Chapter 9: Grand Pas

“Casualties are a consequence of properly employed tactics, not the intent. To merely bludgeon away is to reduce the conduct of war to arithmetic.”
– Theodosius the Unconquered, Tyrant of Helike

Hakram had once told me about an old orc proverb: even a child can devour a bear, one mouthful at a time. Apart from reminding me that most orc sayings tended to involved blood or death in some way – and that orcs apparently weren’t afraid to eat things with even larger teeth than they, to absolutely no one’s surprise – it’d struck something of a chord at the time. As a rule, I’d tended to be the underdog in fights since becoming the Squire and never had that been truer than when my waltz with the Tenth Crusade began. Fifty thousand Proceran soldiers had come through the pass, and though Juniper had been dismissive about the quality of most that host she’d cautioned that numbers had a weight of their own. Even if we traded soldiers at a rate of one to three, halfway through that battle my army would collapse as an effective fighting force while the Procerans just got started with deploying their reserves. From a strict military perspective, we couldn’t afford the casualties that thoroughly shattering the crusader army would cost us. From a political perspective, if took the gloves off I’d effectively kill any chance of Callow retaining its independence in the long term.

We had to beat Princess Malanza without beating her too badly, without losing too many men or resorting to any of our uglier tricks.

The Hellhound had complained of having her hands tied often and loudly, if in private, but under all that barking there’d been a visible thread of pleasure. She might have hated that politics played any part in this campaign, but I suspected she enjoyed the challenge of having restricted tools. It was forcing her to think beyond her traditional methods, to put the steel trap of a mind under all the glaring at work. We’d begun planning our battle before we ever entered Arcadia, refining it with every fresh report from the Jacks and the Observatory. The Unconquered had famously said that grand designs in war were a thing of vanity, but to us they were even more than that: with the number of heroes the other side was fielding, any plan too complicated was essentially guaranteed to fail. As long as there was even one critical component that had to succeed, that specific time and place would be crawling with angry, literally Heavens-sent foreigners out to fuck up our day. We couldn’t reiterate the old traps we’d used in Three Hills and Marchford: no matter how clever the bait, if we closed the teeth we’d find that steel gauntlet beat fangs.

So we hadn’t made a plan, not exactly.

It could be argued to be a dozen of them, instead, or even just a general operational doctrine. If having a pivot meant we lost, then we had to either avoid pivots entirely or make them impossible to reach. And we had the means for that, for all our other flaws. That was our real trump card, when it came down to it: the fairy gates. Or more specifically, the mobility they lent my troops. I doubted they understood everything I could do with those, or even that I wasn’t the only one who could make them: the Wild Hunt could open its own, if it was led by Larat. So far I’d used Arcadia to cut down time on long journeys, but that was only the surface use. Closer to the enemy I could still use them to disappear an army into thin air and reappear close by quicker than was physically possible. Just because I’d not used the gates for short journeys didn’t mean I couldn’t. The first step had been splitting the Army of Callow into three columns. Two of six thousand, and one of nine and chance – the largest one was the central one as well, and fielded all of Baroness Ainsley’s reinforcements. The two armies on the wings had split from the central host, moving east and west.

We’d set out the silver, now were were going to eat the bear one bite at a time.

The crusading army was large. It had nearly twelve thousand horse to my own mere five thousand. It had priests and wizards and heroes. It was also slow. We’d only realized how slow it really was when it crossed the northern passage, and carefully confirmed it over the weeks since. Of that fifty thousand men, more than a third was levies. Men and women in the prime of their life, certainly, and in good shape. But farming and marching were different kinds of labour, especially when weighed down by arms and armour. The Hellhound had described our conflict as two hounds with a chain around their neck, sallying out to fight in the place where both our chains allowed us to reach. The anchor on our side was Hedges. We couldn’t allow them to take the city, since it opened them a direct path into the heartlands of Callow. The anchor on theirs was their supply line. Snaking across the Whitecaps, the wagon caravans moved day and night to bring enough food across that the crusaders wouldn’t run out of foodstuffs before they reached a place where they could take local supplies – either by sacking granaries or foraging the countryside. But the passage was narrow, and they had fifty thousand bellies to feed. The foodstuffs from Procer were slowing the rate they were burning through their reserves at, but it wasn’t stopping it.

If our strengths were insufficient to carry the day, Juniper had said, then we had to play to the enemy’s weaknesses. And the two that were exploitable were the sluggish pace and sprawling supply lines. Now, Malanza had already proved she was no fool. She had to know it would be child’s play for me to take the Order of Broken Bells out and hit the pass up north while she was still too far to prevent me from putting everything to the torch and leave a small garrison behind to make sure the river stayed dammed. We believed she’d gambled on her having enough supplies to reach Hedges even if we did, which meant she’d be picking up the pace soon to force a battle there. Taking a swing at our anchor to force us to be where she needed us to be, essentially. Except instead of facing the single host manning walls she must have expected to see arrayed before her, she now had three field armies to contend with. And those armies were moving closer to hers, making a loose half-circle so she’d be blundering into encirclement if she didn’t break us apart.

“And now we find out what kind of a commander Malanza is,” Juniper said.

The two of us had remained with the central army, the beating heart of the net we’d cast over the region. The crusader army was too far in the distance for us to see even the fire smoke. Seven days away, by our estimate. We’d been prudent in case she had the means to make them pick up the pace. Scrying had allowed the western and eastern army to keep the same distance on the sides.

“The Jacks finally confirmed the Watch linked up with them two days ago,” I said. “Kegan is keeping her part of the bargain.”

“They won’t be trusted,” the orc grunted. “Not if what you told me about the Grey Pilgrim is true.”

“They don’t need to be trusted,” I reminded her. “They just need to be there.”

I’d sent instruction down to Hakram to kick up a fuss at the border with Daoine to add some weight to the gambit, but my hopes were not high. Procer, unlike the Empire and I, did not have the benefit of having mages capable of scrying within Callow. Which meant information travelled back to Malanza and to the First Prince with a considerable delay compared to us. They might not even learn about Adjutant’s agitation in time for it to matter, but the possibility still existed and that was enough to warrant the attempt at disinformation.

“So, what’s your guess?” I asked after a moment of silence.

“She either splits her forces to engage us separately or she goes straight for the head of the snake,” Juniper said. “There’s risks to splitting. She’s not sure how quick we can redeploy and our foot’s usually better than hers. Smaller armies make that count more.”

“So you think she’s headed for us,” I said.

“It’s what I’d do, if I were her,” the Hellhound said. “Otherwise she’s engaging on terms we dictated. She swings at us, though, and she can assume we’ll pull down our other two armies to reinforce us. She still gets the battle she needs.”

“We can’t give her open field all the way down to Harrow,” I conceded.

“The woman has been having too leisurely a march so far, Foundling,” Juniper sharply grinned. “Time to kick the hive. First blow tonight.”

I nodded slowly.

“East or west?” I asked.

“Sending your vicious little minion to the east first loses us at least four days,” she grunted. “West, has to be. I don’t want to give her a breather or too much time to think.”

“I’ll talk to Larat,” I said. “The Hunt’s been raring to get off the leash.”

“Lots of that going around,” Juniper said, a tad drily.

I frowned at her.

“You’re going somewhere with this, I take it?” I said.

Juniper spat to the side.

“Don’t take this wrong, Catherine, but you’ve lost the taste for it,” she said. “Any fool can see that.”

“I’m not sure what you’re saying,” I admitted. “That I’m trying to stab people less? Juniper, saying fuck it and chewing through the opposition no matter the consequences is what got us in this mess in the first place. We’re not playing with the kind of stakes where mistakes can be afforded anymore. One slip is all it takes to tumble down on our heads.”

“You put on a crown so you have to play Wasteland games,” the Hellhound grunted. “I don’t like it, but I get it. But a year ago, Foundling, you would have been licking your chops at the thought of a battle like we’re planning. You were hungry for it. Now you’re just…”

“Tired,” I finished quietly. “Tired and afraid.”

“It’s not pretty to look at, Catherine,” my Marshal said. “Now’s not the time for the fire to go out. The enemy’s at the gate and going at them half-hearted is going to get a lot of people killed.”

My fingers clenched, then slowly unclenched. If Juniper was willing to say this much, she’d been sitting on it for some time. And she wouldn’t be the only one of my officers thinking it.

“When I was nine, I think, I was sent to the market by the orphanage matron to pick up our meat for the month,” I told her. “When I got there, I saw the butcher getting roughed up by city guard. They wanted him to join one of the guilds, so Mazus would get his cut.”

“So Imperial Governors were shit to your people,” the orc shrugged. “Not exactly a revelation, Foundling.”

Compassion had never been one of Juniper’s strengths.

“I stood there,” I told her. “I knew, bone-deep, that there wasn’t a fucking thing I could do about it. So I just watched.”

Juniper bared her teeth.

“You have the fangs now, Catherine,” she said. “Keeping them pearly white means nothing’s changed.”

“I used to believe that,” I admitted. “You know who broke that fight up? Legionaries. A pair of orcs. They beat the guards badly enough one had to be carried away. I think that’s when I decided, before I really knew it, that I was going to join the Legions. So one day I’d be the one handing the beatings instead of just standing there.”

“So why the fuck are we giving Procer a pass for invading, then?” Juniper growled. “Those princes, those heroes. It’s like we’re worrying more about keeping them alive than our own soldiers. No one put a knife to their throat to make them cross that pass, Catherine. Banner went up in Salia and they signed on. I’m not preaching devilry at you – that sort of blow always comes back around. But we have all these nasty tricks we’re just sitting on, and I can’t think of a good reason why. So Procer gets pissy if we kill their boys? They’re already riding on a godsdamned crusade. Burn them all, and the First Prince too. I’ll say this for the Empress, at least when she screws us she doesn’t expect us to apologize for it.”

“You’re still angry I shut down Bonfire,” I said, and it was not a guess.

“I love it, you know,” Juniper grinned unpleasantly, all teeth and malice. “Having this unholy mess up north and still having to beat the opposition with my hands tied. Ain’t no one ever fought a war like that before. We will be remembered. But you know how we got all these fancy titles? ‘cause we were willing to go as far as we needed to. We brawled in the mud to get up here, Catherine, and suddenly we’re too good for it? We’re going soft. And soft ends up in the cooking pot, sooner or later.”

“That’s the thing, Juniper,” I said quietly. “This is the strongest I’ve ever been. I have armies, wealth, a kingdom. I have the Woe, sharpened fighting heroes. I have the Wild Hunt and the last good claim on Winter. Even in wildest dreams as a kid I never thought I’d get this much power.”

I bit my lip.

“I thought that was enough,” I told the orc. “Having the biggest stick. That once you had that, everything else fell into place. But while I was using that stick to whack the opposition, running all around Callow, an entire city went dark.”

Juniper opened her mouth, but I gestured for her to let me keep speaking.

“No,” I said. “Really think about it. An entire city. More than a hundred thousand people, Hellhound. Because we were good and we were strong and we got cocky. There is an entire part of a kingdom gone forever because I thought being feared and powerful would see us through. It didn’t. It won’t now, either.”

“You can’t let Liesse fil your shadow, Catherine,” Juniper said, almost kindly. “Wasteland get always fucks the world. It’s the only trick they have.”

“I have to, Juniper,” I said. “I’ve walked out ruins still breathing again and again, so I stopped thinking we could lose. But we did lose, last year. We killed and got killed, and all we had to show for it at the end was a mass grave.”

“We killed Diabolist,” the orc said. “We shut the door on the Fae.”

“We beat them,” I said. “That’s not a victory. We just stopped them from making the larger mess they had it in them to make.”

“Then you learned the wrong lesson,” Juniper said. “And we should have pulled the trigger on Bonfire the moment the army was halfway ready. We’re still fighting their kind of war, Catherine.”

“No,” I said, and ice crept into the tone. “They think that, no doubt. Some of your officers might think that too. But make no mistake, this is my play from opening to curtains. I’ll negotiate with the other side, because it gets me better results than crushing them outright. Because peace is a better path to what I want than setting cities aflame. But I still have it, Hellhound. The urge to just step on them. The victory I’m after simply happens to require more than corpses.”

The Marshal of Callow studied me for a long time, before giving a sharp nod.

“So long as it’s not squeamishness,” she finally said.

I looked up at the afternoon sky, the spring sun that failed to warm me.

“You’re right, about the fear,” I said. “I am afraid. That was the hardest learning, that power doesn’t solve anything, it just… broadens the scope. Raises the stakes. I got on top of the pedestal, and now that I’ve had a good look around what I’m seeing is making me want to flinch.”

I was not blind to the gathering storm. The Empress was feeling cornered, and she’d already proven the kind of measures she was willing to take if she thought survival was at stake. Black had holed up in the Vales for winter, cut from his old anchors, and in a way that made him more dangerous than he’d used to be. When he came out swinging, and he would, there was no telling who he’d be swinging at. The Free Cities were a pot about to boil over, led by two madmen whose intent was anyone’s guess. And the whole muster of the West was gathering, preparing to hit Callow in waves. And in the middle of it all, I had to break the ugly story that had ground both Callow and Praes under the wheel for millennia.

“Fear’s good,” Juniper said. “Fear is blood and life. But it’s too late to flinch, Warlord.”

“I know,” I murmured. “And so we got to war again.”

We parted ways after that, and began our work. The thing was, what we were doing wasn’t rewriting the book. The tactics at work were old ones, used by armies for centuries. On the other hand, none of those armies had had fairy gates to work with. All it took was asking Hierophant to scry our western commander – the freshly-promoted General Nauk, as it happened. And so after nightfall, the six thousand men of the western army disappeared from the field. They reappeared three days of march behind the crusading host, and the wolf riders that had once been General Istrid’s began to raid their way up the Proceran supply line. They took cattle and grain, poultry and bread, but left the men who surrendered untouched. Didn’t even take them prisoner. Juniper’s notion, that, not sentimentality. Leaving them behind mean more mouths for Malanza to feed. The Princess of Aequitan sent twelve thousand men north to bring Nauk to battle, mostly horse and fantassins, but by the time they arrived the army was long gone. It reappeared to the west a few days later. That’s right, Malanza. Now you know for sure I have two gate-makers. So let’s find out if your heroes can discern where they are, shall we? The hive had been duly kicked.

Now we got to see what came screaming out.

70 thoughts on “Chapter 9: Grand Pas

  1. So far I’d used Arcadia to cut down time on long journeys, but that was only the surface use. Closer to the enemy I could still use them to disappear an army into thin air and reappear close by quicker than was physically possible. Just because I’d not used the gates for short journeys didn’t mean I couldn’t.

    This is a random comment but this is the exact tactic I used against my latest opponent using psi jump drives in stellaris. It’s INCREDIBLY EFFECTIVE if you use it right, and I’m proud of both myself and Cat for seeing it through.

    Liked by 17 people

  2. I think it’s going to become violent anyway the heavens want escalation and they can pull a lot of strings and burn a few Callow cities single handedly and when that happens Cats going to get mad and Callow will go Blood for the Blood Queen, Skulls for the Skull Throne, Souls for the Soul Eater

    Liked by 5 people


      …and for her treacherous lieutenant, I suppose – nothing pacifies the Wild Hunt better than unbridled bloodshed and whipped cream, after all.
      The trick is to balance thouse two, for even illusory bridles on one’s ability to let blood or insufficient amount of whipping applied to the cream can promptly drive one crazy in a very bad way.
      Trust me on that.

      In all seriousness though, that would be too predictable of an outcome, therefore – boring. It would serve as a nice moral to a tolkienesque story, of course – Queen of Ashes, sitting on her Throne of Skulls in the middle of Queendom of Waste, drinking a wine of sorrow from an empty chalice that is a skull of her closest friend…
      But from what we’ve seen so far, I dare to hope, this story is far from tolkienesque – and amen to that! After all, that also means no more dumb questions about the Eagles from the people who with stupendous spectacularity failed to understood basic premise behind the Parable of Frodo.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Could you elaborate on that spectacular misunderstanding about the eagles and the basic premise behind the parable of Frodo? So far, there have been quite a few fans claiming that, but all of them have been reduced to muttering and half answers, when asked further about it. This is particularly vexing, as i’m not even in it for the smugness or anything, but i’d just really want to see the point of it.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Many people think they should have just taken the Eagles to Mordor. This has quite a few problems.

          1. They would refuse. Eagles aren’t pack animals. They are emissaries from the Valar (angels), on par with Gandalf.
          2. They would die before even getting close. Humans and Orcs alike shoot at them and they can’t fly high enough to be out of range. Getting near Mordor only to be shot down by Gondor archers would be ironic, but not the best decision.
          3. They would be seen. The Eagles are quite conspicuous and Sauron would see them, then send the Nazgul after them. It’d be practically handing the Ring to him.


          • Alternatively, when Gandalf tell them to “fly, you fools”, he means to tell them to get the giant birdies but they don’t understand, so they walk.


  3. I didn’t realize Cat could open gates without being physically present. If she can open a gate for Nauk’s army while they are camped just by scrying him…can she do the same for the Proceran crusade? Leaving them wandering in Arcadia seems like a good tactic.


    • Pretty sure it’s Larat opening the gate there – she mentioned he could do it this chapter.

      And the gates seem like static things that you have to go through, so she can’t use them on the crusade. Plus trapping a bunch of heroes in Arcadia is a great way to get them coming out (somehow) at the least opportune time.

      Liked by 11 people

      • Also, time passes by differently in Arcadia. Trapping the heroes in a realm of horrors where they might uncover a new skill/trick or transcend themselves to return to their comrades, just in time to stop the villain from the striking the final blow is a Narrative setup that might actually work.

        Liked by 12 people

    • In addition to it being Larat that opened that gate even if she _could_ move the Proceran into Arcadia I don’t think she would. She came right out and said a pile of corpses isn’t her goal here.


    • It’s in her last thought comment: >> That’s right, Malanza. Now you know for sure I have TWO gate-makers. So let’s find out if your heroes can discern where they are, shall we? <<


  4. “You can’t let Liesse fil your shadow, Catherine,”

    Should be “fill”, though I still don’t quite understand it.


    • Its flowery language for you shouldn’t let the shadow of Liesse hang over every action you take. I quite like the non-standard turn of phrase.

      Liked by 6 people

  5. One subtle way they are inverting the normal Good and Evil dynamic I just noticed is that normally it would be the heroes using the small army and clever tactics vs. a numerically superior enemy force. The rules of the Narrative seem to work more at the level of individual named then at the scale of armies, but if I was on Procer’s side I’d be rather worried that we were letting the other side be the plucky underdogs in this.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Not only that but the Proceran’s are the invading force. The title of Crusade and the Heroes are honestly the only thing I see keeping that force somehow on the side of the Heavens. Invaders, check. Planning to permanently take the country, check. larger army, check. Basically all I see is an incursion into a semi-sovereign nation, and that is not really on the side of Good without the heroes to make it so.

      Liked by 9 people

      • It might just be that the gods tend to prefer supporting those kinds of stories, good or evil be damned, and the roles have now switched up.


        • I think that is the narrative that our Dark Queen is spinning, tied in with promises from the Grey Nomad they are practically inviting the Wild hunt to prey on them one stormy night as oathbreakers.


  6. The mobility from the fairy gates isn’t the key here. It’s a good tactic don’t get me wrong, but it isn’t even close to the enough with this caliber of opposition.

    On top of that, if this was the key, she just tipped her hand immediately. The Catherine Foundling that’s leading this host isn’t the same Catherine Foundling that simply Struggled through the mess by the skin of her teeth with no plan in place. This isn’t it.

    The key is misdirection, making them play the wrong game from the start. Just like Black tricking Akua into playing the wrong game with his body double, and just like the Bard tricking Black into signing Captains death warrant using a series of utter short term defeats.

    Tipping her hand this way has to be intentional. The Faerie gates were the focus of attention in the first place, a known dangerous card. With this she just shifted even more attention to them; and more importantly she indirectly shifted attention away from other possibilities. Reaffirming assumptions that might not be true.

    I’d guess at two things so far. The lesser game is pulling focus away from Glamour. It’s something all Fae can do to a varying extent, is completely overshadowed by the gates at the moment, and wasn’t used in Liesse or the Arcadian war. So what if the first bad assumption she’s pulling them into is that they actually know which force is where. That the gates they scout actually exist, and that they can scout the gates at all.

    What if you could, say, hide a gate with a waiting army in plain sight? Use the visible forces to draw the opposing army into showing their backs to the gate, and bring a hammer of cavalry down on the anvil once the battle is underway.

    The bigger, potentially much scarier game though, is the assumption that gets reinforced with all this focus on mobility. Putting so much effort into moving pieces around more quickly, that implies that the pieces actually need to be in position to strike. But if this assumption doesn’t apply to a certain piece, you could checkmate them from out of the blue.

    That scary weapon she had in her pocket – what was it, absolute positioning? What if that was something that let Masego cast from the observatory at a position on the battlefield, without actually having to be at the battlefield. What if the key was being able to know what was happening from inside his fortress with the Scrying amplification, and being able to change the game at a pivotal moment when no one took him into account because he isn’t physically there.

    It would be the exact kind of trump card that would make you a hellgate level threat once the implications are realized. The entire war – the guerilla tactics, the illusions, the faerie gates – they could serve as a distraction so that it wouldn’t be on anyone’s mind when it needs to be used.

    The best part is, it would be a plan with almost no chance to fail, because it isn’t really a plan. She can literally just fight as she normally does, and it’s a card which isn’t even in her own pocket. It would technically be in the Hierophant’s.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Absolute positioning presumably would require the Observatory to be directed by Hierophant, who was told in chapter two to have departed with Catherine’s host. More importantly, it’s exactly the kind of a trick that Cat and Juniper talk about in this chapter – brutally efficient, but severely complicating the later negotiations, which they’ll need more than a magical superweapon at the moment. It’s been foreshadowed, so they’ll probably have to use it in this book, but so far that doesn’t seem to be the plan.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Going to spout some more tangentially related dubious truisms, so bear with me:
        * The goal of your actions during the game is not to make steps that will lead you to victory. What you ought to do, is to take actions that will lead to creation of environment where every step _your opponent_ takes leads him to profound defeat regardless of his intentions. This way all players will be striving to reach the same outcome. *

        Take scrying, for example. It is far too useful, far too great of an advantage to discard once you’ve managed to acquire it. And of course – big army with no reliable communications can be likened to Polyphemus during his unfortunate confrontation with certain Nobody, especially in the middle of war against someone who can utilize scrying to the greatest extent.
        Now, imagine there is a way to gain at least partial control of your opponent’s scrying wetware. Not simply to deny one’s ability to communicate, but – in essentiality – to tie puppet strings to your enemy’s nervous system.

        It is a very dangerous thing to do, yes – but not on the level of Mass Application of Demons of the stable Greater Breach, surely.
        All one need to do to counteract that threat, is to stop using scrying!

        …Oh, wait…

        Liked by 2 people

    • I agree on the first part, but disagree on what the true plan is. You see, she said already that she needs to give battle before they reach Harrow, but she also mentioned she can bring the army out in a moment, thus my take on the plan is this: She will keep harassing the supply lines, forcing the enemy to march faster and give battle. After stopping their advance, she retreats through the gate to a nearby position, but one that would need more marching and tiring out just after a battle. When she pursues, because even if she decides to rest first she will pursue, Cat can do the same again. And again. And let the food end this war, without much death, but in an utterly dominant way. If the enemy decides to rush to the city instead of fighting them, there is still the problem that the First Prince said to not take form the people of Callow, thus Cat will try to stop her, but one way or another this is create a schism that won’t let this army run freely anymore. Win/win.


  7. Juniper isn’t wrong, but she has too much of a militaristic view on things in my opinion. Its a pleasure to see Cat maturing.

    And Nauk! I missed Nauk. There hasn’t been much mention of him in ages!


  8. Brilliant manoeuvre on Catheriine’s part here. The Proceran army is going to get even slower, and their supply situation more complicated. Plus they have been denied a battle and a massacre to show their cause is heavenly.

    One thing which is for the moment really bad for the Tenth Crusade and the heroes is that for the moment, only the Saint of Swords and the Grey Pilgrim have been described in this army. The other twelve heroes are completely unknown and the Callowan Army is always describing as ‘heroes’ on plural…the next battle for many of them is going to be their last, I think. Is it going to be a graveyard of Princes or Heroes first? What an interesting dilemma…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. For Cats deal with the watch do you think she’s going to make a fairy gate to Arcadia and invade or just have Mango stick that demon of corruption on them

    Liked by 1 person

    • She says that Watch “don’t need to be trusted, just need to be there.” The only Idea I have that wouldn’t include giving them orders to do anything is for Malanza to leave a detachment of three thousand to keep an eye on them, so I must be missing something. Also, Cat just banned any use of diabolism for this campaign, so no deploying the demon.


  10. When many heroes from different band gather together the story is directed by the one with the heaviest. If their story isn’t strong enough they will be crushed.
    In this case we have two super old heroes who can determine the course of the battlefield. I dare to say that at the end of this war apart from them the number of surviving heroes will not exceed two or three


  11. From wiki:

    In ballet, a grand pas (French: [ɡʁɑ̃ pɑ]; literally, big or large step) is a suite of dances that serves as a showpiece for lead dancers, demi-soloists, and in some cases the corps de ballet. It usually consists of an entrée (introduction), a grand adage, sometimes a dance for the corps de ballet (often referred to as the ballabile), optional variations (solo dances) for the demi-soloists, variations for the lead ballerina or danseur or both, and a coda (sometimes referred to as a coda générale or grand coda), which concludes the suite.

    Oh, I’m just loving the implications thrown here and there. Not really sure what Kat’s planning, but I know i’m going to like it.

    Liked by 6 people

    • I don’t remember myself, had the same thought. I mean, it was mentioned that faerie magic could fix him and Cat has that in spades these days, so maybe she fixed him? Dunno.


  12. Sometimes, most times, characters stating aloud how they feel and why they’re doing what they’re doing is bad writing.

    But when you have a really complicated issue, and really nuanced stakes and meaning, just being able to state something can be impressive in its own right, and engrossing to read. This is that.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Part of me is all like, “Congratulations, Princess Malanza! Your glorious prize is: a Vietnam War situation! Except, the climate is more temperate, you are dealing with Gates over tunnels and your version of ‘the Press’ back home who will kick up a fuss about body bags is actually your Boss Lady of Exceedingly Pointy Words. Enjoy!”

    Liked by 1 person

  14. “General Nauk” !!!! glad to see he is well and kicking:)
    given he lead a separate army we will maybe see his pov soon and learn what happened to him after waking up.

    the grand pas title can have so much meaning:o


  15. When you think about it, Cat going for a diplomatic style victory over crushing the opposition into a mountain of corpses is probably going to surprise and throw off everyone else. She has a reputation for being ruthless and solving problems by smashing her opposition with her sword/fist/boot. So if she suddenly starts cutting deals and avoiding force of arms to achieve victory, its going to seriously mess with people’s perception of her.

    I’m very interested to know more about her Liesse Accords and plans to end the war/keep Callow out of the war. As stated in one of the earlier chapters, she’s playing an entirely different game than all the other commanders on field. There are hints of that in this chapter too. Here’s hoping she totally crushes the Princes. Can’t wait for the next few chapters.

    Urgh. I hate it when I catch up with the author and the latest installments. It means I can no longer binge read and devour entire novels at once.


  16. I’m fully waiting for conservation of ninjutsu to kick in and dispatch most of the heroes. Right now, aside from Hanno, the Pilgrim and the Saint, they all amount to glorified mooks destined to job at the best possible moment.

    Hitting supply lines is a fine opening move, but nothing more thab that. As Cat has stated, the Crusade probably has enough rations to last until Harrow. I can’t see it being crippling to them, but it is a fine way to kick procerans into action. Taking no prisioners is a fine touch. Annoying, and costs literally nothing.

    I would love for thus to be resolved in a battle of cannae style battle.


    • As Cat obliquely mentioned in this chapter it was a form of probing attack which achieved multiple things:
      Probing the enemy, obviously, to see their response to a threat they can’t ignore.
      Deception of the enemy as to what she actually wants to do.
      Causing annoyance and complication to the enemy, forcing them to move up their time table.

      Off the top of my head, I’m pretty sure Cat is using some principles from that Proceran hero who defeated Theodosius of Helike by having a bunch of plans at “the first step” since the first step in a villains plan’s always succeeds. At least I think that’s where the principle came from.


      • Nah, you missing things. First step is mentioned with Irritant and Tyrant, the general you are talking about is Isabella the Mad, most commonly known for making such an insane fight, Theodosius just got annoyed and quit.


  17. Ok , so I have just read all chapters in like a week. Maybe it is too late for that , but I just wante to say that I had really hoped for some more “Heroes” to go to Cat camp , but I guess my dreams got shattered in prologue, or maybe not? What do you think ?


    • We’ll see. The “Heroes” if their cause is shown to not be righteous may defect to her side, and while the Pilgrim for example is very very unlikely to defect, he did agree with her on some things and she agreed with some things he said. Actual functional communication is a pretty huge step up from where it was before Cat.


  18. A series of wasp stings to enrage your enemy and make him move where you want. First, an attack on the rear to suprise them and destroy supplies. Doesn’t do a lot of damage, but now the Procerans need to devote troops to protect the supply lines that they had planned to use in the attack.

    I suspect next will be raids on the Proceran foraging parties, they may have food but probably not enough wood for fires. This will further annoy and anger the troops. Meanwhile, the younger heros are anxious to fight evil and will be pushing to attack. Some of the Princes will push to attack as well, these Callowan attacks make them look bad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • She can go full Courvedmouth on them and destroy their supply of horse food. Mayor problem for proffesional cavalery was always food, since horses breed for combat are quite picky about what they can eat and won’t survive very long on grass alone. If Masego can summon rain that also would be great since armies absolutly crawl through mud especially ones with horses.


  19. The thing that bothers me about all this love for the Grey Pilgrim is this:
    For all that his demeanor is a bit more reasonable, the GP suffers from the same blinders as every other Hero. Kill Catherine and then what? If Procer divvies up Callow, all you’ve created is a multi-generational story of an occupied land seething with hatred for their foreign overlords. Truthfully, that’s far, FAR more likely to drive the Callowans as a people into the arms of Below than having a Villain whose a stabilizing force on the throne for awhile.

    End of the day, Heroes in the Guide are incapable of being Good. Above isn’t interested in Good. The Heavens simply want to beat Evil. Mass mind-rape, (which was actually done on a scale far beyond what William attempted, to throw a failed Crusade at the Dead King) and the extinction of countless innocents doesn’t make the Heavens blink in the slightest.

    Before it’s over, I’m sure we’ll have seen definitive evidence the GP is just as much a minion of the homicidal/genocidal angels as all the other Heroes.


  20. I finally caught up this chapter, aka this story has been ruining my life for a few weeks now. I have a few questions now that I’m here.

    Didn’t Catherine make a promise to Larat to give him the heads of seven mortal princes and one, in exchange for him taking the field against summer on their third trip through Arcadia? The imprisoned princess of summer thought that was a very bad idea. What happened to that debt? I’m guessing I missed the resolution since he mostly seems subordinate to her now.

    My other question is regarding Nauk – did Hierophant just heal him? I don’t remember a big fuss about it.


    • Technically she swore to take the crown’s of seven mortal princes and one, and to lay them at the feet of the Prince of Nightfall. That prince no longer exists, as Larat abdicated his title, fundamentally changing his nature. Especially with the shift in Arcadia away from the Courts. It’s a technicality, but those are important when dealing with Fey.


  21. You have to remember that Procer’s view of the common folk by the Princes is that their lives don’t matter, shown by how they regularly kill them of in political wars which happen about once a year, given that I can’t see them hesitating to just start killing of Callow and trying to dump the fantassins as colonists


  22. Didn’t notice anyone mentioning it, so just putting it there, hoping someone will notice.

    EE, do you know that your page name for Chapter 9 is actually Tad misleading.


  23. “It’s like we’re worrying more about keeping them alive than our own soldiers. No one put a knife to their throat to make them cross that pass, Catherine.”

    THANK YOU! Juniper. The amount of effort and trouble she seems to have gone through to avoid harming the other side is ridiculous.


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