Chapter 55: Renewal

“It is said that when his Chancellor told him the scheme to release a culling plague would cause rebellion, Dread Emperor Vile thoughtfully replied that should this be the case he could always release a second one.”
– Introduction to ‘Thirteen and One’ by Hakim of Kahtan, the Haunted Scholar

I woke up knowing two things: were more than halfway to dusk and that my leg hurt.

Gods, the throbbing was atrocious. Like someone was taking a hammer to my knee with every breath. I was tempted to reach for the Night before I’d even opened my eyes, to weave it so that coolness would sink into fevered flesh and the pain would recede to a dull and distant beat. Instead I forced myself to unclench my teeth and breathed in and out slowly, soothingly.  I’d already pushed my limits last night more than was wise, cheating my body’s due once more would only worsen the eventual settling of the debts. No, best to feel the harrowing pulse now when I had yet to see demands made of my time rather than putting it off until the cup tipped regardless of what I wanted. I let out a shuddering breath and opened my eyes, taking in the dim lighting within the tent. I’d settled onto a padded armchair to sleep instead of a bed, which no doubt would have made things even worse with my leg if someone hadn’t propped both of them up on footrest while I slept. As usual, I was left to wonder about who it was that’d struck a devil’s bargain in my name to arrange my meeting Hakram. In truth it was coincidence, I thought, though perhaps of that pointed kind that some might call fate. And it wasn’t like that relationship had been made of thin air, willed into existence – it had taken time and trust and understanding. But how many people in Creation went through their lives without ever encountering someone who understood them even half as well as he and I did? It might not be providence, but it would be a lie to say that villains did not get golden luck of their own sometimes.

I let a few breaths pass, two sensations warring over mastery of my body. The loud and strident call of pain in my leg and the sort of earthly satisfaction one got from much needed sleep. The pleasant lethargy that lingered until you stretched, telling you a need had been seen to. I embraced the former to drown out the latter and sought further distraction by taking in the tent. The reason I’d ended sprawled in an armchair instead of a bed was but a few feet away: Masego still lay still on his cot, hands folded over his chest as it slowly rose and lowered. Indrani had fallen asleep on him when seated on his bedside, forehead on his side as she lightly snored. And, by the looks of the sheet beneath her mouth, drooled. Well, we’d all had a long night. The folding chair she was still seated on was precariously balanced on its two front feet, anchored only by her weight and leaning against the cot. I resisted the urge to suddenly shout just to see her stumble on the ground, though it was a close-run thing. To my surprise, there was another within the admittedly cramped tent. In another armchair, curled up like sleeping cat, Vivienne was clutching at a blanket and sleeping so heavily she might as well be dead. I wasn’t the only one who was a fragile little mortal these days, it was true, and her hours of waking had been almost as troublesome as mine. While I would not hesitate a moment to ruin Archer’s sleep, Vivienne at least should get to keep her slumber for a while yet.

There were two layers over me, my cloak and a thicker blanket above it, so I softly dropped the latter on the ground and with a muted grunt pulled the former around me. Gods, even with the brazier in the corner the air was cool and I’d shrugged off quite a few of my clothes for comfort. Barefoot, I slid onto the footrest and back into my discarded boots, tightening the straps. Pain in leg spiked, which did not bode well for walking out of here. I reached out blindly and without fought, but my fingers closed around my staff. I almost started, eyes narrowing as I turned to look at the dead wood. Had I remembered where I’d propped it up last night, somewhere in the back of my mind? Or had it just been where it needed to be? Didn’t matter, I ultimately decided. It was meant only to help me walk, not to serve as a weapon or a tool of power. It could not fail me in an hour of need if I never relied on it for more than what any stick could provide. I pushed myself up, swallowing a moan of pain, and took a few hobbling steps. It got better after a bit, though never less than unpleasant. Finding myself close to Indrani and Masego’s sleeping forms I allowed myself to take them in for a moment, Masego most of the two. It’d been near a year now, hadn’t it? How strange, that someone who’d been nothing to be for most my life could come to be missed to sorely when we were now parted. It wasn’t even that Zeze was the one among my friends I saw the most. That’d always been Hakram. But there’d always been a manner of comfort in knowing that Masego was close by, even if he’d disappeared into a tome or an experiment for a few days. From the moment we’d met he’d so rarely been afar, even if not together. Until he’d left for Thalassina. I could sense a discreet working of Night on him, woven to keep another appraised of his health, and that served as fresh reminder of what our third time in Liesse had personally cost him.

When he woke, it would not be pretty. There’d be many among my fresh allies howling for punishment, and the loss of his sorcery would not necessarily be enough to appease. They weren’t even wrong, I thought, for though he’d done it in grief and while manipulated by the Dead King he had come within an hour of killing hundreds of thousands. More, even. If the realm that’d become the Twilight Ways had crashed into Iserre, it would have taken more than this battlefield with it. How many more thousands lived in the principality’s cities, its towns and countryside? No small number, and most of that civilians. Penance would have to be found, I thought, though delicately doled out. Already returning to lucidity would make him behold in full the truth that his fathers were gone, but that anguish would be paired with his sorcery being taken. That would… take time to accept, I suspected. I would not pretend to truly understand every part of the complex relationship Masego had with magic, but I suspected it would not be too different from losing a dear friend or a spouse for him. But we’re back, I thought, looking at the sleeping pair. Vivienne was not far, and though Hakram would already be busying himself with one of the thousand little hidden things that kept my world spinning he was close as well. After months in the dark and split across the face of Calernia to seek our own truths, we were finally together again. Grim as the days to come were, the Woe had found each other once more.

Whatever doom lay approaching behind the horizon, it would find us waiting and bearing sharp knives.

Swallowing a wince as I leaned down, I picked up my blanket and softly laid it on Archer’s shoulders. I brushed back a lock of hair that’d tumbled over her ear, fingers lingering as I acknowledged that there would be need to settle matters personal as well eventually. Though Indrani has spoken it nonchalantly enough as we chased victory in Liesse, the admission that she loved the sleeping man she was drooling on was no small thing. Out in the open it was no longer as a butterfly’s wingbeat, easily ignored or taken for illusion. Most of what would have to be settled in there would have to be seen to by the pair of them, and I had no place in it, but only most. I’d been sharing a bed with Indrani regularly since that first time in the Everdark, but it might be for the best for that to cease until boundaries had been clearly drawn for them both. Or disappointments had, if it was to be that. Masego was in no way mandated with returning that affection, after all. And someday I wondered if he even could. That he had no interest in bedplay was well-worn knowledge, but he’d displayed disinterest in more than that. There were many ways to love someone, and not all involved skin or pining sighs. They’d find their balance, I knew. Or make peace with the way they could not. We were all too tightly bound for such a small thing to wound.

Being a good friend when the mood struck me, I slid a few small firewood logs under the lifted feet of Archer’s chair so she’d not topple when she inevitably woke. I limped out quietly, feeling filthy with sweat and soot and blood. The thought of a warm bath or even a basin of hot water ferociously attractive, but I’d not eaten in too long and drunk quite a bit over the last day and night. Best get breakfast before that came back to haunt me. The thought was enough to work an appetite, and as it happened there was an open campfire not far. The two silhouettes by it I knew well, and was greeted by amused smiles when I leaned over the fire to smell at the iron pot being heated.

“Tea?” I said, surprised.

“One of Aisha’s blends,” Hakram replied. “It ought to help with the leg, if only a little.”

Adjutant knew well my reluctance to cheat the discomfort for too long, so it wouldn’t be an herb meant to kill the pain. Maybe one of those Wasteland herbs that helped with the flow of blood? Eh, I’d ask later. Instead I made Akua move further down the old stone and sat myself with a grunt, hands rising to accept the mug of tea the orc had just poured. I sniffed once more, but though the smell was vaguely familiar I couldn’t quite put the finger on what had gone in it. I blew out the mist that wafted up, ignoring the increasing number of eyes I could feel on me. This part of the camp would be restricted, I thought, but there’d still be soldiers. It wouldn’t be long before word spread I’d woken. The prominence of Lower Miezan in both Callow and Praes meant that gossip still flew with swift wings no matter who ended up joining the ranks of my armies.

“I’m guessing that clever little Night-weave on Masego is your work,” I said to Akua.

She inclined her head.

“His health remains within my expectations,” she said. “Though it may be some time still until he fully recovers.”

My brow rose.

“Losing the magic didn’t knock him out,” I pointed out. “I did.”

“You only pre-empted the natural course,” she told me. “You may think of it as Lord Hierophant having recently gone under a chirurgeon’s knife.”

“Like when I lost an aspect,” I murmured.

“That was a metaphysical wound,” Akua disagreed. “This is physical. The body must acclimate itself to the absence of magic.”

“And typically how does that go?” I frowned.

“It is not a phenomenon I am much familiar with, for in the Wasteland is it exceedingly rare for one to lose sorcery without death ensuing,” she admitted. “And I no longer have a storied library to expand my learning, much as I would like to.”

The Sisters might know, I thought. Or Roland, considering part of his Name apparently involved the ‘confiscation’ of magic.

“I see no reason to worry,” Akua assured me. “Though he should remain weakened for a span, he should wake much sooner. It is exhaustion, not forced torpor.”

I slowly nodded. Still, I’d not gamble with Masego’s health if I could help it. Behind me the sound of eggs on a pan caught my attention: Hakram had cracked three, as I usually took, and was frying them on the open fire.

“I’ll get you a conversation with the Rogue Sorcerer,” I told Akua. “You should be able to get use out of that.”

She inclined her head in agreement. I claimed a bowl myself, as Hakram’s sole hand was already occupied, and watched with mild bemusement as Akua Sahelian heeded his instructions and got out a small pot of salt before sprinkling a few touched of it on my eggs. He deftly turned them afterward, using only his wrist. There was still half a cookpot’s worth left of stew – horse, since we were starting to run low on other fresh meats, and I ended up digging hungrily into a bowl filled with both. The tea took me longer to get through, for it tasted bitterer than I preferred, but I was not drinking it purely for pleasure. It was a pleasant meal, my two companions keeping the conversation going on matters of no great import while I only occasionally interjected a grunt of agreement or the opposite. Apparently the heartlands of Procer used a great deal more salt in their meals than I was used to back home, since it could be brought in cheap from the great salt pans on the western coast of Neustria and Brus. I stretched a bit afterwards, pleasantly full in a way that I’d never truly known how badly I missed until I could be again.

“Right,” I finally sighed. “Lay it on me, then. What did I miss while I slept?”

“In truth, nothing particularly pressing,” Hakram said, to my surprise. “Arnaud Brogloise has sent messenger to request an audience when it is convenient for you. He’ll be approaching you in the name of the First Prince, since the powers she granted him have yet to expire. I’d consider what he has to say more representative of the situation in Salia than what Princess Rozala will speak to.”

I hummed.

“But it’s not pressing,” I said. “Why?”

“I expect he’s still going through the partial text of the Accords I passed to him,” Hakram said.

I didn’t reply immediately, though I almost chastised him. We’d discussed passing that along to the Procerans in advance of the conference that would most likely be held in Salia – I couldn’t see Hasenbach leaving the city at the moment, she’d be leaving the Highest Assembly to its own devices – but I’d been more inclined to Princess Rozala, or even the now-former Princess Sophie Louvroy. The latter was one of Hasenbach’s loyalists, the one sent to keep an eye on the army, which implied a degree of trust. On the other hand, Arnaud Brogloise had turned out to be her spy and empowered envoy. He was, objectively, the better pick: not only was it assured that whatever he saw would end up in Cordelia’s ear, he had the authority to speak on her behalf before we got to Salia. And though dear old Arnaud obviously had very few compunctions with killing, he’d been able to play some highly perceptive Proceran royals for fools. For years. Malanza was more general than steward, by my reckoning, and to my knowledge not a particularly skilled intriguer. No, Brogloise was the right choice. In some aspects, anyway. I’d rather have the Princess of Aequitan at my side than on the other one, when the time came to push for the Accords, and that couldn’t be done if she was kept in the dark about them.

“Have another one prepared,” I said, then thought more of it. “No, two.”

“Pilgrim,” he said. “And Princess Rozala, I’d assume. Is that wise?”

I cocked my head to the side. There couldn’t be many reasons he’d expected me to keep one of the two most powerful women in Procer in the dark until the last moment.

“You’re afraid they might use the Accords to draw lines in the Assembly,” I said. “For and against, every sitter to gather behind one or the other.”

“The First Prince remains unpopular,” Hakram pointed out. “These are times of war and she is not a general while her seat of power – the Lycaonese north and its support – has been uprooted. Of course, with the fighting up north toppling Procer’s ruler would attract a great deal of scorn. Unless it was reluctantly done to avoid some great mistake.”

“She’s fought the dead, Hakram,” I said. “And you saw her on the hill. She’s not going to make a grab for the throne halfway through the end of the world.”

“She might,” Akua disagreed. “If she believed Cordelia Hasenbach to be unable to fight this war the way it needs to be fought.”

“If we don’t tell her now,” I said, “she’ll take that as the insult it is.”

“Agreed,” Akua easily said. “Arlesites are notoriously prickly over such matters. I also rather disagree with Lord Adjutant’s notion that discussion of the Accords will be used in the Highest Assembly. Your support is much too precious a commodity at the moment for one of them to discard it offhand.”

“My support,” I skeptically said. “Wouldn’t my backing in any of their private squabbles be a kiss of death? It’s both a villain and foreigner intervening in Proceran affairs.”

“Ah,” Hakram suddenly breathed out.

An elaboration would have been more helpful, as far as I was concerned.

“You have a series of victories to hand out, my heart,” Akua smiled under the veil. “End of the dwarven ban on armament sales. Assurances of truce with the Firstborn and the support of their armies against Keter. Access to Callowan grain markets come next harvest. The secrets of the Twilight Ways for Proceran armies to use. And, of course, the great achievement of having turned the dreaded Black Queen into a tame tiger unleashed on the dead.”

My fingers clenched and unclenched as I considered that. I’d considered most of those a given the moment bargains were struck, but I could see their point. If all those things were presented as the victories of either Hasenbach or Malanza, they’d come out looking like the person getting things done. The kind you wanted in charge, when someone like the Dead King was at the gate. The First Prince already had the throne, true, but the Princess of Aequitan was fresh off what could be considered a success here in Iserre. And I knew better than most than when the days got dark people liked to have a soldier wearing the crown.

“If Malanza tries to seize the reins, then they’ll both try to use the Accords as meat to barter for anything I could provide them,” I said. “So if we don’t send her the text we’re essentially tipping the scales in Hasenbach’s favour. She’ll have had time to prepare, and she’s too skilled a hand not to turn that into a significantly better position.”

“The decision must be carefully considered, in my eyes,” Akua said. “For the twin truth of what you said is that, in apprising Princess Rozala of your intent, we tacitly allow her to present a challenge to the First Prince in Salia.”

Which I doubted Cordelia would take all that kindly to, all things considered.

“I would be surprised, in truth, if Cordelia Hasenbach’s unseating was the intent,” Akua continued. “By the procedures of the Assembly such a thing would be difficult to accomplish – and embitter the Lycaonese for generations if carried out. Assuming they did not outright rebel. More sensibly, with the right maneuvering it would not be impossible for Rozala Malanza to become the true power in Procer no matter who rules in name.”

If this was just about curtailing how much hostility I’d be earning by my decision, I suspected sending the simplified Accords to the Princess of Aequitan would make for much less personal a grudge than keeping the same woman in the dark until we reached Salia. On the other hand, approaching the matter that way was a fine way to make a mistake: wading into a melee before knowing who you wanted to thump was a good way to end up eating dirt.

“There’s no guarantee they’ll turn on each other,” I finally said.

“The Principate is on the precipice of change,” Akua disagreed. “And only one may hold the reins if their nation is survive the war, they both know this: divided, squabbling, Procer can only break. The lesser crowns cannot look to two mistresses for orders, and so one of them must submit to the other before the Highest Assembly for uncertainty to end.  She who remains standing will rule the Procer that is to come, should she survive the war.”

“We lose little from allowing Princess Rozala a challenge,” Hakram noted. “If anything with two bidders concessions ought to be easier to secure. If the First Prince had been more willing to negotiate with us in the past I’d advise against it, but there’s hardly any good will there to spoil.”

“I believe that Cordelia Hasenbach remains the superior candidate to ensure lasting peace,” Akua told him. “And if decision is made to back her from the start, being owed a favour can be worth more than auctioned support – and would create good will. A knife hand stayed is worth more than promises.”

I shook my head.

“You’re selling both of them short,” I said. “And I don’t mean there won’t be tensions, because that ship rather left the dock when Hasenbach made Malanza’s mother drink poison after their civil war. But they’ll remain cordial while the Dead King is at the gate, because neither will be willing to roll the dice when snake eyes might mean the end of the Principate.”

I thought back to a conversation that felt so long ago, Hasenbach and I alone in the depths of my since-devoured domain. You miss the central tenet of the Principate, she’d chided me as we spoke of tyranny. It is, unlike Praes, a nation built on consensus. She’d sent Prince Amadis and his cabal into my hands to be savaged, I’d retorted back then, her opposition in that Assembly she so touted. Yet she’s believed in her words, back then, even as she struggled with realities that were flawed. Did she still, I wondered?

“No, if Procer is to decide its own fate then let it be in the open,” I said. “Cordelia Hasenbach cannot grudge me her own principles observed. Malanza gets the Accords, same as the Pilgrim.”

Although, in truth, this entire matter should have been debated with Vivienne awake. Which they would know, I thought. Yet they’d spoken of it anyway. I would not count that a coincidence.

“You’re not telling me something,” I said.

“I thought you’d come to the conclusion yourself without prompting,” Akua said, sounding fascinated. “It truly is a glaring blind spot.”

“We’ve named boons you can offer that would win princes to either cause,” Hakram gravelled. “Yet there’s prize that would win the people as well. In these parts for certain and others as well. It is a matter of pride, in the end.”

My heart clenched.

“Black,” I said. “They’ll want Black’s head on pike.”

The shade dipped her head in agreement.

“And you pushed this not because you want me to make a decision,” I said, “but because he’s awake.”

“Before seeing him you should know what may still lie ahead,” Hakram said. “Make no mistake, Catherine, they will hound you for him. Their people will riot otherwise, after what he’s done. The Legions themselves may be spared, but the Carrion Lord? They cannot afford to simply let him go.”

“They can’t afford to fuck with me either,” I sharply replied.

Akua looked at me, and for a moment under the veil I believed she might have looked sad.

“There will be a choice,” she said, “between what the woman wants and what the queen requires.”

I grit my teeth, rising to my feet.

“Catherine,” Hakram called out.

I turned a glare on him.

“I handed him the full Accords,” he said.

Why, I almost asked, but already knew the answer. Either my father would sign the damned thing, or he’d be sold so that everyone else did.

I stalked off, furious at no one in particular, to find Amadeus of the Green Stretch.

161 thoughts on “Chapter 55: Renewal

  1. Yeah, no.
    Throw them Kairos, Heirarch, and/or Malicia. Maybe Akua.
    Not Amadeus.

    Malanza has had an epiphany of sorts. I don’t see her exploiting the Accords in an attempt to gain power in Salia/Procer. I do see her using them to make sure that she doesn’t get thrown under a bus or saddled with blame, but instead to make sure she keeps her position and solidifies and strengthens it.

    Liked by 17 people

    1. Andrew Mitchell

      I wonder how differently this conversation would have gone if any of the Woe were aware that Cordelia has effectively secured full control over the Assembly (even if it’s only temporary).

      I agree Malanza won’t be trying to take over as First Prince. She’s got her eyes fully on what’s best for Procer’s survival.

      Liked by 10 people

      1. KageLupus

        I don’t think it would really change anything. As Akua pointed out, the way things stand now Procer has to be united under a single ruler. The war against the Dead King just can’t handle the kind of infighting and intrigue that the Highest Assembly historically has. Cordelia having already started the process of consolidating power just proves that out.

        But it also doesn’t detract from Rozala’s position either. She is still the number two princess in the land, and with Cat’s backing could still be a contender for taking up that consolidated rule. Not giving her the Accords ahead of time would still be an insult and a tacit backing of Cordelia.

        The only thing their lack of knowledge changes is the immediacy of what happens in Procer. It goes from “this will probably happen” to “this has started to happen”. The decision they made based on the first is just as relevant to the second.

        Liked by 6 people

      2. Mammon

        I think that if they knew, Cat might actually be more inclined to back off and support Malanza as much as Cordelia evenly to not be interwoven in that event or be the next stepping stone after Cordelia falls. Because it takes just one Named meddling in this easily labelled tyrannical scheming and backing up the underdog Malanza and/or whatever plot the church was planning (the country-‘purifying’ one Saint mentioned to Cordelia) to see Cordelia’s power crumble under plot and ‘righteousness’ at pivot events.

        And if there’s an evil queen who had a hand in Cordelia’s power maintained and bolstered, an alluring voice whispering sin from her left shoulder, then storywise that great evil would be the stronger yet now manageable to defeat power for this Named to focus on next.

        As the Lone Swordsman and so many Callowans had tried and thus also being a staple Name thing to do in this universe: start a rebellion in a suppressed village or town singlehandedly, liberate a larger city with help of the people or already established rebel groups, take a large area with the rightful ruler’s support (in Procer’s case a principality with a Prince or more backing them up), full victory by beating Cordelia and crowning a righteous cause would be the next step, and then the Named one would be pretty much storybound and set in lore to be toppling tyrants and defeating corrupt evil rulers for as long as there are more powerful tyrants related to their initial cause or remain a threat to their country’s founded liberty. And as always, Cat would be first in line for trouble.

        Ofc thats assuming that a new Named will be involved, which especially at the higher scale we’re now is rarely the case considering the time their training would take and better Named already filling the position. But with the Saint gone a vacancy opened up for Above to send in a new agent, and with Creation’s meddling there’s always the risk of such stories entangling her if Cat does make a wrong move even by fault of ignorance.

        Liked by 3 people

    1. erebus42

      There already was a Dread Emperor Benevolent I. He could be Benevolent II, or maybe Unscrupulous I, Unfettered I, Dispassionate I, or maybe Pragmatic I

      Liked by 5 people

      1. William

        No, the Benevolent from the epigraphs is Black, we’re pretty sure. They all fit him, and there are specific references to certain things that he’s mentioned in this past.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Andrew Mitchell

          You’re not alone in that view but personally, I’m pretty sure (65%) those quotes are not Amadeus. IMO they don’t ‘sound’ like things Amadeus would say.

          I hope we get to find out eventually, but this may well be a question which never gets resolved.

          Liked by 2 people

      2. ATRDCI

        We will only know that there is a Benevolent quoted in the epigraphs, but not when they reigned. And we know that at least some of the epigraphs are from the future not the past. (Ex. Juniper’s and Aisha’s respective histories)

        Liked by 14 people

        1. Nuke_The_Earth

          That’s entirely possible, actually. The seven quotes attributed to Dread Emperor Benevolent are as follows:

          “Please, do keep digging your own grave. I look forward to your splendidly inevitable demise.” – Dread Emperor Benevolent the First – Chapter 19: Pivot
          “There’s no surer sign you’re being played than being certain you’ve grasped your opponent’s intent.” – Dread Emperor Benevolent – Chapter 6: Rapport
          “Morality is a force, not a law. Deviating from it has costs and benefits both – a ruler should weigh those when making a decision, and ignore the delusion of any position being inherently superior.” – Dread Emperor Benevolent – Villainous Interlude: Decorum
          “Peace is little more than the reсognition that the reasons for which war was undertaken are no longer relevant.” – Dread Emperor Benevolent the First – Chapter 17: Contingent
          “There is only one lesson to be learned from shatranj: no matter who wins the game, the pieces return to the same box.” – Dread Emperor Benevolent the First – Chapter 30: Witness
          “Own what you are, no matter how ugly the face of it. No lies are ever more dangerous to a villain than those they tell themselves.” – Dread Emperor Benevolent – Chapter 70: The Calm Before
          “By hook and crook we will all hang, High Lords, from a noose woven of our many loose ends. But cheer up: none are beyond salvation, not even the likes of us. Let us see, at long last, if we can turn back the tyranny of the sun.” – Extract from the coronation speech of Dread Emperor Benevolent the First – Epilogue

          Now, tell me: Who do those remind you of, particularly the last two? Granted, ‘Benevolent’ isn’t exactly the type of title I would see the Black Knight choosing for himself, but he’s very likely been deeply changed by recent events, so who knows? It’s a very plausible headcanon, I’d say.

          Liked by 13 people

          1. Sparsebeard

            Yeah, those quotes make him sound pretty reasonable. It would make sense that Cat would have commented on him when studying the history of Praes in the first book.

            The fact that she did not perhaps is a clue…

            Liked by 5 people

              1. Shveiran

                True. But Massacre sounds like any other mad Dread Empress of old.
                Benevolent does sound like a different breed; it sound slike she likely would have brought it up at some point.
                It is not proof, by no means, but it did make me suspicious.

                Liked by 4 people

              2. Sparsebeard

                The difference I see between those and Benevolent is that he was introduced very early in the story (book 1, chapter 19), pretty much at the same time that Cat was studying Praes’ history. Whereas, Irritant and Massacre where later additions to the story (we don’t hear about Irritant before chapter 38 of book 2 and book 4 for Massacre). For such a peculiar Tyrant as Benevolent never to have been named outside epigraphs does seem suspicious (especially since he gives an air of competence similar to the Terribilises). And I feel that there’s been plenty of occasions to discuss Benevolent in story (for exemple when discussing Praesi morality with Akua or when Cat lists competent emperors).

                Also, if you look at most Emperor quotes, they’re mostly having fun by playing on the caricatural nature of most Tyrants with the name (or ephitet) of the emperor being strongly related to the quote (Ex : Vindictive, Irritant, “the Linguist”, “the lawgiver”, “the technicaly correct”, etc.), that, or playing on the laughably inefficient nature of “Stupid Evil”. On the other hand, Benevolent’s quotes seem to mostly be either very practical or about using the narrative to further his own ends. Very little of “being a goody two shoes Emperor” vibes (one of the quotes is even about villains not lying to themselves mirroring Black’s quote from first chapter that he’s “the very worst kind of monster”).

                Liked by 4 people

                1. > playing on the caricatural nature of most Tyrants with the name (or ephitet) of the emperor being strongly related to the quote

                  And Terribilis I and Terribilis II?

                  Benevolent fits the pattern of ‘all the menagerie of historical tyrants, with all kinds of extremes between them’. It would fuck up the worldbuilding to suddenly go ‘nah actually Benevolent hasn’t existed before’, and strongly so.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. Sparsebeard

                    The Terribilises have their ephitets, one of the two was called “the lawgiver”, I even mentionned that title in the very comment you’re anwsering to… That other Terribilis, was based on the previous one since they both where considered competent (which is probably not a coincidence).

                    The way I see it, Benevolent existing in the past is kind of contrary to the general modus operanti of the Dread Emperors anyway.

                    If all other epigraphs where of the past fine, but since we know they can be from the future, it clearly means that the quotes from Dread Emperors can too. It’s plain foreshadowing.

                    1. >The way I see it, Benevolent existing in the past is kind of contrary to the general modus operanti of the Dread Emperors anyway.

                      Ah, and herein lies the crux of the matter.

                      I understood Benevolent’s approach to be a part of the variation of the Dread Emperors’ modus. They come in all shapes and stripes, Amadeus isn’t special for his morality or for his approach. He’s not even particularly special for being effective, see again: Terribilises. Both of them are known to have accomplished what they were aiming for, if not quite every single point of it.

                      Benevolent is just another variation – a clever Dread Emp who decided to take advantage of Good. There’s nothing groundbreaking about the idea itself, it’s easily derived from basic story-fu observations, and that’s imho a large and important worldbuilding point of Dread Emperor Benevolent existing.

                      The model of the Praesi system in which Benevolent is an abomination that heralds change, and the model of the Praesi system in which Benevolent fits just as well as Massacre, are two rather different models. It is important to me that it is that latter that is canon, as implicitly indicated by epigraph format.

                      I would be interested to talk more about the systemic aspect, here.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. Sparsebeard

                      > Benevolent is just another variation – a clever Dread Emp who decided to take advantage of Good.

                      I DO agree an Emperor who fakes “goodness” in order to prosper whold probably fit in Praes’ past.

                      I don’t see much in the quotes to support this interpretation though. If that was the case, I’d expect either over the top insincere goody too shoes quotes or at the very least to hear of some of his “benevolent” ways or actions. Instead, we get hints at his philosophy and world view that lack any of the “extremism” that we can find in most other quotes.

                      The quotes also don’t support the kind of hypocrisy your vision of him suppose. He seems to be all about relative honesty.

                      To me, the quotes portray a person who does things DESPITE good or evil. Of a man who knows himself a villain but doesn’t do evil for the kick of it.

                      That is the difference I see between Black’s actions and those of previous emperors.

                      As you say there is a vast selection of evil in Praes’ past, but they are all a variation of EVIL : from stupid evil to devilishly efficient evil passing by the deadly sins and a variation of evil traits or stereotypes. Except for Benevolent, I don’t think there is any other emperor who didn’t mind doing arguably GOOD things though (and you might correct me on that).

                      And Black has already done enough “good” stuff to be called Benevolent (by Praes’ standards) like freeing the greenskins or raising the standard of living of Callow’s peasanry.

                      Liked by 2 people

          2. Mammon

            Oh no, this does sound like Black, except the last one. But the name Benevolent sounds like the new Akua, who does have shapeshifting abilities now. Treachery armed with the knowledge of the Black Knight Amadeus’s teachings, the power of Evil and Friendship both weaponised to ride success like a wave, and especially the last quote actually sounds like one that the new Akua would make to own up both to her old self and her new teachings and understandings.

            Liked by 1 person

              1. Soma

                I saw Nuke_The_Earth’s comment and didn’t read all the way through the chain, and came to Mammon’s conclusion independently, so I think Mammon got it, and beat me to it too. I kinda wish we could edit our comments so I could put that in it the one I commented off Nuke_The_Earth.

                It it is right, Mammon might have the best twist call anyone has made, or will make, in the history of the guide.

                Liked by 1 person

          3. Soma

            Oh fuck me, its Akua isn’t it?

            “By hook and crook we will all hang, High Lords, from a noose woven of our many loose ends. But cheer up: none are beyond salvation, not even the likes of us. Let us see, at long last, if we can turn back the tyranny of the sun.” – Extract from the coronation speech of Dread Emperor Benevolent the First – Epilogue

            This reads like a reformed Akua who got ‘redeemed’. In fact every quote reads like someone who’s been either in Cat’s or Black’s orbit, but not quite like them. Benevolent doesn’t quite fit Black and he’s the type to wiggle out of something he sees as beneath him. Doesn’t quite read like Cat because they don’t have the tinge of necessary evil. Those quotes read like an Akua that learned at Catherine’s knee.

            The redemption bit is her current modus operandi as well a move to benevolent action. It is also likely to give Akua what she originally wanted in a cursed monkey paw way in comparison to how Akua would have originally started out wanting things.

            I’m probably wrong because that would be an unrepentantly wild twist. But out of the people in Cat’s orbit it best fits Akua’s current MO.

            Liked by 3 people

            1. No. Can’t be Akua.
              She’d be Dread Empress Benevolent, not Dread Emperor Benevolent. If, that is, she were to climb the Tower and take Benevolent as her reign name.

              If we assume it is someone in the orbit of Cat and/or Amadeus, Benevolent could be Hakram or Grem, but I don’t see either calling themselves Benevolent. And Masego doesn’t care enough.
              Maybe a fallen Hero, or a Hero Cat and/or Amadeus worked on to leverage into taking over Praes.

              Oh. I know who it is.
              It is the most generous one himself, Robber. He’d totally call himself Dread Emperor Benevolent. As he did what he does to people.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Andrew Mitchell

                I refuse to let you spoil my fun with this idea.

                Akua’s just a spirit anyway. She could easily take on a male persona for a laugh. Especially if she needed to ensure she was climbing the tower without being associated with Cat or Amadeus.

                Like

              2. Mammon

                Like I said, Akua has shapeshifting powers. She can be posing as the Black Knight becoming Emperor Benevolent. Though Robber would indeed be a good contender.

                Like

        1. Sparsebeard

          Yeah, I saw it mentionned in the comments and I was like “Nah, no way!”, then I re-read the quotes and started re-reading the whole story…

          Now I can’t get it out of my head lol… perhaps that tinfoil hat I’m wearing now doesn’t help in that regard…

          Liked by 2 people

          1. It doesn’t fit the epigraphs format (EE doesn’t go for cheap fakeouts, and ‘this historical dread emperor is actually from the future lol sike’ would very much be one), doesn’t fit the plot (what dread emperor and what high lords), doesn’t fit Amadeus’s sense of humor (he would not choose that reigning name) and doesn’t fit Amadeus’s personality (don’t even get me started…)

            Liked by 3 people

            1. sutortyrannus

              >and doesn’t fit Amadeus’s personality (don’t even get me started…)

              Please do get started, dear. I sincerely enjoy reading your thoughts on the topic.

              Liked by 4 people

              1. Alright 🙂

                So the thing about Benevolent from the quotes is that his MO is using Good to cover Evil. Or… using Good as a tool for inherently Evil, or at least selfish, ends.

                Amadeus uses both Good and Evil in his toolbox, true. But which of them does he go for whenever he can and which does he employ only as much and as far as he believes is entirely necessary?

                And much more interestingly, WHAT ARE HIS GOALS

                Because let me tell you, personal salvation is… not exactly… on the list. Or personal comfort. Or personal survival. Or anything personal at all actually. Whatever you think of Amadues’s approach to ‘the ends justify the means’, it’s pretty explicit in the text that he’s quite possibly the most selfless character in Guide, in that genuine “wait, MY needs? what about my needs? how are they relevant to anything?” way.

                Moreover, one of Benevolent’s core ideas appears to be slipping away from justice, tricking his way out of responsibility.

                Compare this with “blaming Fate is the greatest moral cowardice” Amadeus. Moral fucking cowardice okay. That’s a phrasing he casually uses in a conversation where he’s attempting to convince the other person that he has no principles.

                And compare his inner monologue of “if any of these things [morality, justice, principle] were inherent instead of ascribed, they would be rendered meaningless” to Benevolent’s signature “morality is a force, not a law”. One of the two is a cynicist who takes advantage of Creation to benefit himself. The other is an idealist who does not consider himself to live up to his own standards – “this does not excuse the principle of behavior”, anyone?

                Amadeus is like REVERSE Benevolent. He’s as opposite to that one guy as they come.

                And he’s also likely not going to be Dread Emperor.

                Liked by 6 people

                1. Leventide

                  In the last quote he’s talking of turning back the tyranny of the sun, which refers to Callow. Therefore it can’t be Black, since that would mean him betraying Cat.

                  Liked by 3 people

                2. Shveiran

                  I think you are stating as fact things that are not.

                  EE never said that those quotes are from the past; as was mentioned, many quotes have been presented to us in a moment where they were clearly still waiting to be written (most frequently in Book II); just because these are also from a Dread Emperor, I see no reason to assume they are from the past. It’s not a “cheap fakeout” if it only contradicts things people are assuming without a real reason.

                  We have seven quotes about Benevolent. Short aphorism that are somehow funny.
                  That… is not really enough to judge someone.
                  If you told me “Amadeus cannot become Traitorous” I’d reply “yeah, obviously”.
                  This theory is not quite as “tinfoilhatish”.

                  There are differences between how Amadeus is now, and the image we can derive from those quotes of Benevolent”.
                  However.

                  Amadeus, as he is now, will not survive.
                  Cat told him as much. He said he knows as much. We know as much.
                  He is at a pivot.

                  If he does embrace it and change, he will likely become Dread Emperor. Who else is there?
                  And if he does become Dread Emperor, I fail to see in those quotes anything that has me going “no, it’s impossible Amadeus would say anything like this later down the line”.

                  I don’t know if this will happen, but I think it’s more believable than most theories that go around. If only because we don’t know enough about Benevolent to really argue either point.

                  Liked by 3 people

                  1. >EE never said that those quotes are from the past; as was mentioned, many quotes have been presented to us in a moment where they were clearly still waiting to be written (most frequently in Book II); just because these are also from a Dread Emperor, I see no reason to assume they are from the past. It’s not a “cheap fakeout” if it only contradicts things people are assuming without a real reason.

                    I’m not assuming ALL quotes are from the past. I’m assuming quotes NOT DIRECTLY SPECIFIED TO BE FROM THE FUTURE are from the past, since the epigraphs have been a vehicle to give us undestanding of historical Praes from the beginning. Benevolent’s quotes have been part of that, helping define what Praes HAS BEEN LIKE, narratively. And he’s iconic in his own way, showing the mastery of the narrative that Dread Emperors HAVE been capable of demonstrating in the past, all the while not deviating from Praes’s actual pattern.

                    It’s an important beat in undersatnding of historical Praes, and undermining it would be a bad narrative move.

                    Liked by 2 people

                    1. Shveiran

                      I think I’m missing something. All EE has told us is that Benevolent was a Dread Emperor; assuming he is from the past is reasonable, don’t get me wrong, but it turns out that assumption was wrong, I wouldn’t say the author tricked us into thinking that.

                      As a different exemple, take Aysha: the quotes tell us she is penning a memoirs. If it turns out “LOL that was a different Aysha altogether” that would be tricking us.
                      But I have been assuming that means she survives to have it published, and that is MY assumption; if it turns out that she dies and, say, the Hellhound has it polished and published as a way to honor her friend, the quote still makes perfect sense and I can only lament my assuming something was certain when it wasn’t.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. Erratic presented Benevolent as part of past Praes’s characterization. If it turns out that LOL SIKE it wasn’t past Praes’s characterization at all, that’s bad writing.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    3. Shveiran

                      I am arguing he did not, in fact, present him as anything but a Dread Emperor of Praes.

                      Maybe he is, and the theory is wrong.
                      But if it isn’t, there is no bad writing involved. Merely a reader assuming something that was never said to be canon.

                      We know Irritant, Maleficent, Vile, Traitorious and a few others are past rulers. Benevolent, Massacre and others have never been referenced in the fiction itself, and thus we have no context to infer anything BUT the fact that they were Dread Emperors or Empresses.

                      EE is using the quotes to expand his worldbuilding. But if anything, he has established he is NOT limiting himself to quotes from the past by including quotes from the future or present.
                      If it is, it was foreshadowed as a possibility. If it isn’t, the quotes being quotes proves nothing.

                      Keep in mind, I’m not arguing for the theory to be certain, I simply don’t understand why you are certain it is ludicrous.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    4. Because Erratic has always been precise in his worldbuilding-via-quotes.

                      We know which quotes are from the future. It’s immediately obvious when they are, they are clearly marked as such. They establish how the world will be.

                      Imagine if we suddenly find out that actually Aisha Bishara’s memoirs belong to some other Aisha Bishara in the past talking about some other Catherine Foundling who just so happened to have existed before. After all, it was never explcitly stated in canon to be the same Aisha, was it? We just assumed!

                      Benevolent fit a particular section of epigraphs that played a particular role in giving us understanding of historical Praes.

                      Liked by 1 person

                3. sutortyrannus

                  First and foremost, thank for expending the time and effort to elaborate.

                  Now for a few rebuttals.

                  >It doesn’t fit the epigraphs format (EE doesn’t go for cheap fakeouts, and ‘this historical dread emperor is actually from the future lol sike’ would very much be one), doesn’t fit the plot (what dread emperor and what high lords), doesn’t fit Amadeus’s sense of humor (he would not choose that reigning name)

                  I have to disagree. The epigraphs have a strong trend of pulling snippets from past and future and linking them to relevant themes in their attached chapters (Aisha and Juniper’s memoirs, Firstborn religious texts). Regarding the Dread Emperors/Empresses in particular, they’ve given us an insight into the mentality of the Praesi ruling class, and how it’s evolved from Maleficient I to Malicia. Given that we have no precedent for a non-Evil ruling name, that Praes is itself entering an era without precedent, and the implication Amadeus was the one to come up with the idea in the first place (Malicia told Tasia that a “dear friend” wanted her to choose the name “Trustworthy”), quotes from Dread Emperor Benevolent wouldn’t be a fake-out but a valuable piece of foreshadowing.

                  There’s more I want to add, but I have to go for now. Rest assured – the weekend will not pass without your conversion to the Way. 🙂

                  Liked by 6 people

                  1. > Regarding the Dread Emperors/Empresses in particular, they’ve given us an insight into the mentality of the Praesi ruling class

                    Exactly. They’ve given us an insight into the mentality of the Praesi ruling class from a handful of varying representatives, from Massacre to Terribilis… and from Vile ot Benevolent.

                    Listen, this theory makes me want to throw up. Like, literally. Like, when it first appeared, I was the one to confirm that we’d not had mention of Benevolent in the text, because I thought it was funny, but then people took it seriously, and… no. It’s gross. It’s ew. If erratic actually does this it’ll be the worst idea he’d ever had.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. The lady doth protest too much

                      It’s been obvious since the first quote that Benevolent is Amadeus. The discrepancy you perceive could be him being ironic when talking in-story to a Praesi audience. It’s not like he has no sense of humor, or the other Dread Emperor quotes are all dripping with sincerity. You’re being too much of a presumptuous literalist working off very thin material.

                      Also, more generally, you aren’t the author, nor are you the most ardent fan of this series, just among the chattiest and most cocksure. Other people can be perceptive and pick up on breadcrumbs left by the author that you choose to ignore. It’s your prerogative to read texts as you like, but claiming “It’s gross. It’s ew.” is incredibly pretentious.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    2. >It’s been obvious since the first quote that Benevolent is Amadeus.

                      what

                      the theory only came up during the ‘what Name was Bard talking about’ discussion after Epilogue 4, until then it occured to literally no-one (that i know of)

                      >or the other Dread Emperor quotes are all dripping with sincerity

                      yes, actually, they are. The other Dread Emperor quotes tend to be either very literal, or overly-obvious-in-context (see: Atrocious’s recent quote about taking a step to the left). The Dread Emperor quotes have been 100% accurate reflections of their MO’s and personalities, as far as we know

                      >but claiming “It’s gross. It’s ew.” is incredibly pretentious

                      no, it’s me talking about my personal perception, in response to the assurance that I will be converted to the theory. Even if it’s correct and I’m wrong and erratic is in fact going to do this, I’m never going to be onboard with it because that’s how I feel about it. That’s what I was referring to.

                      If anything, it was presumptious of that person to say that I will be converted to the theory. However instead of just accusing them of that failingI went into explaining the reason why.

                      > just among the chattiest and most cocksure

                      -bows-

                      Liked by 1 person

                    3. SpeckofStardust

                      Your biggest argument seems to lie in the idea that Black would never seek personal salvation…
                      Which is flawed due to 1 kinda important thing.
                      “I am,” I said, “going to build a better world. Even if I have to drag everyone into it kicking and screaming. So there’s your choice, Black: either you make yourself into a man that deserves to live in that world, or you’re just another corpse I step over on my way there.”-
                      Considering how this chapter ends
                      “I handed him the full Accords,” he said.
                      Why, I almost asked, but already knew the answer. Either my father would sign the damned thing, or he’d be sold so that everyone else did.
                      I stalked off, furious at no one in particular, to find Amadeus of the Green Stretch.-
                      Like really?
                      Even including the idea that the quotes of the dread emperors/empresses show the idea of Praesi thought process, why cant it show what is needed for them to be after the timeframe of this story?
                      I mean hell the story has done a wonderful job of making goddam Akua into seeking fucking salvation, why the utter hells do you think that Black cant?
                      ,To be frank if black signs the accords then Amadeus can easily become Benevolent and if he doesn’t sign the accords? He will die because Cat will be unable to use him to control Praesi how she needs it to be controlled.

                      Liked by 6 people

                    4. My point is that Amadeus does not view morality as a means to selfish ends. He views morality as an end in itself, and himself as a tool used for others’ benefit. This is different enough from Benevolent’s stated MO to make it not clever as a fakeout.

                      Liked by 1 person

                4. While I’ve no intent on insisting Black will become Benevolent (I don’t mind the idea, but I don’t feel the need to champion it either), I feel it needs to be pointed out that Black we’ve got to know this far might not be the same man as Black we’ll get to see going forward. You have to remember Amadeus has been through at least three major events that could and probably should influence how he sees the world.

                  Event the first would be Cat stabbing him at the end of book instead of killing him and taking his Name. Given the talk that followed on making a better world and telling Black to either die or become a man worthy of said world it does feel like she was nudging him into something of a low-key redemption story.

                  Event the second – loss of his Name. We know that Names influence how their bearers act. Not nearly to the degree that fey titles do, but someone like Amadeus who spent fourty-plus years as a Black Knight – even if he was a nonstandard one – was probably more than a little entrenched in his ways. Now he is likely less so, *and* this was followed up by a double whammy of Bard coming out to mess with his head.

                  Event the third and final – the recent soul separation and reconnection. Back when Cat got her hands on Black’s soulless body Akua made quite a speech on how Sain’t butchery is likely to affect Amadeus once he’s stitched back together. Now the most recent info we have on this is Akua saying the losses were “slight” but… why write this into the story at all if it becomes a non-issue? Perhas Akua is wrong, perhaps the loss runs deeper but it touches areas she didn’t think to check. Or perhaps it indeed is a “slight” loss but at a precisely right aspect of his psyche to make a difference of some short. Either way I doubt this will go by without some sort of fallout.

                  All in all I think we’re going to see a changed Amadeus in months to come. How much of a change and in what regard it’ll be, that remains to be seen. But we shouldn’t assume he’ll remain exactly the same as he was before.

                  Liked by 4 people

                5. While I’ve no intent on insisting Black will become Benevolent (I don’t mind the idea, but I don’t feel the need to champion it either), I feel it needs to be pointed out that Black we’ve got to know this far might not be the same man as Black we’ll get to see going forward. You have to remember Amadeus has been through at least three major events that could and probably should influence how he sees the world.

                  Event the first would be Cat stabbing him at the end of book instead of killing him and taking his Name. Given the talk that followed on making a better world and telling Black to either die or become a man worthy of said world it does feel like she was nudging him into something of a low-key redemption story.

                  Event the second – loss of his Name. We know that Names influence how their bearers act. Not nearly to the degree that fey titles do, but someone like Amadeus who spent fourty-plus years as a Black Knight – even if he was a nonstandard one – was probably more than a little entrenched in his ways. Now he is likely less so, *and* this was followed up by a double whammy of Bard coming out to mess with his head.

                  Event the third and final – the recent soul separation and reconnection. Back when Cat got her hands on Black’s soulless body Akua made quite a speech on how Sain’t butchery is likely to affect Amadeus once he’s stitched back together. Now the most recent info we have on this is Akua saying the losses were “slight” but… why write this into the story at all if it becomes a non-issue? Perhas Akua is wrong, perhaps the loss runs deeper but it touches areas she didn’t think to check. Or perhaps it indeed is a “slight” loss but at a precisely right aspect of his psyche to make a difference of some short. Either way I doubt this will go by without some sort of fallout.

                  All in all I think we’re going to see a changed Amadeus in months to come. How much of a change and in what regard it’ll be, that remains to be seen. But we shouldn’t assume he’ll remain exactly the same as he was before.

                  Liked by 2 people

                  1. And you think Amadeus is going to be a worse, more selfish and less idealistic person than before? That’s where you see this narrative going?

                    I mean, if that’s your prediction, I can’t stop you…

                    Liked by 1 person

            2. You and I have personally already had this discussion (at some length!) so I don’t want to rehash it, but something that I don’t know if I commented before is that my disagreement with you over whether Amadeus could become Benevolent is based much, much less on disagreeing with your assessment of Amadeus (it’s a little rosier than mine, but ultimately not super super far off) than it is on disagreeing with your assessment of Benevolent. You are (well, appear to be – I don’t want to claim mindreading) drawing extremely strong, definitive conclusions about what Benevolent is/was/will be like on very scant evidence indeed.

              Let me put something to you. I believe that all of Benevolent’s attributed quotes aren’t just compatible with my interpretation of Amadeus’ character, I believe that there are at least plausible interpretations of the quotes (I won’t claim more than that since I don’t have any more evidence than you do) that are fully compatible with the interpretation of Amadeus’ character that you have expressed to me before, unless I’m misremembering that wildly. Happy to elaborate if you’re interested. 🙂

              Liked by 4 people

              1. I have, while pondering this discussion, come to a conclusion about my own reasoning that I would like to explain.

                Yes, in a vacuum, I could see Amadeus at one point uttering quotes attributed to Benevolent at some hypothetical point if he had to play this role.

                However, the quotes are just far enough off from his character that it’s not a funny joke for them to match up. It’s not a clever closing of the circle. It would be an additional bit of information – that Benevolent is actually someone who holds the exact opposite beliefs from how he states them – not something encoded within the epigraphs themselves.

                Which is where we come back to the issue of the format. It’s not clever for Benevolent to have been Amadeus all along, any more than it is for Amadeus to secrently have been Neshamah’s revenant or Traitorous in disguise all along. Funny as a meme, but not good storytelling wrt actual plot/worldbuilding.

                I.E. if Benevolent’s quotes had actually been Suspiciously Identical to Amadeus’s unique views ™, I could see this reveal being a clever twist at the end.

                As it is, it would be an utterly unforeshadowed out of the left field one.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. > I.E. if Benevolent’s quotes had actually been Suspiciously Identical to Amadeus’s unique views ™, I could see this reveal being a clever twist at the end.
                  As it is, it would be an utterly unforeshadowed out of the left field one.

                  I mean. No offense intended, but given that (significantly) more of the people considering this seem to find Benevolent’s quotes to line up pretty well with Amadeus’ unique views than not, I don’t think “utterly unforeshadowed” is really fair. And again, even if we set aside any disagreements over your interpretation of Amadeus’ views I don’t think your interpretation of Benevolent is actually necessarily justified by the text. I.e., I don’t believe those quotes actually evidence Benevolent holding “the exact opposite beliefs” to how you interpret Amadeus’ views.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. Those quotes describe exactly opposite beliefs. I agree it is not evidence that the person saying them actually literally means what they’re saying. That’s not relevant to my point.

                    And, well… most people who disagree with a theory aren’t me and aren’t coming in here to argue with it -_-

                    It’s very common in this fandom to hold objectively incorrect interpreations of Amadeus that don’t take into account all available evidence 😛

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. willfultrooper

                      Some of the quotes from Benevolent do oppose the beliefs of Amadeus. But you’re looking at him as if his character doesn’t evolve/grow.

                      At this point in the story Black is at a crossroads as to whether he dies or lives according to Catherine’s decision, which is simply put “Change for my new world or die in your old one”. The only things I can see that clash with Blacks’ character is his hatred or distaste for wasteland nobility which clash with the 7th quote which comes from his coronation speech. As well as the first quote which appears a bit too monologuey or tempting the story which Black is not known to do.

                      However the 7th quote could be argued due to character change. I construct this around the basis that 1. Catherine despite her dislike for nobility has kept them alive in Callow and has even placed some of them in positions of power and 2. she has wastelanders fighting in her legions and 3. several of her officers are wasteland nobility such as Ashara who would not agree with the purge of her family. Like I mentioned before Black is at a crossroads where he either signs the accords or doesn’t which is a pivot for his character development.

                      Signing them would mean that he has accepted Catherines’ view of the world and thus will be a pivot for his character development. Or he dies or Catherine let’s him go. There so many ways this could go that I’m not going into detail. But that would reduce the likelihood of him being Benevolent.

                      The first quote is the only thing that I can think of that clashes with Blacks’ personality and even then this could just be a quip that he has with one of the wasteland nobility that is challenging him. Catherine done this with Akua and the Lone Swordsman.

                      I don’t really agree with the Black is Benevolent as it would reduce the amount of lore The Empire has as well as being a bit too obvious in an otherwise nuanced novel (Of course EE could be doing this because sometimes foreshadowing is just that obvious) but to say that it is a 0% likelihood is presumptuous considering the quotes are all we have to go off of, since they haven’t been confirmed as past, present or future. Of course I may have misinterpreted your premise entirely and you may have an argument based on one of the other quotes that I haven’t thought of. If so I’d like to know. If it’s well founded then I will willingly drop my argument or present a counter argument accordingly.

                      Liked by 3 people

                    2. As I have already mentioned, my biggest issue is with “morality is a force, not a law”.

                      Honestly at this point I want to go into the dreaded ‘new chapter spoilers’ territory and point out that AS IT TURNS OUT, Amadeus’s issue with Accords was ‘I want this but more of it’ all along. He build his very first argument against – ‘isolates the Dread Empire’ – with the eye to the proposal of the magic academy, which is a very deeply in-character thing for him to do, remember the earlier mentioned episode of Wekesa flatly refusing to teach magic in War College when Amadeus asked? Between that and the amount of focus/interest he had in the institution itself, education is a huge interest of his.

                      What I’m trying to say is: “Like I mentioned before Black is at a crossroads where he either signs the accords or doesn’t which is a pivot for his character development.” It’s not. It never was this pivot. Note how the first part of the discussion is Catherine repeating his own logic, things HE taught her, back to him. He believed those things all along. He was onboard with the Accords before they were ever made, because they are a codification of his own beliefs already.

                      Amadeus was always working ‘for the greater good’, even if he’d never put it like that and his greater good was very narrowly focused on the concerns of the Dread Empire of Praes in particular. Benevolent’s very mentality as gotten across in those quotes is different. It does not point at Amadeus in a clever way, which would make it a very shitty twist, just narratively.

                      Taken separately, the inaccuracy of the quotes and the incongruity of he format don’ quite deal the death blow. But together they mean there wouldn’t be a point to the twist. It would add nothing. There is no clever connection to be drawn, no realization to be had. Only losses in, as you said, the amount of lore the Empire has.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    3. willfultrooper

                      if we’re referring to the, as of today, newly minted chapter 57 of this book then yes, it would be out of character for Amadeus to reject and then agree to a proposal as if it was a new idea. I do not dispute this, and would only cheapen the moment in chapter 57. However it is not implied either covertly or in-covertly that Black has refused the accords. In fact only recent chapters point towards him discovering or at least understanding the ground works for the accords. To clarify this is the first instance (that I know of) in which he received the accords as written by Hakram, Vivienne and Catherine.

                      As for the quotes I cannot in anyway gleam any information as to how the Dread Emperor is, personality wise. So I cannot say for certain. An argument can be made however that Dread Emperor Benevolent could, as you put it, be working towards the greater good. I refer to the 7th quote, where he informs the High lords that they will all hang but that salvation is not beyond them. Though that may be stretching the quote to its’ limits I admit. However this could be a turning point for the empire in which after experiencing a new kind of rule under Black and Malacia, Black/Amadeus takes over and could then refer to the accords as “their” salvation. Again, this is speculation (more like an additional possibility) and should not in any way be taken at face value. There is also the additional factor that the quotes don’t really hint or at the very least act against Amadeus’ greater good for Praes.

                      Like

                    4. OH P.S. I have thought of a possibly good way to point out the problem with “morality is a force, not a law”.

                      This quote is from Peers, the one time we’ve seen Amadeus actually debate/discuss morality. It can be fairly taken to be his signature opinion, since it’s pretty distinctive and fits very well with everything else he’s ever said/expressed on the topic, as well as with IRL schools of thought he’s vaguely parallel to:

                      >“We are born nothing, and taught a set of… rules for a lack of better term, that allow us to determine what is acceptable behaviour and what is not,” the prisoner said. “What irks me, Pilgrim, is your insistence that these rules are a set of virtues inherent to the fabric Creation instead of covenant between mortals for mortal purposes.”

                      Amadeus is quite literally saying that morality is a law, not a force here.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    5. willfultrooper

                      From what I can take from that quote it seems more like Amadeus is irked, meaning irritated or annoyed, by the fact that Pilgrim thinks these rules are inherent to the fabric of creation. Of course this is from the understanding that what you refer to as law here from this specific passage was the “virtues inherent to the fabric Creation.”

                      If your referring to morality as the “set of rules” which implies that morality is a law, according to the wording by “rules” which are just another less specific word for “law” (with the difference, from my understanding, being that rules are less strict. An example, a rule would be don’t walk on the grass you could do so and it would be socially frowned upon but there would be no legal repercussions. If it was a law you would either be fined or jailed. So basically stakes are raised.) You would be right in assuming that Amadeus would think of them as laws in this passage. However he may not necessarily believe in them being laws as the statement is followed by “…For lack of a better term” which implies he had not come upon a better explanation or metaphor of morality, which he could have come upon just before becoming Benevolent or after.

                      Like

                    6. The way I see it, the relative positions are:

                      “Morality is something that needs to be followed because everyone, or at least the overwhelming majority, agrees on it”
                      vs
                      “Morality is a force of nature, like gravity, and you benefit from taking it into account, though cheating that force is if anything a proud and noble endeavour”

                      Ugh, it’s not like I could argue that a stretch into fitting would be impossible. My point is that immediate intuitive interpretation, which is all we have for the epigraphs, is in the exact opposite direction.

                      Like

                  2. Which is to say,
                    >(significantly) more of the people considering this seem to find Benevolent’s quotes to line up pretty well with Amadeus’ unique views than not
                    don’t mistake vocal minority and majority…

                    Liked by 1 person

                  3. Sparsebeard

                    > Those quotes describe exactly opposite beliefs.

                    Come on, some of those quotes are very Black-like:

                    “Please, do keep digging your own grave. I look forward to your splendidly inevitable demise.” – Dread Emperor Benevolent the First – Chapter 19: Pivot

                    – What he’d say to any villain building a Death fortress or lauching into a monologue.

                    “There’s no surer sign you’re being played than being certain you’ve grasped your opponent’s intent.” – Dread Emperor Benevolent – Chapter 6: Rapport

                    – You could find it in the Evil Overlord’s List, it’s just smart. Not particularly Black-like, but certainly is consistent with integring the narrative in your plans.

                    “Morality is a force, not a law. Deviating from it has costs and benefits both – a ruler should weigh those when making a decision, and ignore the delusion of any position being inherently superior.” – Dread Emperor Benevolent – Villainous Interlude: Decorum

                    Black wants to WIN. He doesn’t care about doing evil things like murdering orphans before they become heroes or razing the countryside. Neither does he care about doing good things like raising the standard of living of his subjects or freeing the greenskins from oppression. It’s all a cost-benefit calculus in order to achieve his goals, despite morality.

                    “Peace is little more than the reсognition that the reasons for which war was undertaken are no longer relevant.” – Dread Emperor Benevolent the First – Chapter 17: Contingent

                    – Same as the precedent, Black is fine with eternal peace with Callow, as long as we wins the peace.

                    “There is only one lesson to be learned from shatranj: no matter who wins the game, the pieces return to the same box.” – Dread Emperor Benevolent the First – Chapter 30: Witness

                    – Pretty neutral quote, I got nothing for or against it being said by Black.

                    “Own what you are, no matter how ugly the face of it. No lies are ever more dangerous to a villain than those they tell themselves.” – Dread Emperor Benevolent – Chapter 70: The Calm Before

                    – “You’re a monster, aren’t you?” I spoke softly into the night, looking at him from the corner of my eye.

                    He smiled. “The very worst kind,” he replied.

                    “By hook and crook we will all hang, High Lords, from a noose woven of our many loose ends. But cheer up: none are beyond salvation, not even the likes of us. Let us see, at long last, if we can turn back the tyranny of the sun.” – Extract from the coronation speech of Dread Emperor Benevolent the First – Epilogue

                    – The most arguable quote. Taken litteraly I don’t think it’s likely for Black to be anything like “Redeemed”, he’s to entrenched in his identity as villain. But even after this quote Benevolent still considers himself a villain (see 4th quote).

                    I’m guessing it would be an alternative meaning of “Salvation”. And signing the accords as Praes would be a victory for practical evil since it would mean that the other good nations would be forced to deal with him, thus “turning the tyranny of the sun”.

                    Liked by 5 people

                    1. Nice breakdown! Re: the shatranj quote, I think there’s actually a couple points that make that very plausible it’s Amadeus specifically.

                      A), “there’s only one lesson to be learned from shatranj” – it’s canon that Amadeus dislikes shatranj, not as a game per se but because people try to draw lessons from it about warfare/planning/etc. that the game is not correctly designed to provide. So “only one lesson to be learned” is a backhanded reference to that point that he doesn’t think shatranj is actually a good teacher of lessons.

                      B), this definitely represents a plausible version of Amadeus as changed by Cat. Amadeus had his whole speech about how he wants Evil to win for a change, while Cat’s thing at this point is about controlling the clash so it doesn’t grind up innocents by the hundreds of thousands. Amadeus responding to Cat’s call to become someone who deserves to exist in her better world by realizing that “victory” for a side that regards him as no more than another pawn in their game is meaningless and accomplishes nothing for what he actually cares about is a natural evolution/character growth towards meeting Cat’s call there.

                      Liked by 1 person

  2. Soma

    Alas. How I’d like to see Rozala, Cat, Black, Pilgrim and Cordelia all hitched to the same wagon. I do hope that perhaps signing the accords would be a way out for Black, as seems to have been implied.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. IDKWhoitis

      I think even Pilgrim could vouch for Black, in a weird twisted way. The Largest Lesser Evil he’s met. Black would be an effective cap on Praes. Black is one of the finest tactians in name lore and combat, and simply killing him for prosecuting a war would be too much of a cost down the line.

      Alternatively, Pilgrim might find him to be too large a liability too have in Cat’s hands. And he’s as ruthless as Black when dealing with those.

      Liked by 9 people

      1. Note how Pilgrim was willing to leave the stage entirely and leave everything in Cat’s hands period. That train has sailed, he’s in her corner, and it’s not like he didn’t know she would defend her mentor. I think he’ll stay neutral at worst, and at best might actually indeed back Cat on this yeah.

        Liked by 6 people

        1. IDKWhoitis

          Unless the Bard intervenes. And the Crippling of Named rulers will certainly limit her influence on national levels. She might not stand idly by while the Accords form.

          Other than Bard, I find it likely Pilgrim will at worst, accept Cat’s plan. Maybe with a little whining.

          Liked by 4 people

      2. Agreed. Pilgrim knows that a big chunk of what Cat has been up to has specifically been about rescuing Black. Cat doesn’t have many intimates, and Amadeus is her oldest surviving relationship — mentor, friend, and yes father-figure to the orphan.

        While it was never said explicitly, I think it’s pretty clear that at least half the reason the heroes didn’t just kill him to begin with, was specifically to keep the Black Queen Catherine away from lines like “you killed my father. Prepare to die.” (Luurved the movie… but consider that if you know one line from The Princess Bride, it’s that one. Story!)

        Liked by 5 people

        1. It’s certainly something Black considered as a motivation for them – that he’s more dangerous as a mentor to avenge than as a player in his own right (he was also very amused by that). And yeah I don’t think there’s going to be GASPS OF INDIGNANT SURPRISE at Cat refusing to hand him over.

          Liked by 1 person

    2. RoflCat

      Maybe it’ll be Cat’s turn to teach Black about fitting into that better world of hers.

      I’m sure there’s some importance to that moment when the Student and the Mentor swap position, even if temporarily.

      Heck he wouldn’t be the first Praesi she needs to teach how to fit into society. (Akua)

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Andrew Mitchell

        > Maybe it’ll be Cat’s turn to teach Black about fitting into that better world of hers.

        For sure. And the student/mentor swap will be permanent IMO. Remember, Amadeus wanted Cat to succeed (and, I think, excel) him.

        Like

  3. erebus42

    Awww, I can’t wait to hear what I can only assume will be a heartwarming father-daughter chat. They have so much to catch up on; his loss of name, her loss of divinity, her new religion… I’m sure it will be just lovely.

    Liked by 9 people

      1. medailyfun

        The next chapter can easily be a description of her long way to his tent, observing the camp and chatting with sappers 🙂 The author excels in readers torture

        Liked by 5 people

        1. Andrew Mitchell

          Funny. 🙂 But, no, that’s not going to happen. I just don’t get the hate that EE gets for cliffhangers and perceived padding.

          Like

    1. IDKWhoitis

      Some light heart jabs, maybe even a hug. I find it likely Cat will see aged far further than she remembers. His name isn’t reinforcing his appearance anymore.

      Or, alternatively, if he looks slightly changed, but Not old and weary, I would take that as confirmation that he is aspiring to a new Name, Dread Emperor perhaps?

      Liked by 3 people

        1. IDKWhoitis

          I think rules on abdication will include delayed clauses. I don’t think Cat or anyone sitting at the table are expecting Tyrant and Hierarch to immediately step down. Maybe the majority of the clauses will take effect with the next generation of rulers or after 10 years, whichever occurs first.

          Hell, If Black signs for Praes, I think the rest of the conference will have to accept him as someone influential in Praes, and getting Praes to sign this was always going to be a problem. Of course, optics of the deal may have to be altered to make this look like a good thing for everyone involved, rather than Black escaping the noose.

          Liked by 3 people

            1. Gamer7956

              I also think that getting Praes on board will be easier than it first seems. We’ve heard it straight from Malicia that she wants to form treaties to ensure the continued growth of Praes, and that she acknowledges that Praes cannot rise and stay there if it does so alone. With Black as an intermediary, it’s likely she’ll honestly consider the accords. She might have issues with certain clauses, but that’s what diplomacy and negotiations are for – that’s not a dealbreaker, just a point of contention.

              Liked by 3 people

              1. “So, it seems my former student has lapped both of us. We’re being invited to sign a treaty with Levant, Procer, and the League. Along with Callow and the Firstborn Under Night. Still waiting to hear from some of the other nations. There’s some international relations for you!

                Liked by 4 people

              2. I’m pretty sure Malicia is getting got. IIRC Cat has repeatedly tagged her in the text as somebody who’s going to have to go down the line. Heck, the initial premise of her negotiating position at the Battle of the Camps was basically “you want to invade Praes and topple/off Malicia? go nuts, I’ll portal you there to make it easier”. And let’s not forget that Malicia had Ratface murdered in cold blood, along with a big fat chunk of the rest of Cat’s government. To be fair Cat has shown with Razin and Nauk that she’s capable of letting a friend’s death go if it seems sufficiently advisable, but she let Razin live because she looked at him and decided “this is a future asset, not a liability”.

                Malicia didn’t just kill one of Cat’s oldest friends, she is an intrigue-addicted Named ruler who had a hand in enabling the Doom of Liesse and is fundamentally opposed to enacting the fundamental reforms of Praes that are needed both for internal reasons and to assure the rest of the continent they don’t need to march in there and handle shit themselves to prevent another city-sized superweapon from being built. She isn’t just an issue because she’s a problem right now, she is a long-term liability for deep-seated character reasons that are not going to just evaporate. And to expand on the political aspect noted before, while Black may be hated by the people for burning granaries, Malicia is (accurately) blamed by the princes – AKA the people who are actually in charge, and most particularly and especially the reigning First Prince – for fueling and extending the ruinous Proceran civil war long past the point of reason. And, y’know, making the deal to unleash the Dead King, which is a BIG FUCKING DEAL to Procer and soon to everyone else helping fight the dead. And the hate towards Black could be significantly bought off if they can ship in grain through the Twilit Way – the issue before was that they couldn’t get enough food there in time, but now…

                tl;dr – absent some huge narrative shifts to make her seem both more reasonable AND more necessary, Malicia is going to be gone before the story’s over. Not impossible, but let’s not underestimate the size of the shift that would be required.

                Liked by 4 people

            2. > I don’t get the impression Cat is expecting to get Tyrant and Hierarch onboard with the Accords.

              Quite to the contrary in fact, I think she’s angling to throw them under that bus.

              Liked by 3 people

            3. Someguy

              Hierarch probably will sign the Accords because he hates his Name & title, and thinks of it as an abomination that infringes upon the Will of The Prople. He will sign it just to quit and abolish the Name from any authority Not Elected by The People. Then turn himself in for the tribunal to do the right thing and execute him.

              Liked by 3 people

        2. konstantinvoncarstein

          At the moment, a ruler without a Name would not be able to stabilize Praes, let alone reform it so it could function without Names. The Liesse Accords will probably have a delayed effect concerning the Named rulers.

          Liked by 1 person

            1. konstantinvoncarstein

              How would it be possible to change Praes and not have a Secret Emperor, like Amadeus is saying? Names are a cultural thing, and only a thorough reform of Praes could change things.

              Liked by 1 person

  4. IDKWhoitis

    I think Black is too smart to not see this math too, and likely his plans are already in effect. Even if he doesn’t sign, I suspect Cat won’t be able to handle him over (not emotionally, but because he is not weak enough). The Legions in Exile would probably prefer to go down on a funeral pyre rather than letting the transgression pass…

    Although, I suspect Black would be willing to sign. Black is her Father for a reason, and Cat’s philosophy is really the bastardized version of Black’s. I would find it highly suspect if he didn’t want to sign. Likely a different plot afoot. But not necessarily one against Cat. Maybe a way to shape public perception to not make Cat responsible for him, and to relieve her the burden of haggling for his life for the Accords to actually get done.

    I suspect the simple responses are not what will follow, and likely some light prodding on Cat’s part is needed. (and by light prodding, I mean liberal use of a mace).

    Liked by 5 people

    1. caoimhinh

      I agree.
      Really, there’s nothing among the Accords that we have seen so far that goes against Amadeus’ beliefs.
      -Not using Angels and Demons? He’s perfectly fine with it! He thinks that’s for the best too, as Angels are meddlesome dudes that interrupt his side’s plan and Demons are blighted things that damage the fabric of creation.
      -Not building Doomsday Devices? Literally the reason he got into a fight with his best friend in the world, the Empress of Praes.
      -No declaring senseless war? That was the whole purpose of integrating Callow into Praes instead of treating them as an oppressed colony, he raised Callow’s standard of living under Praesi reign and was aiming to make it so they would be citizens of the Empire in real manner, so that Praes would not need to invade Callow for food and no longer need to blood its own citizens. He’s all in for having peace.
      -Having a functioning state that does not depend on Named? The whole point of the Reforms, both on Praesi institutions and the Legions of Terror.
      -Strengthening relationships with other countries beyond Good and Evil? Both in Amadeus and Malicia’s plans already and partly executed by them. Cordelia even has a copy of a treatise written by Alaya (If I’m not wrong it’s “The End of the Age of Wonders”) where she goes on length about such things and explores multiple strategies to achieve comercial, political and cultural alliances between countries, looking beyond their traditions as Good-aligned and Evil-aligned.

      All this we have seen in multiple chapters and from multiple POVs.

      The only thing I can think of Amadeus telling her to change is Cat’s attempt on eliminating Named rulers, and not only because of his friendship with Alaya, but because doing that is honestly beyond Catherine’s reach as those are cultural things and don’t simply go away by signing things, you need to make huge changes in a country’s way of life to eliminate a leader Name (Chieftain and Good King only disappeared because their respective cultures were brutalized and their nations conquered). Besides, she can’t honestly be so arrogant as to expect that to not be a negotiation, the Accords will be signed but they won’t be as her first draft, it would be ridiculous for every nation in the continent to sign and accept every single point of the Liesse Accords without modifications, that simply does not happen in any type of negotiation. She would have to conquer all of Calernia to be able to impose her treaty in unchanged terms to the other nations.

      So I’m pretty confident Amadeus is all in for the Liesse Accords, hopefully he will have some questions regarding some points so we can learn more about what the documents actually say. He might even improve the Accords with his own insight.

      Also, hopefully we’ll see Scribe again, or at least someone will mention where the hell she is, as she simply disappeared after being confirmed to be on the run along Grem.

      Liked by 9 people

      1. IDKWhoitis

        I’m afraid that Black might find the Accords a worthy funeral pyre to die on. If he makes an elaborate showing of Cat murdering him or turning him over for justice, it would certainly make forcing the Accords through with less modifications possible, and very likely.

        Black isn’t a martyr, but if he sees a very viable way of completing his objectives, and his death is part of the plan, we know he will take it.

        Hopefully he has changed a little, and will want to live to see the world after this war is done. After all this soul searching (*cough*) he is likely a changed man, and it makes an already unpredictable man, more so.

        Liked by 7 people

    2. Cat can’t hand him over for reasons entirely outside of his control, here. Like this has come up before – HE is more onboard with him getting killed than literally anyone else around. Including Cat. He’s not going to take precautions, if nothing else this conversation might just reverse into “clearly giving me over is the right political move” “OH MY GOD YOU PIECE OF SHIT NOBODY ASKED YOU” again lmao.

      Liked by 7 people

      1. IDKWhoitis

        I’m just worried about what his opinion of Praes would be, and his thoughts on the Grem plan. Is he still needed is a difficult question to answer, and I suspect Black’s own self evaluation will surprise us.

        Liked by 3 people

  5. Decius

    The Black Knight is not going to sign the Liesse Accords.

    The Representative of Praes is going to sign the Liesse Accords, on behalf of the Empress.

    That, alone, will be enough to ensure that they go no further.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. edrey

    so where is scribe? or assassin? the latter should have already killed his way in that island, and the first shouldn’t be hidding anymore. and to be honest i really want to see cat making them kneel, they are really useless without Amadeus,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is a weird notion. Why kneel? I mean, it’s basically a pen and a dagger. No kidding they are useless sithout a guiding hand. What’s wrong with that?

      The lack of Eudokia is, though, deeply concerning.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. edrey

        you are totally forgetting how eudokia act, we dont have much information about assassin, but scribe has really big blinders about Amadeus to the point making him sacred, more less, and cant see the big picture or his legacy. if she doesnt reappear is fine, but i am pretty sure she will be back now that amadeus is back, she will try to force her way of thinking, and with her net of spies, that is not small thing. she need a sharp lesson or be killed before she cause something beyond repair, all for the sake of amadeus or what not

        Liked by 4 people

  7. Raved Thrad

    “While I would not hesitate a moment to ruin Archer’s sleep, Vivienne at least should get to keep her slumber for a while yet.”

    ViviCat shipping intensifies

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Burnsy

    Bet this conversation would’ve been a lot different if they’d known Cordy has gone full Caeser. I think this fully cements her and the angel corpse she dragged out of the lake as the endgame boss for book 5.

    Also, while I’m very excited for the father/daughter reunion, anyone else absolutely desperate to find out what Scribe and Assassin have been up to this whole time? They’ve been off screen since the Calamities fractured.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Andrew Mitchell

      > I think this fully cements her and the angel corpse she dragged out of the lake as the endgame boss for book 5.

      Thanks for the reminder that the ‘angel corpse from the lake’ is waiting to fire. This may be a critical issue with getting Cordelia to sign the accords.

      But as for this being the endgame for Book 6. Nah, I just don’t see it. A significant factor in the final book? SURE. But not the boss fight. That’s either going to be the Bard or the Dead King.

      Liked by 2 people

          1. > The Augur had found a path through, narrow as it was, and it began with a corpse that was not a corpse beneath the waters of the lake at the heart of Procer. The Ashurans, it was said, had called on a masked and hallowed presence at the Battle of Thalassina. Cordelia Hasenbach would call on a lot worse if she had to.

            That doesn’t sound like she thinks it’s an angel….

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Andrew Mitchell

              “Hallowed” definition is (according to the Cambridge Dictionary) “holy or respected”. Hence, the chance that it is an angel. But it could be something else.

              Interesting to see the “corpse that was not a corpse” line… it reminds me of “staff that is not a staff”.

              Like

              1. “Hallowed” was used in reference to what the Ashurans called on at Thalassina. Not what Cordelia is considering.

                “Cordelia would call on a lot worse if she had to.”
                This implies that she’s willing to do things that are worse than what the Ashurans did.
                Also … I’m pretty sure that if there were an Angel corpse, it would probably be in a situation similar to thai if the Angel corpse that was at Liesse. That is, partly out of step with Creation, and therefore not accessible via mundane works like dredging.

                Also … I’m pretty sure that there’s a “fighting fire with fire” type reference used in relation to Cordelia’s project … and possibly in context with the Dead King.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. Andrew Mitchell

                  > “Hallowed” was used in reference to what the Ashurans called on at Thalassina. Not what Cordelia is considering.

                  You’re right. I was wrongly conflating those two sentences. Thanks for picking that up. So whatever is (was?) in that lake is something from Procer’s past that is now something that is and isn’t a corpse. I think you may be onto something when you mention the Dead King. It may be something left over from a previous invasion by the Dead King? Maybe something that was used to stop him previously, at great cost?

                  Like

                  1. Could predate Procer as an organized entity, for that matter.
                    Could date back to Triumphant’s conquest of Calernia. Or even earlier.
                    We have way too little information to work with when it comes to Cordelia’s project.

                    Liked by 1 person

  9. If there’s any Praesi that would uphold the Accords it’s Black. His life’s work has been reforging the Empire so that it no longer depends so much on their Named. I would go as far as to say that he’d leap on the chance to remove Named interventions in conflict since to him, that’s the primary reason for why Evil always loses.

    That’s the chief difference between him and Malicia or most Praesi nobles. They’ve internalized their defeatism to such an extent that they don’t believe they can win any conflict without restoring to dumb, extreme moves. Meanwhile, Black still believes that they can win wars through discipline and strategy.

    A more pressing concern will be the removal of Named in the ruling class. The Dread Emperor/Empress is such an old Role and Name that I doubt anything short of destroying Praes would do the trick, a move that’s obviously not feasible.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. > A more pressing concern will be the removal of Named in the ruling class. The Dread Emperor/Empress is such an old Role and Name that I doubt anything short of destroying Praes would do the trick, a move that’s obviously not feasible.

      It seems currently unclear in the text whether it’s possible to refuse a Name. It looks right now like Amadeus refused one when Bard was nudging him, but earlier it sure seemed like Anaxares wasn’t able to. Though that apparent discrepancy might be resolvable by supposing that Anaxares might in theory have been able to refuse, except that the kanenas refused to allow it and he wasn’t able psychologically to defy them in the end. So if it is possible to refuse a Name, then that would do the trick: take the title/political position of Dread Emperor, but refuse the Name when it tries to fall upon you. That might not actually destroy the Name, but if you can’t claim the Name without the title and the holder of the title won’t take it that would render it irrelevant, at least for the lifespan of that ruler (the clear weak spot there tbf).

      Liked by 2 people

      1. caoimhinh

        Actually, Bard simply said that he is a claimant, and that he is no longer into the Role of the Black Knight, but another that he considers “beneath him”, however, it was left vague. It seems like Amadeus is right now a claimant to some Name, but doesn’t have it yet, at this juncture anything can happen, but once the conditions are fulfilled the Name will latch onto him whether he wants it or not.

        Now, what that Name is, that’s the question.

        Liked by 2 people

  10. Shveiran

    Well, that will be an intense conversation.

    However, though I understand how powerful a political move it would be to hand over Amadeus for war crimes, I really cannot understand in what world that will be REQUIRED.

    I mean… oh no! The villanous Black Knight invaded Procer and torched the countryside! Thousands have died and more will starve! How awful!
    Surely, THAT requires a public execution before we can move beyond it, doesn’t it?

    For fuck sake, I’m so sick of this.

    Just in the past two years, the “good side” FORMED A COALITION with the express purpose of declaring total war on another kingdom, proceeded to DECLARE WAR on said kingdom, SACKED ITS CITIES, and TWICE ATTEMPTED TO INVADE BY LAND; and, after being repelled, REFUSED to both PAY REPARATIONS and STOP fucking TRYING.

    All of this even occurred before Amadeus did his shit!

    The Black Knight committed war crimes? Damn right he did! No questions there!
    But can someone please explain to me how that is somewhat a sin whereas all the rest is a-ok without using the words “but he is a Villain” or “the Heavens will it”? Guess what, those are war crimes too!
    But noooo, those don’t count, silly me.

    And before someone brings up civilian death counts, can I mention that making a naval block on Praes iand forcing a stop on commerce is inducing famine by simply another means? What are those civilians gonna eat, Wasteland dirt? The fact that apparently the Tower has reserves of grain to compensate and Procer doesn’t simply means the bad guys were competent, not that the good guys did something any less grave.
    But sure, they are Praesi civilian, so they don’t count.

    Anyone asking for Amadeus head must be willing to pay the full price for it: Amadis, Cordelia, the Iron Prince and whoever was in charge of Ashur’s offensive (assuming they survived Thalassyna) should follow him on the block. It’s not punishing war crimes, if you are only enforcing it on one side.

    I mean, what the fuck did they EXPECT would happen? What are they complaining about, “oh but they didn’t just let our superior force roll over them on the field, they cheated!” ? How was this an unproportioned response?
    Sure, it was a shitshow, but guess what YOU INVADED ANOTHER COUNTRY! You don’t get to complain they invaded back you fucking morons!

    And if this is just about appeasing popular opinions, they can suck it up.
    The Black Queen is giving them hundred of thousands of soldiers and special forces, Named, a three months truce and a way to redeploy her forces and theirs to protect northern Procer, while ALSO selling to her people that she is going to help the side that has been invading her all year. You know, the Callowans.
    The “Long Price” guys, who have seen no reparations or even admission of guilt by the Crusaders YET.

    If they can’t find a way to keep the pot from boiling on their side, Cordelia and the rest are no allies but simply liabilities. This is not about justifying Amadeus’ actions. It’s about NOT justifying all those santimonious fucks that only seem to cry about loss of life and the misery of war when they aren’t the ones dishing it out. Damn convenient, isn’t it?

    (Sorry, I left this one to boil a bit too long. Please forgive the ranting.)

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Isi Arnott-Campbell

      Addendum: some Good faction or other (Levantines IIRC?) advocated for ethnic cleansing of Praesi. Full-on genocide. Granted, other members of the Grand Alliance balked at this prospect.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Shveiran

        I agree, but that’s the whole point.
        The Grand Alliance is bitching and moaning about his actions, but they are not any different from the murderous machine they willingly set in motion.

        Liked by 4 people

    2. What war crimes did Black commit?
      The Pilgrim is guilty of war crimes for spreading a magical plague in Procer using Civilians and the first Prince was almost guilty of burning down one of her own cities.

      The worst thing that Black did was burn granaries and deal with bandits. I don’t think either is a war crime. He went out of his way not to commit any atrocities.

      His invasion was a mild response to a unwarranted invasion by greedy genocidal conquerors. Procer won’t see it that way but its true.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. > His invasion was a mild response to a unwarranted invasion by greedy genocidal conquerors.

        …No? I like Amadeus as much as the next guy, but he deliberately took actions with the explicit aim of inducing the starvation of tens if not hundreds of thousands of civilians who had sweet fuck-all to do with the decisions of their Princes. Whether that’s technically a war crime or not (given the precedent of the Rendulic Rule you could actually argue either way I think) it is hardly “mild”. As for the other side of your statement:

        1), “unwarranted” – no, it was honestly pretty fucking warranted. Throwing Callow into the mix as a target was shitty, but another polity (it being an explicitly Evil one is icing on the cake, but frankly I’d argue this would hold true regardless) having a city-sized superweapon to which there would be no plausible temporal counter if it came back online is a scenario which can be considered legitimately unacceptable to other nations.

        2), “greedy” – yep, I’ll give you that one in a heartbeat. Fucking Princes, man.

        3), “genocidal” – nope, some extremists far from the front were arguing for genocidal actions but they were being rejected and exactly zero actual acts of genocide had or have been perpetrated.

        4), “conquerors” – well, aspirational conquerors maybe… but they didn’t plan on running into the Black Queen! That said, this is hardly an unusual aspect of war, especially in a medieval-esque era.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. 1) Procer paid for that superweapon, the Diabolist was funded by the First Prince. It’s more than a little hypocritical to use it as an excuse to invade the same country you just helped commit genocide on. Also it was dealt with in house. There was no threat of it happening again. Even if that wasn’t true, Procer started the war to deal with its Fantassin problem, not to make the world a better place.

          3) While the full genocide plan probably wouldn’t have happened, even the moderates agreed that the failure of the Crusader States meant that heavy purging was required. All of the nobles, their servants and every sorcerer on the continent would be hunted down and murdered. No tot mention the thousands of peoople who would try to stop said butchery. And then there is the greenskins and ogres.

          4) Aspirational and historical conquerors.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. 1), …No? Akua’s mom took money from Procer to intrigue against Malicia (all part of Malicia’s Just As Planned scheme ofc), and I’m sure some of that money made its way to daughter dearest. But that’s definitely not the same thing as consciously funding said weapon, which is what would be required for genuine culpability here. Also:

            > There was no threat of it happening again.

            …You remember that literally the reason for the break between Amadeus and Malicia is that Malicia very much wanted to keep the weapon online and usable right? So seriously, there’s no threat of the people who wanted to keep the weapon being able to rebuild/replicate it when they both actively want to and are home to the greatest living practitioners of the type of sorcery used to construct it? LOL NO.

            3) (not sure where 2 went, guessing it got folded into 1?), So literally the same as Black’s original plan for Praes plus some more sorcerers? Look, I’m not arguing the crusaders are 100% goody-goody two-shoes. They’re not! They’re really definitely not. Even if some of their aims were good, their motivations were corrupt with frankly sickening frequency. But pretending that Our Viewpoint Characters are 100% in the right by carefully eliding inconvenient context is doing literally exactly what people are mad at the Grand Alliance for doing.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. 1) I didn’t say it was the same. Procer is still partly to blame for it though. Akua’s murder of an entire city would have been impossible if the first Prince hadn’t knowingly funded the Trublood rebellion. While it was being built, it is said that Proceran Silver was their main source of funds.
              Everyone know what the High Lords are like. This is like giving millions of dollars to al-Qaeda and pretending you didn’t know they were going to use it to kill civilians. Then, claiming their attacks as an excuse to smugly invade another few countries and try your own hand at atrocities.

              Like

                  1. Dodging Godwin’s Law is generally a good idea, sure. But you dodged a pitfall by kind of sidestepping into a minefield lol.

                    I’m not really offended personally for the record, both because of my personal politics and because I find getting super mad about politics on the internet to be massively unproductive and generally unpleasant. But if you weren’t aware (can’t tell tbh, so apologies if I’m telling you something you already know), your hypothetical scenario there could very easily be taken as a very pointed description of the past few decades of American foreign policy. There are def people out there who would not take kindly to that description.

                    Like

    3. Honestly agreed.

      On the other hand, that’s a zoomed-out view of the situation. When we zoom in and consider Black’s specific actions and specific circumstances, Cat has good reason to be pissed at him and consider him a potential liability. Those actions were Not Worse Than Those Of The Grand Alliance, doesn’t mean they were good, either in the moral sense or in the ‘good idea’ sense.

      Catherine going in there pissed off and ready to kick the shit out of him for making dumb decisions can only be good 😀

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Shveiran

        Oh, yes, I agree, I get why she is angry: Cat has taken the very mature position that, at some point, fault doesn’t factor into it if what you are after is actual change. She prefers to give more than she has to so long as that induces the change she thinks is best long term.

        I’m just mad that one side feels justified in zooming in on what their enemies did while carefully keeping their own actions out of the frame, without being called out on it.
        It’s realistic. It’s still a shitty move, and unjustified from the moral point of view.
        And if they won’t be called to answer of it, I’ll be very disappointed.

        Liked by 2 people

    4. Andrew Mitchell

      A+ rant there my friend. No need to apologise for it all all. Very well argued.

      I think it call comes down to this
      > And if this is just about appeasing popular opinions, they can suck it up.

      Yes, it is about appeasing popular opinions but it’s also supported by the Augur’s ‘prediction’ that Cordelia will face a popular rebellion if Black escapes. And we know the Augur has, at least to some extent, been influenced by the Bard.

      That’s why it’s going to be a sticking point, not matter how stupid or unfair it is (as you have explained very well.)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m pretty sure that Augur made no such prediction.

        I’m pretty sure the only prediction Augur made that said “do this or Procer collapses/or similar phrasing/intent” was in relation to pushing the pursuit of and pressing battle against the Army of Callow and the Legions when they were trying to leave Procer. And I’m pretty sure that that was (reasonably) misinterpreted to be about going after the Army of Callow and the Legions at targets themselves, but was actually about having the pieces necessary to stop the Arcadia Shard from crashing into Procer, in the right place. Depending on just how good Augur’s precognitive abilities are (or the source of those abilities), the truce with the Dead King, the Twilight Ways, and Callow getting into the Grand Alliance … maybe even Laurence (and her get the Dead King to burn everything down so that Heroes can rise from the ashes and control what comes next plan) getting dead, might have been factored into the prophecy, since it was so open to misinterpretation.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Andrew Mitchell

          From what I can tell your view that this is open to interpretation is correct. After doing a fairly comprehensive search all I can find that sheds light on this augury is this statement as delivered to Princess Rozala in Congregation II https://practicalguidetoevil.wordpress.com/2019/03/04/interlude-congregation-ii/ – the “offer” mentioned is Vivienne’s offer to withdraw their troops so long as Black’s legions can leave with them.

          > “We’ve confirmed that if the offer is accepted, there will be rebellion within the month,” Sophie said. “It is a certainty.”

          The source of the certainty is the Augur.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Mmm.
            Depends on how they came to conclude it would be “rebellion”.
            Going back to that chapter you linked to, it says that it would cover “most of the Eastern Principalities under Brabant” … and if we go and look at the political boundaries map, that could be a misinterpretation of Procer losing those Principalities to the Arcadia shard and the associated fallout. This would require those speaking with Augur to assume what she was saying meant that there would be a rebellion, and to not have explicitly confirmed that she meant there would be a rebellion, rather than some other interpretation to the phrasing she used.
            Augur is, after all, decidedly vague in her initial statements and significant follow up questioning to tease out the actual meaning behind her precognition is required. Which means the right questions need to be asked.

            Alternatively, it could be that Kairos’s plan to use Heirarch to capture the Arcadia shard would have been implemented and the side effects caused the rebellion.

            Or, the gathering of Named and the consequences (Cat getting a foot in the door of the Grand Alliance and the Liesse Accords) meant that Heirarch doesn’t get to run rampant in Eastern Procer. It’s a distinct possibility that Kairos and the League armies would not have been within the capacity of the Dominion and Proceran forces to stop without the reinforcements that got sent after the Army of Callow and the Legions. Plus the Army of Callow and the Legions.

            Liked by 3 people

    1. caoimhinh

      He’s probably the most flexible out of the two. Always has been.
      He’s got pretty clear and defined boundaries were he draws the line. Everything else is negotiable and he’s the most reasonable person about it.

      For example, when Catherine wanted to make new reforms in Callow, Black gave her the go ahead, even when she started to plot to get a crown for herself and restore Callow’s pride as a nation, Amadeus only said “sure, go ahead. Make as many changes as you deem necessary” and his only condition was “just don’t rebel” and even after Catherine crossed that line he was pretty cool about it and accepted it as an outcome that was brought by his and Malicia’s actions.

      As of right now, he probably has very few things where he might disagree with Catherine, likely the only point of discussion is that she wants to kill Malicia and Amadeus is likely to oppose that.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Daniel E

    As much as I hope that Masego gets his powers back, I just don’t feel like that’s going to happen. I’m calling it; Hierophant is effectively side-lined for the remainder, possibly replaced by Rogue Sorcerer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. caoimhinh

      I like one of the quotes of Masego while they were fighting the Skein in Keter:

      “There is nothing I have seen you can take from me. Witness.”

      My bet is on his third Aspect making this current loss irrelevant, he might recover his magic and gain even more power than before. He is the Usher of Mysteries and Vivisector of Miracles, his reach is beyond the purview of other mages, even those versed in High Arcana.

      Masego is too important as a character to be kicked aside simply because he lost his magic. Narratively, the story now is how to get it back, improved. And for a Named, to be faced with such a setback and hard obstacle while having untapped Aspects means the coming Aspect is likely to be a tool to overcome that challenge.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. RoflCat

        My vote is he’ll eventually discover how to use magic even without the Gift, and in turn be able to use more than just magic through diving deeper into his discovery.

        After all, the Gift clearly exist in some way, since there’s people who can and can’t use it.

        Liked by 3 people

  12. ninegardens

    > “I handed him the full Accords,” he said.

    > Why, I almost asked, but already knew the answer. Either my father would sign the damned thing, or he’d be sold so that everyone else did.

    Huh, so here’s a thought- why is Cat so annoyed about this?
    Is it possible that there are rules in the accords that Black has already broken (which?), in which case signing them would be a death sentence (retroactive??) .

    I dunno, it doesn’t make a heap of sense, but its the only thing I can think of that explains her annoyance here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Goobinator101

      Accords can only be pushed successfully into action if you can please/push everyone enough to consider them seriously, Procer still wants Black to die afaik and they may use that as an excuse to not accept the Accords until that requirement is met.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s