Chapter 65: Convivial

“Note: while the assertion that one’s friends ‘are an anchor’ held up to examination, said individuals (either dead or alive) seem no more effective in that purpose than a stone anchor of the same weight. The popularity of the saying remains baffling.”
– Extract from the journal of Dread Emperor Malignant II

With seven expectant gazes remaining peeled on me, I was starting to feel a mite cornered. Just a mite, mind you. I’d gotten out of tighter corners than this through cunning use of diplomacy.

“I was,” I began, “perhaps less than correct.”

Without missing a beat the crowd began to boo me, and that vicious little wretch Robber even threw something at me over the fire. I didn’t quite manage to catch it but it slid into a fold of my cloak and I picked it up there. I blinked, finding a rather fancy glass eye looking back at me. Where had he even – no, I didn’t want to know. It had to be someone of stature, though, part of it was painted but there was also coloured glass and that’d expensive as all… No, if I asked then he won. I’d get Hakram to find out later. Still, I pocketed the eye without any qualms. He could make a tidy little sum from selling that, if he got around to it, so we’d just call this a… pre-emptive fine. Hells, maybe I could get General Abigail to believe I’d had one of those on the whole time.

“Do the apology, at least,” Aisha called out, too well-bred to grin but with suspiciously twitching lips.

I sighed.

“Archer,” I began, ignoring Indrani’s enthusiastic affirmation of ‘that’s me, you know’, “you peerless beauty whose approval I secretly crave, and that’s why I’m so mean to you-”

“That sounds about right,” Hakram gravely agreed.

The filthy traitor. I was surrounded by treachery of the worst tonight.

“- I retract any implication that you are incapable of abstract mathematics,” I valiantly soldiered on. “There. Finished.”

There was a heartbeat of silence. Masego, swaddled in a rather unnecessary amount of blankets, leaned towards Adjutant.

“Is it on purpose that she did not apologize at any point in that sentence?” Zeze asked.

Godsdamnit, now even Masego was getting in on it. The little shit absolutely did know that I’d done it on purpose, I pulled this on him all the – ah, and suddenly his sordid betrayal made a little more sense.

“Ask to be made a countess,” Juniper suggested to Indrani. “Even odds she’d take that over actually saying the word ‘apologize’.”

That was a lie. I wouldn’t go any further up the ladder than baroness to get out of this. Honorary, mind you, not landed. I shuddered to think of what Archer might get up to with regular tax revenue.

“I apologize all the time,” I protested.

I got a few skeptical looks in return.

“Here’s one for the road, then,” I sneered. “I’m sorry you’re all so thin-skinned you need apologies in the first place.”

Alas, the resuming of the loud booing was the herald of diplomacy’s failure. Sometimes, I sadly reflected, the other side simply wasn’t willing to take the very generous and reasonable terms you offered them. That was not on you, it was on them, I reminded myself. Robber once more tossed something at me, though this time I caught it – it was, to my surprise, another glass eye. Just as prettily made, although the heft was lighter and oh Night the iris was brown on this one instead of blue. And angled in the opposite direction, implying my Special Tribune might have murdered not one but two foreign highborn officers just so he could use their glass eye as toy. For once the actual specifics of something he’d done had managed to surprise me, though the spirit of the affair I was painfully familiar with. I pocketed it too, because the little bastard would have hit me with it on the chin if I hadn’t caught it. It was decided by a tribunal of the people that I would have last pick of a cut from the pig that was nearly done roasting, my threats to have them all tried for treason leaving the unruly mob indifferent. Truly, they had gone mad with power.

Juniper insisted on making the cuts herself when shed judged the meat properly roasted, ignoring Indrani’s protests that it should have another quarter hour of being turned with spices sprinkled on the searing fat. I sided with the Hellhound, half out of spite for Indrani knowing all about Stygian abstracts when she’d been raised in the middle of the damned woods and half because I rather did miss the taste of a pig roasted in the College way: mostly unseasoned, and still juicy the way orcs preferred meat to be if it couldn’t be bleeding outright. Adjutant squatted by the fire with plates while Robber was charged with bringing the communal plate of biryani. Aisha was, to my mild amusement, the first to receive a plate and by sheer coincidence got some of the choicest cuts. Masego requested belly meat and the Marshal of Callow allowed him a fat slice, which Robber claimed to be blatant favoritism, and as bickering exploded I reached for my pipe with a smothered smile. Indrani sidled up to me casually, leaning on my shoulder like a pest as I stuffed and lit a packet of wakeleaf.

“We’re missing some people,” Archer said.

Her tone wasn’t quiet, not exactly, but it was pitched not to carry.

“Vivienne will come when she’s done with the Jacks,” I said. “Whenever that happens to be.”

“Not who I meant,” she replied.

I craned back my neck just to glance at her. Indrani looked down at me, eyes serious, though face to face like this I felt the urge to kiss her. I set aside the impulse.

“Akua can’t really be here if Vivienne is,” I murmured. “And if she’s allowed to sit with us just until Vivienne arrives that’s worse than not being invited, I’d wager.”

Not the last because it made plain the tensions between my appointed successor and the monster I’d absurdly enough come to like – and more importantly, rely on. I could expect Akua to take such a situation with a degree of elegance, if not necessarily enthusiasm under the mask, but I doubted Vivienne would be so agreeable.

“I think they’d both surprise you,” Indrani said. “It’s personal, between them, but our little thief also knows a thing or two about sitting around a fire with people you were trying to kill not so long ago. Still, once more not who I was speaking of.”

Ah. Her. I lowered my head and breathed in through the shaft of my pipe, the acrid smoke filling my throat and my lungs. I let the taste and warmth of it stick with me, and only then breathed out a long stream. I should learn to do tricks, I decided. With the smoke.

“I bet Hakram’s been tiptoeing around it all careful-like,” she drawled. “Like he doesn’t want to needle tender skin. But you’re made of rougher stuff than that, aren’t you?”

Tiptoeing wasn’t the right way to put it. A perch had been offered, on occasion, and my refusal to grasp it had seen the matter implicitly closed without it ever being outright put into words.

“You’d know,” I murmured, not wagging my eyebrows but conveying the sentiment by voice. “Although it’s been a while, so maybe you forgot.”

“Godsdamn,” Archer whistled, sounding impressed. “You never get that racy where people might hear. You really don’t want to talk about it, do you?”

“There’s nothing to talk about,” I stiffly said. “She declined twice, I don’t see the need to keep inviting her.”

I wasn’t a bloody widower in desperate need of a second wife, in so dire a bind I’d buy a white stallion and learn to recite Valencian poetry just to impress. Cordial disregard suited me just fine, and to be honest it was probably safer for her. Enemies wouldn’t bother going after a love affair gone cold if trying to get to me, not when there were deeper and more obvious bindings in my life.

“You won’t even say her name,” Indrani grunted, undertone amused. “Yeah, you’re totally over how that went down. How dare I suggest otherwise.”

“Senior Mage Kilian can be fetched, if you require it so deeply,” I replied in a clipped tone. “If she declines, shall I have dragged in chains? She doesn’t fucking want to be here, Indrani.”

“It’s a bad habit, that thing you do,” Archer seriously said. “When if it’s not a blade at your throat, you let relationships stay ambiguous by doing nothing. Bet she might have changer her tune, if you’d let a few more months pass before asking again.”

“It’s been quite a bit longer than that,” I coldly said. “I won’t open up a casket just so you can sate your curiosity, ‘Drani.”

“Oh, that one’s probably cracked beyond mending,” she casually replied. “But it doesn’t have to be that way all around. Send for Akua. And make her stay, even when Vivienne joins.”

My eyes narrowed.

“You don’t give a shit about Kilian, do you?” I said. “You just wanted me to feel raw enough I’d agree to this.”

The ochre-skinned woman grinned, sharp and pale.

“Sure,” Indrani admitted. “But that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.”

We should have gotten her started on the liquor earlier, I darkly thought. Might have spared me all this. I turned to meet her gaze, unflinching, until our silence was interrupted by Hakram sliding a plate full of pork and biryani on my lap. He glanced at us, dark eyes missing nothing.

“Juniper cracked open a bottle of aragh,” Adjutant said. “Or do you two need to take a walk?”

“Nah,” Indrani smiled. “Aragh sounds good. We’re done here.”

She broke our stare first, strolling away nonchalantly, and Hakram cocked a hairless brow at me in her wake. Underestimating them both, was I? I doubted it, but beyond that assertion I saw a truth she’d not mentioned. If there was going to be strife, when would we next have so relatively safe a moment to handle it? Certainly not in Salia, or up north fighting the dead. Fuck. I really hated it when Indrani pulled the whole incisive insight thing on me, but now that I knew I was taking a greater risk by not handling this now I couldn’t really justify not doing it. Knowing Archer had manoeuvred me didn’t make it any less effective.

“Invite Akua up,” I sighed.

He cocked his head to the side.

“Ought to make for an interesting evening,” he simply said.

Adjutant moved away, boots crinkling against the icing snow, to tread downslope until he’d cross the wards and send one of the legionaries to pass the message along. Ah well, it wasn’t even guaranteed she’d come. I glanced down at my plate and frowned.

“Tenderloin?” I called out at Juniper. “Really, the tenderloin? I should have you hanged.”

I saw Indrani pout and flip Robber a silver as Aisha hid a smile behind her hand.

“Let me go halfsies with Aisha’s cuts,” I wheedled.

Robber cursed in Taghrebi and flipped back the silver to Indrani, who took an overly showy bow. No one seemed particularly inclined to consider my suggestion, the bastards.

“None of you are ever becoming a countess, mark my words,” I bitterly said, and dug into my pork.

Pickler passed me the bottle of aragh, though, so maybe at least one of them would make it to baroness.

My wakeleaf was half-finished by the time Akua glided her way through the raised stones of the Mavian prayer. She’d chosen a rather conservative appearance, by her standards: a high-waisted dress with a long ruffled skirt, in red and yellow touched by eldritch patterns of gold brocade. Given that it was long-sleeved and went up to the beginning of her neck, it was one of the tamer things I’d seen her wear. Still, it was well-fitted and on a woman who looked like Akua Sahelian did that was enough to draw a lingering second look. I puffed out a mouthful of smoke as she approached the fire, bowing slightly towards me as she came to warm hands that needed no warmth against the roaring fire. I nodded back, and both of us pretended not to notice every conversation had died the moment she arrived. I took a moment to study reactions – Indrani was pleased, Hakram pleasant and Masego… staring with fascination at her torso? Must have been an arcane pattern that interested him. Those I’d anticipated rather well, though, so it was the others that got me curious. Robber was grinning, one of those needle-filled offerings that meant amusement so sharp it might as well have been spite. Pickler was indifferent, though the way she’d shuffled on the bench implied surprise and maybe a little curiosity. Aisha had put on the highborn face, a mask of pleasantry so perfect if might as well have been made of marble. Her I wouldn’t get much out of unless I asked. Juniper’s face was disgruntled, and without any hint of the respect I’d expected an orc to bear for someone who’d faced more than half the armies of Praes and Callow on the field without flinching.

Robber would test her, then, which I wasn’t all that worried about. Juniper, though? Contempt might be more dangerous there than antipathy and I suspected that was the way she was leaning.

“Spooky Saddie, sit your ass down,” Archer called out. “You’re not fooling anyone with the warming hands thing, you’re a damned ghost.”

“How have you not run out of those by now?” I said, reluctantly impressed. “Also, shade. Shade is the word you were looking for.”

“What can I say,” Indrani mused, blitherly ignoring my correction, “I’m just a giver at heart.”

“She has a list,” Akua slyly said. “She keeps it in her arrow-bag and her next one is Revenant Rags.”

Archer spluttered out it was lie, Robber cackled loudly before swearing to steal it and just like that the spell of silence was broken. Conversations resumed. Wasteland highborn, huh. I suspected she’d be on decent terms with half the people here before the night was out. She had a knack for charming others, even those who should know better. I let the warm chatter wash over me as I leaned back into my seat and smoked my pipe, following the threads of two different conversations at the same time. Juniper and Pickler had dragged a highly amused Indrani into a debate about whether or not her bow, due to its ridiculous size and the way her arrows were closer to javelins, was still a bow or in fact an exotic siege weapon. Pickler’s insistence that it was a derivative of a ballista by any reasonable set of principles ran into Juniper’s flat reminder that ‘she draws the string, with her arm, because it’s a bow’, while Archer’s insistence that while she was a trebuchet in the sack she was also handy with a string did absolutely nothing to help.

Robber was spinning an elaborate yarn about smuggling an ass – a donkey, not the other kind – in a cadet-captain’s room back his War College days for the benefit of a seemingly amused Akua, with the occasional dry correction by Hakram. Masego and Aisha, significantly more sober than most people around this fire, were discussing whether the old Alamans legends about the morions, barrow and underground-dwelling creatures that had a rapacious hunger for gold, silver and jewels, were an extinct people or simply dwarf-sightings made legend by the passing of time. It seemed the subject was of particular interest to Aisha, because I was bestowed the rare sight of Hierophant knowing visibly less about a subject than his interlocutor. As the one of the few people here who’d actually seen and spoken with dwarves I contributed a few details, though mostly I enjoyed the sensation of closest thing to home I’d felt in a very long time. Still, I was not so much at ease I’d not kept an eye and ear on where the first knife would come from. And as expected, two yarns later Robber turned a sharp grin and sharper words on Akua.

“Mind you, the fun didn’t end when we left Ater,” he drawled. “There was this one time – this was when you were still Governess in Laure, before we murdered your every ally and broke everything you ever strove for – when the Boss sent me south to kill your buddies as they moved west. Would have kept it up for even longer, except I was torturing this guy named Mulin who claimed to be under your protection and-”

Akua’s brow rose.

“Mulin,” she said. “Would you happen to mean Mulade Humin, by any chance?”

“Friend of yours?” Robber grinned.

“No, but the Lady of Salizan sent a cart’s worth of gold ingots with him,” Akua mused. “Never did get these. He was the heir to the holdings, so his mother was rather cross, but I did wonder what had happened to him.”

“Borer slit his throat,” the goblin said. “And I’m not saying we ate him, but Hells we were low on rations and if it’s Wasteland highborn anything goes, right?”

He was, I thought, looking to shock her. To get a reaction out of her. But then Robber had known little of the Empire’s high nobility, save when standing against them on a battlefield. As a student in the War College, he would have been considered under the protection of my father back in the day – who was known to brutally murder any highborn meddling with the College, and quite publicly at that. He believedt he knew what Akua Sahelian would be like, I thought, but he rather didn’t.

“Was he a screamer?” she asked.

Robber blinked.

“When you tortured him,” Akua clarified, “was he a screamer? Because there’s been these persistent rumours about the Humin-”

“Oh, come off it,” Aisha interrupted. “Even if spice birds did exist, which no one has ever proved-”

“There’s Miezan records, Bishara,” Akua solemnly said.

“By Calavia,” the Taghreb replied, sounding deeply offended. “The same hack who wrote about giant crabs living in the Wasaliti and insisted the Blessed Isle was a nest for crocodiles that spoke riddles in High Tyrian. She wrote to entertain patricians in Mieza, not as true historian.”

“I can’t comment on Calavia’s accuracy in all things,” Akua said, “yet I once shared a table with Mulade Humin when we were nine, and by the noises he made when I ate the last spice cookies you’d think I ate his firstborn using only forks.”

“Is it me, or is it kind of titillating when those two argue about things?” Indrani pensively asked.

Godsdamnit, Archer. If you’re going to say things like that, at least say something I don’t kind of agree with deep down. So both of them were rather good looking, and them getting heated over debate was a good look. It wasn’t my fault I had eyes! Still, best not to say that. Akua hardly needed the encouragement and trying to get Aisha into bed had terrible idea written all over for all sorts of reasons. I set aside the distracting though but focusing on more practical matters. The more the two of them spoke, I saw, the more out of his depth Robber looked. I sympathized, but then trying to take the shade on in courtly games like this was not the wisest choice he’d ever made. I’d seen few people outright chew through Akua when it came to this, Vivienne most vividly coming to mind. Even Black’s attempt to humiliate and terrorize her into doing something unwise by making her nail her own hand to a table had not borne the fruit he’d wanted it to, back in the day, and Akua in those years had been nowhere as smooth as she now was. Without having ever drawn blood as he meant to Robber was turned aside, and the conversations moved on. When lively debate over the kind of riddles in High Tyrian a talking crocodile might have feasibly asked – Archer, the filthy show off, started quoting riddles from ‘Tyrant and the Fool’ in the play’s original tradertalk, a tongue that had common Baalite roots – I found Aisha elegantly sitting at my side.

“My queen,” Staff Tribune Aisha Bishara said.

“I thought I’d trained you out of that,” I sighed.

‘’It’s been some time,” she smiled. “And this is a serious enough affair.”

My brow rose, and I decided to pass the last of the aragh to a distracted Hakram instead of drinking it.

“I’m listening,” I said.

Aisha’s lips thinned, then she leaned forward and lowered her voice.

“Do you mean,” she softly asked, “for Akua Sahelian to be Dread Empress of Praes?”

177 thoughts on “Chapter 65: Convivial

    1. Ebert of Alamans, scholar errant

      In fact, the greatest point of scholarly contention regarding the riddling saurians of the Blessed Isle is not whether they exist, but whether they are taxinomically crocodiles at all or (as in this writer’s opinion), more properly identified as alligators.

      Liked by 8 people

    1. stevenneiman

      There seems to be a running theme about people being ruined when they trust someone to have better judgement than them in certain cases, and then ignore that person for a critical decision. It happened to Cat when she tried to rush her third Aspect and lost a piece of her soul instead, it happened to Malicia when she decided that she knew how to deal with narrative threats and tried to work around Black to perform her screwup, it happened to Laurence when she decided that she knew better than the guy who can see the future and read minds whether Indrani was trustworthy, and it’s almost happened to Sve Noc several times but Cat has been able to talk them out of it.
      On the other hand, Cat didn’t bring Black in for his advice on this subject, and redemption is about as far from his area of expertise as a narrative concern can get. I genuinely do think that Cat knows what she’s doing here better than Black does.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. NerfContessa

        It’s been a while since I expected it to go that direction, and I never thought the impetuous for it would be cats.
        But then qkua seemed to jump the redemption train, and even switching to good of all things, and… Well…

        Like

  1. Andrew Mitchell

    I enjoyed the banter. It’s good to have the band back together.

    I don’t think Vivienne is going to like Akua being here. I think she might ask Catherine to renew her vow to kill Akua and Catherine may not be able to say that any more.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. I think Vivienne is more smooth than that, Catherine’s point about her being one of very few people to ever slaughter Akua in an argument comes to mind. She’ll thoroughly scout Catherine’s actual feelings on the matter before going straight to that point IMHO.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. Insanenoodlyguy

    New crack theory. Dread Emperor Benevolent is not Black after all. Its Akua wearing a crappy moustache Robber made for her. See, Akua gets cursed to never be empress, so she rides out an irritant-tier loophole to get the throne.

    Liked by 23 people

  3. Insanenoodlyguy

    I mean, it does free Black up to go teach at Cardinal. He gets to thwart Bard by being part of destroying the status quo, weilding a very new kind of power with his new name of Principal.

    Liked by 10 people

  4. IDKWhoitis

    Currently imagining Viv throwing a fit if she was in earshot of that last line. I mean, its probably the next chapter, but still. It bound to be a fun one.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Sparsebeard

      … or not enough, I think that rumenarumenarumena would fit right in with all the insuburdination being thrown around, I’m sure he too, can do abstract mathematics.

      Liked by 14 people

      1. I’m pretty sure Rumena would consider spending time with Catherine in a social context to be beneath his dignity. Or its dignity? I can’t remember if Rumena predates the drow-don’t-do-genders thing like the Sisters do; obviously Rumena has the age to, I just don’t recall if that preference has actually been expressed.

        Liked by 3 people

  5. breakingamber

    Tipos!

    “Bet she might have changer [changed] her tune, if you’d let a few more months pass before asking again.”

    He believedt [believed] he knew what Akua Sahelian would be like, I thought, but he rather didn’t.

    I sympathized, but then [again] trying to take the shade on in courtly games like this was not the wisest choice he’d ever made.

    Also, can we get some love for the tvtropes page?

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/APracticalGuideToEvil

    Liked by 5 people

        1. Though I don’t think Black will ever suffer a pretence like naming himself Benevolent, that is just not him, in any way, it was discussed that comments from future can and had been used as epigraphs, and besides, first ever epigraph with Benevolent calls him Benevolent the First, which implies that there would be the second. Because they don’t call Sorcerous the First.

          Liked by 1 person

            1. hakureireimu

              The “up to today” part is totally your supposition.

              1. How do you know Benevolent is historical? Because there’s no future Dread Emperor epigraphs.
              2. How do you know there’s no future Dread Emperor epigraphs, and Benevolent is not a counter-example? Because Benevolent is historical.

              Liked by 3 people

              1. This is not how my logic goes.

                How do I know Benevolent is historical? Because it was implied by the format in context. Why do I think it was implied by the format? Because it was used for worldbuilding, and it would be a shitty twist if it were shown otherwise.

                Liked by 1 person

              2. It’s my supposition in the way that ‘Amadeus wears pants not a kilt at all times’ is my supposition. Some things are always assumed from context.

                Benevolent was part of a characterization of pre-Amadeus Praes – eager to grab onto the Good tropes when the Dread Emperor was savvy enough (fucking… Malignant from this epigraph ;u; ) but without it actually changing anything in the long run, because it never went beyond a single ruler’s gimmick.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. hakureireimu

                  Why do I think it was implied by the format? Because it was used for worldbuilding,

                  Benevolent was part of a characterization of pre-Amadeus Praes

                  So now you’re making the assumption that it’s worldbuilding of pre-Amadeus Praes. The only thing an epigraph needs to do is to be related to the chapter’s theme. Everything else are assumptions.

                  We already know that Cat wants Amadeus to climb the tower, and she’s the protagonist. It’ll be interesting to know how much evidence is needed for you to abandon your view.

                  Liked by 3 people

                  1. >So now you’re making the assumption that it’s worldbuilding of pre-Amadeus Praes.

                    Yes. I’m making this assumption. I believe that it is an entirely natural assumption and an intended reading. It enhances my understanding of the story to consider Benevolent a past Dread Emperor, as it shows the full spectrum of what Praes has been in the past without it actually helping long term.

                    >It’ll be interesting to know how much evidence is needed for you to abandon your view.

                    Having his ruling name confirmed as Benevolent the First. That would do it.

                    I am not sure that Amadeus will become Dread Emperor – I think there’s plenty of factors pushing against it – but I’m not sure that he won’t. My assertion is that he will not become Dread Emperor Benevolent I specifically.

                    Or having characters in-universe discuss how no single Dread Emperor before has ever used Good tropes to their advantage, which I expect even less than that one above.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. Shveiran

                      So long as we are all in agreement that there is no solid evidence – only opinions – on the Benevolent matter, for both sides of the argument, I think we are golden.

                      I too have a strong belief on the subject; yet so long as we are able to acknowledge these ideas as opinion-based, I’d say we can discuss them serenely and have fun doing so.

                      Liked by 1 person

    1. breakingamber

      And angled in the opposite direction, implying my Special Tribune might have murdered not one but two foreign highborn officers just so he could use their glass eye [eyes] as toy [toys].

      Robber once more tossed something at me, though this time I caught it – it was, to my surprise, another glass eye. (another should be italicized, not glass)

      Liked by 4 people

      1. The joke here is that Catherine is not surprised it’s another eye, she’s surprised it’s once again glass.

        And the first one refers to her assumption that both of them had only ONE glass eye each.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Cthulhu

          I’m utterly lost. This seems to come out of nowhere.

          Why the fuck would an undead servitor bound to Cats mantle as a slave after unleashing demons be placed in power over an empire using demons as door wardens? What, she got better?

          This is taking a deposed Napoleon from Elba and asking him to run Germany just for the hell of it.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. KageLupus

            There is a very real chance that Aisha just isn’t as aware of the Liesse Accords and all of the plans that Cat has for them, including her new Named-training Academy. Lacking that information it isn’t too unreasonable for her to jump to the wrong conclusion. Cat drags Akua out of the cloak and slowly integrates her into the Woe. Now she is bringing Akua along to what is obviously a gathering of the core group, which tacitly implies that Cat wants Akua to be accepted into that core group.

            There has to be a reason for that, and from what Aisha knows about Cat plans making Akua into a trusted ally in Praes is at least possible. She isn’t even that far off that mark, since we all think that Cat wants Akua to be Headmistress of her school. Given how much influence Black thinks the school is going to have Akua being Headmistress is really more of a lateral promotion compared to Dread Empress.

            And if I had to guess, I would bet that the next chapter has Aisha explaining all of the reasons why she thinks Akua would make for a bad choice for Dread Empress. Just because she brought it up as a possibility to Cat doesn’t mean she agrees with the choice. She could just as easily be making sure Cat isn’t about to make a huge mistake.

            Liked by 5 people

            1. >since we all think that Cat wants Akua to be Headmistress of her school

              …no? You’re mistaking fanon for canon. It’s a common joke that Akua would, but Catherine has no such plan.

              >And if I had to guess, I would bet that the next chapter has Aisha explaining all of the reasons why she thinks Akua would make for a bad choice for Dread Empress. Just because she brought it up as a possibility to Cat doesn’t mean she agrees with the choice. She could just as easily be making sure Cat isn’t about to make a huge mistake.

              That’s my reading, yeah.

              IMHO the greatest role this plays is the reminder that this is what Catherine having Akua around looks like to all Praesi who arent deeply in the know period.

              Liked by 3 people

    1. Shveiran

      Let’s hope. Redeeming her is one thing, trusting her with power over a country – and Praes of all countries – sounds like all kinds of Bad Ideas.
      You don’t trust a recovering alcoholic to guard a brewery, for Above’s sake.

      Liked by 9 people

  6. erebus42

    Now isn’t that an interesting question. While Black certainly has the iron will and the capacity to break his adversaries in the wasteland and subjugate Praes I am a bit skeptical of how he’d be as a statesman. There’s certainly a difference in running a military and running an effective government. Akua does have the flexibility and subtlety Black lacks, however it can’t be overlooked that she’s Akua mother-fucking Sahelian so…there is that. It also can’t be overlooked that she has something that Black sorely lacks; the power of godsdamn Friendship!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. ninegardens

      Wait…. *BLACK* lacks the power of friendship? This is the man who’s team mates would tear apart frickin’ creation in order to retrieve him. I get that the Calamaties are mostly dead now :(, but the fact that Black has lost people doesn’t remove the fact that he has some INCREDIBLY loyal friends, unlike say…. Akua.

      …. or maybe you were just being humorous about some of Akua’s past lines and I shouldn’t take shit so seriously…..
      nevermind.

      Liked by 11 people

      1. erebus42

        I was mostly referencing that line as a joke. However it should be noted that with the deaths of Sabah, Wekesa, Ranker, and with the imminent falling out between him and Malicia his list of friends is rapidly getting smaller.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. Black has a few incredibly loyal friends, basically the Woe — and they’d half scattered even before they started to get killed off. He doesn’t pick up new friends as he goes around like Cat does, much less win over enemies to his side. I mean, recruiting a borderline hero like Viv was one thing, but turning around the effing Peregrine? That’s “Heart is a badass power after all”.

        Liked by 4 people

    2. >There’s certainly a difference in running a military and running an effective government.

      My analysis of Black is that he is far more a statesman than a politician. Sure, he’s a general as well, but generally setting up effective governing is his hobby horse. Remember the orphanage system? Remember his dreams of public education, brought up agains and again recently? Amadeus does military, sure, but he does far more than that.

      >It also can’t be overlooked that she has something that Black sorely lacks; the power of godsdamn Friendship!

      Well this is just a punchline, considering the Empire has been held together for 40 years by the power of Black’s friendships.

      Liked by 7 people

        1. He doesn’t see them as an expendable resource any more than Cordelia does, with her levies and all. In fact he goes pretty damn above and beyond for the setting, making an effort to preserve lives of rebel levies. Amadeus sees people as far less expendable than Alaya does,

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Amadeus does not even see people as people. They are all basically gears. Tools. It is clearly stated in the series no less, it is the way he treats everyone, even if he loves them too. Or at least that was the way of a Black Knight, but Amadeus being an unknown quantity does not necesserialy inspire confidence. The point is, it’s what Malicia said, and the reason he actually did not became an Emperor in the first place. Even he understands that. He is an enforcer, an overseer, an advisor, but not a ruler.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Shveiran

              You are confusing “doesn’t feel empathy for” with “is uncaring about the well-being of”, IMO.

              Black considers everything an expendable resource, yes. However, what does he spends them for? The well-being of his country.
              He is ruthless. And he has his own opinion about what that “well-being” is, granted.

              But… well, what we are defining here is pretty much a king. That’s what a king does.
              A monarch doesn’t care, that his countrymen disagree: his vision for the kingdom is the kingdom’s future. A monarch expends his resources to achieve those goals; any country that has a standing army is expending soldiers’ lives to gain security; any country with laws is expending part of the people’s freedom to gain stability and order; any country with taxes is expending part of its people riches to fund the various projects that would be impossible for singular individuals.

              His vision is more extreme than most, but what it is a more extreme version of is the vision of a ruler.
              I really don’t see how the rest of the ruling class in the Guide is any different. Some may be less BLUNT about it, but bedside manners doesn’t strike me as a meaningful distinction in this field.

              Liked by 3 people

              1. In short, because it is a blunder and a blind spot. It is the same reason why chess is not a good metaphor for war: you chess pieces would not always follow you. If you think your people to be a resource, and your kingdom to be the final goal of ruling, you will end up with the empire of ghosts. My point about Socialist Russia. Maybe you can say that spending lives like sand to achieve rapid industrialization is a good thing for a country as a whole.

                About you saying that other rulers are no better. That is true. And his honesty is somehow encharming, but I did not see his plans for long term Praes. He is proved to be a little to hatsh and brutal and did you read my comment about what Malicia said? I literally don’t know what are his plans besides “take all power from nobles, kill nobles” in various forms, be it lands or magic.

                He is a butcher and enforcer. Leader, organizator, and if it was Civilization 5 I would pick him as a ruler.

                I will say this: in the end, he is probably one of the better candidatures for ruling. But I don’t think that is what he wants to do. First of all, I don’t know nearly enough about Amadeus, but if we’re talking BK, he wanted to “win”, which is a goal, while ruling is a process. He can do reforms, however or turn Praes into a war camp for a pissing match with Heaven, but I don’t see him ruling.

                You said that rest of the ruling class is any different. I disagree. Save for Liesse, Malicia is much more different, which is even aknowledge by Amadeus himself, hence him serving her. Cordelia is different, and GP is different too.

                I will sound idealistic, but the big difference, is that unlike Black, they see that nation IS people, it is not something separate from them. And if you think people are a tools, they can’t be an endgoal. Which is a problem, as I feel it.

                This whole thing is really messed, and I did not express myself clearly. I agree that he has good qualitites for a king. But I think that they should be counterweighted by an actual compassion. As you said in the other comment, golden middle is better than extremes. And Black is an extreme.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. >In short, because it is a blunder and a blind spot. It is the same reason why chess is not a good metaphor for war: you chess pieces would not always follow you. If you think your people to be a resource, and your kingdom to be the final goal of ruling, you will end up with the empire of ghosts.

                  That’s really not something Amadeus is in danger of. He’s willing to sacrifice everything about Praes that isn’t its population, for the sake of said population. What you’re saying here is far more closely applicable to Alaya.

                  >but if we’re talking BK, he wanted to “win”, which is a goal

                  It’s not. It’s a way of saying “he wanted to achieve his goal”. I mean he didn’t want a nominal victory, considering how sarcastic he was about them wanting Callow’s crown, and considering how willing the was to have Cat kill him and take over. He wanted something defined as “win” in the sense of “this is what he wants”.

                  Look at what exactly it is that’s his win condition.

                  (Malicia’s ‘secure a camp for your pissing match with Heavens’ is not exactly good analysis, and comes from her equating Praesi highborn with Praes period, and what they want with what ‘Praes’ wants in that conversation)

                  >I agree that he has good qualitites for a king. But I think that they should be counterweighted by an actual compassion.

                  Amadeus “south won’t recover from this for decades” “Wekesa would eat every child in Callow if it allowed him to focus on his research” “we’ve grown so enamoured with bleeding our own we have sayings about it” “there is no inherent blemish in any of these people” “a government is meant to function, or there’s no point in its existence at all” doesn’t have sufficient counterweights? Are you sure?

                  Liked by 2 people

            2. >Amadeus does not even see people as people. They are all basically gears. Tools. It is clearly stated in the series no less, it is the way he treats everyone, even if he loves them too.

              I am reading it the other way around – even when he treats people like gears in a mechanism, he still sees them as people. Remembering the face of that one guy who held the gates in Laure for longest 20 fucking years ago? Seeing actual enemies you are currently leading an army against as people instead of a faceless mass?

              Sure, this doesn’t stop him from making ruthless decisions for the good of all. But it’s ‘for the good of all’ that’s the key part. Amadeus’s definition of ‘successful Praes’ is Praes that does not bleed people. His population is, to him, the opposite of expendable.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. “Remembering the face of that one guy who held the gates in Laure for longest 20 fucking years ago? Seeing actual enemies you are currently leading an army against as people instead of a faceless mass?”

                I think it is more the part of “being graceful in your victory” philosophy part of things. Also the fact that this is more effective way of acting. Affably evil people tend to acquire more cooperation from others. I see him “noting that one guy” because he found gim exceptional -> useful. So he put a note in his mind against his face. Again. don’t really know which one of us is right. Just shared my interpretation.

                “Amadeus’s definition of ‘successful Praes’ is Praes that does not bleed people. His population is, to him, the opposite of expendable.”

                Not exactly. As far as I understand it, his logic went as thus: way we can’t win a war against Callow for nigh a thosand year? Cause our leadership sucks most of the time. Why does our leadership sucks? Because our system is bullshit. Why is our system is bullshit? Because it serves a function of ensuring the ability to wage constant wars and sustaining stability of the realm through constant warmongering. Why does it need to do constant warmongering? Cause otherwise people will fucking starve. Also because narrative bullshit and if Praes was to be reformed, there would be no “Evil Empire” throwing aroung thousands of disposable minions for Heroes to dispose. And Gods don’t want that.

                So all the reforms, dealing with starvation issue, are the means in the end. And the goal is something I would not want my ruler to have: just stick it to the Heavens and win.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. >I think it is more the part of “being graceful in your victory” philosophy part of things.

                  There is a difference between holding a philosophy and being actually able to remember a guy’s face after 20 years. The latter requires seeing them as a person and caring to some degree, otherwise it’s simply not how memory works.

                  >So all the reforms, dealing with starvation issue, are the means in the end. And the goal is something I would not want my ruler to have: just stick it to the Heavens and win.

                  Ah Yes That

                  https://www.reddit.com/r/PracticalGuideToEvil/comments/arcq4a/amadeus_the_madman_a_skeptical_analysis_of_the/

                  …let’s discuss 😀

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. “otherwise it’s simply not how memory works.”

                    Even Named memory?

                    “…let’s discuss”

                    While I thank you for an interesting read, I am not ready to partake of a community so refined such as reddit. Some other day, perhaps. But I glimpsed that you got there even more interesting conversation that I got in comments.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. (I mean we can discuss here too)

                      Named qualities are an exaggeration of what they already are. What is it about Amadeus’s Role that would grant him a supernaturally perfect memory for faces of people he’d been killing? 😀

                      Like

      1. erebus42

        I was mainly referencing Akua’s previous line about it as a joke. Though like I said in the other response, his list of friends grows smaller and smaller as the story goes on.

        Liked by 2 people

      1. Revisited in a riveting way no less.

        – Hey people, remember Killian?
        – Yes! Yes! Goddamit, yes! I’ve been waiting for so long! Finally! Yay!
        – Good to see you remember her. Now onto the other things.

        Liked by 4 people

  7. Anfer

    I’m eagerly awaiting Cat’s ultimate, final response. Not necessarily to this exact question, but to the whole Akua situation in general. We’ve see the gradual progression. The visible antipathy that has slowly turned into grudging camaraderie. The blooming friendship borne of enmity and understanding.

    I feel like I can make a rough guess as to the future, even.

    Cat will be genial, friendly and kind. She’ll laugh at Akua’s jokes. She’ll smile and genuinely enjoy her company. They’ll go on adventures together. Akua will worm her way into everyones hearts as she’s wont to do.

    And then when all is said and done, when the final enemy is defeated, when Cat is free of her responsibilities, when the Woe can finally rest…

    She’ll walk up to Akua and, still smiling, tear her into tiny, screaming shreds.

    Cat made an oath you see.

    She smiles. She laughs and she jokes. But down deep, she’s Callowan.

    She hasn’t forgotten. She hasn’t forgiven.

    And she never will.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. First: there is always a choice between woman’s wants and queen’s demands.
      Second: this whole “never forgive” thing is flaw, not a bloody virtue, as much as being, well, a Praesi is a flaw, for all that it is geralded as a virtue. Cat stated repeatedly that Praes needs to change, but Callow must be changed with it. To let go of the past, and let go of the old grudges. And do the unthinkable, something Cat, until very recently, had BIG troubles with:

      Trust.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. HHenryY

        Of course its a flaw. In a totally rational world, optimisation, reconciliation and forgiveness would be the way to go.

        The whole point of a grudge is that it’s an irrational hatred based on a previous slight.

        Cat likes Akua now. Akua has worked her charm on the group for months. They mostly like her too.

        That doesn’t change the fact that Akua murdered more people than you’ve ever met in one massive, fell swoop. People Cat was directly in charge of protecting.

        Who she then swore a VERY serious oath to avenge.

        It is VERY interesting though, to see the changing mental views. As Akua worms her way into the friendship of the group, she’s also worming her way into the hearts of the readers. She’s that good.

        I like her too.

        People just after the act were screaming for her blood. Now, a few dozen chapters down the line when she’d had time to make a few quips, show off her sense of humour and do a few good deeds, suddenly everyone is like ‘she’d make a great empress of praes’ and ‘she could be a way for Cat to finally get over her holding of grudges and grow as a person’. Just funny is all.

        This is an evil psychopathic mass murderer who’s entire schtick is manipulation. And yet, readers can’t help but forget that because she’s funny.

        I just don’t think Cat has.

        Also, woman’s wants and queens demands? The woman WANTS to forgive Akua. She likes her. She grins are her jokes, she constantly comments at how Akua is becoming a familiar, reliable, useful and enjoyable presence.

        The Queen needs to kill her, because this is the woman who murdered a significant fraction of the entire population of the country that she rules, for no other reason than because she felt like it. Make use of her, fine. But she can’t get away with that. In the end, there will be a reckoning. I’ll be sad, because I like Akua. She’s wormed her way into my heart too.

        But she aint getting away.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Insanenoodlyguy

      Nah. I mean I can absolutely see a world where cat destroys her when it’s all over, but I don’t think she’ll be smiling about it at this point

      Liked by 5 people

    1. parahacker

      Even the trickle of notifications I get in my inbox from likes and responses to comments leaves me in awe of the volume someone like, say, the author receives. Filters would become not merely prudent, but a lifestyle. Whooo boy.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Cat wants a Dread Empress/Emperor who can be trusted to act with restraint. The Doom of Liesse does not meet that criteria. Give her the reins and she’ll be building flying fortresses and doomsday weapons.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. ninegardens

        I get the feeling that would end very badly, because
        A) “Monster on a chain” is a trope that Cat knows she can’t afford to lean on.
        B) To the extent she actually USES that chain, she is violating the spirit of the accords and set Praes up to fail the moment Cat is out of the picture. Her goal is to establish a functioning government, not make herself a weight bearing boss.

        Liked by 6 people

    1. Trebar

      Uh… Eudokia is already female so I don’t know why her being Aisha would require drag. Aisha is one of the older characters in the books; she was part of the original party back in the war college and one of Juniper’s most trusted friends and associates.

      Liked by 5 people

    2. Um. No.
      First, Scribe and Aisha are both women, so even if one were disguising themself as the other, neither would be in drag.
      Second, Scribe is nowhere near the Army of Callow/Legions – if she were, she’d have made contact with Amadeus.

      Third, and more importantly, Aisha Bishara was captain of one of the other companies (Wolf?) when Cat was at the War College, and was one of the original members of the Fifteenth. In fact, Aisha was specifically requested by Juniper. Also, Aisha was Ratface’s ex.
      Fourth, there’s an extra chapter from the early days of the Fifteenth where somebody tried to kill Hakram in the streets of Ater, Aisha is present and involved in the process – at the end of said chapter, Scribe shows up and comments that Assassin still be in a mood when she tells him that he missed some of the assassin/murder cult during his purges of such people that was just used against Hakram.

      Liked by 5 people

    3. As others have noted, Scribe is confirmed a different person. Assassin is a shapechanger, but imitating someone Cat knows so well at close range seems risky. One possible wrinkle could be an implanted command from Malicia’s Rule aspect.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Shveiran

        It could, yes. But honestly, EVERYTHING could be an implanted command. That aspect is fucking scary.
        My point being, If we start to think that way we might as well run in circles.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s been a lot of years since their break up. And as any break up, it does not leave everything smooth and perfect afterwards. Maybe it’s just me, but people who remain great friends after a break up, either didn’t really broke up, or didn’t really loved each other in the first place. It is bitter and weird, and best left in the past.

      Liked by 3 people

        1. I am not sure about that. From the actual break up to Aqua’s Folly, ’bout a month at least, from Folly to Crusade a year, a Crusade for a couple of months, than Keter, than drow, actually yeah, at least it’s a year and a half, but I feel like it’s been more than that.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. >From the actual break up to Aqua’s Folly, ’bout a month at least

            You mean ‘the evening before’.

            And as far as timeline goes, I’ve actually tracked it:

            https://www.reddit.com/r/PracticalGuideToEvil/comments/bsz8b6/pgte_timeline_cat_just_turned_20_at_most/

            …and right now is either late winter or early spring (snow was mentioned in Hearing).

            Ok, so if you count the breakup from Cat’s return from Winter and not from the final conversation pre-Second Liesse, it’s been nearly two years. Not two years yet, though.

            >I feel like it’s been more than that

            Welcome to Cat’s Very Eventful Life… and erratic periodically dropping stuff like “I’ve been trying to get into Grand Alliance for years” where it does not even try to make sense with the timeline -_-

            Liked by 1 person

        1. Shveiran

          Personally, I’m glad she didn’t. I never felt like she and Cat had any great chemistry (with the exception of the post-demon-dream-surgery scene in Marhford, admittedly) and the scene is already so damn crowded… it doesn’t feel like she has much to contribute, honestly, ritual or no. The story moved on, and it did so without her.

          Liked by 3 people

            1. Shveiran

              It could be EE was struggling to make it more meaningful a relationship, it could be it was always meant not to be too deep and portray a teenager’s infatuation, Cat seeking something simple and rewarding while pressed on all other fronts.
              Honestly…. by this point in the story? I feel like I’d be happier believing the second and focusing on the rest of this amazing world and characters.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. There wasn’t enough characterization for Killian regardless of if it was on purpose. I agree EE likely did mean to make it a shallow relationship, but we the audience got less about Killian than Cat did offscreen.

                Liked by 1 person

  9. Soronel Haetir

    I especially don’t get the question given the way Cat needed to be browbeaten into even having Akua there, though I suppose Aisha might not have realized that.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. ninegardens

      I mean… aside from the fact that Alaya spent her entire life trying to re-write the rules of the game (slowly), while Akua’s great dream was to become one of the “Great villians” of history- to be remembered.

      Alaya will be perfectly happy to be forgotten, nothing but a side note in history… as long as the plan WORKS.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. > Alaya will be perfectly happy to be forgotten, nothing but a side note in history… as long as the plan WORKS.

        Would she, though? That’s certainly Amadeus, without a doubt. But the whole denouement of Book III rested on the fact that Amadeus’ outlook isn’t as compatible/similar to Alaya’s as he had always believed – and, it seemed, as perhaps she had believed as well. I don’t think we have enough information to say for sure either way yet, but it’s definitely believable to me that they’re pretty different on this score as well.

        In fact, my take on the pair of them at this point (esp after Seed II) is that Amadeus is essentially seeking a New Praes while Alaya was always seeking Old Praes, But Better. This made their aims very compatible for a while since it means they both wanted/needed major reforms given how messed-up Praes has almost always been historically. But if I’m right about their motives, there was always going to be a point where Amadeus was going to want to keep going and Alaya would be ready to stop, or at least diverge in aim. And I think Book III might have been that point.

        Liked by 6 people

        1. ninegardens

          See, I read it more as them both wanting to re-write the empire, its just that he wanted to burn it down and build from the ashes (Somewhat like Saint, to be honest), while she argued for incremental change.

          Alaya allowed the construction of the deathstar, not for the sake of being remembered, but because she simply didn’t believe Black’s plan would work. This may have been stupid, immoral and unwise, but fundamentally, this wasn’t about being remembered: she was totally happy letting Akua have all the credit, as long as afterwards she had the lever that she believed would prevent war (however misguided this belief was).

          Alaya runs on desperation, Akua runs on Splendor.
          Alaya prefers caution and subtlety, Akua prefers theater, raw power, and to show off her talents.

          They might on occasion use similar tools, but fundamentally, there reasons for using these tools are very very different.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. Shveiran

            I agree, Alaya isn’t very similar to Aqua.

            However, I think the Empress wants and needs control. She wants to be in charge, to feel like no one has control over her life, and thus she isn’t a martyr. She went after reforms and change because she knew things couldn’t go on like they did; she embraced change because she knew those paths led to failure. She isn’t after anything specific, just making her country better and keeping in charge of it.
            I don’t think she has an “end goal”, per se.

            Liked by 3 people

            1. > I think the Empress wants and needs control. She wants to be in charge, to feel like no one has control over her life

              I think this is a very accurate take on Alaya. If Amadeus’ original underlying motivation was witnessing failure, then Alaya’s was feeling powerlessness. And that has significant implications for what she wants and is willing to do.

              Liked by 1 person

          2. I agree that allowing/deliberately inducing the creation of the Fantasy Deathstar wasn’t itself about being remembered; it was more of an example of how despite Alaya and Amadeus being allied for a long time and being personally close it would be a mistake to assume that because something is true of one it can be automatically taken as evidence that the same is true for the other. And then relating that to the fact that I don’t think that we’ve seen any direct evidence that Alaya doesn’t care about being remembered, so since it can’t be reliably inferred she would feel that way just because Amadeus does we just don’t have evidence to directly suggest that is the case.

            Alaya and Akua definitely aren’t the same, either. But tbf, the original claim (which I found interesting to consider though I’m not certain I agree) was that Akua was to Alaya what Catherine is to Black. And Catherine definitely, palpably, is not the same as Black, so Akua not being the same as Alaya doesn’t inherently invalidate that thesis. I do believe that Alaya wants something more like a reformed/improved version of Old Praes, and that actually is what Akua wanted as well, in her own way. The difference between Amadeus/Catherine and Alaya/Akua to me is that Catherine is a *successful* evolution of Amadeus’ philosophy while Akua, well, succumbed to Folly.

            Liked by 2 people

          1. Lets see, at this point she’s stuck by Cat through the Everdark, including defending her in the confrontation/interrogation by Sve Noc. She handled the backup miracle for the Battle of the Camps, and putting Black together while Cat was still in Twilight. How much proof is needed? (Yes, that’s pretty much a universal question for redemption, and it comes into play here.)

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Yes, we need no more proof that Akua is going through a redemption arc.

              I’ll consider it complete where I can assume that in the event of Catherine’s sudden and untimely death, Akua will stick to the ‘good person’ track and spite temptations of power and glory in favor of background quiet doing the right thing (should such arise).

              Liked by 2 people

  10. Actually not a bad idea, and it has a shape to it. Vivienne is all but comfirmed to be the next Queen of Callow, right? Her dynamic with Aqua PERFECTLY encapsulates the dynamic between Callow and Praes: bitter enemies and the other side did monstrous things that could not be forgiven, yet now you have a chance to end the strife and work towards a common, better goal, with all the tensions that entiles. From narrative perspective it is near perferct. Aqua is Malicia’s new Praes, the one that does BETTER than it predessesors, while not mindlessly tearing everything down like Black wants. It has a terrible past behind it, as does Praes, but also… Hope? I don’t know, I like it. And just as much, Vivienne is new Callow – first bitter enemy of all things not Callowan and Praes, gradually getting BETTER, but still remaining itself. With all that it entails.

    Aqua said it herself, she hopes for a redemption. And all she needs for that is trust. A chance. And that is what, in the end, Praes needs too, doesn’t it?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I mean, I’ve seen people here jumping sideways in riot over how nobody trusts a known Villain, but somehow an issue of trust also dissipates when we see how hard of a choice it really is. Strange.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Sinestere

        I fully expect Emperess General, first Orc on the Tower Throne and first of her name to be the ruler the guide presents. That she would not want it just means she would be good for the role and she would need to be tricked into it. Hellhound for Emperress!

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Amadeus is a butcher with no clear plan in mind besides “tear it all down and probably something better will come out”. He literally says “everything more is expandable”, the brightest idea of the future is “from that moment we can grow”. The latest two extra chapters did not do anything to clear that up by the way.

        OK, an overexaggeration, but I had not seen a concrete representation of what he wants to do with Praes, it gives an impression that he follows the maxim “win now, make decision later”. Malicia put that right, a nation is not a Lego to build whatever you want.

        He was always an outside force. He accepted that, even used that, butit is still a fact. It gives him a certain edge, but also a blind spot. It would not be that different from Aisha trying to reform Callow.

        In short, I really doubt Amadeuses ability to “fix” Praes. That is the whole reason he got himself a cat in the first place.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Soronel Haetir

          Amadeus’ end-game is to change the nature of the Praes-Callow relationship and by doing so the root causes for Praes’ problems (the very precarious food situation) will be taken care of. That strikes me as much more of a plan than “tear it all down and something better will naturally grow in its place”

          Liked by 4 people

          1. That strikes me as exactly that. “Tear it all down” – existing relationship between Callow and Praes and all institutional madness that stabs Praes in the foot, and “something better will naturally grow in its place” – after you get root of the problem, something good must happen and will happen and it will be better.

            It is literally what I said.

            Like

                1. I mean, the Legions are fully complete already, the bureacracy is flourishing, he is making plans for international treaties and deals. That’s more of a plan than he had at 20.

                  Like

        2. ninegardens

          I mean… I think he also has plans like “Remove the noble houses monopoly of magical training” and “Change the relationship between Orcs and the Empire.”

          Given that we literally saw how he ran Callow for 40 years (or however long it was), I think we can see that he has some idea how to run a kingdom. Heck- even then he was engaged in the game of “changing a culture” – a game he won at when rebuilding the legions… then succeeded at reasonably in Callow (in that he created the circumstances for someone such as Cat to exist).

          This isn’t the recklessness of “burn it down and start again”, this is someone who knows how to plan.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. «Remove the noble houses monopoly of magical training»

            Take a magical power from nobles.

            «Change the relationship between Orcs and the Empire»

            Take military power from nobles.

            «Make Praes into landholds»

            Take agricultural power from nobles.

            See a pattern?

            “Given that we literally saw how he ran Callow for 40 years (or however long it was), I think we can see that he has some idea how to run a kingdom. Heck- even then he was engaged in the game of «changing a culture» — a game he won at when rebuilding the legions… then succeeded at reasonably in Callow (in that he created the circumstances for someone such as Cat to exist).”

            He run it, yes, but, and I don’t know how to properly exress it. Ok. Hear me out. He “maintained” Callow, and prepared for a Crusade. Maintaining a country in a functional state is a hard task, and he was up to it: obviously, he is an amazing administrator. But all he did is proping up it, not… ruling. I can’t put it in correct terms and it annoys me, but, well, he didn’t “care” for the future. Callow was not really a functional nation in any way, it wasn’t meant to. If Black were to die, it would’ve collapsed faster than you say “Liesse Rebellion”. This is why he needed actual Cat, and why Cat also needs someone else. It is not his role – going forwards. He aquired what he needed, but besides that, he never really made attempts to better the country or the life. Everything was… Optimal. A minimal amount of comfort so that populace would not rise, but that is it.

            Frankly, not what I want to see out of my ruler. His lack of empathy is not a good qualification. How the hell can he care for his people, if he can’t see them as people?

            Liked by 1 person

            1. >His lack of empathy is not a good qualification.

              Ok so wordpress is really not a good platform for my extensive explanation of ‘why Amadeus has a bad case of too much empathy and it’s been both making his life difficult and making him forge a moral compass out of fucking Praesi bullshit he was raised on’, are you on discord?

              Because Amadeus is a very empathetic person and imho every other reading fails to hold up consistently through everything we know about him from his own, Cat’s and his friends’ POVs.

              Liked by 2 people

        3. >OK, an overexaggeration, but I had not seen a concrete representation of what he wants to do with Praes,

          We have had bits and pieces of that through the story.

          1. The Reforms. Giving greenskins equal political and economical weight, making the Legions an entity independent of the nobility, making a bureacracy independent of the nobility, and both merit-based and egalitarian on who can enter the hierarchy. As far as real world parallels it’s making me think of China, though I’ll admit I don’t know much about the historical system there.

          2. Public education – War College, somewhat intertwined with the above point (which is a mark of a well-thought-out plan), has at his will been made accessible even to a Callowan orphan in a choked economically city. He also wanted a mage college, and now wants it in Cardinal. We also know that War College gets scholarship students from random schools around Praes (I don’t remember who exactly but one of the characters got there in this way, though it might have been Nilin, slightly undermining the point), and his approach to Callowan orphans was to give them a good education that would allow them to go into basically any trade they wanted.

          3. Eliminating hunger, and with the lack of absolute economic need for blood sacrifices, banning those (Catherine has discussed this with him, and he did want to ban them). He also wanted to ban diabolism, but it’s unenforceable. Still, he aims to at least phase it out by making it grounds for being expelled from / inadmissible to the Legions. Definitely banning the shit out of demons, the Accords kind of build on his ideas there.

          4. Positive sum foreign relationships – something he yelled at Alaya over going back on, even though it seems to have originally been her idea. Stable alliances and no longer a war every time Praes gains strength.

          I cannot recall more details than that, but is this really insufficient as a vision for the future?

          Liked by 2 people

          1. “1. The Reforms.”

            A way to gain an independent military power to do “the culling”

            “2. Public education”

            A way to control dangerous elements, and power that lies in them, be it magical one, or narrative one. Also maintaining control over military power since all the officers have to go through Colledge and it is as good as his. Convenient.

            3. 3. Eliminating hunger, and with the lack of absolute economic need for blood sacrifices, banning those (Catherine has discussed this with him, and he did want to ban them). He also wanted to ban diabolism, but it’s unenforceable.

            The bigger the population, the bigger an army it can maintain. Diabolsim, in a warfare doctrine he created, allows for too much collateral damage. Plus it is a power source on which a big portion of power of his main enemies is predicated upon. Actually, blood sacrifices, since they are a perview of lords and an original reason why they got power to begin with, are also a cornerstone of their powerbase. So, a strike against his enemies, taking away tools he does not rely on anyhow.

            “4. Positive sum foreign relationships”

            Allies. Still an acquistion of power.

            What you mentioned tells nothing of what he wants, those are just progresive steps of acquiring and consolidating a powerbase.

            I am biased here, because I do not believe he actually wants just to stick it to the Heavens, but Name can warp who you are, and besides, I dug myself to deep, can’t fall back now, gotta play a devil’s advocate.

            There is a thing that I want to point out though. He possibly killed hunderds of thousand of civilians in Procer through his war. Just like that. Yet people say that Aqua, who killed considerably less, should not be allowed anywhere outside a screaming pit of hell, because she is a murderer.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. >There is a thing that I want to point out though. He possibly killed hunderds of thousand of civilians in Procer through his war. Just like that. Yet people say that Aqua, who killed considerably less, should not be allowed anywhere outside a screaming pit of hell, because she is a murderer.

              The difference between the two of them is… circumstances under which they can be expected to act like that. The treshold that needs to be passed before they do.

              For Amadeus, it was “fighting a defensive war against an alliance with a much bigger army, cut off from all his allies and wrecked by personal losses”.

              For Akua, it was “having this city have population is just so inconvenient for my rise to power”.

              The reason why Akua cannot be allowed anywhere near ruling is the kind of decision making process she has, of which Second Liesse is a stark illustration. Amadeus has ruled for 40 years, and his atrocities in Procer are a product of desperation.

              Mind you, I am speaking from a consequentialist point of view here, because that’s how I process these things, but I’ve found deonological conclusions end to mirror consequentialist ones just wih differen formulations of reasoning. So mine is: in order to make sure Amadeus does not do that again, you need to open an alternative path and show Praes will not be inevitably destroyed if he doesn’t do that again. In order to make sure Akua does not do that again, you need to never let her have unsupervised power over a large amount of civilians ever again.

              >What you mentioned tells nothing of what he wants, those are just progresive steps of acquiring and consolidating a powerbase.

              I mean this is the point where I naturally go into deeper psychological analysis of what a character reacts to and what forms their emotions and motivations.

              For example, Alaya has control issues for entirely understandable reasons. She is also a political nerd, and shares some of Amadeus’s “why have this work worse when it can be made to work better” pure fix-it motivation (they’d talked about this back in her tavern days), and there have been hints she also feels genuine attachment to and responsibility for “her wayward realm”, but largely her reactions and logic are shaped by the trauma she’d received so long ago. She wants power, because she very badly doesn’t want to be powerless.

              Sabah was a classic example of True Neutral – attached to her in-group, vague sentiment towards her out-group but not so much it’d override motivations coming from the in-group.

              Akua has had, throughout her story, a mixture of motivations based on the sense of duty her mother instilled in her (as an heiress of Wolof, she should seek power and prestige for her line and herself), based on her desire for self-actualization and getting out of her mother’s control, and based on the sheer genuine nerdery (as a child, Akua looked in awe at the giant pyramids built for power, and no matter how much Tasia tried to smother that girl, she never truly succeeded) (also the part where her father genuinely loved sorcery and those were her happiest memories).

              What forms Amadeus’s emotions and motivations? What does he react to and how does he act in a low-stakes environment? What arguments does he find compelling in a debate? Which parts of his motivations does he feel compelled to explain (to Catherine, his student) and which does he leave unsaid? What does he state as a self-evident axiom? What needles him, what moves him, what do his friends think about him?

              I don’t remember if I linked this in this conversation yet, but i case I haven’t, https://lilietsblog.tumblr.com/post/182976359475/a-compilation-of-points-about-amadeus-of-the-green#notes

              Actually, given that I am not playing devil’s advocate here and am genuinely explaining full force what I mean and why I think what I do right now, I might as well pull out the recently acquired ammunition.

              >Amadeus of the Green Stretch was the son of corpses now buried, born of a land tread by soldiers under different banners with every season. Duni, he was, his skin the pale shame of old defeats that Praes had deemed filth even in name, and never did he forget it. It was not the Tower’s promises that whispered in his sleep but the footsteps of his youth, the wheel of unending defeats seen from the side with cold eyes. In indignation he had become squire, and so sharp a blade found it that it slew his rivals and knighted him in black. To the banner he’d raised the disgraces of the Wasteland had flocked, be they green of skin and red of hand, Named hunted from above or every sharp mind and soul of steel that knew contempt but no captain. His was a company of the hungry and the lost, sworn to bleed for those unworthy of that blood. And so Amadeus of the Green Stretch asserted this: Praes is a mould that must be broken.

              Like

      2. Also I am a little tired of “alcoholic and wine cellar” analogy. I think it bears mention that back when the Aqua’s Folly happened, she was still arguably a teenager. Indocrinated from the birth no less. And even indocrinated, she already tried to do better than her own mentors. She had time and experience and company to grow and learn. Those are not the same things. By your logic we do need to slaughter every magical line in Praes just so there were no opportunity to summon those nasty-nasty demons again. You see the problem? It’s an issue of trust again. Again, what I wanted to point out, is how narratively fitting this whole thing is. Praes and Aqua does not deserve a trust and a second chance, by all accounts, they deserve what Saint had in store for them – Fire and Blood. That is however very [b]Black[/b] way of seeing it.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Shveiran

          You are making this about black and white – either Aqua is trusted with the Empress titles, or no one gives Praes a chance to be better ever.

          I… fail to see the correlation.

          The Diabolist never tried to do better than her predecessors: she tried to do BIGGER, which is not the issue. More impressively summoned demons is not what’s needed to say she is a step-up from the Praes of old.

          Aqua may very well redeem herself; she may change. But I fail to see how any of the chnages she showed, even if assumed genuine, are any indication she is ready to rule a country without falling back to her old habits – which she has abandoned for what, less than two years at the moment? By all means, let’s see if she can do better. Perhaps we should use the biggest Evil nation we can bring to the table as the testing block though. Just an idea.

          Regardless, the argument is simple: “Trusting all villains, always” is not the only alternative to “trust no Villain, ever”.
          You can stop in the middle with a “trust SOME Villains, SOMETIMES”. Which, you know, is what sensible people do with regards to people all the time.
          You trust some of them; and you trust them to a point based on their history and relationships.

          I trust my girlfriend a lot, but I don’t trust her to correctly build a nuclear reactor – nor do I extend that trust to all girlfriends in the world.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. “You are making this about black and white — either Aqua is trusted with the Empress titles, or no one gives Praes a chance to be better ever.”

            I do not, and I apologize if I made such an impression. I am saying there are certain parallels between Aqua and Praes. Including the shady history. That is not an argument against working with her. The same goes for Praes. Both have a certain danger of going back the old ways. You may have not noticed, but I have never actually argued that you SHOULD give Aqua the unlimited power of the Dread Emperor. It is really similar for both Praes and Aqua in that regard as well: limited trust with an overseer to ensure no abuse of power happens. It is not me who thinks in black and white.

            Again, I pointed out that Aqua is not a bloodthirsty maniac that gets off mass murders as “alcholic” analogy seem sto imply. She is a product of her time and of her culture – as much as Praes it. And just as Praes, it does not actually remove the possiblity of cooperation in the future.

            Again, I am NOT argue that Aqua SHOULD be Dread Empress, I am arguing that there are narrative similarities between Aqua’s character journey and Praesi one. In my mind. I did not seen arguments to the contrary.

            “The Diabolist never tried to do better than her predecessors”

            No she did, she openly aknowledge to herself that Malicia and Black were right about many blunders Praesi had, and opted to evade them, to build something new instead of going the old way, which is clear from her rejection of the path her mother laid out for her.

            About going bigger: she was ridiculously outmatched in the strength department. Both Still Water and Demons were things she did out of necessity, not an outright bloodthirstiness. I am not saying those are good, again, don’t misread me, I am saying that it is a desperation plus culturally loose standarts.

            “But I fail to see how any of the chnages she showed, even if assumed genuine, are any indication she is ready to rule a country without falling back to her old habits — which she has abandoned for what, less than two years at the moment?”

            First of all, you are making an assumption that she will in fact “fall back on her old habits” which is what exactly? And why do you think so? That is what I don’t like about that analogy I mentioned: there was no precedent of her actually “falling ack on her old habits”. It is a presumption. Again, I feel just so nobody misunderstands me again: it’s a necessary assumption, because you can’t risk with such things. But it leads to my second points: it just parallels again Aqua to Praes. Because in historical terms, as a nation, Praes had abandoned it’s “old habits” for what? 40 years, and ended up falling onto them again. Or at least, Malicia fall back. So yeah, parallels.

            “Perhaps we should use the biggest Evil nation we can bring to the table as the testing block though.”

            “You can stop in the middle with a «trust SOME Villains, SOMETIMES». Which, you know, is what sensible people do with regards to people all the time.
            You trust some of them; and you trust them to a point based on their history and relationships.”

            And with control and oversight. I never argued against that, did I? How does it happen, that you make all my statements into absolutes, but it is I who thinks in black and white?

            Liked by 1 person

            1. > Again, I pointed out that Aqua is not a bloodthirsty maniac that gets off mass murders as “alcholic” analogy seem sto imply.

              That’s hot how I read that.

              One way in which addiction like that manifests itself is simply as a habit. You don’t know what else to do, so you do that.

              Akua doens’t know any other method of rule than what she’d been taught at Tasia’s knee… and she is not interested in rule and administration in the way Amadeus was. She never had passion for the idea of being a Dread Empress, only for becoming one, and even that was more about the journey than the destination (see her thoughts in her POV chapter at the start of Second Liesse). Akua would half ass ruling by falling back on “how it has always been done before”, smothering her empathy and budding ideas of ‘right thing to do’ yet again – unless she had someone to stand over her shoulder and patiently coach her through doing things the right way, which defeats the point of having her be Empress in the first place.

              Don’t underestimate the soul sucking whirlpool power of “this is literally the only way I know how to do this”

              Liked by 2 people

              1. “patiently coach her through doing things the right way, which defeats the point of having her be Empress in the first place”

                Why does it? Amadeus is Nameless, and oooold. Eighty, I believe. Someone gotta step in.

                «this is literally the only way I know how to do this»

                There was that whole character developement though…

                Liked by 1 person

                1. >Why does it? Amadeus is Nameless, and oooold. Eighty, I believe. Someone gotta step in.

                  He is more than sixty, but at least recently he was less than eighty.

                  And teaching someone from scratch is much easier than trying to excise bad habits, especially when bringing this person into power would be incredibly bad PR for yourself and your allies both.

                  >There was that whole character developement though…

                  Character development gives you “I now have a vague inkling that something is wrong with the way I’ve been doing this”, not actual skills / alternative tools.

                  Like

        2. ninegardens

          >By your logic we do need to slaughter every magical line in Praes just so there were no opportunity to summon those nasty-nasty demons again. You see the problem?

          I don’t think this is the logic.
          We are free to think “We should keep an eye on Praes magical lines”, and “A particular individual who has commited mass slaughter does not deserve to be given power over millions of lives” without thinking “Therefore everyone with the potential to summon demons must be put to the sword”.

          We might even decide “Akua should be allowed to live” without thinking “Akua should have power”. Or we might decide “Akua actually DOES deserve to die for her crimes” without also believing that all mages with the POTENTIAL to commit such crimes also deserve death.

          We are free to extend PARTIAL trust to Akua and Praes in general without saying “By the way here’s a treasury of deranged knowledge and possessed artifacts, please don’t do anything evil with them”

          Akua’s ethics are… context sensitive. Putting her in a the position of ruling a country, where morally questionable acts are likely to be necessary, and expecting her to have good judgement determining bad from good seems foolish.
          Cordelia manipulates and summons cthulu and orders assassinations because her back is to the wall. Akua is liable to do those things simply because she was never raised to see them as disagreeable.
          Keeping her in a position where her talents are directed by OTHER PEOPLE’S morality is simply a good idea.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. Fine, you arguing against my main point. I just wanted to point out how similar Aqua is to Praes as a whole, and the very similar issues that rise out of handling it. Mu argument to putting Aqua at the Tower begined and ended with “it would be narratatively fitting”. Please don’t argue against something I did not say. Or if I did say, than hell, it wasn’t intentional. Of course giving Aqua power would have all kinds of problems, of course you don’t deal in black and white. Like, I NEVER SAID THE TRSUT SHOULD BE ABSOLUTE. Why are you the second person telling me that? I reread my comment, I did not see where I said anything about full and unconditional trust.

            “Cordelia manipulates and summons cthulu and orders assassinations because her back is to the wall. Akua is liable to do those things simply because she was never raised to see them as disagreeable.”

            Uhm, if we are going by what we know, Aqua summoned Ctulchu’s and all that jazz because her own back was against the wall. Nevermind when she finally got Liesse flying – she is a cornerstone of nobility’s future, as a class, and they were being killed off. She had her back against the wall in a very real sence – from the moment of her birth, I’d wager. I fail to see your argument. She was raised by the mantra “desperate times deserve desperate measures”, unless you argue that she wanted to summon demons for the hell of it.

            Liked by 1 person

    2. > Vivienne is all but confirmed to be the next Queen of Callow, right?

      That’s what Cat’s planning, but then, Cat doesn’t always get what she wants. There’s still our Reluctant General as a backup….

      As far as Akua (please, she doesn’t even have a water theme!), having her reach the heights of power as Dread Emperor is probably the polar opposite of “redemption”.

      Liked by 2 people

    3. People argue me here on realpolitik, but miss the big point: having Aqua as Praes stand in and Vivi as Callow one “fits” narratively for me, and this is quite a big argument for actually having her there. I mean it is literally a universe runned by narrative.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Shveiran

      Indrani ahs been dropping them.
      You’ll need to do it manually through a re-read of Books Four to Five.
      Which is always a nice way to enjoy some more Guideverse.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. SpeckofStardust

    Akua literally cant be the next empress.
    For like the exact reason of her fatal flaw, she is to much of a social person, Her friend (that Cat killed) to trusting her known traitorous subordinate with her personal thoughts, to her relationship with her father, to her actively becoming friends with the woe.
    She is in her nature someone who fits into the mold around her (as much as she argues otherwise) that she cant change the mold she’s in.
    She is not the person who can reshape a nation to the degree needed to fix Praes.
    Anyone who argues otherwise is missing the parts of her character that haven’t changed from the beginning.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Ah but the High Lords have been weakened enough the next Dread Emp doesn’t need to care about legitimacy in their eyes. Malicia and Black have paved the way for Literally Any Bullshit That Comes Next, that’s the only reason Amadeus himself is a candidae, considering he’s Duni.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Google photo

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s