Chapter 18: Crack

“Kingdoms don’t die on battlefields. They die in dark, quiet rooms where deals are made between those who should know better.”
– King Edward Alban of Callow, best known for annexing the Kingdom of Liesse

Masego’s mage tower did not even attempt to look like anything else. It was at least a hundred feet tall, for one, which was taller than some keeps I’d come across. But that alone could have been the work of masons. The moat surrounding it was a different story: twenty feet wide and circling the building, it held no water but instead pitch-black darkness. No bottom could be seen, and a few months back I’d dropped a stone to see if it would do anything. As far as I knew, it was still falling. Apprentice had been particularly cagey about telling me exactly where the Hells it led, if anywhere, but that was in part my own fault. I’d flatly forbidden him to proceed with his original notion, which had been to fill a normal moat with giant fire-breathing lizards. Not dragons, he’d been very insistent in telling me. They didn’t have wings, and weren’t nearly as large. But the idea of those things inevitably getting loose and either rampaging across Marchford or making a lair in one of the silver mines had led me to put my foot down.

He’d been very snippy about it.

There was a single stone arch leading across the moat to the dark iron gate in front, wide for two people at a time at most and bare of any railing. There was a reason I picked messengers that weren’t faint of heart when trying to get in contact with him. I tread across carefully. The entire surface of the tower was covered in grey mosaics and leering carvings of obsidian, which he’d assured me were there for purely magical purposes. He’d thrown enough magic babble at me to justify that point that I was pretty sure that he just really liked how it looked. Being raised by a devil and a villain had let my friend to have some fairly specific tastes in architecture, sadly, which could be best described as ‘nightmare trying to seem friendly and failing’. The iron gate was covered in runes, and there was no knocker. In the centre, an iron-cast wolf’s head stood out from the surface and animated when I arrived. There was a devil bound inside, I knew, though Masego had tried to not say as much by referring to it as ‘an entity from a secondary realm of existence’.

“A visitor,” the wolf said. “Only the worthy may gain entrance here. To prove your wit, answer me this riddle-“

“Answer mine first,” I replied flatly. “Who’s going to find out if my punches can dent iron if they don’t open right now?”

The wolf paused.

“That is now how this usually goes,” it complained.

“I get that a lot,” I smiled thinly.

“Your name is on the allowed list,” it said. “You may enter.”

There was a pause, then it added uncouth barbarian in a loud whisper. I flicked its eye out of spite even as a doorway opened on the surface, ignoring its yelp and string of curses. The lowest level of the tower was much like any entrance hall decorated by a Praesi with too much gold to waste, though there was one major difference. Namely, the winged tapir that was fleeing down the stairs with loud shrieks as a dark-skinned woman in robes ran after it. It’d been a while since I’d last seen Fadila Mbafeno. Once one of Akua’s minions, I’d nearly killed her in Liesse before Masego intervened and said she was too talented a practitioner to waste. He’d extracted an oath from her to be safe she wouldn’t turn, in the early days, though she’d since been freed of it. Those kinds of binding magical oaths caused some fairly vicious side-effects if allowed to linger for too long. There was a burst of blue light from the Soninke’s hands and shining chains emerged from her sleeve, wrapping around the shrieking tapir and forcing its wings and feet to stop moving. She grunted in effort when dragging it back to her. I cleared my throat and had to admit I found the look of surprise and panic on her face when she realized I was here delightful.

“Fadila,” I said. “Keeping busy, I see.”

The winged tapir kept shrieking at the top of its lungs until she kicked it, at which point it moaned plaintively.

“Lady Squire,” she said, panting. “Some of the specimens occasionally get… rowdy.”

I snorted.

“First time I met Masego,” I said, “he was catching a fire-breathing pig with wings.”

I squinted at the tapir.

“That doesn’t breathe fire, right?”

“He does not,” Fadila replied, trying for poise. “Which has very interesting implications, considering the amount of sorcery he’s been exposed to.”

“I’m, uh, sure it does,” I lied. “Masego should be expecting me.”

“He’s set up the scrying room on the second level,” the Soninke said.

Oh, good. Then he’d found a way to get in contact with Black like I’d asked him. Apparently it was possible if we took advantage of the relay system the Empress used to receive my teacher’s reports, but he’d told me piggybacking on that without killing some of the mages involved would require some finagling.

“You have fun with this abomination of nature, then,” I said cheerfully, passing her by.

The tapir was licking her feet in what I gauged to be a gesture of appeasement, but she didn’t seem moved by the offering. By the time I was nearing the second level the shrieking had started again. The door to the scrying room was already open, so I wasted no time in going. This wasn’t the kind of place where it was healthy to wander, no matter what Apprentice insisted. The man in question was kneeling in front of a wall covered entirely by polished silver, the work so finely done it worked as a mirror. He muttered something under his breath and the silver shone for a heartbeat before dulling.

“Figured it out?” I asked.

Apprentice rose to his feet, brushing off his shoulder.

“If I shunt off enough of the Due into a dispersal ward, the weight shouldn’t cascade,” he told me.

“An obvious solution,” I said, pretending I knew what any of that meant.

He eyed me sceptically but didn’t bother to call me out.

“I can initiate the connection at any time,” he said.

“Before you do that, we need a little chat,” I said. “I don’t want to keep you in the dark, so I’ll just state it outright: I might have dabbled a bit in treason.”

“Dabbled?” he said, frowning over his glasses.

“You know, dipped a toe in the treason pool,” I said.

“I wish you would have told me beforehand,” he replied. “Now I’ll need to rework Marchford’s ward pattern to be able to face advanced scrying rituals.”

I cocked my head to the side.

“That’s it?”

“Oh no, treason,” he said in a mockingly high-pitched voice. “No villain has ever done such a thing before. All my extensive interest in Imperial politics is now put in danger.”

I snorted.

“What’s that voice supposed to even represent?” I asked.

“How little I care about any of this,” he replied frankly. “I’m sure you’ll find some compromise with Uncle Amadeus, and the Empress probably knew you were going to do this before the thought ever crossed your mind.”

The bespectacled mage pressed his hand against the mirror-wall, spoke a word in the arcane tongue and idly made for the door.

“Now, if you’ll excuse me,” he said. “I think one of the tapirs got loose.”

“Stuff like this is why you don’t get to have giant fire-breathing lizards,” I called out.

“You have no standards, Squire,” he complained one last time before closing the door behind him.

The wall had been pulsing this entire time, but with a silvery ring an image came into focus. Pale green eyes met mine as I leaned against a table. Black’s brow rose in surprise.

“Catherine,” he greeted me. “Masego tapped into the relays?”

“The technicalities went over my head, but yes,” I said. “Hello, Black. It’s been a while.”

“It has,” he agreed calmly. “I expect you’ve a reason for this. We’ll have to rebuild the entire network now – this will have sent flares for anyone looking.”

“This morning,” I said, “I founded a chivalric order.”

The pale man did not seem particularly surprised, though it was always hard to tell with him.

“I wondered if they’d get in touch with you,” he said. “I assumed they already would have, if they were ever going to.”

I blinked.

“You knew there were knights in hiding?”

He seemed amused.

“I am not without Eyes, even in the south,” he said. “Though I can’t say this strikes me as a wise decision. Making such a bold move for a few hundred men in cavalry is inviting backlash for limited gain.”

“Two thousand,” I said quietly. “Likely more.”

He wasn’t openly shocked. He had too much control for that. But his face went blank, for a heartbeat, and that was the closest thing he’d ever show.

“I miscalculated,” he said, and I could see his mind working furiously behind the calm. “No centralized organization – ah, relying on local support. Cells with no contact after the initial founding. Whoever came up with the notion is most likely dead by now. What a waste.”

Only Black, I thought, would go within moments from realizing he’d been outsmarted to being saddened at the loss of such talent.

“I thought you’d be angrier,” I said.

“Angry?” he mused. “You’ll have folded them into the Fifteenth, if I’m not mistaken. You’ve obtained half a legions’ worth of the finest heavy cavalry on Calernia for the Empire. Pleased would be closer to the truth, though doing this without Malicia’s sanction will bring trouble.”

I frowned.

“She wouldn’t have given it,” I said.

“Not without exacting concessions in exchange,” he said. “Which you’ll have to make anyway, unless you intend to wage ware on the Empire.”

His eyes narrowed a fraction as he studied me.

“If that is your intent, giving me prior warning was a mistake,” he said.

“I don’t want to fight you,” I confessed. “But I don’t think you’ll like what I’m about to do.”

“You know where I draw the line,” he reminded me.

“I’m not going to oversee the eradication of my own people’s culture, Black,” I said.

“Then don’t,” the dark-haired man frowned. “I take no issue with Callowans having a way of life, only the aspects of it that threaten Imperial control.”

“Imperial control is what got us here in the first place,” I flatly replied.

“An independent Callow is not feasible,” he said carefully. “You know this.”

“I know,” I said. “But if this is going to work, there’s going to be a need for heads on spikes. The rot needs to be cut out or we’ll be here again in five years.”

“You’ve more immediate threats to deal with than the Wasteland,” he said after a moment.

He was not disagreeing with me and it was enough to have me shiver. He’d told me, once, that after the civil war that saw Malicia crowned he’d wanted to get rid of the Wastelands’ nobility. It was the Empress who’d stopped him. I wouldn’t be going that far, but – he was not disagreeing with me.

“I do,” I said. “But after…”

“After,” he agreed softly. “When I return.”

His image on the wall turned and I heard someone speak to him.

“Then block it,” Black said. “Before they can-“

The mirror-wall dulled, my teacher’s profile disappearing without warning and leaving only my face looking back at me. I breathed out slowly. So I wasn’t burning this bridge by doing what I intended to. Relief flooded me as I closed my eyes. I stayed there for a moment, and eventually I thought back to an evening long ago, on a balcony where a storm was gathering.  I’d asked Black a question, back then and I could still hear his reply like he’d just spoken it. When they get in your way? Step on them.

Of all the lessons he’d taught me, I thought, I had learned that one best.

“So are you going to tell me why you made sure I wouldn’t be at that meeting?” Kilian asked.

We’d come to share a wineskin by the ruins of had once been Marchford Manor, the blackened remains swept away months ago by Pickler’s sappers. Rain and wind had scattered the ashes, leaving behind only the remains of the garden and the gaggle of statues that had filled it. The two of us were seated on a scorched stone bench, its once-elaborate carvings now hidden by soot. I passed her the wineskin and watched my lover drink from the Vale summer wine. Night had just fallen, the moon slowly climbing to its apex. I hesitated for a moment, then forged on.

“I’ve gone against the Empress,” I said.

The quarter-fae was lovely, in the shade. Her red hair had grown long enough it bordered the limit of what was acceptable by Legions regulation, framing her pale face and hazelnut eyes like a tongue of flame. Kilian set down the wineskin after a moment.

“The noble Juniper put in a cell,” she finally said. “He talked you into something.”

“I’ve been headed there, I think,” I said, “since the moment I learned there was a coup in Laure.”

“There will be consequences to that,” the redhead softly said.

“There would be consequences to doing nothing,” I replied. “I chose the ones I could live with.”

She remained silent for a long time. I could feel her, now, in a way that I previously could not. The bundle of power inside of me sang out when it came closer to the smaller sister-thing inside her. I no longer needed to hear or see her to know when she was in a room.

“You’ve never been very good at compromise,” Kilian said.

I frowned.

“I’ve done almost nothing but for the last two years,” I replied.

“You compromise,” the lovely mage said, “when the other is stronger. And you are no longer powerless.”

“I’m not sure what you’re saying,” I admitted.

She smiled gently at me.

“Why did you not tell me with the others?” she asked.

“I thought I owed it to you for it to be just the two of us,” I said.

She drank another mouthful of wine, then passed me the skin.

“Catherine,” she said. “Don’t lie to me.”

“I’m not-“

“You didn’t want me in that room,” Kilian said calmly, “because if I left you over this, you didn’t want it to happen in front of the others.”

I very nearly denied that. But instead I took the wineskin and drank.

“The thought might have crossed my mind,” I said.

“I’m not sure whether I should take that as a kindness or an insult,” she murmured, looking up.

It’d been a long time since I’d last felt without so much as a speck of control over a conversation. I hadn’t missed the feeling.

“When we started this,” Kilian said. “I knew I’d always be third in line. Behind Callow, behind the the Fifteenth. On a good day, if duties allowed, I might wiggle up to second. But not often.”

I felt my stomach knot.

“Kilian, I know we haven’t spent a lot of time together lately. I’ve not been able to-“

She leaned into me and pressed a kiss against my shoulder.

“I’m not angry about it, Cat,” she said. “I just told you, I knew that from the start. But you’re leaving me behind. That’s just a fact.”

“I’m not,” I insisted.

“I have fae blood,” she said. “But you took two people into Arcadia, and I wasn’t one of them.”

“Kilian, it was dangerous,” I said. “The kind of things I do in places like that, the kind of risks I take, they’re…”

“Too much for me,” she finished after I hesitated. “Because I’m weak.”

“You’re one of the best mages in the Fifteenth,” I said.

She chuckled wearily.

“And what does that matter, when you have the Apprentice at your side?” she said.

“I don’t share a bed with Masego, for one,” I sharply replied.

“Is that what I’m to be remembered as, then?” Kilian said. “The girl who warmed your bed on your way to power?”

“That’s not what I meant and you know it,” I said. “I trust you.”

Her eyes met mine.

“Then why wasn’t I in that room?”

I looked away first.

“Just because I was afraid doesn’t mean I don’t trust you,” I said. “I’ve told you things I’ve never told anyone before, Kilian.”

“And I love you for that,” the redhead smiled. “Even though it’s stupid and dangerous and it might just get me killed.”

The rush that came with her saying those words had never dimmed and I gloried in it for a moment. But then the smile went away.

“But now I think of the conversation you had with them, earlier,” she said. “And I know you made a decision. You needed to convince all of them, and there was a risk I could distract from that effort. So you made the call.”

She sighed.

“You know, I think the better part of everyone you love in this world was in that room,” she mused. “And you manipulated them anyway. I don’t believe you had that in you, when we first met.”

You’re wrong, I thought. I’d just never had a reason to use it.

“I’m glad you do now,” she murmured. “We’ll need it to survive the coming months. But I have to think of myself too.”

“I thought you were happy,” I murmured. “With us, with-“

Me, I left unsaid.

“I am,” she said, laying a hand on my cheek. “But you’re leaving me behind, Cat. And the kind of things I would have to do to catch up would end us anyway.”

“I don’t believe that,” I said.

“As long as I don’t control my blood,” she said, “My magic is shackled.”

“Masego could find a way,” I said.

“He already has,” she replied. “It’s an old ritual. It requires sacrifice, and would make me as a full-fledged fae.”

“Kilian, I’d put half of Winter on an altar if it helped you,” I honestly said.

“It would require humans as a stabilizing element,” she added quietly.

My heart skipped a beat.

“You can’t seriously be considering that,” I said.

“It could all be done lawfully,” she said. “It would be costly to buy the death row prisoners, but demand has lessened and I’ve the funds for it.”

“It’s not about the law,” I hissed. “It’s about decency. They’re people, not things.”

The redhead chuckled softly.

“You can take the girl out of Callow,” she said. “But not Callow out of the girl.”

“You’re Duni,” I said.

As good as Callowan, in most Wastelanders’ eyes.

They make that distinction, not me,” Kilian said, tone hardening as she withdrew her hand. “I am Praesi, Catherine. It’s not any more a crime for me to love my home than you yours.”

“This isn’t about where we’re from,” I replied, aghast. “It’s about human sacrifice.”

“And how many of us will die so you can make what you want out of Callow?” she said tiredly. “I don’t see much of a difference. At least it’s strangers I would be using.”

“There is,” I started, but stopped when she lay a hand on my shoulder.

“I don’t want to have this fight, Cat,” she said. “If I did I would have brought up the notion when I first learned of it. I’ll just say this: if there’s anyone who should be able to understand how hateful it is to have a yoke around your neck, it’s you. To just be… less than you could be.”

“There’s lines you can’t uncross,” I said.

“And how many of those have you left behind?” she replied quietly, rising to her feet.

My stomach dropped.

“That’s it?” I said. “Just like that you’re leaving me?”

Because I won’t condone bleeding people like animals, I bit down on. Kilian’s face was hard to read in the dark, but there was no joy on it.

“No,” she finally said. “But I need to think. About what compromises I’m willing to make to make you happy.”

She passed a hand through her hair.

“I’ll be sleeping in the barracks from now on,” Kilian said. “Take care of yourself, Catherine. It only gets harder from here.”

I watched her walk away in silence, and kept watching long after she was gone. Eventually I looked up at the moon, and wondered if I was even still capable of crying.

81 thoughts on “Chapter 18: Crack

  1. xacual

    I wish I could say I was surprised that this happened, but I’m really not. Cat has some really big hypocrisy in her that she’s willing to do harsh, even terrible things herself, but she doesn’t like the idea of Kilian doing the same. I mean, is this really any different than her sending Robber after any of Akua’s people? You could say Robber was killing enemy combatants, but death row prisoners are going to get killed anyway. So be practical Cat! Let them have some use before they’re gutted anyway.

    Personally I’m more interested in the aftermath of that ritual. If Kilian becomes a Fae, which I said in a previous comment before would probably be a Summer court one, it will create an interesting story of the “star-crossed love of a Summer Court Fae and a Winter Court Noble”.

    Something like that anyway. I just want to see Kilian get a Name of some kind to be honest.

    Liked by 10 people

    1. xacual

      I realized something after rereading the last few chapters but Cat here is denying Praesi culture. Praesi culture has always used human sacrifice as an acceptable means to an end. We learned a while ago that every Praesi city does a ritual every year to make sure the little arable land they have near the city is usable. To Praesi, a human sacrifice is nothing astounding. I’m sure if she had brought it up with any of the officers, they’d wonder why she was making a big deal about it.

      So what I’m saying is that, if Cat really is serious about what she’s doing, she’s going to need to reconcile Praesi’s culture with Callow’s even if it means she might have to accept some practices she doesn’t like.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. JackbeThimble

        Not necessarily, part of having a truly federal system is that you don’t always have to live side-by-side with people you don’t like. It’s entirely possible to get human sacrifice banned in Callow while it remains legal in Praes. It’s also worth keeping in mind that the main reason human sacrifice was so common in Praes was that it was necessary to grow food. Now that they essentially have a free-trade zone with Callow this will become less and less necessary and human sacrifice may become less common or disappear altogether through simple economic forces.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. xacual

        I don’t know. I mean there’s a ways to make human sacrifice more ‘ethical’ without abolishing it entirely. Like offer prisoners the chance to take part in a ritual, but in exchange their families will receive some money or things along that nature. Plus I mean that’s only one example of human sacrifice magic that we know of. I’m sure there are tons of other good and bad examples.

        I just can’t help but see Cat as being hypocritical about it since she really has no claim to any kind of moral high ground after she had some guy’s soul ripped out of his body.

        Liked by 3 people

  2. vietnamabc

    And we got the first couple fight. Dunno why we need specific human sacrifice, I thought it would be something like Name Dream, something you chose for yourself ala Dresden Files’ changelings.


    1. RandomFan

      Fae are higher on the chain of power than humans. Magic seems to require a name to get power quickly, or earning power. The fastest way to do the latter is sacrifice, I regret to inform you. The most cost-efficient sacrifice seems to be humans, though other stuff is more effective apparently.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. jonnnney

        I’m guessing the fact that human sacrifices yield less power is the reason human sacrifices are needed along with fae sacrifices. The energy released from a human sacrifice is a known quantity while the energy from the fae sacrifice would be hard to predict. With such a complex ritual there needs to be a few known constants to balance against the many other variables.


  3. agumentic

    Huh. Well, I never felt like that particular relationship was built to last, so not really surprising. Would be a pleasant surprise if it works out though.
    I also don’t really think there’s anything wrong with sacrificing death row inmates, but I see how arguments could be made against it.


    1. Jackbethimble

      If you’re gonna have a death row you might as well make use of it right. More controversial would be sacrificing the terminally ill (in exchange for an agreed-upon payment to next of kin of course)


      1. JackbeThimble

        As far as we know there’s no way to determine whether souls even exist after death unless they’re captured somehow, so whether that happens would mostly be a matter of religious belief.


      2. nipi

        Pretty sure the people in the story know souls exist. Cat having a piece of her soul cut out, Masego saying he isnt using all of his soul anyway, former emperors becoming wraiths after their death, the existance of Hells, ect.


    2. stevenneiman

      The issue might be something about a slippery slope. If it’s OK to profit from killing death row inmates, then whether or not she does it deliberately the supply of sacrifices is going to be a part of her decisions about laws and punishments. That means that if she allows it at all, there’s at least a risk that it will mean killing people specifically to provide a power supply.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Soronel Haetir

    I am more than a bit surprised that Cat is so against using prisoners for this. I could have easily seen her balking at specific individuals but not at the process itself.


    1. sheer_falacy

      Remember how she reacted way back, after her first fight with the Lone Swordsman. Some prisoners were killed to keep her alive, and she was unhappy with it. Some of that was her name being unhappy with her “redemption arc”, but some of it was just her. It’s a somewhat odd moral for her to have since she’s certainly done worse things, but it is consistently a moral that she has.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Soronel Haetir

        Okay, I was mixing two episodes that were temporally close:Cat’s queasiness with executions being used to personally help her (being healed after the squire-claiming fight) and her outright anger at the time over the executions of the traitors. A large part of the latter was Name-driven and once Cat realized that she was even more pissed about her head being messed with than she had been with the hangings. I was sort of mentally bleeding my expectation of her reaction to a repeat of the hangings over onto the healing.


    2. nipi

      Its a strong callowan moral taboo she is displaying. She has struggled with the fear of becoming praesi instead of being callowan. Im not surprised at all.


  5. Hakurei06

    I’m reminded of the verse of a song…

    They say the third step is the cruelest
    Walk when the moon is at her clearest:
    Love ends with the kiss of the knife,
    Trust is the wager that takes your life

    —V1 Ch25, Snatchers Plan

    Gods know how the rest of that went, anyway.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. lennymaster

      Does anybody remember in wich chapter that song was identified as “The girl that climbs the tower”? I think it was the one in wich she had the Talk with Hakram, but I cannot be shure.


    1. stevenneiman

      I thought that they were a cute couple, and that their relationship was as well-written as the story in general.
      My one worry is that the reason that it went so well before was because relationship problems and assassinated lovers are hero business, and now suddenly she’s having relationship problems as a result of thinking like a hero, which means that her story might be weakening. Fae powers and a new cavalry division notwithstanding, this is not a good time to lose the advantage that her strong story has afforded her in the past.


      1. Eve

        Personally, I never enjoyed the relationship. The fact is, Killian, kind of didn’t have much of a personality. “She was hot when she was mad.” Otherwise, she was pretty much just there to be there, and be a girl who was in a relationship with Cat.

        You literally can’t even try to describe her personality beyond that much. Maybe their relationship was written alright but it wasn’t interesting personally, since it just went through the motions of an relationship and didn’t seem to amount to anything.

        I hoped it wouldn’t come to a fridging situation because Killian deserves that much. But I really wanted them to break up eventually. Organic relationship progression.

        This is ideal for me, because frankly, this makes her more interesting, and I would prefer a clean break as compared to drama over and over again. Fingers crossed.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think making the hero tropes work for her has turned out pretty well so far. Aside from the whole business with the Sword in the Stone, Cat is very focused on protecting civilians in her territory against anyone who threatens them, hero or villain. That’s when the narrative (and the audience) has been most on her side.

        If anything, I’d read it the opposite way – the fact that she’s having relationship problems is an indication that her hero story is still going strong.


    1. letouriste

      akua have some in liesse right? i remember a little whisper cat gave to her last book;) if this is enemy i think cat can deal with this


  6. letouriste

    what a big death flag:o now i can easily imagining their story finishing in blood,killian blood.
    btw,killian fae side is related to summer or winter? i thought that was summer but this chapter made me doubt about that.


      1. xacual

        If you go back to volume 1 where she goes all overboard with magic, her hair went fire looking and her eyes turned bright green.


    1. Dread Emperor Obvious to the rescue! Black mentioned that her grandmother rode with the Wild Hunt, which comes from Winter. Lightning is a standard spell, fiery hair is more likely to be a “fae Courts are states of mind” thing.

      Also, will she have to lock herself into a story, bow to a Court, or shorten her lifespan to that of an average fae’s while in Creation?


  7. Vamair

    I wish they go on with that ritual. Not just declining seems a bit like hypocrisy, but also now that Catherine is considered a Winter Fae and Killian is supposed to be a Summer one, things are going to get even more interesting.


    1. nipi

      Somehow I think the Winter King knew about Kilians fae bloodline. Might be an important bit in his grand scheme. Leading Cat to create a new story that he desires?


  8. kinigget

    Killian is right, of course. Cat’s never been very good about compromising her principles, and this is a big one

    But here’s the thing though: not only would it let Killian “catch up” and once again make her an equal partner in their relationship, it would give the 15th their very own Summer fae, and while that might clash with Cat’s new Winter nature, it would leave then in a decidedly stronger position over all

    Cat has always prided herself on her pragmatism, but this is a core value, the kind of line that can not be crossed lightly

    Of all the things she’s done that she can’t take back, this might just be the hardest


    1. Kilimandaros

      They could never be truly equal partners in their relationship. No matter how strong Killian becomes she still will be Catherine’s subordinate. Killian is profesional soldier and while becoming Named probably allows to relinquish the duty, I really doubt that even Legions have regulations about status of soldier who transcendent humanity to become full-blooded Fae. Even if she were to become Named (which is doubtful if she was to become full-fledged Fae, not to mention her redundancy with Masego), she still has no way to attain Catherine’s status. Of course it’s all under condition that equality in relationship is desired outcome and it’s based on their personal power/status.


      1. kinigget

        True as far as it goes, but this is all about power, and becoming full Summer Fae would erase a huge chunk of the distance between them

        Killian is feeling powerless and useless, this would help *her* feel like she has an actual purpose again


  9. Luis

    I think the problem is human sacrifice has meaning in this world. It’s not just blood and bone you use up but maybe a human soul.

    What makes human sacrifice and demonic taint so abhorrent is that irrevocably alters or destroys the soul.

    You can kill a man or torture him and you will be a monster with a little M, you start trafficking with demons, and human sacrifice and you move on to big M territory especially for something as transient and mundane as power.


  10. Duckie

    Now the question is, if she does go threw with it and become a real fae… If she is indeed Summer like the most obvious sign points too. Will the fact that Summer and Winter don’t mix well together in general cause them to fight…. Or will their star crossed love be what ends the war story between the two sides? It’s not an unheard of tale of such love ending wars after all.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. JackbeThimble

    Archer: Hey squire, how’s it going?
    Squire: Someone tore my heart out of my chest and replaced it with a ball of ice. Oh and also my girlfriend left me.
    Archer: So… you’re single now?

    Liked by 9 people

  12. Dianna

    So anyone else get a feeling of impending doom when Black said: “When I get back”?
    That just feels like the sort of thing people Who Aren’t Coming Back say. Good luck Cat, because without him, some tell me you will end up fighting his precious Alli.


    1. Yeah, especially after that interruption. Someone tracked his connection, which either means someone was listening in (heroes or nobles, the latter possibility more worrying) which means an outside party knows about Broken Bells (and I’m still astonished nobody made an emasculation joke yet); or given the “Then block it, before they can-” bit, it’s more likely someone’s been scrying on the Calamities, which means the heroes are on their doorstep. Alternatively, Cat mentioned that it’s not advised to scry close to the Waning Woods, since the Wild Hunt can pull a Candyman and pop out of the scrying bowl, and the connection between Marchford and Nicae went straight over that forest.


    2. Morgenstern

      Not really. I actually got a rather sinister foreboding sense of enjoyment about the “When I get back”. People say that all the time. The ones that don’t AS WELL as the ones that DO.
      My personal sinister-ly joy was about the thought of either of them finally getting what both want. Getting rid of the darn backstabbing Praesi nobles like Black wanted to do from the start. In my mental picture for that split second, he was somehow someone Cat gave the free pass to do so ^^ Instead of him sending her… One or the other way, I’d he rather disappointed if HE died so soon. As I said somewhere else, it’s time for Warlock. But not Black. At least not yet. Because Cat is getting there, but not there yet, so we’d have an audience’s darling hole, which can be even worse than any plothole.


      1. Morgenstern

        sinister* (momentary) joy
        The stuff that happens to your grammar, if you think of two versions of the sentence at the same time… duh. -.-


      2. Morgenstern

        But yeah, I guess this author might just pull off even that without killing the mood. 😉 So I’m more or less up for anything, but still keeping my fingers crossed for Black, because I like him so, so, SO much. ^^°


  13. Kadath

    Also, point of order: Cat was gone for 3 fuckin months, comes back with a chunk of Killian’s Arcadian opposite lodged in her, and expects Killian to just roll over and be a comfort woman. I’m not exactly surprised this is how it turned out, given that Cat’s more emotionally intimate with Apprentice than her own girlfriend lately.


  14. Cat keeps call and see herself as a willing villain in the past, and yet now she denies something she had already done a lot of times, killing others for her goals.

    That seemed so contradictory, I hope it is not going to advance forward as a gaping plothole in the future


    1. “You can take the girl out of Callow,” she said. “But not Callow out of the girl.”

      Callow is, fundamentally, one of the ‘Good’ nations. In a world where people (collectively, not individually) are explicitly divided into Good and Evil, there will inevitably be differences in culture and values that seem hypocritical or odd from an outside perspective.

      To the Praesi, human sacrifice is just another thing that’s done. It’s practical, effective, readily available (if expensive) and so is judged in terms of cost-to-benefit. If a Praesi is arguing against human sacrifice, they’re likely to be arguing based on the cost, the efficacy, or the trouble of going through the process. They’ll never use the argument, “Because it’s wrong.”

      The Callowans have the opposite view. “Human sacrifice is evil.” This is a statement which is presumed to be intrinsically true. There is no situation where this statement is not considered to be true. Evil is Evil is Evil; it’s a tautology. Callowans are Good, therefore Evil is bad, Human sacrifice is Evil, therefore human sacrifice is bad.

      Our dear Squire may be a Villain, and she may have sided with the forces of Evil. When she considers her actions objectively (or as close as she gets to it) she states that she is a Villain, and her actions certainly support that.

      But if you look at her whole mentality, she really embodies a well-known saying: She may be Evil, but she hasn’t internalised Evil; She’s a villain, but deep down she’s still thinking of herself as the hero of the story (of Callow).

      tl;dr – Cat’s central character arc is that she is an Evil Villain with Good values and a Heroic mindset. This is one of the glaring examples of that inner conflict in action.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Blinks

      Because stories are important, how you and others see you are important in our world but far more so in this one. Heiress shifting herself over to Diabolist shows this better than anything else.

      Human sacrifice isn’t just a matter of principles or simply a minor line to cross. She’s killed people before, they were going to die anyway, it’s for the best. Those are excuses in a world where good and evil are legitimate and actual forces. It’s another step down a very very dark rode and while Black and the Empress show it’s possible to do so and not devolve into cackling loonacy their sheer effectiveness shows just how rare that is.


  15. The whole thing with Killian was tiresome to me from the beginning, all the references to their relationship. Stereotypical strong black lesbian bored the fk out of me, i like villains which is why i read the story. yasss get more cold, and ruthless, fk love, and feelings.


    1. TheTowerRemains

      Neither of them are black, Catherine is callowan and as referenced here Killian is Duni, or a pale skinned praesi from the callowan border.


      1. Catherine is Deoraithe, who are black totally-not-Irish with a grudge against elves. I agree that it still doesn’t make Cat “stereotypical strong black lesbian”, but some stuff like gender not being a thing in Helike or the male-to-female ratio in militaries (or is this a universe where a gap in physical strength between unNamed men and women doesn’t exist? Nothing else indicates that, but still) feel tumblr-ish. Not in ideological sense, I just feel that there must have been more organic way to work all that into the descriptions, or just to be more subtle and trust readers not to be idiots and connect the dots themselves. Then again, most stories that make a point out of it do it more hamfistedly, so maybe that’s just me enforcing the oppressive culture or whatever.


    2. Eve

      Oh boy, this is a little…. I have problems with their relationship but neither of them are black, not that it would matter.

      My own issue is with Killian’s personality, and how little she interested me personally. If you have a critique at least try to make sure you’re basing it on actual parts of the canon.


  16. Blinks

    Killian is basically the “oh yeah, the girlfriend, i forgot about her”.
    She doesn’t really register all that much.
    Basically she’s Cat’s introduction to evil before she goes all in and starts making out with Diabolist.


  17. Shawn Panzegraf

    I wish this had been framed with Killian taking the initiative. Rather than Killian deciding to go through with the ritual and that defaulting to being the end of her and Cat, or not going through with it to make Cat happy, I would’ve liked to see something like this:

    Killian: I know how you feel about human sacrifice Cat. Just like you know I do NOT feel the same way about it as you do. I’ve told you I’m tired of being less than I could be, and anyways if I keep settling for less the process of you leaving me behind simply continues. So, rather than asking me if I’m leaving you, you need to ask yourself whether you’re leaving me if I go through with this. I’m having a very hard time with you placing more value on the lives of convicted murderers than on us, so until you’ve answered that question we need to be apart.

    All through the conversation Killian is laying out the reasons she feels strongly about this. It felt like Cat didn’t listen to anything except the morally debatable point of human sacrifice. (Which, for the LIFE OF ME, I cannot understand why she would kick up such a fuss when the sacrificees are *already* condemned to die. If this were a question of Killian being responsible for taking lives that otherwise would not be taken, this would be a more valid debate. What Cat is essentially saying is “It’s better to get absolutely no benefit from ending the lives of killers” and calling that being anti-human sacrifice.

    Cat is so gung-ho to preserve Callowan culture. Telling Black to his face she won’t oversee the eradication of HER culture. Yet she offers none of the respect for Praesi cultural mores that she wants the Praesi to demonstrate toward Callowan sensibilities. The hypocrisy, as others have said, is a bit thick.

    Personally I’m dearly hoping Killian just goes ahead and does it. It’s easy to say you’ll cut off someone you love for doing something you’re against. Harder to do, especially when what you’re against isn’t something traditionally bad for a relationship. Like cheating etc etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. ArkhCthuul

    Well,nthatnwent.downhill fast, as.expected. Though I.did.hope.someone would bring up.l cats new nature, maybe even herself.
    Isn’t it.possible that swearing a high ranked.Noble would be enough to make Killean far?
    Cat is a Duchess after all, mayhap THE Duchess….


  19. arancaytar

    “I have fae blood,” she said. “But you took two people into Arcadia, and I wasn’t one of them.”

    Isn’t Kilian related to Summer?

    Not that Cat expected to go there when she originally set out, but in that case wouldn’t it have been a spectacularly bad idea to take her into the Winter court?


  20. Cestarian

    Aww poor Catherine, she’s such a freakin hypocrite tho. She did fuck up by not having Kilian in the room when she told everybody about her treason though, must be regretting that a whole lot right now.

    I wonder what effects it’ll have on her though, Kilian has always been her anchor to sanity, the only shoulder she trusts enough to lean on. Losing that, and at such a desperate time, it would break most people…

    But at the same time, I don’t think she wants Kilian to become a fae, that thought probably scares her a lot more than the idea of her using a sacrifice to do it. She’d be an incredible boon to the fifteenth as a fae, almost a rival to apprentice even. But Fae have a reputation for not living very long when they’re in creation if I recall correctly. It’s what would scare me the most anyhow.


  21. Aotrs Commander

    Well, Faith (mostly) restored, since the first thing Cat did was go tell Black. And Black reacted in the way I really wanted him to; rationally.

    (Why I try not to rush to judgement…)

    But, Cat… Duck, you are pretty much going to go an execute a load of people right next. Why in the merry hells are you taking objection to that sort of thing serving more than ONE purpose? Practical Evil is your whole schtick.

    I mean, ye gods, it’s not like that a large percentage of your army literally eat the corpses of you enemies or anything. You are, frankly, being a bit of a hypocrit, and a little bit arrogant and now I’m more worried than ever that the fae-ening has had some really bad effects no-one has reailsed.


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