Chapter 22: Trip

“A war fought and won for the wrong reasons, under the wrong cause, can be a greater threat to the Praes than simple defeat. Maleficent the First spoke of villains raising their own gallows, but failed to add that the killing stroke in a hanging comes from the height of the drop.”
– Extract from ‘The Death of the Age of Wonders’, a treatise by Dread Empress Malicia

“Preposterous,” Prince Arnaud of Cantal blustered.

He wasn’t the only one to speak up in the aftermath of that particular trebuchet stone being lobbed, but he was by far the loudest. And his heartbeat had not changed in the slightest, though his face was the very picture of angry befuddlement. All right, that one bore watching. I’d never met anyone this good at acting outside of the High Lords and maybe a handful of Named. I leaned back into my seat and riffled through my cloak pockets until I had my pipe in hand. The small satchel of wakeleaf parted under my fingers and I poured the contents into the chamber. I had a few matches, but also a quicker way. I coughed until Masego turned his attention from the book he was not-so-discretely reading under the table to me. I tapped the side of the pipe he’d gifted me with a finger. Scoffing, he flicked his wrist and fire bloomed within the chamber.

“Thank you, Lord Hierophant,” I drawled. “As for the many statements of the Proceran delegation, I’ll point you to the Chosen known as the Grey Pilgrim. A truth-teller of great skill, as I understand it.”

The gaze of everyone in the pavilion moved to the old man, still standing and devoid of expression. That’s right, I thought. I’m not lying. I didn’t have to. I very much doubted the Grand Alliance would just hand me a tankard and invite me to sit at the table, but even a refusal would need more than just Hasenbach involved. The Ashurans would have to put the question through committees, unless their quasi-king Magon Hadast intervened, and more importantly the Dominion would have to go through the Majilis. Their inept, bickering and deeply divided equivalent to the Highest Assembly. The entire process could take months even for a refusal. And if they accepted? Well, it wasn’t like I wasn’t intending to make deals with all of them eventually. It was a necessary component to the Liesse Accords being adopted. It was a different approach than I’d intended, but so long as it worked what did I care?

“The Queen in Callow did not speak a lie,” the Pilgrim flatly said.

I’d been a bit too much to swallow to tell them outright I was telling the truth, apparently. Nice to know even the Peregrine could be petty.

“This is a trick,” Princess Adeline of Orne insisted. “You are one of the Damned.”

Fancy Proceran talk for villain, I took it. The Chosen and the Damned, huh. Somehow I suspected a lot of foreign heroes who ended up fighting against Procer also ended up, by pure coincidence of course, painted with damnation brush. I breathed in the smoke, then allowed it to billow upwards with my exhale.

“And?” I said. “I already offered the Pilgrim passage through Arcadia if your army was willing to assault Praes directly. I’m not exactly unwilling to kick in the Empire’s teeth, Princess, and I was under the impression that was exactly what the Tenth Crusade was about. Or are there other concerns I don’t know about?”

My smile turned a little colder at that. She did not flinch, but her heartbeat quickened in fear. The taste of it was just as intoxicating as the wine I was oathbound not to drink. Brave soul, that one, but out of her depth today. She wasn’t in on the game the Pilgrim was playing. Prince Amadis began to speak, but the Pilgrim hastily cleared his throat to stay the man’s tongue. Wouldn’t do to have the mortals fuck up your scheme, would it?

“As a vassal state of the Tower-” the old man began.

“Is the Proceran delegation turning back on the premises of this negotiation?” Aisha interrupted smilingly. “You are addressing the Queen in Callow, Grey Pilgrim, by mutual agreement.”

I beamed at the lovely tribune. Ah, Aisha. Always quick on the uptake, wasn’t she? If it didn’t have ‘terrible idea’ written all over it in red ink, it would be tempting to give her a whirl.

“Over twenty thousand men were butchered by the Army of Callow,” Malanza spoke up. “You expect us to ignore this?”

“All a misunderstanding, evidently,” I replied calmly. “I believed your expeditionary force to be an attempt at invasion. I regret what came from it, but you must understand that Callowans have a chequered history with armies crossing our borders after using massive sorcerous rituals.”

There was a muted sound as Brandon Talbot choked on his tongue. The implied comparison to the Dread Empire ruffled more than a few feathers on the other side of the table, but they couldn’t exactly deny the bird’s eye view of it. Hasenbach’s burning of a passage was admittedly more grounded than your average Dread Emperor’s crowning disaster, but the similarities were there.

“Your alleged intent to seek alignment with the Grand Alliance is irrelevant to the negotiations being held today,” the Pilgrim said.

I glanced at Aisha. I was pulling one on him so far but it wouldn’t do to get cocky. The more we conversed the higher the chances he turned the tables.

“That is inaccurate,” the Taghreb aristocrat replied. “As is would be unlawful to be a signatory of the Alliance while paying any form of tribute to the Tower, providing this statement served the purpose of answering your question.”

So, I mused, watching Amadis across the table even though he was not the object of my thoughts. You going to keep fighting this one, Pilgrim, or give ground and rally for the third? I’d cut the grass under his feet by presenting myself as a possible ally, right in the wake of a bloody battle that saw no clear winner. He couldn’t work the ‘heroes with their back up against the wall’ story angle with a foundation that weak, not while the Procerans were fed and under truce. ‘Evil turns on Evil’ had been his move, but I should have tiptoed around the pitfall by stating in front of a truth-teller that I was willing to slap some red crosses onto the armour of the Army of Callow and fight the Good fight. That’d make me the one prick in every heroic band that crossed lines for the Greater Good, if it worked. The Lone Swordsman of continental coalitions, if you would. Two for two, so far. Parry and riposte. But we both know it’s the third one that matters, don’t we? I puff at my pipe, allowing the wakeleaf to fill my lungs. The old man was studying me in silence, but I did not meet his eyes.

“The clarification was sufficient,” Pilgrim finally said, and sat down.

Cutting his losses, I presumed, since I was no longer willing to engage. I remained silent as negotiations picked up again through intermediaries. The Procerans made an argument that reparations were not needed if this was all an accident, but Aisha turned it around by noting that the sale of supplies was a different matter entirely. That the terms of the truce specifically did not prevent them from entering Praes took the wind out of their sails, since they had to maintain the pretence that their ‘expeditionary force’ wasn’t an army meant to invade Callow – if they strayed from that, they were entering a nightmarish quagmire of war reparations and official apologies none of them could really afford back in Procer. My attention began to wane as the hours passed, tediously taking us to Afternoon Bell, but I forced myself to follow everything closely. I could not afford to be taken unawares when the Pilgrim intervened again. Yet none of the heroes spoke so much as a word, and I grew tenser the longer the sword remained hanging over my head. My side got its way when it came to terms of payment for the supplies, though the Procerans bargained down to only needing to pay a quarter of the total sum directly out of their pockets even if it was framed as a loan from Hasenbach to them. Odds were the First Prince would flip them the finger and that quarter was all I’d ever see, but considering I was essentially selling them back their own supplies I’d take it anyway. Even just having the documents would give me something to use when I had to treat with Hasenbach herself down the line.

The diplomatic claptrap continued, polite verbal fencing back and forth across the table. The crusaders tried to fuck us over what land was actually recognized as ‘under the rule of the Queen in Callow’, and to my distaste got the better of it. I couldn’t exactly make the argument that the Red Flower Vales were mine when they were factually in the hands of the Legions of Terror, and that meant the northern crusade could move against Black down there without breaking our terms. It’d be months before they even got out of Callow, I told myself. And it would take even more time for them to recover and march on the Vales. By then Black would either have won or lost against Papenheim. If he’d won, I’d have to trust that he could hold the valleys regardless. I couldn’t afford for him not to. And if he lost, well, the northern crusade would still be forbidden to go further than the Vales until the truce ran out. At that point I’d have more immediate problems anyway. We weren’t halfway to Evening Bell and there was only a single issue that hadn’t been addressed, guarantees for the treaty – though we’d have to double back to the supplies since that one had been kicked down the slope by Prince Amadis. It was beginning to look like we’d walk out of the pavilion with an actual agreement before nightfall, which had me wary.

The Procerans could have delayed much more than they had. We’d expected them to, as long as the battle for the Vales was undecided. This was going well, which meant I was about to have my knuckles rapped. Except the Pilgrim didn’t get up. It was the mouthpiece that addressed the subject, and my fingers clenched under the table. This wasn’t going to be straightforward negotiations, since it was about the mechanisms that would be enforcing the treaty. I wanted oaths to the Heavens out of everyone involved, witnessed by a hero, but Aisha had pretty bluntly informed me that wasn’t going to happen even if I offered to make an oath of my own. Our best guess was that they’d push for something along the lines of the agreement being made public so anyone breaking it would have their reputation tarnished. We wouldn’t accept that, since they might very well get away with breaking a treaty with a villain with praise for being clever in screwing over the enemy instead of any backlash for dealing in bad faith. The compromise we’d be working for was material value being left behind as guarantee, as well as staggered departure for the Proceran host so we’d have a knife at their throat if they tried to double-cross us. Breaking a promise to the bearer of a fae mantle would come back to haunt them, anyway, so this was mostly a precaution to account for any outside solution we didn’t know about.

Except after Aisha proposed my terms – as a starting position to be bargained down from, to my chagrin – the Procerans didn’t offer what we’d expected.

“As a sign of good faith, we are willing to offer a royal hostage,” the middle-aged diplomat said. “We would, however, require an accompanying observer and a guarantee of safety for both.”

That had to be the Pilgrim’s play, but I wasn’t seeing it. There wasn’t a good angle to use with the supplies deal, at least none that I could see, and after that there was nothing left to negotiate about. All right, then, royal hostage. What could he do with that? Assassinate the hostage after I took custody of them, so this entire treaty was ripped in half. If Malicia had made me an offer like this, it would be what I expected. Except that this wasn’t the way Pilgrim did things. Sure, he’d basically put his seal on the Saint offing me under a – glamoured, I had to concede that much – truce banner, but that plan didn’t fit with the way he’d approached this so far. Letting me die for the greater good was one thing, and he’d been pretty upfront that was essentially his intent when we first sat down for our fireside chat. But murder? No, that was going against the grain. He could be banking on either one of my people fucking up or Praes being out for blood, though. Not outright bloodying his hand, but shaping the situation so it would unfold the way he needed it to. That I could buy.

Except I’d have the hostage neck deep in wards in the safest place I could find, and Malicia wanted to use Amadis’ gaggle of expansionists to make a mess in Procer. That wasn’t to say if she decided it would be useful to weaken me she wouldn’t assassinate royalty that wasn’t Malanza or Milenan, the two she’d ordered me not to kill. But unless she had Assassin to call on, which I was almost certain she didn’t, she’d have a very hard time pulling this off. I had the fucking Hierophant designing my defences, these days, and the Guild of Assassins in my pocket. It wasn’t impossible but it would require a significant investment of resources at a juncture when her backyard was already on fire. Pilgrim might not know a High Lord’s seat got sacked and the court is up in arms about it, though, I mused. Lack of information? No, I could never assume that. Not with the Augur on the other side, and the pile of aspects the heroes had to draw from. Hells, it wasn’t even off the table that one of them had a godsdamned angel whispering secrets in their ear. In what circumstances was giving me a royal hostage the correct move, assuming they didn’t get killed?

If he wanted this treaty to work.

Was it that simple? That’d been treating him like an unmovable enemy when he was actually willing to work with me? No. Be cold. Be clear. Be a creature of logic, because the moment you allow your judgement to be affected is the moment you lose. My understanding of the Pilgrim, as based in fact, was that he was no more inclined to compromise than I. I desperately wanted someone on the other side to be willing to work with me, so I was painting what I wanted to see on the canvas. If he’d allowed this, it was because he saw a path to victory through it. And I couldn’t discern what he wanted to accomplish from my point of view, so I would have to adopt his. I am the Pilgrim, I thought. I have seen dozens if not hundreds of the villains, and I am apt at reading them. My truth-telling abilities may run deeper than that. How did I trick Catherine Foundling, if I understood what she was after? She wanted the treaty to succeed, so – no, mistake. That was the shatranj board on the ground, not the one he was trying to win on. The villain queen has wiggled out of my plan to pit her against other villains by trying to make herself into the suspect ally on the side of the Tenth Crusade. That is an issue, since it makes her difficult to assault. But she took a stance, and every stance has vulnerabilities. What is hers? She is behaving like an ally, looking down from Above.

How much effort would it actually take, to enforce that?

My grip loosened under the table. So that was it. I’d already done it to myself accidentally with the Lone Swordsman, back in the day: the Pilgrim’s play was a redemption story. It didn’t matter that I was in charge of Callow, if I was no longer a villain. Sure, most redemption stories ended in death. Sacrifice to make up for previous sins and all that, passing the torch to someone that had the same heroism but less blood on their hands. That was just spice in the wine, though, since it got him all the benefits of Callow not longer heading down the cliff without having to deal the issues inherent in keeping me around after my bloody history. In a way, this could be considered an elegantly subtle assassination attempt. The Grey Pilgrim or someone he handpicked according to his understanding of me would be the observer in the Proceran terms, and then all he had to do was wait and let the story do the heavy lifting. I laughed softly, ignoring the odd looks it got me. Gods, I’d underestimated him. He was playing me on the earthly board to win on the story one. Callow, of which I was queen, needed the truce for practical reasons. I needed the truce because it was a first step in getting the Accords signed. And so I would accept, knowing he was trying to kill me through it.

I admired the calculated methods Black used to kill heroes. I’d learned from them, emulated the techniques when dealing with the heroes who came into Callow. In that same distant way, I could admire what the Pilgrim had done here. My teacher was a villain, so he came at it from the perspective that the stories would get him killed. So he avoided them. The Grey Pilgrim was a hero, so he came at it from the perspective that the stories would get him what he wanted. So he leant into them. From an objective perspective, even if this was very likely meant to kill me, I could only commend how well I was being played. He’d read what I wanted, and was giving it to me in a way that led to his victory. And even deeper than that, he must know that even if I saw through this I’d feel bound to accept. Because I wasn’t Black. I was not a pupil of martyrdom, but I did believe there were things worth dying for. If I paid my dues in blood to the Gods Above, Callow would avoid the slaughter marching towards it. All it required me to do was smile, accept, and kiss the knife that would slit my throat. You have found the thing I most want in the world, and used it to kill me.

There wasn’t a fucking devil in existence that could have played it better.

“And the identity of the hostage and observer?” I asked, breaking in before Aisha could pursue the matter.

“As the leader of this host, it is my duty to serve as the hostage,” Prince Amadis Milenan said, inclining his head towards me.

And it was no doubt a fortunate coincidence that this honourable sacrifice would make him the hero who’d gone into the wolf’s den for the sake of his men instead of the ambitious fuckup who’d pissed away over twenty thousand men trying annex Callow. The other royals would return to Procer, where Hasenbach wouldn’t be able to blame them – Prince Amadis, after all, was the official leader of the army. And the man himself would be out of the First Prince’s reach to punish, not that she’d be able to after he’d become a hostage to save his men. He’d come out of this smelling like roses, a tragic figure who had fallen prey to the wickedness of the Black Queen. Meanwhile his allies in Procer would be building the altar of his legend so when he returned it would be to the praise of the thousands instead of blackened by inglorious defeat. Burning Hells. Even when I won, with these people, they still didn’t lose. Both sides getting their way had felt like a better principle before I’d had to look the truth of it in the eye.

“And I volunteer myself as the observer,” the Grey Pilgrim added calmly.

I didn’t humour him with a reply. We already knew my answer. I leaned towards Aisha.

“I’m going to agree to this,” I whispered in her ear. “Use it to extract concessions over supplies. You’ll find them more flexible than anticipated.”

Her dark eyes were troubled, but she was a Wastelander through and through. Her face became a mask and she did not argue with me in front of the enemy. I leaned back and my eyes turned to the Pilgrim. I was past pretending this wasn’t his game.

“I’ll accept these terms,” I said. “I believe we’re done here?”

The old man inclined his head.

“So we are,” he replied.

I rose to my feet, flicking a glance at Prince Amadis.

“Aisha Bishara speaks with my full authority,” I said. “She will finish these negotiations in my name.”

It was not proper etiquette, but I did not have it in me to stay seated and smile across the table from a man who’d just arranged my death, however beautifully. I offered the bare necessities of courtesy before leaving, Thief trailing behind me with worried eyes. Hierophant only noticed what was happening when I was halfway out the pavilion, then got up and left without even the semblance of an explanation. I halted and looked up at the descending sun, after I exited the conference. The Pilgrim thought he’d won. But he didn’t understand quite what I was after, did he? That for the Accords to work, there was a need for someone enforcing them from the side of Evil. Or maybe he did, and didn’t believe it would make a difference. In the end, a mistake had been made today.

Whether it was his or mine, only time would tell.

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142 thoughts on “Chapter 22: Trip

          1. Insanenoodlyguy

            Speaking of ships, in this chapter it looks like Juniper do the equivalent of putting her name in tape on the stuff in the fridge before Cat decides to eat it herself.

            Liked by 1 person

              1. Insanenoodlyguy

                rereading, it might have been literal as well. So delighted with Aisha’s back up she literally wants to pick her up and twirl her. That is still a bad idea for all the same reasons mind. You pick up a girl and twirl her, there’s assumptions made about your intentions.

                Liked by 2 people

    1. ALKATYN

      She is already the defacto leader in military terms, letting her be a hostage would give her an even bigger reputation boost, and allow her allies to frame the failure of the crusade as his, with her nobly sacrificing herself. Also, Pilgrim et al would probably not want her around Catherine, since they both have ruthless pragmatic streaks and a focus on revenge it would be easy for Cat to convert her, at least in part. Milenan is an old style Proceran noble so thats less of an issue

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      1. Also the real irony here is that if they gave Cat a hostage who actually had a moral compass Cat would probably have them turning against Procer within a month because, well, because Procer actually is in the wrong. So they kind of have to send her an amoral self-serving bastard to act as the ‘poor heroic hostage who kills the evil queen’ because anyone actually heroic wouldn’t serve.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. ruduen

      Yep, a redemption story is quite possible with the lines that have currently been drawn. I was actually wondering if they were going to turn it into something else – if they provided a royal captive, put under the heaviest guards, then that would’ve provided the lines for an appropriate rescue story.

      Still, since Catherine knows just what’s going on, it’s time to see just how much wiggle room she’s found in this particular story.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Someguy

        There is another way to fuck the “Redemption” story by leaning heavily on Pilgrims’ Mentor Archetype. Twist it into a variant of the “Hero’s Journey” where the mentor gives his life to save the “hero”. In this case, setting things up for Akua and the Mantle of Winter as targets.

        Liked by 10 people

            1. Dainpdf

              Catherine specifically kept Akua around so she would teach her things. She’s not a rival anymore. Still a viper, but a teachy one.

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            1. Dainpdf

              Yeah, but that’s not my point. I just meant that after reaching magic number three it’s probably hard to get another. Especially since she already had a “learning” name and ditched it.
              Maybe if you count Akua as a tool instead of a mentor?

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    2. jonnnney

      The Empress, Black Knight, Heirophant’s parents, several legions in the Vales and a good deal of the administration of her Army and government would all be big issues. However the main issue would be that Callow would rejoin the cycle of death and conquest with Praes that had plagued it for the past thousand years. I think she might could get away with ruling alongside a heroine, but if she switches sides her whole reason for grasping power in the first place evaporates.

      Liked by 11 people

      1. Jonnnnz

        Thank you.

        Someone finally mentioned the obvious: the Gods have set up the continent with Callow being a target for a starving Praes. Black and Malicia’s solution was that they become one nation. Cat saw the numbers. This agreement is poison in the long term because Praes will have to at least partially succeed each time no matter what treaties are signed to protect Callowan interests.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yotz

          As a tributary to the Tower, Callow brings Praes into the agreement, however tangentially. This would require additional diplomatic talks between the Tower and the League, all while the Praes must be supplied with analogue of humanitarian aid convoys at least. Callow will carry the lion’s share of it, of course – both as a gesture of free will, and a sign of loyalty to the treaty signed – thus fulfilling divine mandate. Oh, and Praes will surely skin them alive with border taxes in any future trade dealing – metaphorically speaking, of course – thus succeeding in their nefarious plans on dominating Callow.

          Welcome to the birth of Realpolitik, gentlehomos.

          PS: Gods will be furious, though. At least of the Above, for Infernal Diplomacy is a thing, you see…

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Kazon and Dogar

            Except that Black’s point is that a Dread Emperor/Empress that tries to enact something that will solve the starvation without taking from Callow will be made to fail. The (hilariously named) plot to steal Callow’s weather failed and made it worse. Attempting to limit population growth was met with a quick death before it could be implemented. Black managed to divine that much clarity from historical records. The agreement you describe would be destroyed before it could be signed. That was the driving force behind the conquest: the loophole in the Gods-mandated plan in which Praes solves the starvation by taking from Callow, only this time with no need for human suffering in the process.

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          2. Dainpdf

            Uh… It was stated that Cat can’t be aligned to Praes if the agreement goes through. She basically stated that there’s a snowball’s chance in Summer that she’s getting into the Alliance, without Pilgrim intervention.

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            1. Agent J

              Yes, and she side-stepped the issue entirely “answering” the Pilgrim by saying she planned to join the Alliance. The Uncivil Wars are going to be a thing. The Girl Who Climbed the Tower is also a thing. She can’t be allied to Praes for the deal to go through? No matter. She’ll just conquer it.

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      2. The Empress would face a united Proceran host gated through Arcadia to the doorstep of Ater. Black is thinking about dropping Malicia in favour of helping Cat with her vision of a better world (see their last reported conversation); the Calamities (and Scribe, and, heck, maybe even Ranger) would leave Malicia to burn and follow Black in a heartbeat, and Hierophant’s other parent would follow the Warlock to join their son without even noticing there might be a problem. The goblins and orcs and ogres are playing their own game, but certainly would be welcome to come to Callow and settle/join the Army in a more congenial environment than Praes.

        Over half of the remaining Army is Legion-trained but Callow-born. The hard Wasteland core of the 15th and adjacent legions is loyal to either Catherine or Black or both (see above about Black moving); and the Red Flower Vales legions have to have figured out that their Empress has suspended them over a bottomless pit of the One Sin by now, and might well follow Black.

        The Broken Bells would just be smiling. A lot. Likewise the Daoine.

        I don’t say this is the most likely scenario. I’ve given up scrying EE’s thoughts. But it’s hardly *impossible* that Catherine Foundling would break a story in a narratively-plausible way that nobody saw coming, is it?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. RanVor

          That much is true. The problem is, the objectives of Black and the Procerans are mutually exclusive. The entire point of this crusade on the narrative level is stopping Black before he actually achieves something that can’t be rectified. Remember, the Heavens don’t want peaceful and civilized Praes – they want a dystopian, militaristic shithole to serve as a punching bag for their flunkies. If they get their way, they will make sure the next Dread Emperor is going to be a power-hungry madman.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Last volume, yes, definitely. End of argument. Now, though?

            Black’s plans are in little pieces all over the floor (see also, his last reported conversation with the Dread Empress). He knows this, and is looking straight at that reality, and thinking about it. Maybe he is thinking it might be fun to have different plans, maybe with different goals. The Liesse Accords might fit the bill. Especially if he knew the Heavens were against that outcome, and he could get to work with Cat again to help her twist the knife in that direction good and hard. (:

            Black’s objectives *were* incompatible with the Crusaders’. They might not now be.

            The Yan Tei precedent exists in-world.

            “Patterns cannot be broken,” Black smiled. “But they can be… transcended.”

            Liked by 1 person

            1. RanVor

              Actually no. Black’s objectives remain the same, and his plan is better than ever. In fact, it performed so far beyond his expectations that he’s content to let it run by itself for a time being, to see if he can get even better results. Malicia doesn’t see it because she focuses too much on the mundane side of things, and too little on the narrative side.

              Now, if Cat changes sides and truly joins the good guys, and not just technically like she’s currently planning, then his plan will come apart because he invested too much in her to have her lost to his enemies.

              Moreover, Cat’s and the Procerans objectives are also mutually exclusive. She has been declared abomination by the House of Light, and any deal they make with her, including the Liesse Accords, is going to ruin their reputation as Calernia’s foremost bastion against the forces of darkness. Not to mention that they actually believe it’s their gods-given duty to combat Evil wherever it appears. They’re not going to just accept a treaty that goes against the tenets of their faith – they will have to be forced to do so. As one of them, Cat will have to submit to the same philosophy. The Accords are a work that just can’t be done from the side of Good, with their inflexible doctrines and deep-seated prejudices.

              Furthermore, Black’s and Cat’s objectives are, in fact, mutually inclusive. The Liesse Accords is the perfect chance for Black to solidify his victory, but they can’t be achieved without him successfully reforming Praes to a sufficient degree. So, they both benefit from each other’s work, but none of them benefits from the situation the Procerans are aiming for.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. Metrux

                “is going to ruin their reputation as Calernia’s foremost bastion against the forces of darkness” is false, actually. They see themselves like this, but it’s been noted, several times already, that all other nations see them as power hungry and backstabbing, that tried to conquer them one time or another. Who was actually the bastion against evil was Callow, a land full of heroes and reigned by one, generation after generation fighting evil, with the citizens themselves arming each other without anyone asking. Too bad they let the bastion fall and now the burning wreck came to glare them in the face, uhh?

                For the rest, I mostly agree, it IS possible for Cat and Black to share the same end-game, though Black should probably die for it to happen, and it is practically impossible for Cat and Hasenbach both winning.

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                1. RanVor

                  The Procerans are seen by everyone as power-hungry and backstabbing because they totally are. They are also shielding entire Calernia from both Kingdom of the Dead and the Chain of Hunger.

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                  1. Oshi

                    No some of the kingdoms are shielding them. Not Procer itself. More often then not they starve those kingdoms slated with the duty of it rather then help.

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                    1. RanVor

                      Funny, the last time I checked the map of Calernia, Procer was the only Good country to have land borders with Kingdom of the Dead and the Chain of Hunger. Did something change since then?

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                    2. oldschoolvillain

                      RanVor – you appear to be viewing Procer as a monolithic entity like Callow or Pears. It isn’t. It’s a bunch of kingdoms shoved into a sack together told to get along because they’re led by the same elected official. Only a few of those Kingdoms border the chain of hunger and the kingdom of the dead, while the rest border Callow and each other.

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                    3. RanVor

                      oldschoolvillain – Procer is not monolithic, but it *is* a united country under a common leadership. Basically, it’s like the US, but with more intrigue.

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        2. Cat doesn’t want to throw down the Tower though. She’s seen where that path leads. Good *must* have an evil overlord to fight. Praes *will* rise again and invade Callow once more if Cat violently overthrows Malicia, it’s just a matter of time. If that outcome occurs, it’s basically the undoing and the destruction of everything she set out to achieve.

          So whatever outcome Cat goes for, it has to include Praes standing, with no reason to invade Callow, and with someone who’s not Akua 2.0 in charge (though not necessarily Malicia).

          Like

    3. The form of the story is basically: Praes, the Evil, always grasps. Callow, the Good, is grasped. The Praes collapses, Callow breaks free, and the story repeats.

      If Callow breaks free, but both stay Evil, then the story breaks, much like what Cat did with Summer and Winter.

      If Catherine turns Good thanks to the Proceran ploy, then Callow as a whole is Good. If Callow then breaks free, Praes is going to come knocking again and the story of misery continues.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Edrey

        here cat have the role to unite both sides, callow and praes, winter and summer, and all calernia good and evil, and start a new age. the important is not just two countries but all the continent. so like summer procer must be forced

        Like

        1. RoflCat

          And of course the Above who want to continue the pissing contest, is not amused a mere mortal is ruining their game.

          That’s probably the REAL reason they’ve been going after her, much in the same way Amadis was invading Callow for achievements for himself, not the whole Good Crusade crushing Evil Praes.

          Liked by 1 person

    4. werafdsaew

      She gave an answer in this chapter; for the Liesse Accord to work, someone has to be enforcing it from the side of Evil, and currently she is that candidate.

      Liked by 1 person

    5. RanVor

      It was outright stated in the second to last paragraph of this chapter – for the Accords to work, someone has to enforce them from the side of Evil. And there’s literally no other possible candidate.

      Liked by 1 person

    6. ALKATYN

      Heroes have far less autonomy than villains it seems, they are effectively working as peices moved by the heavens, not players themselves. Cat has slight issues with being bossed around. They also don’t get immortality, and can’t do a lot of the ruthless things Cat tends to do.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Alivaril

    …Okay, I’m starting to notice a disturbing pattern of late: every time Cat gets a major victory in one chapter, the next crushes any happiness born from it. It isn’t fun to read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jakinbandw

      I mean, nothing had happened here. The pilgrim thinks he’s killed Kat by pushing her into ‘Death equals Redemption’ but let’s be fair. Kat has beaten harder stories before. While Kat is still worried about it (because the grey pilgrim is very skilled at story manipulation) I’m not. Kat is just as good if not better.

      Kat just went 3 for 3 (but stories dont like that so it makes the last one ambiguous.)

      Liked by 3 people

      1. ALKATYN

        Re redemption equals death. She’s already died at least 1.5 times, she might be able to come back again, though each time the cost is higher. Pilgrim could resurrect her, but its probably not side effect free

        Like

        1. Hard to say what the side effects of resurrecting a villain is. She has already been resurrected but her soul never left Creation, as she was undead.
          The pilgrim stated that Resurrection had side effects because souls hated being ripped from the glorious Heavens. I find this shady as all Hells.
          If Cat was resurrected after a “true” death, technically he’d be ripping her soul out of the Hells? Could he even do that?

          Like

          1. JJR

            Getting ripped from the Hells might not be as hard. On the one hand the Hell Gods might take offense to the theft, on the other hand I don’t expect the soul being rescued to resist in the same way the ones being taken from the heavens do. It also opens up a possible exploit in Pilgrims Redemption = Death plan. Visiting hell briefly and realizing that you are destined to end up their is a good excuse to run in the opposite direction as fast as you can. So, instead of Redemption leading to Death, Death leads to Redemption; but she can’t be redeemed until after she is resurrected. And with deaths and redemption balanced out on the scales she would no longer have a guaranteed death hanging over her head.

            Like

            1. The Hells definitely seems to have a revolving door. Comparatively Heaven is shrouded in mystery. One reason i find it so shady. If it was as great as advertised, it wouldn’t be so hidden.
              Cat doesn’t want to end up a Hero, so Death = Redemption is still bad.

              Like

  2. Antoninjohn

    The Hellgate was built on Procer silver under the First Princes orders, in order to invade and ruin Callow. So the story has Procer playing the villain role to Callow with it’s massive ritual invasion and attacking with Demons and Devils

    Liked by 3 people

    1. ALKATYN

      I suspect they will mostly not care, as long as Heirophant and Adjutant don’t have to fight Praesi troops. Archer is neutral, Thief is hardcore Callowan nationalist

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Mr. Nobody

      I think her soul will remain with Winter even after her possible death from the “redemption story” to enforce the Liesse Accords. (Apparently, Cat’s soul is bound to Winter)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. RoflCat

        I think it’d be interesting if Cat ends up ‘dead’, then while Pilgrim was satisfied his plan work, AKUA came out to take over the body, declared herself ‘successor to Catherine’s will’

        She could make it work too, because she’s bounded to Winter, and Winter is very much Cat.
        (She’s also bound to Cat’s body’s oaths, so Thief can also act as a leash on her)

        We saw how it influenced Akua’s mind earlier, so Akua explaining it that way would be ‘true’ to Pilgrim.
        Then later on Akua can just call on Winter a lot to bring Cat back, because who needs Hashmallim to resurrect you, when you’ve got your very own Guardian Angel….Guardian Diabolist?

        Liked by 3 people

        1. We already did have the ‘Die for the sake of the story, but not really’-trick happen though. Remember that Cath was Undead while fighting the Lone Swordsman, just so he could deliver the finishing blow and it not mattering.

          I’m pretty sure using the same trick twice isn’t how nice stories are supposed to go, so doubt it will come to that.

          I favor the ‘Hero’s Journey’ above the ‘Die conveniently’.

          Like

          1. There are other tales of redemption, too. The reformed villain who becomes bound to the kingdom/ ideals/ people they once tried to destroy as a repentant saviour aka Merlin.

            Right now, that’s Pilgrim. Kind of/ ish. But, if he gets himself deaded-by-mentorship rather than archived-by-Nimue, that leaves being bound to serve a land/concept open. And, Akua might take being bound to serve the Practical Evil-style Liesse Accords over getting wiped out, letting the Good guys win or becoming a Tower fixture.

            Pilgrim doesn’t know he’s dealing with two “redeemable” clients, here. Both quite willing to nix his game plan.

            Like

        2. Insanenoodlyguy

          Ohhh, that could work. Cat lets herself die, and then that redemption story is over… but she comes back. Free from the narrative, because she wasn’t resurrected in the hero way, but by a villian.

          Like

  3. Argentorum

    Now the question is, what story will Cat try to write.

    Though, in honesty, I’m surprised she didn’t push for Milenza to stay, as the military leader of the host, or else pushed for the Saint instead of the Pilgrim. Obviously, she couldn’t get both, but if she started with the Pilgrim, she could maybe bargain them down to sending Milenza instead of Amadis. Who knows.

    As always, a great chapter.

    Like

            1. RanVor

              I’m pretty sure the only Calamity loyal to Malicia before Black is Black himself, and that’s already starting to change…

              Like

        1. Metrux

          The assassin can lie to her special senses, he did so when she thought Black was gonna die, so he can’t be Arnaud. Unless he is doing this just to show, or something, which I wouldn’t put under him… Just would feel strange for him to do something like that.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Cicero

          Err… isn’t Assassin dead?

          I thought he was disguised as Black and then killed by Akua in front of Cat?

          Have there been any Assassin sightings and/or Assassin level assassinations since then? I don’t recall any.

          Like

          1. Forrest

            They’ve hinted previously that Assassin isn’t that easy to keep dead. (Like the vision trap Akua put Cat through, in the hero one they had to keep offing Assassin over and over but he always came back. It was the tolltaker one that killed him by trapping him in a warehouse of goblinfire)

            Like

          2. oldschoolvillain

            I believe that Assassin’s response to Akua’s ordering Cat to kill . . . It, was “A hundred times before, a hundred times more.”. That’s not the response of a person who STAYS dead.

            Like

  4. Draconius Sinister

    Cool, they’ve accepted Cat as the ‘she’s an asshole, but she’s OUR asshole!’ In the group! Things are looking good for Cat being a part of the Anti-Dead King band, or maybe making her own with the Woe while the Good guys run theirs into the dirt. Excited for more!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Rook

    As graceful of a killing stroke that was on the part of the pilgrim, I can’t bring myself to be particularly worried.

    Sure she has a knife to her neck now, but when has she ever not? Every major pivot, every major turning point, the situation as been the same and so has the answer. Whether it was being offered a villainous name, or becoming a true successor to Black, or having the Winter Mantle knocking on the door.

    A knife is at your neck and your goal is ahead. All your have to do is keeping moving forward, and lean into the knife. Self mutilation is an old friend by now.

    Liked by 6 people

  6. This is completely similar to cat’s story in book 2. She gets over her head and gets crippled. Then gets trapped in a redemption story but refuses redemption.
    And in book 3, she accepts the mantle and it opens her old wound when she was crippled. So, it’s like a crippling. Now she gets trapped in a redemption story. But for a redemption story to work you have to actually repent.
    At the end of book 2 her injuries healed and she refused redemption.
    Similarly, at the end of this story, something will happen to her mantle and she will refuse redemption

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Highwayman

    Who else thinks there’s still a plot twist from the ‘grey’ part of the Grey Pilgrim coming?

    And wasn’t Amadis the one who had a death flag show up a couple of chapters back? Something about a letter to his family or a painting.

    Like

    1. Cicero

      Letter to his wife. Reminiscing about how they met. Recalling how she was a love match that nearly cost him his throne, showing that despite all the ambition and greed, that he does truly love his wife.

      All after having ” a bad feeling” about the upcoming battle.

      Not sure how much more prominent a death flag you can get.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Metrux

        You know, now that I think about it, this could very well be a death flag for his wife, instead of him… Like, the loos is his in the narrative, but who dies is her, he “loses everything” so that something something can happen to him.

        Like

  8. I don’t understand. Why does taking hostages mean it’s going to be a redemption story? I feel that (not for the first time) Cat is jumping into conclusions.

    Sure, it _can_ become a redemption story if Cat isn’t careful… but there are so many other possible outcomes! I don’t understand why she came to this conclusion right away, though it sure as hell made this chapter more dramatic than it had to be.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Rook

      Context.

      Cat painted the story as a misunderstanding between allies to avoid a ‘evil turns on evil’ narrative, by using her status as Queen to pull callow into the role of a lone-swordsman type of gritty/misunderstood hero.

      By declaring a royal hostage within himself as the overseer acting as a guarantee for the negotiated deal, he puts himself right next to Cat so that he can be in a prime position to try enforcing Cat’s own play into a true Heroic redemption story, rather than one only in name that she’s using to avoid the ‘evil turns on evil’ narrative.

      The attack is placing himself safely within range of influence of Cat’s camp, with the skeleton of a heroic narrative in place that she herself opened up. Not the hostage being given to the army of Callow.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Metrux

          Once again, please stop saying Kat… Also, this wouldn’t work, because Akua can’t exist without Cat right now, and thus the only way for her to be turned is if Cat turns together… Which just nullifies the reason for this ploy.

          Like

    2. Yotz

      It has nothing to do with hostages – hostages are purely mundane measure between signatories of the treaty. It is morally grey area at most.

      The GP’s play was to support Cat’s motion. Since every his move ought to be to remove her from the position of Villain ruler, she obviously felt something is wrong with this sudden burst of support. From his perspective it was as if she said “I want to hang myself”, on which his response was “Here, have this nice rope”.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Byzantine

        I think you and Cat may be giving his thoughts a bit more malice than they have. Pilgrim really doesn’t care if she dies in the story, just that she stop being a Villain.

        Like

      1. Yeah, I hope so.

        Thanks for your comments Rook and Yotz, though I’m still not convinced. I see how this CAN become a redemption story, but the way I see it, Cat can easily prevent that happening. At the moment I just can’t imagine any good reason why she was so concerned about Pilgrim’s plan being successful. We all know that Cat is pretty good at breaking stories; there was no need to overdramatize the situation (especially since whatever story this is, it’s still in its crib).

        Like

        1. Daemion

          Cat needs to go along with the treaty, she needs it badly or everything falls apart. To do so means she locks herself into the redemption story and the narrative gets stronger the longer this goes on. The truce is supposed to last a year or so.
          Last time she broke out of a redemption story she killed the Lone Swordsman. Killing the Grey Pilgrim wouldn’t be enough this time as there are other heroes in play and it would ruin everything she wants.
          What’s she doing now is taking a large gamble, while the ‘reformed villain’ dies in most redemption stories doesn’t mean she can’t arrange her survival somehow (perhaps due to being mostly Fae). And even if she doesn’t, she’d be content if her death allowed Callow to break out of its role as the continent’s field of war and punching bag.

          Of course, maybe getting a new name might raise her importance for the narrative enough to keep her alive despite all the death flags she allowed the Grey Pilgrim to raise for her.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Bob Johnson

            The thing I think Cat is missing is the fact that she IS fey, and not Named. She is bound to the story differently, I think. There has to be more than one story of a Lord or Lady of Winter leading a band of heroes to their demise.

            Like

        2. Yotz

          I’d wager, her unease was nurtured by a combination of factors: firstly, she lost – with a single move GP put her in the situation where every her choice leads her to a stalemate at best – a classic death funnel; secondly, her understanding that he is a proactive player in the game where all her previous opponents were mostly reactive, if not openly passive; and last, but by all means not least – his style of playing: more specifically, his ability to seamlessly shift between several gameboards, playing proverbial 4D-shatranj. Last factor means that she can not even undertake her favourite maneuver – for now, at least – if she is to steal the gameboard to hit him with it, he will simply shifts to another one, and then’ll use her actions to achieve his own goals, all while depriving her of any significant gains.

          Personally, I see her reaction as something akin to feeling that you get then after long and exhausting game you finally win only to remember that this was a quarterfinal – a brief respite, and you will be in the grinder again – this time, against even more dangerous opponent. In other words, she has a firm grip on the tiger’s scrotum, all that’s left – is to ride the bloody thing.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Yotz

            To clarify – her previous opponents were actively playing their own games, but were mostly reactive in regards to her actions, thus allowing her to meddle with the outcomes. GP plays his game specifically against her. Each time she previously won a direct confrontation was due to some ace in the sleeve, or outright cheating. Now she is forced into a direct confrontation against the opponent who not only can see any attempt in subterfuge as a lie it is, but can force her into reactive position seemingly on a whim.

            Can’t wait to see precisely how she will inevitably turn that on him.

            Like

    3. werafdsaew

      I think it’s due to the GP being around. There’s no reason to do that unless he’ll try something, and him being a heroic mentor means that can catalyses a redemption arc.

      Like

  9. Edrey

    i am thinking in black instead, he is cornered now. sure he can beat one side but now he is now with two armies in each side of vales. so now a story of a villain cornered and cat and black know it so they can use it
    the problem here ia the bard has jet to appear

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Metrux

      He… Is not, though? As mentioned in the chapter itself, they can’t go through Callow to attack him, they need to go back from where they came, and take the long way around. When they get to the Vales Black’s battle will be long gone, so it doens’t really matter.

      Like

      1. Morgenstern

        … to *request* admission. Which should get denied. Even if it doesn’t, requesting says nothing about actually accepting or not withdrawing. *tongueincheek

        Like

        1. Metrux

          It would be possible… If she didn’t have a super lie detector of incredible experience around, especially one that trains and “save” new heroes in a redemption story that would make her a new heroine… No, he won’t let something like that.

          Like

  10. First,
    To look at the Chapter properly, one has to grasp that Cat really sent GP’s strategy flying with her Faux Heel Turn narrative. This is what he could cobble together from that. Not really some utter master stroke. Also remember, just because we read Cat THINK a thing, doesn’t necessarily mean it is so. Cat’s (rightly) very wary of GP’s vast wealth of experience, so even Cat is likely to give his “success” more weight than may actually be there. Her thinking is obviously flawed, in considering the whole Hostage/GP-as-Overseer a master-stroke of a plan meant to death-flag her. That would’ve required the GP to FORESEE Cat’s “Intend to Become Grand Alliance Signatory” stratagem, and he didn’t.

    Second,
    I don’t really believe the GP is out for Cat’s blood the way Saint is. He 100% believes the whole If a Villain Rules, a Nation Grows More Evil thing…but as things began and proceeded, eliminating Cat was the only route to stop Callow from going down that road. He may genuinely be trying to get her redeemed, because he really wasn’t thrilled with killing a girl in her early twenties to begin with. Especially since Procer and everyone else sat on their asses through the Conquest, necessitating Cat doing as she’s done to avoid Praesi dominance of her homeland.

    Third,
    The GP has exactly ZERO practical experience, prior to Cat, with Practical Evil Villains. Villains like the Tyrant have been pretty much all there was to Villainy for the duration of the GP’s time as a Hero. As much experience as the GP has in using Narrative to his Heroic advantage, he has zero experience in combating Villains trained to sidestep narrative pitfalls as their Prime Modus Operandi. He may well, PROBABLY IS, under the impression that Cat, especially at her tender age, doesn’t understand narrative weight enough to really grasp what he’s trying. Unless the Heavens have given the GP literally 100%-see-the-future precognition (and that kind of Agency-Denial wouldn’t fit the Guideverse AT ALL) there’s no frigging way the GP can anticipate that from here on out, Cat will be working at every step to avoid the narrative turning out his way.

    Fourth,
    Cat may THINK she’s OK with dying to relieve Callow of its Eternally Conquered Mantle…but if she takes a really hard look around, she’s going to see that the environment that’s been fostered in Callow (by her, no less) has made certain there are ZERO viable successors to the throne. By splitting the political weight-lifters into two separate and fundamentally ideologically-opposing factions, Talbot and Kendall’s factions will kick off a civil war the instant Cat is no longer around to hold their leashes. Then BAM, in steps either Procer or Praes, again.

    Finally, Cat’s been essentially Nameless since the Weapon-Black Queen Pivot got DESTROY’d by Black. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Name-limbo thing has continued this long…and the “Big” kind of Story the GP is trying to kick off with this Narrative Maneuver has Pivot written ALL OVER IT!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. mindsword2

    It could be a bit worse….

    Where will they keep a royal prisoner? In the capital, there is the Songbird’s Cage where you can keep royals under guard (“In later years, it had become where Callowan royalty held prisoners that weren’t officially prisoners”). It was directly mentioned this “prison” was used for the king’s mistress so he could keep her out of the way of his queen and then under lock and key to keep his queen away from her.

    The story has a queen with a heart of ice with no suitable consort. Her land is oppressed by evil, which she wishes to destroy. In comes a royal prince she takes hostage from those who would help her. Where can she put this prince? In a safe secure place fit for royalty… which also is where the secret lover of the ruler is stored. I wonder if Prince Amadis is possibly going to make a play to be King and secure Callow for himself. Especially with the Grey Pilgrim attending Cat’s court. Merlin was an adviser to Arthur after all. And Cat pulled a sword from a stone.

    Worse, we have seen in interludes that one of Cat’s big weaknesses at home is the lack of royal blood. Black and Malicia killed off anyone with even a drop of royal blood to prevent a return of the nobility. This could be a solution. Could also have Anne Kendal marry him, assume the throne with a royal consort.

    Like

    1. Rook

      It should be exceedingly clear by now that Amadis and his personal plots really just do not matter much. He’s one part ambition and two parts mundane political intrigue, the only relevance he has is as far as what the big players – Hasenbach, Pilgrim, Black, Cat, Malicia – use him for in playing the bigger game.

      The line of succession isn’t an actual pivot point right now and even if it were, the point of Royal Blood is historical callowan precedent for historical callowan rule. It’s not that nobles from any old corner of the world naturally have golden magic water flowing through their veins, the local context is what really matters.

      If anything the old history between callow and procer/Praes means foreign royal bloodlines mean less than nothing in callow. Callowans would likely rather accept a stray dog as ruler than proceran royalty.

      As far as the old royal bloodlines in callow goes, that essentially ended with the fall of house Fairfax. Unless a hidden heir gets unveiled by plot twist, all the emphasis now in terms of Callowan succession is on Cat/eventually Kendall, not the consort.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. I think both players in this game of sacrifice chess are forgetting an important element.

    Orphan she may be, but Foundling still has a father, of sorts.

    And one of the classics of the redemption narrative is the redeeming sacrifice of a parent for a child. The child must go on, bearing the burden of two redemptions; to build a *better world.*

    And I’ll bet you, if nobody else, Black’s definitely weighing that option.

    Like

    1. Cicero

      We already know Black is willing to accept death to see Cat succeed (in fulfilling his plans).

      Black very well could accept this. Especially now that the Captain died. Ranger and Scribe might object though.

      Like

        1. Argentorum

          Remember though, “Wekesa would eat every child in Callow if it let him pursue his experiments.” As long as Cat doesn’t kill Black, and Warlock and Heirophant have a nice little conservatory to play magic in, he probably won’t care enough. And that’s only assuming the Witch doesn’t kill him, or else that they don’t mutually explode.

          Scribe and Ranger are the problems, and Ranger… well, she’s a walking death flag, which is kinda the point, I gather.

          Like

          1. RanVor

            Wekesa would gladly eviscerate Cat if he believed she had *anything* to do with Black’s death, up to and including being in general vicinity when it happened.

            Like

  13. I feel like Cat is playing ten dimensional chess and the Pilgrim is legit not playing. Like, she reads correctly that he wants her to be redeemed. Then she extrapolates this whole sinister “redemption = sacrifice ergo he is getting Callow despite their defeat ergo let the story do the heavy lifting, well played my magnificent opponent”, and he is just like “man I hope she can stop murdering so many people and become a worthy queen for the poor people of Callow”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Rook

      I think the opposite, the Pilgrim is the one plotting much more deeply than anyone else in the battle can cope with.

      You don’t get to be completely undefeated for decades against the most dangerous monsters the Gods Below can throw at you – with a Name that isn’t even combat oriented – by being a simpleton with a pure heart. Remember that the kindly old man here has the genuine respect of a Named as brutal as the Saint, and is the kind of big name player that the Black Knight of all people was trying to avoid fighting when he destroyed the hellgate.

      What he lacks in youth, stamina, or reality-warping physical abilities, he makes up for with experience and cunning. There’s no way he could’ve even survived this long otherwise, let alone with such a scary track record.

      Liked by 4 people

  14. crescentsickle

    Called it last chapter. The conflict of threes was a Rising Action on Cat’s part, where she was framing the story as a hero. The Pilgrim’s third play, the most important play, after two losses, was to lose especially hard. Give Cat exactly what she wants, and make it all the more potent for it, and lock her in to her narrative. Lose the battle, win the war.

    Like

  15. ALazyMonster

    I really want to see Cat’s accords succeed just because I want to know the full details. Also it would be interesting if they led to a new name like Arbiter or something since her goal is to have someone to enforce the peace she is trying to make.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. stevenneiman

    I’m really excited to hear what exactly the Liesse Accords are. We know that they’re something Cat considers to be worth everything she’s done, but that the Pilgrim would consider unacceptable. We also know that Cat considers it possible to ram it down the Grand Alliance’s throat if she has the upper hand, and that it involves Evil to a degree that it won’t work without an enforcer on the side of Evil.
    I’m sure somebody’s here has guessed what they are by now, but I’m stumped.

    Like

      1. stevenneiman

        Possibly, but that begs the question of why the Grey Pilgrim would be opposed to such a thing. He’s already agreed to (and in fact seemed to approve of) Cat’s rules of engagement, yet Cat seems certain that something about the Accords would stick in his craw. I wouldn’t be surprised if trying to expand the rules of engagement beyond the trial run here was part of the Accords, but I feel like there’s gotta be more to it than that if she expect it to be a hard sell for the Pilgrim specifically. For all that the mortals claim to be calling the shots, I’m 95% sure that if Cat and Tariq both demanded something they would get it, and I suspect that he would support to RoEs on a broader field given the horror and loss of life it would prevent. I suppose he might object to the combined Good and Evil nature of the regulating body that would be required to enforce it.

        Like

    1. stevenneiman

      I recall someone commenting about a few inconsistencies that seem to indicate that it might have had some kind of effect on the proceedings. Personally, I can’t think of any way that such a thing could cause a problem in a way that wouldn’t be super narratively unsatisfying. Also, Pilgrim said he’d deal with it and I think he will. He might be a slave of the heavens willing to do morally ambiguous things in the name of making his side win even when they’re in the wrong, but I don’t think that extends to not dealing with the threat posed by Demons, especially when that could be construed as a violation of the rules of engagement.

      Like

  17. So I’m really seeing a narrative comparison here.

    The angels represent Order, being singular and constant in both power and number. Whereas Demons and Devils are chaotic, costantly changing and fluctuating.

    Heroes and Villains follow this theme aswell. Heroes fight for the status quo, keeping things the same. Whereas Villains like Cat and Black become villains because they want that change to occur. They attempt to force their change on reality whereas Heroes fight to prevent it.

    But I have an observation to make with redemption stories. Some people here seem to think the redemption story could be used to convert Cat to a heroic name. However, from everything I recall in the story so far it’s implied that a redemption story can only end with the villain’s death (the villain dying donig the right thing trope because they’re good now and suddenly its a tragic death).

    On a side note. Lets assume that Cat is redeemed through this redemption story(and survives somehow). Wouldn’t that turn her into a Summer Fae? Summer has nobody holding any mantles either right now. So could that plausibly happen if Cat switched sides somehow? Thoughts?

    Like

    1. I’m not sure that the Order vs Chaos is a perfect fit. There are Demons of Order, and there have been two chapters titled “Order” which were about villains imposing their will (first Black, then Catherine). I think a more apt comparison would be that Good is about adhering to a single, unified standard, and Evil is about coming up with your own standard and trying to make others follow it.

      Like

  18. Cthulhu

    Um….Proctor violates Truce. Asshole hostage dies. No redemption arc.

    And if Proctor can be tricked into violating truce by someone ….. such as Black …. then Mr Pilgrim can report that justice was served. Cat avoids redemption and takes the stuffing out of Proctor moral superiority. The crusade ends.

    Long live the Queen.

    Like

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