Interlude: Repudiation

“It is written that the Hidden Horror sent envoy to the Iron King Tancred, threatening that should he not strike the banners over Hannoven and open the gates the city would be stormed and burned to ash. So did Tancred Papenheim then send back a single torch, with on the side engraved three words: ‘if you can’.”
– Extract from ‘Crowned In Iron’, a compendium of Lycaonese histories assembled by Prince Alexandre of Lyonis

It was like watching two enemy Hells trying to devour each other.

The Revenant – stolen from the Dead King, she’d thought, by the grim patrons of the Black Queen – that had once been a king of Callow spoke in a voice like a clarion call and the dead of this accursed place answered. Laurence watched, jaw clenched, as a coursing tide of wraiths made of silver and shade rose from the scarred ground. Mere dozens, first, but that swelled into hundreds and then thousands before more than a handful of heartbeats had passed. Those were not soldiers, the Saint saw. There were children and elderly among them, men and women whose hazy silhouettes bore no arms save angry hands. And oh, how angry they were. The rage of them was a clamour and a song, the weight of it making the air feel taut. Thousands of voices, of silhouettes, moving like a seething river of souls to tear at devils and dead alike. Laurence splattered the blood of another devil on the ground with a flick of the wrist, catching its clumsy strike and sending its head tumbling down with the riposte, and without hesitation began to move. Not towards the Black Queen, whose lone silhouette was surrounded by an island of stillness, or the other Revenant. No, roughly forcing aside any spirit that in their advance got in her way Laurence de Montfort headed for the imprisoned soul of the Carrion Lord.

She’d seen it when they first broke through the maze of the Skein, still pilloried in that clever silver artefact the Sorcerer had crafted for them, and she could not allow it to be claimed by anyone else’s hands. Allowing the Tyrant to keep it was pointless – even when Theodosian had stolen it earlier he’d not proved to be a least a modicum useful by destroying the soul himself – and it was out of the question for Foundling to be allowed to reclaim the Black Knight. Tariq had allowed himself to savour the taste of hope for the first time in too long, and grow drunk off it, but Laurence would not lower her guard so easily. It was difficult to advance, to the Saint’s displeasure, for though the wraiths were but lesser dead and ignored her even when jostled they streamed forward heedlessly. It was like swimming in death, and more than once Laurence found her sight obscured by the flows. The devils who’d been in the courtyard were ripped apart within moments, she’d seen, harsh hands clawing at them and wailing mouths biting down on flesh. The Skein was not destroyed, but from what she could glimpse it was being drowned in sheer numbers. Foundling, at least, had not moved from her perch.

Stumbling over broken stones and just one more push away from beginning to hack at the bloody wraiths no matter the consequences, Laurence finally broke into what had been the Horned Lord’s nest of ruins and found Amadeus of the Green Stretch still imprisoned. And gagged, thank the Gods for that – if she had to hear a single other sly barb from that viperous tongue she’d cut it out of his mouth. Another company of wraiths flowed before her, cutting her path, and she felt like screaming but she was too close to draw attention to herself now. Only, through two passing spirits she saw a tall shadow standing by the villain. In the flickering lights she could not be sure, but Laurence could have sworn its face had been painted purple. Feeling her stomach drop, the Saint dropped all pretences of subtlety and harshly forced her way through the wraiths. Several swiped at her with angry hands, though when she continued pushing forward they lost interest and returned to their war instead of pursuing. She’d been too later, the Saint saw. The drow that’d been standing by the prisoner snapped closed the silvery artefact that’d been unfolded into a pillory, now no larger than forearm, and with an amused silver glance at her it took a single step forward into nothingness. Bordel, Laurence silently cursed. That was Foundling’s little attendant, wasn’t it? The one she’d called Ivon, or maybe Iva. The Saint, fingers tight around the grip of her sword, turned her gaze to the Black Queen.

She was still standing alone on the rise, that many-coloured cloak flapping around her from the wind of the wraiths flowing around her. Hair long and unbound, her limp grown more pronounced and nowadays leaning on some sort of walking stick, she seemed nothing like the angry mutilated child Laurence had tried to put down at the Battle of the Camps. Catherine Foundling had yet to strike a single blow with a blade since she’d returned to Iserre from her journeys, the rumours went. And she had grown more dangerous for it. All night they’d danced to her tune, the Saint thought, glancing at where the Black Knight had been spirited away before she could take him back, down to this very last note. You don’t know what you’re bargaining with here, Tariq, she appraised. Setting a wolf on a tiger only has two beasts prowling the wilds, wounded and twice as vicious. Yet the time had not come where Laurence would bare her blade to redress yet another mistake made by kinder or weaker souls, so her longsword returned to the sheath. Climbing up the mound of ruins, the Saint came to stand by the side of the rising villain of their age. The woman remained silent, eyes on her dead countrymen now taking the battle to the devils pouring out of the open hellgates. Among the horde, the crowned Revenant led the charge with a shining blade.

“How did you know it would work?” Laurence asked.

The look on Foundling’s face was strange, almost subdued on a face that seemed to have been carved from hard edges with the razor-sharp cheekbones and too-strong nose. Even grief looked harsh on a face like that, much better suited for the sharp grins and cold stares the Black Queen was infamously known for.

“It always does,” Catherine Foundling said, “when you make it hurt a little.”

Laurence’s lips pulled back in disdain.

“Does it sting that much, to have had to borrow another’s hand?” the Saint said. “You’ve not been shy in doing so tonight.”

Though perhaps it struck closer to home, that even being crowned in Laure had not been enough to give the warlord a fraction of the pull the long-dead Fairfaxes had on her people. It was no great endorsement of her reign, that she’d had to use the name and Name of another for that working.

“This city is a mass grave dug by my failures,” the Black Queen replied, tone remote. “And yet here I am, walking its grounds once more. How many more, I wonder, will it take before I have been made to look that failing in the eye enough?”

Laurence hesitated, for though it was a monster she spoke to in that moment she sympathized with the woman more than she’d thought would ever be possible. Because this was not a smirking, victorious puppeteer tugging at all their strings. That distant bleakness she knew well. It came from the same place that had the Saint of Swords wondering what might have changed, if she’d arrived a sennight early instead of late. If she might have slain the beast when it’d taken a handful instead of a village, if she’d found Isodorios when the dragonblood first began to decay instead of after the red had taken him. What if, that old and tireless flagellant’s whip.

“It’ll never leave you,” the Saint said, not unkindly.

It was honest, which was the highest courtesy she had to offer the likes of Catherine Foundling.

“I don’t suppose it will, no,” the Black Queen quietly admitted.

There were a few heartbeats of silence, left unfilled by either of them, before the old woman grew impatient.

“And now what?” Laurence asked.

“We’re a distraction, Saint,” Foundling reminded her. “And I would say that the enemy is suitably distracted, at the moment.”

“The Skein’s not finished,” Laurence replied. “It’ll take more than wraiths to put it down.”

“See to it, if you’d like,” the younger woman shrugged. “Take the Tyrant and the Sorcerer if you please.”

“You’re not going to lend a hand,” the Saint grunted. “What a helpful hand you make.”

Theodosian was probably enough on his own to entirely bury the Horned Lord’s oracular insights instead of simply muddy them the way Laurence’s own domain would, but it’d go quicker with a priestess or ruin keeping the Revenant contained while those of them better-versed in killing the dead put an end to the abomination.

“I’ll be headed inside, should King Edward succeed at breaching the wards on the inner palace,” Foundling casually said.

“Should?” Laurence asked.

“Depends whose wards they are,” the Black Queen grunted. “Let’s hope they’re still using the Diabolist’s work as the base, otherwise it’ll be like trying to topple a rampart by throwing eggs at it.”

Further hellgates opened above them, devils pouring in. The victorious battle for the courtyard finished with the Tyrant of Helike, laughing maniacally as he shot streaks of a fire from a jeweled sceptre at a hissing and fleeing Skein swatting away the dead pursuing it – they had, Laurence saw, ripped away great swaths of fur and eaten the flesh like hungry ghosts – until the Horned Lord leapt over the cliff’s edge of that was the end of the ducal palace. In the distance the dead king of Callow raised his sword at the sky filling with fire and brimstone, and grimly declared war upon it.

The dead obeyed.

Laurence waited. There was ending coming, she could feel it. And when the moment came, she would be ready to meet it as it should be met.

Tariq had faced many a villain in his time, and not always with Light and strife. Often words could bring greater good in the world than a harsher touch, if they were the right ones, and so it might just be the truth that there was no living on Calernia who had spoken with more villains than he. The quiet ones, he’d found, tended to be the most dangerous. Those who did not feel the need to boast or fill a silence oft had greater designs occupying their thoughts, and so proved more perilous adversaries. This was no cast iron rule, however. For example, it would have been a lie to say that Kairos Theodosian was not one of the deadliest Bestowed he’d encountered over the years and the boy simply could not stomach holding his tongue. Still, the tendency was pronounced and though the Woe were as peculiar a band of villains as their infamous predecessors when Tariq had first assessed the Archer her constant chatter had encourage him to dismiss her as an ancillary threat when she was without the guiding hand of the Black Queen at her back. A skilled and seasoned killer, mind you, with a way bow in hand that might as well be sorcery. But not a true danger, like the brilliant mind behind the brutish face of the Adjutant or the eerily innocent atrocities the Hierophant had it in him to commit.

He had been wrong in this.

While it was true that the Archer – Indrani, as she’d casually confirmed she was named – was loquacious, the Pilgrim had beheld what went on behind the smiles and the swagger and it had him unsettled. The Archer’s thoughts and feelings shifted constantly, mercurial as the tides, yet there was a bedrock beneath them that was as subtle as it was watchful. It had had taken him the better part of an hour, for one, to put the finger on what a particular association between a part of that bedrock and amusement directed at him meant. Namely, that the smiling young woman was considering she might have to kill him in the future. Without feeling so much as a speck of guilt over it. It would have been easier to swallow, Tariq would admit to himself, if the Archer were a coldblooded devil like some of the monsters wearing human skin he’d had to face. Incapable of joy or fondness in more than shallow ways, though it had to be said that no all such constrained the Pilgrim had met were monstrous or even particularly nefarious. Yet the young woman was not. Deep affection and something like an intricate manner of loyalty had bloomed in her, when she’d spoken with the Black Queen, as well as something he had uncomfortably placed as lust. Something more romantic in nature emerged when mention was made of the Hierophant, though it was paired with a manner of wonder that implied to him the admission there was still fresh.

Indrani the Archer was, he knew by virtue of his aspect, a pleasant if hedonistic young woman would not even slightly hesitate to slit his throat if she judged him a threat or was asked to by someone she trusted. The knowledge was made even more unsettling by the way that wheedling information out of her was ludicrously easy, though the bedrock beneath that ease missed nothing of the nature of the questions being asked. Perceptive, this one, even though she was already on her second flask of Levante monteron since they’d left the rest of the band. That she remained mostly sober after drinking that much hard liquor was notable even in one Bestowed, though given the appearance he suspected she had murdered outriders from Lord Marave’s army for them. Possibly she had killed them entirely for the flasks, for her fieldcraft was not the kind anyone with mundane eyes would easily see through no matter how skilled those eyes.

“- so we signed it as ‘the King of Winter’, since none of us knew the name, but the real important part here is that she called me a sullen wench,” Archer said. “Sullen, really, can you believe that? The nerve of her sometimes.”

Tariq set aside a concern, namely that he had been repeatedly outmanoeuvered by a young woman whose notion of a ruse fit to enter the seat of the Winter Court was a lie so blatant the fae would hesitate to call her out on it, and addressed a more pressing one. Such as the fact that, while Indrani was gesticulating, she was not keeping both hands on the sheer cliff they were climbing. Something of an issue, as she was the lead climber but if she fell the same rope she used to help him up would help drag him down to his death.

“Should you truly be this cavalier with the handholds?” he asked in a strangled tone.

“Don’t worry about it,” Archer dismissed. “We’re almost there anyway.”

“And that will be solid ground, yes?” the Grey Pilgrim faintly asked.

“Bit of a slope, but pretty much yeah,” the young woman cheerfully said. “Used to be a secret escape tunnel, when this was still Liesse the city instead of Diabolist’s flying magic tantrum. Nobles, right? They’re like moles, always digging tunnels to get out when the going gets rough.”

“And you’re certain it was not found by either the Diabolist or the Hierophant?” Tariq pressed.

“Like, at least half certain,” she badly winked. “Seriously though, it used to lead into Hengest Lake. Had to take a swim in there to flee through, and no villain could possibly take a dip in there. Cat says there was some spare angel corpse lying around inside.”

“The Hashmallim that was tricked into perdition by Dread Emperor Traitorous,” the Pilgrim agreed. “It is well-known, in some circles. He was one of the only two Praesi rulers to successfully harm a Choir.”

“No shit?” Archer said, sending him a serious glance. “Had no idea what kind of an angel bone it was, don’t think the others did either. Anyways, Diabolist slapped a massive cliff in front of this entire part of the city when she landed it to make it easier to defend it so it was buried until Zeze stole it again. We’re the only two people who know about the passage, as far as I know, which is pretty far ‘cause I got good eyes.”

“No shit,” the Grey Pilgrim solemnly confirmed.

Though he was missing much of the context that would be needed to decipher the nuances of the information she had so easily volunteered, he was appreciative of the way she was dragging him up the cliff even as she spoke. Tariq was rather less spry than he used to be, and had never been much of a climber besides. He’d more than once fallen while climbing Sintra’s balcony, though he’d never used the stepladder she’d once ordered set against the wall in what was very much open mockery. The Pilgrim glanced down the sheer cliff, not in the slightest enjoying the fresh reminder that was he was currently dangling down a rope above the height of storm clouds. If he fell down that, it would be more than pride and a planting of bluebells that would sting of it.

“So who was the other?” Archer asked, wedging her boot into a crevice and nimbly hoisting herself up.

“The other?” Tariq asked.

“Praesi ruler,” the young woman clarified.

“Ah, that would be Triumphant if the old histories are to be believed,” he answered.

His tone was a little hurried, as the rope had grown taut with her rising and he’d done his best to follow her path.

“Ah, Triumphant,” Archer hummed. “Now there was a real horror. She’s always fun to read about, isn’t she?”

If one enjoyed pages depicting a procession of brutal massacres and subjugation, culminating in hubris so flagrant it moved not one but two empires on the other side of the Tyrian Sea to wage war on her. Which Tariq did not, for all that the learning of history was important. Praesi histories tended to be sickening, as a rule, a parade of savageries always trying to exceed the last. Dread Empress Triumphant had been the worst of that lot by a fair margin, and one did not need to read of her attempted annihilations in the Chain of Hunger and the Titanomachy to be disgusted. Even the atrocities she’d resorted to in the cowing of the powerful Alamans tribes that’d dwelled on the shores of Lake Artoise were worthy of revulsion, and they’d been but a pale shadow of what she’d inflicted on Callow.

“If you say so,” the Pilgrim replied.

Indrani did not pay his answer any heed, for she was making vaguely pleased noises and wedging herself against outcroppings – only to move swiftly from side to side, rising up as far as the rope allowed and swinging a leg over what appeared to be the ground floor of a tunnel. She rolled back and helped up Tariq, putting those muscled arms to work hoisting up his wizened frame. They unhooked the rope, after that, and the Pilgrim wove the slightest sliver of Light into a globe.

“You don’t know the trick for seeing in the dark?” Archer asked him, looking surprised.

“The Light reveals many enchantments as well,” Tariq told her, “and subtleties that leaning on one’s Bestowal does not. Best we advance cautiously, yes?”

“I suppose,” she said. “Might be the Callowans put up some-“

She paused, or perhaps it might be more accurate to say she was interrupted. Her senses were sharp, but Tariq had more to rely on that what his frail mortal shell could provide: the Ophanim whispered into his ear, urgent but not disapproving. Above them, Liesse shook and a rampant clamour was distantly heard.

“Well,” Indrani said. “It looks like slow and careful just took a leap down that cliff.”

“So it did,” the Grey Pilgrim murmured.

“Look at the bright side, Peregrine,” Archer cheerfully said. “Nobody does distraction like Catherine.”

180 thoughts on “Interlude: Repudiation

      1. naturalnuke

        “To be redeemed one must have at least one redeemable quality. Addendum: Yes, even if a choir is involved.”

        Think we just learned where this came from.

        Liked by 10 people

  1. Lol. Tariq’s wishing he wasn’t involved in this right about now.

    Ah, Indrani, never change.

    Though, I admit, I’d probably be worried about Archer going hands free in climbing off I were in Tariq’s place. On the other hand, she may drink more than anyone except the Wandering Bard, but Archer does know what she can and can’t do.

    I wonder how what Tariq learns from Archer will affect his views on Cat and company.

    Liked by 14 people

  2. Someguy

    “The Hashmallim that was tricked into perdition by Dread Emperor Traitorous,” the Pilgrim agreed. “It is well-known, in some circles. He was one of the only two Praesi rulers to successfully harm a Choir.”

    Hail Dread Emperor Traitorous!

    Liked by 29 people

      1. KageLupus

        Hashmallim are the Angels of Contrition, right? So that means that Traitorous was able to trick an Angel into thinking he was contrite and wanted to atone for his many, many sins. Then turned that around and screwed the Angel in the process.

        A quick definition of perdition says it is ” a state of eternal punishment and damnation into which a sinful and unpenitent person passes after death”. So that now sounds very much like Traitorous managed to switch places with an Angel and have it get punished in his place.

        Liked by 9 people

          1. NerfContessa

            Wow…. We must hear more about how he did that.

            I mean the angels here are. So far out moralitywise this should be even more impossible than it would be with “regular” Angels….

            Traitorous remains immensely cool.


    1. SITB

      “Traitorous’s Law: while redemption is the greatest victory one can achieve over a villain, to function it does require the villain to have at least a single redeemable quality.
      Addendum: Yes, even if a Choir is involved.”
      – Extract from ‘The Axiom Appendix’, multiple contributors

      Liked by 29 people

  3. Stormblessed

    I loved the part where Tariq reacted to the story of the Woe’s way into Skade and how they lied so blatantly to get there. That was deeply satisfying, as was his general confusion about why Archer was so cavalier in giving out information when Cat was so clamored and tip lipped.

    Basically, Cat says only what is useful and what she wants him to know, but Archer tells him everything but what is useful and what he would want to know.

    Liked by 20 people

      1. To be fair, Cat counted on that in her calculations – they were brought to Skade when trying to return to Marchford, and that’s as blatant and invitation as it gets. She was not technically lying!

        Liked by 12 people

    1. Amoonymous

      This is a great point. She only mentioned the plan and not the reasons behind it (e.g. they essentially WERE invited by the King as they could only move towards Skade, or that they only used that plan to buy time to figure out what they were going to do – not with the intent to destroy Winter).

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Novice

    I fucking love Traitorous, man. Of course he fucking tricked an angel. I should have known he had it in him ever since reading the excerpt about Traitorous passing off as his Chancellor with a wig and a pair of cantaloupes. If he could trick the viper’s nest that is the imperial court, he could trick an angel.

    Liked by 17 people

    1. erebus42

      Personally, I prefer the story of him starting a secret cabal set on overthrowing him, him usurping the throne from himself, and then preceding to betray his co-conspirators. As for the angel? Of course he had it in him. And we all know why he did it right?
      Because he could and because it wouldn’t have seen it coming.

      Liked by 19 people

      1. sutortyrannus

        “My dear friends, I have a confession to make. Some creative reframing of the truth may have taken place during the planning of this coup.”
        – Dread Emperor Traitorous, addressing the Order of the Unholy Obsidian upon successfully usurping the throne from himself

        Gotta love it.

        Liked by 17 people

  5. Kissaten

    >“The Hashmallim that was tricked into perdition by Dread Emperor Traitorous,” the Pilgrim agreed. “It is well-known, in some circles. He was one of the only two Praesi rulers to successfully harm a Choir.”

    Bullying doesn’t count as harming, eh

    Liked by 14 people

  6. Alivaril

    “The Hashmallim that was tricked into perdition by Dread Emperor Traitorous,” the Pilgrim agreed. “It is well-known, in some circles. He was one of the only two Praesi rulers to successfully harm a Choir.”

    More proof that Traitorous is the best emperor known to Praes. Villains are immortal unless killed; how do we know that he hasn’t been every other Emperor/Empress since then? Even the Malacia interludes could just be an Aspect intended to trick even himself. [/s]

    Liked by 13 people

      1. He’s Named. He has to have known the trick for ignoring poisons.
        But it didn’t stop him from being responsible for hiring one of the poisoners, tricking a cabal into hiring the second, and living another life as the third one.

        Liked by 20 people

  7. Dainpdf

    Perhaps not quite like her, but I believe both Robber and Kairos to be quite good at distractions.

    And nice to see Saint and Cat pseudo bonding. Also? Yoink! Poor Vivi, got substituted by Ivah.

    Liked by 10 people

    1. Sylwoos

      Cat’s opinion of a diversion is putting your house in fire, ambush you as you’re trying to flee, then punch you repeatedly in the face. All that for somebody to sneak in the back entrance and steal your cupcake before the fire get to them.

      Liked by 6 people

    2. Kissaten

      Cat is a Thief in a sense, too. Vivi’s shtick was stealing stuff so large one couldn’t believe it being stolen, like, fleets of ships, suns and months worth of supplies, as well as entire treasuries. Cat’s is to take others’ aspects and roles. Ivah is not so much stealing as tying loose ends, it doesn’t achieve ridiculous feats, just loots what was lying around on the floor unclaimed.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Dainpdf

        Cat’s thing is Taking, not Stealing. Important distinction.

        And this just *was* a yoink moment. Casually appearing from stealth to steal a thing and in the process ruin someone’s plan.

        Liked by 2 people

      1. ATRDCI

        Nah, Laurence specifically said that there’s been very little activity from Skein compared to the other Horned Lords, and connects this with Cats reveal that it’s a Revenant for the Dead King.

        Liked by 3 people

    1. P

      So did Tancred Papenheim then sent back a single torch, with on the side engraved three words: ‘if you can’.”

      And here is the difference that I’ve seen between the Lycaonese and the Callowans laid bare. The good people of Callow would have sent two words; an imperative verb relating to copulation and some form of a second person pronoun.

      They don’t seem to care about being witty, or pretty, or brave. Callow only seems to care about seeing their enemies defeated. It doesn’t matter if the have to salt their own lands, eat boot leather for a year, and then slash their own throats; so long as the other guy loses as well they don’t care. Even William was a perfect example of them, he was so suicidal that __despite__ the skills his Name implied, the Choir of Contrition still had to give him an ability to resurrect himself.

      Hell, even Edward Fairfax, given the chance to repay the indignity of being a slave beyond death was willing to accept what a woman who had had ties to Winter described as “unkind” solely to spit in his former master’s face. I honestly doubt that he even cared if it would actually accomplish anything, the chance to potentially knife his enemy in the toe is too much for their brand of insanity to ignore. And neither Laurence or Tariq understand. But that’s to be expected, they’re not Callowan.

      Liked by 23 people

      1. Not just Edward; every last citizen of Liesse gets a “kick arse, take Names, make the bastards who would use you without asking effing well pay” invite.

        I think most only didn’t rise in under three seconds because they had to slip their happy-dance pumps off and reach for the hotmail boots. Those who did rise immediately already were tooled-up and ready to rumble. Probably because they had died in the middle of a brawl?

        Liked by 4 people

  8. IDKWhoitis

    Although probably boring in comparison, I do wonder what the armies in Creation are up to. Like is Juniper planning a rapid retreat if need be? Or is she negotiating with the Lev commander?

    Is Viv talking with the Drow?

    Liked by 7 people

  9. The poetry of Cat bypassing the certain trap that was using the dead spirits of Liesse by passing the buck off to the dead Fairfax King of Callow, whose claim to those spirits supercedes even that of the Dead King’s, is just beautiful. Especially considering she nabbed him from the Dead King.

    Also, dang, she really gave the King the best way to go out he could possibly hope for, didn’t she? Leading dead Callowans in death against the Dead King, when in life Callowan dead under the Dead King’s control were probably what killed him.

    Liked by 20 people

  10. superkeaton

    The Woe are a bad influence on poor little Tariq. First they gave him hope, now he’s swearing. By the end of this, he’ll trade angels and miracles for crows and backsass. Also, I appreciate that the more he learns of Catherine’s “negotiations” and “plans”, the more frustrated he gets.

    Liked by 13 people

  11. Hashmallim: Repent! Repent! Repent!

    Traitorous: My good friends, I deeply and sincerely regret my previous actions. Let me repent by bringing a new age of justice and enlightenment to the Dread Empire. *crosses fingers behind his back*

    Liked by 19 people

    1. Draconic

      I think that was a lie. It was just a new age of contrition, not justice and enlightenment.
      After all, a new age of justice and enlightenment should include dead angels of justice and enlightenment buried under Praesi cities.

      Liked by 4 people

  12. NerfGlastigUaine

    Traitorous is awesome, but I’m still cheering on my man Kairos, the second-gen Traitorous. I believe that one day, he will out-traitor Traitorous. In fact, one of his schemes will be to resurrect Traitorous just to betray him, only to reveal it was a distraction for his real plan to kill the Gods by baking the world’s largest cake, only to reveal he is in fact a disguised Traitorous sans cantaloupes but with red contact lens instead – you know, for the vampire vibe – only to reveal that Traitorous was/is actually a time-travelling Kairos all along! Kaitarous wins once again!

    Liked by 18 people

    1. ATRDCI

      My dear friend, how could you think so little of Kairos, our most steadfast ally, that you presume his plan to be so paltry as to not include breaking Dread Emperor Sorcerous from his prison in the moon?

      Liked by 5 people

  13. sutortyrannus

    “It is written that the Hidden Horror sent envoy to the Iron King Tancred, threatening that should he not strike the banners over Hannoven and open the gates the city would be stormed and burned to ash. So did Tancred Papenheim then send back a single torch, with on the side engraved three words: ‘if you can’.”
    – Extract from ‘Crowned In Iron’, a compendium of Lycaonese histories assembled by Prince Alexandre of Lyonis

    “If”. Great reference, one of my favourite stories from Ancient Greek history – right up there with “Molon Labe”.

    Great chapter, love these Interludes.

    Liked by 12 people

      1. sutortyrannus

        Quote’s a parallel to the story about how Phillip II of Macedon (Alexander the Great’s father) threatened the Spartans with invasion with something along the lines of “You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city.”

        The Spartan response was “If”.

        Liked by 10 people

  14. King Edward: “ARISE MY PEOPLE!”
    Callowan shades: “ROWR!”
    Neshamah (probably): “WTF?!?! Oh, shit…”

    Kairos: “YEE-HAW!”
    Skein the giant undead ratling: “AAAHHH, they’re crawling all over me they’re eating me get them off get them off me AAAHHHH”… <jumps off cliff>
    Rogue Sorcerer (probably): “Anybody seen my casting rod?”

    Laurence: “Hmm, I better get Black’s soul while everyone’s distracted” … “Dammit, Cat!”
    Cat: “A big mistake’s never really over, is it?”
    Laurence: “Nope.” <Looks up> “or on second thought…”

    Pilgrim: “What fresh hell is this?”
    Archer: “That’s my Cat!”

    Liked by 18 people

  15. Draconic

    Some typos I found, though a few of them might be as intended:

    not proved to be a least a modicum -> at least
    She’d been too later -> too late
    with a priestess or ruin -> priestess of ruin?
    there was no living -> no one living?
    predecessors when Tariq -> predecessors, when Tariq
    with a way bow in hand that might as well be sorcery -> with a way with the bow (Maybe? I think this sentence needs some more checking)
    that no all such constrained -> not all such
    young woman would not -> young woman, who would not
    ruse fit to ender -> endear?
    reminder that was he was -> that he was
    more to rely on that what his -> than what his

    Thanks as always!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Morgenstern

      until the Horned Lord leapt over the cliff’s edge of that was the end of the ducal palace -> edge of WHAT was
      -> OR: edge that was [no “of”]


  16. Also, Ivah’s reappearance reminds us that Cat still has access to Creation through the Night. Probably doesn’t even need a true gate, since one bird’s with Cat, while the other is with Akua. Looks like Cat’s banking her first winnings: Black still needs to actually be restored; if Akua can do that, it might be done before the band gets back!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Insanenoodlyguy

      Leads to a dramatic reveal at the right moment. We dont see or hear from him again till the peace conference. “What of Praes?” Asks cordelia or some such, and in walks The Claiment.

      Liked by 4 people

  17. shveiran

    Mhm, it seems I may have to retract my previous commending of Laurence’s steps.
    It seems she is still quite certain that any deal with Cat is temporary and she needs to be put down hard as soon as humanly possible.

    It suggests her bantering is either an attempt at lulling her into a false sense of security (which is more intrigue than I would expect, but admittedly not that complex a facade that I can’t see her put up) or she giving in to the shape of the “Band of Five” (article 7 of the Band of Five Trope Contract: Hilarious bantering will be partook in by all members no matter how grim the situation) without renouncing her determination to slay her at the first available opportunity.

    I was rather unconvinced by the “Indrani’s love moving Saint to allow a bridge being built” theory, but I’ll admit the Small Slights chapter had me doubt my position. Still, it seems this proves we are still headed to a clash before, if ever, that conflict can be put to rest.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. ATRDCI

      Laurence must first be given temptation, shown how Not So Different her and Cat really are (more so early Cat than current Cat but still)

      Given that this is Laurence, the more convincing the temptation the harder she will reject it because its very existence is just proof that Cat is the Enemy they must be killed never made truce with.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. shveiran

        Yeah, that was pretty much my argument when some suggested she may come around eventually: Saint has (because she lived the life she had and yadda yadda yadda not currently relevant) adopted the stance that “The enemy cannot be reasoned with, and any and all evidences of the contrary are a clever ruse we must not fall for else we pay dearly in ways yet unseen”.
        That stance cannot be countered or changed once it is fully adopted; any argument, proof, doubt or counterpoint will be received as just another trick and therefore not merely discarded but simply ignored as irrelevant.

        I’m not saying she will, necessarily, never come around; but I am certain she won’t SPONTANEOUSLY change her mind based on what she witnesses or is told. Nothing of the sort could persuade her, because any such evidence can be faked.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I would say Laurence’s logic is more like…

          ‘the odds of Cat being a horrible evil villain are 1:100000’
          -shown piece of evidence that makes Cat 10x less likely to be a horrible evil villain-
          ‘ok the odds of Cat being a horrible evil villain are 1:10000’
          -shown piece of evidence that makes Cat 2x less likely to be a horrible evil villain-
          ‘ok the odds of Cat being a horrible evil villain are 1:5000’
          -show piece of evidence that makes Cat 100x less likely to be a horrible evil villain-
          ‘ok the odds of Cat being a horrible evil villain are 1:50’

          proper Bayesian updating, just really, really faraway priors

          Liked by 3 people

            1. I mean I don’t think she thinks in literally those terms lmao

              I just think she does, y’know, think.

              And Cat hasn’t exactly been providing evidence exclusively against her being an evil villain, trope-wise =x

              Liked by 1 person

        2. Insanenoodlyguy

          There’s also the corruption factor, which both her and Tariq have commented on. Namely, the whole “Cat of Tomorrow” problem. Cat, and several villains before her, can and have started with truly noble intentions that make them at least an Anti-Villian. The problem is, the things they do corrupt things. Cat was going to become more and more the Queen of Winter, hungry cold and hollow. Even if she was decent today, that thing she became in a fight would eventually be what she woke up in the morning as (Cat herself woudl agree with this assessment). You didn’t HAVE to kill her because of who she was, but rather because of what she was going to be. Now, she’s avoided that story, sure. But look at it from the outside. Yeah, shes’ not going to become Winter’s Queen anymore. Instead she’s the high priestess of two gods who each have a talon in her soul who become gods from lies, betray, self-consummation and murder. The thing they are looking at is detestably scarier then Winter, and it’s sitting on her damn shoulder and laughing in a weird caw noise much too often for your taste. This is kicking the can down the road and ending up with an even bigger can. Tariq still see’s hope, but as stated, Lawrence sees “If I cut the hand off now, the rot won’t take the whole arm.” it’s not that she’s denying that the hand isn’t completely rotted through, it’s that inevitably (as far as she’s concerned) it’s going to be.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Mhm.

            Remember when after book 4 ended there was a whole panic movement in the comment section about how Cat’s going to be a slave to evil goddesses now?

            What makes us the audience be okay with what’s happening currently is our knowledge of:

            – Komena and Andronike’s backstory and genuinely good intentions;

            – Komena and Andronike’s current priorities;

            – Catherine’s point that she made to them successfully about how Below’s approach fucking sucks;

            – the details of her agreement with them about how SHE tells THEM what to do and not the other way around;

            – the ongoing reiterating conversation that yes, it’s Catherine who gets the last word when they’re being EEEEVIL and she knows better.

            Absolutely NONE of this Saint has so much as a HINT OF A CLUE about.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. shveiran

              Also, that would be a fully unsatisfying ending and we have come to fully trust EE to deliver awesome stories.

              Let’s not kid ourselves here, that’s the main reason. We know it is going to be ok.
              Whereas “ok” may or may not mean “awesome tragedy”, but still, enslaved by Komena and Andronike is really, really not in the cards.

              Liked by 2 people

      2. Rook

        I think you hit the nail on the head right there.

        We know for a fact that Catherine isn’t like the other Villains – by omniscient reader-view into her every thought since she first became the Squire.

        The Saint just has to judge by what she sees, and even though she’s wrong about Catherine now, she’s literally never been wrong before about every other Villain she ever had contact with.

        If that paranoia drives her to strike at Catherine here even when it isn’t warranted, it’d be a tragedy for both of them.

        I’m hoping Catherine finds a way to convince her even a little. If a jaded shell of a person like the Saint can be convinced, it’d be definitive proof that anyone can be. That it’s within Catherine’s power to bridge that gap, no matter how wide.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. werafdsaew

          > she’s literally never been wrong before about every other Villain she ever had contact with.

          How do you even know that for sure? She might have executed people who didn’t need executing and no one would know.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Rook

            Her role is a cleanup crew for horror shows, rather than the prevention of them. She always arrives AFTER everything has already gone to shit.

            Considering this was stated in her own inner monologue (in this very chapter) as well as being outright confirmed Tariq who literally has psychic, semi-omniscient, mind-reading angels on his shoulder, I think it’s safe to say that it’s about as close to an absolute assurance as you could have about any character in the entire series.

            The Saint doesn’t have to guess. There is no ambiguity. Whether she likes it or not, her entire Role is killing the Akuas of the world *after* they’ve committed their second liesses.

            It’s likely that’s actually why she hasn’t, or perhaps even can’t (with any degree of success), taken a swing at Catherine during this latest trip. Cat is a Villain that Laurence absolutely despises, but she hasn’t actually done anything even remotely approaching ‘Evil’ since the band of five was formed. The headsman that beheads irreconcilable monsters doesn’t have any narrative weight behind her swing, when her target isn’t being a monster.

            Liked by 4 people

            1. Y e p.

              It’s interesting, by the way, how her and Tariq’s POVs on her Role differ. He just says ‘oh yeah Heavens send her places as a post-disaster cleanup crew’.

              She places responsibility for arriving late on herself.

              One of them is religious and it’s not Laurence 🙂

              Liked by 3 people

            2. shveiran

              Uhm… no. What we know is that both she and Tariq believe it.

              That’s it.

              Considering Saint is not a balanced observer and Tariq’s insights comes from an angel, there is no particular reason to believe their version is nothing BUT their version.

              Let’s not forget Above assumes anyone on the other side is a wound upon creation, Cat included. Intentions don’t matter, ACTIONS don’t matter (e. g. William), long-term consequences don’t matter.
              All there is, is the flag.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Rook

                The level of reaching here to try framing the Heroes to be in the wrong for everything is becoming so ridiculous it approaches outright stupidity

                Typical Villains being a blight on Creation isn’t some uniquely Above-centric rhetoric. Black himself has explicitly acknowledged this, and he’s a near-emotionless killing machine with absolutely zero moral compass and more personal disdain for Above than the Saint has for Catherine. Unless you want to try claiming that Amadeus of the Green Stretch is a Heroic partisan of Above, then it’s pretty much a fact acknowledged by everyone with a modicum of sense on both sides that typical Villainy is a wound on creation.

                Speaking to Malicia:
                “Alaya, we consistently blunder so badly we need to rely on demons to stay off destruction. We would rather irreparably damage the fabric of Creation than admit we can be wrong. There is nothing holy about our culture, it needs to be ripped out root and stem as matter of bare survival. Forty years I have been trying to prove success can be achieved without utter raving madness …”

                Speaking to Akua:
                “You,” Black said, “are the incarnation of waste. Of every destructive instinct that must be carved out or repurposed lest we ever reach old ends through old means. Your accolades are as worthless as every single thing you’ve ever said and done. They will pass, and be forgotten. We will all be better for it.”

                The most monstrous Villain of his generation waged a decades long war on old-school Villainy because it was so wasteful and destructive that he felt it threatened their own survival.

                Not only that, we have the Saint here empathizing with Catherine – someone she’s actively attempting to kill – about second liesse with explicit examples about the kind of situations she normally deals with. In this very chapter.

                “… it came from the same place that had the Saint of Swords wondering what might have changed, if she’d arrived a sennight early instead of late. If she might have slain the beast when it’d taken a handful instead of a village, if she’d found Isodorios when the dragonblood first began to decay instead of after the red had taken him. What if, that old and tireless flagellant’s whip.”

                Skepticism in itself isn’t wrong but this is getting ridiculous. Everything shown in the text directly contradicts the idea that the Saint and Pilgrim are generally mistaken about the character of people they fight against. A few chapters ago in Entreaty, even Catherine herself directly accepted what the Pilgrim was saying about the Saint’s life and role as most likely true. Let that sink in for a second there.

                Sorry to break it to you but your stance is the crackpot fan theory here, not mine.

                Liked by 2 people

                1. shveiran

                  Dude, you need to chill.
                  My disagreeing with your conclusion does not mean I disagree with you on everything you’ve ever said, written or thought.

                  I am not “framing the Heroes for everything”, I am saying Above thinks in terms of white and black and people don’t act that way. Their moral framework leaves no room for finesse and that is why GENERALLY RIGHT does not mean – cannot mean – ALWAYS RIGHT.

                  I am not claiming Above is always at fault; I’m simply refusing your statement that “the Saint’s approach has never been wrong in the past”, because I see no evidence for it save a two people’s opinions backed by an otherworldly being that physically cannot bend enough to take into account human nuances.

                  Arguing against your conclusion is not quite the same as believing its polar opposite.


                  1. Rook

                    I got too riled up, yes.

                    On the subject of the debate though, my point there still stands. The skepticism you’re putting forth is so far gone as to be beyond all reason.

                    Ask yourself. If your argument is that it’s not believable because it is simply ‘two characters opinions …’, despite the fact that it’s both the protagonist and one of the primary antagonists, what would it take to prove it to you? How many other things that are normally taken at face value would be thrown out the window by following the same strict criteria?

                    Would you need ten characters? Several flashback chapters detailing the story, dedicated to setting it in stone? An explicit author’s note?

                    Considering that this is a novel, not a fantasy history textbook or a dictionay, you must to an extent take the writing to an extent at face value. Character background simply cannot be developed with the level of assurance you’re looking for, without damaging the quality of the writing.

                    When Catherine thinks ‘some feat is beyond what I can do right now’, you don’t be a skeptic to the point of ridiculousness and respond ‘well that’s what she thinks, it’s the opinion of just one character. She’s young and not an optimistic thinker. Has she ever tested it? No? Let’s assume she actually can and that she’s just mistaken until irrefutably proven otherwise’. Because at that point the skepticism has reached such stupid levels that it becomes near-impossible to discuss anything at all.


            3. werafdsaew

              You’re making a leap here. Saint’s Role being X doesn’t mean she can *NEVER* step out of her role from time to time. For example, Pilgrim’s role being saving people doesn’t mean he cannot punish the errant Prince of Orense in “Peregrine IV”, even though that action didn’t save anyone.


              1. Rook

                It’s outright stated by the Pilgrim, and even Catherine believed him. Catherine, who has more reason to be skeptical than anyone considering they’ve spent nearly three volumes actively attempting to kill her.

                A bit of a small leap when it’s a direct quote from six chapters ago. Certainly a far smaller a leap than supposing the opposite. The ball is in your court.

                Chapter 40 of this book -Entreaty:

                Quote 1, the Pilgrim confirms:
                “… Yet mine was still the lighter of the burdens, for even Laurence’s victories have only ever come in the wake of disaster.”

                My brows furrowed. If I was following his meaning correctly, he was implying that while his role had been snuffing out disasters before they could fully form while the Saint of Swords had been… well, cutting of limbs when the rot took.“

                Emphasis, “even Laurence’s victories have ONLY ever come in the wake of disaster”

                Quote 2&3, Catherine’s reaction/evaluation:

                “And I could see, through the grief in his voice, that there truly was a tragedy there. Because he might be a decent actor, I thought, and perhaps a liar of some skill if there was cause for it, but he had not taken to it the way some of the people I knew had. The tremor in his voice was genuine, coming from someone who’d never learned to fake it so perfectly they’d blurred even to themselves the difference between truth and lies. “

                Liked by 2 people

                1. shveiran

                  All this is valid only under the assumption that Pilgrim, angels and Saint cannot be wrong on the subject. I refer you to my comment above, since the discussion is branching.


        2. > she’s literally never been wrong before about every other Villain she ever had contact with.

          > Her role is a cleanup crew for horror shows, rather than the prevention of them. She always arrives AFTER everything has already gone to shit.

          It occurs to me that this would represent one helluva selection bias for her experiences!

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Y E P

            And funny story here… something I noticed… note the difference in view of it between her and Tariq.


            > “Laurence de Montfort was sent forth, for near as many years as I, when there was absolutely nothing left to save,” he gravely said.


            > It came from the same place that had the Saint of Swords wondering what might have changed, if she’d arrived a sennight early instead of late. If she might have slain the beast when it’d taken a handful instead of a village, if she’d found Isodorios when the dragonblood first began to decay instead of after the red had taken him. What if, that old and tireless flagellant’s whip.

            Tariq’s view is that it was Above/Heavens/Providence/whatever sending her forth. That it was an external force being cruel to her, that she actually did not have the option of arriving on time.

            Laurence assumes personal responsibility for all the shit timing.

            I actually… probably agree with Tariq here? If the same thing keeps happening, in this ‘verse it’s very likely to be the work of a story / a pattern / something you canot easily change.

            But that’s not Laurence’s view. She’s… she’s not religious. She does not put trust in a higher power to guide her, she just does things, and all the personal responsibility she assumes herself.

            There are… so many levels on which this matters, but one I would like to highlight here is that this means she does not think there is a selection bias. She thinks the world just works the way it’s been working for her for sixty years. That the things that happened to her every time are indeed inevitable.

            I mean, it’s obviously not an absolute view, on some level she has to have noticed that other things happen to other people. She trusts Tariq for a reason.


            She does not correct for selection bias as fully as it applies.


            1. > She does not correct for selection bias as fully as it applies.

              Indeed. But that’s the thing about selection bias, in science, literature, or even life in general: The specific hazard of selection bias is exactly that it restricts your view, leading you to false generalizations and blinding you to potential contradiction. That’s why it’s so hard to avoid or to correct for. And Laurence has got it bad….

              Liked by 1 person

    2. I think Laurence is struggling with an internal conflict of ‘but evil’ ‘but catherine foundling’ ‘but evil’ ‘but catherine foundling’ ‘but evil’.

      She’s engaging in banter despite herself :3

      Liked by 3 people

      1. shveiran

        I’m honestly curious, where do you see evidence of this? Is it just the banter?

        I’m really not getting that read, but I admit I really think she isn’t conflicted and that may lead to me ignoring contrary evidence.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. The banter is part of it. Do note that she was surprised and changed her approach instantly when she realized what Catherine’s problem actually was. I think Laurence is conflicted because there’s an obvious conflict right there, and I don’t think she’s a complete idiot, you know? Her narration sounds like she’s absolutely certain of everything, but note that she’s still going along with Tariq’s plan and note how she dropped “if the Black Queen is indeed going to cling to her last scraps of decency”. Laurence is not the kind to enunciate her problems out loud, not even in her internal monologue. She prefers to bury them and wait for them to burn themselves out one way or another.

          The thing with deep 3rd person POV in Guide is, it still doesn’t capture 100% of a person’s thinking process. Deliberately, at that – we wouldn’t have been able to get snippets like Bard’s POV if they were perfectly spoilery. There’s always undercurrents that don’t come to the surface explicitly.

          And Laurence is, like, a paragon of certainity. Unshakable confidence/faith is like her main power, of course she’s not voicing doubts she’s having in her position. In this case, absence of evidence is really not evidence of absence, any more than us not knowing Cat’s plan for dealing with Larat beyond ‘have a band of 5’ means she doesn’t have one.

          And we do have evidence of what she’s thinking, which does add up to an internal conflict, because she’s getting external evidence for two conflicting conclusions. And she’s not discounting it, we know she isn’t… ah, to be fair, I’m writing this after the next chapter drop, with fresh new evidence available.

          On a basic level my prediction making algorhythm is basically “if I were the writer / if I were to take over at this point / if I were writing a fic, what would I do with this”. Erratic is a million times better writer than me, but a lot of things he does are predictable just because they’re the best possible move, like how Cat commented about Juniper early on.

          This story is most interesting and Laurence’s throwaway lines have the most narrative value if that’s what’s going on. So that’s what I’m assuming, and hey, haven’t been proven wrong yet :3

          (There’s something to be said for pure internal consistency: a model that might not have a clear and undeniable chunk of evidence confirming it, but that just explains everything in a tidy way)

          Liked by 1 person

          1. shveiran

            I’ll read the next chapter and continue the discussion there, then. Right now, I can see what you are coming from but… I don’t think you are right. But maybe next chapter will change my mind; I’ll try to be open to these concepts.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Agreeing on all counts, even before seeing the next chapter. I will note:

            > Erratic is a million times better writer than me, but a lot of things he does are predictable just because they’re the best possible move, like how Cat commented about Juniper early on.

            For an author, “best possible move” is very subjective… in this forum, we have a group of fans, selected by the point that all of us have read this far and liked it, and many of us have been discussing the narrative for months.. That naturally gives us a fair bit of rapport, not just with each other, but with the author. That’s why we can sometimes predict his “best possible move” for the Guideverse.

            Erratic’s authorial skill shows in being able to create a world with enough depth and consistency to support author/reader rapport, and then to keep that rapport over this many chapters and months. Compare to the current fuss over the ending of the TV version of Game of Thrones — I haven’t followed the show myself, but reports of the finale are that they broke the characters, world-rules, and even continuity, so badly that viewers were just going WTF, and not in the good way.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. To be fair, from what I understand of the Game of Thrones finale (and season 8 in general), it was in large part a continuation of the degradation of Story quality, consistency, and logic, that occurred more or less whenever they went off-book, and they’d had two full seasons of continuously going off book immediately prior to season 8, making for three nominally full seasons of going off book, and that has a cumulative effect. Well, depending on storyline, some storylines went off book earlier than others.
              Plus they started rushing, and whenever you try to rush a story to its conclusion, bad things happen, which made everything worse.
              Granted, I’m not sure where they pulled the decision on the succession out of, nor do I think I really want to know.

              That is, the problems people are pointing out and complaining about in/with the finale (and season 8 in general) didn’t actually start in season 8 – they started much earlier.

              Admittedly, GoT kept raising the bar in terms of strict cinematography and visual spectacle … but that’s all there was.
              And the visual spectacle did keep the volume of complaints down, to a point … in earlier seasons.
              But visual spectacle alone does not a quality story make.

              Admittedly, I haven’t actually seen all of GoT season 8 yet, and at this point, I’m not sure I want to, even though I did see the previous seasons.


            2. I know very little about the TV version of GoT but even I heard echoes of THAT drama.

              You’re not wrong in that familiarity with the way specifically erratic handles storytelling is a lot of it; still there ARE objective criteria. Like, yes, internal consistency of characterization, worldbuilding and continuity, as a great example. Erratic knows what he’s doing, and in my experience a lot can be deduced the way Cat figured out Kairos’s plots: I see what he’s doing, I’m assuming the results are what he intended to do, so what do the results actually do?

              It’s fun to be in a fandom of a really good writer :3

              Liked by 1 person

    3. > Still, it seems this proves we are still headed to a clash

      Actually, Cat might just run out the clock on Saint. Once Pilgrim and Indrani get Masego straightened out, Saint doesn’t have an excuse to attack him. Then Cat Chooses The Crown and calls Larat. Saint might get to help with killing god!Larat (Cat expects a simple execution, but she might get a nasty surprise). A reprise by DK could still make trouble, but eventually Everybody Goes Home Afterwards, and Saint has to Wait ‘Till Next Time.

      Liked by 2 people

  18. Insanenoodlyguy

    Hmm, she talks of an ending and facing it… I think Saint is getting ready to die.

    If I had to guess, she’s pulling the heroic equivalent of what Warlock did, namely, if you go into something completely willing and KNOWING you are going to die, though you will surely do so barring outside intervention (and it only works if that intervention is completely unexpected on your end), you will succeed in whatever goal you have.

    Cat has made clear what’s going to happen if she goes for Black or Masego, perhaps she’s thinking her story ends with removing two or even three of the biggest threats at the cost of herself, doing the first and then succeeding in the latter at the cost of mortal wounds. Probably planning her final words before she dies, no doubt witnessed by Tariq and maybe one or two of the other heroes.

    Of course, she’s not paying attention to what the signs are telling her. It just happened that all the wraiths blocked her way long enough for the soul to be ferreted away. That’s some hard story intervention right there. She lost them Black, whatever else happens, he’s not hers to take anymore.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. > Hmm, she talks of an ending and facing it… I think Saint is getting ready to die.

      It would be ironic but logical if Saint tries for Masego and he flat no-sells her. If he was ever in a position to pull a *snap* on her, this is it. Or he could just dump her in a random Hell.

      Liked by 2 people

  19. Irrelevant

    So I was rereading the story, and Cat just met with the hidden horror for the first time. In that conversation he tells her the the good old tyrant wove a trap for the angels, something we have yet to see pay off.
    Now that he is as far as he is, perhaps it’s time for that to pay off?

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Frolamiz

    “Catherine Foundling had yet to strike a single blow with a blade since she’d returned to Iserre from her journeys, the rumours went.”

    Yes, and this will give the first strike even more narrative weight.

    Liked by 3 people

  21. Daniel E

    “Her idea of a ruse meant to unseat the King of Winter was a lie so blatant, even the Fae hesitated to call BS”. I actually laughed out loud at this. Spilled my tea a little :/

    Liked by 6 people

    1. The best part is how it was valid logic on both Catherine’s and the fae’s part. Catherine: “if he didn’t want me to fake his signature on an invitation he wouldn’t have invited me”. Fae: “if she’s faking the signature of the King of Winter and he doesn’t want her to she’s not just dead she’s super mega dead and she would know it, so he probably did invite her”. And he did!

      Liked by 4 people

  22. KingWillisIV

    I love the comparison of Robber saying “Nobody does crazy like the boss” and now Idrani saying “Nobody does distraction like Catherine”. They’re distinctly different and yet with so much overlap.

    Liked by 5 people

  23. On occasion of Skein’s unceremonious exit, I would like to mention a quibble I have with it’s excessive size.:

    It’s repeatedly been described specifically as being 60 feet tall. Even allowing “tall” to blur into “long” — that’s the height of a multistory building! AFAICT the only land animals that big in our world were the biggest of the dinosaurs, the giant sauropods. Something like that doesn’t go into a building, so much as through it. And even allowing for magical strength, I’d say having it scampering around would involve a fair bit of damage to the environment.

    > until the Horned Lord leapt over the cliff’s edge of that was the end of the ducal palace.
    “The courtyard’s paving buckled beneath the Horned Lord’s leap, and again when it landed near the cliff’s edge that was the end of the ducal palace. Another leap took the bulk over the edge, along with a fair bit of the edge. A thunderous concussion marked its descent to the wasteland’s surface; a few moments later, a horned head rose into view as the revenant peered back warily at the proceedings.”

    Liked by 2 people

      1. > I think the cliff is just THAT TALL.
        > I mean Tariq did mention they were higher than some clouds

        Tariq was being hauled up a cliff in another location, while the rest were in a courtyard (so, the city’s original ground level). Also, I wouldn’t count on this shard having a “normal” atmosphere.

        But yes, I was handwaving some details for illustrative purposes. 😉 In that case, my point was that 60 feet (most of 20 meters) is the size of a 4-to-6 story building, or a fairly intimidating cliff.

        Liked by 1 person

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