Chapter 2: Stirrings

“Everything happens for a reason, and this time the reason is that I godsdamned said so.”
– Queen Elizabeth Alban of Callow

I let Akua trail behind me as we walked through the half-frozen mud.

Archer hadn’t been wrong, I thought, to call this place a shithole. But where she likely saw it as sloppiness on their part, a refusal to pull up their sleeves and improve their own lot, to me Trousseau reeked of desperation. Too many hard years, too many taxmen more interested in their tallies than what those cost to the people who made up the numbers. I didn’t like it, that she thought that way. I could admit that to myself. There were times where her indifference to the lot of others galled me deeply, because it ran against what I’d been raised to – that when it got dark outside, everyone was in it together. I’d learned, though, to follow that somewhat callous belief to its source. The Ranger. I’d loved the stories about Indrani’s mentor as a child, certainly more than those about the Calamities. After all she’d been absent for most the Conquest, and unlike the others she wasn’t Praesi. The last specks of that childhood fondness had waned when she’d answered an offer a help by nearly murdering me on a whim. What Black saw in her I didn’t know and doubted I would ever understand, but I could make my peace with that. What she’d done to Indrani, though? That was another story.

She’d taught Archer that her fate would only ever be defined by her own hands, and that I could only approve of, but she’d left the lesson half-finished. She’d never told my friend that she was exceptional, that not everybody could be like her. That sometimes people failed and gave up, and that didn’t make them unworthy in some way. Just tired and hurt and without an answer as to why they should keep trying. It was an easier way to live, I supposed. Looking a misery and believing it was the miserable solely responsible for it. Never aching at the sight. But I don’t think it’s a better one, I thought. Maybe it was unfair to blame the Lady of the Lake for passing down beliefs she seemed to genuinely hold to, but I wasn’t inclined to fairness when it came to the Ranger. She had her claws too deep in too many people I loved, and I could only think of the marks she’d left behind as wounds.

“I don’t suppose we have a destination in mind?” Akua mildly said.

She’d caught up to me while I was deep in thought. I could not help but notice from the corner of my eye that her dress of pale and gold was untouched by the mire we were passing through, or that she left no footprints. Not quite alive, not quite dead. As in so many things, Akua Sahelian was straddling the line.

“There’s a knot of drow further down the street,” I replied. “And I could only think of one reason so many would gather in one place.”

The shade kept to silence for a moment.

“She has been getting more rowdy, not less,” Akua finally said.

Even with the wind that had me wishing I’d wheedled a scarf out of the drow before leaving, her voice was perfectly heard. Couldn’t be sure whether that was just an oratory skill she’d picked up in Wolof or some kind of sorcerous trick, not that I cared all that much. Convenient was the word that came to mind more than anything else.

“We all cope in our own ways,” I replied. “It’ll run its course in due time.”

Indrani had come very close to dying, in the battle for Great Strycht. Not because of a Mighty, some glorious duel she would now be laughing about. When the Sisters had eviscerated my hold on Winter they’d flooded their city with frost. Archer had been out on the edges, when it happened, picking her targets and stirring up the pot. But she’d still been caught in the mess, and Winter unleashed was not something you just walked off. I suspected that in way the brush with death wasn’t what had unsettled her. She’d been riding that horse for years now, and enjoyed every moment of it. It had been that when death came knocking, the bow in her hand and the blades at her side couldn’t have done anything to stop it. The realization that sometimes a steady sword-arm wasn’t enough, even if you were clever and brave and burning with the need to leave a mark on the world.

“And if it doesn’t?” Akua said.

“Then we’ll deal with it,” I calmly replied. “All of us, together.”

The shade sighed.

“I don’t suppose that a reminder you’ve not spoken with our informant would be of any use before we get entangled in yet another drinking binge?” she asked.

I glanced at her amusedly.

“Are we pretending you can’t recite every answer they gave you verbatim?” I said.

“I can do the intonations as well,” Akua casually boasted.

“Of course you can,” I said, rolling my eyes.

I didn’t bother to knock when we got to the tavern, or at least what I assumed to be that. It was ratty enough it didn’t have a sign hung outside, though I did remember reading somewhere some parts of Procer had put a tax on that. I’d be in a better position to cast judgement on that if some Fairfax who’d seen drinking liquor as sinful and debasing behaviour hadn’t put up a bewildering array of punitive taxes on everything alcoholic not even a century ago. Still, I thought, eyeing the bare and windowless wall outside. At least the next king dismissed the measures. For all I knew, some prince out there was still lining his pockets with this sheer stupidity. The door was unlatched and the mangled carpet in front of it suffered the attentions of my boots for a moment before I entered. Calling what lay at the centre of the dirt floor a fire pit would have been overly generous, I thought, considering it wasn’t even lined with stone. The place was cramped in some fundamental way, from the narrow walls to the twisty tables. There was a room in the back which I deduced to be the owner’s sleeping place as well as the kitchen, insofar as this place could be said to have one of those.

Akua closed the door behind me, and already Indrani was waving us over. She’d shrugged off her coat and somehow divested herself of her mail, leaving her in dark green tunic and trousers whose tightness were quite flattering to her frame. I glanced back up and saw a smirk touching her lips, so she’d definitely caught that. Well, I admitted to myself, it wouldn’t be the first time. Or likely the last, honesty compelled me to admit. The return to mortality had left me with all sorts of hungers in need of sating, and I probably would have sought her out if she hadn’t done it first. I was only human after all, and even now that thought had a pleasurable ring to it. I shot a look around and found no trace of the tavern-keeper, turning to raise an eyebrow at Indrani.

“It got a little too much for the old man,” Archer languidly shrugged. “Got some of our minions to bring him somewhere for a lie-down.”

“You didn’t do anything, did you?” I asked, frowning even as I took off my gloves.

“Aside from empty a bottle in the short span of time since you’ve found this place,” Akua drily added.

My eyes found the cheap bottle of red she was referring to, along with her four still-full sisters lined up neatly to the side. One was already open. The shade passed me without a sound, sliding herself in a stool across the table Archer had claimed. I unclasped my cloak and followed suit, hesitating for the barest fraction of a moment before sitting on Akua’s side. The stool there struck me as marginally less likely to break if I moved around a bit.

“Just a bit too much agitation for him, I think,” Indrani told me. “What with the drow walking the surface again and the wicked minions of the Black Queen patronizing his humble establishment.”

Akua’s own comment got as a response a gesture that would have seen me spanked by the orphanage matron if I’d ever been caught doing it in public.

“Temporary eviction would have been necessary regardless,” the shade said. “If we are to discuss business on the premises, that is.”

“Aw, shit,” Archer complained, eyeing me balefully. “Really, Cat?”

“I’d rather do it in here with a fire and an open bottle than out there in the cold,” I shrugged.

“Fine,” she waved away. “But I’d like to lodge a formal protest.”

“Pass it along to my secretary,” I drily said. “Triplicate, standard form.”

Indrani turned her gaze to Akua.

“Sadly, as a mere spirit I cannot be handed such forms,” the shade blatantly lied. “They’d go right through me.”

“I liked you better before we taught you to be an ass,” Archer complained.

“No you didn’t,” Akua said, full lips quirking.

Indrani did not contradict her, and neither did I. After what had taken place in Great Strycht it was… difficult to distrust the Diabolist as much as I once had. I wouldn’t be taking my eye off her anytime soon, sure, but it was hard to forget that when we’d all reached the end Akua could have chosen to cut and run, and hadn’t. That meant something. Given that she was perhaps the most skilled liar I’d ever met, figuring out exactly what it meant was the trouble.

“So, someone folded,” I said, steering us towards safer waters. “How out of date is what they had to tell?”

“She has a relative in the monastery to the north she sees regularly,” Akua said. “And the sisters there are part of the general correspondence of the House of Light, regardless of their relative insignificance. The last direct letter is a month old, one could generously assume the news themselves two weeks older than that.”

I raised an eyebrow.

“That quick?” I said. “I thought we were in the middle of nowhere.”

“Two day’s ride away from the minor city of Rochelant, as it happens,” Diabolist corrected. “To the west. In a broader sense, we are skirting the eastern edge of the principality of Iserre.”

I drummed my fingers around the table, idly noting it kinda looked like someone had digested it for a bit before it’d ended up here.

“Closer to Callow than I thought we’d end up,” I said. “That brings up unpleasant questions, in retrospective.”

“Could just be that you traded Winter for crows, Cat,” Indrani said. “You and Zeze were screwing about with the stuff for everything, back when the Observatory was raised.”

“I was not given the opportunity to observe the arrangements in great detail,” Akua conceded pre-emptively. “However, I am intimately familiar with the artefact used at the centre of the array. It should not have been affected by our latest alliance and its…”

She paused, golden eyes taking me in.

“Metaphysical repercussions,” she settled on.

I snorted. How delicately put of her. I wasn’t truly beholden to the Sisters in any way that could be considered vassalage – that would have rather defeated the point of what I was supposed to be to them – but it remained a fact I’d thrown Winter under the horse and been handed a direct tap to what had become of the Night afterwards. The power was a lot more volatile, true, and tended to exhaust me physically in a way my mantle never had. On the other hand I’d stopped going raving mad whenever I reached a little too deep and I could enjoy hot soup again. In a lot of ways, I still believed I’d ended up on the better side of that evening.

“So why aren’t we able to reach Juniper, then?” I said.

“She’s finally succumbed to Hakram’s charms and the bedroom door is locked under pain of death,” Indrani suggested.

“Sabotage is a possibility,” Akua said, more practically. “The Empress will still have agents in Callow, and might prefer your communications crippled. As for why Sve Noc could not reach out directly-”

“I know, you’ve already said,” I waved away. “Masego warded that thing so ridiculously viciously not even they want to risk putting their fingers in it.”

I felt a well of pride at the fact that Hierophant had somehow put up defences around the Observatory so harsh even a pair of living goddesses were wary of attempting to force them, inconvenient as it was at the moment. And he’d done it while remaining within allocated funds, too, which was just another feather in his cap as far as I was concerned.

“Doesn’t seem like Malicia’s style,” I finally said. “If you’d said she was listening in I’d buy it, but breaking it entirely? She prefers appropriation to outright denial when she can swing it.”

“There are other possible culprits,” Akua said. “More with motive than means, but a few with both. The Dead King. The heroic segment of the Tenth Crusade. The royal court of Arcadia. Perhaps even the Wandering Bard.”

“That doesn’t really narrow it down, does it?” I grunted. “Still, I’d tend to scratch off the Bard from the list. Black’s pretty sure she can only meddle through Named, and those we sent back to Laure would know better than to get involved with her.”

“Ugh, you two are yammering on about who could,” Indrani said, pouring herself another cup. “But that’s just means, and we got a lot of nasty surprises assuming we knew all about those. Maybe wonder about who would, instead? Whose kind of play is this?”

I eyed her cup with a raised eyebrow, and with a put-upon sigh she finally bothered to fill mine. And Akua’s, though I was still less than certain if drinking would actually do anything for the shade. I sipped at what turned out to be truly horrid concoction distantly related to wine while actually mulling over what Archer had said. Who would strike like this? The Grey Pilgrim came to mind. He had the brains for it, and the benefits would be obvious. With the Augur still telling Cordelia Hasenbach how the pieces were moving, we’d have lost our eye in the sky while the Tenth Crusade remained largely unaffected. Neshamah had the know-how, but it seemed a little light-handed for him. At the moment he’d have other cats to skin anyway: he should be hip-deep in angry Lycaonese right about now, and that lot didn’t know how to die easy. Assuming the Bard wasn’t involved, though assumptions were particularly dangerous when it came to that thing, that left the fae. And unless someone had fucked up real bad back home, they shouldn’t have a foothold in Creation that’d allow them to pull that kind of thing.

“The main benefit is confusion,” I finally said. “We’ll be moving blind out here, and unable to organize with Juniper.”

“Someone’s putting their bet on riding the chaos better than the rest,” Akua murmured.

A disquieting thought, considering for once it wasn’t me.

“The room’s pretty crowded this time,” Indrani said. “All it takes is a few punches thrown, and…”

She dropped her palm against the table, the clap ringing loudly in the empty tavern.

“In the spirit of that perspective,” Diabolist said, “perhaps one of the rumours I collected needs to be reassessed.”

I cocked an eyebrow invitingly while continuing to subject myself to the disaster Archer had obtained as table wine.

“We appear to be entering an all-out brawl between half the continent,” Akua said. “The legions Lord Black took into the Principate are currently in this very principality, and being pursued.”

My heartbeat quickened. No, I told myself. He’ll have a plan. He always does.

“By who?” Indrani asked, sounding surprised. “These are Conquest officers, you’re telling me Proceran scraps actually think they could win against them?”

“The armies of the Dominion of Levant,” the shade replied. “Though there’s been word of conscription in Salia, so they might not be alone.”

“That’s not half the continent,” I pointed out with a frown.

“The League of Free Cities appears to have joined the fray,” Diabolist said. “With a significant army, though the numbers put to it vary.”

I let out a low whistle.

“Are you telling me Tenerife has fallen?” I asked. “Because that’s not good news for us.”

The First Prince had sent twenty thousand soldiers to hold that border, and if the army had been slaughtered then that was twenty thousand men gone that’d have been rather useful up north. The drow exodus would strike like a hammer at the Dead King’s back when it arrived, but I knew better than to believe the Sisters had any chance of winning that war if the rest of Calernia didn’t get its shit together and move against him too.

“I cannot speak as to what happened to the army garrisoned there,” Akua said. “But I can tell you, however, that the League’s host is said to have emerged out of the Waning Woods without having given battle prior.”

I blinked in disbelief. Indrani, on the other hand, fell into a deep belly laugh. Gods, Vivienne had told me last year that the Tyrant of Helike had been sending agents into the region. Still, I’d assumed it was as way to infiltrate the heartlands of the Principate. Not march an army through the place.

“You’re actually serious, Shadehelian?” Archer got out, chin still quivering. “Someone was mad enough to take a bunch of soldiers through that?”

“Reportedly,” Akua said, unmoved by the hilarity. “One can only wonder at the losses taken. Regardless, the point of interest is that they emerged in Iserre specifically. And they seem intent on giving battle now.”

“That’s going to get messy,” I said, rapping my knuckles against the wood. “Unless Hakram and Vivienne birthed a diplomatic miracle while we were in the Everdark, which I’m not counting on. I really don’t want to start a war with the League.”

“And it ties in to Indrani’s earlier words,” Diabolist said. “There is another who prizes chaos as you do.”

My lips thinned.

“The Tyrant of Helike,” I said.

She nodded slowly.

“While aside from mounting confusion I can ascribe no direct benefit to such a measure being taken-”

“- for an old school madman like him, making everything messier might be benefit enough,” I grimly finished. “Shit. I don’t like having an army on the field without knowing where we stand with them.”

“Kind of the point, isn’t it?” Indrani shrugged.

I glanced at her, noticing we were now on the third bottle even though neither I nor Akua had finished our cups.

“The uncertainty, I mean,” Archer said. “It’s kind of like having a stranger pointing a crossbow at you while you’re in a swordfight. Every time they twitch your hackles go up, and the tension will grow until someone does something real stupid to get out of the situation.”

Akua’s position in her seat shifted by the barest amount. She was, I suspected, actually impressed. Now and then it was good to have a reminder that Indrani was a lot sharper than she liked to let on.

“So whoever’s leading that host is fucking with every other commander on the field just by being there,” I mused. “That does sound like the Tyrant from the reports. We sure the Hierarch is still alive? He seemed a lot more interested in telling me to hold elections than invading anyone.”

“Our informant is simply a relative, and the monastery rather minor,” Akua said. “There was only so much to be learned. I suspect the appointed ruler of Rochelant will be better informed.”

That still meant at least three days – drow moved fast, but not as fast as horses – of walking around Iserre with no godsdamned idea of what was going on around us. I didn’t enjoy the notion, but then I didn’t really have a better path to offer. Asking the Sisters to force the wards on the Observatory, assuming I could even talk them into it, was a lot more likely to result in that place collapsing or someone losing a finger than it was in an elightening conversation.

“Then that’s where we’re headed,” I said. “I’ll hash out the details with General Rumena. Indrani, you good to walk?”

“Am I ever not?” she drawled.

“You’d better be,” I warned. “Because I’m not staying in this town a moment longer than necessary. We all know what happens to the drow at dawn, I’m not losing moonlight I don’t have to.”

Archer smirked.

“Would you like to race me just in case, Cat?” she said.

I snorted.

“Please,” I said. “You’re pretty fast, but you can’t outrun a gate.”

I pushed back the chair and rose to my feet.

“Catherine,” Akua said quietly.

I glanced at her.

“You can come, I suppose,” I said. “Though why you’d want to talk with the crabby old bastard is beyond me.”

“Catherine,” Akua Sahelian gently said. “Sit down.”

My eyes narrowed, and I brushed back a lock of hair that somehow fallen free.

“There’s more,” I said.

“Cat, sit down,” Indrani said. “She wouldn’t ask without a reason.”

I felt a flicker of surprise at Archer’s comment, though maybe I shouldn’t have. I’d told her everything that had happened in Great Strycht, and the barbs she still traded with Akua had a lot less bite to them than they used to. Gingerly I sat back down, keeping the weight off my bad leg.

“Marshal Grem One-Eye is in command of the retreating Legions,” the shade said. “The Black Knight is believed to be dead.”

I picked up my gloves, fingers closing around the leather.

“So?” I said. “All that means is that some part of whatever the Hells he’s after involves people thinking that.”

“Not unless he was willing to sacrifice a full Legion detachment for that purpose,” Akua said.

The leather stared creaking and I looked back at my hands, finding them squeezing the gloves tight.

“Was a body shown?” I asked.

She shook her head.

“Then he’s not dead,” I flatly said. “And someone is about to have a very bad day.”

“Catherine, the possibility has to be entertained,” she slowly said. “It would change the situation significantly.”

“It changes nothing. Because he’s not fucking dead,” I snarled. “I’ll take his damned head off for not warning me he’d pull this, but he’s not going to get killed by some pissant hero in the middle of nowhere.”

The shade opened her mouth again, but Indrani raised a hand.

“Akua,” she said. “Best let that one go.”

She was humouring me, I realized. It stung that Archer of all people, who besides myself and Masego likely knew the most about my teacher, would so casually write him off. Angrily I pulled on my gloves.

“Finish your drinks,” I coldly said. “We’ll begin the march for Rochelant within the hour.”

144 thoughts on “Chapter 2: Stirrings

    1. Maginot

      But the admonition…the stern command reminding us that this in an interactive experience and we owe our part…
      I always know its the end of the chapter when I see “Voter, Vote!”

      Liked by 5 people

  1. This is the first time I’m going to be saying this in a while, but thank you so much for releasing these punctually at the same time of the day every release. It’s great to sit back and relax at 6 PM while reading a chapter of PGTE, it’s a brilliant way to start my evening.

    Liked by 10 people

    1. Valkyria

      Got to say the same really.
      But for me, I get them in the morning and that way I can use the time on the bus way better than just sitting around waiting. And it’s a really nice start into the day too.

      Liked by 8 people

  2. Gunslinger

    So much to love in this Chapter. EE answering most of the questions we had on Wednesday as well as the endless debates after book 4 ended (people who guessed cats not going to be a Sve puppet got it right)

    Also touching how bother mentor and mentee both dash out the possibility of the other being dead.

    > And he’d done it while remaining within allocated funds, too,

    That’s the true miracle there

    Liked by 21 people

    1. IDKWhoitis

      Black is going to slap her for dying stupidly, again.
      Cat is going to punch him for trying to pull a final showdown and almost dying, again.

      The reunion is going to be great.

      Liked by 15 people

      1. Rook

        On the other hand, she just traded raw strength for flexibility and judgement, got the entity she traded the strength to working with her anyway, and slapped Below in the face rather than playing their game. On top of that she added an entire ancient empire to her arsenal while conveniently shunting the logistics of managing the army and newfound power pool to far more capable personnel.

        He’ll be livid on the outside and beside himself with pride on the inside.

        Liked by 14 people

      2. Yeah, Black’s going to approve of what she pulled, even if he’s going to have a headache as a result.

        (I mean, this frankly doesn’t top First Liesse, where dying was an explicit part of the plan from the beginning, and Black was proud as fuck of her for that one)

        Catherine’s opinion on his antics though? 100% going to be less flattering.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Insanenoodlyguy

          I think it does top it. It’s one thing when you KNOW you are going to lose and factor your death into being a positive for the plan.

          This time she didn’t see it coming and still managed to improvise her way into something that still looks like a “Just as keikaku.” That is more impressive, really.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. IDKWhoitis

    I sense Cat carrying through her promise on some level. Like a knock out blow, or trying to stab him again. But it’s going to be really funny, as Black isn’t as strong as he used to be, and he’s going to be pissed off that Akua is still walking around in a sense.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Oh, Amadeus might transition. But, just to be a burr in Bard’s sock, he won’t go in the direction she prepared him for — even if that was reverse psychology she was aiming at.

        He’ll find a way to bounce down the mountain she didn’t think of. And, might take out a goat or two on the way, as well. 🙂

        Liked by 3 people

        1. As much as I personally adore Amadeus on every level that exists, I think Bard’s read on him is better than his read on her. And I think he knows this.

          He’s going to dance, dance, dance on her strings, and the best he can do is make sure he’s actually doing something that’s in his own interests, and not screwing himself over out of petty spite to her.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. Insanenoodlyguy

            Not sure about that. Bard is not invincible or omnipotent. She’s good. She’s very good, But she can and has been beaten. I think she really did want him to become Emperor, and her read on im wasn’t necessarily wrong. I think if she didn’t show up, he probably would have become emperor the ways he wanted him to (even if he is Benevolent as some speculate, that doesn’t mean he becomes Benevolent at the RIGHT point for her purposes). He’d be playing the game again proper, and be easier to account for and eventually, move past when he went the way of all Emperors. He’d probably do it anyway just to help out his Daughter. The thing is, she’s underestimating his willingness to self-mutilate just to succeed, and right now he’s success is measured in part on “Fuck you Bard.” He’s been determined to win as a villian and “win his pissing contest with the heavens.” but now I think he’d be more receptive to the Foundling school of “Be whatever works.” The benevolent theory would support that, it’d be him both still mocking but also using the Heavens.

            I now see a still unlikely but now possible future where Emperor Benevolent rules with Chancelor Sahelian at his side. Everybody flips their shit when a young Prasi she picked up touring the country becomes the Dread Kingdom’s first WHITE Knight.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Yeah, I don’t think she underestimates that willingness, because she counted on him doing what he did at Second Liesse, and he broke his alliance with his best friend and put himself in a coma for two days.

              I think Bard’s planning for exactly the thing that’s going to happen 🙂

              Like

  4. Awesome starter quote.

    And Cat is absolutely right, though likely understating things when she says that someone is about to have a very bad day in connection to Amadeus disappearing after a Legion died.

    Tyrant of Helike versus Cat. And he’s the one hitting the chaos button, not her. For now, anyways.

    Cat and co will likely try to link up with Grem (and Scribe) and his Legions. That’ll be interesting to see.

    I’m seriously confused about the timing of things. Some storylines cover less (or more, depending) time than storylines that they are nominally concurrent with.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. I’m guessing she’s still shaken after his Second Liesse play. That was not okay on any level, and it’s the first thing Cat’s mind goes to, after the possibility that he’s actually genuinely dead. Which she can dismiss safely enough, because if he’d gotten that last stand he was hoping for, the entire Procer would know for a fact.

        Ah, family.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Dainpdf

          It’s still a thing how she just assumes he couldn’t die unintentionally. Also, during Second Liesse she was Fakerine. The emotional bond is much more real now, so she’s feeling it way more. Thus the negation.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. I don’t think the difference that Winter made was that strong. It changed her reaction to the trauma (I don’t think mortal!Cat would have gone for stabbing, as approriate as it was narratively lmao), not the trauma itself.

            And she’s sure he can’t be really dead for a reason: a villain of his power and notoriety doesn’t just get quietly offscreened. Everyone who knows anything at all about the Praes/Ashur front knows how Warlock went, it’s not missable. And if Black had really died, it wouldn’t have been a fart-out anticlimax. There’s a reason he expected a last stand and called the Below “cheapskates” for being denied it. Cat’s looking at larger patterns, and the writing is on the wall: he’s not dead.

            She’s certainly oblivious of all the options in between though 🙂

            (Admittedly, I’m not certain of the proportion of rational analysis to pure denial in her reaction. She certainly asked if there was a body, so there was some reasoning to it, but that was the point she got stuck on, it seems: that if there’s the slightest chance he’s not definitely dead, she’s going to act like he isn’t, and fuck everything else. Ah, family)

            Liked by 4 people

            1. Dainpdf

              Really, Tariq could very well have killed him at some point there. Maddie lost his Name, so he was mortal enough. Also, he probably wouldn’t get a final boom as large as the Warlock, who paid his dues much more faithfully.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Yes, Tariq could have killed non-Named Maddie, but for some reason didn’t. This is a story-driven universe. If Tariq’s plan had been to kill him, he’d have gotten his last stand.

                Not as large as Warlock’s, true. But large enough that the news wouldn’t sound like “well, he disappeared along with a Legion detachment getting slaughtered, so we’re assuming he’s probbly dead even though there’s no body”.

                Liked by 4 people

            2. Insanenoodlyguy

              This. Her flaw is assuming that it’s all part of his plan, but she’s not wrong that he’s a high enough tier that no body = no death. somebody would have to have attested to seeing his unmoving soulless corpse, even if it was only his killer who did so in a prolonged dual or the like. Even then you’d have to at least procure his head to be sure.

              Though her planning is not bad. By stubbornly insisting he’s not dead she’s pushing the narrative towards a moment where he’s going to show up just when it seems like her faith is about to be broken.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. It’s possible that Cat has reached the level of storycraft where she can intuitively tell impulses that she should follow to push the story in her favor, from impulses she needs to suppress or Bad Things Will Happen.

                Because that was definitely an impulsive reaction ^^

                Like

  5. Skaddix

    So the main options for the Observatory are still some Heroes, the Tyrant and Masego himself. I still Heroes are the most likely assuming there is not a massive time jump between Epilogue to Prologue to Chapter 1.

    In Epilogue we saw Hierarch swearing revenge but didn’t have too much active planned. The Tyrant did have some stuff kicking but the Observatory has plenty of mages and two Named. So unless Tyrant went himself I just don’t see the dynamic duo having the firepower (of Named and Mages) to kill most of Cat’s Mages and beat Hakram and Thief granted this pair is the weakest in direct combat. Does he really have time to do that and then high tail it back. Maybe these two have gotten some new talent (Named). It does fit the Tyrant MO though that is true.

    Masego is on option if he just passively killed everyone due to rage or some sort of uncontrolled power transformation but that requires a massive time jump from Prologue to now cause previously he was making his too Callow but wasn’t close according to Malicia. Also you figure the Observatory had to be sacked recently cause otherwise it be in the Prologue since Malicia and Cordelia were mostly about the state of the war. Cordelia might not have great intelligence in Callow but you figure Malicia wouldn’t miss a raid on the Observatory especially since its connected to the Palace.

    That leaves the Heroes who I still think are the most viable options since we have no idea where Hanno is and the Heirarch vision assuming its recent and not future sight. It did feel real time based on Sve Noc blocking the sight while Cat was presumably meeting with the Dwarves. Could have been Hanno landing on a beach getting ready to lead a raid with his team on the Observatory and Callow’s Capital.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. SpeckofStardust

      In order to mess with the Observatories communications all you really need to due is mess with the communication abilities, for that all you need to do is set up a jamming field, which the Tyrant could have one set up around him which Catherine happens to be in.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Skaddix

        They have Akua and two Sve Noc avatars. There is no indication that anyone of their people cannot use magic or miracles. You would think Akua would mention some sort of jamming field while their speculating about matters. I don’t see a jamming field being likely. Not to mention Tyrant would have to be stretching that field pretty far.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Gunslinger

          The Tyrants Wish aspect seems to act like a miracle anyway. He could wish communication blocked and then it happens.

          This is just speculation for despite talking about it twice we still don’t know the rules or limitations of it

          Liked by 3 people

    2. On the other hand, most of the Heroes are, or should be, tied up fighting the Dead or sitting on Amadeus.
      Might be some getting directed to face the Tyrant of Helike, or hunting Grem and his Legions.

      But the main point is … I really don’t think that a surprise Hero raid on the Observatory is likely, between the probable lack of Heroes available to hit it, and the fact that one of the major functions of the Observatory is to spot Heroes coming, and track them once they enter Callow.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. Skaddix

        Should be maybe but the point is plenty of Heroes are MIA. Whereas unless the Tyrant got some new talent, he have to go himself cause Hierarch not useful in direct combat and we don’t know of any other talent that could beat plenty of mages and two Named working with the pair. The Heroes though have the Named for this raid as there are dozens of them with plenty MIA. Whereas the Heirarch and Tyrant are the only named we know the Free Cities have available for any raid. And the Heirach hasn’t shown any usefulness in combat.

        Its a perfectly viable target its the main communication hub and intelligence gathering center for Callow. Take it out means no more secure magic communications and no more long range scrying. I mean sheesh the ladies discuss why its important in this chapter. Taking it out cripples Callow’s ability to coordinate their armies and spy on other players in the War. Just cause its good at tracking heroes doesn’t make it unbeatable especially with the top mage in Callow, Masego, not being present.

        But you are right it could be Masego got back and killed everyone.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I doubt it was Heroes, between the Dead King invading, the need to sit on Black with major firepower, and the Tyrant of Helike doing an end run around the Proceran Border, the Heroes should be busy – too busy to find a way through the border to strike deep into Callow.
          Plus – as previously noted, one of the primary reasons behind creating the Observatory in the first place was to have early warning and tracking of Heroic incursions. That should take surprise off the table, and there’s no way the Observatory wouldn’t be actively defended, and enough regular people can bring down Named.

          The only Hero operation that I think would be viable would be a Heroic Thief-type Name that managed to nick the artifact at the center of the Observatory.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Skaddix

            Yeah the Tyrant doing it personally make some sense given the prescience of his army. Assuming the Observatory cannot track Villains although you assume it just track Named. Then its not a stretch to assume while his army was walking through the Woods. The Tyrant and an elite strike team used his Gargoyles to fly in undetected and sack the Observatory. Before flying to join his army as they exited the woods on Procer Lands.

            Like

            1. Ehhhh, I kind of doubt that whatever is going in with the Observatory is because the Tyrant of Helike attacked it – I’m pretty sure his hands would have been full getting his army through the murder woods. Plus, Refuge would’ve been in his way, and while he’s crazy, I don’t think he’s quite crazy enough to go there and piss off the dwarves at the same time.
              Also … because I have faith that Masego’s wards and defenses around the Observatory (in addition to more mundane measures) make attacking the Observatory a decidedly nontrivial endeavor for anyone and everyone.

              Unless you take the easy way out, like Malicia and/or a High Lord might have, and have someone toss some goblinfire at it. Although, I’d have to say that would be an astonishingly stupid move for one of them – Masego would lay down an epic smiting and make a gruesome example out of them when he found out who attacked his Observatory.

              If where they are would require use of the mage relays, if something happened to them, that could explain things, though I’d expect them to comment that the relays weren’t functioning properly.

              Liked by 1 person

    3. Rook

      I think there is no interference, just a misunderstanding. It might be as simple as the states Masego and Catherine are in at the moment.

      Catherine just transformed from some sort of Catherine-shaped snow angel in a mountain of Winter to a mortal with free access to Night II – electric boogaloo. It could be that she isn’t wholly cut off from the observatory, but it’s just not configured to recognize her new metaphysical outfit. After all, the strongest walls in the world are worth shit if you can’t recognize an impostor walking through the gate, and Catherine just swapped out her identification card.

      It normally wouldn’t be an issue if Masego was in good shape, he’d have ways to recognize it was still her. But he’s not. He just watched dad turn himself into an avatar of a literal hell-god and shatter himself against an avatar of a literal heaven-god. The dude is wandering back to callow so out of his shit that anything coming within throwing distance of him implodes in on itself.

      Of course Catherine & co think it’s external interference, that’d be the natural assumption. How could they ever guess what happened to Masego while they were away? On the other hand, of course Masego hasn’t prepared a contingency for this. It isn’t exactly common for someone to shed half a Fae realm to create a new god and revive an empire older than the dirt Callow was built on.

      Liked by 7 people

      1. Skaddix

        Yeah except Akua, who is pretty good mage stated Cat’s changes and Sve Noc apotheosis should have no impact on the central mechanism for the communication hub. Now she could be wrong but I read that as our author telling us something is going very wrong or went very wrong at the Observatory.

        I argue current Masego kinda falls under outside interference.

        Liked by 5 people

        1. Insanenoodlyguy

          I am wondering is she a mage again? Presumably she’d ask for that to be back in her body if it’s an option. Either way I’m sure she can do a crazy impressive amount of things with night.

          Liked by 1 person

    4. Dainpdf

      Could be the Saint – the old woman seemed very keen on fighting Cat. Not really her style to go for intelligence, though. And Tariq has deader fish to fry. The Tyrant, on the other hand, has a history of messing with magic and infiltrating enemies, likes people confused, and is near the Callowan border.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Skaddix

        That is good point since its on the way apparently Tyrant could have made a pit stop in Callow before catching up to his army once they exited the Woods.

        Like

        1. Not really. Laure is on the opposite side of Callow from the Waning Woods, and is heavily defended by Hakram, Vivienne and the Army of Callow, including hundreds of mages and thousands of magic-resistant knights. I have a hard time believing anything short of an army could get through all that.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Skaddix

            You seem to be forgetting Tyrant single handily destroying a whole army. Beyond that Hakram and Thief are when compared to other Named nothing special in a direct fight. Thief is worthless considering Hakram easily defeated her pre Name. Meanwhile Hakram skills also skew more support, he is better then Thief but he aint exactly elite in melee combat by any stretch of the imagination and he just chopped off his hand which will do him no favors.

            Like

            1. The army he destroyed wasn’t the unholy fusion of the Callowan knight orders and post-Black Legions of Terror that is Juniper’s Army of Callow. True, the Named would not make much of a difference there, but Juniper would, if not annihilate him, at the very least make it into a prolonged campaign and not a lightning raid.

              Like

            2. Mike E.

              How can you not consider Hakram elite in melee? We have plenty of onscreen examples of him kicking ass and taking names, and once he waded into an insane combat situation solo simply to prompt the triggering of his 3rd Aspect. On top of being Named, he is a greenskin.

              Like

              1. Depends on one’s definition of “elite”. Archer kicks his ass effortlessly to the point of him deliberately looking for excuses to avoid fighting with her. He’s a Named with martial abilities, but his Name is not martial-focused.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. Skaddix

                  Pretty much this. Hakram is impressive compared to the average melee fighter. But he is not special compared to Named Melee Fighters (anyone who is not using Miracles or Magic) so Masego and Tyrant would not. I count Cat and Hanno those as Melee focused as while sure they have special abilities they tend to close range to fight. Not just blast from range.

                  Hakram was never elite before getting Named as a fighter. Beyond that his Powers lean more to fixing Cat’s weak points ie Paperwork, Logistics, Management and his primary style before was duel wielding axes and he just cut off his hand. Beyond that Hakram is not a Mage or Priest killer so sure he is more durable against magic but he is not slicing through spells.

                  As noted Archer kicks his ass and Archer doesn’t even stand at the top. Ranger is the best. She is always learning, can instantly master any skill, and can transcend the limits of mastery to go further beyond. On top of that she is a Half Elf so she starts with stat advantages even beyond an orc. Then you got Saint of Swords who is a domain onto herself who can basically cut anything. Then we have Archer who routinely beats the crap out of Hakram. Honestly of the relevant Name we do know much about from Lone Swordsman’s Group to Woe to Calamaties to Hanno’s Team to Pilgrim’s Team. I think one could easily make the case that the only melee combat focused foe Hakram could beat is the Thief. And honestly Thief would probably rank better if we included spellcasters. She can at least steal spells and miracles. Hakram has got to dodge or try to tank.

                  Liked by 1 person

            3. There’s a big difference between the ramshackle army of Atalante, made up of mercenaries, town guards and conscripted peasants, and the Army of Callow, with professional regular and heavy infantry, sappers, mages and magic resistant knights, hardened by battles against fae, wights and Crusaders and led by veteran officers.

              Liked by 1 person

                1. Yes. They make the difference between people hiding behind heater shields and enduring the assault while mages shield them from the worst of it, and people breaking ranks and running.

                  Like

    5. caoimhinh

      It could be that the Mages at the Observatory died by accident as a consequence of trying to contact Masego in his current state (although I hope it’s just Masego closing the connection for now).
      It would explain the lack of contact method, as Malicia’s own mages died horribly in their attempt, the Mages in Callow might have tried to contact Masego shortly after the destruction of Thalassina and suffer the setback (we still don’t know if it’s a conscious or unconscious method he is using to kill all who gets in his range, although I personally think it’s a conscious decision), we don’t know if the field of death around Masego could recognize the intentions or identities of the scrying mages before killing them, so Juniper might have ordered the Observatory closed after an incident, or the Mages might have died and thus the Observatory abandoned.

      Liked by 2 people

    6. RoflCat

      I think it’s Masego.

      To be precise, that he basically turned Observatory’s full power for his purpose, likely ‘searching’ for…well, any traces of his parents.
      Like, maybe Masego either is in denial that those two are totally dead, or he accept that, and is now searching for where their souls might’ve gone to.

      And so he’s looking everywhere, including into Hells or other dimensions, where a soul might go to.
      Then he’ll bring their souls back, and he’ll prove to them that someone coming back from beyond is still the same person, not just a fake with all their memories/personalities.

      Liked by 3 people

    7. I don’t think the Observatory is physically damaged or has been physically attacked. It’s likely a magical / abstract way of disrupting its communication capabilities. Which Masego will likely easily see through and restore once he gets there, but he hasn’t yet.

      Liked by 1 person

    8. RanVor

      Let’s not forget that the League (and, by extension, the Tyrant) has access to Atalantian priests, who are known, among other things, for their ability to block scrying…

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Yotz

        Mobile anti-scrying emitters? Hmmm…
        The question is: Atalantians. How do they work?
        Are they act as ADW, damping every/some of the attempts to scry in the vicinity; can block address scrying by, say, the identity of something or other; or just shut down whatever they want on the general principle of “ah dun wanna”.

        Also – from where exactly Cat tried to contact her (?) capital and Observatory. If she did so from the Everdark – well, there is an army of the dead between her and the recipient. With the literal unliving god doing essentially whatever he wants and/or able to screw the general order of things. And, The Crown. And the necromantic Wasteland of Calernia, for war – war never changes.
        Also, Golden Bloom. Elves may left this world for the time being, but something surely remained. Not to mention their general attitude towards untermensch and Cat in particular.

        If she tried to contact Laure from where she is now, which we can assume from the text – well, I already outlined my standing in the first paragraph: in that case the League is most probable culprit for sure – the question is how they done it.

        If she tried to do it from the Arcadia, however, somewhere in between Everdark and her current location; or from several points during the march… Well, all bets are off, then.

        I’d speculate that Observatory is a part of Masego, and since he is now, most probably, in the Orrery… If I’d to blatantly misapply some wording templates to it, ahem: every sufficiently powerful scrying device is indistinguishable from Fog-of-War generator. And since Masego doesn’t want to be found, Observatory hides with him.
        …And Laure – but that’s just a side effect.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Agent J

      Finally, someone’s asking the real questions. Maybe they pull a Gargoyles and turn to stone with the sunrise.

      Until proven otherwise Rumena is now General Brooklyn.

      Liked by 6 people

    2. Dainpdf

      If it’s anything like DnD, reduced vision, dizziness and generally reduced combat ability.

      Might be they also lose most their access to the Night, or lose consciousness. Or maybe they do turn into stone, who knows.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Daemion

        Drow served as mercenaries on the surface before. Granted, those were exiles who had barely any night in them but I don’t think people would employ mercs that can’t participate in most battles.

        Liked by 3 people

          1. caoimhinh

            Not an impossibility, an annoyance. They are a species of people who hadn’t been under sunlight for millennia, it’s to be expected they experience discomfort, weakness or outright pain when exposed to it.

            Liked by 3 people

        1. Insanenoodlyguy

          It’s one of those “drawback to power” things, I’d think. Those drow had barely any night in them, so effects were minimal. the same effects on these ones, who are chock full of the stuff, are much more debilitating, whatever they are. Didn’t come up underground because no sun, but now they are exposed to their natural counterpart and Winter isn’t thrilled with it either so the power boost’s effects on this have ranged from nothing to actually making it worse.

          Liked by 2 people

  6. caoimhinh

    Nice, things are heating up, should be a chapter or two before the armies meet again.
    It’s going to be a really messy and entertaining battle, I bet.
    And then operation ‘Rescue Mentor’ can begin.

    Typos found:

    -answered an offer a help / offer of help
    -I suspected that in way / in a way
    -The leather stared creaking / started

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Dainpdf

    Interesting chapter. Answers all around. A few questions, too:
    -will Cat find love again?
    -do Drow melt in the sun like popsicles?
    -what happened to the observatory?
    -will Cat chop Adjutant’s arm off for giving Vivi a hand?
    -what is Kairos up to (the eternal question)?
    -will Cat find good booze again?

    Liked by 6 people

    1. caoimhinh

      The only one I can answer is the last one: Yes, Cat and Indrani are definitely sacking up the local good booze in the next city they enter. And when she gets back to some order, she will hit the wine again like no tomorrow, until Hakram makes her stop XD

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Dainpdf

        And now he can’t even rely on an oath to keep her from it. Plus she has a liver again to put on the line.

        As for finding good booze in the next city, you never know. Maybe they have terrible alcohol.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. luminiousblu

          ‘That didn’t make them unworthy…’
          Arguable, from an existentialist standpoint. What is even Cat’s philosophy at this point? I get it’s a CoA story so you can’t expect true consistency but it feels like a proper mess right now.

          Like

        2. Mike E.

          I was about to say that as a Named she can burn off the alcohol immediately, but then I remembered that she has not had an actual Name in quite some time (but is she still in a transition point and therefore has some Named abilities…she had some when she was in competition for Squire)

          Liked by 2 people

                1. It did, yea, but drinking while Wintered didn’t actually get her /drunk/, just less Wintered.

                  Incidentally, converting her to full Winter was a part of Black’s plan that he failed to tell her about.

                  >_>

                  Like

        3. caoimhinh

          Then she will have to loot from the armies. Procer’s princes keep good wine and luxuries even on campaign, and the Tyrant always has quality stuff, although his liquor probably has quite a dose of arsenic to give it a unique taste.

          Liked by 3 people

    1. Yotz

      To quote one old cranky sasser: The report of my death was an exaggeration.

      In regards to someone with Black’s reputation in our world, it would be prudent not only to see, but to thoroughly examine the body on molecular level. Just to be more-or-less sure…

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Antoninjohn

    Cat will probably kill a lot of the chasing army’s after hearing about Black and his trips having a plague shoved on them and not knowing if he is alive

    Like

    1. No, I don’t think so. Catherine cares more about her plan than about him, she’s reiterated that multiple times. She’s going to be distraught on a personal level, not throwing away her entire strategy (which is to get everyone pointed at the same foe who is incidentally not her).

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m really not sure how feasible that is. She basically brought out an empire of a traditionally Below race to the forefront of the geo-political landscape and currently no one is sure what she’s going to do with it.

        They could be as large as a threat as the Dead King.

        Like

      2. Frankly, Cat is trying to kid herself.

        If faced with him in trouble at a distance close enough to see it, she knows damned well she’d drop every plot she has in hand in the rush to help him. And, thereby screw them both over.

        It’s why she’s keeping away from any known vicinity of his.

        Liked by 2 people

  9. I am intrigued with HOW the Tyrant pulled that off, was it name related, sorcery or good old spy work? (AKA physical sabotage). An now Cat knows about Black, is almost sure that between the next 3 chapters she is going to decide finding out about him, she probably will know mor ein the city but that still won’t be enough so hopefully she will go the army.

    What happened to the drow at dawn?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. letouriste

    well, i’m similar to cat. i still think black is the original main character of this story and can’t die without fullfilling his purpose. Purpose not curently filled

    Liked by 1 person

  11. NotQuiteHere

    Ah the old “protagonist believes something that no one else does that eventually turns out to be true cliche” huh. Exciting! I wonder if this one will be subverted or not?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely not.

      We know more of Amadeus’s arc than Cat does. There’s Stuff Building Up. He’s not just alive for the sake of her being right, she’s just independently correct about him being alive.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Morgenstern

        Unless even that was a ploy by the Bard, Black currently has almost infinite Plot Armor – and the most dangerous thing of all: he KNOWS about that now. If anything was a mistake of the Bard’s, this should be it… Telling your players as the GM that you (at least currently) need them for the plot, that the Game’s Gods are not finished with them (yet)? Baaaad mistake if they’re strategic powerplayers out to get you and crap on your plot…

        Liked by 2 people

            1. Yeah but the best guess to make is that she wants him to do exactly the thing he’s thinking is the best idea, and “whatever I decide to do will be what she predicted” is not the kind of game I think Black’ll allow himself to be pulled in.

              Like

              1. RanVor

                Theoretically yes, but if everything he might possibly do or not do might be according to her plan, there’s no point in overthinking it – it leads only to paranoia and indecisiveness (which is likely the point). Even if he decided to sit back and do nothing, that too might be what she intended for him. The only reasonable approach is to ignore her and do what needs to be done regardless.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. Exactly what I’m thinking.

                  Bard was careful to not drop any information about her own intent and only comment on him and the overall situation. This means the only non-stupid approach is to ignore her intent entirely and go after his own goals, just keeping in mind that there’s a wildcard at the table.

                  Which would make her success or failure wrt him entirely depend on how good she is at reading him and guessing what he wants and how he’ll operate to achieve it.

                  Like

  12. Moginheden

    Why isn’t Cat just gating to the Observatory? Why is she in Iserre at all?

    Winter gates reduced travel time, but distance and direction still mattered. Callow was on the way between the Everdark and Iserre so it would make a LOT of sense to drop in and catch up on current events before moving on to Procer. This wouldn’t increase travel time to Iserre more than a day or so under Winter’s system and would be an obvious strategic advantage to know what you are getting into.

    If Night interfacing with Winter changed how gates work then the travel time might be removed as the Night-based shadow walking was hinted to do. If that’s the case though, she should gate back home as soon as she can’t scry there to figure out what’s going on.

    Even if Callow is off-limits for some reason, why is she talking about a 3 day march to the nearest city? If it’s 3 days away over land where other armies might intercept them, (what seems to be implied.) Then it’s probably less than a day away by gate, and you don’t need to worry about the Tyrant while in Arcadia.

    Like

    1. Moginheden

      Even if she doesn’t want anyone knowing she is out, opening a gate a few kilometers away from the city, and sending a single person to sneak in and get a report would make a lot of sense, (not sure who would be more stealthy between Archer and Cat right now. Neither of them favor stealth as a primary tactic, but both have been proven very capable of it when the situation warrants it.)

      Like

      1. Yotz

        Probably reasons are twofold.
        First – she can’t gate by her own will anymore, at least – gate on strategic level. Her power is borrowed from the Sisters – and while on average that was a good deal, she lost the ability to surestep navigate through Arcadia. She needed one of the Sisters to chart a course for her and the army to gate in. Which brings us to the part of ability/will – Sisters are either not willing to plot a course for her to gate to Laure neighborhood, or are unable to do so due to Observatoty’s wards.
        Secondly – the question of time. Tempo of the operation planned may not allow such frivolities as gating to random places at random times. There is not enough data to state/disprove that with a sufficient degree of certainty so far, imho. We shall see soon, I believe.

        In any case, contacting Laure by more mundane means was in order, but – now the option is moot, and we have what we have.

        Like

    2. Callow is not on the way to Iserre, and if I have to guess, the distance/time relationship isn’t linear there. Traveling through Arcadia is fast, but also some time is lost just by virtue of entering/exiting it. Even in a straight line making pit stops along the way could extend the journey several times over.

      Like

      1. Moginheden

        Check the maps linked at the top. The Everdark is in the north east. The straight line from it to Iserre passes through the Golden Bloom and western Callow, (especially since they “are skirting the eastern edge of the principality of Iserre.”) now depending on where in the Everdark they were, they might not go straight past the observatory, but a little detour seems like an obvious benefit when Cat has been out of the loop for I’m guessing 3 months now? (although I’m not sure exact timing.)

        As for entering and exiting taking huge amounts of time, I’ve never heard of that before, and it’s directly countered by Cat using gates for short range travel on a battlefield occasionally. Arcadia was always much shorter distance than reality, (I think consistently and linearly but I’m not sure on that.) The reason it was hard to predict times was that time itself was weird in Arcadia. 1 hour of in reality might be a day in Arcadia or a second.

        Like

        1. RanVor

          Funny thing, I checked the maps too and the straight line between the Everdark and Iserre doesn’t go anywhere near Laure. In fact, it barely touches the northern border of Callow.

          Like

          1. Moginheden

            Laure would be a bit of a detour, but not a huge one. Remeber they aren’t in the city of Iserre they are at the eastern edge of the province. It does depend on where in the ever dark they started from where exactly the line goes; but even dropping in Harrow or Hedges would let them catch up on current events, (although it might be harder to hide that Cat is returning to the fight, so I would still have detoured a bit to the observatory)

            Like

        2. I suspect time losses would be proportionate to how many people you’re trying to transport with the gate.

          Also, imagine a drow army popping out in the middle of Callow. “Hi, it’s me, your Queen, now also Priestess of the drow! Do not be alarmed!”

          It’s… kind of Cat’s responsibility to keep her new allies away from her land to prevent tensions there I think 0.0

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Moginheden

            Nothing like that kind of time loss has been mentioned when using gates. Also Cat does not need to bring the drow out with her in Callow. She opens a large gate in the Everdark, moves to where Callow lines up in Arcadia with her army, opens a small gate and goes through herself leaving behind the drow, gets an update, goes back to the gate’s location and opens a new gate, then she will be back with her army in Arcadia and can move on to Iserre.

            She has done this before when she dumped the leaders of the first drow city in Arcadia.

            Liked by 1 person

      2. Moginheden

        Now if Cat had gone to the northern front of Procor vs the dead king, you’d be right that Callow is out of the way. But for some reason she went to the southern front.

        Like

  13. indubitably

    THANK YOU for writing this story – I found it recently and have just finished bingeing my way up to present day, which makes me both proud and incredibly disappointed because now I have to WAIT for the next chapter, a stunning and absolutely unprecedented inconvenience (woe is me). Oh well, 1000% worth it – the Guide has become one of my favourite works of all time. I’ll be here eagerly on upload days from now on. Thanks again.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Andrew Mitchell

      Welcome to the club. The Guide has a strong fanbase and there’s always lots of positive and interesting discussion in the comments section.

      Regarding having to WAIT: One of the great things about the Guide is that EE is incredibly reliable with posting new chapters. There’s one EVERY Monday, Wednesday and Friday, plus a bonus chapter each month. I suggest you subscribe to updates via WordPress or the RSS feed so you get your regular dose asap!

      EE is able to keep up the fast pace due to the supporter of readers via Patreon. Look for the link on the right of any page to add your support if you can.

      Like

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