Chapter 41: Akua’s Plan

“Note: though ‘fell down the stairs’ is common fate for Praesi highborn, further study demonstrate this is not nearly as lethal as the records would imply. It took, on average, five repeats to reliably kill someone in this manner. The tiger pit remains most practical.”
– Dread Emperor Malignant II, the Particularly Petty

I honestly wasn’t sure this was Arcadia.

It didn’t make sense for us to have ended up elsewhere, since it wasn’t like a fae mantle was a key to the infinity of dimensions in existence, but this didn’t look like Arcadia in the slightest. Or at least no part of it I’d ever seen. There was a sky, though grey and with no obvious source of light hanging, and ground to walk on. Which was where it got unusual, because it wasn’t earth our feet were on. Or even stone. It was some sort of hard black material that felt like softer obsidian. I could handle that much, truth be told, but the shifting shapes of the same material around us were where I drew the line.

“Go into Arcadia, she said,” I mused. “It’ll be a shortcut, she said.”

“I never actually said that,” Thief muttered back.

Without us ever moving an inch what had been the sky above our heads now seemed perpendicular to where we stood, like we’d moved from the ground to standing glued on the side of a house looking upwards. I closed my eyes and opened them, which got me situated again but also had me gritting my teeth. Because I could have sworn I was now standing on the ground, but the sky was to my left and what had been the ground before was now a massive wall. One that was slowly disassembling into smaller blocks, shifting into staggeringly large structures.

“Creational laws run particularly thin here,” Hierophant noted, standing at my side like nothing was wrong. “Arcadia always did have the tendency to work on say-so, but gravity here seems purely a matter of perspective.”

“A geometry trap,” I complained. “That’s just great.”

My tutors had said I’d regret not taking those lessons more seriously.

“Shall we proceed?” Masego suggested.

“You’re sure this is Arcadia?” I asked.

“I have valid reasons to believe so,” he replied. “Do you not feel the nascent gate at the end?”

“I do,” I said. “It’s far on the other side of the… ground. Wall. You know what I mean.”

“Clutter,” Vivienne helpfully contributed, pointing there.

Clutter was about right. There were stairs, not all of them making sense at the angle I currently stood on, but also a myriad other structures: columns and bridges, towers and plateaus and things I’d never seen before. Not too far away I could see a spiral of blocks that only made sense if you went up with a certain perspective and down with another.

“I’m guessing that’s the way, through,” I sighed. “Let’s get a move on.”

We began our walk through insanity, taking a diagonal bridge across nothingness that put us on… top? Top seemed about right, of things. I leapt down at what was the foundation of a tower going the wrong way, landing smoothly. Vivienne followed a heartbeat later.

“I hesitate to ask,” she said. “But what exactly ensures that we don’t fall off, Masego?”

He managed a crouch landing, but would have tripped if I didn’t catch him by the shoulder.

“Strictly speaking,” he said, “nothing.”

I would not get vertigo on solid ground, I told myself. Gods, I would not get vertigo on solid ground.

“Reality could be said to function by the fiat of the Gods, in large part,” Hierophant continued. “This particular place seems to extend that privilege to anyone within it.”

“I should have stolen more grappling hooks,” Vivienne muttered under her breath.

We moved on to a vaguely sinister promenade of black columns, which went some way in quieting the instincts in the back of my head screaming I was about to fall and die, but then we took stairs that went down through the ground and the shift of perspective had me under the impression I was hanging from the basement of this nightmare through only my feet.

“Remember when the worst we had to worry about was William stabbing things with an angel feather?” I said. “And Vivienne hilariously failing to knife Hakram.”

“Not all of us took so well to killing as you,” Thief replied defensively.

I wondered what it said about us as a group that we frequently ragged on Vivienne failing to murder my closest friend in the world. Even Akua got it on it, these days, and for an unrepentant monster she had a scathing way with sarcasm. Masego patted Thief’s shoulder.

“It’s all right, Vivienne,” he consoled her. “No one thinks less of you for it. You’re very good at other crimes.”

“I – you – thank you, Masego,” she finally got out, soundly defeated.

Truly, of all the terrible sorceries at Hierophant’s command the most dangerous was his occasional bouts of disarming sincerity. Aside from headaches and the occasional existential crisis, this little detour into the worst of wonderlands did not prove to be a major hindrance. Slowed us down some, but less than I would have expected. The shifting structures were fairly accommodating. It was maybe half an hour before we got in sight of where I knew the still unformed exit gate to be awaiting us. Atop a massive cube of blocks, which meant I had to leap onto the side and think very hard about why I wouldn’t slide off the way common sense dictated I would. Masego had absolutely no trouble with it, the fucker. He’d taken to this place like a fish to water. I got off my knees, having learned from our earlier travels to shield my face so it wouldn’t stack straight into the new ‘ground’.

“Straight across, then we shift plane again,” Hierophant said. “This was quite the interesting interlude. Would it be incriminating to thank the Dead King for widening my horizons, do you think?”

“Yes,” I replied immediately.

“Very,” Vivienne added.

“That’s a shame,” the one-eyed mage murmured. “Perhaps just a gift, then. I would not want to be an ingrate.”

“He’s the immemorial undead overlord of a hellscape and a half, Zeze,” I said. “I don’t think fresh apple bread and decent wine are ever really in order with him.”

“Maybe the soul of a minor irritant, bound to an ironically chosen household object,” he mused. “I still have a book on Imperial court etiquette somewhere, there are customs to things like this.”

“We’ll talk about it later,” I lied. “For now, let’s-“

The ground opened up beneath us. No, it parted. Like waves, hollowing out the thick of what had been a cube and forming an eggshell ceiling above us from the blocks. The broad ramp that emerged led straight to where I could feel the portal awaiting to be born. With the small hitch of there being man sitting on a throne to the right of it, legs crossed.

“And it was going so well,” Vivienne said.

I winced.

“We’ve had talks about saying things like that, Thief,” I said.

“Well, he’s already there,” she said. “How could it-“

I covered her mouth with my hand.

“Don’t you dare finish that sentence,” I growled. “Hierophant, assume hostile.”

“I always do when you’re there,” he cheerfully replied.

That’d been perhaps a little too honest for comfort,t but I couldn’t deny the general accuracy of the assessment. I released Vivienne and took point, hand on the pommel of my sword. Thief to the side, Hierophant in the back with room to manoeuver. Fae eyes meant I did not have to wait for anything as pedestrian as actually being closer before having a better look at the stranger. It was not human. Pale and thin and angular, like it’d been cut out of marble to look like a human with a too-large chisel. Whether it was a man or a woman I could not tell, or even if the label would apply. It wore a long sleeved-shirt of white satin, trousers of the same and had not bothered with boots. Its eyes were narrow and dark, and I found nothing but scorn within when they met my own. It was the ears that gave it away: long and sharp. Almost triangular at the tip.

“Elf,” I quietly said.

Vivienne inhaled sharply. Masego did not waste his breath on an answer, immediately beginning to layer protective spells around himself. Was it a Revenant? I had no heartbeat I could hear, but that might be normal with elves for all I knew. If it was this deep in Keter, even through Arcadia, then I’d assume it was undead until proven otherwise. The elf did not move even as we approached. Was negotiation an option?

“Good morning,” I said.

It stared at us, completely still. I kind of hoped deep down that it was just an intimidating corpse and we’d have a good chuckle about it afterwards, but I doubted my luck was that good. I could see no weapon in its hand or anywhere near. Close quarters fighter?

“Don’t mean to interrupt,” I said with a winning smile. “But we’re lost, and I was hoping to ask for directions.”

The elf rose to its feet, still silent. Its hand snapped out, and before I could get so much as a get word out there was a rip. For a heartbeat I thought it was tearing away at the fabric of this half-world but it wasn’t that, not exactly. Like it was ripping away an invisible screen, it tore out the gate I had yet to make. Dropping it on the ground afterwards, it eyed us patiently. I could no longer feel the way out of this place.

Not to be overly dramatic, but that was something of a problem.

“I take it that’s a no,” I said. “We’ll, uh, just be on our way then.”

A ring of golden flames formed around the elf’s hands and burned with blinding brightness until they… solidified. Formed into a long single-edge sword of what I might have thought to be simple bronze, had I not seen its making.

“Spellblade,” I grimaced. “That was a little more literal than I’d expected.”

“You may kill yourself now,” the Revenant told us in a voice utterly devoid of inflection. “It will spare me the filth.”

All heart, this one.

“Would you consider us to ‘proper fucked’ at the moment?” Thief asked lightly.

“Well, if you want to get all technical about it,” I muttered back.

She passed behind me, and after moving my hand pressed what felt like a card into it. There was a thin covering of ice over it, and a sliver of will was all it took to shatter it. Another exertion had three reflective pieces of ice growing on my armour at the proper angles, and I took a look at what was written on it without ever taking my eyes fully off the Spellblade. On the Queen of Wands two bundles of writing awaited.

Skein.

Not the most pressing danger at the moment, but whatever.

Don’t. If Hakram is there, Swan. If not, Dove.

Fucking Hells, how many plans did we have?

Spellblade.

That was more like it. Past Catherine better astound me with her wisdom and foresight.

If Masego is there, Buzzard. If not, good luck.

I was officially not astounded by Past Catherine’s wisdom and foresight. I flipped the card and found nothing on the back, so I crushed it.

“What was the trigger for that?” I asked Vivienne.

“Your handwriting, ‘when proper fucked’,” she replied. “Note it was not if.”

“Buzzard,” I replied. “Zeze?”

“A kind of bird,” he kindly supplied. “Although…”

His fingers twitched and the word appeared in red letters in front of him.

The elf swung and in that exact same moment I lost an arm.

It’d been instinct that had me putting my arm in front of Hierophant. A vague sense of danger. The red letters vanished like smoke, four layers of wards on Masego broke like glass and he was violently thrown back even as my sword arm dropped to the ground. I’d formed another blade out of ice before my arm was done reforming and immediately made for the enemy. Thief had disappeared, thank the Gods. She wasn’t cut out for brawls like this.

“You should have obeyed,” the Revenant said tonelessly. “Irritating.”

They swung again, almost casually, and when the instinct flared I ducked down without hesitation. The slope broke behind me even as my body bent forward while I ran down. Fuck, how had the Revenant done that? There’d been no flare or sorcery or anything, it’d felt like a perfectly normal swing of the sword. It stepped to the side, and impossibly that took it right to my left. Distance warping, maybe? It couldn’t be teleportation, the sheer amount of power those spells required was insane. The first swing down towards my torso I followed. My footing shifted, I spun to the side and it was just out of the trajectory. Then the elf moved again, a lateral cut, and that one even my eyes failed to see. I had just enough time to guess at where the hit would land and cover myself in ice before I was blown away by a hundred horses kicking me together. The elf was behind me even while I sailed through the air, having simply stepped there, and I was entirely done with this. Winter howled.

A dozen spears of ice shot out of my back, avoided and parried without fail, but I twisted around and my feet landed on the platform I’d woven. I filled the space beneath me with ice and leapt down into it, passing through it like mist. I felt the edges shatter beneath a blow as I did and wove glamour even as I rolled out of the way. Two doppelganger spun out of me and I left another behind in a crouch as I mimicked the stance of the others. The elf ripped through the last of the ice with a single hand, then simply struck the illusion left behind. Golden flames ate at my mail and I was smashed into the ground, biting my lip so I wouldn’t scream. It was above me again a moment later, the entire glamour broken, and with a fluid shift of grip it came down towards the still burning wound on my chest point first.

“Fine,” I grunted. “Be like that.”

It wasn’t like my organs actually mattered anymore. The sword went right through me, puncturing the blocks beneath. My hand clasped the burning spell blade, reforming my fingers as quickly as they turned to ashes, and I opened the floodgates. Ice and shade ate at the bronze-like material, spreading across it lightning-quick, and the elf abandoned the blade. A step had it withdrawing where it had first begun, silver light forming in rings around its hand. Change of weapon, huh? I wasn’t allowing that so easily. Ice crept across the ground, encasing my feet, but all it took was a thought and it was dragging me along faster than I could have moved on my own. Two heartbeats and I was on him, just as the light turned into a blade.

“Three truths do I now reveal,” Hierophant said.

The elf flicked the blade backwards and I ducked, feeling something powerful scythe through where my upper body had been. I extended forward, every muscle bending, and the pommel of my sword struck its chest. There was a sound like a crack of thunder, but it remained unmoved.

“First, that which I see is the mask worn by void,” Hierophant said.

The elf kneed me in the belly, but I caught it with my free hand and ate the vicious impact with a grunt. It kicked me upwards into the air, blade already swinging, but I formed a handhold of ice and used it to kick its smug fucking face. It barely even noticed, until ice spikes grew beneath my foot. It angled its head back, just out of range, but with a twist of will I had them shoot out. While it ducked beneath I wove more ice out of the handhold and made it hammer my back so I’d smash into the Revenant. The silver blade flicked towards me, tearing through the ice I set in its path effortlessly, and with gritted teeth I formed a tentacle out of the ice trail behind me and had it drag me out of the way. The elf straightened up even as I landed.

“Second, in a world that is nothing there can be no partition,” Hierophant said.

Change of tactics. Slugging it up close wasn’t going my way. I stomped down and thick mist billowed forward in a tide. No doubt it could see through that, but so far it hadn’t used more than one trick at a time. That should allow me to make a dent, if executed well. If felt the elf move through my working, and in that moment I struck. I opened a gate, right through its torso. If felt its skin shiver, but it was still whole. Countered, but now I’ve got you. I grasped the mist, sucked into into a spike, and hammered at the silver blade with it. It felt like… light. No, more than that. I felt fury well up in me, unbidden. Moonlight. Mist turned to shade and ate away at the blade like a drop of ink in water. It was trying to burn me out, but I had the fucking power to spare. I brute forced it, Winter coursing through my veins, until the blade shattered.

“Third, if all is one then to master a grain of sand is to master all of Creation,” Hierophant said.

“Enough,” the elf said.

“Agreed,” I smiled, and filled its goddamn mouth with ice.

It stiffened for a moment, and before it could finish cheating its way out of that I was on the Revenant. My sword carved into its side, shattering its way through the spine. There was a shiver of power, and if I’d been half a second slower I’d be dead. I stumbled back onto the ice, unseeing. The forward half of my body was just… gone. Winter was sluggish to react, as if shocked by the depth of what it had to reform. My eyes came back just in time to see a silver blade about to punch right through my forehead.

“Mine,” Thief said, and snatched death and moonlight both.

She was gone the moment the word was finished. The elf grabbed me by the throat, but my mind was elsewhere. If half my body could just be formed out of Winter, what was I really? Lies and mirrors and the stubborn belief I was still a person. Maybe it was time to leave that delusion behind. I was a construct, and what had been made could be unmade. My flesh turned to mist around its fingers and I slipped out of its grasp before it could crush my windpipe. I heard Masego begin to speak and backed away.

“And so I act,” Hierophant spoke conversationally, “wielding a blade of absence for higher purpose.”

The ground shifted. Blocks collided against the Revenant, ripped out of the floor, and within that ever-growing cage it was forced into the air. There was another shiver, the shell disappearing as if by writ of some ancient god, but more filled the gap. That was as good an opening as I’d get. My instinct was to strike, but I’d not come here for a brawl. This was just a distraction. I remembered where the gate had first been ripped out, and with a steady exhaled made another one.

It opened into nothing.

“This is not great,” I admitted.

I closed it with a flick of the wrist. Masego made his way to my side, panting, as the elf kept wrecking his ritual above us. That wasn’t going to last much longer, it was going through blocks quicker than they gathered now that most the surface was gone.

“I think I lost the thread,” I told Masego. “What can you do?”

He grimaced.

“I don’t know,” he admitted. “We’ve never-“

The gate opened again. Thief appeared at my side.

“Catherine?” she asked, sounding surprised.

“That wasn’t me,” I said.

A head popped through the opening.

“Do hurry,” Akua Sahelian said with a pleasant smile.

Advertisements

106 thoughts on “Chapter 41: Akua’s Plan

  1. magesbe

    First like and first comment? Unless someone commented while I was reading.

    And man is this something. That Elf was strong as fuck, and Catherine is finally honest about her own body and it’s lack of… bodyness. Does this mean she would survive decapitation?

    This plan is so fucked up. I still don’t know what Past Catherine was trying to say.

    Liked by 7 people

      1. Andrei

        Theres a few ways so far. The first one is the bullshittery The Saint does where she just flatout cuts winter. A more “Mundane” way seems to be moonlight and having a hero receive a sword soaked in moonlight sounds like a story to me. A third way would be goblin fire.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Metrux

          Goblin fire being made from the stuff of Bellow, we can assume both Angels and Demons can kill her, though I’m not sure about devils.

          Like

        2. letouriste

          magic can probably trap her forever too. she can lose her form but if she is trapped formless in a prison…she probably can’t do anything to free herself…

          Like

  2. Jeremy

    Well… damn. It’s one thing for your protagonist to become an Eldritch Abomination, and quite another to show it in such beautiful detail.

    Great work, EE!

    Liked by 8 people

    1. Tai

      Always show, not tell.
      The most basic premise of good writing, yet so often forgotten in the scheme of things.
      EE does not, however. At least, not often.

      Like

  3. soonnanandnaanssoon

    I’m pretty sure now that this whole thing is just a team bonding event and skills workshop the Dead King planned for Cat and her friends.

    He’s like that Uncle who believes in tough love but is secretly a softie inside.

    Liked by 18 people

    1. Yotz

      Drow have no time to power up properly – they are too busy murdering each other.

      Such situation is what led to creating The Rule of Two among the Sith. To prevent weak gang-up the stronger ones, thus diluting the Divinity of Strength. If there are only two of them at any given time, then testimony of strength would be true. Madness, if you ask me, madness and utter stupidity – but then again, both Sith and Jedi always were shewn incomprehensibly stupid in depictions of their supposed “wisdom”…

      Back to Underdark – elves manage to gain such weight in the Creation in no small part thanks to their incredibly long lives. Spend a millennium or two in constant meditation and training, multiply that by the inherent aptitude for perfection among knife-eared pests – and voila!
      Drow, on the other hand, are deprived of such luxury – as soon as one of them would rise among the others, their weaker congeners will immediately crowd-source the final solution to nascent problem, amputating all supernumerary appendages of person in question.
      Starting with head, of course.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Not exactly. It was stated that elves imcreased their narrative weight with time, creating something akin to dominion inside. Also, they can choose one creational rule that does not apply to them at any given moment. So, it’s really not so much about immortality or perfectionism.

        Also, your theory, while interesting, is not mandatory. Drow might as well be Praesi with pointy ears, who follow the strong with iron clad loyalty – as long as they are strong, that is.

        That being said, I rather enjoy your take on Guideverse, so please keep spouting theories ^_^

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yotz

          //bowing, with outstretched lower lip
          Thank you, thank you!

          As for my theory – I presumed that said increase in narrative weight is a result of them mastering different aspects in different areas. I very well may be wrong on that point and elves grow over time in spirit just like ratlings do in body. Though even so, to imagine someone with ego of that size setting down for anything less than perfect, is a herculean labor in itself. And you need to kill time somehow – a century of training will suffice, I suppose… Immortality is only a road in that case – I presume the mere centurian elf would be naught but prey for the Woe, but a master with several hundred centuries of narrative weight under the belt – other matter entirely. Also, if that one is of the Golden elves, he/she/it must be at least as old as their hold on the Bloom. Afair, there was no child born among the elves after they took Deoraithe land.

          >Drow
          It may be some imp of the perverse – or some perturbing glitch in quantum lattice of my memory, but I seem to remember that local Drow deem betrayal as a highest virtue… Feel free to correct me on this one – I need to know.
          Even so – so long as leader strong enough indeed. Weaker henchelves will flock to the strong leader, and if the flock – or, rather, the pack – will be growing faster than the leader can increase their personal power… We all know that happens to weak Praesi leaders, are we not? >^_^<
          Add to that constant state of anarchy among them, and the resulting picture would be of constant turmoil, backstabbing, coups and juntas. Drow simply have no time to grow into power; though if – if – one of them’ll manage to survive long enough… Well, if they are elves of alternatively light origin, in that hypothetical case we will have local Eldritch Monstrosity of Demonic scale near the borders of Callow. And that would be the case where “another continent” falls under the “near the borders” thing…

          Like

          1. I remember a while back that the reason drow suffered was because of breeding. Centuries of inbreeding has caused them to loose the ability to build numbers or was it that they somehow broke a rule in creation where they had there breeding stunted don’t remember but it was around book 2 in the beginning I believe

            Like

            1. ______

              That was about the ogres, though. Nothing was said about the drow save for the Everdark being burned down by the arriving elves and Tenets of the Night being about murdering one’s way to the top.

              Like

                1. Alex

                  They burned the ships they sailed across the ocean on after arriving in the Everdark I believe. It’s from the chapter where the Bard scares the Emerald Swords away from killing Akua during a conversation outside Liesse.

                  Like

          2. I don’t think the elves and the drow are related. Basically all elves are OP – Cordelia believed that a handful of young elves could slaughter a company of soldiers without a problem. Meanwhile Akua hired a thousand drow mercenaries (back in book 2) and no special remarks were made regarding their capability. If they had any elf-like abilities, I think it would have been mentioned.

            Like

            1. ______

              The number “thousand” referred to the helikean mercenaries, the drow were a mercenary company of its own, without numbers stated, and Cat captured only seven of them.

              Like

              1. Huh, I guess you’re right. Doesn’t change the fact no one remarked or raised an issue with the drow being employed on the battlefield. If they were as effective as the youngest elves they would have slaughtered half of an army.

                Like

        2. 1shot4living

          Wait, what? Elves can choose to ignore a creational rule? I must have missed a chapter somewhere…. pleasure sir, may I have some sauce?

          Like

          1. Novice

            “The elves did not appear, because appearing had the implication they had not been previously there. They had been, they’d just decided that Creation would not be able to see them. That was the way with the older elves: they decided what rules applied to them. They could not ignore more than one, but that was usually enough.” – Epilogue, Book II

            Liked by 1 person

  4. George Maddux

    Fun! Turns out there are more beings the equal of a lesser god than we realized! Honestly this reminds me somewhat of Xianxia, with a new cast (and caste) of opponents now that she’s an Immortal.

    Like

    1. WuseMajor

      Eh, Cat has tons more power than she’s actually willing to use, because of the whole “Fae Mindset” side effects. Also, the local Elves are all jerks.

      What worries me is that Akua can apparently open Arcadian portals now. And that this was her plan, instead of Masego’s plan.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Rook

        The interesting thing about this is that since Catherine’s body apparently no longer has anything to do with her being and her own soul is woven into the winter mantle, the argument can be made that she essentially is winter and winter is her, there is no difference, or at least the partition is becoming exceedingly thin.

        Akua having influence or a grasp of winter can likely end up in one of two ways, depending on the direction the narrative heads and the details. The obvious one would be a struggle for control, which while isn’t exactly risk free is also fairly routine by now.

        The more interesting, far messier, and far more dangerous one is if Akua’s manages to shift her creational identity into the piece of the mantle she got a hold of, which might drag in both her soul and the cloak it’s bound to. It has the potential to create a Frankenstein amalgam of Catherine, Akua, and a Named artifact. All the brutality and practicality of Catherine, the scheming and arcane knowledge of Akua, wrapped up in a demigod’s mantle which is near immune to lesser sorceries and grows in narrative weight with every defeated banner added to the collection. Literally turning every major defeated enemy for into narrative experience points.

        The next step in Catherine’s self-mutilating, accidental transformation into an ever-scarier abomination.

        Liked by 4 people

    2. burdi

      i think its happen because cat not yet master her power, not because they are equal in power
      and she actually not even thirty year old when her opponent has all the time in the world already

      Like

    3. At least there’s no rumble that splits the heavens and shatters the earth.

      And about lesser gods – I thought they were not that strong, or rare. As per Warlocks explanation, there is a difference between Gods and gods.

      Like

    1. Yotz

      May I suggest Dark City by one Alex Proyas?
      A film much more deserving praise than Matrix ever was, imho, and nicely depicting some aspects of Labyrinth‘s maddening topographical worldsponge-shifting. It is truly sad that after a promising start and long drought Proyas ended up with despicable “Gods of Egypt” to his name…

      Like

  5. Antoninjohn

    The plan Cat needs to do is Step 1: Shatter the moon
    Step 2: Use the pieces as astroid artillery to crush her enemies Step 3: Profit
    First step always works

    Like

    1. WuseMajor

      I’m pretty sure that, unlike in a video game, the moon here doesn’t regenerate regularly so you can drop it on people. Though, it might I guess?

      Regardless, it’s safer to just open a portal to whichever hell has rains of burning stone regularly. Similar result and you can do it as many times as you want.

      Like

      1. Yotz

        Regular Moon stays shattered, I presume. Arcadian reflection of the Moon – another story entirely. It may regenerate, or it may not – the jury is out on that case.
        Also, in the world where symbols matter that much, shattering the Moon and using it lightless husk as a weapon against the adversaries would be much more preferable to Duchess of Moonless Nights than colony-dropping random pieces of Hellish geography on quite suspecting enemies like some boorish Sovereign. Twofoldly so if she dives into the Faerie mindset.

        Like

        1. She’s the duchess of Moonless Nights, we both know she and a moon are not on speaking terms right now. But the Cat’s dominoin is, per her name, moonless, so if she drew enough power to drop the moon, there will be no moon to speak of.

          Of course, that’s not taking all that shady “astronomy” thing, but come on, gravity fizzles out when presented with a classical element of the void, and space is a void, therefore there is no gravity in space.

          Like

          1. Yotz

            True, true. Even if Moonless Night will came to be through the act of shattering the Moon, it may be a classic case of “win more”.

            Like

            1. Yotz

              Well, “Sovereign” is a generalized term for the ruler of something – so, being Sovereign doesn’t necessarily precludes one from being Duchess.
              Though, being the only Entitled Winter Fae left, Cat technically holds the right to the Title of Queen of Winter – but even so, one can hold both “The Ice Queen” and “The Duchess of Moonless Nights” titles, along with dozens upon dozens of others.

              Exact nuances of feudal chains of inheritance can be more than mind-boggling, and quite a bit obscure, though.

              Liked by 1 person

  6. ALKATYN

    I thought previously that elves were the same thing as Fae, but it seems like they’re unrelated? Puzzling. So elves are basically another humanoid species like humans, orcs, goblins, etc. but immortal and assholes?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Metrux

      It has been said before that elves, TRUE elves, not the golden bloom ones like this one, are one of the major powers of the world, like the gnomes. While Fae deal with all kinds of lower powers. Thus, we can very much assume they are very diferent things and, more importantly, that you don’t want to deal with elves. I mean, the golden bloom ones are the racists and not good ones that got cast out, and this single one is already almost impossible for them to deal with. Imagine if you had to deal with the real deal?

      Like

      1. Yotz

        If I remember correctly, non-bloom elves are one of primary powers in the world thanks to their humongous empire where they intermingle and interbreed with other races freely. It was one of the points – if not the point of contention between them and Golden elves who saw that practice as a degrading, leading to diminishing of inherent power of elven race through defiling the intrinsic purity of the Chosen by detestable acts of rampant bestiality.
        So, non-bloom elves may, in fact, be less powerful than rabid racists who spend whole entirety of their lives accumulating and refining individual power.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Depends on what kind of power we’re talking about. Because the Goldenberks might be more narratively hefty, but they lose in the whole “able to rule a huge state without being cursed with sterility” and “nobody, not even the ground you walk on, can stand you” departments (the two are linked).

          Social know-how and being nice are also… powers.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. Yotz

            Well, best defense is not being where the strike lands, so… Yeah, powerset of Ungold elves may indeed be spread through other disciplines, and be comparable or greater in scale than one of the Gold ones.

            Like

          2. Not to mention that the elves that breed with others races don’t die of old age. So while they watch their grand-grand-grand…-grand-children living their life, their empire should still have a good chunk on “pures” elves that should be on par with the ones of the golden bloom, but in greater numbers since the golden bloom’s ones are supposed to be a minority.

            Liked by 1 person

          3. Yotz

            Come to think of it – and mind you, this is again purely speculative thing…

            What if elven prowess in all things mundane and magical is a result of them, how should I put this, “investing” their souls in the “thing” in question? Exempli gratia, self-absorbed fanatical racial purists invest their souls – and narrative weight – into their own personas, making them literal demi-gods; all while their more open-minded kinselves put their souls into the world itself, growing as a result into something akin to daemons – not demons, mind you – and being rather flimsy in comparison as a result. Not “weak” per se, but only slightly more better than your average “peak physical form” human. That would translate itself into ungold elves, in a matter of speaking, “dissolving” in the some part of the Creation, leaving their mortal coils behind or tracelessly vanishing altogether, thus preventing inevitable overpopulation and making “ancestors will protect us” very literal statement.
            Just imagine trying to conquer a land there every little thing hates you. Animals, insects, trees, grass, springs – hell, air itself will fight you, all while you blunder pointlessly through evershifting labyrinth of improbable landscapes…
            But the elves of the land themselves are weak and easely murderizable for any competent opponent – all while their Golden counterparts live in state of constant war with very land they seized and consequently enslaved, and can’t stomach even the idea of interacting with anyone beyond very narrow group of directly connected to the Above creatures. Because only Golden elves are persons, obviously.

            Like

        2. Quite Possibly A Cat

          The average individual non-Bloom is almost certainly weaker than the average Bloom elf. At the very least the Bloom Elves haven’t had children in a long time, so are all automatically going to be very old.

          However, the non-Bloom elves probably have far more old pure elves in terms of absolute numbers. The Golden Bloom was a small group of outcasts that got kicked out when the hybridizing started happening. So non-Bloom pure elves were almost certainly more numerous than Bloom elves, but they’ve just added a massive number of hybrids to their ranks.

          Worst (Best) of all, natural selection is still a thing. So its very possible that the non-Bloom elves are going to make hybrids with the best of both worlds. From humans you might things like not needing approval from the local spirits to have children and freedom from narratives, while the elf part spits out longevity and power. Of course that depends on selection pressures and underlying genetics. If the non-Bloom elves are focused on ramping up their power its possible they are vastly more powerful. Something stupid like: “The current generation is 60% elf, 20% human, 10% ogre, 10% dwarf, 5% goblin, 15% dragon,10% djinn, 5% devil, 5% Fae and 3% demon on average. We aren’t quite sure how we got over 100%, since the gnomes wrote us an angry letter when we tried to figure it out. Population growth is 7% a year. Most of our food is grown in Arcadia. We’re gonna colonize Hell soon!”

          Liked by 1 person

    1. When she was a heroine. Laure, when Hunter lost his arm and Cat helped him find it. Of course, she sucks at searching, so Thief got angry and tried to stab Hackram, because he lost his arm, just to mock Hunter when he later found it.

      Like

  7. Huh.
    Is Spellblade an Elf-associated Name or just a known Elf ability?

    Also, Thief can steal moonlight? Is there anything she can’t steal?

    Interesting. Cat now demonstrated the difference between having unnatural longevity and the kind of Immortality that the Dead King takes an active interest in.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Metrux

      Well, we have seen her steal a sun before… That she could steal his blade was not a surprise to me, but that she succeeded at it was. Also, is this trully a revenant? If yes, then the Dead King has SEVERAL hidden cards above what we first believed.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Novice

    So Catherine just went into full Winter mode and it didn’t deprived her of her rational thinking like in the past? She didn’t go full villain monologue? Interesting. Very interesting.

    I wonder what changed.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. nick012000

      Most likely what changed was her imprinting it with her mind/soul, which is why Akua wound up summoning her back when she drew really heavily on Winter while Cat was KOed.

      Like

    2. Gunslinger

      Akua’s creation can’t have changed Principle Alienation so it couldn’t be because of that. My guess is there wasn’t enough time since the battle started for her to go all Winter Fae on everyone.
      Either that or the repeated cutting of her construct kinda damages Winter itself like the time against Saint thus reducing the impact of Winter.

      Like

      1. My theory? She’s being called Sovereign of Moonless Nights, now. Not “Queen of Callow and Duchess of X”…. but sovereign. Given the behavior of a prior sovereign of winter we know about, I’m apt to think that status adds a bit more personality in the mix.

        Like

  9. Jane

    Well, Cat seems to have gotten over a big stumbling block between her and accepting her new self. Thanks, Elf! Internalizing that her body isn’t her anymore can only help her in the future (unless she stops being Winter, somehow). She’s been happy enough to sacrifice limbs in the past, when needed, but there’s a big difference between knowing you can regrow an arm in a minute, and understanding that your body is just a convenient fiction that you leave unchanged out of habit.

    Incidentally, is it just me, or did she throw out a lot more ice than she normally does? I think she mentioned a couple of chapters back that she was taking advice from Akua (a genuinely good idea, incidentally), but I’m a bit surprised that she didn’t seem to suffer any ill-effects from it. Was it less Winter-intensive than it seemed, or is she getting a better hold on Winter?

    Liked by 6 people

    1. werafdsaew

      Probably both? It makes sense narratively that she would keep powering up as long as her opponents are still stronger than her.

      Like

      1. Notsteve

        It might also be that this is a situation where her state of mind matters less. Before she was fighting heroes, where fighting like a traditional villain would get her killed. So she had to hold herself back and be ready to run at a moment’s notice, which was the opposite of what Winter wanted her to do. So she had to carefully control the influence Winter wss having on her mind.

        Here she’s just trying to kill a powerful non-hero. She doesn’t have to worry about the narrative. So she can go all-out and doesn’t have to worry about her state of mind, so she doesn’t have to fight Winter’s influence even if it’s just as strong.

        Like

  10. 1queenofblades1

    Honestly Cat should just let Masego study her to see if he can help her become more powerful. Something tells me she’s going to need it.

    “Whether they be Gods or Kings or all the armies in Creation”

    Like

  11. So, bets on who will be the fifth member of the Dead King’s protection squad?

    Personally I’m partial to either a monk-type (to cover Grey Pilgrim) or maybe an orc Warlord (because that’s the only way we could see an old Named orc). I would settle for a White Knight too, even though it’s not my preferred choice. Let’s be honest, the White Knights are kinda vanilla.

    Like

  12. ALazyMonster

    I’m curious if Cat can make a spellblade now since wasn’t it part of her aspects(that just turned into part of winter) that she could take and use other abilities. I know she used winter combined with her aspect to take “call” from Akua and that it was mentioned before the night raid with the wild hunt that she could take powers and turn them into trinkets like that whistle that still hasn’t been used.

    It would be an interesting way for Cat to inadvertently gain more power in my opinion. Kind of like “oh I devoured a zombie elf’s blade that was made out of sunlight(I’m assuming since the first one golden light), so now I can make my own spellblades out of darkness or something(I figure it would shift to fit the mantle’s nature)”

    Like

  13. Now that I think about it, Catherine could learn a lot from an old elf.
    What they can train/gain with old age, she got naturally with her mantle. She is just not aware that it is possible to do or is unwilling to acknowledge it.
    Even if the abilities are not compatibles, I’m sure she could learn a lot of tricks.

    Like

  14. So, an elf, huh. I await that next in the parade of “Previously Unknown Races” will be the undead King Under, which protects Keter undeground, throuh which Cat and Co will make their escape after successfull regicide.

    Also Cat’s being able to reform body on the whim is just super awesome. She can totally turn herself into the blizzard now. Heroes gonna be so dumbfounded, how they’re gonna take a swing at something that is not physical? Also, she can really experiment with her looks, like, for example, making herself taller. I hope she thinks about it and does just that out of the pure vanity, making herself just a little bit higher than Hakram and then taunting him. Oh, oh, oh, can she make, like, a thousand little copies of herself? That all will jump at enemy and stab them with their little stabbing blades. And banter, between each other. She can totally go throuh locked doors now though. Unless they are warded.

    And Thief, she can steal any amount of bullshit, it seems. Can she steal herself? Creating a paradox which will restart the Creation. Awesome, I’m so hyped right now.

    Like

      1. Well yeah, untainted radiance or something can evaporate some Cat. But most heroes still prefer brutal swordswinging, or not-swordswinging. The point is, they really like to swing. They’re swingers.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Gunslinger

          And also heroes develop counter measures to villainous tricks. Thus any hero with less than 3 aspects would be able to counter mist Cat

          Like

      2. Yeah, regenerating is one thing. That way the heroes whale on you and get hits in but you walk it off at the end of the day. When you make it so that the heroes can’t touch you though, that’s just begging for the Heavens to get creative.

        Liked by 3 people

  15. Gunslinger

    This battle was so epic. And that elf probably wasn’t an Emerald Sword.

    I wonder if Masego’s spell where he can change creational laws will go stronger now that he’s witnessed the elf’s ability

    Liked by 1 person

  16. superkeaton

    Oh goody, Cat’s finally figured out that if your body is just stuff you control, then it doesn’t always have to be a body. This should lead to some fun and horrifying new avenues for fights and adventures.

    Like

    1. Someguy

      It makes sense. Akua is a Mage Archetype so she uses Winter as a source of power and utilises it like she does spells.

      Cat is a Warrior Archetype so utilising Winter in melee as a shapeshifting force of Nature would work best for her.

      Like

  17. nipi

    Guys! Things are really really REALLY bad. Masegos words are grammatically incorrect:
    “Third, if all is one then to master a grain of sand is to master of all of Creation,” Hierophant said.

    Liked by 3 people

  18. RanVor

    Something just occurred to me: Cat’s physical body is a construct of Winter. That means Cat’s personality, memories, the entire core of her being must be anchored to something else. As we’ve seen in Kaleidoscope VI, this “something else” is the very fabric of Winter itself. That makes Winter and Cat one and the same, in a sense.

    Now, Akua has intertwined herself with the shard cut off by the Saint of Swords, which is separated, but still a part of Winter as a whole.

    The question: does that make Akua something akin to Cat’s split personality?

    Like

  19. No wonder the Heroes never took Keter. I mean, I’m amazed they’ve ever even made it to Keter at all. If the Hidden Horror can whip *that* out of the bag, I mean … holy fuck. That Named(?) elf hit Cat at least as much as the Saint of Swords ever did. Fuck, Cat, Heirophant, and Thief together barely managed a delaying action against it in a space basically custom-made to enable Heirophant’s nastiest tricks.

    I mean that’s probably a top-tier Revenant (I hope, I dearly hope) but *still*.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Google+ photo

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s