Chapter 44: Small Slights

“Forgiveness is a scale balanced, nothing more and nothing less.”
– King Edward Fairfax the Fifth, the Hardhand

Aspects were telling, I’d always thought, especially those with harmful intent.

In practice they tended to have similar applications, true, but you could tell a lot about Named from what imperative it was that’d resonated with them. William had found his principle in Swing, which had been a branch sprung from what he saw as the most important part of who he was: the Lone Swordsman, the one who settled wrongs with a swing of his sword. Now take Masego, though, whose Ruin had crystallized facing the very Revenant before me. The first glance at that might lead one to think Hierophant was darkly inclined, and to be honest the thought had crossed my mind at the time. I’d led my friend into quite a few messes, and few of them pretty. The truth if it, though, was that Masego had been raised by the Calamities long before he became part of that other family the Woe had turned into. He’d learned their lessons young, even if they’d taken different shape in him than perhaps expected. To ruin something, for Masego, was to pare it down it until it’d reached the very edge of breaking. Until, in a sense, it was no longer a threat. That he’d draw the line there instead of going further into annihilation I liked to think was as much due to the empathy he’d been encouraged to embrace over the last few years as the cold practicalities taught him from the cradle. The lessons of the villains who’d crafted the Reforms, the Conquest: it is easier to subdue than eradicate. Less costly, and war like all things was a matter of costs and benefits.

Some were not so clear-cut: as in most things, Black was frightfully subtle under the veneer of overt simplicity. His Destroy, seemingly a straightforward cudgel to bludgeon the Tower’s enemies with, was a glimpse at what lay at the heart of the man. Someone who, when moved to act, would not tolerate any result but the annihilation of what had stirred him to violence. There was no nuance to the word, or to its effect, because in the end to him the world was split in half by the line he’d famously drawn for the Legions of Terror: victory and defeat, with nothing of worth in between. And so it was with that knowing in mind that I watched the Tyrant of Helike laugh his will into existence, the word he’d spoke ringing out in a way that had nothing to do with his voice. Rend, Kairos Theodosian had said. The splash of that decree was swift and brutal, the Skein’s skull half caving-in as a tall antler broke and its right arm was so harshly snapped it came to be hanging by half a bone at the shoulder. Bones broke across the Horned Lord’s body, though in a manner that was haphazard. It was tempting to ascribe that the Tyrant’s whimsical nature, but I was not fooled. To rend something was not to destroy it, to break it or anything so… thorough. It was to tear something into more than one piece, to wound it. To hurt it. But never, I grasped might be the essence if it, to kill. Wound and hurt and sow enmity, but never to finish the fight. Because that was the Tyrant’s way, wasn’t it? Always an enemy, a scheme, a betrayal afoot. Like a spinning top, if he slowed might just tip over.

The deeper gold had vanished from the Skein’s eyes before the Tyrant had even finished speaking, the Dead King leaving behind the corpse he’d inhabited without hesitation at the first indication of danger. It was the great rat itself that screamed in rage at returning to great wounds, all the while a swarm of gargoyle gathered in a chittering flock around the villain. I claimed a last inhalation from my pipe, and reluctantly poured over the last of the wakeleaf over the edge and quite likely onto some devil’s head. Wasteful as this was, given how rare and expensive the herbs was out here, I’d need to intervene soon enough. Not quite yet though.

“My I assume, Black Queen, that you have a stratagem?” the Tyrant of Helike idly asked.

Shaking the dragonbone pipe one last time to make sure it was all gone, I put it away in one of the many pockets of my cloak.

“I do,” I said. “The way I see it, my Lord Tyrant, our trouble at the moment is that the opposition’s got an army and we do not.”

Below us, wading through the sea of devils still filling the courtyard, the Saint of Swords reminding why even at height of my brute power over Winter she’d put me to flight on our every encounter. The sight of that old woman wearing no armour save a tunic and pale tabard flickering through the tide of creatures was spellbinding, because Laurence de Montfort had sallied out to fight an army on her own and she was not losing. I watched her cut through the knee of some devil of smoke and stone twice the height of a man and broad as city gate, pass under its toppling form as it fell and take with three quick strokes the head, the arm and the eye of jackal-headed devils leaping out at her. The last, still living though half-blinded, saw its face used as a steppingstone for the perfect somersault she executed to evade the furious swiping of the devil she’d hobbled. It made paste of the jackalhead, the Saint of Swords landed precisely in front of the still-bellowing devil’s overextended shoulder and with a cold sneer she severed its head from its body. She’d never once broken stride in all of that, nor had she overly hurried or strained herself. She was not using any of those wicked cuts I knew she was capable of, pacing herself in a display of utter scorn at the calibre of her opposition. Gods, if it was just her and the devils contained inside a ward she might not even lose.

It wasn’t just that, unfortunately. Which meant that the Skein’s snarled order to kill us all had been followed eagerly by the devils, and while a great many of them were rabidly going after the Saint there were others who’d decided on different prey. Flocks of walin-falme had come for me, at first, but after beating impotently at the ward the Rogue Sorcerer had put up in their way for some time they’d decided to take their displeasure to the source of the inconvenience. Leathery-winged and furious the devils converged on the broken balcony the hero had claimed as his perch, bearing armaments scavenged from the dead of the Legions and Akua’s most loyal. It did them little good, for while he’d wielded wards when it came to ensuring my protection now the dark-haired man was going on the offensive. It was like watching a talented but self-taught musician at work, I thought, for while the sorceries he used were rough and raw the cleverness of the use and the breadth of his range were astounding. A swirling vortex of air that drew in a dozen devils was fed a cloud of bright yellow acid, earning screams as the creatures began to burn and melt. A large globe of translucent sorcery, much like the shields Masego was fond of using, formed around another pack and after opening a single hole through it the Sorcerer repeatedly shot sloppy but powerful fireballs within until all that was left was ash and slag.

Of the hundred or so that’d first gone after him, at first simply walin-falme but soon most everything winged and borne of the Hells, only half reached his balcony. Where they found the Rogue Sorcerer to have nailed small spike of silvery metal in broad circle around his position. Innocuous, at a glance, but their purpose became clear when he began pouring lighting in a stream above him and the spikes each drew a sliver of that flow in a sudden arc. By this sudden caging of himself in lightning, the hero caught the first wave and fried them in a heartbeat. Lesser devils fled in fright, but the walin-falme had been soldiers for the Tower once upon a time: they were made of sterner stuff. They caught and skewered some of their allies, using them as shields to pass under the lightning untouched. There they found only a ball of radiant light that blinded and burned them, scattering them as the Rogue Sorcerer reappeared atop another balcony after dismissing a glamour almost fae-like in nature. The silvery spikes were still there, and in their wounded surprise the devils were in no state to adjust the new angle: then the lightning began pouring again, none were left alive.

“Well,” the Tyrant of Helike said, “one must concede they have slightly less of an army now than they had an hour past.”

We both knew that was a temporary state of affairs, though. Already I could see the Rogue Sorcerer’s face was flushed and dripping with sweat, his breathing hard. Mages like Masego and Akua, who used the exact amount of power needed to make a spell function to the intended purpose, would be able to continue throwing around sorcery for longer even if it was of higher calibre. Roland, clever as he was, was bleeding power well in excess of Keter’s Due and I suspected his natural gifts weren’t particularly impressive besides: if he continued at this pace for much longer, he was going to fall unconscious. If he didn’t continue at his pace, he was going to get eaten alive. Something of an issue, that. Meanwhile, the Saint had been forced to give ground by the sheer mass of bodies being thrown at her – you could not, after all, manoeuvre around tidal wave of flesh and claws. After that her cuts began tearing at the fabric of this realm, leaving those sharp arcs behind and changing retreat into brutal stalemate, but that was effectively flipping the hourglass on how long remained until her aging body caught up to her. Still, it was almost absurd how well they’d done. Oh they had a story at their back, enough to earn a nudge or two – buying time for an ally against hopeless odds – but most of that was still simply that there were very good at killing things. Devils in particular, I suspected. Above did not send its champions out into the world without first doling out a few tricks aimed at Below’s favourite instruments.

“It’s not a battle where there’s only one host,” I chided. “Proper form, Kairos.”

“My apologies, Catherine,” the boy grinned. “Quite right, quite right. And where do you intend to acquire such an army?”

“One was helpfully provided,” I murmured, looking down at below. “Yet I need someone to be nuisance, if you will. Just horribly inconvenient in every way.”

“At last, my day has come,” Kairos Theodosian gravely said.

I could almost feel the eagerness boiling in his veins.

“How long do you think you can grab everyone’s attention?” I asked. “Do you have a monologue in you?”

Catherine,” the Tyrant said, sounding deeply offended.

“You’re right, I apologize for even asking that,” I replied. “I’ll leave this in your trustworthy hands.”

“You are a dear friend and honoured ally, so I’ll let it pass this once,” Kairos said, waving nonchalantly. “You may proceed, Black Queen.”

I squinted at him for a moment. He was definitely going to be betray me at least once more before this was over, but it shouldn’t be before we’d reached the end of this. And definitely not by selling me out to the Dead King, which should make this possible – I was a lot warier of being disrupted halfway through by the Tyrant than one of Neshamah’s brood of the dead and the damned. Now, to make my way through this mess on foot would take too long, even if I killed the pain in my leg and borrowed some hurt without looking at the interest. I could probably call on the Saint to carve me a quicker path, but that’d make my intentions obvious: which, given that the Dead King could be looking through anyone’s eyes and could intervene through any of them, was the same as dooming my scheme. I had another way, of course, though it wasn’t impossible he’d prepared for that. Couldn’t call on the Sisters for it, though, since the more I asked them to intervene the higher the chances Neshamah would get his hands on slivers of Sve Noc with all the disastrous consequences that entailed. Sloppy and imprecise it was then.

“Kind of you, my Lord Tyrant,” I said, and stepped off the ledge.

The Mantle of Woe and my unbound hair both flapped as I fell, but my attention was on the Night coursing through my veins. Like threading a needle, I thought. The cloth was thinner than I was used to and the window to get it right would be slight, but I still had faint of memories of what it felt like to have that inborn knack Winter had leant me. Darkness spread out like an inky pool beneath me, a handful of the Tyrant’s gargoyles curiously following me with eager cries and also much less endearing knives. I dropped into the dark, and for a moment it felt like plunging into cool, deep water. From the moment I touched the edge of the gate, I had less than a heartbeat to align it properly with the gate out. It was hard to describe, the act if putting it together. Like catching a faint spot of light in a dark cave that told you where the way out was, though that realization had to be paired with the instant act of will to move there lest the way out be botched. Or worst, lost. But I had it, near perfect, and-

Wind,” the Skein susurrated, great golden eyes like lanterns in the gloom.

I tumbled out cursing in Kharsum, well to the side of where I’d been aiming for. That godsdamned rat, if I didn’t have a stripe of its fur as my cloak’s collar by the end of this I’d eat my boots. It took me a heartbeat to get my bearings, which didn’t improve my mood any: I’d meant to come out near Black and the Good King, but instead I was hip-deep in akalibsa on the east side of courtyard. Devils who had most definitely heard me swearing, form the way their houndlike faces turned to me. Armed and armoured in stone as they were I did not count them as a great threat, but given enough anything they could be trouble. Either I was going to have drawing on Night again, which was playing with fire when I had two large workings ahead of me, or-

“Ladies, gentlemen, other assorted beings,” Kairos Theodosian said. “If I may have your attention?”

I suspect they might have ignored him, if the grounds beneath the Skein had not exploded in the moment that followed. I spared a glance at the mess of broken stone and dust that had appeared without warning, eyes narrowing when I glimpsed dirtied snow in there. Hells, had he just weakened the barrier between this place and Creation to the extent there’d been an impact? Had he done that precisely enough to use it as a weapon? How had he – no, no time for that right now. The akalibsa had turned towards the noise, and when they returned their attention to me they found I’d disappeared. Under glamour covering sight and scent I began limping to the nest where the Skein had laired, and the two men waiting there: one a corpse, one a soul. King Edward had remained unmoving throughout the entire skirmish, eyes calmly gazing at his surroundings as he openly kept watch on both my teacher and the sack filled with crowns. Which had yet to be destroyed, interestingly enough. That implied either that Neshamah wasn’t entirely opposed to my getting my getting my hands on this realm, or that there would be something dangerous in him or one of his agents breaking them. Leaning on my staff I made my way through the rubble, avoiding paths that would have taken me through knots of devils. It made the journey longer, but the Tyrant seemed to have things well in hand.

“- worry not, my blessed brethren,” the Tyrant of Helike thundered, “I will be a merciful king, should any of you survive –”

Another chunk of the courtyard went up in noise and smoke. Though it didn’t seem to be killing many of the devils and had only angered the Skein even further, it certainly seemed to be commanding their attention. Near everything dead or spawned of Hell was now trying to put down a cackling Kairos, who was weaving erratically in the air without having ever left his throne. Slipping across the strewn stones, I snuck up on Black and the Revenant from the side. With the horde going after the Tyrant I’d been able to put some spring to my limp, and climbing over some large block of granite I finally reached the broken stairs where they’d been waiting this whole time. The Good King twitched like he was trying to speak, but words never came out. A heartbeat later seven wooden pillars began forming around me, glamoured or not, and shit that was bad. I’d seen this hold the Princess of High Noon, and these days I was just a mortal with too much mouth and prayer. The moment the runes came up I’d be stuck. I managed to sneak my hand into my cloak just as four eldritch runes began to glow around me, linked by a faint circle of light. Frozen in place, I let out a sigh as my glamour shattered like glass.

“Hierophant’s own magic,” I said. “Ironic, I’ll grant.”

“The Abomination was awaiting one of you making for the crowns,” King Edward Fairfax calmly told me. “And hindered my own attempt to warn you, Queen Catherine. Still, I give you greeting. It has been some time since we last spoke, yet I see you have not been idle.”

My teacher was watching us, missing nothing, and if he was surprised by what had just been said his face showed no sign of it.

“Same to you, Your Majesty,” I said. “Didn’t think he’d let you of Keter, to be honest.”

“It was something of a surprise to me as well,” the Revenant said, “though I do not pretend to grasp the thoughts of that monstrous creature.”

He might not, I thought, but through him I might be able to grasp a thing or two. Through what Neshamah did and did not prevent him from doing, watching as he no doubt was through the dead Fairfax. Best to flush out all I could before striking.

“- kneel in abject submission, and you will be granted the mercy for which I am well-known-”

Another deafening burst, though sooner or later that trick would run out.

“I don’t suppose you know what he actually wants from this place, do you?” I asked. “It can’t be the original notion of crashing it into Iserre, that’d be pitting him against a band of five. He might win that, of course, but there’s no real winning that if you understand what I mean.”

And, more than anyone else on Calernia, the King of Death had to be wary of trading early victories for later disasters. There was no one else with as expansive a meaning for later, after all. And, as the way the knowledge of the Bard had become widespread in our age proved, it’d become a lot harder to bury knowledge after it’d been spread nowadays.

“If I could aid you I would,” the Revenant said, tone regretful.

The gold of his eyes had not deepened, but then I was hardly a novice at the sleight of hand. He was in there, and it might just have been him speaking the right words to suggest I shouldn’t pursue this line of conversation, that there was nothing to gain from it. Too neatly done. Which meant I had my opening, and even digging for more wasn’t worth letting the opportunity slip. My fingers couldn’t move, frozen as they were by the binding, and my power was bound as well. But the small carved wishbone was held in my hands and that was enough. Its power, after all, was not mine. Not bound.

“Abscond,” I said, my voice lacking power.

But the wishbone broke, and it was enough: a trail of stars guiding me, I slid out of the binding and my steps took me right behind the Good King. I laid a hand on him a grinned, all teeth and malice.

“O Sve Noc,” I said. “Judge me worthy on this night, that I may take the dead from death.”

Night poured into the man who had once been King Edward Fairfax, and with wicked laughter Sve Noc began to wrestle away rule over the Revenant.

203 thoughts on “Chapter 44: Small Slights

      1. P

        Even magikarp learns tackle at level 15. Kat’s been on the edge of apotheosis, I’m pretty sure she’s learned more moves than splash and struggle at this point 😀

        Liked by 5 people

        1. Cat is a Magikarp is more apt analpgy than I thought. First two books she basically can’t do anything except **Struggle**. Then she learns Ta(c)k(l)e, and spontaniously evolves into violent Gyarados, or even Mega Gyarados, but has no trainer at that point, because the only one she had betrays her. So she makes her own kingdom, and rules it, dropping lakes on other trainers trying to tame her, until she feeds herself to what I can only assume is Murkrow, making it evolve into two Honchkrows, and by then the analogy falls apart wildly trashing and spilling it co tents everywhere.

          New theory, PGtE is an allegoric tale about leveling your Magikarp that got wildly off track.

          Liked by 19 people

    1. erebus42

      It is a potentially versatile ability that she could get some good mileage out of. It should also help offset her lack of aspects and give her some good unpredictability and potential aces in the hole.

      Liked by 9 people

  1. Oh.
    Oh snap.
    Is Cat resurrecting Edward? Or just kicking the Dead King out?
    Please let it be resurrection, that would be awesome.

    Also, Cat, really? Asking if Kairos has a monologue in him? Was that actually a misstatement or were you trying to insult him on purpose for some reason?

    Liked by 18 people

      1. Novice

        It’s possible that it’s resurrection, Cat got one from Sve Noc after all. There’s also the line: “…that I may take the dead from death.” supporting this. I’m not saying this is most definitively resurrection, just that it’s a possibility one cannot discount.

        Liked by 5 people

        1. Oshi

          It is most certainly possible. However in this case I don’t think that is her intention. She will steal his Revenant and have the good Pilgrim resurrect :p

          Liked by 12 people

          1. I’m pretty sure that there are limits on Pilgrim’s ability to resurrect people.
            There’d have to be.
            There’s probably a time limit on how long somebody can be dead for it to still work, or something.

            Plus … Tariq isn’t here, and likely won’t be encountered again until Cat finds Masego.

            On the other hand … Sve Noc and Night are not Below, and so aren’t automatically lacking in the able to actually resurrect people the way Below is.

            Liked by 5 people

              1. Depends on if Tariq’s ability to resurrect people requires a body*.
                Because remember, we’ve only known Tariq to resurrect Heroes who died within the last day or so when he has their body.

                *Cat may or may not be carrying Amadeus’s body with her.

                Also, Amadeus isn’t actually/technically dead.

                Liked by 4 people

              2. Nash Equilibrium

                Black is still alive, so not at the moment!

                Regarding limitations on the Grey Pilgrim’s Forgiveness aspect, he can’t use it if the person has been dead more than a day, it was mentioned in the Battle of the Camps (specifically, a use of miracles by other clergy to keep the corpses “fresh” so that the aspect could be used to raise them all over a few days).

                Liked by 5 people

            1. Sve Noc and Night come from Below and Winter, and given neither has a resurrection ability, I doubt they spontaneously generated it. They did say Catherine was dying but not yet dead when they claimed her.

              And while there are definitely limits on resurrection ability, I suspect the Revenant kind of necromancy might extend the timespan :3

              Cat definitely loses nothing from asking Tariq later, anyway ❤ ❤ ❤

              Liked by 5 people

              1. Ganer7956

                How sure are we they are not merely usurping control of tge revenant? Take the dead [our revenant friend] from death [the dead king]? Wouldn’t that work?

                Liked by 3 people

        2. Rook

          Isn’t death one of the dead king’s nicknames? V5 c38, the pilgrim refers to him that way.

          ‘“There is an old story,” the hero said, “about Death taking the Forever King’s only son.‘

          Liked by 3 people

      2. DramatisPersona

        Presumably Evil’s allowed the fucked up “please kill me, this is a nightmarish parody of living and every day is a fresh horror” sort of resurrection. Or would that classify under mirroring it?

        Liked by 3 people

          1. shveiran

            Which is within the “avoyding death” trope, admittedly. It is either a contingency/refusal to your demise or something an Evil mage does to you because they refuse to deal with your passing away.
            Or mindless monstrosities, but I assumed we were including only undeads with awareness.
            But yes, I argue that is not quite resurrection. It’s becoming something else to avoyd death, not coming back to what you were before dying.

            Liked by 2 people

    1. caoimhinh

      It’s absolutely not resurrection, it’s gaining dominion over the Revenant.

      1) Cat wasn’t resurrected by Sve Noc, she was freed from Winter so that ‘killed Winter Cat and brought back mortal Cat’, same as the Cat becoming Sovereign of Moonless Nights didn’t mean she was dead, it transformed her ‘killing the mortal and raising an immortal’ but in those two cases her ‘deaths’ were metaphorical (though that still has a weight on Creation).

      2) Resurrection can only be done by Good, Sve Noc is from Below. Though it can be imitated, like the Secret of Many Lives that lets you avoid real death by shedding yourself and letting a part die, or passing the soul from one body to another.

      3) Good King Edward has been dead for centuries as a Revenant under the control of the Dead King, there’s no way for him to resurrect.

      4) It was explicitly stated that what Cat and Sve Noc are doing is struggling for control: ‘to wrestle away rule over the Revenant’

      So no, there’s no resurrection involved there.

      Liked by 8 people

      1. Cat was resurrected. She stopped being Winter Cat and became mortal after Sve Noc kinda shanked her soul and let it’s innards spill across Strycht. Then she gave up her claim on Winter, and then she died.

        Also “killing mortal and raising an immortal replica of mortal’s last image” is functionally death in every way it matters, Warlock agrees, Masego disagrees.

        And hey, we still got Pilly with an aspect of ressurection. I mean, plausible? I bet it’s used either on Eddy or even more weirdly, on Black.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. werafdsaew

          “Am I dead?” I softly asked.

          “At the threshold,” Komena said. “Not quite through.”

          Cat was almost dead, but not quite. So it’s cheating death; not true resurrection. Besides the body has to be fresh for Pilgrim to use Forgive, and the body of a revenant definitely is not.

          Liked by 10 people

          1. Mengha

            One thought though, it’s possible that the body may still be considered fresh, since DK definitely has some preservation magic flowing through his revenants. They’re all fleshy even after a few centuries. (I don’t think this is super likely but still)

            Also I feel while Fairfax being resurrected is unlikely, he has some story weight behind him as one of the guys with the most claim to nemesis status. (I don’t think he is DKs actual nemesis but this is kinda an evil clone / brainwashing story, those never end well for the villain)

            Liked by 3 people

            1. > One thought though, it’s possible that the body may still be considered fresh, since DK definitely has some preservation magic flowing through his revenants. They’re all fleshy even after a few centuries. (I don’t think this is super likely but still)

              That’s an interesting thought, but I’m very skeptical. The Pilgrim has a time limit on how fresh a body has to be and it’s pretty short; somebody already referred to him needing priests to preserve the bodies when there were multiple dead heroes at once during the Battle of the Camps, which means he’s got maybe a day or two tops before unchecked decay will put a hero past his reach. DK would definitely have made it his business to know that, and moreover will definitely have dealt with heroes who have resurrection powers before. Letting his Revenants decay juuuust enough to be difficult/impossible to rez for most heroes who even have the ability, without *quite* being enough to impair their effectiveness, is way too easy a vulnerability to close for DK not to have already thought to do that probably centuries or millennia ago.

              Liked by 3 people

              1. Rook

                I’d say it’s almost certainly an impossibility, because the Pilgrim’s resurrection is a narrative based miracle rather than a Sorcery based on technical circumstance. It’s more about whether that person is considered just-dead rather than the physical state of their body, otherwise it would make little sense for him to have resurrected a Hero that had gotten a knife through the *brain* at the battle of camps.

                His Role is a helping hand, not a healer. The fact that he’s such a powerhouse in that Role may mean that he can extend that last minute intervention one foot past the doorway, but it’s not as if he can reach hundreds of miles past. It would take an exceptional circumstance even for a Heroic story – one with the kind of weight that most heroes never see in their entire life – to make resurrecting a long-dead person possible, however well-preserved.

                Sve Noc and Neshamah fighting over a revenant makes sense narratively, since that theme overlaps. Night ate Winter, and Winter undead of notable corpses were known to be similar, something mirroring the living version (I.E some of Akua’s mages that Catherine reanimated during second liesse).

                Liked by 4 people

                1. I would say that your point about story-based miracle is exactly WHY I think it’s possible.

                  There needs to be a reason WHY Pilgrim can resurrect someone. The Aspect is called “Forgive”. To me it implies that the death needs to be something incomplete, not entirely settled, something that can be glossed over.

                  King Edward was kept more free-willed than other Revenants as Neshamah’s private joke, and there’s a big fat story opening in the form of his connection to Catherine. If she wrestled him out of the Dead King’s control and then gave over to Light, the story would be… elegant. Think of how this would look in a simpler setting: a priestess of death from an underground realm helping the heroes get one of their own back.

                  The shape is there. Not so much I’d put it above fifty/fifty, but it’s… plausible.

                  Liked by 3 people

      2. Catherine was absolutely dying after losing Winter, remember the whole ‘tore her heart out’ dealie with Akua? She wasn’t dead though, so it wasn’t a resurrection, I agree Sve Noc can’t do that.

        I still think Cat’s probably going to at least ask Tariq if it’s possible, but yeah, the immediate intent is just to usurp control :3

        Liked by 3 people

    2. > “Ladies, gentlemen, other assorted beings,” Kairos Theodosian said. “If I may have your attention?”

      Just lovin’ that! Especially followed with “BOOM!” to make sure they’re paying attention!

      Liked by 3 people

        1. shveiran

          Come now, he is fun to watch, but he is not REALLY a good partner for her. In whatever meaning of the word.
          They really, really want opposed things. There is no way they can work together long term.

          Liked by 2 people

  2. Novice

    If Cat is trying for a resurrection instead of just stealing an undead from the Dead King, how fucked is Calernia going to be now that there’ll be two monarchs bearing the mantle of Callowan spite? How long will the prices get, so to speak?

    Liked by 3 people

      1. ninegardens

        But no.

        She would have to be very very silly to use that crown that THE DEAD KING just HAPPENED to roll her way. This isn’t genius on her part, this is the dead king passing her a tool to use.
        The dead king who totally has his hooks in this particular crown. If its used then the dead king will have hooks in the entire realm, FOREVER.

        Its a tempting off. A chance to keep her own crown.
        That doesn’t mean its a GOOD thing.

        Like

  3. erebus42

    Ooo, taking one of the Dead King’s toys? A bold move and hopefully one that pisses him off. Though, Neshamah may actually be giving him to her with something nefarious in mind.
    I do love Catherine and Kairos working together. I’m sure their partnership will be rich and enduring!
    I cant’ wait for Cat and Black’s touching father-daughter reunion. Though I am a little concerned, since many of those stories end up in tragedy.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Allafterme

      Well, Black just watch her roll in with a band of five, as a member no less, turn Tyrant by lying her *ss off & performed an Evil miracle to save a former Good King of Callow from DK. I’d give anything that convo in, like, right now…

      Liked by 4 people

  4. Soma

    Hmmm. I’m a little confused as to how stealing a dead king from the Dead King is going to avoid the sisters coming in contact with Neshamah, but hey, I’ll roll with it. ‘Take the dead from death,’ is a nicely legendary feat that’s going to go in the holy book.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. IDKWhoitis

      Cat wants to avoid UNnecessary contact, and if the Dead King focuses on trying to grab SveNoc rather than the king, then Cat is assured at least the small victory here, which Cat is focusing heavily on. Sve can take care of themselves, but best not have them tied up before the plot begins.

      Liked by 8 people

      1. shveiran

        This.
        She even mentions as she moves toward the King that she has “two big workings ahead”, so I’m pretty sure this was her plan at the start of the chapter, not a contingency she fall back to when she was caught.

        Liked by 4 people

  5. IDKWhoitis

    Either my memory is failing me, or did Grey just disappear? Like I know he has a lack for appearing at just the right moment, but I fear him making a play for Masego…

    Liked by 2 people

  6. magesbe

    Can I say for a second how much I have grown (I didn’t originally) appreciate just how much more careful Cat has to be in these fights, how much more she has to think? In the Everdark; heck, even against the heroes; I was looking at her basically regenerate through her fights. Now she can’t do that, so she makes up for it by doubling down on what made her dangerous in the first three books: her mind.

    Liked by 10 people

    1. Yes, that’s what she gained in her new mortal life. She tried out the regentank power-brawler thing for a while, and it just wasn’t working for her. So she went for an even more protean magic base, but swore off the brawling part.

      Liked by 5 people

  7. Andrew Mitchell

    Wow, what an ending. Lovely little one-time trick to get out of that binding. And was it actually Masego that wove that spell? And, if so, is he close? If so I expect Indrani to get here soon as well.

    I didn’t pick that she was going to go for a resurrection of King Edward but I ❤ ❤ ❤ it!

    And it's so, so good for Tyrant to be helpful for once yet Cat's right that it won't last.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. Andrew Mitchell

        Yeah, there’s a good chance you’re right. I think the wording “that I may take the dead from death.” can be read either way (stealing control or resurrection). But given that it’s only Above that can grant true resurrection I think your interpretation may be right.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. While only above can grant true resurrection, Sisters did resurrect Cat already, did they not? I suspect that they can give sorta pseudorrsurrection if in as long as you partakein their domain. And I so want Edwardto see the Callow today, I hope he’ll truly make it.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Andrew Mitchell

            I don’t think the sisters needed to resurrect Cat. IIRC (and I could well be wrong here) Cat almost, but not quite, died before the sisters saved her.

            Liked by 2 people

              1. I think it’s worth noting that even when Bard is telling the truth it doesn’t mean she isn’t being deceptive (if anything, that seems like it’s probably something like her specialty). If there’s one thing that the Guide has demonstrated it’s that “death” can cover a variety of meanings. My read on that was always that it was Winter!Cat “dying” to reclaim her mortality and become FUN!Cat much like Squire!Cat “died” to become Winter!Cat in the first place. Basically the idea is the transition between a mortal form and a Winter mantle imprint of that person counting as dying in both directions of the transition (mortal -> Winter, and Winter -> mortal).

                Some other people have already quoted relevant passages about how in literal terms Cat was just almost dead too, going to be leaving the house soon so not willing to spend the time hunting and copy/pasting rather than finishing reading comments.

                Liked by 3 people

              2. I think it depends on how hard you squint on technical definition of ‘death’. Clinical death is an existing classification IRL: we can’t resurrect the dead, but we can bring people back from a state we classify as death. Cat was at death’s door, standing on the treshhold, just not quite all the way through.

                Liked by 2 people

                1. shveiran

                  That’s all true, but let’s not forget she was at the Threshold according to deific beings. I’m just saying, what they consider “not quite dead yet” is “not quite at a point where we can’t bring you back”, so that may be a very different definition than one a mortal would use.

                  Liked by 2 people

                  1. My point was just that there IS a point past which Sve Noc can’t bring her back, and the point is rather closer than the angelic ‘been running around as undead after getting her head cut off for half a day’ shit

                    Like

            1. The thing is, her former human body was lost, replaced by the “eldritch abomination” Winter body, which in turn was absorbed by Night. The sisters needed to create a new (mortal) body for her and install her spirit into it. I’d call that resurrection fair and square.

              Liked by 2 people

                1. Andrew Mitchell

                  If I recall correctly, the limp was discussed early in this book. I think it relates to two things:
                  – Cat’s residual self image; her mortal self had a limp, and
                  – It’s a really useful reminder for Cat that she has mortal limitations.

                  Liked by 3 people

                2. Catherine: “Well you see I fucked up so badly that one time with the demon they actually couldn’t!”

                  Sve Noc, from the background: “Actually we could but-”

                  Catherine, discreetly kicking at Sve Noc: “I FUCKED UP SO BADLY THAT THEY COULDN’T”

                  Like

        2. caoimhinh

          Yeah, notice that the very last sentence of the chapter states what is happening and what their intention is:
          “with wicked laughter Sve Noc began to wrestle away rule over the Revenant”

          Cat is likely going to use this as a distraction, pinning Neshamah against the Sisters in order to drive his thoughts away from Masego and ‘the knife’. That will also give her a chance to free Amadeus and get the crowns during the mess that’s inevitably coming.

          Liked by 5 people

        3. It’s worth noting that “only Above gives resurrection” is AFAICT not an “official rule”, but a rule of thumb from Black’s prior experience with human Named.

          Sve Noc and Cat may well be changing those rules.

          Liked by 4 people

    1. > And was it actually Masego that wove that spell?

      Well, it’s a spell he came up with himself, distinctive enough to be characteristic of him. It might not have been cast in present tense, but as a trapspell.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. The thing about Tyrant is, Cat knows how to handle him! Even back in Keter, she was thinking:

      >The Tyrant of Helike was mad, this was well-known. I was starting to wonder if it was perhaps too well-known. Behaviour could seem erratic without actually being so, when you failed to grasp what someone was truly after.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Catherine gets him.

        Honestly, getting people is her speciality. Since Book fucking One, she’s been doing the thing where her first approach to the person is to figure out their decision making algorhythm, then act based on that. She’s even doing it to Neshamah now ;u;

        Liked by 4 people

  8. Andrew Mitchell

    One more thought… the title chapter is “Small Slights” which is obviously about the Callowan saying “Small slight, long price.” I’ve got two thoughts about what that might mean:

    1. There will be a price to pay down the track for Cat’s small slight against the Tyrant (asking if he had a monologue in him).

    2. Once he’s resurrected, King Edward will have the opportunity to extract a long price from the Dead King.

    Are there other possible meanings?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Not really. It is a deeply Callowan saying, bascally the motto of the whole kingdom, and there arre two Callowans currently on the scene, Cat and Edward (I mean, maybe Roland, but come on, it’s way unlikely), so the story is tied, indeed, to either Cat or Edward extracting their respective long prices, and my guess it would be Eddy, for his price is really long in making. After all, he did say thatin the face of eternity will spit on DK and all his works, time forNeshamah learn the true meaning of what Callowan spite really looks like. Would be interesting to see it. Also I suspect we will have a sbort conversation with Neshamah right about now, after Cat had more than proven to be a passing nuisance.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. Oshi

        The thing that worries me though is that the DK has likely done all this to setup Edward as his chosen token for the new realm. If he’s smart enough to predict Cat’s play he might be using this whole thing as a way to setup his own pattern of loss and wins in order to ensure he is the one who picks the victor by choosing who he loses to. I wouldn’t count my chickens until after we understand what this play means in the next chapter.

        Liked by 6 people

        1. shveiran

          It is possible, but the DK’s is not infallible. Cat has not showed he can craft aspect item out of defeated enemies, and that power is an interaction between a very peculiar individual and a recently ascended twin goddess.
          Just as he made a mistake in handling the Tyrant, he is on the backfoot here. He might have been not been able to predict King Edward could be stolen from him, not just slain.

          It isn’t really that strange a mistake, with so little ifnormations on a new player, and that might be the point: a prolonged confrontation with a new enemy, betting only known and ultimately unimportant pieces, to gather as many datas as possible for future reference.

          I think the Hidden Horror may have planned all to ensure that even a tactical defeat,caused by being blindsided with a new narrative, would only better position him for a strategic victory.

          Liked by 4 people

      2. What Cat is doing may seem cruel to outsiders, since this can only be a one way trip for Good King Edward.

        However, getting a chance to go out as yourself, extracting as much interest as possible from the bastard who turned you into a puppet? A few centuries of missed birthday prezzies have just landed at Edward’s feet, and like every good little Callowan boy… he’s going to go all out to make karma work its socks off. 🙂

        Liked by 4 people

        1. Andrew Mitchell

          True. And I think it’s pretty clear from Cat’s original discussion with King Edward that he wasn’t happy and that he wanted the chance for revenge before he dies for good.

          Liked by 2 people

  9. caoimhinh

    This chapter had an interesting insight into Aspects, too bad we didn’t get to know more about Wish.

    Catherine is getting a Revenant of her own now?
    Cool.

    Typos found:
    The truth if it / The truth of it
    the essence if it / the essence of it
    My I assume / May I assume
    going to be betray me / going to betray me
    I still had faint of memories / I still had faint memories
    let you of Keter / let you out of Keter
    a grinned / and grinned

    Liked by 2 people

  10. “He was in there, and it might just have been him speaking the right words to suggest I shouldn’t pursue this line of conversation, that there was nothing to gain from it.”

    Wait, does that mean that there was actually DK inside Eddy? So she wanted him to make an appearance, to make him vulnerable, so that Sve Nok had someone to wrestle away Edward, otherwise he would be able to take him back any moment. Isn’t she afraid he would take slivers of Sve now?

    Awesome chapter, as always, noticably less typos. I am waiting on the edge of my sit for more Black, at this point, everything else being just a prelude to it. I mean, daughter freeing her father’s soul from clutches of dastardly Evil, who had also brainwashed her friend, well, it’s just so many heroic tropes at once.

    On a little side note, I’ve been thinking, and doesn’t WB been a real Creational analogy of King of Winter? I half remember, though it may be just a Mandella effect, her saying “I always loved a good story.”, soit would make sence if she wanted to make the world more interesting to make new and interesting narratives. Maybe it’s even her vice, or flaw, that she can’t help but make new ones, case and point, Hierarch, which she made and then abandoned which might mean that she didn’t really need it, and made her more as an indulgence on her part.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. 1) she does not intend or want to rule for long

      2) it’s very doubtful he can be resurrected, ‘wrested away from death’ just means ‘from dead king’ here

      3) -Catherine’s voice from a distance- LMAO NO

      Liked by 7 people

      1. > 3) -Catherine’s voice from a distance- LMAO NO

        EE: Bwah hah hah! 😉 Seriously, if he comes out of this alive he seems to be a decent chap. But that whole “former crusader x Priestess of Night” thing might get in the way.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Also, odds are good that one or the other may be banned from a crown. If he does come out both alive and crowned, he might be a backup king for Cat! Or at least, he could re-introduce himself and hang out long enough to formally adopt Cat and Viv into the royal family, with maybe a few others for good measure.

          Liked by 2 people

        1. Nah. Nack when Keter ark was ongoing, some people theorised that Dead King will marry Winter Queen sorta like Arcadian Court in the unholy alliance. And that was a reason for an invitation. It made more sence back in the day.

          Liked by 1 person

  11. werafdsaew

    He was in there, and it might just have been him speaking the right words to suggest I shouldn’t pursue this line of conversation…Which meant I had my opening

    Why the Dead King “there” means that Cat has her opening?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My guess is, with him absent, she could have easily snatched control of the revenant, but he could have just as easily snatched it back later at any point he chose. This way, with his hooks in Edward… actualized? instantiated? she can actually root them out.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Oshi

        It’s more then that. I think this is the moment that Sve Noc reveals herself in opposition to Neshamah. Cat wanted it setup so the story favored them and for that she needed not just a fight but a fight over a carrion corpse. Literally what the Tenants of Night demand is that only the strong rise and gain. Cat has set things up so they have every chance not just to win but to win in a way that leaves no openings for the DK.

        Liked by 11 people

      2. With Edward on board and helping out in any way he can to kick the Dead King to the curb.

        It’s taken centuries, but the cavalry has finally come charging down the mountain to him. I doubt he’s going to care too much to ask questions about the Night. 🙂

        Liked by 3 people

    2. Kissaten

      “Sorry, can’t help you”

      *Breaks wishbone* “How about now?”

      Sounds to me like a trap, to be honest. Like, “I DARE you to try and take Good King from me”. Creation is ironic like that, letting words bite back the one who said them. Was it Dead King speaking or Good King trying to weasel out of his bindings?

      Dead King wants coalition falling apart, make the living fight each other, and Good King is the last un-living Fairfax – so there’s a possibility to push a hero like that to reclaim his throne, even if he is a slave/servant/lieutenant to current Queen.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Yeah this is most definitely a setup.

        The question is, is it a functional trap, or is it just Dead King cutting his losses and trying to get away whie losing a minimum of skin / disposing of liabilities?

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Kel the Seer

        I wonder whether a Good King, once successfully wrested from DK is planned to used as the new keeper of this crossroads, an I formation source on the DK and how he plans, or an advisor for her named Heir of Callow when Cat inevitably abdicates?
        Cat’s naming of Vivienne as successor looked to be part of her long term plan for the Accords (no Named rulers) as well as to throw the heroes off balance. Then I realized that it gave her a fallback plan if she gave up her crown since a ruler who does so as part of this but continues to rule would bring ruin upon their lands.
        Stealing Edward is a good way to get a long price out of the DK, but I wonder if it was one of her opportunity plans once she saw the pattern of revenants, or if she had planned something like this all along.

        Liked by 3 people

  12. BatlleG

    So, why Neshamah want Cat to get Edward ? Cmon, it’s Dead King, this Revenant wouldn’t be here if there were no purpose to it. It is a crown that belongs to Calernia, it seems matching with Cats wishes, its Good, seems perfect for Cats to use it.
    Dead King should see it. So why is it here ? Because there is some plan.

    Most obvious would be that even if can ‘steal’ Edward, Dead King can still take control after. So he lets band of 5 win, estabilish kingdom they want and then just take it, as im sure ‘you cannot steal from death it due’ should be story that works in any word.

    I’m sure there are more clever reasons that I couldn’t think about atm.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. shveiran

      I agree it is a given King Edward is here because Neshamah had a plan.

      It is not a given, however, that the plan is working. Cat may have pulled one over him as a result of disparity of information.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. edrey

        we cant forget about the pivot, so DK must really has a plan, the monsters are the revenants, the trial is kairos traition, and the pivot should the DK’s plan, after all opposing the band of five is loosing really bad so he would wait after the realm is secured then strike, how? no idea, but with so much talk about saint death, the price of the pivot is obvious

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Yep. Cat has already just shown herself capable of outwitting Neshamah on her own prepared turf, and it looks like she was very much planning the ‘and steal the Revenant if he’s there’ thing.

        Like

    2. Morgenstern

      … or he actually wants Cat to succeed, because his utlimate play is not being the Eternal Evil being let out of the bag occasionally, or even taking over… but finally winning against the Bard and the Gods, having grown tired of his shitty half-life existence, just like the Winter King did. I mean, the fae realm was supposed to kind of foreshadow happenings in Creation, at least possibly, right? 😉

      The DK has been actually *helping* Cat so much, it’s almost ridiculous for that to be him falling into story traps, what with all his supposed millenia-schooled intellect and story knowledge.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Morgenstern

        … and the WB and the DK might actually secretly be working together on this. I mean, we DO also have the theory that SHE is (also?) tired of her shitty half-life existence. 😉

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Arcadia is the one that mirrors Creation, not the other way around. Winter King wanting out = Praes as a nation growing tired of its own bullshit and attempting to change; Winter/Summer marriage = Praes/Callow dubious union, sharing an army and everything.

        And I strongly doubt DK is “tired of his existence”. It’s likely he’s giving Cat openings on purpose here, but that’s because he loses nothing substantial of his own by doing so. Undead are ultimately replaceable; he’s not undermining his own power base by gving Cat hard-earned victories here. It just plays into his own long-term narrative as someone impossible to vanquish for good but entirely possible to beat back and thus score a win. Not unbeatable, but a fixture.

        Also, he thinks Cat is fun and is looking to *enhance* his existence by gaining a potential long term peer. Or even short term, but a diversion!

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Andrew Mitchell

      I think Skein. Wind as in winding a thread around a spool. TBH at first I thought it was Wind blowing her off course.

      Now I think about it further, maybe it could go either way. Do you recall what aspects Skein showed at their first encounter?

      Liked by 4 people

        1. Hmm.

          >I tumbled out cursing in Kharsum, well to the side of where I’d been aiming for.

          Looks like “gust of wind” to me, not like “maneuver was cancelled”. She’d probably break bones if she tumbled out at the height she was when she entered, at that.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Clint

      She said she didn’t want to use Sve Noc too often, because she had two big things to use them for and the more often she used them the more DK might learn to counter them.

      This is probably one of the big things she was saving them for.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. A dead hero who has held a grudge for millennia and a bitter villain striking out at the world. They are probably very similar people. Then working in concert would be epic and exactly the sort of thing both characters would be willing to accept to act on their personal grudges.

        Like

  13. So, speaking of crowns. Edward is kinda an obvious ploy from Dead King, Cat had secured Tariq’s crown, which may or may be not obvious plot from Above, she has her own and kinda predisposed to abdication so that is kinda obvious too, narratively speaking (and also is so net for her in satisfying many of her desires in low to no cost, I bet everyone kinda expect it), then there is Black and his kingness, and Tyrant, though I would not bet on that. I am more and more convinced that the crown will come from outside the story. Cat repeatedly shown that you can ape the nrrative without trully commiting to it, so she may just conjure a crown out of a thin air, the one noone see doming (and so noone, not Tyrant, not Piligrim, not DK can plan for, I mean I’m pretty sure that Neshamh has a variety of plans depending on who’s gonna win, and how they are gonna win, and whose crown will be used). I think the mystery of final crown, outside of metametanarrative way of keeping readers on ends of their seats, has also a metanarrative strength that let’s her be carried by the story. She got her own crown, has all those Revenant crowns, Tariq gave her his crown, she can stab Tyrant and use his crown, there is Black’s crown, the question of “whether or not Cat will reach the point of choosing the crown” is kinda self-evident now, the real question, storywise is “what crown will Cat choose”. It’s the story, that, I suspect, Neshie had fed till it got really full, kinda making her victory mandatory. Maybe that is his angle, with Edward, and all. Not Cat’s using his crown, but just Cat using a crown. And he can position himself to strike after that. And there are two questions then. How can DK use Cat’s plan, and what do we got on crowns outside the story?

    So I have a theory. DK had aknowledged Cat as a peer. Cat is arguably the leader in the band of two most famous heroes in Calernia and most famous Villain of her age (or as some might argue [i]other[/i] most famous Villainof her age). That and her maneuvring swiftly put her into position of a leader of anti-dead coalition. She got drow, she got callow, she got dwarves, now she probably, maybe, also got GA and League. And since WB position against Neshamah is as the one who “left the door open”, Malicia is Dead King’s ally, and she outwitted and suborned everyone else of import, she is kinda a rival to Dead King. A nemesis. And we know what those guys have. A pattern of three. So maybe, Dead King is giving Cat an empty victory, after he got what he needed, much like he gave the realm to Kairos, so that he can later leverage a victory of his own – of course, nothing as drastic as killing Cat, just, ya know, devouring millions of innocents and crushing her armies, while maybe turning everyone she knew and loved against her? Mild strokes, you know. But Cat can give DK a victory here too, if she plays her cards right. For example, using one of Revenant crowns, leaving him an opening, giving her the win over Cat “because she was to arrogant and greedy to notice a trap”. Or some other way. It all really depends on what Dead King really after, because everyhing else, including making armies of the living butcher each other away from the front, trying to create a fresh hell of undead, stealing Cat’s precious friend and ransacking his brain for secrets, were just secondary objectives, from what I can see. So DK is positioning Cat to “win” here, while he “just” manages to complete only his primary objecttive. And also a mere couple of secondary ones. And isn’t she winning? Making DK blunder, again and again, losing his Revenants, and failing to turn Kairos, and now whatever she does with Edward.

    About the crown, I think it would be Cordelia’s. Long shot, probably wrong, but hear me out. So we know she dredges up something in a lake nearby. Corpse that is not corpse – that is probably something angelic in nature. Through the Augur and also maybe WB she knows that forces will come to allign in Iserre. Dead King, Tyrant, Black Queen. All her enemies, in the same place, vying for the control of the shard of Arcadia, trying to turn it into something, no matter who wins, eldrichly Evil. A shard containing Liesse – Malician blunder, her rival’s. And we were told that she had inherited her blunders. Maybe it is more literal? What if Cordelia tryes to usurp this shard and tie it tothe angels corpse, while dealing a blow to Dead King, and hopefully outright killing two other Villains? And look, the Saint who tries to kill Procer, GP, who refused her orders, and Black, who is not a person she is fond of, all here, all, in one place. She somehow tries to make shard a domain of the Above, to tie it to the Choir and throw it to the north. Not the point. But she is ccounted for by Cat, and reasoned with, to make a one crown that is not Named (so it can’t be somehow fucked with by Hierophant), and make highway wholeheartedly Proceran, which, given it is in Procer, makes sence, and allows a smooth adherence. Also she sacrifices her power, backs Rosalia as new First Prince, and goes off to fight for her native Rhenia, as is her wont.

    But it’s just a theory. Also, the epigraph speeks about forgiveness from the mouth of Callowan King. Maybe it’s a foreshadowing of [b]Foreiveness[/b] of a Callowan King? Eh? Eh? Also, they are both Edwards. Also also, when meeting him first time, Cat thought:

    “Would that be Edward the Fifth?” I said, desperately trying to remember which of those had gotten themselves killed while crusading.

    “The Seventh,” the king chided. “You will know my daughter Mary, at least. She was but three when I was claimed, she must be the longest-reigning monarch Callow has ever seen.”

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Kissaten

      8th crown is going to be Indrani. The one Band took with them into the depths, she is an heir to Ranger and all that. It even has a dramatic weight behind it that’s beyond mere True Love’s Groping.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Wait what?
        (1) Archer is one of many students (and a personal rescue) of Ranger, but how is she “heir”?
        (2) Ranger herself almost certainly wouldn’t qualify as a crown anyway. Isolated sage/teacher is a thing, but it’s not a crown.

        Liked by 3 people

          1. shveiran

            I don’t buy the theory as a whole, but that’s because Archer isn’t an heir. Why wouldn’t Ranger qualify as a Crown? She rules Refuge as a goddess, and has been doing so for decades.
            Granted, it is an unconventional rule, but since when does that matter?
            If Black counts as king of Callow because his autorithy was practically absolute over the land, why wouldn’t Ranger for Refuge?

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Archer doesn’t rule Refuge as a goddess.
              She “rules” Refuge by virtue of the fact that (a) nobody is dumb enough to stand in her way or assert their own claim of rulership over Refuge, and (b) Refuge exists because she enables it to through protection from Fae incursions in her vicinity and because she tacitly allows it to continue to exist through not killing everyone.

              Also, I’m pretty sure she doesn’t actually do all that much on the way of ruling the place, and doesn’t care to be involved in the ruling/running of Refuge, as IIRC, when Archer first shows up to retrieve Hunter, Archer mentions something about Ranger not being happy about needing to be involved in active rulership activities.

              In addition, I’m unconvinced that Refuge constitutes enough of an outpost of civilization to generate a “Right to Rule” over it. There has to be some sort of minimum threshold, after all, and my impression of Refuge is that it’s fairly low in population.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. shveiran

                I agree with most of your points, but the point remains that they are appliable to Black too. She rules it because she is the biggest monster around, but she is still in charge.
                She doesn’t pass laws, but she is still the law of the land as she was.

                It is possible there is a population threshold, and I agree that Refuge seems to be fairly small. But there has been no indication that such a threshold actually exists. This is fairy tale logic, so my bet is that so long as you do rule a place, it counts.

                Like

                1. It’s less population and more cultural narrative. Refuge is not a country, it’s at best a city (more like a small town), and not a city-state. It’s not a polity any more than a random isolated hamlet in the woods that isnt claimed by any tax collectors is.

                  And I suspect Black would not have counted as a King of Callow had Cat not roped him into the ‘sword in the stone’ narrative somewhat retroactively. That’s how what Kairos said sounded to me, and it makes sense.

                  Like

                  1. shveiran

                    I don’t disagree, but “not claimed by anyone (else) ‘s tax collector” is not that far from our definition of an independent state. “Superiorem non recognoscens”, “a state that which doesn’t acknowledge anyplace else as sovereign of itself”.

                    Now, I am just arguing for arguing’s sake here (I don’t really think Refuge’s crown is going to play a part here) but I really think Refuge HAS one.
                    As you said, it is about cultural narrative: Refuge’s people see it as a sovereign place. They don’t think it’s possible for someone to come knocking and say “you are my subjects now”. They feel they are independant and that they are from Refuge.

                    I’ll admit it probably has less weight than an established kingdom, even one (like Callow) that has not been acknowledged as one by what passes for the international community of the Guideverse.
                    I’m simply arguing it could pass as a Crown. It isn’t as far removed from the norm as other theories that have been thrown around.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. Hm.

                      I can see that if I squint hard enough yeah, and guideverse narrative IS all about squinting hard enough, so yeah. You’re probably right. IF Ranger were here AND for some reason were inclined to help, she probably could.

                      Like

            2. Refuge doesn’t have a crown, it’s a fucking campground. You might as well take any sergeant and claim that they ‘rule’ their line therefore they have a crown.

              Also, yes, Indrani isn’t her heir XD

              Like

              1. shveiran

                Well, YES, but so what?

                I’d expect One Eye and Istrid didn’t have a palace, but despite cultural differences they still had a “right to rule” over their tribes.

                The culture is key. And Refuge’s is very specific. A monarch trying to rule a Principate from a tent would see his authority diminished for it, but a Chieftain or Matron doesn’t need a palace to rule.

                Like

    2. Sorry, but Cordelia is pretty much crackfic, if only because she’s nowhere near the scene and doesn’t have any magical abilities such that she could get here.

      “Obviously” Cat chooses the crown, which means it may yet be subject to enemy action — but not until after Cat summons Larat. Until then, she can just veto unwanted contenders. But this is also in context of Cat’s story-fu and magical battles against the Dead King, which we will learn the results of in future installments. Not necessarily Monday, as this seems a likely place to put an Interlude for Pilgrim and Archer. Which should be worth the cliffhanger, because those two make a really odd couple.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. ninegardens

        Okay, new plan, just to screw with everyone:
        Use one of the various plot relevant crowns as crown number, and then pick one of the Procean crowns out for the PLUS ONE.

        Like

  14. Repeating things and taking credit for the idea

    If she takes away DK’s power over King Edward, then his crown becomes an untainted 8th. Using that refurbished crown as the “and One” would be a clean resolution to move the larger plot along but lacks significance.

    It solves the immediate narrative challenge of how to feed Larat without preventing Dread Emperor Benevolent, sacrificing Callow, getting in a blood feud with Levant, or requiring the end of Kairos (who is too adorable to waste on a minor plot point, and whose villainous monologue is winning the day).

    I am unclear whether Masego needs to be the Big Bad of the Level, rather than Larat. If Archer saves Masego now through the Power of Love, then there is no reason to preserve Saint beyond this battle.

    I predict that Masego will be taken out of comission for the Larat battle (unconscious and protected by Archer – maybe ported back to the Observatory?) and the Band of Five against Larat will be Cat, Kairos, Tariq, Rogue Sorcerer, and EITHER Saint or Edward.

    Killing Saint here for the surprise crown would be so much more cathartic than offing her in some random duel later with SwordStaffPrayer. Using Edward feels like a Deus ex Machina to preserve a boring, stupid, distracting secondary character now buried under death flags and foreshadowing. I hope we see surprise Saint murder instead, and Edward laid to rest in Liese-Callow with proper funeral rites after he uses an Aspect to wriggle Cat free from a personalized trap sprung by Larat. Larat HAS to have something customized for her…

    Best outcome: Cat starts to grab Edward’s crown, Saint thinks any use of undead is Evil and doesn’t want DK or Sve Noc to shape the realm, thinks Cat’s crown fits best since it is why she was in Callow was to take the crown from Evil. Cat has to defend herself against Saint and uses SwordStaffPrayer. Tariq is not there, and Tariq’s offer has no value with Edward there. Saint’s head rolls, Larat strolls up to her crown plus seven and, newly empowered, terminates Masego-DK’s armies on a caprice. Party of Five including Edward goes to bat against Larat.

    Other observations:

    Kairos changing his mind constantly (Skein forecasts) and stopping short of seeking actual unequivocal victory (Rend) is the path of The First Step of the Plan Always Works. He is a brilliant villain.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The staffswordprayer is going to be used to save Saint, not kill her, calling it now. At some point foreshadowing becomes subversion bait instead.

      Also, Benevolent is a historical Dread Emperor who does not map to Black in any way because of the presence of High Lords in his epigraphs.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’ve considered the saving the Saint theory for a while now, and the main issue here is the anti-synergy with the Pilgrim’s shtick. It is not impossible, but I admit I do not see a simple non-contrived for that to happen.

        Liked by 3 people

            1. To the contrary: that’s exactly why the split. Catherine and Tariq on the same team are somewhat redundant because their capabilities overlap. And now that he’s not there is exactly when a story giving Catherine a chance to show off how she can do what would otherwise be his job would arise :3

              Keep in mind, the Mentor Death trope, for example, is exactly about giving characters a chance to do something the mentor could do better.

              Like

              1. Except they’re still part of the same team of five (+one?) even if they’re currently performing different tasks.

                And it is a required trope that even when such a team separates for a while they always reconvene when important plot happens. If any of them were green then sure, they might get overwhelmed somewhere and provide an opportunity for the wise mentor to show off. But someone like Saint won’t be in mortal danger until the events are ripe for them to reunite again.

                Now that’s not exactly cast in stone, but again, the how to deviate is where I struggle for a good solution.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. PS: Also, the crux of my yesterday’s comment was that as was established in the setting creation does not like repetition. And likewise, each of the members of the Band of Five provides their own unique role and skills to the group. Creation itself will be unwilling to provide opportunities for characters to do Pilgrim-like things for something Pilgrim has effectively copyrighted.

                  It’d be one thing if someone was his foil, but we know Cat isn’t that.

                  Like

                2. In my experience party split up stories are usually used specifically to highlight people’s capabilities separately from each other and how well other members can cover for the absence of one.

                  They won’t have grand new revelations without reuniting, true. But Cat has already managed to broker 3 months of truce out of Neshamah while half the party was away, and they’re expected to save Masego while the rest are doing the distraction. “Being in mortal danger” is not a super big super special event, it’s standard fare for the kind of thing they’re doing. Technically Saint was in mortal danger already if Catherine hadn’t managed to get a ghost army to take the pressure off her.

                  A breaking point in the relationship of two characters is exactly the kind of thing that happens during a party split. Have you seen ATLA, and if you have, do you remember the ‘life changing trips with Zuko’? Like that kind of thing is what splitting the party is FOR.

                  Like

                  1. ATLA is the Airbender thing? Didn’t find it interesting, so I didn’t watch far.

                    Cat brokering deals with ol’ Neshy was them operating on a different meta-level then everyone else. She does this routinely, but it doesn’t directly tie in to the ground meta-level events.

                    And I would argue that the Saint was NOT in fact in mortal danger, and if you think she was you’d be bodied by someone like Black in two moves. Consider that a Chosen can hold the tide against the dead for days given a story, and you can see that Saint wouldn’t get swarmed by demons. You can swarm someone like Saint with demons, then get a Villain to stab her in the back, and she’d still avenge herself and run around for two hours with a dagger in her back before deciding that a lack of blood is suboptimal.

                    The reason she was just holding her own, is largely because a member of her party was already doing things, and so she was content for the time being to be relegated to the background. Having that party member’s plan fail? I’d say Saint would be able to turn around the whole situation by herself, just with the expected consequences of failing to prevent a catastrophe, and maybe not by fighting every single demon in her way in order.

                    And so yes, being in mortal danger IS in fact a special event for a party of this caliber. These are not green heroes, they are all in fact strong enough to have a chance of winning even if they were to invade and stop Masego by themselves without a party of heroes.

                    And while character growth is a very important aspect of splitting the party, I reiterate that not all ways to accomplish that are created equal. Each character has their own defining traits, and one does not just steal the main shtick of another the when they are absent for five minutes. It is actually how a good author can write himself into a corner if they have a group where the characters combination of shticks serves to remove ways to show character growth, forcing the author to make do with hackery to get anywhere.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. Seriously? Protecting other people is now someone’s “main shtick that should not be stolen” and not a pie everyone has got a finger in?

                      BTW, if Cat uses up her staff in the current confrontation with Kairos, I’m counting that for my prediction.

                      (‘Cause our definition of mortal danger clearly doesn’t align, here)

                      Like

  15. Wait.
    I just realized something.
    The Dead King is currently possessing Edward.
    The “Right to Rule” does not have to be voluntarily given up – it can be *taken*.
    Cat is *really good* at taking and repurposing stuff that was owned by her enemies.

    What if Cat is trying to steal the *Dead King’s Right to Rule*? And use it as the “and One”?
    Sure, it’d probably have serious short term downsides … but if the Dead King isn’t allowed to be King anymore …

    Liked by 4 people

    1. That would be abso-fucking-lutely hilarious, but given that invalidating DK’s ability to rule is practically a win button for the protagonists (might not cripple him immediately, but given that IIRC there’s no method to undo that…) I don’t see any way there’s enough narrative weight to pull that off here before they’ve even gotten up north to battle DK there.

      Liked by 5 people

        1. shveiran

          But she wouldn’t. I don’t buy she can take the DK’s right to rule away like that, but if she could, she would have single-handedly taken away his ability to keep his low-key domain. It would cripple him utterly long-term. Anything that followed could be about the death-throes of the Big Bad, not just another skirmish.
          This is “Choosing not to heal Nauk” all over again,only the greater good is a billion times bigger. It could make possible, nay, inevitable to defeat the DK at some point.
          Anyone who considers loss of live as a bad thing, like Cat does, would not exchange that for ANYTHING.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. I don’t think she could keep his right-to-rule; I suspect she could grab onto it, but actually holding onto it for any length of time would be way out of her league; at best she’d get a “King For a Day” story, and probably wouldn’t come out of that too well.

            Feeding DK’s crown to Larat would almost certainly be a Bad Thing:

            1) For starters it would “shape” god!Larat after a king that’s tricker and more intimidating than he ever was to begin with, the literal ruler of a plane of Hell. Given the power boost, killing him might not be an option even for Sve Noc.

            2) If the loss-of-kingship actually stuck: Congratulations Cat, you just destabilized a whole nation beyondCalernia. You were worried about refugees? How about the population of Serenity, pouring through a hellgate with devils hauling their stuff for them. And they might not be too happy about living conditions out in Creation where there’s no god-king to cut the sharp edges off their lives…. And then there’s various devils and undead that would probably come free along with them.

            3) That’s if it sticks, or at least until Neshamah finds some way to counter it. Assuming that feeding the crown to Larat breaks it (nobody’s been worried about god!Larat taking over seven provinces of Procer), some thoughts come to mind:
            a. Simply merging the Crossroads into his Hell, or grabbing god!Larat and dispersing his substance into said Hell.
            b. Assigns one of his Revenants (or somebody from the Serenity) to rule over Keter.
            c. If the loss of Kingship in Keter deprives him of his foothold in Creation, he can “retire” to being god of Serenity (with local kings), and wait for some unwary soul to invoke him… not so different from where he was before.

            Liked by 2 people

  16. 1224

    So I started thinking about why Cat and Karios play off each other so well and I realized at least part of has to do with the fact that they are foils of each other.

    For example Cat is known for her practical evil and behind the veneer of a plan is her exploiting chaos, making it up as she goes along, and out right bluffing.

    With Karios is known for being a villain’s villian. Behind his attempts at obvious villian plots and seemingly random acts of evil is a plan.

    Cat tends to perfer twisting the truth rather than outright lying. She’ll often tell the truth when she’s expected to lie knowing the people around her won’t beleive her and during her having power of winter couldn’t lie outside of specific wording. When she does lie, it’s often such a boldface lie that people beleive there must be something else going on (exemplified by her tricking the Fae by writing a blatantly false invitation)

    Karios, on the other hand, is known for being dishonest. As I saw someone quote in an earlier commment “you can always trust a dishonest man to be dishonest”. Practically everything he says is him lying, yet it manages to hide his goals– people tend to dismiss him as a lying lair who lies and don’t bother to think about how he’s lying or what exactly he’s lying about. It also makes him less credible (which Cat used to make herself sound more believable when she was talking to the party about what happened to Masego) but honestly I think that’s the point.

    There’s also their orgins. Cat was an orphan who wanted to change Callow for the better and so sought power. We know she had that ambition long before the story began, because she’s clearly been saving for a while. Also in the beginning of the story she is, for a lack of a better word, adopted by a father figure mentor charcter.

    Kairos on the other hand was born into royalty, although we can argue both didn’t have particularly legitimate claims. Unlike Cat, Kairos in his extra chapter doesn’t seem to have much ambition, not until the generals and such came to him ploting treason. Also unlike Cat, he is desperately trying to find value in the House of Light before he rejects it, where as Cat was mentioned to skip sermons and only really studying the the Book of All Things after she became a villian. The chapter ends with the implication that he rose to power by killing his father, who clearly put as little effort as possible into raising Kairos.

    Anything I missed?

    Liked by 5 people

  17. Enjou

    Seems like the Good King’s crown might make a good one for shaping the realm, now that Cat has taken him away from the Dead King. If he was connected to the Dead King still, that’d be a problem, since the shape of the new realm would be overly influenced by the Dead King’s power over the Good King.

    Now though? You’ve got a crown of a Callowan king who was enslaved by the Big Bad for a long, long time. Small slights bring long prices, so what do you think a huge slight like that gets you? Freed from the Big Bad by another Callowan monarch, the crown would be used to make realm intended to be used in order to fight the Dead King.

    Liked by 4 people

  18. Ephemeral

    Anyone think that the whole thing is a trap?
    Cat is fairly well known for usurping her opponents powers and the whole thing feels kind of convenient…
    Not saying that’s definitely what’s going on but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Dead King is counting on her usurping control over King Edward…

    Liked by 3 people

  19. Andrew Mitchell

    For all those that are rooting for a true resurrection of King Edward, I’ve just noticed another supporting clue. Someone else may have noticed this already but I don’t recall seeing it mentioned.

    Look at the chapter’s opening quote

    Forgiveness is a scale balanced, nothing more and nothing less.
    – King Edward Fairfax the Fifth, the Hardhand

    It’s almost like King Edward is giving instructions for what the party needs to do to use Pilgrim’s Forgive aspect.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Here’s what Edward the Seventh had to say:
        > “Stand tall, Queen Catherine,” King Edward the Seventh told me. “Stand proud. We have been broken before, humbled and rent asunder. We have crawled through the blood of our kin and suffered the yoke of tyrants. It does not matter. We do not yield, we do not bend even when the sky comes tumbling down on our heads. Keep your grudges close, child, and never forget them. We are Callowans, and for every slight there is a price.”

        Liked by 3 people

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