Chapter 54: Lustrate

“A house can be destroyed by a fortune spent and twenty years of exquisite scheming; or in less than an hour with a single well-thrown torch.”
– Dread Empress Massacre

I didn’t even step foot into my army’s camp, knowing that if I rested for even a moment I’d drop like a sack of flour. Truth be told, I was I no state to deal with the Tyrant of Helike if he decided to get clever with me. I was very nearly out of tricks, dawn had come and exhausted was the demure word for how bone-tired weary I was. But Archer and the Rogue were likely prisoners, and that meant sleep would have to wait a little longer. I had, though, absolutely no intention of getting clever back at Kairos. If he wanted to have a neat little rapier duel, all wits and triple meanings, then I was going to stroll into his fucking camp with a flying fortress full of sappers. I would have specified the sappers to be bloodthirsty but Hells, when had I ever met any that weren’t? Even Pickler got that unholy spring to her step when told her latest devices would be unleashed on enemy soldiers. So no, I’d not gone to camp to pick up an escort or a detachment of soldiers that’d look as impressive as they were useless under the dawning sun. Instead I’d gone to pick up my personal diabolical possibly-undead tame thing, and also Zombie.

“You are smirking most fetchingly, dearest,” Akua Sahelian noted. “As you only ever do when pondering unkindness at my expense.”

“Not a single part of it was untrue, though,” I mused.

“Then all hail Catherine Foundling, fae queen of our souls still,” the shade prettily smiled.

I could only resent the way the way sarcasm was actually an attractive look for her, instead of aggressively spiteful as it tended to for on myself. There was probably some dark magic at work, I told myself. Zombie’s saddlebags had been filled with the bare necessities, such as wine and munitions and a set of knives. And a pouch of wakeleaf, though it was the redleaf variant I felt tasted a little too strongly against the roof of the mouth. Still, considering Iserre was half a ruin and the closest town was several days of travel to the north it was a miracle my people had even managed to get their hands on that much.

“Which reminds me, actually,” I said. “Either of you catch sight of Larat and his posse after they made their exit?”

“No,” Hakram said. “And we did look, now that scrying has been restored. No one has a clue of where they’ve disappeared to.”

I let out a reluctantly impressed whistle.

“Larat, you magnificent bastard,” I murmured. “Good on you.”

I raised the flask of tonic-flavoured Dormer pale towards the sky in a toast.

“May you forever be someone else’s problem,” I said.

The last of the wine slunk down my throat, gone cold. The toast and respect that went with it I’d offered without rancour, even though his slipping the noose had meant trouble for my plans. As those plans had involved carving him open inside like a fish at market, though, I found that to be fairly done. That one-eyed fox had wanted to stroll into a strange new daw unfettered and unbound, no matter the costs, and had gotten exactly that. For all that the once-Prince of Nightfall was a monstrous old bastard, in the end he’d beaten both Fate and his own nature to claim his prize.

So very few of us could say the same.

“I think he might have been my favourite treacherous lieutenant,” I mused.

Akua, without ever moving from her textbook perfect horse-riding stance on one of the confiscated Helikean horses, conveyed her deep and genuine offence at my words.

“You can’t be my treacherous anything, dearest,” I drily said. “Aren’t you on the side of angels these days?”

“I’m sure some sort of arrangement can be reached with them,” she serenely replied, after gracing me with a pleased smile. “Perhaps a pact of some sort.”

Hakram choked.

“Are you suggesting diabolism be used on Choirs?” the orc got out.

“Finding the ‘morally righteous’ equivalent of blood sacrifice has been something of a riddle,” Akua candidly admitted. “Priests have been… less than supportive of my inquiries, when pressed.”

“Try helping people,” I suggested.

“That sounds positively horrid,” she said, wrinkling her nose.

I was at least two thirds certain she was joking, though. I took another look at her face, then amended to half. It was a work in progress, though maybe one of these days I’d have to sit her down along with Archer for a friendly talk about Why Other People, Who Are Not Us, Matter. Gods, I wondered if Black had ever been forced to have that with the Calamities. Not Sabah, I thought, as for all that she’d carried a ravenous man-eating monster within her she’d always been a decent woman. But Warlock or Ranger? Sisters, I’d pay good coin to have transcripts of that conversation. If Robber’s band of marauders were still putting on plays, we could even make an evening out of a theatrical reading. Mean thou, Black Knight, that Creation be more than the navel at which I gaze so pridefully? Prithee, these be lies. Godsdamned Ranger. The rising sun had begun to cast down unpleasant glare before we reached the edge of the League’s maze of camps, no doubt making for a strange sight. There were only three of us, after all, and Hakram was on foot. His longs limbs and the tirelessness of his Name allowed him to keep pace, so long as riders shied from anything faster than a trot. We’d certainly not gone unnoticed, at least, for now seven detachment of troops were hurrying out of the sea of League tents to greet us.

“Is that a bedsheet?” Hakram asked, cocking his head to the side.

The Helikean foot carrying what was quite likely a bedsheet stolen from some Proceran clotheslines, and therefore also the Hierarch’s personal banner, moved faster than the rest. It seemed like every city in the League had sent some people to meet us, including a thick pack of what I assumed to be Bellerophan infantry significantly outnumbering everyone else put together. Gods, but the armour they wore looked like it belonged in some war two centuries ago. So did the thickly-packed formations they advanced in, formations that would be reaped by wheat if they encountered a few lines of Praesi mages or even some swift-footed sappers.

“We are received in honour,” Akua said. “Queen of my heart, shall we proceed?”

I breathed out. Could be a trap. Wasn’t likely, considering Kairos had to know that breaking truce in any way at this point would see everyone else turning on him like rabid wolverines, but you never knew with the Tyrant. Just because he’d antagonized nearly everyone he could didn’t mean he wasn’t going to keep pushing his luck. If he were a reasonable sort of madman, he’d be a great deal less dangerous.

“Let’s,” I said. “As for courtesies to offer, I have only one thing to say.”

Hakram’s eyes found me, and Akua’s brow arched in invitation.

“Remember the first time I attended court in the Tower?” I said.

“Vividly,” the shade replied, lips quirking.

“Feel free to make that look polite,” I coldly instructed.

We resumed our advance towards the Leaguers, bearing no banner and offering no announcements.  They clustered uneasily around each other, a band of mercenaries and militias and career soldiers whose allegiances were only loosely bound together by Named madness and happenstance, and awaited our arrival. It would have been customary to rein in the horses before them and speak, I knew. Diplomatic. I kept riding.

“Black Queen, we greet you,” one of the Helikean officers called out.

Hurriedly, I noted, as we’d not slowed in our advanced.

“You’re one of Kairos’,” I noted. “Run back to your master, soldier. Tell him if Archer and the Rogue Sorcerer are not freed and in full health by the time I reach him, I’ll rip out his fucking heart and feed it to Adjutant right here.”

I jutted a thumb at Hakram, who gallantly displayed every inch of fang there was to display. I’d been told he had impressive pearly whites, by orc standards. It was a lot of teeth, and none of it friendly.

“You cannot threaten-” the officer indignantly began.

“She just did,” Akua daintily sighed, as if put-upon by the man’s poor breeding. “Best start running now, for we’ll not slow in deference to the likes of you.”

“Treachery,” the call came from further down the field.

The Atalante contingent, by the looks of the banner.

“You knifed the rest of Calernia in the back at the Dead King’s behest,” I coldly replied. “And are now breaking the same truce you begged for last night. You have exactly once chance to make reparations before every army on this field marches against you.”

“Seeking extermination, this time, not surrender,” Akua casually added. “One does not twice allow a rabid dog to run free.”

Ah, and there was that Wasteland highborn breed of nastiness. I’d not missed in the slightest, though having it turned on my opposition was a refreshing novelty. We could have lingered further, reasoned with them, but that would imply that we were in less than complete control of this situation. That we needed to speak with them, rather than having granted them the privilege of being spoken to. So we resumed our advance as if we were untouchable, and so went untouched. No one, I realized with amusement, wanted to be the first to step forward. As much for fear of death as for the calamitous consequences that laying a hand on any of us would bring, I thought. However rude we were, they must be painfully aware they were a long way from home facing better and hostile armies more than twice their number – and that there would be no swift retreat from Arcadia, now that the shard had been settled into a newborn and broken realm.

So they moved aside, and two Helikean riders peeled off in haste to bring warning.

I was too tired to properly assess the enemy’s camp and so left that to Adjutant’s watchful gaze, contenting myself with noting that just like the getting parties their tents remained highly divided. This was not a great army, it was a coalition of smaller ones. On the field, even if they had significantly greater numbers than either my eastern coalition or the Grand Alliance individually I would bet on those over this mess. Helike and Stygia fielded fine hosts, but none of the others were of that quality. Arguably, now that Ashur had been broken the League of Free Cities was now the preeminent sea power of Calernia – but down here, on the ground and in Iserre? Juniper would eat these poor bastards for breakfast, and she’d actually lost battles to the Grand Alliance in this campaign. It was only the prospect of casualties that kept everyone’s sword in the sheath, and these days Kairos Theodosian was proving too much of a nuisance for that to keep being enough. Under our unfriendly gazes some attendants in servant robes came for us when we entered the edge of the camp, guides meant to bring us to the Tyrant of Helike and his ‘guests’. We followed, and so tasted the Tyrant’s warning pulsing blindly and dimly in the distance. The same invisible current I’d felt in Rochelant, and again made as a sword in Kairos’ hand. The Hierarch had returned, and though his ruinous leviathan of an aspect was still slumbering its presence could still be tasted in the air.

Waiting until it could wake again, and feed.

Neither of my companions had been exposed to it before, and I glanced at them in worry. Distant as the pounding was, faint like a sleeping dragon’s breath, it still trembled in the air. Adjutant, though remained as calm as ever in the face of it. And as for Akua, she simply cocked an eyebrow.

“Quaint,” she murmured.

“Quaint,” I repeated, disbelieving.

She smiled at me, golden eyes almost visible through the veil.

“Whatever else I am,” Akua said, “I am a Sahelian still. What a shallow chalice this would be to drink from, compared to the many heady madnesses of my forbears. My blood has known great sweeps of lunacy, heart of my heart, and this kind is not so great I would fear it.”

Well, who was I to deny that hard-headed arrogance couldn’t let you fight the run of the world? I’d never truly understand – could never – that hard Wasteland pride rooted in old blood and deeds always terrible and sometimes great, for it was a highborn pride. I was the daughter of orphanages, raised to Wasteland lessons on Callowan lips, and the only blood I trusted was that which my hand had spilled. But I would not fully deny the bones of Akua Sahelian’s vanity, for it was not fully unearned. We rode on, until a great pavilion awaited us and the guide-servants bowed, and only then did I dismount. The shade followed suit, and without waiting to be announced we strode within. To my utter lack of surprise Kairos Theodosian awaited within, not the Hierarch whose slumbering aspect I could still feel further in or even any of the greats from the other cities of the League. It was grimly satisfying to see that even a jackal’s grin could not hide the black eye I’d given him or his exhaustion. There were but a few gargoyles left to attend him, for near all those he’d brought with him in the seeking of Twilight had been broken by my own miracles. He was, I thought, slowly but surely running out of artefacts to spend.

“Catherine,” he affably greeted me. “In a fine temper, I see.”

We were deep in the Helikean camp now, surrounded by thousands soldiers whose loyalty to the Tyrant would be absolute. Unless we slew him with the first strike – unlikely, given the faint whisper of sorcery lingering within the tent – attacking him would start a fight I could not win. Yet my hand still itched with the desire to make a matching set of blackened eyes.

“Archer,” I said. “The Rogue Sorcerer. They’re in your hands.”

“Honoured guests,” he assured me. “Kept safe until you came to fetch them.”

“I have,” I bluntly told him. “Where are they?”

“They’ve been sent for,” Kairos said, “though there has been something of a complication.”

He could not lie, I knew. The Grey Pilgrim had seen to that. Yet he was not cripple in wits as he was in flesh and could easily deceive without outright speaking an untruth. Tariq, I thought, might have actually made him more dangerous. Knowing he couldn’t lie I’d been inclined to believe him, until I’d realized he’d never specified exactly who it was he’d sent for.

“Complication?” Adjutant asked in my stead.

“Archer, while having peacefully enjoyed her pick of our bottles earlier, now appears to have killed her way through the company of soldiers sent to fetch her,” the Tyrant sighed. “She’s now retrieved her armaments and is suspected to be coming to kill me.”

“And you would know this how?” Hakram asked.

“There was talk of beating me to death with one of my own gargoyles,” Kairos informed us. “Well, shouts to be more accurate.”

That did sound like Indrani, I’d admit to that.

“Your presence has since been known to her,” the odd-eyed king said. “One hopes it will be enough to stay her hand.”

I inclined my head.

“The Rogue Sorcerer?” I asked.

“Last I heard he was hesitating over which of the ancient tomes I’ve provided for his perusal he will keep. I’ve offered such a boon as a parting gift,” the Tyrant said.

Tiredness had slowed my wits, but not slowed them so much that I would not understand the implication here. The two Named that’d stumbled into his grasp had been treated very well, and there would be no trouble in retrieving them. They’d not been hostages, then, but instead a pointed invitation.

“You wanted me here, obviously,” I said. “Here I am.”

“Would you like a drink?” he offered.

“I’d like two days of sleep and to see you eat your own hand before a jeering crowd,” I casually replied. “Get on with it, Kairos. My patience wears thin.”

“There is no need for us to be uncivil,” the Tyrant of Helike chided me.

Akua’s head inclined towards me the slightest bit, a question asked. I replied with the ghost of a nod. If she wanted to speak, then by all means.

“A surfeit of treachery is the mark of an insecure hand,” the shade casually said.

“Did one of your most infamous emperors not style himself Traitorous?” Kairos said.

She laughed, rather cuttingly.

“Traitorous?” she smiled. “Oh, youth. You are barely even a Malignant.”

Hadn’t one of those started the War of Thirteen Tyrants and One? No, I decided, it’d been the First War of the Dead. Gods, the Praesi had had so many damned civil wars. Procer could try as it might – and most definitely had – it had a few centuries of catching up to do before it could even begin to rival the Wasteland in this regard.

“Third?” Hakram asked.

“Second, of course,” Akua daintily replied.

“Harsh,” he commented, undertone appreciative.

“You are tamer a beast than I believed you would be, Akua Sahelian,” the Tyrant of Helike said, tone friendly. “Learned to love the hand that cowed us, have we?”

So he’d been able to see through that, had he? I was too tired to be afraid, and not certain I would have been even if I’d been well-rested and sober. Kairos could shout this on every rooftop across Calernia, if he wanted to: he’d burned too many bridges to still be believed.

“I see now, why you so easily strike a chord with so many of them,” the woman who’d been Diabolist said, offering almost fond amusement. “You are, in essence, a poor man’s Carrion Lord.”

Gods, but I’d forgotten how genuinely vicious she could be with a turn of phrase. How easy it was, now that the sharpness had been dulled and turned to teasing and bantering insult, to forget that while I was playing in the streets of Laure and skipping my lessons Akua had spent her days learning to flay the pride of others with mere sentences. To play all the deadly games of the Wasteland highborn, those beautiful and elegant monsters with eyes of gold and poisonous tongues. Kairos’ face tightened, imperceptibly. Were less tired, less raw, I suspected it would not have. But it did, and the woman who’d once been the Heiress saw the weakness bared.

“So eager to offer insult,” Kairos said, tone friendly. “Shall we play that game, then? I know of the rules.”

“Then you have played poorly,” Akua said, scathing. “Look at you now, Tyrant of Very Far Away. You pretend it power that you can greet us without the greats of your League but we both know different, don’t we? It is an admission that if they see you bleed, they will turn on you like hungry wolves.”

“Am I to take lesson from you?” Kairos grinned, red-eyed and mutedly furious. “Oh, that strikes me as folly.”

“I have seen boys like you played to death by the dozen,” Akua said, almost gently. “Minds like pretty baubles of glass, thinking themselves untouchable for their sharp edges. It does not take brilliance or treachery to end the likes of you, did you know? All it takes is a thick enough boot.”

A flicker of power, but not in here. Outside, and familiar. Discretely I gestured at Hakram. If it was Roland, I would prefer for them to await without entering. For looking at Akua now I saw cruelty like frost, yes, but not only that: I also saw a woman lancing an old and festering wound, and of that I would not brook interruption. Adjutant quietly left the pavilion, the gargoyles following him with their eyes but neither the Tyrant not the once-Diabolist even noticing.

“And yet you pair me to the man who called your kind to heel,” Kairos idly said. “Who took the proud High Lords of the Wasteland for mere horses to be broken in, and then proved the truth of that contempt.”

“A pale imitation, in truth,” Akua mused. “Armies and cleverness and parlour tricks, only without everything laudable in our man. Even made a shivering ghost, still he commanded enough loyalty for armies and pupils and companions to seek him. You? Victor and surrounded by armies, you’ve ruined yourself and call it brilliance. You are alone.”

“So are we all,” Kairos Theodosian said, and it was too harshly said for it to be pretence. “They beat you and fed you, Akua Sahelian, with pain and scraps of affections – until like a loyal hound you licked the cruel hand. The apprentice did to you as the teacher did to your entire people. And now you put on their masks and speak their empty creed, but that is a hollow thing isn’t it? Compared to the truths you can still feel slithering through your blood, those that whisper of greatness instead of submission.”

“I am more than blood,” Akua Sahelian hissed. “I am more than what I was made from. But you, Kairos Theodosian? You are the apostle of the cage, the congregant of scrapped iron. And what has that made of you, Tyrant of Least and Less? You bargain with every change of the wind, and every time find return diminished. You have run out of coin to sell yourself with. You have made an enemy of all the world, and so you no longer have place in it.”

“I am a droplet in the tide that will drown Creation,” the Tyrant of Helike smiled, eye red like fresh blood.

“You are yesterday,” Akua said. “That is the sum whole of you. And scream and wail as you will, that is all you’ll ever be.”

And, chin high and back straight, she turned. She walked out without another word and left behind her oppressive silence. I watched Kairos, and in turn he watched me. Like a furnace lit and closed, the rage could be seen glowing at the edges of him. The tent was opened a fraction, even as he continued trying to master himself.

“Archer found the Rogue and followed him here,” Hakram told me in Kharsum. “Both are fine.”

I inclined my head in acknowledgement without turning and the tent closed.

“You made a deal with the Bard, while we were out there,” I said, tone even.

“A greater game is in the works than you suspect,” the Tyrant of Helike said. “She is no ally of mine.”

“The rest I could stomach,” I mildly said. “But the Bard? You burned a bridge with that. Still. There’ll be a conference of the great powers and you’ll have your seat.”

“As was promised,” he said.

“As was promised,” I agreed.

I turned and began to limp out.

“We have more to discuss, Black Queen,” Kairos called out.

I glanced at him.

“No,” I said. “We don’t. You want an audience? Crawl to my camp. You ought to know how, after last night.”

To the sounds of his anger and the chittering of gargoyles I walked out of the tent and did not look back until I’d brought my people safe to camp.

211 thoughts on “Chapter 54: Lustrate

  1. I’m looking forward to Kairos being a dismembered corpse doused in goblinfire.

    Kairos saw through whatever guise Akua has to recognize her as her. That could be a problem – Pilgrim did slap Kairos with the curse of truthfulness.
    But how the fuck would Kairos know what Akua Sahelian/Diabolist looks like or how to recognize her? They would not have crossed paths, even by proxy, Kairos shouldn’t be able to recognize her.

    Liked by 11 people

    1. stevenneiman

      Kairos trades information with everyone. He might have run himself into a corner here, but he does know a lot about what’s going on. And Akua went with Cat to Keter, so the Dead King knows about it, and he would be perfectly happy to share information which can ruin or at least weaken the Grand Alliance even if he gets little in return.

      Liked by 5 people

    2. It’s not much of a riddle. Catherine kind of tipped her hand on having SOMEONE with her when she had Akua use the well of Night in her absence, and Kairos would have enough background info to put 2 and 2 together. Honestly I won’t be surprised if Pilgrim does too, just hasn’t brought it up so far.

      (Binding a defeated foe to serve you is not any further out there in villainous methods than necromancy, as far as general trope perception goes. Catherine’s internal struggle about her relationship with Akua is just that – internal, and a potential PR issue within Callow… honestly, with how much credit Cat’s got there, I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t much of a blow even there if it came out)

      Liked by 4 people

      1. “You are yesterday” is cheap. It wasn’t precisely targeted at Kairos, it was Akua more talking to herself of yesterday that she saw in him. “You’re history” is generic enough to be fitting against anyone whose methods you dont believe in.

        “Poor man’s Carrion Lord” is a much more targeted and therefore much more deeply cutting insult 😀

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Rook

          Nearly all of it was targeted at herself as much as Kairos, to be honest. That was the genius of it.

          Kairos is in many ways everything that the Diabolist was, what Akua was. Every single one of his failings she pointed out are failings she herself embraced in the past and has since renounced. Every single one is a boil lanced for herself in the admittance of the flaw.

          She didn’t need to read him to cut at the heart of him, all she had to do was take a page out of Catherine’s book and self flagellate.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. Eeeehhh. I wouldn’t call it that last one, what you did. What’s characteristic of Catherine is that she bemoans her flaws, then continues to do the same thing, because she doesn’t know how to do better and that’s what annoys her in the first place.

            Akua has probably been saving all of this up for a while, against her past self. She is seeing a road forward, out of everything she’s poked at here disdainfully, and that’s a big difference.

            And yes, she’s the best possible person to roast Kairos here ;u;

            Liked by 1 person

    1. “The only good ideas you’ve got going for you are those you stole from the guy you hate most, and even then you’re kind of shitty at them”

      Akua Sahelian is very important ;u;
      she is not afraid to burn herself to burn someone else also and that is very worthy of respect

      Liked by 2 people

      1. As Cat noted, this was a healing burn… for Akua. New Evil telling Old to shove it is one thing when it’s a relative newbie like Amadeus doing it, but a black-and-red-and-Evil-all-over Sahelian giving it the finger in complete disgust?

        Girl has fully committed to very definitely not being her mother’s brand of Evil, while working to avoid the trap of finding another attractively traditional way of staying in the cage.

        Liked by 8 people

        1. Forgot to note: a once-Named Sahelian of the direct line. A lesser Sahelian has also stuck a tongue out at Old Evil a time or eighteen, but remaining the un-Named head spy, friend, companion and lover of the Dread Express of the Tower while doing so… kind of blunted the impact a teensy bit.

          But, two Sahelians? One Named-and-played-the-Game? Stack.

          Liked by 3 people

  2. magesbe

    That was a nasty exchange between Kairos and Akua, and I think it hit both of them where it hurts. I’m really growing to like this Akua honestly. If Akua hadn’t been the Doom of Liesse, I could see her and Cat becoming genuine, close friends. As it is, that will always hang between them to some degree, and Akua will have to answer for it at some point.

    Also, Kairos got burned. Sorry kid, after the shit you pulled you don’t even get “worthy adversary” levels of treatment. You burned those bridges yourself.

    Liked by 16 people

    1. RoflCat

      I think Akua’s grown enough in her time with Cat that his attempt at insult doesn’t really even sting anymore.

      I feel an option for her to redeem herself is to become a guardian to Callow until it manages to recover.
      For the 100,000 souls she took from it, 100,000 souls she’ll raise in it, that sort of thing.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Andrew Mitchell

        That’s a nice idea but there needs to be an end to Akua or it goes against the Callowan ethos of ‘long prices’. My bet (65% probability) is that Akua’s going to heroically sacrifice herself to save something critical in the battle with the Dead King and/or the Bard.

        Liked by 5 people

        1. RoflCat

          I think being duty bound to the land for however many generations it take for her to repay her debt is quite a ‘long’ time to do.

          If anything a ‘quick’ death via heroic sacrifice seems like the thing that goes against the ‘long prices’ ethos.

          Remember, these are the people whose grandchild will punch another’s and steal 3 apples for the one stolen 2 generations ago.

          Liked by 11 people

          1. >I think being duty bound to the land for however many generations it take for her to repay her debt is quite a ‘long’ time to do.

            >If anything a ‘quick’ death via heroic sacrifice seems like the thing that goes against the ‘long prices’ ethos.

            Mm, that’s how I’m seeing it too! 😀

            Also I love how Akua didn’t give a shit about the ‘folly’ insults because there’s only so long you can be called ‘hey cloak accessory’ and ‘hey bad idea shade’ before you stop giving a shit period ;u;

            Liked by 3 people

          2. KageLupus

            The long price for Akua isn’t death, it is being dragged into a mindset where she knows exactly what a miserable life she had lived up until that point. Being shown what she could have had if it weren’t for centuries of Praesi nonsense and evil. I don’t think she is ever going to truly feel horrible about her actions at Liesse, or at least not enough, but that isn’t really the cutting knife either.

            The really painful bit is going to be Akua coming to value the rest of the Woe and still seeing that look in their eyes that says she is a monster and not forgiven. Every day that Cat and the rest joke around with her and bring her into the fold is slipping that knife just a little deeper.

            Liked by 4 people

    2. stevenneiman

      I honestly don’t think that Akua was emotionally hurt by that exchange at all. If she’d had it just after her defeat maybe, but she’s not as insecure as she was and she’s not someone for whom those insults really do hit close to home. If anything, I think Akua sees Kairos as someone who wallows in everything she has outgrown, and for all the skill she delivered it with that genuine contempt was what Akua was channelling here..

      Liked by 4 people

      1. I think there’s something there, but not what Kairos was aiming for. It was the “wait is this how people see me” and “was this what I sounded like” kind of emotional hurt, and the “well I guess I’m going to have to be explicit about my position without hiding behind jokes now” kind of emotional hurt. Like she commented “this sounds positively horrid” on Cat’s remark about helping people 5 minute ago, she still prefers the “yes I am still just an evil villain” mask, and she had to tear that off with chunks of face to really tear into Kairos here.

        Liked by 4 people

  3. Gunslinger

    Akua was phenomenal in this chapter but Catherine’s crawl to the camp jibe was the sickest burn. Oof

    We get more indications of Akua’s path to redemption and it’s pretty darn convincing. I don’t think it will end well do her though. Cat will never forget the Folly

    Liked by 7 people

    1. magesbe

      I think Akua might end up going down with a Heroic Sacrifice, rather than Cat having to put her down herself. Because it’s clear at this point Cat really doesn’t want to, she just feels like Akua needs to answer for her crimes in a more final way than she already has.

      Liked by 9 people

          1. Zgggt

            We have already witnessed the priesthood of Good committing a mass ritual sacrifice of the innocent in order to unleash a calamity on their enemy in a strict military sense. That was the actual start of the Battle of the Camps, where Cat watched in horror as Procer made a mass human sacrifice out of every non professional or aristocrat within miles to trap a chunk of Callowan troops.

            What you’re talking about isn’t nearly as clear a blood sacrifice as that.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Shveiran

              Uhm, no.

              First off, what you are referring to was the battle plan of the army’s general, not the work of the priests. Sending in the conscripts was no more the priesthood’s decision than Juniper’s plans at three Hills were Masego’s idea.
              Just because they were there, it doesn’t make it their decision.
              I agree that fencing in people for an allied cavalry charge is a ridiculous loophole for a supposed pacifist (if you hold someone down while another person shoots them dead, you can bet your ass you are complicit in that murder) but that has no bearing with the deployment of the recruits as skirmishers.

              Second, that is a ruthless, yet solid and very common tactic for larger armies with a great score of unprofessional soldiers. Ugly, yes, but then war is usually that. Uglier than necessary, perhaps, but still not quite bleeding people for power.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. Zgggt

                The priesthood had to be involved, and pretending they didn’t know what they’re doing and yet literally asked heaven to do it anyways. It’s a military tactic which involved using priests channelling the heavens so that for the price of innocents they will change the landscape in such a way as to make victory more likely. But even if you remove the priesthood completely from the equation, the answer to “how does human sacrifice committed by Good look like?” is “making this choice”.

                In a world that has so much weight in the choices and actions of so very few, we really can’t allow Good to get away with childish “stop hitting yourself, I’m not hurting you so naaah” when the difference between that choice and throwing those same innocents into a fire and summoning a demon is not in the result.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. So the nuance you’re missing here is that Akua’s question of ‘righeous equivalent to blood sacrifice’ referred to ‘how do I make the angels like me better’. Which this kind of sacrifice does not accomplish – it strains your credit with Good, not inflates it.

                  Liked by 2 people

                2. Shveiran

                  If you are arguing that the Guide’s Good falls well short of good, I’m totally on board.

                  If you ascribe a deeper meaning to the “send forth the conscript” rather than, say, invading a country in the first place, or a Choir trying to brainwash cities, or Heroes scything through infantrymen who are defending their homes, or dozens of other instances in this series, I am not sure I see your point.
                  Most of the Good guys don’t seem to ascribe a lot of value to the sanctity of life, not in practice. How does this stand out?

                  Liked by 2 people

  4. WhoEvenKnows

    Man, Black woke up just so he could approve of and applaud this savagery. Imagine getting told: “You’re nothing more than a moron doing a pathetic imitation of the man you hate”.

    Liked by 11 people

  5. BerenTheBold

    “You are yesterday,” Akua said. “That is the sum whole of you. And scream and wail as you will, that is all you’ll ever be.”

    Daaaaamn.. Akua has no chill 😂

    Liked by 13 people

    1. Sparsebeard

      The thing I was more surprised with was that she helped fix Black, arguably the person she should hate the most (except perhaps herself). I mean, he did kill her father, perhaps the only person she truly loved…

      Now I wonder if Black will similarly be able to let his grudge against Pilgrim go… he did promise a reckoning.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. ActionKermit

        I do wonder if she did anything else to Black during the process. It would be just like her to lay a hidden compulsion when his soul was in her hands, as a way to assassinate Cat. “Love dies at the kiss of a knife / Trust is the water that ends your life” and so on.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Andrew Mitchell

          I think that’s possible and probably even more likely now that Masego has come back without his magic. He’s one of the few people that could possibly have detected or reversed that compulsion.

          I don’t think it’s likely because that would go against Akua’s redemption story and (a) I really, REALLY want that to come true, and more importantly (b) because ultimately I view PGtE as a creative work that is, at its core, optimistic about the capacity to change and Akua betraying Cat goes against that.

          I think there’s at most 10% chance that Akua’s done anything except put Black together as well as she can.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Shveiran

            Really? She is operating mostly through the Night at this point, and even if she wasn’t Andronike knew magic before she spent centuries refining her knowledge.
            Even if Aqua was going to, I don’t see the Sisters missing it or not acting on that knowledge.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Andrew Mitchell

              I’m not sure what you’re arguing with when you said “Really?” but, on reflection, maybe my last sentence was unclear. What I meant was:

              “There’s only a small chance that Akua added anything when she rejoined Black’s body & soul.”

              Liked by 2 people

      2. caoimhinh

        On that note, one meeting I’m anticipating is Catherine and Amadeus meeting the Valiant Champion. It’s one thing for her to have killed Captain, but Raphaela actually skinned Sabah to make a cloak of her wolf fur, which she consistently wears as it is a trophy of her greatest victory so far.

        They are both going to be really angry when they find out.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. > It’s one thing for her to have killed Captain, but Raphaela actually skinned Sabah to make a cloak of her wolf fur, which she consistently wears as it is a trophy of her greatest victory so far.

          Eh, that’s a Praesi complement, if not an orcish one. Somebody actually telling Champion so would be a hoot!

          Liked by 3 people

        2. Shveiran

          That will bring some strain, but let’s get on the same page here: most of the people here were trying to kill eachother until a short time ago, which is less than a day for many of them.
          If the rank and file won’t knife the other soldiers to avenge their buddies, I doubt Amadeus won’t stay his hand. The Calamities were trying to murder them, and did kill the sisters; Sabah biting it may be something they regret, but it’s in the job description.
          He will mourn her, but I think he knows it wasn’t personal. If he wants vengeance on anyone, it’s the Bard.

          Liked by 4 people

      3. >she helped fix Black, arguably the person she should hate the most (except perhaps herself). I mean, he did kill her father, perhaps the only person she truly loved…

        “Acts” covered that. Just because regular not emotionally stunted people think she should, doesn’t mean she didn’t have that burned out of her along with most other emotions. And this isn’t one she’s in most hurry to regrow.

        Liked by 4 people

      4. Shveiran

        As a Villainess, Akua is very aware she herself painted a large target on anyone she has loved.
        Much like Amadeus with his parents in fact.

        She knew the rules of the game, she still wholeheartedly chose to play it.
        I suspect anything she begrudges Amadeus, she holds against herself tenfold for failing to protect him after putting him at risk.

        Liked by 6 people

    2. JJR

      Yes… except she is so skilled at manipulating people she could still be acting and there’d be almost no way to tell. Cat did have that one interrogation session, but I don’t know if she’s kept that up.

      Is this why Redemption equals Death? Because it’s the only way to be sure the character was genuine?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Only if you aren’t following character arcs and analyzing characters’ motivations and logic based on the POVs we’ve gotten from them.

        Akua was questioning what the fuck the older generation was doing back at the start of Book 3, in her own POV.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Soma

    I am somewhat relieved that dealing with Kairos was short and sweet. Played me like a fiddle. I got all riled up about Kairos and now we get to see this nice little backhand to resolve the pest’s attempts at intrigues. Well, resolved for now, but still.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. Shveiran

      Same. I had a bad reaction to last chapter, it is a nice relief to find out this side-plot was a chapter long.
      It goes to show that EE is always, always a dozen steps ahead of where you expect him to be.

      Someday I’ll learn.

      Liked by 3 people

  7. erebus42

    Damn! Way to torch his ass Akua! He’s gonna remember this, but he’s definitely circling the drain. Even after all he’s done though, when he does die I do hope he finds a way to screw over everyone one last time.

    Liked by 5 people

  8. Andrew Mitchell

    But Warlock or Ranger? Sisters, I’d pay good coin to have transcripts of that conversation.

    Nice to see Catherine still being F.U.N. even in the privacy of her own mind. 🙂

    Liked by 6 people

    1. ninegardens

      I mean, she has Black now. AND he owes her at a favour: “In return for saving your armies and returning you to life… PLEASE teach me how you got Warlock to be less murdery.”

      Liked by 13 people

      1. I’m guessing the answer would be some form of “positive reinforcement”. E.g.: “Did you stay below your Murder Quota today Wekesa? Excellent! Here’s a cookie rare magical tome you’ve been looking for.”

        Liked by 6 people

  9. IDKWhoitis

    Well, I’m pleasantly surprised that everything went fine with Archer and Roland.

    I’m slightly disappointed with how Kairos still has a head attached to his shoulders, but he bargained too well to be killed that easily.

    I wonder if Roland will continue to hang out with the Woe or if he will seek residence with the Procerans. I would like to hear Cat talk to Roland alone, like she has found herself to do on occasion, and pick out his desires and Endgame. It would make for good conversation on the way to Salía or the North.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. Andrew Mitchell

      Oh yes, we definitely need to see Roland and Cat have a chat soon. Preferably from Roland’s point of view. But either way, I’m looking forward to it.

      Liked by 7 people

  10. “I am more than blood,” Akua Sahelian hissed. “I am more than what I was made from. But you, Kairos Theodosian? You are the apostle of the cage, the congregant of scrapped iron. And what has that made of you, Tyrant of Least and Less? You bargain with every change of the wind, and every time find return diminished. You have run out of coin to sell yourself with. You have made an enemy of all the world, and so you no longer have place in it.”
    fuckin sick-ass burns

    Liked by 11 people

    1. luminiousblu

      Eh…
      Akua didn’t quite make an enemy of ‘all the world’ so much as forcibly carve out a huge chunk of it to be her friend. Kairos makes a point of offending literally everyone just to show he can, Akua tries to avoid offending people if she’s not specifically looking to crush them anyway.
      If anything, Kairos makes an enemy of the world and so has no place in it, but Akua couldn’t find a place in the world and so ended up making enemies.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Shveiran

        Are you arguing that there are parts of the world that are not pushed to enmity by the deploying of a Doomsday machine that rips tears in creation that allow devils and demons to spew forth and is empowered by genocide?

        I guess… the Chain of Hunger makes the list?

        Liked by 4 people

        1. ninegardens

          The other purebloods? Her Dad? Her Mum? The Dead King?

          Hell, I mean Malicia was practically backing her up on this, in a “Now I will take your doom weapon and make it mine” kind of way.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. Shveiran

            I think you are mistaking “admiration” and “friendliness”. She built a death ray to conquer it all. “It all” tends to have issues with that.

            Her dad is not a people, he is one person who loves her daughter. the truebloods (Talia included) would have knifed Diabolist at the first opportunity to steal the death ray. Malicia’s plan was precisely that. The Dead king would not have been on board with the idea either, why would he?

            Liked by 3 people

        2. luminiousblu

          >Are you arguing that there are parts of the world that are not pushed to enmity by the deploying of a Doomsday machine that rips tears in creation that allow devils and demons to spew forth and is empowered by genocide?
          I’m finding it pretty hard to think of any place that would oppose such a weapon on principle. Even Catherine was going ‘hmmm well now that she’s already made it maybe we can put it to good use after all’. It’s basically a nuke, and a hundred thousand is a drop in the ocean anyway when we’re on about doomsday weapons.

          Point is that Kairos makes offending people his endgoal, Akua offending people is at best an incidental thing, not generally the goal in and of itself. Kairos’ introduction was basically a statement about being a git “because who the fuck is going to stop you lmfao”, Akua’s first actual conversation with Cat was more or less ‘hey I don’t want to threaten you but if you would kindly get out of my way then I won’t have to threaten to put everyone you ever knew to the torch whoopsie I let it slip hehe’. Both are being pretty capital-E, but the modus operandi is different.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. Shveiran

            The MO is different, the end result is not.

            During the first chat with Cordelia, Cat herself remarks how Akua thinks of any country in the world as “on the conquest list”. She makes an enemy of everyone because she is big, bad, and mad. She wants to conquer everything just because she cannot accept anything to be beyond her reach or her superior unless she is MADE to.
            The only reason why Aqua never received international condemnation was because she burned like a falling star: three months after she stopped being just a wastelander schemer with no international relevance, she was already dead.

            Liked by 5 people

            1. > The MO is different, the end result is not.

              Ayyy jinx! For the record I started typing my comment before you had posted your reply, I just type slow when I keep getting interrupted by, uh, my actual job I’m supposed to be doing lol.

              Liked by 3 people

            2. Akua was one of the “reasons” Cordelia used to pull the Grand Alliance together, so it’s not that she didn’t cause international condemnation, it’s that she was already dead and wasn’t being a collar fairy yet.

              At any rate … Akua pisses people off as a side effect or, more rarely, as part of a specific tactic towards a specific end, when that’s the “best” means of achieving that specific end.
              It also makes her a target because if she isn’t stopped, she’ll do great and terrible things. In the terrible, yes, but great, sense of things.

              Kairos seemingly pisses people off just for laughs and because he can. Like, for example, he helped set up the scenario that led to Sabah’s death, because he wanted to stab Black in the back and feels. It literally gained Kairos nothing except the enmity of Black and Warlock – who were there to help him gain control/dominance over the League. And maybe whatever Bard gave him, since she was involved in that.

              It’s … like the difference between Akua’s trying to be Thanos (or maybe a Loki who wants grow up to be Thanos) and Kairos trying to be the Joker (except not as clever nor as funny and with an extra helping of bullshit and hax).
              They’re both terrible people, but Akua wants to conquer everything she can and break what resists until it stops resisting or ceases to exist, preferably the former, Kairos is a nihilist who just wants the world to burn because then he can say he lit it on fire.

              There’s a difference, and it does matter.
              For Akua, it’s either a side effect or a means to a specific end.
              For Kairos, it’s an end in and of itself.

              Liked by 4 people

              1. Shveiran

                There is a difference, but does it truly matter, from a practical stand point?

                Everyone sane rallies against both Thanos-types and Joker-types, so whether that was the goal or a side effect, both kinds do piss off nearly everyone.

                Liked by 4 people

              2. Sparsebeard

                Do you mean when he used Black and his victory over him to install the second Hierach in known history (with him as the grey eminence)… The way I see it, betraying Black was meant to somewhat appease the cities hes was warring with in collaboration with Black, it was a way to show he isn’t a pawn of a foreign power.

                Also, slapping Black hard made sure that the Tower would be much more careful when meddling in th free cities affairs…

                Liked by 2 people

          2. The motive is different, but the effect is the same. Akua didn’t want to make an enemy out of everybody just for the sake of it Kairos-style, buuut she still did it anyway.

            Also:

            > I’m finding it pretty hard to think of any place that would oppose such a weapon on principle. Even Catherine was going ‘hmmm well now that she’s already made it maybe we can put it to good use after all’. It’s basically a nuke, and a hundred thousand is a drop in the ocean anyway when we’re on about doomsday weapons.

            What. The Wasteland, the Hidden Horror, and the Chain of Hunger are the only places in Calernia that wouldn’t oppose such a weapon on principle, and even they’d be opposed to anyone else having it. And come on, “It’s basically a nuke, and a hundred thousand is a drop in the ocean anyway when we’re on about doomsday weapons.”? That’s a relative standard that literally nobody actually uses, even in our world where nukes have been real since the 1940s and we’ve had literally generations to get desensitized to them. I guaran-fucking-tee you that if somebody used a nuke today and killed 100,000 people, the reaction would not be “well that was only a hundred thousand, that’s a drop in the ocean by the standards of nukes”. The reaction would be “HOLY FUCKING SHIT THOSE LUNATICS JUST ACTUALLY USED A NUKE”.

            Liked by 5 people

          3. caoimhinh

            Literally everywhere except the Wasteland and Keter oppose to that weapon on principle; and really on everything else, including practicality, religious motives, and political reasons.

            Catherine didn’t accept to “put it to good use” she was desperate and emotionally unstable at the moment due to the deaths of 100 thousand of her countrymen which she saw as her responsibility and fault, and accepted to use it as a deterrent by showing what it caused in Liesse and saying to everyone else “leave us alone and we won’t use this on you”, which wasn’t going to work because then everyone would get a freaking divine mandate to wipe them out. Fortunately, Amadeus was sane enough to notice that what everyone else in the world would see is a fucking diabolical weapon of mass destruction that would be used to threaten them all to submission, hence the rest of Calernia would call a Crusade (which is what they did) against Praes to destroy it and everyone who remotely knew how to build another; so he Destroyed it, since tying themselves to that story as “the Villains with the Doomsday Device” would make them the losers right off the bat.
            It was Malicia’s stupid obsession with power what led to this, as she actually financed Akua’s plan and gave her the materials, because Malicia decided that she wanted her own personal power instead of continuing to rely on and trust the man who had kept her alive and in power for 40 fucking years.

            Liked by 4 people

            1. Shveiran

              THough I agree that Malicia’s move was wrong from both a moral and pragmatic point fo view, I don’t think she did it out of lack of trust or power hunger.
              Believing Amadeus wouldn’t be able to repel the full might of the Crusade is not the same thing as those, and it is not an unreasonable position when folks like Saint and Pilgrim come out to play at the head of a larger force.
              She made a stupid and despicable move, but she is not swinging out of nowhere out of trust issues, IMO.

              Liked by 3 people

              1. caoimhinh

                The way I see it, she used the “we will have this Doomsday Weapon as deterrent and thus we will not have to fight more wars” as an excuse. Because it’s really illogical and runs against everything they had done for over 40 years. She did it because she wanted to have her own power since the Legions of Terror were more loyal to Amadeus than to her, and she even half-admitted it to him when she said she trusted him but only one could sit on the throne, which is an insult to Amadeus as he had spent the last four decades protecting her and defending her rule, distrusting him is one of the dumbest things she could do, as they started the war, won the war and kept control of Praes by Amadeus constant effort along with Malicia’s politicking.

                Thinking that Amadeus couldn’t repel the full might of the Crusade is a valid worry, but making a diabolist weapon from the Age of Wonders is actually a weakness that would condemn them lose that war, and she must have known that as avoiding such things had been their policy for her entire reign.

                It was not a logical move, it was an emotional one, made out of an obsession with power that clouded her judgement.
                It has been hinted many times that Alaya is the most emotional of the two and that beneath her mask of control she has a somewhat fragile psyche with many emotional issues (like Tikoloshe’s mention that Alaya “craves control the way a starving man craves a meal”, her own admission that it took her decades to stop awakening with nightmares about Nefarious, or when after her last conversation with Amadeus she was shown crying and breaking things in her room in a fit of anger).

                Liked by 1 person

                1. I don’t think Alaya fits the “hysterical irrational woman” trope you’re trying to fit her into.

                  Yes, she has intense PTSD from Nefarious, and while she’s largely recovered it can never be all the way.

                  No, she did not know everything as perfectly as Amadeus did. She’d been focused on intra-governmental politics and intrigue while he handled the broader culture / population / narrative issues, and she never came to realize just how large his slice of the “keeping things running” pie really was. It’s a flaw in understanding, but it’s not… a tantrum.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. caoimhinh

                    I never said she is hysterical or irrational.
                    I said that her action of scheming to obtain Akua’s Doomsday Device (and even financing and supporting it from the shadows) was an emotional decision, it was an action driven by her own craving for control, and that craving blurred her better judgement and cracked her trust on her closest friend in the world.
                    And yes, she knew things as perfectly as Amadeus, because she has been working with him for 40 years, and because Amadeus explained these kinds of things to her, that’s why he was so angry at her, because she knows better and yet willingly made a fatal decision of the kind they had been avoiding their entire lives.

                    It’s a huge difference from being histerical and irrational.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. >And yes, she knew things as perfectly as Amadeus, because she has been working with him for 40 years, and because Amadeus explained these kinds of things to her

                      Did he?

                      I mean, sure, he definitely rambled in her presence on the topic, and he’s certainly explained his decisions to her when she asked – we have seen it happen in Villainous Interlude: Coulisse. Note that she did not see what he was doing there until he explained.

                      Consider their argument in Epilogue 3. They’d been working at cross-purposes for a while now, prioritizing different aspects of what they believed were important to Praes’s well-being, without ever realizing it. Note her conviction that Amadeus was going to get himself killed, and consider it in light of his actual actions – if she picked up on a death wish from him and concluded his judgement was compromised, it was not without grounds.

                      I am seeing perfectly rational reasons for Malicia to have made the decision that she did. Note that Amadeus even admitted that he could have seen the doomfortress plan succeed if he hadn’t seen how Bard operates in the Free Cities. His anger was not just at that specific bit of stupidity, but also at her sabotaging his plan for Callow, which was part of a deeper disagreement – she did not want Callow to be independent and would rather damage it further than allow it to slip out of Praes’s grasp, while he held the exact opposite opinion. She accused him of ‘using Praes as staging ground for his spitting match with Heavens’ and not seeing what his people actually want; in actuality I would say she herself made the mistake of taking the High Lords as representative of the country as a whole and identifying them with it. Her mistake had varied and nuanced roots; her trauma-fueled desire for control certainly played a part, but I’m not even sure she wouldn’t have acted the exact same way without it.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. caoimhinh

                      Of course he explained things to her, and of course she knows how their world works, they had been working together for 40 years. They are the closest of friends and Amadeus trusted in her with everything, It was always Malicia who did things behind his back.
                      She secretly conversed with Wekesa about that weapon, she has hidden mental commands on the high-ranked officials of the Legions without Amadeus knowing (and by her own admission it was done so she could have a hold on them behind his back), she financed Akua’s Folly and who knows what other things she has done behind Amadeus’ back.

                      He trusted her, she didn’t extend that trust to him because of paranoia, despite more than 40 years of Amadeus keeping her alive and reigning, she still did things behind his back because she felt insecure and thought he had too much power, so she sought to have her own, despiter knowing perfectly well that his own power was one of the pillars of her reign. Even when conciously aware of this, she still went with the Doomsday Device plan because that would give her a weapon of her own, independant from others, but by doing so she betrayed her best friend in the world, nearly tied them all to the type of doomed story they had spent their lives avoiding and effectively fucked up her country, triggering the Crusade, Callow’s rebellion and the Goblin’s uprising.

                      It’s not that Alaya was crazy or histerical, but she let her emotions guide her actions, which is ironic given how she rants about only trusting people to act according to their nature, well, that’s her nature: craving for control. And in the pursue of absolute control she lost the control she had, now she is nearly alone.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    3. >Of course he explained things to her, and of course she knows how their world works, they had been working together for 40 years.

                      Do you think Amadeus is also an expert on dismensional magic theory because he’s been working alongside Wekesa for 40 years?

                      He’s the expert in story-fu. She isn’t. She does not understand things as deeply as he does, even though he has explained.

                      >She secretly conversed with Wekesa about that weapon

                      She hasn’t. She got his opinion after the whole thing blew up, and he was actually offended that she went for a secret plan to get it from Akua instead of just asking him.

                      >she didn’t extend that trust to him because of paranoia

                      We have seen her cut off that line of reasoning in her own POV, counteracting the paranoia with ‘it’s Maddie, I’m being silly’.

                      >she let her emotions guide her actions

                      I disagree. This one decision was made very much out of cold calculations, just mistaken once.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    4. caoimhinh

                      It’s completely different to learning a craft, she definitely knew about Narrative and the weight of stories, that’s her whole rethoric when she tried to justify it to Black, remember? “We can’t win the fight against the Heavens, so we avoid fighting at all” and also tried to avoid being tied too strongly to that story by not being the one who built the weapon, but instead the one who stole it, and not even use it, just have it as deterrent. It was her own attempt at Story-Fu, and it was well-made enough that even Catherine’s Name of Black Queen was about to emerge from that, Malicia’s actions had weight and she understood it, yet she understimated it and Amadeus saw that.

                      It’s true that Malicia isn’t as apt at Story-Fu as Amadeus, that doesn’t mean she is ignorant, we have even seen from the most recent extra chapter Seed, that Malicia was in the known of Amadeus earliest findings of the Praesi problem with harvests, one that he understood as consequence of Narrative at work, hence their plan of joining Callow into Praes to avoid the starving issue, they came up and worked on that plan together and Black explained to Catherine how they reached that conclusion: by understanding of Narrative.

                      So Alaya knew the narrative meaning of her actions with Akua’s doomsday device, and hence she carried on her plan in a meticulous manner; but her motivation, the drive behind that plan, was always that desire for control and independant power, that is undeniable.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    5. Everyone knows about narrative and story-weight, that doesn’t mean they understand perfectly well how it works. I never called her completely ignorant.

                      I do agree that Alaya is largely driven by her desire for control and independent power. I merely disagree that she was doing ’emotional thinking’. She genuinely believed that the goal she shared with Amadeus – Praes’s prosperity – which Amadeus wanted for the sake of people / future generations, and she wanted for the sake of ruling a prosperous country – would be better achieved through these means.

                      Did her control and trust issues bias her towards this conclusion? Undoubtedly. But she did not go “fuck all other goals I want control even if it kills me”.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    6. Malicia absolutely knows how things actually work. Mostly, anyways.
                      She is the one who wrote “The Death of the Age of Wonders”, after all.

                      However, based on her actions, I’d say Malicia is more of a Classic Old School Evil than a Pragmatic New Evil type at heart. She was able to go along with the Pragmatic New Evil of Amadeus when it brought her to power and the Conquest … but when it came to keeping power, she didn’t trust it as much and so fell into bad habits that escalated.

                      As far as Malicia picking up on a Death Wish or something from Amadeus because he picked Cat as an understudy, Malicia is the one who told Cat that Amadeus was going to burn out his own usefulness in some years.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    7. She did, but she didn’t actually mean it judging by her reactions later. It sounds to me like she was just trying to draw Cat in / get leverage on her / put strings on her.

                      And Death of the Age of Wonders was about politics, not storycraft. Subtle but important distinction when it comes to nuclear deterrent.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    8. Shveiran

                      I think Alaya was having trust issues, brought by decades of stress and a very different vision of the great problem ahead.

                      Ultimately, though, I think her mistake spawned from lack of understanding of the fabric of the world.

                      My understanding is that Malicia is a brilliant mastermind that sees her world through the lens of our own. She doesn’t quite get that creations acts like a narrative, and that is not really a fault: we know of a handful of character in the whole Calernia that can do that reliably and make decisions based on that (I can think of just Cat, Tariq, Black and Bard right now).

                      If you remove that element from the board, she is seeking a nuclear deterrent.
                      I don’t approve, and she went at it most despicably besides, making a huge gamble with Aqua rather than ask Wakesa to develop one (that’s the part where I can see the lack of trust shine most vividly, though maybe she was partially aware fo story structure and was trying to distance herself from the story of the weapon being used for the first time). But while dangerous, it is not an attempt doomed to fail. It is a risk, yes, but also a desperate measure for desperate times.

                      Only if we take into account the stories a death ray provokes we can see that failure was inevitable.
                      But that was an element I think she lacked.

                      Liked by 3 people

                    9. caoimhinh

                      Yeah, the problem was her craving for control, which drove her to seek that weapon of her own so she wouldn’t have to depend on Amadeus’ power.
                      It’s a situation like Amadeus having a gun and protecting her with it, and despite she loving Amadeus and spending 40 years being protected by him, she still thinks it’s better if she has her own gun, since it makes her feel more secure and in control, plus she could defend against him in the unlikely case that he turned against her; the problem is that she got a freaking bazooka and made everyone around jump in alarm, and she then tried to sell it as “they won’t attack me because if they try I will shoot the bazooka, we will be fine” when the reality is a swat squad was assembling to snipe her because of course no sane person wants anyone walking around with a loaded bazooka even if she swears not to use it.

                      Another thing, she absolutely understands that her world runs on Narrative, hence why she didn’t built the weapon herself but instead attempted to steal it from Akua; plus remember it was part of her rethoric for justifying her actions to Amadeus “we can’t win the war against Above, so we don’t fight the war at all”, so she knew the kind of thing she was doing, and the narrative that was building, she just hoped it would turn different, which is the wishful thinking of someone making an emotional decision instead of a rational one.

                      Liked by 2 people

              2. Agreed.

                And IMHO Amadeus brought some of it on himself with his “I am CERTAIN you know better” position. He likes to not be in charge and he likes to put trust in people – except in some cases, trust just transfers into pressure, and this was definitely one of those. Malicia found herself at her level of incompetence, and instead of relying on the guy at her side who’s better at this specific thing than her, she believed that he was right and she WAS better at this than him.

                Calamity ensued, pun intended.

                Liked by 1 person

          4. ciara

            You’re kind of glossing over the part where everyone who saw the Doom-of-Liesse machine and thought “I can use this” was either planning on killing Akua to take it from her (Malicia), or actually already had done so (Cat). How exactly does “inciting literally everyone to murder you” not qualify as making enemies?

            Liked by 5 people

  11. Sparsebeard

    Man that was almost painful seeing Tyrant be savaged like this…

    It probably a good thing Cat left early, I have the feeling if this kept going he probably was gonna erupt in tears at this point.

    Liked by 4 people

  12. thegreatfeed

    But they WILL become close. Akua WILL be redeemed and she WILL become a better person and only in the full realization of the nature of her crimes will cat’s promised punishment be possible.

    This is Chacal de Nahueltoro situation.

    Liked by 5 people

  13. Sparsebeard

    Still, I don’t know why but a lot of this situation felt like a mistake to me. The whole weakning of Tyran’s position amongst the free cities and not listening when he was about to that about “the greater game” being played felt somewhat dangerous.

    I mean, naratively, it would make sense for Cat to make a mistake now, when she’s so tired of body and mind… just when things seem to be looking up.

    For all that Tyrant has done, I’d be very surprised if he wasn’t working against Bard. He is the man who created Hierach after all.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Yeah, but everybody will also be busy trying to work out how he’s getting around the geas, as well — say, finding a way to believe a falsehood is true; or telling the truth with important bits chopped off it that entirely change the meaning. That’s the problem with proving yourself to be a traitorous weathervane with a high IQ: even if you tell the truth, people look for the lies.

        Liked by 6 people

        1. JJR

          Easiest way would be to create a new language. It has all the words of your old language but the meanings are all reversed. Then you can answer “yes” or “no” to any question as long as you remember to use the language that would make the word be true.

          Liked by 2 people

      2. Shveiran

        Yes, but… so? Akua is bound to Cat’s cloak, I don’t see the big deal.

        Kairos can’t tell lies, but Cat can spin the tale, and I doubt “death was too little a price so I enslaved her soul to my service” is too hard to sell to Callowans.
        The hardest part is probably necromancy, and Cat has never been shy with that. Heck, the Heroes did some soul splicing of their own not a month ago, so I don’t see THEM being offended by this.
        I guess it would not be well received, but how is this a big deal?
        Cat has one big secret left, and Kairos is not Malicia.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. caoimhinh

          Indeed.
          I see it more in the way that Akua was an ace up her sleeve, keeping her secret worked against Pilgrim as he didn’t take her into account when making his plan and had him wondering “who the hell is over there?” after she activated the Eclipse.

          Now Kairos knows of Akua, which almost certainly mean everyone in the next meeting will know when Kairos casually mentions it and Pilgrim knows he cannot lie. Which means the truth is out and everyone will start taking Akua into their calculations when dealing with Catherine, which includes Malicia as she more than likely has spies in every army except Helike.
          Though the Majilis have just sworn to not fight against Callow until they finish the current fight with the Dead King, but still. Having one of her secret weapons revealed in such a careless manner is a loss.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. It is.

            But I think it’s one that would have happened inevitably. In the kind of game Catherine is playing here, NO secret can stay secret long-term. It’s better to keep your cards face up from the start, because it’ll keep you safe from getting fucked over when Creation decides that the most dramatic possible moment for your secret to get revealed has come.

            This is how Akua ends up being revealed. If it didn’t happen this way it would have happened in another way.

            Note how in the throne room with the crown, Cat considered the plan of summoning Akua there to take it and get killed, and rejected it only on the logic of ‘the narrative won’t accept it and she won’t be here on time’.

            Liked by 2 people

    1. caoimhinh

      It is also really weird what Kairos did just now.
      I mean, he captured Archer and Rogue Sorcerer just for the lulz of it or simply to give Catherine a scare and get her angry? That can’t be it, he is a betrayer but he is also a schemer.
      It would it be that he simply did it to make sure that Catherine will keep her end of the bargain (as that was the only thing this conversation provided him beside the insult)? That’s still weird, since he knows Catherine honors her bargains.

      If there is no reason in-story for Kairos to do what he did, it would make this chapter another one of those fillers whose only purpose to show us Akua’s character development and rehabilitation; and I would be disappointed. However, it’s a very creative way to slip a filler in the story, much better than the uncle story, at least.

      The exchange between Kairos and Akua was great but it could easily have happened at another time, in a less forced situation than Cat rushing to rescue fake hostages.
      So for story consistency, Kairos must have wanted something from this, and getting Cat into his camp for a conversation must be a step of a plan, unless all of a sudden Kairos has turned into an irrelevant weak character that can’t do anything after his last beating at Catherine’s hands, which would make no sense as we know the big game is still afloat and many other plans are still in progress, so Kairos can’t be thrown into irrelevance/futility so easily.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I think he genuinely wanted to chat a little about Bard and the bigger picture… while still cementing his status as an important-if-dangerous piece in the Game.

        His method of pulling Cat’s ponytail appears to have backfired on him. 😛

        Liked by 6 people

      2. Sparsebeard

        I wouldn’t be surprised if his deal with the Bard was a plot by her to engineer this very chapter.

        After all, Hierarch has shown himself a good foil to her plans so perhaps the Bard wanted to sabotage his “relationship” with Cat (who is also a thorn in Bard’s shoe).

        At the time, perhaps the deal she offered to Tyrant seemed very good, except for the fact that dealing with the Bard was Cat’s red line (which he might not have considered then)…

        I might be paranoid, but whenever the Bard is involved I feel that the consequences of her involvement might very well be of her design.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Andrew Mitchell

          > I might be paranoid, but whenever the Bard is involved I feel that the consequences of her involvement might very well be of her design.

          That’s a very sensible first assumption to make. The Bard’s got millennia more experience than anyone mortals.

          Liked by 1 person

      3. >So for story consistency, Kairos must have wanted something from this, and getting Cat into his camp for a conversation must be a step of a plan

        Yes, but he did not succeed.

        Catherine refused to speak to him about whatever it was he wanted to speak about.

        He did at least achieve a secondary goal of “reminding the world of his existence”, which is imho a goal he always has, but I think he genuinely failed here. I mean he has had how many successes in a row? Even him crawing away from the throne room was very much a success at the core of it.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Andrew Mitchell

          I think Catherine’s confirmation that Karios was still getting a seat at the negotiation table was also a victory for him. But, yes, he didn’t achieve his main goal of having further discussions with Cat.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. caoimhinh

          But it’s not like the world would have forgotten his existence if he didn’t capture Archer and Indrani, or if he didn’t get Cat to march into his camp right away.

          As for the real purpose, which seems to be having a conversation with Cat and assurances of his place in the incoming international talks, the second was already known to him to be coming, but I can understand him wanting some more assurances after the events of last night, but both things could have waited until they were refreshed, or he could have much more easily sent a message to Cat’s army for the talks to happen (though admittedly that would be too normal for him, out of his style).

          I wonder if he was simply aware that Catherine was so tired that if they didn’t have the conversation now he would have to wait for her to wake up in two days. Hence the harsh measures to get her attention.

          Liked by 2 people

            1. caoimhinh

              Perhaps, though there was not much point in doing that.
              There’s really not much point in what Kairos did, and also not much point in Cat bringing Akua there (sure, she is a strong spellcaster and who knows what she can call by using Night now, but Catherine has always made a point about keeping her hidden and she is aware that Kairos has supernatural perception, plus Catherine didn’t really expect a fight in the League’s camp); so in-story there’s little meaning to those causes, but on a Meta level it’s kinda obvious that the effect EE wanted was showing Akua’s words, so he made Kairos do this and made Cat bring Akua along despite those two actions not being very logical and both being mistakes as it turned out (Kairos was humilliated and Akua’s existence was revealed).

              That dialogue, though it turned into half a monologue by Akua, was really cool, but the timing of it is off, and the events that led to it feel a bit forced, as they only happened by two of the series top schemers making mistakes they should have avoided.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. >There’s really not much point in what Kairos did

                There’s not really much point to anything Kairos does, outside of the principle of the thing. Remember how Cat got him to turn on the Dead King just for the joy of turning on the strongest opponent? Right now, that’s Cat, and he did technically get away with yanking her chain once more, even if he didn’t get much out of it.

                > and also not much point in Cat bringing Akua there (sure, she is a strong spellcaster and who knows what she can call by using Night now, but Catherine has always made a point about keeping her hidden and she is aware that Kairos has supernatural perception, plus Catherine didn’t really expect a fight in the League’s camp)

                Zombie’s saddlebags were filled with bare necessities: wakeleaf, a set of knives and munitions. Catherine was very much accounting for the possibility of a fight, and Hakram and Akua are essentially the two available Woe.

                (Vivienne doesn’t have a Name and doesn’t have another power source like Cat herself, Masego is sorcery-less and asleep, Indrani’s absence is the problem in question)

                Catherine actually hasn’t made a point of hiding Akua, only of keeping her disguised (and she is wearing the disguise here – Cat says ‘i could almost see her eyes through the veil’ at one point), which has been fully sufficient so far, except with the other Woe who simply know already. And Kairos doesn’t trumpet his supernatural perception around… and Cat is really really really fucking exhausted. Like she was exhausted before dawn already, then dawn that actually knocks drow the fuck out came, and now she’s running on Red Bull and pissiness. She made a miscalculation in going for the reflexive “assemble the avengers” response, and she still hasn’t noticed the full extent of it (that Kairos is now truthful, which means he can rat her out to at least Pilgrim and Rogue who know it for a fact, and also to anyone Pilgrim tells about his curse).

                Kairos made no mistake here. He lost nothing except some face (and we’re talking about a guy who cheerfully belly-crawled away from the throne room, here), and got Cat to both come and confirm his invitation to the conference. He didn’t get everything he was aiming for, but no mistakes were made.

                And Catherine NOT making mistakes here would honestly have been weirder. She’s, like, half-conscious. And Kairos most definitely deliberately sought to exploit it.

                Narratively speaking, this is Cat getting blowback from the drawbacks of mortality (exhaustion) and from overreach mastermind-wise (she still has to do a lot of things personally, which means that when a scheme is grand enough, she’s prone to ending up in this position – when she’s already spent mentally, but there’s still more to do, and urgently).

                Akua getting a chance to shine and get some therapy was a pleasant surprise, but there was nothing off about the events that led up to it.

                Liked by 3 people

      4. >I mean, he captured Archer and Rogue Sorcerer just for the lulz of it or simply to give Catherine a scare and get her angry? That can’t be it, he is a betrayer but he is also a schemer.

        He is a schemer, but the endpoint of his larger schemes is the same: piss off as many people / eldritch entities as he can while still surviving it, and in the end die to so many people it’ll be Traitorous all over again, only every one for real.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. caoimhinh

          Aren’t you understimating Kairos there?

          Sure, he gets high on betrayal and loves pissing off other people, but he doesn’t do things for the lulz, even if he does what he enjoys the most and does everything in a way that can make him laugh the most. He has a plan for everything he does, and objectives that he has been achieving along the story, even if he seemed to be just having fun.

          If he were simply doing things for fun and to piss off people he would be a lot less dangerous.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I’m not underestimating him in the least. If he had goals that were in any way compatible with anyone else’s and didn’t boil down to lulz and pissing everyone off at the end, he’d be a great deal less dangerous.

            I mean, what do YOU think his goals are? What is he working towards?

            Consider his dialogue with Skein, where Skein taunted him with spending years of his life on Wishes, to which Kairos’s response was basically “HOLD MY FLOWER” to Catherine.

            He has very much been achieving goals, yes. Those goals were him getting to reap even more lulz and pissing people off in the longer term.

            Consider that the Dread Empire had considered him an actual ally, and was willing to spend resources on supporting his rise. His response to that? “How do I make it so they seek eternal revenge against me, instead”

            Catherine characterized him earlier, imho correctly, as a true believer / priest of Below. Strife for the sake of strife, betrayal for the sake of betrayal, prayer offered just out of pride. Everyone else is not allowed to dismiss him, especially not if they’re no longer underestimating him.
            (Which Pilgrim still is, and the trap on him is still waiting to be sprung)

            Akua gets him very well, here, because her objective, too, was in large part just ‘screaming loud enough for the world to hear’. She was worse at it than him, and failed earlier, and has since dismissed the goal as defeating its own purpose; from Kairos’s point of view, the game is still very much worth playing. Sure it ends with him dead; there was never any other option available in the first place.

            Like… what other objective are you seeing him work towards? Not in specific, just in general, what else do you think he prioritizes? What’s the competing principle?

            Liked by 3 people

            1. caoimhinh

              Sure, but what we need to keep in mind is that he doesn’t act thinking only one step ahead, Kairos always acts moving several plans and scheming multiple things, plus he has contingencies in place for most of the things he does.
              He doesn’t just do things to piss off people now, he does things with a reason, the move people to do something, prevent them from doing something, to get information, to get an advantage for the next stage of the game, etc.
              He keeps the game afloat, so his actions are not thoughtless, he is actually very careful in his madness and actions, even if he goes around pissing off everyone, they get pissed off because he is winning and his actions usually cost something for someone else (usually it’s other people’s lives while he pushes his own agenda, like the League war, the conflict with Hanno, the betrayal of the Calamities and the whole campaign in Iserre).

              His actions are not “hey, I’m gonna piss off this dude”, his actions are “I’m going to do something, and it will give me an advantage and keep on my plans, and piss off this dude in the process”.
              Sure, he has made lots of people angry, but he has also strengthened Helike, unified the League of Free Cities, made every other country in Calernia know his name and recognize the League as another player in the big game when they had been ignored before, caused great lossess to all his competitors up to this point, and goes side by side with great schemers of the caliber of the Intercessor and the Dead King, he HAS achieved lots of things.

              His endgame goes beyond simply pissing off others.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. His actions are not thoughtless, I never said they are.

                >His endgame goes beyond simply pissing off others.

                WHERE. Where do you think it goes? What IS the endgame?

                Catherine cares about her country and people in general. Every other objective she has is ultimately overriden by this caring, but she has plenty of them: plenty of people she cares about, quite a few grudges she believes it her duty to carry (even though she will let go of them in a heartbeat if, again, her broader caring demands it).

                Amadeus’s goals boil down to ensuring Praesi people’s long term prosperity / delivery from starvation. Everything else is instrumental towards that goal, although he also has a lot of things he cares about outside of it – people, moreso than things, really. Yet he will sacrifice all else if he has to in the service of that goal. If you dig into his reasons for doing literally anything, what you find is caring about other people, too – either situationally and momentarily (giving a cloak to that girl in the alley in chapter 1) or broadly and long-term (setting up orphanages so he can weed out heroes so he can rule Callow unimpeded so Praes can get its grain…)

                When you dig into Kairos’s motivations and plans, the end-goal you find is always wanting to spite Creation. Right now the end goal we know about is getting Hierarch to judge the Choir of Judgement – why? What does he get out of it?

                What do you think he does?

                And as I’ve said already, he has not lost anything with this maneuver. His gains were smaller than he’d have liked, but they were existent nonetheless. Mind games of ‘you come when called’ matter, in this kind of political clusterfuck.

                Liked by 3 people

                1. ninegardens

                  His end game is Hierarch.
                  I don’t know what he plans to DO with that sword, but that is his end game.
                  That, and potentially screwing over the bard one last time.

                  Don’t get me wrong, his end game will STILL probably be screaming into the void for the lulz…. but he has a bigger joke down the line.

                  As far as his plan here…. Cat is already at maximum hatred towards him. She’s exhausted. He wanted to talk to her, or get a look at her, or just gather intel, and screwing with Archer and Rouge Sauce cost him nothing. There was an opportunity, and he took it. Maybe he didn’t manage to DO anything with that opportunutiy, but hey- its a free roll of the dice that costs him next to nothing, and pisses Cat off.
                  The fact that he COULD have gained something from it if Cat had been more willing to listen is reason enough to justify his actions.

                  Liked by 2 people

              2. He may secretly have an actual plan. It might even be that he plans to put the Gods on trial, as I believe he said once.

                But he sure as hell acts like he’s just doing shit because nobody’s killed him for it yet.
                And he usually acts like he’s a nihilist, as well.

                I mean, seriously – remember, Kairos worked with Bard to set up Sabah just so that he could betray Black and stab him in the feels while doing so. When Black was trying to help him gain control/influence over the rest of the League.
                That gained Kairos nothing except for the enmity of Black and Warlock. And maybe whatever Bard gave him, if anything, though it didn’t seem like she did.

                Liked by 3 people

                1. caoimhinh

                  Emm, that whole event also gave Kairos authority over the League without being tied to the Empire of Praes, weakened the Calamities by killing Sabah and drove them away from his territory, butchered the group of Heroes active in the region and made them owe him a favor by letting the two survivors escape and heal while also pointing to other people than the League (Hanno and Raphaella moved on to fight against Praes-and Callow- in the Crusade, not against Kairos as even if they fought against him the ones who killed their friends were the Calamities not Kairos) and gave him an in with the Wandering Bard.

                  Of that whole mess, Kairos got a lot of stuff besides a good laugh. Same as in every one of his plans, except perhaps the Princes’ Graveyard, and that only because Catherine outsmarted everyone (DK and WB still got some of the things they wanted though they paid a price).

                  Seriously, Kairos got sassed in a verbal discussion one chapter and suddendly everyone forgot how much of a successful schemer he is? Why does people suddenly think he only thinks in terms of immediate fun and no long term, when he has proven time and time again that he is playing a long game? He does things in the way that get him the most thrill, of course, but that doesn’t mean he is not thinking of the long run.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. Shveiran

                    It seems to me you are painting this in black and white while there is a whole lot of other colors in between.

                    “Kairos acts at random” is not the only alternative to “Kairos has a goal”.

                    Personally, I think Kairos IS brilliant, in his own deranged way; and he certainly makes sure to always end up with working tools for the next scheme whenever he burns bridges finishing the current plan.

                    I ALSO think this is just a balancing act, however complex.
                    Like an athlete pushing his body to ever higher achievement, the act is the goal: to strive for perfection just to see how close he can get to it.
                    Whereas perfection here is “Traitorous levels of Below madness”, I suppose.
                    Kairos, in my opinion, aims to cry out to fill the voyd, so that someone will remember the sound of his voice; what he shouts is not really important to him: just the act, just the volume.

                    That is not really “having a goal”; that’s “staying in the game as long as possible to have all the fun that can be had”.

                    Liked by 3 people

                    1. caoimhinh

                      I’m trying to do the opposite, actually.
                      To me, painting Kairos as someone who simply wants to piss off everyone and have a laugh at their expense is oversimplifying him severely.
                      As you said, this is not black and white, one thing doesn’t eliminate the other. Sure, he offends everyone and has fun at their expense, but he also schemes and has deep and careful plans, vast intelligence networks capable of rooting out all of Scribe’s agents (and likely Malicia’s spies too), tactical cunning, and he is pretty meticulous in what he does, even if every single time it seemed like he was doing something for the lulz, that was only the surface layer, as I pointed in the previous comment, he HAS achieved a lot as a result of his plans, so just because we don’t know exactly what he wants now doesn’t mean he doesn’t want something or doesn’t have a plan for it.
                      Once again I point out, if he was a simple-minded person he wouldn’t be so much trouble for everyone else, if he didn’t make such good plans he wouldn’t have managed to offend all those big players in the first place. It’s because he made moves and won, which means they lost a round, that he has offended them in such depth, they aren’t annoyed by him, they are hurt by him and were put in very real danger by his schemes. So far he has only “lost” once and he still managed to get a deal with the Bard, keep himself alive despite everyone around wanting him dead and kept his game afloat. Everyone else who has lost a round in the game has lost a precious someone or had their armies butchered. Kairos only lost a huge number of his gargoyles and spent artifacts from his vaults.

                      A few books back when he was trolling Anaxares and keeping him as “his most trusted advisor” nobody knew what the fuck was going on, later fighting with the members of the League of Free Cities, then against Hanno and betraying the Calamities we didn’t see his plans, only in hindsight have we learned what he was aiming for.
                      Why should now be different?

                      He has things he wants, he makes plans for them, and has the most fun out of it as he possibly can, because one thing does not remove the other.

                      Liked by 1 person

                  2. Kairos has things he wants and makes plans for them.

                    Those things he wants are, in fact, to offend everyone and have fun at their expense.

                    Like, you’re thinking that just because he’s a brilliant schemer and mastermind he has to have Serious Goals, or maybe you’re taking some goals as self-evident? What the fuck ARE those self-evident goals though?

                    Kairos wants to fuck people over, in the long-term through carefully laid plans.

                    And in the medium term, as a far-from-accidental side effect of these plans.

                    And in the short term, as much as he can get away with without compromising these plans.

                    He’s brilliant as fuck, and he’s using all of that brilliance to be a troll. I’m not seeing what you’re not seeing here.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. ninegardens

                      I mean, it can easily be somewhere in between. He spent an entire book setting up Hierarch. That wasn’t a whim. That wasn’t JUST for the lulz. That was a long term meticulous plan that also happened to give him a potent weapon for later.

                      He might not have a plan for what to USE that weapon on later (though it looks like he does), but the point is, he at the very least has medium term plans beyond “screw with people”, and has acted in a way that suggests long term plans (which may or may not be “screw with people”)

                      For example, if his eventual goal is “Break destiny over my knee… permanently”, that would match with his current action, and be a significant long term goal.

                      I think we explicitly don’t KNOW his long term plans yet. They might be “fuck with people”, they might be more complicated.
                      In some sense, that’s what makes him interesting.

                      Liked by 3 people

  14. Riaan Theunissen

    Now, I know that Catherine sometimes misremembers things so that she sees herself in a better light, but given what she did to some of the Fae, things known to Akua and Hakram, shouldn’t they at least be very worried about the fact that they can’t pin down where they are?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I’m pretty sure if Larat wanted to scheme up some almost-certainly-self-destructive plan against somebody for past offenses, it would more likely be directed at Ms. Really-likes-that-jewelry than at Cat. And I got the vibe that Prince of Nightfall or not the rest of the former Wild Hunt are still following Larat’s lead.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Riaan Theunissen

        Catherine did things to individuals. Notably making one eat her own fingers. (I assume that there are a number of lesser actions as well.) Given that I would expect Akua, Hakram and others would want to make damn sure one doesn’t get it into their head to get a bit of payback by making somebody Catherine cares about or uses die in agony, by making certain no illusion at the wrong place and time causes an incident between armies that escalates, no poison or curses find themselves in rations… Honestly, given some of the things shown about the Fae in this story as well as the methods Catherine used to control the Wild Hunt, I would expect lots of worry.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I already replied to Mental Mouse about basically this so I don’t want to repeat myself too much. But basically, all the nasty shit Winter!Cat did to the fae was about successfully intimidating the shit out of them. She made that fae eat her own hand just for screwing with some random-ass tavern patrons in Callow. You think they’re too stupid to put together what happens if they try hurting someone she actually specifically cares about?

          It’s not impossible that Larat and whatever minions he brings along could be an issue of some kind in future, but if he ever willingly re-enters Cat’s orbit it’s going to be in service of a plan more subtle and generally all-around fuckier than just screwing with her for vengeance’s sake. Definitely worth continuing to keep an eye out for which I expect they’ll be doing, but after all the trouble Larat and the former Wild Hunt just went to in order to slip the noose and get the fuck away from Cat I don’t think they’re going to be tripping over themselves to either come back or provoke her, much less both.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. Riaan Theunissen

            I haven’t been speaking about Larat. I have been speaking about Akua and Hakram (and the others in Catherine’s circle) and the fact that given what Catherine had done to various Fae they (Akua, Hakram and others) would want to know where the Fae (or whatever they are now) are and would be worried instead of dismissive about the fact that they don’t know where the Fae are. Because Catherine controlled via torture, spectacle and killing, things that do not make fond memories, and because between glamour, potential portals, supernatural physical abilities and whatever powers an individual fae possesses one slipping in for a bit of sport / revenge could be disaster and / or death….

            Liked by 1 person

            1. >between glamour, potential portals, supernatural physical abilities and whatever powers an individual fae possesses

              Catherine has specifically commented that crownless Larat did not appear to have a speck of power. I expect him to have lots of ways to do things anyway, but he’s no less depowered than winterless Cat (and with no convenient crow goddesses to pick up the burden).

              Liked by 3 people

              1. Riaan Theunissen

                If they were truly powerless, however would they leave the realm or remain undiscovered? Not being able to find them should point to some abilities or powers. Granted, in the time that Larat had the crown on his head, he might have been able to create a backdoor (or multiples) in the realm that they used to get out, but even that should be cause for worry. (Of course, whether Hakram and Akua worry would also depend upon whether Catherine had taken the time to brief them about the “loss of power”, which I don’t think she has.)

                As to the rest, my question has continuously been that given what had been done and the current situation, shouldn’t Hakram and Akua have show worry. I have not been expressing concern, I have been asking about whether Hakram, Akua and maybe others should have been expressing concern given what they know.

                Liked by 1 person

            2. Larat is the former Prince of Nightfall and the leader of the former Wild Hunt. If you’ve been expressing concerns over the fae, I think you have been talking about Larat, whether directly or indirectly.

              And given that all of my points referred to “the former Wild Hunt” just as much as to Larat personally, that’s besides the point anyway. So I guess my response would have to be “all the stuff I said before, but again” since you didn’t actually respond to any of my points. Oh! And also a side of “what Liliet said”, since whatever they are now it’s not quite fae, certainly not as they were before anyway.

              Liked by 3 people

      2. The thing is, the fey do get the idea of “don’t screw with that person, they can eat us for lunch on their off days”. They are bound by stories, so they try to avoid stories that run “… so Ranger killed them all. The End.”

        Liked by 3 people

        1. I mean, the ostensible premise of the potential concern re: Cat is all the interactions they’ve had with her. All the terrifying, terrifying interactions where she successfully bullied and intimidated the Wild Hunt. I agree that screwing with Ranger is for close to 100% of people/entities out there just a hilariously efficient means of committing suicide; that’s why I said it’s something you’d do if you wanted an almost-certainly-self-destructive activity. But screwing with Cat isn’t much better for them, if at all in fact (Ranger’s got massively more combat power, but Cat’s got way more cunning and an order of magnitude more institutional support and I think Winter fae in particular respect cunning more), and they’ve had more than enough experience with her to figure that out.

          tl;dr: I didn’t say that because I actually think they’re dumb enough to screw with Ranger, I meant more that if they were stupid enough to screw with Cat for the sake of it they would burn themselves up through sheer idiocy before they ever became a problem. If Larat or any of his minions show up again, they’re going to have a subtler plan afoot than just “screw with Cat”.

          Liked by 4 people

    1. MagpieJack

      EE is a good author who can play his audience. We loved Kairos, so he gave us so much Kairos Kairosly being the Kairosest we actually got sick of him. And then he gives us Monday’s cliffhanger, which made so many people go UGHGUHGUHGHUUGH (myself included).

      BUT! All according to keikaku, since this chapter would straight up not work in the slightest if folks weren’t as completely and totally done with the kid’s antics as Cat is.

      I suspect we won’t see much of lil’ K for a while, so that when he comes back we’ll be all “Kairos you scoundrel we missed you”.

      Liked by 10 people

    2. Isi Arnott-Campbell

      A few possibilities I’m spitballing here.

      People fully realized that Cat’s hatred of him isn’t ironic banter.

      His temporary alignment with Bard makes him more directly antagonistic from a storytelling standpoint.

      Now that he’s run out of people to anger his schtick’s simply wearing thin; there’s no-one new for him to get a rise out of anymore and his recurring victims’ crankiness over it is infectious.

      Liked by 4 people

    3. caoimhinh

      I don’t think people are so much hating Kairos as recognizing that Akua landed a sick burn on him.
      Honor where it’s due, she cut him deep in that verbal exchange.

      Liked by 3 people

  15. A moment to appreciate the sensibilities of the late Dread Empress Massacre. I get the impression that, though she certainly enjoyed both the simple and the convoluted approaches to getting the job done, her real delight lay in just cutting straight to the goal.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Yeah, she feels like somebody who really channels the Tao of Alexander, specifically vis-á-vis the Gordian Knot. Except the knot represents governing an empire instead of just being a big tangle of rope.

      …actually, come to think of it I’m pretty sure it was meant to be a metaphor for that in Alexander’s story too. Just means it fits even better!

      Liked by 4 people

  16. SpeckofStardust

    Compared to the truths you can still feel slithering through your blood, those that whisper of greatness instead of submission.”
    sigh
    Submission to your urges is not anything but submission.

    Liked by 8 people

  17. Cap'n Smurfy

    “No,” I said. “We don’t. You want an audience? Crawl to my camp. You ought to know how, after last night.”

    I think out of all the insults thrown his way tonight, that one had to hurt the most. The idea that he’s no longer important or powerful enough to be worth listening to.

    Liked by 7 people

  18. Captain Amazing

    I think Akua is going to cut out the Evil upbringing part of her soul and then come back as essentially someone else after sacrificing herself at Keter. In the Underdark she said she was trying to find out how to come back with every essential part of herself intact. Her definition of what’s important to her being has changed somewhat since she met Cat. I’m thinking she and an abdicated Catherine could teach at a Callowan war college 😃.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Andrew Mitchell

      > I’m thinking she and an abdicated Catherine could teach at a Callowan war college 😃.

      Sounds like another great premise for some PGtE fan-fiction. It could even be a sitcom.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Andrew Mitchell

      Welcome to the PGtE community. We’re a nice bunch and our discussions in the comments section here enrich my understanding and appreciation immensely. I hope you’ll stick around and contribute your thoughts too.

      FYI the community also has a sub-reddit and a Discord channel.

      You might like to check out the Extra Chapters, some of which are not linked to from within the chapter pages. https://practicalguidetoevil.wordpress.com/extra-chapters/

      Like

  19. Discreet Commenter

    Spelling: Almost every time you use the word “discrete” (which means “separate/non-continuous”), you actually mean “discreet” (which means “careful/covert/secretive”).

    Liked by 1 person

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