Chapter 25: Intent

“Trust the Heavens but tie your horse.”
– Callowan proverb

It was past dawn when the last soldier crossed the gate.

As soon as Robber stepped foot in Arcadia I had him prepare his cohort for scouting, but held off on sending him until Marshal Ranker’s legion was through. A few quiet sentences with her and moments later a thousand goblins melted into the countryside, with warnings about fae patrols and the kind of tactics they’d deployed so far. I had a pavilion mounted for me half a mile away from the gate, surrounded by Nauk’s two thousand, and settled on a folding chair while my few mages tended to the injuries of the surviving members of my retinue. I could have gone to sleep, but I still was too angry to rest and unwilling to miss anything. Instead I sat chewing on my mistake with a wineskin in hand as the reports began filtering in. There was not a soul within a mile of the gate, the scouts said. Neither was there any sign of the bodies I’d left behind, and even the places I’d skirmished at were now pristine: no sign of fire or fighting. Half a bell later one of Ranker’s officers reported her line had found a road to the west that looked like it was leading to the towers in the distance.

When the sun finally rose over the horizon, it found me still in the pavilion. There’d been one last development, not too long ago: Robber’s cohort had caught a fae close to the road, when confirming it led to the towers. Said towers, the report also elaborated, were actually a fortress. One whose walls were now manned. They knew we were coming. I sent word to the Marshal and the Duchess to join me the moment the hamstrung fairy was brought into camp, Hakram hovering behind me. He felt guilty about not having been with me when I’d run into trouble, as if I hadn’t been the one to order him to say in Creation to supervise.

“Would have made no difference if you were there,” I said.

“You don’t know that,” he gravelled.

“It… this wasn’t about power, Hakram,” I said. “I alone would have been able to cut down a third of them, if they’d fought the way I wanted them to. The Gallowborne would have wiped them out if it had been a melee. They’ve killed harder things than lesser fae. We fought them badly – I fought them badly, and I lost.”

“You did as well as you could,” he said.

“They’re not invincible,” I told him, irritated at the attempt at comfort. “They picked their ground, their time and the lay of the engagement. We just need to start thinking of them as a proper army instead of just a troupe of fairies, because they’re sure as Hells fighting like one.”

“Well said,” Duchess Kegan stated, her approval a tad condescending.

The ruler of the Deoraithe was not growing on me, it had to be said. I wanted to like her, I really did, but she was like the human version of a stone in your boot. Ranker brushed past her rudely, to the highborn’s irritation, and I was careful not to show amusement. I’d gotten this far by pretending to be above the bickering, taking sides would be surrendering what little advantage I had.

“Your boy caught one of them, then,” the Marshal said, gingerly climbing atop a folding chair and helping herself to my wine.

She sniffed at the nozzle, hairless brow rising.

“Vale summer wine? Fancy.”

She drank anyway, not that it would do much for her. Goblins were better a processing liquor and poison than either orcs or humans.

“Robber’s good at finding things,” I said, letting my voice carry enough that said Special Tribune would hear it from behind the pavilion flap where he was currently lurking.

“Stabbing them too,” my murderous minion contributed with a grin as two other legionaries from his cohort dragged a fae heavily bruised and missing an arm.

Male, this one. More lightly armoured than the ones I’d run into, but his leather armour bore the same symbol I’d seen on the tabard of the patrol: a green oak. His remaining hand and feet were bound tightly, leaving him unable to do anything but kneel at an uncomfortable angle.

“I won’t need you for the interrogation,” I told Robber.

The goblin pouted, which on his face looked positively horrifying. Like a fish trying the same, but with needle-like teeth peeking through.

“Can I watch at least?” he wheedled.

“Scram,” I said, and he read the mood correctly.

He swaggered away without pushing it, arms around the shoulders of his two cohorts, and I refrained from sighing at the sight. There were witnesses. The fae was gagged, so I rose to my feet to force down the cloth.

“Whose lands are we in?” I asked.

The soldier spat on my boot.

“Not the answer I was looking for,” I said.

“Call back the boy,” Ranker shrugged. “And send for knives.”

“Torture will take time,” the Duchess frowned.

“Better to move delayed than move blind,” the Marshal said.

Hakram cleared his throat, drawing their attention. I glanced at him.

“You forget you have a Named leading you,” the orc said.

Ah. Well, I’d never used it on fae before but considering how they were bound to stories it might actually work better than on mortals.

Answer my questions,” I Spoke.

He twitched, fighting against the order, but eventually stilled.

“Whose lands are we in?” I repeated.

“The Count of Olden Oak,” the fae said.

“How many soldiers do you have?” Duchess Kegan asked.

The fae smiled sardonically and said nothing. Ah, the wording. I asked him the question as Ranker sent the tan woman a mocking look.

“Two thousand,” he said through gritted teeth.

“Any other nobles here?” I asked.

“The Baron of Dawning Day.”

I frowned. That was two titled fae, which struck me as too many for the middle of nowhere. Weren’t most of the nobles out with the army of Summer?

“Ask him where in Arcadia we are,” Ranker said, thoughts going along the same line.

“The border marches,” the fae replied when I did.

The two older women exchanged looks.

“If we march a sennight to the north, what will we find?” I asked.

That was, after all, about where I felt I’d be able to make a gate out. Let it not be the city of Summer, let it not be –

“The lands of the Princess of High Noon.”

I needed to start being more careful about what I wished for, I decided. I glanced at the other commanders of the army, silently asking if they had any other questions. Neither did. I shot Hakram a look, and without any need for words he stepped forward and casually snapped the prisoner’s neck.

“Be a dear and drag that outside, would you?” I said.

He snorted in amusement, but obeyed.

“So we need to march deeper into Summer,” Ranker said, sharp eyes on me.

“And quickly,” I grunted. “They’ll consider this an invasion, there’s a good chance they’ll recall their armies from Creation to drive us out.”

“Then the fortress had to be taken,” Duchess Kegan said. “We can’t leave two thousand soldiers at our back, not with the amount of supplies we carry.”

“Agreed,” I said. “Reports said it was a castle, curtain walls at least forty feet high. Legion standard?”

The last two words were spoken looking at the Marshal, who nodded pensively.

“Mages around the siege weapons, to ward from their magics,” she added. “Securing replacements out here would be difficult.”

“We’ve no notion of how long it would take to break down fae walls with mortal trebuchets,” Duchess Kegan said disapprovingly.

“I understand time is an issue, Duchess,” I said impatiently, “but I’m the only one here who’s tangled with them. We rush those walls and we’ll lose thousands, likely to no gain.”

“If you use legionaries, yes,” she said. “The Watch will take the walls and open the gates. Be ready to invest the fortress and deal with the nobles.”

I raised an eyebrow.

“You didn’t bring any ladders,” I pointed out. “Or any siege fixtures at all, for that matter.”

She smiled thinly.

“There will be no need for them,” she said.

I glanced at Ranker, who chuckled.

“At worst there’s fewer Deoraithe in existence,” she said, tone making it clear she believed this to be no great loss.

I eventually nodded. If nothing else, I’d get to have a look at why so much fuss was always made about the Watch.

“We march, then,” I said.

Nauk’s two thousand took point. There screens of goblins to the side in case any surprises had been laid out for us, but our advance went unchallenged until we came in sight of the fortress. It was an impressive piece of work, compared to a mortal castle, but compared to the likes of Skade it was rather mundane. Pale walls encircled four towers, whose only hint of sorcery was the way they were intertwined in a way that evoked roots. Glittering soldiers in the same silvery chain mail and tabard as the patrol stood atop the rampart, armed with bows and swords. There weren’t two thousand up there, by my estimation – maybe half that – which meant they’d kept reserves. The large oaken gate opened when Nauk’s legionaries ceased marching well out of bow range, a single mounted man riding out even as I frowned. Behind me the allied army spread, the Deoraithe host right behind while the two legions took the wings. I didn’t even need to focus to feel the power wafting from the rider, or notice it wasn’t in the league of the Winter counts I’d encountered. The baron the prisoner had mentioned? Hakram at my side, we watched the fae caracole atop his white steed and raise his lance in a mocking salute.

“You have entered the lands of Summer Eternal, invaders,” he called out. “Only death awaits you here.”

I heard someone striding towards me, Nauk’s legionaries parting for them. I wouldn’t be taking the Gallowborne with me today, not after the losses they’d incurred. Farrier had protested but his own shoulder was only held together by mage healing, and if it got broken again within a fortnight he’d be crippled for life.

“A champion,” Duchess Kegan said, occupying the side of me Adjutant didn’t. “How quaint.”

I’d read enough about Deoraithe to know what they thought about this kind of posturing in matters of war. I didn’t answer, waiting for the armies to reach their assigned positions as the fae continued yelling.

“Are all of you cowards?” the rider called out. “Will not a single of you meet this Baron of Dawning Day on the field to redeem your honour?”

“He’s in crossbow range,” Adjutant said. “Shall we give him a princely answer?”

I chewed over that.

“I don’t trust our shots to put him down,” I finally said.

“I have the finest bowmen in Calernia under my command,” the Duchess said.

“Better to kill him now, so he’s not on the walls to make trouble for your people,” I said. “Hakram. Can you do it?”

The orc looked at the baron for a long moment.

“Shouldn’t be too much trouble,” he said.

“Then shut the bastard up,” I ordered.

He laughed, clapping my shoulder before striding away. I felt the Duchess’ gaze on me.

“A princely answer,” she repeated. “Is is true, then. You had the Exiled Prince shot instead of duelling him.”

“If I personally killed everyone in my way I’d never have time for anything else,” I lightly replied.

She let out a sound that could be construed as amused.

“Perhaps there is some of the blood in you,” she conceded.

That would have been slightly more touching if she hadn’t just spent the better part of a month being a pain in my arse. If she wanted to rope me in using my Deoraithe heritage she was barking up the wrong tree, regardless. I knew nothing about my parents and to be frank I wasn’t particularly curious. Whoever they’d been, they had nothing to do with the person I was now. Still, the woman did have twenty thousand soldiers under her command and they wouldn’t be going anywhere after the scuffle against Akua was over. Needlessly antagonizing her would be foolish.

“All I’ve ever known of Daoine was through books,” I said. “Oh, and one of your relatives that put an arrow in me that one time.”

“You spared her,” the Duchess said. “That did not go unnoticed.”

Truth be told that had more to do with Black’s orders than any notion of mine, but I saw no need to tell her that. That aside, wonder of wonders:  for once my reputation for leaving a trail of corpses in my wake was coming in useful. People were starting to assume that whenever I didn’t kill someone I did it on purpose.

“She’s a talented archer,” I said. “An inch to the side and it would have cleaved my spine. It’d be a shame to waste that kind of talent.”

“High praise,” Kegan said. “Perhaps she will live up to it today.”

I raised an eyebrow.

“She’s here?”

“She finished her oaths last year,” the Duchess said. “The entire Watch was mobilized to put down the madwoman in the south. An unexpected turn of events, that Daoine would share an enemy with you, but not entirely unwelcome.”

Well now, that was positively friendly. I’d have to be a special kind of idiot for that sudden thawing of tone not to worry me. Especially since it was happening the first time we were having a conversation out of Marshal Ranker’s earshot, surrounded only by soldiers known to be loyal to me. The picture that was painting was very, very dangerous. I clenched my fingers and unclenched them. I could try to probe her intentions and beat around the bush, but that kind of game wasn’t my specialty. I could cope with it in small doses, but I wasn’t betting on getting the upper hand against a woman who’d ruled a duchy for several decades. Fuck it. It was sad to admit, but I had more burnt city incidents that diplomatic victories under my belt.

“You’re talking a lot more sweetly than usual today,” I bluntly said.

“There will be an after the war,” Duchess Kegan said. “It is not too early to begin considering it.”

“In my experience, people who talk that vague are tiptoeing about treason,” I noted.

Her face showed no reaction. Why was everyone trying to negotiate with me so good at keeping their thoughts hidden?

“Your actions of late might be considered that,” the Duchess said. “Dissolving the Ruling Council. Naming a former rebel Governess-General of Callow. Replacing every Praesi governor with a Callowan, save for one.”

Denier, that. The man under Ranker’s thumb had never given me an excuse so I’d had to settle for waiting out his term. I could see what she was hinting at, and I needed to shut down that avenue right now if I didn’t want a third godsdamned civil war in a row to erupt the moment Diabolist’s head ended up on a pike.

“Callow will stay under the Tower,” I frankly replied. “That isn’t up for debate. The nature of that relationship, however, will be renegotiated. I have backing in this.”

The older woman’s eyes narrowed to slits.

“Does the Carrion Lord mean to depose the Empress?” she asked, finally discarding the pretences.

“No,” I replied, about as sure of this as I could be with someone like my teacher.

“Interesting days ahead,” the Duchess finally said.

“Procer is coming,” I said. “Not this year, I don’t think, but within the decade.”

“Offers were made, during the rebellion,” Kegan acknowledged.

I’d always suspected, to be honest, but it was still an upset to have that suspicion confirmed. While I’d been fighting a war with swords against the Lone Swordsman, there’d been another war entirely going on behind the scenes. I was only now beginning the grasp the form of it, and what I learned was chilling.

“Let me guess,” I said. “Independence and an alliance?”

“As well as a princess for my grandson, when they come of age,” she replied.

“But you didn’t bite,” I said.

“Grudges incurred after the Third Crusade have yet to be settled,” the Duchess said, tone harsh.

I frowned. The Deoraithe held on to slights like a drowning man to driftwood, but that still felt like too weak a reason. It wasn’t like Praes hadn’t taken regular runs at the Wall for over a thousand years. Hells, Dread Empress Triumphant had infamously crucified a King of Daoine for not bowing low enough.

“And?” I probed.

She hesitated, then continued.

“The Watch has guarded the Wall for a long time, Duchess Foundling, but that is not what it is meant for,” she replied. “The border being quiet allows us to tend to an older duty.”

There was fervour in her voice, by the time she finished speaking. The Deoraithe hate the elves. That was no great mystery. Perhaps not common knowledge, but any book about Daoine’s history made a point of mentioning it – the Deoraithe had once lived in what was now the Golden Bloom before being driven out of it. Warlock had once theorized in front of me that the Watch was meant to imitate the strange abilities elves gained as they grew old, gaining through sorcery what the others were born to. Was that what she meant? That without the orcs raiding west Daoine could turn its attention to the elves?

“A conversation to finish at another time,” Kegan said. “The duel you ordered is coming.”

The entire conversation hadn’t taken long, but in that span Hakram had made his way through Nauk’s legionaries. My Adjutant had always been tall even for an orc, and I was almost certain he’d grown taller since coming into his Name. Not as broad-shouldered as Nauk or stout as Juniper, but he carried himself with a presence nowadays that had an almost physical weight to it. He’d grown into his power and it showed. Hakram no longer used the sword and and shield that had been his lot as a legionary: first he’d traded the sword for an axe, then the shield for another axe in the wake of our fights with the fae. He’d told me that if we were going to keep fighting creatures that could cut through steel like parchment he’d rather carry a second blade than dead weight. The weapon the orc took in hand as he strode onto the field was more a long and large hatchet than a battle axe in a conventional sense, goblin steel forged into a haft and head he still twirled like it weighed nothing. The Baron of Dawning Day ceased his strutting atop a horse when a challenger appeared, reining in his horse and guiding it to face Adjutant.

The legionaries in the first ranks began stomping their feet and it spread like fire among the Fifteenth, goblins and orcs and men of every stripe. The ground shook under two thousand steel-shod boots, and to that harsh meter voices rose to match.

“Dead the hand and dead the man,
Sharp the blade and sharp the fang
For no matter how tall they stand
When iron rests we see them hang.”

Hakram’s stride went unbroken as he called out to the fae, his words drowned out by the voices and beat as to the sides of the host the other Legions of Terror joined their boots to the song. Ten thousand souls stomping as my legionaries sang their eerie anthem. The Baron of Dawning Day’s lance descended and without any further taunts he charged.

“Lord or priest or knight in pale
On burning hill or dawning vale
The scale settles it all the same:
Red and broken lies the name.”

Adjutant did not move, calmly awaiting the charge. My heartbeat quickened at the sight, but I trusted in him. Given his size and strength, the natural comparison among the Calamities for my right hand was Captain. I’d fought them both, though, and knew that was a mistake. Sabah was strength and swiftness unrelenting, more hurricane than woman when moved to violence. Hakram… Hakram fought like Black. Even more than I did. Patient and measured and ruthlessly brutal in motion. The lance shone brightly under the sun, but still the orc did not move. Only when the mass of muscle and steel was teen strides away from him did his hand whip out: the axe spun, blade sinking through steel plate between the eyes of the Baron’s charger.

“Dead the hand and dead the man,
Sharp the blade and sharp the fang
For no matter how tall they stand
When iron rests we see them hang.”

The white horse died and momentum carried it in a messy slide across the grass as the Baron deftly leapt off it and landed like a cat on the ground. Adjutant moved three steps to the side, taking his second axe in hand as the dead horse tumbled just past him. Casting his lance aside, the Baron of Dawning Day unsheathed a sword bright as the morning he was titled after. The orc awaited him patiently, unmoved by the sight. In the blink of an eye the fae was on him, sword leaving trails of light behind every swing as he furiously tried to take his opponent’s life. Calmly giving ground, Hakram avoided a cleave turned into a thrust a little too shallowly: the green skin of his cheek parted under fae steel, leaving a blackened mark like it had been burnt. The Baron avoided the haft of the axe with mocking ease, but it was a distraction: Adjutant’s fist caught him in the chin. Bone broke, for an orc’s strike was no small thing and this orc had strength beyond mortal bounds. Spitting teeth, the fae snarled furiously and harsh light bloomed in front of him. I sucked in a breath: even from where I stood I could feel the heat of it, and so close it would have been impossible for Hakram to dodge it.

“Queen or king or Heaven’s get
Never unpaid goes their debt
Learn bitter with the last breath
The left hand gives only death.”

When the light died out, Adjutant’s smoking frame towered three feet back from where’d he’d been. He was steaming like cooked meat but unharmed. I could still feel the wisps of his Name on him, the remnants of the aspect he’d called on: Stand. He’d withstood the strike of a demon using it, once. Fae sorcery was lesser in comparison. I saw his axe had been turned to blackened scraps by the Baron’s power, though, and felt a sharp surge of fear. The sound of his laughter dispersed it. He’d been driven back to the horse’s side by the impact, and deftly he claimed back the axe he’d left in the mount’s head. He didn’t close the distance again, though, which I found strange. Though visibly shaken by the way his sorcery had failed to quell his opponent, the Baron immediately returned on the offensive. Light flared around the blade, and only then did I understand Adjutant’s intent. The orc’s legs lowered, the muscles of his arm flexed and his skeletal hand dug into the horse’s flesh: with a loud grunt, he seized the entire corpse like a mace and smashed it into the charging fae. The Baron hastily tried to cut through the flesh, but only succeeded in parting the belly: the mass still ploughed him downwards like a fragile doll. The carcass bubbled and burst in a shower of gore as the fae emerged, panting, but there was no recovering from his misstep. The crescent blade of the axe caught him him in the neck, cleaving to the spine. The orc booted his stomach to wrench the steel out, leaving him twitching in the gore, then calmly cleaved straight into his skull.

“Dead the hand and dead the man,
Sharp the blade and sharp the fang
For no matter how tall they stand
When iron rests we see them hang.”

Dead. And now, just now, when the sight of it was still fresh in the eyes of the fae above? That was the moment to strike. Even as thousands of feet thundered in approval and Hakram’s blood-red axe rose to the sky, I drew Duchess Kegan’s attention.

“Now,” I said. “Send them in now.”

The older woman nodded slowly, still troubled by what she’d just seen, and drew a red scarf from a pouch on her side before holding it up. Without a sound, two thousand men and women of the Watch broke into a perfect run. Like the song had said, there were scales to settle.

And like the song had said, Summer would lie red and broken for it.

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52 thoughts on “Chapter 25: Intent

  1. pyrohawk21

    Have I yet mentioned that I LOVE this story?

    Because seriously, I really, REALLY do. I can not wait for it to continue. In fact, I’m probably going ot be really sad when you’ve finally written the last book of Catherine’s story.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. Josh

    I’ve been catching up, really interesting story. I’m curious about why we haven’t seen Killian yet. I hope Cat hasn’t made an oversight that will bite her in the ass.

    Like

      1. Josh

        Ah, I must have missed that. Convenient though, do we know which side of the fey her ancestry comes from? Being her consort might be significant somehow.

        Like

  3. Spinner335

    Does anyone else think the song helped Harky win because songs are basically stories and they were singing about how the deadhand will see his enemies dead and with how connected the fae are to stories I feel it helped.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Matthew

      That would be interesting if they can tell their own stories in Arcadia.

      If they can get the Summer story to be… “Summer diverts the Winter armies of abomination to turn on their compatriot, the diabolist, and thus stops the invasion,” that’s a win for Cat.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. stevenneiman

        They already at least hijacked a story to get the Duke of Violent Squalls thing to work out, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they can mess with the story of Summer, especially give the way they just drowned out their old story about defeating Evil invaders with one about Deadhand being badass.

        Like

    2. Metalshop

      It might have been helpful even in Creation. Adjutant is a new name, which seems like it means that Hakram’s actions and circumstances will shape how it interacts with the world and Fate. Given that battle poems have already been established as a quasi-lost orcish art, it makes sense that the first Orcish Name in centuries would benefit from an army doing it for him.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Plus, he started this trend while reciting poetry the last time we saw him demolish an enemy in single combat (Extra Chapter > Conspiracy II). It was only about 80 legionnaires who saw him, but stories grow. He’s building his story from the ashes of who the orcs were.

      I also think that Sabah’s story … makes it clear that there is no more scope for the Warlord name. She ate it, for lack of a better word.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. nick012000

        Ceros are the energy blasts that Hollows use in Bleach, which are very similar to the energy blast that the Summer Fae uses in this chapter.

        Like

  4. AVR

    Typos

    say in Creation
    stay in Creation

    better a processing
    better at processing

    city incidents that
    city incidents than

    There screens of goblins
    (Either) There were screens of goblins
    (Or) Three screens of goblins

    teen strides
    ten strides

    Like

  5. nobodi12

    Another song! Unfortunately not on the same level of the:

    “The knights will get the glory
    The king will keep his throne
    We won’t be in the story
    Our names will not be known

    So pick up your sword, boy
    Here they come again
    And down here in the mud,
    It’s us who holds the line.”

    The dead hand song reminds me of Kipling’s “But Iron, cold Iron is the master of them all”.
    It is good to have songs but you can improve.

    Like

  6. vietnamabc

    Hmm so what is the differences between fae and elves? I imagine Daoine send the Watch to fight fae to train them before fighting elves.

    Like

    1. Letouriste

      fae lives in Arcadia and are made of magic or something like that.they gain power by stories,adding artificially weight to their being.
      Elves are creatures of Creation and gain power by aging.they are also cowards and racists.the fae don’t make a distinction between a rock,a tree and a sentient being.they accept only Named.

      Like

      1. Darkening

        WB mentioned that the other elves *aren’t* racists, and these elves broke off because they were disgusted by the interbreeding and the like.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Gunslinger

      Transitioning into Warlord would indeed be fucking epic. But somehow I feel like Warlord would not be the name of someone who serves another. And I don’t see Hakram ever leaving Cat,

      Like

      1. stevenneiman

        Honestly, Adjutant doesn’t sound like a transitional Name to me. In some ways, he seems to have more raw power than Cat, and it doesn’t seem like he’s building up to anything the way Cat is. Heck, he had mundane versions of most of his Name powers from the moment he joined Cat.

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    2. What makes you think Hakram would be a good Warlord anyway? His personality and his Role are both massively unsuited to be Warlord, and I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t want to have that Name anyway. It wouldn’t advance any of his goals or agendas, so what’s the point? Besides being an excuse for disgusting fanboy (or girl) squeeing and gushing.

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      1. Nastybarsteward

        As all of Cat’s Named so far are totally different Names (although some filling similar roles) than Black’s retinue, with Adjutant being a completely new Name altogether, maybe I should just stop guessing. 😛

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  7. Dianna

    So has anyone wondered what kind of Names we would have in our world?
    Don’t know why, but the one we came up with was Cashier. Their Aspects: Smile, the ability to smile through anything. Grind, the ability to do insane amounts of work no matter their physical state is not catatonic. Survive, they can come out unscathed from the most severe physical and mental abuse.
    Truly, the Cashier is a Hero who fights long and hard to keep the world together.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. well, hakran’s name is subordinate of cat’s and hers is transitional, so he could changes name too, right?
    the elves should appear soon too, the summary said the forever king was pondering war, and the best moment is now, i hope ranger show herself soon, all overpowered people showing up
    other thing is that the story cat use to kill the duke said a orphan, adopted and trained by a prince of summer, kills his father, a prince of winter, become prince then kills his other father by orders of the king, so cat had the title, the order and taking the place of sulia in skade make the relationship so if cat could steal sulia power too somehow she could take by surprise the two kings, not too mention using the story of sword in the stone to become queen of arcadia, procer would really have problems with that, elfs or not right?

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  9. Wait, why are they invading the castle now? They just beat the fae champion, which stood in for the full-scale battle, right? If not, what the hell is the point of dueling a champion in the first place, if there are no stakes at all, and literally nothing is on the line (besides the lives of the participants)? What the hell is the point of the fae sending one out? None of this makes any sense.

    Unless, maybe it’s not supposed to make sense. Maybe it’s intended to show just how badly the fae are enslaved to their customs (their cultural story).

    I expected Cat’s wording of her Command to “answer my questions” was going to be a problem, because she didn’t specify *true* answers. I suppose it still could be, they haven’t won the castle yet.

    I had a fridge moment thinking about a few chapters ago, in the run-up to Squire’s duel with the winter noble. It’s nice that she’s harnessed the power of the Story, but she’s half-assing it, to her own detriment. I mean, what are the limits to that power? Could she have had Hakram Find a story where the long-lost daughter had such fighting prowess that she won “without ne’er a scratch on her form” or something? Why not try it?

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    1. Or, maybe she finds a story where in his last breath, the Duke of Violent Squalls bestows upon her his entire fortune. Does he actually need to posses something in order to give it away, or can the Story create things into existance? If she can say “I want your ring, and I want to always have had it” and get away with it, I don’t think my ideas are unreasonable.

      HJPEV would be sickened by this lost potential! It’s too bad Masego doesn’t have the right personality to teach Squire the scientific method.

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      1. RandomFan

        In the case of the story- I don’t think it’s that usable. Yeah, stories can exist and implausible things can happen, but you don’t have perfect control over which story you’re in. As long as your theoretical story runs the same basic path as the one she actually used, there’s no way to control which one it ends on.

        Plus, a more common story is probably more potent, and therefore worth using despite the flaws or downsides of not using the obscure variant. Yeah, that one exists, but it’s going to be a tight squeeze to hit those rails in specific.

        The fae might be bound to stories, but there are enough of those that at least some have will- free will, even. They can’t go off the rails, but they can try to control which track the story goes along. As long as her version existed, I am almost certain that your proposed version would be impractical to ensure through any means other than actually being that competent, or a distinctive lie unique to that work. It’s only when there’s no story out that they’re inevitably doomed- I think the rest of the time it’s just “trying to use their power to tilt the narrative.” In other words, I think Catherine could have won that fight, but the Catherine at the start of the series would still be doomed even with the deck stacking. After all, the orphan killing her own father isn’t the only story on the table.

        I think HJPEV would get one of those reminders that if the system were this simple to game, it would already be being gamed- that you can’t break it in a day. Much like his batty experiments in the original work, only much more deadly and with much less potential for safe testing. That’s just a prediction, though.

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  10. Dumdum

    I commented earlier saying that trust the heaven’s but tie your horse was an actual Muslim saying. Why did that comment fail moderation? What was so unacceptable about it? This is ticking me off more than it should probably because I’m tipsy, which I’m only mentioning so it sounds like I’m less of a Muslim so this reply has more of a chance of passing moderation. You see where I am going with this…

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    1. Morgenstern

      Why moderation? Have you considered that it might just be a technical mistake that your post failed? I had that happen to one of mine before (just as I did the opposite – one of mine being doubled, somehow).. it happens.

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      1. Morgenstern

        No “your post is awaiting moderation” popup usually means there simply is none. Unless a post is up for some time to then get deleted *afterwards*, which would be obvious, of course. So what happened? Post not popping up or your post getting deleted? The former means you simply had a technical problem during the attempt at posting…

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