Interlude: When Iron Rests

“What poison is to medicine, war is to empire: apportionment is the balance of life and death.”
– Extract from ‘The Ruin of Empire, or, a Call to Reform of the Highest Assembly’, by Princess Eliza of Salamans

Word of the surrender had rippled through the ranks, drawing out cries of dismay and anger before they both turned to disbelief.

There’d been tension between the Legions and the Army of Callow, when some loudmouths in the former had started to say this was just an elaborate way to sell out the Legions of Terror to the Grand Alliance, but Vivienne had been ready to quell such stupidity. Plants in the ranks had done as instructed, gone on the offensive and accused the complainers of being traitors in Grand Alliance employ. Enough of those arguments had turned to brawl that sergeants got involved, so now the most volatile of the rank and file were cooling their heels under arrest until this could be played out to the end. On the side of the Army of Callow there’d been mostly outrage and laying blame, which to Vivienne’s mix of grief and amusement had been laid along predictable lines. Callowan recruits blamed the Hellhound, or more frequently Marshal Grem One-Eye – whose role in the Conquest still had him closely associated to national wounded pride. Most of the eastern recruits, though, both the fresh and those brought in from gutted legions after the Doom, tended to point the finger at Vivienne Dartwick.

Hardly unexpected: she the most visible civilian authority over the Army of Callow, a known former noble and former heroine. And for the greenskins, most damnably of all she had no famous feat of violence to her name. It was something to look into remedying, in the long term, though it was hardly a priority at the moment. The amusing part of all this, of course, was that while it’d been Catherine who’d pulled the rug out under everyone’s feet with that sudden turn no one seemed to be blaming her in the slightest. Vivienne had absolutely no intention of changing that, since there were only a few things keeping the Kingdom of Callow together and one of them was the myth of the Black Queen undefeated, the kingdom’s own crowned villain whose uninterrupted string of victories had become the backbone of a nation. It would have to be maintained, Vivienne thought, in the years to come – marshals and generals and even the Woe could lose, but the Black Queen could not. But that was beyond the horizon, and Vivienne Dartwick’s troubles were current.

The solution she’d found had been to let the current of older faith guide the rumours she sowed. This was not a defeat, it was a trick being played by Queen Catherine on her enemies. And Gods be merciful, Vivienne thought, but she couldn’t even be sure that was a lie. The drow  had been laid low by that sudden star in the sky, all but the most powerful of them battered into slumber for at least a few moments, and even the highest of these ‘Mighty’ had been forced to flee in the face of the enemy’s swiftly resuming advance. Legionaries had moved to hold the walls in good order, but within moments of that Marshal Juniper had been informed that surrender had been offered to the Grey Pilgrim and then accepted, bringing this battle to a close. Vivienne had spent the following hour putting out fires, but now the situation was stable enough she’d finally been able to head the general staff’s pavilion. Truthfully she could have done more, and would have preferred keeping her finger on the Army of Callow’s pulse, but Juniper’s last messenger had mentioned a message from Catherine with the royal seal. Those summons she could not deny, and so she had come.

“Adjutant’s still missing?”

Marshal Juniper looked vaguely irked at her immediate question, though not enough to chide her for it. What Vivienne had expected to be a formal war council in how to deal with the fact that the Grand Alliance had fully surrounded the camp and was now ordering disarmament and the bringing down of the palisade turned out to be rather less crowded. Marshal Juniper, with her perennial accessory Staff Tribune Aisha Bishara, Grandmaster Brandon Talbot for the Order of Broken Bells and Marshal Grem for what some had begun to call the Legions-in-Exile.

“Whatever duty Her Majesty sent him out on, Lord Adjutant is still discharging it,” Tribune Bishara said.

Vivienne kept herself from grimacing. Hakram had been a useful interpreter of Catherine’s occasionally seemingly outlandish decisions even before the Everdark, but nowadays the orc’s talent for understanding the thoughts of their leader had become a priceless asset. The journey into that dark place had changed Cat in deep ways, and much could be argued of whether all these changes had been for the best, but regardless of debate it was undeniable Catherine kept her cards a lot closer to the chest than she’d used to. Adjutant’s presence would have been a boon, Vivienne already suspected, for what was to come. None of the others were seated, so she remained standing as well and simply joined them at the table.

“Now that everyone’s in attendance,” the Hellhound said, flicking a displeased glance at Vivienne that was met with a raised brow. “This was handed to me by a rider of the Wild Hunt, along with knowledge of the surrender and instruction to abide by it.”

The orc tossed out a leather sheath bearing the royal seal of Callow, which Tribune Bishara daintily picked up afterwards.

“Unless there is an objection?” the Taghreb politely asked.

A round of shaking heads. Talbot might have objected, Vivienne thought, it if it’d been another officer but he’d always been a little sweet on the Hellhound’s helper. The wax seal was broken, parchment taken from the sheath and carefully unfurled. The dark-haired Callowan caught a glimpse of the curved, eye-pleasing calligraphy and repressed a snort. Hakram’s hand, that, not their queen’s. Which might be for the best, considering most of the time Catherine’s handwriting only skirted the edge legibility. She’d actually been taught properly at the orphanage, Vivienne knew, but Cat had always written like her thoughts were trying to crawl out through a hand too slow to keep up.

“I, Catherine Foundling, anointed queen of Callow by the grace of the Heavens and first of my name-” Tribune Bishara began.

Marshal Juniper cleared her throat.

“The meat, Aisha,” she growled.

The Taghreb’s head dipped in acknowledgement and she shifted halfway through the sentence.

“So, there’s an old story about the Ol’ Unconquered,” Aisha Bishara said, “that they call Theodosius’ Dilemma.”

The Taghreb’s tone was cultured and elegant, if so very eastern, but the words she spoke reeked of Catherine’s slow, almost lazy drawl. Vivienne knew it to be at least in part an affectation, as their queen was perfectly capable of formal address in her crisp Laure accent. She liked to use the casualness, the thuggish country bumpkin swagger, to prey on people’s expectations. Noble expectations, mostly, Vivienne privately admitted. Their queen had spent most her life carrying a sharp contempt for the aristocracy that becoming the foremost aristocrat in Callow didn’t seem to have changed in the slightest. Something wordless fluttered through the pavilion at the tribune’s words, though, sparing only Grem One-Eye. Backs straightening, shoulders loosening, even half a vicious smirk tugging at Grandmaster Talbot’s lips. They had not been left behind, that was what their stance said.

The Black Queen had a plan in the works, and someone else was about to have a very bad night.

“So in the First League War – which is a horribly inaccurate name, actually, because the League of Free Cities proper hadn’t even been founded yet and, wait, Hakram, scratch that whole part out, they don’t need the history lesson,” Tribune Bishara said.

She added, in a carefully unamused undertone, that the Lord Adjutant had not in fact scratched out anything.

“So in the First League War, Theodosius kept slapping around southern Procer like it was his deeply unloved goblin stepchild until it’d lost so many battles it’d gotten physically impossible for the princes to deny they were losing the war,” the Taghreb read. “At that point, the First Prince was getting worried about losing a third of Procer without war even having formally been declared, so you all know what happens: the Highest Assembly votes to ‘defend the south from foreign invasion’, everyone sends armies to reinforce and the First Prince makes a pointed suggestion that someone be appointed to run this mess that Theodosius hasn’t already cheerfully brutalized.”

Vivienne’ eyes swept the tent, and found most were raptly listening even though most should already know of this bit of history. It was certainly… colourfully narrated, but otherwise common knowledge in those who had some learning of history. And even beyond that. The life and deeds of Theodosius the Unconquered were a favourite of young boys and girls with dreams of military glory even in cities where no Helikean had visited in living memory.

“That gets us Isabella the Mad, and sets up Theodosius’ Dilemma,” Tribune Bishara spoke. “Because Isabella, she doesn’t offer a pitched battle or take back principalities: she just tosses one wave of soldiers after another at any forces that splits from Theodosius’ main army. And Hells, his people win most of those skirmishes and Ol’ Theo gets a few ambushes in himself. But every time he wins, he loses soldiers and Isabella loses nothing much. He’s winning so much it’s destroying his army, and so he has to make a choice.”

Vivienne’s mind raced ahead, for while she was not great student of military affairs she could see the shape of the dilemma outlined. It was not as important, she reflected, as the fact that instead of instructions Catherine had chosen to repeat a lesson that most of the people in this pavilion already knew. Would Marshal Grem? Maybe, as odds were that the Hellhound and Tribune Bishara had learned of this at the War College and the older orc was said to have been influential on the lay of the lessons taught there. Which meant the story was most likely meant for her or Brandon Talbot.

“Theodosius could fight a battle that couldn’t be won against nearly five times his number,” Aisha Bishara said, “to force a decisive outcome to the war. Or he could keep tearing through Isabella’s detachments for months and months, hoping for a better chance as his own numbers dwindled with every victory. We all know, famously, the choice he made.”

The Maddened Fields, to this day considered the only defeat ever inflicted on the first Tyrant of Helike.

“Theodosius bet on his legend, on being able to beat the odds and forge a miracle,” Tribune Bishara continued. “Isabella bet that she could ride attrition to a symbolic victory, and it was a brutal wager but she got what she wanted. They say that when Theodosius’ army retreated in good order, there were more than a hundred thousand corpses on the field.”

The tribune’s brow rose in surprise.

“Less than twenty years later, Jehan the Wise hung seven princes and one,” Bishara said.

Before the implications of that could properly sink in, the Taghreb repeated a stroke of madness.

“I grant to Vivienne Dartwick the title of Lady Dartwick, with all assorted honours and privileges; in addition I name Lady Dartwick the heiress-designate to the crown of Callow.”

Vivienne closed her eyes, ignoring the stir from the others in the tent. Why? No, that could be picked at later. Why now? The granted titled was clearly just a way to legally allow the second part without making her a member of the ironically-named House of Foundling. So what, as heiress-designate of Callow, could Vivienne do that she hadn’t been able to do a moment ago?

“Lady Dartwick,” Grandmaster Talbot quietly said. “The Royal Guard no longer exists, nor any knightly order save mine, yet-”

Yet I am, theoretically, equal in status to a princess of Callow and first the line of succession, Vivienne thought, opening her eyes. The Shining Prince, in all but name, and those were the Marshals of Callow before such a title existed.

“- yet the laws never excluded the Army of Callow nor any other addition to our forces,” she finished softly. “Which means I am, in the queen’s absence, the supreme commander of all armies sworn to Queen Catherine.”

“You can revoke the surrender,” Juniper said.

In the moment that followed, Vivienne almost did. It might just be Catherine’s plan, a surrender to check some advantage of the Pilgrim’s while she schemed some way that allowed her to both surrender in good faith yet keep her armies fighting. Diabolist could still use the wretched ritual that would bring back the drow to the field, and now the enemy’s armies would be surprised and in disarray. Less than twenty years later, Vivienne thought, Jehan the Wise hung seven princes and one. That was a warning. About winning wars at any price, about what came after. About Callow further humbling a weakened Procer and-

“Oh,” Vivienne Dartwick breathed out. “Oh.”

“Lady Dartwick?” Marshal Grem asked, brow cocked.

“I’ll need a horse and an escort,” she said. “I’ll need to talk with the Grey Pilgrim and Lord Marave besides.”

“Why?” Juniper asked.

“Delay disarming as long as possible,” Vivienne instructed the Hellhound absent-mindedly, “and keep the soldiers ready for fighting.”

“Dartwick,” the Marshal of Callow growled, “what are you doing?”

“If I’m right,” Vivienne said, “then I’m about to trade the full release of our armies for our help against the League of Free Cities.”

“Now, Hakram, I want to be perfectly clear,” the Tyrant of Helike announced.

Adjutant was still hung upside down by his feet, though given that the tripod was now being carried forward at a brisk pace by a swarm of chittering gargoyles the motion had set him to rotating. He patiently waited until the turn brought him face to face with Kairos Theodosian before solemnly nodding.

“Your mistress, I fear, intends to betray me most immediately,” the Tyrant said, not entirely succeeding at hiding his tone of deep approval.

“That does not seem like her at all,” Hakram lied.

The boy gestured dismissively, though with a trembling hand.

“It was a delightful bit of pettiness from her to send me someone whose fingers I cannot meaningfully break, after that little affair with my kataphraktoi,” Lord Kairos idly continued, “but that is that and this is this. Should the Black Queen turn on me – and she will – I will brutally murder you, if you’ll forgive my language”

“You are forgiven,” Hakram calmly said. “Though this seems absurd. Catherine Foundling has ever been a close and trusted ally to you, my lord.”

“You’re not even afraid,” the odd-eyed king complained. “I really should have listened to what my father said about Callowan spite, this is most unreasonable of her.”

“Your father had words on the subject of Callowan spite?” Adjutant asked, cocking his head curiously.

“I wouldn’t know,” the Tyrant cheerfully said. “After I cut his throat all he could manage was wet gurgling noises.”

Hakram made a mental note of the admission. It would go into the growing archive the Jacks kept on the Tyrant of Helike, though whether what the boy had said was true or not remained debatable. The orc found him exceedingly hard to read even for a human. Silence lingered between them, though in the distance the hum of raging storms served as canvas for it.

“I cannot help but notice, Lord Tyrant, that we are not heading out into Creation,” the orc ventured after a moment.

Unlike the rest of the League’s armies, he left unsaid. The last of the armies, a ramshackle mob moving in old infantry formations Hakram was fairly sure hadn’t seen use since the Humbling of Titans, had marched through a well-illuminated breach  almost half an hour past. Of the hosts of the Free Cities, all that seemed to be left was the Tyrant’s own personal guard of a thousand. And gargoyles, admittedly, too many and too similar in appearance for the orc to be able to count. Kairos Theodosian looked amused, his red eye suddenly twitching shut and remaining that way.

“I have sent all I need to send,” the Tyrant of Helike said. “General Basilia is more than a match for the Pilgrim’s pet countrymen and the unpleasant surprise your mistress is still sitting on.”

“Might I inquire as to our purpose, then?” Hakram politely asked.

“It would be a terrible blunder to feed a spy my most secret schemes,” Lord Kairos chided him. “Do you expect me, Deadhand, to immediately unveil my every furtive advance merely because you showed a modicum of polite interest?”

A moment passed.

“Yes,” Adjutant replied.

“Is this what loves feels like?” the Tyrant mused, then raised a hand. “Don’t answer, Hakram, it’s not like you’d know.”

The orc cocked his head to the side. The insult did not particularly sting. Perhaps if it’d been slung in the early days of the Fifteenth, when he’d still wondered if the wariness in Juniper’s eyes when she looked at him was not uncalled for, but now? Those doubts were long buried, and it would take more than a madman’s jeering to unearth them. It was not, however, the first time the Tyrant of Helike jibed of Hakram’s leanings towards detachment. That he would keep prodding from an angle that would yield nothing was interesting, and suggested two things: first, that Catherine had been right on the subject of Kairos Theodosian having some skill related to perception of others. Second, that what the Tyrant was seeing in Adjutant unsettled him enough to keep picking at it like a scab.

“Soon, I do think,” the Tyrant of Helike said, looking up at the ruinous sky.

“Soon what?” Hakram dutifully asked.

“You see, Adjutant, the histories will speak of tonight as a triumvirate of treachery,” Kairos Theodosian airily explained, “but that will be most inaccurate. Your mistress and I are having the most delightful match of shatranj while the Pilgrim and his kingdoms of the blind stumble around waving swords and miracles.”

“But, Lord Tyrant, is the Grey Pilgrim not the Named currently closest to victory?” Hakram asked, purposefully keeping his tone as dull and unenthused as possible.

He was, the orc guilty admitted to himself, beginning to enjoy this a little too much.

“You would be most wrong, Adjutant, most wrong,” the Tyrant said. “Tariq Isbili’s mistake is that he believes because he set the initial terms of this fight he still knows all of them. And so he putters around down in the snow and mud, while the real prize of the night is around us. He could get everything he desires, Hakram – and indeed I suspect your mistress is inclined to grant most his wishes, save those that inconvenience her – and still be made of fool of.”

Adjutant kept his face calm, though for the first time that night his heartbeat had quickened.

“Oh yes, my dear green friend,” Kairos Theodosian grinned. “I know what your mistress is up to. Seven crowns and one, yes? She has the recipe for the making of a Court, and the Hierophant provided the final ingredient of that heady brew by cutting an unclaimed realm from the fabric of Arcadia and casting it down towards Creation.”

Hakram stayed silent, unwilling to risk revealing too much through the lie he chose to speak.

“Here’s a secret for you, Adjutant,” the Tyrant of Helike whispered, leaning closer. “The thing that waits for you in the depths of Liesse stolen isn’t just your friend. I would be a great deal more wary of what it intends, were I you. For if this night does not go to the Black Queen or to myself, well, it is another friend of mine that will get his due.”

The boy retreated, loudly cackling.

“Ah, but I digress,” he said. “I did say that your mistress and I were playing shatranj while poor old Tariq was stumbling, did I not? Allow me to elaborate. The Pilgrim anticipated there would be trouble in Creation, Hakram, and so tossed a ball up and out of sight so that providence might allow it to land when it was needed, should it be needed.”

“You are saying,” Adjutant said, “that he sent a force through Arcadia.”

“Exactly,” Lord Kairos agreed. “And, old hand that he is at turning tides, he kept a heroic charge up his sleeve in case matters were truly dire.”

The orc’s jaw tightened. In the distance, coming out of the storms with tall banners, a glittering tide of horsemen advanced. Proceran banners, Levantine banners, the full horse of the Grand Alliance’s armies. Including, Hakram thought, every prince and princess in the hosts.

“What is that delightful Callowan saying again?” the Tyrant of Helike mused. “Ah, yes, I remember now.”

The boy’s eye shone wet crimson, when he turned to grin at Adjutant, as if it had already partaken of the blood about to be spilled.

“Finders keepers,” Kairos Theodosian said.

261 thoughts on “Interlude: When Iron Rests

  1. danh3107

    I honestly wasn’t expecting /another/ interlude. To be honest this one doesn’t set up much we were unaware of besides Kairos’ triple ultra deluxe scheming. I think we need to get back to cat now.

    Liked by 11 people

    1. Rook

      Well, the fact that it’s an interlude means it sets up a denial, rather than an expectation. It’s a good sign that for once, everything is going to go wrong for *everyone else*.

      Generally in a free for all, the details that aren’t shown are the scariest ones, regardless whether it’s on the Heroic side or the Villainous. The pattern is usually a ton of exposition shown to the readers about the schemes of the known factions before said unknown variable(s) show up to betray all obvious expectations and fuck up everyone’s day.

      Generally this means that any plan that’s detailed in the interludes is one that’s likely to be fourth-wall countered by Catherine whenever she finally shows her face.

      It’s also kind of pleasant to have the protagonist be the other shoe waiting to drop, rather than being victim to it. More anticipation and less dread.

      Liked by 33 people

          1. I feel like Kairos is torn between being rationally aware that Cat is beating him and leading him around by the nose and it’s bad for his plans and also offensive and he should put a stop to it and stop going along with, and absolutely adoring that she’s doing so.

            Liked by 12 people

    2. caoimhinh

      Well, this Interlude served to show us just where were the Proceran hosts, what the reactions of the Army of Callow were to Cat’s surrender, a bit of what Kairos is planning, and showed us the forces gathering in Arcadia for the battle with lots of prizes for the winner (Masego and Liesse, Amadeus’ soul, the seven crowns and one, etc). It’s a good way to close the string of Interludes before returning to Cat’s POV. In fact, there could still be missing one or two Interludes since there’s the negotiation between Vivienne and Pilgrim, the battle against the League’s armies in Iserre and the fight between Kairos personal soldiers vs Procer’s soldiers in Arcadia, since all those scenes are important and Cat is not there to see so the only way to see them is through interludes.

      Personally, I think these interludes have been exquisitely made, they are important events that don’t involve Cat personally and she isn’t witnessing them, so they are necessary. Besides, they have provided great insight about a lot of things and answered many questions the readers had. There will be as many as needed, I trust EE to make the right decision in his story.

      Liked by 24 people

      1. Yes!

        Honestly I’m expecting interludes to continue until everything’s finally in position for Cat to ride out of nowhere with the Wild Hunt and save everyone’s asses / seize the day ❤ and there's certainly a lot of moving parts here!

        Vivienne's perspective was an utter delight and I love seeing her perspective on Catherine's bullshit.

        Hakram's interesting as shit, and we're going back to neurodivergence themes which always delights me personally to no end.

        And of course Kairos continues to be a gift and a treasure.

        Best of all, we're seeing specific outcomes where previously we only had guesses, and we're gaining the ability to predict what happens next with any degree of certainity 😀

        Liked by 14 people

            1. caoimhinh

              Yeah, that type of characters with a “flaw” that makes it hard for them to connect with others make for great character development.
              Though Indrani isn’t so much neurodivergent as traumatized by the things she had to live + an obsession to gain acceptance and recognition from her mother-figure Ranger.

              I actually liked the Masego before EE decided to make him autistic, to be honest.
              Masego used to joke a lot, use sarcasm constantly and was more expressive in his face and mannerism, he was also more outgoing on his interactions ( read Book 2 chapter 17, for an example, or pretty much everything of Masego in Book 2), then in the middle of Book 3 EE started to depict him as socially awkward and Extra Chapter: Prodigy outright depicted him as an autistic child that didn’t understand much of emotions nor social interactions, and incapable of even detecting sarcasm. From that point on Masego kept being depicted in that light. He was also thinner, like a scholar, in his first introduction but described as very fat in later chapters.

              Not that I don’t like the current Masego, mind you, he has had fantastic development, it’s just that the first one was very funny and interesting in his own way, maybe I just liked his sarcastic expressions and jokes.

              Liked by 1 person

                1. caoimhinh

                  Check out chapter 19 Flames too, for Masego making sarcastic comments and even make a joke about Cat’s sex life.
                  As I recall, Masego kept that characteristic and being perfectly capable of not only detecting but also using sarcasm and making jokes up until somewhere in the middle of Book 3, then he was steadily toned down to the socially awkward Masego we know and love today.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. Stormblessed

                    I reread chapter 17 and can definitely see what you mean. Somewhere along the way Masego lost interest in anything non magical and stopped using extremely sarcastic jokes.

                    That being said, it is definitely right for him to be the way he is now. When I was reading book 2 chapter 17 I found myself struck that Masego just seemed like a slightly tamer version of Archer.

                    Furthermore, I think the early stuff could be reconciled with the later stuff with either an extra chapter of a Masego section where he can explain he didn’t really understand any of the stuff he was saying when they first met. Those were all learned behaviors to camouflage his social weaknesses. As they got to know him he felt more comfortable in his ability to be his true self and possible actually learn those social behaviors in his own way rather than a mimicry of them.

                    Make it so his reversion to form is a part of his character growth.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. caoimhinh

                      Perhaps you find it striking now because the image we have from Masego in the recent chapters is different to the way he initially was, but his attiude in that chapter is consistent with the way he is in the entirety of Book 2. You can see it since his first appearance in Book 2 chapter 5 all the way until Book 3,
                      For example, there’s this fragment from Book 3 Chapter 18 Crack, right after Cat ordered the founding of the Knight Order of Broken Bells:

                      “I can initiate the connection at any time,” he said.

                      “Before you do that, we need a little chat,” I said. “I don’t want to keep you in the dark, so I’ll just state it outright: I might have dabbled a bit in treason.”

                      “Dabbled?” he said, frowning over his glasses.

                      “You know, dipped a toe in the treason pool,” I said.

                      “I wish you would have told me beforehand,” he replied. “Now I’ll need to rework Marchford’s ward pattern to be able to face advanced scrying rituals.”

                      I cocked my head to the side.

                      “That’s it?”

                      “Oh no, treason,” he said in a mockingly high-pitched voice. “No villain has ever done such a thing before. All my extensive interest in Imperial politics is now put in danger.”

                      I snorted.

                      “What’s that voice supposed to even represent?” I asked.

                      “How little I care about any of this,” he replied frankly. “I’m sure you’ll find some compromise with Uncle Amadeus, and the Empress probably knew you were going to do this before the thought ever crossed your mind.”

                      The bespectacled mage pressed his hand against the mirror-wall, spoke a word in the arcane tongue and idly made for the door.

                      “Now, if you’ll excuse me,” he said. “I think one of the tapirs got loose.”

                      “Stuff like this is why you don’t get to have giant fire-breathing lizards,” I called out.

                      “You have no standards, Squire,” he complained one last time before closing the door behind him.

                      So yeah, since his first appearance in Book 2 Chapter 5 and all the way up to the latter part of Book 3 he was sarcastic, detected nuances, was able to take hints and knew how to hint at things (for example he made subtle insinuations that he would not mind joining Cat’s group after their first encounter in Summerholm), he had a great sense of humor too. Masego was then gradually toned down, one awkward moment at a time, and our image of the sarcastic and humorous mage was replaced the more serious, somewhat childish and socially awkward Masego. In Book 4 we saw Masego struggling to understand physical contact, the nuances of social interaction, finding it hard to know when someone was sarcastic and even was awkward in his body language (like being too stiff when hugging or leaning his head on another’s shoulder).

                      Basically the only things that remained from his initial personality were his love for discussing and explaining things (later mixed with an obsession for accuracy) and his disdain for lesser or inefficient workings of magic.

                      Like

              1. I mean about the first thing Cat ever thinks about Masego is that he’s not great socially and the second thing he does is infodump all over her only to have his father interrupt him (although Cat was interested and asking more questions).

                Masego has been autistic since his very first introduction, he just discarded the allistic-passing disguise kit after moving out from his parents’ place 😛

                I kind of miss his sarcasm-filled facade, I admit, but autistic he was from the very beginning. And ofc he’s still full of sarcasm: I assure you, not every time he “misunderstands because he thinks too literally” is genuine. He is autistic, not stupid.

                And ofc Indrani is, on top of shit Ranger left her with, very ADHD ❤

                (and there are no "flaws" in it. Masego's greatest social problem is his lack of ethical understanding, not social, he’s actually interpersonally apt af and exactly where he wants to be that-wise. Better at it than Hakram. And Indrani hanging upside down from a tree and tuning out war councils that have more than 3 people talking is what we all love about her <3)

                Liked by 1 person

                1. caoimhinh

                  Emm, no. Her impression of “It was becoming apparent that social skills were not one of Masego’s no doubt plentiful talents” was said because he seemed uncaring about Hakram getting killed (this was an error on her part, as we saw immediately that he was very interested in the nascent Name of Adjutant and the fact that it was the first Name for an orc in two thousand years).
                  His sarcasm and sense of humor were not a facade, that was his real personality, it flowed naturally for him. The jokes, snappy comments, he was quick to pick up hints and undertood both sarcasm and irony. This was for the entirety of Book 2 and large part of Book 3.
                  However, there was a change in him afterwards, and it was too great to think it was “Masego dropping his disguise”.
                  Consider this: when was the last time you remember Masego laughing?

                  In Book 2, we saw him laugh mockingly at the death of the Exiled Prince, laugh like a madman when he burned the Demon that possessed the Silver Spears with a torrent of sorcerous flames, He even grinned in battle thrill when facing strong opponents, even made clever comments aimed at his opponents when he was fighting (like against the Bumbling Conjurer when he was still Apprentice or against the 3 Demons at the gates of Liesse, when he had already become Hierphant)

                  He made snappy replies and funny comments all the time, and showed understanding of subtetly. He also smiled a lot more back then.
                  No, that wasn’t a facade, it was natural. but those parts of his personality are gone now.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. Catherine assumed social skills were not Masego’s strong suit because he blurted out “don’t worry, you might die soon enough it never becomes a problem!” in an attempt to be comforting.

                    And then Wekesa interrupted him talking to Cat with “she’s not a practitioner she doesn’t understand what you’re saying” which obviously (to me) suggests a habit of infodumps.

                    And all of Masego’s sense of humor was Autistic Humor as fuck. We’re great at sarcasm when we try 🙂

                    And expressing emotions is a skill we often have to deliberately invoke, alongside reading them. We just don’t express them naturally in the same way. When I was a kid I legit practiced facial expressions in front of a mirror – I found it fun, but it was also borne out of understanding that I… uh… needed the practice.

                    I cannot remember when Masego last laughed, but I also didn’t remember the instances you mentioned (other than him fucking dying @ dorian’s death), so that’s not much indicative. Still, don’t forget he also grew from like 16 to 21 in the time we’ve known him – his personality had time and space to change…

                    …and it’s entirely possible that his manner of expressing his emotions simply changed.

                    I certainly recall an instance of him being funny in Extra Chapter: Background 🙂 and there was the part where he and Indrani teamed up to mock Cat during the Winter Court arc… I cannot remember more but I bet there are more.

                    And understanding of subtlety, too, is something an autistic person has to focus on to maintain. It’s an artificial skill, like standing on your tiptoes to see over a fence – you get fucking tired of doing that all the time, and if you can drop it without negative consequences – which for Masego there would be none once he left his parents’ nagging presence – there’s great temptation to.

                    Liked by 1 person

      2. Lena27

        The thing is Pilgrim thinks Cat isn’t in Creation. If he’s right, then that can only mean Cat is here. Which means we can expect her to show up in the next chapter. I’m not saying it won’t be an interlude and i’ll be fine w/ either. However, I think our Black Queen will be arriving sooner rather than later.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Gunslinger

    Thanks for a chapter even on Easter weekend!!

    Can’t say I understood much from this chapter, but boy will I enjoy seeing the Tyrant being put in his place by Cat. The dude is way too sure of himself.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. RoflCat

      All 3 letters are now used, and Vivienne seem to have seen what Cath is planning

      Which is get Kairos to attack Procer forces, that way they can negotiate Callow out of having to suffer any reparation from the surrender by helping Procer against Kairos

      This means that the surrender is genuine, coming from Cat
      Vivi is the one who’ll get them out of surrender status, by negotiating to help against the League.
      And unlike with Cat, Vivi is a former Heroine, so they don’t have the excuse of her being Evil to deny cooperation either.

      Kairos, on the other hand, think Cat is planning to form a new Court of Acadia by using Masego, and seem to be planning based on that.

      So at least for now it seems things are going as Cat planned. Pilgrim’s pattern of three ruined, Vivi instated as heiress, Kairos sent to fight Procer.
      I think if anything is to go wrong, it’ll be from either Hierarch interference or Tyrant outplaying Cat

      Liked by 14 people

      1. Andrew Mitchell

        “… so they don’t have the excuse of her being Evil to deny cooperation either.” Great point!

        “… Cat is planning to form a new Court of Acadia” or is this Masego and/or Larat’s plan?

        “… if anything is to go wrong, it’ll be from either Hierarch interference or Tyrant outplaying Cat.” IMO Masego and Larat are also possible/probable sources of problems. Plus, something HAS to go wrong for Cat, this has all gone too smothly for there not to be a catastrophe coming.

        Liked by 10 people

        1. Nope. This is as Unspoken Plan Guarantee as it gets, with us not having heard from Catherine’s perspective for like five chapters by now and her plan being entirely unclear when we last saw her.

          Well, I do agree that something is going to go wrong, but I expect it to be a long-term ball tossed in the air, not spoiling the immediate broth. This victory is going to be clean and unambiguous is what I’m calling 😀

          Immediate points of where Kairos seems to be missing things:
          – he says Basilea is a match for Pilgrim’s armies and Cat’s surprise, but what about the Marshals? 😀
          – Catherine sure did not seem intent on actually giving Larat what he wanted, so this appears to be her pulling the wool over Kairos’s eyes 😀
          – I did NOT get the impression that Catherine considers the Masego situation to be anything other than a flaming clusterfuck of uncertainity. “He can’t possibly be in his right mind” is a denial of the best case possibility, not the worst case one. Whatever’s going on there, I don’t expect Cat to be discounting it

          Liked by 7 people

            1. mavant

              Oh, that makes more sense. I thought he was implying Hierarch was the other friend and I didn’t understand how this could be to the benefit of the People, aside from slaying some Foreign Oligarchs.

              Liked by 1 person

            2. A disturbing thought. Another possibility would be that he did retrieve the spirit of his diabolic father, muffed his handling of it for “personal reasons”, and is now possessed by it.

              Another question is just who will be in charge of that new court (perhaps after a round of usurpation and/or assassination). Can’t be Larat, because nobody wants him with that kind of power, and by himself he’s not strong enough to hold it. If Catherine (or Masego) takes it… she basically has gone Dead King, but she’s also taken herself out of Creation. Too bad the realms’ access area in Creation seems to be big chunk of Procer. Sve Noc (or Cat, or an ex-Mighty) taking the throne would provide a new homeland for the Drow, at the cost of exiling them from Creation.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Insanenoodlyguy

                based on the fact that Kairos made that “Seven and one” reference, I’m guessing Larat in fact would be strong enough. The Summer Princess seemed very alarmed when Cat told her his service conditions, remember? Namely, that whatever prophecy or gaes or fae rule he’s tied up in, if seven and one creation crowns are laid at his feet, he’s King. Or Has the power he seeks, has the rule he wants, etc. At some point he was told something to the effect of “You lust for power, great Larat, but you shall never have it. Not till seven and one mortal crowns are laid at your feet.” One of those things that will never happen that because stories is totally going to happen one day. Larat has been riding the wild hunt into creation to make the path to that story. And, if he gets it how he wants it without interference, whatever he becomes, he will have the mojo to “hold” it. Since he seems to want an in with creation, perhaps it’s to have a New Court of Creation that he rules? He’ll have all his fae powers as if he was in arcadia, something like that. And the descending overlap of the two dimensions just makes it easier to happen or some-such. It’s a story that, manipulated right, Cat could well use to her advantage, and a more classic villain sort of story where you make a big bad in exchange for your own power. That one has notoriously bad odds for you surviving once the new big bad is in existence, but I could see where Kairos and his classical villains mind could predict such a gambit, especially if he thinks Cat has one of those “but I can still control you to an extent” leashes that usually come with the stories where the villain partner survives this, he knows Cat is smart like that.

                Liked by 3 people

      2. Morgenstern

        I really like how Cat has finally found a way to the Alliance table, after all – and Kairos sees straight throught it…

        … and a) either still goes along with it anyway or b) will totally ruin that idea, if he gets the chance. But he might be too focused on the crowns thingy and everything else in Arcadia to have found a way for b) – after all, the threat of the League alone is already enough to get Viv what she wants for the armies under her command (getting free and kind of being at the table in exchange for help against the League), as that’s a negotiation taking place BEFORE battle is joined, and it doesn’t really matter if the League then refuses to give them that, as long as they are THERE. And they obviously still *are* going to be there. ^^

        I wonder where the Hierarch is, though…

        Liked by 2 people

        1. “Kairos sees straight through it” I strongly doubt that.

          Immediately where I’m seeing him be wrong:
          – he assumes Cat’s going to actually go for a fae court under her control. It has been established pretty damn firmly that this is a terrible idea for Cat’s long-term objectives and goes against all methodology she’s managed to salvage from the trainwreck that her ascension to power has been. Kairos preventing Larat from seizing the crowns is a “don’t throw me into the briar patch” kind of move on Catherine’s part;
          – I’m getting the impression Kairos actually thinks Cat wants him to liberate her forces? That she’ll only betray him in the aftermath and immediately her armies are going to be either standing down or helping him? Because he did not mention Marshals, Legions and Callowan Knights as forces his general will have to contend with, and they’re not something you can afford to so blithely discount as to not even mention.

          I think Kairos is falling into a good old “Evil Cannot Understand Good” trap, reading Cat as more similar to himself than she actually is. Catherine HAS been creating an impression of more villainy than she actually has in her, and it’s about to backfire on him real bad, as he assumes she wants to fuck over the Grand Alliance and Procer, as opposed to help them out of their troubles.

          Catherine is willing to bleed her army to protect them, and as she has commented in the planning chapter, that’s not something other players can predict from her behavior so far.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Kissaten

            >I think Kairos is falling into a good old “Evil Cannot Understand Good” trap, reading Cat as more similar to himself than she actually is.
            I think he saw Hakram’s memories/read his mind and have seen all three letters, reading the “Theodosius Dilemma” as an extention of his letter. Something like “Theodosius will bloody the Grand Alliance, that’s the only way to save callowans from surrender, and then callowans will humble the Alliance further. And get 7 and 1 crowns, too, because we love our prices long and twice!” From his point of view, Vivienne isn’t an actor, this letter is a move of a pawn. Kairos certainly wants to throw a wrench at this plan.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. I don’t think he gets the full on memory reading thing, more the same kind of truthtelling / intention reading as Tariq. So he’d know what Hakram thinks of the situation, but he wouldn’t get to actually know word by word the actual content of the letters – he’d only get secondhand undersatnding of them.

              And Hakram did not think about it deeply like Vivienne did.

              So Kairos is vaguely aware there’s some kind of confusing instruction given to Catherine’s forces, but if Hakram didn’t guess the connotations, he won’t have any way to, either 😀

              😀 😀 😀

              Liked by 1 person

      3. Farroc Tokla

        It is also interesting to note the 7 and 1 situation. Kairos just brought Cat’s right hand man within stabbing distance of a double handful of Proceran princes…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Andrew Mitchell

          I really hope not all the princes/pricesses die. In particular, Roseala (sorry for butchering the spelling) because leaders like her will be useful against the Dead King.

          Like

  3. Yup, Tyrant is going for Amadeus’s soul and the crowns Cat owes Larat.

    I wonder whether or not Cat saw Pilgrim’s contingency here coming. Probably, hopefully.

    Oh. If I’m reading this right, Kairos just implied that the seven crowns and one would allow Larat to forge a new Fae Court.
    Might be a way for Cat to recover some of her own Fae power if Larat reforges Winter or forges a new Fae Court.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Novice

      But Cat already has a source of power in the Night. Wouldn’t creating another come back to bite her ass, narratively speaking, since that would have the shape of a villain lusting for more power?

      Also, I have a feeling that the third party wanting the broken piece of Arcadia Tyrant is talking about is the Dead King.

      Liked by 6 people

        1. caoimhinh

          “The thing that waits for you in the depths of Liesse stolen isn’t just your friend. I would be a great deal more wary of what it intends, were I you. For if this night does not go to the Black Queen or to myself, well, it is another friend of mine that will get his due”

          That sounds like Masego being possessed. Wekesa and Tikoloshe seemed certain that the knowledge from Neshamah could corrupt and even control the person who learned it, although that doesn’t make sense to me since Masego extracted it directly from Neshamah’s echo and not from an enchanted book of spells, but we have already seen Masego isn’t on his right mind and if EE actually goes for that route then Masego is under Neshamah’s control now.

          Personally, I hope there’s something else happening there because that story from Tikoloshe and Wekesa seemed like their own ignorance talking (their speculations about Catherine were proved wrong and Masego was perfectly fine until Warlock blew up Thalassina). I would prefer it just be Masego desperately trying something to get his father back (which would explain the multiple hellgates).

          Liked by 4 people

            1. caoimhinh

              😮
              But why would he do all that to get Amadeus back? I could believe it if it’s trying to get Tikoloshe or even Wekesa back.

              On another note, Masego might still be in his right mind, sort of, just in a kind of trance that keeps him focused on a task until he gets it done, like when he tried to extract the echo from his father or his internal trance making experiments within his mind after Pilgrim broke the Gate during the Battle of the Camps.
              Remember when Cat first entered and the Gate shattered and then slithered in Masego’s direction? If Cat meets him and he claims that was an invitation that would be hilarious.

              Liked by 1 person

                1. caoimhinh

                  Well, I didn’t mean it that way.
                  Not in “why would he want Amadeus back?” but rather “why would doing this help in getting Amadeus back?” Especially since he seems to be doing something there involving hells and High Arcana, that doesn’t seem to be something relating to rescuing Amadeus.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. Do note that Amadeus is currently in two pieces, one of them protected by sorcery from scrying.

                    I think Masego’s doing some kind of off-the-rails Praesi mage equivalent of building a flamethrower to light a candle.

                    Liked by 4 people

          1. medailyfun

            One of the rules of the dark lord – never leave the source of your power uncontrolled. DK had lot of time to find that echo and tinker with it on purpose

            Liked by 2 people

          2. Decius

            I wouldn’t put it past The Bard to have set up Neshamah to have been corrupted in a manner that would corrupt people in general; it’s possible that Masego has now been possessed not by the Dead King, but by the thing which became the Dead King when it possessed Neshamah.

            Liked by 3 people

            1. mavant

              That’s a pretty interesting possibility, but I’m not sure how we would distinguish the two – it doesn’t seem like the previous instances described by Wekesa and Tikka end with Neshamah becoming dispossessed.

              Liked by 3 people

            2. caoimhinh

              That’s an interesting theory, perhaps it’s not an entity per se, but a kind of ‘drive’ that makes him pursue an objective?
              Although as far as we have seen, Neshamah developed his workings by himself, to the point that even Bard was questioning him about it that someone must have taught him for him to be able to advance so much on his craft, but Neshamah simply laughed it off.

              Liked by 2 people

            1. caoimhinh

              That’s an important consideration, Kairos can, at any moment, lie blatantly and without trouble.
              Although so far we have seen him tell the truth when he is “gossiping” or telling secrets, there’s no reason to trust his words nor assume he can’t lie about this subject.

              Liked by 2 people

    2. Skaddix

      I doubt it Larat and Cat Deal will be complete when Larat gets the Seven Crowns and One. So anything he does is not liable to aid Cat at all. Not to mention Cat just started learning about Magic and the Fae and the like so the likelihood she can out maneuver Larat on this front is pretty low.

      Still the Tyrant seems well prepared.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Novice

        To be fair, Cat (via Sve Noc) has complete and utter control of the Wild Hunt. It might be a tad too difficult for Larat to scheme his way out of that control, especially because of his rigid thinking owing to his fae nature.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Rook

          It isn’t really about control from how interpreted it, so much as anchor in Creation proper. By swearing to Cat until the paths were fulfilled, the intent of the Fae was to gain their foothold into creation regardless of the outcome. If Catherine doesn’t fulfill the oaths they’re forever part of a court rooted in Creation, and if she does fulfill the oaths, the seven crowns and one will give them permanent foothold onto creation anyway by way of earthly empire.

          The key here is not about control over the hunt so much as finding a way to deny their foothold so that they don’t run rampant through creation proper after Catherine is dust.

          One way to do this would be to bind the seven crowns and one to masego’s little piece of Arcadia instead of creation, then fulfill the oath. The tyrant’s play currently looks to be taking those crowns himself, so he has leverage over Catherine.

          Liked by 2 people

      2. Novice

        To be fair, Cat (via Sve Noc) has complete and utter control over the Wild Hunt. It might be a tad too difficult for Larat to scheme his way out of that control, especially because of his rigid thinking owing to his fae nature.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Novice

          Ignore this copy. For some reason, my comment in this thread didn’t go through the first time. But then it appeared when I sent the second one. It’s infuriating.

          Liked by 5 people

      3. Morgenstern

        I wonder if the Tyrant is working on outdated info when it comes to that formation of a new Fae court. It truly might have been only possible when Winter was still alive… but it no longer is. The last conversation between Cat and Larat seemed to state quite clearly that the Hunt now only has powers due to *Night* – and they cannot take over that. All the old oaths broke, too, barring from the side of the Fae themselves, who seem to still be bound to keeping it, but only due to their rigid nature.

        On the other hand, this just might be were Cat is mistaken after all…

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Morgenstern

          Where… -.-
          Also, what binds the Hunt might, of course, just be the way they’d be instantly powerless once they no longer follow Cat (if their power source truly IS only the Night now).

          Gods, how I miss an edit function here.

          Liked by 4 people

        2. caoimhinh

          “Prince no longer,” the fae smiled. “I have abdicated my title, as have all with me. The Hunt claims no lord amongst its hunters.”

          So Larat and the rest of the Fae in the Wild Hunt don’t have their titles, they renounced their ties to the new Arcadian Court for the bet of having a foothold on Creation thanks to Catherine.

          “We swear to your service, Queen of the Hunt,” the fae said. “Queen of Air and Darkness, Sovereign of Moonless Nights. We swear ‘til the day of last ruin, ‘til all debts are paid. We would ride beneath your banner, in this world and every other.”
          “What clever foxes you are,” she said. “Your oaths I accept, in the spirit they were given.”

          I think that’s what screwed Larat, He swore eternal service to Cat, binding himself to her Court (Winter that only she held) as a source of power, but now that Winter was devoured by Night his power is dependant on Sve Noc, and due to his oath of service to Catherine perhaps even if he becomes a King of a newly made Court he would still be her subordinate. He probably didn’t expect that his holding would be a hellscape made from a fragment of Arcadia instead of an actual terrain in Creation.

          Liked by 2 people

      4. Ben Serreau-Raskin

        The seven crowns and one was a price put on his help in ambushing the Summer Court in Arcadia, an event which has already come to pass. Our first hints of the significance of that particular price comes from the same battle.

        It is an entirely separate matter to the oaths of fealty sworn to Catherine in her capacity as Queen of Callow.

        Liked by 4 people

      1. Kissaten

        Doesn’t mean Tyrant’s not going for a honourable obligatory backstab in his most trusted ally’s back. Gods i hope he is going to push Grey Pilgrim into attacking callowans and giving the Shining Princess a chance, well, to Shine.

        Liked by 3 people

          1. Someguy

            “My dear prince, why would I settle for merely being on the right side of history when I could be on all sides of it instead?”
            – Extract from the minutes of the Conference of the Blessed Isle, between the Shining Prince Harry Alban and Dread Emperor Traitorous

            Liked by 7 people

        1. I’m pretty sure he was talking about the troops themselves, which he presumably has or intends to co-opt for his own purposes — anything from attacking on his own behalf to convenient sacrifices. Either way, I wouldn’t be surprised if he throws them a party first 😉 .

          But yeah, odds are the Rogue Sorcerer and Amadeus’s soul are in there, unless Cat (who’s surely in Arcadia) got there first. Anyway, off to the next installment to see what’s to be seen!

          Like

    3. If I’m reading this right, Cat has no intention of actually going through with Larat’s deal. Maybe she’ll act like she’s going to, set up the pieces that would allow it… and then let Kairos push them over.

      She does not intend on letting Larat forge a new Fae Court any more than she intended to make Winter Court out of Callow, is my estimation.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Morgenstern

        I wonder if that is still possible no matter what, after all, Winter got eaten and Summer also isn’t available anymore since the Courts merged in Arcadia. So what the hell does that make the Wild Hunt? Is Cat right that the Night is now the only source of power for them? I wonder… I personally would find it interesting to have a little twist here. But then again.. they’re just minor characters. That arc might simply end here, with the Princes’ Graveyard and someone finding out that those crowns would not have helped the Hunt fae in any way anymore anyway.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Andrew Mitchell

          “That arc might simply end here, with the Princes’ Graveyard and someone finding out that those crowns would not have helped the Hunt fae in any way anymore anyway.”

          Highly unlikely IMO because it would be highly unsatisfying to us, the readers.

          Liked by 2 people

    4. Insanenoodlyguy

      Pilgrims contingiency is useless, at least against her. Yeah, if she played this straight, Pilgrim probably could have forced round 3 and ended this. But what good is a heroic charge now? She surrendered. This is a new unrelated battle with the forces of Levant now, so it has much less mojo, as a “the heroes took the dangerous path and had a random encounter/ambush” battle. On the other hand, and Pilgrim and Vivienne know this, that can be turned into a “Just as the battle was concluded, a third party stepped in! Now the former foes can only survive if they WORK TOGETHER.” which gives great momentum into the “Having fought on the same side, now hand in hand they go to fight the real enemy!”

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Or, if she runs into the detachment in Arcadia, they might go after her anyways, believing that she’s lying to them about surrendering to Pilgrim … or just because they saw her first.
        She’d probably have some leeway to work with there – they aren’t Pilgrim and she’s under no obligation not to defend herself against (another) attempt to murder her.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Insanenoodlyguy

          Narrative themes makes that unlikely. This sort of story flows more like this: Procer is fighting the Legion, and it’s all “Oh damn this is bad, oh god now Callow is riding in now it’s WORSE and – wait a minute… they are attacking the Legion’s rear. They are helping us! Back them up and push in, we can win this!”

          Liked by 3 people

      1. Novice

        I thought that things would be fairly predictable after Cat’s surrender. For some reason, I have it in my head that Kairos should be with his army at all times. I didn’t expect this detour and certainly not Pilgrim’s cavalry contingency when I was already convinced chapters ago that Pilgrim and Black are foils of each other. Should have expected back-up plans.

        I should probably do another reread.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. devildragon777

    I’m guessing this is another of those situations where nobody’s figured out that Cat isn’t playing the same game they are…

    …Also, did Kairos just get a whole army delivered to him on a platter? That seems bad.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. RoflCat

          Random thought: What if, instead of
          “Seven crowns and one, laid at your feet,” referring to their heads off their shoulders, it means the 7 crowns and 1 basically lay down to Larat, i.e. submitting to him?

          And instead of any conceptual ideas, the new Court is Court of Law/Order *gavel smack sound*

          Where the idea is for Larat and his faes to become basically eternal judges that’ll ensure that these Procer regions + League will follow the law created, so no more nobles getting away with doing whatever they pleased, or royals spinning the truth to their own benefits.

          There’s some groundwork for it already in Procer too, the Mavian prayers’ sites can basically be the anchor (read: office entrance) to the Court, we know a certain Accord that Cat would like to set it up very much and now we have the ones who’ll enforce it, being neither from Above nor Below faction.

          Liked by 5 people

          1. Relyt

            I think Cat would love having some neutral third party Court of Order, especially if it could help her implement and enforce the Liesse Accords. But letting Larat run something that important? Hell no. If Larat wins any power from those seven crowns and one, then Cat will definitely make sure he’s still beholden to her, or Sve Noc, or just booted out of Creation entirely.

            Plus, I just don’t see enough of a story behind the Wild Hunt becoming judge and jury. No connection there.

            Like

  5. SpeckofStardust


    Oh hell no.
    -“Here’s a secret for you, Adjutant,” the Tyrant of Helike whispered, leaning closer. “The thing that waits for you in the depths of Liesse stolen isn’t just your friend. I would be a great deal more wary of what it intends, were I you. For if this night does not go to the Black Queen or to myself, well, it is another friend of mine that will get his due.”
    ..
    The orc’s jaw tightened. In the distance, coming out of the storms with tall banners, a glittering tide of horsemen advanced. Proceran banners, Levantine banners, the full horse of the Grand Alliance’s armies. Including, Hakram thought, every prince and princess in the hosts.-

    Do we have the slightest clue where the leader of the league is again?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Novice

      You’re saying Kairos will use Hierarch to turn the cavalry into his? If so, that’s clever. I just assumed something more mundane like lies or blackmail or traitors within the ranks.

      Liked by 5 people

    2. Cicero

      He seemed to suggest that his other friend was in the ruins of Lesse with the Heirophant, so maybe that’s where the Hierarch is?

      Anyway, I assumed that there was a reference here also to Black’s soul, which is with the Rouge Sorcerer, who is likely to be the Heroic force guiding this Procer force through Arcadia.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. JJR

        The use of the phrase “get his due.” Suggests the Dead King to me, as a reference to the concept of Keter’s Due. As for being a friend, Tyrant sent envoys to pledge eternal friendship to almost all Calernian powers a while ago. I don’t think he tried with the elves or dwarves, but he did send someone to the Dead King and even the Ratlings. So calling the person a friend doesn’t narrow it down that much.

        As to how the Dead King gets involved. Masego was warned by his devil father back before Warlock blew up a city/fleet about learning too much about the Dead King. The information itself was somehow a trap and an infection. When Masego revealed how he had harvested the information from an echo in Arcadia the result was a mild freakout and a demand to purge the information from his brain.

        Liked by 5 people

        1. caoimhinh

          And the Keter’s Due for a ritual for Apotheosis or whatever it is that Masego is attempting to do, would be massive, which is one of the reasons to do this kind of insane thing in a separate shard of Arcadia, and maybe the use of the wards Diabolist created that enabled to repurpose the Due to a secondary array and spell. But it’s still a huge catastrophe in the making.

          Liked by 2 people

      2. Kissaten

        How do you even intercept a providence-sanctioned heroic charge as a villain? Black fortified the only avenue to attack back when he fought in the Vales, what’s Kairos’ excuse? I think Rogue Sorcerer went rogue, that’s how Kairos knows. And if that’s the case, Rogue Sorcerer will get his due by dying horribly. As to why he would do so, back in the epilogue chapter when Black was hostage to Pilgrim and Saint of Swords Black tried to say something about helping Rogue Sorcerer’s parents.

        Liked by 2 people

            1. 1) The entire point of that episode is that it doesn’t because the heroes were dead set on not allowing Amadeus any opportunity for communication/sabotage.

              2) I’m about 90% sure it was a baseless bluff said just for the sake of getting his goat. Amadeus was kind of going off the rails hard at that point, “moral victory” and all (no I’m not getting over that any time soon, please stop hitting yourself please stop hitting yourself please stop hitting yourself)

              Liked by 2 people

    1. Kissaten

      I think initially there were two Courts of fae, Summer and Winter as no other Courts were mentioned back when fae were introduced. After Arcadia been reforged Spring and Autumn courts were mentioned, as well as Cat flying over unknown banners of fae in Arcadia.

      So to take a wild guess, it’s going to be SUMMER, of all things, Winter is no more and Spring and Autumn already claimed. There’s a STAR hanging in the skies, 7 crowns and 1 waiting to be taken, and unclaimed part of Arcadia.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. caoimhinh

        It’s not that.
        There are only two Courts of Fae in Arcadia during each cycle, the pairs are Summer-Winter and Spring-Autumn. However, when the King of Winter and Queen of Summer married they unified Arcadia into one brand new Court, which is why Winter was no more except for Catherine since she was not bound to Arcadia thus making her the only owner of the entirety of a Court, as Sve Noc said: “You stole half their Garden”.
        Now Larat wants to make another brand new Court with him as King/Leader, which would interestingly make it back into two Courts of Fae. It wouldn’t be Summer and does not even be associated with the seasons. If anything, it would be the Hunt since every member of this new Court would be from the Wild Hunt.

        Liked by 3 people

          1. caoimhinh

            Well, Masego said that Arcadia is different outside of Calernia, because perspective changes so that world changes, so the Yan Tei (who are likely China, I agree with you on that, they even have a Hero and Villain as rulers, Ying-Yang balance FTW).
            Check out this Masego quote from Book 4 chapter 27:

            “Consider Arcadia as a single object being looked upon by an infinity of perspectives. To every one, it is a different realm. Across the Tyrian Sea, it likely has completely different name and seems inhabited by completely different entities. Even the marriage of Winter and Summer is contained within the span of our gaze only, unlikely to have tremors beyond. It is so with this echo as well. Something that was momentous on our understanding of the world is not necessarily so elsewhere.”

            As for the Spring and Autumn Courts, Cat vision when she became Duchess of Moonless Nights showed that they are part of the eternal cycle of that realm and are formed once the war between Winter and Summer ends.

            Liked by 2 people

      2. No, all four courts were there when the Fae courts were introduced. Summer always beats Winter and when its victory comes the Elves and the Courts they make up disappear and are replaced by the Spring and Autumn Courts and a completely different set of Elves. This is how and why Ranger keeps going back every time the Winter Court reforms/reappears and plucks out Larat’s eye (I really wish to know what he did to piss her off that much). We have just never been told what the process is that ends the Spring and Autumn Courts. Kilian explains the courts in Book 3 Interlude: Gate “There’s supposedly four Courts of Arcadia – one for each season – but the delineation between them isn’t clear. They don’t all exist at the same time, either.”

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Darkening

          Summer doesn’t always beat Winter, sometimes Winter manages to assassinate enough people and sow enough discord between different Summer powers that they’re weak and feeble when outright war comes and Winter murders them all.

          Liked by 4 people

      3. caoimhinh

        => There’s a STAR hanging in the skies, 7 crowns and 1 waiting to be taken, and unclaimed part of Arcadia.

        That reminded me of the Big Dipper asterism formed by the seven brightest stars of the Ursa Major constellation. Here’s a fun fact: they are actually seven stars and one, because Alcor is also there right next to Mizar (the second star in from the end of the handle) but it’s outshined by its companion, so not counted in the forming of the asterism.

        What if this new Court of Fae is a STAR Court? Like, you know, Stars shining in the Night.
        Would be interesting.

        Liked by 3 people

    2. “These interludes feel like chapters with a different name. Not short interludes.”

      Basically, EE set a routine of calling chapters that weren’t from Catherine POV “Interludes”. Which works fine, but it starts to sound funny when Cat dodges out of sight for a significant period, and we’re following everyone else for this many chapters.

      That’s basically why the other day I was teasing about EE channeling Robert Jordan. Jordan’s Wheel of Time starts with at least half-a-dozen “primary” characters, then progressively doubles and triples the number, and that’s just on the protagonists’ side. And he does POV for all of them plus most of the antagonists and a few bystanders, which is how he wound up with 12 thick volumes of the series, and why Sanderson needed 3 more volumes to wrap up the story.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. caoimhinh

    And so the Princes’ Graveyard is to be in Arcadia, I imagine the Princes of Procer are very angry from being marching through that storm. I don’t think they will all die, since Catherine only needs to lay their crowns at Larat’s feet, not their heads, but to be called a Graveyard many of them will die.
    Will the Rogue Sorcerer also be marching with that host? He should be, since he is someone skilled, needed for treading safely through Arcadia and also the only Hero left in that army (Saint and Pilgrim are in Creation right now) unless there’s another Hero yet unrevealed. And that would also mean that Black’s soul is there for the taking, unless he gave it back to Pilgrim, but Cat mentioned that being part of Below’s due so I’m guessing Black’s soul is with Rogue Sorcerer and he is in Arcadia. Time for Cat to rescue her father (and for the love of the Gods, the Old and the New, Above and Below, call him father to his face).

    So seven crowns and one are to create a brand new Court of the Fae, that’s interesting and given that this Court would only be the surviving members of the Wild Hunt that would make them very powerful. This generation of Winter Fae was born with a strong impetus of change it seems, with a King willing to take hard measures to change everything and a Prince willing to bet everything on an irregularity as is Catherine. It seems Larat wishes to be free from service once he collects his due, but he still has his connection to Cat (or to the Night now that it devoured Winter), so it’d be interesting to how things play out then and whether Cat will just kill him and be done with it or keeps an ambiguously treacherous lieutenant with great power and a thing for dramatic speech.

    In case anyone is wondering, I checked and made a list of the princes that were shown to be in Iserre marching with the host: Rozala Malanza of Aequitan, Louis Rohanon of Creusens, Arnaud Brogloise of Cantal, Bertille of Lange, Sophie of Lyonis, Rodrigo of Orense, Leonor of Valencis. That makes it seven, we would be missing one crown for Larat’s due. Would that one be Kairos’ crown?

    *Dramatic music sounds*

    P.S: It’s hilarious how everyone is unsettled trying to figure out just what the hells Adjutant wants, the list just grows up and is made funnier as characters that are proficient at reading people get stupified when trying to read Hakram (Empress Malicia’s empty parchment on what the Orc is after is a good example).

    Typos found:
    -language” / language.”
    -made of fool of / made a fool of

    Liked by 7 people

  7. konstantinvoncarstein

    So the last letter is definitely the bet, Catherine hoped Vivienne would understand her intention to ally with the Alliance against the League.

    I really hate Kairos, but during a long time I didn’t understand why. And then I realized he is basically a villainous hero, he has all the Good cheat codes with villainous intents, and is completely overpowered.
    In his first battle, he destroyed alone the entire opposing army. He manage to build a complex magical trap for Sabah without a known good mage, and he lead his army in Broceliand without it being destroyed.
    He also has information sources inaccessible to no one who give him an absolutely ridiculous amount of knowledge and his “Wish” aspect permits him to know the desire of people even before he encountered them. And he managed to create the Hierarch, who I think is the most dangerous villain on Calernia, except maybe the Dead King.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. ninegardens

      Ah, but he doesn’t just have the hero cheat code.
      He cheats using the VILLIAN cheat codes, more intelligently.

      Early on, when smiting other Free city armies, he wasn’t against heroes. By the story rules he has to rise up and be a threat before the heroes can smite him down.

      Vs White knight etc, he invoked the old “The first part of the plan always succeeds” – a villain trope, not a hero one.

      Sabah’s death was really bard’s making, not his.

      I agree he is OP, but I don’t think he has hero cheat codes.

      Liked by 7 people

      1. konstantinvoncarstein

        Concerning Sabah, I didn’t mean her death. I mean the spell fueled by the people she killed, and that the Warlock redirect to kill the Ashen Priestess.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. erebus42

        He’s only as powerful as he is because he leans into his role and the cliches. Black even says how he was weaker than his predecessors because he refused to do that as it leads to a villain’s inevitable downfall.

        Liked by 3 people

    2. Nah, he’s not a hero. He’s a villain.

      Amadeus’s insistence that heroes are the ones who get cheat codes while villains don’t was laughable. Villains don’t get cheat codes towards greater good, that much is true – that’s because villains get cheat codes towards scheming and seizing power while wrecking everything around them. Kairos is using those to great effect.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. konstantinvoncarstein

        By cheat codes, I mean that Fate make sure the heroes always win against the villains, by giving them access to ressources that no villain could ever hope to receive. As said in my comment and another below, Kairos has access to such ressources.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Again, my point is that your inaccuracy is in assuming there is an inequality in resources heroes and villains receive.

          Or that Fate makes sure heroes always win against villains – that one’s straight up inaccurate.

          Amadeus discarded most of the toolbox his side afforded him, then complained his opponents had a full one while he was left with a rusty knife and a screwdriver. That’s on no-one other than him.

          There’s plenty of resources villains have access to that heroes don’t.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. konstantinvoncarstein

            Like what?

            Fate does not favor heroes? From the beginning, everyone from Amadeus to Catherine and Saint to Kairos, agree that Good always win. It is indeed not always the case, but heroes have a lot of advantage comparing to villains. Sure, “first step always works”, but the end goal is hardly ever attained.

            Heroes have Angels whispering in their ears, Aspects which are most of the time specially adapted to resolve the problem at hand, lots and lots of coincidence to help them, true resurrection, etc etc etc. Evil has nothing like this.

            Liked by 3 people

            1. Good might always win in the end, but Evil always wins the first step.

              >The villains in the stories always had a trigger, a first spark to set the blaze. They’d been wronged, laughed at. They had a grudge to settle against Creation, and they were going to do it by toppling all those righteous kingdoms like a house of cards. They flew the banners of empires they’d crafted out of cold rage and egomania, sent their Legions of Terror to conquer everything from the sacred forests of the Golden Bloom to the burnt wastelands of the Lesser Hells. It didn’t matter what they took, I was beginning to grasp, so much as the fact that they took it. What did the Tyrants care if the heroes freed their monsters or destroyed their ancient magical weapon, if they brought down the Dark Tower on their head or sunk the ancient city they’d raised from the depths? At the end of it all, even if you lost you’d already won. I finally got it, then. You’d won because in a hundred years someone was going to look at the ruins of your madness and their blood was going to run cold. Like a child screaming at the night, you filled the silence so that someone would hear.

              Evil has resources to achieve the “archetypical Evil” goal – make a mark. Sure, separate Evil people might not be satisfied with that, but it’s not like heroes are super happy about winning in the end after taking heavy losses either, yeah?

              Evil has resources that Good doesn’t. Good might get the peasant with the sword, but Evil got to have the dragon first.

              Liked by 5 people

            2. Insanenoodlyguy

              Order of the stick has a character who, other then the bits in here about having a hero son, probably gives the best representation of general competant evil mentality in this world (note, not Black’s practicality, think more Akua and Kairos, the types who know how the game is played but are OKAY with it)

              http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0763.html

              The comic is fun, unless you hate stick figures, but this page is worth reading even if you never take another glance.

              TL;DR anyway: The competent villain knows he will lose someday, but that’s AFTER he wins and got to win and enjoy being the big evil, usually for a decent amount of time. Yeah, the very last part’s gonna suck, but it’s gonna be a hell of a ride till then.

              Liked by 5 people

              1. konstantinvoncarstein

                I like it, the cartoon is cool🙂 You are right, both heroes and villains are backed by Fate, only not toward the same goal nor at the same time.

                But I still hate Kairos 😉, if only because he created the Hierarch.

                Liked by 3 people

            3. Amadeus has filled entire graveyards with heroes who “always win.” Catherine followed in his footsteps by stomping the Stalwart Paladin’s band and half the heroes in the Crusade. Praes as a whole has survived ten Crusades, and every other Evil nation in Calernia seems to have a similar track record.

              Villains *do* get convincing, long-lasting victories sometimes, because that’s what establishes them as a threat. And from an in-story perspective, you have no way of knowing whether any given hero’s role is “The chosen one who finally brings down the evil empire” or “The chump who looks like the chosen one for about five minutes before getting killed off to establish the villain’s threat.”

              The only reason people say “Heroes always win” is because no matter how many times the villains win, we don’t consider the *story* over until a hero has won. We assume that, since the story isn’t a tragedy, eventually one of the heroes will succeed. But that’s equally true for the villains – once the story is over, someone else will climb the tower and start the whole business over again. The heroes don’t “win,” only restore the status quo.

              Indeed, Catherine’s whole reason for backing the villains is that she thinks the constant battles cause more damage to Callow than a decisive win by the villains would.

              Liked by 6 people

          2. konstantinvoncarstein

            Black win by going around the story, it is the only reason. And he discarded all lot of Evil tools because they were mor liabilities than assets. Praes managed to win against Callow only 2 time in more than one thousand years, how do you explain this without Fate backing the heroes?

            Liked by 3 people

            1. They’re more liabilities than assets because they’re tailored to goals he does not have. Villain tools are for terrifying Creation and leaving a mark on it, not for achieving long-term peace. Amadeus uses Good tools for Good goals because those are the ones he has and therefore those are the ones that work for him.

              Kairos isn’t going to manage to conquer Procer or better the lot of Helikeans long-term. His inexplicable prophetic knowledge wouldn’t help him with that any more than Still Water would help Amadeus cement his vision of better Praes.

              Amadeus is pissy about not a single Dread Emperor managing to stave off starvation, even the few that tried. There is a reason it’s few that tried.

              Liked by 4 people

              1. I note that Amadeus and Cat, each in their own way, have indeed terrified Creation and made their mark. Cat’s not finished, and Amadeus looks to be getting a second act. (Maybe. I wouldn’t put it past EE to yank that brass ring away.)

                Liked by 3 people

          3. erebus42

            It’s about work and quality though. What resources the villains get are never handed to them like the Heros and even then the universe is skewed so the villains have a harder if not impossible time carving out meaningful victories.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Villains do tend to suffer before they get to their position first, but Heroes need to earn their stripes too. Nothing is ‘just handed’ to anyone, Amadeus was being as facetious as it gets, either that or simply wrong. Either way, heroes and villains both go through crucibles to get what their Roles have to offer.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. caoimhinh

                I half-agree with you on this, but Amadeus wasn’t wrong. The tools of Villains are the work of a lifetime, and more often than not are the fruit of the effort and sacrifice both by them and others, willing and unwilling.
                Praes is built of centuries upon centuries of sorceries perfected by the madness and genius of countless warlocks working their entire lives pursuing their arts, so the one who climbs the Tower inherits a grand amalgamation of things they can use to forge their legend.
                Compare to a Hero who is a teenager receiving a weapon straight up from Heaven, plus blessed with Good Luck by Providence, and you can see the difference very clearly.
                You can’t say they are the same, the hordes of the Tyrants took generations to form, while the Hero got handed a Holy Weapon out of nowhere.

                That’s why Amadeus complains that the Heroes are handed their victories, Angels will provide guidance and sometimes even descend to directly help the Heroes (William, Iason, Hanno, Tariq). A villain doesn’t get that kind of help, they would need to risk their lives and souls to use a Demon and earn through a lifetime of service to Below for a dark miracle (like Wekesa or Hanno’s mother).
                They each go through the crucibles of their Roles, that’s true. But the difference in support is very glaring. Villains save up for their equipment while Heroes would be rich kids with Pay-to-Win Premium equipment, sure the proficiency of the players will make a huge difference, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a huge bias towards one team.

                Liked by 3 people

                1. Here’s the thing: villains are 99% of the time the ones with privilege.

                  We can debate details and exceptions (Good Kings are a legit counterexample; Amadeus is fucking not lmao), but when we’re comparing William von Angelsword, who had said angel’s feather, the clothes on his back and absolutely nothing else, to Kairos who was literally a prince,

                  Liked by 2 people

                  1. IIRC, Amadeus started out as a peasant along with Malicia, and Cat of course was an orphan.
                    Of course, Amadeus and especially Cat do have a heroic “taint” to their goals and behavior.

                    We don’t have too many heroic origin stories, but White Knight was also an orphan, while Thief was both a noble (of a conquered land) and half an orphan. William was self-outcast (but he did get armor and equipment from somewhere).

                    I’d stay that both humble and privileged beginnings can produce heroes or villains.

                    Liked by 2 people

                    1. Amadeus is a farmer’s son rising in rebellion against the oppressive nobility of his country, uniting the oppressed underclass around him.

                      Catherine is actually a better example of villain privilege because Amadeus picked her up and catapulted her right to the top wihtout giving her a moment to catch her breath. We do not kneel, eh?

                      But yeah, you’re not wrong. There’s all kinds of possible stories; Kairos, however, is a classic example of a “villain born to privilege” one. No need to toil to earn resources, his job is just to properly abuse them.

                      Liked by 1 person

            2. Villains get a lot of victories of the villainous kind: a tower in the sand that falls right afterwards but boy was everyone impressed.

              Amadeus’s definition of ‘meaningful’ is ‘improves lives of common people long-term’ which is like. Not Evil’s point lmao

              Liked by 1 person

              1. erebus42

                We could probably fill a pretty large thread on what the “point” of Good or “Evil” is or could be. However, Meaningful in this case is a lasting victory at the end of a story. Which is what Black, Catherine, and the others are striving for. Your “villainous victories” are not equivalent to the ones that the “heroes” get, and logically in a fair world characters from either side would have a relatively equal chance of getting one or the other. And yet in the Guideverse that is not the case as fate is skewed one way.

                Liked by 3 people

                1. Yes, and my point is fate is skewed that way because villains aren’t interested in long term consequences, splash damage or anything that happens after they die. That’s what MAKES them villains. It’s unfair as fuck to be stuck with when you’re actually a hero at heart is the problem 🙂

                  Liked by 1 person

          4. caoimhinh

            But if he hadn’t discarded that toolbox then he would have been dead long ago. The only reason Amadeus, Alaya, and the Calamities survived so long (over 40 years as successful villains) was because they avoided falling into the traps of stories and Amadeus learned to read the patterns in order to transcend them.

            Notice how everything went to hell when Malicia (in her stupid paranoia fearing Amadeus had too much influence) decided she wanted to try using one of the old tools (flying fortress + hell gates and hordes of bounds devils) via letting Akua building it so she could have a weapon of her own without depending on the Legions of Terror. What’s the result?
            Praes is burning, they are facing a new Goblin Rebellion, they lost Callow (the victory they hadn’t achieved since the time of Triumphant), the Legions of Terror divided, most of the Calamities are dead, they are the target of a Crusade with most of the Heroes of Calernia on it, the Dead King unleashed, Amadeus prisoner and Malicia at risk of being overthrown and killed.

            There’s a VERY good reason why Amadeus kicked away that toolbox, it was full of Acme Products and those may look impressive but can only blow up on the face of the user. History and Results prove that Amadeus was right.

            Liked by 6 people

            1. He was, absolutely so. For what he wanted, that toolbox was useless and horribly counterproductive. To say that Alaya fucked up is to say nothing.

              That doesn’t mean it’s objectively useless and there’s nothing it’s good for.

              Take Akua, take Kairos – offended children who don’t count on their lifetimes being long and fully intend to burn the candle from both ends just to have as much fun as possible in the process…

              Liked by 2 people

    3. caoimhinh

      Yep, Kairos is a cheat character, too OP to be justified, he is basically a Hero but on the Evil side:

      -Comes from a lineage of kings and conquerors.
      -He came to his Name upon hearing a prophecy of his imminent death, which he has overcome already.
      -He has knowledge about a lot of things, both secret and ancient that he should have no way of knowing.
      -He employs a lot of sorceries for someone who doesn’t have the Gift and has performed great workings for someone who doesn’t have any prominent practitioner of magic under his service (He has the Magisterium of Stygia now, but he didn’t have that by the time he was crafting extremely complex rituals with multiple layers, one of such layers drew a 3D middle finger, the other made a curse that killed Ashen Priestess)

      -He made the Bard play correctly her lute. Not the tortured sounds she usually makes when she plays her lute, but actual melodious music with proper effect.

      -He can manipulate Narrative in dubious ways (his “always one step” strategy worked, despite it being multiple attacks on a siege situation, simply because they were different plans they effectively were overwhelming the Heroes and taking the city of Delos)
      -He knows secrets of the Bard, at least part of her origins and nature, which can’t be explained simply on his Wish Aspect letting him know her desires.
      -He knows about the origins of Keter and the Intercessor’s role on it.
      -He managed to handpick and create a Named (turning Anaxares into a Hierarch), when the coming into a Name should be something extremely personal and unpredictable, except perhaps in those of the successor type (like a Knight choosing their Squire).
      -Crossed the forest that everyone fears with his army without it being ripped to pieces (although it might have suffered heavy casualties and we simply hadn’t seen, but as it was shown that he can harass the Army of Callow and Procer’s troops in Iserre while forcing the 60 thousand troops of Levant to run away through the hellscape that Masego made, he has a huge and strong army)
      -Even Providence seems to be on his side.

      So yeah, he is a cheat character.
      He is so far undefeated and has made a lot of deeds that shouldn’t be possible for him, his success doesn’t come as much of a surprise nor a bother because he is a very interesting character; but the things he has done without any justifiable explanation, like the ample use of High Arcana and knowledge of ancient matters, are a bit of a bother and could even be a plot hole.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Morgenstern

        Somehow your comment suddenly made me wonder if Kairos HAS already died after all… and what we’re seeing is just another meat puppet of the Dead King XD
        I mean, all those pieces would seem to fit that one perfectly…

        Liked by 3 people

      2. erebus42

        I think it mainly comes with him leaning into his role which gives him that extra potency. He’s walking the path (at least seemingly) of the Big Bad who dominates his adversaries until the very end where his own arrogance/madness leads to his own undoing. That combined with the fact that he probably knows how entertaining he is in a meta sense and is using it to his advantage (like the bard did with the Bumbling Conjurer waaay back) and that he is the unofficial ruler of the major factions of the setting with vast spies and resources all contribute to the position he’s in

        Liked by 4 people

    1. caoimhinh

      Not that, Jehan the Wise was King of Callow and marched against Procer probably in retaliation for some action the Principate had done in the past. He managed to kill so many princes of Procer because Procer was weakened and lacking in military strength, here it is implied that one of the reasons for that is that they were worn down after the brutal war against Theodosius, though 20 years should be enough for the country to recover so there must have been other factors.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. Unorginal

        20 years is certainly not enough, this isn’t a perfect comparison but France after World War 1 felt the demographic squeeze of losing over 5% of its population right up until World War 2. It’s very well could be that the war was more or less destructive it’s not very clear but ironically the fact that Calnernia is more egalitarian works against it. A village can survive losing half its young men, it finds itself in a much worse spot if it loses half its woman. Furthermore, we get outright told that 1/3 of the principate was on fire and was due to be lost to Theodosius.

        Compounded by economic recovery in the late medieval ages to early renaissance conditions at best it means that it very well could have badly damaged the principate horrifically for generations.

        100,000 dead in a single battle of attrition that’s a large city, Paris was the largest city in Europe during the Renaissance and at its peak, it only had 350,000 people in it.

        Then the fact that the Principate is a quarreling bunch of noble houses waging constant Italian style brushfire border war with each other.

        Liked by 6 people

  8. superkeaton

    Well shit, Cat needs these people Not Dead, and Kairos is about to smear them across the field of battle like so much tomato sauce. I wonder, if he’s talking about our favorite Gutter Lawyer when he mentions his friend.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Andrew Mitchell

      “… our favorite Gutter Lawyer” do you mean Heirarch? Yes, he’s a strong candidate, IMO the strongest. Other candidates are Larat, Masego or the Dead King.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. caoimhinh

        Going through with her bargain with Larat, yes.
        Letting him have the power he’s after, probably no.

        Though Cat might not want to establish a Fae Court with a hold or anchor in Creation, she still needs to pay her debt to Larat, what she does afterward would depend on what exactly happens when he receives the seven crowns from Procer’s princes and one from Helike’s Tyrant.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. konstantinvoncarstein

          The Princess of High Noon was terrified when she heard the term of the bargain. But because neither Winter nor Summer exist anymore, maybe it is a red herring and will have no consequences?

          Liked by 1 person

          1. caoimhinh

            Maybe, but it’s unlikely that nothing will happen. Larat bet on it when he made the Wild Hunt entirely dependant on Catherine’s Winter (which was recently devoured by Night) and Kairos just said that the seven crowns and one plus the unclaimed realm from a part of Arcadia are necessary for the making of a new Fae Court. Something will happen.

            What we need to figure out now is how this could play out and in what ways Larat may be screwed. Perhaps he wanted to make his new Court in Creation, but will be forced to have this fragment of Arcadia as his Court holdings, and maybe when this hellscape gets destroyed his Court will lose its power?

            Liked by 4 people

          1. caoimhinh

            The direct gain is being freed from the debt. We haven’t seen it bothering Cat at all so far, but there’s supposed to be a weight to that and she needs to pay her part of the bargain to Larat. Both because of Narrative and because of Fae Power shenanigans, something bad is bound to happen if she goes back on her word to Larat.
            So she must pay and present the seven crowns and one, but there’s nothing saying that she must actually let Larat live afterwards.
            There’s also a gain in having more powerful subordinates who can fight for her and gate her armies through Arcadia, but she might not care much about that now that she has Sve Noc.
            My point is, Cat will pay off her debt, but then screw up Larat in one way or another.

            Liked by 3 people

              1. caoimhinh

                True, but that’s not what I’m arguing here. Paying the debt is troublesome and likely to be a bad thing in general for giving that kind of power to Larat, we knew that since Book 3.
                Nevertheless, Cat still has to pay Larat his due.
                Failing to do so would have consequences, that has been implied to be the case with vows and oaths, too. A contract with a Fae should have strong force behind it, especially since the two parties involved are such significant people as the Black Queen and the former Prince of Nightfall.

                Liked by 2 people

    2. Insanenoodlyguy

      A heroic charge when all seems bleak is the sort of thing that turns a battle around, as Kairos just talked about.

      Say, where is Cat with her overpowered calvary squad again?

      If the narrative wants to keep this as classicial as possible, we are going to find out she’s in Aracadia just after a scene transition where Vive successfully pulls of her “You let us go, we help” dealings.

      Liked by 3 people

  9. Andrew Mitchell

    1. Good to see Vivienne is quick to understand what’s going on and what she needs to do.

    2. I was not expecting another Alliance force in Arcadia. I knew the Proceran horse hadn’t been participating, but I hadn’t made the connection.

    3. Has Larat been working with the Tyrant to establish a new Court?

    4. Is this all a surprise to Catherine, or did she anticipate the shape of things in Arcadia?

    5. What role will her staffswordprayer play in the coming confrontation in Arcadia?

    IMO we’ll get a Catherine chapter next.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Vivienne’s POV was the best ❤

      And I think Larat's thing is just blatantly obvious to someone as knowledgeable in arcane matters as Kairos is.

      And I think Catherine's playing Kairos like a fiddle, still 😀

      Liked by 3 people

      1. caoimhinh

        True.
        But your second paragraph is exactly what konstantinvoncarstein is complaining about a few comments above, Kairos doesn’t have the Gift and he can’t use High Arcana so he is, in fact, not knowledgeable in arcane matters. Besides that, there should be no way for Kairos to know about Catherine’s deal with Larat and it’s exact terms, and yet he knows.
        It’s the kind of cheat Kairos has, getting information with absolutely no explanation of how he got it and that by all means should be impossible for him to have. This can’t even be justified by Wish, unless he can extend that Aspect and use it on anyone in Creation and beyond so he used it on Larat (who he hasn’t met as far as we know) to know what the former Prince of Nightfall is after.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. There’s much much more to arcane matters than High Arcana.

          Intercessor is not High Arcana. Rituals are not High Arcana. Whispering Woods are not High Arcana.

          I don’t think Kairos knows about the exact terms of the deal there. I think what Kairos knows is general lore that the deal was made of – fae are predictable on a very basic level, that’s how Cat beat them through horrifying disadvantage.

          Kairos knows lore, he knows the underpinnings of everything. You don’t need to know the exact programs and OS of your opponent’s computer if you know how computers work and what OSs exist and what programs can and cannot do. He gets that from having the Helikean royal library / upbringing, and then the resources of the entire League. That is the kind of advantage villains get – resources and privilege.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. The exact mechanism is honestly irrelevant here. Villains inexplicably having a leg up on heroes in intel is a narrative freebie. Villains observing heroes’ every step but being unable to counter them vs heroes struggling to figure out where to actually go and what to do but winning every actual confrontation is bog standard.

          (Incidentally, it’s characteristic of Cat, and we all know what role she is actually playing in the metanarrative despite the allegiance…)

          You know the trope where heroes go on an epic vision quest in pursuit of wisdom, to finally after much toil and virtuousness miraculously get the location of a mcguffin… just in time to get in a fight with the villains’ mooks/officers there!

          Liked by 2 people

          1. caoimhinh

            Hmm, not exactly. Villains don’t inexplicably have a leg up on heroes intel, they have a network that they have spend years to make and a lot of experience that enables them to read and predict the Heroes’ personality and movements.
            This is because traditionally the Villain is a veteran, older than the heroes by at least a decade and has been working and scheming on whatever his objective is for many years, it’s not unjustified in the narrative. It’s part of the reason for Amadeus’ hatred for the Heroes’ Cheats, because one year of a Heroic teenager’s efforts is enough to overthrow the sum work of a Villain’s lifetime.
            But Kairos doesn’t have that, he has Wish as an Aspect which lets him read people, that’s fine, but the sheer ammount of information Kairos is in possession of is absurd.

            Liked by 2 people

              1. caoimhinh

                1) That Helike isn’t that ancient, just a few hundred years.

                2) That’s still not enough for the info Kairos has on the Intercessor, Neshamah nor the deal Cat has with Larat.

                3) Helike wasn’t supposed to have the kind of sorceries Kairos has been constantly using since his fight against Hanno (Giant drills, flying towers, necromantic constructs, multiple enchanted items and an apparently endless supply of gargoyles). These are the signature of old Praes warfare and can only be done by the work of multiple skilled practitioners of magic and Named sorcerers. That Kairos has used all this so far could be justified if Kairos had a Named sorcerer with him, but he doesn’t.

                Liked by 2 people

                1. Andrew Mitchell

                  Your comment made me wonder if it was the thing under the crypt in Helike that gave Karios these advantages but my searching has revealed nothing in the Guide that supports the crypt being a factor. There’s just two mentions I’ve been able to find:

                  https://practicalguidetoevil.wordpress.com/2017/04/05/usurpation/

                  “That was what he’d learned today, going down to the crypt even though he had been forbidden to by the king. The… thing in the tomb had spoken its prophecy in a croaky whisper, that he would not make it to his thirteenth nameday.”

                  Kairos eyed his hand, which was shaking like a leaf. Not, though, out of fear. How strange. When he’d woken this morning, he had been already flinching at the thought of his father’s displeasure. Now, looking at the fury painted over the king’s face, he could think of only one thing: what are you going to do, Father? Kill me before I die?

                  https://practicalguidetoevil.wordpress.com/2017/02/08/prologue-3/

                  “Treachery is pleasing to the Gods Below,” he said. “There’s a crypt in Helike, under the palace, where the first foundations of the city were laid. There’s a creature there, lying under a tomb of stone sculpted to look like someone holding a sword. There is a crack in the side just large enough that you can hear the thing inside whisper, if you press your ear to it.”

                  “I don’t know what it is. My father said it’s the first king of Helike, still straddling the line between life and death,” the Tyrant said. “The king, though, once said it is the god who once owned the ground the city was built on – tricked into the tomb and forever bound to give us advice.”

                  “Advice?” the diplomat repeated.

                  “Prophecies,” the boy said. “All of royal blood can ask one question if it, in our lifetime.”

                  “And it told you you would rule?” Anaxares guessed.

                  The Tyrant laughed. “It told me,” he said, “that I would die when I turned thirteen. That there was nothing I could do to change this.” The boy smiled. “It was,” he said, “a great gift.”

                  Liked by 1 person

                2. I have said this already: fae lore is not that complicated. When you see the materials you can guess what will be built of them even if you don’t have the blueprint.

                  And where’s the source on “Helike is not supposed to have that”? I distinctly recall commentary that because Helike is not Praes their rituals were inefficient and took more blood sacrifice than they would have needed…

                  I mean, seriously, please find the quote you’re referring to? I don’t think erratic leaves plot holes, I want to see that one.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. caoimhinh

                    That’s the thing, Liliet, there isn’t anything even mentioning in passing anything about Helike’s being capable of the things Kairos has made them do. My argument is not quotes of it, it’s the LACK of quotes of it.
                    By the way, the comment about their inefficiency was made by Hedge Wizard when the Tyrant killed 666 people on each of the 6 towers that he made float (she tried to distract herself from the slaughter by commenting that Praesi would have used only half as many sacrifices).

                    Every mention of Helike talks about their military might due to their fine soldiers and that they are almost unstoppable when a Tyrant is leading them. There’s nothing about them being proficient at magic (they had an influential House of Light, priests that attended the court of Kairos’ father, however) and yet Kairos has people using blood magic, grand rituals and High Arcana without any explanation for it.
                    He (or rather his mages) disrupted Wekesa’s scrying network, laid spell patters with advanced understanding of spellcrafting mechanics, constantly used rituals to move gigantic machines, and also constantly present Kairos with new enchanted equipment (a flying throne, gargoyles, fire rubies that throw lasers, souls bound to skulls and lamps, an enchanted crown, etc)
                    There’s A LOT of deeds done by Kairos that would require extremely talented mages and numerous at that. Most notably the fact that they could disrupt the workings of an experienced and talented Warlock like Wekesa, yet there’s nothing that explain all that. Amadeus is surprised about it in Interlude Cadenza, and if Helike had mages capable of matching Wekesa they would be famous for it.
                    There’s no mention of Helike ever having the level of mages needed for the things Kairos has pulled, that’s the point I’m addressing. This would all make sense if Tyrant had a sorcerous Named under his command, (which I expected to appear in the previous books but never appeared), but he doesn’t have one and making such character appear now out of nowhere saying “all these things were done by this previously unintroduced Named” would be cheap so it’s unlikely to happen. The magisterium of Stygia are all mages so that can explain some of the things Kairos does now, but not the ones he did before having the League obeying him. The current implication due to not providing any proper explanation is simply that Kairos gathered all the mages of Helike and maybe from other countries and had them work like crazy to pull off all these deeds, yet that wouldn’t be enough to match a Warlock like Wekesa.

                    It’s “an unexplained advantage of a villain” as you called it, a Cheat Character like konstantinvoncarstein called Kairos.

                    Liked by 3 people

                    1. Wait, are we actually disagreeing on anything here?

                      My point is that the way Guide’s basic worldbuilding is set up, there are things that don’t need to be set up explicitly every time, like heroic backstories… or origin of villainous advantages. As long as it’s something that is predicted by Saturday morning cartoon tropes, it can be reasonably expected to happen unless contradicted by strong evidence to the contrary; and in presence of such evidence, it should be expected to happen anyway, with twice as much bang due to greater dramatic effect.

                      My point is that it is not only heroes that benefit from this unspoken trope guarantee, but villains as well; and that Kairos Theodosian is in no way outside of this framework.

                      All that said, I remember a quote about Theodosius the Unconquered consulting his “soothsayers” before battles to find out if he’s going to win or lose; before Maddened Fields they ended up saying “yes”. So there is at least one known kind of mage / prophetic tradition in Helike, and no reason to assume Kairos doesn’t have access to it.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    2. caoimhinh

                      Our disagreement is that you consider “He’s a villain” as enough justification and explanation for Kairos pulling off the things he has done, while I don’t.
                      I’m looking for a way to justify this situation so that it wouldn’t be a plot hole but you just shrug it off as “He’s a villain, he can do it”.

                      Most, if not all, of the things done by other characters has been explained or given proper background to build upon and justify their capability to do these things they do, the exception is Kairos. It can’t be brushed off as him simply being the young Hero of Villains, capable of inexplicably doing things. The main problem is that this isn’t just Kairos doing inexplicable things, it’s his followers doing them, because unless they are Named they shouldn’t be capable of that.

                      Soothsayers are diviners by the way, and not very effective given the answer they gave Theodosius lol.

                      Anyways, Helike can have mages, diviners and warlocks (we know they have strong priests capable of strong miracles, even priest-warriors like the Spear Saints), that’s not a problem, although the utter lack of mention of them if Helike actually had such is glaring; the problem is the things those mages are doing, like being capable of disrupting the works of a Named Warlock, Wekesa. That’s simply not possible unless there’s massive talent or power, like a Named with them, and if their country had that kind of things they would be famous for it, Kairos is matching the workings of the old Praesi Dread Emperors without having the culture and talented mages that enable them.
                      A possible explanation could be that the Name of Tyrant gave Kairos capabilities in magic, so he is practitioner, but that would still be lacking.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    3. Quantity beats quality, sometimes. I think Tyrant was only able to disrupt Warlock’s communications once Masego already broke into them, also? What was the other time when he bested him?

                      Liked by 1 person

                    4. caoimhinh

                      I think it also happened when during the battle where Sabah was killed but I’m not sure.
                      Still, the only other times that Wekesa’s workings were disrupter were by the hand of powerful priests or other sorcerous Named. Random people, even if numerous, can’t hope to match his level of skill and power.

                      Liked by 1 person

            1. Heroes can inherit or otherwise benefit from intelligence networks too. If nothing else, consider Thief’s earlier roles; but I’m quite sure at least some temples or priests will have spy networks, not to mention national leaders. And most of the time, Heroes will have at least some access to those. (Though I suspect Cordelia may lately be an exception. 😉 )

              That said, magical scrying was basically a Praesi monopoly until quite recently, and it took a war or two to jump-start the Good side’s magical explorations. However, we’ve seen heroes as well as villains with aspects that draw information out of individual opponents, or provide visions from distant places.

              Liked by 3 people

        3. Insanenoodlyguy

          When Cat mentioned the “Seven Crowns and One” thing to Summer Princess, she reacted in horror and was all “You can NOT let him get that.” I’m guessing that whatever scheme this facilitates, it’s very old and very well known. The Fae act out stories, so Larat has tried to be the character in a story he finds favorable, but it sounds like both Cat and Kairos have figured out what that story really is. He doesn’t need superpowered insight, he just needs to have read the right book.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. caoimhinh

            Sulia was a Princess of Summer, of course she knew what that meant. That doesn’t tell us anything about how well known that thing is. And the things of Fae aren’t actually that well known, every single instance of any magic practitioner looking at a Fae so far had them going “oh, interesting, I didn’t know that. I wonder what would happen if X, I want to make tests” Masego stated there were centuries of research on Fae and even then what they knew was minimal, and that’s from professional, well-trained, dedicated, and likely genius mages working on the subjects for generations. The rest of Calernia knows nearly nothing about the Fae, Killian is the granddaughter of one and doesn’t know much, even the thing about stories was only recently known and to find that they had to go to the Capital of Winter. Kairos shouldn’t know about this process for creating a new Fae Court nor the content of Cat’s bargain to Larat.

            ~So no, this isn’t something Kairos could know by reading a story book~

            Liked by 1 person

    2. Clint

      Re: 2.

      We were told about the Proceran and Dominion cavalry being in Arcadia with Rogue Sorcerer at the end of Interlude: Graves We Have Yet To Fill. Yannu had planned to send them (with Saint) to attack inside the palisade while the infantry was attacking the outside, but he calls off the whole plan when Grey Pilgrim confirms that it won’t get Cat to take the field.

      Re: next chapter…

      I’d put my money on one more interlude — Vivienne’s negotiation with Pilgrim is important enough that we should see it on screen, and there’s at least one more shoe to drop, not even counting Masego. I’m expecting to see one more Tariq PoV, where he sees the results of all three of Cat’s letters and makes one last attempt to shift the Narrative in his favor, before realizing how badly he’s been outmaneuvered. I don’t think we’ll see Cat’s PoV again until she needs to ride in and play her last card — which would be bad, with Pilgrim and Saint still both in play — or until the peace talks, if she manages to get there without taking the field herself.

      Liked by 3 people

  10. Serena Halut

    So, don’t know if anyone’s noticed but the Interlude titles are connected.

    West, Ever Pursuing
    Graves We Have Yet To Fill
    Trust is the Wager
    Death They Cannot Steal
    And Pay Your Toll
    When Iron Rests

    It forms an actual poem called a ballad rhyme, notice the scheme abcb defe. It’s unfinished with the second stanza only half-done. So it seems we have just 2 interludes left until we see Cat again.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Nairne .01

    “He was, the orc guilty admitted to himself, beginning to enjoy this a little too much.”

    I laughed through most of this chapter.

    Thank you very much EE.

    Liked by 5 people

  12. Morgenstern

    Hmm… Now, does the Tyrant just want to take the crowns for himself, thinking he’ll ruin Cat’s day by preventing the fae getting them? Or does he mean to be the one to *hand them out* to the fae, because he sees through the deception, that Cat actually does NOT want the fae to ever get those…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Insanenoodlyguy

      Hmmm, that would work as a classical villain usurpation. “I know you had a deal to get these crowns, but I got the crowns. Now you deal/work with me if you want your due!” And could even turn around into Cat dodging the “Now that I’m a god, I kill you, former master!” sort of bad end for the helpers in those stories if she hands it over to Kairos.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. caoimhinh

          They are, the only one I couldn’t find was the origin of “And Pay Your Toll”

          West, Ever Pursuing is from the “Tyranny of the Sun”

          Graves We Have Yet To Fill is from “In Dread Crowned”

          Trust Is The Wager is from “The Girl Who Climbed The Tower”

          Death They Cannot Steal comes from “Here They Come Again”

          When Iron Rests is from “Dead the Hand”, the song about Hakram.

          Liked by 3 people

            1. caoimhinh

              The others aren’t either, only “Here they come again” is a Callowan song.
              “Tyranny of the Sun” is an old Praesi song, while “In Dread Crowned” and “Dead the Hand” are songs written by the members of the Fifteenth Legion back when they were still part of the Legion of Terror serving Praes.

              Liked by 1 person

    1. caoimhinh

      West, Ever Pursuing is from the Tyranny of the Sun
      https://abridged-guide-to-evil.fandom.com/wiki/The_Tyranny_of_the_Sun

      Graves We Have Yet To Fill is from In Dread Crowned
      https://abridged-guide-to-evil.fandom.com/wiki/In_Dread_Crowned

      Trust Is The Wager is from The Girl Who Climbed The Tower
      https://abridged-guide-to-evil.fandom.com/wiki/The_Girl_Who_Climbed_The_Tower

      Death they cannot steal is from Here They Come Again
      https://abridged-guide-to-evil.fandom.com/wiki/Here_They_Come_Again

      And Pay Your Toll I seriously have no idea from where that is, sorry.

      When Iron Rests is from Dead the Hand, the song about Hakram:
      https://abridged-guide-to-evil.fandom.com/wiki/Dead_the_Hand

      Liked by 4 people

  13. Aotrs Commander

    Silly Legions. You should know by now Cat’s *always* up to something.

    Bahahahahahaha!

    Oh Kairos. Never change.

    (Now was that “is this was love feels like” directed towards Cat or do we have a second ship on the table, Hakram…?)

    For that matter, what was being implied by Hakram recalling the way Juniper looked at him with distrust in the early days? I know Hakram’s stated as being a bit of a lady’s orc (and Juniper always seems about half-a-step from disproving the thing about orcs and humans), so it would seem odd to be implyng Hakram and Juniper have a thing, so…?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Insanenoodlyguy

      I think it’s also the thing he said way back when he became Adjutant. He’s not a great “Orc” in the classical sense. Juniper has the blood lust, she just has it on a higher, more intellectual level, moving armies against each other rather then a personal desire to put her sword in somebody’s guts. But by his own admission Hakram never really had it period. He’s “Off” and that’s probably more obvious to other Orc’s than Humans. Early Fifteenth was before his named moment where he said “And so, at last, I am an orc.” His sleeping around, was a symptom but not the whole of his overall “I don’t really feel much of anything. I’m not much of anything” so it’s not hard to see that a man with that self perception would see the doubting eyes of a superior and say “Hmm, she might have a point.”

      Liked by 6 people

    2. Juniper has talked to Cat about this in Book 3 Chapter Host, the one where In Dread Crowned was revealed. Basically orcs have some violent ableism baked into their culture against a negative stereotype of the kind of neurodivergent Hakram is, and Juniper “suspected he was a coldblood”. The point being that he is, but it doesn’t stop him from being the wonderful guy that he is, so nobody cares.

      Juniper has… quite a bit of cultural bigotry in her actually, between this and her attitude towards Vivi. She’s an interesting character indeed.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. caoimhinh

        Yeah, Juniper has that bit of bigotry that most people obsessed with rules has, like the disdain she showed when Nauk was mourning Nilin’s death.
        But in the case of Juniper’s attitude towards Vivienne, that is Vivi’s fault since she actively and purposefully did things to make others get a bad impression of her, at least when she was still the Thief.
        Besides, neither Juniper nor Vivienne have likable personalities so to get them to get along they would need to directly save each other lives (in a violent fashion, brutalizing the opponent or killing many at once in Vivienne case, to earn Orc respect from Juniper).

        Liked by 2 people

          1. caoimhinh

            Oh, they are likable characters, don’t get me wrong. I meant it as they as people living in their world, they aren’t likeable people, as evidenced by their lack of friends outside a very, very small circle.
            Although they are fiercely loyal and dedicated to those they accept, their friends would first have to pass through the barriers Juniper and Vivienne rose:
            -Juniper’s obsession with rules, judgmental attitude, temperament, constant demand for discipline, not to mention Orc standards of proficiency at violence.
            -Vivienne’s distrust to others, layers of lies, paranoia, constant tests to figure out the loyalties, intentions and true natures of others, her kleptomaniac nature, not to mention her constant self-doubt that almost made her abandon the Woe if Hakram hadn’t cut off his own hand to show her just how invaluable she actually is.

            It’s kinda like Robber is an amazing and interesting character to read, but is as far as we have seen a crappy friend with a deadly sense of humor. Hahaha.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Well I certainly like both of them as people more than I like Robber lmao

              Vivienne is loyal and fiercely dedicated to the cause of good, smart and quick-witted and observant; she was a good friend to William the minute he pulled his head out of his ass for a moment.

              Juniper is a great mom friend, the kind of person you want in your corner and taking care of you and yours, always ready to call you out on your bullshit without any hard feelings lingering behind.

              IDK I just like specifically the way they are

              Liked by 1 person

  14. erebus42

    Wait, so is this confirming that Hakram is a high functioning psychopath (or the Orc equivalent at least, like Juniper suspected)? Also, can you imagine how terrifying a low functioning psychopathic orc would be?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. If anything, he’s the opposite of a psychopath-equivalent. When we humans hear “coldblood”, we think of a sociopath’s “cold-blooded” machinations etc, lacking the warmth of human empathy, affection, compassion, etc.

      To an orc, the word would have very different implications, because for an orc, their normal response to various situations is bloodlust. Lacking that bloodlust response would be abnormal — perhaps even considered “acting more human than orc”.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Here, Hakram’s halting words and the start of Catherine’s meditation on him:
        https://practicalguidetoevil.wordpress.com/2018/01/15/chapter-59-anacrusis/

        > I called you Warlord then, and I don’t regret it. I don’t keep to the old ways, not like Nauk, but it is no empty word. I haven’t used it since because it-“ / He scowled, unsure of himself for once. / “It’s not the right title, not for the two of us,” he finally said. “Too shallow in the wrong places. We are more than war.”

        > It was times like these I understood how peculiar Hakram truly was, compared to others of his kind. It wasn’t his temperament, or his way with people. There was an underlying threat to the way orcs like Nauk and Juniper and every other orc I’d met saw the world, and in Adjutant it was absent. I thought much of the Hellhound, but never would I imagine her saying we are more than war. It would go against her nature.

        This turned up while searching for the last couple of chapter titles, which I did not find. And apropos of nothing, I just realized that Nauk and the men who died with him didn’t get any secrets for the Underworld. 😦

        Liked by 3 people

  15. Alivaril

    So, I don’t see any reason why “laying the crowns at [Larat’s] feet” couldn’t refer to a tribute at his grave or something done after the crowns have been “used.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Insanenoodlyguy

      I do. because remember, this is a Fae story with a fae character, not a regular mortal. Death is very different for these guys. Odds are reasonable that if it was done the way you say, our winter crowboy pops out of his grave, fully restored and stronger then ever, laughing and screaming something classical like “At lasssstttttttt!”

      Liked by 4 people

  16. Ancusohm

    Um, I’ve somehow managed to miss all the neurodivergent themes. Well, I know Masego is heavily implied to be on the autism spectrum, and there’s that ogre general who has low empathy. Is that what people mean?

    Could someone please explain for a reader who is awful at picking up on subtext?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, Hune’s low empathy may be an ogre feature, or just the hostility of an oppressed band of refugees.

      Aside from that, Amadeus is believed to be demisexual with other divergences possible, and Hakram is nonstandard for an orc. Akua and Indrani may or may not be technically neurodivergent, but their respective psychologies are distinctly odd by our IRL standards.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Any thoughts as to what battle will officially be dubbed “Prince’s Graveyard” from Juniper’s memoirs? At a glance, I’d wager Kairos vs. all the Principate Knights in Arcadia, but that seems too easy.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Andrew Mitchell

      It seems to me that it’s all coming to a head and that the Princes Graveyard will be resolved soon. Certainly in this fragment of Arcadia but perhaps it will happen as, or soon after, the fragment has entered Creation.

      I agree that it’s not going to be as simple as “Karios vs. the Principate”. There’s Cat, Masego, Hakram, Larat and the rest of the Wild Hunt involved as well, plus the potential for the Dead King to get involved as well (as others have already discussed).

      Liked by 3 people

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