Chapter 65: Impact

“‘lo and behold, I have brought peace to the Empire.”
– Dread Empress Massacre, after ordering the Burning of Okoro

Three things happened in swift succession.

The first was that I formed a handhold of ice to hoist myself up. I wasn’t sure what would happen if I stayed standing in the middle of a blanket of Night, but it was unlikely to be pleasant. The second was that, even as my fingers closed around the handhold, it began vibrating and exploded with a scream. The third thing, unfortunately, was that I fell back into that same blanket of Night spread over the roof. Feet first, which turned out to be a stroke of luck. The moment they made contact with the Night they… dissolved, like they’d been dropped in acid. I dimmed my mind, turning into mist, and slithered away towards the edge of the roof. It was difficult to think, in that state, and my situational awareness was shit – as was made clear by the fact that I neither saw nor heard coming the spear of Night that caught me in the side. Or as close to a side as I could have, while made of mist. The second unpleasant surprise of the day – night? – unfolded as the spear forced me back into solid form where it struck and sent my human-like silhouette to go tumbling over the side. Into a pack of dzulu, though that didn’t prove to be much of a problem.

Night spread over the street with a soft whisper and they dissolved screaming even as I fell.

I formed a spike of ice jutting out of a house’s sidewall and landed on it for exactly a heartbeat before it broke with a scream, but it’d been enough to allow me to situate myself. A pair of translucent blue wings ripped out of my back and I flew upwards, finally getting a look at the drow that’d ambushed me. There were three, all holding so much Night within their thin frames they darkened their surroundings just by being there: the air around them looked like near-invisible wisps of smoke was spreading through it. The two on the sides looked like they could have been twins, their deep grey skin and whip-like faces identical save for the crescent scars they had on opposite cheeks. Their eyes were pure silver, save for the black pupils. Long curved blades in hand, they watched me rise with identical bored expressions. If those two were strong, holding enough Night to fill a pond, then the drow between them was a lake. Taller than either of them, its faces was covered with thick burned flesh in a horrid mask that denied even the appearance of lips. There was no trace of anything but silver in its eyes, the pupils merely a darker shade of it.

“Urulan?” I called out.

“Cattle,” it mildly replied in Crepuscular.

Well, that took care of the introductions. I’d go out on a limb and say the flankers were rylleh, because with that much power they could hardly be anything else. Mighty Urulan wielded a long staff of glass, and without bothered with any more banter pointed it at me. Droplets of Night formed around me in a ring-like pattern, rippling with power, and I definitely wasn’t sticking around to find out what that did. I’d already noticed that the flesh dissolved by the earlier blanket had taken longer than usual to reform after I’d returned to physical form, and that’d been the opening volley. It could be it’d opened with its strongest trick, true. But when had I ever been that lucky? The wings folded against my back and I dropped like a stone, which didn’t help nearly as much as I’d wished. The Night droplets rippled, and every single one of them lanced out with a beam of the same stuff downwards. The firing angle had been well-judged: I’d be falling right into the thickest knot of beams if I didn’t act. My wings spread again, but I held back a curse when they both began vibrating and broke a heartbeat later. Neither the rylleh had moved, but their silver eyes shone brighter. Time to improvise, then. Mist-form wasn’t getting me out of this, so the time for delicate works was over.

I formed a large cube of ice under me, feeling Winter’s influence begin to creep and promptly shunting it off, and even as the beams of Night tore into the frost I parted it around my falling form to go straight through. A whisper came to my ears, the sound of another Night blanket forming below me, and the cube began to vibrate. Distraction first, I thought. I ripped out a chunk of ice from the bottom of the cube with an exertion will, transmuted it into mist and sent it slithering to the left. The ice ceased vibrating a pair of Night spears shot out, and there was my opening. I fell under the itself-falling cube as the beams of Night shot through it, muscles tightening as I caught it with a grunt and tossed the entire thing at the drow. I couldn’t spare the time to look if I’d made impact, instead forming wings again and plunging into a somewhat-controlled descent that had me landing in front of the three drow. And, most importantly, away from the Night blanket. They’d already shown me it did not discriminate in its effect, they shouldn’t be able to use it when I closed distance.

By the time my bare feet hit the ground – my boots were sadly gone for the foreseeable future, again – all that was left of the ice I’d thrown was a rain of mist and shards. I’d not even seen how they’d gotten rid of it. With me in the open, the earlier distraction had come to an end: all three drow had their eyes on me. The rylleh first, I thought. Urulan would be less dangerous without the backup. I darted towards the left one, body centre low, and made it three feet forward before they unleashed their arsenal. Darkness fell like a curtain, robbing me of my sight, but my ears still worked just fine. It was the only reason I heard the low whistling sound of Night on the move, dropping to the floor and feeling something scythe just above my body. I rolled forward just in time to avoid the spike of Night that came down in the other working’s wake, letting out a sharp breath. If they’d timed that just a little better, I would have taken it right in the spine. Another step saw me coming out of the curtain of darkness, which was no comfort as I saw my foes for only a heartbeat before a whisper sounded and a globe of Night began forming around me.

If that was the acid trick again…

I realized, dimly, that if this went through entirely I might actually die. I’d treated the Everdark like a training exercise, sometimes almost a game, but I’d been swimming in the shallows of this sea. There were monsters in the deeps that would make these look like imps. I close my eyes and let Winter loose. Frost formed all over my body, rapidly thickening and then shooting out. They had a globe of Night, I had a globe of ice. In a pissing contest of raw power, I’d bet on me every time. The Night ate into the ice but I kept pouring out Winter, its delighted laughter sounding softly in my ears. At first it devoured quicker than I made, but I dug in my heels and truly let loose. It became even, and I felt my blood turn cold as I dug even deeper. Like skin bursting for being filled too much, the globe of Night came apart under the pressure of the ice and I launched out through the opening I’d made. For a moment I hung in the air, seeing two curved swords rising to point at me and Urulan itself leisurely leaning on its staff. I shaped an ice javelin and threw it at the sigil-holder, just quick enough to loose it before shackles of Night formed around my wrists and ankles. I turned to mist, or at least tried to. The Night shackles thickened and nothing happened. Urulan gently tapped its staff against the ground and the javelin shattered into mist, the rylleh moving as it did.

Their stances were perfect, muscles coiling as they simultaneously thrust their blades into my sides. They went through the plate, bit into flesh, and then I felt my organs began to vibrate. I grit my teeth and hardened my insides, but that actually made it worse: it was like a sharper full of metal scraps went off in there. Everything was shredded, and chunks of my ribs and flesh splattered the floor as they withdrew their swords. Urulan pointed its staff at me, and tissue already knitting itself back together stopped. Stupid, I thought. Stupid, stupid. I’d already known there were drow who could heal themselves like I did, but I’d never entered my mind that the Mighty could have tricks that would inhibit my own ability. They just needed to keep taking me apart, and sooner or later they’d get me into a state I wouldn’t walk away from.

Then an arrow went through my left wrist, breaking the shackle holding it on the way, and I promised myself I was going to kiss Indrani next time I saw her.

“My turn,” I growled.

My mangled wrist flicked, forming a blade of ice, and I carved through my other shackled wrist before offering my ankles the same courtesy. The rylleh wreathed their blades with Night and stabbed into my open torso, pinning me down with what felt like a similar trick, but they really should have gone for the arms. I caught the flat of one sword and ice crept up it, shattering three fingers before the rylleh dropped it and retreated. There was a whisper and another globe of Night began forming around me, which given my current lack of feet was something of an issue. So I took care of it, forming feet out of ice and throwing myself out of the jaws of death. The second rylleh was not so lucky, and died screaming as it dissolved inside. I picked its blade out of my ribs, dropping it down, and finally my torso began putting itself back together. I stomped down and mist billowed out, covering all three of us, though not before I noticed the rylleh who’d lost fingers had already regrown them. Still, I’d learned another weakness to the Night-acid trick. When it began forming, it could not be stopped. Urulan would not have lost one of its lieutenants otherwise.

I shed off the last of my ice-forged feet and padded softly on the stone, feeling the drow through their warmth where my eyes found no purchase. The sigil-holder had only barely moved – it’d retreated a bit, nothing more – but the rylleh was circling around me. Could they sense Winter, as I could sense the Night? The powers were not so different. No, I decided. They would already have struck otherwise. Their senses might be sharper than those of other drow, though, so I’d have to be careful. I’d begin with Urulan’s last helper. I crept forward quietly, circling it as it believed it was circling me, and only struck when facing its back. I could use mist, I had learned, if it was of my own making. It was just another facet of my mantle. And so I condensed it into ice over the rylleh’s body, spooking it enough it dropped down into a puddle of shadow – and that was when I struck. A spear of ice forced it back into drow-form, and by then I was upon it.  That transient moment where it stopped being shadow and started being a drow again? They were nearly blind during that, having to reorient all their senses. I didn’t give it the time: my blade went through its throat, severed the spine, and I ripped off the head afterwards just to make sure it wouldn’t heal. Amusingly enough, it did. Both separate parts closed up with fresh skin, though it remained quite dead.

Urulan spoke a single word in Crepuscular, and just like that I was back in the deep end.

I’d wondered why it was being so prudent, after being so aggressive since the start. Because it was preparing a major working, as it turned out. The mist had robbed my enemies of their sight, but it had also given the drow materials to work with – something I only realized was a very bad idea when my own mist began burning at my flesh. It’d turned the whole fucking thing into acid, hadn’t it? My eyes were the first thing to go, but I could feel the mist eating at me all over. Worst, I couldn’t just reform my way through it: the Night slowed that down, and the acid was eating at me quicker than I healed. This was worse than fighting Praesi mages, I thought. Those might be able to make wards, but they weren’t nearly this quick or vicious. Considering Urulan had likely been at this for centuries it only made sense, but that absent-minded consideration did nothing to help me out of my current predicament. Hardening my flesh, which was difficult when not contained to smaller body parts, did little to stop the problem. Slowed it some, but not enough to turn the tide. Gritting my teeth, I turned into mist myself but was forced back into human-form not even a heartbeat later. With fresh acid burns all over to show for it.

Fuck. Right, if I couldn’t flee it then I had to move it. I’d lost all of my plate by now, which was infuriating but not as much as the fact that most my face muscles were bare and falling apart. I was melting like snow in summer sun. I formed of ice a large windmill and set it to spinning, which drew back the mist closest to me and bought me a moment until Urulan clapped down its staff and broke it without a word. Still, thinned was good enough for what I’d intended. Wings ripped out of my back for the third time today and I rose out of the mist. The problem, now, was that I was literally flying blind with someone waiting to take a shot at me. I couldn’t just keep rising, that’d be painting a target on my back, so I zig-zagged erratically as my face slowly grew back. Even if I got hit, I thought, by the time I got back on my feet I’d be ready to fight again. Unfortunately, Urulan agreed. The sound of mist billowing forward came to my ears, and I realized it was pursuing me with the cloud. All right, desperate measures then. I flipped directions and went crashing straight towards the ground, hoping to… ah, there it was, a rooftop. My blood and flesh made a mess on the tiles, but I punched my way through and landed in a sprawl below.

Screams, people running away. Nisi? They hadn’t tried to fight anyway. I wildly sprayed ice where I’d crashed through and crouched close to the floor. I just needed to wait this out, I thought, though every passing moment where the mist hadn’t caught up was ratcheting up the tension in my frame. My eyes finally formed again, and I let out a relieved sigh. I’d made it. Through the ice-patched hole in the roof I could see the acid mist was surrounding the building, which was my first warning sign. Urulan wouldn’t have bothered unless it intended to flush me out. Night flared above me, a beacon to my eldritch senses, and I cursed under my breath. It wasn’t just going to flush me out, it was going to shattered the damned thing and drown me in acid again. I wouldn’t be able to dodge that. I had to convince it to strike elsewhere instead. I wove glamour, two separate workings. I sent an image of myself through the ice, wreathed in a blue halo that would serve as cheap explanation why she wasn’t melting. Too cheap, too obvious. A look to the side revealed there was an open door to my left, with five corpses where the nisi had tried to flee and been caught by the mist instead. Through there I sent another illusion of me, this one discreet and melding with the shadows. Almost invisible. She ran for the other on the other side of the street.

It evaporated a moment after she entered in a burst of Night that shook the entire Crossroads and collapsed the wall of the house I was really in.

The glamour had been dispersed by the hit, and I dispersed the one above as well. Crouching low behind loose stones, I wove one last glamour: my own skeleton, slowly growing back its flesh. Spikes of Night fell down around it in a circle and there was a swell of power. Biting my lip, I slowed the regeneration to a crawl in the glamour. I wasn’t sure if that had been what the trick was intended for, but I’d have to guess. Urulan approached slowly, its glass staff pointed at my fake body and quietly I formed a sword. I waited until it was standing over my illusion, staff raised, before I attacked. Had it been its senses or a discrepancy in effect that tipped it off? I might never know, but when I was a mere ten feet away the sigil-holder turned and cast a silvery gaze towards me. We were done with the posturing, and so I struck. Step forward, feint low to the left and then a spin – its staff my sword and I smiled. It went away quickly, when the staff did not break and its arm did not lower. I was, I could feel, slightly stronger. But not enough to hammer it back, and then the staff rippled. My sword blew up, shredding a few fingers with it, and the tip of the staff hit me in the stomach.

I rocked back and it struck upwards smoothly, breaking my chin before whipping back down and going for a thrust into my throat. I spun on myself, feeling the staff pass a hair’s breadth from my neck, and formed another blade to swing at its extended shoulder. It spun with me, as if the two of us were dancing, and fluidly stepped away when my strike at reached the apex of its arc. The tip of the staff lightly touched the sword, and just like that it fucking blew up again. The fingers I’d just bloody grew back were shredded again, to my mounting irritation. I made a third blade along with what was clearly more than my third set of fingers of the fight. Irksome as this was, it was likely better than what would happen if Urulan pulled the same trick on my actual body. The drow spoke something in a language other than Crepuscular, sounding amused, but I didn’t recognize the language. It sounded close to Reitz, but the vowels were even more of a debacle. Some older form, maybe? Some Secrets floating around the Night were much older than the current Calernia. Most of them, actually.

“Didn’t catch that,” I said, and attacked.

I didn’t start with a feint, this time. It was clearly a better fighter than I was, the only way I’d win was by cheating. I angled my sword for its throat and swung with brute force and speed. It withdrew just out of reach, bending backwards, and then bent forward. One hand came off the staff to tap my side and I had to bite back the scream. It’d found a vein, and was pouring the Night-acid in it. I did the only reasonable thing, and froze my own blood so stop it from spreading. It caught the wrist of my sword hand and forced it to continue the arc as it drew back the staff to better bring it down.

“Mistake,” I calmly said.

I turned the wrist it held to mist, and wrenched it out. The wisp of wrist moved under my will, slithering up its nostril and sinking into the brains behind them. All it took after that was a twist of will, and I shredded what lay inside its skull. Mighty Urulan dropped the ground, and I stood panting. I’d didn’t bother recover the flesh I’d turned into mist, making another hand instead. Didn’t want the old one back, after where it’d been. My flank still felt like it’d been lit on fire, but I carved out the infection and breathed a sigh of relief. It was only then, covered in blood both my own and that of my enemies, that I realized I’d been naked ever since the acid mist trick. I’d just been too angry to notice, and it wasn’t like I felt the cold anyways. I looked down at the drow’s corpse and shrugged. Might as well steal its clothes before I cut its head off, then.

Throwing Mighty Urulan’s severed head in the middle of its own warriors ought to have a slight effect on enemy morale.

105 thoughts on “Chapter 65: Impact

  1. Throwing the head of your defeated enemies before you to unsettle the ones still fighting. Good job.

    Overconfidence will screw you every time. Just as well you got reminded of that before anything too terrible or permanent happened. Again.

    Stealing the clothes of the Mighty?
    Did you forget that you are short and they weren’t, Cat? It isn’t going to fit properly.
    But, good job on the murderhoboing.
    You aren’t murderhoboing right if you aren’t wearing stuff looted from dead enemies.

    Liked by 16 people

    1. Dainpdf

      She could theoretically just make clothes out of winter. Heck, couldn’t she make herself taller? It worked with Ubua, ought to work with her. And then she’ll be even closer to apotheosis. Mwahahahaha

      Liked by 7 people

        1. Yotz

          Or allow. Self-image of the Named one postulates the physical form. If Cat would be able to shift her self-perception to see herself as a slightly taller person, she will grow. Doubly for the Fae stuff, for it is a concept first and a matter – second.
          Problem lies in the peculiarities of flesh – you kinda grow in in the body you were born with, and your psyche usually molds in accordance with it, not other way around.


        2. Dainpdf

          Not necessarily. Both the Dead King and the Intercessor are, as he once said, “more essence than form” (or something to that effect). Name shenanigans only keep your appearance fixed if how you perceive yourself includes your appearance.


      1. John

        Clothes formed out of winter would probably mean drawing more power, meaning more principle alienation. Battle’s not over yet, makes sense to avoid wasting resources on vanity when possible.


        1. Yotz

          If they would be akin to active camo or streith, yes – but if Winter would be used only to create a sheet of flexible ice that can exist without further power infusing, then alienation would be of not issue. Presumably.

          Hoarfrost body-paint, as a less reality-breaking clothes – something akin to skin-suit, maybe even with a touch of artistry in form of microprisms to form a rainbows in key areas instead of a palatine or a cloak.

          Imagination is the only limit in this case.

          Liked by 1 person

      1. JJR

        I’ll take that bet. And then as is customary reveal the details of my evil plan. For you see the term used was that we “never” see the scene, in order to determine that this has come to pass we would have to wait forever! Even the author telling us that they were definitely not going to write the scene is not enough to resolve the bet as they may change their mind about such a decision in the future and write it anyway. So the only two outcomes are that we do see the scene in which case I win, or we don’t see the scene in which case you don’t win as we have to wait some more time to determine whether or not the scene is just coming later.

        I literally can’t lose!

        And writing that makes me feel like I’m channeling Dread Emperor Irritant, The oddly Successful.

        Liked by 16 people

        1. FactualInsanity

          Irritant always seemed to me like accidentally successful more than anything. This is clearly premeditated. In fact, it strikes me as only a single reveal away from a Traitorous plan. Are you perchance also ahd?

          Liked by 12 people

  2. JJR

    So the Mighty did not realize how Cat’s Winter tricks would let her slip from his grasp, and he got a brain full of hand to show for it.

    Truly, it was a terrible mist ache on his part.

    Liked by 42 people

    1. SilentWatcher

      As for Winter tricks, will Cat also turn into Liquid? We already got the Solid and Mist trick. Would be great against that vibration atack of the drow and/ or for impossibly flexibel moves.


    1. Dainpdf

      Black was cooler. He only said “mistake” in his mind. Also, I wonder why Cat took so long to do the “breathe the mist in” trick? She had them in the mist in the middle of the fight. Not like this specific moment opened her enemy to it somehow. Unless I’m missing something.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Rook

        This is Catherine Foundling. Taking hideous injuries before beating a boss is basically her trademark.

        I mean what kind of self-respecting warlord ends a fight without at least getting naked and covered head to toe in blood? Let’s be reasonable here.

        Liked by 10 people

    1. Gunslinger

      She’s fighting without using her domain though. That’s a secret she’d be saving for later, but there might very well be some Night secret that dissolved domains for all we know


  3. Dainpdf

    Cool. A pity she couldn’t take the time to learn some of these Night tricks. I bet the acid mist would be great against all sorts of enemies, and would regeneration inhibitors. Priestbane, anyone?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Someguy

      The acid trick would work better with her Fall/Moonless Night Domain than Winter I think. The vibration damage-disruption and droplet shooty trick would work very well with Winter.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Dainpdf

        She can still do Fall, to some extent. She’s just not done it offensively in a while. Last time was against the Thief of Stars back in Keter.


      1. Dainpdf

        I assume the Sve can already use all these tricks against her. It’s her domain, after all. She can probably use every Trick and Secret.


    1. Jane

      I hummed a few tunes from Bayonetta in my head as she dodged through the spears of Night to fly at her foe.

      Though if they keep it up with these full-screen attacks, something out of Touhou might become more appropriate soon…

      Liked by 3 people

    1. JJR

      If I’m understanding the situation correctly, he’s not even one of the Mightys of the city any more. I think these Drow were the ones that lost their foothold in the city and got pushed outside. If I’m reading the last chapter correctly this one was literally too weak to stay. So, yeah, weaker than the ones down in the city.


      1. Metrux

        Uhh… No. The guy at this spot is the weakest IN the city, he has a territory that allows passage for most of the other mightys territories. The problem with this spot, and why people don’t want it, is two: it has few resources, and it isthe entry point for any other Mighty coming from outside, so he was attacked frequently. Though he is still a Mighty from the city, and was even from a inner part until some time ago, when he got pushed back to this spot.


  4. Jane

    Hm. You know, with tricks like the “Turn the ground into a pool of acid”, maybe the proper Drow could have handled the Dwarven invaders more effectively than the dregs they crushed made it seem. While the logic of the story did make it seem like they were doomed, they only had to deal with a small expeditionary force (relative to what the Dwarves would be able to muster without the Gloom), and it wouldn’t take that many ugly surprises to deplete their numbers to the point where they couldn’t hope to succeed.

    Of course, the fact that the Dwarves were prepared to spend a very long time here does suggest that they weren’t going to rush in the way Cat did, making it much less likely that they’d be caught by a power like this…

    Might as well steal its clothes before I cut its head off, then.

    Oh, c’mon Cat, you don’t know where those have been! Just make your own clothing out of Winter. Ice Armour is tres chic.

    Liked by 11 people

      1. Jane

        It can be frosted. And frosted ice armor is all the rage with Evil Winter Queens at the moment! She might as well look the part, since that literally is one of the things she is now.

        Liked by 4 people

    1. FactualInsanity

      The Dwarves are also not squeamish about essentially carpet bombing any fortified position ahead of marching their infantry into Night range. An organized and united Everdark could probably fight them on a more or less equal footing. A few Mighty? Not a chance.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Jane

        While this is true, it strikes me as similar in ways to when Cat dropped a lake on her foes – just using that for a few seconds nearly broke the Crusaders on its own, despite dozens of Named and a far larger force. The Dwarves can overwhelm the Drow in anything remotely approaching a fair fight, but a few figures like these would still be able to inflict devastating losses if they were able to find an opportunity to act.

        The Drow are crippled by their inability to ally with each other despite the dire need, true, but the Dwarves aren’t getting any reinforcements – any losses they take clearing out a Sigil won’t be replaced. It shouldn’t take more than a few nasty losses to a Mighty whose trick they couldn’t protect themselves against for their numbers to fall to a less dangerous level.

        ‘course, it doesn’t look like they could capitalize on that win. Even if they have army-killing tricks, unlike at the Battle of the Camps, they don’t really have the lower-level soldiers necessary to follow through afterwards. They can’t drop a pool of acid on everyone, probably.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. FactualInsanity

          There are some key differences though.

          First, there’s the issue of morale. The Crusaders were close to breaking, because breaking simply means, running back home. The Dwarves are stuck. There’s no getting past the Gloom without Drow obsidian shards, or the magic lamps and it’s unlikely either of those are present in enough numbers/easily obtainable for the common soldiery.

          Second, unlike the lake trick which was done from accross the battlefield, every use of night so far seen has been within relativelly close quarters. If Urulan could sling the acid-Night from halfway accross the city, he wouldn’t even need to be where Cat could see him and strike back. (Unless it’s a cultural hangup about being seen dominating foes and/or things like line of sight requirements, but those work out to “unable to strike from range” anyway.) If the Drow could approach the dwarven army safely, that wouldn’t matter, but so far their shadow form has not been seen making them invincible. Any damage (like say, from an exploding projectile) just shunts them into their corporeal form, where they’re vulnerable to further damage (like say, from further exploding projectiles).

          Third, while saying “These are all the tricks the Drow have.” is clearly wrong, it is equally wrong to assume thesame thing about the Dwarves. They clearly have strong magic. They’ve been preparing for decades if not centuries. And even before that Drow have considered them something you survive, not something you fight.

          I think a Winter/Summer comparison is apt here. Drow are dangerous predators and hunters, sure. But so are Winter and they still always lose to Summer in matters of war.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. Jane

            While the Dwarves do have a considerable range advantage, we also have to consider the terrain – with everything taking place underground, there are many places where that would be less decisive than it was in their first encounter. The trick used in this fight, at least, seemed able to operate at least at a moderate range, which would be enough to neutralize their siege weapons. Of course, if things close to actual melee range, only the stronger Drow have any hope against them, so the terrain doesn’t favor them too much.

            The Dwarves do have a terrifying reputation, true, but we also have to consider that it was the dregs of their society speaking – no Mighty would be interested in going to the outer edges of Drow society to pick a fight with Dwarves who will leave on their own, especially not when that means coming back to find someone else stole your territory from you.

            We also have to consider that the Dwarves seem to be a proper army, rather than a rabble of warriors – this is usually an advantage, but it does mean that they are likely more specialized. If they lose too many of their heavy soldiers, or their engineers, it could represent a much more significant loss of capability than the loss of any given non-Mighty Drow.

            As it stands, I’m pretty sure the Dwarves could do a lot of destruction, but I’m not as certain that they could actually reach the Priestess with enough soldiers left alive to kill her. Setting aside the question of what unmentioned tricks they have of their own, of course. …Speaking of which, now I wonder if they have some kind of Goddess Trap they were saving for her, but will instead end up using on Cat when their friendly-ish relationship breaks down.

            Liked by 4 people

            1. FactualInsanity

              Time, patience and the willingness to collapse entire sections of the underground, if the cost in lives is prohibitive?

              But that would make me so sad, if it happens. I like the Dwarves (I like dwarves in general, though appeal varies with portrayal) and unlike virtually everyone else, they have zero interest in being anything but straight with Cat. Plus, I’m really eager for her to start making headway in the political diplomacy department.

              Liked by 3 people

        2. Quite Possibly A Cat

          I think that if a Mighty starts slicing through the Dwarves it won’t need lower level soldiers to follow up. If the dwarves break they stop being a real threat and start being food for the more powerful mighty. Plus if the dwarves can’t defend the Drow corpses they kill any Drow essentially undo their victories. Or even worse, you can end up with a situation where one of the Mighty starts snowballing and eating through the entire dwarven force.

          It is entirely possible that the dwarves have simply badly miscalculated. As far as we know the dwarves have only penetrated the edges of the Gloom before this raid. They have almost certainly never had to deal with one of the more powerful Drow. Hell, what if Sve Noc can shift the Gloom? Once the lights are exhausted she might be able to just reap the dwarves wholesale.


          1. Metrux

            People, this discussion seems to forget a really, reaaly important thing about this dwarf army. They are not here to push eternally and win the battles. They are here to push the Drow out of the underdark, which means it’s not something you win like a war. They will bide their time, kill any who gets too close, advance slowly and GROW. Yes, the dwarfs will grow in here, they will take decades or even centuries to finish this conquest, and be assured, if they can take out the Sve, with it the Gloom, the drows are ended, for all the rest of the dwarfs will be able to come as reinforcements. So, to summarize: this is the last people still underground near dwarf territory, and the dwarfs have no need to push too much or stay in battle if they find something they can’t immediatey destroy.

            Liked by 2 people

      2. Okay but imagine the dwarves take the city, but some of the Mighty escape. Or they just catch wind of what’s coming and bail. And having escaped, some of the Mighty decide that their best course of action is to sneak around to the dwarven flank and go on a power-up spree by slaughtering a few thousand dwarven civilians. Or just doing hit and run in general.

        The dwarves can out-muscle the drow in any scenario and crack any drow fortification, sure. But that doesn’t actually mean that much. Just look at the real world example of the US’ wars in the Middle East. There’s absolutely no power the US has been fighting whose military might holds a candle to the US military, but the end result has most definitely not been a US victory. This isn’t because the people fighting the US can take them in a fight. It’s because they don’t have to take the US in a fight to deal unsustainable losses. And that’s with the war fought half a world away from any soft US assets. Can you imagine what the situation would look like if the US military was trying to defend a small nation’s worth of its citizens at the same time?

        Oh the drow are going to suffer during the war, there’s no doubt. The dwarves will crush every stronghold of resistance and scatter every army. But the dwarves are going to take Losses with a capital L. Guerrilla warfare in the Underdark will make guerrilla warfare in the mountainous deserts of the Middle East look positively quaint. There will be booby traps and assassins and ambushes and hit and run strikes and dwarves will die.

        The dwarves might win in the end. They seem like they’ve really thought this out and are truly willing to commit on a massive scale here. But just because they can stomp all over drow cities doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy.


        1. FactualInsanity

          If some Mighty decide to bail and flank, they just run into the dwarven fortifications and defenses. This isn’t open terrain. It’s a network of caves and narrow passages. Chokepoints where the dwarven capacity to drown the opposition in nigh literal firepower is just further capitalized on. It’s not like the dwarves have any incentive to leave their flanks exposed.


        2. lorelord

          Ah, but you have to remember that the US was never trying to kill every man, woman, and child. The dwarves are not here to “liberate” the drow, they are here to exterminate the drow. Meaning that most of the advantages of guerilla warfare are gone. The drow cannot attack and then vanish into the populace. They can’t even sneak into dwarven towns and the like, because the dwarf garrisons will just kill them.


    2. agumentic

      It bears remembering that Dwarves didn’t send an expeditionary force, they sent a colony. Faced with casualties, they would dig in in already conquered territory and just rebuild their army old-fashioned way.

      Liked by 5 people

  5. TheCount

    Thanks for the chapter!
    Well, even if the head isnt working as well, Im sure the leader’s stuff on someone else will do….. unless they are made of night, ofc.


  6. Berder

    Too close, for a lesser Sigil-holder in a decaying city! He was almost her match. Cat has got to get way tougher somehow, and quick, if she hopes to challenge greater Sigil-holders and the Priestess of Night herself.


    1. Berder

      Or, perhaps it will turn out that Urulan was actually a lot stronger than a lesser sigil-holder. Maybe he had the direct attention and backing of the Priestess during that fight.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. Jane

      I don’t think it’s a matter of toughness – I mean, how many times did Cat remake herself during that fight? And I don’t think it’s a matter of power, either – he went down pretty quick, once she was actually able to get close to him.

      What she needs is essentially what she’s been doing (and how she eventually won this battle) – expanding her bag of tricks, and looking for new solutions to her problems. Her opponent this time worked with little more than a single trick and some backup to hem her into it, and came closer to killing her than anyone has in quite some time – not by overwhelming her, but just by finding new ways to try to burn her with it.

      There’s a lot of lessons for her here, if she can find a moment to review it.

      Liked by 8 people

        1. Argentorum

          The funny thing, is that the Everdark is training her to beat Hanno. Every time she wins she gets better at turning her foes gimmick against them, and the White Knight is 100% gimmicks (in order to match and defeat Black).

          It’s looking like the Gods Below played the long game on this one.

          Liked by 4 people

  7. Cat is learning to fight like Akua, but I think she needs to get back to the basics and fight more like Black. This isn’t the kind of fight you can throw yourself into and walk away from a hundred times. Once, sure. Twice, probably. A dozen times? Ehhhh. But a hundred, no. Eventually one of them will kill you. Pitting power against power like this is only a surefire win so long as providence is on your side, and that’s a fickle force to play with.

    What Cat needs is to be more practical. She needs to fight with a squad of ice dummies like Black uses undead, with glamoured traps and careful terrain control, with an exit strategy *always* an exit strategy for every move she makes. She still does need to learn how to use her power to better effect, yes, but not at the expense of the brutal practicality which has gotten her this far.

    Which, I’m guessing, is the lesson she’s going to take away from this fight. Immortality is all fun and games and unstoppable violence until your enemy whips out a perma-kill and you haven’t bothered to think out your next move.

    Liked by 9 people

    1. FactualInsanity

      I know Worm comparisons are tired, but I kind of want to see her do it like Taylor and utterly destroy and terrorize her enemies with ice constructs, while sitting in the warm comfort of her own tent with a tankard of (forgive the misspelling, if there is any; it’s been a while since a chapter included the name) aragh in hand.

      Liked by 3 people

  8. Greg

    This kinda feels like filler.

    It’s well-done filler in terms of magical fight scenes, but it’s still largely irrelevant to the main story. Yes, Cat has to fight her way through to Sve. No, Cat will not be defeated by some random Mighty. The stakes here are fairly nonexistent (for me, I should add). She is not in any danger, Hunter is not in any danger, Akua is not in any danger (much as I wish she was), and there’s no other characters here we truly care about at all yet. There’s barely even a Story going on.

    She is level grinding. And level grinding is not even that fun to play yourself, let alone watch someone else play. This entire chapter could be handled by a paragraph explaining what Cat learned, as it doesn’t even particularly matter who she’s beaten.

    More power to you if you’re enjoying yourself, but for me, this has ground the story to somewhat of a halt.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Andrew Mitchell

      I can see where you’re coming from and agree to an extent. Personally, I enjoy interesting fights with new tricks and lessons to be learned. But I don’t more than a couple in a row. I expect EE will skip a lot of the action required between here and Sve.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I think this chapter is more to illustrate that things are going to actually be difficult from this point. Cat has left the player friendly teaching zone and entered the actual boss dungeons. This was just to illustrate that aswell as her growth in using her power.


  9. JJR

    I have to wonder, given the jump in night power that Cat just ran across, is night distribution follows a sort of Pareto Principle Power Law distribution. Basically 80% of the night expected to be owned by 20% of the Drow. It’s a thing that happens all the time apparently, there’s a video by Vsause about it too

    If this is the case then the enemies Cat is about to face are about to get a heck of a lot stronger. The priestess of night, Sve Noc is probably like an ocean of night all by herself.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. IDKWhoitis

    I foresee a time skip, or a very long arc of Cat murdering her way down the City. I normally hate timeskips, but this might take a while as Cat goes through the tutorial of “How to be a Proper Eldritch Monstrosity.”

    Because we just got to the part in the tutorial where the first serious enemy has been thrown at you, but there’s probably going to be a lot of grinding until we get near the bottom of this pit.

    Liked by 9 people

  11. Anony

    So if her mist can be used to kill, and the mist she spread earlier in the fight is just an extension of her, she could have just killed all three of them back then without much struggle at all.
    Might not have thought of it or not wanted to reveal that ability I guess.


  12. nimelennar

    “I formed of ice a large windmill and set it to spinning, which drew back the mist closest to me and bought me a moment until Urulan clapped down its staff and broke it without a word.”

    I just want to say: huge fan.

    Liked by 9 people

  13. Forrest

    So here we are again with Cat being the underdog despite being *all* of winter, and she is yet again fighting without strategy. Hell, I feel like Cat was more strategic in book 1 than she has been recently. And no, her expanding her bag of tricks for personal combat is not a strategy, it is something you form your strategy around. Oh well, hopefully we get some story manipulation shenanigans when it comes to the sve of night at least.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Drunken Dwarf

      To be fair, she’s no longer fighting human rebels, young Named, and Name qualifiers. Not to mention these enemies are not only strong, but have centuries of experience in fighting random Night powers. But ya I do hope to see some story manipulation as well for Sve, which should happen considering Cat has now realized she needs every advantage as she can get.


  14. Barrendur

    In addition to this chapter feeling like “filler”, it reinforced the emerging theme of “Catherine wins just ’cause… even though she she’s got all the tactical prowess of a bull with both horns stuck in a tree.”

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Barrendur

    It doesn’t feel to me as if Catherine *deserves* to win; she kills for convenience now and is largely indifferent to it… but more tellingly, she hasn’t done anything clever/ingenious in a long time. Catherine’s not *earning* her wins anymore.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Interesting. So, Urulan lost because it never realized it could lose. It must’ve been stronger than everyone else around it for a long time. Or perhaps one of its Secrets was a zen-like ability to stay cool. It was clearly confident and feeling calm and in control the entire time, right up until the moment Catherine blenderized its brain.



  17. JJR

    Right, time for some silly speculation.

    This chapter is called ‘Impact’. Perhaps it will soon be followed by one called ‘Second Impact’ involving an even more powerful mighty that kills about half the Drow.

    These two chapters would really be to set up the chapter where the Sve is confronted directly, called ‘Third Impact’.


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