Chapter 15: Bestowal

“Most live out their days on an isle of vapid ignorance, shying away from the dark and hungry waters that surround it. To seek power is to brave the tides, but one who does should not expect to see those shores again.”
– Translation of the Kabbalis Book of Darkness, widely attributed to the young Dead King

I forced myself back to my feet. This was too close to kneeling for my tastes. The movement came easier than I’d thought, easier than it should have – whatever he had done with the ice, it had strengthened me. For however long it would last. Fae gifts were notoriously fickle things. The King was carving his bauble of ice, ivory knife shaving off one sliver after another another. The sound was almost deafening, in the silence that had grasped this world. I made my way to the edge one step after another, almost slipping as I sat down. My bare hand held onto the ice and I managed to settle by his side without tumbling down into the waters, pushing down a groan of pain. The ruler of Winter casually allowed another sliver of ice to fall down, indifferent to my struggles. I opened my mouth, then closed it. I’d stood before entities as powerful as this one before, but for once I was entirely unsure what to say. Not cowed, perhaps, but so aware of the current frailty of my existence I might as well be.

“You did well with Auster,” the King said.

I could still hear echoes to his voice that had me cringing, but it was not as brutal as it had been easier. I wasn’t seeing things instead of hearing words, at least. Had he restrained himself, or was I getting used to it? The second thought almost had me shiver. Some changes could only come at a price.

“First time killing a Duke,” I croaked. “Wouldn’t recommend it.”

My throat was scraped a little too raw to manage flippancy properly, sadly. My attempt at humour fell flat – looking at the King’s face for too long hurt my eyes, but from what I glimpsed there was no trace of amusement.

“Larat believed you would avoid the tale entirely,” the King said. “But he is a creature of war, mine own Hound of Winter. One does not rely on the Prince of Nightfall to trace the path ahead.”

The lack of depth perception probably didn’t help his case, I thought, and the almost chuckle that escaped me set my lungs aflame. Gods, that was not a pleasant feeling. I needed to get run through less often.

“You backed me in a corner,” I said.

“And this offends you?” the King of Winter said, sounding amused for the first time. “Submission is ever the lot of the weak. If you would rage at anything, rage at your own impotence.”

I hacked out a mocking laugh along with what might just have been a chunk of my lung. The bit of flesh stained my lips red as I spat it out, like rouge paid for in blood.

“I’m not,” I said. “Impotent. Wouldn’t be here if I was. You need something from me.”

“Ah, mortals,” the creature fondly said. “Always you seek to bargain until the very last breath. Your kind is a wonder.”

I’d always believed, deep down, that if I ever met a god it would be about this condescending. I was darkly pleased to be proved right.

“I already took what I need,” I said.

“You took what I allowed,” the King replied. “Do not mistake allowance for triumph.”

Even with the clarity the ice had forced on me, I was exhausted. It had taken every scrap of what I had to get me through the fight with the Duke taking only three lethal wounds – never before had I ever spent that much power so quickly. His power had not made me better, not really: it just felt like I was too tired to sleep. If I’d been having this conversation with Heiress I would have called what was being said posturing, but what need did the fucking King of Winter have to posture with me? He could end me with a thought. He was in a league so far above my own even trying to grasp the difference between us might kill me. And Ranger fights things like this for sport. Merciless Gods, what kind of monsters had Black gathered under his banner?

“I’m too close to the grave to play this game properly,” I said. “I lied my way to a claim. Are you going to deny me?”

He laughed. It sounded like wind against dead branches, like blood freezing inside a still-beating heart. I could feel the bones in my neck creak, feeling so fragile a single snap would break them.

“This is Winter, Catherine Foundling,” he said. “You own what you kill.”

“Then you’ll stop attacking Marchford?” I asked.

“That purpose has already been served,” the King said. “We are now part of the dream you call Callow.”

And that settled that. I’d achieved what I’d set out to achieve, though I knew there’d be a price coming. It left an unpleasant taste in my mouth, the way this had all gone down. I’d been played since the beginning by something so much more dangerous than me that there was no retaliation I could deal out. The leverage I’d thought I had was enough to keep me alive, but nothing more – and pushing it would likely get me killed. I sat there next to a god, and prepared to make a mistake. I’d once thought that Masego’s need to always be exact was because he was the Apprentice, but that wasn’t entirely true. He’d had that tendency before he became the Apprentice, I now believed. Archer had led me to the greater truth: Named, whatever their Name, were more. We were larger in everything, and when we grew our flaws grew as well. Urges that had been ignorable when we were mortal no longer were. Black would always seek victory regardless of the costs, Archer would always indulge in what appealed to her and me? I’d once thought it was my reckless streak that had grown into the flaw that would get me killed, but that wasn’t quite right. It was that the part of me that would have been able to bite its tongue was long buried. My mouth opened, knowing I was about to commit a blunder. Because this wretch of a god had killed some of my people, and I could not let that go unanswered.

“You killed my men,” I said. “When you sent your fae into my city.”

“Your men would have died,” he said. “What does it matter, that it was my doing or that of time?”

“You robbed them of the life they could have lived,” I replied through gritted teeth. “You took from them. A debt is owed.”

“Their existence weighed less than wind,” the King said. “Nothing can be taken from nothing.”

“This is not a bargain, King of Winter, it’s an oath,” I hissed. “One day, we’ll meet again. Not tomorrow, not next month, not for decades. After your game’s played out. After I’ve learned to kill gods. On that day, I’ll come to collect.”

“Will you?” he wondered.

It did not even take a heartbeat. Instantaneous would have been wrong still – it had always been the case that the water in my eyes was frozen. I felt blood running down the side of my face that should not be feeling anything at all. My bad leg, the one that still limped when I tired, twisted and broke with a sound like dead wood snapping. I heard the whistle of wind, more deafening than a hundred thousand horns, and after a flare of pain that dragged me to the edge of unconsciousness I heard nothing at all. I choked on my own tongue as frost spread over my skin, robbing me of the last of my senses.

“If I were a prince,” the King told me, “I would be the Prince of Bleak Solstice. Some of that remains even under the Deadwood Crown.”

I was a prisoner in my own body, the only sensation left to me the feeling of his fingers tipping up my chin.

“I could inflict on you every pain you’ve ever felt and some you cannot even conceive of,” he said idly. “But you are of no use to me broken. One of those flitting around is quite enough.”

His thumb ran its way up my cheek until it rested under my eye, and his other hand came to match it on the other side.

“You are in need of a reminder, Catherine Foundling,” he said, “of the difference between bravery and ignorance.”

The King clucked his tongue.

“No, not the eyes,” he said. “Yours are too dull to make a fitting ornament. Something, perhaps, a little more pointed.”

He withdrew from my face and the relief lasted for barely a moment before I felt his hand tear through my chest. I screamed soundlessly as his fingers closed around my beating heart, ripping it out like he was picking lint from cloth. The sorcery that had blanketed my senses lifted like a veil, leaving me on my feet with the King standing in front of me. I could see my heart in one hand, frozen black and solid. In the other was the bauble he’d been making out of ice, now a perfect carving of the moon. He thrust it where my heart had been, flesh closing around it as he withdrew and it began beating.

“I recognize you as heiress to the Duke of Violent Squalls,” he said. “Made by prophecy, heirloom and the word of a king. Your inheritance, claimed by rite of blood, is confirmed.”

I gasped for air, feeling the blood in my veins cooling further with every passing moment.

“Catherine Foundling,” he said. “I name you Duchess of Moonless Nights. I grant you the seat of Marchford, and on these sacred grounds claim your fealty.”

My surroundings ebbed away, replaced by deep and bottomless darkness. I stood there unmoving, seeing only the dark-skinned king and the blood-red sap dripping onto his brow from his wooden crown.

“I demand no fidelity and offer no respite,” the King of Winter laughed. “I demand no faith and offer no protection. I give you slight and deceit, I receive hatred and betrayal. The Court of Winter receives you as one of its own, ‘till your last desperate breath clawing at the dark.”

Power pulsed in my chest, spreading through my veins. I felt the third part of my soul, the missing aspect I had yet to forge, fill with something old and too large to comprehend.

“I stand by my oath, dead thing,” I rasped. “Before my days are done I will see you unmade.”

“Then you are a Duchess of Winter in truth,” the King grinned, teeth like stolen moonlight. “I charge you with the defeat of Summer, Catherine Foundling. I charge you with the making of peace, exacted from the battlefield.”

He leaned forward.

“You have six times the coming of your title, or your heart is forever mine,” he said.

Hands rose to my face again, to my eyes.

“Now sleep,” he said, “and dream.”

Fingers pulled down my pupils and darkness took me.

Dawn does not exist, then it does.

I see two cities and two lands around them. One is made of plenty, orchards of fruitful trees and fields of green. Juice runs down the chin of children as they bite into peaches, playing under the sun by pale walls. Colours for which there are no names yet fill half the world, proud lords and ladies clustering at the feet of a crowned and faceless silhouette. In its gaze is Summer, the heat that burns and hangs in the air like vapour. The other land is ice and illusion, and there nothing grows. Wind howls and creatures die under knives of obsidian, the warmth of their blood staining lips and chasing away, for a single blessed moment, the cruel bite of the chill. There the games of the children are vicious, for victory can only come from the defeat of others. At the heart of a maze, lords and ladies with smiles treacherous cluster at the feet of a crowned and faceless silhouette. In its gaze is Winter, the cold that that devours and leaves only absence behind.

War does not exist, then it does.

The hungry reach for the bounty of the full and this brings strife, as their taking is not gentle and this offence cannot go unanswered. Clarion calls make the sky shudder, for the host of Summer is a thing of might. They come in silk and steel, red pennants stirring in the wind like the promise of blood to come. Where they go noon follows, relentless and unforgiving as its heralds. Winter is not announced. It creeps like a snake in the dark, a slithering host of shades and clawed things that want, want until it hollows them out. They wear dead things and wield sharpness torn from the ground, eyes covetous under the blanket of night. None are valiant in the dark but all are desperate. Justice, the hooves of white winged horses thunder as they take flight. More, the blue-eyed things on horned horses whisper back, slender lances glinting. There are cries and screams. The moon falls, burnt black, and as it breaks the world Summer triumphs.

Noon spreads across two lands. Nothing is left of the hungry but ashes, trampled contemptuously. Ice melts away, leaving behind bleak black earth. The world is made a festival and Summer prospers, ripening again and again. The proud grow ever prouder, until the first fruit spoils. The sun does not rest and the land buckles under it. Pride turns to arrogance and under red pennants lords and ladies spill blood, turning on each other. Only one can have most, and none have ever tasted defeat. The land is scorched but there is no relief, for Summer advances and does not know retreat. The red haze hangs in the air like sickness as stomachs go from full to bursting like the fruits gone overripe, fire and steel claiming all until only the crowned and faceless silhouette remains. It remains seated on the throne as yellow leaves and roots claim the world, facing the sun until only a seared carcass remains.

This is the truth of Summer: everything burns out.

Green sprouts from bleak black earth, and from this harvest a city grows. Spring has come. In the other land yellow turns to orange and brown, leaves falling to the ground as the land is finally freed from agony. Autumn has come. From those remains grows a city, feeding on what little there is to offer. One land grows to plenty, the other dies a slow death. The sun rises, ice spreads.

The story comes again.

The hungry reach for the bounty of the full and this brings strife, as their taking is not gentle and this offence cannot go unanswered. Clarion calls ring out, but they are silenced. The serpent slithers into the heart of Summer, offering peace and hidden fangs even as its hunger sharpens behind honeyed words. Poison spreads in the blood and champions die, for not even the mighty can overcome the many soft deaths of Winter. When the host of Summer comes it is gaping and limping, fresh to a war that came unannounced. Justice, the hooves of white winged horses thunder as they take flight. The shades laugh as they devour them. More, they whisper back to the dead. The mighty die slow among their red pennants, striking at smoke and mirrors as snow begins to blanket the world. The sun grows ever paler until it falls from the sky, shattering as it breaks the world and Winter triumphs.

Night spreads across two lands. Proud corpses are clawed to bloody bone as the host clad in death and theft spills forth. Juicy peaches are ripped from trees and bitten into as the trees that bore them wither and die. Ice snakes across once-green fields made bare by the hungry. Winter feeds, feeds until it can almost understand fullness. It is not enough. Pale and gloried walls are torn down, pennants drained of colour until all is bare and empty and still the host wants. There is less and less while there are still many so vicious games are made ever more vicious for in the end there will be only one mouthful left, and only one mouth to devour it. The night deepens and desperation does with it, as bleak winds and starvation take what murder and betrayal does not. Not even feeding off each other is enough. Then only the crowned silhouette on the throne remains, unmoving in the cold as it tries to feel something, anything and dies an empty husk.

This is the truth of Winter: we all die alone.

The cold turns on itself and a remnant of a remnant frees itself from the ground, green sprouting from the bleak black earth. From this harvest a city grows, for Spring has come. In the land that was once Summer, the bare bones of what was once plenty are gnawed on. A city of the dying forms around the little turning to nothing, for Autumn shapes itself out of the coming of absence.

The story comes again. In the end, there is no end.

I wasn’t sure exactly when I crossed the boundary from sleep to wakefulness. There was no transition, no burst of awareness. I was not awake, then I was. The thought had me shivering. I was under quilt, in a bed more rough than soft, and wearing clothes I didn’t remember putting on. I rose to a seat and found myself surrounded by bare stone walls that were somewhat familiar. There were sounds coming from outside, but one closer: in a corner of the room, slumped in a chair, Hakram was snoring. Marchford, I realized. I’m back.


I glanced at the door as Adjutant jerked awake at the noise. Masego was at the threshold, looking somewhere in the middle of relieved and worried. I brushed back my hair absently.

“So,” I said, “There’s now a god on my murder list. Someone be a dear get me a drink – it’s going to be a rough few months.”

94 thoughts on “Chapter 15: Bestowal

      1. Regardless, not like she has much time to use it:

        “You have six times the coming of your title, or your heart is forever mine,”

        Only six years for success. No time at all to the King of Winter. Let’s hope it’s enough.


  1. Gunslinger

    This was fantastic. Not just the prose, but the imagery of it. Just brilliant.

    The implications of the events are pretty dire.

    1. I’m worried about the relationship between the cold hearted winter queen and the fiery half faerie.

    2. Catherine has only 3 years to kill the Winter King?

    3. What is with the italics when she makes the i will see you unmade oath? It’s not her 3rd aspect cause it’s not bold. Also the text says the aspect was filled up making me wonder if she gave up that aspect for winter powers.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Where did you get the 3 years from? She got a deadline of six moonless nights so about 3 months to make peace with summer. She won’t be duking (lol) it out with the WK until decades at least.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Morgenstern

        Huh. Right. That just might make more sense…

        I thought she’s got six times her Title, meaning six times the story unfolding, six attempts to succeed in the story that ever comes again… hmmmm…

        Liked by 2 people

    2. haihappen

      Most likely not 3 Years.
      She is the Duchess of The Moonless Night. So she has 6 times that her title comes, i.e. a moonless night. If the Moon cycle works the same as in the real world, this would mean 6 coming of the new Moon phase in the moon cycle, i.e. approximatly 5-6 months.

      BUT, in a note: The King of Winter did not specify whom she had to meet on the battlefield to end the war…

      Liked by 2 people

      1. RoflCat

        I think that’s what he’s banking on, for her to break the cycle of Summer and Winter, given her…history of breaking things like this.
        So that Winter King will not die alone with nothing, nor will Summer win and destroy all that is Winter.

        She is part of Winter now, but at the same time she’s also not a Fae, so he’s likely expecting her to use that non-Fae mindset to break the current story and forge a new one, possibly something in…’cycle’ that would allow the king to remains.

        My guess: She break the cycles from Summer-Winter -> Spring-Autumn into the normal seasons (Spring->Summer->Autumn->Winter) that ebbs and flow their populations.

        It does break the actual ‘war’ between Summer and Winter since it’s a clear cut on who’ll win in their season, but each side will still gain their victories over time and the story will remain the same.

        In Summer, the hosts of Summer slaughter the hosts of Winter, slowly expanding their area
        In Autumn, the hosts of Summer weakens from the poisons Winter resorted to using in their disadvantageous stage
        In Winter, the hosts of Winter slaughters the hosts of Summer, creeping back over the land.
        In Spring, the hosts of Winter turns on each other over the ‘last bite’ and their numbers dwindle while Summer gains the time to rebuild

        Liked by 1 person

    3. vietnamabc

      Hum I wonder what would happen in 3 years, from 2.15 Black also became a knight after 3 years and then he wrote the journal. Coincidences?

      Also I got very strong vibe of future Winter Knight here, no need to wait for that old pale Duni man to croak.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. nerfworld

    So the story of callow and praes is similar to the relationship between summer and winter? the one with surplus and the desperate taker? and ultimately the empire will be forced to expand again to sustain it population

    Liked by 3 people

    1. James, Mostly Harmless

      To expand on Nerfworld’s point, both relationships are similar to to the relationship between good and evil. If Kat can suceed in making peace between Summer and Winter, she may be able to deal with the other relationships.


      1. Morgenstern

        Yeah, because achieving balance there could mean just finally enough to fill the bellies of all and peace everlasting. But seriously – is that something one would expect of a villain story? Not sure if even practical evil can achieve that much… Hmmm…


    2. Shequi

      That makes it very interesting that Winter has made itself part of the story of Callow, which is the land of plenty in the Praes-Callow tale.

      As the Black Knight once said, the pattern is for Praes to grasp, and Callow to be grasped; but of course Callow has occupied Praes in the distant past, which fulfills the “Summer wins” version of the tale.


  3. Alegio

    I totally love Cath, she is awesome… But why does she never asks for help!? I understand she wants to do things her own way but still, she has some literal god slayers that would gladly help her! I wish at least once she would ignore that pride and ask Black to crack some skulls.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Morgenstern

      Yeah. And that includes Captain, the one who slew a god, not God. 😉 I wonder into which category the Kings/Queens of the Fae fall….. hmmm…


    2. Dianna

      Who knows she might. My hope is that we finally get to have a meeting between Cat and Ranger (arranged by Archer). That would be fantastic, and make sense as Ranger probably has the most experience God and Fea killing.


    3. stevenneiman

      Black needs her to learn and grown, which means that he can’t fight her battles for her. The Ranger would do this sort of thing for the fun of it, but it’s questionable whether she would do it for a genuine reason if someone asked.
      Besides, her goals aren’t mutually exclusive with Black’s but they aren’t the same either, and she needs accomplishments like this to give her story weight before she tries to do the things she needs to do.

      Liked by 3 people

    4. Gunslinger

      Lot’s of cool replies to this. I just want to add another point is that she might not want their help because it would hurt her agenda. She needs to prove that she can lead her own vision of Callow and that cannot be done when you call warlock for every problem.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Letouriste

    Thanks for the chapter:)
    I had something to say but I forgot before i finish reading^^
    That just show how your story is entrancing;)


  5. James, Mostly Harmless

    Now both Kat and Heiress are running around with their hearts outside of their bodies. I have a feeling that Heiress’s heart is easier to get to than Kat’s!


      1. Letouriste

        Heiress is not heartless,she would not love her father so much if she was.she is just ruthless and ambitious…remember her sense of loss when her confidente got killed?
        An heartless person would not feel that.


  6. Q

    What I’m wondering is Cat’s title of duchess of moonless nights sound very close to the names of the princes. Prince of nightfall. Prince of bleak solstice. The other fae high nobility have name that are more physical things. The lady of cracking ice the Duke of violent squalls. The duchess of moonless nights sounds in line with posibly being the princess of moonless nights.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. “The moon falls, burnt black, and as it breaks the world Summer triumphs”

      Get some cover from the sun, and Cat’s title will be active more or less permanently.


  7. Morgenstern

    One typo that cannot be ignored:

    I could still hear echoes to his voice that had me cringing, but it was not as brutal as it had been easier.

    Should obviously have been “earlier”.


    1. stevenneiman

      “shaving off one sliver after [another] another.” alternatively, one sliver after another after another
      “In its gaze is Winter, the cold [that] that devours and leaves only absence behind.”


    2. BartHumphries

      Unlike the fae, I knew how handle myself
      add “to” after “how”

      There is less and less while there are still many so vicious games are made ever more vicious for in the end there will be only one mouthful left,
      add a comma after many

      The night deepens and desperation does with it,
      change does to deepens

      Someone be a dear get me a drink – it’s going to be a rough few months.
      Either add “and” or a comma after dear


  8. Given how devils were described in the story to be born as personifications of a concept that are bound by their nature to keep close to it, and that they are summoned by diabolists to be used as tools related to those concepts, it looks like the Fae are doing the opposite of that, summoning humans from much bleaker Creation to cut some corners their stories don’t allow. The behaviour not bound by one’s nature must look at least as alien to them as behaviour that is looks to humans.

    Of cource, following this analogy, the King may or may not know that he essentially summoned a demon. He gave her his previous title, which is maybe enough to tell his name, but there’s nearly nothing else to Cat’s advantage right now, so short of baiting Summer into a raid on Skade she’s not getting her heart back any time soon.

    On a side note, given how he measured time given to defeat Summer in moonless nights, did he just turn Catherine into some backwards werewolf? This is how one loses their medical license!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. stevenneiman

      The thing that makes his game so dangerous is that he brought someone into the land of stories whose best skill is ensuring that her enemies’ stories end badly, after making an enemy of her. And then he compounded his error by giving her a time limit to get payback, meaning that he now has 6 months to live.


      1. Darkening

        No, he gave her a time limit to bring peace to summer and winter to get her heart back. She can take as long as she likes killing him once that’s done.


      2. Nicole

        Failing to get her heart back doesn’t mean she will die. It likely means she will have less or no free will, but that isn’t quite the same as dying.


  9. Aaron

    “That purpose has already been served,” the King said. “We are now part of the dream you call Callow.”

    *flails wildly*

    I thiiiink, though I’m not sure, that this is the King more or less saying he wants to use Callow, or more specifically the idea of Callow as a weapon to break the chains of the narrative that Cat is wielding, as a way to break the Fae out of their own narrative cycles.

    Which means he *needs* Catherine, which means she is going to kill the shit out of him and it’ll be awesome.

    (Really, he should have just paid it back. A loan of soldiers, years for years, to pay back the debt seems like it would have cost him very little and gained him not being murdered by Catherine later.)


    1. nehemiahnewell

      Ah, but Winter is murderous and backstabbing. I think he bound her closer to Winter by making her his enemy. What does he care if he dies in the doing? He’s tired of this, all of this, and it won’t even end.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. stevenneiman

        Good point. He did comment that she was truly of winter after she swore to kill him. And now that I think of it, he might very well be a death seeker who deliberately ensured that he would be dead for real in six months.


      2. Random Fan

        Yeah, making her murderous and backstabbing is probably a winter thing, where summer is murderous and facestabbing. I think there’s more to it than that, though.

        Keep in mind “you own what you kill”; I suspect he is trying to tie her in even further to the narrative-breaking plans- killing him might not land her the crown, but I would be entirely unsurprised if it won her his princedom. Others have said the name sounds like a prince(ss)’ name already, so It would be a quite plausible secondary plot for Pyrrhic victory. I doubt his primary goal is his own death, but he might surprise me. Certainly, he has been provoking her, and while attributing intent to the fae is inherently risky, if there is a purpose it would be unsurprising.

        @stevenneiman: I don’t think the six-month time limit is to bring about his death, but peace won from the battlefield. Though bringing about his death probably would manage to take back the heart without compliance with his terms.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Nicole

      In the story the King of Winter and the King of Summer haven’t died. The King endures. He has no reason to believe that she will succeed in killing him and if she does, she becomes the Queen of Winter as the cycle has always been…


  10. Dragrath

    Yep Catherine truly has gotten herself in over her head like always that is got to be an aspect tied to her name.Only 6 months to resolve what the Fae have never been able to achieve as it is in opposition to their nature… Lets hope that the now Fae part of her will not make that impossible…
    Lets remember that her lover is descended from Summer…


    1. Byzantine

      Fae are forever bound to their stories.

      They cannot find peace because they have no story which end “happily ever after.”

      Cat has to *make* one. It may just be an impossible task, or it may be the start of everything changing. If Cat can break the story of the Fae I suspect the Gods themselves are going to suddenly start paying very close attention.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Morgenstern

        Kilian’s grandmother riding with the Wild Hunt seems like exactly the thing he is referring to, pointing out how her “being from Summer” seems wrong, as the Hunt seems associated to Winter (or none?) … 😉


  11. This is entirely doable,
    The Fae are considerably weaker in Creation, while still bound by their Stories. Also, Princess Sulia has been described as simple-natured even by mortal standards. Putting one over on someone as arrogant as the Prince of Nightfall (who, let’s not forget, completely failed to anticipate Catherine’s chosen course of action himself) shouldn’t be impossible by any means.

    I thought this was what the King was up to. I just didn’t see the “meet my time limit or your heart is mine forever” ultimatum coming.

    The Fae story would be horrifying enough if it was just Summer always being Summer, and Winter always being Winter in this Eternal War. The fact Summer becomes Winter and Winter becomes Summer, and still the War seesaws back and forth through endless Cycles….The Fae can do all the arrogant sneering about Glorious Arcadia they like, but in point of fact Arcadia is too Hellish even for the Gods Below.

    Heh, the Gods Below likely chose at the Dawn of Creation to rent out Arcadia and live in the Hells, the Hells being the cushier digs and all.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. arancaytar

    Not hard to see the parallels between the eternal war of Winter/Summer and the eternal war of Praes/Callow. “More” – “The Pattern for Praes is to grasp.”

    Catherine (just like Black) means to break one of those, and has had a surprising amount of success. Yet the other seems pretty unbreakable. You can’t end the seasons – what would that even mean? So the analogy has to end somewhere.


  13. Unmaker

    “But you are of no use to me broken. One of those flitting around is quite enough.”

    The king is saying that there is a broken power (Name?) moving around. That doesn’t sound like anyone I can think of: none of Cat’s crew are obviously broken, Heiress seems villainously whole, Black’s crew are definitely all there, the Heroes are OK, the Tyrant is healthy despite the prophecy of his doom, etc.

    Any ideas?


  14. ““I recognize you as heiress to the Duke of Violent Squalls,” he said. “Made by prophecy, heirloom and the word of a king. Your inheritance, claimed by rite of blood, is confirmed.””

    so…. Catherine is -at least temporarily- part fae now (potentially, due to the way magic and stories work in Arcadia).

    Are we going to see some interesting new magic feats arising?


    1. Nairne

      Well, the third aspect got replaced by, how it was put, “something old and too large to comprehend”. Who knows what kind of perks and downsides that fact has.


      1. MagpieJack

        My guess is that it’s Winter itself that settled in.

        Perk: Is not, technically, an Aspect. Promising that “I solemly swear not to use my Aspects against you” allows her to blast people with Fae ice. A ritual disabling or dulling Aspects won’t affect her Winter powers. Narrative conventions like “the first to use all three aspects in a duel loses” may also not apply fully.

        Downside: Makes her susceptible to Fae conventions, anti-Fae magic and etc. instead. Another possible con is that since she never earns a third Aspect she doesn’t transition properly from Squire to… whatever she ends up as (I’ve got money on “not Black Knight”). Bonus downside: Killian has Arcadiand blood and, being a red-head, is almost certainly Summer court. This comes with ALL SORTS of potential issues starting with are they even allowed to bang anymore.


  15. Bookworm

    Fun stuff. Just want to point out that she is going to have the winter king “unmade”. That was her oath. Not kill. Not murder. She is going to send him to oblivion. It makes me wonder how the story of the Fae would balance with the gaping hole an absent Prince, with all of the stories and interactions attributable to him, would make from being unmade.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Darkening

      It’s Winter, land of treacherous ambition. There’d probably be a whole slew of promotions seized and you’d end up with one less random townsfolk or something.


  16. Nicole

    I am getting the distinct feeling that Cat is going to have a fun legacy. Like that Empress they all swear they hope stays in hell. When they mention Cat, its going to be like “Catherine Foundling, may the world not fall apart.”

    I’m sure there are better ones too. Anyone have some fun ideas for what will be tacked onto her name in the centuries to come? 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Anyone else creeped out by how the King refers to Callow as a dream (“we are now part of the dream you call Callow.”), tells Cat to _Dream_ (and she has a vision of summer vs. winter) but then she allegedly wakes up, only she can’t remember that moment of transition that breaks the dream from reality? I’m having inception flashbacks: does the ice-heart mean that (she’s fae enough that) she can now only dream of being in Creation while sleeping in Arcadia (except possibly on new moon nights?) until she earns her heart back?

    Also Winter ranks theory:
    Given that rank of nobility is listed as the X of Y where X is current rank (baron, duke, prince). Could Y indicate how high that X can go, with:
    Physical things being capable of less high rank than non-physical things, both in descending order by frequency of occurance? e.g. cackling ice < violent squalls < nightfall < moonless nights < bleak solstice?

    Also, interesting that both nighfall and moonless night don't have an adjective…

    (and of course, I could be overanalysing).


    1. Pbnj

      Hmm….I’m thinking it’s the uniqueness and nature of the referenced event that reflects the power of the title as well as how often it changes hands.

      For example: Volent squalls can be frequent yet powerful, but who’s to say that the fae holding the title today is the same as last week?

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Vysirez

    I struggle with the continued extreme levels of power you describe. It is extremely hard for me to see how Ranger can walk all over the fae as she does, doesn’t really matter how good you are with a sword if your opponent can control reality.

    That aside, Ranger is evidently just that good, so I struggle with Cat ever being significant when compared to the likes of Black and Ranger. More and more it feels like Cat wins/survives because she’s the protagonist, rather then by any ability or action of hers. I say win/survives since most of the time she doesn’t win, she just survives.

    I love stories where it feels like the protagonist is fighting above their weight class. You managed to get that at the end of book 2, however the rest of the time Cat’s opponents feel so far above her that no longer feels like she’s fighting above her weight class and winning, but that she is winning by author fiat. Not that it really seems like she’s winning all the time, often she survives whatever is going on, but serves only as the pawn of whomever is currently using her. I guess you might manage to have her pull another win at the end of this book, but if she spends all her time stumbling around only getting a real win at the end of each book, I doubt I will stay interested. Not sure yet if that is how things go, but it’s trending that way.

    Your characterization and dialog are great, just some of the other stuff I’m struggling with.


    1. Helot

      I think it has something to do with the tier of their Name.
      Squire is a first tier name. It transitions into Black/White Knight (or possibly something else?)
      Ranger is probably not a first tier name.

      What happened to Catherine is that her Tier was reset, so she’s starting over. Problem is, everyone is already used to her being a three aspect squire, so when she’s back down to one, she feels weak, and it looks as though she should be losing constantly.

      Catherine isn’t relying on her Name to win. She’s relying on her Role. A Squire is someone being trained by a Knight, so her Role is to follow in the footsteps of her mentor… who just happens to be a badass Calamity, regularly taking out threats that should kill him.
      By utilizing her Role over her Name, she’s punching above her weightclass, if her opponents are using their Name instead of their Role.

      You can see her that she was completely outplayed by the King of Winter. He even references her wording of ‘Prophecy, Heirloom, King’s Word’ when he swaps out her heart. And the fae she replaced will just be back, once the seasons turn again 6 times. The Duke isn’t out, he’s just down.

      As a side note, this whole situation feels a LOT like Harry Dresden from the Dresden Files. Summer/Winter interactions, Power Granting, just she’s not as good as him at messing with Fae.


  19. Exec

    Fascinating chapter.

    The way that Summer and Winter relate to Praes and Callow is interesting… is there a different version of Arcadia in each part of the world, each with its own repeating story that matches the ‘surface’?

    Or is this just a way of showing that Callow and Praes, Summer and Winter, Good and Evil are all the same story repeated in infinite variations throughout every being and land made by the Gods?

    Really makes me curious about how the other continents fit, like the massive Elf Kingdom, the Gnomes, Yan Tei, etc.


  20. Kenshin135

    ” …side of my face that should not be feeling anything at all. My bad leg, the one that still limped when I tired…”

    Wait, so she still had the numb face and limp? I would’ve thought resurrection fixed those, or maybe Rise. Especially since they weren’t brought up again as a problem since. Unless it’s Name shenanigans; she believes those injuries are part of her therefore they are and thus weren’t something to be “fixed”? Too old and therefore not repaired even by the super healing that is resurrection? Or she really doesn’t have them and he was just making her relive the memory of them as proof he could?


  21. Chinthor

    So kinda sorta joining up with Winter, but not really. And being tasked with fighting Summer on their behalf. Love the writing, but is this turning into a Dresden novel?


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