Interlude: Concourse I

“When a highborn is slain, look to who benefits and you will have learned what families the third party wants to incite strife between.”
– Extract from ‘The Behaviours of Civil Conduct’, by High Lady Mchumba Sahelian

There was only one crowned head left south of Salia, and it was Princess Rozala Malanza of Aequitan.

As a girl or, honesty compelled her to admit, as recently as a few years ago Rozala might have found such a prospect exciting. To wield such influence, to claim such authority, and with so few to check her! After her mother’s disastrous bid for First Princess during the Great War and the ruin that had befallen the Malanzas for it, Rozala had been forced to look in the eye the fact that if she did not take cover under another’s wings her family mighty yet be toppled entirely and that odds were Aequitan would not know prominence against in her lifetime. And now, not even a decade later, Princess Rozala could be argued to be the second most powerful individual in Procer: she commanded a great host, had inherited the reins of a powerful bloc within the Highest Assembly and her reputation as both general and noblewoman had reached heights she’d never before thought possible. And yet, as dawn inched ever closer the Princess of Aequitan found it all felt hollow. For all the power and influence that had been gathered to her name, Rozala Malanza found that the sum of what she could do in the face of death was look up at the sky and pray.

Pray that the Peregrine and the Regicide lived up to their legends, that the Rogue Sorcerer proved worthy of one day having such tales matched to his name. That the Tyrant’s schemes would be turned against the Crown of the Dead and, most of all, that the Black Queen would make as terrifyingly potent an ally as she had been an enemy. They’d all danced to the sounds of Catherine Foundling’s tune, this winter, found the calm-faced villain always one step ahead. Let the Hidden Horror taste of that, for once, Princess Rozala thought. Let every promise that has been made under cover of night come true, and great vengeance be visited upon the King of Death. Rozala Malanza ruled lands large and wealthy, commanded soldiers in the dozens of thousands and held power of life and death over a dozen times that – and so, left to stand stewing in her own inability to do more than hope, she pondered her growing mislike of the Chosen and the Damned. Those colourful few, cloaked in power and mystery, who would bargain with the fate of nations and the pivots of history. Who left all others in the dust of their grandiose adventures, be they great or small. What a hateful thing it was, to have your own life and death decided by the hands of others.

She was not unaware of the irony inherent to a princess of the blood pondering such things. The touch of rue jostled her out of her thoughts enough that she heard the person approaching behind her, though she did not turn. Hair loose and going down her back, Rozala tightened the warm fur cloak around her body and kept looking at the night sky brought about by the blasphemous sorceries of the drow.

“There have been another dozen,” Louis Rohanon, once Prince of Creusens, told her.

The Princess of Aequitan did not need to look to know he was exhausted beyond all words. Neither of them had slept in much, much too long – and there was only so far brandy and alchemical tonics could carry one past what one’s body could tolerate.

“Were they more coherent than the last?” she asked.

“In a manner of speaking,” Louis sighed. “It has become apparent that the… visions all concern the same journey, but the Heavens were seemingly unconcerned with the order of the revelations. It is all rather haphazard.”

Louis Rohanon had never been a particularly pious man, which was Rozala was less than surprised by his implicit criticism of the manner the Gods Above had granted their insights. No doubt if the Prince – former now, she reminded herself – of Creusens was a one of the Gods the visions would have been regularly arranged, in good order and with the proper seals affixed to bills of delivery. Less than surprised, yes, but perhaps a little amused. Not that she would show it. The mirth was short-lived, though.

“And the initial vision,” Rozala said. “Has anything happened to cast it in doubt?”

She looked at him from the corner of her eye and caught his face tightening.

“No,” Louis quietly admitted. “It still returns at least once per lot of dreamers waking, and never once have we been told of anything taking place past it. It seems to have been the end of their journey.”

The Princess of Aequitan closed her eyes. She’d not slept, so there’d been no opportunity to experience the dreams, but in the urgency after the first dreamers woke she’d had several of those blessed with the visions describe it to her in detail. It always seemed to centre around the same vivid parts: the Black Queen’s scream of denial after she realized being tricked, the Grey Pilgrim taking up the blade of the fallen Saint of Swords and then the wizened hero’s taking of his own life. All who’d dreamt the dream agreed that the Black Queen had tried to prevent the Peregrine’s death, though words failed them when they tried to explain why. Yet it seemed undeniable, by now, that both the Regicide and the Grey Pilgrim were dead. The former, if one of the growingly reoccurring visions was to be believed, having been slain by Catherine Foundling herself.

“Any word of the Dominion armies?” she asked.

“None of the Blood have returned from their seclusion,” Louis said. “The senior captains still hold command, and our people in their camps confirm their rank and file are having similar dreams.”

“It’s the Blood that’ll make decisions, not the captains or the soldiers,” Princess Rozala said. “Keep sending envoys, Louis. We can’t afford for the battle to resume.”

“Dawn will bludgeon the drow hard,” the former Prince of Creusens carefully said. “And will arrive soon. If a victory is to be seized by surprise, it would be in the coming hour.”

“Tell me, Louis,” the dark-haired princess flatly said, “even if we slew every last soldier of the Army of Callow without losing a man, what do you believe will happen when the Black Queen returns?”

“She’s already raised one army of the dead,” Louis said, though he shivered. “How many times could she truly do such a thing?”

And shiver he should, for Malanza had been told the same tale as he and it had clenched her guts to hear it. An ancient king of Callow stolen from the Dead King’s grasp and hundreds of thousands of furious wraiths summoned to deliver his wrath? Such a thing could break an army fresh and dug-in, if well-used, and Rozala Malanza’s host was tired and spread out. For all that the Black Queen had come to favour subtler tricks than those she’d plied at the Battle of the Camps, it would not to do forget for a moment that they were facing a woman capable of slaying thousands with snap of her fingers.

“Regardless, this is not a gamble we can even begin to consider with the League still on the field,” Rozala reminded him. “They may have withdrawn but they are not so far as that.”

The disparate armies of the League of Free Cities had, as of an hour past, begun to retreat. They’d put perhaps a mile between themselves and the other two great hosts on the plains, their great combined camp turning into a labyrinth of mayhem before it’d even been fully raised. Rozala had ordered envoys sent there, to probe for intentions and information, but so far all had been turned away outside the camp and the few spies she’d tried to slip in had been shot and hung from poles as a warning. She’d not even tried to get anyone inside the Army of Callow’s camp, well aware that Wasteland sorceries would make infiltration more than merely difficult, but at least there her envoys had been received by Lady Vivienne Dartwick. Who was now, it seemed, heiress to the throne of Callow. Lady Dartwick had been courteous but dclined Princess Rozala’s offer of sending a contingent of priests from the House of Light to see to her wounded, likely suspecting the additional intent of gleaning the state of her camp through it. At least the venture had confirmed that some of her soldiers were touched by the dreams too, as well as confirming that the ‘priests’ of the heretical House Insurgent were truly capable of healing. Which would not be a pleasant to hear for some of the priesthood in Salia, Rozala suspected. Last she’d heard from the capital, lines against Callow had been hardening amongst the House of Light.

“As you say, Princess Rozala,” Louis relied, inclining his head.

She grimaced, for until a few hours ago though she had been his leader they had also been peers: and while the former still held true, the latter did not. They would have to become used to that. Rozala tried to conceive of a sentence that could mend the gap she could feel growing between them, but sentiment had never been her knack and she struggled over the words until the entire debate was made moot. A messenger approached, though Rozala did not recognize her face and she was being escorted by a pair of Aequitan soldiers. The messenger bowed low, and only began to speak when Rozala gave her leave.

“Your Grace,” the woman said, her faint Alamans accent still discernible. “You have been summoned to stand before the First Prince. The Order of the Red Lion has found the restrictions on scrying lifted at last.”

Louis’ face darkened with both anger and embarrassment.

“It was ordered that any successful contact with Salia be reported immediately,” he sharply said. “How is it that I am only now hearing of this?”

“You ordered everyone under your command to do so,” the messenger politely agreed. “Yet I am here on behalf of Her Most Serene Highness’ plenipotentiary envoy Arnaud Brogloise, who answers only to the First Prince and the Highest Assembly.”

So Cordelia Hasenbach had hidden an entire set of messengers and scryers right under her nose, Rozala darkly thought. Likely among the army of the former Prince of Cantal, who until so recently she’d believed one of her most eager supporters. The Princess of Aequitan grit her teeth at the memory of Arnaud’s treachery revealed in the bloodiest of ways, though now was not the time to settle that account.

“As always, I am at the disposal of the First Prince,” Rozala replied flatly. “Guide the way, messenger.”

Louis was left with instructions to have someone inform her the moment there was movement from the Levantines, no matter who it was she was speaking with at the time. The dark-haired princess followed the messenger into the camp of the Cantal army, though she was not so foolish as to do so without a company of trustworthy Aequitan soldiers escorting her. She was well aware that the First Prince would find it much more difficult to take her head after the dust had settled and her star rose in the eyes of commons and royalty alike, and while Rozala was not certain it was in Hasenbach’s nature to so bluntly snuff out a rival these were dark days for all. Fear could do strange things to a woman: sometimes it could urge her to greatness, but it could just as easily spur her to the basest of instincts. Yet Rozala and her escort were not surrounded and slaughtered but instead guided to the former Prince of Cantal’s private pavilion where the man himself awaited. Along with a handful of wizards who took their leave when dismissed, and a basin of water large enough it could have been used as a bath. Arnaud Brogloise rose from his seat when she entered, as the fresh disparity in their ranks required, and personally introduced her.

“Her Grace Rozala Malanza, Princess of Aequitan and supreme commander of the southern armies,” he briskly said.

Cordelia Hasenbach’s cool blue eyes, framed by those perfect golden tresses, were already studying her through the waters and so Rozala offered the proper bow.

“Your Highness,” she said. “As I was summoned, I came.”

“For that promptness I thank you, and again for the services you rendered the Principate on this campaign,” the First Prince said. “You may consider me informed or recent developments in Iserre, for the purpose of this conversation.”

“So I shall,” Rozala replied, resisting the urge to glance at Brogloise. “May I then inquire, Your Highness, as to what the purpose of this conversation is? While I have matters to bring up before you, your messenger implied… pressing need.”

It was as close as she could come to chiding the First Prince for summoning her so abruptly, and the message should be twice as loudly heard for the way Rozala had kept to the courtesies while Hasenbach very clearly had not.

“As of a quarter hour ago, we have confirmed that the Dead King has withdrawn on all fronts,” the First Prince said.

Rozala’s eyes widened in surprise.

“Furthermore, while my cousin finds it difficult to see through either the Hidden Horror or the Black Queen, she has confirmed that a truce of more than one month and less than six was bought, though not at what price.”

I did not escape the dark-haired princess’ attention that Catherine Foundling had been mentioned in this, though for now she could only speculate as to why.

“You believe this is the doing of the Queen in Callow?” Princess Rozala asked.

Hasenbach sighed.

“Queen of Callow,” she finally said. “Best we grow used to that, Your Grace, for it seems bargains will have to be struck. The Augur had gleaned that the truce is related to the Black Queen, though little more than that. Given the consequences of hostilities resuming, we cannot afford to take risks with Queen Catherine’s life – or, indeed, to risk provoking her at all for at least a month.”

A pause saw the First Prince’s tone grow heavy and solemn.

“In that spirit, Princess Rozala Malanza, as commander of the Principate’s southern armies I charge you with the preservation of Queen Catherine Foundling’s life and the safeguard of her armies and associates. Should the Dominion strike at her, you are to take any measures short of open war with Levant to prevent conflict reigniting between Callow and the Grand Alliance.”

Rozala sharply breathed in. Open war, the First Prince had said. Which was implicit endorsement of assassinating Dominion commanders over allowing the Black Queen to be put at risk. If it ever came out that Cordelia Hasenbach had given such an order, the Grand Alliance might very well splinter. The First Prince, Rozala thought, had just handed her a knife to put to her throat in years to come. The Princess of Aequitan would never like the cold-eyed woman ruling over Procer, she knew that. There was too much bad blood.

Yet there were times where she could not help but admire the other woman, in spite of all the rest.

“I understand, Your Highness,” the dark-haired princess said.

“I believe you do, Princess Rozala,” the First Prince of Procer evenly replied. “Whatever comes, the Principate must survive. Do as you must, and know you have the full weight of my authority behind you.”

The water in the basin rippled and in the heartbeat that followed Cordelia Hasenbach’s silhouette disappeared, leaving behind only tepid liquid. While the First Prince had been within her rights to take her leave so abruptly, it surprised Rozala that a woman known so far and wide for her diplomatic talents would so carelessly offer discourtesy twice on the same night. Then it occurred to her that with the audience having come to an end so swiftly she’d never had opportunity to bring up the petitions passed on to her. The dark-haired Arlesite turned to Arnaud Brogloise, who still stood in silence. His dark eyes had not ceased studying either of the princesses as they spoke, though at least he’d not bothered to put on the pretence of being a blustering fool again. In Cleves the middle-aged former prince had put on some muscle, adding it to his pudgy frame, but Rozala had never found him to have much of a presence – on occasion a sort of buffoonish swagger, but nothing to give her pause. Yet now his girth seemed less laughable, his ruddy face no longer a fool’s visage, and the Princess of Aequitan realized odds were he was physically stronger than he. It was somewhat unsettling to know that, now that she’d seen Arnaud Brogloise open the throat of royalty without batting an eye.

“You are still her envoy, I take it,” Princess Rozala said.

She was princess and he not: no longer was courtesy owed.

“I am to begin negotiations with the Queen of Callow when she returns,” the older man acknowledged. “I’ve already spoken with her right hand, to interesting result.”

“Lady Dartwick?” Rozala asked, surprised.

“Hakram Deadhand, the Adjutant,” the Alamans corrected. “He lacks formal title save for his Damnation, but wields the influence nonetheless.”

An orc, holding power in Callow? It had been one thing when the Wasteland still held sway over these lands, but it seemed rather odd that one of that land’s ancient enemies would have such authority within its borders now.

“And what did the Deadhand have to say?” the Princess of Aequitan asked.

“A great deal, on the subject of accords,” Arnaud replied, lips strangely quirking. “I have a great deal of reading ahead of me.”

“More than you believe,” Rozala said. “I have petitions to pass on to the First Prince. As you’ve demonstrated a knack for reaching her, they will be placed in your hands. Delaying would be ill-advised, Arnaud.”

The man let out a breath that straddled the line between a sigh and a chuckle.

“You have something to say?” the princess flatly said.

“I would not speak out of turn, Your Grace,” he said. “Yet I wonder – these petitions, would they be the designated succession for the abdications of the night?”

They were, though Rozala did not immediately say so.  Thought it was little more than a formality, save if accusations of treason and other great crimes were to be made, the designated succession for a principality of Procer was to be submitted to the Highest Assembly. There’d only been a handful of refusals throughout the entire history of Procer, usually when villainy or civil war had split the realm asunder. Why would such a matter amuse Arnaud? Certainly the amount of crowns to be approved was unusually high, perhaps even without precedent, but… The Princess of Aequitan’s blood ran cold.

“Send for the wizards, Brogloise,” she said. “I will put the matter to the First Prince myself.”

“I will change nothing,” he replied. “An extraordinary session of the Highest Assembly was called. In times of troubles the wisdom of our predecessors is once again needed, and so the Guillermont Decree has been restored.”

It took a moment for Rozala to place it. Not the name of Guillermont, for that she could hardly ignore: it was the name of royal house that had ruled Aequitan before the Malanzas rose to prominence and set them aside. The decree in particular, though, came from the First Princess Éloïse Guillermont – best known for ending the Principate’s occupation of Callow. Before she’d been First Prince she’d been a sitter of the Highest Assembly, and her election to the office of First Princess had been… contentious. The politics of the time had been complicated, as they often were in Procer –  Guillermont had been the leader of a bloc among the Assembly that held no lands in Callow and so considered the taxes levied to keep armies standing there an utter waste – but the broad lines had been that Procer in those days had been split between the royalty that wished withdrawal and those that wished to tighten Procer’s grip. Princess Éloïse had risen to power by seizing an opportunity after Callowan rebels had slain five princes in their beds in Laure, gathering her allies in the Assembly and passing her eponymous decree before succession could be arranged. It was an obscure procedural measure that specified no assermenté – that pretentious Alamans term for proxy – could be used to present one’s name for confirmation of succession. The would-be ruler had to attend in person. In practice, that’d meant that the designated heirs and heiresses of the slain royals had been forced to leave their seats in the Assembly empty for more than a year as they remained in Callow trying to keep their holdings from collapsing. Those empty seats had allowed the Princess of Aequitan to swing the balance of votes in her favour by enough of a margin she was elected First Princess and ordered the withdrawal from Callow, changing the path of history.

Yet that had been a mere procedural trick, one that First Princess Éloïse herself had been easily persuaded into rescinding when she’d ascended to the office. What Rozala was beginning to piece together was a different beast entirely. Seven crowns had been abdicated, this night. That meant that almost a third of the Highest Assembly, which held twenty-four seats, had been silenced: proxies could not vote when there was no ruling prince or princess stood behind them, for they were the voice of that ruler and had no formal decisional power of their own. That left seventeen votes, then, for the foreseeable futures. The Lycaonese principalities made four. Salia itself, the demesne of the First Prince, held a vote as well. Prince Frederic of Brus and Hasenbach’s other two foremost loyalists in Salamans and Tenerife were well known to have instructed their assermentés to follow Hasenbach in all things, which meant eight votes. Prince Beatrice of Hainaut’s lands were being defended by Lycaonese armies, which likely made for nine and with Prince Gaspard in Cleves being heavily dependent on southern supplies for his defending armies that made ten out of seventeen. A clear majority that would vote however Cordelia Hasenbach wanted it to. And it would not be broken in the coming months, for the First Prince would be able to put her chosen candidates on the abdicated thrones long before any possible designated heir presented themselves in Salia. After all, the only mages who knew the secrets of scrying in Iserre were in Hasenbach’s service, and no rider could ride quicker than sorcery.

“She has made herself the queen of Procer,” Rozala croaked, “in everything but name.”

“On doom’s approach,” Arnaud Brogloise said, “law must fall silent.”

“And you would enable this?” Princess Rozala hissed. “You were a prince, Arnaud. You understand what is at stake: the Assembly can be led, but it must never be commanded. That way lies tyranny.”

“Oh, we’ll survive a spot of tyranny,” he replied. “Yet we might not survive Keter without it.”

“What did she give, to make of you such a loyal hound?” the Princess of Aequitan hissed. “What manner of ugly bargain was made?”

“She let her kin die and her home burn, to better our chances of victory,” Arnaud said. “Loyalty is a child’s sentiment, Your Grace. I heed Her Highness’s decrees because she had proved willing to sacrifice whatever is necessary for Procer to survive.”

The scathing reply on the tip of Rozala’s tongue had to be swallowed, for another entered the pavilion. It was, the princess saw, one of her own officers.

“Captain Matias?” she asked, tone harsh.

“Your Grace,” the soldier said, bowing. “Louis Rohanon has sent word: the armies of the Dominion are gathering.”

Cursing, Princess Rozala Malanza thought, would not help in the slightest. Yet she still blasphemed several times, before sending for enough soldiers to give those damned Levantine madmen pause before they got everyone killed.

268 thoughts on “Interlude: Concourse I

      1. stevenneiman

        Ok, so that wasn’t just me that was having problems. I got the “forbidden” message just after my computer crashed so I thought the crash screwed up something fiddly related to my computer’s internet connection.

        Liked by 2 people

  1. ruduen

    I’ll admit, after everything that happened, I was expecting a slightly longer break before the politics resumed in full force.

    I suppose prophetic visions and scrying will accelerate things on the political front as well.

    Liked by 11 people

    1. ATRDCI

      “In that spirit, Princess Rozala Malanza, as commander of the Principate’s southern armies I charge you with the preservation of Queen Catherine Foundling’s life and the safeguard of her armies and associates.”

      Cat: Im gonna self flagelate and sacrifice myself again.

      Rozala: *whacks Cat with a scroll* No! Bad Cat! And Gods Above why does your orc keep trying to get rid of his arms?!

      Liked by 37 people

      1. RoflCat

        Silly Rozala, she need to learn from Archer that the answer is choke hold.

        After all, it both silences and weakens her.

        Risk of death? Eh, she’s survived worse.

        Liked by 6 people

          1. Former? She’s patently still got the gate trick and I would be shocked if the Sisters can’t compensate for her no longer having a fae mind to process the gate formation data. I expect (read, greatly anticipate) gate-delivered death to feature against the Dead King one way or another.

            Liked by 4 people

            1. Well, she hasn’t dropped a lake on anyone since she got out of Everdark, and she’d generally backed off from such massive overkill. But I could easily believe that if someone tried mockingly spraying her with water, she might drench them in return.

              Liked by 3 people

              1. The only battles she’s been in since the Everdark have been in gate-disrupted territory. And she specifically had “avoid mass casualties in the opposing force bc I’ll need them later” as a strategic goal vis-a-vis both Procer and Levant, so even if she could have she wouldn’t have. I don’t expect either to feature against the Dead King, quite especially not the second.

                Liked by 5 people

  2. talenel

    Hmm. Arnaud really is a distasteful person. Useful, but still not someone I’d want to be friends with. And the truce keeping Cat alive isn’t all that surprising.

    Yet I do wonder about the Dominion. It would not surprise me if they withdrew from the war. I really don’t think the Grand Alliance will stand with the way Bard is influencing things.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Andrew Mitchell

      My take on Arnaud is that he’s quite straight-forward now that his cover is blown. I appreciate that. Playing politics now will kill Procer. Saint’s expectation was that Procer (as a political institution) was going to die but I think Cordelia, Arnaud and Rozala can keep it together. Changed, for sure, but still…

      Liked by 13 people

          1. When doom was at the gates of Rome, they chose a person to wield a single-handed power, and it was a greatest civil honor to wield said power, because Romans understood the need of unified command and absence of politics in a face of existential threat.

            And also there is a fact that almost every single dictator willingly abdicated after the war, which is just so awesome.

            Liked by 5 people

            1. Gregorio Cardarelli

              Well is not really like that, in Rome the Dictator was a political position only appointed in times of crisis and had a finite time of existence of six months which could be extended for another six months if the threat was not extinguished. The first dictator without time constraints was Julius Caesar and that position was made “more legal” by his successor, Augustus, which brought the end of the republic and the start of the empire.

              Liked by 3 people

          2. Remember, most of us are modern democrats (little-d), suspicious of royal power as opposed to the will and interests of the people. Rozala and other Procerans only coincidentally agree with us –they are aristocrats, suspicious of royal power as a threat to their own power, prerogatives, and interests.

            Liked by 6 people

            1. Shveiran

              I see what you are saying, but I think that’s valid only if you squint a bit: it isn’t really democracy and its ideals that Malanza is defending.
              Proceran Princes remind me of French nobles in the 1700s, resisting the monarch’s attempts of consolidating a centralized power.

              centralized power means more absolute power, which can bring tyranny and oppression.
              But the thing is, a centralized power was also the birth of the concept of “public interest” (well, rebirth after the fall of Rome really, but still); many of what western democracy now consider to be the duties of a State toward its citizens was seeded in those years by those monarchs and their staffs.
              Rights as a quality inherent to every citizen started to be conceptualized around the same time; because we started to move from “subject of this or that lord and king” to “citizen of that state”. The very concept requires a centralized, absolute power.

              It could be some of those nobles (and Malanza) resist such an idea because they worry about the long term threats to the rights of the people.

              It could be they resist it because they don’t want to lose their power, priviledges and charges.

              Could be there is a bit of both.

              Historically, centralized power is a pillar of western democracies. It’s how we grew past local laws to state laws, where citizens are equal before the law and have inherent rights.
              Which isn’t to say centralizying power is always a good thing; I just feel it gets a bit of an inherent abd name that isn’t really warranted.

              Liked by 6 people

              1. > isn’t really democracy and its ideals that Malanza is defending.

                Well yes, that was my point. “Ancient” democracies (e.g. Athens, the Mongols) AIUI tended to be cases where no one player could gather enough power in the first place to dominate the rest of the populace. (And remember that Athens was a city state among many others, most of whom did have kings.)

                Successful modern democracies tend to be cases where, after power got centralized in royalty, other players kicked back and broke the royal power, then arranged things so that nobody could claim total power (see also: separation of powers in American politics). That can happen in stages, as when Britain started with the Magna Carta to limit the king’s power over the nobles.

                Democracies built without that prior centralization often don’t work very well — see Africa, where areas wrecked and arbitrarily carved up by colonialization tried to skip past the royalization stage.
                Similarly, many nations around the world (Middle East, Asia, Africa again, Latin America) have gotten passed around among strongman “presidents”, religious leaders, and/or military rule. (The common factor being that those are the folks who actually can exert power over most or all of the territory.)

                India is an intermediate case, where the British had welded the subcontinent’s princedoms into a “nation” that promptly fractured on religious lines, and the what’s left of it still has difficulty pressing national policies over provincial and local powers.

                Liked by 6 people

                1. Shveiran

                  I missread your post, then. My apologies, I very much agree with your later analysys.
                  Granted, a number of royals realized giving more and more power to a beurocracy of professionals was a good thing for all, and parliamnets and governments grem more and more independent to their respective royalty. Some monarchies had to broken down for democracy to flourish, others eased the project and made teh transition mostly peaceful.

                  Liked by 4 people

                  1. > a number of royals realized giving more and more power to a bureaucracy of professionals was a good thing for all,

                    Pre-modern China is the classic example where a standing bureaucracy provided continuity and expertise regardless of what emperor, or even dynasty, held the throne. I’m not sure how much of the original system survived the Revolution, but at least some of the traditions certainly did; AIUI the Communist Party still operates largely through a standing bureaucracy, which is still recruited by examination. Which is why their top people tend to be remarkably well-educated, to the nation’s benefit.

                    Liked by 4 people

                    1. Shveiran

                      If we look for a more western example, Italy was unified by the Kingdom of Piemonte and Sardegna, who had a nominal King, but whose agenda was in practice determined by a Prime Minister. By that time, the King nominated the Prime Minister, but the latter would still be the one behind the kingdom’s wheel. Italy kept to that system, slowly seeing the election of parliaments gain more and more influence on the freedom the monarch had in the selection of the Prime Minister.
                      In the end, the monarch became a vestigial part of the system, and after WWII was not included among the country’s institutions.

                      Liked by 3 people

                    2. I note that Italy is also a European example of a nation that never quite centralized the national power, and as a direct result isn’t doing too well at democracy, or even rule of law (q.v. the Mafia and other organized-crime families there).

                      Liked by 2 people

                    3. Shveiran

                      Mhm, that’s debatable. I’d say we centralized power well enough, but those issues steem from the fact that we never achieved a unified culture.
                      The permanence of organized crime is, in my opinion, more related to the fact that local, regional culture tend to be divided in its condamnation of the phenomenon than it is to lack of centralized power.
                      As for our, shall we say, “electoral difficulties”, I’d say that lack of education in several parts of the country, echonomical difficulties, and almost thirty years of politicians offering simple answers to complex problems are more to blame; which again points more to the lack of a unified culture than to a lack of centralized power.

                      Then again, that is my personal take. It is a fact that a certain degree of regional institutions retain a certain influence that has no real place in a unified state.
                      But I think the root of our difficulties lies in the fact that living in Tuscany, Sicily, Sardegna, Lombardia or Friuli is a drastically different experience, which spawns very different views and needs. It is very hard for us to agree on a way forward, because there is precious little common ground to build the foundations on.

                      Liked by 3 people

                    4. Well, I’m not going to argue Italian politics with a native. But I can speak a little about American politics, and I’ll say that America has always contained vastly different cultures and environments. At our founding, we were divided between what I’ll flippantly call “religious fanatics”(*) and “dope-smoking Freemasons”, with the pacifist Quakers as an uneasy hinge between them… and a crosswise division between urban industrialists and rural plantation owners and farmers.

                      Nowadays, our cultures range further: From tony mansions to the ghetto and barrio, religious Salt Lake City to bohemian southern California, the big cities to rural towns, seacoasts (on both sides) to the Midwestern heartland, the damp chill of Michigan to the dry heat of Arizona. And then there’s New York City, containing a microcosm of the world….

                      But all Americans, and even in the midst of massive social change, that does come first. (Yeah, there was one time it didn’t… and we’re still paying for that.)

                      Liked by 3 people

            2. Pulling off a Barons’ Revolt to stuff a Magna Carta down Cordelia’s throat is possible. But, with the Oracle? Not recommended as being entirely feasible without a lot of, say, scry-busting interference, however. Like say, from two Crows and a sufficiently motivated friend.

              We’ll see.

              Liked by 3 people

              1. Shveiran

                As Mental Mouse said, plus the fact that signing a Carta doesn’t really mean much unless the document carries enough weight that taking it back provokes immediate retaliation from the people.
                Without that, it’s just paper; and I’m not convinced Procerans would be that invested in limiting the First Prince’s power at this point of their history.

                Liked by 3 people

          3. caoimhinh

            Cordelia has always been like that. She even started the Crusade as a plot to consolidate her rule on Procer.
            She sees herself as the only one fitting to rule Procer, and she is one of the few sensible aristocrats in Procer, since she was the only one who saw Malicia’s plot for civil war in Procer and managed to put an end to it. So she has no reason to trust her compatriots with the position of First Prince, plus her own personal ambitions of holding on to power and having prestige to pass into history as one of the Principate’s greatest leaders.

            Also, almost every instance of Cordelia’s POV is Cordelia either worrying that she is going to be deposed, or Cordelia doing something to avoid being deposed, it’s come to the points that every decision she makes is weighted by those factors, even those of altruistic nature like the war against the Dead King.
            Although I think most of us agree that she is indeed the most capable ruler among the current Principate, she is indeed obsessed with keeping in power as much as possible, that’s the curse of Procer’s Nobility, everything is politics and schemes to retain power. Though Cordelia, being Lycaonese, is notable for having the insight and decency to actually make preparations to defend against the Rattlings and Keter.

            Like

      1. talenel

        It’s the thing though. If Arnaud’s purpose was a lesser one, say, he would still act as if all else falls aside.

        As an example that ties into the mention of him as a rapist by Liliet, if Arnaud’s main goal at the moment was sexual pleasure, He would get it regardless of anyone else’s feelings about the matter.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Andrew Mitchell

          I think your conclusions are only somewhat justified by the text. Remember that we’ve only seen Arnaud as he real is once his true role was revealed. And (as I suggested to Liliet) the rapist idea could have been part of his cover. And it could be true or it could be fabricated. We just don’t know for sure.

          It’s just occurred to me that everything we’ve seen (or heard) of Arnaud is consistent with him being a full-on sociopath. It’s entirely plausible to me that Cordelia could find and use someone with those qualities.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. I agree that he’s likely a sociopath! I also think he’s a sociopath like Hakram, and that it’s not necessarily pure coincidence that his current goals are something we process as “good”. Sociopaths are capable of abstract thinking :3

            Liked by 3 people

            1. I really don’t think Hakram qualifies as a sociopath in real-world (human) terms. Not only is he quite capable of feeling affection and loyalty (per his POV!), but his incident of “giving a hand” to Viv indicates that he’s unhesitating in self-sacrifice for the greater cause, which is not at all about his own power or welfare.

              I think it was fairly clear that what Cat calls a “coldblood” as applied to humans, is not at all the same thing as the Kharsum word for an orc “variant”, which translates as “coldblood”. As I said back when this came up, the idea of “cold blood” would have very different implications to humans than it does to orcs. Humans think of a “cold-blooded killer”, someone who lacks the “warm” feelings that bind humans together. Orcs think of someone who lacks their normal tendency to “hot” violent rage. (That is, an orc coldblood is the opposite of someone afflicted with the Red Rage.) Thus when Hakram discovers something to fight for (Cat and her cause), he says “now at last I am an orc”.

              In the real world it’s been discovered that the brain abnormalities associated with sociopaths… don’t always translate to sociopathic behavior. The key factor seems to be that a strong duty-based religion is capable of “socializing” even a child with that neurology, such that they become a normal member of the community. This seems to have included at least one of the most prominent researchers studying sociopathy. 😉

              That said… no bets on what happens if such a person gets pushed to a breaking point, where social constraints fall by the wayside.

              Liked by 4 people

                1. > meets the diagnostic criteria for APD (antisocial personality disorder)

                  Wait, what? How do you get that? Setting aside the point that he’s a different species with a different norm, there’s also the point that he’s a soldier and nearly a noble in a society that’s much more violent than ours, also at war. And that’s just Callow! 😉

                  Grabbing from the Wikipedia entry for APD:
                  > pervasive and persistent disregard for morals, social norms, and the rights and feelings of others.[3] Individuals with this personality disorder will typically have no compunction in exploiting others in harmful ways for their own gain or pleasure and frequently manipulate and deceive other people, achieving this through wit and a façade of superficial charm or through intimidation and violence

                  He’s certainly capable of bullying or tricking opponents, but we’ve seen no sign of him abusing random people around him, or even abusing his power or position.

                  > They may display arrogance, think lowly and negatively of others, and lack remorse for their harmful actions and have a callous attitude to those they have harmed

                  Again, aside from being at war (and being a genuine badass)….

                  > Irresponsibility is a core characteristic of this disorder: they can have significant difficulties in maintaining stable employment as well as fulfilling their social and financial obligations, and people with this disorder often lead exploitative, unlawful, or parasitic lifestyles.

                  Nopeity Nope. That is, aside from his actual social position as the Queen’s left hand, thus standing on the backs of the peasantry etc.

                  > Serious problems with interpersonal relationships are often seen in those with the disorder. Attachments and emotional bonds are weak, and interpersonal relationships often revolve around the manipulation, exploitation, and abuse of others.

                  Not seeing much of that either. Sleeping around, whatever, the dude’s a soldier, a powerful courtier, and is living in a society where nobody much cares who he’s sleeping with, except maybe to tease him.

                  Frankly, given that Hakram is Officially a Villain, it’s surprising how little he fits that pattern. Also ironic, give that APD represents a big chunk of the popular concept of human evil.

                  Now, if you wanna talk about Kairos….

                  Liked by 3 people

                  1. OK I gotta find a better source on that sometime. I heard it thirdhand, and I don’t think those diagnostic criteria are good since they definitely don’t fit a person’s internal understanding of themselves. It’s a condemnation, not diagnostic criteria.

                    Dropping this line of conversation for the moment.

                    Liked by 2 people

              1. caoimhinh

                Yeah, Hakram never really seemed a sociopath to me. He was more like a nihilist, depressed and struggling to find his meaning in life because nothing could motivate him or inspire him to actually yearn for it.
                He found that in Catherine, hence his absolute and undying loyalty to her.
                What Hakram shows to most people is that he has no ambitions beyond serving Catherine, though we know from his conversation with Cat that he desires change and to prove that Orcs can be more than simply an oppressed race of brutes, and that can be achieved by following Catherine so he simply carries on as usual, so from an outsider point of view those trying to analyze him are befuddled for his apparent lack of ambitions and goals.
                Though yeah, he can be very cold-blooded in his reasoning and ruthless in his actions, but that makes sense given his origin and the life he has (as an orc, a soldier, and a Named from Below).

                Liked by 2 people

    2. NerfGlastigUaine

      I definitely wouldn’t want to be friends with Arnaud, but I rather like the bloke. Rarely do you see an Unfettered Well-Intentioned Extremist who’s so refreshingly direct sans ham. Also helps that he makes a lot of bloody sense; extinction makes all means reasonable.

      Liked by 8 people

    3. The only reservation I have about Arnaud is that I don’t think he would have had the reputation of a rapist if there was 0 truth to it.

      It’s a pretty big one, granted.

      Everything other than that? I hear him on every word and more.

      Liked by 8 people

      1. Andrew Mitchell

        > I don’t think he would have had the reputation of a rapist if there was 0 truth to it.

        I had forgotten about that, or I may have missed it. I wouldn’t put it past Cordelia to have created that image to give Arnaud deeper cover. But, of course, the easiest way to create that image is to do it for real.

        Liked by 5 people

        1. Thea

          Did we ever get confirmation what it was? Or did it remain vague? Because I thought it might have been little boys… but I remember no confirmation either way.
          And that can be faked rather well. Spend a night behind closed doors, (Actually do nothing), have your red herring disappear in some village.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. Not to mention, back when Cat could hear pulses, smell fear etc as a Scary Fae, when she paid attention to Arnaud she didn’t sense that he was feeling something different than what he was projecting. She sensed that he wasn’t feeling anything. Like, ever. I would say I’m probably at least 90% that he is sociopathic/psychopathic.

          That’s important. That kind of pathological personality type is almost 100% motivated by self interest, because no one and nothing else is actually real to them. A Useful Monster is still a monster, and I can’t rule out the possibility that he chose to take that role for Cordelia because a Useful Monster gets license that a regular monster wouldn’t. Not to mention that it’s been established that he was also marked psychologically by the defense against the dead that he mounted along with Rozala and Louis. So when he declares his unlimited loyalty to Procer, is that sincere or is it really his unlimited loyalty to preserving the only source of enough meatshields to potentially keep the Dead King from claiming him personally? I don’t think it’s a relevant distinction as far as his actions/goals currently go, but it sure does affect how sympathetic I am towards him as a person.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. >That’s important. That kind of pathological personality type is almost 100% motivated by self interest, because no one and nothing else is actually real to them. A Useful Monster is still a monster

            I would refrain from passing blanket moral judgements on entire types of neurodiversity.

            And I would point to Hakram.

            Liked by 4 people

            1. > I would refrain from passing blanket moral judgements on entire types of neurodiversity.

              From the Mayo Clinic’s definition of Antisocial Personality Disorder (the clinical diagnosis associated with what is more informally called sociopathy/psychopathy):

              “Antisocial personality disorder, sometimes called sociopathy, is a mental condition in which a person consistently shows no regard for right and wrong and ignores the rights and feelings of others. People with antisocial personality disorder tend to antagonize, manipulate or treat others harshly or with callous indifference. They show no guilt or remorse for their behavior.”

              I’m pretty comfortable with considering that categorically bad.

              Also, that’s not Hakram. He was mistaken for that or something similar earlier in his life (specifically/particularly by Juniper IIRC since he was a weird orc and she didn’t know what to make of that), but AFAIK at this point everyone who made that assessment of him has reconsidered. And even if they hadn’t, I would consider his POVs to be more than sufficient evidence against.

              Liked by 1 person

          2. Somebody with a very high anti-social quotient can still work out that their best interests lie in not dying by pitchforks, tar and feathers. Procer has been building to some form of social revolt for a while, and it’s very clear Anault picked up on that decades ago. And has attached himself to somebody he’s decided has a social compass that works better than his, but who also has a chance of avoiding the worst outcomes due to their own “do what works” nature.

            The social well-being is in his long term best interests, in this case.

            Anti-social personalities are more than capable of working inside the Golden Rule, if only for reasons of enlightened self-interest. But, often in… interesting ways. Yet… it can work.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. > Anti-social personalities are more than capable of working inside the Golden Rule, if only for reasons of enlightened self-interest.

              I mean, sure? You don’t really need to convince me of that since it was roughly the premise of my analysis (i.e., an antisocial personality type can choose to behave in a prosocial manner for reasons of self-interest).

              Regarding the rest of your comment, none of that is currently supported in the text. It’s not clear that Procer has been building to some form of social revolt (it’s mode of government isn’t particularly acceptable by our modern democratic standards, but it’s very much typical for medieval governance and there’s been no particular indication of unusual levels of social unrest outside the ambit of Hierarch using his aspect on people; for that matter, in preindustrial times on the rare occasions when popular revolt did occur it was generally wildly unsuccessful), it’s not clear that Arnaud perceives that it is, it’s not clear that he has any interest in overall social well-being beyond “hey let’s not all die to the Dead King”, and it ‘s not clear that his reason for attaching himself to Cordelia has anything to do with his (also unestablished in the text) perception of her having a superior social/moral compass. Maybe you’re right! But there’s no evidence that you are.

              Liked by 1 person

        3. Yeah.

          And it’s not like it’s a detail that makes that much difference. Creating an impression of something like that without actually doing it is the kind of involved deception operation that’s just not worth the cost.

          (Rozala referred to it twice in her POVs, once somewhere in Crusaders or Kaleidoscope, once when coming south recently)

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Shveiran

            Isn’t it worth it, though? It allowed him to be held in contempt both because of his supposed stupidity and annoying personality and because of his sordid habits. Schemers expect people to have skeletons in their wardrobes, allowing them to find one helps dissuading them from digging deeper.
            I’d say it has its uses.

            Or maybe he is a rapist.

            Or maybe he is a rapist but went through with the act mainly to give peope a skeleton to find.

            My point is, I could see him crafting the rumor to make use of it. Compared to the ruse about his whole public and private life? That’s small beans, so far as deception goes.

            Liked by 4 people

            1. Yeah. My point is, if he does not find the idea distasteful enough to reject the idea of making it a part of his image, odds are he also does not find it distasteful enough to craft an elaborate ruse about it instead of, just,

              Blegh. I don’t want to even think about this stuff.

              Liked by 2 people

      2. talenel

        Arnaud seems like one of those people without really any moral fiber. There are no lines I think he wouldn’t cross in order to meet his goals. He doesn’t seem to really care about any people either.

        Now, is his goal right now something we can agree is relatively good and something Cat can work with? Yes. But is doesn’t make him a pleasant person or a person I would want to be friends with. Especially because while his methods make more sense in a time of existential threat, I don’t think they would change at all were they up against a lesser one.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Shveiran

          I don’t disagree, but most the characters of the Guide have a kill count in the houndreds at least. I don’t think I could go have a beer with most of them, honestly.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. talenel

            I guess that’s true. Still most characters in the series do have some sort of lines they won’t cross. There’s something more to them than purpose. Arnaud is not and it’s kind of inhuman and repugnant in ways that the others aren’t (Monsters like the DK not withstanding)

            Liked by 3 people

            1. Shveiran

              It’s mostly a matter of perspective, though. To a sufficiently invested individual, the only real line becomes the goal itself.
              I feel like Arnaud, like Amadeus, or Cordelia, or Pilgrim, or saint, or Cat, simply has a very specific goal that overshadows everything else. Though there may be a lot they would prefer to sacrifice on that altar, there is ultimately nothing they wouldn’t if it was an absolute necessity.

              Keep in mind, we have seen very little of him aside from the mask he wears in public and the one he uses when doing business.
              He may very well have very human connections or passions, all we know is that they are, ultimately, overshadowed by his commitment to the well being of Procer.

              I don’t particularly like him myself, but I find him much more moral than many we have been introduced in this story. Then again, I do tend to favor characters that can look at the bigger picture, so that may very well be me.

              Liked by 2 people

        2. >Arnaud seems like one of those people without really any moral fiber. There are no lines I think he wouldn’t cross in order to meet his goals.

          These two sentences do not follow from each other, because ‘there are no lines he wouldnt cross’ also applies to
          – Catherine
          – Tariq
          – Amadeus

          >But is doesn’t make him a pleasant person or a person I would want to be friends with. Especially because while his methods make more sense in a time of existential threat, I don’t think they would change at all were they up against a lesser one.

          That’s a fair prediction.

          I just really like the ‘yall are children and we’re about to die if we don’t look to the one (1) person here actively trying to save us’ view.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. talenel

            But, at least for Tariq and Cat, I do believe that there is good intent there. That they wouldn’t cross certain lines unless it were truly necessary. With Arnaud, I do think the goal matters more than any consequences. He would cross lines even if it was only to make things more convenient for him. He sort of reminds me of Black, just without any real care for other people, which is one of Black’s main redeeming qualities.

            Liked by 2 people

      1. Technically he was rezzed by his own Aspect, with the approval of the Choir of Mercy.

        Somehow I don’t think there are forces in play that actively want his name blackened badly enough to somehow try to play THAT.

        (It is not how Bard operates either)

        Liked by 4 people

        1. talenel

          Hmmm, it seems to me that Bard has been very much working to ensure the status quo. Why wouldn’t she want Pilgrim discredited and cast aside, so that the Grand Alliance fractures even more? So that villains and heroes stay to their respective sides and stop inter-mixing? Because those seem to be high priorities to me.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. >Hmmm, it seems to me that Bard has been very much working to ensure the status quo.

            How does the creation of the League of Free Cities, and being disappointed by how it didn’t shift the status quo, fit into this?

            Liked by 1 person

            1. talenel

              I guess I ascribe to the idea that Bard is a tool of the Gods (both Above and Below), to ensure that things don’t change. And she can’t actively go against that goal, despite any personal desires to the contrary. So while she is personally disappointed, it does not change what she must do.

              Liked by 2 people

        2. Faiir

          You may be right, with Pilgrim being the Bard’s staunch defender.

          I wonder if this will be used on the Trial of the Gods by a certain fan favorite character (actually I just forgot his name):
          “Your angels ignore their own laws!”

          Liked by 2 people

        1. Faiir

          Weeeeeeeeell
          Maybe in Praes.
          And Callow, since, you know, most of the fanatics got killed in the last war?
          Levantines, Bellerophon, Daoine, Keter, at least some Proceed principalities and WK’s homeland look pretty fanatical to me.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Except for Bellerophon (Most Fair and Glorious of All Cities) I’m not really seeing it tbh. The Proceran House of Light/the Levantine Lanterns seem like they’ve been inclined towards being hardliners, but that’s specifically the church elements.

            The Levantines I’d describe as pretty ruthless (which is what happens when your national culture is defined by a group of classic Murderhobo Heroes) and consumed by honor duels and deed-seeking and etc., but not particularly ideologically fanatical as such.

            Daoine have an overarching goal they are fervently committed to, but they’ve proven themselves more than willing to be highly pragmatic in how they pursue it; I don’t think I can agree with describing being goal-driven as being the same as fanaticism.

            Keter is for all intents and purposes one person, who again is not so much fanatical as supremely ruthless and amoral. If by Keter you meant the Serenity then fair, they’re pretty thoroughly indoctrinated. They’re also completely irrelevant to Calernian politics/society except as a renewable source of corpses for DK, which is why I wasn’t counting them before.

            WK’s homeland (AKA Ashur)… hmm, not sure. We’ve had a very limited view of it; it seems like they’ve got a lot of ingrained societal rigidity, but again not sure I’d call that the same as fanaticism.

            The League I (mostly) wouldn’t call too fanatical overall; even the priesty-priesty city, Atalante I think, wound up joining the League forces despite them being effectively controlled by the Tyrant, a notably non-Heavenly individual.

            Procer overall… not seeing it there either. The Lycaonese are diehards for sure, but to me at least that’s a category that may overlap but is not the same as fanatics. And as for the Alamans and Arlesites… yeah, no. Just no.

            Honestly, we’ve seen a lot of people/nations make mistakes and/or act poorly in the Guideverse. But a relatively small amount of that is what I could consider attributable to fanaticism as such. The Arch-Heretic declaration for sure counts, though that was (much) more from the church than from the state and was actively spurred on by Bard/Saint. Mostly the mistakes and bad behavior have been the kind you could get pretty much anywhere though.

            Liked by 4 people

            1. Shveiran

              I agree with Fayhem.

              In my opinion, the Guide does a great job in inventing different fanatsy cultures, which are therefore based around different key values than our own. Since we often don’t spend too much time in many of them, at first glance we may mistake “different” as “strange” and “strange” as “fanatic”.

              Also, they are medieval-like cultures. Most of the individual involved don’t know how to read and learn of the world and of different cultures mostly through rumors. Travel is diffuclt for the common people and you mostly speak to those you know.
              It is not a state in which putting oneself into someone else’s shoes is a common approach. Educated individuals, which is who we read about? Sure, they are educated and smart enough to do it? Analphabeth farmers who never left their backwater village? Likely not.

              The cultures are not fanatical, they are simply different and not really talking to each other.

              Liked by 6 people

            2. This.

              Honestly, guideverse has less religious fanaticism than our own world, mostly I suspect due to people with traits that would override any such tendency getting Heavens’ Mandates.

              Liked by 2 people

  3. “In that spirit, Princess Rozala Malanza, as commander of the Principate’s southern armies I charge you with the preservation of Queen Catherine Foundling’s life and the safeguard of her armies and associates. Should the Dominion strike at her, you are to take any measures short of open war with Levant to prevent conflict reigniting between Callow and the Grand Alliance.”
    i see you ee setting up the perfect slowburn enemies-to-lovers scenario

    Liked by 10 people

      1. Insanenoodlyguy

        The new tragedy of the diplomacy arc. The princess realizes her right hand man is more than just a friend, but now she finds herself on a new battlefield when he despondently keeps sleeping with half of the present callowans in his own stupor over no longer being of standing with the woman he loves (and none of the callowans caring). She must muster the courage and the words to get him back, and then figure out what to do when the Callowans just figure that means threesomes. And can anybody match the lovemaking standard set by Adjutants new hand? (It has lube and vibrates, Masegos other father had helped with this one)

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Walter

    Hasenbach Is playing nice with Cat for arranging the truce. I wonder how much bitterer the taste in her mouth will be once she learns of the resurrection she pulled while a Choir stood by?

    Liked by 5 people

      1. IDKWhoitis

        It completely undermines the Arch Heretic of the East declaration, and adds a fuck ton of legitimacy to Cat’s claim to the throne and the schism that is currently undergoing. It is a political disaster and a theological backhand across Cordelias face.

        Liked by 8 people

        1. werafdsaew

          Except Cordelia is not the one who wants to label Cat Arch Heretic, and in fact tried to fight against it. The Procer House of Light is a rival to her influence, so this is actually good thing for her.

          Liked by 16 people

        2. caoimhinh

          Keep in mind that Cordelia was not the one who declared her Arch-heretic of the East, that was Bard’s plot with the assembled priests of the House of Light.

          It’s not really a political disaster, but it does start to put a stop to all the political bullshit that Cordelia and Pilgrim had used as excuses on the way of sitting down and signing peace with Catherine and Callow.
          The Crusade was launched against Praes, though. Hilariously enough, they had gotten nowhere close to it (except for the fleet in Thalassina and another port city I don’t recall, which was sacked by Asur), yet Praes is burning in their inner conflict due to the Goblins and that High Lady of the Moderates who wants to rebel.

          Liked by 8 people

          1. >it does start to put a stop to all the political bullshit that Cordelia and Pilgrim had used as excuses on the way of sitting down and signing peace with Catherine and Callow

            Those were not excuses, those were legit obstacles. Both of them wanted it, we know as much from Cordelia’s literal own POV at least.

            This is a gift, for her.

            Liked by 5 people

            1. caoimhinh

              But those obstacles were political bullshit.

              Pilgrim’s concern was “If I ask Levant to have peace with Callow, it will be seen as weakness on Cordelia and thus she will be deposed from her position, and her dreamed Grand Alliance would fall apart”. Which translate as him caring more about the possible dream of Cordelia more than the lives in Callow, luckily he stopped that attitude later on and realized that the world of today must not suffer for the ‘world that would be’.

              Cordelia’s concern was “This Crusade which I started at first is now out of my control and I can’t force it to stop because that would get me deposed if I were to oppose the House of Light, as they would ally with my political opponents. So now I must carry on and face Callow and Praes in a head-on confrontation despite my plan to fight them in a more subtle and smart way”. She never had the intention of having peace with Catherine, she just planned to fight her in a more indirect way instead of marching the crusade against the whole of Callow, as the declaration of Arch-heretic of the East made Callowans close ranks against Procer and back-up Catherine even more fiercely plus making it impossible for the Crusade to stop until there was either a clear victory or a crushing defeat, because compromise would see Cordelia removed.

              Those weren’t even much of an obstacle for Procer as a whole as they were obstacles for Cordelia as a ruler of Procer.
              You will find that none of the things before has changed, yet the people in charge are seeing things in a different way, and that suddenly changes everything and agreements can be reached, which signifies they could always do it, yet refused because of personal agendas and found good excuses for shielding their objectives A.K.A political bullshit.

              Liked by 3 people

              1. >But those obstacles were political bullshit.

                Yes. Yes, they were. Political bullshit is people’s lives, that’s why people are forced to take it into account.

                >Which translate as him caring more about the possible dream of Cordelia more than the lives in Callow,

                The “possible” dream?

                Cordelia started the forging of her alliance from stopping the raids between the south of Procer and Levant. Literally there was an ongoing border war that she stopped.

                Cordelia’s very much real and realized dream IS to stop wars. The lives in Callow lose out to lives in Procer and Levant just by numbers.

                > as the declaration of Arch-heretic of the East made Callowans close ranks against Procer and back-up Catherine even more fiercely plus making it impossible for the Crusade to stop until there was either a clear victory or a crushing defeat, because compromise would see Cordelia removed.

                Which is why Cordelia tried desperately to stop this declaration?

                Let’s not forget that the moment everyone refers to when they hate on Laurence, the “let Procer burn” moment, was her explaining to horrified Cordelia why exactly she threw her influence on the scales to get Cat declared Arch-Heretic of the East.

                It was that act, specifically, that both Cordelia and her referred to as the imminent destruction of Procer.

                >You will find that none of the things before has changed,

                The things that have changed:

                – Cordelia’s de facto usurpation of the Highest Assembly removes the possibility of her making a smart move only to be removed before she can go through with it. She can now treat with whoever the fuck she wants, and unless there is an uprising and she is overthrown by force of arms, her diplomacy stands;

                – and on that note, with the Dead King invading, nobody is braindead enough to rebel against her until the war is over. A peasant revolt is one thing, the Princes and Princesses know better;

                – and on that note, she might just be giving up on her long-term Grand Alliance objectives in favor of short-term survival, as becoming a de facto tyrant like this eats into her political capital viciously.

                Tariq was just getting thrown by the storm here and there; he is not a politician and not good at this. He did whatever seemed like the best thing to do at the moment; that has changed like three times by now. His judgement is questionable; his good intentions are not.

                Liked by 9 people

                1. Andrew Mitchell

                  > – and on that note, she might just be giving up on her long-term Grand Alliance objectives in favor of short-term survival, as becoming a de facto tyrant like this eats into her political capital viciously.

                  So it’s a good thing that Cordelia is setting Rozala up to take over as First Prince once Cordelia’s efforts are spent. I’ve suspected this for quite a while now and this chapter was another step along that path.

                  Liked by 3 people

                  1. talenel

                    Eh I definitely don’t buy that Cordelia wanted anything to do with Rozala taking over after her. She’s just been in the right position at the right time where Cordelia has been forced to put her in positions of power. Even then Cordelia has kept several knives to the back of Rozala. Honestly Rozala feels much more the parallel of Abigail in Callow. Not the heiress apparent, but someone more militarily inclined who has stumbled their way to greater power despite a general lack of political acumen.

                    Now, since Rozala is in a position of power and is relatively principles, Cordelia pretty much has to use her. But she is by no means a groomed heir ala Black and Cat, nor is she a desired one. She is simply a good tool.

                    Liked by 5 people

                    1. Andrew Mitchell

                      I can see how your interpretation makes some sense on the surface but I still support my theory as what’s going on behind the scenes. So I think we’ll just have to see how this one turns out over the course of this book and the next.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    1. I feel like it might be too much of a villain-side trope – groom the successor who will defeat you – for it to occur to Cordelia, but if that is not so, it fits her MO 100%

                      Liked by 2 people

                2. Shveiran

                  You bring up a lot of good points, in my opinion.

                  The part I disagree about is the idea that Cordelia was concerned with stopping wars.
                  My read is that Cordelia was (and is) concerned only with Proceran prosperity. Which isn’t that absurd a view for a ruler, but it does stain her moral a bit.

                  She wanted a Good coalition, but that was because, as per Malicia’s analysys in Book 3, she had too many desperate veterans not to be a war and had to somewhat secure her borders: attacking an Evil nation with the backing of Ashur and Levant was the way to solve her conflict for Praes.
                  She has never showed to be overly invested in stopping deaths in general, only with long term prospects for Procer.

                  She may yet get on board with cat’s dreams, but she doesn’t share it yet and has certainly not worked toward them on purpose, if not at all.

                  Liked by 3 people

                  1. talenel

                    This. Cordelia is much more interested in Procer as a nation-state and the ideals of the Lycaeonese then she is in the people of Procer as a whole. I could definitely see her letting half of the population of Procer die I’m exchange for preventing Procer from being conquered by someone else, even if that would let far more of her people survive.

                    Liked by 1 person

                  2. >She has never showed to be overly invested in stopping deaths in general, only with long term prospects for Procer.

                    I think she has that basic Good/good moral foundation, she’s just Lycaonese. She doesn’t have the view that ‘no deaths’ is the default or an achievable goal. She was brought up with the ‘lesser evil’ mentality so we’re not seeing traces of idealism in her POV that would be there with otherwise.

                    Liked by 3 people

                    1. talenel

                      Yes, but where Cat could and would work with the DK to save her people, I don’t think Cordelia ever would, even if it meant every single Lycaeonese died or half or all of Procer as I mentioned above. That’s my point. That her people, any people, do not come above certain moral beliefs. It’s one of the main differences between her and Cat.

                      Liked by 2 people

                3. talenel

                  I think you and a lot of other posters are way too optimistic about Cordelia as fighting for peace. Cordelia has never been about peace, but about fighting the true threats. The Dead King, the Chain of Hunger, etc. She has always been about Good fighting Evil smartly and to stop righting each other instead of the Enemy. Always

                  It’s the whole point of the Lycaeonese. They fight against the great Evil. They do whatever they must in order to do so. Her people can die as long as it is serving this Greater Good. It’s why she really didn’t, and to a smaller degree still doesn’t, want to work with Cat because she is Evil.

                  Now is Cordelia more practical and willing to see beyond that yes? Yes. She’s no Saint of Swords. But she definitely has some biases here and does not desire peace like Cat does.

                  Liked by 3 people

                  1. Insanenoodlyguy

                    Cordelia is not particulary interesrted in fighting for peace right now. But she is very interested in fighting for SURVIVAL. If peace is the path to that, she’ll take it without blinking. Previous motivations for her (and Rozala, and a few others) have been superceded by this pressing change in priorities. It’s why Rozala has been saying for some time now “We can’t be fighting the black queen right now, why the fuck was I marched to the south, if the north falls we are all dead, all of us!”

                    Liked by 5 people

                    1. talenel

                      I agree with your take. I do believe a lot of people have been viewing Cordelia with very rose-colored glasses here and seeing her as almost an analogue for Cat and Cat’s ultimate goal of peace for Callow/Calernia.

                      Cordelia has not been focused on peace as her ultimate goal by any stretch of the imagination.

                      Liked by 2 people

                  2. Agent J

                    I’m at a loss for words. Multiple people in this very same thread seem to have found this strange idea and then clamped down on it like a damn rottweiler.

                    Cordelia is not fighting for peace? Of course she bloody is! Her vision of peace is specifically what drew the Grey Pilgrim to her cause, why he supported her unwaveringly against all Cat’s exceedingly generous offers.

                    Granted, much like Cat, it is peace on chosen terms, but peace nonetheless. The fight she meant to bring to Praes was just the start. She would then turn on the Chain of Hunger and, inevitably, the Kingdom of Dead. One by one, she meant to wipe Evil from the continent. In her own words she knew that peace would not be achieved in her lifetime, but that she was building the groundwork for it.

                    Peace, singularly, has ever been Cordelia’s goal. She just went about it differently. Cat seeks peace by way of coexistence, Cordelia, by enveloping the entire continent in the Light of Above.

                    You may agree with Catherine’s path more than hers, but to say Cordelia does not seek peace at all and only serves Proceran interests is to grossly misrepresent the woman. We’ve seen by her own POV and Tariq’s that it’s blatantly not true.

                    Liked by 4 people

                    1. Shveiran

                      Yeah… but that is not “peace” though. That is “I killed all possible enemies and thus, so long as we avoyd civil wars, we are done fighting.”

                      Mind you, if not for the assumption that because of Narrative-physics-laws” I’m operating under the assumption that the balance is enforced, and thus ultimately her plan is pointless because if you wipe out Evil somewhere it pops out of somewhere else – if not for that assumption, Cordelia (or Saint) sound perfectly reasonable. It is hard to argue with eliminating the Chain of Hunger or the Dead King, honestly.
                      And Cordelia’s approach to the problem is preferable to most, in my opinion.

                      I just disagree that this is fighting for Peace.
                      Peace is something you make with an enemy to end a war. What Cordelia wants is winning that war. And that is not peace, it is victory.

                      It is not a despicable goal nor anything, but it is not the same thing.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. @Shveiran if your enemy IS strife, like… backed up by the Gods who like strife and encourage and enforce it where they can… then victory = peace is reasonable, because you’re certainly not getting peace any other way.

                      Cordelia believed that the path to peace is through victory. That might be factually speaking an error, but does not invalidate the point about her core goals.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    3. talenel

                      As I said below, I just don’t think Cordelia sees peace as really possible in the way Cat does. She wants to end the major threats, but war will happen even among the good nations as the alliance falls apart once the threats sustaining it are gone. There’s this sort of inevitability to war that I’ve always found colored in Cordelia’s mindset.

                      Pilgrim I do think saw a final peace to Cordelia’s plans that she did not. Because for all of his utilitarianism, he has an optimism that the world can be really better that she does not.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    4. Shveiran

                      I can see why she’d go about it that way, but I remain convinced that is not the same thing: Cordelia is playing the game and trying to ensure the side she feels is best wins in the best way possible, whereas Cat is aiming to change that game.

                      I am not saying I find Hasenbach approach to be a bad one, merely drawing attention to the fact that she and Cat have been working toward a different goal.

                      That may yet change, if Cordelia and Cat talk honestly and the First Prince is persuaded.
                      So far, though? Cordelia has been about unitying the Good side, and win the war with EVil in Calernia. Beating the enemy, not making peace with it.

                      When you look at their ultimate objectives, you could say Cordelia has been acting as a General, whereas Cat has been trying to be a Diplomat. And that blows my mind a little.

                      Liked by 1 person

                  3. Andrew Mitchell

                    I think you had the right view when you said Cordelia is about fighting the true threats. But I think you’re wrong when you bring in Evil, Good and the Greater Good. The Lycaeonese defend against true threats. I don’t think Cordelia really gives a shit about Good vs. Evil except where its politically expedient to use that.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. talenel

                      Hmmm, I guess I agree that she is working against the true existential threats. But I do believe that she definitely sees Evil and Good. She just sees them in shades of grey. The Free Cities are more of a light grey while Cat is a dark grey. And of course the Enemy is black (or at least really really really dark grey). Now is she practical enough to see past Good and Evil if necessary? Yes I do believe that. But it does color her worldview.

                      Liked by 1 person

                  4. >Cordelia has never been about peace, but about fighting the true threats.

                    I am not seeing the distinction.

                    She has always pushed for peace among those who AREN’T true threates so they can unite AGAINST the true threates. It’s consistently been her methodology.

                    >to stop righting each other instead of the Enemy

                    ya, exactly

                    I don’t believe she thinks of Catherine Foundling as The Enemy, unlike Laurence.

                    And yes, her perspective differs from Catherine, because she is Lycaonese and her default is fighting against ratlings every spring, while Catherine is from Laure and the default she grew up with is peace whenever there isn’t war.

                    I don’t think their perspectives are in any way incompatible.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. talenel

                      I guess the way I see it, there’s this sort of nihilism to the Lycaeonese mindset. This belief that the war will never end. What can happen is that Procer can finally end its two most existential threats (DK and Chain of Hunger). But will the war against Evil end? No. Will Good stop fighting itself when the Enemy is gone? No.

                      So yes, I do see it as Cordelia not believing in the existence of a true peace the way Cat does. It’s something that having more interactions with Cat may eventually convince her of. That the better world doesn’t necessarily have to include war. So while their views aren’t necessarily incompatible, I think Cordelia will struggle to find the optimism to believe in them. Especially after the crushing blow she was dealt by Bard and Saint.

                      Also, while she doesn’t think of Cat as the capital-E Enemy, she does think of her as evil and dangerous, just not the main threat (at least as of their last meeting). It’s something she will have to learn to see past.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    2. Yeah, struggling with optimism is something I can easily see with Cordelia, especially after all this bullshit.

                      I will note though, she genuinely believes in the “we are the wall” mindset. She’s pessimistic, but idealistic, too.

                      Liked by 3 people

                    3. talenel

                      >Yeah, struggling with optimism is something I can easily see with Cordelia, especially after all this bullshit.

                      I will note though, she genuinely believes in the “we are the wall” mindset. She’s pessimistic, but idealistic, too.

                      It’s those ideals that also separate her from Cat as I mentioned above. She thinks certain things are more important than people, in a way Cat doe not.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    4. I mean, those things more important than people are… larger amounts of people.

                      “We are the wall” for other people and future generations, not for a church or something.

                      Liked by 1 person

        3. Andrew Mitchell

          Cordelia’s moved on. She’s 100% focused on fighting back against the Dead King now. She wants the Alliance to stay together so the Levantines join in the fight against the Dead King.

          Liked by 4 people

      2. stevenneiman

        Also, Cordelia is a total pragmatist. She’s not going to throw a fit about the way that she got a lost asset returned to her.faction when she’s going to need the Pilgrim some time in the next one to six months.

        Liked by 8 people

    1. > I wonder how much bitterer the taste in her mouth will be once she learns of the resurrection she pulled while a Choir stood by?

      Not very, and all the sweeter for Cat having perma-killed Saint!

      As others have noted, condemning Cat as Arch Heretic not only wasn’t Cordelia’s will, but was a “fast one” pulled on her via the Houses of Light et al. Specifically, by the late Saint of Swords, who told Cordelia cheerfully that she intended to see Procer utterly destroyed and build something “better” in it’s place.

      So now Saint is dead, and “not a hero’s death”. While the Grey Pilgrim (who was always well-disposed toward Procer and pushed his own nation to ally with them), comes back in triumph… with what’s essentially an angelic pardon for Cat, and ready to slap sense into a few (or more than a few) priests.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. Shveiran

        The part I think tastes bitter is having to ally with Cat.

        I don’t think Cordelia wants to be her enemy, mind you, but she doesn’t want to be her ally much more.

        Allying with Callow is, now, a political and strategical necessity. And so, like the pragmatist she is, Cordelia goes out of her way to ensure it.

        That doesn’t mean she likes it. The Black Queen scares her, is obviously growing in influence and power with any passing week, and has radical plans she can’t fully understand and therefore plan around.
        Whatever else she is, Cat is also a problem for Cordelia. One she has to live with it, but the bitter taste is there.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. Insanenoodlyguy

          I’m pretty sure with the way things fell that Cordelia is going to be much more amenable to everything now, and incidentally, so will Rozala.

          Cat is going to sit down with them and, perhaps not at the main table, but on the side, say “Look, Saint was a fucking lunatic, and I’m half convinced she decided to lean into the ‘All hope is lost’ story by letting there be a fuckton of casualties so the survivors could win at the last moment. I had to put that crazy lady down so we could try to win this without the death of an entire nation first. Also, I’ve got these accords that will keep us named from having too much power, cause lets face it named have too much power.” That’s going to get both of those women nodding so hard their necks hurt at this point.

          Liked by 5 people

        2. >The part I think tastes bitter is having to ally with Cat.

          Pretty sure it’s going to be ‘OH THANK FUCK SHE’S AN ALLY WHEN IN POSITION OF STRENGTH OVER US’.

          Cordelia does not I think have ideological hangups that prevent her from seeing Catherine as an attractive option for an alliance, and personally I’ve been seeing her POV as being rather sympathetic towards her (in a way it’s not towards most of her Princes lmao). As soon as the facts align so Catherine IS an ally, I think it will be a relief for more reasons than just political expedience.

          Liked by 2 people

    1. caoimhinh

      The problem is Procer’s leadership are a bunch of ungrateful and untrustworthy people who only think short-term with their ambition.
      Even Cordelia, though she thinks long-term in her ambitions, and she is also arrogant and stubborn. Then there’s Arnaud, who has no ambitions (and according to Pilgrim, no emotions) and is also a long-time planner with a lot of patience.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Shveiran

        I very much agree on the stubborness. Cordelia is (not unlike Cat) very used to have her way and shape reality according to her will. She doesn’t react well to finding out she can’t.

        With that said… She is consolidating power in a time of crisis and ensure she has the ability to pass whatever law she wants in the coming years. Considering she very much wants to repel the DK first and foremost and that will requires coesive planning, I can’t say I find that either unreasonable or bad for the side of the living in general.

        I take it you feel her plan is more about personal power and ambition?

        Liked by 4 people

  5. Andrew Mitchell

    Loved this interlude. I do like Rozala but she needs to accept the stakes of the game here.

    Also, I see Rozala is going to be a supporter of The Accords given the insight we just got into her view of Chosen and Damned.

    Liked by 10 people

    1. caoimhinh

      She needs to ally with Cat to put a break on Cordelia’s ‘I am the Senate!’ scene. Cat has the means to help Rozala’s bloc to get their successors into the High Assembly fast.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. I somehow suspect Catherine is going to approve of Cordelia’s move here. It is strategically smart in this war, even if in the long term it’s likely to have her labeled villain for ages to come. Catherine… sympathizes with that approach.

        Sure she’s found herself treating with Rozala’s faction specifically, yet let’s not forget it’s Rozala’s faction that were the expansionists who wanted to divide Callow up.

        Liked by 8 people

        1. caoimhinh

          True, but I think Cat would support Rozala, even if it’s just so Cordelia doesn’t have a completely unopposed grasp on Procer. One of Catherine’s musings and observations of Rozala hinted at her finding interest in the factions opposing Cordelia. Let’s not forget that Procer and Cordelia are still enemies of Catherine and Callow; Cat might want them focused against the Dead King now, but she doesn’t want them united and strong.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. > Let’s not forget that Procer and Cordelia are still enemies of Catherine and Callow; Cat might want them focused against the Dead King now, but she doesn’t want them united and strong.

            Actually that’s the exact opposite of how Cat wants it. She wants to unite the continent in a treaty; the Dead King merely provides a convenient excuse for forcing everyone into being friends. The GOAL is the peace; the military alliance is the MEANS.

            We’ll see how it plays out, it’s worth noting Catherine doesn’t have access to Cordelia’s thoughts and doesn’t know how badly Cordy wanted to make peace with her. But Catherine also thinks of Cordelia as the rational actor she can treat with by presenting her with a superior path and expecting her to take it without pride or stubbornness getting in the way.

            Liked by 4 people

            1. caoimhinh

              No, Catherine needs them in a balanced position of being not too strong and not too weak for them to sign the Accords. She already knows this, and many of the strategies and tactics we have seen her use, plus the insight we have into her thoughts show us how she has pondered about the state of Procer and the rest of the Grand Alliance, and her intended way to force them into making peace with her.

              Cordelia doesn’t want peace with Catherine, we have seen this from her point of view, she sees Cat as a violent and cruel warlord, and is constantly planning how to put Catherine down.
              When Cordelia found out about the conclave of the House of Light in Salia declaring Catherine Arch-heretic of the East, she was furious, because that would only agitate Callowans and make them despise Procer even more, which would drive them to gather further under Catherine’s control. Cordelia had plans to handle the situation in sublter ways, even with the Crusade, but Procer’s priesthood mendling in Callow’s affairs and the legitimacy of their Queen would detriment her plans.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. >Cordelia doesn’t want peace with Catherine, we have seen this from her point of view

                So we have.

                >. In the wake of that blow, like carrion to carnage, the self-proclaimed Kingdom of Callow had sent formal request to join the Grand Alliance.

                > […]

                > A choice had to be made, then, in how Cordelia would spend her influence. She could either make quiet concessions and assurances behind closed doors so that no coalition of princes numerous enough to unseat her formed, or she could call in every favour she’d accumulated since her crowning to have the proposal shoved through the Highest Assembly’s throat.

                >She’d been teetering on the brink of a decision, when Catherine Foundling called on her.

                Note how Cordelia was on the verge of SPENDING EVERY SINGLE FAVOR SHE ACCUMULATED SINCE BECOMING FIRST PRINCE on accepting Callow into the Grand Alliance. She was willing to blow her ENTIRE political capital on that.

                > And yet when she had sat across Cordelia in that strange shadowed world, she had made a reasonable offer. Abdication, if on her own terms. Alliance against the Empire, for assurances of Callowan independence. And so the First Prince had hesitated.

                > Then reality had come calling, of course. It was a tempting offer, as devils were wont to provide, but it would shatter the Grand Alliance. The Dominion’s highborn would never brook such a compromise willingly, and twisting their arm into accepting it would make it certain Levant would withdraw from the Alliance the moment the Tenth Crusade ended. The Thalassocracy might agree, as Magon Hadast misliked having his finest war fleets abroad while Nicae stirred near his belly, but it was no sure thing. And if Cordelia accepted the Callowan offer, backed it in the Highest Assembly and proposed it to the Grand Alliance only for it to be spurned by her own allies? She would be unseated within the month. For a moment she dared to walk the line anyway, to try to secure such an overwhelming diplomatic triumph that not a soul would be able to deny she had won the war with words instead of swords.

                Catherine’s more specific deal was unacceptable to her BECAUSE SHE WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO ENFORCE IT

                Liked by 6 people

                1. caoimhinh

                  Oh, Cordelia sees that Catherine’s offer is reasonable. That’s the reaction of literally everyone when Catherine makes an offer, they all say “oh, this is a good offer, if I accepted there would be peace”, then comes the bunch of excuses, politcal bullshit and personal issues covered with arrogance and stubbornness that make them say “NO” and then they all suffer because of it. Then they come back and blame Catherine for it and call her a monster for the things she did to protect herself and Callow due to their refusal of her offers. Literally every time, Cat has had to force them to accept her offers, they only accept when they are beaten.

                  1. She doesn’t trust Cat, and specifically says it comparing her to devils making a reasonable offer.
                  2. She doesn’t accept because doing it would have her unseated, meaning that it’s a personal reason, a selfish thing.
                  3. She proceeds to say that to have the Grand Alliance obey such thing would require a lot of favors and political capital. She is not saying “I would do it if it weren’t so costly”, she is noting how absurd the notion of accepting it is and how everyone in the Grand Alliance is likely to refuse, thus making it costly to force the decision on them.
                  4. She then is tempted to accept because if what Catherine said was true and the offer was real, accepting it would mean an amazing diplomatic victory for Cordelia and bring her prestige for “winning the war with words instead of swords”.

                  No, Cordelia doesn’t want peace with Cat, she wants Procer strong, and crushing Praes and Evil (the Grand Alliance was formed by mounting the Crusade, after all), she also wants Catherine removed.
                  Cordelia had plans in place, but the House of Light’s actions (prompted by Saint and Bard) threw those plans aside and instead of a smart and careful Crusade they went on a full-on bloodpath uniting their enemies against them. That’s said in one of the Fatalism Extra Chapters.

                  You are trying to make it seem as if Cordelia would want Catherine and Callow in peace but was forced to attack them and is now forced to keep fighting. But the reality is different, she engineered the Crusade against Praes and Callow to stabilize her own rule over Procer, using it also to establish the Grand Alliance because making joined military operations is a way to form alliance between countries. She also ended the border skirmishes with Levant because she needed them on her side if she wanted to fight against Procer.

                  Cat’s offers are also unaccepatable because they dismantle the whole political apparatus that Cordelia and co had built on the premise that there can be no peace with the Evil-aligned countries (which is an hypocrisy, really, as Praes and Procer have commercial deals all the time, using intermediaries for the sake of appearances).

                  Liked by 2 people

                  1. Shveiran

                    My personal take is that truth lies in the middle here.

                    Cordelia has political necessity to consider, and it isn’t foolish not to do something one thinks is doomed to failure: if Levant leaves the Grand Alliance, its weight is nullifyed and Callow being a part of it no longer matters in the first place. If Cordelia is unseated, her plans with the Grand Alliance die with her.
                    These are not selfish reasons: these are practical limits to her options.

                    With that said, I agree that Cordelia has never put much effort toward peace with Callow, since the beginning. She did, after all, send her political opponents to carve it up would they had been victorious, in a fight she very likely did not expect to lose. Sending reasonable Princes in Callow and the greedy bastards in the Vale agaisnt the Black Knight would have been better for Callow, but Cordelia prirityzed sending her best general without internal opposition against Grem One-Eye and the Carrion Lord.
                    Again, NOT UNREASONABLE, but it does clarify her priorities. A Callow paved over by her armies was a perfectly acceptable plan to her.

                    Afterward, she made no effort toward peace. She had reasons, sure; she still did nothing, though, which means it still wasn’t a priority.

                    Lastly, she told Rozala to kill ’em all after recalling her from the north.
                    And, yes, Augur. But still, she didn’t try any compromise even if she knew the othe rparty was willing to deal. She didn’t even try to set up a Winter-bullshit-connection to see if that bypassed scrying and try to deal in person, instead relying on someone that could not really make a lot of concession and would have to ultimately do battle to keep with her instructions (Malanza).

                    I don’t this Cordelia is mad or even despicable, but she has not tried to compromise with Cat so far. I really don’t get that vibe from teh quotes Liliet provvided.

                    Liked by 5 people

                    1. caoimhinh

                      I agree with you.
                      Cordelia has to consider multiple angles before making a decision, both because she is the leader of her people and because she has enemies everywhere. There are also practical and political reasons why making peace with Callow would be met with opposition (many of those are actually personal opinions of individuals in power), but nothing so far suggest that Cordelia in a personal level would like peace with Catherine. In every single instance we have seen Catherine mentioned or seen from Cordelia’s POV, it’s either contempt, fear or anger that’s there, not the desire for peace.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. >She did, after all, send her political opponents to carve it up would they had been victorious, in a fight she very likely did not expect to lose.

                      She very much expected them to lose, actually, that’s what Catherine called her out on in their conversation. She expected to win at the Vales, the northern expedition was more of a diversion / knife in the back, and she expected them to be crushed.

                      It’s in her narration in Fatalism I I believe that she never had the slightest intention of annexing any part of Callow.

                      >Lastly, she told Rozala to kill ’em all after recalling her from the north.

                      I believe you are misremembering, because Rozala’s orders were “inflict a showy defeat then leave them to retreat while you make a show of handling the League instead, literally the only reason we can’t just fucking ally with them is that Augur said there will be a revolt if we do, so work around that”

                      Liked by 2 people

                    3. >She didn’t even try to set up a Winter-bullshit-connection to see if that bypassed scrying and try to deal in person

                      We don’t know she didn’t. Let’s not forget this only works if Cat sets it up: Cordelia might have been waiting for a summons from her every evening with 0 effect or any way for us or Cat to know of it.

                      Liked by 1 person

                  2. > 2. She doesn’t accept because doing it would have her unseated, meaning that it’s a personal reason, a selfish thing.

                    I disagree. Cordelia took that seat for a reason, because she believed she had to for her homeland’s sake.

                    >You are trying to make it seem as if Cordelia would want Catherine and Callow in peace but was forced to attack them and is now forced to keep fighting. But the reality is different, she engineered the Crusade against Praes and Callow to stabilize her own rule over Procer, using it also to establish the Grand Alliance because making joined military operations is a way to form alliance between countries.

                    I am not seeing a contradiction between facts you refer to and facts I refer to. Cordelia got the Crusade going before Cat was in charge, and after getting updated information on Catherine and her capabilities would maybe have liked peace, but (1) all the reasons she started it in the first place, (2) too late.

                    Like… saying “I want X, but can’t have it for reasons Y and Z” is not logically contradictory.

                    Liked by 2 people

                    1. Shveiran

                      It is not contradictory.
                      It is also not a given she thinks that in any meaningful way, though.

                      In a vacuum? I think Cordelia would rather have Cat and Callow on her side than not, so long as she thought she had the power to check her influence. But she is the First Prince, so that is not an hard condition to meet.

                      But that is not really the same as saying she WANTS to achieve that. It’s … a bonus objective, not a beseeched one. If it falls in her lap or (like now) becomes a strategical good move or even a necessity? Let’s, it’s not liek she actively wanted Cat as an enemy.
                      I just think that if the situation was different – if getting Cat on board had a cost, Cordelia wouldn’t be particularly inclined to bend over backward to get that.
                      She would weight the costs and benefits, and make a pragmatic choice. For good or for ill.

                      Liked by 2 people

        2. Andrew Mitchell

          I agree.

          And remember how close Cat and Cordelia were to actually working together in those Winter chats they were having. It was just Procer’s political realities that stopped true progress being made back then.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. Shveiran

            Like… when? I don’t think they ever got past the phase Cat-makes-an-offer-and-Cordelia-refuses-by-asking-for-the-moon.

            The fact that Cordelia couldn’t agree to Cat options does not mean she really really wanted to. It just means she couldn’t agree.

            Liked by 2 people

                  1. Shveiran

                    It certainly seems possible now, and I wholeheartedly hope they do.
                    Not a certainty, though… which admittedly makes it MORE likely, because we can have that and still have tension along the way.

                    Like

  6. ATRDCI

    “[Rozala] pondered her growing mislike of the Chosen and the Damned. Those colourful few, cloaked in power and mystery, who would bargain with the fate of nations and the pivots of history. Who left all others in the dust of their grandiose adventures, be they great or small. What a hateful thing it was, to have your own life and death decided by the hands of others.”

    Hmm, now who does that shroud of mystery, neverending adventures, manipilation of fates pivots, and callous disregard for spending the lives of others sound like?

    *Glares at the Intercessor*

    Liked by 8 people

  7. Oshi

    It’s always the quiet ones. I think the most significant thing here is The Liesse Accords are now shared with someone outside of Cat’s circle. Best part is it was shared with one of my favorite characters in this book anyway.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Zebu

    Love the interlude! Still trying to parse Cordelia, but that’s a good thing.
    There are a few things I think are spelling/grammar errors, though– is this where to leave them?

    Left column is current, right is my guesstimated correction:
    “family mighty yet” “family might yet”
    “prominence against in” “prominence again in”
    “thousands and held” “thousands, and held”
    “which was Rozala” “which was why Rozala”
    “was a one of the Gods” “was one of the Gods”
    “she realized being tricked” “she realized she’d been tricked”
    “Swords and then” “Swords, and then”
    “with snap of” “with a snap of”
    “withdrawn but they” “withdrawn, but they”
    “but dclined Princess” “but declined Princess”
    “informed or recent” [Not sure about this one– “or” might be “about,” “of,” or “on”]
    “I did not escape” “It did not escape”
    “than he. It” “than she. It”
    “when there was no ruling prince” “when no ruling prince”

    Liked by 4 people

  9. stevenneiman

    So I guess now we know what Mercy had that they expected would be enough to keep Tariq’s death from bringing war, but I have to say that it doesn’t seem like a good idea. Neshamah is Below’s champion, and if Above gets to hand out information in such a blatant manner Below should have the right to at least one or two hints for Neshamah when the world can afford it least for him to know anything.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. IDKWhoitis

      What’s worse, is that Nesh knows how to hold that in his back pocket for a rainy day. He isn’t going to spend that easily or for a cheap advantage.

      The argument can be made that Above could only do such things because Nesh won the previous scheme to undermine the Intercessor, but I find it more likely that Nesh might already have banked a lot more narrative weight over the course of a couple millennia

      Liked by 5 people

        1. Insanenoodlyguy

          Depends on what it is. But if he can do the equivalent of this, it no longer matters what his standing is. These visions, it seems, are accepted as true. Presumably because the way they were projected left no doubt in anybody’s mind that they were authentic and not fabricated. So, if Nessie can do the same, it’s only a matter of when and what, no longer if. If the visions are fully 100% believed by all who have them, (and even if that’s just heroes, that’s enough. Consider the GREY PILGRIM screaming that she can’t be trusted, you could probably do the whole thing through him alone if you timed it right since the Angels would likely confirm the truth of it no matter the source, and i’m sure it won’t just be him), and Nessie believes that telling people would make them turn on her, he’s probably right. Consider as well that Cat will likely back this, since she’s ready and able to believe the Bard is not the force of good most believe her, and his threat seems a lot more plausible.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. The thing is, if one person has a dream, it could be a Sending From Beyond, or too much pepperoni. If everyone has the dreams, it’s a Sending.

            Neshamah almost certainly can’t match what the angels are doing — partly it would make him deeply vulnerable, because he’d be touching huge numbers of minds, some of which may be sorcerers, priests, etc (and would require an awful lot of power). And partly because if he tried broadcasting a false message, I’m pretty sure it would bring immediate and overwhelming retaliation from Above and quite possibly from Below as well.

            Nessie certainly will reveal what he’s learned, and probably publicize it widely — he’s said as much as that’s the point. But probably not immediately, because he’ll want some time to work before the Bard knows he’s learned it.

            Liked by 2 people

        2. caoimhinh

          We don’t know yet, I guess that depends on what exactly that information is.
          Neshamah was pretty sure it would turn everyone against the Intercessor once they knew about her plans and intentions.

          Liked by 3 people

    2. >Neshamah is Below’s champion, and if Above gets to hand out information in such a blatant manner Below should have the right to at least one or two hints for Neshamah when the world can afford it least for him to know anything.

      Eh, I’m not sure the balance is quite so blatant. Especially given that the price for this dissemination of visions was Tariq’s death.

      …was meant to be Tariq’s death…

      …well it’s not the Ophanim’s fault Cat went and fucked with a good plan, is it???

      (Wait, it is. It literally is. LMAO)

      Liked by 6 people

      1. Insanenoodlyguy

        I don’t think he needs to do the equivalent. He can probably do this informing exactly two people, come to think of it: Pilgrim and Cat. Both have patrons beyond mortal Ken, leaders of Good and Evil who can both confirm, even without dream help, that anything he tells them about Bard is true or false. If both the prominent Hero and Villain of the time are saying the same thing at the same time, it’s going to reach EVERYWHERE. Dead King doesn’t have to sell it to everybody, he just has to sell it to the merchants, to stretch the metaphor.

        Liked by 3 people

          1. Shveiran

            I had forgotten about that! Well, it looks I might get around to hating Cordelia EVENTUALLY, after all.
            If she gets around to craft Great Breaches, she makes the list.

            Liked by 3 people

            1. Shveiran

              To be fair, we are not sure THAT is what she’ll use the ruins for. It was also foreshadowed that Liesse as a ritual site could empower a wild array of workings, so maybe that’s just EE preparing to pull the rug from under us and reveal Cordelia had another plan all along.

              With that said… I wouldn’t be very surprised if she was planning to get her fingers on the doomsday weapon. It isn’t really an unreasonable direction for her character.
              She was Malicia’s enemy for a long time… and that usually brings one to adopt some of the enemy’s habits and ideas.

              Liked by 1 person

                1. Shveiran

                  Doesn’t it? I was 100% sure it was a part of Akua’s array.

                  Though admittedly… why would I think that? The Second Liesse wasn’t even close to a lake.

                  Uh.

                  So, scratch that about Breaches. What is it you think she fished out?

                  Liked by 2 people

                    1. Well, there was a strong hint in that several heroes dropped out of the running count, but afterward there were no further disappearances and suchlike.

                      There is a classic SF novel that the Absence demon immediately brought to mind: War Of Omission by Kevin O’Donnell Jr. Somebody invents a device that can remove chunks of reality, people included… along with all the “connections” to them, such as people’s memories. An example from the book was that if somebody used it on a town’s mayor, the townspeople wouldn’t be asking “what happened to our mayor?”, they’d be asking “hey, why don’t we have a mayor?”. (The effect was also reversible, though it had subtle side-effects on the minds of the restored victims.)

                      The title hints at the fun-and-games ensuing as the invention gets mass-produced.

                      Liked by 3 people

        1. broadaxe

          That is a really interesting perspective,most likely EE simply made a typo or some such, but maybe it was on purpose and everyone has littereally forgot about 3 principalities, that would be kinda crazy and a huge plot twist 😛

          Liked by 5 people

  10. caoimhinh

    I didn’t expect interludes to delay our seeing of the scene of Cat’s return with Pilgrim with the rays of dawn, but this could be good.

    They’ve got Dreamer TV and are aware of most of what has happened in the shard of Arcadia because anyone who sleeps gets visions? Whaaaat?
    Well, that’s new, put your random soldiers to sleep and when they wake up they have visual information to report of what’s happening in a different realm of existence.

    It’s really weird that Rozala didn’t know Hakram had authority in Callow, given that he has had it for years now and it was not a secret; besides, while Rozala is no skilled politician or schemer, she must have had intelligence on Callow (sure, the Jacks are a powerful counter-intelligence team but still, Hakram being Cat’s right hand and having authority in Procer is no secret, EVERYONE knows that).
    Also, it’s nice to see the Liesse Accords being brought up to the attention of Procer finally, and Cordelia being so freaked out that she now has been forced to stop thinking she has the upper hand and finally willing to compromise.

    Cordelia used a bureaucratic trick to keep all the abdicated princes and their successors away from the Highest Assembly. If I understood correctly, they need to communicate with their successors, have them go to each of their principalities to ascend to their positions and then go to Salia to sit in the Highest Assembly, before their word have any weight and their vote becomes valid, which Cordelia assumes would take months…
    How bad for her, Catherine has a bunch of mages capable of scrying, plus has just succeeded in the creation of a realm specifically designed to be a high-speed path to anywhere in Calernia (or the world). Hopefully Rozala will figure this out (she was there when the creation of such realm was discussed, after all), swallow her pride and start conversations with Catherine to get her bloc’s successors to sit in the Highest Assembly fast. Maybe become closer to Cat in the process.

    It would be very interesting to see actual cooperation between at least a part of Procer and Callow, plus Levant being brought to order by the Pilgrim’s confirmed resurrection.

    Next chapter: Levant’s political intrigue and everyone in Iserre wondering what the hell will happen + a mandatory cliffhanger.

    Typos found:
    -against in her lifetime / again in her lifetime
    -which was Rozala was less than surprised / which was why Rozala was less than surprised
    -with snap of her fingers / with a snap of her fingers
    -dclined / declined
    -informed or recent developments / informed of recent developments
    -he was physically stronger than he / he was physically stronger than her

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Oshi

      I think Rozala assumed Hakram wa something brought on by influence from the Tower. A way to assuage them. She doesn’t really see Eastern politics well and is bad at discerning motivations. Its her weakness. Put more bluntly she’s a straight shooter looking at murky picture.

      Liked by 7 people

    2. >It’s really weird that Rozala didn’t know Hakram had authority in Callow, given that he has had it for years now and it was not a secret

      Not weird to me. Information disseminates slow and hard in this setting for people who don’t have scrying mages, and as Rozala has mentioned, in Procer only Cordelia has them.

      >while Rozala is no skilled politician or schemer, she must have had intelligence on Callow

      I am not surprised to learn she has not.

      This is the whole thing people trip over when they yell about how the murderous warlike Grand Alliance attacked the poor innocent Dread Empire that was just starting to throw off its shackles of Evil and come into its civilized own.

      Catherine grew up in Laure, the Reforms were no more a secret than Hakram’s influence, and yet she still could not find out what they were even when actively seeking the information out.

      >Also, it’s nice to see the Liesse Accords being brought up to the attention of Procer finally, and Cordelia being so freaked out that she now has been forced to stop thinking she has the upper hand and finally willing to compromise.

      Cordelia has not thought she had the upper hand since the Vales. And she has been willing to compromise since Vales, and she HAS been compromising, which is exactly WHY she made no accord with Catherine – she was forced to compromise with people who would not brook it.

      Cordelia now finally HAS the upper hand. She finally has the opportunity to play this game the way she wants to, which is to say, the way Catherine has paved and surrouned with pretty trees and flowers for her.

      >Hopefully Rozala will figure this out (she was there when the creation of such realm was discussed, after all), swallow her pride and start conversations with Catherine to get her bloc’s successors to sit in the Highest Assembly fast.

      That would be a bad thing, since it’s Rozala’s bloc who wanted to divide Callow up for spoils. They’re Cordelia’s opposition, in her horrible evil policy of reinforcing the north and NOT trying to profit from robbing neighbours. Well, people who oppose her evil policies and people who want revenge for her evil plot of stopping the Proceran civil war (which lasted TWO. FUCKING. DECADES before her intervention)

      >It would be very interesting to see actual cooperation between at least a part of Procer and Callow, plus Levant being brought to order by the Pilgrim’s confirmed resurrection.

      AGREED WHOLEHEARTEDLY.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. Andrew Mitchell

        > Cordelia now finally HAS the upper hand. She finally has the opportunity to play this game the way she wants to, which is to say, the way Catherine has paved and surrouned with pretty trees and flowers for her.

        YES!!!! (And about bloody time!)

        > That would be a bad thing, since it’s Rozala’s bloc who wanted to divide Callow up for spoils. They’re Cordelia’s opposition, in her horrible evil policy of reinforcing the north and NOT trying to profit from robbing neighbours. Well, people who oppose her evil policies and people who want revenge for her evil plot of stopping the Proceran civil war (which lasted TWO. FUCKING. DECADES before her intervention)

        And the ONLY reason Cordelia went to civil war and eventually took the reins as First Prince was that there was NO ONE else in the Assembly that could see the big picture and act in the interests of everyone.

        Liked by 5 people

        1. (well, to be fair, there were enough people in the assembly who saw the big picture for cordelia to gather serious support for her bid, there was just no-one else with her level of ability)

          Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m greatly amused by the thought that Cordelia might be faced with a Barons’ Revolt led by the the very faction that hates her guts all in high dudgeon over her tyrannical overstepping and waving… the very Accords, internal reforms and settlements with Callow she quite likes, anyway. Which would also ensure that shit like the Saint deciding Procer looks good in ashes wouldn’t happen again…

        I think Cordelia is a big enough girl to wear “King John” with pride, if it means Procer gets the Accords that aim to keep Named meddling in politics to a minimum.

        And, it was their own idea to push for better checks and balances on themselves. Bless their cotton socks.

        Liked by 4 people

          1. “Oh, dear! A system of international accords, universal justice, checks and balances and forms of certified oversight that reach from the bottom all the way to the top… all of which will also incidentally strip principalities of the right to do as they please unimpeded by the pesky impartial oversight of their peers and other institutions! Curses, I am undone!”

            Liked by 2 people

  11. IDKWhoitis

    Man, playing spectator to Cat must be terrifying. And with no audio or subtitles. There’s a lot of room for interpretation. Hopefully the Lev Blood got the same images as the Porcerans. Because if certain things are missing, it can look like Cat murdered Saint in cold blood, then forced Grey to commit suicide.

    I want to know see the League perspective, and the smug smiles seeing Tyrant crawling back after getting his ass kicked… You got to know the Syrian magistrate won’t be able to help themselves from saying something.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. caoimhinh

      Nah, they should at least have audio. And the visions, while scrambled and not completely given information, were clear enough that everyone knew Cat tried to stop Tariq from killing himself.

      {It always seemed to centre around the same vivid parts: the Black Queen’s scream of denial after she realized being tricked, the Grey Pilgrim taking up the blade of the fallen Saint of Swords and then the wizened hero’s taking of his own life. All who’d dreamt the dream agreed that the Black Queen had tried to prevent the Peregrine’s death, though words failed them when they tried to explain why. Yet it seemed undeniable, by now, that both the Regicide and the Grey Pilgrim were dead. The former, if one of the growingly reoccurring visions was to be believed, having been slain by Catherine Foundling herself.}

      So they got video, but no context, only isolated scenes without the before and after to explain why those things happened.

      Liked by 6 people

  12. SITB

    lol @ the Ophanim promising that Tariq’s death wouldn’t lead to a war; and then finding out that they sent everyone a vision of what happened to try and preempt this.

    It’s probably for the better that Cat revived Tariq despite Mercy’s ‘help’.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. Clmineith

      Actually, I wonder if the Ophanim don’t just send the dream about Tariq’s death, and *someone* else send the other, about her killing Laurance.

      Maybe the Bard, who masters the storytelling better than anyone?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It might have been easier, story-wise, for the Ophanim to just open up ‘visions of what happened’ as fair game for dreamers, in natural proportion to importance/impact, knowing that the exact manner of Tariq’s death would take first place on its own.

        And from there, it’s all natural drawbacks. Note that the Levantines most likely don’t give a shit about Regicide, she’s not one of theirs.

        Liked by 4 people

  13. NerfGlastigUaine

    I love Interludes where they discuss Catherine, they really give you a sense of how terrifying she is. Remember when she was struggling with angsty anti-heroes and doing slapdash necromancy? Now she’s moving nations, terrifying princes and going to town on the Dead King himself. Sniff, they grow so fast.

    Still hoping for another undead suicide horse (goat) though. That trick never gets old.

    Liked by 8 people

      1. Yep. Catherine commented that he could style himself as “Lord Adjutant” in public now, note how that was already the default way of referring to Named (Lord Black, etc), Hakram just had the problem of being an orc.

        Liked by 4 people

  14. Hmmmm.
    Not sure how I feel about Cordelia’s move to secure control over the succession of the seven crowns. I feel like this could backfire badly.

    … These dreams appear to be a pretty terrible means of preventing disaster, if they’re from the Ophanim.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, she would probably be forced to abdicate after the war with Keter. Probably to the some famous general who fought on the frontlines in the same war and is a leader of an opposition block second only to hers.

      I wonder, who it might be…

      Liked by 2 people

  15. So “Concourse I“. Presumably another interlude for the Levantines next, and Friday will be the same for Callow’s forces, and/or the triumphant return.

    Lets hope Rozala doesn’t manage to screw things up before then.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. “Seven crowns had been abdicated, this night. That meant that a perfect third of the Highest Assembly, which held twenty-four seats”

    Urgh, um… Huh?

    Is it a subtle clue that Rosalia is bad at math?

    I also can’t wait for her to kiss already Louis. She previously stated that the only reason she didn’t get together with him before was that their crowns prevented it. HOW CONVENIENT! I thought it was a precursor to that nice bit of “they have a sexual tension but too professional to admit it” leading to true love winning in the end despite politics. Who knew it was a clever foreshadowing! I bet the whole Princes’ Graveyard was so EE could ship them.

    On the related note, Cordelia is so obviously setting up her abdication after the wr with Dead King and Rosalia as her succesor, it’s not even funny. Can’t for the love of me comprehend, why some people still hate on her. She is amazing, totally one my favorite unNamed characters, right after Amadeus, Cat, Robber and RUMENARUMENARUMENA.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Andrew Mitchell

      > On the related note, Cordelia is so obviously setting up her abdication after the wr with Dead King and Rosalia as her succesor, it’s not even funny. Can’t for the love of me comprehend, why some people still hate on her. She is amazing, totally one my favorite unNamed characters, right after Amadeus, Cat, Robber and RUMENARUMENARUMENA.

      I’m with you 100%. And I’d add Abigail to that list as well.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Shveiran

          I think Cordelia wants both: to give the First prince more power to turn Procer into a proper federal state rather than an old coalition that mostly sticks together. Which would also make civil wars easier to avoyd. As is, I think most of the powers and responsabilities fall on the singular princes.
          She wants those powers to be the First Prince’s to make a centralized government.

          But she doesn’t want it to be free of checks, to prevent dictatorship. Hence, the Assembly not as the ones wielding the powers themselves, but as the one with the right to stop the First Prince from abusing them.

          Or maybe not. I’d need a closer look at Proceran laws to make a better judgment call.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. I think Cordelia is just how changing her mind (and possibly not all the way through the process) on how attached she is to the way the Highest Assembly / First Prince cooperation is meant to work.

            It’s possible she only wants this to be an extremely temporary measure that will go to the status quo afterwards.

            It’s possible she wants to go to the status quo afterwards, but set/cement the precedent of the First Prince getting emergency powers.

            It’s possible she has changed her mind and now wants to centralize Procer more than it had previously been (contrary to the view she expressed in her conversation with Cat)

            Liked by 2 people

          1. Shveiran

            Oh, I agree. It was a bad attempt at an off-hand compliment (suggesting he was great at everything else we saw) .

            One day I’ll manage to phrase one in a way that doesn’t confuse people XD

            Liked by 2 people

  17. Shveiran

    I’m really curious about the next chapter: like otehrs, I’m a bit underwhelmed at the Ophanim’s plans to avoyd war, but maybe seeing things from the Levantines’ perspective will make them sound much more solid. It will be interesting to see their reactions, that’s for sure.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Caerulea

    I suspect that, when Catherine and Tariq finally emerge, somebody, or many, will believe that Cat reanimated Tariq’s corpse. After all, she is a powerful necromancer, and they just watched her raise an army of the dead.

    Liked by 2 people

        1. Checking back, I stand corrected.

          It occurs to me that Calernia is likely to be getting another Book Of Light, recounting the Harrowing of Liesse and founding of the Twilight Crossroads.

          the Harrowing of Liesse and the making of the Twilight Crossroads will be

          Liked by 2 people

      1. Shveiran

        I concur. If they have powers that are harmful to undeads, they can probably perceive them as well, at least when they are looking right at them.
        I mean, both are Cleric tropes, after all.

        Liked by 3 people

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