Chapter 20: Onset

“Proceran promises should be treated like stew: unless you know every ingredient, best not swallow.”
– King Charles Fairfax of Callow, the Rightfully Wary

Archer’s elbow was pressing into my eye. I blinked and craned back my neck before she could smack me again, turning in the bed. I carefully extracted myself from the pile of limbs over me, careful not to wake either of them. It was easier than I’d thought, since somewhat unsurprisingly Indrani was hogging the covers. Masego was laying back with his face towards the ceiling, still like he’d been put to rest in a coffin instead of passing out by my side when we came back from his mind. The eye cloth had been tugged down at some point, baring an eerie glass eye and partly covering one of his cheeks. I wrinkled my nose. Archer reeked of yesterday’s fighting, so clearly she’d not bothered to clean up before piling on top of us. She murmured in her sleep in a tongue I’d didn’t recognize, then promptly spread her legs where I’d been before. She was not, I noted with amusement, granting Masego any more room in the process. If anything she was coming closer to edging him off the bed.

I’d not taken off my tunic before falling asleep last night – and it still surprised me I’d felt the need to sleep at all – but I sat to pull on my boots. I splashed my face with the water basin more out of habit than any real need, the tepid liquid doing nothing to wake me up. A dreamless night, huh. Been a while since I’d had one of those. I made my way out of the tent quietly, stretching my frame when the sun bore down on me. If felt rested. Like I’d been tired and no longer was. It was a small pleasure I allowed myself a moment to properly savour. The Army of Callow’s camp was only beginning to wake, dawn fresh to the sky, and I wouldn’t truly be needed for at least an hour. If Hakram were around there’d be a meal waiting for me somewhere, along with the night’s reports, but he was very far away. Last I’d heard he was bringing the latest recruits up Quicksilver River, intending to link up with Kegan’s host before joining us.

The camp fire closest to my tent was deserted save for a single person, tending to a kettle hung over the flames. I didn’t need to look twice to recognize Vivienne. She did not turn, though I was certain she’d heard me approach, instead putting down a pair of cups on a flat stone and reaching for the kettle. I raised an eyebrow. The twin bells set on silver made it pretty clear where she’d gotten those. Had she nabbed old Fairfax dinner sets? I smothered a fond smile. Of course she had. Why would even bother to ask? I dropped down at her side, glimpsing the leaves inside the cups. Tea, though not the Praesi stuff. Smelled… Ashuran, maybe? Wasn’t the stuff Aisha got imported from across the Tyrian Sea anyway. Wordlessly, she poured the boiling water into them without spilling a drop. I claimed one, inhaling the scent. I tended to enjoy that more than the drink itself.

“I hope that was part of the tenth,” I said. “If there’s silver missing, the palace seneschal is going to be pissed.”

Thief smiled, using a long spoon of silver to stir her tea.

“Stealing from the palace is a hanging offence,” she said.

“Not since we revoked Mazus’ decrees,” I objected. “It’s a whipping and a fine now, I think?”

“As Her Majesty says,” Vivienne drawled.

She’d never actually denied it, had she? I sighed.

“All right,” I said. “You were waiting for me. Out with it.”

“We’ll be sitting with the Procerans at noon,” she replied before taking a sip from her cup. “Addressing our diplomatic approach is in order.”

I hummed, inhaling the fragrant steam again.

“Our strategic objectives are still more or less the same as when we started to march,” I said. “We need them on the other side of the passage, and to stay there long enough we have breathing room to refit while we prepare our next move. Coin too, if possible. I doubt they’ll agree to actualt war indemnities, so we’ll have to get that through the supplies if we get it at all.”

“I’ve been in contact with the Observatory,” Vivienne said. “The situation abroad is evolving.”

“The Dominion’s armies should be in southern Procer, by now,” I said. “But I’m guessing there’s more to tell.”

“Klaus Papenheim has finally begun his offensive in the Red Flower Vales,” my spymistress said. “No word as to the results of the first battles yet, but the Carrion Lord seems to be holding.”

I grimaced.

“He’d better,” I said. “If the crusaders punch through, our army’s in no shape to take them on.”

“I’ve also had word from Praes, though the news is a fortnight old,” Vivienne said. “Nok was sacked by the Ashuran war fleet.”

I let out a low whistle. I wasn’t exactly pleased at the loss of life that’d be involved there, but it was an impressive achievement for the Thalassocracy nonetheless. Praesi cities were layered with centuries of wards and sorcery, not to mention the pack of horrors the aristocrats kept bound in the basement for rainy days. I’d known the Ashurans weren’t exactly pushovers, considering they had the largest fleet in Calernia, but most their wars had been fought at sea. Last large-scale engagement I could recall they’d fought on land was when they’d landed armies to help Levant rise against the Principate, and it’d been the incipient Dominion that’d done the heavy lifting there.

“They withdrew after?” I asked.

“Set half the city on fire in the process, after looting it,” Vivienne said. “The Wasteland legions arrived two days too late to help with the defence. The Empress is taking a beating at court over it. Thalassina’s threatened to rebel if they don’t get a Legion garrison. “

“Whoever’s in charge of the fleet isn’t a fool,” I mused. “Nok’s the easiest target in the Empire, relatively speaking. They spent most their history under the thumb of one city or another. It’s nowhere as crucial to Praes as Thalassina, but they made the Tower bleed. All the wolves will be drawn out by the scent of it.”

“I would not wager that the Empress is too preoccupied to sabotage us if she so wishes,” Thief said. “But the real pivot remains the battle in the Vales.”

“You think Milenan and Malanza will want to stretch the diplomacy out until they know the outcome down south,” I frowned.

“If the Carrion Lord is driven back, their negotiating position significantly improves,” Vivienne noted. “If he wins, they are no longer sole bearers of the shame of defeat should they make bargain with us. From their perspective, delay has no drawback.”

“Except for starving,” I said.

She nodded, sipping at her cup.

“I would expect Prince Milenant to state the ongoing continuation of yesterday’s arrangement is a condition for continuing to negotiate,” Vivienne said. “Something along the lines of coercion souring the process of peacemaking.”

“I’ve got no reason to – ah,” I said. “They’ll fold early on something major, then argue I’m negotiating in bad faith if I’m not willing to agree.”

“Precisely,” she said.

“We’re not even peacemaking, not really,” I sighed. “They don’t have the authority to call off the Tenth Crusade. The most we can get is a very narrow truce that doesn’t violate the letter of Proceran laws on contributing to crusades.”

“It would be reputational disaster for them to agree to even that much without something to show for their retreat,” Vivienne said. “We’ll need to give them something.”

“I can’t move on them having a presence on our side of the passage,” I stated flatly. “You know very well how much trouble that’d be for us.”

She shook her head.

“Their ambitions to expand into Callow are checked, for the moment,” she said. “I find it dubious they will attempt to overturn that state of affairs given their weak position. What they need, Catherine, is a way to save face. A way to accept terms that will not make them pariahs in the Highest Assembly.”

“Reputation, huh,” I mused.

I drank from the tea, though its pleasant fragrance did not extend to the taste in my mouth. Whether it was eating or drinking, the enjoyable parts of it were mostly gone.

“The way I see it, what they’re most afraid of back home is Hasenbach,” I finally said. “It’s horrible for their reputation to make a deal with me, but won’t see them overthrown. The First Prince, though, she’ll toss their asses out in the cold if she has half an excuse.”

“It would greatly consolidate her hold on Procer if the largest opposition bloc was publicly disgraced,” Vivienne agreed. “Your point?”

“We hand them a way to kick the mess upstairs,” I said, eyes narrowing as I stared into the flames. “Like you said, they don’t have the authority to negotiate for the entire crusade. Just themselves. So if they’re presented with something they can’t accept or refuse without Hasenbach…”

“It is her reputation at stake, not theirs,” Vivienne mused.

I set down the cup.

“I think it’s time we brought Aisha in on this,” I said. “Unless you became fluent in Proceran legalities since we last spoke.”

She rolled her eyes. That was a no, then. With a groan, I got up. Time to get to work.

Seven tenths of diplomacy, as far as I could tell, was bickering over symbolic or largely irrelevant details. We wasted a full hour trading envoys with the crusaders just to the order the issues would be addressed in. That and the language that would be used for the negotiations. They pushed for Chantant, but I was having none of that. My knowledge of it wasn’t good enough for easy conversation, and I wasn’t using a translator for something this important when nearly all the opposite royalty could speak Lower Miezan without trouble. I folded on it being their pavilion and tables we met at, then conceded to their proposal of only twenty attendants in exchange for picking the tongue andthe first issue. At least Aisha managed to horse-trade the give on attendants for a limitation on the number of attending heroes. Five was more than I wanted, but there was no realistic chance of the Pilgrim and his sharpest knives not being at the table. All of the Woe save for Hakram would be attending, regardless, so I wasn’t feeling overly cornered when it came to the balance of Named power.

My delegation ended up split more or less half and half between Praesi and Callowans. For my homeland the two heavyweights were Grandmaster Brandon Talbot and Baroness Ainsley Morley of – currently occupied – Harrow. I wasn’t eager to involve the latter, since she was not a well-known quantity, but it wasn’t feasible not to. She was the ranking noble in my army and her holdings would be a point of negotiation. Even if it wouldn’t have been a grave insult to keep her away from the table, I would have involved her. Baroness Ainsley had already proved she wanted to look after her people. She deserved a seat, no matter my personal misgivings. On the Praesi side, the most important were Marshal Juniper of Callow and Staff Tribune Aisha Bishara. The latter had picked out everyone else in our delegation save for the Woe, keeping the balance between provenances while digging out the scribes and learned officers that served as the closest thing the Kingdom of Callow currently had to trained diplomats.

The Proceran delegation was, in comparison, a gallery of royalty. Prince Amadis and Princess Rozala had always been a given, but there were a full six crowned heads in attendance. Thief provided names and sparse details quietly. Prince Arnaud of Cantal, by reputation a loudmouthed idiot. Princess Adeline of Orne, whose brother and predecessor had been killed at Black’s orders. Prince Alejandro of Segovia, who’d publicly broken with his mother’s old alliance with Hasenbach. Prince Louis of Creusens, allegedly so badly in debt to Amadis he couldn’t even take a piss without the older man’s permission. Save for the heroes, the other attendants were all kinsmen to one royal or another. It was the Named I studied most closely. The Grey Pilgrim’s face was the usual serene mask but there were younger heroes with him. The sorcerer I’d fought before, which formal introductions revealed to be Rogue Sorcerer. A woman bearing sword and board and watching me unblinkingly was introduced as the Silent Guardian, while the woman with the red face paint I’d once cut the arm of was the Painted Knife. The last was the Forsworn Healer, and I frowned at the sight of him.

No Saint. That was only half a relief. If she was here, she’d be trouble but I’d at least know where she was for sure. I glanced at the heroes, frown deepening. Silent Guardian to hold me, Painted Knife to check Thief and the Sorcerer to delay Masego. The Healer to keep them going, and the Pilgrim to tip the scales. The five heroes had been chosen so they’d be able to hold up against the Woe in a fight. But if they think it’s going to turn to violence, why is the Saint not here?

“… and Her Majesty, Queen Catherine of Callow, First of Her Name,” Aisha finished, and I offered a polite nod to the Procerans watching me.

There’d been a Catherine Alban that served as queen regent for her son, actually, but by Callowan tradition that did not count as reigning precedent. Prince Amadis took a seat first. At the centre of his side of the table, before I did. The etiquette of that was against him – as the ruling sovereign of a nation, I had the highest status here and none should be seated before me. I didn’t feel particularly insulted, on a personal level, but it was an insult. Offered right after the introductions. While I was less than invested in etiquette, I was invested in this negotiation not being a complete shitshow. So, as Prince Amadis leaned back into his seat, I met his eyes. Silence stretched under the silken pavilion. Slowly, I cocked an eyebrow.

“I was under the impression Arlesites were a mannerly people,” I said, then waited a beat. “Your Grace.”

I let another moment pass before sitting down and gesturing for my entire delegation to do the same, regardless of the higher status of the royals on the other side.

“You have a reputation for preferring familiar manners, Your Majesty,” the Prince of Iserre smiled. “I apologize if offense was taken.”

I did not think it a coincidence that familiarity breeds contempt was a common saying in both our homelands. Procerans had a reputation for being able to speak flowery flattery while meaning the opposite that was apparently well-earned.

“With friends, certainly,” I smiled back as the Proceran delegation sat in proper order. “Are we friends now, Prince Amadis?”

“Rulers sharing an alignment of interests, mayhaps,” the older man said, his Lower Miezan without trace of accent. “Yet is that not the cradle of all great friendships?”

I inclined my head, neither agreeing nor disagreeing. I flicked a glance at the heroes, which were all seated at the left edge of the table save for the Pilgrim. He was at Malanza’s side, between her and the Prince of Cantal. Aisha made up my right side, Thief my left. Rank had not been the prime consideration in those arrangements.

“Before beginning, I believe it necessary for the nature of the involvement of your Named to be clarified,” I said.

Aisha’s notion. Prince Amadis had been introduced as the head of the Proceran delegation, as we’d expected, but the status of the heroes today was vague. Legally speaking, anyway. Several of them weren’t even Proceran, and those that were should have no authority to speak of if this was considered a negotiation between Proceran royalty and the Queen of Callow. If it was a conference between representatives of the Tenth Crusade and a villain queen, however, that was a whole other matter. My Staff Tribune had predicted it would be the latter and not the former – otherwise they’d have no legal authority to stand on without the permission of the First Prince and the other sovereigns at the head of the crusade.

“The Chosen have graced us with their presence in an advisory role,” Prince Amadis replied.

Good, I thought. Then it was the Prince of Iserre and his fellows I had to settle with, not representatives of the Heavens. We had, at least, the legal prerequisites for any treaty made here to be binding. Not that it assured the deal would be respected. Aisha had reluctantly informed me that the most prominent precedent for treaties between Procerans and an Evil polity was attempts at deals with the Kingdom of the Dead – which were broken by either side as often as not. There were treaties with Helike as well, but none relevant since the League of Free Cities had been founded. It would be shaky grounds to try using those as a yardstick. I nodded at Aisha, who bowed deep in her seat and addressed the table with a graceful smile.

“We would now open formal negotiations between the Kingdom of Callow and the lawful leadership of the invading army currently standing on its sovereign territory,” she said.

There were too many people for me to watch them all, so I kept my gaze on the two I knew best: Amadis and Rozala. The Prince of Iserre’s friendly smile did not waver in the slightest, but Malanza’s brow twitched. Not pleased. The language as presented by Aisha treated the crusaders coming here like any other foreign invasion, the kind the Principate had tried for centuries with various degrees of success. It stripped the Procerans of the handy excuse of ‘the Heavens told me to’, which might allow them to wiggle out some responsibility for their actions. They weren’t going to accept that, of course. But now the bargaining started. Prince Amadis glanced at one of his diplomats, the middle-aged man bowing just as deep before responding.

“We cannot treat in good faith under these terms,” the man replied. “We can, however open formal negotiations between the Praesi vassal state of Callow and the mandated expeditionary force of Her Most Serene Highness Cordelia Hasenbach, First Prince of Procer.”

Not presenting themselves as crusaders, but still as being here on Hasenbach’s orders. I kept a frown off my face. They knew we weren’t going to accept Callow being termed as a vassal state, since they’d effectively be making a deal with the Tower by intermediary if we did. I was fairly sure they could break any terms made if ordered to do so by the First Prince, if it unfolded like that, since the Highest Assembly had formally passed a motion to declare a crusade against Praes and a vassal state would be considered within the scope of that. It went back and forth for a while, until something like a compromise was reached: negotiations were now being held between the Queen in Callow and the mandated expeditionary force of the First Prince.  Aisha had tried for Queen of Callow, but they’d gotten out of that by pointing out that unless the Highest Assembly passed a motion or Hasenbach recognized it by decree, they couldn’t legally recognize Callow as a sovereign state with me as its ruler.

Legitimacy was the issue here. My only claim to the throne was conquest, really, and even that was a little iffy. As it stood the treaty would still be binding, theoretically speaking, but it was made with me as an entity and not Callow itself. It became worthless ink if someone put my head on a pike. Thief flicked me an unsurprised look after, having predicted the implication of the other part of the terms. The Procerans, by presenting themselves as an expeditionary force, were paving the grounds for any bill incurred over supplies to be sent to Hasenbach’s court instead of coming out of their own pockets. I sincerely doubted that Cordelia would flip me so much as a copper if anything less than an oath to the Heavens was involved, so we’d have to get creative about getting the coin if we were going to get any at all. Still, that they were trying to extricate from this at all meant they were taking the process seriously. A good sign, after that tumultuous opening. I caught the subtle movement of Prince Amadis’ hand before anyone else on my side.

“The delegation recognizes the Chosen known as the Grey Pilgrim, formal advisor to the Prince of Iserre,” the middle-aged diplomat announced.

The old man rose to his feet.

“I seek clarification from the Queen in Callow,” he said calmly, “on matters of intent.”

I looked up and fought back a sigh.

Wasn’t it traditional that things had to at least go well for the villain before the tables were turned?

Advertisements

129 thoughts on “Chapter 20: Onset

  1. Rook

    A useful tool is never allowed to rest for long. Is Akua already out of the box and keeping quiet, or is the Queen of stabbing and goblinfire arson seriously going to try treating with Procerans without her?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. SpeckofStardust

      I think she has to be actively drawing on winter to do that, which would not be allowed considering she’d then be ‘armed’. At a diplomatic meeting. It wouldn’t look good at all.

      Like

    2. RoflCat

      She might just be called out for this if it come down to it.

      After all, the other side seem to want to deal with the one who would love to kick their asses (and probably can) instead of the one person trying not to murder them all and say “Fuck off and die”

      Like

    3. stevenneiman

      She might have asked for advice before, but she couldn’t do it now without giving the crusaders, especially the Grey Pilgim, too many hints. She knows that the Pilgrim has the power to detect truth or lies, but she has no idea about what else he can do except that he doesn’t seem to get the full context of something that reads as a lie. He might very well be able to detect her calling out Akua or even turn it against her.

      Like

    4. Useful tool

      I think when Akua was referring to useful tool it wasn’t in reference to herself, but to Catherine. She still in her arrogance believes herself to be in control on some level. And it fits with Catherine being the one asleep at the time.

      Like

      1. RanVor

        She was most likely referring to you.

        But seriously, if that was true, why would she give up her freedom to bring Cat back? It makes no sense.

        Like

        1. Tool

          Why would Akua classify what she was doing at the time as resting? Fighting a battle against heroes is not the definition of resting. The only one resting at the time was Catherine.

          Like

          1. RanVor

            *Not* fighting a battle against heroes *does* qualify as resting, and is exactly what Akua was going to do immediately after thinking those words.

            Why would Akua refer to Catherine as her Empress if she believed she was in control?

            Like

      1. Metrux

        The point is he just ignored negotiations and went right on to accusing her of… Something. The ending didn’t make it clear what exactly he thinks, but he is obviously talking about Akua.

        Like

        1. Dainpdf

          I wouldn’t say accuse, per se. But if you look at it, veiled accusations have been thrown from both sides from the start – both that Cat was an underling of Praes and that Procer was invading a sovereign nation.

          Like

  2. nerferf

    Wasn’t it traditional that things had to at least go well for the villain before the tables were turned?

    Welp your not currently playing the villain in this invasion remember, the heroes are and they need a victory before the table turns on them and then they get defeated

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Rook

      Especially since she’s not technically Name-bound right now.

      One thing about a Name is that it isn’t just a strength, It’s a shackle as well. Binding you to either Above or Below and all that entails.

      Winter isn’t exactly daisies and sunshine but the court itself isn’t technically Evil in and of itself, the same way Summer isn’t innately Good or anything.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Jane

        I think it was, actually, with Winter being aligned with Evil, and Summer with Good – that’s one of the big reasons why Winter was always slated to lose. Summer wasn’t nice by any stretch, but they were technically Good, in the same way a fanatic Knight Templar would still be technically Good because they were standing on the right side.

        I’d have to look up what chapter that was covered in, though, to be certain.

        Like

          1. Jane

            Hm… I don’t recall what chapter it was discussed in, but I remember that being the King of Winter’s hidden motive for drawing Cat into the story – so that she could break the cycle, by merging the two courts, thus destroying Winter itself. He no longer even wanted to try to win, just to end the game.

            It’s also explicitly stated at a couple of points that Winter is the otherworldly reflection of Villainy, and we know that Villains are currently always fated to lose in this world, at least in the long term. It would be unusual if Winter didn’t have to abide by the same restrictions.

            Like

          2. Mr. Nobody

            Nope. Winter always had to lose so summer would reign Arcadia yet again.

            If I remember correctly, Summer didn’t last long because they would burn themselves in war until there was nothing left and no enemy to battle.
            Just like in Creation, where there wouldn’t exist Good without Evil(or even the story, for that matter); Both Summer and Winter can’t survive without their counterparts.

            You can see this dynamic even on the perpetual war between Praes and Callow, in the statistics gathered by Black.

            Liked by 1 person

          1. Jane

            Do we know enough about the metaphysics of the realm to say that conclusively?

            We know that Creation is essentially a protracted argument between the Gods, but I don’t know if Arcadia is part of that or not. If it is, wouldn’t it logically be part of that argument as well, as that was the entire intent behind Creation?

            I mean, the lack of Names and such suggest that it’s apart from Creation, but maybe the gods above and below simply choose a different means of intervening in Arcadia, and the main characters, being human, simply don’t know enough to have heard about it. It’d be a bit of a superfluous detail to introduce when the Fae are just an antagonist to be driven back to Arcadia, after all.

            Besides, wouldn’t being a reflection of Evil still influence her standing in the world? It’s not as though she doesn’t go full scenery-chewing Villain when she gets too hopped up on the Winter, after all, and she always carries a fragment of that around, even when she’s “normal”. Sure, she can overcome that, just as she’s overcome her role in the last three books, but it still influences what actions she can reasonably take.

            Like

            1. We do since the discussions in book III clearly laid out that Arcadia is a beta version of Creation. Evil *technically* maps to Evil and Summer *technically* maps to Good but they are different and not a part of the traditional Creation Good vs Evil story.

              Like

              1. Jane

                Ah, right, I’d quite forgotten that (despite having quoted it below, ack).

                That said, what happens when you take a piece of Creation 1.0 and put it into 2.0? They were still made by the same people with the same intent, after all – it’s just that it might not be wholly compatible. Does the narrative logic of the world adapt to accommodate it, or is she kind of a “bug” now, someone who ought be powerless instead being a demigoddess?

                I could see a plausible story making use of either scenario.

                Like

                1. It also worked the other way: the King of Winter imported Named from Gods’ Argument: Mortal Combat into Gods’ Argument (now available on limited access, legacy servers!).

                  The Woe were bugs wandering around Arcadia, able to break things. 🙂

                  Like

            2. Metrux

              Actually it’s been stated, by hierophant even, that Winter seems to be a reflection of evil, not that it is, because: A. Winter can and have won some times, but just like summer, when one wins they destroy themselves in some fashion, leading to B. They are not two sides alone, they have a cicle WITH spring and fall, the two can’t survive alone.

              Also, they DO have Named, only one was shown, the Rider that she confronted there in the beggining, so they clearly are a part of creation, even if set apart, the same as the heavens and the hells, only that Arcadia is more neutral and what happens there is partly a reflection of what is happening/did happen recently on creation.

              Both Summer and Winter have villainous traits, one being starving and needing, the other being full and destroying, while Spring is growth and peace, Fall goes to deterioriation and lack, by spending more than can be made. But also we have The Wild Hunt only during Spring/Fall, and a Fae from one of the four is always from there, doens’t exist on other seasons, except for the Hunt, since any Fae can become a part of it.

              Like

        1. Dainpdf

          As Ninja stated, they both have components of Good and Evil. Summer is irascible and attempts to exterminate everything in sight, while Winter knows of diplomacy, treaties and alliances. They’re both destructive at their core, of course.

          Like

          1. Jane

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

            From Book 3, Chapter 36. It was the first quote I had handy.

            While I may be misreading the passage, it seems to state that Winter is meant to bound to Evil as much as any Name is – even if Winter is not pure lowercase good or evil, as nothing in the world is, they’re meant to embody the concept in a way that regular mortals don’t.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. It looks to me like a lot of assumptions about 1) how Arcadia maps to Creation, 2) what Good and Evil within Creation are like and 3) that ideas from the “beta” version got closely mapped.

              Because, if all Summer and Winter are just meant to be testing the concept of “two predetermined factions locked in constant struggle”, neither need map to any other two sides locked in struggle in any other realm. Because the struggle may be the key feature being put through its paces, not the nature of the participants.

              In short: people in Creation may have wrongly pegged a lot of things.

              Liked by 1 person

            2. Dainpdf

              Thank you for the quote. That does indicate Winter is probably more villainous and Summer more heroic. Guess I was mistaking Good and Evil, and good and evil.
              Still, some things to think about: First, that quote is speculation, as the Empress reminds; second, the idea would be that they *mirror* Evil, not embody it. And reflections can be muddled.

              Like

        2. stevenneiman

          As Ninja said, Winter and Summer were both capable of victory, the problem was that that victory was rendered meaningless by the renewal of the seasons, which inevitably turned each victory for Summer or Winter completely pointless. The King of Winter basically chose to sacrifice the hope for more meaningless victories in exchange for introducing a new agent who would allow something, anything to happen that hadn’t happened to him before. It wasn’t an attempt to win against Summer, because he’d done that enough times to grow sick of it

          That said, Good and Evil to certainly lend a lot of theme and flavor to Summer and Winter, such as the way that Summer puts on a facade of compassion even for people she has decided to kill, or the way that Winter’s biggest weakness is the fact that its members can’t work together worth a darn. You can think of the Fae as being like the Thermians from Galaxy Quest, except if Sarris was also acting the way he does because of the show, and instead of pulp sci-fi they had watched a fictionalized account of world history. The Thermians aren’t actually the crew of the NSEA protector, but they devote themselves to imitating it as best they can. In the same way, the Summer and Winter courts aren’t actually Good and Evil, but they adopt a lot of the same trappings as if they were.

          Like

    2. Charlie Hegarty

      Well, she worked pretty solidly for team Evil before stabbing her mentor and taking control over Callow, which she enforces with a Legion of Terror whilst still technically being subordinate to the Tyrant of Praes.

      Plus, her actions in this crusade: leading the wild hunt into the enemy camp to slaughter their officers, wielding doomsday spells and killing heroes.

      All make her, honestly, still come off as the villain of this piece to me.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. TeK

        Yeah, she defeated foreign attempts to destabilize her country, an attempt to brainwash an entire city of innocents into a mindless army, took charge and provided leadership in period of political disturbance following previously mentioned foreign attempts to meddle in their politics by subsidising unstable political elements and, allegedly, providing indirect military help to rebels of another nation. Then she went on to protect her country from an otherwordly invasion, defeating a coup in process, and anihilated crazy genocidal maniac, which wiped out one of biggest cities of Callow and threatened to take over the continent. Than she consolidated leadership even more, recreating so much needed burocratic structure and helping refugees all over Callow, while also establishing de-facto suvereignity to her homeland. And now she trying to stop foreign invasion while being pretty much the only party willing to forgo her interests to avoid bloodshed. How is she NOT a Hero?

        See what I did there? Nitpick handfull of detail, and you can paint anyone as anything.

        Liked by 7 people

  3. “My Staff Tribune had predicted it would be the latter and not the former – ” I think this is backwards, if I understand the rest correctly- Aisha predicts that they would act as Proceran royalty (former) not as members of the crusade (latter), right?

    Like

      1. Morgenstern

        Yes, but *as royals of Procer* NOT as crusaders… because otherwise they *would have no authority to treat AT ALL*, as I understand it so far. Thus, “latter” and “former” *are* mixed up, imho as well.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Simurgh

          But in the end they aren’t negotiating as royals of Procer. They’re negotiating as representatives of an expeditionary force under the First Prince.

          Like

    1. Agent J

      EE has mixed them up before, rather consistently if memory serves. May just be he’s under the impression they hold their opposite meanings.

      Like

  4. Jane

    You know, the nice thing about being an Evil kingdom is that you only have to bother with the diplomatic niceties if you feel like puffing up your ego. Everyone knows who the greatest power is and that they ought be respected, and if either of those are in question, a few new screaming heads in a hallway will clarify the matter quite nicely.

    Seeing hours wasted on who gets called what, with the distinctions actually mattering instead of just being handy labels for “The Queen of Callow (who we really don’t want to be Queen)” and “The Invading Army (Hasenbach sent us, take up payment with her)”, makes one wonder how more states haven’t slid into Evil just as a matter of convenience. Imagine how much more productive leadership could be if they didn’t have to spend so much time parsing their statements!

    /tongue in cheek

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Rook

      Frustrating and time consuming maybe, but not impractical. No one is an island, so dealing with the diplomatic bullshittery is not any different than arming yourself before gouging each other’s eyes out in a fight, or lighting up a fire and putting on a jacket for the cold. It’s just a tool to manipulate and adapt to the environment.

      Considering that even legitimate justifications like Lone Idiot’s contrition for his crimes or the Diabolist’s right of birth weren’t enough to keep them alive, swapping to evil on the basis that observing niceties is annoying would be a good way to have very little Weight. You’d be almost certain to die in your first engagement.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Jane

        As I said, it was a joke 🙂 . Any time saved on working out who to call what (something that probably only takes a long time the first time, anyway) would be more than lost on the constant scheming for promotion via killing your boss. Well, assuming that’s common in more than just Praes – I don’t get the feeling Helike or the Dead King waste too much time on that.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Novice

      To be fair, all these diplomatic procedures have their roots in RL history as well. Down to the Holy Roman Empire using the term King in Prussia but not recognizing the monarch as King of Prussia so as not to piss off the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

      Like

      1. Rothschwerth

        Similarly, Wilhelm I was crowned German Emperor instead of Emperor of Germany after obliterating the French. However, I don’t see Cat becoming an Empress just yet.

        Your comparison might be very fitting as Frederick the Great (a contemporary of Russia’s Catherine the Great) shifted from being King in Prussia to being King of Prussia after reconquering Prussian soil in the First Partition of Poland. I don’t remember whether there’s any historically Callowan land in Procer, but I would be amused if a Partition happened.

        Like

    3. Dainpdf

      I get the impression both Good and Evil only come to the table when either they believe they’ll have a great negotiating position, or their arms are twisted into it. Such as is the case right here.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. superkeaton

    Well fuck me, that felt short. The majority was lots of words to describe even wordier words and time wasters.

    Still, a necessary evil. I’m interested to see what Pilgrim has to say.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Draconius Sinister

    I… don’t fully understand what the Pilgrim is going for here. I get that he’s forcing Catherine to show at least some of her hand here, either telling the truth and giving th Procerans an idea of what she wants overall and what they can get from her, or a lie that will bind what exactly she can and can’t fight for. Everyone seems to have a very firm idea of what he’s after specifically though, and I’m sitting here like a dummy.
    In regards to the other Heroic Named… well, Catherine is treating with those sent by Hasenbach, not the servants of the Heavens working in the Crusade. That gives the heroes leeway to torch and burn the camps while the Queen is away. Maybe it won’t be what happens, but with how the Saint of Swords has acted thus far…
    Also, if Cat loses her army to a technicality, I’m getting the feeling that it will by slashy-freezy time for th royals in the tent. Hell, Larat might even get the crowns he’s waiting on.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. nerferf

      Well pilgrim has no clue what to do at this point, he was so used to doing his support role for other heroes that at this point he has no idea what to do given he playing a main antagonist for this chapter of the invasion

      I mean at this point its become obvious the heroes have no idea how to fully use narrative other than heroic tropes with a playing along villain and never faced this situation with out the bard doing the thinking for them

      Liked by 3 people

      1. werafdsaew

        To be fair the only other Villain who leaned against Villainous tropes is Black, and he doesn’t tend to leave his opponents alive.

        Like

  7. Anon

    Well, presumably, as Cat has already ‘told’ the Pilgrim she’d be fine helping them march against Malicia if they left Callow alone, he should already know her intent.

    This feels more like a probe to ascertain if Cat has already got a plan for dealing with Hasenbach to get peace accords written and signed – Cat doesn’t have any strong declaration to answer, but I imagine that Procer will start to pull back if she clams up.

    (Also, yeeeeeeeees @ more Archer being overly friendly, and Thief/Catherine shared jokes)

    Amadis posturing when his side is low on food, morale, and was on the verge of a rout seems….a little odd to be so petty, but it could just be a ploy to gauge Cat’s emotional state, I suppose?

    Like

    1. Jane

      Pilgrim might just be trying to figure out what the blazes is going on, since “Cat” gave some lines he found rather alarming during “her” monologue before fighting the Heroes. He might think she’s a supremely gifted liar, or has some personality disorder, and is trying to suss out the truth before they do anything irrevocable.

      Alternately, he might have guessed something strange happened during the battle, and is taking this opportunity to out her trick in the middle of the conference, knowing that it has a good chance of blowing everything up.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Dylan Tullos

        Jane:

        That’s an interesting theory. Akua did a decent Cat impersonation most of the time, but the part where she claimed to rule by right of birth is incredibly out of character.

        If he’s able to figure out that she was possessed by Akua…well, all of the outcomes there are bad. It’s just a question of how bad.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Barrendur

    Tedious chapter, and preceded by a tedious chapter; I think the story has become dull, irritating and unnecessarily complicated. For the first time since the story began, I found the updates too boring to read in their entirety; I only skimmed the last two chapters, and I did not vote for APGtE.

    Like

    1. Mr. Nobody

      “Oh no… Not politics again! Give me a dumb MC swinging a sword and throwing fire balls everywhere!!”

      “Dialogues…? Who needs dialogue?!?! I WANNA SEE SOME ACTION!!!”

      “Damn… I almost fell asleep reading this. Let’s watch some of Michael Bay’s movies, I need more explosions.”

      Liked by 10 people

      1. Jane

        Honestly, I find chapters like this more interesting than the battles. There are so many more ways to win (or lose, poor council we never knew) a peace than there are a battle.

        Liked by 8 people

          1. Draconius Sinister

            I actually agree with Barrendur. Politics has its place, and I do enjoy seeing the maneuvering and working around each other each side is doing, but I read primarily to see a protagonist fight their battles, and Cat has made it clear that the battles she shines brightest in are the literal ones.
            I don’t really understand the argument that some have made that Politics keep it interesting because it isn’t like fights, in that the outcome is uncertain and the protagonist isn’t guaranteed a victory. I get that it’s unlikely that the protagonist in a given story will ever suffer a permanent loss in battle, unless if it is to change their character or give them something to work against, but how are politics any different? In both Cat is the protagonist, and the way the story has been building ever upwards in scale, we know that Cat will need both the personal power of Winter and/or a Name, to fight the Forever King and the Dead King when they make nuisances of themselves, and will need an army behind her, so she is unlikely to suffer any permanently crippling defeat in battle, be it personal or on a larger scale for her army. At the same time, we know that the Dead King and Forever King both have armies that Catherine CAN NOT TAKE in a fight alone, so she will have allies, which means narratively, she must succeed at negotiations at one point or another.
            What I’m saying is that the political fights are just as predictable in outcome as the fights: Cat will win the ones she needs to. Talking down to someone because they’d rather read about demigods duking it out than the finer points of a ceasefire is needlessly rude, and hypocritical, just because their interests don’t align with yours.
            I’m with Barrendur, in that I’d rather not read again about how the Procerans are dicks, and the exact advantages and disadvantages have in a negotiation, again. That doesn’t mean I’ll begrudge you enjoying the verbal sparring or the introspective analysis of the situation, and how best to eke out a ‘win’ in unfavorable circumstances. Cat is guaranteed to win either way, eventually, and we’re all just along for the ride. Let’s all enjoy the parts we enjoy and let others do the same, no?

            Like

            1. Metrux

              I agree with your last declaration, which is why I disagree with the rest. Barrendur was rude, and honestly the wording there infer that he would rather have it changed, which isn’t good for the author neither for the other readers. Sure, the ones that came after him shouldn’t be rude to him in response, since this doesn’t solve anything, but being rude to them in turn, and even more agreeing with Barrendur… You’re just making more fire.

              If what you say at the end is truth, please, just let those people have their fights and enjoy what you enjoy. I very much like the fights, and I very much enjoy those political chapters, because as much as victory is guaranteed, we never know what victory trully is in politics. To tae exemple from your text, she needs to be there, strong, and with an army… But needs it be her army? Need it even be her own personal power? For the tone of the story it probably will be yes, to both questions, but that is not defined, and Erraticerrata has a way of surprising us, so yes, I do find political confrontations more open in their end. Though the fight chapters tend to rise more our emotions. Each has their shine, and being told by someone that what you like is “dull, irritating and unnecessarily complicated”, that it was too boring to read, and that he stopped supporting the author for making what we like… Surely you can understand WHY they got rude and angry with him, even if they shouldn’t do it?

              Like

              1. Draconius Sinister

                I’m not particularly mad at anyone myself, and I understand why people have gotten a bit mad. I’m just saying I agree in the sense that I prefer fights to politics. I certainly haven’t gotten tired of the story, but things do feel like they’re dragging a little bit, and somehow the chapters also feel super short of late. Sorry for the essay before, I was mostly venting about other people dismissing the fights outright in earlier chapters, and saying the politics were the only interesting thing. Still mad about seeing that conversation however many weeks back…!
                Sorry for coming off like an asshole, didn’t mean to!

                Like

    2. mórrígan

      We’re, what, three chapters out from a six-chapter streak of uninterrupted action? (Contingent still had what I would consider ‘action’ though this is up for debate.) Perhaps you should give it some time before long jumping to a conclusion? If the story continued on the path that the Interludes set for them – that is, of ***ACTION FIGHTS EXPLOSIONS*** every chapter – it would *also* get ‘dull and irritating,’ though not as ‘unnecessarily complicated.’

      I’m not sure if you noticed, but this is a wonderful, novel, and completely never-seen-before device we call *pacing.* By giving us downtime between encounters, we don’t get *bored* by the constant fighting, and that’s a ***good*** thing.

      Also: I’m not sure where you’ve been for the past three books? This has happened over and over again over the last few hundred or so chapters. Action – downtime – action. The pattern hasn’t changed since Book I: Chapter I and I’m baffled that *just now* you’re noticing it.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Letouriste

      Wait what? You felt all this from a chapter so short? This chapter was nothing special too. No way that can compare to a MoL one

      Like

      1. Metrux

        A chapter alone is like a stick alone, can be broen easily. To see the true strength of a book you need to see the entirety, just like a tree. Mother is great, I love it, but this story here is better when it comes to characterization, which leads to greater emotions being shared. Yes, this one chapter is smaller “not that special”, on the long run. But it compounds with all the rest of the story, showing change, defeat, victory and hope, all in much less lines.

        All in all, you’re entitled to your opinion, but just the same you shouldn’t scorn someone else’s opinions.

        Like

  9. Dainpdf

    I don’t know what the Pilgrim is going for here; the last line makes it sound like this is supposed to be an “oh snap” moment, but I have no idea why his question is important. Maybe it’s a throwback to something I forgot?
    This felt a bit short, not sure why… Might be the fact that the chapter was mostly connective tissue, with little real meat to it.
    I look forward to Friday.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Adurna

      His ability to read either truth or emotions from the answer means that it is a potent tool to limit Cat in what she says (can’t say she is playing for too much more than she is) or at the very least gauge how honourable her intentions are.

      Like

      1. Dainpdf

        Well, I guess. That doesn’t seem nearly dramatic enough for Cat to have the reaction she did.
        Was it because the heroes are getting involved in the negotiations? Because, if she didn’t see that coming, she needs to rethink her assumptions.

        Like

        1. Metrux

          Alot of people seem to not notice, and it’s understandable, because this is very much a indirect and dimplomatic way of inquiring about her changes as Akua. And in a way she can’t ignore, neither can she trully lie, since he can tell the lies.

          Does this seem more dramatic for you? :3

          Like

    1. RanVor

      No. It is reasonably terrifying. The only reason for her not to be present is being a part of some vicious plot that will see Catherine fucked over at least twice before the end of the day.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Amoonymous

        Yeah, but if that happens then not only is Cat and crew playing the heroic role, they’re doing so as the party that was backstabbed (however “technically not a backstab” the Procerans try to play it off, it’s still a backstab) while negotiating in good faith.

        When it comes to stories, that sounds like the type that would hand Cat a win in this universe.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Dylan Tullos

        RanVor:

        It is certainly possible that Saint is missing as part of a terrifying plot.

        It is also possible that she’s missing because she’s a terrible diplomat and should never be allowed to participate in any negotiations.

        Now, I’m pretty sure that there’s something bad going on here, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no possible alternatives. Saint wasn’t there the first time Grey Pilgrim spoke to Cat, either, probably because he wanted to talk with Cat when she wasn’t distracted by Saint trying to kill her.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Dainpdf

        That, or everyone else knew bringing her to this would be counter-productive, since she’d be hostile and work against negotiations, where they’re apparently going for delay tactics.

        Like

      4. Insanenoodlyguy

        There is another reason, and a very simple one. She has near-violently disagreed with this sitdown happening at all. Breaking truce could have very real consequences for all involved, and there’s a risk that not only might she attack the Callowins, but attack her own side if she feels they are betraying the heavens. I have no doubt they at least put her somewhere where she can make things go bad for Cat very quickly, but her not being here isn’t just an obvious trap.

        Like

            1. RanVor

              Well, I guess it’s also possible that they deliberately held her back specifically *because of* how suspicious it looks, counting on Cat to misjudge the situation and make a mistake. But I think it’s less likely than that:

              *after the negotiations concluded*

              Cat: Oh, and if I may ask, where is the Saint of Swords?

              The Saint: I’m in ur base killin’ ur d00dz lol

              Liked by 1 person

  10. RanVor

    It just occurred to me that the Pilgrim might decide that stopping Cat is more important than the state of the army, and lie about her intentions, knowing he’ll be believed unconditionally. And the Saint is already in position to launch a surprise attack on the Army of Callow in case the negotiations go down…

    Like

    1. If that’s their play, they’ll have locked themselves into villainous roles, regardless of which side powers their Names.

      I think Pilgrim has yet to wrap his head around the whole “our Heroes are their Villains and visa versa” cultural thing. Or, that Callow has been gradually developing a “screw both sides for making us their battlefield, yet a-bloody-gain — RESIST the invaders (any of them)!” narrative over centuries. :/

      Roles do gradually shift; so do which tropes go with which tale. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. RanVor

        No one seems to take into consideration that not everyone is as genre savvy as Cat. The Heroes never needed to learn to think in terms of narratives. They never faced the situation that couldn’t be overcome by acting stereotypically. They might not even realize that by doing something like that they give her an advantage. Or they might consider eliminating her army valuable enough to risk it.

        Also, their judgment is most likely clouded by the Heavens, and the Heavens want Cat dead really badly. Sure, it’s not very heroic to backstab the enemy during the diplomatic meeting, but that’s always the problem with the Greater Good types – they always regret the things they’re doing, but never enough to stop.

        Like

        1. Dylan Tullos

          RanVor:

          The Wandering Bard is considerably more genre-savvy than Cat, or even Black, and she’s the one pulling the strings. The Heroes don’t have to be geniuses when they’re being advised by an ancient monster that knows all the rules and loopholes.

          “Always regret the things they’re doing, but never enough to stop.” Funny, that’s exactly what Cordelia said to Cat during their conversation.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. RanVor

            If you didn’t notice, the Bard isn’t here with them.

            As for the other part of your comment, remember the conversation we had under Chapter 17? I DO NOT INTEND TO REVIVE IT.

            Like

              1. Dylan Tullos

                “And yet,” Cordelia Hasenbach said, “you still wear the crown and muster your armies for war. Sentiment is only meaningful if followed by action. If your grief at all the woe you have caused changes nothing, it is merely self-pity.”

                Agreed on not reviving our earlier argument. That wall of text ate most of the comments section.

                Good point about the Bard. I just don’t think Grey Pilgrim is the kind to break a truce; he seems extremely Lawful, and Saint listens to him. He’ll try to maneuver Cat into a bad position, but I don’t see him backstabbing during a conference.

                The Heroes we’ve met so far have been honest. Even the grimdark Lone Swordsman always kept his agreements, and Grey Pilgrim’s Name and Role is that of a wise, kindly advisor, not an antihero.

                Like

                1. RanVor

                  I don’t really consider what I wrote about the Pilgrim very likely. It’s just crossed my mind as a possibility. Who knows what he might be capable of with the Choirs whispering in his ear…

                  Like

        2. Jane

          No one seems to take into consideration that not everyone is as genre savvy as Cat.

          Actually… I think Cat might be less genre-savvy in certain ways. It’s been implied in the past (a couple of books ago) that Black was deliberately failing to tell Cat of certain commonly known things in the belief that not knowing how Names “should” work will make her stronger. I also recall Akua having been surprised at her ignorance in… Book II, I think, sometime after she tried threatening the orphanage? And in how she hadn’t a clue as to what a Pattern of Three was until she was involved in one, while several other characters have actively attempted to exploit them, sometimes successfully (Akua), sometimes not (the foolish Paladin this prologue).

          That said, though, we also have how the Pilgrim and Saint attempted to read the flow of her story last battle, predicting that she might rise from her unconscious state to save her friends at their time of greatest need. That didn’t happen, and they questioned its plausibility on the basis of her being a Villain, but they went full meta in how they guessed it would happen – they didn’t try to read the state of the battle, or of her personality, just what the shape of the story looked like. That suggests to me that they’re more used to thinking in terms of genre than they are the actual parts of the story – which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good at it, since even a small amount of genre-savvy presumably goes a long way in a setting like this, but I wouldn’t necessarily bet against it.

          Of course, depending on his goal, he might have to ignore his instincts and play a gambit he expects to blow up in his face anyway. If he thinks these negotiations will end in a long-term disaster for the continent, he might well be willing to inflict grave harm on himself and the army in order to avert it.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. RanVor

            “That said, though, we also have how the Pilgrim and Saint attempted to read the flow of her story last battle, predicting that she might rise from her unconscious state to save her friends at their time of greatest need. ”

            You’re right. I did forget about that one.

            How do you do those citations anyway?

            Like

            1. Jane

              (blockquote)text(/blockquote). Just replace the ( and ) with .

              Careful, though; it’s quite easy for the blockquote monster to eat your entire comment if given the smallest of typos to work with x_x . With the lack of an edit function, your comment can end up far more unreadable than if you’d just used quotes or italics to indicate you were quoting someone…

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Jane

                …Erm, while you’ve probably guessed this already, that suspicious blank after “with” should read > and < . Just flip them around when you're ready to invoke them.

                Liked by 1 person

  11. TeK

    Nobody picking up on tidbit about Nok? Thallassian fleet is led by their leaders son – one whos body and soul are owned by Empress. And now he showing unexpected savviness in Praesi politics by attacking Nok. The city is sacked – minus one High Lord, Legions “unfortunately were too late” (or were they?), now is the time to ask, what Malicia is thinking?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Gunslinger

      He’s in Malicia’s pocket but I think Black’s interlude pointed out that as long as his father was still alive he would be followed.

      Like

      1. Yeah but if they own the commander of the fleet, there’s no way they didn’t know when the city was going to be hit. They totally could have gotten the Legions there in time if they wanted to.

        Like

  12. Decius

    Cat has the best chance possible right now to get the Pilgrim on her side. She offered earlier to assist the Crusade to Praes, now’s the chance to get them out of Callow for good.

    Like

  13. Dylan Tullos

    The strategic situation is interesting.

    Ashur is doing their job; by raiding the cities along the coast, they’re putting pressure on Malicia and tying down the Legions stationed in Praes. Every legionary garrisoned in a Wasteland city is one legionary that isn’t free to oppose the Crusading armies further west.

    The Dominion is on the march, and if their armies are able to get through the Stairway, they’ll simply overwhelm the remaining Army of Callow. Even if the Stairway is somehow closed or blocked, Pappenheim may have the sheer numbers to force the Red Flower Vales through attrition. With his army and those of the Dominion, he has a huge strategic advantage against Black.

    Prince Amadis is a clever man, but I don’t see him getting out of this. Cordelia has no reason to agree to any treaty he makes. She’s already gotten thousands of fantassins killed, accomplishing one of her objectives, and now her internal opponents are openly negotiating with an Evil ruler. If they strike an agreement and retreat, it would be simple for her to cast the blame on Amadis and destroy him politically.

    Cordelia has already accomplished one essential goal; Catherine has killed enough of her fantassins so that she no longer has to fear an unemployed mercenary army. Now she’s on the verge of discrediting her political opposition. Once that is accomplished, her only remaining goals will be tearing down the Tower and bringing Callow back to the side of Good.

    Like

    1. Of course, there is one caveat here – Catherine knows that one of Cordelia’s goals in sending Amadis and Rozala was to get them killed or discredited, and the two of them probably won’t be happy to play along with that.

      Like

      1. Dylan Tullos

        Tohron:

        Catherine can do her best not to kill Amadis and Rozala, but they’ve already lost a huge part of their army, and they’re engaging in delicate negotiations with an Evil ruler. At this point, it would be very hard for them to put a positive spin on “Made a deal with Evil that had us retreat back through the Stairway”.

        The only way I can see for Catherine to avoid discrediting them would be to let them stay in Callow, which she’s not willing to do. Charging Amadis and Rozala for food on the way out would humiliate them further, rubbing in their defeat and making it impossible for them to revive their plans.

        Like

  14. I’ll bet when Akua was doing her false hero monologue she made some statement parallel to a previous statement Catherine had made, and the Grey Pilgrim registered it as a lie from Akua but a truth from Catherine.

    Also I’ll bet the Saint of Swords is in position to destroy Cat’s army if need be. Juniper isn’t the only one who knows you can win a war without going for the head of the snake.

    Like

  15. I loved, absolutely loved, seeing Indrani, Masego, and Cat snuggled up together. That kind of casual intimacy means a lot to me and it really warmed my heart seeing the three of them be together like that.

    Like

  16. Talmora

    I am slightly depressed and annoyed at how this book is going. Barely any victories to Cat’s name besides limiting the amount of assassination attempts. And now it sounds like Pilgrim is going to screw her over more….again….for like the third time.

    Like

      1. Byzantine

        You know, I don’t she forced anything on them. I think they walked into it entirely on their own, of their own free will. Catherine, in fact, tried to stop them from doing so.

        Liked by 1 person

  17. werafdsaew

    Proceran promises should be treated like stew: unless you know every ingredient, best not swallow.

    That doesn’t look good for the negotiation.

    Like

  18. At this point, since I consider Saint and Pilgrim to be decently intelligent and genre savy, otherwise they wouldn’t be alive, I figure they are going for a story which we don’t know about. My current guess is some kind of beleaguered queen redemption story.

    Which ah… well that’s gonna be the third time Cat says fuck you to the Choir’s.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Byzantine

      The thing is Cat doesn’t give two shits about Good or Evil. She’s just trying to do the right thing for Callow – which seems to be really pissing off Good.

      Like

  19. There’s another possibility,
    One I HOPE is actually the case. Archer commented, after her go-round with Saint, that Saint is Old and she thinks Saint drawing heavily on her Name is getting to be more than her body can handle.

    Think about the sort of stuff Saint’s been doing. She’s been cutting gashes in the air, to use as hand and footholds to the first time pursue and cut bits off Cat as Cat withdrew running on flat shadow-panes…and then the second time did the same thing, only a LOT more of it, to gain the necessary altitude to go after Cat while Cat was on Winged-Zombie.

    All that Sky-Parkour, move after move after move, each move beginning with drawing on her Name enough to gash Reality enough to create grip-points out of thin air…above and beyond engagement after engagement, each and every day, if not multiple times a day, for pretty much the last seven days. To say nothing at all of all the conventional running and cutting-to-pieces of hundreds of Callowan soldiers. She’s been forced to defend herself with her Name from Masego’s very best efforts to alpha-strike her, and then had an extended engagement with Archer.

    Saint may well be running on fumes, and (likely at the Pilgrim’s earnest suggestion) is using the duration of diplomatic whatevers to rest and recharge.

    I truly, truly hope it’s that. Otherwise the whole Villains Don’t Age thing is a meaningless issue of cosmetics. If aged Heroes retain full youthful vigor/constitution, then all Heroic aging means is they cosmetically look worse than the Villains. That doesn’t really jive with the issue as it was explained very early on. To say nothing of the fact it would make Ranger a LOT less distinctive.

    What I’ve been hoping to see for a bit now is some sign that all this 110% the Saint and GP have been giving to shield the younger Heroes from the lethal results of their errors has been whittling them down. Otherwise they’re frankly OP. Even after staving off the Absolute Positioning Flood, the GP was merely tired-seeming for all of one day, but was splitting and re-purposing the Summoned Summer Sun the very next morning.

    The GP and the Saint have been at it flat-out for some time now. They’re very old, and it’d be incredibly interesting to finally see a chink in their invulnerability. Or..as someone else said, the Saint could be flatly opposed to treating with Catherine, and is using as non-participation in the diplomacy as the BS-figleaf justification she’s going to use to explain how she can strike treacherously while negotiations are ongoing, and still be a “Hero.”

    Like

    1. RanVor

      The Heroes being OP is one of the crucial plot points of the story. I wouldn’t be surprised if they just got more powerful with age.

      What makes you think Hye Su is a Hero?

      Like

    2. Metrux

      They age, don’t exactly loose power. The whole gig is that THEY DIE TO AGING. If you trully think about it, villains can live forever. Heroes can’t. So even if they stay at the height of their power until the day they die… They still die to age just like a normal person. You’ll never see a 200 years old hero.

      Like

      1. Metrux

        A. She’s a trainer of both Heroes and Villains; B. Her legend was big before the Calamities, and she did fight against several Villains; C. She has a Name that can be Heroic or Villainous; D. No one knows if her not seeming to age is because of Villainy or her elf ancestry, which means she could be the closest thing to a immortal Hero, or even a true Neutral party. It’s been said before, when Cat was learning, that not even Black is sure if she is Hero or Villain.

        Like

        1. RanVor

          All of that is true, but from what we know about her personality, she seems more Villainous than Heroic. In the Guide sense, of course, not in the normal sense.

          Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s