Fatalism I

“There is enough room to fit the entire span of Creation between the Heavens and the mouths of priests.”
– Antoine Merovins, twenty-second First Prince of Procer

It’d been the Battle of the Camps that started the fire.

Cordelia, in retrospect, could see how it had all unfolded. If the army under Amadis Milenan had been defeated by mortal arms it might have been possible to smother the first flames before they caught, but the Black Queen had not deigned to offer that opportunity. The Prince of Iserre could have been ruined in the High Assembly if he’d blundered and lost dozens of thousands on some Callowan field to a superior general, but who could castigate him for deaths borne from the sky opening over his army? You might as well blame a man for a storm or an earthquake. Milenan had then made pacts with the Callowans and promptly surrendered himself into their hands as a guarantor of that truce. He was a folk hero in Alamans lands, now. The selfless prince who had put his life in the hands of the savages to spare his soldiers a slow and painful death. A true exemplar of Proceran noblesse oblige. His royal confederates had not even waited until they returned to the Principate before beginning to lionize the man through letters and songs. Even rats could man a ship, when the alternative was sinking.

There could be no serious effort to place the blame on the Grey Pilgrim, either, even if he had been the informal leader of the Chosen with the northern host. Aside from the Levantine hero’s own leave of absence as a hostage in Laure, it would have hollowed the Grand Alliance from within to besmirch the reputation the Dominion’s favourite son. Alienated quite a few heroes as well, and not only those that shared his origins. Every report Cordelia had received about the short assembly of every Chosen before they split between armies had hammered home the implication that the White Knight might be the presumptive leader of the heroes of the Tenth Crusade but that the Peregrine was highly influential. Mobilizing Chosen was like herding cats at the best of times, and the First Prince felt ill at the notion of having to do so after having publicly disgraced their communal kindly grandfather. In the face of earthly powers, the heroes tended to close ranks: they would see this as an outright attack.

In the end, no one could be blamed – which meant everyone was to blame. Especially the Black Queen and her cadre of wicked fae and perfidious villains, served willingly by her armies of Callowan heretics, but there’d been no lack of fault thrown about within the Principate. Most of it had been laid at her feet. She was losing grip on the princes, she’d said. After all, her own subjects had preferred making truce with the Black Queen to fighting until the end. The Levantines had snickered in the beards, making sly comments about the worth of Proceran soldiery. Cordelia had spent many a sleepless night containing the damage, making pacts across the entire eastern belt of principalities to ensure the retreating army would be supplied and reinforced on its march south to join her uncle in waging war against the Carrion Lord. It had all come to nothing, as not even a fortnight passed before the news of the bloody draw at the Red Flower Vales reached Salia.

In terms of fighting forces, the battle had been costly yet no great wound. Military superiority had been maintained by a wide enough margin the remaining armies of the Black Knight could be ground to dust on an open field. In matters of reputation, however? It had been a crippling blow. Uncle Klaus’ repute would not be so fragile a single reversal would upend it, but the Lycaonese had enemies in the south. Like poison in the wine the rumours had spread that the Iron Prince had grown doddering in his old age. That Cordelia had known of his senility yet ignored in an attempt to bring glory to her kin. It had been a crack in her pedestal, and now the jackals had bared their teeth. The coalition of royalty that had seen her rise to the throne, Lycaonese and northern Alamans, had remained loyal. But the the edges of her majority in the Highest Assembly had frayed. The tipping point had been one of the harshest arguments she’d had with her uncle that she could remember. She’d wanted him to split the army at the Vales and send half of it in pursuit of the Carrion Lord’s legions, but he had flatly refused. Bayeux would burn, he’d said, and perhaps Aisne as well – but then the Praesi would find themselves surrounded and crushed. By remaining at the Vales he was forcing Callow to remain on the defensive and readying the snatch the initiative as soon as the passes were cleared.

In matters of military strategy, Cordelia trusted none more than Klaus Papenheim. Yet he was failing to see the broader canvas in which he took action: the Prince of Bayeux had signified that his vote could no longer be counted on the very evening he’d learned that his principality would see no reinforcements. His kinswoman in Aisne put forward a motion of protest in the Assembly the following day, and though it was defeated it could be understood from the public denunciation that her vote would no longer be for sale at further sessions. In the wake of that blow, like carrion to carnage, the self-proclaimed Kingdom of Callow had sent formal request to join the Grand Alliance.

The feeding frenzy that ensued was a heinous thing.

It’d been impossible to keep it quiet. Half a dozen Ashuran committees would be presented with the papers, and it was a certainty at least one of the sitters among them would have a loose tongue – and that was without even considering the Levantines, whose lords and ladies argued about even their own state secrets in broad daylight. The viciousness of the rhetoric that followed surprised even the First Prince, who had once believed she knew the worst the Assembly had to peddle. The Arlesites principalities had been lukewarm at the notion, many more concerned by the massing armies of the League than any matters Callowan, but the Alamans? Three different princes spent half an Assembly session railing at the heresy inherent in treating with a woman the House of Light had declared abomination. War on Callow must be prosecuted to the last holdout, every trace of Evil scoured from that backwards kingdom even if it took torches to see the business done. A choice had to be made, then, in how Cordelia would spend her influence. She could either make quiet concessions and assurances behind closed doors so that no coalition of princes numerous enough to unseat her formed, or she could call in every favour she’d accumulated since her crowning to have the proposal shoved through the Highest Assembly’s throat.

She’d been teetering on the brink of a decision, when Catherine Foundling called on her. That hard-eyed young woman bearing a mantle of power with eerie nonchalance, speaking of peace and treaties and alliances even as she raised thousands from the dead and split the sky asunder with her wrath. The greatest warlord of their age, with a string of impossible victories to her name – against her own people, yes, but also the Wasteland and the legendary hosts of the fae. She’d murdered a god, it was whispered. She had tricked a Choir into resurrecting her, laughed in the face of the mercy it offered. It took will, Cordelia knew, to deny even the shadow of the Heavens. That smiling girl in faded plate had borne the full weight of their hatred and walked away whole. Her madness must be one beyond measure. What kind of titanic arrogance did it take for a young girl to believe she knew better than even the Gods? And yet when she had sat across Cordelia in that strange shadowed world, she had made a reasonable offer. Abdication, if on her own terms. Alliance against the Empire, for assurances of Callowan independence. And so the First Prince had hesitated.

Then reality had come calling, of course. It was a tempting offer, as devils were wont to provide, but it would shatter the Grand Alliance. The Dominion’s highborn would never brook such a compromise willingly, and twisting their arm into accepting it would make it certain Levant would withdraw from the Alliance the moment the Tenth Crusade ended. The Thalassocracy might agree, as Magon Hadast misliked having his finest war fleets abroad while Nicae stirred near his belly, but it was no sure thing. And if Cordelia accepted the Callowan offer, backed it in the Highest Assembly and proposed it to the Grand Alliance only for it to be spurned by her own allies? She would be unseated within the month. For a moment she dared to walk the line anyway, to try to secure such an overwhelming diplomatic triumph that not a soul would be able to deny she had won the war with words instead of swords. It failed, of course. Foundling trusted her no more than Cordelia trusted the other woman, and seemed to have grown more reluctant to slay her people since the Liesse Rebellion – even if such a sacrifice would ultimately result in a lesser loss of lives. It had been the correct choice, she knew.

And still, sometimes, she thought of the cold bleakness in the Black Queen’s eye. Of the woeful oath she’d spoken. She did not sleep well, on those nights, if she slept at all. Her attendants had grown skilful at masking the circles around her eyes with powders, and brews by the palace alchemists kept her sharp when rest eluded her. Cordelia felt a well of gratitude for her handmaidens, smiling at the envoys she was sharing tea with. They would have pounced on even the smallest hint of weakness. Ashurans of the sixth citizenship tier were notoriously cutthroat.

“The matter of partition will need to be addressed in writing sooner or later, Your Most Serene Highness,” the tanned young man said.

Ahirom Seneqart, his name was. He was a frequent patron of the pleasure house nearest to the palace, and quite loquacious after sharing a bed with nubile young men. Never less than two. A man of great appetites, this one. Cordelia, as the ruling Princess of Salia, had naturally inherited the ancient web of informants that counted every madam and bawd in the capital. It was ancient Proceran custom to sift through the pillow-talk of foreign envoys to better outwit them.

“You are most correct, Sitter Ahirom,” the First Prince said.

No coquettish smile for this one. His tastes ran exclusively to the other sex, if his spending habits were any indication. Instead she sipped daintily at her cup – an Ashuran leaf from Smyrna, as a courtesy – before setting down the porcelain.

“Yet it strikes me as premature to set in stone such terms before the end of the crusade has come in sight,” she continued. “I have long admired the methods of the people of Ashur, who ever choose steady deliberation over hasty mistakes.”

“The people of Ashur have deliberated over this matter, First Prince,” Ahirom’s grim-faced companion replied. “The conclusion is being presented to you.”

The other speaker for the committee assigned the task of overseeing the Thalassocracy’s actions within the Grand Alliance. A woman, this one, and in Cordelia’s opinion quite the incompetent. Sitter Adonia had quite the imposing presence, tall and well-proportioned with long dark hair going down to the small of her back. She’d been a fleet commander of some renown, before rising two tiers in the wake of her crushing of a small armada of corsairs form the Tideless Isle. Quite good with a cutlass, allegedly, but in matters of diplomacy she was the proverbial stone hitting the glass house. She’d been appointed to the committee as a voice for the fleets, Cordelia reminded herself. She was not meant to be a proper envoy, merely the eyes of Ashur’s soldiery in the Grand Alliance.

“It was my understanding that Thalassina has yet to be breached,” Cordelia said, keeping her pleasant smile. “And that High Admiral Hadast’s glorious victory at Nok was followed by a withdrawal.”

A polite way to remind the jackals that requesting that the Wasteland’s only two ports be ceded to Ashur after the conquest of the Empire was somewhat laughable considering the Ashurans had yet to establish any significant presence on the ground. The raids from the coast had to be costing Malicia quite a bit, but they were only that – costly. The Empire still had nearly all its legions in the field, and the sack of Nok had evidently failed to trigger a war of usurpation.

“Let me be clearer,” Sitter Adonia said bluntly. “There will be no repeat of the crusader kingdoms. That method of dismantling Praes has failed. The Thalassocracy agrees with the Dominion’s proposal of forced deportation. When this is implemented, it is only natural for Ashur to inherit the coastal lands of Praes. No other are fit to hold them.”

Cordelia sipped at her tea in silence, eyeing Sitter Ahirom and his uncomfortable look. The implication that the other two signatories of the Grand Alliance would force Procer to agree to certain terms after the Tenth Crusade was impolitical to speak, even if it might be true in essence. Sitter Adonia had failed to mention, naturally, that the Levantines were not all behind that deportation proposal. A significant portion of the Majilis was arguing for the more moderate position of Praes being purged of its aristocracy and portioned into small Alliance protectorates. A few were arguing for outright massacre, but they had yet to gain any real support. Thank the Gods for that.

“My fellow sitter meant no slight, Most Serene Highness,” Sitter Ahirom said, smiling embarrassedly. “Ashur remains committed to all treaties signed, and would never seek to influence the decisions of the Alliance in an unseemly manner. We merely request that the Principate begin to consider the shape of the crusade’s aftermath.”

“A most reasonable request,” Cordelia mildly said. “Yet a full session of the Highest Assembly is not feasible to call with so many princes and princesses warring far from Salia. A treaty of this magnitude would require more than two thirds of the Assembly to be present and acquiescent, without any surrogate casting. You may rest assured, however, that I will raise the matter with the appropriate parties to prepare the grounds.”

“There’s no need to play coy, First Prince,” Sitter Adonia sneered. “We understand how these matters proceed. The committee is willing to recommend to Magon Hadast that the Red Flower Vales, along with Ankou and all attendant lands, be recognized as a natural extension of the Principate.”

It had been a very long time, Cordelia thought, since anyone had tried to bribe her with such open contempt. Setting aside that any occupation of Callowan land would turn into a brutal grind of constant banditry and rebellions – they were, for the Heavens’ sake, a people that prided themselves on inheriting grudges from generation to generation – Cordelia had absolutely no intention of annexing any part of Callow. Would she split it into several kingdoms? Absolutely. It was necessary to ensure that the Black Queen’s surviving partisans would not be able to mount any significant bid for power until her memory had faded among the populace and could no longer serve as an effective rallying cry. There were already separatist currents within the region, anyway. The northern baronies were near a kingdom of their own, the Duchy of Daoine was independent even when it bothered to pretend otherwise, and most the south had remained under aristocratic rule until mere years ago: the people there, unlike those who’d lived for decades under Imperial governors, had never entirely abandoned the old Callowan way of life. In the face of the insolent sitter’s gaffe, Cordelia allowed displeasure to touch her face for the first time since they’d begun this audience. She cocked an eyebrow and glanced at the other Ashuran.

“An interesting position,” she said, a mite coldly, “for the Thalassocracy to take. I am not in the habit of carelessly disposing of lands, nor do I take kindly to attempted bribes.”

The man looked like he’d plunged his hand into a brazier, and the look her sent at his colleague promised a hard conversation.

“My fellow sitter misspoke, Most Serene Highness,” he said. “It appears the coldness of these lands had inflicted her with some manner of fever. Please forget anything that was said.”

“I am saddened to hear that the weather has left Sitter Adonia indisposed,” Cordelia said pleasantly. “Perhaps she should be allowed to rest, I simply could not bear to be responsible for the ill-health of a treasured ally.”

The woman looked furious, but after locking eyes with the other envoy she bit her tongue.

“We would not impose on your patience any longer, First Prince,” the man said. “Yet before we take our leave, might I raise a small matter?”

Cordelia debated instructing them to pass the request along to one of her officials as a polite chiding for the utter lack of manners Adonia had offered, but after a moment decided against it. Best to have Sitter Ahirom owe her a small favour instead. He was more malleable clay than most among his committee, and holding the debt without ever calling it in would make him more hesitant to contradict her in sessions where the Levantines were in attendance.

“It would be my pleasure,” she said, demurely inclining her head.

Ahirom’s smile was rueful. He knew very well what he’d just surrendered.

“A delegation of Speakers from the homeland has recently arrived in the city,” he said, if she hadn’t known they were coming months before they ever came in sight of Salia. “They mean to consult with the House of Light on some matter of theology. Might I trouble you for the throne’s permission?”

The blonde Lycaonese brought the teacup to her lips, mind spinning. This was, in truth, something of an offered courtesy. She did not have the authority to forbid Proceran priests from holding council with the Ashuran cultists. Yet granting official permission would change the nature of the sessions held. It might become an official conclave, however unlikely such an affair was to take place – the Speakers were mystics prone to speaking in riddles, and had no patience for the many scriptures and theologies of the House of Light. In truth, the council would take place whatever she said. Best to give sanction, and in hosting the event on palace grounds ensure she had eyes and ears at the proceedings. If they turned to one of the many Salian cathedrals instead, inserting agents would be a tricky affair to accomplish without ruffling the feathers of the priests.

“You have it, of course,” Cordelia smiled. “It is but a small matter, Sitter Ahirom. I will naturally arrange accommodations, for I would not slight the famous sage-priests of Ashur.”

She set the affair aside, after the sitter left. She would keep an eye on the proceedings to ensure that whatever priestly squabble emerge did not threaten to spill over into Grand Alliance, but there were more pressing matters to see to. The Levantines were making noises about it being a breach of terms for their hosts to protect Proceran lands instead of taking the war to the Wasteland, ignoring the fact that they’d been asked to march on a Praesi army led by the Empress’ two finest generals, and she needed to convince the Princess of Tenerife she still had the full support of the throne without committing any more troops to the border with the League. Agnes sent for her just before nightfall. Cordelia did not hurry in a manner that would be unseemly, but immediately set aside any duties that were not essential. The moon was out when she joined her cousin in the palace gardens.

“Woe, Cordelia,” the Augur said. “Woe to the north and to the south. Sit and listen, before it is too late.”

130 thoughts on “Fatalism I

    1. IDKWhoitis

      Augur just said it, Woe to the North (Cat in Dead King land) and woe to the South (Black is pushing forward and burning everything south of Salia).

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        1. Neither Black or the Tyrant are part of the Woe. The Woe is the proper name of the band of “Villains” composed of Cat, Hakram, Masego, Vivienne and Indrani and Indrani is missing from Cat’s band atm so it is more likely that she is to the south on an errand from Cat as part of their plan to mislead Seer’s

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            1. jonnnney

              Both Woe’s were the beginning of a sentence so capitalization doesn’t tell us anything. Though a bit of geography tells us that, of the main villains making war upon the Principality, Catherine is north of Salia in Keter, Black is east of Salia near Bayeux, and Tyrant is South of Salia likely on the route to Salamans.

              Liked by 2 people

          1. Flameburst

            This seems like it takes place before the denunciation of cat by the house of light. Either way Archer has been missing for less than a day.

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    1. PotatoMan

      Cordelia thinks that Cat is an illegitimate heir, a petty warlord who rose to power by fighting mostly Cat’s own people. From our POV, she’s wrong, but Cordelia really thinks that. The woman does have her shortcomings lol

      Liked by 6 people

      1. Agent J

        Exactly. Catherine should have done it the right way if she wanted legitimacy. Y’know, by having her uncle raise her to power by slaughtering mostly their own people. Duh.

        Liked by 12 people

        1. Actually, legitimacy is more about crawling out of the right vagina. Then again, she is technically right. Cat does not have any claim to rule, aside from being a pupil to Black, and a hand of Praes. She pretty much just leverage the power vacuum after the rebellion she instigated, using armies she basically snitched from Praes to back her up. Cordelia is not swinging out of the blue.

          Liked by 10 people

          1. Cordelia is also not hanging out in bars and taverns from one end of Callow to the other. Which means, she’s largely convincing herself that “the Black Queen’s surviving partisans” wouldn’t be all that great in number (and probably restricted to ex-Legion types), however tricky to deal with (because Callow).

            Cat is getting more popular as she takes swings at all comers — even those from Callow who fight against her. You don’t need to be a Fairfax to get approval from the towns and cities. Fight your enemies; make them pay even if it costs you to do so; look out for your own — and woe betide anybody who takes a swing at your mates.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. To be fair, most of the support to the Blck Queen comes from the fact that she is the only powerful player who is interested in Callow first and formost. It’s not really a choice when the alternative is dying. Loyalty born out of desperation tends to dissipate the moment immediate danger is gone, as Cordelia witnessing on her own example: her power dwindles, because she was made into First Prince simply because SOMEOME had to. Sure, Callow (not all of it, mind you, Hasenbach mentioned separatistic movememts) will stick by Cat while the dangers of Procer and Praes are up and about. When she’ll establish her peace though? She is not a peaceful ruler, even she understands that much.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. And, yet… Cordelia’s response is “keep poking at/ trying to carve up Callow — and try very hard to get some other idiot to be the pasty for their rage”. <_<

                Note to Cordelia: when the average drunk in a Southpool tavern is on to you, it ain't gonna work.

                Liked by 2 people

    2. Yotz

      Kingdom of Callow officially ceased to exist upon the conquest and subsequent subjugation of former lands of said nation by the Dread Empire of Praes. Since current supreme ruler of stated lands – the so called ‘Black Queen’ – lacks legitimacy of any kind in the eyes of Proceran law, lands under her rule can not and would not be recognized as a legitimate state.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. soonnanandnaanssoon

    Woe to the North should be Catherine, but Woe to the South? It’s either Black or the Tyrant of Helike but they’re not Woes unless Black is the true 6th Ranger and Akua is just a well, shade?

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    1. narcoduck

      I think Procer is about to have its worst fears realized. The Dead King marching from the North (no matter the outcome of Cat’s notorious negotiation skills). The Tyrant marching from the South (who we know from the Dead King already sprung a trap). Black in Procer’s heartlands with no plan at all so the Augur can’t predict him with enough forewarning.

      The only ridiculous thing that can make this worse is if the Callowans launch the 11th Crusade at Procer for earthly heresy.

      Liked by 15 people

      1. Agent J

        An Eleventh Crusade being called to fight off the heretical Tenth Crusade might actually be enough to make PGtE crusades even more of a mind numbing quagmire than the real ones.

        Liked by 12 people

        1. Someguy

          I pity the History students and scholars who would have to wade through the academic research nightmare. Fortunately we already know the 10th Crusade devolves into the Uncivil Wars

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          1. > we already know the 10th Crusade devolves into the Uncivil Wars

            I think rather, that the 10th Crusade will eventually be classified as part of the Uncivil Wars, which were already in progress.

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        2. WuseMajor

          I saw a summary of the First Crusade (the one on Earth) on youtube and concluded that they really should have had the Benny Hill music going on there, to underscore just how much of a stupid cockup the entire thing was.

          It sounds like this Tenth Crusade is fairly quickly going in the same direction.

          (The Crusades were a bloody awful mess full of unnecessary death at every turn for objectives that were overturned in short order, made no sense, or were horrible in every way. I don’t really want to trivialize them any further, after all the damage Robin Hood and other stories have done, but… Well, when things go that badly, you either need to laugh or you’ll cry.)

          Liked by 3 people

          1. jonnnney

            Wasn’t main political reason for the crusades was for them to get rid of all the knights that were effectively pillaging the lands they were supposed to protect?

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            1. Metrux

              The Crusades weren’t a political war, though. There were certainly political interests, but what made it wor was that EVERYONE at europe listened to the church, they stopped sieges at sundays to keep at it on monday. But it was ridiculous in every fashion, don’t even get started on the crusade of children…

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          2. Auxert

            While the first Crusade was certainly a mess the fourth was even worse, Stating off by sacking christian city of Zara, getting excommunicated then going on to sack Constantinople. Twice.

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            1. Byzantine

              Yeah, that one got co-opted by Venice, who really, really hated the Byzantines. Mess does not begin to describe the crusades in the real world. It is not surprising that they would devolve similarly in this one.

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            1. We must have come close to it a time or two… What passed for a dab of sanity must have prevailed. Barely.

              The true unsung heroes of crusades: those who convinced others to find some other way to deal with the issues at hand, so that one was never called… 😐

              Liked by 2 people

              1. RanVor

                There was actually at least one crusade called against a Catholic kingdom – the Aragonese Crusade in 1284. According to Wikipedia, Pope Martin IV declared a crusade against the King of Aragon, Peter III, in response to the conquest of Sicily by the latter. It wasn’t exactly crusade vs. crusade, but close.

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                1. I can’t help but giggle at the thought, though: bleak giggles, mind. A crusade, a counter-crusade, a counter-counter crusade — and, then somebody breaks in with a very annoyed, general call to intifada backed by many major holy sites, because screw you guys treating us like a tug-rope in your internal politics! 😛

                  Liked by 3 people

          1. Just This Guy, Ya Know

            Well, the 4th Crusade (in our world) didn’t ever get to anywhere near Jerusalem. Instead, they decided to loot/pillage/conquer the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) who were supposed to be their allies. They established what has been called The Latin Empire for about 60 years. The Orthodox Church didn’t call a Crusade or anything, but I’d be very surprised if the war to retake the empire wasn’t considered a holy fight.

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            1. Eh — Rome unceremoniously excommunicated everybody who decided to take the roundabout trip to Constantinople instead of trying to pincer-attack via Egypt; well before they started sacking the joint because of not getting paid, even.

              The leaders of the army just… neglected to tell the crusaders that they weren’t on a Church-sanctioned crusade anymore. Also, free trip to Limbo. Do not pass go. Do not collect mana or ambrosia. 😛 If the First Crusade needed a Benny Hill track, the Fourth was a full-scale Warner’s Merrie Melody/ Looney Tunes collaboration with the whole damned cast. <_<

              Liked by 3 people

    2. edrey

      i think cat send larat and the hunt to the south, that should count as the woe or well a order from one. the tyrant with fairy gates is really something to fear

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    1. WuseMajor

      Depends on how prophetic statements work in the setting, honestly. Knowing how things might go or how things are going somewhere else is useful information. Knowing how things WILL GO is a straightjacket that only gets tighter the more you try to get out of it and, as such, is useless as anything more than a tool to flog yourself with after the fact.

      Well, unless the prophecy is “Things will go great for you, so don’t worry” but we never seem to get those kind of prophetic statements.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. RandomFan

          If you do X, y will happen, or if X happens Y will happen are both useful. Evidently the Augur gives actually useful intel, even if there’s also bs prophecies on top of that, since Augur-provided intel was used effectively against Black until he realized that prophecy here was highly intention focused.

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    2. ______

      Given how Augur’s powers work, it denies agency to any _single_ person, but the more intents are at work, the less predictable the outcome is. Considering there’s at least one major force straight up immune to her (the Hierarch) with a prophecy-defying subordinate, and every side in this war is inherently fracturous, she’s going to be getting unpleasant surprises (or, at least, too late warnings) on a regular basis.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Argentorum

    Hey what do you know, I said that the Levantines would balk at “defending Proceran soil” to fight Black all the way back in Red the Flowers. And people here honestly thought that a “Crusade” would trump those concerns.

    Please.

    Liked by 11 people

  3. Mmh. I guess Hasenbash is going to get a rude awakening with this conclave and the shitstorm that ensue.
    Just like the Dead King said, she don’t seem to be considering the crusade in any other way than politically.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Someguy

    Heh. Welcome to the Rodeo Bull: 10th Crusade, please enjoy yourself as the spiked tentacle dicks pop out of it’s back at random intervals as you ride.

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    1. Dainsleif

      That sounds like some Diabolist shit, just waiting for the fucking group of monstrously strong heroes to march forward and then put tentacle rape plan in action behind then.

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  5. WuseMajor

    Well, now I know why she didn’t take the deal. From the sound of things, Cat actually won too well for her own good. Alternately, if the dick prince hadn’t managed to get himself taken prisoner, Hasenbach might have had enough political capital left to seriously consider Cat’s proposal. Either way, between Cat and Black, they won hard enough but via unconventional enough means that Hasenbach still has the capability to continue the crusade but everyone is starting to doubt she’s the correct person to lead it.

    There’s a part of me that wished that both Cat and Cordy could have laid all their cards on the table and hashed out an agreement, even if any agreement they would both sign would have created two civil wars and likely gotten them both assassinated within the month (well, ok, maybe not Cat, but who knows. Assassin might have ended up involved). Point is that there’s a part of me that wishes they could have both shed their armor and just ….talked. Actually found a way to work things, without having to engage in all that political BS that happens when you can’t trust anyone else.

    …..

    And then she gave nominal royal backing to the conclave that starts a pissing match between the priests of at least two countries. Yeah, this is not going well for her.

    I wonder how the Grey Pilgrim feels about this turn of events? Is he going to recognize that Hasenbach is becoming a figurehead and that any plans she had for the Alliance are already burning and try to stop it? Or was this his plan the whole time, to try to get Heaven back in charge of this thing?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. WuseMajor

      Thinking on it, if Cat had known how precarious she’d made Hasenbach’s hold on the Alliance, she could have told the Grey Pilgrim to make Levant fall in line, if Hasenbach accepted the peace treaty. That might have swung things. It wouldn’t have been easy, but the Pilgrim could have stood before the Alliance and explained things, which might have helped get everyone what they wanted.

      Well, except Malicia, but she had her chance and her plan was “Build a doomsday weapon too powerful to use more than once” so that she could rule her kingdom forever, because no-one would want to see her no doubt less sane successor gain access to that thing. The problem with that plan is it attracts heroes like flies and your “unstoppable doom weapon” would have been destroyed in short order. That was an oversight and it drove a wedge between you and Black, breaking your true source of power and trust, which ended your shot at becoming more than just another speed bump between the Black Queen and her eventual success.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. ______

        > if Cat had known how precarious she’d made Hasenbach’s hold on the Alliance, she could have told the Grey Pilgrim to make Levant fall in line

        She did, and he refused. Given that he’s an old hero, he likely understands the nature of a Crusade far better, and has consciously opted to wrest the reins from her to preserve the Alliance past the Crusade’s span.

        Like

        1. Byzantine

          But that isn’t what happened.

          She went to him to have him *override* Hasenbach. If she had instead come with “I have a tentative agreement with Hasenbach, but she is worried Levant is going to leave the alliance because of it.” He would have likely gone with it: His main objective is preserving the alliance for the future, Cat stepping down resolves the main issue he has with her and Callow, and so he had no reason to to really refuse, short of the heavens themselves telling him so.

          The problem here is Hasenbach was, for good reason, unwilling to explain why she was having problems accepting to Cat. If she did explain it Cat would likely have said “Give me ten minutes” and come back with Pilgrim so they could resolve the Levant problem.

          Like

        2. Metrux

          That is plain wrong, when she spoke with him deliberately showed his true intention is for the First Prince’s ambitions to bear fruit, as much as that is evil. Why would he take this position if he knew she was bound to loose the reins and have no chances of making her perpetual Good alliance?

          Like

      1. Dainsleif

        She is a prophet after all, and from what we know of those from greek mythos is that they speak in ridles and fuck your entire life.

        Like

    1. Byzantine

      She can only tell things planned in advance. By the time she would know about the fun with portals it would have been far too late to stop it, because that plan was decided on and acted on in short order. She does not appear to be capable of detecting a plan which *might* happen, only once the plan is set.

      Like

  6. Novice

    I love how even one of the foremost politicians in Calernia can’t have a restful sleep after hearing the words of Catherine – labelled a mere warlord/thug by most state actors. Goes to show how eldtritch Cat has become.

    Woe to anyone who bears the oath of Fae.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Dainsleif

      Is it really an oath though? When you are basically the last remaining nobility of the crown of winter and you aquired said crown through copiou amount of murder and swearing.

      Like

      1. Kings and Queens don’t get to start dynasties by being polite at people… They leave that to the great-great-grandkids who might be trying constitutional monarchy out.

        Look at the Angevin-Plantagenet-Roses-whatever mess (they didn’t actually have surnames, as such, until the Tudors decided on what to call people — because the family predated the entire idea and “be your title” was enough for them): the Devil’s brood. Spiky personalities, swearing and much, much worse! Quite a surprising number of the thugs happened to be good with paperwork as well as the mandatory beheadings and temper flare-ups. Arguably, a couple were good at paperwork, even if they failed horribly with people (looking at you, John Lackland; and, you, Henry Tudor, you twisty, odious bastard few could stand).

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Wasn’t southern Callow under the Imperial Governship for as long as the north? I remember in Thief’s extra chapter, her father’s titles have been revoked and Southpool was under Imperial Governor Ife.

    Like

    1. Metrux

      They stayed under the tower, but not under Governor’s, the ones making sure praes rules were followed came from Callowan nobility, some didn’t even go to the next generation, just stayed directly in power. Though most of those nobles are dead now, and the rest have accepted Cat, so… I don’t think Cordelia see’s it as it is.

      Like

  8. RanVor

    I think this chapter really shows how little Cordelia actually knows about Cat. Her opinion on the Black Queen is based mostly on rumors and hearsay. She doesn’t even know that Cat didn’t fight a single battle against Callowan non-heroes during the Liesse rebellion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dainsleif

      You can say she barelly fought Callowan armies too, since Akua’s mercenary went for William and Akua used some fucking demons and a literal devil. If anything the only true callowan army she fought was the shining prince-arrow-to-the-neck (I forgot his name but can you blame me?).

      Like

        1. SpeckofStardust

          She fought 1 battle against Callowans it was a very short fight due to demons but she did do so.

          You cant siege/assault a city and say your not fighting the people in it

          Like

    2. Her only fights against Callowans were smaller-scale fights against rebels during her two Summerholm visits, and some limited fighting against rebel forces in Liesse before she got the Baroness of Dormer to surrender.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. RanVor

        True. And yet Cordelia seems to think she went on some kind of anti-Callowan murder spree. That says very much about the quality of information the First Prince bases her choices on.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Metrux

          You should also keep in mind that this happened while the First Prince didn’t have the whole of Procer under her. She was still in a civil war at the time this happened, so of course she doens’t have enough information.

          Like

    3. jonnnney

      You’re splitting hairs and ignoring fundamental aspects of the main character of this chapter. The first prince obviously meant that Catherine fought armies that were fighting for Callow. She is framing Catherine’s actions in a way that best fits the narrative put forth by Procer. She is not ignorant of the composition of Armies that Catherine faced given that she fucking commissioned and recruited those exact same armies.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. RanVor

          To clarify, the line

          [The Black Queen] seemed to have grown more reluctant to slay her people since the Liesse Rebellion

          makes it clear Cordelia believes something changed in the way Catherine treats her people, while we know no such thing happened. So either she has no idea what Cat is actually about, or she knows but lies to herself in order to justify her actions. Both of those options have interesting implications.

          Like

          1. Nobody else knows the details of Diabolist’s rebellion. To the outside world, Black Queen leveled one of her own cities because she is a crazypants fiend. Then she turns around and acts like she gives a shit about the lives of people she’s just killed a hundred thousand of. No wonder they can’t figure her out.

            Like

            1. RanVor

              She’s talking about LIESSE REBELLION, i.e. the one she herself instigated. And the only part of Second Liesse that is widely unknown is what happened to the hellgate machine. Akua’s part in creating it is no secret. Cordelia’s part, on the other hand…

              Like

            2. Agent J

              Everyone knows Second Liesse was the Diabolist’s doing. What people don’t know is that Cordelia funded it and Malicia provided the resources. That it happened under Cat’s watch is what people chastise her for, not that she caused it. Her worst enemy’s don’t even lob those sorts of wild accusations.

              Cordelia was referring to First Liesse. The Callowan rebellion under William, in the name of some random lord, bankrolled by Procer to set up a puppet state, and instigated by Cat to create a vector through which she can gain the experience and clout to take the reigns of Callow herself.

              That is to say, Cat conspired to create a choatic situation wherein she can rise to power with countless Callowans dying either directly or indirectly as a result.

              Like

              1. RanVor

                Cat didn’t actually start the rebellion. It was in the making long before she became the Squire. She did, however, bolster its narrative weight by deliberately letting its leader go. She did so without fully understanding the consequences, but that one is on her. What makes it irrelevant to the discussion is the fact that Cordelia has no way of knowing that.

                Liked by 1 person

  9. I wonder why it’s no suprise that most of the people on the side of Crusade never bothered to learn the word “consequences”. Wait, so invading a country notorious for it’s resilience against invasions, and attacking an army handcrafted and led by monsters who were first to succesfully invade said country since the goddamned Triumphant herself, and a pupils of said monsters, who are aguably even more terrifying, can spectacularly backfire in your face again and again? Wait, Crusades can be unsuccesfull? Who could’ve fucking thought! Every single one before ended so fucking well, didn’t they?

    Liked by 6 people

  10. Nairne .01

    Damn, dat cliffhanger.

    I’m looking forward to reading about how screwed she is now, or if she will submit and go with the flow and perhaps gain a name for herself thus becoming a “The heavens will it!” person.

    Like

  11. Draconic

    The Grey Pilgrim didn’t make a deal with Catherine, because he didn’t want to crush Cordelia’s dream. How lucky, that he won’t have to. She’s doing well enough in crushing her own dreams.

    Like

        1. RanVor

          Actually, if what the Dead King said about Malicia’s involvement is true, Cordelia’s provoking Cat to seek an alliance with Keter might as well limit the devastation wrought on the northern principalities.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Metrux

            Kinda but not really? It seems Praes has been in Keter for quite a while… But only now he entertains the idea of accepting Malicia’s deal? We already saw a little of his inner workings, if only a part he deigned to show, but I’m much more convinced he would never deal with Malicia without Cat’s existance, because his aim here is not to conquer, so it must be something else we still aren’t seeing, and Malicia is very blind to Namelore, so she must be as blind as us to his true motives.

            Like

    1. werafdsaew

      Ironically, we know from this interlude that Cordelia couldn’t strike a deal because Levant would leave the alliance, but Levant is where GP has the most influence over. So if Cordelia and GP touched base and worked together they could have made a deal with Catherine and still kept the alliance together.

      Like

      1. Byzantine

        Yep. All she needed to do was say to Cat “Levant would object.” Cat would go “…I think I have a solution to that, give me ten minutes.”

        Like

  12. Morgenstern

    >> If the army under Amadis Milenan had been defeated by mortal arms it might have been possible to smother the first flames before they caught, but the Black Queen had not deigned to offer that opportunity. <<

    Uhm… what? Cordelia really seems totally unknowledgeable about NAMED tactics, doesn't she? I mean, hellooooo… how the HECK is a pure mortal army gonna win against more than TEN Named, two of them literal LEGENDS??? Should have sent a MORTAL army against the other mortal army, if *that* was her aim… o_Ô There was no chance in hell, the Black Queen had any *possibility* to "offer that opportunity"… o_Ô To assume such is simply sheer idiocy. And that of someone who supposedly is a major tactician herself? Seems she's only that on a (mortal) intrigue battlefield, not a real battlefield, with Named included, anyway…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. RanVor

      The First Prince, as well as everyone else on the side of Good, seems to be of the opinion that Cat was supposed to lie down and let the Crusaders slaughter her people with impunity. I have no idea where they got this ridiculous notion from, but they all seem very surprised it was not the case.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Micke

        Of course they were surprised, they’re the Good Guys and their cause is Just, one would have to be insane to be opposed to anything they do!

        Like

    2. letouriste

      she also totaly ignore the Named actions from her side. she is completely biaised.
      in the first place, callow army was outnumbered and could not win without special tactics

      Like

    3. jonnnney

      Named are mortals Fae aren’t. The dropping of a frozen lake on the crusaders was done with the stolen mantle of a god not with any powers bestowed by any god above or below.

      Like

      1. Yavandir

        Lake was a bit special but i don’t believe that you can’t drop a lake on army with ritual, they dug a fucking stairs through the mountains. If something small like this is monstrous then they shouldn’t even think about attacking praes.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Metrux

          Perspective, my friend. In Procer they never have Heroes to lead their armies, even they do have any Heroes, and they don’t tend to fight against Vilains. In Callow they fought every generation against Praes, one side guided by Good, the other desperate, crazy and Evil. Of course the First Prince knows almost nothing of Named and their horrors, she probably has no idea an angel could be called and make her a slave to battle in this very crusade.

          Like

    4. werafdsaew

      Cordelia has zero experience with battles against Named. She never thinks about the narrative, which is central to Name vs Name combat.

      Like

    5. Agent J

      Cordelia is a masterful tactician in the field of politics. In matters of war, she is cripplingly inexperienced. For her entire reign it was her uncle who dealt with those matters.

      It’s quite clear that this has resulted in a piss poor understanding both of martial matters and people with mastery thereof. You can see it in how she treats her uncle whenever he “breaks decorum”. She chastises and punishes him in ways befitting a disobedient child, not the greatest general west of the mountains.

      She’s dismisses Black as a “talented killer” and was thoroughly convinced the crusaders would simply steamroll over that dim brute of a warlord. She believes Malicia to be the greatest threat in the East. Why? Because she is also a brilliant politician.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. RanVor

    I just noticed a big, gaping hole in Cordelia’s strategy. She wants to dismantle Callow so there won’t be another Black Queen leading the united nation towards Evil. Sure, it’s one way of doing it. But dismantled Callow cannot defend itself against the predations of the Wasteland. So Cordelia defeats Cat, dismantles Callow, then Malicia sets the Dead King loose and the Crusade suddenly has bigger problems to worry about. Amidst the confusion, the Empress seizes control of Callow once again and the situation resets, except now there’s an undead abomination on the loose. And there’s no way in Hells Callowans are going to forgive Procer leaving at the mercy of Praes again.

    Like

    1. Either Callow or Praes allying Dead Kong is not in her plans to such an extent, they basically ignoring that possibility. If you read carefully, you’ll see that they plan to dismantle Callow after Crusade, and they also plan to occupy and partition Praes, not unlike Allies partitioned Germany after WW2. It’s a fairly good plan, too bad it has steps like “defeat Cat”.

      Like

      1. RanVor

        Well, not taking a possibility into account is still a strategic mistake. And occupying Praes doesn’t work, as proven by history. It’s not a good plan, because it hinges on occupying Praes for generations, which is much, much harder than Cordelia seems to think it is.

        Like

        1. Metrux

          The only time it actually stood occupied for generations we got the birth of Triumphant. Yeah, we all know Callow is a land hard to be tamed, but Praes is not so easily silenced either.

          Like

          1. RanVor

            Actually, it was occupied because of Triumphant, and it was Terribilis the Second who freed it. But besides this little mistake, you’re correct.

            Like

  14. 1queenofblades1

    >the greatest warlord of their age

    Methinks cat’s legend has already surpassed Black’s. It wasn’t that long ago, that Black was the greatest warlord. Note that Cordelia thinks ‘age’ and not ‘generation’.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. 1queenofblades1

        Don’t forget defied an entire Choir of Hashmallim and killed two gods (The King of Winter and Queen of Summer because they effectively became two different deities with different domains and enemies and shit).

        Like

        1. Metrux

          Not in a known tale. People also probably don’t know how he negotiated with a fucing dragon to be his general, it was implied he didn’t tell even Cat how this went. In the end her tale, besides been much newer, is alot more flashy aswell, so it’s easy to assume her feats are greater.

          Like

  15. Oh dear, Cordelia is going to have monumental headaches from this conclave…the Tenth Crusade is a mess and the Dead king has not sent a single undead outside his borders.

    Like

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