Chapter 6: Furor

“The words of one sage are wisdom, the words of a hundred a riot.”
– Atalantian saying

What was it with Proceran cities and looking kind of shoddy?

Rochelant at least had bothered to put up walls at some point in its history, which the Callowan in me could not help but approve of, but those miserable piles of mud and stone looked like they hadn’t seen a day’s maintenance in the last century. I wouldn’t need sorcery to knock those over, just a sapper with a few tools and a pile of firewood. On the other hand, I couldn’t help but stare at the size of the place – come winter, and we were definitely there, there must have been at least twenty something thousand people living in there. Rochelant was a goblin’s dream playground, all wooden thatched houses and narrow alleys, but by Proceran standards this was considered a small city. There would be a handful of those in Iserre alone, with the eponymous capital being significantly larger. Sometimes it boggled the mind how many people actually lived within the borders of the Principate. Sure, these were the heartlands and by far the most densely populated part of the realm, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the total population of Procer beat that of Callow and Praes put together. But the behemoth is quarrelsome, and slow to wake, I thought. That’d been the sole saving grace of the Principate’s bordering nations since the crowning of the founding First Prince. Yet both those flaws would have to be fixed, if the war up north was to be won.

There was a reason I would have peace as set by the Liesse Accords or no peace at all. Procer resurgent, purged of all its weaknesses, might be almost as dangerous to Calernia as the Dead King himself. Cordelia Hasenbach did not strike me as particularly ambitious when it came to acquiring new territories directly – her game had always been a diplomatic in outcome, when she was the one leading the dance – but there was no guarantee her successor would be so inclined. I wasn’t going to bloody Callow and its allies just to enable the latest imperial expansion of the ‘Wardens of the West’, as the rulers of this realm so arrogantly titled themselves.

“Ivah wasn’t making it up,” Archer mused. “They really haven’t bothered to put up sentries. Bold, I’ve gotta say.”

The walls were only about a dozen feet high and I had doubts they were thick enough to resist even a single good hit from a trebuchet, but the part Indrani had focused on was perhaps the most important: there was not a soul patrolling atop them. Or guarding the city gates, which were as wide open as such a narrow gap allowed. The snowy dirt road leading to them had been use recently, though. There were hoof marks leading into the countryside, so whoever held command in there was fielding at least some patrols. I pulled at the reins of Zombie the Fourth, though the dead horse I’d spared form ending up in a drow cookpot to serve as my undead mount instead showed no reaction to the gesture. Necromancy, insofar as I was truly doing that – and Akua had expressed her doubts on the subject many a time – had gotten a little rougher since I’d traded in Winter for Night. Whatever strange spark of intelligence my good little abomination Zombie the Third still held wherever she was – unnecessarily – grazing at grass was absent from my new mount. The Sisters insisted this was a consequence of my raw handling of Night, but I disagreed. There’d been something to Winter that was missing in the Night, even after the latter had devoured the former. Crow-Andronike stirred on my shoulder, displeased, but did not take up the argument. It was probably for the best that her sister had remained with the southern expedition, because she most definitely would have.

“The smoke means chimneys and fires are still being used,” Akua noted from my other side. “In large enough amount it cannot be solely the soldiers of the League doing so. That implies some degree of coherent thought remains to the inhabitants.”

“Not a demon, probably, unless it is,” Indrani summed up.

Diabolist looked deeply pained at the phrasing, but did not disagree. I smothered a smile and urged Zombie forward with a twist of will. The company of drow around us was heavy on Lords, at General Rumena’s insistence, though to be fair I hadn’t bothered to argue. Ivah, Soln, Sagas and Vadymir: the majority of my surviving Peerage was trailing the three of us, with around four dozen rylleh of mixed sigils following behind them in turn. As long as the moon was out, the power at my back was the equivalent of fielding a small army. In power, anyway, and that was always tricky business. All that was necessary for them to turn into a mere fifty drow was the right ward or miracle. They’d been predators among predators, down in the Everdark, but where the Firstborn had been shedding their own blood for millennia up here the war had two sides. For all their centuries of fighting and deep wells of Night, I often wondered how well my Peerage would truly stack up against a well-trained hero. We’ll have to find out, eventually, I grimly thought. I shook off the thought and turned by attention back to the present.

The closer we got to the city, the more I became convinced there were eyes on us. There was not a soul immediately through the gates, which made that rather interesting. Andronike’s sliver of godhood on my shoulder should be quite enough to make a wreck of any attempt to scry us, implying something was actually watching us directly.

“Archer?” I murmured.

Even under the hood and cloth I saw her brow creasing.

“Correct me if I’m wrong,” Indrani said. “But I’m guessing if these people can’t even put together the coin for decent walls they shouldn’t have enough to put up gargoyles on them.”

Akua stilled.

“Helikeans are fond of animating stone,” the shade said. “Though admittedly they’ve rarely succeeded at anything larger than a dog.”

Now that I knew what to look for, I could make out the small silhouettes that’d wedged themselves into holes and fissures. Imp-like sculptures of rough stone, some with the heads of dogs and others more lizardlike. Many had wings, though not all. I’d missed them at first look, I thought, because none of them were moving even the slightest bit. Not even the eyes.

“No sentries, huh,” I said. “Looks like our good friend the Tyrant is a little more careful than he lets on.”

Ivah slid up to me, head already bowed, but I waved away the apology before it could be spoken. It’d been the kind of detail someone unused to having to consider what people could and could not afford – in essence, not a drow – might have missed. Living in massive ornate ruins could be a blind spot of sorts, and both Ivah and its scouts had spent their whole lives living in the remnants of their old empire. Interesting, though, that the mistake would fit so well. Had the Tyrant gotten lucky, or was there more to it? Regardless, it seemed that my army’s last visit to Rochelant might not have been as discreet as we’d previously thought. The Tyrant of Helike, I suspected, would be waiting for us.

“You’ll know next time,” I simply told Ivah. “Mistakes are to be expected. It doesn’t matter, so long as you learn from them.”

“As you say, Losara Queen,” the Lord of Silent Steps murmured back.

With a bow it retreated, just in time for us to enter Rochelant in lockstep. The gate above us was arched, and I felt petty satisfaction at noting that my earlier prediction of poor wall depth proved entirely accurate. The muddy road into the city ahead of us was probably the closest thing to an avenue there was to be found in here. Broad enough for a cart to go through, anyway, which had probably been the measure it was built on.

“Akua,” I simply said.

Diabolist met my eyes, inclined her head and as we passed in the shade cast by a house she vanished into thin air. She had her instructions already. My arguably finest expert in sorcery would be taking a look at the influence taking hold of Rochelant, though she was to retreat and return to me the moment she started feeling it herself.

“It is here,” Andronike spoke from my shoulder. “Like waves lapping at the shore. There is a source further in.”

“Not feeling anything,” Indrani noted.

“For which we give thanks to the Night,” I mildly replied.

I had no intention of walking into a place like this without one of my crow-goddesses serving as a shield.

“My thoughts exactly. Hail the Sisters, all that good stuff,” Archer snorted.

She’d never been one to meet a deity and not debate whether to try to stab it, I recognized with a sigh.

“We head for the source,” I told the drow. “Andronike?”

“None may hide from me after dusk,” the crow claimed.

That might even be true, as I immediately felt a pull in the Night guiding me forward through the streets. Given how narrow they were, the drow had to spread out over rooftops to keep even a semblance of formation. They did so in utter silence, ethereal silhouettes in the moonlight that left no mark and bore no weight. We’d left the main road behind, and with that any semblance of this city not being a nightmarish mess of cramped alleys. Tough sometimes it was so tight that Archer couldn’t even stay at my side, our journey through was informative in some ways. There were still people inside the houses, though not nearly as many as there should be this late out. The sounds in the distance told me that Ivah’s report of ‘tribunals’ had not been idle chatter: I could hear shouting in Chantant, the bay of a mob out for a good hanging. The first trial we came across was on the steps of a House of Light, and the sight of a roiling mob of nearly a hundred had me ordering my horse to a halt. The Procerans did not pay us the slightest attention, though the other foreigners did. Watching on passively from a distance, a dozen soldiers in scale armour were standing apart from the crowd. Sword and board men, the lot of them, though the mail beneath the scales going down to their knees was a style of armour known to me. Helikean, though these men-at-arms were missing the javelins their lot was reputed to bear.

The Tyrant’s soldiers looked at us, but before long returned their attention to the citizens. So you knew we were coming, I thought. Or your orders are not to care about outsiders coming in. Gaze returning to the Procerans, I tried to parse out the mixed shouts of Chantant and Tolesian they were using interchangeably and found only mixed success. The man they were attempting to hold a tribunal over was obvious, a brother from the House of Light wearing what had once been very nice robes now ripped and dirtied. Accusations bribery and withheld healing were tossed at him, but my interest lay in the fact that there were other priests among the crowd. Shouting with the others, red-faced and thirsty for blood. Whatever was animating these people, even priesthood was no opponent for it.

“They’re not resorting to violence yet,” I noted out loud.

“That robe didn’t rip itself,” Archer replied.

Yes, but she was missing the point. For all the anger and fervour stirring up the crowd, they were not simply tearing the accused apart. The process was rough and loud, but accusations were being laid and witnesses called. Some law, I suspected, was being obeyed. But whose? It was certainly not the laws of Iserre, or even those few that held for the entire Principate. We stayed long enough to see the crowd begin voting on the seven among them that would make up the tribunal and pass the sentence, though I did not remain to witness what would be the inevitable conclusion. There were already headless corpses staining the front of the House that told me the nature of it. The Helikean soldiers parted wordlessly for us when I rode past them, Archer at my side. None of them caught sight of the shadows following me by way of the rooftops. Three more of these trials we encountered as I let the Night guide me further into Rochelant, each headed for grim ending.

“There’s something in the air here,” Indrani grunted as we passed the third.

“Blood,” I flatly replied.

I glanced to the side as she pulled back her hood a fraction, revealing troubled hazelnut eyes.

“This almost feels like a domain, Cat,” she said. “Only wrong. Winter was cruel, but it was… clear. This has a fever to it, a sickness. Whatever’s at the centre of this, it is mad.”

I shivered, fingers closing tightly around my ebony staff. I’d heard what she did not say. It was mad, and so it was dangerous – and we were head towards it.

“And still we advance,” I said.

Stillness held for a moment.

“Well,” Archer said, pulling down her hood. “Not like we ever let good sense get in the way before.”

I sent Zombie forward, knowing there was a grain of truth to that. Andronike’s talons dug into my shoulder as we made our way out of the alley not long after, a sign we’d reached the source of this bloody dream. The clamour could be heard long before I saw anything with my own eyes, the wave of sound that was hundreds of people talking and screaming and moving. Before us stood what was likely a marketplace, though packed full with citizens as it was that could only remain a guess. Men and women were standing in line in the back, up against a tavern, and I watched as the one in front was dragged to the side and beheaded before the parted corpse was dragged away out of sight. Immediately the tribunal that’d passed the sentence returned to the mob, and voting began on who would make up the next as the second in line in the back was brought to the front. This was it, I thought. Even with the crow goddess on my shoulder shielding me from the worst of this, I could feel something rippling in the air. A steady pulse like a heartbeat. Leaning on the height temporarily granted to me by my horse, I followed the sensation to its source.

There was a table to the side of the proceedings, more a pile of crates than anything else, and at is sat a single man. Tanned in the way of the Free Cities, he was dressed like a beggar in worn robes too loose on his frame. Which was thin, though not the thinness of the heathy. He looked like he’d had too many lean meals, or perhaps like the fire in those grey eyes had eaten away at his body from the inside. The Hierarch of the League of Free Cities, for this could not be anyone else, was middle-aged and balding. His eyebrows were thick and bushy, both they and his sparse beard warring between white streaks and dark brown. One of his boots, I could not help but notice, had been so poorly sown back on the sole was coming off at the front. I looked at him, saw him scribbling on a clay tablet while intently following the proceedings, and felt the slightest bit of fear. He looked like no one, I thought. But coming from his body like an invisible current was some deep and terrible power the touch of which could be felt over all of Rochelant. It was not reaching into my mind, not yet, but it felt as if raising my hand would allow me to feel the unseen ripples.

“That’s an aspect,” Indrani said, voice hushed. “Gods, how can that be an aspect?”

“Andronike?” I asked.

The crow-goddess did not reply for a long moment, until I turned my head to look at her. If a bird could look uncomfortable, I saw, it would be something like this.

“This is… difficult,” Andronike said, voice tight. “The pull is strong.”

My fingers clenched.

“You’re having a hard time fighting him,” I croaked. “What the Hells is this, Andronike? He’s Named, not…”

“Faith,” the crow got out. “This is faith, Catherine Foundling. Pure unadulterated belief, untainted by doubt or hesitation. It sings, and the world sings back.”

“Faith in what?” I asked.

“Nothing,” Andronike hissed. “A snake eating its own tail. It is bleak madness screamed by endless throats, and it would stand tribunal over the Gods themselves.”

I swallowed. And the Tyrant of Helike was using this man as a pawn?

“We need to leave,” Archer said. “We’re not ready for this. Not without Masego.”

I breathed in, breathed out. Fear was the death of reason. None of the reasons I had come here had changed. If anything, the depths of the man I was still looking at made it more important to get a handle on what the League was after. I allowed my staff to slip my fingers and hit the frozen ground. Calling on a breath’s worth of Night, I used to support to get off my horse. Indrani sucked in a breath.

“Cat, this is a trap,” she said.

“And still I advance,” I ruefully smiled. “Andronike, safeguard them.”

The crow left my shoulder, a few flaps of her wings landing her atop the head of the eerily-still Zombie.

“It will sing to you, First Under the Night,” the goddess warned.

“Ah, but that’s the trick,” I told her, baring my teeth. “You can’t go mad twice, o goddess of Night.”

Limping against my staff, I slipped into the crowd. The sound and power beat at my eardrums like a ram, in some way intertwined, and it took me by surprise hard enough some man almost elbowed me off my feet. I grit my teeth and shoved back with my staff. It should have stung, but the man was too busy screaming his vote in Chantant to notice. Going straight through would see me trampled, I decided, so I made my way to the edge instead and began circling around. The pounding in my ears was relentless. Again and again it came as I stumbled around half-blind, until I could almost make out words. Almost. I caught my breath against a half-fallen stall, and only then gathered enough attention to notice the woman staring at me. She was, it was almost too absurd to think, aggressively nondescript. There was a muted look to her face, as if her thoughts were halfway elsewhere, though as she narrowed her eyes I felt something brush against my mind.

Somewhere very far away, Sve Noc bared their teeth in displeasure.

The stranger paled, eyes turning bloodshot, and clutched her forehead as scarlet began dripping out of her nostrils. Shouldn’t have done that, I thought. In there be monsters, my friend. I immediately felt dozens of stares settle on me, but I ignored them and began the journey again. Not far, now, and where the Hierarch was seated a gap had formed in the crowd. I pushed the last woman out of the way, though I froze just after. I could have sworn I’d hear someone whisper in my ear, though the words had been indistinct. My fingers clutched the staff and I drew comfort from the sensation of the Night within, letting out a deep breath and putting myself together. The Named, I saw, had not so much as glanced at me. Neither did he bother when I stepped around the makeshift table until I stood behind him. I glanced down at the words being scribbled on the clay tablet with a stone stylet. That wasn’t Chantant, I noted. I didn’t recognize the language, although at one of the words was very close to the Mtethwa for ‘protest’ so it might be tradertalk. The second Maleficent had held the region under her grasp for long enough there’d been some bleed into the local tongue, I’d read.

“Will anyone but you actually be able to read those?” I said in Chantant.

I’d meant to speak lightly, but my voice came out rough instead. The Hierarch finally paused in his writing, turning to look at me. There was something calm, almost resigned, to the stare. As if nothing of Creation could truly ruffle his feathers.

“Irrelevant,” the Hierarch replied in the same, tone chiding. “Transcripts must be kept of trials held.”

I blinked. Huh. Not the answer I’d expected. The power battering at my mind was weakening, I felt, slowly but surely. Did the aspect require concentration?

“I am-”

“You have the look of a foreign tyrant,” the Hierarch accused.

“Back home it’s called regular tyranny, though,” I replied, and immediately bit my tongue.

I’d really thought I was done with the whole taunting dangerous, powerful madmen thing but apparently old habits died hard. The Hierarch’s brow furrowed as he seemed to seriously mull over that. The battering ram slowed even further.

“That seems logical,” he muttered. “It should be passed on to the Republic for consideration.”

Then he turned those dark eyes back on me.

“You do not deny the charge of tyranny?” he pressed.

“You already laid out your stance in our correspondence,” I said.

He seemed vaguely surprised, then thoughtful.

“You are Cordelia Hasenbach,” the man stated, half-questioningly.

A moment passed, while I was genuinely at a loss for words. Ah, I thought. So this is why the Tyrant thinks he can make a pawn of you. For a heartbeat I debated actually pretending I was the First Prince just to see if I could make some trouble for her, but discarded the notion just as quick. Best not to roll dice when they had teeth and a noted fondness for biting.

“Catherine Foundling,” I replied. “Queen of Callow.”

If he felt embarrassed about the mistake, he didn’t show it in the slightest.

“There’s no such thing,” he told me sternly.

“Queens or Catherine Foundling?” I said. “Because one of those debates is a lot more philosophical than I’m equipped to handle.”

Behind us the clamour of the crowd had quieted some, but by the sounds of it the trials hadn’t stopped. Neither had the aspect, I thought, at least not entirely. But what had been a trumpet earlier was a murmur now, and that I could handle while keeping most of my wits about me.

“Aristocracy Is A Festering Wound Upon The People,” Anaxares of Bellerophon gravely informed me. “May Hail Strike It Repeatedly For A Thousand Years.”

That seemed a little excessive. There shouldn’t be much left to hail on after the first century.

“Preaching to the Choir there,” I said. “I’ve never fought a war against someone who didn’t have some sort of title.”

“Yet you are a queen,” he said, blithely ignoring his previous assertion there was no such thing.

“For the moment,” I shrugged. “I intend to abdicate when it’s feasible.”

“So your kind always claims,” the Hierarch said, eyes turning flinty. “Give me the right, they say, give me the laws and the swords. I will keep you safe until the storm has passed. And service becomes rule, rule becomes tyranny until lovingly the yoke is fastened around our necks.”

Like the hammer on the anvil, the ram against the gate, the dull pounding of his power began to sound in the distance. Slow. Swelling. Implacable. But I would not be cowed that easily.

“Is this why the League has gone to war?” I asked. “To end crowns?”

There wasn’t a single thing that changed about him, I thought. He was still a skeleton of a man in ill-fitting robes, a scarecrow with a scowl. Not a single thing had changed, and yet… If I strained the ear, I could hear the chorus. The howls of the mob. Chains ripped apart, palaces toppled and bones being crushed. Torches starting a fire that would spread across the world. A song of revolt, of rebellion. I could feel it, like warm wine running through my veins. It was harsh and unforgiving, but oh how glorious it was. How easy it would have been to partake of it and let that warmth swallow me whole.

“We are all of us free or we are none of us free,” the Hierarch of the League of Free Cities said, voice like steel. “There is no middle ground. And for the lashes struck at our back, all will be called to account – if gallows must be raised for devils and angels alike, so be it.”

I almost, out of sheer contrariness, pointed out that devils did not die but only disperse. But would they really, if it was this man passing the sentence? Suddenly I was not so certain. My mistake, I thought, had been trying to think of him as either a terror or a fool. Fear had dogged me, wading through his aspect, but it had retreated as we spoke. As the man proved to be so uninterested in his surrounding as to be lost. I’d allowed the cadenced little phrases, the obvious mistakes and ignorance, to lull me into believing him… adrift. Living in his own world. But Black had warned me about people like this, hadn’t he? About Named who did not see Creation as it was but how it should be. Men and women who embraced their vision so deeply they bent the world around them to match it. My mistake, I thought once more, had been to believe he must be only one of the two. He was not.

The Tyrant of Helike had not sharpened this blade so carefully to cut a mortal empire, I decided. There was a broader game unfolding.

“It’s a pretty dream,” I said. “A pretty speech. But you ended it before you got to the end – the part where you declare war on the rest of the continent for those same pretty things, and it eats you alive. It’s not a fight you’re going to win, Hierarch.”

The man’s lips quirked, his face serene save for the scorn.

“War against Calernia,” he said amusedly. “As if tearing down masters was the same thing as warring on their slaves. You betray yourself, tyrant. You think I wage war on them?”

The stylus flicked at the crowd of Procerans. The axe went up, the axe went down. Another dead man, dragged into the alley.

“The old faceless thing bade me to choose a side,” the Hierarch said. “And at long last, I have.”

My eyes narrowed. The old faceless thing. There weren’t a lot of entities out there that would fit that epithet. Anaxares of Bellerophon smiled, crooked teeth bared.

“You think us outnumbered?” he said. “How many of us are there, tyrant, and how many of you?”

I could have wounded him, then. Not with a blade – here and now, even if he did not lift a finger, I did not think that would end well for me – but with words. A reminder that he marched with slavers and monsters, that his own League would turn on him in due time. That he should get his own fucking house in order before tossing stones at mine. Or maybe that power would fail him, in the end, and that like the city-state that spawned him his road would end in blood and whimpering. But there would be a place and a time for that, and it was not tonight.

I had seen the sword, and must now see its wielder.

“It’s a lovely song,” I said instead. “But it’s always easier to break than to make.”

The Hierarch’s gaze returned to the trial, where the accused was being dragged to the fore.

“There will be one for you as well, one day,” he said.

“But not tonight,” I said.

“Not tonight,” he softly agreed.

I left as the man bent back over his tablet, hand moving anew to write words only he could read.

It was past time I had a chat with the other madman in this city.

150 thoughts on “Chapter 6: Furor

  1. Skaddix

    Hmm Tyrant next chapter that should prove more fruitful.
    Cat knows Hiearach has dealt with the Bard.
    Another Masego mention so I assume next chapter or whenever Cat meets the Tyrant. The Tyrant will drop that particular bombshell.

    I am still confused is the area of effect from the Hierarch Faith? Or is it his Faith enhancing an Aspect to extreme degree. Seems almost like the Ability that Angel of Contrition used to force millions to march against the Dead King. Of course that was a good deal more powerful.

    Liked by 10 people

    1. The same way the Saint of Swords has improved her own aspects through meditation ins seclusion. The saint probably has an aspect like cut that could make strong slashes, which matured to making slashes that could fire from afar, later on after mediation she could literally cut creation with her blade.

      I believe the hierarch has been able to intensify the effects of his domain by increasing the area of effect as well as the power that while weak is able to penetrate all eventually. This power can only be maintained as long as he maintains his purpose(dwarf name). Thus whenever he is distracted or his thoughts wander to anything besides writing laws, judgement, he weakens.

      So yes it is an aspect, a domain aspect similar to Champion’s and Fall, but he has been able to increase effectiveness through his faith which is believing in the people. He is a name that has been created by the tyrant in order to control a power that can nullify the bard simply because his story allows him to. He is a secret weapon against entities who mainly use story narratives. By leaving everything to a vote the tyrant has harnessed the power of the mob similar to a roman emperor harnessing roman citizens against any other would be power.

      Liked by 14 people

      1. Skaddix

        Fair seems the weakness of Bard is dealing with mortals with Faith as so far Hanno, Tyrant and Heirarch have all must with Bard by leaning into the Faith and thus being unpredictable because of that. You are right class Black noted that Named are more powerful when they lean into their name. Although that does tend to lead to some degree of tunnel vision.

        Liked by 5 people

    2. caoimhinh

      I wonder if Cat will convince Kairos of joining her by promising to give him the greatest war against the greatest enemy, the Dead King.
      That might be a diplomatic way to make a temporal deal between them, of course, Kairos will betray her, but would be sometime in the future instead of now.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Why would Kairos need Cat to offer him that? The Dead King is right there. He knows about it. He can go fight him himself if he wants to.

        Now, the entertainment of trying to craft an alliance against the Dead King? That might just be right up his “let’s elect a Bellerophan Hierarch” alley.

        Liked by 6 people

        1. Rook

          I honestly think the Tyrant does have a big overall end game and even the dead king is too small fry to be in his sights.

          I think he’s aiming at Above and Below. The entire idea that there are only two sides, there are only two choices to choose from. The nature of the weapon he crafted tells a story there.

          He probably doesn’t give a ratling’s ass about the people or their democracy, but what the Hierarch stands for is a perfect knife if your goal is to turn a ‘true or false’ question into a multiple choice one.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Yeah.

            Catherine’s ‘fall in line or else’ alliance could provide entertainment on the way, though. Oh, he’d betray her obviously, but I think this fits his idea of fun (moreso than attacking DK)


    3. luminiousblu

      “I am still confused is the area of effect from the Hierarch Faith?”
      It’s a case of being the god of your own world. A Domain is – outside of the Guide – essentially an area where you reign supreme over all other comers. It can be a physical plot of land or a metaphysical or conceptual one. In the Guide, it seems to be both at once really – you have a conceptual or metaphysical domain, and actually invoking the domain actively forces your surroundings to adhere to it. Hence, when Catherine invoked her Domain, she made her surroundings into a Moonless Night.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Hmmm.
    Not entirely sure how I feel about Heirarch now.

    Ah, yes, the old “good sense hasn’t stopped us before, why should we let it stop us now?”

    And unholy fuck – that’s a brutal, if perhaps situational, Aspect.
    Kairos playing a dangerous game – even by the standards of Evil rulers.

    Liked by 13 people

    1. Rook

      The thing is, Catherine is the exact same type as the Hierarch. The hilarity of it is that she just had an entire internal monologue about what a scary, dangerous madman this guy is, but the only reason she can casually walk into the eye of his vortex – one a goddess was struggling with – and have a casual conversation, is because they’re fundamentally similar types.

      “Names who did not see creation as it was but what it should be. Men and women who embraced their vision so deeply they bent the world around them to match it”

      Girl, that’s literally a description of you. Some know-nothing orphan teenager with shit for talents that – out of sheer stubbornness – managed to beat back the hells, bend a choir over her knee, eat half a faerie realm, bring down a Flying Fortress city, and win a war against a national superpower. Then you walked into an ancient mysterious empire with two and a half people to pick a fight with everyone living inside it; and instead of, y’know, dying, you broke a several millenniums old curse and walked out with a goddess older than your ancestors grandfathers on your shoulder. Also an army that puts most surface nations to shame.

      The Hierarch is just weak person that draws in far stronger, far more capable people around him by sheer force of conviction. A complete fool and a madman to anyone outside his pull, but a center of nearly fanatical devotion to people inside of it, despite his ignorance and weaknesses. He’s obviously not the smartest person there and half his followers could probably pulp him into a quivering bloody mass if they felt like it, but they all just follow His vision instead. Does that remind you of anyone?

      Catherine is just like the Hierarch, except with more sarcasm and proper armor.

      Liked by 19 people

      1. Skaddix

        I mean they are similar in the sense that they both want to do the best for Normal People who aren’t Rich, Named or anyway special. Just vastly different motivations and techniques.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. I think they’re completely different.

        Catherine started out as Hierarch: blind to the currents that drive the world and convinced of her own infallibility. Since then she’s gained insight into the geopolitical and economic forces behind the world (Praes vs Callow), learned to use the skewed lens of the narrative and gleaned information on the biggest players such as the Bard and the Dead King. She has lost her extremism and her naive, simplistic view of the world.

        The Hierarch is the opposite. He’s completely blind to the realities of the world to the point where he thought Cat was Cordelia and the Tyrant is using him as a pawn. He doesn’t have any considerations for the people he claims to be championing nor the political reality of what he’s trying to do. Will he go around the entire world issuing trials? How will he enforce his political system? How many people will die after the existing leadership is removed? How is he different from any other madman that says “this is how the world should be”?

        Liked by 7 people

        1. luminiousblu

          You’re looking at this the wrong way.

          “Realities of the world”
          What ARE the realities of the world? There’s a saying that goes, “each one of us believes ourselves to be the most sensible people in the world”. The Hierarch has faith in what he does, and from the point of view of Name Lore, that’s all that matters. Who are you to tell him he’s wrong? What if you’re just blind? In the face of overwhelming belief in what he’s doing, you can’t really oppose him. Those realities you’re talking about have already been washed away in part – the League of Free Cities has basically folded up behind an uncooperative hobo.

          “where he thought Cat was Cordelia”
          Because there’s no real difference, to him. He doesn’t know who is who, but he also doesn’t care.

          “He doesn’t have any considerations for the people he claims to be championing.”
          The Hierarch is not championing persons, he is championing The People. Two entirely different things. Every single person in the world could die, and you could still, in theory, be saving The People.

          “How will he enforce his political system? How many people will die after the existing leadership is removed?”

          “How is he different from any other madman that says “this is how the world should be”?”
          And that’s the crux of the matter. How is ANYONE different from any other madman who looks at the world and says, “not the way I like it”? Do you really think he’s that different from any of the other Named – or even some of the bigger non-Named? He’s more ideological than practical, but in a world driven by stories they’re almost the same thing – an actual deity has trouble overcoming his apparently passive mental influence. People who aren’t just as mad as he is can’t compete with him, and Named in general are mad.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. How is maintaining his political system irrelevant? It’s his established goal to make sure The People rule. If he has no mechanism to enforce this, someone will come into power either through corruption or inertia.

            That’s what I mean by the realities of the world – he’s not making a sustainable change. Instated, he’s having a tantrum like a reality warping baby. Moreover, he’s being used as a pawn by the Tyrant, who certainly doesn’t give a shit about The People.

            Liked by 2 people

      3. This is a very good comparison point. Catherine and Hierarch have just enough similarities that contrasting them is effective.

        It’s a contrast, though. And the contrast is that… in the end, Catherine is right and Anaxares is wrong. Not even in terms of ideology or morality, simply in terms of facts. Catherine has them, and understands them. Anaxares does not, and refuses to. His position is one of stubborn willful ignorance, while Catherine’s is that of a quest for knowledge and understanding.

        That’s what makes the difference between them.

        (and before someone starts on “Catherine is an unreliable narrator”: she is not the only one we have. There are lots of other POVs in the series, and in terms of basic facts about how the world works, they support Catherine’s position… while Anaxares’s bullshit is transparently obvious even in his own POV)

        Liked by 5 people

        1. Rook

          Completely disagree. See, that isn’t how arguments or differences in belief work.

          Different perspectives don’t come from one person being right and the other person being intentionally stupid. They happen in the first place because both people think they’re right and they’re sensible. Any time any two people have a difference in opinion about anything, you have to go into it realizing this instead of digging in your heels with “one person is right and the other is wrong, how stupid of the – other person – to be so wrong”. At that point you’ve already become part of the problem.

          Catherine isn’t right, nor is Anaxares wrong. The opposite isn’t true either. They both have parts they’re correct about and both have blinders that leave their stances less than perfect. If you really wanted to you could frame anyone as right and anyone else as wrong. “Amadis and Cordelia were on a quest for peace with a small sacrifice while Catherine’s is one of pride that saw a hundred thousand people die without changing anything for the better”. See how easy it is?

          “Facts” are also a word that gets thrown around a lot in arguments while often being useless, because people often conflate their own opinions with fact and even when you don’t, different contexts often make the ‘facts’ different.

          Let’s try an example.

          An American says everyone needs a gun to protect themselves, that’s a fact. A Brit says no one needs guns to protect themselves, that’s a fact. They’re both actually correct, and both wrong in a bigger context. Because in the context of America where guns are already prevalent the former really is a fact. In the context of Britain or the general UK where even the police often don’t bother carrying, the latter really is a fact. Both are partially wrong though, because they started off with ‘I’m right and they’re wrong’ instead of both trying to get a handle on why there’s a disagreement in the first place. In a bigger context, they’re the same type person making the same type of argument, the only real difference is the rather trivial one of where their particular perspective is rooted.

          Liked by 2 people

            1. Rook

              His ideology is willful denial actually, not ignorance. Very important distinction.

              For example, when he says that there is no such thing as a queen, that doesn’t mean he literally has no idea what a queen is. He clearly does know, by the fact that he blatantly talks about said nonexistent concept of queenship five seconds later. I don’t believe that bit of detail in this chapter was just fluff or a joke actually, it’s a fairly important nuance that was slipped in.

              What he’s doing is denying the legitimacy of the concept. No different than the principiate pretending Catherine wasn’t the ruler of callow, it’s a flat denial out of principle, not that Cordelia is too stupid to wrap her mind around the concept of Catherine being a ruler.

              It’s not exactly some insane fairytale idea either, even though for theatrical purposes this particular web serial frames it as such. You see it in political conflicts in the real world all the time, for example the way mainland China won’t acknowledge Taiwan as an independent country. Or NK leadership claiming there is no greater country than NK.

              It isn’t ignorance, it’s a deliberate political or ideological stance taken for a very specific purpose – protesting the legitimacy of a concept being applied to the real world. It’s a stubborn tactic and a questionably ethical one at best, but far from ‘stupid’.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. You do have a point, Anaxares might just be a lot less insane than he comes across as.

                He still deliberately ignores most of the information he gets from his Aspect, or he would have recognized that Catherine wasn’t Cordelia 0.0


                1. RanVor

                  I don’t think he actually doesn’t know how Cordelia Hasenbach looks like. He just doesn’t care. A Foreign Tyrant is a Foreign Tyrant, further distinction is meaningless to him.

                  Liked by 2 people

              2. Zachary

                Anaxares even mentions himself in an earlier chapter that he’s fully aware of the blinders he wears. He is just strongly committed to the idea that only mass consensus that determine things. And in some ways he’s not wrong; his argument in response to Catherine says she plans to abdicate was 100% spot-on and the same argument that can truthfully be used against the wealthy in our own society (that even if they try to make pragmatic excuses for maintaining their hold on ill-gotten wealth, they have no legitimate claim to it to begin with).

                At the end of the day, monarchy is obviously bad, even if Anaxares takes direct democracy to an impractical extreme. Catherine can’t see it because it’s not something she cares much about and still holds the “common sense” beliefs of the society she lives in (that regular people can’t be trusted to make decisions about who leads the country).


        2. luminiousblu

          Everyone is so sure that they’re right, and that everyone else is wrong. Such is the human condition, but not everyone can be right at the same time.

          How is Catherine right? Does she have the facts? If there’s one thing that’s remained constant about Catherine, it’s that she has no fucking idea what she’s doing. Ever. Her knowledge is constantly patched up by those with greater intelligence and expertise, and when she tries to go at it alone she makes an utter mess of things that she only scrapes out of by being either rescued or via what is essentially plot armour.

          “she is not the only one we have”
          The Wandering Bard would strongly disagree with how Catherine sees the world, as would the Saint of Swords and the Ranger. All of the narrators we see in any real depth are the ones that happen to see the world the way Catherine does. Black and Malicia see the world the way Catherine does, in large part. Cordelia doesn’t see the world the same way at all, but she uses a knockoff realpoltiik which seems reasonable in large part to us, as readers, because it’s the way our world works – and hence since Catherine thinks she’s reasonable and presents herself as so, we think of Cordelia as somehow thinking the same way because she’s also reasonable.

          Warlock and Masego see the world through the lens of overlapping rules, which isn’t how anyone else sees it. Ranger and to a lesser extent Archer are hedonists, they see the world as their oyster, until someone takes it from them. The Grey Pilgrim is literally Gandalf, and the Saint of Swords sees things in the shade of maximising the advantage of Good over Evil, and True Neutrals can eat it. It’s so easy to dismiss them as just wrong, isn’t it?

          And how does Anaxares see the world ‘incorrectly’? There’s very few things he’s said that are outright wrong. He calls people Wicked Foreign Oligarchs but that’s just an opinion of his. He claims that he’ll have the gods stand trial, and well, that’s what he’s aiming for. Where is he actively WRONG?


          1. How about the part where he assumed Catherine was Cordelia despite having most definitely seen them both in Receive visions?

            How about the part where he preaches Bellerophan doublethink 100% seriously as a great idea? There’s a point where trying to be neutral on a question just doesn’t work.


    1. Dainpdf

      He talks about the slippery slope of asking for power… Yet he seems to know nothing about the slippery slope of violent revolution.

      He declares war on all tyranny, by acting like a tyrant. Taking away people’s ability to think?

      What he desires is still autocracy, anyways. Not of one ruler, but of a state that is simultaneously owned by all citizens and yet respects none of them.

      Liked by 13 people

          1. Yotz

            Ah, yes – the famous Robber Paradox: total sum of cruelty of a carnage of goblins is equal to cruelty of any randomly selected participant of carnage.

            (*)carnage – the collective noun for a group of goblins.

            Liked by 10 people

      1. grzecho2222

        I don’t think he takes away their freedom, it seems more like he FREES them to the point they are free of fear of consequences and retribution. ABSOLUTE FREEDOM to the point of madness

        Liked by 4 people

        1. Dainpdf

          Considering they seem to be following the laws of his home city, which really shouldn’t have spontaneously come to them, I’m more inclined towards “rook away their volition”.

          Liked by 1 person

            1. Dainpdf

              Things like keeping a record? And if they really had come up with an equivalent of bellerophan law on their own, wouldn’t they be rejecting the Foreign Despot at the desk?

              Liked by 2 people

      2. luminiousblu

        What you’re saying is irrelevant to the point that when it comes to faith there doesn’t need to be such a thing as right or wrong, especially if your faith is so strong as to warp reality. The Hierarch is right, essentially, because he thinks he’s right, and he’s wrong because others think he is.

        And in any case, the Dictatorship of the People is sort of his goal. It’s not about the persons involved. We are all of us free, or we are none of us free, doesn’t refer to individual people. “All of us” can be treated as a singular noun.


        1. Dainpdf

          Faith is of the self. He warps reality with his power, but outside his range (or to those powerful or stubborn enough to resist) he is still logically inconsistent. As most madmen are.

          He still speaks as if he brought freedom to tyranny, when he only brings tyranny of a new kind.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Dainpdf

    “come winter, and we were definitely there”
    Was this a pun? Please tell me it was a pun.

    “You can’t go mad twice, o goddess of Night.”
    Wouldn’t bet on that.

    Damn, Hierarch is scary. Yet the Tyrant is scarier still… for now, at least.

    Also, gee. People comment *fast*.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Catherine seems to have been leaning into her role as a priestess, here. Giving thanks to the Night, commenting on Indrani never meeting a deity she didn’t consider stabbing – and this quote struck me as a reminder of the fact Catherine is powered by faith, too. Not faith in Sve Noc as a goddess, per se, but faith that drove her to give her power to Sve Noc in a literally self-sacrificial move because she believed that it was the right thing to do.

      Catherine is mad in the exact same… dismension as Anaxares is. Their faiths cannot overlap, they directly contest each other. He can’t subsume her without breaking her.

      Liked by 11 people

      1. Dainpdf

        Cat’s faith in what she believes to be right is much less fanatical or distorted than Anaxares’s. She has confidence and conviction enough to not break in front of a Choir, so she won’t break in front of him, but I wouldn’t say they are parallel in madness.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Dainpdf

            Considering she has yet to start brainwashing people (okay, Fakerine did that, but Cat said she’s sorry and it was wrong) or state that the Gods themselves will stand trial for disagreeing, I’d say she’s less fanatical.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Rook

              “Justice only matters to the just”

              “I would have peace as set by the Liesse Accords or no peace at all. ”

              Let’s be real here, the only reason she doesn’t have her sword pointed at Above and Below is because she thinks she can achieve her goals even with them still around. Otherwise, no doubt she’d try to put steel through their necks without a shred of hesitation.

              I mean yeah she isn’t as rebellious as the guy whose whole world is about rebellion, but completely discarding all notions of fairness or peace not on her own terms isn’t exactly a moderate position.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Dainpdf

                Those are not equal to brainwashing. Heck, one of the main reasons Thief joined Cat was that Will was not above doing that exact thing.

                I find it a signal of less fanaticism that one tried to reconcile one’s goals with the fundamental forces of creation as opposed to putting them on trial.


        1. They are parallel in conviction and devotion.

          Devotion is not the same thing as fanaticism, conviction is not the same thing as madness, though guide seems to use ‘madness’ to strong for ‘strongly motivating conviction overriding common sense’.


    1. caoimhinh

      Cat is totally going to bullshit her way through Hierarch’s trial and say she is not a despot but an elected leader of the Drow. And he might be insane/stupid enough to believe that if the Drow vote and declare her innocent from the charge of Tyranny.

      Then he will be her eternal friend against the rest of foreign despots XD

      Liked by 1 person

          1. Yotz

            Afair, there are – among the lowest class, breeders. They renounce it to become “it” when they successfully claim the right to be considered Mighty.


              1. Yotz

                And I even managed to remember why I was under such impression – the Ivah introspection chapter, the scene with Archer.

                When Indrani calls Ivah “boy”, he wonders why she used the “cattle term” before remembering an ancient text, and mistaking her words for a subtle reference.

                Since the “cattle”.in this musing most probably refers to the nisi – breeders and workers of the Drow society (since there are no other slaves in the concurrent Everdark), I made a presumption that they still use genders derived from biology – unlike the Mighty.

                Liked by 1 person

                  1. Yotz

                    If we are to posit that genders of the Mighty are derived from power level and not from biological sex, this paradox will cease.

                    In such… conceptuality, let’s call it that, we have the Mighty Ivah speaking about ‘cattle’ that has no ‘genders’ – id est, they are too weak to be considered Mighty and have one, since Mighty’s gender would be directly derived from the level of personal power and nothing more. That doesn’t preclude ‘the cattle’ from having their own set of gender roles specifically derived from biological sex. Misunderstanding stems as such from usage of incompatible meanings behind the word: Ivah was asked about male/female delineations, while it answered about cattle having no individual power worth noticing, much less speak of, while both sides of discussion used the same word for describing entirely different concepts.

                    If this is the case, then having a ‘cattle gender’ would be downright shameful for any Mighty – id est, for any who can be considered ‘a Drow’ from Mighty’s point of view.

                    Also, your stated takeaway on this is just plain wrong, my dear. Even if my speculations are just that – empty speculations, Drow have at least one gender: the Mighty.


                    1. I think you’re weaving complexity where none need exist. Why do you insist on there being SOME way for nisi to have gender roles? All drow use the same set of pronouns. Except the Sisters.

                      I’d say the two genders drow have are “Priestess of Night / everyone else”.


            1. The only exception are the sisters, who use ‘she/her’ even after all of these years. They’re literally the only drow with a gender.

              Gender is not a requirement for having sex and birthing children.


  4. Death Knight

    The Hierarch’s main strength is that he’s found a way to weaponize the same mechanics that govern the birth and strength of a Name: Faith of The People.

    I sincerely believe this man is the most dangerous person in this setting.

    Huh, maybe this was the Bard’s play? Anaxares only joined the Tyrant’s march after he spoke with the Bard.

    So now he’s moving North and the Dead King is moving South. They will meet and not even the King of Death will escape the judgment decreed by the People.

    That’s why Bard told Neshamah he can have free reign, that the Bard won’t interfere: She doesn’t need to; Hierarch is already on his way!

    “The arrow’s knocked long before you let the sparrow fly.”
    “Devils give us what we want and let us find our own way to the Hells with it.”
    -Catherine Foundling, circa Book 1

    Liked by 7 people

        1. Death Knight

          He rules an entire hell. He fits the bill of a Tyrant to a T.

          Sure, the people in his proximity (for the only true rulers of the People are the People themselvds) are (un)dead but do you really believe death absolves you from judgment of the People?

          Nay friend, in Bellerphon even the dead shall stand trial and be judged by the Will of the People!

          By the Will of the People May a thousand Undead Suicide Goats defecate and blow up upon the gilded delusions of the Tyrants and their Eldritch Masters

          By the Will of The People, long live Bellerphon, peerless jewel of Creation! By the Will of The People, long live the Hierarch!

          Liked by 4 people

    1. naturalnuke

      I personally suspect it had to do with Winter being a power of narrative and having a will of its own. A bit trickles in, and suddenly the zombies are both no more and no less alive than the fae.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. IDKWhoitis

      I feel like Winter had a heavier grip on Necromancy, as there is that law of Winter “You own what you kill.”

      So Cat had a much tighter bond with the strings she seized within the animals she killed to Necromancer when under the influence of Winter.

      Absent Winter, Night doesnt confer ownership the same metaphysical way over things you kill. Maybe Cat being Winterized also had a hand in why Akua is so bonded to Cat right now, post death.

      This has interesting implications as to Cat and Akua dynamic without Winter, as Akua has shown herself to be more Independent now.

      Liked by 8 people

        1. I think it was less a plot thread and more a worldbuilding thread, a la “here’s how fucking weird fae powers are”.

          But also, Zombie the Third still lives. Un-lives. Sort of. We might get back to that yet.

          Liked by 5 people

        2. TheVenomRex

          I would suggest a reread, because it doesn’t appear dropped at all, from my vantage point.
          At first Leisse, Mesago comments on how her own zombification was far easier than it should have been, her name quest in the first few chapters has her soul overrun by zombies.

          Cat has been linked to unusual necromantic powers and prowess, from the very beginning of the story.
          The winter zombies were not a isolated set up, but a reminder that Catherine is linked to undeath.

          At least, I think so.

          Liked by 1 person

        1. IDKWhoitis

          When Cat makes Mounts, like the previous horses, or the goats, she mentioned in the first book that it was easier to make those “bonds” if she killed it herself. Black also taught her to kill them herself so she could completely own what she killed.


    3. Ryzen

      I miss winter, hope to see it reappear further in the story. The whole Fea arc was to get that power on Calernia and now it’s been traded away for Night. Without winter, it’s not just the Necromancy plot line, but all the Fea ones that lead to nothing.


  5. IDKWhoitis

    I would love to hear Black, Cat, Hierarch, and Tyrant discuss ethics over some wine. I dont think anything truly productive would result from it, but it would be a meeting for the history books.
    “4 Crowned Mad Named on Power”.

    Liked by 10 people

    1. Replace Amadeus with Neshamah and NOW it’s a party.

      I don’t think Amadeus would have much to say, considering he very specifically did not get crowned, rather deliberately. He specifically offloaded this kind of final judgement call on someone else – specifically Alaya – and even after being like ‘nope she’s not competent fuck’ he took himself out of the game instead of taking the reins.

      He’d probably just sit there like “I am the wrong person to comment on this” and “what Catherine said”.

      Neshamah, Catherine, Kairos and Anaxares, though? Now THAT would be beautiful.

      Liked by 11 people

  6. taovkool

    [“Catherine Foundling,” I replied. “Queen of Callow.”

    “There’s no such thing,” he told me sternly.

    “Queens or Catherine Foundling?” I said. “Because one of those debates is a lot more philosophical than I’m equipped to handle.”]

    Why am I getting the feeling that Hierarch was talking about Catherine as a non existence instead of a Queen?

    Lots of bullshit happened to Cat that I wasn’t exactly clear on what her status is right now.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. > “Yet you are a queen,” he said, blithely ignoring his previous assertion there was no such thing.

      I mean it’s funnier of Hierarch just contradicts himself within two sentences.

      But it’s scarier if he meant Catherine.

      Both? Both.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. luminiousblu

      He’s objecting to the term “Queen of Callow” as a whole. Queens exist, but they don’t have dominion over areas such as Callow, since that would imply they’re -supposed- to be in charge. It’s the same nominal stuff that got Catherine titled Queen in Callow back at the peace table.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Aston Whiteman

    And EE showed this many times.

    Now the Hierarch shows power.

    He’s a great character.

    I wonder if him and Cat will be good friends.

    Cat also has the power of Insanity just on a bigger scale.

    Actually, how many characters in the setting realize Cat is truly insane?

    Liked by 5 people

    1. magesbe

      At the very least Indrani does, and possibly the entire Woe. Amadeus might. Maybe some of Cat’s senior staff.

      That’s pretty much it. Catherine can fake being 100% sane very well.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Snowfire1224

        I recall the Duchess of Dethriate… Deotraite… I give up I forgot how to spell it but you know what I’m talking about, but back to my point was that in the interlude, I believe it was called Commanders, during the Fae arc I recall her deciding that Cat was very mad and that whatever black did to train her broke her mind because of how she talked back to the fae princess. I’m imagine she’s not the only one who reacts that way when observing Cat.


  8. caoimhinh

    Wow, it seems to me that Anaxares is the character with the most character development in the series.
    He went from a comical idiot believing in his failed democracy while expecting death, to a stubborn guy refusing to do anything while being sad that his fake democracy ordered him to not die, then he became a badass who desired to fight for humanity against the Gods, now he is an insane hypocrite divorced from reality and forcing everyone to agree with his ideology or die, claiming to fight for the slaves while slaving everyone himself in a blatant way while blissfully deciding he doesn’t notice it.

    He is still brainwashed and a mad idiot, of course, but there has been quite a lot of development within that spectrum, which is impressive.

    A faithful example of the brainwashed eventually becoming the brainwasher.
    He is victim and victimizer both.

    Typos found:

    -had been use recently / this is either ‘had been used’ or ‘had seen use’
    -spared form ending up / spared from
    -Tough sometimes / though
    -though packed full with citizens as it was that could only remain a guess / so if it was that, it could only remain a guess
    -and at is sat a single man / at it
    -I used to support to get off / used it as support to get off

    Liked by 9 people

  9. Xinci

    He really does follow the will of Below now. Though there are problems in that the gaps of opportunity to become more may be blocked by the chaotic turning of the Orobosian mob. I am quite glade to see the portions of Mend going about their business.

    A lesson to be learned here for Cat especially with her current role, faith, pure and unadulterated has power. Blind and glorious power that needs many to see but still may crush many under its weight without even stopping to know if the are ok. Dark miracles abound when your culture knows well the power of sacrifice. Now if only you could find ways for it to be pure and willing…
    I suppose we shall see if the Drow can figure out ways to leverage their own culture to adapt against such culture. Would require some cooperative introspection.Hmm adapt a brand of Night to check for such manipulation and grow with it off of sacrificial principals perhaps?Something based on the Night’s ever mutating and growing nature.

    Feels like a wasted opportunity now that Cat didn’t safeguard her following of unread and actually allow them time to change and grow. I do wonder if Zombie the 3’rd may grow further back in Arcadia. Or if she will just move about changing over time in the Everdark.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Someguy

    Did Cat accidentally pull an Irritant? She foisted the job of Goddess onto Sve Noct and the 1st Named she meets on the surface is one with the capacity to execute gods.

    Liked by 6 people

  11. Cordelia Hasenbach is not going to like at all what happens here when she heards of it.
    Compared to all other opponents, the Hierarch is causing problems she will need years to solve, if she ever can.
    The Dead King? He’s leaving a mountain of undead in his wake and you have to burn all of them.
    The Black Knight? Destroy his armies and rebuild the lands he had torched.
    The same is true for everything Catherine can do.
    But the alliance Hierarch-Tyrant? Give them enough time, and what they’re doing to Rochelant, they will do to the entire Principate of Procer.
    And it will destroy the Princedoms, I have no doubt about it.
    This chapter has made clear enough being an aristocrat, a king, a priest or anyone influential/important will not protect you against the glorious madness reigning around the Hierarch.
    For any realm like Callow it would have already been bad, but we had many, many examples since the start of this story that the Princes and Princesses of Procer really don’t care about the peasants and anyone they have under their boots.
    ‘The Tyrant seeks to end Procer’ may very well be about the Helike Tyrant after all…

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Panic

    So many comments about the mad and insanely cool Anaxares. Yet everyone seem to have repressed the mentioning of the “aggressively nondescript” woman who attempted to mind read Cat. Now tell me how many people do we know who can go aggressively nondescript? Say a certain Scribe maybe? Or perhaps taking it one more step insane, a certain Assassin?

    Liked by 4 people

  13. I have a distinct suspicion, that Hierarch is a tad crazy.

    What is wrong with Tyrants though? Humans are innately predisposed towards vertical hierarchy. We want Tyrnts, we want someone to choose for us, and take responsibility. Someone to blame, someone to follow. Or something. The distinction really blurs when you think about. What’s the difference between a slave of a man and a slave of an idea? None, from where I am standing, just for some weird reason, being a slave to the ideal is somehiw preferred.

    And the notion of freedom. An illusion, temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect, trying desperately to justify the existence, that is without meaning or purpose. Whatever freedom you have, it’s freedom from something. And if you free from something, it is already a relationship, a fetter. And as such, not a true freedom. You can’t be free, it is inherently impossible. As long as you exist, you exist in relationship to something, and as such, dependant of that something to qualofy as existing. The same is with freedom, really.

    I hope I articulated myself right.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is very fun in theory, right up until the point where the person in charge of you decides to kick you and take all your stuff. Then you suddenly realize how you want to be free to punch them in the face and take your stuff back.

      To the revolution!

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Oh, but that’s the point: the notion of personal property comes at the cost of the restriction of freedom. As do all benefits of civilization. We are slaves of our own making, a food for enourmous grinding jaws of the system – and we are better off like that. Only a blind man cries for freedom. An honest one fights for privilage.


    2. grzecho2222

      To quote “Freedom by definition is absolute”, it is not that you are forced by something to do anything. Take for example eating. It is up to you if eat. Sure you will die if you don’t, but you will die, because of YOUR CHOICE. You can always choose, even if it will be the final choice.

      In context of the story the conflict between Cat and Hierarch is a bit as Polish–Soviet War of 1919-1920, which was basically Upraising under Dictator versus People Revolution. Country that regaind freedom by manipulating its conquerors and making global conspiracy and wanted to govern itself with its dictator retireing when he isn’t needed versus People Party that wanted to free whole world. With or without consent. Also there were basically chariots with machine guns involved.


      1. “Your choice” is self-delusion, the kind I was talking about. Kind of sickening one, personally. It is not up to you to eat. You are conditioned by your biology and your experiences and your environment. You do not choose to eat, you eat because you are hungry. Bet you never starved. Try to stop breathing “on your own choice”, see what happens. I bet you will freely decide on your own without outside influence as an individual to start breathing shortly after. The slave blind to his chains is doubly enslaved. Freedom is absolute by definition, and as such, does not exist.

        On the historical point – yeah, Bellerophon quite clearly inspired by varous anarchist and communist goverment forms that spawned out of the rottingremains of Russian Empire. Although their war with Poland was far more pragmatic – they tried to help communists in Germany, particularly in Bavaria, if I am not mistaken.


  14. PurpleHello

    This chapter made me realise something funny: this entire series is a (broad strokes) analogy for democracy! Think about it: the voting process is the battles.
    Changes/policies/big decisions are made/implemented/justified by whichever side with the bigger turnout or strategies winning. And then the other side(s) who lost immediately complain and kick up a fuss and promise another big battle and then focus on that. None of the sides like each other or want to work together. No side is 100% good or right or whatever – in fact all of them are morally dubious and untrustworthy. Hierarch is somewhat akin to a archcanist-socialist taken to the illogically extreme. It’s not a perfect comparison (I have no idea where Wandering Bard would fit in) but this chapter got me going in this direction and it’s pretty funny so I thought I’d share.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. taovkool

    By the way, I just noticed something weird. At the prologue, Ime (Malicia’s spymaster) was called Lindimi Sahelian but back at Book 4 chapter 5: Interest, Cat called her Sabra Niri on a relation with the High Lord of Okoro.

    A typo mistake or an intended difference? Clarification would be appreciated @erraticerrata.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Zaver SaintCloud

    I miss Zombie The Third 😦 Even moreso now that I am reminded we will probably never get an explanation for the instances of independence that it showed; sassing Cat after it saved her, munching on grass, etc. Also it gave Cat an excuse to be angry at people if they broke her flying horse.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I would argue against the idea that we’re not getting an explanation. The topic has been brought up again, I think we’re still building up the subplot. And Zombie the Third appears to be still alive (sort of), just not with Cat.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. ” Devils did not die but only disperse. But would they really, if it was this man passing the sentence? ”

    It is the Will Of The People that all Foreign Entities not abiding Under the Definition Of Life, as is Proper and Collectively Agreed Upon by The People, shall be Henceforth sentenced to Life, And Summarily Executed according to the Writ of the Third Declaration Of The People. By the Will of The People, long live Bellerophon, peerless jewel of Creation!

    Liked by 2 people

  18. ninegardens

    So… Anaraxes is super nutso and all… but also in terms of “Breaking the game” potentially… he seems high powered… not “Part” of the game (Above or Below), and like….super liable to have the power to make a treaty BINDING.
    So… right now he is sort of broken and stupid, but in terms of potential for future good (not “Good”) he seems way up there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Andrew Mitchell

      Oh, I like the way you’re thinking here. Binding everyone to the Liesse Accords would reduce future conflict. To actually do that he’d need to change and become willing to engage with wicked foreign oligarchs; which may be too much of a barrier to overcome.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No, that’s not what the barrier is. Kairos is the very definition of a Wicked Foreign Oligarch, Anaxares stands on that position and will stand on it forever, yet he works with him.

        The problem is that he has a larger plan in mind, and depending on what exactly the plan is, he might consider Liesse Accords… redundant, inessential, counterproductive (as they acknowledge the existence of non democratically elected rulers I imagine)

        The issue really is just selling him on them.

        Liked by 1 person

  19. aran

    “Aristocracy Is A Festering Wound Upon The People,” Anaxares of Bellerophon gravely informed me. “May Hail Strike It Repeatedly For A Thousand Years.”

    Somehow Anaxares is the character who most seems like he stepped out of a Discworld novel. The one he probably reminds me of most is Vorbis.


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