Chapter 37: Procedures

“Truth and silence lie better than the silvermost tongue.”
– Soninke saying

It was a little odd to be half-naked in front of three people, but the only person that was feeling awkward about it was Hakram. The moment I’d begun unbuttoning my shirt he’d cleared his throat and looked away, and had been staring at the ceiling of my tent for a solid half hour by now. Considering I had it on good authority – Robber, ever up for a bit of gossip if it was at someone else’s expense – that he was still sleeping around on the regular his prudery for this was pretty amusing. As for the other two, well, Masego couldn’t have been any less interested in tits if he tried and this wasn’t anything Kilian hadn’t seen before. I shifted on the stool at the memory of some of the instances where she’d done a great deal more than just looking and Hierophant clucked his tongue disapprovingly.

“Don’t move,” he said. “This is delicate work.”

I’d have to take his word on that, since I couldn’t actually see what he was doing. He was prodding around the area of my heart with a long oaken wand covered in runes that was entirely ignoring my flesh, pausing now and then to look at the collection of hovering runes in the air by his side. Kilian was crouched at his side, forming a ball of light over her upturned palm. They’d said it was because they needed a ‘point of comparison’, though they’d been vague about what exactly that meant.

“It’s not grounded in the heart,” the Senior Mage frowned.

“Agreed,” Masego said, and I felt him poke something inside me.

Runes shifted in the air and the redhead inhaled sharply.

“That should kill a human outright,” she said. “It’s enough sorcery to turn all the liquids in her body to ice.”

“Named, Kilian,” the blind Soninke reminded her. “And this ‘moon’ seems to have been purposed to regulate the energies.”

I cleared my throat.

“So you have answers for me, then,” I said.

“We can confidently say that your third aspect is bound to your title of Duchess of Moonless Nights and not the heart replacement the king forced upon you,” Hierophant said. “A fascinating piece of work, that.”

“So when I get my heart back,” I prompted.

“You should keep the aspect, assuming you remain the Duchess,” Kilian said. “Though it will severely limit your abilities.”

I met her eyes, but she turned to look at the runes.

“The moon the King of Winter placed inside you serves two purposes,” Hierophant elaborated. “The first it to mimic the role in your body your heart would. Fascinating, as I said. I did not believe the fae had so keen an understanding of human anatomy.”

“And the second?” I said.

“You might consider it a heart in the magical sense,” Masego said. “All the Winter power that you can bring to bear is siphoned into it, then released for your use natured in a way that lessens the damage to your body.”

“That feels like something that’s going to fuck me over when I get my actual heart back,” I said.

“Without that filter I’m not certain you will be able to use your third aspect,” Kilian said. “I’ve never seen the direct aftermath, but I was given to understand it is a domain?”

“And I definitely know what that is,” I lied. “Pretty sure Hakram doesn’t, though, so to be polite someone should explain.”

“Actually,” the orc began, but I shushed him.

“It’s all right, Hakram,” I said. “We’re your friends. You don’t need to pretend with us.”

“I explained to you what that is mere months ago,” Masego said, sounding surprised as he eyed the orc. “Perhaps you should drink less. It’s beginning to affect your memory.”

Adjutant glared at me helplessly and I grinned.

“I’ll keep an eye on him, I promise,” I told Hierophant.

The dark-skinned mage nodded, then looked up at me through his eye cloth.

“Creation is, in essence, matter with a set of rules imposed by the Gods upon it,” he said. “A domain is when an entity, in this case you, temporarily overlays different matter and rules over it.”

Well, that sounded mildy blasphemous. And incredibly dangerous.

“In your case, ‘Fall’ appears to create a bubble of empty darkness where you may use Winter energies to lower the temperature beneath what should physically be possible,” Masego continued. “Unusually offensive in nature. Most domains provide different territory and a comparative advantage to the entity that creates it.”

“It shouldn’t be possible for a Squire to have a domain at all,” Kilian said frankly. “Transitory Names are not strong enough. Domains usually belong to lesser gods, full-fledged Named late in their career or particularly ancient monsters.”

“It’s a rare ability even among heroes,” Masego noted. “Aside from the Champion lines in Levant and allegedly the Saint of Swords, there shouldn’t be any other living human practitioner.”

“Then how did I get one?” I asked. “I didn’t exactly rub a lamp and make a wish to get this, Hierophant.”

“Djinn were usually bound to urns, not lamps, and did not grant wishes,” Masego replied absent-mindedly. “It does occur naturally in some entities. Every dragon has a domain at their heart of their body, it’s what allows them to breathe fire. And Father has theorized elves essentially become a living domain when they get old enough.”

“You have a pretty good look at my body right now,” I said, raising an eyebrow. “See any scales or pointy ears?”

“No,” Hierophant told me seriously. “And I would be able to see them even if they were invisible.”

I saw Kilian’s lips twitch form the corner of my eye.

“Now,” Masego muttered, “this is not conclusive by any means but I do have a theory.”

“All my ears are listening,” I said.

He stared suspiciously at me but I gave him my most innocent smile. His frown deepened, so maybe I needed to put some work into that.

“I believe this to be a leash,” Hierophant said. “You are given powerful abilities, but to make use of them properly you must give the King of Winter foothold in your soul. Removing that foothold turns what was once an asset into a liability, giving you strong incentive to remain bound to him.”

“There’s more to it than that,” Kilian said quietly, and Masego seemed surprised.

The Senior Mage flicked her fingers and three rows of runes parted from the rest.

“I’ve never had occasion to do a full mapping ritual on my father,” the redhead said, “but this corresponds more or less to how his body reacted to fae sorcery as a halfblood. Higher tolerance, but there’s no actual attempt made to make it harmless. In someone born, that’s only natural. But in an artificial construct?”

“Power limiter,” Hierophant said, glass eyes gleaming under dark cloth.

“Your saying he screwed me,” I said.

I paused.

“More than previously believed,” I added.

Kilian nodded slowly.

“When you draw deep on the power, you must get backlash,” she said.

“My blood starts to freeze,” I admitted.

“You were crippled,” Hierophant said bluntly. “You have the power of a Duchess to draw on, but if you actually did so it would kill you. It explains why you were at such a disadvantage fighting that Summer duchess in Arcadia, when in theory you should have been on even footing.”

“Countess at most,” Kilian said. “Your domain allows you to fight out of your league but the King made certain you would never be powerful enough to be a threat to him.”

I clenched my fingers. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise, even if it did. I’d been so focused on how the threat was my stolen heart that I’d never thought to question the additions to my power I’d discovered. Archer had told me that the Duke of Violent Squalls was supposed to be one of the big names in the Winter Court. Someone who was supposed to turn the story back to war if the fae that ruled Winter was trying to avoid it. There was power to that kind of role, and by taking his title even in a different form I should have swung a great deal harder then the average duke or duchess. I’d thought it was because I wasn’t really fae, but evidently there was more to it than that.

“Can you fix this?” I finally asked.

Masego smiled.

“If I were still the Apprentice, no,” he said. “But such miracles are now within my purview. I will need preparations and the process will not be gentle, but it can be done.”

“You’ll still get backlash,” Kilian warned. “You’re a mortal bearing a fae title, that much is unavoidable.”

“The proportion of power than can be drawn before backlash could be increased tenfold, at the very least,” Hierophant said. “A Duchess in full. You’ve an unusually tough constitution, you should be able to weather it.”

“Ominous,” I said. “Get this ready. The sooner we get it done the better.”

“It could be ready tomorrow, but three days hence would be easier,” Masego said. “For ritual purposes, the new moon will benefit me.”

The mage got back to his feet, adjusting the black robes over his corpulent frame. Kilian followed suit, brushing back red hair in a gesture I followed with my eyes out of habit. Masego left the tent without bothering to excuse myself, entirely forgetting Hakram was still in here. The redhaired mage lingered for a moment.

“Catherine,” she said.

I hesitated.

“Dismissed, Senior Mage,” I replied.

Her face shuttered and she gave a stiff salute before leaving. I began to button up my shirt again, fingers almost shaking. That had taken more determination that I’d expected.

“You decent?” Adjutant asked.

“Never,” I drawled. “Villain, remember?”

“No one’s a villain every hour of the day,” Hakram grunted. “And if you’re being lippy about it, that’s a yes.”

I struck a suggestive pose when he turned, my top two buttons still undone, and he groaned.

“Just too much woman for you, I understand,” I said sympathetically.

“You’re barely half an orc,” he gravelled.

“I’m vicequeen of Callow, you savage,” I grinned. “That could be construed as treason.”

“If you have me arrested, who will handle the paperwork?” he said.

“You have always been my most loyal,” I hastily replied. “Never doubted you a moment.”

The orc snorted and reached for the carafe of wine Masego had refused to let me touch. He poured two glasses and pressed one into my hand. Oh dear. That was the herald to a serious conversation, wasn’t it? The joke about his drinking habits died unspoken on my tongue.

“We haven’t talked about it,” he said.

“The heart?” I said. “It hasn’t been a priority so far, to be honest. It was functional and there’s other fires to put out first.”

“Cat,” he said flatly. “You know that doesn’t work on me.”

My lips thinned. No matter how well it served me, there were times I wished he was just a little less perceptive.

“There is nothing to say,” I grunted.

“It’s a nasty habit you have,” Hakram said. “Thinking admitting something hurt you means you’re weak.”

“Already got that speech from Masego last year,” I sighed. “I cope. We’re in the middle of a godsdamned war, in case you hadn’t noticed. This is so far down the ladder of shit I need to deal with it’s not even worth mentioning.”

Hakram drank from his cup and I did the same.

“You were happier, with her,” he said. “Everyone saw that.”

“Happy doesn’t come into this,” I barked. “I didn’t sign up for happy ever after. The colour of my cloak’s a bit of hint there.”

“Bullshit,” Hakram said, and it was vehement enough I flinched. “That’s an excuse and you know it. Fix this or don’t, but do not pretend that being a villain means you have to be miserable. You know that’s untrue.”

“What the fuck do you want me to say, Hakram?” I hissed. “That I miss her? It’s not exactly fucking riddle when I feel like I put a fresh knife in my ribs every time she’s in the room.”

“That is a start,” the tall orc gravely said.

“She wants to cross a line,” I said tiredly. “I can’t stop her without doing the same. Talking’s not going to change any of it, so this is just salting the wound.”

“I understand she wants to do a ritual,” Hakram said cautiously.

“She wants to slaughter people like animals,” I spat. “To get rid of whatever it is that screws her up when she draws too deep on magic.”

“Human sacrifice,” he said. “How many?”

“I didn’t ask,” I said. “It doesn’t matter. One would be too much.”

I eyed him, saw the lack of expression on his face.

“Gonna take her side, are you?” I bitterly said. “Say I’ve done worse. That it makes me a hypocrite to find even the idea repulsive.”

“You assume much,” Hakram said. “Do you think Callowans fed most the altars in Praes? Wars with the Kingdom came once a reign, Catherine. In peace they looked for fodder in the Steppes.”

That have me pause, because he was right. I had assumed, deep down, that no one born on his side of the Wasaliti would really get where I was coming from. One of the reasons I’d never talked about this with anybody. It had been extremely presumptuous of me.

“I’m sorry,” I said quietly. “I didn’t mean-“

“I know,” he sighed, fangs flashing. “I will not pretend my people are anything but red-handed, Catherine. We have fed upon mankind since the First Dawn. We kept slaves and sacked cities, splattered blood across the writ of Creation. But this, we understand. The Miezans taught the Wasteland to hate chains, and in turn the Wasteland taught us to hate the altars. When Lord Black decreed the Legions would no longer bleed their own for victory, he earned deeper loyalty than he understood.”

I looked away, because I knew that Black hadn’t done that because he thought it was right or just. He’d thought it necessary, that those rituals were a crutch that did more harm than good. He probably knew that already. Most of the orc generals likely did as well, but to greenskins action always mattered more than intent.

“I’ve killed people,” I said. “A lot of them. Because they were my enemies, because they were in my way. Sometimes even to make a point. Guilt, what was actually deserved, I stopped bringing into it somewhere along the way.”

Hakram drank and did not speak.

“I started the Liesse Rebellion,” I admitted suddenly. “I let the Lone Swordsman go after starting him down that path. Because I needed a war to rise.”

The orc set down his cup.

“I suspected,” he gravelled. “It was too personal for you. More than it ever was when you were pruning away the undesirables in Callow.”

“In sparing him, I killed thousands,” I said. “I used them as a tool. And that’s despicable, Hakram. I hate it, that for a moment I stood in the same place the High Lords do when they decided to hike the taxes or murder a few of my people for convenience. I think that’s the line I can’t live with crossing. Being the kind of person that doesn’t see people as people, just objects.”

“The kind of person that would use killing others as fuel for a ritual,” he said.

“I know it’s different for Praesi,” I said. “You read Black’s journal, same as me. There were years where sacrifices for the fields were all that kept famine away, and I won’t cast stones at people doing ugly shit to survive. But there’s no need for that anymore. Not if the grain can come from Callow instead. But it’s still done, and there has to be a point where culture isn’t an excuse anymore, right? Gods, if it was someone’s culture to eat fucking babies does that mean I just have to smile and pretend it’s not vile? Because there’s a lot of that going around, Hakram. The Matrons are our allies, so we have to pretend the things they do every year to boys just like Robber because they’re boys aren’t revolting. Ratface’s own father tried to have him knifed in his bed because he was inconvenient, and I’m supposed to just laugh it off and say ‘that’s the Taghreb for you, there they go murdering again’? Fuck, I’ve done dark things but at least I don’t pretend it’s all right for me to have done them. I don’t encourage it.”

Gods, but it felt good to actually say that out loud. Because I knew who I’d sided with, and now more than ever I knew who I answered to. But there were compromises that rankled. Things I had to pretend I didn’t see because I couldn’t pick every battle that should be picked and still think I’d win. That was the thing, with stories. They never told you that the ogres had kids that would starve without a father or that the valiant knight that helped you was part of a larger institution that might trigger civil war if left unchecked. If you wanted a clean ending, one that didn’t leave a bad taste in the mouth, you had to end the story just after the victory. Otherwise you got to see that you could win loudly once, send Evil skittering back into the dark, but that everywhere across Creation there were lesser evils taking place every hour of every day and there wasn’t much anyone could do about it.

“Ah,” Hakram said softly. “You hadn’t realized.”

I looked at him.

“That Kilian is Praesi,” he said. “With all that entails.”

“She doesn’t need to do this,” I said, almost pleadingly. “She’s not as powerful as she could be, it’s true. But she’s still better than the average Legion mage. If it came down between her dying and the ritual being made, Gods forgive me but I’d do it. Because I’m in love with her, and I’m selfish and I’d rather be a monster than lose her. But it’s not going to kill her, to be who she is. This is just wanting more for herself at the expense of others.”

“She can do it legally,” Hakram said. “Using death row criminals at auction.”

“I know that,” I said through gritted teeth. “And I know that the people who’d bleed wouldn’t be choir children. That they’ll die anyway, probably on another altar in a way that benefits someone else. That even in Praes you don’t get the noose lightly. But if they hang, Hakram, that’s law. That’s the exercise of justice, or the closest the Wasteland can have to it. There’s a difference between hanging someone for a crime and slitting their throat open so your magic comes more smoothly. And it stings that I shared my bed with someone for more than a year who doesn’t get something that basic.”

I drained the rest of my cup.

“Gods, is human sacrifice too low a bar to set?” I said, and I felt exhausted. “Because in my enemies I’ll live with it. Until I can make them stop, and I will. But Kilian’s on my side. Used to be a lot more than that. And I refuse that this should be who we are.”

I looked at the orc.

“What’s the point of any of this, if we’re just the High Lords with a nicer reputation?” I asked. “I’m not better than her even if she does this, Hakram. I’m probably worse, if a count can be kept for things like this. And we both know I’ll do worse things before this is over. But I won’t put on a smile and pretend this is all right. I’m not willing to be that person, not even for Kilian.”

The tall orc finished his cup.

“This is,” he said, “half the conversation you needed to have. Perhaps you should seek the other half.”

He left the tent, left me alone with the words I’d spoken still filling the silence. They were no comfort. Never had been.


85 thoughts on “Chapter 37: Procedures

      1. MagnaMalusLupus

        Regardless of anything mentioned by others about the anime series, the term Sword Saint is attributed to the Japanese swordsman and author, Miyamoto Musashi; aside from writing a book on tactics still read to this day called the Book of Five Rings, is also considered to have been the greatest historical Japanese swordsman. Complete bastard too, but undeniably good at killing.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Byzantine

        @ Warren, since it won’t let me reply directly:

        Fate/stay night is one particular entry in the Fate series. Technically I’m referring to it by the first path while the actual Reality Marble only gets called on in the second path, but meh.

        It’s generally a visual novel series that at various points has expanded into anime, movies, and games.


      3. Shequi

        Hmmm. I suspect the above are correct about the anime link, although my first reaction to the phrase “Saint of Swords” was to the Shogun Executioner from C&C, which first appeared in the mission “Behold the Mighty Saint of Swords”


  1. Darkening

    Hm. A little insight into Cat’s current moral status, a promise of a power boost soon, and a possibility of her getting drastically weakened when she gets her heart back later. Not the most exciting chapter, but certainly some important moments in it. At least if she does get nerfed over this domain thing once she gets her heart back, she can always transition to get a new and improved set of aspects.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. JackbeThimble

        One of the reasons Cat likes Masego is that he hates human sacrifice too. Mostly as a matter of professional pride rather than morals but still.


  2. Actually seeing Cat’s thought process is interesting. She makes some good points, in that she can’t just be the High Lords with a nicer bow. I have the view that she needs to refuse the sacrifice, because otherwise she’ll lose her ‘Good Evil’ Story tag. Heroes fight adversity, not hurt others to go around it. Maybe the sacrifice won’t ruin it, but you have to have a red line somewhere, other wise you end up with the Red Line Fallacy.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Darkening

        Is it really being controlling to other people to simply refuse to closely associate with people that commit human sacrifice for personal gain?


      2. Dylan Tullos

        The Warren Peace NFL Report:

        Cat isn’t upset over what Killian is doing with her own life. She’s upset over what Killian is doing with other people’s lives; specifically, murdering them to give herself a power boost.

        The Gallowborne are criminals, and they’d be the first to admit that they deserve a noose. But It’s one thing to kill a man, or even to sacrifice a human being in a moment of crisis. It’s another to think of people as objects to be traded.

        Cat is a general and a ruler; she’ll sacrifice her people when she needs to. Killian thinks like a slave trader, viewing people as commodities that exist for her convenience and profit. These mindsets are not compatible.


    1. Dainpdf

      She doesn’t want to be just the High Lords, but I think it’s more from a “I wanna be able to live with who I am” perspective than just “I need this story practically so I can achieve my objectives”.


  3. Gunslinger

    Catherine’s getting a power upgrade. Wohoo. Though odds are of good of course that something horrible will go wrong leaving her with another headache. We are still after all on the kick Cat side of the plot curve.

    Also reading Cat’s reading made me flip flip over her anger. At first I did consider that Cat has done plenty of murdering and soul tearing just to make a point. But then the last point about the issue, about Killian not even understanding why it is a bad thing was pretty convincing. At least in the sense that her reasoning makes internal sense.

    On a side note, she had no qualms using that poor summer Duke as portal fuel. Grooves in creation they may be but Fae are still sentient beings.


    1. I don’t really see why the noose or guilliotine or whatever is better than the altar. Is it because sacrificing people create incentives to condemn more people to death and for lesser crimes than usual and therefore warps justice?


      1. Dainpdf

        I think that’s it.
        It stops being “the State removes you because you are a threat”, with punishment foreseen in law, and becomes “the State denies your humanity and deems you a resource because you committed a crime, plus we need some blood for the blood god”.


      2. RandomFan

        Either that, or there’s some religious symbolism. Maybe the church of light believe, or even hint that it condemns the sacrificed to hell, in certain circles, or the folklore says the same. If it has lasting post-mortal consequences… well.


    2. Daemion

      As Cat has said, using the fae in a ritual was a bad thing. She is aware of that. The sticking point between Killian and her is that Killian sees nothing bad or wrong in killing people for a ritual.
      It’s necessary evil vs. institutional murder.

      It’s a matter of morality based on cultural differences. Killian’s morality has been formed as she grew up in an evil empire where there is no great significance given to human lives… while Cat grew up hearing religious and heroic tales in which human lives were always important.

      Honestly, I don’t see how they can bridge these differences. Even if Masego found a way to unlock Killian’s potential without spilling any blood, Cat would still know that Killian is a person who doesn’t mind ritual sacrifice for personal gain.


      1. letouriste

        maybe EE will give us the answer wednesday:)
        i am honestly curious about that too.

        the story can go a lot of ways:
        -killian could die in the next battle(would lead to cat regretting things)
        -cat find a right way to do that(on enemies?)
        -cat or killian get convinced by the other somehow
        -they both agree to find another way
        -they definitively break up but in good term
        -other ways?


      2. KageLupus

        It would almost feel like a cop out at this point, but I really do think that Killian is potentially on a path to gain a Name herself. After Masego transitioned into Hierophant the role of Apprentice should be available again. And here is Killian, working under and with a Named mage to increase her knowledge and power.

        The two main reasons I can see for her not to become the new Apprentice are that it would too neatly sidestep the current moral dilemma her and Cat are in, and that throwing in a new Named would throw off the current five man band. They already have a mage in Hierophant and we have seen what happens when a group has redundant members in it (Bard v Bumbling Conjurer). Killian deserves better than to play second string even after gaining a name. And would be more than rife for a tragic murdering if the story called for it.


      3. Shequi

        There are at least 2 claimants for the Name of Apprentice – Killian is one, but Masego has his assistant Fadila Mbafeno who might try to Claim it, and as far as we’ve seen if there are multiple claimants there’s usually only one survivor…


    3. stevenneiman

      Fae are definitely sapient, but I’m honestly not sure if they’re sentient, with the exception of the Winter King. In any case, they’re still inhuman monsters in a way that death row inmates will never be. Also, it might affect her perspective that her most loyal troops were originally death row inmates, and I’m not sure if that bias is unreasonable.


      1. You might have mixed up sapient and sentient there. :3

        The gallowborne are living proof that there can be redemption in service. Not that value = morality, but I agree her history with them is likely a heavy influence.

        I wonder if Hierophant needs human sacrifice for his uocoming ritual…


  4. Engineer

    Huh, Cat still has qualms about human sacrifice? Murder is murder, whatever your justifications for it and as she said herself: “justifications only matter to the just”. So, follow your own advice Cat.

    Letting those convicts die without utilizing their inevitable deaths for a better purpose seems like a terrible waste of a perfectly good power source. Did she forget the upcoming slugfest with Diabolist?

    I’m fairly certain Black would not approve.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Dainpdf

      Cold blooded murder is different from killing in the battlefield. Killing an enemy because you need to, in a matter of life or death, is different from slaughtering for convenience.
      Even from a utilitarian point of view, Cat is a ruler and as such her actions define what is acceptable justification for actions.


  5. Myth

    The hypocrisy is strong in Cat. Human sacrifice is wrong but forcibly removing the soul from someone for being allied with your enemy isn’t?

    That aside, enjoyable to read yet one of the weaker chapters so far in my opinion. Also I am getting the feeling that Diabolist wont die in this book. That it will end with the defeat of the Queen of Summer and King of Winter.


    1. RandomFan

      Keep in mind, if there’s any spiritual consequences from being sacrificed, they’re probably permanent, while Cat said that the soul removal thing was temporary, followed by a proper killing or return to a living body. Still horrible, but in a different way.

      Still, I’m blaming Church of Light brainwashing that seeped in through the cracks.


    2. Dainpdf

      She needed the soul removal to win that fight, which is a pretty major one. She can argue it was necessary evil in order to defeat Akua, who is okay with unleashing demons on people. Plus, she fixed it later.
      This is just Killian wanting a boost and just not seeing what would be wrong with sacrificing a few people for it.


      1. Petya

        Err, he meant the removal of soul of one of Aqua’s generals, for the sake of revenge in the AFTERMATH of the battle. She just torn out the soul of living human being instead of swiftly killing him for the sake of PETTY REVENGE. But I may got something wrong, because I honestly do not see anything wrong with using death row prisoners for sacrifice. It is akeen for me to donation of your body for science, or for organs to save another human live. Meat is meat, death is death. If it comes anyway, you should use the heck out of it. The corpse is hard to offend, usually. Also, having the literal fae mage on your side might just as well save a few more lives of her legionares, and by extension – civilians. Also also, it can be used as a narrative element to be used against the Court of Summer, if Kellian fae form is any indication, we all but directly told that she is a descendant of Summer. And, would you look at that, a love between a Summer and Winter fae, you can even scramble it to be a pivot to allying both courts, preventing and effectively winning the war, while reaching the wishes of Winter King, and how many lives that could save (and/or endanger) is anyones guess.

        But too be fair, I also tend too see no reason in funerals and general traditions assosiated with death, aside from being a useless waste of resources. Turning bodies into the soilent green or fertilizer, while not spending so many land or money on cemeteries is really usefull, and I can’t find the reason it is not wildly implemented, aside from general stupidity of population. And I also would not see necromancy as anything Evil, if it existed. A large chunk of humanity seem to agree with me on the terms of necromancy though.


        1. Dainpdf

          Donation of bodies to science is generally voluntary on the part of the deceased (prior to dying, of course) or their family. Not decided by those in power.


  6. Bonesawer

    I’m seriously looking forward to the sucker punch that Cat’s power boost needing blood sacrifices is going to bring (I’m guessing but it seems too narratively perfect for EE to pass up). I hope she comes down on the ‘accepting blood sacrifices’ side of the fence. It’s just too morally inconsistent, and more importantly impragmatic (against the heart of the storyline groove she is following after).


    1. Dylan Tullos


      The issue here isn’t whether Cat is willing to do evil things to protect Callow. That’s one of the major themes of the story, and she’s proved many times that she’s willing to cross the line. If that means performing one blood sacrifice, or a hundred, Cat will do what she thinks is necessary.

      Cat’s problem with Killian isn’t that she does bad things; Cat admits that she’s done far worse. The cause of their division is that Cat knows what she’s doing is evil, while Killian sees absolutely nothing wrong with taking a man’s life to give herself more power. Cat and Killian are both pragmatists, but Cat does evil for a good cause, while Killian is willing to do evil for purely selfish reasons, without even acknowledging the harm her actions cause to real people.

      People aren’t objects. Even when she treats people like objects, Cat understands this. Killian doesn’t. Ultimately, no relationship can survive that kind of difference.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I don’t think it’s so simplistic. This isn’t about morals at all, at least not at its core.

        I think it’s more that Cat sees Kil as her connection to being “pure” or “innocent”, and if Kil goes through with the sacrifice ritual, she can’t represent those things to Cat anymore. Really Cat is being disgustingly controlling here, asking Kil to be something she’s not for the sake of Cat’s subconscious dissonance.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Dainpdf

        Perfectly captured the essence of Cat’s argument there. Black’s plan of making sure all of Cat’s inner circle are Praesi tests her again and again, grinding against her morals and worldview.
        Much like when she associates Black with a father figure, she tends to forget who she’s dealing with. Malicia also got plenty of use out of that.


  7. letouriste

    i still don’t see why they could not just take some of akua confidents for the ritual.If they are her enemies that should be okay?…i think^^

    hakram is pretty cool here:D

    “Considering I had it on good authority – Robber, ever up for a bit of gossip if it was at someone else’s expense – that he was still sleeping around on the regular his prudery for this was pretty amusing.”
    that sentense was complicated;) you forgot an ” , ” between “regular” and “his prudery” i think.


    1. stevenneiman

      I think that Hakram’s Role is tied to supporting his CO (Cat) whatever she does, and not in changing her course. Like Eudokia once said about her own place on the team, without Hakram Cat would do the same things just not as well. It makes sense that he gets her to confide in him and put her thoughts into words, since he knew that the repressed emotion was tearing her apart.
      Now that I think of it I wonder if this is one more attempt by Fate to railroad her into a redemption story. Often villains who became Evil for noble reasons (which there’s no argument Cat did) are forced back to the side of good when they feel hostility or betrayal at the discovery that one of their Evil companions did something that even they find morally repugnant. Sending it from her love interest is just twisting the knife, but it would make the feelings stronger and the redemption more likely, if she was the sort to go for this. Doesn’t matter of course, since turning Good wouldn’t accomplish anything and Cat wouldn’t throw away everything she’s worked for over an estranged love even if it would.

      As far as typos go:

      “Every dragon has a domain at [their->the] heart of their body” there’s other ways to correct this, but that’s the simplest
      “The colour of my cloak’s a bit of {a} hint there.”
      “It’s not exactly fucking riddle when I feel like I put a fresh knife in my ribs every time she’s in the room.” I’m not exactly sure what this was supposed to say
      Also, I think that the proper word is “prudishness”, not “prudery”. It’s clear enough, but it reads a bit weirdly.


    2. They can’t use Akua’s goons for the sacrifice ritual because Cat has stupidly gone and entrenched herself in this position, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the original problem anymore. Any compromise that ends with the ritual happening is a loss for Cat now. Her feelings on compromise have been discussed completely I think.

      People do stupid things when their insecurities motivate decision making, and Cat is no exception.


    1. RandomFan

      It’s probably Church of Light Brainwashing, abet done manually. Sacrifice probably is an act of worship to the gods below in their book, while the death penalty is absolutely okay.

      In fact, I don’t know what the consequences of Human Sacrifice are, but somehow I get the impression that it looks, to a Callowan, at least, more like dealing with something else than ripping out the life force and transmuting it. If there’s someone at the other end of that trade, then it’s dealing with the dark gods directly, which is unprecedented for her. Also, it might mean condemning souls and not just lives.


    2. Dylan Tullos


      Dead is dead. If the only way for Cat to stop Akua was to make a hundred sacrifices, she’d do it.

      This isn’t about the sacrifice; it’s about the mindset. For Cat, taking life is something you do when you have to, to protect the people you serve. For Killian, taking life is something you do for the sake of convenience, because it provides a benefit. Cat thinks of human sacrifice as a crime she could commit for the greater good, while Killian thinks of it as an expensive good. Like many Praesi, she rejects the concept of morality outside of “good for me or the people I like” or “bad for me or the people I like”. Cat does evil things, but she hasn’t rejected right and wrong, and she hasn’t reached the point of thinking of people as cattle.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Cayle

        What is need? Those governers she crucified were pretty inconvenient wouldn’t you say?

        She’s tying her concept of necessity to some ideal greater good (for callow) scenario. When she met Black she cut a throat for power. The saved the Lone Swordsman knowing how many would die from it. She’s sacrificed people many times now and she’ll do it again.


      2. Dylan Tullos


        That’s a good question. For Cat, “need” is about what the people of Callow need. For Killian, “need” is about what she personally needs.

        Cat understands that crucifying people or sacrificing them on an altar is small-e evil. Killian does not. People she doesn’t know are objects, stepping stones that she uses on her rise to power. Cat also uses people, but she doesn’t dehumanize them in the same way, doesn’t make them automatically less than her simply because she has power and they don’t.

        Cat’s moral system assumes that life has value, and that it can only be taken for good cause. Killian’s moral system assumes that she has value, and that people she doesn’t know personally exist for her convenience. Cat is a moral pragmatist, seeking the Greater Good for her people, while Killian is essentially denying the humanity and reality of other people for her personal profit. The slave trader metaphor is the best one I can think of to describe how Killian thinks.


    3. Blinks

      Motives matter. Reasoning matters. You start looking at people as nothing more than ways to increase your power that’s an awful step to take.

      Dead is dead simply doesn’t cover it.

      There’s a difference between killing someone for giggles and killing someone for a crime. Especially in a world where good and evil are legitimate and verifiable things.


  8. Kadath

    Cat’s been avoiding Killean because she doesn’t want to be convinced by her point of view. She’s afraid of slipping even further than she already has.


  9. Fanon

    For the sake of my KilliCat ship, I’m perfectly okay with human sacrifice!

    I really hope Cat’s ritual also requires human sacrifice and that’ll force her to allow Killian’s as well.

    It’ll also force Cat to admit how selfish she is, that it’s okay for /her/ to sacrifice lives for the Greater Good, but won’t allow others to do the same.
    That corruption of morals sounds absolutely delicious 😉


    1. OldSchoolVillain

      Cat does indeed sacrifice for the “greater good” (if not the Greater Good). The problem here is, as some people have stated, that Killian isn’t making these sacrifices for a greater good, she’s making them to solidify and increase her personal power, with no stated motive in how she plans to *use* that power. That’s the issue Cat has – opposite of the Orc mindset she noted earlier, she’s looking at the intent behind the action, and Killian’s is evil. Not Evil, the way Cat and Black work, but plain evil in the way that Akua and Lady Tasia (gods below rest her soul) and hells, even Triumphant – may she never return – worked.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Big Brother

    Cat’s heart has been replaced with “The Moon.” Maybe Killian’s can be replaced with the Sun they stole from the Princess.
    With Hierophant performing a ritual in three days time on the New Moon to increase the limit on Cat’s Fae power, he could possibly follow up with a ritual to bind the Sun to Killian at Dawn.
    There could be significance in that. The Dawning of a new Power in the Summer Court coinciding with the actual dawn could lend great weight to Killian in the story, and help Cat break the cycle of Summer and Winter.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. OldSchoolVillain

        More likely they’d end as star crossed lovers. Cat could only bear Princess Sulia’s WINGS for a few moments, how well do you think Cat and Killian would be able to bear each other’s touch with that kind of equal and opposite power?


  11. kinigget

    I see

    So it’s less the practice itself, though she does still find it utterly abhorrent. The bigger problem is the attitude

    Congratulations Catherine, you managed to have the one objection thst doesn’t make you a hypocritical

    And at this point, I think she’d settle for getting Killian to understand her objection

    Liked by 1 person

    1. kinigget

      There’s also the fact that for Killian this actually isn’t about convenience or personal power. It’s about being worthy to stand beside Cat.

      See, compared to the vast majority of mages, she’s well ahead of the curve, but compared to Cat, she’s falling behind. As much as cat might say that it doesnt matter and that she doesn’t need this, she’s still *badly* missing the point. She’s not seeing how important it is to Killian to be able to match the girl she loves

      I do believe there’s an understanding that can be reached here, where Killian acknowledges that this is a wrong, and Cat acknowledges why Killian is willing to do it anyway.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Wasn’t it stated somewhere that human sacrifices messed with the immortal soul of someone? If so, sacrificing someone, no matter how evil, condemns them to an eternity of torture and robs them of the ability to redeem themselves in a next life. Considering Cat’s attachment to her own redeemed death row inmates, her refusal makes even more sense in that case.


    1. RandomFan

      I don’t believe that it’s ever been confirmed, but I’ve been throwing around the idea that at least the myth is there, even if it’s impossible or against the rules.


      1. RandomFan

        I actually don’t believe that’s the case, because that strikes me as horribly unlikely, but it wouldn’t surprise me if both forces of evil and forces of good have claimed it at various times. I mean, for good, it means that the villian must be stopped, and for evil… it’s terrifying, the idea of that. So both sides have propagated misinformation on it for so long that most people have a negative gut reaction to the very idea.


  13. If Killian can’t understand why you feel the way you do then she’s not worth your time. Like, Cat might say “I’M IN LOOOOVE“, but that’s the fact that she’s still pretty much a toddler talking. She’s known Killian for, what, a couple years? Just because you’ve screwed someone doesn’t mean you know them.


  14. pato

    I just recently realized there are some interesting parallels between the history of Calernia and the Crusades in the 11th century. Was this intentional?
    Praes = Islamic empire, Procer = Europe



  15. What I don’t get is that Killian isn’t talking about scooping up some innocent virgins to sacrifice. Remember at the beginning of the story, the two Legion members Cat killed with the knife Black gave her? Even with Black hearing the confession of the legionary who covers for his serial rapist friend by having killed numerous rape victims, and catching the other legionary in the act of attempted rape and conspiracy to commit murder, the penalty was going to be a mere five years imprisonment.

    If serial rape, conspiracy to commit murder, and multiple counts of second degree murder are only worth five years in prison under Praesi law, extrapolate from there what one has to do to actually get condemned to death. Likely mass or extensive serial murder, rape-murders etc etc.

    My point here is that if Cat saw ANY of the men or women condemned under Praesi law to die committing the acts that got them death sentences, she would kill them without even benefit of trial, and without a qualm.

    These monsters forfeited their humanity long before the Praesi incarcerated them prior to their imminent executions. They are absolutely going to die anyways. Why is gaining a positive benefit from killing a monster that will die whether you purchase their last few hours of life or not wrong?

    Cat can talk about how when she kills its to accomplish a greater good all she wants, but what she really means is she reserves the right to murder to further her agenda to herself.

    Beyond this fact, Cat stated herself that if the ritual was necessary to save Killian’s life, she’d go ahead with it herself. Every time Killian draws too deeply on her magic, those wings try to appear, Killian goes into seizures and then collapses, helpless for the next several days. Mage lines are priority targets in battle. ESPECIALLY versus a Praesi enemy like Diabolist, who has an intimate understanding of Legion doctrine. All of Cat’s other mages are also War College graduates, ie Praesi. Does she think any of them are going to risk their lives to haul Killian to safety mid-battle WHEN, not if, one of her collapses occurs when the Fifteenth is being pressed hard?

    Diabolist has already considered killing Killian to hurt Cat. Her taunt in the Hashmallim chapel about having turned Killian into a ghoul says as much. The fact she was lying at that time doesn’t mean she hasn’t given the idea further thought.

    Much like Harry Potter breaking up with Ginny Weasley didn’t make her any safer from Voldemort because one’s nemesis doesn’t read memos regarding the current state of their nemesis’s romantic relationship, just because Cat and Killian are no longer sleeping together doesn’t mean Killian isn’t still marked out by Cat’s enemies as someone to kill in order to hurt Cat.

    If I were Killian, I would find the notion of unnecessarily suffering a malady that leaves me helpless as a newborn babe for days at a time every time I go the extra mile with my magic to serve Cat’s interests utterly intolerable as well. Cat is asking Killian to continue running unnecessary risks with her life for the sake of Cat being morally comfy. It’s bullshit, and demonstrates Cat doesn’t really love Killian, and never loved her. Love makes you put the other first before yourself. If you aren’t willing to do something you find morally detestable to remove a clear and ongoing threat to the life of the one you claim to love, you don’t really love them in my view.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Dylan Tullos

      Shawn Panzegraf:

      First of all, the Praesi “justice” system isn’t likely to be particularly just. Remember the chapter where we got to meet the city guard? The commander was completely corrupt, and her guardsmen were basically henchmen who did whatever their boss told them to do. I don’t think these are the kind of people who fuss about whether accusations are fair or not. So Praesi death row is probably going to be a mix of really horrible criminals and people who annoyed someone powerful and got accused of a really horrible crime.

      But Cat’s problem with Killian isn’t that she’s killing condemned criminals for the Greater Good. As you say, Cat’s done that herself. She would understand if Killian did the sacrifice to strengthen her ability to better serve the Fifteenth and fight Diabolist. Her problem is that Killian sees absolutely nothing wrong with killing people to gain power, that Killian fundamentally views people she doesn’t know as livestock who exist to give her a benefit.

      Cat is willing to hurt and kill people to make the world a better place. Killian turns people into objects who don’t matter, and she uses them for her benefit. Both of them are willing to perform similar actions, but their mindsets are so different that they’re no room for compromise. If circumstances were different, Killian would sacrifice Callowan rebels just as easily as she killed Praesi criminals, and she wouldn’t have the slightest qualm about murdering Cat’s people to gain power.

      Your definition of “love” requires someone to surrender all of their beliefs and principles as soon as it’s convenient for the person they love. If Killian was making her living as a slave trader, would Cat be expected to accept that as well, in the name of “love”?

      Life for people like Cat and Killian isn’t safe. Their job requires them to risk their own lives. Cat risks her life for a higher purpose, to improve the lives of the people she knows and cares about, as well as people that she’s never met. Killian does not care about the lives of people she’s never met, and she doesn’t understand that sacrificing them is evil. Cat will do evil things when she has to, but she understands that they’re still wrong; Killian doesn’t seem to grasp the concepts of small-e evil and small-g good. They’re just not morally compatible.

      Thankfully, Cat isn’t willing to surrender everyone she is and become the worst kind of Praesi just because her girlfriend thinks that would be convenient. She would kill to save Killian’s life, but she won’t smile and pretend that murder isn’t wrong so that she can have a relationship with someone who feels that way.


  16. georgeoswalddannyson

    KIllian always comes across as pretty mature, and level headed, at least way more than Cat about lots of stuff. I’m looking forward to see them have heart to heart and seeing where she really stands on this.


  17. d0m1n1c

    I still don’t understand why she’s okay with Orcs eating people, but not okay with human sacrifice; hell, she even used baby eating as an example for something worse.

    I don’t see a distinction between ordering her orcs to, as a fear tactic, eat the people they were going to kill, and potentially using those same people as fuel for rituals.


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