Chapter 43: Treachery

“Habitually treacherous enemies are accomplices to their own destruction.”
– King Henry Fairfax, the Landless

I breathed in.

Fear drifted into my lungs along with the rotten scent in the air, the poisonous odour of thousands of hellspawn and one of the oldest beasts of the Chain of Hunger. Death, decay and a fight that would have been hard business even with an army at my back. Gods, but it’d been a long night and the dawn of it was not yet in sight. It’d been one thing to stare down armies when I’d been Named, when I’d been in the deepest throes of Winter, but now I was painfully aware this could all end as simply as my throat being opened by some lucky devil. The knowing of that almost numbed my limbs, when it sunk it so suddenly: I could die, in these few coming heartbeats. I could have died at any time on the way here, and even if we survived the closing jaws of this trap I might still die before the night was over. It was an arresting though, one that had my palms prickling.

I breathed out.

Fear is an old friend, I thought. Fear was the pain in my leg, the whispering tune of mistake and mortality and needing to always do better lest if all fall apart. How could it cow me, when I leant on it like a pilgrim’s staff? I let that tenet straighten my back and took a look at my opposition. Devils, alas, in the thousands. Walin-falme and akalibsa, as we had fought before, but this was a disparate horde and there seemed no end to the assortment. It made gauging numbers difficult, given the wild variation of shape and size in the swarming throng, but it could be no less than two thousand. We moved, from there, to threats in the singular. The undead Horned Lord known as the Skein was nesting among the ruins of the courtyard and attending hall, its darkly furred strangely humanoid body folded inwards as if it were a beast at rest. Great antlers of bone jutted from the top of its head, set above golden eyes made even more vivid by the deep red gouges beneath them. It was a creature gifted with foresight, near impossible to damage and wielding at least one aspect I knew to be capable of unmaking its mistakes – Spool, it had called it in Keter. At its feet stood two silhouettes, veiled to me until a sliver of Night saw to that mundane frailty.

I breathed in.

Yet more trouble, and my fingers harshly coiled. My predictions had come up short in two different ways and quite visibly so, for I now looked upon two men: one whose frayed tabard bore the twin bells of House Fairfax, the other whose pale green eyes watched all unfolding with open interest. The man who had once been the Good King Edward Fairfax, Seventh of His Name, bore old and intricate plate over which a tabard in the gold and blue of the royal line of Callow hung. He wore no helm, laying bare the face of a man in his late forties with sparse white hair and the eternal beginnings of a beard, and in his hand he held a longsword for which there seemed to be no sheath.  To his side, the soul of Amadeus of the Green Stretch had been put in slender silvery stocks, his hands too far kept to reach the gag that had been put over his mouth. My teacher looked much like his physical body did, though there were dark rings around his eyes and a sort of haggard look to him I found deeply unsettling. Black had always been near obsessively neat in his grooming, but his soul laid bare was in disarray. That boded ill, though at least the sharpness in his gaze had not been dulled. A bag had been absent-mindedly tossed between the two of them, one I had with my own hand filled with crowns. That left only…

I breathed out.

Kairos Theodosian, Tyrant of Helike, sat draped over the gaudy throne his gargoyles were keeping aloft unevenly. Though he’d quite brazenly betrayed us, the odd-eyed villain had yet to bother with foibles such as armour or a blade. No that he needed them, with a flock of enchanted gargoyles obeying his every whim and a treasure trove of lethal artefacts at his disposal – to which, he’d added the casting rod of the Rogue Sorcerer, which he was currently toying with as he grinned a pearly white grin. This was all of it, I thought. Our enemy, against which stood three: the Rogue Sorcerer, roughed up and stripped of tools, the now twice-winded Saint of Swords and myself. This was not a fight we would win with swords, I thought, given the disparity in strength there. The best that could be hoped for was delay. We did, however, have one advantage over our foes. The foundations of their side were unsteady, while as long as there such a common enemy before us my own triumvirate would stand united. How can I take your strengths and turn them against you? Four heartbeats had passed, and as the fifth reached us Laurence de Montfort sighed. Not out of disappointment, I decided, or sadness. It was the same sigh I’d heard dockworkers in Laure make when some merchant had filled the hold with no eye to taking out the goods out and an hour-long job was going to end up taking twice as long. The Saint spat to the side, then rested her blade against her shoulder.

“That’s going to take a while,” she said, sounding irked.

“That’s mine, you loathsome turncoat,” the Rogue Sorcerer yelled at Kairos.

“I prefer to think of it as ours,” the Tyrant jauntily replied. “Although, if you truly want me to return it…”

So, the sharper was about to blow and the moment the three of us were separated by the horde then there would be no more planning. This was it, all I had to scheme.

“Saint, how long can you buy me?” I asked.

“You got a way to win?” the old woman casually asked.

I nodded.

“Then however long you need, Foundling,” the Saint of Swords told me with a hard smile.

I supposed she could be counted on to be a reliable whirlwind of destruction to anything she faced even when she was on my side, which was somewhat comforting.

“Keep them off me,” I said. “I’ll handle the Tyrant.”

“Figures you’d go for the cripple,” Laurence de Montfort said.

A helpful reminder that ‘on my side’ didn’t mean friendly or any less generally horrid, I noted. A heartbeat later Kairos got the casting rod he’d stolen working and streaks of flame that looked fluid as water shot out towards the Rogue Sorcerer, who took off running towards them. Godsdamnit, Roland. It didn’t matter if he could handle the sorcery being thrown at him, Kairos had hundreds of bloody gargoyles to throw at him and however good the hero’s set of mail it didn’t cover his face or throat or neck. I let the Night course through me and flicked my wrist, spinning a hooked chain that caught the wayward hero by the back of the coat and dragged him back forcefully. The Sorcerer had been about to reach the edge of demolished second story room we were still standing on, but the force I used in pulling him back had him half-tripping backwards. And also narrowly avoiding the knife-wielding gargoyles that popped right up from where they’d been hanging off the edge awaiting to scythe through Roland’s ankles, because because Kairos being a chatty jackass didn’t mean he wasn’t clever. The streaks of flame I left him to deal with as I advanced – he snarled something in a language I didn’t recognize, still tripping backwards, and some sort of swirling eddy of air caught them in a spin until the fires gutted out – and dismissed the chains. The gargoyles that’d come over the top milled uncertainly, knives extended into nothing, and did not even manage to chatter before I’d sent twin needles of Night through their torsos. They blew a moment later, and I met Kairos Theodosian’s uneven eyes as I came to stand by the edge of the drop.

“So,” I said, beginning to reach for my pipe, “how firmly rooted would you say your current allegiances are?”

It was theatrics, not directly asking what it was the Dead King had offered, just like reaching for a smoke in the middle of battlefield. I could not show weakness in the face of the Tyrant of Helike, lest he decide we were spent and that the Dead King’s victory was assured. Calm, control and even a smidgen of nonchalance. Anything less and I would not have gotten that keen glint in his good eye, the one that delighted in there still being a game afoot. For though Kairos Theodosian enjoyed a good bout of treachery, he would not commit to it without purpose and would never climb into a sinking ship. In that sense, I understood him in a way that few people could: like me, he had reached his current heights climbing over a tottering pile of victories. Like me, he knew it only took one hard defeat for it to all come tumbling down on his head.

“We are close as kin, our trust boundless and fondness without peer,” Kairos soulfully said.

“Kill them,” the Skein snarled, head suddenly rising up. “Kill them all.”

I passed my palm over the head of my pipe, allowing a flicker of black flame to light it before pulling at the wakeleaf unhurriedly. I sighed in pleasure, feeling the Tyrant’s gaze unwavering on me.

“Shouldn’t you see to that?” Kairos amusedly asked, moving his head towards the courtyard.

Devils, Revenant, the closest thing I’d ever have to a father. A fight I could not win. Calm, control, never miss a beat.

“That’s what heroes are for,” I said.

I glimpsed, from the corner of my eye, the Saint of Swords landing in the midst of a sea of devils with her sword raised high. Screaming followed, none of it hers. So, Kairos hadn’t taken the unspoken invitation I’d given to imply he was open to further treachery. Which meant Neshamah had bought him with a prize that was significant enough the Tyrant didn’t believe I’d be able to match it. He wasn’t refusing the prospect of turning on the Hidden Horror, that wasn’t his way, but he was making it known the bidding had started high and would only get higher. So what did he offer you? I wondered. Given that Kairos’ ambitions were still bound, as far as I knew, to the peace conference he’d forced then it had to involve the survival of the armies below. Or at least his, I corrected, for Iserre was made into a tremendous butcher’s yard by the Tyrant’s hand then the only the threat of utter annihilation could possibly bring either Hasenbach or myself to negotiate with him ever again. Couldn’t be just being spared, though, because the Grand Alliance would be crippled by losing the armies below and so far Kairos had gone out of his way to avoid accomplishing that. I was missing something, because I could see no way in which the Dead King taking this realm benefitted the Tyrant. My fingers tightened, beneath cover of my sleeves. Was it that simple? When I’d irritated the Hidden Horror, he’d said something that now sounded anew in my mind: when I have taken what I wish from this ruin I will forsake it as well. If after he got what he’d come after Neshamah had no use for this place, what would he lose by promising it to the Tyrant of Helike?

I inhaled smoke and blew it outwards towards Kairos, whose nose wrinkled at the acrid smell. I couldn’t beat that offer. It was a way for the Tyrant to get everything he wanted, so long as the Hidden Horror got it too. Which was, I realized, my angle. Kairos Theodosian could not, as I’d thought earlier, afford a single hard defeat. And he had to be achingly aware here that he’d made a bargain with an entity his superior in every way, including perhaps even treachery, and that if he was crossed then he had no real way to strike back. Not alone, anyway, and when it came to opposing the Dead King then there was only one game in town.

“Well, he’s lying to at least one of us,” I pensively said. “Did you offer something worth more than a hundred-year truce?”

“You jest,” the Tyrant grinned.

A little too quickly, I thought.

“I’m deadly serious,” I said. “Kairos, I’ll be blunt here because if he’s actually sold this place to you instead of me I’ll need to cut my losses and break it. Which is going to be damned hard to do a messy besides, so I haven’t the time to dawdle. I got my win here in exchange for backing his envoy at the conference when the truce offer comes. One of us got peddled goods already sold, obviously, so which of us is it?”

“A truce,” the Tyrant skeptically said.

“Don’t be daft,” I frowned. “You know what it’s meant for. I’m willing to take the bet, because I’ll get this continent ready for war on Keter even if I have to kill and raise every ruler myself, but I’m hardly blind to the risks.”

A hundred years was a long time. Time to prepare, yes, but also for the continent to come apart. A truce meant no armies, not absence of schemes, and the most brutal blow the Hidden Horror might yet deal was to let that century come to pass and then do nothing. To let every willing sacrifice turn into bitter recrimination, to let his opponents devour themselves from the inside without sending a single soldier across the border. If I’d tried to weave a lie out of thin air, I thought, the Tyrant might just have sniffed me out. But this? If I were Kairos Theodosian, I’d believe it. Because I would afraid I’d been double-crossed, yes, but also because of who it was I was looking at. A woman who’d bargained with the King of Winter and Sve Noc, when the cliff’s edge was reached, and Hells hadn’t I headed to Keter to make another deal not so long ago? The Tyrant of Helike watched me with an inscrutable expression his face, and the simple fact that he was no longer grinning like a lunatic told me I’d drawn blood. I thought, for a moment, of feigning impatience and trying to hurry him along – an announcement it was time to cut my losses, cryptic action begun – but I stilled my tongue. On real stakes I would not gamble this way. And the more I actually lied, the more I risked this exceedingly more skilled liar catching me out.

“Speak to me, then, Black Queen,” the Tyrant coolly said.

Not victory, this, but it was an opening.

“I’m not going to bribe you,” I snorted. “You just knifed us, Kairos. You want back on this side? Make it worth my while to keep the heroes from putting your head on a pike. I’m willing to deal because I’d rather you sell me this place than the Dead King, but don’t mistake that for actual need.”

For a terrible moment, I thought I’d overplayed my hand. That the bluster had been too much, that I’d been seen through because I’d refused to bend my neck even if in that situation it would have been my words exact. Instead I was interrupted by a flock of steel-clad devils, whose leathery wings beat loud as they descended towards me with raised spears. My muscles began to tense and it was all I could do not to reach for the Night. But I had appearances to maintain, and Gods I was so close to flipping the Tyrant I could almost taste it. The walin-falme hit a hastily slapped down ward like birds hitting a window, as the Rogue Sorcerer came through for me. I did not even grin, instead pulling at my pipe as I continued matching gazes with Kairos. Look at how in control I am, I thought. Wouldn’t I have to be a lunatic, to stick to a bluff so stubbornly when the situation is this dire? Airily tossing aside the Sorcerer’s casting rod – Roland distantly screamed in a furious voice about it being irreplaceable and worth a fortune – and extending an open palm, Kairos was handed his jeweled sceptre by a chitter gargoyle and used it to thoughtfully scratch his chin.

“Are you lying?” the Tyrant of Helike asked, cocking his head to the side.

I grinned, all teeth and malice.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Am I?”

A heartbeat passed, both stares unflinching.

“I think, Catherine,” Kairos Theodosian fondly said, “that you are lying through your teeth. But I still can’t tell, and so it seems were are still allies.”

Calmly I inhaled a mouthful of wakeleaf, and waited for the – there it is, I thought as the Skein’s hulking shape obscured the sky, rising behind the Tyrant and myself. The stench of it was horrid, though spitting out the smoke in front of my face took the edge off of it.

Spool,” the Skein snarled.

And just like that/

/the Tyrant of Helike sneered.

“Fate is a tug of war, you raggedy old thing,” Kairos Theodosian said, and there was something sharp in his tone I’d never heard there before. “Do you think the wishes of the conquered matter more than those of contenders?”

“You die laughing,” the Skein hissed. “Or. You flee. Or. I am broken. Or. Everything burns. Or. Or. Why does it keep changing?”

“There’s more than one reason I picked him out for this band,” I amusedly said.

Was Kairos Theodosian a treacherous, unpredictable and murderous madman? Yes. Obviously. But against a particular kind of foe – say, an oracle who’d spin our of new thread of prediction from his every whim as the lunatic committed to them with ironclad will unhesitatingly – that had its uses.

Spool,” the Skein snarled again and/

/“Do you think yourself above even the Gods, you presumptuous relic?” the Tyrant of Helike snarled back. “Do you think you can erase me like chalk on a slate? Learn your place.”

“Shouldn’t have done that,” I told the Revenant, pulling at my pipe.

“It will kill you,” the Skein cackled, its laughter like rumbling thunder. “Wish, wish into the grave. How many years can you spend?”

I winced. I’d fought enough Named to recognize when one’s bottom line was being crossed, and the continued attempts of the Revenant to use its aspect were definitely whipping Kairos into a proper frenzy. I could only guess at what was the cause of it, but the rage in that crimson bloodshot eye and the wildly shaking hands struck me as too raw to be a lie.

“I will confess,” the Tyrant of Helike said, tone eerily calm, “that you have rather offended me. You may attend to other matters, Black Queen. This one will be settled by my hand.”

“And now,” I said, “for my next trick.”

Because if I were an undead sorcerer with my personal Hell and forever ahead of me, if I’d taken to snatching Named and making them into my vanguard in Creation – which would mean, most of the time, that they’d be far from me and exposed to all sorts of aspects and sorceries – then there was one thing I’d make sure of. The Skein went still as the corpse it was, and pale gold eyes shone with something eldritch.

“You have been fooled, Tyrant,” the Dead King spoke through his puppet. “I struck no bargain with the Black Queen.”

And there it was, I thought. The gap between the man the Hidden Horror had once been and the man the Tyrant was. Neshamah had been a brilliant, sharp-sighted sorcerer whose apotheosis had been achieved over decades of careful planning with nary an opening left open. Even in undeath the heart of that man remained, made stiffer perhaps but undiminished. And the thing was, he had that same flaw that my father sometimes did. Gods, clever as they were they forgot anyone else could see the world in a different way they did. Forgot to see, I supposed, or simply didn’t care. Why would they? Victors that they were, they’d gotten their way so often. But Kairos Theodosian, now that was a man of a different breed. He was Tyrant of Helike not because he wanted to change the world, to shift borders on a map or leave behind a name that would ring through the ages. Kairos, he was villain. He was a partisan of Below, not a warlord or a theft of godhead, and his faith was the same ruinous red thing that had rent the Wasteland asunder for more than a millennium. And so the Dead King, brilliant monster that he was, had just made his first blunder of the night. Because the moment he’d made an effort to not be at odds with the Tyrant of Helike, he’d made every lie I’d spoken irrelevant. Because, in the eyes of the Tyrant, he would only be worth appeasing if he was a threat. And given the choice between successfully crossing me or the Dead King? Well, one of them was worthier prayer than the other.

I met the Dead King’s eyes.

“Mistake,” I said in Ashkaran.

Rend,” Kairos Theodosian laughed, and all Hells broke loose.

262 thoughts on “Chapter 43: Treachery

              1. ATRDCI

                Epigraph from Book 4 Chapter 68: Poised

                “Obviously you can’t kill me now: your enmity is with the Dread Emperor of Praes, and I’ve already abdicated. I am now but a humble shoemaker, and what kind of hero slays a shoemaker?”
                – Dread Emperor Irritant, the Oddly Successful. Later noted to have made surprisingly nice shoes during his three abdications.

                Liked by 15 people

    1. erebus42

      I think it’s because he remembers that the most important thing about being Evil is to have fun. As much as the Diabolist got some good mileage out of the whole classic villain schtick she took herself way too seriously and never stopped to smell the roses. Kairos is the walking, talking embodiment of “fuck it” which I think is a big part of why he’s so awsome. Honestly if there has been one good argument against Black and Cat’s “practical” style of Evil and for the classic one it has been the amount of fun the Tyrant seems to have been having ever since his debut.

      Liked by 32 people

          1. …Neshamah acts like he isn’t but he really is, Kairos acts like he is but he really isn’t. Fucking beautiful.

            Kairos is definitely heavily based on the trope even if there’s mix and match :3

            Liked by 1 person

          2. …and also Guide defies the “third act breakdown” trope altogether. Villains know they lose at the end, and they go down manically cackling “and I never gave a shit in the first place!”

            Hmm. If anyone actually DOES get a genuine “I never saw this coming” third act breakdown it’s Neshamah, because he DOES think he’s cheated the system. If that’s ever subverted, well,

            Liked by 1 person

        1. He isn’t. The first core trait is “backstory doesn’t matter to their motivation” and like… did you see how Kairos reacted to Skein talking shit about his mortality? Kairos is 100% backstory driven. He’s not that trope.

          He’s going to forever act like he is and take offense to any indication he isn’t. But he isn’t.

          Neshamah is, though :3

          Like

      1. sutortyrannus

        >I think it’s because he remembers that the most important thing about being Evil is to have fun.

        “The most important part of any summary execution is to remember to have fun and be yourself.” – Dread Empress Malevolent II

        Liked by 21 people

      2. Yep.

        Kairos embodies the proper disagreement between Evil and Good: not of means, but of ends. His ends are those for which what Evil offers really is best, and the only argument against him standing Evil could be “is this what you really want?”

        Because he believes he does.

        Liked by 3 people

      1. Valkyria

        solid and fluid are very much the same when speaking about the tyrant I think.

        Just look how he treats his former allies he was close as kin whom he trusted boundless…

        Liked by 7 people

        1. > solid and fluid are very much the same when speaking about the tyrant I think.

          He actually is kinda like a non-Newtonian fluid (oobleck etc): Try to be gentle and he oozes away. If you just smack him, then suddenly it’s easy to pick him up and move him… as long as you keep handling him roughly!

          .

          Liked by 10 people

          1. NerfContessa

            Sooooo, brooks had theodosian liquified for their original DNA cushioning material? No wonder they switched to cheap foam, theodosian fluid ran out :p

            Like

      2. Yup. Kairos stands by one principles: to have active choices (even bad ones) matter.

        Also, loved he Dead King pressing his other button; more worthy and much more difficult (but, apparently, takeable — who knew?) target sighted.

        Liked by 10 people

    2. Jeffery Wells

      Tyrant is a real villain’s villain. He’s got goals and plans, but the most important thing about those goals and plans is that they are the most villainous things he can think of at the time. Best way to fuck up with him is to accidentally give him an opportunity to be even more villainous.

      Like

    1. Novice

      I mean, why would anyone doubt the Tyrant’s eternal friendship? It’s obvious from the very start that Kairos would help the Black Queen forever and ever. Clearly this turn of events is very much predictable and EE should rewrite this chapter.

      Liked by 20 people

  1. Stormblessed

    Hahahaha! I love that it’s this moment where Cat pulls out the truth that she can speak Ashkaran. It’s the perfect moment because this is the one time she’s truly gotten one up on the Dead King. It shows her growth at being able to handle the two biggest threats we know about. The Bard and the Dead King. And here in this moment I think he’s realizing just how right he might’ve been when he said that Cat could “Some day be a peer.” And he might be regretting those words right about now.

    Liked by 17 people

    1. Dainpdf

      He probably knew. He’s had access to Masego’s memories, plus he invited Cat and co. to visit him through Arcadia, knowing their capabilities. That that probably planted the idea of this whole endeavor in Masego’s mind is probably not a complete coincidence, either.

      Liked by 15 people

  2. Heh.

    Chasing ahead blindly out of emotion? Tsk, tsk, Rogue Sorcerer. That’s how you get killed. Now you owe Cat your life.

    Kairos … interesting, but did you really think that the Dead King would keep his word without secretly attaching strings or a suicide pill?

    Liked by 16 people

    1. A hook and chain to yank Roland back? Seriously?

      Nope, not seriously. Comedy. She tossed Roland a jester’s cap to match the Tyrant’s, offering him the protections of the heroic comic relief.

      Meanwhile, Neshamah got completely snared by Cat’s banter with Kairos… which is odd. Did his “influence” over Masego perhaps backfire upon DK? Because golden eyes or not, this is more how Masego might have responded!

      Liked by 8 people

    1. Dainpdf

      Has he not? His apotheosis itself was a massive win, of greater impact than Kairos’s. Plus she’s thrown him a bone or two over the years, like the Spellblade. Something like respect, there.

      Liked by 11 people

      1. JJR

        I can’t remember what chapter it was, but it was also mentioned that he managed to capture the Bard and vivisect her. How he managed that I have no idea, especially with Bard’s teleport away from danger aspect.

        Liked by 7 people

          1. shveiran

            I wonder, is that confirmed to be how the Bard’s power works? We have never seen her take damage except from auto-inflicted wounds, but not ALL wounds are even potentially lethal. Are we certain it is death-based?

            Liked by 3 people

              1. shveiran

                It just doesn’t make too much sense.
                I mean, when you think about it, that isn’t THAT powerful a failsafe. All it takes is for someone to know you have it, and then they throw you in a cell. If you are too restrained to kill yourself and force-fed, you are stuck forever? I mean, obviously someone is going to make a mistake sooner or later, but that seems to easy a counter for the Intercessor. There must be more at play.

                Liked by 1 person

      2. Kissaten

        Dead King’s Apotheosis is a trap for him. He made no mistakes, left no openings, so he was forced into a state which he cannot escape. Not only he has to be invited to the Creation, he is bound to Serenity and has everyone as his enemies.

        Liked by 7 people

        1. Sylwoos

          Not at all, those restrictions are self-imposed. DK can step out of Serenity and drown the continent in undead whenever he want, he just know how this particular story end and avoid it.

          Liked by 12 people

        2. Dainpdf

          I am pretty sure the only binding is one of his choosing. By never leaving unless invited, he accrues no risk, which seems to be his modus operandi.

          (Because then the villain of the story becomes whoever invited him, so the narrative doesn’t really support the Dead King being ended or something of the sort.)

          Liked by 3 people

        1. Croelty

          I honestly have been trying to recall for a while now when exactly Cat started to refer to Black as her father, without much success. That also seems like a character moment I missed out on.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. Agent J

            When she dumped Killian, went to chat with him instead of her friends at the campfire, and ended the night dozing off as “her father” put a blanket over her.

            Liked by 10 people

            1. Actually in Book 4 she gobsmacked me with it during her talk with Andronike. The exact quote was something like “I was angry with my father, for being so much less than he could be”.

              I was not surprised afterwards :3

              Liked by 5 people

              1. Dainpdf

                True! Still came a bit suddenly, though I guess it happening during an introspective moment is kind of better.

                I just feel a moment like that needed more oomph?

                Liked by 3 people

                1. That moment had all the oomph it needed as far as I’m concerned

                  do keep in mind it was followup to Second Liesse already, which was the culmination of the entire book 3, the first serious beat of the ‘yes hes her dad’ arc was Epilogue II and the first mention of it as a possibility was Book 1 Chapter Fall

                  Liked by 2 people

                  1. Dainpdf

                    Sure. I guess it’s down to personal taste? In the middle of all that for me it got overshadowed by all the other conflict going on, plus the human thing.

                    I guess I could chalk the sudden decision to trauma, but I still feel there could have been more struggle with the concept. I will add it to the “List of things I feel the skip between books 4 and 5 robbed me of”.

                    Liked by 3 people

                    1. The struggle was all of Books 2 and 3 😀 you’re better off listing it among things that Cat being Wintered robbed you of

                      …I mean I’m not telling you how to enjoy the story, some part of it is def down to personal taste

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. Dainpdf

                      Don’t know, I just feel it was not enough. And yes, Winter was something of a hiatus in her character development. Considering that arc was so very long, it makes sense that it drove the density of emotional investigation down sharply.
                      Still, we barely got to see Cat deal with readopting her humanity. All that, presumably, happened during the skip between books.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    3. I mean the way I’m reading it, dealing with it is precisely what’s happening onscreen in front of us. The fear fragment’s part of it. The increasing mentions of ‘father’ is another.

                      Like

          2. It’s been developing smoothly since the beginning, from “hah, he’d be a wierd-ass father figure” through “the closest thing I have to a father” to claiming him as such at least internally, and iirc she’s actually said so to some of the closest in her “family”.

            Liked by 4 people

        2. Rook

          Only became a noticeable catchphrase in book 5.

          Coincidentally around the same time that she freed herself of Winter and realized her sharpest weapon was her mind, not her sword.

          It was a pretty noticeable bit of character development since the end of book 4 was the first turning point where she stopped ruining herself to win battles, and started giving up battles to avoid ruin

          Liked by 14 people

            1. There’s been a lot of explicit build-up. She’s been referring to him internally as her father since partway through Book III. The frequency has stepped up a bit in Book V but that’s the only real change there.

              Liked by 5 people

              1. Dainpdf

                She didn’t really do so without reserve like she’s been doing, as far as I remember. She called him “almost my father” or something like it, I think, but never this much recognition. Again, if I recall correctly.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. I replied on the premise that you were saying there was no explicit buildup to Cat calling Black her father, but then I looked again and saw that you were replying to the comment about Cat starting to say “mistake” like Black does. So I thought that was what you were talking about when you said there was no explicit buildup. But I guess you actually were talking about her calling Amadeus her father?

                  Liked by 3 people

    1. erebus42

      Honestly, I ship them too. She’s probably one of the only people in the world that really understands what he’s about and he could probably get her to lighten up a little. They’d both probably be planning on how to best murder eachother but Kairos would probably view that as a great couple activity.

      Liked by 20 people

    2. Someguy

      Eh. Old Akua and Kairos was my ship. Malicia should have arranged the political union to make them big ass targets for Heroes throughout Calernia. It’d have brought her more tangible Intelligence assets on Heroic capabilities & weaknesses as well as political time than Akua’s Folly as a big stick to play whack-a-mole.

      Liked by 5 people

        1. shveiran

          Opposites, as in “my deepest desire is to burn the world to see how high the pyre reaches and yours is for people not to do that anymore” opposites?
          Your ships need counseling, sir.

          Liked by 3 people

    3. Kelthor

      Eh I kinda just want them to be best buds. Not saying married people can’t be best buds, but it feels like it would change the dynamic between the two.

      I’m currently shipping CatXAkua.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. My fleet:
        CatAkua (without skipping any steps or changing their current dynamic, let them do what they are doing, I ship THAT)/CatIndrani/IndraniAkua/IndraniMasego (qp)
        CatRozala
        (crack) CatCordelia

        major friend ships that get my heart aflutter also:
        Cat/Juniper
        Cat/Laurence (yes I’m serious)

        Liked by 3 people

    1. nick012000

      More to the point, though, the Tyrant’s whole thing is the defiance of Fate – it’s the whole reason he became a Villain in the first place, and the driving reason behind why he does what he does.

      Liked by 19 people

    2. caoimhinh

      Kairos came into his Name by beating Fate and making the prophecy of his death into a lie, so he is among the best-equipped people to fight an oracle.
      That also means that fighting someone pretending to use Fate against him, Kairos will take the matter VERY seriously and personal.

      Liked by 10 people

  3. Gunslinger

    The typos made this chapter slightly harder to follow, but my word the chapter itself was great. Cat saying mistake in Ashkaran is one of the crowning highlights of this series. How many times can one sass the fucking Dead King.

    Also more insightful readers, was Kairos unraveling Spool by using his Wish aspect? He doesn’t say it out loud but the Skeins line about Wish all you want makes me think so

    Liked by 12 people

    1. caoimhinh

      Yeah, Kairos outright says it when Skein first uses Spool.

      “Do you think the wishes of the conquered matter more than those of contenders?”

      It’s interesting how Wish is working here, it’s not reading Skein’s heart and wishes, it’s turning his spooling back of time into wishful thinking, an immaterial thing. That’s almost going Meta, but I guess the fact that Kairos came into his Name by beating a prophecy might be giving him an edge against time/fate-related abilities.

      Overcoming Fate is the very beginning of Kairos’ story, an Oracle is screwed against him.

      Liked by 14 people

      1. Valkyria

        It could also be that the aspect here is reading the Tyrants own wishes and makes them reality. He wished to stay in this “timeline”, so it can’t be changed by the Skein.

        Liked by 10 people

      2. I think it’s not that meta and much more straightforward: Wish allows Kairos to “make a wish” and have it come true, at the cost of years of his life (which pissed him off for Skein to bring up / try to use against him). Wish in DnD can mimic the effect of any spell iirc; in this case it was Counterspell to Skein’s Spool :3

        Liked by 6 people

        1. Gunslinger

          How does years of his life work I wonder? Don’t Villains have an endless life span? Maybe it twists Fate so that no matter what he’ll reach a violent end faster

          Liked by 5 people

          1. shveiran

            I like this theory, but I wonder how it STARTED. I mean, I’d think this was his first aspect, as it was needed to overcome the prophecy and make the rest possible, but at that point Kairos didn’t have a lifespan. Or rather, it was a very, very short one.

            Liked by 4 people

    2. Clint

      “Also more insightful readers, was Kairos unraveling Spool by using his Wish aspect? He doesn’t say it out loud but the Skeins line about Wish all you want makes me think so”

      I took it as something more complicated — like he was determined to use Wish to wish to do something the Skein hadn’t foreseen. So instead of seeing one, or a few, clear threads forward, the Skein kept seeing more and more possibilities — it couldn’t lock one down because as soon as it saw one possibility, Wish made that not what Kairos would choose to do in the actual coming future.

      Liked by 7 people

  4. Dainpdf

    On one hand, this was *awesome*. On the other, seeing Neshamah outwitted like this is a bit anticlimactic. If he truly has been, I mean.

    Now to picture Black’s soul laughing at what Cat just said… he most likely can’t understand Ashkaran, but surely he knows what she said.

    Liked by 11 people

    1. RoflCat

      I’m sure he can tell, because at that moment she probably has the punchably smug face that he would do in the same situation.

      Y’know, just like when Nauk pointed out she make ‘the face’ that usually means they’ll win.
      And I think it was Hellhound that explains she has basically the grinch’s evil smile in that moment.

      Don’t remember when it was, but probably long before Arcadia.

      Liked by 14 people

      1. Agent J

        Battle of Three Hills. Backs against the river, outnumbered by the Silver Spears, and Cat starts smiling. So Nauk relaxes, certain in their victory.

        Liked by 9 people

      2. Dainpdf

        Well Black’s thing is that he *wouldn’t* smile or gloat so hard he’d underflow the humility and cross right back into smug territory. But yeah, Cat’s probably got that smile right now.

        Liked by 5 people

    2. I actually bet he can’t guess what she said bc he wouldn’t expect her to use HIS catchphrase :3

      Also, no wonder Neshamah got outwitted: this is Catherine’s chosen battlefield, hearts and minds of allies :3

      Liked by 8 people

    3. I also wouldn’t be surprised if getting beaten by Catherine here wasn’t actually Neshamah’s preferred outcome: sure he loses a short term opportunity, but he gains a long term rival/peer 😀

      Liked by 3 people

          1. Dainpdf

            Yes, he minimized the lifespan difference when he was trying to argue her into accepting a bad gamble. It was in his interest that she think she would still be around in a hundred years, and that she think herself a threat to him then. I am not saying he lied – he didn’t tell her she’d live forever – but it was in his interest to frame his answer in such a way.

            Liked by 4 people

              1. Dainpdf

                I could see some kind of final sacrifice ending for her. Because as much as she says so, I don’t see her moving to The Garden and becoming a farmer after her deeds are done.

                Liked by 4 people

                1. Of course not, are you kidding me? She walks off into sunset (probably to another continent, to wander with Indrani) and Callow knows her as the Queen who will return in their darkest hour 😀

                  Like

    4. shveiran

      “Outwitted” it’s a stretch, I feel. this is a tiny, tiny part of all the DK is doing. Heck, even this “meteor Arcadia unto my enemies’ armies” is a small part of all he’s doing.
      He is the Enemy, the Hidden Horror, the Adversary. He is the mind on his side fighting the war, and he is winning.
      Recruiting the Tyrant and sending the Skein were two moves in this clash with the heroes in this particular battle.

      Outplayed? Peraphs, good sir, but not outmaneuvered.

      Not yet, and not by a long shot.

      Liked by 7 people

          1. shveiran

            True. My argument, however, is that the DK doesn’t do climatic battles. He controls the field. He will have to be outmaneuvered A LOT to be forced into a decisive confrontation, because he, like Cat, understands how that story ends.
            So he plays it safe. Set so many irons in the fire that it doesn’t matter if the heroes turn some of them.

            Liked by 3 people

    5. > seeing Neshamah outwitted like this is a bit anticlimactic.

      Oh, the show ain’t over ’till the fat lady sings. But for the first time, Cat has maneuvered DK into a misstep, instead of jumping through his hoops. She really is a contender.

      Liked by 4 people

  5. erebus42

    Damn. Tricking the Dead King into showing some skin so that the Tyrant couldn’t help but stab him in it. For a relatively improvised plot that was brilliant (assuming it was part of the plan). The fight is still young though.

    Liked by 12 people

  6. Soma

    DAMN.

    Get scolded in your own dead tongue. Catherine’s been showing her mind and her words are sharper than any blade tonight. How many people could trash the dead king in an encounter, let alone with just words? The intercessor? Points for sheer power and style.

    Liked by 10 people

    1. Kai Merah

      It’s not that it doesn’t make him a threat, it’s that if you’re trying to appease your enemies/underlings or trying to prevent conflict between yourself and your enemy/underling, clearly, you’re only doing so because you consider said enemy/underling a threat. To Kairos, Dead King showing up means Kairos is important/threatening enough to need appeasement. So he thinks he can stand a chance of double-crossing the Dead King now, since the Dead King considers him a worthy opponent/threat. And between double-crossing Cat, and double-crossing Dead King, it’s clearly a more awesome feat to successfully double-cross and beat Dead King.

      Liked by 22 people

    2. ciara

      You’re mixing up the pronouns in this bit (understandably, there’s a lot of “he” in there):

      “Because the moment he’d made an effort to not be at odds with the Tyrant of Helike, he’d made every lie I’d spoken irrelevant. Because, in the eyes of the Tyrant, he would only be worth appeasing if he was a threat.”

      Kairos isn’t being convinced that the Dead King is a threat. Kairos is realizing that the Dead King doesn’t consider HIM to be a threat, based on the Dead King addressing him as an ally.

      See, Kairos doesn’t want to be an ally who works with you to achieve your mutual goals, he wants to be the enemy who you have to have to pay off to achieve your goal even though it’s his goal, too. He’s not happy making any deal that strikes your as fair, and if he finds out you think his deal is fair then he’s going to try to start over and extort you harder. If you’re not offering him a deal you hate so that he’ll work with you, he thinks you don’t properly appreciate how much you’d hate to have him working against you.

      He’s taking this chance to fuck the Dead King over so that *next time* he’s given the opportunity to sell out the Grand Alliance (and/or the fate of Calernia), that undead bastard will *pay him what’s he worth*.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Cicero

        You’re reading this wrong too.

        “Because the moment he’d [The Dead King] made an effort to not be at odds with the Tyrant of Helike, he’d [the Dead King] made every lie I’d spoken irrelevant. Because, in the eyes of the Tyrant, he [The Tyrant] would only be worth appeasing if he [The Tyrant] was a threat.”

        The Dead King revealed that the Trant was in fact a threat to the Dead King, and so a betrayal of the Dead King would have actual weight. Making it impossible to pass up.

        Liked by 14 people

    3. Cicero

      It doesn’t. What it does is show that the Tyrant can be a threat to the Dead King, and that was a mistake, because a chance to effectively betray the Dead King is so amazing that the Tyrant cannot pass it up.

      Liked by 14 people

  7. I almost wish the armies below could be seeing this, could you imagine how each army would be reacting? Also i loved how badass the Tyrant was in this chapter, and Cat too of course, i can imagine how Laurence will react but it will be interesting to see anyway.

    Also as soon as i saw the title i had to go to youtube and listen to the bleach soundtrack Treachery, you guys should try too xD

    Liked by 5 people

    1. More_Dakka

      The armies are watching on giant projected screens on the night sky. Every few minutes the betting odds for who out of the band survives changes and money changes hands. Cat remains the favorite and Tyrant’s odds look like a heartbeat graph

      Liked by 6 people

  8. Thea

    Has anybody considered that Cat might be wrong and Neshamah didn’t misread Kairos? That everything’s still within his plans? He must have some idea to dodge the Party of Five.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Very unlikely.

      Neshamah isn’t THAT committed here, he’s just going for an opportunity. He can’t legit utilize all the resources he could or he’d expose himself to a narrative vulnerability.

      So when Cat picked the battlefield, he met her on it. And it’s the battlefield Catherine WINS on.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Oshi

        Correction, it’s the field Catherine is better on. Remember that the DK is all about never being vulnerable, His losses are always things that don’t ultimately hurt him. You can put him back in the bottle but he’ll always come back. It’s important because I don’t think the game he’s playing is what we see.

        Liked by 5 people

        1. Yeah, Cat’s best case outcome here is ‘I win and DK doesn’t win but doesn’t lose either’ bc she can’t make him lose.

          As I said elsewhere, I wouldn’t be surprised if “Catherine outwits me in this fairly simple scheme that gives her a huge advantage by nature of battlefield and circumstances” was actually his preferred outcome here.

          Catherine is still fucking awesome.

          “And now, for my next trick”

          Liked by 3 people

          1. She does have pretty good stagecraft these days; I also liked the finger-snap when ToS got herself destroyed. (I originally wrote “auto-Darwinated”, but on further consideration, Darwin doesn’t apply here. 😉 )

            Liked by 3 people

            1. so uh about our earlier bard discussion

              in DnD bards can have any kind of Perfomance skill, not just music: dance, oratory, comedy, whatever

              Cat’s got Perfomance (stage magician)

              She’s been going for it ever since “The answer to this question may surprise you!” but she only started succeeding recently ;u;

              Like

  9. nick012000

    I wonder if Cat can pull a trick with the Night to give Black’s soul a temporary body to use once she gets him loose, the same way she used Winter to give Akua’s soul a temporary body to use.

    Liked by 12 people

  10. Andrew Mitchell

    Brilliant chapter. ❤ Cat demonstrates once again how important it is to truly understand other players.

    Well done to everyone who guessed that King Edward and Amadeus would make an appearance.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. Dhael

      Black has to be watching this like a proud father.

      “That’s my daughter that just manipulated the Hidden Fucking Horror into making a narrative that she can win with”

      Liked by 19 people

  11. superkeaton

    Well played, Cat, now that you’ve stirred the pot, can you fish a decent victory from it? You’ve always had a talent for it, but the Dead King is old, old, Old.

    Liked by 8 people

      1. He doesn’t AGE. How much “lifeforce” he’s still got in him is still anybody’s guess.

        I’m sure if Masego was around he’d be able to provide some pedantic commentary on the nature of using your own lifeforce to power your spells or aspects.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. shveiran

          There is a lot of uncertainty, but it is not hard to imagien his Naming to go something like:

          – Kairos is dying and won’t make it past the year because sickness and prophecy.
          – Kairos becomes the Tyrant and can’t get sick/die of sickness anymore.
          – Kairos gets an aspect that allows him to cheat prophecies, odds, logic and probably trigonometry.
          – the aspect is powerful and versatile, but comes with a finite amount of uses that do not replenish.
          – When Kairos runs out of uses, he dies.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. Kissaten

            I think Kairos tricked Djinny (metaphorical, but given how many artifacts Theodosians acquired during the years he might as well had one chained somewhere) into granting him a Final Wish before death, and Kairos somehow used it not to die. A deal a lot like Cat’s acquisition of Winter dukedom and then queenship, only that it’s less pure chaos and more belief and backstabbing, madmen getting wings and all that.

            Liked by 3 people

        1. Morgenstern

          That’s actually what ‘immortality’ is often presented as. 😉
          Not being un-killable, but simply not aging and not dying of diseases, but only dying when getting killed by a foe (which is mostly still a hard thing to do). Being a mortal, as the corresponding parallel, meaning you age, get sick etc. and can be killed rather easily. The difference between gods and mortals.

          But yeah, there is also the version where “immortal” means “unkillable”, no matter what. (Which is not the same as ‘cannot be imprisoned and/or suffer’.)

          I’m no longer sure which of these versions is the original one. *shrugs

          Liked by 2 people

  12. Allafterme

    I loved how Skein prompted to attack the band not when Saint go on about like a powergamer, not when Sorcerer joined the fray but when Cat started a nonchalant chat with Tyrant…

    Liked by 12 people

  13. Kissaten

    Does Rend destroy all manners of illusions, including Arcadia and Hells? Like clearing a path to destination or something. He pulled Dead King’s real self (which was speaking) through Skein’s body, possibly destroying poor rat in the process?

    Liked by 3 people

        1. Skein might be able to do some damage just as a big-ass fighter, but his time-power won’t help him much — even without Cat, the Legions alone have Juniper and other legendary generals running them. There is no path where he beats them.

          Liked by 2 people

            1. The Callowan side has fought demons, and some of the Procerans have fought Ratlings before. They have mages and siege engines.

              And most damning, the Skein would be detached from their own story, thus drained of all narrative support.

              That says… the Skein isn’t necessarily relevant, because it just got possessed by the Dead King himself! What happens if (he might resist) he gets dumped in the middle of those armies, some of which have experience fighting his undead and perhaps even monsters… and *still* without narrative weight?

              Liked by 2 people

              1. Skein’s story is absolutely army devourer pls
                it’s a Horned Lord
                it’s a monster from the kind of godzilla/nge story where the army just serves as a first course to show how tough it is

                Liked by 2 people

                1. The problem is, it’s out of its story — leagues away from the warrens it came from, dropped into a bunch of armies all of whom were waiting for a far more important story to play out. I figure that demotes it at least to “monster of the week”, where immense size just means easy targeting. Even if DK stays with it, any time he spends fighting the army is time he spends outside the shard and leaving the initiative to the party.

                  Liked by 2 people

            2. shveiran

              Skein is 60 ft tall, but he would be surrounded by a lot of magic users and trained soldiers with siege weapons (also, is it day right now? Because otherwise we can add a lot of Mighty).

              Granted, he would do some damage, but as soon as the side gets its shit together he’s done. He’s not a demon and doesn’t have auras of corruption or anything that prevents him from getting hit by a lot of fire at the same time. He is powerful, he heals, but still. He vs everyone is not a good bet.

              Liked by 2 people

                1. shveiran

                  I feel like you are overexagerating its power. Skein was the stuff of nightmare, but he plays that role as a leader of ratlings, not as a one-man army. Other Horned Lord, perhaps, could play that role, but he is the schemer among them. Schemers don’t shine when thrown on a different plane and into a battle.
                  Also, your argument about a godzilla story has merit in a vacuum in this setting, but that is not the story currently being told: Skein is not the Big Bad, it is the instrument discarded by its maker (as pointed out by Mental Mouse) to cut its losses, at least presumably. Skein is not the main antagonist, is not even the most relevant instrument here (I suspect Old Fairfax is going to be the next attempt by the DK). There really isn’t enough of neither narrative weight or physical might to threaten THREE ARMIES.
                  Quite frankly, if there was, the war would be irrelevant. If one revenant can bring that much destruction, what does the DK even care if they can craft a path to pop these guys north? He has 50 KNOWN revenants.

                  Liked by 3 people

              1. Depends on how long in Creation the party has been in the Arcadia/Liesse Shard. Time shenanigans being a thing with stuff related to Arcadia.
                If it hasn’t been that long in Creation, it will technically be day, but Fall will still be in effect, enabling the Mighty.
                If it’s been a bit longer in Creation, it’ll be regular daylight. Longer still, and regular night may have arrived.

                At any rate, the Army of Callow will still have their fortifications.

                Also, there’s the distinct possibility that Andronike and/or Komena will be present and find the Skien offensive. Or just aggravating enough to do something about if it starts popping off Spool or other Aspects in their immediate vicinity.

                Plus, the Alliance forces still have most of their Levantine combat priests.

                Liked by 3 people

  14. Actual Wizard

    I’m really liking Cat’s new catchphrase of “Mistake.”
    It really helps to show how much she has internalized her narrative perception and character insight.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. SpeckofStardust

    Using Rend in a unstable realm soon to crash into creation that is also connected to multiple hells.
    I think everything going to hell is an understatement. Everything is going to *Fun*.

    Liked by 7 people

  16. Mike E.

    Man no props in the comments for the Saint? I don’t like her, but when she is committed to your side (even when she hates your guts), she doesn’t mess around. She just basically committed to fighting 2000+ devils until either she is dead (and the Band loses), or Cat wins.

    “Saint, how long can you buy me?” I asked.

    “You got a way to win?” the old woman casually asked.

    I nodded.

    “Then however long you need, Foundling,” the Saint of Swords told me with a hard smile.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. MAN YEAH

      everything else was distracting but LAURENCE DE MONTFORT IS HARDCORE & BADASS AND THE BEST

      you know when Cat’s starting to find her comforting the tides are shifting 😀

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Andrew Mitchell

        Speaking about shifting tides… I was really interested in the following exchange

        “Keep them off me,” I said. “I’ll handle the Tyrant.”

        “Figures you’d go for the cripple,” Laurence de Montfort said.

        A helpful reminder that ‘on my side’ didn’t mean friendly or any less generally horrid, I noted.

        I found the last line jarring because I assumed Laurence was trying for gentle sass rather than cutting words. Is this Cat being too wedded to her current view of Laurence? Or hasn’t Laurence shifted as much as I thought she might have?

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I think it’s a combination of two factors
          – Catherine is absolutely going with the worst view of Laurence she can out of inertia
          – while Laurence is most definitely trying for quipping / friendly teasing, that’s not an easy tone to nail down and she ain’t the most socially graceful person around, so… the joke fell flat, sharp needle up

          Liked by 2 people

  17. shveiran

    This chapter was a blast, and the conclusion was perfect. Cat and Kairos, whispering a word each to turn a desperate situation on its head? The Black Queen whispering but an obscure reference, and sounding more deadly with that than the Tyrant unleashing his full regalia?

    That’s the good stuff. More, please. You have provvided over four books worth of this, and I have not yet had enough. Not nearly.

    On the side of Heroes, quite a bit to consider.

    Saint keeps to her turn into ally of the month, not simply because she stands alone against the Horde (it’s not really a surprise, coming from her) but becaus eshe keeps interacting with Cat in a very different way.
    And I am really curious to find out what has started this. Many suggests it is Archer’s revelation of being in love, but I can’t say I’m convinced.
    I’m looking forward to our getting confirmation or being revealed her thought process.

    As for RS.. I’ve long being suspecting Amadeus soul was in there, but I’ll admit now I’m feeling unconvinced. It isn’t that we see Amadeus captive (could be an illusion, could be a trick, could be his soul was spliced, could be he left a trace in RS…), it’s more that RS blunders a lot in this chapter in a non-Amadeus way, and I don’t feel like it is required to keep up appearances or anything of the sort. The theory seems weaker now.
    Which makes it more likely his olive branch to Cat was genuine, which is good for them both?

    Liked by 3 people

      1. shveiran

        Granted, but the theory was that Amadeus was actually driving the show from within. Having influenced RS out of screen is not quite the same.
        You may very well be right, but the possession theory has been crippled IMO.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Andrew Mitchell

      RE: Laurence’s shifting perspective, I held a similar mindset to you but Liliet and I had a long chat about it after the last chapter and they managed to convince me that Laurence had shifted more than I thought. You can check it out https://practicalguidetoevil.wordpress.com/2019/05/20/chapter-42-twined/#comment-42554
      I do agree with you though that it would be good to get some PoV confirmation.

      RE: Amadeus and the Rogue Sorcerer. I no longer think Black was/is influencing RS but if he was then I’m sure it will be confirmed by the text at some stage.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. shveiran

        I saw that discussion, and you can in fact find my own thoughts scrolling down.
        I can’t say I’m currently convinced by those arguments, but hey, I’ve been wrong often before.

        Liked by 2 people

  18. lennymaster

    Somehow people still insist on the misconception that Villains are somehow immortal. It was explicitly stated within the first two books, that Heroes get the OPTION/POSSIBILITY of true resurection (no undead nonsense, the actual real deal), while Villains get to always be at their physical prime. That means that they do not age, but like most Named, their end is violent and they do not tend to live longer then the average Hero. No Named gets sick due to less then extrem circumstances, Heros just have to deal with getting physically slower and weaker as time goes on as well.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. lennymaster

        I thought that too, annoying as that linguistic imprecision is, there are however regular comments that from context give me the impression that people consider lack of aging as genuine immortality.
        Just to lay it out, for me agelessnes means that getting your head chopped of kills you, immortal means that somebody can take your body apart molecule by molecule, atom by atom (Cloud of Desintegration for example), and that all you have to do is just find or make a new body for yourself. That of course does not include phylacteries or other soulcontainers being involved, that would merely be undeath.
        I know, some may say that is splitting haires, in a world where there are things such as ghosts and other undead, demons, angels, faires that are regularily reborn, elfs that can bend how reality works as well as gods and Gods, it does matter in my opinion. Considering how much precision is involved in Names and Aspects in the Guidverse, means it matters a great deal.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Immunity to aging/disease/natural causes while still being killable is in some sources/series referred to as being immortal (lowercase “i”), while having those immunities while not being killable/inherent automatic respawn/resurrection is referred to as being Immortal (uppercase/capital “I”).

          It gets complicated. And potentially confusing.

          On the other hand, I’m not sure that there’s a good term (especially a widely known one) that’s explicitly “immune to aging, diseases, or other forms of death by natural causes, but can be killed”.
          But everybody knows that if you say that somebody/something is “immortal”, aging and natural causes are not something they need to worry about, even though their killability is unclear. That’s when you get phrases like “immortal until killed”.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. The big thing to realize is that in the Guideverse, the human condition is rather more negotiable than in our own. Villains get some protection from aging, all Named get protection from disease and similar “boring story” threats. And, of course, each Named gets a unique selection of magical powers! In the text, Named are occasionally contrasted to “mortals”, usually in the context of a Named tearing through ranks of un-Named soldiers.

          Even so, there’s a definite presence of “gods in the world” (as distinguished from Above and Below), which are basically exempt from the “human condition” altogether. They’re not necessarily unkillable, as demonstrated by the one that Captain “broke”, but they simply don’t have to deal with the ordinary concerns of the living — not just aging, but even food, air, or any injury short of the outright fatal. The fae fall under that description, so the most powerful of them are commonly described as gods, and have even been worshipped. The power level of gods seems to overlap with the upper reaches of Named power, but can extend well beyond that — especially after they renounce mortal concerns… like Cat didn’t.

          Like

  19. NerfGlastigUaine

    Great chapter, but there seem to be more typos than usual. I don’t like to complain because you’re giving us a great story at an insanely fast pace, but the portion in the middle where Cat and the Tyrant talk was honestly hard to read.

    Like

  20. NerfGlastigUaine

    Great chapter, but there were more typos than usual. I don’t like to complain b/c you’re giving us a great story at an insanely fast pace, but the part in the middle where Cat and Kairos bargain was a little hard to read.

    Like

  21. Cap'n Smurfy

    The absolute contrast between the Dead King and the Tyrant is really quite remarkable. They are arguably the most Villainous Villains on the Continent, but are polar opposites in just about everything. The Dead King doesn’t do anything without meticulous planning, minimizing risk, pulling back at the slightest hint of danger and seems to keep and place importance on deals. He’s an ageless existance and determined to stay that way. The Tyrant on the other hand is flying by the seat of his pants, positively high diving into danger and quite possibly burning up his life force as he goes. They’re just nothing alike, but still follow the same ideals religiously.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Big Brother

    I know I’m a little late for this kinda comment, but about the Rogue Sorcerer. All of y’all are assuming he’s a stealthy magic user, but may I pose this question? What happens when an agent goes Rogue?
    Let’s look at what he’s done so far. RS has carried the soul of the (arguably) greatest Villain of the Age, led an army /safely/through incredibly hostile territory (the Arcadian Fragment), got thrown off a Cliff by a Traitorous Villain, has publicly sided /With/ Cat (the Arch-Heretic) against the Grey Pilgrim and the Saint of Swords, and has most recently been seen subverting/negating magics intended to impede/harm him.
    The Rogue Sorcerer isn’t the hiding type, he’s the Practical type, even if that means going rogue.

    Liked by 3 people

  23. Kwabena Yiadom

    I remember the chapter on how he acheived his apotheosis ended with the bard laughing much like the twin gods. Can it be called a win if she practically celebrated it?

    Liked by 2 people

  24. James

    I love this story, but the typos really bother me. I decided that I couldn’t handle them any more. I’ll be posting an edited version of the chapter as soon as I can from now on.

    Here is this one! None of that

    Like

  25. It’s a bit late, but in my reread I turned up “original text” supporting Cat’s crown:

    > But I was in charge in their eyes, wasn’t I? The legalities we’d been quibbling about all day didn’t mean dust in the eyes of the Gods. … Which meant that if I made a choice, Above took that as a choice for all of Callow.

    From the end of https://practicalguidetoevil.wordpress.com/2018/06/15/chapter-21-tug-of-war/ .

    Liked by 2 people

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