Chapter 49: Cracked

“They who first look at the sun will never see aught else.”
– Helikean saying

It was just steel. There must have been thousands of longswords just like it in Iserre alone, decently crafted but nothing extraordinary. It was the work of some smith somewhere, not an enchanter or legendary artisan, so there was nothing to that sword that should allow it to cut into the likes of Twilight’s Crown. Except, of course, that it was Saint of Swords of wielded it. Tabard trailing behind her, the old heroine crossed the room in three smooth strides and her sword arced down beautifully: the strike was like flowing water. And hit something that shouldn’t have been there, a subtle glamour broken when Laurence de Montfort’s blow scythed straight through the gargoyle that’d thrown itself in the way. The Tyrant of Helike cackled, high-pitched and delighted, but the Saint’s blow carved through the stone construct and continued through and into the crown.  I thought, as I watched the edge of the steel bite through chalcedony and mother-of-pearl, that if not for the for the gargoyle it would have gone straight through. Yet the Tyrant’s stage trick had tainted what would have otherwise been a clear blow, and so instead the Saint’s sword cut halfway through the Twilight Crown before it stopped.

Not even a heartbeat of stillness reigned over the room before a torrent of power tore out.

Everyone here had been in a scrap or two, so the raging tendrils of sorcery that went out did not score a kill the way they might have with less experienced Named.  Reflex had me half-stepping to the side, still a swordswoman picking her distance for all my lack of sword, and dusk-like power howled through a bare few feet to my side. More importantly, having been close to the initial burst the Saint had been forced to retreat or see herself run through by a tendril. More than one, even, for a handful of howling streaks chased her even as she retreated, never slowing nor missing a step. Had her attack awoken something in the crown, some shard of sapience? A flicker of a look to the side instead showed me a hard-faced Rogue Sorcerer with his hands outstretched and his long coat fluttering in unnatural breeze, guiding the sorcery with sharp gestures.

“Treachery,” the Tyrant of Helike gleefully hooted. “Treachery most foul!”

With great flourish he presented his left palm, allowing one of the chittering gargoyles in attendance to place down a wand of what looked like pure gold on it.

“Cat?” Indrani calmly asked, eyes on the Saint of Swords.

She was ducking and weaving, for now, driven back by the Sorcerer’s trick. But it’d be temporary. I wouldn’t trust means that feeble to hold back Archer for long, and Laurence de Montfort was her superior in several ways.

“Don’t kill her,” I said. “Unless it puts you at risk not to.”

“Gotcha,” Indrani nonchalantly said.

In a whisper of boots on stone she slipped into the fray, the maelstrom of unleashed energies that had yet to ebb in the slightest. I’d expected the crown to either keep bleeding like a stuck pig or translate the wound into a single punishing torrent of power, but it wasn’t indulging any of my expectations. It seemed almost like the lashing sorcery was the wound itself, thrashing about the room in some kind of eldritch pain. A nudge from Andronike had my gaze lingering on the side of the cut Laurence’s sword had made, a sliver of Night sharpening my sight. Ah. So it was eating into the rest of the crow, shaving through a sliver at a time. It was simply slow and little at a time, though if we didn’t settle this mess for too long we’d still be in trouble. The Tyrant’s wand proved to be an artefact of some power, a heartbeat later, as he aimed it towards the Saint and spoke an idle word:  streak of brilliant lightning went out, forking around an approaching Archer and striking at the Saint from both sides. Undaunted, Laurence de Montfort parried one streak and smoothly ducked beneath the other. Just in time for Indrani’s boot to catch her in the chin, sending her sprawling back. Three streaks of twilight-stuff, guided by the Sorcerer, snapped out at the falling heroine. One would have punctured her throat, by my reckoning, but Roland redirected it towards her shoulder instead at the last moment and that was room enough for the Saint to manoeuvre: she twisted on herself, allowing one of the streaks to hit her flank and using the pressure to adjust her fall out of the way of the other two.

She landed in a crouch, slapped aside Indrani’s follow-through strike with the flat of her blade and brutally backhanded Archer. I sucked in a breath, but Indrani had scrapped with Laurence before.  She slid back, parried a probing blow by the Saint and adjusted her angle of attack to make the most of the support the Sorcerer was still providing. She’d make it through this, I told myself. I couldn’t even hold it against Roland not to have put an end to this fight right out of the gate, not truly. The Saint had been a respected elder and ally until not so long ago, and even though she’d done so treacherously she was only going through with the fate he’d himself advocated for the Twilight Crown. A glance told me Kairos already had another artefact in hand, some sort of jeweled silver arrow, and was preparing to throw it like he was playing darts in a tavern. Yet it was the last of us whose reaction I was most dreading to look upon, and my eyes finally turned to the Grey Pilgrim. I hid a grimaced. The Peregrine looked as if he’d aged twenty years in the last twenty heartbeats, and given his age that led him at least one foot into the grave. His face had gone ashen, his footing unsure, and if he’d still had his staff I was certain he’d be leaning on it for support. He had, I thought, genuinely not seen this coming. Neither had I, though that’d been more because I’d expected the Pilgrim to seem more worried if it was a possibility and he hadn’t been. I could almost hear my father chiding me for relying on second-hand knowledge without having contingencies in place accounting for it being false.

“Pilgrim,” I said.

He did not reply, eyes clouded as he watched the Saint of Swords cleverly snap out of Indrani’s longknives out of her grasp, catch it with her free hand and smash the pommel into Archer’s cheek. A moment later the Tyrant’s strange arrow struck at her with a keening sound, and though she flicked her blade back in time to cut through it barely helped: at the moment of impact, the arrow broke and a dozen sharp darts of wind exploded out. Maybe half hit the Saint’s flank, scoring blood if no deep wound, though that didn’t hurt her half as much as Indrani’s other blade cutting halfway through her thumb and snatching back the stolen longknife.

Pilgrim,” I said more loudly. “This is not the time to sink into yourself, Tariq. Whatever grief you might hold, how many lives is it worth?”

That shook him out, enough his blue eyes turned to me.

“The crown is wounded,” he said.

“So I’d gathered,” I flatly said.

“You do not understand,” Tariq said. “The wound is permanent. It is part of the crown, now. And it will kill whoever bears it.”

Shit, I thought.

“This from your Choir?” I pressed.

“Yes,” he tightly said.

Shit, I thought once more, with feeling. I wasn’t going to return for a sermon at the House of Light anytime soon, but in current situation I was willing to take the Ophanim to their word. We’d be killing whoever ended up putting it on, which disqualified Indrani from his discussion of succession as far as I was concerned. I’d already had enough close calls with death that I suspected I’d run out of ways to cheat it, and if I croaked it here too many things fell apart. That left who, the Sorcerer or the Pilgrim? It’d have to be Roland, I grimly thought. Much as he’d been growing on me, if the Grey Pilgrim died here the storm that’d follow would be massive. It was an ugly thought, turning on someone who’d been becoming a true ally, but what other choice was there? Indrani, the thought came. I felt a sharp well of disgust at myself, both for her name having come to me at all and then my refusal to entertain it. Was it not rank hypocrisy, to demand this sacrifice from strangers while denying even thought of it when it came to my own? There’d been more than one reason villainy came easier to me than the other side’s works.

“It will have to be me,” the Grey Pilgrim said.

Night preserve me from godsdamned heroes. It wasn’t a righteous sacrifice it you screwed the people you were allegedly doing it for, it was just vanity.

“No,” I bluntly said. “Don’t be a fucking fool. Now, would you help us contain the Saint before someone gets killed?”

The Tyrant had, while we spoke, thrown a javelin of red coral at Laurence. Poorly, for his arm was trembling and it was dubious he’d ever trained his body, so it flew errantly and skittered against the ground – where it blew up into a storm of fire, a solid ten feet to the side of anyone else in the room. The Saint leapt through the flames, apparently deciding to take advantage the opportunity to shake her pursuit, but Kairos already had tossed out a large opaque orb of glass and it caught her in the belly as she went through. It broke against her and smoke poured out as words boomed out in the tradertongue, the smoke solidifying and trying to bind her limbs.

“Laurence,” the Grey Pilgrim called out, but his call was drowned out by the booming tradertongue harangue.

For a moment I wondered if Kairos had planned it that way, before dismissing the motion. Though it was possible, in truth it hardly mattered if it was. I reached for the Night, wove a globe of it and sent it spinning forward. Though it’d do no harm to anyone, it swallowed the words that’d come from the orb like a pit of darkness swallowing even the sound of falling. Unfortunately it also took the smoke bindings with the rest, which I’d not meant for it to do in the slightest. Kairos protested, though I ignored him.

Laurence,” the Grey Pilgrim repeated. “Desist now, while you still can.”

“Better dead than kneeling to the dark,” the Saint of Swords snarled. “Do your-“

The cold beam of Light struck her in the chest before she even finished speaking, and I almost let out a whistle. I’d felt that, the rippling of it in the air. The Peregrine was finally done fucking around, it seemed. The side of her chest a ruin of burned flesh, the old heroine swallowed a scream and slid across the stone floor. Already the Grey Pilgrim was crafting fresh strikes of Light, while Archer ran towards our opponent with five streaks of twilight-stuff guided by the Sorcerer following hidden behind her. The Tyrant had a handful of gargoyles before him presenting artefacts for him to wield like a pack of chittering wee sommeliers surrounding an Alamans prince with choice vintages. With the Pilgrim having been moved to act, the balance of this scrap was sharply on our side. But was it, I suddenly wondered, too sharply on our side? The crown was still falling apart, sliver by sliver, so we had to end this. Yet if this began a lone principled heroine standing against a band of five that was mostly villains…

“Give up, Saint,” the Tyrant of Helike drawled. “Our victory is inevitable. You might even say that, in a manner of speaking, we are invin-”

Kairos,” I screamed. “Don’t you fucking dare-”

“-vincible,” the Tyrant finished in a cackle. “Submit to Below and you may yet be spared, do-gooder.”

It wasn’t anything as obvious as Laurence de Montfort suddenly finding all her wounds had been healed, or a lightshow of power being shoved into her tired frame. Yet, just like that, as she was dragged by Kairos’ latest bout of treachery onto the path of a story the Saint of Swords stood a little straighter. Her eyes sharpened, her footing grew more assured.

“Archer, retreat-” I yelled.

But it was too late. Indrani’s first blade extended as her whole arm outstretched and she place the point of her longknife at the Saint’s back with blinding quickness. Just not quite quick enough. Laurence took a half-step to the side, letting her pass, and cut off her arm the wrist. She would have flicked the blade a second time and taken Archer’s head, if not for the Sorcerer’s quick divesting of twilight-streaks forcing her to withdraw a step back. The Pilgrim’s gleaming Light caught her a moment later, but with hard eyes she carved right through and leapt up. The Tyrant and I struck at the same time, his green jade baton sending out a swarm of green insects at the Saint as I wove Night into dense flecks and sent them out at her. But it was like, I realized, tossing logs into a fire. The insects – each one made of jade, I only then caught – found a cut in the air that warded their approach save for those that impacted it and found themselves cut through. I’d formed four flecks of Night and the Saint almost contemptuously cut through only one, though at exactly the right time for the detonation that ensued to catch the other three. Her right boot landed on the Rogue Sorcerer’s face a moment later and he went down like a sack of beets from the hit. Hells, that’d gone south in a hurry. Unlike the heroes and possibly even myself, Kairos had to know that the Saint would kill him in a heartbeat if she could. So why would he throw the fight this way?

I glanced at the Tyrant of Helike and found his gaze, half of it red as fresh blood, resting on my ebony staff. Kairos grinned when I caught him, utterly unrepentant. I found myself wishing I’d succeeded at cutting his throat instead of blackening his eye. The Pilgrim had chosen to prevent Indrani bleeding out instead of pursuing the offensive, to my relief, and as she held her severe hand to the stump with gritted teeth one of the greatest living healers of Calernia began to put it all back together. Good. Archer might make it back into the fight, I just needed to use Kairos and my own talents to hold until we could turn this around. The Saint should be coming for either of us by now. As it happened, Laurence de Montfort rose from the smooth crouch she’d landed in after tumbling past the unconscious Sorcerer. She glanced at me, calmly, and then her gaze swept the rest of the room. It came to rest on the crown, and without a word she ignored us and went straight for it. Oh Hells. It might be, I knew, that finishing the cut would only break this realm and spare us all either death or bargain.

Or it might mean the death of hundreds of thousands.

“Slow her,” I ordered the Tyrant.

My tone was harsh enough he did not argue. The unpleasant truth was that I did not have the means to contain someone like Laurence de Montfort. Every trick left in my arsenal derived from the patronage of Sve Noc, whose blood-drenched path to apotheosis made the exact kind of power that someone like the Saint of Swords had been meant to put down. Maybe if I’d been quick enough to think of it earlier all of us save Archer could have let ourselves be ‘beaten’ and she could have duelled the Saint with something close to even footing. But at this point trying to use numbers to bring her down was effectively using the same tactics that’d led a horde of devils to swarm this very heroine barely an hour ago. The result back then had been providing the Saint of Swords with a lot of bodies to cut, and I had no reason to believe this would go any differently. I couldn’t contain her or defeat her, and maybe if I had longer I might be able to figure out another way to get this done but I didn’t have the time. So either I bent, and let her toss the dice with the lives of three great armies and most of Iserre besides.

That, or I killed her.

Breathing out, I began to limp forward even as Kairos tossed priceless old artefacts in the Saint’s way like they were apple cores. My staff I raised, and abandoned the delusion that it had ever been one. Night roiled and the ebony fell to ash, leaving behind only a sword in a scabbard. The latter was an ornate thing, unlike most I’d borne in my time. Carved obsidian, depicting the tale of the fool girl who’d made accord with the Night. The blade had not once unsheathed waited within as my fingers tightened around the scabbard. Its long handle was onyx and amethyst, stones chosen for one’s facility in holding power and the other’s aptitude for bridging the mortal and the divine through communion. Kairos had, against all odds, succeeding at expending enough of his inherited trove of treasures to force the Saint to step back. She still stood by the throne’s side, some sort of shining panels of sorcery standing between her and the crown, but my advance drew her eyes went to me. My hobbling had taken me ahead of all the others, and at my approach she smiled a hard smile.

“A duel, is it?” Laurence de Montfort said.

I lowered the scabbard to my side, right hand gripping the grip.

“Stand down,” I said, offering once last chance. “Stand down, and we can still end this with words instead of blood.”

“Some bargains compromise the very heart of what you are,” the Saint replied. “You’ll lose, Foundling. Call your minions back and let me end it the way it should have been done since the start.”

I breathed out, steadied my stance.

“You’re mortal,” Laurence de Montfort sharply said.

“So are you,” I replied, and for the first time since I’d left the Everdark I drew a sword.

I’d gathered Night for months in preparation of this moment, not a single mote of it anybody’s but my own. This was a prayer, after all, not a ritual. I was making an appeal to Sve Noc, and sacrificing power so that a miracle might be granted. And so, when my sword cleared the scabbard, it was revealed to have no blade. Night pulsed all around us, a living and breathing thing.

One.

“What have you done?” the Saint asked.

Two.

“Nothing,” I honestly replied.

Three.

“Do you think I’ll not strike you for being unarmed?” the Saint snarled.

Four, five, six, I counted as she spoke, and she stiffened with the last. It was close, then. I’d wondered how long she would last. I touched me too, but Gods forgive me the touch was lighter than I’d believed it would be. The Dead King, it seemed, might have been terrifyingly correct. The Saint took a step forward, and I almost spoke but instead I close my mouth. It would not do to monologue, would it? Not when the end was close. I watched her skin tighten, grow sallow, I watched her limbs weaken and finally she fell down. A moment later and she was dead. Struck down without a trace. It had, from the beginning to the end, taken eleven heartbeats.

And so in the heart of the prayer I had made, eleven years had passed.

I’d always known that I couldn’t beat the Saint of Swords in a fight. What kind of a fool would fight a heroine forged of war through that which had forged her? No, I’d heeded the lessons of my years under the Black Knight and slain her through one of the few things the Heavens did not protect their chosen from: the passage of time. I let another heartbeat pass, simply to be sure, and only then did the Night’s touch upon this broken realm withdraw.

324 thoughts on “Chapter 49: Cracked

  1. ruduen

    Go vote!

    http://topwebfiction.com/vote.php?for=a-practical-guide-to-evil

    Hoo, boy. I wasn’t sure if it was possible to get through this or not without someone on the way out. With the current format, it looks like the price that both sides pay might be higher than expected.

    And with a few different balls still in the air (especially with the White Knight still standing as an outside factor), and with the crown still damaged, it’s hard to say if there’s still more to pay.

    Liked by 10 people

  2. Valkyria

    Ouh shit. Well that is… I didn’t see that coming. And that’s twice in two chapters so gods damn me if this isn’t good story writing.

    Also… did it affect only the saint or everyone? Also… that is so OP. Can she reuse that or is it a one time ass in the sleeve?

    Liked by 13 people

        1. Valkyria

          I just realized I spelled sleeve wrong too…

          ahhh there I am, once in my life early enough so my comment is high enough for everyone to see… and then that xD

          I dunno who said it, but “Set in Stone” is too powerful an Aspect for WordPress to hold….

          Liked by 2 people

    1. As I understand it Catherine got touched by it as well and it was only possible through months of infusing power, all spent at a single time. Not to mention Catherine isn’t fool enough to try the trick on heroes a second time. She may end up filling the staff again but it wont be the ageing trick.

      Liked by 15 people

      1. Was I the only one thinking she was going to stab the pilgrim for turning on everything she stood for.

        I mean this was fine but I guess I had a darker expectation. The hero who slays monsters becoming a monster and assuming a throne of twilight to stone for her sins.

        Like

        1. Laurence thinks… thought, I suppose… in terms of consequences of her actions, still. She had a different idea of what the long-term consequences here would be and acted on her belief; no part of this belief included the idea that killing Tariq might possibly somehow make the situation better.

          Liked by 6 people

    2. My bet is that while she could use it she can’t abuse it, not because of some metaphysical rule (like the pattern of 3) but simple mechanics: it seen it also affects her so each use leaves her older (although it’s implied she doesn’t age normally), just with that it limited to be an ace against already old opponents or beings like goblins that have shorter lifespans. Against immortals or stupidly long lived races (I think the Giants are that) it would be like spiting against the wind.

      Liked by 8 people

      1. There’s also the story rule that every trick works reliably ONCE. Like the first step of the plan thing; Unspoken Plan Guarantee. (I guess the staff was different enough from what we all assumed that it got a handful of that even despite all the foreshadowing)

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Raivshard

        I doubt that it’s tied down to any one effect; bear in mind that it is a prayer, not an Aspect, and considering that she wanted to hold it in reserve for the hidden horror and/or his trump cards, praying for something which would age her opponents seems rather pointless.

        It’s a miracle, which means it probably resembles a Heroic ability in that it gives you just what you need as long as you only ever use it when you absolutely need it, and even then, not too often.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Shveiran

            It has always been an anti-Saint option.
            Cat has always stated that nuking the Pilgrim would destroy her dream of the Accords. If she developed a countermeasure, it would not be a lethal one.

            Liked by 3 people

  3. Raved Thrad

    “This thing all things devours: birds, beasts, trees, flowers; Gnaws iron, bites steel; grinds hard stones to meal; Slays king, ruins town, And beats sword-wielding bitch down.”

    Liked by 30 people

  4. Daniel E

    Wow. So did Cat also age 11 years as a trade? If not, then I’m uncertain exactly how this miracle worked. Hopefully Idrani gets her hand back. ‘Archer Deadhand’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it. Lastly, what prediction of the Dead King is she thinking he was right about?

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Note that even without that, and with pessimistic assumptions(*), she started out as what, 25 or so?

        (*) Consider that Cat’s temporal trap probably wouldn’t have affected the Named Villains even if they got caught in it, because Named Villains don’t age. And Cat may not be Named anymore, but she’s certainly still a Villain, sponsored by Below and trafficking in eldritch powers. I’m not surprised she gets a break on that.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. erebus42

          She’s the high priestess of Night. The sisters Sve Noc and the Mighty lived quite a long time as a result of the Night so I wouldn’t be too surprised she was effected but not overly so despite not having a name.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Catherine is 20.

          Yes, really.

          And that’s without accounting for Named/fae bullshit and that one half a year she lost in Arcadia over the span of two days. Biologically her body might have started even younger.

          Liked by 4 people

    1. RoflCat

      Back in ch 36 Bid:

      “I am a mannerly man, Catherine,” he lightly said. “And you have given me no reason to act otherwise.”

      It almost felt like I was back in the Pit, for a moment, an opponent and I slowly circling as we took each other’s measure. Waiting for an opening, for a weakness. I remained painfully aware that I had a lot more of either than the Hidden Horror.

      “No?” I mused. “Yet you called an immortal, when we first met, and well…”

      I shrugged, raising an arm in a nonchalant display.

      “I’m hardly that, these days,” I said.

      The old monster’s face was like a mirror, I thought as I watched him for a reaction. There would be nothing there to see I had not placed there myself.

      “Are you not?” he smiled. “High priestess and herald of an apotheosis you ushered into this world by your own hand – would something as base as age or disease take you, Catherine Foundling?”

      “The years will kill me, one of these days,” I said. “If nothing else gets around to it first.”

      “Ah,” the Dead King smiled. “But how many years would it take?”

      ^Basically he’s implying that despite Cath becoming ‘mortal’ by giving up Winter, she’s still far from a normal mortal

      Liked by 18 people

      1. Shveiran

        To me, that is unrelated to Cat’s aging.

        It is simply the Dead King acknowledging that Cat has reached so much narrative weight that she won’t leave the narrative because of something like a flu or old age. She has a chance at sticking around indefinitely if she plays her cards right, because the Story wants her in it and will push with her if she reaches for a form of immortality/agelessness/aphoteosys.

        What I think is saying is basically that High Priestess or no Cat has a de facto aphoteosys so long as she doesn’t fuck up… which again, is true for all of them regardless.

        Liked by 2 people

          1. Shveiran

            I think that’s because she goes nowhere when she is nt acting “on stage”. She basically lives a day or two each year, if that, and therefore can stretch her years a long way.

            Like

    2. caoimhinh

      As Gunslinger said, Cat also ‘aged’ eleven years, but it was lighter for her; not because Night was less effective, but because Catherine is not a mere mortal, which is what the Dead King told her when they conversed while Cat was on the way to enter Liesse in the chapter he made the offer of 100 years of peace.

      Basically, by becoming the High Priestess of Sve Noc, First Under the Night (F.U.N for friends), Catherine is unto the path of being unaging like the rest of the Named of Below.

      Liked by 10 people

        1. caoimhinh

          By all means, be my guest.
          I haven’t been the only one to call her that in the comments of this book, hahaha.

          I’m actually still surprised that Indrani hasn’t used that acronym in any of the chapters. Seems like something she would say to tease Catherine and get her annoyed with some puns.

          Liked by 2 people

      1. Even if Cat is aging like a regular mortal human, she went from being early twenties to early to mid thirties, at worst.
        Sure, that’s a hit … but to use D&D terminology, she’s still the same age category, whereas Laurence went from Old/Venerable to hitting her max age.

        And let’s be honest … sure, there’s a difference between early 20s and early-mid 30s, but for most people the difference is going to be relatively small.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Early, not mid. Catherine is currently 20 according to any sane attempts at a timeline.

          (She was 18 when founding the Broken Bells with Talbot, since then one summer was spent putting down Akua, then one winter in the timeskip between books 3 and 4, and now is the next winter after that)

          Liked by 3 people

          1. Timeline gets confusing. Especially since it’s not entirely clear how (and how fast) certain characters move around long distance (especially offscreen).
            Also, I thought one or more of the time skips might have been longer.

            At any rate, I think that my point is fairly clear and stands independent of timeline concerns.
            No matter exactly what age Cat is/was, an 11 year difference between early 20s and 30 something usually isn’t going to be that big in terms of physical wellbeing – even for a normally aging mortal human. And, sure, losing 11 years out of the prime of your life sucks … but Cat was young enough that 11 sudden years later, she’d still be in the prime of life no matter how being First Under the Night affected (or didn’t affect) her aging, unless one wanted to postulate that it would somehow accelerate her aging.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. The timeline is v clear when you look specifically at seasons passing. The timeline pre-Cat being 18 lines up to that, too – I first built the timeline that put her at 18 at that time, then someone else found the quote confirming she was 18.

              And yeah, Cat’s not losing much here. I just wanted to plug in my timeline information :3

              I mean fuck even if it accelerated her aging to the point she’s Laurence’s age now or someshit, you think she wouldn’t go for it for the sake of saving everyone here? ❤

              Liked by 2 people

              1. Shveiran

                I think you are right chronologiclaly, but with all the body modifications she went through, I’m completely at a loss regarding how it translates in practice to her biological age. Did she ever age while the Squire? Did she ever age while Winter Queen? My guess is no.

                Liked by 2 people

                1. According to her reflections on it, when Squire she did age, although it felt artificial, like she was following a script. Supporting evidence: she grew an inch taller than Black :3

                  When Winter Queen she probably didn’t entirely, so take a year off that biologically.

                  Given we also don’t have data on how much lighter the touch was, “she’s biologically less than 32” is the only hard fact we have.

                  Liked by 2 people

          2. Agent J

            She spent months in Iserre alone. Add to it her time in the Everdark, Keter, and fending off a Crusade.

            20 is too conservative. I’m thinking 21-22? Might even be 23, though that’s stretching it.

            Liked by 1 person

        2. Steve

          Eh, if you eat well and train seriously, physical peak is mid-late 20s to 30. Technically, Cat either just hit to went slightly past the typical ideal physical age for a human.

          Rather like I recently did :/

          But overall, if you are trying to be in shape, you’ll be in better shape at 30 than 20.

          Liked by 1 person

      1. Andrew Mitchell

        I don’t think Night is capable of creating a world-wide effect. The sisters are not that powerful. The effect was focused on Laurence but Cat was caught in it as well.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. xanthir

          Doesn’t have to be a world-wide effect. Just… the two of them skipping thru time, aging but not experiencing the passage otherwise.

          I hope that’s not the case, but it would definitely be an *interesting* outcome, and I’ll never begrudge this story throwing me some curveballs.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Sitxar

            Given that the political situation and the amount of balls that depend on her juggling right now, this outcome would be just like if she had died. Which is not an option.

            Liked by 2 people

          2. Shveiran

            There is no way Cat would have developed a trick like that to fight Saint, when she was operating under the assumption that fighting her with the Pilgrim in close proximity was definitely an option when she started her preparations.
            That is likely one of the other reasons she went with aging, something Tariq cannot undone (just like Villains cannot resurrect, the means to avoyd deatha nd cheat age are barred to the heroes).

            Considering Tariq is just as vulnerable to a few added years, and that keeping him alive as always been a win condition for her, she would not have developed this as an area of effect spell, aging all that are around the fight.

            Even if I was wrong and she had, I find it very unlikely that she would unleash a power that could nib all her plans in the bud by killing Tariq without ever acknowledging that risk in the chapter.

            It is far more likely that the cost, the offering of the prayer is to face the same consequences she unleashes on her enemy; two targets, Cat and Saint.

            Liked by 3 people

            1. Shveiran

              She also wouldn’t develop a trick that would keep her out of the loop for over twice the time since she first gained a name while at this critical a juncture. It’s pretty much handling the DK victory, AMONG OTHER THINGS such as letting Callow be conquered by whoever strolls that way.

              Liked by 3 people

    3. NerfContessa

      Joa not to mention that someone with her style needs a more… Responsive appendage than hakram as a pure strength type.

      Also, dang. Age magic. Good one.

      Like

  5. Someguy

    This is why you don’t follow Bard’s instruction for anything. Named who obey Bard become nothing more than puppets on strings walking towards their own tragedies.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. Rook

      To be fair, Kairos played them all pretty hard on his end, even without the Bard.

      Kairos was the one that first led the conversation down the path of coronation.

      Kairos was the one who disqualified the other two Heroes from bearing the crown, which the Saint might have accepted. Tariq due to having laid down the crown, and the insinuation of secrets hidden for the Sorcerer.

      Kairos was the one who made sure the crown was half cut instead of stopped all the way or cut all the way

      Kairos was the one who gave Saint the narrative advantage so that she couldn’t be contained – only victorious of killed.

      He had a hand in EVERY part of how this went down, and it just happens to badly harm Catherine’s plans in particular.

      If she finishes the breaking, she compromises her own bottom line. Coronation? Now off the table. The remaining option of completing the coronation followed by a killing? Unless she can find a way to pin it on Kairos’ head, which might be just as bad as letting him live, it’ll either weaken the Woe by permanently losing Indrani or make her completely irreconcilable with damn near every Hero on the continent. Alliance made with the Black Queen and one or both of the greatest Heroes of the age end up dead but all the Villains walk out alive? How’s that going to look for anyone who wasn’t there to see the events play out? Not to mention Killing the Saint just put cracks in her personal alliance with the Pilgrim as well, who also happens to be the only living person who could possibly vouch for her with any worthwhile Weight in the eyes of everyone Good aligned in the world.

      Liked by 7 people

      1. werafdsaew

        I think you’re giving Kairos too much credit here. You’re saying that the Saint would have been OK with a Villain having the crown without Kairos? That’s not possible.

        Also containing the Saint instead of killing her doesn’t change anything, unless you think they could force the crown on her head then kill her.

        Pilgrim isn’t a complete idiot; Cat killing Saint here is perfectly justified.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. Rook

          Uh no, the Saint obviously wouldn’t be OK with a villain in the throne as we just saw. That’s the entire thrice-damned point.

          The one way for him to break up the band is to cross someone’s bottom line, and as soon as the decision is set on having a Villain take up the mantle? Line crossed.

          More specifically, it cross the line of the single least reasonable person there, whose death would also fuck up Catherine’s own plans of bringing everyone on both sides to the table.

          In my opinion not much of a stretch to believe Kairos did this intentionally when

          A) Every one of those turning points in the decision making process was proceeded by verbal prodding from Kairos

          B) scheming, making enemies, and screwing over anyone he can is the literal reason for his existence

          Liked by 7 people

          1. werafdsaew

            Not seeing it. Even without Kairos, the band would still have made the exact same decision, for the exact same reason they made it with Kairos there.

            Liked by 2 people

          2. I don’t think Pilgrim will break his alliance with Catherine over this.

            I suspect he might just decide to take the crown himself over Catherine’s objections though, to spare Roland. THAT will be bad.

            But I think even if Kairos had his eye on forcing Saint’s death from the start (because he could) it was most definitely Bard’s plan for it to happen. Consider how different the situation would have been if Masego had been here, as well.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Andrew Mitchell

              > I suspect he might just decide to take the crown himself over Catherine’s objections though, to spare Roland. THAT will be bad.

              Yes, and Pilgrim knows that would be bad, very bad. I don’t think he’d choose all the additional suffering that him taking the crown would cause vs Roland taking it.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. >Yes, and Pilgrim knows that would be bad, very bad

                I’m NOT SURE. A great piece of Cat’s logic regarding why he’s necessary is the Accords.

                Also he’s literally already said it should be him.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. Shveiran

                  He has. But I really, really hope he realizes the consequences of being removed from the picture at this juncture.
                  I mean, forget the Accords. This mean the armies go back to kill each other, the Pilgrim is no longer around to keep even the Crusade together, both he and the Saint died while trekking with the BQ so everyone hates her guts, Callow is in no position to move north and help, Which also means Kairos won’t… It is a freaking disaster. If he can’t see this, I’ll be unable to consider him as someone that sees the big picture.

                  Liked by 1 person

    2. Jessica Day

      But what if she knows you will disregard her instructions?

      Personally I’d just flip a coin every time she talked and do my best to ignore her words otherwise. Someone as skilled as her? You can never best her at her chosen game.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Personally I’d just do whatever I already figured would make sense to do, and ignore her entire existence like she as an ad popup.

        Otherwise she’d be able to force you to trust your decisions to a coinflip just by showing up and talking, and disrupt anything you do with a lot less effort.

        Liked by 2 people

    3. Wait she is better than we thought

      I think Amadeus was manipulated by NOT escaping. His soul was a major reason Kairos, Cat, Laurence, and the Crown were in a room together. If not for him, Laurence might be elsewhere by now.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Andrew Mitchell

    Woah. I was delighted by the staffswordprayer; what a clever idea. It’s a pity that gun can only be fired once.

    Did Catherine just renege on her deal with Tariq? Saint wasn’t, at that time, threatening the lives of any of the Woe.

    Who’s going to put on the crown now? Tariq or RS or Indrani? It’s better not be Tariq. The foremost hero of this age NEEDS to come back from this jaunt with Cat or her main plan is ruined.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Nope. Remember, Tariq wasn’t willing to reciprocate in granting courtesy.
      So I don’t think there was a deal to spare Laurence.

      Besides … she was threatening their lives. As well as the prosecution of the war against the Dead King.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. caoimhinh

        Cat and Tariq made the deal that she wouldn’t kill Laurence unless she actually killed Masego, even if Saint threatened to harm Hierophant Catherine would still go for non-lethal attacks. In exchange, Pilgrim would use his right to rule as the ‘and one’ of the seven crowns and one.

        This could be considered a breach of the deal, but it was done because Saint was putting everybody in Iserre at risk.

        Liked by 6 people

        1. Agent J

          That deal was voided already. Pilgrim begged for Tyrant’s life (after the latter name dropped the Bard) and Cat basically said, fine, same deal as last time.

          She spared him, she earned Tariq’s crown. Then Saint fucked herself and everyone else royally. A shame. She was equal parts fun and frustrating. I’ll miss her.

          Liked by 7 people

        2. And it was Tariq asking to spare Kairos that led to this, considering the delightful little bit of betrayal he pulled off right here. Even if no deals were in play and Cat had been fully willing to go along with whatever he asked of her, this was a “pick one out of two” situation, and I think he’ll recognize that.

          I wonder if he’ll be willing to have faith that Bard’s plan is for the best, after this, still.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. caoimhinh

            Hmm, Kairos being alive wasn’t what led to this. This is entirely the Saint’s fault for being so stubborn and refusing to actually make a deal for peace. It wasn’t even a big compromise. It was Laurence’s refusal to consider a non-violence option what got her killed.
            Also, Kairos being dead wouldn’t have stopped Laurence from cutting the Twilight Crown.

            As for Tariq keeping his trust on the Intercessor, yeah he totally will still trust her. As far as the Heroes know she works for Above only. Remember when Cat tried to explain to him that she also worked for Below and his refusal was that it only looked that way? And his conversation with Laurence during the Battle of the Camps where they mentioned she is always part of the heroic bands when big things happen? He and everyone who knows of her (save for those who have contacted Neshamah, like the Woe and Kairos) believe her an exclusive agent of Above as she is apparently always a Heroine.

            Besides, nothing here points that Saint’s death is the Bard’s fault. Probably in his next conversation with the Bard she will be able to swing the facts into her being helpful and convince Tariq to be part of whatever is her next scheme.
            Even if Cat actually manages to talk to Tariq about the true nature of the Bard, odds are Pilgrim will go his usual ‘you truly think it’s that way, but you are wrong’ that he has kept ever since meeting Catherine.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Kairos prevented everyone from subduing Laurence peacefully by going on that monologue (as a deliberate betrayal because he’s a prick like that).

              From Bard’s vantage, it’s child’s play to predict:
              – what Larat would do to wiggle out of this (she presumably has a lot more knowledge than Cat on how fae work and how they can and cannot change, as well as on personally Larat);
              – that the decision everyone else agrees on would be unacceptable to Saint and she would force the issue (note how Saint’s reasoning for why bargaining with Evil is unacceptable sounds suspiciously like what Bard had told William in Book 2, and that there were obvious traces of Bard’s presence when Cordelia talked with Laurence in Fatalism);
              – that even if there would be a chance for Saint to survive with everyone working together to subdue her peacefully, Kairos would gleefully sabotage any hope of it just for the hell of it.

              The cherry on the cake is the fact that if Masego were here they would not be presented with a gamble, they would be presented with clear understanding of what the crown does and what breaking it would do, and that would change the tone significantly. It’s as likely as not breaking the crown WOULD work and it’s only Masego’s absence here that drove this into the dilemma corner that it’s in now. And hey, guess who specifically and targetedly prevented Masego from being okay enough to be present!

              This might not be the SOLE goal of Bard’s here, I doubt she ever does anything with just one reason. But it was an undeniably straightforward result of it.

              And yes, it’s possible for Tariq to still keep his faith in Bard after this. Hell, I still think she might be a good guy, and I’ve got a lot more dirt on her than he does, or will even after this.

              It’ll be interesting to read, though 😀

              …And yes, Tariq doesn’t know everything the audience does wrt why it was Bard that did this. However, she made the deal with Kairos to keep him alive and she made sure Masego lost his sorcery. These data points he has very intimately since he was the instrument she used for those. No way he won’t notice the pattern here.

              Liked by 8 people

              1. caoimhinh

                I would object to the first point, considering that the Court of Twilight is unprecedented and Larat’s actions are basically writing a new story never seen before. Making the Bard capable of such prediction is gonna be counterproductive for the plot, it would make more sense if Larat got the idea of abdicating the crown from the Bard. That would be consistent with Fae nature of not changing and I could totally see the Bard meeting with Larat and the Wild Hunt in private, would make more sense than the Bard foreseeing Larat doing something that by recognition of every other character is unprecedented and not supposed to happen.

                As for the rest, I pretty much agree with you.
                Except on blaming Kairos for Saint’s death, that’s on her own. Sure, Kairos monologued to give her a push, but she was already set to fight to the bitter end, and Catherine herself was already noticing how the story was looking before Kairos spoke.
                They would have needed to severily beat her to subdue her, which pretty much amounts to having to kill her, as she would not surrender. Besides, she would have cut the Crown anyways even without Kairos there, so she could have got them all killed by the explosion of the crown (or simply destroyed the crown and stabilized the realm, odds were 50-50 and Heroes work with far worse odds all the time).

                Liked by 2 people

                1. > the Court of Twilight is unprecedented and Larat’s actions are basically writing a new story never seen before.

                  Unprecedented doesn’t mean unpredictable. He didn’t just randomly decided to write a new story: Winter’s desire to break out of the cirlce was a mirror to Amadeus’s plan in the first place. Fae don’t change; Larat acted in accordance with his nature, Catherine just didn’t know enough about what building blocks he had available for that.

                  >Except on blaming Kairos for Saint’s death, that’s on her own. Sure, Kairos monologued to give her a push, but she was already set to fight to the bitter end, and Catherine herself was already noticing how the story was looking before Kairos spoke.

                  Catherine could have done something to change the story had Kairos not spoken. I agree Saint’s death was likely anyway, but Kairos’s presence guaranteed it. She wasn’t surviving with him there.

                  >Besides, she would have cut the Crown anyways even without Kairos there, so she could have got them all killed by the explosion of the crown

                  …if Kairos wasn’t there to put a gargoyle in the way?

                  Don’t forget that established capabilities for Bard’s prediction of events include her engineering the first Swan Song, just by making sure Akua survived and pushing Black in the Free Cities. Her intervention here was much closer and much more targeted.

                  Liked by 2 people

    2. > Did Catherine just renege on her deal with Tariq? Saint wasn’t, at that time, threatening the lives of any of the Woe.

      Dude, attacking the crown menaced and endangered everybody, and even Pilgrim came down on Cat’s side of the fight. That said, by partly blocking Saint’s attempt to cleave the crown, Kairos has given everybody the “worst of both worlds”: The crown’s power is now active and hostile.

      It might be possible to “fix” the crown, but now it will definitely cost at least one life. One newly-suggested possibility: Cat embraces her nature as an immortal, puts on the crown, and (with Night’s aid) resurrects herself from the resulting ZOT! Or they could finish breaking it, which will certainly be dangerous (and embarrassing) but it might be best to take their chances. That would be a good thing to ask the Choir about again, they now have new information based on the current crisis.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. You know what could be a thing? Roland putting on the crown, claiming he can probably fix this, then dying… allowing them to go through with the plan… then getting resurrected by Tariq after dawn, because that definitely counts as a MISTAKE that could be FORGIVEN.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Shveiran

          If it works, yes. I find it more likely Roland won’t come back. The scene is already very crowded, and he can now serve satisfyingly as a loss for Cat, Pilgrim and the audience.
          This whole thing needs an hefty price somewhere, and Saint won’t be enough.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Faiir

            I don’t agree.
            Roland looked like either a red shirt or someone’s plant from the beginning, so I couldn’t connect with him.
            Him dying here would be waaaay to predictable and boring.
            And EE doesn’t do boring 🙂

            Liked by 2 people

          2. He cannot serve satisfyingly as a loss because Cat already thinks of him as the expendable option.

            It would be… really bad for her character development to go through with that thought.

            Liked by 1 person

    3. caoimhinh

      She was threatening the lives of everyone, actually. Both the Woe, the people present in that shard of Arcadia, the nearly 300 thousand people in the armies on the field and the rest of the population in Iserre.
      Saint was gambling on Providence to sort it out and make the realm collapse without harming anyone, since Luck tends to favor Heroes in stories where they have to put so much at stake and save innocent people, but the rest weren’t willing to take that risk.
      So, I guess Tariq will be angry and grieving, but won’t be able to hold it against Catherine.

      Liked by 11 people

      1. Jason Ipswitch

        I think you’re being too generous. Saint wasn’t gambling that the outcome of destroying the crown wouldn’t hurt anymore. She was certain that no matter what the outcome was – even if it was everyone killed and Calernia overrun by the Dead King – it would be “better in the long run” to destroy the crown.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. caoimhinh

          Yeah, I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt, but I can’t honestly rule out the notion that she might have been thinking that everyone was better dead than if the Heroes compromised with Villains.

          Liked by 5 people

              1. Shveiran

                You are not wrong, but that political destruction would have come around through continued war with Callow and allies. I don’t think she was under any delusion Cat would go quietly, so she was willing to accept that result woul come around through mass slaughter of unknown quantity.

                Liked by 2 people

              1. Rook

                Other than creating a potential catastrophe that damages creation and burns all possible bridges with every Good aligned faction on the continent if there is even a SLIGHT hiccup in dissolving the realm ten years down the line, absolutely no issues with it at all.

                Because if there’s one thing we know about fae courts holding enough power to create a true deity, its that no one ever interferes with the destruction of one, and nothing could possibly go wrong with such a large shifting of weight.

                There is no way you could instantly lose the fight a year before the sword ever takes your head off via a slight intercession that simply delays the dissolving of the court. Say, just long enough to lose trust, which would consequently see you drowned in the inevitable tide of Heroes crawling out of the woodwork to destroy the new biggest baddest Evil Fae Court in town. One that would see you hunted down and killed afterwards, no matter the cost, if you were unfortunate enough to already have a very bad track record with Fae Courts. Like for example, stealing an evil fae court, feeding it to an ancient evil entity to create an evil god, then creating an entirely new evil fae court out of figurative thin air.

                From a practical perspective we also know that the Hidden Horror is a narrative lightweight, thus when fighting against him there can be zero negative repercussions with being dependent on a magical entity not of their own making that they barely control. They should definitely just use the tool created by Trustworthy Lieutenant Larat, instead of breaking it and forging their own.

                No, we can be entirely sure that it was a foolproof plan before the Saint ruined everything. Nothing Catherine Foundling touched has ever gone catastrophically wrong before. No cities were ever genocided by a seemingly small Catherine mistake, made with the best of intentions.

                Liked by 8 people

                1. Shveiran

                  You are right. It was a very risky plan.
                  It was much more sensible to flip the coin on 300000 people, a dozen Named, and generally everything that could ever hope to repell the Dead King, who is THE big monster of this continent and is currently trying to eat it.
                  What was I even thinking.

                  Liked by 5 people

                  1. Rook

                    If only there were some kind of third option other than breaking the crown or allowing someone to wear it for years.

                    Say, like a third option that was the original plan in the first place, and would be completely foolproof as far as saving the armies in the present while not creating an utter calamity for the future.

                    Like putting the crown on someone’s head and slaying them.

                    Speaking straightforwardly for a second, do you remember why Catherine refused to choose that route? Because the consequences of killing any of them would be problematic, down the line, except for Indrani who she balked from choosing because of personal sentiment.

                    She had a damn good choice that wouldn’t have been a gamble or a near certain future disaster, and what she had to do for it was make a concession on anything. The grudge with the saint if it was Roland or the pilgrim, the thinning of her relationship with the pilgrim if it was the saint, or her personal feelings if it was Indrani.

                    But she wasn’t willing

                    So she took a half measure, she flinched at the hard choice, showed an opening, and Kairos punished her for it, well-deservedly. Now she’s back to square one having killed someone anyway and still no closer to solving the problem.

                    None of the options were pretty but let’s not pretend that Cat took the route of the crowning because there was no other way, no third option. She took it out of fear, and an unwillingness to lose in the slightest.

                    Liked by 2 people

                    1. Shveiran

                      This isn’t about Cat being unwilling to make an hard choice.

                      The “damn good option” you speak of, aside from the whole “murder a friend” thing has the slight hitch that Archer isn’t a martyr. You need someone to be willing to crown him, you can’t tie them to a chair and put it on their head. The trap origianlly worked for Larat because he was unable to escape the story and therefore the crowning (though he had other plans, it turns out).

                      REGARDLESS, that becomes a “damn good option” compared to breaking the crown and rolling the dice ONLY if you consider the possibility of Villains and Heroes sitting at a table instead of knifying themselves in the alleys to be horrific.

                      Would you expect someone to kill their friend (after somewhat brainwashing them to be on board, I guess) in order to appease the opinion of someone that not only they think is wrong, but that is pushing for their friend’s death (or massive gamble-slaughter) because she actively rejects all they have built and wish to build, and would oppose them just as strongly tomorrow regardless of this choice?

                      Liked by 2 people

                    2. @shveiran

                      >The “damn good option” you speak of, aside from the whole “murder a friend” thing has the slight hitch that Archer isn’t a martyr.

                      First of all Rook is talking about ALL of them as an option. Roland, Laurence and Tariq were all options.

                      Second, much more interestingly…………………………………………………

                      >the slight hitch that Archer isn’t a martyr

                      That’s what Cat THOUGHT.

                      Yet.

                      >“Cat,” Archer said. “Look at me.”

                      >I turned, eyes lingering on the traces of blood still on her forehead. The reminder that she’d already died once tonight.

                      >“It’s just ten years,” she said. “And you didn’t age while Duchess or Queen, so I’m losing nothing there. I’m not enough of an asshole to insist we murder someone over a decade.”

                      >Except that she was, unkind as that thought was. Because Indrani was lovely and generous to those few that she loved, but the rest? She was not the kind to bleed for strangers, and I doubted the few months we’d spent apart had changed that about her. Or maybe I just didn’t want to. What would it mean, if months away from the Woe was all it took to let her compassion bloom?

                      I mean Cat’s logic here is incredibly bullshit (and ‘few months’ does not fit in the timeline no matter how you stretch it coz 1) it’s still winter iirc, 2) there’s no way events that happened since Indrani left took MONTHS) but the fact is,

                      there was a suggestion presented she might be wrong.

                      There is also an earlier quote higher in the chapter…

                      >“It is uncertain,” the Peregrine admitted. “There are some deaths not even my prayers can forgive, and to die on the altar for the sake of others might be one such.”

                      >The old man glanced meaningfully at Indrani, who in difference to the seriousness of the situation had been keeping her mouth shut.

                      >“I cannot bring back those departed twice,” he warned. “No matter the circumstances.”

                      Why exactly would Pilgrim, with his Aspect of Behold, be meaningfully glancing at someone who totally wasn’t a martyr and definitely wasn’t about to suggest herself as an option?

                      Especially given that immediately after this it’s Indrani (who had been ‘in deference to the situation keeping her mouth shut’) who speaks up.

                      >I’d had absolutely no intention of letting anyone so much as shake a knife in Archer’s direction, but that was good to know. My friend had already died one tonight so, as far as I was concerned, she’d more than the paid the dues she hadn’t even owed.

                      >“Might be this is obvious to the rest of you,” Indrani slowly said, “yet why aren’t we simply having someone put on the fancy hat and stay alive? That ought to do the trick.”

                      Moreover…

                      >It was a possibility, I thought, to force that crown onto Kairos’ head and slit his throat. One I’d seriously consider, but the Tyrant had bargained back his life from the Bard and the Pilgrim seemed set on respecting this. Would it be worth it, I asked myself, to cross him on this? It might be too much of a risk. The Rogue Sorcerer might come out either way, given his scraps with the Tyrant, and Archer would be at my side through Crown and Tower but the other two? The Saint was most likely to see the practicality in bleeding Kairos, but she often deferred to the Pilgrim over calls like these and she’d be just as eager to take a swing at me. The Tyrant’s reaction was arguably the most predictable and least worrisome, for though he’d attempt escape he wouldn’t take it personally in the slightest. No, I finally decided. The odds were too stiff and the cause too red. Even if I got away with it I’d leave scars, the kind that’d come back to bite me down the line, and our alliance was too young not to be mangled by something like this.

                      So your point about it being impossible to force the crown on someone is not really supported by canon text.

                      Oh, and either way

                      >We’d be killing whoever ended up putting it on, which disqualified Indrani from his discussion of succession as far as I was concerned. I’d already had enough close calls with death that I suspected I’d run out of ways to cheat it, and if I croaked it here too many things fell apart. That left who, the Sorcerer or the Pilgrim? It’d have to be Roland, I grimly thought. Much as he’d been growing on me, if the Grey Pilgrim died here the storm that’d follow would be massive. It was an ugly thought, turning on someone who’d been becoming a true ally, but what other choice was there? Indrani, the thought came. I felt a sharp well of disgust at myself, both for her name having come to me at all and then my refusal to entertain it. Was it not rank hypocrisy, to demand this sacrifice from strangers while denying even thought of it when it came to my own? There’d been more than one reason villainy came easier to me than the other side’s works.

                      You’d think the logic of “it can’t be Indrani because she won’t go for this” would ease Cat’s consience on this point rather than leaving her grappling with ‘how bad a person am I’.

                      Liked by 2 people

                2. My sarcasm meter just melted! 😛

                  But seriously, yes Saint had a case. If she’d been able to cleanly destroy the crown, Providence might well have lent a hand in support of a successful story… but with Kairos’ interference, it’s the worst of both worlds instead.

                  Liked by 3 people

            1. caoimhinh

              About what exactly, do you mean?
              Compromising?
              That’s just simple civility and the basis of any convivence, negotiations and the hope for peace. Cat is trying to go beyond the simple struggle of Heroes vs Villains and trying to change the way they do things. So that entire countries don’t have to be swept up in the mess caused by Named every couple of years.

              Saint is being stubborn and refusing to see reason, she refuses to consider the possibility of there being actual peace. Her refusal to compromise and her prejudice despite evidence that her opponents are looking for peace seem to border in the xenophobia and racism (as in ‘everyone who is not like us is an enemy to be destroyed and can’t be reasoned with, there can be no peace between us’ line of thinking that has been the speech of so many discriminatory groups through history, and which is obviously wrong).

              I don’t think everyone is assuming things about who is right, different readers have presented different opinions, and even those that see Saint’s actions as crazy can see the context in which she made her decision (her life experience). What we are all in accordance, I think, is that Saint’s action of gambling with 300 thousand people’s lives instead of compromising is not something heroic.

              Liked by 3 people

              1. You might want to rephrase that last sentence, because literally half the plot point this chapter was that the universe absolutely counted this as heroic on her part.

                Oh and incidentally, I’m not in that accordance, though for a different reason.

                Liked by 2 people

                1. > You might want to rephrase that last sentence, because literally half the plot point this chapter was that the universe absolutely counted this as heroic on her part.

                  If there’s one thing that this story has established it’s that the narrative is very gameable, so I’d consider it dubious to conclude that somebody getting a narrative advantage is inherently an objective ruling on the part of the universe itself. Especially since Saint’s heroic advantage explicitly did *not* trigger off her own actions in trying to smash the crown, but from Tyrant’s wantonly assholish decision to deliberately frame this as “lone Hero fighting for What She Thinks is Right against a group of largely villains cockily boasting of their inevitable triumph”. That’s not the universe ratifying Saint’s perception that What She Thinks is Right actually is right, that’s an existing narrative frame that Saint was eligible for based on the pre-existing attributes of the actors involved rather than because of her choice per se.

                  Liked by 4 people

                    1. “Heroic idiocy” very much refers to actions being fucking stupid yet undertaken with heroic intent. See: what Cat thought about Tariq’s “It would have to be me” here.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. Ah, the million dollar question! At this point I feel as if we’re getting further into realms of actual philosophy that I haven’t looked at seriously in years, so idk about you but I’m starting to be a bit out of my depth lol. But to give it the old college try:

                      I would consider heroism, “actual heroism” if you will, to consist of a kind of marriage of intent and effect. If you want to do good but in reality all you do is fuck things up, you’re not a hero; you’re a fool at best and a tragedy at worst. If you have no particular desire to do good, but doing what you want to do for your own reasons produces good results for people then I’d say you’re not a hero since any beneficial side effects of your actions are no more than a happy accident at best. To be an “actual hero” I think you have to both want to do good/be heroic and then *actually accomplish that*.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    3. This position makes sense as a basis and I agree in principle, but I think it requires modification to account for risks and chances.

                      To take the roughest extreme: if someone gave their lives to carry out children from a burning orphanage, but one of the children later became a serial killer and killed all of their orphanage mates then 100 other people, does that make the orginal person’s actions in saving them not heroic in retrospect?

                      There is such a thing as ‘reasonable expecation’, and it’s in the definition of ‘reasonable’ that the wiggle room is to be had.

                      I think in guideverse the universe resolves this by pattern-matching ‘in cases that look like this are consequences usually positive or negative’. Or even ‘in cases that look like this do people believe consequences to be usually positive or negative’ :3

                      In this specific situation, I suppose an argument can be made that there was no ‘reasonable expectation’ of a better outcome here, so it was not heroic.

                      I’d say Saint’s expectation was pretty damn reasonable when it came to ‘let’s not do the twilight queen indrani thing’ but unreasonable when after cracking the crown she proceeded to try to break it. It’s possible though that she didn’t know cracking the crown already made that plan unworkable, and in fact that’s my guess. She didn’t know the half-measure succeeded already.

                      Like

                    4. In the example you gave the consequences are both way down the road and by no means reasonably anticipatable (is that a word?). The Saint’s actions, by contrast, directly threatened the lives of hundreds of thousands who are all needed to turn back the Dead King. That’s both immediate and extremely knowable, since she had literally just been told exactly that by the only person present with anything resembling subject matter expertise like five seconds earlier.

                      I’m just saying, if we’re assessing “risks and chances”, let’s not just assess whether risking the fallout of Twilight Queen Indrani might be a bad idea. Let’s assess whether risking literally the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people who are additionally needed to stop the Dead King from eating the damn continent might be a bad idea. You have to include both sides of the scales to see where the balance falls.

                      And so in this case, I will absolutely stand by the claim that Saint was being the bad kind of stubborn here and risking what she had no right to. Accepting the risk of killing hundreds of thousands and risking the death of a continent because you can’t accept the risk of a compromise is just called fear – fear of losing your moral certainty, fear of undermining the premise that’s held together your hard hard life.

                      There’s a point where “making the hard choice” isn’t a sign of moral courage, it’s a sign of the lack of it – and Saint crossed that point here. The fact that she was willing to sacrifice herself to do so because she believed (or at least convinced herself) she was doing the “right thing” just makes her choice tragic, not heroic.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    5. No, I’m assessing both and I agree that both are significant.

                      And I guess with your point about fear I can see why you would reject the word ‘heroic’ here, since that usually has explicit connotations of bravery, not just good intent.

                      Liked by 1 person

                2. caoimhinh

                  Remember that Named don’t even need to be actually good, bad or heroic in nature or intentions to take advantage of Narrative. All they need is the shape of it to be empowered or weakened by its force. That’s the whole point of how Catherine manipulates things to be on the advantageous side of a story and Amadeus avoids falling into narrative traps, sometimes even making sacrificial story tropes (remember his advice to Grem when fighting against Hanno’s team of knights). Plus there are multiple layers to a narrative, and multiple stories can act at the same time or use the same people to ‘activate’ one after the other.

                  Saint was definitely in the wrong here, putting in risk everyone’s lives for her stubborness; however that also made a story of a principled heroine fighting for what she believed was correct against a group that was majorily composed of Villains which enpowered her to fight, she was ultimately in the wrong so she would have likely be defeated in the end (remember Villains get an early victory or initially beat the Heroes in many stories) yet when she was looking like she would be subdued Kairos ‘activated’ another story by proclaiming his team as invincible with an assured victory plus saying that Saint would need to submit to Below, this had the same effect of a Monologue: weakening the ‘villain’ of the story and/or strengthening the ‘hero’.
                  The Universe and the Power of Narrative in the Guideverse isn’t a conscious intelligent judge, but rather a mechanism that acts by force of consequence. A wicked Villain acting like a good guy can get the advantages of the Narrative just fine (like Black and the Calamities did for decades), and a well-intentioned Hero acting in the wrong manner can be screwed by the Story (like the Saint of Swords when attacking Cat under truce banner, as Catherine was correct in her behavior).

                  Liked by 2 people

                  1. Rook

                    The Saint was quite clearly good as far as intentions go, not just ‘Good’ in a narrative sense. Whether the action was the right choice is a separate question, and depends entirely on perspective.

                    You have to realize that ‘reckless principled buffoon who cares more about lines in the sand than lives’ is the interpretation by readers really stretching to find a moral quandary with a character they dislike. The text shows that her motivations were the opposite – she was worried at the mass harm she believed the establishment of the realm would have on later generations

                    >“… There’s no going back from that once we unleash it, Tariq. And odds are we won’t live to see that garden of ruin come to bear fruit – by what right do you pass on that woe to those that come after us?”

                    She’s not indignant because people dare to disagree with her. She’s indignant because in her eyes the coronation is passing the buck to their children and grandchildren. Irresponsibly unloading the burden and suffering to untold generations that will follow, for an easy solution now.

                    It’s not that everyone agrees the coronation is the least harmful way to go, the disagreement in the first place is whether that actually is the case. Because one side is believing it can be taken back, be undone, the other believes it can’t. THATS the crux of the disagreement, and honestly there’s absolutely no concrete proof either way.

                    Liked by 2 people

                    1. caoimhinh

                      True. That’s what I meant when I mentioned the multiple layers of Narrative and multiple stories at work with a group of people.
                      It’s very subjective, and the power of story can swing one way or another depending on the interpretation and shift to the opposite way as soon as a single sentence is spoken.

                      They are all to a degree, right. And at the same time, they are all wrong to some degree. We know that Laurence worries are well-founded, she has vast experience on this, and as a veteran Named she knows how her world works in the conflict of Good and Evil, she is right to worry about the future if their principles are compromised; but that’s the radicalization that’s typical in conservative factions of politics, they don’t trust the other party and don’t believe change is possible or positive.
                      Tariq, on the other hand, knows the same as Saint (probably a bit more), but has decided to not lose hope, he is always willing to allievate suffering and works towards peace. Even if it’s always on his own terms (while accusing the other side of being the ones doing it, as he does with Cat), yet he is right in his worry of letting the other side dictate terms because he has seen them use that as opportunity to cause harm many times.

                      Amadeus and Catherine are the other side of the coin. They belong to the side that has always done bad choices and caused harm to others, so they decided to change things. Black built up a reputation as Carrion Lord, a cold-blooded Villain who destroyed everything in his way to make Praes a great nation, while his real plan ultimately led them to acting in a way different from the Villains of the past, as that was the only way to achieve true and lasting peace, to break free of the cycle (notice that while Amadeus is willing and prefectly capable of mass slaughter to achieve his goal, he refrains from it and takes a more pragmatic and even charismatic approach whenever possible). Cat is right now trying to break new ground, bringing a further change from the one started by Amadeus, yet she has to fight against the reputation of her predecessors and the bad image the Heroes have of her (only Tariq -and maybe now Roland- has a decent opinion if her, and that’s only because he looked at her soul before), from the perspective of Heroes and other countries, she is a warlord building up a great army, a threat to their lives. Forcing her to fight against them and kill their armies, which leads to confirmation bias that she was actually really a wicked person and so they call a greater reckoning, thus continuing the conflict.

                      It’s all part of the cycle, and to break free of it, they need to make compromises. Yet it is understandable that the ones who had lived through the war aren’t willing to make peace, as they grieve and are pained by their experiences that make them distrust the other side. But it needs to be done, otherwise they are just going to be killing each other for generations without end.
                      Compromise is, after all, the only way peace treaties can be formed, signed and implemented without crushing the other side.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    1. caoimhinh

                      Yeah, we have established long ago that she is a Knight Templar, close to a Well-intentioned Extremist (though that’s more Pilgrim’s trademark).

                      It’s not contradiction. It’s multi-layered narrative.

                      Liked by 1 person

              2. “About what exactly, do you mean?
                Compromising?
                That’s just simple civility and the basis of any convivence, negotiations and the hope for peace.”

                Yes, that, why do you think that’s going to work in Guideverse, or why do you think that such an obvious idea had never been tried before?
                I feel the need to point it out – our common sence does not work in the universe with vastly different ruleset. An example – running or swimming is entirely pointless in the vacuum of space.

                “Cat is trying to go beyond the simple struggle of Heroes vs Villains and trying to change the way they do things.”
                Aha, and Saint had been told that… When, exactly? See, another common assumption is that every actor has the same information as you. Up to and including metanarrative information such as that Cat is a protagonist and so must win in the end and also holds a moral highground because she never did anything to warrant distrust, like, I don’t know, strating a civil war, installing an architector of genocide of a city as a governer or enslaving an entire race to have some meatshields. Sure, she’s all changed or not her fault. And Saint knows all the convenient details that make her “not so guilty”(tm)… Since when, exactly?

                Y’all act Saint to be unreasonable for distrusting Cat, but what reason to trust her she really has, aside from proclaimed (sic!) good intentions? I mean no Villain had ever proclaimed good intentions before, had they?

                And the last thing I am going to point out, is that you don’t know that she REFUSES to consider anything, it is just as likely or more that she HAD considered, and then d3cided that it’s not worth the risk based on the information that she had and the fact that the situation CONVINIENTLY resolved to place a whole EVIL FAE CPURT AT THE BECK AND CALL OF BLACK QUEEN. And how was she supposed to know that after EVERYTHING had gone according to her plan, this is no just another time she pulls the rug under the Heroes?

                And, with all of the above in the consideration, I’d just shank the queen, to be honest. Like, compromise actually requires someone doing the compromising, not just manipulationg everyone into doing what you want them to. Which is exactly how the situation seems IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A DORECT LINK TO CAT’S THOUGHTS. Which Saint don’t.

                Liked by 3 people

                1. Note how Laurence actually did not make an attempt on Cat’s life. Like even when she parsed Cat as challenging her to a duel – Cat got a whole eleven seconds to murder her with a spell in while Laurence was trying to talk her down.

                  She actually, genuinely, is willing to give Catherine Foundling a chance.

                  Just, you know… not a fae court-sized one.

                  Liked by 2 people

                    1. Shveiran

                      No. She is not willing to give Cat a chance.
                      And to reply to Tek, yes, she believes Cat to have good intentions.

                      She said as much in Swan Song (Redux), and she still refuses a long term compromise. That is the point, that is what she fears: not teh Twilight Court, but establishing precedent for Villains and Heroes to sit at the table and compromise.
                      Because “villains will always betray you in the end”.

                      That is the hill she is choosing to die on. Those are the long term consequences she fears.
                      Her stance is simply incompatible with “giving a chance” to any Villain; because it is not about believing they have changed or lacking informations about seeing that they are good, it is about fearing the consequence of a precedence.

                      This was her pivot: the moment where she chose between embracing the new or sticking with the old.

                      I am not denying she had reason to take this stand; it wouldn’t have been a pivot otherwise.
                      But let’s not add what isn’t there: she had already determined Cat was likely sincere, because she told Tariq as much; she was not willing to compromise-but-not-fae-court-level-of-compromise-just-yet, because what she feared was precedent of a compromise: if you are set on avoyding that, the best she could have offered the Black Queen long term was a temporary truce.
                      The alternative was giving her sanction to keep on going, and SAINT WAS DEAD SET AGAINST THAT.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    2. I think if it wasn’t fae court level she likely would have bent. Just because it was her position does not mean she would not eventually be willing to change it.

                      But she never got a chance to.

                      Like

                2. caoimhinh

                  It has been proven that governments of Evil-aligned and Good-aligned nations can cooperate and work together (see the League of Free Cities) and also there’s the example of the Yan Tei where they are ruled by two people, one from Evil and one from Good. Besides, Evil-aligned nations make commercial deals with Good-aligned nations, although they prefer to use intermediaries for the sake of public image (Praes exports gems to Procer and imports food from Procer). So there’s in-universe proof that coexistence IS possible.

                  Also, Pilgrim told Saint about Catherine’s intentions for peace since as early as the Battle of the Camps. He stated it clearly and confessed that only the politics of the situation stayed his hand from enabling it to happen with Catherine in power of Callow. Besides, this isn’t just putting blind faith into Cat’s team, they were crowning Indrani under the condition of Oaths (which we know for a fact that affect normal people, even Named, and are outright unbreakable by Fae so they would have been a secure measure to assure that there would be no misuse of that power), and yet Saint decided that setting the precedent of making peaceful deals between Heroes and Villains was poisonous for the heroic cause, so she destroyed their safe option and gambled on the fate of 300 thousand people.

                  I am not saying that Laurence was insane, just that she isn’t willing to compromise and sit down for civilized peace talks. She is a fanatic, a conservative faction that radicalized her position of belligerence towards her enemies of the past and carries that hatred to their successors.

                  It’s no different than two countries at war for a long time; unless one of the two sides achieves an overwhelming victory over the other side, the conflict won’t stop with a clear winner.
                  Now, it’s clear that any conflict that last for so long means that the two opposing forces are of roughly equal might (or that their advantages and disadvantages balance each other), what we are seeing here is the new generation of one of those sides offering peace and co-existence, achieved by mutual compromises, while the other side refuses this and decided that they would rather fight to the death (this was stated clearly by Laurence).

                  You don’t need to read the mind of the other side to be able to achieve peace, if that were a requirement then there would never be peace. No negotiation, business deal, or peace treaty is signed by both parties knowing each other’s pasts and minds, they are achieved by recognizing that both parties would benefit from the deal.
                  If your justification for Saint refusing peace is “she doesn’t know Cat” or “she can’t read her mind” that’s a very bad excuse and completely invalid, because no peace treaty has ever been done that way. Peace is achieved by both sides recognizing that they can’t win the war without great cost, and is only signed when both sides take a step back and compromise.
                  Otherwise they just keep sacrificing people in the conflict.

                  Liked by 2 people

                3. caoimhinh

                  Also, this wasn’t even a deal for lasting peace, it was merely a truce for them to temporarily join and fight against the real unreasonable enemy: the Dead King.
                  The Twilight Court would have easily been contained or limited by the Oaths taken by Indrani, plus binding the participants to destroy the realm 10 years in the future when Indrani abdicated.
                  It wouldn’t even be a great compromise, it would be a mutually beneficial agreement with clearly established boundaries.
                  Yet Laurence threw that off-board and put hundreds of thousands of people at risk out of her stubbornness and pride. Thinking that making a peaceful deal tainted their cause. it’s the same nonsense as the speeches of racial purity or supremacy that say that joining with people of other race or nationality is a dishonor and a mark of shame that would disgrace the family line forever. It’s stupid.

                  Yeah, the Villains of the past were crazy bastards, and yes, maybe the Villains of the future will be crazy bastards, heck the villains of today are crazy bastards (looking at you, Kairos) but that does not justify gambling with people’s lives simply because the solution is given by a Villain.
                  If that Heroine rather let people die than let them receive the cure from the hands of a Villain, it’s not the Villain that’s the problem there.

                  Liked by 1 person

    4. edrey

      tariq, most likely, would take his right to rule back, get crowned and die like gandalf. on the other hand, the white knight just gained a very dangerous life. i am looking forward the peace talks now

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Faiir

        I might have missed something in the chapter – is there a specific reason why everyone talks about WK like he just leveled up, besides the fact that he’s one of the only named heroes left?

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Well… he gets the skills and memories, I don’t think he gains all their powers. He had a magical weapon that shapeshifted to suit his needs, but Black broke it. (He might well do Light weapons in future.) I’m pretty sure he does not get their aspects. The interesting thing is that he’s definitely not limited to his own Choir’s heroes.

            Liked by 3 people

        1. Say it again slower

          I think it isn’t because White Knight has Hero Power Access – that power is restricted to memories of other White Knights. I think it is that he is bound to Justice and Cat just murdered a major hero. Am I mistaken?

          Liked by 2 people

          1. He is restricted to memories of ALL HEROES. Not a single person mentioned was a White Knight. Most specifically I recall Unconquered Champion (who got Black in a pocket dismension and teased out some of his tricks), Lone Swordsman (who fought Black’s student and thus had some insight to draw on about his school) and Thief of Stars (who drew my attention for obvious reasons).

            Liked by 2 people

            1. caoimhinh

              I remember that he also Recalled the Unerring Fencer, the Sage of the West, and the Sword of the Free.

              I didn’t remember him using the Thief of Stars.

              Liked by 1 person

      2. Also: die like Gandalf? Are you actually talking about the LoTR character? Because y’know, he doesn’t actually die in the books. Goes down into a chasm to wrestle a Balrog, but he comes back from that, and at the end he sails off to the West with the elves.

        Like

      1. Cat phrased it as ‘should the other condition fail to occur’ ie she’s still agreeing to spare Laurence but now has the deal secured if Laurence doesn’t attack either.

        I don’t think Tariq will consider this to be a breach of agreement in spirit, since Catherine laid the condition that she will not allow Laurence to kill Masego upfront, and I imagine Masego is one of the 300 000 + the entire civilian population of Liesse. Which honestly should be enough on its own, but if we’re talking literally made deals – well. That one was for Laurence threatening just Cat. Cat wasn’t even in personal danger here, just protecting everyone else.

        Note how even Roland came close to being willing to kill her here.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Shveiran

          Also, Cat was in danger. She was on the demiplan Saint was willing to risk crushing on Creation.

          It is a very minor point, but still. It’s not like her own survival wasn’t in question.

          Liked by 3 people

  7. Huh.
    Well that happened.

    Kairos … what the hell. Monologuing at Saint? That’s a mistake if there ever was one.

    That’s one hell of a trick, Cat. But that’s definitely a one time trick.

    Liked by 3 people

        1. caoimhinh

          I would say a bit of both, but mostly to force Catherine to kill Laurence. Notice that he started that Monologue when it started to look like they were actually about to subdue Saint.
          Now Cat was forced to go back on her word of not killing Laurence, Pilgrim will be grieving, and the side of Heroes has lost a very powerful member, and at the hands of the Black Queen, which will strain her relationship with them in the future alliances that are obviously necessary.
          Anyone present knows that it was a necessary thing, even Tariq, but the Heroes and politicians who were not there will probably think different things, and Heroes in this setting are not prone to forgiving Villains or pausing to think about a situation where one of the Named of Below is actually the good person of the story. (This might interestingly enough lead to a situation of White Knight using his coin of Judgement on Catherine to decide the matter, and either make a mess by swinging against her or blowing everyone’s mind when the Seraphim declare her free of culpability)

          Liked by 5 people

          1. Andrew Mitchell

            > (This might interestingly enough lead to a situation of White Knight using his coin of Judgement on Catherine to decide the matter, and either make a mess by swinging against her or blowing everyone’s mind when the Seraphim declare her free of culpability)

            Now THAT’S a scene I really want to see play out.

            Liked by 6 people

                1. Not on camera I think, but IIRC there’s mention of WK getting asked off-camera to pass some heavenly judgment when he was in the Free Cities. That stopped as soon as the Seraphim gave a “smite” verdict on someone lol. It seems like he mostly flips the coin to ask when he’s already fighting someone or otherwise thinks they may be guilty of injustice though, and since he’s a Hero and the Seraphim seem to have a surpassingly uncompromising definition of justice that means there’s an extremely strong selection effect for cases that will produce a “smite” verdict.

                  And yeah, like has been pointed out by others the fact that he’s using his discretion on when to flip the coin and ask means he is in fact still employing his own judgment to an extent, despite his shtick ostensibly being “I do not judge”. I do feel like accusations of hypocrisy get thrown around with too much force when people discuss heroes tho, like yes they don’t implement their ideals with 100% consistency but that really isn’t of itself an argument. It doesn’t prove their ideals are wrong, and it doesn’t prove they’re wrong for trying to follow them or for thinking that trying to follow them is better than not having any. At most it proves they’re human, which means you’re “proving a point” that no one has actually disputed. That generally gets referred to as a strawman fallacy.

                  That’s not necessarily directed at you btw since idk where you land on all that, I’m just ranting because it’s something I feel ranty about lol. And in WK’s case I actually do have objections to his actual ideals, they’re just not based on pointing out that he isn’t wholly consistent in applying them.

                  Liked by 4 people

                  1. Boi I hear you.

                    And Hanno was implied to have flipped a coin on the Gigant who found him on the shore, and gotten a ‘not guilty’ verdict.

                    Unless he started his ‘I don’t see why I would flip the coin here I see nothing wrong’ streak back then ;u;

                    Liked by 2 people

            1. caoimhinh

              Hmm, true.
              But their hatred towards Saint of Sword is mostly because she doesn’t respect their nobility, she doesn’t give a damn about them being princes and princesses, and she says that to their faces. That’s why they hate her, not simply because she killed a prince decades ago.

              Nevertheless, my point was that when the news spread it’s going to cause a ruckus, specially among the Heroes.

              Liked by 4 people

            2. Rook

              You forget a they also hate AND piss their pants in fear of the Black Queen. The Regicide was no one’s friend, but she was in the grand scheme of things still on the same Side, especially with the Dead King looming over the horizon right now. The Black Queen’s reputation, on the other hand, is that of a soul-freezing terror from the Other Side.

              Now, if you’re an ordinary person or ordinary noble, and you get the news that the Black Queen murdered a living legend among Chosen, what are you going to think? You’re certainly not thinking “Jolly good old chap, the hideously terrifying Villain ain’t so bad! She did us the favor of killing one of our most reliable Allies against the Dead King, when the Dead King is on the verge of annihilating all life on the continent! Hip hip, Cheerio!”.

              No, said Villain just shot up on your charts from a hideously terrifying monster to a world-shatteringly terrifying monster. Now you’re feeling cornered because the successor of the fucking Black Knight, who looks to be every bit as terrifying as her teacher, is lurking at your backs whilst the Hidden Horror is knocking down your front door.

              As far as the details of why she had to kill her? Even if word got out far enough, even if people had the patience to listen, who’s going to believe it? Hells, half the people in her own Legions believes she sees through souls and freezes the blood in your veins at a whim. They’re not even up to date enough to realize she’s not a frozen murder fairy anymore, she’s just the high priestess of murder in the dark.

              At any rate, it’s near-certain no one is going to believe the Villain killed a Hero for entirely reasonable and Justified causes, because what kind of legendarily terrifying Villain gets there by being a reasonable or Just person?

              Liked by 7 people

              1. Decius

                You have to control the narrative.

                All anyone else knows is that Saint isn’t around anymore. Blame Kairos for killing her via betrayal, and everyone believes you. Combine that with Kairos stealing the crown and being killed in turn, and things work out pretty well. The hard part is forcing Kairos to steal the crown, but with all of the betrayal he’e been doing lately it’s about time for him to end anyway.

                Liked by 2 people

                1. Insanenoodlyguy

                  Did he hear Grey and Cat Talk? I think he could be reversed psyched into this. Sell “you aren’t getting the crown you bastard, you hear me?” Hard enough and he wont NOT be able to put it on.

                  Liked by 2 people

                    1. Insanenoodlyguy

                      Yeah, but now the crown is a death trap. And “I swear you die today if you put that on” and the like has tricked smart villians before.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. Yes, exactly my point. If Kairos had missed that the crown was a death trap, the logic could have been that he could totally go for it now that Laurence is not around

                      Like

                2. I don’t think Kairos needs to die for this to work, either. Literally nobody is taking his word for anything, if he told you in summer it wasn’t snowing you’d look outside. If Tariq survives this, his word will be fully sufficient for everyone to go ‘oh fuck the Tyrant’.

                  Now if he doesn’t either… =x

                  Liked by 2 people

          2. I mean honestly everyone present will probably point their finger at Kairos when a question is asked of whose fault it is Laurence died, since that’s entirely accurate AND politically advantageous for the entire friggin world.

            Though leaving the judgement up to Hanno could be beautiful as well, considering I somehow doubt Seraphim are biased.

            Liked by 3 people

            1. Hold up.
              The Seraphim are likely totally biased.
              At least when it comes to entities that can be construed as Evil. Such as Cat.
              When it comes to those that are Good, or at least not Evil, sure, they’re probably about as objective as they can be.
              But remember, the Seraphim, like all Choirs of Angels, have an agenda that includes defeating Evil.

              Liked by 4 people

              1. Remember that Hanno’s career as a Hero of Judgement started with looking at his Evil mother committing an unambiguously Evil deed and going “you know what? I’m not condemning this”.

                Liked by 3 people

                1. Shveiran

                  Yes. “I”.

                  Hanno realized he could not be objective, so he surrendered the decision and all future judging to an entity he believes sees a bigger picture and is less biased.

                  That doesn’t mean Judgment would not have condemned his mother, or that the Seraphim doesn’t consider being Evil as sufficient condition to be found Guilty.

                  Liked by 4 people

                    1. Shveiran

                      We do, and it’s true we likely don’t have enough evidence to reach a solid theory yet (we’ll likely get more when the Hierarch’s arch reaches its climax).

                      But my point isnt about that, is about whether or not the Seraphim condemns EVil because it’s Evil. Hanno doesn’t have much to do with it, in my opinion.
                      You seem to believe they wouldn’t necessarily find her guilty, but I’m not sure why.

                      Liked by 2 people

        2. Rook

          Catherine is almost certainly a target, if not THE target. I don’t think people fully realize how much of an awful setback this could be to basically all of her long term goals. It’s not even funny how much trouble this is.

          One, this looks terrible to everyone else. This looks really, seriously TERRIBLE. Some of the greatest Heroes of the age made a bargain with the Black Queen, resulting in at least one beijg struck down by her own hand, emphasis the latter. You know what message that sends to anyone considering making a deal with the Black Queen? Don’t even fuckin consider it, it’ll end up with her murdering the shit out of you. Look, even Heroes on the level of the Saint aren’t immune from the horror of the wicked Villain’s schemes.

          Second, guess who’s the only person here with enough respect and weight among the Good-aligned forces to even have a remote chance of clearing Cat’s name? The Pilgrim. What a coincidence, Killing the Saint happens to put cracks in Cat’s relationship with that very person.

          Third, all the weight of converting the Saint here just went up in a puff of smoke. Literally one chapter ago, one of the most jaded and stubborn Heroes alive – as well as one of the most respected and famous – as much as outright admitted Catherine is an exception. Even if it was ‘this once’, it would have set up precedent for an exception, for a Villain to be accepted by the most ardently Evil-hating. Not anymore. Whoops.

          Fourth, they STILL have to deal with the crown, and having someone abdicate in ten years is now off the table. Cat either compromises her bottom line by fully breaking it, which narratively is a huge blow even if you ignore the fact that it’ll emotionally wreck her, or she sacrifices someone. Hypocrisy and not respecting your own bottom line – even if forced – weighs badly in any light. Her options? Kairos, at which point you have Larat being the first ruler and fucking Kairos the last, when establishing the realm. Bad news bears. You have indrani, which would directly weaken the Woe and probably take more years off Cat’s life than her little attack just did. Or Roland/the Pilgrim, which heavily heavily exacerbates the problem from point one. It looks TERRIBLE in the eyes of the rest of the world.

          Liked by 5 people

          1. On the other hand, IIRC we don’t actually have confirmation of King Edward’s final demise, and we certainly haven’t seen his corpse.
            And without a body … we can’t say he’s dead again for reals this time. So he’s technically still on the table. Not that that’s necessarily a particularly good plan either.

            Liked by 4 people

            1. Isi Arnott-Campbell

              Well, we technically have seen his corpse even though we lack that confirmation you mentioned. His corpse was just moving around and thinking and such when last we saw it. 😛

              Liked by 4 people

          2. “The foremost hero of the age died AT HER OWN HAND” is the kind of information that’s only going to get out if someone everyone’s willing to believe puts it that way. Neither Roland not Tariq would be out to throw Cat under the bus here (let alone Indrani and the drow observers), and Nobody Cares What Kairos Has To Say. Especially if one or more heroes say otherwise.

            The real trouble comes if Tariq and Laurence BOTH die here and Roland is the only survivor. Sure he’s a foundation for heroes dealing with Cat, but he doesn’t have the weight to force POLITICIANS to do so, and Levantines are going to be livid regardless of Roland possibly trying to reassure them it wasn’t Cat’s fault.

            Liked by 4 people

    1. kinigget

      Because Saint is a moral absolutist down to her very core. She was willing to gamble hundreds of thousands of life on the basis that she could not conscience setting a precedent for working with Villains. Not even against a greater threat.

      She may not be wrong, and honestly likely isn’t. But her absolute adherence to her moral principles even in the face of an overwhelming number of practical reasons to break them makes it all moot

      Basically, she’s being Rorshach

      Never be Rorshach

      Liked by 3 people

      1. She wasn’t willing to set precedent for allowing THE CREATION OF A NEW FAE COURT ANSWERABLE TO A VILLAIN.

        A precedent for low key ground level working with a villain, she’s already set, and note how she tried to talk Cat down instead of cutting her down immediately when Cat did her swordprayer trick.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Adurna

        I feel like the crown might very well end on her corpse at this rate. A risky move to be sure with the dead king about, but a queen at the twilight of her life would be fitting.

        Liked by 4 people

  8. Xinci

    And so through competition do our competing creeds crown a triumphant champion. The keeper at the last door dies while a new one takes up the mantle. A bit sad that Laurence couldn’t be convinced in the end but I suppose there’s only so much space on the stage. A bit surprised Laurence didn’t try to think “A sword doesn’t age unless it rust”. But it was a fair climax before the next act and she didn’t have the weight for a “Cut through time and space” scene I suppose.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Andrew Mitchell

      Honestly, Kairos might actually go for it now:

      – He’s a true villain’s Villain. Below might actually save him from the crown killing him and Kairos would happily pay whatever price Below wants for that.
      – Roland’s still useful but it’s going to be able to stop Kairos.
      – Indrani is injured.
      – Pilgrim’s just about spent.
      – Cat’s used her best trick and so may not be able to stop Kairos if he makes a play for the crown.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Insanenoodlyguy

        That’s the key. She has to make clear he better not put on the crown and then try to stop him. That ends with him putting on the crown and being the villian that fell for it.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. What’s the line from the Evil Overlord list? “Never try to absorb a field of energy larger than your head”? Kairos might be too canny to fall for that, but then again he’s made his whole career out of riding the razor’s edge of villain tropes… who knows if he could resist rolling the dice on being able to do it again.

          Liked by 3 people

    2. WuseMajor

      Tyrant would find a way to make them all regret making him put the crown on.

      Anyone have a running tally on how many times Tyrant has betrayed people since they made their alliance?

      Liked by 3 people

  9. caoimhinh

    Cool chapter. Totally worth the wait.
    RIP Saint of Swords.

    I must say, seeing Kairos pulling a Gilgamesh’s Gate of Babylon through his Gargoyles here was kind of funny, but also interesting, that with him throwing priceless and mighty artifacts one after the other without any regard and in a sickly way with his weak arms. Amusingly contrasting with Gilgamesh’s cool way of launching his treasures as projectiles at his enemies through the golden portals.

    The Staff-Sword-Prayer being a Blade of Time is a fascinating thing that I truly didn’t see coming. Probably a miracle that won’t be used ever again, but it was very powerful and a clever way to side-step the issue of fighting the Saint of Swords.
    In the middle of the chapter, I had kind of expected Catherine to use her sword of Night to finish breaking the crown (something like half the wound being made by a Hero and the other half being made by a Villain seemed suitable to break the Twilight Crown, at least to me), but now that artifact has been used, though maybe Cat can still wield a Miracle of Night that can work.

    The act of killing Laurence will have great repercussions, even if Tariq and Roland tell the others what truly happened, it’s unlikely that the other Heroes will see this in a good way. It might even lead to Hanno using his coin on Catherine, which would lead to interesting consequences depending on what side of the coin is the one that lands (a messy fight if it lands on swords as that would mean the White Knight would attempt to kill her, and blowing everyone’s mind if it falls on the laurels as that would mean the Choir of Judgement declares her not guilty, which would probably be something unprecedented for all of them and with the Angels telling them that she acted correctly they would have to swallow their complaints and hopefully see her in a new light).

    I really hope Pilgrim doesn’t die now by putting the Twilight Crown, because that would create a huge mess, even if Roland can advocate for the fact that Pilgrim sacrificed himself to save everyone, it would still be blamed on Hierophant and by extension on Catherine, driving Levant into a warpath that won’t help anyone.

    So the question is, what will they do now?
    Will there be a scapegoat for the Crown? Who will it be?
    Will they find another way?

    Typos found:
    -it was Saint of Swords of wielded it / it was Saint of Swords who wielded it
    -if not for the for the gargoyle / if not for the gargoyle
    -the rest of the crow / the rest of the crown
    -even though she’d done so treacherously she was only going / even though she’d done so treacherously, she was only going
    -I hid a grimaced / I hid a grimace
    -cleverly snap out of Indrani’s longknives out of her grasp / cleverly snap one of Indrani’s long knives out of her grasp
    -though she flicked her blade back in time to cut through it barely helped / though she flicked her blade back in time to cut through it, it barely helped
    -his discussion / this discussion
    -cut off her arm the wrist / cut off her arm at the wrist
    -she held her severe hand / she held her severed hand
    -The blade had not once unsheathed / The blade I had not once unsheathed
    -Kairos had, against all odds, succeeding / Kairos had, against all odds, succeeded
    -my advance drew her eyes went to me / my advance drew her eyes to me
    -I touched me too / It touched me too
    -I close my mouth / I closed my mouth

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Yep, that’s about my analysis too.

      A question is, why did Bard want this?

      (This absolutely has her grubby fingerprints on it everywhere)

      It’s possible this was intended to help Catherine (as always in the nastiest way possible). IF Tariq survives this, that’s what I’m seeing.

      If he doesn’t, the balls are still up in the air.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. caoimhinh

        I don’t know if Bard wanted Laurence to die, but considering the setting we should assume everything that happens is part of a scheme or at least something she predicted, and make our hypothesis around that premise.

        I would think it could be to tie a loose end? Saint was the only one who knew the ‘burn all Procer in the final Crusade’ plan so maybe it’s something to squeeze her usefulness to the limit, get rid of Laurence to silence her while setting it up in a way that cast Catherine in a bad light when rumors start circulating (Heroes are more likely to only care that she killed a Heroine rather than the actual circumstances of the fact) plus psychologically wounded Tariq maybe in a effort to radicalize his position.

        There are many ways to go around this, and many ways the facts can be twisted into a narrative benefitting some and hurting others, both for Heroes and Villains. Ultimately, it depends on how omniscient EE makes the Bard. He could make it so that the Intercessor simply takes advantage of the situations as they present or show her as someone who no matter what happens everything is part of her plan; My personal view is that the Bard is somewhere in between, making many plans and having access to lots of information and resources, but definitely not omniscient yet capable of improvising with whatever situation happens.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I agree with your view.

          This one was obvious consequence, but what it was FOR…

          I will say this: it does NOT contradict my earlier theory about Bard triggering the Arch-Heretic bullshit to get the radical elements out of Catherine’s way early.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Andrew Mitchell

            So you’re still firmly on Team ‘Bard is a secret force for small-g good’ then?

            I’m sticking with my theory that the Bard’s role is to keep the game going and that’s ALL she’s doing.

            I think it’s going to be at least an entire book before we get to know that for sure. I’m currently thinking its 50% you’re right, 45% I’m right and 5% something else.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. I am just not seeing any evidence against that theory no matter what new shit comes up. There’s ALWAYS a way what she’s doing leads to good things if you squint. Sure it takes some squinting, but you really don’t have to squint HARD. Somewhere between ‘what she did broke an evil Empire and birthed the idea of the Accords’ and ‘Cat just got everything she wanted handed to her on a silver plate at the horrible price of losing a possible huge liability’,

              (I mean it’s early to call THAT one yet, but literally Tariq or Cat dying are the only Bad For Cat’s Plan outcomes here, and Tariq’s death might put more gears into action we haven’t seen yet – and Cat’s not dying for good here, she’s the protagonist, we know that much :D)

              >I’m sticking with my theory that the Bard’s role is to keep the game going and that’s ALL she’s doing.
              >I think it’s going to be at least an entire book before we get to know that for sure. I’m currently thinking its 50% you’re right, 45% I’m right and 5% something else.

              yeah lmao it’s likely we won’t know soon :3

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Shveiran

                Mhm, I see. So your position is basically that the Bard manipulates the plot, and the plot is bringing Cat closer to her goals (because protagonist). So either Bard is the final anatgonist, or Bard was on board with it all along and we just didn’t see it.

                I’ll admit if we go with Bard’s omipotence, it DOES make sense. My problem with it is that it makes Cat’s struggle unsatisfying, personally: it requires so much foresight and manipulation on Bard’s side, that basically everything becomes her doing instead of Cat’s. It reduces the protagonist to mostly a pawn.

                But I’ll admit it is not impossible, unlike I previously believed.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. I’m seeing it as slightly different than omnipotence: effective omniscience that leads to very good predictions (though not literal future sight), but very very limited ability to influence events.

                  If a rock rolling down the hill comes to a fork, and it takes a light touch to send it tumbling one way or the other, Bard can provide that touch.

                  If the rock is already there.
                  If the fork is already there.
                  If Bard has the capability to be there.

                  She participates in events, but the protagonist being who she is is a harsh prerequisite for Bard getting her way. This is why my theory is not unsatisfying to me: because it DID take Catherine Foundling, and it DID take Amadeus of the Green Stretch to find her, for Bard to get the ball rolling the way it went.

                  Their choices very much matter, and frankly they matter more than hers. She only works with what she’s given.

                  Catherine Foundling’s choices are shaped by circumstances she finds herself in. One of these circumstances is Bard, and I’m not seeing anything unsatisfying in that :3

                  Like

  10. Was I the only one thinking she was going to stab the pilgrim for turning on everything she stood for.

    I mean this was fine but I guess I had a darker expectation. The hero who slays monsters becoming a monster and assuming a throne of twilight to stone for her sins.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Andrew Mitchell

      Laurence had no reason to become a monster; as expected she stayed true to herself to the very end.

      To me, Laurence becoming a monster would feel like a cliche and EE has done a sterling job avoiding those so far.

      Liked by 8 people

      1. Right you are which is why this fiction is so wonderful. We have been trained by so many fables do many stories that they have been ingrained in our genes as much as the average Calowan.

        The other can set up the story then introduce a goat and our mind explodes. Seriously the author must have a note on there laptop to introduce st least one goat as a plot point for every major battle.

        Really love this story shame it is so hard to explain to friends.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. werafdsaew

        If the Saint succeeded at destroying the crown, and that gamble failed in that it killed everyone in Iserre, she would be remembered as one of the worst monsters in history by body count, far exceeding even the Doom of Liesse.

        Liked by 4 people

          1. werafdsaew

            Pilgrim, with his Ophanim protection, is guarenteed to make it out alive. He’s also the Hero who would tell the truth to the world to forestall future Saints.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Trupo

              That “Enemy” she spoke of all the time? It was her, because she made it impossible to make truce with her. She turned herself into one of people that couldn’t be trusted or reasoned with and had to be removed for everyones sake; i.e. what she believed she was fighting.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. She died because instead of cutting Catherine down the second she took out the sword, she tried to talk her down, thus giving her the eleven seconds she needed to kill her.

                I’m just saying.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. Shveiran

                  Debatable. There was too much narrative weight behind that swordnotsword that she was never going to survive it.
                  The narrative was pushing very hard against her. You could say it was her choice to hesitate; I could say that was the shape of the story pushing her to fall for it. And we’ll never know.

                  Liked by 1 person

                2. Shveiran

                  But even if she was… so what? Saint took a stance she was never going to walk away from. And that stance was “no long term compromise, no sitting at the table with them”. Long term, that means killing Catherine because Villain. There isn’t a lot of wiggle room here.

                  Like

  11. I realized why we don’t like Saint.

    She’s trying to dictate the results of lives she has no real right to, both from our point of view, and everyone in the story’s. Her voice is an opinion, a pretty valid one from the good guy’s PoV, but still, she’s been forcing her way with things that she never should have.

    Liked by 4 people

  12. gyndroid

    ““Come, drow,” the Saint of Swords said. “Let’s see if your faith is strong enough even I cannot cut it.”

    “Come,” Rumena replied, “before one of us dies of old age.””

    ….welp!

    Liked by 11 people

          1. gyndroid

            It’s certainly not the first time he’s teased about old age, and I kind of love it.
            From chapter 12:
            Clenching my fingers, I spit to the side.

            “Rumena, pick out two thousand warriors,” I said.

            “Will you be spitting on them as well, First Under the Night?” the old drow drily asked.

            “That one’s a bit of a stretch,” I replied without missing a beat. “Careful with those, you know your back’s not what it used to be.”

            “At least one of us should live to reach old age,” Rumena smoothly retorted.

            Liked by 3 people

    1. If anyone of Cat’s takes up the crown and dies, it’s Akua. Like there’s literally no reason to pick Black over her, and about 1000 reasons not to.

      But nobody from the outside can interfere.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Somehow I’m thinking that it’ll be Black who ends up getting crowned. The way the story’s going, I’m not seeing either Indrani or Roland suddenly dying, and since Black isn’t quite alive right now, he could get crowned and still survive in some fashion.

    Liked by 1 person

            1. Honestly I feel like in the right circumstances Amadeus would totally roll with that idea just for the psychological advantage of making all the Heroes feel really weird while they’re fighting him.

              Liked by 2 people

    1. erebus42

      I would guess she won’t recover the hand since it was the Saint who cut it off. I predict she will also probably decline a zombie hand (probably for the best considering who they are fighting). If she does lose her name (probable, since it’s kinda hard to use a bow with only one hand) she’ll at least be in the same boat as Masego. I’m sure it will be a lovely little bonding experience (you know, having the Crafts that they dedicated their whole lives and identities to snatched away and what not), hopefully they’ll be able to help eachother find new ways to reinvent themselves though.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Why? It’s not like Saint was using an Aspect or something like the Hashmallin feather sword that William had.
        As far as we can tell, anyways.

        Plus, Pilgrim started to use his Miracle-healing to reattach it almost immediately.
        I think Indrani’s worst case scenario is that she needs to spend some time rehabbing.
        Physically, anyways.
        Indrani might need some mental recovery time, though, since she’s had a particularly bad half hour or so.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. Morgenstern

        I’m still kinda banking on self-sacrifice-tragedy by one of the lovers, to potentially attempt restoring the love of their life even in their final second. Although I’m not sure that’ll happen. Might just be poor Roland bites the dust. But I would feel seriously cheated if no one bites the dust after THIS chapter. They firmly decided against gambling. That’s what you should get for denying the heroic gamble, storywise, no?

        Liked by 2 people

  14. erebus42

    Daaamn! That’s how it’s done! I was skeptical of the idea of Cat’s ace in the hole against the Saint of Swords being a sword, looks like I was right to be so. If there’s one thing I can appreciate its beating a seemingly invincible opponent through a loophole. Especially when done so beautifully. Time really does always win I guess.
    I get the feeling that that’s it for Andrani’s arm considering it was the Sait who cut it off.
    Also Kairos you beautiful treacherous bastard! Never change.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. burdi

    it is time then for catherine to subdue the twilight crown
    declare that she is the most worthy, she unmade two court of fae, and the twilight crown was born from her scheme
    the pilgrim will disagree of course but the crown already broken and catherine is the only one ever bear the court crown before

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Kissaten

    Bard REALLY wants to see that crown on Black Knight’s head, doesn’t she?

    So, I think, if Bard’s behind Crown’s cracking the natural cause of action is to break it completely, “no one’s worthy”: If it explodes and kills the heroes but armies somehow survive there’s no strife between those armies, and this kills both Bard and Dead King; If armies die as well Dead King dominates the continent, and Bard cannot allow it; if neither die it’s a clear loss for Bard. Meanwhile any outcome where someone’s worthy has coalition broken and either villains or heroes winning, meaning return to status quo so it’s in Bard’s interests.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Trupo

    “I have my moments,” Amadeus mused. “I did hear this funny jest, from someone very dear to me. It was about this very arrogant woman who had her belly opened and crawled away holding in her guts.”

    He paused.

    “The punchline is that you’ll grow old and die, while Hye won’t,” he helpfully added.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. This remains the worst joke he’s ever told, and also my favorite.

      I feel really bad for Laurence, I’ll be mourning her for some time yet, but…

      …this was still funny in how bad it was.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I kniw I am probably the only one, but I am sad this is how Saint died. She deserved to die as she lived, holding darkness at bay with the sword in her hand. This is just not fair. Heartbreaking. Gotta go cry myself to sleep now.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. werafdsaew

      Except that is exactly how she died? From our perspective she’s making a big mistake, but from her perspective she is the last hero holding the darkness back sword in hand.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. She failed tho. The first charge succeeded (and she prevented the founding of the court), but the second to finish breaking the crown failed.

        (That was by the way very stupid of her, though I guess she might not have heard what Tariq said about no-one being able to put it on and survive now)

        Liked by 2 people

      1. Everyone keeps saying this, and I don’t know why. She was powerful, but ultimately a one-trick pony. If she’d gone directly against the Dead King, he’d have swatted her and maybe sent her back as a Revenant.

        Liked by 1 person

  19. Hardric62

    Most impressive finishing move from Foundling here.

    That being said, I do have one regret: the fact Cat will never be in a position where she gets the Saint of Bitches to reveal/rant about her big plan was to have Procer burn to cinders and hope something worthy would rise out fo the ashes like she said to Cordelia in front of as many Alliance leaders as possible. That would have been so nice to see…
    Including the Saint of Bitches’ likely slaughter of them to silence them (eh, there is a nice villain to take the fall just next to her), only for another revealation of failsafes of a shape or another revealing it was for nothing…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I regret Laurence dying, and never coming to respect Catherine Foundling for what she truly is and her plan for what it truly is.

      She was a good hero and a steadfast ally to those who needed her.

      Liked by 3 people

  20. SpeckofStardust

    People Stating Laurence is an unchanging fool-
    “Some bargains compromise the very heart of what you are,” the Saint replied. “You’ll lose, Foundling. Call your minions back and let me end it the way it should have been done since the start.”
    I breathed out, steadied my stance.
    “You’re mortal,” Laurence de Montfort sharply said.
    -Does anyone here honestly think that saint was willing to let Cat live 10 chapters ago?

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Shveiran

    No. Considering she was also willing to gambel everything to prevent a compromise between Villains and Heroes being reached, fearing the consequence it would have as a precedent would be the direst threat to Calernia ever… does it matter?
    She would have killed her EVENTUALLY. She would have killed her allies and destroyed all her works if given half a chance.
    This is not the tragic loss of a beautiful friendship, stomped by fate before it ever bloomed. This is us finding out who among two powerful people with strong ideals unable to coexist actually survives to try and shape the world.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. SpeckofStardust

      The entire 5 man band was a compromise between heros and villains, This was the formation of an evil entity on the level of winter Cat, and then an agreement to leave it alone for 10 years. considering that they didn’t have much time for making a deal that had no loopholes I consider it to be a bad thing and an Evil one, their is no compromise here.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Shveiran

        It’s not like you need many loopholes, here. The new Court doesn’t have members, or baggage, or stories, or titles. All you need is for Indrani to swear she will never title anyone else, and it is a Court of one guaranteed. Add a clause about abdication in ten years or whatever, and you are golden.
        This isn’t Winter, it doesn’t have a millennia of weight behind it.

        Like

  22. ninegardens

    So, is it just me or is it that (once again), the obvious choice for the crown is infact Cat herself.

    It’ll kill her, and she won’t be around to force through the Accords….
    But in terms of Narrative weight, and diplomatic intent it checks all the boxes.

    If Pilgrim and Roland come back and are basically “Yup, black queen sacrificed herself to save all your lives. Here’s the treaty she was working on. BTW, the now have a short cut to the DK, and three months breathing room”….

    Or would it being a “Villian” taint the realm too much?

    …. hmmm… might be a problem as far as the Drow go.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. ninegardens

        I mean obviously they won’t do it, but it would be one hell of a twist for EE to kill off Cat a chunk before the end, and then just have nothing but interludes for 30 chapters.

        Like

  23. As a final memento to Laurence, as a token of my appreciation for the character, despite common disdain of her, or more precise because of it. I genuinelly liked her and it pins me that so many people happily cackle at the scene of her pointless, tragic, unnecesseary death. Gotta admit though, if not for her treatment that I considered unfair and my subsequent attempts of defending her, I would be far less attached to her.

    So, let me be more concise: we are sure that Saint is wrong because a) her postion is antagonistic to Cat and Cat is the protagonist, so we have an expectation that she is right b) she is wrong in both common sence and a conventional korality of our world. Anyone suggesting killing people in droves so that heroes would get a power-up here is an unstable lunatic, no to ways about it. c) she, as was pointed out inverse, is unlikable. So we don’t want her to be right.

    But how sure are we that Cat is right? Maybe she is wrong. Maybe you can’t build a better world with good intentions and desire to change it. Maybe her thinking is a passing anomaly, sson to join the annals of history, never to be seen again. I want her to be right.

    But I also wanted for Saint to survive all the wars, and see the better world she had given everything to save. A better world she had given anything to prevent. I wanted her to see, with her own eyes, that she is wrong, and people can be changed for a better. That there are colors to the world, not black and white. And that the trust, once given, can bloom into a flower of unimaginable beauty. I wanted her to see, I guess, because there are many ways to die. But to die fighting against your comrades, for a goal you’ll never met, derided and demonished by those on your side, to die fighting because you can not believe into a better world, to die, without hope, without closure.

    It is a terrible way to go. And I wouldn’t wish it to anyone. Much less to Saint.

    Liked by 3 people

  24. I never really bought into “Hero hate” train, and GP is still (and was from the moment he appeared) one of my favorite characters. A genuine Good Guy. Not that I can’t appreciate a good Villain when it comes, the fact that I could and can relate to Black Knight the most out of all the rouster of characters (and frankly, the presence of SUCH A RELATABLE CHARACTER was the reason I fell in love with this novel in the first place). He is just so much like me it’s not even funny. Except for demisexuality, I am quite average at that. But everything else, from the box (although my method involves visualising myself feeling particular emotion and choking that self) through the cold practicality down to the seething rage against Heavens resulting in singleminded goal of “winning” he is what I would be, were I a character, an idealized version of myself. More clever, more driven, more ruthless, less constrained, more ambitious, more confident, just more. I can gush about similarities for hours, the self-identification as a cog, a tool, attempts to cast off humanity (and by attempts I mean that neither of us were successful) I honestly find more worth in following Amadeuses journey than in any other part of the Guide.

    But for all our similarities, there is a key difference at our beliefs, and the reason why I do not share his seething hatred for Heroes. It is our views on agency and it’s existence. I am much more closer to Masego in that regard, who is also somewhat relatable, although I never was anywhere on the spectrum, nor am I a genius. But the attempts to mechanise and rationalise social interactions were painfully realistic. So, in short, I share Zeze’s position on existence of nature in place of agency. I do not believe in the freedom of choice, and while not believing in the destiny in the sence of predestined success or failure, I do believe that there was never any other way for me but to attempt to see my ambition through. I just can’t.

    And now that that’s out of the way, let me explain why I not only do not hate/despise/dislike Saint, but think she is undeservingly hated.

    For the most part, I find the reasons for hero hate quite simple. First, they are not protagonists, second they do not live up for our idealised versions of heroes straight out of comic books. Which I hate. I am not American, you see, I was not raised on comicbook culture. I find my version of heroism derived from my late country of birth – USSR. And the hero I associate with the word is an everyday hero. A simple laborer, with flaws, and stuff, not perfect, not ideal, not anything, just an average person going through the day and working to feed their family. Underwhelming, I know. But without those? We would not have a civilization. I utterly hate that culture of success when the only people deserving of aknowledgement, of notice are billionares of this world. Only exceptional are real. And simple people are just not here? They do not exist. I’s allways leaders, geniuses, like thay whole belief in pivotal person, as if anyone can do something great alone. How many know about Alexander, and how many know about those who helped him get where he were? His father, who actually made Macedonia strong enough to take Persia later? His generals, his you know what? I think I got my point across.

    So when I looked at the concept of the Guide, where average people fall by wayside and the Fate of the world is literally decided only in the clash of the handful of Named, I saw the people propagating my contempt for this scenario and got happy. Black’s, Malicia’s and Cat’s way, is our way. Where institutions are far more powerful than an individual. But for all that I like that way, ironically, it is as much not the way of their world, as individualism is not the way of our world.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Barrendur

    Ah, Laurence, peerless hero, you deserved better; you deserved a chance to *live* in the world you protected through the decades, not to die struck down by the fumblings of a girl who believes in compromise only so long as it requires no meaningful concessions from her. Cat did not follow your example; Cat may not even have *recognised* your example as being one… and now, all I can offer are my thanks, Hero, for a life lived in sacrifice for the little people; thank-you for your service, and rest now in peace, knowing you did what had to be done and you did not flinch.

    You will be sorely missed.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. miles

    Now put the crown on Saint! A broken crown for a dead hero, cut by her own hand before it killed her (ish) – the perfect long-term advantage for the good guys I’m sure.

    Like

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