Interlude: Rope

First, gifted:
Iron to bind
And rope to kill.”
-First of the three so-called ‘Mavian Entreaties’, found on raised stones across much of eastern and Procer

The anger had come, white-hot and blinding, but it did not last for Cordelia had learned calm at her mother’s knee. Mother might have never held an audience or passed judgement without swallowing a sigh of impatience at been the bare bones ceremony of a Lycaonese court, but then she’d never been a creature of halls and laws. The Rhenian blonde still remembered being taken on her first hunt out in the mountains, her ever-restless mother still as a statue for half a night as they waited for the stray ratling to come into arrow’s reach. Patience, sparrow, Mother had whispered. Patience and quiet and take your kill only when the time is ripe. The arrow had taken the ratling in the flank instead of the neck and even at seven Cordelia had been ashamed at the mistake, but the lesson of the night had lasted longer than the chagrin. It had been years since the First Prince had held a blade larger than a knife, much less strung and fired one of the sturdy shortbows her people kept for children and the weak, but unlike Frederika Hasenbach – once Papenheim – she’d not been born for the song of steel and strife. These halls, these laws, were the blades she knew how to wield.

And it seemed someone had begun quite the ambitious game, just under her nose.

The thought lingered and spread after she sent out her messengers, summoning to the ancient palace of the Merovins every trustworthy sword and spear she had in Salia. After that release of anger, the venting of frustration, her temper cooled and she began considering the details of this apparent folly. The Holies had called into session the Highest Assembly, which while truly a power they held if only obliquely – the House of Light had the right to present petitions directly to the Assembly on any day of the year, even on days where no session had been called, which meant the act presenting such a petition could turn into functional summons to one – had been used only sparingly since the Liturgical Wars. They had also ordered the arrest of Brother Simon by their own guards, along with consignment to one of the House’s basilicas in the capital. The summons themselves were not an overreach on the surface, though likely in practice, yet the arrest of one of Cordelia’s own spymasters and formal court official was a direct challenge to the office of First Prince. One done in wartime, when she held an absolute majority in the Assembly that could not easily be shaken.

Using Simon of Gorgeault’s arrest and detainment as a pretext to discipline the Holies would not be a popular measure, not when darkness loomed to the north and faith in Above was the last comfort for so many, but neither would it be the stuff riots were made of. Not when Cordelia had paid lips to whisper her preferred telling of the tale in every great tavern and brothel of Salia, which the priests knew well she had. They had, in the past, complained of her savaging of the reputation of Amadis Milenan and his allies through such means by the intermediary of the now-arrested Brother Simon. They would know that so long as sanctions were fair and artfully phrased, she would be able to lay them without much trouble. And that after such lasting conflict she would settle for nothing less than a crippling: confiscation of wealth, grain and lands. Every priest not serving provable purpose in their current position sent to the norther fronts to provide healing and moral succour. Cordelia had been pressing for these measures or milder manners of them for some time now and been denied again and again. There was no true short-term gain the First Prince could think of that would be worth the bleeding she would inflict on them in its wake. That was concerning as it meant, in all likelihood, that the House of Light intended to force her to abdicate.

Agnes would have warned me, Cordelia thought. Though her cousin’s peering eyes had been on the darkness to the north and the madness in Iserre, she would not have missed so glaring an attack. And mentioned it even if it were doomed to failure, which the fair-haired prince was unwilling to believe out of hand. There was always a way to end a reign, even if it was a simple as a knife in unscrupulous hands. And so the deeper game she’d glimpsed began to take shape for while one failing was a mistake and two ineptitude, but three could only be deliberate. Of that sudden awareness Cordelia gave no outwards sign, though assessing her current situation she felt her stomach clench. The Rhenian princess had moved from her solar to the beautiful Gallerie des Hérons after sending out her summons, for the gallery with the great windows overlooked the outer courtyard where her trusted soldiers would be coming to gather. It was large enough to accommodate an assembly of captains before they set out as well, which she’d been giving instructions in arranging even as she considered the words she’d speak when addressing them. She’d had servants fetching tablecloths and refreshments to make the entire affair seem less of a hasty arrangement, but the great gallery was rather empty of other company.

The First Prince idly strode towards the great open glass window, a time-worn but still powerful enchantment on the windowsill keeping out most of the wind and cold from winter’s last gasps. Cordelia pretended to enjoy the view, though in truth she’d been gazing to see if any of her Lycaonese soldiers had come. They had not, and the soldiers in the courtyard below were all in the livery of Salia itself – which meant they were little more than city guard, and of suspect loyalty. Half a step had her body angled so she could study the gallery through its reflection on the glass, as she casually set a hand on the lukewarm windowsill and allowed fatigue she truly felt to reach her face. Eight, nine, ten servants in the hall. All with an Alamans look to them, none that she’d brought with her from Rhenia. Louis of Sartrons had departed some time ago to reach out to any Circle of Thorns agents in the capital, yet the second of her three spymasters had remained at her side. Balthazar the Bastard had taken being so surprised by the Holies poorly and been in constant conference with some of his spies since. He offered fresh reports to Cordelia regularly, having early on found out where Brother Simon was being held and confirmed that ever current sitter of the Assembly had been sent for by the House of Light.

Even as the First Prince watched, a woman in rough fantassin leathers was allowed in by the guards guarding the southern entry to the gallery and made her way to where the head of the Sliver Letters was seated to whisper in his ear. The ferocious-looking spymaster heard her out, replied in a low tone and sent her off. Cordelia looked away before her scrutiny could be noticed, instead assessing the guards surrounding her. Eight at the southern and northern entrances, all in Salian livery. There were another three discreet doors in the gallery, from what the tall blonde could recall, though through the glass reflection she could only see two. Servant entrances for two of the three, and the last would lead to a privy room for guests too inebriated to stray far to relieve themselves when feasts where held in this gallery. She knew which of the three was the first servant door – one of the maids she had sent for cloths mere moments had left through it – yet did not know the other two, which meant attempting to leave through one risky. Cordelia knew there would not be two chances to slip the noose, which was why she studied the soldiers assembling below in the courtyard. Near fifty now, still all Salians. Could that many truly have turned their cloak?

Were she trying to isolate the First Prince of Procer within her own palace she would have only moved after ensuring she had enough conspirators to do so, yet there was no telling if her enemies had been forced to move early. Having kept the jaws closing around her hidden so far might mean as much, springing from fear of what she might do were she aware, or it might simply be consequence of a preference for discretion. The odds were better down there, she thought, than with the guards at the entrances. The courtyard must be at least ten feet below, and solid stone. Her blue dress, while not so impractical as to make it impossible for her to move quickly, would still be ungainly. The First Prince of Procer kept herself from stiffening when her spymaster’s recognizably heavy gait was heard before her. She turned to glance at the approaching Balthazar, allowing the faintest hint of impatience to touch her face.

“Your Most Serene Highness,” the black-haired man said. “I’ve news from the city.”

“Speak,” Cordelia invited.

“There have been riots in the streets,” he grimaced. “The priests have claimed that you mean to crown yourself queen and incited the people to violence.”

“Unfortunate,” the First Prince of Procer said. “They will have to be dispersed, by club if not by speech. Best to act promptly before the unrest can spread. How many soldiers have arrived?”

“Two hundred in the palace barracks, and those that can be seen below,” Balthazar said. “I would starkly advise against taking to the street with numbers less than five hundred, Your Highness. Salian riots see stones thrown and knives bared even in times of plenty.”

And there it was, she thought. A feasible reason for her to stay here in this hall, cooling her heels as the city went to the dogs around her and conspirators carried out their coup. Balthazar Serigny was one of them, of that there can be no doubt. The Holies could not have her unseated without a vote in the Highest Assembly, and they could not possibly be so foolish as to expect that such a vote could be won without preparation. The House of Light must have reached out to fence-sitters and the discontent, which the Silver Letters should not have missed given their heavy presence in Salia. And to think that Cordelia herself had ordered them to strengthen their presence, in order to expunge the last of the Eyes of the Empire from the capital. She’d invited the wolf at her table, believing it a hound. At least, the Rhenian thought, the conspirators had failed to secure enough votes to unseat her properly. They would not be resorting to such methods if they could use legitimate ones instead. On the other hand, if she was made prisoner and another candidate for her office presented how many of her allies would truly stay with her? Cordelia’s grip on the Highest Assembly had not been gentle, though she had been careful never to ruffle feathers without good reason. Some would turn, though, she knew. Some already had under her very nose.

“Send for Captain Haas,” she said, making her face imply restrained desire for a frown.

Balthazar would not accede to that, for Andrea Haas was the head of her personal retinue and a hardened killer besides. Cordelia’s heart clenched when she realized that her old compatriot had likely been assassinated as a prelude to the coup, though it could not be certain. Agnes… no, they would not touch Agnes. The Augur was too important a strategic asset for them to hurt even if she was Cordelia’s cousin. I can do nothing for anyone from the bear’s den, the First Prince thought. First I must escape. Balthazar grimaced, as if reluctant, and she gazed at him with polite impatience until he gave answer.

“Captain Haas had been drinking,” the spymaster said. “And is half in a stupor, at the moment. I would send for a priest to sober her, Your Highness, but given the circumstances…”

“As you say,” the First Prince of Procer said. “The entire priesthood is suspect until proven otherwise.”

“I’ll send for the current ranking officer, if you’d like,” Balthazar offered. “A Lieutenant Beringer, I believe.”

So the conspirators had even sunk hooks in one of hers, Cordelia thought with distaste. It could be a hostage had been taken, she considered, but then she would not glorify the stuff her people were made of. They could be just as venal and treacherous as anyone else, and there were some who might say that the way Cordelia Hasenbach had sent no host to bolster the defence of the Lycaonese realms meant she’d betrayed them first. All of her soldiers here had kin who had either fought at Twilight’s Pass or died there. No, their loyalties were no so ironclad as they might have been a year past.

“So long as it does not detract from muster,” she idly said. “It seems the Hellgods have my plans in their eye, tonight.”

“We’ll crush them as soon as we have our forces in order, Your Highness,” Balthazar Serigny said. “It is a matter of an hour at most.”

Cordelia inclined her head by a fraction and then looked back down into the courtyard, a clear if silent dismissal. There were perhaps a hundred soldier now, some of which had noticed her presence. Not a single one wore anything other than a Salian tabard. There was movement in the corner of her eye, and the First Prince almost tensed before she forced herself not to – and then Balthazar nailed the windowsill with a dagger, biting into the wood, just as her fingers clenched against the wood until they paled.

“Always were sharp, weren’t you? For a savage,” the man casually said, and whistled.

Half the servants unsheathed knives, while a pair of guard on the southern entrance and a single one to the north were slain by their comrades without hesitation. One of the maids tried to run for a door, but a thin man in servant’s livery threw a blade without missing a beat and it went through the back of her skull. The others screamed, and obeyed when told to sit on the ground with their hands behind their head.

“It was the lack of a flinch, was is not?” Cordelia calmly asked.

“It’s a good trick, when you’re dealing with a scheming one,” Balthazar grinned. “Anyone would flinch, expect someone thinking they might have a reason not to. What was it that gave us away?”

“Agnes would have warned me,” the First Prince said. “If she did not, it was because someone prevented her from doing so.”

And only the Silver Letters, of all the many possible conspirators in the city, had the means of doing that. They had, in the end, caught the most damning of the weakness in an oracle: a warning meant nothing if it went unheard. It had been four days, since Cordelia last spoke to her cousin. She’d meant to do so, she truly had, yet there was so much to do and if the Augur had an important insight she’d send a messenger to say as much. The servant who were not Silver Letters had all obeyed and knelt, and Cordelia felt her blood turn cold when she saw Balthazar trade a look with one of the assassins.

“No,” she hurried said. “Do not-”

Throats cut the servants dropped to the side, one after another, as they twitched and gurgled the last of their life away. Cordelia did not look away. She had not known their names, not one of them. Yet she would learn them, if she survived, these innocents who had lost their lives because she’d not been quite as clever as she thought she was.

“That was unnecessary,” the First Prince said, voice raw.

The bearded man chortled.

“Going soft, are you?” Balthazar said. “Can’t have witnesses to this, Hasenbach, lest the priests find their scruples after the deed is done and decide to turn on me.”

“So the Holies truly are in revolt,” Cordelia said, forcing calm. “You did not simply suborn some of my people and feed me a lie.”

“Wouldn’t move without them,” the spymaster said. “No, without the righteous sort at my back this would have been mere wickedness.”

The man grinned, revealing crooked teeth.

“This is Above’s work, though, or I’ve been assured,” Balthazar said. “Though the full amnesty was more to my taste than some old fool’s early absolution, I’ll tell no lie.”

Amnesty. And there it was, why she’d kept speaking to this stain of a person even as the blood of innocents spread across the panelled floor. Balthazar Serigny was a gloater, and one who had a particular distaste for his social superiors as well as Lycaonese – though the second came as a surprise to her, truth be told. There’d nary been a hint of it before today. Amnesty over killings within the bounds of the capital could only be extended by the ruler of the principality of Salia, which was however happened to be the First Prince or Princess of Procer. This was, currently, Cordelia herself. The conspirators had therefore a clear successor for her in mind, one that’d gone as far as putting their name to a pardon before the bloody work of dethroning Cordelia had even begun. And there were only a very few people in Procer who could feasibly fill her seat so smoothly. Amadis Milenan might have, before his abdication, and now in his stead Princess Rozala Malanza – who in truth had become a stronger candidate than Amadis had ever been even at the peak of his influence.

Her own uncle, Prince Klaus Papenheim, might also gather such support as the foremost general in the Principate as that realm lay on the brink of destruction. Prince Ariel of Arans might squeak through as a compromise candidate, but the man lacked strong ties outside the eastern Principate. Not the kind of figurehead around which a coup would be birthed, and certainly not when hundreds of thousands of soldiers were marching through eldritch paths into his lands. No, of all these the only practicable candidate was Rozala Malanza. Who, aside from middling talent in scheming, had spent most of the last year on campaign in a principality where scrying was impossible. Which meant either Princess Rozala had hidden her cunning very skillfully, someone of influence was behind her or this was a foreign plot to cripple Procer just as it seemed possible for it to be saved. Cordelia’s heart whispered of Malicia, the old enemy in the East, but the Dead King was conceivable foe as well – though through clandestine intermediaries, for the Rhenian doubted even the lowest of the low would strike bargain with the Hidden Horror directly.

Or, Cordelia grimly thought, they might be fools. They grew scared of what they saw on the horizon, rustled up someone of high enough birth and used them as a figurehead for this ill-advised butchery. That the Holies might truly be so arrogant as to presume they’d be able to force the election of their chosen candidate without any real support seemed unconvincing, but Cordelia Hasenbach was not so conceited as to deny that the measures she’d taken to ensure the survival of Procer might lead others to act against her this dramatically. Out of fear or principle, or perhaps even the heady potion that could be brewed from both together. It did not matter, in the end. Order would be restored, and everyone who’d lent their hand to this utter lunacy made to dance at the end of a rope. Balthazar, sure he had her in hand, moved away from the window.

“Now be a good girl and sit down in a corner, Cordelia,” the spymaster grinned. “You might even make it out of this alive, if you do as you’re told.”

He’d left the knife in the windowsill, she saw. That simplified matters. The blonde princess snatched the dagger’s handle, ripping it clear of the wood. The large bearded man looked at her with a mixture of contempt and amusement. He was a former soldier, a hardened killer and significantly larger than her. There were more than a dozen soldiers and Silver Letters as well, now all casting eyes on her. Uncle Klaus, she thought, would have said something outrageously obscene before baring his sword and attempting to fight his way through. And, brave stubborn old warhorse that he was, he would have died trying.

“I suppose even the runt of the litter will know a little fighting,” Balthazar Serigny laughed. “Go on then, First Prince. Impress me.”

The princess’ cool blue gaze swept the room, burning every face into her mind. Names she might not have, but this would suffice. Patience, sparrow, her mother’s voice rang. Patience and quiet and take your kill only when the time is ripe.

“Before spring comes,” Cordelia Hasenbach calmly said, “I will see you all hang.”

Before they could reply she slashed as her own breast before dropping the dagger. Shallow but long, the wound bled vividly and began soaking her dress. Even as surprise and confusion bloomed across the faces of those looking at her, the First Prince climbed the windowsill and threw herself down into the courtyard. The landing was painful, and she did not suppress her scream as she felt her leg crack.

“Murder,” Cordelia called out to the crowd of soldiers looking at her. “Treason! Serigny tried to assassinate me!”

It was time to find out, she thought, whether Alamans gallantry was an empty boast or not.

166 thoughts on “Interlude: Rope

        1. Blasphemer! Burn the Heretic!

          Cordelia doesn’t do the crazy shit. She’s normally a planner and plotter. She’s just not an incompetent when she has to improvise. We think. There is not yet definitive evidence either way on that, although, her escape shows promise.

          Unparalleled crazy shit is the purview of Kairos, goblins, and Cat. Also Bard, probably.

          Liked by 3 people

    1. Parker

      Agreed on both points.

      I keep forgetting about Scribe. I swear, hear name should she Spy, she blends so well into the background. Only coming to the forefront to cause devastation and unrest before disappearing again.

      Liked by 11 people

      1. ALazyMonster

        I feel even more confident in my prediction last chapter that this is all scribes work.

        Also Scribe’s Name being scribe fits better for her being unnoticed so often I mean the best way to not be noticed is to simply be background noise. How many people can honestly say that they perfectly remember little people who do things like sign paperwork, take out trash, or a hundred other menial things? Like does anyone remember the last interaction with a person at a DMV that they had? Baring them doing something to really make an impression, I would speculate not. I now realize that I’m rambling about why I feel like Scribe is such an appropriate name, but that isn’t going to stop me from posting this.

        Liked by 12 people

            1. If we’re considering the tendencies of many less-than-practical Named to go for maximum drama and minimum planning, Spy might be just as likely to be a Sterling Archer.

              …God, Archer but with Named abilities. I think I just low-key frightened myself.

              Liked by 6 people

    2. Draconic

      I do not think this was Scribe’s doing. She might have started it, but as soon as she heard that Amadeus is free, and on the way to a conference with Cordelia, she should have abandoned this plan.
      Though I think it’s entirely possible that she was the one who started this conspiracy, but the Holies and other people involved went ahead without a thought once she abandoned it (and stopped holding them back from being way too hasty). It would also explain some of the rough edges.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. Yep. That’s my reading too.

        Although I would add that Scribe likely stopped putting in effort but didn’t care to try to stop it either. She does not care about anything but her precious Amadeus, not even things that he cares about.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. NerfContessa

      Really I expected her to have some ritual up her sleeve when she wounded herself.

      But dang, she has balls of solid neutronium.
      Well played Cordelia.

      Like

  1. Shequi

    So, this is Eudokia’s plot to destabilise Dalia/Procer, and co-incidentally weaken the influence of the House of Light.

    Now, was Scribe’s true intention for the coup to succeed, putting whoever her nominee is in place on the Throne of Salia, or is Scribe’s intention that the coup fail, and the Silver Letters (Procer’s counter-intelligence branch, let’s remember) be purged, giving Scribe’s agents an easier time of infiltration after the fact?

    Liked by 19 people

    1. magesbe

      The best plans are the ones where success isn’t binary. The ideal situation could be for Cordelia to be overthrown, with the benefit of even if it fails Cordelia’s spy network is gutted.

      Liked by 25 people

    2. If Scribe knows about the Accords and the Black Knights escape, the House of Light could be her target. It would be the single greatest opponent to the Accords.

      Or the nature of the Auger meant she didn’t have the luxury of choosing a target. She just leaned into the first conspiracy she stumbled upon in retaliation.

      Liked by 8 people

    3. Ιούλιος Καίσαρας

      “Now, was Scribe’s true intention for the coup to succeed, putting whoever her nominee is in place on the Throne of Salia, or is Scribe’s intention that the coup fail, and the Silver Letters (Procer’s counter-intelligence branch, let’s remember) be purged, giving Scribe’s agents an easier time of infiltration after the fact?”

      Yes.

      Liked by 4 people

    4. Sylwoos

      The coup succeed: Scribe put Malanza, who’s currently marching with Cat, on the throne.

      The coup fail: Cordelia will have to deal from a position of extreme weakness with Cat, who’s marching toward the city with a army, to crush the House of Light and secure her position.

      Result: Whoever end up ruling in Procer will be in Cat’s pocket.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Kel the Seer

        Scribe has never liked Cat, since even as a candidate for the position of Squire was a direct threat to Black’s life. The Name of Squire is intended to transition into the next Black Knight, whether by killing the current holder or taking over after their death. Scribe intimated as much early in the series and sees Cat as a blind spot for Amadeus. Cat’s last interaction with Black was to stab him before walking away, leaving her firmly on Scribe’s bad side.

        I agree that she has multiple goals in place to position herself for even further goals, but I don’t see those as necessarily helping Cat out. Black on the other hand…

        He is about to walk into a conference surrounded by enemies (Grand Allince, Pilgrim, etc), some of whom will want him imlrisoned or executed for his actions in Procer. Removing an accomplished politician (Cordelia) with a less accute ruler, weakening the Holies, destabilizing the alliances in the Assembly, gutting the multiple spy groups in Procer, etc. None of those are so at odds that they cannot all be simultaneously accomplished. Each that fails still weakens threats to Amadeus. Each that suceeds puts him in a stronger position when he sits at the table and either way the chances of him being executed are lessened with each plan.

        After all, when the Accords reached Cordelia vis scry, Scribe likely learned all the details since she was probably the unassuming scribe recording it all for Cordelia to review. She thought Black should have claimed the Tower before. If he is the signatory for Praes on the Aaccords and squeezes for all the consessions that he can, doesn’t that play favorably into a story of his ascent to Dread Emperor?

        Liked by 2 people

  2. IDKWhoitis

    A cunning old fox will chew off its own leg to escape a trap.

    A cunning Cordy will stab herself in the chest and cry out “Treason!” to survive a coup.

    A tired Catherine would probably just dip that section of the city in Goblinfire and call it a good night…

    Liked by 23 people

      1. Death Knight

        Goblinfire burns anything yes? So why not combine the best of both worlds and burn the surface of the lake with goblin fire then drop said burning lake on the enemy?

        Liked by 10 people

      2. IDKWhoitis

        Well, everyone is going to blame Catherine for the fires anyways, and then somehow still interpret the attempts to put it out via Lake as some sort of double tap attack.

        I didn’t remember that Salía was so close to a lake. How convient.

        Liked by 3 people

    1. RoflCat

      You mean a tired Catherine will be greeted with a city on fire and have to sort the mess out before a quick nap.

      And of course they’ll blame her for the fire.

      Liked by 8 people

  3. edrey

    it’s scribe, right? Eudokia is the kind of spymistres that use others spies as tools, ironic i have to say.
    well, with this the house is done and cordelia have free hand to clean the other nobles

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Oshi

      Most likely. This is the perfect time to strike. It destabilizes Procur while leaving her technically out of it. Scribe probably spent time setting things up to interfere with the Augers messages then just let the conspirators move up the time table.

      Liked by 5 people

  4. magesbe

    Cordelia will probably be either dead by the end of the story, or have started a new monarchy, because if she survives and keeps her position power is probably going to be even more consolidated around her.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. The thing is, in addition to the in-world story mechanics, Cordelia has Plot Armor like whoa, because there is simply no plausible replacement character for her Role.

      After the Princes Graveyard, AFAICT there are two foreground characters who could plausibly succeed her as ruler of Procer: The Iron Prince is established as military with no political acumen, so scratch him. The most plausible character available is Rozala, and she left her sword in the ground of Issere — not exactly a decrowning, but deeply symbolic. That said, Rozala and friends, are heading there via Twilight, so they’ll show up Sooner Than Expected, but I think not soon enough to intervene in this.

      Hmm. Maybe the local forces of Iserre will be the ones to save Cordelia’s bacon.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. I think Rozala and friends *will* show up in time to intervene. I think that Scribe (or whoever it was) is running an imposter plot – sending messages in Rozala’s name to organize the coup while she was away fighting in the south. That would explain why the conspirators say they have a signed pardon from their backer, even though (as Cordelia notices) it would be extremely difficult for Rozala to have run such a scheme while she was cut off from scrying.

        And the natural way to throw a monkey-wrench into this plot is for the *real* Rozala to unexpectedly show up before the coup is complete and reveal the deception.

        Liked by 4 people

          1. This conspiracy would need a Prince or Princess to become First Prince instead of Cordelia.
            Cordelia was running through the candidates for a coup, and Rozala was one of the few names she came up with as viable candidates to be behind this.

            That said, Rozala isn’t behind it. Though it’s not impossible that somebody’s using her name. Probably unlikely, though.
            However, if there’s an actual Prince knowingly involved in this, it’s probably a non entity as reigning Princes(ses) go, who is probably going to be more of an overly ambitious figurehead and take orders, rather than give them.

            Liked by 4 people

  5. Hmm.

    Well, we know Rozala isn’t behind this.

    I wonder how someone managed to cut off Augur from getting messages passed.
    That seems like the sort of thing she’d send a warning about before it happened.
    Which means that somebody had to acquire one helluva lot of connections and pull without alerting Augur in order to cut off her communications through some sort of unplanned action.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. That’s good for one message … but Augur would most likely have sent multiple messengers. Especially for something this big.
        It’s been four days … which means every messenger has to have been stopped for those four days. Because if the future Augur is seeing doesn’t change, that means Cordelia hasn’t done anything about it. Especially since Augur’s predictions usually require some measure of follow up and clarification by Cordelia, and Augur knows that.

        Liked by 5 people

        1. You’re thinking in terms of our world (e.g., “redundancy for critical functions”), and also considering Augur as if she were a guard “watching the radar”.

          In Guideverse, “the critical message was intercepted” has enough story power to stand on its own. Also, Auger is not so worldly or aggressive as Cordelia. The conspirators could simply subvert or replace the messengers assigned to Augur and isolate her just as they tried with Cordelia.

          I’m still not so sure it’s Scribe, but with this new layer of the situation, now I’ll grant it could be, because she wouldn’t have had to deal with the House of Light itself — just give their secular allies a bit of help and confidence.

          Liked by 4 people

    1. Quite Possibly A Cat

      “I wonder how someone managed to cut off Augur from getting messages passed.
      That seems like the sort of thing she’d send a warning about before it happened.
      Which means that somebody had to acquire one helluva lot of connections and pull without alerting Augur in order to cut off her communications through some sort of unplanned action.”

      Or Above really is behind this because Cordelia is on her way to becoming a Villain?

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Morgenstern

          It could be the Bard is just profiting from what Scribe was going to do anyway – ensuring she ‘succeeds’ in that…? Because no one will ever find out the Bard had her hand in that pie, too, right?

          Whatever it is, I hope we’ll at least get a hefty sum of speculation in-book. An explanation at some point would be so much better, of course… damn, curiosity. Speculating is fun, but only so long.

          Liked by 3 people

      1. Another option: Augur predicted that any message to Cordelia would be intercepted, so she instead sent something by a back-channel to “the cavalry”, (say, the Iron Prince or the Lycaonese troops) who will show up in due course.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. erebus42

      The Scribe (whom I believe is responsible for this coup) is nothing if not resourceful, not to mention the fact that she and Black had already been studying the Augor for weaknesses. Honestly if someone is going to subvert the efforts of the Augor it feels right that it would be the Scribe. I really hope we get to see more characters with non-action related Names take on a greater role. There’s just so much untapped potential…

      Liked by 7 people

      1. I think it’s Bard, not Scribe.

        The operational constraints required for Scribe to bypass Augur are brutal – no planned actions, only taking advantage of naturally occurring opportunities as they appear.
        I just don’t think Scribe has had the time to pull this off given the constraints she has to operate under to avoid Augur’s precognition.

        At least … I don’t think Scribe has had the time to do this without someone else (Bard) doing stuff to clear the way and set things up for her to take advantage of.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. magesbe

          Scribe doesn’t have to fool or trick the Auger in her current position. She just has to stop any summons from auger from reaching Cordelia’s ears, and since the spy network is compromised that can’t be THAT hard. Also Scribe could have purposefully caused unrest but in a less aggressive way, then taken advantage of people’s natural distaste towards Cordelia taking steps towards be a Tyrant (though that part’s just speculation on my end).

          We even have foreshadowing in an earlier book when Scribe was going to try and create opportunities to take later to try and get around the Auger.

          Liked by 6 people

            1. If only we knew someone with the ability to be so utterly beneath notice that even people who know her personally would forget about her existence even when she’s being actively talked about…

              Liked by 2 people

        2. Bard also has a known motive. She said flat out to Cat that Procer “has been a fire in my lap since its founding”. Suppose it turned into a proper Kingdom?

          She’d be fine with a Villainous Queen of Procer for now — yes, it would throw the continental balance even further towards Evil, but that will correct itself — especially if the Dead King gets taken down. Once Cat goes off to Keter or wherever, Callow would still love to have a Heroic sovereign (and Viv was never all that Evil, she could easily flip back), Kairos will burn himself out in due time, the Titanomachy isn’t going anywhere, the Levant is surprisingly stable with some good leadership in the wings, and Cordelia… well, even if she gets a Villainous Name, she’s got plenty of enemies. (And might have more when whatever she fished out of that lake comes to light.)

          Incidentally, the thing from the lake is also a solid motive for the HoL’s attempted coup, it’s not unlikely for them to have found out about it!

          Like

      2. hakureireimu

        I see that Cat “convincing” Amadeus on the Accords is the end to the Scrib-gone-rogue plot line, because if it’s good enough to sell to more than half of the High Lords, then it’s good enough to sell to Scribe.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Faiir

          Is it though?
          Convincing Black was based on showing signatories that each of them has something to gain.
          Convincing Scribe requires showing that Black has nothing to lose due to Accords.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. Yeeep. She’s not exactly on the same page as him wrt long term goals ;u;

            Also, he’ll need to have talked with her. I’m not seeing how Scribe could have gotten instructions from him prior to this being set into motion.

            Huh. Actually, she could have set this into motion prematurely upon getting instructions from him so that it would fail. Knocking over the card house.

            Liked by 3 people

  6. Quite Possibly A Cat

    So it appears Above really is moving against her?
    I think killing the servants was a mistake. You can’t do Above’s work and slaughter servants like that. Just to hide witnesses? That seems like Stupid Evil.

    Really the Holies should have gotten the Assembly and used some Light for Smite Cordelia. “Light burned her. She was Evil. I’m petitioning you to elect a non-Evil First Prince. Or at least a cool one. Like that new priestess of darkness.”

    Liked by 4 people

    1. hakureireimu

      So it appears Above really is moving against her?

      Nope. Some people who follow Above is moving against her. We have never seen Above actively intervene without being called on first, even when a tiny nudge could have done lots, like when the Laure House of Light was crowning Cat.

      Liked by 9 people

    2. konstantinvoncarstein

      It is not above who is moving against her. It is the people forming the HoL, who are only human. The Gods don’t communicate with their servants. It is a completely human plot, born of paranoia, stupidity, egoism and manipulation.

      Concerning the smithing, becoming a tyrant is bad, but not Evil, so Light would have had no effect on Cordelia.

      Liked by 7 people

      1. The limits of Light seem cultural, nor inherent. Lanterns can set people on fire with their minds after all. They melted Nauk and he wasn’t Evil.

        Also, there easily could be a relic or artifact that lets the priests cheat the system. Not to mention some kind of “Chains of Judgement” artifact, that they could use with liberal application of bullshit.

        I predict Cordelia will face something like that as she faces down the HOL in the assembly. They will accuse her of TYRANNY and judge her. Then Below will make an actual offer.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. konstantinvoncarstein

          The Proceran priests can’t harm directly someone. I doubt anyone in-universe think she is turning into a Villain except for Catherine. The priest would have no reason to Light her.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. They can, they just choose not to. I’m pretty sure there where some that threw down their vow “for the greater good” in Malanza’s army when she tried to invade Callow.
            So it’s very possible for one of them to choose to “sacrifice himself” and do it.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. konstantinvoncarstein

              Technically, creating fences to block someone´s path is not harming them, it is the cavalry that came after that kill the skirmishers. It was not a direct attack like the Lanterns, and I suppose their oaths would be different.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. Agent J

                Catherine has offhandedly suggested that what Cordelia is doing is something Villains do. That’s quite a ways away from suggesting she might get an Evil Name anytime soon.

                Liked by 2 people

        2. Insanenoodlyguy

          Nauk was super evil though? I mean, I suspect Lanterns can use those flame powers on anybody within their discretion, but he was a soul-scorched general of the Arch-Vile’s army who liked eating people. Just cause he was likable doesn’t mean he was Neutral.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. Agent J

            How sure? I recall it mentioned when Vivi and Haks were contemplating the political ramifications of their soldiers returning to Callow with Crow wings emblazoned on their banners and Haks mentioned most the Fifteenth kept to Below if they kept to anything at all. So, which camp was Nauk in. And is there even a distinction in the eyes of Above (or at least smite-happy Angels)?

            Liked by 2 people

            1. I mean. Callowans keep to Above, Praesi keep to Below. We don’t know about any instances of people actively switching from the religions they were raised in – there were probably a few, but nothing of the sort was brought up for Nauk, so he most definitely burned offerings to the Hungry Gods exactly like the rest of the orcs.

              Liked by 1 person

  7. erebus42

    Well played Cordelia. Well played.
    Its gonna make the peace talks kinda awkward if she finds out that the Scribe was behind this. Then again, they might be able to go with the old plausible deniability that no believes but everyone let’s stand due to lack of concrete evidence trick.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. If she does survive this, its likely her position will be much stronger. As the House of Light will be slapped down. Only problem will be the lack of spies after all the loyalty purges.

      Oh, and the murdered servants, though I don’t think you should blame the scribe for that.

      Liked by 3 people

  8. konstantinvoncarstein

    I like Cordelia, even surrounded by ennemies she managed to think of a plan to escape. And it is definitely Scribe who organized this, but she could not have done it without the sheer stupidity of the HoL. Let’s make a coup during a war that we are barely winning, it could in no way backfire!

    Liked by 8 people

    1. erebus42

      “Pfft, who needs a functioning Principate anyway?! I’m sure if we pray hard enough the Gods Above will stop us from being murdered and risen as part of that big scary zombie-god’s undead horde” – Some dumbass of a proceran priest probably

      Liked by 10 people

    2. caoimhinh

      To be fair, Cordelia’s action of throwing herself through the window wasn’t so much a plan as a desperate gamble. She is betting that the soldiers in the courtyard aren’t part of the Coup.
      Now she has entered Survival Mode, bleeding and with a wounded leg, her trusted guards away and enemies all around. She has to turn the situation by telling the populace about the assassination attempt (apparently the rebels didn’t want to kill her, only to depose her), thus the rioting people will turn against the original instigators and protect Cordelia.

      In the worst case scenario, Cordelia needs to hang in there until Catherine arrives.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. Also, while Cordy may not have explicit story-fu, she has certainly gotten on the right side of a perfectly workable story: Vile treachery against the valiant lawful ruler!

        Balthazar needs a good story to counter, and it’s not at all clear that he can make “overthrowing the evil Tyrant” work at this stage — he struck way too early for that story to have real traction. Now, If he’d waited until she was gloating about her new eldritch weapon/ally/patron, that would have been a shoo-in.

        Liked by 5 people

        1. Insanenoodlyguy

          Nah, he already did the classic villian fuck up that Terry Pratchett talked about: He stopped to Gloat. A true good assassination? You kill the vilian as swiftly as possible. The good man who decides you must die doesn’t care that you think they are clever, or that you squirm, or lose hope, or bargain uselessly. They just want you dead, so they make you die. It’s the evil man that wants those things, and so stops and savors the kill. And so gives you much more chance to survive it.

          Liked by 7 people

    3. Amoonymous

      They aren’t even barely winning the war, they’re consistently losing it at a moderately fast pace. Dead King just randomly imposed an armistice from their point of view.

      Liked by 7 people

  9. NerfGlastigUaine

    I saw every part of this chapter coming except for that last part. Damn, Cordelia does not mess around. Shows you don’t need supernatural powers to be a badass.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. Nairne .01

      Hey, we knew people don’t need superpowers to be badass a long time ago – look at the Hellhound and some other members of the 15th (R.I.P Nauk and Ratface).

      Liked by 6 people

            1. caoimhinh

              In the anime Dragon Ball Z, the race of Saiyans become blue-eyed blonde when transformed in the state of Super Saiyans, a state that drastically augments their speed, strength, and energy.

              Liked by 2 people

    2. NerfGlastigUaine

      I kinda wish I’d posted in last chapter about my predictions. Thought that things would go to hell and there’d be a bloody coup simply b/c things have been going too well. And b/c I didn’t think it’d be as simple as Cordelia thrashing the House through politics. I even predicted a spymaster would betray her, except I thought it’d be Louis b/c Balthazar seemed too obvious. Would have made for a great “I knew it!” moment. It’s just I’ve NEVER been right in my predictions so I didn’t air it. Strong regret.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Always air your predictions.

        We have a thing on discord where bets for the next chap are collected, and the winners get to change nicknames of losers until next chap. It’s a lot of fun to both win and lose, come hang out :3

        Liked by 2 people

      2. caoimhinh

        Always share your predictions; fan theories are one of the things that spice up web fictions. Whether they are correct or mistaken is actually largely irrelevant.

        My hint for something else being wrong last chapter, was when Cordelia noted that “Two of the most skilled spymasters alive looked at her with faces betraying utter surprise“.
        My reaction was “ok, these dudes know something they aren’t saying” but I didn’t expect Balthazar to betray Cordelia right away, nor did I expect her to stay guarded only by Balthazar’s men.

        It will be interesting if Louis also betrayed her, since that would mean Cordelia just lost all, or at least most of, her spy network.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. caoimhinh

      Hmm, honestly no one except maybe ErraticErrata can tell you that.
      Nothing in the story talks about distance, only in some cases the travel time is mentioned. Even the cities are never referenced by area, but rather by population size.

      Although there are maps you can check out (top of the page, the “Art, Maps and Other” section) and make your own mental image of the distances involved, at least in a relative manner.
      I personally think of Calernia as something about the size of Eurasia.

      Liked by 4 people

        1. caoimhinh

          Yep, maybe just Europe. But don’t take the countries in Calernia as direct representations of countries from Earth, especially not in matters of size.

          Callow is inspired by England but isn’t an island, while Praes is heavily inspired by Africa with some Arabic elements (though Levant also has arabic elements in their design). We don’t have much info about the Yan Tei and Yamin-ine (the guideverse China and India) to speculate their size, but the Elves were said by Bard to own a country larger than the whole continent of Calernia.

          The maps we have might make it seem as if Calernia is small, but it is definitely very large, to the point that going from one country to the other takes months by ride (Tariq states as much when he goes from Levante to Orense, and Orense has border with the Dominion), and according to Book 3 Chapter 19, going from Marchford to Laure takes a month and half on forced march to top speed and that’s just from the southern middle of Callow to the northern middle.

          The maps available:

          Liked by 2 people

      1. Agent J

        I had South America as my reference point. Eurasia is significantly larger than I’d even considered. There’s only seven or so countries in Calernia. And only Procer can be considered large by an Asian perspective. At least, how I think of it.

        Hells there’s over fifty countries in Africa, and what’s in Calernia doesn’t look large enough to be the equivalent of fifty nations. And Eurasia is bigger still!

        Not to mention Black has called Calernia a backwater continent and the Bard said the Elven Nation those of the Golden Bloom originate from is larger than all of Calernia.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. caoimhinh

          The number of countries isn’t equivalent to size. Africa (with 54 countries) has 3 times the size of Europe (with 44 countries).
          And with Procer being basically the European Union and Praes being Africa (of which there are plenty of hints, from the language and ethnicity to their political history), I don’t think it is an exaggeration to use Europe as a model for approximate size. I agree that the whole Eurasia may be too big for Calernia, but that’s merely a mental image that I use (I imagine Africa switching position with Asia, thus I have the Eastern Calernia as Procer and the Western Calernia as the Principate, with the cold lands of the north being Keter, Chain of Hunger and Ever Dark) the actual sizes involved are honestly beyond me, I simply use that accommodation and mental configuration as it makes it easier for me to reference.

          Another thing, remember that an important detail about maps is scale, which none of the maps available of Calernia have. All we have as reference is traveling time, and even that isn’t a very exact measure.
          The maps we have might make it seem as if Calernia is small compared to our world’s continents, but it is definitely very large, to the point that going from one country to the other takes months by ride (Tariq states as much when he goes from Levante to Orense, and Orense has border with the Dominion), and according to Book 3 Chapter 19, going from Marchford to Laure takes a month and half on forced march to top speed and that’s just from the southern middle of Callow to the northern middle.

          Also, just because there are larger and more powerful states outside of Calernia doesn’t mean that it is objectively small. It’s simply that they are weak when compared to those great powers beyond the sea. When Black said that Calernia is a backwater continent he meant it in the sense of power and development, not because of size.
          For example: The gnomes have airships apparently impervious to magic and missiles (maybe lasers), the Dwarves have superior weaponry, and the Elves superior sorcery, while countries like Yan Tei, Baalite Hegemony and the Miezan were shown to have superior nautical skills and technology that enabled them to sail across the Tyrian Sea and reach Calernia.

          Liked by 1 person

            1. caoimhinh

              Well, designing accurately the geography and size of something is a very hard thing to do. It is extremely rare to see such thing in any media, be it movies, books, comics or games. Usually those kinds of calculations are made by careful fans with lots of free time.

              That said, Erratic doesn’t seem terrible at estimating travel time, it actually has been pretty consistent and also has taken into account that a large force of soldiers on foot is slower than a small group horse-riding.
              I’m actually more surprised that there was a successful message network without the use of scrying (Cordelia was shown using birds to deliver and receive messages, but that’s still huge distances to cover).

              Liked by 2 people

          1. Agent J

            > The number of countries isn’t equivalent to size. Africa (with 54 countries) has 3 times the size of Europe (with 44 countries).

            True. I was using it as a quick an easy reference point and not a hard measuring system.

            > And with Procer being basically the European Union and Praes being Africa (of which there are plenty of hints, from the language and ethnicity to their political history), I don’t think it is an exaggeration to use Europe as a model for approximate size.

            Whoa, whoa, whoa. Slow down. It’s long been established (by the readers at least, not sure if we’ve WoG on the topic) that Procer is the HRE. No one’s ever considered it the EU until now. Secondly, Praes is Africa? Just the whole continent?

            Yes, their language, ethnic description, and even their city names suggest they are based on various African people groups. But, well, that doesn’t mean their one country is equivalent to the size of the whole continent. They’re plenty of RL African groups missing with no real Praesi counterparts. Besides, even with scrying, it would be nigh impossible to for a medieval society to maintain an empire the size of Africa with anything resembling the hold Praes has on it’s constituents. Let alone stretching to conquer yet even more territory.

            Did the Fifteenth really march across a continent’s worth of land to get from Ater to Summerholm?

            Just because Praesi are African inspired doesn’t mean Praes is Africa in size.

            > Another thing, remember that an important detail about maps is scale, which none of the maps available of Calernia have. All we have as reference is traveling time, and even that isn’t a very exact measure.

            Yes, and I’m hard pressed to imagine that travelling from Ater to Laure is equivalent to Going from Berlin to Addis Ababa.

            > When Black said-

            I’m aware. It was one point in two. Black says they’re technologically inferior, and Bard said they were a tiny thing. Coupled together, the impression given is that they are just some small continent off the coast of the real Eurasian equivalent. Else, why would they only have been bothered my mainlanders in the age of antiquity? I mean, how many peopled conquered Africa before and after the Romans/Carthaginians? Why don’t the Yan Tei grab a slice if Calernia is a huge plot of land with technologically inferior peoples?

            There are European inspired people, African inspired people, and Levantine inspired people, but I just can’t see Calernia being anywhere near the size of Africa and Europe together. Europe alone, maybe. Africa alone, I strongly doubt. But both together?

            > I’m actually more surprised that there was a successful message network without the use of scrying (Cordelia was shown using birds to deliver and receive messages, but that’s still huge distances to cover).

            If Procer were the size of the HRE it’d be feasible. I mean, the HRE managed it without scrying.

            Liked by 3 people

            1. caoimhinh

              Just like you, I’m using those as reference points, not as actual measures. It’s simply easier for me to organize them that way, the actual sizes involved and the calculations of distances are beyond me, as I have said before.

              That being said, there are some points I must address:

              If by HRE you mean the Holy Roman Empire, the closest equivalent in the Guideverse would be the Miezan Empire who invaded Calernia centuries ago and slaved Praes. Both their structure and historical background hint to that. They are explicitly said to have been the ones introducing Miezan Numerals, the higher order of mathematics, spell formulas, and technological revolution in engineering to the point that ancient Miezan bridges (like the one in the Blessed Isle) still hold to the current day. The few insights we had to Miezan language suggests Latin as its Earth equivalent too, (the names Ater, Praes and Thalassina have latin roots and meaning, for example).

              Procer, on the other hand, is a union of 23 different states, and three distinct ethnicities, of which the Lycaonese stand as a Germanic group, while the Alamans and Arlesites have shown traces of French and Spaniard ethnicites, as signaled by their languages and the names of the Principalities.
              The First Prince (from which the name Principate comes: Princeps means chief or first, as in First Among Equals) is elected in a “limited democracy” by the votes of the members of the Highest Assembly, who are the effective rulers of 23 different lands, they aren’t vassals under a sovereign, they are an association and each Prince and Princess of Procer is a potential candidate to the office of First Prince. While the name “Principate” may make us think of the early period of the Roman Empire under Ceasar Augustus (and we can see some parallelisms), the Princes of Procer have vast differences with Roman Senators, both in the nature of their power and the influence they hold, as the Proceran Princes are effectively monarchy in their lands with a huge degree of freedom in management and lawmaking.

              Maybe Praes is smaller than Africa, sure, but even if it were, scrying and magic are enough to stablish effective communication and keep a hold on the territories. The Mongol Empire under Ghenghis Khan was larger than Africa, and had a network of relay stations to deliver messages by riders. Every single large empire in our world has done similar things to stablish a firm communication between its center of power and the lands under its control. Magic vastly simplifies the issue.

              As for why other nations beyond the sea don’t attack Calernia anymore, we don’t know their circumstances and geopolitics, their last intervention was due to Triumphant apparently becoming an actual threat to them when she unified Calernia. The Miezan invasion was overthrown by Praes, and the Baalite Hegemony apparently collapsed by reasons independent to Calernia, leaving Ashur abandoned but with an ingrained culture and caste system.

              We simply don’t know enough to make an educated guess, they could simply have signed treaties of not touching Calernia anymore or for a certain amount of time. Maybe they are currently occupied and at war, maybe someone made a magical experiment and there’s a perpetual storm that surrounds Calernia and now it’s unreachable, maybe their gods told them to not go there. That’s largely irrelevant for the matter at hand.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. The Miezans are analogous to the original Romans, it’s not entirely clear if they’re the Republic or the Empire.
                They aren’t the Holy Roman Empire, though.

                The Procerans might be loosely analogous (politically speaking) to one of the era’s of Italian city-states, pre unification. Albeit with a greater measure of unity than the Italians city states had.

                However, none of these analogies are dependent upon the size of Calernia.
                That said … somebody could probably work out a guesstimate on the size of Calernia based on the maps and known marching times for the Legions/Army of Callow while they’re in Callow/Praes and have an established infrastructure for supplies and don’t need to do things like forage or graze animals. I say the Legions/Army of Callow because they’re the professional and well organized forces, and so would be more consistent in terms of their movement and would likely be at the higher end of army movement speeds.

                Liked by 3 people

                1. caoimhinh

                  Yep, it’s important to keep in mind that none of the countries in Calernia is an exact equivalent to a country of Earth, even if there are similarities and some equivalencies in language or ethnicity.

                  The Miezan also seem similar to the Greek kingdoms (like the Macedonian Empire under Alexander the Great, for example), while the League of Free Cities is way more similar to the Greek polis as city-states.

                  As for guesstimating the distances by using travel time…
                  well, we would have to still assume a speed for their marching. I would put it somewhere between 20 and 30 miles per day. As stated in Book 3 Chapter 19, Nauk said that “if they marched halfway to the grave”, which I assume means marching at top speed with minimum rest, they could go from Marchford to Laure in a month and a half (through Arcadia it took them only 3 days).

                  It’s honestly hard to measure that because we’d be assuming a lot, but for the example’s sake let’s use 30 miles per day.
                  30 miles x 45 days = 1300 miles, that’s 2092.15 kilometers, that’s twice the distance between Berlin (Germany) and Paris(France). Even going from Warsaw(Poland’s capital) to Paris is 1591 km; the distance from Munich to Hamburg (cities located in the southern and northern parts of Germany) is 790 km, about 491 miles.
                  And that’s only between two cities in the middle of Callow, not even the whole extension of the country AND not using their top and most exhausting marching speed, which was what Nauk used to make that statement of covering the distance in 45 days.

                  So the middle of Callow is larger than Germany. And Callow is among the smallest of the countries in Calernia. I’m sticking to my theory of Calernia being huge.

                  Liked by 2 people

                  1. To be fair, that distance is the road distance, which probably isn’t a perfectly straight line, so the distance “as the crow flies” is probably a bit less.

                    On the other hand, I think the upper end of non-foraging, non-grazing, foot infantry armies is closer to 40 miles per day than 30, and 20 miles per day is bad even when foraging and grazing.

                    But yeah, Calernia is fucking huge. Even if we use the lower, 20 miles per day figure (which is slow) for 45 days, it’s still 900 miles between Marchford and Laure. Or nearly twice the distance you cited for Germany.
                    And it’s not like Marchford and Laure are at the extreme ends of Callow. They’re both pretty well in the middle, no matter which direction you go.

                    And the sheer size makes it pretty clear why Procerans don’t have a unified national identity – Procer is just too big.
                    Honestly, it’s more surprising that Callow has what appears to be a pretty unified and universal national identity.

                    Liked by 3 people

                    1. caoimhinh

                      Agreed.
                      We also must consider that Calernia probably doesn’t have the pretty roads we have on Earth, and it’s not like an army can march through forests and mountains easily, troops mostly stick to roads when on march, at least when within their own territory.

                      I recall that most of the cities of Callow were kingdoms at some point of their history; it’s confirmed that Marchford, Laure, Liesse, and Daoine were independent and strong nations before the Alban unification of Callow. Their unified national identity is likely a consequence of their constant wars against Praes in recent centuries.
                      Though the southern Callowans and the northern Callowans don’t get along well, Catherine mentioned they are almost different people, and Daoine is a semi-independent state with their own rules and culture, so there’s that.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. My understanding is that premechanized armies generally prefer to stick to roads all the time, not just in their own territory. At least, when they’re available.

                      On the other hand, I believe that at some point there was mention of the Miezans leaving behind roads/highways, and Miezan engineering work being better than most “modern” work.
                      Between those routes as examples, and the military (and trade) advantages of good roads, I’d expect that Praes and Callow, at least, both have pretty good road networks, at least on the major routes. Even if they were lacking previously, Amadeus would have recognized the value in a major investment in roadway infrastructure. For that matter, I expect that at least some of the competent Dread Emperors of ages past would’ve done the same.

                      I’m less sure about the rest of Calernia, though.
                      On the other hand, it’s also a distinct possibility that Triumphant (and/or underlings) would have exported the value of good roadways in her conquest of Calernia.

                      Liked by 3 people

                    3. caoimhinh

                      True, but armies tend to get inventive and creative on the paths they use when invading or in hostile territory, both for sneaking out and for ambushing.
                      See for example the Exiled Prince’s Silver Spears going through the hills to Marchford, the League’s armies going through the Waning Woods, and the northern expedition of the Tenth Crusade opening a path through the Whitecaps Mountains.

                      Liked by 1 person

          2. Andrew Mitchell

            > The number of countries isn’t equivalent to size. Africa (with 54 countries) has 3 times the size of Europe (with 44 countries).

            Or think of Australia: One country that’s bigger than than all 44 European countries combined.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. caoimhinh

              Yeah.
              I mean, take a look at these numbers:
              Europe has 10.18 million km2 of area.
              China has 9.59 million km2, The United States has 9.83 million km2, and Russia is a monster with 17.1 million km2 in size. These are the Superpowers of the world.

              So when the Elven Country is cited as being larger than the whole of Calernia, it’s not to mean that Calernia is objectively small, but rather to emphasize the utter vastness of the Elven Country.

              I’m sure nobody would say that Germany, England, Japan or Switzerland are backwater countries judging only the sizes. They would be hugely mistaken to make such an assumption.

              Liked by 1 person

  10. superkeaton

    I knew you couldn’t trust a man whose nickname was “the Bastard”. I wonder if Arnaud had something to do with this? Still, props to Cordelia, but now she’s got a civil war on her hands in the middle of the apocalypse.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. WuseMajor

      Hey, we trusted a guy who called himself Ratface.

      That said, I’ll grant that The Pilgrim made the wrong call on which person would successfully build a United Nations on this continent when he decided to back Cordy over Cat.

      Liked by 9 people

        1. Agent J

          Why should that allowance be made? That just means he also failed to predict that calling for a Continental War Against Evil would drag you into a Continental War Against Evil.

          Seriously, he though he could bowl over Callow, stomp on Praes, and then focus on “finally ending the Hidden Horror”. Like everyone was just gonna stand around and patiently wait to get Crusaded.

          Liked by 3 people

  11. caoimhinh

    Damn, an attempt of Coup d’Etat right now, when they are in the middle of a crisis? Are those priests insane?

    Is this Scribe’s work? This is one heck of an infiltration if it is.
    Though I would suspect the Bard since this was instigated by the House of Light, but we never know.

    P.S: It will be hilarious if Catherine has to be the one to fight to make Cordelia regain her position as First Prince. The irony would be too sweet.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Nairne .01

      Well, different people, different agendas.

      There is probably either a very power-hungry or self-righteous and proud to the point of not admitting they’re mistaken clique in the Hollies that either has good connections/spies or someone had interest in informing them of the happenings during Prince’s Graveyard.

      Idk if this was supposed to succeed or not. But this not succeeding probably is a better outcome for Cat. Cordelia would be able to consolidate her power and remove/restrain some obstacles to Cat’s plans.

      As to who could have their fingers in it?
      Bard most likely is aware of this, but I don’t think she set this in motion herself. At most, she induced someone to do it, whether through direct conversation or steering events to reveal information to someone so they act OR she predicted someone would do this even if she didn’t act and didn’t stop it. That is to say, if this was supposed to not succeed then she might have hindered something.
      Scribe? Could be, but I bet she has info on the accords and Black’s agreement on them. Hard to say if she agrees or not. She is her own person, even if she is loyal to Black, so she might have reasons to stop him from going this route.
      Malicia? This I could see, but more in the sense that it would have been supposed to succeed. Though seeing as this wasn’t done perfectly – i.e. the execution of the deed involved murdering so many servants then either this was hindered by someone, they didn’t have many other options for the main turncoat – which would reek of desperation to act, something I doubt Malicia would resort to at this stage unless she knows about the Accords and sees herself as betrayed already (which could be the case) though I still find this unlikely (only as a feeling though).

      Liked by 5 people

    1. I didn’t think ratlings were more than barely sentient, until they transformed into Horned Lords. And in any case, every ratling ever has tried to kill and eat any human it has encountered.

      So, not exactly the same thing.

      Hg

      Liked by 9 people

      1. Captain Amazing

        They’re barbarians without a satiety response, but they’re absolutely people. The Intercessor specifically mentions the ratlings as a cogent power in her conversation with Neshama. They’ve just been under millennia of corruption from Below and had everyone who tried to improve their lot assassinated by Above. Goblins and orcs were similarly “dehumanized” despite being no less -anything- than anyone else.

        Liked by 5 people

        1. They’re specifically noted by Masego to be incapable of higher reasoning, with the exception of the the very youngest and the Horned Lords.

          Also, any ratling in Rhenia is an invader that will eat anyone in its path.

          Liked by 6 people

        2. > had everyone who tried to improve their lot assassinated by Above.

          Lol what. Are you actually getting that from somewhere? And also what Dresden 67 said. And also what konstantinvoncarstein said.

          Liked by 2 people

    2. konstantinvoncarstein

      The problem with the ratling is that they literally cannot stop themselves from eating everything they come across, making them a danger for everyone. And Akua had to kill a childhood friend, while for Cordelia it was an invader trying to slaughter and eat civilians. The circumstances are completely differents.

      Liked by 8 people

    3. “Barely-sentient invading baby-eaters are people too”? Is this a parody account for making fun of how some of the fanbase is reflexively sympathetic to anyone and everything labeled as Evil? I mean, people seemed plenty happy about Catherine killing Proceran invaders and they weren’t even killing and eating everyone. I don’t think the followers of Good are the ones applying the double standard here (for once) lol.

      Liked by 3 people

  12. laguz24

    Why, does fate seem to desire that Cat collect foils like other’s collect enemies. First William, then the Grey Pilgrim and now Cordelia. Two rulers who want a better world and are willing to become tyrants forced by circumstance to do it. Hell, they even have matching wounds now.

    Liked by 9 people

    1. RoflCat

      William – stab to the chest (in her defense, he stabbed her chest first)

      Akua – stab to the chest and rip her heart out

      Pilgrim – stab to the chest to pull out aspect

      Cordelia – I’m sure someone will blame Cat for the slash.

      I must say, Cat is really taking this whole “finding a way into someone’s heart” rather literally.

      Liked by 14 people

    2. laguz24

      To further the comparisons, one was granted queenship by another’s hand and kept it relatively bloodlessly. The other came to the crown by bloodshed and treachery. One did anything to save her people and country from ideals the other sacrificed her homeland and people for ideals and a pipe dream. One sits out on the field surrounded by friends and allies while the other sits on her throne surrounded by wolves with knives. One has the favor of gods and is a religious figure the other is in conflict with those of the cloth and has no divine blessing whatsoever. One got a name early on and shed it for freedom, the other started with no name and is (presumably) developing one. The list goes on and on, was this planned? P.S. Her circumstances remind me of the song “the girl who climbed the tower” what lyrics would you write for Hasenbach? Also what about malacia (who is UP TO SOMETHING) and the other heroes who are presumably up north like the white knight and the champion.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. SpeckofStardust

    “Before they could reply she slashed as her own breast before dropping the dagger. Shallow but long, the wound bled vividly and began soaking her dress. Even as surprise and confusion bloomed across the faces of those looking at her, the First Prince climbed the windowsill and threw herself down into the courtyard. The landing was painful, and she did not suppress her scream as she felt her leg crack.”
    So an injury across the chest and will now walk with a limp.
    Cat is going to be laughing a lot.

    Liked by 11 people

  14. Rup

    …um😕
    The quote at the top:
    “Iron to bind
    Rope to kill”
    .why is it reversed..sort of
    “rope to bind and iron to kill” is obvious so clearly i am missing something…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. caoimhinh

      Considering that quote is “from the ‘Mavian Entreaties’ found on raised stones across much of eastern Procer”, which likely are stones akin to the “Mavian Prayers”, so maybe this quote is something referring to Fae?

      Liked by 2 people

  15. DoOd

    Been re-reading the Guide and thought about the reasons Bard made a deal with Kairos in Twilight.
    I’m betting the Bard’s purpose was to kill Laurence.
    The reason would be that she knew she was about to be exposed as a maker of villains and that the Saint of Swords would be one of the few people actually able to kill her.

    Liked by 1 person

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