Chapter 50: Sunset

“Blood freely spilled always offers greater power, for it carries the worth of both the blood and the choice.”
– Extract from “The Most Noble Art of Magic”, by Dread Emperor Sorcerous

“Huh,” the Tyrant said. “That is not what I believed that would do.”

I wheeled on him with cold eyes. For all that he’d helped me land the killing stroke on the Saint, he was also the reason there’d been a need for one at all. We’d been close to subduing her, before he’d decided to taunt Fate and loudly dare it to meddle. There would still have been the issue of the wounded crown, but Gods I would have preferred ending this without Laurence de Montfort’s corpse on the ground. Not because of any deep affection for the heroine, though I’d had a few perturbing glimpses on this journey at the woman that lay under the zealotry, but because the Saint of Sword’s death would both have a messy aftermath and rob us of someone who might have been able to truly hurt the Dead King. I’d begun this winter itching to put her down, but now… A virtue was no less of one because it belonged to an enemy, and for all her horrid flaws Laurence de Montfort had hardly been without the opposite. My hand had been forced, in the end, when the choice had been between a woeful roll of the dice and slaying her where she stood. But for all that the choice I’d made would stay with me, I would not for a moment forget who’d forced me to make it.

“This was,” I said, “one betrayal too many, Kairos.”

“There’s no such thing, Catherine,” he confidently told me. “And if there was, yet one more betrayal would see to it.”

Shouldn’t be too difficult to kill him, I thought. I had no intention of allowing anywhere near the decision yet to be made over the crown, or of sparing him after that last knife in the back, so ending this here and now before the Twilight Crown finished crumbling seemed the way to go about it. Kairos Theodosian still had a handful of attending gargoyles and more artefacts than anyone should have at their fingertips, but aside from that he was spent. He’d burned his strength against the Skein and then against me, shaken his sleeves enough that all his worst tricks had already been revealed. And while I was hardly fresh, above us two crows still slowly circled. Omens of death, and death was what I intended on delivering: if I need seek the helping hand of my patronesses for that, so be it. On the other hand, I grimly thought, there was still one last use left for the Tyrant of Helike tonight.

“There’s one path that doesn’t lead to me snatching the life out of you tonight,” I coldly said. “And that’s you putting on that crown.”

“So it seems I am to die,” the Tyrant pensively said, “unless, instead, I am to die. Truly, my friend, you present me with a dilemma.”

“Burn enough bridges and you’ll find there’s no pretty path left,” I bluntly said. “You just tried to get half of us killed by flapping your mouth, Kairos. Fuck the amnesty you bargained for: the last courtesy I offer you is deciding the shape of your grave.”

The slightest flicker of power, but there were only so many times someone could use a trick around me before I caught on.

“Riddle me this, Catherine,” the Tyrant cheerfully said. “What makes you think that-”

Night flooded me, bringing strength to my hands, and I crushed the obsidian scabbard still in my grasp. The powder that fell I blew through and, shaping the Night I threaded within it, cast it outwards. The obsidian dust revealed Kairos’ glamoured silhouette as he tried to make for the door and the Night I’d sent out wove itself into a noose that delicately went around his neck. The end of that rope fell into my palm, and as the noose tightened my fingers closed around it.

“Well,” Kairos Theodosian slowly said, glamour dispelling. “This is embarrassing.”

“Don’t pay attention to him,” the glamour I’d been conversing with insisted. “He’s an impostor.”

I wound the Night rope around my fist and spread my stance to steady my footing.

“How’s your dilemma coming along?” I asked.

“Bracingly,” the Tyrant replied without missing a beat.

“Enough,” the Grey Pilgrim tiredly said.

The streak of Light cut halfway through the rope of my own making, severing it clean. I was, bluntly put, too surprised by the old man’s sudden turn to properly react.

“How many of us do you intend to slay tonight, Queen Catherine?” the Peregrine said. “Enough.”

“If it’s not him it’ll have to be one of us,” I pointed out. “There is no reason to spare him, Pilgrim. One might well argue he earned that end.”

“Shall we speak of endings earned then, Black Queen?” the Grey Pilgrim replied, tone remote and eyes considering. “It would be an exchange of some consequence, I think.”

“You can’t be serious,” I said. “You struck out too, Pilgrim. To contain her, as I wanted to. And the damned reason it had to go further than that was the Bard’s fucking amnesty, which you insisted on-”

“I am well aware of what took place here tonight,” the Peregrine harshly interrupted. “Are you? I’d just lent my hand to the killing of a woman I loved like kin and trusted just as deep. Those ties were already tried and tested when you were yet to be born, Catherine Foundling. I did this because the bargain you offer may yet save lives by the millions and lay the foundation of a long-lasting peace. But do not mistake that, not for a moment, as my having been suborned to your every whim.”

“None of that means he should be sent home with a slap on the wrist,” I hissed.

“A trusted and farsighted comrade has asked me to spare the Tyrant’s life,” he flatly said. “And so it will be spared, no matter the nasty tricks he may play.”

“You are the hero of my heart, Grey Pilgrim,” Kairos Theodosian said, picking out the Night noose still around his neck and dropping it to the floor. “In the spirit of my deep gratitude, I would offer-”

The weight that fell over the room was almost a familiar thing. Above us Sve Noc spared a glance, and so my knees were not made to buckle, but the Tyrant of Helike was offered no such protection. The odd-eyed villain collapsed, first on one knee and then outright to the ground for that leg’s shaking. Twitching on the stone floor, Kairos rasped out a pained breath as the Grey Pilgrim stared down at him. Sharing that gaze, the Choir of Mercy looked upon the Tyrant without the slightest speck of compassion.

“You are not forgiven, Kairos Theodosian,” the Peregrine said, voice ringing with power. “You will yet serve a greater purpose, and for that you will be allowed to crawl out of this place through filth and dust. But you are not forgiven, you creature of ruin and perfidy.”

The Tyrant twitched on the floor still and I realized with a start it was as much from his convulsing body as a shivering laughter ripping out of his throat.

“Coward,” he gasped. “Even now Mercy holds your hand. Coward.”

The old man strode forward, dusty grey robes trailing behind him, and he knelt before the cripple before laying a hand over his lips.

“Through lies and deception you have brought great suffering,” the Grey Pilgrim said. “And so from you I take that poisonous gift: never again will you speak untruth, lest it be the last words you speak at all.”

Radiant light blinded my eyes, for a heartbeat, and through the Pilgrim’s touch I felt the Ophanim reach out into Creation. This would be a curse, if a villain had been the one to place it. I wondered what it was to be called, when a heroic hand had done the placing. My brow furrowed. Would lying make Kairos make a mute or kill him? It’d not been clear, by the phrasing. Looking at the Peregrine’s shoulders, I wondered if that’d been on purpose. The Tyrant’s body shuddered one last time, like someone whose fever was going the way of the grave, and only then did his twitching end. He exhaled a ragged breath.

“This is not,” Kairos Theodosian guffawed, “the last you’ve seen of me.”

Mismatched eyes going wide, he looked up and waited. A moment passed and he did not die.

“Best get crawling then, I suppose,” the Tyrant of Helike mused. “Until next time, friends.”

Without a hint of shame he flipped onto his belly and began dragging his expensive robes through the filth, fleeing the throne room like a snake slithering on the ground. Three heartbeats later the last remaining gargoyles ran out after him, as quick as their little legs allowed. I debated, seriously, reaching for the Night and just vaporizing the back of his head. The temptation was there, made even heavier by the way the odds were good I’d manage it. But if I did, it wasn’t the story that’d punish me. I’d be, in essence, breaking off ties with the Grey Pilgrim. Which I couldn’t afford to, if the Accords were to be more than a waste of ink and parchment.

“That was a mistake,” I finally said.

“If it was,” the Grey Pilgrim said, “then it was mine to make. Not yours.”

I kept my face calm but winced beneath it. Already the cracks were beginning to run through what I’d wanted to be the foundations of the Liesse Accords. And it wasn’t fair, I thought, for there was plenty of fault to spare and divide. But in the end, the Peregrine had stuck to our arrangement and helped slay the same woman whose life he’d bargained for. I could not truly ask more of him or begrudge his bitterness over having been led to this pass.

“If you’re quite finished,” Archer spoke up, “then I could use a hand, Pilgrim. I’m usually concerned only with hitting heads, not what comes after. Does he need healing?”

She’d propped up the Rogue Sorcerer over her knee, supporting the back of his neck. The Saint had knocked Roland unconscious, but aside from a red boot mark on his forehead the spellcaster should have no lasting marks. A concussion seemed likely, though, Named or not. The Pilgrim hurried to the younger hero’s side, wielding Light with a delicate touch for but a few moments before the Sorcerer woke. The mark, I noted, had gone from bright red from light pink but it still remained highly visible.

“She’s dead then,” Roland croaked out, eyes going to the heroine’s corpse. “Gods, what a waste.”

“So it was,” I quietly agreed.

His eyes, for once without trace of a coloured ring around the pupil, met mine.

“Your work?” he asked.

I nodded. Behind us, as is mocking the quiet of the conversation now taking place, the crown continued lashing out around itself with tendrils of sorcery.

“Whoever bears that will die,” the Rogue Sorcerer frankly said. “I’d be like trying to grip a naked blade as tight as you can, only with your soul instead of your fingers.”

The Saint of Swords’ last kill, unerringly made from beyond the grave. Her aged figure still lay sprawled at the foot of the throne, still and silent. No one had dared to touch it.

“Look like the choice was made for us,” Archer said, seemingly amused. “We’re back at making a god and killing it, whether we like it or not.”

“There is no choice to make,” Tariq evenly said.

And already I could see the lay of that, how it’d unfold. A band of five assembled before the eyes of princes and princesses of Procer had gone into broken Arcadia at the urging of the Black Queen, among them perhaps the two most famous heroes alive. Neither the Regicide nor the Peregrine would return from that journey. The treacherous Tyrant of Helike would escape with but a curse, and from the heroes the only survivor would be the Rogue Sorcerer – a hero little known, and a mage to boot. Sorcery was not well-trusted, in Procer, and seemingly rare in Levant.

We’d be at war again before Morning Bell, bargain or not.

“Agreed,” I said. “It’ll have to be me.”

Three gazes turned to me, Archer’s the least surprised.

“You said it was possible resurrection would work,” I reminded the Pilgrim. “And dawn comes. If it doesn’t, well… Vivienne’s been designated as heiress to the throne. I wish she’d had longer to prepare, but we don’t always get to choose.”

“No,” Indrani said.

I blinked at her.

“You’ve cheated death too many times, Cat,” she bluntly said. “You’ve always squeaked out of it so far because you had a story at your back, but this time the wind’s going the other way. You’ve spent your luck thrice over, this is just going to get you killed.”

“It’ll get someone killed regardless,” I said. “I don’t relish the thought I might not come back from this, Indrani, but I knew the risk when I began going down this path.”

“That’s nice,” Archer casually said. “Very stirring. But if you take so much as a step in that crown’s direction, I’ll knock you the fuck out.”

She was, I realized as I looked at her stony expression, absolutely serious. It was a strange thing, to both love and be furious with someone in the same moment for the same reason.

“It cannot be you, Queen Catherine,” the Grey Pilgrim agreed. “You underestimate the depth of the loyalties you have earned, and not only here. The Army of Callow would carry your corpse to the gates of Salia to make a funeral pyre of it. And I shudder to think of what the drow would be, without their designated conscience.”

“It can’t be you either,” I hissed. “You think it’ll go bad if I die? Hells, Pilgrim, your death alone would have Levant on the warpath but the Saint and you? Even if the First Prince turned up just to order the Alliance armies down there not to fight we’d still have a battle on our hands.”

“Then it has to be me,” the Rogue Sorcerer tightly said. “Archer has already been resurrected once, there is not even a chance of her being spared lasting death.”

He shuddered out a breath.

“It will have to be me,” Roland repeated. “It makes sense. I am the only practitioner among you, who best to shape this realm in what is needed of it?”

“At a guess? The only person in this room to have ruled over a court of the fae before,” I said.

“Cat, you can’t be trusted to make a choice like that right now,” Indrani frankly said. “Whenever there’s a blunder – and I’m guessing you count the Saint’s death as one – you always get all… self-flagellating. Like you’re just looking for a sword to fall on. Pilgrim says it’s good politics to keep you alive? Even better. I don’t really give a shit, though. I’d rather cut the damn thing than let you put it on.”

“You can’t think like that, Archer,” I sharply said. “I’m one life. That’s the weight on the scale. You’d be putting at risk hundreds of thousands-”

“Then it’s a good thing I’m not one of Above’s footsoldiers, isn’t it?” Archer said. “I get to be selfish if I want to.”

I wasn’t going to make headway there, was I? Touched as I was, I was just as infuriated. Because I couldn’t be grateful for this, not when it might cost the world so much for her to follow through. Who was it, I’d wondered, who’d taught her to love people on her own terms – much as I wanted to blame the Lady of the Lake for it, the dark suspicion lingered it might just have been me.

“It will not be you,” the Pilgrim said. “Nor will it be Roland.”

Though he’d gone pale at the notion of perhaps embracing his own death, I felt a sliver of admiration for the way the Sorcerer didn’t simply take the first way out he was offered.

“The Black Queen was correct,” Roland said. “There may be war, if you are the one crowned and killed.”

“My death will echo,” the Grey Pilgrim said, cocking his head to the side. “I have been promised this. There will not be war.”

The Ophanim agreed with this? Godsdamned angels.

“You’re needed to keep the heroes together,” I said. “There’s no one else with the pull.”

Maybe, and I would not have put a lot of faith in that prospect, maybe the Saint could have succeeded at that. She’d had the strength, if not the charisma.

“The White Knight will return,” the Pilgrim serenely said. “He was already on his way.

“The Tyrant had plans about him,” I said.

“I expect he does,” the Peregrine said, undertone amused. “It will come to nothing, under the stern glare of the Seraphim.”

“It might be that you could forgive my death,” the Rogue Sorcerer hesitantly said. “None could do the same, for you.”

“Forgiveness was never meant to be a salve for every wound made on Creation,” the Pilgrim gently said. “It was a gift to be handed out in the face of grave injustice. And there is no injustice, Roland, in an old man being allowed to rest at last.”

“So you’re just going to lie down and die?” I said.

The was a heartbeat of silence.

“The Saint of Swords is dead,” I said. “We all had a hand in that, mine looming largest by far. But that’s it, Pilgrim? Your friend is dead and you feel tired, so you’re choosing death when Calernia is facing its harshest test since the reign of Triumphant?”

“Queen Catherine,” the Sorcerer hissed. “There is no need for-”

“You’ve done some real nasty things over the years, haven’t you Tariq?” I said. “We both know you have.”

The old man’s blue eyes, limpid as a cloudless summer sky, met mine.

“You don’t get to roll over for death, after crossing those lines,” I said. “After taking on that responsibility.”

“Which of us are you truly haranguing, Black Queen?” the Grey Pilgrim chided me, not unkindly.

“I think I’ll get away with it,” I pensively replied. “I really do.”

Because I’d been here before. Twice. At this crossroads, making this call. I’d chosen death to rid myself of a pattern of three with the Lone Swordsman and taken my due resurrection from the Hashmallim after refusing the crown they offered me. I’d chosen death once more to slip the bindings the Diabolist had entwined me in, making myself the beastly keystone to her demise, and refused the crown she offered me. Liesse had been the crucible of my existence in a way nowhere else in this world could claim to be. Which of my triumphs and ruins had not been born of this place, or taken place among it? Here in this city I’d forged my claim of power over Callow not once but twice – first through bargain, and then through simple might. I’d struck a pact here that allowed Akua Sahelian to govern this place, and when that governance led to folly it was on these grounds I’d torn through her heart. Indrani said I’d cheated my demise too often, and perhaps she was right. Twice, here, I had tricked life out of death. But there’d never been a third, for before I’d woken in the depths of the Everdark mortal once more I’d dreamt and within that dream asked Sve Noc a question: am I dead? And the reply had been: at the threshold. Not through. Not quite dead. And so, I thought, Archer might be wrong in this.

Maybe I did still have a story at my back: twice living through death after twice being offered a crown. There was power in reiteration, in repetition, and few numbers had heavier hand on a story than three. Or, I knew, this might be where the pattern came to a close. This once I’d be reaching for the crown, and so my death would remain. It could go either way, I felt. Yet even then, I had a better chance of living through this than any of the other three. Rolling the dice on poor odds had always been one of my worst habits, I thought, but why stop now? You only lived once – give or take a few times.

“Three times I’ve been offered a crown here, by someone neither fully friend nor foe,” I began. “Three times-“

Archer, sighing, slid behind me and to my indignation she covered my mouth with her palm and put me in a chokehold. I began struggling, but she was Named and I was not: the disparity in strength could not be breached my mundane means.

“Is that… necessary?” the Rogue Sorcerer delicately asked.

“If you feel like you’re winning,” Indrani said, “the single stupidest thing you can do is let Catherine Foundling talk. Go on, Tariq. Before she turns it around on us.”

I reached for the Night, preparing to force her back as gently as I could, but it slipped through my fingers. Fear rose up in me, and I looked up. The Sisters were perched on the edges of the gutted throne room, one to the east and one to the west. They watched, silent.

Are you worthy? Komena asked, a whisper in my ear.

Patrons, I thought. Not tools or companions but goddesses of which I was the high priestess. If I set a measure in their name, I would be measured by it. It was, I admitted, brutally fair of them.

I have brought us here, through scheme and steel, I told them. I’ve tricked mortals and Named, set the Dead King aflight and freed from his grasp the last of the Fairfaxes. I have slain and won victories, all to bring this journey to an end of my making. Who can be worthy, if not me?

Sve Noc watched me, judged me, and in inscrutable silence passed their judgement.

All will be Night, Andronike whispered in my ear, and it tasted like assent.

Indrani knew me best, and so when the goddess-crows above let out a cacophonous caw she immediately tried to knock me unconscious. Unfortunately I knew her as well, and so restored not to struggle but to the first trick I’d even seen one of the Firstborn use: sinking into a pool of Night at my feet, I dissolved into a tendril of shadow and followed forward. Even in that strange, unpleasant state I could feel the clash of Sve Noc and the Choir of Mercy – both attempting to hinder the others’ champion and prevent their foe from hindering their own. They were, at least in that moment, each other’s match. I could hardly see, when shadowed, for unlike drow this state of being did not come naturally to me. I had to leap back into mortal form to get my bearings, though fortunately I found myself not far from the throne. From the corner of my eye I found Indrani, having strung her bow, nocking an arrow and likely intending to wing me before I could claim the crown. The Sorcerer’s jaw was tightly clenched as he worked some manner of sorcery, but it’d be too late. Sidestepping the Saint’s corpse, I reached for the crown.

My fingers went through it

The illusion broke, now that I knew it was there, and so did the one the Rogue Sorcerer had woven around the Peregrine. The Grey Pilgrim took the wounded crown, set with his own star, and placed it upon his brow.

“No,” I shouted.

Like it was the most natural thing in the world, the Grey Pilgrim leaned down and gently pried the Saint of Swords’ blade from her cold hands.

And, just as gently, rammed it through his own heart.

308 thoughts on “Chapter 50: Sunset

  1. ruduen

    And so triggers the end of an era for the heroes.

    Of course, the big question is, ‘what now’? Are the Pilgrim’s last words going to ring true? Will his death actually avoid the worst case situation?

    What is the White Knight going to make of the situation when he arrives? And how will the original ‘deal’ with the Tyrant work now, if he needs to be brought to trial? The original price (Pilgrim’s life) is no longer available – will that have any impact?

    Just what will the Rogue Sorcerer think of everything now? He might be the most diplomatic of all of the heroes we’ve seen so far.

    Lots of questions from this particular resolution, but I think there would be just as many questions from any others. For now… Even the immediate cleanup will be quite something.

    Liked by 14 people

    1. Caerulea

      The White Knight is also unlikely to make any bargain with Catherine. Because of the whole, giving up your free will to the Angels—which she has personally insulted twice now.

      Liked by 7 people

        1. caoimhinh

          That might be how the war is avoided, I think.
          If the Ophanim promised Pilgrim that his death would not cause war, then maybe it’s because the Seraphim will declare Catherine as not guilty, thus stating the will of the Heavens and preventing the Grand Alliance from taking hostile action against her for this.

          Liked by 10 people

        2. Rook

          Really? I find it hard to believe that Judgement is that likely to consider a woman who has “Justifications only matter to the Just” sown into her banners as Justified.

          Liked by 2 people

            1. Rook

              Am I misunderstanding what you’re saying because that sounds ludicrous to me, so likely I’m misunderstanding.

              Are you seriously implying that there is only a single instance where Catherine has ever acted unjustly, in the eyes of a Choir of Above?

              Catherine herself would cry laughing at the idea, even by her own standards she spends half her inner monologues self-flagellating about every moral injustice or mistake she makes. Let alone the kind of Choir that would find fault with a Good King trying to fairly mediate a conflict between master and servant, because he had the gall to trust in his own flawed mortal judgement.

              Liked by 3 people

                1. Rook

                  ???

                  in the context of discussing whether Catherine would be considered guilty or not by the choir of Judgement… you would assume the choir of Judgement is doing the judging.

                  Liked by 1 person

            2. Rook

              I mean, best of intentions sure, but she spent three books actively being proud of not giving a shit about being Just, and the fourth book attempting to enslave an entire race.

              I’m just really not seeing the basis for considering her a “Just” character overall, in either a mortal sense or a Choir sense. Well-intentioned? Yes. Net positive in a choir of Mercy sort of way? Likely. Justified in either a mundane legal and/or a choir of Judgement sort of way? Questionable at best.

              Liked by 3 people

            1. Rook

              See, there’s the catch. They’ll likely consider all her actions, but whether they’ll calculate them as a sum total in a utilitarian sense like Mercy does is very questionable, and imo not likely.

              The classic philosophical mirror to the idea that right or wrong are determined by the sum of one’s actions, is that right or wrong is determined on a predetermined basis for each individual action.

              For the classic Trolley problem, Tariq and Mercy would say flip the switch and kill one person without a doubt to save five. There is, however, an entirely opposite school of thought which, taken to the other end of the extreme, argues the opposite – that it’s morally wrong to flip the switch. The fact that you’re actively murdering one person who wouldn’t have otherwise died matters. It’s one of the major alternatives to utilitarian moral philosophy, and one in which the same person with the same actions and the same good intention can be judged entirely differently.

              I really think that it’s an extremely premature (and likely inaccurate) judgement to say Catherine will be acquitted for sure.

              Liked by 7 people

              1. I’m not really going off ethical theory in saying Catherine will be acquitted. There’s a thousand paths that say she won’t be and a thousand paths that say she will be; what I’m looking at is the shape of the narrative. I’m seeing it happen as a thing that happens in this story.

                Liked by 2 people

              2. Isi Arnott-Campbell

                I agree with Rook on the grounds that the Seraphim showed Hanno a kid he once fought getting beaten by the kid’s father afterward for losing the fight as an example of Hanno’s failings as a moral agent. If that’s supposed to be on Hanno’s conscience then the only way Cat is getting out of trouble with them is if –as someone joked when Ivah complimented her bust– “flat is justice.”

                Liked by 4 people

                  1. Shveiran

                    So you believe the Choir of Judgment to weight the net of evil done against the net of good done by someone?

                    I’ll admit I have no idea what criteria they will use, which I think is the point. Justice is divine, beyond mortal ken etcetera. It might be you guessed right.

                    I don’t know, though… it feels weird for a Choir to adopt as valid a criteria that would absolve someone who butchered three orphans because they saved five from certain death. It is close to how we learned Mercy works, but we have also been told Mercy is often at odds with Judgment.

                    Maybe they weight the pros and cons of every single action taken, and judge you worthy if all of them were a net positive? I doubt Cat would be absolved then.

                    Liked by 2 people

                    1. I think it’s a more nuanced and complicated and odd system than that. They weigh everything with the eye to whether you’re likely to be a force for good or evil in the future, but also with the eye to the specific local situation their judgement was asked for on.

                      Like

                  2. Isi Arnott-Campbell

                    My point is more that they’d hold a then-child responsible for how actions outside of his direct control and even his knowledge which he caused completely accidentally would play out; if that’s a weight on the scales to begin with then the system involved sounds strict enough that any prospect of Cat passing the test comes across to me as protagonist-centered morality (which the Guide is pretty good at avoiding, I think). There’s not much moral agency on Hanno’s part in that incident and it really seems like the adult was the problem and like reproaching Hanno misses the point.

                    Liked by 2 people

                    1. Shveiran

                      Quite. I am half-persuaded that whatever the system they use is, it is so strict that you can determine the outcome without knowing the scale.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. The adult is at fault, but the issue is more like… “Punching people in the face is a bad thing. Do you truly understand why it’s a bad thing? Do you understand how it works, that it’s a bad thing? Do you understand how it fits into cause-effect chains, and how you acting otherwise could have made things different?” That’s how I read that.

                      Liked by 1 person

              3. Steve

                The opposite school of thought is objectively wrong though. It is a simple matter to prove it.

                The trolley problem is only a moral dilemma if you implicitly assume you are the one throwing the switch. If you instead assume that you are a randomly chosen person stuck on the rails, your choices are between a 1/6 chance of death and a 5/6 chance of death. You can even play it out in a game – make your decision as to what is “more moral” and afterwards roll a standard six sided die – if its a 1 you’re the single person on the diverted line, otherwise you’re one of the five on the main line. But you have to decide what is moral *before* you roll. I challenge you to find a single person that believes you shouldn’t throw the switch under that framing.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. Rook

                  Lol this might be the first time I’ve seen someone try to argue deontology as ‘objectively wrong’ in favor of extreme utilitarianism, in any context outside of playing devil’s advocate. But, I guess hey, it’s an interesting new one.

                  So hypothetically, if that is your stance, would you find it morally acceptable for a hospital to quietly murder one of the healthier patients in the night, if the organs they harvest would save the lives of five people needing a transplant? From the perspective of a random patient rather than a doctor if you think that makes a big difference, sure.

                  Would you find a traditional hospital that does no murdering of its relatively healthy patients be morally objectionable?

                  Same thing with forced human experimentation, that sort of thing? All cool in the hood if you save more lives than you spent with the results later on, correct?

                  Liked by 3 people

                  1. Proper consequentialism/utilitarianism requires calculation of ALL consequences. Including IDK trust in medical system, the concept of justice, etc.

                    I mean the trolley problem is kind of bullshit because we get too little context to it. How certain can you be there’s no other solution? How certain can you be there’s no one else around who can implement that solution? You can’t just strip ethical dilemmas of context, they like CONSIST of context. You can’t just say ‘you know with 100% confidence there’s no other way’ cause in real life that is physically impossible.

                    When the trolley problem gets replaced with shit like the hospital question…

                    There’s extreme utilitarianism and then there’s STUPID utilitarianism.

                    Liked by 3 people

                    1. Rook

                      Er, no. The trolley problem isn’t ‘bullshit’ in any way shape or form. The entire point it is to be a thought-experiment comparison between deontological vs consequentialist moral ethics, not just an examination of consequentialist ethics. Specifically in terms of the morality behind permissibility of some actions (or the active inhibition of an action) when it could produce greater utility instead. Which it is perfectly suited for.

                      It, like every other such thought experiment ever posed since the dawn of human civilization, isn’t intended to be some perfect representation of reality, but rather to be an illustration of a particular concept that you’re trying to examine. The criticism you’re putting forward isn’t any different than calling the use of frictionless-sphere-in-space scenarios for learning basic concepts in dynamics “bullshit” because objects typically aren’t perfect spheres. It’s a criticism that COMPLETELY misses the point in the first place.

                      Similar for other classic variations, such as the transplant or fat man variations.

                      I mean I know EE wrote a very interesting character one time based around the concept of utilitarianism but his writing ability doesn’t suddenly invalidate more than half the major prevailing theories in the field of moral philosophy, developed over literal centuries. It doesn’t mean legitimate opposing concepts like the incommeasurabity of human life should suddenly vanish into thin air, no longer worth considering.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. True, specific uses of the trolley problem are bullshit, not the problem itself.

                      It is majorly misused though.

                      And my problem with opposing concepts does not come from EE’s writings. It’s that there legitimately ARE decisions to be made where ‘incommeasurability of human life’ just doesn’t give you an answer. Like it doesn’t give you a bad answer it just gives you a ‘NaN’ and you have to look for another way to make the decision.

                      …this is not a conversation I wanted to get into on this lmao

                      Like

                    3. “but rather to be an illustration of a particular concept that you’re trying to examine.”
                      I also think the religious version of this discussion is interesting. That’s the one where everyone I’d on one track excepting Jesus on the other, and God is at the switch. Only through the Atonement of Jesus the Christ can we all break the bonds of death.
                      So is it a moral choice for God to pull that switch?

                      Liked by 1 person

                    4. Rook

                      Interesting one, you could definitely make that argument, but it’d be dependent on whether you’re considering it in the context of secular moral philosophy or religious moral philosophy in the first place.

                      For Christianity in particular, the entire thing is based on the belief that there is an absolute deity around whom the definition of right or wrong (sin/lack thereof) revolves, so you could also argue that it’s a moot question to begin with from a religious context.

                      If you’re looking at Christianity outside-in, from the context of secular moral philosophy, it can be interpreted as a utilitarian choice.

                      But if you try to look at it from a Christian moral perspective its quite different – there is no moral quandary because the entire faith is built on the assumption that the God making the decision is the same one that dictates all right or wrong. A very specific, extreme application of deontological principles with a basis in a perfect deity as the predetermined criteria for determining ethics.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    5. > I mean the trolley problem is kind of bullshit because we get too little context to it. How certain can you be there’s no other solution?

                      There isn’t another solution because you’re stuck in a “problem box”. Which is a standard argument against all such scenarios — but the thing is, any kind of analysis needs a reductionist phase, so you can look at elements in isolation. Those problem boxes represent the reductionist approach to moral analysis. If you can’t handle the basic moral dilemmas, you aren’t going to do so well when they get complicated.

                      For example, that hospital question, is being presented as equivalent to the trolley question; but having separated out the trolley question, you can see that the hospital version adds several other moral issues. Likewise for its real-world version, where China is currently harvesting organs from convicted criminals… including political prisoners.

                      Liked by 2 people

                  2. Steve

                    Of course. You just have to consider *all* the ramifications.

                    Consider if a hospital actually openly adopted such a policy. Healthy people (IE without terminal conditions) will immediately stop going there. You will then be left with a patient pool who are all going to die anyway, and for certain categories of patients the survival rate will go up dramatically, even with the harvesting. Thus the hospital, if they are being smart, will chose a randomized harvesting strategy such that any given person who has a problem that the hospital can reliably solve has a substantially better chance of survival there than anywhere else. The lack of existance of such facilities means that far more people are dying than need be, because it does not exist as a choice.

                    As far as forced human experimentation, it would certainly be a more efficient use of resources than life imprisonment or death row, and arguably preferable even for the people experiencing it – by the time experiments reach human trials are already pretty thoroughly vetted for being safe.

                    No, the real problem with your proposed isn’t that they’re horrible, but rather, they aren’t good enough. That’s why they seem bad – not because they’re worse than the world we live in, but because you are instinctively reaching for an even better solution that you haven’t thought of yet. Things like chanelling more funds to large scale organ fabrication/replacement or flat out letting people SELL their organs, and the option to partake in medical trials to redeuce prison sentences are obviously better choices, for example.

                    Of course, if you really want to save a lot of lives in a hurry, start replacing fossil fuel and biomass power plants – they kill about 3 million people A YEAR. Or start tyting to drive mosquitos extinct, they kill another million. Those are vastly higher numbers than due to lack of organ donation, which is a rounding error by comparison – heck, actually understanding the problem is pretty important considering that not everyone who is willing to donate is considered eligible to do so after they die, often even for reasons that wouldn’t impact the viability of the donation. Lives are lost needlessly because of bad regulations and legislation all the time, and any sane person would start with solutions in a lot of other places before you start dragging people off the street for organ harvesting.

                    Liked by 2 people

                    1. Rook

                      The main problem in attempting to argue pure utilitarianism by going a ‘but the REAL world’ type of argument is that you must necessarily revoke all concepts not related to the end utility. There is no such thing as a bottom line. Intentions don’t matter at all. There is no such thing as a fundamental human right.

                      If that particular extreme is the hill you choose to die on, you run into issues like being forced to consider unit 731 as heroic paragons of humanity, not some of the worst war criminals the world has ever seen. After all, their research was very valuable to the field of medicine.

                      If someone was a serial killer, but donated all the organs of his victims to hospitals, a pure utilitarian would actually have to start arguing that person shouldn’t be sent to jail. He should be given a medal, for his net +4 utility in saving human lives with every kill.

                      Heck, can you really say Bill Cosby should be in jail for all the mass rape? A pure utilitarian would have to ask for evidence showing that his contributions to society are outweighed by the negative effects of his crimes before sentencing, even after proof is shown that he committed the crimes.

                      Well, we all know the above three examples are so wrong that they’re pretty gross to even consider. But those kinds of issues are why extreme utilitarianism actually immediately falls apart outside of a very confined thought experiment. The argument for it in no way gets stronger if you consider practical examples.

                      But even aside from the practical issues? The problem with the theory in itself is actually the exact same as the problem with trying to argue pure deontology. You haven’t actually proved the underlying premesis behind either of them, why your system of morality should have a basis in treating people as a means to an end, versus treating people as an end in themselves. Why do you believe one way or the other that the outcomes are what are important, versus the belief that both the outcomes AND the actions must be ethical?

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. @Rook

                      >If someone was a serial killer, but donated all the organs of his victims to hospitals, a pure utilitarian would actually have to start arguing that person shouldn’t be sent to jail. He should be given a medal, for his net +4 utility in saving human lives with every kill.

                      No, a pure utilitarian is forced to do no such thing, because a pure utilitarian also understands the UTILITY of the RULE OF LAW. Rule of law saves lives in itself. Being consistent in a policy has consequences that carry far more utility than making exceptions.

                      Don’t forget that from the point of view of pure utilitarianism, ‘giving someone a medal for producing utility’ is not a rule either. There are no rules, so there’s no rule that says you have to approve of someone following your philosophy. The only rule is that you have to do whatever you believe maximizes utility.

                      Deontological morality does a really fucking great job of maximizing utility in 99% of cases, incidentally. So a ‘pure utilitarian’ looks at the ability of an average person to calculate consequences of their choies and goes ‘you know what let’s say God exists instead’*

                      * this is a rough analogy that is chosen for being punchy and not for reflecting my views on religion in any way, I am simply referencing the ‘if God did not exist he would need to be invented’ thing

                      Like

                  3. Steve

                    It seems I can’t actually reply to your other comment, possibly due to some kind of reply depth limit. Firstly, I’m not actually arguing extreme utilitarianism. In extreme utilitarianism, a forced breeding program that halves everyone’s utility but triples the population, or murdering a quarter of the population to double the quality of life of the rest are both 50% global improvements. However, under the random member of population analysis both are correctly identified as dystopias.

                    It’s actually quite simple to show that it’s the correct system. Consider the set of ideal worlds to live in coupled with the intermediary states and actions needed to get from this world to each of those worlds. The maximally preferable world+action set to live in must be morally correct, or else it either isn’t maximally preferable to live in (a contradiction) or your definition of morally correct is wrong and will lead to a worse world to live in.

                    That said, a utilitarian does not have to argue for unit 731 or the organ donating serial killer. Both are suboptimal, and everything less than the optimal is some degree of immoral. We could argue about more and less moral, and perhaps the utilitarian would argue for our world plus the organ donating serial killer as preference to our world – but thats not proof the ODSK is good, that’s just showing what a horrible baseline our world is as a starting point that someone could argue that a serial killer could possibly improve it. A sane real world utilitarian realizes that you must do as much good as possible, and that good that requires causing great harm is a less efficient use of resources than good which is harmless. But again, I’m not a utilitarian, and neither is the framework I described.

                    Also you still haven’t answered the question – would you prefer a 16.6% chance of dying or an 83.3% chance?

                    Liked by 2 people

                    1. Morgenstern

                      People took an example from the plot, but quickly turned to broader moral discussions, because they were arguing what a Choir of Judgement’s choice might be – AKA : definition of “just”, “moral”, etc. incoming in 3, 2, 1, … 😉

                      Liked by 1 person

                2. amyntas

                  I don’t believe morality can be objective at all.
                  All theories of ethics are based on some kind of rule (happyness of all people should be optimized, don’t do something you would not want done on yourself) but these rules can never objectively be proven or disproven to be moral since there is no clear cut definition of right or wrong in our world. (The closest I could get is “doing what is best for society = moral” and then best has to be defined. Best could be defined with an evolution argument like “best is greatest chance for the society to keep existing or reproducing” but then suddenly the europeans destroying the native american way of life becomes moral.)

                  What you are suggesting is that something would be moral if you would find this to be the best option after evaluating the problem equally from the perspective of all others. This is practically Utilitarianism, you can’t say an opposite school of thought is wrong just because it gives a different result than Utilitarianism.

                  Liked by 1 person

      1. First of all angels literally dont have a communication channel to give him instructions other than him asking ‘do I kill this person’. Which, TBF, he is fairly likely to ask about Catherine now.

        Second did you miss the part where the Ophanim backed Tariq in his ‘Catherine is not fucking dying here’ opinion

        Liked by 7 people

        1. Rook

          I don’t think the Ophanim being cool with her is a basis to say the Seraphim will be, at all.

          It’s strongly implied in Peregrine IV that Choirs – and specifically the choirs of Mercy and Judgement – can be opposed to each other. When Tariq pardoned the person who killed his sister, he mentioned explicitly that he didn’t believe it was Just. The Ophanim were perfectly happy to fly back onto his shoulder for it though, because Mercy cares about mercy, they don’t give a shit about Justice.

          See quote:
          >’“That is just,” the man who’d murdered Yasa said.

          “No, it isn’t,” Tariq sadly said.

          But it was not the Choir of Justice that he was sworn to.”’

          If EE follows the precedent of just using a standard theory of normative ethics for whichever virtue the next Choir in the list embodies (which makes sense, why make it up on his own when we have thousands of years of IRL development in the field of moral ethics to draw on), there’s a very good chance that Deontology via Judgement follows Utilitarianism by Mercy.

          If it is the case, then judging individual actions as right or wrong by a predetermined set of rules, instead of the net sum of positive or negative outcomes, means that Catherine’s brand of good intentions by bad means gets her crucified by the former and pardoned by the latter.

          Liked by 10 people

          1. The issue is that we’ve already seen the Seraphim show Hanno their perspective, and it was a lot more complex than that.

            That, and the Ophanim are convinced there won’t be a war. Somehow I think it’s more likely they know how Judgement works and predict that Catherine will be fine, either through the coin landing the right way or Hanno never flipping it (and the latter is imho less likely in turn), than that they think a ‘swords’ verdict on Cat will somehow not end in war.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Morgenstern

              I personally don’t think the latter is per se less likely, in this instance (or were you talking generally?).

              For this instance:
              Hanno might very well never flip the coin, because he is still mortal, he is still the one flipping the coin and he has been shown to NOT always do it by default – and what we find here is a Hero of Mercy stuck by a sword of a Hero that might very well be Judgement or at least another Choir that does not fit with Mercy (“never compromise”).
              What might that look like?
              Tariq attacked her for disagreeing over what to do with the crown (or maybe the other way round, SHE is the fanatic, after all, might stick more easily to her).
              The Saint would never lose her sword…
              Age catching up to her might seem a fitting trick for a hero like Tariq – they killed each other over a disagreement between Heroes’ perspectives, which seems rather common in Tariq’s home region and not surprising at all.
              Or maybe they were both going for the crown, the crown happened, the Heroes triumphed, but had to sacrifice themselves to do so AND save all those innocents.
              . . .
              In essence: There are so, so many versions of what could realistically have happened there and might just seem likely enough to anyone seeing the remains that this would not necessarily end in the villains / Cat getting blamed.
              That instead might just *seem* self-explanatory enough from different viewpoints from people who have neither been there nor seen the action from afar that even someone like Hanno might not see a need to flip a coin, but trust the other Heroes on their alliance with Cat – at least for THIS one episode here.

              (Yes, of course, there are quite a lot of stories that might end in that, too, e.g. “the villains took the sword after their death and tried to show a different story than actually took place” – but I don’t think they are necessarily that much more likely, in a world where heroes disagree all the time and self-sacrifice for a big goal, like saving thousands, is also a very common thing for heroes to do.)

              I’m just curious which story will get chosen; I don’t see some truly “clear” outcome yet.

              Who knows, maybe it will even be dear old Bard that sticks it to the other Heroes – and we just saw how blindly people like Tariq and Saint follow her. How likely is it younger Heroes would not?
              On the other hand, she might just have cheated Tariq, I guess.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. To be fair, in the absence of a convincing explanation to the contrary, there are two possibilities for the default assumption – (1) the Dead King and/or the god they were going to crown and kill did it, or (2) Cat and/or Kairos were somehow responsible.

                And since most people won’t know the details of the plan, they’re likely to default to “one or both of the Villains is responsible”. Especially since Cat is officially the Arch-heretic of the East.

                Maybe they can get away with putting all the blame on Kairos, but … there’s likely going to be a lot of people looking to blame one of the people who came back.
                Also if Kairos wants to cause trouble, or someone asks enough of the right questions, Saint’s death could be said to have been brought about by Cat or otherwise on Cat’s hands. Might need to get a little finicky on the precise wording, if it’s Kairos.
                And Tariq died with Laurence’s sword stuck in him. After Cat ended Laurence. And Cat was trying to grab the Twilight Crown to put it on herself and Tariq was trying to prevent her from doing so.

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      2. I doubt the Choir of Mercy would be all that happy if Judgement decided not to inform their guy about what Pilgrim died to achieve — not to mention most of his reasoning.

        Not happy at all. Since, you know… Mercy took a hand throughout this. It’d be one Choir screwing the other over.

        Liked by 4 people

    2. Rook

      It probably will not come to war, but it sure as hell isnt going to be any more pleasant than an actual war would’ve been.

      The Pilgrim’s Mercy might be a more assured greater good than nearly anyone else’s, but it’s not a kind one by any measure. It’s the kind of Mercy that had him slay a kid he loved like his own son and let go the person who killed his sister for petty ambition.

      This? The repercussions of this aren’t going to be any less painful than his precious Mercies, and Catherine is the only survivor left with the story to bear the brunt of it.

      As for Hanno, I suspect he’ll be in many ways more trouble to handle than the Pilgrim and Saint combined. The Saint might have been hostile but she’d listen to Tariq most of the time. Tariq might have served a choir but he served arguably the most coldly practical out of all the choirs, one that acts almost entirely on practical outcomes; justice, kindness, and most other traditional principles be damned. He was also an old man with the traditional old man character traits of easy self-reflection and near-endless patience.

      Hanno is younger, likely less patient and self reflective, has no Good partner to hold him back, and serves a choir which generally cares far more about lines drawn in the sand than Mercy ever would. On top of that you’re going to have to deal with him after being the primary Villain to walk out of a disaster that made corpses out of the last two major Heroes. On top of THAT, he’s likely to think far less for himself than the Pilgrim did, considering that Mercy was known as a partner of many years. They’ve previously shown to trust the Pilgrim’s own good judgement to an extent, even for major decisions. Judgement on the other hand, has made it explicitly clear that Hanno is their bitch, and Hanno has with great relish agreed to that.

      As for hiding all the inconvenient details of what happened here from Hanno? Questionable at best, if even possible. We know for a fact that Judgement also has limited Omniscience if it’s own, and the scope of it looks to be even wider than Mercy’s – theirs looks at intent as well, rather than just result.

      Per Prosecution II:

      >” …They showed him, then. What it was they saw.

      The endless shifting tapestry that was all the decisions that were made and could be. The impossible lay of action and consequence, of motive and result. …”

      Liked by 7 people

      1. Isaac Martinez

        They have no hold on Cat. The Night is protecting her from other choirs scrutiny.

        Hanno is younger, so is easier to predict what he will do, even more because the choir is like a god in the way that they are static.

        Hanno is knight that is a priest that listens his choir at all time. That will cripple him in the long run.

        And Cat was a squire that is queen that is a priest that guides the new formed goddesses of the Night. And is always watching her steps.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Rook

          Catherine isn’t the only person here, and not all of them have godheads on their shoulder. The sve are strong but at best they’re fledgeling deities new to the godhead, they can’t obscure far beyond their own.

          If even mundane mages can locate Heroes by looking at where scrying doesn’t work, a Choir sure as heck can get a sense of what happened by reading into everyone else, even if Catherine draws a blank.

          Liked by 5 people

          1. Isaac Martinez

            That’s not he point. To give a true Judgement, you need all the history, no fragmented parts. And there are things that only Cat knows. If they try to do that, then they are not the Judgement’s Choir. Anf if they do that, although I don’t think they can because they are static, that creates a precedent that will destroy them in the future.

            Like

        2. Jarthon

          It’s worth mentioning that he is relatively young in his hero career. He may very well change over time to become the next Tariq or something comparable by being subjected to an ever more heartrending series of decisions in which he disagrees or at least feels the need to closely examine the choices of his Choir. Until that point I agree he will be more predictable, but I personally believe that it will come sooner than we think. There always needs to be a greatest hero to fight the greatest villains, the old wise mentor to beat back the big bad before the new blood is ready. The current power vacuum (though that term isn’t really perfect here) may give Hanno the narrative weight he needs to speed through a character development arc and become a hero to match what is probably the most dangerous age of villainy since triumphant was around: Cat, Kairos and the ever-present Dead King. After all when the scales start tipping too hard to either side the other starts getting to put more force on them as evidenced by the current age’s success of evil following Tariq’s unprecedented success for good in the last age.

          All of this is just really speculation on my part, but for the argument about whether or not Hanno will start a war over what just happened I personally think not. My reasoning about it is that for the choir to promise Tariq that his death would bring no war is something of a legacy (though that’s not the right word either). If they were wrong it would cheapen his sacrifice far too much. Whether or not the other choirs will agree with Mercy’s choice is, to my mind at least, irrelevant in the face of the story. Angels have been shown to be just as beholden to the story as humans and possibly more–think the end of book one where Cat gets her resurrection out of a choir because of the story. The mentor sacrifice is a huge moment, especially for someone as important as Tariq and the final wishes are never ever betrayed. Villains like Warlock get one last great big shout as they tumble off the cliffs, but heroes get to change things and make the world better with self sacrifice.
          Anyway, that’s my take on it all. I am super pumped to see where EraticErata takes us since he has a truly impressive track record of surprising us all.

          Liked by 4 people

      2. fuck, I really hope Judgement CAN look at Cat’s intent here, Sve Noc or not

        coz, you know, she DID NOT MEAN THIS

        and I’m pretty sure they don’t condemn accidents / convoluted event chains that lead to no better outcome / literally losing the race to sacrifice yourself despite your best effort

        they’re choir of judgement, not choir of murder, no matter how villains shit-talk them

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Rook

          Is it… correct, to expect to be judged for your intentions while judging other people for their actions?

          Catherine herself has done a lot of judging of opposition that fought against her by their actions far more than their intentions.

          Isn’t it rank hypocrisy to insist on being judged in turn for her good intentions while being pardoned for her often terrible actions? I think that’s a very losing battle to begin with, and even if won, not a battle that actually means anything worthwhile.

          Really if she wants to be fully honest and consistent, then when faced with Judgement Catherine shouldn’t even wait for the verdict or care what it would be. She should start the conversation admitting guilt for her own flaws the same way she’d judge the opposition for theirs. Almost exactly the way the Pilgrim has so several times before. Exactly the way Amadeus did the first time he ever truly failed her at second liesse.

          Because that’s what she should be about. She should be about challenging the standard set by Below and Above, not getting away with it under their existing standards. Getting away with it is old school thinking. It’s Akua type thinking.

          Evil thinks no one should be able to hold them to any standard. Good thinks everyone should be held to their personal standard. Both are shit. Neither are good enough.

          In her own words to the Sisters, aim to be better, even if it isn’t your current way. Even if it means partially condemning your own actions under that same, *better* standard.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. >Is it… correct, to expect to be judged for your intentions while judging other people for their actions?

            I don’t think Cat expects that, no.

            >Really if she wants to be fully honest and consistent, then when faced with Judgement Catherine shouldn’t even wait for the verdict or care what it would be. She should start the conversation admitting guilt for her own flaws the same way she’d judge the opposition for theirs. Almost exactly the way the Pilgrim has so several times before. Exactly the way Amadeus did the first time he ever truly failed her at second liesse.

            I mean I honestly think she WOULD yes. Give it a right set of circumstances that doesn’t make it necessary for her to act otherwise, or give her a sufficient emotional push, and she’ll do exactly that. She’s prone to it, it IS how she thinks, and I think after this she won’t be as inclined to be defiant towards Choirs on principle as she was before.

            The question is not how she’ll react to Judgement, the question is whether Judgement will tell Hanno to kill or spare her.

            Liked by 3 people

    3. Jonnnney

      The white knight is going to flip a coin. He gave up all his agency long ago. The question becomes is the choir of Judgement going to agree with the choir of mercy

      Like

  2. Caerulea

    Godsdamnit Pilgrim, what are the armies going to do now! Also, I suspect that the Grey Pilgrim underestimates what the Tyrant can do. The Tyrant has a plan for the Seriphem, and the Hierarch is still alive.

    Liked by 13 people

  3. “This was,” I said, “one betrayal too many, Kairos.”

    “There’s no such thing, Catherine,” he confidently told me. “And if there was, yet one more betrayal would see to it.”

    Swap out “betrayal” for “abstraction layer” and you can really see the software developer in Kairos.

    Liked by 22 people

  4. Quite Possibly A Cat

    The only redeeming thing about this is Pilgrim is dead.

    The Rogue Sorcerer really seems wishy washy. First he was all: “nope, we gots to destroy the crown because we can’t sacrifice anyone!”, but didn’t side with Saint.

    Then he has the brilliant idea to sacrifice himself! But when Pilgrim pushes? He helps out the guy anyway.

    I thought Named were supposed to be headstrong and stuff! I wonder if he actually stole his Name?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I thought all of the sorcerous names were less morally-aligned as something like let’s say, white or black knight. Less about faith or conviction in a creed or goal and more about just extreme curiosity and desire to uncover the truth. Roland’s main schtick was was that he… requisitioned the magics of others across his travels and just kinda has a grab bag of things for different occasionals( unless I’m wrong plz let me know). That seems like a good setup for a more wishy washy personality to me.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Yeah just a kid. 😉 I’m not as old as Pilgrim & Saint were, but I’m occasionally tempted to call 30somethings “kids”, just as my old hiking buddies used to call me “kid” — they were in their 70s and 80s to my then-mid-40s. (Yes, when I talk about my “old” hiking buddies….)

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      1. He’s a rogue sorcerer meaning he was closer to the below than most heroes. Like the gallant brigand name.

        This is why the pilgrim watched over him as he was the most likely to be poisoned by the dead king.

        Liked by 3 people

    2. It’s almost like he’s capable of changing his mind in light of new arguments.

      Named are headstrong when they have reasons to be confident in their position. Rogue Sorceror only ever HAD opinions on the situation because he’s a Named, otherwise he’d be like ‘I am literally here by accident I have no idea how to handle any of this’.

      This is the Named version of ‘I literally have no opinion on what is happening currently because I do not understand even 1% of it’

      Liked by 8 people

    3. I’d have to re-read the chapter, but IIRC Roland was more floating the idea of not sacrificing anyone but wasn’t seriously pushing it since it would literally be rolling the dice on the lives of several hundred thousand people and anyway the leaders in the group are coming down hard against it. Honestly RS’s decision tree makes total sense to me here as far as who gets killed by the crown post-Saint also.

      Round 1 of “Who Dies?”, Calernia’s least-favorite gameshow:

      Indrani: Not politically vital, but can’t be rezzed again – bad choice.
      Tariq: Could lead to disaster with Levant – bad choice.
      Catherine: Could lead to disaster with both Callow and the drow – bad choice.
      Roland: Not politically vital, could potentially get rezzed – not good, but least bad choice.

      So Roland goes “it should be me”. Decision checks out logically. But then both Tariq and Catherine start going “no it’s gonna be me”, and they seem perfectly willing to throw down over it because apparently under the Catherine Foundling New Model of Villainy it’s not just Good that has fights over who gets to sacrifice themselves. Weird, but she’s obviously sincere enough about it that her friend is threatening to knock her the fuck out to stop her. Round 2 starts for Roland:

      Support Catherine’s bid for it: Pilgrim says her death would lead to bloody disaster with Callow and the drow and I trust him, and while Catherine says she thinks she could come back her own closest friend and ally here isn’t buying it so why should I? Bad choice.

      Make my own bid for it: I’m still the best intersection of most clearly politically non-vital and the most likely to be resurrectable, but if it comes to a throwdown then let’s be real, it’s clear I can’t take either of them on. Not a real choice, unfortunately.

      Support Pilgrim’s bid for it: Pilgrim says he’s been personally promised by a Choir that his death actually won’t cause disaster with Levant and he believes that he can be replaced as a leader for the heroic contingent by a specific other hero who is already on his way; I still don’t like the idea of him dying but those were my only two concrete rather than sentimental objections to his bid, and it seems like Catherine is objectively the worst choice at this point. Least bad choice.

      So he supports Pilgrim’s bid. Again, decision checks out logically, certainly at least from his perspective/the info he has available. Honestly I feel a lot of sympathy for Roland’s situation through all this; he just keeps trying to make the best decision for everybody, and then gets swept along in somebody else’s plotting/story and has to try to adapt on the fly to an increasingly bad situation that he has had very little role in actually shaping but still has to deal with as much as anyone else. Frankly somebody else might have checked out and stopped trying to make decisions on what to do in those circumstances; IMO it’s to his credit that he stayed engaged and did his level best to exercise whatever he could scrape together of his agency to try to get the best outcome available.

      Liked by 8 people

  5. Trickster314

    Well now we know Cats philosophy where gambling is concerned. YOLO doesnt seem the best approach but I haven’t cheated death twice so maybe there’s some truth to it.

    Liked by 5 people

  6. konstantinvoncarstein

    Honestly, to the last moment I tought it would be Roland. I really hope Tariq’s death will not send Levant in a frenzy. It would be very bad.

    Liked by 6 people

      1. Shveiran

        I fail to see how any action the Choir has so far enacted could stop the honor-bound, Tariq-loving, trigger-happy army with the monster-slaying boner from turning on Cat and Co.

        I mean, yeah, they promised, but HOW?

        The one ludicrous option I can see is Cat rising from the ashes as the Gray Pilgrim, because she is still technically Named, but that really feels like a deus ex.

        I’ll sit here and wait for EE to blow my mind again, because he has earned A LOT of benefit of doubt from me. But this is one of those instances where I really don’t see how this could not be a tragedy. It has been set up as a lose condition for a long time, after all, so… we shall see.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. They can talk with other heroes, especially if there’s another Mercy hero involved (but I doubt they actually need that). For an event of this import, They can even do a miraculous revelation, and they’ll know to to send it to.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. TheZorginator1

          Simple, Hanno arrives, looks at Cat, and flips a coin. Then the choir of justice gets to decide if it’s justice to piss on the heroic sacrifice of the greatest hero of a generation when they need to prepare for the invasion of the Dead King.

          In other words, Hanno comes up and declares that Cat was not responsible for the deaths of the heroes…and possibly blames everything on the Tyrant as he slinks back to his god-killing plot or whatever he’s up to now.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Shveiran

            I know I’m missing something here, because the way I see it there is no way out and I don’t think that’s where the author is going. It’s just…

            Sacrifice or no, when have the Choir ever argued in favor of this compromise?

            Incomplete informations is a great argument for why most heroes see the protagonist as dire threat. But… the choirs?
            For most of her career, Cat didn’t have goddesses on her shoulders. It’s not like they didn’t know her soul. And… what has changed, really?
            I guess you could argue that Winter Cat was a different beast, and that was why Endurance and Mercy wanted her removed.
            And I guess Contrition didn’t really hate her guts. I mean, not PERSONALLY.
            The question remain: why would it be in any way preferable to do this with a big choir based divine boom, rather than by the Pilgrim’s martyrdom? Why is that necessary? Why is it preferable? I just don’t see it. Even if it works, it becomes more complicated than it needs to be. I can’t see the logic.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. TheZorginator1

              I’m just basing it on the choir guaranteeing peace based on Pilgrims decision. Maybe they just saw the future, but if they’re guaranteeing it I would expect them to take action even if it’s minor.

              Like

        3. > light show in the skies showing the Pilgrim’s last moments from a perspective that makes it clear Cat literally fought him over it
          > Ophanim in everyone’s ear whispering what happened
          idk but I don’t think it’s pure bullshit
          I think there’s still going to be A LOT of fallout for Cat to handle, but Ophanim will interfere just enough to make sure she CAN.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Shveiran

            You are right, all of those are options. What bothers me is that I don’t understand why they are options NOW and WHERE NOT BEFORE. When the armies of Callow were being surrounded and we were headed toward a big climatic battle taht would wreck them all… why not then? Why don’t tell them “Stop you sillies, the battle is to the north”.

            I don’t get the logic behind it. If it is an option because the choirs WANTED a compromise or at least a truce to work, why didn’t they do this kind of stuff before?

            If they DIDN’T WANT it before, what has changed?

            Liked by 1 person

            1. 1) The choir wants what the Pilgrim wants. He was not after a truce until Catherine forced one, he was after a pattern of three that would guarantee her death (BOI WAS THIS A QUICK TURNAROUND ON THAT POINT);
              2) This kind of thing requires proper story weight. No, the Choir can’t just do mass addresses willy nilly any time they want. The self-sacrifice of a major hero though? “Your death will have ripples” <= that's where the weight is coming from.

              Liked by 2 people

            2. talenel

              It’s an option because of the weight of Tariq’s sacrifice. Read the opening quote. Tariq sacrifices basically everything. His crown, his last friend, and now his life. The narrative weight here is humongous. And the Ophanim can act on that here.

              Further, The Ophanim weren’t willing to make such a decision before this moment. The Ophanim and Pilgrim knew little about how Cat had changed since the Everdark. They only knew Winter Cat. And the new Cat they couldn’t read at all due to Sve Noc. So they had no reason to look at Cat and be necessarily willing to work with her. But over the brief period of the heroic band, I do think Tariq saw enough of Cat to be willing to treat with her and see it as the greater good.

              Like

              1. Shveiran

                I can see the merit in the arguments you both made.
                What I remain unconvinced about though is:

                a) What can the Ophanim achieve with this weight that wasn’t an option if Tariq simply lived to talk to people outside? Why is this sacrifice needed? It still feels a bit silly to me.

                b) Second, what does the Ophanim want here? A coalition against the Dead King? Actual lasting peace afterwards? I mean, “Mercy”, sure, but if they were cool with a crusade led by greedy procerans I’m guessing there are nuances to that “Minimize suffering”. I’ve often had the impression that some life seemed to matter more than others.

                Liked by 2 people

                1. werafdsaew

                  Contrition can mind rape an entire city, and Mercy is supposed to be even stronger. So I think there’s plenty of things Mercy can do once the story allows for it.

                  Like

                2. I understand the confusion but as the story has stated good(Angels/ Above) and evil(Demons/Below) are both held bound by the pieces on the board. Good is unable to meddle if evil does not equally meddle.

                  Good was unable to meddle before simply because of the overwhelming power they held all the heroes both the Regicide and the Peregrine, and all the armies assembled against one little, brave Country. which is why evil has been able to meddle so much. They raised a goddess, they ushered in a race from literally below ground that has a religion based on murder. Not to mention the countless times the Callowan army had evil luck. Also remember the death of Warlock evil heavily meddled allowing him to destroy a whole armada.

                  Have you not noticed that when a side has the uperhand that is when they are at there weakest. Read back to the first fight between the white knight and the calamities. as soon as they have overwhelming superiority the black knight retreats because that is when he was closets to the chopping block.

                  Good has been meddling as much as they could but they required a huge loss of both of there oldest and probably most dear pieces. Both the loss of a woman who will kill no matter the cost as long as it mean evil not winning in the end, a sword against the below, then the pilgrim helping all who serve the side of good resurrecting broken pieces, instructing each new generation. They lost there best player and there best recruiter in a single fight with a mere “shard” of the dead king. Good will take a long time to recover even longer to find heroes so willing to not just due what the heavens demand but to know the price of there actions and still follow through.

                  A life of loneliness and murdering your sisters legacy.

                  Like

                3. > Why is this sacrifice needed?

                  The sacrifice was needed to avoid the destruction of Iserre and the Alliance armies. And at this point, I think Cat had convinced that Below or no, she actually is onboard with minimizing unnecessary suffering. (Except her own self-flagellation, which is part for the course for angelic heroes.)

                  Given that, their choice was rescuing an old man who wasn’t going to make it much longer anyway (we saw that Laurence would have died within 10 years regardless)… or a young up-and-comer who’s playing both sides of the field… but is doing so well enough to score on both sides of the field! 😉

                  Battle by battle, deal by deal, choice by choice, Cat is paving a tertium via for those who follow. She’s been doing so metaphorically from the beginning, standing between Good and Evil… and if the Crossroads still works out with Pilgrim’s sacrifice, she’ll have done so literally, creating a passageway that’s neither in Creation nor Arcadia.

                  Like

                  1. Shveiran

                    You make a lot of sense.

                    I dunno, it still feels wrong to me, but… you make a lot of sense. I suppose this will be one of those times where I need to look back to this half a book later to see that it fits.

                    Like

                    1. Also: Warlock got to call an on evil god because the attackers had summoned an angel or lesser Good god. A classic demonstration of why the Liesse Accords are needed.

                      Like

                    2. Not exactly.
                      Warlock got to call on Below for a temporary power boost because he was dying, and Villains get their Death Curses/final stand.
                      The divine mask fragment thingy that the priests called upon is why Warlock was dying at that time, but without said fragment, Warlock would’ve been able to call on Below for his Death Curse/final stand no matter what triggered it.

                      Like

  7. caoimhinh

    So Tariq is leaving a whole clusterfuck mess behind him and Cat will probably be blamed. Kinda weird that Cat noticed Kairos’ glamour but not the Rogue Sorcerer’s glamour, though.

    “There will be no war” Perhaps, but it’s still going to be a huge blow to the future alliance that is needed to fight against the Dead King and the making of future strategies of the joined operations. And at the least, it will weaken the Heroes’ side by a lot, losing their two most veteran Named at the same time.

    Interestingly, anyone looking at these events from the outside will see the Black Queen as a mastermind who retrieved her friend, her teacher’s soul, created that realm and managed to kill two of the oldest Heroes of Calernia in a single night.
    A flawless victory for her and Below. Or so it will be seen, which means damaging any possibility of the rest of the Heroes extending the chance of civility towards Cat.
    Maybe it’s all part of the Bard’s plan, maybe she will simply take advantage of it, we will see.

    P.S: of course, Pilgrim could, in theory, be resurrected by his Choir after his sacrifice, Aslan style. The Angels have the power of resurrection and have used it many times before, so it’s possible.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. ninegardens

        Also like…. She was focused on Kairos and EXPECTING trouble and illusions from him.

        With Crown and Rouge sorcer, she had Archer distracting her, and no reason to suspect.

        Liked by 8 people

        1. Rook

          Kairos trick was also weakened because he’d used it before on her. It was Roland’s first time playing tricks on Catherine.

          >The slightest flicker of power, but there were only so many times someone could use a trick around me before I caught on.

          Liked by 7 people

        2. Tom

          Plus she was in shadow-form for a few moments to get away from Indrani, and “I could hardly see, when shadowed, for unlike drow this state of being did not come naturally to me.”

          Liked by 1 person

    1. erebus42

      In regards to the whole glamour thing, it could just be that she was looking for it in Kairos’s case. She may just not have been expecting that same trick from the two heroes-admittedly an oversight on her part but hey, no one’s perfect.

      Liked by 6 people

    2. konstantinvoncarstein

      Pilgrim cannot resurrect someone who sacrifices himself for others, do the Ophanim can probably not do it. And it would be too easy, narratively speaking.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Joshua

        I imagine that the limits of resurrection and the forms it takes it entirely dependent on the choir it comes from. Mercy does Forgive, with a caveat that self sacrifice is not something that can be forgiven.

        Contrition did Rise, with the understanding that there will be no rest while you are still useful to the cause.

        Im sure Judgement would have something like “Free” where the manner of your death determines the success of the resurrection, ala trial style.

        Liked by 4 people

    3. >Kinda weird that Cat noticed Kairos’ glamour but not the Rogue Sorcerer’s glamour, though.

      She was specifically looking for Kairos’s glamour – it was obvious what he was about to try, – and she did not consider that Roland would help Tariq here so wasn’t looking

      >Interestingly, anyone looking at these events from the outside will see the Black Queen as a mastermind who retrieved her friend, her teacher’s soul, created that realm and managed to kill two of the oldest Heroes of Calernia in a single night.
      >A flawless victory for her and Below. Or so it will be seen, which means damaging any possibility of the rest of the Heroes extending the chance of civility towards Cat.

      I think that’s specifically the part the Ophanim promised to handle.

      I imagine Cat will be Judged, and found not guilty. Coz she wasn’t. Hi Hanno!

      Liked by 4 people

      1. caoimhinh

        Sure, but still it’s a bit weird, I mean look at the text:
        [The slightest flicker of power, but there were only so many times someone could use a trick around me before I caught on.]

        Catherine noticed it right away when Kairos activated the glamour (probably from one of his artifacts held by his Gargoyles of Babylon -Fate Stay Night reference-), she didn’t activate a searching magic to notice the Glamour, but rather sensed the use of magic, so she could have sensed Roland activating glamour. Although, admittedly, she was distracted by Indrani and Glamour is a subtle kind of magic.

        As for the Ophanim’s promise of there not being war over Pilgrim’s death, yeah, many (including me) are speculating that it’s the moment for Hanno’s Coin of Judgement to declare Catherine as Not Guilty.
        I still expect the rest of the Heroes and Levant to be royally angry and resent her, though the verdict of the Choir of Judgement will probably impede them from taking hostile action, Pilgrim’s death will still make the future negotiations and strategy meetings a tense bussiness.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. RandomFan

          I think it’s “Roland cast his glamour using a different system than Kairos uses- it’s not that Cat got a sense for glamours, it’s that she got a sense for *the glamour Kairos was using*.

          Liked by 3 people

        2. >Catherine noticed it right away when Kairos activated the glamour (probably from one of his artifacts held by his Gargoyles of Babylon -Fate Stay Night reference-), she didn’t activate a searching magic to notice the Glamour, but rather sensed the use of magic,

          She noted that it was ‘slightest’ and I took that to imply that she would not have normally noticed but she was already on guard for that specifically coz she knew Kairos would try that exactly.

          And yeah Catherine’s politics-fu is going to need to step up 🙂
          things were going too much her way!

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Morgenstern

          >>there were only so many times someone could use a trick around me before I caught on<<

          It depends on this part, I would say. It was a specific trick Kairos had used before that she caught on to — when she was already looking out for him doing that, distracted by Indrani and the Pilgrim on top, and also afterwards momentarily blinded/almost at a loss of senses when she went for the crown, which was when RS was doing his stuff (another trick she might NOT have witnessed before and also was not looking out for, while being blindsided as well).

          Liked by 1 person

      2. caoimhinh

        I just remembered Hanno’s Aspect Recall that enables him to see the memories of dead Heroes. Wouldn’t he simply use it to see Pilgrim’s POV and understand the sitaution without even needing to use his Coin?
        Although, he doesn’t take important decisions by himself, so he is likely to let the Seraphim judge anyways.

        Liked by 4 people

    4. Shveiran

      And the more she grows to be intimidating, without Tariq at her side, the more she becomes an enemy and not a possible ally, because it is one thing to strike a deal with an opponent of equal strength for mutual advanatage, and a whole other to do so with someone that is indisputably the big dog.

      I am so very disappointed. In these books I was finally beginning to like Tariq, and now…

      I mean, sure, it’s fair that he’d be dead tired by this point. But this?

      First he decides to set Tyrant on the world with a slap on the wrist, when he won’t even be around to police him.
      No, really, to someone that savvy and manipulative, “cannot lie” is basically an improvement.
      Not saying something is not a lie, and he can get away with stating opinions (as proved by his “friends”). Kairos will in no significant way be hindered by this.

      And then… then he creates this clusterfuck. I don’t even know where to begin to list all the problems, and those are not Catrelated problems, they are problems that end with corpses all around.

      It’s just… of course Cat wasn’t really a good option, that was just rolling the dice same as with Saint: her allies and the drows would have made a huge mess over her death.
      But Rogue was volunteering, and his death though tragic would reap no bad consequences EVEN IF it could not be forgiven later. Godsdamnit, Pilgrim, WHY?

      It really seems like GP wanted out. Rogue was clearly the option with less corpses, and he didn’t even have to force him. I’m sorry, but I don’t see how this could be merciful in any meaningful way.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. burdi

        i think he simply tired
        want to rest, and his failure to keep saint alive is the big nail in his mental attitude after so many loss againts cat. great hero he is but in the end just an old man that loss his dear friend

        Liked by 2 people

      2. There was the issue Kairos was hinting at, and which the heroes (including RS himself) seemed to know something about. Remember, Pilgrim had his Behold aspect, and he wouldn’t just take Kairos’s word for whether it was day or night, let alone RS’s suitability.

        Consider how even before this arc, Roland was known for never showing an aspect (did he even do so during this trip?) and tangling with the “big boys” (and girls) without ever getting hurt. Even on this trip, he got hurt once, but it was “formal” damage, not of significant import beyond “proving” that he’d been betrayed.

        I think RS will turn out to have something really weird going on. Maybe a magic-thief aspect… or he could turn out to be something stranger, like a nonhuman or part-human entity.

        Like

        1. Shveiran

          That would explain a lot, potentially, assuming that something disqualifies him absolutely as an option. If it does… I would have preferred we found out beforehand, personally: the death of the Pilgrim is a big deal, but this option being glossed over kind of ruins it for me. Which is a shame, because if you are right it would have been a very powerful choice.

          Like

      1. Soma

        While I doubt it, that would be in line with the modus operandi of FUN!Cat. I believe I’ve seen her referred to as ‘an utter riot’ so such riotous rebellion against fate and fitting ends might be up her alley.

        Unfortunately this might be cleaning up lose ends for a darker story. Catherine truly might be forced to match Triumphant and then outdo her in order to get what she wants. Might also be the pilgrim was trying to allow Good to put a hand on the scale by eliminating the two most effective heroes on Calernia.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. > Might also be the pilgrim was trying to allow Good to put a hand on the scale by eliminating the two most effective heroes on Calernia.

          More strategically, the Choirs might have been retiring two very powerful heroes who would have died soon regardless… and who were now top of DK’s list for making new Revenants. (Especially since he’d just burned four of those!)

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Tom

      I really like this idea 🙂 I’m not sure if the angels would let her, though, since that aspect seems to require angelic support. Plus Cat may have a precedent of bossing angels around, but there may be conditions that the aspect requires that aren’t present in this situation (he appears to have killed himself rather than be killed by some power from the crown, though we can’t know from this if it was his own intent or if that crown produced a mental effect that caused him to commit suicide).

      And if the angels saw that Cat would revive him, they might have known that the armies wouldn’t start fighting again because GP wouldn’t stay dead.

      If she does pull this off, I’m assuming GP would be revived without that aspect, given how her previous theft of an aspect from the Spellblade seemed.

      Whatever happens, I hope Cat doesn’t forget to get her Saint-artifacts 🙂

      Liked by 2 people


  8. Tariq, you fucking idiot.
    First you save and spare Kairos, then you kill yourself.
    On the one hand, at least you’re dead now. On the other … you fucking idiot, how the hell is this move going to reduce unnecessary suffering?

    Kairos really needs to end up dead. As soon as possible, if not sooner.

    Cat had a point here. She might’ve been able to pull through.

    Liked by 9 people

    1. Rook

      I think we also just witnessed the Pilgrim make a catastrophically bad Mistake with the little miracle-curse he just put on Tyrant.

      You just put the curse of ‘speaking no lies’ on a Villain aiming to put the Choir of Judgement on trial? For real, aren’t the possible repercussions of that as obvious as a fire in the dead of night?

      Cmon Tariq, you just handed him the fucking golden key he needs to be considered a serious witness in said trial. His word, which originally should have carried absolutely no weight either as a Villain or as an individual under an oath against perjury, now carries more weight in that sense than nearly anyone alive. A choir of Above themselves might as well have just vouched for the honestly of his words.

      As far as limiting his scheming ability goes? If there is a single living Villain who could turn this into a total disaster by relying on lies of omission and his now-innate ‘trustworthiness’, it’s Kairos.

      Liked by 12 people

        1. Rook

          Who isn’t?

          Generally a well-earned punishment doled out as a last act by a living legend of a Hero before he makes a martyr out of himself is near impossible to shrug off in the best of circumstances, let alone right after you’re vulnerable from blowing your entire load.

          Liked by 6 people

          1. Decius

            And they know about that action because… a rogue and a bunch of villains told them so?

            Why would Roland report on the inability to utter untruths?

            Like

      1. RandomBritishGuy

        Saying that, the Fae also couldn’t lie, and no one took them at their word without suspecting about 8 different kinds of treachery or deception in every word they spoke.

        It does give Kairos some credibility, but not enough that he would be universally believed unless they gave him some incredibly precise and narrow questions, and restricted what he could say to answer to mitigate his attempts at not telling the whole truth.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. I’m pretty sure that lying to angels (or even in their presence) wouldn’t go over too well anyway. The Ophanim have said this course leads to least suffering, and they know more about the overall situation than any of the mortals present. When dealing with devils, it’s unwise to trust anything they say. When dealing with angels, it’s unwise to disbelieve anything they say. (Note that Cat vs. the Hashmallim wasn’t disbelieving their offer, but rejecting it.)

        Liked by 2 people

      3. talenel

        I must vociferously disagree. Tyrant has always been defined by his ability to escape and avoid the consequences sticking. Here he’s been cursed in a hero’s last act before a heroic sacrifice. It means something.

        Tyrant is the classic villain, just with narrative skill. While I do think Tyrant will be able to subvert and use the curse to his own ends, at some point he’s going to get into a mess where he needs to lie and can’t. It will cost him everything. It just makes too much sense.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. > I think we also just witnessed the Pilgrim make a catastrophically bad Mistake

        I’m not so sure. The angels themselves may have been limited by Pilgrim’s prior promise to see Hanno to trial before Heirarch (and Kairos has Heirarch’s leash). And quite likely by Bard’s parole (she may pay for that later).

        Like

    2. konstantinvoncarstein

      Yes, Kairos is way too dangerous and unpredictable to be left alive. Pilgrim’s last act was really not stellar. And don’t forget Hierarch, who is maybe more dangerous than Kairos.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. > Kairos is way too dangerous and unpredictable to be left alive.

        Is he really? Remember, they were saying the same about Cat herself. Kairos is basically a loose cannon who can screw things up in his vicinity, but he’s not nearly as influential on the larger scale as Cat is.

        It may also be that Mercy couldn’t endorse his death, due to a prior promise (Hanno’s trial) and/or their relations with the Bard.

        Like

  9. Andrew Mitchell

    F*ck! I called the Pilgrim putting on the crown a few chapters ago but I hate that’s how this turned out.

    Huge, huge setback for Cat’s plans and the fight against the Dead King.

    But I loved the way Cat caught Kairos trying to escape. The Bard’s got a lot of explaining to do letting him go.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Andrew Mitchell

      Also, how the hell did Tariq manage to stab his heart with Saint’s sword? It was just a normal steel sword. It would be hella awkward or impossible to position properly, let alone get the required momentum to actually penetrate his clothes and chest.

      Maybe Saint used a short sword?

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Raivshard

          Also, longswords are often designed to have no edge on the last 6-8 8nches or so. This allows the user to grip this section and enables a variety of techniques that Hollywood and D&D don’t know shit about.

          Liked by 5 people

        2. I actually thought swords were shorter than they really are, as I found out recently doing research for a drawing.

          Laurence’s is a longsword, but Tariq is also taller than her iirc pretty significantly

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Raivshard

            The thing about a sword is that its ideal size depends on the size of the person using it. Mostly to do with their height and reach, as the weight is accounted for with conditioning.

            “When held in the hand loosely, near the guard, the tip should not touch the ground.”

            This is paraphrased from a Japanese book on swordsmanship in which that particular style favoured ergonomics and ease of use. The quote applies in general across cultures and styles to a medium-length one-handed sword.

            “Longsword” is a term which has historically been used for any sword with a longer than normal blade, and occasionally requiring two hands. That said, normal is different for each person. The Mountain can use a zweihander as a regular sword; Arya Stark would pick up a common-length sword and use it as a longsword, based on her height and reach (or she’d grab a two-hander and use half-swording techniques, because leverage, but never mind that).

            In the end, it always comes down to personal preference, and the reality is that we don’t have any numbers on the size of saints weapon, barring its category. Also, longswords come in many shapes and sizes, which for the purpose of the story, means that Laurence’s sword is exactly the size necessary to do what the author wants it to do

            My personal guess would be a “Sub-Type XVIa” as per the Oakeshott system, since it is the design that most often is used when people talk about longswords. See for info:
            https://albion-swords.com/articles/oakeshott-typology.htm

            Liked by 2 people

  10. erebus42

    I guess the winner of the Martyr lottery is the Pilgrim! Three guesses what his fabulous prize is!
    In all seriousness, that certainly does complicate matters a great deal. I suppose it’s fair though, since Cat was winning a little too much.
    Also, I guess it’s a good thing Cat is used to dealing with the Fae since if anyone thinks for a second that being unable to lie is going to discourage Kairos from deceiving and doing his best fuck over everyone in a 3 mile radius then I’ve got a big-ass Tower to sell you.
    Also, props to the Tyrant on that classy exit.

    Liked by 6 people

  11. Soma

    I suppose it’s interesting to see the villainous sacrifice subverted, as I believe the trope is the heroic sacrifice. I guess Catherine having died either twice or thrice going for the villainous sacrifice enough that it now calls for subversion?

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Death Knight

        Ahahahahahahahaha no.
        Bard knows Neshamah knows it’s plan.
        It also knows how Neshamah will react to that seeing as of anything living in Creation, it knows how Neshamah ticks. This is compounded by the fact that Neshamah can’t meaningfully change his nature from the moment he took his apotheosis.

        “There’s no surer sign you’re being played than being certain you’ve grasped your opponent’s intent.”
        —Dread Emperor Benevolent

        Neshamah only learned what the Bard wanted him to.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Not sure.

        The ‘pesh’ trick was really basic, even if Bard couldn’t detect the working (which is what Neshamah had poured all the effort into) she would have seen it coming. Like it’s really Heroic Axioms 101 to check the last kill a villain gets away with for a plague carrier or something

        Liked by 1 person

        1. “The corpse” wasn’t Archer IIRC, it was a purpose-built message corpse like the one DK sent down to Callow to invite Catherine up for a chat in Book IV. So he would have placed that out of sight well before any of that confrontation actually began; knowing him he might have put it there when laying down the ritual array itself and just built the floor right over it so there’d be zero chance of having a hero providentially stumble over a secret door. Bard is by her nature ridiculously hard to predict/anticipate, but I’m at least provisionally willing to believe DK got away with this like he intended although I doubt it will ultimately pan out for him regardless; he’s on the wrong side of the narrative whether he realizes it or not, and that can erase all manner of intermediary successes by the time the end arrives.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. If your speculation was right I’d find it far more likely Bard missed it, but… hold on a sec while I find the WoG…

            in wordpress comments on interlude: reverberation

            Q: “Ohhhh. I just realized. The “Pesh” thing wasn’t just a kill-spell. I think that at that point, DK had already written off both winning this confrontation and getting back the shard he had invested in Masego. So, he fired off a spell at Archer, apparently just a death ray.
            But in fact, that spell was a message to himself containing the information Masego had Witnessed from the Bard, which was packaged in a carrier working that would kill Indrani, attach itself to her corpse, hide there until the band of five was distracted, escape under cover of the soul cloud, rendezvous with the Skein, and follow the Skeins control link back to the Dead King himself.”
            A: “Pretty accurately put.”

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Oh I straight-up missed that. Then yeah, you’re obv completely correct about where the spell was lol. But reading the passage itself in the Chapter again it seems clear that the spell slithered out at the exact moment that DK was getting ripped out of Masego and taking his Gift with him, i.e. “the moment when all foes were distracted”. I don’t think you can blame anyone for not stopping to check the corpse literally in the climax of the fight; DK’s timing seems fairly impeccable there, which I suppose is only what you should expect.

              As far as Bard checking… with what sorcery, exactly? She’s got story-fu for days but no actual magic that I’m aware of. And as far as whether she’d suspect anyway, using her moment of smug “ha-ha I beat you” to sneak something by her seems like the strategy that would have the best chance of success there; exploiting the remaining human fallibility to get past the inhuman levels of experience/craft. He didn’t just use the *moment* she thought she won, he actually used the *action* that she thought was the culmination of *her* plan to sneak something by her. That’s more than a basic play IMO. And she had exited the field like a second before the spell actually made its break for it.

              Like, Bard is good at this, yes. But she’s definitely not infallible, and Neshamah’s literally the only player with experience roughly comparable to hers (I mean I guess maybe the Forever King also, but from the commentary on him I get the feeling he’s more piece than player if you catch my drift). I could be wrong, but I find DK sneaking one by her for now at least to be quite plausible.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. >I don’t think you can blame anyone for not stopping to check the corpse literally in the climax of the fight

                I am not blaming anyone in the slightest, I’m just pointing out that Bard, who was very much not fighting and just observing, would be strongly expected to pick up on the opening being there.

                >As far as Bard checking… with what sorcery, exactly?

                With the mighty sorcery of telling Tariq to?

                They had a whole conversation while Masego was fighting DK, if it was that important for Bard that the info not get out, she could have easily tipped Tariq off that he should check the corpse for nasty surprises (Light functions as antimagic if you remember).

                >Like, Bard is good at this, yes. But she’s definitely not infallible

                This is true! I am not ruling out the possibility entirely.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. > I am not blaming anyone in the slightest, I’m just pointing out that Bard, who was very much not fighting and just observing, would be strongly expected to pick up on the opening being there.

                  Fair, my comment there was more because it wasn’t 100% clear to me whether your own comment was just about Bard or if you were including the party as well. I agree Bard would be at least relatively unaffected by the fight still being in progress since she was hardly a participant as such in the fighting itself.

                  > They had a whole conversation while Masego was fighting DK

                  They what now? As I understand it the only direct interaction she had with Tariq there was counting off on her fingers to get him to delay. If she had showed up to say something, I doubt very much that she could get through a whole sentence (heck, maybe not a whole word) before Cat or Archer or both took a swing at her to make her poof back out.

                  > This is true! I am not ruling out the possibility entirely.

                  Fair enough! I should probably also stipulate that I certainly do consider it possible that Bard picked up on it and is playing it close to her chest; neither aspect would be out of character for her. I don’t personally think that’s where the weight of probability lies since when Bard has had hiccups in her plans before it’s been the result of a human misjudgment/failing (which would be the scenario here), and also because in this case the narrative I think would be pushing for her not to notice. Figuring out what the Bard was up to and getting away clean with that info seems to have been step 1 of DK’s plan, and step 1 always works for villains. Can Bard realize that and meta-think her way past that even though her not noticing is part of the plan? I don’t know, man; at that point I feel like we’re chasing our own tails, falling down the rabbit hole, and mixing our metaphors. I’m very excited to find out, though!

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. >> They had a whole conversation while Masego was fighting DK
                    >They what now? As I understand it the only direct interaction she had with Tariq there was counting off on her fingers to get him to delay.

                    Err, this time I meant the party. I meant Bard could use the opening of them talking (and not currently actively fighting) to call their attention to the corpse.

                    >If she had showed up to say something, I doubt very much that she could get through a whole sentence (heck, maybe not a whole word) before Cat or Archer or both took a swing at her to make her poof back out.

                    Note how Cat ended up agreeing to follow through with her deal, and in return for pittance of a favor.

                    I think if Bard showed up located strategically (not right next to Cat) Cat would not have taken a swing.

                    And Indrani being dead at the time is the entire point of the problem 😛

                    > I should probably also stipulate that I certainly do consider it possible that Bard picked up on it and is playing it close to her chest; neither aspect would be out of character for her. I don’t personally think that’s where the weight of probability lies since when Bard has had hiccups in her plans before it’s been the result of a human misjudgment/failing (which would be the scenario here)

                    Fair!

                    >Figuring out what the Bard was up to and getting away clean with that info seems to have been step 1 of DK’s plan, and step 1 always works for villains.

                    If that is so, would Bard of all people not realize that? 😛
                    Like, she might not have been able to stop it, as you’re pointing out, but she’d be at the very least aware :3

                    >I don’t know, man; at that point I feel like we’re chasing our own tails, falling down the rabbit hole, and mixing our metaphors. I’m very excited to find out, though!

                    SAME

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. > And Indrani being dead at the time is the entire point of the problem 😛

                      Ayy lmao. Clearly I need more sleep.

                      > I think if Bard showed up located strategically (not right next to Cat) Cat would not have taken a swing.

                      I mean, Cat knows she can’t kill or even harm Bard by swinging at her since she just poofs out in the face of harm. So swiping at her doesn’t do anything more than shut her up, and I would expect any heroes who’ve had contact with her to know that. And she sees Bard as an enemy, and she knows for a damn fact that Bard is never more dangerous than when she’s talking. I feel pretty damn confident that she’d want Bard to not be chiming in to fuck up her plans here. Also, Cat is very much not a melee combatant anymore. Location doesn’t matter so much when you don’t even strictly need line of sight to take a swing at someone, much less immediate proximity.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. Yes, but note that Bard has already fucked with Cat’s plans here through Kairos and Tariq as intermediaries. I don’t think Cat’s as scared of listening to her talk as Amadeus is.

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                    3. > Yes, but note that Bard has already fucked with Cat’s plans here through Kairos and Tariq as intermediaries.

                      …And that makes Cat want to let her do it more why exactly? Not really following you there lol. At that point in time I believe she’d only appeared directly to Kairos also, but that’s more just nit-picking since I don’t think it meaningfully alters the dynamic in any way.

                      Like

                    4. I believe Catherine is enough of a diplomat to not want to piss heroes off by ganking Bard immediately.

                      Also, she could just do the same thing she did later – appear in Tariq’s field of view and point at Indrani. He’d think it important and check.

                      Like

                    5. > I believe Catherine is enough of a diplomat to not want to piss heroes off by ganking Bard immediately.

                      Again, there’s zero ganking involved there. You literally physically cannot harm Bard by attacking her. It just makes her vanish, and I believe everyone who knows her knows that. That means “attacking” her is very much not the same scenario as attacking someone it’s actually physically possible to even hit much less harm. Pilgrim and especially Saint might have been pissy over it anyway because they trust Bard and would want to hear what she has to say, but Cat doesn’t and with very good reason. There’s a difference between diplomacy and self-harm, and deliberately allowing the Bard free rein to intervene in an exceptionally delicate and fraught situation is much more like the latter than the former IMO.

                      > Also, she could just do the same thing she did later – appear in Tariq’s field of view and point at Indrani. He’d think it important and check.

                      Check when? DK’s spell slipped out of Indrani’s body in the exact moment the party was ripping DK’s consciousness out of Masego. There was no point where the party was not actively engaged in combating DK (not an activity it’s wise to divert your attention from), had access to Indrani’s body, and the spell was still present. There’s no window there.

                      Like

                    6. >Pilgrim and especially Saint might have been pissy over it anyway because they trust Bard and would want to hear what she has to say

                      ^ my point.

                      >Check when? DK’s spell slipped out of Indrani’s body in the exact moment the party was ripping DK’s consciousness out of Masego.

                      Yes, exactly. It was in Indrani’s body before that. You remember that period when Laurence and Tariq were holding out against a storm of souls? You remember the entire conversation that was had over sparing Kairos? That entire time the spell was right there, in Indrani’s body.

                      >There was no point where the party was not actively engaged in combating DK (not an activity it’s wise to divert your attention from)

                      I don’t believe they were SO busy at those moments, and their attention was diverted plenty. Laurence had time to contemplate how useless Mercy is as a Choir and everything.

                      Like

  12. NerfGlastigUaine

    RIP Peregrine. You were a great hero and an interesting character, although I wonder if this last act is more to do with his reasoning or grief from Saint’s death. In any case, you will be missed. I only hope your Choir’s prediction was correct and this doesn’t lead to a clusterfuck.

    On another note, I feel Cat was being entirely unreasonable in this chapter. Her death may be worse than Pilgrim’s and even if her chance of survivable was highest, the risk is far too high to take in such a precarious situation. It’s rank hypocrisy when she accuses Pilgrim of not thinking things through. Roland or even Indrani would be a better candidate. I do wonder if Cat’s final choice will put everyone she cares for and the world on a scale and what she would choose in that case.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. erebus42

      It’s a tough situation with no great options. As Indrani said Cat gets a touch “self-flagellating” when she blunders. As much as I hate to say it-since he’s been one of the most reasonable heroes encountered so far- I agree that it really should have been Roland.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. konstantinvoncarstein

        Yes, his death would have had zero consequences. He doesn’t have influence or strong ties with any other faction, and Pilgrim (who is known and trusted) could convince everyone for he sacrifices himself.

        Liked by 3 people

    2. magesbe

      She’d pick the world. Cat would rather sacrifice herself than one of her friends, but she would rather sacrifice her friends than the world. It was basically spelled out when she privately admitted that if the only way to stop the Dead King from killing everyone was to slay Masego, she’d go through with it. Only after having exhausted every other option of course, but the point is she’s willing to go through with it if she has to.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Rook

        Agreed. Yes if she sees another way out that saves her loved ones she’ll take it, but if she was cornered and was forced into a choice?

        She Noc answered that question to a point beyond doubt, when they cut open her soul and examined it under a microscope with the literal power of a Deity.

        Book 4 Ch 82, Sve assumes Kilian’s role in Catherine’s memories and specifically asks her about it

        >‘“A fair price, then,” Kilian mused, eyes hooded.

        “Oh, the opposite of fair,” I softly disagreed. “One life against a hundred thousand? That’s a steal, by any account.”

        “I do wonder,” she said, and I caught the glimmer of silver in her eyes, “how many times a blade can go through the crucible before breaking.”‘

        Liked by 3 people

    3. That’s what Indrani was saying.

      And everyone else.

      But also, I think, given how badly Cat’s nerves have been stretched in this adventure, it would be… not a good sign for her sanity actually? if she WASN’T acting unreasonably here

      NOT being mentally&morally exhausted after this whole roller coaster, NOT feeling guilty about Saint’s death, NOT being unwilling to let anyone else other than herself die… that would be signs towards Neshamah’s predictions of her future, and I’m honestly glad this is how it went

      Liked by 3 people

  13. Briskly

    The Grey Pilgrim died as he lived, interceding to save someones life. This does set up Rogue Sorcerer in a very interesting story position. His ability to take magic turned out to be a red herring in this part of the arc. So that leaves what, the angel being buoyed, Heiarch’s domain, or the final confrontation with Dead King/Dread Empress.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Shveiran

      The Gray Pilgrim doesn’t die as he lived, that is the infuriating part.
      He spent his life doing what was necessary to save as many people as possible, no matter how ugly that action was. Even if it was crafting a plague, even if it was killing a relative.
      And now? Now he cannot fail to see that his death will cause a lot more suffering than Roland.
      I get that it would be heart-wrenching to send the young hero you mentored to die in your stead, but wasn’t that what the Pilgrim did? Heart-wrenching deeds required by the big picture perspective?
      This… this was misguided. This was not his usual MO.

      I suppose grief and fatigue caught up with him, but it is a shame that both he and Saint did not die well.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Insanenoodlyguy

        No see, people keep forgetting, he was told it’d work out okay. Not by wishful thinking, by goddamn angels. Cat makes good points, but somebody who knows for sure (at least as far as he’s concerned) told him those points would prove to be irrelevant.

        Liked by 3 people

          1. An interesting question to be sure, but I don’t think we should assume there’s no answer just because we don’t see it now. Also, remember that Angels don’t get to intervene in Creation just whenever they feel like it; William’s ritual was *necessary* for Contrition to show up and mindfuck Liesse. It’s been mentioned previously that Choirs have interfered in fights, but that just suggests that narrative weight can also provide an opening for them to act, not that an opening doesn’t need to be created. The Pilgrim sacrificing himself explicitly on the premise that his Choir will step in is a hell of a lot of narrative weight to toss onto the scales; whatever the Choir’s going to do almost certainly wouldn’t be possible for them to enact without that weight, and the party probably doesn’t have the requirements and certainly doesn’t have the time to try to substitute a ritual instead.

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  14. IDKWhoitis

    It seems all the Woe know that the most dangerous weapon Cat brings to a table isn’t even a time shifting sword or even a simple goblin steel one, it’s her mouth.

    I also wonder if seeing Cat try her damnest to fall on the crown might inspire some sort of confidence in Catherine, seeing the level of conviction she had to try to fix a fucked up bargain.

    Although I wonder if Cat was under the influence of Liesse, pushing her to take the gamble again, pushing for Cat to fall on the crown…

    Liked by 5 people

              1. Cat’s performances tend to be more verbal than sleight of hand. Less physical smoke-and-mirrors and more “let me talk until nothing makes sense anymore and therefore I’m right, I’m glad we’re all in agreement”.

                Like

                1. I’m associating it with stage magic because of Cat’s love of props (her pipe) and general smoke and mirrors impression producing. Like some of the mannerisms explicitly refer to it (“and now for my next trick”). I feel like of all the mundane bardic parallels stage magic just fits Cat’s M.O. best, even if the props she usually employs are armies and treaties, not ropes and pulleys.

                  Cat has the ham of the stage magician, too. She tried distracting people with a monologue back in First Summerholm when stuck in a room with a hostile hero and a rebel group ;u;

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                  1. I’m not actually necessarily disagreeing with your application of the Bard trope/character to be clear; my personal TTRPG experience is mainly in Pathfinder, where Perform (basically anything) is a legitimate basis for bardic performance, and her overall methodology certainly has parallels there. And re: the First Summerholm reference – I would describe that behavior as “bullshitting”.

                    I mean, I guess it sounds like you’re referring to stage magic in a basically metaphorical sense? So I suppose my objection, if you want to call it that, is mainly that I’m struggling to see Perform (Metaphor) as a basis for a character. That could just be my RPG literalism acting up, though.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. I am seeing Catherine as hitting every note for a bardic archetype. Like there are character traits and quirks associated with TTRPG bards, and there are character traits and quirks associated with stage magicians, and Catherine is straight in the intersection of the two.

                      To me, it provides a convenient framework for viewing rather large parts of her character.

                      Like

      1. I am beginning to see your point here. 😉

        > “If you feel like you’re winning,” Indrani said, “the single stupidest thing you can do is let Catherine Foundling talk.

        Et tu, Indrani?

        That said, she’s still got considerable power even beyond her voice.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. The power of political influence which she got from her Charisma?

          The power of knowing narratives and being able to bend them to her purposes?

          The power of being able to befuddle and misdirect her opponents so they will expect a trick where there isn’t one and miss the one that is?

          😛 😛 😛

          Liked by 2 people

      2. Insanenoodlyguy

        I have tossed out the crack theory before that Cat IS the bard. She jumps across bodies, she jumps across space, who’s to say she doesn’t jump across time? One day, Cat continues her progression of trading immediate power for greater narrative power till she’s evolved into the final expression of that. Then she makes everything BUT her own initial origin happen (too much vulnerability there with Neshy), cause she’s got a plan.

        It’s why Kairos thought she was so funny when he first saw her, he has a unique insight into figuring it out.

        (note, this is a very silly theory and shouldn’t be taken overly serious)

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I’m tbh onboard with it as a thing that’s wildly unlikely just because of the amount of narrative space we have left in the series, but entirely not contradicted.

          If PGTE was to have 20 books instead of 6, I’d be saying ‘IT’S OBVIOUSLY THIS’

          Like

  15. “If you feel like you’re winning,” Indrani said, “the single stupidest thing you can do is let Catherine Foundling talk. Go on, Tariq. Before she turns it around on us.”

    Greatest quote of our time. You ever hear a monologue from someone whose losing?

    Liked by 10 people

  16. edrey

    well, the gandalf reference starts here, there is not way it ends like that.
    so next is hierarch vs seraphin, malicia vs cat and the bard plan, this is just great

    Liked by 3 people

    1. JRogue

      So, does he become The White Walker? Heh…

      Seriously, if he continues to be Gandalf (and he is) then The White Rider may be next. He returns in time to stop catastrophe and hold together the alliance that is needed to face The Dead King.

      Or he is just dead.

      Like

  17. ninegardens

    Goodbye Peregrine.

    A decent man to the last, all be it a fucking idiot for listening to the Bard so hard (Cat really should have spent more time explaining why the bard was NOT TO BE TRUSTED… even if it wouldn’t have worked)

    Liked by 3 people

          1. I don’t think so. I think he’d just go ‘well it was part of a scheme’ and ‘there would have been a reason for it’. Tricksters pull ALL KINDS of shit, and if Bard’s not a trickster the fuck is she?

            Liked by 1 person

            1. konstantinvoncarstein

              Said “scheme” cause the creation of the Night and the destruction of an entire culture while making overpowered Below-aligned demigods. It finally lead to the birth of a goddess whose power is literally base on murder and treason.

              Liked by 3 people

              1. “the destruction of an entire culture” <= did you forget that they were going to ALL DIE? It led to the PRESERVATION of the culture, even if just some remains of it – still more than would have survived otherwise.

                Also, don't forget Bard DID try to talk the Sisters out of it.

                The 'scheme' reading is not that Bard wanted it to happen, it's that it was something she found herself obligated to do / a favor she was doing for some reason, because tricksters be like that (getting into trouble).

                Liked by 1 person

                  1. See I’m not sure, because looking at it from his position, “a trickster hero found themselves in position of messenger from Below” is not a trust-shaking idea. “It might have looked like that but I assure you” is certainly pointing at him already fitting that kind of thing into his conception of her.

                    Like

  18. I imagine this is a different ending than what Catherine had in mind when she started the series of events that led to this but if you look at the aftermath, two of the oldest and most powerful heroes are dead and Cath got Black back with all armies remaining mostly intact. I’d say this is a huge success on her part.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. magesbe

      The two heroes being dead is a bad thing, not a good thing. They’re badly needed allies against the Dead King. Cat predicted that Saint might have needed to die, but Pilgrim dying was always a very bad thing.

      Liked by 8 people

      1. To be more specific, Cat was expecting that Laurence would need to die in order to establish a lasting peace and the Accords. After the Dead King had been driven from Creation.
        And that Tariq needed to live, so that his influence could be brought to support peace and the Accords. I suppose that Tariq going down against the Dead King when Cat and her allies were fully alibied might not have been a critical blow against her plans, but it definitely would have hurt.

        Liked by 5 people

    2. Shveiran

      As other have said, this is a good win for BELOW.
      That has never been how Cat measured her success. And these were not her victory conditions. In fact this aftermath screws all she hopes to achieve long term unless something huge and unpredicted happens.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well tbf it doesn’t screw ALL of it.

        The Ophanim have promised there wouldn’t be war, which means the peace conference is still going to happen. Tariq is out of the picture which sucks, but so is Laurence, and Hanno might just be the hero most inclined to give time of day to villains who want to talk.

        (Coz of his mother, and coz he doesn’t judge, and coz he flipped his coin for villains he was ACTIVELY FIGHTING while the coin symbolizes him double-checking his judgement)

        Catherine hasn’t made AS much progress towards the Accords as she would have had Tariq lived (which would p much be all the progress needed tbh it seemed he was 1 discussion away from being 100% onboard), but the path forward is still open.

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  19. Fuck.

    I called so much of this.

    I’d thought, last chapter, that it’s likely to come to the Stupidest Argument In Existence.

    I’d thought it was likely the two options would be either Catherine or Tariq, because neither of them would delegate, and both of them would press their own “claim”.

    I’d thought it was likely there was an option to avoid calamity if it was Tariq.

    And I’d called much earlier on that at some point Catherine’s history with Liesse will be brought up.

    And when I read the chapter title and the epigraph, I guessed what the title meant, because in-universe dawn is coming, but there is one person whose end could be described as ‘sunset’ here.

    And yet, at the end, I still hoped.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Soma

      Nice on calling it!

      Feels a little odd saying it though, ’cause I think like you said, a lot of us hoped it wouldn’t go that way. Good foresight, though.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Over Due

    Here is the heroic … geas? … placed upon the Tyrant: “[n]ever again will you speak untruth, lest it be the last words you speak at all.”

    So, the Tyrant can no longer “speak untruth” i.e. lie, and left such august company by addressing two or more of the involved parties as “friend”. See above, “Until next time, friends.” I am left wondering which if any of the below are true:

    A) The heroic geas is against speaking subjective truth, and the Tyrant already knows, or decided to test (because, hey, crazy) that he can subvert this by literally convincing himself of whatever is convenient at the time;

    B) The Tyrant genuinely believes that two or more of the individuals are his friends in some sick and twisted way;

    C) The consequences of his words have not been properly enacted and/or conveyed as of yet – his line literally contained his last words in this chapter, so it is ambiguous as to muting, and alternatively, judgment may just be delayed slightly;

    or

    D) Some other possibility that I am too tired to think of at 2:00 a.m.

    Thoughts?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It doesn’t really matter. Clamping a No Can Lie triangle on Kairos’ rear tyre only gives him… the ways and means of an Oathed Aes Sedai of the Blue Ajah in full-on smugness mode. 😛

      It was doomed to be a misfire the second Pilgrim came up with it, because as far as all things Damocles goes, that’s a dagger-shaped biscuit dangling overhead. Sure, it’s going to drop at some point. It is also going to be plot-relevant — but, this geas isn’t going to do the job it was intended to do.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. luminiousblu

      Geases are pretty hard to worm out of using exact wording most of the time, especially by the way of changing definitions. You don’t see the Oathbreakers deluding themselves into thinking a rat is the rightful heir of Men and helping it slay a cat. Since it’s being branded by an angelic choir, I imagine the only definitions that matter are the ones they’re using.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Kissaten

      There’s also a possibility that his words are now prophetic. It certainly looked like he tried to measure if he is a prophet by saying “this is not the last time we meet”. If that’s the case it may even pull out Pilgrim out of death’s grip despite Pilgrim’s best efforts to kill himself.

      I think Pilgrim placed angels on Tyrant’s shoulders and they judge him on the go. If it’s merely a narrative weight – Tyrant will die due to natural causes (roof falling over him, lighting striking him, slipping on a banana peel) if he lies, if it’s a curse – Tyrant will be struck with divine vengeance (like that time at Thalassina angels tried to smite Warlock). Either case Pilgrim made a grave mistake.

      Like

  21. so uh hottest take

    did the Choir of Mercy just decide it was more important that Catherine Foundling survive than their own champion
    to the degree of fucking fighting for it

    Catherine’s chances with Hanno’s coin grow before our own eyes

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Rook

      I don’t know, I’m not really convinced about the whole innocent by coin thing.

      She spent three books proudly bearing ‘justifications only matter to the just’ as her catchphrase before spending the fourth book actively attempting to enslave an entire race. Doesn’t really scream super justified individual tbh.

      Although I guess the real question is whether the Seraphim are the classic deontological mirror to Mercy’s very utilitarian set of values. If so, Catherine is most likely fucked as far as getting an OK from the Seraphim, but if Judgement uses a different normative ethical theory for their particular brand of moral absolutism, there’s a possibility.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. They did show Hanno that they judged the whole tapestry of intent & consequences so I think they kind of mix virtue, deontological and utilitarian in a weird blend bent one way or the other by their champion’s values.

        And Cat’s not going by ‘justifications only matter to the just’ anymore, she commented last book how she can’t believe she ever said it. I don’t think Seraphim are going to bring up dirty laundry THAT old.

        I do think we just had the thesis of ‘no Choir is ever going to like Cat coz she keeps being mean to them’ disproven :3

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Ethics and laws are irrelevant to the Choirs. They are not people any more than Demons are.
          What they are, is weapons created by Above to accomplish specific goals. Part of their larger plan to win over Evil, not to make life easier for the little people they specifically created to suffer amusingly.
          Mercy is a preventive force, designed diminish suffering in the long term by smothering children that might grow to be threats.
          Judgment, from what we know of it, is a gun pointed by Above at any Named they feel need to die. If finding Cat “justified in existing” helps them take out their target, they will do it. If not, they wont.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Angels’ equivalent is Devils, and Tikoloshe was a person :3

            …not that I disagree on principle lmao

            I do disagree with your idea of manual control by Above tho, I think they DO work by established rules

            Like

              1. Ah, but that’s because it conflicted with another rule, i.e. villains don’t get angelic support. Angels couldn’t help Cat after she rejected offered redemption, but she also was owed a resurrection (by the narrative, not the Choir, which is an important distinction here – Choir has its own separate will and can be factually wrong etc), so she got a powerup to Take it.

                Liked by 1 person

        2. > I don’t think Seraphim are going to bring up dirty laundry THAT old.

          Liliet, they literally brought up a childhood alley fight from when he was single-digit years old when they were making Hanno review his life. I don’t really get the vibe that the Seraphim think that Justice has a statute of limitations.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Yeah but the issue is Hanno never really examined that fight or thought of possible implications of it, so it was still relevant. It’s not about time, it’s about the fact Catherine is solidly past that. I don’t believe the Choir of Judgement doesn’t allow for atonement/redemption, and while Catherine has never allowed an actual clear redemption arc to happen to herself, she has very much changed and made a goal of atoning for earlier mistakes.

            Like

            1. > I don’t believe the Choir of Judgement doesn’t allow for atonement/redemption

              Well, we’ve got no hard data either way AFAIK so I can’t rule it out just out of hand. But the “vibe” they project for lack of a better word is of a pretty uncompromising take on Justice. Like, in an actual court of law/legal system, if you commit a crime but are then real real sorry for it later, well it’s still a crime and so you will absolutely still be put on trial for it regardless. It’s not impossible that remorse/personal change can have an impact on *sentencing*, but it won’t change whether you get *charged*.

              So if Cat gets a Seraphim-trial I would at minimum expect it to come up; whether the Seraphim would take the defense you’re describing into account when it came time for the verdict I would agree is at least more up in the air however. So as with so many things I guess we’ll ultimately have to wait and see! Not that we can’t still enjoy discussing possibilities in the interim ofc. 😀

              Liked by 1 person

              1. >Like, in an actual court of law/legal system, if you commit a crime but are then real real sorry for it later, well it’s still a crime and so you will absolutely still be put on trial for it regardless. It’s not impossible that remorse/personal change can have an impact on *sentencing*, but it won’t change whether you get *charged*.

                Yes, but actual legal system also has time limits on how long after the commitment of the crime you can still be charged with it. I’m seeing the ‘is this still relevant to their decision making process’ to be a mirror to the same thing, with the Seraphim just being able to directly see the answer to the question where the mundane legal system doesn’t read minds and isn’t just taking people’s word for it.

                But yeah whatever the fuck happens I can’t but expect it to be awesome.

                Liked by 1 person

                  1. Yes. And they also tend to take redemption (in the sense of ‘I have changed so I no longer agree with my past actions and feel shame for them’) into account – not by discounting the transgressions entirely, but in a yes/no answer of ‘condemned or not’…

                    Like

                1. > Yes, but actual legal system also has time limits on how long after the commitment of the crime you can still be charged with it.

                  At least in the US that’s true of some crimes, but not all. And as I understand it at least an element of the rationale for those time restrictions is reducing the burden on the criminal justice system bc limited resources mean you gotta make choices. But that wouldn’t really apply to the Seraphim IMO.

                  > But yeah whatever the fuck happens I can’t but expect it to be awesome.

                  😀 😀 YES 😀 😀

                  Liked by 1 person

      2. > spending the fourth book actively attempting to enslave an entire race.

        Ahem. She went in there looking for allies. The Drow flatly refused to negotiate, but made it clear that they would follow anybody who could beat them. Cat worked with that. Even when she was the one who got beat at the end.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Rook

          That would be a plausible defense if Cat hadn’t flatly admitted to it when accused by Rumena

          >’”You seem irritated,” Rumena noted. “Is your attempted enslavement of my entire race proving too troublesome for your tastes?”

          “That one was a fair shot,” I conceded. “Are you not taking part in this kill-a-queen festival?”‘

          Like

            1. Rook

              Even Akua didn’t even bother attempting to try denying it when she was in a fight for her life against the sisters in the trial. The best defense she could come up with was a “you too” argument. I don’t think there’s any getting away from what it was.

              Not to mention that uh, other people being free to choose to not have anything to do with you is their right. Generally the reasonable response when you get rejected is to accept it, not attacking them for it as if everyone else has some innate obligation to negotiate with you or do what you want them to.

              You could make the exact same argument to completely justify the tenth crusade. The crusaders very reasonably gave her their demands, she unreasonably didn’t even want to accept them, therefore procer was perfectly justified in attempting to subjugate the entire nation by force. Right?

              Except we all know that’s a load of bull, because the same way Callow was perfectly justified in telling Procer to suck a dick and procer was not justified in declaring war on them as a response, the drow were perfectly justified in telling Catherine to go suck a dick and Catherine was not justified in attempting to enslave them as a response.

              Liked by 1 person

  22. forsheen

    I really don’t get why she didn’t just kill the Tyrant if the Grey Pilgrim was gone sacrifice himself then any favour he owes becomes worthless. And the fact the Wandering Bard has enough influence for Grey Pilgrim to chose her advice above hundred thousands of lives chose she is just as influential (if not more) than DK.

    Like

    1. Insanenoodlyguy

      Narrative weight. Once he got a certain place in his retreat, it’d be impossible for her to catch up and kill him. Hit him non-lethally maybe, but he was going to get away alive.

      Like

  23. Mammon

    So…

    Roland, can you do some magicks to turn the Saint into a magical sentient sword? With the way we’ve been foreshadowing that only she can hurt the Dead King and her saying she was a sword to the point that her domain became her being semi-literally being a sword, making her the Deus Ex Hidden Horror Slayer sounds like it should be doable.

    And while you’re at it, maybe infuse half the crown’s power into her to make her the Duchess of Dusk, the one that comes at the day’s end to finalise everything and everyone. Which would make the other half of the crown’s power Dawn, thus almost guaranteed to resurrect the Pilgrim as the sentient crown of Arcadia’s dawn that allows Named to take convenient shortcuts to get somewhere and save other Named at the last second. And probably a Mercy-judged crown of resurrection to boot.

    Like

  24. Raved Thrad

    Isn’t that just like the Grey Pilgrim? Must come with the name. If one isn’t trying to solo a balrog, then another is trying to claim an entire faerie court to himself.

    I wonder, though, if he’s getting his Name upgraded to “White Wizard” after this? 😛

    Like

    1. Shveiran

      …A bit, admittedly. Mostly I think we’d need a bit more telegraphing of the moment RS switches side and starts to support the GP martyrdom to the point that him actively swapping crowns is justified.

      The glamour itself, I’ve got no problem with. It’s more that he’d have needed a bit of preparations and he didn’t seem foreshadowed enough.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. At least since Kairos betrayed them to DK, there have barely been “sides” here. Everyone has been “calling them as they see them” and acting accordingly — indeed, the closest to an exception was Laurence letting Tariq restrain her for so long.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Shveiran

          I agree. I meant his side in this discussion, as in, I didn’t spot the moment he decided to actively work toward helping GP to sacrifice himself, and therefore I felt the glamoured crown coming a bit out of nowhere. It wasn’t a major problem nor anything, I just felt it came a bit out of nowhere.

          Like

          1. Given how chaotic things had gotten, I’d say it’s entirely fair for EE to go “hey, did you forget the Rogue Sorcerer? With a name like that, naturally he can do glamour”. And he might not have wanted Pilgrim to sacrifice himself, but once Cat and Pilgrim actually faced off over anything, he’d be going with Pilgrim.

            Like

            1. I wouldn’t read too much into the Rogue Sorcerers Name.
              It’s pretty obvious the dude isn’t even a sorcerer. His name just lets him fake being one. Which is an odd way for a Name to work.

              Like

              1. However he gets his magic, its undeniably quite effective. He was holding his own against those demons, manipulating the Twilight threads, and he has the luck of a Trickster name. Given that, glamour is easy.

                Like

                1. Devils, not Demons. I think he would perform poorer against an actual demon.
                  Also he steals his magic using an aspect, all of it. He can’t cast spells without an artifact. The Tyrant called him out on it, realizing they were the same, fake mages.
                  It doesn’t matter how easy illusions are, he can’t cast spells at all.

                  Liked by 1 person

                    1. I’m being technical when I say cast. He can steal, store and control magic via Aspect, yes.
                      He is not a Mage though, he doesn’t have the Gift. Unless he has an illusion in storage, he can’t create one. And if he does, its now spent.
                      If his battery of spells is empty, he has no magic at his disposal.

                      Like

  25. So, let’s see:

    As I and others predicted, it did come down to Cat and Pilgrim squabbling over the crown.. Battle of the Martyrs!

    The Pilgrim & Saint buddy movie ended… as a buddy movie, with both of them dying. But Pilgrim’s angels have promised that his death won’t be the disaster Cat expects.

    Kairos gets to live, albeit with a curse. For someone who can proudly proclaim “I betrayed you to someone else entirely!” I don’t think that curse is going to slow him down much. But it might provide him with a dramatic exit.

    Indrani and Masego get to live and nurse each other’s wounds.

    Ivah gets bragging rights like woah. He won’t be paying for any drinks for a while!

    Rogue Sorcerer is now thoroughly blooded; when he goes back he’ll be primed to join the front rank of heroism. Or possibly villainy….

    Cat… pretty much swept the field for her objectives, but of course she’s not happy about it. 😉

    DK thinks he’s got a key secret of the Bard … but the only way he can use it is to tell other people, and who’s going to believe him? Basically, Black, Cat, and their respective retinues. And it remains to be seen if he’s right.

    The Crown… well, we’ll see. Pilgrim has checked off all the boxes for a “good” resolution, that doesn’t devastate Iserre and the armies of Calernia. But he’s still been handed a dog’s dinner, so we’ll see how things turn out.

    It occurs to me that Cat really has shown the virtues both of the respective Choirs she’s tangled with: She may have flipped off Contrition, but her self-flagellation is so blatant even her friends call her out on it (the Choir may have marked her?), and as far as Mercy, she’s always been working for the greater good, generally on a wider scope than her opponents. We’ll see how things play out with Judgement…. It would be pretty funny if book 6 wound up with Cat actually invoking three Choirs against the Dead King! Perhaps accidentally….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Shveiran

      Why do you feel Cat has achieved her goals? To me, it seems she achived none of them.

      She wanted to establish a good precedent for Heroes and Villains fighting together when someone pisses in the water.
      The compromise has been prevented by Saint, the Pilgrim hexed himself just when he was coming around to compromising with her, and now the story that will get around is that the two greatest heroes of the continent went adventuring with her and both bit it, one by her hands. At the very best, the precedent being set is “allying with the Black Queen is bad for your health. Don’t.”

      She wanted an alliance against the DK and a pathway to reach the front.
      Admittedly she got a truce she wasn’t banking on, but the alliance will need a deus ex to survive the next hour: even assuming Malanza will be 100% on board with it even after seeing the two Heroes not returning, which is a big if, Levant is a whole other mess.

      She wanted Kairos and the Hierarch neutered They are anything but.

      She wanted to save Masego, and she did, but crippled like so I’m not sure he’ll be glad to be.

      I am not saying this was a disaster – it could have been worse. But she either failed her main objectives outright or has a slim chance at gaining them that requires a divine intervention beyond her reach.

      It’s … not what I’d call a triumph.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Mission, dude! Masego rescued, DK chased off, Indrani survived. Crown damaged but now redeemed (one might say, Forgiven).

        The only two deaths were very old heroes who were practically competing for who could accumulate the most death-flags. One of those had a mixed reputation, she was popular with Heroes but I’d bet even those recognized her as “a little inflexible”. The other deceased promised, backed by his angels, that his death would not redound upon Cat and her mission.

        Those were her basic goals for this mission. What’s more, those goals were indeed accomplished by Heroes and Villains fighting together. And among themselves, but that’s how the story goes.

        Like

        1. Shveiran

          I don’t know, it might be me being pessimistic and having really, really hoped for a different ending.
          But though I see your points, it seems to me Cat has won every battle but those that matter here; or rather, that the Bard made sure her chance to change the game got crippled for good.
          Death flags or no, I feel she was really banking on bridging the divide with and through Tariq. All the baby steps, the exchanges with Indrani and now… nothing.
          Also, not to be too technical, but I think Tariq only promised it wouldn’t bring war. That’s not the same as what Cat hoped, and it is not even a guarantee Levant will join the Coalition, only that they want actively fight it.

          I think I’ll keep being miserable until EE reveals his masterpiece for me to adore. I’ll feel like a fool, then, but I can still sulk now.

          Liked by 1 person

      2. With both the old heroes gone now, does the Grand Alliance really have a choice?
        Pure practicality means that they have to Ally with Cat, and even more importantly, The Drow.

        Don’t forget, Cat’s army of Drow is just the tip of the iceberg. There are probably a million Drow at least that need a good home and if the Alliance wont work with them, they will just take somewhere easier than the Dead King’ old kingdom.

        If Cat can actually sit down at a meeting and explain this, chances are she will either join the Alliance or the Alliance will implode.

        Like

        1. > If Cat can actually sit down at a meeting and explain this,
          Which would be classic jug-and-sword diplomacy.but I’m not sure that would go over too well. The Alliance do jave other heroes, and the problem with Cat presenting her Drow that way is that they’re too powerful. They can just as easily be the Other Evil Army.

          Like

    2. talenel

      Just in reference to Kairos’s curse:

      I’m almost certain that will come back to haunt him in some way. Narratively, there’s going to be some moment when he needs to say something other than the truth and he can’t and he will lose and maybe die from it. It just makes too much sense.

      Like

  26. Shveiran

    What bothers me here is this.

    Let’s say the Pilgrim negotiated with the Ophanim a magical way to ensure that the armies down there don’t turn on each other.

    Let’s say that somehow Levant not only doesn’t turn on Cat and Cat’s, but also stays on board with the Crusade.

    Let’s say that somehow, even without GP bringing Levant into the fold, Cat manages to form a coalition to march north and fight the dead king.

    And let’s say, for shit and giggles, that the Tyrant doesn’t fuck it all up.

    Let’s say all of that happens. I can’t fathom how, but let’s say it does.

    Even then… what was earned?
    Even if all of that happens, and I think it is a pretty big IF right now, the Pilgrim still traded the POSSIBILITY of Roland’s death not being forgiven with the CERTAINTY of his own removal from the board. How is that an advantage? How is that better down the line?
    Even ignoring personal power – something I am not sure we should, considering the power is resurrection and they are headed into a pretty important war – Roland can in no way do what the Pilgrim could have done to keep the coalition together.

    There is no framing this as an advantageous choice, and Pilgrim has always been about practical benefits, about ensuring the long term well being of how many as possible.

    This really doesn’t feel right.

    Like

    1. ActionKermit

      Part of it may be that Tariq was getting old and just had a very pointed reminder that he was about to get removed from the board no matter what.

      Like

      1. Shveiran

        I guess, but there is so much good he could have achived by simply eing around two more days to set this alliance up. Are we to believe he couldn’t last that long?

        I mean, the part that is coming up is precisely the one he’s most needed for.
        It is being foreshadowed that the Ophanim will do something about it, but… involving Hanno and havinga weird judgment coin flip or a big Ophanim revelation where Levant’s leaders are brought into the fold seems like inventing a complicated, solar-powered, timed contraption to put off your alarm, rather than reaching over and put off your alarm yourself.

        Like

        1. > there is so much good he could have acheived by simply being around two more days to set this alliance up. … the part that is coming up is precisely the one he’s most needed for.

          As opposed to Cat? Or do you mean that he shouldn’t have killed himself, but stuck around as a fae Wounded King for the negotiations? Cat didn’t catch up with this point, but Pilgrim’s crown probably accounted for much of his “undue” influence over Levant and even Procer. So, he wouldn’t be the rainmaker anymore, anyhow.

          Like

    2. Morgenstern

      Remember the conversation with Black about how GP and Saint *enabled* the DK in the first place by being as successful as they were with their respective agendas? That seemed to break a big fat chunk out of the GP. Add on that what he was starting to see in the new generation potentially being better fit to deal with and them both being finally removed freeing the angels/Gods to put their fingers on the scales to drive the DK back into hiding at least, and the new evil of Cat that is much more reasonable than the old? What do you see, then?
      (Add on top of that the latest death of a dear friend and all that’s happened this one evening, the angels whispering in his ears that it’s gonna be alright and the Bard urging him on to leave it all to providence and her plans, that it’ll all work out…)

      Like

  27. The choir of Judgement seems hardcore puritan. There’s a reason normal people don’t like Hanno, despite his being a hero. It settled a dispute between mortals by erasing both sides in the middle of a war. Has Hanno found anyone “justified in existing” yet?

    The Dead King implied that Judgement is essentially the hitman of the choirs. “That choir only comes out when something really needs to die.” or something like that.

    Besides, doesn’t Hanno have fate with Black? Or did that disappear with his Name?

    From a mundane legal perspective, Cat is Golden.
    She’s the crowned ruler of a country fighting a legal war declared by the other side. She’s committed no atrocities and kept to her word. The Pilgrim is probably responsible for more civilian deaths in Procer than the entire Army of Callow. She hasn’t even raised an army of undead.

    Even the Black Knight was technically abiding by the ‘rules of war’.

    Like

  28. JRogue

    So, Tariq took a Loss early on (Mighty Rumena holding the Saint hostage to get back Amadeus’ body), then Tariq got a Win (Cat “surrendered” and turned over everything to him via a letter delivered by a member of The Wild Hunt), isn’t he due for a Draw? Something where he neither wins nor loses? I do not remember him getting one with Cathrine, and so that Story is not technically complete. Or is it and I just missed it?

    It may not matter, the ‘Heroic Sacrifice’ Story may trump the ‘Win, Lose, Draw’ Story.

    Like

    1. Shveiran

      I think the pattern of three cannot end with draw: it starts with either a win or a loss, and the second step needs to be a draw. At that point, the third step becomes fixed as the missing of the three.

      Basically, either WIN – DRAW – LOSE or LOSE – DRAW – WIN.

      So when Cat handed him a win in the battle, it prevented the pattern from forming.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. > So when Cat handed him a win in the battle, it prevented the pattern from forming.

        Exactly. Which was, of course, the reason she did it and also the reason why getting handed an out-and-out victory made the Pilgrim go WHY YOU LITTLE at the time.

        Liked by 1 person

  29. talenel

    I wonder why no one is thinking about how Pilgrim’s death will influence the world created as well. Remember Pilgrim’s crown is the one that shaped the court and his death and sacrifice is the one that ends it. That has to have profound consequences for the realm and the shape it takes.

    Remember how they were talking about how there would be a small sacrifice necessary to open the portal to the realm and travel it? I have the feeling a shade of some sort that looks and acts a lot like Tariq will be the one guarding it. And he will be the one deciding who can use it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. ninegardens

      I wonder if this is basically why Mercy went for all of this rather than Cat or Roland?
      They went “Who is best to imprint on this weirdass twighlight realm….? Welll… let’s take Pilgrim and… ahhhh… MORE pilgrim.”

      Locally this is a loss for Good (losing two big heroes), but depending on how much Pilgrim has just now shaped the realm, Good may come out of this WAY ahead in the grand scheme of things.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Morgenstern

        Also, they’re making good on the scales again, where the DK inflicts heavy losses – to then be driven back, ultimately (or even somewhen actually defeated). Instead of Below getting even more of the cake because Good took/had so much during the last years. At least, if Black’s theory is correct there.

        Like

  30. Daniel E

    Cat walks into Arcadia with two of the greatest Heroes in modern history, and walks out with their corpses. If she had a reputation before, I can scarce imagination the tales that will spring to life now. Hopefully we get another song by Third Company.

    Like

  31. Joshua

    Ironically enough, if you buy into the idea that we as the readers and erraticerrata as the author are the “Gods” of this story, Cat was almost certainly had survived wearing the crown. I don’t imagine very many would have been happy with Cat’s death at this point, so she has some form of plot armor for now and that gave her a better chance than anyone else of surviving.

    Like

  32. Escaping the maze of twisty little replies:

    Kairo’s survival is Not a “mistake”, at least not on Pilgrim’s part. He explicitly says that it’s due to the Bard’s intervention, but then his Choir speaks through him directly to tell Kairos: “You are not forgiven. You will yet serve a greater purpose, and for that you will be allowed to crawl out of this place…”.

    Kairos responds to that with more taunting, but it’s of the “you don’t dare kill me” variety, which is Obviously A Trap. That’s when Pilgrim curses him to not lie anymore.

    Like

    1. Once could argue that Kairos’s taunt of “Coward!” was the real trap, inciting Pilgrim to sacrifice himself. But not only is Pilgrim “too old for that shit”, he doesn’t have anything to prove to Kairos, and he was already leaning toward self-sacrifice, possibly nettled by Cat’s example. (Not to mention multiply death-flagged on the story level.)

      Like

      1. A darker look at the scene:

        As talenel points out, Pilgrim’s lost his crown(*) and his best friend. I’ll add that he’s 70 or 80 years old, and he’s recently been given abundant evidence that he, personally, is way past his sell-by date!

        Remember, this all started when he got whupped by Cat at story-fu, negotiation and general shenanigans. He then tried to interrupt Kairos’s scheme, only for Cat to walk away with the scene — so Pilgrim got swept up in her wake and followed her into the shard. Where he helped out sure, but definitely wasn’t running the show like he’s used to, and he had to spend what influence he had, protecting Saint from Cat… which didn’t help in the end, but he can’t even blame Cat for that.

        So, he’s probably outlived most of his original contemporaries, just lost his oldest Heroic friend, and probably lost a lot of his influence too. Physically, his Choir is practically holding him up by the elbows half the time. He’s looking back at a humiliating defeat, where he ultimately had to agree that his opponent had the right of things… and looking forward, none of the above is going to get better. At this point, his martyrdom is the only thing he’s got left. And his Choir will back it, exactly because he’s come to the point, where death is a mercy.

        (*) I still think this would probably have lost him much of his influence in any case.
        would have

        Like

  33. roobee

    “This is not,” Kairos Theodosian guffawed, “the last you’ve seen of me.”

    Depending on how you interpret this it suggests that the Grey Pilgrim will still have enough of a consciousness afterwards to still see Kairos. As the sentence must be true. So perhaps the Pilgrim isn’t dead.

    Like

  34. burguulkodar

    YAY, the two do-gooders are dead. Victory for below, yadayadayada! =P

    …or so the Tyrant would say. All hail villainy forevermore!

    Like

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