Chapter 70: The Calm Before

“Own what you are, no matter how ugly the face of it. No lies are ever more dangerous to a villain than those they tell themselves.”
– Dread Emperor Benevolent

“So this is going to be the big one, I hear,” Indrani said.

It would have been inaccurate to call… this a habit. It didn’t happen regularly enough for that, given the demands on our time. But once in a while, when the silent clamour of a thousand duties and foes became too much, I found there was a fire in a nook tucked away from my army and that Archer was waiting there, feet propped up and bottle in hand. Ironic in a way, that a woman who’d been raised in a place called Refuge had become so apt at providing the same. Like all of Indrani’s kindnesses, the seemingly careless granting of them belied the keen perception behind their nature. I tended to think of Akua as the most skilled manipulator among us, capable of spinning exquisite lies at the merest prompt, but some days I wondered.  Diabolist was known to get her way, by hook or crook, but I’d had different lessons from her. The most useful talent is that which no one knows you have, Black had once told me. Archer drank like a fish, was largely led by her whims and professed indifference as to much of what went on around her. The very last person, in a way, that you’d expect to nudge events the way she wanted them.

I forced the thought away. Suspicion, once entertained, was like a drop of ink in water. No matter how thinned, it would always cloud the brew. I did not have so many friends left that I could afford to start ascribing them hidden motives. The colder part of me noted that willing blindness led to dark surprises and that the duties of queenship demanded vigilance regardless of costs to myself, but for once I turned deaf ear to it. Trust had seen me through the storms so far, and though it had brought me some disappointments it had brought me wonders as well. In this, at least, I will indulge sentiment, I thought.

“The Battle of Great Strycht,” I agreed. “It will decide the campaign, if not the outcome of our entire stroll through the Everdark.”

“Sve Noc, huh,” Indrani mused. “She’s allowed us our fun so far, but that won’t last. It’s one thing to throw a rabid hound scraps when there’s a bear coming, another when the hound takes a hand.”

“We’ve observed the rules of her game,” I said. “What we wield, we took.”

“And that’ll matter why? This entire place reeks of Below, Cat,” she said, and raised a hand when I began to object. “I’m not talking about dusty shrines or red-slick altars. Not even about prayer, really. It’s the way this place was made. Kill and rise, kill and fall: every single drow spends their time either clawing for power or slowly dying.”

I studied her in the flickering light of the flames, the shadow cast by the twisted rock around us dancing across her face. Halfway between tattoos and feathers, I thought.

“You’re saying it doesn’t matter if they pray,” I frowned. “They pay the dues regardless.”

“I’m saying this entire place is a prayer,” Indrani quietly said. “And we both know whose it is.”

The Priestess of Night. Sve Noc. We’d not crossed paths since that last probing look at each other, but I knew she was everywhere down here. In every custom, every ritual. Maybe even every drow.

“That sounds,” I murmured, “like a recipe for apotheosis.”

It wasn’t the first time I’d considered that, truth be told. After crossing the Gloom and realizing the Everdark was a kingdom turned towards itself, ever only sending dregs to the surface, I’d wondered as to the purpose of that. An entire civilization whose foundations had been ripped away and replaced with codified murder and infighting – what sane person would want that? It might have made sense if the entire purpose was to cultivate demigods and send them out. I’d not forgotten my fight with Mighty Urulan, how what could only be considered a second-stringer by drow standards had batted me around and come close to killing me more than once. Me. I could, without too much arrogance, claim that among the Named of Calernia’s surface I ranked in the ten most dangerous. If the likes of Urulan had been sent to rampage across Procer or Callow, it would have been bloody mayhem. If a cohort of Mighty that powerful had gone? Half the heroes on the continent would have needed to mobilize to end them, and there’d be casualties. I could not deny that Sve Noc’s orchard of killers had grown some particularly murderous peaches. But they’d never been used, had they?

Night could be grown from harvesting other peoples, but when had real raiding parties last troubled Calernia? Long enough ago the Everdark was just a footnote in the histories of nations, either a pointed lesson in the dangers of following Below or the subject of casual contempt from more ‘successful’ villains. Which was madness, because if I’d led the army I currently commanded against Diabolist at Second Liesse we would have ripped her to shreds. Hells, unless the Lone Swordsman had a very good story at his back Urulan would have torn through the poor fucker in an hour’s work and gone for a drink afterwards. But Sve Noc had never sent her apostles out of her realm, and there had to be a reason for that. At first I’d wondered if it was as simple as where the Everdark was. Surrounded on three sides by the Golden Bloom, the Chain of Hunger and the Kingdom of the Dead. The ratlings were arguably the weakest of those powers, but even Triumphant at her peak hadn’t managed to exterminate them wholesale. And if there’s one thing out there I’d bet on against Mighty, it would be Horned Lords, I thought. Had the Gloom and the Night been raised as a moat and garrison?

The issue with that was the dwarves. It didn’t take a genius to guess that effectively surrendering the entire underground to a rival and highly expansionist power before wrecking your own capacity to wage war except through Name-imitations would have long term consequences. Sve Noc, assuming she really was behind all of this, had to have known the moment she put out the Gloom and Night the hourglass was flipped. The Kingdom Under would keep growing, keep expanding, and eventually they’d find a way through. At that point, well, it was only a matter of time until the drow were done. Even if they were beaten back the first time, the dwarves would keep coming with better methods and larger armies every time. Even just putting all the nisi they encountered to the sword would allow the dwarves to send their enemies into a downwards spiral while they swallowed their own losses with a shrug. Evidently Sve Noc’s game had worked for a few centuries, but she’d had to know it was a delaying measure and not a solution.

But it’d make sense, wouldn’t it? If the Gloom had been exactly that, a delay, and the Night was the actual solution. Centuries of willing sacrifice, swelling the invisible altar as the Priestess of Night remained cloistered in her temple and shaped her own ascension. It was one thing to fight a Named, but a god? Neshamah had called himself that, and he had broken enough crusades the claim couldn’t be summarily dismissed. If I was right, if Archer was right, then there was only one question left to ask. Was she ready? Had the dwarves come too early, while she was still gathering her might? Or was this entire invasion a trap, the prelude to her ascension? There was no way to know, and I was not too proud to admit that scared me.

“We have no stories, down here,” I finally sighed. “I am not used to missing that.”

“I’m not so sure,” Indrani said. “We’ve had our share of coincidences, haven’t we?”

I cocked an eyebrow at her in silent invitation. Archer glanced at my now-empty cup and I willing offered it for filling. Drow liquor, this, called senna. Made from some sort of giant mushrooms and used to induce lucid dreaming when drunk in small quantities before sleep. It kicked like a mule and taste kind of like mud, but we were running out of surface booze so this was no time to get picky. The good stuff we’d want for celebration, assuming we live through this. I grimaced after knocking back half my cup. This was going to take some getting used to.

“Right, so coincidences,” she said. “We ran into Ivah pretty early. Good guide, former bigwig from an inner ring sigil, full of information. That’s one.”

I almost objected that we’d come fairly close to killing it during our introductory skirmish, but held my tongue. Almost was the domain of coincidence, I wouldn’t deny that.

“Then we snuck through between the dwarven vanguard and the main army,” Indrani continued. “If we’d been ahead of the vanguard, we would have run into entrenched drow before we had their measure. If we’d trailed behind the army, there would have been no one to take. That’s two.”

In the first instance we also wouldn’t have had the spectre of dwarven invasion to hold up as a banner when bringing in Mighty, which would have massively complicated the process. Much as I disliked what I was hearing, she had a point.

“And then when we run into the vanguard,” she said. “Which happens to be run by Named dwarf who can strike a deal with you in his people’s name. Three.”

“For all we know that’s common practice in dwarven armies,” I pointed out.

She clucked her tongue.

“Fine, I’ll withdraw that one,” she conceded. “And replace it by ‘we came into the Everdark specifically when the Kingdom Under was invading’.”

I winced. Yeah, that was a little harder to argue about.

“We can get lucky too,” I said.

“Sure we can,” Indrani said. “Once. Twice gets suspicious. Three times is a nudge.”

“We wouldn’t even be down here if we’d had alternatives,” I said. “Hasenbach wasn’t willing to deal, Keter got turned on us and the fae would have been… costly. More than we can afford.”

“Good timing, isn’t it?” Archer mildly said. “Stripped from all palatable options save for the Everdark, then thrown here when shit comes to a head.”

“No, I get what you’re implying,” I said. “We got nudged into this. I disagree because there were just too many moving parts, but even assuming you’re right I don’t see is what Below gains from this. If Sve Noc’s getting her god on, we’re the fly in the ointment. They lose a discount Dead King to what, improve my military situation? And you know where I want to settle the drow long-term, Indrani, it’d fuck up a good thing for them.”

“You’re still thinking with your crown, sweetcheeks,” Indrani said. “Lady Ranger used to limit how many her pupils could follow her on a hunt, did you know? Not because more of us would have been a problem, most of the time we were pretty decorative.”

“She made it a prize,” I frowned.

“And so we fought for it,” she agreed. “Kept us sharp, because there was a lot to gain from trailing her on those and nobody wanted to be left behind. Hells, Cat, you got your start in pit fights didn’t you? You should be able to feel when the audience is placing bets.”

I would deny her, but I still remembered the days before I’d become the Squire in full. When, even with Black’s accolade, I’d still been a claimant. We’d fought for a Name bound to Below, and Below had only wanted one person left standing when the dust settled. The similarities were there.

“They still lose out,” I said. “She could get her apotheosis and I could get desperate upstairs without allies. That’d be a win in their books.”

“Would it?” Indrani mused. “How long has she been at this play, Cat? Long enough even the dwarves ran out of other shit to conquer. That doesn’t sound like victory on the horizon to me, it sounds like somewhere somehow she fucked up. And you, well, when’s the last time you had a good kneel in front of the altar?”

“Black didn’t pray,” I said.

“Black toppled a hero-led kingdom and spent decades smothering heroic cribs,” Indrani said. “You, on the other hand? You meddle with the methods, but you’re also making deals with heroes and trying alliances with crusaders. You’re not exactly flag-bearer for the Hellgods.”

“And this gets me under the banner?” I replied, skeptical.

She shrugged.

“Look, I’m not going to weep for the Everdark,” she said. “It’s a fucking mess of murder and slavery and if you’d decided to drown the damned place instead I would have clapped your back and called it a good day’s work.”

Archer paused.

“But we’re crossing some lines, here,” she said. “This shit with the oaths? It’s the kind of thing the old madmen would have tried if they had the right tools. It’s a little to the north of slavery, I’ll give you that, but it’s in the same kingdom and we’re not exactly intending to make exceptions. They’re all going upstairs, aren’t they? Kids’n all. There’s going to be a lot of dead people for you to get an army, and a lot more when you actually use it.”

“The alternative is the dwarves slaughtering them wholesale,” I flatly replied.

“Sure,” Indrani said. “But that’s not why we’re doing it, is it? We came for an army and we’re doing what it takes to get one. I’ve got no issue with that, Cat, don’t get me wrong.”

She leaned forward, eyes alight with the reflection of fire.

“But let’s not pretend we’re not sending dues downstairs, by doing our do,” she softly said. “That’s the kind of lie that ends up costly down the line when someone calls you out on it.”

I winced and polished off the rest of my glass before extending my hand for a refill. She obliged without a word.

“I tried to make it fair,” I said. “But there had to be a punishment to breaking the terms, or they would never have followed them. I tried…”

The smile that split my lips was rather bitter.

“To make it a good thing,” I finished. “To set down rules that would make them better until they were on their own. But I’m using old arguments, aren’t I? The same every Proceran and Praesi who stole a chunk of Callow used. I’m civilizing the savages.”

Indrani gently nudged me with her elbow.

“They’re pretty fucking savage, no two ways around it,” she said. “But let’s keep this in mind, before we start using that trick elsewhere. I’d get over it, but I’m guessing you’re going to be chewing over this for a while.”

“What does it matter if I mourn it, when I do it anyway?” I muttered.

I might not be bosom friends with Cordelia Hasenbach, but she was right about that much. It meant nothing to weep at what I did if I kept on doing it. You can stop, or you can own it, I thought. Anything else is hypocrisy. But the thought of the drow loose on the surface, without rules to bind them? No, there was no brooking that. And so monster it is, I grimaced. I drank again, the foul brew spectacularly failing to grow on me. I extended my arm across Indrani’s lap for a top-off.

“So it’s a pit fight,” I sighed.

“Where there is coincidence, there is story,” Archer said. “Now, we know what happens if you come out on top.

Veins of Winter spreading into darkness, an entire kingdom oathbound.

“What happens if the ol’ girl does, though?” she mused. “That’s the part worth worrying about.”

“Dog eat dog,” I murmured. “That’s how Below works. If my belly’s full, I can shake the world. But if she’s the one who devours?”

I’d threaded Winter in Night and forced rules through it. It had come easy as breathing to me, even if the oaths themselves had required thought. Because I was the last of a court unmade, the Sovereign of Moonless Nights. I was that court, practically speaking. It’s wasn’t impossible to throw around the kind of workings I’d seen fae royalty employ, it just wasn’t possible without going fucking crazy. For now, anyway. How long before my Peerage grew enough the alienation no longer mattered? But there was a sea of power, somewhere in me, and if Sve Noc got her hands on that? No, apotheosis would not be an issue.

“She’ll make a play in Strycht,” I finally said. “If it’s my pivot, it’s also hers.”

Archer toasted to that, grinning.

“Lies and violence,” she offered.

“I’m not knocking to that,” I sneered.

“If you do, I have a gift,” Indrani tempted.

“Is it booze?” I asked. “Is booze the gift?”

“No,” she proudly announced.

“Then it’s you,” I said. “I’m not falling for that.”

“Please,” she snorted. “I’d ruin you for all others. Besides, I actually went and picked out something for you.”

“Stole,” I corrected. “You stole something you are now pawning off on me before you’re caught.”

“Well, Vivi’s not around,” Indrani mused. “So someone’s got to pick up the slack.”

I narrowed my eyes at her, reluctantly curious.

“To absent friends,” I said, meeting her toast.

She pouted but we drank on it. She went ruffling through her cloak afterwards, setting down her cup. It was a cozy little nook she’d found, barely large enough for two people, and so she’d set down a thick blanket in an incline and we’d both settled there close to the fire. It was comfortable, and the combined warmth of a friend and a camp fire was oddly soothing. I eyed her curiously as she kept going through her cloak, leathers pulling close on her frame. They were tight, though sadly not all that revealing. Good armour tended to be that way.

“There,” she exclaimed, and produced a bit of stone before pressing it into my palm.

No, not just stone I realized. It was a sculpture, though not a very elaborate one. I was admittedly not great connoisseur of the arts, but even to me the work seemed rather bare. Skilfully done, though, I conceded. The androgynous face of a long-haired drow occupied one side of it, the hair growing into the locks of the identical face on the other side. The eyes seemed little more than notches at first glance, but I could barely make out the contours of a character in Crepuscular in them. For one side it was ‘all’, for the other ‘night’. The bottom of the little sculpture had clearly been pried off by blade, I noted with mild amusement.

“… thank you?” I tried.

“Dunno if you noticed, but the deeper into the Everdark we go the more often it comes up,” Indrani said. “I asked Soln and apparently it represents Sve Noc.”

My brow rose. A two-faced goddess, huh? The term was considered an insult in both Praes and Callow. In my homeland for the implied accusation of hypocrisy, in the Wasteland for the implied single layer of deception. Probably not down here, though.

“What are you up to, I wonder?” I murmured, looking at the stone face.

“And I was going to say we’ve come so far,” Indrani said. “But there you are, talking at stone.”

“We were already hunting demigods when you joined up,” I replied.

“Sure, but back then we were dealing with everybody’s messes,” she said. “Now we’re everybody’s mess.”

“Truly, you are the great philosopher of our age,” I drily said.

She flipped me the finger.

“I do wonder what the rest are up to,” she admitted.

“We’re not doing that,” I said.

She eyed me with surprise.

“Night before the battle starts, going all reminiscing about the old days and what they might be doing?” I elaborated. “For shame, ‘Drani. You should know better.”

Archer went very quiet, all of a sudden, and her face was unreadable.

“I sometimes forget,” she said, “that you don’t realize it.”

By brow creased.

“Realize what?”

“That no one thinks like that, Catherine,” she said. “At least not all the time, like you do.”

“Black does,” I said.

“And he is an irredeemable madman,” Indrani murmured. “To think like you do, it takes… something. Stepping out of yourself, of who you are, and making a story of it. Like all the world is a stage. How strange it must be, to always act like there is an audience. I can hardly imagine the weight of it.”

My fingers clenched in my lap.

“You were something else long before the fae made a title of it, weren’t you?” she said. “Mad to the bone.”

“I don’t-” I tried, but what could I say to that?

What could anyone?

“It’s all right, Cat,” Indrani said, and patted my hand. “We’ve always known. Sometimes I just forget.”

Slowly, my fingers unclenched. She scuttled back and rested her head on my shoulder. It would have been easier for me, given I was the one a foot and a beard short of being a dwarf, but I didn’t protest. I leaned back against her, chin atop her head.

“It’s how we survive,” I finally said. “By watching out for it.”

“I know,” Indrani said. “But it’s all right, you know? To leave it at the door once in a while. Just for a few hours.”

“I’m not sure,” I quietly admitted, “that I remember how to do that anymore.”

There was a long pause and she raised her head, eyes meeting mine. It was slow. I could have leaned away and it would have been the end of it. We’d go back to drinking, and not speak of it again.

I did not lean away.

Her lips moved against mine and it was nothing like the kiss in Lotow. No awkward clicking of teeth, no surprise. Only the taste of liquor and smoke and hands so warm, claiming the nape of my neck as she slipped into my lap and dipped me back. My fingers slid under the edge of her leathers, cupping her arse, and if this was all an illusion it was one I was willing to believe. I came to myself flushed and hard of breathing, my hands pinned above my head as she pressed a kiss against the crook of my neck. Smirking, I could feel it against my skin. It was an effort of will to speak.

“‘Drani,” I said, lips bruised. “Masego. I don’t-”

Want to ruin something good, I thought, just because I want this.

She leaned back, hazelnut eyes considering.

“That is that,” she said. “This is this.”

Deft fingers unmade my belt and I guilty leaned into her touch.

“Just for tonight,” she assured me.

“Just for tonight,” I murmured, and gave in.

198 thoughts on “Chapter 70: The Calm Before

        1. Someguy

          I miss him too. With his planning and Vivienne’s Aspects linked with Cat’s Cates by Zeze, they could have re-mapped the surface of Calernea and swam in nigh-endless wealth.

          Liked by 3 people

      1. stevenneiman

        Yeah, I’d figured that if anything the Bastard Lord would be slightly in the lead. I guess that in this kind of contest, being in the same order of magnitude might be as close as it tends to get. I don’t think we’ve had any closer than about 30/70, even for ones I expected to be tight races.
        I think it’s because politics has some built-in catch up mechanics because a victorious party has the best chance to disgrace itself, but here it’s just people selected for a degree of similarity (because we all like PGTE enough to read this far and vote in the popularity contest) deciding who they like best. No real catch-up mechanics or second chances.

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  1. Heh.

    Villain versus Villain in the Everdark.

    Sve has the experience and plenty of power, but hasn’t done squat with it in centuries – for so long that the drow are basically just a footnote in Calernia.

    Presaging Cat versus Malicia?

    Actually, I think they might be wrong when they think that the Accords are a loss for Below. Sure, they’re imposing limits, but they’re limits decided upon by the mortals with the power to impose and enforce those limits. I.e., those with the power are making a decision (free will) to enforce limits on everybody who is unable to prevent them from doing so.
    In a way, the Accords could be a kind of ultimate victory for Below. Showing that the people don’t need to have Above telling them what to do.

    Liked by 25 people

    1. Someguy

      Or the Accords could be the prelude of a 2nd screwup for the Gods Above & Below. Arcadia an unending cycle that went nowhere resulting in failure, Creation shutting out both their influences once Cat implements the Accords worldwide (instead of continental that she’s currently aiming for).

      Liked by 9 people

      1. Skaddix

        I doubt these over go worldwide since I believe our dear writer has said we don’t leave the continent in this story. Not to mention Arcadia is infinite and not the same everywhere ergo Cat’s mantle of Winter might very well be meaningless outside of this continent.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Except Below doesn’t actually do much of anything to influence those on its side – Below let’s those who follow its philosophy do whatever they want.
        It’s Above that actively and regularly exerts influence on Creation.
        Creation locking out Above and Below would serve as proof of Below’s philosophy, thus being a Win for Below.

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      3. stevenneiman

        The Accords are, as far as I understand it, a victory for Below and not a tie. Assuming we’re all right in assuming that the Accords are an effort to get Gods out of mortal affairs, that means a power vacuum which ambitious mortals can fill. The Gods Below claim that the fate of humanity should be decided by people with the ambition and the wherewithal to shape it, while Above claims that its influence is necessary for humanity to function. This is reflected in their intervention styles and their Named.
        Good interferes whenever it can find a suitable pretext, and sets that interference up as a goal for heroes to attain. Their champions are people handpicked by the Heavens because they can do the job, and given the Name the Heavens think best suits them. Evil rarely interferes, and does so only as a counter to the most blatant of cheating by the Gods Above or as a reward given to a mortal who has earned it. The champions of the Gods Below are people who are ambitious enough to reach for a Name and capable enough to defend their claim against anyone else who wants it.

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        1. They’re kind of a Victory for Below that looks like a reasonable compromise/settlement/tie, if not something of a Win for Above, for the average person who doesn’t realize the actual dispute is not actually between what normal people think of as good and evil, but between “do what we tell you to do” and “do whatever you want to do if you can deal with the consequences/ have some free will”.

          Which means that the non-Hero Crusaders, and maybe even some of the Heroes, are probably mostly going to like the Accords, and have serious questions for anyone who would rather stab it out.

          At least, if my impression of what’s in the Accords is reasonably accurate.

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          1. Rup

            …thank you for summing it up nicely:

            between “do what we tell you to do” and “do whatever you want to do if you can deal with the consequences

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      1. adam1

        Actually, I no longer think that Summer/Winter was meant to shadow Good/Evil.

        I think the Fae were meant to balance out the Elves. The Elves are a force for Good, as has been mentioned. I think both sides of the Arcadia fight represent Evil striving against itself. The Elves/Fae weren’t in direct conflict, but they represented different pulls on mortal forces. Even Summer Fae were a trainwreck for the regular world.

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        1. Dainpdf

          Well, that hypothesis was put forward by Malicia and Warlock. I think they know what they’re talking about. Plus, Fae are not of Creation. Kind of makes sense they don’t do much good to it.

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    2. Andrei

      To me the Accords seem just as brutal for Above as they do for Below. Below gets a hardcap on the amount of madness they can unleashe but the faith of their followers doesn’t really get tested. When you think back to Cats first meeting with the Pilgrim he said that Above’s help isn’t always requested, so what happens when the hero gets a divine intervention that is against the Accords? Either he uses it in which case Above breaks the deal and gives more narrative weight to Below or the hero discards said help and everyone looses just a bit of faith. In my opinion its a harder deal for Above who are used to last-second bullshittery than it is for Below who just need to lower the madness cap from “Willing to kill 80%” to “Willing to kill 50%”

      Liked by 6 people

      1. RanVor

        I think that if the Accords will end up succesfully implemented, the narrative definition of a hero will change. Instead of the ones going after Evil, they will become the ones going after those who break the Accords.

        Of course it will take some time, but I can see it happening eventually.

        Liked by 4 people

  2. Jane

    I don’t particularly want to be suspicious of Indrani, but something about this is sending up a little chime of alarm.

    Eh, I’m probably just reading too much into things. And am being a bit too jumpy because things have been going too well for Cat again.

    Liked by 16 people

        1. Fern

          Hah, I wish it were that simple honestly. Maybe it is, though? After all, Cat and Black had their small father/daughter moment and he managed to make it thru Liesse just fine. Hell, if you wanted to narrow it down to romantic relationships, Killian is still alive and kicking up in Callow somewhere.

          We aint bury no damn gays around here SON

          Still, you can’t blame Cat for being careful. Having control over the story is how she’s eked out all her important wins so far, she’s just trying to make sure there isn’t a relationship based pivot that’ll fuck her day up.

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  3. taovkool

    Well, the self reflections part was nice. Dues to Below doesn’t really mesh with Cat’s Callowan sensibilities isn’t it? And hypocrisies are just so fun to mess around in.

    But we all know what the real big news here are, there goes that ship!

    Unless it’s a ‘friends with benefits’ kind of arrangements. In which case, awesome.

    Liked by 12 people

    1. caoimhinh

      It’s probably going to be the friends with benefits kind of deal, at least until they go back to the surface and reunite with Masego.

      Those two had been oogling each other for a looooong time, so now they are scratching their itch. ( ͡ ͜°ʖ ͡ °)

      Liked by 6 people

        1. IDKWhoitis

          Villians dont get resurrections, at best, they get to curse their killer with their dying breath.

          (Paraphased)Mentioned by Black Book 2, used by Cat to kill Lone Swordsman at end of Book 2.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Dainpdf

          I think Cat refers to learning about it from Black, back in First Liesse, but I couldn’t find the quotation.
          I know he says “We get to cackle on the way down the cliff, or maybe curse our killer with our last breath.” in 36 – Madman.
          We also get to see it happen in the Hanno interlude, when his mother curses people while killing herself, and in the latest Warlock interlude, where he gets a large payout in the form of divine intervention.

          Liked by 5 people

      1. Depends. While, sure, the Night and the drow are effectively paying dues to Below for the Sve, they’re all firmly on the side of Below anyways.
        Sve hasn’t (so far as we know) done anything with respects to opposing Above/the Plans of Above. At least, not recently.

        Also, it depends on who Sve aims at/what Sve asks for with their death curse.
        Going after a victorious Cat might be met with rather less favor than Warlock’s blowing up the Ashuran fleet to save his son from the Crusaders. Cat, after all, is definitely more likely to punch Above in the balls again – and otherwise be an actively involved part of the Game/Contest between Above and Below. Sve had tried to pull a Dead King and not be involved, but did so poorly/incompletely.
        Plus, Cat’s got a respectable and recent kill count of Heroes and Above’s Crusaders, and is going to need to kill more, is going to be bringing the drow back into play.

        Assuming at the dwarves is likely to be more effective

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Dainpdf

          True. I don’t think the Sve Noc would be able to get Cat decimated like Warlock did to the Ashuran fleet, but she still might hit her with something fierce.
          I was actually thinking whether the Priestess would have more or less favor than the Warlock, and I honestly don’t know. I guess we get to find out.
          What I do know is I expect something as well established as villains’ dying curses to pay off again and again.

          Liked by 1 person

            1. Yet, I suspect that she is also a candidate for being the baby that the Wandering Bard suggested to the Dead King would need eating, since she’s a nascent candidate for apotheosis who seems to have stalled in the crib.

              Having said that, Cat is also a squalling brat when it comes to this… The older monsters have deliberately pitted the babies against each other. So, part of me kind of hopes the two get together to bash the pair in the face, toddler-style. 😛

              Liked by 2 people

              1. Dainpdf

                Eh… That seems like a stretch to me. Especially since Neshamah seems to have some sort of interest in cultivating other demigods (probably in hopes that they’ll tilt the balance between him and the Bard in his favor).

                Liked by 1 person

              2. Morgenstern

                The “baby” is obviously Procer that both sides want to destroy… the heroes angling for more belief in Above and more heroes cropping up instead of corrupt worldly lords, of course, Bard and Dead King angling for quite different things.

                Like

                1. Jonnnney

                  I’d say the Above is angling towards a nation led by heroes rather than one that produces more heroes. Honestly looking at the 12-14 heroes with the army drowned by the Arcadian lake and the 9 or so heroes with the army drowned by the mountainous lake there is no lack of heroes popping up in procer, but the nation or even most the principalities aren’t guided by the servants of above. That’s what Above wants, the ability to control or “guide” a nation to serve a greater good.

                  Like

            2. Dainpdf

              Fusion? That may have happened if Cat had taken Night for herself. As it is, I doubt it will happen.
              As an aside, I have also read Claymore! That was great, wasn’t it?

              Like

              1. adam1

                I think at the end of the fight Cat will need to absorb the Night into Winter to keep it around at all. If the Night fails utterly, then all of her Mighty might lose their power.

                I also think Sve Noc stalled in apotheosis because she didn’t absorb an extra-planar power. The Dead King is linked to a Hell, Cat is linked to Winter, and it looks like Sve Noc tried to create a power source with the Night, and it isn’t complete enough to fully function as her source of immortality so she has been trying to grow it. Every Drow is born with some Night, and Night can be harvested from other species, so the Night gets more powerful over time, but it isn’t ready yet.

                Like

                1. Dainpdf

                  Is every drow born with some Night? I don’t recall that anywhere. The Night just allows you to gain Night by killing others, and take theirs if they had any.

                  Like

      1. Morgenstern

        Second that. Unless there were some fear of losing Indrani to the person who can give her everything she wants and not just part of it involved. Seeing how the emotional scales weigh out, I don’t think that’s gonna be a problem, though. There just isn’t enough of anything lovey dovey emotionally between Cat and ‘Drani, especially from Archer’s side, as was made abundantly clear when they had their talk about Masego.

        Like

      2. Jonnnney

        I’m definitely seeing the makings of a polyamorous relationship between Catherine, Irdrani, and Masego with different kinds of real love and affection between them. I’ve had friends that have achieved something similar platonic life mate primary with occasional or long term sexual secondaries.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. maresther23

      Your significant other doesn’t needs to be the person you have sex with. Masego is asexual, Cat isn’t. This way Indrani and Masego can do the whole in love thing and both Cat and Indrani get sex. The three of them love each other enough for it to work.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Morgenstern

        I’d pose it a bit differently: They love each other in two different ways enough that it works. Aka Masego need not fear to lose Indrani’s love to Cat and Indrani does not need to fear what havoc jealousy could wreak. Because it’s just “friendship (with benefits)” for Cat and Indrani, nothing more. That’s what truly makes it work. Same kind of lovey dovey might work, too, in general, of course – but that’s just not how it plays out here.

        Like

  4. Metalshop

    This whole Everdark chapter has been fantastic, but what I’m really appreciating the most are these little glimpses of Catherine from the outside. Indrani’s way of looking at her, the way things are limping along in Callow as a result of her absence, Malicia pondering her disappearance from atop a tower, Masego’s bitter philosophical arguments about her with his father; it’s all hammering in the point that Cat is significant on a continental scale. Combined with Cat’s musings as she starts coming to terms and this is some tip top stuff.

    Liked by 14 people

  5. Antoninjohn

    Another Apotheosis for Cat to go through, Cat in the talk with Maogo about Winter Winter was shown to be a type of cloak and we all know that Cat’s story about her cloak is that she adds the banner of her fallen foes into it. On the good news, well at least she’s​ getting laid

    Liked by 7 people

      1. lennymaster

        No, I think a melding of the two would have happened if Cat had taken Night for herself, instead of creating the peerage as a buffer. now I think Sve gets consumed as just one more aspect of Winter.

        Like

  6. JJR

    “My brow rose. A two-faced goddess, huh? The term was considered an insult in both Praes and Callow. In my homeland for the implied accusation of hypocrisy, in the Wasteland for the implied single layer of deception. Probably not down here, though.”

    “How many levels of deception are you on my dude?”
    “Like 2 or 3?”
    “You are like baby, watch this.” removes mask “behold it was I Dread Emperor Traitorous the whole time.”

    Liked by 26 people

      1. FactualInsanity

        I need someone to draw Traitorous, so I can ‘shop his image on top of that one “It was me, Dio!” screengrab from JoJo.

        Or better yet, whoever is drawing Traitorous can just draw him like in that grab.

        Liked by 5 people

      2. JJR

        I think you’re underestimating Traitorous’ ability to deceive with that “else”.

        To borrow from Horry Patter.
        How many levels of deception can Traitorous have at a time? At least one more than he knows about, of course.

        Liked by 6 people

        1. Dainpdf

          Did you not read the chapter quote? A villain should not lie to himself. Being the foremost expert on deception, Traitorous would, of course, never deceive himself.

          Or that’s what Traitorous would want himself to think!

          Liked by 14 people

    1. You know, it wouldn’t surprise me if Traitorous sold his soul at some point (to multiple parties even) *just* so that when he died he could ‘betray’ all of the people who bought a piece by coming back to life and cheating them of their due. That seems like the kind of bullshit Traitorous could pull off.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nah. Below doesn’t do resurrections, just necromantic reanimations as variations on undead.
        Traitorous was good, but I don’t think that even he could have finagled his way into an Above-empowered resurrection.

        However, I think it’s quite possible that Traitorous sold quantities of his soul in excess of how much soul he actually had. That is, he sold more than 100% of his soul (probably more like full order of magnitude or more of sales in excess of his actual soul) .
        And so nobody managed to get any of his soul.
        And/or he arranged to obtain other people’s souls and use them instead – after all, what is more quintessentially Dread Emperor Traitorous than making cultists sell their souls to bring down Dread Emperor Traitorous but actually using those souls to pay off sales of his own soul?

        Like

        1. Morgenstern

          *ahem

          I quote from just the very last chapter before this one:

          “Traitorous’s Law: while redemption is the greatest victory one can achieve over a villain, to function it does require the villain to have at least a single redeemable quality.
          Addendum: Yes, even if a Choir is involved.”
          – Extract from ‘The Axiom Appendix’, multiple contributors

          Like

          1. Morgenstern

            If a Choir was involved for a redemption play, why not resurrection? It’s what Choirs do, after all, and the obviously DID finagle a Choir one way or another… Just sayin. 😉

            Like

            1. Because you don’t resurrect Redeemed Villains, you either keep them alive in the first place to atone in life or let them cement their Redemption with a Heroic Sacrifice, and you don’t get resurrected after a Heroic Sacrifice.

              Like

  7. Novice

    “A two-faced goddess, huh? The term was considered an insult in both Praes and Callow. In my homeland for the implied accusation of hypocrisy, in the Wasteland for the implied single layer of deception.”
    I genuinely laughed at this. Oh, Praes.

    Liked by 9 people

      1. Snowfire1224

        Don’t forget Cat’s crush on Vivienne and Akua’s constant flirting with Cat.

        It seems the only person in the Woe who is not in anyway romantically interested in another member of the Woe is Hankram.

        Liked by 6 people

    1. caoimhinh

      Chapter 68 shouldn’t exist, then we would get this scene in Chapter 69 :v
      But seriously, that chapter felt like filler for me because that conversation between Akua and Cat talking about Lakes and about how Akua wanted to kill her mother could have happened within any other chapter easily, instead of using a whole chapter for that.

      Now the sex chapter between Cat and Indrani is not chapter 69, that was the Evil Plan of ErraticErrata T_T

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Cthulhu

    Ok. I’ve held back but I’m now going to offer my wild eyed speculation

    I think Sve Noc is Dread Empress Triumphant (May she never return).

    The timeline is about right. The story structure is about right. The perversion of the ubderdark is about right.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jonnnney

      It is a fun theory, I don’t see triumphant laying low for centuries. I mean she conquered the continent in a decade she doesn’t seem to be the patient type. It would explain why the dead king didn’t have any drow named, but then again he didn’t have any dwarves either

      Like

  9. Dainpdf

    Wow.
    Love the quote in the beginning, plus the whole inner reflection bit. Contrasts so well with the temptation provided by both Akua – and by Archer herself, interestingly enough – to just believe that pragmatism justifies evil. A callback to “justifications matter only to the just”, if only in spirit.
    Also very interesting, the whole thing with the pit fight and Sve Noc. Iron sharpens iron, you keep what you kill… The Gods Below really like ascendancy through slaughter.
    I wonder, however: how large is the Sve Noc’s dying curse going to be? On one hand, she’s basically erected a giant altar to the Gods Below. On the other, she’s been passive and achieving much nothings. How much cred does she have?
    Have also been thinking about the “too many moving parts” thing. Cat doesn’t know exactly how outclassed she was back in Keter, or how the Dead King didn’t *really* plan for her to win. Also hasn’t thought much about how the Keter thing (with her being desperate) is directly related to the dwarves invading, taking advantage of the Dead King marching.
    Finally: nooooooooo! My battered, mostly sunk Cat X Vivienne ship! Come baaaaaaack!
    Dammit EE. Why do you do this to me?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. caoimhinh

      Something that I wonder is this:
      Is Sve Noc actually in charge of the Drow right now?

      What was discussed now pointed out to the scenario questioned by Cat a few chapters ago, “Why hadn’t the Everdark reduced themselves to just a dozen of demigods holding all the Night to themselves?” and Cat and Indrani now theorize that’s what Sve Noc tried to do, spreading her domain, the Night, among the populace and then they would make it grow and she could harvest them all when the time was right and by absorbing back all the Night she would reach Apotheosis.

      BUT, remember Cat’s conversation with Sve Noc? What Cat saw when she peered into the Night wasn’t the Sve Noc sitting in a throne or praying in an altar; what she saw was “A colossal silhouette, limbs outstretched and shivering in pain” so maybe Sve Noc is prisoner of the top Drow now?

      Liked by 6 people

      1. Yotz

        There is an option of her being hooked up on a parasite feedback. Like Peregrine was forced to relive every moment of suffering of people he killed with Angel’s Kiss Fever – hey, forced meme – so is Sve Noc forced to relive every death caused in the name of Night, for she is it. She remembers every dying whisper, every desperate murmur; she remembers death if every victim with acute precision; she remembers… And so she can’t go further, for it will be her undoing, nor she able to stop the flow of power, spider trapped in a web of her own making

        Which leads to curious option of Gloom being not the moat and walls, but rather cage – with initial plan being goading all the Drow into sacrificing themselves to the Night to initiate the Apotheosis, with point of failure being Sve unable to drive them all to suicide. They managed to establish some resemblance of stable social structure even under the pressure of Tenets, with side effect of her being unable to do anything until the apotheosis would either be completed or fails entirely.

        There’s also a possibility of Sve and Noc being two very different people…

        Liked by 7 people

        1. If Sve and Noc are the two sides of Night and therefore the two faces of it… both girls missed a trick. The moon might wax and wane, but it also has a completely black phase that allow the cold stars and aurora to really show off.

          They’re… kind of missing a face. *glances in Cat’s direction* :/

          Liked by 2 people

        2. Metrux

          I have to disagree with the thrww of you, Sve Noc has no need for the death of all Drows. She *is* the Night, in the sense that it’s her domain, it’s part of her, even if others make use of it, at any moment she can call upon anything that is in the Night, so the plan was simply for the Night to grow while she “prays” to Below.
          The most interesting part, though, is the thing of villains dying breath… Not all villains get that. Especially when villains get offed by other villains, like when Wekesa killed the Warlock of the time, or when a Dread Emperor is toppled by another villain, they don’t get curses, probably because the cursed dying breath is a purely anti-Above thing. Sure, I could be wrong, but this seems to be the most accurate with all we’ve seen.

          Like

          1. Yotz

            My notion of hecatomb of the Drow springs from the idea of the apotheosis though concentration of power. While the plan to grow the Night though growing of the Drow is sound, in the core of the Tenets – as little as we were shewn of them – is the principle inherently self-destructing for a society. I posit that without bonding influence of the Cabals ryllehs would grind themselves into the extinction long ago.

            Now, what that would mean for the Night? It would be concentrated in few nearly-omnipotent beings, remnants of Drow race, forming a new Pantheon for the new All-Highest, Goddess of the Night. Ultimately, they will be dissolved in the Domain of Sve, or sacrificed for the glory of the Night to serve as a spark, jump-starting true Apotheosis.

            In essence, what Sve seems to practice the method opposite to the Neshamah’s preferred. He builds his own parish to become a physical god, she tries to become a concept. While he wouldn’t need such drastic measures as extinction-level hecatombs to sustain himself as a deity – so far as we know, that is – he is also nearly powerless outside of his small pocket universe. Would Sve actually succeed in her hypothetical plan, she will be a concept of Creation itself, for She is the Night, and the Night would be She. Eternal, powerful, free from intervention of Above or Below beyond already woven in the Weave of Creation.
            And only thing she ought to do, is to sacrifice her race. To the last of them. Pittance in the face of Eternity.

            Come to think of it, I now have a sneaking suspicion, that Cat’s wonder into the Underdark was caused not only by obvious reasons and crypto-obvious DK, but also by certain chronic alcoholic. Who once sicced two Kings, Eternal and Dead, on each other to give them both a valuable lesson – quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi, specifically.

            Like

      2. Dainpdf

        That sounds unlikely to me. A Domain seems to be something deeply personal, that one owns. The idea that someone (especially someone with no powers outside the Night they possess) could wield the Night against the Sve Noc is a bit like the idea that someone could wield Winter against Cat.
        I rather suspect that something went wrong with some form of metamorphosis that she was attempting and now she has a deformed body that causes her constant pain.

        Like

        1. caoimhinh

          But it’s still possible to bind her using sorcery, and powerful ‘demigod-level’ beings are susceptible to the bindings of High Arcana.

          I don’t think they used Night against the Sve Noc, but if she thinned her domain so much by spreading it in the whole Drow population, then she would be left vulnerable to a treason and the use of sorcery to trap her and use her as a source of power.

          Many comments have been talking about any villain being capable of using Below to give a curse to their enemies with their last breath, which I find unlikely but ok, let’s consider this: what if the current state of the Everdark, after Sve Noc was betrayed and bound, is her ‘dying curse’ out of spite towards those that took her gift and condemned her to eternal suffering?

          Like

          1. Dainpdf

            Cat is vulnerable to High Arcana because she’s not got just a Domain, she’s got Fae in her, and Fae in general are vulnerable to bindings.

            As for the Sve Noc being vulnerable, the issue is that, in the end, all the Night belongs to her. I wouldn’t find it odd if she could rip it out of of someone, or use it to control them (or at least nudge their perceptions or actions).

            Plus, the Night is the basis of most if not all power in the Everdark. What else would these drow use against her?

            Lastly, I find it unlikely that this is a dying curse, because one, it has affected the entire drow population for centuries, which is a lot. Two, the Sve Noc is capable of communicating, and therefore alive in some capacity. Not that this has stopped, say, Cat before, but it’s still a point against especially if the effect is still going. Third, it seems pretty certain that this is the Sve Noc’s domain, and it would be very odd if her domain is fulfilling some dying curse while she’s still alive. Instead of, you know, helping her.

            Like

            1. caoimhinh

              Fae are not the only beings that are vulnerable to bindings. Demons, and Angels too, even the Dead King, seeing as he even needs an invitation and a contract to cross into Creation. The higher power a being has within themselves the more they are bound by rules, the ultimate example being the Gods, who can’t step directly into Creation.

              Also, don’t forget that we have barely seen the outskirts of Drow society, the weakest of the Everdark, and if Sve Noc was betrayed and bound, then that happened centuries ago, we do not know what kind of powers and sorceries the Drow had in the pinnacle of their civilization, before their empire collapsed.
              My hypothesis was Sve Noc being vulnerable right after spreading her Domain into the Drow population, thus thining it and weakening herself, think of it as a mage being weakened right after performing a big ritual, there’s a window of opportunity there.

              We do not know exactly in what state she is, she could be dead and her soul bound to Tvarigu, or she could be in the center of a ritual site that spread her Domain and if she leaves it she dies.

              Like

              1. Dainpdf

                Except we know she talked to Cat in chapter 54, and she seemed pretty okay with the whole Tenets business. We also know from that chapter that she is Named.

                We do not know that the Dead King needs an invitation to come into Creation. It may be that what he needs is to not be the center of any story where he takes the offensive, so he does not *want* to come out without invitation.

                As for the Gods, it’s also not that they can’t come in, it’s that they don’t because that would spoil their game.

                Finally, we know that the Sve Noc(or those she converted) killed the Twilight Sages, those who would have been the greater powers of Drow civilization.

                After that, everyone of consequence has Night in them and so can’t really go against her.

                Liked by 1 person

        2. Morgenstern

          What about she IS “all Night”, the giant silhouette being the NIGHT = her spread out over all the “Gloom”, all the Drows, in constant pain because of the constant dying and suffering everywhere? Like, she tried to claim them all, but instead she spread herself out over them all and it’s just not working.

          Like

  10. superkeaton

    eh, not particularly fond of this pairing.
    it feels too “Generation Xerox”, the apprentice of the Black Knight and the apprentice of the Ranger, snogging? Predictable.
    I do like someone else pointing out that Cat’s constant thinking of things in terms of stories and their outcomes is just a little insane, even if it’s a practical sort of madness.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. caoimhinh

      Well, they had it coming for a long time, Archer’s constant innuendos and insinuations to Cat, and Catherine constant leering of Indrani, now put those 2 people with sexual tension between them and desires into a series of long months of battles underground, and this is what happens. I doubt they will be a couple, and they said this would be a one night stand (though knowing those two, it’s probably a lie, and IRL you can’t trust promises made when one is horny anyways), casual sex is likely to happen at least until they go back to the surface.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. caoimhinh

      Also, Catherine was taught that learning stories and thinking in their terms and outcomes was key to understanding how Fate worked and was vital in Black’s victories, and it’s also what has kept her alive through many things, so she’s not really insane, it’s no longer madness when it’s how reality works.

      Liked by 9 people

      1. Skaddix

        I mean Wesaka made her horny. But the Warlock is suppose to be super hot (2nd only to Malicia so far) so saying it takes a Super Hot guy to get Cat horny for guys definitely makes her more Lesbian then Hetero on the scale.

        Like

        1. Metrux

          Bi, hetero, lesbian… As Skaddix said, it’s a scale, not a trait, and not even a fixed scale (although it won’t ever swing full to the other side, or even too far away). Yes, she seems to have more relations with girls, so she probably likes more girls, though her first was also a boy, and she did wonder before how it would be with Hakram, even if she herself doesn’t feel that attracted to him. It’s probably more because most of the males around her are not to be touched or not of her liking, while the woman are more of free types ripe for the taking.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. luminiousblu

          He’s super hot in an informed way, to be fair. Sort of like how we’re constantly told that Ratface was (;_;) incredibly hot with a body like a Greek statue and a dick five times as large, but it was never really shown.

          Like

      2. Snowfire1224

        I think she mentioned way earlier in the story that when she was still in Laure she had dated a few guys. I think she mention one to Killian when she had asked Cat if she had ever been with someone. Hasn’t really been brought since.

        Like

      3. Darkening

        To be fair, the men she spends time with are either, not human, significantly older than her, or Masego, so she’s not exactly swimming in options. She’s expressed attraction to both ratface and warlock, and claims to have lost her virginity to a fisherman’s son, so while yes, she hasn’t had any romantic entanglements with men in the course of the story, it seems to be more due to a lack of available options than a lack of interest.

        Like

      4. Insanenoodlyguy

        She has expressed attraction to both Masegos parents, and once mentioned that if creation wanted her to be a virgin it shouldn’t have made the local sailor boys so hot, so there’s that.

        Like

    3. RanVor

      To be honest, I didn’t even remember that Archer used to be Hye’s pupil before you mentioned it. She’s grown so much her apprenticeship under Ranger has become a mere footnote in her characterization.

      Like

      1. superkeaton

        That might say more about Ranger’s lack of relevance to the story than anything else. Though I seriously suspect that the Pilgrim and his friends might be using Black as bait to draw Hye out and kill her once and for all, so she may become relevant soon.

        Like

        1. RanVor

          You might be right, but it applies to Catherine as well, although to a much lesser degree; I don’t really see her as Black’s apprentice anymore.

          As for Pilgrim’s plan, I think his target might actually be Cat, not Ranger. He has reasons to expect her to come to his rescue – freeing a captured friend is a heroic story after all; it fits her modus operandi perfectly. I think he’s counting on exploiting her bond with Amadeus to kill two birds with one stone.

          Like

  11. Snowfire1224

    I had a thought earlier today, about Cat and the story in general.

    It started with the comment Archer made a while back about how the Woe are wild animals that she basically let in and tamed (although not completely).

    You can say she did the same thing with the Wild Hunt, imposing rules on them, same with what she is doing with the Drow now.

    There is also, something I recently remembered from early in the story, about how her name felt like a living breathing animal. With how Cat mastered namelore and had to deal with weakening due to a redemption arc one could say she had to tame her name as well, learning hot to use it and how ignore it when it lead toward classic villiany.

    This also fits with her ultimate goal of the Liesse Accords as they are intended to tame the battles between heroes and villians so that the common people are not harmed.

    Liked by 12 people

    1. IDKWhoitis

      So Cat breaks Stories and Chains, and fits them with nice Leather collars instead?

      I like this line of thought for what Cat does, and I dont really see any counterpoints.

      Liked by 5 people

    2. caoimhinh

      Yeah, Cat is the breaker of patterns and reshaper of stories, even a maker of them to some extent. She is carrying Black’s legacy of not taming Evil, but directing it, putting order and pragmatism to the chaotic madness that was going nowhere due to blind ambition.
      Now they actually hold a real chance to an everlasting victory.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. IDKWhoitis

        Personally I see it more of a change of game more than an end to the game. The Calamities and Woe have transitioned this a game of checkers to one of chess. Parallels can be drawn with Medieval Age politics transitioning from religion and and personal feuds to the modern struggle of power between nation states.

        The game could technically be seen as “ending”, only for a new one to begin immediately afterwards.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Nairne .01

      It is a good question.
      I wonder, did Sve Noc start before the Dead King and was overtaken (as in a race for apotheosis and power / due to below) or did she try to imitate the Dead King or did she not know of the Dead King at the start?

      Like

      1. werafdsaew

        Sve Noc is likely after Dead King. Remember in one of the Keter shards, when the Intercessor was talking to Neshamah, she referred to the Twilight Sages as contemporary.

        Liked by 2 people

  12. 1queenofblades1

    RIP Cat. You are now ruined for all others. You fool! Did you not see that this was Indrani’s evil plan all along?!

    Also, Masego and Cat fighting over Archer would be bad. I really hope they figure stuff out.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Considering Masego is aro ace, I doubt it would even occur to him that there’s something to fight over. As long as Indrani is at his side every time he turns to look, that’s all that matters. And Cat would do anything to make sure that lasts, even if her own arrangement with Indrani sticks around.
      This could become a very nice and stable poly angle very easily.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Skaddix

        I mean he is highly disinterested in sex but Malicia can still impact him you think if he had zero interest whatsoever Mailicia abilities would have nothing to prey on.

        Like

        1. Strangely enough, that’s not how asexuality or demisexuality works: because, you know — still got the human. An asexual can get horny. It just takes special circumstances to pull off a phase shift, it’ll only be situational and it is not ever going to be their baseline state.

          Malicia has spent how long refining how to muddle other people’s baselines with pheromones, hormones and all sorts of shenanigans? Yeah: Zeze felt it — hadn’t a clue what to do with it, mind. Typical Spade. XD

          PS — Am Ace of Clubs. Or Diamonds. It can be hard to tell, and what you are can change over time as you learn more about yourself. 😉

          Liked by 1 person

            1. Yup. Although, people tend nit-pick over the Diamonds/Clubs a bit, Hearts and Spades are pretty cut-and-dried: Hearts = romantic asexuals; Spades aromantic asexuals. Diamonds and Clubs… semi-, demi-, hemi- arguments with cheese. Generally, it is agreed that Diamond-types trump Clubs in seeing the point in romance and cuddles, but both can be situational romantics and situational sexuals — with a running jump and/or a push start involving factors they might not even be aware of. God help the gender fluid diamond/club with very occasional bi tendencies — all the between stools. 🙂

              Like

        2. IDKWhoitis

          Malica captures fascination and attention, of the sexual variety yes, but it’s not the only tool in her set. If anything, Malica’s wards and spells (that she has been noted to be using in public appearances), may capture Masego’s attention for a different reason. Like a fashion designer more interested in the materials and procedures used rather than the actual model.

          Like

  13. WuseMajor

    Given how Archer has been drinking out of a flask that seems bottomless, she’s taken carousing to new levels, and she tends to do that whole obfuscating stupidity thing, I am honestly rather worried that Bard has gotten to her somehow, taking over her body as she does.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. WuseMajor

      “Archer drank like a fish, was largely led by her whims and professed indifference as to much of what went on around her. The very last person, in a way, that you’d expect to nudge events the way she wanted them.“

      That could easily describe the Bard. I’m worried.

      Liked by 11 people

        1. Metrux

          1. She can’t be the Bard because she can fight, a problem admited by the Bard itself.
          2. The Bard is not of Above, she plays for both teams, that has been well documented.
          3. It’s possible that Bard has gotten to her head… But I find it incredibly unlikely. She is less disinterested and drinker since she joined the Woe, and is only now showing more of it becauseo of the lack of Masego nearby. They both feel it, but she hides it better.

          All in all, don’t worry too much. Whatever is to come, will come in the story.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. nipi

            Not “The Bard” but perhaps an analogue to her. Although Id say thats probably unlikely.

            As for the Bard. I got the feeling that she is of Above. Its simply that she plays the long game, keeps the big picture in mind and similarly to the Pilgrim isnt afraid to employ the other sides tools.

            Like

  14. Aston Whiteman

    Pretty sure the whole Under Dark was a trap for Sve Noc. Or became one. Are there any God vacancies? Maybe one Masego and Cat made.

    Oh and an unlimited new realm to explore. Hmm.

    Cat won’t win this through Godhood. But someone else might…

    Like

  15. Matthew

    Well, Indrani going to die. She literally just walked up and planted a death flag. Which maybe she knew she was doing as Indrani’s death would be a meaningful sacrifice which would entice the Gods Below.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Metrux

      I’ll have to disagree, she was stopped before it could become a death flag, and the serious talk with sex in the end is more of a hero trope than villain, and one that comes usually before someone is knidnapped or otherwise needs saving, if it’s done before a battle. Yet, those stories commonly end with both alive and happy together.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Aotrs Commander

        I mean, like… Action movies aside, almost all of the video games romances (such as they are!), heavily fall into the “sex-before-climax” (pun unintended *headdesk*), often with a party member/companion… And, to be fair, a lot of those *cough*Bioware*cough* can have the protagonist be… Praesic Evil (that’s a new word I just made up, shut up), so it’s not even necessarily even just a hero thing.

        Liked by 2 people

  16. nipi

    Cat. Wonder what the consequences of doeling out fae titles is going to be? Above escalationg? Callowan nobles demanding some of their own?

    Wonder if Cat will be pruning her winter court a bit before leaving the Everdark?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. nipi

        You are forgetting the recent death spree in Callow. She needs the nobility more than ever – there simply arent enough others that could fill administrative roles, that are even literate. Remember that talk Talbot had with Hakram – if Im not mistaken that was before Malicias assassins happened.

        And I doubt the rest of Callow would be thrilled with only outsiders being empowered.

        Like

        1. “Yes, I could take up a lucrative and powerful office under the crown of Callow as a human being, helping keep this country which you love so much running, but you won’t turn me into an eldritch monster and enslave me with oaths to Winter in addition, so imma turn it down.”

          And neither a) a hilarious beating ensues, nor b) the aristocrat just to the left of this one grasps eagerly at the opportunity of office instead, nor c) the aristocrat being asked stops and thinks about what they’ve just asked for, then takes it *all back*.

          Well, it’s a theory. I don’t think your theory will pan out in canon, but one of the Roles of the name of Author is to mess with the audience.

          Like

  17. Skaddix

    If Indrani dies now wow the Gods are really hating on Masego. The three people he cares about the most in quick decision and Black on the chopping block they deserve him slaughtering the Gods at that point. Brought it on themselves especially since a fight in the Underdark is purely the purview of the Gods Below.

    Still i think its too early for a Woe to Die for good. Especially with only Cat around to see it.

    Liked by 4 people

  18. Azure

    Warlock kept insisting Catherine is a simalcrum and not real. She’s basically creating herself using Winter and story narratives, which Indrani just pointed out to her. I wonder how much giving in to sex with her, was Catherine trying to feel a bit more like a real girl.
    Not a huge fan of both of them together tbh. It’s just frivolous and meaningless sex, that’s basically put a death flag on Indrani’s head. They’re in a horror movie and the two horny teenagers just had sex. What’s next they split the party and go off alone?

    Like

  19. Suprime

    So the two faced goddess statue meant to represent the sve of not…. errr anybody notice that it fits cat as well? There’s cat as we all know and love her…. then there’s her other side Akua…. and akua has taken over her body before leavening a bit of weight to the whole two faced thing…

    Like

  20. Zaver SaintCloud

    The mention of a Pivot here got me thinking; Cat doesn’t really have a Name now, in the traditional sense. She has the powers sure, but went way beyond Squire when she took on the Mantle of Winter. Is Winter going to be her gimmick forever? I can’t see any Named abilities, no matter how strong, even coming close to the versatility offered by Winter.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Metrux

      What if her Name is *about* Winter? We saw fae Named before, she could very well get a Name that allows her to better use her Winter powers, just like Warlock’s aspects weren’t what gave him power, but empowered his already existing magic. Or she can get something from “outside” to help balance and smooth out her Winter, like Masego, whose Aspects have nothing to do with his main ability, Magic, but completement it incredibly well, with miracles.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Skaddix

      I assume she gets a Name if she wins. Winter is powerful but with Cat’s may self appointed limitations, it doesn’t seem to make her any different then your average powerful spellcaster. Cat is a mage now she just doesn’t have the formal training which is why Akua was doing way more impressive stuff while in charge. Named Abilities are pretty awesome in contrast.

      Like

  21. Just a thought, when Cat comes back with a horde of Winter titled drow at her tail, how are the Wild Hunt going to interact with them? I can imagine those fae bastards liking the drow like a playfully curious but too dangerous dog does a cat.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Vhostym

    Poor Masego, he’s really missing out here. Not only does he watch his father and dad die, but he misses out on an excursion that relates to yet another Apotheosis (either attempted or actual). I mean, killing Warlock and Tikoloshe was cruel, but now when Cat returns he’ll learn that he also missed out on the chance to witness another miracle, this time related to his personal obsession.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. caoimhinh

      Not to mention he is missing the Girl to Girl action between the two most important women in his life. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

      And yes, I know he’s got no sexual drive, but still.
      Besides, Indrani will teach him to appreciate such activities.

      Like

  23. Clay

    “I studied her in the flickering light of the flames, the shadow cast by the twisted rock around us dancing across her face. Halfway between tattoos and feathers, I thought.”

    I feel like something’s going over my head.

    Like

  24. Xinci

    So some thoughts
    Archer has suprised me once again in two ways 1. Being she doesnt think of her self on the stage of life
    2. She is much more patient than I thought, though this helps to explain her wide interest of behaviors and checks.She is slowly but surely building up to be something better. She isnt like her master in straightforward brashness towards greatness, or perhaps some of her Masters patience was learned by her. She has always been patient given the things the wide range of subjects she has learned to understand, quite masterfully done really. After her first heart to heart in the Everdark with Cat, where she proved that her goal is Mightiness and Proof of worth rather than outright “Being”. I thought of her goal as smaller than what she professed at the beginning. That she wanted to be “big”. The true momentousness of that would be aligned closer to her mentors current role(She appears to be a tester of the forces of everything old and powerful on the board, a occasional checker of their situation). She is rather whole as a being due to growing patiently through all these collected experiences. Slowly growing stronger til she becomes a piece too big to ingore I suppose. I am impressed, I thought she was going through a resting phase with the Woe til she transitioned but I suppose she shall simply have a greater pivot with them.

    Now onto Sve, I was wondering at the system Sve created and amazed by its potential. I now at least understand how she could have become a god properly, though unsure of how she would get her sacrifices in. Her peoples ability of the Night can allow them the portions of power,culture,skill,knowledge and inheritance of the people they take from. She could have organized specialized bands to pass on their knowledge wrapped up in a “form” and then integrated into the rest of the Drow as a Path( Similar to the current Sigils). Each path being a specific branch of configurations of the current integrated Night. As long as each form is splintered enough to be separate but still extrinsically connected to the whole(thus potentially needed a resting phase for properly disseminating the right amount of new power to each branch along with the central tenets of the Night). By doing this she could gradually make a interconncted networks of cultures. And eventually each Path of the Forms would develop Named. And all of them would be connected to Sve by the Tennets she set up. She truly could have conquered quite well after that combining different Mighty into different teams to bring in more parts of other cultures so as to make her people more whole. She would have been a goddess quite easily depending on what she took. The only things being a issue would be dues, heroic stories of things stolen and sought, and keeping the Night vitalized and connected among all those different fractured bits of power.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. XML4ever

    Looks like things in the Everdark are coming to a head… Thanks a lot, errata, for the chapter! I’m really looking forward to how this finishes, since I’m guessing it won’t all go Catherine’s way easily.

    Like

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