“It was then I understood: it is a fundamental flaw in Creation that other people can disagree with me, and I must fix that mistake.”
– Dread Emperor Imperious

The sack over his head was gently removed, which meant the hand was not the Saint’s. Dear old Laurence liked to surprise him with the glare of daylight against his unprepared eyes, when she could, and Amadeus last remembered being spelled into slumber at evening time. As always, the former Black Knight took a languid moment to assess the state of his captivity: feet bound, chest bound but, to his surprise, though his hands were still bound they were no longer behind his back. Interesting. They’d never done this before.

“It is not a kind thing to say, but I’ve always found autumn in these parts to be a foul season,” the Grey Pilgrim said.

Amadeus did not immediately reply. Their surroundings, he thought, were worth a second look. Under a gate of raised stones – three slabs of granite, the capstone supported by the other two almost incongruously large – he’d been propped up against one of the supports and arrayed so that he would be looking at an endless expanse of starry night. They were atop a hill or man-made barrow, he decided, for the sodden plains below were distant. If they were still in Iserre, which Amadeus suspected to be the case, then this should be one of the ‘Mavian prayers’ he’d read of: old Alamans tribal monuments many an Imperial scholar has suspected of being tied to the fae in some manner. Well, this was a pleasant surprise. He’d meant to have a look at one while he passed through the region, but the demands of the campaign had not allowed.

“It was always an interesting time, where I was born,” Amadeus noted.

Autumn had been the last gasps of the war season, in the Green Stretch. Once upon a time that’d meant raiding parties from the Blessed Isle riding east under the banner of the White Hand, or companies of miserable legionaries trudging down the old Miezan roads to their winter quarters facing the Wasaliti. His birthland’s status as the granary of Praes meant its freeholders were under the protection of the Tower, and so spared many of the issues farmers and villagers would usually face when soldiers passed through their lands. That protection was no shield for the consequences of paladins and legionaries skirmishing in the region, though, or of the sharp rise in banditry that would often follow larger clashes between Callow and Praes. Still, for all the roving wolves on two feet Amadeus had much preferred autumn to spring. Soldiers, even deserters, could be bargained with. Not so the floods that followed broken levees, or the thick morasses of cloying mud they left behind. His family’s freehold had not been so close to the river as to risk yearly flooding, but the scuttling and swarming vermin those disasters had brought had been just as dangerous in some ways.

“I’ll confess no surprise to the revelation that Proceran weather suits you ill, however,” he added.

Green eyes flicked down to the bemusing sight of the Grey Pilgrim stoking the flames of small fire but a few feet to the side, trying to prod wet logs into burning like dry ones. Cautiously positioned under the large granite capstone, the two of them along with that campfire would be safe from the rain Amadeus’ damp clothes suggested had burdened their day.

“Don’t get me wrong,” the Pilgrim said, “the night sky around here is a wonder. It’s the miserable, cold wetness of it I can’t stand. Sinks into my bones, these days.”

“I am told it will not snow even at the peak of winter, in most of Levant,” Amadeus said, genuinely curious.

Most of the few books entirely dedicated to the region where the Dominion now stood dated back to the golden age of Praesi scholarship, under Dread Emperor Sorcerous. Which meant that while at least they accounted for the changes that’d followed the creation of the Titan’s Pond by the strife between Triumphant and the Gigantes, they were also on average seven centuries old. More recent works were either pieced together from the accounts of traders or outright borrowed from foreign sources, such as the notoriously unreliable Proceran scholars.

“Not exactly,” the old man laughed. “We’ll get snowfall south of Tartessos, now and then, but it rarely lasts the day. Melts quickly. Once in a blue moon a blizzard will tumble down the slopes of the Titanomachy and the afterbirth will touch a shore of the Pond, but that is a much rarer occurrence.”

“I’d never seen true snowfall before my first winter in Callow,” Amadeus admitted. “It was quite jarring.”

“Mine was in Orense,” the Pilgrim fondly said. “I was pursuing this Arlesite warlock who’d cooked up a scheme to hold towns for ransom with this swarm of insects he’d enchanted to be full of diseases.”

“I take it they were not enchanted to be cold-proof,” the dark-haired man said, openly amused.

“Whole swarm died overnight,” the Peregrine chuckled. “He tried to make the remains into some sort of disease-carrying monster, but I caught him halfway through the ritual.”

“I was never impressed with the fibre of Proceran villainy,” Amadeus noted. “Malicia and I looked into making alliance in the region, when it became clear the crusade was inevitable, but it was bare picking all around.”

“There’s a pirate on the Segovian coast, I believe,” the Pilgrim said.

“The Ghastly Marauder,” he agreed. “Wouldn’t hear of taking either gold or information from the Tower, said it’d bring down either yourself or the Saint on his head. There was a promising sorceress in Tenerife, but the Tyrant had her captured and sealed in a barrel full of leeches.”

The older man winced. For a hero who must have tried some rather nasty lairs over the years, he was still surprisingly tender-hearted. Amadeus himself had been inured to the sight of spiders eating people alive before he’d reached twenty. On the rare occasions when Nefarious remembered he was supposed to rule the Empire, he often had a few members of the Imperial court tossed into the arachnid pits and attendance had been, in a sense, mandatory – the Chancellor would pass along the names of any absent to the point the Emperor at them when he next felt like stabbing at shadows. No, after so many years in Praes the mere mention of a cruel method of execution would buy no reaction from him.

“That boy has a nasty streak even for a Theodosian,” the Pilgrim sighed.

“Ours is an uncivil time,” Amadeus replied, tone droll.

“Aren’t they all?” the hero tiredly said.

Even as they conversed, the Duni continued to consider his situation. He could hear, in the distance, the sound of the rest of the party settling in a camp of their own. Given that he was currently atop a hill surrounded by water-logged plains, escape was unfeasible save if heavy rain started to fall. There was not even a drizzle, at the moment, though by the thick humidity of the air Amadeus suspected it was only a matter of time until the autumn showers began anew.

“It is not my execution you intend,” the green-eyed man calmly said. “If so, there would have been better occasions.”

And it was unlikely the Grey Pilgrim himself would do the deed, Amadeus did not say, for when Catherine returned from her journey that might just lead to the Peregrine’s skull splattered all over Proceran grounds. She was not particularly prone to mercy when cut deep, and while Amadeus was rather amused that he posed more threat to the Peregrine as a dead mentor to be avenged than a living former villain in the man’s custody he doubted the hero was unaware of the fact. He might be, of course, which was why Amadeus had said nothing. If he was to be killed, it might as well be of some use.

“No,” the Grey Pilgrim calmly said. “That is not what I intend.”

Amadeus cocked his head to the side.

“Is this an attempt at redemption, then?” the Duni drawled. “Truly, Tariq, I am flattered by the implicit compliment but-”

“I can see in you, Amadeus of the Green Stretch,” the Peregrine softly interrupted. “Repentance is foreign to your nature, as it often is the worst of your kind. I would not waste either our hours on such a fool’s errand.”

He cocked an eyebrow.

“Then what, exactly, is your purpose?” Amadeus asked, honestly puzzled.

“You are one of the oldest living villains on Calernia,” the Pilgrim said.

Alaya was older than he by a year and eight months, the Duni thought, and Hye by a great deal more than that – though it would be an oversimplification to call Hye Su truly one of Below’s, in his humble opinion. It seemed, Amadeus thought, that the Pilgrim was in fact correct. Every other villain he knew of was younger than him by either years or decades.

“So I am,” Amadeus said. “Though that was an observation and not an answer.”

“Come dawn, Laurence is going to sever your soul from your earthly coil,” the Pilgrim calmly said. “What will follow that, you need not know, but I will say that this may very well be the last time we will ever speak.”

The Duni’s eyebrow arched.

“Alas, and our acquaintance had barely begun,” he replied.

“In a way, this could be called a vigil,” the Grey Pilgrim said. “Yet I will confess to more selfish motive – you are, perhaps, the closest equivalent to a peer I have in the service of the Gods Below. It would be a waste, to never speak more than a handful of sentences to you.”

Amadeus cocked his head to the side, thinking of the last conversation he’d ever had with Ranker. A Marshal of the Legions of Terror, true, but that was almost the least of what she had been to him. And the last he’d ever seen of her was as a gasping, bloody ruin on a sickbed through an unsteady scrying mirror. The man who’d birthed the plague that took her, that took the two thousand soldiers Amadeus had led into the trap only he had been deemed fit to survive, was now addressing him like the thin pretence of civility between them was anything but that. A pretence. If you can see in me, Pilgrim, can you glimpse the thoroughness of the extinction I will visit upon you given chance? The man who had been the Black Knight smiled, affably, and the sight of the other man’s eyes tightening was the only answer he needed.

“By all means, Pilgrim. I am your captive audience,” Amadeus said.

“The others will not-”

“How like a hero,” the dark-haired man casually interrupted, “to first name me a peer and then proceed to treat me the simpleton.”

There was no apology in him for the sharpness of his tone. The Peregrine and his delightful right hand the Lady de Montfort had spent this entire journey keeping him away from the younger members of their band, there had never been any question of any of them now being in attendance for this indulgence of the Pilgrim’s. The man in grey robes wryly smiled.

“Not unearned,” he conceded. “I assume that there will be terms, Carrion Lord?”

“I am hardly that anymore,” Amadeus amusedly replied. “I offer you the fairest terms I know, Pilgrim: a question for a question.”

“That is civil of you,” the older man replied without a hint of irony.

Amadeus made himself think of taking in hand a stone and smashing it against the Peregrine’s skull until it burst open like an overripe fruit. He considered the matter vividly, seeing to every detail, and then smiled amicably at the hero.

“That,” Tariq said, “was a great deal less civil.”

“Your turn,” Amadeus replied.

Though these days his body was a simple sack of meat with infuriatingly feeble senses, the Duni had been careful to watch for any use of Light or artefact and caught sight of nothing. Which meant this little trick of the hero’s was either an aspect or a gift from Above. At the very least, it did not seem to be outright mind or memory reading. Perhaps a particularly discerning sort of empathy, Amadeus considered, though given the man’s age, breadth of travel and ties to a Choir it might be something more exotic or outright unheard of.

“I am told,” the Pilgrim said, “that you are an intelligent man, and prize reason.”

Amadeus’ lips quirked in dry amusement.

“Intelligence is simple memory and cleverness, neither of which are half so glorified on their own,” he replied. “It should be no different with the pairing of them.”

“But the prizing of reason you do not deny,” the Peregrine stated.

“Insofar as the application of it is useful,” Amadeus acknowledged.

“Then, to be a villain and so cast your lot with them, you must believe in the teachings of the Gods Below,” the older man replied. “What it is, I ask, that you find of worth in them?”

The dark-haired prisoner laughed.

“Simply by asking that question, you have already failed in what you seek to accomplish,” he said.

The Peregrine’s brow creased, but he did not grow irritated with the answer. He would be, Amadeus suspected, a particularly boring man to needle. The Saint was much more entertaining in that regard.

“I do not understand,” Tariq admitted.

“You consider Below as if it were simply a wicked mirror of Above, and seek to understand it by terms it fundamentally does not recognize,” Amadeus said. “Considering the differences in how Named of our respective… sympathies form, I suppose that is an excusable mistake but it is one that precludes ever gaining perspective on the matter.”

“You are a villain,” the Pilgrim slowly said. “You are, therefore, a champion of Below. What is it that you champion?”

They both knew Amadeus to be Nameless, though the Duni suspected that was considered a minor detail compared to his decades as the Black Knight.

“You have put your finger on the crux of the matter,” he said. “As a mortal you championed the ideals of Above – or at least some middling section of them – and fit a particular grove, which as a consequence saw you bestowed power as a blessing to further that cause.”

“A gross oversimplification,” the Pilgrim soberly replied. “Though technically not incorrect.”

“I was – am, I suppose – a villain,” Amadeus said. “And as a mortal, by acquiring power I became worthy of blessing. That is the fundamental difference between your kind and mine, Pilgrim: your Name was a coronation while mine was a confirmation.”

“You argue, then, that the only teaching of Below is the acquisition of power,” the other man said.

“Teaching,” the prisoner sighed. “You speak the word anew as if repetition will make the saddle fit the beast. There are no teachings, Pilgrim, that is the point exact. The exercise of power, of will, is not given meaning. It must be ascribed. That has led to some rather unusual or horrifying uses, I’ll concede, but in my eyes that is more a reflection of human nature than of Below’s.”

“You would absolve your Gods of guilt?” Tariq said, sounding surprised.

“You would absolve humanity of responsibility?” Amadeus asked, scornful. “The deferral of consequence to higher power is the deepest form of moral cowardice conceivable. Even your precious Book agrees, Pilgrim – we have a choice.”

“And knowing this, you still choose to commit evil,” the Grey Pilgrim said.

“And there we reach impasse once more,” he noted. “For you seem to consider some form of goodness our natural state, and so committing an evil a willful deviation from that state. I find such a notion utterly repugnant.”

“Are we born evil, then and only taught to be good?” Tariq pressed.

Amadeus felt a sliver of irritation and willfully curbed his tongue, knowing this lack of sympathy for slow students was one of the reasons he was particularly ill-suited to teaching.

“We are born nothing, and taught a set of… rules for a lack of better term, that allow us to determine what is acceptable behaviour and what is not,” the prisoner said. “What irks me, Pilgrim, is your insistence that these rules are a set of virtues inherent to the fabric Creation instead of covenant between mortals for mortal purposes.”

“Your conception of Creation,” the Pilgrim said, “is utterly barren of morality. It is without principle, without faith, without a single ounce of justice. Is it, in a word, dirt.”

Amadeus had no intention of engaging on the matter of justice – the last time he’d ventured an argument on the subject, the Seraphim had slapped him down through a paved street and left him to bleed to death.

“Indeed,” he casually agreed, unwilling to pursue the debate that if any of the things the Pilgrim had named were inherent instead of ascribed, they became utterly meaningless. “Now, I do believe I am owed quite the question given how your own has considerably strayed.”

“So it has,” the Pilgrim amicably conceded.

“I have made a study of you,” Amadeus said. “And though you’ve left mostly rumour behind I believe you’ve operated in southern Calernia, as well as the upper reaches of the Principate, for more than forty years. You came into your Name before Dread Emperor Nefarious claimed the Tower.”

“More than forty years is accurate,” the Peregrine drily said.

“In that span of time,” the prisoner casually said, “did any villain in those regions achieve particular prominence?”

The Pilgrim cocked his head to the side, considering the matter.

“The Barrow Lord threatened to take the northern half of Levant for the better part of a summer,” he said. “The Princess of Cantal was murdered and then impersonated by the Face-Thief for half a year before they were caught.”

“In summation, the highest peak was a secret victory that did not even last a year?” Amadeus asked.

“Arguably,” Tariq agreed.

“Interesting,” he murmured. “My thanks.”

The Pilgrim frowned.

“Why did you ask?” he said.

“Merely a theory of mine,” Amadeus said.

He knew the hero would glimpse in him the intent to wound, yet also that it was no less true for it. Curiosity, he thought, would do the rest.

“And that theory is?” the Pilgrim patiently asked.

“That you, and to a lesser extent the Saint of Swords, are at least partly responsible the current invasion of the Dead King,” Amadeus said.

The older man stared at him unblinking, for it was not the dark-haired man’s body that would be of interest but whatever sight he used to truthtell. The prisoner smiled, discerning the very moment the Grey Pilgrim realized there was not so much as a hint of a lie. His face went ashen.

“Why?” the Levantine croaked.

“You have been a singularly effective agent for Good in broad and your Choir in particular,” Amadeus said. “To the extent that you’ve just admitted to me that for a span of at least forty years you effectively snuffed out effective villain in over half of Calernia. Did you truly think, Tariq, that this would go without consequence?”

“The Hidden Horror has ignored longer stretches of peace in the past,” the Pilgrim said. “And Praes achieved resurgence.”

“So it did, in a manner of speaking,” Amadeus noted. “It was the only Calernian surface region where you and the Saint weren’t active, after all. Though, of course, as soon as the civil war in Procer ended the Tenth Crusade was declared and the last major active Evil polity on Calernia risked being ended. Perhaps permanently, given the lessons of the last crusader occupation of the Wasteland.”

“Callow could not be allowed to be consumed, Carrion Lord,” the hero harshly said. “All that suffering was brought by the very Conquest you led.”

“It must be infuriating, to realize that sometimes the balance swings the other way,” the villain smiled. “That victory can be perilous for your side as well.”

The Peregrine’s hands tightened.

“I could be wrong, of course,” the prisoner said. “It is only a theory, though one informed by facts and my decades of experience as a villain.”

“You could have kept this up your sleeve,” Tariq said. “Is that not your way? Secrets hoarded until they can be used?”

“Her name,” Amadeus mildly said, “was Ranker of the Hungry Dog tribe. She was a vicious and mistrusting and often unpleasant, but she was also my friend. I loved her, you see, in my own crooked way. And she died choking on her own blood from your plague.”

“She was a soldier,” the Grey Pilgrim said.

“She was,” he agreed. “And so I do not cry of unfairness. And yet.”

The prisoner leaned forward, green eyes glimmering with something cold and hateful and utterly patient.

“So sleep well, Tariq Fleet-foot, wondering what utter ruin your good intentions might have wrought,” Amadeus hissed. “For I loved her nonetheless, and she is dead by your hand.”

212 thoughts on “Peers

  1. magesbe

    My god. I’ve fallen in love with Amadeus all over again. We see again what makes him both a fantastic villain and a fantastic mentor. And a few parallels between him and Pilgrim that I actually hadn’t noticed, though aside from their relative ages they are quite different.

    Liked by 48 people

    1. He’s got such a high standard for teaching, it’s like awwwww ❤ ❤ ❤

      and he falls into mentor mode even while talking to his worst enemy that he strongly hates

      this man is incredible

      and also

      ''And a few parallels between him and Pilgrim that I actually hadn’t noticed,"
      elaborate? 😀

      Liked by 10 people

      1. magesbe

        They’re the old guard. Pilgrim is probably the oldest living Hero, and Amadeus only has Malacia to compete against once you rule out entities like the Dead King. Both of them have been Named for generations and possess great conviction in their respective values. Both of them have defeated dozens of other Named in their careers. I know it’s basically spelled out in the chapter, but I mentioned it because it hadn’t really occurred to me.

        Liked by 4 people

          1. goliath1303

            Amadeus had an internal thought process about how malicia is a year and 8 months older than him and Hye isn’t really a champion of Below when Tariq started that he was the oldest living villain in Calernia. That would pretty much take all the guess work out of the equation I would think…

            Liked by 1 person

  2. superkeaton

    It’s nice to see Black and Pilgrim needle each other. It’s even nicer to see Black throw everything Pilgrim’s done in his face out of spiteful love of a lost friend.

    Liked by 29 people

    1. Faiir

      Black wouldn’t do it. Amadeus does.
      The changes in characters after they lose their Name are all very interesting, and make me think that the last part of the guide will be Cat and her nameless friends against Names themselves.

      Liked by 25 people

      1. I’m not Kyle, but ISTM the point is a little askew from what Amadeus actually says:
        1) Pilgrim and Saint maintained their own territory as not just Good-aligned, but fully controlled by Good.
        2) That didn’t draw disaster all the way to them yet, but it shifted the balance of the continent, allowing Praes to successfully conquer and “turn” Callow for the first time since their beginning. “Successfully” as demonstrated that they did in fact get a Villain onto the throne, without revolt — indeed, Cat held the throne strongly enough that neither Akua’s nor Malicia’s attacks could dislodge the her. So, Callow had been officially “taken” by Below, in the eyes of the gods.
        3) But Procer and Levant weren’t enough for the heroes — they tried to cleanse the continent of Evil, barging into the Praes/Callow fight. But at that point, they weren’t defending their own territory, and thanks to Black, they didn’t even have any atrocities to respond to. Their only motive was “oh no, we can’t let Evil keep all that territory, we’ve got to claim it in the name of Good” — which is to say, pure ambition. Even William was really fighting for the angels rather than for Callow, which was why he got defeated.
        4) The tipping balance first unleashed Akua, a “traditional” Evil threat, but the reigning powers of Callow noped that, defending their demon-free way of life with steel, blood and fire. So Akua didn’t get to restore the balance on the larger scale with “make Callow more evil”.
        5) Not sure where the Fae invasion comes in, but it may simply have been an mirror of Black & Cat trying to change the rules for Above and Below. Need to check the timeline. (Do we have an actual timeline for the series somewhere?)
        6) At this point, the villains had defended Callow from both Good and external threats, and crowned their Queen there. But Good’s ambition was unchecked, and they wound up attacking both Praes and Callow. That shifted the balance enough for Malicia to uncork the continent’s reservoir of Evil, namely the Dead King.
        7) My guess is that the future has Praes and Callow rebuilding themselves into a stable configuration, with Praes as the Dark Evil (but still not as dark as before Malicia), while Callow stays as a mixed nation, with no named rulers, both villains and heroes staying below apocalyptic levels, and grain trades keeping Praes stable. With real luck, they might even be able to fix some of the Wasteland, easing the pressure there.

        Liked by 14 people

        1. >3) But Procer and Levant weren’t enough for the heroes — they tried to cleanse the continent of Evil, barging into the Praes/Callow fight. But at that point, they weren’t defending their own territory, and thanks to Black, they didn’t even have any atrocities to respond to. Their only motive was “oh no, we can’t let Evil keep all that territory, we’ve got to claim it in the name of Good” — which is to say, pure ambition. Even William was really fighting for the angels rather than for Callow, which was why he got defeated.

          That’s definitely my read on it actually!

          >5) Not sure where the Fae invasion comes in, but it may simply have been an mirror of Black & Cat trying to change the rules for Above and Below. Need to check the timeline. (Do we have an actual timeline for the series somewhere?)

          I mean it was most definitely that, it’s all but said explicitly with Arcadia being a mirror for Creation and the King of Winter wanting freedom.

          >6) At this point, the villains had defended Callow from both Good and external threats, and crowned their Queen there. But Good’s ambition was unchecked, and they wound up attacking both Praes and Callow. That shifted the balance enough for Malicia to uncork the continent’s reservoir of Evil, namely the Dead King.


          >7) My guess is that the future has Praes and Callow rebuilding themselves into a stable configuration, with Praes as the Dark Evil (but still not as dark as before Malicia), while Callow stays as a mixed nation, with no named rulers, both villains and heroes staying below apocalyptic levels, and grain trades keeping Praes stable. With real luck, they might even be able to fix some of the Wasteland, easing the pressure there.


          Liked by 1 person

      1. Lord Reginald the 18th

        Come now, are we forgetting the very core of the Foundling Philosophy? If you can find a way to swing hard enough, there is no man, god or law in creation that won’t flinch first. Have a little faith, we may yet see the pendulum swing right off it’s hinge.

        Liked by 7 people

  3. So your telling me that two heroes accomplished what the calamities also did. Sniffing out villain before they blossomed into threats.

    Also kudos to author for creating yet another character that I fell in love with while only reading a few short passages.

    The list:
    Stalwart Paladin, bumbling conjured, valiant champion, salutary Alchemist, face thief

    Liked by 12 people

      1. In the battle with Akua during the Three steps alternative heroic reality. Cat becomes a white knight and the bumbling conjured transitions to conjured and brings down mountains.

        Was so stoked to see him get some face time after so long away.

        Liked by 3 people

          1. I think that Black’s Monologue here is a pretty hefty endorsement for her having always been a villain, he proposes that ‘Villains’ are not given names, they Claim them, they act in such a way with enough purpose and will in their actions that they fall into a role and a name is created from their skills and personality. So thief, who wanted nothing more than to take back her due from the tower, learned to steal and lie, and got very good at it, thus earning her a name for that purpose.


  4. caoimhinh

    Amadeus, capable of using his interrogator’s Truth-telling ability to torture them instead. Indeed, truth is a much more potent tool than lies, and also a much harsher blade.

    Liked by 18 people

    1. IDKWhoitis

      It’s Black’s MO, to inflict great horror and hesitation by using brutal truth as a weapon. He broke a rebellion’s spine by just laying out the facts, and now he just roasted Tariq over the fire. One could agree its one of his favorite pastimes….

      Liked by 13 people

      1. Also is it not so sweet that the Pilgrim can’t help using his own powers unlike Amadeus who has had to rely on his own discernment to tell lies.

        The Pilgrim is what Black warned not to be, a slave. Thus while the pilgrim gladly assumed the role of a puppet for choirs, Black fought for his position.

        Do the predicament they find themselves in Black knew the risk and still made took the steps. The pilgrim just kept smiting regardless of the consequences. Shameful.

        Liked by 3 people

      1. caoimhinh

        There is one extra chapter of Practical Guide to Evil every month, to be released along with the first chapter of that month. So you can expect the next ‘double chapter’ to be on Monday, June 3rd.

        I will assume this comment was meant to be a stand-alone comment instead of a reply to my own comment…
        Unless you are some kind of clairvoyant that knows I’m about to post a double chapter for Trails of Ascension in Royal Road tomorrow, in which case I’m flattered to be called the love child of Gandhi and Jesus.

        P.S: In case you are, indeed, a Clairvoyant, we might need to have a conversation about the numbers of the lottery in Colombia. XD

        Liked by 5 people

            1. Andrew Mitchell

              Great, thanks. I’ll start reading it in a few days. I’ll read at least the first 5 chapters. I see you’ve got a cracking pace going; with 45 chapters in 9 months. Impressive effort!

              Liked by 1 person

  5. IDKWhoitis

    I feel like Black is going to be so freaking smug when he talks to Pilgrim again…

    Well if that occurs.

    But given how the primary story line is moving, it seems more likely by the chapter, that we get Amadeus saying hello again to his dear old acquaintance.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. caoimhinh

      Amadeus is definitely ‘the one’ for Larat’s due. He will be the one to give final form to the Highway to Keter, making it the most pragmatical dark realm ever in contact with Calernia.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. As it has been established that the subject need not be voluntary, they (probably Tariq or one of the other Heroes) could knife Kairos in the back and use him as the One.

          Unfortunately, since Hierarch is running around loose, Kairos probably isn’t going to die here.

          Alternatively, I could see Saint trying to backstab Cat and use Cat as the one, and then we’d get to see the sword that’s a staff that’s a prayer of Cat’s being used. And Saint ending up being the one.

          Liked by 3 people

            1. caoimhinh

              Oh… OH!

              Now, that would be quite a blow to Kairos’ plan! And even if Anaxares might be a bit insane right now he might actually be convinced to it if he sees it as a way to finally get free of this imposed position (his Name is like a curse for him, after all).
              Although that doesn’t seem likely, since it would then make void of Kairos’ plans of judging the Choir of Judgement.
              But that’s an interesting possibility, the consequences would be unknown.

              Liked by 4 people

              1. Thinking about it more:

                Pros: Most of the folks present (and many others) would be happy to see the insane mind-controller get neutralized. None of the party members need to give up their crown. Heirarch might well do it willingly.

                Cons: Kairos might be mad angry. 😉 The travel realm might be hostile to rulers and commanders, which would be rough on army discipline. Anaxares would probably be promptly killed by the telepathic enforcers of his society. Bellerophon might be destabilized and turn into something more dangerous.

                Depends who you ask: Kairos and Heirarch probably don’t get to put a Hero and/or a Seraph on trial. That in turn might require Cat to kill Pilgrim.

                Liked by 5 people

          1. Tom

            It’s not likely that any within the band of five will kill some other member for the +1 crown, because they want the hefty story bonus of being a “band of five” to assure them victory over Divine Baby Larat (or at least make their victory much more likely), and the crowns are a prerequisite for Larat’s apotheosis. So it’s more likely that someone will give up their crown willingly (probably Cat) or that they will take it from Amadeus as some people have hypothesized. TBH it seems unlikely to me that they’d take a “crown” from Amadeus because he doesn’t really seem to have any royal authority to give up in his current situation, either in Callow or in Praes.

            (Plus there’s some speculation that he goes on to become Dread Emperor Benevolent, and he couldn’t do that if he gives up his crown here because his reign would be cursed. Of course, this is just speculation….

            OTOH maybe even the curse could be nullified if Cat eventually finds that the real root of suffering in Calernia is that their world is bound by stories. Maybe the end of the series involves her breaking whatever mechanism or entity is responsible for that, freeing the people of Calernia to live lives with merely your run-of-the-mill non-supernatural suffering. 😉

            (Be safe EE! Cat is coming for you!))

            Liked by 3 people

        2. caoimhinh

          It could be, those are the 2 top contender.
          But one argument against Catherine abdicating right now would be that she still needs to have them Grand Alliance sit in the peace conference and sign the Liesse Accords, Vivienne is still lacking the weight for it.
          Also, just a few chapters ago Cat was mentioning how she still needed the myth of invincibility to keep Callow together, that only works if she is right there at the top.
          Viv can inherit the throne, but the process still needs a bit more time to be smoothed (it shouldn’t be much since she was already Lady-Regent, but still).

          Liked by 2 people

          1. >she still needs to have them Grand Alliance sit in the peace conference and sign the Liesse Accords, Vivienne is still lacking the weight for it.

            Catherine would still be the representative for the Empire Ever Dark and the power behind Vivi’s throne. I don’ think this would be a problem.

            >Also, just a few chapters ago Cat was mentioning how she still needed the myth of invincibility to keep Callow together, that only works if she is right there at the top.

            She has already surredered. That’s not the path she’s taking anymore

            Liked by 2 people

          2. goliath1303

            The abdication could also be what **gives** Vivienne the necessary weight. Carrying on her predecessors plan and pushing through to achieve her dream/goal as a tribute it a way to honor Cat. Double points if Cat dies(for real though) before the end of the story. Then doing it in her memory pretty much assure her the victory.


        3. Especially now that we’ve firmly established that abdicating in favor of a successor is how you go about it properly…

          …and Catherine sure is ALREADY INTENDING to do just that…

          Liked by 3 people

        1. Enjou

          What Amadeus has though, is a claim. We know he’s got some claim to a Name, from the Bard. My guess is that he’s one of the potential claimants for the Name of Dread Emperor of Praes. The Legions would support him, after all, because they’re unhappy with Malicia as things stand. He has a very realistic shot at it, if he can get out of the clutches of the heroes.

          Since what’s being given up here is “the right to rule” it would mean his claim to potentially take the throne from Malicia would be given up. And since Amadeus loves his homeland and would rather not have the seat in the first place, he’ll never try to claim the title if he knows for certain that it would bring disaster to Praes.

          The benefit to Cat there, I think, is that it may make Malicia more inclined to trust her old friend again, because he’s not a potential claimant who she has to worry about taking her place. That may make Malicia more amenable to compromise, or just more inclined to back off and leave Callow alone. Also, given the Bard was needling Amadeus to try to take the position (Mistake!) it will likely wreck the Bard’s plans.

          Liked by 3 people

  6. Dainpdf

    How interesting. Seeing the Pilgrim and Black debating the objectivity of morality in a world that actually contains creator gods. What would I not give to see this debate extended… then again, I imagine no such extension would be possible that would have either of them really concede a point; they are, after all, both extremists.

    I wonder where Cat’s position falls?

    Liked by 8 people

    1. caoimhinh

      I suppose Catherine’s position falls on Amadeus side. Since Cat has mentioned plenty of times her disdain for the hypocrisy of those who claim that there are higher principles but don’t obey them. A principle can’t be such thing if it is superseded by the whims of a God.

      Of course, Cat’s intake into their debate would be more in the spirit of “If they don’t fuck with me, I won’t fuck with them.” But it’s worth keeping in mind one of her most defining quotes:

      “Woe on us all, but if the Gods demanded my home be ashes then the Gods will burn.”

      Liked by 11 people

      1. Dainpdf

        I don’t know that Cat would exactly agree with Amadeus here. She seems to believe there are *some* universal moral principles, even if they are not handed out by Gods.

        Liked by 2 people

            1. Actually, there is.

              There is a set of cultural universals that has no known exception in any human society ever. They include cooperation, food sharing, hospitality, admiration of generocity, incest taboo, proscription of murder, proscription of rape, reciprocity, resistance to abuse of power, redress of wrongs…

              Admittedly, you might consider these evidence of divine plan or whatever. I call them evidence of morals actually being a human universal that directly follows from our brain architecture (that in guideverse is broadly shared by all intelligent species).

              “Subjective” doesn’t mean “arbitrary”. Lots of things are subjective yet exist in reality – wherever there are subjects for them to apply to. There are no morals where there are no sentient beings capable of understanding them.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. That’s not entirely true.
                I mean, the Egyptian Pharaohs had incestuous tendencies. Admittedly, I think that was mostly just for them, not for the common people.

                For that matter, pretty much any hereditary nobility ends up pushing the line on the incest taboo, at least, the modern interpretation of it.
                Hell, Darwin married his first cousin. I think FDR was related to Eleanor, too.

                Point I’m trying to make is, there is a lot of gray area when it comes to calling the incest taboo truly universal amongst human societies.
                It’s a bad example, IMO.

                I’d say that any “universal” or seemingly universal traits of human societies appear that way because without them, or at least without most of them, societies generally don’t get off the ground and endure long enough to leave a mark.

                Liked by 3 people

                1. Another universal truth… in any society of a decent complexity, the top 1% will find ways to explain why the normal, common sense rules that govern everybody else and keep things ticking along, just don’t apply to them — while trying to keep as much of the pie as possible in their and their children’s hands. 😛

                  It’s a tug of war as old the first ever chiefdom.

                  Liked by 3 people

                2. Cicero

                  Most human societies do not consider first cousin marriage to be incest. That’s actually an American oddity. There have been a few other places and times when cousin marriage has been taboo, but I’m not even sure all of them were incest focused.

                  Liked by 2 people

                  1. Well, I know Slavic cultures, even languages, literally count cousin as a ‘subtype’ of sibling – our words for ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ include in their meaning first and second cousins, at least, and if one wants to refer to cousins further away those words are still used, though it’s rare. “Brother of second degree”, “brother of third degree”, something like that

                    The idea of marrying a cousin was fucking wild for me as a teenager reading American books and stumbling upon it for the first time, as a matter of fact.

                    Liked by 1 person

                3. “I’d say that any “universal” or seemingly universal traits of human societies appear that way because without them, or at least without most of them, societies generally don’t get off the ground and endure long enough to leave a mark.”


                  Here’s the thing: it’s an objective rule that that’s how it happens. A universal rule, one might say. An observation over subjective processes and entities that has objective results.

                  Morality can be both derived by humans from their own minds and experiences, and absolute. Like math.

                  Liked by 2 people

              2. Dainpdf

                Sure, but those are universal in practice, not theory. It is possible to create moral frameworks that do not include those. Indeed, I would say Objectivism gets close to denying a few of them.

                Liked by 2 people

                1. IDGAF about objectivism. I doubt Amadeus subscribes to it.

                  “Universal in practice” is close enough. Just because you don’t have a theory that explains them, doesn’t mean it’s actually random or something.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. Dainpdf

                    But the argument is about whether morality is somehow inherent to the fabric of Creation, put there by the Gods themselves (like, say, gravity), or a cultural thing humans develop. An argument in favor of the former would imply there is one *true* set of moral values which is at the base of all possible sensical morality.

                    Liked by 2 people

                    1. The latter position, meanwhile, is free to state that there is a set of moral values that objectively maximizes utility in a society when widespread, and should therefore be used at the base of all possible sensical morality.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. Dainpdf

                      That assumes an utilitarian model, which restricts you to much less than “all possible sensical morality”. There are good arguments for deontological ethics.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    3. When deontological ethics run into contradiction problems, how do you resolve the contradiction? Do you roll dice, or do you look at greater expected utility (modified by probability)?

                      I view utilitarianism as basically a general case of deontological ethics: like how all the physics can technically be modeled with quantum mechanics, but most of the time you just want to calculate speed by dividing distance by time.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    4. Dainpdf

                      Except quantum mechanics can’t account for gravity.

                      Utilitarianism is all fine and dandy unless you consider intent matters. Or you consider utility does not admit a useful total order. Or you consider it’s not even well defined.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    5. It’s not well defined, you are correct, which draws a good parallel with quantum and gravity. It’s a basic model that is more often than not still less useful in practice than deontological rules. Yet what they are useful for is still the same. “Greater total utility” is fancy words for “greater good”; it’s an odd deontological ruleset that does not acknowledge this concept.

                      It’s entirely possible to explain why taking into account intent is important from a utilitarian point of view. You just have to go beyond the simplistic and account for ripple effects, long term consequences, and how knowledge of your decisions influences those of other people.

                      This is my claim (which I have no reason to assume Amadeus’s ideas differ from): that ‘greater good’ is defined by people yet in a manner that is consistent and fairly absolute across all of them, and that all the rules of morality are derived from that manually, as best humanity (well, mortals as a whole, in guideverse) has managed over the ages. That the rules are not absolute themselves, merely useful guidelines/heuristics in service of humans’ goals, yet unavoidably so. That in the absence of any divine contact or other outside source, a society is capable of deriving those rules alongside basic math, laws of mechanics and an agricultural calendar.

                      And that any person living in a society is capable of deriving these rules for themselves, too, if they have the freedom/resources to pursue the question, and they will get consistent results.

                      Gods Above are unnecessary if not necesarily unhelpful: from where I’m standing, the angel system as I understand it looks like a very useful addition: take what humans have decided are virtues, find individuals who fit the criteria, then empower them to act in accordance with these virtues as best they believe.

                      Incidentally, Contrition is objectively and inherently kind of a sucky virtue – not very useful as a moral compass, you know? As William has demonstrated and all that. Just because humanity is capable of deriving correct morality, doesn’t mean every single idea they have along the way is equally good and all that.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    6. Dainpdf

                      If something is not even well defined, or not a member of a totally ordered set, maximizing it is not a meaningful or useful concept.

                      You say utilitarian ethics are the generalization, while conceding that they are more akin to a degenerate case (deontology with a single “rule”: maximize this).

                      As for the question of intent and your proposed solution, going down the rabbit hole of causal chains only gives weight to speculation and adds further ambiguity.

                      Really, the problems with going along this idea of maximizing utility are that first, poorly defined as it is, the “greater good” can be used to justify just about anything… and second, with the non-ordering, it sees no way out of some problems. If two goods (or two evils) are non-comparable, utilitarianism offers no insight.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    7. >the “greater good” can be used to justify just about anything

                      I mean, that’s a feature, not a bug. No rule is absolute.

                      >and second, with the non-ordering, it sees no way out of some problems. If two goods (or two evils) are non-comparable, utilitarianism offers no insight.

                      Well, a core tenet is that everything is comparable, though it’s a recognized problem to actually carry out the comparison correctly. A difficulty, not a chasm.

                      Either way, let’s go back a bit to what we were talking about in the first place:

                      >An argument in favor of the former would imply there is one *true* set of moral values which is at the base of all possible sensical morality.

                      My point was that an argument in favor of the latter can make the exact same point, just on a different basis. Whether or not it’s actually correct is a rabbit hole that’s fun to delve into but isn’t actually relevant to the question of

                      >I don’t know that Cat would exactly agree with Amadeus here. She seems to believe there are *some* universal moral principles, even if they are not handed out by Gods.

                      …whether Amadeus would agree about the existence of universal moral principles.

                      Again, game theory is math. That’s pretty fucking universal and pretty fucking true. Cooperation in iterated prisoner’s dilemma is not culture-dependent, not even brain architecture-dependent.


                    8. Dainpdf

                      If it can be used to argue for anything, then the theory is vacuous (since it is not consistent). I would hardly call that a feature.

                      Your tenet, or axiom, of comparability would need to be argued for. A lot.

                      Game theory is math, but it is only applicable if you are an utilitarian, which already compromises universality, and even assuming everyone is utilitarian it would assume every possible utility function is somehow compatible, which is patently not true.

                      In any case, Black specifically argues all morality is socially constructed. There is no inherent universality. Meanwhile Cat wants to impose such universality.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    9. “If it can be used to argue for anything, then the theory is vacuous (since it is not consistent). I would hardly call that a feature.”
                      It can be used to argue for anything if this anything is justified by the circumstances.

                      It can be used to argue for anything in a sense that you can always find a smaller number than any other one given, in math.

                      >In any case, Black specifically argues all morality is socially constructed. There is no inherent universality. Meanwhile Cat wants to impose such universality.

                      What are you seeing that Cat thinks that Amadeus doesn’t agree with?

                      You are confusing somewhat the objective rules of “if X, then Y” – if you let out a demon, you damage Creation – and subjective incentives of “I don’t want other people to get hurt”.

                      Amadeus agrees with Catherine that X does indeed lead to Y. The subjective part is not wanting Y to happen.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    10. Dainpdf

                      It can be used to argue for anything because utility functions are fairly arbitrary.

                      Cat wants to impose universal morality standards, which to Black would seem futile, or at least misguided.

                      Black’s approach to morality is essentially “sez you”. I doubt he’d want or welcome Cat’s Accords at all. Outside of how he could exploit them for his own gain, that is.

                      I don’t understand your point about causality and incentives. Moral theory encompasses both.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    11. Oh, I don’t know about that.
                      Black might embrace the Accords, or at least significant parts of them.

                      I doubt he’s going to find much he’ll actually object to in the sections covering “no Angels, no Demons”, for example, though he might make pro forma objections that he’d try to leverage into more concessions.

                      Liked by 3 people

                    12. Dainpdf

                      Probably not, now that he doesn’t have Warlock.

                      He might, however, take exception to things like prisoner exchanges, or restrictions on undeclared warfare… who knows what goodies Cat has stuffed into that.

                      He’ll probably welcome restrictions on power levels, since his is low, but restrictions on unfair play in war would harm his chances.


                    13. I disagree with your interpretation of Amadeus’s position.

                      >“Indeed,” he casually agreed, unwilling to pursue the debate that if any of the things the Pilgrim had named were inherent instead of ascribed, they became utterly meaningless.

                      Note how Amadeus actually appears to care about them not being meaningless, just doesn’t want to debate it there and then.

                      >In the face of conflict, that will always be how I act. I will reduce all individuals involved to instruments, and seek what I consider the best outcome. I will not spare myself a distinction, though I do not consider this to improve the principle of the behaviour in the slightest.

                      How is this a ‘sez you’ approach to morality?

                      I’m not sure you understand what utilitarianism is.

                      >utility functions are fairly arbitrary.

                      not as intended, no

                      Also, “exploit them for his own gain” LMAO. Amadeus??? What do you define as “his own gain”???


                    14. Dainpdf

                      “How is this a ‘sez you’ approach to morality?”
                      He’s not debating whether anyone else’s ethics are sound, though? I called it that but I believe their debate is one of ethical realism vs subjectivism.

                      “I’m not sure you understand what utilitarianism is.”
                      An ethical theory based around the maximization of some utility, the form of which depends on ethical considerations by whoever is talking.

                      “What do you define as ‘his own gain’??”
                      An increase to the chance of him achieving whatever objective he’s pursuing, according to his priorities.


                    15. it’s not… ‘some’ utility. Utility is defined fairly objectively, even if not quite completely. Like ideas like ‘two human lives are worth exactly 2x single human life’ are objective, yeah?

                      A good way I’ve seen it put is that utilitarianism is embracing the moral duty of beneficence, and declaring all others to be subservient to it & derivative from it.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    16. Dainpdf

                      The choices of how each thing compares to another is subjective. For example, some might argue that a human life is priceless and thus two human lives are incomparable to one. Or, say… how many amputated legs (let’s say, of healthy twenty year olds) are worth a life?

                      You can develop theories of life-year equivalencies, but that’s just throwing the subjectivity down the math hole a bit. The assumptions of the theory, like exactly how much an amputated leg hampers someone, are still subjective.

                      And then there are questions of whether all human lives have equal worth, the discussion of which also gets into subjectivity. Is a happier person worth more, since killing them reduces overall happiness more? Is a healthier person worth more, since their death takes away more expected years of life? Is a lonely person worth less, because their death will affect less others? All subjective.

                      And that’s just talking about human life.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    17. > For example, some might argue that a human life is priceless and thus two human lives are incomparable to one.

                      So… if that arguer had a choice to save one person or two people, would they flip a coin?

                      > Or, say… how many amputated legs (let’s say, of healthy twenty year olds) are worth a life?

                      You do realize medics actually have to have policies on these things, right? What chance of dying is worth an amputated leg?

                      All this shit is absolutely something that can and needs to be calculated by people who actually have to make these decisions.

                      And it’s everyone who makes these decisions. How much time off your lifespan, on average, does one smoked cigarette take off? How does the utility of one smoked cigarette compare to the utility of that lost time? Is it worth it?

                      “Lalala I’m not listening and I make all decisions randomly” is not, in fact, a better system.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    18. Dainpdf

                      Not necessarily flip a coin; however, some ethical systems will arrive at the same conclusion for different reasons, others at different conclusions.

                      And sure, physicians have policies. Those policies are based off of base assumptions made, much like all policy.

                      As for people deciding whether to smoke, their brains use much simpler heuristics for the decision.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    19. Mmmm, how do I explain this.

                      Utility is indeed based on subjective preferences. Like in any other ethical system, you’re going to need to guess at those in absence of complete knowledge. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t actually refer to anything any more than sentimeters and inches being completely arbitrarily chosen units of measurement means they don’t actually measure anything, or a center of a coordinate system being arbitrarily placed means coordinate-based math is useless.

                      You can, in fact, know other people’s preferences for a fact. You can also act on those preferences like you care what other people and not only you think. “Utility” is an arbitrary measurement unit chosen for ease of discussion.

                      Being utilitarian just means you’re trying to do the most good you can. Where you do in fact believe that “good” is something that can be objectively measured and not just an illusion of your fevered brain.

                      I do believe that Amadeus believes that good he does can be objectively measured.


                    20. Dainpdf

                      It’s more like relativistic mechanics, where people in different inertial frames of reference can disagree about the length of something, using the same units. Except without a convenient Lorentz transform to convert to someone else’s frame, because it is impossible to completely know someone else’s point of view, only approximations (and even then, only through lots of dialogue).

                      Liked by 1 person

                    21. Yes, it’s a problem.

                      If you’re utilitarian, you’re supposed to suck it up and deal with the problem, not just say ‘shrug I guess I’ll never know and will just do my own thing the way I like’ but actually try to figure out and approximate what you’re supposed to do to accomodate everyone’s preferences better.

                      The Choir of Mercy is strongly utilitarian in its approach.


                    22. Dainpdf

                      I’m unsure whether the choir is utilitarian or some other form of consequentialism (it seems they do not believe an equal amount of happiness justifies a given amount of suffering).

                      Also, non-utilitarians don’t just shrug and say “I’ll never know”. They just have a different sort of framework (another form of consequentialism, a deontological view… or even one form of subjectivism).

                      Liked by 1 person

                    23. Dainpdf

                      Oh, and someone could even argue that there is diminishing marginal utility to human lives. Why they would do so, I don’t know, but I am sure argument could be mounted.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    24. Okay, at this point I’m just confused what we’re arguing about. You were saying that Amadeus wouldn’t approve of the Accords and reasons Catherine wants them?

                      Liked by 1 person

                    25. Dainpdf

                      I was trying to say Amadeus is a moral subjectivist while the pilgrim is a realist.

                      And that Cat seems to be trying to create an internationally binding codex to enforce some of her ethics system onto everyone. Amadeus, who has a loose moral framework, would probably never attempt a project like this, and might in fact chafe at such restrictions.

                      You then argued that Amadeus is an utilitarian and that this is an objective morality theory. I disagree on both points but chose to argue the second.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    26. I’m saying that Amadeus is a secular humanist, as is Catherine. With the belief that an objective morality system exists, but does not originate from being explicitly designated by a higher power.

                      Kind of like exactly the thing I believe? Just because I can’t explain it coherently / convince you of it, doesn’t mean it’s not a, like… possible, sufficiently self-consistent position?


                    27. Dainpdf

                      I did get that you seem to be projecting your system of beliefs onto characters you like. Which is a fair thing to do.

                      As far as it being a self-consistent position, sure… but it is not the end-all be-all of ethical theory.

                      I personally interpret Amadeus as a moral subjectivist – he doesn’t believe it is possible to make objective statements about the morality of an action.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    28. He has literally made those objective statements. Like… I’ve quoted this. He and the Calamities both referred to ethics as an objective fixed thing that they don’t get to redefine to their liking.


                    29. Dainpdf

                      I’ll need to have another look at this. I’ll add that, in my interpretation, the calamities in general definitely don’t share an overall ethical ideology.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    30. Utiiltarianism seriously does NOT mean looser moral framework. If anything it is a stricter one since it means there’s always a specific right thing for you to do. One that you could calculate with math if you were omniscient, but since you aren’t you just kind of have to guess / go by deontological rules most of the time, since from utilitarian point of view that’s what they’re for (heuristics for maximizing utility).

                      One of the important points that differentiates utilitarianism from other ethical frameworks is universality – you are supposed to assign as much weight to complete strangers you’ve never met as to yourself & people close to you. Obviously it’s not how people work, but you’re a better utilitarian the better you approximate it.

                      I am not trying to convert you to utilitarianism. I am trying to explain how it works from the inside.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    31. Dainpdf

                      Sure, utilitarianism is a form of consequentialism. Problem is Amadeus is not a consequentialist. He’s a subjectivist. If anything, your position is closer to the Pilgrim’s view (minimization of suffering is at least consequentialist).

                      Cat seems to believe a different consequentialism than the pilgrim… seems to have elements of both deontology and egoism to it.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    32. Wait, how is Amadeus not a consequentialist? Every single time he’s explained his actions – to Catherine, Alaya, himself, Ranker – he was looking at consequences and what would ultimately come of it.

                      The south will not recover for decades ™

                      The math holds, it always does with you ™

                      In the face of conflict, this will always be how I act: reduce agents to pieces on the board and seek the best outcome ™

                      Amadeus and Tariq are blatantly mirrors to one another, with incredibly similar basic reasoning but very different priors.


                    33. (replying here coz cant reply to top level)

                      >restrictions on unfair play in war would harm his chances.

                      his chances of WHAT

                      his goal is to drag Praes out of the Evil-that-always-loses narrative rut. He aims to accomplish this through cutting off the tradition of madmen taking the throne and fucking around. Banning demons is literally what he himself would do if he could. Banning Named rulers is absolutely what he himself would do if he could.

                      Accords + forcing Praes to obey them IS his win condition. He’ll need to fight no more wars after that, and the restrictions placed on warfare he won’t need to conduct will only make him happier bc as a utilitarian he has this interesting habit of caring, at least a little bit, about literally everyone and valuing every single life.

                      A finite amount, but valuing.


                    34. Dainpdf

                      Amadeus is not doing this out of some great ethical concern that more unhappiness is created by the status quo than by plunging the continent into decades-long civil war. Which is very arguable.

                      He is motivated by the fact that Evil never wins and he wants a win, DAMMIT. Only one sin: defeat. Only one grace: victory.

                      He just also happens to want a real, permanent win. It’s also where he and Alaya differ: she is a patriot, he is a zealot.


                    35. Dainpdf

                      As I told you, I’ve had that tab open for ages and not had the energy to interact with it meaningfully. I’ll hurry up and get to it.

                      Liked by 1 person

      2. Jarthon

        I think that Black’s argument here is something that Cat has agreed with the entire time. One of the major themes and most epic moments of Book 1 was “Evil is about believing that something is worth more than being Good” which is in line with Amadeus in this case. Its a very interesting difference that is pretty symbolic of Good and Evil in Practical Guide as a whole; The good guys are good because they choose to follow the people above while the bad guys are bad because they choose to do anything else. That as a whole is what allows Cat to walk the “still evil, but not totally evil” line.

        Liked by 4 people

    2. This is fucking fascinating and the best, and I love both that Amadeus has a strong position on this and that his position aligns with mine ❤ ❤ ❤

      …too bad the debate was not to happen =x

      Liked by 4 people

    3. Cicero

      What I found interesting is that both philosophies are prominent in Christian theology.

      Both that there is a better way – a set of rules that people ought to obey to achieve greatness.

      And that free will is necessary – God is conspicuously light handed in attempting to compel people to obey. Even to the extent of allowing people to murder his son rather than miraculously intervening. In fact, this is the orthodox answer to the Problem of Evil. Arguing that God allows Evil to exist because it is necessary for free will to exist.

      The rule obedience gets most of the attention nowadays, but there are still several denominations that place great emphasis on Free Will. In a diversity of doctrine stretching from the Unitarians to the Mormons.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Dainpdf

        I would be remiss not to note that is a flawed solution, since free will is obviously limited – I can’t very well, say, be unbound by gravity if I want. It could be just as impossible to commit sin. It also does not really address natural disasters, disease and other impersonal evil. Most address that via the original sin, but that gets back to rule following…

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Cicero

          That’s not free will. You seem to be confusing free will with omnipotence. If you can’t control other people you don’t have free will?

          Free will is usually defined as having both the capability and opportunity to makes choices. Being able to turn off gravity is not required.

          Furthermore, free will assumes that not only do your choices effect you (and others), but that other’s choices effect you.

          Natural disasters and other such impersonal evils are a different question. Though there are two response to that. The first is which I was eluding to, that evil must exist for free will to exist. Basically that evil must exist to allow people the opportunity to choose.

          The other is to declare that all things (including the wind and earth and sea) have spirits and thus have free will (if possibly more limited than humans). Which is not as extreme as it might sound. After all, animals have free will, even though they are not considered sentient.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Dainpdf

            I can’t choose to turn of gravity. And I still have free will. It could also be impossible to murder, and we would still have free will. There are plenty of non-murder choices around.

            If we lived in a world where murder was impossible, we wouldn’t even notice – and when I talked about the problem of evil, you would react to it with the same dismissiveness you do turning off gravity.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. A much-belated quibble here:
            > After all, animals have free will, even though they are not considered sentient.

            Animals (at least vertebrates) are indeed sentient, capable of perception and feeling. They are not sapient, capable of reasoning and judgement.


      2. luminiousblu

        Well the problem here is that Evil is pretty definitively, within Christianity, merely the Absence of Good. You have to, in effect, actively choose to be Evil. The Pilgrim would be totally right in that case.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Cicero

          “Evil is the absence of good” is not orthodox Christianity.

          I think you are confusing this with a different debate, which is about Damnation. Is it evil for God to damn people to hell? The orthodox answer to that is that damnation is not evil, but rather God withdrawing his presence (which is the source of all that is good) from those that are damned.

          Now some academics extend that to arguing that there is no such thing as Evil, and that therefor the Problem of Evil does not exist. But that is not orthodox Christianity, which affirms that Evil exists and is more than just the absence of Good.

          Consider that such a definition would make the Edenic state Evil. Since there was neither good nor evil in the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve partook of the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. If fact, that is usually the scriptural proof used to demonstrate that Free Will necessitates Evil, as it was the choice to partake of the Forbidden Fruit that led to the fallen world.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. luminiousblu

            The whole idea that Evil is the absence of Good is from Summa Theologica, which I would contend is mostly considered to be orthodox.
            >affirms that Evil exists
            In the same way that we can affirm that Coldness and Darkness exist, and we can feel their presence, but physically they’re nonentities and merely represent an especial lack of heat and light respectively.

            >The orthodox answer to that is that damnation is not evil, but rather God withdrawing his presence (which is the source of all that is good) from those that are damned.
            Yes, although I’d correct you and say that God never withdraws his presence from the damned, the damned merely refuse to accept Him, and someone who has already been damned is effectively unable to accept Him and truly repent.

            >there was neither good nor evil
            Neither Adam nor Eve believed there was good or evil present until they ate of the Tree of Knowledge. There’s a ton you can take from that – that Good can’t be distinguished from Evil until there is Evil, that only someone with the knowledge of sin can actually do so, or even that Adam and Eve were metaphorically never ‘in’ Eden, they merely woke up and recognised the Evil around them for what it was. That neither Good nor Evil *existed* in Eden until they ate is nonsense, considering God was there, as was the Serpent. The Edenic state is not Evil, but neither is it Good, because the Edenic state lacks the qualifier to be considered Good or Evil. It’s neither Good nor Evil in the same sense that total emptiness is neither hot nor cold or a transparent medium is neither light nor dark.

            Which denomination are you using, in any case? If your sect’s stance is that Evil exists then I guess so.

            Liked by 2 people

  7. Just a potato

    I feel like Black really outdid himself on this whether on purpose or not. Tariq’s doubts in the battle and negotiations with Cat didn’t make a whole lot of sense considering his supposed skill in story weaving. But with Black crushing his soul like this it makes a lot of sense. Whether for spite or strategy or both it was an excellent bit of maneuvering.

    Liked by 13 people

  8. 1224

    They live in a world that operates on Good vs Evil and yet they can have a debate on morality. I mean, I like fight scenes, and the crazy schemes, and awesome uses of powers, but what I think I really like the most in the series are the philosophical points like this.

    Liked by 13 people

  9. Hah. Nicely done, Amadeus.

    The harshest cut is the truth.
    And Amadeus had made a career out of embracing and wielding truths.
    Hell – Amadeus has a better track record of keeping his word once given than Tariq does. Because lies are bad policy and will turn against you.

    Liked by 11 people

    1. WuseMajor

      That’s the thing about being evil. If you want to have people accept the deals you make, your word must be beyond reproach. If you’re a hero, everyone just accepts that, if you break your word, you must have had a good reason, so it’s perfectly fine to trust you.

      Liked by 3 people

  10. Kissaten

    >There are no teachings, Pilgrim, that is the point exact.

    Ah, so the Sacred Betrayal means a rejection of authorities, teachers and masters both. Even the rejection of that rejection.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. RandomFan

      The Sacred Betrayal is- quite likely- a Praesi teaching, in the same vein as Iron sharpens Iron, not a Below teaching. Obviously people who treat evil like a religion both exist and are not rare, but I don’t think they’re neccessarily word from the gods.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It sure lines up suspiciously well with the Tenets of Night.

        Given the absolute dearth of contact between drow and Praesi, I consider any parallels between these culture to be Evil universals inherent to Below’s philosophy, myself.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It may seem so, but it was the Bard who have them that Deal, they called for Below with the most sacred prayer they could, Murdering priests in their centre of power.
          But they didn’t get a face to face meeting with ‘Below’ they got a drink Drowsy with a lute, could it be that she wasn’t speaking for below? That she was just starting the pattern of Iron Sharpens Iron for the very first time? Giving them the rope to hang themselves and set in motion one of the greatest atrocities ever to take place in Calernia? All while still being a Hero? One who had learned how to make Villains from the very best example of them in existence.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Didn’t Neshamah confirm that it was in fact her job as an Intercessor to manage this kind of thing?

            This is interesting speculation, though it doesn’t really fit my understanding of her character…


  11. Pzarndt

    Typo Thread:

    “The Barrow Lord threatened to take the northern half of Levant for the better part of a summer,” he said. “The Princess of Cantal was murdered and then impersonated by the Face-Thief for half a year before they were caught caught.”

    Caught is there twice.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. caoimhinh

      the fabric Creation / the fabric of Creation

      responsible the current invasion / responsible for the current invasion

      snuffed out effective villain / snuffed out effective villainy

      Liked by 2 people

    2. JJR

      Yeah, but that’s because they were caught caught. Like, when it comes to named there’s “caught” and then there’s caught caught.

      So Amadeus is “caught” but he’s still clearly working to undermine the heroes and has a card or two left to play.

      When one is caught caught they cease to be an active agent in the story.

      An easy way to tell the difference is, if you’re asking the question then the person is only “caught”.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I think I’ve said this before, but this is a really good place to say it again:

      Way back in college, I happened to read two particular books in the same week: Anton LaVey’s Satanic Bible, and Robert Ringer’s Looking Out For #1″. (The latter is a “business book” first published in 1978, prefiguring the 80’s as the “Me Decade”.) When I realized that both books were pitching the same basic goals with different decorations, I laughed my head off and declined to take either of them as a guide.

      Aside: It’s worth noting that LaVey abandoned his own Satanic Church, specifically because so few of the people who came to him were actually interested in increasing their personal power — rather, they just wanted to dress in black and look sinister. Others have taken up his torch since (I’ve heard of a Temple of Set), but I haven’t been following developments.

      Robert Ringer, in contrast, has been coming back into vogue every decade or two; his followers wreaked havoc through the 90’s and ‘Naughts, and arguably have claimed real power in current times.

      Liked by 3 people

  12. Andrew Mitchell

    Loved this extra chapter so much. Not just for the clever interactions, but mostly because it provides the perfect explanation for why Tariq has been so accommodating in recent chapters (Cat getting Amadeus’ body back, accepting Cat’s surrender, Vivienne negotiating the return of troops for assistance against Karios’ forces, and Cat’s plan to kill a god and make a highway out of him + five man band to fight the Dead King.)

    I honestly believe that Tariq would have been much more of an obstacle for many of these if it weren’t for the fact that Amadeus rocked some of Tariq’s foundational beliefs.

    Liked by 9 people

    1. Yeah, that’s a good reason for Tariq willing to compromise. Seems like Amadeus shook him to core.

      Based on this chapter, it feels like the laws of creation dictates that there should be a balance between good and evil. It may swing one way or the other for a time but eventually creation will bring it back to its natural balanced state.

      So if you’re Tariq and you’ve realized you can’t truly get rid of evil, what’s the next best thing? Keep the lesser evils like Catherine and get rid of the really horrible ones like the Dead King.

      Liked by 8 people

      1. caoimhinh

        It’s balance, but not in the sense of scales on equilibrium.
        It’s more like a cycle, and while the cycles can be broken and patterns transcended they can’t be stopped with half-measures nor willful thinking, otherwise, all they are doing in putting pressure on a dam.
        Ignorance about it allows the pressure to accumulate and once it finally breaks the dam the flood is too strong to be stopped and drowns them all.

        It’s the thing that happened with Praes and Callow, since the process of breaking the cycle was broken half-way by Malicia’s stupidity of going back to the ways of Old Evil due to distrusting Amadeus, Callow went out of control and Praes is burning and losing it’s Named at high speed.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. I just realized that the wandering bard is probably the entity that enforces that balance. I think in present time she’s working for the side of good because there’s this huge imbalance in the form of Neshemah. I wouldn’t be surprised if the wandering bard was born in the past as a villain in a time where an OP good hero existed. And if that is true, it would make sense why Neshemah calls her the intercessor.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. Actually, she explicitly gave DK the go-ahead to “eat the baby”. She might be maintaining the balance against Good now…. but there’s another really spectacular option: Suppose she’s angling for a redemption story for the Drow and Sve Noc?

            Night was born of Below, but (per their SOP) is not getting continued assistance from them, their new priestess is Evil-Lite at worst, and Night doesn’t actually have to be an evil thing. The Drow could become a neutral species like humanity.

            Liked by 4 people

          2. medailyfun

            Neshamah is not an imbalance, he was just revealed to be a balance, also the Bard originates from the times beyond the heroes and villains existence.

            Liked by 3 people

            1. Yeah, he’s a balance right now that’s why he’s coming out. Once he evens the scales, he will be an imbalance again and will probably go back to Keter again like the few instances in history where he went out then went back after some time. Unless of course, someone puts an end to him permanently.

              Liked by 3 people

          3. Kirroth

            And my bet is that this imbalance was deliberately engineered by the Bard. She encouraged Pilgram and Saint’s rise in order to create circumstances where the Dead King would be unleashed in order to …something.

            Basically she’s provoking an escalation in order to destabilize the system so she can back door into her true goal without tripping over the restrictions that have been placed on her. I just have no idea what that goal is, unless she wants Cat to replace her so she can die in peace.

            Liked by 3 people

            1. edrey

              that is possible, it should be related to kingdom under, the war allow them to invade the everdark then surround keter.
              the bard create this war to attack not just one evil nation but three

              Liked by 2 people

        2. That sort of cycle is simply the consequence of an unsteady balance. In our own world, predator/prey interactions show the same pattern — and likewise, it’s entirely possible to break the cycle entirely, if the balance topples (e.g., an extinction, or just a new factor coming into the scene).

          Liked by 4 people

    2. I’m not sure I agree. I definitely expected Tariq to do those and wasn’t surprised by his actions in th least.

      Then again, it’s possible I’m far too charitable towards his ability to not be an idiot, and he wouldn’t have if it weren’t for this talk.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Andrew Mitchell

        We’ll probably never know for sure. In previous discussions you’ve certainly influenced me to feel more charitably towards Tariq and I had felt satisfied with your explanation for his actions. Reading this post today though felt much more satisfying. It’s like the potential was certainly there for him to realise his mistakes and he just needed an extra push from Amadeus to get him moving in the right direction. He might have come to the same agreements without the push, but I think they would probably have taken more time and effort by everyone involved.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Maybe? I don’t really get the feeling that Amadeus struck true here with his accusation. I think he just shaped the argument that would hurt Pilgrim: not lying, but not caring to be more accurate than the first thing that came to his head.

          IDK. Mental Mouse made a great breakdown of this elsewhere.

          Liked by 1 person

  13. Ali Khan

    So I know it’s been heavily implied before but correct me if I’m wrong in saying that this is basically the first outright confirmation that the Gods below are the ones who believe in leaving mortals their agency while the gods above are the ones that argue for control.

    Also great to see a more human side to black while staying in form of his absolute rationalist approach. Almost like he’s more human again after losing his name. More prone to not putting all his emotions in a box for later.

    Heart-warming reunion with cat soon pls

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Well we definitely had plenty of WoG on the topic, and of course “my side is not the one that concerns itself with how people who have power use it” was said back in Book 1,

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Kissaten

      It still may be a twist of logic, say, Above believes in guiding by defining what’s right and wrong while Below believes giving power is enough to enforce hierarchy of power.

      Liked by 3 people


    *takes a deep breath*


    *coughs from so much screaming*

    so, uh, yeah, this sure is happening huh

    Liked by 3 people

  15. As a more coherent comment:

    – well, this fucking hurt. I wanted everyone to get along so much, I kind of forgot how much bitterness and bad blood there was involved. Fuck;

    – I just want to… swaddle Amadeus in a blanket and hug him. Anyone who still thinks he’s “more machine than man” and survives entirely on cold calculation is welcome to buy reading glasses;

    – Tariq remains a champion of being utterly awful at reading people even with his Aspect lmao;

    – Amadeus DOES have a deeply involved opinion on morality, justice, principles and so on. He just doesnt want to discuss it with Tariq 🙂

    – Amadeus is a fucking nerd. He goes on no less than two paragraphs of disgression on his curiosity about the landscape/climate IN THIS FUKING SITUATION. God bless;

    – so he did not miss the chance for escape deliberately after all, he just fucked up. Oh Amadeus…

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Yes.

        And on a different point, the part where he was grateful to get to see the barrows, because he wanted to but the campaign never permitted it ;u;

        he is a farmboy and a nerd and I love him so much

        Liked by 5 people

  16. Mazyne

    “The Princess of Cantal was murdered and then impersonated by the Face-Thief for half a year before they were caught.”
    Okay, now I’m worried, because there’s been a heavy layer of foreshadowing about Arnaud of Cantal being an extremely skilled actor with no real emotions, and the implications of that could be dire. We’ve seen in Chap. 34 that his alleged aims are very similar to Black’s in a way, the survival of his kingdom at any cost, but I have a hard time buying that’s the whole of it. There could be a new Face-Thief, or maybe the old one just put his soul into him when he was a kid Akua-style.
    Which, on top of being a potential “Oh shit” moment, could completely ruin Cat’s plan, because it requires seven crowns to work, and if Arnaud is a usurper, well, that might fuck it all up.
    I don’t think it’s likely, but there’s got to be something more at play. Though maybe the childhood trauma of having been raised by a villain who you thought was your mother for six months and never realizing it might actually push someone to become like Arnaud.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Even if he was an usurper, he still has the crown, and nobody’s disputed his right to it. Not even when he knifed a fellow prince, though that’s probably not too unusual for this crowd. If Arnaud is indeed Face-Thief, well then the former-Prince Face-Thief is onboard with the plan.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Mazyne

        Oh obviously, and we’ve known that the truth can be stretched quite a bit for story purposes ever since Cat claimed that Black was kind of King of Callow when killing good ol’ Willy, but it could also be stretched in a way that ruins her plan, if for example she needed to take another one of the three crowns she’s brought with her in the Dead King’s lair. The Tyrant or the Dead King could potentially out this information at the last moment while pulling out the real Arnaud or whatever story ace they had up their sleeves, and make a great big speech about how his crown really isn’t one. At this point I’m just looking for things that might fuck Cat over, because something has to eventually, and this one can actually throw a wrench in her plan, whatever it is, without it being completely unrecoverable. Having to convince one more person in her party to throw down their crown would be possible, albeit at a great cost to herself.
        Things have been going a little too well for her lately, and although the fact that she hasn’t explained her plan makes it more likely to succeed, I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop (you’d think at this point Creation would be out of shoes but I don’t think anybody’s counting on it).

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Certainly she’ll run into some sort of problem, but using Arnaud that way would be too much of a bait-and-switch. Another reason to think so is that if he were the Face-Thief or his crown was otherwise invalid, Pilgrim would surely have spotted that back at the concord. Given how routinely he uses his Behold aspect, he’d probably long since scanned all the royals, if only to make sure Malicia (or DK, or Cat, or unknown parties) hadn’t slipped a ringer into the Alliance war councils. And he’d have to be an idiot not to take a second look after that heel/face turn!

          I’d say that the Dead King, semi-possessed Masego, and Larat, can certainly come up with enough serious complications among them. Not to mention the other members of the band…. That said, Cat has a few complications up her own sleeves. We know about the Nightstaff, and Archer (who, lest we forget, was looking for Masego) is still waiting in the wings,

          Liked by 2 people

  17. So this is probably nothing, but i thought i should mention that the Face-Thief, someone that was probably a skilled actor, was in charge of the same Cantal. That Arnaud Prince of Cantal, our skilled actor prince, that have not changed heartbeat, is now ruling. Just something i noticed.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. erebus42

      That would be a nice little twist. However, even if that isn’t the case and the previous holder of that name is truly dead, Arnaud is currently out of a job and in need of something to fill his time with…

      Liked by 2 people

        1. caoimhinh

          Hey, it could be.
          That’s Pilgrim’s version after all, there are several possibilities.
          1) The Face-Thief impersonated the Princess of Cantal for more than six months.
          2) The Face-Thief was a man and impregnated someone from the royal line of Cantal before impersonating the Princess
          3) The Face-Thief was a woman and was pregnant before impersonating the Face-Thief, thus giving birth during those six months.
          Maybe The Face-Thief was a woman in love with the husband of the Princess of Cantal, which led to jealousy and impersonating her, Yandere style.
          We don’t even know the full circumstances, anything could have happened.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. 1st and 3rd are alright, more so if you combine them, cause anyone born during those 6 months sure as hell ain’t going to be the next monarch.

            2 though… That’s just super contrived. Especially if you realize that Princess’ children would be the next in line, then her siblings, then her cousins who would probably feud the hell outta the seat.

            Liked by 3 people


    Why does Black alone get to have modern ethics lessons. I feel like ”grey” pilgrim should have been better versed in morality department and not just have a my side good your side bad view given his name. I mean we literally saw the moment he realized this for himself when he accepted the man who ordered his sisters death was also a geniunly good person. This is just meh man. Don’t cheapen grey to raise black.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. caoimhinh

      It’s not that.
      The Grey Pilgrim is not ‘grey’ in morality or goals, he is grey in methods.
      Tariq believes in morality, the good of people and the Good guidance of the Gods Above and their Angels, he is a priest after all, one might even call him a Prophet, given how he is listening messages from the Angels all the time.
      This chapter is in perfect consistency with everything we have seen so far, Tariq hasn’t changed and Amadeus hasn’t changed either.

      You might see it as if Amadeus is the one who seems more versed in the subject or morality or ‘having modern ethics lessons’ but that’s simply because Amadeus view is made by cold logic, while Tariq’s view is influenced by his faith.
      This is very similar to the endless discussions between religious people and atheists when on that subject:
      The believer (Tariq in this case) will argue that morals, justice and good are absolute things because they were decided by a God, while the atheist (loosely Amadeus in this case) will point out that all those things have varied greatly through history (things like slavery, rape, and ritual sacrifice were condoned and even regulated by religions in the past but are not allowed by those same religions today) and are still changing in the present, thus proving that the definitions of those concepts are not inherent to humans but rather creations of human societies, and argue then that the real value of those concepts is in embracing them out of free will and choice, not in having them in the people as part of their intrinsic nature.

      Liked by 2 people


        Yes yes the argument between grey and black has been echoed irl tons of time, no need to explain the obvious.
        This isnt about the argument betwen them, this is about me thinking greys perspective cant possibly be this basic. The man realized for himself that his sisters killer was a good man. The man had to kill his own sisters son. This is the man who accepts the fact that a villain genuinely wants peace and is willing to work with them for the good of the world. Yet his moral compass is above good below bad? I honestly doubt it, this chapter seemed sort of jarring but i guess i had the wrong read on his character.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. The thing is, to (some of) us, Black’s argument looks more “modern”, precisely because in our own society (modern Western), religion has been largely shoved out of the position of power it held for most of human history. There are certainly still plenty of religious people around, but religious authorities rarely get to make or enforce laws for our nations anymore, and we increasingly disdain societies where they do.

          This has a lot to do with the founding of America, whose founders had had quite enough of religious laws in the public sphere, and especially of competing religions passing laws against each other. More immediately, the initial colonies had multiple different religions in play, and the founders were trying to weld all those groups into a single nation. So, “freedom of religion”, which attempted to establish the new nation as a demilitarized zone with respect to religion. It wasn’t completely effective (notably, Jews and Quakers still got some official flak, let alone atheists), but really, it turned out surprisingly well.

          Liked by 3 people

        2. caoimhinh

          Pilgrim believes in the good of people, he thinks people are born inherently good, while Amadeus argues that people are born neutral and when growing up they choose what to be. That’s the point of their discussion about morality.

          What bothered you, however, was Pilgrim’s view of ‘Above is good, Below is evil’ but:
          1) He has always been that way and 2) Above and Below refer to the Gods, not to the people who follow them.

          So when you point out to the fact that Tariq has seen the man who ordered the murder of his sister being a good ruler and nice person to his family, or the infamous villain queen being genuinely looking for peace, once again I point out that that’s the good in the people that Tariq believes in. It’s just that such belief doesn’t extend to the Gods Below because those are -as far as everyone believes- the source of Evil.
          Kinda like a priest can tell you that he believes sinners can be redeemed, but he won’t think the same about Satan.

          Notice that he was talking about ‘the teachings of the Gods Below’, trying to make it seem like people were evil because Below corrupted them in some way, something that Amadeus immediately calls him out for, because believing such thing is to ascribe guilt for people’s actions to the Gods, thus cowering from the responsibility of one’s own deeds.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. SNAKE EATEEER

            Yeah i guess he can see the people who follow below as honestly good people while seeing below as absolute evil. Though that seems flimsy to me. I gotta say the more i think about it the more what you said about his name seems to fit, that he is grey in method not morality. Yet i still can’t see him as a zealot or a slave of the heavens blindly following their decree like the current white knight. He seems to treat them as peers and what they say as advice rather than command.

            Liked by 3 people

            1. caoimhinh

              That is related to the way each Choir manifest itself to their Chosen Heroes.
              Contrition mindrapes people into their service by showing them all their sins so they repent and enter the service of the Heavens as penitents, Judgement boasts a broader perspective bigger than that of any mortal so they claim that makes them the most fitting ones to make a decision, so if they send a command it must be for a reason even if the mortals can’t understand it, while Mercy has a more indirect manner of making people obedient to their words: by showing them results.
              It was noted both on epigraphs and on chapters that the Choir of Mercy is one of the most dangerous (even Neshamah thinks this) because they are more manipulative and softer in their approach; Tariq is not technically obligated to follow their command, but all the Ophanim have to do to make him obey their whispers is to say that by doing that he will do good and allievate suffering; it’s in his very nature so he won’t refuse. In the Peregrine Extra Chapters that was shown as the way they trained him into complying to their whispers.

              An important part of the Angel-Hero relationships is that the Choirs make their chosen follow them by different methods, and while it ultimately is the person’s choice, very few people are capable of denying an Angel’s words and refusing.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. SNAKE EATEEER

                Mercy is the most dangerous because their motto is basically for the greater good. Anything goes if its in the name of the greater good no matter how atrocious ^^

                On a different note i wonder how he sees Dartwick. Would he see her as in service of below after she joined up with Cat or still a hero. Doesnt really matter tbh, seems like he doesnt think being a hero or villain makes you good or bad; just that above is good and below is bad. I think they met briefly before she lost her name but i cant really remember what thoughts he had about that, if any.

                Liked by 3 people

        3. >this is about me thinking greys perspective cant possibly be this basic. The man realized for himself that his sisters killer was a good man

          Actually his perspective on that revealed how horrifyingly basic black and white his understanding of the world was. How could the same person possibly do both good and bad things???

          Tariq being a dumbass is something that’s 100% well set up within the narrative.

          Liked by 1 person

    2. luminiousblu

      Black lacks pretty harshly in the philosophy department, all in all. He does feel like a first jab at being an existentialist sometimes. That said, ‘modern ethics’ are neither inherently superior to premodern ethics, nor inherently universal – especially when it’s not even the same universe.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Oshi

      You hit the nail. Both sides use bard one way or the other to keep the game going. She’s probably the biggest reason other then gnomes why no one really innovates on Calernia.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Andrew Mitchell

          Sve Noc is definitely aligned with Below. It’s stated specifically when the Bard interacted with the sisters millennia ago. Also Night is based on murder to increase personal power, that’s not Above’s game.

          Liked by 2 people

  19. Deunan

    Loved the chapter. But my brain seems to be running on empty – when did Black loose his name as the black Knight?

    He specifically mentions being nameless here

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Andrew Mitchell

      During the scenes before Black’s capture there’s several mentions of Black overusing his aspects and being weakened as a result. By the time the Heroes catch up with him on the boat, Amadeus had lost his name and was no longer the Black Knight.

      Liked by 2 people

  20. The thing about the ‘morality’ of Creation reminded me of a certain part of Hogfather by Terry Pratchett.


    “So we can believe the big ones?”


    “They’re not the same at all!”


    “Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”


    With this in mind, Black isn’t refuting that these things exist, in fact the line here:

    if any of the things the Pilgrim had named were inherent instead of ascribed, they became utterly meaningless

    directly mirrors what Death says in the above snippet.

    In Black’s eyes, as I understand it, Good vs Evil is the argument of Free Will. Sure, Below encourages flying doom fortresses and blowing up an entire city to spite an invading enemy fleet, but at least those that follow Below choose to do so.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point in the future, it turns out that in a big revelation, Above isn’t the ‘Good’ side. Merely, the Choirs et al are simply a different form of Evil (or at least are morally grey). Think of all the examples we have; William was ready to brainwash an entire city into Crusade drones, and himself was mindraped into becoming a hero by Contrition. Hanno gives up ALL free will in making the decisions that matter, relying on a literal coinflip decided by his Choir. And the Pilgrim, while less directly influenced, relies on the voices talking to him to guide him into the correct choice.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Hanno has yet to make a single meaningful decision based on his coinflip.

      The angels have never helped Tariq make the correct choice except in providing him with information that helps him do so.

      William was already contrite before he met the angel.

      I think in Black’s eyes, Below is evil but that doesn’t matter because every single choice is still made by people. You can accept its Bestowal and still act like a decent person; and heroes are not more virtuous for having their virtue rewarded. He doesn’t give a shit about the argument of the gods, he’s here for Creation and the people on it.

      That last bit aside, YES. I definitely remembered Death’s monologue when discussing this chapter and some people’s confusion on Black’s views ❤

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Andrew Mitchell

        > I think in Black’s eyes, Below is evil but that doesn’t matter because every single choice is still made by people. You can accept its Bestowal and still act like a decent person; and heroes are not more virtuous for having their virtue rewarded. He doesn’t give a shit about the argument of the gods, he’s here for Creation and the people on it.

        Yes, yes, a thousand times, YES.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. luminiousblu

        The problem I think with making the Angels a separate entity is that it gives readers a boogeyman to use if they dislike Heroes, while missing the point that a Name (and by extension, contact with Above) is just a confirmation of who you already are. Hanno wanted to seek Justice already, so he found it. Tariq didn’t know how to save people but wanted to, so he learned how. William wanted to make right what he did wrong, so he was provided the means. It’s pretty obviously an Ask and Ye Shall Receive thing, but the point is that none of the Heroes are somehow forced to use their powers. They just honestly believe in their cause, which is why they got the powers to see it through in the first place.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. I didn’t think of Hogfather (should probably get a copy so I can reread it), but the argument is pretty much that of secular humanism. In my own case, the question of whether I “believe in God(s)” hinges on quibbling over the definitions of both “believe” and “God(s)” 😉 … but I certainly believe in people.

      Justice, mercy, duty, dignity, honor, kindness… the universe at large does not provide these things, nor care about them. And yet we see them all around us, because we humans created them and those humans who came before us put them them into our world. But like us, these things are living, and fragile. So If we want to keep them in our world, and leave them for those who will come after us, well then it’s up to us to nurture, feed, and protect them.

      Liked by 4 people

    3. luminiousblu

      Black’s stance here isn’t free will, it’s just existentialism. His whole point is that righteousness and justice and ‘goodness’ clearly exist, but he’ll be the one to decide what they are. This isn’t in and of itself controversial to our ears, but there’s a reason existentialism hasn’t taken over the world.

      And no, I disagree with your interpretation of Above. Above is Good, capital G. Below is Evil, capital E. They’re aligned in a direction, but that doesn’t in and of itself mean you, personally, have to agree with what they say – so they could be lowercase e and lowercase g respectively, if that’s what you want. You can’t point to a single act, hypothetical or otherwise, that’s inherently good or evil if you subscribe to Black’s point of view, so don’t turn around and say that Above is now Evil, capital E, because you disagree with them.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Amadeus has remarked internally, if not externally, that he believes virtues only ARE meaningful if they’re fully intristic to mortals and not anything else. That implies he does believe them meaningful in the first place, which should not be a surprise to anyone who’s been following his perspective closely; he is an idealist.

        Just because morals are fully mortal-based doesn’t mean you can say they’re whatever you want them to be. Game theory is math.

        And Above and Below definitely do correspond to lowercase good and evil; not only do we have Word of God on that, it’s fairly evident within the narrative itself, too. It’s just that the world is complex enough that “broadly correspond” does not translate to “always lead to”; not to mention that there’s no direct link between the gods and those who claim their side. Catherine can set out to fuck Below over (implicitly in favor of Above) while utilizing powers granted by it, and the Princes can claim divine mandate for their greed with no-one to actually tell them no, until they cross the line far enough for someone like Laurence to come after them.

        Liked by 1 person

    4. The Division between the Gods was set our plainly in chapter one, it is a debate ast to whether sentient species should be Ruled over or whether they should be given the chance to rule themselves.

      The mistake that the reader makes when reading that, as they have yet to really meet either, is that the latter is the good side, it’s not, the Gods above want to rule in totality, they want their morals and beliefs to be the Default truth with no deviations, as it would be the best for all involved, a utopia with no pain or suffering. Bellow thinks that we should be allowed to innovate and grow on our own, and that power should be earned and paid for, not granted and bestowed.

      Does it stroke anyone else as odd that the only totally democratic national in this world is on Below’s side? Almost like rising to power through choices and actions is what it values more than inherited rulership? The tower is the same but to the opposite extreme, the empress/Emporer is decided when the rest of the country decides that they don’t want to fuck with them anymore, not when a damned messenger from below crowns them.


  21. therealgridlock

    And… That’s why Tariq was willing to compromise with Cat. He had been shown that his “greater good” doesn’t always mean less suffering. As a matter of fact, he caused a plague more brutal than the one that created *himself* and didn’t bat an eye.

    He began his career with a desire to lessen suffering, and now he goes about creating suffering wherever he goes.

    He saw that Cat was right all along and he was to blame for the suffering of tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands even, and thus he relented, for by working together they could prevent more suffering than himself alone.

    What does it say about a web serial that 10x more of the web page is taken up by comments than story?


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