Chapter 34: Seven

“Never once have I betrayed, for such an act first requires the extension of trust.”
– Dread Empress Foul II, the Forthright

Now, far be it from me to even remotely imply Kairos Theodosian was not at best the worst ally anyone would ever have and at worst essentially a malignant disease inflicted on Creation. That said when it came to, uh, the sheer number of crowned heads gathering in the Principate at any given time then he almost had a point. I’d had Hakram drill me on the names and attendant principalities, and still I was pretty sure I had at least two of them confused. Both Princess Bertille of Lange and Princess Leonor of Valencis were women in their late forties with dark hair and tan skin, which considering I’d never spoken a word to either did not make differentiating them at a glance easy. Still, it wasn’t them that’d matter in that throng of royalty. The keystones here were two, princesses both. One of them familiar by now: Princess Rozala Malanza of Aequitan, who was still glaring at the Tyrant of Helike for his casual murder of her illusory form. Kairos seemed genuinely delighted at the prospect of having made yet another powerful enemy. The other I’d met only once before, when we’d had that pleasant chat under afternoon sun where I’d politely asked her and a few thousand riders to turn back. Princess Sophie Louvroy of Lyonis, one of Hasenbach’s staunchest partisans in Procer and I suspected the check sent on Rozala in case her command of a large army so close to Salia prompted… ambitions.

Where Princess Rozala was dark-haired and dark-eyed, tall yet curvy in the way that classical Arlesite beauties tended to be, Princess Sophie was a pale blonder with blue eyes and a narrow face. The Princess of Lyonis was a few years older, I knew from the reports of the Jacks, but it was hard to tell at a glance. They were not the oldest of the seven royals standing revealed in the eclipse’s gloom, nor those ruling the wealthiest or most influential principalities, yet there were no denying it was they who shared the reins of authority. Princess Sophie did so as the First Prince’s eyes and ear in the south, while if Vivienne’s spies had it right then Princess Rozala was considered the informal heiress to the coalition of crowns that Prince Amadis Milenan had laboriously assembled. Since the Battle of the Camps said Prince of Iserre had been cooling his heels in the hands of the Kingdom of Callow as a prisoner, so given the ever-fluid nature of Proceran politics it was only natural a successor had emerged. They could do worse, silently conceded. Malanza was a skilled commander, and though no great diplomat she was not without allure. It would be easy enough to contrast her solid military record to Cordelia Hasenbach’s own lack of anything similar and reliance on her uncle the Iron Prince for all things warfare.

I doubted they’d ever have the votes to seriously threaten Cordelia in the Highest Assembly, but as a bloc of opposition headed by Princess Rozala they could be a force to reckon with.

“This is rank madness,” a dark-haired woman said.

That accent was Alamans, not Arlesite, which should mean I was looking at Princess Bertille of Lange.

“It is certainly dubious,” Princess Sophie of Lyonis agreed, watching me warily.

That sounded like a refusal in the making, and from one of the two people I would much prefer to be in agreement instead of opposition. It would establish whether what followed would be known as a grave diplomatic incident or a heroic bargain struck in the face of despair.

“The exact meaning of giving away a crown are still unclear,” Prince Louis of Creusens calmly said.

The Prince of Creusens was one of Amadis’ – now Rozala’s perhaps – and somehow managed to make a suit of armour quite obviously fitted to him look too large for his frame. He had a scholarly look about him, and his russet eyes were calm even if half his face was a swelling bruise and he was being careful not to put weight on one of his legs. Too delicate-looking a man for me to find him attractive, I thought, but he was not unpleasant to look at.

“Would it mean abdication, Your Majesty?” he asked me outright. “The surrender of our sovereign lands to one of the fae, or even yourself? An offer so imprecise cannot truly be entertained.”

“A trinket will have to be offered,” I said. “But what you will be surrendering, in truth, is rather more abstract: it is you ‘right to rule’.”

“To clarify,” Prince Louis calmly said, “such a gesture will not in and of itself mean abdication?”

“It most definitely does not,” the Tyrant grinned. “And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

“It will, save if you are fools,” the Grey Pilgrim said.

For once, the sight of every prince and princess there unconsciously shifting to face him more fully did not bring out irritation. The respect that Tariq commanded and one of the oldest and perhaps the most famous living hero on Calernia was, for once, aiding me.

“Chosen,” Princess Rozala said, “I would request your guidance in understanding this. I cannot and will not condemn the people of Aequitan to a grisly fate, not even for victory this day.”

“Hardly a victory, that we dance one and all to the Black Queen’s tune,” the Prince of Orense scoffed.

Early fifties, this one, and the long brown hair that went down to his shoulders was also bound in a bun behind his head. Prince Rodrigo of Orense, of who I knew very little save that his open scorning of the First Prince in a formal vote had been the talk of the Principate in my absence – and not in a manner that was flattering for him, considering it was Cordelia Hasenbach who’d put an end to the Levantine raids that’d ravaged the south of his principality.

“You never were much of dancer, Rodrigo,” Prince Arnaud of Cantal disdainfully said. “Leave this to your betters, would you?”

Ah, that fucker. Though not one of the royals here with true authority, Prince Arnaud Brogloise had raised my hackles more than once in the past. He was, at the very least, a prodigiously skilled actor. After the Battle of the Camps, when I’d still had the benefit of fae senses, I’d noted that his heartbeat never rose even when he was seemingly furious or busy shouting.

“Arnaud,” Princess Rozala sharply bit out. “Chosen, I apologize for the interruption.”

The Prince of Cantal look appropriately chided, though a mite resentful, and once more I wondered how much of it was an act if not the whole cloth. Rodrigo of Orense’s lips quirked a tad smugly, but seemingly content with that intervening victory he pursued the conversation no further.

“You are forgiven,” the Tyrant magnanimously allowed.

“Though the earthly crown will not be taken from your brow, save if you yourself do so, you will have lost the authority of a ruler in the eyes of the Heavens,” the Grey Pilgrim said. “Lingering in that role after discarding it before Gods and men can only bring calamity.”

“I figure it’d be subtle at first,” I said. “Small nudges. Crops get a little worse, people listen a little less. If you keep holding, though, then it’s a different story.”

“Disease and strife,” the Peregrine said, “and they will only grow, so long as authority is kept.”

“To clarify,” Prince Louis spoke once more, echoing his own words, “abdicating in favour of kin would ward off this… curse?”

“It would,” the Grey Pilgrim said. “Though ever bearing another crown would birth it anew.”

The Prince of Creusens then, to my surprise, turned to me as if seeking confirmation. I nodded, as to the best of my knowledge it was true. His lips thinned, and I caught his muscles twitching as he stopped himself from looking at someone for guidance. By the looks of it, I mused as I gauged the angle, it would have been Princess Rozala. One of hers, then. Said Princess of Aequitan was standing tall, fingers clenched, and met my gaze eye to eye.

“Foundling,” she said.

“Rozala,” I replied.

“This… lunacy of a land you speak of making,” the Princess of Aequitan said. “Will you allow passage through it to any who would use it to fight the Dead King?”

“That will not be mine to decide,” I said, “but I will bare sword to enforce such a term, should it come to that.”

“The Kingdom of Callow and its allies will refrain from making war on the Grand Alliance, until the peace conference is ended?” Princess Rozala pressed.

“Safe in Callow’s defence, or that of its allies,” I agreed.

The other woman’s jaw grew tight, eyes burning with something that was half fear and half fury.

“There is horror to the north, Catherine Foundling, the likes of which you cannot yet grasp,” Princess Rozala Malanza said. “We war now against the Crown of the Dead not for pride or right or faith, but for the ugly prize of scant survival. In that struggle, Black Queen, do you claim to be friend or foe?”

“If your Grand Alliance makes accord with me, Princess of Aequitan,” I softly said, “oh, what howling ruin I will visit upon the King of Death. I have dooms in my arsenal that the world will shake of them.”

She breathed out shakily and straightened her back.

“Your word, Foundling,” Rozala Malanza asked, eyes on mine.

“On my oath,” I quietly replied.

Fingers steady, she unmade the claps of her helmet and ripped it off her head. Tossed, it flew and landed at my feet in a sprawl a snow.

“That’s one,” the Princess of Aequitan. “Ram it down his fucking throat, Black Queen. Hard enough that even in Keter they will hear the sound of our coming wroth.”

“Malanza,” Princess Sophie hissed, “you cannot simply-”

“It would be,” Rozala said, “cheap at twice the price.”

In the heartbeat that followed, I saw the lay of the royalty around them clear as day. Those whose gaze held admiration, but also misgivings: Louis of Creusens, Leonor of Valencis. Those who were moved to contempt instead,  Bertille of Lange and Rodrigo of Orense. Arnaud of Cantal’s face was befuddlement incarnate, though the sudden turn had surprised him enough the confusion for once did not reach his eyes. As for Sophie of Lyonis, she was a battlefield of fear and shame. This, I thought, is why you are followers. Why even though the First Prince fears and mislikes her, it Rozala Malanza who was given the command. And I would not let bravery, let sacrifice, pass unremarked. Not when I had the means of doing otherwise. Leaning on my staff, I limped forward and bent the knee long enough to catch the edge of Malanza’s helmet. Catching her eye with mine, I tossed it back. She caught it, I thought, out of reflex.

“Foundling-” she began.

“Ivah,” I simply said.

My Lord of Silent Steps without a word, and stepped out of my shadow as if it’d been laying within it. In its hands was held a crown of ivory and gold, the front set with a heavy topaz upon which a heraldic griffin had been carved. Behind me, Kairos began softly laughing. I held out my hand, and the drow placed the crown on it before offering a bow and vanishing behind a fresh veil of illusions.

“The crown of Iserre, offered by Amadis Milenan,” I said. “Rozala Malanza alone of seven did not flinch, when sacrifice was asked. For that, she keeps her crown.”

I could have waited until the others had been talked or coerced into giving their own crowns, but I’d felt in my gut I should not. I was not certain, though, whether this was one of the instincts that’d served me so well when navigating stories or simply because it would have been beneath all involved to give Rozala Malanza the honour her due as a trick instead of a forthright display.

Connerie,” Princess Bertille sneered. “You do not dictate to sitters of the Highest Assembly, Damned. Let Malanza waste her rights as she so desired, for I will not give mine.”

“You presume much, Bertille,” Prince Rodrigo snorted. “Not even ally to her cause, and you are to be exempt? I think not. At least I-”

“Enough,” Princess Sophie snarled. “I will not have such disorder. The Princess of Lange is correct in that a foreigner may not speak to the affairs of the Principate. We will, among ourselves, discuss who should be exempt.”

I looked at the Princess of Aequitan, then and what I saw on her face grieved me. Nothing in the loss of a crown moved me to sorrow, for I had little taste for mine and no reverence for those who’d earned their own by mere happenstance of birth. It was the raw, bleak disappointment I saw in a respected adversary as she stared the truth of her home in the eye. That, even as the sky was falling down on their heads, there were princes and princesses of Procer who would rather squabble than look up.

“It could be put to a vote,” Princess Leonor of Valencis hesitantly said. “As is our way.”

Something in Rozala Malanza’s eye dimmed a little as the fourth voice of seven gave weight to the dispute. From the corner of my eye I saw the Tyrant of Helike writhing as if having a harsh episode of the shakes, but it was only barely held in laughter that had him convulsing. He silently mouthed thanks at me.

“Shame on you all,” the Grey Pilgrim quietly said.

For a moment, the old man’s resounding disappointment gave them pause. But only for a moment, because even a hero’s chiding weighed short of a crown kept on the scales of the powerful.

“Chosen do not rule, in the Principate,” the Prince of Orense said. “Much less those born in Levant. With all due respect, Grey Pilgrim, you have already overstepped tonight in presuming to speak for the First Prince of Procer. Let us not further-”

A bundle fell at my feet with dull thump. A straight-edge cavalry sword, wrapped in a cloak.

“I had,” Louis Rohanon pensively said, “genuinely believed myself to be a decent man, until tonight.”

The silence in the wake of his words was loud.

“And still I hesitated,” the man who’d been the Prince of Creusens ruefully said. “If this is the truth of us, my friends, then we have no business wearing crowns.”

“A delicate heart ever bleeds,” Princess Bertille snorted. “Bled all the way out, it seems. Keep your empty sentimentalities to yourself, Rohanon-“

“Shame on you all,” the Grey Pilgrim said, and the light in his eyes as he spoke was the coldest manner of mercy.

The old man took one step forward, the butt of his staff leaving the ground.

“Raise your hand to a sitter of the Highest Assembly and there will be war, Levantine,” Prince Rodrigo warned.

“He’s right,” the Saint of Swords casually said, laying a hand on his shoulder. “Go for a walk, Tariq.”

“Laurence-“

“You, Sorcerer,” the Princess of Lange barked, face gone pale with fright. “Are you not a chosen of the Heavens? Will you simply allow this lunatic thug to murder-”

The knife sliced her throat open without much of a spill, for Prince Arnaud Brogloise of Cantal had a steady hand.

Arnaud?” the Prince of Orense gulped out.

The Prince of Cantal waited until the Princess of Lange had fallen to the ground before kneeling at her side, ignoring her dying gasps in favour of opening the clasp of her sheathed sword and taking it off her belt. He tossed it at my feet.

“Will this suffice?” he calmly asked, wiping his bloody knife on his forearm.

“It will,” I agreed.

“You’ll get the Regal Kindness for this, Brogloise,” Princess Sophie darkly said. “I’ll ask the First Prince the right to force it down your throat myself.”

“Unlikely,” the Prince of Cantal noted, pawing at his armour and producing a small scroll stamped with a seal. “By the decree of Her Most Serene Highness Cordelia Hasenbach, First Prince of Procer and Warden of the West, I have been granted prior and absolute amnesty for all actions taken in the preservation of the Principate, as well as plenipotentiary power to treat with foreign powers in her name.”

“You were one of hers,” Princess Rozala faintly said. “Gods, Arnaud, for how long?”

“Hers, yours, Milenan’s,” the Prince of Cantal bitingly said. “What childish way of thinking. My only concern, Rozala Malanza, is the preservation of the Principate of Procer. What could possibly matter even remotely as much?”

Cool eyes turned to the other royals who had been bickering, until moments ago.

“Must I murder every last one of you, or will a blade at your throat prompt a sudden swell of heroism?” Prince Arnaud mildly asked.

“I like him,” Kairos mused. “He’s got that, what do you call it?”

“Cold-blooded ruthlessness,” I said.

“No, that’s not it. Ah, a knife,” the Tyrant of Helike said. “He’s got a knife.”

Princess Leonor of Valencis had taken off her gauntlets, and her fingers were working on her ornate silver-enamelled helm. What I had taken for a decorative circlet soldered onto it turned out to be a silver tiara cleverly set into furrows. The Arlesite princess tossed it onto the pile at my feet, smile mirthless.

“What a slaughter of thrones you have made of this night, Black Queen,” she bitterly said. “A princes’ graveyard, shallow dug at your behest.”

I looked at her then, truly looked at her. She had been among those who had admired Malanza’s character even as she balked at emulating it, and for that she had earned more than simply my contempt. No layabout royal, this one, for closer survey revealed hands calloused from the arts of war and scars on her skin that had the make of blades. Her eyes were not cowed, even in loss, and even in her earlier quibblings she had not been spineless. And yet. I looked at Leonor of Valencis and what I saw was good blood, old blood, conqueror’s blood – gilded history, ancient triumphs erected into throne. I saw a woman who’d been taught of rights alongside right, privilege perhaps not unkindly borne but never once questioned. I thought of the High Lords, then, and of something Hakram had once told me under a moonlit sky. And they expected to win, too, he’d said, speaking of our enemy. Don’t they always? Sooner or later, better blood wins out.

And I couldn’t mend that, I knew, because it was not in my hands to shape this world like clay – and it was, perhaps, for the best that it was not. It belonged to more than me, that sprawl of terror and wonderment, of pettiness and valour. It would take more than an orphan girl from Laure to make something new of it, no matter what powers I came to wield. But now and then, I thought, now and then I could wield the knife my father had pressed into my hand all those years ago. And if it was not always given to me to bring something beautiful into Creation, then at least I could expunge some unseemly piece of it. You are part of this, Leonor of Valencis, I thought. Of this land of robber princes and hungry wars, of a tapestry of rapacious ambition so despised it took Akua’s Folly for you to be trusted again. It might be that among your kind you are one of the betters ones, but even should you not be guilty you would remain complicit.

Let them be thankful I had only taken crowns, for I could have taken a great deal more and lost not sleep over it. The only inheritance I’d ever cared to claim was steady hand and an indignant rage that had cowed kingdoms, and within it there was not a speck of mercy for the likes of Leonor of Valencis.

“Tremble then, o ye mighty,” I coldly replied, “for a new age is upon you.”

Rodrigo Trastanes wrapped his sword in a banner, before adding it to the pile. Sophie Louvroy ripped twin ornate silver wings off her gorget and shot me a burning glare after dropping them. Arnaud Brogloise, face betraying not a flicker of amusement, offered the knife still freshly touched by the lifeblood of the Princess of Lange. And with that, seven crowns had been laid at my feet – they were, now, mine to pass on if I so wished. I went looking through my cloak, producing a bundle of wakeleaf that ended up nestled nicely in my pipe. I passed a palm over it, added a flicker of Night shaped into flame and inhaled with a little sigh of pleasure. Expectant gazes had been turned on me, now that my scheme had borne first fruit. Pilgrim, Saint, Sorcerer, Tyrant. And myself, nameless but high priestess of unruly goddesses. I blew out a stream of smoke.

“Now,” I said, “shall we go on an adventure?”

Behind me a breach into Arcadia tore opened.

So it began.

173 thoughts on “Chapter 34: Seven

    1. Yay! And we finally get an explanation of the crowns! Also a nice display of the Problem With Named that Cat has paradoxically been struggling with; on the battlefield, power trumps authority.

      That said, I want to call out a textual problem: The first two sentences of this chapter are an ugly tone break. Cat’s narrative tone is casual, almost conversational, but “Far be it from me” is downright chatty, something that should be in her italicized thoughts, not narrative voice (and especially not a chapter opening!). Likewise “when it came to, uh, the sheer number”: That “uh” simply should not be outside dialogue quotes, and even in dialog, it’s a bit “affected”.

      Normally I don’t pick on tone (in part because you’re pretty good at it), but those were glaring enough to poke me, even over my morning coffee.

      Now off to the extra chapter!

      Liked by 3 people

        1. It’s a common convention, and one which EE uses routinely. In this chapter, consider the bit starting with You are part of this, Leonor of Valencis…. It’s not aloud, so quotes are right out, but neither is it exactly part of the narrative. It’s essentially internal dialogue, which many authors, including EE, show with italics.

          Be glad this milieu doesn’t include telepathic conversations or the like. I’ve occasionally seen books where authors had to distinguish 6 or more different speech contexts, from internal thoughts to radio messages to telepathy, cyber-implant messages, and shouting across the room. In the same scene. 😉

          Liked by 3 people

      1. Belac93

        Wholly disagree here. Sometimes you need to focus more on making a story sound good than proper grammar, and those fit very well for a first person POV

        Liked by 5 people

        1. The problem is that both, and especially the “uh”, make sense for speech, but in a written account they appear “affected” (and would probably be edited out in-world 😉 ). Compare to, say, Steven Brust’s voice for Vlad Taltos — he is supposed to be dictating his memoirs, but somewhere the text has been cleaned up for publication or archive; his narration is downright chatty, and he has plenty of interjections in dialog, but AFAIR they don’t appear in narrative voice.

          Also, “focus more on making a story sound good than proper grammar” is equivalent to “oh, it’s just a beta version”. Which it is, but quibbles like mine (and the typo threads) are meant for the next round of (copy)editing, which is very much about cleaning up such issues. If you tell a programmer “oh, I didn’t report the bug because it’s just a beta version”, they will hate you. 😉

          Liked by 1 person

      1. Ben Serreau-Raskin

        At this point I have expected it to be Cat’s. If she makes a sacrifice to make the road happen along with the other princes, it solidifies her narrative as a heroic figure making ugly choices out of necessity instead of a villain scheming to topple the kingdoms of her former opponents. There may also be additional mystical or narrative benefits, considering the ‘one’ crown has been referred to as somehow setting the tone for the sacrifice.

        At this point Cat has a successor whose faith in her is considered by a mind reader to be almost more dangerous than a Name and two of her armies are already following her purely on the strength of her reputation and power rather than any feudal oaths. Putting the crown of Callow into hands loyal to her removes a significant plank of the Crusade’s cassus belli against her without significantly affecting her ability to steer the Kingdom’s destiny. This whole section has been her proving that she can get what she wants off of raw scheming.

        Liked by 6 people

        1. Argentorum

          I’d agree, but remember there’s the Summerholm girl who still hasn’t reached the end of her story. And Vivienne has only been named Heiress apparent, Cat has yet to abdicate in her favor before this.

          So I don’t think Cat can give up her crown yet, until Abigail of Summerholm and Vivian Dartwick reach the end of their respective stories and one of them is ready to be crowned Queen of Callow.

          In short, the timing doesn’t feel right. I won’t be super upset if I’m wrong though.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. Vhostym

            I also wouldn’t be terribly upset, but the one I really want to see be “the one” is Black, with only Masego reverse possessing Neshamah into surrendering his crown as a bigger win. After all, in some sense Black is still the King of Callow, or at least still has the “Right to Rule”, so there is, maybe, something to be used there. And he is the only one for whom this surrender of his authority would be truly negligible. After all, even though Catherine wants to abdicate, she can’t afford to do so yet. Also, I really want one of the loose ends Ivah was dealing with to be reclaiming his soul from the Rogue Sorcerer.

            Liked by 3 people

            1. magesbe

              No, he once was effectively “King of Callow” but has not been such for years. If there is one ruler, and a second ruler replaces him, he no longer has a “right-to-rule” to give up.

              Liked by 3 people

              1. caoimhinh

                I would argue that even after passing the throne to another, ‘the right to rule’ is kept. Take for example Tariq, as Grey Pilgrim born from the Pilgrim’s Blood, he is the one with the undisputable right to rule Levant, but he has refused that right for decades and constantly knelt in front of the different Seljuns to consolidate their rule. Yet he still has the right to rule.

                Even if it’s not valid once the throne is passed to another, Amadeus was the ruler of Callow, is the father of the current Queen of Callow, which makes him a mortal ruler. And even if THAT is also invalid, He is one of the few people with the recognized capability to make a claim for the Tower of Ater, making him someone with a right to rule Praes.

                Liked by 2 people

          2. caoimhinh

            I don’t think Abigail is going to be Queen of Callow. She is following Catherine’s groove on Fate (with an Orc adjutant by her side too) but she isn’t walking the path of the girl who claims the throne, she is walking the path of the girl who fights to protect her home.
            That’s what makes Abigail the spiritual successor of Catherine, her passing on the torch is not the inheritance of the crown.

            Remember Catherine Foundling’s Heraldry: Scales comparing the weights of a crown and a sword, and the crown was found lacking. For Cat, the sword will always weight more than the crown, that’s what she values more.

            That’s why while Vivienne may be the heiress to the Crown of Callow, Abigail is the real successor of Catherine’s story, she is the next Sword of Callow.

            Liked by 5 people

        2. I agree. The intertwined narrative+political benefit for Cat here is too tremendous to ignore, though it’s still possible something else will happen instead, forcing her to keep her crown yet.

          Liked by 2 people

      2. Decius

        Has Cat had a chance to contact Ranger yet?

        Because the crown doesn’t need to be voluntarily given, and the one that would have the biggest impact would be the Dead King’s. And Ranger has a habit of annoying the Dead King.

        Too bad there isn’t a Thief anymore, that would be more narrative-appropriate.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. magesbe

      I suspect that will be Catherine’s excuse to stop being the Queen of Callow actually. She’s even set up Viv as her successor. That doesn’t mean she’ll stop being associate with Callow of course, but she might spend more time with the Drow and be an adviser/high general instead of literal ruler.

      Liked by 14 people

      1. Dainpdf

        That, or she casts down the Tyrant. She has mentioned multiple times how he is a problem.

        Although… third time at Liesse, even figuratively, third time with a queen Name… it’s that pattern of three.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. Dainpdf

          Added comment: abdicating her right to rule would not help with commanding the Drow, I expect. Which might put a kibosh on her attempt to lead them against the Dead King. Maybe Priestess or First in the Night doesn’t count?

          Liked by 2 people

          1. magesbe

            Tyrant is not going to give up his crown. He’d probably rather let the entire group die, and that’s not worth it for Cat, not when Pilgrim would probably be perfectly happy to give up a crown he never really wanted and Catherine has practically been looking for an excuse to step down.

            She doesn’t rule the Drow, she’s a representative of Sve Noc. She won’t give that right up anymore than, say, Hakram could fill the position because of how much running the kingdom he does (regardless of that, he’s not the ruler, and she’s not the ruler of the Drow).

            Plus, and this is more shaky, I’m not sure if giving up right to rule in one place means you have to give it up in all places.

            Liked by 8 people

            1. konstantinvoncarstein

              Yes, ruling any place would be impossible.

              “It would,” the Grey Pilgrim said. “Though ever bearing another crown would birth it anew.”

              Liked by 7 people

            2. Dainpdf

              The Pilgrim himself said that taking up another crown wouldn’t work. One of the Princes was considering abdication of one of them to another.

              Tyrant is not going to give up his crown… who said anything about it being voluntary!? As for the Pilgrim, I rather doubt he’d give up an important tool for Good when he could just maneuver it onto Kairos instead.

              On Cat, I argued farther below about the pattern of three, and there is the potential issue I raised above.

              Or maybe with her Rozala maneuver Cat was preparing a precedent for her, being the one willing to give up, to be the one saved. We’ll see.

              Liked by 4 people

          2. Fist of the Night definitely doesn’t count, because she doesn’t rule them. Sve Noc does. Catherine is second in command and an intermediary, she’s a trusted advisor and a guide, not actually in charge.

            And trying to use this to cast down the Tyrant isn’t going to lead to anything good. Best case scenario you’re still fucking up Helike as collateral damage.

            Liked by 4 people

            1. Dainpdf

              Maybe. He’s likely to lose his Name (or some of its potency) if it happens.

              He’s also likely to be overthrown or killed by a band of heroes in short order if he clings to the throne.

              Liked by 3 people

      2. caoimhinh

        Maybe, that seems the most likely option between the 3 (Catherine, Kairos, Tariq), but that’s too straightforward.
        My own suspicion is that she will use Amadeus.
        He has, after all, the possibility to make a claim for the Tower, but more importantly, he is a ‘king/ruler’ Narratively (with enough weight to it that Catherine could use that to get The Penitent’s Blade out of the stone in Liesse).
        He ruled Callow for 20 years too. So he definitely qualifies.

        “The one we’ll bring with us into the deeps, to be bestowed only at the heart of it.”

        It is very likely that Rogue Sorcerer is carrying Amadeus’ soul sealed into an object with him right now (It would be ironic if they put his soul into a crown of some sort). It might even give her the chance she is waiting for, to recover him from the Heroes’ hands.

        By the time they are in the deeps, they won’t be able to refuse Cat’s plan.

        Liked by 2 people

            1. What hint with Benevolent the First?????

              I am still of the opinion that this is a historical Dread Emperor, whom we haven’t heard of in the narrative proper like we haven’t heard of Dread Empress Massacre – because there’s a lot of epigraphs and a lot of Dreads, and nobody has time to talk about them all.

              Liked by 1 person

  1. magesbe

    So, they don’t need to be alive for their crown to count. They should be grateful Catherine didn’t literally take it off their corpses the ingrates.

    Wow that was cold. The point was, there’s a bigger picture, and literally only three of them realized that (or if more did, their self-superiority/greed overruled it). I mean, these people do realize that if this doesn’t work they’re all going to die, right? And here I thought Saint was the loony. Well, she is, but apparently she’s not the only one.

    Liked by 9 people

    1. nick012000

      I expect that there would be another option beyond abdication to avoid the curse on their lands for giving up their “right to rule”: the seizure of a villainous Name, because the only right that Below recognises is that might makes right.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. byzantine279

        No. It isn’t just Above. *Both* sets of gods turn their backs on you. Because while Below accepts might makes right you “lost” when you gave up your crown, and so can never be worthy of holding such a crown again.

        Liked by 11 people

    2. nick012000

      Meant to post this as a top-level post:

      I expect that there would be another option beyond abdication to avoid the curse on their lands for giving up their “right to rule”: the seizure of a villainous Name, because the only right that Below recognises is that might makes right.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree with byzantyne279: A villainous Name wouldn’t help, even if they could somehow get a ruling Name, they’d just become a King/Queen of Misrule. With heroes lined up for the story of their overthrow.

        Liked by 2 people

    3. Dainpdf

      Privilege makes for reticent people. They’re accustomed to having special concessions made for them. To paraphrase Cat’s Hakram quote, they still expect to win.

      Liked by 6 people

    4. Oshi

      Welcome to human nature. Look around at the world. This is exactly how people act. The reason we haven’t cured the ills that plague us is that most of the plagues are of our own making.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Not to be That Guy (I’m kind of going to be That Guy), but umtechnically Lord Acton’s maxim was that power *tends to* corrupt, and absolute power *tends to* corrupt absolutely. I realize that sounds very similar, but to me it’s an important distinction not just because I’m kind of pedantic about quotes but because including the qualification also speaks to a deep truth of human nature. Namely, that in fact there are no absolute truths regarding human nature. You can establish broad and potentially very strong trends or tendencies, but no matter what the rule it will always be possible for there to be an exception.

        And yes I can see that I just stated that there are no absolute truths as an absolute truth so PARADOX AMIRITE, but I really do feel that an absolute denial of absolutes is meaningfully distinct enough not to count as an example of what it’s denying, in much the same way that I feel that intolerance of intolerance in fact should not itself be considered a form of intolerance. YMMV of course.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. The thing is, there’s a more recent saying in reply to Lord Acton: “Nothing corrupts so much as a little power”. This article discusses a study demonstrating that in the real world (but doesn’t source the quote 😦 ): https://io9.gizmodo.com/a-little-power-corrupts-way-more-than-absolute-control-5842587

          Briefly, when an otherwise low-status person gets a small amount of power over others, they are prone to both defend it, and abuse the hell out of it. This is the classic scenario for petty bureaucrats making life hell for their supposed clients, or just extorting bribes and favors. Or low-level managers taking out their frustrations on their workers, or anyone who (thinks) they’ve got the upper hand working the hell out of it. Or for that matter, schoolyard bullies, with no formal power, but they’re a little stronger than their victims. It’s also a major driver of misogynism and sexism, when men who can’t kick back against their bosses/officers/etc get to take it out on their wives, girlfriends, daughters, or other women.

          Anyway, just look at customerssuck,com or notalwaysright,com (turn the commas into periods). The central theme of the latter site especially is customers trying to abuse store workers, and/or punish (“I’m gonna get you fired!”) the workers for not submitting to their abuse, and often getting away with it because of spineless managers or corporate dictum that “the customer is always right”. But on both sites, you’ll also see endless stories of managers/supervisors jerking around workers; cashiers jerking around customers; teachers bullying or otherwise abusing students; doctors refusing to believe or treat (usually female) patients….

          Liked by 2 people

          1. I… okay? I don’t particularly disagree with or dispute any of that (other than a general epistemological hesitancy to commit to accepting broad conclusions on the basis of a single data point/study), but I’m not quite following how it’s a response to what I said.

            Also, just as an aside the article does actually source the quote, though unfortunately neither link actually pulls up the study in question (that’s the problem with eight year old links I’m afraid). Look in the italicized bit under the annoying video thing.

            Liked by 2 people

        2. And a lengthy aside — I’ve pulled this into a separate comment to limit the distraction, but it’s very much relevant to privilege:

          One of the most “fantastic” aspects of the Guide in general is that nobody ever pulls “just a girl” on Cat, or on any other woman we’ve seen, Named or otherwise. Not in any of the cultures we’ve seen, and there’s no reason given, why none of these human cultures show the sexism that was endemic to nearly all of the historical cultures they hint at. (And the non-human cultures we see are all equally egalitarian, or actually matriarchal.)

          I haven’t reread the early books yet, but: It’s supposed to be a big deal that Black and Cat don’t tolerate rape in his ranks, but I don’t recall any example of someone actually getting punished for it. IIRC the only appearance of prostitution in the Guide is a nice brothel patronized by the soldiers, where we’re assured that the girls are well-protected, and Our Heroes wait for their soldiers to finish up before collecting them. None of those orphanage girls (or boys for that matter) were making “easy money” where the matron can’t see? Really? Even the Evil Praesi nobles seem to confine their lusts to their peers.

          For that matter, there’s actually a gaping hole in the Guide’s world: Where are the camp followers for the armies, and the servants, seamstresses, laundresses, cooks, maids, etc for those palaces? Cat’s bar has barmaids, because of course it does, but (per my last paragraph) if any customer gets fresh with them, out comes the club. Later we see a few other barmaids, one of whom flirts with Cat. A few servants are mentioned at the Praesi parties, but they’re strictly wallpaper. (And servants are at least relevant to security issues, especially with mind-readers and mind-controllers in play!) Oh yeah, Marchford is surrendered by a noble, whose charge of housekeeping (or sanitation?) is a passing joke, but IIRC we don’t deal seriously with any of his workers.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Barring some sort of secret gender disparity in magical potential or Name potential, which we more or less have firm indications/implications that they’re isn’t one …

            Magical abilities are a huge equalizer – marginally superior physical ability is rendered irrelevant by being set on fire by the mind of one less physically adept.

            Likewise, I’m pretty sure that somewhere Cat muses about one or more female Named enforcing gender equality. It may have happened somewhere else too, but I’m pretty sure it was mentioned at least once in connection with the War College … something about an early Dread Empress firing someone opposed to female cadets from a catapult or something along those lines.

            Plus, let’s not forget that the Wandering Bard is a female. Or at least appears to be a female.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. luminiousblu

              Not him but:
              It seems that mages and Named are all supremely rare. It would be more like extraordinary talents being harnessed than anything else, not inherent equality. This is not mentioning the physiological and biological facts on the ground that caused ‘patriarchal’ societies to dominate in real life – namely, that men are just straight up massively stronger than women on an individual basis and that men are – unless you lose enough to destroy crop yields – ultimately replaceable, while each and every woman is precious insofar as there’s a limit on how many kids they can actually have, among other factors. In real life, exceptional women still often became a big deal, but you always have to remember that there is no prejudice that began without reason.

              The reason these things aren’t gamechangers in our own world is because we’ve moved past the point where childrearing and childbirthing are essentially full time jobs for women and past the point where the physical strength of arms is the decisive factor in battles (although I do believe men still perform better, which biologically makes a lot of sense), as well as past the point where farmhands were in eternally short supply.

              Lastly, the concept of female Named automatically supporting women’s rights is….dubious, at best, when we look at actual evidence from history. A few of them, I’m sure, would’ve been big on it. This doesn’t in and of itself make an overall trend strongly opposed to biology and the agrarian society we see feasible, especially when you consider that most of them likely absorbed a culture that – for all its moral ills from our perspective – actually worked, as well as their followers who most likely didn’t share their views on equality. Remember that some of the most famous ‘female Named’ in our own world – Jeanne d’Arc, Qin Liangyu, Ching I Sao, Isabella I of Spain, etc. were pretty strongly opposed to the advancement of women and Jeanne rather famously told an admirer the equivalent of ‘get back in the kitchen’.

              The only real explanation is that the biology from our world doesn’t apply to the Guideverse, which, while reasonable, is also generally not to be assumed without explicit notice otherwise.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. One quibble: Biology does not make men “massively” larger and stronger than women. It makes them average, slightly larger and stronger. But cultural factors (often based on that “a little power” thing) can drastically exaggerate that, when women get discouraged from “overexertion” or “unwomanly” activities, told to starve themselves to be slender, excluded from “manly” sports that would build their strength (and confidence), etc.. As in, say, much of America before “Title IX” was passed in 1972. And professional women’s sports teams still get treated as unwanted stepchildren at best. (Unless they’re competing in revealing outfits, of course! 😛 )

                But individual variation and training can easily overwhelm that statistical difference. Consider me and my little sister. I’m 10 inches taller and at least 65 pounds heavier than her… but if it came to a fight, she’d kick my ass, because she’s a lifetime athlete who’s ranged from gymnastics to triathlons (with a bit of martial arts tucked in), while I’m a paunchy chair jockey who… walks a lot, when I’m not sitting in front of a computer. For that matter, as a average-height and not-athletic guy, I meet a lot of women who are bigger and/or stronger than I am.

                Liked by 2 people

                1. luminiousblu

                  Human males are massively larger and stronger than females. The height of women is significantly lower in every country than the height of men. This is an indisputable biological fact, no reputable scientific journal or encyclopedia-style website will tell you otherwise. Men gain muscle mass incredibly easily compared to women. Remember this is an agrarian society where people do work considered backbreaking by today’s standards on a daily basis from childhood as well. Humans didn’t suddenly decide that men were going to do all the work and women were going to sit at home having kids for no reason – even beyond the fact that a late-pregnant woman or a woman nursing a child can’t really do any heavy labour, they simply don’t gain muscle as quickly. They DO do a few other things better than men – their super-long-distance running is generally better and they are a lot more efficient at utilising energy in times of need, but for most purposes pertaining to the needs of the preindustrial military they’re physically inferior specimens.

                  >professional women’s sports teams
                  Because they’re worse. Flat out, straight up worse. It’s excuses and honestly insulting that you’d dismiss the training regimes that women’s sports teams go through, developed through research, experience, and genuine desire to be the best they can, because of culture. Compare the average times and world records for men and women in a hundred yard dash, weight lift, or any other ‘pure’ metric (it’s much harder to compare tennis or whatever since it’s so heavily composite). The biology simply does not work in the favour of females and no amount of quibbling is going to change the facts on the ground.

                  >me and my little sister
                  Totally irrelevant. This is anecdotal evidence, coming from someone whose older sister could destroy me with a single hand if she so felt like it. A man who’s trained WILL destroy a woman of the same level of training and comparable physique, this is simply how our bodies are built – barring a highly unusual woman, men are simply more suited to physical work. Your special example is taking the best woman and the average man, or the average woman and the crippled man, and saying therefore it’s not a big deal. The army can’t be comprised solely of the best of the best – and even if it were, the best that males have to offer is simply better than the best women have to offer, which is often inferior to even the fairly decent that men have to offer. And that’s sensible from a biological point of view once you consider the interests and reproductive strategies that male and female members of the human race take.

                  And to make this clear I’m not making an ‘ought’ statement, nor am I commenting on the morality of feminism or the patriarchy or anything else. I have no personal quibbles with strong women (although as I pointed out it doesn’t tend to make a whole lot of sense in the mass that we see for purely biological reasons) I’m making an ‘is’ statement. It IS fact that women are significantly weaker than men. Whether or not this means they OUGHT to stay in the kitchen is up to you, but historically, that IS often what’s been concluded.

                  Liked by 1 person

                    1. luminiousblu

                      I could go through point by point to refute this. I could point out that just because women have ‘always fought’ doesn’t mean they tended to fight long-term. I could point out that the author, who has a rather poor grasp of language, opens with a page and a half of text that essentially attempts to discredit any counterarguments before they’re presented by projecting his own, possibly made-up, failings on other people with that llama rant. I could point out that the text clearly is not interested in an actual examination of details but instead is attempting to present a narrative. I could even go and say the tone is incredibly self-assured, considering the dude while in university didn’t know about female fighters and calls himself a ‘self-aware misogynist’, being totally unaware of how smug this makes him sound. I could say that his professor was mightily short on details, even though even someone like me could start giving examples of female fighters and the situations in which they were common. I could point out that he makes a big deal of women ‘doing things’ but doesn’t mention how often it’s done, thereby skewing the wording – right after he notes that the words used can affect how we view things. I could point out that he’s retroactively assigning labels, motivations, and values that simply were not prevalent at the time, which is a rather common theme among people trying to find historical justification for their values.

                      I won’t, though. Because the article, despite having a sidebar proclaiming they’re interested in “truth”, isn’t interested in truth. It’s interested in a narrative, and in challenging a narrative, because what is doesn’t fit his idea of what should be. If every single source tells you that women didn’t do this or that, his idea is that surely it was a fucking conspiracy and we’re being fed lies, and it’s up to his noble soul to take a stand and say what nobody else is willing to. Because he thinks he’s far more intelligent than he actually fucking is.

                      And before you point out that it’s a woman, if it indeed is one, I’m unsure of and not particularly interested in the gender – it doesn’t affect the contents of the blog, because I refuse to call this pile of garbage an essay. No writing which puts in scare quotes the words “proof” and “history” deserves to be called an essay.

                      You’ll probably note that I’m super angry about this. I am. But that’s because I’ve seen quite enough of these sorts of rants for an entire lifetime, and that these sorts of low-quality arguments drag down any honest efforts at revealing truth, advancing society, or whatever you may want to do. Unless you just want to advance your own values and feel good about yourself, choosing your words so very carefully because even though truth is what it is, nobody needs to know the truth. In which case, yes, carry on.

                      Liked by 1 person

                  1. > Humans didn’t suddenly decide that men were going to do all the work and women were going to sit at home having kids for no reason – even beyond the fact that a late-pregnant woman or a woman nursing a child can’t really do any heavy labour, they simply don’t gain muscle as quickly.

                    They didn’t “decide that”, period. At the farming level, women have always done serious work, including physical labor such as housecleaning (try it, without appliances, if you don’t think it’s physical work), carrying water, churning milk, pounding grain/cassava/etc, cooking for the rest of the family (ditto, again without appliances or pre-packaged food), taking care of domestic animals (and often butchering them too), and for that matter often joining the men in the fields. Plus skilled work such as spinning, weaving, making and repairing clothes and household equipment, making such medicines as were available, etc. And no, they didn’t get to take it easy when they were pregnant — the chores still needed doing and the food needed cooking regardless. If they were lucky, they might have relatives or neighbors to help out when they were pregnant or sick.

                    Women “sitting at home having kids” and otherwise idle, was for families who are rich enough to support non-workers, which in the Guide (and most historical) context means nobility and some of the merchants. Except that historically, even most noblewomen typically did at least the fabric arts, because few nobles were cash-rich enough to simply buy clothes for their entire household. (Remember, hand-made all the way from fiber to wearable items.) Also note various fairy tales featuring princesses spinning, weaving, etc. “Hawthorn Rose” aka Sleeping Beauty is the most famous, though Rumpelstiltskin and the weaver Arachne also come to mind offhand.

                    The rest of your message amounts to “men are big and strong and women are weak little things”, at volume. In fact, you’re providing an excellent example of a man trying to enforce male dominance and suppress any suggestion that male superiority isn’t absolute and eternal.

                    A bit of food for thought, from a time of transition: https://www.sojournertruth.com/p/aint-i-woman.html

                    Note: I do intend to leave this discussion with this chapter, I’m sure tomorrow’s chapter will provide all sorts of other things to talk about.

                    Liked by 1 person

            2. Except: 1) There’s not many Named running around compared to the masses of society in general — indeed, some cultures have very few of them. 2) Bluntly, a single Named, even an Empress, hunting down chauvinists (or more likely, killing the ones they personally encountered) would not do much to affect their society in general. To say nothing of the backlash after they got killed. 3) Every society on the continent, including the Praesi who are explicitly dedicated to doing whatever their individual power allows them to?

              As I said, this is a fantastical element of the milieu, so I don’t intend to continue making a point of it. But I figured it was worth one good callout in a discussion of privilege; as I noted above, in our world privilege and its associated power imbalances are deeply intertwined with sexism and misogyny.

              That said, there is one factor visible which would work strongly against sexism: The wide availability of magical and priestly healing. If a barmaid/pit fighter can afford to get a black eye healed, that strongly suggests that such healing is also available to childbearing mothers, and to children. Looking across the societies of our world, the single strongest correlate for women’s rights, is the wide availability of medical care for children and pregnant women. That’s specifically because such medical care means women don’t have to keep popping kids out (often dying in childbirth) in hopes enough of them survive to work the farm/shop/etc and take care of their aged parents.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. werafdsaew

                You’re forgetting that the Names are the main characters in story books, and what gets written about in history books. They’re huge celebrities, trend setters, and whom children look at to emulate. Bluntly, an Empress hunting down chauvinists she encounters would inevitably lead to other people doing the same to avenge for a slight, or simply as an excuse to get rid of an opponent.

                Liked by 1 person

              2. Maybe, maybe not.
                Sure, an individual can have only limited direct impact … but indirectly? And a Named? Those can, and often will, be much larger in impact.

                A Dread Empress opening the Imperial War College to female cadets? And then making examples out of everyone who opposed her decision?
                That’s huge.

                Plus, let’s not forget – the enemies of pre-Dead King Keter were led by a Witch-Queen.
                The Wandering Bard/Intercessor has the physical appearance of a female.

                Toss in the Miezan Occupation … the orcs and goblins, ratlings, giants, elves … Above and Below …
                There’s no mapping real life historical practices and customs to Calernia.

                Liked by 2 people

          2. > One of the most “fantastic” aspects of the Guide in general is that nobody ever pulls “just a girl” on Cat, or on any other woman we’ve seen, Named or otherwise. Not in any of the cultures we’ve seen, and there’s no reason given, why none of these human cultures show the sexism that was endemic to nearly all of the historical cultures they hint at. (And the non-human cultures we see are all equally egalitarian, or actually matriarchal.)

            To start from the bottom, IIRC every non-human culture we’ve seen is based on a non-human species that doesn’t appear to have appreciable sexual dimorphism, which is the premise usually employed to argue why we should totally expect sexism against women to be the default. With regards to da humies, I think it’s worth stipulating explicitly that while the cultures we’ve seen appear to clearly draw from real-world cultures in some ways, they *are not those cultures*. “Historical accuracy” doesn’t really apply when you’re not talking about history.

            Internal consistency is still a thing, mind – that’s why I don’t have much patience for the argument that I keep seeing people make that goes something like “but dragons aren’t real so y u mad that a fantasy army can march three times as fast as an army of the specified type should be able to lol”. Because unless the fantasy world specified also has an explanation for why logistics/transport/whatever are meaningfully different then it should still legitimately be held to the standard of how things work in reality. If you were talking about a fantasy setting that’s historical France but with dragons or whatever, then if you’re not going to have any references to sexism it would make sense to have an explanation of why the heck not since historical French culture had plenty of that kind of shit. But (to bring it back towards the Guide) Alamans culture isn’t French culture. It’s Alamans culture. The simple fact that historical French culture was sexist doesn’t suffice as an indication of why Alamans culture should by default be presumed sexist unless explained otherwise. You would have to argue for why a culture at that tech level should *inherently* be sexist, which I guess is what luminiousblu has been doing in his own comments.

            Personally I don’t buy it, though. Arguments in that regard seem to tend to boil down to “but preindustrial warfare tho”, but there are plenty of instances of women leading armies and engaging in combat in various preindustrial eras. It’s true that in our history those have been more the exception than the rule but again, this is not *our* history and it does suffice to demonstrate that it is in fact a plausible phenomenon at that tech level. Kameron Hurley (a largely pretty well-regarded fantasy/spec fic author, though I haven’t read any of her stuff personally as of yet) had a good essay about it that I think actually won a Hugo for best related work or some such. You can find it reproduced here if you’re interested and you haven’t already read it: http://aidanmoher.com/blog/featured-article/2013/05/we-have-always-fought-challenging-the-women-cattle-and-slaves-narrative-by-kameron-hurley/

            Liked by 2 people

            1. luminiousblu

              >You would have to argue for why a culture at that tech level should *inherently* be sexist, which I guess is what luminiousblu has been doing in his own comments.
              Most societies were, to some degree, sexist. It is the exception that they were not. Unless you believe there to be a global conspiracy to paint them as sexist when they are not (which is what that blog seems to be insinuating), or that they had somehow been brought together by aliens to be sexist, clearly there is a fundamental reason why they tended in that direction. This is much like how in most large societies, the first ‘kings’ were often religious leaders as well, or how almost every settled society that fought regular wars gravitated towards spear formations, or why basically every early civilisation centre and even ones today are either coastal or near rivers. This isn’t some sort of accident, the point isn’t to somehow pretend it doesn’t count, it’s to either look into what might’ve caused this or to somehow show there is no pattern. The problem is that, barring new and widespread evidence, as far as we know there IS a pattern.

              >It’s true that in our history those have been more the exception than the rule but again, this is not *our* history and it does suffice to demonstrate that it is in fact a plausible phenomenon at that tech level.
              This is highly arguable. What we’ll notice is that firstly almost every large, settled society – ones that resembled states as we would see them – was to some extent sexist. Secondly, we’ll notice that it IS an exception, and most of those societies that were an exception were wiped out by ones that weren’t. So clearly, something is happening. Now, yes, obviously this is not our world. Is it possible that women just aren’t weaker? Course. I’m pretty sure that’s what’s happening – otherwise the concept of tons and tons of women in the army is retarded. Is it possible that childcare is unusually advanced, such that you can have three kids and be confident that they’ll live to see adulthood? Yeah. That works. Could it be that EE simply doesn’t want to address the problem of sexism? Sure, if I were to write a story I wouldn’t bother with that because I like the idea of overpowered girls or female high officials. But I would not say that it’s actually plausible, if none of those hold, for almost every single society to basically not give a damn.

              >leading armies
              The problem here is that this is the exception, not the rule. Barring cases where the lady of the house lead defences or the occasional female warlord (or, in the case of certain steppe peoples, the rather common female warlord) lead, we don’t really have any records of this happening on a large scale.

              >in armies
              Yes, this happened at times. Jeanne was not the only woman in the French army, she was merely one of the youngest and certainly the most important. But at the same time Joan never actually struck a blow, was arguably not actually very good at leading men (her tactics were not extraordinarily sound, just extremely unusual). But again, most of the army was still comprised of men, and most women did not simply march off to war. There’s sound reasons for this.

              All in all I do feel like a lot of people think that the peoples of old simply decided one day to be jerks for no reason at all. Every value they held was meaningful at one point or another. Superstitions, cultural values, or legends don’t just spontaneously appear out of nowhere, especially not one so widespread. They can overstay their welcome, but at some point it had to have made sense.

              Like

              1. I don’t think I’ve ever even once had a good time from trying to engage deeply with someone on the internet who self-identifies as “super angry” about something, so I’m going to limit my reply to your two comments to the single point below; you’re welcome to comment again yourself of course, but this will be my last reply. You stated:

                > Superstitions, cultural values, or legends don’t just spontaneously appear out of nowhere, especially not one so widespread. They can overstay their welcome, but at some point it had to have made sense.

                No, it really doesn’t. To pick one example (there are plenty), it was the overwhelming medical consensus in the whole Western world for literally centuries that bleeding patients was a beneficial treatment instead of something that almost always, as in 99%+ of the time, either accelerated or outright caused the death of patients. But that has never been true, even for a single second, at any point in history. Bleeding patients is not only bad right now, it literally always has been.

                You say that “I do feel like a lot of people think that the peoples of old simply decided one day to be jerks for no reason at all”, and that’s actually pretty true as far as that being a popular misconception. But you find the salience of pointing out that it’s a misconception in entirely the wrong place. You take it as meaning that actually, the peoples of old must have really had a point underlying the stuff they believed in and practiced. But as I’ve stated, that is not inherently true by any measure. The salience of people in the past not inherently being any worse/dumber than people in the present is that *people in the present are not inherently any better/smarter*. It’s not an argument for why people in the past were actually pretty correct/at least had a point for all the stuff they did, it’s a caution that we today possess no inherent quality protecting us from believing in things just as fucked up and stupid as anything we might condemn in the past (see the flat earth/antivax people for reference).

                Anyway, like I said, that’s the last thing I had to say here. See you in future posts!

                Liked by 2 people

          3. >One of the most “fantastic” aspects of the Guide in general is that nobody ever pulls “just a girl” on Cat, or on any other woman we’ve seen, Named or otherwise.

            Actually, the theme was present very early on in the first several chapters when Cat was non-Named. She mentioned ‘a girl’ multiple times as a reason for her to be underestimated, and of course it was the orphanage’s policy to make ‘proper ladies’ out of its charges that stood in her way so much.

            The impression I got is that there’s still low key sexism/misogyny surviving in the culture, but by now it’s only targeted at low status women. Cordelia bears the remnants of old sexist tradition with pride as a symbol of her homeland, she hadn’t been hurt by it. All we’ve seen of armies and commanding structures shows that in nobility, and in at least Praesi legions, this mentality has been excised so thoroughly as to not even leave a scar beyond the ‘no rape’ regulation needing to linger in the latter.

            And Named, of course, are the Word of God-explained source of this scourge against sexism. One of the early Dread Empresses was mentioned to have used the War College headmaster who had refused to teach women as catapult fodder; can you imagine someone telling Laurence what she can and cannot do, even were she to live in a time where that was commonplace?

            So what lingers of sexism – and we do see the shades of it in the corners still – survives by utterly excluding anyone who can actually wield power from it.

            As for the gaping hole, I think it’s more a matter of focus. These people are known to exist and there are no actual plot holes of them not being there while they should have been that I can think of; but they do not get narrative attention. That… feels fair enough to me. The story can’t cover everything.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Also the widely available healing is a point I somewhat skipped over here, but – yes, that would change a great deal of dynamics, alongside magic.

              Like

    1. Dainpdf

      The thing about privilege is it tends to seem natural unless one cares to (or is forced to) look it in the face. Not always an easy feat, if one doesn’t even know it’s there, but something every ruler should do.

      Liked by 5 people

    2. Andrew Mitchell

      Rozala’s awesome. IMO she’s got potential to carve herself out a Name now that she doesn’t have to worry about ruling and politics. There’s plenty of scope for new (or old) names to emerge in this fight with the Dead King. I just hope we get to see what she does next.

      Like

      1. caoimhinh

        She kept her crown and right to rule, so she still has to worry about such things.
        Besides, she has been building up all this time as a challenger/successor for Cordelia as First Prince of Procer. And she wants to kill Cordelia because she is responsible for the death of Rozala’s mother.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Andrew Mitchell

          Yeah, thanks. Of course you’re right. I remembered that she kept her crown AFTER I posted.

          I had totally forgotten that she wanted to kill Cordelia though. Thanks for the reminder.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. Hmm, I’m seeing the narrative buildup there quite differently.

          Admittedly I’ve been a great fan of Cordelia since her first introduction and that colors my perspective; then again, I’ve been a fan for a reason.

          What I see is buildup towards Rozala getting over herself and despite never forgiving her mother’s death, working with Cordelia regardless, because personal is not the same as important and few things are as important as political unity right now. Rozala actually going for revenge there would undermine a lot of guide’s themes and her entire arc of seeing what the true horrors are. Cordelia has known the true horrors all along, that was part of her motivation for intervening in the civil war: that they could not afford to fight it with the external enemies that they have. Rozala’s mother died for a reason; ignoring that reason is not how I expect this narrative to unfold.

          Catherine has been blithely ignoring the fact she was on the kill list of kid heroes, because she has deemed it entirely irrelevant to the situation. That is what I’m seeing as a basic direction here: it’s possible to go too far down that slope, and the narrative has been steadily building up that counterpoint too, but Rozala pursuing a personal grudge and seizing power for herself would be very far towards the other end.

          >I looked at the Princess of Aequitan, then and what I saw on her face grieved me. Nothing in the loss of a crown moved me to sorrow, for I had little taste for mine and no reverence for those who’d earned their own by mere happenstance of birth. It was the raw, bleak disappointment I saw in a respected adversary as she stared the truth of her home in the eye. That, even as the sky was falling down on their heads, there were princes and princesses of Procer who would rather squabble than look up.

          That’s “working with Cordelia” buildup, not “being the next First Prince” buildup.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Dainpdf

    Oh my, the Arnaud reveal was great. The Rozala acknowledgement, too. Very nice.

    Really liked the note about unquestioned privilege.

    But, most important of all: Adventure Time!

    Adventure Time
    Come on grab your friends
    We’ll go to very distant lands
    With Kairos the Villain and Tariq the Hero
    The fun will never end, Adventure Time!

    Liked by 9 people

    1. Richard Gallivan

      Extended lyrics! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDazu5IEGhM Sing along!

      Adventure time, lets knife, lie and bet. We’ll go with rogue who we don’t know yet
      With Cat the Queen and Kai the Tyrant, the fun never ends it’s Adventure time!

      Black Queen Cat is a great villian,
      but she’ll play the hero if it helps her win.
      She keeps dying then still kicks butt,
      and she will stay mortal no matter what.

      Tyrant Karois has a messed up eye
      he’s your very best friend who will make you die.
      Done well for a sickly boy
      Betraying you all is his greatest joy.

      Adventure Time come on lose your throne, we’ll build a high-way with God bones, with Saint the Sword and Grey the Pilgrim the fun will never end it’s adventure time!

      Of all the heroes cross the land
      Tariq always lends a hand
      When hero stories’ in a funk
      He surprises you with brutal junk

      Laurence Montfort is a cut machine
      Shes a thousand years old and really mean
      She kills evil across the board
      She’s not a person, she’s a sword.

      Adventure time, come on grab your sword we’ll go up north to kill the hoard with Cat the Queen and Kai the Tyrant,the fun will never end it’s adventure time!

      Liked by 6 people

    2. Richard Gallivan

      Extended lyrics! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDazu5IEGhM Come on and sing along!

      Adventure time, lets knife, lie and bet. We’ll go with rogue who we don’t know yet
      With Cat the Queen and Kai the Tyrant, the fun never ends it’s Adventure time!

      Black Queen Cat is a great villian,
      but she’ll play the hero if it helps her win.
      She keeps dying then still kicks butt,
      and she will stay mortal no matter what.

      Tyrant Karois has a messed up eye
      he’s your very best friend who will make you die.
      Done well for a sickly boy
      Betraying you all is his greatest joy.

      Adventure Time come on lose your throne, we’ll build a high-way with God bones, with Saint the Sword and Grey the Pilgrim the fun will never end it’s adventure time!

      Of all the heroes cross the land
      Tariq always lends a hand
      When hero stories’ in a funk
      He surprises you with brutal junk

      Laurence Montfort is a cut machine
      Shes a thousand years old and really mean
      She kills evil across the board
      She’s not a person, she’s a sword.

      Adventure time, come on grab your sword we’ll go up north to kill the hoard with Cat the Queen and Kai the Tyrant,the fun will never end it’s adventure time!

      Liked by 9 people

      1. caoimhinh

        That’s an act. Mostly everything they knew about Arnaud was a lie that he built so they would despise and underestimate him. So he could position himself to have influence without being considered a threat.

        Rozala’s spies informed her that he was a rapist and someone who spend time in debauchery, yet Pilgrim’s analysis of Arnaud didn’t show anything like that, no strong impulses, lust nor desire for dominance, all Arnaud has is cold and calculative patience (kinda like Amadeus)

        Amadis thought that Arnaud wrote to his bastard son, yet those letters were for Cordelia, one of such letters was what warned her of what the motion that her enemies would push through the Highest Assembly would be. Who knows if that bastard son even exists in reality.

        Every single one of them considered him an idiot who was arrogant and emotional, yet every one of them was wrong, they were all fooled by him. Considering that everything else they have said about him turned out to be a lie, I wouldn’t be surprised that the rapist part is also a lie.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I wouldn’t be surprised, and I would be very glad, but I wouldn’t presume it.

          If Prince Arnaud Brogloise of Cantal had decided that “I’m a rapist” was a useful addition to his image, I can also easily see him as not seeing a major problem with backing it up by actually doing it – the easiest way to get a reputation as a gambler is to gamble, and the easiest way to get a reputation as a drunk is to drink. If he had the inherent horrified revulsion towards the idea that Amadeus has, I expect he’d have gone without it in his reputation, either – it was somewhat contributive, but far from necessary.

          It’s far less contrived an assumption that Arnaud is a patriot and a rapist than that Rozala’s spy network had been thoroughly faked out on the issue.

          Like

  3. Dainpdf

    Wait, wait, wait.

    This is the third time Cat goes to Liesse.

    All this crown business.

    It’s the third queen name offering. First time she refused, second time she was kept from it… third time she accepts? Or maybe people are right and she’ll abdicate. Who knows.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. God *damn* I like Rozala. “It would be cheap at twice the price”, gods, *yes*. I hope she lives a long and happy life in which she can go to sleep every night warmed by the remembered hellfire that she bought from the Black Queen to burn the Dead King’s legions.

    Liked by 12 people

        1. I would say that the notion of informed, meaningful consent plays a great role here too :\

          Not that anybody cared about the princes’ consent here, but then, Catherine makes a rather great point of how it was not a loss of anything they actually were inherently ethically entitled to.

          Like

  5. 1224

    Grey Pilgrim really reminded me of Gandalf in this. When he said “shame on you” I could hear Ian Mckellen’s voice. Yeah, I know his name is a gandalf reference, so that shouldn’t be too surprising, but before this point I hadn’t really been reminded of gandalf other than they have similar roles.

    Liked by 5 people

  6. Not what anybody expected when we first knew that there was something called the Prince’s Graveyard.

    But I like it.

    Also, props to Malanza. She started out on the wrong side of things, but she’s willing to, and has, learned.
    Damn, but that was cold Arnaud. Slick, though.

    Heh. Cat’s got a point about Procerans and it taking Akua’s Folly to give non-Proceran’s cause to trust/collaborate with them.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Oshi

      Rozala is exactly who she has always been shown to be. She hasn’t suddenly grown to like anyone. She is just the only one with real perspective which is why she is where she is now.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. Not exactly.
        Malanza originally didn’t realize the very real stakes at the table. Her perspective was narrow and shaped by her Proceran biases.
        And she has since learned both just how high and how real the stakes are, with how thin a margin of error there is to work with, and she’s had her perspective forcibly widened and had to take a long hard look at Procer, and the customs and practices of Proceran Princes.

        It’s not that she was ever unwilling to learn, it’s that she didn’t realize her ignorance.

        The Malanza we first met was more interested in how she could benefit from the 10th Crusade and her part in it. Now? Now her primary concern is what is necessary to stopping the Dead King.

        Liked by 13 people

        1. Andrew Mitchell

          Yes, indeed. Thanks for the reminder about her growth curve. Her character arc stands in stark contrast to most other nobles in Procer. She can learn.

          Even more reason for her to get a good supporting role (and maybe Name) in the next book.

          Liked by 3 people

  7. ______

    I wonder if swords being laid at Cat’s feet instead of actual crowns will be of any significance. My guesses so fare are the old stupid “Queen of Blades” theory, some extension of Saint’s domain, or Cat giving up her staff at the end.

    Alternatively, they can just stab Larat and all the future royals will have to earn their right to rule in a bizzarre reversed version of Pop-up Prince. Bonus points if he ends up petrified.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. SpeckofStardust

      I mean their isn’t really a reason why Larat’s head cant be laid at his own feet, I mean he was dragged into the darkness and his head isn’t going to remain on his shoulders, and he is a prince that is meant to be king, so he count as a crown too.

      Liked by 3 people

        1. SpeckofStardust

          I mean.
          “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.”
          I don’t think the ‘And one’ counts under the same conditions as the seven otherwise the Adjutant wouldn’t be at risk here.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. Clint

          Technicality: If he’s killed in a way that won’t reset with the turning of the seasons, wouldn’t that make him a “mortal” ruler? Killing someone is a pretty good demonstration that they were killable.

          I doubt this theory, but it’s not completely nuts — the story weight of laying his own head at his feet might be enough to power through the strange technicality.

          And think of the Chuck Norris level story about Cat — most people regret making deals with the Faerie, because they will keep to the letter of the deal, not the spirit; Faerie Kings regret making deals with the Black Queen, even while she keeps to the letter of the deal.

          Liked by 5 people

          1. Morgenstern

            Ah, but in most stories at least, if not being a common misconception over all (not sure about the history of the word there), “mortal” does not mean what you imply.

            “Immortal” usually does NOT mean you cannot be killed. It only means you cannot not die of old age (and often also not fall victim to normal illnesses/diseases).

            Vice versa, being “mortal” usually only means that you *age* and will, at some point, die of old age (and, usually, also be suspectible to illnesses/diseases).

            Liked by 5 people

            1. Well, Named villains in general don’t age past a certain point, and seem resistant to diseases (note that Pilgrim’s plague did *not* kill Amadeus). Did Cat actually “grow up” past 16 or whatever, before becoming fae and then getting resurrected as a mortal again?

              But DK strongly implied that true immortality was more than that, essentially escaping the human condition entirely. Being able to reconstitute your body after it’s been chopped up seems to qualify; Malicia’s (and Bard’s) body-hopping suggests another way of surviving “confirmed kills”, though it didn’t work for Akua.

              Liked by 3 people

              1. >Did Cat actually “grow up” past 16 or whatever

                She at least grew in height: she is now a whole inch taller than Amadeus!

                >Malicia’s (and Bard’s) body-hopping

                Malicia doesn’t body hop, those were remote-controlled puppets. Her actual body would have her die if killed.

                And villains do seem to be somewhere on the edge between mortal and not; escaping the confines of it in theory but usually not in practice, not living more than a regular lifetime because of being killed before it runs out.

                All that, and I think ‘mortal rulers’ might refer less to [ruler who is mortal] and more to [ruler of mortals]. It’s the weight of that that Larat wants, in giving him anchor to Creation. So I think Neshamah actually would qualify: mortal himself or not, he has that “right of rule” over mortals along with the actual nation of Serenity, not to mention the old crown of Sephiroth that he never strictly speaking lost. (And I suspect the latter might count for more, here)

                Larat himself does not have a right of rule or right of anything in Creation, which is exactly the problem he has. The deal was not for a symbolic action, but for an actual transferal of a metaphysical property, one that humans inherently have (even if it’s not actualized most of the time) and fae inherently don’t.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. > She at least grew in height: she is now a whole inch taller than Amadeus!

                  Oh, good spot! So I guess a young villain isn’t necessarily trapped in childhood/adolescence.

                  > Malicia doesn’t body hop, those were remote-controlled puppets. Her actual body would have her die if killed.

                  Counterarguments: 1) If she can see and act through them, that’s functionally body hopping, even if the bodies are “drones” that might not have all the amenities of a natural body. 2) We know the Praesi can transfer souls around. Remember Akua’s strategem: if Cat hadn’t spotted the fakeout phylactery, killing Akua’s “actual body” wouldn’t have killed her for real. (That trick might well be Below’s answer to resurrection.) 3) A supporting argument: If Malicia was operating by remote control in Keter, she was presumably doing so from Creation, given her other body in Keter wasn’t her own either. It’s traditional for souls to pass easily between realms, but remote-controlling a body in another realm seems like more of a stretch (and a security hole for DK).

                  > All that, and I think ‘mortal rulers’ might refer less to [ruler who is mortal] and more to [ruler of mortals].

                  Sorry, I can’t buy that. “Ruler who is mortal” is the plain reading of “mortal rulers”; in our own world, the latter phrase is normally a direct comparison to God/the gods as immortals.

                  Like

                  1. >Oh, good spot! So I guess a young villain isn’t necessarily trapped in childhood/adolescence.

                    I mean………………………… Sabah had been born to her Name, and Masego had been like eight. Yet she was not a newborn and he is not a preteen.

                    They aren’t friggin vampires.

                    > If Malicia was operating by remote control in Keter, she was presumably doing so from Creation, given her other body in Keter wasn’t her own either. It’s traditional for souls to pass easily between realms, but remote-controlling a body in another realm seems like more of a stretch (and a security hole for DK).

                    Keter is in Creation.

                    And I don’t believe there is a single reason to believe that the body puppets allow one to slip the noose of death of the actual body. Otherwise, Amadeus would have certainly kept one in reserve and been in no danger at all from losing to Tariq in the first place, no?

                    >Sorry, I can’t buy that. “Ruler who is mortal” is the plain reading of “mortal rulers”; in our own world, the latter phrase is normally a direct comparison to God/the gods as immortals.

                    Fae bargains do funny things with wording.

                    And ‘ruler of mortals’ is what is relevant here: Larat wants a right to rule mortals.

                    Like

                    1. Good point about Masego and those born to their names.

                      For the body puppets… Amadeus wasn’t nearly the sorcerer Akua was; perhaps Malicia is in-between. That said, it occurs to me that Akua didn’t try to send her soul to a created adult body, she sent it to an infant. So you might be right… or the puppets may be very inferior, perhaps with awful lifespans.

                      In any case, the puppet certainly allowed Malicia to survive having the puppet die. If she made a bunch of puppets with her own appearance, she could use them for general appearances in vulnerable situations. I forget whether she used any of her own aspects from the puppet — if that doesn’t work, that would be another good reason not to lean on them too much.

                      Regarding the fae bargain, I still say the distinction made in the wording is pretty telling.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    2. Amadeus isn’t a sorcerer at all, and I think Alaya isn’t either.

                      Body puppets are an entirely different concept than ripping your soul out of your body and storing it separately, which is what Akua did. And yes, Akua used an actual infant, rather than a necromantic construct.

                      >In any case, the puppet certainly allowed Malicia to survive having the puppet die. If she made a bunch of puppets with her own appearance, she could use them for general appearances in vulnerable situations. I forget whether she used any of her own aspects from the puppet — if that doesn’t work, that would be another good reason not to lean on them too much.

                      This much is true – the puppets allow you to avoid exposing your real body to vulnerability. Of course, the puppets are made from real people with different appearances than yours, so everyone’s going to be able to easily tell that it’s not you, especially when your apearance is as distinctive as Alaya’s is. So it’s a trick of limited usefulness.

                      Body hopping is what Bard does – when one body dies, she moves on to the next. It might or might not be what Assassin does, too, though it’s possible he’s got ridiculous regeneration powers instead, or also utilizes remote-controlled puppets.

                      Akua couldn’t freely body-hop either, for that matter – it was a one time use trick, that didn’t even end up working.

                      Liked by 2 people

        3. Isi Arnott-Campbell

          The exact phrasing places the “mortal” stipulation between the “seven” and the “one” IIRC. I’ve suspected that the “one” would be the crown of a non-mortal ever since the bargain was first struck, albeit I’m not especially vocal and probably never brought it up.

          Liked by 3 people

    2. “Queen of Blades” to me sounds an awful lot like the Queen of Swords Tarot card. And what we know of Catherine right now fits really well with the Rider-Waite interpretation – independent, quick-tongued, honest, intelligent. Transformation with hints of spirituality, someone who gains loyalty easily.

      Liked by 4 people

  8. SpeckofStardust

    sinker
    “I like him,” Kairos mused. “He’s got that, what do you call it?”
    “Cold-blooded ruthlessness,” I said.
    “No, that’s not it. Ah, a knife,” the Tyrant of Helike said. “He’s got a knife.”
    This is the most blatant means of hitting on Cathrine isn’t it. After all who else has a knife?

    Liked by 9 people

  9. Aotrs Commander

    For me, it was Kairos that stole the show this time.

    “No, a knife.”

    I laughed so hard. Kairos is just brilliant. You can’t really help but enjoy a man who just loves what he’s doing can you?

    When you get down to it, really, Kairos has already won on one level, on the basis that it doesn’t matter what happens to him in the end, he’s had more fun doing it than most people do in their entire lives, and that’s what really matters, isn’t it? (And he knows he won’t even have to clean up all the mess he made, either! Probably. Unless he, like, marries Cat or somethng, and probably not even then…)

    Liked by 6 people

    1. erebus42

      That would be fucking amazing. She’d probably end up killing him, but-as I’m sure he’d agree- it would be worth it for the level of hilarity alone.

      Liked by 6 people

    2. > When you get down to it, really, Kairos has already won on one level, on the basis that it doesn’t matter what happens to him in the end, he’s had more fun doing it than most people do in their entire lives, and that’s what really matters, isn’t it?

      Catherine has gone on an inner monologue once about how that is villain logic; and it fits Kairos to a T indeed 😀

      Like

  10. erebus42

    Damn, Rozala and Arnaud for the win! The Tyrant is delightful as always. Also come on Tariq! Did you really think you could just shame a bunch of Procerans into doing the right thing?

    Liked by 4 people

  11. konstantinvoncarstein

    Btw, what could by the little surprises Catherine has in her arsenal? The Mighties and Sve Noc are one of them, and probably Masego as well. What could be the rest?

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Tom

    I like how Cat is checking out the royalty at the start of the chapter. “Ooo that tall and curvy Malanza…” “Louis ain’t my type but he’s still nice to look at…”

    This is a wonderfully dissonant band of five; I can’t wait to see how it implodes 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

    1. IIRC Vivienne called her out on that when she didn’t realize Cat was listening instead of sleeping. Something to the effect of “whenever we meet someone hot Cat makes time to ogle them even if they’re actively trying to kill us”. Never change, Cat.

      Liked by 4 people

  13. burguulkodar

    Ooooh

    We finally got a Adventure group on! Let’s dive in the details!

    Cat, True Neutral with tinges of Evil and Lawful
    Role – Warpriest (attack cleric)
    Useful Abilities – Scrying blocker, Leadership, Terrible-Nightly-Powers-still-unrevealed and Ultimate Chaotic Foresight

    Tariq, between True Neutral and Neutral Good
    Role – Healer (defense cleric)
    Useful abilities – Ressurection, Intervention-when-all-is-fucked, Sense Motive, Diplomacy, Heal, Spread Sickness

    Tyrant, Chaotic Evil, definitely, tinges of Stupid Evil
    Role – Warlock
    Useful abilities – Twist things to his command, Wish stuff, Rend reality, scheming, double-scheming, triple-scheming, betraying

    Laurence, likely Lawful Good, definitely Stupid Good
    Role – Paladin
    Useful abilities – Cutting stuff up, Body and Soul Immunity to external forces, more cutting (this time deeper), high Listen Skill, still yet more cutting (this time metaphysical).

    Rogue Sorcerer, maybe Chaotic Good
    Role – Of course sorcerer, stupid!
    Useful abilities – A lot of fire abilities, powerful-yet-unrevealed-skills, safekeeping-souls

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Poetically Psychotic

    Well, who’s the final crown to be?

    If only there were someone nearby. Someone powerful, but who had been corrupted by a kingship not his own. Someone Cat would dearly love to see restored to his prior, not-possessed-by-the-King-of-the-Dead state.

    Calling it now, the 8th crown is the Dead King’s, taken from Hierophant’s head. Probably won’t actually affect old Neshamah himself that much, beyond setting the will of the gods against him whenever he tried to control Masego.

    On that note, Archer has been sent to track down and confront the mad-with-grief Hierophant, whom she secretly loves, and who may have feelings for her he hasn’t fully explored. That has ‘dramatic love confession to break mind-control/cause epiphany’ written *all* over it.

    Like

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