Usurpation

“One hundred and forty-three: do not try to avert prophecy, fulfil prophecy or in any way tinker with prophecy. Swallowing poison will lead to a quicker death and less ironic horror inflicted upon Creation.”
– “Two Hundred Heroic Axioms”, author unknown

Kairos was twelve years old and he had less than a year to live.

That was what he’d learned today, going down to the crypt even though he had been forbidden to by the king. The… thing in the tomb had spoken its prophecy in a croaky whisper, that he would not make it to his thirteenth nameday. He wished he could say he was surprised, but had anything ever been more obvious? He’d been born frail, with a dead eye and limbs that shook. Ripped from his mother’s womb too early when her pregnancy had turned sour and she’d begun withering like grapes on the vine. The priests and the mages had said he wouldn’t survive his first winter and his father had washed his hands of the matter, putting him in a distant wing of the palace and drinking all thought of the matter away. But Kairos was still dragging his crippled hide around the city to this day, a prince of the blood no one would look in the eye. Royal or not, he was a pariah. Misfortune had touched him young and never let go, they said. Bad seed. That was what happened when kings wed commoners, even for love.

The odd-eyed child closed the door after dismissing the servant, kneeling with shaking legs by the bowl. Dipping a cloth in the warm water, he wiped away the dust and dirt from his face before resting his head on the table. Kairos exhaled, his breath unsteady. His lungs had not been entirely formed when he’d been born, the priests told him. It was why sometimes he choked on his own spit, clawing at his throat until a God as cruel as it was merciful returned his breath to him. Those same priests urged him to entrust his life to the Gods Above, to seek relief in the life after this one. Until then, he should find solace in prayer and good deeds: those would not soothe his body, but they would wash away his sins. They never said exactly what sin he had committed. Presumably being born was bad enough there was no need to belabour the matter. The cripple laughed quietly, though a rasping cough killed the mirth halfway through. His knees felt like they were swelling already, but he stayed kneeling.

He clasped his hands and tried to clear his mind, to let the words of the House of Light fill it. Nothing came. Staring down into the bowl, Kairos sighed.

“I am trying,” he told the Heavens,” to find a reason to worship you. Any reason at all.”

His distorted reflection stared back, the blood-filled dead eye made even more monstrous by the water.

“There’s a place beyond the Heavens where righteous souls go, your people tell me,” he said. “A paradise of sorts, from which no one has ever returned. A reward for those who embrace the seventeen cardinal virtues while living out their allotted time on Creation.”

Idly, he flicked the side of the bowl. His kneecaps throbbed painfully but Kairos was no stranger to pain. It was an old friend, the teacher that had reared him from the cradle and followed him in every misshapen step he took. The water rippled, turning his reflection from ugly to abstract.

“It has tempted me, on occasion,” he said. “The thought of a place without suffering. I have to wonder, though – what would I even do there?”

He chuckled.

“Sing your praises, rejoice with all the other worthy souls?” he said. “Tell me, o Gods Above – what should I praise you for?”

Silence answered him. It always did. Even in the heart of the House of Light, where Dorian said he could almost hear the singing of the Choirs, he was given only silence. Even the Heavens played favourites. Hesitant knocks at the door roused him from his thoughts.

“Enter,” the child said.

A servant, head shaved as was tradition and in white robes that hid their gender, knelt by the open door.

“Prince Kairos,” they said. “The king sends for you.”

The cripple shakily rose to his feet, leaning heavily against the table.

“I am feeling ill,” he replied. “Tell my father I am unable to attend him.”

Two men came by the doorway, decked in the ornate bronze armour of the palace guard. Had their swords ever seen any use, Kairos wondered? Doubtful. All the real soldiers went into the army.

“The king insists, my prince,” one of them said.

“Does he, now?” the cripple said. “I’ll spare all of us the indignity of you getting me there slung over your shoulder.”

Knees throbbing, Kairos followed them into the corridors. The servant stayed kneeling until he was gone. The walk was long, by his standards, and made worse by his exertions of the day. His chambers were in the oldest part of the palace, the one that had once been the heart of the fortress when Helike was little more than a castle with huts around it, but this section was all marble and gold. Frescoes of kings and Tyrants spread colourfully along the walls, all depicting the many victories of the city’s warlike rulers. That never ceased to amuse him. His father had never wielded a sword in his life, or even ridden a horse. The few skirmishes with Stygia and Atalante that had taken place in his lifetime had been overseen by one of the many generals cluttering the palace, which while blatant parasites at least knew their way around a battlefield. The line of Theodosius was sinking further down the wine barrel every year.

They did not head for the Great Hall. While it was the place where audiences such as this should take place, the king rarely left his parlour unless he had to. The place had grown when the adjoining chambers had seen their walls knocked down to make room for more seats and a direct route to both the cellars and the palace kitchen. What little business was still conducted by Helike’s royal line instead of being tossed into the hands of councillors happened there, more often than not. Kairos had only ever stepped foot into the room a handful of times. He was not invited to the courtly games and drinking binges that took place behind those doors. He would not have attended even if he had been: there were few things fouler to look at than a man deep in his cups. The obnoxious laughter always made him think thoughts the Heavens would frown upon.

The guards were still flanking him when he limped into the parlour. The room was half-full, which still meant almost a hundred people. The King of Helike was on a long couch full of cushions and courtesans, a cup of wine in hand and chuckling as he fed one a piece of honeyed plum. The sexagenarian had kept a full head of hair, though gone white, and his face still kept the remains of the handsomeness of his youth. For a man who spent most of his time feasting, he was not all that fat. His face was red, though. Wine took its toll. The rest of the parlour was arranged in a half-circle of couches all turned towards the free space in the centre. Usually, it was filled with dancers, musicians and other performers but today all it had to offer was Kairos’ crippled form. A disappointment, no doubt. The couches closest to the king were filled with sycophants and nobles, but the wings of the half-circle on both sides effectively made up the heart of Helike’s ruling class. To the left, the most powerful nobles and the most influential generals formed a sober and uncomfortable cluster. All of them were looking at him.

To the right were Dorian and his cronies. Many were sons and daughters to the very same people across them, but there were others. Priests, even a member of the Order of the Righteous Spear. The heir to Helike himself looked like a living statue. Perfect pale skin unmarred by his hours in the sun, long flowing golden locks that cascaded down his shoulders. Kairos’ nephew had that peculiar sort of vanity where he refused to style himself, preferring to awe people with his natural good looks. The other prince was tall and perfectly proportioned, talented with a sword and lance. A famed horseman and promising commander, fair-handed in all things and an orator of talent. That hadn’t stopped Dorian’s father from drunkenly slipping in the baths and breaking his neck, of course. It used to take half a continent to put us down, Kairos thought with disgust. Now all it takes is a wet tile. The golden-haired prince smiled encouragingly in his uncle’s direction. The cripple looked away, limping his way to the couch where the king was finally deigning to notice his presence.

“Kairos,” King Agrius Theodosian greeted him flatly. “You made me wait.”

“The shaking of my legs does not bow to decrees,” the prince said.

He did not manage to thread as much apology in that as he should have.

“Neither does your head, boy,” the king barked. “I forbade you to go into the crypt. Do you deny you disobeyed me?”

“Grandfather,” Dorian spoke up. “My uncle is obviously feeling ill. Perhaps this matter could be settled another day?”

Kairos eyed his hand, which was shaking like a leaf. Not, though, out of fear. How strange. When he’d woken this morning, he had been already flinching at the thought of his father’s displeasure. Now, looking at the fury painted over the king’s face, he could think of only one thing: what are you going to do, Father? Kill me before I die? The prince closed his hand, tucked it under his tunic where it could not be seen trembling.

“I do not,” he said. “Deny it, that is.”

Some part of him wondered if he should have thought this through. Found an excuse, cooked up a scheme to shield him from the king’s anger. He hadn’t though. He didn’t even have a reason for admitting to this. Just morbid curiosity.

“You disobeyed a royal decree,” King Agrius growled. “That is treason.”

“I suppose it is,” Kairos mused. “How tawdry of me, if you’ll forgive my language. Still, I’m surprised you only sent for me now. I left the crypt before dawn came. Were you too drunk until now to hear the report?”

The silence in the room was deafening. Not a single person even dared to breathe.

“Are you mocking me, cripple?” his father spat.

“Obviously,” the prince replied. “I did try to make it blatant, for your sake.”

“I could have you killed for this,” the king said, looking almost sober now.

Though no less furious, evidently.

“It will spare me the walk back to my chambers, at least,” Kairos said. “By all means, get on with it.”

The was a ripple in the parlour, though his words were not the cause of it. Dorian made his way to his side, graceful even in haste, and knelt as a supplicant.

“Grandfather,” he said. “My uncle is delirious with pain, that is the only explication for his words. I implore you, do not make this decision in anger.”

The king looked at his precious golden grandson humbling himself against marble and hesitated. How proud you are, nephew, even on your knees, Kairos thought. The cripple limped to the closest table and snatched a cup of wine, pouring it out before casually tossing it at the other prince. The bronze made a delightful little bonk as it hit the back of his head before rolling on the floor.

“Get up, Dorian,” Kairos said. “Your wretched pity is the worst indignity I’ve been subjected to today.”

Surprise and irritation flickered across that perfect face and Dorian turned towards him. The odd-eyed child drank in the sight of it. It as like finally drinking cool water after years of being parched.

“Uncle-“ he began.

“You are more platitude than man,” Kairos said. “I want no part of what you peddle.”

“You’ve gone mad, boy,” the king said, sounding horrified.

Slowly, the odd-eyed child took out the hand he’d slipped into his tunic. It was, he saw, no longer shaking. He wondered if there was a meaning in that.

“Guards, take him to his quarters,” King Agrius ordered. “Prince Kairos is under house arrest until I decree otherwise.”

The men pulled him away roughly under the stares of the entire court, as he continued thoughtfully looking at his hand.

His sleep was dreamless and his hours empty. The apothecaries tried to shove half a dozen different remedies down his throat, but he flatly refused to have anything to do with them. He was going to die, soon enough. What little time he had left would not be spent moving from one daze to another. His first visitor was, naturally, Dorian. It was midmorning after he was first put under arrest that the heir to Helike came, followed by that androgynous fanatic of his. The daughter of a fairly prominent noble, he remembered, though he could not recall her name. Slender and short-haired, and the way she could have been either a boy or a girl branded her a servant in his eyes. In Helike it was only they who made a point of surrendering the more obvious trappings of gender. Still, it hardly mattered since she herself hardly mattered. The girl hovered by the entrance when her master entered, leaving only reluctantly when he dismissed her and closed the door. Kairos would give it decent odds she was waiting outside in the corridor.

“Good morning, Uncle,” Dorian greeted him, taking the seat across his. “Has your health improved?”

The odd-eyed child put down the cup of water he’d been drinking on the table, shifting uncomfortably in his seat.

“I am twelve years old, and I can tell that girl is in love with you,” Kairos said, wrinkling his nose as he ignored the greeting.

“Semia is a dear friend,” Dorian replied. “Put no stock in rumours.”

“Your kindness is worse than cruelty, nephew,” the cripple said.

The golden prince flinched, then mastered himself.

“I’ve been talking to grandfather,” he said. “Your arrest will be revoked soon.”

The odd-eyed child raised an eyebrow.

“Why?” he asked.

“Traditionally, all of royal blood are allowed-“ Dorian began.

“I mean why did you talk to Father?” Kairos interrupted.

The man looked surprised.

“You are my uncle,” he said. “I would not see you punished this way.”

“You don’t love me, Dorian,” the cripple said.

“We’re family,” the prince replied, almost offended.

“So you feel guilt, and go through the motions regardless,” Kairos said. “I must admit I find that rather disgusting, if you’ll forgive my language.”

The heir to Helike looked irritated, then his face softened.

“I understand you’re in pain, Kairos,” he said. “And frustrated. You’ve been mistreated ever since you could walk. Grandfather is not the man he used to be, and how you’ve been treated was… ill-done. It will be different, when I rule. You will not have to be alone anymore.”

“No one has ever disliked you before, have they Dorian?” the child said, cocking his head to the side. “Not to your face, at least.”

“I want to help you, uncle,” the golden-haired man said earnestly.

“It’s not because you’re beautiful, you know,” Kairos said. “Or even because so many people love you while they despise the sight of me. It’s because you’re hollow.”

“Pardon?” the other prince said.

“You’re not a person, Dorian,” the child said. “All you are is an object, moving according to rules not your own. You don’t want anything for yourself.”

“It is the duty of a ruler to sublimate their selfish desires for the good of his people,” the prince replied quietly.

“I am going to die,” Kairos smiled. “Sometime soon, I am told. And yet, just with the few moments yesterday in that parlour, I’ll have been alive longer than you will be throughout your entire life.”

“I made a choice, uncle,” Dorian said. “I’ve been given so many gifts, I owe it to Creation to use them for the sake of others.”

“We don’t owe anyone anything,” Kairos said.

And in that moment, the words coming out of his mouth without thought, he finally understood it all. There was a trap and there was bait. Live according to our rules, the Heavens said. Toil and struggle and die, fritter away your days and you will be rewarded after death. It doesn’t matter what comes after. Only now. All we are is what we do. And if you let Gods decided that for you, you’re not anyone at all.

“I always admired it, you know,” his nephew said. “The way you kept going to the House of Light even if you never got anything from it. Not like I do. It doesn’t matter if they say you were born bad, Kairos. You’re trying, that’s what matters.”

Dorian leaned forward.

“We are what we do.”

“Yes,” the boy who would be the Tyrant smiled. “I couldn’t agree more.”

When the nobles and the generals came that night, cloaked and bearing treason in their eyes, he was still smiling.

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60 thoughts on “Usurpation

      1. letouriste

        so rude:o
        i’m reading this chapter first so i don’t know what you talk about but given the quality of this story i KNOW you are irational.

        Liked by 2 people

  1. I feel like this is a worrying trend. How to put this… the antagonists all have elements of being straw characters. Much as I hate linking to TvTropes, here.

    The enemies seem like they are there to prove the protagonist right because they are arrogant, pompous, self-righteous, not that genre-savvy, and are generally silly in believing what they believe. Akua and William are the two most prominent examples, and this is bad, because they are major antagonists, and I couldn’t take them seriously. I don’t think I was ever supposed to feel like they had a point, and since we’re in a story about clashes of ideology I never felt like Cat was ever in danger.
    Reading the comments, this seems like this was the general effect. Cat being right was a given, no one doubted this or thought that the antagonists had anything resembling a point.

    I get you are trying to advance some themes here, and I applaud this, it makes the story have more impact and more meaning, but the heavy-handedness is what I’m criticizing here. Imagine William with some charisma and explaining what had been Bard’s talking points in a negotiation, wouldn’t that have made victory a bit more earnt, and sent a stronger message if you’d exposed some flaws in his thinking?

    Like

    1. Esryok

      I see this as more of a clash of cultures than of ideology. Yes, Cat & the Calamities espouse an ideology I can get behind, but every time the spotlight shines on one of the antagonists’ culture I get a major moment of “wow, that *does* have depth and certain beauty.”

      Liked by 4 people

    2. letouriste

      william and akua HAVE gained charisma and consistence.
      william was very good in that final fight.
      for the clash of ideology i think we will see better things from now on.

      Like

      1. Really now… Most of their dialogue was just intentionally hammy and cliched monologues and one-liners, none of them had any impact or revealed anything about their character(s). It was as if they were NPCs spitting out generic lines while Cat gave out witty responses. Again, caricatures.

        The most powerful moment in the finale of Volume 2 was when Akua had a few lines about how names and the alignments actually meant something and weren’t just tools. It was thematically appropriate and hinted at the nature of the Roles, giving us insight into the mindset of the ‘traditional’ Good and Evil, making them more nuanced than ‘hidebound’ and ‘wrong’

        Cat just laughed at the idea of monologues and so the audience is told to not give it another thought. It also ended with a ‘…’ and that just broke my immersion but that’s another issue.

        Like

      2. Nivek

        Are they cliché straw characters because they are antagonists or are they antagonists because they chose to gain power through cliché actions and personalities

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Letouriste

        For william,this is not the dialogue but his gestual and the way he act.he’s not a witty one anyway.
        I really liked his end moment;)

        Like

    3. nipi

      In this story it works. Yes the antagonists are somewhat hollow caricatures, but thats because they arent the true antagonists. They are puppets possibly twisted by the powers granted them. The Gods are the true antagonists.

      Liked by 1 person

    4. Unmaker

      Steven D. Levitt (Freakonomics) has pointed out that incentives work, but the unintended side effects are, well, freaky. In this world, the massive incentive is being Named, and acting stereotypically tends to make that easier. Even when you are Named, acting like a trope gives you more power, as the later Tyrant himself noted before swatting an army with a storm. So the entire power structure, from the highest rulers down to the lowest peasant, grow up knowing that acting archetypically is the route to more power. The Named are the superstars of that world and kids probably grow up idolizing them. The incentive to act that way is then insane, leading to an entire world of people who like to follow story lines rather than acting sensibly.

      Liked by 6 people

    5. Morgenstern

      I really don’t get why you are bringing this up HERE, after THIS chapter. o_Ô

      Both the Tyrant-to-be and Dorian (obviously colored by the Tyrant-to-be’s view, of course!!) DO have VERY understandable points and actual emotions behind that to enforce it, especially in that one end dialogue between only the two. Dorian is *actually* compassionate, even if the little bugger is making it hard — and the Tyrant is very much acting like one of those sufferers-turned-grumpy-by-it, who shits on the pity ( = disdain comes close..) of others that do ALSO not treat him in a simply NORMAL way, i.e. as actually human like them, if it isn’t the actual contempt and hatred some have or the “morbid curiosity” others have for the crippled.

      —————–

      And Akua and Will may have seemed shallow in the beginning (don’t forget: they are colored by the POV !!!), but the more we got chapters that were THEIRS, the more they became actual people. Point being (the one this story actually revolves around the whole time!) : POV matters. A HELLUVA LOT. And one can almost ALWAYS look at a thing from different sides. I see no strawman action there, but entirely the opposite, no matter if some of the people choose to ACT rather hilariously cliché every so often because it *gives them power* and *their entire WORLD MAKES them act that way* (or at least very much encourages it).

      —————————

      It’s a hypertext on how many fantasy stories work for us, the readers, finding them interesting/enjoyable… the difficulty in there is, of course, how to get to any solution for this.

      Because out-of-verse we do have that basic premise for such stories almost as if WE are those hated Gods (Above OR Below), because we e.g. like all the bickering and badass-stunts, and political solutions ending not in war (ACTION), but only in some kind of compromise are simply NOT INTERESTING to read. I dunno exactly, if the story will get to such a surprising end possibly turning-OFF end of the characters saying fuck you to US wanting to see them triumph in OTHER, specific ways than endless political bickering ending in heaps of compromises or the more simply solution of them all starting to realize that they should act normally human-like and compassionate and fuck the plan of the Gods, lets actually make life better for people instead of being racist, determinist etc.etc. – but if Malicia’s (troupe’s) plans of less (open) violence should actually NOT get thwarted, but truly end up in the Nobles/Truebloods giving in, then many readers will obviously be disappointed that no actual Civil Wars (just being named Un-Civil, because the manner of them is very un-civil(ized)..) are incoming…

      For the sake of the story, there can only ever be acting INSIDE OF the story, in a way that is FUN for the READERS, not really the characters (barring some who actually find fun in all that badassery that is basically killing and shitting on *people*… cf. Cat versus Fae, where her “gods I love being back in the battle” was outright declaimed). The rules Must Not Be Broken. They can only be Used, Twisted, Tricked, Subverted and Transcended. But they Must NOT Be Broken. If that ends in some people ACTING so that their ACTIONS fill/become clichés, so be it. Hyperboles of clichés are a fun way for hypertext, if you are one to like such things and puns and banter etc.etc. … Gods, we who like these stories are NOT looking for an all-out real world here, we are looking for DIVERSION, for FUN, for an ESCAPE from the real world, if only for a few bits. The real-world stuff must NOT be too heavy-handed. The clichés that do come up here are so overdone and easily identified, we have FUN from it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Morgenstern

        In short: This whole story is about tropes, playing with it and HAVING FUN with all that.

        NOT about getting rid of it BEFORE the end — even though we’re all rooting for our protagonists (Practical Villains) to go along the lines of the old trope of a fantasy world becoming a real-world-like more-normal one AT/IN THE END. Where the story ENDS. HAS to, because it will no longer be possible (cf. the states where Roles/Names are ever so much more unlikely to ever come up…). We wanna see them get rid of “the Gods confines”, but we ALSO want a fun ride along the way and we WANT all that hilarious and cliché stuff to happen.

        *** If you don’t like that basic premise/the very STYLE of the story – well, then this story is simply not for you. ***

        Go read another, more realistic story instead of the one that uses a lot of realistic ideas and realistic/relatable motivations for Fun Action Badassery on how Stuff Goes Wrong / Becomes Cliché And Goes Down The Drain and Shit Hits The Fan because It Has To.
        And everyone will be better off. Your view IS, of course, quite the same kind of normal and fine as ours — all it means is we obviously want different stories. No one forces you to read this here. You obviously dislike the very STYLE of the story. Don’t bother criticizing that, though – if gets no one anywhere. If you don’t enjoy the sarcasm and metatext that is rather obvious here, don’t read it instead of try to change (aka break) it.

        It’s like different playstyles for an RPG group, what we are talking about here.

        ** There Is No Arguing About Different STYLES ** of play – one simply seeks like-minded people so that EVERYONE Can Have Fun.
        Bickering about the very basic style gets no one anywhere.

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  2. letouriste

    i like more and more that character:)
    honestly,he could be a main chararter and don’t lose to cat much.
    he would be the kind of mc easygoing with no real goal in the begining but who reveal himself against adversity…a little like a manga^^

    Like

    1. Esryok

      I’m not so sure. Kairos is fascinating, but I don’t think anybody (Kairos included) expects his story to end well. The fact that Cat might someday achieve something that could be possibly considered a win by people who have uncommon understandings of all the words in this sentence makes me prefer her as the actual protagonist.

      Like

      1. Letouriste

        He expect his end to be bad but he doesn’t care.
        A good end would be something like a sacrifice of himself for someone else(a little out of character yeah),or a fuck you to the god directly in their face and then somehow blowing everything up including him(again a sacrifice yeah).
        Also,why do you care about a good end? This is a dark story anyway.
        An end meaningful but sad would be right in the alley no?

        Like

      2. Morgenstern

        No. Because this is a Badass “Practical Evil” winning story, where “Evil” is not necessarily “evil” and THEY are our protagonists. It is Fantasy, for story’s-sake – we want a happy end. We are rooting for them and that means we WANT to see them WIN, not go under. Slightly sad might be their achieving their ends by making sacrifices, including themselves… but ultimately, if you wanna keep the badassery alive, we want to see them TRULY win, not dying while doing so. 😉

        Like

    2. Morgenstern

      Personally, I very much like this character – but I just as much see him ending up on the other end of the sthick. Tyrant is an Antagonist, capital A, for ALL of the other sides here, if you ask me. It is more likely that Practical Evil starts working along with (Practical) Good than the Oldschool Villains/GoodGuys to start working together with PracticalEvil. It’s exactly why the hopes/thoughts of Black/Malicia that preparing future generations for less bloodshed and more winning are flawed, when they start thinking they have to keep the Truebloods around and somehow incorporate THEM already instead of replacing them with new people in the long run, ones that have been better equipped to act differently because they succeeded in teaching them different stories. Malicia is due a heavy disappointment, in that she seems to think exposing the flaws of the Truebloods and turning them into supposedly irrelevant little puppets will be enough to make them go along.

      The very concept of the Truebloods goes against the whole idea, they will HAVE TO go, which is why another Civil War and Reforms are basically unavoidable — unless the author really, really should want to suddenly disappoint reader expectations by changing the whole genre midterm.

      One Does Not Change The Whole Genre Midterm Of Story.

      These guys will go out with a flash Boom Bang, they are already flocking to Heiress’ side just as the readers have projected will be the end of that, and Tasia is not the really significant one here — it’s Heiress, with a different plan for breaking the cycle instead of tricking/changing/transcending it, much like our Practical Ones, but ultimately … probably not (quite). She, too, is using the stereotypes to her advantage, but she seems to want to simply Break It All – OR become a God of the Story herself (succeeding one of those…), the ultimate immersion into and use of the story.

      And that will not work, if the story out-of-Guideverse should succeed (at least I for one don’t see no way to pull that off without at the very least disappointing a high percentage of readers so far), after all the Practical Ones are our rooted-for protagonists.
      You Don’t Simply pull the stunt of killing off your very protagonists (main characters) and/or, potentially even worse, taking the story away from them and giving it to an antagonist (which, btw, imho, also applies to the story-within-the-story, that is, most of all Black, the “other” protagonist for the backstory of the Calamities that are the prequel and enablers of Cat’s story). Heiress has a slight chance of seeing the error of her ways and changing the breaking to transcending (what the Practicals try to do), but many of the Oldschool Villains (and Good Guys..) rather don’t or outright don’t – also, Heiress does not get to be the New Leader in THIS story, unless you want to disappoint readers. Many are feeling very sorry for her by now, so making her change ways before killing herself might just work fine… but you don’t give her the reins, if you don’t want us to be disappointed, because after all she has done… she is simply DUE some reckoning…
      (Likewise is the Tyrant, of course, who would rather opt to kill the Gods and destroy the world for all his hurt instead of simply … tricking them into liking his story and seeing it come to the fulfillment of the first-ever-mentioned tenets of humans reaching greater heights.)

      Interesting snippet: Remember the Bard mentioning how people are learning and the basic grounds are getting higher, even at the supposedly “lowest” (aka Villains)? In a twisted way (she is, after all, seeing that Practical Evil as danger to Balance/the Story, funnily, which seems to speak of a still-limited viewpoint), she has already majorly hinted at a possible “out”, even though it is one she does not seem to like. If everyone is getting “better”… then eventually Good / Evil and their dichotomy/EternalStruggle forming “Balance” are likely to get leveled… we all know where that ends. Not in what the Bard likes, who seems to have misunderstood the Gods’/story’s own tenets, if no matter what road you take, the aim is the same for both sides and humans Just Don’t Get It (so far)…

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  3. Daemion

    Everyone has the right to their opinion, but I really can’t agree with what the posters above said about the story. It’s like they didn’t read the story. Akua was playing a role, she acted like a stereotype on purpose. Look back at the chapter where she’s playing some sort of chess with her best friend. She doesn’t even like the game, she just pretends to because it’s what she wants people to see. She has crafted an image and except for small glimpses we haven’t seen what’s behind that yet. There’s also her love for her father, among other things.

    No matter how I look at it, Heiress is a deep, three dimensional character with more than one agenda.

    The Tyrant was a shunned, crippled boy, deillusioned with the world, especially with the Gods… who one day simply didn’t give a fuck anymore. Unless that prophecy has changed, he’s going to die soon… so he’s just having some fun first, as a final fuck you to the Gods. But if you read this extra chapter, then you realize he has his likes and dislikes, he has some depth to him. So far he only appeared in three or four chapters, how much character development do you expect in that short time?

    Catherine has never been always right. If you think that, then you completely missed the point of the story. She’s using Evil to do good, while knowing that she’s going to hurt and kill lots of people on the way. She KNOWS she isn’t just or righteous or good. She accepted that. This is her best option to achieve her goals, but everyone knows it’s not the best option period.
    The heroes do have a point and Evil is self-destructive by nature.
    They have stories how the villain dies alone and hated at the moment when their triumph turns into utter failure.
    I have no idea how you can say Catherine is always right when she herself has said otherwise. Did you miss all the times where she fucked up and made a terrible decision?

    In my opinion, you expect the story to do your thinking for you. The clues are all there, some blatantly obvious, all you have to do is connect the dots yourself. If the story were to spell these things out every time, I’d find that condescending and, quite frankly, insulting to my intelligence.

    This story has been excellent from the very start and if you are somewhat dissatisfied with it, then perhaps you should read it again and look for the things you missed so far.

    Liked by 9 people

      1. I don’t think it subverted it. Technically, the Kairos-who-was did die, yet the Tyrant was born. That’s not a subversion, but prophesy being a twisty bugger. Like prophesy tends to be. 😛

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Dragrath

        Well Prophecies are open ended because they can twist themselves into any form to ensure they hold. If a prophecy was too specific it would be breaking the stereotypical mold and thus not be empowered by the gods above or below. SO wouldn’t a specific prophecy be super weak because the trope for them is that they can be interpreted in many ways.

        Like

    1. So people that criticize the story just haven’t read it closely enough? There is no story that is perfect. Anyhow I have only relatively small issues with this, honestly this ranks above Worm at the moment.

      The issue isn’t that Catherine is always right, but that her enemies are portrayed as idiots. As I said above, in front of a viewpoint character the enemies became generic cutouts spouting generic lines.

      As for Akua, Akua has potential but William did too and it was never explored. I hoped that William would have a character arc after his talk with Bard and the various interludes, but then he dd the Angel host thing, and was taken out contemptuously to show off how awesome Cat was at the climax of Volume 2. It might as well have never happened. Hoping that Akua will do better.

      I would love for the story to take a turn at exploring the self destructive nature of evil and trying to use evil to do good, although I don’t think the story will get that navel-gazey and that’s also cool.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. esryok

        I’m enjoying Cat’s biased narration. It’s the interludes that make it work for me: they keep demonstrating that Cat’s perspective really isn’t on the mark, and so I’m better motivated to watch out for instances where she reads a situation incorrectly.

        I find myself reflexively rejecting any criticism of the story, but I definitely don’t want to say “there’s nothing that can be done to make this story better”. So on that note, how do you think William’s arc could be improved? It feels narratively appropriate for him to have died in the conclusion of Book 2, and even non-narratively it is hard to imagine how he’d endure Black’s not-blocked-by-Fate attention. So maybe a better line of thought is, assuming William dies once his pattern of three is over, what interesting things can be done with him before then?

        Like

      2. Well him not dying gaping like a fish at Cat’s resurrection would have been very good. Seriously he didn’t put up any kind of fight, he just died like a chump. That’s my biggest issue with the story right now, the antagonists not seeming like a threat.

        For your question, his character actually impacting the story would have been great. As I said above, if he’d tried to negotiate with either the Gallowborn or Cat herself with speeches about patriotism and how the Empire has been and probably will be a puppy kicking Evil empire with no loyalty towards it’s subjects. Or just tie that into the dialogue during the fight, instead of generic ‘banter’. That way Cat’s self-reflection about her way being right would have actual weight behind it, instead of just half-hearted attempts.

        You could even go the other way and paint him as a lunatic that wants to sacrifice countless civilians for meaningless bloodshed for the sake of hurting Evil, or even go the ‘gone crazy because angel brainwashing’ route. Bring out Cordelia’s narration about Evil needing to be stopped at all costs because otherwise there will be unspeakable horrors and have he repeat some of that. He would have had more charisma that way, and we could have explored the fight between Good and Evil and the nature of Gods and divine beings.

        During the battle he was just kind of there.

        Like

      3. That was kind of the point behind William’s arc: lots of potential (for both mistakes and greatness) gone begging because he didn’t quite fit the Role he was shoehorned into by higher-ups who only saw him as a disposable piece on the board to help Good win in the end.

        He would have been a happier Highwayman or Assassin than a Lone Swordsman: dark suited him better than getting rainbows forced down his spinal chord. 😛

        Like

      4. Lucas

        Don’t take it the wrong way, but can you show examples? Antagonists that you don’t consider bad.
        Is this story we see that the tyrant has a lot of aspirations and can think by himself… So are you actually talking about the prince? Then I agree, but I also can’t see it any other way for a character that has a minor role in a story that lasts only one chapter.
        Now for akua, the first prince and the lone swordsman… Well I didn’t like the lone swordsman all that much but I have no problem with how he died, he got played, Cat only killed him after a lot of planning ahead and actually dying!
        And the idea of him talking more about beliefs with cat.. well I think they both got a lot from each other, both almost even switched sides… bc of that Cat got a lot weaker for a while and he got a loot gloomier xD

        By the way, I’ve found your posts very informative and I don’t think I completely disagree with you. It’s just that I can’t think of a example of a antagonist better than those in this story. And also, this story has kind of a workaround this I think. IDK tho, it made me think.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Lucas

        I sent a comment and OMG I can’t edit it! English is by far not my main language so sometimes I don’t make sense while writing :X also my phone screen is too small so I usually post and then I read to fix everything, only this time that wasn’t possible.
        Anyway~~ have a nice day

        Like

      6. Daemion

        @random_human
        What you describe here is a radically different character than the Lone Swordsman ever was. To me it seems you had an idea how the story should go and now you’re upset it didn’t.
        William isn’t a rhetor, he’s not going to convince people with words… he’s a swordsman. A lone one at that, so he’s a shitty leader almost by default. He’s not a charismatic person at the best of times and before his end he didn’t have a good time at all.
        He got his name and sword through the angels, so his destiny was always set in stone. If it hadn’t been, then the Wandering Bard would have tried to change it.
        At the same time he was still a hero, so why would he ever sacrifice people? Doing Evil for good reasons is Cat’s shtick.

        His death was fitting, he was so convinced of his cause that he couldn’t believe his angel given powers were simply taken from him by an enemy he had defeated already, that he was unable to react in time.

        He had a lot of impact on the story. He’s the reason Cat and Hakram have Names, he’s part of the reason Cat has such a impressive reputation already, his nemesis status locked in the rule of three which changed how things developed considerably and he acted as a catalyst in the conflict between Heiress and Squire.
        Let’s not forget that he is at least partly responsible for the rebellion, fully responsible for the angel summoning ritual that Akua tried to take over and he was a worthy opponent in combat for the Squire.

        How do you read about all that and come to the conclusion that he had no impact? If you remove him from the story, then Cat dies in Summerholm and the story ends.

        The conflict of Good vs. Evil is the main theme of this story. Almost all the Names belong to one side or the other and the fights between them represent that.
        Have you not listened to Malicia, Black etc when they talked about it? How it is skewed towards the Heroes?

        If I had to guess, then I’d say you’re more used to reading wuxia stories and expect to find similiar themes and tropes here.

        Well, this ain’t that kind of story.

        Like

      7. Morgenstern

        Will just standing there: Please do consider how he GOT A PART OF HIS SOUL RIPPED OUT by Take on top of Cat being Angel-Judged at that time, which basically rips her out of Creation for a spell, far as I understood it, and him then being totally dumbfounded due to that, when she came back with a blink, already striking at him.

        As far as Take is concerned: For story’s-sake, he lost **an Aspect**, when Cat pulled the Queen of Callow and Justification does not matter and if you don’t give it to me, I will TAKE it stunt … which would leave anyone who is not technically dead with some moments of cannot-act, cf. the undead-Goblin-trying-to-take-over-the-Name-of-Squire-scene, or, more closely: the moment when Cat felt it being ripped away from her **while undead** and compare the surprise of both Chider (undead goblin) and Heiress that it only stunned her for mere seconds instead of putting her into knockout state for potential DAYS. Now, Willy did not get his whole Name ripped out – but about a third of it, if all have only three Aspects ever.

        … unless, of course, I totally got “Take” wrong and it was all just a simulation (more like Peter’s ability from the “Heroes” TV series), not just reduction via Take simply not being able to get/keep all that it rips out.

        Like

    2. Morgenstern

      Second that, Daemion – although, alternative suggesting: Re-reading might not do for people who basically dislike the STYLE of the story. They should just read another one and leave everyone happy that way, they get theirs somewhere else, we get ours here.

      Like

  4. Shequi

    I find Kairos interesting because his Villainy is definitely not the Praesi kind of Villainy.

    Kairos the Tyrant is Evil Order; that’s very much opposed to Black & Foundling’s style of Chaotic Villainy. Kairos would (and possibly will) be incensed by Black’s semilegendary overthrowing of the government of Stygia – and not just because he did it whilst drunk.

    The puritanical teetotaler angle on Kairos is interesting, and now we can see where it came from I can understand him better.

    On the subject of the prophecy and his apparent evasion of it; is it that by claiming the Name of Tyrant he no longer counts as having a name day, or simply no longer an ordinary mortal?

    Like

    1. Morgenstern

      Names prevent you from contracting mundane diseases, save you from poison, **prolong your life** (more so if you are a Villain, which the Tyrant is)….. I’d very much argue that all that means they can counter a birth deficiency that would otherwise have killed him, too. 😉

      Like

      1. Morgenstern

        Actually, one can even SEE it directly in direct, rather blatant hints: His hand stops shaking, the dead eye starts glowing….

        Like

  5. Damn, Kairos had become my most fave character in the story series, in just four chapters.
    He is funny and genre savy to act evil
    He had more character development (setting wise especially) and personality development than even the Heiress and the Swordsman, he does not have boring background of child of to do something because of being a noble or a commoner like those two.
    He can even be a good potential as an unique protagonist if this is another story series.

    I say, if he dies in any anti climatic and disappointing way like the swordsman, I am gotta flip my tables.

    Like

      1. Morgenstern

        My prediction, which might be totally biased and gotten veered off by a pretext that was meant for ONLY Cordelia, would be that the Good troupe or at least the White Knight is more of an incoming problem for Cat in the further future and the Tyrant will become a massive problem for the Calamities, potentially after killing off at least one or other of the new Heroes. 😉

        Like

      2. Morgenstern

        Of course, he could also be meant as a rival for Cordelia, but seeing how she’s more of an even-further-future problem for the whole of Praes and rival for *Malicia*… not altogether too likely, I’d say.

        Like

  6. Anonymous

    (I really, really enjoy Kairos’s headspace! I shall now speculate silently about what exactly he was angling for with the ‘get you next times, heroes’ role-type line. Perhaps increasing his affinity/synchronisation by following a well-ridden rut, hopefully with the end of a pawn of Bad that defeats Good rather than as a villain to be defeated in fairly short order… bringing to mind the ‘live until we’re killed’ concept, raising the question of whether his hand would shake and he would die by himself if he ever stopped being villainous, and in turn raising the question of what happens if a Named normally stops all Role-related activities and, say, goes away somewhere for unending decades/centuries/millennia of peaceful ‘retirement’… the aspect of a Name not being holdable by two at the same time, say…)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Morgenstern

      I’d suggest if someone does not act on their Name for too long a time, the Name goes away = jumps to somebody else. One might even APPOINT someone else, imho, at the very least if the Role very, very much fits that (Empress/Emperor, Knight, Queen/King etc., all those roles that are part of a hierarchy should be ones you can get via appointment, not just grabbing for them, and the Name should just leave the person that has held it so far and needs to *give it up* for that to happen, of course — otherwise: violent mode of succession, you need to kill the person holding it).

      Seeing how it keeps them ever-youthful, I would argue that they are NOT like vampires becoming ash that second, though, but rather just start aging again normally.
      It might or might (maybe more likely) NOT be possible to re-acquire said name later after the break.

      Like

      1. Morgenstern

        Seeing how Amadeus CHOSE Cat as his successor, appointed her via a sword… well… not on her shoulder, but through her body, but shucks, he’s a Villain, not the WHITE Knight… 😉 .. the others seemed to be competitors of THEIR will only, NOT via Black’s choice. They tried to grab for it. He only ever chose one, though. And guess who won…. (yeah, with a little help from outside, but still).

        Like

      2. Morgenstern

        *ahem

        His SQUIRE. So far. NOT the same as actual successor, yet, but an apprentice that first has to get to the right level. It IS somewhat strange that there should not be more Knights, Hunters, etc., though, seeing how they abound historically and have friggin ORDERS. There might be workarounds, though, cf. Ranger/Hunter/Archer etc. and Black Knight/White Knight/ XX…?? Knight…? I’d very much expect there to be MORE than just Black and White, really…

        If Knights are not violently succeeded, their Squire usually get appointed to be an OTHER Knight, filling up the ranks of order/military/nobles…. I’m still hoping for some leeway there. 😉 Even if it is just handing over the Name and living a few more years as once-again-normal-human (yeah, abnormal by status and backstory, but you get my meaning, I’m sure).

        Like

      3. Morgenstern

        Uhm.. yeah.. the last “squire”/”knight” (historical example) should have been lower case letters. Oooops. Got to used to that already, it would seem =D

        Like

  7. danh3107

    Man, it’s ironic that Dorian’s dad died slipping on a tile, and he died getting shot by a nobody (relative to him) Orc.

    Ungraceful deaths run in the family.

    Like

  8. One: William knew he was doomed from the beginning. William *hated himself PROFOUNDLY*…A huge part of why Cat infuriated him so much was that she is an exemplar of the road he began to take, then backed away from when the guilt ate up his personhood and turned him into the Grand High Bitch of the Choir of Contrition. Cat faced similar horrible breaks in her early life, and ended up doing something of significance that didn’t involve literally selling her individuality and free will for power. Cat forced the reality that William was nothing but an angel sock-puppet down his throat..The only way William found to cope with that was by drinking even more of the angel kool-aid and believing his Triumph aspect would overcome her in the end.

    Cat got up, fully resurrected. And William responded by burying a sword in her guts lickety-split. Then Cat trotted out her shiny new Take Aspect and RIPPED William’s Rise completely out of his Name. William could not have possibly responded to that metaphysical blow, anymore than Cat would’ve been able to hang on when Chider ripped the Squire Name out of Cat…Except Cat was already a zombie, so the same kind of blow went mostly astray and left Cat the opportunity to effectively respond. Incidentally toppling Akua’s carefully crafted pattern of three with her and destroying years of her efforts.

    How was William supposed to do anything but die when his nervous system had basically just been shorted out by having Rise ripped from him…even as he was trying and failing simultaneously to deal with the shock of the enemy he’d just killed for almost the third time popping back up and utterly ruining him?

    I don’t get the complaints about William’s end. He was fucked from day one…Cat just ended up the personification of his Totally Fucked-edness. Simple and easy to comprehend. So what exactly was the problem here?

    Like

    1. Shequi

      TBH the thing I enjoyed most about William’s demise was that much earlier in the story he’d said that the only way to kill Cat would be to decapitate her… and it turned out that even *that* failed to work.

      Like

    2. Morgenstern

      Yay. I am NOT the only one reading it as her REALLY ripping out his Aspect, even though getting diminished returns, not being able to soak it up fully. My back-of-the-brain itch after posting that, actually, I might have simply been the only one to read it that way, after all, is alleviated. 😉

      Like

      1. Morgenstern

        Seems I missed to add the “what? he STUCK her with his sword, not just stood around”, though. Seems I mixed up the coming-back-from-Judgement-phasing-out with the Aspect-ripped-out-stun, if he actually did hit her after all, before she decapitated him. So, the hell.. it is even LESS of an “he just stood around” thing, with that one ALSO yet on top of the other reasons. o_Ô

        Like

      2. Morgenstern

        I’m still not sure why this whole discussion started popping up HERE of all places. Both Tyrant and Dorian are perfectly understandable, relatable people, if you stay out of the POV-induced “he’s such an asshole just feigning real sympathy”-thing little Tyrant has going on..

        Like

      3. Morgenstern

        The fact that the little miscreant sucker does not belief in Dorian’s words out of his twisted bitterness and because Dorian is used to formulating stuff in etiquette-hindered ways does not undo the fact that he ACTUALLY seems to mean it and wanted well for the little shite, however wrong he might have been in being able to change people to accept him (he COULD have restrained and punished them for being mean to his uncle, though, that’s definitely NOT just a wrong claim… yeah, of course, that does not make the people actually like his uncle… but it DOES make the situation different, if the King is openly in favor of somebody or *against* somebody as dear daddy was, basically *asking* for others to detest his own child (that killed his beloved wife and looks horrible) as he tried to shut him away far from himself and drinking as if the child were hell incarnate… no wonder that boy BECOMES kinda-like-that…).

        Like

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