Interlude: Concourse V

“Diplomacy is war without all the clumsiness.”
– First Princess Eugénie of Lange

If it came to a fight, Lord Yannu Marave decided, they would likely lose. He did not fear the Proceran horse, for its charge would break against a shield wall strong and unflinching. Neither did he balk at the numbers, for though legionaries were skilled soldiers and men-at-arms brave neither were match for armsmen of the Blood holding high ground. It was the Callowan sappers that tipped the balance to the opposition’s side, for he had seen with his own eyes what their munitions could do when lobbed at a tight formation. The word shredding came to mind. Torture of Callowan prisoners had yielded knowledge that these ‘sharpers’ were both commonly used and in large supply, which made it likely the packs of sappers he’d seen shoot out of the torch light and into the darkness would be carrying them. No, if the Procerans and the easterners had ridden forth to betray them then every son and daughter of Levant on this hill would be dead before reinforcements could arrive from the camps. Had they?

“That is Rozala Malanza’s personal banner,” Lady Aquiline said. “Arlesite she might be, but she’s no foe of ours – she has behaved honourably since taking command in Iserre.”

“I see cavalry and foot coming for us, not bread and honey,” Lady Itima replied. “This has an ill cast to it, girl.”

Spoken, Yannu thought, as a woman whose lands shared border with Arlesites. Unlike Aquiline Osena, whose main preoccupations as Lady of Tartessos had always been rivals of other Blood and the prowling creatures of the Brocelian.

“The Black Queen’s banner flies as well,” Razin Tanja mentioned, eyes narrowed. “One of the Woe might be with the legionaries.”

The Lord of Alava considered that. Though the visions the Peregrine’s last will had carried to them had told much of what happened within the nightmare of dead Liesse, it had not revealed where the Archer and the Hierophant had gone. They should both be alive, though the great Soninke warlock had been stripped of his power, so it would be possible for them to be riding with the cohorts. Yet it seemed unlikely, after the night’s troubles, for the Archer’s death was still seared in Yannu’s own memory and the Hierophant had been put to slumber as an act of mercy. No, if any of the Woe rode under that banner it would the Adjutant or the Thief – and there had long been rumours that the latter had lost her Bestowal by stepping into the responsibilities of rule.

“If it is the Archer and they mean to slay us, then we are all dead,” Yannu Marave noted. “She will kill ourselves and our officers as the opening stroke, and our only answer would be to charge down onto sapper-prepared grounds.”

Everybody held in a wince at that, for all here had suffered of the vicious devilries goblins could prepare when given opportunity. Razin Tanja most of all, from what he’d heard, for the Third Army under General Abigail was said to have turned the streets of Sarcella into a slaughter yard even before the Black Queen arrived.

“No one’s sprouted an arrow in the forehead,” Lady Itima of the Brigand’s Blood said. “I’ll take that as a hint that either the Archer’s not there or they’re not baying for blood.”

If it were only the Callowans coming none of them would have batted an eye, for when the Peregrine’s body was returned it would be by Catherine Foundling’s hands if by any. Yet the Procerans coming out had muddied the waters, for they had no business with what would come by morning’s light. They had even been told as much, for their messengers had insisted on audience beyond politeness, yet here they were. More suspicious yet, their advance had come to be matched to that of the Army of Callow’s legionaries: together they were heading towards flanking positions that would be difficult to push back if assault was given.

“The Praesi crossbowmen could be firing by now,” Lady Aquiline pointed out. “Not to great effect, but at least to soften our defence before assault.”

Lord Yannu was inclined to agree this was sign of peaceful intent, yet this was a delicate situation. It was likely that canny old Itima Ifriqui had noticed already, even if she’d held her tongue, yet the younger two among them might not have: save for Itima’s own two sons, every individual of any Blood in Procer was standing atop this hill. And given both the Brigand’s line poor reputation and recently-mauled forces – their assault on the Callowan camp had been costly – it was unlikely that they would be able to sway even most captains into following them through diplomacy or threats. A strike here and now would be decapitating the armies of the Dominion abroad, and even when word trickled back home months from now any retribution for the treachery would have to wait until matters off succession were settled and a session of the Majilis convened. The Lord of Alava was not certain why betrayal would be had here and now, but there was no denying the opportunity was there. Had the Procerans or the Callowans peered into their private councils and then decided removing the Blood to be in either their interests? It seemed a senseless thing, truth be told, but easterners were willing in a villain’s service and Procerans lied as easily as they breathed.

“Silence serves us not,” Razin Tanja said. “It is unseemly to treat with foreigners before the Grey Pilgrim’s body has been given to the flame, yet strife would be even more so.”

“Shall we give them voice in our councils as well, Tanja?” Yannu said, voice hard cast. “We have our wats for reasons, though it seems you have forgotten both. Blood can wash out, unlike honour tarnished.”

It was more than simply unseemly to play politics with foreigners now, it was dishonoring a great man’s death. That Proceran royalty would not be willing to discard their precious Ebb and Flow even long enough for the Peregrine to be put to pyre was…

“If the Black Queen’s the one bringing back the Peregrine, the Callowans at least are already part of this,” Tanja replied.

“Speaking to them and not the Procerans might split them,” Lady Itima noted, sounding approving. “There can’t be a lot of trust between them.”

Akil Tanja’s son seemed as if he wanted to argue that’d not been his intent at all but restrained himself in the end. Young Razin was not so stubborn as to toss away victory he’d already earned, then. For victory he had indeed earned, Yannu had silently acknowledged the moment Lady Itima spoke in favour of audience. For Lady Aquiline had made her preference for talks clear already, and if only the Lord of Alava stood alone of the four against words being bandied then his growing isolation among the Blood in Iserre would only be set in stone. Neither Razin Tanja’s words nor a knife at his own throat would have stayed Yannu’s hands after he’d set out to guide the Dominion away from disaster through duel, as he had. He’d taken a step back simply because Lady Itima Ifriqui, who had every reason to stay out of the affair for dislike of the Osena, had chosen to put that knife to his throat anyway. Though it was a proud old boast in the lands of his birth that Alava had stood alone even when the rest of the Dominion fell to the Principate, and that the hill-folk needed no ally save the bravery of their own kin, the reality was that the city and lands he ruled could be starved of coin and goods and even many foodstuffs if it broke with every other great line. At the very least, alignment between the other three would see him removed from the highest command of Levant’s armies even if killed one.

He could kill them all, perhaps, but that would be just as dangerous a roll of the dice and he was a careful man by nature. No, best to take step back then and now so that he might arrange victory on his own terms when the opportunity was ripe.

“It seems there will not be a choice,” Lady Aquiline suddenly said. “Look.”

Under three banners – Aequitan, Foundling and truce white – a party had approached the foot of the hill as they spoke. Two riders were behind Princess Rozala’s familiar silhouette, one carrying her heraldry and the other a torch. Behind a tall orc in darkened plate two smaller humans were carrying the other two trailing cloths, a mere six souls in whole. Unlikely to be an ambush, then, even though the burnt plate was as good as announcement that the orc among them was the Adjutant.

“We can send an invitation to the Deadhand alone to stand before us,” Itima said, smile gone hard.

It could be a fine line between envoy and hostage. Razin Tanja cast her a considering look, and for a moment Yannu was reminded of the boy’s father. Lord Akil had been known for his keen wits, and though he’d been no great general under his reign the Binder’s Blood has seen their influence rise through careful bargains and treaties. It was an old jape back home that the true talent of the Tanjas was not the magic of their famous ancestress but in truth the wealth that flowed through the canals of Malaga, yet few before Akil Tanja had been so skilled at making use of that wealth. More than once Yannu had seen the same look he now saw in young Razin’s eyes in his father’s own, just before someone was goaded into making a costly mistake on the floor of the Majilis.

“Alone would be insultingly obvious,” Razin said. “Let him bring an attendant, at least.”

Itima’s agreement was the sound of the decision being made, and Yannu Marave began to wonder if it might not be better for the realm to kill the boy than Lady Aquiline after all.

Princess Rozala was more than passingly familiar with bravery. She would not consider herself a great paragon of that virtue, though neither was she a coward. Rozala, for all that she did not shy from battle, was still a princess of the blood: she went to war surrounded by loyal bodyguard and with priests ready to bring her back from death’s door should wound be taken. It was natural this be the case, though perhaps not fair in a godly sense, for her death would herald a great deal more trouble than a fantassin’s. Yet it was easier to brave, the Princess of Aequitan privately thought, when so many were sworn to keep her alive. Yet she’d seen purer strains of bravery in other men and women. Soldiers who volunteered to hold border positions in the face of the Enemy, knowing no reinforcements could be spared. Conscripts running back under arrows and spellfire to drag fallen friends back to safety behind the lines, boys and girls not even eighteen summers old stilling their shaking hands and raising their shields steady as the dead charged howling at them. The Arlesite princess had even seen many whose fearlessness had been hollow, a spectacle put on for myriad reasons ranging from stiffening moral to preserving reputation. And yet Rozala Malanza could not for the life of her tell if Hakram Deadhand’s serene disregard for the danger surrounding them was genuine or not.

The orc’s helmet was held in the crook of his handless arm, revealing the thick leathery skin and the troublingly large teeth of his kind. Greenskins were not well-known to Rozala, and so discerning one’s sentiments did not come naturally to her, yet he’d not hesitated a moment when invited to walk into the wolf’s den atop the hill nor expressed particular concern since. It was as if he could not see the hundreds of flaring heavily armed soldiers around them, whose gaze lingered on the truce banner Rozala was carrying with open antipathy. She would have preferred to come in riding, truth be told, but Deadhand had spooked her destrier something fierce when he’d come close. That instinctive dislike by animals was said to be natural to greenskins, though until recently Rozala had believed it to be one of those commonly accepted falsehoods like Praesi being liars from the cradle or Callowans being physically incapable of halfway edible cooking. It seemed there was truth to it, however, for all horses had grown unruly when the Adjutant had been upwind of them.

“The banner’s dipping, Your Grace,” Hakram Deadhand said.

His coarse voice betrayed the slightest hint of what she took to be amusement. Gritting her teeth, the Princess of Aequitan raised back to full height the banner she’d been made to carry like some sort of, well, attendant. Which the Adjutant had not hesitated to designate her as when the summons had come from the Levantines. To her dismay, she’d even had to play along for the sake of being there when the talks were held. As if leaving alone an orc and a foursome of quarrelsome Dominion lordlings could end in anything but bodies on the floor.

“Is your line known among your people to be of particular dignity?” Princess Rozala tried.

This would be slightly less wounding of her dignity if at least he was the orc surrogate for highborn. Otherwise, she was carrying a banner for one of the Damned plucked out from some northern waste to serve the Black Queen. A heartbeat passed.

“My mother famously made the finest Callowan meat stew in the clan,” the Adjutant replied.

She was being mocked, Rozala realized. Wait, Callowan meat stew? Surely he could not mean…

“I’d never heard of this delicacy,” the Princess of Aequitan said. “May I ask what it contains?”

Surely not Callowans, she thought, for the Black Queen would not have made so important a dignitary of him were it the case.

“Not humans, of course,” Hakram Deadhand nonchalantly replied.

She mastered herself so that she would not breathe out in relief. At the very least she was not being made to consort with a bloody-fanged cannibal.

“Much too expensive, that far out in the Steppes,” the Adjutant continued just as nonchalantly. “Never ate it done the traditional way until I came to Ater.”

Before Rozala could conceive of a gracious way to ask the Damned at her side whether or not the ‘traditional way’ involved human flesh, they were ushered past one last ring of armsmen and came to stand before the four heads of the Dominion’s armies abroad. The older two she was most familiar with: Lord Yannu Marave of Alava and Lady Itima Ifriqui of Vaccei. The latter had particularly poor reputation among Arlesites for her vicious and unprovoked raids into Orense in the years before the Tenth Crusade. The First Prince might have made peace there, but the looting and burning of southern Orense had not been forgot. Lord Yannu she did not much like, but at least respected. The Lord of Alava, who claimed descent from the Valiant Champion, was a cautious and ferocious man who displayed little of the famed recklessness of his line. The Princess of Aequitan had misliked that by virtue of being the foremost Levantine commander he’d effectively seized command of the Iserran campaign, especially considering unlike her and several of her generals he’d never fought either Queen Catherine or Marshal Juniper. Yet the Dominion had provided the greater part of the host, and so claimed greater influence. If the Battle of the Camps had been a victory perhaps Rozala could have argued otherwise, but while those brutal three days had been many things they had not been that.

The younger pair she only through reports, though the Levantine fascination with war paint and bloodline colours made their identities easy enough to deduce. The young man in iron grey and crimson would be Razin Tanja, son and heir to the fresh-slain Lord Akil Tanja of Malaga. The peculiarities of Dominion inheritance laws meant he would not be Lord of Malaga until his kin had acclaimed him on the grounds of that very city, assuming his right was not challenged, so among the four highborn here his authority was the weakest. His own captains could defy him without breaking oath, at the moment, though if he ever ascended to lordship that’d be a poor decision indeed. The impressively-shaped young woman to his side would be Lady Aquiline Osena of Tartessos, by repute rival to the Tanjas and deathly foe to the Ifriquis for reason of kinslaying twice over. Dominion political affairs were fluid even by Proceran standards, for they shifted with the feuds of every generation of the Blood, but it was usually to be expected that their highborn would be feuding with whoever’s lands bordered their own and seeking cordial ties with whoever’s did not. The Maraves of Alava did have a reputation as proud lunatics staying out of politics save when offended, which had made it both surprising and not when Lord Yannu became informal head of the Dominion’s armies abroad. Rozala was not unfamiliar with the trick of putting those that could not be called to heel in charge.

The four lordlings were standing and fully armed. And, by the visible wounds on the Osena and the Marave, had recently fought some manner of duel among themselves.

“You stand before four lines of the Blood,” Lady Itima said in heavily-accented Lower Miezan. “You may kneel.”

“You stand before the Queen of Callow’s right hand,” the Adjutant calmly replied in Chantant. “You may bow.”

Princess Rozala would have appreciated the insolent confidence a great deal more if it hadn’t run the risk of getting them both killed. Lady Aquiline’s lips twitched in amusement, as did Lady Itima’s, but Tanja’s lips thinned and Lord Yannu’s face remained inscrutable.

“Princess Malanza,” the Lord of Alava said. “Are you now attendant to one of Below’s servants?”

“I am sworn envoy speaking for the First Prince of Procer,” the Princess of Aequitan replied. “Who also happens to temporarily attend to the Lord Adjutant.”

If he expected to shame her into retiring, he would have to do better than that. Rozala had been the ruling princess of principality that’d half-beggared itself fighting to the death with the current ruling First Prince, the daughter of a woman who’d once laughingly boasted she would send Cordelia Hasenbach running back north with her tail between her legs to ‘suckle on icicles and brood’. She’d had to wade through seas of scorn and mockery to rise to the height’s she now stood at, all of it dealt by peers – which not a single individual here could claim to be.

“What an unlikely coincidence,” Lady Itima sardonically said.

For some reason, she shot Razin Tanja a half-approving look afterwards.

“You interrupt sacred ceremony, Bestowed,” Lady Aquiline said, eyeing the orc curiously. “Withdraw your warriors and let nothing more be spoken of this.”

Rozala found herself almost shamefully glad that there’d been no talk about claiming the Black Queen’s head in some sort of doomed attempt at vengeance. Near enough to every highborn of the Dominion was here, if some dimwit among them took a swing at Catherine Foundling the entire Levantine host could be decapitated. It wasn’t as if the Princess of Aequitan had sallied forth to protect the Black Queen, for what would that monster fear from not even a thousand soldiers? The Queen of Callow had looked more than eight thousand horse in the eye, drawn a line in the snow and dared them to cross it. And when Rozala had offered her challenge, after, it’d not been met with fear or defiance. It’d been met, chillingly enough, with a sort of vague irritation. Like Foundling had already done them all a favour by refraining from slaughtering them like animals and anything aside from withdrawal from that point on had been trying an already thinning patience. That, more than threats or promises, had seen Rozala Malanza order a retreat. And rumour had since trickled in that the Black Queen had, for having struck at her legionaries, broken two fingers from every cataphract of Helike and sent them marching back to the Tyrant stripped of arms and armour. It might be that the Lanterns and the armsmen might kill the villainous queen, if they struck at her. It’d been a long and arduous night.

More likely, though, Catherine Foundling would lose patience at the attempt and kill them all without batting an eye.

“You have claimed the grounds where my warlord will return,” Hakram Deadhand said. “That will not be brooked.”

“We’ve no interest in your queen,” Lord Yannu bluntly said. “We await the arrival of the Peregrine’s remains.”

“I’ve no interest in the remains of the Grey Pilgrim,” the orc replied. “I await the arrival of my queen.”

“Perhaps a simple honour guard can be arranged,” Rozala suggested.

The Lord of Alava fixed her with a steady look.

“Sons and daughters will bring the Peregrine to the flame,” he flatly said. “None other.”

“The Queen of Callow will not return from saving all your lives to a ring of foreign soldiers,” the Adjutant replied just as flatly.

Rozala would have hissed at him in an other language, if she shared any with him that the Levantines would not.

“It was the Grey Pilgrim who sacrificed himself for all who stand here,” Lady Aquiline sharply said.

“It was the Black Queen who made truce where you sought war, and led the band of five to victory,” the Adjutant said. “Do you deny this?”

“That the Queen of Callow acted honourably this night is not in doubt,” Lady Itima said. “Bargains made were kept.”

There was agreement from the others, some of it more reluctant than others.

“Yet you diminish the sacrifice made by the Peregrine through your words,” the Lady of Vaccei continued. “Curb your tongue, Damned.”

“Damned you call me, but my honour lies in the service of my queen,” the orc unflinchingly replied. “I will not suffer her return being a circle of swords bared.”

In that moment, Rozala Malanza grasped that the Adjutant had been playing them all. Gods, he’d been trying to extract something from them from the start.

“No offence is meant,” Razin Tanja said.

“Then why do you insist on giving it?” Hakram Deadhand said.

There was a rumble of discontent from the Levantines.

“What offence is this, orc?” Lord Yannu bluntly asked.

“Though under truce, you are enemies still,” the Adjutant said. “How can your surrounding my queen be taken as anything but slight?”

“The Peregrine’s last escort will not be opened to Callowans or Wastelanders,” Lady Aquiline firmly said. “This will not be argued.”

“Then to avoid slighting Callow’s honour, you must no longer be enemies to its queen but instead allies,” the Adjutant said.

“Are we to swear oaths to the void?” Lady Itima mocked. “Even were we willing, there is nothing to be done.”

“There is,” the Adjutant replied, offering a fanged grin. “Years ago, Queen Catherine requested to become a member of the Grand Alliance. All that would be required for friendship to be established is your agreement to this suit.”

“It would mean nothing, without the First Prince’s approval and the Majilis’ agreement,” Razin Tanja said.

“It would satisfy honour nonetheless,” the orc said.

Rozala’s pulse quickened. Should she intervene, she wondered? For all that the Foundling Queen had declared her intention to join the war against the Dead King, that was not the same as her becoming signatory of the Grand Alliance. If four of the five greatest aristocrats in Levant agreed to back Callow’s bid to become part of the Alliance, its chances would become more than merely good. The consequences of that were… hard to foresee. Gods, this was too great a decision too swiftly made. Rozala Malanza bit her lip.

A heartbeat later, dawn began and a gate tore open before all of them.

Two people hobbled through it, and just like that the Princess of Aequitan felt the world change.

223 thoughts on “Interlude: Concourse V

    1. ruduen

      I wouldn’t call it just yet. Archer and Rogue are also a pair that could qualify. Though given the possibility of a dramatic Friday reveal, it could be either pair.

      Liked by 10 people

      1. magesbe

        I feel like the “and felt the world change” line wouldn’t be there if it was Rogue and Archer. Their appearance wouldn’t warrant such dramatic phrasing. It could be a red herring, but if it is it’s not a good one.

        Liked by 21 people

        1. caoimhinh

          Hmm, I think it would, because Archer and Rogue’s presence would almost assuredly force the Dominion’s nobles to accept Hakram’s terms. They were just discussing how Archer’s presence would mean they could all get killed very swiftly, and Rogue is allied with Procer rather than Levant.

          Liked by 4 people

            1. caoimhinh

              Come on, we already know Named are empowered by drama.
              Indrani and Roland left first, waaay before Cat resurrected Tariq, remember she went for a stroll through Twilight Liesse first, got her new staff from Edward’s tomb and then went back to the throne room for Tariq, so it would make sense for them to arrive before Cat and Pilgrim, even if only for the escalation of tensions for a couple of minutes.

              Liked by 3 people

              1. Exactly, the narrative runs on drama. This is not a fart noise anticlimax moment. “The world changed” cannot refer to the two of them.

                Indrani and Roland wouldn’t be emerging from this exit in the first place, they were looking for hidden paths.

                Liked by 8 people

                1. caoimhinh

                  The world didn’t change, Rozala felt it change when the two figures emerged. There’s a difference.

                  Indrani and Roland went back, nothing mentions they were going for hidden paths or that they were going to do anything else but returning to the camps.
                  The “hidden paths” thing was used only when referring to the essence of what the Twilight Realm is, not that Archer and Roland were going to explore them (why would they, when there’s still pressing matters waiting for their return to their respective camps?).

                  Though it could as easily be that Archer and Rogue stayed close waiting for Cat and Pilgrim, and they are all four returning together, with Cat and Tariq ahead of the group. I mean, if I were them I would stay and wait for my friend to come back after whatever moment of privacy she needed, considering the return point is in the middle of a war zone with four armies camping around.

                  Liked by 3 people

                  1. Indrani and Roland went back through paths that only Indrani knows how Hye taught her to find.

                    And yes, the world changing is most definitely not a reference to Indrani and Roland.

                    Liked by 4 people

                    1. caoimhinh

                      True. I verified it. You are right.

                      No elaborate farewells followed, as they simply disappeared into the city below. Indrani would find a way out, as she had first found a way in when seeking Masego. The Lady of the Lake had shared knowledge with her I’d not asked the lay of, long aware that the keeping of her teacher’s secrets was one of the few things Indrani considered sacred.

                      Well, seems like the interludes are over, then?

                      Liked by 4 people

        2. Morgenstern

          Second that @magesbe.

          Why would the world change if anyone else but Cat with the _alive_ Pilgrim would come through that, after those words? There’s no way those nobles won’t agree to her joining the Alliance after that, after what they just went through in their own… “talks”. Not only did she uphold all her promises – she now also brought their greatest Hero back to them.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. Morgenstern

            Also, dawn. It’s absolutely appropriate that the symbol for (hope) dawn(ing) would return exactly with the dawn, just like another Grey appearing slightly changed with the sun’s rays as savior.

            Liked by 5 people

            1. Yes. There was never any way they would return other than with the first rays of dawn. It can’t be anyone but them, this dramatic position has ‘reserved for the VIP’ embossed on it in gold letters.

              Liked by 2 people

      2. As others have noted, the two sidekicks would be a ridiculous anticlimax rather than the dramatic reveal we’ve all been waiting for. Also, they are both able-bodied; “two people hobbled through it” makes it quite clear these are the lame Cat and the aged Pilgrim.

        Liked by 5 people

  1. apperatus27

    Huh, I’m not actually sure if the timing of that is a good or a bad thing for the alliance.

    On one hand, yay superman is alive!
    On the other, the celebration might make this a missed opportunity for negotiation.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. RoflCat

      Actually if anything this makes the Levantines basically have to support Cat, considering she saved Tariq’s life.

      How would they hold their honour, if when asked for support they refused the ‘ally’ who saved their ‘king’?

      Liked by 9 people

            1. Valkyria

              Yes since his death was kind of a mercy given. Like for the world, since almost all other options would have dire consequences. GP even said beforehand that his death wouldn’t create large waves – knowing Above would take care of it so it wouldn’t all go to waste. And it did, since they basically broadcasted the whole thing directly into a whole lot of brains.

              Liked by 4 people

        1. Cicero

          Actually, she used Below methods to steal the Grey Pilgrim’s own method of resurrection and then turned around and used it on him.

          So I think that means the resurrection is not tainted, since the original source was above.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. And Heiress planned to use angel’s corpse to power up her demon-spitting machine. You may have missed “she used Below methods”. How are we sure that a touch of those tower of self slaughter do not taint all they touch?

            Liked by 3 people

                1. Andrew Mitchell

                  I know you’re probably joking but I want to say that they really, really weren’t bullied. Cat asked and explained, and they let her. It’s quite a long section so I won’t post it all here but here are the highlights:

                  “You actually loved him, didn’t you?” I said, voice wondering. “Or as close to that as you can.”

                  “You can’t bring him back,” I said. “I understand. There’s rules, and it’s not in your nature to make exceptions.”

                  The attention never wavered nor lessened in intensity.

                  “But I’m not you,” I said. “Your rules don’t bind me. And if you let me, I will.”

                  “Why?” I repeated.

                  It was a fair question, I supposed.

                  “Because I can, so I should,” I said. “Because even when he was my enemy I did not believe him to be a bad man. Because…”

                  I struggled to find the words to express it, but perhaps the simplest truth was best.

                  “Because I don’t want to be at war with you or him,” I quietly said. “And the moment you choose to believe that, the war’s over.”

                  “Please,” I said. “I know you don’t make exceptions, and I won’t ask you to. All you need to do is to stand aside.”

                  We stood there, the Choir of Mercy and the Arch-heretic of the East, and a long moment passed.

                  They stood aside.

                  Thanks for making me revisit this. It’s a truly heart-warming scene which gives me hope that this is all going to turn out OK.

                  Liked by 2 people

                  1. Shveiran

                    Also, just for shit and giggles… if someone can bully a Choir and bothers to pretend they want your agreement on something, I’m not sure it is a good idea to deny them. Not unless you are TWO choirs, at the very least.

                    Liked by 2 people

        2. RoflCat

          Thievery isn’t exclusively Below thing (see: Vivi before she joined Cat)

          And the resurrection is a genuine resurrection which is exclusive to Good, not necromancy or other sort of Evil specific methods.

          So outside of Cat’s status as “Villain” that’s getting harder and harder to justify with each time she show how unwilling she is to fight them, they don’t have much excuses to go for.

          But you know what? NONE of that matters if Pilgrim show his support for Cat. The moment that happen, Levant will follow, because the alternative is the end of Levant.

          Liked by 2 people

      1. Shveiran

        Hakram’s actions did seem a bit rushed and uncompromising, before. Not unreasonable or out of character, but simply too… narrow, too rigid, too clumsy in the situation compared to what he usually does.

        But that’s because he wasn’t just trying to grab an anchor for Cat; he was laying the ground for her capitalyzing on her deeds.
        And damn, how nicely he dealt with the Levantines.

        We should search the Tower for a cloning ritual, and get us an Adjutant each.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. Isn’t it interesting that the list of people he apparently needs to kill to save the dominion from certain instability… always leaves one all so very insignificant name out?

          Yet, I don’t spot anybody else readily destabilizing alliances by killing the worryingly effective competition every time he gets a chance to. 😛

          Liked by 2 people

    1. And a cherry on top:

      “There are evils I have been forced to make peace with,” the Pilgrim said with iron in his voice. “Torture is not one of them. You may be certain I will allow no such thing so long as I draw breath. The matter of exchanges, however, will have to be discussed with the Princess of Aequitan. Answer will be given before battle.”

      Liked by 8 people

        1. Shveiran

          It does seem like he is a goner, admittedly. Out of tune with the rest of the Blood, uncompromising with change, with no appetite for the Bone War… I’m not saying he is going to die necessarily, but I think he’ll likely be removed from office and therefore from the narrative.

          Liked by 3 people

            1. Shveiran

              Well, he is OF the Blood, certainly, but like Razin case exemplifies this is not purely a blood-related succession. You need to be AN heir to hold the fancy chair, but acclamation determines WHICH heir gets it.

              I’m also not sure we know that only jolly murder removes one from the aforementioned fancy chair / fancy spot by the fire.
              The fact that admittedly no talk has been had so far about deposing or disgracing a Line leader doesn’t really prove it in my opinion. It merely suggest no one of the Levantine schemers thought it a viable option, but the Gray Pilgrim may have enough sway?

              Liked by 2 people

              1. Oaths aren’t really something that gets taken back easily, particularly in Levant, and the difference between Razin and his father is that the captains haven’t sworn to him yet.

                Liked by 1 person

      1. Someguy

        That’s 3 times now isn’t it?

        1. The hostage thing
        2. Sword Bitch > shifted to Kairos.
        3. The torture thing.

        Oathbreaking really is Above’s bailiwick.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Insanenoodlyguy

          Nah, even if the timeline ends up bad, oath is only open if
          A: he knew/finds out, and then
          B: doesnt do something about it.

          And hes too smart to break oath twice to somebody like Catherine. That shit stacks and she already has an advantage.

          Liked by 2 people

            1. Insanenoodlyguy

              Exactly. Based on his language, I think he would have made clear that Torture was not in the cards. Whatever Yannu got up to, I’m sure it was when Grey wasn’t around.

              Liked by 2 people

                1. Shveiran

                  I mean… maybe?
                  Cat talking with the Gray Pilgrim about prohibiting torture of captured soldiers suggests the practice, while probably frowned upon by most, is still largely present. Otherwise, why even mentioning it if it was already established?
                  If that is true, Yanno may face political repercussions, but … executions?
                  Cat, furious or no, won’t nuke one of the Blood as that would result in snipping the alliance in the bud. Maybe Pilgrim will take action, but I can’t believe that was the only “war crime” committed in this campaign, so…

                  Liked by 2 people

    2. I’m pretty sure that’s in the indefinite past, rather than immediate past. They have been fighting back and forth for a while. Also, Yannu would never say “honor be damned”… yet it’s clear that his honor is utterly villainous.

      Also, Hakram is quite the Deadpan Snarker, but then, most of the Woe are pretty good at that.

      Liked by 7 people

  2. Gunslinger

    Classic Wednesday chapter, teasing us for an epic Friday. I can’t say I enjoy the levantine bickering but I thoroughly enjoyed Hakram playing them all. He’s so fucking good.

    Also poor Rozala carrying the banner while wondering about Callowan meat is just too funny.

    Liked by 13 people

      1. Cicero

        Abigail knows a fellow traveler when she meets one. Why else would she offer Rozala drink? She knows how hard it is to handle this sort of thing drunk, she couldn’t bear to see someone bear it sober.

        Liked by 11 people

    1. Seriously.

      > “Much too expensive, that far out in the Steppes,” the Adjutant continued just as nonchalantly. “Never ate it done the traditional way until I came to Ater.”

      Adjutant, you sure you’re an orc and not a troll?

      Liked by 6 people

  3. Soma

    Hoo, hoo, hoo! What a play! I love having the Hakram-Rozala interaction. Comedy gold, I swear.

    Dear Commodore Liliet,

    I’ve in my possession an odd vessel by the name of the Rozhand and think it would do well with the fleet. I certainly wish to aid this curiosity, but I do have some prior commitments on the Malacat, Rozacat, or whatever various name the ship is has decided on while I’ve been away.

    All the best,
    Soma

    (P.S. For the longest time I couldn’t read your name as anything other than Lillet, I swear there’s not enough space between the dot and body of the i on the comment names.)

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Yeah my name has something of an issue with being readable ;u;

      For me to ship a het ship there needs to be a lot more there than “two people were in proximity to each other and the man took the opportunity he had to thoroughly humiliate and unsettle the woman”. In fact, one would argue that this interlude has moved this potential ship from the utterly neutral “don’t care either way” position to the slightly negative “I would prefer not” one.

      I care not how ships intersect (Rozala has two hands), but…

      Anyway, did you notice the “impressively-shaped young woman” in there as EVIDENCE 😀

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Soma

        But not even as a friendship? To be honest, I just want to see the Hakram-Rozala buddy cop movie now. There’s just something about these two that now screams out for best of friends.

        And were you suggesting Yanozala? Because that would be trip. I’m down for the cultural fun times.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Yanno? What has Yanno got to do with it? It was Aquiline she commented to. But really that’s details, I’m talking about the pure fact of Rozala displaying Catherine levels of Context Ignoring Gay~~~

          And I want everyone to get along and be friends always, but really as far as friend-ships go Abigail/Rozala buddy cop movie currently is far ahead in priority queue ;u;

          Liked by 4 people

          1. Soma

            Oh damn, I misread when I went to go back and see who made the shapely comment. This is what I get for skimming, but how I got Yanno making that comment about Roz Rather than Roz about Aquiline, I’ll never know. I blame that on being up past midnight. You’re right EVIDENCE, Tanja’s got to watch out, he’s got competition.

            And fair enough on the friendship priority queue.

            Liked by 3 people

            1. TBH I’m seeing it as evidence for Cat/Rozala since that’s the Rozala ship I’m mostly interested in, but yes ALL the gay Rozala ships are Confirmed Valid ;u;

              (We don’t know Aquiline is interested in women. We do know about Cat…)

              Liked by 1 person

  4. RoflCat

    I feel like Rozala and Abigail might need to spend a night in the bar together, just to vent out all their misfortunes.

    Also, well played Hakram, you genius bastard.

    Liked by 12 people

  5. You fucking idiot Levantines. Well, most of you, Razin seems to be improving.
    Also, Cat’s going to find out you were torturing her people, and that’s not going to go well.

    Good job, Hakram. Nicely done.

    Heh, Rozala completely bought Cat’s bluff and is terrified of what she thinks Cat can do.

    Rogue Sorcerer and Archer or Cat and the resurrected Pilgrim?
    I half think it’ll be Rogue and Archer, but Cat and Tariq show up in the end of the next interlude to give a cliffhanger on a Friday interlude and return to Cat on Monday.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. They are not idiots. Look, they even said that they wouldn’t mind Callowans, if there weren’t any Procerans, whom seemingly allying with Army calls for the possibility of betrayal, since they can’t really trust neither of them, even though Procerans only came because they can’t trust Levantines not to be bloodthirsty savages, and the communication that could’ve avoided that misunderstanding is currently impossible due to Levantine traditions. Which, while stupid, also show Proceran stupidity, since their encroaching insistance probably only insulted them more into stubborness, but what is really amazing is that Procerans seem to have no insight into Levantine customs, since they are just as much an arrogant bunch of shits

      So while those two groups of smart people blinded by arrogance and tradition respectively awkwardly dance around each other like me on a date with a pretty girl when I have no clue why she agreed, Deadhand is playing them both while trolling future Dread Empress Accidential as a side effect.

      Liked by 8 people

      1. Procerans boldly assumed the Levantines were not fucking idiots and acted accordingly. Rozala Did Nothing Wrong, she used the valid tools she had to deescalate the situation. It would have cost Levantines $0.00 to tell the Proceran envoys what exactly the ‘sacred ceremony’ WAS. They utterly failed to consider what their actions would look like from the side, ‘everyone else is treacherous but we are white and fluffy and utterly beyond suspicion’.

        Liked by 10 people

        1. If by “not being fucking idiots” you mean “they would try to murder a woman that in a span of a few hours defeated DK’s devil horde and nonchalantly killed Saint, all the while playing everyone else (except Bard, but they don’t know it) as a feedle, woman that had also coincidentially and probably accidentialy saved them, for the act they were specifically told by Heavens she didn’t commit , and also tried to prevent” I politely disagree. This is a textbook definiton of suicide by stupidity.

          Levantines screwed up too, no denying that. I mean it’s nice to see that it’s “everyone distrusts everyone” not “everyone distrusts Callow”, but you’d figure that fighting a common opponent would bring them a tad closer. Or that literal centuries of coexisting would make some of them at least try to learn about each others customs and perceptions.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. They know SOME about each other’s customs and perception. But note that this was not even the obvious solution to the Levantines, Razin had to suggest it, and Procerans have no way of knowing just how tense the situation is between the four leaders of Blood and how much they can’t afford to step even a toe out of the HONOR HONOR HONOR line.

            Liked by 2 people

          2. Insanenoodlyguy

            Best Orc approached smart though. Didn’t say anything about them maybe trying to kill Catherine, just noted how this dishonorable it appeared in context. Argument that actually made sense to their standards instead of a potential insult.

            Liked by 5 people

      1. ??? Valerian works just fine on people (middling-strong sedative), and AIUI does about the same for cats. You might mean catnip, which is a mild stimulant for humans, but apparently a hallucinogen for cats. (I’ve both brewed and smoked both herbs, back in my wild college days.)

        Liked by 3 people

          1. Yes, and? A lot of humans really like sedatives too, from chamomile through alcohol and on to the infamous opioids. (That said, valerian tastes nasty to humans.)

            Fun trivia: The synthetic opioid Valium was actually named after the herb valerian. The manufacturer was trying to convince prospective buyers that this new “scientific” pill from a distant corporation, was as safe and effective as the herb they were so familiar with.

            Like

            1. Valerian extract is a very common sedative where I’m from, and it’s used as a folk wisdom suggestion to, like, manipulate cats with it. Sprinkle valerian on a scratching post to get them to use it, etc.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. Here catnip is the big stereotype herb, valerian is much less commonly available. Catnip has the drawback that sometimes cats will act overly weird.

                Also some cats are immune to it. I’ve heard a tale of one cat whose owner’s backyard contained the local catnip patch, but this cat was immune. He exploited this to become king of the neighborhood cats… he’d lure his rivals in, wait for them to get stoned out of their skull, and then beat them up. Cats are evil…. 😉

                Liked by 2 people

                1. Andrew Mitchell

                  > he’d lure his rivals in, wait for them to get stoned out of their skull, and then beat them up. Cats are evilsmart…. 😉

                  FTFY 🙂

                  Like

  6. “Two people hobbled through it, and just like that the Princess of Aequitan felt the world change.”

    Aaand it’s Archer and Roland, with another gate ripping after this red herring in a Friday’s cliffhanger.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. caoimhinh

        Well, they were beaten quite a bit by Saint before Catherine killed her with the Time Sword. They got some cracked ribs, bruised faces and are really tired, even if Tariq healed the worst wounds (like Indrani’s severed hand). Besides, maybe the crossing of that Gate was not very stable, so they are hobbling as they cross.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. werafdsaew

          Given that they took different paths, nothing says one has to arrive before the other. In fact due to narrative bullshit Pilgrim/Cat probably arrived first.

          Liked by 4 people

      2. “… such a backache…” Seriously, RS is described as young and reasonably good-looking — do you really want to lay odds Archer didn’t jump his bones on the way out?

        But no, still Cat and Pilgrim, because it’s past time and the sidekicks wouldn’t have changed Rozala’s world.

        Liked by 4 people

  7. caoimhinh

    Wait, the original Grim Binder was a woman?
    We already had confirmation that the Brigand and the Slayer were also females, legends saying that the conflict between their lines was due to competing for the Grey Pilgrim’s affections. Two chapters ago it was confirmed that the original Valiant Champion was a woman too…
    Holy shit, the first Peregrine was the only man of his Band of Five, he had a harem of Heroines by his side! He must have been an Isekai Protagonist.

    On another note, I’m more inclined to think that those two crossing the gate right now are Archer and Rogue. Too early for Catherine and Pilgrim.

    Typos found: The younger pair she only through reports / The younger pair she knew only through reports

    Liked by 9 people

      1. caoimhinh

        Yeah, shonen MC definitely. Japanese style most likely, given how he apparently traveled around with the four of them, but didn’t marry any of them, like what happens in most Harem genre jap mangas (it’s full of girls in love of MC but he only loves one / marries only one in the end).

        For the lulz and because playing with stereotypes is fun, I imagine the four companions of the first Pilgrim to be like this:

        -The Valiant Champion would the big sister of the group, probably would be the one who said “Ara, ara” all the time and had a merry attitude.
        -The Bandit was probably a tsundere, getting in fights with the first Pilgrim, yelling and cussing at him without telling him about her true feelings and also get fits of anger when other women approached him.
        -The Grim Binder was normally calm but secretly practiced S&M. Likely a kuudere, expressionless most of the time but caring about everyone in the group.
        -The Slayer was the yandere of the group, of course. (I mean, just look at Aquiline and her knife-point courtship).

        What do you think? Do you imagine them in a different way?

        Liked by 6 people

        1. Nope, you are remarkably on point. Add to it leading a rebellion against a big evil Empire, and you got yourself a merry adventure.
          (Spoiler: he also probably married his little sister, which is why they are so obsessed with Blood)

          Liked by 5 people

    1. Andrew Mitchell

      Nice pick up. I think I’m so used to gender not mattering in PGtE that I wasn’t paying any attention to those details…. Yes, that is my excuse and I’m sticking to it, thank you very much. 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

      1. caoimhinh

        Well, Gender “doesn’t matter” in the sense that there is no discrimination and it makes no difference for absolutely any office, rank, charge or activity (except for Goblins, as they are a Matriarchy), but the use of the proper gender pronoun does matter, as seen when Simon and Basilia were introduced (a transgender man and transgender woman respectively). Men and women tend to be more balanced in number in their groups in Calernia, cases like the first Pilgrim’s group and Hanno’s original group, where there is only one member of a sex and many of the other, are quite rare.

        Nevertheless, I seem to have annoyed Liliet by noticing the gender of the ancient companions of the first Pilgrim (or maybe for pointing out how japanese-MC-like he was).

        Help me, please. She’s got a whole fleet of ships at her back

        Though I do find it funny that he was the only man in a band of five where two were already said to be rumored to fight over his affections. However, I must emphasize that in no way was my intention to be offensive in any manner.

        Liked by 2 people

          1. caoimhinh

            Not weird at all.
            I find it annoying too that someone would get annoyed/offended at the mere mention of gender/sex/race. Given how there is a clear and definite difference between an offensive comment and one that isn’t, plus the intent of such are glaringly obvious.

            But hey, if someone get angry/annoyed at you for something you didn’t intend, saying “sorry, it was not my intention to offend you” seems like the natural thing to do. It is, after all, the truth.
            Same principle as if when you are walking on the street and bump into someone accidently, you apologize and move on.

            Liked by 1 person

        1. I’m not offended by your mentioning anything, I’m just really fricking annoyed by the entire Japanese genre of any of it. You are not at fault for being aware of its existence, I just respond by pointing out that it’s terrible :3

          Liked by 3 people

          1. caoimhinh

            We are cool then.

            Oh, yeah. Harem genre in japanese manga/anime/novel is really annoying. Though it does lives up by feeding up on relationships shipping of many characters, so the fandom is partly to blame for that.
            *glances meaningfully at the sailing fleet in the distance not so far*
            Personally I don’t like it because it’s mostly taken for laughs and teases too much on the romantic advancements while nothing really happens (any two people that got into even a tenth of the situations a japanese MC gets with a love interest would end up dating or sleeping together at the least, but in those stories hundreds of chapters pass without even a kiss, which is outright ridiculous).

            Still though, Named do run on stories, so having a Named living a Shonen MC story and thus becoming one of the greatest legends of Calernia makes sense in-universe. XD

            Liked by 2 people

            1. I fucking hate the gender stereotypes / roles / tropes that it creates/propagates/feeds on. Admittedly they’re occasionally funny, but a lot of the time to a lot of people they substitute for understanding of female characters’ personality instead of enhancing it. And I fucking hate the culture of ‘waifu’ that makes use of those, too.

              The trope that ticks me off most of all though is the rivalry / love triangle one. “Everyone knows that when two girls are in proximity with each other and a guy the only possible way it goes is that they start squabbling with each other and trying to win the guy’s affection.” If there weren’t people who end up legitimately thinking like that, I wouldn’t mind it so much, but…

              -_-

              but Akua is a yandere and Juniper is a tsundere and there’s nothing anyone can do about that

              Liked by 5 people

              1. caoimhinh

                Well, each literary genre has its own stereotypes to play with.
                For example, the recent years Young Adult novels had the love triangle of “female protagonist with two hot guys fighting over her attention and she is confused about who she loves, even though the book already told us that she loves only one of them”, with movie adaptations making it worse.

                As for personality types (yandere, tsundere, kuudere, etc), there’s a wide variety of them and while fandom usually tends to overgeneralize and encapsulate an entire character into a single defining personality trait (even if it’s the most important trait of that character), the reality is that there’s plenty of depth to characters, and that shines when the authors dedicate one or more chapters to that character.
                A famous example is Mahou Sensei Negima (manga) with an almost an entire classroom of almost 30 girls romantically interested in the MC and the manga constantly plays with that and the interactions Negi has with each of the girls, displaying each of their personalities and how they develop their feeling for him (some love him, some lust after him, some respect him, some admire him as a role model, etc). Most importantly, even though it is a significant element of the manga and most of the girls play a significant role in supporting Negi accomplish his goals in life, THE STORY IS NOT ABOUT THAT. Despite the fandom’s constant focus on romance and the speculation about which one of the girls is the one to become Negi’s wife, the manga actually moves on to a wide variety of subjects like politics, racial issues, many martial arts and magic battles, plus the desire for connection between people and the salvation of the world through combined efforts.
                Of course, the fans of Negima mostly didn’t give a crap about that, they would raise their battleships of NegixAsuna against NegixNodoka and NegixChisame, and that’s what people would mostly see online and in forums as that’s the subject that heated up the debates and kept their attention, especially on the US and Japan where the actual main clientele and target audience was.
                Sometimes, it’s a market decision.

                There’s plenty of examples of playing with stereotypes (both in a straight manner and in an inverse manner) in literature, but the most glaring and famous examples are in manga and anime.

                Liked by 2 people

                1. >For example, the recent years Young Adult novels had the love triangle of “female protagonist with two hot guys fighting over her attention and she is confused about who she loves, even though the book already told us that she loves only one of them”, with movie adaptations making it worse.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. Well htis accidentally posted before I actually commented on it.

                    So the thng is, this one’s also annoying and tiring, but unlike the ‘girl instantly crushes on guy’ one I at least find this one relatable and true to life. Consider the eternal trope of “gets the girl as a reward”: girls are taught by culture that actually we are totally supposed to pick the more “deserving” candidate rather than the one we actually like, which makes sorting out which one we actually do like and which one is more deserving and which one plays into interesting tropes but we don’t really give a shit about… it’s not exactly a trivial task.

                    Saying “no” to someone who appears like They Would Be Hurt By That is not exactly taught at schools.

                    So… yeah. A girl utterly confused in a romantic situation of several suitors interested in her is only too real.

                    Liked by 2 people

                2. >A famous example is Mahou Sensei Negima (manga) with an almost an entire classroom of almost 30 girls romantically interested in the MC

                  TBH as an aroace girl who is constantly expected by everyone around her to WANT A BOYFRIEND OR BETTER YET A HUSBAND I would rather step away slowly and not look in that direction.

                  Like, girls not being interested despite being in a hot/interesting guys’ proximity is my jam, here.

                  Liked by 2 people

                  1. caoimhinh

                    To each, their own. And our tastes from ten years ago tend to be different to the ones we have now, as we have matured and refined our tastes, usually looking for more quality and discarding certain literary genres in favor of others. Though I assure you this manga is worth reading (fair warning, the first dozen or so chapters might annoy you if ecchi comedy is not your thing, but if you pass that the comedy becomes better and the serious plot starts to develop too, with very interesting characters).

                    There’s more to it than the absurd amount of love interests for the boy and the ecchi scenes, as I mentioned in the other comment, there’s politics, action and lots of character development, and the romance doesn’t all center on the MC; there are other couples in the story too, some involving teenage girls of the class, some involving the adults, and some with characters met later in the story, including one lesbian couple (this being a japanese story, it’s pretty uncommon unless the story centers on them), some platonic relationships, some characters remain single through the whole story, and there are some asexual characters, there’s a robot, a ghost too. Each of the characters has their own motivations for befriending Negi and they all interact with him in unique ways, even the girls attracted to him express it on different manners, which gives the story an interesting development.

                    Also, there’s a reason for why it has that sub-plot with so many girls after the MC, actually: The editor forced the author to do it, since the author’s previous work “Love Hina” had been such a success after using in an innovative (for the time) way the harem tag in a manga, along with ecchi comedy.
                    Ken Akamatsu (the author) actually wanted an adventure/action manga, but the editorial wanted to ride on the formula of his previous successful work, so he had to accept and had the first couple of volumes being pure comedy with some ecchi situations, and then BAM! action started and Negi started learning martial arts plus using his magic for combat, then demons appeared, then rogue mages, and plot escalated from there.

                    Though the most laudable thing is that despite the initial way that the author had most of the girls romantically interested in Negi, they had huge character development and they each pursue their own goals in their own ways, most of them getting over their initial attraction to him, instead behaving in more serious manner as they grow up; near the end, only about 5 of the girls are still interested in him in a romantic manner (which considering the initial number being close to 30, is a huge change).

                    The end result was very good and something not foreseeable from the early chapters, as the series gradually takes a more serious tone despite having started as a fluffy comedy. There are all kinds of stories out there, and even the ones who start in a way can end completely different, and even those that are famous for one of its traits have a lot more to offer than that.
                    Though of course, everyone has different tastes, so it’s impossible for a story to be liked by everyone, but I would advise giving it a chance (to the manga, the anime adaptation sucked).

                    Liked by 3 people

                    1. caoimhinh

                      That happens. As I said before, to each their own, it’s a natural consequence of people having different tastes that even great works of a particular style or genre will not attract some people, because they don’t like that particular genre

                      Liked by 2 people

              2. Faiir

                I think that character stereotypes in LN/WN make it easy for new writers to add characters that are not clones of each other and can be developed further in the future.

                Especially in web novels, when a writer doesn’t have a long term plan, you can often see how a writer figures out what a character is actually about only after some time.

                If the choice is between a stereotype or a completely bland character in the meantime, I’d rather have a stereotype.

                Liked by 3 people

              1. caoimhinh

                Well, at least in Wuxia and Xianxia there is sex and marriage between the characters and their love interests, not many years and hundreds of episodes of them getting half-naked and then going back to their lives pretending it didn’t happen until the next time they get into a romantic situation and get half-naked again (played for laughs because japanese humor uses ecchi situations for that instead of taking them seriously).
                At least in chinese stories if there’s two people naked, there’s going to be some action. XD

                Liked by 3 people

          2. Ιούλιος Καίσαρας

            Well, I also find it annoying in general but here the author either on purpose or by accident made one such cliche and I find it hilarious (more so if he did it by accident).

            Liked by 2 people

      2. Raivshard

        Yeah, it’s certainly not a romance. The main character might be a bisexual horndog, but that’s more of an amusing sidenote to be trotted out for the occasional giggle.

        Liked by 3 people

    2. >We already had confirmation that the Brigand and the Slayer were also females, legends saying that the conflict between their lines was due to competing for the Grey Pilgrim’s affections.

      Wait, did it say explicitly that they were female (it’s not a noun btw), or are you assuming there?

      Also, Hanno was a man leading a band of women, and there was a whole lot of nothing out of it.

      Also, do we have confirmation the original Grey Pilgrim was male?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. caoimhinh

        1) Fair enough, but I think Yannu used female pronouns when he mentioned that legend (which he dismissed as mere superstitions and said that the real reason for their conflict was over resources).

        2) Hanno is very careful of how he relates with other people, though I recall there was some flirting between him and one of the sisters. Nevertheless, a man in a group of females doesn’t necessarily have to be in a relationship with any of them, of course, I’m just point it out for the lulz and because there was already “gossip” of two of that team’s members fighting over the Pilgrim’s affections.

        3) Yes, original Grey Pilgrim was male, the Athem of Smoke specifically uses male pronouns when mentioning him (tattered his war, tattered his throne), it was also stated as such by Tariq when he recalled the story of the first use of Shine (the boy become a man pucked a star from the heavens and light the first torch of rebellion).

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Right, thank you.

          I’m just really annoyed by this kind of gendered trope approach. Hanno’s band was a balm of my soul specifically BECAUSE literally nobody in-universe thought about it like that for even a second.

          (He might have flirted with Irina, the Ashen Priestess, they had cordial conversations at least. Not sure if flirting, but yeah it’s possible)

          Liked by 3 people

          1. Shveiran

            Hanno’s band felt kind of flat to me, but I get what you are saying.
            Personally, I really like how most of Calernia’s rulers and best generals are female without anyone making a big deal about it. The Guide is all like that, which is why THAT particular band of Heroes didn’t really stand out.

            Liked by 4 people

        2. Faiir

          Maybe it’s a language barrier, but “a group of males” or “a group of females” ALWAYS makes me think of animals rather than people, documentary style:
          “And now the crocodile is starting his mating dance infront of a group of females.”

          Liked by 3 people

      2. ______

        Not to mention the Calamities include a classic tsundere, a gay best friend, a kouhai, a shapeshifter and the MC who still went for the childhood friend.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Only made more amazing by the whole ‘was briefly attracted to her but squashed that with extreme prejudice because she’s a lesbian, ended up basically platonically married for 40 years and lecturing a nephew about qp partnerships’ thing.

          Taking a cliche and making the characters and dynamics in it alive, bright and whole enough that the cliche is absolutely unrecognizable as a result is a thing Guide does best.

          Liked by 1 person

      1. caoimhinh

        This part of the chapter:

        It was an old jape back home that the true talent of the Tanjas was not the magic of their famous ancestress but in truth the wealth that flowed through the canals of Malaga

        Liked by 4 people

    3. > We already had confirmation that the Brigand and the Slayer were also females, legends saying that the conflict between their lines was due to competing for the Grey Pilgrim’s affections.

      I honestly don’t remember that passage so I can’t say necessarily, but if the confirmation you’re referring to is just that legend says they were competing for OG Pilgrim’s affections… that’s not confirmation. Calernia is confirmed LGBT-friendly; OG Pilgrim could potentially be bi or gay rather than straight.

      > Too early for Catherine and Pilgrim.

      Dawn is exactly the correct time for Pilgrim to be showing up. Remember, they’re moving through Arcadia; their speed is based on narrative time much more than physical time.

      Liked by 5 people

  8. IDKWhoitis

    Thinking about, Noone in that tent has actually seen Hakram fight. He wasn’t at the battle of the Camps or hasn’t been waving his axe around much in the Procerean campaign.

    And if Cat shows up, we know his combat potential only goes up, to back her up.

    Unfortunately, Cat may be tapped, with several large miracles, the absence of strong story, and Dawn.

    Although that’s never stopped Cat from lying through her teeth and smoking a pipe non chalantly while dragging Tariq by a foot across a gate.

    They saw her end Saint, so they must have some degree of fear of her. And she has ruined a small armies before, both Lev and Prócer, so Dread Massacre’s saying about committing an act before that rings in every silence may be enough to silence them in turn.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Shveiran

      Cat is at a disadvantage, without a strong story… when she comes back after saving them all, after raising the Pilgrim with a Choir’s blessing, and has the Favored Son of Levant standing by her side?

      I… can’t say I see it.

      Power-wise? Sure. She is tapped out, and dawn means the drows are too. But she has a shit-ton of narrative weight, not the other way around.
      This is the DENOUMENT. The Story pushes for her to have an happy ending and for the tension to ebb, not the other way around.

      Liked by 3 people

  9. Valkyria

    Hakram you smug little bastard. He just can’t help playing the big mysterious – maybe human eating – orc.
    Poor Princess, doesn’t know what she signed up for.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. In their defence, they probably created it just to spite Praesi raiding for food. You are hungry? Weeell, we got plenty of food, make yourself comfortable. What’s wrong, why are you puking?

      Liked by 9 people

      1. I think they made up British cuisine just to troll everyone. Like, they probably have entirely another TRUE British cuisine, and stereotiped one is for foolish foreigners.

        Liked by 3 people

            1. Ok so here’s the thing. When I was in Britain it was on a study exchange program where we the kids were placed with families. We ate the family cooking for breakfast and dinner (and the less said about me vs boiled vegetables dinners + trying to be polite the better), and we were given pre-arranged / pre-packed lunches. They contained a sandwich, some drink, maybe something else small I don’t remember, but also A PACKET OF CHIPS.

              With random flavor.

              I appreciate the existence of odd flavors, I really do, yay diversity. But when faced with a choice to eat vinegar flavored chips or go hungry,,,

              well, I ate them every time. But I will NEVER stop grumbling about it.

              Liked by 3 people

              1. Aotrs Commander

                As A British Person (and more specifically, An English Person~), I feel a couple of points should be made here.

                a) This means by extension, Catherine is British, HAH, victory for us, suck it the rest of the world! Now she’s even more awesome.

                (Extra bonus points, fellow British Persons, what regional accent should she have…?)

                b) At least British cuisine has decent puddings and is actually edible, as opposed to everywhere else which insists on stuffing things full of random inedible vegetables, fungi or spices.

                Heck, even British cuisine tends to do that; frankly, anything other than some form or potatoes and baked beams in addition to the meat is completely unnecessary.

                Salt-and-vinegar crisps I will agree are as largely irrelvant as putting salt and vinegar on your actual chips (from the fish-and-chip shop), given that the One True Condiment – the ONLY condiment, all others are lies – tomato sauce contains both already (well, maybe not the salt if you get the healthy options available), especially since tomato sauce flavour crisps exist, which are, of course, the Best Crisps. (Or Worcester Sauce for the peasants.)

                And anything at breakfast that is not explictly cerial is heresy and should be burned, preferably with some form of high-energy particle beam.

                Liked by 2 people

                1. Oi, I take offense to that. I’m on Team Brown Sauce. HP or Daddies’, not picky; but brown over red every day of the week.

                  Except with fish and chips, of course: curry sauce and mushy peas for me with me chips, tartare and vinegar/lemon for the fish. 😀

                  Liked by 2 people

                2. >Heck, even British cuisine tends to do that; frankly, anything other than some form or potatoes and baked beams in addition to the meat is completely unnecessary.

                  Honestly if the British cuisine was the way you described I’d probably call it the second most edible cuisine in the world after Japanese.

                  Fuck. Random. Inedible. Vegetables.

                  Tomato sauce is the best condiment, agreed wholeheartedly.

                  What about toast for breakfast?

                  Liked by 2 people

              2. If I were to, say, have your address, I might be tempted to send you some Monster Munch that would definitely not be Pickled Onion flavour. And, it wouldn’t come with a request to see your face upon trying them. At all.

                Nope. 😉

                Be glad Twiglets very definitely haven’t crossed my mind, either… xD

                Liked by 2 people

      2. Clmineith

        Callow is Britain? What?! Since when?!
        The history of Great Britain is basically characterized by how difficult it is to invade, being an island and with neighbors only on one side and all. Not to mention the place were never that good to produce food.
        I know there is the Alban/Albion thing, but it’s not enough in my opinion. Like, Procer have a lot of french names, but their political system is closer to the Holy Roman Empire.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Holy Roman Empire at start kinda WAS French though. Then again, Daoine is pretty much England(?), with longbowmen, celtic names and language, etc. And it’s techinically part of Callow. Than there are semiindependent goat herding people at the north… I am sure someone more familiar with British culture and history can spot more similarities. Aside from names commonly used and unedible cuisine.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Faiir

            Also note that neither English not French were known much for their horse.
            I wonder what other European country was known for being invaded from East and West and was known for their heavy cavalry 🙂

            Liked by 2 people

            1. At a guess I’d say I’m responding to a Pole here? I’m skeptical that was actually the inspiration for Callow given that Callowan names don’t sound especially Slavic and most Calernian cultures get names that at least kinda-sorta-roughly line up with their inspiration RL cultures (Daoine being the notable exception off the top of my head). That said, if you left that out then yeah that’s not a half-bad parallel at all. Being stubborn as fuck after being invaded lines up too; the French Resistance gets all the glory (at least in the West) but I know the Polish Resistance honestly did a lot more in WWII.

              That said, at least in the medieval era the French at least were ABSOLUTELY known for their heavy cavalry. The English longbowmen weren’t getting charged by foot or light horse at Agincourt and Crecy. I don’t know that the English used all that much heavy horse in actual history (somebody who knows more feel free to correct me), but the mythological history of Britain that tends to get drawn on more heavily for Fantasy British very strongly foregrounds King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, and knights were the quintessential heavy horse of the medieval era.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. Faiir

                Well I don’t really see countries in the Guide as direct parallels to actual historical ones – each seems more like a mix of at least two.

                You’re right about French horse – literally the first image I found after googling it was Pappenheim’s Cuirassiers 🙂

                Liked by 3 people

          2. > Daoine is pretty much England

            IIRC we have Word of EE that Daoine is actually ethnically (and apparently culturally, not that we’ve gotten any Deoraithe POVs outside of Duchess Kegan on campaign which I don’t personally feel really counts on a cultural level) more closely based on the Native American Iroquois confederation than on anything else.

            Which is ofc kind of confusing since their names all sound quite Celtic AFAICT, and as far as my limited cultural knowledge can tell me everybody else on Calernia seems to get names that more or less line up with their inspiration RL cultures. Which is why even though Cat is actually mixed-race (and has been explicitly tagged as having darker-than-regular-Callowan skin in AFAIK every book) people in the comments sometimes keep thinking she’s white, since half-Callowan and half-Irish doesn’t really suggest the same thing that half-Callowan and half-Native American does.

            Anyway, Callow is “British/English” in what I think is deliberately the very generic way that fantasy protagonist cultures are stereotypically Assumed British Unless Proven Otherwise. If the similarities aren’t super historically close I think it’s because the sheer genericness is the point; to subvert a trope you have to start with something recognizable as a version of the trope for your base, and stereotypical Generic Fantasy British cultures tend to very much earn the first word in that title.

            Liked by 3 people

            1. Clmineith

              I dunno, I think it’s a mistake to try and determine what real world country is what Calernia nation.
              I think that every nations were inspired by multiple real world countries, but every RW country inspired several nations.
              Callow + Procer are pretty much a mix of Europa. Callow has Praes is more Turkey, with Rome and some other influences? Maybe? But Turkey is also in some of the Dominion…
              This way it allow things to be recognizable without being not!england an not!france and not!poland, etc.

              Liked by 5 people

              1. I’d agree that it’s a mistake to try to align them too closely, yeah. They do have inspirations that are visible and I think it’s fine to discuss those inspirations in the spirit of fun, but I def agree that these shouldn’t be taken as actual representations of any RL cultures/nations.

                Liked by 3 people

        2. caoimhinh

          Well, most of the countries in Calernia (and some mentioned from beyond Calernia, like the Yan Tei, Baalite, Miezan, the Yaminine and the Salamdeul) are loosely based on a culture from Earth, but the similarities rarely go beyond language and physical traits, since they all have completely different stories than their inspirations. Not to mention there’s magic involved.

          Some examples I have noticed:

          -The Kingdom of Callow is inspired by Britain. The country name comes from the story stereotype that “a callow youth would rise to fight evil”. You can also notice their english names of Callowan characters, their legend about the sword in stone, and their ancient rulers being the Alban dynasty.

          -Daoine is inspired by Irland. The country name comes from the irish word that means “people”. You can notice their names are celtic/irish names.

          -The Dread Empire of Praes is inspired by Africa. Their three ethnicities being: the dark-skinned Soninke representing native africans, the tanned sand-colored Taghreb representing something similar to Arabs, and the white-skinned Duni (Amadeus is one of these) that are descendants of foreigners that settled in norther Praes. Mthawe is their most spoken language but the Taghreb have another language too.
          Their capital Ater, seems to me like the latin word Attero which means something like “wasteful” but has many other meanings. It was said that the name comes from a Miezan word.

          -The Miezan Empire is roughly similar to the Roman Empire, having conquered many lands and slaved Praes. They came from beyond the Tyrian Sea, and are the ones who elevated mathematics in Calernia and advanced spellcraft, built marvels of engineering and heavily influenced many of the cultures there. They were fought back and repelled after centuries of occupation, and are the reason all ethnicities in Praes (including Orcs, Goblins and Ogres) hate slavery.

          -The Principate of Procer is inspired by Europe. We have seen they have 3 different ethnicities: Lycaonese (who are the northern badass who always dedicate themselves to fight against the Rattlings and the Dead King), the Alamans (which live in central Procer) and the Arlesite (which live in the south). We have seen that Procer, being such a huge agglomeration of people and having different cultures joined in one, has different languages but the most famous is Chantant which is their equivalent to french.

          -The Dominion of Levant has the Majilis as their ruling council, which is an Arabic term, though the similarities mostly end there, given as their culture and social laws are vastly different than those of Islamic countries to my knowledge (which is, in all fairness, limited, so if someone can add something here please do so).

          -The League of Free Cities consists of an alliance of city-states that have greek names, but it’s worth noticing that even though they have many similitudes to the Greek Polis, none of them can be an exact match to any real-life city-state of ancient times.
          For example: one of them, Atalante, resembles Athens in their love for debates and exercises of rethoric, while the only one with Democracy is Bellerophon. Stygia practices slavery and trains their slave-soldiers to fight in Phalanxes, while the ones who seem to have a more spartan regime and war-like mentality are those from Helike.

          -The culture of Sephirah, whose capital was Keter, the city of the Dead King Neshamah, is based on Israel, with people names being Jewish names and the places being named after Cabalistic terms.

          This is all without mentioning the magical races in Calernia and the grand nations beyond the Tyrian Sea (the Wandering Bard stated that the Elves’ domain is bigger than the entirety of that continent). It’s a really vast and fascinating world EE has created in Practical Guide to Evil.

          Liked by 2 people

        3. Britain being difficult to invade is really only a relatively modern thing.
          More specifically, it really only coincides with England becoming a naval power. And that’s only been the case for a few hundred years.

          In fact, for most of the Dark Ages and well into the medieval period, Britain was regularly being raided, invaded, and subsequently settled by the invaders.
          Every wonder where the term Anglo-Saxon came from? Two different groups that invaded and settled in Britain – the Angles and the Saxons … IIRC, both have Germanic (or proto-germanic) roots.
          Then there’s the Vikings/Norse (several waves, really), and before them the Romans, and after them, the root cause of the Hundred Years War – the Duke of Normandy, aka William the Conqueror, French, albeit of Norse descent (the Norse moor or less claimed/extorted Normandy from the French Crown, hence the name). And before the Romans you had the Celts replacing the Picts.
          There’s a reason the English language is such a mess – it’s in part because Britain was the punching bag of Europe for centuries. And everybody brought their own language to the party, and bits and pieces from each one got amalgamated into common use and thus the common tongue.

          Liked by 3 people

        4. Callow is Britain because their names are British, their language – Lower Miezan – is just English, and their cooking is known to be inedible.

          Oh, and appearance.

          HRE included France’s territory, didn’t it? Procer has three languages: the Lycaonese one that’s just German, Chantant that’s just French, and Tolesian which is probably Italian. Or Spanish.

          The country parallels aren’t completely literal.

          Liked by 1 person

    2. caoimhinh

      I remember in the early chapters Catherine justified it by saying that spices were rare in Callow, due to their high prices and the state of the country as a conquered province of Praes.
      Later on, she was made fun of by the members of the 15th because she lacks cooking skills, thus living to the stereotype, which she justified by saying that she was not the housekeeping type of person.
      Further later on, she mentioned that indeed the cuisine was better in Praes, but she missed some of the snacks from Callow, and managed to get a small victory because Masego and others were really hung on Callowan pies and tarts.

      Liked by 7 people

      1. Shveiran

        To be fair, I could unrepentantly kill for some good fudge. I tried it like twice, and the months since have been oppressed by the weight of their absence.

        Liked by 3 people

  10. Someguy

    TBH, the political outcome of this is not Rozala’s problem. She hates Cordelia, she can kick this upstairs for it to be Cordelia’s headache. Rozala has already fulfilled her tasks to both letter and spirit.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Rozala cares about the country and about the eventual outcome. Her and Cordelia are genuinely full on 100% striving for the same outcome allies here, no matter how much Rozala hates that fact.

      Liked by 6 people

    1. caoimhinh

      Pilgrim: Hello. What’s going on?
      Levantines: He’s alive! How is this possible?
      Rozala: We saw the Pilgrim die!
      Catherine: What? How!?
      Hakram: Dream visions, started a couple hours ago, showed your journey, not complete.
      Catherine: Urgh, stupid Angels, almost caused another war. Even though they promised. Typical…
      *grumbles into the distance*

      Liked by 3 people

  11. This whole world changing thing makes me think I might have been right. Something had to have visibly and obviously changed, something other than the Pilgrim just actually not being dead.

    So..The Pilgrim did keep the Twilight Crown and is now Fae levels of sexy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Shveiran

      Not necessarily. I mean, Cat bringing back the Peregrine from the dead, walking by his side before the Blood? Levant will not stand for considering her an enemy.

      That is the precedent Cat has been after… and not because it DOESN’T change things 😉

      Liked by 7 people

  12. Predictions for A Practical Guide To Evil:

    Robber:
    Robber will survive the story (obviously), and win the hand of the fair Pickler, fairest of all Goblin maidens, in marriage…by the simple expedient of stabbing the Dead King repeatedly, then setting him on fire, and then using copious amounts of goblin munitions to blow the corpse to pieces, and then stealing his heart and running like hell before the lich can pull himself back together. He may have allowed some of the rest of the cast to help him with this, just to make them feel useful, because his legendary magnanimity is really his greatest trait, it really is. Either way, it is more than sufficient dowry to allow a nobody like him to wed the fair Pickler, and, hell, father as many children as he physically can, because, fuck, man, what goblin Matron wouldn’t want to have the kids of the goblin who stole the Dead King’s heart in her tribe. Within five hundred years, one out of every three goblins in the world will be a direct descendant of Robber.
    As time goes on, it will become obvious that the name of Robber has become not just a name, but a Name, and the only one that the goblins possess that is not immediately erased because the surface dwellers found out about it. Among the court in Laure, the title of Lesser Lesser Footrest will continue, and will become the official designation for the person who has been named as second in command of the Kingdom’s spy ring, and the one who is primarily responsible for managing the Court’s covert operations. Despite the rumors to the contrary, this position is not always held by a goblin, and there have been many very famous agents of the Crown who have gone on to become Lesser Lesser Footrest despite being sadly un-goblinoid, but there do seem to be an awful lot of goblins in that position, don’t there?
    Eventually, things will come full circle, and the latest holder of the Name of Robber will become the Lesser Lesser Footrest once again, just in time to almost single-handedly save the Calernia from the Dead King’s eventual resurgence. He might, graciously, allow a few other Names to play a minor part in assisting him in this task, because every goblin Named Robber is really a prince at heart, and full of grace and generosity, but let’s face it, when you need to absolutely murderize everybody in the room, goblins just really don’t have any equals.

    Pickler: Pickler will eventually marry Robber, because, damn, that’s a really impressive marriage gift, and, let’s face it, where else is a girl going to find a man who’s willing to give her a collection of eyeballs that nice? Especially one who’s willing to give up his entire collection of eyeballs, which may or may not require several wagons to cart around, and display properly, but we’re not admitting to anything, because the quartermaster still owes her a favor or twenty. She and Robber eventually settle down in the hills of South March, where they become some of the most famous goblins alive, and found the goblins’ next big center of population.
    As she grows older, Pickler will continue to develop more and more advanced and innovative siege engines, with the end result that these machines will come to be called Pickler engines by most of the surface dwellers of Calernia, although, as always, the military will continue to stiffly insist on their formal nomenclature, even thousands of years after everybody else has just given up and started calling them by their real name. Pickler will eventually be paid an outrageous amount of money by the Kingdom Under to knock it off, already, because this kind of arms race is getting expensive, dammit, and will retire to a life of ease, comfort, and relatively little scheming, where she can concentrate on things like building bridges, fortresses, and figuring out new and innovative ways to destroy those same fortresses without designing new siege engines to do the job, because, really, a girl’s got to have a hobby.

    Catherine Foundling:
    Dread Empress of Calernia. Sort of whether she wants to be or not, at this point. Eventually, after four or five decades of rule, she decides that Calernia is stable enough for her to step down, and hands off rule of the continent to her chosen successor, while she retires to become a hermit, a scholar, a sage, and a teacher.

    Hakram Deadhand:
    He’s still with Catherine come the sequel, but now he has two prosthetic hands. The inhabitants of the village where they live have just learned to ignore this little quirk.

    Amadeus of the Green Stretch:
    Amadeus will be sent as the single reinforcement for the Lycaonese provinces, because, really, certain things have to be done in a very particular order if they’re going to defeat the Dead King for reals, and giving Amadeus actual backup would not just be overkill, it would actively distort the timetable they need to accomplish. I mean, yeah, sure, the man has lost the Name of Black Knight, but let’s face it—all that means is that he isn’t destined to lose, and doesn’t have to throw Fate a bone any longer.
    After the Uncivil Wars, he will retire to Refuge to live the rest of his days out with Hye. A hundred and fifty years later, his two oldest children will be kidnapped by slavers from Mercantis, and sold as slaves to across the Tyrian Sea. By the time Hye and Amadeus track down the slavers, retrace the route of the slaves, find a ship to get them across the Sea, and then finally catch up with their offspring, the two of them will have singlehandedly reversed the collapse of the Miezan Empire, and the new Infernal Miezan Empire will have restored order to the lands surrounding Styrbolgis Minor, and will conquer most of the continent on which the city of Miez was first built in the name of Catherine Foundling and the Holy Light. Oh yeah, and the Heavens probably feature in there somewhere, too. Ironically, this new Empire will not include the city of Miez. Hye will think that every aspect of this entire situation is completely and utterly hilarious, and she will tease Amadeus mercilessly about it for forever.
    Nobody knows why Amadeus seems to continue to display Villainous traits, despite no longer being a Villain, but the smart money is on him somehow blackmailing the Gods, or possibly having somehow stolen the angel’s corpse out of the lake by Sallia.

    Traitorous:
    I am reasonably certain that Traitorous is, in fact, not dead, since I have seen no indication that the Praesi Highborn of the time elected to conduct a sufficiently exhaustive battery of tests upon his supposed corpse to settle the matter once and for all. I also find it very suspicious that a Dread Emperor could be undone by something as mundane as simple poison, especially since Names are supposed to be able to shrug off most poisons, and, more, that an Imperial Concubine would have sufficiently unfettered access to allow her to obtain said poison without anybody being aware of it. There is a strong possibility that Ime is actually Traitorous in disguise, and that the two of them will run away together to join in unholy wedlock after Catherine comes knocking.

    Where is he now? What is he doing? Why is he doing it? What does he REALLY want? And can we definitively prove that the entire series is not the end result of one of Traitorous’s plots, or that Traitorous has not lied to the author, and/or has not had Erratic Errata assassinated and replaced by a shapeshifting devil that has been specifically trained to be able to act as Erratic Errata’s body double? There is no real way to know the answer to these questions.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. >Names are supposed to be able to shrug off most poisons, and, more, that an Imperial Concubine would have sufficiently unfettered access to allow her to obtain said poison

      Holy shit.

      Named being un-poison-able might or might not be an actual plot hole wrt Alaya and Nefarious.

      Then again, apparently the ‘burning out poison’ trick needs to be used consciously, and if he didn’t realize he was poisoned it wouldn’t work.

      And Assassin tried to poison Hanno’s band, so the simplest answer is Praes has anti-Named poison.

      Never mind, we’re good.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Shveiran

        Nasty Praesi tricks.

        Erasing Plot-holes ever since the Secret Wars.

        Ask not how big a mess your nasty Praesi trick will make, but rather what new, exiting, nasty Praesi trick you’ll get to use to “clean it up”.

        Nasty Praesi tricks: a self-growth industry.

        Because remember: if it is nasty, it could be nastier.

        Nasty Presi tricks: coming now to you through Mercantis. Get them now before the Black Queen crucifies all provviders.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. caoimhinh

        Yeah, there are poisons that are too fast for Named to burn out of their systems, and also Alchemical/Magical poisons that can kill them.
        They can actually be killed with anything if it’s used appropriately, arrows usually don’t work on Named, yet Amadeus used arrows to kill the Commander decades ago. Curses, spells and rituals can kill a Named, but Named can also fight it back if they are strong enough or aware of it, for example, Black slapped aside one of Wekesa’s little spells that he was using to troll him in one of the Villainous Interludes, while Catherine and Ranger can cut through sorcery.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. caoimhinh

      I would just like to point out that the Dread Emperor that Imperial Concubine Alaya killed was Nefarious.

      Traitorous has been dead for many decades, if not centuries, and he poisoned himself but framed 17 different rivals for his death, causing political turmoil, speculation and fierce competition among the claimants of the throne.
      “Just as planned” is written on his tomb.

      Liked by 1 person

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