Chapter 60: Melancholy

“And after Okoro was taken its King Berengar Rohanon was dragged before the people in the place of Faded Jackals, where his hands were cut for having reached beyond his grasp and his head scalped for having dared to claim kingship over Praesi. His Dread Majesty ordered him driven into the Wasteland, bearing his hands around his neck and his scalp scribed with for all crusaders this warning: ‘There is only one crown east of the river Wasaliti, and once more will you be taught to dread it.’”
– Extract from ‘Commentaries on the Campaigns of Dread Emperor Terribilis the Second’

The Sisters were in the tent. Their presence was like a whisper on the edge of my mind, and though they’d not hidden their presence by Masego’s bedside neither had they drawn my attention to it. It had my fingers clenching, and my growing ill-temper was noticeable enough my legionary escort gave me a wider berth as I quickened my limping. I’d had a reputation for having a foul temper even before my anger began frosting over tables, and trading Winter for Night had not put away that repute. Sve Noc knew what lines they could and could not cross without our bargain fraying, and they would not be so foolish as to try to force the Night onto an unwilling Hierophant. But they were not above making that offer when he was freshly awake and grieving, still in shock from the loss of his magic.

Crows were carrion birds, and just like carrion the Sisters were preying on the vulnerable to attempt patronage of another powerful figure – for Masego was that still, even bedridden and stripped of sorcery. My anger was less from the crafty offer I suspected was being made and more from the way that I had no solid grounds for wroth or recourse if I wanted to denounce what they were doing. It was a sharp reminder that the Sisters were my patrons and allies, not my followers, and they had schemes of their own. And Masego, though one of the Woe, was not my sworn man or a subject of the crown of Callow: any claim I could make over his loyalties was one he’d given out by his own hand, and by the same could withdraw.

The crows were never far from my thoughts and often pointed address within those was enough to earn their attention, but they did not deign answer my insistence this time. The same tent where I’d slept was shaded in subtle ways when I found it, the shadows it cast and kept within its folds too deep and cool even with the falling dusk. There was power at work, the attention of sister-goddesses manifest. I dismissed my escort abruptly and strode past the folds, catching sight of Sve Noc perched atop the armchair I’d slumbered in while a half-naked and sitting Masego looked at them from his sickbed. Feathered in darkness and ink-eyed, the crows seemed almost too large for the chair and even the tent – not that it seemed to cow my friend.

The dark-skinned sorcerer, eye cloth fastened loosely over his glittering glass eyes, was still painfully thin from his time in the Dead King’s thrall but his face was calm and his hands steady. His long braids were still matted from their lack of washing, the silver trinkets woven in them shining dully in the lamplight, but even abed looking at him was like looking at an open flame. The burn was feverish, perhaps, but grief and tragedy had not seen its intensity wane. All this I took within a heartbeat, as I arrived to what must have been the tail-end of the offer tendered.

“Faith kept will be kept in kind,” Andronike said. “And in the end, all will be Night.”

Masego’s eyes pivoted under the cloth to glance at me, and the Sisters needed no sight to know of my presence, so when I cleared my throat there was no hint of surprise on any’s face.

“Faith can wait until another evening,” I said. “There will be-”

“That won’t be necessary, Catherine,” Hierophant quietly interrupted.

Wings spread and with a few lazy beats Komena was on my shoulder, as displeased by my meddling as I was by hers. Andronike, though, perched herself on the side of Masego’s bed. Peering at him curiously with dark eyes more god than bird no matter the shape of them.

“You have been hollowed,” Andronike cawed. “Miracle can yet mend this.”

The urge came, quicksilver and fleeting, to intervene once more. If the Sisters alone had requested the stilling of my tongue I would not have held it, but Masego had as well and so let the urge pass.

“There is only one side of apotheosis of interest to me,” Hierophant said, “and it is not the one that involves kneeling.”

“You are yet young,” Komena said from my shoulder. “We can wait, though the bargain will not twice be so sweet.”

“It will eat away at you,” Andronike told him. “From the inside, it will-”

Sudden as it was, it caught me by surprise like few things in my life before it: Masego’s nimble fingers, mage-deft and long, snapped up and seized the crow addressing him by the throat. They squeezed, and as Komena cawed in protest and beat her wings against my shoulder the Warlock’s son let out a scornful hiss.

“Do not ever attempt to peer into my mind, covetous vermin,” the Hierophant harshly rebuked.

Night flooded the room as the behest of livid lesser gods, thick and oppressive current like veils of shadow, but his Name burned like a clear and unyielding flame.

“I knew Winter well, before you fed on it,” Masego said, eyes burning with Summer flame, “shall I rip it out through the stitches of your belly? Ruin will run down the course of you into the heart of your entire people, little spiders. Did you believe you could make yourself the life of your kind without also being its death?”

He barked out a laugh.

“Lucky you, that it was Akua Sahelian and not I who accompanied her below,” he said. “Else I would have cut out your ravenous eyes long ago and made a banner of your butchered remains.”

“Masego,” I said. “Enough.”

Summer-bright eyes flicked to me, then returned to Komena on my shoulder. My fingers clenched.

“Masego,” I repeated sharply. “Enough.”

Scoffing, he released his grip on Andronike. She flew away in wroth, and I saw that the flesh of Hierophant’s hand looked as if it’d been frostbitten where it’d been touching the divine crow.

“And that’s why,” I calmly said, “you speak to me before trying to bargain with one of the Woe.”

“Offence was given,” Komena cried out, the sound cacophonous and somehow blinding.

“Your tried to look into the head of a man whose Name is practically made of the death of gods, you fucking fools,” I barked. “What did you think was going to happen?”

Before they could answer I pressed on.

“You didn’t think,” I said. “You got greedy, you got hasty, and then you got spanked. Take it as a reminder that there are things up here on the surface that are nastier than you. And be thankful all it cost you was a few moments of indignity.”

The fury pouring out of them and into the Night was like the burn of sudden ice, but I refused to be bowled over by it. They’d made a mistake, believing that dangling power in front of a grieving man was all it’d take to induce another Named to bargain. They’d taken him for one of the Firstborn and for that blindness very nearly ended up losing more than a few feathers.

“I carried your banner from victory to victory,” I said, “because I’ve been careful. Because I’ve been patient and cautious and I’ve picked my battles. If you begin to sidle up to every Named on a ragged edge and offer power for rites, you’re not goddesses: you’re cut-rate devils. And one of those days, sure as dusk, you’ll end up stepping blind into a story that’ll end you.”

The fury did not wane in the slightest, but I met it unbowed. I felt the slight touch of their thoughts against mine, a feather’s brush looking for the taste of honesty and finding it. Still, few gods were in the habit of apologizing. The Sisters flew out with malcontent cawing, blowing out of the tent and leaving it lighter for their absence. I breathed out in their wake, still feeling where Komena’s talons had dug into my shoulder even if no blood had been drawn and no mark would be left behind. Though Masego’s face and torso were facing me, I caught through the cloth that his eyes had followed the crows out before finally returning to me. The radiance of his Name, not visible but like a taste hanging in the air, finally dimmed into nothingness. It left him panting and visibly tired. Leaning against my staff, I limped up to his bed and swallowed a wince when he tensed up at my approach. Very slowly, I sat on the side near his legs.

“I see you still get cranky when woken up early,” I said.

He didn’t blink, for the lack of eyelid, but the way he angled his head good as implied it.

“I was expecting anger,” Masego admitted. “For this, and… the rest.”

“Stealing a city, cutting up Arcadia and nearly wiping an entire principality off the face of Creation,” I elaborated. “Including most of the people you care about in any significant manner.”

He winced.

“Yes,” he said. “That.”

I sighed.

“I am angry,” I told him. “But for large parts of that you weren’t in your right mind. And now that you are, I expect all those things you were trying to deny – and the scope of what you nearly did – are about to start sinking in. We will, one day, have an unpleasant discussion about this. But it won’t be today, and when we have it you won’t be…”

I hesitated, looking for the right words, but Masego smiled bitterly.

“My fathers will be no less dead in a few days, Catherine,” he said. “Nor will…”

His lips thinned.

“Nor will my sorcery have returned,” he said, as if forcing himself. “The severing should have killed me. Would have, had it not been so improbably precise. I still wonder what stayed his hand, for it would have been child’s play to snuff me out at the end. Much easier than this.”

It was my turn to hesitate, though the moment I did I knew I’d have to speak. His glass eyes missed nothing and Masego had known me long enough he could discern the expressions of my face much more accurately than most people’s.

“I bargained for your life,” I said, “when I had a shard of his soul in my grasp.”

He tiredly leaned back against pillows that’d not been there when I left in the morning. Archer’s work, I thought. Which meant they were probably stolen, but I could ask her about that later.

“Thank you,” Masego solemnly said. “For that. For coming, too.”

“We all came, Zeze,” I quietly said. “And we will again, if we need to. Don’t doubt that.”

There was a long moment of silence, and finally he nodded. His breath rasped out along with words barely more than a murmur.

“He killed Indrani. Using me.”

I reached out a hand towards his own, and after the moment he accepted the implicit offer. We threaded fingers and I nodded.

“The Grey Pilgrim brought her back,” I said.

“As Trismegistus said he would,” Masego quietly replied. “And yet the last thing she will remember before dying is my hand raised and my lips speaking an incantation.”

I let silence pass, sensing there was more he wanted to say.

“That is unkind,” the braided man finally said. “Isn’t it? To her even more than I.”

He looked to me as if asking confirmation, unsure and tone hesitant.

“It would be unkind with any of us,” I told him. “But to her more than the rest of us.”

“I don’t know how to mend that,” Masego whispered. “Catherine, I don’t know how to mend any of it.”

This was, I thought, the first time he’d even obliquely acknowledged that Indrani might have feelings for him. I was not certain whether his careful handling of her came out of a gentle nature – which he had, somehow, not lost in our years of war and hatred – or because he considered himself to have a distinctive relationship with Archer, and it was not my place to ask. But the acknowledgement alone was more than I’d sometimes thought this entire affair would earn of him unless Indrani pressed the matter.

“She won’t blame you, Zeze,” I quietly said. “You have to know that. It might have been your hand but it was not your will, and that’s the part that matters.”

“Is it?” he asked. “Since I was a child, always I’ve been told these sweeping… truths. Eulogies of the perception of my fellows, the triumphant veracity of ties. And near always they proved false, for though my own fathers were as much reason as they were blood that is a rare thing. A memory, a pain, these are things that linger. Principles are beautiful – they are the bones of Creation and what we make of it – but they do not course in veins. They are… distant.”

Archer was a creature of blood and not reason, he did not say. Or needed to. It was true, I wouldn’t deny, that in some ways more than any of us Indrani followed her instincts. How much would principle matter, he was asking, when she still remembered the raised hand and the death that followed?

“You’re looking at it like the depth can only mean it’ll hurt more,” I gently said. “That’s only half the coin, Masego. It also means you want to see the best in them, to get past the roughness, because what you love about them weighs heavier than what hurt you.”

I had, in my attempt to soothe the fear, somehow worsened this I realized. The way his face clenched made that plain. He did not speak immediately, and I did not dare to further talk lest I once more stumble over something blindly.

“It didn’t,” Masego hoarsely said. “I was so angry with them, Cat. They said sorry, about hiding what they knew from me, but they weren’t. Not really. Not the way you showed me, where it stings that you did the wrong thing and its stays with you. They were just sorry I knew they’d hidden things from me, and that doesn’t count. And they tried, you know. After. To say things or give me things or act ways that would make me less angry, makes us good again. But I couldn’t trust it, because I knew they’d just make the same choice again if they had to, so I stayed angry. Even…”

He swallowed.

“Even on the day they died,” he said. “I knew they were planning to bind me. I am not a fool, Catherine. They were going to put me in a cage so I’d be out of the way when the Empress went after you, when Callow was hurt until it knelt. And it rankled, that they would. It surprised me, though, when it rankled they just… didn’t care about the rest. I know you want me to care about the people, Cat, but it’s hard. They’re not very interesting, as a rule. And they’re so ignorant.”

He hesitated.

“But I don’t want them to be hurt, either,” Masego said. “If things can be made better for everyone, shouldn’t they? It just seemed so obvious, but my fathers didn’t care. Or they couldn’t see it, and isn’t that worse? So I was even angrier with them. And I told them to be careful, when I left, but it was almost a lie because after the battle I was going to disappear. And the last thing I said to them was… tainted, Cat. I couldn’t be not angry, even if I loved them.”

“It’s all right to hate something they did,” I told him quietly, thinking of hungry deaths still being reaped. “It doesn’t mean you hated them.”

Gods, but how fragile he looked in that moment. How could this be the same man who’d seized a goddess by the throat not an hour ago, threatened the ruin of an entire people for their patrons having crossed him? Exposed like a raw nerve and heartfelt until he bled, yet even stripped of the sorcery he’d spent his entire life embracing he could still daunt a lesser god. I understood, now, why to someone like Indrani the mixture might be intoxicating. Strength and vulnerability all at once, someone she could respect without feeling threatened. Masego was, in her eyes, a peer without being a rival.

“I thought Papa I could bring back, at least,” the dark-skinned man admitted. “I cannot account for a soul, and Father had already passed beyond my reach. There was naught to be done there. But Papa was a devil. Sufficient precision should have been enough.”

“But it wasn’t,” I said.

I had seen only part of the string of failures that made a wasteland of the Arcadian shard, but they must have gone on for months before that and there’d be no indication that success had been looming.

“No,” Masego said. “Always something was missing. I’d believed it a question of accuracy, and perhaps if Trismegistus had not stolen the use of my aspect the gap could have been bridged. But the more I think of it, of what I had begun to glimpse, the more I doubt it. Papa was unique. He did not have a soul, Catherine, but he was unique.”

Of the incubus that’d been one of Masego’s father, the ancient devil known as Tikoloshe, I knew precious little and so I did not dare venture an opinion. What did I know of these matters, anyway, that I could disagree with my own Hierophant? If he believed his father had been singular, an exception that surpassed the stuff he’d been made of, I would believe him. And though I could not say I had been fond of the incubus I’d never met or Warlock who I had known and scorned, I could at least share in the grief of this man who was family to me.

“Some things stay lost,” I murmured. “You have to learn to make your peace with that.”

I winced, after, realizing it could easily be taken as my speaking of his magic instead of his fathers.

“How carefully you tread,” he gently mocked me. “As if speaking it out loud would break me: I have lost the Gift, in every meaningful way.”

Which, I silently noted, did not mean every way. Given Masego’s lasting obsession with being exact in all things, I did not take that as a coincidence – though it hardly seemed the time to pursue the matter. I thought of Vivienne, in that moment, of the way she’s seemed to terribly convinced that making a mistake or losing her Name meant she was no longer one of us. Like she’d be discarded the moment she faltered or changed. I would not, I decided, let Zeze fall into that same pit.

“Losing your sorcery doesn’t meant you’re not one of us anymore,” I told him. “Being one of the Woe – us loving you – it’s not conditional. It’s not the Hierophant I came for, and it wasn’t the Apprentice that became part of my family. It’s you, and that’s not something you can lose.”

He squeezed my fingers, though looking at his face I realized with a degree of strange amusement that in that moment he was the one trying to comfort me.

“I did not believe that,” he assured me. “I won’t leave you to stand alone like Uncle Amadeus did, so don’t worry about me leaving.”

I mastered myself just in time not to breathe in sharply. Sometimes, I thought, Masego saw things more clearly than any of us. I saw him hesitate once more, after, and made myself squeeze his fingers back in reassurance.

“I could have,” he said.

My brow rose.

“Could have what?”

“I could have begun apotheosis,” Masego whispered. “I had the souls. The weight. The bones. But I wanted to bring my father back, instead. But I still remember, Cat.”

My eyes narrowed.

“Remember what?” I asked.

“How gods are made,” he whispered. “And so how they are unmade.”

I matched his gaze, hidden as it was by the eye cloth.

“The Dead King?” I murmured.

“Oh yes,” Hierophant murmured. “Even him. And Catherine, I think I want to kill him.”

He leaned forward, as if confiding a great secret.

“I believe,” Masego solemnly told me, “I might have become nettled by this affair.”

“Well,” I smiled, thin and bladelike, “we’ve certainly started picked fights with lesser gods over less.”

And so we spoke, just the two of us, of the last king of Sephirah’s end.

98 thoughts on “Chapter 60: Melancholy

    1. Big Brother

      A Heirophant seeks the true nature of Miracles and Godhood, but does not necessarily have to have the ability to use them. To some, it is enough to merely KNOW, with their usage but a minor convenience.

      Liked by 24 people

  1. Andrew Mitchell

    Yes, YES, at thousand times yes!! Another absolutely brilliant chapter. So much wonderful depth to Masego right now, and his relationships. Just wonderful.

    And then the climax.

    “I could have begun apotheosis,” Masego whispered. “I had the souls. The weight. The bones. But I wanted to bring my father back, instead. But I still remember, Cat.”

    My eyes narrowed.

    “Remember what?” I asked.

    “How gods are made,” he whispered. “And so how they are unmade.”

    I matched his gaze, hidden as it was by the eye cloth.

    “The Dead King?” I murmured.

    “Oh yes,” Hierophant murmured. “Even him. And Catherine, I think I want to kill him.”

    He leaned forward, as if confiding a great secret.

    “I believe,” Masego solemnly told me, “I might have become nettled by this affair.”

    So, so good.

    Liked by 18 people

    1. caoimhinh

      This entire chapter Masego was pure badassery incarnated.

      “Do not ever attempt to peer into my mind, covetous vermin,” the Hierophant harshly rebuked.

      Night flooded the room as the behest of livid lesser gods, thick and oppressive current like veils of shadow, but his Name burned like a clear and unyielding flame.

      “I knew Winter well, before you fed on it,” Masego said, eyes burning with Summer flame, “shall I rip it out through the stitches of your belly? Ruin will run down the course of you into the heart of your entire people, little spiders. Did you believe you could make yourself the life of your kind without also being its death?”

      He barked out a laugh.

      “Lucky you, that it was Akua Sahelian and not I who accompanied her below,” he said. “Else I would have cut out your ravenous eyes long ago and made a banner of your butchered remains.”

      Liked by 18 people

      1. I love that Masego instantly went into threatening their people along with them. He only needs to look at the Sisters to see what they really care about ❤ ❤ ❤

        Did you believe you could make yourself the life of your kind without also being its death?

        Liked by 13 people

        1. caoimhinh

          And he also accurately judged that his Aspect would work on them and extend to the rest of the Drow.

          Ruin will run down the course of you into the heart of your entire people”

          I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he used that word. They are lucky that Ruin wasn’t bolded in the chapter, else they would have been fucked.
          Then again, Masego is not that trigger-happy nor bloodthirsty. And he is sound enough to know that was a fight that would have no winner, only tremendous losses for everyone involved.

          But the line needed to be drawn and damn if he didn’t make his point clear.

          Liked by 4 people

  2. erebus42

    Yeah, that was pretty much how I expected any proposition to Masego by Sve Noc to go. Much like Catherine he’s not one to kneel.
    I am curious to see if Masego ends up finding a way to reclaim his magic or if he developes in a totally different direction. Probably not combat related but perhaps a seer or seer adjacent? He still appears to be the Hierophant but how he expresses that could possibly evolve.

    Liked by 15 people

    1. oaclo

      They could swing the story so that this ends up as an advancement of his Hierophant powers. Like he couldn’t witness miracles completely and impartially while having the means to make them as an integral part of his being.

      Liked by 7 people

    2. Streetwind

      Fun fact: Masego has only unlocked two aspects, so far (Witness and Ruin). Both of which he can still use, if his threat to Sve Noc was any indication.

      So his Name is fully intact, and he still has one more aspect to come into. I have an inkling that, whatever it will be, it will surely be heavily colored by the removal of his sorcery and the events surrounding it. Perhaps it will even be targeted at the Dead King, specifically. Because we all know that when Masego says he might have been nettled, that was the understatement of the millenium.

      Liked by 5 people

  3. gingerlygrump

    Masego has lost the gift, but has gained clarity. And also gained a sense of humanity, for all that he’s been “fundamentally kind” throughout the story he hasn’t learned humanity til now. I hope his arc ends happily, he’s my favorite.

    Liked by 9 people

    1. Depends on how you define ‘learning humanity’. He sure is going to have to learn how people who arent sorcerers live without the Gift, though then again, he’s still Named so still a ways off the average ;u;

      The “I got angry they didn’t care” part, though? That was back at Thalassina already 😀 😀 😀

      Liked by 4 people

      1. gingerlygrump

        Hmm, I was referring to a few different comments of his. Yes, his statements about being angry that Wekesa and Tikoloshe didn’t care, but also his pointed concerns about Indrani’s feelings and his insight into Catherine’s thoughts. I don’t mean he was inhumane before now, but Masego has lost the blinders that power gave him in respect to reading people. And yes, the fact that Masego no longer sees other people as pawns on the chessboard has been developing for a while, but now we get a full frontal view of a man who has done an about-face from what he was brought up to believe about people and power.

        Masego is my favorite character, hands down, partly because we’ve gotten to watch him grow up. He’s gone from spoiled (albeit terrifying) child to an imperfect but lovable man who reeks of power even without his magic. He is what Wekesa and Tikoloshe made him, but so much more.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. Shveiran

          I like him too, but I’m not sure why you’d think these parts of his growth are related to his loss of magic.

          These changes have been developing for a long time, and they were never really hindered by the Gift.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. >but also his pointed concerns about Indrani’s feelings and his insight into Catherine’s thoughts. I don’t mean he was inhumane before now, but Masego has lost the blinders that power gave him in respect to reading people

          no
          uh
          no, that’s
          not

          Masego is autistic
          he was not bad at reading people because power, he was bad at reading people because he was bad at reading people
          however like the scholar he was he developed his own method for understanding them, starting from pure theory
          he has ALWAYS had it, this method, he was ALWAYS good at the theory (see: his counseling Cat about crying back in book 2)
          he cannot intuitively read faces but he can very much understand the cause effect of people’s feelings on most topics, because he’s good at understanding shit
          (and then there’s fringe like ethics and respect and etiquette, which he just doesn’t get, bc he grew up with Wekesa ‘just kill them’ and Amadeus ‘just do whatever, they can’t say a thing’)

          he did not lose any blinders
          he did not
          I mean ffs its been like 2 minutes that hes been awake since he lost the power -_-
          he gained experience with & understanding of SPECIFICALLY the people he’s close to

          he’s had it for a while, and now we’re seeing the depths of it

          it’s not new

          and you are very wrong on many many levels 😀

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Mike E.

            As someone in the autism spectrum, this response is 100% on point. I really didn’t grok people until my early 30s, it took that long for my mental database of interactions to contain enough data points to enable me to be more or less “normal” in social situations. And I still fuck it up quite often even in my mid-40s now.

            My son is more into the spectrum than I am, I have been trying to point out where him being him will cause problems in the future. He will be in college next year, at which point it will be on him to finally realize what I have been trying to teach him about social behaviors.

            Liked by 2 people

  4. Heh. Masego stay you.

    Mistake Sve Noc. Fortunately for you two, you didn’t very into too much trouble, no major lasting trouble.

    Heh.
    I wonder … how much of the knowledge Masego now has pertaining to unmaking gods would also be applicable to unmaking Bard.

    Also, I suspect Masego is going to (eventually) figure out how to either reacquire the Gift or a figure out a replacement method of interfacing with and shaping what is.
    And he’s totally going to be on board with being an instructor at Cardinal.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. Andrew Mitchell

      > how much of the knowledge Masego now has pertaining to unmaking gods would also be applicable to unmaking Bard

      Oooooo, GREAT question. One I’d love to know the answer to.

      > I suspect Masego is going to (eventually) figure out how to either reacquire the Gift or a figure out a replacement method of interfacing with and shaping what is

      My money’s on the later option. Getting his magic back would cheapen the drama we’ve just been through and would feel like a backwards step for the overall story. IMO, he’s GOT to find another route to power and it will be bigger and better than it was before.

      > he’s totally going to be on board with being an instructor at Cardinal

      ONLY for the worthy students. AND only if he gets to keep doing his own research.

      Liked by 8 people

      1. Names are ridiculous, and he’s just proven that his is in fact not Gift-based.

        It’s gotta be epic 😀

        >ONLY for the worthy students. AND only if he gets to keep doing his own research.

        I somehow think that Cat won’t have as much trouble convincing him as Amadeus did with Wekesa 😀

        and OF COURSE he’s going to keep doing his research ❤

        Liked by 4 people

      2. So I just realized Masego would 100% be all onboard with the role of a university teacher.

        Like, he would grumble incessantly about it interfering with his research, but he would not abandon the position.

        Like… back before Everdark, he took issue with Cat telling him not to call everyone ignorant because how else would they know to fix it???

        Masego would be that one professor who is an absolute ass to all his students but will spend as much time helping them out outside of work hours as it takes and so becomes a universal favorite anyway (except for lazy asses)

        Liked by 6 people

        1. caoimhinh

          I think more than being an ass to his students, Masego will spend time badmouthing their previous teachers with an “all your previous tutors suck” attitude.
          He doesn’t seem to me like the one to yell at someone for making a mistake or not knowing something, but rather he would be like “they didn’t teach you properly” and so he would proceed to properly school them.
          We actually saw this during his time in the 15th, as he complained more about the lack of education that the mages had received, rather than their lack of talent or intelligence.

          Liked by 5 people

        2. Shveiran

          Honestly I’m not opposed to Masego becoming a good teacher, but I don’t think he IS now. Or wishes to be, even.

          Masego taught Catherine, when it was needed. He did so patiently and competently, true enough, but that is a long way from saying he likes teaching or is good at it.
          He has never show a desire to teach stuff to folks, just a distaste for their ignorance. Most people dislike having rubbish lying around on the street they live in, but how many of them actually go an pick it up?

          As awesome as the image of him being a grumpy professor is… it’s a fine joke, but only that.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. Andrew Mitchell

            I agree with your main point.

            FYI Masego has done more teaching than you recall. He’s also taught that person who was his second in charge at the Observatory, sorry I can’t recall her name right now. As well as a whole lot of Legion mages.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Masego doesn’t like teaching as an activity, it’s true, but he has proven entirely willing to do it anyway if he sees the necessity. He’s taught mages of the entire fifteenth to do rituals, he’s taught the observatory minions.

            And pair “ignorance is like the WORST” with “if things could be made better for everyone they should be”…

            You suddenly have Masego with a moral imperative to be a university professor 0.0
            and may the world tremble in his wake

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Shveiran

              All fine points, which is why I don’t think the idea is ludicrous nor anything.
              It’s just… I think there is a fine line between disliking ignorance and the whole “wouldn’t it be better if people knew stuff?” and going “Yes, I’ll try to empty this sea of ignorance myself; hand me that bucket, will you?”

              It’s… it’s a possibility, but I think your Cardinhogwarts is showing, right now.

              Liked by 2 people

  5. Novice

    “But I don’t want them to be hurt, either,” Masego said. “If things can be made better for everyone, shouldn’t they? It just seemed so obvious…”

    How could someone who wishes to dissect gods and demons be so fucking precious??!!?

    “I believe,” Masego solemnly told me, “I might have become nettled by this affair.”

    This little sentence seems so non-threatening but by the crows it brought chills down my spine. I love Zeze very much.

    Liked by 11 people

    1. >How could someone who wishes to dissect gods and demons be so fucking precious??!!?

      THAT IS THE GREAT AUTISTIC PARADOX
      WE’RE ALL* PRECIOUS
      EVEN THE DISSECTING ONES

      Masego is… so great… ;u;

      *personally Manfred von Karma excepted

      Liked by 6 people

  6. antoninjohn

    The difference between a psyker and a sorcerer is that a psyker uses their innate powers while a sorcerer uses their knowledge of reality to work their miracles

    Liked by 3 people

    1. People have said that the Dead King made a mistake in starting this chain of events but that’s not actually what happened.

      Remember why Peregrine made such a precise cut? The Bard. Who is the Bard’s longest and most knowledgeable enemy? The Dead King. Who is Masego aimed at now? The Dead King. And who benefits most from the death of the Dead King? Possibly the Bard.

      We have the Bard as the one who started this whole chain of events and the Bard as the one who most benefits from it. Masego is unknowingly playing into her hand.

      Liked by 14 people

  7. Masego is so fucking best aaaaaaaaaaaaa

    choice quotes:

    >“There is only one side of apotheosis of interest to me,” Hierophant said, “and it is not the one that involves kneeling.”

    KNEW IT
    FUCKING KNEW IT 😀

    > Ruin will run down the course of you into the heart of your entire people, little spiders. Did you believe you could make yourself the life of your kind without also being its death?

    Masego doesn’t need to look at the Sisters for long before seeing what their weak spot is 🙂

    > “I was expecting anger,” Masego admitted. “For this, and… the rest.”

    > “Stealing a city, cutting up Arcadia and nearly wiping an entire principality off the face of Creation,” I elaborated. “Including most of the people you care about in any significant manner.”

    > He winced.

    > “Yes,” he said. “That.”

    Masego knows when he does the wrong thing and he is utterly and incredibly precious about it.
    Catherine keeps worrying that she only has as much authority over him as he’s wiling to give, but he basically sees her as the big sister ;u;
    (the big cousin, technically)

    >“Thank you,” Masego solemnly said. “For that. For coming, too.”

    Catherine didn’t need to specify that he was still Woe even without magic. This was all the confirmation he needed – and his real worry was about his actions, not about sorcery 🙂
    he knows what family is much better than Vivienne does ^^

    >“As Trismegistus said he would,” Masego quietly replied. “And yet the last thing she will remember before dying is my hand raised and my lips speaking an incantation.”

    >I let silence pass, sensing there was more he wanted to say.

    >“That is unkind,” the braided man finally said. “Isn’t it? To her even more than I.”

    (first of all THAN ME lmao)
    but also
    YES
    YES
    AND YES
    😀 😀 😀
    Masego sees to the heart of it ❤ ❤ “Even on the day they died,” he said. “I knew they were planning to bind me. I am not a fool, Catherine. They were going to put me in a cage so I’d be out of the way when the Empress went after you, when Callow was hurt until it knelt. And it rankled, that they would. It surprised me, though, when it rankled they just… didn’t care about the rest.

    HOLY FUCKING WHAT!!!!

    > I know you want me to care about the people, Cat, but it’s hard. They’re not very interesting, as a rule. And they’re so ignorant.”

    > He hesitated.

    > “But I don’t want them to be hurt, either,” Masego said. “If things can be made better for everyone, shouldn’t they? It just seemed so obvious, but my fathers didn’t care. Or they couldn’t see it, and isn’t that worse? So I was even angrier with them.

    FUCKING OH MY GOD
    Masego didn’t even notice when he started to really care ;u;

    CALAMITIES’ HEIRS
    HEIRS TO AMADEUS IN TRUTH

    >“No,” Masego said. “Always something was missing. I’d believed it a question of accuracy, and perhaps if Trismegistus had not stolen the use of my aspect the gap could have been bridged. But the more I think of it, of what I had begun to glimpse, the more I doubt it. Papa was unique. He did not have a soul, Catherine, but he was unique.”

    …ah yes.
    that 🙂

    > “How carefully you tread,” he gently mocked me. “As if speaking it out loud would break me: I have lost the Gift, in every meaningful way.”

    Masego is emotionally the least fragile of the Woe, because he honestly has the most solid emotional foundation. That’s what having a good, big, loving family who love you and love each other and manage their disagreements well does ;u;

    > He squeezed my fingers, though looking at his face I realized with a degree of strange amusement that in that moment he was the one trying to comfort me.

    THE HEART OF THIS PARTY
    IS ALL I’M SAYING

    >“I did not believe that,” he assured me. “I won’t leave you to stand alone like Uncle Amadeus did, so don’t worry about me leaving.”

    FUCKING
    HE KNOWS EXACTLY WHAT IS GOING ON
    AND I ADORE HIM INCREDIBLY STRONGLY

    Catherine is a Seer of Mind in truth, but when it comes to family matters Masego can run circles around her ;u;

    > “Oh yes,” Hierophant murmured. “Even him. And Catherine, I think I want to kill him.”

    > He leaned forward, as if confiding a great secret.

    > “I believe,” Masego solemnly told me, “I might have become nettled by this affair.”

    AND MASEGO REMAINS A PRECIOUS INCREDIBLE TREASURE
    WITH THE EMOTIONAL IQ OF BOTH A GOD OF KNOWLEDGE AND A FUCKING ROCK AT THE SAME TIME
    BLESS HIM

    Liked by 10 people

    1. That’s the thing about autism… we see things from a different perspective. On the one hand, there are parts of normal society that we can’t see, or see the back side of and disdain, but on the other hand, that same difference of perspective lets us see things that normal folks don’t.

      And on the gripping hand: Though our ignorance and frustration might make others, or ourselves doubt it, we are human, and very much part of humanity, just as Hephaestus is still a god.

      Liked by 9 people

        1. Looking back, I’m not sure it was apropos to introduce that particular point with a metaphor of nonhuman anatomy. But hey, that’s how it came out. Feel free to contrast its metaphorical weight against its ironic occurence until you get dizzy. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah ❤ ❤ ❤

        I love how he swings between 'I am not sure what emotions are' and comforting Catherine

        his understanding is uneven by the standards of nt’s, and it is Very Good And Blessed

        Liked by 2 people

        1. John

          Masego didn’t start out knowing what gods are, either. Faced with a confusing yet obviously important thing, the correct response is comprehensive background research, meticulous firsthand observation, and taking every attempt to apply the resultant knowledge seriously, so as to notice and learn from every mistake. Masego behaves correctly, to the best of his ability.

          The Saint of Swords was the Grand Alliance’s leading plan for taking out the Dead King, but I don’t think that ever really would have worked. She only ever had one answer to any problem, which was “stick a sword in it.” Catherine beat her in a matter of seconds with a weapon that only took a few months to prepare, and it’s not like the vulnerability being exploited there is even particularly obscure. The dead king has been adding layers to his hero-neutralizing contingency plans for an incomprehensibly long time, of course he would have thought of that option before.

          Masego, as a Named villain, is immune to old age, so that particular cheap shot won’t work on him at all. He’s not just one of the greatest living scholars of sorcery, and a career godslayer, and riding a narrative wave of “this time it’s personal,” he’s also always been obsessed with elegance and efficiency rather than overwhelming force. Now that he can’t use magic himself, he’ll need to explain whatever magical work needs to be done to someone else, in enough detail that they can actually figure out how to do it. Frustrating though it may be, teaching is an important element of true mastery, because unpacking the core ideas to answer naive questions is the best way to discover any remaining sloppy spots in your own understanding of a subject.

          Liked by 11 people

          1. >Masego didn’t start out knowing what gods are, either. Faced with a confusing yet obviously important thing, the correct response is comprehensive background research, meticulous firsthand observation, and taking every attempt to apply the resultant knowledge seriously, so as to notice and learn from every mistake. Masego behaves correctly, to the best of his ability.

            YES
            I really wish this would become a thing as a trope abt autistic people >x> it would be more accurate than most of the existing ones really -_-

            >Now that he can’t use magic himself, he’ll need to explain whatever magical work needs to be done to someone else, in enough detail that they can actually figure out how to do it. Frustrating though it may be, teaching is an important element of true mastery, because unpacking the core ideas to answer naive questions is the best way to discover any remaining sloppy spots in your own understanding of a subject.

            and you are SO RIGHT about this all ❤ ❤ ❤

            Liked by 2 people

    1. konstantinvoncarstein

      Hierophant can dissect gods, not Gods. The former are extremely powerful entities, set appart from the rest of Creation by said power, immortality and and a power base (drow, Serenity).

      The later are at a whole other level. The Gods are not just extremely powerful entities. They created the world and are eternal. Wekesa tought Above and Below were Creation.
      So I think they are safe from anything happening in the world.

      Liked by 3 people

  8. Dieter

    Masego is not gonna get his magic back, the magic user slot in the party got taken over by Akua. He will transition into a different more priestly role (similar to the grey pilgrim).

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Shveiran

          true enough, but I don’t think this kind of things really work with the “proof of concept” approach.

          Also… Masego is not Cat. I don’t think he has displayed a lot of willingness to compromise with those he didn’t already like.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Agent J

      But… Akua lost the Gift as well. Y’know, back when she lost her heart… and her life… …. and her father. She lost a lot of things that day.

      Ever since she’s been mooching off of whatever Cat’s power set happens to be that moment, be it Winter or Night. She’s no more a “magic user” than Zeze is right now, given he still has his stolen miracles (if the Summer flame in his eyes is any indication).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Shveiran

        Yes, and no. Aqua has always been more about power than about sorcery, and she has shown a lot of familiarity with Winter before it was eaten by the Night, and she had a deep connection to it to boot.

        Masego’s power comes from his Name, and is his own.

        Aqua’s power is burrowed and the sufferance of others, but it IS a deeper well.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Alegio

    Trying to sway a Named made from literal god slaying, whose powers come from Summer which is anathema to half your power that comes from Winter, and to add insult to the injury is probably the person who knows the most about both gods AND Winter in the continent? Now I see why lesser deities don’t last that long in this world…

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Masego’s powers don’t come from Summer.
      He Name Transitioned from Apprentice to Heirophant after seeing Summer in action. And examining Winter Duchess Cat for extended periods, including the ice moon heart thingy the Winter King put into Cat’s chest.
      There’s a very important difference.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. > “I knew Winter well, before you fed on it,” Masego said, eyes burning with Summer flame,

        IIRC, his first Aspect was Witness Clearly it allows him to keep and reproduce some of what he has Witnessed, similar to Cat’s power-thievery. We haven’t really seen much of this side of it before, because he not only had his sorcery, but he was specifically following his fathers’ advice in not leaning on his Name too much.

        But now the sorcery is gone and his Name is what he’s got. Let’s see if he too makes Below reconsider their generosity…

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Daniel E

    Lost his sorcery in every meaningful way, but given his need for pedantry, that likely means not every literal way. Masego may yet have a few magical tricks left (probably Name shenanigans), and I am eager to see them.

    Liked by 2 people

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