Villainous Interlude: Thunder

“We have grown to mock Tyrants for they are mad but that is a very dangerous thing. A madman thinks the world other than what it is, and in a mortal that is a harmless thing. Not so in one who moulds Creation to their will, as all Named do.”
– King Edmund of Callow, the Inkhand

Anaxares had been named a general, at the Tyrant’s orders. Sixty-seven, the diplomat mused. He was now technically committing treason under sixty-seven different articles of Bellerophan law, and starting to wonder if he would reach a hundred before he died. His remains would be on trial for at least a decade, and he did not envy the Defender Against The People who drew the wrong lot and was made to defend his rotting corpse. It seemed to few, to have grown from middling fifty counts of treason to over sixty when made to serve in a foreign army. The law codes were in need of revising. It should have landed him roughly in the eighties. The mere fact that no difference was made between officer grades was a glaring oversight, and if allowed a few moments to make a statement before the kanenas summarily executed him he would jot down a few notes on the matter.

“Pay attention, Bellerophan,” General Basilia barked. “This is important.”

Kairos’ foremost commander was currently attempting to teach him the basics of war, as he would apparently be given command of five thousand men during the assault on the walls of Nicae. When Anaxares had asked the boy why, morbidly curious, he’d been answered only by off-putting giggles. Troubling.

“I will not. I am a diplomat in the service of the Republic,” he said. “Anyone but the officers drawn by lot learning military tactics is illegal.”

The woman glared at him, sceptical.

“Are you telling me your shithole of a city doesn’t have career officers?” she asked.

War Is Of The People, Served By The People And Ordered Only By The People.

“That would be setting apart individuals from the rest,” he said, somewhat offended on behalf of Bellerophon. “This learning can and should only be temporary, removed after it had seen lawful use.”

“Gods, no wonder you fucks have never won a war,” the general said, aghast.

Anaxares narrowed his eyes at the wicked foreign oligarch. It had been determined by the Will Of The People that enough draws counted as a victory, and therefore proof of the superiority of the Republic in all things. That this was factually incorrect by the standards of wider Calernia was irrelevant to the purposes of this conversation.

“Who do you even learn from?” Basilia asked.

“Bellerophon has secured the finest military manual in existence to train its officers,” he replied.

Manners of War by Tyrant Theodosius?” the general asked. “I suppose the Ars Tactica by the first Terribilis would be close enough.”

A Hundred Victorious Strategies,” Anaxares said.

Ah, that made sixty-eight. Leaking of military information to The Deceived Servant Of A Grasping Despot. General Basilia’s lips twitched as if she was trying very hard not to weep or laugh.

“Isabella the Mad’s book?” she asked, voice rough.

“She was the only one to ever defeat Theodosius on the field,” the diplomat said.

“That’s, uh, a very generous assessment of the Maddened Fields,” General Basilia said, and tried to pass her convulsive laughter for a cough.

He sighed. Mockery, he thought, was the last refuge of those afraid of the First And Mightiest Of The Free Cities, May She Reign Forever.

“Well, at least you haven’t learned any bad habits,” she said. “You won’t be on the first wave over the walls, anyway, if you listen to your commanders you should be fine.”

“I will not,” Anaxares said.

The woman frowned.

“I will actively attempt to hinder your victory, should I remain in a position of authority,” he informed her serenely.

“I’ll remove you from command,” she threatened.

“Do so,” he said. “Please.”

Was there a lawful difference between having temporarily served in a foreign army and remaining in service? Ah, yes, the third amendment. Unfortunately it only applied after death, with the assumption being that any Bellerophan committing such treason would immediately be killed before trial could take place. Another area in need of clarification to be pointed out to the Republic.

“The Tyrant has his reasons,” Basilia finally said. “He sees further than anyone else.”

“He is drunk with power,” Anaxares told her gently. “And quite possibly mad.”

“They’re all mad, diplomat,” the woman said, smiling. “That’s why they win. Theodosius took on the entire Principate at its peak and walked away the winner. That takes something stranger than courage. Oh, we have the finest army on Calernia don’t get me wrong. We can handle thrice our number in what everyone else has to field. But it’s with a Tyrant on the throne that we shine, and it was the fortune of my life to be born under one.”

Anaxares was not unaware of the blinders the Republic had set around his eyes, though he’d never seen the need to attempt to take them off. It was his first time, however, seeing the same thing on the face of someone not from Bellerophon. How strange, that they too could have faith in something greater. It took the diplomat tipping over a carafe of wine over three maps and wilfully misremembering the names of his commanders before the Helikean gave up in schooling him. Kairos sent for him, but when he entered the tent there was no sign of the Tyrant. Seven people stood stiffly under the silk panes, eyeing the embroidery with cold mistrust. And good reason. It was gold thread, a blatant misuse of wealth that should be in the hands of the people.

“Diplomat Anaxares,” a woman said, tonelessly.

Kanenas. She was not even trying to hide it. The others all had that muted look on their faces that would have betrayed their function as well, had the Bellerophan been traitorous enough to attempt to find such a thing out. Anaxares did not bow, for that was a foreign flourish judiciously disposed of by the Republic. All men were equal, even with those who could kill him with a thought.

“I have committed treason on sixty-eight counts,” he said, and calmly listed them.

The longer he spoke, the more the tension left his shoulders. It was not that Anaxares had ever expected to live through any of this, or even dedicated a great deal of thought to the matter. It was, after all, out of his hands. But it was a relief, that this strange affair finally be closed. That his fate had been left dangling had been a burr in his boots, an irritant. His existence and the contradiction it represented to the truth of Bellerophon should not have been left so long unanswered.

“If the Republic is willing to provide ink and parchment, I have comments to submit to the eyes of the people for after my execution,” he said.

He’d never considered using Helikean tools. No proper Bellerophan would have read anything written with them. The seven kanenas studied him.

“Your pending execution has been suspended by vote,” a man said. “Your services to the people have made you a Person of Value.”

The diplomat watched the seven other people in the tent. They stared back, unblinking. Something rose inside of him as the silence continued, something he had not felt in a very long time. He’d thought the years had scoured it out of him, but perhaps that had been vanity. It was not hope, of course. He had no use for that. It was anger. Harsh, unforgiving fury. How dare they? How dare they turn on what they should be, on everything they should stand for?

“No,” he hissed. “This is unacceptable.”

“This committee has been empowered to record and respond to your words,” the woman who’d spoken earlier replied flatly.

“There is no such thing as Person of Value,” Anaxares snarled. “If the people have decreed this, the people are wrong and in need of purging. We are a Republic of laws. I have broken these laws. I must be executed according to them.”

“To go against the Will of the People is treason,” another woman said.

“Then execute me, by all the Gods,” he shouted. “The people have committed treason against the Republic through this vote. This is how he wins, you fools. By bending what we are. It only needs to happen once and everything we’ve built is stained.”

Eyes hard, he stared them down.

“We are the Republic of Bellerophon,” he said through gritted teeth. “We do not compromise. We do not make exceptions. I will slit my own throat before allowing this.”

“Correct,” the man said.

“Correct,” another man said, and a woman with him.

“Treason,” the woman from earlier replied.

The air in the tent grew thick with sorcery as all seven kanenas went still. Something broke with a sickening crunch behind the face of the three who’d agreed with him. Anaxares did not look as the bodies droppedd. Citizens did not get involved in the debates of the kanenas, or the grisly ends they inevitably came to.

“You are forbidden to commit suicide by law,” the woman said. “And to wilfully take actions that will result in your death as well.”

“You can’t do this,” Anaxares said.

He was genuinely afraid for the first time since boyhood. This… Gods, what was this? It was wrong, all wrong, something had broken and he needed to Mend it.

“We do nothing, diplomat,” a man said. “The People Have Spoken.”

They left him there, shivering in his own sweat. His hands shook and he had to sit for his legs would not longer bear the weight of him. Nightfall was coming, and with it the assault on Nicaw. The armies were gathered, but he cared nothing for it. Yet he would have to lead the soldiers, for if he did not the Tyrant might decide to kill him and he was forbidden by law to chance this. The boy. The boy was behind this, one way or another. Kairos was waiting for him on a throne that overlooked the walls, all grey stone with a dozen gargoyles fanning him and feeding him grapes. He had a cup in hand, though not of wine. Juice of some sort.

“What did you do,” Anaxares demanded. “What did you do?

The Tyrant of Helike laughed, laughed with his red eye shining and his weak arm clutching at his robes like claws.

“Oh yes,” Kairos Theodosian murmured. “You’ll do nicely.”

“You’ve tainted us,” the diplomat said.

“I gave them what they wanted most, deep down,” the Tyrant said. “Under all the laws and the lies.”

A gargoyle waddled up to him, stone wings folded over its back, and offered a wineskin. The Bellerophan saw it too well. His eyesight should not be this good, all these minute fractures in the bespelled rock should never have been noticeable. That realization brought exhaustion with it that had him half-toppling on the platform the throne was set on. He took the skin and drank deep, drowning and drowned.

“Would you like to hear a story, Anaxares?” the Tyrant asked. “It’s a thing of beauty, this one.”

“This must be unmade,” the diplomat begged.

“Oh, it’s too late for that,” Kairos smiled. “Much, much too late. This story, my dearest friend, is about three people.”

Anaxares’ hands were no longer shaking, his body numb at the horror of what was hapening.

“The first is a monster,” Kairos said. “She’s not like the others monsters, though. She has no face and as many lives as there are stars, and behind those veils only one single burning desire. It’s a thing I can see, you know. What people Wish. And when I look at her, what I see is glorious.”

“The Wandering Bard,” Anaxares croaked.

“Now, this monster she has plans and plans and plans,” the Tyrant sighed admiringly. “So many irons and so many fires. She doesn’t care about any of us, when it comes down to it. All she looks at is the line in the sand that’s just a bit above the reach of high tide, and we can’t have that now can we? She’s not real picky about what she’ll use to wipe it away, practical creature that she is.”

Kairos leaned closer, grinning widely.

“Let me tell you a secret, my friend,” he whispered. “She’s already won. The opposition was watching the wrong fire the whole time, and the intricacy of the trap is exquisite. She made the kill without them ever seeing her.”

“She’s losing,” Anaxares said. “The Calamities killed one of her heroes with your own sorcery.”

“No no no,” the Tyrant said. “You’re looking at it all wrong. Even if my pretty little mages had been untroubled, the Beast would have survived. The Healer should have too, life split in half with her sister. A touching story of sisterly love, if you care for that sort of thing. She didn’t because she was a sacrifice. Her weight was stolen, because there was another use for it. With nothing you can only trade for nothing.”

“Then you are a pawn as well,” the diplomat said. “In the Bard’s game.”

“Funny thing, control,” the boy mused. “Everybody thinks they have it. Because they follow Fate or fight it, because they see the lines or make them. No one is in control, Anaxares. Not even the Gods, otherwise what would be the point of Creation? We’re not the answer, we’re the question. The book even says so.”

The cripple hacked out a laugh, patting himself.

“She thinks I made you to kill me,” Kairos said. “She’s wrong, my dearest bosom companion. I’m not some Praesi of the old breed, oh no. I have more unusual ambitions. But here I am, getting ahead of myself. We have a story, yes? The second person is not a person at all. He is a thing.”

The hate and contempt in the boy’s voice had an almost physical weight to it.

“He thinks he’s a person and that’s the most disgusting part,” the Tyrant smiled. “Cogs and wheels and he started out thinking it was about being right, about being fair, but it hasn’t been like that in a long time. He just wants to win, but it’s a kind of victory that means nothing at all. That poor, blind pile of cogs.”

Kairos tittered.

“He thinks what runs him is reason but that is a conceit,” the Tyrant said gleefully. “That will sting, when the lie is stripped away. He thinks he’s above pride, you see, but that’s about all that’s left of him because he thinks everyone lives by his rules, Anaxares. Even if the ends aren’t the same, he thinks the means are.”

The boy’s good hand rose, fingers walking the arm of the throne like some small nimble creature. The odd-eyed villain snapped his fist shut instead of walking it off.

“Just like that,” he said. “Plot and plan and seize a crown at the end, even if this one isn’t really a crown. More like an agreement, and you know I have a weakness for those. The old Emperors, they got it. That the Empire was the tool, not the aim. But in his little head Praes is the centre of the world, and as long as he thinks like that Aoede is going to whip him again and again, if you’ll forgive my language.”

“She’s going to kill him,” the diplomat said.

“Of course not, my beauteous blooming flower,” the Tyrant tutted. “Nothing so crass. She’s going to hurt him. And when the cold thing turns into a wounded animal, well, that’s when he starts making mistakes.”

“And the third person is you,” Anaxares said. “Pulling all the strings.”

Kairos turned to him then, and the smile on his face was one of pure and childlike joy. The Bellerophan had never seen anything half so terrifying.

“Gotcha,” he said, like a child pulling a prank.

The cripple shivered under the setting sun, his face almost feverish.

“I heard a story about one of the first kings of Helike, once,” he said. “His father had gathered a great menagerie of animals, it goes. Peacocks and great lizards, gazelles and aurochs from all over Calernia and beyond. And one lion as well, brought in as a cub. It lived in a cage all its life, fed choice cuts of meat meant behind bars. So the first thing that king did, when he took the throne, was open all the doors.”

The Tyrant hummed.

“I heard a lot of reasons why he might have done that,” the odd-eyed boy said. “Revenge on a father who cared more for animals than him, getting rid of expensive frivolity and even because he believed caging animals was wrong. I think, though, that I understand him. Just a little.”

Kairos leaned forward.

“I think what he wanted was to see if a lion was still a lion, having lived in a cage all its life,” he confided. “I think he just… wanted to see what would happen.”

“What did?” Anaxares asked, tone rough.

“The lion slaughtered them all,” the Tyrant of Helike grinned, and the red in his eye was an endless sea of blood. “Nature tells, my friend. Nature always tells.

The boy’s grinned widened, long and sharp and pearly white.

“I wonder what your nature is, Hierarch.”

It was a title and a curse, the ruling seat of the League that had only once been filled since the founding.

It was all these things, but most of all it was a Name.

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79 thoughts on “Villainous Interlude: Thunder

      1. Idan Dor

        I know of two:
        Most of our resident Bellerophan are Villainous interludes, only his first two appearances are not.
        Second, last chapter Black mentioned that he thinks the Tyrant is attempting to become Heirarch of the free cities. After wondering that, he wondered how the Tyrant managed to assert so much control and power over Bellerophan (which hints they might be the usual bottleneck).
        Anyone spotted more?

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      2. “This is Anaxares, my most trusted advisor,” Kairos grinned. “I abducted him. He’s not very happy about it.”

        The dark-haired woman squinted at him, slurping her cup loudly. For a moment Anaxares could have sworn she was entirely sober and studying him with a piercing gaze, but then she choked on the liquor and the moment was gone. She thumped her own chest until she stopped coughing, spilling biscuit crumbs everywhere.

        “You’re a class act, Tyrant,” she said admiringly, still breathless. “Haven’t seen anything that brazen since Traitorous.”

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Warren Peace

        How is that big blockquote supposed to apply? It seems completely irrelevant, it has nothing to do with foreshadowing the Hierarch

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      4. stevenneiman

        @Warren Peace it’s exactly the sort of thing that Traitorous would do to set up the person who hated him most of anyone in Calernia to the position of power that everyone thought he was gunning for himself. We’ll have to wait and see where in all the hells he’s actually going with this, but it is a Traitorous style of scheme.

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  1. Darkening

    Wow. What *will* he do now that he’s been made the head of a nation and violently rejects the very idea of such a thing. Huh. I might have expected him to get a name, but this is a very odd turn of events. I can’t wait to see where it goes.

    Liked by 10 people

  2. I’m trying to think of what ability the Tyrant has in the story. First off, he’s right. This is a story, no matter how different it seems from other stories. The difference in this story is that everyone is still fighting the story, but when everyone is fighting the story, the only thing that changes are the roles. Regardless of how ‘ahead’ everyone thinks they are, there is still going to be a final hero, there’s going to be a final stand.

    And that ‘final hero’ is Cat.

    Tyrant, with his WISH aspect, gains Medium Awareness (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MediumAwareness), and so he sees what he shouldn’t. He sees little bits and pieces of the story, and he’s decided that there’s no use in fighting it. He’s hoping that, in the end, he’s the protagonist. He’s running a Deadpool style, in which, if he’s funny enough and crazy enough, he can be a protagonist. If not, well, then he’s gonna wreck some shit. If Amadeus has accepted his death because of the story he was forced into, Kairos has acknowledged that he must lose because he’s the Tyrant. He’s Akua with less ego and preternatural foresight.

    In the end of this story, with everyone trying to skirt the rules and play their own game, there can only be one person who truly changes the game. Amadeus knows this is Cat. He knew it when he gave her the knife. He knew it when he found her in the alley.

    I don’t think that he planned to meet Cat. This is a story not unlike any other. When Creation makes a story, they make a story. What I think happened, is that he looked over a scouting sheet on Cat just before he arrived in Laure at the beginning of the story. Whether he wanted to double check the potential heroes in the city, or because his Name forced the story, once he walked past an alley and saw one of the potential Named in an alley, with a knife to her throat, he knew that she could be the protagonist, *his* protagonist, if he just stepped in. He was fully prepared to let her go to War College, because that could be a story in itself, but the opportunity was there, and so he intentionally signed his own death warrant as the Mentor in exchange for immortality in the Practical Guide to Evil.

    He’s just too arrogant to admit it.

    When it comes to the Tyrant, he’s the one who is breaking the fourth wall. He’s seen what lies outside of Creation, and the existential crises that would arise from it. He’s Crazy Sane (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/CrazySane), because he knows he’s either going to lose or be crazy enough to win.

    And so, the Heavens always win. Since this is a story about breaking stories, Masego will probably break the walls of Creation in the final conflict, and allow Cat to truly break the story. But, if this story is about breaking stories, a finale that involves breaking the overarching story *is* the story. No matter what, the forces beyond Creation wins.

    If Creation is the process to find whether Good or Evil is better, the answer is that there will always be shades of gray, and only in balance can we find the best way of life.

    Or it’s 42 if Creation is secretly just a Deep Thought calculation.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Another line about Cat that I want to add:

      If the story is about breaking stories, then the origin has to break origins. The final hero of a story breaking story has to be a unique origin. They can’t be from their own nation. It takes someone who is formed by breaking the trope to break the tropes.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. soonnanandnaanssoon

        I’m gonna tie Cat’s Role and Name progression into this discussion too. Word of God has stated in ‘Villainous Interlude: Decorum’ that the Name ‘Grey Knight’ (which a few people has suggested) does not exist due to the lack of cultural drive for the Name. If Cat is to truly break the story, one part she’d break would be the transition from ‘Squire’ to ‘White/Black Knight’. Based on excerpts from the quotes of chapters, could it be that her future Name is indeed, ‘Foundling’? The sheer number of people she has influenced in Callow/the Legions/Tribes/Clans, giving her a cultural weight strong enough to turn her name into a Name?

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      2. I actually don’t think Cat will ever transition. There’s power in a transitory name like Squire. She’s not restricted in ways that Amadeus is, and there’s a story in a young up and comer being the underdog to beat everyone. The moment she “graduates” her name, is the moment that she is part of the game, and not the outside factor that seperates her from the rest of the bigger players who manipulate stories already (Amadeus, Bard, Cordelia, Tyrant)

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    2. Damn. Up until now, I had no idea where this story is going but I think you’re right. I’ll eat my own hat if at some point Kairos doesn’t stare down the camera and say something like “This isn’t just a story, WE are a story, and the readers of that story are watching us right now”

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    3. Jonnnnz

      I think that you are giving the Tyrant too much importance. His strategy is a failing one (as has been pointed out already), doubly so since he admitted the Bard’s inevitable victory.

      But I think that what separates Cat and the Bard is that they haven’t set an end goal for themselves but rather think in terms of affecting long term change on people. The Bard, being forced to see things through the perspective of heroes sees the inevitable failing of villains, while Cat sees the inherent impotence of heroes. They may want the same thing, but the gods have had centuries to twist the Bard into an agent of their agenda, just like they have the world to some extent (with the Queen of Summer hinting at that). On the other hand, Cat wants humans to stop depending on stories and gods. This is the big clash at the end of it all.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, Tyrant knows he lost, but he has to have some kind of hope, or at least he had to when he started. To be Named in general, you have to be willing to take Creation and change it with nothing but your own two hands. He just sees the futility in it. I’m glad we didnt see stuff from his perspective, cause that would’ve broken a lot of good foreshadowing in terms of the world building.

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    4. Dainpdf

      Black knew about Cat beforehand. He knew she had the potential to become a hero and went to kill or recruit her. There is an Interlude showing Scribe telling him about her.
      Also, of course that’s the way the Tyrant sees things. He’s clearly a megalomaniac. His prescience may be heavily distorted by that.

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  3. Soronel Haetir

    Interesting that Kairos so misreads Black’s assessment of Praes, even as he understands his mindset so well. Black is fully aware that Praes is insignificant even on the continent, let alone the rest of the world. A great deal of his strategy has revolved around not ticking off the major powers.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Byzantine

      But also interesting he seems to have gotten a pretty good read on the Bard, though I suspect his ultimate assessment is off as well. Black is not really the Bard’s enemy. Catherine is. They just aren’t aware of it yet.

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  4. Byzantine

    Oh gods.

    The Tyrant is going to betray everyone. He’s going to break the Bard too. And he just gave a Name that has not existed for thousands of years to someone who should never have had a chance at having one.

    This is going to be interesting.

    Oh, and Diabolist? Sorry, but the Tyrant just pretty much secured top old-school villain.

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    1. Well, yes, but while I hate both Diabolist and Tyrant, I hate to hate Diabolist, while I love to hate Tyrant. Like, Diabolist has consistently been the least interesting of the antagonists, while Tyrant is a joy.

      I’m glad to see his game remains good, and hope he hangs on long enough to be an enemy of Cat, rather then a far off event.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. vietnamabc

        Diabolist is there for the little shit Joffrey experience and being a training wheel for Cat, Tyrant is the real deal.
        Also dat moments when both the GM and the player goes meta and rule-bending to the max.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I waaaas going to whine about seeing the post notice, taking awhile to go to the link and finding it gone but.. can not, after that. Wow! The Tyrant is definitely shooting up my favourites now with this. And Anaxares, Named and Aspected like that?!

    Bravo… well done, good sir, well done.

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  6. Arnunart

    So anyone else think ranger is dead? Because her fighting the queen of summer and getting hit with a curse at the right time would be the thing that could kill her. I mean you make a mistake fighthtjngng a god and well you die.

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    1. Idan Dor

      Damn, you might be right! Fuck, remember Scribe’s statement from last chapter? Something like I will kill Catherine if she holds the knife and if I fail, Hye will not? Of course Hye has to go first. Damn!

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    2. RoflCat

      I don’t know if it’d be Ranger, if anything Malicia seems more likely as a target between her having less combat potential and has shown to be able to fail (Warden extra)

      And if Malicia is gone this way, it can lead to Cat vs Diabolist for the throne (alternatively Cat defeat Diabolist, but appoint Black as Emperor instead, possibly getting some points with Scribe and Ranger for it and still leave herself free to run Callow)

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    3. Warren Peace

      no. something that major wouldn’t happen just out of the blue, randomly. unless you can point to some foreshadowing everyone else has missed?

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  7. now that was dramatic,if warlock dies, making masego the wizard’s nemesis or akua’s father becoming the new warlock would be the most logical right?
    so what is the goal of kairos, how he will betray the bar?
    the general was right the tyrant is just great

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  8. Naeddyr

    That’s a strange and roundabout way to become Hierach. It probably IS a title for a Diplomat, but I’d expected to see a transitional period.

    Is this how it is with other title Names? People get them “”de jure”” even though they’re not even close to being qualified / ratified / thronified yet, and then they have to fight for it? Suddenly, a man living on a farm is tired of the civil war raging through his home and becomes King. Three candidates for Emperor fight until one of them WANTS it more than the others.

    Strange Roles lying in stories distributing Names is no basis for a system of government. Supreme Executive Power Derives From A Mandate From The People, Not From Some Farcical Narrative Performative Omen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think that a man on a farm can be The King. On the other hand, if he started a rebellion and is leading it, then it’s completely possible for him to become King even before he’s crowned. Though even in this case he has to do something to prove he’s the true King. Draw a sword from a stone, for example.

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    2. Idan Dor

      That is such a good monty python scene, just watched it again. It is also surprisingly extremely relevant with the Hierarch being Bellerophan and actually chosen by The People, however misguided they might be.

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    3. Transitional period may still be going on. Remember, Cat got her Learn as soon as she woke up from the Name dream and Rashid seemed to have some Aspect too, seeing as he was fighting better in a room full of goblinfire than in a camp while using his stealth trick. Given that both the current war and the Name of Hierarch are confined to the Free Cities, there may well be another claimant waiting behind the walls of Nicae.

      Other possibility is that the mess that was Catherine’s claiming the Name of Squire (for and a half claimants, a hero on the loose, a quarter of the city on goblinfire) was due to its ties to the larger conflict. Power calls to power, and so the three Named fighting in Summerholm later meet again to fight over the future of Callow in Liesse; an episodic villain hired by one of them to get rid of another and killed by the third has enough narrative weight left in her to posthumously claim a Name herself, even if for a short time.

      In contrast to that, most of the setting up for electing a Hierarch happened offscreen: the offer to the good members of the League probably included formally giving reins to a third party, so they wouldn’t commit blasphemy by taking orders from a villain. Likewise, the whole period the kanenas were delaying Anaxares’ execution they were probably observing his changes of personality from being carried by the current of his people to proclaiming that both people and kanenas are wrong in breaking the law for him. The transitional period happened, it just was artificially put together by the Tyrant as he conquered more and more of the League for his friend.

      Liked by 1 person

    4. Also, note how starting from “Stormfront” all his interludes are explicitly villainious, as opposed to the neutral one he shares with Cordelia Hasenbach and a nameless prologue to the current book.

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  9. TideofKhatanga

    Oh gods. I have no idea what’s going on anymore, most theories I had now lay in shambles and I’ll need to read half the story again keeping this chapter in mind but, gods, it’s awesome.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Shequi

    So Kairos has opened the cage of Bellerophan Laws, and Anaxares is out amongst the prey.

    Mend… Interesting, as a villainous aspect. Hierarch is going to be a fun one to watch.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. nick012000

      >Mend… Interesting, as a villainous aspect.

      Personally, I’m wondering if he can do the same sort of things that Josuke Higashikata from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures could with it.

      Like

      1. No healing for the villains, remember? Hes also not a mage (otherwise he’d be a kanena), so that road is also closed for him.

        Though, it’s a pity that the last scene in this chapter doesn’t have a window for Anaxares to fall out from.

        Like

    2. I suspect Anaxares is only a Villain from a specific point of view. From his own, mainly — Mending the rule of law on behalf of others with no wish to take power yourself… is not typically Villanous. He shares a lot with Cat: to save Callow, she consciously decided not to pick Hero. He may not have chosen to go Named, but that’s kind of the point — Bellerphoran culture doesn’t go in for personal choices on this. He’s the Reluctant Anti-Hero/Villain/Whatever they need, whatever they thought they wanted or were going to get.

      To save what he can of Bellerophan Democracy from itself (and the Tyrant), I think Anxiares is going to pick “anything that has a shot”. Even if that’s tipping the board. :/

      Like

  11. mechanicalrain

    I wondered in previous chapters what would be the impetus behind the diplomat being granted a name, and I must say, the fanaticism and iron will he’s shown in the chapter has been astounding. His display of desperation and utter willingness to die is probably what will drive him in his role. Bravo for this chapter!

    Like

      1. -Mech-

        I wonder if he’ll be successful or not so much in his role, considering he fits both a tragedy and a villainous tale.

        And yeap, he probably has a huge advantage in any contest of wills. There’s the drawback of his principles and morals not being developed solely by himself, so as to speak, but the underlying tone of self-sacrifice he takes makes him an underdog in a way. No matter way this goes, he’s certainly an interesting character, and its unfortunate that he’s purely a side character to drive the plot forward.

        Like

  12. James, Mostly Harmless

    The Tyrant has long known that he will die young, but I get the feeling from this Chapter he will die soon, so he created Hierarch as his successor to carry on the fight against the Prince and Praes.

    Like

    1. Imagination

      “We make the shepherds kings at the end of our stories because they already know how to lead recalcitrant, bleating creatures of limited intellect.”
      – Prokopia Lekapene, first and only Hierarch of the Free Cities

      The Hierarch is the leader of the collected Free Cities. Anaxres is the second Hierarch to have existed.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Shequi

        There’s another one as well:

        “Diplomacy is the art of selling a deal you don’t want to people you don’t trust for reasons you won’t admit to.”
        -Prokopia Lekapene, first and only Hierarch of the League of Free Cities

        From https://practicalguidetoevil.wordpress.com/2015/08/26/chapter-22-just-according-to/

        The one about Shepherds is from https://practicalguidetoevil.wordpress.com/2017/02/22/chapter-2-might/

        I also now understand why the First Hierarch has a name that’s taken from 2 empresses of the Byzantine Empire…

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Burnsy

        So, somewhat relevant to this. I just finished compiling all the chapter headers, organising them and formatting them to tv tropes. They’re over on the quotes page, I think I’ve got them all. but if anyone spots one missing then go ahead and shift it over.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. While I remember those quotes, those chapters seemed to be quite far behind than I recalled about seeing that title.

      I assumed that it’s most likely mentioned by Black somewhere in the previous chapter or someone else more recently.

      Like

      1. mupi

        It’s in the previous chapter (“Cadenza”), Black and Scribe are discussing the Tyrant’s plans:
        —-
        “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?”
        —-

        Apparently, Black was wrong …

        Like

  13. Bell Towers

    Now I’m even MORE worried for Sabah and (the tiniest bit) for Warlock, but I’m also thinking this might just be really good feels bait.

    I mean, the Lone Swordsman made some pretty big claims from a position of power and he had the stones to follow through (“let’s kill a calamity, guys” “let’s bring a literal angel into creation” “we’re gonna start a crusaaaaade”) and Cat dropped him like dirt in the end. Black has Cat’s deviousness x1000 and his compadres are monsters in their own right so things might still go their way.

    This chapter was Amazing btw, did not see that Name reveal coming.

    Like

  14. randomcommentername

    In rereading I’ve noticed something strange; in the Precipitation interlude, Anaxares makes references to Bellerophon being landlocked. In the maps, it is surrounded on three sides by water. Typo, misdrawn map, or more evidence of the 1984-esque indoctrination of Bellerophon?

    Like

  15. Author Unknown

    Wow. This was awesome. I loved the stubborn little diplomat and now he becomes Hierarch. Ahahahahah.
    Can you imagine trying to get him to give an order?
    “What is your command?”
    “No man is above another! No man has the right to command another! Follow The Peoples will!”
    “The people will you to give us a command.”
    “Execute them all! They have strayed from the path!”

    Or how about negotiating a treaty? Or any number of things. I’m so looking forward to seeing more of Hierarch.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Sinjako

    The Tyrant’s perspective on Amadeus is completely spot on. To others that say Black knows his insignificance, He really doesnt. His Praes-centrism comes through in his world view( Boohoo villains always lose, i just wanna win.

    Like

  17. Sinjako

    Wait a minute. The Tyrant comes off as the Joker from Batman.If that is true, then Amadeus would be Evil!Harvey dent(Two-face), Anaxares is Harley quinn( SO many similarities), I’m not sure who the bard is (Ra’s al Ghul?).

    Oh my god, Catherine is Batman( The dark knight).

    Like

  18. Soronel Haetir

    Okay, something we’ve been told is that what separates Named from everyone else is will. Anaxares would seem to put that on its head, he is admirable in his steadfast belief but he seems to have exactly zero will of his own.

    Does Kairos actually have an aspect that can foist a Name onto such an unlikely recipient?

    Like

    1. RandomFan

      He has the same will I think a lot of heroes have: A steadfast belief in the way things should be, and a certainty that when they aren’t that way, they need mending. But he has a lot of will to make things the way they should be, it’s just that he trusts outside sources to dictate what that is- like the White Knight does.

      Like

    1. rangamal thenuwara

      They are there to let us know what is happening in other parts of the world and also give us info on how their world works. And he also make sure to finish sub-arcs within the story before going through interludes so that we don’t have cliffhangers.

      Like

    1. Idan Dor

      Anaxares has been getting Villainous interludes for a while now (all of them except his first two appearances), so supposedly (at least for this one) the answer is yes.
      Not necessarily an Evil style name like Praes’ names, but remember that Bellerophan itself is “aligned” with Evil even though it is nothing like Praes’ style of Evil.

      Like

  19. Naeddyr

    Rereading the thing again, noticed a big character mixup in book one:

    in the chapter where sergeant Kamilah is introduced (rescued during the wargames), she’s not mentioned later in the book at all, so I thought she was an abandoned character seeing as how ‘sergeant Kilian’ was there immediately after, but searching the blog she’s mentioned in later stuff, and Kilian is a lieutenant so you’ve just automatically written “Kilian” instead of “Kamilah” in that chapter.

    Like

  20. Eh,
    As someone who actually thinks Ranger is cool, I probably shouldn’t be surprised I’m also in the minority that’s not terribly fond of this Tyrant/Anaxares thing. The Tyrant has had some amusing moments, and one cool one when he called down lightning, but his doings feel more like a distraction than anything else to me.

    Like it or not, Diabolist’s magical whatsit is the biggest magical happening since the Dead King’s rise turned the capital city Keter into a hellscape.

    Honestly, I only find the Tyrant relevant insofar as he’s clogging up events as to whether or not Cordelia is going to get her Crusade versus Praes. More than that, the Tyrant’s views aren’t even internally consistent from one moment to the next. He despises Black for being a passionless gamer of the Story/Role system, but doesn’t hate the Wandering Bard a trillion times more for essentially being the automated, semi-autonomous Course Correction Mechanism of the Heavens? He’s disgusted that Black isn’t a person in his view, but thinks he is. Yet that same disgust doesn’t find purchase in the being who swaps faces & identities like other people change clothes?

    I love the Guide, I really do…but the Tyrant stuff doesn’t really add a lot to the story for me. No other major personalities from the Free Cities supposedly so integral to Procer being able to make a Crusade work. The only member of the White Knight’s band with a memorable personality is the Hedge Wizard(ess).

    Maybe it will all connect up in some awesome way down the line, dunno. Just know I’m MUCH more interested in the Catherine Chapters. The Free Cities conflict feels very bland. A prop to keep the Calamities outta the catastrophes going on in Callow.

    With so much rampant destruction, I’m finding it hard to see how the Free Cities won’t be too war-weary and treasury depleted to sign on for Crusade.

    Like

    1. From Cordelia’s point of view, the conflict in Free Cities is relevant only to securing the border with Helike. They wouldn’t contribute to a crusade anyway, since they typically are too tied into they own squabbles to send a big enough force to Callow. Still, an active Tyrant in Helike would also make it impossible for Cordelia herself to commit.

      As for inconsistent views, it’s more of his personal bias against people who don’t want anything for themselves (remember how he called Dorian out on the same thing he hated Amadeus for), turned into an Aspect of his own. Tyrant doesn’t hate Black Knight because he games the Fate, or because he strayed from the old ways of evil, but because he keeps his objectives fluid, because he makes compromises. On the other hand Kairos can comprehend Bard’s desire (presumably, destabilize the evil nations) and since she influences the Fate indirectly, she’s never actually been confronted on that point, and from his point of view it’s a sign of keeping to her desires.

      Oh, and it’s nice to finally see someone call Amadeus out on some hypocrisy in regards to his own importance. By the looks of it, at least some of Tyrant’s plans will bear fruit, so if Black subverts all the flags and actually sees through it, I will be very disappointed if we won’t see him laughing at having misread his ‘ally’ so much.

      All in all, I think the main difference is that you have been reading it as a part of the main story, while I’ve been reading it as central points of a side plot in the same world: it’s not necessarily worse only because it’s not an underdog story.

      Like

  21. Dylan Tullos

    Well, that answers Black’s question as to how the Tyrant managed to gain Bellerephon’s support. Oddly, Black was thinking in Traditional Evil terms, such as mind control or threats, while Kairos simply engaged in practical politics; it’s a lot easier to get Bellerephon to buy into the idea of a Hierarch if the man with the Name is going to be a native son. I think this may be the first time we’ve seen Black completely blindsided, and it suggests that he really isn’t as well prepared to deal with Kairos as he thinks he is.

    Like

  22. stevenneiman

    Typo thread:

    “Nightfall was coming, and with it the assault on [Nicaw->Nicae]”

    Poor Anaxares. I think he’s one of my favorite characters. The surreality of his life is just hilarious, and the surreality of his thought processes even more so. He’s convinced he has a death sentence, and all he can think is that the laws aren’t well enough written if he’s got twenty less charges of treason.

    Like

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