Thanks for the chapter, though it left me wanting more interaction with Black. Before the talk about the Praesi invasion I was thinking this was current-day, but sadly no reaction-shots from Hye for the kid who Captain says could be “Black’s and Hye’s daughter”… You tease.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Dianna

      Honestly, this has been hinted and teased at enough to drive me crazy. Cat thinks of Black in a weird father light, Black can kind of see it too, with Captains help. It enough to drive a girl bonkers with crazy theories’s.

      Like, what if Black got Ranger Pregnant before the Fields, or they met up sometime latter, and because: -something, something, Magic, Elves blood, Arcadia, bull,- Catherine ended up born several years after the conquest, and because Ranger is mad, board, not-really-the-mother-type, really-likes-fucking-with-people, she left Baby Cat at the Orphanage.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. nipi

        Nah! Youd expect Cat to have inherited good looks from one of them. I can however see Ranger well not exactly adopting Cat but taking an interest in her – If only to kill some time.

        Like

      2. stevenneiman

        Cat is darkish-skinned, while Amadeus is pale white and I’m pretty sure Ranger is similar. She might have inherited the angular face shape, but not the complexion by a long shot. Besides, orphans being the secret child of a mighty figure is much more of a Hero thing, and the closest any of them comes is violent neutral.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Jerden

        I feel like they kind of explained it here – Cat is the daughter Black never had.The reason why they’re so close is not because of any blood relation, but because he not only sees himself in her, but also sees the woman he loves.

        Liked by 2 people

      4. Dianna

        I am well aware that Black is not Cat’s Dad, but a girl can dream… and think of AU theories, and draw fan art etc. As it stands I love where their relationship is at. I hope and pray to the Gods above it is a Hero who does him in, anyone but Cat.

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      1. maresther23

        As we both know, enough boredom is indistinguishable from madness.
        I wonder if Refuge and her “school” are the hobby she took after Black.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. maresther23

        It gives them something to poke at from a position of authority. That way they can be as Sholes and claim it is for the youngster’s good. (Bonus points when it actually is.)

        DarkoNeko: now I am imagining Refuge like a smaller, more martial Last Rock. And Ranger loops more and more like Tellwyrn.

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      3. Akim

        Well there we are back at Tolkien.
        The half-elf Elrond at Rivendell, who trained a Ranger who then made out with his daughter 😆😆

        So actually Willy and Cat should have gotten together.

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    1. maresther23

      No, and I am intrigued. I suspect that it was during this adventure that Anaya was taken. Stygia was after, when Black was already Black and Anaya was in the Tower.

      Like

    2. B

      I believe it was so then Scribe Amadeus could kill the Commander (which was one of Cat’s dream visions). Probably to help along the ascension to Black Knight or something.

      Like

  2. JackbeThimble

    Huh. This is setting off all sorts of epileptic trees.
    So we know that Heiress believes that the Dead King has gone quiescent, and furthermore that this quiescence is the factor that allowed a Lycaonese Prince to rise to the leadership of the Principate. Cordelia also admits that the Dead King is in ‘slumber’ though she doesn’t trust it to be permanent. This glimpse we’ve just gotten of the Kingdom of the Dead doesn’t look like a kingdom in decline though. We also know that Heiress’ plan in Liesse was to capture the Hashmallim, presumably for later use(?). Which indicates that her plan involved kicking off a crusade at some point, or possibly using her demon to corrupt the Hashmallim and use it’s mind control powers on her own behalf. Whatever it was the elves deemed it important enough to send two of their elite hitters to take her out, which doesn’t seem to be something they do every day. We also know that Heiress’ is trying to get a new name and she’s been setting up the narrative to ensure that it will have something to do with diabolism. And now for the first time in a long while a Proceran prince is planning another crusade against Praes instead of the Dead King. Finally we are now learning that the Dead King is the sorta guy who has a boner for Triumphant, so we can expect that he’d like the Young Turks running Praes about as much as the Heiress does, and that it’s highly unlikely that he suddenly decided that playing Orcus on His Throne for a few more centuries was all he really wanted out of undeath.
    What if this crusade by Procer against Praes is exactly what the Dead King wants? If he’s been relieving pressure on the borders with Procer in order to draw them into a false sense of security so that they’ll feel like they have the leeway to direct their forces eastward when he’s really spent the past few centuries gearing up, fortifying and cultivating his Devils to maturity for just this opportunity when the forces of good direct the bulk of their forces away from him. And furthermore if it’s possible to move between locations on creation through Arcadia, who’s to say that you can’t do the same by moving through one of the Hells? Like the one the Dead King controls. What if Heiress (and maybe the Tyrant of Helike) has been working with the Kingdom of the Dead this whole time? What if her big plot is to provide the casus belli that will trigger the Tenth Crusade just at the moment when Praes is distracted in the Free Cities but before the forces of Good can fully marshall, so that when the Dead King sweeps into Northern Procer the forces of good and ‘pragmatic’ evil are already occupied worn down dealing with each other and unable to stop him when he comes through the Vales and makes his bid to conquer all of Calernia?
    Or maybe he’s just trying to resurrect Triumphant or something. I dunno.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Syndic

      Well, now you did it. You didn’t say “may she never return”. Now you MADE that the thing he’s trying to do, and guaranteed his success.

      I hope you’re happy.

      Liked by 5 people

    2. Shikome Kido Mi

      I think there’s a large hole in your logic chain. Yes, we learned that the Dead Emperor liked Empress Triumphant. But we also learned that the people who have been running Praesi for centuries, the people Heiress represents, aren’t Triumphant’s chosen heirs. Instead they are the people who assassinated her and have since tried and failed to ape her style.

      What the Dead King and Triumphant have in common is this: They’re not just Evil, they’re innovators. Mages still crawl through works reputed to have been written by the Dead King to learn a fraction of what he knows and he didn’t bow to the forces of traditional Evil, he made thm bow to him, as ultimately represented by his rule in Hell. Triumphant tried (and mostly succeeded) to conquer the world with air supremacy, she didn’t inherit and empire she created one.

      I think if anything, the Calamities are more the type of people of whom the Dead King would approve than any of the Praesi Old Guard (who, to him, are the young upstarts). Which is probably partly why Ranger likes them, actually. She likes the Dead King, perhaps they remind her of him.

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  3. Barrendur

    I think Heiress should seize the Name GRAVEDANCER; she IS a summoner and necromancer, and dead bodies are a vital part of her ‘schtik’. Or perhaps it would suit Catherine better… though I can’t really envision her dancing a around a fresh grave, no matter what the payoff

    Like

  4. maresther23

    I find it fascinating that Ranger’s aspects are Learn, Perfect and Transcend. I note a strong influence of them in Black’s long term plan for Praes. Learn has always been more powerful that people thing, and couple with Perfect it becomes deadly. And Transcend is as overkill as they get.

    Like

    1. nipi

      Well having those aspects has the downside of not having any lets call them supernatural aspects of her own. She cant learn others aspects. She cant learn to topple towers with a flick of her wrist, ect.

      Im sure she is aware of this. And I think she would find Take a very interesting aspect.

      Like

      1. stevenneiman

        Her thing is that with the loadout she has, she doesn’t need raw power. Which isn’t to say she doesn’t get plenty. In Beast, she did imply that she could kick at least twice as hard as it takes to shatter a stone golem with one hit.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Naeddyr

      I could swear Ranger is cheating. I can’t find it, but either there’s a bit of text or erraticerrata’s comment that says “Learn” has to be activated from active teaching, you can’t just learn during a normal fight.

      If it was just a comment, then poor Cat; just as she lost Learn, it gets buffed to being super-strong.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. maresther23

        But Learning is a highly cultural concept. We think of learn as academic knowledge. But Ranger grew with a mother that used to train Emerald Swords, that means she considers Learning a martial thing. She probably learned a lot of technics during spars (and then perfected them by being a perfectionist half-elf). So, she goes into every fight considering both a challenge and a learning opportunity.
        And then she got Transcend and every limitation got sublimated, seriously OP.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Sardek

        They weren’t italicized, so it’s entirely possible they’re not literal aspects and just how Ranger prefers to do business. That also gets around the theoretical limitations of Learn, since she’s not actually tapping into it. With how bored she claims to be, it’s entirely possible that she decided to not use her aspects because it makes things at least a little interesting.

        Like

      3. 1shot4living

        It could very well be that as Names take on a different shape with each incarnation, so Aspects aren’t limited to a single form either, with each one being just a little unique to their wielder.

        Like

  5. Cap'n Smurfy

    ““We are not friends,” the lich denied.

    “That’s a carafe of my favourite wine,” Hye said, pointing towards the receptacle in question.”

    “Well i-it’s not like a got it for you b-baka.😣”

    Did anybody else expect The Dead King to respond like this?

    Liked by 4 people

  6. stevenneiman

    “the dwarves had mined around all of the Kingdom of the Dead, and immediately plugged any tunnel [form->from] there into their lands”
    “With a shout of glee she leapt down and put the tower shield under her, using it as a [slide->sled].”
    “Ranger waited until she could no longer [her->hear] their steps before moving again.”
    “She knew from experience that this far in the Dead King would [not longer->not/no longer] bother trying to drown her in lesser undead”

    Is the name Keter at all inspired by the SCP foundation?

    I greatly enjoyed the chaper. From what I know, it doesn’t surprise me at all that Ranger treats breaking into a place deemed impenetrable in order to beat up the super-expensive guards there a hobby.

    Like

    1. crazedmoth

      More typos!

      “[Knock -> Nock], draw, release.
      “plugged any tunnel [form -> from] there into their lands with molten steel”
      “so they could raise [an/the] alarm”
      “Ranger idly scattered the closest [Bone -> Bones?] as she considered her options”
      “This one was wearing old Proceran armour long gone out of style, [bust -> but] most importantly he’d had a shield”
      “She’d been awake for three days and [night -> nights] herself”
      “[The -> they] fell on her without hesitation”
      “You have no aspects to tap [in -> into]”

      Like

  7. JackbeThimble

    You know you’re lonely when you spend a week starving and fighting for your life through a horde of undead just for a brief conversation with one of the only people you sort-of consider an equal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Shikome Kido Mi

      Except she did it on a railing, a thing people naturally slide down in real life, rather than the stairs themselves, which makes a lot more sense.

      Like

  8. Letouriste

    Thanks for the chapter! I really like this character^^
    living her own way,Really old but still young minded,badass,don’t really care about good or evil and just want some fun;)

    Like

    1. While I appreciate the thought, I never authorize off-site copies/translations/pdf versions – the work is meant for eventual publication and having it floating around the web would significantly complicate that. So, please do not.

      Like

      1. Morgenstern

        Well, he COULD translate it for you and you offer the different-language-version here in case you like it?

        Like

    1. AVR

      The castle sounds to me like Peter Jackson’s version of Isengard more than anything. The rest of the land sounds like northwest Mordor, true.

      Like

  9. nick012000

    So, is there not going to be another chapter this week? I thought that there was going to be another chapter before you took the between-books break?

    Like

  10. gyndroid

    Is there….any chance the Dead King is related to Hye somehow? Her mother’s immortal, after all, and the first thing Ranger wants to talk about is what her mother is up to. That seems oddly familial.

    Like

    1. True. And, he does know her favourite foods… Siblings tend to not have to think too hard about what each likes. It’s up there with both knowing exactly what makes prime blackmail material without having to squint in thought at all. 😉

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  11. Hmm,
    I definitely lend credence to the theory someone mentioned that the Dead King has been playing possum for reasons as yet unexplained. Undeath doesn’t do “decline”…if his kingdom was in that organized a shape as of the Field of Streges, it’s only gotten stronger since then.

    @ERRATIC: QUESTION: You mention the Dead King and the Chain of Hunger in the same breath a lot. We always hear about “ratling warbands” when Chain of Hunger is mentioned…BUT, context also makes it sound like the Dead King’s territories and the Chain of Hunger are both located very close to the First Prince of Procer’s home territory.

    Can we get at least a brief explanation WHAT the Chain of Hunger is? Mentioning the title, and using the two words “ratling warband” over and over, without ever providing the SLIGHTEST bit of exposition concerning the Chain is rather maddening.

    Please?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Shequi

      If you look at the map, the Chain of Hunger is the mountainous area (or possibly is the name of the mountain range?) to the West of the Dead Kingdom.

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    2. Ratlings is the name of the species that inhabits the great plains known as the Chain of Hunger. “The Chain of Hunger” is also how other nations call their nation/government, since it’s a pretty apt description of how they function. It’s a common curse in Lycaonese principalities to say “may you be the weakest link in the Chain”, which more or less means “may you get eaten by a hungry bipedal rats”. Though they don’t send actual armies into Rhenia and Hannoven (Rhenia being Cordelia’s home principality and Hannoven her uncle’s) every spring large warbands drift south and cross the rivers and lakes to assault the defences. Hannoven has been razed to the ground by those eight times, and every time was rebuilt larger and with harder defences. The best way to understand the Lycaonese is a quote I once read about Prussia under Frederick the Great: “Prussia was not a country with an army, but an army with a country”.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Akim

        Once again we Germans are the enemy of the Protagonists 😆

        To bad that our cultural preference is to guilt-trip us over this badass reputation instead of accepting our prowess in battle and science over the centuries.

        I wonder which Goto Badguy Theme there would be if not for the Nazis.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. James, Mostly Harmless

    While climbing the wall, Hye used a long bow to shoot the Bone. It would have made more sense for her to use a recurve bow since that is much shorter for the same power.

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  13. Shikome Kido Mi

    It occurs to me that the Dead King might not focus as hard as he could on killing Ranger not only because of any grudging respect (or finding her visits a change of pace in immortal boredom), but also because her free security advice is useful. I would certainly hate to be the next band of heroes to try to assault his fortress after all the tips she’s supplied.

    Though, I suppose she does weaken his forces by killing his more powerful minions in duels, so that has to be weighed carefully against her usefulness.

    Like

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