Chapter 3: Orison

“My son, I offer you the greatest gift a ruler can give another: a widely reviled predecessor.”
– Extract from the infamous ‘Sensible Testament’ of Basilea Chrysanthe of Nicae

I’d used to love winter in Laure, as a child.

Sure, once in a while charcoal and firewood prices went up so the matron had to cut corners but as a rule I’d gotten to enjoy the snow in the streets while having a warm house awaiting me after. It took mere hours for the blanket of pale to turn to mush or soiled mess, but before time ran out there’d been a lot of fun to be had. We’d made a fort in the steps of the broken old hatcher’s house, once, and pitched snowballs at everyone passing for the better part of an afternoon. It’d ended when we’d accidentally caught some Taghreb legion mage instead of a Liessen merchant. Luckily enough the man had been more amused than angered, and instead of chewing us out he’d used sorcery to lift half the damned fort and dump it back on our heads. We’d all fled shrieking into the streets, soaked in snow and red-faced, while he laughed loudly. Gods, how old had I been? Seven, eight? I barely remembered anything from back then, nowadays, but that one memory of the sunny winter afternoon might as well have been seared into my eyes. The matron had remonstrated us pretty roughly for coming back to the orphanage drenched, but I was pretty sure she’d been hiding a smile.

It’d taken me a long time to realized how lucky I’d been, getting a childhood like that. Sure we had lessons and curfews and the occasional lean week, but Callowan orphanages had been funded by the Tower. The coin had kept coming, and we’d been protected in some abstract away. Everyone had known that the orphanages were the Black Knight’s own notion, and the shadow cast by my teacher’s displeasure had been as a giant’s back then. It’d been easier, hadn’t it? When it all seemed so large and simple, and all you had to do to change things was climb to the top. Foe and friend, victory and defeat. I’d picked up the knife that night believing myself clever enough to see through the pretence of black and white, but that’d just been scratching the surface. Sometimes thing happened that were too complicated, too far-reaching, to be called something as clear-cut as a victory or a defeat. Sometimes you could hate the people you most needed to clasp hands with and love those that would be most dangerous to your heart’s desire. My eyes flicked to a tall silhouette in the distance, treading the snow without a trace. She had her back to me, so there would be no glimpse of golden eyes, but there was no mistaking her for anyone else.

Sometimes you could grow fond of someone even if you couldn’t forgive them and never would.

I let out a steamy breath, watching the vapour rise up. That had me itching for my pipe, though I was equally reluctant to take off my gloves and reach under my cloak to indulge in my little vice. It was a cold night out, and it would be hours yet before dawn rose. I could have drawn on the Night to warm my bones, or more accurately chase away the cold, but some part of me twistedly enjoyed feeling the bite. Not so long ago it would have been nothing to be but another faded colour, another not-sensation washing up against the thing passing for my body. The moon above us was shrouded by the clouds, but light filtered through. Enough that I saw the crows streak across the darkness, feathered frames of Night batting their wings in utter silence. I dipped a finger into the power the Sisters had opened to me, sharpening my eyesight for a heartbeat, and caught a glimpse of crimson on the talons the pair. They’d killed tonight, then. If all they require for their altar is the occasional rabbit, I can make my peace with that. Their descent was almost a dive, but they failed to make me stumble when they landed on my shoulders. They’d kept back their talons, and made of Night as they were they weighed near nothing unless they particularly wished to. I tightened my cloak around my shoulders and cast a meaningful glance at the bevy of drow escorting me. The warriors bowed low and scattered across the snowy landscape.

“Rochelant,” Komena said, a strangely human voice leaving her crow’s throat.

“There will be blood,” Andronike said.

Wasn’t there always? Stainless victories were not in my nature.

“As little as possible,” I said. “We come for knowledge, not conquest.”

Crow-Komena’s laughter sounded like cawing, which we both knew she was doing on purpose.

“So speaks the roving catastrophe,” Andronike said.

I could have gone pithy in reply to that, but my mood had gone sour after the conversation in the tavern and the march in the cold had done nothing to improve it. I simply grunted back wordlessly.

“Fickle thing,” Komena chided. “Is this tossing of insults not what you told us to practice? Why do you now shy away?”

“I stand by what I said,” I replied. “You want to stay grounded? Talk with people in a way that isn’t prayer or orders. My friends were my anchor when I was deep in Winter.”

“Friendship,” Andronike said, sounding somewhat skeptical. “A human concept, not of the Firstborn. Kinship in interests is ever passing.”

“Yeah, I’m not exactly holding my breath you two starting to feel all warm and fuzzy inside,” I sighed. “This isn’t about that.”

“Imprecise,” Komena noted. “Elaborate.”

“Banter’s informal,” I said. “It puts you on equal footing with the other person, if only for the duration of that exchange. And for you two it’s even more important, because to be hallway decent at it there’s a lot of things you have to pick up on: the situation, the timing, what lines you can and can’t cross. It forces you to think like a person while you do it.”

“It will not change what we are,” Andronike said.

“None of us can do that,” I replied. “What we can do is make sure you still understand what a mortal is. That you don’t become so utterly removed from reality you march yourself off the cliff.”

There was a long moment of silence broken only by my boots creasing the snow.

“You are being sexually promiscuous with your subordinate, which is humorous for unclear reasons,” Komena tried.

I closed my eyes and counted to five. At least she’s trying, I told myself.

“We’ll, uh, keep working on that,” I muttered.

I flicked a glance at crow-Andronike, but she did not have another drow attempt at humour to throw my way. Well, either that my reaction to her sister had scared her off. The crow-shaped sliver of goddess turned towards me in indignation, much to my amusement. Yes, clearly she was beyond such petty feelings. No, I wasn’t thinking that just to appease her. I muffled my chuckle with my gloves. The slight ebb upwards in my mood disappeared the moment the distraction ended. I was in the dark, in more ways than one. And some of the things hidden from my view mattered more to me than others. I hesitated, fingers clenching and unclenching.

“Ask,” Andronike said.

“Since you ate Winter,” I said. “Your… abilities have grown.”

“Beyond your understanding,” Komena said. “Though that is not a high wall to clear.”

That’d actually been pretty decent, I noted. Insults came much easier to her than humour, which really wasn’t much of a surprise. I cleared my throat.

“Could you find out if someone is dead or not?” I quietly asked.

“Yes,” crow-Andronike said.

Ah, but would they?

“No,” crow-Komena said.

“I know there’d be risks,” I said.

“Of which you warned us yourself,” Andronike said.

“If you start swinging your apotheosis around on the surface, something a lot older and meaner is bound to start swinging back. That story doesn’t end well for you,” Komena said, pitching her voice in an eerily perfect mimicry of mine.

The leather gloves crinkled as I closed them into a fist.

“There are strategic reasons why the information would be important,” I said.

“Not enough to warrant the possibility of provoking an entity our match,” crow-Andronike said. “You know this.”

“Sentiment is unseemly,” crow-Komena said.

“Don’t do that,” I sharply said.

They stilled for a moment. They were not used, I thought, to being spoken to in this way. And we all knew that the part of their power they had sent with me was enough that they could kill me if they so wished – my best defence against it, after all, had been granted to me by their favour. But I would not hold my tongue. That was the whole point of my being named their herald, the First Under the Night: having someone that hadn’t been raised to worship them to argue with them, force them to reconsider what they believed. They might not always agree with me, and frequently did not. But entirely separate from our military alliance and the diplomatic authority they had granted me was the real foundation of our accord. A cat may look at a king, the old Callowan saying went. Though the unfortunate pun had me gritting my teeth, it was a decent way of putting it. It was my damned purpose to disagree with them without sweetening my words.

“There’s nothing wrong with feeling things,” I said. “You take that out and all you view is skewed. They’re not the only thing to take into consideration, often not even the most important, but they do matter. Logic alone leads you to ugly ends because you’re dealing with people, not statues. If you remove that element just to feel clear-sighted and superior, you’re going to shoot yourself in the foot repeatedly.”

“Your tone,” Andronike said.

“Is exactly what it should be,” I replied, unflinching. “If you are right and correct in your own view, make your argument. If all you can quibble about is my phrasing, maybe you should be thinking instead of trying to chide me.”

That didn’t please them, but then it wasn’t supposed to.

“You provided what you promised,” crow-Komena conceded. “Yet the refusal remains. Employ other means.”

I would, the moment I could. There was a storm taking shape in Iserre and I suspected Black would have a better idea than most of what it was really about. He was the only person I trusted who’d ever spoken with both the Hierarch and the Tyrant of Helike, strange as the nature of that trust could be. I trust people to act according to their nature, Malicia had once said. A Wasteland way of thinking, but there was truth to it. I remained alone with the crows-that-were-not-crows on the long march, buried in silence until dawn came.

“It is a dangerous weakness,” Akua said. “Though I suppose inevitable in some ways. Power never comes without a cost.”

The sun had begun passing the horizon, and with the light of morning something like a shiver had passed through fifty thousand drow. Tents had been hastily raised and my host hid away under them before dawn even finished. The sentinels forced to remain out in the sun did so after boiling water to make herbal concoctions that would keep the awake through the sudden wave of tiredness. Dawn, I had learned, was when Sve Noc’s power ebbed lowest. I would have assumed noon to be it, but Akua had offered a complicated explanation as to why that was not the case I’d failed to understand twice before I got her to simplify it into something comprehensible: dawn was the death of the night. As a metaphysical concept, that had more weight than the rest. For some reason that apparently required me to have read a lot of books I definitely had not before it became sound and evident logic. The tent she was keeping me company under was open at the font, but the thick linen walls did cut away at the worst of the wind nicely. It made the wait tolerable, though I was actually debating taking a nap.

“This is an inconvenient one,” I said.

“Surprisingly light,” Diabolist retorted. “They are still physically able, after all. Simple temporarily bereft of their access to the Night.”

“They’ll also be out like a light for a few hours,” I grunted. “That’s a recipe for a morning attack and you know it.”

The transition from night to dawn was taxing on drow bodies in a way that led to exhaustion, and effectively prevented the expeditionary force from being truly fighting fit for at least three to four hours. And they’d be tired for the rest of the day as well as being fragile little mortals if I didn’t leave them sleeping a little longer than that, though at least that I could push later in the day. It wasn’t like other armies didn’t have to sleep, of course. But having a fixed time for that was a liability, and there would be no keeping that under wraps forever. The moment we began operating near other armies, there’d be outriders and scouts on us at all times and much as I liked to insult Proceran royalty they were not above basic pattern recognition.

“Hence why joining forces with the Legions of Terror remains a priority,” Akua said. “Fifty thousand warriors led by Mighty able to operate flawless in the dark are nothing to scoff at, and a fortified camp held by legionaries would allow us to exploit that advantage relentlessly.”

“Until we have allies, it makes occupation of anything concrete difficult,” I reminded her. “Taking something at night will be easy enough. Holding it through the day another story.”

“Fortunate, then, that occupation is not our intent,” Akua serenely replied.

That and I still had a few cards to play if things got bad, though heroic presence would make the whole matter chancy. They tended to do that, as a rule. At least the Dead King should keeping a good chunk of them out of my hair for the foreseeable future. I cast a look back at my bed, which was essentially a pile of covers and inexplicably flat cushions, and finally gave up the notion of a lie-in. Maybe after I worked out some of the tension in my body. I rose with a grunt, curtly refusing Akua offered helping hand, and buckled my sheath back onto my belt.

“Who has the watch again?” I asked the shade.

“Lord Ivah,” she replied.

Ivah, huh. It’d been a while since we’d had a proper chat. Unlike some of the Peerage, who seemed discomforted by how easily they still obeyed me and so made themselves scarce, my old guide had remained at hand. Unfortunately it was also a pathfinder of some talent, and so often sent out ahead of the expeditionary army. Might as well take the occasion today, I didn’t know how long it would be until the next. Though was I was higher than General Rumena in the pecking order of the Empire Ever Dark, it was in charge of leading the expedition. While I could give orders and dismiss its own, the details of the duty rosters remained at its discretion. I could have intervened, but was reluctant to do as much without a better reason than liking having Ivah around. Akua followed me out of the tent and onto the camp wordlessly. After years of commanding legionaries, the sight of the mess around us had me wincing on the inside. The layout of this place was a bloody maze, all haphazard tents with no real thought given to quick deployment and no chance of a bloody palisade being raised. Rumena wasn’t a fool, so it’d been pretty thorough about putting sentinels in place during our vulnerable ours, but it’d admitted to me in private that it could not turn a gaggle of tribal sigils into the kind of army the Empire Ever Dark had once fielded with less than a month before the campaign began.

Assembling a functioning chain of command had been miracle enough, in my opinion, which should count for quite a bit considering I was now the foremost priestess of an entire race.

“Have you considered using a staff?” Akua suddenly asked.

She’d pulled slightly ahead of me, I only then noticed. I could go quicker, in all honesty, but I was in no real hurry and this pace was most comfortable.

“My limp’s not that bad,” I shrugged.

“It pains you,” the shade frowned.

“When it loses its novelty I’ll get herbs for that,” I replied. “That’s what my pipe was for in the first place.”

We turned around a cluster of tents, the smallness of the gap rather irritating to my eyes. She resumed the line of conversation afterwards.

“Unnecessary suffering is exactly that,” Akua said.

“I’m still fighting fit,” I said with irritation. “And if I need a little nimbleness, I’ll call on the Night to make it withdraw for a bit. I got the juice directly from Sve Noc, daylight won’t stop me.”

“It does significantly weaken you,” Diabolist retorted.

I rolled my eyes. So the kind of power I could call on went from terrifying to merely appalling after dawn. It was still more than I’d ever had to work with as the Squire by an almost absurd margin.

“Yet that was not my meaning,” Akua mildly continued. “I worry more about what embracing this implies of your mindset.”

I watched her from the corner of my eye, and she did not meet my gaze. Worry, huh. The words she chose were never an accident.

“Sometimes it’s a good thing,” I said. “To remember what it feels like for the people who don’t make pacts with gods.”

“I had thought you estranged with contrition, dearest,” she said, tone prickly.

“I won’t wallow,” I flatly replied. “But I won’t lose sight of it twice either. A lot of people are going to bleed before this is over, Akua.”

I brought up my fingers to block the sun from my eyes, feeling the shade studying me.

“Now and then it’s worth the sting to feel a part of what you’re going to dole out,” I finished quietly. “It’s be a kinder world, if we were all made to remember that.”

“Kindness,” Diabolist mused.

“Not a Praesi favourite, I know,” I drily said.

Not much grounds left to cover before we reached the edge of the camp. Already we were passing drow so wrapped up in cloth the only seen could be seen was their eyes, though those were sharp and peering at the horizon. Ivah should be somewhere within the small thicket of bare trees I could see ahead, by the feel of the presences in the Night. Even when bereft of the power, they still left an impression. I slowed when I realized Akua had stopped. She was looking at me with narrowed eyes. Ah. Irritated her, had I?

“Is that what you think?” she said.

Not irritation, I thought. Disappointment. Fancy that.

“Are you sure, Akua Sahelian,” I said softly, “that you want to get in an argument with me about the moral fabric of the Wasteland?”

“I had a great-uncle,” she said. “By the name of Thandiwe.”

My eyebrow rose.

“Fascinating,” I said.

“I found him to be, as a child,” Akua casually admitted. “He was, after all, stricken from family records.”

“Maybe he used the wrong fork during the cannibalism ritual,” I suggested.

Much as I disliked to admit, though, she had my attention.

“My mother would not speak of,” she said, “and so naturally I pursued the matter secretly.”

A half-smile quirked her lips.

“He was a sorcerer of great promise,” she said. “As is custom among our line, as a boy he was brought to the deepest part of the Maze of Kilns. There he was made to sacrifice one dear to him, and for months after remained silent.”

So it wasn’t just you, I thought. Had Tasia Sahelian been made to do the same by her own mother, I wondered? How far back did the wounding of their own children go, for it to have earned the name of tradition?

“The lesson was believed to have been taught,” Akua said. “And it was. One the eve of his sixteenth year, Thandiwe Sahelian stole several tomes and artefacts from the family vaults and fled to Mercantis, where he pawned them for a small fortune he used to make a home further south in Nicae.”

I snorted.

“I imagine that went over less than pleasantly in Wolof,” I said.

“Rage is an apt description,” she mused. “Which only worsened when he began to thrive after entering some sort of merchant consortium and became comfortably wealthy even by Praesi standards. Enough to seek the protection of the Basileus, which the Empire sought favourable trade terms with in those days.”

“Clever, then,” I said. “Though I’m wondering as to your point. The man sounds decent enough, but he left Praes.”

Akua inclined her head.

“And yet he was also a Sahelian,” she said, and even now there was an undertone of pride when she spoke the name. “The blood of the original murder, unhallowed from the cradle. I am told that he kept to the Gods Below even on that foreign shore.”

“He grew past his roots,” I said.

And I’m not so sure you have, I thought. She looked up at the morning sun, her silhouette wreathed in light for a heartbeat, and there was something about her smile that unsettled me.

“You have seen the worst of us,” the shade said. “And through that knowing taken our measure. But there is more, Catherine. We are not beyond kindness, not even the highborn. If even a Sahelian can have the taste for peace, there is yet something left to be kindled.”

“If you want to be known by more than the ugliest parts of you,” I said, “perhaps you should show them to the rest of the world. Maybe the capacity is there, Akua, but we don’t judge by capacity. It’s the choices you make that matter.”

“Ah,” she murmured. “And how many of those do we really have, in the end?”

One hundred thousand souls, I thought. That was a choice. It’s the weight on the balance by which you will be judged, and what could possibly even the scales? I cleared my throat, uncomfortable the lingering silence.

“Your great-uncle,” I said. “What happened to him, after?”

Golden eyes met mine.

“The old Basileus died. His successor refused the Empire’s terms outright,” she said. “And so my grandfather, a noted alchemist, took to his workshop. If he is so ashamed of his blood, I am told he said, let us relieve him of it.”

Neither of us blinked.

“Thandiwe Sahelian sweated out every drop of blood in his body within the year,” Akua said.

We finished the rest of the walk in silence.

88 thoughts on “Chapter 3: Orison

    1. And, believe it or not, I actually have something besides voting! Wow! That never happens!

      Over on Spacebattles, KnownParadox has started doing a Liveblog of A Practical Guide to Evil.
      If you do not know what that is, it is where someone, in this case KnownParadox, reads through a text, in this case (because it wasn’t obvious) A Practical Guide to Evil, and reacts to parts as they are reading, It is a fairly cool experience, as it lets you feel kind of like you are reading The Guide again for the first time, and makes for a fun way to re-read The Guide.
      If you’re interested, then come look at the link below. At the moment the first Three chapters have been posted, and more are forthcoming.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. konstantinvoncarstein

        (About Above and Below): “I imagine the the one who wanted to micromanage their joined Sims account is the evil one while the one who wanted to see what would happen if the Sims were left on there is the good one.”

        It’s so cute!🤣

        Liked by 5 people

      1. Skaddix

        Cause it is the Drow part can be predicted with some knowledge of RPGs. And we already know all Prasei are not monsters with zero companion. Heck Cat’s short story at the start tells you that seeing as said mage didn’t kill a bunch of kids for a prank. We already had Cat and Akua bonding as well. Lets get to some other characters.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. caoimhinh

        To be fair, the whole ‘Akua telling a story of an unknown uncle’ part was filler indeed.
        We didn’t learn anything plot-relevant, Akua’s character wasn’t developed, and it also didn’t shed any new light on Praesi culture.

        We (and Cat too, for that matter) already know for a fact that Praesi are not incapable of love, companionship, mercy, kindness, and honor; literally every Praesi character (including the members of the 15th legion) are proof of that, though we also know that they look down on displays of affection, the nobility holds in contempt those who can’t hide their emotions and consider mercy a weakness.
        Akua herself has already shown that she cared about her father (although she thought her father was weak for not being capable of intrigue she still preferred him that way because he was happy like that) and Barika (who Akua considered weak and a bit dumb, but still kept her around because she was loyal; and she was the one loss she actually felt after the battle of Liesse at the end of William’s rebellion).

        Cat’s interaction with Sve Noc, on the other hand, was character development and relevant.

        Liked by 7 people

              1. Scholar

                Let’s all remember, dear friends, our dear friends…the previous chapters. How many times has seemingly ‘inconsequential’ information been foreshadowing we just didn’t catch?

                Personally, I’d love to see a crimson rain made of blood sweat. 🙂

                Liked by 4 people

    1. Rook

      The point is that maybe the Praesi aren’t so different from anyone else. The same moral from the Indrani/ranger story applies to even the villainy of the east.

      It’s a sweet song to believe people are the way they are solely because of their choices. Because they deserve it, because of the mistakes they made. Maybe it’s easier to think that way, but the whole point of the last chapter was criticizing that idea. Because people are weak and sometimes they don’t have a choice, sometimes they’re not strong or special or great enough to stand up on their own, but that doesn’t make them worthless.

      It was the same with the drow in the entire last volume. Cannibalistic murderers they may all be, we now know for a fact that none of them could have dragged the empire ever dark out of the pit on their own. How many choices did any of them really get that mattered, in the big picture?

      Maybe the Praesi are the same.

      Maybe Catherine is the hypocrite here, not Akua, her personal experiences and wounds blinding her from seeing them for what they are.

      Not villains that need to be beaten or destroyed, but villains that need to be saved. No different from the poor villagers that gave up, or drow that were made to kill each other, or callow being forced to become a battlefield again and again. That’s what Cat needs to do to truly *win*. To break away from Above and Below’s game. Redeem the same people that hurt her, knowing that the real enemy aren’t the people being driven by the whip but the one holding it.

      Liked by 16 people

        1. Rook

          I don’t think it’s so much redemption in the capital-G Good sense. It’s more along the vein of the moral outrage Black has against Above (and to a lesser degree, Below) for giving him so little choice as to the major outcomes of his own fate.

          Think of it as a chess game. You’re either consigned to being a Black piece or a White one, with no choice in the matter. The whole point of Catherine’s choice when fighting Sve Noc was pointing out the real problem – the players. Above and Below. You don’t win by beating up the other pieces, you win by getting the pieces to stop fighting long enough to gang up on the players.

          Akua’s point is that it’s incredibly hypocritical of Cat to blame some of the black pieces (the Praesi) as if they were black by choice, just because they might have personally hurt her in the past.

          The pilgrim is all about destroying black pieces or converting them to become white. Amadeus is all about being a black piece but winning anyway, even if his own piece is taken. Catherine is about poking both players in the eye, because she’s terribly unamused at being a piece in general; but if that’s her game then she needs to be consistent.

          Liked by 15 people

          1. luminiousblu

            But that’s the thing, isn’t it? They are black by choice. Even her uncle, Akua specifically states that he worshipped Below for the rest of his life, even if he fled.
            The problem with Catherine is that she views the world as divided into good and evil, instead of Good and Evil, and thinks that one should imply the other.

            Liked by 2 people

        2. Not in the way he’d like, no.

          Cat is, fundamentally Callowan — which means she needs bashing over the head with the concept that Praes didn’t start out as screwed up as it has become, and that the people inside it are still people.

          Above and Below have a lot to answer for, for both have allowed atrocities in the name of their game.

          Liked by 2 people

      1. luminiousblu

        “Because people are weak and sometimes they don’t have a choice, sometimes they’re not strong or special or great enough to stand up on their own…”
        Bullshit. The entire point of the last chapter is that even when you’re weak, you do have a choice. “The only choice that really matters”, in fact.

        The Mayor had literally nothing. Catherine could’ve ended him with a word, possibly less than a word. He still refused to talk under pain of getting his family killed. He could do not better but he chose to make the choice he would be proud to make again. Do I agree with his choice? No, I think it was stupid, but that isn’t the point, it doesn’t matter what I think, it matters what he thinks. He chose a side. He was too weak to serve it in full, but he did what he could and made his peace with the fact that he’d done everything he was capable of.

        What do you think being ‘strong’ or ‘special’ means, really? You don’t need to be ‘strong’ or ‘special’ to do something you’d be proud to do again. You might fail, but you tried, and that’s good enough if you can do no better. Someone who falters halfway to the finish line and collapses is still better than someone who jogs two thirds and then walks away of his own will because he can’t be arsed to keep going, that’s what the last chapter was.

        “…but that doesn’t make them worthless”
        If you come from a certain mindset that I disagree with, they might not be “worthless”. They are, however, certain “worth less”. From a narrative perspective, especially in worlds of Good vs. Evil (instead of Grey-Grey morality), the person who is willing to stick to his guns to the very end is heavier than the person who swaps sides or caves in to threats. Even villains, because there is something to be respected in a villain who genuinely believes in what he’s doing whether or not you agree with it.

        “How many choices did any of them really get that mattered, in the big picture?”
        In a world of Good vs. Evil, the choice that matters is which side you go on. That’s more or less it. Akua’s episode sounds like it’s saying “even Praesi can be Good”, but that’s not really it. She’s saying “even Evil can be good”, and note the lowercase. What choice does anyone have that “really matters”? Callow is a crown that will eventually pass. The culture of Praes isn’t the same from century to century – hell if nothing else, the whole culture of starvation thing couldn’t have predated Sinistra’s weather bomb. The Sahelians seem to have risen to prominence only after the Miezans left. Procer didn’t even exist for the longest period of time. Names themselves come and go and new ones pop up with seeming regularity, even outside the context of the current story timeline. Hell, apparently slavery was considered Good, capital G, way back when, and it’s not anymore; it might be considered Good again in a thousand years. All of these things “don’t really matter”, not in the end, not even on Neshamah’s timescale let alone the Bard’s or the game of Above and Below. And of course, neither do the Drow. If you talk about choices that “really matter”, then you have to look at personal choices, and you can always make a personal choice that matters – that’s what the last chapter was.

        “Maybe Catherine is the hypocrite here”
        It’s not about hypocrisy. Hell even if it is, it doesn’t matter. The pot calling the kettle black doesn’t mean it turns white.

        “Not villains that need to be beaten or destroyed, but villains that need to be saved.”
        Now, this is high-handed bullshit. Villains that ‘need to be saved’? Saved from what? Saved from themselves? From their own dreams or their own goals? Maybe even from their own choices? Do you think everyone in this world is a child incapable of taking responsibility for their own failures?

        “To break away from Above and Below’s game.”
        Villains, especially Named, are Nietzsche-style Ubermensch (so are Heroes, actually, given a world where God literally isn’t dead). To claim you’re “saving them” is literally the biggest insult you can offer one of those. These are people who have made their choice, and are convinced that they are the choices that matter. You taking away that choice because ‘it’s bad for them’ means all you’re really doing is setting up a second game within the metagame of Above and Below, where you’re the only choice. Sure, that solves the problem. You can’t chafe against the iron walls of your prison if you build a second, wooden prison inside of your cell.

        “Knowing that the real enemy aren’t the people being driven by the whip but the one holding it.”
        There is no whip. People choose what they do for themselves. “Fate” is just narrative consequence, railing against it is as idiotic as railing against entropy, or gravity, or the zeroth law of TD. To live in this world is to live with the fact that stories exist. You can change the stories, but blaming everything on the ‘whip’ is like attributing the internal combustion engine to laws of compressional heating. The “how” is confused for the “why”.

        Even Black’s railing makes no goddamn sense. Evil always loses, but for Evil to even be in a position to lose, Good has to lose first. That’s how stories tend to go – for the rebel to overthrow the tyrant, the tyrant has to seize power; for Robin Hood to save the peasants, the peasants have to be in trouble; for the King to repel the orcs, the orcs need to be invading. The very fact that Praes is consistently an Evil country, with Good countries opposing it, disproves Black’s honestly whiny notion that Evil is destined to lose. Terribilis II foiled several Crusades and reconquered his homeland, more or less for good, right after what seemed like the final triumph of Good that cast down Sauron’s Towe — I mean, the Tower. From the perspective of Good it could’ve seemed like nothing but the triumph of Evil: Sauron come again and his Tower is higher than ever.

        Liked by 6 people

        1. I agree with you that if you take Black’s anger at face value it sounds whiny af.

          The actual point comes out if you connect it with the context of what he’d just been explaining to Catherine, when he goes into the speech. He’s angry that Praes was drawn into the game and doesn’t get to quit, and any villains who try to help are only allowed a villainous sort of victory, ie a transient one that doesn’t make things better in the long run.

          tl;dr Black is angry that Praes is Evil and its inhabitants don’t get individual choice about being surrounded by it 🙂

          Liked by 4 people

        2. Rook

          I’m the one speaking high-handed bullshit? Sorry, but I’ll have to throw that accusation right back in your face. It’s easy to judge people by the sacrifices they didn’t make when you’re not the one making the sacrifices.

          “There is no whip”? Seriously, after an entire volume about an entire race that were given the “choice” to cannibalize each other for millennia by an automagically binding contract with Below made on their behalf, before their ancestors were even born? After just now getting an example of the kind of consequence that comes to Praesi for abandoning Praes and Below, even partially?

          The point isn’t that there physically aren’t choices, the point is that the choices are between bad or worse. Praesi can either play the wasteland game, or bleed all their blood through their skin. The Drow could either kill each other, or have their entire race die anyway. See any meaningful choices there?

          The thing you’re completely ignoring is that not everyone starts at the same starting line. Not everyone starts with the same advantages or disadvantages. The point of “saving” the praesi isnt excusing them for their crimes so much as giving them that ideal freedom of choice that you like to pretend already exists by burying your head in the sand.

          Is it a reality that people are consigned to different circumstances? Yeah. Do you have to live with it? Yeah.

          That doesn’t make it right. That doesn’t mean things should stay the way they are because that’s how it’s always been.

          You want to talk about personal failures? You’re right, the greatest personal failure isn’t failing, but not trying. And if you see the state of the world with all these flaws and refuse to attempt correcting those problems, using cop-outs like ‘everyone makes their own choices’ or that people are what they are solely because of ‘personal failures’? You’re the biggest failure of them all. Because at that point you’re so scared of trying that you’re pretending there’s no need to try at all. Convincing yourself that it’s like ‘fighting against entropy’

          People aren’t the way they are just because of what choices they make. You don’t choose where and when to be born, and people are often a product of their upbringing more than anything. There is no baby in the world born dreaming of becoming a psychopath or an abuser.

          Liked by 5 people

          1. luminiousblu

            “It’s easy to judge people by the sacrifices they didn’t make when you’re not the one making the sacrifices.”
            Whataboutery. I’m not saying it’s not alright, or not normal, to bend under pressure. That’s what True Neutrals do. I *am*, however, saying that it means you literally matter less – especially in a world where picking a side can straight up grant you plot armour.

            “Seriously, after an entire volume about an entire race that were given the “choice” to cannibalize each other for millennia by an automagically binding contract with Below made on their behalf, before their ancestors were even born?”
            That is not a “whip”. That’s like arguing that the Byzantine Empire’s situation in the later stages of its life was a “whip”. The actions of your predecessors affect the choices available to you today. The actual contents of the choice are completely irrelevant to the fact that the choice exists.

            “the point is that the choices are between bad or worse”
            Irrelevant. You tried pulling the last chapter as an example, but the last chapter gave the mayor a choice between Horrible and Terrible, and he chose the one he believed in. What you’re missing is that the choices involved aren’t about the material impact, or even spiritual impact. It’s about agency. Will you make your choice, or will the choice be made for you? Are you the main character of your own life, or are you a side character even there?

            “See any meaningful choices there?”
            The choice between Good and Evil. Yes. I do see a choice there. I’m not even religious but if you had any notion of how Abrahamic religions or – before them – Zoroastrianism works you would recognize the pattern. You can choose to be Good, or you can choose to be Evil. Neither is actually invalid, but you must make the choice. Stop thinking of things in terms of empires, timelines, or life and death. This is about personal choice, not about historical pivots.

            “The thing you’re completely ignoring is that not everyone starts at the same starting line.”
            I’m not ignoring it. I’m dismissing it as irrelevant. Your choice doesn’t need to be successful or long-lasting to be a choice. To choose – that is, in and of itself, the freedom you’re given. That is, in fact, the only freedom anyone is ever given in this series. You can’t say the Praesi have no choice and then turn around and claim Callow, or Procer, or even people in real life (who aren’t bound by a Story) do. You are, as you said, always affected by your background. You can’t escape that, you can’t even equalize it, it’s inherently impossible due to straight up physics. You just have to deal with it and realize that people are defined by the choices they make. They’re presented with different choices – a poor man will never be presented with the choice to fund a well for a village out of pocket, and a rich man is unlikely to ever run into the question of whether it’s better to work day and night trying to secure your daughter’s dowry or to spend time with her while you still can – but they’ll always have choices, and we can judge them by those choices. We DO judge them by those choices. That’s what happens in real life.

            “That doesn’t make it right.”
            There is no right and wrong. It’s either true or false. Arguing the Story is right or wrong is like arguing the Fireball spell having a twenty foot radius blast is right or wrong or the fact that if you jump off a tower you take 3d6 damage unless you make a tumble check is right or wrong. You’re running into the is-ought problem.

            “with all these flaws”
            And here’s the point where we diverge. I see no flaws. I see things I disagree with and I would get rid of the things I disagree with, but there’s no inherent flaws to any of this. You don’t have to say something is wrong for you to not like it.

            “using cop-outs like ‘everyone makes their own choices’ or that people are what they are solely because of ‘personal failures’?”
            These aren’t cop-outs. These are the hard truths in a world where you have metaphysical concepts of Good and Evil right there. Good is just as hamstrung by this as Evil, for the most part, but the key is that you can always make the personal choice to stand by what you believe in or to bend to someone else’s will. To be a main character, even if your tale is minor and meaningless, or to be a side character in the story of someone who matters more than you, because they were the mover instead of the moved. Read some Nietzsche.

            “You don’t choose where and when to be born, and people are often a product of their upbringing more than anything. ”
            And that is completely irrelevant. We judge people by the things they do. If you read Sauron’s backstory, he comes off as sort of screwed over by everything, Melkor, Eru, everyone; but when it comes down to brass tacks, it is Sauron who couldn’t overcome his paranoia and fear, and turned to darkness when he had a chance to return to the light. Nobody except maybe Gandalf pities him for that, and Gandalf’s pity is quite the same as the Grey Pilgrim’s (whose name is a reference to him) – “He’s a pitiful monster, but a monster to be destroyed nonetheless.” You can’t shrug off responsibility or agency because you were born in a bad place, not if you want to matter. Again – look at the Mayor, who was put in a bad spot but made the choice he could live with. Hell look at Akua deciding to rebel against an entire empire, look at fucking Catherine in Chapter 1 of Book 1 when she made the choice to fight the guards. You can always make a choice, and it is “the only choice that ever really matters.”

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Rook

              I don’t think you’re understanding the point of the message, let me try to make it simpler.

              The point is that although people can and should be held responsible for their actions, you can’t hold them responsible for who they are.

              Have you ever considered why places like Praes produce so many Terribilises and Akua Sahelians? Is it just their blood that’s foul, is it just random chance? Do all those kids born in Praes get up one day and make a choice to become that kind of person because Praesi genes are just shit? Of course not.

              Sure you can and should hang the Akuas of the world. Sure you can and should hold them accountable for what they do. But understand that at some point even Akua Sahelian was born an innocent infant and was a blameless child. That’s the real problem, that’s the point. Two year old Akua Sahelian never made a choice one morning to grow up to be a psychopath that murders a hundred thousand people. The problem is what caused that kid to become what she is today, and it takes an unbelievable amount of willful ignorance to believe it just happened on its own or that it’s because of some sort of failing in personal responsibility.!

              It’s extremely small-minded to treat the Akua sahelians and the Amadeuses of the world as the ‘enemy’ or the ‘problem. They’re not the problem, they’re the symptom. The problem is the circumstances that cause them to become broken people, and the enemy is everything that perpetuates those circumstances. EE even made the concept easier to grasp by putting a face and a name to it, in the form of the Bard whose entire goal is to keep those circumstances intact.

              Akua has a right to be disappointed in Catherine. She treats the Praesi people like the problem when she of all people should know that – regardless of the fact that many of them aren’t forgivable and many of them do need to be held responsible for what they did – the problem isn’t the people so much as the circumstances that create them.

              Liked by 2 people

                1. Rook

                  We’ll have to agree to disagree, I think she’s by far the biggest problem here.

                  Her entire existence revolves around making sure everyone is on one side of the game or the other. Capital G Good or capital E Evil. The Hierarch didn’t wound her because he was powerful, he wounded her because he didn’t choose Above or Below. The failure to convince or manipulate him into doing so is what really set her back.

                  I sincerely believe that without the Bard’s intercessions, countries like Praes would have had a real shot – over the hundreds of years – of becoming far less awful than they are now.

                  Liked by 3 people

                  1. I think that the interpretation that this is what her job is, isn’t actually for certain 100% confirmed canon. It’s a popular fan theory, somewhat well-founded, but it’s not actually a fact yet.

                    Liked by 1 person

              1. luminiousblu

                You ‘can’t hold them responsible for who they are’? What the fuck does that even mean? What can you hold a man responsible for if not for himself? People make choices. Circumstances shape those choices. That doesn’t mean the person doesn’t make the damn choice.

                “Have you ever considered why places like Praes produce so many Terribilises and Akua Sahelians? Is it just their blood that’s foul, is it just random chance? Do all those kids born in Praes get up one day and make a choice to become that kind of person because Praesi genes are just shit? Of course not.”

                “It’s extremely small-minded to treat the Akua sahelians and the Amadeuses of the world as the ‘enemy’ or the ‘problem.”
                See, this here is why I find talking to you incredibly tiring because you’re still, even now, making it out as if Evil were somehow inferior to Good. Akua and Black aren’t ‘the enemy’, nor are they ‘the problem’. In fact, they’re not even ‘a’ problem. Not by the standards of this world.

                “Sure you can and should hang the Akuas of the world”
                See? It’s difficult to talk to you about problems and so on when even as you say “the Akuas and Amadeuses aren’t the problem”, you evidently think of them as people to be gotten rid of. Even if you think of them as a symptom instead of the disease you still are clearly biased and have made your decision ahead of time that they’re somehow wrong and need to be ‘treated’ – which is why I said it’s absolutely insulting. These people are adults who have made their decision. If I came along and told you all of your values were wrong, and therefore I’m going to be taking them away and re-educating you the ‘right’ way, I think you’d probably be pretty goddamn angry about it. Which is why it’s so damn tiring to talk to you about circumstance, blame, and responsibility – you’re already convinced that one of the sides is wrong, instead of realising that from the very beginning the entire point of the Named system is that you’re not right or wrong; you’re someone who’s the main character of your story, or you’re not.

                “Some sort of failing in personal responsibility”
                Stop trying to attribute blame. It’s impossible to have a discussion with you because you think I’m trying to excuse someone, or to defend someone, or to blame someone, or to damn someone. No. You are responsible for making a choice and the choices you make. Your circumstances are not a valid defence. Just because daddy neglected you as a kid and Stephen was a huge jackass to you during school and kept taunting you about how easy your sister was doesn’t mean you’re not responsible for murdering twenty people in broad daylight with a submachine gun.

                “Akua has a right to be disappointed in Catherine.”
                Yeah, for other reasons. Not for disapproving of Praesi culture, which is clearly what she actually disapproves of – Catherine has a right to disapprove of most anything, and Praesi culture hasn’t really sat well with her since the very beginning. It’s not as if Catherine thinks of every single Praesi as monolithically and cartoonishly evil, or else her characterisation has backslid all the way to Book I.

                “Regardless of the fact that many of them aren’t forgivable and many of them do need to be held responsible for what they did”
                I don’t agree with any of this moralising, just so you know. Personally I find Catherine’s simpering about humanity this and humanity that more unforgivable than anything Black’s pulled.

                Liked by 2 people

                1. > Which is why it’s so damn tiring to talk to you

                  I haven’t been part of this conversation, but it’s just a meaningless internet argument. If you walk away from the discussion and the other person thinks they “won” because you didn’t refute their latest post, it’s no big deal.

                  If you’re tired of the conversation, just stop. Hope this helps. 🙂

                  Liked by 1 person

                2. Rook

                  This isn’t a whole new idea that exists in guide verse, it’s a very old and very well documented phenomenon.

                  It’s the exact same type of shit as people being born into a poor family being more likely to be poor, people that grew up in the hood being more coarse than people in upper middle class suburbs, and people born many south African countries becoming literal murderers, because that’s what happens when your environment has you choose between being conscripted as a child soldier or dying.

                  People are largely a product of how they are raised, and their character or perspective determined far more by where and when they’re born than whatever choices they make growing up. You can hold the individual responsible for their crimes but it’s hilariously wrong to try believing the cause is because of personal failings, as if nearly anyone else wouldn have turned out similarly in the same situation.

                  You’re so enamoured with the idea of pinning blame on a stray dog for *choosing* to act like a stray dog that you totally reject the notion that it’s more important to focus on what keeps causing these dogs to turn stray in the first place. It’s ludicrous.

                  Liked by 2 people

                  1. luminiousblu

                    Me? Pinning BLAME? Have you read anything of what I’m written? I don’t think a single thing in this entire story was worthy of blame. Nobody has done anything I think was worthy of blame, there is no blame or fault to be attributed in making decisions that you believe in. You’re the one who’s arguing from a moral standpoint, not me. I’m simply pointing out that people do have free will, and that’s the entire point of the last chapter – that even when all of your choices are shite, you do have a choice.

                    Do you know anything about what you’re even talking about? Do you know what the is-ought problem is? Do you know what an Nietzschean ubermensch refers to? I don’t generally like insulting people but at this point it’s not even an insult I genuinely need to know if I’m wasting my time talking at someone who can’t or won’t understand. Because it seems to me you’re trying to make this into some sort of political bull about how poor people can be ruined by their upbringing or how bullied kids aren’t really at fault or whatever the hell you’re trying to communicate because it sure as hell has nothing to do with what I’m saying or the setting this takes place in. It’s right there in chapter one, Black says it again in chapter 2, and it’s constantly repeated throughout the series, the Wandering Bard says it outright with William (and I know you’re about to kneejerk about how evil and unreliable she is, but I don’t buy that – the Bard is the most objective character with the fewest crippling blinders we have access to). You always have a choice – to be dragged along or to drag the world along – and that choice that you always have is the one that really matters.

                    Liked by 1 person

      1. Darkening

        Depends on what ends up happening with Black I suppose. These legions were the ones that followed Black’s lead and basically mutinied against the empire, so they’ll follow his lead if he comes back I imagine. I expect Black would be horrified at the idea of letting the Dead King expand beyond the natural barriers that have been keeping him bottled up for millennia and letting him become a potential threat to the empire. Not sure how Malicia would react to them coming back to the fold if they did head back to the empire. I suppose her position is precarious enough that she’d probably welcome the troops, but the troubles with the goblins might raise questions about Sacker’s loyalty. I certainly wouldn’t expect them to subordinate themselves to her, but an alliance might be doable. At least to get Black back and to get them out of their current mess.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. ““Shit,” he finally said. “You’re sure?”

          “We are,” Eudokia said.

          “Then the entire north is about to be hip-deep in dead men,” Grem bluntly said. “I can’t think of another reason for Hasenbach to pull out. The Iron Prince only let us burn our way through the heartlands without lifting a finger because he judged toppling Callow as quick as possible was how the war would be turned around. He wouldn’t leave the Vales if he had any another choice, not after committing for so long.”

          “That is my assessment as well,” Amadeus said. “And it means our horizons have just expanded a great deal.””

          ““I can think of few things more foolish than to underestimate Alaya,” he quietly said. “Even now. She’s never been one to act without a plan, and that we do not understand her moves should be source of fear and not contempt.”

          “Odds are she’s the one who made a pact with the Dead King,” Ranker said.

          “It could have been Catherine as well,” Amadeus frankly admitted. “She thrives in chaotic situations. It’s led her to the bad habit of creating them knowing it improves her chances of victory even if it significantly increases collateral damage as well.””

          ^^^ Amadeus’s reaction to the whole Dead King business.

          He’s not a fan, but he’s not exactly morally outraged lmao.

          Either way, I think the Legions are likely to sign on with Cat just out of practicality at this point: it’s that or get crushed by the armies converging on them. And Grem and Scribe know Black supported Catherine in this conflict, hell that the conflict was only ever allowed to emerge because of Black’s own conflict with Malicia and was a direct result of it. Black didn’t just leave, he effectively set Catherine against Alaya when doing so.

          They won’t be happy at working with her, but I don’t think the “going against Malicia” part will be a sticking point.

          Liked by 7 people

            1. True, but he had no reason to assume any limitations either.

              I think he just assumed the situation was ultimately handled by the people who had a better grip on it and focused on his own part.

              And in the hypothetical where he’s with the Legions and Cat’s asking him to join the fray of handling it, I think he’d agree, yeah.

              Liked by 3 people

  1. Nice to have the confirmation that Catherine is indeed going for the obvious correct move: joining with the Legions. That’s going to be a fun conversation :3

    Also nice to see the details of Catherine’s relationship with Sve Noc. I love how Catherine has serious and thought out arguments in favor of banter ❤ ❤ ❤ Guess when one of your subordinates keeps pestering you about how you shouldn't be this informal, you end up refining your understanding of why you keep doing it anyway ❤
    (ilu Juniper never change)

    I'm looking forward to the talk with Ivah.

    And, dang. That sure was a conversation. I'm curious to see where it leads.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. “When it loses its novelty I’ll get herbs for that,” I replied. “That’s what my pipe was for in the first place.”
    “Unnecessary suffering is exactly that,” Akua said.

    I wonder if the Grey Pilgrim will come to the same mindset as Cat if he ever gets near apotheosis.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Darkening

    Nice chapter, good to see all the screaming people were doing about how OP the drow are has an answer. Power has a price indeed. Still, come nightfall an army of people able to give a fight to named has a ton of potential once they have allies to guard them during the day. On another note, I find the concern about other gods Sve Noc expresses interesting. Makes me wonder just how many there are running around. We’ve seen the orc god captain killed, warlock’s said to have dissected a couple, and then there’s Neshamah and our new Night goddesses. Maybe the king of the elves? Not sure whether to count Bard, she’s more a conduit for the Gods to act on the world than a bearer of power in her own right. (Also, is she restricted to Calernia? I don’t *think* we’ve gotten any notion she might be active on other continents, but then the story is pretty limited in scope to this continent for the most part) Anyways, I’m curious how many more old gods are lurking in the background somewhere like that orc was.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. caoimhinh

    If the Sisters want to learn to banter, they should take lessons from Mighty General Rumena, Lord of Sick Burns and Cool Replies.
    Also, the moral of Akua’s great uncle’s story is one we already knew: that Praesi and their highborns have the capacity for kindness, they just are so brutally ruthless that they kill those who display it, and even look with contempt to those that express their genuine feelings (As was seen by Akua’s interaction with her father, and her care for Barika).

    Typos found:
    -it would have been nothing to be / nothing to me
    -crimson on the talons the pair / talons of the pair
    -holding my breath you two starting / to you two
    -to be hallway decent / halfway
    -Well, either that my reaction / that or my reaction
    -keep the awake / keep them awake
    -Simple temporarily bereft / Simply
    -the Dead King should keeping a good chunk / should be keeping
    -Though was I was higher / Though I was
    -It’s be a kinder world / It’d be
    -One the eve / On the eve

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The interesting part was not the story Akua told, but the fact she told it and the manner in which she did.

      The point she was trying to make, and just in general the tone her conversations with Catherine have.

      It’s very interesting.

      Liked by 6 people

  5. Argentorum

    The difference between Akua and her uncle is that she learned her lessons too well.

    How many choices do we have? Less than we would hope, but always more than we thought. Acceptance is the choice Akua made. She will not be allowed to shirk the weight of it at the very end, I think.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Agent J

      Acceptance is a choice, true. But so is Rejection and her uncle paid dearly for it. The point, I think, of Akua’s story is that she’s damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t.

      I don’t think she wants to shirk responsibility so much as to be understood. The inciting incident was Catherine’s offhanded remark on the Praesi take on Kindness. She wasn’t irritated by it, she was disappointed.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. It doesn’t really sound like a Name. Names are archetypes, expressions of a concept. Can you imagine First Under the Night to be written in lowercase, while referring to Catherine? Even just a part of it? First is not a Name stem.

        Like, you can say: Malicia is the empress of Praes, Amadeus was Malicia’s knight, Catherine was Amadeus’s squire, Hakram is Catherine’s adjutant, Vivienne is/was a thief, Indrani is an archer, Masego was Wekesa’s apprentice, etc. While saying “Catherine is a first” or “Catherine is the first” doesn’t convey any useful information. It couldn’t be given to her as a nickname or used to refer to her in a children’s story.

        This is the difference between just ceremonial titles and titles that are potential Names. Saying “Cordelia is a warden” or “Cordelia is the warden of the West” sounds pompous but not inaccurate, doesn’t it?


    1. Xinci

      I have been thinking of all the metaphysical Dawn stories in-story and without and I see already a hero calling the light to their chest and shining the Light. Birthing a Dawn in the darkness, perhaps even a flying one rising to make the weight even higher. Not even mentioning how big the Dawn Knight is now. Good plays a long game indeed, well so does Evil but damn they got em good this time.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. luminiousblu

    >Logic alone leads you to ugly ends because you’re dealing with people, not statues.
    Yeah uh I’m not really sure about this line. All things considered, if “logic alone” leads you to ugly ends, that just means you forgot to take in a few variables. It’s not as if you can’t logically treat displays of emotion.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I believe the point that Cat was trying to make is that thinking strictly logically causes you to think “if A is true, then B is always true.” When dealing with emotions, it can be “if A is true, then french onion soup, except that this is my dearest enemy, so SQUIRREL!”

      Liked by 4 people

      1. luminiousblu

        And my point is that emotion isn’t actually illogical, which is a horrendous cliche that needs to snuff it as soon as possible. Emotion is a factor you take into account. It’s difficult to pin down, which is why we say it’s “illogical”, but even someone who’s livid and seems to be “not thinking” isn’t being illogical – he’s just using an entirely different set of values.

        Having different values is what we call “mad”, yeah, but if there’s a method to the madness (and there always is) then you can theoretically figure it out.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. Agreed strongly.

          Emotion is a shortcut to logic, if nothing else, actually. You don’t need to ponder deep impications of an action and how it will reflect on the world at large if you know that it pisses you off / makes you happy.

          Admittedly it doesn’t always hold, but then logic can be fallacious too.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. magesbe

          I think Catherine was warning Sve Noc away from using the same kind of logic Malacia did in Liesse. She didn’t account for the human factor; she didn’t account for the fact that Akua might massacre Callowans by the tens of thousands, and she didn’t account for how livid Catherine would be that she let that happen, or that Amadeus might take offense to her doing something that he had spent nearly his whole life trying to reject and prove wrong.

          Liked by 5 people

          1. Admittedly Malicia seems to have accounted for Catherine quite well. Had Amadeus stayed within the alliance as the stabilizing influence he’d been previously, Catherine would have stayed within the dotted lines. It was the conflict with him that led to the whole balance of power imploding.

            But yeah, this.

            Liked by 3 people

            1. caoimhinh

              A curious thing is that, in fact, the reason for Alaya’s current crisis is entirely emotional.
              She is obsessed with control and became paranoid about Amadeus having more physical and military power over Praes than her, so instead of looking at him as her most loyal companion, she thought of him as a potential threat for her rule despite knowing full well that he had no interest in such.
              This led her to support the whole Akua’s Folly in order to get her own weapon against the world that didn’t rely on Amadeus, yet in doing so she triggered the Crusade, made Catherine further the separation of Callow from Praes (Although Malicia took measures to prevent a full secession), and also drew Amadeus away from her, which in the long run has cost her Wekesa too, since he died due to the Crusade.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. I don’t think this analysis is entirely accurate.

                Yes, it stems from Malicia stewing inside her own head, but the worry about Amadeus’s power base not being hers was not the only thing there, and even within it, the idea that Amadeus might turn on her was not the only or the biggest thing.

                Part of her control issues was questioning his judgement. Amadeus himself has, like, reverse control issues, where he’d Rather Have Someone Else Be In Charge, even if he’s like 90% sure he knows better. Like he’d love it if Malicia agreed with him on everything and follow his plan exactly but he’s not willing to actually take a stand and insist. Not until it’s all gone up in flames already, and even then his next action is to fuck off to the border and pretend nothing is happening. Even in his yelling match with Alaya in the epilogue he ends up being like 🙂 @ her suggestion that he come home and agreeing with it while having an entirely different idea of how it’s going to happen.

                Anyway, Amadeus being like “I think this but I’m not SURE and I think you’re better at this than I am” puts Malicia in a rather… stressful position. If he’s so sure he doesn’t know better, maybe he really doesn’t?

                According to her internal monologue in Epilogue 4, she worried that Amadeus was being self-destructive. That he was going to start a war that he’d die in, and that it was his at least subconscious intention. We the audience know that Amadeus is better at separating out his personal bullshit from geopolitics than that, but how would Malicia know if he always deferred to her judgement when pressed?

                She’s not wrong that he’s suicidal, and it’s not wrong of her to think “holy shit, what happens when he’s not there” wrt the power base thing. She strikes up her own relationship with Catherine more or less behind his back, because she doesn’t know that he’s got a plan there that will work. She sees he plans to die, which she is literally correct about, and she’s not a fan. Literally nobody is Amadeus oh my god what the fuck-


                Anyway, I’m saying Amadeus’s issues played a huge role in Malicia Doing A Stupid. She might be better than him at administration and intrigue, but she’s not better at geopolitics and storycraft, and that… came as a surprise… to both of them? He never taught her about it, because he just kind of assumed she already knew all of those things, but she didn’t?

                I see Amadeus’s “you will surpass me, Catherine” as a thing of the same caliber as his absolute unquestioning trust in Malicia. Also incidentally as his romance with Hye which still gives me heebie jeebies and never will not, and just… bluh. She’s awful??? Amadeus you have shit taste?

                Anyway, yeah. Reverse control issues, and Malicia’s worry for Amadeus’s life.

                Liked by 2 people

                1. P.S. I think this “I think I’m right but what if someone else knows better” waffling is also the source of the confusing bullshit that was Amadeus’s actions in Book 4. He supports Catherine in everything but doesn’t actually actively take a stand in a conflict that he… effectively… initiated? He kind of low key rebels against Alaya but not really? He gives Catherine the paperwork for the application to the Grand Alliance but goes ahead with his plan to undermine Cordelia’s influence anyway? Which, I mean, maybe he thought it would help but have you tried coordinating Amadeus,

                  and his dialogue with Ranker in Queen’s Gambit, Declined. “If the new generation thinks they’re wrong let them beat me first” Amadeus that’s literally the worst way to decide anything you Praesi dumbass-

                  reverse control issues spiraling. Let whatever happens happen, as long as I’m not the person making the decision!

                  (He recognizes his responsibility for the decisions he’s made and their consequences, and considers it cowardice to blame anything on Fate. Doesn’t stop him from being fatalistic anyway???? Amadeus please stop)

                  Liked by 2 people

    1. Where did you see thirty? I paid attention to this when rereading the chapter after seeing your comment, and it says fifty at least twice. I, uh, might have not paid attention to every single word anyway, so it’s possible there’s a place where it’s typo’d into thirty. Knowing erratic that’s the exact opposite of surprising

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Halwar

    Hey guys, I started translating PGE for my friends in free time and ’cause I didn’t saw translations in russian online I’m not posting it. Do you know, is Erraticerrata against posting? (of course if I will be translating for large audience, I’d like to add a link how they can benefit me in addition to Erraticerrata’s) I saw that he didn’t want EPUB to circulate, so maybe there is a reason in lack of translations of this masterpiece.
    So as not to bother, maybe there is some FQ section where i can look into it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. caoimhinh

      There was a comment long ago, where someone asked Erraticerrata for permission to translate PGE to Spanish, but Author refused because he is planning to have the book published.
      He might have changed his mind on the subject, but I don’t know, your best chance is to write a comment asking about it in a reply to his comment next chapter so he can answer your doubt.


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