Ye Mighty

“Alas, though your jest was cutting this axe is even sharper.”
– Dread Emperor Vindictive

The Lord of Silent Steps was in a pensive mood.

That was only right, as Ivah’idimas’iyanya’ajolig had found much to ponder of late. Being cast out of the Zapohar and forced to seek salvation in the Burning Lands had been meant as humiliation piled onto death, not mercy, and yet… here it was. Still alive, though months had passed. It was a strange thing to outlive one’s despair, and stranger still to pass beyond it. Such a matter required contemplation, the guidance of the whispers in the Night, but now when Ivah sought those murmurs known to all of the Firstborn it found only laughter. Full-throated and loud in the complete silence that surrounded it, a clarion call of mockery. And so Ivah of the Losara Sigil knew itself then to be damned, bound forever to the endless white plain it saw when it closed its eyes. It was all it dreamed of, now. Treading a boundless field of snow under a night that knew no moon or stars, leaving neither footstep nor sound as it marched on nowhere. Never tiring, never ceasing. Chasing a cold void forever out of reach.

It was terrifying – and yet it also soothed, like nothing it had ever known.

Clarity was required, and so clarity was sought. Losara Queen was beyond granting such a boon unto the likes of Ivah, for the queen was more akin to a deluge than a person – sweeping all it came cross, drowning them in the depths of itself. One could not bargain with the tides, only obey or perish. Yet there were others, slayers of Mighty that followed in the wake of the flood, and first among them stood the Mighty Archer. It did not claim to be rylleh, yet acted every inch of it regardless. It was presumptuous for the likes of Ivah to approach a superior unbid, though it did regardless as there was great need. It was sprawled against broken pillars, feet propped up close to the flames of a fire as it roasted cuts of silin meat over the flames. The sight of it made Ivah uncomfortable, for it was very unnatural. Humans, it was well known, ate only herbs and stones – as a learned Mighty, Ivah knew the stones were eaten not for sustenance but to help digestion – and became struck with terror when away from the light of the sun. The Mighty Archer must have blood from another race, for there could be no other explanation.

The Firstborn knelt facing the Mighty, arms and hands angled so that it could be seen it held no weapons. The human’s strange coloured eyes flicked to it, curious.

“Great Mighty,” Ivah said. “I would have guidance in matters of damnation.”

“Oh boy,” Mighty Archer sighed. “I am nowhere drunk enough for this.”

Boy. This was cattle-term, yes? Was the Mighty implying such worries as he had expressed were only fit for cattle? Ah, it was reminding Ivah of the ancient text ‘Seven Husks of the Moon’, which stated that the pursuit of Night was holy act and therefore no ill could come of it. The Lord of Silent Steps slowly nodded. Mighty Archer was truly learned, to know of this.

“Yet in estrangement from the Night, do we not lose our purpose?” Ivah asked.

“Where’s fucking Hakram when you need him?” Mighty Archer said. “Look, Ivah, you’ve got the wrong woman for this kind of talk. Purpose isn’t really my thing.”

Ivah blinked.

“Should purpose not be sought?” it asked.

“Take it from me, sweetling, the big picture stuff is better left to the worriers of this outfit,” Mighty Archer said. “You and me, we’re sword arms. It doesn’t have to be complicated for us.”

The Lord cocked its head to the side.

“Then our purpose is the purpose of Losara Queen,” it said. “For it can see what we cannot.”

“Now you’re getting it,” Mighty Archer encouraged. “Sure we’ve got our rough edges, but this is a pretty good band as these things go. We’ve even done proper villain stuff, which should tickle your Evil pickle. Abducted a princess the once, and we even stole the sun a while back.”

The Firstborn choked.

“Mighty Archer, I would have understanding,” Ivah said. “By speaking the sun, do you mean light?”

“Nah, it was the actual sun,” the Mighty replied, scratching its chin. “Thief swiped it from that princess we kidnapped. Although we couldn’t find a way to pawn the damned thing and Summer ended up stealing it back, so I guess that one should be called a wash. We did ego-murder the two highest entities of fae royalty not long after, though, so all in all we came out ahead.”

The Lord of Silent Steps swallowed, mouth gone dry.

“Is it not the power of the Splendid that we wield?” it asked.

“That kind of shit doesn’t just lie around, Ivah,” Mighty Archer chided. “We had to murder, like, at least five royals to steal it. And the one duke, but I think that was just Cat making a point. Good times.”

“It is said the eldest of the Splendid are as gods made into flesh,” Ivah said.

The Mighty leaned forward and speared a cut of meat with its knife, bringing it to its lip and biting with relish. It chewed and swallowed, only then answering.

“So you wonder how we’re still alive,” Mighty Archer mused. “You’re not wrong to ask. The Queen of Summer could have splattered us all over the ground without even sweating. But only if we’d fought her dumb, Ivah. If we’d gone brawling. So we didn’t.”

The knife was pointed at the Firstborn, steel glinting under the fire’s light.

“It’s why your Sve Noc is screwed,” the Mighty continued. “Your entire people, really. If some of you were solemn Above-fellators you might have a shot, but this is a villain scrap. You won’t get a story for armour or a last moment save from some meddling Choir. This is about who’s willing to do the darkest shit to win.”

“I do not understand,” Ivah admitted.

“It means our enemies down here are trying to fight fire with oil,” the monster grinned, baring teeth. “Hells, I’m no gentle flower but the other two? We’ve got the Doom of Liesse and the woman that put her down on our roster. I pity the fuckers who try to escalate against that.”

Ivah saw it then: flickering red, embers and flame. On the steel, on the eyes, on the ivory teeth. Scarlet like blood and ruin, a glimmer of what was to come.

“So don’t you worry about damnation, Ivah,” the Mighty Archer said. “Because there’s a lot worse than that coming for the people in our way.”

She bit into the meat with sharp teeth, juice flowing down her chin, and Ivah prostrated itself before leaving as quickly as it possibly could. It had found answers, and become all the more troubled for them. The Lord of Silent Steps dreamt again, that night, but it was not of the endless white plain. It remembered terrible oaths spoken as it knelt in blood, drowning in an ocean of frost as its veins turned to ice and terrifying stillness claimed the world. And power, too, sister to that which it knew and yet so different. So hungry, a beast that could devour all of Creation and still covet more. Clarity still eluded it when it woke. And so Ivah sought the other creature that strode in the wake of the flood, the shade with scarlet eyes that burned so cold. It never slept, and in the early hours before most the sigil woke the Lord of Silent Steps found it waiting in the depths of the Crossroads. Beneath them Great Lotow was quiet, cowed.

Still quaking in the aftermath of the hour where the greatest sigil-holders of the city had been taken away without a trace.

The Mighty Shade was as a silhouette glimpsed in mist: transient, ephemeral and always treacherous. It sang of death to Ivah’s senses, something ripped from the embrace of the grave and made to serve beyond it. Looking upon it was… difficult, now. Before it had been a shade of the dead given power and purpose, but since Ivah had taken oaths it sometimes saw beyond the façade. There were moments where it did not see scarlet eyes and scarlet robes but a corpse with rotting dark skin, a bloody wound where its heart should be. The urge to kneel in its presence was overwhelming, battering away at the Firstborn’s mind. Ivah might be Mighty, but it was mightier still. The Lord of Silent Steps waited in silence, standing besides it.

“You may approach, Ivah,” the Mighty Shade said.

It did so, and knelt with the appropriate demonstration of weakness.

“Speak.”

“Great Mighty,” Ivah said. “I would have guidance in matters of damnation.”

It laughed, as if delighted, and the Lord of Silent Steps shivered. The sound was a caress on its soul, the fingers trailing having nails like knives.

“My very trade, once upon a time,” the Mighty Shade mused. “This ought to prove amusing. Do continue.”

“I stand estranged from the Night,” Ivah said. “Without purpose understood. This perplexes me.”

The shade smiled, for a flicker a corpse’s ugly rictus before it became smooth flesh again.

“It is natural to feel adrift after finding a new mistress,” the Mighty Shade said. “It is Ivah that fears what it does not understand. You are no longer that person. Accepting this will grant you clarity.”

The Firstborn was no fool, and so did not ask who it was now instead. Such questions had power, in both asking and answering, and it would not so easily grant it to the smiling death thing.

“Clever little drow,” the Mighty Shade murmured. “She does have an eye for talent, doesn’t she? You’ll do quite nicely.”

“Great Mighty,” Ivah said. “I have sworn oaths and given service, but these things are not purpose. Fetters without sentence are senseless.”

The shade’s gaze burned scarlet, until it became sunken gold on desiccated skin. Ivah hid its disgust.

“So they are,” the Mighty Shade said. “I will tell you, little drow, a story about two deaths.”

The Lord of Silent Steps almost flinched.

“There was once a land of many kings and queens,” the dead thing said. “They were proud and powerful, ruling over river, rock and sand. Many were their wonders, for they knew terrible secrets and flinched not at the cost of great works. For many years they warred, on each other and great realms abroad, and iron did sharpen iron.”

The shade smiled dreamily.

“Then a storm shook the sea, and blew a single broken ship to their shores,” the Mighty Shade said. “On it were strange and foolish men, lost and mad with thirst. These creatures were treated as curiosities, taught the tongues of the kingdoms and made to tell tales of their faraway home. They could have been snuffed out, my dear Ivah, as easy as snapping one’s fingers.”

The dead thing snapped its own, then laughed.

“They were spared, for they spoke of trade and wealth and fresh wonders brought to the kings and queens,” the shade revealed. “And so another ship was built in a city of corals, and sent back.”

The Mighty Shade fell silent.

“They returned, in time,” the Mighty eventually said. “With many ships. Many men. And though they did bring wonders, they were wonders of war and great slaughter did come of it.”

The dead thing leaned forward.

“And yet they could have been shattered like clay, Ivah,” the shade whispered. “Had the kings and queens put aside their hatreds and seen what was to come. Instead they warred on each other still, thinking to use the strangers to settle their grudges. Cities fell, one after another, and when finally the doom was understood it was too late. The strange men clapped irons onto those once-proud rulers, for theirs was a war of chains.”

The Mighty Shade shook itself, as if waking from a dream.

“This they called empire,” the dead thing said. “They made a wasteland and called it peace, knowing not what they wrought. It would be many years, before the irons were broken. And even now their weight is felt, for inheritance is a manner of remembrance.”

The Mighty looked upon Ivah, calm and depthless.

“Do you understand the meaning of this story, little drow?” it asked.

“The worthy take,” the Lord of Silent Steps softly said. “The worthy rise.”

“You reach the threshold of understanding,” the Mighty Shade said. “Kind soul that I am, I will guide you across. The first death is in the story told. The second is in the story grasped. Purpose will follow.”

“Many kingdoms died, in your words,” Ivah said.

“One death,” the shade said, “in many parts. There is reflection.”

When understanding finally came, it was not gentle.

“Our ship came,” the Lord of Silent Steps said. “Bearing three strangers.”

“It’s too late now, you poor creature,” the dead thing murmured. “You invited us in. You would have purpose? It has already been granted to you.”

Its smile was cold.

“Ours is the business of empire,” the shade said. “And what a peace we will make, dearest Ivah. Oh, I think they will remember this one for a very long time.”

“I am not estranged from the Night,” the Firstborn croaked. “I make war against it.”

“Tremble, ye Mighty, for a new age is upon you,” the death thing laughed. “I was a slow learner in this, little drow, but I have learned. Iron is brittle. It breaks, no matter how sharp. So let us make something new instead, yes?”

Ivah’s shoulder shook.

“Rise, Lord of Silent Steps,” the shade ordered. “Our queen grows impatient. Today we take Lotow, and you have a role to play.”

Night was beyond Ivah’s reach, but the hunger was not.

The bridge was broken.

It was an old break, unlike that which he had earlier passed. The bridges linking the Crossroads to the Column had shattered when the eldritch gate had devoured part of it, yet the lay of them could be tread if one was careful. Ivah had been, leaping across chasms with a lightness beyond mortal ken and landing without a sound. An entire floor of Great Lotow’s heart had been whisked away, leaving the Column above it to fall. It had partly shattered under the impact, and remained angled. Apt to tumble down if force was exerted. No doubt the sigils at the bottom were living in terror of this happening, shivering in their holes as they hid from the precarious balance above. Ivah cared little, having passed like a ghost through the wreck before descending to heights untouched by the wreck. Down into the centre of the city, where the most powerful of the sigils dwelled. Three of them were without their sigil-holder, but one had refused to the call for council. Mighty Zarkan had demanded tithe and alliance against a rival for price of attendance, and been duly refused: the Queen of Lost and Found did not brook such bargains.

No doubt the Mighty had puffed with arrogance upon learning of the council’s outcome, praising itself for its foresight in avoiding doom. Had. For another gate had been wrought this morning, and it had been a sharp lesson. The Zarkan Sigil held three districts, Ivah had been told, that had once been the residences of the wealthy and powerful of Great Lotow. These districts would have been raised with wells and gardens, making them worthy prizes to take and hold. Ivah now stood before the largest of the three, and looked upon the wreckage with calm eye. The traces of Losara Queen’s working could still be seen in the deep gouges around the mouth of the district were the edges of the gate had cut. The territory of Mighty Zarkan had been sealed shut for exactly the quarter of an hour. From the outside, anyway. The gate had spewed out a flood of icy waters that tore through the district mercilessly, drowning or crushing the slow and smashing houses and temples alike as if they were kindling. Corpses could still be seen among the rubble on the other side of the broken bridge, left to waft Night without harvesting.

The Zarkan were too terrified of a repeat to risk coming out of the highest places of their territory.

Ivah waited, standing in the open. They would see it, and come to bargain. It was not long before Mighty Zarkan made its way to the other half of the bridge, and the Firstborn studied it curiously. It was tall and proud, strong in Night and little marked by the killings that would have seen it rise. In the air, Ivah tasted fear. It wondered if it should feel kinship for this one, some sense of belonging that would stand against the oaths and purpose it had taken. And yet all it found was contempt. What a petty creature Zarkan was, shrouded in terror even as it painted courage over its face. Blind, lost, humbled by forces beyond its understanding. Did it regret now the demands it had made? No, Ivah thought, it would not. That was not the way of the Mighty. The worthy took, the worthy rose. The only sin was death, for death was failure, and Zarkan still lived. What was there to regret? And when finally the doom was understood, it was too late. The Firstborn would squabble themselves into nothingness. The nerezim would slaughter them with wonders of war, or they would be broken into Losara Queen’s service. Grief was due, it thought, but it did not come. Ivah had slain many in its time, harvested their worth and made it its own. It had not grieved then, had it?

“And now we do the same,” the Lord of Silent Steps murmured, “to the Everdark itself.”

Mighty Zarkan struck the foot of its spear against stone, demanding attention as soon as it arrived.

“Mighty Ivah,” the sigil-holder said. “Rylleh to cattle. Speak your fill.”

Ivah hummed, cocked its head to the side.

“Lord,” it corrected, feeling out the foreign word. “Lord Ivah.”

The other Firstborn spat into the deeps.

“You wear meaningless words for your sigil,” Zarkan said. “Shame on you.”

“What would happen,” the Lord of Silent Steps said, “if the gate was kept for a full hours?”

Mighty Zarkan stilled.

“Would you drown, Zarkan?” Ivah smiled. “No matter. When the gate finally closes, you will stand utterly alone. A sigil of one. What a sight that would be.”

“Losara is weak,” the Mighty said. “It could barely slay Urulan.”

“Is the first among your rylleh in this district?” Ivah asked.

“Are you threatening me?” Zarkan hissed.

“No, then,” Ivah mused. “Good, it will simplify matters.”

Without another word, it turned and began to walk away.

“Wait,” Mighty Zarkan called out. “What do you want?”

Ivah turned. Fear was beginning to peek out from under the mask. How easily people came undone.

“Everything, Zarkan,” it said. “We want everything. And you will give it to us, because otherwise you will die.”

“I won’t take oaths,” the Mighty insisted.

Then you will die,” Ivah barked, fury taking hold of it. “Eldest Night, do you not see? We have nothing to bargain with. You can tell yourself this is only a single city, that the further cabals will break the thrust, but you are missing the point. This is not war, it never was. It is grave robbing and we lost before they ever set foot here. You think Sve Noc will raise a finger to end this? They are following our rules. Giving us what we want, every step of the way.”

He laughed and the sound of it was brittle.

“I care not if you take the oaths, Zarkan,” Ivah said. “It changes nothing. Someone filled with your Night will do so in your stead after you are slain. They cannot lose, because there are no stakes for them. They can only gain.”

The Firstborn shook its head.

“We can only gain,” Ivah corrected softly. “For if the only sin is death, mine is the business of empire.”

“You speak madness,” Mighty Zarkan said, face gone pale.

“Peace,” the Lord of Silent Steps said. “I speak of peace, Zarkan.”

 

151 thoughts on “Ye Mighty

  1. Anon

    This kinda feels….entirely at odds at how almost-beaten Catherine got by one of the mighty in the last engagement.

    Obviously winter is OP hax, but at the same time, while I understand Ivah’s perspective is….slightly skewed, and the ‘trying to find new purpose’ is interesting (if kind of at odds with the former serenity shown from Cat’s PoV during the time we’ve seen Ivah post-oaths), this feels…tonally dissonant, of sorts.

    Otherwise, I like the ‘humans eat stones’ example as it pertains to the drow’s knowledge being….interesting, and in Ivah seeking purpose from both Archer and Akua (and I’m sure NOTHING bad will come of the latter…..)

    Also, Cat’s not creating/establishing the right message if she wants the new fae to function in any sort of peacekeeping function post the Liesse-accords……

    Liked by 12 people

    1. luminiousblu

      Because this time, Catherine isn’t playing by the rules of the game that the Drow expect. She doesn’t need to fight them when she can just obliterate their Sigil.

      Liked by 25 people

      1. Dainpdf

        And she knows that, once she has shown her power and made the offer, should a Mighty not bend the knee someone will knife them in the back and do it. It’s how the Everdark works, as Ivah pointed out.

        Liked by 13 people

          1. Dainpdf

            She does have some incentive to wrap things up timely, namely that Hakram and Vivienne aren’t enough to hold the country together forever, the dwarves are coming behind her, and who knows what Malicia, the Intercessor and Above are plotting up there…

            Liked by 1 person

    2. Byzantine

      Cat realized fighting was stupid. Yes, they are dangerous. But she doesn’t need to fight them. She just needs to make them fear.

      As Archer said, this is a clash of Villains. Cat can make use of monsters and fear all she wants and there will be no Hero at the last moment. There will be no retribution for Bonfire in the Everdark.

      Liked by 15 people

    3. ALazyMonster

      I do feel the part of Cat being on the losing end of that fight with Urulan was that she still thinks of herself as human and therefore places limits on what she can do. If we assume that she has the full power of winter and is as strong as the Winter King was she should be able to swing way harder than she has been doing, including the lake trick. The Queen of Summer, who was his equal, froze time briefly in Arcadia, teleported a huge distance, incinerated an entire battlefield with a thought, was on the verge of crushing Masego and Cat will a fraction of her power, and summoned the entirety of the summer fae to her side in a moment. If Cat truly has the full mantle of winter then this is the power tier she should be fighting in, but she doesn’t because aside from preventing the mantle from messing with her head she is simply unfamiliar with how to use this kind of power which she mentioned to Akau when they started discussing contingencies. I look forward to whenever Cat figures out how to do all her fancy tricks, mostly just as a fallback though since I enjoy her out smarting and out-playing them so much more.

      The Drow’s information being so inaccurate is incredibly amusing as it shows they have really been out of touch with the rest of the world for that long.

      I enjoyed that Akua seems to have left the whole Praesi idea of betrayal makes people stronger since she mentions iron breaks.

      Liked by 13 people

      1. d_o_l

        “The Queen of Summer, who was his equal, froze time briefly in Arcadia, teleported a huge distance, incinerated an entire battlefield with a thought, was on the verge of crushing Masego and Cat will a fraction of her power, and summoned the entirety of the summer fae to her side in a moment.”

        In fairness, that happened in Arcadia. It’s stated pretty explicitly that high-level fae have their power limited a lot when they step out into Creation.

        Liked by 8 people

      2. Yotz

        >Akua seems to have left the whole Praesi idea of betrayal makes people stronger

        Au contraire, dear. She understood it more deeply than most of Praesi ever could.
        See, iron may sharpen iron. That your basic dogma, easy to understand and follow. It also becomes utterly stupid once your understand that iron is nor very good materiel for a sword, really. It is too brittle, too malleable – in fact, in our word pure iron was used as a form of specialized grease in some… projects. It was replaced with graphite compounds quite quickly, and later with modern conductive suspensions – but the pure iron is more akin to plasticine than one may think.

        So, no – Akua hadn’t rejected Praesi ideals. She just understood that there is steel in this world of iron. And there are things even stronger.
        In a way, she have reached the enlightenment, solved the Riddle of Steel, and returned back as a Steel Bodhisattva.
        But – and what makes her so damn dangerous – she understands also that her journey to become something more than simple brittle iron has only just began…

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        1. RanVor

          If so, she’s disappointingly dumb. Because, although harder than iron, steel breaks too. And the sharper it gets, the easier it breaks. It might last longer, but this path still leads nowhere.

          Like

          1. I think she’s actually realizing that the entire concept of iron sharpens iron ultimately is a failure.
            That Praes still suffers from the same failings that led to the Miezan conquest.
            Or, at least, she’s starting to come to that realization.

            The story she told Ivah directly applies to the Drow, but it also applies to Praes and the High Lords.
            She might not have fully realized it or fully understood what that realization means, as regards Praes yet, though, but she’s getting there, I think.

            I think Akua is ultimately coming to the realization that the way the High Lords do things is a failure and will only ever lead to more failure, that Black was right to do what he did and that Cat is right.
            She might not be there yet, but I think that’s where Akua is ultimately going – if she survives long enough, which she might, since rejection of iron sharpening iron and rejection of betrayal as a way of life is likely to improve her ability to survive.

            Like

            1. Not just the High Lords. Akua has been seeing quite a bit more of all of what Calernia is and has been shaped to be than she used to be entirely interested in. (Oh, sure, she always made a point of knowing a fair bit: but, she never really put ranks in understanding what truly lay behind the surface, before — given that her interest in how any knowledge gained would be used to help her climb the ladder at home, and that limited her scope.)

              The whole continent has been stuck in an impasse since the Meizan Empire fell. But, nobody can really acknowledge this, partly because of the Bard. But, Catherine has rather forced Akua out of not just Praes or Calernia itself, but into other planes, existences and modes of thought. To the point that Akua can now see some of the strings she couldn’t previously conceive of. She’s seeing the cage around the cage around the cage.

              Liked by 1 person

        2. His Royal Madness

          IMO Akua has realized she’s not in an “Iron Sharpens Iron” situation. She attempts to dole out knowledge and advice to lengthen her usefulness. She has nothing to betray Cat with so has changed tactics as a result. She has realized that Iron Bends and Iron Breaks. She was Iron and Steel has broken her. From there, she has been reforged into a new tool for a different use.

          Iron Sharpens Iron but once the sword breaks it’s useless the materials are repurposed.

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    4. FactualInsanity

      In addition to what others have pointed out already, a counterpoint.

      How “beaten” someone is, is really in the eyes of the beholder. Sure, we got access to Cat’s internal monologue showing how she was struggling, but from an outside view, what the observing drow saw was Urulan and his two most powerful servants throwing everything they had at her and Cat just casually strolling away having only lost her clothes.
      Seeming invincible is much more important when it comes to reputation and inflicting blows on the opponent’s morale, than actually being invincible.

      Liked by 10 people

    5. stevenneiman

      Cat only almost lost because she plays both sides of the game, and heroes almost lose. Right now she’s not really a person so much as the ultimate superweapon of the Dwarves, used to help them kill the Sve Noc, and we’ve already seen how stories about dwarven superweapons against Mighty end. Cat’s just riding a story which already leads her to victory and the dwarves are letting her because she’s an effective cost-cutting measure for them.

      Liked by 6 people

    1. Byzantine

      I find Akua’s realization that “iron sharpens iron” is stupid because iron *breaks* the most interesting part.

      I suppose it’s “practice makes perfect. You should be sure you are practicing the right thing.”

      Liked by 14 people

      1. Dainpdf

        It’s a lot of character growth… Whether spontaneous, forced or faked we’ll see. (As in, it could be Cat-Winter is slowly corrupting Akua, or she may be putting on a show so that this will later get to Cat.)

        Liked by 2 people

      2. RoflCat

        I think she’s on the side of ‘create something new’ from the broken irons.

        i.e. the thing Warlock/Tik were afraid of Masego doing.

        i.e. the thing that Akua herself went through (‘broken’ by Catherine, reforged into the shade she is)

        Liked by 4 people

    2. Rook

      It’s a terrible coincidence that the two people Ivah is learning from are Akua and Archer. Think about that for a moment. A hybrid Akua and Archer.

      She’s going to bring so much peace to the Everdark it’s not even funny

      Liked by 19 people

  2. Big Brother

    I love the philosophy of this chapter, a good counter to the scientific set of Wednesday’s. Mind you, I much prefer the magical debate between Warlock and Heirophant, as anything that peels back and reveals some of the inner workings of a universe will always be a joy for me to read. It’s a comparison, I think, of how my mind works compared to yours. Showing me what differences and similarities we have in how we believe things should work.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Oshi

      I loved the studied cadence of those chapters but that was a deeply personal conflict when its stripped away. It was about faith in family and choosing who in the world IS your family. This one is simpler I think.

      It’s about an awakening. So far the chapters in the Drow arc have been from the PoV of the outsiders and invaders. This is the first glimpse for me of the Drow realizing what this all means. One of them actually seeing the end of the Everdark and recognizing for once why it should.

      Liked by 5 people

  3. Gunslinger

    The ivah perspective is a lot more interesting than I imagined it would be. Loved the comparison to the Miezan occupation. It’s the eternal colonizer story isn’t it.

    I do feel bad for the Drow though as the realisation of what Cat is doing to the Drow became clear to Ivah. They may be a ruined culture but there won’t be anything Drow anymore

    Liked by 12 people

      1. eh

        Callow IS the allegory to the British/Anglo-Saxons after all, and if they are ushering in a new age then maybe it’s about time for them to start with the age-old British pastime of colonizing lesser cultures, or in the words of good ol’ Robber; “Kill them all, take their stuff!”

        Liked by 7 people

          1. eh

            They were raided quite often by Vikings before expanding in the Middle Ages, I think. But I’m no historian so take that with a pinch of salt.

            Like

            1. The Beaker People got waves from the continent and became Celts. Brythonic Celts still got waves of other Celts… and then caught a dose of the Roman Empire which tried to establish governing blocs. The mix of Celtic and Romano-British political entities of various descriptions (mostly city states and chieftains in vaguely kingdom shapes) got Germanic incursions from Angles, Saxons, Jutes and more. Celtic, Romano-Celtic and the Germanic, “Anglo-Saxon” kingdoms got their Vickingr cousins in a big way. The Celtic, Anglo-Saxon and Danelaw kingdoms got heavily Normanned by a relatively small population of ex-Germanic, pseudo-French dudes with some ex-Roman background and much Celtic to them (so, you know, cousins).

              England got Englanded, Scotland got Scotlanded, Ireland remained a patchwork of complicated and Wales… got squashed while in the process of becoming Wales. All so that Normandy could asset-strip more effectively (at first). Then Normandy, France and Burgundy got a little heated over the family silver…

              You want to know where the British Empire got it from? It didn’t have to look far.

              Liked by 5 people

            2. Micke

              The Angles and Saxons were the third wave of post-Stone Age colonists, after Celts and Romans, followed by Norse and Normands. The Normands, of course, were an interesting blend created by waves of Celts, Romans, Franks (closely related to Angles and Saxons), and Norse.

              I really can’t see how this relates to Callow.

              Like

        1. luminiousblu

          >Callow IS the allegory to the British/Anglo-Saxons
          I’m sorry, I don’t follow. How is Callow the allegory to the British? They’re rather obviously the Gauls.

          Like

          1. eh

            Their stories revolve around righteous kings, alluding to Arthurian legends, knightly orders led and staffed by lesser nobles that serve as heavy cavalry in times of war, Anglo-Saxon derived names (Catherine, Brandon, John, etc.). Also there was that one throwaway joke about having bad cooking.

            Liked by 5 people

        2. Ali Khan

          I was under the assumption that miezans were the British allegory, coming to a new land by boat and conquering the soninke and putting them in chains.

          Like

          1. Oranckers

            The Miezans are a Roman Empire analog. They showed up, conquered part of Calernia, created amazing works of architecture and artmagic, and were then torn apart by a series of civil wars and foreign invasions.

            Liked by 8 people

            1. Vortex

              I think you could make an argument that the Miezans were Cortez occupying the new world. Cortez did not come with overwhelming force, he played local powers against each other and swept up the remains after they were done. Same with the Miezan occupation, they could have been turned aside if the locals put their feuds aside but instead they continued their petty vendettas and got taken over.

              Like

        3. Letouriste

          Nope. Callow is closer to France (a modified france around the 17th century) than any UK member. Praes remind me of Germany when that was just founded but with Algerian and Turkey culture in the mix…and Procer is pretty much what the European union would look like if formed in the Middle Ages. Levant being grece and…whatever. This world is too well made to be compared to anything already existing.

          Like

          1. Ali Khan

            Praes is very clearly african/Arab at least ethnically, hierophant and akua are explicitly said to be dark skinned like most Praesi and taghrebi are clearly the desert dwelling people of the middle east in fantasy form.
            Indrani is from fantasy India, right? Ranger told her of her heritage, of the tiger people of her lands, so at the very least south east Asian

            Like

    1. Byzantine

      I get the feeling Sve of Night destroyed everything Drow a long, long time ago. That the Drow of the past would not acknowledge even the strongest of present Mighty as Drow. They are just a hollow shell being animated by Night. Cat’s decided she’s taking it.

      Liked by 11 people

    2. Dainpdf

      So interesting, how Ivah notices that its own culture is self-destructive in a way that means they have already lost.
      Even more interesting, that Akua has realized the same.

      Liked by 7 people

    3. Danus

      Ivah might be thinking of Drow as having a ruined culture already. We know that Drow material culture and overall social structure changed dramatically following the introduction of Night to their species. Overnight, the entire incentive structure was changed, and the cultural solutions to the problems caused by that crisis are maladaptive. The Drow are slowly destroying themselves, enabling the Kingdom Below and the “native” oppressor Sve Noc.

      When Ivah gives his spiel near the end, he says “This is not war, it never was. It is grave robbing and we lost before they ever set foot here.” My reading is that Ivah views the conflict like that described by Miezans, in other words a fight characterized by one-sided domination by a colonial power. To me the plot of this interlude is Ivah coming to a new understanding of his culture’s history and circumstances. He becomes aware that he’s in a liminal space, caught betwen genocidal invading exploiter and his own self-genociding culture.

      Liked by 6 people

    4. Richard Gallivan

      But as Ivah realizes, it’s too late. Yes, Cat will destroy them. But even if Cat had never come, the Dwarves were going to destroy them. And even if the Dwarves had never come, they were already destroyed. The only question is how the final blow is struck, but the soon-to-be corpse already has mortal wounds. For people who value strength and worthiness, you cannot cling to what you now know is making you weak.

      I said in 3 generations or so we’d have a new Drow that valued integrity and oath keeping, since taking oaths is something all the mighty will have done (even if it’s not cat, there will be some moonless soverign out there to swear to) and thus betrayal, even among those who don’t have the winter in them to die for it, will actually make you look weak. Now I think that will start proper next generation.

      Liked by 4 people

  4. caoimhinh

    I really, really liked this chapter.
    Interesting seeing things from Ivah’s POV, as well as that glimpse into UwUa’s true form.
    It’s fascinating how Winter affects the Night holders, I think this will be further explored later on.

    Liked by 13 people

    1. Big Brother

      I find it interesting that the words of Black have been spoken by Cat and Akua now.
      “Tremble, ye Mighty, for a new Age is upon us”
      Once when those listening understood the full weight of the phrase, and now to a listener who feels the weight, but not the history behind it.

      Liked by 5 people

  5. Huh. It seems Akua might be realizing why Praes needs to change and why Cat is the one who will bring that change.
    Praes is internally divided as it has ever been.
    Praesi High Lords scheme amongst themselves, just like they did before the Miezans, and Black is analogous to the single ship, while Cat is the invasion.

    Akua might not have fully carried it through to Praes, but her comment about iron being brittle has promise.

    Liked by 15 people

      1. Richard Gallivan

        Cat knows the song to climb the tower. She is going to do that, I’m sure. But I dont’ think your rwrong. Climbing the tower? That’s her fate. Nothing there that promises there will still be a tower once she climbs back down and walks out.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Thea

        Akua has tries to sell the Tower as her end goal, but that’s not necessarily exact. There is that little psychological trick of asking for something ridiculous first to make your second, more reasonable request more likely to be accepted. Wonder if Akua is going for that angle… and what her “more reasonable” goal might be.

        Liked by 3 people

      1. Jarthon1

        But that’s the really brilliant thing about Akua’s character: this might just all be a long con. We are finally beginning to trust her even though we hold back just in case it’s all an act. And then when we finally accept it that’s when she shows that it was all an act. We can’t ever trust her fully, because as soon as we do then she wins. Its great in my opinion.

        Like

        1. RanVor

          DISCLAIMER: All the questions below are intended to be rethorical. Answer at your own risk.

          This is honestly starting to piss me off.

          Why are you so dead-set on making Akua a Villain Sue? Everyone remains convinced she’s plotting an imminent betrayal even though we’ve got a solid proof she isn’t just a few chapters ago. She was compelled by Speaking to to reveal her plans to Cat. But obviously she must have a way to defy Speaking, even though nobody has shown any ability to do that before and Cat was really thorough with it. Because she’s Akua, she’s Praesi and she’s incapable of acting smart and reasonable. You seriously expect her to be smart enough to fool Name powers and Winter, but not smart enough to realize she’d be shooting herself in the foot by doing it? She tried that before and learned the hard way why it doesn’t work. Why do you expect her not to draw any conclusions from that? You keep believing she’s a supergenius who can defy all we know about how the Guideverse works and yet she only uses her incredible intellect just to remain a static character forever. Why? What do you want to prove by that?

          The more comments I read, the more I’m convinced that Akua’s quasi-redemption not only can, but should happen.

          /rant over

          Liked by 1 person

      2. Hastien

        I really doubt that redemption is on the table for the Doom of Liesse, no matter how much growth change and progress she makes or how much time passes. I’m thinking the important takeaway is that she may be capable of change after death, possibly disproving ‘Loshe’s theory of lichs. “I was a slow learner in this, little drow, but I have learned.”

        Liked by 2 people

      3. RanVor

        True, and it’s much more interesting than having her mindlessly sticking to the same faulty ideals that have already failed her once. She’s way too well written to be static.

        Like

  6. Jane

    …Yeesh, this trio of Woe really aren’t the best for asking deep questions of, are they?… If you sincerely ask Catherine for purpose, she’ll bind you body and soul to her cause without you ever quite understanding the what or why of it; if you ask Archer, she won’t bother actually answering your question even if she knows the answer herself; and if you ask Akua… If it’s not cold cruelty designed to cut you like a knife, it’s sweet words crafted to guide you down a path of her choosing (which may or may not be in your best interests).

    Well, when you’re trampling the grave of a once-great people to take whoever’s left for your own, I suppose it doesn’t really matter if you can explain it to them or not. You just roll over them, and leave a grave for those who fail to listen…

    Incidentally, I wonder what Cat would think of Akua’s perspective on their mission?

    Humans, it was well known, ate only herbs and stones – as a learned Mighty, Ivah knew the stones were eaten not for sustenance but to help digestion – and became struck with terror when away from the light of the sun.

    ….Ivah, just how out of date is Drow knowledge??? They really should have harvested knowledge from outside more often, if this is the state of Drow education…

    Liked by 10 people

    1. Dainpdf

      Some Drow probably had the “secret of human anatomy”, another had the “secret of cow anatomy” and they somehow got blended.
      These sorts of secrets are probably much rarer than the fighting ones, and so get diluted and distorted – plus maybe secrets pass knowledge believed, instead of knowledge true.

      Liked by 6 people

          1. Ostriches in farms love to snag rings. Sure, they’re shiny, but that’s not the big draw: a good-sized ruby or sapphire can last a while, and even the diddy ones are useful in the gizzard.

            Say goodbye to gold, silver and diamonds, however.

            Liked by 1 person

              1. The feather boom made it really worthwhile for places like Oudtshoorn to heavily invest in farming them. And, there’s always a market for eggshell and reputable biltong even if the feather market dries up.

                Like

    2. caoimhinh

      Yep, I laughed hard and loud at that part, it was hilarious how wrong their understanding of Humans and possibly other species is, but then again other species also have a severe lack of understanding about the Drow, so it kinda makes sense.

      Liked by 5 people

  7. SpeckofStardust

    “I was a slow learner in this, little drow, but I have learned. Iron is brittle. It breaks, no matter how sharp. So let us make something new instead, yes?”

    ah something new.
    She has learned. This is both reassuring and worrying.

    Liked by 14 people

    1. It’s more reassuring than worrying, IMO. It’s antithetical to Traditional Praes/Classic Evil, and an embrace of the New that Black and Cat espouse, or a version thereof that Akua perceives.
      It’s a realization that this is a repeat of the ancestors of the Praesi High Lords warring amongst themselves instead of uniting against the Miezans, and that this failure to learn dooms them against Cat.
      And not just for the Drow, but also the modern Praesi, especially the High Lords.

      Liked by 11 people

  8. Tomatoking

    Long time reader, first time commenter but have to say, this chapter more than anything shows the depth of change Cat has gone through. She went from a gutter orphan to a force of nature consuming a whole civilization. It’s always great to see outside perspectives on the main characters, like the dread we feel in Rogue One when Vader appears. Great work!

    Liked by 11 people

  9. Skaddix

    Hmm this might point to a hole in Cat’s binding on Akua…sure she can wipe Akua’s memory but if Akua is regularly talking to others well then she can have someone else remember certain things for her. Its always interesting to see others prospective on the main characters though.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Dainpdf

      Akua would have to remember something before she can convey it to others, no? There may be some way to transmit it then erase it – maybe she could actually have Cat erase it along with the rest – but it would likely show up in her objectives…

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Skaddix

        Well Right now Cat has time to regularly check to make sure Akua getting wiped but since this people are fighting wars on a regular basis there could come a time when Cat takes a break between wipes long enough that someone reminds Akua of something she should know and that causes a problem.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. RanVor

          Except Akua doesn’t really lose any knowledge in the process. The only thing Cat keeps Akua unaware of is that she’s under observation, and nobody else knows, and there’s no evidence. As far as everyone is concerned, there’s nothing to remind Akua of.

          Like

    2. Ternbugkle

      Just in the last chapter it was mentioned Masego could be considered top mage since Akua passed.. he was trained like all mages to always check his mental integrity.

      Seems clear she could be keeping track of things and be trying to free herself while hiding the fact.

      Like

  10. Dainpdf

    Very interesting chapter.
    For one, Ivah’s ponderings on purpose and its view of Cat.
    For another, Akua’s true face (why did Cat not see her as rotting?) and the nature of what she says to Ivah.
    And then the whole thread regarding how Drow society was doomed from the onset.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. caoimhinh

      I think it might be the Night what allowed Ivah to glimpse into Akua’s true face, as the others and even Catherine saw her as a beautiful woman but with a hole in her chest before they modified her appearance.

      Liked by 9 people

      1. Dainpdf

        Hm. Didn’t Ivah say that it saw her true appearance after gaining Winter power? I guess it may have been the Night, though that seems less likely since it’s not really related to our Ghost of Bad Decisions.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Richard Gallivan

          I’m going to guess this is story shape and narrative fuckery at work.

          Akua wants to look pretty and appealing to Cat. THe glamor is directly focused on her. But she’s a thing of power shaped to perceptions now. Ivah is fucking terrified of her and always has been. And Akua probably doesn’t CARE if he’s terrified of her. If she does care, she approves. So he can see that part of her far easier.

          Liked by 3 people

        2. caoimhinh

          I mean, from the people that have looked at Akua, only Ivah has been able to see her true face as a rotting corpse, the thing that set it apart from them is not Winter, as Cat has Winter (or is Winter, depending on perspectives) but the Night in him. Yes, Ivah saw her true appearance after gaining Winter power, but it’s more likely that it’s its Night power what allows Ivah to peer into the glamour of Winter now that it holds both powers.

          Liked by 1 person

  11. Snowfire1224

    I think I really like Ivah now. Before I saw them only for their role, that they were basically Larat but for the drow. This inside look shows that while he does have a drow take on the world he’s capable of learning and changing and moving on from the whole mentality that the night gives the drow now that he’s seperated from it.

    Chanfing topic but considering Hackram once teased Cat for being a human with cow teeth, I think he’d chuckle at what Ivah thinks humans eat.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Snowfire1224

      I don’t know why I changed pronouns in the middle of this, I think it was just out of habit. Wish there was some way to edit comments so I could fix that.

      Like

      1. Isi Arnott-Campbell

        In fairness to your typo, EE made the same mistake for one sentence during this chapter. When I noticed it there, I wondered for a moment whether Ivah had suddenly picked up a distinct gender identity, but then the neutral pronouns reasserted themselves.

        Like

    2. Oshi

      I loved Ivah the moment Cat caught him. I knew this is where EE was leading him and I’m genuinely hoping he takes him right to the point where he becomes the pivot that ends the Drow.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Valkyria

      I think that’s rather unlikely since there is no Summer or Winter anymore… Cat got her power before Summer and Winter mixed into something else, so there is just no Summer left to take for Sve Noc. The only speck of it could be a leftover trace in Hierophant, since his witnessing the Sun started his transition… And since he’s not in the Everdark there’s not really a way to make anyone there a new Queen of Summer, even if there’s a remnant of Summer inside of him.

      Like

    2. Richard Gallivan

      Nah, if anybody does that, it’s Kenzie, back and relevant again. She’d be the last fae of summer if she’s converted in full.

      Like

  12. I met a traveller from an antique land,
    Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
    Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
    Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
    And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
    Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
    Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
    The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
    And on the pedestal, these words appear:
    My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
    Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

    Ozymandias – P.B. Shelly

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Oshi

      Ok this is the second quote for Shelly and Ozymandias. Am I missing something other then the obvious connection to the follow of ruins? Someone explain to a non lit major please.

      Like

      1. I just posted the full poem ’cause I thought the chapter was a reference to it, not only the title.

        It talks about a ruined civilization with only the barest remains left, the arrogant ruins of it proclaiming how great it is. Kinda relevant to the Drow, no?

        That said, I just really like the poem.

        Liked by 5 people

  13. Isi Arnott-Campbell

    You accidentally misgendered Ivah: “He laughed and the sound of it was brittle.”

    On an unrelated note, I hope Akua’s change of perspective is genuine. I like it.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. ______

    Hold on, how did she cast absolute positioning without Masego? Dropping the Mighty into a random spot of Arcadia is one thing, but a specific spot?

    Like

      1. Mike E.

        “Having Masego along for the calculations would have been preferable, but admittedly Diabolist was no slouch when it came to numbers. She’d counted the bridges, figured out the weight and given me the correct floor. I hoped, anyway.”

        Like

  15. warriormonk19

    Malicia and the rest of Calernia: ‘Where the fuck is Cat and the rest of her crew, now that we’ve cornered her?’

    *Cat comes back after having conquered an entire species and raised an empire

    Cat: ‘T’sup’

    Liked by 9 people

  16. I’ve been thinking…I think Catherine will bestow the title of Soveriegn of Moonless Nights to a Drow after the fighting on the surface is over with.

    Calernia will be left with a united Drow and they can progress again as a race.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Rup

    1. the queen was more akin to a deluge than a person ……..truly Queen Losara has come so..so far
    2. We could have to nice books
    History of Calernia by Akua…..and..
    (Very) Brief History of Calernia by Archer/Ranger
    3. Lord Black: one grace-victory one sin- defeat
    Lord Ivah: one grace-rise/be worthy one sin-death
    …don’t they sound similar??

    Like

    1. Why do I get the impression that any history book/series Archer or Ranger would produce would quickly gain the epithet of “the Vulgate”, despite the obvious insights to be gained?

      Akua would probably write “the Tabula” version. Flowery, scholarly, insightful, somewhat “allegorical” to trip the unwary or unlettered up with… and each book the size and thickness of a coffee table.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Zack Whissell

    Every once in a while I have to pop up and leave a comment here because this whole web series is amazing and deserves all the respect it gets. Keep up the great work!

    Like

  19. And now Ivah knows what sort of monsters he has invited in the Everdark…chilling revelation.

    Catherine is really a monstrous force of elemental destruction when she felt she needs to be…I have a feeling Mighty Zarkan will not be the last one to learn this lesson…

    Like

    1. However, Ivah can also now take comfort in the thought that whatever they did… the Everdark was doomed to die. And, had been since Night came. Be it by their own hands, the hands of the Kingdom Below or Catherine’s there was to be no truly happy ending for the remains of the Drow.

      Pick the least horrible option, if you can. 😐

      Like

  20. I think I know what sve noc finds so funny.

    1 She is of the fae court.
    2 She enjoys the ironic style of humor (evidence is her chosen name if 3 is true)
    3 She is summer court. (Conjecture, unless someone has evidence)

    So we have a broken fae cycle, and 2 individuals who escaped the cycle by leaving. One is of summer and the other of winter.

    So we have a queen of winter kidnapping and decimating the subjects of the summer queen, all while building her forces for the war she is waging.

    What’s so hilarious is that both of them are powerless to do anything about it (and cat has yet to notice)

    Like

    1. nick012000

      Pretty sure that even if the Sve Night was fae (which she probably isn’t), she’s almost definitely not Summer. Summer were the hero-analogies in the fae conflict, and the Drow have sided with Below.

      Like

  21. the verbiage ecstatic

    Wow, there’s a lot of good stuff in this chapter.

    The whole Ranger Ivah interaction was *hilarious*

    And then the conversation with Akua was really interesting:

    * It’s fascinating that Ivah can see flickers of Akua as a corpse with its heart ripped out. It’s a sharp contrast to Cat and Archer’s sense that Akua’s a hottie, and shows how (willfully?) unperceptive they are about the true nature of the Woe. It dovetails well with the revelation from the previous chapter that Cat is quite possibly dead and something else is wearing her mind. Cat’s aware she’s not remotely human any more, but still in denial about the full implications of that.

    * Akua’s learned! In almost the complete opposite direction of the revelation that her essence is stained by ugly death, we get another revelation that she has actually internalized Cat’a perspective and no longer thinks iron sharpens iron is correct. I wonder if seeing the analogy with the Drow did it: it’s always easier to recognize a fault in someone else’s culture than in your own.

    * Also, that whole conversation was ominous and intense as fuck, and I would totally subscribe to a “Bedtime Stories with Akua” spin-off series

    With Heiriphant, Akua, Cat, and possibly now Ivah all on journeys into newness / transcendence / godhood, thins are really starting to get interesting.

    Like

  22. Aotrs Commander

    Well, dang. I have now finally caught up to the leading edge of the story.

    I suppose in many ways, this is probably as well, as I now can catch up on all the other fanfictions and TV shows and such I have largely ignored as I have read this, and perhaps now will be less inclined to feel that I’m only playing an hour or two of my games befgore suppertime just to read more Guide…

    But, the major downside is now “must wait for more guide.”

    Book Three has been the weakest of the four thus far, I think, and even then only in that is was “merely” very good as opposed to truely excellent; I spent much of books one and two laughing my ass off at every turn. It is almost unheard of for me to read about characters I can actually RELATE to for once. Even my favourite villains of all time (Grand Admiral Thrawn and Madara Uchiha) are more entities I admire or aspire too.

    (Cat, meanwhile, is standing very close to being able to topple my favourite character in anything ever (Jubilee of the X-Men),)

    Liked by 2 people

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