Chapter 48: Shadows

“A passable plan done in a day will nearly always beat an exquisite scheme requiring a month.”
– Dread Empress Regalia II

Truth be told, I’d never been enamoured with the thought of travelling. Even if I’d never become Black’s apprentice I would have left Laure eventually – I’d has plans to attend the War College, what felt like half a lifetime ago – but unlike some of the other girls at the orphanage my heartbeat had never quickened at the notion of journeying across Calernia. There’d been this girl I’d shared a room with, Gods, what’d been her name? Emily, maybe. Something that sounded like that. She’d found work at a street stall near the market just so she could buy a rough map of the continent and plan her travels when she came of age. She’d stolen the only volume of Anabas the Ashuran’s travelogues the orphanage had and read it so often the pages had been worn out. That’d never been for me. Having a gander at the most beautiful parts of southern Callow had been appealing, and I’d had vague plans to visit the Duchy of Daoine for as long as I could remember, but my interest in foreign vistas had always been limited.

And yet here I was now, camping with a few companions by the shore of a lake I doubted any human had seen in centuries. Few Praesi maps gave name to the body of water to the northeast of the Kingdom of the Dead, but the Procerans called it the Chalice. There was likely a story there, but not one I knew. It was beautiful, I had to the admit. The poisonous fumes that hung over the Dead King’s lands did not reach this far north, leaving me with unimpeded sight of a misty lake with sapphire-blue waters. The beach was pebbles of pale and grey, with the rare splash of colour breaking the mould. The winds were restless, here, and the dawning evening pleasantly cool. Even at noon, when the day was warmest most of the Woe wore cloaks. Unlike me they did not welcome to the touch of the cold. I palmed a stone and sent it skidding across the waters, the final plop surprisingly loud to my ears.

Hakram had dug a fire pit earlier and Indrani was now making some sort of sordid stew out of the fish she’d caught with her bare hands, standing hip-deep in the waters. It felt oddly domestic to watch them bicker around the flames, arguing about how much salt should go in a meal. Vivienne was napping right through it, huddled inside a pile of blankets close enough to the fire to feel the warmth of the flames. The last two had less carefree matters to attend to. I’d asked Masego to reach out to the Observatory the moment my little chat with Cordelia Hasenbach came to an end, but even with Akua as a helper the preparations had taken some time. He’d warned me the ritual had high chances of failure. Though the Whitecaps weren’t in the way, up here, the distance was massive. It’d taken three attempts before he succeeded mid-afternoon. Fadila had been there, luckily enough, though what she’d had to tell us had taken the wind right out of me. She only knew so much, though, so I’d ordered the Observatory to serve as a relay for another ritual at dusk. Juniper would know more.

I glanced at the tall tower of ice I’d formed to speak with the First Prince, which now served as the seat of Hierophant’s rituals. I could feel the ebb and flow of sorcery within, though it’d not reached that palpable crescendo of active scrying. I tossed another stone and let the sound of Indrani slapping Hakram with a ladle – clearly stolen from the royal kitchens by Vivienne, as it was pure silver and there was a suspicious hole where the Fairfax heraldry would be – until he submitted to her demands of another pinch of salt. It was calming. I was in great need of that, right now. The sun was dipping into the lake with a riot of red and gold, when Akua came for me. She said nothing, scarlet eyes hooded. She’d grown better at reading my moods, when idle talk would grate on my nerves instead of provide appreciated distraction. I passed the others on the way to the ice, waving a hand when Indrani called out, and found Masego crouched on the ground.

“Catherine,” he said without turning. “I believe we’ve stabilized the formula properly. There should be no more troubles.”

“Good work,” I said.

“They’ll be able to feel that as far south as Keter, at least, if they are keeping an eye out,” he reminded me.

“Let them,” I grunted. “Scry, Masego.”

He did not comment any further, tracing a few runes out of light that set the entire array glowing. I ran my fingers across the back of the seat I’d carved myself out of ice before sitting down. A look was enough to dismiss Akua, though Masego remained close. If the ritual had issues, I expected him to intervene. At the centre of the array lay a dark wooden bowl filled with dark waters taken from the Observatory’s own pools. A sympathetic connection, I thought, and silently praised myself for remembering the fancy terms. We’d improved somewhat on the usual spell, Hierophant having me weave Winter as he required. When Fadila’s face appeared in the bowl, it did in the mirrors surrounding me as well.

“Your Majesty,” she said, bowing.

“Mbafeno,” I mildly replied. “Any issues on your end?”

“Marshal Juniper awaits you,” she replied. “Shall I proceed?”

“By all means,” I said.

Her face rippled, then vanished, and a heartbeat later I was facing the Hellhound’s tired gaze. Juniper looked like she’d been put through a ringer. If half of what Fadila had said, that might very well be the case.

“Juniper,” I said. “Been a while.”

“Foundling,” she gravelled. “I have a dozen fires to put out, so let’s skip the courtesies.”

I almost replied with a sardonic lovely to see you too, but if the situation was as serious as I believed it was no time for banter.

“I had a talk with Fadila Mbafeno earlier today,” I said. “But she’s constrained to the palace, so most of it was hearsay. I’ll need a full report.”

The orc nodded.

“The Empire just fucked us hard,” Juniper bluntly said. “I can’t actually prove it’s them, but it has that Wasteland reek.”

I grimaced. That’d been Fadila’s opinion as well, but I’d hoped she might be wrong.

“How bad was it?” I asked.

“Every member of the King’s Council is dead,” she said. “Around a third of your court officials. It was a godsdamned massacre.”

My fingers clenched.

“Ratface?” I quietly asked.

She shook her head mutely.

“Knife to the back of the neck,” she said. “He wouldn’t have felt a thing.”

I closed my eyes. There was a cold, measured part of me that was furious I’d been robbed of a skilled Lord Treasurer for who I had no real replacement. The rest of me grieved the death of a boy I’d known since we were seventeen, children playing war games in the Tower’s shadow. Ratface had been with me since the beginning, since Rat Company. He’d been a friend, one of the few I had left. I inhaled, place the tempest of grief and wrath in a box and set it aside. I opened my eyes, calmed.

“Anne Kendall?” I asked.

“First to go,” Juniper said. “We think she was one of the primary targets.”

And there went the woman I’d considered my most likely successor to the queenship of Callow. I was slightly appalled that my first thought at hearing the death of Baroness Anne confirmed was how it’d complicate the line of succession, but I would not shy away from the facts. Anne Kendall had been a kind soul, a skilled ruler and if not a friend someone I had deep respect for. A patriot, of that rare breed that put the needs of her people above her own. And she’d been, informally, the closest thing to an acceptable successor I had at my court. Malicia – and this was her work, of that I had no doubt, for it’d been a crippling blow to Callow in too many ways not to be – had ordered her killed just to weaken my position. Fury flared, but I mastered myself. Anger is the death of reason. You need a lucid mind to survive, now.

“Merciless Gods,” I finally said. “Who holds Laure?”

“The got the legate I sent to command the garrison and all his staff,” Juniper said. “The highest-ranking officer in the city was a Senior Tribune by the name of Abigail. At a guess, they missed her because she was on leave. She’s been on the rolls since the Arcadian Campaign, fought under Nauk at the Battle of the Camps.”

I frowned.

“I know of her,” I said. “She used to serve under Hune, has a Summerholm accent. She’s got a handle on the situation?”

“People went to the streets after your court declared martial law,” Juniper replied. “So she had the palace cellars emptied and every winesink in the city do the same on the crown’s coin.”

“She got rioters drunk?” I hissed.

“Drunk enough they weren’t able to riot,” the Hellhound said. “She didn’t have the men to enforce the decree, Catherine, and spilling blood would have been like lighting a sharper. She made the best possible decision, even if she overstepped her authority. I’ll state that for the record, if I have to.”

I rubbed the bridge of my nose.

“Fuck it, as long as it worked,” I finally said. “How quick can you have a senior officer in the city?”

“At least a month,” Juniper said. “We’re camped close to Ankou, at the moment, in talks with General Sacker’s legion.”

I drummed my fingers pensively.

“Promote her to legate, then,” I said. “Field promotion, to be confirmed at a later date. She’s in charge of Laure until I can send one of the Woe to take over.”

“I’ll pass it along,” the orc said.

Good. It’d been an unorthodox method, but then that was the kind of thinking the Army of Callow encouraged. If she had the mettle for higher rank, she’d get to keep it. Gods knew I was always in desperate need of fresh talent.

“Did they manage to assassinate within the army?” I asked.

“They tried,” Juniper said. “Had agents in the ranks, one made it as high as tribune. The Jacks caught most of them. The rest got knifed before they could do any real damage. Lord Black sends his regards.”

I chewed on that, split between relief at my teacher still being on my corner and displeasure as the fact he’d infiltrated the Army of Callow deeply enough his people were comfortable fighting Eyes of the Empire.

“You got his people?” I asked.

“They’re under arrest,” Juniper said. “None resisted, so I used a light touch. Only soft interrogations.”

“Try to get anything they know about Malicia’s people,” I said. “I’ll authorize release back to Black if they work with us.”

The orc nodded.

“Ranker has expressed willingness to work with us,” she told me.

The first bit of good news today, that.

“Her legion got mauled at the Vales,” I said.

“She’s got more than half in fighting fit,” Juniper replied. “More importantly, she’s willing to trade goblin munitions for supplies. Including goblinfire.”

“Get your hands on anything you can,” I ordered. “Had she said anything about the Empress?”

“Said politics don’t concern her, since she’s part of an Imperial expedition army under the direct command of the Black Knight,” my Marshal grunted. “She’d got no intention of heading east, and she’d publicly turned away messengers from the Tower.”

“Malicia’s still sending diplomats through Callow?” I frowned.

“Not anymore,” Juniper said. “It got bloody, Catherine. When word about Laure got out, fresh off that proclamation from Salia? They butchered any Praesi they could get their hands on. We lost legionaries that were on leave.”

Fuck. The last thing I needed was Callowans taking swings at the Army of Callow.

“The Tower hasn’t formally declared war, has it?” I asked.

“Not a word from the Empress,” she said. “But we’re having Praesi troubles anyway.”

“The High Lords can’t possibly be fools enough to pick a fight now,” I said.

“Worse,” the orc replied. “We have refugees coming through the Blessed Isle. Ashur’s torching the coast and the sack of Nok displaced thousands. The Wasteland’s already rationing, so they’re moving west where the food is.”

“How many?” I grimly asked.

“Two, three thousand for now,” the Marshal of Callow said. “Mostly families. There’ll Eyes and assassins among them though, that’s a certainty. Farmers have been forcing them to remain near the Isle, by force if need be.”

So Malicia was dumping her refugee troubles on me. I supposed from her perspective there was no loss to be had. Either I slaughtered them and became even more reviled in Praes, or I allowed them to stay and had to divert time and resources to force order onto the mess.

“We can’t allow them to go deeper into Callow,” I said.

“If we don’t get them out soon, the numbers will keep growing,” Juniper said. “And it’s only a matter of time until they get hungry and desperate enough to steal from farmers who won’t stand for it. When steel comes out it’ll get ugly fast.”

“Our only host close enough is the Summerholm garrison,” I said. “And that’s the key to our entire eastern defence. If she’s baiting it out to ambush it…”

“I know,” the Hellhound growled. “Her belly’s unprotected, but so is ours. She’s short on legions, but she could order the High Lords of the interior to send their household troops.”

The worst part was that I knew exactly what Malicia was doing, but there was no easy solution. She’d shaken Callow just as the Dead King got loose to prevent me from intervening in the war with Procer, and now she was trying to tie down my forces with the least possible effort on her part. If she’d sent an army into Callow, she’d had to feed and fund it. To commit men. Instead she’d mutilated the administration of the kingdom, then dropped a mess at the border on my lap. If I wanted to retaliate, I’d have to venture into the Wasteland. Where every major city was a fortress heavily warded and filled with horrors and it was impossible to live off the land. Hells, she could probably raid my godsdamned supply lines to fill her own granaries. I would have called it utter idiocy to provoke the Kingdom of Callow when she was already fighting a losing war with the Thalassocracy, but I knew my army was in no state for a protracted eastern campaign. I needed it elsewhere, and I needed it to be making up for the losses of the Battle of the Camps. If I acted, I risked incurring a major loss for no real gain. If I did not act, on the other hand, I would keep paying for it.

I was too furious to be admiring.

“Pull back all the people in the Fields to Summerholm,” I finally said. “Have them bring every bag of grain and herd of cattle back with them while they do. The refugees won’t keep coming if there’s nothing to be had.”

“And if they head towards Summerholm?” Juniper asked.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” I said. “They’re refugees, not a legion marching column. It’ll take months.”

“That’s a stopgap,” she said. “Not a fix.”

“A stopgap is what we need, right now,” I said. “I’ll send Thief back to Callow to take control of the situation.”

Juniper’s broad face grimaced.

“You’re not coming back?” she asked.

“We need an army,” I said. “The Dead King dealt with Malicia instead, so I’m getting us another.”

“The drow,” the Hellhound said.

“The drow,” I agreed softly. “We’re out of alternatives, Juniper. The Principate is about to be hit hard from the north, which at least will buy us time. I need Callow stable, and the army in fighting fit. That falls on you and Thief. I’ll return as swiftly as possible with reinforcements.”

“There’s good news on that front, at least,” Juniper announced. “We’re drowning in volunteers.”

I blinked.

“Even after I was named Arch-heretic of the East?” I said.

“That’s what got it started,” the orc said. “Half of Ankou’s been to our camp to enrol, Catherine. And after the assassinations in Laure it was like a damned fire was lit. There’s formed Royal Guard coming from as far as Holden to enrol, and there’s entire convoys on the roads coming towards training camps. Half a year, Warlord. Give me half a year and I’ll have you an army that’ll shake this fucking continent.”

I exhaled softly. They’d cornered us, hadn’t they? The Procerans and the Praesi. And the harder they struck, the harder my countrymen would dig their heels.

“Good,” I said. “I don’t care if you have to empty every treasure vault in Callow, Juniper, I want them armed and trained. The fights around the corner are going to be like nothing we’ve seen before.”

The orc grinned toothily.

“It’ll be my pleasure,” she said. “That would have been pleasant note to end on, but I have two more messes to pass you.”

I sighed.

“I’m listening,” I said. “Wait, shit, Prince Amadis and the Pilgrim. Are they…”

“No assassin went after them,” Juniper said. “But the Pilgrim’s a third mess, looked at a certain way. He legged it and left the prince behind. We haven’t seen sign of him since the killings.”

Shit. Yeah, it made sense. I wasn’t there for him to work on, and when we’d last spoken it had been with harsh words. The old man wouldn’t sit pretty in Laure while the Dead King was on the move. Even if he was so inclined, the Heavens wouldn’t let him.

“That’s a breach of our truce terms,” I said.

“The Hells can we do about it?” the Hellhound said. “Kill Milenan? It gets us nothing.”

Much as it irritated me, she was right. The northern crusaders were out of the passage and they’d likely be headed upwards to delay the Dead King. I did not want to do anything that might affect that decision, not right now anyway.

“Keep him under our thumb,” I finally said. “We’ll settle accounts with the Peregrine another day. What’s the first disaster?”

“Don’t know if it’s that,” Juniper said. “But diplomacy’s not my wheelhouse. The Snake Eater Tribe sent volunteers to enrol, but there was an envoy with them. She says she’s coming on the behalf of the Council of Matrons.”

Well, shit. It wasn’t the first time the ruthless old bats made discreet overtures to me. Back before we’d purged the worst of the Regals they matron-attendants that rule the Snake Eater Tribe had interrogated Pickler about what intention I might have for Praes, if I ended up on the winning side of a war with the Empire. There’d been no offer, back then. Malicia had yet to bleed enough the Matrons would consider her easy meat. I suspected that with the Ashurans running rampant across the coast and Black strolling around the Principate with half the Legions of Terror, that’d begun to change.

“What do they want?” I warily asked.

“She wouldn’t tell me everything,” Juniper replied. “Said she’d deal only with you. But I was given a taste, probably to bring you to the table. The Council of Matrons is offering to begin negotiations over the sale of goblin munitions to the Kingdom of Callow.”

My fingers clenched. That was very, very dangerous talk. The Tribes were bound by treaty to sell those only to the Tower, and it wasn’t the kind of clause that got a slap on the wrist when broken: it’d be called rebellion, if it got out. Even possession of goblin munitions was illegal in Praes. Highborn would have their entire direct family executed if they were caught with a stash.

“Fuck me,” I said quietly. “They’re preparing to rebel, aren’t they?”

“Who the Hells ever knows, with goblins?” the orc grunted. “Does look like it, though. We both know it’s been a long time coming.”

“And they won’t talk with anyone other than me?” I pressed.

“That’s what the envoy told me,” Juniper said.

Godsdamnit. I couldn’t afford to head to Callow right now, no matter how sweet the prize.

“I’ll give Thief full authority to negotiate in my name,” I said. “If that’s not enough, they’ll have to wait.”

The orc nodded.

“The second thing,” she said. “It’s the Warlock.”

“He’s in Callow?” I said, eyed widening.

“He was,” Juniper replied. “Long gone by now. He left a message for Hierophant.”

“And what would that be?” I flatly asked.

“To head to Thalassina immediately,” the orc said. “There’s a situation coming to head, and he wants his son there yesterday.”

The string of curses I let out at that was foul enough even the Hellhound winced.

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173 thoughts on “Chapter 48: Shadows

    1. stevenneiman

      I think that was deliberate, as a reminder that Cat isn’t necessarily the protagonist of Fate’s narrative. Heroes can extend a little more of their safety by associating with minor characters, but a villain can have their closest friends stolen from them in a manner that isn’t even narratively satisfying. It’s just one more reminder that this isn’t Shatranj, the game is rigged against the villains on every level even when they don’t deserve it.
      Also, it contributes to Cat’s frustration at her own limitations, which it turn might prompt her to expand her abilities. A couple of people she really cared about and a lot of people who would have been useful just died because she couldn’t be in two places at once, despite the fact that Winter can be in every place at once. She was already starting to move towards embracing her nature and the freedom from human limits it offers, and this will push it far beyond that level.

      Liked by 14 people

      1. Metrux

        This also comes with the question: would they have survived as Winter Court Titled? Should she extend this to her close or needed ones?

        Like

        1. Drd

          She could raise Rat Face, wait till he’s regained sentience, and then title him with winter.
          Would be kinda fitting that her first prince in the court of winter would be blue eyed and undead! 😀

          Liked by 3 people

    1. Dainpdf

      Unsure. He got killed offscreen (in diagetic terms, in the shadow of the movements with the Dead King. Plus Cat tried to kill Malicia already. I don’t know it has any real momentum.

      Liked by 9 people

  1. So much happened here.
    Poor Ratface, he was always one of my favorites.
    Small slight long reckoning
    For a large slight, though?
    Nauk practically died and Cat undid the Summer court
    Her group of friends remaining is getting smaller and smaller, Juniper is left, and that’s about all I can think of, for unNamed friends.
    Malicia will pay for this, one way or another.

    Liked by 10 people

        1. Nah,
          Chancellor is a Praesi Name.
          There might be a Name along the lines of Castellan, though that doesn’t really fit either.
          Not everybody is going to get a Name.
          Abigail doesn’t exactly have a Theme associated with her, or anything iconic.
          Getting a Name requires being strongly associated with something. Remember how Akua managed to associate herself with Devils and Demons to gain the Name Diabolist?

          Liked by 5 people

          1. Not necessarily. Quite a lot of Callow is probably quite unaware of the drop or three of Daoine they most likely have in their bloodline, after all these years of being neighbours.

            Cat’s case is just more obvious than most, because it’s pretty recent.

            Like

            1. Dainpdf

              I think it’s more about how one identifies (and is identified) culturally than just blood.
              I could see a story of some distant descendant of Daoine rising to the Name, but not in the Army of Callow, while there is a Duchess in place.

              Like

        1. Metrux

          While I disagree. Just think of all we have seen of some other unNamed characters: Juniper, Nauk, Robber, Killian… One-Eye. Some of them have even bigger Stories around them than Thief or even Hakram. But they never made Names, because your deads are not, in the end, what make you Named. It has been answered as far as the first book: it’s the will to change the world for yourself. And Abigail have no will to shape the world, she just want to survive and enjoy her life.

          Liked by 4 people

    1. Jane

      Her ex-girlfriend is still alive! And… Should probably remain off-screen for the remainder of the story, for her own good. Maybe a brief conversation between her and Cat’s next girlfriend, for a bit of closure.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Lark

      There’s still Aisha… and Robber, I suppose? Though that is stretching the definition of friendship.

      (Plus, goblins being goblins, there’s a nonzero chance Robber’s Named, though the POV chapters make that unlikely.)

      Liked by 6 people

      1. I dunno, it seems pretty likely considering. As has been discussed earlier Named come from strife and need, villains and heroes alike. An entire gender being oppressed sounds like fertile grounds for heroes and villains popping up. So how do you stop them affecting things and maintain the status quo? You send them out where they can’t affect you. Just like they did with Robber.

        Culturally speaking, sending the dissidents away instead of killing them is far safer than trying to continually kill every potential Named that opposes your regime. Also, it was mentioned that Named in the culture exist differently to the more openly identifiable Named of Humans and Orcs. I think it’s highly likely Robber has been bestowed but we will probably never see it outright, because that’s the whole point.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Antoninjohn

    So Malicia backstabbed Cat her only ally when the Dread Empire is surrounded by enemies, on fire and all their troops have left too Cat or Black, we all knew this was going to happen and as far as being backstabbed goes this is not so bad for Cat, it hurts Callow now but it’s​ not a knockout blow and the Callow outrage will fix the separatist movement after all a Callow backed into a corner is a united Callow

    Liked by 3 people

    1. BryceWilliam

      ‘backstabbed her only ally’

      lol, they both knew how this war was going to end between them. they were never allies, if Cat had found a chance to do this to Malicia she would have without a second thought.

      for fucks sake we just got thought an arc of chapters where Cat was trying to kill Malicia.

      Liked by 8 people

        1. Dainsleif

          True enough, backstabing a praesi is like teaching a preast to pray. Its futile and going to end on the other side extremely pissed of you even tried.

          Like

  3. Someguy

    >“She wouldn’t tell me everything,” Juniper replied. “Said she’d deal only with you. But I was given a taste, probably to bring you to the table. The Council of Matrons is offering to begin negotiations over the sale of goblin munitions to the Kingdom of Callow.”

    As tempting as that is, I’d leave that off the table and ask what they need to improve on a better grade of Goblin Steel. R&D is a bitch and wartime may not be the best time for it but strategic gains when planning raiding enemy resources should be put into consideration.

    >“To head to Thalassina immediately,” the orc said. “There’s a situation coming to head, and he wants his son there yesterday.”

    Ah. Warlock found that last Demon Standard didn’t he?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Jane

      On the other hand, though, goblin munitions are pretty core to Legion doctrine… If Cat didn’t have them, the vast majority of her battles wouldn’t have gone the way they did. They’re practically out already – they need another source, either by stealing or smuggling them from Praes, or finding goblins willing to deal with them. …Of course, the Matrons probably know how desperate Cat is as well, and will be making demands reflecting that. They won’t be asking for money, I can tell you that right now.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Jonnnney

      Purchasing the munitions is the secondary benefit. Having the goblin tribes make war upon the empire. Fuck the drow Cat needs to see if she can get the orc tribes to back her and the orcs and goblins can burn Ater to the ground.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Ouch. That’s a brutal blow.
    Malicia is basically forcing Cat to keep coming after her.
    On the other hand, Cat’s going to have a much freer hand to work with.

    And it seems Malicia is going to go full old school classic Evil. If the Goblin Matriarchs are turning on her, even quietly behind the scenes … it seems likely the Reforms will be further threatened and possibly completely broken.
    Wonder how the orcs feel about things. Though they’d probably side with Cat and Hakram – the first Named orc in centuries – over Malicia.

    Damned Pilgrim. Hopefully, we’ll find out more about his reactions soon. Perhaps the next time he crosses paths with Cat he’ll have realized that she’s not the real enemy.

    C’mon Cat, before going to the Drow, get in touch with Black. He needs to be warned about the Dead King. And at this point he might well turn on Malicia.

    The Warlock news is troubling. Can’t tell if he’s going to fully side with Malicia or mostly try to stay out of the coming civil war/ war for the Tower.

    Like

      1. werafdsaew

        Maybe not directly, but Black can obviously still direct his agents in Callow, so Cat can still talk to people who can talk to Black.

        Like

    1. muffin

      The matrons are not dumb. Cat is still the underdog.

      I think they will negotiate a new rebel tribe settlement on callow. ‘Unattached’ to the empire and their laws.

      The queen will need to scede terrain and reproduction quotas in exange of homemade munitions.

      Like

    2. Morgenstern

      I really wonder, if Malicia is actually setting Cat up as her replacement by choice. Trying to get Callow united behind a Villain, who will take over Praes as well = solving the whole “Praes is too hungry and NEEDS Callow” situation…

      Like

      1. Morgenstern

        I know, currently she does not *read* all that selfless – but we’re seeing her from the outside the whole time… and people have noted time and again that for someone presented as such a mastermind, there really SHOULD BE more to her. This one might actually work. While otherwise she’s just another FAILED “evil mastermind”, or rather – really is NO mastermind at all, just having relied on and supported Black as the real Emperor (and strategist). =/

        Like

        1. Whale

          I would argue the reason Alaya and Amadeus were so successful was because they covered for each other’s weaknesses. Alaya was good at plotting and Amadeus at warring, both average at administrative work. Now that they’ve split up mostly, Amadeus is back to doing what he does best – warring. Furthermore, he no longer feels the responsibility towards anyone that could chain him into doing things he isn’t good at.

          Alaya, on the other hand, is still shackled by that responsibility of ruling an empire. Not only that, she no longer has opponents for her plotting, she’s given up on administration and has to war against Good but she doesn’t know how. So she does the only thing she’s good at to win the war – some more plotting.

          The problem is, her opponents before were evil, some more evil than her thus by beating them she was an evil mastermind and didn’t have to consider the factor of the story. That was Amadeus’ job since he was the one fighting heroes.

          But now her opponents are Good so plotting against them sets you up as the Villain. I don’t think she changed in any way, but rather her opponents have changed.

          True, she did plot against Cordelia for 20 years who is Good. However, that part of the story was never known by the large majority and thus was never triggered.

          But now? An entire focus of the continent is on her because of the Crusade and any plotting that happens is gonna be blamed on her.
          Because the story is in motion and plotting gets you pegged as the Villain. And Alaya isn’t even aware of it because her only knowledgeable ally about the story has either abandoned her or stopped trying to warn her after the last time she didn’t listen to him in Liesse and consider the story.

          Arguably, Alaya is still as brilliant as she always was. However, she now finds herself without a trusty ally who covered for her weaknesses, out of her element as well as in a position where doing the only thing she’s ever been any good at bring you on step closer to the noose.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Malicia has had to handle heroes in the abstract, since she was heavily involved in international politics and they’re a factor there (distance isn’t the only reason Praes has such a weak spy network in the Dominion, for example) but you’re right that she’s rarely had to deal with direct opposition. Black’s function was in part to deal with those kind of threats.

            Like

        2. I don’t buy it from Malicia.
          From Black, sure. We know what he wants, and how he views things.
          Malicia has different wants, from what we can tell.

          The only reason Malicia became Dread Empress is because Black backed her over the Chancellor and had no desire to climb the Tower himself. She’d be long dead without him.
          Don’t get me wrong, Malicia’s good at what she does … but what she does isn’t the Pragmatic Evil that Black believes in. Malicia uses Traditional Praesi Highborn methods for her own ends.
          It’s also a distinct possibility that Malicia is suffering from trauma- induced mental illness from her days before becoming Dread Empress.

          Malicia is a Classic/ Traditional Evil type Villain who was supported and stabilized by Black. She no longer has Black fulfilling that role, and so she’s not acting like the Pragmatic Evil sort his influence helped enable her to act/ look like.

          Like

  5. Jane

    …Huh. I’d always thought that Ratface and Kendall were at high risk of dying (Ratface, because he’s had enough development to matter and is a long-term friend of Cat’s, but far enough in the background that his loss wouldn’t cause too much trouble for the story; Kendall because of course the succession couldn’t go as smoothly as Cat planned), but I’d never thought it would happen like this… It’s a lot more understated than I expected, only a step above happening offscreen. That still works for Kendall, though it’s a bit early, but it doesn’t really seem right for Ratface.

    Narrative aside, this is going to be pretty dire for Callow… They were already experiencing severe problems from lack of educated civil servants, and they’ve just lost a lot of them. I guess they can lean more on the old nobles, but I doubt they have enough people to make up for this, even setting aside their attitude – losing a third of their officials when their administration was already strained takes things to the point where I’d suggest trying to bribe civil servants from Praes into emigrating to Callow. Maybe there are literate people amongst the refugees?…

    Nice to see Abigail moving up in the world. I wonder how she feels about rising through the ranks to the point where she might actually talk to Cat, when all she really wants is a boring, stable life…

    Well, I guess we’re about to see the narrative consequences of breaking the truce pretty soon. This is why you avoid making oaths to Fae, first they say all you have to do is stay there, then you hear the Dead King is on the march…

    Ah, good, Warlock is still alive and not stuck in an eternal game of cat-and-mouse with the Witch. That’s going to be a nasty surprise for Procer later.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. RoflCat

      Probably this:

      “Fuck, I’m finding myself some young men and lots of drinks tonight”

      As you said, she just want a stable life, and of course by Heaven’s mandate how would that be allowed for such a perfect ‘joke character’ material to be neglected like that.

      Liked by 6 people

    2. Someguy

      IIRC Cat’s orphanage teaches it’s charges how to read and write right? Looks like it’s time to raid for manpower.

      >Well, I guess we’re about to see the narrative consequences of breaking the truce pretty soon. This is why you avoid making oaths to Fae, first they say all you have to do is stay there, then you hear the Dead King is on the march…

      None of them made oaths, only promises of good behaviour. But narratively and politically, Pilgrim just fucked himself; he left a hostage he vouched for alone in Villain custody and ran off to do something else. Mighty is the integrity and courage of “Heroes”. The only way things could be worse for him would be if Prince Amadis was a busty female virgin locked in a tower.

      Liked by 9 people

      1. ______

        Yeah, Cordelia might understand that decision, but there’s no way the oppositionary princes would. Even if Tariq told Amadis his reasoning for bailing, his allies (the same ones who ar pushing the “noble hostage” narrative) will deepen the cracks within the Grand Alliance, though they won’t come in contact with Levantine reinforcements for a long time if they’re to face the Dead King now.

        Like

      1. Jane

        Yeah, but it usually happens within a chapter focused either on the character being killed, or the main character reacting to said death. This happened pretty much as an afternote to a “By the way, all of your administrators have been killed” update, which reads a bit odd – though, Ratface has been out of focus for quite some time to begin with.

        Like

    3. Alivaril

      “`losing a third of their officials when their administration was already strained takes things to the point where I’d suggest trying to bribe civil servants from Praes into emigrating to Callow. Maybe there are literate people amongst the refugees?…“`

      “The problem with having a culture of traitors is that you get traitors.” BRIBING Praesi officials to come over would be a disaster on so many levels.

      Like

  6. BBBence1111

    Well, that’s a fine mess. At least we know Warlock’s alive I guess.

    Poor Ratface is probably the biggest loss here. How can Cat retaliate? Send Thief to steal Malicia’s everything?

    Like

  7. 1queenofblades1

    Lol congrats Malicia. You just unified Callow behind Cat. Those who didn’t back Catherine because she treated with the Tower will all be joining up in hordes as the Hellhound said. Royal Guards included. Between Procer invading from one side, the Dead King attacking the Principate, and Praes attacking from the other side? Fuck manpower, Cat’s biggest problem now is the steel to make armor and swords from. Come on Cat. Start melting down pots and pans and show Calernia exactly what total war is.

    Small slights, long prices. Large slights, we burn your fucking country to the ground.
    -Callowans probably

    Liked by 11 people

    1. Death Knight

      If the Callowans employed magical fortresses in this endeavour to fuck up Praes, would that backfire? I mean in the eyes of the Heavens their kicking the teeth out of Evil, but since Cat is Evil aligned (in the eyes of the winged dudes) it may be a story of Evil turns on Evil and how does those go again for magical flying fortresses?

      Like

  8. superkeaton

    Rip Ratface, but it makes sense. Butcher the bureaucracy and it won’t matter for shit how good Cat can swing a sword. I wonder how Aisha’s fairing with the news? The boy probably didn’t have time to even make her his last thoughts by the time the knife kissed him.
    At least we’ll get more of our favorite grunt, Abigail.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. That Bill Guy

    Malicia still has to contend with the vipers nest of domestic politics. By demonstrably disabling a potential contender for the throne, she’s keeping the locals at bay.

    Cat could go win hearts and minds amongst the refugees, and that’d send them scrambling back home.

    Neither Malicia nor the Wandering Bard are going to give her the space that Juniper needs to get all the recruits up to par. Another decimation is pending.

    The layers of scheming are amazing in this story. Love it.

    Like

    1. The got the legate
      Change The to They

      very winesink in the city do the same
      Change do to did

      and displeasure as the fact
      Change as to at

      That would have been pleasant note
      Add “a” after “been”

      the worst of the Regals they matron-attendants that rule the Snake Eater Tribe had interrogated
      Change “they” to “the” and also change “rule” to “ruled”

      Like

  10. Jonnnney

    Catherine just tried to climb the damn tower in Keter what the fuck was she expecting as a response? Hoping these deaths pushes her to creating a few positions in her winter court.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. 1queenofblades1

      This isn’t a response to Keter. It happened while she was still travelling there/while already there. Far too less time for Malicia to pull this off. No, this was part of Malicia’s plan from the beginning when she started bleeding Cat against Procer. She set it in motion long before Cat went murderhappy in Keter.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. oldschoolvillain

      Hmm . . . Last mentioned the fact that Cat could only lose so many friends before she began giving out Mantles – would it be possible to Rez Ratface with one? Count of Golden Wastes anyone?

      Like

      1. No, I’d think that someone would have needed to be granted a Winter Title before their death in order to exploit the reset potential of Winter.
        So, Cat could (presumably) grant Winter Titles to Juniper, Aisha, Robber, Kilian, etc., since they’re alive, but not Ratface or Kendal, since they’re dead and their souls would have passed on out of reach long before anything could be done about their deaths.
        Don’t think Cat will grant Winter Titles at this point.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Jane

      My reaction was kind of the other way around, actually… I like Ratface well enough, but it was nice to see someone surrendering to and working with a Villain actually working out for once. Kendall never really got much character development, but I enjoyed seeing someone from the Rebellion (other than Thief) accomplishing their goals by doing the sensible thing, instead of pointlessly throwing away their lives by fighting to the last. I mean, how many other people have actually taken Cat up on her offer to work together?

      I mean, she was pretty much always doomed by virtue of the fact that something was practically guaranteed to happen to Cat’s chosen successor, but it was nice while it lasted.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. samshadar

        If she wants to set the world on fire, she’ll need to clone Robber a couple hundred times.
        That would increase the numbers of the “Lesser-lesser Footrest Tribe” while maintaining him as the only member…

        Liked by 4 people

    1. Novice

      Probably, he’s too important of a figure as the commander of the Broken Bells to not mention his death. Besides, the army appeared to be relatively intact where Talbot would presumably be in times of war.

      Liked by 1 person

          1. RanVor

            The Black Knight.

            But really, he’s called the Grandmaster because that’s his title. He is literally the grandmaster of the knightly order and there is nothing Evil in that. Every knightly order has a grandmaster, not just the Evil ones.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. grzecho2222

              What is Evil in Chancellor, Scribe, Adjutant and Captain? Commandor of the Watch is both Name and title. Thief can be both Hero and Villain. Talbot is Callowan and he is the only Grandmaster now. Now that Callow secluded from Praes we should see it spawning its own Names and both Knights are taken and he is more leader than frontline champion. Also Zawisza of Grabowo was known as The Black Knight irl and he was The Paragon of his generation.

              Like

              1. RanVor

                If you hoped to take me by surprise, I must disappoint you – I’m Polish and Zawisza the Black is well known to me. Anyway, Talbot is simply not important enough to have a Name, whether it be the Grandmaster or anything else. His title is just that – a title.

                Liked by 2 people

                1. grzecho2222

                  Ach zatem pozdrawiam, but what I ment was that Names seem to often grow from titles and he is also quite possibly the third most important Callowan left (after Thief and Cat), he also doesn’t lack in, let’s say being ballsy, which seems to be the most important part of being Named

                  Like

                  1. RanVor

                    Wzajemnie. I understand, but he has neither a story of his own nor enough screentime in Cat’s story to develop a Name. The title alone is too weak a foundation, unless it has a long history of it’s holders being Named. If being called by one’s title was enough, Cat would have a new Name in no time.

                    Like

      1. He reads them sometime after the chapter is out, he said so himself.

        Also, remember those glorious days when EE answered comment section regularly? Also those days when he wrote one chapter per week? No thanks.

        Like

  11. Dainpdf

    Can’t help but admire Malicia. She buried the assassinations under so much other plotting and maneuvering that no coherent story can really emerge from them.
    Any of these movements alone could have been a thread for Cat to grasp. All at once, in the shadow of the events in the Kingdom of the Dead? Nothing.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Julius Holme

    On a completely unrelated note, I just went through another reread and noticed something mildly interesting.
    Had anyone else seen how Masego’s aspects have pretty much evolved?

    It went from Glimpse and Deconstruct to Witness and Ruin
    Glimpse -> Witness. You go from mere glimpses to witnessing it in its fullest.

    Deconstruct -> Ruin. A bit more loose, but hear me out. First you deconstruct something so you know how it works, and then you can ruin it.

    Just an interesting little though I had

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Julius Holme

        Wow I did not expect you to notice this, I’m literally jumping with joy, but nice to get that kind of affirmation from you that I’m not completely off the mark here.

        Does make me wonder what Masego’s third aspect was since it could have given us a bit of a hint on the last one.

        Also if it would help us if Cat ever got another name or if she’s simply changed that much as a character

        Like

        1. Namewise Catherine is in an odd situation. Circumstance has burned the bridge for the two easy transitions in front of her (Black Knight and Black Queen) and Winter’s cannibalized most of her Name at this point. It’s still possible for her to transition into something else, but since there’s little precedent for villainous Callowan Names (that she’s fit for, anyway) she’d have to head into unknown waters to have a decent chance to change Name.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Julius Holme

            Interesting. Have been wondering about that for a while and I guess I now know my answers

            Thank you very much for that erraticerrata

            Like

          2. JN

            I thought I remembered that Squire could transition into either Black or White Knight and that Black Queen was not an actual Name, making it one of the only ‘neutral’ names in the list. Given this, I’ve also thought that her transition into a Fae power also left her neutral as far as the poles of Good and Evil are concerned. Adjutant is a supporting name by nature; Thief has been both Hero and Villain in the story. I’m not sure whether Archer is a firmly designated name either. Masego’s personality is mostly amoral except for his loyalty to those he names family, and I thought his Name was new-ish. Cat’s main motivation is “Defend Callow. In short, The Woe seem to be lumped in with the Villains because the Black Knight chose Cat, Masego is Warlock’s son, and “Good” insists on treating them as such. She’s in the unique position of being able to choose sides.

            Unless I’m remembering wrong and Black Queen was the other transition all along of course. 😛

            Like

  13. werafdsaew

    “To head to Thalassina immediately,” the orc said. “There’s a situation coming to head, and he wants his son there yesterday.”

    It’s a trap!!! We know from Warlock’s interlude that he preferred Malicia over Black to be the Tyrant, was expecting to kill Catherine over Black’s objections, and wanted Masego to leave the Woe.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Novice

    “The highest-ranking officer in the city was a Senior Tribune by the name of Abigail. At a guess, they missed her because she was on leave. ”

    I actually don’t know if it would be considered lucky or unlucky for her if our girl Abigail got herself a Name. Regardless, congratulations to Abigail, HERO OF THE KINGDOM, for the well-earned promotion.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. Novice

      If I have any artistic talent at all, I’d be making fanart of propaganda posters for Commissar Abigail right about now. I wonder if there are any in PGtE’s fandom… *wink* *wink *nudge* *nudge*

      Liked by 7 people

      1. I can just imagine the scene. Catherine announces her choice of successor in front of her assembled forces, and Abigail starts furiously pinching herself, muttering “Wake up, dammit” as everyone turns to look at her…l

        Liked by 1 person

  15. Nafram

    Oh Malicia, you just went and made it personal. Callow may be completely devastated when this is over and it’s people starving, but now you’ve practically ensured that Cat will do as the song says, and climb the tower. And she’s going to have one hell of an army, with the Army of Callow incorporating the absolute best that the Legions of Terror and the Knights of Callow had to offer, refined by Juniper, bolstered by Winter and the Drow, tempered by war on all fronts and led by a Goddess in the making.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Forget Cat. Malicia just gave Callow several reasons to hate her very specific marrow, rather than just holding a seething hatred for Praesi rule in general.

      It’s one thing to be the Empress they hate because Praesi. It’s quite another to be the woman they’d give their eyeteeth to watch burn in green fire as they help light the fuse.

      Like

  16. “The key to the Empire maintaining control over the lands it conquered isn’t fear, my dear, it’s apathy. As long as the common people can go about their business and live their lives mostly untroubled, what do they care who their taxes go to? The Governor is making people care about who rules them again, and that is a very dangerous thing.”

    While I do understand the need of knifing Cat’s burocracy, the results arguably not worth it. Malicia mentioned splintering Callow before, now she’s uniting them?

    Liked by 6 people

    1. To clarify, it would be just as effective (if not more) to knife a low-rank burocracy. More crippling, not nearly as public, less chance of screw up given that they are not as protected.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Jonnnney

      The goal is to keep callow from being in a position to overthrow the Praesi. When the opposition to that goal was the nation of callow apathy was the preferred tool, now Catherine is the opposition so the approach is tailored to keep Catherine off balance.

      Like

  17. edrey

    cat can move through the scrying pools like the hunt, right? why not travel like that?

    well, malicia already said that warlock could help in taking out masego. a little obvious here but is masego that have the last word,

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Jonnnney

      To use the narrative weight of The Wild Hunt she would have to have something substantial to hunt at each destination. Plus such a narrative could be manipulated by providing more worthy enemies elsewhere.

      Like

  18. IDKWhoitis

    Anyone else think the Orcs and Orges are suspiciously quiet in this time of turmoil? Like they hate the Tower, and last we heard Malica was reinforcing old anti-orc decrees. Cat has enough good will with enough famous orcs that they could be a potential ally. And they are on the northern end of the Continent too, so some Golden Bloom/Arcadian schemes could get her there.

    Also, I feel like this report maybe full of shit. It has believable aspects, but almost too much planning and “news” good and bad on a unsecure scrying link within the interception range of an ally of Malica. The Drow have been previously established to not be a reliable source of manpower.

    Also Warlocks message is likely very much a code. As we know the man doesn’t give a toss about Praes, and was last seen in very different regions. Lastly, he has portals to Major Cities, why didn’t he just go to a different city?

    Lastly, Grey maybe heading straight for Cat. Angel’s may not know Cat failed, since I wouldn’t put it past the Dead King to have ways of blocking Heavens eyes. If Cat has both Saint and Grey near her, I bet she can turn them away (to go to Procer) or motivate them to help her. The DK is too much of a priority for Grey. And Saint may lured in via encouraging from Grey.

    Like

  19. burdi

    we all know that black head to iserre, sure the first prince will fight to protect it but it had no men to fight as right now, and The Dead King is about to invade procer
    fighting The Dead King will be top priority for everyone and heroes and fuck with milenan….even the pilgrim already abandon him..so he will be like the prince with no principality, or the poor prince, very poor prince
    and since he is a fucker and politician..i think its in high probability for him to join callow, even if he greedy bastard he is smart to be the first prince most strongest opponent in procer

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ______

      I kind of hoped Cat would capture Spellblade like she did with Thief of Stars, either to throw at her enemies or to ask Grey Pilgrim to resurrect him and use the prince as a bargaining chip to negotiate with his father. Come on, there should be a way to make Bard stopping the Emerald Swords from killing Akua backfire!

      Like

    2. Jonnnney

      The Titanomancy is also largely uncommitted. They are more involved with the world than the elves having trained two of the five main heroes, but they are unwilling to fight alongside Procer.

      Like

  20. Matthew

    I feel bad. Malicia has gone against Black in how to make Praes survive.

    I don’t want the story of plucky Callow that finds itself in the mud and then triumphs over all odds. That’s the standard story. That’s Callow’s story vis a vis Praes which has happened 10 times.

    That Malicia started that story up again after the conquest is proof that she hasn’t absorbed Black’s lessons or philosophy. That Warlock and Assassin are letting her do that is upsetting.

    I wanted to root for the reformed evil of Praes not the cliche Antihero of Callow.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. muffin

      Praes can’t survive without it’s granary.

      Black’s plan is not yet completely lost if certain orphan climbs a tower.

      Damn back, what’s he thinking about?

      Like

  21. Nethermore

    Ironically, on the face of it “Fires” seems like a more appropriate chapter title, with how the chapter basically consists of their enumeration :D.

    Like

  22. Gunslinger

    Rip Ratface, know that Cat will mince your father in your honor.

    I’m surprised Malicia’s retaliation was assassination rather than economic. Which sucks cause Callow was already short on civil servants.

    If Malicia wants to blow it all away though I wonder why she didn’t just send Assassin after Juniper. Cat would be fucked then.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Assassin answers to Black, not Malicia. Juniper is the daughter of Istrid Knightsbane – a friend of Black, hero to the Clans, and quite possibly friend of Assassin’s.

      Also, killing Juniper so blatantly would likely poison the well with the Clans and Legions.
      Sure, I suspect Malicia’s the one who orchestrated Istrid’s assassination, but there wasn’t anything tying it to her.

      Malicia has gone back to the old school classic Evil, rather than the Pragmatic Evil that saw her to the throne.
      Also, she’s shit at story-fu.

      Liked by 5 people

    2. Jonnnney

      We’ve not seen official confirmation, but I believe Assassin is dead. He died in place of Black in the 2nd battle for Liesse and there had been no evidence of him being utilized by either Empress or Knight since then. Black certainly would have used him to weaken the army sieging the Vales and Malicia would have used him here.

      Like

  23. Foxfire710

    I can’t tell the exact times but I think Malicia only pulled the trigger on the assassins for when Cat was trying to kill her. Because even in the real world their is an unspoken agreement not to assasinate other countries leaders so I wouldn’t put it past Malicia to use the fact that cat tried to kill her to make it open season on all of callows leadership.

    Like

    1. Except, this kind of assassination will have been in the pipeline for a while before Cat even realised she’d want to kill Malicia.

      Heck, Malicia created the situation in which Cat would go after her, partly so she’d have an excuse to pull this mass-assassination off in the first place. So, exactly who backstabbed whom… when?

      Malicia is so terrified that Cat will someday want to be Empress and will therefore undermine her rule and personal safety that she’s striking first, therefore practically making it a certainty that Cat will have to try kill her in defence… and maybe making sure that Cat accidentally becomes Empress in the process (when she’s been resisting the song all this time). It’s a classic self-fulfilling prophecy fuelled by paranoia. 😛

      Liked by 4 people

      1. No, preparation for this kind of eventuallity may have been under for a while, but then again, the very target’s of assasination appeared only after Cat had all but mugged the crown of Callow, and not preparing for a possibility of her rebelling would be stupid. Like really, really stupid. And fear does not get into the equasion.

        And did Malicia create situation in which Cat would have to kill her by following her plan on avoiding the war and not getting Black killed or by including a step “deal with Dead King, then after he summons Cat, fight with her for his alliance”? Or what, when she became Dread Empress?

        I doubt she would’ve antagonized Cat while HALF HER ARMIES ARE ABROAD and the CRUSADERS ARE A’COMMING. Unless shown that Rubicon has been crossed by Cat. I mean come on, she woulnd’ve tried to kill Malicia without understanding that she’ll get a little bit miffed at that. Honestly.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. RanVor

          Except this is way too measured and well-executed to be a simple revenge plot and requires too great a resource investment to be kept as a “just in case” measure. It must have been ready for months before Cat even got the invitation to Keter. Either Malicia was deliberately waiting for an excuse, or the timing is coincidental.

          Unless Cat’s security is shit.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Jonnnney

            One it’s retaliation not revenge. Two, spies and assassins are roughly the same gig and Malicia would be spying of on Catherine even if they were on the same side.

            Like

        2. muffin

          Empress enabled all Alia’s plans including Liesse
          Empress used Liesse to bleed both, the legions and cat troops.
          Empress triggered the crusade
          Empress used the crusade to keep bleeding the legions and callow.
          Empress offered callow borders to the Dead King.

          I really can’t understand what’s Malicia’s endgame.

          Like

  24. burdi

    and cat will fail to secure alliance with the drow

    so finally the winter get to play

    desperate situation will force catherine once again make desperate measure
    she will starting to give mantle of winter and in the end what left is the devil they all fear

    Like

  25. MagnaMalusLupus

    I know that speaking from a narrative perspective Cat can’t really get any more Named on her side, but with Abigail having risen by drunken providence 3 times now I’m officially calling it:

    The Lucky Drunk is coming to Callow, and across the multiverse Cayden Cailean is laughing.

    Like

    1. Jane

      Eh, Luck seems pretty much the exclusive providence of names granted by the Gods Above, doesn’t it? I can’t really think of any lucky Villains… Villain Tricksters who claim their schemes were “just luck”, sometimes, but never actual luck. Villains tend to be more self-made than that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Moginheden

        And why does she have to be a villain? She is from Callow, and Callow’s names are heroic. Cat has been trying to get Heroes on her side ever since she became queen, and has succeeded in getting some neutral Names.

        Frankly with all the evil stuff happening to Callow, (not all of it from Evil sources.) A hero rising to face it, (instead of facing off against Cat) might make sense.

        Like

        1. Jane

          I don’t think the Gods Above would be okay with one of their Heroes serving under a Villain, outside of certain brief circumstances. The only one example we’ve seen, Thief, is formally considered a Villain after she agreed to such an arrangement, despite little changing with regards to her morals or ambitions. I do not think it likely the Gods Above would empower Abigail unless she agreed to fight against Cat.

          Incidentally, while Callow has a fertile history of Heroic names to draw from, I have little doubt that there are Villainous names as well – every culture, even the best, has its share of monsters as well as its heroes. They might not celebrate them the way Praes does, and they may not be terribly relevant to the plot, but they presumably exist.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Moginheden

            Thief is being called a Villain now, and a Hero before… but those are what mortals with political agendas are calling them. Did the gods above stop powering her and the gods below decide to do so when she started following Cat? I see this more as some people getting narrative weight on their own, and earning a Name that way.

            If they are open to it, (as historically they have been, since the church says above is Good and below is Evil) then the gods will influence them to carry out their goals. I’m not sure the Names are actually granted by the gods. Just that the gods pay attention to those with them.

            The church sort of shot itself in the foot with it’s proclamation that caused the Callownian branch to split off. This paves the way for a follower of the church in Callow to be a hero working for Cat.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. RanVor

              According to the excerpt from the Book of All Things constituting the opening lines of a Practical Guide to Evil, the Names come from the Roles, which are, as the name suggests, roles in the story. In other words, the Names come from the narrative and signify the person’s position in it. The Gods have very little to do with the process. However, seeing as being a Hero is defined as serving the Gods Above, and the Gods Above want Cat very much dead, any Hero joining the Black Queen would defy the will of Heavens and automatically become a Villain. This is, in fact, exactly what happened to Thief. The Gods Above didn’t take away her powers because they didn’t give them to her in the first place – the Names are literally powered by the plot. However, by joining Catherine, she declared herself the enemy of the Heavens, which is synonymous with being Evil.

              In this light, the fact that Cordelia doesn’t have a Name seems strangely significant…

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Moginheden

                According to the church of Procer, Levant, and Ashur, The Gods Above want Cat dead.

                According to the church in Callow, Cat’s just fine. A Hero could rise to fight the growing threat from Praes and to fight for the cause of the commoners in Callow that have been screwed repeatedly in the last 2 years. (Abigail would fit this quite well I think, but she might be tied too much into the military. A Hero in Callow might need to start without ties to Cat, but could still work with her.)

                Liked by 1 person

      2. Luck does tend to favour the heroes, but not exclusively. As was pointed out by a commenter on another site, Black did end up meeting the man who’d end up one of the greatest mages on the continent and a very vulnerable Cursed when he was early on his journey as the Squire. Both sides get to have those fortunate coincidences, the major difference is that a villain will get punished for counting on them while a savvy hero will find providence is reliable enough to be weaponized.

        Liked by 1 person

  26. Burnsy

    All hail the coming of Dread Empress Reluctant, First of her Name.

    I hope Abigails POV for this comes up in a bonus chapter soon, always love more of that girl.

    Shame about Ratface and Kendall though. Malicia really knows how to twist the knife in.

    Liked by 4 people

  27. Someone has been reading Game of Thrones……..i hope Ratface demise is more than meets the eye, like he was onto something important that will be discovered later, that way he gets to have 1 last laugh from the tomb!!

    Like

  28. “He’d been a friend, one of the few I had left. I inhaled, place the tempest of grief and wrath in a box and set it aside. I opened my eyes, calmed.”

    In the box. Huh. This is too much like Black.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. spencer

    Thalassina is deep in Praes right? It seems like such a summons should come with some sort of truce for Hierophant, considering they’re basically at war.

    Like

    1. oldschoolvillain

      The truce is hierophant being Warlock’s and Tikoloshe’s adopted son, and no one is stupid or crazy enough to call that wrath down upon themselves. They’d end up on Warlock’s dissection table if they were lucky.

      Like

  30. Azure

    These last couple of chapters have been real downers. We went from the awesome hilarious shenanigans of Catherine and the Woe creating havoc as they tried to fool the Skein and get to Maliccia. And then we find out that Catherine was really just paddling in the kiddies pool with inflatable wings on while Maliccia and the DK watched on smirking.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Letouriste

    Caught off guard for ratface T_T I really wanted to see what he could become, he stayed the same until the end…well supposing cat don’t recruit him from some hell later on

    Like

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