Interlude: Candle

“Fear not faith in the unworthy, for to be fooled is shame only on the undeserving.”
– Extract from ‘The Faith of Crowns’, by Sister Salienta

Brother Simon of Gorgeault had been, for near half a bell now, wondering what manner of madness might possibly arouse the leading souls of the House of Light to such actions. His arrest had been impeccably polite, his detainment in the back hall of the Selandine Basilica coming along with a nice wine from one of the lakeside monasteries and what was admittedly the finest roasted quail he could ever remember having. The accompanying plums had been flavoured in the manner of the famous ‘sacred recipe’: dipped in sweet brandy for seven days and seven nights. The name was a delicious little jest for the learned, as it was said that before Arianna Galadon had first founded the House of Light in the west she’d for seven days and seven nights prayed by the shores of the Lake Artoise. A shame that his enjoyment of the meal had been spoiled by the way a pair of armed guards waited by the door, a reminder that any attempt to leave would be tactfully but firmly rebuffed.

Simon was morbidly curious as to whether they’d go as far as striking him, should he insist. Though only a lay brother and so not hallowed by vows, he was not without repute in the House. Looking at the cast of the tanned faces – Arlesites both, and from the resemblance perhaps even kin – he decided that violence was not so improbable. The grandees of the House must have brought hands they were certain of from isolated holdings in Valencis and Orense, where the ancient grants of fortress-monasteries by the Arlesite reales had never been rescinded. It was an open secret among certain circles that orphans were taken in and raise for such purposes, particularly after long winters when desperate families found they had too many mouths to feed. The House of Light might be forbidden by law to field armies, but it was hardly defenceless.

Simon sipped at the potent red in his cup, enjoying the bouquet even as he considered what must now be done. In here he was isolated from his fellows in the Holy Society, which barred him from ascertaining how deeply this conspiracy ran. For this was a conspiracy, there could be no doubt about it. He’d been taken when coming to the basilica for an urgent council with a dear friend, Sister Dominique, whose position in the middle ranks of the Holies meant anything she deemed urgent was very much so indeed. Alas there had been no Dominique awaiting when he arrived, only a handful of apologetic priests and a detachment of guards. Brother Simon wondered if she had betrayed his trust of her own initiative or been ordered to.

Oh, there’d never been any doubt that Dom’s greater loyalty would be the Heavens and their House. That much had been made clear when they’d… parted ways many years year ago, after she’d refused the deeper courtship he sought. I will suffer none to rival Above in my affections, love, not even you, she’d said. He’d believed the friendship to have survive the end of their other tie, but this seemed to be a day of revelations. Simon drank a deeper sip than was strictly proper, wasting the vintage like some Callowan lout. It was the way of the Ebb and the Flow, he consoled himself. It seemed his vigilance as the First Prince’s eye on House affairs had lapsed, for he’d glimpsed no hint of the conspiracy before it struck. The failure stung, more from the consequences of it than his wounded pride.

By now, he thought, that animal Balthazar would have seized Her Highness and a purge of her loyalists would be taking place. None, and the Lycaonese least of all, could be counted on to take the deposition of a Hasenbach withy anything remotely like placidity. The Holies would have sent for the current sitters of the Highest Assembly before making their move, but the cautious among them would have delayed setting out.  It might not matter: First Prince Cordelia’s most ardent supporters were all on the northern fronts, leaving only assermentés to speak for them, and there were tricks of procedure to deal with those. If enough of the royalty in the city had turned conspirator, anyhow. An outright majority from the onset was laughably improbable, but even half a dozen princes would be enough for the fence-sitters to believe the conspirators had a chance. Especially with the Silver Letters and the House behind them, and the First Prince kept under watch until she could be formally deposed and perhaps even put to judgement.

Simon’s ponderings were jarred astray when the door between the guards was opened, a woman in pale robes striding through. Age had been kind to Dominique of Blancbriand, tinting her hair more silver than grey and leaving her both straight-backed and lithe. Those grey-green eyes, though, ever smiling? They had not changed at all since he’d first gazed on them when they were both fifteen and Simon still believed his rightful name to be Simone. The lay brother drank again, for it would be a terrible faux pas to let the Principate begin its inevitable spiral into annihilation without being at least slightly drunk.

“Brother Simon,” Sister Dominique greeted him.

Her smile was forced. For being sent here against her will, pretending she had not been the bait in the trap to catch him, or because she was being forced to civility by circumstance? He could not tell. It ought to be interesting to find out.

“Sister Dominique,” he replied, setting down his cup to daintily wipe his lips with the attendant silk cloth. “I am sad to say you’ve missed the quail.”

She looked mildly taken aback. At his lack of open resentment, perhaps? He nearly sniffed in disapproval. If that were the case, she had spent too long speaking with House firebrands. Even if a lay brother, Simon was an Alamans of proper birth. It was to be expected he would walk to even the gallows with a bon mot and splendid indifference, much less suffer a turn of the Ebb with grace.

“I already ate, though I thank you for the courtesy,” Dominique said.

“Ah, but at least let me offer you a cup of wine,” Simon gregariously said. “You there, with the sword.”

As both guards bore such a weapon, there was some degree of confusion until the one to the left gestured at himself hesitantly.

“Indeed,” the spymaster said, “do fetch a cup for Sister Dominique – and make it silver, by the Gods. This is a coup, not a Lycaonese debutante ball.”

He did not bother to speak to the guard any further, knowing that in circumstances such as this one confidence was the key to being obeyed. He invited his old friend to sit across from him, smiling pleasantly as if he were host instead of prisoner. Poorly hiding her bemusement, Dominique sat.

“Why are you…” she began hesitantly.

“It is an Arlesite red,” Simon told her, sounding surprised as he glanced at the bottle by his now-finished plate. “Copper would taint the bouquet.”

It was not what she’d been speaking of, as they both knew, but that was they way to get to someone with the upper hand talking: confusion and blithe refusal to acknowledge they had anything of the sort. Simon’s fascinating summer as a young man with a Lantern lodge in Tartessos had taught him that a gentleman could get away with nearly anything, given sufficient audacity and an amicable bearing.

“You seem in a congenial mood,” Dominique ventured.

Simon smiled and from the corner of his eye saw the guard returning with a silver goblet in hand. The man hesitantly set it on the table, as if he did not know quite how it should be done, and after an awkward half-bow made as if to leave. The lay brother restrained him with a gesture and let out the faintest hint of a sigh.

“My good man,” he said, “Sister Dominique is one of the Holies. Do you intend to make her pour her own wine?”

The guard looked vaguely panicked for a moment, before venturing a no touched by a heavy Tolesian accent. Ah, as he’d thought. Most definitely one of those trusted sword arms from Arlesite lands, likely even a lay brother himself. Proper vows taken would naturally forbid violence, save if given exemption by holy tribunal, but these had only rarely been granted since the Liturgical Wars. The man clumsily poured wine for his old friend, who protested it was unnecessary all the while. The guard looked deeply relieved when Simon dismissed him, further marking himself as a figure of authority.

“I had feared you might be distressed,” Dominique cautiously said, after taking a polite sip from her cup.

“Aggrieved, perhaps,” Simon conceded. “These cloak and dagger theatrics are rather unseemly for servants of the Heavens, though I can understand the necessities involved.”

Something like relief touched her grey-green eyes, and that burned Simon more than all the rest. For it meant she did care for him, after all, at least a little. Yet she’d gone through with it anyway. It would have been better if she were only using their old closeness, he thought. Cleaner.

“I argued for your involvement, Simon, I truly did,” Dominique told him. “I told them that your silence was out of hopelessness, not malfeasance. They might even have listened, had Serigny not argued so strenuously that you were Hasenbach’s creature body and soul.”

“Of course he did, the brute,” the diplomat sighed. “His value would have lessened if you had another among you with close access to her.”

Gaze careful as he spoke, he found no hint of a hesitation before she nodded in acknowledgement. Good. Balthazar the Bastard’s involvement had been a given, since such a great plot could hardly have taken place in Salia without the notice of the Silver Letters, but it was heartening to learn even by implication that the Circle of Thorns was not involved. Louis de Sartrons had no part of this… spasm of lunacy.

“The Silver Letters were too valuable to antagonize by insisting,” Dominique told him, faintly apologetic. “And there were fears he might turn on us if he felt the cause to be in too frail a state.”

Now, it was most unlikely either the Holies or a creature as leery as Serigny would have put treason to act without a patron of sufficient influence. There were only so many of these in Procer, these days, and among those one stood out above all others: Princess Rozala Malanza of Aequitan. She hardly seemed the kind of woman to try her hand at such an affair, but then the most successful of ambitions were often the most skillfully hidden. A prod was in order to see what might yet come tumbling out.

“I imagine he pressed Princess Malanza for a pardon before committing to anything,” Simon idly said. “I’ve never known the Bastard to have faith in anything but favours rendered.”

Dominique looked at him amusedly, nursing her cup.

“Clever Simon,” she said. “Fishing for answers, are we?”

Ah, and yet she did not deny. That was telling, for all she had not outright told.

“I imagine I shall have to resign my position in the Holy Society, after her election,” he mused. “A poor way to end my tenure, but retirement would not be such a terrible thing at my age.”

“It might not have to be so,” Dominique said.

He made his eyes widen in surprise and leaned forward when she invited him to do so.

“We have been corresponding with her for months,” she murmured, “and she’s expressed very devout sentiments. There was talk of restoring the House’s ancient seat in the Highest Assembly, Simon. Not even after the Liturgical Wars was that seriously spoken of, but with the Hidden Horror warring on us Malanza says the Heavens must be brought to the fore once more.”

To Simon’s knowledge Rozala Malanza was no more devout than most Proceran royalty – that was to say, she had Salienta’s tongue and Bastien’s hand – though he rather doubted the Holies had been suddenly convinced of her deep and abiding respect for the House of Light. Of her deep and abiding desire for overthrowing the woman who’d made her mother drink poison, however? That they’d believe, and perhaps simple base hunger for power as well. And in such dark times, well, why would Princess Malanza not restore the House’s long-abolished seat in the Assembly? It was only natural to pay stronger heed to the light of Above when the night grew long. That such a seat would bring the influence of the Holies to heights not seen since the fresh first days of the Assembly must not have weighed on the scales at all, surely.

Brother Simon de Gorgeault had spent most his life serving as a bridge between the royalty of Procer and its priesthood, finding loyalty belonging to neither but instead to a higher calling: peace. He had served, willing, for he saw in the Holy Society a function that would prevent the coming of another three Liturgical Wars. Pride in robes and crowns was an unfortunately common affliction, and a company of men and women with a foot on both shores went a long way in smoothing away conflicts that might otherwise have grown into harsher things. Yet the truth was that Simon had oft leaned more strongly towards the House, as for all its many flaws it served Good more genuinely than any other institution on Calernia. Princes and princesses, even the finest among them, so often chased venality and power at the expense of those they were meant to be the just stewards of.

It was a bitter thing, to be faced with the truth that the House of Light could be just as grasping.

“It would be a grand thing,” Simon breathed out in wonder.

Dominique leaned back, smiling contentedly.

“The seat could not be yours, naturally,” she told him. “Yet you might say I am the foremost candidate for it, and should election confirm me I would find great comfort in the keeping of an advisor knowledgeable in such matters.”

Not the most subtle of offers, though it did have the benefit of both plausibility and political significance.

“I would be honoured,” the lay brother smilingly lied.

They both sipped at their wine.

“It will be different, under First Princess Rozala,” Sister Dominique casually told him. “There’ll be no more of Hasenbach’s heresies and tyranny. Gods, the gall of that woman. She might as well have declared herself queen, stacking the Assembly with her lickspittles and those she bullied into submission. And for what? To make peace with the Arch-heretic if the East and her helper the Carrion Lord.”

“No mortal ruler can overturn the decision of a conclave,” Simon agreed.

In truth he’d wrestled with the First Prince’s decision himself, in private. That Cordelia Hasenbach had grown increasingly ironhanded could not be denied, though he’d always reminded himself that every method she had used to strengthen her influence was legal and with recorded precedent. The peace talks with the Black Queen and the Carrion Lord had been… hard to swallow. Both were infamous Damned who had wrought great suffering on the Principate, and the Queen of Callow in particular had been declared Arch-heretic of the East by a greater conclave. Bargaining with such a monster was to stray from the path the Gods Above had set for their children, undeniably, yet what else was there to be done?

Would the Gods truly prefer the destruction of Procer and all its people to making peace with one of the Damned? Simon could not believe it so. Such a thought reminded him too much of the light gone cold in the eyes of some of the older priests, those who spoke of shepherding needing the stick as well as the kindness and how sparing one was straying from the will of the Gods. There was valour, there was virtue even, in refusing to compromise with Evil even in the face of death. In holding principles above life. Yet Simon de Gorgeault could find no Good in sending millions to their death when it need not be so. It was a poor shepherd that let wolves take the entire flock.

“And this talk of sending priests to the north as if they were soldiers, this demanding the House’s belongings as if they were hers to dispose of,” Dominique continued, tone genuinely angry. “Did you know there are no House holdings in Lycaonese principalities, Simon? All lands belong to the princes and even chapels must pay rent as if they were tenant farmers. That is what Cordelia Hasenbach sought, mark my words. It had to be done.”

“It must have been a difficult decision,” he said, sounding sympathetic.

Her goblet was mostly empty by now, and he poured it full anew without her taking much notice. She’d always been a lightweight.

“Of course not,” she replied. “The will of the Heavens was clear. A choice made in clarity is hardly a choice at all.”

“I can only imagine,” the silver-haired man said.

“There will be no need to stretch your spirit for such,” Dominique teased suddenly learning forward. “I had expected this to be difficult, Simon, but I did your faith disservice. In truth I came to make request of you, before your pleasant hospitality distracted me.”

“Anything, for you,” Simon smiled.

“The Holy Society’s eyes in the city are needed,” Sister Dominique told him. “And they will not acquiesce to lending aid without your word.”

“What shall we seek?” he asked.

“Serigny botched the work,” his old friend said with open aversion. “Hasenbach tricked some of the palace garrison into protecting her and escaped into the city with a handful of soldiers. We need to know with whom she took refuge, but her lackeys have barred their manses to all priesthood. Your fellows, though, will not find all such doors closed to them.”

It was a labour not to close his eyes and breathe out. Oh, Gods grant you allmercy. They’d lost the First Prince. Even if it was truly Rozala Malanza who’d been trading letters with the conspirators all this time then their pardons were now no better than scrap parchment. Nothing less than civil war would topple Cordelia Hasenbach if she was not a kept prisoner, and that left them as the fools who’d tried to execute a coup mere days before foreign armies arrived. If they did not find the First Prince soon, everyone involved in this was as good as dead. Her Highness was no Alamans or Arlesite, to hesitate at chastising priests: she’d hang them all without batting an eye. Serigny, at least, would know that well. And he would not be afraid of turning to great bloodshed if he felt cornered. Something needed to be done.

“Of course,” Simon agreed. “I shall need ink and quill.”

“I’ll have them brought,” Dominique smiled.

“Simpler to walk to a scrivener’s desk, I would think,” he amusedly said. “It would be unseemly to send guards back and forth like fetching boys.”

“I suppose,” Sister Dominique chuckled. “You’ll need to write quite a few letters, besides.”

They rose, and to steel himself Simon drained the last of his cup. He gallantly offered up his arm for his old friend to take and they made for the end of the hall unhurriedly.

“There are some who will need to speak with me in person,” Simon said, sounding pensive. “So it is plain I am not being coerced, you see. Still, given the… ruckus outside an escort would not go amiss.”

“I will send for guards from the cathedral,” she assured him. “Though I’ll need to sit in on such councils, you understand. The Holies would not agree otherwise.”

“It is only natural,” Simon dismissed. “I am not yet trusted.”

Dominique patted his arm approvingly, like one would a dear friend. Or a pet.

“You have always been blessed with an understanding nature, Simon,” she said. “It is one of your greater virtues.”

He made himself look pleased.

“I shall blush if you continue in this vein,” he warned.

A discreet glance ahead told him the guards were only half paying attention to them as they approached. The timing, he thought, would be of some importance.

“Did I ever tell you of the summer I spent in Tartessos?” Simon smiled.

“With the Lanterns?” Dominique said. “Little, in truth.”

She did not sound particularly regretful of that.

“They must have some wisdom to their teachings, I suppose,” she conceded.

I remember when you were hungry, Simon thought. When you burned with a need to read every book, speak with every stranger from a faraway place. When your eyes grew dark for the late nights and you were furious of your body needing to sleep at all. I remember how beautiful the flame that moved you was, Dominique, and I mourn that woman for you are only what’s left of her. Was this what happened, he wondered, when you began to believe there were no more answers left to seek?

“They refused to humour me before I ventured with a band into the Brocelian,” Simon said, almost nostalgic. “It was a rather fascinating experience. I met this woman, you see, by the name of Elvera. And she knew a remarkable trick.”

“Did she,” Sister Dominique patiently smiled.

“Oh yes,” Brother Simon smiled back, gently extricating his arm just as they passed the guards.

This would be his seventy-fourth winter, and it had been much too long since he’d undertaken strenuous exercise. Yet for all that his limbs no longer had the limberness of his youth, utter surprise had wings of its own. His fingers smoothly drew the sword of the guard to his left and he pivoted slightly, ramming the pommel in the other guard’s face. Another pivot and he thrust the point of the sword backwards into the first guard’s throat. Dominique yelled out in surprise, the other guard rocked back in pain and surprise as Simon ripped free the sword only to cut into the back of the survivor’s neck. Messy blow, the lay brothed judged. A killing one, but the death would be more painful than if he’d cut deeper. He left the sword in the corpse and both dropped a heartbeat later. Ah, but the bloodspray had rather marred his robes it seemed.

“It does work better with an axe,” the silver-haired man noted. “She was quite right about that.”

“You madman,” Sister Dominique hissed. “What are you-”

“You were correct,” Simon pleasantly said. “A choice made in clarity is hardly a choice at all.”

Best to make a run for it, Simon de Gorgeault mused as a woman he’d once loved cursed him loudly. Though she’d let it slip that there were so few guards here an escort would require more to be sent for from as far as the cathedral, it was unlikely there would only be two.

Time to see if these old bones still remembered how to run in the face of certain death.

166 thoughts on “Interlude: Candle

  1. I’m wondering what the title has to do with the titles of the other interludes.
    I know it’s not the same character, but I thought it was at first.

    I was going Iron to bind, Rope to kill, Candles to torture?
    Dunno what it means though now. Anyone know of any religious uses of candles?

    Liked by 4 people

        1. mavant

          I remember a candlestick as well.
          From this I infer that you also come from the timeline where it’s Berenstein Bears, and Nelson Mandela lived to a ripe old age.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. Andrew Mitchell

          Mine had a lead pipe, but no iron.

          I think your clothes-iron may have come from Monopoly because we had a set with one of those.

          Like

    1. Shveiran

      My bet is it’s not a religious symbol, but one about a complex timed contraption.

      You know, the kind where you have a lit candle, that consumes itself until the flame is low enough to burn a rope, which snaps and allows a weight to fall to do something else.

      Just a hunch.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I thought the iron/rope thing was a reference to an analogy someone made when discussing rulership. “Iron makes a bad rope,” someone said that about harsh ruling methods (or maybe the Praesi philosophy?). The two chapters showed Hasenbach using both iron and rope, standing firm and discarding her dignity in turn as needed to keep things going.

      Liked by 2 people

    3. stevenneiman

      “Iron sharpens iron”, “enough rope to hang themselves”, “Couldn’t hold a candle to…” was my thought. I might be completely off-base, but that’s my thinking.
      A popular theory seems to be that Iron was the start of a scheme that Bard aided or at least allowed in order to “sharpen” Cordelia. In Rope, Cordelia allowed the people she realized were traitors to set themselves up so that she could damn them in the opinion of enough soldiers to protect her. Here Simon shows that he thinks that he thinks that Rozala doesn’t hold a candle to Cordelia.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. MagnaMalusLupus

      While I do enjoy some good fan art, this one has some things that bother me.

      1) Since when did Cat start wearing a skirt? 2) In that scene she’s described as “smiling savagely”
      3) I find the distinct lack of Robber in that picture to be deeply offensive. He would never miss an opportunity to photo-bomb, if such things existed then.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I believe the “skirt” is her Aketon, which is the padded layer worn under armor. Though on a closer inspection it looks more like it’s part of the leather coat she’s wearing, so just a long coat in that case I guess. I’d guess there was some artistic liberties taken =P

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Vortex

        Historically, pretty much every medieval knight wore a skirt. Mail and plate trousers are super expensive and thoroughly impractical besides. They will restrict leg movement, require you to customize them to every individual’s measurements, and are way harder to craft with any sort of wearability.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. MagnaMalusLupus

          First of all, she’s not wearing plate in that picture, nor at that point in the story. Second, plate armor in general had to be crafted to fit the individual, so not much of a point to be worth mentioning really. Third, Cat explicitly wore full plate (with greaves presumably, as full plate implies, though I’m not going to look for specific mentions). Fourth, Cat explicitly does wear trousers, but I don’t know of a single instance where she wears a skirt post orphanage.

          Like

        1. MagnaMalusLupus

          I actually did some digging, and cannot find mention of what color her skin is, besides it being darker (likely being Deoraithe, who are described as medium-dark skin) than the typically fair complexion of Callow. This depiction has her as a darker shade than one typically associates with white. Generally seems appropriate.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. I just did a close zoom on the face in that pic and idk what you’re talking about with “a darker shade than one typically associates with white”. That’s literally exactly the shade I would typically associate with white lol. I mean that’s not even white-with-a-tan, that’s just white-but-not-Irish.

            Liked by 1 person

        2. I thought Callowans (and Duni, for that matter) were light-skinned? At least compared to the Praesi? (Presumably because it’s the Standard Fantasy Thing To Do, and because the author was confident enough in their ability to separate Evil from evil that they felt comfortable having the most prominent Evil people in their setting be non-white.)

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Callowans are, yeah. But the Deoraithe, despite their confusingly Irish names, are apparently ethnically more like Native Americans. And Cat is half-Deoraithe. And mixed-race people usually get considered “non-white”. Thus, I wouldn’t say Cat was white.

            Liked by 2 people

  2. konstantinvoncarstein

    I was sure that Rozala had nothing to do with the coup, it seems I am wrong except if Dominique is lying. If not, my respect for Rozala is diminished.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Someguy

      Rozala sucks at the Ebb & Flow. It’s probably some idiots in her “faction” doing shit in her name, the same ones who thought themselves clever “secretly” selling information to Kairos.

      Liked by 6 people

        1. “Hooray! Now that we’ve deposed the wicked First Prince Cordelia, we can stop treating with these horrible eastern villains!”
          “Actually, we’re going to form an alliance with them.”
          “…So, who’s the next most eligible prince after Rozala?”

          Liked by 3 people

    2. Ross

      I don’t think it was Rozala. From what we’ve seen in her viewpoint interludes, it seems like she recognizes that allying with Catherine is necessary for the fight against the Dead King, and that’s definitely not the feeling we get from the House of Light here.
      I think it was someone who is trying to undermine the House of Light. Pretending to be Rozala would be a clever ploy. Think about how Rozala would respond when she got to Salia and found that the House of Light had committed treason. It would look like they had decided to start a coup on their own, and it wouldn’t be smart for a new ruler to pardon the people who just overthrew her predecessor. At this point I think that many of the leaders in Procer’s House of Light are likely to end up hanged, whether they capture Cordelia or not.

      Liked by 10 people

    3. Valkyria

      I think it’s not her either. I just don’t see it. IMO it’s Scribes plan, setting the Holies against Cordelia and Cordelia against Rozala.
      No matter what result, the city and country are in uproar and lost to confusion.

      Liked by 5 people

  3. Yeah. Cordelia’s not going to go easy on anyone she can prove or even suspects was involved in this nonsense.
    And since she got away … yeah, it’s doomed to failure. At best, the situation is contained to effectively civil war within Salia … but I expect this to get worse before it gets better.

    Huh.

    Presumably forged messages certainly suggests Scribe has had some measure of involvement.
    On the other hand … there’s no way something like this could be organized quickly, even without taking into account the need for correspondence and message transit times. And this is quite clearly something that’s been being planned, organized, and otherwise in the works for quite some time … which means it is the sort of thing Augur should have been able to detect earlier in the process, as far as we know, anyways.

    I still think Bard has greased the skids for this to happen. In the background, if not openly amongst the House of Light.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Skaddix

      Also are you really committing to a coup without sending at least one of the Holies to treat with Rozala in person. Now its possible this one is the one on Bard or Scribe’s payroll but I find it impossible to believe it was all letters and no face to face.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Shequi

        Unless of course Scribe also has someone with her who is known to be able to take on the appearance of other people with flawless impersonations.

        Where is Assassin at the moment?

        Liked by 5 people

          1. Darkening

            I feel like trying to contain a Named with a blockade, especially a named specializing in stealth and bypassing security is fairly doomed to failure. Would probably take a bit to get out though, so I expect Assassin probably isn’t in Salia. Hard to say *where* they’re going without knowing more about their motivations and loyalties in regards to Black/Malicia.

            Liked by 6 people

            1. Were it a blockade on the ground, Assassin would probably barely even notice it was there. It certainly wouldn’t stop him from moving through it as though it weren’t actually there.

              However, since Ashur is an island … boats/ships (and their crews) are somewhat more difficult to conceal or disguise than a single person.

              Also, as far as I know, the Leagur blockade of Ashur isn’t specifically targeted at keeping Assassin on the island. That’s probably just a happy side effect as far as the League is concerned. Assuming that they even realized Assassin was in Ashur in the first place.

              Liked by 6 people

                  1. Nicae wont be sinking the ships at a distance. They already won the fleet battle, now they will be taking prizes. All he has to do is be on a ship when they board it.
                    Heck, he could pretend to be adrift in a lifeboat and they would still check it out.

                    Liked by 2 people

              1. Worth noting that Assassin has died on-camera and hardly been fazed by it. If he’s got a respawn ability (as seems very likely) we currently have literally no information on the nature of it or of any restrictions. For all we know he can get around the no-teleportation-possible nature of the Guideverse by just deliberately dying and respawning somewhere more convenient.

                Liked by 2 people

            2. Shveiran

              I’m not saying a blockade would be an insormountable obstacle for Assassin, but Names mostly solve problems within their domains, and Assassin’s doesn’t cover travel.

              Ashur is a long way off, and a blockade would make it ahrder for him to move around quickly. stuck? No, of course not, but hindered? Slowed down enough that him being in Salia is very unlikely? I’d say yes.
              Keep in mind, Assassin had no real reason to come to Salia months ago -as the First prince didn’t seem a viable target- and that I’d say is a realistic estimate of the voyage he’d need to take.

              Liked by 3 people

      2. Face to face or a direct scrying link.
        Preferably a face to face.
        Though … I suspect the intermediary used would not have been one of the higher ranking Holies – it would’ve needed to be somebody whose disappearance would not have been noticed. Bard would have been an excellent “intermediary” from the House of Light’s perspective, if not Scribe’s.

        Although, I suppose it’s possible that there could have been a fake intermediary with letters of introduction claiming to be from Rozala.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. DoOd

          Isn’t sorcery rather hated by the House in Procer ?
          Would the Holies really use such heretical means of communication ?
          And they seem to be self-important enough that I doubt they’d travel to meet a mere princess when they make the First Prince go to them with the whole humiliating ritual.

          Liked by 2 people

      3. laguz24

        Yeah, that is the one thing I don’t get. These people have some general idea of how dangerous things are. I expected that they might try this after the dead king has been beaten back. But trying a coup when the worst monster on calernia is currently devouring procer, boneheaded move. Also, I would like to see cats and especially tyrant’s reaction to her hanging the priests.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. 'Ladi Williams

          The fact that Cordelia was going to send priests to the front lines like common soldiers was what made them rebel….I think?
          Every other thing they could have stomached till the war with DK was over. But that order would have threatened not just their livelihood but their very lives.
          And every one knows the lives of the priests and holies are invaluable in the fight against the gods below while the soldiers lives can be spared.

          Liked by 7 people

          1. Darkening

            Yeah, really, since the Holies are so much more important then the common soldiers, they should really start leeching lifespan from the commoners, because if they live forever they can do so much more to guide and serve their lessers, don’t you see!

            Liked by 10 people

      4. Given the tech level, I find it entirely believable, and while I’m not equipped to provide historical examples, I’d bet there have been such in our world. (Remember, Rozala’s conference with Cordelia was the first she’d heard of scrying being able to make that link since being shut down.)

        Even in modern times, I’ve heard of courtships by paper letter (including a notable still-living pair of science-fiction editors).

        Liked by 4 people

    2. Shveiran

      I’m not sure if Bard, or Scribe, or Malicia, or the Dead King or all are involved, but yeah, this doesn’t make sense without someone else is involved. The Augur is the most glaring part that is kind of iffy.
      Cordelia said it had been a few days since she spoke with the Augur, and this whole thing doesn’t seem like it could be mounted within that time frame. Just to implicate Rozala, you’d need a long correspondence which, fake or not, would need to play out at the normal pace not to arise suspicions.

      Liked by 3 people

        1. No way in hell that works.

          This is the Augur. She’d be aware of any plans to get to her.

          And I don’t see her security being anywhere near light enough that you could get to her without a good plan.
          And no way in hell that you could get to her quietly.

          The only person who could conceivably get to Augur, IMO, is Bard.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. WuseMajor

            …What if Augur is behind this?

            Regardless, I don’t see Rosy planning something that would go off now. She’s too good of a general and too afraid of the Dead King to want to compromise the war like this.

            I also think Rosy is likely to become the “Good Queen” who defeats “Cordy the Tyrant” but that story is only likely to happen after Rosy defeats the Dead King and demonstrates her Hero chops, so the timing on this is all wrong.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Augur is a Hero and actually likes her cousin Cordelia. I see no reason to think that Augur would have turned on Cordelia at any point, far less without at least trying to get Cordelia to change course.

              However, I would buy that Bard is leaning on Augur or is otherwise capable of scrambling Augur’s abilities.

              And yeah, I don’t buy that Rozala is actually involved in this either.

              Liked by 3 people

  4. My very own name

    Calernia as a whole has a way with badass people in charge. Last chapter had Cordelia “It’s treason then” Hasenbach, now we have one of her spymasters, who is 74 years old, escaping from prison while being a really good politician, but also by using sword skills he learned from a Dominion captain. I’m really looking forward to the resolution of this plot.

    Liked by 12 people

    1. Darkening

      I can’t remember, is that prince that stayed to fight the Lycaonese an Alamans or an Arlesite? Hm. But yeah, gotta respect the old man killing his way out of prison for loyalty to his liege.

      Liked by 5 people

  5. Quite Possibly A Cat

    Hmm.. I will say Dom is a screw up. If this coup doesn’t have the support of Augur that really should have been a hint that Above wasn’t on their side. If the coup does have the support of Augur they don’t need Simon’s help to find the big C. Either way, trying to get his help was mistake one.

    The second mistake was not just trapping him in a couple fences of Light. Or perhaps she didn’t have enough Light to even do that? Either way, mistake.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. mavant

      It’s not totally clear to me that high rank in the church translates directly to facility with performing miracles. One could easily imagine the reverse. Or… If high rank is granted on the basis of either political acumen or particular holiness, and these two things are independently distributed, then we should expect them to be anticorrelated in the high ranks. I forget the name of that effect in statistics.

      Liked by 7 people

    2. Also, they may not have had the nerve to wield Light against a fellow brother, even a lay brother. We, as readers of the tale, can be fairly confident that normally Light powers are simply granted, and their use left to mortal judgement.

      The priests of the HoL will necessarily be a lot less sure of that, because there has to be major-league social control surrounding any use of the Light. Including but not limited to the oaths we’ve heard mention of.

      Liked by 4 people

    3. Sister Dominique may have screwed up, but that doesn’t mean she’s “a screw-up”. Remember, she was matching wits with an experienced spymaster who had had plenty of time to think things through. The next question is what he does with her…. My bet is just tying her in a closet for a delay (and to protect her against accusations of betraying the rebellion).

      Liked by 4 people

    4. Agent J

      Cordelia is the Augur’s cousin. Chosen or not, trying to tie her to a plot to overthrow perhaps the only person she cares about to any meaningful distinction would be a mind bogglingly stupid decision.

      As for fencing him in, it wasn’t needed before Dom let him get the drop on their guards. Her mistake was visiting him at all.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. WuseMajor

        Well she wouldn’t have, except that 1) they needed his information network, 2) she thought he was ultimately loyal to the church, and 3) he was an old friend.

        Mostly 1 though. The other two reasons were why she thought he could be trusted.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. mavant

    What was that line about Simon believing his name was Simone, as a teen? Are we being hinted that he was AFAB or is this another “much of Procer is Francophone” thing?

    Liked by 4 people

  7. ninegardens

    So… brother Simon is absolutely amazing- and I hope we see plenty more of him going forward.
    So chill, so cunning.

    Especially love the thought of “IF it was Rozalia sending the conspiracy letters”

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Eh… I don’t think defending herself against a coup gets her out of potential villainy, especially when the coup is by the priesthood. Resisting the coup might even count as defiance against the will of Above’s chosen servants.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. SpeckofStardust

        Look calling down an angle to strip people of free will to launch a suicidal attack on a target doesn’t make you evil I highly doubt digging up an ancient thing to attack the literal ‘Enemy’ would either. Like the whole fact that she didn’t start digging it up until after the dead king started attacking kinda makes it unlikely to narratively harm her short of being an idiot, and she neither is nor her close allies fall under that definition.

        Liked by 5 people

        1. I’d say “being an idiot” likely is narrative disaster. William got a pass for Team Morality — I’m pretty sure an Angel can’t be judged by Above — even Kairos’s plan with Hierarch represents judgement by mortal powers.

          And we still don’t know what the lake-thing is. If it’s an actual demon, all bets are off. (But then Cordelia definitely goes over to Below, only to get smacked down by the Practical contingent.) If it’s “just” some lesser god or a random monster, things could get pretty interesting. Perhaps a missing patron god for Procer itself?

          Liked by 3 people

      2. There’s a distinct ‘heroic ruler with their valiant loyal servants vs corrupt pathetic priests led by the nose by a foreign power’ narrative forming, and it ain’t one where the House of Light is in the right.

        Liked by 4 people

    1. Faiir

      You know, a few years ago I had this lovely little tryst with this warrior-nun.

      There was this little trick she showed me a few times, it was so amusing!

      It was a trick for
      DECAPITATING YOUR ENEMIES IN A SINGLE HIT

      Liked by 8 people

  8. Hardric62

    Okay, lead theory is that the Scribe is sowing chaos here… But I would add a caveat and a theory to that idea: If she is half as good as she is, she probably got herself a copy of these famous Accords… What if she had decided they rated ‘decent idea, needs to be pushed forward’, or Black managed to get her such a message? Because yes, the instability here is weakening Cordelia, but it is also so botched there is no way this move can succeed (and the absence of the Augur stresses that).

    What if the point wasn’t just weakening Cordelia’s position, (direct consequence of coup and counter-coup), but also a move to remove people which would oppose to these Accords early in the game by making them overplay to early their hands, assuring they are out for the moment the real discussion begin and where they could have actually hurt the situation?

    Liked by 6 people

      1. ninegardens

        I… reckons that Scribe sabotaging her own plan is too optimistic by half.

        We had the set up when Amadeus mentioned Scribe causing trouble of Cat being like “But you can just call her off, right?” and Amadeus being like “…. maybe.”

        There’s a conflict there. A Chekov’s gun hung very explicitly over the mantel piece, and until our main characters interact with Scribe on screen, and explicitly talk her down (or defeat her), I’m going to assume Scribe is still on the rampage.

        Liked by 4 people

    1. Shveiran

      It’s not impossible, but it does sound…uselessly risky if that is the point.

      I mean, sure, Cordelia got out of it, but it’s not liek she has a history of surviving assassination attempts without an oracle intervention. She still found herself surrounded by assassins and an experienced spymaster, forced to injure herself and take a litteral leap of faith on the loyalties of the assembled soldiers.

      If this was part of a plot that wanted her to survive the scheme, I’d say shit got way out of hand. Sure, if that was the aim, it turned out ok; but these kind of crazy gambles were Catherine’s beef, not Amadeus, and Scribe studied at his feet for decades.

      Liked by 4 people

        1. … Augur is a Hero and Scribe is a Villain, remember?

          Also, Augur actually likes her cousin Cordelia.

          I see no reason to think that Augur would have turned on her cousin, far less be actively and knowingly working with Scribe.

          On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that Augur would cooperate with Bard. Or that Bard is capable of scrambling Augur’s precognitive abilities.

          The most likely scenario that I see is that Scribe has something going on, but Bard has been doing some significant behind the scenes heavy lifting and prep work to allow Scribe’s operation to succeed to at least some extent. And one of the things Bard has done is mess with Augur’s ability to warn Cordelia about this.

          Liked by 4 people

  9. erebus42

    Well would you look at that, a reasonable Priest- well Lay brother at least. Granted he’s surrounded by a bunch of dumbass fanatics but hey, credit where credit’s due to Brother Simon.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. It’s so cute when people attribute things to fanaticism that are pure undisguised greed for power and dislike of the idea of having to do actual work on the frontline.

      An actual religious fanatic driven by actually wanting to follow the will of the Heavens would not be ignoring the Choir of Mercy’s position on the topic, not House Insurgent’s miracles.

      Now those people, them I buy being religious fanatics. The House of Light in Procer? Its entire problem is that it’s high key kind of not.

      Liked by 3 people

  10. IDKWhoitis

    Alright, so I’m going to entertain the thought that Scribe has certainly added jet fuel and gunpowder to this dumpster fire. All she did was take advantage of local unrest and dormant power structures, which never liked Cordy, but probably wouldn’t have made a move without some prodding.

    I find that there are 3 ways this shitshow goes by the time Cat arrives, either:
    -the coup is over™, Cordy alive.
    I find this layout ripe for a “things are already set in motion discussion” with Scribe. Possibly even Scribe get killed if she doesn’t back down when/if Black tells her to stop (it’s not a certainty either way)

    -the coup is over, Cordy dead.
    Rozala suddenly became a hell lot more important, but with so deeply in the red (bankrupt) in political capital. She is likely to be pretty useless in enforcing most things at least in the short term. She would also be putty in Black’s and Cat’s hands.

    -the coup is still ongoing.
    Anything really goes, because at this point Cat gets to choose who to negotiate with. She could “throw her support” to the side she wants to fail. I also find this outcome to be very prone to Bard intervention.

    I’m personally rooting for the conspiracy, because we almost never get to see Scribe in action.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. I mean “the coup is still ongoing” is a glorious option bc Rozala gets a chance to go WHAT THE FUCK I HAD NO IDEA ABOUT ANY OF THIS publicly and sink the House of Light categorically while forging closer ties with Cordelia which would be wonderful.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. IDKWhoitis

        Cordy just as easily could use this as a pretext to purge Rozala too, effectively sniffing out all her opposition in one fell swoop.

        Not very likely, but we’ll have to wait to see what Cordy will have to go through to survive this Coup, which might make her less Forgiving™

        Liked by 1 person

  11. John brokovsky

    Ayyy, what an inconvinient chapter to catch up to…

    First comment ever; I’ve been wanting to ask this since some time ago:

    Its pretty obvious that Cat’s endgame name will be Triumphant, right? Its been pretty obvious foreshadowing and build up since book 2, though its growing more in your face as of late.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Andrew Mitchell

      There’s a range of options and it’s actually difficult to say who will be THE big bad. OK, IMO there are three possible big-bads and here’s the chances I currently rate them at:

      1. Dead King 35% (obvious and clear option; he will be dealt with but unlikely to be THE big-bad)
      2. Wandering Bard 55% (she acts to keep the game going, but she MAY be trying to stop)
      3. Triumphant 5% (hasn’t been on-screen at all so I don’t think she’s it)

      Like

    1. Kairos is full of hax and bullshit.
      However … I don’t think he’d have had the opportunity to get the level of penetration in Salia to pull this off.

      Also, there’s still the problem of trying to get plans past Augur. Because he’d have to be using agents, plus the local Procerans would need plans too.

      Wait, I just thought of something.
      What if this kicked off by accident? I mean, what if most of people involved, instead of having and knowing a single plan, got issued a bunch of conditional if-then directives – to bypass or confuse Augur’s precognition – but instead of things being intentionally activated by whomever was actually coordinating things (probably Scribe), some of the triggers were activated by accident/Bard, and they set everyone and everything else into motion not on schedule or otherwise before all the pieces were in the right places.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. This world doesn’t seem to have accidents like that — the course of events really is tied to stories and the actions of the “players”. If a coup gets set off, it’s by the will of someone or other, and there’s not many candidates.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Extending that thought: There is one story in particular from our world that we have not seen in the Guide: “For want of a nail”. Our world’s version of that story doesn’t have a human/esque agent… it’s specifically an expression of “stuff goes wrong and failures cascade, but it’s not actually any one person’s fault”. And so, I wouldn’t expect it to show up in the Guideverse, unless and until somebody starts stealing horseshoe nails or the equivalent, for the purpose of triggering cascading failures. And even then, few besides possibly the Bard would be able to pull that one off.

          Liked by 1 person

        1. ninegardens

          You probably don’t NEED high levels of penetration…. but whoever did this has demonstrated high levels of it (Impersonating Rozalia while lettering high ranking priests, getting a spy master) on side, etc.

          Liked by 1 person

  12. Captain Amazing

    I hope Hasenbach flees the city and is forced to take refuge with Catherine. Not that I think it’s a good idea, just that the political shenanigans would be hilarious. Malanza is apparently implicated in the plot after all, and the Pilgrim massacred an entire town. The story optics would be spectacularly horrible.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Apropos of nothing on this page, I just stumbled into rereading Ursula Vernon’s webcomic Digger, and saw this bit from it (relayed back in plot-time by the comments, so I’m not sure where it shows up): “Evil is having reason, always, many and many… Is punishing world for not being…like in head. Is always reason. World should be different, is reason. Is only good is not having reason… Just is.” (from Ed)

    That world has a very different framework of good and evil… and yet, it feels to me that this does resonate even with the Guideverse characters. Or is it just that Guideverse folks tend to change the world by pounding it into shape?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ninegardens: Thanks: If I were to make a list of the Great Works I’ve encountered, the ones I’d recommend to basically everybody, Digger would be right up there with Sandman, The Leaves Of October (text novel, by Don Sakers), James Stoddard’s High House duology, a selection of Pratchett’s work, and … well, this here Guide is a new applicant for the list.

      Also, I just reached the page that quote came from: http://diggercomic.com/blog/2007/11/09/digger-264/ .

      Liked by 2 people

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