Peregrine III

“Pilgrim of grey;
Fleet-foot, dusk-clad, the wanderer,
His stride rebellion and stirring ember
In his grasp the light of a morning star
Tattered his throne, tattered his war.”

– Extract from the ‘Anthem of Smoke’, widely considered the founding epic of the Dominion of Levant

Tariq’s sole remaining brother had not aged well.

Bakri had boasted a warrior’s build in his youth, and made good use of it to bring glory to their shared blood. Decades had passed since then, however, and what had once been hard muscle turned to fat and aching bones. Though the Grey Pilgrim was thirty eight years old, he knew himself to look in his early thirties. Bakri was two years younger, but at a glance would have seemed eldest among them. The thick beard of his brother was usually combed and oiled, but being confined to his quarters had apparently robbed the man of the desire for such sophistication. The dark hair was hoarse and wild, Bakri’s eyes the red of one who had not slept a full night in too long. Tariq did not wait for an invitation to sit after the door was closed behind him, instead leaning against the doorframe as he watched his brother pour himself wine from a bronze carafe.

“Brother,” Bakri greeted him. “Finally you make time for me. Should I be kneeling in thanks?”

Tariq did not reply. He stood there, in silence, and wondered what it was about thrones that made men go mad.

“Am I to beg for my life, Pilgrim?” Bakri snarled. “Is this your justice I’ve heard so much of?”

The Ophanim were silent. Had been, since Tariq had first entertained the thought of using his gifts in anger. For that silence he thought less of them. He might have been changed by his Bestowal, but blood still ran through his vein. There were things beyond the purview of mercy. Still, the loss of the whispers was keenly felt. Without their guidance, he felt half-blind. They had known much, and shared freely. Now all he had to call on was his eyes and his wits.

“Just get it over with, Tariq,” his brother tiredly said. “You need someone to hang for this and you’ve chosen me. What point is there in making game of it first?”

“You did not act,” the Grey Pilgrim finally said, “like an innocent man.”

“And that is enough to make me guilty?” Bakri mocked.

No, Tariq admitted to himself. It was not. Confining Yasa’s husband and isolating their nephew was the blatant premise to a grab for the Tattered Throne, but it was no proof that Bakri had a hand in their sister’s death. All it was testimony to was ambition and poor character.

“You always did love her best,” his brother bitterly said, drinking deep of his wine.

He wiped a trickle away from his chin.

“And she you,” Bakri continued. “There was never any room for anyone else.”

“I loved her best,” Tariq said softly, “because she was the best of us.”

“Mother was a fucking vulture of a woman,” his brother smiled thinly. “But at least she never played favourites in her disregard. You two, though? You threw us the scraps of what you held for each other and expected your feet licked for it. I didn’t kill her, Tariq. But I will not weep for a woman I shared only blood with.”

It was a stranger he was looking at, the Pilgrim understood. A man he barely knew. A few childhood memories were no compass to the roiling sea of bitterness and frustration that stood before him. For the first time in many years, he felt adrift. Unable to tell truth from lie, black from white. He could not see into the soul of men: like everyone else he was groping blindly in the dark, hoping he would not stumble into a chasm.

“Our nephew, Bakri,” he said. “Caged and left to fade. Yasa’s son. Does even that really mean so little to you?”

The other man sneered.

“You sanctimonious prick,” he said. “You traipse around the world following stories, and now you’ve gone and convinced yourself that’s the truth of Creation. Like there’s never been killing within the Blood. Like a bit of red in the veins means we really owe each other all the oaths we break. Look around you, Pilgrim.”

Bakri opened his arms, jeering.

“Did you really think meaning well was enough?” he said. “That it stopped being a throne because the first man to hold it was a hero? This isn’t one of your pretty adventures, it doesn’t end with everyone smiling and coming home. Sometimes it ends with a Seljun being a little too good and getting an arrow in the fucking throat for it. We don’t all get to leave when we feel like it, Tariq. Some of us have to live where the Heavens don’t look too closely.”

For a moment, he thought of killing his brother. It would be easy as making a fist. Light would lash out, burn through the man’s throat, and that would be the end of it. But that was anger, that was blood. It was the same ugliness in Bakri’s voice, only with greater power behind it. Please, Tariq thought, closing his eyes. Help me. Sometimes, all you could do to beat back the night was light a candle. Please, he prayed, help me see. That I might do more than add suffering to suffering, injustice to injustice, grief to grief. He prayed, and was answered.

The Grey Pilgrim opened his eyes and knew it was his gift to Behold the truth of was what hiddem.

He saw in his sole remaining sibling fear and rage, and ambition like poison. Grief, too, however slight. But deep beneath it all he saw guilt. A hand offered and taken.

“Tell me,” Tariq said, voice like stone and steel. “Tell me who you sold our sister to, Bakri.”

After that he saw fear, mostly.

It did not stay his hand.

When the lords and ladies of the Dominion came to Levante for his sister’s funeral games, the city felt as if a shroud had fallen over it. Until the first of them had arrived he had spent his hours with Izil, keeping the fragile flame remaining in his nephew from dying out, but when the greats of Levant arrived Tariq was forced to leave the boy’s side. There would be an election in the Majilis, when the games came to a close, and there was only one result he would brook. Yasa’s son would be the Holy Seljun, his father holding regency until the boy came of age. Yet for all that none denied him audience, and instead made great pageantry of receiving him, the answers he received were evasive. These people, he thought, had professed loyalty to Yasa. Followed her with eagerness, with pride. And together with her they had served Levant well. And yet now the loyalty had waned, replaced by guarded eyes and cautious tongues. What had been granted to the mother would not be inherited by the son.

“They’re afraid, Tariq,” Sintra told him.

That much he had known. He could not fail to see it, now that his eyes had been opened by Above. He had stolen a moment with his lover in a tucked away corner of the old city, where none would see them. Much as he would have preferred to speak only between Tariq and Sintra, they were not only that. The Grey Pilgrim and the Lady of Alava need speak as well.

“Bakri died at my hand,” Tariq acknowledged.

“Died?” Sintra murmured. “There were only cinders left. That is more than death. And for all that, fear is not what the act earned you. You passed judgement as the Grey Pilgrim, and none would deny your right to end a traitor. It is those that clasped hands with Bakri that still tongues.”

“I am the only man alive to have heard his confession,” the Pilgrim flatly stated.

“We’re not fools, Tariq,” Sintra sighed. “Your brother might have greased a few palms in the harbour, but it was not one of ours who loosed the arrow. There are only two who could have given the order, and neither is to be trifled with.”

“Procer,” he said. “Ashur.”

He turned to look upon the love of his life as the silence lingered, and what he beheld filled him with pride. There was iron in this daughter of the Champion’s Blood. Fear as well, but it did not bend her spine as it did so many others he has spoken to.

“Which was it?” Sintra quietly asked.

That was the question, he knew, plaguing the thoughts of every person of influence in Levant. Was it their protectors in the Thalassocracy that had seen a Dominion resurgent, less eager to take instructions from committees on an island across the water, and acted to smother the insolence before it could grow further? Or was it the covetous packs of royalty past the Red Snake Wall who had struck the blow, wary of a Levant that would not retreat at the mere hint of the First Prince’s displeasure? Neither were enemies anyone could truly afford.

“The Prince of Orense,” Tariq finally told her. “Bakri believed it was with the tacit permission of the First Prince himself.”

Sintra let out a sharp breath.

“Prince Alejandro Trastanes,” she murmured. “Do they plan to invade?”

“No,” he replied just as quietly. “It was a petty thing, Sintra. That is, perhaps, the most absurd part of it. We have silver veins of our own, now, and no longer rely on his for coinage. His treasury thinned as a result. Worse, he foresaw that the Ashurans would rather use our silver than his for their own mints.”

Bakri was to declare those very veins as having run out, after a few years, and quietly the old sales would have resumed. The Levantine silver would have gone to the treasury of the Seljun instead of the mints in Levant and Ashur. A stupid, petty waste. And for that Yasa had died.

“There are some who’ll say electing Izil to the Tattered Throne would be sending a message,” his lover said. “That we will not desist.”

“That we will not bow to fear,” Tariq mused. “I can see how this would not be popular, as so many of us wish to do so.”

“They’ve never been shy about sending knives south,” Sintra darkly said. “They know Ashur will only stir against invasion. And that’s always been the unspoken guarantee from Salia hasn’t it? Do not be a threat, and you will not be troubled. We became a threat. Trouble found us.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Tariq said. “When the games end, Izil will stand before the Majilis as candidate for the Tattered Throne.”

“You don’t have the votes,” his lover told him. “One of Bakri’s children will be raised, it is almost a certainty.”

“You misunderstand,” he said. “They are bowing, Sintra, to fear.”

“And?” she frowned.

“When Izil stands, I will stand with him,” the Grey Pilgrim said.

He met her eyes, and smiled thinly.

“Alejandro Trastanes is very far away. I am here.”

Nine days later, Izil Isbili was unanimously elected the Holy Seljun of Levant. His uncle stood in silence behind the seven-year-old boy as the votes were cast into the large brass cup, but for once the pale stones meaning support made no sound as they fell.

The cup, after all, was already filled with the ashes of Bakri Isbili.

The following dawn, Tariq began marching north.

Orense was prosperous.

The principality as well, he had seen while treading the roads and fields, but the capital of the principality stood above the rest in that regard. Traders from all over southern Calernia could be found haggling in the streets in a smattering of tongues, be it the fluid tradertalk of the Free Cities or the elegant Ceseo of the southern Dominion. Colourful cloths and elegant furs, ripe fruit and vivid painted slates: the markets of Orense were a thriving throng, a centre of commerce. And among them, all was traded for the silver of Prince Alejandro Trastanes’ mines. It was the fortune of the Trastanes line to own these, it was said, but also that of it subjects. The city would not attract so many if not for the remarkable purity and quantity of its ore. Tariq had not known it was possible to hate the bounty of the earth before then, but he had learned. Pieces of metal glinting in the sun could take a life months of riding away, even if they were not spent for the purpose. All they needed to do was exist and men would do horrors for the purpose of owning them, or keeping them, or even ensuring other did not have them.

He had spent most his life shielding people little different than these from the wickedness of the world. Divested himself of the right to be bound to his lover in the eyes of any but each other, of having a home for more than a summer’s length and even of half the name he had been born to. And yet, blind to anything but the coins that saw the wheels of their existence keep turning, they had killed his sister. Tariq could not hate them for that. No, he could. He would not allow himself to. He had made sacrifices, but not with the expectation of reward. That exceptions would be made for him and those he loved. If a good act was done only at the condition of recompense, then it was not that – it was a mere transaction made with the Heavens. Yet it would have been dishonest to say it did not infuriate him, deep down, that Yasa had died and it was not so much as a ripple in the sea that was Creation. All were as specks of dust, in the eyes of Above. All were as the entire world, in the eyes of Above. The Lanterns had long taught this and Tariq knew more of the truths of the Heavens than most, but never before had he been forced to look that particular truth in the eye.

For days he walked the streets of Orense, taking the measure of the people and through them their ruler. Prince Alejandro was well-liked, he learned. The man leant the weight of his name and influence to the charitable enterprises of the House of Light, and after a string of sicknesses had ordered the sewers beneath the capital fully cleaned out for the first time in many years – at his own expense, without raising taxes to fill his coffers afterwards. He paid his watchmen and soldiers well, better than his mother had, and always on time. The prince favoured the merchants of his land above others, but did not do so egregiously and did not use the livelihood of others as means in his disagreements with other royalty. Some said that he spent too much time in Salia, at the court of the First Prince, but others argued that Orense had benefited from his influence there. There were less flattering rumours, of paramours entertained even though he was wed and duels fought for frivolous purposes, but these were old and looked upon with a forgiving eye.

Tariq was not certain what he had truly expected. Few men presented themselves as devils, even when keeping covenant with their kind, and it was said Arlesites were more attached than most to their repute. It still filled him with dismay, that priests from the House of Light could sing the praises of a man who had ordered murder. The people could be fooled, and often were. Yet he had believed, in some way, that those wielding the light of the Heavens would not be so easily taken in. It took him days, forcing himself not to act before having fully seen what there was to see, before he admitted to himself that perhaps the people of Orense had not been fooled at all. That the prince did behave well towards them. That the priests did not condemn the man because they had not been given reason to. It was a strange thing, coming to the understanding that a man could be both wicked and kind. That one did not chase away the other and claim the whole of the person. Strange and displeasing.

After twelve days, Tariq had assuaged his conscience and he set out once more. For a man of his talents, it was merely tedious to slip into the towering palace that belonged to the Trastanes. Even without the guidance of the Ophanim neither soldiers nor watchmen caught sight of him moving under cover of night, and the sorceries pervading the grounds were no true bar. The nature of the wards was sister to miracles, in some arcane way, and there were few even among the Bestowed who understood miracles as Tariq did. Whispers opened cracks to creep through, Light blooming and fading as he passed through gardens and climbed a tall trellis. From there he reached a balcony, a brush of fingers unmaking the locks and allowing him to enter unseen the private study of the Prince of Orense. Tariq closed the doors behind him, and settled in a fashionable sofa to wait until the man arrived. Servants came first, to put the study in order and leave a tray of fragrant tea and assorted spice cookies, but he moved where they were not looking and so they did no see him.

The Grey Pilgrim was sipping at a perfectly-brewed cup of Thalassinian black leaf when the man who ordered the murder of his sister entered the study. He waited in silence until the prince sat at his beautiful redwood desk and reached for a cup that was not there. Calmly, he set down the tea.

“Alejandro Trastanes,” Tariq said. “There will be no point to shouting.”

His advice was ignored, unsurprisingly. The Prince of Orense was still in good shape, for a man his age, though Tariq ruefully admitted to himself that the royal was likely younger than himself. The healer was no longer so young as to be able to casually pass such a judgement. Once shouting proved fruitless, the man drew a thin blade.

“You will not find me easy meat, assassin,” Prince Alejandro snarled in Tolesian,

“Not assassin,” Tariq calmly corrected in the same. “Pilgrim.”

From the beginning he had beheld what lay at the heart of the man, fear and pride and anger, but not he saw the second of the first of these begin devouring the others. The tipping point, he thought, was when Alejandro Trastanes realized he was alone in a room with a Bestowed whose sister he’d recently had murdered. The man was not without bravery, but few among even the most crazed of villains would care to try odds such as those. And this was no villain, no champion of Below. Only a man, with all the evil banality of that stature.

“You know not what trouble you borrow, Levantine,” the prince said.

How mundane it was now, to see through bluster. Neither tone nor posturing could hide the cold fear spreading through the soul of the man. Tariq wondered if he should enjoy the sight of that, for he found he did not. Even Yasa’s death was not enough to whet his appetite for cruelty, it seemed. He almost wished that it had been. It would make the accusations Bakri had laid at his feet echo slightly less.

“Sit down,” Tariq said.

“And then?” the prince asked.

Hope, the slightest bit of it.

“We will have a conversation,” the Grey Pilgrim said. “And when it ends, I will kill you.”

85 thoughts on “Peregrine III

  1. caoimhinh

    Man, we were all getting worried.
    Was the chapter delayed due to some problems or is it just that it’s already that time of the year where some countries alter their clocks to use more sunlight?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. How hard is it to understand that there’s a difference between what a government does at home and what it does abroad? And how a government’s own citizens view it can vary greatly from how outsiders view it?
    That’s not that complicated or surprising a concept. Tariq wasn’t kidding when he said he was untrained and ill-suited to rule.

    Tariq empowered the nephew he ended up killing.

    Yeah … you really don’t want to be in the same room as a Named (Hero or Villain) who’s close sibling you just had murdered.

    Liked by 22 people

      1. IIRC, it was mentioned when he was talking with Saint and the Proceran Crusader leadership in Callow after he and Cat had their talk and she made her original offer about limiting things like angels, devils, and demons.

        Liked by 5 people

      2. APansirus

        He didn’t kill his nephew “on screen” (yet), but it was mentioned in the interlude “Queens Gambit: Declined”, where he mused about the relationship of the choir of mercy with himself.


    1. luminiousblu

      It’s not about what a government does at home vs. abroad so much as accepting the fact that a Neutral is more concerned with tending to his own flock than what happens to those of others. It can be pretty hard to understand, even in real life, that a geniunely nice person and good ruler can kill someone else solely because it’s convenient for him.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. Jeremy Cliff Armstrong

      It is a pattern both more subtle and far, far, far more common than that. Almost without fail humans of every race, religion, gender, and nationality engage in a constant juggling of many mental shellgames as they constantly seek to narrowly perceive the world in a way that confirms their preferred version of the world. From the mothers who condemn teachers rather than admit their children are bullies to a citizenry willing to elections monsters and pretend people aren’t being executed and thrown into mass graves in camps a scant few miles from their homes to internet assholes riding the latest hatertrain so they can enjoy the false sense of superiority they get from looking down on others to men yelling at cashiers for going too slow when they have nowhere they really need to be. If this one behavior was a cancer, the patient’s (humanity’s) body would be more cancer than not.

      a specific example, one man’s freedom fighters should never be another man’s terrorist. They are exactly the same thing… Only one is viewed through a narrow lens meant to mentally hide the blood of innocents on his hands and the other a narrow lens meant to mentally hide the noble intentions that drove him to action. It isn’t that both are true… It’s that they are the same truth being butchered twice on separate altars to convenient narrative contrivances. It is the moral responsibility of all men and women to dispose of such narrative contrivance wherever and whenever they are found… Facing the entire unbutchered truth without exception. And while noone can be perfect… Failing to even acknowledge the need for such basic integrity or that we, as a species, catastrophically have failed at it every single day since the beginning of recorded history (and, almost certainly, beyond) is beyond justification.

      I too found Pilgram’s nativity worthy of scorn… But I find that to be true of almost everyone when it comes to this particular subject. The scale of such naivety seems irrelevant once you realize that such naivety is, itself, the root cause of such behavior. Everyone thinks they are better than that… Above such behavior… But not a single one of us is any less than wallowing in it. And, because of that, we are all monsters.


      Liked by 3 people

      1. Lord Haart

        Signed up just to like this post. Well written, and the phrase “It is the moral responsibility of all men and women to dispose of such narrative contrivance wherever and whenever they are found” will stick with me.

        I assume you’re familiar with memetics (not just internet memes :p)?


  3. naturalnuke

    The Pilgrim is starting to remind me of a cleric I once played in dnd.

    Sealed a corrupt warden into 5 feet of masonry where no Divination magic of his worth could ever find him.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Wow Tariq is unpleasant.

    Like, yeah, I still don’t see any trace of “Heavens binding free will” in this. He’s just a privileged prick who grew only more privileged and more of a prick with his adventures, and Heavens can’t do shit about that whether they like it or not.

    Well, now I have even fewer reservations in rooting for Amadeus over him 100% -_-

    Liked by 1 person

        1. caoimhinh

          We do not know yet the circumstances that led to the murder of his nephew. We can speculate that it was commanded by the whispers of the Opharim, or that his nephew had taken a decision that would cause some kind of disaster.

          We know already that he didn’t kill his nephew just for the lulz, there was a reason for it, even if we might object to it when it is presented to us.

          Liked by 9 people

          1. grzecho2222

            We know it was for bigger picture and was somehow about wanting to change Levant and funny thing, his mother was also wanting to change things and Good didn’t save her from Good people

            Liked by 2 people

      1. Panic

        Because people are IMMENSELY biased against Tariq here regardless of what he does. If he walked up to Cat and Went “I was wrong and I will support the Liesse Accords with all that I can” people would still find things to complain about him and how he is wrong.

        I myself find him one of the more interesting characters.

        Liked by 16 people

        1. Erebus42

          I agree he’s not the worst, but his uncompromising nature paired with his misplaced sense of self righteousness can be very galling. He’s still better than the Saint who really is just a mad dog who needs to be put down

          Liked by 4 people

      2. No, not that.

        I find it unpleasant that in his early thirties he seems genuinely surprised by the concept that people would kill for money, and also that a ruler can be good to his own people and awful to his neighbours.

        Like,,, who does he think will succeed Alejandro, and how will it change Orense’s prosperity? Is justice really the most important thing here? When what you preach is mercy?

        I found Tariq unpleasantly judgemental back when we first had his POV in Kaleidoscope. Trying so hard to not judge it comes all the way around back to judging.

        There wasn’t much of it in his earlier POVs but apparently Tariq vs complex topics = this 😐

        Liked by 9 people

        1. The thing to understand is that Tariq is accustomed to making decisions from a moral frame of reference. The moral framework is simple. These are people who committed murder. They need to be punished, come what may, and to do otherwise is just encouraging others to do the same thing in the future. What the next person to rule will be like is irrelevant, excepting in so far as he will hopefully learn from the example of what happened to his predecessor.

          Similarly, in the moral framework it doesn’t matter how many people a person treats well. Murdering one is enough to outweigh it all.

          As for mercy, I don’t think the Choir of Mercy is about mercy as we conventionally understand it. They are the mercy of mercy killings, or of ending a few lives to save many more. A brutal and pragmatic version of mercy, not the mercy of judges or of physicians or of those who give alms.

          Liked by 13 people

          1. I’m pretty sure their mercy includes healing first, considering that’s Tariq’s primary ability, and things like freeing slaves – that’s been mentioned as one of the adventures the Ophanim guided him on.

            Their mercy includes ruthlessness but it does not consist of ruthlessness, we’re just seeing the butt end of it.

            But yeah, fuck Tariq and fuck the moral framework he rode in on. I still love him and like him, I just also judge him, is all.

            Liked by 10 people

          2. IMO Tariq’s worst failing lies in his inexperience, he is blinded by family as was shown this chapter and the “whispers” makes him think that whatever he is doing is right.

            Not to mention he is still a rookie, all of his adventures has been him being handed cheat codes to beat level 3 characters while he is level 60, aka simple solutions handed from above hence no thinking hence he is dumb as all hell.

            Liked by 8 people

          3. “Similarly, in the moral framework it doesn’t matter how many people a person treats well. Murdering one is enough to outweigh it all.”

            Isn’t that true in any sane justice system? We don’t let people get away with murder just because they’ve donated lots of money to charity in the past. Politicians don’t get to say “Sure, I murdered a political rival in order to make personal financial gain, but look at all the public health work I’ve done!”

            Liked by 6 people

        2. Are you arguing that because Alejandro is a decent ruler to his own people he should just be allowed to get away with murder?

          Murder is murder. The concept isn’t really that complex. The guy assassinated a foreign head of state. That’s reason enough for outright war by the standards of any nation in human history. Killing just the prince is if anything a proportionate and reasonable response.

          True, it does go against his philosophy of Mercy as a hero, but he’s still human. His sister was just killed, he’s angry and grieving, he wants vengeance and justice. I can’t imagine a more understandable reaction. I don’t really get how that makes him a judgemental prick.

          Liked by 8 people

          1. The issue, IMO, is more that Tariq took so long to realize and was surprised by the fact that Alejandro could be decent to and popular with his own people while still having helped arrange the killing of Tariq’s sister.
            Tariq seems to have issues realizing that most people, especially rulers, do not have one-size-fits-all approaches. That someone can do both good things and bad/evil things at the same time to different people. That people are (usually) not black or white, but shades of grey.

            Liked by 9 people

                1. Jarthon1

                  My response to this chapter is less that he was surprised that an evil person could be good, and more that he really wanted him to be an outright evil person. He was so desperate for the person that killed his sister to be as twisted as he was in his head that he ignored his past experience. I also try to keep in mind that this is a young (relatively speaking) Grey Pilgrim. His learning of moral ambiguity has been delayed by the close ties he has with a choir, one of the most uncompromising forces in creation.

                  Liked by 10 people

          2. No, the judgemental prick part is that he was genuinely surprised that the House of Light could endorse A MAN WHO COMMITTED MURDER, and just generally was so genuinely baffled by the darker pars of Creation. Privilege shining in all its glory.

            And, y’know, he kept it. Reading his POV in Kaleidoscope is physically painful because of how condescending it is.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. He wasn’t so much surprised as he was disappointed.

              Plus, the guy’s been a hero for twenty years. I think it’s safe to assume he’s seen plenty of the darker side of Creation. We know that he spent time in Thalassina and Stygia, and by now he’s probably fought dozens of villains. He’s been a wandering healer, with no wealth or comfort, for decades. He was denied the use of his own last name and was unable to openly be with the woman he loved. He spent years wandering the continent healing and protecting strangers without reward.

              I really wouldn’t describe him as privileged.

              Liked by 4 people

              1. See, that’s why I was so surprised at his inner monologue here 😐

                I wouldn’t have expected him to be quite this… THIS.

                The darker side of Creation, he’s seen.
                The grey side, though? Looks like it’s his first glimpse at it.

                Liked by 6 people

                  1. What this suggests is that maybe there’s still room for him to learn better.

                    Like, maybe he’s not so much set in his ways and genuinely a dumbass and can be converted yet -\/(-_-)\/-
                    I am an extremely optimistic person

                    Liked by 1 person

                  2. Maltheos

                    My impression is that he, like many, has a blindspot in re family. In his mind family = good, and oposing family is opposing good (at least subconsciously). So he had already judged the man and by extension his rule and policy. So yeah he was surprised when his stereotype was wrong. He is probably pretty great in general at judging and perceiving fairly, but this is his family. My guess is that he overprotects/empowers his nephew resulting in the nephew being so insulated from the consequences of his actions that he does something that puts him to the judgment of Above.

                    It fits the progression and the fundamental bleakness of his current persona.

                    Liked by 4 people

          3. luminiousblu

            “Are you arguing that because Alejandro is a decent ruler to his own people he should just be allowed to get away with murder?”
            More or less, yeah. Alejandro isn’t a murderer, the First Prince is a murderer. Very few are the rulers who haven’t had someone assassinated, and the ones who haven’t are those who fucked up on their choice of assassins (or got their asses knifed before they could get around to it). Murder is really not that big of a deal when you represent the will of millions.


    1. caoimhinh

      He was expelled from his home and denied the right to even use his family’s name, he lived as a vagrant for years traveling across the land where the whispers of Angels took him and he could not deny that call.

      Sure he was powerful, but not a privileged prick, He didn’t live a life of luxury either and couldn’t openly be with the woman he loved without triggering a political storm and war in his country.

      Another thing, you might be misunderstanding this:
      He wasn’t surprised in the sense of “oh, this is a revelation” or ” wow, I have never seen this before”, as stated by the chapter, Tariq is 38 years old and spent his childhood in a wealthy household. The thing is, upon arriving at Orense he was philosophizing, the way a monk who has lived his life under vows of poverty would do (and that’s pretty much what Tariq is, some way or another) would do, wondering how can so many people be still dominated by earthly matters and so obsessed over money when he is a living example that it can be done without it. Which totally makes sense given his character and his life experience.

      Is he a fanatic and simplistic in his worldview? Yeah, of course he is, wouldn’t be a Named sworn to a Choir otherwise. We already have seen that Named under angelic influence have blinkers on them so they see the world through the glass of their Choir.

      Of course, he needs to be killed, otherwise the Crusade won’t end.
      He, just like Hanno and the Saint of Swords, will not compromise, thus they need to be removed.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. >he lived as a vagrant for years traveling across the land where the whispers of Angels took him and he could not deny that call.
        He could tho? He could. It was in his POV that he could. He could not deny that he was a hero while he was doing that, but to keep doing that was 100% his call.

        He chose all of those things for himself. And through it he still had a lover of high station and a soft bed that belonged to him too, a family he could return to if/when he so chose.

        “But still you’ll never get it right,
        ‘Cause when you’re laid in bed at night,
        Watching roaches climb the wall,
        If you called your Dad he could stop it all.”

        that’s a really great song that kind of 100% reflects the problem I have with Tariq’s view of Creation.

        “You will never understand
        How it feels to live your life
        With no meaning or control
        And with nowhere left to go.”
        ^ that’s the key to his conflict with Cat.

        >Is he a fanatic and simplistic in his worldview? Yeah, of course he is,
        See, that’s the basic premise I’m not sharing here. You’re looking at it from the angle of ‘of course he’s awful, he’s not awfuler than I already thought he was’. I’m looking at it from the angle of ‘he could be better’ 😛

        “Of course, he needs to be killed, otherwise the Crusade won’t end.
        He, just like Hanno and the Saint of Swords, will not compromise, thus they need to be removed.”
        We’ll see how that goes.
        I have great hopes for Hanno.
        William, y’know, sure compromised a lot 🙂

        Liked by 4 people

        1. RanVor

          The problem with Hanno is that he doesn’t decide for himself. He outsources every moral dilemma he faces to the Seraphim, and they’re unlikely to ever let him settle on any kind of compromise.

          Liked by 5 people

          1. Only if he perceives it as a dilemma.

            Most of the time he just goes by common sense, and it’s been quite a lot.

            Also, Contrition certainly didn’t seem to have a problem with William dipping into antihero territory. It certainly seems that out of all the Choirs Judgement should be the least compromising, but… hmm. We’ll see.


            1. WuseMajor

              If I was Cat, I’d be ready to swap it for a coin with Laurels on both sides. Granted Heaven might make it come up with the bad side ANYWAY, but I’d still want to try that.

              Liked by 4 people

        2. caoimhinh

          I wonder about that, Lili.
          Leaving aside the fact that he is a Heroic Named (those aren’t prone to ignore Above’s call, by their very nature), the voice of angels can’t be something easily ignored. Nothing we have read so far indicates that he could ignore them, only that he had no control over when the came. The only time he was seen trying to ignore them, his lover told him to go and obey them.

          “through it he still had a lover of high station and a soft bed that belonged to him too, a family he could return to if/when he so chose”
          We are talking about a world where going from a city to another takes days, and months when it comes to different countries, seeing your family once or twice a year and only for a week before you have to leave them again is not an easy life, he couldn’t even be seen in the open with his lover if he wished to avoid bloodshed.

          “You’re looking at it from the angle of ‘of course he’s awful, he’s not awfuler than I already thought he was’. I’m looking at it from the angle of ‘he could be better’.”
          That’s not what I meant, my point is that what we are reading in this chapter is consistent with what we have read of him before. He is seen reflecting about people who lose their morals for coin, and later he is seen trying to look for a reason to hate his sister’s killer beyond that act. He was simply wishing that the person who ordered such thing would be an evil and awful man, instead of a good man who made a decision that hurt his sister.
          It’s not that Tariq doesn’t understand how such things are, it was just his wishful thinking of looking for more reasons to hate his enemy and that’s a human thing to do, similar to how when someone you don’t like does something you can immediately spot reasons to criticize and hate them more, it is an emotional response, not a logical one.
          The rest is just him reflecting about the state of the world, same way as a preacher of any religion could be seen wondering “why can’t we all love each other and be happy with what we have?”.

          In Cat’s time, we have seen how the Pilgrim turned out, he is an old monk condescending on everyone and everything, because he lives by his religious vows and is in direct contact with a Choir that lets him know people’s feelings and tell truth from lie; from his point of view everyone is a kid saying “I didn’t eat the chocolate” while Tariq can see the traces of it still on the kid’s teeth. Which explains his attitude and why he was so shocked when Cat told him to his face “I’m doing this for peace and the greater good of my people” Tariq could see she was being serious.

          Could he be better? Obviously, like every other character. But that was never the core of this discussion.

          Liked by 2 people

    2. Lord_GM

      The reason I dislike Tariq even more now is his hypocrisy. He claims to be a Hero, a person better than the average human, an example to be followed. And then he goes around and kills people, husbands and fathers in their homes. That is not justice. That is revenge, plain and simple. Vigilantism at best, if you are generous. But who gave him the authority to pass and deliver this “justice”?

      I am not saying that the two men were not guilty or that they didn’t deserve punishment.
      Neither am I saying that I don’t understand Tariq’s thirst for revenge.

      But the selfrightous, merciless and uncompromising way the Pilgrim kills people without proper trial or regard for the law (Levantine, Proceran or divine) makes him just another murderer. On top of that he seems to be pretty stupid when it comes to human morality, but that might be the angels messing with him.
      In the end he is just another bully.

      At least the Villains are honest about this and don’t claim to be without sin.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. caoimhinh

    Well, now we got to see more of the Aspects of Pilgrim and his capabilities. These chapters have explained much of what Pilgrim did during his encounter and fight in Callow against Catherine.

    Typos found:

    Behold the truth of was what hiddem / Behold the truth of what was hidden

    fear and pride and anger, but not he saw the second of the first of these begin devouring the others / but now he saw the second when the first of these began devouring the others

    Liked by 1 person

  6. mavant

    I agree with the comments above about Tariq’s perspective being skewed by privilege, but it mostly doesn’t seem like the wealthy childhood part is the problem. To the poor and wholly disenfranchised he is sympathetic. The places where he is condescending are related to characters who have had *almost* all of the same privileges he has had – but his brother could never have been the Pilgrim, and neither could this prince have been. He looks at holiness as something that anyone can choose because to him it was never denied. But if that were true there would be an abundance of Grey Pilgrims.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Hero privilege 😀

      This is an utterly fascinating topic because I was thinking just this for Amadeus. And Catherine, obviously, but I feel like him even moreso – his rage at the Heavens on Praes’s behalf has its foundation in the simple fact that Praes has only ever had villains try to take care of it, and the only path he could see to doing so was to be one (and thus bind himself to losing patterns entirely contrary to his goal) (and he was not the first person in Praes’s history to come up against this).

      Guess who’s hyped as fuck for the whole “Tariq has Amadeus captive” storyline and where it can potentially go!

      Liked by 4 people

        1. I mean the rock was a suicide / waste the escape chance plan, mostly considered bc the horse one wasn’t brilliant either (‘saint can outrun a horse’ ‘I can’t’)

          IDK I genuinely have no idea what’s going on there and I love that


  7. Jonnnney

    It is interesting that Tariq is so surprised that followers of The Above would support a man who committed murder when Tariq himself is a champion of The Above who is planning to comit murder.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. KageLupus

    Now that we have seen a glimpse of how the Pilgrim can Behold the people around him, I really want to revisit his interactions with Cat from his POV. I think it would be really neat to see him realize that Cat is dead serious when she says that she would turn on the tower, or wants to join the Grand Alliance, or does any of the other non-Villainous things that Tariq isn’t expecting.

    If he can be confused by a ruler being good to his subjects but ruthless to foreign states, just imagine the rollercoaster ride he would have with Cat’s actions and motivations.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. caoimhinh

      Yeah, that explains all his bafflement and staring at her back in those chapters when they interacted.
      It sure must have been distressing for him to be surrounded by “good” people willing to do atrocities, go to war and fly high the banners of Good yet they only do so for their own ambitions and personal greed or desire for fame, and then in front of him is the Arch-heretic of the East, disciple of the Carrion Lord, the Black Queen of Callow who is supposed to have done all kinds of horror and be a great warlord who wades in the blood of her enemies, telling him that she wholeheartedly wishes peace, that she just wants her people to be safe and happy, and then the Angels of the Choir of Mercy confirm that she is honest, and means every word.

      His shock upon the realization that even the Ophanim confirm that she is fucking serious must have been quite strong.

      Liked by 5 people

  9. I think what this chapter shows is Tariq’s insulation from incentive systems which create a disconnect between micro-level mortality and macro-level mortality, especially when applied to people with local (as opposed to global) responsibilities.

    For instance, a ruler who cares for their people and wants them to do well may be in the position where killing a single innocent person can do immense good for their people. For instance, if a neighboring state’s newfound financial muscles might destabilize your country’s markets and cause economic instability that will result in innocents starving, couldn’t you say it’s your responsible to murder one person if it can prevent that? And if your actions might cause similar negative ripple effect in their country, well, your responsibility lies with your people and not theirs. If you choose to make decisions based on the welfare of people you’re not responsible for, you will consistently fail to provide adequately for your people (in particular the people keeping you in power) and eventually be deposed.

    So. Which guides your hand? The micro-level morality of ‘murdering innocents is wrong’? Or the macro-level morality of ‘letting my people suffer is wrong’?

    Of course one could easily argue that making micro-level immoral decisions still opens you up to retaliation from those wronged by you, and that you can’t wield macro-level mortality as a shield. But then, the person you could be assassinating is also a powerful ruler who is choosing to make macro-level decisions that will hurt your people for the benefit of their own. Does that not justify a response? Is micro-level moral justification uniquely priveleged? If it’s not, well, all rulers must make such choices, does that not make them all valid targets in the games of politics? And sure, your opponent may be benefiting their people more than they hurt yours, but if such an inequality would shield them from retaliation for their decisions surely it should also shield you?

    For that matter does it even make sense to value individual lives while operating on such a level? When weilding so much power not just your decisions but mere randomness associated with your decisions -which could not possibly be predicted- will decide the fates of multiple people’s lives. Does it even make sense to make choices with individuals lives in the balance when the background noise of your existence kills and saves lives every day? When one’s death wouldn’t even show up on the margin of error of the deaths involved in your decisions, let alone the direct effects of your decisions themselves?

    At what point might it become more immoral to devote the time to weigh such deaths than to simply sign the order? Or is micro-level mortality truly priveleged and does it never become okay? What would the consequences be if rulers truly behaved as such?

    This shit is *complicated*. I’m not saying what the Proceran ruler did is right, but I am saying that sitting down and figuring out whether it is would require a lot of context, a thorough investigation, more than a little philosophy, and a whole lot of political science studies to weigh actual real world effects of varied ruling policies. And a *serious* evaluation of one’s prejudices, biases, and personal motives.

    And Tariq has just never had to do that before. The Choir of Mercy has only ever put him in situations where mercy of some flavor (from healing to mercy killing) is the right course of action. He’s never been in a situation where caring for an individual’s well-being and ‘how should I care for them?’ isn’t the whole of the moral question he faces. He’s only ever been in micro-level moral scenarios, or scenarios where mirco- and macro- morality line up. To the point where he doesn’t even fucking grasp the *concept* of the disconnect, let alone the nuance.

    And I think *that* is the core of what horrifies people about Tariq. He is an immensely powerful person who is incredibly sheltered from the concept that one’s morality should maybe change with the amount of power they wield. He is personally a decent person and driven by good things, but that ignorance is nonetheless scary in him, because on the level he operates, decency is frankly just more complicated than he imagines it to be.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I’m not entirely sure that saying your morality should change as the amount of power one had should change is necessarily phrasing things right.
      However, as the amount of power one has increases, you get faced with harder and more complex decisions about how to use that power. Especially if the amount of information you have access to increases alongside the amount of power you have.
      As a result, you get faced with relatively fewer black and white decisions and more and more shades of grey. And shades of grey are tricky and complicated.

      However, a ruler, especially, should be prioritizing the long term greater good of those they rule.
      The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, is something that still applies as well.


    2. Lord_GM

      “if a neighboring state’s newfound financial muscles might destabilize your country’s markets and cause economic instability that will result in innocents starving, couldn’t you say it’s your responsible to murder one person if it can prevent that? ”

      I‘d argue that you should try diplomacy first and simply ask that other nation not to ruin your economy before you start killing people. If they are decent people they should listen, especially If you are a Hero. If they are not then you should still try to find a solution that doesn’t involve bloodshed, because you are a Hero.

      On an even more fundamental level I think that the “my nation first” mentality you mention is flawed. I am aware that it is the standard most polititians operate by – have to operate by if they want to keep their position. Which is part of the cause of the problem.
      It is flawed because it will lead to the perception of “us vs. them“ which will lead to all kinds of problems in the long run, typically the fight over resources or wealth when there could be enough for everyone. But that is the cavemen’s group behavior for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Fayhem

    I don’t want to post the whole thing here b/c it’s pretty long and only sort-of connected to this chapter, but if any of y’all are interested I put a post up on the subreddit about Good and Evil in the Guide that I’d love to get comments/feedback on:

    And actually, on the topic of the sub – EE, if you see this comment do you think we could get a link to the subreddit on the sidebar over there? I mean, idk if that’s been suggested before but I’ve been both using reddit and reading the Guide for a while now but I still didn’t realize there was a sub I could be combining those at until I stumbled across a link in the comments during a re-read. I enjoy the comments section here, but it would be cool to have more people in a forum for discussing stuff that isn’t necessarily tied directly to a particular chapter.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Fayhem

      lol I say I don’t want to post the whole thing, little realizing that including a link would automatically replicate the whole dang post here. I, uh, don’t see a way to edit comments here. Am I just dumb or is that actually not possible?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. magesbe

        I mean, it does require a bit of scrolling, but I wouldn’t have read it if you just left a link and I’m glad I did, because your argument for how the Choirs acted is actually really insightful.

        Liked by 3 people

  11. desselordo

    Finally caught up!! As interesting as the Pilgrims backstory is, I still don’t really like the guy.
    What I really can’t wait for is Malicia and Hasenbach finding out that Cat got herself a drow army.

    Liked by 1 person

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