Chapter 52: Recovery

“Negotiation with your ruler, my lord, is like treading the edge of a hidden pit filled with man-eating tapirs. Unrelated, but before we further discuss taxation would you take a single step to the left?”
– Dread Empress Atrocious

Dawn broke through the night sky, revealing bared steel.

That, I considered, was a lot of swords. Shame about the way the people wielding those seemed inclined to point them in my direction. Princess Rozala, who was here for some reason, immediately began shouting for the pack of Levantine warriors surrounding us to sheathe their blades, which went largely ignored. Almost like some Proceran princess screaming out orders at people her ancestors had invaded hadn’t gone over well with this particular crowd. Who’d have thought? Hakram, who was there because he was a prince among men, strode forward ignoring all the shouting and the foreign priests looking like someone had kicked over their anthill. After going through his cloak pockets he produced a nice little wooden pipe and stuffed it with wakeleaf, at my unspoken invitation putting it up against my lip and scratching out a match to light it. A few puffing breaths later I breathed in the smoke, breathed it out and let out a pleased moan before facing the angry shouting crowd.

“Right,” I got out around the pipe’s lip, “you all seem to be very concerned about something and I don’t want to, uh, diminish that. But I also don’t speak Lunara, so we’re at a bit of an impasse.”

“That was mostly Ceseo, in truth,” the Grey Pilgrim rasped out.

His speaking triggered another round of shouting while I pondered the complexities of smoking a pipe without having a free hand for it. I had one holding up Tariq’s doddering frame, slipped under his shoulder to let him stand, while the other was busy keeping me up by leaning on my staff. Our journey here through Twilight Throneless had been somewhat less than graceful, though I’d been rather amused by the fact that the first set of stairs we’d encountered on our way out of Liesse had probably come closer to killing either of us that night than Kairos.

“Figured they’d be a little happier to see you, Tariq, I’m not gonna lie,” I mused. “Would you care to translate?”

The old man cocked his head to the side.

“To put it delicately,” the Peregrine said, “questions are being raised as to the authenticity of my person.”

“Oh?” I mouthed back, grinning nastily around my pipe. “Did someone call you an undead abomination yet? That’s always been one my favourites.”

“You’re enjoying this a great deal more than you should,” the Grey Pilgrim muttered.

“Someone else being called that?” I murmured. “Never. That would be highly petty of me, after all.”

A heartbeat passed.

“Maybe they’ll name you Arch-heretic of the West,” I suggested. “Wouldn’t that be something?”

I wasn’t sure whether what shook him was a cough of a snort, but it ripped through his frame suddenly enough it very much did become a cough. My use of his resurrection trick was apparently a little rough around the edges compared to his personal touch, and he’d not been a young man to begin with. And if that hadn’t been enough, I still remembered what it’d felt like having an aspect cut out of me. Tariq had been dead when I’d ripped Forgive out of his corpse, so he’d been spared the inhuman pain I’d felt when Masego carved Seek out of my soul, but losing a third of your Name was nothing something to be shrugged off.  Especially when you’d had your aspects as long as the Grey Pilgrim had. A quartet of Levantines seemed to be getting deferred to by even the Lanterns, who were visibly itching to have a go at Tariq and I, and one’s familiar face told me why: Razin Tanja was among them, which meant they were Blood. I waved at him from the Pilgrim’s side, wiggling my hand against the old man’s flank, but my treasured acquaintance seemed rather offended by the act. Fancy that, I drily thought. I’d always got on so well with Levantines.

“Queen Catherine, please,” Princess Rozala shouted in Lower Miezan. “At least answer the accusations-”

“My return was wrought,” the Grey Pilgrim said, weak voice firming, “under the auspices of the Ophanim.”

“Forgiveness, Peregrine,” a towering muscle slab of a man said, “yet if the corpse of the Grey Pilgrim were to be so defiled, it would speak as you do. Truth must be ascertained.”

I glanced at Hakram, who’d fallen it at my side and was nonchalantly ignoring the way the few hundred warriors surrounding us had yet to put down their swords or even lapse in their general glowering. I drew on the pipe, letting the wakeleaf sink down my throat and into by lungs before breathing it out through my nose. It burned a tad – I usually blew it out – but not unpleasantly.

“So,” I drawled. “I don’t suppose you’ve got a flask of Vale summer wine stashed away in that cloak?”

“I could only get my hands on Dormer pale,” Adjutant apologetically said.

My lips twitched.

“See, now I know that’s a lie,” I replied.

“This is going to be a hand joke, isn’t it,” he sighed, sounding resigned.

“If I say yes,” I murmured, “are you going to lose it?”

I shamelessly chortled at my own joke and regretted it not a bit. His jaw muscles twitched in what was either suppressed amusement or the sudden urge to bite off my face, and not metaphorically speaking.

“Your Majesty, would you start taking this seriously?” Princess Rozala hissed. “This could easily devolve into a battle. Already forces are gathering, all bloody chaos requires is a spark.”

I glanced at her, brow rising, then looked at Hakam.

“It’s looking like Hasenbach’s riding her hard to keep you alive and happy,” he told me in Kharsum.

“She must just love that,” I replied in the same.

Not even the harsh syllables of the main orc dialect entirely managed to hide my petty glee at the revelation, from the looks I got. I sighed and began helping Tariq off of me.

“Need my stick, old bones?” I asked. “I’ll let you borrow it if you promise to give it back.”

“I’ll stand, thank you,” the Grey Pilgrim sighed. “I will have to grow used to having broken mine.”

I cast a look at the middle-aged warrior who’d very politely just told Tariq they were going to have to check if he was my dead corpse-puppet, mentally going through what I knew of Levantine commanders in Iserre. That was Yannu Marave, probably, though I couldn’t be sure from his face-paint as I could not remember the colours of the Champion’s Blood at the moment.

“Lord Marave, is it?” I probed.

“It is so, Black Queen,” he calmly replied.

“Word of advice,” I said. “When you have your priestlings poke at the Peregrine, tell them to be gentle.”

“Truth must be ascertained,” he replied, eyes tightening.

“Sure,” I said. “But if they get too rough, after tonight I’m guessing the Ophanim might end up ascertaining them all over the ground. I mean, it’s not my hill so I’ve no horse in this race, but think of the poor Proceran peasant who’ll end up stuck cleaning that up.”

I bet Alamans princes didn’t even tip, too, they seemed like the type.

“We will see,” Lord Marave said.

I had a free hand, now that Tariq was standing on his own, so I used it for the very important task of having another pull of my pipe and spewing out the smoke into the crisp winter morning air. Then, resting my staff against my chest, I extended an open palm towards Hakram and saw it filled with a nice little silver flask. Had to unscrew the cap, but a sniff told me it really was Dormer pale inside. I’d be damned, hadn’t thought any Callowan drink would make it this far out. The surprise brought back sharp remembrance of Ratface, whose days as a quartermaster had seen him taken as some sort of contraband magician, and the ache of my dead friend’s absence was a lingering pang. I smoothed it away from my face, pulling at the wine. A pair of Lanterns were not helping the Pilgrim stand, gently but firmly inspecting him.

“I’m guessing, Lord Yannu,” I said, “that you want me to stick around until that little charade there is over with.”

“I accept your kind offer, Black Queen,” the Lord of Alava said.

Someone was letting the inch I’d given them go to their head, looked like.

“Put words in my mouth again, Marave, and that’ll be the last time you have a tongue,” I casually replied, with a nice friendly smile.

The warriors around us didn’t like that, or at least not my tone. I wasn’t clear on how many of them spoke Lower Miezan. The other three of the Blood – the older woman had to be the Lady of Vaccei, who I remembered had grown children, while by elimination the last was the Lady of Tartessos – didn’t either, though none spoke out to take me to task over the threat. Almost like they were realizing they were trying to keep the Queen of Callow prisoner, breaking truce in the process. I allowed myself a single appreciative glance at the Lady of Tartessos, whose bronze and green paint paired with a rather tight leather vest made for an attractively unusual look. Truthfully if Lord Yannu had been twenty years longer he might have been the one to draw a second look but as it was he was both at least twice my age and getting on my nerves.

“No offence was meant,” the Levantine lord said.

He didn’t sound all that apologetic, which made sense as I’d yet to hear an apology.

“Now, for the sake of diplomacy I’ll tolerate this,” I said. “But I’d like the lot of you to consider the amount of insults you’ve been laying at my feet this morn, after the trouble I went through to save your ungrateful hides.”

“You claim debt, Black Queen?” the Lady of Vaccei asked.

“I claim slights,” I idly replied. “Three now and your tab’s still open. Best start thinking now of how restitution will be offered for them.”

I was willing to make peace with these people, to make alliances and sign treaties and fight by their side. But I would not allow that willingness to be confused even a moment for fragility. If they offered insults, they’d pay up for them – or else. I had no intention to allow either myself or Callow to be made the rented mule of the Grand Alliance in the war to come. Grace would be answered with grace, but disrespect with the same thing as well. The talk of restitution went over about as well one would expect when spoken by a villain, but in those haughty faces I saw something like abashment as well. No one who spent as much time going around talking about honour as the Dominion’s highborn did could be unaware that they were pushing me far enough a less temperate woman might have chosen violence as answer. Oh Gods, I thought, pulling at my pipe. You knew a manner of thinking was awful skewed when I could be counted as temperate by it. One of the Lanterns, speaking rhythmic prayers in what might still have been Ceseo for all I knew, brought forth a long spike of Light. She touched it to the Pilgrim’s skin, near the wrist, and that was then the Choir of Mercy took offence.

Well, I’d warned them. The rest was on their heads.

There was a ripple of power by now familiar to me, a taste of flame and smoke and the beat of wings, and before it could draw blood the Light winked out. The Lantern fell to her knees, stunned, and began babbling in one of the Levantine tongues. I glanced at Hakram, pulling at my pipe, but the orc shrugged. He had no idea either then. I turned to Princess Rozala, realizing only then she’d been bearing a truce banner this entire time. Gods, I was more out of it than I’d thought. I almost asked why she’d been made flag-bearer, but to be honest the true reason might not be as amusing as what my imagination was providing so it’d be a shame to break the illusion so soon.

“I don’t suppose, Your Grace, that you speak… that,” I said, somewhat vaguely.

“Still Ceseo,” Princess Rozala said. “They use it for formal conversations even in northern Levant. I’m not fluent, but she seems to be saying she has lost the ‘grace’.”

I cocked my head to the side.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” I said.

“Again,” Hakram helpfully contributed.

I would have gestured obscenely at him, were my hands not full. Truly, my Adjutant’s wiles were without match.

“They stripped her of the right to use the Light, then,” I whistled. “That’s as clear a verdict as you’ll get.”

I was not, apparently, the only one to think so. It was only Yannu Marave, at first, but within moments a handful of warriors followed suit and from there on it was like levees breaking: before the bone-tired Grey Pilgrim the men and women of Levant knelt. I could feel the tiredness withdrawing from my wary bones, though it must be illusion. I’d been at the end of my rope hours ago, by now I was dangling in the void. I sniffed at the flask in my hand once more.

“Hakram, is there anything aside from wine in there?” I asked.

“A Praesi alchemical tonic,” he admitted.

My brow rose.

“Didn’t think to mention that before I drank it?” I said.

“You have been awake for nearly twenty hours, Catherine,” he said. “And few of them restful.”

“Potions are always hollow strength,” I grunted.

I didn’t further mention it, though, for cheat or not the tonic’s effect was pushing back the moment where I’d collapse in my bed for three days by a few hours yet. Might be I wouldn’t need that long before I crawled under a set of warm covers but I might as well be fully awake for the time it did end up taking. I took another sip from the flask. It might just be the lack of sleep talking, but the wine might actually taste better with the tonic in it. It took the edge of the sweetness of – oh Gods, I’d been spending too much time with Akua lately if I’d seriously been thinking about that. Next thing you knew I’d be talking about what poisons paired well with an Aksum sour, and what kind of a dress you should wear when crushing your enemies underfoot. Probably something red, I mused, depending on how literal the crushing was. The winding turns of my life had made me rather depressingly familiar with how difficult blood could be to get out of clothes. I forced myself to pay attention to what the Pilgrim and the Levantines were doing, which from the look on Malanza’s face must be rather impressive.

Well, they did make a pretty painting. I’d at least concede that much. Tariq, weary and bloodstained and victorious, surrounding by a ring of kneeling warriors in steel and paint as the sun rose above them all. Unfortunately, pretty as this all was I was beginning to lose patience with it. If the Dominion wanted to get all ceremonial about the Peregrine returning to them all the better, but they could go about it without my attendance. It was also rather ungainly that myself, Hakram and a Proceran princess were the only people on this hill not kneeling to the Pilgrim. Didn’t particularly make me want to take a knee to good ol’ Tariq, mind you, but we stood out a mite. Adjutant looked askance at me, but I shook my head. Hakram Deadhand had no need to kneel to me, so why should he kneel to anyone at all? The Grey Pilgrim addressed his countrymen in one of their languages, sounding as if he was admonishing them, but even then they all stubbornly remained kneeling save for the four of the Blood. I was occupied wondering whether it would be rude to, well, leave after I’d finished smoking my pipe when the four aristocrats were calmly addressed by the Pilgrim and turned to us.

“We are told this was wrought by your hand, Black Queen,” Lord Yannu Marave gravely said.

“Mercy allowed it, as the Peregrine said,” I honestly replied. “And it was not without price for all involved.”

Least costly to me, who’d merely tossed away the chance in the future that one dear to me could be stolen back from death, but it’d been a price still. Chances like that one came only once, when Creation’s writ conspired to deliver them into your hand, and spurning what had been offered would ensure there was no repetition.

“Honour was given,” the Lady of Tartessos said.

“Honour was given to all Levant,” the Lady of Vaccei said. “This we agree.”

“And so honour must be returned in kind,” Razin Tanja gravely said.

So, I idly wondered, what kind of a largely ceremonial gesture would be made. Would concession be made, a declaration that I was not truly Arch-heretic of the East? No, I decided, not that. It’d been a conclave of several priesthoods that named me that, even if they were influential enough to force the Lanterns to agree it wouldn’t be enough. Amusedly, I wondered if I was about to be made some manner of Blood. Not one of their own, of course, but recognized as some Callowan equivalent. I did remember that for all that their five great lines held the power and influence, other Named were granted some privileges as well. As far as Levant was concerned, being Named was being nobility. Catherine Foundling of the Squire’s Blood, I thought. Well, it’d been a long year. I could use the laugh, even if diplomacy dictated it must be had behind closed doors where these touchy nobles could not hear it.

“The Champion’s Blood endorses Callow’s petition to join the Grand Alliance,” Lord Yannu Marave said. “In my name, I speak this, as the Lord of Alava.”

“The Brigand’s Blood endorses Callow’s petition to join the Grand Alliance,” Lady Itima Ifriqui said. “In my name, I speak this, as the Lady of Vaccei.”

“The Slayer’s Blood endorses Callow’s petition to join the Grand Alliance,” Lady Aquiline Osena said. “In my name, I speak this, as the Lady of Tartessos.”

“The Binder’s Blood endorses Callow’s petition to join the Grand Alliance,” Razin Tanja said. “In the name of myself and my kin, I speak this, as the heir to Malaga.”

They were, I understood after a moment of silent disbelief, deadly serious. Because for them this wasn’t about treaties and interest and Calernia’s balance of power – it was, old-fashioned as the thought was, about honour. What had moved their tongues was the same thing that’d been the source of indignation that’d seen Captain Elvera chastise me even as my prisoner for daring to suggest she might go back on her word when released. What lay at the heart of Praesi and Procerans I could understand, for it was not so different for all the posturing and castigations that both so freely threw. This, though? I would call it some sentimental ardour coming through in a moment of weight, but I was coming to grasp that was a mistaken understanding. This was good as law to them, wasn’t it? Returning boon to even those they believed to be in Below’s grasp, when boon was given. Honour, the way they spoke of it, was not something I could understand. It might be one needed to be born in their lands, to grasp it as they did. But my own people knew of debts, of scores settled, and perhaps those were not tenets so estranged as I might once have believed.

“I will not speak for the Pilgrim’s Blood,” Tariq said. “Now or ever. Yet I will speak of this to the Holy Seljun, Queen Catherine. And I swear now that the Majilis will speak as one, endorsing the petition of the Kingdom of Callow.”

233 thoughts on “Chapter 52: Recovery

  1. ruduen

    Well, that’s quite an endorsement. Given how it was in the realm possibility for Cordelia to originally accept, I don’t think she’ll need more prodding here. So, who still needs to be convinced?

    Or will minds have changed by now?

    Liked by 8 people

    1. talenel

      Well there are the priests. Say what you will, but I don’t think they’ll be backing down from their pissing contest with the Callowan House of Light.

      Liked by 9 people

      1. Considering the Grey Pilgrim and the backing of a Choir, I think they’ll find themselves quite impotent in this matter. Oh there might be some pushing and shoving, but somehow I don’t imagine it being an actual obstacle.

        Liked by 7 people

        1. Also the testimony of that importunate priest and those who witnessed his punishment. If Cat saw “a ripple of power by now familiar to me, a taste of flame and smoke and the beat of wings,” you can bet the priest’s fellows (and perhaps the soldiers) saw at least as much.

          Liked by 5 people

          1. geoffpburns

            Cat now has 4 out of 5 Majilis in her corner. The 5th one, the Holy Saljun might be more difficult. What you wanta bet he broke out the sparkling wine when he heard Tariq was dead? He might not be happy Tariq is still alive or grateful to Cat for making it happen. He has spent his life overshadowed by Tariq and under his thumb. The Holy Saljun is supposed to be the spirit leader of the Levant and first among equals of the Majilis but the Majilis and the population as a whole regard Tariq as the real leader. When Tariq speaks he may think he giving a suggestion but the Saljun maybe hearing “do it my way or what happened to your predecessor could happen you” even when Tariq is not leaning on him, and he probably does lean on him every now and again.

            Liked by 1 person

        2. talenel

          The Lanterns maybe. But the Proceran House of Light I think will be much more intransigent. Especially because there are a few choirs who have yet to get involved who I think will want to throw their weight around

          Liked by 3 people

      2. Someguy

        The Lanterns will have to shut their mouths no matter how much is sticks to their throats.

        The Procerans will whine like unhousebroken puppies and the Ashurans will have to pray Zeze does not recover or else….

        Liked by 3 people

        1. C_B

          I don’t really expect Masego to seek vengeance on Ashur. Wekesa took care of those directly involved pretty…thoroughly, and Masego doesn’t really seem to think in terms of nations in a way that would lead to him taking revenge on Ashur as a whole.

          Now, whatever Above-aligned power was behind the “masked and hallowed presence”? THEY should be worried.

          Liked by 9 people

    2. IDKWhoitis

      Only Ashur remains to be convinced really, but they will swing whichever way Prócer does, since they are almost under occupation by the League. Either they need Prócer to save them, or Ashur is removed from the power equation anyways.

      The actual trouble would be the House of Light, as they would need to essentially be biting their own tongue. It’s theological suicide for the Proceran House of Light to recant their edicts regarding Arch Heresy and their whole theological support of this crusade.

      So the House of Light can’t exactly state their support, and they can’t actually support Cat, but they are currently stuck in a no win situation.

      Cordelia has little reason to continue this war, and has a whole lot more power than a first prince ought to have. If she were to declare Callow an ally, in the face of the Enemy, Prócer at large might just have to bend to her will. As any rebellion would be stamped out with either Callowan, Lev, or Loyalists forces. This would be a cruel mirror to Prócers actions in the previous crusade. Cat is literally endorsed by Half of the Grand Alliance that matters and Angels. And this is to be considered after Cordelia already folded on calling Cat Queen OF Callow.

      Liked by 13 people

        1. I thunk the Houses in a few places are going to get prodded, now that they have a fully demonstrated choke chain.

          After all, it’s hard to call just anybody a heratic if there’s suddenly a risk of losing the mojo that proves you’re not one yourself.

          Liked by 4 people

            1. And yet it didn’t catch “heratic”, oy gevalt. (Free Dictionary confirms it’s not a different word.)

              “Thunk” is puckish when substituting for “thought”, but it’s also a casual but valid action verb of its own, not to mention onomatopoetic (and relatedly, a sound effect).

              Liked by 2 people

            2. Andrew Mitchell

              > autocarrot

              Where can I get one?!? 🙂 🙂 🙂

              P.S. “Thunk” is an outdated but valid past tense of think. Actually, now that I google it. It’s also an alternative to “Thud”.

              Liked by 3 people

      1. Decius

        It’s pretty simple: Declare her Redeemed by her actions. There’s no point in declaring someone a heretic unless there’s something they can do to stop being one.

        Liked by 10 people

        1. They can actually still manage to spin it in their favor as clearly Catherine’s effort to offer aid in their hour of need was her effort to redeem herself from her terrible previous actions, brought about by their chastisement!

          They’ll just, uh, want to wait until Catherine’s out of earshot for this one.

          Liked by 6 people

            1. See that’s a valid counterargument but whoever brings it up is clearly an enemy of the House of Light and heretic denying the obvious miracle brought about by the Choir of Mercy and everything

              Liked by 3 people

            2. stevenneiman

              Technically she’s not a villain, but somehow I don’t think they consider “priestess of the drow gods and wielder of a perverse mockery of the light” much better.

              Liked by 6 people

                1. ICSM

                  You see, I agree with you. Then again I’m not a moral absolutist nor a fanatical zealot bent on declaring people who disagree with me as Arch-Heretics. Or even lower-case heretics, for that matter.

                  Liked by 3 people

      2. talenel

        People keep thinking that with the power of one choir (which honestly is narratively diminished due to the weakening of their champion), the other choirs won’t get involved. I think that the Ophanim who have had a heavy role in the story thus far, will be receiving a lot of pushback from the other choirs. Remember 1 Choir does not equal all of the Angels. In fact we know that often angels are diametrically opposed.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. talenel

            Hanno has been only tangential to Cat’s story though. He has really only clashed with Black thus far. And the Lone Swordsman has been gone for 3 books. Plus there are 4 other Choirs sitting around plotting. So yeah, 4-5 choirs that Cat has’t really interacted with.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Big Brother

              Cat Pimp-slapped the Choir of Fortitude out of the Stalwart Paladin, didn’t she? Back when she was having to deal with Hero bands slipping into Callow to try killing her?

              Liked by 3 people

            2. thr0away07

              There are likely somewhere between 8 and 10 choirs, as all of the names of the choirs presented thus far (that I’m aware of: Orphanim, Hashmallim, and Seraphim) are drawn from Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, in which there are 10 classifications of angels. It’s possibly either the Chayot Ha Kodash “holy living ones”, who are the highest ranking angels, or the Ishim / Eshim “individuals / sparks”, who are the lowest ranking angels, could be weird and not choirs as they’ve been presented. The Chayot Ha Kodath are seen as throne bearers for G-d and are typically responsible for keeping balance, while the mythology of the Ishim / Eshim being the closest to humankind could mean they’re meant to be the Good-aligned Named.

              Like

              1. talenel

                Fair enough, I picked 7 rather arbitrarily. It just felt like a suitably momentous number. But I do feel that some of the other Choirs are going to have a much larger role in the proceeding chapters.

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          1. talenel

            I could of sworn there was at least one chapter that mentioned Choirs of Angels/heroes basically fighting against each other. I could be wrong though.

            Like

            1. WoG is that while heroes might occasionally come to blows, particularly over methods / acceptable sacrifices / lesser evil, deaths are exceedingly rare even then (not counting straight up fallen heroes needing to be put down, like Laurence’s reminiscence about Drake Knight).

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              1. talenel

                Gotcha. The chapter I was reading was a lot more ambiguous than that, so it’s most likely true.

                Then again, right now things are really coming apart at the seams. Things are really coming to a head. For example Pilgrim vs Saint just previously. So it wouldn’t surprise me if the conflict between choirs/heroes becomes a bit more nasty.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. Pilgrim vs Saint imho fits the bill there very well as a Regular Extreme. Note that the only reason Saint died was because of Kairos helpfully shoving sticks in wheels, and even then everyone felt so shitty about her death they had a literal argument about who gets to die.
                  (And I’m seeing that beautiful Stupidest Argument as at least partially very much coming from guilt/grief)

                  So like, the kind of thing that happens when stars align very much against you, and something no-one is okay with afterwards.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. talenel

                    Ah but that’s the thing. Right now the story is going into a narrative with more and more escalation. These events are quite momentous and have profound consequences for the future, especially in relation to the methods used to succeed. So I can see the stars being more inclined to align against everyone. Sort of million-to-one chances happening nine times out of ten.

                    Like

    3. geoffpburns

      Tariq gave up his crown, but is now promising to help Cat by using his power as unofficial ruler / power behind the throne of Levant. Didn’t Cat warn the 7 princes that that kind of thing would lead to disastrous unintended consequences?

      Like

    4. stevenneiman

      IIRC, Cordelia was already seriously thinking about whether it was worth the political capital it would cost to ram it down everyone’s throats, and now Cat’s just made a great contribution to the war effort against the Dead King and (inadvertently) created a situation where refusing to allow Cat entry to the Grand Alliance might see it fractured. Cordelia could probably get it through much more easily now.
      Ashur might need convinced, but on the other hand they never had too much skin in the Callow game, and they might possibly have withdrawn after Wekesa basically destroyed their entire armed forces with his last act.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Yeah, this is a gift getting dropped in Cordelia’s lap. She’s already taken over the Highest Assembly, and the rest of the Grand Alliance either blatantly wants Cat there (Levant) or doesn’t give a shit / is likely to do what they’re told (Ashur).

        It’s kind of hilarious how little it took for her to go into full “we are allying with Foundling no matter what it FUCKING takes, and keep her ALIVE please” mode ;u;

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Heh.

    The Ophanim dislike it when you use the Light to poke at their Chosen Hero.
    And Cat warned them about it. And they did it anyways.

    That could have gone better, but it could have gone a whole lot worse, too.

    And it seems that Tariq has permanently lost Forgive as an Aspect. That’s a downside, but probably better than Tariq remaining a corpse.

    I wonder what the Levantines would have done if Cat hadn’t resurrected Tariq and hadn’t bothered to drag his corpse with her.

    Liked by 16 people

    1. IDKWhoitis

      Scream and charge, probably before dying, badly. I suspect Robber can’t be that far away, and maybe a minor deployment of goblinfire to secure a retreat.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. > I suspect Robber can’t be that far away, and maybe a minor deployment of goblinfire to secure a retreat.

        Not to mention Cat herself, and if she hadn’t rezzed Pilgrim she might not have been quite so tapped out.

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    2. Dainpdf

      If Cat’s experience is any guide, his Nane should also have a shallower pool of power from which to draw.

      This adventure was quite good for Cat’s plans–by now she has essentially got both Levant and Procer on her side for the Accords–but pretty bad in terms of facing Neshamah. Saint is gone and the Pilgrim is diminished. The Knights better be good in this endgame.

      Liked by 8 people

        1. Dainpdf

          New heroes won’t be as experienced, and Lawrence’s main import was acquiring a very refined domain over decades. The Pilgrim having hundreds of stories under his belt also helped, both in terms of being an experienced and effective tactician and in terms of having strong grooves carved into creation.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. caoimhinh

            However, new Heroes are known to be customized to deal with the threat against which the rise and also develop Aspects to better fight the Enemy of their stories. That phenomenon has been observed and analyzed by plenty of characters, like Amadeus observing that Hanno’s original group was designed to counter the Woe (further strengthened by the fact that he and Hanno didn’t enter a Pattern of Three despite being Black and White Knights, which declared that the destined Black Knight was Cat, thus announcing Amadeus death -which was thankfully avoided because Fate is not written in stone-),and Catherine observing that leaving Heroes who hadn’t completely come to their 3 Aspects survive confrontations meant that they developed Aspects to overcome that situation in the future.
            It goes to the point that the formation of Bands of Five can be predicted to a certain effect as observed by one of the conversations Pilgrim and Saint had back during the Battle of the Camps.

            If(or rather when) new Heroes start to appear to fight against Keter, they will be handed the necessary tools to do so, they aren’t as experienced, sure, but teenagers defeating enemies that were out of their league is the most common thing in Calernia. And there are already quite a few that are starting to show hints of coming to a Name, like Razin and that Proceran Prince that always looks elegant no matter where he goes and was capable of riding down an undead bone dragon with his company of loyal soldiers.

            Liked by 4 people

            1. > he and Hanno didn’t enter a Pattern of Three despite being Black and White Knights, which declared that the destined Black Knight was Cat, thus announcing Amadeus death

              Amadeus didn’t exactly die, but arguably “the Black Knight” did.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. caoimhinh

                True. But what I meant was that they didn’t enter Pattern of Three because Amadeus was not the rival meant for Hanno, since that was Catherine.
                I mentioned it simply as part of the arguments supporting the theory that Heroes are semi-customized for the elimination of Villains, thanks to the more active support they receive from Above.

                By the way, Bard said that Amadeus is still a Claimant despite having lost the the Name of Black Knight, which means he can get another Name and he could also get back the Black Knight Name (with three new Aspects for the current him, in constrast to the ones he got in his youth) like Catherine did with the Squire Name.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. Pretty sure Bard was implying that Amadeus was a Claimant to the Name of Dread Emperor, or whatever the actual Name is.
                  That is, Amadeus still has a Claim on the Tower he can exert.
                  Although, since he was (effectively) the King of Callow, enforced by Cat pulling a sword from a stone and claiming herself to be his heir, he might technically have (or have had) at shot at a Callowan Ruler Name.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. caoimhinh

                    That is a possibility, yeah. But it’s more likely to be claimant to Chancellor than to Dread Emperor, since Malicia is still alive and in possession of the Name of Dread Empress. Claimants don’t appear while the Name is active, they appear to compete for it when nobody has it.

                    Like

            2. Dainpdf

              The problem is the Dead King has experience maneuvering so Bands of Five (and heroes in general) are not created to end him, at best drive him back. See Pilgrim and Saint’s coming Band being used to drive him out of Twilight–a confrontation from which he got what he wanted, by doing precisely what Black told Grem to do in the Vales: letting them win, then snatching victory out of it.

              Liked by 1 person

      1. Not really.
        1/day, on someone dead less than 24 hours (or sufficiently preserved)?
        That’s not that OP.
        Certainly not OP to the point of being in dire need of nerfing into oblivion.

        It does raise the stakes going forward, though.

        Liked by 7 people

        1. Eleron M Pfoutz

          Right. Forgive is just a fifth level Cleric spell (Raise Dead), with a much shorter duration (Your standard 9th level Cleric in D&D 3.5 would be able to resurrect within nine days.)

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Agreed.

          It could not be used for
          – making a fight have no stakes (only 1 res/day)
          – enabling someone to be reckless (only 1 res/person)
          – making what would have otherwise been a sacrifice free (likely cannot forgive that)
          – prolonging select people’s lifetime past natural (explicitly cannot resurrect from old age / sickness, nor cure it)

          Literally the only thing it provided was some cushioning.

          Liked by 5 people

            1. Shveiran

              Which is why as a DM at that level you need to build your fights so that the stakes are “TPK” or “something other than death”, because a single character’s death does not stick.

              Honestly, I don’t get this argument. Forgive WAS OP. Not “Drop-a-lake-and-stroll-through-Arcadia” OP, granted, but hugely powerful.
              Employed with a band of Named, facing deadly odds on a regular basis? It greatly reduces the cost of attrition. Half the band has to die for the band to lose ANYTHING. That is huge.
              Look back at Cat’s battles with the Heroes in book 4: she mangled a lot and killed several, and yet almost all of them came back. It makes a huge damn difference.

              it. Allows. You. To. Retcon. Named. Death.

              How can anyone say that’s not overpowered? I can think of a few Aspects that can be debatably more powerful, but then I remember that Forgive allows you to bring back the Named with those Aspects PLUS the other two that Named has.

              Liked by 3 people

              1. OP is relative to the opposition’s abilities.

                So for comparison we have ‘portals you can use to trivialize all logistics, attack an army from behind or just skip the battle and drop a lake on the other army,’ ‘see an ability once and permanently gain the ability to use a supernaturally powerful version of it at will,’ and ‘know your enemies’ secrets.’

                Actually it seems relatively weak in comparison.

                Liked by 3 people

                1. YEP.

                  Catherine’s Arcadia gates are absurdly OP. Tariq’s Forgive is so mild, every single priest could have it without the setting being radically transformed at its core.

                  (Because it does nothing for old age / sickness / slow poisons, and only gives every person one second chance)

                  Liked by 2 people

              2. >Employed with a band of Named, facing deadly odds on a regular basis? It greatly reduces the cost of attrition. Half the band has to die for the band to lose ANYTHING. That is huge.

                Once. Per. Person.

                Everyone gets one second chance. One.

                If there’s actual attrition going on, you’re just as dead with Pilgrim as without him. The same danger coming around the second time, if it again manages to claim the same life, will already be irrecoverably deadly.

                Forgive is powerful but it does not sway story currents. It adds narrative possibilities, it does not take them away. As a writer, you want to have this tool, it helps you, not hinders you.

                Liked by 4 people

                1. Faiir

                  From a reader’s perspective, if GP was going to be around, there would be no lasting danger until after the first death of a fight. Archer situation was shocking for me, but that was because I forgot she can just be rezzed. You can’t repeat it with the same effect.

                  Well even though the OP part was a bit of a joke, when comparing aspects you need to consider that the more powerful your skill, the better counter will the other side get.

                  Also note that gating time was inconsistent, and could make you appear on the other side months later, so it wasn’t really reliable if used repeatedly.

                  Liked by 2 people

                  1. >From a reader’s perspective, if GP was going to be around, there would be no lasting danger until after the first death of a fight.

                    Character death is not the only possible stakes!

                    Like, Catherine and Co aren’t fighting for their own survival. Named adventures like the one in Third Liesse are very rare in the plot, and the objective in them is generally very external. Catherine lost in Keter, even though everyone lived.

                    I honestly never perceived anyone of Woe in danger of permanently dying regardless of whether Pilgrim was around, because to me it was fairly obvious narratively they’d stick around to the end. The tension simply lies elsewhere.

                    >Archer situation was shocking for me, but that was because I forgot she can just be rezzed. You can’t repeat it with the same effect.

                    I mean, I 100% expected Indrani to die there, because it WAS the simplest + most drama value shortcut to Masego throwing off Dead King’s yoke, and Pilgrim was there for a reason.

                    And now, even if he had kept his Aspect, the next death threat is for real death threat 🙂

                    Note how the stakes were very much high during the discussion of who will be the sacrifice, both pre- and post- Laurence’s death. Because in the situations where a resurrection would be dramatically inappropriate, the rules already say it doesn’t work.

                    >Also note that gating time was inconsistent, and could make you appear on the other side months later

                    Liked by 1 person

                  2. fuck

                    >Also note that gating time was inconsistent, and could make you appear on the other side months later

                    Catherine had enough control over time passing in Arcadia that it was always, reliably a shortcut compared to going the regular way.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. No, using Arcadia as a strategic shortcut worked just fine for Cat because she (a) was a Fae Sovereign (and therefore had an innate connection to how Arcadia worked) and (b) had a deal covering her and her forces using Arcadia with the King and Queen of the Unified Fae Court.

                      She had previously had minor issues with using Arcadia as a shortcut in that she ran into enemies on her third use thereof, but that’s not an issue anymore.

                      Based on the being of book 4, when it’s the Stalwart Paladin, Gallant Bandit, and Red Sorcerer, it looks like Cat used Arcadia as a shortcut (and a tactical advantage) whenever Heroes showed up. And since she’d dropped quite a few of those …
                      Plus she exploited it several times against the Crusaders in Callow.

                      Liked by 2 people

    3. Ciopo

      Eh, I feel the loss of Forgive for the Pilgrim is kind of a power up.

      He is now a hero with 2 out of 3 aspects, he just got handed the skeleton key of heroic solution to any one future conondrum, we all know that an hero without all their aspect will develop juuuust the aspect they need to save their asses… and Pilgrim understands narrative, if the victory owned was a knife, a missing aspect is [something suitably upscaled]

      Liked by 5 people

      1. By the description, it’s more like when Masego had to cut out Seek from Cat’s first iteration of Squire.

        I’m pretty sure the implication here is that Tariq’s iteration of the Name of Grey Pilgrim is at 2 realized of 2 potential Aspects. That is, his (current) iteration of the Name of Grey Pilgrim is permanently damaged.
        Not that he suddenly has an unassigned Aspect for future use.

        Liked by 13 people

        1. Ciopo

          Oh, I agree with you, but we know above are cheating bastards 😛

          What took losing the name and regaining it might as well be shortcut to “a good night sleep” for a hero, metaphorically

          Liked by 4 people

          1. I don’t think so… in this case, I think they’re both under a common ruleset for Named, hero or villain. Pilgrim’s been brought back for a last hurrah, but it won’t involve Forgive. That said, he might have some extra mojo for a later heroic sacrifice, especially if “the situation is hopeless”.

            Liked by 5 people

            1. Shveiran

              Yeah, he is not long for this world.
              But he gets to shape the world for the better before going out in a last blaze of glory, incidentally removing an otherwise impassable obstacle.

              Liked by 3 people

            2. Insanenoodlyguy

              Agreed, If he gets a third aspect, it will be for the last act of his life. Or he gets the full power of his name + to put into one of his still held aspects, with the same consequence. Or maybe he finally lets himself stop and rest cause Cat is all about avoiding obvious story ends and he rolls with her now.

              Liked by 3 people

              1. > Or he gets the full power of his name + to put into one of his still held aspects

                Well, Behold is receptive, but Shine could go nova. Or he could directly call down the angels, probably in response to a demon.

                Liked by 3 people

      2. talenel

        I must disagree. The Ophanim just had a choice between gaining immense narrative weight due to the last sacrifice of their champion or to work with one of the Damned to save them, albeit in a lesser condition. Both the Ophanim and Pilgrim will be extremely narratively weakened. (Unfortunately, unlike another story where the Grey Pilgrim gets a power up by dying)

        While Pilgrim will be extremely useful in a political manner with the Levantines, I think he will have lost a great deal of weight in Procer and elsewhere as one of the champions of Good.

        Especially because I think some of the other Choirs are going to butt in and force the Ophanim to back off.

        Liked by 2 people

          1. werafdsaew

            Except his influence was because he was trusted; not because he was capable of ruling. People aren’t going to magically stop trusting him just because he’s no longer eligible for a crown.

            Liked by 2 people

              1. P sure it’s the other way round. They didn’t follow him because they thought he could be Seljun, they knew he could be Seljun because they were already following him. Taking away the consequence doesn’t affect the cause.

                Liked by 1 person

                  1. Not exactly.
                    His mother held that position and his older sister was the heir and trained and educated with that in mind. However, when he became Bestowed with the Name of Grey Pilgrim, their mother wanted to reorder the succession in his favor. He refused and ran away (essentially).
                    The sister ultimately succeeded their mother and was later assassinated, her son was the nephew that Tariq smothered with a pillow.

                    Tariq could become head of the Pilgrim’s Blood and Seljun whenever he wanted because he’s a direct blood descendant of the original Grey Pilgrim, and inheritor of the Name Grey Pilgrim.
                    For the Levantine’s, he’s more or less the next best thing to the original Grey Pilgrim back from the dead.

                    He’s still in a position where if he hinted at wanting to become Seljun, the rest of Levant would automatically acclaim him as such and murder anyone who even looked like they were thinking about hesitating about it. It’s just that now, if he did that, he (and Levant) would get slapped with a curse.
                    It’s not something he ever planned on or expected to do, but it was always something he could do without metaphysical repercussions, just the fact that he’d be a shit ruler (and knew it). Now, he still technically could, but in addition to being a shit ruler, he’d have a curse looming over himself and Levant if he did.

                    Liked by 1 person

                  2. Yeah, but he explicitly rejected that. And it’s not the reason people follow him, again. The reason is his deeds and his Bestowal, intertwined. I strongly doubt anyone would care about him if after running away from home after being declared heir and refusing to go through with it, he actually joined whatever, uh, secret / low key organization he thought for a bit of joining to avoid attention? The fact he’s proper heir to the throne is just icing on the cake, if anything serving more to give credit to their Blood system (see, those of Blood really are better than others!) than to him.

                    Like

                    1. > “I wasn’t always a priest, I’ll gave you know,” the Peregrine sanguinely replied. “As a young man I once even attempted to become one of the Hidden Poets.”

                      > “They of the seventy-eight methods of carnal love?” Indrani asked, sounding somewhat intrigued.

                      > “Indeed,” he agreed. “Alas, my kamil declamations were judged unworthy and so I took an interest in healing instead.”

                      Liked by 1 person

        1. We’ll see how Judgement reacts 😀

          But generally, the current was already flowing this way: note Cordelia’s reaction. Catherine spearheading the fight against the Dead King will IMHO be enough for people to not think less of Tariq for buddying with her.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. talenel

            Politically, I think the fallout in the Grand Alliance wont be huge for Tariq. I just think that this is a huge narrative blow for him and that he has maybe one big thing left in him at most. I also think his power (in terms of his Bestowal) will be dramatically weakened.

            Liked by 2 people

    1. Death Knight

      The peace conference though that might be the first arc of the next book. Three epilogues seems more likely, exploring the aftermath of Black, Masego and the tension between Cat and Archer while setting up the Peace Conference act.

      Liked by 5 people

  3. Alivaril

    Er, Cat acts as though her “price” was in giving up the resurrection, but did she actually do so? It seems to me that ripping into the Pilgrim’s soul in front of the Choir of Mercy would be downright suicidal. She needed help to even remain conscious before their mere attention; their displeasure would likely have been significantly worse.

    …Then again, self-deception may be a viable way to trick Creation into thinking she paid an important price.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. IDKWhoitis

      The larger cost is probably some cheating of fate for now the Twilight Court has Noone on the throne, and by bringing back Pilgrim, Cat may have further destabilized Twilight into only lasting far more shorter than originally planned.

      A body was needed on that throne, and now there isn’t one. A price was cheated.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. IDKWhoitis

    I wonder if with the crippled Name and abdication of Authority, Tariq will just retire. Unless the choir intends to give him another 3rd aspect, which the fiery winged pricks might do.

    But at the same time, I think the White Knight will take center stage on the Hero side soon, after Cat gets to Salía.

    Like right now, I think Cat is going to empower Hak and Viv to get the horse trading and logistics figured out for Gate traveling and marching order, so she can sleep the rest of the Week off. Like the Levs and Procerans probably won’t want to March with the Legions in Exile, but some arrangement can be set up.

    And there’s also the question if only Cat and crew are going to Salía or if the entire Callowan contingent is going with her. I doubt Cat is going to reinforce Cresuens or some area of the Procerean front, and the other armies are more useful elsewhere, rather than having all 3 armies camped outside Salía.

    and lastly…

    WHAT OF MASEGO?!?

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Dainpdf

      Also, what is Malicia up to? She’s been off camera for a while, dealing with the aftermath of Thalassina… and plotting. And now Cat has brought Maddie back. Will that be worth something?

      Liked by 6 people

      1. caoimhinh

        I really, really want it to be Catherine who tells Malicia that Amadeus is back. Alaya’s pride will be hurt, but she will still be grateful that Amadeus is safe thanks to Cat’s efforts, which Malicia was incapable of doing.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. IDKWhoitis

        Depending on how cruel EE wants to be, there’s a chance that Malica will fail to hold the Empire together and it will fragment like Viv was trying. Or alternatively some the Nobles in Praes will “depose” her.

        Otherwise, Malica might just have to take a desperate gamble and stab Callow in the back to try to maintain power back at home. With Callowan army away, with Cat and crew, Callow itself is very undefended. And we know that Grain will be very important come Summer, as praes granneries will be almost empty, and they can’t trade at the quantitaties they need.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Well, IIRC Cat left Callow perfectly willing to sell grain. And if Malicia tries to use one of her sleepers, Cat’s likely to find out about them (other players already know she can turn any agent who’s been in her presence). And once Cat knows what’s going on there, Night may be able to do something about those Rule commands.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. Shveiran

          Malicia could probably find a way to destroy Callow, but that doesn’t sound like it would achieve much aside from pettyness.
          Sure, it would hurt Cat and she’d never get over it, but… what then? That leaves the Black Queen rich in armies and allied Named, with a thirst for blood and a story in her sail, marching on Praes to take Malicia’s head and reform the place.
          I’m not seeing her victory conditions, in this.
          Malicia will come up with something, but it won’t be as an act of spite. She’s not the type.

          Liked by 5 people

        3. Dainpdf

          On the topic of backstabbery, Malicia would see the danger from a mile away. I doubt it.

          As for grain, why can’t they trade, again? Sure, Callow may not have as much food as Praes needs, but there is always Mercantis…

          Liked by 2 people

    2. caoimhinh

      I don’t think they have any business going to Salia, they are likely going to stablish some communications, but the princes that are riding with Rozala need to get their successors crowned fast, which they can do thanks to the use of the Twilight Realm.
      Cat bought them 3 months of ceasefire, but the war is still going on. The armies currently on Iserre will need to march up north to be ready for the fight, the Drow expedition under Sve Noc’s direct command is marching too, it will need to be established if Amadeus’ Legions in Exile will accompany them or returning to Callow or Praes, plus there’s the matter of dealing with the League of Free Cities.

      There’s a lot of politicking left to do.

      Also, I want to know where the hell is Scribe, the last time she was shown was in one of Hierarch’s visions and it showed her marching alongside Grem with the Legions, yet she has not appeared in this whole book, which I find weird. Maybe she will simply appear when Amadeus is awake, and no one will think it weird because that’s part of her shtick.

      Liked by 8 people

      1. IDKWhoitis

        Likely a large peace conference featuring most participants of the war will be held. Thus it should be expected for this peace conference to occur with representatives of all sides. Technically they could have Roz or Arnuld be Cordelias rep, but I suspect Cat is going to want to talk to Cordelia face to face to finally put this heretical bullshit to a conclusion. Any treaty not done by Cordelia personally might be worth dust is Cat’s eyes. It’s in everyone’s interest to head to Salía now.

        So what follows is Cat and the Blood are going to Salía. But I don’t think Cat would exactly want to go alone (Hakram alone with Cat probably, Archer may go where her dear boy needs her, and let’s face it, he won’t be helpful for diplomacy and needs some rest…) , and certain factors will want to leave Prócer now (Viv) (The Exiles). So likely the Callowan armies are going to either follow Cat around (for her safety and intimidation) or heads back to Callow with the Exiles.

        They aren’t needed right now with the 3 month cease fire, and if Callow enters the war, the Dead King will open a new front to the north of Callow, since the Elves are not in the Golden Bloom anymore.

        The majority of the Drow may follow the Callowan army for security and logistical reasons. A small honor guard may accompany Cat, but otherwise they are a glaring liability with Dawn.

        I imagine Scribe was somewhere in Camp with Grem, pretending to not be important and parsing whatever data she could (for all we know, she may have been talking with Tyrant).

        She will materialize near Black’s Soul next time that is on screen. And I am awaiting a heartfelt reunion between Scribe and Black, and some real scathing sarcasm and hatred between Scribe and Cat. Or potentially Scribe might forgive Cat, she did save him in the end…

        Liked by 3 people

        1. caoimhinh

          I agree with most of your points, but I really don’t think they will go to Salia. Marching the armies to Salia is out of question and Catherine can’t go with a small group there both for security and diplomatic reasons; besides, they absolutely need to go north to reinforce the lines, the peace conference can be held by Cordelia’s representatives and Arnaud already has her signed permission with plenipotentiary power to deal and negotiate with foreign powers in her name.
          One peace conference will be held right now, at least, involving the League of Free Cities. For matters of the Grand Alliance another will likely be held later on, but it would likely be in an army camp rather than in a city, they are in the middle of a crusade against Praes (and also Callow by extension) and war against the Dead King, so the heads of the armies and countries will likely be marching to the north.
          3 months are plenty to reach Salia as they have use of both Arcadia and the Twilight Realm, but it’s just not strategically nor diplomatically sound to have conferences there until the peace has been signed. Another option is for Cordelia to speak in private with Catherine through the scrying links.

          Liked by 2 people

            1. caoimhinh

              Yeah.
              Though she probably won’t; I don’t know if it’s pride, the politics involved about leaving command of the situation to the authority that’s on site or if she simply fears hacking of the scrying, but she usually doesn’t hold a negotiation through scrying links, she pretty much could have done that in any of the conferences Procer has had with any other country, both so far Cordelia either sends a representative with letters from her and authority to make deals in site or goes to the site in person; of particular notice for us is Procer’s dealings with Catherine, who has held conference with Proceran armies more than once.

              I really think it’s far more likely that Cordelia would leave the broad negotiations to her representatives in site, and maybe make private deals through the scrying links. It would likely be weird if the conference was held with Levantines, Cat’s group, maybe the League, and Procer’s representatives along with a huge mirror, or worse, a pool of water. Cordelia is too concerned about appearances to allow that.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. > she usually doesn’t hold a negotiation through scrying links

                It has never been done before. Two-way scrying the way we’ve seen it is literally Warlock’s invention, and it only started getting popularized in Procer with Cordelia’s Order of the Red Lion.

                A conference via a scrying link would thus be an unprecedented thing, which adds complications to the ebb and flow of it. It’s entirely natural Cordelia hasn’t jumped that breach yet, she’s got too many cats to skin as is.

                And it’s somewhat more rude to go with the time-saving method than the traditional method, because tradition and showing that you are willing to go through effort to make the conference happen. For a conference to be held through scrying link without giving insult, there needs to be a clear reason why it’s necessary in this particular situation.

                In this particular case, given literally everything going on is unprecedented and there’s a bit of a time crunch with the 3 months time limit, I can see the new technology being introduced.

                Liked by 3 people

                1. Shveiran

                  I agree.

                  In the previous talks, there wasn’t so much riding on the results.

                  While I appreciate ow pressing the situation is, and how fast three months can go by with this kind of ground to cover and this harsh a war to prepare for, the coalition is currently ramshackle at best.
                  These armies how loyalty to a dozen different figures and were bleeding each other just last morning. This is not a situation you can put a band-aid on and call it a day.

                  A conference is needed, and the First Prince will have to be a part of it. So either they go to Salia, or a scrying relay is implemented.

                  Liked by 3 people

          1. > Marching the armies to Salia is out of question and Catherine can’t go with a small group there both for security and diplomatic reasons; besides, they absolutely need to go north to reinforce the lines

            I mean. I checked the map (https://ibb.co/kPLnQa) and Salia is almost due north of Iserre. You really can’t make it to Lycaonese territory from Iserre without going through Salia, unless you want to take a huge detour for literally no reason. The capital of the Principate is absolutely where everybody’s headed; formally adding a villain-headed polity to the Grand Alliance formed literally for a Crusade isn’t a mere formality to be handwaved out of the way by representatives. I’m sure some preliminary truces etc. can get approved now or now-ish, but the big-ticket item is the kind of thing that needs to happen in public with everybody who matters watching in person. It was also stated previously that Pilgrim was champing at the bit to get to Salia because he needs to tell some fuckers to kindly separate their craniums and their hindquarters (that’s, ah, paraphrasing), IIRC specifically at least in part regarding the crazy shit they’ve been saying about how to deal with Praes, and I doubt he will have changed his mind about his priority structure there now that Lord Black’s apprentice is joining the team.

            As far as Cat not being able to go up there without keeping her whole army around for security reasons (which I think is what you’re alluding to there by saying she can’t just have a small group?)… I mean, the reasons Cordelia noped out on accepting Cat’s offer initially revolved around not being able to afford to force it down the Levantives throats. Now that they’re actually pushing for it? Well, Cordelia already literally ordered Cat to be protected at almost any cost and the Levantines sure aren’t gonna start shit now. It’s not totally clear yet how the new Twilight Highway has affected regular Arcadia, but if it’s parallel more than a replacement then Cat still has a line of retreat that nobody can follow her in anyway. Which as I’ve said won’t be relevant, at this point literally every army that doesn’t belong to the Dead King or Kairos actively wants Cat kept alive.

            I think they will absolutely all head to Salia; I think that after the various heads of state and etc. get there most of the armies probably will keep going rather than hang around so they can get a head start on reinforcing for when the Dead King kicks shit back off again. But it’s next stop Salia for the political players. You’re not wrong about how important it is to prepare for when the war resumes, but the military preparations aren’t the only part that matters; the political preparations matter just as much, even if people tend to get more impatient about that. EE does have a track record of surprising me so hey, it could happen again, but at least right now I’d say I’m at least 90% on that.

            Liked by 3 people

            1. caoimhinh

              1) It doesn’t matter where Salia is, because they aren’t going to be marching through Procer, they are going to use the Twilight Realm to travel because otherwise crossing that distance means months of time.

              2) The armies can’t be placed on Salia, that would almost effectively be putting it on a siege, it’s not diplomatic at all to have so many troops of other countries near the capital. This is a principle that applies to every country both in real life and fiction.

              3) Peace conferences are never held in the capital of one of the countries involved in the conflict, they are held in neutral ground or a suitable place that doesn’t severely put one of the parties in great disadvantage.

              4) Catherine doesn’t need to be in Salia to talk with Cordelia, there are plenty of methods to establish communication through scrying. The use of intermediaries and representatives is also possible (Arnaud has signed plenipotentiary power, and both Vivienne and Hakram have the authority and knowledge of Cat’s plans to carry negotiations), though there are some things that both of those women want to tell to each other personally.

              5) They need to march the armies north as soon as possible, resupply the lines, rebuild the defenses, reinforce the troops and restock their weaponry, there’s simply too much to do, spending time in Salia would be counterproductive.

              6) Pilgrim wasn’t heading to Salia to tell anything to anyone, he was going to deliver Amadeus body to be publicly executed while retaining his soul as leverage on Catherine and Malicia. He was then going straight north to fight against the Dead King. Tariq has made a clear point about his avoidance of meddling in politics, his only interference being because there were Named involved.

              That said, it is possible that Catherine and the Majilis go to Salia for a conference of the Grand Alliance, sure. Catherine has the power to defend herself and her group, though she knows that she isn’t invincible and she can still be overwhelmed by lots of troops. She is unlikely to place herself in such a vulnerable position. Not to mention that Cordelia doesn’t particularly want Catherine anywhere close to her, she distrusts, despises and fears Catherine, that we have seen through their interactions and her POV chapters.

              Besides, the conference discussing Callow’s joining to the Grand Alliance won’t have Callow present, of course. That one might happen with the members of the Blood getting to Salia before heading again to the north, but there’s not enough trust to have the Queen of Callow visiting the capital of the Principate yet.

              I don’t think Cat will be visiting Salia before they solve the issue with the Dead King. By that time the war situation will be less tense and urgent, the political situation more stable and Callow will have built a better reputation after saving everyone’s ungrateful hides. Again.

              Liked by 1 person

                  1. caoimhinh

                    Do you think Cordelia trusts and/or likes Catherine?

                    Granted, Cordelia’s view of Catherine has changed with the passage of time, but it has never been positive.

                    Every one of the insights we have had to Cordelia’s POV show her either thinking of Cat in a negative light. Initially, she was shown thinking of Cat with disdain as “the orphan girl who was taken as an apprentice by the Black Knight” and later on even irritated that Catherine doesn’t play along with the back-and-forth courtesies that Cordelia favors as royalty and now consider Cat a brutal warlord.
                    She came to fear and hate Catherine after news about Cat’s capabilities during the Battle of the Camps arrived.
                    Cordelia covers herself in lots of blessings before conversing with Catherine through the Winter room (which is common sense, of course, but also shows lacks of trust, which, again, is natural because there is no reason for Cordelia to trust Catherine), she also had to take time to calm herself before entering there (because Winter’s power feels eldritch to everyone so nobody is ever comfortable interacting with it). And the very reason she accepted to meet her through that in the first place was so she could study Catherine in person and gain insights in how to defeat her.

                    In Interlude: Empires, when Catherine greeted her in a casual tone Cordelia was irritated because such a thing would imply some sort of friendship: “This lack of courtesy should not go unremarked upon. Though this was an informal conference, Cordelia disliked the pretence of friendship between them that would allow such language.

                    The only reason Cordelia was even tempted to initially accept Catherine’s offer of peace and alliance was because of a moment of fantasizing with fame, as actually succeeding in such thing would be an unprecedented diplomatic victory and give prestige to Cordelia “no one would doubt she won the war through words and not swords” and she would pass to history as a great ruler for achieving such a thing. Though once more her own self-interest impeded it, because it would require lots of political capital, favors and coercing to make the other Princes of Procer accept Callow’s offer of peace.

                    She doesn’t trust Cat, she doesn’t like Cat and while she isn’t scared of Cat too much, she does fear Catherine’s power and capabilities, so Cordelia understands that to fight and beat Cat she has to fight in a smart way (which was why she was so angry with the Conclave and Laurence, since their intervention made unavailable more subtle ways of dealing with Cat, leaving only straight fights that would only end in massacres). She thinks of Cat as a Damned, for using heretic sorceries and necromancy. She wants to fight Cat, and defeat Cat so she can use that victory to cement her own rule, that’s the whole reason why the Tenth Crusade was launched: defeating Praes to gain prestige and spend her political enemies’ resources in the process.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. >She came to fear and hate Catherine after news about Cat’s capabilities during the Battle of the Camps arrived.

                      Source?

                      >Cordelia covers herself in lots of blessings before conversing with Catherine through the Winter room (which is common sense, of course, but also shows lacks of trust, which, again, is natural because there is no reason for Cordelia to trust Catherine), she also had to take time to calm herself before entering there (because Winter’s power feels eldritch to everyone so nobody is ever comfortable interacting with it). And the very reason she accepted to meet her through that in the first place was so she could study Catherine in person and gain insights in how to defeat her.

                      Yes, and I don’t see how “natural precautions, supernaturally caused discomfort and politically motivated mild hostility” translate into “fear and hate”. You are attributing strong emotions to Cordelia, that have simply never been there.

                      >In Interlude: Empires, when Catherine greeted her in a casual tone Cordelia was irritated because such a thing would imply some sort of friendship: “This lack of courtesy should not go unremarked upon. Though this was an informal conference, Cordelia disliked the pretence of friendship between them that would allow such language.”

                      They are not friends, and Cordelia disliked the lack of courtesy. Because she is a noble and brought up among nobles, and to her good manners are very deeply ingrained as something that should be.

                      This does not translate to fear or hate. You’d think if she actually feared and hated Catherine, the mild mislike of her lapse in manners wouldn’t have been a blip on the radar.

                      >She doesn’t trust Cat, she doesn’t like Cat and while she isn’t scared of Cat too much, she does fear Catherine’s power and capabilities

                      There is a difference between “is apprehensive of” and “fears”. Fear is stronger than ‘being scared’, not weaker. Fear implies impeding rational thought.

                      >She wants to fight Cat, and defeat Cat so she can use that victory to cement her own rule, that’s the whole reason why the Tenth Crusade was launched: defeating Praes to gain prestige and spend her political enemies’ resources in the process.

                      That was the reason, yes, but Cordelia’s priorities have changed since then in multiple ways. For one, when the Tenth Crusade was gathering, Cordelia hadn’t personally spoken with Catherine yet. For another, Catherine hadn’t yet formally broken with Praes / announced her willingness to be an ally against them.

                      (It’s specifically when she did so that Cordelia started considering her as a prospective ally, which is… remarkably obvious and natural. She’d thought of Catherine is part of Praes and therefore an enemy by association, but when Catherine proved her willingness to act otherwise, Cordelia would rather seize that and use it to her advantage, because Catherine is not the target – not in her eyes. She was always after Malicia, Catherine was only ever a barrier on the way to that)

                      Liked by 2 people

                    2. I would say that Cordelia is largely indifferent to Catherine as a person, with the attitude easily swayed in any direction by the last thought / association she had. Strategically she considers Catherine a potential valuable ally, and someone she can work with if obvious obstacles are overcome. She believes she understands Catherine’s general logic and objectives enough to know when she can and cannot trust her. And she believes her powerful enough to be worth appeasing, especially in the current situation.

                      It’s not personal. Not in either direction.

                      Like

              1. Re: 1), yes, they’ll obv be going through the Twilight Realm. My point wasn’t that they would have to physically set foot on Salian soil in order to get to Lycaonese ground, my point was that it’s literally on the way so saying “they can’t go to Salia because they have to go north” is a conclusion premised on a false dichotomy. They can absolutely go to Salia without it being a diversion from going to the front lines, and that’s what matters.

                Re: 2), again, yes? Like I said initially I didn’t think the armies would be sticking around Salia. The point is that no diversion is required in order for Cat + whoever to get there. Heck, depending on how the new Twilight Highway works exactly there may be no inherent need for them to even travel together.

                Re: 3), well, what alternative are you thinking of exactly? It’s not like there’s somewhere that isn’t Procer that’s on the way to the north. Also, this isn’t a peace conference because they’re already at peace now; active hostilities already ceased. This is a discussion of formal alliance, and holding that in the hub of the alliance where the architect of that alliance lives seems pretty natural to me.

                Re: 4), I didn’t say Cat had to be in Salia to be able to talk to Cordelia. I said that I think an issue of this kind of political moment needed to be seen to be decided in public (for a given value of “public” that covers as many political movers and shakers as possible at least). You’re ignoring what I did say to respond to something I didn’t. That’s kind of a strawman fallacy there frankly.

                Re: 5), literally none of those things require the political leaders of these forces to be physically present. Cat in particular has always had the approach of “I decide what my forces will do, and then Juniper’s in charge of making things actually happen”. Even the Levantines have some precedent for delegating to designated Captains, as shown with Captain Elvera. And to the extent that they are needed, that is the kind of thing that can absolutely be appropriately handled through scrying links.

                Re: 6), as Liliet already stated that’s not what Laurence thought, and I’m pretty sure she knew him better than either of us do.

                Re: the remainder, Procer burns if anything happens to Cat and as has already been shown Cordelia is excruciatingly aware of that. Cat wants an actual alliance here, remember. If she can’t trust them even to not commit national suicide just to murder her for literally no reason while she’s in the middle of committing her forces to save all their asses… I really think you’re wildly overestimating the degree of vulnerability/risk there. I’m sure Cat would hang on to an honor guard for appearances if nothing else, but I’m skeptical she would be at risk of needing them for anything. And if she’s still got the ability to open gates of her own aside from the Twilight Highway stuff then she literally cannot be caught if she decides to just leave. You can’t get overwhelmed if you don’t have to stick around to wait for it to happen.

                Also, Cat certainly at bare minimum puts Cordelia’s nerves on edge, but in political terms there’s a huge difference between being scared by someone and being seen to be scared of someone. If she refused to let Cat come to Salia when that is what makes sense (and it is), that would be a giant neon sign screaming WEAKNESS SHOWN HERE to her rivals and allies alike. It’s not like there ever is a good time for that as a political leader (esp in Procer), but during the brief interlude in a war for national survival is exceptionally bad. Something similar can be said for snubbing Callow by disinviting their Queen from the conference that will determine the status of Callow re: the Grand Alliance. Cordelia already gave ground (proactively, which shows she’s thinking forward) on recognizing Cat as Queen of Callow rather than merely the Queen in Callow, which means she already voluntarily surrendered her pretext for not recognizing Cat as a legitimate diplomatic presence/true head of state.

                Last, re:

                > I don’t think Cat will be visiting Salia before they solve the issue with the Dead King.

                I really do think you’ve got the order of operations backwards there. The political aspect isn’t something that doesn’t matter here and can safely be put aside until they “solve the issue” with the Dead King waging a war of extinction on the bulk of Calernia. I would expect they’ll want to fast-walk the politics as much as feasible given the time pressures, but getting all the politics lined up and cleared away as much as feasible is something you want handled before the history-altering national deathmatch. And that’s just Procer’s perspective. From Callow/Cat’s point of view… you really think Cat would want to wait until Procer doesn’t need her anymore so that she can just bank on the famous Proceran reputation for gratitude towards Callow in the wake of a Crusade against the Dead King? Because the last time Callow did that, Procer turned around and conquered them without so much as a fig leaf of an excuse. But hey, I’m sure the Callowans have all just let that go. It’s not like they’re the sort to hold on to grudges and grievances after all. 😛

                Liked by 2 people

              1. caoimhinh

                She said that? When?
                I remember her saying there were lots of things to do, including many conversations about the battles ahead and an implication that she was going to reveal the Bard’s true nature to Roland, but I don’t recall Cat ever saying the next stop was Salia. If anything, it was always said they had to go to the northern front ASAP.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. Soma

                  >”He trailed off, though it was not a threat. It was almost a petition and more than a little desperate. Or else what did their lives mean? Their tears and blood and decades of bitter struggle to bring just a little light to Calernia? If the fall of such old and honoured stars meant not a thing, what could any of us ever hope to amount to?

                  >“This war has only just begun,” I softly said. “It will take us to Salia, to forge a peace. It will take us to Keter, to visit upon the Dead King what he has so often visited upon us. But there’s another enemy, Sorcerer. She breaks kings with sentences and topples kingdoms with but the lightest of touches. None of this can end before she’d been killed. For good.”

                  >Roland dipped his head, not in acceptance but at least in acknowledgement.

                  https://practicalguidetoevil.wordpress.com/2019/06/21/chapter-51-twilight/

                  Catherine directly says it will take them to Salia. They might just leave the armies in the twilight realm while the bigshots talk in Salia.

                  Liked by 3 people

  5. Dainpdf

    Very nice. This sounds like the point of a time skip to me–to some point amid negotiations, or when the army reaches the border with the KotD, or even to Cat talking to Black about what happened and where things will go next.

    Interestingly, we’ve still yet to see what Black has become. Dread Emperor Carrion, anyone?
    …nah.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Insanenoodlyguy

      Nah. I’m not so sure he’s going that route, but if he is, he’s Dread Emperor Benevolent for sure. Also I give even odds that if it does go down that way, he does so with Chancellor Ayala at his side, doing the job she’s always been meant for.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. >but if he is, he’s Dread Emperor Benevolent for sure.

        Dread Emperor Benevolent is in the epigraphs fitting the format of a past historical Dread Emp, suggesting he is in fact one.

        The reigning name does not match Black’s sense of humor, and the quotes don’t match Black’s motivations and philosophy.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. See I don’t really feel like Black is going to end up Dread Emperor period (Cat’s dead set on bringing down the Name after all…), but if he does, this is the best guess at his reigning name I’ve seen ;u;

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Eh, doesn’t match the format; Dread Emperor reign names are all adjectives, specifically (if I’ve got my nomenclature right here) denominal adjectives. Carrion is a noun. There have been other Dread Emperor names that were words used as nouns (e.g. Irritant, Revenant) but AFAIK they all can also be used as adjectives, although in the case of revenant that usage is super rare. So it sounds badass/overtly Evil enough to be a Dread Emperor name for sure, but I don’t think it lines up with how Dread Emperor names are chosen.

        Liked by 2 people

          1. Well, Malicia isn’t even a word as far as I know, but your point is taken. Still don’t feel like it matches Amadeus’ take on things, but that’s just my personal sense of it.

            Liked by 1 person

  6. erebus42

    So the Dominion (or at least the people who really seem to matter in the Dominion) are backing Cat. Yeah, that should give her request a bit more weight.
    Also, I love how she points out how delightfully out of place Rozala is throughout all this. I can only imagine what’s going on in ol’Roz’s head right now-probably something along the lines of “HOLY FUCKING SHIT, WHAT THE FUCK IS EVEN HAPPENING RIGHT NOW!”(but you know, more princessly).

    Liked by 6 people

    1. > probably something along the lines of “HOLY FUCKING SHIT, WHAT THE FUCK IS EVEN HAPPENING RIGHT NOW!”

      Followed closely by “she wasn’t even here, how did she manage to win when she wasn’t even here?”

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Dainpdf

      My interpretation: Above, technically, but the Choirs have some say in how and where it goes.

      It’s like how your manager is not the one employing you, but can still fire you.

      Liked by 15 people

      1. No they work for Above.
        They’re like computer programs created by The Gods Above to run things because they aren’t allowed too intervene. They are powerful but they have very real limits to both that power and their understanding.
        That said, they are the highest authority mere mortals have access to. Apparently slivers of Above’s attention only show up to kill people through sheer contempt.

        Liked by 4 people

  7. Ekmo

    “And I sweat now that the Majilis will speak as one, endorsing the petition of the Kingdom of Callow.”

    Yes Tariq, sweat it out! It’s gonna be an exhausting time I’m sure!

    Liked by 7 people

  8. Old Scratch of Kharkanas

    Long time reader, first time commenter. You’ve mentioned before there’s some elements of the worldbuilding probably won’t make it into the story. Do you plan on releasing supplementary stuff after the story’s done? I’d love to eventually see things like a full world map or notes on the development of the Praesi political system, once it’s no longer risking spoilers. Thanks!

    Liked by 9 people

  9. caoimhinh

    This chapter was hilarious from beginning to end, Catherine’s sarcastic view of the events around her was really top-notch. Though I wonder why Hakram didn’t explain immediately that the reason they were all aware of the Pilgrim’s death was due to the dreams, but well, that can wait, I guess.

    “It might just be the lack of sleep talking, but the wine might actually taste better with the tonic in it.”
    Yes, Cat, and Akua can actually make you a list of what liquor goes well with what poison and with what antidote. It’s a millenia-old art among the Praesi High-born, better get used to it, as the world seems to want you climbing the Tower.

    And thus, a year, half a crusade and many thousands of dead people later, Pilgrim and Levant do what Catherine asked nicely of them in the very beginning of the war.
    Politics, eh?

    Typos found:
    -Lanterns were not helping the Pilgrim stand, gently but firmly / Lanterns were now helping the Pilgrim stand, gently but firmly
    -that was then the Choir of Mercy took offence / that was when the Choir of Mercy took offence

    Liked by 4 people

    1. That’s always been one my favourites.
      Add “of” after “one”

      but losing a third of your Name was nothing something to be shrugged off.
      Change nothing to not

      Not going to check the “notify me of new comments” box because this website sends every comment as a new email and frankly I don’t want that many emails clogging up my inbox. Author can get my email address if necessary, hopefully nobody else wants to respond to this because I don’t see a way for me to realize that anyone responded.

      Liked by 3 people

  10. Tom

    “I could only get my hands on Dormer pale,” Adjutant apologetically said.

    My lips twitched.

    “See, now I know that’s a lie,” I replied.

    “This is going to be a hand joke, isn’t it,” he sighed, sounding resigned.

    “If I say yes,” I murmured, “are you going to lose it?”

    —–
    Loved this, especially while she’s still propping Tariq up and ignoring Malanza desperately trying to get her to deal with the frantic Levantines…. I was a little frustrated at the interludes carrying on for five chapters when we already knew that Cat & Pilgrim were going to come back together. But they ended up working wonderfully as the setup for the humor here. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Domifax

    Are corrections (typos) appreciated?
    If yes maybe it would make sense to have a discord text channel or something similar dedicated to it – or is there already one and I’m just to slow to notice?.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I love how great a perspective UTTERLY EXHAUSTED Catherine provides to all this. Perfect serenity because her field of fucks has burned down and been salted, abject refusal to follow what everyone is doing / inability to follow what they’re saying, random trains of thought getting interrupted by even more random trains of thought, and in the end, WOW IS IT HER BIRTHDAY OR WHAT

    ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 7 people

  13. I wonder when the Houses of Light are going to wake up to the fact that Cat hasn’t got a Name?

    That could be their out: she might still kind of follow Below, but she’s apparently not especially favoured by that lot, either (Heck, she might even conceivably be in the “mildly disappointed in you” books). The Houses can gloss over the issue of her not exactly getting stripped of her Name so much as her willingly trading it in for other things, but…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Shveiran

      She is the high priestess of the murder crow goddesses of the drows.

      “But she is not the Squire, now” really feels like trying to hide behind a tattered napkin, while sitting on a purple, luminous elepanth

      Liked by 5 people

        1. > Sve Noc aren’t in Below’s favourite favourites books either, however. :/

          Eh, I don’t really know how to even tell if that was so. Below seems weirdly chill about people going against them; I’d guess it probably ties into the whole “if you can do it, then you had the right to”. So they’ll happily murder your face off (or exterminate your species maybe, y’know whatevs) to stop you when you’re trying to go against them, but if you actually pull it off then it’s like they just go “well guess you proved your point, good show old chap”.

          And the Mighty do still have all their murder-miracles which are supposedly the Below equivalent of what the priests of Light get up to, in terms of relative power source I mean. Which I guess would mean Sve Noc are gods, yes, but they’re gods in a way where they’re sort of like the Below-equivalent of angels. Which is horrifying, and therefore perfect.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. I think Sve Noc are rather more directly in charge of Night than angels are to Light. Above and Heavens are ultimately one structure; Below is a smattering of independent agents. I suspect Below couldn’t take away the Mighty’s powers even if they tried, at this point.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. > I think Sve Noc are rather more directly in charge of Night than angels are to Light.

              They’re certainly a lot more hands-on! As we’ve just seen though, angels are just as capable of stripping away Light as the Sisters are of stripping away the Night. So I think the difference is more one of temperament and approach than of actual authority.

              > Above and Heavens are ultimately one structure

              Wha? It’s been explicitly tagged in the text on multiple occasions that the Choirs don’t always see eye-to-eye.

              > Below is a smattering of independent agents.

              I don’t know that anyone’s ever actually seen a direct (as opposed to self-identified) representative of Below in Creation. Tbf that very absence can certainly be taken as implying something in the line of what you’re saying, but implying =/= demonstrating to my mind.

              > I suspect Below couldn’t take away the Mighty’s powers even if they tried, at this point.

              Impossible to know, since my take on it is still that they’d never feel moved to. But if there’s a question of *could* it’s only that we don’t know to what extent the Gods-with-a-capital-G may be constrained from direct action. There’s zero question of whether they would have the power to; in the Guideverse, the Gods aren’t naturally occurring phenomena within Creation, they’re the architects of Creation (hence that being the name for it). If you’re strong enough to spin reality itself out of metaphysical whole cloth, nobody and nothing internal to your creation is going to be able to give you a hard time in a direct head-to-head.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. >They’re certainly a lot more hands-on! As we’ve just seen though, angels are just as capable of stripping away Light as the Sisters are of stripping away the Night. So I think the difference is more one of temperament and approach than of actual authority

                Yes, but no entity other than Sisters can grant / take away Night, or at least does so that we know of.

                >Wha? It’s been explicitly tagged in the text on multiple occasions that the Choirs don’t always see eye-to-eye.

                ? They can be working together and not always in agreement, that’s normal. I’m not saying they’re one entity, I’m saying they’re one structure. They at least aim to be allies.

                >I don’t know that anyone’s ever actually seen a direct (as opposed to self-identified) representative of Below in Creation. Tbf that very absence can certainly be taken as implying something in the line of what you’re saying, but implying =/= demonstrating to my mind.

                We might or might not have WoG on this… We certainly know that devils are Below’s equivalent to angels, and, well, we know how those work.

                >Impossible to know, since my take on it is still that they’d never feel moved to.

                Right, yeah. I mean something along the lines of ‘couldn’t do it just on a whim without breaking rules they and Gods Above agreed on for non-intervention’.

                Like

      1. Insanenoodlyguy

        Yeah, but it would still work. Remember that this is not a world of mass communication. So you tell the masses of Procer “The Black Queen is damned no longer, her name has been taken back by the hated Gods Below. She joined the band of five to stop the machinations of the Dead King and saved 3 armies, Angels themselves spoke of her deeds, and even allowed her to ressurect the fallen Hero Grey Pilgrim. She is arch-heretic no longer, as she has now set upon the path of redemption and comes to fight the Dead King in her pennance”

        Is that some half-truths mixed in with pure bullshit? Absolutely. But it’ll sell. Especially because the last part indicates (truthfully) that she’s coming to bring help in a very dire situation. Sure, it won’t hold up anywhere she actually travels through, but that’s not most of the country, and by the time somebody on the street can put together a “Hey wait a minute…” moment, she’ll actually be there, actually helping, and the layman’s morality questions will take a back seat to the thought of “Well, whatever. Not the first time the high ups have sold us crap. She really is out there hacking zombie’s heads off, good enough I guess.”

        Liked by 4 people

  14. Shveiran

    Well, I was expecting a much more triumphant return, but apparently the ones who expected the Levantines to cry “bloody undead” were right.
    In retrospect, I could see the dreams being interpreted as a warning by some. Like “the Pilgrim is dead, see? if you see a Pilgrim somewhere, it’s an imposter! Be warned!”

    Still, this was quite nice nonetheless.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Insanenoodlyguy

      It does make sense. The dreams seemed to have a weight of truth behind them, so everybody who had them would swear up and down “No, he’s definitely dead. not a little dead, not nearly dead, he died, I’d swear upon it.” And he’s the only hero we’ve seen with a Resurrection ability, and she is a known necromancer taught by a known necromancer.

      Without knowing of her power stealing trick, the absolute kindest interpretation of this is that she raised his body because she herself was so exhausted she couldn’t drag it back any other way. In which case a pious Levantine is still being affronted and screaming “How did you think we’d think this was okay you get your unholy energy out of that sacred man’s corpse this instant!”

      Liked by 4 people

      1. peterplful

        I was expecting the Pilgrims resurrection to go horribly wrong, like the Pilgrim clawing at his face while performing an unnatural scream, or its dead eyes taking a shade of gold while in Keter a smile crept upon a dead mans face while he murmured ‘Mistake’ kind of wrong.

        There is power in repetition as Kat said, but also predictability and Kat’s repeated refusal to accept whatever carrots fate toses her way and strong arm her terms (even at price) is bound to become something the Bard or the Dead King can exploit.

        Like

        1. It was less a smiting and more one of those brown envelopes with a notification that your driver’s license has been revoked due to a sneaky speed trap camera and the automatic points accrued going over the limit you were never previously informed was there. 😛

          Liked by 4 people

  15. Okay this chapter plus the resurrection chapter has actually given character to a choir. I love when the choir is given personality traits. They are like a parent who has pushed there child to follow aa certain path.

    When the pilgrim sacrificed himself to save the many he truly embodied the choir’s teachings. Still they wept surrounding him, then they to saw the possibility of retrieving there most loyal and dear follower allowing a dammed villain to save him.

    After making such allowances it must have been hard then to have a priest question there perfect child who has made sacrifice after sacrifice. To question his existence after they brought back in their own eyes is there version of Jesus. The priest s should be glad all they lost was there grace and they weren’t burnt to a crisp on the spot.

    I guess that was there way of saying ungrateful.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. > then they saw the possibility of retrieving their most loyal and dear follower

      And perhaps, of leaving their mark on the greatest villain of the age. I still think the Hashmallim did that to Cat, leading to her famous tendencies to self-flagellation. (Heck, not only did we notice it, so did her friends). Now she’s also been touched by Mercy.

      Liked by 3 people

    1. Insanenoodlyguy

      “So, are you going to try and seduce her too? I’ll make you a deal: one of us succeeds, we try to get her to invite the other to bed as well”

      *pilgrim coughs up blood.*

      “Oh dont go that route. Trust me, if she went for that I’d have been getting some the first night. Blood I have given her, trust me.”

      Liked by 2 people

  16. superkeaton

    Huh. Nice. Normally you just get a refund when you return something at the desk, but getting a shiny new endorsement for a worn-out priest is some lovely value.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. Also, that climax…

    > Least costly to me, who’d merely tossed away the chance in the future that one dear to me could be stolen back from death … Chances like that one came only once … and spurning what had been offered would ensure there was no repetition.

    I don’t think that was “spurned”. Strangely enough, I suspect Pilgrim had become dear to Cat despite their opposition. And then…

    > So, I idly wondered, what kind of a largely ceremonial gesture would be made. Amusedly, I wondered if I was about to be made some manner of Blood.

    The Blood, ceremoniously: Screw the Lanterns, we’re backing you to join the Alliance.

    Cat: O_O

    Liked by 2 people

  18. werafdsaew

    “Need my stick, old bones?” I asked. “I’ll let you borrow it if you promise to give it back.”

    “I’ll stand, thank you,” the Grey Pilgrim sighed. “I will have to grow used to having broken mine.”

    Can’t the Pilgrim just get another staff?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. > Can’t the Pilgrim just get another staff?

      My best answer: maybe? Given his vast experience in matters of heroic narrative, I trust Tariq’s judgment of whether his story needs him to show some visible change like not having a staff anymore in light of his recent dramatic events (which would be my best guess for why he potentially couldn’t just get a new staff). So basically if he does get a new staff, then I’ll take that as meaning he could, and if he doesn’t then I’d assume that means he’s concluded he can’t (at least not without some story-shenanigans like how Cat got offered a shiny new sword in Liesse).

      Liked by 2 people

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