Chapter 19: Recovery

“To seek to ascertain the worth of even a single a soul through morality is to force unnecessary mysticism onto a simple matter. As in all things, supply and demand determine the price.”
– Extract from “Bought and Sold”, a collection of the teachings of the Merchant Prince Irenos, founder of Mercantis

“I’ll admit it,” I said. “I was expecting a library.”

My previous trips into dreamland had not led me to expect a great deal of nuance in the matter, though admittedly that’d been my own mind. Might just be that Masego was a little less straightforward in his way of looking at the world. The lack of swamp and shambling horde certainly implied as much. Instead Hierophant’s dream was order gone mad. A pane of crystal under my feet, tethered to the centre of the massive structure by a long length of gold, kept me aloft. Unfortunately that did little to put my old fear of heights from rearing up its head. It was one thing to leap down from the sky when I knew my legs would unbreak themselves within moments, another to have only a thin sheet of crystal being the only thing keeping me from falling into endless void.

“Fucking Hells, Masego,” I muttered. “Would it have killed you to put up a railing?”

Aside from the very real possibility of falling down forever, I had to concede there was a strange beauty to what I saw. It reminded me, in a way, of the depiction of astral spheres I’d once seen in Black’s mansion in Ater. Though, instead of circling the sun the way mages had along ago proven Creation did, everything here was circling the sphere of shivering translucent flame held within a deep basin of gold. From it spanned long tubes of gold holding up lesser spheres all wildly different. Crystal and frost, roiling wind and swarms of small silver constructs. My own platform, like all the others, circled around the central sphere with a slow and measured ticking sound. I could glimpse gears and cranks beneath the basin that kept it all moving along. I shivered, though there was no wind here. Perhaps because there was no wind. There was something subtly wrong about what lay before me, though I would not deny its eerie splendour. It was not a perspective, the way the cold machinery behind Black’s eyes could be understood. It was…

“A way of understanding Creation,” I finished out loud.

My voice felt dim and there was no echo. The void swallowed it all. My platform kept moving, and I shook myself out of the fugue. Odds were that I’d be able to find Masego within the sphere at the heart of this. I looked down at the gold support beam and winced. It was round, after all. If I slipped after making my way down… Well, I wasn’t sure what the consequences of falling into the void would be, but considering Hierophant’s mind was bound to have some very nasty defences I suspected it would not be pleasant. Not that my own little journey into Winter dreamland had been a treat. My fingers clenched. Don’t think about it, I told myself. Winter had been trying to grind me down, by lingering on the remembrance I was only playing its game.

“So shimmying across that beam is a bit of a stretch,” I decided. “That leaves trying to move from sphere to sphere.”

I turned my gaze to the moving structures. While I couldn’t discern the exact pattern yet – some beams extended at specific sections of the rotation, while others withdrew – I could at least grasp the likely length of the beams. And, more importantly, if one was ever going to come close enough for me to leap across. One, two, three – no, just two, that last one was moving back without warning and staying there. It’d have to do. I considered allowing a full rotation to take place just so I’d avoid running into any surprises, but there were no guarantees the pattern would remain the same every time. And, by the looks of it, this was going to take a while. Not all spheres were rotating at the same speed, but mine was fairly slow.  Hard to properly measure time and distance in here, but I’d guess at least two hours for a full turn? Leaping uncertainly would be a risk, but so would be waiting that long when I was uncertain of the relative time flows in here and outside.

“I understand you’re a man of deep and complex thought, Zeze, but you’re not making this easy,” I sighed. “You know what’s the worst people have to deal with, in my mind? Condescension Queen and Lady Backstab. And that one endless horde of dead trying to kill them, but let’s be honest – that’s not exactly out of our wheelhouse.”

I’d kind of expected one or both of the twins to materialize and mouth off after that, but I remained alone. Shame. Probably could have made rope out of intestines, maybe used bones for a hook. I paused.

“I’m not being unnecessarily gruesome there,” I defensively told the void. “I don’t know how to make rope out of hair, and to be solid enough to hold my weight skin would have to be tanned first.”

Nothingness did not answer. Pointedly so, I felt.

“Well, fuck you too,” I muttered.

It wasn’t murder if they were projections of your unconscious mind, I comforted myself. Probably. I’d never looked up if the Empire had laws on the subject. Testing the platform beneath me, to my distaste I found it rather slippery. That was not going to be pleasant. I tried to see if Winter was willing to get involved, but I was reaching for nothing. No, I thought. Not nothing. It was just distant. Interesting, but it wasn’t helping me in the slightest at the moment. The first outer sphere passed close after I spent half an eternity dawdling in the middle of nowhere, but I let that one pass. The sphere was wind and barely contained. Too much of a risk. The second rotated close after the rest of eternity passed me by, and I winced. Fire. Silver flames that flickered without a sound. Well, it wasn’t going to be pleasant if I stumbled into those but it was still better than falling. The boots on my feet were old, nothing like those I now wore though I vaguely recalled having owned that pair before being apprenticed to Black. The wiggle room for my toes was nice, but the softness of used leather less so. I had to balance my weight carefully when I took a running start.

“Nonononono-” I valiantly screamed, realizing with horror halfway through the leap that the sphere was withdrawing.

I had no power to call on, no mantle or Name that could save my hide at the last moment. The stark understanding of my helplessness brought back something I’d begun to forget – fear. Not the dim worry for events yet to come that haunted my every hour since I’d taken the crown, but the colder thing that was having to look death in the eyes. I twisted forward, and my fingers caught the edge of the platform. My life was not owed to my own merits. The sphere had just withdrawn only slightly.

“Oh Hells,” I panted, forcing my other hand to clench so the trembling would stop while I brought it up to clasp the platform’s edge.

I felt sweat drenching my back, another sensation I’d near forgotten. My palms were growing moist as well, and that was a lot worrying since they were the only thing between me and falling.

“Godsdamnit, Masego,” I said. “Godsfucking-“

I took a deep breath, then pulled myself up with grunt of effort. It was awkward, and my palm slipped when I got my leg over the ledge. I ended up falling awkwardly on the side, rolling in panic towards the fire to avoid the fall. Wait, had there really been enough –

The Conjurer was an utter fool, yet somehow he still lived despite Masego’s best efforts. His lips twisted into a sneer and he traced Form and Force, weaving the formula his words shaped through them. Air clustered into three arithmetically perfect spheres and shot forward, though in his irritation he had allowed the proper angle to/

Seven full months had he studied the theory. It was the simplest working he knew, transmutation of power into heat and light, yet his every deviation from the original formula to craft his own had resulted in failure. The numbers were perfect, he knew it, but somehow the spell would not/

“We’re not bleeding people, Apprentice,” she said accusingly. “We’re not that desperate.” He blinked, more out of sheer affront than surprise. What kind of a blunderer did she take him for? He opened his mouth to snap/

– I rolled out of the silver flames, my body shivering. That had felt… I patted my own stomach, reassured to find it flat. For a moment there’d been a disconnect and I’d expected to find otherwise. I closed my eyes and laid there for a moment before slapping my own face with an open palm. The sting snapped me out of it and I dragged myself into a crouch.

“Memories?” I murmured, glancing at the sphere.

Maybe. I’d felt genuinely nettled throughout all three glimpses. The third time had even been directed at myself, which was giving me a headache since his recollection of that conversation was a lot more vivid than my own. There’d been a common thread. It might be the same for every sphere, a sort of archive. Gods, his mind was so weird. I was starting to feel a lot better about the murder swamp in my own. I shook myself out of the trance. The rotation had continued while I was elsewhere, and for longer than I’d thought. I couldn’t even see the crystal platform I’d started on anymore. Still, screwed as that had been I was in a much better position now. There were twice as many spheres circling close to this one than there’d been for the last, and I picked on that looked like an orb of pure white marble for my second leap. There was no nasty halfway surprise this time. Time was hard to gauge, in here, but by my fourth leap I felt like I’d made some decent progress. I was more than halfway through, though difficulties had come with the advance. This close to the centre of the structure the spheres moved a lot quicker. And, I saw with a frown, the platforms around them were smaller. Not a lot of room for mistakes there.

I bid my time, reluctantly, until I picked one out whose rotation seemed steady and the sphere on it not too dangerous. A slower one passed by, but I wasn’t going anywhere near something that looked like a hole of darkness sucking in everything if I could help it. A constantly moving jigsaw of ivory wasn’t honestly much better, I’d admit to myself, but at this point there was only so much pickiness I could afford. With another heroically shrill scream I leapt, and it went perfectly. Angle and swiftness, all aligned as they should be. Then my boot touched the crystal, and with a sinking feeling I realized it was rough instead of smooth. Which wouldn’t have been much of a problem if I’d adjusted my stance before jumping. I had not. I stumbled with all the grace of cart rolling down a hill, my forehead going into-

He did not understand why the orc kept seeking his company, though as long as he came with a shatranj board Masego would not refuse the company. Campaigning, much as Father had implied, was a dull thing to suffer through. It was only when Hakram sat across him, sliding open the shutters holding the pieces, that he realized he’d been awaiting Adjutant. That he had no ceased his dissection earlier because there was nothing more to learn from the subject, but because he’d been looking forward to their evening game. “White?” Hakram offered and/

“It’s a sprite,” Archer said, shaking the glass bottle. He’d known at a glance, of course, and the angry buzzing of the lesser spirit indicated displeasure at the rough handling. “I am not unfamiliar with them,” Masego replied. “They are quite common in western Callow.” The strange woman chuckled, tossing the bottle into his lap. He hastily grabbed it. “Magelight’s supposed to be hard on the eyes,” Archer said. “If you’re going to keep reading after dark, use that instead.” He started in surprise. Had she caught it for him? Why would she/

“They were the rooms of the Wizards of the West, you know,” Thief said, leaning against the threshold. Masego did not quite succeed at hiding his start. She’d emerged without warning, as was her wont. Not even Summer’s light cast a shadow on her aspect. His eyes swept across the room, finding only furniture and a bath in the Soninke manner. “There is no trace of their presence,” he informed the woman. She shrugged. “Figured as much,” Thief said. “But there’s old stories about the location making it easier to align with ‘otherworldly powers’. Thought you might want to have a look.” The tone was defensive, he was certain. It held all the right markers. Did/

My face was less than an inch away from shifting ivory as I balanced uneasily on my feet. The roof of my mouth was dry. I licked my lips, retreating half a step. That’d been much more intense than the last. More nuanced as well. I’d felt the confusion shifting to understanding like it was my own. I still remembered what it felt like, people’s faces being so hard to read. Was that how he felt all the time? I’d thought he was uncomfortable with touching because it was the way Warlock had raised him, but that hadn’t been the way at all. I just… hadn’t known what the touching was for, and I’d hesitated to act until I could correctly identify the reason. It’d been like living a world full of masks, so very few of which I could read. Slowly I calmed down. Touching my face helped, the touch of my own fingers on my own flesh. I didn’t even bother to assess how much time had passed, since I already knew I wouldn’t like the answer. The spheres moved, but I waited patiently for my openings. Another two leaps, and as I stood besides a sphere of lightning-infused amber I timed my last one.

I’d underestimated how massive the central sphere truly was. At least as large as the royal palace in Laure, and the gold basin that held it was even larger. The trembling translucent flame in front of me was unlike the other globes I’d encountered. It was not full, only a thin barrier. Through it I could make out lights and shapes, some still and others in movement. Steeling myself, I marched through. Heat licked at my skin, ignoring my clothes, but there was no rush of foreign memories. Inside the sphere, as I had thought, Masego awaited. He was far from the only thing in there. Constellations of instruments of all kinds filled the firmament of this place, gold and silver and obsidian and a hundred other tools – some I had seen before, others never even imagined existed. They all clustered around Hierophant, who stood with his back to me as he studied something I could not make out.

“Distraction,” Masego said absent-mindedly. “Kill it.”

The only other living entity in the sphere moved. I looked back at my own face, my twin snorting and unsheathing her sword. Not my twin, I thought. She didn’t wear the same clothes as me, neither in this place nor back in Creation. She wore the same plate I had that day when we fought the Princess of High Noon, and her smile was too broad to be entirely human. It was a caricature of daring and insolence, not something lips could actually do.

“Masego,” I called out.

“Ah, apologies,” he replied patiently. “Please kill it.”

Flicker.

The other Catherine was no longer that. Archer idly nocked an arrow, the boundary between her scarf and her face blurred. Her appearance was even stranger than my not-twin’s had been. She was less detailed, like a rough painting of herself. It was when the string went as furthest back as it could that she sharpened, and in that moment she was stunning. The hungry gleam in the eyes, the easy arrogance in her stance. She wasn’t more beautiful than the real Indrani was, but there was an intensity to her that I’d never seen in Archer. Like she was leaving an indelible mark on this moment. The surprise of it slowed me down, and throwing myself to the ground did not help quite enough. The arrow went through my chest and I grunted in pain.

Flicker.

Adjutant slowly spun his axe as he advanced towards me. More statue than orc, all that he was set in stone. The weight of his presence was feather-light, at first, but the longer it was there the heavier it bore down on me. He bared fangs of carved bone as too-clever eyes followed my rising to my feet. The eyes were the most expressive part of this statue of Hakram, inhumanly perceptive. As if they were the only living part of him. I broke the arrow’s shaft, biting my lip to avoid screaming.

“Hakram,” I said. “Don’t do it.”

He kept advancing.

“Hakram,” I barked. “I order you to desist.”

Still advancing. Fuck.

“Masego,” I screamed, and then not-Hakram was upon me.

The moment he struck, he was a statue no longer. He turned into flesh and blood, strength uncoiling like a trebuchet released. I tried to catch his wrist, but I might as well have been wrestling that trebuchet. He smashed me into the ground effortlessly, painfully jarring the arrowhead still in my chest.

“Zeze,” I yelled. “Don’t you-“

“Wait,” Masego said.

The entity froze, axe a hair’s breadth away from my throat. Hierophant turned, and I grimaced at the sight. No blindfold on his face, i here. Hollow burnt-out sockets studied me, balls of Summer flame hovering within.

“I know you,” he said.

“Catherine,” I reminded him. “Your friend.”

He frowned. His face blurred, then became calm again.

“Are you quite certain?” he asked.

Shit. He doesn’t remember anything that’s in the spheres outside, does he? I had no idea how much of the man I knew was standing in front of me.

“Masego, you need to wake up,” I said. “I came here to get you back.”

“Don’t be absurd,” he chided me. “There is so much left to study.”

He gestured towards the thing his body had been hiding and my eyes widened. It was a sphere like those outside, though much smaller. The ball of Light was wriggling violently, a wound in it kept open by silver pincers.

“It is much clearer, without the noise,” Hierophant told me. “We are making great progress.”

I forced a smile.

“That’s good,” I said. “Tell me more about that. I want to see. But I’ll need to get up, for that, and there’s a blade at my throat.”

Flicker.

I saw Thief’s face, for a heartbeat, and then the entity was gone. Masego was gesturing.

“Come, come,” he said. “You’re familiar with the Ligurian theory of magic, of course.”

I got up, hand on my throat.

“Of course,” I lied. “It’s my favourite.”

He offered a beaming smile. His face blurred and he was calm again.

“You’re not trying to trick me, are you?” he asked.

“Of course not,” I hastily replied. “I uh, just really hate the Jaquinite theory.”

Gods, I really should have listened more closely when he talked about that. Was being an occasionally shitty friend going to get me killed? That’d be fitting piece of irony.

“As you should,” Hierophant sniffed. “Procerans. Their idea of a proper formula is to get down on their knees and pray.”

“Just the worst,” I agreed, slowly coming closer.

He gestured again for me to stand by his side.

“Now, the Gigantes do shroud their sorcery behind unnecessary claptrap,” he lectured. “But I believe Gharan the Wise was correct when he theorized they are the eldest race on Calernia to have developed a comprehensive method for use of the Gift.”

“Only makes sense,” I said.

I was close enough to knife him, now, but would that actually help? Academic question anyway, I didn’t have a knife and not-Thief could be anywhere. I glanced at the sphere he was inviting me to watch, and my vision swam. I could almost make out something. A memory, though I didn’t live it like the others. Marchford. Night, with hundreds of columns of fire moving according to my will. A ritual repurposed, my first real stride towards understanding the deeper mysteries of High Arcana. I closed my eyes.

“You were the Apprentice, then,” I said.

“Just a title,” he dismissed. “As milestone that denotes understanding reached, but of little practical worth.”

“You’re not anymore, though,” I said. “You’re the Hierophant. How did that happen?”

A little heavy-handed, but I had a lot of detachment to bludgeon through here. Subtle wasn’t going to work. Masego smiled. His face blurred. He was furious.

“Distraction,” he said. “Unimportant.”

“Name transition isn’t important?” I probed. “How often have you seen that phenomenon?”

His face blurred, returned to calm. I’d survive to hear a reply, then. Apparently improving one’s vocabulary really was a life-saving skill, who knew?

“Not enough,” he said. “But it is all contaminated. Too much bias. Not enough left to examine after removal.”

“Oh, that’s all right then,” I shrugged.

He nodded, pleased at my agreement.

“Difficult research isn’t for everyone,” I continued. “I’m sure someone will eventually get around to explaining it to you.”

His face darkened.

“I do not need to depend on the findings of others,” he said.

“Obviously you have to,” I said. “I mean, you’re just not capable enough to study it with the bias intact. You’ve said it yourself, it’s too much.”

I would have felt a lot worse about trying to trick him in this state if he hadn’t ordered me shot moments ago. Hierophant dismissed the sphere of Light with a wave of the hand, and reached out. Plucking out a distant sphere of water in a way that should not have been physically possible, he set it in front of us.

“It can be done,” he insisted. “Simply a matter of discipline.”

“I look forward to your findings, then,” I smiled.

His face blurred, and remained that way.

“You interfere with the process,” he said in an utterly flat voice.

“I would never,” I said and snatched his hand, forcing it into the sphere.

White light, blinding. A knife going through my back.

“No,” Hierophant’s voice barked. “No, go away. Catherine?”

I dropped down on my knees. Was that blood in my mouth? Fuck, it was just a stabbing. Thief was nowhere that good at killing people, I called bullshit. The spots went away and I looked at Masego’s mortified face.

“Hey, Zeze,” I grunted. “Been a while.”

“Cat,” he murmured. “You’re – no, doesn’t matter. I can end it.”

His fingers threaded through mine, softly, and as he squeezed we woke.

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78 thoughts on “Chapter 19: Recovery

    1. TripleJ

      I think that it matches the ideological difference between what is defined as Good and Evil in this story. Good is not about kindness nor about helping anyone, it is about accepting the plan of the Gods above.The hero version is probably of angels torturing them about being humans until they give up. All contact with angels has basically been “browbeat your soul until you surrender” in the story so far. It is wrapped with an aesthetic that is about a positive order of things, but the core of it is humanity’s submission.

      Evil is not about murder and pillaging, it is about striving for your own goals and going beyond the acceptable to reach them. Cat and Masego had dreams that are about their struggles, about what they want to achieve – it may be horrible and twisted, but at all points they are expected to have agency and change things. It was the same even when Akua attempted to enslave Cat. The way out is always through choice, requiring human agency… wrapped in horrible cruelty on all sides.

      Liked by 8 people

        1. werafdsaew

          I think we saw a glimpse of why in the Prologue of this book: an attempt to deviate from the pattern by the Paladin was put down swiftly by his Angelic Choir.

          Liked by 2 people

      1. TheCount

        [quote]In the beginning, there were only the Gods.
        Aeons untold passed as they drifted aimlessly through the Void, until they grew bored with this state of affairs. In their infinite wisdom they brought into existence Creation, but with Creation came discord. The Gods disagreed on the nature of things: some believed their children should be guided to greater things, while others believed that they must rule over the creatures they had made.[/quote]

        It might be just me, but i always thought the gods below wanted the mortals to be guided to greater things, while the ones above wanted to rule them…. (but then, it might be my fondnes for intrigue acting up.) after all, who better to guide them than other mortals? so far, the villians were the… more creative types, you could say. at least as far as i could gather. though, im not sure about the gnomes or other continents.

        and it might be just me, but the gods above reeealy dont like if people have opinions….. or personality for that matter (what with the mass brainwash lone swordy attepmted).

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Antoninjohn

    Cat has seen into the madman’s mind that has perspective to see the Gods work in creation, that’s probably going to give her some nifty new abilities​

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Rook

      Such as his ability to inflict total confusion with a lack of tact and an inability to read the mood.

      One of the only things we’ve seen so far that can completely bypass all magical protections and name shenanigans

      Liked by 5 people

        1. Nordvegr

          Why fight it? It’s a great gift. I may have been cursed with not understanding people, but the tradeoff for understanding numbers and things is thoroughly worth it.

          I currently work retail, to practice and patch up my weakness. I’ve worked this job for six months without getting fired, so I’d say it’s working.

          Like

      1. Less Yggdrasil, more Sephirot (no, not long white hair). Think QBL. 🙂

        You can find mobile 3D renditions not along traditional lines that look… odd. I prefer the Ari configuration, myself, but… hey. *shrugs*

        Like

      1. grzecho2222

        Wandering Bard – Stage on which faceless puppeteer plays out stories to public of shadows and silhouettes of light, while donning masks made from screaming faces and discarding them to ever growing pile
        Hierarch – Quorum full of identical, indescribable people that argue and vote what they want

        Liked by 3 people

    1. grzecho2222

      Thief – storage room full of stolen things?
      Hakram – military office mixed with archive?
      Archer – battle arena mixed with high class tavern/ehm?

      Like

      1. Naeddyr

        Look, if you get stabbed once by someone it’s obviously their fault, but if you keep on getting stabbed *everywhere you go*, well, maybe it’s a bit your fault?

        Liked by 13 people

        1. Milpool

          I doubt Cat would ever deny it’s totally her fault. She would gripe about it, but she would definitely go, “Yeah, okay, I pretty much ask for it.” Of course, so does everyone /she/ stabs, so it works out. Turn about is fair play.

          Like

    1. Dainpdf

      Maybe add some complimentary snacks, some railing, and danger signs on the more dangerous spheres. Oh, and please do something about this scandalous nether void thing you have going. It’s so last season.

      Like

  2. Ox

    So, is cat going to gleen something on how to pull on winter now!? I want an akua level power up!

    Or, is this something seperate, could it be that this draws her closer to the boundary of god and mortal by seeing a glimpse of the god perspective?

    Like

    1. Parker

      Well obviously. I love Cat but she can be very…direct with her reasoning and solutions. It’s only recently that she’s begun to think further ahead then the current battle/war

      Like

      1. Insanenoodlyguy

        The problem might be more incapability then plot suspense.

        We have no doubt now that he considers Archer beautiful. But is beautiful sexy? By which I mean, while he might consider her the most beautiful person he knows, is he equipped to even try at deeper emotional or even physical intimacy? I’m leaning towards him being a demi-romatic asexual. His response to an actual physical encounter would probably be something like “well, that was somewhat pleasant, but people waste all this time obsessing about THAT?”

        Though if he did give it a try , he probably wouldn’t give a shit if she wanted a non exclusive poly-sort of thing, so who knows, could still work.

        Like

        1. Dainpdf

          That might be the diagetic reason. “Plot Suspense” is mostly a non diagetic one. They can coexist.
          Plus, I hesitate to attempt to determine a character’s sexuality and romantic inclinations based on so little information in this regard.

          Liked by 1 person

      2. Agent J

        Has it been teased? Is a plutonic friendship so grand an impossibility? Intimacy is not tied to romance and Masego has shown neither the inclination towards nor the understanding (beyond academics) of that particular subject.

        I suspect the closest we’ll see Masego get is if Fadila coaxes him into it so she can get a genius child prodigy out of him. It’s only an experiment, Masego. Don’t be a pansy.

        What? No, I’m not trying to sink your ship because I’m staunchly on the S.S. Team Catcher. Whatever gave you that idea?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Dainpdf

          I was mostly joking, but yes, the ship has been teased. EE gave us plenty of scenes framed for romance, and has given this quite a bit of fuel. Does this mean Archer and Hierophant have any interest in each other or will ever, in a romantic sense? No.
          But, in a narrative sense, the ship has been teased.
          SS Team Catcher? I’m afraid I missed a reference. Also, *platonic.

          Like

            1. Dainpdf

              Ah. I was confused by the use of a personal name for Catherine and a Name for Indrani.
              I’m more a fan of Vivirine/Cathienne myself (especially since I feel there’s more narrative support for it), but I’m not much of a shipper.

              Like

    1. grzecho2222

      I am more and more sure that they will confirm they feeling in the most dramatic moment to defeat something or someone with THE POWER OF LOVE and make themselfs default winners of the fight

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Novice

      I was thinking that the Woe being the most familiar to Masego right now, or that he trusts them the most is why they’re the guardian to his mind. But your comment makes the most sense.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. grzecho2222

        We see Cat when he feels safe
        We see Archer when he desire something (peace and quiet in this moment, but still)
        We see Hakram when he is unsure
        We see Thief when he is wary and smells a trap (also Thief attack is backstab)

        Liked by 4 people

  3. Goodness. No wonder back at home in the palace Masego spends so much time jacked into the Observatory.

    Blissful, distraction-free flow state. If only he could cast with absolute positioning from in there.

    Like

  4. Robert Allaband

    Sigh, poor Cat. Her first thought in solving anything is to kill something and use the body, be it horses, goats that explode and now figments of the imagination.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Say EE, you don’t happen to have or be familiar with someone with autism? Because I have autism, and that description of Zeze’s problems with interpreting expressions and physical contact is about as close to a perfect description of my experiences you can get. “Involuntary egocentrism” is what I usually call it. Gorgeous chapter.

    Liked by 12 people

    1. letouriste

      if he doesn’t, he would have probably consulted some site about that in details. there must be some forum for autist problems somewhere, a place to talk about life-hacks for understanding facial expressions

      Like

      1. Dainpdf

        There are also probably experts in the field he might have consulted, and also fiction written with autism in mind. True, some of it is terrible, but some of it is good.

        Like

    2. JackbeThimble

      You can’t drop a box of pencils on the internet without someone counting them, autism isn’t exactly mysterious to anyone who spends much time in online culture.

      Like

  6. TheTime

    -“We are making great progress”
    -His face blurred, and remained that way.
    “You interfere with the process,” he said in an utterly flat voice.
    -“No,” Hierophant’s voice barked. “No, go away. Catherine?”
    I don’t think Hierophant has alone in there. something is clearly with him, in some way, and I don’t think it’s just the Woe’s reflections.

    Like

    1. I imagine the thing that’s with him in there is his name. Like Cat having had her beast Hierophant has an aspect that constantly wants to uncover mysteries of creation which was also present in the mindscape.

      Like

  7. Gods below, but I feel stupid – I am pretty sure Zeze is autistic, or at least something akin to it, and it’s been pretty obvious… And I haven’t even considered it, because I haven’t been looking.

    As always, extremely well written Erratic

    Liked by 1 person

  8. letouriste

    ” “Magelight’s supposed to be hard on the eyes,” Archer said. “If you’re going to keep reading after dark, use that instead.” He started in surprise. Had she caught it for him?”

    yeah masego, take care of your eyes! *snicker*

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Shequi

    “Hierophant’s dream was order gone mad.”

    Oh $h!+

    A Demon of Order, which the Praesi call a Beast of Hierarchy.

    Big flashing warning signs on that…

    Like

  10. grzecho2222

    I wonder if the dark orb is made of bad, dangerous, unpleasant or unwanted memories or is it reepresentation of forgetting
    Also mind in parts that are all visible from center, but getting to the center is very hard and they are all on poles over abyss that probably can be cut off the center and thrown into the abyss. As if someone was afraid that Demon might get into and try something…

    Like

  11. Silverking

    One thing I noticed about this chapter is Cat’s reaction to her dream-state. I had hoped that she would have gotten an upgrade, but now it makes sense: progress requires accepting some aspect of your Name, and while she’s willing to use and be bound with Winter, she refuses to ACCEPT Winter. To her, Winter’s emotional endgame is becoming an oath bound dominating sociopath, who ends up dying alone amid its own chaos (as we see in the fairy cycle). Unless and until she can reconcile some part of that for herself, she’s not going be getting any power ups from that method.

    Liked by 3 people

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