Chapter 43: Masego’s Plan

“Kings and shepherds fit in the same cook pot.”
– Orc saying

It was a difficult to describe. The power was still mine; it just wasn’t shaped by my own hands. I could still feel it, span the ebb and flow and cuts, but the will behind was Akua Sahelian’s. For the first thirty heartbeats it was horribly distracting, to fight while I had this… second line of thought going on in the back of my head, but soon enough I learned to ignore it. The need for control had always been the lid on the powers I’d stolen from Winter, hadn’t it? It was a lesser surrender, the act of allowing Diabolist some manner of rule over it, but it was still a step towards that place I yet shied away from. Neshamah had called it apotheosis, and mused it to be the result of happenstance. I was not so certain, but I knew than if I reached the world I looked back to would be a very different place.

Winter sunk into the sea of bones like a great tree’s roots, tainting and binding and made into pattern impossibly perfect by another’s will.

My mind had brushed against the flow, and though it kept existing bereft of my attention my gaze no longer gave it clear definition. Like watching without eyes, I thought. It was not the kind of thought a human would understand. That I did, instinctively so, was certain to have a price down the line. I exhaled, sword in hand, and watched the Skein’s muscles pull and shift. He was a dead thing, in the end, and Winter knew much of death. The Revenant was not of my own raising, but there was an… affinity there, now that I knew to look for it. Not a door into usurpation – in those eldritch struggles knowledge was always paramount, and compared to the likes of the Dead King I was a babe in the woods – but the ratling was not untouchable. Like me, he was a construct.

Those could always be broken, with the rights tools.

The muscle weaves beneath shoulder contracted, bent and though the Revenant angled his body to hide the tail I felt it shift. In, out. My breath came steady, an illusion imposed on myself for reassurance. Pretty ritual that it was, it served its purpose. The Skein struck with inhuman swiftness, clawed hand shattering the remains like toys as it passed where I had been but moments earlier. No longer. What difference was there, between the ice I shaped and the stuff of my own body? Beneath the surface, absolutely nothing. The twin spider-like limbs that ripped out of the back of my plate and shifted to see me land on the Skein’s extended arm made that bitter admission impossible to deny. Muscles shifted beneath me, the sweep of the tail abandoned as the Skein prioritized shaking me off. Lower leg inclined, and it followed that – there it went, the dip, but his very nature made me an oracle’s bastard child.

Steel would do nothing against the ratling’s eldritch hide and fur, but steel was just one of many tools at my fingertips. I tugged out a string of my domain, shaped it into a hook and carved into the Revenant’s flesh even as he made to throw me off. It did all the work itself: the momentum had me swinging around his side, the hook of darkness slicing into his skin as I descended. The Skein let did not let out a sound. Did he even feel pain? No matter. I’d take him apart piece by piece, if that was what it took. I hung from the hook under his belly and hoisted myself up, spider legs born anew to hold me as I began climbing back up the side.

Power reflected into itself, a hall of mirrors containing a conflagration until it came out roaring like the great beasts of the First Dawn. Claws and fangs and wings and most of all eyes that were entirely Akua Sahelian’s.

There disconnect between seeing the working unfold through Diabolist and my own body’s senses hearing the thousands of bones come together with strings of shade and ice, rising a behemoth of a drake that collided against the Skein with a thunderous crash. Too many ears. Too many eyes. The spider limbs cracked and broke until I grit my teeth and forced them to shape anew.

“The whole world is the altar of the profane, both seeing and unseeing.”

Hierophant’s words rang loud and clear, though the undertone was made uncomfortably inhuman by the protective globe of ivory-like power protecting him. The Skein ripped through the neck of Diabolist’s drake, devouring the power within, but I could feel her laugh and let loose the endless depths of Winter into his maw. I swung myself around with the limbs, landing on his lower back, and wrenched out the hook. A failure in imagination, this particular tool. Limited by my own thinking. I stole away more of my domain, gave it more useful shape. The arc of the bow was smooth, the string indistinguishable from it. The hook changed, shaped by a thought, and I anchored it somewhere hands could not reach. The Skein moved before I could loose. Abandoning the drake, he turned and massive fangs shone in half-light. There’d been the hint of a hint in the way his muscles moved. The ice limbs dug under the punctured hide and folded into themselves then outwards, impossibly lengthened, until I hung high in the air and away from his snapping jaws. With a hard grin, I loosed my arrow.

“Under this theology of disbelief, the scales bear the weight of nothingness and the the sum of all that is, finding them equal and equivalent.”

Like a spool unwinding, my domain followed in the arrow’s wake. The Skein ducked, impossibly knowing of the trajectory, but a flicker of will was all it took the have the projectile tearing downwards and straight into the crook of his neck. I have you now, Horned Lord. I reached and grabbed the other end of the thread, night-stuff coiling around my fingers, and dismissed the limbs. He would have moved before I dropped onto his back, but the fur glistened with cold and Diabolist emerged from it in glimmering ice.

“You drank too deep,” Akua Sahelian chided, smiling in that same fearless way she had when she’d pitted her madness alone against the full might of the East.

Ice formed in restraining shackles around the Skein’s limbs, and though he broke through them that moment was all it took for me to land. I shifted, spread my legs and pulled even as the arrowhead became an ugly root of darkness within its flesh. He fought me for a moment, but then the Revenant bent and I crouched to forced the other end of the thread into the flesh of his lower back. It spread without hesitation, forcing the whole creature’s body into a warped arc as he failed to break the strength of my domain manifest.

“My hand is the sword of truth, denying the rot of entropy: ‘lo and behold, the shade of Ruin falls upon you.”

A shiver went through me as sorcery filled the entire cavern. I had felt the likes of this before, once. For a quick, fleeting moment. When Black had spoken a single word and wrecked Liesse like a castle of glass, a madman’s will shattering all that displeased his sight. Hierophant had stolen an aspect, or at least an aspect’s cast, and now wielded it like a hammer against the Revenant that sought to break us. The Skein screamed, this time. Limbs and flesh smashed, breaking apart from the inside and through the yell the ratling hissed a word.

Spool.”

I frowned, what/

I stood on the bones again, Akua helping me up, but her hand left mine quickly and she turned a burning glare on the Skein. The remnants of her drake were still lying half-broken, reeking of Winter, Masego was back under his Ivory Globe and my domain was whole. So was the Revenant, not a mark on him. All our successes erased in a heartbeat.

“Again,” the Skein leered. “Teach me all your tricks, crawling things.”

We hadn’t even managed to kill it last time. And he’d still unmade it all, easy a waving a hand. Gods, how many times could he call on that aspect? Three, ten? As many times as he wanted?

“Interesting,” Hierophant said. “You did not break the march of time so much as sever causality. Prune away events from a sequence that still theoretically exists.”

“It doesn’t matter,” I said. “Let’s find out how many lives a rat can have.”

“Our minds were left untouched,” Diabolist noted. “As was his. In broader Creation such a working would have shattered him upon the wheel, from all the cascade of innumerable events affected. The aspect was bastardized, made contingent to this place.”

“It is a good cage,” the Skein said. “You will not leave it.”

“So we’re playing shatranj,” I said. “Across possibilities he can ‘spool’ back at any time.”

“Alas,” Masego said, tone amused, and the Ivory Globe winked out. “A mistake was made.”

“You fail,” the Skein told him. “Here? You always fail, again and again.”

“You are not the only one who can learn,” Hierophant said, and his glass eyes burned bright beneath the cloth. “And all you have earned from this is further Ruin.”

I’d seen a lot of aspects over the last few years. Become familiar enough with the gifts of Named that I could be considered a discerning judge. William’s Rise had been like a wellspring of harsh light from within, hollowing out his insides but removing every wound inflicted. Black’s Destroy was like a bolt fired at Creation, a wilful removal of what my teacher wanted gone. Akua’s Bind had been little more than an acknowledgement of her nature, the thirst for control deepened and formalized by the touch of the Gods. This was different. Masego had come into his Name standing defiant in the face of a sun that was not a sun, a godly thing that defied the laws of Creation and human comprehension, and it had shaped what he’d become. Usher of Mysteries, Vivisector of Miracles. Witness had been the outgrowth of the former, perhaps, but now I was seeing the latter and it was a terrible thing to behold.

Aspects were act, not simply a word, because they were an exercise of will. A piece of you made into a blade and turned against Creation. This, then, was intimate part of Masego. Of the man he was turning into, and there was cause for worry in it. To ruin something was no small thing: it was to destroy and devastate it irreparably. The Skein had spoken five letters and wiped away all we had wrought.

Masego replied with four and the world shattered.

The cavern came apart at the seams. Entire chunks of it split from the rest, drifting into black nothingness as unmoored ships, and like spider webs the destruction spread across all the Revenant’s realm. Akua and I stood together as the bones beneath us began to spill into nothing, incomprehensibly coming back around to fall from the ceiling in another shard. My will extended into the ice I’d used to keep the gates open, and found they were still there. We were not ruined along the rest of this, then, not necessarily. The Skein moved, and in a myriad other shards did the same. Hierophant stood alone on his pile of bones, wreathed in ribbons of sorcery so thick it was visible to the eye, his smile almost innocently joyful. Wait had, the – my eyes flicked back and with muted horror I watched the platform on which the wheels stood slowly begin to topple into a streak of dark. I would not make it in time. It was not physically possible to… I inhaled and ice bloomed.

“Diabolist,” I ordered.

The moment the glimmering silhouette finished taking shape, Akua was within it, having swum there through Winter. She reached down and snatched the edge of the highest wheel. The ice that made her up began to crack under the massive weight and from the corner of my eye I saw the Skein move towards her in a dozen different shards. He couldn’t kill her through the shell, so it must be the artefact he was aiming for. I could not allow that, if any part of this was to be salvaged. Diabolist’s will was ruling the ice construct, but what was that to me? I seized the reins and let Winter loose: it grew and swelled, a hunched apelike thing that tossed the wheels towards me like they were feather-light. A heartbeat later the Revenant tore through my creation, but I’d already ceased paying attention. A third of the way to me the artefact moved from a shard facing me to one in the far back and I leapt through the void. Flicker. Wrong shard. I was by Masego’s side.

“Hierophant,” I barked. “Contain the rat.”

The dark-skinned man laughed almost drunkenly and brushed back his sleeves. Hands extended, he snapped his wrists together. Two shards collided in a spray of bones that obeyed no sense in where it went and fell, but two Revenant reflections went opposite ways and the undead screamed. It would do. Flicker. I crossed into another shard, almost tripping on a massive half-buried skull, and watched the wheels continue to arc down in the opposite direction. Which meant nothing, but – I made three shells of ice, eyeballing it, yet the artefact still collided entered a fourth. The Skein snatched them before they could bounce, and with a fanged grin leant over the edge of the shard to throw them down into the void. I learned from my mistake, this time. I formed the silhouette directly on the surface of the artefact and broadened it with rough strokes. Akua did not not need a reminder to seize it. Or instructions in how to operate the massive wings I had shaped.

That lasted until the Skein opened his maw and wisps of Winter were sucked out of the construct, leaving it no more than ice with a shade within. He could take it out as fast as I could pour it, I was pretty sure, so instead of wasting power I went for an alternative. I leapt into the void, gallantly suppressing the scream boiling out of my throat.

Fragments spread across places and times yet linked, always linked, for Winter was a single entity and the void’s touch could be bridged. A thousands hands moved.

Akua had gone for numbers, I thought, and even as I fell into the dark I saw limbs, skeletons and even skulls move under Winter’s writ, biting and grasping at the Skein. I found the wheels at last. Hurtling down into the nothing that would lead somewhere else. My body is an illusion, I told myself. I closed my eyes, let distractions fall away.

“My body is an illusion,” I insisted.

Just glamour, and anything I had seen I could glamour. Wings or iridescent blue ripped out of my back, long and ephemeral. It was like moving a limb, if that limb had been wounded for months and I was only getting used to it moving again. Angling my fall was easy enough. I collided with the wheels, setting my feet on the middle rung, and tried to convince myself that weight was an illusion as well.

“Sulia never cared about weight,” I said. “It does not apply to me.”

The wings didn’t change. But instead of slowing, my descent stopped. And then slowly, painfully, we started rising.

Spool,” the Skein said.

I screamed in frustration and/

I was back on the shard where I’d begun, damn him.

“Did you think it would always work?” Hierophant laughed. “There is nothing I have seen you can take from me. Witness.”

What was he/

I tightened my grip on the wheels, swinging them over the edge of the closest shard with a grunt. The Skein in most shards strangely looked like he’d taken to wearing armour, covered in a sea of remains that fruitlessly bit and clawed at his hide. Diabolist was trying to slow and blind him, with only mixed success. I glanced to the side, dragging the artefact further over the ledge, and froze when I saw myself standing near the gate, utterly furious. And again, in another shard, getting crushed by the Skein’s clawed hands as he seized the wheels. Was I even the real one? No, the existential crisis could wait until later. I needed to get this to Masego so we could get out of here and find Malicia. I raised the wheels over my head and legged it. I couldn’t even tell where this shard was related to the others, much less when: bones and void weren’t exactly trail markers. I leapt across the nearest shard – flicker – and cursed as soon as I landed. The Skein was in this one, fighting… me. And our earlier work and been done anew, with the ratling bound by a string of my domain, forced into that painful stretched. The other Catherine glanced at me, then shrugged and began forming a massive spike of darkness above the Skein’s head.

My own domain ebbed in answer.

Was she… Eye on the prize, Catherine. I made my way around the Revenant’s desperate death throes and leapt. Flicker. This one was empty, save for aimlessly angry bones animated by Diabolist. My fists tightened around the artefact. I could keep this up for hours and still be lost.

“Hierophant,” I called out. “Chart me a path.”

A dot of blue light formed ahead of me then peeled off. Good enough. I followed as swiftly as I could, until it crossed into another shard. Flicker. Empty as well, except the Skein suddenly turned around in another shards and passed into this one. The Revenant loomed as tall as ever, though the smaller shard was forcing him to be careful where he stepped.

“I see you,” the ratling hissed.

The dot of blue light wheeled to the left and crossed into another shard. Less than helpful, that, since unlike it I had to worry about the giant rat. See me, huh. Akua had seemed able to work through Winter in multiple shards, so theoretically… I sunk into my own mind, forcing myself to consider angles, then bent Winter to my will. Across a dozen shards mirrors formed, reflecting the light from the pit into the Skein’s eyes – which he was already covering, aware that with so many mirrors I’d covered near every angle he could look away to. Fucking oracles. It bought me a heartbeat where I ran for it, wheels over my head, but he swung blindly and with his size there was almost no need to aim. I managed a leap on a platform before I was swept away, but then the tail struck and even even tossing half a tower’s worth of ice in the way only slowed it down. A repeat would be the end of this unfortunate magical adventure.

Following light like a current, through as many mirrors as there could be, and weaving power into the reflections. A dozen arrows loosed.

Akua used my work to craft her own, abandoning the undead to taint the light coming from the mirrors with concentrated cold. The Skein slowed, until he shook it off, but it was just long enough for me to manage the leap. The tail swung behind me, hitting only air. Flicker. Masego stood ahead of me, tracing runes that resonated like a gong and drove back the Skein when he attempted to cross behind me.

“Take it,” I said, and tossed the wheels toward him.

It skidded across bones, and would have toppled him outright if he didn’t hastily trace another rune to slow it down to a halt.

“Our entry gate,” I said. “Make it lead to Malicia.”

He wasted no time on backtalk, ripping away a string and tying it to the central axis as I cast a look around. The rat was trying to sneak through the back, but there would be none of that on my watch. I took the whole of my domain, ripping it away from three other Catherines trying to use it, and shaped it into a bolt that shot right at the Revenant as he leapt. It caught him in the chest, tearing through bone and flesh. Both it and the bolt fell into the void, and only then did I allow the others to play with my –our – domain again. A quick look told me Masego had tied the thread to a place on the lowest wheel, which was our signal to get the Hells out of here.

“Akua, back to me,” I said, and yanked her.

I staggered at the impact, which was so much heavier than usual, but then she was at my shoulder again if looking none too pleased at the manhandling. She looked up, and her face fell.

“Catherine,” she said, and her hand rose.

She shaped Winter, but it was too little and too late. The Skein fell down from above, shattering the wheels with a massive paw.

“You lose,” the Revenant crowed.

The ground broke beneath our feet, and after that there was only the fall.

110 thoughts on “Chapter 43: Masego’s Plan

      1. Yotz

        Presumably, using Spool in it’s original form in the space beyond localized pocket universe cut from the rest of Creation would either revert everything involved – including memories of participants – to the arbitrary savepoint, forcing the used to depend on supposed non-deterministic nature of the world’s weave, or creating stable time-loop otherwise; or would compleately garble the mind of user, in essence putting him in catatonic coma before the Aspect was used.

        So, savescumming is not an option beyond the boundaries of DK’s virtual machine.

        Liked by 5 people

        1. Yotz

          Addendum
          Just thought of it – the time loop in question may not be stable, but conditional – in case the Spool has a limited number of usages during a day. And I’m going to presume that number being 3, if only for the sake of simplification.

          It would be something like that: you a going to do something and suddenly are hit with realization that your Aspect now has one less charge on the counter. Which leads to a conclusion that your next most usual course of actions would lead you to a situation where you was forced to use Spool. Change to a less obvious thread is in order.
          If there are two uses missing, that’s a trap, and you should retreat. NOW.
          If there are three uses missing – say your prayers, DK is after your arse, and it’s time to go out in the blaze of glory!

          Liked by 4 people

    1. Nafram

      Spool is, as far as Akua can tell, “contingent to that place”. Essentially, that means that either the Skein can only use it there, or it comes with a drastic drawback or limitation if used elsewhere. Granted, the aspect could have been stronger when the skein was alive, but even then it probably wasn’t as mind numbingly powerful as in these conditions.
      Then, there’s also the fact that this is Neshamah himself we’re talking about. He is likely capable of far more than The Woe can currently bring to bear by himself, and it’s likely that he had other revenants ready to help him if need be against Skein.
      Therefore, the living Skein would’ve been weaker than he is in this fight, and his opposition far stronger and etter prepared

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Lark

      “Our minds were left untouched,” Diabolist noted. “As was his. In broader Creation such a working would have shattered him upon the wheel, from all the cascade of innumerable events affected. The aspect was bastardized, made contingent to this place.”

      So presumably the Skein was much more limited in life, and is now limited to affecting the Threefold Palace.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Miles

        So no matter how many times the skein used spool, he’d end up in a scenario where he lost.

        Also afaict from this chapter he can only spool back a certain amount of time at once.

        Like

    3. SadAdder

      Spool most likely has a limited amount of uses and the dead king probably just tired the poor guy out by switching out his revenants.

      Your power wouldn’t really help you anyways if you were attacked by like 5 undead heroes/villains that were ripped from their storylines.

      Like

    1. TheGamingWyvern

      I don’t think he used Spool. Rather, spool tried to undo the events that happened, but Masego forced his will to informed creation that wjat he Witnessed actually happened.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Miles

      The shattered artifact opens up a path to malicia and archer. Archer looses her arrow. The arrow splits on the border of a portal and the halves kill malicia and the skein in 1 shot.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. WuseMajor

    I hope she can come out of this with some shreds of her morality and sanity intact. Otherwise, she’ll be little more than a monster or another Fae Queen and, if her own nation doesn’t rise against her, the Bard will be there with a bunch of heroes to see her destroyed. They’ll likely all die in the process, but Cat’s best assets in all the things she’s managed is that she is quick on the uptake, very clever about thinking outside the box, and stubborner than a million donkeys.

    Becoming the Winter Queen in truth would give her a scary level of power, but it would hobble everything that she used to get herself here. It would ruin everything she wants to achieve. And Heroes know how to deal with powerful villains with hidden weaknesses, so what was left of her would quickly be bound or destroyed.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. morrígan

    Dammit. These chapters feel way too short.

    So I assume that whenever the Woe got too close to Malicia or the Skein, the ratling would just Spool and send them back to square one? I wonder what the limitations are. Why couldn’t he just Spool them back to the palace when they started fighting? Or is the aspect usable like that only in this particular part of Keter? Regardless, I’m sure you can chalk this all up to ‘stupid seer bullshit.’

    The narrative hasn’t yet abandoned the Woe (they’re far too entertaining), and we see yet another example of the self-balancing scales: the Skein pulls out some nonsense, and Masego pulls a brand spanking new Aspect out of Namespace to fight back. Nothing so blatant as a perfect counter to Spool, of course, because that fuckery is the provenance of Heroes only, but a weapon nonetheless.

    And, while having Akua as a sort of ‘magical collar Adjutant’ is nice, I can’t help but feel that Catherine is damning herself more and more with every inch of leeway she offers Diabolist. (Cat deciding to take Akua’s hand last chapter was definitely alarming.) She’s setting a dangerous prescedent by allowing Akua to draw on Winter like she is in this chapter – and as we all know, Catherine is Winter and Winter is Catherine. Though, I suppose she really should have seen it coming when Cat made the decision to bind her soul to her cloak instead of destroying it … or at the very least blackboxing her a la Quirrel in Significant Digits if Catherine was really keen on keeping her around.

    Regardless, when it finally comes time for Cat to kill Akua as per her binding agreement with Viv – signed in spit – I’d be lying if I didn’t say I would feel bad.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Azure

      I won’t feel bad. Akua is a mass murderer who thrives on manipulation. Her little sob story to Catherine about her mom forcing her to kill her friend, was calculated to press just the right buttons for sympathy. Oh boohoo it’s not Akua’s fault it’s all her mom’s and Praesi society forcing her to become who she is. Vivienne pointed out exactly how manipulative she is. Catherine is giving Akua a very long rope, letting her think she’s manipulating her way into the Woe’s good graces.

      Like

      1. Yotz

        Well, as much as I’d like to defend that “Chat” thingamajig, “Chaterine” rules all believable – or probable, even – lines of Devil’s advocacy on my part.
        And so, I am forced to draw the inevitable conclusion – the “Chat” thing is a bait, and the person using it is a master baiter.

        Liked by 9 people

  3. Jane

    You know, I’m pretty certain that most people would need a few sessions with a psychologist after a fight like this one. Or just, you know, directly take SAN damage from the nature of reality/identity/self unravelling like this. I’m pretty certain the human mind wasn’t designed to cope with something like this, outside of heavy denial. Good thing she’s not human anymore, right?

    That said, I wonder… Was it her redefining the essence of her construct to become weightless (such as saying, “No, my body is more like air than it is lead”), or was it her negating creational law to become weightless (saying, “Gravity doesn’t *really* apply to me”)? Either is useful, but the implications diverge rather significantly.

    I’d make a joke about how she used her Ruling Authority in conjunction with her Divinity Field to petition the Administrator to create a Skill to deny creational law, but it’d be needlessly impenetrable to anyone who didn’t know exactly what I was joking about, and not terribly amusing to begin with.

    Incidentally, Ruin seems like the kind of aspect that makes a legend of a Name, even by the standards of the Named… A Story with the kind of Villain who can shatter reality itself is either a farce where everyone is just playing around, or a “The very existence of the world is at stake, and we need all of the biggest heroes holding nothing back to stop them” kind of deal. The Woes weren’t exactly minor league before, but this is the kind of scale that puts them at the center of the continent.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Still think Hakram’s ability to both put down insurgents left and right, handle all the clerical work that no one wants to deal with, and still find time to take care of Chathrine’s alcohol trumps this.

      Similar to how Black became more vulnerable to the Sacker’s probing questions about his plan for Procer without the captain at his side to remind him of who he is, and how scribe allows him to remain informed. I believe Hakram’s powers make him a much more scary opponent similar to chancellor even.

      I mean warlock does have an epic name and powers that makes him a dangerous entity him, mages have always been glass cannons. Once you take the brunt of there damage or get them monologue in this universe that means a fatal mistake.

      Whereas Hakram has proven to be a critical member to the woe who is integral to the general cohesion of the group’s success. If they lost Masego a crucial piece on the board would be lost, but if they lost Hakram’s I think Chathrine would loose herself and the band would become sidetracked similar to how the loss of Sabah mean the loss of the heart of the Calamities. Without your heart how far can you go.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Jane

        Ah, I just meant how such Aspects must affect the Stories that surround them in a more general way – like how you wouldn’t normally expect Robin Hood to show up in a story dealing with Cthullu-esque horrors, or a team of Seraphim to be called upon to deal with some basic pickpockets.

        The loss of Hakram would cause the administration of Callow to fall to pieces, true, but he and his talents wouldn’t normally act as a beacon to the types of Heroes that deal in preserving the fabric of reality. Someone with an aspect like Ruin, though… Well, if the Woe weren’t already facing off against Pilgrim and others like him, I would expect Heirophant to be the sort of figure they’d end up entangled with.

        All Named are bigger than life, but Ruin seems big even by their standards, assuming I understand its usage correctly.

        Liked by 3 people

  4. Rook

    Now we start to see the real bullshit potential of the winter mantle, potentially being even worse than the elves.

    She decided her body was an illusion, she’s now a shapeshifter. Decided weight doesn’t apply to her, creation immediately folds like a deck of cards. Dimensional shards of alternate realities and timelines? No sweat, all of them simultaneously bridged by default.

    In fact I have a sneaking suspicion that the only reason Catherine wasn’t able to swat the skein into paste like an insect was her understanding of her own mantle being so shallow.

    If she can bridge that many realities with the mantle she shouldn’t need to physically run through the shards, realistically there’s very little stopping her from existing in all of them at once and shifting through them at will. Even the void between them shouldn’t be immune to her influence, cold and darkness aren’t anything more than absence, no different from the void.

    Honestly the Queen of Moonless Nights falling into the void is almost comical. It’s like the ocean falling into a lake. Get your metaphysical shit together, girl.

    Liked by 12 people

    1. RanVor

      Keep in mind that while gravity might not apply to Cat, it’s not true about Masego, and letting the Hierophant fall into a bottomless pit of nothing isn’t really an option right now. Therefore, Cat must fall with him, if only to find a way to rescue him somehow.

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      1. Rook

        If it was a generic pit of spikes I’d be worried for Masego, but a quasi-magical fraying of creation between alternate realities?

        I’m more scared for that poor void. I wouldn’t be surprised if he managed to dissect it for his research.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Argentorum

    No one else is worried that CAT THOUGHT AKUA WAS HEAVY?

    Jokes about a lady’s weight aside, Akua should be spun out of stardust and ice, that she has creational weight here is a red flag. Yes it could be just the situation, but given that Cat had no problem working her ice magic across multiple shards then there’s no reason that the teathed should function differently. It is, because Akua is probably MORE than a soul now. In fact it wouldn’t surprise me to see that the next time Neshamah has her announced her name is “Growing Splendor” or even just flat out “Splendid One.”

    Beyond the obvious reasons that this is worrying, there is one sinister one lurking in the wings. The Fae trade rolls, sometimes one is the king, another a prince. And Each time Akua’s *fought* since losing to Cat, it’s been in with Cat’s power, if not in her place directly.

    In brief…
    “All according to plan.”

    Liked by 4 people

  6. 1queenofblades1

    Hey look it’s me! Catherine-gravity-doesn’t-apply-to-me-Foundling falling into a void under the force of gravity!

    Yeah nope, something tells me the three other Cats have something up their sleeve, Masego uses Spool, or Cat does something with Archer. Not sure! Can’t wait till Wednesday!

    Also you guys realize if Catherine becomes the Dread Empress, she will be the (Dread) God-Empress? Speaking of which, if she’s a goddess, what’s stopping her from launching her own crusade? The 11th Crusade against the 10th Crusade sounds like an awesome fuck up.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yotz

      I’d like to just quote La Roche again and be with it, but the 11th Crusade – or, indeed, any form of holy war in Cat’s name – seems unlikely at best. Even in the case of possible full apotheosis on Cat’s part, to initiate such a calamity in the name of new never seen before goddess one will need a full-fledged faithful congregation and functional church to her name. And that even before we get into the legitimacy problems. There are two sets of well known and established gods in the world already, and even if they chose to remain silent, much less to openly condemn the pretender – and her declaration of divinity, which is an essential part of such holy war undertaking, would be met with widespread recognition of her arrogant insanity, and nothing more. More to that, even her own people and – more importantly – soldiers will join on that assumption. And while the Army – most of it – will follow her because she’s powerful and successful general, to recruit to her cause someone at least passable as sane person would become an unachievable dream. Not to mention all-out global war with possible intervention of several world and otherworldly superpowers as a side dish of such declaration.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Yotz

          In case you were wondering, the quote in question wasn’t going to be

          Harbingers of evil, henchmen of Takhisis, warriors of corruption, men and women of honor.

          in appropriately mangled form, with Queen of Many Colors and None being replaced with the Black Queen.

          It’d serve as a nice refrain to your joke, but alas, I’ve already used it while commenting on the creation of the Order of the Broken Bells. Such is a fate ;_;

          Like

      1. quick reply to this, but there are 2 types of gods in this universe. You have Gods, capital G, who made creation and who are worshiped and who you are thinking of. Then you have gods, lowercase g, whom exist on their own and are merely powerful and near-immortal. We know about 2 different lesser gods who’ve died in universe(the one Captain ate, and the one whose corpse the tower was built upon), and another 3 have shown up in the story(Winter King, Summer Queen, and Neshamah)

        Cat, is coming to realize her status as a lesser god, not a greater God, as such your post doesn’t really apply.

        Like

        1. Yotz

          Except her status as a lesser god would preclude the possibility of holy war in her name. Beside that, theological definitions is a thing of constant contention, and it is expected from a foul villain to declare his or her divinity – no one would bat an eye, but no one will want to join the possible “anti-crusade” out of religious obligations. Money, loot, patriotism – that’s another matter completely, but faith… Without a church and cult nearly immortal comparatively very powerful person is just it – a powerful immortal person. Civilization with low level of culture may grant such person a status of “god” or “demigod”, but with average cultural level of Calernia pretender would be seen among general population as just a brazen cheat. Or insane, dangerous or otherwise.
          Now, in a dozen generations or so, the Story of the Black Queen would grow enough to allow for creation of a cult, methinks – but that’s a matter of a future.

          Like

  7. edrey

    so i think at this point the only way is that thief stole the artifact, put a copy at the same time and all that fight was part of the plan and cat’s plan chapter is she killing malicia

    Like

      1. edrey

        well, her meat puppet, you can read between lines, the point is thief saving the day, and next chapter some talk with malicia, i hope, malicia is a great character

        Like

          1. Metrux

            I do think Malicia is trully dying here. It can be a meat puppet, but… She was never a big player. She made herself to be, with the help of the Calamities, and she played well the game… But she was never the owner of the pieces and never had the power herself to make it work. As the ones who supported her are slowly being ground to dust, so will she fall, and this is the “better” time for her fall, the most dramatic and story heavy time.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. grzecho2222

              I think that Malicia used to be very good player, but being in the Tower is making her Stupid Evil.
              She acts way smarter in flashbacks and now she makes mistake after mistake (antagonazing your main potential ally for personal reasons is not very smart) and if you look at the Calamities, all of them avoid the Tower when they can. And Terribilis (who we know was one Emperor that seem normal) is also known as the guy who avoided the Tower

              Liked by 1 person

              1. RanVor

                No wonder they all go mad. How could you live in that without coming to think of yourself as a god?
                – Book 1, Chapter 20: Fall

                The Tower is a trap. It lures Praesi with the hollow promises of power and greatness, keeping them focused on their schemes and unable to recognize the causes of their failures.

                Like

  8. So many amazing comments but the phrases that stood out to me?

    “The Skein had spoken four letters and wiped away all we had wrought.

    Masego replied the same and the world shattered.”

    …Cat, Cat, Cat. We have GOT to work on your spelling. Spool is FIVE letters. -g-

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Amoonymous

      As others have noted (and it’s stated in the story by Akua), in reality it would either have to wipe everyone involved’s memories or he would be broken by Creation, the only reason it’s so OP here is because of the dimensional space presumably set up by the Dead King (and perhaps by the Skein being undead).

      Could have even been other limitations involving the Skein not being undead, that specific dimension instead of just any non-creation dimension, or who knows what else back when the Skein was living.

      Like

  9. grzecho2222

    So Skein broke controls to the palace. Surely it won’t make any mess whatsoever.

    Malicia walking down corridor.
    -Finally something works out. And soon I won’t have to worry about this irritating girl ever again.-
    Starts raining Cats from random doors.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Aston

    I love how Catherine’s main power is self-delusion.

    Power of a god.

    If I pretend I’m really powerful I can beat this guy!

    I’m still a normal human girl who’s an orphan with great friends.

    Winter? Yes, it does get chilly. Close the door.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Yotz

    Beware the Jabberwock, o Queen!
    The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
    Beware the Jubjub bird, and skleen
    The frumious Collarsnatch!

    … and that’s all I got to say about the chapter in general.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Dimensional

    So – The revnant in the heart of the maze, just destroyed the artifact that holds the whole thing together? I can’t see that being super great for anyone in the palace – cause I think this means 3 different palaces suddenly try to exist in the same space.

    I predict that this is all according to someone’s plan.

    Like

  13. Gunslinger

    Wow this is a chapter I’m going to have to read multiple times because while Cat can wrap her mind around this abstractness my human one needs more time.

    I wonder if Masego’s aspect is also that effective because it’s being used in a localized space

    Like

  14. Exrot

    I wonder how long it will take for Akua to steal herself a fae title and become a princess or duchess of winter and start the cycle of titles changinh hands all over again. Heroes would hate it as you either end up with a queen of winter who is a militant nutjob or one who plays everyone like puppets and breaks everything woth magic.

    Like

    1. Snowfire1224

      When I first started reading the series, it struck me how I could so vividly imagine it being a series, a feeling I never got from anything else not even books that went on to make great shows and movise. Especially with dark fantasy like GOT being popular, I could see it being well recieved.

      Like

  15. superkeaton

    Good girl, Cat. Mortal limitations are for mortal bodies, and you haven’t been human in a very long time.

    Moral, limitations, on the other hand…. might want to keep an eye on those.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. TameCurtsy

    “Ruin” doesn’t seem to fit Masego well enough. I get the need for an offensive aspect, but Ruin suggests destruction for no purpose.

    My idea: “Excarnate”.
    1) It’s a badass word. Just like “hierophant” and “vivisector” (which I learned thanks to PGtE.)
    2) It fits the vivisection idea, as the removal of organs, leaving only bones. And it was used to preserve the bones of nobles (like Christopher Columbus) so it can translate over to divine acts pretty easily.
    3) In a narrative sense, potentially used similarly/more creatively than Ruin. Like in this chapter, it is less that Zeze Ruined the aspect, and more that he separated it into its elements leaving it weaker, easier for him to study, understand, manipulate, and in the future, replicate.
    4) “It was to destroy and devastate irreparably”. The aspect is birthed from Black’s Destroy, but it sounds just too similar to me. What’s the difference?
    5) Nice duality with “reincarnate”, a high-tier Good power.
    6) Warlock has “Imbricate” which is fancy. Zeze should get to be just as fancy.

    Having said all that, I fully believe that Ruin could be a puzzle piece that may not feel right at the moment, but looking back I will realize that nothing could fit better. That narrative quality is my favorite aspect of PGtE (too obvious? Couldn’t help myself.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dainpdf

      Well, if the aspect doesn’t fit what we know it may be that what we know is incomplete.
      Also, to Ruin is not to Destroy. Destroy removes something from the world. Ruin just fucks with them.

      Like

      1. TameCurtsy

        Thanks for the response! And yeah, I hope it’s something that gets filled in later. But if/until then…

        The “It was to destroy and devastate irreparably” is from Catherine’s internal rumination. So when Black Destroyed the Hellgate-gestalt, presumably it was destroyed and devastated irreparably.

        I think the author is setting up Ruin as having the extra power that Destroy lacks, while also introducing more tension/Evil to Masego – both of which I’m down for – but it is not distinct enough of a verb and does not seem to entail the effect that it implies.

        My second idea of the substitute aspect: Hack. Dual meanings: one is brutal destruction, the other is slightly anachronistic but complex. And it’d be funny if Masego was the Miracle Hacker.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. ______

          > So when Black Destroyed the Hellgate-gestalt, presumably it was destroyed and devastated irreparably.

          Masego was actually the one tasked with gluing it back together.
          All things considered, I think this is the case where circumstances shape the Aspect, like with Discern – and like with Discern, while the Aspect is strongest in this specific situation, there’s more to it than that.

          A good example is Catherine after reclaiming the Name of Squire. Her prize after winning the first battle of Liesse are the Aspects of Take (three times per day allows to usurp magical powers from her opponents, like spells or even other Aspects, awakened by forcing an angel to resurrect her) and Break (once per day allows her to batter down an obstacle in her way, seemingly cannot be used directly on the opponents themselves, awakened by breaking the Pentinent’s Sword), which sounds like just powers related to these particular events of the story. However, the story itself is about how she pulled the sword from the stone, and if you remember the epilogue to book two, Black says:

          > For at least the first year, Catherine was likely to butcher and coerce her way through anything she perceived as an obstacle. She would do so mercilessly and without hesitation, too, because there was something utterly ruthless at the core of Catherine Foundling. Callowan defiance, perhaps, but married with something brutally pragmatic. Something that would use what it could not break and break what it could not use.

          The pivot here wasn’t even Catherine rejecting the Hashmallim’s offer (killling everyone who trusted her and brainwashing everyone who didn’t isn’t exactly a fair deal). It wasn’t her capitalizing on the symbol of a sword in the stone: William was the one who made it, and Cat already had a plan of making an angel resurrect her by the right of “a kingdom, an enemy and a claim”.
          What mattered was that William thought it was a story only about himself, and so killing Catherine was a sensible solution. She, on the other hand, could see the big picture, and to change it she’d need to use what she could not break and break what she could not use. The form of the Aspects was decided by the obstacles she needed to overcome with their help, but she always was going to obtain two of them that would serve a similar purpose.

          Like

          1. TameCurtsy

            ______, great response! You came at this from a different angle and I like. Also excellent catch on Black’s foreshadowing: one of my favorite things in this story is going back to earlier chapters and seeing the hidden depth behind innocent lines.

            I finally looked up the definition of Ruin, read one that goes “reduce to ruins; fall into pieces” and realized that settled most of my problems with the word choice. Rereading the section, the Aspect could even be positioned like that.

            So my issue is significantly smaller: Catherine, setting herself as as an Aspect authority, describes it as “Black’s Destroy but with more horsepower and a different flavor” instead of “Zeze reduces things to pieces.” I agree that the Aspect was going to be destructive and the obstacles decided it was Ruin, but I think that the two definitions have a crucial, significant difference.

            This sounds nitpicky even to me, but it’s one of the rare times in PGtE where something did not fit and threw me out of the flow… not including the typos :P.

            For the record, I don’t think Black’s Destroy should be the shadow Catherine sees in this: it should be the whole journey of walking through the Dead King’s shards. Much more significant to Masego personally, he is surrounded by ruins, it culminates in seeing the most influential Creation-challenging ceremony, and even if he was there for Black’s destroy, he would have been upset at the waste.

            I would not be surprised however if the author proves me wrong and looking back, I see this section as fitting perfectly.

            (Zeze repairs the gestalt, he doesn’t repair the Hellgator – which Catherine would’ve preferred – so Black Destroyed it and devastated it irreparably.)

            Cheers!

            Like

        2. Dainpdf

          Well, I assume if Ruin had been used on the array, instead of the thing being utterly destroyed, it would have been warped and fractured.
          Ruin actually reminds me of the demons. It’s what they do, more than destroying.

          Like

    1. ______

      What meme? The only cage-related (and maybe fighting-related) joke I can think of at the moment is “three Named enter, a theoretically unlimited amount of identical murderfairies leave!”

      Like

  17. Havak

    Does anybody else think that Akua’s master plan is to get Cat to climb the tower? That way she can become the Chancellor to Cat’s Dread Empress? And then do the traditional Chancellor betrayal to take the throne herself which was her plan from the very beginning.

    Like

      1. Havak

        Why not? She already has one traitorous lieutenant, plus she would still have a leash on Akua so I can easily imagine Cat thinking something like “Better the devil you know and have total control over” or something.

        Like

    1. Phil zu Neide

      My idea is that Akua recognizes that Cat is above her in terms of power. While a free Akua would be very strong and might very well become a second Triumphant she would in the end still loose to the good guys. Cat on the other hand might be able to break the dichotomy between Good and Evil and change the rules of the game forever. Akua recognizes this and decides to support her because in the end loyalty to Cat could reward her handsomely.

      Like

  18. I’m almost certain someone must have posted this in the comments before, but I found this song which is just too perfect for Cat and I have to share it: Tommee Profitt Feat. Svrcina – My Domain

    Like

  19. Alegio

    Cat is learning how to god, Masego undos realities and Akua gets a lot of winter to play with, while the Skein destroys the thing that keeps that dimenionall fuck up going on …Nothing wrong can come out of this! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Every time a broken bell rings, a bastard-faerie eldritch abomination gets her wings!

    Seriously, I’ve been wondering whether Catherine could grow wings like the other Winter fae could – seems that’s just one of her many capabilities. Among other things, it could really speed up travel when she’s taking gate-shortcuts by herself.

    Like

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