Chapter 80: So Below

“I speak today not for humble man-eating tapirs but instead for the most ambitious specimens their kind has ever known. Is it not the sacred duty of all Creation to seek to claim the Tower? How, then, could it have been a crime for these tapirs to follow this same dictate by devouring our late Emperor?”
– From official transcript from the Trial of Unexpected Teeth, opening speech of the defence

“What a silver tongue you have,” Andronike said. “But not quite silver enough. Your ignorance shows once more, Catherine Foundling.”

I tried to respond ‘when does it not?’, but I was currently being choked so it came out as more of a plaintive gurgle. So, this was how it ended: literally choking on my own words. Had to give her points for the irony, if nothing else.

“Allow me to educate you,” Sve Noc said, and threw me like a bloody rag doll.

Well, I thought, there’s a bright side to this. I’m currently not dead. Or at least not more than I was when this delightful interlude began. The slightly less bright side was that I was flying through flickering scenes, memories I could only glimpse the barest pieces of, and soon enough I would… Ah, there it is, I mused, managing to keep a semblance of mental calm as my leg snapped and my throat busied itself screaming. That utter asshole, I bet she’d aimed just so my bad leg would be the one getting the worst of the landing. I tumbled listlessly against the floor, my magical journey ending in the close acquaintance of my forehead and a stone wall. Still not dead, admittedly. I wouldn’t be in such an excruciating amount of pain if I was. My forehead was going to bruise, if I still had a body by the end of it. I moaned and flopped around until I was looking upwards, feeling out my knee and finding it only mostly broken. Could I still move on that? Maybe. There’d be a lot of howling involved, but it shouldn’t be impossible. I still stayed down for a while, lying uncomfortably on the floor.

In the distance people were dying.

“Educate me about that, would you?” I sighed. “Like I haven’t strolled through a dozen butcher’s yards.”

Might as well find out what had her tossing me around, I eventually decided. At this point I’d taken my swing and missed, I might as well die slightly less ignorant than usual. My good leg supported me as I forced myself up using the wall, taking a proper look around at my surroundings. Yet another drow city I’d never seen before, though I had a decent guess as to where we were: I was standing among a city-sized temple carved out of massive stalactites. The streets here were not interrupted by ‘canals’ that were effectively sheer drops, and hobbling to the edge of one told me there was an actual city below. If this wasn’t Holy Tvarigu, I’d eat my fingers… again? No, first time. I’d made other people – insofar as fae were people, anyway, – do it, but that hardly counted. I flinched at the vivid memory of it. Gods, I’d made people eat their hands. It’d seemed reasonable at the time, and damn me but I could still see the sense in it, but I couldn’t remember even hesitating for a moment. Not that hesitation would have made it better, I silently conceded. Cordelia Hasenbach’s passing comment had cut deeper than she knew.

What did regret matter, if it changed nothing?

The temple-city was strewn with corpses as far as I could see. Whatever battle had taken place here had ended, or at least near to it, and now this place was little more than a freshly-bloodied mausoleum. By Andronike’s passing mercy or a stroke of luck, I’d landed near the heart of the temple. I could only be thankful for that, I thought, as I eyed the mind-bogglingly complex web of stairways and bridges connecting everything. Some ways in front of me a wide staircase progressively narrowed in rising to meet a passage lightly sloped. On both sides it was flanked by a very short wall of painted stone topped by striking sculptures. It was a chain, I thought, as I began the painful climb. At the head of the stairs two androgynous drow of marble painted red and yellow roared out with curved blades in hand. From their back sprouted more drow in different colours, wielding whips and daggers, and facing those drow in hooded robes offered a supplicant’s kneel. The whirlwind of colours and faces and poses continued all the way to the end of the passage, where the heart of the temple-city awaited.

It took me far too long and far too many bouts of yelling to make it up the stairway, but the view when I did was almost worth it. Wouldn’t keep me alive, but that was probably asking too much. The riot of vivid pigments should have turned it ugly, but there was something almost hypnotic about the sight before me. More ziggurat than pyramid, though that failed to truly catch the essence of it: it was almost a stairway of giant steps, but a triangular mouth going all the way to the summit struck out from the rest of the structure – which was roofed, at that narrowest point, by some sort of cylindrical tiled pavilion. At the four cardinal directions pale or red stone made up the life and death of celestial orbs: sun on the rise and fall, moon ascendant and passing. It was like looking at a hundred rainbows made into stone and woven into a single tapestry. There was hardly a trace of such wonder left in what I’d seen of the Everdark. The thought shook me out of the trance and I resumed my advance. Halfway through the passage I finally noticed I’d not been alone for some time: hidden among the statues were drow, armed and armoured. They’d been so utterly still I’d never noticed. I continued limping until I entered the heart-temple, and there I found what Andronike had meant for me to find.

Inside were burned made of what must have been all precious materials in existence, from ivory to a massive hollowed out emerald, and every single one of them was wafting thick trails of scented smoke. At the centre of the shivering columns the two sisters were kneeling in front of simple carved piece of obsidian. A star map, by the looks of it. Andronike finished unfurling a large scroll filled with equations and incantations I’d already seen before, then passed her fingers over to smooth it out.

“Ready?” Komena asked.

“How could anyone be?” her sister replied. “Yet here we are.”

She breathed in loudly.

“We request audience,” Andronike said.

“We request bargain,” her sister said.

I hobbled forward with an expectant gaze, strangely eager to see the moment where they’d sold out their race with the best of intentions, but nothing happened at all. Stillness held the room.

“Damn me,” Andronike said with quiet horror. “I have killed us all.”

Her sister opened her mouth to answer, but was interrupted by an unholy ruckus. A dozen burners had been tipped over, by the sounds of it, and for a moment I thought it’d been me. But no – I turned, and there was someone in the middle of a set of spilled burners who’d quite evidently tripped on them. A drow, I saw. It rose hastily, pretending nothing had happened, and retched a little before slapping away the thick smoke.

“Gods,” the drow retched again. “That stuff is foul.”

Both sisters went still.

“O Shrouded God,” Komena said hesitantly, but the newcomer’s hand rose.

“Give me a moment, girls,” it rasped out.

It patted at its dirty robes and produced a flash of polished copper. My heart skipped a beat. The Wandering Bard uncorked her flask and took a deep drink, before gargling it and spitting out the liquor. The sisters traded an appalled look. A little less godly than they’d been aiming for, I supposed. The Bard took another swallow of liquor, wiped her mouth and went looking through the tipped burner before triumphantly snatching out a broken lute. Apparently she’d mistakenly spat some liquor on it, because with a shoddy attempt at discretion she began wiping at the wood with her sleeve.

“Good enough,” the Bard announced. “Right, so onto business.”

“You are no deity,” Komena flatly said.

“Well spotted,” Bard cheerfully replied. “And to think they told me you were the stupid one. For the purposes of this conversation, you might consider me an envoy of sorts.”

“You claim to speak for the Gods,” Andronike frowned.

“Oh, I wouldn’t go as far as that,” she said. “I’ve never been quite that much of a fool. But you called and here I am.”

“Are you a devil?” Komena pressed.

“Would it matter if I were?” the Bard shrugged. “Regardless, I hear the two of you are looking for a loan.”

The sisters stirred, Andronike picking up the scroll she’d unfurled.

“A miracle is what we would bargain for,” she said. “The specifics-”

“Are known to me,” Bard replied, waving the words away and accidentally sloshing some booze onto the floor.

One of the burners caught fire, and everyone delicately pretended it was not actually happening.

“Even the parts you got ambitious with,” she continued, lifting a finger off her flask to wag it chidingly. “Making it reusable? Now now, that’s trying to inflate the value. Just because you shove old skills and power into new heads doesn’t mean the following deaths are worth as much as the first.”

“We sought only to offer the finest possible tribute,” Komena baldly lied.

“I can’t believe I’m rooting for you right now,” I muttered.

Still, if the opposition was the Wandering Bard then ‘All is Night’ was most definitely the banner of the moment.

“More need than brains, huh,” Bard drawled. “No wonder you’re in good odour with the old crowd. Still, you two are a little late. They’ve been a lot more careful about where they put their money since Nessie ate the hand that fed him.”

“We offered all we have,” Andronike gravely said.

“Yeah, but you don’t have enough,” the old thing said. “I’ll level with you two, since you seem slightly less awful than your average drow. This? This whole thing? It’s not anybody’s plan. No one thought you’d actually fuck up so badly you’d obliterate yourselves. The folks upstairs are watching like hawks, and the other side’s wondering if it’s worth it to intervene given the… costs of such direct action.”

“We offer fair bargain,” Komena insisted.

“Fair is for children,” the Bard said. “They’re not interested in it.”

“Yet here you are,” Andronike said, amber eyes narrowing.

“Killing the Sages and calling Below in the middle of their seat of power was a nice touch,” she replied. “Got you the audience and a consideration. But the terms are going to need to change a bit.”

“This is an exceedingly delicate arrangement,” Komena said. “We can’t simply-”

“You will,” the Wandering Bard gently said. “Or you’ll die, every last one of you.”

“Speak your terms,” Andronike replied.

It sounded like a surrender, because it was.

“‘Nike-” her younger sister began.

“We are in no position to negotiate,” the older drow tiredly said.

“Debt isn’t wiped,” the Bard spoke softly into the silence that followed. “The Night will keep you all alive, but you two will need to keep it going. And if you stop…”

The ancient entity grimaced.

“Well, they’re not above cutting their losses,” Bard said. “Let’s leave it at that.”

“Should we even bother to accept?” Komena harshly replied. “Or is even that formality unnecessary?”

“I wish you wouldn’t,” the Wandering Bard murmured. “There are some things worse than death, and what this will make of you is one.”

She drank once more, then offered a sharp grin.

“But we all know better, don’t we?” she said.

I’d known how it would end from the start. I’d seen what had become of the Everdark and the two sisters, after all. And still, watching the light dim in the eyes of the two true drow in the room, I felt my stomach drop. Was there a single horror in this continent’s history the Wandering Bard did not have a hand in? The thing was, I understood why they’d made this choice. It was uncomfortable to even think it, but if offered the same terms with my own people on the line I would very likely make the same choice. Passing a hand through my hair, I gingerly lowered myself down to the floor while leaning against a pillar. So which part of this had it been that Andronike wanted me to see? Even odds it was either the Bard’s very presence or that threatening little bit at the end. They’re not above cutting their losses, the Intercessor had said. Was a gentle way to speak of genocide. Was that what Andronike was afraid of? That the moment she and I made common cause, a snap of the fingers Below would destroy her entire race? But it shouldn’t work out like that, I thought with a frown. The Gods were, well, exactly that. All-powerful. They could probably end the Night and likely Winter itself. But there was a story unfolding, and if they did anything of the sort they’d be directly meddling.

They couldn’t do that without opening the door for Above to do the same, and the Heavens should be taking a brutal beating right about now. The Dead King was on the march, the last thing Below would want was Above getting a free swing at him.

“So it’s the Bard you wanted me to see,” I said, raising my voice.

“The Bard,” Sve Noc repeated, walking out from behind the pillar. “What a quaint name. We knew her as the Envoy.”

“Neshamah called her the Intercessor,” I said. “And I suppose if anyone’s got her number it’s him.”

“The King in Keter wears a crown of lies,” the silver-eyed drow replied. “No creature born of this land has ever been half as skilled at the art.”

She moved to lean against the pillar I was sitting back against, standing above in both the physical and metaphysical sense. Well, at least one of those was new.

“He’s her enemy,” I said. “Trusting him would be foolish, but he wants her to bleed. That much can be believed in.”

“Trust is always foolish,” Sve Noc smiled. “It is faith writ small, and almost as dangerous.”

“So did you throw me here for a game of riddles?” I drily replied. “Because I can roll with it. The more you make, the more you leave behind. What-”

“Footsteps,” the goddess said.

“I might not win this,” I reluctantly conceded. “I only know, like, five riddles and that one was the best.”

If we made this about bawdy jokes instead my years at the Rat’s Nest would finally pay off, though. Worth a try.

“A riddle of my own, then,” Sve Noc said. “Why share what can be taken in full?”

I frowned, twisting to look up at her.

“You’re not Andronike,” I said.

“I never said I was,” Komena calmly replied.

“I’ve been over this with your sister,” I said. “But what the Hells, maybe the second time’s the charm. Just give me a moment to think of an insult to get you angry before this gets going.”

“Your offer has been made known to me,” Sve Noc contemptuously said. “There is no need to reiterate. I was partial to the notion of immediately crushing you underfoot, but request has been made that you be allowed to speak your piece first.”

Well, wasn’t that promising. I gazed ahead, honestly at a loss as to where to begin, and only now noticed the memory had stopped. Frozen. Maybe it really was only Komena’s memories, I thought. She certainly seemed to have greater control of our surroundings than her sister had. My eyes lingered on the Wandering Bard, the flask halfway to her mouth as she opened her mouth.

“She can be beaten, you know,” I said.

“You have not,” Sve Noc said. “And yet would demand that we throw in our lot with you.”

“I haven’t, it’s true, but there’s a villain down south called the Tyrant,” I said. “I have it from two rather reliable sources that he screwed with her plans in a major way last year. It can be done.”

“I lacked fear, once,” Komena said. “As you so foolishly do. I have since been taught better.”

“I just heard a woman try to lie to what she knew to be envoy from the Gods,” I said. “Brazenly so. She had a chance at getting her people out of this mess, I think.”

I smiled thinly.

“Now though?” I said. “You won’t even try. My opinion might be dross in your eyes, but I wonder what she’d think of you now.”

“Petty sentimentality,” she mused. “Is that truly the sum of what she brings, Andronike? This is what shook you?”

The other sister walked out from behind another pillar, this one in front of me. For terrifyingly ancient creatures, they did enjoy their petty theatrics.

“When have we last been called to account for our many sins, sister?” Andronike said. “There is worth in such a thing, even coming from her.”

“That last part was unnecessary,” I noted. “I mean, not wrong, but definitely unnecessary.”

“If you felt the need for a pet there are better choices,” Komena said, eyeing me darkly. “This one has been beaten too harshly to still be amusing.”

“I’m not even going to grace that with a response,” I indignantly said.

“A goddess has no interlocutors,” her sister said. “Only supplicants.”

“Judgement only has meaning coming from one worthy of casting it,” Komena said. “This one hardly qualifies.”

“I’m not going to claim I’m a saint,” I said. “And I’ve definitely crossed some lines, but-”

“Is this where you claim influence by your mantle once more?” the younger sister asked. “You could, at least, attempt a believable lie. ‘Nike, she’s not even held her half of the Garden for a decade. The drift would be negligible. It was still her. The only difference was that she had power enough to cow her foes.”

My fingers clenched. I didn’t want to believe that, and I wasn’t sure I did. But this was the Pilgrim all over again, wasn’t it? If there was anyone learned on the subject of mantles in Calernia, it would be the two of them. On the other hand, she’d already confessed she intended to kill me. Believable lies from enemies were a deadly thing.

“Humans are notoriously weak-minded,” Andronike replied. “Arguably the ease of their swaying is their defining characteristic as a species.”

I grit my teeth. Insulting as this was, I wasn’t exactly in a position to contradict her. I only had the one crossbow to wield and it was currently pointed straight at my foot.

“This didn’t have to get racist,” I still protested.

“Then let us see,” Komena said, ignoring my perfectly valid complaint, “the stuff Catherine Foundling is made of. Grant me the power, sister. I will not destroy her yet.”

Andronike considered me for a long moment, then inclined her head. My mind was racing at the implications. Angry Sve couldn’t kill me without Calm Sve’s say-so, then. Andronike owned the floodgate even in here.

“Done,” she said.

Komena pushed herself up and came to stand over me. Well, it wasn’t like I was capable of stopping her. Might as well do what I did best: mouth off to entities beyond my comprehension.

“Please be gentle,” I shyly said. “It’s my first-”

“No,” Sve Noc cut in.

What followed lived up to the word. Before the Battle of the Camps, I remembered, I had gone looking through a Deoraithe soldier’s mind for bits of useful information. If it had felt anything like this I owed the man apology and restitution. The sensation of cold fingers prying through my memories had me regretting the jest I’d just made. It was an intrusion, on some fundamental level, and there was no hiding anything from Sve Noc’s piercing gaze.

“There,” she said. “We begin with blood.”

For what he said and what he’d done, I’d decided he deserved to die – my hand had done the rest without any need for prompting. Edge parallel to the ground, slicing across the major arteries just like the butcher did it to pigs in the marketplace.

I gasped out weakly. She’d brought that to the fore, but her grasp had not slackened. I could still smell the blood in the air, the taste of the first life I’d ever taken. I could almost feel Black looking on, face unreadable.

“Humans killing humans,” Andronike commented. “Nothing of import.”

“A child arrogating powers beyond her due,” Komena contradicted her. “The birth of a recurring pattern. And see how quickly it comes again-”

I let what I’d just done sink in, closing my eyes. With a life spared, I’d just killed thousands. I’d just promised cities to fire and ruin, sown the seeds of a rebellion that would rip the land of my birth – the very same land I wanted to save – apart. But I’d also bought the war I needed. Damn me, but I’d bought the war I needed.

The Lone Swordsman, granted his life so that I may rise through the deaths it would bring. My throat clogged with old disgust. I’d never gotten over that quite as well as I liked to pretend. I’d just had darker things to my name, usurping the place of that early sin when it came to the litany of my regrets.

“Her own kind, thrown into the flames,” Komena said. “There are no similarities, Andronike, only lies she made herself swallow.”

“Not done without purpose,” I croaked. “Not for the sport of it. Because I thought it had to be done.”

“You were wrong,” the silver-eyed drow said.

“I was,” I got out. “And I will be again. But it still matters. If I stand judgement then judge me for all of it. Not just the parts that suit you.”

“Not desperation, sister,” Komena said, turning to address our audience. “It was ambition that held the knife. Best not forget that.”

“Not always,” Andronike said.

I couldn’t beat the monsters by being better than them. I’d never had that in me. Too much impatience, too much recklessness. That was all right, though. There was another way: be the bigger monster.

Akua on the Blessed Isle, a false victory. The two of us under moonlight, the beginnings of a dance that would see us both spinning for years. The moment I’d first admitted to myself I could live with being a monster if I still won.

“Pride,” Komena objected, shaking her head. “Refusal to lose even at the cost of principle. Must I bring out every example of this?”

The duel against the Duke of Violent Squalls, the Arcadian Campaign, Second Liesse. More recent, after that. The Battle of the Camps, Keter. The moment I bestowed a title on Ivah and bound it by oaths.

“Always another sliver shaven off,” Komena said. “Another compromise. How long would it take before we became the sacrifice?”

Andronike did not answer. She was, I thought, being convinced.

“This is most irregular.”

Both halves of Sve Noc jolted in surprise, and the younger sister’s grasp slackened for a moment before tightening twice as hard. I craned my neck to look at the source of the sound and winced.

“Finally you crawl out of your hole, shade,” Komena smiled. “I will enjoy this a great deal.”

Akua Sahelian stood among us, her scarlet dress flowing down to her feet, and managed to convey utter disdain without ever significantly moving her face.

“There are proper forms to observe, you grasping savages,” Diabolist scoffed. “This is not at all how a rigged trial is held. I see an accuser yet no defence – you can, and indeed should, bribe the defender, but you cannot dispense with the office entirely. It is simply not done.”

“Sister,” Komena began, but the other raised her hand.

“She is less dangerous here than out there, stirring trouble,” Andronike said.

“I find the shallowness of your understanding deeply offensive,” the shade retorted, wrinkling her nose. “This is the finest your misbegotten race has to offer? Even the least of Tyrants would have made matching cutlery sets of you.”

“I know you think this is helping,” I began, then paused. “Wait, do you? Are you trying to help?”

“You test my patience, shade,” Andronike warned.

“You test mine, chattel,” Akua replied. “Even a devil is owed an advocate.”

Komena laughed mockingly.

“And you would be hers?” she said.

“Why,” Diabolist smiled, extending her arms, “I only want to see justice done. Shall we begin?”

There should be a rule, I decided, about last moment rescues not being allowed to make a situation worse.

171 thoughts on “Chapter 80: So Below

      1. The court found that while the precedent of the sentient tigers meant that the tapirs could be found guilty of committing treason, the tapirs were also ineligible to become Dread Emperor, and as such, could not get out of the treason charge by right of ascending to and claiming the Tower.
        IIRC, anyways.

        Liked by 14 people

      1. Power of friendship, sacrificial saving of main character, last minute call to arms to defend the underdog(Scent of a Woman Al Pacino look it up) saves Akua is literal taking a squat on the heroic Axioms.

        The Gods Above wants these two gone and now. If Cat survives this battle though who could stand against them
        She gets the aid of angels and stopped a godzilla fight between two gods of evil by allying with her enemy.

        Above/Bellow must be furious right now. While Black rolling laughter in the deepest depth of Below.

        Liked by 3 people

          1. WuseMajor

            I’m pretty sure the heroes are aware that Black alive and contained means the two main villains they’re fighting will do stupid things to rescue him, but Black dead will cause them to lose their shit and do some crazy stuff.

            Though, hmmm. If they actually want to destroy Procer, then Black dead would help that wouldn’t it?

            Liked by 2 people

      2. Rup

        This is not at all how a rigged trial is held. I see an accuser yet no defence – you can, and indeed should, bribe the defender, but you cannot dispense with the office entirely. It is simply not done…….
        I see that Akua would be perfectly at home in our current legal system

        Liked by 5 people

        1. the verbiage ecstatic

          I’ve been mostly voting for Cat’a antagonists over her allies because they’re generally great characters and make the story more interesting, but it’s been tough. Tariq’s defeat was tragic, and unless Akua makes a comeback, my last horse will be out of the race (Masego is great character, but every scene Akua is in is just SO MUCH FUN)

          Liked by 4 people

  1. Hah.

    Akua Sahelian for the defense. That’s going to be a conflicting mess.

    The Bard totally needs to go. Perhaps she can’t be properly killed, but if you rip her soul (or the equivalent) out and bind it to something, that should take her out of play for a while.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Skaddix

      The Dead King, Greatest Sorcerer on the Continent had her strapped to a table and couldn’t figure it out. So I seriously doubt its that easy to rip out her soul and bind it. The Bard is not normal even compared to other Named.

      Liked by 16 people

          1. SMHF

            Nah, long hours, not a lot of pay. She’s middle management, and seeing as how Gods, Angels and Demons aren’t too bothered to watch all the creation burn; a very competent one!

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Rup

              ..don’t remember the exact quote…
              In Wildbow’s Pact…a lawyer in similar “employ” is threatend with death and replies “my employment contract precludes death”
              The Bard is like the Writer’s Rep

              Liked by 2 people

          2. Flameburst

            She is probably the Arbitrator of the contest between above and below, charged with keeping it going. In recent years below got ahead so she assists heroes. Back then a power base for below self-destructed, so she acted on belows behalf

            Liked by 3 people

            1. stevenneiman

              I’m not so sure. I think that she’s on the side of Above, and so she make sure that things continue along a path that leads to Good victories. In the incarnation that exists today Sve Noc as it (she? they?) is a kind of Evil which makes for a suitably dramatic story but ultimately stands no real chance of defeating Good, and the Bard knew that, so she nudged things towards the current setup.
              Everything the Bard has done so far has been an effort to either keep the stories flowing, foil villains with a chance of accomplishing something meaningful, and prop up villains who she believes will keep to the self-defeating status quo.

              Liked by 2 people

    2. luminiousblu

      You can’t kill the Bard. She’s the DMPC, the plot device, the person who moves the McGuffin, the kick to the status quo that has people crying for adventure and for a new party of level 1s to be rolled up. If she loses, that’s only if Above and Below think it’s time for her to sit out for a while, and she sits out all the time anyway.

      Liked by 7 people

            1. luminiousblu

              I don’t think you get the point, which is that the GM can be caught off guard, but he is also always within his right to say Rocks Fall or even to constantly roll 20s behind his screen and make “judgement calls” that swing things back.

              You can’t kill a GMPC, it doesn’t happen – they’re not stated out and even if they were he can just fudge the rolls. The Bard is a classic GMPC, who shows up to drop plot points and begin the main plot and promptly disappears, when you go look for her the GM smiles mysteriously and says “You follow her, but she’s disappeared into the crowd.”

              The main reason you can outsmart the GM is because the GM usually wants to be outsmarted, he’s not playing against you or anything, and also because he’d rather not end up with an empty table. You can’t, however, “quit” Creation.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. RanVor

                You can’t quit Creation, but you can make the gods wish you could. The gods too are bound by rules, and all rules can be exploited, if you know how to do it. Besides, you don’t have to fight them – you just need to ruin their campaign beyond repair. If they have to resort to killing you, you’ve already won.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. Metrux

                  Point of interest in this discussion: The Gods are not the GM in this story, as you mentioned, they are also bound by rules, which means they are not omnipotent and can’t be the true source of everything, which a GM is. So, what if the Bard works for the game because she’s actually working for the GM, instead of the Gods?

                  Liked by 1 person

    3. broadaxe

      Binding her soul to something seems kinda useless, she is routinely jumping her soul around to different bodies, wouldn’t she just jump out of whatever you bound it to? I’d say you’d have to mangle her soul, so that she is essentially dead no matter what body she jumps in to :3

      Liked by 3 people

      1. stevenneiman

        I don’t think it actually is her soul. I might be wrong, but the sense I got is that the the Name takes the inherited memories and personality alterations so far that whoever takes on the Name behaves exactly like the original, despite the fact that the soul doesn’t actually transfer. You’d need to bind the Name and do it in a way that whatever you bound it to couldn’t have the same effect as the normal Bard.

        Liked by 5 people

          1. Metrux

            When she is in the same body, yes, but when she changes bodies, we’ve seen already the person existed beforehand, and she got all the memories from it. So at the very least she’s a body stealer, if nothing else.


  2. tithin

    not how i saw this chapter going, but that basically confirms my personal theory the bard represents neither above nor below, but both? a sentient mechanism to ensure the story continues for the amusement of the audience (in this case, being the “gods”)

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Metrux

      I think you don’t understand the work of a Game Master if you think like this. The GM is never working for ANY side, he is there to tell the tales and present the situations, so that the players can better enjoy the game. None of this has anything to do with what Bard does, unless you count her as a pawn to the GM.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. magesbe

    Akua makes everything better. EVERYTHING.

    I know that the pacing hasn’t actually slowed down too much… heavens knows there have been several past chapters where almost no actual events happen and it’s all setup for the climax, but this bothers me a lot more.

    Probably because I’ve never approached a climax as apprehensive as now. Oh I’ve been worried about Cat and co, and worried that a character I liked would die, or something bad would happen to them, but this is the first time I’m genuinely concerned for the quality of the story. I think the next few chapters will decide whether the Drow arc more or less works or was a huge waste of time and writing.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thea

      While the pacing of the story may not have slowed as such, as you said, you’re right that the flow is dead. Akua to the rescue with the power of friendship was amazing. Empowered Catherine giving no shits was surprisingly nostalgic and great writing, too. But that disrupted the flow and it hadn’t started up again. It’s just crabbing around. Catherine leaving the mantle with the drow wouldn’t feel satisfying to me. And we get Akua to the rescue *already again*. Matters just ate coming together smoothly, especially compared to previous climaxes.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Argentorum

        I agree. I think we could have skipped the metaphysical concept battle at least, getting right to memory lane with a rush to the center, maybe. Akua saying she’ll meet Cat there. The one thing is I’m not sure the jaunt down memory lane is skipable, it adds so much necessary context, even though it breaks the pace of the climax and sends us back down for a bit before we get to the trial.


    1. magesbe

      Beating a choir isn’t anywhere close to beating the Gods Above, in the same way that beating a Demon doesn’t mean you’ve beaten the Gods Below. That isn’t to say it might not win her bonus points, but it’s not evidence of being able to beat the Omnipotent. More relevantly, it’s not even evidence of being able to beat the Bard.

      Liked by 6 people

    2. tithin

      Asides from the fact that this has somehow become a trial with regards to the fate of the Night / Winter mantle vis a vis Cat’s actions over the course of the story, the bullying of the hashmalim doesn’t matter in this context because the Hashmalim are irrelevant to the drow, they’re not a series of beings that the drow have ever interacted with as their stories explicitly avoid heroes.

      Laying aside the fact that the distinction has never been made around Hashmalim themselves being gods, or merely extremely powerful messengers thereof.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Metrux

        1. At the time Drow were in power Villains and Heroes were not even defined as so.
        2. The Hashmallins, as all other angel choirs, have been defined as instruments left by the Gods Above, explicitly bound to so much rulings and specific acts, that they can’t even be trully considered sentient. So yeah, no gods.

        Liked by 1 person

    3. Skaddix

      Cat only won that cause the Choirs still have to play by the rules of the story and Cat cause Akua was the opposition was the Hero of that story.

      That has no bearing on the Gods.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I am so confused what does Cat win if she wins the case, loss equals death.

        Does she get her mantle back?
        Does she share her body with three souls not including her own?
        Does she give the power to this new entity, while she assumes whatever new name?

        Now that Cat is humanish again she realizes that she does not want or need power. It was easier to be herself when she had limitations, easier to fight, easier to enjoy life. Now that she can choose what she wants instead of being chained to a mantle since she was the last fae standing.

        Cat is still integral to the story unlike the first prince who I realize never attained a name because as the Peregrine and Saint said her involvement is just for appearance sake and that her fight was just a cliff note. Cat is a mover and shaker so she could still attain a name, “Oathmaker”.

        What does she want from winning the case?

        Does she want winter back(a hanging sword for any foe)

        Will the dead king still respect her if she gives up the power?

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Andrew Mitchell

          I think we’re going to get answers to most of your questions. And some will come in the next few chapters and others may need another book or two. Until then all we can do is speculate; I’ll go first.

          What does she get from winning? My guess is that she’ll get some sort of deal with the sisters that means that the drow will be allies in Catherine’s surface battles. In addition, her experience reliving those memories is going to have a big impact. She’s going to work a lot harder on not being a monster. I don’t think she’ll get Winter’s mantle back and I don’t think she’s going to come into a new Name anytime soon.

          So that’s my speculation. What’s yours?

          Liked by 2 people

          1. magesbe

            If she loses Winter and doesn’t get a Name out of it… she’s useless. She basically becomes unnecessary for Callow. She isn’t the best general, she isn’t the most charismatic leader (and a lot of her charisma was influenced by her Name), she isn’t a great administrator… she’s story savvy, but if you’re not a Named, that really doesn’t mean much. There wouldn’t be anything about her that’s necessary for… anything. Unless you count loyalty from those who do have power.

            It’s all about power. Without power, she would never have gotten anywhere, and if she loses it here, on the eve of a war… bad things will happen.

            I admit it’s a possibility she loses all power… but I would be really pissed off. Like, drop the story for awhile pissed off. After shooting off a rant about how completely unnecessary that would make 60% of this entire arc (because if she’s going to lose all power, why would there have been a lot of focus on her learning to use and refine power? And if enslaving the Drow was ultimately not going to matter, why write her fighting her way through cities and not just sneak up to Sve Noc, get caught, and then the same thing happens but in 1/4 of the written space).

            Sorry if this is snappy or abrasive, but it’s really been bothering me. I keep telling myself it probably won’t turn out like that because it would be bad narrative, but I can’t bring myself to completely discount the possibility as well, and it’s aggravating me.

            Liked by 9 people

            1. burdi

              i think its impossible for catherine to loss all her power, its just not possible

              she is one of the great enemy of the heaven, and she is former named, you cant became a named then became nobody.

              she is a Villain, her only fate is either turn her cloak or croak/dead, there is no possibilities for her to became normal again

              Liked by 2 people

              1. My question is, how does Cat even exist?
                Her body was smoke and mirrors, winter made manifest, a physical projection made by her power to a point that she only had heartbeat when she remembered to have one.
                Hell, Pilgrim knocking her out after lake drop incident made her body keep reshaping itself constantly.
                What is there left to form a body for her if the power of winter is drained away?
                I may have missed something, but so much of this seems lcompletely coming out of nowhere.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. burdi

                  she never loss her body, its just changed by creation because she bore the full mantle of winter so she must not human, creation changed her body to construck to match it with full mantle of winter
                  her real body still there all this time
                  but this time she really out of her body..gone to mantle of winter night

                  Liked by 3 people

        2. Enjou

          Cat winning likely means alliance with the sisters in some form or another. My personal guess is that the sisters, along with both Night and Winter, will merge with the Mantle of Woe. This will allow them to empower Cat with the abilities granted by Night and Winter, but without it directly influencing her personality. Part of the merge will include them making oaths to enforce the Liesse Accords. In exchange Cat will have to work with them, because while she’s in the driver’s seat she can’t just outright to ignore them because if she does they turn off the flow of power, and they’ll ensure that she doesn’t just use the drow as a disposable tool that she can throw away once done with them.

          Cat gets her mortality while keeping the power of her mantle, her army of drow, and something that will ensure the Liesse Accords will be enforced once she’s dead and gone. The sisters get to ensure that their people won’t just be killed off.

          The whole arrangement sort of violates the “don’t rely on a magical artifact as a villain because it will fail you at a critical moment” axiom, but since the failure in question is related more to the axioms regarding “don’t abuse your chained up monster” and “don’t break oaths with the fae” the pitfall can be largely avoided.

          As far as Akua goes, she’ll likely ensure all the wording is neat and proper. If she survives… well, being forever bound to an artifact that enforces a treaty that is meant to prevent atrocities like the one that she caused would be delightfully ironic.

          Liked by 4 people

            1. Metrux

              It does sound good… For the end of everything in this story. Really can’t see any of this happening right now, would simply disrupt everything that is still to happen, in the same way we see animes doing… They tended to be good, then it just became more of the same because power overwhelming, and that is a thing people have already been complaining about the Winter mantle. No, she won’t have the two in her mantle, just not happening.


  4. nick012000

    >“Pride,” Komena objected, shaking her head. “Refusal to lose even at the cost of principle. Must I bring out every example of this?”

    There’s something to be said for Cat’s impressive trail of victories, though. She’s never lost a battle so far.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. magesbe

      It can be argued that Akua beat her. Temporarily, but to be honest it wasn’t her own ability or planning that got her out of that one. Also, William did kill her. She just didn’t stay dead.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Catherine trusted Black to help her plan out that one. IMHO, if Cat had been planning that one alone, she wouldn’t have let an opening THAT big on accident. It wasn’t her own ability or planning that got her out of that one, but it also wasn’t her own ability or planning that got her INTO that one, so the point is moot. She trusted Black to make a plan that would work… and she wasn’t even wrong, in the end, it, er, did.


  5. Skaddix

    Honestly, EE might actually make a creative ending for this one I fully expected a repeat of the King of Winter and Queen of Summer and Cat leaving with a Slave Army but if she walkes out with an Alliance with Sve Noc instead well props that is a more interesting direction. As compared to Cat simply killing Sve Noc adding Night to Winter and leaving with a massive Drow army.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I may have had some, complaints, about last couple chapters, but this, this has been pure gold.
    So much for the “Mantle made me do it” defense, self awareness, thy name is most definitely not Catherine Foundling.
    And dammit i especially love Akua giving us insight on the role of the defense on Praesi culture.
    There needs to be one, you can, and are expected to, pribe it, but there must be a defender for the accused, this is a society that, when seeing their ruler being eaten by man eating tapirs, goes to court over wether or not the tapirs get to be the next ruler.

    Seriously, Praesi may be evil fuckers in general, but i love how self aware they are about it.

    Liked by 13 people

    1. IDKWhoitis

      Lawful Evil must follow the letter of the law after all, if not that, why bother with rules and rulers at all? Praes is built upon this rigid hierarchy, and they must follow all the expected forms of malevolence. This is the same empire that has forms to kill bureaucrats and has laws of inheritance regarding undead and claimed souls.

      Liked by 7 people

  7. IDKWhoitis

    So is Akua dragging out what remains of her name now that Winter has subsided? Is the Diabolist about to get a second act? More importantly, we see that Cat is just waiting, and being quiet. Ok, well more quiet, as she lets the chaos between several semi-malicious entities talk it out.

    I still don’t believe this is a betrayal of Cat, since the “Power of Friendship”™ is still in play.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. burdi

    everything that sve noc said was meaningless, the show of memory just to guide cat’s mind, to make her surrender. by making her see in their way, that what they did was not wrong..its just tactic to herding cat to her butcher place like a sheep
    that is why akua with the power of glorious friendship came to rescue..because its the time, the only condition they can beat the odds.., by compare catherine and sve noc..who is better.
    without someone to help her, catherine is guaranted will loss..cant argue for herself, she already loss her words after they showed her their memory .its their plan
    its akua show sve noc and below or and above that catherine is better

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Catherine has a problem in that she thinks of herself, in some ways, as a good person, that her cause is just, and that she should be better than the worst.
      Her claim of “Justifications only matter to ther just” is a pretty snappy one, but i don’t think she truly believes in it. And here, that is a weakness she can’t afford. Sve’s will keepknocking her down with all of her more brutal actions taken out of context to try to convince her that she is not a good person (and i’d argue that she is not), that she should not have power because she can’t be trusted to wield it (i think she can).
      So here comes Akua, who can argue against Sve’s claims, who can bolster Cat’s side and argue that what Cat did was necessary and/or justified.

      I think the current fight is about willpower and conviction, who truly believes themselves to have the right to rule, to wield power, to win. And Cat has always had self doubts, it’s one of the things keeping her from becomming the monster some fear she might be, but here, those doubts can kill her.
      But Akua, she is nothing if not certain of herself, here, she is possibly the best ally Cat can have from all those who follow her. Provided she does not stab Cat in the back, which i don’t think she will, but is never really certain, this is Akua after all.

      Liked by 11 people

  9. Antoninjohn

    Cat has changed the story from one of Moonless Nights vs Drow Night to a trail of justice, Sve Noc may have had “All is Night” to let her win the battle of Nights but Cat has “Justice only matters to the Just” which will let her win now, Sve Noc lost the minute Cat changed the story

    Liked by 3 people

    1. magesbe

      Except does Cat really still buy that? The first quarter of this arc involved her waffling around feeling terrible about herself and what she’s done to Callow. That is not the action of someone who feels like she doesn’t need justifications for her actions.

      Liked by 5 people

  10. Andrew Mitchell

    It’s great to find out that EE can still surprise me. I was NOT expecting this to become a mock trial with Akua on the defence.

    I can’t wait to see Akua in action. This is going to be so, so good.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. letouriste

    theories: cat asked akua to do something about sve noc before the battle and we didn’t really see what that was yet right?
    i guess the plan is still there but cat is clueless about it given she decided to let akua do the plot.
    I doubt she planned to lose her mantle but her plans involve a lot of room to improvisation.
    the whole chapter was still confusing to me tho

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Andrew Mitchell

      I think all this is being improvised and there is nothing left of Cat’s planning. IMO this battle isn’t going to be won through force. Now she needs the sisters’ willing cooperation.

      Liked by 3 people

  12. Someguy

    >“This is not at all how a rigged trial is held. I see an accuser yet no defence – you can, and indeed should, bribe the defender, but you cannot dispense with the office entirely. It is simply not done.”

    If a rigged trial involves the Defence being bribed you have already failed. The practice of Law involves the Prosecution & Defence actually practicing with great effort and vigour. The Judge has already been bribed/in bed with whomever profits most from the result, the Prosecution & Defence exist only to practice.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. NerfGlastigUaine

    The opening quote always mirrors/foreshadows what happens in the story. Thus, I knew after reading the stirring defense of the ignobly executed man-eating tapirs that this chapter would be a gem.

    Also, Trial of Unexpected Teeth? Really? You created man-eating tapirs, bragged about it, and asked “who’s the real loser here,” and they were unexpected?

    Liked by 5 people

  14. Nairne .01

    Eh, is Aqua going for “justification matters only to the just”?
    Does she even know about it? Did Sve get that information yet?

    I don’t know why but I was under the impression Cat didn’t have a third moment like that one with justification yet.


            1. Nairne .01

              Eh no,

              Book 2, chapter 47:
              “Repent, Queen of Callow.

              I gurgled out a wretched laugh. You can’t ever lose, can you? Even when you’re beaten I have to become one of yours. I forced myself to remember something else. They tried to struggle but it was just as much a part of me as the rest had been. You don’t get to pick and choose what I am. Two silhouettes cloaked in black, standing alone in front of the throne.

              We do not kneel.

              It wasn’t enough. Those were not my words. I had borrowed them, and in borrowing lessened them. They demanded contrition. They demanded justification, for all my many sins. I had none. I clawed desperately into the depths of myself. Looking for something, anything. What I found… was a starry sky, in ruins that moaned in the wind. A dark-skinned girl, tempting me with a way out. Four dead on the floor as she fled. A lesson learned, a question answered.

              Justification only matters to the just.

              They flinched.

              “I swore it,” I croaked. “Whether they be gods or kings or all the armies in Creation.”

              I no longer saw a crown on my brow. They hadn’t liked that at all, had they? So much for being Queen. The fires withdrew, leaving me empty. Still dead. Unlike their trap of a Name, this I took umbrage to.

              “You can’t cheat me,” I laughed. “You’re not the Gods. You’re part of the story too. You have to follow the rules.”

              I opened my eyes, looking up into the perfect blankness.

              “And if you won’t give me my due,” I said. “I’ll Take it.””

              Liked by 1 person

  15. SpeckofStardust

    “They’ve been a lot more careful about where they put their money since Nessie ate the hand that fed him.”
    Best name for the Dead king right here, Nessie.

    Liked by 7 people

      1. Andrew Mitchell

        That’s an interesting thought. I think Below want the Dead King to be more active and involved because Below (like Above) want the story to ebb and flow. A Dead King who just sits on the sidelines gathering more and more power is wasting story potential.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. He made a deal with devils to power his ritual, but then figured out a way to backstab the devils and take over their hell (converting it to his purposes). I’m pretty sure it’s the latter part that they’re unhappy with.

        Liked by 5 people

          1. I think it might be more because he doesn’t do all that much proactively with all the power he’s gotten.
            I mean, he’s been more or less content to sit there for centuries, if not millennia. Oh, sure, he’ll smack down anybody going into his territory, but he’s never seriously tried to expand what he controls.
            He never finished off the ancient enemy of his people, either, and so the Lycaonese are around.

            Liked by 5 people

              1. Metrux

                RanVor, just reread the story. Everything points to the Gods, both Above and Bellow, to be utterly foolish and filled with hypocrisy. Besides, there’s nothing they “can’t afford”, since they’re Gods, and the only reason they can be so foolish in the first place is that they have enough power no one can do a thing about it.

                Liked by 2 people

                1. RanVor

                  You’re missing one important detail – the Gods Above are watching Below’s every move, and would never miss a chance to take advantage of their dumb mistake. And of all dumb mistakes a god can make, punishing its followers for sticking to the principles it taught them is undoubtedly the dumbest.

                  Liked by 2 people

    1. Aotrs Commander


      Lets us hope, that if by the end of the series, Cat can’t kill both sets of Gods outright, she will at very least, be able to set Bard’s conceptual everything on retroactive fire forever…

      Liked by 4 people

  16. broadaxe

    People talking about “justification only matters to the just” you guys realise that just a few chapters ago cat was chidding her self for saying something so stupid as that right? :3

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Nairne .01

      I know.
      If we are to believe the queen of Summer and her prophetic naming of Cat’s band of misfits then I wonder what kind of Woe will befall Sve and possibly Cat as well (as misery loves company).

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Nairne .01


    I still want Cat to ascend to the same level as Neshamah.
    I do love how she warps stories for her benefit though it would be unnatural for her to keep to a level or two below the DK and Bard.

    I admit I love the idea of OP characters my desire stems mainly from that, but I’d also love to prove the Bard wrong and have Cat not “burn out” like she said.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Aotrs Commander

    Huh. Guess I was right about Cat using the mantle as an excuse to wag her finger at herself. Little bit surprised, but pleased, actually. (Since I am very big on personal responsibility, and one of the reasons I despise the gods, bard and the choirs with a blazing intensity…)

    Cat, duck, you kind of need to stop pretending to yourself on a bad day and just run with it and accept you are what you chose yourself to be. Everyone (that matters) will still love you anyway..

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Nairne .01

      Indrani already told Cat about that. Cat is Callowan deep down so up until now, she had to believe deep down that she was doing good.
      I think her character development since she became the Squire was more linked to her Name (or in other words the part of her soul that was her Name) and then when it got swallowed to Winter. She became more accepting of cruelty and more radical means even as Squire and it continued when she became the Sovereign. The reason she didn’t revert to her old self like this time was because Winter or more likely her domain swallowed her Name (or at least that part of her soul).

      This entire arc may basically be an opportunity to reflect on that and maybe start over.

      The biggest thing I think both Komena, Andronike, and Cat may be missing at this point is the simple truth that power – no matter its nature – wants to be used.
      So if one assumes that whoever gets this pot of dubious gifts of comingled Night and Winter will be immortal then there will inevitably be a time when they use this power, and in this argument both or one of them is pretending to prove who can use it better (or to do more good) and both or the other is arguing who has more right to this power.

      I’m probably wrong or may have expressed myself wrong (or both), but I’d love to see your (all of you) outlook on what we had in this whole arc up until now.

      Liked by 3 people

  19. mavant

    He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind, and the fool shall be servant to the wise in heart. – Proverbs 11:29

    Personally I’m delighted to see Akua taking on the role of Clarence Darrow. Let’s get this Monkey Trial started!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Zaver SaintCloud

    What gets me about the last few chapters is that for all the drama & backstory (which are fantastic btw), we must remember that Cat came here for the purpose of securing an army to supplement Callow’s forces in the Crusade. Having her walk out of the Everdark with a large contingent of Drow seems almost inevitable, and thus takes away some of the spectacle that is her confrontation with Sve Noc. Though she might also get a few of those Dwarven thrill-seekers to join her, so that’s a plus.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Metrux

      If she gets rid of Sve Noc, she might very well get an army of DWARFS to fight with her. So no, she can leave here without Drow in the end, though would be kinda anti-climatic. Also, if she makes a deal with the sisters, unless it takes them out of the underground and destroys the gloom, those very same dwarfs will come for *her*. Yeah, this just isn’t ending well for everyone, and your argument… You could say so for any story. We all already know how they end, the MC victorious in some manner, so why bother? Well, because we like the way it is told, the details of the world, the tale itself in how it happens, instead of where it goes. After all, you can enjoy a story you already know, why is it such a different concept to enjoy one still filled with mysteries to unravel?

      Liked by 1 person

  21. broadaxe

    So i was reading some old bits and peices of the guide, to get up to date on Abigale, as i am curious what she has become in cathrines absencens.

    When i realised why Cat bound akua, why she kept her around, and in heinsight it is so obvious its kind of astounding. We were all screaming it was a terrible idea becuase she would betray her, take over her body, take over winter, yada, yada. Because, essentially, she would be a treacherous lieutenant, just like Larat. Suddenly neither of them feels nearly as dangerous, one is a danger but 2? Suddenly irritants law just makes it a mere problem. That, i believe is real reason she kept her :3

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Basicly this.
        First binding Akua’s soul was a punishment, then she became a dangerous weapon for desperate situation, later a tool too useful to discard, then a treacherous advisor, and now, she’s a borderline (untrusted) friend/ally.

        I used to hate Akua, she was in many ways the worst example of what Praes was.
        But, overtime she grew on me, yes, she was evil treacherous asshole right up until she had he heart ripped out, but afterwards, she did not moan or complain. No matter how much i hated her, Akua accepting her fate, and straightforward and self aware way of dealing with it since has made her possibly my second favorite character after Cat (kinda tied with Thief and Hunter, can’t really decide between them).

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Nairne .01

          Hunter was a childish prick, wet with his mother’s milk behind his ears and dreams of being a hero when he really wasn’t anything special (a sidekick maybe).

          Liked by 1 person

  22. nipi

    Seems to me like the sisters and Cat have done pretty much the same things.
    “Хотели как лучше, а получилось как всегда.” (“We wanted the best but it came out like always.”) – Viktor Chernomyrdin

    I wonder what the “reasonable” sister is fishing for. Plot armor aside it seems like she is waiting for Cat to realize what she needs to offer to get a deal.

    Liked by 4 people

  23. nipi

    “A child arrogating powers beyond her due,” Komena contradicted her. “The birth of a recurring pattern. And see how quickly it comes again-”

    Ok its official Cats just ramping up towards becoming OP. Then again we already knew that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This has become something of a pattern,
      Cat is taken down by an enemy, enemy fails to immediately utterly destroy her, Cat gets up and becomes even more powerful, defeats her enemy.

      It kinda happened with William in their first fight.
      It happened with William in their third fight.
      It happened with the winter fae (i think, don’t have perfect recollection of the fight).
      It happened in second Liesse with Akuwa binding her.
      It sorta happened when Pilgrim managed to knock her out after the lake thing. Even if the power up was starting to use Akua.
      And now it seems to be happening again.
      As long as there is anything left of Cat, body, mind, or soul, she is going to get back up, and kick your ass.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Nairne .01

        “The birth of a recurring pattern. And see how quickly it comes again-”

        I don’t know whether to be impressed or laugh at the observation. Isn’t that exactly what is happening now?

        Liked by 1 person

  24. Moginheden

    The previous/next links seem a bit messed up here. Normally the interludes get put into the order properly. This time the “next” button from “As Above” comes directly to tbis chapter, but the “previous” button from this chapter goes to “Peregrine I” also the interlude doesn’t seem to show in the sidebar chapter list.


    1. RanVor

      Because it’s not an interlude. It’s an extra chapter, and as such can be found in the extra chapters section. If it was an interlude, it would have “Interlude” in the title.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. You know, I’ve been reading the Tyrant chapters. Absolute joy.

    He literally said “We do not go gently into the night.”
    “First step always works, so always have a first step going.”

    His views on villainy are as pure as Akua, and presumably the arsenic he employs. It’s fucking amazing. And then again, his personal philosophy of “Fuck it, I’m dying, let’s do this” reminds me so much of Cat. He is a madman, the best kind.

    I really hope the next book delves into his character more. His absence so far has been sorely noted, and it’s about time his game with Hierarch bore fruit.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. SMHF

    You know. there is a part of me that still thinks this is part of an elaborate plan to force a narrative and Cat had to wipe her memory of the plan since she knew Sve could easily access it…

    This whole thing just doesn’t add up to how calculated they did everything in the Everdark afte the fight with Urulan…
    I seriously cant believe they decided to just wing it, knowing Sve was gonna show up.

    It’s the same reason I’m pretty sure getting caught was part of Black’s plan… which is kinda terrifying because it means whatever he’s gonna get out of it, was worth half of his legions!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Eh, Black just going “fuck it I don’t have a plan” kind of lines up with him breaking Liesse and Empire with it and then giving Cat a knife and going ‘just go for it buddy’. He’s been in a slow motion mental breakdown, and I think his loss was, in fact, a genuine loss.

      Catherine here definitely had more of a plan than we’ve seen.

      I can’t wait for it to play out in Sve Noc’s favor ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  27. What did Kairos do to mess with the Bard’s plans, specifically? I remember her saying that he “snuck one by me”, but what was it?

    The one thing that comes to mind is that he made Anaraxes Hierarch and put him in charge of the League, but I’m not sure why that is such a significant move.


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