Chapter 42: Twined

“The Lycaonese are a grim people though not without a dark sort of humour, as became evident when I was first told what a ‘northern burial’ is. The inhabitants of these parts do not bury their dead, for fear of the Kingdom of the Dead, instead burning their own and spreading the ashes on consecrated ground. What the locals refer to as one of their burials is, in truth, someone being eaten by ratlings from the Chain of Hunger.”
– Extract from “Horrors and Wonders”, famed travelogue of Anabas the Ashuran

This would be the second time I assaulted the ducal palace of Liesse, and it would have made three if the Lone Swordsman hadn’t picked a dainty little eldritch church as his last holdout. Gods, now that I thought about it, hadn’t I brawled with Akua every time I’d stepped within city limits in the past? Sometimes it was hard to reconcile the smirking woman I’d hated so bitterly with the Diabolist I know knew and on occasion even liked. Hells, I was pretty sure she’d once implied that some ghoul she was sending after me was Kilian, back when we’d been a couple. An arrow more pointed than plausible but then Akua’s knack had always tended more towards striking deep than striking true. I dismissed the thought as the three of us began our approach down the Caen road, the broad avenue that led directly to the gates of the city’s ancient seat of power. The gates were wide open, having fallen off the hinges, and the stone round them had been eaten into brutally.

“Someone assaulted this before us,” the Saint said.

I grimaced.

“My own work,” I said. “From when I last took this city.”

“Akua’s Folly,” the old woman said. “The stories began trickling across the border after the Camps.”

I did not reply, even though it was rare for her to engage save through threat and insults. I did not owe her a discussion of that catastrophe. Not to her, not to anyone. The breadth of the scope I’d failed my people by no longer choked me day and night, not the way it had before heading into the Everdark, but the Doom of Liesse would never be anything but a bitter brew for me. That I seemed fated to walk it again and again was perhaps cruel, but then by my hands I had earned that cruelty. I’d still my tongue to it and take what was nothing less than my due.

“They say you bound the Diabolist to the heart of the ritual,” the Rogue Sorcerer quietly said. “And then broke it on her head, extinguishing every speck of her soul.”

“It was the Black Knight who struck at Akua Sahelian’s work,” I brusquely said. “And it nearly killed him too. It doesn’t matter, save that we should not touch a ward until the hall where the Diabolist once laid her first threshold.”

I was saved further talk by stirring in the sky, though at the sight of them I almost wished we were still rubbing salt into my old wounds. The colossal panes of bronze-like glass I’d seen earlier – how could anyone not, given how starkly they loomed above the city? – had began to shift. Like those beautiful jigsaw puzzles of glass and metal I’d once stared at in the markets of Laure, the pieces began moving like some intricate interlinked mechanism. Given the descending side of the panels they’d brought to mind a longview when I’d first thought of it, and it seemed that Masego was using them for purpose kin to that: rim glowing with massive carved runes I could not seem to understand, the panes began turning on themselves as if being adjusted for some arcane purpose. As it had earlier the first and largest pane of glass showed clear sight of the barren wasteland below as if it were being scried, but the angle of view and the closeness of the sight seemed to change in impossible ways according to the whims of spins.

“Rogue,” I quietly said. “The runes, I can’t keep them in my memory – that means they’re High Arcana. What are they for?”

“I don’t know,” the hero admitted.

I waved a hand irritably.

“I know the upper arcane stuff is personal and unique for everyone, but I know there’s usually some bridge of understanding there,” I said. “I’m not asking for a treatise on what he’s up to, just some broad strokes.”

“Black Queen, I cannot understand High Arcana,” the Rogue Sorcerer bluntly said. “I can hazard some guesses at the purposes of this device – I suspect every glass-like pane is a different scrying ritual and the largest one serves as a sort of receptacle for all that is seen, allowing variety of sight – but I cannot know anything for certain.”

I glanced at the dark-haired man catching that he was faintly embarrassed. His pupils had been ringed in red or green, earlier, but that now seemed gone. A simple unremarkable brown, not so dissimilar to my own, was all that remained. I was a little skeptical of his words considering his record when it came to the fights and that at the Battle of the Camps he’d been directing the enemy wizard against my own mage lines led by Masego, who’d been dabbling in High Arcana long before I met him. Still, what did he have to win by lying to me here? Nothing worth the candle, I thought, and I knew better than most that Names could be tricky things: he might have some help from his in these subjects from his. Or, from that matter, the very opposite. It wasn’t unheard of for transitional Names to serve as a set of shackles to be surpassed down the line and – and this was a rabbit hole I did not have to spare tumbling down. I glanced one more time at the pane, and near flinched when an eardrum-shattering shriek sounded across the ruined realm. I’d heard them before, the interwoven four cacophonies that followed, like old metal being twisted and warped. One after another, the angled Hellgates opened in the sky above and devils began pouring out.

“Lesser Breaches,” the Rogue Sorcerer murmured. “Yet four of them. That is… remarkable. And absurdly dangerous. The Hierophant is taking a knife to the already chewed up fabric of this realm.”

“Look at the larger pane,” I urged, “if it’s like the last time then there’ll-”

And there it was, clear-cut in view on the bronze glass in a way it had not been when I’d attempted to look at it with my own mortal eyes: a glittering array of runes that hurt to look at, forming a circle at twice the height of a man. I glimpsed a ghostly silhouette within the circle, but before a heartbeat had passed there was a flash of blinding light and a gargantuan detonation in the distance. I’d looked away in time, though I noticed that both the Saint and the Sorcerer had looked through the glare uninterrupted. Leant on their Name for it, I guessed, though I’d never found how to work that particular trick myself back in my Squire days.

“I don’t suppose either if you can shed light on that,” I said.

“It is no coincidence the Hellgates opened before the other part of the ritual,” Roland told me, turning to match my gaze.

Well, would you look at that. Around one his left pupil, the slightest tint of azure blue was beginning to form a circle. Name or sorcery, I wondered? The more I learned of magic, the more I understood that there were as many ways to practice it as there were languages under the sun.

“Meaning?” I asked.

“That the stuff of the Hells is being drawn in at first, then given shape by the circle of runes we saw,” the Sorcerer said. “It is an attempt, I believe, at making something – though whatever was made seems to have been deemed unfit and so immediately annihilated. I would say those failed attempts are responsible for the Due that was used to occlude scrying in Iserre.”

My throat caught. Not at the subtleties of the sorcery at use slowly being peeled back, but at what the hero had told me without knowing it. Masego was drawing from the stuff of Hells and trying to give it a shape through High Arcana – a form of sorcery that was, by nature, deeply personal. That shape looked human, or close enough, and he was being obsessively exact even by his standards when it came to the results of his work. The Warlock had been slain at Thalassina, it was said, and having passed to the place beyond there was no sensible way for Hierophant to bring him back. But Masego had once told me that devils did not die, not truly. They merely dispersed, returning to the primal stuff of the Hells where another of their kind would be born when the whims of those unearthly realms demanded it. Masego was brutalizing the world with sorcery until it gave him back the only one of his fathers he could reach. And he was, heartbreakingly, failing.

“Your Majesty?” the Sorcerer quietly said.

“Grief and miscarriage have seeped into the bones of this place,” I said, voice grown rough. “And damn the Dead King, for having given him hope where there can be none.”

After all, if the hero was correct it was the Due from this that occluded scrying then Neshamah was have seen to it that this was an exercise in futility: the Hidden Horror would need this to continue for months, if not years. Perhaps there was the slightest sliver of a chance, I thought, but how many lifetimes would it take for Masego to succeed? An obsession had been slid into the ribs of my friend, and not one he would easily be able to shake. I knew him, the way he thought. This would stay with him like an itch he could not scratch: the whisper that if he was a little more accurate, a little more inspired, if he spent another few years of research, then it could be done. That every moment where he had not yet succeeded was a failure. Merciless Gods, that old thing in Keter had wrought damage it would take years to unmake. And the middle of a war was hardly the time to do it.

“Enough dawdling,” the Saint of Swords said. “The longer we wait the greater the chance the dagger will be caught.”

“Agreed,” I growled.

I had more than a little wroth to purge from my blood, now, and a hard fight seemed just the thing for it.

A hard fight was precisely what I found us denied.

The avenue leading to the palace had been empty, which was not unexpected, but the way that not a soul awaited as we passed the gates was. We’d seen going in that the fresh waves of devils brought through the gates had headed for the deeper palace, so it might be that strife awaited us there, but why allow us any uncontested advance? It wasn’t like they were going to run out of devils anytime soon, if the numbers brought through the Breaches were any indication. Answer to that was only found after we rose by steps and passed through halls where the marks of my anger in the face of the Doom had yet to fade until we reached a plain oaken door that was not unfamiliar to me.

“Ward,” the Rogue Sorcerer said, resting a palm on it. “Beautifully crafted, though it seems to have been aimed sorely at the Fair Folk.”

“How did you get through back then, if it still stands?” the Saint asked, eyeing me.

I pointed a finger upwards, where I’d once shattered the stone of the ceiling to leap into the room and slaughter the mages that’d been hiding in there. Laurence, every spry for her age, glanced at the adjoining wall once before breaking into a smooth run – the first jump had her angling on that wall, after which I felt a small ripple of Name power and she leapt up through the hole. The Sorcerer, meanwhile, was still examining the oaken door with a gaze much too involved for it to be wood he was looking at.

“Can you break it?” I asked.

He’d said he could, after all. The dark-haired man blinked and turn to give me a sheepish look. Gods, what was it with practitioners and getting distracted?

“I can,” he said. “The Saint?”

The answer came a moment later, as the old woman leapt down the hole and landed in a crouch.

“More magic upstairs,” she said. “Peeked through the door and it was positively reeking of it.”

“Ward?” I frowned.

“Labyrinth,” she replied, shaking her head. “I’m no mageling, but I’ve had to go through enough of those to recognize the scent.”

“Labyrinth, huh,” I said, and looked straight ahead at nothing just in case it’d be able to see me through spell or prophecy. “Didn’t work last time, you one-trick rat, and it won’t this time either.”

“Black Queen?” the Sorcerer asked, sounding alarmed.

“I believe we’ve got the Revenant known as the Skein on our hands,” I said. “It’s got a preference for those.”

The Saint of Swords went still.

“The Skein?” she repeated. “Like in the old rhyme?”

“What rhyme?” I frowned.

“Eater endless, Shrouded silent,
Sought and lost sleeping below
Tumult tyrant, Snatcher slyest,
Dreaming still but waking slow
Skein scheming, last of five
Lords of Horn from long ago.”

She was not a particularly talented singer, and I suspected she’d rushed the rhythm, but I understood it without trouble. My brow rose: the rat had a history, it seemed. I supposed I shouldn’t be surprised, as the Dead King seemed to enjoy raising in his service the rare and the unusual most of all.

“Might be,” I said. “It certainly goes by that Name anyway.”

“I thought you’d tangled with some hasty longtail that got caught and turned, not one of the Old Lords,” the Saint grimly said.

“It’s tricky but hardly unbeatable,” I shrugged.

“You don’t lack stomach, at least,” the old Proceran said, which was not disapproving if not the opposite either. “Well, if it’s the same as the old legends it’ll be waiting for us. Might as well have a look. Sorcerer, get a move on would you?”

“Please,” I added, flicking a glance at the man.

The Rogue Sorcerer nodded, and after muttering something under his breath rapped his knuckle against the door once. The hand stayed there, after, though he opened his palm and the world shivered close to it. Huh. That’d felt like an old friend, and one I knew well: whatever aspect it was he’d just used, it was cousin to my old Take. And even more distant kin to the more abstract ability I still used as First Under the Night, though whatever similarity there’d been at the source had strayed the further I went from my Name. Interesting, though. Instead of breaking these wards, was he stealing them? It was certainly one way to interpret his Name, though given how subtle such matters could be I was reluctant to come to conclusions so swiftly.

“Done,” Roland said.

The Saint of Swords strolled forward, elbowed him to the side and kicked the door down before walking through. I pushed down a snort and limped after them, gesturing for the Sorcerer to catch up to her. I slowed my steps just as I passed the broken door, bending down to pass my fingers lightly over the shattered oak. There was not, to my senses, so much as a speck of sorcery left in there. Akua had laid her ward in there more than year ago, and considering the usual thoroughness of her work it should have been exquisitely done. Yet there was not a damned trace of it left, not even some faint aftertouch. Creation rarely brooked such exactness, I thought. This was the work of his Name, not any sorcery I knew of. I wonder, I thought, if there’s a touch of colour around your pupil right now? I’d master my curiosity for now, but I’d never been able to leave secrets alone for too long.

I hurried to catch up with them before anyone could notice.

I’d give the Skein this much, it put in an effort.

Though I did not know whether it had powers akin to sorcery or it was simply wielding the tripartite works of the old Dukes of Liesse and the two greatest Praesi mages of my generation, it tried to trap and waylay us at every turn. Of course, given that the Rogue Sorcerer seemed to be able to shatter any ward in less than thirty heartbeats and that Laurence de Montfort’s answer to mazes was to cut through any wall in the way of marching in straight line it did not end up amounting to much. While I knew that the Saint would tire in time, she did not seem at the moment more than lightly winded and if anything Roland seemed haler than he’d been since hobbling back to the band. While they brute forced their way through the best-laid schemes of the Skein I kept a wary eye out, for this all seemed to easy to me. We’d yet to encounter any devils, or the Tyrant or any Revenant at all. All three of these would need to be met before we arrived at the conclusion of this journey, and indeed the shape of our story should ne nudging us towards that encounter. If we’d yet to meet them there was a reason for it, and since it was not of our own making it must be of the enemy’s. That usually meant a trap.

“You ever hear of the Two Hundred Axioms, Foundling?” the Saint casually asked.

Boot against the wall, she pushed until the rectangular shape she’d carved into the wall toppled forward. Abandoned servants’ quarters were revealed behind, and if I had to bet I would bet that we were closing on the edge of the western wing of the ducal palace. Soon we’d hit the inner courtyard, that heavily warded killing field that Akua had prepared to fend off any attempting to approach the part of the palace where she’d laid the heart of her ritual and her throne room with it. Hierophant was using the ritual arrays that she’d carved into Liesse, which meant he was likely in there as well. I doubted any of the holes I’d made in the defences on my way in were still there, considering the quantity of devils Masego had been calling forth. They’d turn on him in a heartbeat if they could, Dead King looming or not, so odds were fresh layers of viciousness had been raised instead.

“I have not,” I said. “Some sort of philosophical book?”

“Close enough,” Laurence de Montfort said. “They’re best kept out of hands like yours, anyway.”

“Charming,” I commented, following her through the opening. “Why bring it up?”

“The only sensible solution to a maze is to not enter the maze,” she quoted, tone amused. “This is close enough, I’d wager.”

“And there,” the Rogue Sorcerer hummed.

The open palm he’d laid on the wall in front of us went straight through what I’d believed to be a stone wall, revealing it to be a skillful illusion. The other half of the room, until now veiled, ended in a broken glass window overlooking the inner courtyard of the inner palace. Which was empty, save for the broken and scorched grounds where Akua had once nearly succeeded at killing me with her clever traps. Were we going to be allowed to run of this all the way to the heart of the palace? Archer had been in here before, and she’d told me the place was swarming with devils. What had-

“Wait,” I said, as the Saint neared the window.

“What?” Laurence growled.

“The Skein,” I slowly said, “in your stories, what is it known for?”

“Scheming,” she bluntly said.

I grit my teeth. Now was not the time to get mouthy on me, Saint.

“Look, in your rhyme all five of the ‘Old Lords’ have some epithet that goes with their Name,” I said with forced patience. “The Tumult is a tyrant, which I’m guessing means it’s good at herding other ratlings. The Eater is endless, which I’d wager means even for a Horned Lord means it’s really hard to put down. The Skein is scheming, sure, but the Snatcher is the ‘slyest’. What does the Skein do, Saint? Are there any stories that hint at anything more?”

The heroine matched my gaze, brow creased with thought.

“It led a horde to devour whole what would become Hannoven,” she finally said. “Through some secret way, using wiles. They’re old stories, Foundling. There’s not a lot of them and the Skein is barely in any. Makes sense, if Old Bones got to him.”

Through some secret way, using wiles. It wasn’t a lot to work with, and that it ate a whole ancient city didn’t weigh much on the scales to my eye – it was what ancient hungry beasts did, what mattered was the manner of it. Hannoven was, as I recalled, one of the most fortified cities on Calernia – it was usually put in the same breath as Rhenia, Keter and Summerholm. Could I assume that even in the dawn of days it’d been a fortress? Yes, I decided. The Skein had, after all, used a ‘secret way’. If it’d been a pack of huts, given the size of the damned thing there would have been no need for subtlety. It itched at me that the story spoke of a city, a place that was fixed. Not an army or a band of heroes, it was a city that made the tale and that was detail that resonated. In Keter, the Skein had been given the defence of a palace and it was the same here. It might have a trick that works well with fixed positions, either both the attack and the defence. I had too little to go on, Hells. That was the thing with the Dead King, wasn’t it? Anything secret that might help in defeating him for good was long dead and buried. If not by his hand, then by sheer dint of centuries. Although, when we’d fought the Skein in the Threefold Reflection, it’d been as part of a pattern hadn’t it? One Revenant per palace. King Edward in the Garden of Crowns, the Thief of Stars in the Silent Palace and the Spellblade in that horrid half-realm we’d tread trying to move between Creation and reflections.

The ancient King of Callow had been placed in a place for only the regal, the Thief of Stars assigned to spy on us in a place where every sound was muted and the Spellblade, a dead elf utterly lethal in direct combat, given watch over a place where there could be no place to hide. They’d all been posted, so to speak, in a place that benefited talents or nature they’d had before being sent there. Was is the same with the Skein then? I knew it’d used an artefact to manipulate the three interlocked realms of the Threefold Reflection, and that its oracular abilities had allowed it to do so even more dangerously, but this felt like a departure from the pattern. The Silent Palace had made it easier for the Thief of Stars to sneak around, not possible – amplification of a capacity, not crafting of a new one. It was the same with all the others, too. And if that held, then some pieces were beginning to fall into place. Gods, I almost couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed: I’d already walked the grounds of this very ducal palace once and seen it gone still and bare, when I’d unleashed my domain of Moonless Nights. And then too, I’d still come across wards and traps. There was a reason we hadn’t come across so much as an imp on our heedless advance through these grounds, and that was because we weren’t in the palace at all: we were in the domain of the Skein.

“Saint,” I said, opening eyes I hadn’t realized I’d closed. “When you cut Winter, cut my domain, you were still within it right?”

“I was,” the old woman warily said.

“And you could feel that you were?” I pressed.

Her eyes narrowed.

“Here, now?” she asked.

“Been too easy so far, hasn’t it?” I said.

Her blade returned to the sheath and she took a moment to steady her stance and breathing. Then the world shattered around us like panes of glass, and the only hint that it wasn’t her work was the slight widening of her eyes.

The first thing I noticed was that the roof over our heads and walls shielding us were gone.

The second was that the Skein in all its horned glory was nesting in the courtyard below, surrounded as far as the eye could by hordes of devils. Two silhouettes were at its feet, though in the gloom I could not make out who they were.

The third, and last, was that of us the Tyrant of Helike was being held aloft on his throne by a swarm of gargoyles while grinning like a man having the time of his line.

“My friends,” Kairos Theodosian cheerfully announced, “I am  grieved to inform you there might have been some slight changes to my allegiances.”

138 thoughts on “Chapter 42: Twined

    1. Insanenoodlyguy

      Ubua floats by his side “This angel redeemed me with the power of friendship!” he beams.

      “Goddamn this this shit is powerful” notes the specture, looking honestly awed by her own skills.

      Liked by 3 people

  1. danh3107

    What a shocking, sudden, stupendous, spectacular and all together surprising turn of events! Consider my expectations thoroughly subverted Tyrant, you fiend!

    Liked by 15 people

    1. NerfContessa

      Hmmmm, a slight change of aliegance, so instead of only himself he now also is allied with…. Big Rats? :p

      Really nice chapter.

      Like

  2. erebus42

    Come on Black! I’d have thought The 200 Heroic Axioms would have been required reading for Cat so she’d be better able to deal with Heroes who didn’t rely solely on stories and handouts from the Heavens.
    Also I’m curious about the Rogue Sorcerer. He seems to be able to steal spells or possibly magic itself, but does he draw power solely from stolen spells.
    If he does that would be an extremely interesting if very limited power set. He’s becoming more intriguing by the chapter.

    Liked by 12 people

      1. I think it’s the former. There’s A LOT of info he doesn’t have – for example, Saint and Pilgrim seemed aware of who Wandering Bard was back at Camps, and he’d never heard of her.

        Liked by 7 people

  3. I’ve been thinking since last week, what if the Rogue Sorcerer has been turned to Kairos’ side (willingly or otherwise)? There was the assumption that his apparent willingness to hear Catherine out was a possible ploy of the heroes. But what if it was Kairos’ ploy? You know, the person who has the explicit ability to see your dearest wishes and use them against you?

    That might significantly affect how this fight goes, if that’s the case.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Cat has literally been running circles around his sight recently and they’re right now going up against an enemy who specializes in running circles around people who *just* fooled Tariq’s sight. I think it’s at least plausible that Tariq missed the Rogue Sorcerer getting subverted.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Cat didn’t “run circles around” Tariq’s sight (though she did ultimately outmaneuver him), the goddesses literally perched on her shoulders blocked it outright. And before you say “well maybe Dead King and/or Kairos could do that too then” A) Tariq very much knew immediately that he’d been blocked and B), no. Mayyyybe DK could apply his millennia of sorcerous knowledge to replicating a divine-base/god-tier effect, but cunning though Tyrant is he’s not in that league. But even if DK could replicate blocking Tariq’s Ophanim-powered sight (on a third party rather than on himself) outright spoofing the Choir of snoopy angels should be seen as at least an order of magnitude more difficult.

          I have been wrong on a couple points of late tbf, but I don’t regard the Rogue Sorcerer having been subverted in this manner as a serious possibility to be considered.

          Liked by 5 people

        2. Catherine hasn’t been running circles around his sight, Catherine is personally shielded by goddesses of Night, a domain that literally specializes in obscuring sight. She wasn’t fooling him, she just put a stone wall in front of him.

          Liked by 4 people

  4. Andrew Mitchell

    So Masego is trying to resurrect Tikoloshe. I mentioned the possibility in the comments in the chapters after the death of Masego’s parents. On one hand I’m glad to be proven right, but on the other I’m feeling sad for Masego and his sisyphian task.

    Its interesting that Catherine doesn’t think it will work. I wonder if Masego will manage to prove Cat wrong?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Cat thinks that even if it is theoretically possible to do, that it’s going to take forever, and/or the Dead King has either taken steps to make it impossible (summoning and binding Tikoloshe himself, perhaps) or to make extremely difficult (ie, giving Masego enough information to try, but leaving out key bits and pieces of information … probably not outright lying, though, but possibly allowing Masego to run with a misconception/misinterpretation.

      Liked by 9 people

          1. shveiran

            I may be wrong (and she could as well besides), but I think Cat reasoning is that the DK’s ploy is to suggest an attempt that is not impossible but VIRTUALLY impossible. Something Masego will ram his head against because it is THEORETICALLY possible to overcome the obstacle.
            Masego is brilliant, but not balanced even on a good day. I find it realistic to imagine him losing himself in an impossible task, obsessed with getting it right.
            The very insight we had on how his mind works (when Cat broke him out of the interrupted Drop-a-Lake-Ritual backlash) suggests this may work wonders.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Yes, this. He could totally get obsessed as a way of channeling his grief.

              But the scary thing is… he is probably one of the top five mages on the continent, and his specialty is miracles. He might actually be able to do the impossible!

              Liked by 1 person

                  1. shveiran

                    Mhm, so the solution will end up being “the power of love” two times in a row? It’s possible, especially if there is a “third time” somewhere we haven’t noticed. What if the dialogue about Saint in the previous chapter was setting that up?

                    Like

    2. > So Masego is trying to resurrect Tikoloshe. …On one hand I’m glad to be proven right, but on the other I’m feeling sad for Masego and his sisyphian task.

      There have been other commenters in the past who mentioned being moved to tears by various episodes. This one is my turn.

      Liked by 6 people

  5. Kissaten

    So, rat’s going to face off against Saint of Swords who can cut everything, aspects, domains, space itself, and supposedly future too since Cat put that gun on the wall already. Is there any chance of Skein surviving this?

    Liked by 5 people

    1. If it was not for Chat then the saint would still be cutting stone door ways. The saint is not invincible just really powerful. The skein is not only powerful, but cunning.

      He is an enemy where force is not the best course of action and can be a fatal mistake. The only counters are aspects and story plot armor created by heroics.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. JJR

      She’ll cut the future and the next chapter will be 44 right after the the fight and everyone except Saint will be very confused.

      Also Tyrant will be their friend again somehow, because Tyrant.

      Liked by 6 people

  6. caoimhinh

    Cool chapter.

    So Rogue Sorcerer can steal wards and accumulate them inside him, that’s an awesome Aspect.
    Cat really should have explained to them in more detail what the Skein is capable of, she is the one who has fought it. Instead, she kept most of the information for herself and was pretty vague even when talking to Pilgrim. That seems counterproductive, though it might be that she did it to make sure it was a harder fight that made Rogue and Saint spend more of their Aspects there, perhaps?

    It’s worth noticing that Skein cut its losses and dispelled the domain when it was noticed, instead of risking Saint cutting through it, that means it would have taken direct damage from that, it might be useful in the coming fight.
    Two silhouettes standing by the feet of Skein, one is King Edward?
    Kairos was mentioned as a third and sitting on his throne while Cat said the two silhouettes were not discernable, so there’s a new Revenant in town.

    Next battle should be pretty intense, added to it the conversation-negotiation between Cat and Kairos, it’s going to be very interesting. The Heroes are going to be very angry when Catherine recovers Amadeus’ soul, but they won’t have no option but to suck it until facing Masego, where I think Saint will lose her shit and attempt murder plus we’ll see if Tariq holds his end of the bargain.

    The hype is high.

    Typos found:
    -the Diabolist I know knew / the Diabolist I now knew
    -every spry for her age / ever spry for her age
    -they brute forced their way / they brute-forced their way
    -seemed to easy to me / seemed too easy to me
    -our story should ne nudging us / our story should be nudging us
    -You ever hear / You ever heard
    -I’d wager means even for a Horned Lord means/ delete the last ‘means’
    -Was is the same / Was it the same
    -The third, and last, was that of us the Tyrant of Helike was / The third -and last of us-, the Tyrant of Helike, was

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Kissaten

      Keeping secrets to herself is A) a safe thing to do since you can reveal something about yourself you didn’t want – especially since heroes are still enemies; B) is a subtrope of an unspoken plan, it can be used in a fight

      For two silhouttes candidates are Prince of Nightfall, King Edward, Grey Pilgrim and Archer, Hierarch as well as any new Revenant. If unknown Revenant’s the case, it is going to survive this fight 100% since it’s the only new one and is narratively supposed to be the last boss/trick in the bag. Also it could be Neshamah himself, if we are to list all possible candidates.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. They didn’t have time for a thorough debriefing/infodump, they’re running on a very tight schedule. Note how the heroes aren’t questioning Catherine not having told them this earlier: she talks about things as they come up, it makes sense.

      >That seems counterproductive, though it might be that she did it to make sure it was a harder fight that made Rogue and Saint spend more of their Aspects there, perhaps?

      Definitely not. There’s hard fights ahead and NONE of them are Cat vs heroes.

      >It’s worth noticing that Skein cut its losses and dispelled the domain when it was noticed, instead of risking Saint cutting through it, that means it would have taken direct damage from that, it might be useful in the coming fight.

      oh, is that what happened? I thought she did cut through it, but this makes more sense.

      >Next battle should be pretty intense, added to it the conversation-negotiation between Cat and Kairos, it’s going to be very interesting.

      SAME

      > The Heroes are going to be very angry when Catherine recovers Amadeus’ soul, but they won’t have no option but to suck it

      they miiight have already resigned themselves to this lmao

      >until facing Masego, where I think Saint will lose her shit and attempt murder plus we’ll see if Tariq holds his end of the bargain.

      Whatever happens will be amazing.

      I think it’s worth noting that Laurence is increasingly friendly here. She even quoted the 200 axioms book for seemingly no purpose other than a joke. If she’s not warming up to Cat per se she’s at least bringing down her stonewall of “do not even talk to this” that’s been up since Camps, when she tried to kill her under the peace banner (the first time).

      Roland is interesting as shit.

      Liked by 8 people

      1. Andrew Mitchell

        Yes, Skein definitely pulled back his domain.

        > Then the world shattered around us like panes of glass, and the only hint that it wasn’t (Saint’s) work was the slight widening of her eyes.

        > Whatever happens will be amazing.

        For sure! 🙂

        > I think it’s worth noting that Laurence is increasingly friendly here. She even quoted the 200 axioms book for seemingly no purpose other than a joke. If she’s not warming up to Cat per se she’s at least bringing down her stonewall of “do not even talk to this” that’s been up since Camps, when she tried to kill her under the peace banner (the first time).

        Good pickup. It is quite a shift from her previous stance. I wonder what’s caused this? She’s not a subtle person so I don’t think she’s trying to lull Cat into a false sense of security. And I can’t imagine it was the scene with Archer expressing her love. So I am left to wonder what’s going on.

        Liked by 5 people

        1. Naeddyr

          A possibility is that she’s falling into her Role as a hero, because Cat is fitting the counterpart role of a heroic comrade too well. Gimli and Legolas.

          Liked by 6 people

        2. medailyfun

          Actually the Archer’s confession can be important, it showed that the Woe were not just clever and cool as Saint had mentioned, but also capable to love and sacrifice

          Liked by 4 people

          1. Andrew Mitchell

            I agree that it can be important; and it certainly will be important for the resolution of this arc and for the Woe into the future.

            My mental image of the Saint is still that she wouldn’t be moved by this confession. But I’m happy to admit that I could be wrong, and even that Saint’s comments in this chapter are weak evidence against my position.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. If Laurence can’t be moved by this, what can she be moved by? This is clear evidence against her position, and I see her as a generally rational person who just has really skewed priors on this by now. This surprised her model, so she’s shifting it, as a rational person does.

              She probably doesn’t really understand what’s up with these people, but at the very least her first guess was wrong.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Andrew Mitchell

                You’re making a lot of sense and I’m mostly on-board with your view. Thank you. ❤ I think I was viewing her as a fanatic rather than a rationalist.

                Given her previous absolute conviction and certainty any thawing of her position is progress. But to jump straight to “her first guess was wrong” is too much of a leap IMO. Maybe she’s now, for the first time, open to the possibility that she could be wrong and is working on getting more data (with RS’ help) to make sense of this unique situation.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. Her first guess was wrong as in “this specific model is not it”. That doens’t mean she’ll go straight for the opposite rather than a slightly modified version: “still awful, just also capable of love”. Still, yeah, I think she’s in a more open data gathering mode now rather than the previous stonewall of “I am not buying any of this”.

                  And yeah I used to think she was a fanatic too… until the Alchemist story and “dozens”. She sounded too much like someone who fucking learns from experience and who knows what it’s like to have her beliefs shattered and is open to the concept. Better to admit she had been wrong than to be a stubborn believer; denial is not her thing.

                  “No matter what you say I don’t believe you” is not denial, here. It’s a result of experience indeed =x

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. shveiran

                    Just opinions here, but I can’t say I find the idea convincing.

                    For Archer’s revelation to move her, it would suggest that the idea of a villain having deep affection is rare; otherwise, it doesn’t really make sense for it to give Laurence pause.
                    But… I mean, the villains we saw were people still. People love.
                    Hells, even assuming Cat’s group and the Calamities are exceptions, what about Akua? She is as old school as you can get and she still loved her father.
                    Heck, what about the Sisters? They still love eachother, and they have been swimming in murder sacrifices for centuries.
                    I’m not really seeing “villain being capable of love” as a real revelation.

                    I guess it is possible Laurence simply never saw it before, but if she was burned “dozens of times”, doesn’t that mean that none of those villains felt love for anything but themselves? It doesn’t seem like a solid theory to me.
                    Not impossible, but just… a bit unlikely?

                    Liked by 3 people

                    1. >For Archer’s revelation to move her, it would suggest that the idea of a villain having deep affection is rare; otherwise, it doesn’t really make sense for it to give Laurence pause

                      First of all, there are two more factors in play here than just the fact Archer is in love.

                      The first is the story that’s playing out. Keep in mind that before now Laurence had no idea where Cat was going with all this; she basically enlisted them with the pitch of “trust me, I have a plan”. Without ANY specification what the fuck the plan here actually was.

                      And Laurence’s mind does not go to best-case scenarios in this kind of situation.

                      Second, it’s not just the very fact that Indrani’s in love that matters here, but the fact she said it. Consider Akua Sahelian: how willing would she be in her Heiress/Diabolist days to admit to any affection towards anyone? Sure she felt it, but she categorized it as a whim / a weakness, and this is a widely held view. It’s a classic for people who think doing good is for the weak to also think love is for the weak. Hell, Indrani herself used to think that, remember? It was as recent as Cloaks that she was complaining to Cat about how she keeps feeling this annoying feeling of loyalty and affection.

                      Indrani actually confessing her feelings for Masego in front of the heroes, especially when Cat was clearly dancing around the topic, means she is either willing to trust them or does not view this as a weakness; or, most likely, a mixture of both.

                      That’s a whole lot of information that goes against Laurence’s default expectations.

                      Third is the mixture of the above: the fact that Catherine Foundling consciously and deliberately went for this kind of story. Sure Laurence had felt her wield a heroic story before, but that was Callow’s national story of defense against invaders; it did not bode well for the Crusade, but it did not say much about Catherine’s personal character. This? This is confirmation that Catherine actually knows about and values and uses such interesting things as Power of Love, Power of Trust and Power of Friendship. Again, don’t think all villains are like Amadeus; he’s super mega hugely atypical. Hell, even Alaya told him that attachment was always his weakness. This is a confirmation of Catherine’s methodology that Laurence legitimately DIDN’T HAVE before.

                      (I would note that Sisters are also atypical, particularly for villains Laurence faced. This is at its core the same issue Amadeus had when Tariq outplayed him: only being closely familiar with stories from one region. Villains Laurence has faced are villains from Good nations, ones that had a choice between Good and Evil, and not just Evil and powerlessness. Komena and Andronike in Procer or Levant would have Heroic Names for attempting to preserve their homeland; Amadeus’s story is blatantly heroic in shape, just on the wrong side of the border. Laurence would have never met anyone like them before because she didn’t foray into nations mired in Evil so deeply that allying with Above is legitimately not an option. She dealt with rejects, those who not only didn’t qualify for Good Names, but for skill-based Neutral Names either; or did and then ignored the options this gave them in favor of being blatantly villainous. Catherine and her Woe are nothing like them, and this is not something Laurence would have encountered before)

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. shveiran

                      I reply to myself because I can’t reply to Liliet’s own comment below XD

                      1st: True, but why would Cat embracing a good story be news to Laurence? She knows she plays the narrative and can play both roles. I think Sain’s comment on the Axioms even references it. Is there really any change?

                      2nd & 3rd: This has some merit. Then again… when has Cat ever done anything but displaying she loves her folks to bits? I’m just saying, if Saint was operating under the assumption that the Black Queen is not baring her heart for the world, she has been doing so willingly assuming it was all pretense. I don’t really see how that’s possible if it is such a game changer for Laurence.
                      We never saw an indication that this moved her particularly, or that it was a working hyphotesys of the Saint.
                      Considering how nicely EE usually foreshadows things… I don’t know, it doesn’t feel right.

                      Unofficial 4th: It could be as you say, but we have very little informations regarding the normal villains in Procer or Levant.
                      Your read may very well be correct, but it is speculation at this point. I see merit in it, but it is unproven.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    3. >1st: True, but why would Cat embracing a good story be news to Laurence? She knows she plays the narrative and can play both roles.

                      How exactly do you think she knows that?

                      As I said, Callow’s ‘national defense’ story was up for grabs, Cat wouldn’t have needed to try. Shit like First Liesse? Cat didn’t expect KAIROS to know that. Kairos, who has a spy network and would be deliberately fishing for information on rivals in a way Laurence doesn’t have access to.

                      Remember how Saint just said that she heard rumors about Akua’s Folly after Camps? It was a deliberate huge PR thing, and she still had no idea.

                      >when has Cat ever done anything but displaying she loves her folks to bits?

                      In front of Laurence?

                      >I’m just saying, if Saint was operating under the assumption that the Black Queen is not baring her heart for the world, she has been doing so willingly assuming it was all pretense.

                      When did Cat bare her heart to the world where Laurence would hear? I mean for fuck’s sake she learned better than to display outrage/dismay at villainous shit that horrifies her during Book 1.

                      I think you’re misreading Cat here, and underestimating how much her ‘badass villain who gives no shits’ facade is working against her here.

                      >Unofficial 4th: It could be as you say, but we have very little informations regarding the normal villains in Procer or Levant.
                      >Your read may very well be correct, but it is speculation at this point. I see merit in it, but it is unproven.

                      It’s pure sheer logic with a dash of textual evidence on top. People who do heroic shit become heroes unless there’s a reason not to. In Evil nations the reason is big and blatant; in Good nations, there’s none. Laurence learned that the hard way, herself.

                      I mean, yes, it hasn’t been formally confirmed, but Laurence kind of went on a rant about it, didn’t she?

                      Like

        3. I have two guesses.

          First of all, yes the scene with Archer expressing her love. Like, think about this from Laurence’s point of view: she is the way she is because of a genuinely held belief that these are horrible vile villains who don’t do that. They don’t fall in love with each other, they don’t reveal it to heroes while their friends are trying to preserve their privacy, they just… don’t. And she was just proven wrong about this (remember, Tariq’s a truthteller, Laurence trusts him to call shenanigans if there are any). And I bet she was getting “yep this is real” from her story sense too.

          Second… I was actually reminded recently of the scene around Camps where she went “I want to have the entrils of whoever did that to her” wrt Cat. She IS a hero; her instinct IS to sympathize. She’s been this standoffish because she’s been consciously, deliberately and aggressively suppressing it – she can’t talk to someone like Cat without it later backfiring on her in the form of pain when they inevitably turn on her. But she’s not Akua and not Amadeus and the suppression only works for so long when they keep spending time together and Cat keeps being so damn likable. Like… she’s rude af but so’s Laurence herself. Their outlooks and attitudes are actually super similar. My guess is that it’s really hard for Laurence to not like Cat, which is why she was that aggressive in the first place: she was trying to actively counter the effect.

          But she’s losing that fight 🙂

          Liked by 3 people

          1. SITB

            Laurence literally just dismissed the fact that Archer is witty and funny as an excuse to her actions a chapter ago.

            I don’t know why is there this prevalent idea that having positive qualities means you are a Hero, either Good or good. Amadeus and his merry maruders had genuine love for each other and even now Masego tries to resurrect his father (a devil); yet no one denies that Black was also a monster that commited a metric ton of atrocities.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. being funny and being in love and willing to share that fact with heroes are 2 v different categories of thing

              if nothing else, think about the story
              ‘witty villain’ is one thing but ‘a girl risking her life for a chance to snap her beloved out of a villain’s possession’ is very fucking different

              Like

            2. like no it doesn’t mean Indrani is Good or a good person but it means she’s a person period and willing to expose that fact to the world, which is NOT Laurence’s default assumption with villains

              and ofc Laurence doesn’t want to be on the wrong side of THAT story lmao

              Like

    3. > It’s worth noticing that Skein cut its losses and dispelled the domain when it was noticed, instead of risking Saint cutting through it, that means it would have taken direct damage from that, it might be useful in the coming fight.

      I think that might depend on how you define “direct damage”. IIRC when Saint cut Winter she didn’t just tear a rent in it she actually cut a piece *off*. As in, it was no longer Cat’s (though Akua snagged it for herself once it was loose, bc Akua). Cat had a full fae Court’s worth of power to play with and probably never touched even 10% of it at a single time bc of her principle alienation issues, so she never really missed it long term. Pretty much anybody else with a domain would really need to be a *lot* warier of permanently losing a chunk of it, whether losing a piece *immediately* affected them negatively or not.

      Of course, I think that losing a chunk of Winter also didn’t exactly feel great to Cat in the moment either, so little from Column A little from Column B maybe?

      Liked by 4 people

      1. >IIRC when Saint cut Winter she didn’t just tear a rent in it she actually cut a piece *off*. As in, it was no longer Cat’s (though Akua snagged it for herself once it was loose, bc Akua).

        Oo, that’s your read on that?

        Sounds somewhat plausible, though it’s worth noting that snagging a piece of Winter for herself is what made Akua Cat’s / part of Cat (that was creepy in the best way)

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yeah, that’s how Akua became able to manifest to people besides Cat – she grabbed the slice of Winter when it went flying off, so she then had some power of her own, though she could still only get out to use it at Cat’s sufferance IIRC (I think that restriction’s gone now too, at this point).

          Liked by 2 people

        2. FINALLY found the reference I was looking for, from a conversation between Cat and Zeze after the referenced incident in Bk. IV Ch. 12 (https://practicalguidetoevil.wordpress.com/2018/05/11/chapter-12-cambre/):

          “Think of your mantle as a cape. Much like your body itself, it is a fixed object in the eyes of Creation.”

          […]

          “The main difference being that your body is a shape, while your mantle is a pattern of power,” he said. “That power is, of course, finite. Not in the sense that using it spends it, but along the lines that the cape remains a cape – it does not grow or lessen, as a living thing would.”

          “So she cut the cape,” I guessed.

          “Essentially,” he admitted. “You might say she cut out a corner of the cape. The pattern itself being fixed, the rest of the power thinned itself as a whole to recreate that corner.”

          Liked by 2 people

            1. I give up on finding the reference, but I’m like 90% that got mentioned in there *somewhere*. Probably not the most relevant point by now anyway though, since Winter itself got taken out to dinner Below-style.

              Liked by 1 person

    4. 1224

      I think if Cat told them too much about the enemy then the enemy would pull something out of its ass to suprise them with that they weren’t expecting. Safer to say nothing.

      Liked by 3 people

    5. Aside from intraparty politics and “unspoken plan” issues, briefings are complicated by the point that even if DK can’t scry them, he might well have sent some inconspicuous creature to simply eavesdrop on them.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I’m wondering if one of Skiens aspects is an ‘all paths’ kind of deal. Because this mirrors the keter debacle too closely for it not to be name shenanigans. Also I can’t wait to see what trap the dead king is laying with this pattern

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Stormblessed

    I really want Cat to get her hands on “two hundred axioms” now. Considering the Saint said she shouldn’t have a copy that should make her want it more. And then I want to see her reaction to the glory that is “Two Hundred Heroic Axioms”!

    Liked by 5 people

      1. I think Sorcerer and Wizard are separate Name lines here, whatever differentiates the two would stand in the way of one transitioning into another

        though it’s possible the Wizard of the West is a deep enough groove that if you slide into it it can just flat out beat your previous Name (as is the case with ruler Names: whatever you were previously straight up doesnt matter)

        Liked by 1 person

    1. edrey

      it should be possible, specialy when he is taliking about civility when he is the rogue sorcerer, about the new Name i think is the hedge wizard, the twin who warlock killed, because his eyes and the name-dreams he could have, the heavens shouldnt let such opportunity get wasted.
      that of course if he survive all this

      Liked by 3 people

  9. Andrew Mitchell

    I had forgotten about that the Wizard of the West was Callowan, so thanks for the reminder.

    IIRC we don’t know anything about the Rogue Sorcerer’s background so he could be from Callow and the name could be transitional. I don’t recall where the transitional name idea came from; I just went along with it. It’s fun to speculate but I don’t think it’s likely to be true.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. IIRC it’s been established (for a given value of established, at least) that RS is Proceran; it was a plot point that he uses a very specifically Proceran school of sorcery back when Cat was having Akua try to track Black’s soul down magically. And I think there’s been some references to his native language? Idk for sure on that part.

      Transitional Name speculation actually originated with Cat herself. But yeah, there’s probably a cultural barrier preventing him from becoming Wizard of the West specifically, even *if* RS actually is a transitional Name. I saw somebody say “well the queen of Callow can just make him Callowan though!”; no, strongly disagree. Names arise from *culture*, not just political borders or allegiances per se. That’s why orcs never claimed any of the Praesi Names ever, despite being within Praes and sworn to give their allegiance to it. You can’t just decree that someone’s culture changes, no matter who you are.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. shveiran

        That’s true, but the culture of Callow IS changing. A lot of Greenskins around, these days, and a lot of bona fide callowans starting to see them as the Army of Callow. Loyalty to the Black Queen may trump birth soon… but I will concede it’s unlikely we’re there yet.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I meant more the culture of the potential Named, actually, though I can see how you’d read it the way you did. If RS doesn’t see *himself* as Callowan then I think that’s a fairly insuperable barrier to him getting a Callowan Name, at least as far as I understand Names.

          Liked by 2 people

                1. shveiran

                  You know, I was about to concede to Fayhem that the Named-to-be’s perspective on the self is key, and so anyone who doesn’t seem tehmselves as callowan can’t earn a callowan name… but this is a very valid point. I wonder if Cat did see herself as part of the Praesi culture SYSTEM enough for Amadeus to jump-start her past the issue.

                  Liked by 1 person

                2. Haha no worries. And I think Squire is actually an “open” transitional Name; it can transition into Black Knight (as Amadeus intended) but it’s also the precursor to becoming the White Knight, which is definitely open to Callowans.

                  Like

                3. And now that I’ve read their comment, shveiran also has an interesting point with:

                  > I wonder if Cat did see herself as part of the Praesi culture SYSTEM enough for Amadeus to jump-start her past the issue.

                  I do personally think the primary thing is that Squire is an “open” Name, but you can make a case that it could be pretty relevant that Cat was raised in an Imperial orphanage with a curriculum custom-designed by Amadeus, and her pre-existing plan was already to enter the Praesi system and turn it towards her own ends (by joining the military academy in a more conventional manner than what wound up happening).

                  Like

    1. > So…how many beings highly similar to, but not quite identical to, Tikoloshe has Masego now conjured and (effectively) killed?

      *and dispersed. Remember, the whole premise here is that you can’t actually kill devils.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. C_B

        My guess here is that Masego is trying to short-circuit the “gain personality over time in Creation” process by re-conjuring Tikoloshe and grafting on a mental imprint of his personality (which took thousands of years to develop the first time, but Masego has a handy record of the already-developed version he’s trying to shoehorn in without having to wait).

        It’s not working, in that he has yet to create a copy of Tikoloshe that meets his specifications…but I imagine each of his attempts is creating an imperfect copy of Tikoloshe, which he then disperses (complete with destroying everything that made it unique, just like happened to the original Tikoloshe).

        To my mind, this is morally equivalent to killing someone, even if there’s some “essence” that goes back to the Hells. Everything important about the devil being dispersed is destroyed.

        (I could definitely be totally wrong about what Masego is actually doing, though.)

        Liked by 2 people

        1. If that is what he’s doing I agree that’s fucked up. Honestly a very very significant part of why I think what he’s attempting is actually a multi-stage process where what he’s discarding is just a hollow blank from the stage before where he’d try to “import” the personality (as it were) is that I just don’t think even half-mad grief-stricken Zeze would actually do what you’re describing to any version of his father, even imperfect ones.

          Liked by 1 person

    2. I should follow-up on that previous comment I think (ayy immediate second thoughts). Devils start gaining, for lack of a better term, “personality” in the moment they are formed *and not before*. If Masego’s trying to create a vessel he can reform his father in, I would expect him to be dismissing imperfect vessels *before* what’s presumably the more important part of the procedure. So they’d just have the base amount of personality for devils a fraction of a second after being formed, which is to say functionally none.

      Could be wrong about how the procedure he’s attempting is operating (I can’t use High Arcana, after all) but that’s my take.

      Liked by 4 people

        1. We’ve gotten precious few details on what Masego’s trying for exactly, but it almost seems as if he’s essentially trying to reverse entropy. Trying to reassemble Tikoloshe’s personality after he was dispersed seems as if it must be like taking a pile of ash from somebody getting completely incinerated and trying to turn it back into a living person (after the ash was blown away by the wind, no less). No wonder even the Hierophant hasn’t gotten anywhere, if so; there’s miracles and then there’s *that*.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. Well, Arcadia provides a possible record of Tikoloshe’s mind, and that was a pretty serious magical catastrophe — I wouldn’t be surprised if his thoughts were imprinted. Whether his entire, lengthy memory is, that’s another question.

            Liked by 4 people

            1. Mm, point. DK’s echo in Arcadia seemed to have his actual memories in it rather than just present thoughts, but then at that point DK didn’t have four millennia (IIRC) of accumulated memories like Tikoloshe did. Even if that’s all there in Arcadia, somehow conducting a perfect lossless transfer into a newly constructed vessel would be a titanic undertaking. It would certainly explain Masego’s obsession with getting the vessel exactly right if so – even beyond his normal perfectionism in magical matters, if you’re going to pour four thousand years worth of memories into something you probably kind of *need* it to be a flawless receptacle to have any chance whatsoever.

              Liked by 2 people

        2. I don’t think he’d need bindings back, sure they shaped him but they already have. Don’t forget the convo at Thalassina started with Wekesa breaking those.

          “I choose this of my own free will” (TIKOLOSHE SHUT THE FUCK UP AND STAY ALIVE FOR YOUR SON’S SAKE)

          Liked by 3 people

          1. > (TIKOLOSHE SHUT THE FUCK UP AND STAY ALIVE FOR YOUR SON’S SAKE)

            And this is where we discover some combination of differences between both Praesi culture and our own, and also between an ancient incubus and a human father. Tikoloshe’s bond was to Wakesa, who was sacrificing himself for his son.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. When Masego talked about being the one in the reefs while Wekesa is the one in the city, Tikoloshe reacted with ‘FUCK NO’ before even Weksa did.

              Tikoloshe loved his son very much. He just was a dumbass who did not think it through in an emotionally charged moment.

              Also, upon reread I realized that Wekesa was already dying there. Like, Masego repelled the divine touch, but not before it kind of half crushed Wekesa into paste. Though it’s possible he could have fixed himself up with sorcery / survived as Named do, if he’d not done that, so that read still remains 😡

              Liked by 1 person

            2. shveiran

              There is no reason to say that Tikoloshe had ONE bond. If anything, we simply learned that he loved Wakesa more than he loved Masego.
              Even that is stretching, IMO: Wakesa was dying in front of him, and to abandon him in those last instants would have been hard whether he loved him more, less or equal to Masego.
              It’s not like the incubus had time to sit down and make a pondered, balanced choice.

              Liked by 2 people

                1. shveiran

                  I’m thinking of him as a creature capable of sincere affection. But I’ll grant that it is speculation, although I feel his very demise kind of proves he was moved by emotions and not bonds at this point.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. Moved by emotions, but those emotions themselves had been shaped by a long history, and then by the contracts created by Warlock. Contracts that were probably complex enough to constitute a program.

                    Tikoloshe at his death might well have been among the greatest creations of Praes: A creature of the Hells reshaped and uplifted to be capable of true love, and even the “moral equal” of a human.. But equal doesn’t mean identical — even shaped to the image of humanity, he was ultimately a devil.

                    (Proving that wrong would be way cool, but would also require an uncharacteristic display by the God’s Below.)

                    Like

  10. Daniel E

    Now that we are nearer to Hierophant being a focal point of the chapters; I am insanely curious about what exactly he learned from that God Mask back in Thalassina. “Screamed, but did not flinch”.

    Liked by 5 people

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