Chapter 37: Accessory

“To keep a friend, avoid sharing these three: coin, cup and crown.”
– Nicaean saying

Three times now I’d come to Liesse bearing a sword.

Once to take it with the Fifteenth at my back, to smother the last embers of rebellion in my time and bury the Lone Swordsman. Again with my father for only company, sneaking in through darkness and death to quell the terrible madness of Akua Sahelian. The city that had once been the thriving heart of southern Callow had been ravaged and ruined years before today, and being ripped from Creation then cast down atop tall peaks had done nothing to mend that state. The sight of the crown jewel of the south reduced to this still had my blood boiling even now. When the Fifteenth had taken Liesse it’d been a sprawl of broad avenues covered in flowers and trees, a beauty in stone pale and tan that seemed at times like it was half churches half mansions. There was nothing of that left now. The third of the city that’d been outside the old walls, mostly tanners and dyers and the poor, had fallen right off when Diabolist raised the city into the sky. The blood and sorcery that’d followed still resonated in this place, the trees were long dead and the slender towers of the basilicas petulantly snapped. Liesse still thrummed with death: it was like a cloying scent in the air, a strange heartbeat coursing through its broken streets. And at the end of the road, in what had once been the Ducal Palace, some fresh madness was blooming. Masego awaited in the ancient hall of the Dukes of Liesse, turned fortress and ritual heart by the Diabolist.

I did not have to look far to see the first touches of his work. In the eldritch sky above us sorcery had been shaped in a great working, like colossal panes of bronze glass. It brought to my mind a telescope, for it was like a collection of increasingly larger glass lenses pointed outwards. Whatever sight they were meant for I was not certain, but on the surface of the panes I saw the barren storm-wracked wasteland of below. Compelling as the sorcery was to watch, I had no time to spare for contemplation of it. I was, it was becoming increasingly clear, far from alone in the streets of Liesse. From the moment I’d stepped out of the dark there’d been the weight of eyes on my back, and the tension had only thickened in the moments that followed. What had once been known as the City of Swans was now the City of Ash and Dust, and it was through the stuff of it that my boots scuffed as I began limping forward. Lingering here would serve no purpose: none of the others would emerge where I had. There would be need to stitch back together our little band before it was wielded against our common foe. Passing through the wreck of what had once been a guild hall, its walls broken so thoroughly that all that remained upright was low ornate pillars of plastered marble, I heard the whispers of an ambush about to be sprung. I caught sight of them, I thought, too easily. A scuttling creature of red-brown fur with long iron claws had been revealed in the shade where it hid, a ray of light playing off a cloud above us laying it bare.

It was devil. I’d even fought this kind before, at the Battle of Marchford and even the ambush that preceded it. At least as clever as a child, and capable of speech in the Dark Tongue as well as some of Creation’s languages. My discussions with the foremost diabolist of our age had since made it plain to me that these were lesser servants, as far as the Praesi saw it, but still commonly used for their wits and ease of binding. And their numbers: the bonsam, as their kind was called, were thrown at enemies not as lone individuals but in packs. My advance slowed by a pillar, and I caught a glint of iron in the carpet of ash that filled this gutted guildhall.

“This doesn’t end well for you,” I called out in Mthethwa. “Flee now and I will not pursue.”

In bursts they came out of the thick layers of ash where they’d lain waiting, and others leapt down from the nearby rooftops where they’d been watching me. In the heartbeat that followed, I counted seven. Four on the ground, dark-eyed and wild and coming at me split evenly from the sides. Three above, two who’d been huddling in mangled bell tower and the one I’d caught first pressing down its body in the hollow of a parapet. It came laughably easy to me. My hand, by happenstance, was already near where I wanted it to be – all I needed to do was let the Night pour through and flick my wrist. By happenstance still, all I would need to elude half my attackers was slip around the pillar I’d reached, and my foot was already halfway there. It was like Creation wanted me to slaughter them, and do so almost effortlessly.

“I gave fair warning,” I said, wrist already moving.

Two of those leaping were, as I pivoted around the pillar, for a moment perfectly lined up. The fine needle of Night I’d sent burst through the flesh and fur of the first like it’d been filled with munitions, and the last of the impact ate halfway through the head of the devil behind it. Two of the bonsam on the ground were now on the wrong side of the pillar to strike at me, and began to turn, while the other pair found I’d smoothly flanked them. They had long enough for their eyes to widen in surprise before with a flick of the wrist in the opposite direction I let loose a second sliver of Night: slight tendrils of smoke that slipped through their nostrils, and they dropped in the instant that followed. It’d turned acid inside their bodies, and melted what there was to melt. The sequence continued, almost dreamlike, with the third leaper landing atop the pillar to my side, two-sided claws scraping at the stone. My hand fell on the side of my staff, as if carried by my last flick, and at the very moment where its weight was drawing back from the landing the tip of my staff struck its chest. It toppled, I knew without even looking, on top of the other two who’d been trying to go around the pillar. With another languid step I finished my way around the pillar, arriving to the sight of two devils snarling at the third as they tried to push it off their side. It was the one who’d fallen that looked at me, letting out a shriek when it saw I’d raised my hand.

I snapped my fingers.

A droplet of Night formed in the middle of the three, and from it a razor-thin pulse emanated. It cut through the heads of the two bonsam on the ground, and through the waist of the one I’d nudged down. They were all three dead before I could bring my staff down to lean on, and I breathed out slowly. The whole scuffle had taken the span of perhaps five breaths, and required me to call on so little Night I’d not even noticed any strain.

“So this is what it’s like,” I murmured. “Having a story like wind in your sail.”

It was even more insultingly leisurely than I’d assumed it would be. How could any hero lose a fight, when Creation conspired a hundred coincidences to give them an edge? I mastered that burgeoning irritation, for it was one of the uglier parts of my inheritance, and set it aside. There was no point in whining about the opposition’s arsenal when instead I could be figuring out ways to use their tools more frequently. There’d be time for that later, though. For now I needed to find the others, which ought not to be too difficult if providence was willing to lend a hand for once. I resumed my advance into the deeper city, treading different shades of ruin as I did. Some the work of devils, some of wights, some of the soldiers who’d once taken Liesse in my name. I did not encounter any more of the bonsam, though once or twice I caught shadows looming on rooftops or watching through the cracks of walls. None approached, though it seemed that courtesy was not being extended to others: I heard a great crack in the distance, and watched with a wince one of the seven basilicas of Liesse toppled inwards. Well, that was as much of a sign I was going to get I supposed. I put some spring to my step and headed towards the collapse. It couldn’t have been more than two alleys of walking until I ran into where my waiting companion had emerged from the aborted crucible: there was a neat line of dead jackal-headed devils, all nine of them cut cleanly through at the waist by the same blow. I glanced at the way the corpses had fallen, and let out a reluctantly impressed whistle when I realized they must have been walking in a file when the Saint of Swords had struck and she’d killed the lot of them before they could even turn. That this was Laurence de Montfort’s work there could be no doubt.

She’d cut off enough my limbs I’d acquired an eye for the look of it.

Though not particularly enthused by who it was that I’d found first, I quickened my limp a little more still. If nothing else, the Saint’s company should make getting around this devil-infested city significantly easier. Not safer, of course, because there was no guarantee that she wouldn’t decide now was the time to clean up a loose end like me, but certainly easier. It wasn’t all difficult to follow the path she’d walked, since she’d sown corpses seemingly ever step of the damned way. It was like there was something about her that attracted the devils like flies, because by the third time I turned a corner only to find a pile of at least twenty dead or dismembered devils – the limbs everywhere made it harder to count – I was forced to conceded this couldn’t possibly just be a string of bad luck. By the fifth mess of corpses I ran into it wasn’t just ironhooks and jackalheads I was looking at, but higher breeds that Wasteland diabolists had used for war in years past. Walin-falme, the leather-winged devils that had been a favourite of binding-inclined Dread Emperors and Akua’s own choice of troops for the Folly, and akalibsa. The latter had been prized by Taghreb tribes, Aisha has once told me, for their raids on their Soninke neighbours to the north. Given that the fanged devils bore rough armour of stone and iron weapons, I could see why. Not that it’d stopped the Saint from slaughtering them.

I would be more or less true to say I saw the fighting before I heard it: further into the city, I saw swarms of walin-falme and smaller gargoyle-like hairy creatures swarming down towards the same plaza. When I got closer the baying of the hound-like akalibsa told me that the Saint was very much under siege, and I grit my teeth as I picked up the pace. Hurrying through a house that looked like some whimsical giant had slapped it down before leaving, I came upon the collapsed basilica and saw that I’d strained my bad leg for no reason at all. There must have been, I thought, easily two hundred devils in the city square I could see past the fallen basilica. The Saint of Swords was alone, and nonchalantly tearing through a the force like it was made of paper.

Pale tabard spinning around her like she was a dancer, the old woman moved among her opponents like the wind. On the ground the scythed through the bondam and the akalibsa like it was sport, smoothly using them as shields against each other as she carved through necks and limbs with unerring precision. The Saint of Swords only put weight behind her blows when the winged devils came for her, the wind left by explosive strength of her strikes sucking them like birds in a storm. I saw her, with my own eyes, cut the air and leap up onto that mark only to kick up and catch a walin-falme in the face, use it as pedestal to twist and carve through the skull of another devil and catch a third one by the throat – she tossed it, casually, against the cut she’d made in the air and it was severed in two halves by the impact. In the heartbeat that followed that insanity she ripped free her longsword and leapt back down into the swarm below, never once having hesitated or broken stride. Merciless Gods, I thought. She might as well be a meat grinder. As I walked through the rubble of the basilica, a shadow was cast ahead of me by the walin-falme who’d thought to take me by surprise and I flicked a wrist backwards without turning. The slithering rope of Night caught it by the neck and tightened before turning to black flame. A charred head and corpse landed behind me a moment later, but I would not be so easily distracted. I suspected that the Saint could keep at this all day without tiring – I’d yet to feel from her more than the occasional flicker of Name power – but devils kept pouring in and there was no end in sight.

We needed to move this along before we got bogged down, and I might as well get two birds with one stone. I supposed I could have reached deep into the Night and unleashed a large working that would have slain many and scattered the rest, but I was disinclined to waste power so early in the fight. Especially when there were more… creative solutions to be had. I left the Saint to her slaughter and crouched against the ground with a pained wince, leg throbbing. Holding onto my staff with tight lips, I ran a hand through the ash and black dust that covered the stone. I closed my eyes, let out a slow breath and let the Night fill my veins. As I’d thought, as I’d felt, there was still power in this place. Deaths by the thousands, as the alchemies of Still Water sunk into innocents and a spark of magic set that corruption ablaze. Other great sorceries as well, Akua’s own works of grand hubris and what Masego had made of this place since snatching it from its Callowan cradle. There were echoes here, and they were not gentle ones. Eyes fluttering open, I swept aside enough of the filth that I could lay my naked palm against what had once been the stone floor of the basilica.

“I saw the birth of you,” I murmured. “Heard the reverb, even then, though I did not yet have ways to heed it. I do now, though.”

I let the Night bridge the gap, felt the wailing held within swell with anger, and gasped as my chest tightened.

“Sing for me,” I whispered.

And though I had failed them I was still their queen, anointed in the halls of the Fairfaxes and the fields of war, so sang for me they did. To my ears it felt like a muted buzzing, at first, something so large and deafening my ears could not truly fathom it. But as the first heartbeat passed, a wave of something eldritch filled me and I tasted of the nature of it. Rage, unbridled and strident and blind: wights killed and killing. But the echo went deeper, to what I had sought. The terror of the inevitable, the helplessness of doom already sown and coming. The shivering moment where the greatest evil of our age had been committed by a woman now in my service. I partook of it, and let the city sing that chorus. It would not last long, I thought as I withdrew my palm and wearily rose to my feet. Maybe thirty heartbeats, and the further away the less keenly it would be felt. But here, now? Even as Laurence de Montfort stood unmoved among a whirlwind of devils, the flock of bound creatures scattered. Fled to the winds, taken by panic and rage that they were not truly able to understand. I’d spared the Saint as much of this as I could, but in truth I’d doubted she would be affected. And, I saw as she calmly turned to watch me, I’d been right. There was no waver in her eyes, no weight on her shoulders. Like water off a duck’s back the tumultuous rage and fear of over a hundred thousand souls rolled over her and found nothing to hold on to.

“Black Queen,” the Saint of Swords greeted me. “Finally. Where are the others?”

“Heading this way, I’d wager,” I said, limping up to her.

I kept some distance. Enough that, if she chose to strike, I’d have long enough to be aware of the blow. That ought to be enough, given my preparations, though in matters like this nothing was ever certain. Much less when it came to a heroine as old and ridiculously lethal as the Saint.

“After that trick you just pulled, there’ll be more than blade fodder headed our way,” the old woman said, then spat to the side. “Might as well have raised a banner for everyone to see.”

“It’ll get the Grey Pilgrim here, as least,” I said. “Perhaps the others as well.”

Laurence’s eyes narrowed.

“Whatever sharpest killer the Enemy’s got as well,” she said. “But you did that on purpose, didn’t you?”

I did not deny it, since it was true.

“I’ve had to assault that palace once before,” I said, gesturing at the looming structure in the distance. “And that was when it was just the Diabolist that put up wards and traps. We don’t want to have to fight whatever monster’s waiting while in there, you can trust me on that.”

“I don’t even trust you to breathe,” the Saint curtly said. “But the decision’s not entirely senseless.”

“You sweet talker, Laurence,” I deadpanned. “Stop, you’ll make me blush.”

She eyed me up and down, though there was nothing suggestive about the assessment taking place. That was the gaze, I thought, of someone deciding how it’d be easiest to kill me when the time came and was rather looking forward to getting around to it.

“What did he offer you, in there?” the old woman brusquely asked.

My jaw clenched. Did I want to have that conversation with Laurence de Montfort, of all people? No, I did not. On the other hand, there were risks to dismissing her question. I studied her carefully. If I refused, would she take that as me confession to collusion with the Dead King and strike? I honestly wasn’t sure. And unless I wanted to risk a fight anyway, I couldn’t hesitate much longer than this.

“A hundred year truce,” I finally said. “For the lands he’s already taken. You?”

If I was going to answer, so was she. The Saint smiled unpleasantly.

“Never even showed up,” she said. “It got dark, I got impatient and cut my way out. So much for your test, Foundling. Didn’t figure it all out, it looks like. I wonder what else you’re wrong about.”

I hummed, cocking my head as I listened to the last echoes of the song I’d asked for. I could follow the… tide of it, with a little effort, and it was telling me interesting things. For one, it parted around the Ducal Palace like a tide around rocks. The end of our journey most definitely awaited there. There was, however, another hole in the city. Much smaller, but unlike the palace instead of being exempt it was violently repelling the song. And that small presence was not far ahead of us, coming in our direction.

“Not about the monster, I’ll tell you that for certain,” I said. “We’re about to have a guest, Saint.”

Her gaze sharpened.

“Then move ahead,” she said. “I will not have you at my back, Black Queen.”

“Why?” I frowned. “I’m not the one who’s a walking domain. I can’t – wait, are you implying I’d stab you in the back?”

She sneered, which was answer enough.

“Seriously?” I said. “Are you incapable of being halfway reasonable without someone holding your hand? I’ve had more cordial conversations with godsdamned angels, Laurence. Angels. Let that sink in.”

I did not see it until it was too late. My mistake, growing irritated enough most my attention had been on the Saint instead of where it should be. My heart quickened and I felt goosebumps crawl along my skin as I saw a single-edge blade of bronze swinging for my eyes. It had been a mistake, I realized, to assume that the song would allow me to accurately keep track of the enemy. Then there was a flash of radiant Light, and the creature that’d been about to take my life was shot out by the impact like a ballista bolt. I blinked out the blindness, absent-mindedly noting that the enemy had been thrown straight through two houses and a sculpture of Jehan the Wise before stopping.

“We appear to have flushed out the enemy,” Tariq said, lowering his crooked staff.

“Thanks for that,” I croaked out.

He dipped his head in acknowledgement. My heart was beating wildly and my fingers felt faint. Gods, but it’d been a while since I’d come that close to dying – without anything like Winter to get me through it. I’d almost forgotten what it felt like. I fell in with the Pilgrim, the two of us advancing to join the Saint. Her eyes were on the plume of dust and ash where the enemy had been thrown, and together the three of us looked upon the silhouette that emerged. Utterly pristine even after being thrown, its bare feet padded across the ashen ground. It wore nothing but a loose long-sleeved shirt of white satin, with trousers of the same, and its extended arm held out the bronze blade at a horizontal angle. It was not human, I thought, and I knew that without needing to study it in greater detail because I’d encountered it before.

“Well now, as I live and breathe,” the Saint said. “That looks to me like an elf.”

“Bestowed, too,” the Pilgrim added.

“It’s called the Spellblade,” I calmly said. “And it’s one of the Dead King’s own Revenants.”

I felt the weight of the other two’s attention, though neither looked away from our enemy, and the unspoken question that went with it.

“In Keter I tried to destroy it, with Hierophant and Thief,” I said.

“And?” Tariq calmly asked.

“I landed about one good hit that whole fight, for which it vaporized half my body,” I replied. “We ran as soon as we could. It’s nasty in the elf way, and it can makes blades out spells as well. This is going to be a ride, I can tell you that much..”

“Good,” Laurence de Montfort said, smiling a wolf’s smile as she began advancing. “Then this ought to be decent practice for Dead King.”

168 thoughts on “Chapter 37: Accessory

    1. More!
      > I wore nothing but a loose long-sleeved shirt of white satin, with trousers of the same, and its extended arm held out the bronze blade at a horizontal angle.
      to
      > It wore nothing but a loose long-sleeved shirt of white satin, with trousers of the same, and its extended arm held out the bronze blade at a horizontal angle.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. M0och

        One more…
        >I’ve more cordial conversations with godsdamned angels, Laurence. Angels. Let that sink in.”

        >I’ve had more cordial conversations with godsdamned angels, Laurence. Angels. Let that sink in.”

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Valkyria

        Is it just me or are the typos showing up more frequently than ever in the last few chapters… ?
        I remember times when there were less at least.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Ciopo

          I have noticed that too, but it might be a matter of perception, archive binging chapter that have in the meantime been corrected vs readign the newest chapter soon after its release

          Liked by 2 people

        2. I haven’t checked (still waiting for my coffee to kick in, and proofreading is hard), but I suspect “reversion to the mean”. That is, some days he does better than others, but then when it goes back to an “average” level you notice it again. Reversion to the mean is much of how quack cures get their claws into people: A chronically ill person have a bad day/week, get desperate, and go buy some quantum-infused eye of newt. Then the bad patch ends (like they do), they think the QIEON made it better… and then they tell all their friends “oooh this stuff works”. (Argghh.)

          What I’d really hope for is that he (or an assistant, many of us would volunteer) is going through the older chapters and incorporating the fixes from the comments. I certainly don’t expect perfection on the first pass (that’s not how humans work), but there should be second and third passes eventually.

          Liked by 2 people

        3. JJR

          Perhaps we’re getting closer to the part of the story with the demon that causes typos?

          Kidding of course, but I still wonder what flavor of demon would end up doing that. Corruption seems obvious, if we hadn’t already had one prominent enough in the story without putting it’s chapters through a blender. Must be a kind we haven’t seen yet.

          Liked by 4 people

        4. Another thought: most of the “typo” issues we’ve been seeing wouldn’t be caught by a spellchecker, so he’d need something smarter. Perhaps something like Grammarly might help? (I haven’t tried it myself, despite being peppered with their ads on youtube.) On the other hand, it seems to be targeted as business communications, and might well stumble (or pratfall) over chapters of a fantasy novel.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Andrew Mitchell

            I had been using Grammarly for years and it is quite useful. Recently, however, I uninstalled it and deleted my account.

            The decision to do so took a bit of effort to come to. It was originally triggered by some Reddit comments questioning their privacy policy and terms of use. I then took a deep dive into those documents and carefully thought through the details and the interaction between the agreements. Eventually I came to the conclusion that, contrary to what you’ll see with a superficial reading, the agreements actually give them the right to record everything you type on every web page and then provide that data to third parties.

            Like

            1. Damn. Unfortunately, that sort of thing isn’t unheard of, but it’s still upsetting to see a new example. Especially one that’s being pushed so widely.

              And while they don’t have to use all the powers granted by the terms of use, it’s never wise to bet on the self-restraint or goodwill of a sociopathic non-human, such as a corporation.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. M0och

                “…it’s never wise to bet on the self-restraint or goodwill of a sociopathic non-human, such as a corporation.”

                Probably one of the best pithy comments I have ever seen and no I am not being demeaning or sarcastic when I say this. This one made me spit out an entire mouthful of water!

                Liked by 2 people

      1. Morgenstern

        Might be “… can make blades out of nothing and spells as well.”
        Feels like a good chunk of the sentence is missing, anyway.

        Like

  1. Stormblessed

    Oh dear the Spellblade is back. They couldn’t handle it last time, but this time Cat is no longer full of Winter. Not having Masego is worse, but overall trading Zeze and Vivi for two Heroic powerhouses is a trade up.

    Plus this time the story and providence is 100% in her favor as another major plus.

    Liked by 14 people

      1. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen someone say Cat doesn’t have much Night, and honestly I have no idea where that’s coming from. She used Night to crack a river open under the noonday sun when the Mighty can’t call on Night then *at all*. She’s far from the most practiced in working with Night but I suspect nobody short of the Sisters has more of it.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Clarifying: She doesn’t have much Night here, unless Sve Noc goes all in on backing her, and she’s already said that they’re moving very warily in DK’s vicinity, precisely because their power may be overwhelming by mortal standards, but they don’t much like the odds against DK.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. Hmm, interesting take. I’m not sure if the Sisters allowing a major draw on their domain’s power is equivalent to bringing themselves in close, but I’m not sure it isn’t either.

            Liked by 2 people

      2. Also, we know that Night can eat elfstuff? How? When was that shown/referred to? It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve blanked on something from past chapters but I don’t recall that ever coming up – heck, the last time the drow were on the surface in force was before the Night and before the elves arrived on Calernia and murder colonized the Golden Bloom.

        Liked by 3 people

                  1. Sapient, yes.

                    Specifically I’m thinking of the part where Catherine goes through a market at Winter Court and realizes the fae are acting oddly.

                    My point is that they cannot actually act flexibly according to the situation, their flexibility has limits and once you hit these limis you can dance circles around them. And that’s what I mean by sentient. A monkey can’t understand a computer. A fae can’t act to maximize their own well-being.

                    Liked by 3 people

                    1. Except Winter King tho. His whole thing was taking action to maximize his own well-being (as he defined the term) and Cat did the absolute opposite of dance circles around him.

                      You’re not wrong that the fae lack flexibility, but I think it’s more in terms of they cannot alter their nature or change who they are over time. They are fully capable of assessing their situation and responding in a tactically appropriate manner, with some possible story-related exceptions tbf. E.g., when Cat fucked up the deadwood soldier in Marchford by tossing heroic tropes at it until it bolted – though even then, note that it *did* bolt, or try to, because it recognized what was happening and responded appropriately to it.

                      But Named are quite story-bound as well, and I wouldn’t say that Cat was less sapient when she was the Squire than she is now. For that matter, I’d say she wasn’t less *sapient* when she was Sovereign of Moonless Nights either – much less adaptive which was costing her the greatest strength she has in addition to, y’know, her humanity – but not less sapient, I don’t think. Fixed =/= non-sapient, in other words.

                      Liked by 5 people

                    2. Winter King had an opening to do what he did; this was the only cycle where he could do so.

                      I think the higher level a fae the closer to fully sapient they are; lower level fae appeared to basically be NPC level scripts.

                      Like

                    3. We’ve never seen anyone have an actual conversation with a lower-level fae, or try to. Unless I’m missing something, the sum total of data on lower-level fae is 1) Cat interacting briefly and in a primarily stab-based manner with the deadwood soldier around Marchford, 2) the Countess of Cold Hands exchanging maybe around two sentences with a footsoldier outside Skade before murdering him because yawn, bored now, and 3) Cat briefly observing some fae acting out stories in a marketplace without actually trying to interact with any of them or even observing them for very long. No offense intended, but I think you’re drawing strong conclusions from a dataset that isn’t nearly robust enough to support them.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    4. Certainly could be, yeah. We have pretty scant data on elves too as of now though, I’m pretty sure a Named son of the Forever King isn’t exactly a representative sample and he’s the only one we’ve actually seen fight. It’s also worth noting that fae reform with every cycle (or however that’s working these days since Cat’s merger of the Courts) whereas it’s established that Calernian elves are categorically incapable of reproducing. Given that the elves on Calernia literally can’t replace even a single lost soldier literally ever they would be EXTREMELY reluctant to commit to any fight where they’d risk even relatively light losses, much less the kind of heavy losses Cat routinely inflicts even on OP fae armies. As far as threat level goes “won’t fight” is almost as good of a limiter as “can’t fight” – the only difference is “won’t fight” can still potentially tear you a new asshole if you back them into a corner where they don’t have a choice.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    5. There’s also Archer and Masego’s efforts to point the Summer Fae at Akua.
                      They tried to give the Fae info on the warding scheme around Liesse, but they wound up needing to grab a noble in order for there to be enough “room” for Masego to shove the info into them. And that was with Masego cutting parts of them out.

                      Liked by 1 person

          1. Lili beat me to pointing out that elves =/= fae already, but let me expand a bit on what (I think) the relevant differences are here. Night and Winter are both semi-externalized domain or domain-related powersources – meaning, given individuals can have more or less of either, but ultimately the power comes from Night/Winter itself rather than actually being intrinsic to the individual. Further, even beyond both powersources being similar, they are both specifically founded in greater or lesser part on the principle of the internal validity of employing usurpation to gain power.

            In other words, it’s not just that both are geared towards eating things, it’s that it is a principle *within Night/Winter itself* that you can gain in Night/Winter by killing someone who has more and taking their stuff. So when someone from Winter uses violence to claim some of the Night, or vice-versa, they are in a sense following the same metaphysical principle that is already intrinsic to what they’re claiming rather than imposing a new ruleset/principle from outside what they’re trying to claim. As I understand it at least, that is specifically why one eating the other was so viable. I don’t know if it necessarily would have been/would be outright impossible to usurp power from a source not internally predicated on allowing that, but I would expect it to be at minimum a much steeper climb.

            By contrast, elfstuff isn’t externally-sourced at all. It’s the product of a racial attribute of the elves and is entirely intrinsic to each individual elf. IIRC as it was explained elfstuff is possible because as elves age their souls gain greater and greater weight within Creation, which from what we’ve seen seems to start with Watch-like physical ability boosts and in older elves levels up to where they can essentially opt out of Creational laws, albeit “only” one at a time. I would expect that to make it markedly harder to do *anything* to elfstuff, much less eat it. Because technically in a sense they’re not actually *doing* anything, they’re opting out of stuff applying to them by sort of sidestepping physics rather than actively producing an effect. In other words, if an elf jumps impossibly high it’s not because they’re producing an antigravity effect it’s because they’re just deciding that gravity isn’t really for them. So there’s not a flow or output of energy to potentially disrupt/appropriate as might be possible with magic. Meaning that in order to disrupt an elf being able to do elfstuff, you’d pretty much have to disrupt their soul itself which would presumably be at least an order of magnitude harder for most people given that IIRC it’s been mentioned that even Warlock needed specialized equipment and a willing/helpless subject in order to mess with souls.

            Though, it is interesting that it’s been established through what happened to Amadeus that Saint can cut/sever souls themselves…

            Liked by 3 people

        1. mavant

          This is the shift. Tyrant’s trick is “you can’t thwart stage one”; the Deaf King has already successfully achieved stage one or this plan. Evil always wins in the middle!

          Liked by 3 people

    1. Rook

      I’m very much looking forward to watching an antagonist having to deal with the hemorrhoidally large pain in the ass that the Saint is in a brawl.

      Liked by 7 people

    2. Someguy

      The good news here is that this looks like the start of a Revenge Feud Story with Saint as the meatgrinder MC (Vagrant Swordsman). IIRC the Elf King was desperate for his son’s corpse back right?

      Liked by 4 people

      1. caoimhinh

        I’m not sure if the Elf King was desperate for it, but it was implied that killing his son and turning him into a Revenant was what made him not mess with Dead King ever again.

        Liked by 6 people

              1. caoimhinh

                https://practicalguidetoevil.wordpress.com/2018/08/24/interlude-empires/

                “It was oddly nostalgic,” the Intercessor mused. “You know, watching you meddle with forces beyond your comprehension. You haven’t been that reckless since… your fourth century, I’d say? That delightful scuffle with the rats.”

                “I was young,” Neshamah fondly remembered. “And still believed plagues to be valid method. You were quite severe in chiding me, I recall.”

                “Lines had to be drawn, we were still establishing the rules,” the Intercessor smiled. “Both of us played rougher back then.”

                “You certainly were not shy in setting the elves after me,” Neshamah said. “That was rather unwarranted.”

                “You were being greedy,” the Intercessor said, wagging a finger. “Two Hells? I don’t think so. Besides, that was as much about that old mule in the Bloom as it was about you. He needed a sharp lesson about who not to trifle with, and your taking his only son got the point across.”

                “The Spellblade has been a delightful diversion, admittedly,” Neshamah conceded.

                “You even set him on dear Cat,” she said. “Thoughtful of you.”

                Liked by 5 people

            1. Insanenoodlyguy

              Yeah, I’m pretty sure he did show up and just talked about how cat was going to pull off a fusion of good and evil with her accords that he would never do. Then he made her an offer he knew shed never take, but it wasn’t an actual trial. He wants her to say something like “no deal, I am killing her and killing you.” Since what he really wants us to reinforce her current predictable behavior.

              Liked by 3 people

            2. Insanenoodlyguy

              Yeah, I’m pretty sure he did show up and just talked about how cat was going to pull off a fusion of good and evil with her accords that he would never do. Then he made her an offer he knew shed never take, but it wasn’t an actual trial. He wants her to say something like “no deal, I am killing her and killing you.” Since what he really wants is to reinforce her current predictable behavior.

              Liked by 1 person

            3. Kissaten

              Saint would cut him too deep for his comfort. He didn’t show up because she is precisely the type of hero to inexplicably stab a villain right into the soul

              Liked by 3 people

    3. Vortex

      I don’t think it is just heroes that get crazy power. Villains get insane power too, if Triumphant and the Dead Long and some of the other ones are any indication. It just requires you to lean into the story, which is really why Cat and Black and the rest aren’t big fans of it.

      Liked by 4 people

        1. And is occasionally wrong, which can be disconcerting. The bit where Book 3’s “Chapter 10: Entrance” links to chapter 11 instead has left me very confused twice now, having just recently done a reread. 😂

          Liked by 2 people

  2. apperatus27

    Oh goodness, a fated enemy for the saint of swords, come at last. Either she’s about to have a nemesis for the next three fights with her eventual loss, or this encounter is purely to have her do the heroic “Go on, I’ll take care of this.” thing to separate martial force from the band of five early.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. This could also very easily be a “oh we *thought* we understood why the Dead King was bad news” moment for the Heroes. I mean they’re a Band of Five, they’ll inevitably kill it or drive it off (or kill it impermanently), but I could see this being the opening salvo of a Story meant to show heroes the true meaning of “darkest before the dawn”.

        Liked by 5 people

        1. Dainpdf

          Problem is the Spellblade has already been that. The first defeat before they faced the Ratling seer. Having him be that again will be hard to pull off convincingly.

          Plus, it’s too early. That dark before dawn moment needs to come at the end of the second act.

          Liked by 3 people

            1. Dainpdf

              Perhaps. Seems like both conflicts lack weight for that, though, considering they’re both happening in the context of Cat vs more important villains (Malicia, Neshamah).

              Liked by 3 people

          1. On the other hand, it could be a “you thought you knew what horrors Catherine Foundling has faced but you were very wrong” moment.

            The part where they realize she’d been holding back against them.

            Liked by 4 people

      2. Except he’s on the other side facing a band that we already know can kick ass. It seems more likely that Saint will get worfed, and hopefully learn that yes, she actually does need the rest of the party to get through this.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Dainpdf

          The word effect is useful to show how strong the new character is. The spellblade is not new. The band of five, as one, is. And I’m not sure any of them alone could defeat the spellblade, let alone easily. Winter Queen Cat was pretty damn powerful and she got stomped with two other Named supporting (even if one was Thief).

          Liked by 2 people

        2. JJR

          But doing that is the last thing that the Dead King wants. Trial, Monster, Pivot. First he avoided giving Cat a real trial when he didn’t let her heroically reject his offer (I think?). Next comes a monster, expected to force this unusual band to learn how to work together to overcome it. Unless the Dead King has it sandbag against the Saint. This will of course further convince her that the two villains are quite unnecessary for the fight, or even make her think she doesn’t need the group at all.

          And without the normal trials to forge these individuals into a functional group, winning the pivot gets much harder. And maybe the Dead King just gives them a fake pivot too.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. I don’t think Laurence can fall to a ploy quite THAT basic, even beyond her experience in this world it’s universal Named knowledge that bands of five are stronger than the constituent pars as a law of nature.

            And she’s not going to think she doesn’t need Tariq.

            But doing something to stir up paranoia against Cat can be unpleasantly effective.

            Liked by 2 people

  3. M0och

    “Are you incapable of being halfway reasonable without someone holding your hand? I’ve more cordial conversations with godsdamned angels, Laurence. Angels. Let that sink in.”

    AHHHH such a good line!!!

    Liked by 7 people

    1. M0och

      “Never even showed up,” she said. “It got dark, I got impatient and cut my way out. ”

      This is why I find the SOS tolerable, as mentioned in the last chapter, she treats all evil like bugs to be squished. Not just our beloved Cat…

      Liked by 6 people

          1. Decius

            Cat is not on the same tier as the Dead King at offering temptation to heroes. She was unprepared for an offer of truce; how much more unprepared was she for the offer made to the Saint of Swords?

            How unprepared was she for the offer made to the Grey Pilgrim?

            The Saint, at least, can simply refuse to make a deal with the Greater Evil. The Pilgrim has no such higher principles to stand on or cut with; if made an offer that would reduce suffering, he must take it.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Andrew Mitchell

              1. My reading of the chapter was that the SoS didn’t get and offer because she just cut her way out.

              2. It’s not “reduce suffering” that drive’s Pilgrim. His aim is to “reduce unnecessary suffering” and IMO he can take the long view on that and realise that total suffering will be reduced if they fight the Dead King now, because it will be so much worse in 10 or 100 years.

              Liked by 4 people

            2. No, Tariq is about reducing what he considers to be unnecessary suffering.
              Fighting the Dead King is necessary, as is any and all suffering that would result from doing so.
              As bad as Callow being ruled by a Villain (Cat) could/would be, any sort of permanent gains made by the Dead King would be even worse.
              40k analogy here – Tariq and the Alliance are, in this instance, the Imperium, Cat is the Tau, and the Dead King is the Tyranids. Sure, the Imperium wants to exterminate the Tau with extreme prejudice, and considers human collaborators in Tau space heretics, but when you get right down to it, it’s objectively better to have the Tau as neighbors and work with them against the Tyranids than to focus major efforts on fighting the Tau when a Hive Fleet shows up.

              For that matter, let’s not forget that Tariq’s got the Ophanim riding shotgun in his brain – there’s no way they sign off on making a deal with the Dead King.

              Liked by 4 people

                1. To Tariq as an individual, maybe, to the nations of Good as a whole? Not so much. Cat doesn’t care about expanding into Procer or Levant, she’s not the conquering sort … and she knows that even if she wanted to (and she doesn’t), she couldn’t make such an expansion stick (even Good-aligned Callow couldn’t maintain hold of the parts of Procer they took), and that there would be hordes of Heroes getting spawned to kill her, and she’d end up like Triumphant.

                  The analogy doesn’t have to map perfectly.

                  Still though, call Cat and Villain-ruled Callow the Eldar (Craftworld, most likely).
                  For that matter, the Dead King could be the forces of Chaos or the Necrons instead of the Tyranids.

                  The primary point holds true – sure, you’d rather not deal with Cat, but she’s a way better neighbor than the alternative. Much like her approach to negotiating – you might not like cheap wine, but it sure beats getting stabbed.
                  In the 40k analogy, any worlds her side holds can ultimately be (re)taken as useable worlds, anything lost to the mutual greater threat/enemy probably won’t be if it isn’t retaken fast enough. It’s a pretty fundamental part of why whenever the Imperium and Tau are fighting and the ‘Nids show up, pretty much everybody agrees to put the fighting on hold to deal with the ‘Nids first. Which has had the side effect of making the ‘Nids the saviors of the Tau, after a fashion. Not sure the Tau would approve if they realized that, to be honest. Or how they’d react to that realization in general … probably poorly.

                  Liked by 3 people

                  1. konstantinvoncarstein

                    Of course the analogy cannot be perfect, I was just trying to joke 😉 But you are completely right, it is way better to ally with Catherine/the Tau than everyone being killed by DK/tyranids.

                    The Etherals are probably aware of it.

                    Liked by 3 people

                  2. > Which has had the side effect of making the ‘Nids the saviors of the Tau, after a fashion. Not sure the Tau would approve if they realized that, to be honest. Or how they’d react to that realization in general … probably poorly.

                    Which makes it a good analogy, since the DK is the savior of Callow, after a fashion. And not to completely sidetrack this comments section into 40K discussion, but yeah I’m pretty sure that the Tau still haven’t really grasped the scale of what they’re fucking with in the form of the Imperium. Even after all their expansion spheres they’re barely a blip on the galactic map, while the Imperium practically *is* the galactic map.

                    I figure that Konstantin (in the comment below) is prob right that the Ethereals at least have gotten access to intel that would *allow* them to know what the situation is there at least in general terms (they’ve taken imperial worlds so they must have gotten *some* records/intelligence assets out of that). But who knows how seriously they’ve taken that intel – politicians everywhere have a real tendency to go into denial when they encounter facts they’d rather not be true. And “our entire civilization is, after centuries of expansion, still just barely a blip on the radar to a galaxy-spanning civilization where the fanatical state religion is based on xenocide” is a fact that very few people would be keen on being true. And it’s the politicians who decide what info gets released and to who.

                    Liked by 2 people

            3. Dainpdf

              But can he reason that *any* deal with the DK will create suffering simply for being with the DK? Pilgrim is more vulnerable than Saint, but he has resisted temptation multiple times.

              Liked by 3 people

                1. Dainpdf

                  Yeah, but Neshamah straight up told Cat that placing a trial would be disadvantageous to him, so he wasn’t going to. He’s not going to just fall into the role of villain whose fortress is being stormed. He’s not a rookie XD

                  Liked by 3 people

        1. It’s the best move he had. He couldn’t get anything out of fucking with her, just putting himself in a weaker narrative position for no real gain.

          It’s like Catherine refusing to melee the Mighty at Great Strycht: would be stupid to tangle in a way that doesn’t favor her when she has much better tricks at her disposal!

          Liked by 7 people

  4. Edgar Vea

    Personally, I think Saint is a parody of a murderhobo or any character with the dump stat as charisma. think about it a god on the battlefield, a liability off of it. Of course, how damaging she is is up to perspective of course

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Vortex

        She is a murder hobo paladin. Adheres rigidly to her oaths but will kill anything not in her narrow line of Good and damn the consequences.

        Remember Saint of Swords was one of the core forces pushing Procer into an unwinnable war.

        Liked by 5 people

        1. Dainpdf

          The term “murderhobo” is a derogatory term for a specific style of DnD play where the players kill and destroy everything they encounter in search of loot and xp.

          Actually talking to the church and getting them to support a war for ideological reasons is not a murderhobo thing to do.

          Saint is a Knight Templar, at worst, and just a DnD Paladin in my opinion. Honestly, she’s less than that – their vows forbid them from knowingly working alongside Evil people.

          Liked by 4 people

  5. caoimhinh

    Oh, this is gonna be a good fight. The Spellblade and those Named Elves seemed pretty awesome with their abilities to ignore Laws of Creation, even if only one at a time.
    Kairos and Rogue Sorcerer still missing, the two unstable and unknown variables respectively. This seems like a plot twist in the making (well, it always did, to be honest).

    Typos found:

    -avoid these sharing these three / avoid those sharing these three
    -was not the City of Ash / was now the City of Ash
    -ever step / every step
    -forced to conceded / forced to concede
    -I would be more or less true to say / It would be more or less true to say
    -the scythed through / she scythed through
    -I wore nothing/ It wore nothing
    -it can makes blades out spells / it can make blades out of spells

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Andrew Mitchell

      It’s only the opening chapter of Liesse III; I expect Karios and RS will appear quite soon.

      Plot twist? For sure. And probably more than one.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Jesse Coombs

      Ignoring a rule of creation is going to be especially relevant against the Saint, as she uses Decree to set the rule that “She is a Sword”. If the elves can ignore this rule, she may find herself in for a VERY nasty surprise.

      Liked by 4 people

  6. IDKWhoitis

    Alright, on the traitorous ally list, Saint just hit the top. I don’t trust that she just conviently cut her way out.
    So in order of possible traitorous outcomes:
    1. Saint, 2.Sorcerer, 3.Grey, 4.Cat, 5.Kairos.
    I can see Cat compromising on something in the face of potentially losing Masego.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Not-Kairos

      I’m so glad that somebody finally recognizes the sincerity of Kairos’s vows of eternal friendship. Wretched blackguards insist that he is a traitorous wretch horn of the foulest compost, but this is nothing more than the most base of slander! He would never betray his eternal friend, Chess-cheating Catherine, for even the grandest of rewards.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. Death Knight

      Laurence is a sword.
      Swords cut things.
      Therefore, Laurence can cut anything if her blade connects.

      Note I said cut, not kill. It really is as simple as that. In Named, certainty of purpose/belief is power.

      Liked by 4 people

    3. I mean, Saint also turned down a freaking domain ability called Decree (seriously holy shit my skin shivers just thinking about that power) because she valued the purity of being a single-purpose instrument. While Saint can be suckered into making bad choices with respect to greater and lesser evils, she is (like, literally is, she has a min-maxed domain about it and everything) an entity which does not contain the capacity for succumbing to temptation. I believe Saint when she says the Dead King didn’t even bother putting in the effort to trial her.

      Liked by 9 people

        1. Mmm, frankly I’d be shocked if she turned traitor before dealing with Masego. Breaking faith with the devil is one thing, as is refusing covenant with the devil even in your hour of need. Doing *anything* to break party unity while actively contesting the Dead King though, that is just begging for you and everyone you love (scratch that, I meant just ‘everyone’) to die choking on their own blood. And Saint knows that. She might not trust Catherine not to betray her and she might be itching to kill Catherine the hot second this is done on account of not having the mental flexibility to understand Cat’s motives, but that’s a very different kind of stupid than infighting vs. the Dead King.

          Liked by 8 people

          1. Well she’s already announced that she expects Catherine to backstab her any moment now. All DK would need to do is make it seem like Catherine is, in fact, about to.

            A trial of trust… harder than it seems, given Laurence has announced she “doesn’t trust Catherine to breathe” 🙂

            Liked by 2 people

      1. Morgenstern

        And yet, she seemingly succumbed to the temptation of the Wandering Bard offering her a vision of a much, much better nation of Calernia if only Procer burns first… Seems you just have to play into her kind of extremism and she very well CAN be tempted, after all, imho.

        Liked by 5 people

        1. That’s a good point, but I think the source of the offer matters. She took that particular devil’s bargain because she believes without reserve in the Heavens Above. To use that lever on her personality the Dead King would have to make her think her shot at Catherine was the Heavens’ intent, and she seems too paranoid to me to not be all of the skeptical about any given opportunity to backstab Catherine.

          The Saint of Swords we’ve seen so far is extremist as all hell and has a particular avenue of cognition utterly firewalled, but she’s not gullible, which is how I think most people have been treating her.

          Liked by 5 people

          1. ^^^

            She’s simple enough that she would be gullible, had she not gotten burned on it enough she now just doesn’t trust period. She had been gullible once and forged her life out of “never again”. Cat isn’t super special unlucky for getting the stonewall treatment – Neshamah’s caliber of opponent is what it had been forged for.

            Liked by 3 people

          1. The “broader version” would have been that much less powerful for being extended. More importantly, it would have become an external power that others could defend against. Compare Hanno’s Recall and Ride powers to his “coin-flip”: For the former two, he gets glowing equipment of Light that can be broken, and skills that can be defended against. But the coin-flip is internal, and when Black tried to mess with <i<that, he got smacked down hard.

            Likewise, an external Decree would have been a magical attack that could be countered, like Pilgrim’s Shine. With an internal power, Saint gets to say “I’m alright Jack, screw you” (she likes that 🙂 ) and dismiss any intrusion of her self, including other domains, Other powers can enclose her but she can cut her way out, while her own power is indivisible.

            Liked by 4 people

    4. Cutting her way out of situations is what she DOES. It’s not ‘convenient’, it’s the only realistic outcome.

      I do agree with some of the other commenters’ suspicions that she might have witnessed Catherine’s conversation with Neshamah, or only select parts of it…

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Dainpdf

        Sure, but stories don’t puppet you completely. Not falling into the story when it’s disadvantageous is a skill. Which Neshamah actually did just recently, by not testing Cat.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Ben Serreau-Raskin

        I think this is less the story “guiding” her and more an example of the drawbacks of her chosen power setup. She can match a Name in power and weight, but she explicitly lacks a lock of the unconscious defenses they get for free. She gets tired, she chokes on dust, and her senses/reflexes are now much more actively controlled.

        If she’s not consciously using her skills and powers then she’s just a very fit young woman with good instincts and a limp.

        Basically it just means she always has to be paying attention and now she just got a pointed reminder of that.

        Liked by 3 people

  7. edrey

    well, what is the worst possible situation? my bet is that the spell-blade and skein share vision for the fight and the thief of stars will take the crowns and amadeus soul from the wizard

    Liked by 4 people

      1. caoimhinh

        No, it wasn’t.
        The last we saw from the Skein was that it fell along with Cat and Masego into the black space between spaces that when the chamber where they fought Skein chattered. But Masego and Cat were capable of leaving it relatively easily. Dead King could easily have retrieved the Skein from there too.

        Liked by 5 people

      1. edrey

        i wouldnt said he striped his defenses, he has about fifty or more revenants, and the number of devils and deads should be in the millions, so i wouldnt said he striped his defenses, no really

        Liked by 4 people

        1. Yeah, this. And he definitely had more, he showed Cat *exactly* fifty when she was in Keter and since even with a vitrified Winter brain Cat’s not dumb she specifically went “hmm what a neat tidy number, he’s definitely keeping some more out of sight so that he can be impressive without showing off all his cards”. IIRC it’s been mentioned that the White Knight and company scotched a couple-few Revenants during their Heroic Defense of the lakeshore of Procer, but given that DK absolutely started with more than fifty he probably still has at least fifty to play with and maybe still more.

          Also, I suspect he’s put the Spellblade here specifically *because* Cat has fought it before. He wants to assess her new abilities/power level in combat and everyone knows that when you run an experiment you should control for extraneous variables as much as possible. He may also be planning instead to create a false parallel of “look it’s another fight against definitely just the Spellblade by himself” and then try to sideswipe them with another Revenant or two, just to see if he can drop a couple of Cat’s band as part of their Heroic Journey by forcing a Heroic Sacrifice story or something (more likely the “or something” there since heroic sacrifices have a real tendency to get conveniently negated and/or blow back on a villain). Maybe both, DK’s a bastard like that.

          Liked by 7 people

    1. werafdsaew

      Skein can do all the bullshit he could because they were inside that palace. Outside of that and he’s just a undead hungry rat monster that eats everything.

      Liked by 2 people

          1. What? He’s an oracle, that was the whole point of that tangle of plans they made in Keter. I don’t know if he can do long-range forecasting like the Augur or not, but tactical-level assessments of near-future possibilities are 100% within his capabilities.

            Liked by 5 people

      1. Ehh that’s an exaggeration, even aside from the fact that “just” is no way to describe a Horned Lord. Skein could specifically only use the Spool aspect as an “undo” button the way he did because of pocket dimension bullshit, but outside the pocket dimension he’s still a Named oracle *in addition* to being a Horned Lord. Somebody who has the absurd toughness/special abilities of a Horned Lord and can see or even just get glimpses of the possible attacks you’ll make before you make them is a special kind of handful in a fight even without their OP undo button.

        Liked by 5 people

  8. superkeaton

    Oh hey, Spellblade, come to be a good little gish and be a wretched pain in the ass?
    Also, wow there are a lot of typos in this chapter. Like, a lot.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Ben Serreau-Raskin

    My favorite part about this chapter is the implication that Tariq’s Name recognizes Cat as occupying a heroic role in at least this narrow circumstance. He showed up to save her in the nick of time which is necessary for him to really pull out the stops but is also explicitly a mechanism to protect younger heroes in the early phases of their journey. Whatever Tariq’s actual opinion of Cat (which we haven’t gotten to see since she pulled off her scheme to form a five man band), metaphysically he’s now interacting with her as an ally.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Since nobody else has picked up on that:

    > “Good,” Laurence de Montfort said, smiling a wolf’s smile as she began advancing. “Then this ought to be decent practice for Dead King.”

    Saint thinks they’re going to be fighting Dead King directly? Riight.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Pokekid01

    Saint saying she didn’t get an offer is 100% suspicious. It seems completely out of character for Saint to deal with the Enemy, but to be fair we don’t know all that much about her. There may well be something from her past that she wants enough to cooperate with DK.

    Also, calling it here: Cat will die in this battle. And the Pilgrim will bring her back. This is her third time visiting Liesse and she died in both previous attempts (I consider her apotheosis into Sovereign of Moonless Nights a death. She lost her mortality and couldn’t fairly be called mortal after). Things come in threes. That’s the pattern.

    Liked by 2 people

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