Interlude: West, Ever Pursuing

“Note: investigation in why sharing a problem is said to halve it remain inconclusive. Perhaps more varied trials are needed, as the tiger always ends up killing both subjects no matter the order they’re put in the cage.”
– Extract from the journal of Dread Emperor Malignant II

Lord Akil Tanja of the Grim Binder’s Blood crouched over the thinning snow and passed a hand through it, the twinge in his knees a reminder that this was not his first war but it might just be his last. He was not so old as to crumble into dust at the first touch of wind, but life away from the comfortable confines of Malaga had taken a toll on him. There were practices for a binder of his talent that might allow health to seep back into his flesh but the Lord of Malaga had always disdained their likes. He would not play chasing-games with his age by binding and devouring creatures, not even those that would survive such a perverted act. The rueful reflection on his age was forced to the side by the calm voice of his sworn enemy and ally.

“And?” Lady Aquiline asked.

“The earth beneath is still frosted,” Akil said. “These are war-grounds. Let there be blood.”

“Let there be blood,” the Lady of Tartessos agreed with a crisp nod.

Neither of them considered giving the Proceran captains marching with their host a voice in this decision. Had Prince Alvaro of Salamans survived the battle with the Stygian army there might have been need to do so out of courtesy but the man had died to the Magisterium’s dark sorceries – after taking a wound he’d melted from the inside over the night, Akil had heard – and the remaining commanders were neither highborn nor powerful enough to force the issue. They would follow the Dominion in battle, like it or not.

“They say the One-Eye will be there,” Lady Aquiline Osena of the Slayer’s Blood said. “That would be a worthy head to claim, do you not agree?”

The Silent Slayer’s quarrelsome brood, Akil thought, had always shown a distasteful obsession for the killing of famed foes. The one-eyed greenskin who had been named Marshal of Praes many years ago was perhaps the most famous alive of his kind, but if Akil understood correctly the orc must also be an old beast by now. Hardly a challenge for a sharp young killer like the Lady Aquiline. That she had spoken of an aged orc but not of the Hellhound or the Deadhand was telling, in his eyes, for while those two’s fame was fresher the ending of it would have been worthier dead. Fairer. The Lord of Malaga spat to the side before rising from his crouch.

“Shake the bushes before shooting at the sparrow, Osena,” he replied. “Marshals do not fight from the front and they have raised a fortress from nothing, these easterners.”

The lair of the Black Queen’s armies had been an impressive thing to behold, when Akil had first taken stock of it. Beneath a tall barrow crowned by raised stones a maze of death had been raised from wood, steel and earth. A deep ditch led into a palisade – a base of beaten earth, topped by spears – where legionaries kept watch night and day. Behind that first line flat grounds spread into flat killing grounds, ending in another palisade that prevented easy access to terraces filled with siege engines and crossbowmen. Deeper behind that walled camps filled with tents and protected by teeth-like bastions of earth and wood jutting outwards mad up the last line of defence that would be manned by mortals. Lord Marave’s messengers had spoken of strange lights above the barrow, after nightfall, and so Akil did not need to be told where it was that the Black Queen had made her den. These would be hard defences to crack, he knew, and Lady Aquiline’s loose talk of claiming heads displeased him. Marshals of Praes were not easy meat, nor were the villain queen’s own champions.

“Now is not the time to lose your stomach, Tanja,” the Lady of Tartessos chided. “You heard Careful Yannu’s stratagem same as me, and did not speak against the soundness of it.”

That it had been the scheme of Lord Yannu Marave had only made Akil hesitate all the more.  Aquiline Osena had not shared a border with the Champion’s Blood for most her life, unlike Akil himself, and so she could not understand why the way they called the man not Reckless or Brave but Careful Yannu should be troubling. The Lord of Malaga had fought two honour wars against Lord Yannu’s predecessor and found him a hard fighter but no great trouble. He’d sent a war-party into Alavan territory under Careful Yannu only once, though, in the moon that followed the man’s ascension to lordship.

His own cousin and boyhood playmate Jaira had led it, for she was skilled with sword and bindings both and clever in the ways of war. Yet unlike his predecessor, Yannu had not fought the raiders as they passed through the flatlands taking riches and honour. No, he’d waited until they were returning north laden with loot and prisoners. Then he’d caught them while they were fat and slow under cover of night, butchering them wholesale. Without warning, without honour duels, without anything other than death weighed and measured. Jaira had been the only survivor of the night, and Lord Yannu had dragged her to the border before opening her throat in sight of the warbands Akil had sent to reclaim his cousin. He’d then left without even hearing out the calls to duel by the warriors of Malaga.

The point made had been harsh, but so was the man: Careful Yannu was willing to let his holdings bleed if it allowed him to position himself for a killing stroke. And once crossed, he would not stay his hand in retaliation no matter who had first given insult. The Marave were steel-cast madmen who answered to only Gods and Pilgrim, and barely even those. The notion of one blessed with both their line’s talent for killing and a good mind for strategy was worth respect and wariness both. Madness and cold method were dark mothers to dark days. Lord Akil Tanja had not fought a second honour war against Alava since that pointed lesson and slept easier for it.

And now he was being told to place the fate of his captains, of his soldiers, in the hands of the Lord of Alava. A man known to sacrifice for the killing stroke, and do so without hesitation. He was tempted to refuse, to force a conference where another plan would be laid out before battle was given, but Lady Aquiline was watching him with those cold eyes. Waiting, patiently, for a misstep that would allow her to wrest command of the host from him. Razin’s mistakes had been paid for, but the taint of failure still hung over the Tanjas. If the Lady of Tartessos went to the unsworn captains, claiming he had lost his nerve, Akil could not be certain of the outcome.

“I have already said,” Lord Akil replied, “that there will be blood, Lady Aquiline. We will follow the stratagem of Careful Yannu and make war on the Enemy.”

And still, he could not help but glance at the pale and empty vista behind his host. That long expanse of snowy plains, which had until morning been broken by the eldritch sight of a passage leading into Arcadia. It was gone, now, though the remembrance of the harrowing journey through that storm-wracked hellscape would haunt them all for years to come. The League of Free Cities had not followed them through the breach, after hounding them through it, yet Akil could not help but wonder if they had not taken another path after. If there might yet be more to this battle that the armies of the Black Queen and those of the Grand Alliance. Lady Aquiline had sent for the horn-bearer granted to them by the Holy Seljun while he looked, and though she looked hungry for the honour she did not overstep.

The young boy passed him the strange carved horn inherited from days long before the Dominion, an old artefact said to have made from the tip of a guisanes‘ horn. The legendary gargantuan bulls whose stride had shaken the world and flattened hills into plains were perhaps more myth than history, but it was said a shadow of their thundering might remained in wonders crafted from their remains. Whatever the truth of it, when Lord Akil Tanja of the Binder’s Blood sounded the horn his magic shivered inside him as the deep call echoes across the plains. In the distance, after a long moment, the sister-horn in the hands of the other Dominion host offered a shuddering call in reply.

Banners rose and without further ceremony the battle began.

Marshal Juniper of the Red Shields watched her enemies advance in silence. The sight of so many soldiers on the move would have been impressive for someone who had not fought in the Arcadian Campaign or slogged through the brutality of Second Liesse, but after these Juniper had found it took much to awe her. Yet for all that the armies before her lacked the ostentatious wings and sorceries of the Courts or the relentless horror of the Diabolist’s wights and devils they were no less dangerous for it. Flesh and steel did not splash so colourful across the pages of histories as the means of monsters and villains but they worked. And the Grand Alliance had brought much of both to bear on this field and this day.

“They don’t seem to have organized beyond attacking together,” Grem One-Eye said.

The sound of Kharsum spoken crisp and clear was like a breath of fresh air straight from the steppes. Juniper let that taste of home settled in her bones before growling in agreement. The armies of the Grand Alliance had not joined before moving against her fortifications, to her relative surprise.  It might have taken them a few days to restructure after merging ranks, but they would have been stronger for it and there was not much she could do to better her own position with the means at her disposal. Her warlord had hinted that the League might be on its way to join the melee as well, Juniper noted. If her foes believed that arrival imminent, it might explain this hasty assault. This was speculation, however, and ultimately of no import to her. It was the facts that mattered. An army of eighty thousand was approaching from the northwest, under the command of Lord Yannu Marave and Princess Rozala Malanza. An army of sixty thousand was approaching from the southeast, under the command of Lord Akil Tanja. The first two commanders were known to her, and their armies as well. Of the latter commander, however, almost nothing was known save for his name.

“The northern force is the weaker one,” Juniper said. “Much of the foot from Vaccei is light and Malanza fields mostly levies. If a rout is to happen at all, it will be from there.”

The orc at her side grunted his agreement. They watched the enemy form up, and with cold eyes the Marshal of Callow sought weaknesses. The northern army advanced cautiously, which did not surprise her – she’d traded blows with them before. The Vaccei skirmishers advanced in a deep but loose screen ahead of the Proceran foot Princess Rozala had brought: a hodgepodge mixture of levies, fantassins and principality troops. Dartwick’s spies had brought back word that as much as six tenths of the Principate infantry should be levies, which was promising, but thoughts of an easy rout were put to rest by the two wings of infantry flanking the Procerans. The Lord of Alava, Yannu Marave, had brought to the crusade some of the finest heavy infantry Juniper had ever seen. Only four thousand in whole, at least, but it was marching ahead of lighter armsmen from Alava and Vaccei in much greater numbers. A sharp sword to open a breach, Juniper thought, after the skirmishers found a weakness.

“Malanza has the horse again, looks like,” Marshal Grem said.

The banner told it true, though she found the other orc made as wary as she felt by the way the near ten thousand horse – mixed Proceran and Levantine horse, though vastly more so Proceran than the other – the Princess of Aequitan led was peeling off from the rest of the army and moving towards the south. The mass of cavalry was moving slowly, but in good order.

“She didn’t make the plan for this,” Juniper said. “She’s much more aggressive a commander than that, she’d keep the horse close on the flanks to try a charge if opportunity arose.”

“Lord Yannu then,” Grem said. “Shame. He’s a hard one to bait.”

“Too much to hope for he spends the Vaccei foot against the palisades, I suppose,” Juniper muttered.

The older man twitched in amusement. The daring raids and ambushes from the Vaccei warriors and their vicious warleaders of the Bandit’s Blood had not endeared the Levantines to either orc. Juniper found her eyes drifting south, to the other army, and found her back prickling. Most of what she saw there she had expected. The enemy was moving with skirmishers ahead, though the screen was much smaller than the northern army’s, with two massed forces of infantry behind it. One Proceran and one Levantine. The Principate foot here should be mostly professional soldiers, Juniper thought, which explained why unlike in the northern army’s formation they’d not been placed between steadier soldiers to hold up their spine. The detail that had her hackles raising was the detachment of cavalry splitting off from the army, a solid seven thousand moving north. From a bird’s eye view, the Hellhound considered, within the hour there would be a point where her camp was as the centre of a neat square.

“They think they have a way to breach the palisades,” the Marshal of Callow said. “Interesting.”

The Marshal of Praes squinted his one eye, gazing at the moving cavalries. He arrived, she suspected, at the same conclusion she had: they were being positioned to hit forces defending the palisades from sudden angles after a path suddenly being opened for them.

“The reserves are readied,” Grem One-Eye said, baring his fangs. “Let them try.”

A moment later the skirmish lines of the northern army entered the first killing yard the Marshals had prepared for them and the slaughter began.

Moro of the Brigand’s Blood had lost thirty warriors in the time it took to drink a skin of water. He was not stranger to death dealt and received, but the sheer suddenness of it took him by surprise. The traps had been cleverly hidden, he thought, covered with a thin layer of snow and earth. And they must have been dug at night, for even with watcher his mother’s had not known of them. Not all warriors who’d fallen in the pits had died to the sharp stake at the bottom, but all had taken wounds – and their screams had brought hesitation where before there had been only courage. The warriors of his lands, Moro would admit to himself, were not used to being on this side of the traps and were not taking it well. The heir to Vaccei had called a halt, and sent for what he thought might just be the solution to the troubles. It wasn’t long before the priests answered his call, for the Lanterns were never far from the vanguard of strife. A full battle-party of thirteen had come in answer, to his pleasure, and the eldest among them sought him out.

“Honoured Son,” the woman greeted him. “You seek illumination?”

“I seek to walk within the Light,” Moro agreed. “For me and mine to follow its paths.”

The woman’s face-paint, golden and pale, hid her expression well. He could not tell whether she approved or disapproved of his request, which while not presumptuous was still a request – for some of the Lanterns just that was enough to give offence. They were a touchy lot. Regardless, after a heartbeat she suddenly whipped around and a lance of Light struck out. Twenty feet forward, it broke through a thin layer of snow and earth to reveal the trap under.

“Follow, then, Moro of the Brigand’s Blood,” the Lantern said.

Her companions spread out, and at the fore of Moro’s own warriors came men and women bearing long perches. They would reveal these traps, he smiled, for the Enemy had been foolish enough to lay them far out of crossbow range.

General Hune Egelsdottir waited until it was clear no more of the warrior-priests would reinforce the frontlines.  She glanced at her senior mage, mildly amused by how eager he seemed to be to act.

“Fire,” she ordered. “On special assets only.”

Behind her, rituals bloomed as the mage cadres finally received the authorization to act. One, two, three, four, five: she long spears of flame formed and were sent out like massive arrows. Without scrying to adjust the trajectory it was unpleasantly imprecise business to use these sorts of rituals, as shown by the rituals. All were impacts – the ogre made a note to commend the officers leading the rituals – but only three of the priests were turned to cinders.

No matter, it was only the first volley.

“Again,” the general of the Second Army ordered, the faintest trace of a smile on her face.

Lord Yannu Marave sat atop his horse and thoughtfully chewed the mouthful of bread he’d ripped from the loaf, eyeing the falling javelins of flame.

Princess Rozala had told him the Army of Callow had used such ritual sorceries before, though allegedly it had not since the Hierophant had left its ranks for destination. It would have been sloppy, however, to assume that meant without the Bestowed they could not. So he hadn’t, instead preparing the same manner of defences the Proceran armies had at the Battle of the Camps. The priests from the House of Light, that tame Proceran breed, were shuffled to the front and ordered to form protective panes of Light. The Vaccei warriors were not yellow-bellied, and so did not need much haranguing before their advance resumed.

Grem One-Eye leaned forward and Juniper grinned, broad and fierce. They had, she believed, noticed the same detail. Though the ritual sorcery had been checked by priest intervention once more, there’d been a departure from the way that trick had been used at the Camps. Instead of massive layered shields covering the entire frontline, this time the Grand Alliance had resorted to a mere half dozen large panes protecting where the rituals had been striking. Dartwick’s spies, the Hellhound was forced to admit, had actually provided useful military intelligence.

“They’re spread thin on priests,” the Marshal of Praes laughed. “Too many wars, Hasenbach, too many wars.”

The Marshal of Callow did not reply, for her gaze had turned south where battle was finally being joined. General Abigail, the Hellhound had decided, was in need of thorough tempering. Her command at the southern front should serve, for a start.

The pit traps had not been part of the warnings Lord Marave had passed, but Aquiline Osega was not moved by the loss of a few dozen skirmishers. In the hunting of a foe strong and cunning, such deaths were inevitable. The Lady of Tartessos had been riding behind the last of the slingers and javelinmen, a handful of captains at her side, when she ordered the assault to be halted. Inevitable losses or not, she would not countenance simply throwing soldiers at the traps until a safe path emerged. Her favoured captain, dearest Elvera – who had such a dark reputation, with some, but to Aquiline remained the smiling woman who’d taught her how to reply to scraped knees with broken teeth – quietly reminded her that with Lord Yannu’s force advancing there could be no long halt without leaving his army exposed to the full attention of the enemy. Feeling out the traps with perches would take too long, Lady Aquiline had decided. No, it was time for bold steps. The rider she sent to that hard-eyed old monster Akil Tanja returned with the answer she’d wanted: the binders of Malaga would take the lead.

Reining in her horse, it was an effort for the Lady of Tartessos not to show the thrum of excitement she felt at the notion of seeing the finest sorcerers of Levant in the fullness of their war-making. When had been the last time Creation witnesses such a thing, she wondered? Not since the Sepulcher War, at least, and perhaps not even then. A mere hundred men and women in thick coats of leather and iron grey cloth marched to the front, skulls and bones and claws bound by fine brass chains. The spread out in a line, and one of them raised a hand. There was a grinding scream, like a hundred blades being scraped against each other, and a translucent drop formed in the air a few feet in front of the binder. The ground beneath it, snow and earth and snow, was sucked upwards by some invisible force that broke it all down to grains. The other binders followed in the first one’s wake, drops forming one after another and the scream becoming utterly deafening. And still Aquiline did not look away for a moment, for in front of her spirits were being given shape.

The first one shaped a wyvern, the winged creature with the long stinger-tipped tail letting out a scream all too-real before it began to advance and strike at the ground to reveal traps. The snow and earth it was made from shifted like true flesh and sinew, for the spirit the binder had called forth still remembered the body it has once worn. It was a company of beasts that was brought forth, manticores and griffins and culebron. Even a few creatures she did not recognize: her, the Lady of Tartessos, whose true domain was the savage Brocelian!

The beasts of snow and earth sprang forward, implacable and relentless.

General – despite her best efforts – Abigail of Summerholm idly wondered if you got a worse penalty for deserting when you were a general. She’d assumed it couldn’t get worse than hanging, and that could only happen the once, but considered the amount of Wastelanders enrolled in the Army of Callow she just couldn’t be sure. Well, there was nowhere to run to anyway so it was all academic in the end.

“Burn those up, boys,” she called out.

Krolem relayed the order more proper-like, wonderful aide that he was. Behind the generals rituals bloomed, but Abigail just had this sinking feeling it wasn’t going to be enough.

It wasn’t pessimism, she told herself, if you were part of the Army of Callow.

73 thoughts on “Interlude: West, Ever Pursuing

  1. magesbe

    The battle begins. I can’t wait to see how this will play out. Also, can someone more observant than me tell me what time of day this occurred? I think it’s daytime judging by the fact that everyone can see well.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. magesbe

        They could be being held back as a trump card of sorts, so while this is true it isn’t precisely evidence either.

        On a different note, is it morning? By that I mean, are 95% of the Drow currently snoozing? Probably not enough information for that one.

        Liked by 5 people

          1. caoimhinh

            Like Hune said: “Fire, on special assets only”.

            Most of us expect this to be the Princes’ Graveyard, of course, this could be another battle and the Princes’ Graveyard be actually one of the battles of the Grand Alliance + Callow against the Dead King where Procer lost a lot of their princes and only won due to Catherine’s crazy strategies (which would make sense and be quite a plot twist at the same time).
            Given the relationship between Callow and Procer, when we were given the name “Princes’ Graveyard” for a future battle of Catherine, we immediately jumped to the assumption that it is a battle against Procer (how could we not, given what we had seen and what we saw afterward in the Crusade?), but we have to remember that there WILL be battles with the joined armies against Keter, and honestly I don’t believe Catherine would be completely open about her plans to the other nations when she isn’t to her own Generals.
            Organizing the Grand Alliance forces so far hasn’t been any ordained and clear chain of command with one General giving orders to the others but rather “You, take your forces to this position and then make plans on your own to hold that ground, kill the enemies there, and recapture lost territory”, this is due to political issues and also because of the sheer size of the battlefronts.
            My guess is Callow will be assigned to one of the Northeastern principalities where they can be the closest force to the Eastern front where the Drow are, which would let Klaus Papenheim free to give aid to the Lycaonese principalities that are fighting alone. I still believe that when the war is over the ones who will actually be grateful and remember Catherine’s actions will be the Lycaonese.

            So, while this is likely to be Princes’ Graveyard and all the hints are there (even the thing with Larat getting his Seven Crowns and One), the Princes’ Graveyard might still be a future battle against Procer, or even a battle alongside Procer against the Dead King.

            Liked by 6 people

    1. IDKWhoitis

      Yeah, the Alliance armies don’t have many people who can see in the dark well, versus the Army of Callow that has Drow and Goblins. It’s most likely in board daylight.

      Liked by 7 people

    2. ______

      Larat said that the League would follow within the hour, and there’s no sign of them so far. It could be that Kairos is hanging back and waiting for the casualties to rack up, but given that they didn’t have the time to form up, they might have actually started marching immediately.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. caoimhinh

        Larat merely said there would be a break within the hour, through which the League troops would come out, but that doesn’t mean the break would be close to them. Akil confirmed that despite the League pursuing them through the hellscape they did not pursue them out of the break (which stayed open until the morning).
        Also, it’s not that they didn’t have the time to form up, Juniper said that if the two armies joined they would need days to reorganize, so they attacked without joining.

        Liked by 2 people

    3. caoimhinh

      I think it is close to noon, given how Akil said that the breach was open until morning came. They arrived the day before through the gate Vivienne and Larat reported to Cat, given how they needed to rest after crossing the hellscape that Masego made from that shard of Arcadia, contact with Yannu and Rozala’s forces, check the plan, inform their captains, make their own camp, eat and organize for the fight, etc. it’s likely they used most of the morning to rest and prepare. So my estimation is around 10-11 a.m.

      By the way, this also means that Cat is gone already, riding with the Wild Hunt to engage Pilgrim and Tyrant, since the end of last chapter Cat said she would ride with them at nightfall.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Andrew Mitchell

        Your comment about Cat being gone with the Wild Hunt is a good one although I think it’s just about Pilgrim & the Saint and not (yet) the Tyrant.

        If Cat has engaged then I’m surprised that the Levantine leaders haven’t heard about it yet.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. caoimhinh

          Well, Cat expects Kairos to show up or influence the things happening, but I agree with you, Kairos is likely to show up right after the battle is over, which is when the letter Cat sent him will come into action.

          I’m not sure that the Levantine leaders can find out what’s happening in Arcadia, it’s more likely that Pilgrim and co. are over there and whatever happens there will only be known to the armies after Cat and Pilgrim return.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. danh3107

    I feel like I should’ve extrapolated from the name, but the binders being summoners of monster spirits really is the coolest. Also I kinda wish we had seen that bandit’s blood guy’s face after seeing several lanterns incinerated in an instant.

    Liked by 20 people

  3. Hmmm.

    Just how coordinated can the Alliance armies be? There’s apparently a shared plan of sorts, but how detailed can that be?

    Heh, Abigail keeps trying and failing to avoid increased responsibilities and danger. I expect she’s going to have more to complain about by the time this is over.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. IDKWhoitis

      They might be relying on captains more, with a general plan set up on the larger stage. If the situation goes FUBAR, they might not react well, and could possibly see a Rout.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. They may not have brought those along, but in any case the troops probably aren’t close enough for war machines yet. It’s a bad sign for the attackers when they had to play their summonners, and started losing priests, at the outermost defenses.

      Liked by 4 people

  4. IDKWhoitis

    I don’t see much mention of the Drow, so are they the reserve or are they a detachment that is hiding elsewhere?

    I’m wondering if Cat will make an appearance at the frontlines like good old times, she could close a breach. But she might be out and about hunting with the Fae, so they might have unconventional tactics planned.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. danh3107

      They probably have a stratagem that lets them deepstrike on turn two like devils. It’s smart of the marshals to used their allied detachment’s strengths while reserving their command points for other important situations. (sorry for the dumb 40k joke)

      Liked by 8 people

    2. caoimhinh

      Given that this is happening somewhere between late morning and early afternoon, the Drow are still weakened. They will likely be called on later.

      Cat left the night before with the Wild Hunt, so it’s unlikely she will appear on the frontlines until much later on, she is probably within the hellscape Arcadia shard that’s Masego’s current mad lab, and Pilgrim and Tyrant are likely there too.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Andrew Mitchell

      I don’t think they really talked at all about the disposition of Juniper and Grem’s forces so it’s not surprising that there hasn’t been a mention of the Drow.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. In his defence, this is the only way to write a running series. He does intent on publication, so all those cliffhangers will be reworked, as well as many, many inconsistencies and typos. We are basically reading beta version, and not even as editors, those guys will not even start rummaging through our comments and ‘ll be smarter for that.

          Liked by 4 people

  5. caoimhinh

    Nice interlude.
    It’s cool to see the different perspectives of the Generals trying to outsmart each other:

    A: *Makes a move*
    B: “I see your move and raise you this move!”
    A: “Ha! I knew you’d do that, you fell into my trap!”
    B: “I knew there was a trap, so I prepared this countermeasure!”
    A: “Fool! I knew that you knew there was a trap, so I prepared a second layer to counter your countermeasure!”
    And then the winner will be the one who can see the furthest down that path of iterations. At least until the whole Tariq vs Catherine vs Kairos thing is resolved, given that their 3-way battle of wits and Story Fu is what ultimately will decide things on the bigger picture, though the battle between no Named is also a huge determining factor and the result of it will be used as a blade for the aforementioned Named in their own triple chess.

    It’s interesting to contrast the attitude of Lord Tanja and Lady Aquiline, while he is paranoid and wary of her at every time thinking that she is scheming against him and trying to take command from him (which she actually might be doing but not in the personal way he seems to think she is doing it), Aquiline seems to actually respect him and made no further mental comment about him than “cold-eyed old monster” and it was made evident she holds the binders in great esteem and maybe admiration, given how fascinated she was when seeing them in action.

    Abbigail really is like Catherine in a lot of ways, eh? It’s more evident with each chapter that she is Cat’s spiritual successor. She even has her own wonderful and efficient Orc aide to relay her orders in a proper manner. I wonder if she is walking the crevice in Fate (you know, the one Roles are made from) that Catherine started “Callow military girl with an efficient Orc adjutant, rising through the ranks by displaying skill in troubled times, to defeat the enemies of her country”. Whether she gets a Name or not is not that important, but Cat forged a new story and Abby is continuing it.

    P.S: I’d like to see Grem’s POV. And the Drow, because everyone in those armies is going to lose their shit when they see the Drow wielding Night.

    Not a typo, but rather a suggestion of adding commas:
    -Deeper behind that walled camps / Deeper behind that, walled camps
    -with Lord Yannu’s force advancing there could be no long halt / with Lord Yannu’s force advancing, there could be no long halt

    Typos found:
    -mad up / made up
    -for even with watcher his mother’s had not known of them / I’m not sure what this sentence is supposed to be, maybe “for even with his mother’s watchers, he had not known of them”? Or perhaps “for even with watchers -his mother’s- he had not known of them”.
    -she long spears / the long spears
    -the last time Creation witnesses such a thing / the last time Creation witnessed such a thing
    -The spread out / They spread out
    -considered the amount of Wastelanders / considering the amount of Wastelanders

    Liked by 7 people

      1. caoimhinh

        Indeed, and if we have seen anything of Procer and Levant is that their political situations are always a shit storm, with people of power making nation-wide messes out of personal grudges and ambition.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Sean

      Oh, that is a great theory! It’s been remarked countless times how similar Abigal is to Cat, but I never considered she might be following the groove Cat carved into creation. It will be interesting to see if she ends up as Squire or Black Knight (depending on what happens to Asmodeus).

      Liked by 1 person

          1. RoflCat

            Names come from desire to change, the thought that the world is wrong and you have an idea of what it should be.

            Abigail is like the opposite of that, she’s aware the world’s fucked, but she just don’t care to change things, she simply try to do her best to not get hit by the debris in the river as she flow along with it.

            Hierarch became that because Kairos basically broke him by putting him into environment that constantly trigger his “you people are wrong” thoughts.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Nah, the Hierarch did have a strong belief into how the Creation should be run, as well the willingness to see it through, it’s just that his particular set of beliefs took the right to make decisions from his own hands and into the hands of others. He is a Named to end all Names, which is still a Name, as is a story to end all stories is still a story.

            And best girl Abigail does not have any strong beliefs or desires. I mean she doesn’t want to die, or work in tannery, or well really, work earnestly, and is everything wrong with current generation, but she doesn’t really WANT it, it’s more like a preference:”Welp, it’d be good not to die before supper, there is some mystery stew to be had, but if I die, not a big deal, soup’s going to suck anyway”

            Liked by 1 person

    2. Or, to quote one character in Yu-Gi-Oh “I counter the effect that counters the effect that counters the effect that counters the effect that counters the effect that counters the effect!” Yes, that was actuall dialogue.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Oh, Yu-Gi-Oh, the game that best represents Guideverse (TV version, not that abomination that some people birthed into our world), where the rules only really exist to show how strong and smart the protagonist is, while ignoring both itself, continuity, and general common sense, and of course, blissfully unable to count to save itself.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. caoimhinh

      Yep, after all, the interludes and chapters’ names are always related in some manner or theme (ballet techniques, chess moves, theatre terms, etc).
      I wonder what it will be this time, “East, Ever Dreadful” perhaps? Maybe we’ll get a third interlude and it’s called “North, Ever Dark” with the Drow showing Night’s prowess.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. caoimhinh

        Oh, right! This is from the final verse of “Tyranny of the Sun”, I had forgotten about it, thanks.
        And “Fate Writ In Dread” is an awesome name for next interlude, because before the Alliance forces get wrecked by the Army of Callow and Drow, there needs to be a moment where the Alliance looks like it’s gonna win.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Aotrs Commander

    The Dominion, ye gods. And this is where so many of the quote-unquote heroes come from?

    I’m sure the Klingons would approve.

    (That was not a complement.)

    Liked by 6 people

    1. caoimhinh

      The Dominion of Levant has been shown to be ruled by madmen obsessed with honor, fame and bloodlines, they are also very hypocritical because they have a King and a royal family (the Holy Seljun from the Pilgrim’s Blood, they even call it their seat a throne) yet claim they don’t have kings, and believe they are better because of it. And their nobility, the descendants of the Heroes who founded that nation, have brainwashed the rest of the population into adoring them for their bloodlines, at least in other countries the nobility can be overthrown and a new house emerge. This is impossible in Levant.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I don’t know where you get that, the Holy Seljun is literally a Caliph, the whole Levant and Majilis should’ve tipped you off. And Sunni Caliph is no king, but merely the overseer of sharia. He can’t really change laws, tor the laws were given from above, but merely ensure that everyone follows them. And Dominion is even more liberal than actual Caliphate, because there were basically five Muhammeds (plz don’t blow me (unless you’re a pretty woman and have no explosives)), and while Pilgrim’s Blood is technically acknowledged to be superior, it’s more the case of [i]princeps[/i] or “first among equals”. The name Dominion reflects the semi-independent nature of the relationship between the various Bloods.

        Just just read this:

        “a Caliph or ruler who becomes either unjust or severely ineffective must be impeached via the Majlis”

        A Holy Seljun is repeatedly stated to be a religious leader first and foremost, and it is basically proven by implied regular wars between various factions inside Dominion. Now, about whether other bloods can be considered to he kings or not, well, while nobles, the kings they are not. Let’s start with the fact that religious authority is both superceding and detached from their hands, as interaction with Lanterns clearly demonstrates. But absolute authority and independence those Lords have not. They much more reminding of tribal leaders.

        Liked by 8 people

        1. Cap'n Smurfy

          This really explains the whole political structure of the Dominion really well, thank you. I was curious about how they were different from traditional monarchies.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. caoimhinh

          You are partially right. Just because the Holy Seljun of Levant is inspired by the Caliphate does not mean that it is the same or that it works in the same manner.

          The Caliph worked as you said (although I disagree on the matter of Caliphs not being able to change the law; they couldn’t change the Islamic precepts and their state laws were mostly based on the Qoran and those could not be changed, true, but not every law in the country came from the Qoran and those could be changed), but the Holy Seljun seems more inclined towards the Shiite version of Caliph (Blood descendants of the Prophet, in this case, The Grey Pilgrim), rather than the Sunni vision (elected by votes), in the Guide, they are a mixture, the Seljun can appoint a successor and there will be votes in case there isn’t a clear designated successor as we saw in the Peregrine extra chapters, but in every case they are from the Pilgrim’s Blood.
          Similarly, not always the eldest child inherits the throne in a kingdom or empire, but the one who has the most backing, either by the previous ruler or the nobles (it is for this reason that there were so many internal fights and assassinations among royal families, as they fought for succession, both in our world and in the different countries of the Guide, including Levant as we saw in Peregrine Extra chapters).

          It is also true that the four bloodlines of the Heroes that accompanied the founding Grey Pilgrim enjoy a great deal of independence in their decisions and have the right to “honor wars” for whatever stupid excuse they come up with (this is, as you have pointed out, due to something akin to a religious belief), but not even the King of Callow nor Dread Emperor of Praes held absolute authority over everything their nobles did, and they even suffered impeachment, rebellion, and execution if they stepped too much out of line.

          Point is, just because the name is different and the nature of the family’s ascension to power is different doesn’t mean that they aren’t royalty. Seljuns are kings with another name, and their title is passed down through their bloodline just like any other royal family, that it is thought of as a Gods’ given title isn’t that much different from the Catholic Kings.

          Different culture and reason, but they are still undeniably royalty.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. I agree with you on corrections, but the exact amount of authority Seljun is able to project is not clear from what we know in the books. The inheritance through blood is not the only, or indeed, most important part of monarchy. And I thought Sunni caliphs still supposed to be blood relatives of the Prophet, no? Anyway, I suppose they do technically fall inder a broader definition of monarchy, but I also think that their boast about having no Kings meant that they don’t have a specific kind of more centralised monarchies of the east. In my eyes, Dominion is more a confederation between five nobles, with highest legislative organ being the council of those rive nobles with equal voting rights and the right of veto.

            “The current Seljun, the figurehead ruler of the Dominion, had officially deferred the decision of whether or not to join the Tenth Crusade to the Majilis. Though literature often drew comparison between the Highest Assembly and the Majilis, for they were both councils composed of the highest nobility in their respective nations, Cordelia had never found much similarity beyond the surface trappings. The Levantine council was a toothless and ineffectual beast, with every lord and lady among it having right of veto and every interest in ensuring power was never centralized within the Dominion lest their own privileges be curbed. Princess Eliza of Salamans had fought two wars and died an attainted traitor to ensure the Highest Assembly would never be such a plague on Procer, or the First Prince relegated to being little more than a first among equals. As it was, the entire Majilis had come to Salia to treat with her. The five lords and ladies of Levant, all descended from heroes. Cordelia’s agents suspected every one of them had applied veto if a smaller delegation did not involve them personally, and she was inclined to believe it.”

            Liked by 2 people

            1. caoimhinh

              True, what we have seen of the inner politics of the Dominion is limited, the most insight about the position of Holy Seljun is provided by the Peregrine extra chapters. In those, we see that the Seljun is always from Pilgrim’s Blood but to ascend to the Tattered Throne they need to first be elected by the Majilis, a council composed by the heads of the other four families descending from the founders of Levant.
              But those chapters also showed us that a Seljun is very influential and their decisions obeyed by the lords and ladies of the Dominion, this allowed Yasa Isbili (Tariq’s older sister) to bring great changes to their country such as raising more soldiers to strengthen their armies, fixing roads and getting the lords and ladies to put the coin for it, and it was also the reason Tariq killed his nephew, because if Izil Isbili ascended to the Throne then there would be war against Procer (if, as you imply, the Holy Seljun was a mere figurehead without real power and influence, then Tariq wouldn’t have needed to kill his nephew to stop an imminent war against Procer).
              So the Holy Seljun of Levant IS capable of making and changing laws, declaring war against other countries, even holds influence over the historical records (when Tariq was expelled and disowned by his mother, his presence was removed from all records in the Dominion, not only in the capital ruled by the Seljun), and is the one who rules trade and signs treaties, although those decisions can be deferred to the Majilis and there is one thing that must always be safeguarded: Honour. The thing that the Lords and Ladies of Levant have as paramount is Honour, and they will do everything and anything to earn and protect that (wage war with each other, kill the ones who have slighted them, keep courtesy at all times, follow tradition, hunt dangerous beasts, search for a glorious death, etc.). And while the position of Holy Seljun is only attained with the votes of the other four lords and ladies, once on that position the Seljun is treated as a powerful and influential figure with real authority.

              Now, as you pointed out with the extract from Cordelia’s thoughts, they could be an ineffectual lot and keep bickering and backbiting (this is, as I have said above, due to their obsession with honor, which perpetuates feuds among the lords and ladies and thus prevents them from real cooperation) but Cordelia tends to be a bit of a hypocrite when it comes to Procer, its politics, and the way it acts.
              The Highest Assembly has been proven to be a bunch of people who only care about money and always make political schemes to obtain this (except for the four Lycaonese principalities, as their primary concerns are always about fighting Ratlings and the Dead King, sacrificing themselves protecting the realm while watching their southern compatriots’ petty schemes), and Cordelia in that extract claims that the First Prince is not just first among equals, yet we know that it is in fact exactly that; in almost every single chapter that shows Cordelia’s POV, she is worried about being removed from her position (it was even the excuse that the Pilgrim gave Catherine for not using Levant to force Procer into making peace with Callow, as doing that would have Cordelia impeached within the month).

              The way each country elects its leaders has its own advantages and disadvantages: Levant is more stable since the Isbili family will always be the rulers given the religious fervor every levantine holds for the Grey Pilgrim and his descendants, but the Honour issue keeps the other four families constantly at odds with each other; Procer is unstable due to them changing leaders constantly as the Princes fight each other all the time “The Ebb and the Flow” as they call it, and have come to treat it as petty games where a principality gathers armies to fight another and the winner gets to impose a treaty to the loser, in exchange, the ruler of the Principate is always the Prince or Princess with the most influence over the country, but the Highest Assembly (by Cordelia’s own words with Catherine) keeps the First Prince in check (alledgedly from abusing their position and perpetuating in office), and every big decision of the First Prince must be supported by the Assembly before it can be made effective, and getting the new decrees accepted can cost them influence, favors, debts, and money, which down the line can be needed to prevent being removed from the position (we have seen Cordelia hesitate when acting EVERY SINGLE TIME due to this).

              So I stand on my initial point, the Holy Seljun is King of Levant in all but name, the Isbili are a royal family, and their right to rule is considered a Gods’ given thing in the Dominion; the only thing the Seljun must always keep in mind when ruling is the Honor of the other four family heads and they will obey, because that same honor compels them to follow the decrees of the successor of the Grey Pilgrim’s Blood, who they revere with religious fervor. Of course, that is a tricky and complex matter, given that anything can be a slight to those nobles and each family has their own eccentricities (even during this Crusade it was explicitly said that there are some families that can’t be put together in a joined army because they would be at each other throats).


  7. So, how the battle is going to proceed? The first important part od that prediction, is a name. Is it an already alluded to “Princes’ Graveyard”? On one hand, there are seven anointed rulers of Procer, and this is supposed to be the last battle of Callow and Grand Alliance, so there likely would not be any more Princes to fight. On the other hand, such a wholesale destruction needed to get to the Proceran rulers is not in the interest of either side, there are at least two Princesses (which may indicate though, who will survive the battle), and it seems strange that only a slaughter of Proceran rulers will influence a name, since that either implies that Levantine Lords survived (perhaps leaving the fight under Pilgrim’s orders or getting captured) or that it was not important enough to garner attention, which seems unlikely. Most importantly though, Cat needs to lose in the incoming battle, and the losses are required to be nonexistent, although, perhaps, only she has to lose, and not her armies. And the lose may be a necessary leverage for both Tyrant and Cat.

    Personally, I have a feeling that this is not a Princes’ Graveyard, but the rate of my predictions about PGtE suggests that I am wrong. So I can safely concluded that this is in fact, a Princes’ Graveyard.

    Now we got many factors for this battle, so let’s start with numbers:

    In terms of sheer numbers there is basic equality, GA has 120k troops, 40 of which is Malanza’s army, consisting mostly of levies and being generally disunited due to many Princes on the field, two 40k Levantine armies, and 20k of professional Proceran soldiers, separated into 80k and 60k hosts. 80k host has 4k of apparently amazing heavy infantry and has 10k in horse, while 60k host has at least 7k of cavalry.

    Callow has overall 110k troops, of which 20k are Praesi Legions (or anywhere between 15 and 18k, the number are notoriously inconsistent), 40k (37, really) of Army of Callow, and 50k drow auxiliaries. The knightly order bring about an unknown number of cavalry, but given that it’s both hilariously outnumbered by Proceran 17k and based on previous numbers, I’d put it anywhere between 3 and 5k. Oh, they also have a dragon. And necromancing legion.

    Now from what I understand, this is broad daylight, probably closer to the morning, so drow are almost entirely incapacitated. That brings effective number of Callow to be around 60k, which is now outnumbered by GA by 2 to 1.

    Now, Callow has a terrain advantage as they are on the defensive, and had time to prepare the grounds. They have camp surrounding a barrow, which is, as we well know, a male hog castrated before sexual maturity (look it up!), surrounded by an alledged bastion, and then, two more polisades, with killing fields in front of each. Now there, ya have ta correct me if I’m wrong.

    Now there are three outside hanging swords. First, there is a lake Artoise where Cordelia dredged up some corpses and look at that, it’s conveniently near. The second is Masego’s falling piece of Arcadia. And the third is the Tyrant and his cronies, ready to pop out on the earliest convenience.

    The third one limits time of the engagement, for both, really, but particularly for GA.

    The drow will be held back until dusk, for they are an unknown quantity and as such, have an element of surprise at their side. At night they’re most powerful, so this is where they will be used, maximising their potential.

    So legions have to defend till dusk, which is around 8 hours. They have more than enough walls to cling to and space to give up, all of those in exchange for time until the counter-offensive.

    The GA have a stratagem, but I got bored halfway through.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. caoimhinh

      It is still possible that the Princes’ Graveyard is a future battle, or even a battle of the Grand Alliance + Callow against the Dead King, just that in said battle Procer will lose a lot of princes, but yeah, odds are this battle here is the Princes’ Graveyard we are all expecting.

      I wonder where the Dragon is, it might have flown away given how it doesn’t really care much about what happens to others, how something as notorious as a Dragon would have been mentioned at least once since Cat joined with their armies, and it also apparently didn’t fight when the First Army was on the brink of defeat. So I believe it is no longer there and just flew to somewhere else to sleep, the Necromancers are likely still there with the army, though.

      As for the corpse that Cordelia ordered dragged out of the lake, remember that Lake Artoise is so massive that it has shores with 7 principalities (Salia which is Procer’s capital, Lange, Cantal, Creusens, Aequitan, Salamans, and Iserre where this battle is being fought), so my guess is that whatever she dredged out was taken via Salia and is on its way North to be used against the Dead King, as Cordelia said: “Fire against fire”.

      Masego’s situation will be solved in Arcadia through the encounter of Cat and Pilgrim, while I believe the Tyrant will appear after the battle is over to serve as the safeguard of the Army of Callow when it is leaving Iserre.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. “…but the rate of my predictions about PGtE suggests that I am wrong. So I can safely conclude…”

      LOL! But yeah, I’d expect the Legion troops will be turtleing up until the Drow come online. I don’t think Cordelia’s find is going to be immediately relevant. Masego may intervene but probably not during the main fight; those troops did get through without being swarmed by demons, and if that wasn’t by his will he’s likely to take an interest. If he does intervene in the battle proper, he’s likely to mess up Catherine’s plans. The Tyrant himself probably isn’t present, and his troops are basically more currently-warm bodies on the field. Enough to make trouble for the Legions, but I doubt they can stand against the Drow at night.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Also: The Drow aren’t just 50k of troops, they’re also half an empire’s worth of Night’s answer to Named. Meaning they can eat the Procerans for lunch, and probably the Levantines too, binders or no. The question is, do the attacking troops realize they have a time limit?


  8. caoimhinh

    It is still possible that the Princes’ Graveyard is a future battle, or even a battle of the Grand Alliance + Callow against the Dead King, just that in said battle Procer will lose a lot of princes, but yeah, odds are this battle here is the Princes’ Graveyard we are all expecting.

    I wonder where the Dragon is, it might have flown away given how it doesn’t really care much about what happens to others, how something as notorious as a Dragon would have been mentioned at least once since Cat joined with their armies, and it also apparently didn’t fight when the First Army was on the brink of defeat. So I believe it is no longer there and just flew to somewhere else to sleep, the Necromancers are likely still there with the army, though.

    As for the corpse that Cordelia ordered dragged out of the lake, remember that Lake Artoise is so massive that it has shores with 7 principalities (Salia which is Procer’s capital, Lange, Cantal, Creusens, Aequitan, Salamans, and Iserre where this battle is being fought), so my guess is that whatever she dredged out was taken via Salia and is on its way North to be used against the Dead King, as Cordelia said: “Fire against fire”.

    Masego’s situation will be solved in Arcadia through the encounter of Cat and Pilgrim, while I believe the Tyrant will appear after the battle is over to serve as the safeguard of the Army of Callow when it is leaving Iserre.


  9. After the battle, there are also those dire hints about what may happen if Larat gets their seven crowns plus one… even the Summer Princess was scared, and oddly, so was Larat. So it’s not as simple as “Larat becomes Fae Lord Of The World”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. caoimhinh

      I’m from Colombia, a Spanish-speaking country, so that term caught my attention.
      I mentioned it in a comment back in Yannu’s first appearance, when he was reminiscing about his instincts saving him from a Culebron years ago, the word in Spanish is “culebrón” with a tilde, and means “big snake” in a bit of an informal way, with “Culebra” being the Spanish word for a non-venomous snake.
      It seems Levant has quite a huge and prolific fauna of magical creatures.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s