Villainous Interlude: Calamity I

“That’s the thing with invincibility. You have it until you don’t.”
– Dread Empress Prudence the First, the ‘Frequently Vanquished’

Nicae had been built thrice, with three different intents. The original settlement had spawned from the federation of a handful of fishing villages banding together to facilitate trade with the Baalite colonists settling the shores of Ashur after having absorbed or exterminated the tribes that lived there. The shape of them could still be seen, the three largest of those villages having over the centuries grown into the three ports of the city. The second time had come after Stygia took half the infant Free Cities by military force, back in the ancient days where they were the only Calernians to have a standing army. Nicae was occupied for decades, until the Stygian army attempted to force their general onto the throne of Stygia and the chain of events that would lead to all freeborn Stygians being forbidden to take arms began and heralded the collapse of the fledgling Stygian empire. The office of Basileus was proclaimed as absolute ruler, tall walls built to shield the people from marauders and a war fleet built. What was left of that intent was now known as the Old City, the beating heart of power in the maritime city, raised in old stone and winding streets.

The third and last time Nicea was built anew was after the Second Samite War, when repeated defeats at the hands of the Ashuran fleets proved the ruling Basilea’s incompetence in matters of war beyond question. So the office of Exarch was born, the admiral who’d managed to bring them back from the brink give control over all military affairs and promptly overstepping his given powers by raising a second set of walls to circle the slums that had grown past the old ones and ordering the construction of the Greenstone Rampart. A set of greenstone towers jutting out from the sea and protecting the three ports, warded intensively and bristling with dwarven engines. There had been foresight in this, in Black’s opinion. Though Nicae had never won their wars over rule of the Samite Gulf in the centuries that followed, the Greenstone Rampart ensured the city itself never fell from the sea. Ashur had to settle for terms instead of subjugation, and Nicean sails continued to be seen in every ports – if never quite as free to trade as they would have liked.

The city had been built to resist armies not led by villains, unlike the hardened castles of Callow, and it showed. If Summerholm had been assaulted by a handful of floating towers as Nicae was, the Royal Guards would have been focusing trebuchet fire from the positions behind the walls to bring them down before the outer rampart could be overrun. All that the Niceans managed was sporadic ballista fire that did little more than chip at the foundations. The massive ramps being tugged forward by enslaved citizens of Atalante and Delos lumbered forward, archers killing the slaves by the score by barely slowing the advance. A mistake, this. They would run out of arrows long before the Tyrant ran out of expendables. How it would unfold from there was as good as writ, if the heroes did not get involved. The Stygian phalanxes would climb the ramps and scatter the mercenaries and militia that held the rampart, forcing the Niceans back behind the taller walls of the Old City as the Helikean army passed through the gates untouched. From there, it would be butchery. The armies of Helike were better fit for field battles than siege, but their infantry was hardened and well-armed.

The famous Helikean horse would not be able to bring their full strength to bear inside cramped streets, would not be able to used their devastating combination of horse archery and spears, but they would run down scattered mercenaries like animals. This was the writ of the battle, as it stood. The only question was of where the heroes would intervene to attempt to turn the tides. The outer walls seemed the most likely stage, for whether it held or broke would decide the battle. Yet the towers were hero-bait in its finest incarnation. Amadeus was not unaware of the tactical advantages that having a force in the sky gave, against a mundane army, but there was a reason he’d stamped down on any notion of the Legions of Terror fielding them. There were practical concerns, like the logistics of feeding a host that was leagues above the ground and the requirements to raising such a fortress in the first place, but most of all it was that flying fortresses tended to crash. It was like hanging a sword with rope above the heads of the men in that fortress and sending a formal invitation to any present hero to cut it. Whatever fleeting advantage was gained by the fielding of the fortress was inevitably overshadowed by the massive costs incurred when it was brought down.

“Slid past their wards,” Wekesa whispered in his ear over the enchanted piece of silver he’d inserted under the skin. “Someone tried to improve them recently, but their caster has more breadth than depths. Scrying patterns in place.”

“Locations,” Black said.

“Hedge Wizard is headed for the towers,” Warlock replied after a moment. “Valiant Champion with the Proceran fantassins on the wall. Can’t find the White Knight or the Bard, though the scrying grows unstable over on three, twelve to fifteen diameter. I’d say our boy Hanno got his hands on an amulet to scramble us.”

Tricks rarely worked twice on heroes. It would have been overly optimistic to believe that the enemy would not seek to neuter the tactics they’d displayed last time, even if this was only a mildly effective parry. As the communication spell that connected Wekesa to Amadeus and Sabah was derivative of scrying, it was likely it would be made ineffective when the Duni engaged the White Knight. Only inexact sorcery prior to the distance being closed could feasibly be deployed.

“No sign of the Ashen Priestess?” Amadeus asked.

“Not a one,” Wekesa confirmed. “She might actually be dead, Amadeus.”

“I imagine she will be,” the Black Knight replied. “Until it is decisive for the heroes that she is not. Too many third aspects remain unknowns for us to assume we’ve seen the last of her.”

“Once in a while,” Warlock said amusedly, “we do take Creation by surprise. We might have gotten lucky, for all you know, hit some weakness we were unaware of.”

“We do not belong to the side that gets lucky, my friend,” Amadeus murmured.

The villain closed his eyes, weighing his options.

“Sabah, keep an eye on the walls,” he said. “Do not back the Tyrant against the Champion unless it is a certainty the city will hold.”

“And if he’s about to die?” the Taghreb replied through the spell.

“Let him,” Black said. “Our only concerns are that Nicae falls and the White Knight dies. He is essential to neither.”

“I hear you,” she said.

The instructions were enough that she would be able to tap into Obey, if it proved necessary.

“Wekesa,” he said.

“The Hedge Wizard again, I’m guessing,” he mused.

“Yes,” Amadeus confirmed. “And more. Red Skies protocol.”

There was a lengthy moment of silence.

“We haven’t gone that far since the Conquest,” Wekesa said, and his voice was pleased. “You’re certain? No collateral damage concerns?”

“Reputational damage is irrelevant if the Tyrant becomes the Hierarch of the Free Cities,” the green-eyed man murmured. “All targets of opportunity are fair game. Use what you will, save for what falls under the Dark Day protocol.”

“Ah, you sweet thing,” Warlock drawled. “I have been meaning to try out a few spells.”

Power bloomed in the distance. The stars above them began to grow crimson, staining the night, and the Black Knight moved. He had a hero to kill.

He’d crafted another decoy, for he had no reason not to. As expected, the Hedge Wizard ignored it. She flew directly for the towers, her great wings flapping on one of the three dozen open scrying links he’d crafted. It had taken decades to refine this particular method of farsight, creating runic arrays that would grant him eyes wherever he needed them without actively needing his attention and steering. It was also one of the reasons Wekesa rarely took the field in person: the arrays were exceedingly easy to disrupt, if found. Using distractions to keep the enemy guessing at his true locations while he worked his Gift from behind wards was the most effective use of his abilities. Warlock did occasionally miss the vindictive pleasure of incinerating the opposition in person, but he was no longer a young man. Incautious villains did not get to live as long as he had.

“It will be good night,” he smiled, watching the battle unfold.

How long had it been, since Amadeus had granted him this much leeway on the field? Too long. Oh, his old friend still forbade the use of any sorcery that would grow unchecked if not stopped and any permanent rifts in Creation, but Wekesa was not eager to use the spells that would fall under the Dark Day protocol. Magical plagues had a nasty habit of growing beyond anyone’s control, and only a fool would expect to keep a leash on a permanent portal linking to another dimension. The Dead King had managed it, some Soninke argued, but even millennia past that man’s apotheosis mages still sifted through the remains of his reign to advance their craft. Warlock was disinclined to renounce his humanity for another form of immortality when villainy alone could yield the same results, properly used. It was a poor man’s escape of the Final Shackles, anyway. For all his power, the Dead King remained undead. His nature had grown eminently less changeable, his ability to learn crippled, while humanity… Humanity was such a miraculous fluctuating thing. Tikoloshe would not have remained so eternally fascinated by it otherwise.

Behind his wards, watching it all, Wekesa stroked his beard and found three opportunities. The first was the outer walls. Sabah had yet to get involved there, and so he need not be worried about her being caught in the crossfire. Dead under the walls, killed in hatred. And now the the Stygian phalanx was marching up the ramps, more blood would flow. Power was largely irrelevant to what he was setting out to accomplish, for the kind of force that could be gathered by mass sacrifices and theft of godhead was a blunt instrument. It would be used then spent, leaving the practitioner that called on it spent as well. No, what he sought was affinity. Finding similarities on both sides of the boundary before thinning it enough the realities grew muddled and overlapping. It was not a flawless method, of course. There were an infinity of Hells and more adjacent dimensions than even he could discover, but he could only use those he knew of. Knowledge, as in all things, was the great limitation.

Wekesa knew many things, though, secrets old and new ripped from ancient tomes and the minds of lesser gods alike.

Imbricate,” he murmured.

Two-hundredth and seventy-third Hell. The realm of slaughter unending and meaningless. On the weaker side of the scale, weak in devils and imprisoned souls both, but it was so very close. The Tyrant was responsible for it, stripping this battle of much meaning save his own whims. The blood across the field and walls shivered, then boiled. Guiding the alignment took all his concentration, balancing the power he was willing to invest through the runic arrays to the depth of imbrication that was useful. Creation and Hell snapped into place, and his lips quirked. Men rose around the ramps and on the wall, missing limbs and bleeding and every one of them dead. The corpses took up their weapons, broken or whole, and those that could not struck with bare hands instead. Driven by endless hatred the dead turned on everything in sight, including each other. Screams and chaos spread across the battlefield, but Wekesa paid no attention. The imbrication would fade away within the hour, and needed no more supervision from his will. Now, where was the little Wizard?

Inside one of the towers, if the trail of her Name could be trusted. Which it could not, given there were tricks to fake this and given the nature of her Role she was all but mandated to have them. An interesting thing, this Name. The Hedge Wizard relied on providence more than the average hero, in his eyes. By Heavenly mandate she would always have the exact trick needed to escape the trouble she was in, more irritatingly hard to kill a pest than any save a bardic Named. Abandoning subtlety was occasionally needed to deal with the likes of her. The Tyrant had lost his finest mages, and so his floating towers were even more unstable than ones the heroes had wrecked at Delos. No doubt the boy expected to detonate them at some point in the battle, and Wekesa would grant him his wish this once. Delving past the outer wards was a thing of ease, given that there were Helikean standard and so a century of learning behind anything come of the Wasteland, or even Callow for that matter. Callowan Gifted were largely amateurs borne of a particularly shoddy apprenticeship system, but centuries of being assaulted by Praesi mages had forced them to develop very effective, if simplistic, warding schemes.

Actually attacking the core was unnecessary. The conversion array that kept the tower afloat was so flimsy any proper disruption would lead to cascading failures. Wekesa’s own offensive, meant to manifest limited kinetic force within the range of a mile at a regrettably high conversion rate, shone and one single rune in the tower’s array was damaged. Thirty heartbeats later the tower exploded, heated rocks carving a swath of destruction in the outer city. Civilian casualties, he noted, would not be light. Ah, well. It wasn’t like Amadeus was trying to annex this one. The scrying spell he had pointed at the location blanked until he adjusted the parameters, reforming to deal with the arcane energies still filling the air. The Hedge Wizard had been inside, he saw. Yet remained largely unharmed by the explosion. Half-phasing into Arcadia, by the likes of it. Clever, but given the unstable nature of the tower’s array the energy would have scattered across the spectrum. She would have been affected. The Hedge Wizard, running across floating tiles, began to head for his decoy. Warlock smiled fondly. Trying to trace his location through it, was she?

“Ah, youth,” he said.

He’d cleaned off the rust. It was time, he supposed, to get serious.

The young woman was bleeding, bent in a corner and moaning in pain. The White Knight slowed as he came by her and came close. Amadeus raised an eyebrow, but Hanno was not so foolish as that. The sword cleared the scabbard in an instant, cutting through the animated corpse’s neck. A twist of will had the other three corpses he’d scattered across the rooftops pull the triggers of the crossbows just as the hero’s sword began to touch flesh. It was not enough. The sword flashed out and parried the two bolts that would have taken him in the back, letting the third pass him by for it would not have touched him. Mistake. The third bolt hit the goblinfire ball he’d put inside the woman and green flames erupted instantly. The Light formed a blinding halo around the White Knight before the fire could touch him, the Heavenly power soon devoured but allowing him to retreat without it touching his flesh. There was only so much of the Light the man could call on without hollowing himself out, but Black knew better than to turn a death match with a hero into a matter of endurance. That way lay the wiping of a bloody lip, a trite quote from the Book of All Things and an improbably second wind when he himself was at the end of his rope.

The three corpses leapt down the rooftops and ran towards the White Knight, open and clearly visible wounds across their bellies. The kind a villain might put a ball of goblinfire in, if he so wished. Amadeus had not, of course. It would have been a waste of substance he had a limited stock of as well as the introduction of an uncontrollable factor to a battlefield where precision would be key. But Hanno could not afford the chance, and so he backed away to give himself room. Mistake. Amadeus’ shadow snaked across the gloom behind him, puncturing the loose pavestones and detonating the demolition charge under his feet. The explosion would have earned broken bones from less powerful a Named, but for a White Knight the only advantage won was toppling him. Another twist of will and three crossbow bolts whistled at his prone form. He rolled over at the last moment, evading all but one, yet that last bolt struck his arm. Not his sword-arm, unfortunately, but he would have to deal with the wound regardless. The three corpses retreated out of sight. Hanno ripped the bolt out of his arms and cauterized the wound with Light, predictably.

“Is this all you amount to, Black Knight?” he called out. “Smoke and mirrors, ambushes and a handful of tricks.”

As if engaging a hero on their own terms was anything but sheer stupidity. The provocation was not a very skilful one, a betrayal of the man’s youth for all the danger he represented. Amadeus gave him what he wanted. From the ruins of a home across the street, a corpse in armour identical to his plate strode out. Unsheathing a plain steel sword, the undead offered Hanno a mocking blade salute. The hero charged, but he had learned. He flared the Light before coming close to the puppet, shrugging off the crossbow fire from the other dead. Mistake. There was no need for him to arrange detonation when the hero’s blade was wreathed in Light. The sword went clean through the plate and the goblinfire blew, spreading across the edge. The White Knight hastily dropped it, and there went the shapeshifting weapon that was of clear Gigantes make. The hero’s lips turned to a snarl and he made a blade of Light. A liability to exploited. Killing heroes, in Amadeus’ eyes, was much like peeling an onion.

Layer by layer it went, until all that remained was the weeping.

Gods, she’d forgotten how nightmarish it got when Warlock went off the deep end. The sky had gone red and the dead were rising. Typical. That strange Levantine girl was having the time of her life with it, though, and so was the Tyrant. He’d begun screeching about treachery from his hovering throne, pleased as a cat that got the cream. The boys were underestimating this one, she thought. Amadeus thought he was straight out of the old Imperial mould and so doomed to shoot himself in the foot at his moment of triumph, but he did not smell of that kind of crazy to her. Whatever schemes he had going, and Sabah did not care to parse out the insane maze that would be, she doubted they would involve rising too high. He was the kind of irritating prick that made a virtue of defeat and pissing everybody off, just like the Heir had been. And Wekesa, well, he did tend to think that everybody that wasn’t a mage was a little slow. Considering he’d been set to starve or freeze to death in the Wasteland while on the run as Apprentice, back when he’d met Amadeus, she was a little amused at how he kept turning up his nose at practical skills. Like starting a fire without getting a devil involved.

The Champion kept the wall afloat when the mercenaries began to run by using an aspect, though Sabah was too far to hear what it was. Whatever it’d been, though, it had turned Proceran rabbits to lions. They were carving their way straight into the Stygian phalanx, not that the Tyrant seemed to care. When it came to the two of them, the Taghreb judged it an even match. The heroine never managed to land a proper hit, but the beams of light the villain used hardly scuffed her plate. Sabah sympathized, having taken a swing at the muscled girl herself in the past. Anything but the war hammer the Levantine with the badger helm walked off: it was like hitting a wall. A different story when the Beast came out, but there weren’t a lot of things in Creation that could ignore Sabah when she let that loose. Captain sniffed the air, and grimaced at what she got from it. Brimstone, and the red in the sky was getting deeper. Sooner or later something nasty was going to start raining down. Better if she could finish off her heroine before it got to that.

She seemed like a good kid, the Champion. Heart in the right place, spoiling for a fight the way the young ones often were. Heroes still cutting their teeth tended to think they were invincible, before running into their first proper villain. Those that survived that emerged stronger form the experience, and there lay the problem. Sabah didn’t particularly care if someone worshipped the Heavens instead of the Gods Below. Her people’s deities were most loved when they were looking somewhere else. Imagine the kind of pricks they’d be if we weren’t on their side, Sabah, her mother had been fond of saying. The issue was that when heroes got a little killing under their belt they tended to go looking for a bigger fight, and right now Praes was the biggest fight to be had on the continent. Except for the Kingdom of the Dead, but who’d be dumb enough to try that? Hye didn’t count, she had an odd knack for killing things she shouldn’t in the place where she should have godsdamned common sense. Still, it was a shame. The Champion truly did seem like a good kid.

Sabah had killed a lot of good kids, over the years.

Didn’t particularly enjoy it, but if the choice was between the people she loved and some young fools who thought they could fix the world with a spell or a sword, well, that wasn’t a choice at all. World didn’t really want to be fixed. Wasn’t supposed to be. But the broken chariot kept on rolling down the road, so why fuck with what worked? Amadeus had tried it for forty years and he’d had good days for a toil, but a lot more bad ones. Wekesa had understood quicker, washed his hands of the whole thing and instead taken care of his son and his experiments. But Sabah wasn’t willing to let Amadeus into the deep end with only Eudokia to prop him up, so Captain she had been. Was and would be. Sometimes that meant doing things she didn’t like, but she doubted anyone in the world enjoyed their work everyday. She got her hands bloody, but it could have been worse. The truly dark things Amadeus always did himself. He’d never been one to let others do his dirty work for him, if he could avoid it. Sabah watched the fight on the ramparts turn, biding her time, and she was not made to linger.

The Tyrant summoned a stream of what looked like spectres – he’d regret letting something like those loose with Wekesa on the battlefield, she mused – and while the Champion held the mercenaries around her died until she was forced to retreat. Best keep an eye on that, Captain mused. Wouldn’t do to let the girl meddle in Amadeus’ fight with her leader.

Sabah followed the heroine into the streets, eerily quiet for a woman her size.

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72 thoughts on “Villainous Interlude: Calamity I

  1. JC

    I wonder what Hierarch can even do…

    And of course, RIP Sabah.

    Unless something surprising happens. While this story tends to be tongue-in-cheek with the meta knowledge of narratives that all the characters seem to have, it’s (regrettably) stuck to a fairly predictable pattern so far.

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  2. well, the bard told the champion about monster stories, so is likely a trap, from a miracle or magic, probably the first, the pristeness is alive and waiting( hidding with divine protection or something) because magic or explosives can’t hurt the beast( maybe before she transform) and i really don’t see warlock getting killed or losing control of his magic and killing captain, no matter how much the storie help the wizard

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    1. lennymaster

      It was stated in the last chapter that the Priestess is ACTUALLY dead. Bard directly or inderectly took the opportunity, sacrficing her, to use the presence of her and her Name in the world and story to do something. Some have argued in the comments that it was for killing Ranger by weakening her or strengthening the Summer Queen during their fight to get the dangerous wildcard she represents out of the game.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. it was stated by the tyrant, no a hero, they can’t kill captain without her miracles, or something of the same level, and warlock making a mistake with his magic is stupic, so how are they going to kill a calamity without a foolish deus ex machina?

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      2. Duckie

        Who says the Bards goal is to kill them? At least for right now I don’t think it is. From what I understood in the last chapter with Tyrant. It looks more like they want to corner the Calamities, they wan’t to force them to go crazy again. They will do that by wounding Black severely with what ever power Bard got from killing the Priestess. Bards goal probably is more along the lines of creating Choas to ignite the will of others to fight for the “greater good” in this moment at least. What better way to kick off a massive Crusade then to have a city wiped out by raging lunatics from the evil empire. Sense the summoning an angel thing failed to start it. Then again one of them might die while going crazy..

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      3. Warren Peace

        Really? Is the Bard even concerned with the 1v.1 fight going on in Arcadia right now? Directly concerned, that is. I don’t see why she would go through such trouble for something so tangental to the main story, from her perspective. Sure, either participant could play a minor role in important things to come, but the Queen has Arcadia as her true home, and Ranger has clearly indicated that she isn’t interested in taking a leading role in the shaping of Calernia.

        in fact, I can think of several reasons the Bard might have for preferring to keep Ranger around and living, safely stowed by her lake.

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      4. Unmaker

        @Duckie

        Bard plans to wound Amadeus by forcing him to kill all the people he loves. That was one point made in the last Villainous Interlude: Bard somehow set up the situation where the White Knight could not officially engage the Black Knight in a pattern of three, which means the White Knight will engage Catherine, which would destroy Amadeus’s plans (I consider that Catherine is an essential part of Amadeus’s plans). So the Bard essentially made Amadeus choose between his plans and his loved allies and Amadeus chose his plans without hesitation.

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    2. Morgenstern

      I’m seeing Warlock getting killed for a long time… though maybe not quite so much anymore now that Apprentice has taken another name. But still… the man is just aching for it, feeling too secure despite all his ‘wouldn’t do to get careless, what with being old’.

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    1. Warren Peace

      Lots of typos in this one. Using the word “mused” twice in the last paragraph bothered me; I would change the second instance to “thought” or something.

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  3. Rnt169

    Very intricate story telling, after the last three chapters I have realised how much hints and foreshadowing is given. Pity we can’t go through this like a book, serialised stories are a bitch when you have to keep track of so many tidbits. Here’s to hoping EE can publish these books in good time.

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    1. MagnaMalusLupus

      “Ah, but being defeated was always part of my plan! Yet another glorious victory for the Empire.”
      – Dread Emperor Irritant, the Oddly Successful

      Book 3, chapter 6

      Liked by 1 person

    2. She was probably the one who opposed King Albert Fairfax of Callow, the Thrice-Invaded, author of the quote from the chapter twenty one:
      “To conquer until all of Creation is desert or province: that is the ideal of Praes. Mock their failures if you must but do not ever forget their victories.”

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  4. nick012000

    imbricate (verb): arrange (scales, sepals, plates, etc.) so that they overlap like roof tiles.

    Interesting choice of Aspect for Warlock, there. I think “overlap” or “overlay” would probably work just as well and be more understandable, but maybe he has other powers derived from it besides his ability to overlay different planes over the top of each other, like the ability to grow a set of scales over his skin as armor.

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  5. d_o_l

    So at this point, I’m 90% sure that Ranger is already dead:

    1. The Queen of Summer is part of Cat’s story. Ranger can’t kill her before her big confrontation with Cat, it would be too anticlimactic. At the same time, Ranger’s Name won’t allow her to retreat or give up once she’s set her eyes on a new target. Therefore, the only possible outcome of their battle is Ranger being killed, or somehow made unable to continue pursuing the Queen. The Queen has no reason to imprison her, and imprison someone like Ranger is an exercise in stupidity anyway, so the only other real option would be for Ranger to sustain a crippling injury.
    2. Ranger has bound herself to the Calamaties, and the Calamaties are clearly on their way out. Someone last week was speculating that the way Ranger has lived for so long is by never allowing herself to become seriously involved in a story. But then she joined the Calamaties, and now she’s involved in Cat’s story as well. Even someone as insanely overpowered as Ranger can be defeated if the story demands it.
    3. Building on that, Ranger is pretty stupidly overpowered. There has to be SOME limits to her power. If she can kill the Queen of Summer, then what can’t she kill? She becomes a walking deus ex machina.
    4. There are some pretty damn suggestive quotes from the last couple of chapters:

    “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.”

    “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.”

    “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 today:

    “That’s the thing with invincibility. You have it until you don’t.”

    Everyone thinks Sabah is going to die, but they thought that before, too. Black has been doing this for a long time, and he’s really good at it. He’s not going to miss obvious death flags, he knows how to avoid them. But while he’s all busy paying attention to the Tyrant and Sabah, the Bard snuck off and set in motion the events which will lead to the death of the one person he never even thought was in danger.

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    1. Snoogle

      That is actually really possible.

      I’ve found that EE usually puts at least 4 hints of foreshadowing for any major event going on. Up to 3 I can therefore put away to coincidence (since some of those don’t necessarily talk about Ranger) but this makes 4 that could hint to her… I’m really curious now. Up until this comment, I didn’t think Ranger could ever be defeated but now… You raise some interesting point.

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    2. haihappen

      Could also be Warlock. Since he was the one to divert the death-curse to the Ashen Priestess, the Hedge Wizard now has a “Heroic” motivation, i.e., avenging her sisters death, to kill him.

      But otherwise: I dig the angle to target Hye. Her death would wound Amadeus the most, of all of the Calamities. Because of their past mentor/lover-relationship, and that she is the most “invincible” of the Calamities.

      Also, I love that our very informed Villians missed the Hierarch Name being already taken and still operate under the assumption that the Tyrant is aiming for that. Otherwise they would probably change their game. All their projections are wrong…
      Truth be told: I have no idea what the Tyrant’s End Game could be.

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      1. nick012000

        Pretty sure the Tyrant’s end game is to be the guy who caused the second Hierarch in League history to happen and go down in history as such. Immortality through legend, not through the physical body.

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      2. I’m also betting Tyrant isn’t getting a full picture, either. And, although he knows that, he is still falling into the trap of thinking that knowing about the dangers of going meta makes it easier to avoid them for the time being. :/

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      3. RoflCat

        Given that the last time Scribe mentioned killing Cat if she poses a threat, Black considered having to kill her/Ranger to keep Cat alive because Cat is more important for his plan.

        If so, Ranger dying would certainly hurt his emotion, but it won’t hurt the machine that much.

        If Bard’s goal is to return Praes to the way of Evulz (since she protected Diabolist), I think her real aim should be Malicia who’s the other center of the Reform.

        Kill Malicia, have Diabolist or someone else equally Evulz take the throne, and then Cat and Black will be forced into a civil war to dethrone that person.

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      4. How did the Tryant get so powerfully smart and understanding?

        He is young and doomed and already seems a match for the Calamities as a team –and determined to take them out.

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    3. Morgenstern

      I don’t see why Ranger would have to KILL the Queen. The Queen can very well survive to take her place in Cat’s story – all Ranger really needs is a TRINKET, like with the eye she took from the Prince of Nightfall… And anway, fae always seem to come around again with each new cycle, no matter how gruesomely they were killed the last time, so there’s another way around in there. *shrugs

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    4. Morgenstern

      That said, the quotes you gave DO seem pretty for implying Ranger and not just any other one of the Calamities. But Wekesa and .. Ally, was it? are his oldest friends – so it might apply to them as well, not just to his “one true love”.

      Like

    5. Liver

      Now that you bring it up, it does seem likely. Ranger inadvertently setup what usually is a teacher that saves the new generation and then stays behind and sacrifices herself to the Big Bad. And if there is anywhere where story trumps power levels, it is Arcadia.

      There is tidbit from book 2 i remember that supports this. Black said “I pity anyone fool enough to try.” to anyone that would try to hurt him though Ranger so attempts on Ranger’s life are not things Black is concerned with.

      I also remember Bard saying that she is a pebble and i think William thinking that “a pebble is all it takes to break a machine”. I can’t see to find the passage, but that means Bard as already picked up a “break Black” flag. Black is only one so far with any machine symbolism with his name.

      Like

    6. Warren Peace

      I appreciate the organization of your comment, it makes debunking it so much easier 🙂 I’ll go point-by-point:

      1. As someone else pointed out, Ranger’s goal is likely not to kill the Summer Queen, but to claim a body part for jewelry.

      2. Ranger had once bound herself to the Calamities, but she has unbound herself since. She’s made it clear she’s the Lady of the Lake now, not a Calamity anymore.

      3. Narritive-wise, is there a better way of preventing this than by banishong herself to her own quiet domain, and only flexing that over-poweredness to defend her own turf? A.k.a. exactly what she’s doing. I suppose you could argue that by taking on Summer Q. in Arcadia, she’s outside of that protection, but come on. Since I’ve negated points 1 and 2 already, this on it’s own doesn’t suggest anything.

      4. All of the quotes you picked are operating under the assumption that the Bard is directly concerned with the 1v.1 fight in Arcadia, and I don’t se why she would be. I just finished writing about this in another comment though and I don’t feel like tapping it all out again, but it’s just a bit further down.

      ——-

      This is how it makes sense to me, but what do I know? I thought Heiress transitioning to Demonic Girl or whatever was so plainly stupid as to not be worth even considering, so me thinking something is stupid isn’t a good reason to dismiss it apparently.

      Like

  6. nick012000

    Also,

    >“I imagine she will be,” the Black Knight replied. “Until it is decisive for the heroes that she is not. Too many third aspects remain unknowns for us to assume we’ve seen the last of her.”

    I’ll point out that we know all of the Ashen Priestess’s Aspects by now: she had Heal, Burn, and Begone. I don’t think any of those would contribute well to self-resurrection. Not unless someone brings her back as a Dark Souls-esque fire zombie or something, anyway.

    Oh, wait, Warlock just cast a spell to reanimate every dead body in the city.

    Like

    1. Imagination

      While Begone was formatted like an aspect, it was explicitly described as just one of many miracle that the Ashen Priestess could call on. We don’t know clearly one way or the other.

      Like

    2. thespaceinvader

      I just checked the chapter and Begone is definitely referred to as a miracle, rather than an aspect. It’s pretty explicit about when aspects are being called upon, in that fight.

      Besides, Black’s point is that there are too many third aspects that they don’t know, not that they don’t know hers specifically – they’ve only seen 2 each of Hanno’s (Ride, Recall), Irene’s (Burn, Heal, even if Begone is an Aspect it was not witnessed by the Calamities directly), and the Champion’s (of which we only know the name of one, Oppose, and potentially now the third which might be something like Rally), and they don’t know any of Hedge’s or the Bard’s, and nor do we.

      That’s more than enough room for one of them to have an Aspect or a trick that could resurrect someone. Albeit, the Tyrant’s chapters make it clear that the Ash Priestess is as gone for good as anyone gets in this story, he doesn’t know that.

      Like

      1. RandomFan

        I’m pretty sure we know she still has wander- she’s been pulling tricks tied to that, and i think we got a confirmation of Wander in her last iteration- but yeah, they wouldn’t know for sure, and she hasn’t visited them again.

        Like

    1. TideofKhatanga

      That also means that “reputational damage” will come bite Praes in the ass. If Warlock does something over the top, it won’t be hard to convince Hierarch that a crusade is in order.

      Like

      1. Is Hierarch really the crusading sort, though?

        To Anaxares, all the other nations are Corrupt Foreign Despots, Wicked Foreign Oligarchies, etc. etc. Not something that the Free Citizens of Glorious Bellerophon should concern themselves with. He’s basically fanatically Lawful Neutral.

        Like

  7. So, about the foreshadowing we got in this chapter.

    My guess about how Sabah will die is that her first Aspect (and the only one we have seen her use) will fail her, since she’s relying on it too much.

    Note how Black formulates the orders that would allow her to tap into Obey:
    1) Wait near the point of the main assault on the walls.
    2) Support the assault only if it fails.
    3) The objectives of the mission are to take Nicae and kill White Knight, so she doesn’t to protect the Tyrant.

    Now, while Captain is not a program and doesn’t necessarily behave according to the letter of the orders, but I’ll remind you that the order that she used to power her Name on transitioning was as simple as “Whatever is there, win. Come back to us.” And now Amadeus forgot (or “forgot”) to include the second part on their biggest operation since Conquest, and with the Bard on the field to boot.

    What I’m thinking will happen is that since Champion isn’t really going to hold the walls all on her own or interfere with the Knights’ duel, no orders actually apply to her, so Sabah has two useful Aspects left at most, and Champion already demonstrated that two of her own Aspects are suitable for fighting the Capitain in close quarters. Whether Rafaella transitions mid-fight, has a story-powered trap or simply has a way to use the third Aspect for scoring a decisive blow depends on the Bard, who’s now either observes the Knights, the Captain’s advance or is talking to the Tyrant.

    Though I’m still hoping that Anaxares will be able to Mend her at the last moment.

    Like

    1. OldSchoolVillain

      The thing there is that Captain also still has two of her own Trump cards hidden away. She doesn’t really on Obey that much herself, she just taps it when Black orders her to. Even aside from that, The Beast is still on the field and available as a sort of fourth Trump card that Captain can call on when she needs to, which gives her another advantage.
      Whether it will be enough, when the Heavens so casually bestow New Powers as the Plot Demands, remains to be seen.

      Like

  8. Warley Echeverry

    I feel so bad that my first ever comment on this story is a problem I have with it, but I’ve been reading since the beginning and noticed something strange. Where are all the other NAMED. In Chapter 1, Catherine, before she was Squire, mentioned that she’d thought that Booker was a Name at first. And later in the story we meet Augur, who seems to be the only fully non-combat Name. In these last few chapters we meet Hierarch, who’s implied to be a civil leader and not really a military one.

    What this all implies is that:

    #1: Names are more common than we’ve seen, otherwise Cat would never have thought Booker was one.

    #2: Named don’t HAVE to be warriors, and therefore be killing each other all the time.

    So my question is, are there no legendary teachers in this universe? No fishermen? Sailors? Beggars? Doctors? It seems like every story ever in this world is about war, and there’s no stories about shepherds or explorers or anything else.

    If there were, even if Named were blisteringly rare, the vast majority would be non-combat classes, since they aren’t killing each other.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, Fate is a gambit that centers around the conflict between Good and Evil, and combat is the easiest way for a Named to contribute to that conflict. All noncombat Named you mentioned are either support (typical healer Names, Augur) or administrator and leader for one of the sides in the conflict (ruler Names, Scribe, Chancellor).
      It’s not Arcadia for everyone and their mother to have a Name, only the resolute people representing a tendency supported by either Gods qualify. And since it’s stated in Cadenza that divine interference is roughly symmetrical in amounts of power granted (not in methodology), if you grant a power to someone not inclined to fight, nothing stops your opponent from propping up someone who’ll eventually come and straight up murder your Fisherman or Beggar.
      Remember, Named aren’t just characters in stories, they are the ones who qualify for the patterns already entrenched into Creation and spread by the word of mouth: each one is a protagonist for at least a couple of stories of their own.
      By the way, the tendency bit is why Bard is so stupidly overpowered: she’s not just a counterpart for the immortal lich in Keter, not just the one who decides which story will catch on and which will be forgotten: her Name represents everyone who’s ever told a story.

      Like

      1. Warley Echeverry

        That’s the point, it’s not a conflict between good and evil.

        It’s been reiterated several times through the story that the Gods below and the Gods above aren’t at war. They made a BET.

        Their bet is about whether Good or Evil will triumph in the end and it seems like a lot of the “neutral” stories would be perfect for that.

        Like

    2. Selection bias. Even if there is some sort of legendary Beggar, a Herschel of Ostropol type who’s famous for outwitting the rich and powerful in funny ways, we’re not going to hear about him, because he’s going to take one look at the Praesi and say “Nope.” There are better people to beg from than the ones who think that torture and murder is a jolly good time.

      Likewise, maybe there’s a Sinbad the Sailor type who’s having swashbuckling adventures in far-off lands and bringing home cargoes of exotic spices, but unless Catherine or one of the Heroes has an urgent need for The Best Sailor Ever because they need to assault a port city or something, they’re not going to meet them. This is a story about kingdoms going to war, so any Names we encounter in this story are going to be people who can go to war.

      More generally, I’d point out that you generally don’t get stories told about you unless you have *something* important at risk. The sailor who has a safe, profitable voyage probably isn’t The Sailor. That doesn’t necessarily mean all Named are fighters, but it means that it’s inherently a high-risk profession and they’ve got to be able to handle it.

      Like

  9. arancaytar

    Thirty heartbeats later the tower exploded, heated rocks carving a swath of destruction in the outer city. Civilian casualties, he noted, would not be light. Ah, well. It wasn’t like Amadeus was trying to annex this one.

    This chapter is a bit of a reminder that no, just because practical evil doesn’t kick dogs when it is not cost-effective, that doesn’t make it not evil.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Soronel Haetir

    Something I don’t understand is why this particular battle is even being fought. Did Nicae decide to buck the League and reject the Hierarch vote? Seems like that would wreck the League.

    Like

    1. OldSchoolVillain

      I think that the Tyrant just needed to INVOLVE all of the Free Cities in order to enable the Name of Hierarch. That’s what scribe suggested in her last interlude (Cadenza, I think?)

      Like

  11. Dylan Tullos

    This chapter demonstrates why I’m still cheering for Team Good rather than “Practical Evil”. Warlock is utterly indifferent to the people he kills; he could murder half of Calernia to advance his magical knowledge, and his only concern would be the difficulty of repeating the experiment. He’s basically a magical Josef Mengele.

    The Tyrant’s description of Black as a “machine” has never seemed more accurate. Black is so focused on accomplishing his goals that he’s lost the ability to truly care about anything else. It wasn’t that long ago that he was considering how to arrange the death of his closest friends to prevent them from getting in Catherine’s way.

    Sabah is nicer, but she admits to making her living by “killing good kids”. She’s not concerned with right or wrong, only with “us” and “them”. Though Captain doesn’t believe in Black’s grand plan, she follows him anyway, shedding the blood of people who haven’t done anything to her because her friend asked her to.

    Villains have a protagonist-centered morality. As long as they get what they want, other people really don’t matter. I’m looking forward to the moment when Black suffers the same grief that he’s inflicted on countless innocents throughout his career, and all of Calernia learns that the Calamities aren’t as invincible as they claim to be.

    Like

    1. OldSchoolVillain

      I understand where you’re coming from, but also you should keep in mind what team “Good” has enabled in the story. William callously tortured enemy officers to draw out his target. He set a city of innocents on fire and risked wiping it out entirely in a (fortunately successful) attempt to weaken Warlock. He summoned a mind-raping Angel to another city of innocents to start a crusade. The Bard enabled Diabolist to become what she is when she stopped the elves from killing her. She carelessly enforces the status quo of war and conflict just to keep her side on top. She backed and even pushed William’s mind-raping-angel plan just so maybe her side could scrape a win either then or in the future.
      Part of the moral of this story is that being ‘righteous’ isn’t enough. Being Good isn’t enough. Yes, the calamities are Evil and cause mass slaughter but their intentions – at least, Black’s intentions, and therefore the rest of the party – is to preserve and defend Praes, their homeland. The calamities have a purpose behind the fires that they start – the side of ‘Good’ starts fires because their opponents are Evil and for them, that’s all that matters.
      In short, A Practical Guide to Evil comes across really as a gray-scale world where Good Is Not Nice and sometimes Evil is the best option.

      Like

      1. Dylan Tullos

        OldSchoolVillain:

        You make excellent points. I’m not so much for Team Mind Control as I am looking for an alternative to Team Practical Evil, and I find the current champions of the Gods Above a great deal more tolerable than the Lone Swordsman. The White Knight isn’t perfect, but he hasn’t yet tried to turn anyone into a meat puppet with an angel pulling the strings.

        Black’s intention is to defeat the Narrative of the Gods Above and free Praes from its role as the eternally defeated villain. Warlock’s intention is to enjoy his marriage, raise his son with love, and conduct experiments that involve mutilating human souls and live vivisections. He couldn’t care less about Praes, and Sabah seems to be in it primarily because she’s besties with Black. Black is a well-intentioned extremist, but the rest of his party isn’t interested; they do evil things because they feel like it or because they want to help their friend, not because of any concept of the Greater Good.

        I think it’s important to distinguish between the Bard and the Lone Swordsman, who seem to be lacking in the free will department, and the Good characters who have reasonable, sane goals. Cordelia is quite understandably upset over the Dread Empire’s decision to fund Procer’s civil war, and she is dedicated to protecting her own nation, just as Black and Malicia seek to protect theirs. The White Knight’s party is full of Named with solid motives and intact personalities, not angelic chew toys. I’m not going to cheer for the mind-controlled tools of the Gods Above, but I honestly prefer Team Flawed Good to Team Practical Evil.

        Also, loving Anaxares as Hierarch. A devout believer that fanatically rejects the very concept of hierarchy is now in charge of the League! One reason I love the Tyrant so much is that he just has so fun with it; Black may be more practical, but Kairos just loves what he does.

        Like

  12. Time to weigh in:
    The White Knight better than The Lone Swordsman? However screwed up William was (and summoning the Angel of Mind Rape is pretty screwed up) Hanno literally decides who lives and dies based on a COIN TOSS! Hanno is Two-Face without the outward scarring. His POV Chapters talk about how he believes taking action based on his own idea of right and wrong is “Surrendering his sword to Chaos.”

    Put more simply: Hanno is not a Moral Agent of ANY sort. If the Gods Above give him the itch to pull out his coin and toss it while in the presence of someone he’s just met, who he’s seen do nothing which is either good or evil, if the Coin lands Crossed Swords Up, Hanno is going to kill that person without a qualm. Every single bit of White Knight PoV we’ve gotten has emphasized Hanno’s belief that only the Heavens should decide who lives and who dies. He blames free will itself for the death of his mother.

    By comparison, William Bin Laden was a paragon of morality. Hanno wouldn’t even strike at the Tyrant (who he was aware had started aware and was besieging the city the Heroes had chosen to defend FOR FUN) until he saw the result of his Coin Toss.

    The Wandering Bard allowed Diabolist’s rise, simply to further her own ends.

    Ashen Priestess, Hedge Wizard and Champion have reduced themselves to little more than Igor-like henchmen of Hanno the Enemy of Free Will.

    The current crop of Heroes have all the likability of a case of the crabs, with none of the fun that went into becoming infested with them.

    Warlock is the epitome of Evil because he didn’t break down into tears over the fact his striking a military target would cause extensive civilian casualties? Well then, I suppose we should run out and paint the words MASS MURDERER on the doors of the veterans who made up the bomber crews during the fire-bombing of Dresden. It’s the same thing, right?

    Sabah is doing what pretty much everyone does. Choosing those she loves over those she doesn’t. If Black and Wakesa were the town’s blacksmith and alchemist respectively, she probably wouldn’t ever kill anyone. Her family chose a warlike path, so she decided if it takes piling up a mountain’s worth of dead Good Kids to bring them home safe in the evening, it’s worth it.

    I can’t honestly say if someone I loved was doing something I thought immoral that I would let them DIE if someone tried to stop them from doing that immoral thing. Black and Wakesa are creatures of extremes, so Sabah has been forced to take violence to extremes. She isn’t glorying in the thought of ripping the Champion to pieces. It’s simply an ugly, unwanted chore that needs doing in her mind. It doesn’t make her morally commendable, but it’s hardly a cloak of Unspeakable Evil either.

    So long as whoever represents Team Heavens are enemies of free will, in my mind all things are permitted to tear down said enemies of free will. Even Cordelia Hasenbauch doesn’t want her Crusade because Praes is doing Evil. She wants to USE a coalition of other nations to strike Praes down PREEMPTIVELY, in order to safeguard her country. (For those who want to say “Well, Malicia started that by turning the Calamities loose on Procer before the Conquest of Callow, and then by funding the Proceran civil war: Let’s remember that Procer has a reputation CENTURIES in the making of cold-bloodedly grinding other nations under their bootheels via cat’s paws, proxies, and surreptitious financial investments. Cordelia herself acknowledges Procer’s reputation is so bad that the Gigantes will kill any one of her people ON SIGHT. Procer has done everything in its power to keep the Free Cities the unstable collection of shit-holes they are, again for centuries.)

    Yet Cordelia has the mind-boggling gall to claim the Mandate of Heaven as justification to deliberately engineer a continent wide Crusade that will DIRECTLY kill millions of innocent people, and kill tens of millions more due to the famines and plagues that inevitably follow that scale of warfare in a Medieval setting.

    Why? “Because the madmen are coming.” Except they aren’t, and Praes ISN’T coming. It’s the same sort of high-minded pretext would-be conquerors always proclaim. A Crusade versus Praes will by necessity involve an attack on the breadbasket of Praes: Callow. Sure, sure, Cordelia will shed a few crocodile tears for the tens of thousands of Callowan farmers and their families that will starve the winter following her resource-denial slash-and-burn campaign, but she’ll have Uncle Klaus give the order with a clear conscience and go to an untroubled sleep that night nevertheless.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. stevenneiman

      As I understand it, the difference between Good and Evil is that Good tries to serve the Heavens, while Evil is allowed to serve its own ends, with little import placed on what those ends are. For that reason, Black and Cat are both evil, even though Black regularly uses genuine improvements to the standard of living as means to an end, and Cat’s ends are about improving things for her people out of genuine (if ruthlessly calculating) benevolence.
      I’m still not sure what exactly the Tyrant wants, but I very much doubt that it’s anything good for the Heavens, so he is Evil.
      On the other side, Hanno, Cordelia, and the Bard all serve the Heavens instead of choosing their own goals, though only the Bard really understands what that means, and she’s even less human than Black.
      The interesting thing is that of that list, one of the villains is the only one who considers the deaths of innocents to even be a negative consequence of her plan, everyone else just considers whether mass murder is the most efficient tool to achieve their objectives, and Kairos might or might not do it anyway because it’s funny.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Dylan Tullos

      Shawn Panzegraf:

      The White Knight may have surrendered his free will to the Heavens, just as the Lone Swordsman did, but he hasn’t done anything particularly unethical. Hanno hasn’t targeted civilians, subverted anyone else’s free will, or done anything except fight the Tyrant and his soldiers in open battle. Until his ethics are tested, we can’t actually know whether he would kick puppies or burn down orphanages because an angel told him to. As of now, the only person he’s done his coin flip on is the Tyrant, who practically has EVIL written on his forehead in giant flashing letters.

      I find his band quite likeable and entertaining. Ashen Priestess is (or was) the big sister, the responsible adult babysitting her enthusiastic but frustrating little sister and the Champion. I cracked up when the Champion suggested that only the wimpy Free Cities version of the Book of All Things prohibits cannibalism. I’m pretty sure that they’re fighting Kairos because he’s obviously, gleefully evil, not because Hanno told them to.

      Warlock mutilates souls and conducts vivisects people while they’re still alive. As I said before, he’s basically a magical Josef Mengele. There’s a major difference between being willing to kill civilians as part of a larger war and being utterly indifferent to the loss of human life, and Warlock clearly falls on the wrong side of the spectrum. He doesn’t care about right or wrong, good or evil, only about his husband, his son, and his freedom to gain more knowledge, no matter how many innocent people he has to murder or experiment on along the way.

      Out of all the Calamities we have a viewpoint of this far, Sabah is the most sympathetic. But her entire moral system consists, as you say, of “I’m going to look after my people and too bad for anyone else.” You’re right to say that we all care more about some people than others, but most of us don’t let our friends lead us into invading other countries and murdering people who’ve never done anything to us. And if we do, then we’re bad people, because right and wrong aren’t dependent on who your friends are. Peer pressure is not an excuse.

      Black couldn’t care less about how many terrible crimes Procer has committed. He’s not seeking revenge on behalf of the Gigantes or the Free Cities, and he deliberately funded Procer’s civil war for the single purpose of destabilizing the Princedom so that they couldn’t interfere while he invaded Callow. There’s nothing “preemptive” about her planned Crusade; Praes delivered the first blow, and she’s going to do everything in her power to ensure that they won’t be able to attack Procer like that again.

      Also, the Dread Empire really doesn’t want to argue that the historical crimes of a nation should be held against it. They’re the ones who crucified their way across all of Calernia before half of the world finally brought Triumphant down. If you want to say that modern-day Procer is evil because of actions that Cordelia herself admits were wrong, then modern-day Praes is in a far worse position, because they’ve done nothing but kick puppies for the last several thousand years.

      Praes conquered and occupied Callow within living memory. They’re a nation with a long history of seeking to unjustifiably invade their neighbors, and they recently succeeded in a big way. You claim that the madmen aren’t coming, but a Praesi Villain is summoning demons and raising her own flying fortress in the heart of Callow. Is the rest of the world supposed to stand by while Diabolist does her best Triumphant imitation?

      Black invaded Callow, slaughtered their army, and subjugated their people. In the process of doing this, he also funded Procer’s civil war, leading to the deaths of tens of thousands of Proceran conscripts and farmers. Apparently, the rest of the continent is supposed to shrug and accept this, as though Praes has some kind of divine right to invade their neighbors and pour gasoline on civil wars without consequences.

      Though you’re entirely right to point out that peasants usually suffer most in wars, I don’t see what Cordelia’s alternative is. Behavior that is rewarded will be repeated, and allowing the Dread Empire to keep Callow permanently would only encourage their expansionist tendencies, making it only a matter of time before the next Dread Emperor/ess starts looking at the Proceran border for their next conquest. Any reasonable ruler would recognize the Procer needs an independent Callow to keep the Dread Empire in check, and Cordelia Hassenbach is nothing if not reasonable.

      Like

    3. I got the impression that the Heavens were actually guiding the results of his coin flips, though. In that case, it would be perfectly reasonable to decide whether to kill people based on that.

      Like

  13. stevenneiman

    We should know soon enough who’s right. If the Ashen Priestess makes a dramatic reveal, then we’ll know that Black was right and he didn’t really get a kill, meaning that most likely it was just a slip-up on the Bard’s part or that she couldn’t intervene. If the ashen Priestess is properly confirmed dead and the Hedge Wizard comes out looking for revenge, then that probably means that Kairos was right about the Bard trading her for something or someone else. Maybe Hye, maybe not.

    Like

  14. ArkhCthuul

    The whole chapter I was.waiting to read a “and then x happened and (S)He died.”

    Phew, damn suspense….

    Single I don’t like ranger much and an off screen death.would fit her well, I really hope its her…

    Like

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