Villainous Interlude: Calamity II

“Who should really be afraid, between the dragon and the peasant with a sword?”
– Dread Emperor Reprobate the First

The Hedge Wizard was attempting an offensive. Wekesa was more irritated than worried, but these things had a way of growing out of control if allowed to go unchecked. The girl had used an aspect relating to conversion to survive the trap laying behind his decoy, an expected outcome though the specifics of her counter had come as something of a surprise. It had been a mistake on his part to strengthen the detonation in hopes of an early crippling: she’d made the power her own and promptly shoved it through an exotic spell formula. Proceran-derived, by the looks of it. Interesting, that. Practitioners of the Principate had been heavily influenced by the Gigantes traditions that still lived strong in the Titanomachy, though they still subscribed to the much-maligned Pelagian theory of magic. When it came to broader sorcery they were far behind Praes, but there were few their match when it came to enchantments. The sleeping spell Wekesa had used to keep the Hunter under control last year, for example, had been a modified take on an old Proceran enchantment. Removing the requirement of true love’s kiss had been a stark improvement, even if it weakened the overall strength.

That the roots of the Wizard’s formula were in enchanting had been obvious. The only way she could have successfully used an amount of power that large and unstable was by forcing a strict condition on it. Two thirds of it had gone to waste regardless, but the remainder had covered seven miles in search of the assigned criterion. She’d found five instances, because Wekesa wasn’t a fool and he’d laid false trails. Running after the relays of false positives would keep her occupied for the moment, until a proper response could be mustered. This was, in the end, the limitation of the branch of sorcery the Soninke had chosen to master. It lacked the immediacy of more direct magic. Wards and boundaries required outside factors to be accelerated in forming or a great deal of preparation. The raging dead on the walls had returned to the grave, by now, and it would be a quarter bell yet before the Red Skies were ready for actual use. Watching the scrying screens in front of him, Warlock tracked the silhouette galloping across the plains towards his second relay.

She’d chose the shape of a horse, this time. Shapeshifting had always an interesting branch of magic, in his eyes, but ultimately a dead end. It was fixed to the limits allowed by creational laws and even High Arcana could at most allow slight deviation from this. No shapeshifter could take the shape of a dragon, for one, or even most creatures with sorcerous nature. The physical and metaphysical composition was too different, and something could not be made of nothing – particularly if that something had markers fundamentally different from anything else in Creation. Warlock put the thought aside. He would return to those experiments soon enough, after this little dust-off was settled. His son had sent him promising results before Wekesa had to leave for the Free Cities showing that tapirs, unlike pigs, would gain wings but not the ability to breathe fire if infused with enough sorcery. That meant there was a qualitative difference between what lay at the heart of a dragon and – ah, yes, distraction. Warlock tapped into one of his inert arrays with a thought, arranging the runes through the medium of High Arcana.

He’d have to use his own will for this, which was unfortunate. Wekesa was aware that few aside from the oldest Soninke bloodlines and the purest of the Taghreb had as much power to call on, but it was still a limiting factor. No mage had endless power, and burning out when calling on the kind of sorcery he did would have… dire consequences. A circle of runes formed in the air above the shapeshifted wizard and locked with a hum. A hundred times the gravity should be enough to turn her to a smears, he estimated. The array triggered without missing a beat, but the Hedge Wizard’s form shimmered. Instead of being plastered all over the grass she reappeared three feet to the left of his spell, human again. Warlock raised an eyebrow. That had looked like teleportation, but it was mathematically impossible. Adjusting the nature of the scrying array, he dismissed the gravity circle and studied the sorcerous trail. Ah, displacement. She’d let the power push her through the half-existing space between dimensions. There must have bleed, or she would have reappeared directly outside his spell instead of drifting to the side.

Drumming his fingers thoughtfully, Wekesa tapped into another inert array. A different approach, then. Direct applications had proved ineffective but perhaps indirect would see better results. A bag of tricks as eclectic as hers would not come without drawbacks, which made it an obvious avenue of approach. Forging four runes of containment on cardinal points, Warlock crafted an inwards zone of disruption: within the boundaries, all power would be randomly amplified and diminished. His lips half-quirked when he saw the tiles she used to walk across the sky rip straight through her sleeves in their uncontrolled expansion, exploding in a shower of shards when they forcefully surpassed their capacity. The Hedge Wizard used the blood from the cuts in her hands to trace a line across her face, and to his displeasure this sealed all power on her. She ran out of the boundaries dictated by the zone, unharmed save for a few cuts. Warlock dismissed the spells, glancing at the seven inert arrays that remained around him. He could, of his own capacity, use perhaps another four workings of this calibre without being at risk of burning out.

The girl was proving to be troublesome. The Wizard of the West had wielded ten times her raw power, but he’d been… brittle. Breakable, when outplayed. This one was weaker but fluid, and Wekesa wondered if that was what she’d always been meant to be. The White Knight had been gifted an aspect that made him extremely versatile, a way to compensate for Amadeus’ massive advantage in experience in skill. The Champion was apt to weather great violence and had previously been paired with a powerful healer that dabbled in offensive miracles. The fighting elements of this heroic band, by the look of it, had ben crafted specifically to kill the remaining Calamities. It wouldn’t be the first time the Heavens attempted such a trick, but it was the first instance in decades where the band managed to come together before core members were eliminated. A greater degree of caution on his part was advisable.

Warlock began to insert his will into an array, but ceased when he felt his relays being tapped into. The girl had found one of them, and instead of following to the next in the line was… mapping out the inner workings? He saw her lips move on his scrying screen, reading the word. Learn. Wekesa’s face creased in wariness. It was one thing for a transitional Name like Squire or Apprentice to have that aspect, quite another to see it in a full-fledged Name. Ranger was living proof of how dangerous it could be, given enough time to accumulate weight. The Hedge Wizard smiled in triumph, then created another relay to add to his own system. Using that, she immediately followed the current down to his current location. Her face appeared on the scrying screen ahead of him, looking back.

“Found you,” the heroine said, eyes hard.

She’d used her second aspect, Warlock mused. He could return the courtesy.

Link,” he replied.

Laws were nothing more than boundaries, and it had been his life’s work to learn the manipulation of those – even the law of sympathy. This was his most abstract aspect, but perhaps the most dangerous. It allowed him to create sympathetic links between entities that, by right, should have none. In this case, one of the remaining floating towers and the relays the Hedge Wizard had just taken over. Idly tapping a rune, Warlock used his access to trigger the collapse of the tower and the power raged through the connection. The impact was brutal. Her right shoulder, the entire arm and part of her rib cage simply… evaporated. The heroine threw up blood and Warlock began crafting an array to finish her off, but she managed to whisper one word.

Repurpose,” she said.

The same conversion aspect as before, he deduced. The leftover wisps of the the tower’s power – and ah, it had collapse on the city as well, though not exploded – came together like blue smoke and reformed the mass she had just lost. The result was more magic than flesh, he noted, but it would allow her operate well enough. Not a single-use aspect, then. Neither was Imbricate, which made them an even match in this regard. Wekesa leaned forward, breaking the scrying connection and ignoring the battle. She had earned his full attention.

Ride would have been a lethally dangerous aspect, in the hands of another hero. It leant a sharp increase in speed, armament that ignored enemy armour and and protection that nothing short of concentrated spellfire would be able to dent. It was wasted on the White Knight. The man had spent too long learning the skills of others and neglected his own abilities, turning an aspect that should have been a near-unavoidable killing stroke into a weak gambit unlikely to ever draw blood on another Named. Shadows hooked through the window and dug into the walls, dragging him through the space and tossing him straight through the door in the back of the house. Brushing off wooden shards, he landed one street across and through the opening watched the White Knight pulverize the entire wall in a blinding flash of light, the aspect dimming after it had struck a target. Hanno landed in a crouch as Black sent out his shadow tendrils, green eyes seeking structural weak points. Two sharpers detonated a heartbeat later and the roof collapsed on the hero’s head as the villain made for the rooftops. Better to change his angle of attack before reengaging.

He’d already baited out one aspect without using any of his own, though admittedly two of his three were less… direct than those of his predecessors. Lead strengthened whoever he led on the field, but had no real use in a duel such as this, and while Conquer was currently sharpening his physical strength and reflexes it would do little else in this kind of situation. The aspect was better fit for war than skirmished between Named, a reflection of his departure from the traditional role of the Black Knights of old. As for Destroy, it was best employed as a tool for denial of enemy abilities. Anything it could accomplish on a purely physical level could be accomplished by more mundane means he had available, and should he ever attempt to use it in direct opposition to a hero’s aspect the difference in power would see him promptly crushed. Or worse, corner his opponent badly enough they would have to learn new abilities on the spot that he had no solid measure against. It was a balancing act, this, where he must carefully lead the enemy in a position where they could be killed without ever overpowering them by too much.

The most effective moment for the kill was usually when the hero had pulled out their trump card, or just after they had, and even then there were risks. Should he ever fail to manage a killing stroke then, the situation could be reversed in a heartbeat.

Now, with Ride taken out of the equation the second stage of this fight should be approaching. The moment the White Knight was put in a dire situation he would tap into the aspect that leant him the different skillsets he’d used to recover from his incoming defeat in their last duel, but this was not a state of affairs that should be approached lightly. For one, Hanno would become exceedingly difficult to contain the moment he began using these other skills. The loss of his enchanted weapon should hinder him, the very reason Amadeus had arranged its destruction, but it would have been foolish to assume the man could not produce similar results using the Light. It was, after all, the very stuff of the Heavens shaped by will. Maintaining it had to be tiring, however, and this had been a side-benefit to be achieved by getting rid of the artefact. Amadeus knew better than to attempt to win through heroic exhaustion, but slowing down the enemy was very much possible. And if the White Knight attempted to compensate for that by using his Name, well, he would be effectively hollowing out his own power and heading directly for a collapse down the line. That would be another opportunity for a kill, in Black’s experience, if he was quick enough.

The dark-skinned hero emerged from the rubble without wounds, dark eyes searching for the opposition. Amadeus exerted his will and one of his two remaining corpses moved behind the shutters of an empty house, drawing enemy attention. He struck in just that moment, staggering four blades at calculated intervals. The first held by a tendril was parried when the White Knight immediately turned to face him, the second would have struck at the weak point of the greaves but was avoided by a shift of footing and the sword he swung himself was caught in hand. Mistake. His shield struck the hero in the chest, taking advantage of the weakened stance to throw him off his feet, and the fourth blade plunged down from above and went straight through the plate. Goblin steel scraped against the collarbone instead of carving it. He’d been imprecise, and so lost an opportunity for a deeper wound. Unfortunate. Amadeus gave ground immediately and the shadow-held blades retreated with him, just in time to avoid the burst of Light the hero detonated in his wound to seal it.

A costly way of healing, this. The touch of the Heavens on mortal flesh was never light, or without consequence. Amadeus could see the function it was meant for, though. If the White Knight was truly meant to face Catherine after she’d succeeded him, then he gave the man six in ten odds of winning a duel against her. His apprentice still had the nasty habit of overcommitting at close range once she’d drawn blood, and a semi-offensive form of healing like this would be damaging to her. Combined with her lack of experience with different kinds of Named, the White Knight’s aspects would gain him a decisive advantage in a clash. As usual, the Heavens stacked the fight before the fight ever happened. Best he never let it come to that, for everyone’s sake. Catherine was too important to die at the hands of some hunting dog of the Seraphim.

“Thousands will die tonight, because you keep me from checking the Tyrant,” the White Knight said, circling around him.

Heroes did have a fascination with talking, didn’t they? Black reached for the bundle of power he’d left in the second corpse that remained, watching through its eyes. Sixty to eight heartbeats before it arrived, depending on the struggling. Running out the hourglass by talking was acceptable.

“I have no personal enmity with anyone here,” Amadeus said calmly. “And this war is not of my making.”

“Yet you participate in it,” the White Knight pressed. “You have responsibility for this. Guilt.”

“I’ve been afflicted by many things, in my old age,” Black said. “Guilt is not one of them.”

“And you believe this makes you better?” Hanno said.

“Oh, I am very much a monster,” Amadeus conceded, reluctantly amused. “But then so are the things you serve and yourself as well. A mere different shade of barbarity hardly puts you in a position to lecture, White.”

The hero would have replied, but Black’s undead cleared the corner and the man went still. The corpse held a struggling woman in its arms, knife at her throat.

“Surrender or she dies,” Amadeus said.

The man went directly for him, without hesitation. The Choir of Judgement did not suffer lack of decisiveness in its servants. A twist of will saw the woman released and she fled straight to hero and now that had him hesitate. A different matter, a hostage and an innocent in need of protection. The White Knight was not the first hero sworn to Judgement he had fought. Their kind was taught to think of people in particular categories, and during that heartbeat the hero had to readjust his assessment of her. In that very moment Black struck, blades in motion. One tendril was sent directly towards the woman’s back, slowly enough Hanno could parry it if he moved there.

Recall,” the hero said.

He blurred in motion, shaft of light lashing straight through the shadow holding the sword as he protected the civilian. Spear-wielding skillset, possibly a lancer. High mobility, expect piercing strikes. No wound, but Amadeus’ base objective had been achieved regardless. Now the more difficult work could begin. In silence, the green-eye man advanced.

It was getting warm out, and not just because Sabah was swinging half a hundred pounds of solid steel at the kid. Warlock’s ritual with the sky was getting stronger, getting closer to what he’d pulled at the Fields of Streges. It was only a matter of time until the rain of fire began, and anybody’s guess if he would limit it to just that. Captain wasn’t eager to start dancing around tower-sized burning rocks falling from above, but she was no stranger to it either. The Valiant Champion was way ahead the curve even for a hero her age and she’d learned from their fight at Delos, but she wasn’t used to fighting an opponent like Sabah and it was costing her. That shift in her footing, right there? It was meant to deal with something Captain’s size, yes, but something on four legs. A monster, not a person. The hammer ploughed into her shield and tossed her into the wall, though the thing didn’t break. She’d learned the trick for putting Name power into weapons since they’d last fought, though she used it to strengthen the steel instead of add sharpness to a blade the way most Named did.

Given another few years, this one would have been a right terror. She hit like godsdamned trebuchet and her defence got stronger with every scrap. Sabah had fought quite a few heroes meant to stand and deliver, over the years, but this one was head and shoulder above the rest of the crowd. She could take punishment like a Holy Shield and still swing like a Blood Sword. At least she didn’t go berserk like the latter. Even with the Beast out Sabah had found him hard to put down when he started spasming and his body unhinged. Those people from around Hedges were weird fucks, even for Callowans. Still, tonight was tonight and not in a few years. The kid was still out of her league for now, and down an aspect as well. Sabah hadn’t had to use one of hers yet, though since this was their second scrap she’d probably have to at some point. The more you fought heroes the more of a pain they became, as a rule. Putting some length to her stride, Captain moved to strike while the iron was hot.

The first hit the Champion ducked under and it put a hole in the wall, but the second nailed her to the floor through the shoulder. Didn’t break bone, though. Fucking Name strengthening. Sabah kicked her in the stomach but she brought up her shield in time and it just blew her back a few feet.

“Good fight,” the Champion praised, grinning through her badger helm. “Getting blood flow.”

“You’ve got the most potential to grow out of your band,” Captain replied honestly. “I’m glad we’re fighting now and not after you went adventuring a few years.”

“Life is adventure,” the girl philosophized in broken tradertalk. “Kill many things back home. Much slaughter of other claimants.”

Well, they did say the Named of the Dominion were closest to the old breed of heroes. The ones who’d gone traipsing like well-armed vagrants around Calernia, killing dragons and looting every tomb in sight. Before the House of Light had gone and civilized them, like that entire religion wasn’t about licking the feet of the angels telling you what to do. Sabah had never understood why anyone would pay a tithe to be given sermons, but people out of the Wasteland did tend to get strange ideas in their heads. Captain usually left the statecraft to Malicia and Amadeus, but she did know that when it came to commerce middlemen always screwed the buyers. Why most of Calernia wouldn’t think to apply something that simple to the Gods they kept to, she had no notion.

“I don’t suppose you could just go back to Levant?” Sabah asked. “Leave the Empire alone. I’m fairly sure Black would not pursue if you just stuck to your borders.”

“Eh,” the Champion refused. “Much boring. No good fight there. Procer all peace-talking, now. You legend, Biggest Girl! Many songs for slaying of you, and drinks without pay.”

Not talk about the power of friendship or justice to be served, which she had to admit was rather refreshing. There were only so many times you could get those speeches before they kind of… melded together. About half of them quoted the Book of All Things, too, and Sabah hadn’t read that so she never got the references. She sighed.

“I apologize, then,” she said. “Because I don’t think this ends well for you.”

“You much kicking of my arse,” the heroine ruefully admitted. “But I Valiant Champion, not no-balls Arlesite. I stand, and Exalt.”

Second aspect of the night. They were doing brisk business. Sabah watched the ripple go through Creation and frowned. Domain, huh. Champion types did tend to have those. Amadeus had been caught in the Unconquered Champion’s pocket dimension a few years back and Sabah had… not taken it well. Wekesa hadn’t been able to locate him at first, so they’d had to face the possibility he was dead. She’d lost control of the Beast when she’d been told the news, and woken up to a butcher’s yard of half-eaten corpses. She still had dreams about that, sometimes. She’d not been that out of control since she’d been a young girl. If Warlock hadn’t started carving into the soul of the hero’s childhood friend to find a hint about what the nature of the dimension was, the others might have thought him dead too and that would have gotten… bad. If Ranger had come down from Refuge to avenge him, she didn’t think Vale would have survived it – or anyone trying to get her to stop, for that matter.

The girl’s domain was just an arena, Sabah saw. Old sunny stone with empty stands stretched in a long oval, but maybe not so empty as they seemed at first. If she sharpened her ears she could almost hear cheering and applause. The two of them were standing in sand, and the Valiant Champion raised her axe. Her movements were more fluid than before. She was probably stronger inside here, a sharp increase of everything as long as the domain held. Fit with the word, anyway. That poor kid. She’d picked her grounds, yes, but she’d also taken Captain somewhere she didn’t have to worry about the consequences of going all out. It was one thing to lean into the Beast when there was a risk she’d end up eating a portion of Nicae. Another when it was just the two of them. Sabah rolled her shoulder, and dropped the hammer.

Unleash,” she said, and the world went red.

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63 thoughts on “Villainous Interlude: Calamity II

  1. JC

    RIP Sabah? She even noted how the Champion seemed to know how to fight against beasts. Though I’m not sure what kind of monster tale ends in a gladiator’s ring.

    Wekesa seems to be falling into a classic story. Dropping scrying means he doesn’t know about Sabah disappearing, right?

    Interesting exposition about former ‘murderhobo’ heroes, as well as how these heroes seemed designed to take the Calamities out. The Heavens are cheating bastards!

    Looking forward to next update. I expect a few of the Calamities to die there.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I hope this is the tale of Androcles and his lion, though what my associations with gladiator games tell me is that she tries to reduce the narrative weight of Sabah being another person to Sabah being a challenge. Unfortunately, she had to step in that one.

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      1. stevenneiman

        On one hand, this is the power that killed a god in single combat and I don’t think Champion has the power to match that, but on the other hand I think you might be right about this turning into a glory match with a big scary monster, and Sabah did seem to miss the fact that she just gave the Champion a chance to use a useless specialty.

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    1. nick012000

      I dunno. I looks like Warlock and Black Knight are winning their fights, to me. Hedge Wizard can only use each magical trick once, after all, and now that her arm’s made of magic, it’s entirely possible that Warlock would be able to use that as an opening to attack her. Remember when Black mentioned to Cat that if she got a necromantic leg, a sufficiently skilled magician would be able to turn it against her? I’m not sure what’d happen if he used Link or Imbricate on her arm to link it to one of the Hells, but I doubt it’d be pleasant for her.

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      1. Matthew

        Warlock and Black are winning slow and steadily. Creation has altered heroes so they will have counters to the Calamities’ “murder by numbers” toolset.

        Now, I don’t think the counters will work. Black and Wekesa will pull it out.

        I think the people saying Ranger is going to get killed are correct.

        I suspect the Calamities are going to have to “Be the Villains” and pull some raw power down to win.

        But, I think that the Calamities are going to have a Pyrrhic victory where, despite winning here… the “Calamities” will be finished as a unit.

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      2. haihappen

        The hedge Wizard accomplished what she was meant to: distract the Warlock. Now, the other Calamities are without magical support.
        She may not be meant to defeat the Warlock, but she is the perfect match to grab his attention.

        As for Sabah, yeah, she stepped right into the trap. An obvious trap. She noticed herself that he was more akin to fight monsters than humans, and she transformed into one to fight him… *sigh*

        As for Black, his measured no-risk approach seems doomed to backfire at some point. Perhaps by taking too long one of the other get killed, and he loses his cool?

        Also, we are missing one Calamity: Assassin.
        Is Death Made Flesh maybe kept in reserve as an evil deus ex machina?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. lennymaster

        Matthew: Champion is female. I think it was even mentioned somewhere that White’s Band of Heroes having only him as male and Priestress (deceased), Champion, Hedge and Bard as female Heroes was some kind of counter to Black or Squire.

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    1. Captain had a death flag earlier, but her lose would hurt, but not threaten the Calamities. It also wouldn’t really mirror the lose the Heroes had. I’m guessing Warlock. I don’t think they could survive long term without Wekesa, and he’s the one who seems to be slowly be being outmaneuvered. Also it could lead to a scene of his final spell going utterly out of control, to the point where the damage leads to further problems down the road.

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      1. Blinks

        You could well be onto something there. Warlock is Black’s oldest and possibly best friend. He’s also essentially the “oh shit” button.

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    2. well, with captain there are two possiblities, one is the priestess is alive and inside of the pocket dimension, two she will release the pocket when the hellfire and more fall from the sky and kill her. the lost of contact is a clue.
      for warlock, he lost his “eyes” and using the towers that the tyrant own is a mistake, with a heroine who is lead by providence and can LEARN well that is a problem
      black shoud had destroyed the talisman and contacted the others that is a mistake for him

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    3. stevenneiman

      To be honest, I give each of the Named involved an independent 1/3 or so chance of dying, including the already supposedly dead Ashen Priestess. I’m almost certain at least one Calamity will survive, but beyond that I wouldn’t take bets on any of it.

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    4. Darkening

      The Tyrant’s comments a few chapters back about them, “Watching the wrong fire all along” and such made me and a bunch of other people think the Bard’s done something to Ranger using Ash’s death. It would certainly fit with his comment about making Black a wounded animal instead of a brilliant strategist if they killed the woman he loves.

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  2. vietnamabc

    Man anyone read Champion’s dialogue in Arnold’s voice? (even though she is a girl)
    Damn let it never be said that Heaven does not cheat, also really good observance of Sabah to compare Angels with salesman, Heaven is practically a pyramid scheme.

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  3. so white aspects are ride, recall and protect(?), no surprises there
    wizard’s are learn, reporpuse,only two for now, she is dangerous but she needs to grow
    champion’s is oppose, exalt and one similar to lead( the one she use last chapter and captain didn’t hear), she could be tricky
    captain losing control maybe is the clue here

    Liked by 1 person

    1. stevenneiman

      I’d actually bet on something like Slay for Champion. It would fit with the monster hunter theme, and would be a nasty trump card to pull out in a situation like this. I’m guessing that the inspiration thing is a secondary gubbin like the way that Willy was also a human lie detector (despite the fact that none of Swing, Rise, and Triumph could give such an advantage). In general, the heroes seem more prone to get sweet perks on top of their Aspects. Besides, I wouldn’t be surprised if she could inspire others just through being a hero alone, since she’s dealing with people who revere heroes the same way Basilia does Tyrants.

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  4. nick012000

    Am I the only one who’s seeing more and more of the Stand Users from Jojo in the Black Knight? Not just the way he uses his shadow, but also the way he fights enemies that are stronger than him with wits and cunning.

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  5. Akim

    Without going meta on who will win.

    I love the way you pin down the personalities of every major character and even or especially Warlocks SysAdmin take on fighting makes him scarier than anybody else. Because with all his power he would rather nerd out than to fight.

    Sadly there will never be a peaceful meeting between Warlock, Hierophant, Diabolist and her father and Hedge Wizard and the possible Wizard of the West. No MagicCon.
    Maybe someone should mention the Idea to Amadeus. Every named magic user taken out without ever using violence.

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    1. stevenneiman

      I just realized that Heirophant will get a sudden power boost as soon as he meets back up with dad, since he’s got a collection of dead gods.
      And now I can’t unsee the image of an ancient demon in a trenchcoat asking Masego “Hey kid, you want to buy some miracles? First one’s free.”

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      1. Haihappen

        “He, wanna buy some Miracles? No? Also got some minor gods, spirits in a bottle and some grade A paradoxes. Thats the real shit man!”

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    1. Zaits

      Given that killing the White Knight by making him call on his Aspects and kill before he gets his second breath, too high. Thanks for pointing it out!

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    2. blitzbasic

      Do we know the gender of Assassin? The only one who saw it and lived to tell is Thief, but I don’t think she was specific in that regard.

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      1. OldSchoolVillain

        Assassin was a shapeshifter. Possibly a case of Every Assassin rather than simply The Assassin. I can’t see the hostage being assassin though – Assassin wouldn’t have bothered struggling while out of sight, and also this would be an open appearance midbattle. Their skill set is better applied to eliminating wounded but recovering Heroes afterwards.
        Alternatively, it IS Assassin, and the White Knight kills them after they attempt to backstab him. As I said, their skills aren’t suited to open combat, and the loss of his Shadow (possibly his Scribe as well, if those theories are correct) WOULD make Black a great deal weaker by forcing him back a step and slowing him down in the future.

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      2. stevenneiman

        In her POV chapter, she saw Assassin first as male, then as female, then as indeterminate gender, and I believe as speaking with a dozen different voices as well. My guess is that they either have some kind of disguise Aspect, or that their identity can shift entirely.

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    3. nipi

      Nah. Probably just a preprepared and instructed civilian. I can totally picture Black saying: “When my undead releases you run to the hero. Trying to escape before that would be unfortunate.”

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  6. narcoduck

    Tyrant is of course absent again. This probably means he’s about to win, and both Black and Bard will lose important pieces soon.

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      1. Mike E.

        My memory isn’t THAT good 🙂 If I had just binged to this point likely would still be fresh, but I got stuck into the weekly wait for it in the middle of the war college.

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  7. Since it is said that the heroes are tailored to fight against the calamities.

    It made me worried about Sabah was she was sent to another ring, because the valiant champion was said to fight like she was fighting against beasts and she still had her third aspect hidden too.

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  8. nipi

    Also been wondering about the hooks Malicia has placed in the Legions. Wonder if she has tried putting one in Cat? I mean she did always feel like kneeling and stuff when around Malicia.

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  9. Letouriste

    Had difficulties to start reading^^ I expected things to turn bad in the chapter:)
    I think no calamities will die here but hyerophant and the tyrant will grab all the benefits.
    Sabah should survive this,she only used her first aspect right? I guess she will turn things around with the third we don’t know and survive without killing the champion.
    Assassin don’t have any screen time yet so I don’t know what his position in the plan is…maybe bail black out if things turn bad? Or counter the move of the tyrant in some fashion? If that’s the second then he will fail.
    Black win or loss don’t matter much in this fight,he can’t die and the danger lie elsewhere.even if the white knight die the plot don’t change much.the heavens just need another hero in a few years.maybe one different from the norm,a last try.
    Warlock is the most in danger I think,but this chapter seems confirm the hedge wizard is only there for hinder him and break the link between the fight.so warlock is not the target.the tyrant should move in the blind spot the heroine created,under advices from the bard.
    The tyrant can’t know the situation for ranger,not even the bard can given she is not in creation and the bard power seems limited to creation because we never seen her in Arcadia….for now at least. So ranger should be safe from his plan…

    He plan to hurt black and black don’t care much about himself.we don’t know at all his relationship with assassin so he should be safe for now(didn’t read the chapter with thief so that could change there).
    So the possible targets are scribe,warlock and Sabah.
    Warlock is very unlikely so there is two possibilities:
    -tyrant kill Sabah after the fight against champion,using the distraction of warlock and the fatigue of sabah.she seems to be the sort to die in a trap.
    -tyrant kill scribe after using hyerophant like smokescreen for his actions.

    Probably one death given all the foreshadowing.black should have predicted the attempt and collusion with bard but his information about hyerophant is wrong so that blind spot is worrying(I think scribe has been tasked with observing the tyrant and his army but her spies are out of the game already)

    Ps: I really like Sabah:( I want her to have some peace out of the fights for a few years after Black death if he die.Maybe dying in the final war cat is waging

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    1. Letouriste

      Wow I have written so long I change of POV in the middle^^
      I can’t see scribe dying here,she have uses in the story yet

      Should be Sabah after all:/ or no calamity at all be just a very big wound on one of them?

      Like

  10. Dylan Tullos

    I can’t help feeling that this whole engagement is a mistake.

    Black and the Calamities have lasted this long because of their proud tradition of unfair fights. Look at their first engagement with the White Knight’s party; they wait for the Heroes to tire themselves out, take them by surprise, and control the entire engagement from start to finish, retreating the moment it looks like things might go against them. Even then, that fight was far more “fair” than usual. As Warlock points out, the Calamities prefer to isolate and slaughter new Heroes before they can even meet up with other Heroic Named, depriving opposing parties of essential members before the conflict even begins.

    This time, the Calamities are going in against a party that has the advantage of having fought them once before and survived, with a Tyrant who’s openly planning to backstab them. Black is cut off from communication with the rest of the party, and they’re all fighting separate battles, unable to take advantage of their decades of experience working as a team. So far, all of them are winning, but they won’t be able to call for help in the event of a sudden change.

    They need to engage as a team, under circumstances they control, with a clear line of retreat. Instead, they’re stuck in a situation where they have to fight one-on-one against the opposing Heroes, in a chaotic warzone, with their retreat endangered by the Tyrant’s forces. For the Calamities, winning isn’t primarily about improvisation; it’s about rigging the game from the start, so that the Heroes are hopelessly outmatched before the first sword is drawn. Black’s victory at Streges was won on the training grounds of the War College, in the relentless training and planning to create professional Legions of Terror designed to defeat Callow’s traditional army.

    This isn’t a battle where some casualties are acceptable as long as the objective is achieved. Every one of the Calamities is an irreplaceable resource, an essential part of a team united by shared experience and loyalty to Black. If the Heavens lose Hanno’s entire party, they can simply recruit new Heroes, but the Calamities are the most formidable Villains since Triumphant (may she never return). Black can win the battle, defeat the White Knight’s party, and accomplish every one of his objectives, but he still loses if a single Calamity dies.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. ArkhCthuul

    Ohuh
    The way this is.written let’s me fear for all three, sou fiend!

    Also, Exalt? Given the source this now seems like a younger Solar battling an older Lunar…and that’s not a nice picture for Sabah…

    Like

  12. Uhh, did you actually read the Lunar Exalted supplement? A Pre-Betrayal Lunar Exalted, versus a newly Exalted Solar would result in the Solar being turned into a fine red mist. The new Solar’s only shot at survival there would be if they happened to be the reincarnation of the Lunar’s mate, causing the Lunar to either go easy on them or have an emotional breakdown.

    Returning to the Guide-Verse: I don’t think Black loses a Calamity here. The death of the Ashen Priestess was a strike at Sabah that got redirected. I’m pretty sure what the Tyrant “purchased” with that was his new pet Hiearch.

    Beyond that, the Bard’s machinations have met with far too much success so far. (William’s failure to foresee Cat going Sword-in-the-Stone on him wasn’t in the Bard’s wheelhouse.)

    Even Heroes, even THE Meta Hero, can’t have it her way ALL of the time. The Story of Practical Evil fizzling due to a nudge from the Bard and a villain so Classic Evil he makes Diabolist look Practical just….there’s no (as the Bard would say) SHAPE to it.

    What there IS a Shape for is the complete collapse of Black’s intended strategic objectives for going into the Free Cities in the first place. The Calamities don’t have nearly the narrative weight there that the Tyrant has…and the attempt to stillbirth Cordelia’s Crusade was doomed from the moment the Conquest succeeded.

    The Story of the Calamities is the Story of a unique Villainous Band. They’re meant to fall in the Crusade they never could’ve prevented…not unravel during the B.S preliminaries. That’s what the Bard wants of course…because in the event the Calamities live to fall during the Crusade, Cat picks up the torch and carries Practical Evil onward, ever onward.

    The Tyrant is too damned ridiculous to be able to be the ruin of a Calamity. Even with the Bard’s Monster Hunting Lessons, the disparity in skill and power between Sabah and the Champion is measured by order of magnitude. Going Arena Domain just slows the bleed, or at least it should.

    Likewise Warlock…for all that he’s been more taxed this battle than at any time in recent memory, has decades of skill and experience over Hedge.

    IMHO, these aren’t the sorts of “Villains are overwhelming Heroes, triggers improbable Heroic power-up” type conflicts. They’re inexorable grindaways by veterans over rookies.

    Finally, the Heavens played EXTREMELY fast and loose by finger-snapping these custom anti-Calamity Heroes into existence. Giving the Gods Below equal opportunity to get absurd on behalf of THEIR champions.

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    1. Dylan Tullos

      Shawn Panzegraf:

      Tyrant specifically says that it was Bard (the monster with as many faces as stars) who let Ashen Priestess die so that she could use the power of her sacrifice. She’ll be the one making the purchase, not Kairos.

      I’m confused by what you’re saying. So far, the Bard hasn’t been having her way all of the time, or even most of the time. The Calamities beat her during the first rebellion in Callow and Catherine killed the Lone Swordsman. We still don’t know what her plans are in the Free Cities, though Tyrant says that she’s going to kill a Calamity, and that Black is completely unprepared for whatever she’s planning.

      Agreed that the Villains are steadily winning so far. The problem is that Bard knew they’d be winning, and has something planned. Her strategy isn’t to let the veteran Calamities inevitably grind down her capable but inexperienced band of Heroes; it’s to let them get tired and distracted before she springs her trap. We don’t know what she has prepared, but she’s not going to just throw a weaker team of Heroes (they lost Ashen Priestess) at the same people who beat them last time and expect a better result.

      Every time Black complains about the Heavens cheating, I want to laugh at him. This is the man who slaughtered Callowan knights and peasants with Legions that outmatched them so badly they might as well have been unarmed. He’s the man who systematically murders individual Heroes before they can even find their team, and he sends Eyes of the Empire to find potential Heroes and kill them before they can even discover their powers. The very concept of a “fair fight” is disgusting to Black, but he has the audacity to whine when the Heavens do their best to create a band of champions that he won’t be able to slaughter.

      We have good reason to believe that Bard wants to kill a Calamity, and she’s not going to fight fair. Even if each Calamity outmatches their opposite number among the White Knight’s party, the fight is close enough so that both Sabah and Warlock are tired and distracted. All it takes is one push at the right time, one slip at the wrong moment, and Black’s little team will lose both an irreplaceable member and their reputation for infallibility. Once that happens, it’s all downhill from there.

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  13. Panic

    So I am starting to think that maybe all three will die.

    Captain already has the death warnings since before and is now a monster on all four in a arena vs a Hero who is more used to fighting beasts.

    Black is fighting his good counterpart and he already told us as much that he would die soon.

    Warlock fighting someone who is a very good counter to him magic wise.

    Plus fate can’t allow there to be two different teams of Villans working for the same side while Heroes only have the one team. Forcefully balancing the scales and all that.

    Like

  14. Miaow

    This is all misdirection. Sabah may have death flags but she will live and probably kill the Valiant Champion. Black doesn’t die to White, that much is almost certain (especially with White throwing his aspects in so fast). Warlock has the toughest fight on his hands and the fewest aspects in reserve, but I don’t think he dies—Hedge will just distract him long enough that the Tyrant will do something bad for both sides.

    Ranger, however, is becoming narratively inconvenient due to her nature as an extremely overpowered fighter—in other terms, she’s a walking deus ex machina. So far, she’s been kept out of the story by her lack of interest, but her involvement in the wider plot could only be described as “bullshit” and as the stakes rise, the likelyhood of Ranger getting involved—if only to bail out Black, one of the few things she actually gives a damn about—goes up. So Ranger has to be written out somehow, or “Why doesn’t Ranger just solve the plot” becomes constant fridge logic.

    Of course, given how Ranger’s been established, the narrative wouldn’t be plausible if she just died anyhow. She could be put on a bus to some kind of extradimensional hunting trip, but that would be a cheap plot device. So my bet is that while Black is obnubilated with the Free Cities, the Bard’s plan is to eliminate the most dangerous of the Calamities, who is also the one Black least expects to be in danger, and of course, the one whose death will hit him hardest, since they’re lovers.

    In addition, Ranger dying in Summer is likely because it has to be the Squire who fights the final confrontation with the Queen of Summer in Creation to close that story, not Ranger killing the Queen in Arcadia. Also, what Ranger is doing is fundamentally foolhardy—she expects to pull through because her entire role is about getting stronger the stronger her opponents are, but Bard has pulled some strings behind the scenes so that her Learn-Perfect-Transcend powerup won’t be enough this time.

    Ranger being the Bard’s kill is the best match, I think, in terms of both Catherine’s story and the Tyrant’s PoV we had. The only other possibility, I think, is Assassin being killed off somehow, but that would seem random. The Calamity who dies is definitely going to be one Black doesn’t expect, not one he took a calculated risk with.

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    1. lennymaster

      I would agree with you on all points, but Ranger is also the least likable of the Calamities. Even Assassin, while there is little to be seen of him yet, has the wierd charm of killing his targets in such humrous and humiliating ways going for him.

      Like

  15. @Dylan: I’ll have to disagree with you about the Bard having her own way. As I said, William’s failure to protect the Angel of Mind Rape until it could manifest was just that, HIS failure. Every step along the way, the Heroes danced along to the Bard’s tune.

    As a Bardic Hero, the W.B is essentially a general. She doesn’t possess the means to remain materially involved once the planning is over and the outcome of the battle has to be left in the hands of her subordinates following her plan(s). So far, the Bard has been able to get pretty much every Hero she comes in contact with to follow her directions, with few if any questions asked.

    As for the Black Knight slaughtering peasants and hopelessly outmatched troops, I would respectfully point out that the residents of the Kingdom of Callow were the ones doing the slaughtering of Praesi, generation after generation after generation. Callowan Knights broke Legion lines so regularly that when a single Legion finally managed to retain cohesion in the face of repeated heavy cavalry charges, they gained enduring fame throughout the Empire for doing so.

    In this last Chapter alone, Warlock mentions the Wizard of the West had TEN TIMES more power than him or Hedge Wizard. The Conquest wasn’t some effortless rolling over of Callow. Callow kept on doing things the way they always had, while Black redesigned the entire Praesi war machine from square one up. Even then, Praes didn’t overpower Callow. They beat them via superior tactics and strategy.

    As for Black killing Heroes before they can get their feet under them, and his apparent dislike for fair fights, the reason is brutally simple. The Heavens NEVER fight fair. Hanno is described as having “more than ten times as much raw power” as Black. Hedge Wizard spits on the very idea of magic being an intellectually intensive practice in a field so vast that true mastery can come only via specialization. Instead she can blithely whip out literally ANY spell effect her little heart desires once a day. That’s not even a hard limitation for Hedge Wizard, as she demonstrated while evading Warlock’s energy-dragons using small variations on spells to get around the “Once Per Day Rule.” The Champion has already DOUBLED in strength just since hers and Captain’s last fight a few weeks earlier.

    As if the Villains being flatly outclassed in terms of raw power every single time by Heroes isn’t enough, Heroes can do things like learn in a day and a night a skill that would take a Villain decades to master. Hell, as Hanno so crassly demonstrated all a Hero has to do to invoke invincibility is commit a heroic act that should result in the hero’s death 100% of the time.

    Villains come to every single fight outclassed in every material way…Even then, the SINGLE material advantage they have that Heroes don’t (remaining in their physical prime until slain) can be turned against them. If they employ so much skill it utterly blows the doors of the Heroes immediately, Heroes invariably rise from their beating, wipe off their bloody lips, quote the Book of All Things…and then roundly annihilate the Villains due to a sudden inexplicable power-up.

    In a world where what passes for natural law decrees “Every tangible advantage shall ALWAYS lay with the Heroic Named” nothing a Villain is capable of can be construed as actual cheating.
    The Heavens never, EVER send their Heroes forth to do battle without first cheating for them in every conceivable way.

    With Hanno, we’re even seeing the Heavens violate the one territory where it was possible for a Villain to gain superiority over a Hero. Skill and Experience. One RECALL Aspect, and Hanno can call on the skills and powers of any of a thousand different Heroes. Hell, Hanno doesn’t even have to pick a single Hero to emulate. Instead, he’s able to switch from one to the next like flipping a switch at combat-speeds.

    Black’s complaints aren’t “whining.” I’d be pissed too if I’d redesigned the very Modus Operandi of Evil itself, and the Heavens just shrug, snap their fingers and POOF…Instant Squad of Customized Calamity-Killers. Reality itself bends at greater than ninety degree angles to keep the advantage with Good.

    Which, incidentally, is why I believe the existence of a truly courageous Hero is flatly impossible in the Guide-Verse. It doesn’t take courage to join the side that will bend reality at every turn to make things come out golden for you. Killing immature Heroes isn’t cheating. It’s eliminating cheating reality-benders before they figure out to start really bending reality in absurd ways.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “It doesn’t take courage to join the side that will bend reality at every turn to make things come out golden for you. ”

      Except for the part where the last dozen or so people to join that side got killed by the Calamities without accomplishing anything meaningful. Did you forget that part? The entire reason that Cat decided to go with Team Evil instead of adding her body to the pile of dead heroes? The “bending reality” isn’t anywhere near as powerful or effective as you make it sound – it just keeps it from being an outright curbstomp.

      And it’s not like it’s exclusive to the Heavens either. Evil can accomplish pretty much anything so long as they call it “the first step of my evil plan.” And Cat has made a career out of twisting heroic tropes to Evil’s advantage (Struggle was as much of a “heroic second wind” as we’ve seen any of the actual heroes get.)

      Also, I’d take the Calamities’ internal monologues on what heroes are like with a grain of salt. Of *course* they’re going to think that it’s unfair whenever the Heroes give them a challenge. Because they’re obviously perfect and free of weaknesses, so the heroes *must* be cheating, right? Nobody’s ever gotten a second wind or attempted to change tactics in a real fight, ever. /s

      It’s not cheating, it’s just having a Name. Anyone who has a Name gets three free cheats, plus extra cheats whenever the audience is feeling sympathetic. Heroes are just better at getting audience sympathy, because they’re, you know, *not evil.*

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      1. lennymaster

        It only became stopping the Villians from curbstomping the Heroes since Black and Malicia created practical Evil, before that the only time the Villians actually won was with Triumphant (may she never return) and that led to a crusade that saw Preas damaged to a point it did not recover for generations.
        And all of this still leaves the ridiculous power advantage, their absurd magical weapons (wich always fail or turn against the Vilians that try to wield any at the most inopportune time possible), the Heroes inexplicable powerups and practical invincibility in the face of absolut Bravery/Stupidity.
        And no, it does not take any bravery in the Guidverse to be a Hero, not because of golden luck, but rather because of their UNQUESTIONABLE, HEAVENMANDATED MORAL SUPERIORITY.
        No questioning of ones purpose or righteousness, no questioning of sacrifices made or caused. Yes they feel bad for a time, they scream to the Heavens: “WHY!?”, but in the end some angel, another Hero, some random/wierdly wise old geezer/merchant/smith/guard/healer or just strait up friggin Bard show up and assure the Hero they are doing the right thing/sacrifices are unavoidable/war is war/ the Villian would cause much worse destruction if left unstopped or the most cheat of all answeres, “Then do better next time!”, and boom the Hero can continue on as before reasured and unshackable in their goal.

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    2. Dylan Tullos

      Shawn Panzegraf:

      When I get my own way, I usually get something I want. Bard hasn’t gotten a free Callow, and she hasn’t killed any Calamities (yet). Nice as it is for her to be able to get Heroes to dance to her tune, winning requires those Heroes to beat the Villains. As of now, none of the Hero parties that she’s supported have actually won.

      I’m somewhat confused by your statement that Callowans have been slaughtering Praesi for generations. Well, yes, when the Legions of Doom invaded Callow, the Callowans did slaughter them, in the same way that homeowners would shoot an invader who broke in and charged them with an axe. It’s called “self-defense”.

      In any case, I wasn’t criticizing Black for using the resources he had available to set up one-sided and brutally “unfair” conflicts. I was criticizing him for the obvious hypocrisy involved in hating the Gods for being “unfair” to the poor, persecuted Villains while he himself has made a career out of being “unfair” to the isolated rookie Heroes he puts down before they even have a chance to learn how to use their powers properly. Obviously, the Gods are going to use every tool at their disposal to ensure the victory of their chosen champions, just as Black uses every tool at his disposal to ensure the victory of the Calamities. The fact that they have more tools does not make them horrible, horrible monsters, no matter how much Black whines about it. (Their apparent fondness for Mass Brainwashing does make them horrible, horrible monsters, but that’s not what Black is complaining about.)

      Black beat Callow because he had a better army and a better team of Named. Callow traditionally beat Praes because they had better armies and better teams of Named. The Dread Empire’s addiction to fielding incompetent hordes and making overly complicated plans is not Callow’s fault, and they’re not somehow “cheating” for taking advantage of Praesi stupidity. Defending your home from an invading army is not a crime.

      Warlock says that the Wizard of the West had ten times more power than Hedge Wizard. That doesn’t mean he had ten times more power than Warlock, who obviously has more juice than Hedge. We don’t see her raising armies of the dead or blowing up floating castles with a single spell, do we? We don’t know whether the Wizard of the West was stronger than Warlock, but it clearly didn’t help him, since Warlock outmaneuvered the Wizard and destroyed him at Streges. Notably, Warlock doesn’t spend all of his time complaining about how he can’t possibly beat the mean overpowered Hedge Wizard, who can perform any spell once a day. He just gets down to beating her.

      When Black faces Callow’s rebellion in Book I, he assembles overwhelming forces, calls upon the assistance of veteran Named that the Callowans have no possible answer for, and utterly defeats the rebels without fighting a single battle in the field. From the perspective of a peasant going up against the Carrion Lord, Black might as well be a God Below for all the chance they had of winning. Does Black send most of his Legions home so that they can have a decent chance? Does he fight powerless and blindfolded so that some peasant with granddad’s old spear might actually kill him? No, because Black isn’t an idiot. Neither are the Gods Above. Both of them are evil with a small e, but they all understand that war is not a game and that there are no prizes for good sports.

      I was going to respond to your last point at more length, but I see beleester beat me to it. How many Heroes does Black have to kill before he stops whining? He’s been on top for twenty years, he’s filled entire graveyards with the Named who tried to free Callow, and he’s created the most powerful Dread Empire since Triumphant (may she never return). Things didn’t come out “golden” for the amateur Heroes the Calamities massacred, and it took extraordinary courage to even take up the mantle of a Name, knowing that the boogeyman was going to come for you the moment you did. I think that you just refuse to give Heroes credit for anything, no matter how much they deserve it, because you agree with Black that they’re “cheating”. All I can say is that if they paid money for those nasty reality-bending cheat codes, then they deserve a refund.

      The Gods Above have done some legitimately awful things. Their angels mind control entire cities, and they deliberately sabotaged Praes’s agriculture and population growth to drive future conflict. However, they are not somehow “bad” for ensuring that the Heroes who serve them are as well-equipped as possible to survive and win, and their Heroes are not “bad” for taking full advantage of the resources they have. If I was in a war, and I had powers that allowed me to fight more experienced enemies, I would use them as extensively as possible. When my enemies complained that it was somehow wrong for me to use my cheaty reality-bending powers, I would laugh at them.

      War does not destroy the concepts of right and wrong. It does, however, destroy the concept of “cheating”. William is wrong to use angelic brain bleach on an entire city. He is not wrong to fight Catherine with a magic sword or super healing powers. William has a job to do, and he’s going to do it as best he can. If Catherine is angry over the fact that he gets more help from the Gods Above than Catherine does from Those Below, maybe she should have signed up with the other team.

      She dislikes the fact that he has those powers. Guess what, Catherine? You’re ridiculously OP compared to the vast, vast majority of people in Calernia, and you’ve never listened to a single complaint about how wrong it is for a young girl to get all of these advantages just because she has a Name. You can’t turn around now and insist that all of your special powers are wonderful and righteous, but that horrible Lone Swordsman is just terrible for having more than you. It’s like listening to someone who inherited a hundred million dollars insisting that it’s those awful billionaires who are preventing us from having a more equal society.

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      1. stevenneiman

        He wasn’t complaining about the heroes using unfair tactics, he was complaining about how Good had an unfair advantage, and that heroes got what they got for free.
        For a better comparison, imagine if you were a master of video games, but were poor. You started playing some “free to play” MMO, and reached a level of skill completely unmatched by anyone else on the server. Now imagine that every day you had to struggle to beat incompetent noobs because they were willing to spend money on pay-to-win features you can’t afford, and you know that one day you’ll lose a fight, and with it all the respect you’ve earned as the best fighter in the game, because someone who was willing to shell out for those advantages came at you with skills that were mediocre instead of bad. And when they did they would probably say something stupid like “Git good”.
        Now imagine that that game was the entirety of existence, and that if you ever lost a round you or one of your few loved ones would die, probably an unpleasant death. That’s what Black is complaining about.

        Liked by 1 person

    3. stevenneiman

      The thing about heroes is that they actually are almost as brave as the villains. It takes courage to charge the machine gun nests even if you have reason to suspect that you might be bulletproof. The thing is that their bravery is likely to get them more than a good fireworks show as they go up in flames, since the Heavens cheat on their behalf. Also, heroes usually have far less raw power than villains, but raw power is a funny thing in Creation since being outmatched is in most cases an advantage. The Wizard didn’t have ten times Wekesa’s power, he just had ten times Hedge’s power and didn’t use it as well.
      The other thing is that Heroes tend to be given a lot of things that villains have to earn or take for themselves, and even beyond that they seem more likely to get extra stuff, like the way that William basically had a fourth Aspect that let him detect lies.
      All in all, I would describe the heroes as being like a GMPC that the GM has decided is going to win this fight, and they’re willing to cheat to do it. They might even give them worse stats than the players have, but they’ll make up for it with GM fiat that things go their way, and occasionally roll dice out of view and claim they came up 20. The way to win is to somehow sucker the GM into thinking that they’ve been winning, by a small margin but enough that they don’t have to adjust anything, then reveal that you had a hidden advantage that can end the fight in one round before they can respond.

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  16. Bonesawer

    I think that most people are missing that Black wins a mixed victory regardless of the outcome of this conflict. While the loss of Captain and/or Warlock is a serious loss for the current Empire, it saves significant destruction in the future once Black is dead. They are the most destructive and emotional of the Calamities, and the ones that need to go first in the sequence of Calamitous deaths for Catherine to take over with a minimum of conflict.

    It seems unavoidable that at least one of the Calamities will die in the current or immediately subsequent conflict, given the weight to the Story of Catherine’s band gaining (though not yet earning) their Name. My bet on the first Calamitous death is Warlock, given the recent full ascension of Hierophant. I would dearly prefer it to be Captain, as I certainly want to see Warlock see Hierophant.

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    1. stevenneiman

      That… actually makes a lot of sense. I wonder if Black would be cold-blooded enough to kill his allies if he knew they would rampage out of control once he died.
      I do agree with you in the hope that Wekesa gets a chance to see his son again. I think he would die happy if he could see that Masego’s already taken a Name as cool as his own, and one that’s only going to grow stronger with age (especially once he has a chance to raid Wekesa’s lab for more miracles).

      Like

  17. stevenneiman

    Typo thread:
    “There must have {been} bleed”
    “but it would allow her {to} operate well enough”
    “The aspect was better fit for war than [skirmished->skirmishes]”
    “she fled straight to {the} hero”
    “The Valiant Champion was way ahead {of} the curve even for a hero”

    It’s kind of interesting how they respond to the slaughter Black considers necessary. Black doesn’t seem to count it as a plus or minus, Captain mildly regrets it but just considers it the stressful part of a job she chooses to do, and Wekesa is having a wonderful time unleashing the full horror he’s capable of on an area full of civilians. Well, maybe not the full horror, but even he considers Dark Day protocols scary. The fact that he just casually figured “oh, slaughter unending and meaningless should do the trick” for causing a bit of chaos on the walls really brought home how inhuman the Calamities really are.

    Liked by 1 person

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