Chapter 50: Preparation

“Doubt is the mother of failure.”
– Dread Emperor Terribilis I, the Lawgiver

In the end, it took me three days to get eyes on Liesse. Marshal Grem One-Eye had sent out mages as soon as the city was glimpsed over the horizon, and my own mage lines kept coordinated with his own until we had four scrying links covering the major angles of the Diabolist’s lair. What I saw did not bode well. The city had gone up with its walls largely intact and significant portions of the grounds under it and lost neither as it went down. The surrounding territory had been worked over with magic so that Liesse now stood atop a steep hill. Thousands were digging trenches and traps in the plains around it, working day and night without pause because they needed none. They were Callowans, but they were also dead. Without fanfare or a cackle, without a sound at all, Akua Sahelian had killed more of my people in a night than Black had throughout the entire Conquest. Men, women and children. The young and the old – Still Water drew no difference, and neither had she.

I’d been a viciously dark mood since I’d gotten proof of it, and the mood had only gone darker when I’d seen what she was up to. Devil-summoning arrays had been carved on the walls, large siege weapons like those of the Legions placed onto bastions and additional wards were made every hour to fortify the city against magical interference. Hierophant had already confirmed I couldn’t open a portal directly within the walls, not that I’d ever seriously thought there was a chance of it. The Summer fae would not have dithered attacking her for months if they’d had that as an available option, and I was still much less skilled than they at using fairy gates. I disliked wasting time in Dormer, but Juniper had flatly informed me that after a brutal battle like the last one the men needed time to recoup and recuperate.

It wasn’t just a matter of dealing with the wounded, though there’d been a great many of those. Our supplies had been running thin, and it was only Ratface’s promised river barges coming through the city harbour filled with steel and goblin munitions that had the Legions in proper fighting fit again. Aisha had been a little less blunt in reminding me I’d had our troops going through forced marches and battles one after another for months, but no less firm. Even if it gave Akua time to dig in, the truth was that the Fifteenth simply hadn’t been in a state to take the fight to her right away. As I saw to my house, Ranker and Kegan saw to theirs. The duchess kept to herself, but I saw almost too much of the old goblin for my tastes. It was her that suggested we had siege weapons of our own prepared in Laure and Southpool rather than rely on only our own, and when she began approaching the problem that way the Hellhound followed with aplomb.

For one, there were three legions in Holden under her mother that were sitting ducks unless I intervened. General Istrid had been sent there at my own order to prevent the Summer court from making a beachhead other than Dormer, and discharged that duty perfectly. But her twelve thousand men were now months away from the actual fighting, with a supply line that was chancy at best. Even if she began marching north immediately, she wouldn’t be able to reach Liesse before the battle was weeks past. Could I afford to allow twelve thousand veteran legionaries to sit over a strategically useless position while I fought Akua? No, I could not. Not if the assault on the city was going to be as brutal as I suspected.

The only question then, was where I would transport them. The gates allowed me to significantly quicken the logistics of assembling a host that was spread throughout Callow, but they weren’t a perfect solution. For one, I needed to be with the moving armies. And much more importantly, I couldn’t actually use Arcadia as a staging ground. Whether the terms of my bargain with the fae court would protect my soldiers when they weren’t actually travelling was irrelevant, since that wasn’t how gates worked from my end: whenever I made an entrance, there was a corresponding exit. I couldn’t actually get out of Arcadia by another place, as far as I knew, and our previous alternative of having Hierophant use fae nobles as portal-openers was no longer an option. Our prisoners had all been rather forcefully released by the Summer Queen when she still bore that name. And, last of all the weaknesses, going through Arcadia still took time. It as a shortcut, not fucking teleportation, which as probably for the best. Even with the mantle of a Duchess on my shoulders I was pretty sure attempting teleportation of any kind would flat-out kill me.

And so, sitting with Marshal Ranker and General Juniper, we planned out our little shell game. Akua had eyes on us, we on her. The side that would have the advantage when the battle began was the one who’d hide the knives better. Callow had already been put under martial law long before I went south, and as things stood I was both vicequeen and highest-ranked Named remaining of the region. I was also wielding my authority with the explicit backing of Her Dread Majesty – there was not a single in person in my home who had solid ground to stand on in refusing an order of mine. Would that I could enjoy that power even a little: I had wanted nothing more than to have it since the age of thirteen, when I’d made the decision to start saving up for the War College. I couldn’t, not when the first order I gave was for immediate muster of the city guard in Southpool, Ankou and Vale. There was immediate pushback, argument from the Callowan governors I’d overseen the very appointment of that none of those men were trained soldiers.

I ordered for them to come anyway. Southpool was on the weak end of the scale, with only five thousand, but Ankou’s city guard traditionally served as militia when Procer attacked the Vales and even though the city was smaller it boasted eight thousand and better equipped. Vale was the largest of the three, and though it put up only six thousand men I sent Grandmaster Talbot to squeeze blood out of that rock. Vale had always been the heart of central Callow, and though no great trade city as an agricultural one there were few equals to it on Calernia. There was wealth there, and though second-rate compared to the real wealthy cities of Callow it had historically been enough to support a great many soldiers and knights – some of the earliest chivalric orders had been founded there, they said. I left Talbot work his patriotic sorcery on the powerful of the city and another three thousand came out of that, including about a hundred knights. Gods, it was like those had been hiding under every rock. It was pleasing, in a way, that the governors were willing to fight for the people under their care when I would order those people to the grinder.

A shame I was not in a position to entertain their worries.

The place of muster for the city guards was set a little to the east of halfway between Southpool and Vale, which meant the Ankouans would have to pass south of Diabolist’s lair and lose at least a week to it. Wouldn’t matter, since I’d be busy ferrying Legions meanwhile. My options there had been more limited than I would have liked. The legions under Marshal Grem, for one, weren’t going anywhere. I’d approached the subject of peeling off at least one, but the reports I’d been given in return were… stark. There’d been increasing skirmishes with the border principalities over the last months and Procer was massing soldiers in Bayeux. The Marshal’s assessment was that if there was any large troop movement on the Empire’s side, the Principate would try an assault on the Red Flower Vales. Fucking First Prince. It didn’t matter if she was bluffing us or not, since we couldn’t afford to chance losing the narrow valleys that would give us a fighting chance against Proceran invasion. The Wasteland wasn’t going to be any help either. Malicia’s meat-puppet had made it clear the legions in her backyard needed to stay there, to keep the highborn in line and more importantly keep the fucking mess Akua’s mother had made in Wolof contained.

Much as I would have liked another twelve thousand soldiers, I couldn’t blame the Empress for not pulling them out when the alternative was devils spilling out in the Wasteland. The only reinforcements from the Legions at hand were the same I’d sent into Holden, and they were nothing to sneer at. I’d met all the generals in command there – Istrid, Sacker and Orim – and all three had been through the crucible that was the Conquest, but more importantly the civil war before it. Almost every one of my highest tier of commanders in this campaign would be familiar with Praesi war tactics of the kind Diabolist was likely to pull. That knowledge wasn’t as reassuring to have on my side as another ten thousand soldiers, but it might end up saving more lives. Already I winced at the notion of sending guards into the kind of madness Akua would have prepared for them. There was no choice. The usual voice in the back of my head that insisted there had been and I had made it saw itself buried. I would allow myself doubt and grief when the wars was done. Until then, all they would so was slow me down in what had very clearly become a race of sorts.

Either Akua Sahelian would finish her scheme and break the Empire, or I’d mass enough strength to put her down.

There was a part of me, the same that had been taught by Black, that kept to the iron-clad belief that she would fail in the end. That whatever she was juggling would backfire on her, either because she’d but off more than she could chew or because I’d break her stride. But as the days passed, I had to concede it was a possibility I might fail. I couldn’t quite manage to believe I would, but then I doubted any of the rulers Triumphant had crushed had thought they’d end up a note in the margins of history either. I knew better than most how dangerous Diabolist was, and how disparate the forces I was bringing against her was. There was advantage in that bastard mixture of Deoraithe, Callowans and Praesi I was leading. But there was weakness too. I failed, Hells even if I won but died winning… Well, I would be leaving behind me a mess that might be beyond salvaging. In rising to prominence I’d crossed a lot of lines and ripped open quite a few old wounds. None of that would be undone in the wake of my death, but I’d no longer be there to even try to guide the currents.

I wondered if Black had that same sense of cold fear, when he looked at the Empire. The ugly realization that a lot of what you’d built was dependent on you to remain functional, and that if some farmboy with a magic sword put six inches of steel through your throat it would bring ruin on hundreds of thousands. Recklessness, for all that it often cost me, had seen me win one uphill battle after another. Never without some of my blood spilled on the ground, but I’d forged victory out of being the only person in a fight willing to cross the line. Whether it was allowing my own death to get out of a Heaven-mandated defeat or lying my way to the contraptions of godhood, audacity had allowed me pull through situations that should have seen me dead or broken. But I could, I was coming to realize, no longer operate this way. Before all it took was for one gamble to fail, and the whole house of cards I had built around myself would come tumbling down. I’d gone out of my way to make myself, if not essential, then as close as anyone could be in Malicia’s empire. But that cut both ways. If I get myself killed, everything I bound to me suffers.

I’d bound quite a few things to me, by now. Armies and institutions, even the very hierarchy that now ruled Callow. When you became someone of consequence, if only followed that your death would have those same consequences.

I’d never been good with fear. I’d always pushed through it by heading into the breach repeatedly until I stopped flinching, steeling myself by taking the weakness as a personal insult. But this… this was no longer dealing with a fear of heights by standing at a rooftop’s edge the way I had when I was a girl. If I slipped and fell, Callow went up in flames. It wasn’t a fear for my own death as much as fear of what it would mean, and I was finding it much harder to push down. That was the problem with learning the currents that guided an empire from behind the scenes – you could never unsee it, after. It was not a pleasant thing admit I knew no other way to fight. Black had once told me I needed to start thinking ahead if I did not forever want to be fighting to the tune of my opponents, and I liked to think I’d learned how. To an extent. But it was one thing to sit with the Empress and plan the unmaking of the Summer Court, another to plan the steps of a waltz with the Diabolist. Fae had rules they could not break. They were, in some ways, predictable.

All that Akua had binding her was having been raised with all the blind spots of the old breed of Praesi villainy, and those weaknesses were not meant for villains to exploit. One slip and it was all over. I’d long become used to gambling with my own life, and once when I had been younger and more ignorant even gambled with Callow’s fate through my clash against the Lone Swordsman. I was older now, and if not wiser at least a great deal more aware. If I threw the dice and they came up wrong, then from Harrow to Dormer my people suffered for it. If there is no Named to use to bind Callow to the Empire, they start to use harsher methods. I hated the thought, and the hesitation it brought with it. One of the old monsters who’d held the Tower had once said that the worst sin a villain could commit was to hesitate. She’d been right. I had won and kept winning because I had made a blade of temerity and struck out at my enemies with it. After a year of trying to keep Callow together in the face of slaughter and invasion, I wasn’t certain how long I could keep doing that.

The thought came, unbidden, that this was not a coincidence. That Her Dread Majesty had uses for a hunting hound, but only so long as it could be leashed. And hadn’t she done exactly that, by giving me the very same authority I asked for? I did not allow myself to think if it too much, not right now. I could spend months trying to discern the intent of the likes of the Empress and still end up grievously, hilariously wrong in my conclusions. But. I would, one of these days, sit with Hakram over a bottle and ponder this. Because it would have been arrogant to believe that the Empress had spent decades trying to suborn Callow with soft methods but would never try tactics that had proved so effective on me as well.

The itinerary that was ultimately settled on was simple. I would take Legate Hune and a detachment of two thousand into Arcadia, taking a fairy gate to Holden where we’d link up with General Istrid and her three legions. From there we’d take another gate to the muster point north of Vale where the guards form the adjoining cities had been ordered to gather. Then I’d make one last trip south, to hopefully shave off a few weeks from my host’s march to the north to assemble with the rest. I’d always taken Nauk with me on journeys like this, and the Gallowborne as well. One was unconscious and more than halfway into the grave, and there remained only five of the cohort of two hundred that had once made up the other. Aisha had already suggested I disband them and assemble another retinue, but I’d refused. They’d died for me, John and his men. I would not spit on that by replacing them before the moon had even finished waxing.

“Senior Mage Kilian will have to remain with the Fifteenth,” Juniper said, “but her second should go with you. I want our own mages on the ground, to keep scrying in our house.”

“We have to assume Diabolist can listen in on all of those,” I grunted. “The Empress certainly can.”

“Ratface made his own codes that differ from Legion protocols,” Aisha said. “I would think that our conversations, at least, will be hard for her people to decipher.”

“She’ll still be expecting most our troop movements,” I said. “The Callowans I ordered to muster were warned she might make a sortie, but that only takes us so far.”

“I am not certain she will,” Juniper growled. “There would be obvious benefits to hitting our forces before they’re gathered, but the heart of her strategy remains to defend Liesse until she can deploy her ritual. She might not want to take the risk, considering you can pop out of Arcadia at any time to hit the city.”

“Assuming she can’t track me when I leave Creation,” I said. “We don’t know that she can’t.”

“I would not plan strategy around the assumption,” the Hellhound conceded. “But overestimating an opponent is just as dangerous as the opposite. If we are too careful to guard against means she does not have, we uselessly limit ourselves.”

I sighed.

“Yeah, true enough,” I said. “Pinpointing exactly what she can do has proved to be something a problem, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter that much. If we’re too slow we’re fucked anyway.”

Juniper rasped out a laugh.

“Won’t be the first time we fight against the hours as well as the enemy,” she said. “I doubt it will be the last. You leave with dawn?”

“That’s the plan,” I said, and turned to Hune. “Your people will be ready?”

“Orders were already given,” the ogre replied.

I looked away quickly, knowing if I kept staring anger would well up again. I had axes to grind with Hune, though I’d forced myself to keep my mouth shut about it. She’d done nothing that was against regulations, or outside her authority. Didn’t make me any happier about it.

“Dismissed, then,” Juniper grunted. “Catherine, a word?”

This hadn’t been an official staff meeting, and so there were only four of us in the command tent. Aisha gave my general a warning look before following the ogre out.

“I’m listening,” I told the orc.

“What the fuck is your problem?” she bluntly said. “You’ve been treating Hune like she ate your horse ever since Dormer. If you have something to say, say it. I’m her commanding officer.”

My eyes hardened.

“You don’t want to knock on this door, Hellhound,” I warned.

“I just did, Foundling,” she growled. “Out with it.”

I’d gained enough control that the wood under my fingers did not freeze, but not enough it didn’t fog as the temperature cooled.

“We had two trump cards to play, when taking a swing at the upper city,” I said flatly. “The Watch and the knights. She sent both to the flanks against the Immortals instead bolstering my own push.”

Juniper eyed me in silence.

“I get one,” I said. “The Immortals were taking their tool. But if the knights had backed me, Nauk would be awake right now.”

The Hellhound’s lips curled into a snarl.

“If you were an orc, you’d be on the floor bleeding from the mouth right now,” Juniper said, tone eerily calm. “And if you say anything like that ever again, I’ll resign my commission.”

My fingers clenched.

“Explain,” I said through gritted teeth.

“She made a call,” the Hellhound said. “As commander on the field. She did not do it lightly, or with unsound reasons. Just because you’re angry Nauk got wounded does not give you the right to treat her this way. She isn’t your friend, Catherine. She is an officer in the Legions of Terror.”

“I took four hundred men when I advanced,” I said. “You know how many came back.”

“And she saved twice that many by sending our heaviest hitters against the Immortals,” Juniper barked. “She made a tactical decision. It was the right decision, and I would have made the same. You had four Named with you, one way or another you were getting through. The others were expendable.”

Juniper rose to her feet and paused when she passed me by, laying a hand on my shoulder.

“It’s good,” she said gruffly. “That you care. The Empress wouldn’t. But you need the harden the fuck up, Catherine. We’ll both have a lot of dead friends before this is over.”

She left me to ponder that in the silent tent, eyes closed. Callowans had a lot of songs about the glory and righteousness of sacrificing yourself for the kingdom. I knew quite a few. None of them spoke of sacrificing those you loved though.

As always, the songs were thin gilding over the ugly truths of what I’d have to do.

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50 thoughts on “Chapter 50: Preparation

  1. Engineer

    Man Still Water is useful. Create an army of dead people that don’t need to eat or sleep and can work 24/7. No overtime, meddling unions, medical or pension funds; just a bunch of dead guys that can follow simple instructions effectively.

    I can totally see why the Dead King made Keter. I would do the same. With an entire continent.

    Like

      1. Big Brother

        Like Nuke said, it is incredibly sound logistically. Not to mention, feeding an undead populace is much easier during and after a battle.
        This is personal headcanon, but the fleshy undead like zombies and ghouls probably consume the flesh of the living to fuel the necromantic spell keeping them animated. After all, what better way to provide the energy of Death than from being eaten alive?

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      2. The only problem would be the heroes that would rise against you in this universe evil actions that cause tragedy often lead to heroes rising against you. go ahead with your continent plan but the ensuing hero shenanigans will cause your plan to fail as evil always looses. vicious cycle.

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    1. stevenneiman

      Undead have advantages, but they also have pretty severe limitations, especially the zombies that Still Waters creates. They might not need rest, but they also don’t have human-level intelligence and I don’t think they’re a match for decently trained soldiers. Perhaps most importantly, they don’t replenish like living citizens do, which means that unless you can spike the water supplies of other countries with more Still Water reagents despite them being prepared against the plan every conflict is going to cost mean losing a lot of undead that you’ll only be able to recoup if you win. Not to mention that something like that would attract heroes like flies to a corpse even if you only zombify your own populace, and unlike the Dead King you wouldn’t have any of the cool undead to back up your cannon fodder zombies.

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      1. Death Emperor Nihilus I

        @Steve
        I don’t need them to be human level intelligent. Just need them to be able to follow simple instructions.

        You’re right about the problems regarding the water vector. Which is why I’d try to develop a contagious airborne variant of Still Water. Call it Dead Air. Airborne pathogens infect much more easily than water based vectors. I’ll also try to tweak it to not just infect humans but animals and bugs as well. Especially bugs like flies or ants. Within a month Calernia would a continent of the dead.

        The heroes can come with their crusades. In fact I welcome it. Their crusades is made by and large by average blokes susceptible to Dead Air’s effects. Assuming the Angels don’t give them some kind of BS buffed out poison res stats, they too will join the ranks of the Dead.

        Should they manage to defeat me My fall back plan is to enact a ritual of such magnitude that the Keter’s due would tear apart everything and everyone within a 41km radius. Also, the ritual is to weaken the boundaries between Creation and Space, so I can manifest a giant vacuum right above my kingdom. Either I’m winning or everybody is dying.

        That would be my final fuck you to Creation. Sure some of those peskier hero types would survive but NOBODY will call it a true victory.

        Hail to the Death Emperor Nihilus I! Long may the Dead dance with Living!

        Mwahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!

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  2. Shequi

    Curious. Why did Akua trigger Still Water? As long as she didn’t do so she had a threat to level at Catherine to stay her hand. Now she’s used it she no longer has it, and she gave away her diplomatic group, the destruction of the mirror and the existence of her dimensional scrying artefact for… What, exactly? Some hastily dug fortifications that Catherine will destroy in the first minutes of the battle?

    There’s something more going on here.

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    1. TideofKhatanga

      There was no threat to level at Catherine. The Squire had made it clear that, zombie apocalypse or not, she was going to stab Diabolist. Akua spent some ressources trying to turn a very competent commander to her cause but that was a side goal compared to the objective of grabbing the throne by force. When that failed, she went on with Plan A.

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    2. I’m pretty sure she didn’t care a lot about her mirror or her diplomatic group.

      I’m guessing she gave away her dimensional scryer because she wanted to hold the Liesse citizens hostage as leverage on Cat. Except Cat made it clear she wouldn’t let herself be manipulated, so Akua went ahead and killed everyone to fortify as soon as possible.

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    3. haihappen

      Still Water was a threat, Cat was not threatened, so Akua had no reason _not_ to use Still Water. Using it strengthens her position, gets rid of the civilians that could prove a liability.
      The only drawback is international political pushback, and she aims to be above that sort of thing anyway.

      Remember, Akua and her breed have no lines they would not cross.

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  3. lots of typos today:
    – I knew better than most how dangerous Diabolist was, and how disparate the forces I was bringing against her *was
    – It as a shortcut, not fucking teleportation, which *as probably for the best.
    – When you became someone of consequence, *if only followed that your death would have those same consequences.
    – The Immortals were taking their *tool.
    – As always, the songs were thin* gilding over the ugly truths of what I’d have to do.

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    1. stevenneiman

      “Until then, all they would {do} so was slow me down”
      “because she’d [but->bit] off more than she could chew”
      “how disparate the forces I was bringing against her [was->were]”
      “{If} I failed, Hells even if I won but died winning”
      “It was not a pleasant thing {to} admit I knew no other way to fight”
      “I did not allow myself to think [if->of] it too much”
      “She sent both to the flanks against the Immortals instead {of} bolstering my own push”

      Like

  4. AshSlanabrezgov

    >you’ll need the harden the fuck up

    I might be wrong(English is not my native language), but perhaps proper form would be

    >you’ll need to harden the fuck up

    I’ve seen that form being used here:

    Like

  5. Cyrix

    Critique ahead, be warned:

    I feel like the Guide has progressively become worse and is currently at its all-time low in terms of writing quality. The fae arc overall felt kinda weak and more like a plot device which was only thinly tied into the overall story.

    There has been too much unneeded pointless escalation (Gods below this! Gods below that!) without any room for characters to breathe. Chapters like the one with the bonfire stand out so much because they were so dearly needed.

    But it was too little too late.

    Character beats that ought to hit home and sell Cat’s (and others’) motivations fall flat. I as a reader simply do not care about the supporting cast – here are some examples of that:

    1. I didn’t give one iota about Farrier dying. I basically knew nothing personal about him. Why should I care? Why should Cat care? We are in her head all the time. Other than: “leads my personal retinue” and “is a sort of a plot device spokesperson for the ‘normal’ soldier” he had no personality. Even his crush on Cat got deliberately flanderized into: Yeah, many soldiers under her command crush on her. -> that took personality away from him and made him into a stand-in plot figure for the faceless soldiers. But not his own person.

    2. Who gives a shit about Nauk? Thousands died but suddenly we were supposed to believe that Cat would trade kingdoms and all those losses for this dude she did not even speak with for a full page of written dialogue in the *entire Guide*? What the hell?

    3. Killian? This whole romance was so unexplored – and instead of exploring it more it basically got axed and has become such a trivial roundabout straw-man of a moral dilemma which kinda shames the whole romance subplot and the characters involved.

    4. Today there was this stupidly silly reaction of the Hellhound: I paraphrase how I couldn’t help but read that dialogue: “I am a General and I don’t like how my President frowns at one of the Lieutenants and thus I do the only sensible thing: I threaten to beat up my president and throw my resignation (discarding the duty to the country, not just the president!) in as well! Because dang thats the sensible thing to do here! Can’t have the President make frowny faces at some other officers.” Sure, she’s an Orc and I tried to read it as an orc-y thing – but dang that was an overly dramatic, flat and silly reaction. Comedic at best. I do not think it was intended to be comedic though, which is kinda sad.

    Maybe the author tried to pack to much plot into the story and it squeezed out everything else? Fey incursions and shenanigans in the Free Cities and then some Akua too! Oh my.

    I think at this point I will wait and see how the second confrontation with Akua will play out and if it continues in the current direction I think I will withdraw my support on Patreon. Not because I am a spiteful asshole, but because I care. I think that two updates a week did not do this story any favours.

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    1. Metrux

      I honestly can’t agree with any point you made, wich is trully surprising, since most of the critique I’ve seem here is well thought and not just peronal opinion.
      The whole POINT of this arc is this rushing head-along without breather time, the epic of epic struggle that make the books, not because of one battle, but because of the whole situation.
      Farrier wasn’t seen much, yes, but we also didn’t see all, since there are alot of time skips, even if on small doses like days or weeks. He was always with her, he slept on the room on the side, trained with her, gave counsel… Honestly, how could she NOT care about him?
      Nauk was, since the beginning, the most fanaticaly loyal to Cat. If she sayd for him to cut his own throat, he would. He was there at the beginning, suporting her when he got hurt in the war games, he was there through all her battles, the first to call her warlord, the suport she had on the reunions in the beginning, he went through all. If you don’t care about him, I can only see you as a very cold person.
      Killian… I can’t completely disagree with you, but I can’t agree either. It wasn’t a Big Romance, this isn’t a romantic story, afterall. She was a fling, that because of mutual stress and respect grew out of proportions, it was all very natural, and they didn’t have time to trully know each other deeply, thus when she saw her paramour was diferent from something she could acept, it ended. It was a natural and common thing, even if it could’ve been better and I, particularly, always thought she needed someone else for romance.
      About Hellhound… She was like this, always. She sees Cat looking funny to one member of theyr old retinue, and asks about. She didn’t threaten to resign for the look, but for the explanation. Cat saw someone important to her get hurt, and she was blaming a commander for it, because she made a tactical decision. Hellhound is all about the winning tactics, and thus she couldn’t acept Cat’s blame, even though she agreed that it’s important to care.
      I can’t talk for the author, but honestly, making this kind of patreon withdrawal threat… i can only see it as spitefull and forcing the author’s hand, even though I wouldn’t call it an asshole act, it’s a very blunt try at manipulation, especially since you could have told him your critiques in private, but you chose to do it here, for all readers to see.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. naturalnuke

      So I’m not really trying to argue but you brought up some points that I wanted to put my take on.

      So far everything that’s happened has been logically sound, with an escalation we learned would be happening well in advance. As for why the deaths of Farrier and the wounding of Nauk are supposed to matter. They are narratively unimportant characters after the Fae arc. But, they are characters who have fought for and next to Cat early, who’s problems and short comings we’ve seen Cat have to deal with or help them overcome.

      But think about all the narrative things we’ve done so far, and how it fits in in-universe.

      Their deaths matter because they stopped mattering to Cat. They weren’t Named, and so they are props. Remember that whole conversation with the Bard way back when, where she was talking about redundancy in the party, narratively how speaking it meant either she or the bumbling conjurer would die? So she made little sub-plots and kept herself interesting?

      How long has it been since you even heard Nauk or Farrier mentioned?

      They stopped being important to Cats story, and so they became expendable. The only weight their lives had was to die or get injured and sever some of the last remaining conncections with the ‘squishy mortals’, and she sent them into battle anyways.

      Kinda agree on Killian, and as for Hellhound; it’s more than an orc thing, she’s had several times where she’s said stuff along the lines of “get your shit together, I refuse to work under you if you don’t” it’s used more as emphasis ‘hey Cat stop being dumb and realize you don’t have your shit together’ than her actually saying she’s gonna leave. And as for your analogy; if the General was worried the grudge would have the ‘president’ in that scenario start contradicting that Lieutenants orders and fucking up plans, I’d sure hope there would be a talk.

      A point I agree on is that it is all feeling a bit compressed and bloated, makes it harder to stick with the plot if every subplot is moving a mile a minute, and makes it seem a awkwardly paced.

      Like

      1. naturalnuke

        Repressing something: it’s not that it feels bloated from the subplots, it’s more subplots no longer get time to develop. Like, logically sound that Cat would be mad at Hune, that’s who she is. But we had a paragraph to learn about it, and another to explore it, and one more to the it up. And it’s happened a few times, too much stuff to fit in all at once already and then even this point that is logical to the plot and needed to happen feels a bit, rushed? Not rushed, just too fast, it doesn’t feel like it was shoved in, just that it could have used more time to develop than what was given. Kinda rushed I guess.

        Like

    3. While I don’t usually answer criticisms in the comments, I’ll make an exception this once since it stepped out of the bounds of ‘opinions on the text’. I’ll be frank: Patreon is voluntary. You’re not forced to donate, and if you don’t want to you certainly don’t have to. Bringing whatever donations you’ve been making into this is pointless and somewhat insulting – you’re essentially implying I should allow the Patreon revenue to dictate what story I write. Criticisms I always read, and if they feel relevant usually run by some trusted people to see if there’s something there. That last paragraph you wrote made the post something other than criticism, and it’s pretty telling you felt the need to add a preemptive defence of your character in it.
      Anyways, there’s no need to make a scene over this. I’ll be keeping an eye on the comment thread and will delete entirely if it turns into name-calling or a flame war – I’m not interested in either of those filling the section

      Like

      1. Cyrix

        Thanks for your reply.

        My point with patreon was that I thought the story was better when you had time for one chapter a week. That reaching those patreon goals was detrimental to the quality of the writing – thats the point I am trying to make here.

        If you think I did dictate your writing at any point in my critique outside the bounds of what critique is (I dont like xy because of xy) I will apologzie. This was not my intention.

        Like

    4. Nif

      I think you’re missing a huge point, regarding Hellhound, here you should look into the terms they agreed on when Hellhound joined Cat. Cat agreed that Hellhound would be cats equal in the legions. Deals and oaths are incredibly important things in the story as they’re binding on a whole other level than our world. So your analogy about a president and general doesn’t hold water, in my opinion. And I don’t think it’s unlike hellhound to call out cat when she’s wrong, or not in the right headspace. But I can agree on the fact, the Hune hate was sudden, and I didn’t feel it was well explored either.

      Farrier, as a reader fell flat when he died, but I can also see why his death would matter to Cat, they spent most of their time together, and we often saw them interacting and training together.

      Nauk, to me feels like an other story, that hurt me right in the gut. And here I will give NaturalNuke points for a good explanation, and try to use the same point to go back on why it’s important for legate Hellhound to call Cat, out here on unjustified Hate against a non named will likely seal their fate.

      As for Killian, I don’t think it was an area that needed to be explored more and would be a liability, to the story as a whole, but that said I think it, also served for Cats as a way to better understand the effect she have on other people as a named, and how she impacts their lives. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe Killian described it as Cat was going places at a speed she couldn’t hope to keep up with and all she could do is desperately cling on, and hope to not fall off on the way.

      Like

    5. Mytha

      I wouldn’t Say Farriers Death was entirely without emotions but I agree that it could have been done better. Like more minot details about him and how he did these things for Cat. How ever it is nothing compared to Nauk.

      Nauk feels nothing like a person and more like a prop if anything. His Death means nothing to me what so ever. Captains Death by far affected me more than his, sort of Death, did. As for the trading kingdoms for his him healed? I Think the Point being made is she would NOT do that. Consider it? Yes, but never actually acting on it. Her showing willingness to sacrifice “Close” friends for the greater good or what not.

      This expands into the overall problem, that may be intentional, that Named characters push out all normal mortal characters from storytime. People like Robber and Ratface, while mentioned, do not really make a noticable appearance. This in conjunction with Cat moving further and further up into her Name, leaving them behind. It does make story sense that they would slowly be phased out in favor of other Named whom she can relate to in a way she can not with regular people. However it does make it hard to sympathize with their Deaths and the like when they are already just about dead and gone storywise anyways.

      Killian. I never really got this romance to begin with nor did I like it much. It did have it’s moments in book 1 and 2 but it has been nothing but a boring drag in book 3 that takes up space better used for more important plot. Besides everyone knows Cat + Black = True

      Hellhound. I agree that she formulated herself poorly and out of charactly from what she has before. Then again she did wait until it was just the two of them to behave in such a way not to mention they have grown a Little closer since the beginning so that may explain how she can say such things now when she could not Before. However the meaning behind her Words are VERY in character for her. She is mad at Cat for her resenting Hune for making the tactical decision she very likely would have made herself. If Cat is going to start resenting officers and leaders for doing their job then it becomes to much like Wasteland nobility with their own resentments and scheming and she does not want that. So she makes sure Cat knows this.

      Then there is the fact that the whole thing is revealed, investigated and resolved in the span of a few paraghraps which is a entirely other thing. Like who here knew Cat resented Hune for this thing? Who expected it to be sort of resolved two minutes later?

      All in all the plot is nice and full of action but at the cost of suffering charactarization as Erretica tries to move in the full cast of Named in preparation for book 4 while still keeping side characters somewhat relevant. A move which in my opinion has failed.

      Like

  6. Cyrix

    *The whole POINT of this arc is this rushing head-along without breather time,*

    That might be the point the author wants to bring across, but this is no excuse to forgo characterisation. Worm (which webserial readers might know) was very breathless too – but I did know and care more for the leading cast there after a lot less words. Never mind its myriad of side characters. Epic plot does not contradict characterdriven storytelling – or at least chapters with more characterdevelopment.

    *Honestly, how could she NOT care about him?*

    Show! Don’t tell. Or in this case hint? We weren’t even told most of the things you mentioned. That he slept in front of her tent can be asumed and what that ment for their bond can also be asumed? I guess? But we do not know and we certainly were not shown. Show don’t tell is a fundamental writing principle.

    *If you don’t care about him, I can only see you as a very cold person.*

    Yeah, except half the things you talk about are refering to Hakram, not Nauk. That you mix those two up so badly kinda highlights the problem, no?

    * It wasn’t a Big Romance, this isn’t a romantic story, afterall.*

    If you do romance do it proper – or do not do it at all. Again: I have no problem with the romance per se – or how it turned out. Thats all fine and good. I have problems with how it was done. I did not *feel* like Cat was in love. There were more words spent on cats armor being burned off or dented then on those two character saying something meaningfull/personal to each other.

    *About Hellhound… She was like this, always.*

    Hellhound imo – and of course you can disagree here – was and still is a stickler for the rules and propper course of action. Due process and thought out, grounded decisions based on facts. The right measure at the right time for a certain threat. Very, very professional in a nutshell.

    Threatening to beat up your commanding officer and threatening her with a resignment right before the biggest battle of their lifetime is more then just unprofessional – It is totally out of character for the Hellhound. Especially over such a triviality as *frowning* at another officer.

    *i can only see it as spitefull and forcing the author’s hand, even though I wouldn’t call it an asshole act, it’s a very blunt try at manipulation,*

    Except I am not manipulative – I did never claimore for specific changes. I did critique – I said where I thought the story was failing and why I thought it did.
    I did never say: Write in this thing or I won’t give you any money! I am sorry if you read it this way. I also stated I would continue supporting at least for a few more months till the situation with Akua got resolved. I will leave it up to the author if or how and what he wants to change. I am not pushing him in a certain direction – but I am allowed to say I dislike things and why.
    If things till then continued in this direction I dislike – I will pull my patreon money. Which I think is a fair thing to do? I do not support things I do not enjoy reading after all. I do not think my few bucks a month will force the authors hand one way or another. Thats silly. But I am not above useing it to show that I am serious.

    Like

    1. The point was that , will the critique was interesting the threat of cutting off money was unecessary and should have been made in private not public. By making it in public OTHER perceive it as YOU saying “Because i gave you money you have to do what i say” and not “I dislike your serie and shall not pay a subscription anymore”

      Like

      1. Cyrix

        By not actually talking about the critique which you found interesting you are not actually leading this conversation in the right direction?

        To be honest I do not give that much about what the public says – I wanted my critique public so others have a chance to join into the discussion. You are very welcome to do so!

        About the money: If others think I push the author and what he should write into a certain direction that goes beyond what you could inherently interpreate into any critique – they should read the arguments again and talk about them. You are welcome to do so too btw.

        The main point you could and should take away from my patreon comment was actually the following: I thought that the Guide was a better read when there was one update a week.

        I apologize for any insuniation with the patreon comment – it was not intended.

        Like

    2. Jonathan

      Cyrix, bringing up the possibility of withdrawing Patreon support is inherently manipulative.

      You never needed to threaten the author directly because it’s implicit. Obviously the author would rather have your Patreon support. And just as obviously, addressing your critique would make you more likely to continue your Patreon support.

      It’s actually MORE manipulative to phrase it as an unrelated possibility rather than a blunt threat — you sound more reasonable, and more likely to get what you want — the author to change the story.

      As for your critique itself — it feels like you’ve entirely forgotten the characterization Nauk, Farrier, and Juniper received in the past. We haven’t read recent scenes of Cat speaking with Nauk and Farrier, but that’s because their characters were already firmly established, and it’s reasonable for the readerbase to not forget that these people exist just because they don’t get a few lines of dialogue every chapter.

      Cat went through the War College and early battles with Nauk at her side, and he was mentioned often. As time went on, they separated in rank and Nauk was mentioned less, but that doesn’t mean Cat stopped caring about him. It means that you forgot Nauk’s emotional significance to Cat extends beyond what is shown on-screen.

      Juniper was also at Cat’s side from the start, and moreover their ranks mean they see each other quite often. They’ve been friends for a long time now. It’s perfectly in character for Juniper to use their friendship to make Cat less emotionally compromised by the situation. It’s a move made out of cold, calculated logic, and WOW that’s what Juniper is known for!!

      Like

      1. Cyrix

        Yes, I agree it was inherently manipulative – to a degree.

        That addressing my critique would make me more likely to continue to support the author – thats actually a stretch. I support him if I like what he writes. I did not tell him what to write. Just what I thought didnt work in his current writing. This *IS* a very big difference.

        I told him some things didnt work for me: It is up to him to decide if and how he wants to address that. If he doesnt, he is likely to loose my support – but thats fine and more upfront instead of saying nothing and just taking the support away?

        About the critique: I did not forget about the characterisation. But I would argue that it isnt enough to just establish characters without doing anything with them – And to then expect an emotional reaction from the audience if they are killed off. Or to expect the audience to understand why those deaths weigh so hard on the main character.

        *It means that you forgot Nauk’s emotional significance to Cat extends beyond what is shown on-screen.*

        I did not forget – but this is a bullshit argument (sorry for the language ^^) that only works on paper. Yeah no shit I dont care about someone— I dont care about? Or was not made to care about? I do not care about someone because 3 books ago I was kinda sorta told I should? This is not how storytelling works? Show don’t tell.

        *It’s perfectly in character for Juniper to use their friendship to make Cat less emotionally compromised by the situation.*

        How does threatening to beat her up and leave her without a general play on cats friendship? She would leave her job, her duty behind. Not her friendship for cat? If anyhting the opposite to what you said is way easier to read into this? At least thats my take on the situation.
        I would also argue that the Hellhound isnt known as a shrewd people manipulator the way Malicia is – from whom I would buy such a move.

        In all honesty though the Guide so far does not strike me as the book that is that subtle with its characterbeats (which is totally fine btw! Different genres exist for this very reason) – and I honestly feel like you are reaching for straws with your interpretation.

        Like

    3. Blue Dragon

      Eh. It still seems like you’re just a “spiteful asshole” from here, willfully misinterpreting or misunderstanding the story in order to complain.

      Like

      1. Cyrix

        Thanks for your response. And thanks for telling me how to not interpretate a story (which are inherently subjective) and giving such a thought out and well formulated response.

        People like you are the problem why authors have a hard time getting critique. I am not claiming mine is especially good or valuable – but I put a lot more thought into it then you did into your useless comment.

        But be comforted by the fact that the hugbox of the author (this is not an insult to the author – it is just an apt description of the most devout followers) will decend upon me and support you. Because that will make your arguments (?) obviously better and correct.

        Like

    4. @Cyrix : I totally agree with you on all points.i think it’s, as you mentioned, a ‘show don’t tell’-problem. The counter-arguments to your critique are pretty much a bunch of things that we need to assume, but didn’t specifically see. I mean, sure, I can totally understand why Cat would care about them, but the problem is that I don’t and don’t see why I should. If Hakram died, then yes, I’d actually think ‘Oh no, not him.’ because we see way more interaction between him and Cat. For Nauk and Farrier who are pretty much side-characters when it comes to amount of ‘screen time’? Who cares. The romance was also totally useless, but I’m hoping it’ll get better. The author could have literally inserted another ‘morally questionable case’ and just have never introduced the romance in the first place, so I’m assuming it’ll have at least some unique use… hopefully. So yeah, you’re not the only heartless bastard.

      Like

      1. Cyrix

        Thank you for talking about the critique. 😉

        Its nice that I am not the only one seeing those problems.

        I think I agree with you that loosing Hakram would have been a much harder beat which would drive loss and possible recklesness on cats part home to the reader.
        I am not advocating killing him off and I would argue that the story so far doesnt strike me as a grim and dark one? So I can understand why on a narrative sense one might shy away from doing so even though that could have been potentially a better thing?

        But the tradeoff is as you describe: I also do not care about Nauk or Farrier. I think for those intended beats to land we would need more characterisation for those side characters or just in general.

        I am interested in hearing more opinions about that.

        … you heartless bastard. 😉

        Like

  7. Berder

    So… does anyone still think Cat *really* won against Akua in the deal at the end of book 2? I predicted then it would result in some horrific ritual, and indeed it has with the release of Still Water.

    Let me recap that deal (chapter 48 part II). Cat and Akua were both in a bubble dimension. Cat had the ability to kill Akua at that time. Akua did not have the ability to kill Cat. Cat probably did not have a way out of the dimension without Akua’s consent (maybe Masego could have done it, maybe not). Akua definitely did not have a way out of the dimension without Cat’s consent, because Cat would kill her. Cat was thus in a stronger negotiating position at the start.

    Akua granted safe passage for Cat out of the dimension. In exchange, Akua got an agreement Cat would not kill her or shed her blood for three days and three nights. That’s fair enough, Cat trading her own survival for Akua’s survival, and both of them held each other’s survival hostage at the start. The deal should have ended there, with a draw.

    But then Cat agreed to let Akua have three of her associates in exchange for the three day truce extending to Cat and her command. Why on earth did Cat agree to that? Cat could have just killed all of Akua’s associates, and it was shown shortly afterwards that Akua lacked the actual power to actually harm Cat. Cat was able to subdue her despite not being allowed to shed Akua’s blood. Akua got something for nothing here.

    And then, Cat agreed to support Akua for governorship of Liesse, a decision which directly led to Still Water and the death of more Callowans than Black killed in the invasion. Cat rationalized that in Liesse, Akua would be out of her element, away from allies and among a population that “hated her guts.” And, Cat rationalized, Cat would have tools to keep her in line. These assumptions are now demonstrated false, as Akua has succeeded in doing more harm to Callow than anybody, and the fact that Callowans hated her guts is of no consequence now they are undead. I predicted some awful ritual would arise from Akua’s governorship, as indeed it has.

    In exchange for this massive blunder, what did Cat get in return? Akua agreed to surrender the demon standard. Since Cat shortly afterwards proved she had physical dominance over Akua, this was again nothing in return, since Cat could have simply taken the standard against Akua’s will. Akua got a huge basis for her power, a governorship that led to the deaths of vast numbers of Callowans, in exchange for nothing.

    Akua was the clear winner of that deal, rule of threes notwithstanding.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mytha

      Well that deal was all kinds of bullshit, no one is arguing against that. Personally it feels like Erratic wrote itself into a corner and deus exed itself out of it. Like why not just “Escort” Akua for 3 Days and then have her murdered by the Escort or the like? Still the best of the 3 books but still.

      But yes. Akua by FAR got the better of that deal and it I’d go so far as to claim that Cat is directly respnsible for the Deaths of all those people Akua turned due to agreeing with the deal, among other things.

      Like

  8. lennymaster

    First, please excuse any mistakes, I am not a native speaker, wich I usally do not cite as an excuse, but this post is somewhat emotionally loaded and so am I as I am writing this.
    I have read over a thausend books till this day (I am not joking, my kindle library states it holds 1176 works, maybe a hundred short stories true, but most are novels), and quite a few webserials (Heretical Edge, Taint, Trials, Zombie Knight, Powereds, The Gods are Bastards, Legion of Nothing, Mother of Learning, etc.), but few have managed to impress me quite as much as Guide has. It is one of the very few series that regulirily manages to surprise me (despite the fact, that Guide is build on storytropes) and make shudders run down my spine (my main criteria for awesome). But this post is unfortionally not about the awesomness that is Guide, but rather the uncessant comparsion of it to a in my opinion far lesser story. Something of a pioneer in this field mayby, but a far to overrated one in my opinion, just like Tolkien and Rowling.

    I do not understand why Worm is considered to be the pinnacle of Webserialwriting. Yes it was not bad, and correct me if I am wrong, I did after all not read more than half of it (very unusual of me, I very rarely break a series of once I have gone beyond the second book or the equivalent), but it had plenty of glaring weaknesses.

    Warning, spoilers ahead:

    To the point where I stoped reading, Armsmaster was nothing but a thinly disguised plotdevice, the reason why she could not offically be a good guy. He was the worst kind of villian, not evil but rather petty and selfabsorbed, more like a schoolyard bully rather than a grown up enemy, but one with all the real power of a full-fledged adversary.
    Furthermore I did not care the least bit about ANY of her “Teammates”, considering that they were cardboardcutouts with a little twist to make it less obvious how very cliche they were.
    Her powers were a joke, just so her opponents could look even more dangerous and impressive for having kind of normal powers for a superhuman setting. People that should have wiped the floor with her on any given day, wich they did until they had to get out of the way of more serious opponents so the plot could move along and she was finally allowed to beat them by being clever and prepared (meaning ridiculously lucky, to the point of were I would have wondered if her real power was not luck, if not for the fact that her life was so utterly shitty in all other matters).
    Last but not least I have to say that I did not get around the impression that she was either a victim trying to not be a victim, but perpetually failing, not necessarily because it was that way but rather because she saw herself that way. Or that she was a hero with an Anarchistic streak, a typical teenager, but with superpowers, though entirely laking the grit to take what she wants. If she even had an idea of what she actually wants (revenge for her dead mother but no one to take revenge on, revenge for her fathers lost job but no one to blame for his joblesness other than hard times, revenge for herself, the only one she could actually get, but never made a move about getting it), perpetually differing with indecission about wether to do what little redeeming she had to do to be an official hero or to embrace villiany and for example taking her revenge on her former best friend, who bruttaly and callously betrayed her at the worst possible time for no reason at all (really, just like that?!).
    All Worm did was gloss over its myriad of weaknesses with an utterly grim-dark worldbuilding.
    Characterdevelopment? Sure, but it does not matter that our heroine grew a spine, something came along in this dark, dark world and ruined everything she was starting to achieve anyways.
    Our heroine was terribly betrayed, but she does nothing about it and rather whines instead of going out to either take revenge or to forgive that traitor, because that would align people who are already aligned against her in this terribly unjust world, or actually require far more spine than she manged to grow, despite fighting several battles to the death against terrible odds and terrible enemies (where there was no or nearly no chance of the other one dieing) until then.

    Spoiler end.

    Is it it wrong to bash an authors story like that? Yes, probably so, but I am so sick of people criticising a dozen different things about any webserial I read and like, always using Worm as an example of how to do it right, oftentimes contradicting each other. Just because it is the first webserial they have read. Worm is mainstream (a little bit of something for everyone), that is not bad in and of itself, but considering that it is neigh the same thing one can find a hundredfold in mainstream media (amazon, 90 percent of anything with more than a thousend reviews), with sleight variations such as a darker world/cast/plot, however with no truly innovative, scandlous or outright crazy ideas. Like Mother of Learning, wich combines a magical world with a groundhogday scenario, or Everybody Loves Large Chest, with an outright psychopath, not sociopath, as a protagonist, to name two examples that are at least to my opinion the ballpark for modern webserial writing. Even Drew Hayes’s Superpowereds differs in some essential points from regular mainstream, it it is one of the works in the top webfictionlist wich comes closest to that.
    Worm may have been far from mainstream one time in the past, however it has not been for a LONG time.
    Webserials these days is were authors go who do not fit in mainstream media, and comparing mainstream with stories that are just so outside of it like Guide is like comparing apples and peaches.

    Like

    1. Cyrix

      Worm was used as an example because many here might know it – thats it.

      Its popularity was used to illustrate an argument. This was never about Worm or about a comparison between Worm and the Guide.

      I am honestly confused what set you off?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. lennymaster

        It was not your comment, though I do not disagree with it, it was the use of worm as a comparsion.
        First do I not only consider it to be a middling good story at best, I also beliefe it to be vastly overated, akin to Tolkien an Rowling. Like them it was something of a pioneer in their respective stiles, wich has given it an undeserved amount of weight.
        Second, my fazit, wich I might not have expressed clearly, mea culpa, was that it is mainstream, only differing from it in the darkness of the stories world, and not doing so sufficantly enough to actually stand out from it. Not like How to Survive on a Daily Basis for example does (not to my taste, wich however does not dipute my point). Worm is in fact so mainstream (to cite: “You are neither hot nor cold … “) that it is neigh uncomparaple to most webserials. Thus not comparable in anithing but specifics.
        Your comment was quite specific, namly characterisation, thus secondly does not apply to your comment, but firstly very much does.
        So my critic to your critic goes only so far that I do not agree with you on the fact that anything in Worm is in any way better, much rather significantly worse in my opinion, then in Guide. Aside maybe from the end, on wich I cannot judge, for I did not read it, wich however does not matter since we are about as far along in Guide as I was in Worm when I stopped reading.
        When you look back on any webserial on the topwebfictionlist that was even remotly similar to anything in the general mainstream, aside maybe from something as difficult to define as general genre, please tell me so. I would love to be proven wrong considering that I suffer perpetually from lack of high quality reading material, or at least something that differs sufficently from the mainstream that I can not tell at the very least the general plot from the first few chapters. The inability to do so is one of the points wich have drawn me to webserials.

        Like

    2. Unmaker

      “Her powers were a joke, just so her opponents could look even more dangerous and impressive for having kind of normal powers for a superhuman setting.”

      The reason she kept beating people despite the apparent power discrepancy was a major reveal near the end, and the reveal also showed that this was planned from the beginning, not a later twist decided by the author. You missed this by not finishing the story.

      I had my own problems with Worm, but I see things a little differently – to me, the reason Worm is a standard for comparison was consistent, high-volume, decent output. The majority of authors simply cannot reliably put out that kind of volume without it going completely to sh**. I suspect the comparison of reliability versus other authors had a halo/horns effect: people like consistent output, so Worm looked better in comparison to stories by authors who could not produce as reliably. But that is highly IMO and therefore could easily be wrong.

      Like

    3. Denimcurtain

      I have a completely different perspective.

      Everybody Loves Large Chest is just crack fiction that has been done plenty. It usually isn’t well liked because you don’t empathize with the character at all. I wouldn’t call it innovative but I could accept that it isn’t traditional (though I’d point you to the Watchmen comics for a very mainstream rendition of psychopaths as main characters).

      The things you described about Mother of Learning seem like it would make it not innovative as well. Ground hog day spliced with isn’t a new concept.

      I like the Guide because it has a cool conceit and sets its characters up to have very cool moments. It shines when it plays with the tropes of good and evil and gives pragmatic reasons for taking excessively dramatic and cool actions. It slides a bit when it slips a bit too far into the tropes dictating the actions of characters we care about or fails to underline the tension between Cat as the protagonist and Cat as a villain.

      I put that there because I don’t know exactly how you can hold constant the problems you have with Worm about powersets with the idea that it is mainstream at the same time as you call all these other stories not mainstream. It does a great job of showing just how dangerous overlooked powersets can be. The traditional powersets SHOULD lose against someone who can guess correctly almost all the time or someone who can decide what timeline he’s in. Its definitely not mainstream in its treatment of its main character. For better or for worse its much further away from the mainstream than any of your examples so far if you’re looking for stories where the main character wins (Guide at least has the Pyrrhic victory thing going). It feels like you missed a lot of the story either because it was hard to follow or because you didn’t finish it.

      I could see not liking Worm but I can’t really agree with almost any of your critique. My problems with worm would be that its a bit oppressive in its grim darkness at times and the pacing is a bit wonky at times. Like most webserials the quality of writing fluctuates more than you would get from a book. Its ok just not to like something but if you’re really confused as to why people liked it, its because they likely don’t agree with your understanding of what happened in worm.

      Like

  9. Wanted to sidestep this shitstorm, but just gotta say:
    I could not be sicker of all things Worm. If I had it in my power, I would delete the damned thing from reality. Not for what it is, but for all the mindlessly derivative permutations of it that have been spawned.

    If, at any time, the Guide were EVER to bear more resemblance to Worm than “both are examples of lines of text, written collectively in the form of paragraphs* I would bail out without a ‘chute as a fan.

    This arc of the Guide HAS been different than what’s come before, but that’s to be expected as the main protagonist moves into plot-circles that have more dimensions. Everything from the moment the name Cordelia Hasenbauch(sp?) was first used (if not well before) has been tilting towards an acceleration of events. The Calamities went north to throw a wrench in that, and failed.

    Cat’s very Named-dreams have, repeatedly, borne out that Black’s experiences contesting with the Heir bear a STRIKING resemblance to what we see happening here in the present. Social orders being overthrown, only for those victorious overthrowers to have to make too many decisions too rapidly for all of them to have been ideal. Leading to problems down the road.

    EE has, at all times, done a great job of preserving the “The theme of events is cyclical, even if the variations on a theme differ markedly” ethos on which the Guide-verse pretty much rests.

    Since I’ve neglected to do so before now: Thank you for the extra Chapters, EE. Finding time to juggle one’s life and hold to a writing schedule is hard enough. Increasing your word-output is just choosing to put more stones in your backpack to hike with. It is appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. danh3107

    I honestly liked this chapter up until the end, you need exposition sometimes. However the bit about disliking Hune wasn’t even built up or foreshadowed in any of the previous chapters, it was brought up in one paragraph and solved a few lines down. It was pretty unnecessary

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Metrux

      I… Kind of agree. Hune being hated was a pretty surprise, and wasn’t well seen. To make clear, before someone call me out on it: my defense before was about our general, not about this bit of Hune in the story. For Hellhound it was a natural response, even though Cat’s hate wasn’t well seen.

      Like

  11. grzecho2222

    I’m curious if Captain is even really dead, since this whole running back doesn’t sound very much like Black Knight and it smells of some kind of ruse to draw Bard into trap. Also I’ve been thinking evil might be balance for Bard and only entity that works like that that I’ve heard of is Licho.

    Like

  12. Fern

    Couple of thoughts:

    I do think Farrier as a character was undeveloped, but as someone who reads this pretty consistently (whenever a chapter is released I usually read it 3-4 times) I liked him, and liked how you dealt with his death.

    I love Nauk! I feel like his main character building stuff was all done during the war college arc, so I have no complaints there.

    Other than that I only have two real criticisms: Hune and Black’s coming breakdown.

    As far as Hune goes it’s even been pointed in story that Catherine doesn’t really know her all that well, which made it a surprise when she suddenly lashed out her for a pretty weird reason (that Juniper explained).

    With Black I think almost all of us were sure that Bard was just talking out of her ass, but it seems like with Malicia’s comment (that Black is reverting back to his 16 year old mindset of undisguised loathing instead of the inhumanity that I think we all assumed was his, ah, “base mindset” I guess) of just coming back and assuming direct control of Praes.

    Those are just minor though, the kind of thing I assume gets tuned up after finishing the story but before publishing. Big fan of the work man, love the story so far!

    Like

  13. narcoduck

    You know what I think could have helped alot? An interlude from the 15th Legion’s rank and file after the end of the last arc. The narrative has been taken over by the Named to the point where it was unsurprising Nauk became unimportant to Fate, “expendable” as Juniper said.

    Seeing how Robber, Ratface, Killian, and Pickler react to Nauk’s injury could have been a neat chapter about how they’re getting left behind in the battle of legends and by Catherine herself. Maybe even a POV from Hune so this development wasn’t so rushed.

    Like

  14. E.E.-

    The typos/autocorrect mistakes are getting so bad here that they’re interfering with being able to understand the story. For example:

    “lying my way to the contraptions of godhood”

    Did you really mean contraptions? I don’t think you did, because it doesn’t make sense, but I also don’t have any way of guessing what you DID mean! Commissions of godhood? Compensations? What? I could easily read over all the “ifs” that should be “ofs” and so forth, but some of them are actually hurting the story.

    ———

    Brandon Sanderson is always telling fantasy writers that having your characters actually DO things is usually preferable to having them sit there contemplating.

    It mostly works for you to have long stretches of Cat’s inner monologue, more often than not. This world is so complicated you’re never going to get completely away from that. But at the same time it would be nice to get to Cat DOING things 🙂

    Like

  15. metalshop

    Reading this at 1am, to tired to leave a long comment so I’ll be brief.

    Story is good, slow thinky parts stand out well against big battle scenes. Stuff feels fast and strained because Cat is feeling strain from stuff going too fast.

    A few more typos than usual this time, might be worth doing an extra proofread pass each chapter.

    Mentioning the Patreon at the end of a negative review might not have been meant as a threat or manipulation but unfortunately it came off that way. Lesson learned for next time.

    Like

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