Chapter 13: Forgery

“The heart of warfare is deception. Therefore, the general who can deceive even themself is invincible.”
– Isabella the Mad, Proceran general

Researching the old fashioned way would have taken much more than the single night we had. Much, much more: after a while I noticed that every time we took a book from the stacks and looked away, another one appeared in its place. Hopefully Masego hadn’t noticed that, or I’d never be able to convince him to leave. Already telling him that we couldn’t loot the library on the way out was going to be a bloody chore, I wasn’t eager to fight that battle twice. In the end, we relied on Hakram’s aspect to get our results: Find. There was no denying how useful that trick had proved to be since he’d come into it, but I remained wary. That was always the trap, with Names: they gave you an advantage that would enable you to crush all your enemies, if you just… kept leaning into it. And it was always so very tempting to, wasn’t it? The more you used it the more effective it became, the stronger the advantage got.

I’d become so used to relying on Learn to, well, learn things that when I’d lost the aspect after Liesse I’d found myself almost crippled. I’d been teaching myself the Old Tongue, the Deoraithe language, before the dust-up with Heiress. When I’d gone back to the books afterwards I’d found to my dismay that I was going to have to start almost from the beginning. The information in my head was incomplete, like I had learned vocabulary lists by rote instead of actually figuring out the language. Almost a year later, I wasn’t even even fluent. Back when I’d had Learn, I would have spoken like a native in six months while barely putting any effort into it. Black had been right, as he often was: people who depended on their Names for results fell apart when robbed of those powers. If you use your Name instead of skill, you never develop the skill. There was a reason my teacher had taught me swordsmanship the hard way.

That was the axe I had to grind with Find. When Adjutant used it, he found in a matter of hours answers that would normally have taken us weeks. It handed us solutions, and if we ever started to rely on that we’d be screwed the first time we ran into a hero that could shut it down. We’d played with the aspect nonetheless, to figure out how it worked, and found it wasn’t without limits: the information he looked for had to be at hand and the need for it clear. As far as I could tell, he wasn’t warping Creation to get us what we needed. He was using a weaker version of Providence, the golden luck that always had the very thing they needed land in the lap of the heroes at the best possible moment. Masego had theorized that what the aspect actually did was tinker with the odds, essentially making something that could possibly happen much more likely to actually happen. Adjutant wouldn’t ever be able to point a spot on a map and have that location be full of ancient magical weapons, but he could crack open a book at the exact page he needed to read.

I’d worried that the library might not have the story we needed, but the refilling stacks effectively killed the fear. Here in Arcadia, an aspect so subjective in nature was massively more powerful than it would have been in Creation: reality was more fluid in the realm of the fae.

His first attempt found us a story about a shepherd from Summer killing a Duke of Winter in single combat with a sling, winning the battle for Summer. It had a familiar ring to it. It was an old and popular tale in Callow that we’d first gained the Red Flower Vales by a shepherdess killing a Proceran prince with the same weapon when the prince tried to steal her flock. Dead princes always made for fireside favourites, in my experience. Callow had not forgotten the the Proceran betrayal after the Third Crusade. The story was not, however, what we needed. Hakram narrowed his search on the second attempt and found something more to my liking. A boy from Winter becoming a soldier to escape a prophecy he’d kill his own father, only learning too late his mother had had an affair with a Lord of Summer after killing the very same man on the battlefield. That had a shape we could use. It lacked the inheritance, but it stacked the odds in the favour of the long-lost child.

He tried again and found something even closer. A prince of Winter abandoning his own daughter in the wilds for she was fated to kill her father, only for her to be found by a childless prince of Summer and be raised as his own. Killing her birth father on the field, she became a Princess of Winter only to find the horrible fate still dogged her: she was sent as as the champion of Winter to settle a duel, only to find the man who’d raised her to be her opponent. This evidently being a tragedy, she won again and destroyed everything she’d ever loved. Grim, but I could work with that. Stealing bits from both parricidal stories to craft it into a fresh one should do the trick. I leaned back into my seat with a servant-provided cup of wine, Hakram frowning at the pages as he read the third story once more.

“Prophecy’s the important part,” I said.

“We don’t have one,” he pointed out.

“So we make one,” I replied.

“I don’t think scribbling ‘Catherine murders a duke, gets a duchy’ on a parchment will get us anywhere,” the tall orc grunted.

“When I fought the Rider of the Host,” I said, “he trapped himself into a role. Had to reveal things to me because of it. I think that has long as the fae recognize it’s a story, they’re bound by it – no matter how obvious a lie it is.”

“So we need the fairies to know there’s a prophecy, one just good enough to pass as true,” he said. “That’s… problematic. We’d need that knowledge spread before the fight.”

“Apprentice would be able to make a scroll look old and magical,” I said. “There’s no reason we couldn’t make a dozen fake scrolls and throw them through the windows of high-ranking members of the Court tonight. The Duke himself doesn’t have to be warned – ignorance is part of the tragedy.”

“Still feels thin,” Hakram gravelled. “You can make yourself look like his long-lost daughter and it’ll help, but we need more.”

“A tragic element,” I said, thinking out loud. “It doesn’t have the right weight if I genuinely don’t care I just stabbed my ‘father’ to death.”

I sipped at the wine again, wondering at how it tasted exactly the way Vale summer wine did at the peak of summer when served cold, the heavy heat making it the sweetest thing you ever drank. No wonder Archer had kept hitting the bottle.

“I could have Apprentice put the belief in my head that the Duke is actually my father,” I reluctantly said.

Hakram grimaced.

“I like Masego, Cat, and I doubt there’s a better mage in the Empire save for Lord Warlock – but messing with memories is always bad business,” he said. “You weren’t conscious when he operated on your soul. It… wasn’t pretty.”

Mostly I remembered searing pain and a lot of screaming, so I’d take his word for it. Masego had saved my life, that day, but the process had been less than pleasant.

“We’ll shelve that, then,” I said. “What else do we have?”

I was an orphan. That was a prerequisite for any of this to be able to work, I thought, but I couldn’t make more of it. I was the Squire. That had been my trump card in Liesse, given the roots the Role had in both Praes and Callow, but in Skade there was no ground to gain from it.

“The Winter King brought us here,” Adjutant suddenly said.

I raised an eyebrow.

“So he did,” I agreed.

“Set aside the story for a moment,” the orc said. “We’re here because he wants something from you.”

“We don’t know what that is, though,” I said.

“A hungry warrior will trade his sword for meat,” he quoted in Kharsum.

If you need something bad enough, you’ll take even a terrible deal. In other words, we had some kind of leverage on the King. The Prince of Nightfall had compared the Court to a fox gnawing off its own leg – there was desperation in that image, not just viciousness. Pretending we had an immortal winter god’s backing when getting into a fight with an immortal winter lesser god felt like fool’s gamble, admittedly, but hesitation was the province of the slow and the dead. Fuck it: I’d already faked the king’s signature to get into Skade in the first place, after all. If he’d wanted to turn the screws on us for that, we’d already be screaming.

“I have three things,” I murmured. “A prophecy, an heirloom and the word of a king. Now that has the right weight to it, don’t you think?”

Hakram shivered and I smiled.

“You look the way bad decisions feel,” Archer told me.

It was past midnight when the ochre-skinned girl swaggered into the library, reeking of liquor and throwing herself onto the table in an ungainly sprawl. Masego, who’d been finishing up the eighth fake scroll until she’d put her hand over it, sighed and moved his work to another table. I picked up a book and dropped it on her face as my reply, though even drunk she had the reflexes to snatch it out of the air. Archer wasn’t wrong, exactly. After Apprentice had given me the silver chain enchanted with the glamour I’d had a look in the mirror and winced. Kilian pulled off the fae blood, but it could be kindly said that I did not. My features were already sharp and constant fighting had put muscle to my frame, so the exaggeration of both traits with a few fae features thrown in made me look like a pile of harsh angles forced into a person’s shape. I did, however, look like I could be related to the Duke of Violent Squalls. That was the part that mattered.

“I’m hoping you have more than insults to give me,” I said.

Archer rose to a sitting position with a tired moan, dangling her legs off the edge of the table.

“You picked a fight with a bigwig,” she said.

“He’s a duke,” I said. “That was given.”

“He’s the duke, Foundling,” she said. “Look, you know it’s not the same king or queen in charge of Winter every time the season comes, right?”

“I’d gathered,” I said.

“The role can go to all the fae that are right now princes and princesses,” Archer said. “They have different natures, so the story of Summer and Winter can unfold differently according to who has the crown on both sides. That’s why sometimes one Court wins and sometimes the other. Outcome’s decided the moment the story starts.”

“He’s not a prince, though,” I pointed out.

“He’s just as bad,” the other Named said. “Whenever you have a Winter ruler trying to avoid the war, he’s the one that fucks it up. He’s the cornerstone for the war happening anyway.”

“So if he threw his masquerade…” Hakram said, trailing off.

“Then the current King is trying to avoid a war,” I finished. “The Duke’s important.”

On the bright side, the odds of my getting away with pretending the King of Winter was backing me had just significantly improved: I’d be ridding him of a nuisance.

“So even for a duke he’s going to be a bastard and a half to kill,” I said.

“That’s the word,” Archer agreed. “Things I have also learned: man’s not married, he’s got a bunch of minions on his side and he uses what wind sorcery would be if it was actually useful in a fight.”

“Wind sorcery is very useful,” Masego disagreed without ever looking away from the scroll. “It lacks the offensive abilities of some other elemental spells, but it has few equals when it comes to dictating and restricting enemy movement.”

“It feels like you’re to disagree with me,” Archer said, “but your words prove my point.”

“It’s the basis for scrying, you ignorant thug,” Apprentice snapped.

“Ooh, scrying,” the woman replied, rolling her eyes. “That’ll tip the balance in a fight with a Named.”

Gods, I missed Juniper. Nobody squabbled this much when she was around to glare. People without strong opinions didn’t become Named, I knew, which was why you could never have a band of them in a room without it coming to some arguing. It didn’t help, though, that Archer’s mission in life was to be the piece of gravel in everyone’s boot and that Apprentice was exceedingly easy to rub the wrong way.

“This conversation’s postponed until we’re back in Creation,” I ordered. “Archer, I know you have a fascination with asses but you don’t need to be so much of one. Apprentice, you know if you let her irritate you she’s going to keep pulling your pigtails.”

“But she was wrong,” Masego muttered mulishly.

Archer hid a grin behind her hand and I moved to change the subject before they could start again.

“Heard anything about the Fields of Wend?” I asked her.

“There’s a lake outside the city,” she replied. “With shifting glaciers in it. They use it to throw balls sometimes.”

Not, I thought, a good battlefield to fight against someone who has a knack for using winds. Not that any place in Winter was, to be honest. Still better than a closed space like the inside of the palace had been, especially since the damned place had been built from the Duke’s power.

“Well, that ought to be interesting,” I said.

“So now we wait for dawn?” Archer asked. “I might actually die of boredom, Squire.”

I glanced at Apprentice.

“How long until you’re done with the scrolls, Masego?”

“Give me an hour,” he replied absent-mindedly.

“Stay awake, Archer,” I said. “I have something for you to do after this.”

“Tell me it doesn’t involved paying attention to what people are saying again,” she implored.

“I want to to break people’s windows by throwing lies at them,” I replied.

She grinned.

“Sometimes, Foundling, you say the sweetest things.”

I managed to grab a few hours of sleep afterwards. Enough that I was fresh, anyway. I could have slept longer but my mind was awake so instead I found myself trudging to the courtyard this place was named after. Servants popped up out nowhere, not unexpectedly, and I sat by the edge of the snow with a steaming cup of tea and a pair of sweet apple turnovers. I’d say this for the fae, they cooked better pastries than anything I’d tried back in Creation. By my estimate there was still about a bell left before dawn, so I took my time eating. I heard footsteps behind me, a sure sign one of my companions was also awake: the fae didn’t make noise. Archer plopped herself down, leaning back against a wooden pillar. She had a plate of cold cuts and yet another bottle of wine, I noted with dark amusement. I wasn’t sure it was possible to empty the cellars of Winter, but she was certainly giving it a gallant effort.

“Did you even sleep?” I asked.

“Couldn’t,” she replied. “I’m too curious about what’s coming.”

I hummed. If all went well she wouldn’t need to fight anyway. Besides, even if she’d been up all night she didn’t seem tired in the slightest. I wasn’t actually in the mood for conversation, so I let silence reign as I drank my tea and nibbled at the pastries. Couldn’t muster much of an appetite – never could before a fight, though during I always ended up feeling hungry.

“So what’s your deal, exactly?” Archer said suddenly.

I eyed her sceptically.

“My deal?” I repeated.

She scarfed down a piece of meat before replying.

“Every Named has one,” she said. “Lady Ranger wants to break anything that thinks it’s stronger than her. Your mage wants to open up Creation to see what the gears look like. The orc wants to murder everything in your way.”

“And you?” I deflected.

“You already know what my thing is, Foundling,” she smiled. “I want to live large, so I can die without regrets. You, though? I can’t seem to get a read on you.”

Funny thing, this. I was more used to being on the other side of the conversation. I’d had one just like this with Hakram, what felt like years ago. Then another with Masego, when I got a glimpse at the detached mania that lay at the centre of him.

“People don’t usually ask me that,” I said. “Don’t need to. I’m pretty straightforward, when it comes down to it. All I want is to dig Callow out of the pit it’s in.”

She raised an eyebrow.

“Aren’t you the Tower’s lieutenant there, nowadays? Seems like a done deal.”

“You’d think so, wouldn’t you?” I grunted. “I have the reins, within limits. I won. Pit’s still there, kingdom’s still in it.”

Archer eyed me, expression unreadable.

“So that’s really all you’re after?” she said. “Picking up a half-crown for the land you were born to?”

I smiled mirthlessly.

“Disappointed, are you?” I said.

“You’re the heiress to people who changed the face of Calernia,” she said, not denying it. “And I don’t mean conquering a kingdom – who gives a fuck about where borders are drawn? That comes and goes. When the Lady of the Lake was with the Calamities, they broke a story old as dawn. Just picking up a lesser piece of that is… small.”

The word was spoken with distaste.

“Last year,” I said, “I crushed the skull of a man who thought he was a visionary. He wanted to save Callow, he insisted. Thing is, I don’t really believe you can save people anymore. I tried that and it doesn’t ever quite seem to work right. I think it’s because it doesn’t matter, if they worship at the House of Light or sacrifice at some dark altar – most days they’re just people, and those are the same everywhere. They till the same fields, pay the same taxes, marry their neighbours and die fat if they’re lucky enough.”

“Named are more,” Archer said. “We’re the brighter flame: the people who can actually change things.”

“Are we?” I smiled. “The part of the Conquest you pay attention to is the Calamities sweeping all opposition aside. You think that’s because they were mighty, but that’s not the part that matters. They were figureheads, enablers. Praes won because it had grown as a nation while Callow had not.”

“The Empire grew because villains made it grow,” she replied flatly.

“And don’t you think it’s telling the most successful villains since Triumphant put their efforts into reforming institutions rather than building a bunch of flying fortresses?” I asked. “People won that war, not Named. Malicia and Black, they’re brilliant – but there’s been a lot of brilliant Named over the centuries, on both sides. What makes those two different is that they know change comes from the bottom, not the top.”

“That’s…” she hesitated.

Heresy, she wanted to say. That it went against everything we knew. History was forged by the hands of those that stood out and crowned themselves with power, those precious few even the Gods recognized as apart from the masses. Except that’s a lie. A thousand Dread Emperors and a thousand Kings, but nothing ever changed – until what lay behind them did. It’s not the tip of the blade that kills, it’s the force that drove it into your belly. That was, I was beginning to grasp, what I’d done wrong in Callow. I’d fought to put all the authority in my hands with the vague notion that I could fix it all afterwards, but how was that any different from what the Lone Swordsman had been doing? There were people all over the Empire who could make things better, if they were allowed to. And if there were forces trying to stand in the way? Well, I was a villain. The parts of Creation I did not like, I would break.

“Right now I have an enemy in Liesse who thinks by sheer will and ruthlessness she’ll drag Praes back to a golden age that never existed,” I said. “I’m not worried about her, deep down, because even if she claims I’m the one going against the grain she’s the one fighting the tide.”

I broke off a piece of turnover and popped it into my mouth.

“Last spring, a little boy gave an orc a crown of flowers. There’s something beyond any of us happening in the Empire, right now,” I said. “Malicia and Black think they control it, but I don’t think they do. They’re watching the story when what’s important is the people telling it. They want me to part of the machine they’re built, but I don’t think that’s my role.”

“Then what is?” Archer asked quietly.

“When heroes and villains come knocking in the name of fate,” I spoke, tone calm and measured. “When they try to drag us back to where we were by force with a Choir behind them or the host of some howling Hell – I’ll kill them all. Every last one of them.”

Softly, Archer laughed.

“Ah, Foundling,” she murmured. “I was wrong about you – you’re not boring at all. You’re just as mad as the rest of us.”

I looked up at the sky. Night was dying.

“Drink up, Archer,” I said. “Dawn’s coming and we have a god to rob blind.”

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112 thoughts on “Chapter 13: Forgery

  1. Darkening

    Hm. Great speech by cat here. Looking forward to what she plans to do in the empire once she’s back, seems she plans to empower some groups that might make a difference. Fun as the fae are, I really want to see where things go back in callow.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. danh3107

    “When heroes and villains come knocking in the name of fate,” I spoke, tone calm and measured. “When they try to drag us back to where we were by force with a Choir behind them or the host of some howling Hell – I’ll kill them all. Every last one of them.”

    Shivers erratic, shivers

    Liked by 13 people

    1. The war cry of True Neutral, that.

      “If you won’t stop trying to make me fight for your ever-so grand vision which, incidentally, rarely ever benefits me and mine, I’ll glass you in the eyes and feed you to the pigs — whoever you think you are.”

      Liked by 1 person

  3. xacual

    I just caught up with the story this last week and decided to comment on this new chapter. I feel like Cat’s plan here will go off without a hitch, but it will be the aftereffects that get her.

    From what I recall, Kilian’s fae grandmother was probably a member of the Summer Court if her hair going fire and vivid green eyes have anything to say about it. So what would happen if we have a now Duchess of the Winter Court having a lover that belongs to the Summer Court? I feel like it would turn into some kind of tragedy. Also feel like it might be the impetus that sets off Kilian getting a Name.

    Liked by 10 people

    1. MagnaMalusLupus

      What I’m thinking also might happen is that Cat’s glamour might stop being a glamour; if that ring is going always have been hers, her looks might too.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. stevenneiman

        I could easily see either one of those happening. On one hand becoming one of the Fae doesn’t shouldn’t be possible, but on the other hand she’s trying to BS her way into a story where she already is one, in a land where BS is power.
        On the other other hand, I feel like it’s going to make quite an interesting mess if Cat ends up getting assimilated. That would not go well for the Fae at all.

        Like

  4. Ad Astra Major

    Not to be overly critical, but as a canary in a mineshaft signal that I think the story’s lost the plot a little bit, I’d like to say that the deconstruction of tropes has always been a strength of this story, and the main thing that kept it intriguing early on.

    Recently the focus on Roles instead of just Names, and in particular the fae characters inherent need to comply with them is starting to feel like just a big convoluted lampshade hanging on what’s essentially a story arc that’s being driven by exactly the kind of narrative tropes that previously the story was deconstructing and Cat was focused on subverting.

    Cat’s no longer the determined urchin willing to consider the methods of villains in pursuit of noble goals, she’s just another villain scraping and fighting for power within the Empire. She says she’s doing it because she sees something worthwhile to protect by fighting the other factions within the Empire, but is that really any different from any of those self-same factions that want to see their people ascendant?

    This whole arc, meanwhile, has been her playing at fae Court drama being driven by a the obscure aims of the King of Winter, and what feels like page space filling entertainment coming as a mix of banter between the party, descriptions of the exotic landscape of the Winter Court, and meta-parody of typical fantasy plots.

    It feels lacking in character development, and more like distraction from the actual plot, meant to just take Cat off the board while Malicia and Cordelia play intrigue games. Cat appears to have picked up a new angle to take in her pursuit of power at the end of this chapter, so hopefully that will play out further once we’re back out of Arcadia but I kinda wish she had had this insight about two chapters into the process of managing the ruling council and we could’ve seen all that playing out in place of this arc.

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    1. Vortex

      I would suggest that it is the first sign of a weak story that you can predict every last thing about it. If the story does nothing but subvert and deconstruct tropes I would get bored of it eventually as the same thing happens over and over. I think it’s okay to go on a different direction once in awhile even if that way leans heavily on trope.

      Like

  5. Ad Astra Major

    Not to be overly critical, but as a canary in a mineshaft signal that I think the story’s lost the plot a little bit, I’d like to say that the deconstruction of tropes has always been a strength of this story, and the main thing that kept it intriguing early on.

    Recently the focus on Roles instead of just Names, and in particular the fae characters inherent need to comply with them is starting to feel like just a big convoluted lampshade hanging on what’s essentially a story arc that’s being driven by exactly the kind of narrative tropes that previously the story was deconstructing.

    Cat’s no longer the determined urchin willing to consider the methods of villains in pursuit of noble goals, she’s just another villain scraping and fighting for power within the Empire. She says she’s doing it because she sees something worthwhile to protect by fighting the other factions within the Empire, but is that really any different from any of those self same factions that want to see their people ascendant?

    And now we’re seeing her playing at fae Court drama being driven by a the obscure aims of the King of Winter, and what feels like page space filling entertainment coming as a mix of banter between the party, descriptions of the exotic landscape of the Winter Court, and meta-parody of typical fantasy plots.

    It feels lacking in character development, and more like distraction from the actual plot, meant to just take Cat off the board while Malicia and Cordelia play intrigue games. Cat appears to have picked up a new angle to take in her pursuit of power at the end of this chapter, so hopefully that will play out further once we’re back out of Arcadia but I kinda wish she had had this insight about two chapters into the process of managing the ruling council and we could’ve seen all that playing out in place of this arc.

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    1. Ed

      You’re kinda right, Cat is no longer the determined urchin, because she isn’t. She is the utterly determined commander of a significant force with loyal and quite powerful people following her, you know things that have developed over a bit of time for her. Wait what is that character development? Well fuck me with a ditch digger.

      Right at this point in time she is attempting to avoid having the part of the world she is in charge of, you know commander, significant forces etc. To avoid having that overrun by a massive Fae incursion which would incidentally kinda kill all her forces and also all the people she has a responsibility for. And also kinda end the story, though being killed hasn’t been all that permanent before for her so it may but tragedy of that level is not really where I’d like to see this story go. If it did however I’d still read it, because you get writing like Cats monologue at the end of the chapter there.

      Cat becoming entangled with beings so far above her power level and beating them because she refuses to lose? That is how this story has gone from the very first chapter and that is how it is still going.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. jonnnney

      If anything her epiphany about the the best way to improve Callow is coming too soon. She is an orphan pit fighter who had a few months of training from Calamities, a few weeks of training in a military academy, and a year+ of acting as a general of a legion. The idea that she could figure out both what the Empress and Black are doing and then how to apply the process to Callow in a few months of governing full on Mary Sue territory.

      It only makes sense that she can come to this realization because she is dealing with the alien minds of the fae.

      Like

      1. Matthew

        I think it makes sense. The importance of institutions vs. Named is something Black has probably been drilling into her for her entire training. He made her read Agricultural atlases.

        This isn’t an idea that Black was hiding. I also have to imagine that while she’s been in charge of Callow, she’s been asking Black a lot of questions. He probably gave her an introduction since he use to run Callow. He set up all of the institutions in Callow. It makes no sense that he wouldn’t tell her the philosophy behind everything he’s done in Callow for the past 2 decades and ask her to think of improvements.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. jonnnney

        @Matthew

        Well Black went to the free cities within a week or two of Catherine becoming the quasiqueen of Callow and scrying doesn’t work over mountain ranges because of plot reasons. So while Catherine has many questions about ruling the only guidance she has received from the calamities is a few conversations with Malicia’s meat puppet.

        Black might not be hiding the theory behind the reforms, but he can’t just spell it out for her. It doesn’t match his teaching style and it doesn’t allow Catherine to forge her own path. Yes he gave her the atlas and a children’s book, but that is all he gave her. If he tells her what to do the story of Callow doesn’t change.

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      3. callmesteve

        I disagree with the OP here. She’s been fighting and learning for about as long in-world as we’ve been reading this. I don’t doubt that Black has been talking about this out of scene with her, and we can tell that he’s been pointing her at it for quite a while. Heck, that scene where she beats Heiress in book 1 is starting her off on this. It might be to deal with Names or Fae, but Foundling is also very far from stupid. Also note: She may have figured out the why, but the how is much harder.

        I have no doubts that the author will pull a [b]glorious[/b] plot twist at the end anyway.

        Like

    3. ͎͎̦̟̹͉̩͖̭̫͙̳͔̗̘̯̫̂̎ͮ̀̋̇ͨ̾̍ͤ̽͊͗ͧ̇̊ͬͦͅ ̝̟̘̘̪̤̠̱͎̣̩͐ͯͦ͑̐̄̎͊̋̑ͤ̂̄̌ ̯̬̖̱̜̺͔̯̠͚͕̤̱͚̮̓̒̈ͫ̉̃ͨ̏̋ͅ ̬̩̦̻̞̭̥̯͇̰͈͙͉̻̻̆͋̔ͣ͗͒ͦ̍͆ͅ

      Do you want naturally written character/plot developments or artificial ones that make no sense? I actually like seeing multiple plot developments though i get your frustration since we only get one chapter per week and it feels like we read half as much of Cat.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. ͎͎̦̟̹͉̩͖̭̫͙̳͔̗̘̯̫̂̎ͮ̀̋̇ͨ̾̍ͤ̽͊͗ͧ̇̊ͬͦͅ ̝̟̘̘̪̤̠̱͎̣̩͐ͯͦ͑̐̄̎͊̋̑ͤ̂̄̌ ̯̬̖̱̜̺͔̯̠͚͕̤̱͚̮̓̒̈ͫ̉̃ͨ̏̋ͅ ̬̩̦̻̞̭̥̯͇̰͈͙͉̻̻̆͋̔ͣ͗͒ͦ̍͆ͅ

        @Matthew

        Like

    4. Thyrfa

      I think that what you are complaining about is an inherent weakness of the serial format, arcs that are a little bit off of the main story thread seem to drag and be lasting forever, but if you were reading it in a published format it would be a quick side jaunt.

      Like

  6. “I wasn’t even even fluent”
    To many “even”

    “forgotten the the Proceran betrayal”
    To many “the”

    “I want to to break people’s windows”
    To many “to”
    Also, since Cat is talking to Archer, I think she meant “I want you to”

    Thanks for the chapter 🙂
    Cat is Epic.

    Like

      1. Nairne

        Once (and if) she gets the title she will be in a position where speaking with the Winter King is possible so who knows what kind of deal she could propose.

        Like

    1. Bubba HoTep

      More typos:
      “we ran into a hero that could shit it down”
      Should be “shut it down”

      ““It feels like you’re to disagree with me,””
      should be “you’re trying to disagree with me”

      Like

    2. stevenneiman

      “Almost a year later, I wasn’t [even] even fluent.”
      “I think that [has->as] long as the fae recognize it’s a story, they’re bound by it”
      “felt like {a} fool’s gamble”
      “It feels like you’re [to disagree->disagreeing] with me”
      “They want me to {be} part of the machine [they’re built->they’ve built/they’re building]”

      Like

  7. Esryok

    “… she was sent as as the champion of Winter to settle a duel, only to find the man who’d raised her to be her opponent.”

    Uh. Careful there, Cat. Follow too closely a story that ends with the heroine killing her surrogate father, and methinks Warlock will have some words for you.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. esryok

        2.12 – Reproval
        I was perfectly fine with having no idea who my progenitors were – parents were more of an abstract concept for me than anything else. If anything the closest thing I’d ever had to a father figure was Black, and wasn’t that a terrifying thought?

        2.14 – Situation
        “Catherine,” he greeted me warmly.
        I found myself engulfed in a hug I leaned into, against my better judgement. I had missed him, much as it pained me to admit it.

        2.49 – Triumph
        Warlock had said that one day I would have to make a choice, and I believed him. And when that day came, when the knife was in my hand, I knew that if I killed [Black] I’d miss him. As a teacher, as a mentor, as perhaps the closest thing to a father figure I’d ever had.

        I believe Black’s efforts were insufficient.

        Like

  8. pyrohawk21

    hahahaaahaaaHAAHAAAAHAAAAAAAAA!

    Oh man… Cat’s going to be a NIGHTMARE in the future to those trying to protect the existing world order. She has found the role she wishes to play, and whilst it is heresy against everything people have believed before, may eternity and existence help you if you go against, for all of the Heavens and the deepest pits of hell will not.

    Because Cat is the Guardian of Progress. And nothing will stop her from destroying you if you attempt to stop Progress from occurring.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. nick012000

    You know, for all the scorn heaped on the flying fortresses by those in the New Villainy camp, I think they really would be a significant force multiplier to any nation that possessed them, as long as they didn’t grow to be dependent on them. America keeps the world’s strongest Air Force in the world for a reason, you know. Flying fortresses can’t replace boots on the ground, but they can *supplement* them if used properly (most likely in a logistical role).

    Same thing for things like the invisible tiger armies; they obviously can’t replace the legions, but they could supplement them by doing the things that they can do that the Legions cannot (namely, acting as deadly night skirmishers). Heck, even the Knights of Callow fall into this sort of area.

    By spurning such obviously useful auxillaries to their Legions, they’re effectively turning down power out of ideological reasons, and that’s basically heresy, both to Evil in general, and to their philosophy specifically: they’re acting like hypocrites.

    Like

    1. Bubba HoTep

      Either the side of Good has good anti-aircraft spells, or flying fortresses require unmanageable amount of fuel, fuel being human sacrifices of course.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. GiantTurtle

      I feel like you’re forgetting some of the history, and the wider context. For starters, the intelligent tiger army was an outright failure, with the tigers turning on the empire pretty much straight after they were created, and achieving nothing of note.
      The flying fortress, though effective (I believe it was instrumental in the last successful invasion of callow before the calamities?) would be an absolute guzzler of human sacrifices, if the Tyrant’s floating sige towers are any indication. More importantly, it was the flagship of the current Tyrant, and almost certainly deeply infused by Name fuckery. This brings the empire into over reliance as it becomes part of the Tyrant’s story, and hence, Hero-bait. This is exactly the kind of reliance that black warns against with enchanted weapons, and we see in this chapter with Hakram’s Find. These things can all be powerful, but ultimately lead to their downfall.
      None of this is to say that Black & the Calamities haven’t made attempts to supplement their power: they’ve seriously strengthened the legions by incorporating the orks and goblin munitions, and possibly even the ogres as shock troopers (not sure about that). The point is that they’ve been careful to avoid infusing their powerbase with their name, which is a fatal mistake in this world, at least for villians.
      I wouldn’t be surprised if the calamities had considered these options, and judging by the use of the blood magic and meat puppets, they’ve found some to their liking, that they can incorporate. My bad if any of this is inaccurate, I was working from memory.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Unorignal

      They aren’t, stories are dangerous things and they can’t risk picking up parts of stories that end with the villain’s defeat, they have to forge a new path and this is recognized in the text previously.
      And about the knights, twofold reasons: First, they do want heavy cavalry with similar capabilities to a knight but that comes with fundamental problems along the lines of What breeding stock would they use.
      Furthermore, A chivalric order is not the route they want to go about it in either, they would have to rebrand it to be something other than, well here’s an example: Knights of the Rose Order or whatever overblown purple-y prose name was picked

      Like

    4. From what we’ve seen of the Tyrant’s fortresses, there seems to be two big issues:
      1. They’re expensive to produce (like any castle), and on top of that, they require major-league ritual magic with lots of sacrifices.
      2. They require a magical anchor that can fail catastrophically if, say, a ragtag band of heroes stages a daring raid on them. In general, the New Villains don’t like to rely on magical items that will always end up failing them at the worst possible moment.

      As for the sentient tigers, the problem with them was getting them to obey orders. Invisible tigers are fun to unleash on your enemies, not so fun when they start gnawing on your own troops.

      (The sentient tigers and the invisible army were actually two separate villainous schemes, but combining the two sounds like it would only make the problems worse.)

      Like

    5. stevenneiman

      The problem is that it’s a fundamental part of the story that any villain who relies on fancy magic will have it backfire or be cut off at the worst possible moment, granting the heroes a victory. While all of those magical solutions could be useful under the right circumstances, most would need substantial investments and a certain degree of reliance to be better than conventional solutions. Use flying fortresses for logistics, and any time it would actually do something carts wouldn’t a team of plucky heroes would just come along and destroy your fortress, leaving your troops to starve. Also, the invisible army and the tigers were separate incidents, and I think the problems were that the invisibility magic didn’t work and the tigers deserted.

      Like

    6. jonnnney

      Meh, the tyrant of Helike had like 7 flying fortresses and all it took was a few hours and a group of newbie heroes to take them down. Having an army in a castle in the sky is nice until the castle falls from the sky.

      You want air support? Send in the Sovereign of the Red Skies. Ain’t nothing gonna be flying up there.

      You want deadly night skirmishers? Send in the goblins they can slit throats and blow shit up.

      Like

  10. nipi

    “Killing her birth father on the field, she became a Princess of Winter only to find the horrible fate still dogged her: she was sent as as the champion of Winter to settle a duel, only to find the man who’d raised her to be her opponent.”

    Are you sure thats the story you want to go with Cat? You do remember Warlocks warning about betraying Black?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Nicole

      Somehow I doubt trying to lock her into a story will work very well. She already died as a “loss” just to make sure the end still happened the way she wanted.

      Like

      1. Dana

        She’s planning to become the daughter of a Fae & a powerful member of the Winter Court. Why wouldn’t it work? She’s sticking her head in the noose.

        Like

  11. permeakra

    So, Steal, Break, and Kill? Girl, that’s hardcore. And you aim to be the antithesis of the Bard… This is going to be interesting.

    Like

    1. Akim

      Yeap.
      The Bard still thinks Malicia is the enemy.
      And Catherines goal makes her the spiritual successor of Amadeus.
      His goal was to rip out the gods heart and show it to them bevor he kills them and breaks the mold.
      He taught Cat to see the stories, to be a writer instead of teaching her his own Role to inherit.
      This is what this Arc is about.
      Cat entered the Realm of Story to learn Writing by choice instead of instinct.

      Like

    2. Rq

      We know she has take, and break seems very very in character, but I don’t see kill as being an aspect for her. My money is on “inspire” to parallel Blacks “lead” the way take and (presumably) break parallel conquer and destroy

      Like

      1. stevenneiman

        My thought is Choose. It would allow her to perform such feats as resisting influence and mind control, and possibly also to break free from the story for a few key moments, like when the story calls for the bard to escape instead of getting killed.

        Like

      2. sheer_falacy

        I think some kind of resistance to influence and mind control would be very appropriate. In the whole story, probably the things that pissed her off the most were when Black mind controlled her not to interfere with the hangings and later when she realized that the only reason she cared at all about the hangings was because her Name was trying to force her into a redemption arc. She really hated both of those.

        Like

      3. permeakra

        “Kill” is what she declared, and the law of narrative is that statements come back to bite you in your ass.

        Like

  12. This level of determination makes me think that even if Cat loses her try at Dread Empress’ crown and ends up a disembodied head in the Hall of Screams, she’ll just lead a revolt to give Praes its first “democratic government”.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Applemonkeyman

    Typo:
    we’d be screwed the first time we ran into a hero that could shit it down.

    I think you meant

    we’d be screwed the first time we ran into a hero that could shUt it down.

    Like

  14. Shequi

    What Hakram’s multiple attempts at Finding her a Story tell me is that there are a lot of potential branches that Tale can take. She needs to be very careful or she will end up in one with an ending she doesn’t like at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nairne

      That’s why she is stacking the “facts” in her favor. The heirloom, the prophecy, etc.
      Though I admit the prophecy part could is weak. Although, most traditional stories end with the prophecy fulfilled so it could work. It could also be the kind of wishful thinking that drags her into deep shit, and we still haven’t seen her in that kind of situation in this book. Half dead and escaping the fire she created in the first book or full on dead and having to scrap for a win against both Aqua and William (I admit it went decently well for her, but it was still a pretty close thing), losing Seek to the corruption devil (demon? having a hard time remembering which one it was), take your pick. Cat just has a knack for being thinking she is on the bottom, just to make a wrong step and fall into an even deeper and darker ravine. Still, as they say, the Goddes of Fortune waits in the deepest hell (or if you like that analogy, then think of Pandora’s Box).

      It all depends on how much she prepares and how well she can execute, and improvise (and I bet she will have to because she doesn’t have enough time to read all the stories).

      Like

      1. stevenneiman

        Devils are the small fry, which there are an infinite number of and I think also infinite varieties of. Demons are the big guys, whose presence is enough to turn the tide of battle of defeat entire armies.

        Like

  15. Dylan Tullos

    I’ve been reading this story for a while, but this chapter helped me realize some things that I hadn’t quite been able to put into words earlier. I was impressed both by Catherine’s understanding of how power comes from people at the bottom, not just those at the top, and by her failure to think through the logical consequences of her thoughts.

    The people of Callow do not want to be ruled by foreigners. Even when they’re not particularly fond of their own nobility, their lords and ladies are still Callowan, not Praes. Countess Marchford is many things, but no one could call her a puppet of Praes, dancing on the Dread Empire’s strings; Catherine Foundling, on the other hand, is the Black Knight’s Squire, a loyal servant of the Dread Empire. Rule by her is rule by Praes, no matter how she tries to disguise it. Malicia and Black can give her as much rope as they please, but at the end of the day, she jumps when Black says “Frog”.

    The Dread Empire slaughtered Callow’s army. Their Governors robbed the country for years, and their soldiers murdered not only those who rebelled, but their families. Every one of the fifty people that Black hanged at the inn had friends and distant relatives, and none of them are going to forget that Catherine Foundling murdered their loved ones. The next generation of Callowan heroes aren’t magically going to support Praes because one collaborator saved a city from the devils that another faction of Pres unleashed on them. Black seriously underestimates the human ability to hold a grudge, especially against foreign invaders with a radically different culture.

    Catherine talks about how a little boy gave an orc a crown of flowers, but that orc would have crucified the child in an instant if Catherine gave the order. The Legions have been killing traitors, and the families of traitors, for a very long time. A single moment of joy and gratitude can’t erase that legacy, and it can’t erase the knowledge that your “savior” would torture you to death if their superior officer told them to.

    Time and time again in history, we see tyrannies fall not when they are at their most oppressive, but when they are seeking to reform and loosen their grip. The people they rule still remember the bloodshed and terror of the old days, and they no longer have the same overwhelming, constant fear to keep them in line. Catherine thinks that “democracy” means progress in the direction she wants, or at least a direction she’s comfortable with; but if the people of Callow actually had a vote, they’d string her mentor up on the gallows and put her right next to him.

    Like

    1. agumentic

      Except people of Callow already think that Catherine Founding is “one of ours” in the end. For every killed traitor there is a Fifteen’s soldier and his family and friends, a servant of a Baroness Kendal, someone from Marchford or just a Callowian who is afraid to speak out.

      Peasants may prefer Callowan nobles (though that could be argued), but the efficient suppression left them no open way to rebel. But now they don’t need to – because they can just support Catherine Founding, who is surely leads a quiet rebellion, reading her forces until their’s weakness to strike. She even managed to put one of the better leaders of Liesse’s rebellion – Procerian plot, that – into the ruling council, and accepts rebellion’s soldiers into her legion. She protected a town against a horrible demon, released by the actual Praesian noble, and even turned away from the execution before being order by Black Knight. Every good thing that comes from the government is probably her idea too. What more arguments do you need? She is certainly on the Callow’s side, outsmarting every enemy.

      People will go for surprising strides to explain the conflicting ideas in their heads, such as “Praes is bad” and “My life’s getting better” and “Non-noble Praesians are not that different or bad when you get to know them” and “If I openly rebel, I’ll die”. Cat offers a very good solution for that conundrum, for all the above reasons.

      Liked by 3 people

  16. Letouriste

    Hum…your cat is pretty much in agreement with our time;)
    This is exactly the philosophy building up everywhere in democracy these days.the enemy being most corporations,the sheeps trusting flowering words without thinking much(in politics and religion) and the people lacking access to modern education and basic ressources.

    Here the first two are Names and people living in the past(you shown that when only the veterans were willing to participate in the rebellion,not the young people) and the third is people in procer.they know only warfare for so long and are short-sighted

    Like

  17. Dylan Tullos

    Agumentic, Catherine asks one of her own Callowan soldiers what he thinks of the Empire and the Empress. His response is a four-letter word. As far as I can tell, no one in Callow is loyal to the Dread Empire; some people are willing to fight the Legions, and others aren’t, but there is no substantial “Team Praes” faction in Callow.

    Procer certainly supported the rebellion, but the First Prince can’t make peasants rebel if they’re happy under the Dread Empire. Any attempts to label the rebellion as a “Proceran plot” will be roughly as successful as the unending Soviet efforts to claim that every independence movement in the Baltics was the product of the CIA. Whatever Praes says, the rebels know full well that they chose to rise, and that they would do it again if they thought it would work this time.

    The narrative of “Catherine Founding as secret rebel” only works until it becomes obvious that she’s not going to rebel. Then she’s not a hero, just another collaborator in the service of the Black Knight. Given how hated Black is throughout Callow, her close association with him is only going to undermine her legitimacy over time. No one is more despised than the man who conquered the Kingdom and murdered the families of rebels, and Catherine is his handpicked apprentice.

    All those non-noble Praesian legionaries seem like nice folks, but Callow’s people still remember how they hanged little Alice. She was only nine at the time, but her da was a rebel, and the sergeant dragged her to the gallows and strung her up right next to him. Every time that nice sergeant gets a drink, the barkeep remembers how she pulled the lever and murdered his daughter’s best friend. That’s not the kind of memory that goes away because someone tips generously and tells drunken stories about how much they miss their family.

    I agree that people will go to surprising lengths to construct a consistent narrative out of inconsistent facts. But the fundamental narrative is still resistance; finding a way to free Callow, put the Black Knight’s head on a pike, and hang every Praesian legionary from the nearest tree. If Catherine wanted to be part of that narrative, she could try to make herself Queen. If she chooses to ignore what the people of Callow want, she’ll be discarded in favor of a new champion.

    Catherine is trapped in her own narrative, where the blood feuds of centuries, prejudice against worshipers of Evil, and xenophobia about orcs and goblins can be magically set aside because she has better ideas. She thinks that she’s fighting the Gods, and she might be able to win that battle. The battle she can’t win- the battle that it’s absurd to even try to win- is the one where she sells Callowans on the idea that being subjects of the Dread Empress is something they want.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. esryok

      Could go either way. I doubt we’ll see a full scale rebellion again, for a couple reasons:
      1. There is no critical mass of rebellious people left in Callow
      – There was *just* a rebellion which saw many of Callow’s die-hard patriots die hard at the hands of Black.
      – The political narrative of “Cat/Praes is the worst” has been muddled by Black’s long efforts to maintain apathy in the latest generation and Cat’s own actions, e.g. establishing the ruling council, sparing Baroness Dormer, and saving Marchford and Liesse from hellspawn. Folks need a clearer sign of Evil to rally against her.
      2. There’s nobody to rally behind.
      – The only nobles of note left in Callow are the Countess of Marchford (Cat) and the Duchess of Daoine (not trusted by the rest of Callow).
      – If we believe Black, there won’t be any new Callowan heroes until Cat fails in her Role.
      3. The Narrative won’t allow it.
      – We just had a rebellion. It’s too soon for a sequel.
      – Cat is positioning herself as the protector of Callow. A tragedy about her failing to protect Callow is more satisfying than a tragedy about Callow not giving her a chance to do so.

      So if Cat goes down I think it’ll have to be from the Tenth Crusade and the House of Light’s condemnation. Or fallout from Winter’s/Summer’s meddling. Or the Guild of Assassins murders her. Or Masego betrays her ’cause something something corruption. Or the High Ridge tribe screws her over. Or Akua turns Callow into a new layer of Hell.

      Oh what lovely choices Fate has.

      Like

    2. jonnnney

      What Catherine is really doing is selling Callowans on the idea that a Meritocracy is better than a Monarchy. In the old Callow non-named peasant can never be a baron, count, or king no matter how skilled they are or how hard they work. In the new Callow a skilled non-named peasant who works hard enough and long enough might become the governor of a province. She has broken the Aristocracy, given the every man the opportunity to raise himself up from obscurity, and improved the quality of life of everyone in the country.

      Would you rather live in an evil empire with a high quality of life and the opportunity for advancement or in a good kingdom where you’re born poor and you die poor no matter how hard you work?

      Like

      1. permeakra

        Erg, dude. It is a medieval-style world. Meaning that for 90+% people the world ends beyond plains of their village and their lord is a representative of God on Earth. Meritocracy is not a thing there.

        Cities? There are some people their that would like meritocracy in a form of plutocracy to take place, because they have money.

        And other people? They don’t give a damn.

        Like

  18. Rhino

    Plup~
    So, to begin with, french speaker here. I blame any occurence of bad english and/or insufferable arrogance on my origins.

    Anyway, I finally caught up with the story after a year of on-and-off reading, and I thought that I had to tell you how much I loved it. Cat is imo a great protagonist, her allies are a lovable bunch and you genuinly made me laugh a few time (for context, it’s not something that happens that much to me, and you did it through another language). So, yay to you !

    As a sidenote, as a bisexual I was very, very happy to come across a main character who is one. So yeah, my liking of Cat may not be that obective, but this the first time in my life that I can indentify myself sexually with a protagonist, so sue me. Double yay to you !

    Finally, I currently have a FATE pen&paper rpg campaign inspired by your take on Names, Roles, Aspects and Fate (heh) running strong for five months now. I put together a bunch of genre-savvy fantasy geeks, and we’re having a great time. Triple yay to you !

    Anyway, keep going strong, hope you are having as a good time writing his story that I’m having reading it.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Yitzi

    “The Gods disagreed on the nature of things: some believed their children should be guided to greater things, while others believed that they must rule over the creatures they had made.”

    I’m starting to suspect that these might not correspond to Good and Evil per se, but rather that Good and Evil are both of the “rule over the creatures they had made” persuasion…and Cat is the champion of the other side.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Letouriste

      Yeah,i had this impression when she resurrected herself:maybe some god helped her and encourage her in the background.
      The way creation is now the “rule over” faction probably hurt badly the other side.
      Procer is on the other side,they don’t depend of heroes,but they are way too late and underdeveloped.their first prince is a warmongster and the population have Been oppressed for one or two generation,only been used for dumb war.
      Maybe that god faction is struggling right now and need cat to change things

      Like

    2. jonnnney

      Remember the opening to the Prologue is a quote from the “Book of All Things” which is essentially the Bible of the good gods in Callow. It is going to be biased against the Gods Below.

      Like

    3. Dana

      No: the champion of the “not rule over their creatures” side is obviously Cordelia. She doesn’t have a Name. Cat does. Cat lost the game at the beginning of the story.

      Like

  20. Dylan Tullos

    ersyok, the question is not “can Black terrify Callow into obedience?”. The answer to that question is Yes, at least most of the time. The question is “Can Catherine make Callowans feel like they’re okay with being part of the Dread Empire of Praes?”

    The entire mythology and culture of Callow is built around hostility to Praes. Their great Heroes and Kings fought against the Dread Empire, and every child grows up hearing stories of the people who refused to surrender to the forces of Evil. The only difference between active rebels and obedient subjects is the belief that Callow can win; if they thought they would prevail, the country would rise up in a heartbeat.

    Black can win battles, and he can terrify people into submission. But he can’t make Callowans into Praesi, and he can’t make them forget their culture or their long, proud tradition of resistance to the Dread Empire.

    Catherine is casting herself as the protector of Callow. The real tragedy won’t be her failure to protect Callow; Catherine is good at violence, and he knows how to fight outside enemies. Catherine’s great sin and failing is hubris, and it should be her downfall. She always thinks that she can fight harder and win through, that she can beat any foe. But when the people she seeks to protect are her enemy, when ordinary Callowans finally realize that they don’t need Heroes and rise up on their own, Catherine will finally see that she can’t protect her people from their own choices.

    Like

    1. Soronel Haetir

      Except that those stories aren’t being told nearly so often (or openly) as they once were. Black has been in control of the education system for a couple decades now, the people just having kiddies of their own are the first to have gone through that entire system. And you can be sure that Callowan schools under the Dread Empire are not telling any history of successful resistance. They are instead playing up every bit of corruption, self-dealing and uncaring attitude that the now-dead nobles displayed. And also being sure to point out how taxes are so very much lower now (remember, that is why Black was angry with at Mazus – Mazus was making people care again).

      Like

      1. Unorignal

        Parents teach their kids stories and not every child goes to an Imperial school keep that in mind, yes it’s a logical assumption that is happening but the process would take generations and they don’t have mandatory schooling for everyone.
        Also, this is a high fantasy setting, Information and stories can’t just propagate online like what those of us who have grown up in the internet age expect.

        Like

    2. jonnnney

      Actually the answer to the question, “Can Black terrify Callow into obedience?” is no. Black does terrify most Callowans, but he achieves obedience through apathy not fear. If he only ruled through fear then there would be a rebellion every year and every new hero would have immediate backing from the populace.

      The culture of Callow isn’t just hostile to Praes. It is hostile to the Principality for when they treated it like a protectorate after the crusades. It is hostile to the Golden Bloom due to what the elves did to the Deoraithe. Callow is better than the rest of the continent.

      Why would the ordinary people of Callow rise up? They don’t need heroes, but they still need rulers. “Our lives are significantly improved by these heroes, but we don’t really need them. Lets murder all of them because of reasons!!!!”

      Like

    3. M

      Black has a spy network. Networks like that are basically designed to break cultures over time. Take Catherine-she grew up in Laure , and as such was influenced by Callowan sulture, but her first thought when she desired a stronger Callow wasn’t about starting a rebellion, it was about joining the legions.

      Callow’s culture is _already massively changing_, and that’s what makes Black such a great… not!villain for me.

      Like

  21. Dylan Tullos

    In a peasant society, education usually isn’t about school. Farm kids work during the day, and they learn their lessons from their parents and older family members. The stories that their parents and grandparents tell them shape their worldview, and they’re not going to prefer some Praesi bureaucrat’s version of history to their own granddad’s story of the final battle against Black.

    This is Catherine’s fundamental problem. She’s not just trying to say “you can’t beat Black.” That’s an easy narrative to sell. She’s trying to say “you want to join Black.” You want to join the man who murdered your great-uncle, who hanged your next-door neighbor and his entire family, who put his boot on Callow’s neck.

    It doesn’t matter how corrupt or despicable Callow’s nobles are. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and it’s easy to forget how much you hated the old Baron when he died bravely fighting against the Praesi. Whatever the Praesi tell them, Callow’s people remember the Queen of Blades. They remember the First Crusade, and the fall of Dread Empress Triumphant. Erasing the memory of a culture is almost impossible, and it’s even more difficult when everyone knows what you’re trying to do.

    For thousands of years, Callow fought against the Praesi, and they won more than they lost. That legacy matters. When Black tells them to forget, to submit, to admit that they’re inferior and that they can’t possibly resist the Dread Empire, it just makes them more determined to hold on to their identity as a people. The last rebellion had little chance of success, pitting an army of farmers against the Legions of Terror and an untested band of heroes against the Calamities, yet thousands rose anyway.

    I’m trying to imagine a narrative that would make Americans happy to be ruled by Russians, or Russians happy to be ruled by Americans. I can’t think of one, and the rivalry between America and Russia is a historical eyeblink compared to the endless conflict between Praes and Callow. Even the Gallowborne, who joined the Legions of Terror to avoid being hanged, have too much integrity to buy what Black is selling. Catherine may be the only Callowan who wouldn’t rise up if she thought that she could win.

    Propaganda works best when it’s reinforcing beliefs that already exist. Low taxes are nice, and nobles can be awful, but Callowans aren’t eager to believe that they’d be better off as a province in somebody else’s empire. They aren’t enthused about a chance to bend the knee to people who think murdering an entire family is an efficient way to punish one person’s treason. Black’s agents can talk all they want, and people will smile and nod in public, but the stories they tell behind closed doors are stories of Heroes, not tales of good collaborators who did as they were told.

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    1. Soronel Haetir

      Perhaps if Black’s goal were actually getting the Callowans to _like_ the Empire I would agree with you. But up to this point his aim has been much less ambitious, apathy is good enough for his purposes. Apathy ensures that the Callowans won’t rebel, once that apathy is deep seated enough then would come time to make the peasants actually choose the Empire. It’s no accident that the first serious Callowan rebellion kicked off after a Preasi governor got greedy.

      Changing the minds of Callowans is likely Cat’s long-term job (at least as Malicia and Black see things).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Dylan Tullos

        There are different kinds of apathy. One form is “Who cares who’s in charge?” Callow doesn’t have this form of apathy. Twenty thousand peasants rose with Countess Marchford; you don’t get that kind of rebellion out of people who aren’t concerned.

        Another form of apathy is “Why bother, nothing’s going to change anyway.” This is quite powerful in Callow, and it explains why more young people didn’t rise. They don’t remember an independent Callow, and they’re used to thinking of the Legions as invincible. This kind of apathy is powerful, but it’s also fragile. If the Exiled Prince had beaten Catherine, all of the fence-sitters would have seen that the Empire wasn’t invincible. The problem with using fear and despair as motivators is that your first major defeat will show the people who still hate you that you can be beaten.

        The greedy governor was just the trigger; Callow’s people were looking for an excuse and an opportunity to rebel, and they would have found it sooner or later. Despite all of Black’s work, they were still willing to rise up decades after their conquest and occupation.

        Catherine is Black’s apprentice. Right now, the people of Callow are eager to see one of their own in power, and they’re anticipating the day when she betrays her masters and drives the Praesi out. In the long term, her continued loyalty to Black will take away any legitimacy she has in the eyes of her people.

        Convincing a nation that they should be happy with rule by an alien culture, especially one they have a long, proud history of resisting, is never an easy job. The Gallowborne lieutenant says it best when Catherine asks him what he thinks about Praes. “F*** the Empire,” he said, spitting to the side again. “F*** the Tower, and f*** the f****** Empress too.” If that’s the reaction that Praes inspires in a man who serves in it’s armies, they’re a long way from apathy.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. jonnnney

      How many times are you gonna post the same comment that ignores fundamental aspects of the story and the nature of the world the story is in?

      Book 2 Prologue
      “We are running out of options, uncle,” Cordelia admitted. “The longer we delay, the more the Empire strengthens their grip on Callow. The reports are unanimous: outside the cities, most of the Kingdom no longer cares it is under occupation. They do not think the Legions of Terror can be beaten and the standard of living for the peasantry under Praes is better than it was under the Fairfax dynasty. They have no stomach for rebellion and if we wait a few more years I am afraid they might actually resist an attempt to liberate them.”

      You might think you can compare Americans to Callowans for some strange reason but it is TRUTH in this world that most of the kingdom does not care that it is under occupation.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Dylan Tullos

        The main plot of Book 2 is Callow rebelling against the Dread Empire. Thousands of peasants decide to risk their lives fighting against the Legions, knowing that they’re going up against the armies that conquered Callow and the Calamities who slew their greatest heroes. That’s curious behavior for people who “don’t care that they’re under occupation”.

        Large numbers of Callowans want to rebel against Praes when the Dread Empire is at its strongest, when their harvests are good, and when the rebellion is being led by a Hero whose leadership skills are practically nonexistent. Clearly, the rebels aren’t “apathetic” about who runs their country. As for resisting liberation, Callow has bad historical memories of being “liberated” and turned into a client state of the Principate. They’re not interested in changing from a province of Praes to a province of the Principate, but that doesn’t mean they don’t dream of being free from foreign occupation altogether.

        Peasants are never fond of foreign armies, and they’re justifiably scared of rebellions that could lead to the Legions burning their crops and hanging their children. The real test of loyalty isn’t “Are they willing to obey when we’ll kill them if we don’t?” but “Will they be loyal if we take the army away?”. “Loyalty” inspired by fear of consequences and the apathy that comes with despair are not remotely the same thing as actual contentment. If people weren’t concerned about who was in charge, Black wouldn’t need to have an army on hand to keep his boot on Callow’s neck.

        You keep saying that Black doesn’t rule through fear, that Callowans don’t really care who’s in charge. If that’s the case, why does Praes need Legions to garrison the country? Couldn’t they just take the soldiers away and have Callowans remain loyal without Legion swords at their throats?

        Taking one quote out of context ignores the larger narrative: Callowans hate Praes, and they hate being occupied. Lieutenant Farrier serves in the Fifteenth, fighting for Praes, and his feelings about the Dread Empire are expressed in one four-letter word. He’s not resisting because he thinks that the rebellion is doomed, not because he “doesn’t care”. If he had Malicia and Black at his mercy, he’d put their heads in a noose and watch them kick.

        I’m surprised that you would accuse me of ignoring fundamental aspects of the story when half of Book I and most of Book II are about Callow rebelling against Praes. You say that the truth is that Callowans don’t care about the occupation, but I guess all of the thousands of peasant rebels who fought with Countess Marchford and the Lone Swordsman didn’t get the news.

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      2. M

        Plot of book 2 isn’t Callow rebelling against the Dread Empire, it is about an antagonist to Cat _failing_ to start as massive rebellion against the empire as he wanted to. If you want, it’s about old Callow (swordsman, heroes, rebellion against occupation) against the new Callow (Catherine, villains, we are a province of praes now). And the new Callow _won_. That story arc is done, settled, finished – Callow won’t rebel until Catherine either completely _fails_ in her ambitions or gets new ones.

        As for the quote fromt he captain you keep mentioning… That was before the battle with the devils, when gallowborne hated Cat. After, they were seen fanatically defending her against any criticism. Think that signifies change in opinions too?

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    3. permeakra

      >to hold on to their identity as a people.

      You assume that there is a nation of Callowan people.

      There is not one. Nations are a thing of industrialized period, because they are not a thing if there is no mass media and mass culture.

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  22. Metrux

    Well, to compliment the others who are speaking of the rebelion, I must say some simple diferences from this world to our own, since from a common reader vision ir won’t appear.

    First and foremost, this world is ruled by actual Gods who intervene in the world, not directly, but through a kind of subtle mind control. We see it in heroes and in vilains, it is very prominent, but you forget that EVERYONE is influenced by them, just not as much as the Named. When a Hero appears and say aloud “I WILL free this kingdom!” the people will rally. They will feel the will to rally and rebel, even if they were fine before, and will account it to the Hero’s charm. Besides, the percentage of population who rised to the war was trully small, evermore if you notice how half the troops were the, previously, almost destroyed military of the kingdom. Thus, the first point is: the story shapes people in this reality ALOT more than in our own.

    Secondly, I must notice how death is diferently viewed troughtout the ages. In the beggining, death was common, we struggled to live each day. We evolved, and life got easier. Then, we started killing each other more and more, since the world around us couldn’t give us that much danger. Finally, war became a relative rare thing, medicine allowed us to commonly outlive the old nobles, and even punishing of crimes has become lenient. We now see death as something trully atrocious, that should not happen and will be seen once in a couple of years, usually in someone that you don’t know very well. Now, looking at the picture in the world of this story… Death is commonplace. You have a war every once in a while, there are plagues and magic, monsters, devils and fae, even angels and Named bringing death all the time. Even if you live without war, pest and famine, you will still know people who died to hazards or to Named shenanigans. When you see death every month instead of every couple of years, it looses part of it’s importance. Thus, the second point is: these peasants may very well not care half as much about these death’s than we would, ESPECIALLY when the new way makes things better, with less deaths and suffering.

    Thirdly, you must see that the Story of every place in here is NOT shaped by theyr full history, only by the Role that this place takes. What does this means in practical terms is that when this Role is broken, a time of Change will come, not only in the way of life, but on the way of thinking and feeling. What Change this will be, will depend on who holds the rein and molds this place. This is precisely why Black can’t make it himself and neither control Cat into doing it, it must come from within the kingdom, since Callow is not completely part of Praes. As long as she is the one making the choices, and doesn’t fail in her purpose, the whole reality will slightly bend to have her way, until it fixates in a new Role for Callow.

    Lastly, but not least, although it’s not story related, I am not a native english speaker, thus there may (and probably will) be errors in this big text. I hope you don’t put it against my arguments, since my errors come from this lack, and not of another kind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dylan Tullos

      Metrux:

      Your mastery of English is considerably better than my mastery of any language but English. I shudder at the thought of a native Spanish speaker reading one of my old posts in Spanish.

      I agree with much of what you’re saying. Names and Roles do change the nature of reality, and both Praes and Callow are forced into a Story. The problem that Black and Catherine have is that the Story the Gods tell favors the status quo. Triumphant can conquer the continent, but in the end the world unites to bring her down. Though I do believe Triumphant was far more capable and successful than practically all of the other Tyrants, she had the Story working with her in the first part, helping her to conquer the whole continent. Once she won, the Story turned to the side of Good, since Evil can’t be allowed a permanent win. The more she tapped into the power of Narrative, the more vulnerable she became to the underlying belief that Evil has to lose in the end.

      If the villain won, there would be no story. The First and Second Crusades conquer Praes, but in the end Terriblis II drives the crusaders out of his Empire. Terriblis II was also a capable and brilliant ruler, but he did not win entirely through his own ability any more than Triumphant lost entirely through hers. The Story wanted Praes to lose, but if it disappeared, there would be recurring villain for the next chapter. Black complains that the deck is stacked against Evil, but the deck is actually rigged in favor of repetition; Evil invades, Good drives them out, but Evil is always allowed to return to their den and plot the next invasion.

      Right now, the Gods seek to free Callow so that the Story can continue, with Praes invading every few years. They’re like an author who always wants to reset the world of their story to the way it was, and while they haven’t succeeded perfectly, they’ve largely managed to keep Callow and Praes locked in the same old cycle. Black seeks to break that cycle, but he can’t do it as long as the Story the Gods tell has power.

      Black has great power, but that power is limited by his Role. His solution is to share power with the Legions and their commanders, ordinary people whose rules aren’t prescribed by the narrative. Though they have less power, they have more agency, and they can prevail where Black and the Calamities could not win on their own.

      Black isn’t just interested in finding a new Role for Callow; he wants to break the Roles and the Story altogether. In the long term, this means putting more and more agency in the hands of unNamed, like the Legionaries and commanders who conquered Callow. Any change that provides more agency to ordinary people weakens the Story, which is all about Named.

      The problem with weakening the Story is that Black doesn’t get to pick and choose. Callow relies on Heroes because they’ve always had lots of them, but Procer has only one Hero, and their government and military don’t depend on having Named in charge. As Callow becomes more like Procer, they won’t need Named to tell them to rise up, and they’ll become more capable of thinking and planning for themselves.

      If Black succeeds, and the Story weakens, then Callow will behave less like a Good nation and more like an ordinary nation. And ordinary nations hate being occupied by foreigners who come from a radically different culture, much less foreigners who are actually members of different species. Black’s two goals are to break the power of Stories and to add Callow to the Praesi Empire; unfortunately for him, those goals are largely incompatible. As soon as Praes suffers a military defeat or another round of civil wars, Callow will rise up and reclaim their independence, whether they have a Story behind them or not.

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      1. nick012000

        I really doubt that. The whole point of Squire’s Story is that she’s turning Callow from a Good nation to an Evil nation, by amplifying their negative traits, most notably their stubborn independance. The next time the forces of Good come knocking, if Squire’s been successful, the people of Callow will go “fuck off” and rally behind her, regardless of whether or not they’re still being ruled by the Tower.

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  23. Aarik

    Minor… Nitpick? Random fact?

    The story of David vs Goliath has a bit more to it that gets overlooked to turn it into a faith allegory or a bigger harder fall thing:

    David was offered the standard armor, shield, sword setup thing Goliath was using for their dual-

    And David went “Wait, I’m not a soldier, I don’t know how to use this shit, I’mma bring the sling I’ve been using to kill wolves for years instead, I know how to use that.”

    The story was about not fighting your enemy where they’re strong. David fought using the tools he was best at, rather than what was expected of him. That’s how the big nation’s get you, they trick you into trying to fight them the same way they do, ‘fairly’/’honorably’ where they have all the advantages.

    Also a little bit of not trying to be what you aren’t.

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  24. Dylan Tullos

    nick012000, I think that Callow’s stubborn independence is a fundamental trait which isn’t really Good or Evil. Callowans fought against Praesan and Proeran occupation, even though one nation is Evil and the other is Good, because neither nation was Callowan. I don’t see how a strong sense of independence is inherently an Evil trait, or how that independent streak could somehow become compatible with accepting rule by the Tower. Poles don’t like being ruled by Russians, but that doesn’t mean they like being ruled by Germans, either. The single biggest obstacle to Catherine’s legitimate rule is that she’s a vassal of the Black Knight and a servant of the Tower; as long as she retains those qualities, she has no leg to stand on when she accuses others of being foreign puppets.

    Black’s long-term plan is to weaken the power of the Story and the Named it creates. As the Story grows less powerful, the automatic tendency of ordinary people to rally behind their Named grows weaker, and those ordinary people gain more agency. Most of Black’s top people are personally loyal to him, not to the Name of Black Knight, and they wouldn’t automatically support his successor.

    As Callowan Names grow less powerful, Catherine won’t be able to rely as much upon the automatic rallying effect. She’ll have to provide good reasons for the people of Callow to stand behind her, defending the Tower against the Procerans, and the use of the words “defending the Tower” will automatically inspire Callowans to reject her. Lieutenant Farrier serves in the Gallowborne under Catherine’s personal command, and he wouldn’t throw a copper to Malicia or Black if they were starving in the gutter. If she can’t inspire her own soldiers with any sense of loyalty to Praes, then she has no chance with the larger population.

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    1. esryok

      “The single biggest obstacle to Catherine’s legitimate rule is that she’s a vassal of the Black Knight and a servant of the Tower; as long as she retains those qualities, she has no leg to stand on when she accuses others of being foreign puppets.”

      I’m not so sure about this. Catherine is indeed subordinate to the Tower and a part of its power structure, but neither she nor the other Callowans we’ve seen regard her as acting in the best interests of Praes. Her efforts may well turn out to the Empire’s benefit, but this is a side effect of her actual goal “gain control of institutions within Praes to improve the lives of Callowans.”

      Callow is, apparently, legendarily insistent on holding grudges. For this reason I agree that Cat still has a lot of work to do to properly preserve the Callow as a nation within the Empire, on par with the Soninke/Goblin/Orc/Taghreb nations. But I continue to disagree that her approach is fundamentally incorrect. It’s looking good so far.

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      1. Dylan Tullos

        M: The Farrier quote would only be “out of date” if he’d said anything to suggest that he changed his mind. As far as I know, he hasn’t. The Gallowborne were enthusiastic about defending their own people from devils summoned by a cackling Praesi aristocrat. That doesn’t mean that Farrier or his people have changed their minds about Praesi in general, or that Farrier’s “F*** the Tower” attitude has gone away.

        esryok, it’s very easy for an approach to look good when the Empire is strong and the harvest is abundant. The real test of success is how Callowans feel about the Praesi when the Empire looks weak or the harvest fails.

        Many Callowans view Catherine as acting in Callow’s best interests. Many of the Legions view Catherine as acting in the Dread Empire’s best interests. What happens when those interests don’t overlap, when Catherine is faced with a choice between doing what’s best for Callow and doing what’s best for the Praesi?

        Black told Catherine that Praes’s population is still growing. Sooner or later, food imports from Callow, Procer, and the Free Cities won’t be able to keep up with the constantly expanding number of mouths to feed. At that point, Praes will have to either reduce their own population by sending hordes out to fight and die, or start taking a larger share of the Callowan harvest. The first option would destroy the Legions of Terror, reducing them to the ineffective mobs that Praes used to rely on. The second option would motivate Callowan resistance, since the Praesi would be starving Callowans to ensure that they had enough food for their own people. Think of the Irish Potato Famine, except there wouldn’t be any blight or disease, just a steady stream of food flowing south while Callowan cities go hungry. I can’t think of anything more likely to destroy Catherine’s status than being forced to choose between the well-being of her Callowan subjects and her Praesi masters.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. esryok

        The solution will have to be to cut down on the Praesi birthrate (well, the *actual* solution probably involves lots of death during the “Uncivil Wars” but I’m pretending we don’t know that for the sake of discussion).

        Previous attempts failed because the Praesi narrative relied on the unrest created by population growth, but if Cat & the Dark Council are successful in weakening the existing “Praes grasps, Callow is grasped” story then Malicia might be able to implement population controls and have them stick.

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  25. Dylan Tullos

    esryok:

    I’m still somewhat puzzled about the origins of the “Uncivil Wars”. We know that the Truebloods are crippled and steadily losing power, and that the Legions are dedicated to Black. The only real threat to Malicia’s power must be Heiress/Diabolist, and I don’t know what she’s up to. I suspect it’s going to be big and successful, though; we can’t have “Uncivil Wars” unless Heiress successfully destabilizes a Dread Empress who is currently at the height of her power.

    Civil wars or foreign invasions are ultimately short-term solutions, so the only viable option in the long term is the population control you mention. Maybe Malicia’s roundabout approach to solving the problem will work, but I foresee problems with Praes liking conquest too much. Population control is hard and unpopular, while conquering other nations to steal their food is the Praesi way.

    I feel that the Wandering Bard has a good point; all of the “practical evil” is a direct result of having Malicia and Black in charge. Any system that relies on a handful of people is fundamentally unstable, so I’m curious to see what Malicia and the Calamities are doing to prepare the system for their own deaths, and ultimately Catherine’s death. Lasting peace and stability can only be achieved if Dread Empire Foolhardius doesn’t take over and declare war on everyone, which is a very likely eventual outcome if we look at Praes history.

    If Catherine and the Calamities win, I want them to win the hard way, with capable opponents and dramatic tension. I feel that Catherine has been winning for too long, and that she’s due for a serious defeat soon, just to remind her and us that you can’t always win through bravery and determination. This story frequently reminds us that only Heroes get to win the easy way, and I want the Calamities and Catherine to go up against enemies who are their equals or betters. So far, I can’t think of a single true, lasting defeat that Team Calamity has suffered, and I want that to change. Invincible Villains are just as uninteresting as Invincible Heroes.

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    1. lennymaster

      You forget that Black is already weakening the the Story and thus Tropes like the one that Evil always loses and that especially in feudalistic times like these people did not care the least about who ruled them as long as they were not hungry, aswell as the fact that callow already lives now for more than TWENTY YEARS under preasi rule.
      Also if you think that even a single one of her victories was easily attained, that even a single one of her plans went down without a hitch and she did not have to make plenty sacrifices, (the left side of her face wich is still completly numb and her permanent limp just to name a few) then you either have not really read the story or you have a really scewed view of what hardship means.
      I do hope that erratica will not be convinced to have Cat suffer into one foul tasting victory after another as so many authors do these days.
      Not every fight needs to grind our protagonists into the dust to be plenty dangerous and entertaining.

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      1. Dylan Tullos

        lennymaster:

        “Evil always loses” is getting weaker. That doesn’t mean that it’s being replaced by “Evil always wins”.

        If you believe that Callow doesn’t care enough to rebel, and Callow then rebels, you should revise your theory to fit with the facts, instead of insisting on the impossibility of something that already happened. Half of Book I and most of Book II focus on Callow fighting Praes; clearly, twenty years under Black’s tyranny hasn’t quite managed to break Callow’s spirit.

        One form of hardship is losing. Catherine hasn’t done a lot of that so far. Another form of hardship would be losing friends or loved ones. Who has Catherine lost?

        Every fight doesn’t need to be impossibly hard. But there’s a reason that most stories feature underdogs struggling against the odds, or at least have antagonists who are equal in strength to their protagonists. The Calamities are much more experienced and capable than the Heroes they go up against, and it robs their conflict of dramatic tension. In the same way, pitting Catherine against a strawman like the Lone Swordsman diminishes her value as a protagonist; beating up chumps just isn’t as impressive as going up against real opponents.

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    2. LostDeviljho

      A thought on the “Uncivil Wars” thing: Civil wars would be something that happens during a period of instability. Instability like, say, one of the two figureheads of the current empire biting it.

      We have the White Knight *and* the Black Knight in the free cities right now, and that’s obvious Nemesis material. They’ve clashed once already. They’ll probably clash again. Maybe even three times.

      You see where I’m going with this?

      And losing Amadeus would be a real loss, not just for the Empire, but for Catherine. He’s a… well, not father figure, that’s been stated several times at this point, but he *is* a mentor for her, one who she actually likes, and depends on for guidance more than a little bit.

      (The other option for someone to lose is Killian, and I don’t even want to think about that.)

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    3. JustSomeoneRandom

      Are you aware that people have been mentioning the gallowed fiercely defending Cat now. Ferrier also supported Cat and her ideals after the demon fight. Yes, he still hates the praesi. But he is currently on Cat’s side when it comes to getting Callow out of the pit it’s currently in.
      In a less radical way than the Adjudant, he is a supporter of Cat’s way, not a begrudging follower that will try to escape at the nearest chance.
      Black was doing something similar to what the Roman empire did when they assimilated a province, he gave them a mostly better life and only required them to follow Praesi rules in return. The remainder of Callow that was dissatisfied enough to rebel was already small, and with Cat solving the mistreatment by integrating Callow as a proper province, most of what was left after the rebellion failed is now growing closer to acceptance.
      Heck, even during the rebellion the rebels were unsatisfied with the volunteers. The majority was already apathetic and Cat is giving the rest a banner to rally behind. Cat isn’t a traitor in their eyes, she is their best shot at a better Callow for some, an example that this meritocracy might not be all that bad for others and just a new person in charge of taxes for the rest.
      Callow still isn’t happy with how things are going, but they aren’t angry anymore either.

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  26. SarahZero

    It’s speeches like this that makes me think Cat is going to break yet another part of creation, that of her own Name. Instead of succeeding the Black Knight, or even the White Knight, I fully expect her to make a new title, the Grey Knight. Neither truly Evil nor truly Good, the champion of the masses killing villains and heroes alike to allow people to make their own way. I think it fits what we’ve seen so far of her personality and goals. Cat might even be enough to break the pattern of stories (Good vs Evil) entirely, and usher in the age of neutrality where the sentient races are truly free or make their own world.

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  27. NPC

    I haven’t posted anything for a while but I feel the need to weigh in on the integration of Callow debate.

    1. The South of Callow didn’t explode in popular Rebellion. The Lone Swordsman, an army of mercenaries, and the Duke of Liesse invaded then the remaining knight and nobles rallied to their banner. While I have no doubt many of the levies were dissidents from across Callow but on the other hand how many were local farmer ordered to be there by the local nobles? Remember those same nobles who rose in rebellion were never removed from power in the South of Callow after the Conquest. Meaning the South was probably the least indoctrinated and least policed part of Callow.

    2. The rebellion of Liesse might be an indicator of strong support for rebellion remaining in Callow, true. But it could just as easily be the last gasp of a failing cause. Remember the last of Callow’s Knightly Orders were murdered in their sleep and the nobles turned on each other while the commoners sold them out to save their own skins. That’s not exactly the heroic doomed last stand stories are made of to motivate the next generation.

    3. The Lone Swordsman took Marchford in a surprise attack in the Epilogue of Book I. Not a popular uprising. An interesting fact to remember.

    4. Remember perspective is important, what one person’s eyes sees as the truth maybe very different from another’s. Catherine’s from Laure, the old capital of the Kingdom of Callow and a major center of trade. She, other city dwellers, and the more educated high classes no doubt have a skewed perspective of how much people care about the old Kingdom as they were the ones who benefited from it at least in terms of prestige and power. Furthermore it sounds like many of the ex-soldiers of Callow joining her Legion are probably in the same boat, city dwellers or from families with high levels of education, not peasants with farms and families to go back to. Meaning they might not be the most reliably way to judge the mood on an entire nation.

    5. The former Marchford soldiers are even more suspect as a good indication of the mood of Callow because they are from Marchford, one of the Southern cities not under direct governorship but rather ruled by a very competent noble with good reason to hate the Empire. Furthermore due to being on the wrong side of the rebellion, now they have to either go into exile as mercenaries uprooting their families and leaving their home behind or serve a new Named Countess who might or might not be loyal to Praes. They might not want to fight for the Empire but that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to fight against it either. Furthermore there’s always the possibility of group think, maybe they think by hating on the Empire their sending a message to Catherine that they are personally loyal to her alone or they’re trying to say that they’re behind her whether she reaches for the Crown of Callow or the Tower. Again perspective factors into this, Catherine is worried that her power base is fractured while the First Prince of Procer laments that Callow has already been corrupted, who’s right? We don’t know because we only have perspectives, not facts. Even the few facts we get are colored by the persons presenting them and methods used to gather them.

    6. I would recommend not trying to apply modern ideas of nationalism to a medieval setting, a fantasy setting, and especially not a medieval fantasy setting. Nationalism is a fairly new thing in the grand scheme of things and peasants are unlikely to have anything more then a vague idea what goes on the next town over.

    7. Population distribution is important to remember. Maybe this setting has enough magical healing, fewer plagues, and advanced farming techniques to support large cities but for the vast majority of human history you needed at least 90%, if not 95%, of the population working the fields just to have enough surplus food to support the other 10%. Again city dwellers, former soldiers, and the upper classes will have a different perspective of Callow then ignorant peasants and it’s very likely that those ignorant peasants out number the former by several orders of magnitude.

    8. The author has repeatedly foreshadowed that unrest will never go away. The tensions between the Soninke and Taghreb, the feuds between the Greenskins, and most importantly the Dukes of Liesse who never forgot they used to be kings in it’s own right before conquered by Callow. The possibility that if times get too hard that Callow will dust off old heraldry and reach for hidden weapons will always exist and that will never go away. You just need to suppress it military, convince the population that they’re better off under you, or make them think they have a stake in the Empire.

    9. I think many people underestimate cognitive dissonance in humans. We have an amazing ability to lie to ourselves especially when our pockets are being lined and we are given a target to hate. See the economic prosperity Callow has enjoyed with unrestricted access to Imperial trade routs and ports, for the next target to hate look across the mountains to Procer. Or did you think Black and the Empress didn’t know what they were doing fanning the flames of civil war in the Principate?

    10. The biggest problem in integrating conquered territory is usually racism. The conquered get abused by new nobles, greedy administrators, and occupying soldiers; then excluded from government, commerce, and military service. It’s a long slow process, that often fails, to get over it which is why Black started on it right away. The Thirteenth legion wasn’t just raised to cobble together come cavalry, save on manpower, and intimidate the South of Callow. Or did you think it was an accident the author mentioned Callow veterans from the Thirteenth legion were teaching in the academy and running business in the capital. They have been working at this scheme for more then twenty years.

    Sorry for getting so wordy. Any chance of a discussion forum? If one already exist could you point me to it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dylan Tullos

      NPC:

      Thank you for making so many good points. You’re right to draw attention to the fact that we are limited by perspective, and you’re correct in pointing out that rebellions are often too complicated to fit into a simple narrative.

      1. Plenty of rebellions are triggered by the arrival of foreign help, and I don’t think Procer’s assistance says anything about Callow’s feelings one way or the other. However, you’re right to remind out that plenty of peasants show up because that’s what they do when the local noble calls them up. Understanding motivations is always complicated; when a Praesi legionary asks, everyone is a loyal subject of the Dread Empire, and when your local knight asks, you’re ready to die for Callow. Discovering true opinions is not easy when there’s so much pressure to lie.

      2. Black does an excellent job defeating the rebellion tactically. He makes their defeat inglorious and hideously one-sided. Whether he’ll be able to defeat the larger spirit of rebellion…well, the jury’s still out on that one. Black is a master of winning battles, and even wars, but winning the peace is harder.

      3. Given how thoroughly the Eyes of the Empire seem to have infiltrated any local resistance, the Lone Swordsman was smart to rely on a surprise attack instead of a popular uprising. No evidence either way. Again, it’s really hard to tell what people are actually thinking when there are men with swords who might stab them if they say the wrong thing. Cheering the current winner is usually the safest approach, and it’s difficult to determine who’s a true believer when so many Callowans are doing their best not to get stabbed.

      4. These are really excellent points. No one really asks peasants what they think; instead, they tell them what to think. I’m not sure how you could even get an honest answer out of the peasantry at this point. Praise the old Kingdom too much, and you could draw the attention of the Empire’s Eyes; praise the Empire, and the local rebels could mark you for death when the rising begins. Better just to complain about the weather.

      5. I was actually referring to the Gallowborne, not the former Marchford soldiers. The Gallowborne volunteered to serve the Praesi as soldiers because the alternative was hanging, but they aren’t exactly fans. It’s worth noting that Cat’s answer to Lieutenant Farrier’s condemnation of the Empire is that “well, they may be evil, but they make the trains run on time.” This is somewhat unsettling; yes, the Praesi do have a better system of economic management, but they also use death row prisoners as human sacrifices and murder entire families when one member rebels.

      6. I wasn’t applying a modern idea of nationalism, but a medieval one. Medieval peasants didn’t get particularly upset over what lord ruled them, but Christian peasants wouldn’t exactly be overjoyed to find themselves under the rule of Satanists. Since Praes openly worships Evil, it’s not just a matter of whether you pay taxes to Lord A or Lord B. And Callow clearly does have some sense of national identity, since they don’t like the thought of being ruled by the Good-aligned Procer. All of the text evidence suggests that the Callowan idea of nationalism, though very different from the modern form, is alive and well. Even Black’s plan involves using a Callowan Squire to harness that nationalism rather than trying to wipe it out.

      7. Yes! And I suspect that many peasants are focused primarily on getting the harvest in and praying that armies stay far away from their village. They can still be anti-Praesi, but they’re not going to have the time or energy to rebel without either provocation or outside help.

      8. The key problem with Praes’s current setup is that it relies too heavily on the military option. Legitimate governments can handle setbacks, but the Praesi response to a defeated Tyrant appears to be either assassinating them or turning them into a puppet, and Callow’s relative quiet is far too conditional to be stable. With a huge and capably led rival staring at them across the border, Praes needs actual unity, not the kind you impose with a knife to someone’s throat.

      9. The problem with aiming hatred at Procer is that both they and Callow worship God, while the Praesi are demon-summoning enemies who have invaded Callow seventy times throughout their long history of warfare. Religion often fills in for nationalism in more medieval societies, and Praes’s ongoing worship of Evil undermines any attempt to retarget Callow’s xenophobia.

      Cognitive dissonance works both ways. Even as Callowans become more prosperous, they’re not going to fall over themselves giving credit to Praes. It’s very easy to enjoy the increased benefits of peace and good economic management while insisting that those Evil-worshiping monsters can’t possibly have anything to do with the good times.

      10. Yeah, Black is smart. As long as Praesi rule Callow directly, they’ll always be a conquered, rebellious province. Only a Callowan can convince other Callowans that they’re not going to be second-class subjects forever. A successful transition from occupation to ordinary times needs Callowan legionaries and administrators.

      Like

      1. NPC

        What is this, a logical argument on the internet? *faints*

        I think your making a rather big assumption in the role of Good, Evil, and the House of Light. You equated Praes to Satanists and Callow to Catholics but I don’t think that’s quite right. These little to suggest that the House of Light preaches, indoctrinates, or persecutes in a manner to provoke such a drastic response from the population of Callow. In fact, I thought the House of Light seemed a bit weak as far as international religions are concerned.

        I think a better example of the Good vs. Evil split would be the wars of religion in Europe between the Catholics and Protestants centered around the Holy Roman Empire. What started as a righteous struggle to determine the faith of the Empire turned into a series of increasingly political wars that served the geopolitical goals of the rising great powers while religion was reduced to a tool of the Kings and a casus belli for their wars.

        The following paragraph is pure supposition on my part and not part of the argument. I equate Empress Triumphant’s conquest and cruelty as the Saint Bartholomew Day Massacre that sparked the hatred, but time has passed and wars have been fought, hatred has dimmed and trade and self-interest have risen. Now what Empress Malica needs is a France, a Catholic (Good) nation to betray it’s religion’s collation for it’s own self interest. Because on the Continent a nation with Praes’s wealth and magic, Callow’s farmland and population, backed by professional legions would be able to secure a lasting hegemony so long as everybody else doesn’t gang up on it.

        Like

  28. lennymaster

    Of course most stories start with an underdog, but what most authors fail to do is make the protagonist at some point stop being the underdog, or at the very least stop being as much of an underdog, because after a while having your maincharacter getting their ass handed to them at every turn but still somehow accomplishing ANYTHING stops making sense.
    And so they either always let their enemies escape, usually thanks to a completly brainhaired redemtion/mercy moment from the protagonists side, to come back bigger and badder then ever before or by giving the antagonist a ridiculous amount of luck and/or forsight.
    Sometimes they just give them constantly bigger and badder enemies to fight without ever letting them face a weaker one just to show ho much they have grown.
    And The Lone Swordsman was defenitly not a pushover, just because his cause and goal where idiotic in Cat’s eyes does not mean he was not dangerous.
    After all he killed Cat in their last to final round, wich she counted on thanks to the rule of three.
    She was simply smart enough to use the resources at her disposel, namly Apprentice, and prepare for that eventuallity. In a way that posed a massive risk to herself, her followers and her plan, after all any half decent mage with a bit of time could haver very easily messed her undead body up in a bad way. Considering her words, this outcome was only one of several she prepared to deal with. And only then she managed to kill him.
    Does anybody still clame that her fights and victories were easy ones?

    Like

    1. Dylan Tullos

      lennymaster:

      Most authors introduce new enemies that “level up” with the protagonist. That way, we get to see progress when they face last season’s enemies and easily defeat them, but the protagonist doesn’t just get to curbstomp this season’s Big Bad.

      If the author wanted to make the Lone Swordsman formidable, he should have had him beat Catherine in their first encounter. Instead, Catherine beat the Lone Swordsman, spared his life, and branded instructions on his Name as part of her larger plan. She didn’t even treat him as a rival who needed to die; to Catherine, the Lone Swordsman was nothing more than a stepping stone on the path to victory. That’s pretty much the definition of a “pushover”.

      William only beat Catherine in the third round because of the “rule of three”, and even then it wasn’t an actual victory. Catherine had already established her ability to survive fatal wounds in their first fight, and both necromancy and soul traps are known tools in this universe. A smarter adversary would have picked up her body and taken it with him to burn it, rather than repeating the mistake he’d made in their first encounter. That “victory” cast William as the idiot villain who insists that there’s no need to look for a body because the hero couldn’t possibly survive the fall. In a universe with zombies and vampires, burning the corpse is a reasonable first step, and cutting a head off is nothing more than an inconvenience. After underestimating Catherine once, there was no possible reason for William to make the same mistake again.

      When the protagonist is smarter, tougher, and more charismatic than their enemy, it robs the story of dramatic tension. Catherine’s fights and victories against the Lone Swordsman are easy because she’s smarter than him, plans ahead, works well with others, and takes advantage of his overpowering stupidity. She’s also better at fighting. Whenever they talk, she gets to be clever and funny, while he mutters strawman lines that even his own allies make fun of.

      Antagonists can maintain credibility if they lose. They can’t maintain credibility if the protagonist beats them up and lets them go, then outmaneuvers them at every turn. Nothing could be easier than beating a Hero who doesn’t inspire loyalty in his friends and who can’t kill you properly when the Story itself is conspiring to help him.

      Like

  29. lennymaster

    One, she is a Villian, anybody that is not somehow emotionally connected to her is considered either an adversary or a stepping stone.
    Two, he very much tried to cut her body into many little pieces, he merly failed because Apprentice and Adjudant managed to drive him off.
    Three, Cat may have been smarter then William, but he definitely was the better fighter, as shown in their second confrontation in Summerholm, were she merly accomlished a draw by the skin off her teeth until Warlock showed up. There the rule of three very possibly saved her ass. And neither was Cat in any way good either in planning ahead, like forcing her third Aspect in the presence of a Demon, nor in working well with others, she repeatedly made plans and manipulated her allies into positions to help her go through with her goals without ever telling any of them about it, because she did not trust them enough.
    She merly got better by learning through those mistakes.
    Four, you completly ignore Heiress, who shemed Cat into the ground in all occasions BUT the one in Liesse, where she still acomplished her primery goal, as she herself stated. Some might have argued that Heiress was beaten shortly after Cat defeated Will the first time in Summerholm, until the moment Cat figured out that that was merly a ploy by Heiress to make Cat overestimate herself.
    Five, yes, the whole point off the book is to show that Heroes are oftentimes, not always but many times, worse in most regards then their countering Villians. But they still win, over and over and over again they win. They are considered Heroes despite going to much futher lengths and dipping just as deep into morally grey waters as the Villians. And still they get the praise and the respect of the population despite never actually changing anything for the better but rather keep hold of the status quo no matter the price of doing so.
    Like Batman who never kills, but beats people into bloody, oftentimes permanently disabled pulps and considers himself better then his enemies.
    The Black knight makes it repetadly clear that he would not mind so much being beaten fairly by people who actually deserve it, but Heroes win often only thanks to their prophecies, their their ridiculous Artifacts, the power of love/friendship, mercy and Mary Sue like powers of reality manipulation. that is one of the pillars of this story world, Heros that get their victories handed to them by the literall GODS insted of actually acomplishing them.
    The White Knight for example is, as stated by Black and himself, more powerful then his decades older counterpart.

    Like

    1. Dylan Tullos

      lennymaster:

      1. “Adversary” and “stepping stone” are perfectly acceptable ways for a Villain to view most of humanity. If they’re going to have a serious enemy, though, they need to be more in the “adversary” category than the “stepping stone” category. The Lone Swordsman’s overwhelming failure against Catherine makes it impossible to view him as a capable foe.

      2. I believe my complaint against the Lone Swordsman was his unfortunate tendency to fail in stupid ways. In his place, Catherine would have had some method of disposing of a body quickly. Fire would work nicely. If you’re fighting a zombie who already came back from the dead once, cutting their head off is more of an opening move than a finishing one. One smart idea would be to take Catherine’s body with him. If she’s too heavy, he could take Catherine’s head with him. That wouldn’t slow him down too badly, and it would make it a lot harder to bring her back functionally.

      If I can come up with that plan in two minutes, William could have come with something as good or better in the time he had. Necromancy is a real thing in this world, and failing to plan for it is planning to fail.

      3. Catherine is surrounded by a team of capable, loyal people who make up for many of her flaws. And she is capable of planning ahead; look at the way she anticipated her defeat in the third encounter and arranged a soul trap so that “decapitated” wouldn’t equal “permanently dead”.

      4. Catherine forced Heiress to run in their first battle. Even if it was a trap, Catherine won the War College contest handily, used her legion to beat Heiress’s demons, and watched as her mentor forced Heiress to stab herself. I specifically recall Heiress thinking about how she underestimated Cat, and failed to achieve all of her objectives except taking control of Liesse. Catherine literally broke every bone in Heiress’s body, executed one of her closest supporters, and came out covered in glory as head of the Ruling Council of Callow. If that’s defeat, I think victory is overrated.

      5. I’m not objecting to morally grey or even downright evil “Heroes”. I’m objecting to incompetent Heroes who get outsmarted and beaten down at every turn. There’s nothing wrong with having the “Heroes” defend a corrupt status quo, but making them be chumps robs the work of dramatic tension.

      The Story of this universe is rigged in favor of Heroes winning in the end. Story or no Story, Black has put dozens of Heroes in the ground. He didn’t do it by fighting “fair”. When he complains about how Heroes play the hand that they’re dealt, Black sounds fairly ridiculous; they didn’t make the rules, and Black would be the first to say that you should use whatever advantages you have ruthlessly and without hesitation. That’s what he does, after all.

      If I was fighting against a foreign invader and supernatural forces offered me overwhelmingly powerful weapons, I wouldn’t hold back because the commander of the invaders thought I didn’t “deserve” such an unfair advantage. A victory handed to you by the Gods is still a victory, while a defeat won through your own merit and determination is still a defeat. Black invented the saying, “One grace, victory. One sin, defeat.” He doesn’t get to complain about how Heroes fight to win.

      In terms of raw Name power, almost everyone is stronger than Black. He tells us that his predecessor could knock down a tower with a flick of his wrist, while Black can’t do more than useful tricks with shadows. The Tyrant of Helike can rain lightning from the skies, so clearly it’s not that Villains are universally less powerful than Heroes.

      Black’s “weakness” is that he refuses to rely on his Name. The Tyrant can summon storms because he is dedicated to his Role in the Story, and the Lone Swordsman can heal himself endlessly because he’s equally committed to the plan his Choir laid out for him. Black lacks power because he has independence, because he refuses to draw too much upon powers that would gradually trap him in Someone else’s story like a train on a track, immensely strong but incapable of choosing his own course.

      Most Villains get their victories handed to them by the Story just as surely as Heroes do. The Tyrant of Helike slaughters an enemy army with no more than a few words; he doesn’t “earn” his victory any more than the most overpowered Hero does. The only difference is that the Tyrant inevitably wins in Act I and II, while the Heroes will inevitably win in the end. As long as he plays his role properly, he’ll manage to escape certain death and overcome impossible odds until the Heroes stop him just as he stands on the brink of total victory. After all, it wouldn’t be a good Story if none of the villains scored any victories along the way; they have to lose in the grand finale, but the battles in between are actually rigged in their favor, helping them to win until the time is right for them to lose.

      Like

      1. lennymaster

        While your arguments still do not convince me, it is hard to argue against them.
        I have the conviction, that should the story continue as you think, then one of two things will happen.
        Either Cat will lose most of her power, army and support, wich she then will continue to either win back, a neigh impossible (unrealistic so) feat, or find a way to still accomplish her goals, wich would make all her previous battles and sacrifices mostly hollow ones.
        Or by loosing someone, maybe even several of the few people close to her. The logical persons would be Black, wich would be quite sad but also to some degree fitting, or maybe even more likly Kilian. Loosing Kilian would be extremly depressing, if for no other reason then the one that their relationship is one of the smoothest and most eleganty introduced and maintanced ones that I have ever seen. Most authers either completly overblow this small, at least in something that is not primarily a romance, but still very important story element, or make the reader not care the least for the protags love interest. There were even quite a few ones I would have massively prefered if they had never been introduced in the first place. Kilian however shows her enormous importence to the small nonetheless necessary levity for the story not in how often, but rather in what sences she is either present, mentioned or thought of.
        Nontheless I thank you for this frustrating though fascinating discussion and hope to continue further ones in comming chapters.
        P.S.: A few great examples for several diffrent aspects of story building for avit readers would be; for both character development and well evolving romances Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake, at least if expicit sexual content does not bother you.
        David Weber’s Honor Harrington for an amazingly well developed world.
        Aleron Kong’s Caos Seeds and J. L. Langland’s Demons of Astlan for amazing comedic moment in an otherwise serious story.
        A Practical Guide to Evil is however THE ONE STORY I have EVER read that has managed to develop all these aspects into one such amazing whole. Thank you erratica!

        Like

  30. Dylan Tullos

    NPC:

    Sorry I didn’t reply directly. For some reason, the “Reply” section was missing from your post when I brought it up.

    I’ve already reported you to the moderators for using reason and facts. Everyone civilized knows that proper Internet discussion involves misspelled profanity and repeated use of the phrase “lol”. Please get it together before we’re forced to drive you from this forum.

    While the House of Light doesn’t seem terribly organized as religions go, their teachings still shape the beliefs of ordinary Callowans. Cat doesn’t rank among the most devout people, but she remembers them denouncing the Gods of Evil and the demon-summoning Praesi. As an organized power base, the House of Light does not seem formidable; as a cultural influence on the minds of young Callowans, it does important work in shaping the beliefs and values of the country’s people.

    If you spend your childhood hearing stories of saints and heroes who fought the Praesi, you’re a lot more likely to identify with the Resistance rather than the occupiers. Whether that identification turns into active resistance depends on individual personality and circumstance, but the “Callowan Heroes fight Praesi Villains” narrative is clearly present and powerful. Black even seeks to use that narrative, casting Catherine as a Callowan Hero against Heiress, the embodiment of Praesi Villainy. He seems to like judo as a fighting style, redirecting his enemy’s strength and seeking to turn it into a weakness.

    Your Thirty Years War comparison is excellent. Black and Malicia are clearly trying to steer Praes in the direction of pragmatic nationalism, “Evil” in the sense that they’re willing to do anything to secure their nation’s power, but not “Evil” in the oddly principled manner of Helike’s Tyrant. They don’t want their neighbors to see the Praesi as an existential threat, and they’re fine with their subjects worshiping the Gods Above as long as they pay taxes and do as they’re told.

    The only flaw in the Thirty Years War comparison is that Cordelia Hassenbach refuses to fall into Malicia’s trap. Instead of seeking to expand Procer’s temporal power, she is forming alliances with old rivals and enemies against Praes, ignoring old territorial ambitions and showing the continent that Procer is committed to a principled foreign policy. We get to see her thoughts, so we know that it’s not a trick, that Procer’s First Prince is genuinely committed to her role as Warden of the West. For Cordelia, this war is a righteous struggle against a nation that sought to destroy her own, and her ability to set aside national rivalries in the greater cause of Good makes her Praes’s most dangerous enemy.

    I completely agree that Malicia needs to make this about power and secular ambition, not Good vs Evil. As you say, she needs a country to backstab the Good coalition, just as France did in the Thirty Years War. It was necessary for Malicia to destabilize Procer if she wanted to occupy Callow, but one unfortunate consequence of her decision was the creation of Cordelia Hassenbach. The First Prince combines practical statesmanship with an absolute determination to tear down the “Practical Evil” that poured gasoline on the fire of Procer’s civil war, and even the new Legions of Terror can’t fight the united armies of Good.

    Procer seems to be as big as Praes and Callow put together; the Principate’s weakness is their fondness for political bickering and civil war, not a lack of soldiers or money. Formidable as the Dread Empire is, I don’t think they’re inherently stronger than the Principate, though Black’s Legions of Terror seem to be higher-quality than any other mortal army on the continent. (On an unrelated note, I think there are serious problems with the design of the Legions, but that’s a minor point. This story isn’t about creating an effective military doctrine for a fictional universe.)

    I like the comparison of Triumphant to the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. It’s not forgotten, but it happened long ago, and present-day rivalries tend to overshadow old memories. Malicia needs to keep those rivalries going, to help Good nations forget that they once stood united. Cordelia needs to make peace, to end old feuds and remind the nations of Good that they once stood united under a Crusading banner. As for which of them will succeed…well, the story’s not done.

    Like

  31. Dylan Tullos

    lennymaster:

    Thanks! I’m really curious to see how things work out, and I appreciate both your perspective and your book recommendations. I read the Honor Harrington books way back in high school, and I enjoyed them greatly. I will check out Kong and Langland’s writing at the next opportunity.

    Like

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