Villainous Interlude: Cadenza

“Taxes. Taxes and triplicate forms.”
– Dread Emperor Terribilis I, upon being asked what powerful sorceries he would use to humble the High Lords

Warlock had eyes on it from the beginning.

Not scrying, for that could be traced, but delayed relays that caught images at regular intervals. Wekesa had formed enough alternating way stations that while it was possible to follow the trail back to the beginning, it would take months at a flat minimum. What Amadeus saw was puzzling, at the start. Procer sent decoys caravans, armed to the teeth, but those were seen through easily. He sent Sabah to hit the lone carts using lesser known paths, and these carried the ingots of silver and gold that were being fed to Nicae. The two first true caravans were ambushed and seized at the same location, which led him to a possible answer: consecrated grounds. By having blood spilled at the same hands at the same place, ritual weight could be crafted. That might signify his initial notion that this was a trap put in place by the Tyrant was correct, because the heroes under the White Knight would not lower themselves to use blood magic in this manner. Not with a man sworn to the Choir of Judgement at their head. Then the third caravan used a different path, and blood was spilled in a different location. He had, evidently, been incorrect. Reassessment was needed. Scribe had begun placing agents in the ranks of the Helikean army long before the war between League members began, and he turned to her for clarification.

“He caught my agents,” Eudokia said.

“All of them?” Black frowned.

“Yes,” she confirmed. “They still serve as soldiers, but any information they try to pass gets replaced by the words to a Helikean drinking song about a shepherdess and her three husbands.”

The Tyrant’s doing, then. The boy did like to pretend he has a sense of humour.

“Extraction?” he said.

“Even removing the soul from the bodies doesn’t sidestep the issue,” she said.

Name application, then, possibly an aspect. There were few sorceries in existence that could truly affect a soul in a manner more complex than cutting out parts and outside the Empire that branch of magic was not often studied. Infiltration of Helike was a resource sink, then, though one he might revisit should he need to busy the villain for a span of time. Scribe turned her focus to Nicae, at his instruction, and continued the other task he had assigned her. The fourth caravan took a different route again, and this contradicted his read of the matter. If the intent is opaque, change the perspective. Amadeus marked the locations on the map, and had Wekesa study them.

“If the next one dies here, there’s an arcane pattern being formed,” Warlock said, tapping a cattle path that would begin to sketch out a circle from a bird’s eye view.

It was not the location where the fifth caravan was destroyed. Repetition in the face of failure, Amadeus believed, indicated either incompetence or that what was perceived as ‘success’ by the beholder was not the objective. The sixth caravan passed through the initial route, and he ordered Captain to let it pass. It was possible that the later caravans had been a smokescreen to draw him away from his first thought, that of consecrated grounds.

“If that’s what they’re doing his mages are botching it,” Wekesa said. “He can still consecrate the grounds to Below like that, but if he doesn’t maintain a regular pattern then it’ll be so weak it’ll be useless. There’s a reason the old crowd uses prisoner sacrifices for the effect, it allows you to control the alignments.”

“The drivers have been women more than men,” Amadeus said.

“There’s rituals that take gender into consideration, but not this kind,” Warlock said. “And they’re exceedingly imprecise, so there’s no way they could take out Sabah. It’s too fluid a concept to be used as a solid anchor.”

That was usually the way, with cultural mores. If the intent is opaque, change the perspective. Neither consecration nor geographic location. Temporal placement? The hours where the caravans had been taken formed no useful arcane pattern, according to Warlock. Using the date by the Imperial calendar led to a dead end, but then outside Praes it was rarely used. The Free Cities counted the years from the founding of the League, but that was another dead end. The ancestral calendar of Helike was similarly useless.

“Keteran Calendar,” Warlock finally murmured, peering at a table full of opened books with a cup of wine in hand.

Amadeus adjusted his thinking, bringing the corresponding numbers to mind. Nothing that seemed relevant to him.

“Take out the second killing,” Wekesa said. “Then instead of using only the date as is, subtract using the year Sabah was born.”

The Black Knight closed his eyes, assembled the answers.

“Spell formula,” he said. “But this is ridiculously indirect.”

Warlock ignored him, scribbling ink on parchment and translating numbers to runes then speculated requirements from there.

“It’s not just that,” the Soninke grimaced.

“It would take thousands to create even a minor effect with so weak a sympathetic link,” Amadeus pointed out.

“The effect itself is how I know we’re on the wrong track,” Wekesa sighed. “Look, this is a projection of the illusion that would be formed if this formula was empowered.”

Warlock tapped the table once, and spell light glowed softly. In front of them, a hand was rotating in the air. Only the middle finger was raised.

“This is the Tyrant’s play, then,” the green-eyed man murmured. “That as good as confirms it.”

The combination of childish insult and advanced understanding of spellcrafting mechanics was telling. That a secondary pattern inserted into the primary one purely for the sake of the taunt was there at all was somewhat worrying. Amadeus had not been under the impression the Tyrant had mages this talented as his disposal, or such understanding himself. Another change of perspective was needed, but before that more information must be obtained. In a calculated risk, he sent Sabah to sack the seventh caravan. A different route, once more. Amadeus drank, watched the flames and thought. Eudokia came with her reports when the moon was high.

“The magisters were open to negotiations to have their army returned to them,” Scribe said.

“But?” the Duni prompted.

“Distraction,” she said. “They’ve already secured other means to accomplish this.”

The Tyrant. That he’d bothered to involve Stygia at all spoke volumes: they had a role to play in his ultimate intent.

“He rules Helike,” the Black Knight said. “Occupies Atalante. Has a representative from Bellerophon, struck a pact with Stygia and prepares to siege Nicae.”

Eudokia nodded without a word. She’d understood the order perfectly.

“The Bard?” he said.

“Still gathering,” she replied, and disappeared into the night.

Amadeus closed his eyes and thought. Eliminating theories one after another would take too long, and the caravans could not simply be allowed to pass. The longer Nicae could afford to import supplies from Ashur, the longer the siege stretched out and the longer he would have to remain. He could not afford to stay away from the Empire for that long, not with the… colourful rumours about what was currently unfolding there. To find the pattern, then, he would need to begin with the individual or individuals thathad crafted it. Necessary common factor? Understanding of High Arcana. Nothing less could be used for a ritual of this class. Still and silent, Amadeus counted. He had known seventeen individuals capable of using High Arcana, in his life. He brought up every single conversation he’d had with one of them, and sought commonalities in perspective. In the back of his mind, the gears ground. Too shallow a pool of information. He repeated the exercise, adding everything he’d ever read from an individual who cleared the condition to the process. Two days he stayed there, his companions knowing better than to disturb him. It was night again when he opened his eyes.

“Planar perception,” he told no one at all.

The understanding of sorcery of that level led to a different understanding of Creation as well, one divorced from the material concerns that shaped his views. To Wekesa, for example, the lay of the land they both looked at was fundamentally different. Looking at the situation through the version of this filter he could construct, he found his answer. Height. No topographical map of the region accurate enough for his purposes could be obtained, which meant direct observation. Warlock handled it, putting together the images obtained through relays.

“You’re right,” Wekesa admitted. “If you look at the pattern using the height they were killed at instead of the location, I can recognize the shape.”

“How many do they need?” he asked.

“Assuming I’m correct and the first killing was a decoy, four more,” his old friend said.

“Nine in total,” Amadeus said. “Thrice three. A killing stroke?”

“Offensive in nature, at the very least,” Warlock said. “We stop shy of what they need?”

The Black Knight smiled, very mildly.

“No,” he said. “I think not. They will get exactly what they need.”

Eudokia found him as he ate for the first time in days, methodically replenishing his strength.

“An offer was made to the Secretariat,” she said. “Penthes as well.”

The pale-skinned man chewed thoughtfully.

“He aims to be Hierarch, then,” he said.

How the Tyrant had managed to exert pressure on Bellerophon enough they would agree to this would have to be found investigated. Such a lever was too useful to be left solely in the boy’s hands.

“Assuming he secures all the votes,” Amadeus said. “Intent?”

“Broader games,” Scribe suggested. “His methodology requires constant opposition.”

That was a possibility, the green-eyed man thought. A straightforward one, however. That did not immediately disqualify it as a possible objective, but it was not a mark in its favour.

“Worst case scenario,” Eudokia asked, changing the approach.

“Tenth crusade, involving the entirety of Hasenbach’s coalition,” Amadeus replied without missing a beat. “Dead King uninvolved. Chain of Hunger unable to exert strength. Drow situation unchanged.”

“Kingdom Under?” Scribe said.

“In another expansion phase,” the Black Knight reminded her. “They will profiteer through weapon trade, at most.”

They’d left behind the question of what the Tyrant was after, and were instead studying what effect he could have on the Empire under the worst circumstances possible should he ascend to the position.

“He would be a destabilizing factor,” Scribe said, and there was no greater insult in her eyes than what she had just uttered.

“One without the ability to grab land or hamper commerce outside affordable losses,” Amadeus said. “By nature, even should he manage to align with Procer he will be damaging to them.”

Not worth directly opposing in this, the verdict was. Not unless other information surfaced that changed the forces in play.

“I’ve assembled an initial dossier,” Eudokia said.

Amadeus raised an eyebrow.

“Different face, but she has been active in Procer,” Scribe said.

“She’s behind Hasenbach?” he asked.

If the Wandering Bard had enabled the First Prince to rise, the failure in intelligence that had resulted in him being unware of this was… massive. It put everything he knew of the Proceran situation in question.

“No recorded contact,” Eudokia said. “But she was in Rhenia.”

The Black Knight was too old and far too removed from the boy he’d once been to let the dismay touch his face.

“The Augur,” he said. “There could be indirect influence. Anything further back?”

“No link to the Troubadour or the Magnificent Minstrel,” Scribe said. “But getting anything prior to the Conquest has been… difficult.”

The records had been tinkered with, she meant.

“There’s no precedent for an uninterrupted stream of consciousness,” Amadeus said.

“Heavier inheritance,” Scribe suggested.

Name dreams writ large. It was possible. Few things were not, when it came to Named.

“A line of Wandering Bards going back for centuries, advancing some collective purpose,” he said. “That is… an issue. There must be limits.”

“She has never intervened directly,” Eudokia said, and he waved his hand in irritation.

They’d both known what. It was a staple of bardic Names, being able to influence the story but rarely change it with their own hands. Power only through fronts, never wielded personally.

“Has she ever been linked to anyone not Named?” Amadeus said.

Reluctantly, Scribe shook her head. Given the incomplete records at their disposal, she was unwilling to commit fully to that theory.

“When attached to the Lone Swordsman, she operated within his moral boundaries,” Eudokia said.

Limits to her actions dictated to the story she was bound to and the nature of its heroes. Another theory to test.

“It’s her blind spots we need to to find,” he said. “The majority of the threat she represents comes from her awareness of our movements.”

Eudokia nodded. Amadeus frowned.

“Pick a target,” he said. “Assassin is at your disposal. I cannot know.”

“Risk margin?” she asked.

“I trust your judgement,” he replied.

No more need be said. Sabah killed, four more times. But as skilled as the mages of the Tyrant were, they were not Warlock. A single strand of hair was placed in the centre of the runic circle, and the curse meant to kill Captain found another target. Usurpation was, after all, the essence of sorcery. After it was done, Wekesa complimented the ritual. It was, apparently, not derivative of Praesi work in the slightest though it had been designed under the shared Trismegistan theory of magic. Behind the tall walls of Nicae, the Ashen Priestess died screaming. There was no warning, and no saving her. The ritual had been performed to kill a Named much more physically able. Amadeus approved, when he learned of it. Always kill the healer first. Targeting the White Knight might not have succeeded, and of the others the Priestess was the most apt to tip the balance in a clash. Before dawn, every practitioner involved on the attempt on Sabah’s life was dead. They left behind a note indicating they had taken their own lives out of guilt. Assassin’s sense of humour had grown whimsical of late.

“Your reasoning?” Scribe asked, after.

“No hero was involved in the story until the very end,” he said. “It was a struggle purely between villains.”

“Ah,” Eudokia said. “She can only see us when we stand opposed to her narrative?”

“Possibly,” Amadeus frowned. “Otherwise she sacrificed a heroine for no visible gain.”

“If she is bound by the White Knight’s morality, she could not do so,” Scribe said.

“Possibly,” the green-eyed man repeated. “I am… unsettled, Eudokia.”

Her eyes were still as ponds.

“The word for ‘bard’ we use comes from Old Miezan,” he said. “Language has evolved, even in our lifetime.”

“If the line were that ancient, there would be records,” Scribe said. “Unless.”

“Unless,” Amadeus agreed softly.

Unless something was cleaning up behind them, be it their Role or the Gods Above. Such a direct intervention would allow similar direct meddling from the Gods Below, of course. Balance in spirit, if not in practice. Yet he could think of only one event in Calernian history that would qualify. The creation of the Kingdom of the Dead. Which preceded written history in Praes by centuries, by conservative estimate. If the line of ‘Bards’ was that old, the Heavens had been playing a longer game than any of them. The ramifications of that were beyond the scope of his understanding, a feeling he was unused to and did not particularly care for.

“It could be Triumphant,” Eudokia said.

Triumphant cost us so much more than we gained. If she’d been the intervention of the Gods Below, they had let themselves be robbed by the opposition. Black closed his eyes.

“If she cannot be killed, she must be trapped,” he said.

He felt Scribe nod. She sat at his side, close enough to touch but never quite getting there.

“You are tired,” Eudokia said.

Innocuous words, but the deeper meaning was there.

“I am dying, I think,” he murmured.

There was a long silence.

“If Catherine wields the knife, I will destroy her,” she said, as if she was speaking of the weather. “And if I fail Hye will not.”

Amadeus did not reply. If he’d been the kind of man to pray, he would have prayed then. But he was not, so instead the gears began to turn and he wondered how many of the people he loved he would have to kill, before it was all over.

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124 thoughts on “Villainous Interlude: Cadenza

  1. danh3107

    The Ashen priestess’ death being a footnote in the larger story here is pretty staggering, Black just subverted every deathflag meant for Captain and used them against his opposition, overcoming two different Named powers to do so (well three including bard).

    Cat has a long, loooong way to go

    Liked by 13 people

    1. Morgenstern

      I’m more concerned about the resurrection thingy, to be honest…. Heroes can be resurrected, right? The Priestess IS a heroine. “Useless” sacrifice? Maybe not… In some stories heroes even come back greater in power when resurrected…

      Like

    2. Blinks

      I really don’t like it.
      For all accounts and purposes she simply died for no good reason out of the blue. This was not something she did, not something her allies did. It was simply “Wham!” she dead. If it’s that easy to kill named, and it was at the end of the day very easy. Then the good old D&D scry and die should have been blacks go to method from the start.

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      1. nick012000

        Teleportation consumes too much power for “scry and die” to be effective. It’d probably require dozens of human sacrifices every time you want to do it.

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      2. esryok

        Maybe they can’t normally pull things like this because it requires Fate-weight to achieve? Her death was part of the climax of a story. I’m picturing this like rubbing two balloons together to build static: the conflict between the villain factions built up a fatal amount of magical & Name power, and then at the last moment switched it from Captain to AP.

        I suspect a staged conflict would not work.

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      3. stevenneiman

        The thing is that he cheated not only tactically but also narratively. The spell he used was intended to kill a villain, with the lack of drama associated with a minor villain character dying offscreen to another villain. Black used his own magic to convince the spell that was already destined to successfully kill someone to a target who normally had more plot armor. It’s worth noting that he still, even if unintentionally, targeted the least fan-favorite-y of Hanno’s gang. He might have had tactical reasons in his own mind, but he passed up the entertaining boistrous bruiser, the funny mage, the entertaining (even if she’s also a nasty person) Bard, and the one male character who’s gotta be the heartthrob for any audience members who swing that way.

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      4. Blinks

        Except they know all the heroes in the good guy party and it’s not as if Praes is going to have troubles with human sacrifice.
        It’s basically just reduced the Hero party to a complete non-issue. At all.
        Why should Black fight them, struggle with them? Pull up a load of sacrifices and take them out one by one. Job done.
        Climax of a story or not, it wasn’t her story. She wasn’t involved. A named shouldn’t die as what was, basically, an afterthought. It reduces them in the story to little more than chaff to go along with the others.
        It also raises the question of with the First Prince is still breathing. If a ritual like this can kill a Named then why bother with assassins? Just nuke her from the next country after. She’s not even a Named.
        I find it a terrible direction to go in.

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      5. esryok

        My reading is that they can’t just get a pile of bodies and murder any old random Named. The ritual was a part of how Warlock killed Ashen Priestess, but it wasn’t the entirety of the process or even the most important part of the process.

        Paraphrasing Cat’s list of “How to kill a God,” the process involves: misdirection, violence, and _earning_ it in the eyes of Fate. Maybe this kind of ritual could successfully (directly) target a new hero, but if they went after Hanno’s party? Black & co. seem confident the only reason it worked was the Tyrant vs Praes story.

        As for the First Prince, she will see your premeditated murder and raise you an Augur.

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  2. Darkening

    Oh wow that last part. Is Black gonna clean up the calamities before he goes out? The last time he nearly died that went on a rampage, and he’s trying to leave a legacy behind, not a go out in a blaze of destruction. Huh.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Darkening

      On another note, as much as I don’t want Cat to be the one to kill Black, I feel like him getting stabbed to death with the knife he gave her would be incredibly dramatically appropriate.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Byzantine

        Earlier in the story it was noted how every one of the Calamities left means to be stopped, in case they ever becomes corrupted somehow.

        I suspect the one for Black is going to fail and Catherine will be the one who has to kill him.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Big Brother

        Maybe not stabbed to death, that’s a pretty brutal way to do it, and highly inefficient, which he’d disapprove of. A steady slip between the third and fourth ribs from behind for a quick death would probably sit better with him, if he had to die by Cat’s hand.

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      3. haihappen

        The “Stabbed by his own chosen successor”-trope enhanced with “Killed by the first weapon he ever gave her”. Yes. But, good things come in three’s: “Disobedience by sacrifice” -> Malicia orders Black to kill Catherine, but in Black’s understanding, that would lead to the annihilation of everything that he spend his live achieving. So, a choice must be made.

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      4. KageLupus

        Only way I see that happening is if the situation devolves into Black needing to pass on his mantle to Cat, in which case things have truly gone tits up. Although that would be a pretty powerful narrative. It would almost blur the line into a heroic sacrifice, but the end result is to empower a new villain who is going to keep trying to bring the whole Good v Evil narrative crashing down.

        … Hells, that actually doesn’t sound that unreasonable now.

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      5. Nairne

        “Ethesis
        Better is Cat gathering the woes to find a different name and to subvert fate so Black doesn’t die.

        Like

        SEPTEMBER 20, 2017 AT 11:30 AM”

        I could get behind that idea.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. matbag248

    I don’t think Cat will kill Amadeus, unless someone also kills Scribe. Else she would die and we have many more battles to go through.

    On a side note, I was rereading some of the chapters in book 2.
    I found this:
    Gods Below and Everburning, what manner of wicked things I wouldn’t do to have cavalry like that.
    She did get her cavalry, just had to do a little spot of treason or dipped a toe in the treason pool.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Kingbob12

    Assassin has a truly macabre sense of humor. And Cat is building the exact same cult of personality that bonds her with her Named as Amadeus built with his own so long ago. Scribe could so easily be Adjutant here. Scary thoughts.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Snoogle

      Scribe is not a full-on Calamity. They are 5: Black Knight, Ranger, Assassin, Captain, Warlock. Scribe is a 6th, sort of not-really-but-barely honorary Calamity.

      Cat has her 5 Woes if I’m reading this story correctly: Squire, Hierophant, Archer, Thief, and Adjudant. Meaning there would also be room for a 6th, honorary, not-really-but-barely Woe.

      How many people love Robber again?

      Liked by 6 people

      1. stevenneiman

        I’m trying to decide which of the Calamities he would be equivalent to. He has aspects of Ranger and Assassin both, and his position as the sixth pseudo-member is like Scribe, but all of the equivalents are already filled since Hakram pulls double duty as both the Scribe and Captain equivalent. I guess that means the teams might not match up perfectly 1:1.

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      1. stevenneiman

        Cat has described Hakram as serving both the roles of Scribe and Captain to him, being both a fearsome warrior to fight beside and an invaluable administrative resource.
        As for the others, Masego is clearly her Warlock, and I’d say that Thief is her equivalent of Assassin (though the parallels are the weakest for that one) and Archer is her Ranger, complete with training from the cheese monster herself and with hitting on the equivalent of Black.

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  5. Soronel Haetir

    Black has still given Cat no real reason to want him dead, he has, in fact, supported her in pretty much everything she wants to do. As I recall he as much as told her that even the treason of forming her cavalry unit could be smoothed over. And the things she doesn’t like were not his idea or recommendation.

    Just like Black told Cat he would not lie to her because both the lie and the truth would be revealed at a terrible moment for him I just don’t see his machinery spitting out an answer that turns Cat against him before something else kills him.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Byzantine

      I get the feeling if Cat kills him it’s going to be a matter of necessity. Black corrupted by something, as she almost was.

      It’s the only way I can see her managing to kill him without it backfiring horrifically, no matter how much Black tries to account for it.

      Like

      1. Right now Cat Cat is in no way capable of killing Black. Both Hierophant and Archer would not support her and Hierophant probablly even directly oppose her. And Black has an advantage concerning information, resources, and personal skill and forethought.
        And all of this is not even considering that Cat lacks a motiv. On the other hand constructing a motiv would be simplicity itself for Black if he actively wanted her to kill him.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. She was on her way to intercept Captain. But considering Captains second form she is faster and more mobile than Champion, whose Name and abbilities seem to go into the line of beeing an immovable opponent.

      Like

      1. RandomFan

        I’m pretty sure Wander doesn’t work on the rest of the group, or everyone else would be nigh-impossible to deal with. She didn’t use it with William, after all, and I can see a lot of uses for it on attack.

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  6. OldSchoolVillain

    I suspect that the intervention of the Gods Below was neither the Dead King nor Triumphant, may she never return. I’d bet that the Gods Below waited, let the Wandering Bard build up weight in the narrative and accumulate a metaphysical debt, and then responded in a long game in the form of Amadeus and Catherine Foundling.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. haihappen

      Isn’t what the Diabolist is cooking up a direct consequence of the Bard’s meddling?! If there is such a thing as karmic debt, the Bard could try to achieve Balance by making bad stuff happen?
      More likely “It’s all part of The Plan.”/”For the greater Good!”

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      1. Matthew

        The Bard desperately needs “cartoonish evil” to win so Akua is totally acceptable.

        Akua confirms the story. Black makes the story irrelevant.

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  7. Shequi

    Killing the Ashen Priestess is disrupts the White Knight’s 5-man band, but at the cost of setting up the Hedge Wizard with a Revenge motive against the Calamities for killing her sister.

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    1. They can not know for sure wether the Calamities or the Tyrant killed her, so if the revenge does not work in a very unspeciefied way, like kill the man who killed my sister, instead of kill Warlock for killing my sister, he should be more or less safe.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. mechanicalrain

        Its completely plot dependent, if its convenient for the Hedge Wizard to be used to kill off a character, that’s what will happen. I mean, I’m hoping the whole bunch of heroes die quickly, as they’re a rather unlikable bunch (at least IMO), but I’m expecting them to kill a couple of the Calamities.

        Like

    2. Hanno now leads what’s pretty much three comic reliefs against an enemy that doesn’t dick around as much as the Tyrant did. Either they automatically adapt, upgrading the Champion to a monster hunter and the Hedge Wizard to a revenging archmage, or Kairos turns the entire setup on its head in some unexpected way.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. The urge is stronger when we see the Keeper of Stories on screen herself, but I still wish for Catherine to Take whatever Aspect allows her to transfer her consciousness, and then force her to Wander into nothingness.

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  9. Rnt169

    I love the fact that the conversations are done in a very convincing manner, i.e. with very little explanations in them (since they know each other well, realistically very little needs to be said explicitly), with just enough hints for us to understand the plot, rather than conversations being the tool to explain the story.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. vietnamabc

      OTOH, 3 books and only now we know the name of Scribe. The lack of details is really maddening, Amadeus just casually dropped in major details and we won’t see its effects until much later.

      Like

  10. sheer_falacy

    “He rules Helike,” the Black Knight said. “Occupies Atalante. Has a representative from Bellerophon, struck a pact with Stygia and prepares to siege Nicae.”

    Eudokie nodded without a word. She’d understood the order perfectly.

    She may understand the order perfectly, but I don’t. What does it mean?

    (Also, incidentally, there’s a typo in her name there)

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  11. I’m really confused at how they figured out that the Wandering Bard is behind all this, and that her Name allows consciousness to carry over. Is she supposed to actually be ALL bardic names?
    Also, when he says that he’s dying why would she jump to the assumption that Catherine would be coming for him? Or that he’d just let Cat die?
    I get that Black and Scribe have a whole “we’ve been at this for decades so most things don’t have to be said explicitly” But it feels like they’re jumping to impossible conclusions

    Like

    1. TideofKhatanga

      The Calamities spent a lot of time studying Almorava of Smyrna and did it again with Aoede of Nicae. That they went for her first when they attacked the heroes in “Appellant” is telling. They can’t have missed the very strong connection between her and Aoede of Nicae, both Wandering Bards have the same personnality, quirks and methods. Considering that they knew a lot about how Almorava’s Name shaped her life, it’s only a matter of time before they guess that Aoede is effectively the same person in a different body.

      From that point onward, wondering just how many lives the Wandering Bard has lived is the next logical step. Black considers her the most dangerous hero he’s facing, and I’m surprised that they haven’t yet developped a rivalry of sort.

      As for Catherine killing Black, it’s also logical. There’s only one true way for the Squire to become the Black Knight. If the Black Knight has to die while his Squire is alive, then she must be the one doing the killing, else the story is improperly told and we can’t have that. So, when Amadeus says he’s about to die, it’s normal for Eudokia to immediately think that Catherine will be wielding the knife.

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      1. Shequi

        >>> Black considers her the most dangerous hero he’s facing, and I’m surprised that they haven’t yet developped a rivalry of sort.

        Good point. They are both the “Mastermind” Role/Archetype of their respective side.

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      2. TideofKhatanga

        Reply to Matthew: the wise old mentor dying by an enemy’s hand is a Heroic cliché. The last time Cat exploited a heroic storyline (finding a sword in a stone), the world tried to rewrite her as an heroine. And Amadeus mimicking Good methods to achieve his goals is the reason he’s so much physically weaker than any previous Black Knight.

        Catherine can become the Black Knight without killing Amadeus herself, but she’d have to actively avoid that storyline and she’ll be much weaker for it. Partly because she’s a Villain. Partly because Black Knight is a Praesi name and the proper way to earn those is the Sith way. They both know it. Considering that Cat has often thought about how she’s going to kill Black and his most loyal friends, and that Black himself is now planning to murder his entourage so Cat can survive killing him, they both seem to want it to end this way.

        Initially, I thought that the Guide would sidestep that issue by having Cat transition into something else (like a human version of Warlord), but after all the heavy foreshadowing we had, I’ll be quite surprised if the current Black Knight survives this book.

        Like

      3. Matthew

        In Reply to Khatanga

        The question is can Black subvert “the story?” The whole goal for Black and the empress has been to make Praes no longer a name based empire but an institutional one. We already have an example of that in Procer which is nominally good, but names are just the cherries on top rather than being crucial to its governing structure.

        As such, both Black and the empress have to know that retiring the Calamities eventually was always part of the plan.

        The “story” sets up the villainous names in such a way that even the most successful villains will be killed by their own side eventually. That is if Good fails to win directly.

        There is no way that Black and the Calamities haven’t discussed this and have not figured out a way to say “Screw that!”

        Having the Woes fight the Calamities is a victory for “the Story.” Having Black kill the Calamities preemptively to save the Woes is still a victory for “the Story.”

        Black is not going to let “the Story” win. I am also reasonably sure that the Empress and Warlock are on the same page about not letting “the Story” win. Scribe should be on the same page as well. They all know that they are fighting “the Story.” Cat killing Black would represent a tactical setback for our forces of free will and institutionalism. There is no way that Wekesa and Malicia would let it become a strategic defeat for their entire side retaliating against the Woes.

        Hell, that would be a great reveal.

        Bard’s plan is to sew dissension in the ranks by forcing Cat to kill Black through some circumstance, setting up the Calamity vs. Woe showdown which would doom the new Praes… Only to find out that Malicia, Wekesa, Sabah, and Hye are all pre committed to not retaliating over this because their whole bit is using rationality… (though never those words) to subvert and defeat “The Story.”

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Sean

        @Matthew

        Subverting the story seems to be Black’s, and to a somewhat lesser degree, Malicia’s primary motivation. However it seems like the rest of the calamities are more motivated by personal loyalty than mission.

        Like

      5. Akim

        In reply to the question why there is no rivalry between Bard and Black :
        The wandering Bard sees the Dread Empress as her rival. Not her Minions. Black is but a very important Piece to her, but not the Player.

        Like

      6. TheCount

        1st: thank you for the chapter erratic!

        2:
        Cat’s plans to make a “peaceful” Calowan and Prasei relationship…. but its also stated (in book 1 at that) that black and the calamities dont have a place in that plan.
        Black also tells Cat about his “master”, the previous black knight who died in a battlefield, surronded by the enemy, because of his own overconfidence, despite/because his powers to topple tower(s) with one swing.
        Black also had a talk about this very topic with catherin somewhere….the same chapter he is talking about his “master” iirc.

        3:
        Warlock made it quite clear Cat’s soul would suffer for a looong time if she killed Black and she also figured that scribe would want to kill her if she killed Black.

        4:
        i think bBack will kill his friends, because they would hunt Cat even if he explained everything to them, even his acceptance, if not desire for it to happen so.

        Like

  12. Cyrix

    Am I the only one that thinks that Ranger is the counterpart/foil for the Bard? One is the elusive prey, never being able to be truely killed while the other is the relentless, unbeatable hunter?

    Makes a lot of sense to me.

    And Black commenting on how many loved ones he has to kill could hint at that he plans to kill Ranger, in an effort to even the scales between Good and Evil – to have a weight/right to be able to kill off the bard for good? That taking on Ranger doesnt go without sacrifice is made clear by now too…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, I had the exact same thought.

      Both have been around for we don’t know how long, and seem undefeatable in rather different ways.

      Wandering Bard may be taken down, but she always comes back. Her powers are subtle and best wielded behind the scenes.
      Ranger is, in many ways the exact opposite.

      Like

  13. It’s Interesting to note what do different people know about the Wandering Bard. William considered her pretty much an average heroine, albeit a bit meta. Akua noted that the entire bardic Name family had more insight in the workings of Fate than the average archmage, so she probably does too. The Empress mentioned to Cat that Bard can change faces, and given that Scribe tells Black the same, we can assume that the Dark Council in general thinks they are dealing with a Named with a disguise/redesign Aspect. The Bard herself casually dropped in the conversation with Kairos that she was around to see Treacerous, and elves regard her as an older entity.

    Also, Bard being the counterpart to the Dead King confirmed? He too is immortal and can change faces, according to Ranger’s Interlude. That would also explain the same personality persisting through all iterations of the Name, instead of a few more epoch-appropriate versions with ever-expanding lore library. Rebirth as opposed to avoiding death and all that.

    Like

      1. The whole undeath/diabolism deal he has doesn’t scream ‘neutral’ to me. Given how at least on Calernia those are attributes of a villain, he must have started off as one. Tower still keeps contact with him, he openly admires Triumphant and heroes wage crusades against him. All that points to him being a villain successful enough that Gods Below don’t see the need to evict him. After all, we haven’t seen any direct action from either Gods so far, since the whole Fate gamble only allows them to bestow power on lesser agents (angels, demons, devils, Named, good/evil races). They may think that letting one of their own to run a lesser Hell instead of its native devils is an acceptable deal.

        Also, another possible parallel is that Willian states that all four crusades against the Kingdom of the Dead were led by heroes sworn to Contrition. Bard muses when going to meet the White Knight: “Contrition, in the end, had not done the trick. Maybe Judgement would.” It’s possible that in counterweight to Trismegistus conquering a lesser Hell, She of a Thousand Faces got to strike the deal with Hasmallim (at least until Catherine got them whipped). I mean, it’s not like dealing with Choirs is that common: the Good counterpart to diabolists are priests, who channel the powers of Gods Above, not summon angels themselves. Also, don’t forget that Eleanor Fairfax was sworn to Contrition. That might have been Bard’s doing too.

        Like

      2. Naeddyr

        I’ll just interject here a thing:

        I have the impression that being Evil is not necessarily the same as being aligned with the Gods Below. We know that the Gods Above are the control freaks who want to nurture humanity by controlling them, and that the Gods Below want humanity to find its own way. Evil with a capital is not evil because the GB want them to be assholes who go around murdering orphans for the fun of it, Evil with a capital is evil because it has become the side of the Dichotomy that is allowed to express that side of humanity. Small-evil is a hurdle for humanity to ascend, not the goal. The goal, I think, is a humanity that is not beholden or needing of gods.

        The end result would be a humanity that is moral and good by its own volition and its own strength. Cat, who has absorbed that and is, relatively speaking, a good person, while still working and siding with Evil against the GA, qualifies perfectly well for Evil as long as she follows her own path and follows her own selfishness.

        Similarly, a Dead King who gives the middle finger to the GB is also an epitome of Evil, just a much more evil one considering the whole genocidal madman thing.

        Like

      3. esryok

        Just focusing on “Cat is a relatively good person” bit:

        The Guide has been pretty upfront about Team Calamity being both Evil and evil, and Team Woe isn’t much better. I mean, Catherine is vicious, spiteful, cold, tyrannical, manipulative, and murderous. *She is not a good person.*

        Of course she’s also an absolute delight and I want her to keep doing her thing, but that’s because this is a wonderfully clever story, not because I want people like Cat to succeed in general.

        Like

      4. To Naeddyr:
        > We know that the Gods Above are the control freaks who want to nurture humanity by controlling them, and that the Gods Below want humanity to find its own way.
        What? I thought that this whole ‘Fate’ thing was about Gods solving their gamble by means of mortal champions with limited resources. After all, all the guidelines the GA gave people (with churches, sermons and all that) are community centered, not some direct orders.
        Closest things the heroes have to superiors are angels, and we’ve only seen one Choir, Contrition, whose entire thing is to recruit people who want to amend the wrongs they condoned. While they are essentially robbing people of their free will by showing them the world as they see it, Masego specifically mentioned that both angels and Demons are driven by absolutes and thus harmful to people, not because they explicitly want to rule them.
        In contrast, the Gods Below have no organized religion and don’t grant prayers for free, all the while bestowing their blessings on people who bend others to their will. The whole “turn an entire kingdom into undead puppets” thing doesn’t scream ‘find your own way’ to me.

        Did EE ever confirm that interpretation or are you making stuff up to make the protagonist’s side look better to the modern reader?

        Like

    1. Komploding

      I understood the Dead King to be the same person since the beggining seeing as how he transformed himself, his kingdom and those within it into the undead, I find it likely that Cat is the is the counterpoint to the Wandering Bard, as she was originally supposed to lead the lone swordsman’s band of hero’s but instead is a villain and has the power to (according to Queen of Summer) change the narrative like the Wandering Bard, except Cat does it in a much more direct sense. Maybe the Gods below needed to wait this long to oppose the Wandering Bard was so that it was possible to affect the story in a direct manner?

      Like

      1. Just above every visionary Named thinks they have a means to tug the plot their way. Cat crossed paths with the Bard three-ish times, is simply too young to be the sole counterpart the millennia-old heroine, and we don’t know to what extent she can warp stories she has no Role in. I know that “but it would be so coooool” is a legit reason for things to happen in the Guideverse, but the entire world shouldn’t necessary turn around our story’s protagonist. A sense of bigger things happening outside of the frame is a big part of this story’s appeal too.

        Like

  14. James, Mostly Harmless

    Bard is a lot scarier than she appears, especially if she has been working for the Gods Above for as long as Black thinks. Howver, I have a sneaky feeling that when Bard finally comes into direct conflict with Cat, that Cat will subvert Bard’s story to her own ends!

    Like

    1. Black is already quite happily throwing indirect spanners Wandering’s way to warp her plots. Or, something like spanner-spewing landmines, at least. 🙂

      And, if he wants to be killed by somebody other than Cat, there’s a certain Bard connected to a White Knight he can think circles around… White Knights also traditionally go after Black ones and either kill them or get killed by them, and visa versa. Why not use it to shield Squire?

      Kidnapping part of Wandering’s plot and using it for his own gain might be juggling matches in a fireworks factory, but if he can balance the cost-benefit to both sides to create a one-one draw that amounts to a nul, it could be worth it. *shrugs*

      Like

  15. Mike E.

    Do we know Black’s aspects? Is his eidetic/photographic memory and ability to analyze data just him, or what he got when he became the Black Knight?

    Also loved the whole analysis and subverting of the ritual. I believe EE has stated that Assassin has been on screen, we just didn’t know it was him/her. I am so curious as to who it actually is…part of me is wondering if it is actually Scribe.

    Like

    1. I wonder if Assasin has some kind of Fight-Club-ish split personality, where the person who is Assasin doesn’t even know it, and Assasin per se just takes over for a bit when there’s work to be done.

      Like

      1. KageLupus

        When Cat first meets meets the Empress, there is a line about how Cat has already met Assassin. They specifically use a masculine pronoun, saying that she has already met “him”. Thief also refers to Assassin in the masculine when she says that she met him. That isn’t to say that Eudokia isn’t some kind of front, or that Assassin being a man isn’t misdirection, but I don’t think it is super likely.

        Like

    2. Idan Dor

      Black’s aspects are, as stated in the Epilogue of book 1:

      The moment his agents had gotten him the news he’d felt his Name react. Lead. Conquer. Destroy. All three of his aspects were awake. He hadn’t felt this alive in decades, and even as the south of the kingdom he’s conquered resumed the war he’d won he felt a strange joy welling up inside of him. Interesting years were ahead. And this once, just this once, he was willing to break a rule of his. Baring his teeth at the Heavens, Black dared them to deny him.

      “Just as planned,” he said.

      Lead, Conquer and Destroy. The memory thing is probably more of a thing he gotten from his time as a Squire with the whole standard Learn schtick.

      As for the assassin, I’m assuming it’s the blackguard lieutenant as his name was mentioned but then he never really did anything. But him being Scribe is still possible.

      Like

      1. IncognitoMe

        My theory for Assassin is that we’ve seen him as one of the people surrounding Cat when she was a brawler in the pit an not yet apprenticed to Black. Point in favor of this are the files on Cat and Black’s mentioning of a preemtive strike to take her out to prevent her rise as a hero. Yes, the files we’re probably made by Scribe but Assassin might have done some scouting.
        Also, it might be that we have only seen Assassin in disguise as the nature of his job demands him to be secretive.

        Going with Assassin’s humour I’d like to imagine him as Zacharis, the drunk healer from the pits, having PTSD from his time training assassination from childhood and subverting this trope of being this mysterious inescapable entity that kills everything in his way as a ruthless and cold contract killer. Alcoholism might be his Name-strengthended quirk, like Cat’s mouthing off and hand clenching.
        I mean, having the most competent killer pose as some incompetent healer would embrace the irony that he’s always showing in his kills.

        I do see the points to Scribe having Assassin as a second persona, but there are too many points against it:
        1. Scribe mentioned she joined the Calamities years after they toppled the Empire from Nefarious and the five Calamities got their Name from theChancellor, so Assassin must have been around earlier.
        2. It’s been mentioned that no one can hold two names at the same time (though multiple personalities might subvert this, but come on, that’d be a cheap cliché twist).
        3. I have some more points but it would just be such an obvious and easy conclusion to the whole thing if Scribe was Assassin and I want to beintrigued.

        One of the main point of Scribe being Assassin though is a quote taken from the prologue of book one:
        “Warlock cast a look around, looking for the fifth member of their little band and coming up empty.”
        They specifically mention Scribe, Warlock, Black and Captain and it would just fit coining the five Calamities before introducing the concept of their merry band to us. What do you guys say?

        Like

      2. Soronel Haetir

        I suspect Assassin is the Blackguard officer we’ve seen a couple times. Low enough in the ranks to go unnoticed around Black but an officer so not likely to be questioned if he says “Lord Black told me to go take care of …”

        Like

    3. Snoogle

      Blacks aspects get named in a chapter I’ve forgotten the name of but I believe it was somewhere in the Callow Civil War, they are Lead, Conquer, Destroy.

      If you want to see Assassin on screen, my best guess is to go back to chapter 1 when a “silent silhouette in a dark cloak” helps up the would-be rape victim. I mean, Black said that one of the men should take her home, but there weren’t any other blackguards around during the incident if I remember correctly… So that would be my personal best guess.

      If anyone has a better idea, shoot.

      Like

    4. Darkening

      Lead. Conquer. Destroy. Destroy’s probably a lot like Cat’s break, lead and conquer are a bit more up in the air. Maybe Lead helps him with planning when he’s Leading a group or an army? Conquer is probably a combat boost of some sort.

      Like

  16. Nairne

    Now that I think about it, it would be pretty scary if Ashen Priestess died so Hierophant can’t take her miracles for himself, effectively weakening him in the long run and possibly denying The Woes any resurrection miracles.

    I agree, that it would be interesting to see a heroic interlude sometime soon to get a feel of the heroes reaction to the Ashen Priestess dying. I’m also curious who they will blame, would make me smile if they cast blame not only on the Tyrant and Calamities but also on the Bard. That would make it easier for her to manipulate them (to a certain extent though).

    Aw damn… now I want another chapter to read….or more like a whole another book to read…. ://

    Like

  17. Soronel Haetir

    Didn’t Warlock do something similar? Or did he only do that for his son?


    Wekesa ‘s threat regarding Amadeus
    was far more explicit than for Masego.

    Like

  18. Blinks

    Ah, i think Black just noticed the problem with regards to his friends and his successor.
    As to Catherine killing Black while it is fairly in theme for the Squire and the Black Knight neither of the two holders of those particular Names are ones to follow stories unless on their own terms and Cat doesn’t actually want to kill him. It’s hardly as if she longs for the power he holds.

    Like

  19. nobodi12

    What about Robber being the Assassin. SInce no one has seen him he could have been a Goblin or an Orc. And and Robber is one of the few goblins we haven’t heard aging.

    Like

    1. esryok

      Robber thinks privately to himself about his age (way younger then Assassin) and childhood, not to mention he’s performing shenanigans in Callow + Arcadia while Assassin is doing his thing in the Free Cities.

      *Maybe* Assassin has Bard-level teleportation and shapechanging powers, but more likely they are two separate people.

      Like

  20. shana

    Using the Rule of Three and the stories put out so far, I’m starting to think that we might get a bait and switch of sorts. Heiress moved up, Masego moved up, and I think before the end of the current conflict Cat will too—but a Squire currently has two particular options: Black Knight, as she’s been groomed, and “White” Knight. Given her current alignment, “White” won’t necessarily make her a Hero if she transitions that way.

    I have to wonder if we won’t be seeing a new Name: Winter Knight. Adjutant has already demonstrated that there’s a new tide of roles coming, and I’m optimistic that this book will have some fascinating twist.

    Like

    1. Big Brother

      Squires also served under Kings and the occasional warrior Queen. There’s probably precedent somewhere for a Squire to be named as the legitimate heir to a King or Queen, and thus transitioning into that Name. The Heavens already tried to offer Cat the name of Queen, maybe she’ll Take it this time, serve as Malicia’s Callowan counterpart, and act as the link between Praes and the “Good” nations.

      Like

  21. Bookworm

    I have read most of the comments and doubt many will get to this one. Just a two observations. The line that strikes me most out of this interlude is the following:

    “The word for ‘bard’ we use comes from Old Miezan,” he said. “Language has evolved, even in our lifetime.”

    Isn’t the real question the etymological origin of “bard”, as all Names are archetypical descriptions, in a way. It’s all about association. What was “bard” associated with when it became a Name?

    In our world, the word’s origin revolves around concepts of “praise”. There is a Slavic outlier indicating “sacrifice” also. This indicates one possible direction toward which the Name is moving.

    The second observation is the title of “cadenza” which is an ornamental, sometimes improvised, piece in music that does not affect the underlying structure of a song. In other words, this chapter is pretty and very enjoyable, but of little substance in terms of the Story/Plot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. esryok

      I think “Cadenza” is in reference to how the Calamities managed to kill the Ashen Priestess without the Bard stepping in. The efforts to orchestrate and subvert the murder-ritual were a story about conflict between the Tyrant and the Calamities, apparently distinct from the story about the Free Cities civil war.

      That the ritual was turned to target the Ashen Priestess *was* an ornamental, possibly improvised detail that didn’t affect the underlying structure of “Calamities beat the Tyrant.”

      I wonder if she was unable to perceive the villain vs villain narrative, or if it was just the “cadenza” she was blind to?

      Like

      1. Rnt169

        So maybe this chapter indicates that Black Knight’s career is coming to an end and maybe is a tribute to his career: i.e. his swansong

        Like

  22. TheTime

    Here is a theory – there is no Providence. It’s just the Bard, always was the Bard, arranging for lucky “coincidences” for their dear heros. Maybe it’s one of their aspects.

    Like

    1. Soronel Haetir

      Sorry, not buying. It’s been described how a hero can learn overnight how to use a power that would take a villain a decade to master among plenty of other interventions by the gods above.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. stevenneiman

      The Bard is one of the most effective agents of the Gods Above, but she (or possibly it, I don’t know if we’ve confirmed that it’s always female) is far from their only agent.

      Like

  23. Went through comments and ….

    Amadeus do have my sympathy, but there are other reasons to make it unlikely for him to be killed by Cat, at least at the moment Their stories are, at the moment, rather unrelated. Current Cat’s narrative is about her war with Arcadia residents and, to some extent, Diabolist. If she grows within current narrative, her name should be related to said narrative and not Black’s succession.

    Furthermore, if we look at her Name aspects and that of Black, Black is clearly tied to military and more specifically, to army, while Cat is not. Theoretically speaking, I could imagine her coming into name of the Ranger, as Cat’s aspects fit.

    I can see two prominent theme’s in Cat’s current narrative: war with magical denizens and protection of her property. The first could result in Names of Paladin (and it would be hilarious), Exorcist, or other variation of a Purifier. The second narrative is a common trope for heroes and various ruler names, so Queen is not off the table. interestingly, it could be acceptable for Malicia as Empress is still above a Queen. Finally, Cat is caught up in fae business, In particular, Cat ‘always had a ring of a heir of a fae’, so if this sticks, she will be tied into Fae.

    Like

    1. stevenneiman

      I would strongly suspect that her Name will be something new, or at least something revived. Not sure about the name itself, but I agree that it is probably related to defending her people. It might also be an old Callowan Name traditionally but not explicitly tied to Good.

      Like

  24. Juniper

    One thing no one has speculated on that I’ve read….. Is who is the counterpart to Malicia for Cat? Or perhaps she is simply part of the next set to serve her?

    Like

    1. esryok

      At the end of Book I’s epilogue:

      The moment his agents had gotten him the news he’d felt his Name react. Lead. Conquer. Destroy. All three of his aspects were awake. He hadn’t felt this alive in decades, and even as the south of the kingdom he’s conquered resumed the war he’d won he felt a strange joy welling up inside of him. Interesting years were ahead. And this once, just this once, he was willing to break a rule of his. Baring his teeth at the Heavens, Black dared them to deny him.

      “Just as planned,” he said.

      Like

    2. stevenneiman

      I don’t remember the chapter name, but I remember that it mentioned all three of his Aspects together. You could do a google site search for “lead conquer destroy” and it would probably come up.

      Like

  25. stevenneiman

    Depending on how the Fae work, there’s some chance that Kairos and Amadeus are at some point in the process going to be going “WTF where did the sun go” and assuming it’s sorcery performed by the other side.
    Or maybe Black will have seen that coming too.

    Like

  26. So I’ll be completely honest here and say that the Ashen Priestess was by far my favourite of the heroes’ party and I’m sad and completely bummed out that she’s dead now. Bleh. *blows raspberry*

    Seriously though, amazing chapter EE. Thanks as always.

    Like

  27. Thanks for the chapter!

    Given how ash is often associated with resurrection, I think it is possible for the ashen priestess to come back at the worst possible timing. Resurrection may even be one of her aspects.

    Like

  28. Dan L

    So… Black’s looking for a force on the side of Evil to counterbalance the Wandering Bard. One that masquerades as a Named and joins existing groups, but isn’t really part of the core dynamic. One that appears precisely where she is needed as if by great magic, and never intervenes physically. One that operates in the backround arranging pieces on the board, and claims a Name that heavily involves manipulation of narrative.

    And he is having this conversation

    with

    SCRIBE.

    Like

    1. ArkhCthuul

      Exactly my train of thought. 😉

      So much potential for double crossing, I.shudder merely thinking about.it.

      Also this.chapter was.wonderful again :8

      Like

  29. Warren Peace

    “I am dying, I think,” is a rare line where it’s actually appropriate for a character to murmur. Otherwise, I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

    Murmur, (n): a soft, indistinct sound made by a person or group of people speaking quietly or at a distance.

    The key here is soft and INDISTINCT

    Like

  30. Warren Peace

    I found this chapter rather hard to follow. All the different place names run together, like the 5 the Tyrant is associated with. I know they’re all supposed to be distinct, but does that actually matter?

    Then this chapter seems to INTRODUCE TWO WHOLE NEW RACES, via offhand remarks that lack the context to make sense of them. So the Kingdom Under is distinct from the Dead King’s kingdom? Black’s comments seem to imply the K.O. is dwarves, at least in a generic sense, but nothing along those lines has been mentioned before, so it’s confusing. And now Drow are a race in this world also? This was a very poor way to introduce these brand new ideas

    Like

    1. esryok

      The drow have been brought up a couple of times, most notably when Diabolist hired a band of drow mercenaries as part of her army defending Liesse.

      Dwarves were first referenced in Book I, when Black was explaining that Praes is a backwater kingdom that stands no chance against either the Kingdom Under or the civilization of the gnomes.

      Like

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