Chapter 32: Woven; Weaver

“And so Triumphant laughed, saying: ‘You spellsingers, wisdom of stars and weavers of fate, know now despair. I will break you so utterly even the remembrance of your wholeness will suffocate, and where rose your tall spires there be only the barren sea I made of your defiance.'”
– Extract from the Scroll of Dominion, twenty-fourth of the Secret Histories of Praes

Gods, but it’d been close.

More than once we’d tread the edge of the cliff, and every time it’d been all I could do not to pull the trigger on all of my most horrifying contingencies. If the Pilgrim had refused the surrender, proved himself someone it was hopeless to work with under any circumstances. If the Tyrant had refused to send forward his armies, proved willing to sacrifice even his own plans to prevent truce being made in the west. If Vivienne had fallen even slightly short of the kind of woman I believed she could be, and chosen the early gain over the slow triumph. Every time I’d sat with Komena on my shoulder, watching them face the crossroads and knowing if the wrong choice was made all that was left would be the hardest of measures. And yet, even as I pulled at my pipe and let trails of wakeleaf escape my nostrils, I saw them all turn towards me like sunflowers to the sun and understood bone-deep why someone like Dread Emperor Traitorous could exist.

I’d tasted heights in my life, more than most ever got to experience. Nights of pleasure with men or women who knew their way around a good time, and subtler pleasures of luxury too: a cup good wine and a crisp pipe, meals exotic and exquisitely prepared. Different sorts of satisfactions as well. Evenings by the fire with people I would love until death took me, but also sharper edges – victory in battle, death and terror inflicted on enemies I despised. Enjoyments that soothed the soul but others that had your teeth clenching in harsh, spiteful vindication. And while I knew it was passing, that like a spasm of pleasure or the ephemeral bliss of a drug it would die out and leave the body strained for it, there was a moment where I saw it in their eyes. The knowledge that to get here, in this moment, I had played them for fools and done it remaining one step ahead of them the entire time. The blend of hatred and fear and respect, but most of all of something that was kin to awe, it was like nothing else I’d ever felt.

If someone had distilled and bottled victory, I thought, it would taste something like this.

What a dangerous thing this sensation was, and how careful I must be to avoid falling in love with it. Else I would become another Traitorous, another Irritant, another mad murderer who cared more for victory as an end instead of a methods. For the triumph of cleverness at the expense of all else, like it was enough to simply beat the others.

“Black Queen,” the Peregrine greeted me tiredly. “That is a considerable claim you have made.”

I pulled at my pipe once more and discretely glanced at Hakram. Prince among men that he was, he understood what I needed from him without a word.

“Atalante,” he whispered. “Hierarch. Knows about Zeze.”

The forces at the Tyrant’s fingertips that were still missing, along with something he should have no way of knowing: the final pieces to the sharp-edged jigsaw puzzle that we’d all made of this night. My instincts had been right, then. Kairos was making a play for the shard of Arcadia, using another madman and the most powerful priests in his armies. He still thought he was playing me, I thought, smiling at the villain on question. But he’d actually given me the last puzzle pieces I needed to be able to run a spit through his guts and hold him over the fire like a wildly treacherous goose.

“Kairos can vouch for me on that,” I drawled, pushing myself off Hakram. “After all, he’s been talking with the Dead King throughout this entire campaign.”

The Tyrant gasped theatrically as everyone’s eyes turned towards him. Leaning on my staff, I limped forward and left behind the hanging royals as well as Adjutant. It’d not escaped my notice that Kairos had seven crowns and my closest friend in the world hanging from that wooden beam. I might have been amused by that, if not for the implicit threat to the gesture: that he’d kill Hakram the moment I made a play for the shard, that I could only snatch that prize from him if I was willing to make Adjutant my one. A heartbeat passed and the odd-eyed villain started tittering, putting his trembling hand over his heart in an expression of repentance.

“You got me,” the Tyrant of Helike snickered. “I tried to sell you all out to the Dead King… and for that, I sincerely apologize.”

The sincerity, I thought, was cast somewhat into doubt by his broad shit-eating grin.

“Though, in my defence,” Kairos continued, “it’s the Black Queen’s own court warlock who decided to read the entire Kabbalis Book of Darkness and got himself… inconvenienced.”

Huh. I wondered if he genuinely didn’t know that Masego had actually gotten his hands on much, much worse than that – Neshamah’s actual memories, harvested from an echo in Arcadia –  or if he was simply keeping that under wraps for later use.

“By inconvenienced,” the Tyrant added in stage whisper, “I mean he went crazy and ate a city’s worth of souls and now the Dead King is riding him like a mule, if you’ll forgive my language.”

I could have tried to cut him off before he got all of that out, but I didn’t bother. For one, the longer he kept talking the least likely he was to notice I’d ordered my Lord of Silent Steps to take care of a few loose ends. And, most importantly, I wanted him to out the facts that it was Masego who was, uh, getting slightly rough with the fabric of Creation. Nobody here trusted the Tyrant the slightest fucking bit, and this would be taken as an attack on his part – which meant that might my reply, which admittedly stretched the truth a little, would be granted a lot more good faith than anything coming out of my mouth usually would get.

“The Hierophant attempted to find a way to kill the Dead King, at great personal risk to himself,” I said, carefully avoiding mentioning that Masego would have taken a bite out of his own liver for that knowledge regardless of all other considerations, “but whatever it was the Ashurans used at Thalassina, it wounded him. The Hidden Horror seems to have taken advantage of that.”

But it wouldn’t have happened if the lot of you hadn’t gone a’crusading and started a battle that wiped a major city off the face of Creation, I left unsaid.

“That is unfortunate,” the Grey Pilgrim said, “yet-”

“If the next sentence that comes out of your mouth is we might have to kill him,” I mildly said, “we’re going to have a problem.”

That didn’t win me any favour with the heroes, from the way their backs straightened. I wasn’t feeling all that threatened by that, to be honest. The Saint had tussled with Rumena, so she was far from fresh, and like the Tyrant for all his fronting the Pilgrim was dead tired. The only hero that was in fighting fit was the Rogue Sorcerer, and if it came to that I could bury him in a swarm of Mighty. I didn’t intend on outright dictating terms here, but I had no qualms with disabusing them from the illusion that they were in a position to dictate a single fucking thing to me. Including the death of one of my friends, no matter his current state.

“Shut your mouth, child,” the Saint of Swords said. “You-”

I glanced at the Peregrine.

“Tariq,” I calmly said. “Do muzzle your hound, before I decide to take offence.”

The old man’s face tightened, but he laid a hand on his attack dog’s shoulder and spoke to her in a whisper. I turned to the Tyrant, who was watching all of this happen with a kind of pure malicious glee I’d only ever seen in goblins before.

“Now would be a good time to order your armies to retreat,” I told him.

“I’m no general,” the odd-eyed boy said, “but we do appear to be winning.”

I could have pointed out that the drow had been strengthened by the eclipse Akua had brought at precisely the right time, and that now that bargain had been struck my armies would back those of the Grand Alliance against his. But that’d be missing the point, because none of this really mattered to him.

“Kairos,” I patiently said, “I understand you think that by standing here and mouthing off you’re serving as a distraction for the Hierarch claiming the shard unhindered, but you’ve been had. So call off your damn armies, and let’s have all of us a civilized conversation.”

The Tyrant of Helike gazed at me in disappointment, one eye shining red and the other teary from tiredness.

“Now, if I did have such a scheme,” Kairos Theodosian said, “and I do not, for I assure you I am most defeated and at your common mercy, but if I did… then the most elementary of steps would have been ensuring that the Dead King could not in fact see such a blow coming. That, in this most theoretical of worlds, though I am such a villain’s inferior in many ways distance and the nature of our bargain would blind him to the knife until the very last moment.”

His leg twitched restlessly.

“Now, Catherine, in this abstract, are you still suggesting that I was seen through?” the Tyrant asked.

“No,” I said. “I’m not clear on what exact measures you took, honestly, but I’m fairly sure they worked. Which is why I’m telling you that, while you launched your attacks here, I pre-emptively sold you out to Hidden Horror.”

His face went blank at my words, and I enjoyed the sight a lot more than I’d thought I would. It hadn’t even been all that complicated, to be honest. Not once I’d figured out that Neshamah had his finger in this pie anyway. Masego was the only angle he could feasibly have used other than myself, and that meant all it’d taken to pass a warning about what I suspected the Hierarch of being capable of was putting it to parchment and having one of the Wild Hunt carry it as far into the Arcadian wasteland as she could without getting killed or captured. Something like a shiver went through the Tyrant of Helike’s sickly frame at my words, though I could not be certain whether it was fear or excitement. Or, for that matter, something as mundane as exhaustion.

“Well,” Kairos Theodosian mused, “it seems we truly do have about an hour to live.”

He spared a look for some of the throng of gargoyles ever surrounding him, some of which flew away with urgent chittering.

“Queen Catherine,” the Pilgrim said, tone sharp.

“I’ll give you the broad strokes,” I said. “Kairos can fill in the parts I’m uncertain about. Won’t you, Kairos?”

Most of the time it was a damned pain to deal with intelligent opponents, but once in a while it had its uses. The Tyrant looked at the heroes, face twisting into a thoughtful frown as he asked himself what use I had for the heroes. It could not be to kill him, since he had to know just the same as I did that he’d slip away like an eel if we tried. He had symbolic hostages, had just finished making a broad splash in the story pond with a plan and so he was very much due a beating at heroic hands – followed by him scampering away to fight another day. So no, I wasn’t trying to use the heroes as a borrowed knife. I was even, tacitly, inviting him to be part of this as something other than an enemy. Which meant…

“There are six of us,” Kairos noted, eyeing me as he wagged a finger chidingly.

“Adjutant will stay behind,” I replied.

“Not even one of them,” he laughed. “Ever bold, Catherine. Put this way, how can I refuse?”

My gaze returned to the Pilgrim, whose face had grown cold as the back and forth continued. The light tone of the exchange must have grated on him, considering people were dying as we spoke. You can’t act like that with the Tyrant, Tariq, I thought. He’ll pounce on that kind of weakness every time.

“The block on scrying is what gave it away,” I told the Pilgrim. “I’d been given details before that allowed me to catch on, troubles at the Observatory and my mages theorizing that the sky was already in use and that was why the rituals didn’t work. I thought it was a side-effect, at first, of whatever Hierophant is being tricked into doing, but it was just too convenient.”

The Rogue Sorcerer stirred.

“The scrying troubles are a consequence of  the Keter’s Due of some great working,” he said. “That much I have confirmed.”

“Figured it might be that,” I said, “because Hierophant picked up the ruins of Liesse on the way here, and I’m no scholar of sorcery but I do know there’s one thing about that weapon that makes Akua Sahelian a legend: it made use of the Due.”

Instead of the turning Liesse and its surroundings into a blighted wasteland, Diabolist had used the wild release of wasted energy that accompanied every spell to power the city’s flight. That did not mean, however, that the artefact could not be shaped anew until the release served other purpose.

“You’re implying the Dead King, through the Hierophant, intervened to prevent scrying from being possible in Iserre,” the Pilgrim said.

He flicked a glance at the Rogue Sorcerer, who nodded a concession it was possible for that to have been the case. I didn’t need to tell the Peregrine much more than that: he might not have been in the middle of anything like this before, but given how long he’d been kicking around he would have been in the middle of a lot of things that were a little like this.

“We were meant to bloody each other,” the old man quietly said. “The Grand Alliance, the Legions of Terror, your Army of Callow. By cutting off the rituals, negotiation was made difficult and you-”

A coldly burning gaze turned to the Tyrant of Helike. I sympathized with the sentiment. The Pilgrim and I had both known we were doing the Dead King’s work for him, by fighting here in Iserre, but neither of us had grasped quite how literally that was the case until tonight.

“Me,” Kairos grinned. “I’ve had eyes in the sky this entire time, in a manner of speaking. And on occasion, I spoke with a dear friend of mine about… common interests.”

Which explained why the armies of the League and of Helike in particular had been able to dance around Iserre flawlessly, never encountering any true setback until I’d arrived on the surface with Sve Noc at my back: perhaps the only entity in the principality that could veil itself from the ritual Neshamah was using. And to make it even worse, with that knowledge Kairos had undertaken the collection of even more. Since he’d known where every army was, he’d been able to make deals with them for even more secrets until he was the only person in all of Iserre who truly knew what was going on. Which had made him, in turn, even more useful to the Dead King who needed an agent in the region to keep stirring the chaos and escalate the mess. I suspected he’d used that need a chip to learn quite a few things he shouldn’t. Likely the information about the Bard he’d traded me initially came from Neshamah, and for him to know of the specific price to my bargain with Larat – as he quite obviously did – meant the chances were good most of what Masego knew had been spilled and passed on. It did smack of the Dead King’s ironic touch, to be selling my secrets instead of his.

“Of course, they are villains,” I said. “Which means the Dead King always intended to kill him, and Kairos always intended on stealing the Dead King’s victory at the very last moment.”

I cast a curious glance at the Tyrant, since I was still unaware of the full details of what Neshamah was up to. I’d figured out that if no one ended up claiming the shard it would have no anchor and so just keep falling – you know, until it crashed on us – but I doubted the Dead King was just going to let that lying around afterwards. Though after making corpses out of the core armies of the Grand Alliance, the East and the League he should definitely have some further means to meddle.

“He planned on turning this lovely little ruin-realm into a fresh Hell, I do believe,” Kairos mused. “After binding our souls, raising us from the grave and unleashing us against all he opposed anyway. He’s got classic tastes, our friend up north.”

“Neat,” I flatly said. “So, Kairos here wanted to snatch the shard from the Dead King using the Hierarch and Atalante’s priesthood.”

“It was going to be beautiful,” the Tyrant sighed. “Terrible for all of you, of course, but absolutely glorious for everyone that matters. I’d even been looking into the practicalities of crashing it into the Serenity.”

He’d what? No, now was not the time to let him distract me.

“Won’t work now,” I said. “The Dead King’s been warned. But, as it happens, there’s still a way to prevent this from killing us all.”

The Tyrant leaned back into his throne with a vicious grin.

“Now, this is the part I’ve been looking forward to,” Kairos Theodosian cheerfully said. “Go on, Catherine, I want to see how you’ll be selling the birth of a fae court sworn to Below to the Peregrine.”

The Pilgrim’s hackles went right back up, not that they’d ever gone down all that much. Might be more accurate to say the crux of his indignation had been pointed at another villain, for once. He didn’t accuse me, at least, though at his side Laurence looked both triumphant and remarkably eager to run me through. I rolled my shoulder to loosen it, the same way I’d used to do before fights – in a way, this was one. Without blades having been bared, but it counted all the same. All my plans meant nothing, if I couldn’t convince the Peregrine that backing me was the right choice. The Saint was a lost cause, and I knew next to nothing about the Sorcerer, but they’d both fall in line if Tariq gave his word. Leaning against my staff, I gestured upwards at the darkened firmament.

“Now, a realm has been carved out of Arcadia and sent careening down into Creation,” I said. “There’s no changing that, there’s not sending it back and destroying it would be worse: it’s close enough to us by now that if we broke it the aftershocks would likely kill everyone in Iserre. Which means that realm needs to be seen to, anchored, and there’s only three stories for us to craft that fate from.”

I raised a single finger, then jammed it towards the north.

“The Dead King’s story is a kingdom of death, made for the reigning king of the same,” I said. “Its herald was the folly and blindness of mortals, who willingly sacrificed themselves at an unseen altar to allow the blooming of calamity.”

I paused.

“It also involves everyone here dying and returning as a Revenant in his service, leading his armies in the conquest of Calernia,” I added. “Not, I feel same in assuming, anyone’s first choice.”

I shrugged.

“Now, there was a second story,” I said. “Woven by the hand of our very own Tyrant.”

Kairos nonchalantly waved, which had the Saint’s lips thinning in anger and her hand visibly reaching for her sword. It was almost unsettling to see that directed at someone else.

“His was the madness-”

“-visionary wisdom,” the Tyrant corrected.

“- of the Hierarch woven into the very fabric of a realm,” I continued. “A vessel of revolt, an instrument for the sowing of strife uncivil. That story, however, was broken.”

“She sold me out to the Dead King,” Kairos complained to the heroes. “You really can’t trust anyone these days.”

“The last story is mine,” I said. “It is made of crowns and debts, the desperate trick of a fox chewing through its own foot for fear of the night.”

“Then it is true,” the Grey Pilgrim grimly said. “You want to make a Court of Night.”

“Oh no, this is where you have me wrong,” I smiled. “What I want, Peregrine, is for us to make a god.”

My smile turned sharp, almost blade-like.

“Then to murder that god and make of his bones a highway for our armies.”

235 thoughts on “Chapter 32: Woven; Weaver

  1. “Then to murder that god and make of his bones a highway for our armies.”

    Goddamn Cat stop trying to murder Gods. You have literally died twice trying to do exactly that, most people would take that as a hint to stop. But noooo, you just have to keep trying.
    When it gets to the point that you’re making new God’s for the express purpose of murdering them, because you’ve run out of God’s to try and murder, it’s time to admit you have a problem.

    Liked by 40 people

        • That’s when Grey Boi, Sword Bitch & Rogue One need to curse Cat for her sudden but inevitable betrayal. That or extort Black’s soul from them further down the line.

          Liked by 3 people

          • Noooooo maybe it’s better than that!

            Cat’s role in this is not as a member of a heroic band – she’s in the running as the Below’s Intercessor. Think about it. The Bard acts to keep stories on the rails – aka, under the guidance of the Gods (Above) – and Cat acts to break those stories, aka, returning that guidance to mortals, as the Gods Below desire. Which is the entire fight between the gods in the first place.

            Instead, the Black Night restored is the fifth member of the heroic band.

            Liked by 2 people

  2. Not sure what’s going on anymore, but that part about killing a God and making his bones into a toll road of some sort was all kinds of awesome.

    And a crazy pile of nutsacks, of course, but that one’s kinda obvious. It’s Cat, after all.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Holy shit, talk about amazing. Catherine tells us just what’s been going on behind the scenes, and we see that her genius was nevertheless precarious and the entire situation was balanced on a knife edge above a chasm of lava. And she still pulled it off. That’s more amazing than if she had been the effortless puppetmaster she came across as.

    Masego is possessed to some degree. That’ll be fun to deal with, especially as Catherine won’t tolerate his death unless she literally has no other option (I think she would be capable of sacrificing him if it was the only way, but she may never forgive herself for it). I have a feeling Archer will come to play here, probably as the trump card to free Masego, but a small part of me also sees she could be a player in a tragedy where she defends Masego from the party even though Masego (may) need to die.

    She’s going to make a god. How? We have no real idea, but I have a feeling she’s setting Larat up to be the King of this Arcadia and then kill him.

    Liked by 10 people

      • Oh, no, sex as such would totally not work on Masego. I’m betting Cat (and perhaps Indrani) goes into Masego’s mind, like she did the last time he was shocked into withdrawal. Indrani might well be in there already, captured in his idealized image of her. But this time Cat’s got Night at her back, which is one of the few powers around that might be able to stand up to Masego+DK. Cue Pilgrim’s sacrifice while defending her vulnerable body from undead attack (while Hakram fends off Kairos.).

        Liked by 2 people

    • She’s going to pay the price Larat asked of her way back, seems to be the going theory. Ofc, with all the help she’s recruited there may be easier ways.

      Liked by 4 people

    • But that’s the secret, isn’t it? It’s ALWAYS a knife edge over lava. The secret of being the mastermind is convincing everyone that everything went Just As Planned and that was no invisible frantic scrabble in the background. Anyone who says they are an effortless puppetmaster is just more than capable of lying to you convincingly so you believe it. The true puppetmaster is really just the Master of Plan B and knowing how to adapt circumstances to your advantage and then neatly playing everything off like that was the plan all along.

      It’s basically exactly the same as dungeonmastering, just writ larger, really; and the one plays into the other and vice-versa…

      This time, we just actually got to see behind the mask and the process that went into that, as WELL as the view from outside.

      Liked by 9 people

    • Oh Cat IS the “effortless puppetmaster” she came across as. She HAD all the contingencies, after all. She’s just on the edge about it.

      A sign of being at a higher level of skill is noticing more flaws in your work than anyone else could :3

      Liked by 1 person

    • So… is the Prince’s Graveyard the battle against the Wild Hunt made New Fae Court? ^^
      There would be only one King/Queen (Larat), but there might just be a lot of Princes/Princesses…

      Liked by 1 person

    • magesbe’s comment on 26 april at 4:26A is an good summary of why this was excellent writing, imho. Exciting, clever, nuanced, w/o being phrased in an opaque/confusing way (although lots of the situation is not yet clear, as it’s not revealed yet, that’s drama folks!). this was nicely done. Capturing the edge she walked, the plans, the joy and fear and purpose…very nice.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. “For one, the longer he kept talking the least likely he was to notice I’d ordered my Lord of Silent Steps to take care of a few loose ends.”

    Loose ends? Black’s soul? Hakram’s bonds? Disarming the goblinfire-explosives in the goat?

    Liked by 8 people

  5. Oh Cat, tricking Heroes and Villians alike to make her wet work. This battle will be remembered for Cat making, breaking, then using a God to smash the Dead King.

    She might just become an entity more feared than the Dead King at this rate, as the Dead King was never allowed this much meddling without costly battles.

    Liked by 10 people

  6. Wow! I can’t wait for the second part of the plan to unfold, I wonder what Black’s message was and how will the secret alliance with Kairos will work. Will we finally find out if Cat is the Bards tool or her end?

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Black’s message”??? Please explain… I must have missed something.

      Good point about the Bard. She’s been absent from all this and that’s a worry.

      Liked by 3 people

      • So, the Big Bad of the setting is Bard (and the Dead King). We know that in the last conversation with Bard Amadeus realized something. Yet, instead of escaping he reappears as a soulless body. This is specially jarring if you consider that he had a very good chance to escape (story, plus claimant, plus friends in need, plus being Amadeus). So whatever Mistake the Bard committed, Amadeus considers that the best option was not to play. This is further reinforced by the fact that GP and SoS never mention that he tried to escape. However, Black is not someone to be passive, he has a scheme in the works. Now, with Warlock dead the two persons that will help him are Cat and Malicia, if he puts himself I the right position it is just a matter of time that they find his body, specially if he nudges the story the right way. And there is no way that Amadeus is not going to make use of that to ruin someone’s day.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Interesting theory. There’s certainly something going on there with Black saying “Mistake” about the Bards visit. Let’s see how much of your ideas come to be true. Whatever happens I can’t wait to see Black and Cat back together again.

          Liked by 2 people

        • There is no guarantee that “mistake” refers to Bard.

          My impression was that Amadeus decided that whatever he could do would be what Bard predicted, and the path of smallest fuckup was to let himself get dissected.

          Liked by 1 person

            • See it would be very very of him to think it was a mistake and not all part of the plan – she’s proved plenty of indirect cunning already. You can’t foil an enemy plan if you can’t tell what the enemy is actually trying to do.

              Kairos has surrendered intiative to Catherine by being active and achieving visible results that tied together into a whole.

              Bard… nobody knows what the fuck she wants anything she’s done for.

              Liked by 1 person

  7. Fantastic chapter IMO. What a joy to see Cat at work again and witness her nuanced understanding of the current situation and the characters. Karios is still a fascinating character but I do hope Cat gets to roast him as she imagined doing. I also hope Peregrine gets on board with this quickly, just like he did with Vivienne’s negotiation.

    What a great set up for the closing arc of book 5!! You have outdone yourself EE. 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Cat snorting some coke off of Hellhound’s tits. ”I WILL MAKE A WEAPON TO SURPASS METAL GEAR!”
    Takes another hit. ”I WILL MAKE A GOD AND THEN KILL IT!”

    Takes another giant hit. With eyes bloodshot and hair in disarray. ”I WILL USE THE GODS CORPSE AS A HIGHWAY”

    Liked by 7 people

    • Juniper would not put up with that shit. She’d wholeheartedly refuse to be a titty table!

      So Cat orders Aisha to do it and suddenly Juniper is surprisingly excited about snorting coke.

      Liked by 4 people

    • Do orcs even have tits? Given their general habits, I would be unsurprised if their young simply ate meat from birth. At first it might get pre-chewed by a parent (as is common among multiple species including humans) but I’d suspect that’s not actually necessary given the story potential. Remember, just because something’s humanoid, doesn’t mean it’s “like a human, except…”.

      Speaking of which, Cat might be headed for some awkward moments — this is not the first time she’s commented on Hakram to the effect of “good man”. In some ways he might be a better man than an orc, but he’s still an orc. And Juniper’s POV has hinted at the hazards of interspecies desire….

      Liked by 2 people

      • The whole sex thing has actually come up between Hakram and Catherine in Book 2, to his awkwardness and her amusement, as he ended up seeing her naked a lot / she found amusement in not being bothered by being naked in front of him. Catherine apparently has very little body shyness, while Hakram is a prude.

        Anyway, she’s not interested in him like that, nor he in her. The jokes were completely subtext-free, other than ‘oh my god he is adorable’.

        Liked by 3 people

  9. “Oh no, this is where you have me wrong,” I smiled. “What I want, Peregrine, is for us to make a god.”[…]
    “Then to murder that god and make of his bones a highway for our armies.”

    It is probably the most wtf-yet-awesome sentences in the whole serie. And some of the most emblematic. When I will speak to other people about APGTE, I will definitely mention it!😁

    Liked by 7 people

  10. Imagine Cat an evil anonymous group.

    “Hi, my name is Cathtine (hi cathrine) and I’ve bullied angels, sold myself to the fae, became the head of the drow religion, and made god so I could kill it.”

    Liked by 15 people

    • “And so Maleficent said: ‘Though you be god I am Empress, crowned of dread, and by my hand comes your doom. Rage in vain, for from your bones will rise a great tower whose shadow will be cast upon all the world.’”
      —Extract from the Scroll of Chains, first of the Secret Histories of Praes

      Liked by 6 people

      • Thought of that as well.

        It’s TOO awesome (in its literal meaning, a thing of too much awe) for guys like pilgrim to go along with it without trouble, not to even mention Saint…


    • That would be really exciting if it happens but I don’t think she wants that power. She likes being mortal and doesn’t want to be shaped by a Role, especially not a Villainous one.

      Liked by 3 people

  11. Pilgrim: …Catherine, I’m willing to entertain the idea that what you just said makes any degree of sense, let alone having any chance of working. There is even a small chance that I may be willing to go along with this plan, as it may be the least offensive option. But Gods Above, could you please stop SMILING at the thought of deicide?

    Liked by 14 people


    There were other people who did, though, and while I don’t remember who said what, I would like to officially credit:
    – the person who pointed out there were 5 Named present;
    – the people who’ve been arguing it’s the trap Tikoloshe and Wekesa were worried about (y’all were right and I was wrong)
    – the people who were like but HOW does Kairos know about the fae bargain (caoimnh, this one goes to you);
    – the people (person?) who’d asked where Ivah was;
    – the people who said it was Hierarch: both you AND the people who said it was Dead King were right!


    (one bit of credit I’m stealing for myself: Evil Cannot Understand Good in Catherine proposing to kill Larat instead of claiming his power; though the more basic ploy was Catherine out-vicious-ing Kairos in a more classically villainous play, by selling him out to Neshamah. I love that she managed both)

    Liked by 15 people

    • Hear hear! (Or should that be “Hear here”?) Anyway, well said Liliet! 🙂 ❤

      The commenting community around PGtE is just getting better and better. Equal measure entertaining, engaging and insightful. But also respectful, tolerant and inclusive. An online community space with all these attributes is a rare and valuable thing.

      Thanks for making this an awesome place to hang out everyone. ❤ ❤ ❤

      Liked by 5 people

  13. Great chapter, really like how all the twists came together. Also in retrospect I can’t believe I missed the Dead King as a likely suspect of the scrying block. I keep thinking of his only weapons being the undead but he’s The Original Sorcerer.

    Not going to ignore Cat defending Akua The Legend’s honor here. Best buds

    Liked by 4 people

  14. I know everyone else loved the whole “make a God and then use his bones as a highway” but this is the best part for me.
    “I’m not clear on what exact measures you took, honestly, but I’m fairly sure they worked. Which is why I’m telling you that, while you launched your attacks here, I pre-emptively sold you out to Hidden Horror.”
    This followed by this.
    {His face went blank at my words}
    She effectively screwed him over better then everything else that happened this past 24 Hours and it was the easiest thing she did.

    Liked by 9 people

      • The place where pragmatic heroism and pragmatic villainy meet and share a pizza: screwing the other guys viciously over to help others… while getting what you want out of it, too. Also known as “saving the world using every dirty or clean trick that could work, because it’s got my stuff in it and the look on your faces is just precious”.

        Liked by 2 people

  15. So… The Rogue Sorcerer is here. Where is Amadeus’ soul? I doubt they would just drop it somewhere. And props to Tariq for lying about not knowing where he is. If he continues like this, he will reach his lifelong goal, and become a true villain. Not a great one, but at least a villain.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I don’t know that he was lying. He probably very intentionally had no idea where Rouge was at that moment. He probably even said “you go someplace random” to the man since he knew Cat was tricky. but, the thing with heroes is, they always return by the time they are really needed. He didn’t know where RS was, but RS knew where he was, and then Arcadia started to crash and they needed to ride through it and oh look the Sorcerer is back, how convenient.

      Liked by 3 people

    • I don’t think he was lying. The Rogue Sorcerer popped up with the southern army which was random / providence guided. It’s an oddly complicated proposition that Tariq set that up as opposed to it just arising organically.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Oh yes he was. Well, it might not have been lying exactly, but what he said had nothing to do with the truth.
        In ch 26 he claims that he sent to Rogue Sorcerer into hiding and doesn’t know where he is. Princess Rozala was right there next to the Pilgrim. In this chapter (and earlier in When Iron Rests) we learn, that he sent a force to Arcadia. A force that includes both the Rogue Sorcerer and Princess Rozala.
        If he sent the Sorcerer into hiding, there was absolutely no chance of him reappearing so soon. Especially since he was supposed to be hiding so that Amadeus’ body can be executed safely. Unless his instructions about the length of that hiding were very specific. “Go hide somewhere for a day” specific. If he could call him back afterwards, then he knew where he was.
        Let’s not forget, Tariq set up both this fight against Catherine, and the last. And a long time ago at that. Since the Sorcerer is his contingency for this battle, he was not sending him anywhere without being certain that he would be back when needed.

        Liked by 1 person

            • I mean he had the entire province to wander without Pilgrim knowing where he was. Staying in one place was no more ‘hiding’ than walking around, and walking around made him less useless.

              This is the hero version of staying in hiding: you can only be idle for so long before the story gets bored and drags you into some shit whether you like it or not.

              Liked by 1 person

        • And Catherine specifically commented on “him appearing so soon”: he came to the aid of the army when he was needed by “”wild coincidence”” which was also the same “”coincidence”” that led all the armies into meeting here.

          Tariq did not set up a story that would keep Rogue Sorcerer and Black’s soul out of Cat’s grasp.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Like Cat said the force that came through Arcadia needed a magical guide so the Rogue Sorcerer showed up as the “povidance” of Above and it was also insured it would be said Sorcerer because he has something Cat wants aka Below always gets its due

            Liked by 2 people

        • > If he sent the Sorcerer into hiding, there was absolutely no chance of him reappearing so soon.

          I’m not sure how long had elapsed between the scene with the Bard and Black and the present day. IMO it’s probably weeks, if not months. That’s plenty of time for the RS to go into hiding with the soul and to later reappear when & where providence requires it.

          Liked by 2 people

  16. Ahahahahahaha!

    Cat, welcome, truly, to the Evil side. That moment is a real rush, isn’t it?

    If I was Above and Below, I’d be pre-emptively using my pants and a latrine about now. She’s done it before, she’ll do it again, and you’re on her hit list…

    I’m amazing Kairos hasn’t just swooned away.

    (Maybe he just did after that last line. Hell, *I* nearly did…!)

    Liked by 4 people

  17. Of all the ways that a “Princes’ Graveyard” might happen, I wasn’t expecting “killed to fuel a sorcerous ritual that creates a god.” That isn’t really Cat’s usual style.

    And she’s made it seem like a clever turnabout on the Dead King rather than a villainous plot. She’s good.

    Liked by 3 people

    • > I wasn’t expecting “killed to fuel a sorcerous ritual that creates a god.” That isn’t really Cat’s usual style.

      Cat’s just supplying the “seven crowns and one”; Larat’s the one doing the creation of the new Fae court (and becoming a god in the process).

      Liked by 2 people

    • At this point I’m very close to 100% that the “graveyard” part of “Princes’ Graveyard” is metaphorical rather than literal. Remember, the terms of her deal with Larat were that she lay seven crowns and one at his feet. No mention was made of actually killing their former owners, and if there’s one consistent element to stories of fae bargains it’s that precise wording *matters*.

      Granted, just swiping the physical crowns off their heads almost certainly wouldn’t carry enough metaphysical/story weight to work, otherwise it would be way too easy and there’d be like 15 Courts of Arcadia as every Prince or Duke of Arcadia with light fingers went shopping. But if the princes in question have formally relinquished ownership of said crowns, especially if it were of their own volition? Yeah, that could do it. I think Cat’s pitch is “all y’all princes abdicate and willingly gift your crowns to make this happen”, and given the percentage of those princes who are veterans of the war against the dead in the north (notably including Rozala, the new effective leader both militarily of the Proceran forces here and politically of what used to be Amadis’ faction) I think they’ll go for it in order to get back to that fight, with unexpected and demonstratedly powerful reinforcements no less.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I like your thinking. Just one remaining issue, I think. There has to be a good reason for the people talking about it afterwards, to call it a “graveyard”. Why would they use that particular word in your scenario?

        Liked by 1 person

        • That’s sort of what I meant by calling it a metaphorical graveyard. As I understand it, there’s a tradition with those kind of feudal titles where the title is considered as an entity distinct from the person holding it. When Akua was talking about that kind of thing it wasn’t really something distinct to Praesi so much as something that’s semi-standard in feudal/hereditary titles that the Praesi just took to sociopathic extremes, as is their way (Cat wouldn’t necessarily have recognized that, though – she was anything but raised among the nobility).

          In other words: what I’m suggesting is that it’s possible that even if, say, Rozala Malanza survives the night, if the title is lost then you could say that the Princess of Aequitan (sp?) has died, or that Rozala has died as the Princess but survived in her own person. Which is a rather metaphorical take on death used to give the battle a dramatic title (as all battles should have), which was what I was thinking of when I said I thought it might be a metaphorical graveyard. I can see where that wouldn’t have been obvious to someone looking at it from outside of my head, though!

          Liked by 2 people

  18. So Cat is making herself a party. Kairos (chaotic evil Sorcerer? Warlock?), The Rogue Sorcer ( Neutral Good wizard), The Saint of Swords (Insane/stupid good Paladan or Fighter), The Grey Pilgrim (Neutral Good Cleric), and herself; The Black Queen ( Chaotic neutral/Neutral evilish Cleric). I’m sure this will all go swimmingly.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I think that to accurately represent this party we really need a z-axis on the alignment chart, labeled Practicality. So Saint of Swords is Wildly Impractical Chaotic Good (“burn it all for the greater good!”), Pilgrim is Practical Neutral Good (“I use the means that work to accomplish the ends that matter, not the means that make me happy”), and Cat is Ultra-Practical True Neutral (“hey, if it works it works”). We know hardly anything about Rogue Sorcerer so I’m not going to try to categorize him except he’s presumably some flavor or another of Good, and Kairos is 1000% Chaotic Evil but really difficult to categorize on my new z-axis because he’s Wildly Impractical but he’s weaponized it so hard that it works *for* him, which is Practical…?

      Liked by 5 people

      • Based on the original alignment definitions, SoS is neutral good in serious danger of an alignment failure. Pilgrim is Lawful Good (goes for control before any other goal, any evil that can’t be controlled must be killed). Cat is Chaotic Evil in the proper sense, supporting individual freedom every chance she gets, but with the Evil aspect being a flag and toolchest rather than personal sadism. (She was recruited from Chaotic Neutral over the first couple of books or so.)

        AIUI, the new versions of D&D fold the original grid onto its diagonal, making “chaotic evil” an extension of “evil”, and “lawful good” an extension of “good”. Of course, that kind of thinking is part of what the Practical Guide is meant to expose and send up.

        Liked by 2 people

          • How do you get Lawful? From the beginning she was building her own resources rather than depending on others (including fighting in those illegal pits), and not depending on nor liking the local hierarchy/legal system much. And her basic plan was to get into “the system” and covertly subvert it to her ends. Looks like Chaotic to me.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Consider:
              – when faced with a choice of rebelling agaist the system (hero) or working within the system, Catherine chose the latter. Oh she had logic backing it up, but there would have been logic backing up the first choice too if that was more to her liking;
              – Catherine took to army discipline so immediately, she’d been able to identify Robber giving her an improper salute during their first meeting;
              – when she first met Black, she got terrified, and her first thought was to go through what she’s done to check if there was a reason for him to be after her, and she concluded she’d done nothing wrong. Other than the pits, but it’s not like he’d care. She treated the system as one that actually works, in her logic, and one that she can rely on to protect her if she’s innocent, at least tentatively. When faced with actual villains and Mazus-grade bullshit, that ain’t a Chaotic’s response;
              – this came later but is honestly my favorite: when faced with the Winter problem, Catherine’s solution was to impose inflexible rules on herself in the form of oaths. No Chaotic has ever considered imposing deliberately inflexible unbreakable rules on themselves a good precaution;
              – right now, Catherine’s long-term goal is literally regulation. She looked at the world around her, burning and bleeding, and said “you know how I can see fixing this? With more rules!” Again, this makes sense, but there are many possible solutions and it definitely takes a mindset predisposed towards Lawful already to stumble upon this one before any other you like enough to stick with.

              Catherine has strong Chaotic tendencies, only growing moreso in Amadeus’s tutelage, but her Lawful tendences are stronger still. She’s nearly Vimes-level Lawful.

              Like… the solution to the world’s problems she believed in at fifteen was making herself into police! How is this not the most Lawful teenager you ever heard of?

              Liked by 2 people

            • As for your arguments more specifically:
              – from the beginning she was relying on the idea of being accepted into War College and rising through the ranks from there, entirely relying on an existing system;
              – what she wanted with the system was not “subvering” it but making it work more properly for its declared purpose, and of course not for “her own” goals but for a more well-oiled machine of the society;
              – and as I’ve said, she was not choosing between “working with the system as is” and “changing the system”, she was choosing between “smashing the system by force” and “trying to fix the system. The reason Catherine was not okay with the situation as it was, was not Chaotic – it was Good, and if anything Lawful – she considered Mazus to be horrifyingly incompetent before anything else.

              Baby Catherine is fucking amazing, and rereading Chapter 1 and 2 is a trip. I highly recommend it!

              Liked by 1 person

              • I’ll indeed need to reread those first two chapters, if only to check details. I will note that if she had taken the heroic route, Amadeus would have squashed her like all the others. The War College was her only choice, for precisely the same reason the American armed forces get so many recruits from the underclass(es) here — paths to advancement had been purposely limited, this was one of the few left to her.

                Liked by 1 person

                • >I will note that if she had taken the heroic route, Amadeus would have squashed her like all the others

                  That’s the likely prediction, yes, but note how it didn’t stop other heroes. There’s never a guarantee, and risk can be worth the payoff. It’s not like Cat is not brave enough or not selfless enough – no, she just didn’t consider it necessary enough. She thought the system as it was was fixable enough.

                  And yeah, please reread them, they’re great ;u;


  19. So… everyone’s crowing about how clever Cat is (she is), but Cat, did you just screw over someone’s entirely legit plan for messing up the dead king… so as to implement your own… except now, by the time you show up the Mayor of Keter is going to be EXPECTING you.

    Seriously, he ain’t stupid enough to believe you would WARN him about Kairos unless you already had a plan of screwing him over some other way.
    Which means he’s preparing for you, which means…. this is going to be a very hard fight, that you may not win… and you just screwed over one of the few OTHER legit plans in the region.

    …. I get why she needed to do this, but it does seem a bit… bad.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Kairos’s plan included killing everyone else in Iserre.

      And that’s just the part Cat knew about / could guess.

      Given her gambit inevitably maneuvered him into having to help with HER plan, I think all the heroes are standing there in silent approval.

      “Normally we wouldn’t advocate releasing anything to the Dead King… but those are some damn special circumstances”

      Liked by 4 people

      • If that was the case, why did he intervened after Cat surrendered her armies? I think he aimed for mindcontrol/everyone (except League) having revolted victory here, as in mostly everyone is alive but rioting and the leaders are forced to the peace table. Hundreds of thousands of corpses will give Dead King too much control.


    • Aside from the collateral damage of Kairos’ plan, there’s no real reason to think it would have killed the Dead King. It might well have “defeated” him. in frustrating his plan for the fragment, but you don’t live a few thousand years and then get killed off by a couple of insane villains running a scheme by themselves. And of course, then you’d have Kairos and/or Heirarch running around with a RevoltWorld to Overthrow All The Rulers.

      Liked by 4 people

  20. It’s probably been mentioned already, but is Cat trying to make a heroic band of 5? I remeber at some point in the story Saint was talking to Pilgrim about how they would be “2 of the 5” and Tyrant makes a point to say “there are 6 of us” to which cat says “Hakram will stay behind”. Could a heroic band work with 2 villains, or can any named create a band of 5?

    Liked by 2 people

    • The 5 man band thing definitely isn’t just for Heroes – look at the Calamities and the Woe. I suspect a mixed band of Heroes and Villains is unusual, but Cat’s whole thing is trying to convince people that the important struggle isn’t “Good vs. Evil,” it’s “Apocalyptic Wars that Kill Lots of People vs. Not Doing That,” so it makes sense that she’s unusually willing to cross party lines, so to speak.

      Liked by 6 people

    • Well, normally a heroic band only works with 1 Token Evil Member… which of course necessitates that Cat be merely a darker shade of antihero, ruthless but ultimately as aligned with greater good as the more straightforward heroes are.

      This happens to be the actual truth, so it shouldn’t be too hard to bend the story there 😀

      Liked by 2 people

    • Interesting question. You may be right, or it may be another scene of what’s happening in the main battle with the Dead King’s forces, or something else entirely… We’ll see soon enough.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. It occurs to me that all sorts of things could go wrong with this plan, starting with god!Larat’s objections to being murdered. Also that if previous trends(*) hold, we aren’t even halfway through book V, so there’s room for a lot of stuff to go wrong before the story wraps.

    (*) Counting unnumbered chapters like interludes: Book I had 30 chapters, Book II had 62, Book III had 97, and Book IV had 108. So far, Book V has 45. Of course, this does not consider word counts, which I have no obvious way to get.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’m actually expecting this next arc (crowns & one, new Fae court, Larat murdered, highway of bones) to be the last for Book V. Remember EE made a decision to split Book IV to create an extra book, which is what we are reading now.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yeah, but like I said it might not be so easy. Remember, the whole Everdark was fundamentally one arc.

        I didn’t know that about book IV, but I can easily believe that EE did the same math as me and decided that things were getting out of hand. 😉

        Liked by 3 people

    • They have roads.
      They even have what are the local equivalent of Imperial Roman highways, probably at least some of them with a helping of magic used in their creation.
      Sure, there are also a lot of relatively poor quality roads, but after Akua’s Folly, Cat made a point of having the crucifixions placed every mile on the nearest paved roadway.

      Liked by 3 people

  22. You know, it’s been said too many times that teleportation is impossible to have been accident.

    This whole story has been leading up to this, really, a world with no fast travel, then the main character gaining a form of it for a price, then the price becoming steeper, now they’re going to make it free, leading to a future where teleportation happens a lot.

    I mean, she pondered upon stealing lakes and mountains and selling them, imagine if she had that power at her disposal again, she could unite the continent and maybe make a deal with the gnomes to transport them anywhere they wanted faster than jet fuel can take them.

    Personal pocket highway is useful.


Leave a Reply

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

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s