Chapter 45: Falling Action

“And so Maleficent said: ‘Though you be god I am Empress, crowned of dread, and by my hand comes your doom. Rage in vain, for from your bones will rise a great tower whose shadow will be cast upon all the world.’”
– Extract from the Scroll of Chains, first of the Secret Histories of Praes

The fortress that lay at the heart of Dormer jutted out incongruously, great jaws of granite gaping down at a city that had known only peace for centuries. The seat of power of the barony had been built in tiers, an elegant ring of grey stone making the first. The was power here, and not young. Though no moat had been dug into the hill, the empty circle around the castle would been a shooting gallery to bleed an investing host were the walls manned at all. But there was not a soul in sight, the faint night breeze lazily winding through deserted bastions. No contest of our advance had been made as we approached, only flames in the distance betraying the truth that Summer had yet to surrender. The pace had been irritatingly slow due to Thief’s hobbling, but I had mastered my anger before it could lash out. There were more deserving targets for my wrath than those who had fought and burned for me.

The gate was the sole concession the Barons of Dormer had made to concord, sculpted columns of marble and ivory built over the ancient rough gate and portcullis hidden away by the younger arch displaying the words and heraldry of House Kendall: Honour Lies Immortal, written along the curve of the wreath of ivy. I strode past the pale marble steps, the faces of the ancient rulers of the city staring back at me from the shadowed reliefs. Scenes of glory one and all, from the founding of Dormer to the first oaths sworn to House Alban when Callow was made a single kingdom. There were lies unspoken in this, victories made false by denial of failure. Winter pulsed in my veins, itching to take blade to the unsightliness. I breathed out mist and crushed the impulse. You serve me, I whispered at the cold. Never the other way around. The urges were more insidious than those my Name still caused, my own thoughts painted with a Winter brush.

The portcullis was closed, bands of steel tightly wedged into granite, and perhaps before I would have sought one of the servant entrances. But what did mere steel mean to me now? My gauntleted hands clasped around two bars, and the metal screamed as I ripped open a path. No more difficult than snapping a branch, and Winter murmured in delight at the destruction.

“That’s one way to do it, I suppose,” Archer said.

The first words spoken since we’d left the field where so many of my men lay dead. I did not glance back as I stepped into the courtyard. To the side I could see the smouldering ashes of what had once been stables built around the wall, but I had no interest in sightseeing. In the distance, at the heart of the fortress, I could feel a gate in the making. Not at all like mine, where my will was a knife used to cut through the boundary between Creation and Arcadia. Someone had built a canal on the other side, and was now carefully prying open the lock. The river would pour through unimpeded, when the time came, and sweep away everything that stood in its way. A Queen is a god in the flesh, I thought. No creature so powerful can lightly cross boundaries.

“There is a ward ahead,” Hierophant said, studying a handful of shining runes. “Barring the inner reaches of the fortress.”

“It will break,” I said.

The hall we strode through was old as the walls, the raw stone made to look luxurious by tapestries and and hanging drapes in the green of Kendall heraldry. The Proceran carpets under our boots had already been singed by the fae who’d once held the fortress, the edges of blackened and twisted. Stairs rose ahead into a balustrade, sculpted ivy leaves shaping the railing. We had not succeeding in getting our hands on plans of the fortress, before the battle, but I could feel the gate-to-be like the north of a compass. Further in, where the great hall where the Baroness of Dormer had once held justice and audience before the Tower stripped her of right and title both for her rebellion. How long had this castle stood, I wondered? There might be nothing left of it but rubble, when dawn came. I guided us through the corridors, the power wafting from me eagerly scattering the last wisps of Summer’s presence in little tufts of hissing steam. The air grew cool and crisp wherever we passed, and more than once I felt Hierophant shiver.

We found the ward as we emerged from the corridor that would lead us to the great hall, its copper gates laying wide open behind it. A wall, though one of woven sunlight and shivering golden Summer flame. I could feel it spread beyond my sight, a great cage of power crafted to protect the arrival of the Queen of Summer.

“How long will it take you to open a way, Hierophant?” Adjutant asked.

My sword left its sheath with a quiet hiss before the blind man could reply. I struck out, boots leaving trails of ice behind as my blade rammed against the light. The walls shook around us, but the ward stood strong.

“Knocking at the door might take a while,” Archer noted, sounding amused.

“I can walk through,” Thief rasped. “If Hierophant tells me how to unmake it from the inside-“

Break,” I hissed.

I opened the floodgates in full, let Winter pour through my veins and seep into the most destructive of my aspects. My blood was cold, I only now noticed. It had been for some time. Yet I felt no weaker for it, the frost instead lending a sharp clarity that it had once taken effort to reach. Duchess, I thought. My will found easier purchase when bending Creation to its will. Shade and ice flared along the edge of my sword as it struck the ward and for a heartbeat it felt like I was trading blows with the Duke of Green Orchards again. Then the ward broke, as I’d ordered it to. Stone around us shattered as well, the walls anchoring the sorcery torn through as the ward desperately scrabbled to remain coherent. There was a sliver of life in it, a will to guide it. Had they sacrificed a fae to forge this? No matter. Ice smothered that wisp of thought, blanketing the corridor. I resumed marching through the ruins surrounding us, the wide doors of copper held up only by a thin arc of granite as I passed through them. Adjutant caught up to me first, leaning close.

“Catherine,” he murmured, though we both knew the others would be able to hear anyway. “Calm yourself, before you begin making mistakes.”

“I am calm,” I replied, and I was. “What I am is out of patience. If it gets in my way, it dies. We’re past half-measures, Adjutant.”

The orc looked as if he wanted to argue, but I was disinclined to allow it. The great hall lay spread out before us, a shabby thing compared to those I had walked in the Tower. Long tables on both sides flanked a supplicant’s path leading to stone platform set against the back wall and the tall glass windows over it, the dying moon cloaking the simple bench of whitewood on it in a halo of light. There, I thought. The crossing would take place there. Let it not be said the Queen of Summer would ever settle for less than a throne, in any world she strode. Hierophant came to stand by my side as the others milled around the hall.

“Still the better part of an hour before dawn, by my calculations,” the mage said.

“There’s no need to wait that long,” I said. “Implement the contingency.”

Eyes of glass shifted to me under black cloth, a brow rising.

“You know my study of the sun is incomplete,” Hierophant said. “Should I be forced to loose the arrow the Due would be comparable to that of the very event that named the concept. There will be no city left, no armies, and it is unlikely anything will grow of these grounds before Creation is unmade.”

“One does not call a god to heel without risking calamity,” I said.

He paused.

“I want to work a pathing spell on your mind,” he said. “This is reckless even by your standards.”

“Winter has nothing to do with this,” I said. “But if it will make you feel better, by all means.”

His touch against my forehead was surprisingly warm, as was the sorcery that seeped into my mind. I could feel it curling like smoke along my thoughts, until finally he withdrew.

“It is influencing you,” he said.

“But,” I said.

“No more than the mantle of your Name,” he admitted. “Your mind is still your own.”

I heard Archer let out a baited breath, behind me. Hierophant no longer quibbled after that. It was a wonder, watching him work. I’d seen him weave sorcery before, even High Arcana, but this went a step beyond. Eyes closed, heartbeat almost still, the blind man crafted me a miracle. It was not runes that he threaded together but echoes of things he had seen, flickers of great feats he had witnessed. I saw his father’s silhouette standing before a tower that built itself turning into the Princess of High Noon with her hands raised, a pyramid of blood-streaked mud lying at the heart of a maze melding with a glimpse of a city rising into the sky. Pillars of translucent, shimmering power struck the ground in a perfect circle around him and I felt their reach rise through the ceiling into the night sky above. Eventually, he opened his eyes.

“Thief,” he said. “Release the sun.”

The burns on the heroine’s face had peeled off, replaced by red and tender skin through healing magic, and so I read the hesitation on her face plainly.

“There is no need to be afraid,” I said.

No, not us. Not today. She nodded slowly, and fingers found the pouch at her side.

“Here it goes,” she said, and opened it.

The glare was blinding, for a heartbeat. Hierophant’s unearthly ward caught it whole, drawing it to the pillars as even the coldness coming from my frame was swept away by the raging heat. And then it dimmed, as suddenly as it had come. The mage grunted in effort. It hurt my eyes to look at it, but I did not look away: I might never see such a sight again. The ceiling above us was not torn through so much as it evaporated, the fortress around us melting like butter in the heat. The sun of Summer rose into the sky, chasing night away, and with it came dawn. I turned my eyes to the dais as the lock gave and the Queen of Summer came, granted entry by our will. There was no gate. Between two moments, absence was filled a young girl. Golden curls streaming down her white robe, she still looked half a child and every inch a farmer’s daughter. There was nothing unearthly about her tan and her dimples, or those brown eyes that could have belonged to any mortal. The left side of her body was touched with red, bandages peeking through the collar of her robe. Ranger had wounded her, at least.

“Oh, children,” she sadly said. “You know not what you do.”

It would have thought her mortal, if not for the hint of pressure behind her. Like she was the seal on a boundless ocean that could sweep over Creation at any time. Winter coiled inside me, frozen furious hatred that wanted to rip her small frame apart no matter the cost to me or anyone else. I ignored it.

“You have been summoned,” I said, “to discuss terms of surrender.”

“Come to me, my armies,” the Queen said.

I did not need to look to know every fae in Dormer had taken to the sky, the words touching their minds. The city emptied in moments as wings flared and the tide of soldiers flowed towards us. Hierophant staggered as if hit in the guts, blood whetting his lips. The Princess of High Noon, I thought, had just been freed from her prison. Over the molten ruins of the fortress surrounding us ranks upon ranks of soldiers and pennants stood perched in silence, more arriving every heartbeat, and only then did the Queen turn her eyes to me.

“So many dead,” she mourned. “You have earned him victory with your blood, Duchess. Yet Summer does not surrender. You know this. You have seen it with your own eyes.”

“You have three duties,” I said.

“She’s trying for the sun,” Hierophant said, tone alarmed.

“Destroy it, Masego,” I said.

It was with vicious satisfaction that I saw surprise twist the Queen’s face.

“A desperate lie,” she said, but I felt her power still. “You would destroy us all. Break this land beyond mending.”

It wasn’t fear I saw in those eyes, not exactly. I wasn’t sure she really could be afraid. But there was uncertainty. Hesitation. Three words, and I had stayed the hand of a god. My lips twitched, and strange joy bubble up in my chest. I laughed, loudly, and allowed a hard grin to split my face.

“If I can’t win, you misbegotten thing, then we will all lose,” I hissed. “Look into my eyes. Tell me again I’m lying.”

I would have rocked back, had I not gone through the crucible of standing judgement before the Hashmallim. An entity infinitely greater than I enveloped everything that I was, will beyond comprehension taking sight of everything that I was and had been. The Beast coiled at my side and whispered back. Whether they be gods or kings or all the armies in Creation. The Queen of Summer flinched.

“Madness,” she said, appalled.

“I am a villain,” I laughed. “I stand before you the pupil of a madman, heiress to a thousand years of darkness and terror. Test me again and I will make this a wasteland to have even the Gods shudder.”

“Summer does not retreat,” the Queen said, and it rang like a thunderclap.

“Summer has lost,” I replied unblinkingly. “As we speak the Prince of Nightfall breaches the walls of Aine, the city you are sworn to protect. Around you stands the butchered remnants of your host, awaiting doom at Winter’s hand. And in my palm lies your Sun, three words away from destruction. The Laurel Crown has three duties, and in those three duties you have failed.”

There was a moment of silence, before the Queen sighed.

“And so comes the dying of the light,” she murmured. “The wheel spins, Catherine Foundling. To end is to begin. We will not go with a whimper.”

My heart would have thundered, if I still had one.

“Or,” I said. “I could give you exactly what you want. Aine safeguarded. Winter unmade. The Sun returned to your sky.”

“You promise beyond your ability,” she said.

“All I require from you is a word, and you will get your wish,” I smiled. “And I ask a boon granted, for what I deliver to you.”

She studied me again, tasted the truth of my words.

“This,” she said, “has never happened before.”

“And never will again,” I said.

“I will hear the terms of the bargain offered,” the Queen of Summer said.

It was no coincidence it happened the moment she spoke the words. The grooves carved into Creation would have ensured as much, smoothly turning truth to story. Coincidence that was anything but. At my side power coalesced, stealing the efforts of Summer to allow its ruler to cross as a path of its own. A circle left open closed, as with a sharp smile the King of Winter came into Creation to face his created opposite. Sleek and dark-skinned and crowned in dead wood seeping red, the fae breathed in the air of Creation with relish.

“Oh, what a beautiful morning,” he said.

“Treachery,” the Queen of Summer said, words ringing of steel and the death of men.

“Ever a favoured diversion,” the King agreed. “Though I come for something… stranger.”

He turned his eyes on me, the gaze of a teacher pleasantly surprised by a pupil. I itched to carve them out of his skull, and not using something sharp.

“With your permission, Duchess?” he said.

“According to the terms offered by Her Dread Majesty,” I replied.

“You will have your boon, greedy one,” he said. “Ah, but what a daughter of Winter you make. Is she not delightful, Ista?”

I grit my teeth to get through the pain of hearing the name of the Summer Queen spoken, feeling Masego go rigid as a board as he did the same. Coat of black sweeping behind him, the man walked to his enemy and with a flourish he knelt.

“Ista of the Morning Star,” he said. “Bearer of the Laurel Crown, Queen of Summer Triumphant. I ask your hand in marriage, to rule Arcadia an equal by my side.”

He extended his own smoothly. One word, I’d told the Queen. She could still have it all, if she only said yes. The armies of Winter would end the assault of Aine, I would return the Sun and Winter would be undone. I watched the kneeling fae with cold, cold smile. I’d made an oath, once that I would unmake him. And I just had, with him having to thank me for it. There will be no more Winter, I thought. Only a single court ruling Arcadia, neither and both. The Empress had been right. The pivot was always going to be the Winter King, because he was the only entity that would see my preferred outcome as a victory. It had all hinged on him agreeing, because he was the oddity and he could make decisions that led outside the stories he despised. Summer would have to be forced, I’d known from the start, and I’d done exactly that. The Queen would agree, because she could not do otherwise. She was bound to seek to discharge her duties, and I’d put her in a corner with acceptance as the only way out. To refuse here would mean actively going against what she was, and she could not physically do that. Black had told me once that I’d kill Akua, one of these days, not because of my own power but because her nature would force her to make mistakes I would not. I wondered if he would proud, that I had used his lesson to destroy two gods without lifting a finger against either of them.

“I accept your offer,” the Summer Queen said, taking his hand, and I could see the horror on her face.

She was fighting it, trying to take back the words. But she couldn’t, just like the Rider of the Host I’d once forced to monologue by playing the hero. The change that followed the words was hard to describe. It wasn’t something I saw or felt. Neither of them metamorphosed into something different. But it was no longer two separate entities that were before me. I’d heard a riddle once, in Laure. When is a stone not as stone – when it is a wall. Nothing changed, yet it was not the same. The king rose to his feet, and pressed a tender kiss on the cheek of the livid queen.

“And so the war comes to a close,” the King of Arcadia said. “A realm cannot be at war with itself.”

A shiver went through the host of fae around us, as is something had been torn out of them.

“The matter of boons remains,” the Queen of Arcadia said, and the eyes she turned on me were burning. “Promises must be kept.”

I stood before two gods and did not kneel. I would not, in this moment, pretend this was anything but my win. That I’d bled thousands on the field, caused the death of men dear to me for anything less but utter victory.

“Upon the granting, you will have discharged your duty to me,” the King said. “And so will have earned the return of your heart. What do you request of us, Duchess of Moonless Nights?”

“Of you, I request release from vassalage forevermore,” I told the fae.

“I am most saddened to grant this,” the dark-skinned king said.

He did not seem surprised. I turned my eyes to the queen. I would have to tread carefully, here. If I fumbled the phrasing, she’d do her best to fuck me over. The temptations lay in the back of my mind, beckoning sweetly. To go back on my deal with the Empress and request that the whole of Arcadia come together to kill Diabolist. But she’s not wrong. They’ll wreck the entire central plains to do it, and we’d be risking some fae influence remaining. And there was another, young but no less demanding for it. I could ask them to heal Nauk. It would be a trifle, to them. But there might be other means to save my legate. And I would never get this chance again. A heroine, I thought, would have made the right choice. The only justifiable one. But I was not a heroine, and justifications only mattered to the just.

I spoke, and betrayed a man I called my friend.

“Of you I ask permanent right of passage through Arcadia for me and all I command, uncontested and unhindered,” I said, voice hollow.

“I grant you this,” the Queen replied curtly.

“And so peace is upon us,” the King said. “Steel yourself, Catherine Foundling.”

I felt the hand tear through my chest before I could even open my lips, and the world went dark.

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101 thoughts on “Chapter 45: Falling Action

  1. Quick reminder that I have not (and will not) authorize any ebook or PDF version of the Guide, since having one of those floating around the web would effectively kill any chance of publication. So if whoever requested an ebook be made of it on “Mobilism” could take that down, it would be much appreciated.

    Liked by 17 people

    1. Kartho

      I think this is something that people really do need to acknowledge in this day and age. Is it legal, no, not in most countries. Do people do it, yes, unfortunately they do. I think that the best one can do is to be vigilant, and make sure that people are aware. The entirety of the audience of your work is accessing this online, for free, in a pace that astounds me still. I believe, and desperately hope that they realize how damaging these “bootleg” copies can be, and that all of us agree that it is amazing and incredibly kind of you to allow us to not only see the working chapters, but be able to interact with you at all.

      For all of the other readers out there;
      Please resist the urge to harm others for a minor convenience. Respect the wishes of the author, and don’t create any kind of complete collection of the story we are lucky to be provided with.

      Like

    2. Omoizele Oz Okoawo

      As an author on royalroadl.com writing a story that I intend to put publish on kindle unlimited when it’s finished, I’m curious: any particular reason you haven’t published this independently yet?

      Like

    1. For real, though, I very much disagree with the idea that Cat betrayed Nauk here. Nauk did exactly what Nauk was going to do, fight the wars of the Warlord until his death in battle. I hope Juniper talks some sense into her about this, but she’ll always feel some sting from his death. And for the better, she will now always weigh her actions actions the lives they’ll take.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. RandomFan

        I disagree too, but Catherine has always set the bar for heroism higher than she should, and then been disappointed in herself for not approaching it. If she’d been a hero, she’d never be as gritty as William, but she’d always think she was as bad as William- assuming she lasted.

        As a villian- she notices these failings more, and then shrugs them off again.

        Like

      2. thespaceinvader

        Let’s not forget, Nauk ain’t dead yet, and Catherine still has access to a powerful Fae sorceress… if she’s willing to pay the cost.

        Like

      3. SQuid

        Do we even know that she’s specifically referring to Nauk? I wouldn’t at all be surprised if it turns out she meant someone else, because that’s just the kind of slippery twisty story we’re reading.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Kingbob12

    Motherfuck. Damn good thing they didn’t actually have to fight, or else the story would have ended here. You can trick a god, but not even Cat can kill a god outright. Not yet.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. stevenneiman

      I’d been figuring that it was something to permanently disrupt the balance of power in favor of Winter, but that’s just been turned sideways anyway so I don’t think balance really matters anymore.
      What I’m wondering now is what this will do to the power of Summer and Winter, given that on one hand a united power should be more dangerous to outside forces than a divided one fighting its other half, but on the other hand both sides defined themselves by the conflict so they might be greatly reduced without it.

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    2. oldschoolvillain

      Nothing said he has to be alive when she sets the crown’s at his feet. And she’s already defeated a Princess of Summer – breaking him will be a lovely little cool down from the rest of the war, especially since the fae may not be reborn any longer.

      Like

  3. nick012000

    So, the Elves flee Creation by phasing their Kingdom into Arcadia, right? Wouldn’t this boon granted to her mean that their greatest defense would become a liability instead, if Catherine were to ever decide to invade their kingdom?

    Liked by 2 people

      1. stevenneiman

        Yeah, it sounds like every elf is on the level of at least a minor hero and that some combine a hero’s advantage of Fate with something dangerously close to the raw power of a villain.

        Like

      2. jonnnney

        The Watch has a very old grudge with the elves. Once their godling is saved from Diabolist Catherine will have a powerful host with the backing of a thousand year old story that could never before come to fruition. She might also have allies in the north, the golden bloom isn’t the only kingdom of elves on the continent.

        The elves aren’t a pressing concern though. Catherine’s next war will likely be with Procer. Either defending against a Crusade or allied with the new united nation of the free cities to the south.

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      3. nick012000

        >Yeah, it sounds like every elf is on the level of at least a minor hero

        So were the Fae, though, and look at what the Fifteenth just did to them.

        Like

      4. James, Mostly Harmless

        Considering how fast Kat is progressing in her power, I frequently wonder if she is Triumphant reincarnated …

        Like

      1. Gunslinger

        But then we’d never get to explore the mystery of her Fall aspect. All those hints of it being “more” would be wasted.

        Like

      2. stevenneiman

        I think that it overwrote one of her three Aspects, which will likely reassert itself once Fall is out of the way. If not, it might have just greatly empowered an Aspect she would have had anyway, in which case she would still have it but we’d have to wait and see if it’s still worth having. If she does gain a new Aspect, I wonder if it’s going to be Seek or something new we’ve never heard of.
        @Gunslinger, what hints? We got a clear explanation of exactly how the power worked. A directly offensive Domain is unusual, but not too remarkable considering the unusual influence on her Name, and there was no indication that it was any more special than that.

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      3. Gunslinger

        @stevenneiman Masego had made the observation that Cat’s domain was quite different from a regular domain. I think the term more came right after the capture of Sulia when the Prince of Nightfall brought up its resemblance to his domain

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    1. Gunslinger

      I suspect she’ll still have winter related powers. That’s not an effect that would simply vanish, at the very least influence her next aspect.

      Like

    2. sheer_falacy

      It would be kind of hilarious if she asked for the boon of free travel through Arcadia and then lost the ability to open gates into Arcadia.

      Also kind of curious how this is going to affect Fall and Spring. If it doesn’t, then she’ll only have free travel when suminter is in charge. Though maybe if the war between summer and winter is never won (because there is no more war) there will be no season change?

      Like

      1. jonnnney

        It is entirely possible that there will no longer be a fall and spring. The story of Arcadia has been fundamentally changed:

        “This,” she said, “has never happened before.”

        “And never will again,” I said.

        Like

  4. Man, Ranger is going to be really pissed when there isn’t an Wild Hunt to actually hunt anymore…

    I wonder what Black will do when he hears Catherine bent two gods to her will. Will he throw a party? Will he just not shut up about it? Will he get kind off nervous about her rapid development?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. stevenneiman

      Nah, now she’ll be able to antagonize the Happy Couple. Trying to get rid of her together, they might actually be even more of a challenge than anything that was there before. On the other hand, if the Seasons are locked she might be annoyed that she’ll never have an excuse to go take the Prince of Nightfall’s eye again.

      Like

      1. RandomFan

        I’d expect the turnover from Wild Hunt to “United Court” would still cause the swaps. At least, I’d imagine those don’t happen in synch.

        Like

      1. James, Mostly Harmless

        Winter and Summer no longer contest for rule of Arcadia, but that does not mean that they do not wax or wane or alternate in power. Now the transition between them is no longer overtly violent, although it may be covertly violent …

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I heard Archer let out a baited breath, behind me. Hierophant no longer quibbled after that.

    Bated breath

    I wondered if he would proud, that I had used his lesson to destroy two gods without lifting a finger against either of them.

    would be

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  6. Komploding

    I wonder if this means Malicia will no longer be able to COMMAND Catherine’s legion (against their will using her name) as Cat has been freed from vasselage, yes to the Fae court but to be freed by the King of the new court should have further reaching implications than what appears at a first glance.

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    1. stevenneiman

      The wording might screw with the controls that Malicia used her Name to put in the legion if those ever would have come into play. Beyond that though, the Courts, including the new Sinter Court, don’t really have the authority to mess with the command structure of the Praesi military.

      Like

  7. Things to remember
    “”
    “He doesn’t have a plan, I think,” I said. “Or his plan was just to drag Callow into this mess and he doesn’t really need to control what comes after that. He wants out, Malicia. I don’t think how he gets out actually matters all that much. And that he thinks that way at all is scaring the other fae. I don’t think he’s supposed to.”

    “That,” the Empress said quietly, “is worrying. Wekesa once told me that Arcadia is akin to a first draft of Creation, and mirrors it still. If Winter is meant to he be the reflection of villainy, and yet bound to it, there are… implications.”
    “”

    This isn’t an act without consequence. Even if Catherine dies tomorrow, it still is not without consequence. Arcadia and Creation are not completely separate, they mirror. So what’s mirrored here, with this marriage?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Bonesawer

      It seems evident that there can be an even closer mirror than the ‘mirror feature’ requires (and likely closer than we’ll actually receive). Cat beats the forces of Good in such a got-them-by-the-balls way that they are forced by their very nature (desire to not have a facet of Good permanently destroyed leading to the everlasting victory of Evil or some such [sidenote: my greatest suspicion is something to do with the Due or otherwise Keter-related]) to accept a deal from Evil that combines them, forming one unified power. “A realm cannot be at war with itself”.

      Like

    2. TideofKhatanga

      Yes, this is a permanent alliance of Good and Evil. An early prototype of the Dread Empire that Catherine has been trying to build. And a permanent tear in the tissue of the story of Creation, like spitting in the faces of the Gods and them losing an eye for it.

      Like

    3. Gunslinger

      In retrospect the mirroring shines pretty clearly doesn’t it. Black’s whole plan to kill Callowan heroes permanently is to make them accept Preasi rule. A realm cannot be at war with itself.

      Like

  8. Engineer

    Hahaha, bent both gods over a barrel.

    The First Prince will be shitting herself. Now CAT has free fast travel to any place in Creation and by extension the entire Legions of Terror iff Dread Empress Malcia gives her command of her entire legions. Remember, the deal was for her and all she COMMANDS. Summer won’t pass up the opportunity to harass any AFFILIATED forces and the Queen has already proven with her Sky Fire Jutsu that she can incinerate an ENTIRE legion on a whim.

    So if Malicia wants to take advantage of the free shortcut without suffering any unnecessary losses, she would have to give Cat command of the entire legions of terror, albeit temporarily while they are crossing Arcadia.

    Another commentor said that with Cat losing her vassalage she wouldn’t be able to open portals. This is not a problem since she has Hierophant there and I’m willing to bet an aspect he already figured out how to open portals and he has a full name now.

    Her Name’s abilities has already been changed by Winter’s influence and she already underwent Masego’s ritual. Winter and her name both are likened to voracious beasts. I really am willing to bet her powers will still be dark/cold based from here on out. PLUS, she still has a transitory name. She must still grow into a full one. I don’t think it is black knight, however.

    I believe the name will be DEATH KNIGHT.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Nairne .01

      That trick with necromancy she did sure suggests that she will not be a regular Black Knight. I wonder though will she become a Black Knight with just some extra power, or will she become Black Knight then transition again (something that might not have happened before – erraticerrata could you comment on this hypothesis?) or will she skip the Black Knight role wholly.

      Like

      1. stevenneiman

        Black stated that his shadow play is unusually weak as non-Aspect supernatural powers go for a Black Knight. It would be entirely believable for Cat to get even more powerful necromancy in support of her other powers when she attains a full Name, whether that Name be Black Knight or not.
        I suspect that she will develop into a different Name than Black Knight, since Masego has already proven that subordinate transitional Names don’t have to develop into the standard full Name, but I’m not going to speculate as to what kind of Name she’s going to take. All I know is that EE has confirmed that Grey Knight is specifically not on the table.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Keyen

        I’m more and more betting on the Lich Queen ending, therefore, her new name could be the Dead Queen (or the Queen of Deads?). With another happy marriage with the Dead King, governing a continent/world of deads and screw the gods 🙂

        Like

      1. jonnnney

        The green fire that I use burns at a higher temperature but puts out less heat than traditional fire spinning fuel, so its cold for a given value of the term.

        Like

    1. oldschoolvillain

      Oh the Bard is probably going to shit itself when it learns what happened while she was playing with Black. I’d say ‘her’ but I’m not sure something as old as the Bard needs an identifier.

      Like

    2. Unmaker

      A good point. How does a creature who is built of and uses stories react when something happens that has never happened before? Is this the start of a glorious new story, or is a fracture in the structure of Roles and Names themselves?

      Like

  9. letouriste

    hum…so nauk will die or maybe be saved by killian? or warlock if he can survive until then.
    nauk kabili is probably finished and cat lost her bodyguards(farrier was a nice guy)
    i liked a lot the little tidbits you gave on the nauk followers so i hope some are still there!

    Like

  10. Saktiwijayarahman

    Balance has come. If this is the time of her ascendancy, and if she is neither Black nor White Knight, then she will become the force that exist in between them.

    Grey Knight!

    Like

      1. Engineer

        It’s Death Knight.

        Look at her powers:
        Cold/frost: “The Cold of the Grave.”
        Darkness: “Death is usually likened to endless Darkness”
        Necromancy: Control over dead things.

        Now let’s consider her aspects.
        A living being FALLS and dies. Its body decomposes i.e BREAKS. The last aspect which would compete the trio is annihilate (scattered to the winds or ceases to exist).

        Furthermore, a cultural pressure is required for a Name to come into being. Praes has a history seeped in violence and the culture within the 15th are also heavily biased toward killing as evidenced by their motto (KILL THEM and take their stuff) and Cat herself has personally killed a whole range of entities that she really had no business killing as just a Squire. So the pressures for the Name is present (If it is sufficient is up in the air)

        I think the one of the reasons she hasn’t transitioned yet is her own reluctance to embrace the villainous monster she is and will be.

        Like

  11. kinigget

    Holy fucking shit

    Catherine certainly doesn’t do anything by half. Not with how she fundamentally altered the very nature of Arcadia and all the Fae therein

    This changes *literally everything*

    Liked by 1 person

      1. James, Mostly Harmless

        Euodiachloris brought up a good point: Kat just fundamentally altered Creation. That had to have been felt by everyone with even a bit of power, and possibly ordinary people too. I hope that we get to see Bard’s and Akua’s reaction!

        Like

  12. Nothing says the former Winter King tearing into Cat’s chest means she lost her Fae mojo. It might simply be required to sever the mystical ties to the King. She did get that magical chunk of pseudo-heart ice during her title investment ceremony.

    The Sinter King is happy with Cat. I doubt he’s inclined to screw her up too much at the moment. Plus, leaving her Fae mojo alone will undoubtedly continue creating thin spots in the Veil. Those, as we’ve seen, are quite useful to the Fae. An entity thinking in long-range terms would leave Cat’s power alone, and let her continue building magic subway tunnels for him all over Calernia.

    Like

  13. Soronel Haetir

    Am I the only one who sees the Queen being injured but apparently whole as being bad news for Ranger? I think her (the Queen( appearance lends credence to the theory that Ranger’s time was up.

    Like

  14. edrey

    well, if the king really want a permanent change in arcadia, he would need to create something new no only a story that is likely no happening again, i should be something that link winter and summer, most likely a princess of both of them ( i really don’t like the picture of the summer queen with a baby), so i was thinking cat taking the rule of both of them and sending the prince of nightfall to his dead in the battle with akua, so there with have the prince graveyard battle, how she do it, i have no idea but i would be awesome, my point about all this its the king shouldn’t have forgoten about the change of season and he would start with the same story again and again. so the most likely is he doing that

    Like

    1. James, Mostly Harmless

      I have long thought that Black and Malicia were grooming Kat to replace Malicia as Empress. They may even hope that it will be the first peaceful, or at least planned, transition!

      Like

  15. Dainpdf

    I thought she’d have asked for something else. Greater fae authority – it should be possible to merge in Summer power now. When I thought about it, though, I realized it would have been foolish. More fae influence can’t be a good thing.
    I do wonder, though, how anything she builds will last when her armies will depend on her for mobility.
    Also, what about the promise to the prince of Nightfall? Bet that’s going to come back and bite her.

    Like

    1. I think it’s dependent on whether or not she keeps her fae mojo. If she keeps it, she won’t transition until late in the story; she already has a full names worth of power, and more then many. The Duchess of Moonless Night doesn’t NEED more name power, actively. It would force her role in stories in ways that are disadvantageous. So we would keep seeing Squire for quite sometime.

      If she loses it, she’ll also lose Fall, and which means she has one more surprise save as Squire, discovering her last aspect, and thematically she has to have that moment before she transitions. Then she runs into the limits of Squire, and she’s playing games against full names. So she would transition shortly after that.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Surprised no one has asked one very important question?
    What does an Arcadia united do?
    It doesn’t seem like the Fae will just be content to stay in Arcadia now. Especially the Prince of Nightfall, i’m hoping we see more of him as Cat is still in his debt.

    If I had to guess I’d say his ritual with the crowns would allow him to enter creation in the full of his power whenever he so chooses.

    Like

  17. Unmaker

    erraticerrata, I would really like to see you write a mystery story. You keep managing to come up with twist endings that, in retrospect, were actually foreshadowed. That ability is great for any genre, but it is absolutely essential for a good mystery story.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. draxsiss

    I think it would be cool if tf the fey powers transitions on squire not HER but her name. IE every new squire is going to get the winter powerfey stick…. she transitions she loses it. The first time in histroy a name transition resulted in a power downgrade.

    Like

    1. draxsiss

      You know after having thought about it….. This may end the cycle of war… if the weather patterns become permanent their will be no more abundance of food (with massive winter/summer cycles) no more extended crops at spring or fall, This will impact the world at large meaning that the places might over time no longer war the same since they don’t have the food/wealth to do so. Remember that who ardiculture/farming stuff Cat learned with black back in the first book?

      Like

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