Chapter 56: Reflections

“In winning a game one may only grasp lesser victory; only in setting the rules may greater victory be found, for one then transcends the possibility of loss.”
– Extract from “Bought and Sold”, a collection of the teachings of the Merchant Prince Irenos, founder of Mercantis

It wasn’t all that hard to find him, even though my temper refused to allow me to double back and obtain Black’s location from those two. The combined camp of the Army of Callow and the Legions-in-Exile was centred around the barrow where I’d schemed the coming of this day, and the elaborate Mavian prayer atop it. It was half a fortress raised from the plains around the tumulus and half a well-organized city of tents, the latter being what told me where to look. Most of the layouts for camps that my army used were slightly adjusted from Legion standard, which I was long familiar with. By virtue of remembering a bird’s eye view I knew which parts of the camp would have access restricted to them by order of one of my triumvirate of deputies – Juniper, Vivienne, Hakram – and where the restrictions ran high and the wards with them my father would be kept. Not as a prisoner, no. That’d be a blunder, given that within our own camp were the same legions who’d followed Black on his ill-fated campaign into the Proceran heartlands. I had no doubt, not for a moment, that Grem One-Eye would force a battle if we tried to imprison the Black Knight or execute him. None of my little triumvirate would have dared to take so bold a step without my approval, anyhow, not after the way I’d chewed them out harshly for overstepping not so long ago. Especially not when it came to a matter as delicate as Amadeus of the Green Stretch.

It wasn’t long before I found the tent where he’d been recuperating, though somewhat unsurprisingly he’d already left it. Along with, from the lack of papers strewn all over the inside, one of the few fully scribed texts of the Liesse Accords. He was in fit state to move, then, which was good news. From there I did not even bother to ask questions of the legionaries still standing guard around the tent. I knew the man, better than most, and after so long cleaved from his own flesh he’d not be able to tolerate remaining stuck in bed helpless while the world moved around him. Especially not after having been handed an intriguing read by my Adjutant’s hand. No, there was no doubt as to where he’d be holed up if the matter was seriously considered. I began my slow trek up the barrow’s slope, slipping through the three concentric rings of raised stones that from below looked like some eldritch temple’s wall. At the heart of it, seated among the dead riverbed of what had once been an altar to the fae, my father sat in the very seat I’d stolen from Arcadia. The parchments I’d once had Robber hang up on stones, when trying to divine a path through the Iserran chaos that would not break half the world, had long been burned – I would brook no evidence of my schemes to survive them – but I’d come by that method of thought honestly. Put up on worn and ancient stone in little clusters entire sections of the Accords had been put together.

Black did not look up from the parchments he was frowning down at even as I approached, though even Nameless he must have heard my limping gait. I could only make out the side of him, from where I was approaching, for he’d pivoted the seat to ensure that the afternoon sun would shine against his back and onto the sheets. He’d shaved, I saw, stripped away the growing and greying beard his soulless body had kept growing without him. It did not make him look younger – the thickening strands of grey in his hair saw to that, black touched by iron – but he felt more like the man I knew than the sleeping body had been. The cleanliness of him, not some highborn peacock’s perfumed pretence but instead the austere thoroughness of someone who could not tolerate the slovenly, had been restored. Pale green eyes narrowed in thought before he rose to his feet and set down a thick sheath of parchments on the table I’d had put up here days ago.

“How much of it did you read?” I asked.

I limped up to his side slowly as he remained still, gaze still on the parchments ahead of us that traced the bare bones of the manner of world I wanted to make. I stood at his side, noting with old surprise that I was taller than he these days by more than an inch.

“The substance of it,” my father replied. “The legal minutiae are not so interesting as what you seek to achieve through them. Which is…”

His head moved to the side, as if amused. My heart skipped a beat, for though I was no longer his student and his ways were not always mine, the thought that he might be my foe in this was almost too much to bear.

“Ambitious,” Black said, lips quirking. “With iron and ink and oaths, you would bind that which is worst in us and through it call forth a strange new dawn.”

“It’s how we get out of it,” I said, dry-mouthed. “The wheel of misery that rolls over us all, the wound some misbegotten part of us just keeps picking at. I see no other way.”

“It is that,” the green-eyed man quietly said. “And it’s beautiful, Catherine. It truly is.”

My throat choked up. Fingers clenched around the yew haft and my other hand rose, hesitantly. It was one thing to acknowledge the thinning, even crossing, of a boundary to myself but another to presume acting upon it. At our last parting, I’d slid a knife between his ribs and chased him out of my kingdom. Things, thoughts that had seemed certain in the privacy of my own thoughts or even those few I trusted now seemed – arms pulled me close, and I breathed out lingeringly as my nose came to rest on my father’s shoulder. I could be furious with him later, I thought. It was not weakness to choose when an accounting was asked. His fingers held tight to the cloak he’d gifted me long ago, before I’d taken to adorning it with own victories and covered the blackness of its beginnings, and for a while we stood that way. The embrace broke without the embarrassment I’d expected from at least one of us, much left unspoken yet somehow still acknowledged.

“It appears I owe you the salvation of my soul,” Black said, tone the faintest hint of dry.

“If there’s pieces missing, well, it was like that when I found it,” I replied.

His lips twitched, which coming from him was good as a smile.

“Gratitude, nonetheless,” he said. “For the difficulties my defeat brought to you.”

“The parts where you were arguably winning have been much, much worse,” I frankly said.

“Then for that as well,” he said, inclining his head to the side.

It was, I saw, an apology for the inconveniences he’d caused me. Not, even the slightest bit, regret for the dozens if not hundreds of thousands he might have killed through empty stomachs. I’d not truly expected otherwise, truth be told. He’d never been one to flinch in the face of monstrous acts, if he deemed them necessary to victory – or to repent for blood spilled a necessity’s altar.

“You’ve gotten old,” I casually said, statement and question both.

“They found me on Lake Artoise,” Amadeus said. “Their band of heroes, so nobly clad. And before the fist blow was struck, already I was no longer the Black Knight.”

“Below sold you out?” I frowned. “I’m no great admirer, mind you, but that doesn’t sound like them. They prefer their favourites to go out in a blaze.”

“Already I had sensed the thinning of my mantle,” he admitted. “The well was always shallow, and I leaned on it as rarely before, but the signs were there.”

My eyes narrowed. That did to sound like the loss of Name, or more accurately not only that.

“You’re a claimant,” I said. “Shit. To what?”

He hummed a tune, and my blood ran cold for I had heard it before.

“There was once a girl without a name,

There was a tower no one could claim

No one remembers why she has climbed,

Or all those she must have left behind,” he softly sang.

The Girl Who Climbed the Tower, that tune was called. Only those who might one day claim the tower at the heart of Ater had ever been known to hear it.

“You said you’d heard it before,” I said.

“The fullness of it, only once,” he murmured. “When I was yet young and believed there was nothing sufficient steel and cleverness could not cure.”

It was what I wanted from him, wasn’t it? Should he overthrow Malicia and become Dread Emperor, he could make of the Wasteland more than a wild and cornered beast. Carve out the worst of it, by fire and sword, and leave room for something better to grow of the ashes. And yet, hearing the pale-skinned man humming that eerie tune, a shiver had gone up my smile. Dread, perhaps, to match the title that may yet be claimed. Claimed, I mocked myself. What a nice, genteel word that is to describe the murder of one the few people he loves still drawing breath.

“And now?” I softly asked.

“Now I heard the refrain and wonder,” Amadeus of the Green Stretch said, “at the attributes that make an act a mistake.”

I paused, sensing this was somewhere to tread lightly. I was not the only one in his life to have ever commanded affection, and his partnership with Malicia at its height had seen the Empire reach its greatest height since Maleficent the Second. Their ties were decades in the making and keeping, and though cracks had been wrought the temple they’d raised to each other was still tall and many-pillared.

“She’s been making increasingly hardline decisions since you left,” I said.

“She has made increasingly hardline decisions because I left,” Black countered calmly.

Which might be true. I did not think the Empress so sentimental a creature that she’d lash out over the loss of a companion, no matter how dear, but Black was a little more than that. When he’d taken so many of the Legions to the Red Flower Vales and ignored every missive coming from Ater, he’d stripped her of her most feared enforcer as well as put it out in the open that at least half the Legions of Terror would heed orders from him over her. Her position had been crippled, even before the Ashurans started torching the coasts and cities with them. Even before Thalassina went up in smoke, taking the Thalassocracy’s finest fleets but also Warlock with them. Now her power was shrinking, the vultures circling, and she could not afford even the pretence of weakness less she be torn apart. Of course, she’d ordered the Night of Knives before it ever came to that. There were some who might say that by making peace talks with the Grand Alliance and distancing myself from the Empire I’d courted such retaliation. They might not even be wrong.

That did not mean I would either forget or forgive it.

“You’ve read the Accords,” I said. “I can’t see her signing them, for many reasons but most of all that she’d need to abdicate.”

“You underestimate her,” my father noted. “If it became clear that her diplomatic position was untenable, she’d concede rather than fight a war she could not feasibly win.”

“She won’t sign it,” I said, “because the moment she does the High Lords will slit her throat and one of them will claim the Tower over her corpse.”

“Not,” he said, “if I have returned.”

My fingers clenched.

“I’ll be blunt,” I said. “No one would trust her to actually enforce the terms, least of all me. Sure, the throne in the Tower would go empty. A Nameless ruler would be rustled up. And before night’s end the struggle to decide who would be the Secret Emperor or Empress ruling through them would be concluded. Maybe, and I do mean maybe, if you were keeping an eye on the situation those promises could be trusted. But then it would still be you that’s the keystone, not her. She is not an asset to the arrangement.”

I’d had frank, almost brusque talks with my father before. We had disagreed over matters great and small, most notably when we’d last spoken face to face. But never before had we really had such a discussion when I stood in the position of greater power and authority. Oh, even out here in the heartlands of Procer surrounded by enemies Amadeus of the Green Stretch remained one of the most powerful men on Calernia. He commanded the loyalty of a large and capable army, stood at the head of a great net of informants and had ties to powerful Named. There were those who called themselves rulers out there that paled in comparison. Yet now I stood Queen of Callow, First Under the Night and with great names and Named in my debt. I could, in all honesty, say that perhaps the only entity on the continent that could feasibly dictate terms to me was the Dead King – and even then, there would be difficulties. I supposed a lesser man might have felt cheated by that, the way the balance had swung to my side with the passing of the years. I’d seen it in Callowan nobles, the indignation at needing to heed the orders of some young warlord of no great line. At being made to kneel before someone the truths of their world stated should be kneeling to them instead. It ate the insides like poison, and always left a mark. And yet I found no trace of that in the man who’d once been the Black Knight. It should not have surprised me, even if it did.

When had ever begrudged me so much as a step forward, even when it came at his expense?

“Only so much can be spoken of this while neither of us has knowledge of the situation in Praes,” he finally said. “I will have to speak to Scribe. We should still have scrying relays on this side of the Whitecaps.”

“Scrying works now,” I confirmed.

Green eyes narrowed.

“I will have to speak to Scribe,” he said, tone strange.

“Your people are more likely to have fresh word of the Wasteland than mine,” I freely conceded.

His lips thinned.

“Eudokia, this is hardly the time,” he murmured. “Catherine, sharpen your mind against influence.”

My brow rose.

“You think someone’s meddling with my mind?” I said. “I’m not dismissing that out of hand, but there’s other things in there nowadays that’d not take kindly to that.”

“It is not active interference,” he explained. “Consider it more akin to one being so utterly unremarkable that the mind dismisses them.”

That… rang true, somehow. I drew on the Night, feeling the interest if the Sisters directed at me.

“One of my companions is the Scribe.”

Oh. Oh. All this time? I’d just… not thought about her, even when by all rights I should have. Like my mind’s eye had skipped over any hole left by her absence.

“Godsdamnit,” I said through gritted teeth. “All right. I know she was with Marshal Grem for some time after your capture, but I can’t speak to her movements after that. Hells, she could still be hiding in some tent here for all I know.”

“She won’t be,” Black said.

To my irritation, there was an undertone of open fondness.

“If she has left the armies, then it was to prepare for what she saw coming,” he continued. “Considering both defeat and victory would have brought you – and likely myself – to Salia then that is where she will be.”

“You’re telling me your spymistress has been in Procer’s capital for what could be months,” I slowly said. “What for, Black?”

“We’ll have to find another form of address, if Amadeus makes you so uncomfortable,” the green-eyed man said, sounding amused. “That one will never be accurate again, I don’t think.”

I rolled my eyes, though it was true enough. It felt… disrespectful to call him by his given name.

“Pray tell, Lord Amadeus, what has the Webweaver gotten the fuck up to in Salia?” I politely asked.

“I’d expect she has been taking root in the city, Your Majesty,” he replied without missing a beat, lips twitching at my wince. “She often prefers to spread influence for some time before taking action, as a better read on the currents of the local allows for intervention so indirect as to be near traceless.”

“And what is it she’s been trying to set up?” I grimly asked.

“It could be near anything, truth be told,” Amadeus said. “Though in all humility, I expect she will have given priority to reclaiming me. After ensuring she was in a position to do such a thing should opportunity arise, I would venture she began making arrangements for the political collapse of the Great Alliance.”

If someone else had told me that, I might have been skeptical. Cordelia Hasenbach was probably, all things considered, the most skilled diplomat of our age. She’d also run circles around the Highest Assembly for years while simultaneously fending off the Tower’s sabotage of reign. The Thalassocracy of Ashur had never been a great worry for me – they were a naval power first and foremost, what trouble was that to Callow? – but I’d read of them since the Tenth Crusade began. They were a realm arguably older than Praes and who’d largely remained stable for that entire span. As for the Levantines, though their squabbles of honour made them the obvious weak link they also had the Peregrine looking over the shoulder. The Grand Alliance was hardly the most stable of edifices, it was true, but neither was it captained by fools and with the Dead King at the gates there was mortar to keep them together. And still, if Black now told me that Scribe could threaten it, I could only believe him. For if I’d sent Thief or Adjutant or – Gods forbid – Akua in Salia and let them prepare for a few months? Oh, they would wound it badly. And Scribe had been the spymistress to the Calamities for longer than I’d lived.

“But you can tell her to call it off, whatever she has prepared,” I said.

“It is not,” my father said, “quite as simple as that.”

Not the answer I’d been looking for, that.

“Eudokia takes orders from me so long as those orders are sound,” he said. “In the sense that my judgement is unimpaired.”

“Which it is,” I pointed.

“Only if you do not consider sentiment to be an impairment, which she does,” he said.

“I need the Grand Alliance to hold, Black,” I flatly said. “For one, I’m going to be part of it.”

“Indeed,” he said, cocking his head to the side. “You need it. Callow benefits. On the other hand, the Alliance’s continued existence means that the Dread Empire is effectively cut off and at the mercy of its signatories.”

“Which won’t matter if the Empire signs the Accords,” I pointed out. “I’m not trying to end wars – I can’t change human nature with bits of ink. But the moment Praes is no longer the nation of flying fortresses and undead plagues-”

“- which assumes that the Dread Empire of Praes, regardless of who rules it when the matter is broached, will be signing the Liesse Accords,” Black said.

My heart caught in my throat.

“Are you saying you won’t?” I asked, calm forced.

“Asking,” he said, “is not enough. That you are my daughter in all but blood is not enough. We barter now the stuff of empires and the fates of nations. You would set the foundation of the Age that will follow you, and I fear that in some aspects of that seeking you are ill-prepared. I offer you, then, opportunity. If you want any ruler of Praes at all to sign your Accords?”

He met my gaze.

“Convince me,” he demanded.

139 thoughts on “Chapter 56: Reflections

    1. Andrew Mitchell

      I hadn’t forgotten… But that was mostly because, every now and again, someone in the comments would wonder what Scribe’s been up to. And now we know.

      Liked by 7 people

    2. Cicero

      I’ve been wondering where she was, but I’d actually assumed that she had decided that Cat was more likely to succeed at recovering Black without her interference, and to take advantage of Black’s absence to strike at what she might consider the root cause of Black’s defeat: his sentiment for Malicia.

      Thus I’d guessed she was in Praes.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. Yes, well… the last time she met Cat she was 100% seriously convinced she’s about to kill Amadeus, and after the stabbing he had to order her not to take revenge.

        Her trusting Cat was not very likely =x

        Liked by 9 people

      2. Death Knight

        If Scribe was not one of Grem’s attendants when Cat returned and chewed out Juniper, then she likely would not have known that Cat had retrieved Amadeus. Indeed, its said that she’s been months in Salia with the scrying all jacked up in Iserre. She probably reasoned that if the Heroes had caught Amadeus, they’d likely bring him to Salia for a public execution so she endeavoured to cut them off at the head. Trust in Cat does not enter the picture at all.

        Liked by 2 people

    3. They don’t work on everyone 😛

      Admittedly my prediction had been that she’s in the camp, just invisible to everyone ;u;

      (and hey, confirmation that her powers can do that… and that Catherine had the same thought ;u;)

      Liked by 8 people

    4. I note that Amadeus himself was expecting Scribe to be present: Love the routine:
      “I will have to speak to Scribe”. <crickets>
      “I said, I will have to speak to Scribe”. <nothing>
      Eudokia!!” <nope>

      “Bah. Cat, shield your mind” Cat: “What? Ohhh!. She was with Grem, but then she wasn’t lately.”

      “Dammit. She must have gone ahead to Salia, to break Procer from the shadows. It’s gonna be tough convincing her I haven’t gone soft on her.”

      Liked by 14 people

      1. oh is that what happened?

        This is certainly clearer than it was written. Huge fan of the stories, and sympathetic to typos as someone who makes a ton myself, but there are so many of them throughout the story that sometimes when something strikes my ear as awkward I can’t decide if I am misreading something or there is an important word missing.

        Liked by 2 people

      1. Well… I’m not sure it still counts as breaking the fourth wall, but it’s certainly “managing the readers”, hindered mostly by us commenters frantically inventorying Chekov’s Armory.

        I think the last time he pulled something quite like this was the Absence demon, where several heroes vanished off the rolls without mention from anybody in-world.

        Liked by 10 people

      1. Andrew Mitchell

        She was important in the earlier books but hasn’t been around for a while. She is one of the Calamities (Amadeus’ band of five). She’s a non-combat Named who deals with all Black’s paperwork, supply, admin; as well as building and controlling one of the largest networks of spies on the continent.

        Liked by 4 people

          1. Joebobjoe

            Considering that Scribe just demonstrated Assassin’s trick with preventing people from recognizing him, I think Scribe might be one of the Calamities.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Scribe and Assassin are explicitly two very different people.
              Assassin has been in Ashur (may still be there), while Scribe was seen with Amadeus. They have mentioned Assassin while talking with each other.

              Scribe has spoken about informing Assassin of things.

              Assassin has a perfect disguise/shapeshifting type Aspect, and possibly a stealth Aspect akin to the Hide Aspect that Viv had while she was Thief.
              Scribe blends into the background, is unnoticeable unless she wants to be noticed, and is readily forgettable. Kind of like The Silence from Doctor Who.

              Also, Assassin is naturally(when not in disguise) a Male, who was raised and trained by some kind of assassin cult/order. He’s said to have killed them all when he graduated.
              Scribe is a woman that Black encountered in the Free Cities. I suspect they first met when Amadeus toppled Delos while drunk. At that time Assassin was already a member of Black’s group that would come to be called the Calamities.

              Liked by 5 people

        1. Digitize27

          Technically she’s only a Calamity in the same sense Akua is a member of the Woe. The Original Calamities were Black, Warlock, Captain, Ranger and Assassin.

          Liked by 4 people

  1. IDKWhoitis

    I see this as him playing the Devils advocate, and refining Cat’s arguments for when she has to go up to the big leagues. I think he is going to be absolutely merciless in evaluating this, and will likely find many holes.

    I’m manners of enforcement, who has the power? What is allowed to be used as enforcement? What stops more subtle names from getting away with dangerous magic attack?

    The Liesse Accords are good for Calernia, but they need to address these points if Cat wants signatures at the end of all this.

    Likely, Salia is going to crack in the middle of Cat trying to convince Scribe to call it off…

    Liked by 17 people

    1. Insanenoodlyguy

      He is doing that, but it’s more than that.

      As he mentioned, Scribe will consider anything “tainted” with sentimentality Black being impaired in judgement. So anything like “I want you to hold off because I trust she’s really going to pull this off” isn’t enough. He has to bring her “I want you to hold off because I sincerely believe this is the right move for Praes.”

      Liked by 15 people

    2. I also really like how this seems like it will work on a sort of meta, craft-of-narrative level. The specifics of the Liesse Accords are obviously going to be a big deal in the story going forwards, but it’s also the case that they are a bunch of proposed diplomatic treaties festooned with legal minutia. This looks like a story-legitimate way of getting that info to the readers without it being just a slogging exposition dump.

      Cat is going to need to go through all the main points of the Accords (finally revealing said to the readership), but it will be as an at least ostensibly adversarial case-making exercise with her newly-restored father. We’ll have to wait for the execution to know for sure (though given the track record I’m pretty confident), but It looks like EE figured out how to make what could have been a brain-numbing infodump into a character-driven exchange with genuine narrative stakes. That is dope as fuck.

      Liked by 8 people

  2. Insanenoodlyguy

    “Asking,” he said, “is not enough. That you are my daughter in all but blood is not enough. We barter now the stuff of empires and the fates of nations. You would set the foundation of the Age that will follow you, and I fear that in some aspects of that seeking you are ill-prepared. I offer you, then, opportunity. If you want any ruler of Praes at all to sign your Accords?”

    He met my gaze. “Vote for Pratical Guide to Evil on Topwebfiction”

    http://topwebfiction.com/vote.php?for=a-practical-guide-to-evil

    Liked by 26 people

  3. antoninjohn

    I agree with Amadeus, Cat has been pushing for peace with fanatics at the cost of actually winning to the point of maddness. That it started happening right after the bard broke her pivot is rather concerning

    Liked by 6 people

      1. Alegio

        He probably means how she could stomp most armies around easily with sheer force but instead tries to convince them to unite their forces against the DK, but they are all like “Nope you are evulz so we don’t talk with you!”

        Liked by 4 people

    1. It’s not at the cost of winning. Peace and the adoption of the Accords is her win condition.

      Peace on chosen terms is the end goal of all warring nations not seeking outright conquest or extermination. And since both of those outcomes are impossible to achieve for Callow, not to mention morally reprehensible…

      Also, I wouldn’t describe the leaders of the Grand scheme as fanatical. Sure, Cordelia is arrogant and ruthless but she’s also a pragmatist. The lords of Levant are obsessed with honour, but we saw they were perfectly willing to ally with Catherine when honour demanded it.

      Liked by 11 people

      1. Well, first Cat had to get the Good rulers to pay attention. Which came in the end to “Saint. you die now. No, Pilgrim, not you, you don’t get to die yet.”

        Her next hurdle is rounding up all the loose cannons on the Evil side. Should she be more … merciful … in judging her proper rivals?

        Liked by 5 people

        1. Shveiran

          I agree with you, and yet I wonder… will this about “judging”?

          We don’t yet know the content of the Accords (though it seems we’ll finally see parts of them oh my god yes my passion for laws is finally meeting my fantasy obsession why isn’t this a thing more often but getting back on track what I mean is:

          I think Cat as mentioned on several occasions how she doesn’t expect Malicia to be a signee of the Accords; I wonder, with such an imbalance of power here, is it possible for the Accords NOT to screw over the Evil nations?
          Will the Accords be able to help transition Evil cultures away from Tyrannical rulers without collapsing them? They are more vertical than the good ones, and that means those roles -now filled in by Named – are still crucial. Callow can work with a monarch that isn’t the Black Queen or a Good King, I suppose. But can Praes function without an Empress?

          I’m curious to hear Cat’s plans on the matter.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. I think you’re generalizing the structure of Praes to Evil cultures in general, and I don’t think that’s really accurate. Praes has been tagged in the text as only continuing to function/exist as a nation because of the management and regular intervention of Named, but other Evil polities mentioned (Stygia, Bellerophon, the Firstborn/drow, even Helike most of the time) don’t rely on or even necessarily regularly produce Named. Also, the whole point of Amadeus’ Reforms was to push Praes towards transitioning from a Named-dependent political culture to an institution-based political culture. Which, while that seems to have gone unspoken here, is the other reason Amadeus assuming rulership of Praes would be a big deal for Cat’s plans actually succeeding.

            Liked by 4 people

            1. Shveiran

              Admittedly, I was mainly speaking of surface cultures that are capable of change, and thus excluding both the Firstborn and the Chain of Hunger (respectively).

              I also didn’t think of Stygia and Bellerophon (well done there), though honestly I think Stygia is the only relevant issue; while Bellerophon doesn’t seem to be relying on Named, they also seem… beyond saving? It’s a bit like the Chain of Hunger, you look at them and though you KNOW nuking them all is bad you have no idea how else to intervene?

              Though Stygia is admittedly an interesting possible signee, I think Praes and Helike remain a very sore point. Helike has never even tried to distance itself from its Tyrant-centric tenets, and as for Praes… the reform have been trying to do that, but have not yet come even close to accomplishing the results in a stable way. As fo now, the Legions seem the only institutions that maybe a step in that direction, but with the goblins revolting even that is put into doubt.
              I agree Blac- Lord Amadeus and Malicia were aiming for that, but does it look like those idea could survive them, as of now?

              Liked by 3 people

              1. > It’s a bit like the Chain of Hunger, you look at them and though you KNOW nuking them all is bad you have no idea how else to intervene?

                LMAO. I mean tbf Kairos figured out another way to deal with Bellerophon. Not, you know, to make it better, but still.

                On the topic of Helike, while they do seem pretty stoked to have a Tyrant, unlike Praes their ruler is not always automatically Named. Kairos’ dad wasn’t Named at all IIRC, and his older brother who presumably would have inherited under the normal course of things either was or wound up becoming a Hero. So Helike is excited to have a Named ruler, but they frequently go without. So I think they still stand as an example, on the whole.

                As for Praes, yes you’re absolutely correct that the Reforms are in a perilous state right now. Which IMO is the other reason Cat needs Bl- Lord Amadeus to go take over Praes. Malicia will sell out the Reforms to better hold onto power, while for Amadeus there’s no point to having power if he isn’t using it to achieve his goals of reform so he’ll never back down on those.

                Last thing: I think the Firstborn are a surface culture now, whether they like it or not.

                Liked by 3 people

                1. Shveiran

                  Oh, I totally agree on the Firstborn, it’s just that, you know, I don’t think the Accords were crafted with them in mind. But still, being prophet and all, I suppose they are a complicated issue but not a problem per se from Cat’s POV. FUN Cat is leading them to their new land of milk and honey, parting the sea of dwarves to let them pass; sooner or later she is expected to hand out a few slabs of stone, no? She’s already started with the Crown of Twilight.

                  The problem DOES seem to be mostly Praes.
                  I cannot point to a chapter, but I am convinced Helike gets two kind of Named rulers? One Good, one Evil? And they let the choice shape their destiny? Well, even if I am right it’s not quite AS fundamental an institution as in the Dread Empire.

                  The tricky part I think will be resisting the temptation to remake the world in her image. There is little doubt Cat has little love for slavery (as well she should) but imposing that sort of things is, in my opinion, the difference between the Accords as a deal that could survive Cat and as something that lasts only so long as she is scary enough.

                  Liked by 2 people

                  1. Insanenoodlyguy

                    The entire thing is about remaking the world in her image. If she can pull off the rest, this is relatively easy, though I don’t think it would be part of the accords per se.

                    Like

  4. calathas

    Not sure if you’re interested Erratic, but I’m pretty sure it’s “Sheaf of papers”, not “Sheath of Papers”. Sheaf refers to a bundle of something in modern english. I might be wrong, but I don’t think I am.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I am pretty sure he gave up on not making typos, betting on editing the Guide later for publishing. Homestly, when it would be published, I’d buy every single book. That stuff is some of the best fantasy I’ve read, never mind Tolkien.

      Liked by 12 people

      1. calathas

        I only pointed this out because it isn’t really a typo, as the Sheath/Sheaf thing is a common mistake in English. Not so much as accident, so much as a misconception about the language.

        Liked by 5 people

          1. Morgenstern

            Linguistically speaking, only so long as it does not become the new majority. If it does, that’s just language change and then that will be the new correct form, while the old one is simply “obsolete” and might even become “wrong” to use in some cases. 😉

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Andrew Mitchell

              Oh, absolutely. And there’s various stages to the process as well. I quite like Bryan Garner’s classification of the stages.

              What’s even more interesting is that the stages of change are often different in different geographical areas; although I suspect the internet is probably speeding up and distributing a lot of the change process.

              Liked by 2 people

  5. edrey

    well at last he said she is his daughter, it was about time.
    and who cares about influence in salia when a angel (?) is there, cordelia mistake and the bard’s plan are the main event, and the hierarch for last, that city is finished.
    but really Praes is, in the end, the true problem, Amadeus even said if Praes can not adapt let it perish, so what argument could convince him? a great question really.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Well, that explains why nobody noticed Scribe was missing or said anything about what she was up to. I’d been wondering about that.

    I think Amadeus is at the very least interested in the concept, but has doubts about the proposed implementation of the Accords.
    I think this is more about constructive criticism/playing Devil’s Advocate (I wonder what the Guideverse equivalent of that phrase is) than about actual opposition to the Accords.

    Amadeus, Alaya/Malicia has been making bad decisions since before you left. Remember, she helped Akua create the Doom of Liesse, and planned to steal it and hold it over the heads of the rest of Calernia as a form of deterrent.

    Liked by 12 people

    1. John Smith

      Indeed I think some of us have noticed flaws…like its weird to me that Cat recognizes the prospect for Shadow or Puppet Leaders in Praes with a Nameless Pawn on the Throne. But doesn’t seem to recognize that as an issue for any other country. I mean I am sure plenty would look at say Queen Viv as a puppet for Cat. GP basically runs Levant at least on Foreign Policy and he doesn’t have an official government title. Saint told us a story of how the Alchemist with even less direct connection to the government then GP almost managed to set himself up as the real ruler of Procer. Ergo so No Named Rulers changes nothing. And that doesn’t even account for say a non Named fighting a War and then getting a Name during it. Do they abdicate immediately? After the war? Etc.

      And you noted the enforcement issue seems like at minimum you have to have one enforcer from each signatory but then you could have say Procer argue well that is unfair we have more population shouldn’t we get more reps on whatever group is in charge of enforcement of the Liesse Accords.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. He knows that. It’s the only reason he’s even considering Catherine’s point of view here – otherwise, Malicia is a treasured friend and companion, and someone he trusts more than himself to make decisions.

      That last one has… suffered a blow.

      Liked by 7 people

          1. Eh, I’m pretty sure we can put Istrid’s assassination on Malicia, attempting to undercut Amadeus’s control of the Legions and to “make him realize that Malicia is right about needing/using Diabolist’s weaponization of Liesse as a deterrent against conventional warfare/a Crusade”.

            Liked by 3 people

            1. Rather think it was the goblins who did for Istrid, actually. If you’re a bunch of cold ruthless Matrons, weakening all non-goblin controlled Legions before launching another goblin uprising is just good sense. For Malicia to do that might make sense from a mundane standpoint, but a Named secretly murdering another Named’s friend as a way of manipulating their decision-making is just begging to get narratively screwed at the worst possible time. And for all Malicia’s mistakes of late, I think she’s absorbed enough of Amadeus’ perspective/knowledge on Namelore not to make a mistake that elementary for such a relatively marginal gain.

              Liked by 5 people

              1. Goblin Matriarchs weren’t (seriously) considering an uprising at the time. At least, no more than their standard contingencies for such.

                Also, Istrid would be a lousy target for a goblin uprising preparation assassination. For one thing, she and her Legion were based in Callow, not Praes.
                Two, it was an orc or human (don’t remember offhand) wielding the poisoned blade that got Istrid, not a goblin.
                Three, the only way the Matriarchs could have anticipated some kind of weakness in the Tower would be if they knew that Malicia had lent Akua a helping hand and believed Black was going to find out – and in a split between Black and the Tower/Malicia, Istrid would be expected to back Black in the absence of major mental influence/control, not the Tower/Malicia. So assassinating Istrid would weaken Black’s faction, and Black is the driving force behind the reforms, and made two of their Matriarchs Legion Generals.
                Four, it’s likely that Istrid would have been at the very least sympathetic to any motivating factors the Matriarchs might have had to launch an uprising. At the very least, she likes them more or dislikes them less than the Praesi High Lords.

                No, there’s no explanation for the goblins to take out Istrid. Especially not in the middle of a battle against Diabolist/Diabolist’s forces.

                This is the Malicia that helped Akua pull off the Doom of Liesse and wanted to steal it for herself. I think any argument that that Malicia knew better than to do something stupid because story reasoning and related backlash is not applicable.

                Liked by 5 people

                1. Callow and Praes were part of the same Empire though. It’s not like there’s an invisible wall that stops Legions based in Callow from crossing into Praes. And where are you getting that an orc or human did it? The only thing we know for sure is that Istrid was cut by goblin steel and the blade was poisoned.

                  To quote Catherine in Book III Chapter 70, on the topic of Istrid’s murder:

                  “It might be the Matrons. Isolationist as they were said to be, Robber had told me enough about the crones ruling his people I knew taking a few scalps to better position commanders of their own kind was not something they’d think twice about doing – if they thought they could get away with it. And if it was them… Suddenly it no longer felt like a coincidence I’d been offered desperately needed coin in exchange for a goblin settlement in Marchford. It felt like a calculated move to secure an ally before an uprising could be started. It might be I was being paranoid in thinking this, but in Praes the question was never if you were being paranoid or not. It was if you were being paranoid enough.”

                  And hey, what do you know. A bit later we get a goblin uprising.

                  Three additional notes:

                  One, Black’s faction supporting the Matrons having an improved position within Praes only matters if you assume they intend to remain within Praes. Given that the premise of the scenario being discussed is that they didn’t (pretty strongly supported now by the fact that they haven’t), that wouldn’t be relevant here.

                  Two, and as far as Istrid’s loyalties go, she was loyal to Black, full stop. All other sentiments would be subordinate to that. So the question is, from a cold-blooded standpoint, would you expect Amadeus to support a faction deliberately splintering from the Dread Empire in the middle of a war for its survival? Or would you consider that a dubious prospect at best? Note that his tacit acceptance of Catherine breaking off with Callow is not comparable, since a), he always planned for her to assume control of Callow in one manner or another anyway and b), since Callow was in the way of the crusade and ruled by a villain there was a 0% chance it wouldn’t wind up fighting alongside the Praesi legions regardless.

                  Three, while in the same chapter Cat does echo your note re: Malicia by saying “She was not to be dismissed as too practical for this, not after the flying murder fortress gambit she’d tacitly allowed.” I personally think her outlook is being colored by her personal bitterness/Black’s tutelage here. The flying murder fortress, while I agree it was a mistake, was the linchpin of Malicia’s plans for the survival of Praes. It’s still a big dumb gamble that I agree she shouldn’t have taken, but it’s a big dumb gamble with an almost incalculably huge payoff if it succeeded. Murdering the friend of the man she most depends on to back her when they’re both Named and inherently bound by narrative logic, for nothing more than maybe, somewhat influencing him, even if it’s to influence him on the first big dumb gamble, is a profoundly reckless gamble of a decision with a decidedly marginal payoff. Even when she’s being impractical Malicia isn’t stupid.

                  Liked by 4 people

        1. I don’t think he can hold that against her, or will. She did the rational thing, using the assets she has; Wekesa can take care of himself. He’s told Amadeus ‘no’ before, he could have told ‘no’ to Malicia.

          What happened is a tragedy, but it’s not a transgression to lay at her feet.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Andrew Mitchell

    1. Loved the unembarrassed hug. Nice to have them back together.

    2. Uh oh, Scribe’s going to do something that damages the fight against the Dead King, isn’t she.

    3. “you are my daughter” ❤ ❤ ❤ THE FEELS

    4. "Convince me." I think that's going to be much harder than Cat thinks it will be. But all the major leaders will need convincing so… it's going to be good practice.

    4. I was hoping that Amadeus and Cat would have also chatted about the Bard.

    Liked by 10 people

  8. Raved Thrad

    Having Black (or do we call him Amadeus now?) acknowledge the relationship as it exists in Catherine’s psyche has me all giddy, as does the fact that he acknowledges that he is capable of acting based on sentiment.
    Squee!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I mean he fucked up Catherine’s psyche for a year with a plan whose formal justification for existence was “that one fae story that will lead to Catherine killing her adopted father” so………. not THAT new

      BUT THIS TIME THEY ACTUALLY HUG!!!!!

      Liked by 3 people

  9. Ruduen Sen

    I’m kind of amused – I had to do a double-take at Scribe’s mention, not because I had actively forgotten – it had sprung up to my mind fairly quickly at that mention. It’s good to have confirmation that it’s likely an aspect or active ability, though.

    At the least, though, this means we’re not going to have any sudden changes to Amadeus’s living status. There are too many unknowns to just off him at this time, which means we’ll likely have his company for a while yet.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Truthhut

    What drew shivers down my spine was that literally the paragraph before she was mentioned I thought, for the first time in two books, “We haven’t heard from either Assassin or Scribe in awhile, I wonder what they are up to.”

    Liked by 3 people

  11. ninegardens

    So… gotta say, I Love how “The girl who climbed the tower” has been used in these books.

    In that, the first few times it is introduced, it feels like it IS the main plot thread, that climbing the tower is Cat’s destiny, and that she will eventually end up there. This is classic story foreshadowing etc etc etc.

    …. but then she takes a different path and THAT DOESN’T HAPPEN.

    Similarly, with Amadeus we see that the song is there, but there are a million and one reasons why it may not happen (and indeed the fact that its “the *girl* who climbed the tower” further twists with expectations, makes it fit Alaya, Cat and Akua more… I wonder if Akua ever heard it…).

    Liked by 11 people

    1. ninegardens

      So, here’s a chilling thought.
      Given that this is a song…..
      and the main character we know associated with music is…. the Bard…. do we have a problem.

      (I assume not, as the Bard is known more for terrible drunken singing, but still….)

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Shveiran

        She does carry an instrumnet, and it was mentioned that is common for bardic names, but… IS the Intercessor associated with music? Has she ever used it actively? I can at most remember her plucking a few strings as a prop, but we could just as well associate her with boots because she is usually wearing a pair.

        Liked by 3 people

          1. Shveiran

            Right, but in both instances she wasn’t really doing “her thing” was it? It wasn’t with a song that she played the Dead King, or Amadeus, or Cat, or the Conclave… she carries a lute, she may even use a lute once in a while, but that’s not what she truly does.
            William WAS his sword, you could use that as his symbol. The Bard though? Songs is not how she operates. They were more NAUK’s thing than hers.

            Liked by 3 people

    2. “The Girl Who Climbed the Tower” is the song that any possible claimant to the tower hears, regardless of gender identity. Given that Dread Emperor/Empress is a Name representing a gender-neutral Role, I’m pretty sure the song uses female as the default gender here because the very first Dread Ruler of Praes was female, as I think her immediate successor was as well.

      Otherwise yes, everything you said!

      Liked by 4 people

  12. SpeckofStardust


    The words to the tune are different for him?
    -“There was once a girl without a name,
    There was a tower no one could claim
    No one remembers why she has climbed,
    Or all those she must have left behind,” he softly sang.-
    Cause this isn’t what she heard.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Shveiran

      I think every claimant has heard a different song, pertaining to their own path to the top.

      But any claimant can still tell it is the same song. Because magic song.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Cat has heard at least three verses of it. This seems to be a fourth, although probably sequentially before the others.

      There was once a girl without a name,
      There was a tower no one could claim
      No one remembers why she has climbed,
      Or all those she must have left behind.

      The first step is hardest, they said to her.
      You will have to walk through fire.
      It will burn away what you once were,
      And always devour whole a liar

      The second is the longest, they said.
      You will walk under the restless dead.
      The hanged all crooning from the gallows
      To join them and rest in the shadows.

      They say the third step is the cruelest,
      Walk when the moon is at her clearest:
      Love ends with the kiss of the knife,
      Trust is the wager that takes your life

      https://abridged-guide-to-evil.fandom.com/wiki/The_Girl_Who_Climbed_The_Tower

      Liked by 7 people

  13. Shveiran

    Sniff. I’ll need at least ten sword-fights and three polical outmaneuvering to recover from that hug.

    On the other hand, it’s getting real. We are doing this. It’s finally coming. After almost two Books, we are GONNA DISCUSS THE ACCORDS.

    YEAH!

    …How in the Nine Hells did EE manage to make me this hyped about an international treaty? I feel like he could make me passionate about laundry without breaking a sweat, it’s uncanny.

    Liked by 13 people

  14. It would be an awesome twist if The Girl Who Climbed the Tower was actually a reference to the game Hakram came up – the one about using stones to build a tower. That way the prophecy could still come true (i.e. Cat climbs the tower) but its meaning is completely different. Anyway, every time a new verse comes up I get shivers, it’s really good stuff.

    In a strange way, Black is the ultimate persuasion skill check. If you manage to convince him everyone else would be a piece of cake.

    I’m also surprised Sve Noc didn’t protect Cat’s mind from Scribe’s influence. It seems like a pretty big oversight, especially since they listen to her advice. You’d think making sure Cat was not mind-whammed would be priority number…

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Don’t you think that the song every claimant on Tower was hearing long before Cat was born (Bla~ Lord Amadeus was confirmed being over 60, and he heard it in his youth and there is no reason it couldn’t be heard even before) would not be about her? I mean come on, it is not your average fantasy, not every single thing revolves around our protagonist. Even, to the dismay of some, the morality.

      It just as well may be that there was a Tower before Praes, as it was said that now it stands on a dead deity, and first Maleficent climbed it to claim the power of the Empress?

      Liked by 4 people

    2. Andrew Mitchell

      > I’m also surprised Sve Noc didn’t protect Cat’s mind from Scribe’s influence. It seems like a pretty big oversight, especially since they listen to her advice. You’d think making sure Cat was not mind-whammed would be priority number…

      I think they would have noticed a mind-whammy but this was much more subtle; making her not recall someone who wasn’t there.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. Yeah, if I’m understanding the dynamic here then the nature of Scribe’s effect is such that it’s less a direct effect on others than a manipulation of Scribe’s own presence/weight in reality. So if I’m right, it’s not so much that Scribe is actively pushing people’s attention away from her (which would be more of a conventionally-detectable mind whammy) as it is that Scribe is manipulating her Name and sort of narratively making herself as smooth as a river stone so that attention just naturally skims right over her because she’s presenting her Role to reality as being “someone who doesn’t matter and isn’t worth thinking of”. Which would explain both why it is relatively vulnerable to someone specifically choosing to direct their attention to her – a river stone might be smooth, but you can still pick it up if you actually decide to focus on doing so – and why Amadeus was able to be unaffected immediately, because after associating with Eudokia for so long he probably double-checks against that effect by deliberately focusing his attention as a matter of course.

        Liked by 6 people

        1. Shveiran

          Ah, right. Good call.
          It wasn’t a “spontaneous thing”, though. The world didn’t conspire to make him hear it, a claimant simply repeated it to him.

          Liked by 3 people

    3. edrey

      i think that song is somethink like a profecy, an angel and summer for the first step, winter and the Night for the second, and that game for last. it sound like a long play from Below since the fall of the everdark. that is just too much godlike to said otherwise.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Another point: Scribe has been setting up a disaster in Salia… but Cordelia has the perfect counter in the form of Augur. Since Augur’s foresight is at its most powerful when she’s defending Procer against potentially deadly threats she should have a field day against Scribe and her agents.

    Let’s see.. The Principate is on the precipice of total collapse. North fell against the Dead King, it’s fracturing internally and the Grand Alliance is falling apart. If there’s ever been a moment for Augur to get a heroic boost and smack down some spies (and Scribe) it’s now.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Two things though: first, it is stated that Augur can’t predict actions that are not planned, but an opportunity exploited, and Scribe is said to be amassing influence to prepare for such opportunity. Second, she is so good at being unnoticed, why do you think Augur, who half the time has trouble concentrating on mundane spies, can predict our dearest Eudokia?

      Also, Above apparently does not want Procer that much. No reason to help it not to fall.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. konstantinvoncarstein

        I don’t understand why a lot of people think that all heroes receive direct instructions from Above. No one does, not even the Choirs. It is the SoS who want the end of Procer, and only her (and possibly Bard).

        Liked by 6 people

        1. Shveiran

          Not necessarily; if the thory holds, she is still eluding the Augur while she prepares for striking.
          Amadeus might have held off that attempt because he wasn’t certain it woudl work, because even if it did it wasn’t a given a hero would pop up to intervene, and even then because nothing would have protected Eudokia when she tried to flee the scene.
          He is a careful individual who tends to minimize risks and seek out ways to guarantee returns; this seems a more desperate, or at least risky, mission.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. Darkening

          It was mentioned at one point that one of the weaknesses of oracles, or at least Augur, is that they can only focus on one threat at a time. Before, the main threat Cordelia was on the lookout for assassins and political pressure from Praes. Now, I’m pretty confident that she’s pushing Augur to look for threats from the Dead King and the situation in Issere. I suppose given the ceasefire in the north she might relax enough on that to catch Scribe, but I doubt it.

          Liked by 2 people

    1. konstantinvoncarstein

      Yes. During Amadeus’s rampage in Procer, Scribe was with him. At the same time, he was thinking about Assassin in Ashur.

      Furthermore, one cannot have 2 Names, and the Roles of Assassin and Scribe are too different for them to be the same person.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. Shveiran

        Yes. That particular theory is still popular and I can see the appeal, but that reveal wouldn’t make sense in this universe.

        Either Scribe or Assassin would need NOT to be a real name, and that sounds both an hard facade to mantain and hilariously unlikely considering all the stuff that was ascribed to both Assassin AND Scribe for it to have been done by a single Named who would be acting outside his or her portfolio for half of them.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. konstantinvoncarstein

          So her/his/its portfolio would be
          1: an unstoppable, shapeshifting assassin
          AND
          2: a one-woman administration and intelligence agency
          It seems very different to me.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Insanenoodlyguy

            Not really, just broad application. Lets assume aspects here:

            Dismissive Aura: She can make herself seem “so utterly unremarkable that the mind dismisses them.” That’s also something great for somebody who’s sneaking up on you.

            Data Collection: She can pull in data from everything going on around her, and always be on top of it and organized. She quickly knows where everybody who’s anybody is going to be when and where in a short time after securing herself in a city. SHE CAN FIND YOU AND SHE KNOWS WHEN YOU ARE ALONE. What other profession might make use of that ability?

            The shapeshifting is admittely less useful for a scribe, but if Assasin’s shapeshifting is something like “Disquicse” who the heck is going to expect the girl with a quill and a scroll running around in the background who’s barely worth noticing to be the guy who’s sneaking up on you? The way he was described in Deus, you forget what you saw when you see assassin quickly. There is definitely some overlap, and Scribe herself makes a great cover because someone like her is supposed to be most places he’d need to, easily ignored as the background administration in any sort of place that needs bureaucracy. How does he do it? Frequently by walking in the front door with a stack full of papers and looking for all the world like she belongs there.

            Like

            1. konstantinvoncarstein

              I agree there are overlaps between the 2, but Assassin is a Name that is very specific: he kills people. He could of course disguise himself in a bureaucrat, and collecting and organizing informations would indeed be useful, but it is too broad. It is something different than effectively running nearly by herself an entire kingdom AND a continent-wide spy network. If Assassin has the computing capabilities you speak of, it cannot be enough to accomplish this.His Role is about killing, not running things.

              Furthemore, why would Assassin craft himself such a false identity, which let him open to attacks? If he can shape shift, it would be safer and easier to just disguise in a random guy/girl than a public figure relatively well-known. He has no reasons to do it, not even to hide his existence, because everyone knows of it.

              Finally, we see in Interlude:Queen’s Gambit Offered that Scribe is with Amadeus, while Assassin was send to Ashur. And Scribe was with Black during the entire campaign in Procer. No one can be in 2 places at the same time.

              Per Word of God (see the document on reddit for more precisions), Aspects are only verbs at the infinitive. Yours sound more like Skills from the Wandering Inn;)

              Like

      2. Insanenoodlyguy

        He was thinking that, but we just established scribe can fuck with your head. He might be better at resisting it, but it might still affect him a bit. Especially if there is a separate persona

        Liked by 1 person

        1. konstantinvoncarstein

          Scribe can make herself forgetted by people, and hide her presence. Not completely rewrite the memory of several extremely powerful Named (Malicia, Warlock and Black Knight).

          Liked by 2 people

        2. Shveiran

          I don’t have a problem with this part of the thory. The problem is that we know both Assassin and Scribe are, singularly taken, already remarkable power-wise.

          If all they do and did is ascribed to a single Named, it doesn’t add up.

          Unless you are suggesting that Scribassin’s Name is actually the Overpowered, whose aspects each allow him/her/it to call on the powers and aspect of a DIFFERENT Name, and thus he/she/it is both the Scribe, the Assassin and the Writer, I don’t think it’s possible.

          Liked by 3 people

  16. ChillyPepper

    Cat is worried about the artifacts and magical weapons so much that she fears the staff in earlier chapter, but failed to notice the one being made around her. The cape is pretty much an artifact except in noticeable effect I feel.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes, but once again she doesn’t rely on it for anything other than what a mundane cape would provide. The trick with magical items is not making their effects the lynchpin of your plan, lest you end up like Juniper stuck between two armies with Arcadia gates not working. If the cape just so happens to accidentally enhance her luck / save her life from some hostile magic, without it being a part of her plan, it not doing so at another time won’t doom her (not anymore than she would be without having it altogether).

      The Mantle of Woe’s real functions so far have been:
      – look cool and Symbolize;
      – have Pockets, Lots Of Them;
      – be warm.

      It can’t really… fail Cat at any of those, not in the narrative nasty way.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Isi Arnott-Campbell

        The Mantle has also been shown to deflect magical projectiles that directly impact its surface. That’s slightly more consequential, but only slightly.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. The important part is that she doesn’t rely on it for that, she relies on not getting hit by magical projectiles in the first place / other magical wards/powers.

          The mantle does not function as a trap here.

          Liked by 2 people

      2. I do not remember which chapter it was, but there was an interlude (i believe?)someone noticing the cape changing into an artifact.

        It is being formed into one if not one already, just because we cant notice what its doing to her or that Cat is not actively relying on it doesn’t mean it is not working in more subtle ways. For example, aiding Cat by a symbol of conquering. as we notice more and more people recognize the cape. Basically an aura effect.

        And as proven here, we don’t know, or notice, everything going on.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Andrew Mitchell

      Worried about depending on them because they will always fail at the worst time. The cape may, or may not, become an artifact. If it does, I hope she’s smart enough not to depend on it.

      Liked by 2 people

  17. TheDerangedOne

    *blinks owlishly* Is Scribe slowly becoming some counter to the Bard? Assuming she’s not some unwitting catspaw in the bard’s toolbox at any rate.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Gerionar

    WARNING: This will be a long one!

    “In winning a game one may only grasp lesser victory; only in setting the rules may greater victory be found, for one then transcends the possibility of loss.”

    I called it once, I call it again: THIS is what the entire story is about. It started with “win despite the rules!” and “less thinking outside the box and more smashing their heads in with the box”. It has become Cat’s way to one victory after the other and now it’s her method to change the entire continent.

    But I am going even further! I say that the entire divine dispute between Above and Below, or rather “those who want to rule” and “those who want to see mortals grow unrestrained” revolves around that. The mortals think that it is like a game of shatranj between Above and Below. But I say it is not about winning by the rules. It is all about dictating the rules they are playing by while they are playing. “Lawfull” wins, if either Above or Below achieves the “lesser victory” the game by the rules, because victory would require that either faction had enough conrol over their mortals to proof that this was “the better way”. On the other hand “Chaos” wins, when the pieces decide to do their own thing and no longer play by the Gods’ rules, when the mortaly proof that they can do better without divine rule. The Accords are the biggest step in that direction in all of history. We know that this treaty would forbid Named to rule. Thus it would cripple the influence of the Gods on politics. And that is why I think the Bard will do everything to stop it, since she is imho the agent of “Law” more than she is for Above. Remember: She created the Dead King, she brokered the deal with Sve Noc and she tempted Amadeus to become the next stupid evil Dread Emperor, just so that the old song would go on and history repreat itself again and again.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Andrew Mitchell

        Good call! 🙂 The Bard has been around since before the Miezian occupation, at least….

        Actually, you’ve prompted another thought. Maybe the gods made the Bard when they made Creation. It fits with my pet theory that the Bard’s role is to keep the game going.

        Liked by 1 person

  19. Soronel Haetir

    I don’t get why Eudokia would be so opposed to the Accords. We know that she is personally invested in Amadeus (and perhaps more properly Black) not in Praes. If anything I would expect her to be off doing something to try and force Amadeus to take up the mantle of Black Knight again, although I’m not sure how effective that would be.

    Either that or scheming to get him some Name where her unrequited affections (in the same vein as Page and the Shining Prince) could finally be returned. Although there his continued love of Ranger would likely get in the way.

    In none of those situations do I see the Accords (or the continued viability of Praes) presenting any interest to her.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Andrew Mitchell

      IMO if Amadeus can be truly convinced then Scribe can be also.

      It’s now well over 20 years since Praes’ successful annexation of Callow. At a minimum, Eudokia and Amadeus have had 25 years together working towards the same vision. It’s the vision that binds them (as well as the personal affection and friendship). Scribe has fully bought into Black’s vision of a better Praes; one that no longer eats itself alive, one that is safe from disruption by its neighbours, one where people don’t starve because some idiot Dread Emperor did something stupid. This aligns with the Accords somewhat but it’s not the same, the Accords limit Praes as much as they limit all the other countries.

      We know Amadeus planned for all sorts of contingencies; and worked with his confidants to refine and implement those plans. Contingencies which likely included things like mind control or giving into sentiment. We know that Amadeus currently thinks Eudokia will think that Amadeus is being influenced and won’t trust his judgement without A LOT of preparation and effort.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Shveiran

        Mhm, is that why you think Scribe takes action?

        My read is that she is simply in love with Amadeus, in a way not unlike Hakram is with Cat. Adoration, feeling indebted to him; Eudokia is not even from Praes, I always though her main motivation was “to make Black’s job easier and see him safe and accomplished”.
        Their parting before Cat stabbed him really gave me that vibe.

        You think she is more interested in what he is doing?

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Andrew Mitchell

          Oh, I think the love is there and, as you say, non-unlike Hakram. Your reading of Eudokia’s motivation may well be right and it’s certainly a factor. I think both motivations apply but how they’re weighted is really anyone’s guess. You may be closer to the truth than me.

          Liked by 1 person

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