“I do not fear wicked men, who know only cruelty and pain. The fear they inflict leashes them as well. But a decent man? Oh, there is no limit to the devilry a decent man will fall to, if he believes it necessary.”
– King Edward III of Callow

Catherine, after some gentle prodding, had finally gone to bed. She still had quarters that were nominally hers in the royal palace, and not even the rebels had been arrogant enough to lay a hand on those. The dark-haired woman he called both friend and leader was too tired to even notice the Gallowborne discreetly following her at a distance, three of them ordered to guard her door through the rest of the night. Hakram did not believe that there were many entities within the bounds of Callow that could kill Squire in combat, but daggers in the nights were a different matter. They still got the occasional assassin paid for by Wasteland gold, though considering the amount they’d killed over the last year Praes had to be running out – there were only so many times Adjutant could have the heads of those enterprising fellows put on pikes before the pool of volunteers got truly shallow. Tribune Farrier lingered close, wiping blood off his sword hand with a cloth as Catherine’s retinue herded the prisoners away none too gently. The Praesi household troops were still too shocked to protest the treatment.

“Lord Adjutant,” the pale-skinned man finally saluted, thumping his fist against his breastplate.

The tall orc replied with the same gesture. He rather liked John Farrier, and believed the feeling was nearly mutual. The man was less than fond of greenskins in general – his grandfather had gotten his head caved in by an orc during the Conquest, and Callowans kept grudges – but their shared loyalties had done much to bring them closer. Another few months to work on him, Hakram thought, and they might even get to a place where they shared drinks. Adjutant would keep at it. The two of them were arguably the members of the Fifteenth who saw the most of Catherine, it was worth putting in an effort for them to get along. Hakram’s purpose had been to keep everything running smoothly long before it became his Role.

“You look like you want to say something, Tribune,” Hakram gravelled.

That or he was in pain. Humans had such delicate faces, it made their expressions harder to read: neither orcs nor goblins were so… complicated. That the wheat-eaters rarely meant to use their teeth to convey what they were actually conveying only made it more confusing.

“She pulled ahead of the cohort twice, tonight,” the dark-haired human said, “And refused to take an escort when she went deeper into the palace.”

Worry. This he could deal with.

“That was no slight to your abilities, Tribune,” he said. “She’s… impatient with this entire situation. And when she was headed for her meeting, guards would have been of no help. If anything she might have needed to protect them.”

The pale man’s eyes narrowed.

“The Thief,” he guessed.

“You haven’t had to clean up a corpse,” Hakram said, “which means she will be cooperating with us.”

“She ain’t the nice heroine type,” Farrier said. “She won’t be above sliding a knife in the Countess’ back down the line.”

The orc rumbled his approval. Awareness of threats was a good trait for the head of a personal guard to have. Catherine has chosen well in catapulting Farrier up the ranks instead of drawing someone from the officer pool. But then she’d always had a way for gathering talent to her banner, hadn’t she?

“It will be seen to,” Adjutant said.

The Callowan nodded sharply.

“The Countess didn’t give me any orders for the prisoners,” he added after a moment.

A concession, this. Tribune Farrier only answered to the Squire, theoretically speaking. That he was requesting instructions, even in such a sideways manner, was an offered hand. Though not an unexpected one: as far as the Empire was concerned, whenever Adjutant spoke it was Catherine Foundling’s voice articulating the words. Even nobles courted his attention, nowadays, and wasn’t that just the most hilarious thing he’d heard all year? Some brute like him from the Northern Steppes, wielding enough influence to give pause to highborn. Most days Hakram would have preferred to wash his hands of that entirely, but having that kind of clout made it easier to fulfil his duties.

“Staff Tribune Bishara lent us one of her men,” he said. “He’ll be going through the prisoners to see which can be ransomed back to the Wasteland. The rest we’ll be handing to the Governess-General for judgement.”

The Tribune’s eyes widened.

“It’s true, then?” he said. “Baroness Kendall is still alive?”

“We’ve had word of it,” Adjutant grunted. “We still need to confirm, but it seems likely.”

“Thank the Gods,” Farrier said. “If anyone can put some order in Laure, it’s her.”

He bit his lip the moment the words left his mouth.

“Not that I mean to impugn the Countess’ abilities,” he hurriedly added.

“She doesn’t enjoy being behind a desk,” Hakram said. “It’s not a crime to notice it.”

It would have been hard for the both of them not to, given how often she used personally drilling the Gallowborne as an excuse to foist off paperwork on him. It wasn’t that she was incapable of ruling, Adjutant knew. She had, after all, managed to set Callow on the path to recovery after less than a year in charge even with the Ruling Council slowing the process. In large part that had been through allowing her newly-appointed Callowan governors the leeway to do as the saw fit, but knowing when to give over power was also part of ruling. But she hadn’t taken to it the way she had to battlefield command, that much was glaringly obvious. The Squire shone brightest with a sword in hand, like the Warlords of old. There was a reason orcs called her that, and it wasn’t just respect. A damned shame it was not possible for her to transition into that Name: it would suit her better than that of Black Knight in many ways. But even after centuries to be the Warlord was, deep down, to be an orc. The orc. There was no changing that bedrock foundation.

“We’ll keep them in the city gaols, then,” Farrier said. “It would save the Baroness some trouble to execute them now, but I suppose a public trial will help strengthen her grip on the city.”

Hakram nodded and allowed the man to leave, trading salutes. He waited until the Tribune had left before clearing his throat.

“Tordis,” he said.

The orc lieutenant emerged from the shadows where’d she been leaning against the wall, hand resting idly on the pommel of her sword.

“Deadhand,” she replied, inclining her head.

Catherine had granted him a tenth under Tordis as his personal command during the Liesse campaign, and he’d later expanded their numbers to a full line after having Tordis promoted from sergeant to lieutenant. He’d needed the manpower, even if his original task of finding the leaks in the Fifteenth had largely been handed off to Ratface and Aisha since. The lieutenant was an old friend from Rat Company, and one he’d shared a bedroll with in the past. There’d been nothing more to that than flesh and comradeship, and neither of them had been interested in anything more serious – her being under his command had effectively closed off that avenue for good since. Squire had already amusedly called him a harlot for a month last time she’d seen a woman come out of his tent, and if she ever did that around Robber odds were he’d have to deal with a song about it. The goblin had proved he could compose truly filthy rhymes when’d he’d penned that tune about Nauk and the Fifteenth’s oxen, so Hakram was eager to avoid the pitfall if he could. He’d made a point of being even more discreet since becoming the Adjutant.

“Take word to Nauk,” he said. “I’ll need legionaries tomorrow to serve as public criers. Callowans, if possible. No more than a company.”

She nodded.

“And send someone to speak to Farrier,” he added after a moment. “We’ve got two high-profile prisoners, and I want them held separately from both each other and the rest of the soldiers.”

There might be mages among them, and there were discreet ways to scry. Better to keep the High Lords in the dark about what was happening in Laure as long as possible, or they’d start to wonder how the Fifteenth had made it so quickly to the old capital. It was only a short set of conclusions from there to figuring out they’d used Arcadia, and that trump card was best kept under wraps while they still could. The moment they realized that the Fifteenth could march straight into the Wasteland without ever needing to cross at the Blessed Isles, they’d start taking desperate measures. Too many of them had openly aligned with the Diabolist for them not to fear brutal retribution now. Catherine had something of a reputation in that regard.

“Should I have a study prepared for you?” Tordis asked.

Hakram shook his head. His bare bone fingers tightened.

“I still need to have one last conversation tonight,” he said.

Hakram had visited Laure more than he’d ever thought he would, since the Liesse Rebellion, but the former capital of Callow was still foreign city to him. Unlike Robber, who would start feeling at home the moment he’d stabbed someone in an alley anywhere in Calernia, he’d never become comfortable here. Marchford was starting to feel like home, though not as much as the Fifteenth, but the history here would never allow the orc to feel as anything but a stranger. How many hundreds of thousands of his kind had died, trying to take these streets for the Tower? Laure had been the beating heart of the Praesi occupation since the Conquest, but for all that it still felt Callowan to the core in a way few other cities he’d visited did. It was unlike Summerholm, where Callowans strode through the streets eating Soninke grilled meats and Praesi bartered in the markets with pale-skinned merchants, or even Marchford where young widows now traded heated glances with good-looking legionaries while goblins cheated at dice games with old men in older taverns.

Even Liesse, in the depths of the south, had felt… different. There was a difference there the way there was a difference between Taghreb and Soninke: cousins, but not ones who always got along well. Hakram had come to learn that Callow was no more a monolith than Callowans often assumed Praes was. The northern baronies to the east of Daoine were little involved with the rest of the realm, busy with their cattle-herding and weaving, and the wide central plains surrounding Vale saw themselves as a breed apart from both the Liessen to the south and the larger cities bordering the Silver Lake. There were divisions, but shallower ones than in the Wasteland. They were more like the Clans, only willing to squabble amongst themselves so long as there was no other enemy to fight. The Legions of Terror had forged unity between these old tribes one failed invasion at a time, he thought. Breathing the foul city air, Hakram dismissed the thoughts and slowed his steps until he stood in the centre of an intersection.

He reached for his Name, the feeling like putting on his armour and letting the weight of it settle on his shoulders. Find, he whispered inside his mind, and the wheel spun.

He picked the avenue his Name nudged him towards and trod down until the next intersection, where he invoked his aspect again. It was slow going, and twice he had to readjust the course. His target was moving, and had noticed it was being pursued: his ears caught the sound of footsteps on rooftops, too large to be those of goblins. It took half a bell for him to end up in the part of the city Catherine called “Dockside”, though no sign marked it as such. The orc was panting lightly when he found the alehouse he suspected was the hiding hole, cold sweat going down his back. The more he called on the aspect the more tiring using it became. But he was well-rested, and barely needed to sleep these days. He could take it. The establishment was shuttered, but there were lights peeking through. The footsteps quickened behind him, and Adjutant turned to meet his greeters.

Two men, Callowans. The older one took out a knife, a slender little thing that almost made him want to laugh.

“Alehouse’s closed,” the younger one said.

“Not to me,” Hakram gravelled.

“Shouldn’t have come alone,” the older one said, “if you were going to mouth off.”

He moved. Adjutant did not bother to take his axe in hand. He waited, then caught the wrist holding the knife and bent his legs: his muscles shifted as he swung the man around, using him to clobber the other Callowan. The two of them landed in a pile of limbs and curses.

“I’d be within my rights to kill them,” Hakram called out to the night.

“Squire agreed to a truce,” Thief replied, strolling out of the alley.

“Then discipline your people,” Adjutant grunted. “If they’d killed a legionary, a great deal of blood would have followed.”

“I refrained from drowning your goblins in the Lake when they poked around,” the short-haired heroine said. “That’s already showing a great deal of restraint.”

The orc glanced contemptuously at the two thieves, who were hastily rising to their feet.

“Don’t try to rob Legion personel again,” he told them. “You’ll live longer.”

The Thief glanced at her men.

“Scuttle off, boys,” she ordered. “And remember not all orcs are this calm after steel comes out.”

Hakram did not bother to watch them flee into the night, his attention all on the Thief.

“Let’s talk,” he said, and it wasn’t a suggestion.

“For a bunch of villains, the lot of you sure do chatter a lot,” the woman sighed.

She signalled from him to follow her anyway, her knuckles against the door resounding in a pattern so swift he almost missed it. The door opened and they were ushered in. The place was a pisshole, as the exterior had indicated. After his years at the War College Hakram was no stranger to those, though, and at least out here his nose didn’t have to deal with clouds of poppy smoke hanging in the air. The dozen men and women inside, scattered throughout the tables, watched him in silence as he followed Thief to to a dimly lit alcove in the corner. She already had a pitcher of ale on the table, and she stole a tankard from another table on the way to the table to fill it. The tall orc sat, the wooden chair creaking under the weight of him, and after taking a sip made an effort not to grimace. The ale might as well have a rat still floating in it. She couldn’t possibly be drinking the same stuff, could she?

“Deadhand,” Thief enunciated. “Now there’s a fancy title. Catchy, too. Praesi do have a way with that.”

“You were there when I earned it,” Hakram said.

The heroine laughed, pushing back her bangs.

“Is that what this is about?” she asked. “Are you holding a grudge, Adjutant?”

Her grin was almost mocking.

“Can’t have that,” she said. “We’re on the same side now. Gotta get along.”

Hakram set aside the tankard patiently.

“Catherine likes to think of the best of people,” he said. “That they see reason. That they will hold to their promises.”

“Naïve, for a villain,” Thief said.

“It has paid off more often than not,” Adjutant said. “Put trust in people and they feel the need to live up to it.”

“I’m deeply honoured Her Gracious Majesty Foundling has seen fit to make me a minion, of course,” Thief smiled. “All hail the queen.”

“Of course,” Hakram continued calmly, “sometimes people think to take advantage of that. To use their second chance against her.”

“It’s almost like the fish she’s selling smells slightly off,” the Thief mocked.

Adjutant’s dead hand snaked across the table, lightning-quick, and seized the woman by the throat. He knocked the table away rising, slamming her against the wall hard enough the wood shattered like clay. He heard a chorus of knives being taken out in the room to their side, and slightly raised his voice as he continued choking the heroine.

“A single one of you moves and I’ll snap her neck,” he mildly informed them.

None of them did.

“When people make that mistake, Thief, and aim a knife at her back – they find me waiting,” he continued, still in that mild tone. “Now, what I’m doing tonight will make you hate me. That’s fine. As long as you also remember the fear in your guts right now. Listen to that fear, when you start thinking about turning on her. Because I’ll be watching, and unlike Catherine I don’t believe in second chances. Much less third ones.”

He released Thief, letting her drop to the floor and gasp for breath.

“Enjoy your evening,” he said politely. “I look forward to working with you.”

He walked away, and not a soul dared stop him.

69 thoughts on “Deadhand

  1. JK

    The starting quote sounds a lot like C.S. Lewis: “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

    Liked by 23 people

    1. Theo Promes

      agreed – its so easy, with all the gossiping and quiet administrative stuff, to forget that he is also the first named orc in millenia. Considering that durability and a certain aptitude for combat seems to be present in all orcs, he is probably incredibly hard to kill.

      Liked by 7 people

      1. Morgenstern

        I guess more spotlight for him would actually take away from his … hm… sneakiness though that doesn’t feel quite like the right word. Untruthful harmless, maybe? 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Cpt. Obvious

        None of them is an exact match for the Calamities.

        Cat is the leader, but she doesn’t have the cold calculating mind of Amadeus. She will never be able to plan ahead the way he does.

        Hakram may be the administrator, he is not Scribe. All of her Name is devoted to handling information and bureaucracy while remaining unnoticed. She’s incredibly dangerous with only her pen as a weapon. Hakram will never be able to work from the shadows that way, and he’ll never be able to match her ability to manipulate bureaucracies the way Scribe does. Instead he is bound to Catherine more as a confidant and shield mate.

        Thief is no Assassin. She’s good at sneaking but doesn’t have the mindset suitable for a murderer. She can kill, but it’s not something she’d be able make a career of.

        Juniper comes close to matching Grem One Eye, but he’s not usually considered a calamity.

        Masego comes close to matching the Warlock. But while Wekesa isn’t particularly interested in the politics he still keeps an eye on it. Masego however couldn’t care less.

        Archer does fill a large part of Ranger’s place in the party. I can’t argue about that.

        Captain is hard to match up. She’s the extra Mother of every one of the Calamities. She’s the one who keeps Black’s back. She’s the mother of two and has been married for more than 20 years. And she’s the creature werewolves has nightmares about. The creature that can eat her way through the better part of an army and still be hungry. It’s hard to match that.

        And then there’s Robber. The most murderous goblin anyone’s heard of, and proud of it. Black doesn’t have a Robber…

        What Cat has going isn’t a copy of the Calamities. It’s not even a band of five villains, but three villains, a “fallen” hero and whatever Archer is. This is something new for Calernia as far as we know, though it may not be unique for the rest of Creation.

        The Calamities were unique in that they were a band of five Villains, and they stayed together for 40 years. This was thought to be impossible for major Villains. Those of Good alignment thought the band would split because of backstabbing and the old school Evil agreed with that view. And now Cat is collecting a band even less stable by including a Hero?

        It’s a good thing she thrives on chaos…


    1. nehemiahnewell

      Scary now? Scribe has always been scary. She’s the one that makes all the moving pieces fit together and work. The moment Squire got Adjutant it was a sign that bad things were in peoples future. Well ordered, carefully weighted, meticulously planned, pedantically executed things. Nightmares.

      Liked by 3 people

        1. It’s fine — sorry about the mix up. 🙂

          Much confuseled. Weird replies. Branch twist. Such sad. (Up to you if you want a shiba-dog or Trump in that meme. 😛 )

          Next time guys — at least vaguely reply to the person you mean to. Or, at least… indicate in the post with an @handleofOP if you’re trying to prevent getting squished at the side. Or something. <_<

          Liked by 1 person

        2. goliath1303

          OR, and bear with me on this, @THEHYPERBOLOID might have meant “Christian radio, or [Christian] hip-hop, is definitely a thing.” You know, a comment that makes sense. Since rap is a sub genre of hip-hop, which would make their comment correct, I would guess it’s that. I wouldn’t assume that, for some weird reason, they decided to define all hip-hop as Christian rap


  2. Darkening

    I… I think Hakram might be my favorite character. Hm. I mean, I love Cat, and Robber’s hilarious, but god, Hakram is just. Hm. I admire his purity of purpose I suppose. His serenity. I have about a thousand more words that want to be said, but they’re all getting in each other’s way, so I’ll leave it at that. Thanks for the story.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Dainpdf

    I love how, in a way, all of Cat’s subordinates end up covering for her flaws, in some way. Juniper has the methodical planning, Hakram the intimidation and cunning, Ratface the street smarts, Farrier the caution, Aisha the connections and politics, Apprentice the magical mojo. It’s a well oiled machine.
    This chapter reminds us that, when Catherine moves, there is just so much more going on, as her inner circle moves to make her will into reality.
    It’s no wonder she got as far as she did.

    Liked by 6 people

  4. vietnamabc

    Demons run when a good man goes to war.

    Of the story so far, I think this is no longer a fight between Good and Evil, more like a fight between Right and Wrong.


    1. stevenneiman

      I’d describe it as a fight between enlightened self-interest and irrational devotion. On the protagonist side, we’ve got Cat who is willing to do anything for her goal of making the world a better place, and Black who raises the standard of living as a weapon. On the other side there’s Kairos and Akua showing their devotion to the bygone Age of Wonders which is not only dead but wasn’t really all it was cracked up to be before, as well as the likes of Willy and the Bard, who are willing to murder, mind-rape and work with tyrants in the name of Good despite knowing all to well that Good doesn’t deserve the victory any more than Evil.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. HandyCapped

        Re-read the intro. It has always been about control and chaos. The words Good and Evil just got flipped around at one point or another, if we go by our sensibilities, me thinks.


  5. Dylan Tullos

    Until now, Hakram has always been competent and practical. I think this may be the first time we’ve seen him make a serious mistake.

    Thief isn’t some chump he can intimidate into loyalty. She’s a Named in her own right, even if her specialty isn’t direct combat. She works with Catherine for her own reasons, and she’ll betray Catherine as soon as she finds it convenient. Threats aren’t going to stop her from doing what she thinks is right.

    Hakram is far more dangerous than Thief in a direct fight, but so is Catherine. Thief isn’t going to fight fair, and she isn’t going to abandon her plans because Hakram is scary. All Hakram has accomplished is reminding thief that he’s a threat and showing her that his thinking is dangerously limited.


    1. Letouriste

      I disagree.he basically asked her to think twice about betraying thief will betray cat way later she probably would,for caution sake.
      Also,if she is concentrating on hakram,then she will maybe underestimate the others,like farrier for example.i expect him to be way scarier we think,he is an ex criminal afterall;) and we don’t know what he did.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Dylan Tullos


      I don’t know if there is any kind of pattern between Thief and Hakram. Every encounter doesn’t begin a rivalry, and I don’t see an obvious dramatic connection that would make a confrontation between Hakram and Thief a viable part of the Narrative.

      The Archdevil:

      There’s an entire section in an earlier chapter where Catherine discusses how dangerous it is to rely on powers like FIND. If Thief has an aspect like HIDE, she could break it out at the right moment and leave Hakram lost in a back alley, entirely reliant on an power that no longer works. FIND is useful, but counting on one ability (or item) is an invitation for disaster.


      1. Dylan Tullos

        Theo Promes:

        Catherine specifically says that relying on an aspect like “Find” gets Named killed. Sooner or later, your opponent will have an aspect that counters “Find”, and they’re sure to break it out at the worst possible moment. Hakram will be able to Find Thief’s headquarters easily as long as they’re allies, but the moment she turns on him he’ll discover that the power he depended on doesn’t work anymore.

        If Hakram trusts in Find, Thief will simply break out “Hide”, or something like it, and put a knife in the back of his neck while he staggers around a back alley, deprived of a power he treated like a crutch. The Exiled Prince died because he relied on magical armor to the exclusion of common sense, and I hope Hakram is too smart to make the same mistake.


        That is an interesting theory, and I think you’re right. While Catherine is distracted with bigger foes, Thief can bide her time and strike at a moment of weakness. But if she’s worried about Hakram, she won’t be focused on targeting Catherine directly.

        I do disagree with the idea that Thief will have to pit her weakness against Hakram’s strength. As the betrayer, she has the advantage of deciding when to strike. Even Named have to sleep, and we’ve seen how Thief’s powers allow her to slip past guards and bypass magical protection. Named aren’t immune to a knife in the night.


        1. Yeah. “Find” will lead him into a deserted warehouse where only the hero will be. Fractured moonlight will shine down on the floor between them through a series of broken windows. “I told you, I don’t believe in second chances,” Hakram growled, not even bothering to bare his teeth.

          And I told you, “Naïve, for a villain,” the voice said from the shadows ahead of him.

          As Hakram reached for her, the shadows warped around her and the warehouse erupted in green flames. A block away, Thief materialized from the shadows. “Thanks for teaching me that trick,” she said, reaching into her pouch and pulling out a bottle of whiskey.

          “No problem,” Bard said, “But I’d get out of Liesse right now, if I were you.”

          “Why?” Thief scoffed. “Catherine is a month’s ride away from here and the treasury needs relooting.”

          Suddenly the shadows warped behind Thief and a skeletal hand wreathed in green flame reached out and pulled her back into the shadows. A short shrill scream rang out from the warehouse and then the front doors burst open and Hakram strode forth, almost as naked as the day he was born, but now lacking even his birthday suit. The green flame still burning on his skeletal flame flickered and went out, the only remnant being the bright green light that now shone forth from the empty eye sockets in a pure white skull. With no skin or lips to hide them, his tusks scythed through the air as he spoke.

          Thanks for teaching me that trick,” he called out. “They have standing orders to allow you access to all alcohol stores, and Catherine has promised that, unlike Black, she will allow you access to be here and watch whenever you want. You’ll never have to go back to the darkness again.”

          She took a few steps towards him and the scene dissolved into some sort of Senein/Hentai that I frankly don’t feel comfortable writing, because now both of them had discovered a love that they could easily keep secret from everyone and Hakram still had a baculum, all while Bard ponders on how much chaos she can cause after drinking all the alcohol and leaving absolutely none left for a whole double-strength legion of men. 😉


      2. draxsiss

        Normaly I would agree with you but their is an extra factor in play here, endurance, Hide might be able to combat find even at an advantage but calling on aspects takes it out of you, As seen in our chapter Orks have oodles of constitution. He may be able to break her in the game of cat and mouse soley due to being relentless forcing her to call on “hide” or the equivalent too often and wearing her out in the battle of attrition.


    3. Theo Promes

      hmm, I disagree, I don’t think this was a mistake – think about it, Hakram has just demonstrated that he can *Find* thief’s base of operations, so he is able to somewhat counter the inherent elusiveness of her role – and that means, thief’s inferiority in a straight-up fight is a much larger handicap than she thought it was, because she cannot avoid him. So while there certainly will come some betrayal from thief, he made quite sure that she is in line for now, and that thief will try to pull something was a given anyways, so all he did was intimidate and antagonize someone who was already an antagonist, but perhaps not scared enough.


    4. stevenneiman

      What he did was make himself a lightning rod. Cat’s Name and story are very powerful and dynamic but also riddled with weaknesses that someone like the Thief could strike at very easily. His own name is not, and he’s just convinced Thief that she needs to get through him to get at Cat, which means that he’s just ensured that when she does betray the Fifteenth she’s going to start by pitting her weakness against his strength, not to mention possibly underestimating Cat’s other allies.


    5. usernamesbco

      I don’t think it was a mistake. Thief is giving way too much lip for someone without a combat oriented Name. Cat can’t call her on it directly because Thief took her deal, but Hakram can. He’s not trying to intimidate Thief into loyalty, he’s adjusting her attitude.

      Thief has spent way too much time around people who echo her “Stupid Good” ideals, or lesser criminals in her gang who are in awe of her Name. She’s forgotten that Cat isn’t standing alone either, and has much scarier individuals on her side. Crossing her will have consequences.

      I’d say the message was received.


  6. Thief, at the end of the day, suffers from the same sickness that killed William. Her cause is just, (kinda) her heart is pure (well, purer than the VILLAINS ::sniffs:: ), and she’s a HERO, so the Heavens shall grant her victory over the Wicked and Unclean Villains.

    That tell-tale self-righteousness of Thief’s is the giveaway that in her heart of hearts, she’s old-school Hero to the marrow. Subconsciously she thinks that Victory flows from which side you’re on, DESPITE having witnessed direct empirical evidence to the contrary.

    I think the Heroes of the days of yore won so much more often than the Villains is that Heroes more organically gravitate to fulfilling the Role behind the Name, while many Villains get bogged down intellectually in thinking the Name is the Thing.

    Black and his crew started the trend, but they still grew up in the shadow of old Evil, so it colors them to some extent. (Look at how Black’s choice not to instruct Cat about what was possible for her Name resulted in her gaining Aspects vastly faster, and even Speaking “Years before he was able to.”

    I will bet on Cat and her crew for reasons beyond plot armor.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. HWCBN

    Wow, what a ride! I just found this story over the weekend, and I am finally (regretfully) all caught up!

    I can honestly say that I haven’t enjoyed a web-novel anywhere near as much as I have enjoyed Guide since the first time that I read Worm! Well done, very well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. “But even after centuries to be the Warlord was, deep down, to be an orc. The orc. There was no changing that bedrock foundation”
    I think this was the author’s way of telling me that she will never be Warlord Catherine, the Necromancer, Duchess of Winter. Until she beats old Blackhand at her game, until she bests a Chieftain in single combat and undergoes the secret ritual to become an orc in spirit?


  9. Shequi

    I’ve just realised that Akua is both right and wrong about the forces surrounding the names.

    If, as she said, the roles are more important than the Names acting in those roles, then Adjutant is proof that the ban on the Name of Chancellor is working.

    As Dread Emperor/Empress slides into Chancellor’s vacant role of politicking, and Black Knight takes over as leading and shaping the Empire, then Squire is becoming the military leader and Adjutant comes into being as that roles understudy.

    What this means is that Akua’s attempt to return the Empire to the previous status quo is probably doomed from the outset.


  10. Vamair

    I wonder if erraticerrata is okay with people translating the book to other languages, if they don’t take credit for it, provide a link to the original work and don’t use it to earn money.


    1. Faiir

      He said that he wants to publish the book at some point and any unathorized copies or translations will make that harder.
      So no, he’s not ok with it


      1. Vamair

        I hope that won’t happen. But when we were discussing wildbow’s Worm translation we were told that all the rights to the fan translations belong to the original’s author, so that should be okay. I don’t know if they’re right, though.


  11. alegio

    Badass. Hackram is the best henchman ever, smart, strong, extremely loyal but still thinks by himself and morally felxible enough to follow you trough both peace and massacre. If one day I get to be a villian, getting a henchman half as good as him would make me extremely happy.


  12. Warren Peace

    Cat willed the Name Adjutant into existence didn’t she? She’s always believed Hakram had some kind of mysterious name-like power, so now he does, kind of thing. Right?


      1. aran

        “If a man has you entirely at his mercy, then hope like hell that man is an evil man. Because the evil like power, power over people, and they want to see you in fear. They want you to know you’re going to die. So they’ll talk. They’ll gloat. A good man will kill you with hardly a word.” -Pratchett

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Shikome Kido Mi

    “For a bunch of villains, the lot of you sure do chatter a lot,” the woman sighed.

    Huh, I guess Thief hasn’t yet learned that loving the sound of one’s own voice is a defining villain trait.


  14. Throwback

    It’s a good story, but I’m heartily sick of the interludes. There are waaay too many. This one for example, added exactly zero to the story and is being followed by, you guessed it, another interlude.


  15. Rereading this after yesterday’s chapter.

    I can only say holy shit.

    “Now, what I’m doing tonight will make you hate me. That’s fine. As long as you also remember the fear in your guts right now. Listen to that fear, when you start thinking about turning on her.”


  16. Ethan Smith

    “But even after centuries to be the Warlord was, deep down, to be an orc. The orc. There was no changing that bedrock foundation.” <— I find this to be interesting – I’m sure a few people wondered if she would end up becoming Warlord but this seems to put that to bed. Of course that doesn’t mean Hakram or Nauk won’t end up in the position


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